Mrs. Peabody’s 2012 review

It’s been a busy year for Mrs. Peabody Investigates, with reviews of international crime fiction from Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. There were also a number of lively discussions on subjects including autopsy scenes; violence and women; Jewish detective figures; national image; strong female protagonists, and the crime writer as social commentator. Many thanks to everyone who joined in with their expertise and views! Last but not least, interviewing crime writers at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and contributing to Mark Lawson’s ‘Foreign Bodies’ series on Radio 4 were definite highlights.

So to finish off the year, here’s a random round-up of the best – and worst – of Mrs Peabody’s 2012 (with thanks to apuffofjack for the idea).

Most Satisfying Read: Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (2010), a gripping examination of the repercussions of a murder, set in the American Deep South of the 1970s, 1980s, and the present day.

Most Disappointing Read: Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Disgrace.Wooden characterisation was the real villain of this crime novel, but I’m still hoping for better from the next in the Department Q series.

Best Historical Crime Novel: Tie between Malla Nunn’s A Beautiful Place to Die (2010), which provides a fascinating insight into apartheid South Africa in the 1950s, and Stuart Neville’s The Twelve (2010) – hard-hitting Belfast noir exploring the legacy of The Troubles.

Crime Novel that Lingered Longest in the Mind: Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me (1952), which presents a chilling, but surprisingly nuanced portrait of murderer Lou Ford.

Best Female Detective: Tie between Edie Kiglatuk from M.J. McGrath’s White Heat (2011) and Emily Tempest from Adrian Hyland’s Diamond Dove (2006) (reviews pending). In many ways, these characters are twins: feisty, tough women who have complex insider / outsider roles in marginalised indiginous communities (the Inuit of the Arctic Circle and the Aboriginal people of the Australian outback).

Best Male Detective: Finnish-Jewish police inspector Ariel Kafka in Harri Nykänen’s Nights of Awe (2010): a highly original and witty investigator, whom I look forward to meeting again (albeit with a slightly less convoluted plot).  

Best Discovery: Leif G.W. Persson is well-known in his native country as a top criminologist and crime writer, but his razor-sharp dissections of Swedish society have only started to be translated relatively recently. I’ve just finished Another Time, Another Life (2012), which was a gem, and am keen to read more.

Last Policeman

Most Original Premise: Ben Winters’ The Last Policeman (2012) is a ‘pre-apocalypse police procedural’, in which Detective Hank Palace investigates a suspicious suicide six months before asteroid 2011GV1 is due to hit the earth. The first in a trilogy (review pending).

Best Re-read: Jakob Arjouni’s Turkish-German Kemal Kayankaya series (1985-2012). A ground-breaking detective who uses intelligence and wit to make his way in a largely racist society. The first in the series, Happy Birthday, Turk (1985), remains a cracker.

Best Use of Humour: Leif G.W. Persson uses satirical humour to great effect as he lifts the lid on the workings of Swedish society. Look out for the pathologist nicknamed ‘Esprit de Corpse’ in Another Time, Another Life.

Best crime TV series: The Killing III, in which Sarah Lund strode forth for the last time (still in denial that it’s over *sob*).

Best crime film: Tie between Romanzo Criminale (dir. Michele Placido, 2006), which traces the rise and fall of an Italian street gang, and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011), which plays out over a dream-like night of a police investigation (reviews to follow).

Most Anticipated Reads for 2013: Stuart Neville’s Ratlines (2013), set in a 1960s Ireland whose government is keen to play down its links with former Nazis, and Y.A. Erskine’s The Brotherhood (2011), a much-praised depiction of police corruption and betrayal set in Tasmania.

All best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year, filled with lots of  wonderful crime fiction.

20 thoughts on “Mrs. Peabody’s 2012 review

  1. Mrs. P – I really like your choices! ‘Course, I can’t say I’m surprised at your choice for best crime TV series… 😉 I really really hope you’ll like The Brotherhood. It’s not an easy book and Erskine pulls no punches as the saying goes. But it’s got so much food for thought!

    • Thanks, Margot. I’ve been waiting for The Brotherhood to come down in price a little before buying. Delighted to have got my hands on it now and full of anticipation – food for thought sounds very promising. Hope all good things come your way in 2013.

  2. Great post. Funny that your two favourite gals are at extreme ends of the temperature scale – I wonder how either lady would go if they had to swap locations?

    I agree it was a shame about The Adler-Olsson book but I have hopes that a third will be back to form. Am looking forward to reading The Last Policeman, thanks for reviewing it.

    Thanks also for your reviews and discussion topics and tweets and blog comments throughout the year – depending on which gadget I’m using to access the web I can’t always comment or respond to your thoughts but I do always read them. Hope 2013 is another great year for you and your reading.

    • Many thanks, Bernadette, and likewise. I hugely enjoy your posts and admire the great job that you’re doing in raising the profile of Australian crime. I do have the aim of ‘getting out’ a bit more in 2013, in terms of reading and interacting with other blogs. The day job does tend to get in the way a bit, so I think I will have to find a way of checking in more systematically…

      Wishing you a wonderful 2013 and many hours of contented reading and blogging.

    • Aha! It took a little while to get off the ground for me, but then gelled very nicely. A convincing depiction of what might happen should that kind of disaster threaten, both in terms of governmental and human reactions. A very interesting read!

  3. Well done on your excellent year Mrs P – particularly enjoyed the ‘Mark Lawson’ series (I think of it as the ‘Mrs P’ series ….). Hope it’s a great 2013 and thanks in particular for the info about the Tom Franklin book, which sounds really great.


