I just finished Minette Walters' Acid Row today over breakfast and coffee. I posted about Walters a while back--I'd found a free copy of Fox Evil on the editorial table at work and was very excited. What I didn't follow up to mention, and feel kind of guilty about, is that Fox Evil was rather disappointing. I mean, it was *okay*, but not especially gripping like many of her other books. But Acid Row was an amazing read, anxiety-producing in the best way. Every few pages I'd be trembling on the verge of tears, because it's one of those books that details mundane, matter-of-fact bravery "in the face of adversity." Intense book. Not a classic mystery--more of a psychological suspense novel, though all her books could probably be lumped together as "crime drama," as one cover blurb describes it.
British crime dramas have changed in the last twenty years. That's my impression, anyway. What used to distinguish British mysteries was that whole locked-parlor, Scotland-Yardy genre that existed in an upper-class bubble. (When "lower" classes appeared, they were auxiliary characters like butlers and such, and even the ones with personalities were taken for granted as part of the background.) Now, though, it seems like most of the British mysteries I read tend toward psychological suspense and examination of social conditions and tensions--class, race. Contemporary British authors often seem more socially conscious than American ones, and have complex views on issues not easily categorized as liberal or conservative.
Of course, all this may just be because my own reading is limited. After looking at my shelves, I realize that the only authors I regularly read anymore--to the point where I may even order new novels in hardback--are Walters, Ruth Rendell, and Reginald Hill. P.D. James started to feel less relevant to me a while ago, as did Elizabeth George (who is actually American). I'm not sure why I drifted off from reading their stuff. There was a lot to like.
I used to read the mysteries of L. R. Wright, an author who always struck me as low-profile (she's deceased now). Her stuff had a different sort of atmosphere that I liked. Canadian! Is there a uniquely Canadian psychology? Can Canadians and lovers of Benton Fraser answer this question? Is Canadiaphile a word?
I've actually devoured metric tons of mysteries, and have read and left behind slews of authors. I am always looking for new recommendations though. I don't entirely understand my preference for genre as genre. Maybe because it's comforting, reading novels that (usually) abide by certain rules?
Okay, I've killed half an hour twiddling my mental thumbs on this subject. God. Why can't I make myself write?