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Desert Island Crime with Rebecca Griffiths

If you were stranded on a desert island and had to choose 8 books to take with you. What would you pick and why? In today’s feature, Rebecca Griffiths, the author of A Place to Lie, recommends her crime and thriller favourites.

Over to you Rebecca:

Rebecca Griffiths:

Maigret at the Crossroads — Georges Simenon

I found this in the library when I was 13.  It was the first detective novel I read.  It’s an early Maigret (1931) and going on to read later novels (there are 75) I realise his character may not have been fully formed in this one, but his approach — the way he wanders around watching people until he’s worked them out — is brilliantly realised and because these novels are such good yarns and Maigret has such wit and charm, he’s a character I’ve sustained a lifelong relationship with.

Brighton Rock — Graham Greene

I was 14 when I first read this and it made me realise that a serious book can be an exciting book.  Dealing with themes of loneliness and fear, of lives lived teetering on a knife-edge, this chilling expose of violence and gang warfare in the pre-war underworld is as relevant today as it ever was.  Gripping and exciting, it’s told with surprising humility and Greene is almost prophet-like in his ability to communicate the human condition of morality vs. wickedness: two things, no matter how much the world supposedly evolves, will always resonate deeply.

The Pledge — Friedrich Durrenmatt

This is an unusual book of crime and detection and one I return to time and again.  Hugely atmospheric, its settings and scenes along with changes in the weather play like a musical accompaniment to the dramatic storytelling that leads the reader to the shocker of an ending.  It is a study of obsession and the precarious balance that exists between good and evil — in a nutshell, I admire Durrenmatt as a writer because he manages to create excitement and tension by quiet and simple means.

 What the Dead Know — Laura Lippman

Hypnotic and beautifully crafted, this is a story of secrets and lies that, buried for 30 years, are peeled away layer by layer.  The effect is that you’re drawn down into a far darker mystery than you could ever have imagined.  Brilliantly written and so well-paced you’ll forget you’re reading it.

The Collector — John Fowles

Original in its conception, this is an unnervingly acute observation of psychopathic obsession that is horrible and compelling all at once.  I have a memory of when I first read this: summer, I was about 15 and out riding my friend’s pony — reins in one hand, book in the other — totally absorbed, I couldn’t put the book down! The way Fowles juggles insanity and sanity between captor and the captive is fiendishly clever.  This is a story that tells of a contest of minds of which there can never be a meeting point and therefore no happy ending.

The Keys to the Street — Ruth Rendell

Mysterious, complex and highly addictive, for me, this is Rendell’s finest book.  Located in the area around Regent’s Park, it creates an atmospherically charged setting where a young woman’s life is in danger both from the middle-class world she knows and the alien world of the dispossessed and deranged.

Dirty Weekend — Helen Zahavi

This is a tale of revenge.  It is the story of Bella who wakes up one morning and decides she’s had enough of being a victim.  Bella’s bloody triumph is both terrifying and satisfying as well as funny and unsettling.  She overcomes her fear and transforms from victim to avenging angel, satisfying the revenge fantasies of anyone who has suffered sexual abuse and has been too helpless or afraid to act.

Grey Souls — Philippe Claudel

Melancholy and disturbing, this is an oddly brilliant crime novel.  In 1917 the placid daily life of an isolated town in Northern France is shattered by the deaths of three innocents: a schoolmistress who kills herself; a ten-year-old girl who is found strangled; and a local policeman’s wife, who dies alone in labour while her husband is hunting down the murderer.  Claudel carves out scenes that take place in the dead of winter while the war is still raging in the trenches within sight and sound of the town and when suspicion falls on two deserters, their interrogation and sentencing is brutal and swift.  Twenty years on, the policeman, still haunted by his experiences and the death of his young wife, tries to piece together what actually happened the night the girl died.  But excavating the town’s secrets bring no peace or justice.


Lovely, thanks Rebecca!

Rebecca Griffith’s new novel A Place to Lie is out now in paperback.