Monday, September 14, 2009

World of Crime

"No Such Creature"
By Giles Blunt
ISBN No. 978-0-679-31432-5
Vintage Canada

You know, I’ve been going online for quite sometime now and I’ve never read a chatroom profile where the person says they’re a fan of crime fiction novels. Not once. And that’s because crime fiction novels are the Ultimate Fight Club of publishing; they’re very popular but no one admits they’re a fan. In that respect, NSC is the UFC’s latest bout – with a twist. Because while the book still fulfills all the expectations of its genre (accessible plot, human evil, deceit, violence), it’s punched up with the smarts of a real novel; a real non-crime-fiction novel. ”On a cool night in late June the traffic on Highway 101 was not heavy”, the book begins. “Not for a Saturday night, anyway – and moved along at a steady clip, people cruising out to restaurants or movies or to spend the evening with friends.” What a promising start! And then you just know that author Blunt’s name is just too appropriate for this genre and, sure enough, he writes a line where another character describes a minor player by his whole name. And then another character does the same thing describing another character and then every other supporting character in the book begins to resemble a movie extra. I have no idea why crime fiction novelists are required to use the whole names of supporting characters – many of whom never actually make an appearance in the book past the dropping of their name, but for real readers of actual books it’s a speed bump for the eye. This is really too bad because NSC is better than most novels of its ilk. The story (man and nephew on a cross-country crime spree) is dangerous, the writing economically menacing and the ending kinda existentialist (even if opens the door for a whole series of man-nephew crime spree novels). At its worst the book is typical of its genre. At its best it’s just too good to ignore. Listen up, diehard fans and newbies; this is that best kind of crime fiction: the kind that doesn’t read like crime fiction.