Happy 2018, everyone! After a little hiatus, I’ve started getting back into some crime TV and film. I watched two gems over the festive break, each of which (oddly) featured serial killers and FBI inspectors, but were very different to one another in mood and tone.
The first was El Guardián Invisible, the 2017 Spanish film adaptation of Dolores Redondo’s novel of the same name, published as The Invisible Guardian here in 2015 (translated by Isabelle Kaufeler, HarperCollins). I loved the book and thought this was an excellent adaptation – faithful to the original while adding a stunning extra dimension through the visuals of Navarre’s atmospheric landscapes and weather. The rain seems to be torrential in pretty much every scene, which must have been fun for the actors… I particularly liked Marta Etura’s portrayal of lead investigator Amaia Salazar, an outstanding FBI-trained investigator, who returns to her home town to track a serial killer, and has to face up to her toxic relationship with her mother. It’s a hard-hitting, but satisfying watch.
The second was the Netflix Original series Mindhunter, which I resisted for a while due to its tough subject matter. But I kept hearing good things, and a recommendation from Brian, a regular reader of this blog, eventually led me to give it a go. And I’m glad I did, because it turns out to be a fascinating portrait of how the FBI developed a methodical approach to understanding and identifying serial killers in the 1970s. Based on the book by FBI agent John E. Douglas, the series shows two FBI agents, Holden Ford and Bill Tench (Jonathan Groff/Holt McCallney), becoming increasingly aware of the rise of the serial killer in modern American society, and attempting to gain insights into the phenomenon by interviewing serial killers and helping police forces with their investigations. They are joined by Boston psychology professor Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), who helps them work more systematically in building up their database and deepens their knowledge of how serial killers are formed and how they think. It’s all fascinating stuff, and I’m definitely going to stick with it, although it’s a very difficult watch in places (no gratuitous violence, but the details of the crimes are given verbally and sometimes shown in the photos used in the investigations). I tend to watch one episode at a time and then switch to something lighter!
I always get a bit of fresh reading energy around the New Year. Having read and enjoyed some Japanese crime fiction just before Christmas, I’m keen to read a little more widely – either by choosing novels set in unusual places or in different historical eras or both. Here are three Must Reads currently on my list:
- Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird (Serpent’s Tail 2017), exploring race relations in East Texas
- Joe Thomas’ Paradise City (Arcadia 2017), set in Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Nicolas Verdan’s The Greek Wall (trans. by W. Donald Wilson, Bitter Lemon Press 2018), set on the border of Turkey and Greece
Which crime novels are on your Must Read list for 2018?
I don’t want to be fussy, but the action takes place in Navarre, not in the Basque Country.
Oh, do be fussy! Will change immediately. Thanks very much for the correction!
I’m very glad you had some good reads and the chance to watch some TV you enjoyed, Mrs. P. I keep hearing such good things about the Locke (haven’t quite got to it yet), so I’m glad you thought it well done. Happy 2018!
Happy 2018, Margot! I haven’t quite got to Bluebird yet either. It’s one of the crime novels I’m really keen to get my hands on this year. Have heard lots of good things about it.
I will keep an eye out for the movie of The Invisible Guardian because I liked the book very much too.
I succumbed to the Mindhunter hype too and overall thought it was good but I do think making things for Netflix gives some people the scope to produce more than is necessary…there were times when that series dragged and perhaps making it shorter would have made it even better.
As for must reads I haven’t got any particular books on my list…I’m going goal free for this year and just reading whatever takes my fancy at the time…have to say I gave up on Bluebird. Bluebird…for me the story was lost amidst the earnest tome about racism being a bad thing…of course I agree with that sentiment but found the book too didactic for my tastes…I suspect it’s a bit of a cultural thing as I have thought that about other American books in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with books from elsewhere…even when they are heavy on the social/political awareness raising….curious to see what you make of it
Hi Bernadette – I’m about half-way through series 1 of Mindhunter at the moment, and have enjoyed seeing how the team has come together and is building its research. I can see how the format might become a little repetitive, but I like the way it’s put together so far. I hear that another series has been commissioned as well!
