Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Second Sighting

My review of Stolen Lives (Soho Press), Jassy Mackenzie’s second South Africa-set detective novel, following last years Random Violence, appears today at the Kirkus Reviews site. It begins:
After flip-flopping politicians, tax-complaining millionaires and Charlie Sheen, second novels might be the easiest targets for critical skewering. Well-received literary introductions have a way of sucking the excitement right out of whatever books trail them. Second entries in crime-fiction series face the same challenges. The familiar grumble is that the author poured everything he or she had into the original book, and the sophomore endeavor lacks the same energy and commitment. Thus, for instance, Martin Cruz Smith’s Polar Star (1989) foundered in the wake of Gorky Park (1981), Caleb Carr’s The Angel of Darkness (1997) was met with yawns by many admirers of The Alienist (1994) and Rennie Airth’s The Blood-Dimmed Tide (2004) never attained the high-water mark of acclaim set by its hypnotic predecessor, River of Darkness (1999).

Jassy Mackenzie’s
Stolen Lives, though, manages to dodge that curse. In fact, for my money, this second Jade de Jong detective novel outshines her debut.
You’ll find the full critique here. Let me know what you think.


John said...

It's interesting that many people still think that Martin Cruz Smith's first crime novel was Gorky Park. He had been writing detective fiction and thrillers for several years prior to that book. Maybe I ought to do a Forgotten Books post on his gypsy detective Roman Grey. He was even nominated for an Edgar for one of those books.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Hey, John:

I didn't actually say that Gorky Park was Smith's first novel, just the opening installment in his Arkady Renko series. But yes, I agree that many people think Gorky WAS his debut novel.

I'd be happy to have a "forgotten books" piece from you sometime about the Roman Grey books. Just let me know.


Ricky Bush said...

Great review. I think plenty of ours iron out whatever they didn't "get right" in their first novel, in their second; in terms of tightening things up and keeping a active flow going.

dick adler said...

Nice work, boss. Just what I needed -- another great writer to become addicted to.

New installment of FORGET ABOUT IT goes up today --