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Jul 2 2010

Crime spree

Sinister tower

Members of my houseful have often read crime fiction around me, wading through entire oeuvres, while I’ve done my best to avoid it. When there’s a detective story on TV, mine’s the irritating, ‘Who’s that again?’ ‘Wait, what just happened?’ while the others know from the opening scene who done it.

Last month I spent ten intense days editing the manuscript for a crime novel set in Wellington. It was clever, with textured settings and credible characters including a female protagonist; suspenseful, funny, horrifying and touching in turn.

Since I was in thick already, I decided to carry on and read — about time — Vanda Symon‘s latest, Containment. It’s set between Aramoana and Dunedin so my identification with place was vivid — I liked that Detective Constable Sam Shephard could eat a cinnamon pinwheel at Modaks (I mean, one of our family works there weekends) and next time I visit the Mole I know I’ll see that looming, listing shipful of containers.

I’d been broken in by the manuscript to the ‘say it like you’d say it in real life’ style of narrative, and settled in to enjoy the tough-talking, big-hearted cops chasing small- and big-time crims – the smart and the witless – through familiar grungy flats, seaside baches (I mean cribs), internet trading sites and antique shops.

These crime-writing gals are smart. They’ve done their homework: the forensic research, the hanging out in police stations (they must’ve), mastering the matey banter of the workplace, and the vernacular of the underworld. They give the reader plenty of what they know, and enough of what they don’t to keep them hooked. In the end: guns, fisticuffs, a tear or two, and hard-earned victory.

I begin to understand the compulsion to go and find the next (and according to her blog, Vanda’s is Bound and on its way to the publisher).