You may remember the first-ever Crime Watch competition that I ran back in September, where blog readers could win a copy of a Kiwi crime or thriller novel, signed by the author, shipped to them anywhere around the world. It was great to get entries from so many different places.
As I announced on 9 September, the 3 winners were Fred from Arizona (USA), Richard from Cork (Ireland) and Jen from Ohio (USA). Now that some time has passed, I thought I'd share some of their feedback about the Kiwi crime novels they won, with you.
Fred won a signed copy of Vanda Symon's THE RINGMASTER, having said in his entry that he had little experience with Kiwi crime writing (other than Dame Ngaio Marsh's UK-set cosy mysterys), but would prefer a police procedural set in New Zealand.
THE RINGMASTER is the second instalment in Vanda Symon's Sam Shephard series, and is a little more of a police procedural than Symon's debut, as Sam has 'graduated' to working as a probationary detective as opposed to being a sole charge rural cop in OVERKILL.
In THE RINGMASTER, our heroine has moved to biggish-city Dunedin from small-town Mataura; bridges burnt. On the bottom rung of the detective training ladder, Sam is sidelined from a Botanic Gardens murder investigation by her grudge-holding boss. Assigned to peacemaking duties between the visiting circus and animal rights protestors, Sam uncovers a link between the circus and deaths spread throughout the South Island, sparking serial killer fears.
You can read my 14 November 2008 review of THE RINGMASTER here.
Last month our winner Fred, who is a fellow book blogger (Fred's Place), shared his thoughts on his first experience of Vanda Symon's writing. He says: "I think Vanda Symon is the first crime writer from New Zealand that I've read, or at least the first one who has set her novels in New Zealand. I read many of Ngaio Marsh's mysteries years ago, but most were set in England."
Fred goes on to say: "Detective Constable Sam Shepherd makes the novel work, and I definitely intend to read the first one in the series, and the third when it appears in December." You can read Fred's full review here.
Symon's third Sam Shephard novel, CONTAINMENT, has just been released. I thought CONTAINMENT was another great read - I will post reviews (my own and links to other peoples') in due course.
Richard won a signed copy of Paul Cleave's debut THE CLEANER, having said in his entry that "I expect Paul Cleave would be the sort I would enjoy. In fact, he is on my list of authors to start collecting."
Richard had come across the competition via the reader forums on the Mark Billingham website. Billingham of course is a big fan of Cleave's writing, having said:
"Most people come back from New Zealand talking about the the breathtaking scenery and the amazing experiences. I came back raving about Paul Cleave. These are stories that you won’t forget in a while: relentlessly gripping, deliciously twisted and shot through with a vein of humour that’s as dark as hell. Cleave creates fictional monsters as chilling and as charming as any I’ve ever come across. Anyone who likes their crime fiction on the black and bloody side should move Paul Cleave straight to the top of their must-read list."
Despite Cleave's writing not yet getting the attention he deserves in the English-speaking markets, Germany (which 'discovered' Linwood Barclay and Stieg Larsson, amongst others, before those authors became popular or noticed in the UK and the US) has embraced his tales filled with dark crime and dark humour. THE CLEANER was the #1 crime thriller title on Amazon in Germany for 2007, and in the top 10 for all books. In reasonably short order more than 250,000 copies had been sold (international sales of Cleave's books are now approximately half a million), making THE CLEANER one of the biggest and fastest-selling fiction books to ever come out of New Zealand (even though it hasn't yet been released in the UK or the USA).
THE CLEANER centres on Joe, a serial killer who works as a janitor at the Christchurch Police Department. When a killing he didn't perform is linked to him, Joe uses his inside access to try and find and punish the copycat.
After reading his prize, Richard shared his thoughts on the Billingham forums, saying:
"All I can say is wow!. I heartily recommend this book to other forum members. I understand it is to be published in the UK, hopefully in the not too distant future. Not sure about the US. I don't think I am including any real spoilers here, as the back cover blurb and reviews on the internet reveal even more. I would compare it with Mark's SLEEPYHEAD, not because there is any similarity in the plot but because it is, in my view, such a unique premise for a first crime novel...
While not a writer myself, I alway assume that writing in the first person is more difficult than in the third. To do so and relate the narrative from the perspective of the serial killer must have called for extensive research and a brilliant, (and maybe warped ) imagination. There is one male lead and IMHO three female characters who are vital to the story. The way Paul slips parts of their backstory seamlessly into the tale is very well done... Paul's explanation of the thought processes of the insane Joe are enlightening and frighteningly logical. There is a dark humour throughout and one scene in particular had me wincing. Male readers will easily work out which one. All in all, a very entertaining read and I look forward to reading more by this author."
So, two happy prize-winners, who have now been introduced to some modern Kiwi crime writing. Hopefully more readers will give Symon, Cleave, and other Kiwi crime writers a go at some stage. Have any of you read THE RINGMASTER or THE CLEANER? Do you agree or disagree with Fred and Richard's comments? Do they sound like the kind of crime novels you'd want to try? What are your thoughts?