Monday, 25 April 2011

What do I know about crime fiction? - The Bookette

Becky- The Bookette

 When Linda Strachan asked me to write about what makes a good crime novel I was more than a little apprehensive.

I mean, what do I know about crime fiction?

I thought about this more and more, I’ll be honest I don’t like to let people down. I figured there must be a reason she asked me for an opinion piece.

Am I opinionated? Probably.

The thing is I don’t really think I know anything about crime fiction. That’s because when I think about crime fiction I think of the following:
  • Adult fiction  
  • The crime bit in Waterstones
  • Authors that I have never read including: Jo Nesbo, Karen Rose, Colin Dexter?

But then I thought well Linda can’t want me to have an opinion on these people. This would be just weird. I’m a children’s librarian. So then the penny drops and I realise she wants my opinion on crime in teen or preteen fiction.

I guess I can do that because now I think about it, I really do read such novels. Here are the crime authors I’ve read fairly recently: Keren David, Gillian Philip, Sarah Singleton, Anne Cassidy, Jenny Downham, Andrew Lane, Andy Mulligan and of course Linda Strachan!

You see I was thinking of crime fiction as a thriller, a whodunit, but in actual fact crime is a theme running through many contemporary teen novels. The issue of crime is relevant to teens today in a way that is so far removed from the murder mystery concept.   The issue of gangs and knife crime has been all too relevant to our young people in the last decade.  

Contemporary teen fiction explores many different examples of crime and deviance:

ILLEGAL POACHING in Sarah Singleton’s The Stranger

SHOPLIFTING  in Hilary Freeman’s - Lifted

INCEST in Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden

RAPE in Jenny Downham’s You Against Me
PROSTITUTION in Kevin Brooks’ Candy

Crime and deviance feed into contemporary teen fiction novels because this is surely the time when teens experience peer pressure to try smoking, drink alcohol and experiment with illegal substances.

But crime is not a theme that is strictly for contemporary fiction, I have noticed a trend towards exploring the theme through paranormal fiction too.

Kimberly Derting’s The Body Finder is your traditional whodunit with a girl who senses corpses.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing crime feed into many more genres in the next few years if it hasn’t happened already.

So what makes a good crime novel? In my mind the same things that make any book a good book -
  • A main character that you can relate to
  • A significant problem that the main character must overcome

  • A plot that twists and turns and is fast paced
  • Witty dialogue
  • Description which makes you feel as if you are living the story
  • Humour
  • The author’s own unique way of telling the story

And for me personally,
  • A really dramatic opening scene!

Perhaps a novel about copyright theft would be a good place to start teens talking about the morality of illegal downloading. That could be the most relevant crime novel of the next decade. In case anyone is looking for an idea...

I guess Linda was right.............. I am opinionated!

(But in a good way, Becky! ..Ed)

Becky, The Bookette is a Children's Librarian in a London prep school and an excellent reviewer of children's and young adult fiction at


No comments:

Post a Comment