>As Noir As …

>James Thompson´s debut, Snow Angels, which I reviewed yesterday, is marketed as ´noir´.

But what exactly is ´noir´?

According to Wikipedia, ´Noir´ or ´Hard-boiled´ detective fiction “is a literary style which portrays crime and violence in an unsentimental way.”

Not a very helpful definition. Unsentimental? That covers a vast majority of the crime I read.

Googling a bit further, I found this quotation by Bill Pronzini:

“The noir crime story deals with disorder, disaffection, and dissatisfaction … The typical noir character (if not the typical noir writer) has a jaundiced view of government, power, and the law. He (or sometimes she) is often a loner, a social misfit. If he is on the side of the angels, he is probably a cynical idealist: he believes that society is corrupt, but he also believes in justice and will make it his business to do whatever is necessary to see that justice is done … In the noir world, extremes are the norm. Clashes between good and evil are never petty, and good does not always triumph, nor is justice always done.

Source: the blog NoirCon, posted by Lou Boxer.

I agree that Thompson´s novel in some ways is as dark as the ever-lasting Finnish winter night, but his protagonist, Inspector Kari Vaara, is neither cynical nor dissatisfied with life in general, he is happily married and will probably turn into an engaged and responsible family father soon.

So is there perhaps a growing tendency to call crime novels ´noir´ if the murders are cruel and unusual?

If so, it makes sense to call Henning Mankell and James Thompson´s novels noir.

Is ´noir´ one of your favourite genres? Then please tell me how you define it.

And now you should run off to read about Donna Moore´s “not altogether serious route from noir to cosy.”Enjoy!


About Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

I am a Danish teacher. In my spare time I read, write and review crime fiction.
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