Wednesday, January 18, 2006

International crime

World Literature Today presents for your consideration the 10 greatest crime novels of all time (only 3 of them written in English), of which I've read 6.

Included:

Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, for which it is argued that the underlying murder mystery is a strong enough clothesline on which to hang all Eco's arcana and Borgesian techniques.

Les Liaisons dangereuses, by Choderlos de Laclos. "Most critics wouldn’t classify this great classic of French literature as a crime novel, even though the behavior within it is utterly criminal."

Also on the list: The Maltese Falcon and Crime and Punishment.

Readers are invited to nominate their contenders. I don't generally go in for crime novels, but it's obvious that the definition here is wide. I'm not convinced that Les Liaison dangereuses belongs on this list. One potential candidate I might suggest: The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey.

(This issue of World Literature Today also includes a short review of José Saramago's The Double, which is not strictly speaking a crime novel (although, ...), but I mention it here because I find that this novel, which I read last summer, has aged very well in my memory — were I to write about it now, I would praise it more highly.)

7 comments:

Danielle said...

No Wilkie Collins, eh? I thought he was supposed to be the "father of detective stories" and considered the first to write mysteries in English. But maybe they differentiate crime novels from detective novels? Sadly I have not read any of these.

patricia said...

Yes, I would definitely suggest 'The Daughter of Time'. Or any of Josephine Tey's 'mysteries', really. The are all unique, engaging, and well-thought out.

Oh, and 'The Double'! I finished it about two weeks ago. At first I was very annoyed with the author's writing style, as well as the tedium and detail into such mundane events, but was eventually won over. That is definitely a book which resonates more and more over time. A crime novel? Why not?

Isabella said...

Danielle: I think there is a difference between mystery and crime novels — I can't articulate it; maybe it's a mood or an approach. I'd say, for example, Agatha Christie: definitely mystery, not crime. I haven't read Collins, so I can't say whether he qualifies. That said, the criteria for the list or broad. I do like the international representation, but I'm surprised there's not more English titles.

Patricia: I thought Daughter of Time particularly inventive, undertaking a modern criminal investigation into a historical matter.

Re The Double, the writing style works for me but I was seriously bored for the first 100 pages. If I weren't already a fan of the author I'm not sure I'd've persevered. Worth it, though.

MaryB said...

'Daughter of Time' is one of my all-time favorites. Because we'll never really know . ..

kimbofo said...

I would definitely vote for 'The Laughing Policeman' by Maj Sjöwall and Peter Wahlöö. Read it last year and thought it was brilliant.

M. Spider said...

Les Liaison Dangereuses is not a crime OR mystery novel; though, certianly, engrossing.

Does The Children of Men count? It is a P. D. James novel, after all, and the closest thing I have to a beloved novel in that category.

Julie said...

Interesting distinction between crime and mystery. I have been completely smitten with Lord Peter Wimsey for years, and Gaudy Night is one of my all-time favorite novels -- it transcends the genre.