Crime fiction reading recommendations from our crime writing duo

We asked tutors R.W.R. McDonald and Katherine Kovacic to tell us about the crime fiction that currently has them hooked (and why…)

From Katherine Kovacic: Lately I’ve been rummaging back through the Golden Age of crime writing for my reading, and I was totally hooked on Margot Bennett’s 1955 gem, The Man Who Didn’t Fly.  The central puzzle is unusual, and the reader has to pay attention to the little details to have any hope of solving the mystery. Add to that a style of writing that at times is almost Chandleresque and you have a very entertaining and clever work of crime fiction.

I have also recently read Blood Grove, the latest in Walter Mosley’s wonderful series featuring LA private eye, Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins. One of the attractions of this series is that we first meet Easy back in 1948 (in Devil in a Blue Dress) but in this latest book, it’s 1969. The world is a different place, but some things — poverty, class differences and racial discrimination — remain virtually unchanged. This series is written in the classic hard-boiled detective style. The plotting is good, but what really makes these books are the dialogue and atmosphere. For me the earlier books are tighter and more dynamic, but together the series paints a beautiful picture of the evolution and change of both Easy Rawlins and Los Angeles itself.

From R.W. R. McDonald: Two debuts that I have recently read, and which I loved, are from Australian based authors.

Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke introduces a great hero in Elle Castillo, a true crime podcaster, who is flawed, smart and accomplished. The research Suiter Clarke must have done for this book is incredible – it reads as if you are in the hands of an expert, from the method of the serial killer, to police procedures, to forensics through to creating a true crime podcast – hugely impressive.

Throughout the book there is an emphasis on victims of crime, rather than the glorification of a serial killer, which is very well done and never didactic. Not that The Countdown Killer (TCK) isn’t suitably creepy and awful. Suiter Clarke has done an excellent job in bringing this serial killer to life in a way that made it feel like true crime, like Elle’s podcast in the book, rather than a fiction character.  

My biggest sadness though was once I raced through to the end, realising Elle’s true crime podcast series, Justice Delayed, does not exist IRL. I would so binge that!  

The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart, is a tense and menacing tale of a missing girl and a family under the siege of domestic violence by an abusive husband and father. It spans three time periods – 40s, 60s and 80s. The setting is perfect, an isolated dairy farm one hour drive from the closest town, and the writing is remarkable. Yeowart weaves into the experience of one of the main characters, Joy, a way of seeing the world through mind eye associations with words – for example “polypropylene” conjures up for Joy a tap dancer in a tuxedo. The effect of this draws us even closer to this character and her world, plays off the setting and a child’s imagination, in what is an oppressive and suffocating life. I found it an original crime fiction novel. 

The Crime Fiction Lab
with R.W.R. McDonald and Katherine Kovacic
21 April -19 May 2021
This five-week course dives into the elements of Crime Fiction.
Guests include Chris Hammer, Sarah Bailey and Craig Sisterson.

Bookings and more information here.