I recently read an article in the Sunday Times of London from last year, which pulled together their favorite crime and thriller books for the past 5 years. There are many lists of “the best” mysteries, but they always include titles from the 1920 like The 39 Steps and all those assassin books from the 1960’s like The Day of the Jackal. Of course, I love those two novels and all the other mysteries of old, but rarely do you get a list of modern exceptional reads.
No, this list is wonderful because the list is modern and insightful as well.
Lee Child, CJ Sansom, Belinda Bauer, Steve Hamilton and Charles Cumming.
Some of my absolute favorite authors! Well, they did leave out Denise Mina, my number one favorite author. And, unfortunately, Louise Penny is not mentioned as well (don’t panic!) because I think the point of the list is more crime and thriller than mystery. And very much less cozy police procedurals. Denise Mina should have been on the list, but even the Sunday Times of London isn’t perfect.
In 1972 Hansen wrote the first of what would be 12 classic mystery novels featuring Dave Brandstetter, an open, content and very gay tough-guy. And if you happened to have missed the chance 40 years ago to read these wonderful books, you’re lucky enough to have another chance as they have been re-released.
Dave is an insurance company investigator looking into false claims. His life partner of 20 years has just died, and Dave is learning to live again. Of course, these are noir reads – but the prose is so clear and delightful that you will forget the darkness and see the charm of our hero.
In Fadeout, a popular singer’s car goes off a narrow bridge in a storm and Dave investigates a death claim – but where is the body? As Dave questions friends and fans, he grows certain that the singer is alive, though a killer is also looking for him.
The key to Hansen’s popularity lies with his prose. These are short books, really novellas. But from the first page you are absorbed in the shrewd and deeply felt writing.
“When I sat down to write Fadeout in 1967, I wanted to write a good, compelling whodunit,” said Hansen. “But I also wanted to right some wrongs. Almost all the things folks say about homosexuals is false. So I had some fun turning clichés and stereotypes on their heads in that book.” Over 40 years later everything Hansen writes is still compelling and revealing.
My rating: 5 of 5