“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lost Girls And Golden Boys

It’s long past time to declare a moratorium on the serial killer in crime fiction. Yes, the serial killer is our contemporary bogeyman, and a McGuffin for our most primeval fears, Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf relocated from forest to urban nightmare - but enough already. For one, you’re far more likely to become the victim of an inept politician running the Department of Health than you are to fall into the hands of a serial killer. For two, the killer created by Anthony Zuiker for DARK ORIGINS is so barkingly implausible as to render the serial killer sub-genre beyond parody and pastiche for at least a generation to come.
  Marilyn Stasio and Hallie Ephron, reviewing Declan Hughes’s THE CITY OF LOST GIRLS last weekend in the New York Times and the Boston Globe respectively, lamented the fact that Hughes has his private eye Ed Loy pursuing a serial killer in his latest outing. As it happens, I think Hughes has created one of the very few believable serial killers I’ve read about in recent times, a character who is not simply a two-dimensional cipher for evil but who is fascinating in his own right. That caveat aside, both ladies, along with Laura Wilson in The Guardian, were generous in their praise of THE CITY OF LOST GIRLS. To wit:
Declan Hughes isn’t just an other gruff voice in the barking crowd of noir crime writers. His characters have depth, his scenes have drama, and his sentences have grace.” - Marilyn Stasio, New York Times

“No one writes crime fiction quite like Declan Hughes … The storytelling is lean but always with poetic force and attention paid to word choice and to the rhythm of the prose.” - Hallie Ephron, Boston Globe

“Irish writer Hughes’s fifth book is a welcome addition to a series which has given the tired private-eye sub-genre a much-needed shot in the arm … The plot is taut and pacy, the prose is gorgeous, and there are plenty of twists and turns: a page-turner and a treat.” - Laura Wilson, The Guardian
  For what they’re worth, my own three cents are that Hughes has raised the bar with THE CITY OF LOST GIRLS, both for the PI novel in general and for Irish crime fiction in general. And given the year we had last year, that’s saying something.
  Meanwhile, and while we’re on the subject of raising the bar, belated congratulations to Stuart Neville, who last weekend won the LA Times Best Mystery / Thriller Novel of the Year for his debut, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (aka THE TWELVE).
  By happy coincidence, Neville’s novel features a protagonist who is not just a serial killer who goes about the business of killing a baker’s dozen of victims with some aplomb, but a man who is a serial killer twice over - first as a paramilitary hitman, then as a guilt-ridden ex-paramilitary driven to clear his conscience - who nevertheless gains and holds the reader’s sympathy as he cuts a bloody swathe through post-Peace Process Northern Ireland. Which suggests, as does Declan Hughes’s contribution, that it’s not the serial killer sub-genre that’s moribund per se, it’s the lazy writers who depend too heavily, and too luridly, on what the serial killer does rather than who the serial killer is. It’s the difference, I think, between pointing up the grotesque in humanity rather than illuminating the humanity in the grotesque. And that makes for a world of difference.

2 comments:

Michael Malone said...

I would appreciate it if the moratorium could wait until my serial killer novel is published. After that you can burn the whole fecking lot of them.

"illuminating the humanity in the grotesque." Nice one, Dec.

Peter Rozovsky said...

For what they’re worth, my own three cents are that Hughes has raised the bar with THE CITY OF LOST GIRLS

That he indeed has.
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