follow us on

Bookworm In Your Ear: The Noir of Crime

When we write about Crime Fiction and describe it as ‘Noir’, it can refer to a pitch-Black style and world-view, or to the lack of morals and scruples that the characters who infest the setting are marked by. Here are two novels that stretch the description.

 

Catacombs of Terror by Stanley Donwood

 

Better known as the artist in residence of Radiohead, this is Donwood taking a little excursion outside his beaten path and coming up with a suspense novel that’s ripe with attitude and very dry, off the wall humor. The setting is the spa town of Bath, and it’s a local detective who’s our main protagonist. Initially, we're led to believe this is the genteel town of Bath, where the most a gumshoe would be up to is collecting incriminating photos of erring spouses. But unfortunately, it’s Vincent who’s having an affair with the wife of one the local ‘biggies’. What follows is a blowing off the lid of small town politics and corporate shenanigans. Throw in cult-like behavior that transpires within subterranean archaeological digs, and you have weirdness aplenty—all for our enjoyment.

 

Death Notice by Zhou Haohui

 

Known as one of the top crime fiction writers currently working out of mainland China, the works of Haohui have gone direct to online video, and have proven to be massive hits. Here is one of the very first translated works, and it’s a woozy—both Shenzhen police procedural, and a murder mystery that stretches over decades. What’s interesting to note is how the story is set against a very modern Chinese city that could just as well be Chicago, Amsterdam or Tokyo. It’s urbanized setting distinguishes it from previous Chinese crime fiction that had more to do with villages, and peasants with axes to grind (metaphorically and literally). And yet, there are very distinct touches that constantly remind us we’re in China. Fast paced, brutal at times, and visceral, it’s easy to see why Haohui is such a hit!