Monday, October 09, 2017

Review: The House of Four by Barbara Nadel

The House of Four by Barbara Nadel, May 2017, 336 pages, Headline, ISBN: 1472234650

Reviewed by Susan White.
(Read more of Susan's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

There is an old crumbling house that the locals know as the Devil’s House, believed by most to have been long abandoned. However it was occupied by 3 brothers and their sister – all in their 90s – and all apparently stabbed through the heart on the same day.

Inspector Ikmen slowly unravels the history of the house and the sad history of the four old people who only communicated with each other by letters which show their hatred of each other. Ikmen comes to believe that their murder can only be solved by uncovering the events of years before.

At the same time someone is killing people at random in the City and Inspector Mehmet Suleyman is charged with identifying and stopping the killer. The cases move slowly together but is it the same killer?

This is the latest of the series featuring Inspector Cetin Ikmen. Set in Istanbul, a secular city but with a rising number of citizens who would like to see the return of a more conservative Muslim society.

For me the history of Istanbul and its people is an important and interesting part of this series. The complexity of that history and how that still influences life today make these a fascinating read.

Susan White, October 2017

Sunday, October 01, 2017

New Releases - October 2017

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in October 2017 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). October and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.
• Anthology - The Usual Santas: A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers
• Anthology - Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women (ed. Sophie Hannah)
• Akunin, Boris - All The World's A Stage #11 Erast Fandorin, Gentleman Sleuth, Russia
• Alexander, Tasha - Death in St. Petersburg #12 Lady Emily
• Beaton, M C - Agatha Raisin and the Witches' Tree #29 Agatha Raisin, Retired PR person, Cotswolds
• Becker, James - The Templar Brotherhood #3 The Lost Treasure of the Templars
• Brightwell, Emily - Mrs Jeffries and the Three Wise Women #36 Mrs Jeffries
• Brody, Frances - Death in the Stars #9 Kate Shackleton, Bradford, 1920s
• Brown, Vivien - Lily Alone
• Burnet, Graeme Macrae - The Accident on the A35
• Carter, Andrea - The Well of Ice #3 Benedicta 'Ben' O'Keeffe, Solicitor, Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland.
• Chapman, Julia - Date with Malice #2 The Dales Detective Series
• Clare, Alys - The Rufus Spy #8 Lassair, 11thC, East Anglia
• Cookman, Lesley - Murder by the Barrel #18 Libby Sarjeant, middle aged actress/investigator, Kent
• Cutler, Judith - Head Count #2 Jane Cowan, Wrayford, Kent
• D'Andrea, Luca - The Mountain
• Day, Alex - The Missing Twin
• Driscoll, Teresa - I Am Watching You
• Dunn, Matthew - Act of Betrayal #7 Will Cochrane, Super-spy
• Edmondson, Elizabeth - A Matter of Loyalty (with Anselm Audley) #3 Very English Mystery
• Ellicott, Jessica - Murder in an English Village #1 Beryl and Edwina Mystery, 1920s
• England, Caroline - Beneath the Skin
• Finch, Paul - Shadows #2 Lucy Clayburn
• Hamdouchi, Abdelilah - Bled Dry #1 Detective Hanash, Casablanca
• Harris, Robert J - The Thirty-One Kings #1 Richard Hannay
• Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia - Shadow Play #20 Bill Slider, Shepherd's Bush CID
• James, P D - Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales
• James, Peter - Absolute Proof
• Jardine, Quintin - State Secrets #28 Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Skinner, Edinburgh
• Law, Janice - Mornings in London #6 Francis Bacon
• Macmillan, Gilly - Odd Child Out #1 Detective Jim Clemo, Bristol
• Magson, Adrian - Rocco and the Nightingale #5 Inspector Lucas Rocco, Poissons-Les-Marais, 1960s
• Malliet, G M - Weycombe
• Mankell, Henning - After the Fire
• Marston, Edward - Under Attack #7 Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy
• Masters, Priscilla - The Deceiver #2 Dr Claire Roget, Forensic Psychiatrist
• Masterton, Graham - The Coven #2 Beatrice Scarlet, 1750s
• McNab, Andy - Line of Fire #19 The Nick Stone Missions
• Nesser, Hakan - The Darkest Day #1 Inspector Barbarotti
• Poulson, Christine - Cold, Cold Heart #2 Katie Flanagan
• Purcell, Laura - The Silent Companions
• Rendell, Ruth - A Spot of Folly (Short Stories)
• Rowe, Rosemary - The Price of Freedom #17 Mosaicist Libertus, Glevum (modern Gloucester)
• Schumacher, Tony - An Army of One #3 John Rossett
• Sharp, Zoe - Fox Hunter #12 Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard
• Sigurdardottir, Lilja - Snare
• Smith, Anna - The Hit #9 Rosie Gilmour, Crime Journalist, 1990s
• Spencer, Sally - Dry Bones #2 Jennie Redhead, PI, Oxford, 1974
• Thomas, Will - Old Scores #9 Barker and Llewelyn, Victorian London
• Thomson, E S - The Blood #3 Jem Flockhart, Apothecary, 1850s
• Tuomainen, Antti - The Man Who Died
• Upson, Nicola - Nine Lessons #7 Josephine Tey, real-life crime writer
• Watson, Allan - Heart Swarm
• Wilson, Laura - The Other Woman
• Winslow, Emily Look for Her #3 Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, Cambridge