There’s a real pleasure in reading without goals. I tried a couple of challenges once, but found the pressure of reaching my targets too stressful (and there was too much stress in other areas of my life to be adding any more…).
Thanks for your thoughts on Bluebird. Finding a balance between writing a novel that ‘works’ as a literary text and one that delivers a strong social message is a delicate task. Have you read Thomas Mullen’s Darktown? I thought it did a great job with a similar set of themes.
Wishing you lots of happy reading in 2018!
Thanks for the recommendation of Darktown…I will try that one out
And YAY The Invisible Guardian is on Netflix here too…we’re gearing up for another hot spell so I am delighted to have an excuse to watch rather than do chores 🙂
Hope you manage to find it at your end! A bit jealous of your hot spell. Freezing cold with hail here this afternoon.
Hi Mrs P, have you watched the last episode of ‘Mindhunter’ yet? Be interested to hear your thoughts on it. Yes it was recommissioned in November, so will be late ‘18 I would think. The question is whose the ADT guy we always see at the beginning? All in all one of the best crime programmes on tv, very gripping & certainly not repetitive, who needs shoot outs & car chases! Last but not least no adverts! Also watching the ever reliable Spiral, 6th series’s now, how time flies! Think it was originally on BBC2, certainly one of the first euro crime series. Recommend ‘Inside No 9’ love the black humor, & the brilliant but completely bonkers’Dirk Gently etc’ on netflix. The film sounds intriguing, where did you catch it? Not seen it reviewed or advertised anywhere.
Just re-read Peter Ackroyds Dan Leano & the Limehouse Golem after watching the appalling film version of it, not recommended!!
Hello Brian – thanks again for encouraging me to give Mindhunter a go. I haven’t got to the final episode yet, but will let you know what I think (am now slightly nervous!!!). Yes, that chap at the beginning is very unsettling. I have a bad feeling about him.
Thanks for your other recommendations. Dirk Gently sounds like a nice antidote to Mindhunters…
I found the film of The Invisible Guardian on Netflix just before Christmas – hopefully it’s still there for you to catch.
Enjoy Spiral. I never managed to get into it and feel like I’d need to go back to the beginning to get the most out of it now. A nice project for the future.
I’ve just finished What You don’t Know, by JoAnn Chaney (her first book, I believe). It’s had lots of rave reviews and they are completely justified. It’s fantastic from start to finish and I would recommend it to anyone. If you’ve not read it, put it on your 2018 must read list.
(And just to put my thoughts in perspective, I absolutely hated The Man Who Died from about page 10 to the end. That’s too many hours I will never get back….)
Thanks for the recommendation, David!
Ah, what a shame you didn’t like The Man Who Died. Maybe it’s going to be one of those love-hate Marmite novels… Do you always read books you’re not enjoying to the end? I have to confess that I’m getting more ruthless in old age. If it hasn’t grabbed me by page 100, then I’ll give it up as a bad job.
Well, as a fan of Attica Locke’s, I highly recommend Bluebird, Bluebird. A friend who has relatives in East Texas says they’re just like the people in the book.
I haven’t planned my reading for the year. So many books on my TBR list and I’m going to add your favorites from last year, except for the three I read, Bernadette’s list and a few other lists. I’ll have too many books to read, and there’s Eva Dolan’s new book, an upcoming Susie Steiner — and more and more.
Thanks, Kathy. I’ve started Bluebird, Bluebird and am enjoying very much. I really like Locke’s style.
I enjoyed Mindhunter series although it is disturbing. I also bought the Attica Locke book. Look forward to reading it along with some earlier Stephen King books (not sure why he fascinates me now).
Hi Keishon – yes, I’m finding Mindhunter disturbing too (to the extent that I have taken a little break from it). Really enjoying Bluebird; hope you do too! Stephen King rocks – Dolores Claiborne is a real favourite, if you haven’t read it yet.
I loved Dolores Claiborne. His book to me by far.