Crime fiction pick of the month, September 2013

The Iron Staircase/The TrainGeorges Simenon: The Iron Staircase/The Train contains two novellas. The first is the story of Etienne Lomel, a self-obsessed and lonely man who may or may not be being slowly poisoned by his wife. I found it a little annoying, to be frank.

The second story isn’t crime. It’s the odd little tale of Marcel Féron, a radio engineer in Fumay, northern France. Fleeing the German invasion by train, he is separated from his wife and child and immediately commences a passionate love affair with a woman convict released from a Belgian prison. Essentially, he finds himself in the chaos of war, but it can’t last. He has responsibilities and returns home to fulfil them. The story ends with a sad little act of betrayal. Not my usual fare, but I think it will stay with me.

After Simenon, I read two recent books for Eurocrime.

Graham Masterton’s Broken Angels is the second book in his Katie Maguire series set in contemporary Cork. It’s a competent crime novel, but extremely heavy on the blood and gore so maybe not for everyone.

Barbara Nadel’s An Act of Kindness is the second in her Hakim and Arnold series. I like Nadel’s ability to even-handedly depict multicultural societies (she also writes about the East End of London in the 40s and modern-day Istanbul). This one has a lot of intelligent points to make about identity and how much of it is down to personal choice. The warts-and-all portrait of Essex gangsters makes for grim reading.

Then back to the past. Leonard Merrick’s Mr Bazalgette’s Agent is a fun little book from the British Library, worth reading for its period atmosphere and witty writing if not for the negligible mystery.

John Fowles’ The Collector really surprised me. I expected it to be a literary and intelligent book, but was surprised to find it was a bit of a page-turner as well. The story of a sexually-warped kidnapper and his captive love interest reminded me a little of Julian Symons.

Speaking of Symons, The Players and the Game is an intriguing study of folie a deux in 70s suburbia. ‘Dracula’ and ‘Bonnie Parker’ meet up at a horror-film exhibition and things turn nasty very quickly. Review to follow…

Pick of the month? The Collector.  It’s a book which might be missed by crime fans, so I’d urge you to give it a try.


About pastoffences

Past Offences exists to review classic crime and mystery books, with ‘classic’ meaning books originally published before 1987.
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4 Responses to Crime fiction pick of the month, September 2013

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    You’ve got some great choices here, Rich. And a good reminder to read The Collector.


  2. Col says:

    Rich, I’ve got my eyes open for a copy of The Collector now, plus I will have to try at least one Maigret at some point, though probably not just yet,


  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    Rich, thanks for reminding us of The Collector.


  4. TracyK says:

    Great group of reads for the month, with a lot of variety. You touched on two authors that I have not read but want to. Barbara Nadel… I want to try both of her series. Also Julian Symons, I have several of his books but have never read one.


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