Top Ten Tuesday: Genre Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

This week’s theme has a guide to it: Jana says to

Pick a genre and build a list around it. It could a list of favorites, a to-read list, recommendations for people interested in reading books in that genre, “if you like this, try this”, etc.)

The last time I took part in a genre freebie theme was March 2020 as the world entered lockdown for the first time and – somewhat bewildered by that experience – I interpreted ‘genre’ rather freely and discussed books that took us outside.

So, this year, let’s consider some of the genres I love before moving on.

  1. Crime – as an ex-criminal lawyer, there is something nostalgic about crime fiction, particularly police procedurals and there is so much scope for conflict not simply in the police’s pursuit of the wrongdoer but internally: the conflict between doing right and doing justice, between truth and what can be proven, between criminality and desperation.
  2. Fantasy – this was my introduction to serious adult reading as I became enthalled with The Hobbit as a gateway to The Lord of the Rings and a sweeping high fantasy epic series will always draw me in, even if at times the energy required to immerse myself in that world feels daunting.
  3. Gothic – this genre is a delight and contains all the subversiveness you could want but wrapped up in that delicious tension, whether it be the classics of the nineteenth century (and both Frankenstein and Dracula will always be iconic) or more modern iterations. It is a term that is thrown around a lot, often by people who don’t quite seem to understand it.
  4. Science Fiction – this is a genre I am starting to explore more and realistically it feels like fantasy by another name at times where science replaces magic, aliens replace monsters and distant planets replace fantastical lands.
  5. Historical Fiction – often historical fiction overlaps with literary fiction more than some of the others on this list, incredibly unfairly. Why should an historical setting be any more ‘literary’ than a fantasy world? Neither are any more ‘real’ than the other! But the chance to feel present in Tudor London, Victorian England or the Iron Age are fantastic.
  6. Mythic Retellings – tales with a mythic feel to them, or are re-tellings or re-imaginings. There are so many re-tellings of Greek myths at the moment that I am starting to feel a little saturated by them and the wonderful (Natalie Haynes, Pat Barker) can be lost in the tide. And there are so many other mythologies in the world I’d love to see more representation of African or Native American myths in these lists.

This time of year is also the time when I indulge in these genres – just before we start on the tradmill of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Booker longlists and the more self-consciously literary offerings. Do I see or recognise the distinction between genre and literary fiction…? I’m not sure that I do at all to be honest. Isn’t it all just a marketing tool? All I recognise really is the ability of books to transport and entertain and challenge me in some way.

Anyway, let’s pick… crime as a genre for the purpose of this list after a somewhat lengthy preamble. And I offer to you my ten favourite crime books… prepare for murder, deception and violence.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

When Sir Charles Baskerville is found suspiciously dead, his friend, Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to look into the death. While the cause of death is determined to be a heart attack, Mortimer suspects foul play and fears that Sir Charles’s nephew and sole heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, may be in danger next. At the center of the investigation is the curse of the Baskervilles, which dates back to the time of the English Civil War. Supposedly the family’s ancestor, Hugo Baskerville, sold his soul to the devil, and the family has been haunted by a large spectral hound ever since. Because Sir Charles was found with a look of horror on his face when he died, appeared to be running away from something, and large paw prints had been found near his body, there is reason to believe that the “Hound” may have returned. The details of the case spark the interest of Sherlock and he agrees to take up the case.

This is, for me, the definitive Holmes, the definitive crime novel, the absolute pinnacle of the genre – and I adore the luridness of the hound and of Watson’s face on this cover! The moors, the gothic menace that stalks Baskerville Hall, the escaped murderer and lights signalling in the darkness. It is glorious!

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

1939. Europe teeters on the brink of war. Ten strangers are invited to Soldier Island, an isolated rock near the Devon coast. Cut off from the mainland, with their generous hosts Mr and Mrs U.N. Owen mysteriously absent, they are each accused of a terrible crime. When one of the party dies suddenly they realise they may be harbouring a murderer among their number.