Sunday, September 17, 2017

US Cozy Review: If You've Got It, Haunt It by Rose Pressey

Welcome to another entry in my irregular feature: US cozy review.

If You've Got It, Haunt It by Rose Pressey, December 2014, Kensington Publishing ISBN: 1617732494

If You've Got It, Haunt It is the first in a series which currently runs to five books, with a sixth out in 2018, and it introduces vintage-clothing shop owner and blogger Cookie Chanel. Cookie's shop, It's Vintage, Y'All is in the small town of Sugar Creek, Georgia.

Cookie is attending the estate sale of the late Charlotte Meadows, a successful businesswoman who died under mysterious circumstances. Cookie doesn't just acquire some new stock for her shop though...she comes home with the ghost of Charlotte. And Charlotte won't leave Cookie alone until Cookie finds Charlotte's murderer.

Encouraged by Charlotte – and not having much choice really – Cookie begins to do some snooping and even some breaking and entering. As no-one else can see Charlotte, Cookie has to be on her toes to not look like she's talking to herself all the time! Cookie crosses paths with a new to the town, and attractive, police detective when she discovers a body. And she acquires a cat who can communicate via a Ouija board.

This is an enjoyable and light read, well paced with a likeable lead character and the mystery is satisfying. It's high on the woo-woo factor with not only a ghost but a very mysterious cat but I don't mind that. I don't know whether Charlotte stays around in further books but I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

Karen Meek, September 2017.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Free TV Episodes on Amazon

Amazon.co.uk have updated their list of "first episode for you" choices where you can "buy" the first episode in a series for free.

The list includes one Scandi title - Dicte (NB. first episode of a two parter); British series include Sherlock, Death in Paradise, Inspector George Gently, Cuffs; also available is the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries, and the Australian series Rake, and Deep Water.

Browse the whole list at amazon.co.uk.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante, August 2017, 400 pages, Zaffre, ISBN: 1785762818

Reviewed by Terry Halligan.
(Read more of Terry's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

During 1974 and 1975 the IRA subjected London to a terrifying bombing campaign. In one day alone, they planted seven bombs at locations across central London. Some were defused - some were not.

Jane Tennison is now a fully-fledged detective. On the way to court one morning, Jane passes through Covent Garden Underground station and is caught up in a bomb blast that leaves several people dead, and many horribly injured. Jane is a key witness, but is adamant that she can't identify the bomber. When a photograph appears in the newspapers, showing Jane assisting the injured at the scene, it puts her and her family at risk from IRA retaliation.

