I’m probably more sympathetic to environmental themes than the average reader (I’ve voted Green more than once in my life) but even so I hate being lectured to or preached at. However there are some crime fiction gems among all the well-meaning, earnest tomes that deal with environmental issues.
One of my favourite environmentally themed crime novels might be a surprise to anyone who read about my history with Wexford but Ruth Rendell’s 17th Wexford novel, Road Rage, is a terrific book. When a new motorway is due to cut through the woodland surrounding Kingsmarkham militant protesters gather. Wexford’s wife Dora would quite like to be one of them but she and several other people are kidnapped in an incidence of domestic terrorism. The book offers quite a realistic portrayal of both sides of a complex argument and also shows Wexford at his most human, being very fearful for his wife’s safety.
The first of G. M. Ford’s novels to feature private eye Leo Waterman is another of my ‘go to’ books focusing on environmentalism. In Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca (which also vies for best title ever) Leo is asked by an old friend of his father’s, a semi-retired Mafia don, to look for his missing niece who has gotten caught up at the more extreme end of environmental politics. The book is a little bit surreal, amusing and full of over the top characters, including a bunch of homeless drunks who act as Leo’s version of Holmes’ Baker Street irregulars.
There must be something that draws together Florida, environmentalism and crime fiction as both Carl Hiassan and Randy Wayne White have written half a dozen books each combining all three themes. Another book to do so is David Liss’ The Ethical Assassin which features a killer whose sins are, to some at least, forgivable because the people he kills deserve their fate as they are perpetrators of cruelty to animals on a grand scale. The book is absurd (in a good way) and though it does get a little ‘ranty’ at a few points overall it is an entertaining read.
A recent discovery for me is Canadian writer William Deverell whose delightful legal procedural April Fool involved his aging lawyer protagonist’s wife in a dramatic environmental protest. The rural community’s old-growth forest is under threat from developers and tree house sit-ins and other shenanigans abound as the locals, and some ring-ins, try to save the area.
Another legal thriller containing a strong environmental theme is Clare Francis‘ Requiem (a.k.a. The Killing Winds). When the pregnant wife of a wealthy rock star (who may or may not be modeled on the outspokenly vegetarian former member of The Beatles) dies slowly and painfully her death is at first blamed on some preservative she used. But a lawyer with an eco-action group is convinced she died due to a new pesticide that is being tested in the area because other people have died from similar symptoms and she convinces the rock star to join the fight which soon gets very, very dirty.
Do you have any suggestions for other non-preachy environmentally themed crime fiction I should be reading?
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Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the crime fiction alphabet meme which requires the posting of an article relating to the letter of the week (a book title, an author name, a subject…) Do join in the fun by reading the posts and/or contributing one of your own. You don’t have to write every week.
This is the second round of the meme which was first run from late 2009 to early 2010. My contributions that time were discussions of books with one word titles.
Well done Bernadette. Donna Leon’s novel are often about the environmental degradation of Venice – water pollution, death of fish stocks etc. with Brunetti’s wife Paola taking a “green” stand
I do like your themes for this round of the Crime Fiction Alphabet. Deon Meyer’s Blood Safari has an environmental theme too.
Very interesting…. I liked your post. It speaks of valid issues…
Here is my Crime Fiction Alphabet: E post!
Bernadette – This is a terrific choice for the letter “E,” and I can’t say I’m surprised at your choice. There is a really delicate balance between discussing an important theme like the environment and preaching. I’m glad you included the Rendell in this group; I know your general view of her work, but I agree that that one’s excellent.
Good suggestions here. I’ve had Deverell on my last since you reviewed April Fool. My library doesn’t have it, so I’ll buy it.
There’s also Sarah Andrews, whose books are about geology, and the environment.
And I have to read more of Carl Haiasen’s books. I’ve read one, which made me laugh out loud.
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