Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Fiona says it's best...

The trouble with computers is that they go wrong. One of the most annoying things I am ever told is that a computer "only does what you tell it to", or a variation on this theme. Rubbish. A load of absolute, absolute rubbish. DBC Pierre couldn't do better if he tried. My computer frequently does things I don't tell it to do; that no one tells it to do. Like little automated people, they do exactly what they want, at will. Well, at times. We are at their mercy, I tell you.

Anyway, that's why I've been effectively out for the count for the week. I've had to find (*gasp*) other things to do.

Anyway, while I was away David gave his list of favourite reads of the year, and I thought I would do the same. Now, so far I have been delighted with 2004. It's been the best year in crime fiction since, ooo, 2001 (which was a seriously good year.) 2004 has seen fantastic returns from Boris Starling and Mo Hayder after 3 years, and Caroline Graham's first book in 5. There's been a glut of excellent foreign fiction published, too, as well as some particularly great books from the usual crowd - Donna Leon, Joanna Hines, Ruth Rendell, Michael Connelly and Minette Walters - with some excellent prospects still to come - Ian Rankin, a second Javier Falcon novel from the brilliant Robert Wilson, and Jose Carlos Somoza has a second novel translated into English after the Gold-Dagger-winning, rip-roaring piece of brilliance that was The Athenian Murders. Anyway, let's begin...

Excellent Reads (I've attemped to put them in some kind of order, but take it with a pinch of salt)
1. Henning Mankell - Firewall
2. Boris Starling - Vodka
3. Donna Leon - Doctored Evidence
4. Ruth Rendell - 13 Steps Down
5. Minette Walters - The Tinder Box (only a novella, but better than every single one of her previous three books)
6. Joanna Hines - Angels of the Flood
7. Boris Akunin - Leviathan
8. Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind
9. Mo Hayder - Tokyo
10. Val McDermid - The Torment of Others

Not-Excellent-But-Still-Very-Good Reads
Reginald Hill - Good Morning, Midnight (actually, this should probably go on the above list, but I thought I had too many in it)
Michael Connelly - The Narrows
Peter Robinson - Playing with Fire (would have made it to the above list if Robinson had selected a different person who "dunnit")
Caroline Graham - A Ghost in the Machine
Mark Billingham - The Burning Girl

Of those, I would of course be delighted if Mankell took this year's Gold Dagger for Firewall. Delighted. (I know speculating is entirely pointless, but I'm going to do it, because I can and I like to.) I also think there's a good chance he might, as well. After all, if those wacky folks at the CWA can give Walters' Fox Evil the Gold, they could stoop to anything (by the way, on vacation I met yet ANOTHER person who disliked it intensely). The Shadow of the Wind would also have a terrific chance, if only it were slightly more of a crime novel. As it is it's more just a completely charming historical adventure/period romance/gothic mystery/slightly supernatural thriller, and will probably be passed by entirely. Boris Starling should win something for Vodka, because it's a Russian thriller of genius, but as I've already allocated a rightful victor for the Gold Dagger, Starling will have to settle for the Ian Flemming Steel Dagger, which is actually more what it is.

As for the Silver Dagger, well, if Boris Akunin doesn't get that I'll be very surprised indeed. I know absolutely anything can happen, but if The Winter Queen was good enough for the shortlist last year, then Leviathan definitely is this, and the HEAP of praise it's recieved surely marks it out as a strong contender indeed. It would win the Gold but, as someone on Val McDermid's forum (I think) pointed out, new wave novels never get better than Silver. As I say, even at this relatively early stage, I'll be incredibly shocked if it doesn't win.

Mo Hayder and Mark Billingham might also be in with a chance as well. Billingham's the current darling, and I'm sure they're just itching to give him an award. The same goes for Michael Connelly, as the CWA have never quite gone the extra mile and given him a dagger, but unfortunately The Narrows just isn't nearly strong enough, I dont think. (The MWA seem very keen to give him an award too, but I don't think The Narrows is strong enough to win the 2005 Edgar, either. Though I'm sure they'll try.)

Anyway, that's enough pointless speculation on my part. Besides, I only ever seem to have come across two or three of the books on the shortlist, so I'm likely to be disappointed. At least you now know what would win what if Fiona was in charge.

*By the way, the various shortlists are announced in September, most of the winners on November 9th.