Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Investigative Middle Ground?

Bill Clinton used to talk a lot about “Third Way” (or “radical middle”) politics, beginning when he ran for president of the United States in 1992. Britain’s Tony Blair and Italy’s Romano Prodi have voiced a similar philosophy of governance. But now Perry Middlemiss of the Australian books blog Matilda has come up with a Third Way in crime fiction. In a review of Marshall Browne’s latest novel, Inspector Anders and the Blood Vendetta, Middlemiss writes:

There is a theory, to which I am becoming more and more attuned, that tension in British and US police procedural crime novels is created in two, very different ways. In the US version, the main protagonist fights the bulk of his battles with other branches of the justice machinery: if he works in homicide, then the FBI tries to interfere, and if he works for the Justice Department then it’s likely to be a local detective that gets under his feet and in his way--Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch is an excellent example of this. Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, on the British side of the equation, has no such external agencies getting in his way. He has to work against his superiors, acting as an outsider to their bureaucratic inertia. Rebus is considered a maverick by his bosses, while Bosch is looked upon almost as a star by his.

There is, by implication, a third way: a pan-continental approach that uses tensions within and across countries, and between varying political forces, both legal and illegal. I have come across very few of these novels outside the purely “spy thriller” genre, such as [Frederick] Forsyth’s [The] Day of the Jackal. Few straight-forward mystery novels attempt to tackle the tensions listed above; whether for wont of material or ambition I’m not sure. So it is with a genuine sense of interest and the prospect of a new direction that we can approach the Inspector Anders novels of Melbourne writer Marshall Browne.

To learn more about the plotting approach Browne takes with his Anders books, read this January Magazine review of Inspector Anders and the Ship of Fools.

(Hat tip to Campaign for the American Reader.)

No comments: