DeathBecomesHer: The five books that got me hooked on crime fiction

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I was indoctrinated into the world of  crime from an early age – a statement which makes me sound like a member of the Kray clan, so perhaps I should rephrase it? What I’m trying to say is that crime is in my blood… oh dear, wrong message once again! Actually, I come from a normal home, with parents who never even took their library books back late, let alone committed any heinous wrongdoings. But put family and library books together and you’ve solved the mystery of my crime fiction loving nature – because my Mum, bless her, loved to read, and her genre of choice was crime. So I followed in her footsteps. Like all the other writers here on Crime Fiction Lover, I’m sharing the five books that got me into crime fiction and here they are…

five-on-kirrin-island-againFive on Kirrin Island Again by Enid Blyton
As a child, I think I read everything ever written by Enid Blyton, but the Famous Five were my favourites. Part of the attraction was that they lived in a world so alien to mine. I’d never even tried ginger beer and even today I can’t face the thought of being in a rowing boat, but their tales of adventure and derring-do captured my imagination. Five on Kirrin Island Again is the sixth book in the series, written in the late 1940s, and today it seems slow, stilted and downright dull. But for me, in the 1960s, it was the height of excitement. The world may have moved on, but I’m still the proud owner of a Famous Five Club badge… and a host of happy memories of George, Julian, Anne, Dick and Timmy the Dog.
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And_Then_There_Were_None_US_First_Edition_Cover_1940And Then There Were None
Probably the first crime book suggested to me by my Mum. I then proceeded to read every Christie book that I could lay my hands on! This book was written in 1939 and had two very different (and, by today’s standards, non-PC) titles, but we’ll call it by the name it was given by the US publishers in 1940, although that title wasn’t adopted in Britain until 1985! Strangely, this is another book set on an island – is there some kind of trend here? In the story, 10 people complicit in the deaths of others are mysteriously invited to Indian Island, and then bumped off in various ways. Christie was the queen of cunning plotlines and this story has enough chicanery to satisfy the pickiest of crime fictioneers.
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great_expectations_by_charles_dickensGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens
OK, not strictly crime fiction, but this classic does contain one of the scariest criminals you’re ever likely to encounter in the pages of a book. Abel Magwitch emerges from the marsh mists to petrify both young Pip and the reader in this masterful novel. And in typical Dickens style, we eventually realise that we’ve judged the man all wrong. A book I can read again and again – and some of the TV adaptations have been pretty good too.
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Bone CollectorThe Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver
I mentioned screen adaptations in the previous paragraph, but let’s not get me started about the Hollywood treatment of this fine book. I’ll just bite my tongue and tell you why the novel is SOOOO much better! First published in 1997, this was the first outing for quadriplegic forensic criminalist Lincoln Rhymes – in my opinion, one of the best characters ever created. This a man trapped in a useless body, but with a mind that is second to none. Amelia Sachs serves as his eyes, ears and legs at any crime scene and she is a great sidekick. The story is entertaining and involving, setting out the stall for all subsequent Rhymes novels. There’s another one out later this year – and I can’t wait!
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the-firm-book-cover-01The Firm by John Grisham
Some folk decry the work of Grisham, but he has legions of happy fans and I count myself among them. The Firm sees him on top form and in an area where he feels most at home – the legal thriller. The Firm is Grisham’s second novel and the one which proved a breakthrough with readers. It centres on Mitch, a bright-eyed young lawyer who has just graduated and is headhunted for the job of his dreams at a top-notch law firm. However, as colleagues begin to die with frightening regularity, Mitch discovers his employers are not as squeaky clean as they first appeared, and he faces a race against time to uncover the truth. A cracking read, and a great introduction to the work of John Grisham.
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Last week, David Prestidge shared his favourites, and you can read about them here. Tune in on Friday for Jeremy’s choices.


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