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  1. #1

    Books like AMC's "The Killing"

    My wife and I are currently engrossed in watching "The Killing," originally on AMC but we're catching it on Netflix. We just finished Season 2.

    I don't really read many mystery novels or police procedurals because I find them all to be a bit formulaic. But I am loving this show - it's very dark; it's very gritty (to use an overused word); they're not afraid to use teenagers to drive the action forward, both as victim and as perpetrator; it's very atmospheric; all the characters are flawed; there's just a sense of oppressive reality to it that I am really captured by.

    So my question is, are there any really good, really dark, novels like this out there?

    I've read some Tana French and I like her, but she only just gets to the dark side. I've read "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and really enjoyed it; it had the right level of darkness, but the writing was poor - very much in a reporting style.

    What else is out there?

  2. #2
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Jun 2009
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    Good question. I love "The Killing" series as well. Her partner is so funny. I love him. And she's such a strong, intriguing character. Would love to see them do another series together.

    In regards to a books like suggestion. I just wanted to say that I love that TV series. I think we ended up finding "Luther" (another TV series, not AMC, I think) based on our watching "The Killing".

    The only thing that I've read lately that comes remotely close is Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series. They are gritty, but more on the funny side and there's magic. So, more genre than police procedural. It's set in London, so we get to learn all about constable procedures.

  3. #3
    You're absolutely right, her partner is hilarious. It seems, especially into the 3rd season a bit, that he's grown as an actor and I love watching his body language and facial expressions. They make a great team.

    In some digging around on my own, I found some and have reserved these four books at the library. If anyone has any thoughts on them I'd love to hear them!

    Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

    Snow Angels by James Thompson

    The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

    Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

  4. #4
    You know, I feel like this should be an easy answer, but I'm not finding it easy. The Killing is a combination of the Swedish thrillers that have become popular -- it's adapted from a Swedish show, I believe -- and filmed like American film noir. I expect the original series probably has the same dark, rainy look. American TV has used these techniques off and on since the 1950s from Peter Gunn to M Squad to The X-Files.

    While I haven't seen it, if you're interested in more TV shows, Prime Suspect might be along the lines of what you're looking for. Perhaps others here can comment.

    Anyway, I'd suggest starting with the Martin Beck series by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall, one of the first Swedish police procedurals to become popular in the U.S. I've read the first 4, intend to get to the rest. Closest to the feel of The Killing I'd say would be The Laughing Policeman, but all are good with varying degrees of darkness.

    I agree that the translation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feels reportorial -- Steig Larsson was a reporter so maybe it isn't just the translation -- and I felt the plot went a bit over-the-top even though it held my interest. Focusing on dark procedural, I'd suggest Thomas Harris' Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Focusing on the main character, a female protagonist of dubious mental stability under increasing stress, and I'd more strongly suggest Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand, which features an outsider woman, prickly and resourceful; it is better written than the Larsson and for me remained more believable after closing the book. There is a sequel, Available Dark, that I haven't read yet.

    Lastly, and this is a bit off trail, more for the darkness, Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects . You could call it a loose procedural since it features a reporter as narrator; it's very good, a tight small-town Gothic featuring toxic women. If you read it you'll probably also want to read Gone Girl which doesn't really fit what you're asking for, but is the best thriller I've read since Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room. Come to think of it, you might also find Louise Welsh's The Cutting Room of interest since, like Sharp Objects, it's in the vicinity of what you're asking for, though the investigation is by an amateur.

    Randy M.

  5. #5
    Thanks for that, Randy, that was enlightening. I've read Gone Girl and really liked it, especially how twisty-turny it got. I'll need to check out Sharp Objects, but it might be a while as it seems the forthcoming movie of Gone Girl has driven up Flynn's popularity at the library and Sharp Objects has a 26 person waiting list!

