Bloodlines - Chris Wraight
No Good Men - anthology
Crime as a genre has a set of conventions that have been handed down through the generations, and Varangantua is squarely in the noir setting.
Writing a good crime story makes the reader feel like they are the detective. The reader gathers the clues as the detective picks them up, follows the thought-processes, sorts out the red herrings and uncovers the mystery. This means the writer also has to be the detective, laying out the clues, enough so that the reader can follow them without being so obvious as to give the game away, setting the traps, and the traps-within-traps. The best crime authors are great at being literary detectives.
This kind of genre story takes time: scenes need to be visited and revisited, clues need to be re-analysed in the light of new information. Witnesses disappear or die. People return from the dead.
Chris Wraight's novel is superb, 10/10 no problem. He gets the tropes and conventions and gives them a suitably 40k grimdark flavour. It seems obvious that either he loves detective fiction, or he has done some serious homework. Or both.
The reason that people return to the well-worn genre is not only for the detective process, but for the characters. The crime format becomes merely the backdrop for the character interactions. This is also the reason that the best selling crime books are series, where the characters grow and develop between books.
This also means that the short story format, by its very brevity, lacks the space needed for the clues to develop, to discover the herrings are red, for witnesses to die and reappear, and for character development. Short stories are not a good format for crime.
Unsurprisingly, the best story in No Good Men is Chris Wraight's Aberrant. Not only is it well-written but the familiarity of the character established in Bloodlines means that the author can add a bit more flesh to Agusto Zidarov.
Guy Haley's story will probably improve with a reading of his forthcoming novel.
Graham McNeill's writing is not suited for crime because his plots tend to follow the A leads to B leads to C and we're done format. It breaks the conventions of the genre, and not in a good way. There were no real clues, no red herrings, no set up no pay off, just a linear path to a conclusion. It also doesn't help that the characterisation, motivation and dialogue was weak. It was a struggle to finish.
Nick Kyme also is a writer that didn't do well following the genre's conventions. As an author, he would literally spell out what was coming next, instead of letting the characters get on with it, breaking the agreement of letting the reader follow along as the detective. I got frustrated and gave up 2/3s of the way through.
Of the others, Darius Hinks, Gareth Hanrahan and Marc Collins did well given the limitations of the format.
Another problem with every story in this collection is that they all follow very similar paths. All feature (as pointed out also by Track of Words) white male detectives, and often with substance addictions (drugs, alcohol, caffeine). The world-building was good, and consistent with Bloodlines. You get a good sense of the corrupt society.
But it would have been good to read something from a criminal's point of view, having to stay one step ahead of the lex, while bribing others to turn a blind eye, or from a female's p-o-v, or possibly xenos.
Just something to break up the monotony.
Bloodlines - 10/10
No Good Men - 5/10
Edited by byrd9999, 17 September 2020 - 04:24 PM.