Home | About | Reviews | Search | Submit | Links | Cons | Subscribe
April 12, 2014
I happened to notice that only two of the novels we're reviewing this week were not written by women. This did not come about deliberately; it just so happened. But it led me to think about the changes that have overtaken the crime fiction genre over the years. There was a time when mysteries by women authors had trouble being reviewed or found themselves ushered into a neat and cosy pen, well away from the tough and serious male contenders for fame in crime.
Happily, that era is largely past and there is no general expectation that a female author will produce a certain sort of book. Today's reviews are ample proof - there are unsentimental examinations of the sometimes murderous dynamics of family living, police procedurals with both male and female detectives in the starring roles, stories set in large cities and tiny towns, the quiet unfolding of evidence and clues, and nail-biting suspense. And, of course, a couple of ghosts. It would be very hard to generalize broadly about gender differences among authors on the basis of what we've got today, though a closer examination might come up with some.
Families are at the centre of several books, of course, and the fact that these are set variously in Norway, Manchester, and the United States underlines the universality of the theme. THE COLD SONG by Linn Ullman is less a crime novel than an exploration of the effect of a crime on an already dysfunctional family and I thought it very absorbing. Jim Napier was also enthusiastic about Cath Staincliffe's LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTER'S KILLER. This is not one of her police procedurals, but a standalone that Jim calls a genuine tour de force. The relationship between a mother and daughter is the subject of Laura Kasischke's MIND OF WINTER, book that Christine Zibas found gripping right to the last, stunning page. A father and a daughter are at the centre of Wendy Hornsby's THE COLOR OF LIGHT, which Caryn St Clair liked so much she plans to go back and read earlier entries in the series.
Broader social issues and a broader definition of family are at work in DAKOTA, by Gwen Florio. Donna Allard Halford, who is making her first appearance as a reviewer in this issue, praises this novel set in Montana, where life is especially hard on women and young Native women are at great risk of being trafficked or worse.
Bruce DeSilva raises an interesting ethical question in PROVIDENCE RAG, in which a violent killer has been held on trumped-up charges for eighteen years after he was due to be released as a juvenile offender. P D Crumbaker found this an involving read, both for the ethical concerns and its portrait of changing journalistic standards as old newspaper fail and social media take their place.
Two very strong and independent female protagonists are back, one after a considerable absence. Lesbian detective Kate Delafield, formerly of the LAPD and now retired, is back to aid an old friend from the force, while trying to cope with retirement and the loss of friends and her lover. Katherine V. Forrest's HIGH DESERT provides a satisfying and involving cap to Kate's long career, I thought. On the other hand, while she enjoyed Nevada Barr's DESTROYER ANGEL, Sharon Mensing felt that it marked so startling departure from Anna Pigeon's usual standards that it would be best to read it only in conjunction with some of the earlier books in the series.
Two police procedurals, both British, found favour with their reviewers. Elizabeth Haynes's UNDER A SILENT MOON introduces Inspector Louisa Smith in the first of a projected series. Paris Abell calls it a model of the police procedural and is looking forward to the next in the series. Inspector Jimmy Perez of Ann Cleeves' DEAD WATER has been around for a while now (in fact, this marks his fifth appearance in what was supposed to be a quartet), but Lourdes Venard is not complaining. Another policeman, Inspector Roberto Ramirez, of Havana has to travel to Ottawa in winter in THE POISONED PAWN, by Peggy Blair to bring a Catholic priest caught with child pornography back to Cuba to face justice. Diana Borse liked this very much indeed.
In case there's any danger of forgetting the genre's lurid (and very entertaining past), Max Allan Collins is here to remind us in his THE SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT, a return to the days of good old-fashioned pulp. Ben Neal found it tremendous fun.
Our interviewee this week is Elizabeth Haynes (see above), who kindly answers our questions in the box to your left.
Wondering where our UK reviewers have gone? You'll find them at CRIMEREVIEW .
There are several holidays intervening between this issue and the next, so we'd like to wish all of you who are celebrating a very happy Passover and Easter. Do drop by next time to see what we've been reading.
P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.
Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.
We have thousands of reviews archived on this site. Use the form below to search by title, author's name, or keyword (e.g., noir, cozy, PI, female, thriller, gay, cats).
PLEASE READ BEFORE ASKING US TO REVIEW A BOOK
Publishers or authors wishing to submit books for review should contact the editors. Please note, before approaching us, that the publishing house must be a print publisher, pay advances and issue royalty statements, edit books, create covers, neither solicit nor accept financial payments from its authors, never copyright an author's title under the publisher's name, and never expect or ask authors to buy a certain number of copies of the author's books. As a general rule we will only consider books for review which have been published by publishers listed on the Mystery Writers of America approved list. We can never guarantee that a review will appear. And our reviewers are given a free rein to express their opinions constructively and honestly.
Please note that we review crime fiction and selected science fiction and horror. We have a policy of not accepting any religious books—and that includes religious crime fiction. We are unable to review any ebooks, unbound galleys, PODs, or PDF files.
OUR REVIEWING PRINCIPLES
Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.
For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.
Contact: Yvonne Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[ Home | About | Reviews | Search | Submit | Links | Cons ]