Anyone who knows me knows I like policiers – we just call this crime fiction in England, but I prefer the French term because that’s what they are – novels where good solves the problems caused by bad. It’s more than a slight addiction. I plough through them and when a new one comes out, I have to read it. So here’s my top ten. They’re not exactly hard-boiled – and I confess I only like American ones. I find British ones too dreary. I am, however, a fan of the few Italian detectives as well. I put all of this down to an unhealthy diet of far too much Secret Seven, Famous Five and Nancy Drew as a child. Even when other girls in class were breaking out the Danielle Steele, I was still ploughing through Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
1. The Harry Bosch mysteries by Michael Connolly
He’s a lone detective in LA – a man who falls in love with precisely the wrong women – a very sad man, a man who’s not really known a lot of happiness. There are sixteen of them, and I love them all. He’s the kind of man who’s ruthless in rooting out the truth and a man who doesn’t work easily with a partner. I think he’s the last of the Columbo types.
2. The Joe Pike and Elvis Cole mysteries by Robert Crais.
I love Elvis Cole. He kind of reminds me of a non-Latino Angel Batista in Dexter. And more, I love Joe Pike. I always love his dedication and his silence and most of all his blue eyes. I love Elvis’s quirky characteristics and how silently Joe Pike moved. When I used to run a lot, I imagined I was Joe Pike. That’s a little weird, I know. There are 14 of these and they sit well with Michael Connelly.
3. The Kinsey Millhone Mysteries – Sue Grafton
Kinsey is a peculiar little hard-boiled female private eye and I love these books. I could read them over and over. Like the previous two, childhood wasn’t an easy thing and she lost her parents at a young age, not unlike Harry Bosch. I’d like for her to get together with Elvis Cole and Harry Bosch. Plus, all three are California-based detectives. Must be a lot of murders that way.
4. The Jack Reacher mysteries by Lee Child
What’s not to love about Jack Reacher? Whilst the last couple of novels have been a little thin and a little tired, and whilst Tom Cruise (?!?!) is set to play the 6’5″ hero, the early novels and the way they panned out has been fabulous. I’d like Jack Reacher for a brother. And yes, all of these share a silence and a devotion to fighting crime. Hard-boiled, seeping through.
5. The Lincoln Rhyme mysteries by Jeffery Deaver.
Deaver writes some twisted fiction with some twisted characters. Plus, his novels twist more than a twisty-turny thing. And Lincoln Rhyme always solves it. Clever criminals and an even cleverer detective, right out of the Ironside school of thinking. Cerebral.
6. The Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries by Donna Leon
Partly because they’re set in the very beautiful Venice, partly because Italy is a romantic and mysterious and wild place, partly because Dottor Brunetti is such an intelligent type, partly because I love his intelligent wife, these mysteries aren’t always running at the same whiplash pace as some of the others, but they’re still great. I love even the description of what he stops to get for his lunch. I also love Signorina Elettra. She’s amazing too.
7. The Aurelio Zen mysteries by Michael Dibden
Because it’s Italy, because Zen is something of an anti-hero, because it’s a bit like having more Brunetti mysteries, except with a much more cynical and hard-boiled copper.
8. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
So many writers take their cue from Sherlock Holmes – and although Holmes doesn’t develop much as a character – the plot is the thing, not the character – and in other police procedurals, the procedure is in the back seat with the character driving the novel. But he’s one of the originals and he is the best. And my only English detective. But not my only British writer, of course. He’s geeky and insightful way before Abby in NCIS, or Dr Spencer Reid, or Lincoln Rhyme. The clue is everything. And a clue can solve a crime.
9. The Mma Ramotswe mysteries – The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
She’s cool. She’s fun. She solves crime. She was amazing in the BBC series. She’s the opposite of hardboiled.
10. The Stephanie Plum mysteries – Janet Evanovich.
Another sassy, funny anti-heroine, with her ex-prostitute sidekick Lula.
I did once say that if there’s a murder in something, I’ll watch it. I’m not choosy. I read a lot of crime fiction. I like PJ Tracy, Richard Montenari and Karin Slaughter a lot as well.
If someone would pay me to sit in my garden and read all day, I’d do that very thing. I could quite easily live in a fantasy world. Some might even say that this is exactly what I do.