Blame Enid Blyton. After all, she not only played a big part in making me the bookworm that I am but also -- by way of being the woman behind the Secret Seven, Famous Five, Five Find-Outers and Dog, and a fair few other series featuring intrepid child detectives -- was the first writer of crime stories that I came across.
Put another way: Enid Blyton books may no longer be a staple of my bibliographic diet. However, I think that extremely prolific plus popular author's due some credit for making me the fan of crime fiction -- a genre which I've been surprised to latterly learn is female dominated in terms of both authors and readers -- that I remain to this day.
At the same time though, I have to say that she doesn't make my current list of five most favorite crime fiction writers. Rather, these are (in order of personal discovery):-
1) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: An admission to which the more foul-mouthed might exclaim, "No shit, Sherlock!" ;D More seriously though, I realize that this looks to be an unimaginative choice. Still, the truth of the matter is that, while still in my early teens, I got myself a copy of The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes and proceeded to race through every single one of the four novels and fifty-six short stories in it which had Sherlock Holmes as its protagonist.
Also, to make up for my general unimaginative choice, I'm going to name the not particularly well-known The Adventure of the Lion's Mane along with A Scandal in Bohemia as my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories in that hefty 1,122 page paperback book which weighs -- yes, I really did go and weigh it just now! -- in the region of 2 pounds or 1 kilograms! ;b
2) Elizabeth George: It was not until many years later that I would come to be as gripped by, and care for, a crime series' characters the way I had with Sir Arthur's Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. But in -- and through -- works like A Suitable Vengeance, Payment in Blood and Deception On His Mind, Elizabeth George got me all engrossed and enthralled by the lives, works and loves of the likes of Scotland Yarder Thomas Lynley (AKA the Earl of Asherton); his lady love, Lady Helen Clyde; detective Barbara Havers; and Barbara's little friend, Khalidah Hadiyyah.
...which is why her thirteenth novel, With No One As Witness is so painful to read. Succinctly put: one of my favorite characters in this series is shot dead in the book. Yet, even as the incident ellicited reactions of shock and horror from me, it didn't cause me to stop reading the story. And yes, I'll give Elizabeth George at least one more chance to redeem herself in the form of her latest work: that which is entitled -- and do not click on the title if you don't wish to see spoilers for the preceding book! -- What Came Before He Shot Her.
3) Tess Gerritsen: Another crime fiction writer whose characters I love. In this case, the trio of characters in question are Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles, police detective Jane Rizzoli and Jane's FBI agent husband, Gabriel Dean. (More than by the way, Tess Gerritsen has a revelatory post on her fun-to-read blog -- one which makes her come across as a really nice and unpretentious individual -- in which she acknowledges that "Maura Isles is me"!)
More specifically, what I appreciate about the Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series is that its two main characters really have not only generally grown increasingly three-dimensional but also developed in increasingly intriguing ways over the course of the six books that I've read thus far. In particular, Jane Rizzoli has latterly become warmer -- and I'd even say mature -- by way of her now being married and a parent. At the same time, however, she's by no means lost the feisty and even fiery edge that helps her be the capable policewoman -- along with wife and mother -- and interesting character that she is.
4) Linda Fairstein: At a time when I was waiting impatiently for Tess Gerritsen to come up with a new crime novel, I first turned to the books of Patricia Cornwell for respite. However, the further along I went into her Kay Scarpetta series, the more irritated I became with her main characters' destructive plus depressive tendencies. Consequently, I was initially a bit hesitant to check out the works of Linda Fairstein because they seemed to feature similar main characters to Cornwell's (i.e., a financially well-off female crime professional and a proudly un-PC male cop).
However, just two books into the Alex (short for Alexandra) Cooper series, I realized that I had read at least one chapter (specifically, Chapter 28 of Likely To Die) that was unlike anything that Cornwell had written: one which was heart-warming and the perfect coda to a work that had seen its sex crimes prosecutor being involved in the investigation of a disturbing as well as messy murder case. And from then on, I was hooked!
5) Lisa See: Before anything else, here's sending out heartfelt thanks to regular reader Mikael for recommending this Asian-American author's crime novels to me. (See the comments section of this blog entry!) Additionally, here's reporting that in the wake of his doing so, I've managed to track down -- and proceeded to thoroughly enjoy reading -- two of them in the form of Dragon Bones and The Interior.
Alas, though, re my search for the first book out of just three so far which center on Liu Hulan, Inspector at China's Ministry of Public Security, and American lawyer David Stark having thus far been in vain. However, trust me when I say that I've by no means given up hope on getting my hands on a copy of Flower Net.
Also, that I really would look forward to spending more hours with my nose in any new addition to this series whose Chinese settings are often much less exoticized than -- even while as interesting as -- the books' blurbs can make them sound. (So, Ms. See, in the unlikely event that you're reading this, please write more of these crime novels, and ASAP, will you?!) :)
(N.B. This post has been submitted to engtech//'s Five Things contest)