Sunday, October 9, 2011

RWC Quarterfinal 4: Argentina vs New Zealand (Martinez vs Symon)

For the fourth and final instalment in my quarterfinal round of rugby-themed international crime fiction posts, we have Argentina vs New Zealand. In rugby terms, this is being picked as the least-close of the quarterfinal match-ups, the only one that shouldn't be able to go either way (1 vs 8, in effect), but you never know. The ball can bounce in funny ways...

As for the crime fiction, well, let's take a look at a book from each country that I've read and/or purchased in the past year or so.

Representing Argentina: THE BOOK OF MURDER by Guillermo Martinez
I saw this book in the Brisbane airport bookshop when I was travelling a few months ago, and grabbed it. Unfortunately I haven't yet got around to reading it, but I will endeavour to do so soon. I understand that Martinez's novels are of the psychological suspense and literary thriller variety; this one certainly looks intriguing.

The narrator is an up-and-coming young writer who has little in common with Kloster — a literary giant whose disturbing crime novels dominate the bestseller lists. However, they have both, at one time, employed the secretarial services of the alluring Luciana B. Out of the past, Luciana makes a desperate plea to the young writer. She thinks that Kloster is slowly killing off everyone close to her — can he help before her grandmother and younger sister are murdered?

While the narrator suspects her misfortunes have driven her mad, Kloster has a powerful motive; and eerie parallels surface between the murders in Kloster’s books and the real-life deaths surrounding Luciana. As the body count multiplies, the question arises: Can words really kill?

 Representing New Zealand: BOUND by Vanda Symon
Symon's fourth and latest novel starring Dunedin police detective Sam Shephard is in my opinion her best yet. And the others have all been good to great, too. I read and really, really enjoyed BOUND earlier this year.

Symon kick-starts her latest thrilling tale with a brutal home invasion; a businessman is killed with a shot gun; his wife, who watched him die, nearly chokes to death, gagged and tied to a chair. As Shephard and her CID colleagues investigate, it becomes clear that the businessman's succes might not have been all that legitimate, leading the police eventually to a couple of lowlifes suspected of an earlier cop killing. But while Shephard's colleagues are happy they might be able to kill two birds with one stone, she's uneasy, and keeps investigating - much to the chagrin of her police peers.

BOUND is top notch crime fiction; excellent storytelling with real verve and energy, starring one of the most enjoyably readable heroines on the crime fiction scene.

Result: As I haven't read THE BOOK OF MURDER yet, it would be unfair for me to speculate whether this contest will go the same way as the rugby (ie, a likely New Zealand victory). All I will say is that, like the All Blacks, Symon's BOUND is a very strong contender that would take a heck of a performance from the Argentinians to overcome.

Comments welcome.

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