Tangled Web UK Review
File Updated: 15/03/98
Black and BlueCream Of The Corpses 1997 by Val McDermid
Best Crime Novel of 1997:
For the second time in recent years, the judges of the CWA/The Macallan Gold Dagger are in complete agreement with me - Ian Rankin's Black And Blue is the best crime novel of the year. (The other occasion was when they awarded the Gold Dagger to me in 1995...) Rankin's darkly complex tale of murder and misery in Scotland engages both heart and mind, deftly juggling four story strands that in a lesser hand would each have merited a novel of their own. For crime lovers, this is a Do Not Miss.
My other, highly personal awards for 1997 are:
Go Not GentlyBest Second Novel:
Second novels are traditionally the hardest to write, and Manchester's own Cath Staincliffe kept her readers waiting a long time for hers, Go Not Gently  Although the ending relies too heavily on a convenient crack-up and confession, it's nevertheless an engaging but harrowing look at how we treat our elderly citizens. Staincliffe also deals interestingly with the moral dilemmas of the private investigator.
Close runner-up: Nicholas Blincoe's manic, violent and very funny Jello Salad (Serpent's Tail)
The Monkey's MaskBest Off-The-Wall Novel:
Australian poet Dorothy Porter's first attempt at a novel sounds bizarre enough - lesbian private eye in search of excitement falls into passionate affair with the tutor of the teenage girl she's been hired to track down and finds herself sickeningly at the heart of a brutal murder mystery, all told in a series of short lyric poems. But The Monkey's Mask (Serpent's Tail) is a gripping and terrifying Road Rageread, plunging the reader into a maelstrom of emotion and mystery.
Best Traditional Novel:
For my money, a tie between the two Baronesses of crime, PD James (A Certain Justice, Faber) and Ruth Rendell (Road Rage, Hutchinson). The last couple of Adam Dalgliesh novels disappointed me, but with this latest tale set in the Inns of Court, PD James has rediscovered her former sureness of touch in a cunningly plotted drama. Ruth Rendell reveals her diagnostic finger is firmly on the pulse of contemporary society with this almost elegaic mystery that sets greed against the desire for a civilised environment. Either of these will earn you the best bit of turkey from a fan of the traditional British mystery.
Best American Novel:
With ChildTrunk MusicA tie between Laurie King's With Child (HarperCollins) and Michael Connolly's Trunk Music (Orion). King is remarkable for the way she ratchets up the tension in this story of missing children and lost innocence where her police detective Kate Martinelli is inextricably linked heart and soul to the case; Connolly writes the most interesting cop novels currently coming out of the US, featuring maverick cop Harry Bosch. Two to savour.

( Val McDermid )

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