The 10 strangers include a reckless playboy, a troubled Harley Street doctor, a formidable judge, an uncouth detective, an unscrupulous mercenary, a God-fearing spinster, two restless servants, a highly decorated general and an anxious secretary. One by one they are picked off. Who will survive? And who is the killer? Copies of an ominous nursery rhyme hang in each room, the murders mimicking the awful fates of its ‘Ten Little Soldier Boys’.

Keeping with the classics, I couldn’t ignore Christie any more than Doyle! For me, the isolated, claustrophobic setting on the island and the paranoia are wonderful and the absence of any sleuth just heightens the intensity.

Broken Harbour, Tana French – The Dublin Murder Squad series

Mick “Scorcherˮ Kennedy is the star of the Dublin Murder Squad. He plays by the books and plays hard, and thatʼs how the biggest case of the year ends up in his hands.

On one of the half-abandoned “luxuryˮ developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children have been murdered. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care. At first, Scorcher thinks itʼs going to be an easy solve, but too many small things canʼt be explained: the half-dozen baby monitors pointed at holes smashed in the Spainsʼ walls, the files erased from the familyʼs computer, the story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder slipping past the houseʼs locks. And this neighborhood–once called Broken Harbor–holds memories for Scorcher and his troubled sister, Dina: childhood memories that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control.

I adore the whole of the Dublin Murder Squad series – fantastic characterisation, wonderful dialogue, especially in the interviews, intricately plotted. For me, Broken Harbour is wonderful – although it is perhaps a toss up between this and the first two books, In the Woods and The Likeness – with the sinister presence of something inside the walls of the house which may or may not be real, and which may or may not have led to murder.

When Will There Be Good News, Kate Atkinson – The Jackson Brodie series

In a quiet corner of rural Devon, a six-year-old girl witnesses an appalling crime. Thirty years later the man convicted of the crime is released from prison.

In Edinburgh, sixteen-year-old Reggie, wise beyond her years, works as a nanny for a G.P. But her employer has disappeared with her baby, and Reggie seems to be the only person who is worried. Across town, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is also looking for a missing person, unaware that hurtling towards her is a former acquaintance – Jackson Brodie – himself on a journey that becomes fatally interrupted.

Again, I cannot fail to mention Kate Atkinson, both of whose books revolve around a crime of some kind. Of the Jackson Brodie series, this is perhaps my favourite: I loved the returning character of Lousie Monroe and Reggie, and Atkinson’s use of humour, irony, allusion and coincidence were on point here, alongside the genuine horror and violence.

The Betrayal of Trust, Susan Hill – the Simon Serrailler series

Freak weather and flash floods all over southern England. Half of Lafferton is afloat. A landslip on the Moor has closed the bypass and, as the rain slowly drains away, a shallow grave – and a skeleton – are exposed.

It doesn’t take long to identify the remains as those of the missing teenager, Harriet Lowther, last seen carrying a tennis racket while waiting for a bus. But that was sixteen years ago. How long will it take to trawl through the old, stale evidence and assess it anew? The Lafferton force is struggling with staff shortages and economies, and Simon has to do a lot of the legwork on his own. Meanwhile, his sister, Dr Cat Deerbon, is fighting for extra funding for the hospice which is threatened with cuts and closures.

I do like the Simon Serrailler series of novels, although I find Serrailler himself a rather unpleasant character. Susan Hill has created a real sense of community in Lafferton and of family in the Serraillers even if some of its vicissitudes leap feet first over the boundary of the torturous! I think I found the balancing of the crime, the personal and the thematic – which don’t always balance well – most satisfying with this novel.

The Dry, Jane Harper – the Aaron Falk series

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

This feels very time-appropriate: Harper’s new Aaron Falk novel, The Exiles, is queued up on my Kindle waiting for the six hours on a train I have to look forward to tomorrow! For me, of the Aaton Falk novels, this first one which delves into his personal life is the strongest – so far – and features a stunning sense of place.

