The Olympics represent something deeper—patriotism, enthusiasm, commitment, sacrifice, and sheer joy.
One can’t help but being inspired by the endless parade of young people so happy to be representing their countries, knowing the sacrifices they had to make to get where they are. The parties, friendships, the childhoods, the family functions they will never get back.
And yet, in those glorious moments when they are at the Olympics somehow are vindication, and even more so when they win. The swimmers and the gymnasts are awe inspiring, and even a nonsports person like me will watch. The Olympics make me understand what Slap Maxwell meant by “Sports is a morality tale.”
This year’s Olympics, which end Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, also are showing us the beauty, history, and intrigue of London, one of my favorite cities.
And the United Kingdom continues to bring us some top-notch mystery writers.
If you have Olympic fever, or want to spend a bit more armchair travels in London, here are some insightful authors who have written compelling crime fiction set in the United Kingdom. I can’t include all my favorites so I am hoping readers will add a few more names.
Val McDermid: I would probably read a grocery list that McDermid put together; I have been a fan of her novels for years. Her A Place of Execution, set in an isolated village, remains one of my favorites. McDermid’s novels about crime profiler Tony Hill and Det. Chief Inspector Carol Jordan, which has become her most successful series and were the basis of the long-running Wire in the Blood TV series aired on BBC America. The Retribution (Grove Atlantic) is the latest in this series. McDermid’s next book The Vanishing Point, due out in September, is set in America. Her A Trick of the Dark also is a favorite.
Mark Billingham: I would also happily read a grocery list from Mark Billingham, whose British police procedurals featuring Det. Insp. Tom Thorne are complex studies in taut suspense and imaginative plots. In Billingham’s hands, the unconventional becomes believable, from the villain putting his victims in a comatose state in Sleepyhead to Bloodline’s killer targeting families of serial killer victims. His latest is The Demands, a tense hostage situation that explores guilt, cultural differences and injustice.
Jane Casey: Casey is a new author to America, and one to keep an eye on. She made her U.S. debut in 2011 with The Burning (Minotaur), a taut police procedural that delved into the psyche of three women at the crossroads of their lives, each dealing with identity and self-esteem issues. Her latest novel The Reckoning (Minotaur) brings back Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan who is investigating a series of murders of sex offenders.
Deborah Crombie: This Texas author shows vivid views of the vagaries of London neighborhoods in her series about Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Inspector Gemma James. The couple’s chaotic, happy home sharply contrasts with the often messy police business. Recent novels are No Mark Upon Her (Morrow) and Necessary as Blood (Morrow).
S.J. Bolton: Bolton has written novels set in English villages and the Shetland Islands. Her 2011 novel Now You See Me uses the Ripper legend in ways that many authors have not. In Now You See Me, Bolton delicately weaves contemporary crimes, illustrating how of young girls in some of South London’s poorest neighborhoods feel as powerless and invisible as did the prostitutes that Ripper preyed on.
Elizabeth Haynes: Haynes’ gripping psychological thriller Into the Darkest Corner chronicles an abusive relationship as a young woman tries to rebuild her life in London, complete with a new identity.
Penny Hancock: Kept in the Dark combines a spooky, historic house on the Thames, an obsession with a teen love and dark fantasies. A respectable voice teacher holds a 15-year-old boy captive in her home for reasons she doesn’t understand but can’t seem to avoid. The Thames’ putrid waters that bring up all sorts of flotsam and jetsam add to this modern gothic.
Louise Millar: The Playdate will make you think twice about that new friendship with that overly friendly woman down the street who is always willing to help you with child care. Suzy Howard and Callie Roberts live on the same London street and appear to be best friends. The Playdate begins quietly, but soon builds into a gripping psychological thriller.
And let’s not forget British history.
Jacqueline Winspear: Her elegant Maisie Dobbs novels look at post-World War I England and how that war changed the face of British society. Winspear's latest is Elegy for Eddie.
Charles Todd: Todd has two series, both of which deal with WWI with solid, tense plots. The Bess Crawford series take place during the middle of the war as Bess, a nurse and amateur sleuth, deals with the wounded and killers who use the war to cover up their deeds. An Unmarked Grave is the latest Bess Crawford novel. Todd’s long-running series about Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge show a decorated soldier whose post-traumatic stress continues long after the Great War. The latest Rutledge novel is The Confession.