“CJ Sansom and Scandinavian Crime”

“All that is selling in Crime Fiction is CJ Sansom and Scandinavian books.” That’s what I was told today in Waterstones.

Let me backtrack a moment. I decided to let Mrs Puzzledoctor get on with some work this morning by going for a walk in Watford town centre. After visiting the charity shops and finding a Simon Brett book for £1, I went off to Waterstones. I’ve decided that it’s time to investigate Paul Doherty’s range of mystery series (see the previous post on the highly enjoyable Nightshade) and I figured that there would be a few that I could pick up there (hopefully 3 for 2). Call me picky, but I do like to visit and buy from actual bookshops on occasion, rather than relying on Amazon, even though I know that’ll be cheaper.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. [INSERT RUDE WORD] all.

A very helpful assistant, when asked, knew exactly who Paul Doherty was – clearly Waterstones don’t use the same recruitment pool as Currys – although wasn’t aware that he was still publishing work (two books were released in 2010). Apparently, all that sells at the moment is CJ Sansom and Scandinavian crime. So that’s basically all they stock.

I’m no business man, but clearly this is a vicious circle. If you don’t have a couple of sampler books for a wide variety of authors and styles, with “if you like CJ Sansom, try this” you limit your market. I know bookshops aren’t a type of intellectual charity, endeavouring to spread as wide a range of styles of novel as possible, but it would be nice if they made an effort sometimes. Besides, does the shop really need a whole shelf of MC Beaton books. Or a hefty chunk of “The Cat Who Licked Its Own Bottom” books by Lilian Braun.

So, gentle reader, I implore you. Everyone has their own favourite in-print but under-available author. The aforementioned Paul Doherty and Simon Brett spring to mind for me. So when passing a Waterstones or another book emporium (RIP Borders, by the way), pop in, check the shelves, and ask the helpful assistant if they have books by that author. You never know, it may prompt them into ordering a few. And that may lead to someone buying one of them. And that’s how avalanches start…


  1. It’s always so frustrating, isn’t it?

    “Hi, do you have anything by John Dickson Carr?”
    “John Dickson Carr. He was a very famous mystery writer.”
    “Oh, if you like mysteries, there’s a bunch of really cool CSI books on that shelf!”
    “… Okay then, thanks.”

    I haven’t been swept up in the whole Scandinavian books craze nor do I plan to, personally.


    • I’ve dipped a toe into the Scandinavian phenomenon, but never get more than a couple of chapters in because it’s inevitably depressing. It’s the same for me with some of the grimmer serial killer stuff – there’s a book by Karin Slaughter that had some horrible descriptions of… stuff that meant I had no desire to read further.

      This almost sounds like a silly thing to say, but I like to enjoy my crime reading – either by an entertaining or enthralling story, a cracking mystery, or preferably both. Hence my love for writers such as Christopher Fowler, Steve Hockensmith and Nev Fountain. These are, I think, the very best new writers out there for me and the antithesis of the Scandinavian school in every possible way.

      At some point, I will try and give some of the genre a go – I freely admit that my opinion is only based on five or six separate opening chapters and therefore hardly an expert one.


  2. Welcome to my universe, Puzzle Doctor.

    Over here, they rarely, if ever, stock anything I like to read – new or secondhand and I have to buy most of my books online. Heck, there’s one modern author I particular enjoy, but there are only a couple of book outlets, scattered over the entire country, who sell his books. And don’t get me even started on the classics! I’m sick and tired to see their eyes glace over when you mention John Dickson Carr, Kelley Roos, Christianna Brand or Rex Stout.


    • I do know what you all mean, though I do quite like some examples of Nordic crime (without pretending they are not really depressing) and am a recent convert to the works of Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason. Peter Lovesey remains, for me, one of the last of the great Gold Age practitioners and at least he is fairly prolific too!


  3. At least second hand sellers are getting some trade that would otherwise be going to the larger chains. That’s a small comfort though, as it means that the greats aren’t likely to be picked up by casual browsers.

    I’m starting to think that I ought to include more modern popular stuff in my blog in order that it might attract browsers who then might read the review of other, better, books. Maybe I should get the new Peter Robinson off the shelf soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.