Top positive review
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A good guide but some flaws in the coverage
on 30 June 2007
This is a useful book for both crime afficionados wanting tips on some more obscure new directions and for newcomers who just want to know where to start.
Each chapter recommends and reviews a selection of crime novels (over 200 in total) and there are the usual Rough Guide boxes and sidebars on related areas such as films, author profiles and crime genres. The chapters are organised thematically and range from the origins of crime fiction (Edgar Allan Poe, Conan Doyle) and the 'golden age' (Christie, Allingham, Sayers) through hard-boiled (Chandler, Hammett, Thompson) to more contemporary genres such as police procedural, espionage, serial killers, organized crime etc. The reviews maintain a fine balance between criticism and enthusiasm and cleverly avoid the 'spoiler' pitfalls of revealing too much plot.
The book is much stronger on contemporary writers and most of the selections are books published in the last 30 years so if you want lots of recommendations for 'classic' golden age novels then you would be better served looking elsewhere. Despite the focus on the contemporary, the book has several flaws - it is fairly weak on foreign fiction despite there being one chapter devoted to this and contains nothing on important writers such as Jean-Patrick Manchette, Peter Hoeg, Jo Nesbo, Ake Edwardson, Janwillem van de Wetering, Manuel Vazquez Montalban, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Massimo Carlotto, Jose Carlos Somoza etc. There are also a number of important contemporary writers who are also absent (the outstanding John Franklin Bardin, Don Winslow, Jonathan Lethem, Christopher Fowler, Andrew Vachss, Jeff Lindsay, Reginald Hill, Ken Bruen, Shane Stevens etc). While there will always be constraints on who to include because of space considerations, I find it strange that writers of this calibre were omitted and yet space was found for hacks such as Andy McNab, Chris Ryan and Michael Crichton. There are also a number of errors (The Godfather was published in 1969 not 1978, it's Iain not Ian Sinclair, Rankin's 2006 book was The Naming of the Dead etc.) but these are minor quibbles.
In summary a good first attempt and I hope that it is successful enough for a 2nd edition to include some of the great writers above. Oh, and where is Face on the Cutting Room Floor...?