BRITISH NEW CRIME WAVE - WOMEN AUTHORS
Alex Grant reads the latest murder mysteries
triumvirate of U.K. mystery novelists composed of writers P.D. James,
Ruth Rendell (pen-name Barbara Vine) and Frances Fyfield (aka Frances
Hegarty) is now being challenged by a trio of relative newcomers who flaunt
both their regionalism (Scotland and the North-West) and their sophisticated
broad-band feminism - Denise Mina (RESOLUTION), Danuta Reah
(NIGHT ANGELS) and Manda Scott (NO GOOD DEED).
These women seldom pen whodunnits per se, moreso they author
whydunnits replete with psychological subtlety, startling
ambivalences and frankness.
P.D. James repute lies in his formal, intricate and icy plotting.
Ruth Rendells fame rests upon her acute awareness and sympathy for
truly psychopathic characters. Frances Fyfields good name thrives
upon sidelong experimental and, at times, wildly funny narrative ingenuity.
This is particularly true of her current novel THE NATURE OF THE BEAST,
a laugh-out-loud ode to mans best friend. The dog.
(4 November, 2002) Bantam Press; ISBN: 0593046579
(5 June, 2002) Collins Crime; ISBN: 0007116292
pages new edition
(24 August, 2000) The Women's Press; ISBN: 0704346850
Denise Minas Garnethill
trilogy is relentlessly downbeat and sordid. She would insist
that it is candid. Minas protagonist Maureen ODonnell
is a blue-collar alcoholic Glaswegian. The victim of sexual corruption
at the hands of her father, Maureen is torn between the desire to avenge
herself upon this beast, and her lust to have justice done to the diabolical
murderer of her lover. Her nemesis, former psychologist Angus Farrell
had initially seemed to be a God-sent therapist who could heal her wounds.
In actuality, Angus was a serial rapist of the patients in his care.
The conclusion of Denise Minas saga RESOLUTION,
now in paperback, is totally mesmerizing even though it painfully captures
utterly shattered lives lived in a chaotic inner-city hell.
Danuta Reahs three novels are far more surreal and solipsistic.
Her stories are deeply embedded in the rivers of consciousness of women
characters. Often highly fearful and distraught women.
Again, this relative newcomer to the mystery genre wrestles with the demons
of emotional vampirism, sexual exploitation and the gross imbalances of
On the surface, a far more conventional novelist Manda Scott writes suspense
books featuring her extremely consciencious psychiatrist heroine Dr.
Kellen Stewart and Dr. Stewarts vulnerable soul-mate and patient
Nina Crawford, a tormented veterinarian.
The first three books by Scott (HENS
TEETH, NIGHTMARES and STRONGER THAN DEATH) develop a dense,
cryptic style of story-telling, close to that utilized by Frances Fyfield,
especially in her last but one book, UNDERCURRENTS.
Essentially, Denise Mina, Danuta Reah and Manda Scott are urging the crime
genre of literature closer to the mainstream of contemporary fiction.
Of course, without the longstanding vigorous impetus provided by James,
Rendell and Fyfield such a daunting task to make crime novels respectable
would have been even more daunting.
© Alex Grant October 2002
More Reviews here
< Reply to this Article