Saturday, May 08, 2004

"The Crime Fiction Dossier" is quickly mutating into "The Mo Hayder Dossier". If current coverage is anything to go by, anyway.

But I had to slip this in: Another review of Tokyo, from The Guardian. It seems oddly ambivalent, and I can't say I very much agree with Petit's criticisms of the book. But there we go.

For anyone who has not read Hayder, and doesn't particularly mind a little gore splattering the walls, do so. Actually, I'm probably being a little flippant with that last sentence. Hayder (among others) has been widely criticised for her graphic depictions of violence, which I don't actually think is very fair. Most of it is all critical baggage from her first novel, Birdman, which, yes, probably was a little over the top - but nonetheless the blood did its job: it brought Hayder floods of attention, allowing the truly excellent crime novelist that she is to emerge in her second and third books. The Treatment and Tokyo are both very good indeed. It is true that there is violence, but I must also make it VERY clear that none of it, in those two, was gratuitous or excessive in any way. Where Birdman went for the ick factor, the 2nd and 3rd have gone for something else; they explore more the effect of violence, the consequences of it on the psyches of her characters. They are incredibly powerful books, both of them, and Mo Hayder taps into almost frightening wells of personal pain and torment that are far more disturbing that the violence (which, in Tokyo is pretty scant anyway until the last chapters.) To me, anyway.

If you don't like violence at all, then, no, Hayder is not for you. Of course, that's absolutely fine. My grandmother wouldn't touch one of her books with a caber, and her opinion is one of those I value most. However, if you've been put off, expecting waves of blood and bone to engulf you, I'd advise you to think again. Hayder's levels of "gore" are certainly no higher than, say, Karin Slaughter's, or even Thomas Harris's (certainly, I don't think it's possible for gore to get any more pronounced than it did when Lieutenant Pazzi met his death in Hannibal.) Read Birdman. If you can cope with that, then you can definitely cope with The Treatment - which is one of my top five crime novels of this decade so far - and Tokyo. I wouldn't advise you try and read The Treatment first and skip Birdman. Part of the reason why TT is so incredibly powerful is the haunted character of Jack Caffery and his development from book 1 to 2.

Anyway, I'll shut up now. That's quite enough from me.