Day 08 – A Pinoy mystery everybody should read

Happy belated New Year, and let’s pretend I didn’t fall off the book blogging wagon in a major way, shall we? To make up for my neglect, I have decided to make another try at fulfilling the 50 Book Challenge in 2011. The good news is, I’m already on the right track, after having just finished Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel. Yay!

Another thing keeping me happy lately: my friend and former officemate Karen is now starting here own book blog! Seek her out at And She Really Read. Her first post is about the pain of a room with simply too many books. I know this drama pretty well.

I’m also going to continue with the 30 Days of Books Meme and consider the gap, uh, the result of an inter-dimensional war of attrition. Or something.

Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once

F.H. Batacan’s Smaller and Smaller Circles

I’m going to amend this question into “A book every Filipino reader should read at least once.” Mystery is a genre that has always been close to my heart, and I have been very much invested in discussions regarding the dearth of crime and mystery fiction from Filipino authors. Batacan’s novel about two Jesuit priests and their quest to find the murderer and mutilator of young boys in the Payatas Dumpsite is a relative bestseller, consistently read and reviewed in different blogs through the years. But it’s also a bit a of an outlier, unique in its position as the only Filipino novel so far that I believe follows the convention of a proper mystery novel.

Books like Jose Dalisay’s Soledad’s Sister and Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado feature elements of crime in their plots but they’re entirely different literary animals. You can’t say they’re following the conventions the likes of Agatha Christie or Patricia Cornwell have cemented within the genre. What I’ve been wishing for from the Filipino publishing world is a concerted effort to churn out solid, pop-y crime novels that are both accessible to casual readers but are also rich with decidedly Pinoy sensibilities.

I don’t think that’s an impossible feat at all. Smaller and Smaller Circles shows that it can be done, and despite its shortcomings as a novel, I still maintain that it’s the kind of book that everyone who’s Filipino and loves book should read. It can be nice gateway to more productive discussions, and hopefully, more Pinoy mysteries.

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