    I did some other research into this question in other places and came up with some different options, though I will want to try Generation Loss and The Cutting Room. I picked up four mysteries/crime thrillers/police procedurals to take with me on my vacation and I'm glad to say I got through them all! Three out of the four were from some part of Scandinavia. So, to answer my own inquiry and for future reference for other people, here's what I found:

    1. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell. (Sweden) Mankell's 'Wallander' series of books, beginning with this one, came almost universally recommended, no matter who I asked. I enjoyed this one and will read more, but it wasn't as exciting as some of the others I'd read. I really think it will get a lot better as I come to know the Wallander character more. This one's about an elderly couple found slain in a brutal manner, in a rural part of southern Sweden. A lot came out about Swedish (Scandinavian?) xenophobia and racism, which I didn't have a clue about. Wallander is a pretty stereotypical noir-detective type, but his character is compelling despite my feeling like I'd seen this character type before. Highly recommended. 4/5 stars.

    2. Snow Angels by James Thompson. (Finland) This one's interesting as Thompson is an American with a Finnish wife, living in Finland. This book was awesome, fast paced, and dark, if not altogether too deep. It also touched on issues of racism - I just had no idea this was such a thing in Scandinavia. By this point, I started looking at some maps to figure out how the geography all relates over there. This story is about the slaying of a movie-star beauty queen in rural, Northern Finland, where the kaamos (Dark time) lasts for half the year. The case develops some interesting interpersonal connections with its detective, Inspector Vaara. Vaara is an atypical detective type in that he is successfully married, has a pretty great life he enjoys, isn't an alcoholic, bench presses 300 pounds, and isn't above a little unnecessary roughness. (This is probably the American bit coming out.) Still though, I really loved this book, and my wife did, too. She, in fact, read it faster than I did! Very highly recommended. 4.5/5 stars.

    3. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. (Denmark) I liked this one the most and found it to be most similar to The Killing. Even though it doesn't have a female protagonist, it does take place in a large city (Copenhagen), the main character is of questionable moral and mental status, it is very atmospheric (though not as much as 'Snow Angels'), and has an oppressive sense of tension and lack of time. The main character, Carl Morck, again a more stereotypical detective (though this is balanced out nicely by his hilarious assistant, a Syrian political refugee named Assad) is recently back to work after being shot in the line of duty - a shooting which killed one partner and left the other forever paralyzed. He's not altogether with it yet, so the department, under political pressure, puts him in the basement and in charge of the newly formed "Department Q" - cold cases. The story is about the never solved disappearance and presumed murder of a young politician (which led me to do some interesting research into the Danish political system). This was probably the most well constructed and well written book of the lot, even if it was longer and took a little bit more time to get into. I loved it. Very highly recommended. 5/5 stars.

    4. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves. (Scottish/Shetland Islands) This book won the 2006 Duncan Dagger Award, which, after reading it, must be an award given to the worst book of the year. I couldn't stand this one. While it had similarities to The Killing in that it used teens as both protagonists and antagonists, I just couldn't get behind the plotting. It is full of holes, way too convenient fixes, and poor planning. Even though it is explained, I just couldn't get behind a Scottish detective named Perez either. Killed the atmosphere for me. Nor could I understand how it was only towards the end of the novel/investigation that the detective, who felt paper thin and not even altogether the star of the show, decided to look through the deceased's belongings - and what do you know, a crucial clue was found! There were multiple POVs employed and I don't think that worked either. The plot was about the killing of a local teen who was making an unflattering documentary about the islander locals. Not recommended. 2/5 stars only because I enjoyed the Magnus Tait character and thought he was very well written.

    To sum up, I really look forward to continuing to read Mankell's 'Wallander' series, Thompson's 'Vaara' series, and Adler-Olsen's 'Department Q' series, but probably own't be reading any more Cleeves anytime soon.

    Enjoy and cheers!
    Last edited by Whitleyrr; August 3rd, 2014 at 12:54 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Toronto, Canada
    Dark & gritty mystery/thrillers ...

    I recommend German writer Nele Neuhaus *Snow White Must Die* & *Bad Wolf*

    and also the Brazilian series by the late Leighton Gage, starting with *Blood of the Wicked*

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