Here's to crime!
Anyway I've finally got back to it with my panacea to just about everything: there's nothing quite as comforting as crime fiction when you're having a bad time. In your classic crime novel chaos may reign, but at the end (usually) good will triumph and the old order will be restored. Actually the two novels I've just read are anything but perfect examples of this, but they were interesting and contrasting.
The first novel The dreadful hollow by Nicholas Blake is very much in the classic British crime novel genre. Written in the 1950s it harks back to an earlier period of the British country house murder mystery so beloved of Agatha Christie. Blake was the pseudonym of the poet C. Day Lewis - Daniel Day Lewis's Dad.
You can sort of tell that there was a poetic streak to the writer. The language is quite florid, and everything is a bit larger than life. The story itself is not a bad one. Nigel Strangeways, the private detective, is called in to investigate a series of poison pen letters in an English village, but things become a lot nastier when Strangeways' employer is murdered. The murderer is fairly easily identified if you go by the classic adage that whoever is the least likely suspect must be the murderer; but how s/he becomes the murderer is all so unlikely that there really is far too much disbelief to suspend. It's fun, there are some nice character studies, and I liked the novel enough to want to read more in the series, but as far as classic crime goes this is not one of the best.
Journeys in the dead season by Spencer Jordan was a very different kettle of fish. I found this a most unlikeable book. Weaving between an accomplice to a child murder in present-day Durham Jail, and a disturbed World War I veteran on a post-war walking tour of Leicestershire (the two characters' paths cross geographically though divided by time) the novel traces their traumatic histories through their diaries.
I just found it completely confusing. Other than the geographical connections and the fact that both characters were evidently traumatised mentally in some way I couldn't work out what the author was trying to say about the connections between the characters, why they should be connected, or what the point of the novel was. Much of the narrative of the earlier character although good to read seemed disjointed, while the later character, although undoubtedly well-written, was an unpleasant and harrowing reading experience. It was gripping - hence I guess why I made it to the end - but not pleasant, not something I would wish to repeat any time soon. Stay clear.