Friday, April 8, 2011

Miss Marple vs Carter Ross: it's your call!

The online vote to find the world's favourite amateur sleuth (ie someone not involved with the police, licensed PIs or other law enforcement roles) is coming to a rapid close, with the voting in the championship round soon to finish.

A month ago 64 amateur sleuths - some classic, some new, some known worldwide, some lesser known but remarkably popular amongst the voting bloc, some underappreciated, some overblown - began a knockout tournament on the award-winning Jen's Book Thoughts blog to find the 'world's favourite'.

Now we are down to two: Agatha Christie's Jane Marple vs Brad Parks' Carter Ross. You can vote for your favourite here.

I'm sure I'm not the only keen crime reader from outside the US who is a little surprised by one of the finalists. To be honest I'd never heard of Carter Ross prior to the tournament. Apparently there was something of a surge in support for the character (who is penned by an relatively new author who is getting some acclaim by keen readers who post and comment on crime fiction blogs in the United States), enabling Ross to beat Lisbeth Salander in the semifinal.

Bizarrely however, some commenters on Jen's blog over the past couple of weeks seem more surprised by Miss Marple's ongoing success - an overtly pro-contemporary viewpoint that may explain some of the 'interesting' voting results, where 'classic' sleuths, international sleuths, and US sleuths that are more beloved worldwide have fallen by the wayside, beaten by lesser-known (on a global scale) hometown favourites of recent vintage.

Being the curious person I am, however, I decided to get to know a little more about Carter Ross - clearly he's a character that has caught the zeitgeist, at least amongst voters.

Carter Ross debuted in Brad Parks' Nero and Shamus Award-winning debut mystery, FACES OF THE GONE (first published in December 2009). He is an investigative reporter in Newark who doesn't believe the story police are feeding the media about four bodies found in a vacant lot, each with a bullet in the back of the head. His paper prints the police's version anyway, leaving Carter all but alone to find the real story - a story that puts him in the path of one very ambitious killer.

You can read an extract from FACES OF THE GONE here.

Carter Ross has now returned in Brad Parks' second mystery novel, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, which was released in February this year. You can read more about that book here, and about Carter Ross here.

In all honesty, Carter Ross sounds like an intriguing hero, and I would be very keen to read some of Parks' work (I'm not sure how available they are here in New Zealand yet). However, I am still a touch uncomfortable with such a brand new character, who's only featured in two books, winning his way through the 'world's favourite amateur sleuth' ballot. For me it raises questions of 'ballot stuffing' and perhaps not getting a representative enough voting bloc this time around.

Unlike last year, where most of the favourite detectives who got through to the final rounds were longstanding or classic characters that had received much acclaim over long series - meaning that even if you had other favourites (eg I thought Dave Robicheaux should have done much better, as did many crime authors I've spoken to) then you could understand why the quarterfinalists and semifinalists etc had made it through - the amateur sleuth voting seems to have skewed more towards characters who are perhaps more recent and popular amongst groups of keen crime readers in the USA, rather than the wider reading public. Not that's a bad thing, just different - and an observation I think is kind of interesting. As they say, sometime voting tells you just as much about the voters as it does about what they're voting on.

Anyway, if you're a Carter Ross fan or a Miss Marple fan, make sure you do have your say (the voting is open worldwide), and head along to Jen's Book Thoughts to cast your vote.

As for me, I'm going to try to get hold of one of Brad Parks' books - they certainly sound good.

Have you read any Carter Ross books? If so, what do you think? Does Miss Marple deserve to be named 'world's favourite amateur sleuth', or has her time passed? Thoughts welcome.


  1. I've never heard of either Brad Parks or his detective, Carter Ross.

    Only two books out? And he beat out how many others?

    Something is seriously wrong here.

  2. There are many Agatha Christie fans out in the mystery reading world. I'm not one of them, but my candidates fell by the wayside a few votes ago.

    I feel like in many elections -- there is no one to vote for. So do I sit it out or hold my nose and vote for one? There are no options here for a third party candidate.

  3. Very pertinent points, Craig. I have to admit that I have never heard of Carter Ross, either. If I had been a gambler, I would have bet on Jack Reacher at the start. Though he is very one-dimensional, he has a big following. So I was gobsmacked when he was chucked out of the running so early. Obviously his fans don't read Jen's great blog, which is a pity.

  4. These polls are ridiculous winning depends so much on the luck of the draw. Lots of people including me had never heard of Carter Ross , but we had an election last year and someone most electors had never heard of six months before ended up as Deputy Prime Minister.

  5. Hey Craig!

    Thanks for being such a great supporter. I appreciate the help spreading the word. I have been utterly shocked at the way this tourney has been going, myself. (BTW, I don't vote.) I'm thinking of doing a blog post on my experiences with both groups and my theories on what created the outcomes of both. We'll see.

    I'll email you and we'll get Brad's books in your hands!

  6. Joan - you're wonderful and you've totally made my day! :-)

  7. Ditto on Joan's comments on Jen's great blog, and also hope that Jen writes a blog post on these elections and outcomes.

  8. I have never read Carter Ross but Miss Marple.So I would go for her...