Saturday, August 25, 2012

Crime Thriller Recommendation

I'm writing a crime/detective thriller right now. I've always enjoyed the genre, although I have to admit I'm not an expert-super-fanatic. Probably more of a casual-pop-fan (having read nearly all of John Grisham's legal thrillers - and almost all of his other books too!). So I'm reading more in that particular niche right now to get a feel for what makes for a good noir, mystery, thrill, chase, etc.

Quick question break for writers: Do you read other authors in your genre while you are writing? Do you fear you'll "borrow" their style, phrases, or ideas? What are the pros/cons of reading while in the midst of writing, in your opinion?

Okay, back to the program. Other than Grisham, I've recently finished Steve Berry's The Paris Vendetta, which was a pretty good global treasure hunt/conspiracy thriller featuring a Napoleonic mystery, a secret club for billionaires, and a sly DOJ protagonist in Cotton Malone. I'd say, if you like your espionage/adventure novels served up with a dash of history, give Berry a try.

But I really want to recommend a fairly new author whom a friend recommended to me (see how these things work?). J. Mark Bertrand has published four novels, three of which are part of a series featuring an almost-burned-out Houston cop by the name of Roland March. In the first book of the series, Back on Murder, March, after losing his detective's 'touch' following a personal tragedy, fairly embarrasses himself trying to get "back on homicide" detail. A missing girl, a brutal murder, and a whole lot of office politics gives him the opportunity to prove himself once again. And he does, but not in spectacular superhero fashion - March is just a bulldog cop doing his best to get at all the answers he knows are there to be discovered.

The story is compelling (complex, but not overly so) and ties together really well. The writing and pacing are just right for my (shortish) attention span. And it's fairly clean - well, there is murder; it is that kind of book after all. In my new rating system that finally allows for 5 stars, I'm giving this my premier ultimate stamp of approval. Same with Nothing to Hide, the third book in the series. (I'm waiting impatiently for book #2 to arrive.)

Not only is this a solid debut series, if you go to Mark's website, there are some fun extra goodies to discover. Back on Murder refers to a "true crime story" called The Kingwood Killing , (excerpts of which can be downloaded for free), which provides interesting backstory to the novel. Of course, The Kingwood Killing is fiction but within the book it's fact. Get it? I enjoy this kind of metafiction. It's like finding easter eggs that the author has planted throughout the story. Bertrand also has a Crime Genre blog, which is good, but I wish he'd update it more often.

At any rate, this is what I'm reading of late. The genre in general and Bertrand in particular come highly recommended from this casual thriller fan and in-the-making detective writer. What are you reading/recommending?

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