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Watchers of Time and A Finer End
Alex Grant

In the 25 years of my assiduous application to the genres of crime mystery, and suspense fiction, I have eventually been able to separate the wheat from the chaff. And there are only a score of totally reliable mystery authors in the English language to my mind today.

I will confess that I have a marked preference for female British mystery authors; Frances Fyfield; (aka; Frances Hegarty) Alison Taylor (no relation to Andrew Taylor, who is also very reliable and accomplished) and of course, Ruth Rendall (aka: Barbara Vine). The U.K.’s Bill James is also a masterly novelist.
And primarily, I can recommend male American mystery novelists (Jon A. Jackson, Lawrence Block, Carl Hiaasen, Andrew Klavan, Jeffrey Deaver, Dennis Lehane).
Both Charles Todd (Watchers of Time; 2001) and Deborah Crombie (A Finer End, 2001) are Americans who have set their series of novels in the British Isles. Both are largely convincing in the verisimilitude as ersatz Britons.

Bantam; ISBN: 0553583166
Watchers of Time is the fifth Ian Rutledge novel set in the aftermath of WW1. Inspector Rutledge, of Scotland Yard, is a severely traumatized hero of The Great War. So much so he hourly battles with his demons; particularly the "ghost" of Corporal Hamish MacLeod; his imaginary "friend/foe". Rutledge was obliged to have MacLeod executed by firing squad. "Hamish" serves as the inspector’s "conscience" and as his goad to move incessantly in the avid pursuit of justice. Watchers of Time is a very vivid, highly atmospheric novel of "ideas", as well as ‘suspense".
For me the lure of mystery fiction is three-fold. To wit: its practitioners; at their finest create exceptionally imaginative plots; memorable characters (of "today’s" world most often) and dramatise powerfully major events and moral quandaries that inevitably affect all of our lives: life, death. Justice, retribution and every manner of passionate engagement with ‘existence’ per se.
For instance, Jon A Jackson’s Deadman and Edward Bunker’s Dog Eat Dog are novels worthy respectively of such masters as Elmore Leonard and Chester Himes; let alonge Grahame Greene and Fyodor Dostoyevsky!

A Finer End, the 7th in Deborah Crombie’s Detective-Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James series, set in contemporary Britain is the superlative American novelist’s most ambitious book. It delves persuasively into the mysticism of early British clerics and into the mythology of Christianity’s introduction to the British Isles. Thus, A Finer End, verges upon the abstruse territories so persuasively explored by exemplary U.K. "fanatasy" novelist, Robert Holdstock.

Charles Todd cross-pollinates the war and police-procedural genres in each of his five books. Deborah Crombie fertilizes the Agatha Christie canon with that of Dennis Wheatley here very successfully. And these two elegant storytellers are not at all British; except in their minds; which is all that matters in the final analysis.

Bantam; ISBN: 0553579274

© Alex Grant August 2002

Blood Work
Alex Grant's Review of Clint Eastwood's New Movie

'Blood Work is both casual and classic, akin to the astutely pared-down films of both Howard Hawks and Sam Fuller'.

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