Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 15-16

 

Crumley, James.  The Last Good Kiss.  New York: Random House, 1978.

Like the novelist Robert Stone, James Crumley has synthesized the conventions of the hardboiled tradition with elements of counterculture fiction.  In his mystery-detective novels, he has alternated between two Montana detectives, C. W. Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch, though the two detectives join forces in Bordersnakes (1996).  Reprobates who consume incredible quantities of alcohol and drugs, the two detectives nonetheless have a moral core that they refuse to compromise.  Their misadventures take them across the entire breadth of the American West, from the Canadian to the Mexican borders and from the Great Plains to the Pacific coast.  The places that they visit and the people that they encounter along the way coalesce into a contemporary Western milieu every bit as vivid and as distinctive as Raymond Chandler’s mid-century Los Angeles.

The Last Good Kiss is Crumley’s third novel, his second in the mystery-detective genre, and his first featuring Sughrue.  (His first novel, One to Count Cadence, published in 1969, was a novel about the Vietnam War.)  A homage to Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, The Last Good Kiss begins as a missing-person case, develops into a complicated sorting out of identities, and ends up being a morality tale about loyalty and betrayal.  At every turn it both reminds one of Chandler’s work and transcends it.

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Deaver, Jeffery.  The Bone Collector.  New York: Viking, 1997.

In Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic criminologist, Jeffery Deaver has taken the gimmick of the purely cerebral investigator about as far as it can go.  Just as Rex Stout’s reclusive detective Nero Wolfe has an aggressive investigator in Archie Goodwin, Rhyme, who can move only one finger and does much of his investigative work on his computer, depends on Amelia Sachs, a police detective, to do any leg work that is necessary.  Thus far, Rhyme and Sachs have appeared in three novels: The Bone Collector, The Coffin Dancer (1998), and The Empty Chair (2000).

In The Bone Collector, Rhyme and Sachs track a serial killer whose crimes are at first difficult to link because they lack a consistent signature.  One victim is scalded to death with pressurized steam, another is burned alive, another is buried alive, and still another is devoured by rats.  The detectives eventually discover that this killer is modeling his killings on crimes detailed in a book about notorious murders committed in New York in bygone ages.

Although Deaver has also developed two other series–featuring Rune, a television “personality,” and John Pellam, a location scout for a film production company–for the most part Deaver has concentrated on stand-alone novels that blend the conventions of the mystery-detective and suspense genres.  These novels have treated a broad range of situations involving a broad range of criminals, from career criminals to sociopathic professionals in fields ranging from computer programming to psychiatry, to terrorists.

All of Deaver’s novels are characterized by their carefully presented but very intricate plots, by their carefully modulated suspense, by their attention to technical and scientific detail, and by their unsparing descriptions of the physical details of terrible crimes.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 1-2: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/24/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-1-2/.

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 3-4: https://academeblog.org/2015/07/02/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-3-4/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 5-6: https://academeblog.org/2015/08/07/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-5-6/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 7-8: https://academeblog.org/2015/08/11/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-7-8/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 9-10: https://academeblog.org/2015/08/18/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-9-10/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 11-12: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/19/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-11-12/

Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 13-14: https://academeblog.org/2015/11/15/murder-is-our-peculiar-pastime-fifty-notable-american-crime-novels-13-14/.

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Previous Series:

The final post in each series is followed by links to all of the previous posts in that series.

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-49-50/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: https://academeblog.org/2015/06/02/13370/

 

6 thoughts on “Murder Is Our Peculiar Pastime: Fifty Notable American Crime Novels: 15-16

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