Stephen King’s semi-regular column in Entertainment Weekly, “The Pop of King,” is something I look forward to. He’s funny, irreverent, and at the same time deeply serious about his entertainment. Doesn’t matter if he’s talking movies, music, or books, he expects to be on the edge of his seat, lost in the moment, and up all night. Me too. For crime fiction, anyway. And yet sometimes a crime novel of that caliber seems harder to find than a butterfly in January. Flat dialogue, couldn’t-care-less plots, and clichéd endings abound. Seriously, why does anyone think it’s a good idea to end a crime novel with an abandoned warehouse, a couple of guns, and a showdown between the hunter and the hunted anymore?
In his May 13 column Mr. King recommended seven summer reads. And while he’ll never convince me that Jodi Picoult is a supremely talented writer, I am interested in any crime novel that he thinks is terrific. After all, the man has had an original thought or hundred about dark deeds of every stripe. (Though this does not mean his picks are infallible—he was, in my opinion, abysmally wrong about The Garden of Last Days.) So I picked up Shattered by Michael Robotham two days ago. It more than meets the bar.
In fact, if you like top-shelf police procedurals at all, especially English ones, run to the bookstore and then cancel your appointments for the next twenty-four hours. Psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is trying, with the help of one of the most excellently imagined Detective Inspectors to grace recent fiction—Veronica Cray, who wears men’s shoes and likes French knickers—to outsmart an equally well-written killer, the super-scary, grimly pathetic Gideon Tyler. Tyler is such a convincingly reasoned villain that Robotham will have you wondering if this story is actually fiction. He does say in an author’s note that the novel is inspired by true events in two different countries but not based on either. What??! I don’t know about you, but I’m dying to know the details on that. Send us a note and if you are interested too, we’ll ask the author about it and report back here. And more good news for readers – Robotham has a backlist. Few things make me happier than finishing a bang-up, truly great crime novel and discovering that the author has a backlist, preferably a long one.
Check out Robotham’s previous novel, The Night Ferry. It’s about a 29-year-old Detective named Alicia Barba investigating the suspicious death of Cate, her best friend from high school. They’ve been estranged for years when a pregnant Cate shows up unexpectedly at a party Alicia is attending, begging her for help because someone is trying to take her baby. Minutes later Cate is killed in what looks like a freak accident. A secret is revealed and the game is on. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. And the crime in it is particularly interesting, one possible in only a short window of our time—say roughly 1995-2005, give or take a few years. Those who avidly read the science pages as well as crime blotters will note that this crime would be much less likely to occur in 2009. If you’ve already read this entertaining novel and want to know exactly what I’m talking about, click here . Which side of the argument do you think Robotham is on? On another topic, I’m looking—as always!—to add to my pile of thrilling reads. The first five people to post and let me know what your current favorite crime novel is and why will get a free copy of The Night Ferry.
Jen Marshall is a crime fiction fan and publicist at Vintage and Anchor Books. Her blog posts are called CrimeCandy because having access to a room full of Vintage Crime / Black Lizard titles is truly like being a kid in a candy store. An amazing perk that never, ever loses its shine.