    • Thanks very much, Sergio. I’m not sure what Mark Lawson would have to say about you rechristening the series, though! 🙂

      The Franklin is really worth reading if you get the chance, and I’d be very interested to see what you think of it. I don’t often read crime novels twice, but would be tempted to do so in this case. Very atmospheric descriptions of the Deep South too.

  4. I agree about Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. A great book on so many levels, not the least of which is that it’s a story about friendship lost and found, another slice of the human condition. Interesting choices about women protagonists. I’ve read so many books this year featuring women detectives that I’d have quite a long list here, but I agree on Emily Tempest as a favorite. Edie Kiglatuk was quite interesting, too.

    I read Malla Nunn’s third book this year, very good but her first book really is an indictment of apartheid. It was shocking, even though it should not have been surprising to anyone who has read about that heinous system in South Africa.

    A friend is loaning me an Arjouni book, as he accidently ordered it in English, and he reads his European mysteries in their original languages, so it’s coming my way. He says Arjouin’s depiction of German life is priceless.

    I have also read about 10 books by women writers from Oz, and am so glad I have; all had their unique styles and characters, and I’m so glad I found them.

    On to a new year of fascinating blogs and crime fiction. Thanks for providing a great stopping place filled with interesting and challenging posts. (And I’m going to find a copy of The Collini Case and comment no matter what.) Happy New Year.

    • Happy New Year, Kathy! It’s a lovely, crisp, cold, sunny day here, which feels like an good start, especially as we’ve had stacks of rain over the Christmas period.

      I think I’m just about ready to read the second of the Malla Nunn novels. I’m never quite sure why I want to leave longer gaps between reading the novels of one author as opposed to another, but in this case, I felt like waiting a reasonable length of time. I seem to remember that reviews were not quite so glowing for number 2, but will try to keep an open mind.

      I’m looking forward to sampling some more Aussie fiction as well. Bernadette can take the credit for that – she does a great job of showcasing her ‘local’ talent. Which were your favourites of the 10 you read?

      Yes, on to a new year. Wishing you lots of great reading and I shall look forward to hearing what you think about the Arjouni (and possibly the von Schirach…!)

  5. P.S. Also, regarding methods of keeping track of the year’s books read, I keep a page in my Word documents, categorized by continent and country as I keep up with the Global Reading Challenge. So I write down what I’ve read in the right category with my rating, then keep track of how many new authors I’ve read and their genders. Then whenever I want to add to it, I just find the document.
    I completed my goals for the 2012 Global Reading Challenge, having read at least three books per continent, with historical mysteries substituting for books set in Antartica, and read books set in more than 22 countries/provinces. A great reading year! Hope to equal or top this in 2013.

    • Thanks for this, Kathy. I’ll make a note of everyone’s suggestions from FriendFeed as well and will have a think about what would work best for me. Congratulations on achieving your goals on the Global Reading Challenge. HUGELY impressive!

  6. Excellent, misswhitters – I hope you enjoy. I’d be very interested to see what you think of them both – do pop back if you fancy to let me know…

  7. I liked many books from Oz: a Kerry Greenwood Corinna Chapman book, the first two by Angela Savage, The Boundary by Nicole Watson, a very intense book; underlying it is the oppression of the Indigenous people. The Precipice by Virginia Duigan was rather intense, too, but what a character study of an obsessed person. Normally, I don’t like that but this was so riveting, one dared not even get a snack. And, I did like Malla Nunn’s third book, not as much as the first two, but I liked it. And I also liked Wendy James’ The Mistake. So that’s 7 out of 10, too hard to pick a favorite here, but the other three were okay. I didn’t hit a bad one in the lot.

    So on to more Aussie women authors — if I can get the books here or I”ll just drown in muffins in Corinna Chapman’s bakery, and wait for Savage’s third book, which is coming here.

    I peruse Bernadette’s website closely for clues to good Aussie women authors, and Kerrie’s website, too. I’d be lost without them on this topic.

    • Many thanks for these recommendatations, Kathy – lots there for me to chase up. I’m really keen to broaden my geographical horizons this year and sample crime fiction from beyond Europe. Yes, Bernadette and Kerrie do us a great service via their websites – wonderful stuff.

  8. Von Shirach for sure if I can find this. My library has it in German! Although I grew up with some Yiddish, it’s not enough to read a book in German. (Also, a relative liked the movie, The Reader, so I’m back to being indecisive about that, but when I remember you said it was aggravating, I declined. We’ll see.)

    And when my friend is finished with a project, he’ll get me the Arjouni. He says there is brutality, but that the depiction of German life and the people is without parallel. (This is a guy who watches the Montalbano TV series in Italian, reads Maigret in French, Durrenmott in German, Luis Alfredo Garcia Roza in Portuguese, etc. Need I say more? It’s daunting.)

    • The Reader seems to be a love/hate thing – there are hugely polarised reactions to both the book and the film. Perhaps the only way to resolve this one is to dive in and see what you make of it yourself!

      I hope very much that you enjoy the Arjouni. I agree with your friend – the depiction of German life and society is fantastic – a wry and witty dissection that felt like a breath of fresh air back in the 1980s. (Hugely admiring and envious of your friend’s linguistic abilities by the way 🙂 )

  9. I’ve seen series 1 of Romanzo Criminale which I thought was amazing. I haven’t seen the original firm version but will have to give it a try.

    • With me it’s been the other way around – I’m really keen to see the TV series, but don’t have access to the channel in question, and the DVD doesn’t have subtitles at present. I loved the film (will review soonish) – was gripped from the first amazing scene to the last. Hope you enjoy.

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