Tuesday, 3 January 2012

NoHo Noir Picks of 2011 (Mark - Books)

This is just discussing books I've read in 2011 - they were not necessarily new in 2011!
My favourite read of the year was Michael Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. Set in the Victorian age it's essentially a study of the period's attitudes to women, sex and class, told through the story of a prostitute, and her relationship with William Rackham, heir to a perfume business. Beautifully written and utterly fascinating, I adored it.
Another excellent novel was Florence and Giles by John Harding, the story of a young brother and sister living with servants in a big house, whose routine is interrupted by the arrival of a Governess, who, Florence comes to believe, is not what she seems. The story is told to us by Florence in her own unique voice and had echoes of The Turn Of The Screw. Recommended.
Other books I enjoyed this year were The Killing of Emma Gross, the debut novel of Damien Seaman, a dark and gritty crime thriller set in Weimar-era Germany and taking inspiration from the crimes of serial killer Peter Kurten, and The Midwinter of The Spirit by Phil Rickman, the second in his series about Merrily Watkins, a Church of England woman priest controversially given the job of Diocesan Exorcist (or Deliverance Consultant) just as spooky things start happening in the locality. Great characters and a strong atmosphere with some genuinely creepy scenes,  I shall be reading more from him over the coming months.
If you had told me I'd be hooked on a series of novels about a crime-busting Wyoming game warden named Joe Pickett I'd have laughed, but I've so enjoyed C.J Box's novels I read seven last year. I suppose they are essentially an update of the Western (hunters, cattle farmers, corrupt sheriffs)  but with themes like eco-terrorism, cattle and wild animal mutilation, endangered species and  survivalists. The landscape is drawn with as much character as the people. Well worth checking out.
Back on my side of the pond and stepping back to the years directly after the Second World War, Gordon Ferris' crime novels set in London ( Truth, Dare, Kill and The Unquiet Heart)and Glasgow (The Hanging Shed) are very Noir and very enjoyable - private investigators, femme fatales, crime syndicates and corrupt coppers - it's all here.
Finally Alison Weir's The Lady In The Tower - The Fall Of Anne Boleyn is up to her usual high standards (and a welcome return to historical non-fiction after a series of not very good historical novels). Meticulously researched, she presents the evidence and then discusses them, guiding us through the various interpretations to a conclusion. This no romantic view of Anne (nor, thankfully, of Jane Seymour) but it's a fascinating look at how vicious and deadly the Tudor court could be.


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