Snow, John Banville

The body is in the library,’ Colonel Osborne said. ‘Come this way.’

Detective Inspector St John Strafford is called in from Dublin to investigate a murder at Ballyglass House – the Co. Wexford family seat of the aristocratic, secretive Osborne family.

Facing obstruction from all angles, Strafford carries on determinedly in his pursuit of the murderer. However, as the snow continues to fall over this ever-expanding mystery, the people of Ballyglass are equally determined to keep their secrets.

Snow is a very self aware novel – the discovery of the mutilated corpse in the library of an aristocratic house with a dysfunctional family feels like something out of Christie – but Banville uses the crime genre to explore social and religious divisions in Ireland and abuse in children’s home. It’s rare I agree with much in the Daily Mail, but the word “exquisite” is very apt.

The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.of a

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

I have loved all of the books in this series and perhaps found the most recent one – The Bullet That Missed – most well plotted, but the first book introducing out septuagenarian sleuths had such a charm about it – and genuine pathos and humour very finely balanced.

Exit, Belinda Bauer

Meet Felix Pink. The most unlikely murderer you’ll ever have the good fortune to spend time with.

When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath . . .

But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.

Now his world is turned upside down as he must find out if he’s really to blame, or if something much more sinister is at play. All while staying one shaky step ahead of the law.

This felt like a very similar read to the previous Thursday Murder Club: charming, clever and humane, Felix Pink was a fantastic creation and the whole concept of his bearing witness to the deaths of those who ended their own lives was managed very well.

The Appeal, Janice Hallett

There is a mystery to solve in the sleepy town of Lower Lockwood. It starts with the arrival of two secretive newcomers, and ends with a tragic death. Roderick Tanner QC has assigned law students Charlotte and Femi to the case. Someone has already been sent to prison for murder, but he suspects that they are innocent. And that far darker secrets have yet to be revealed…

Throughout the amateur dramatics society’s disastrous staging of All My Sons and the shady charity appeal for a little girl’s medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. The evidence is all there, waiting to be found. But will Charlotte and Femi solve the case? Will you?

Janice Hallett’s first novel was a riveting read: an epistolary murder mystery contained in the messages and texts and emails exchanged between various member of a local amateur dramatics group. Again, the sense of place and community, the balancing of character of humour was managed exceptionally here and the epistolary form was delightful and fresh without being gimmicky.

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

March 7: Bookish People I’d Like To Meet (These can be authors, book characters, book bloggers/influencers, cover designers, cover models, etc.)
March 14: Books on My Spring 2023 To-Read List
March 21: TTT Rewind (Pick a previous topic that you missed or would like to re-do/update.)
March 28: Books for People Who Liked Author X

23 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Genre Freebie”

  1. I loved Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club! I can’t wait to read the 2nd & 3rd book. Agatha Christie is my all time favorite crime fiction author; And Then There Were None is one of her best!
    My TTT is also related to crime novels, but it’s more on the authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for popping by: I did try to limit myself to one novel from each author otherwise most of my list would have been The Dublin Murder Squad – I love Tana French! Personally, I thought the third book was one of the best in the Thursday Murder Club series…


  2. I see some of my favorites too here — Christie, Atkinson, French and Holmes. I’ve been eyeing The Appeal for a while, looks like it is indeed time to add it to my TBR!


  3. That is a great list of crime reads. I just recently read Snow by Banville and loved it. I did not expect to. When Will There be Good News is also my favorite book in that series.

    For books I want to read, your description of Exit encourages me to read that one, and I really need to get around to reading the Dry.

    Thanks for your comments my list.
    TracyK at Bitter Tea and Mystery

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love inspired lists like this one you’ve created. Thanks for opening my mind to some new reading ideas. Sorry I am getting back to you so late. The week got away from me. -Anne@HeadfullofBooks

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m quite impressed with myself that I’ve actually read three of these! Ha! My genre of choice is typically romance or YA. I thought The Dry was so good. I need to pick up more by the author. I’ve read Christie’s and Doyle’s, as well. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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