'Good Friday' is the eagerly awaited date of the annual formal CID dinner, due to take place at St Ermin's Hotel. Hundreds of detectives and their wives will be there. It's the perfect target. As Jane arrives for the evening, she realises that she recognises the parking attendant as the bomber from Covent Garden. Can she convince her senior officers in time, or will another bomb destroy London's entire detective force?


This was a very atmospheric and fast moving story. I was gripped by this fabulous page turning read. I have not read any of the Tennison stories before but have distant memories of the TV series and in 2010 I reviewed her book BLIND FURY, which featured her other protagonist DI Anna Travis and was very impressed with that story. I remember the 1970s very well and the IRA bombing campaign was very shocking and the TV news reports very filled with all the latest outrages and the difficult reporting of all the latest news from Northern Ireland.

This was thoroughly engrossing read and the very experienced author has done her research impeccably and the book is infused with period detail to give a real flavour of life as I remembered during the mid 1970s. One just could not fault the plotting of this story. The dramatic plot with many twists and turns in the story telling kept me gripped until the sensational conclusion. Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, September 2017

Friday, September 08, 2017

Blog Tour: Ngaio Marsh Awards - Lucy Sussex

Last month, the finalists for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards were revealed, with the winners to be announced at an event in Christchurch, the birthplace of Dame Ngaio Marsh, in late October.

Named after the Queen of Crime who came from the edge of the British Empire, since 2010 the Ngaio Marsh Awards have celebrated the best crime writing by New Zealand authors. This year, for the first time, those celebrations include non-fiction writing as well as fictional crime tales.


Today on Euro Crime, as part of the Ngaio Marsh Awards blog tour, we’re hosting an interview with Lucy Sussex, author of Blockbuster!: Fergus Hume and the Mystery of a Hansom Cab.

Unlike her fellow finalists for the new Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Non Fiction, Sussex hasn’t written a true crime tale; instead her book delves into the strange tale of mystery writing’s first runaway global hit (the best-selling crime novel of the entire nineteenth century), and its unusual author.

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab by Fergus Hume (1886) was a word-of-mouth literary sensation with Victorian-era readers that helped popularise the nascent genre and paved the way for the success of the likes of Sherlock Holmes, and then the Queens of Crime in the early twentieth century.

After several reprints sold out in Australia, it was released in England. It sold half a million copies and the Illustrated London News reported at the time that people were found everywhere, travelling by road, rail, and river, “eagerly devouring the realistic sensational tale of Melbourne social life”.

The fact it was a self-published debut was remarkable enough, but as Sussex uncovered, the story behind The Mystery of the Hansom Cab and its author Fergus Hume is stranger than fiction.


AN INTERVIEW WITH LUCY SUSSEX

(credit Darren James)
What inspired you to research the story behind Fergus Hume's bestselling if somewhat forgotten or overlooked 1886 novel in such depth and write your book Blockbuster?

I was working with Meg Tasker at Federation University on a research project about Australian and New Zealand writers and journalists in London at the turn of the last century. It ranged from very well known figures like Henry Lawson, to lesser-knowns like poet Arthur Adams and Kate Evelyn Isitt.

So of course we had a file on Hume, who moved to England in 1888, in the wake of Hansom Cab’s success. We were indexing all sorts of periodicals, just ahead of the boom in digitising newspapers. More and more sources were coming online as we worked. So one morning in my office at La Trobe University — when I probably should have been doing other things — I idly started following Hume, chasing the leads from paper to paper, back and forth across the Tasman. By lunch I knew there was enough material for a book on the Hansom Cab alone, and I could even see the form of it, too.

Before you began this project, what did you know about The Mystery of the Hansom Cab? How did your perspective on the novel change (if at all) during the course of your research?

When I grew up in Christchurch, everybody knew about Ngaio Marsh, but I never heard of Hume. In fact I didn’t know about Hansom Cab until I worked as a researcher for crime fiction historian Professor Stephen Knight, who did several Hume editions.

I read it then, and learnt about its success. Quite how important a book it was I came to understand in the course of this research. It was the best-selling detective novel of the 1800s. The success of Hansom Cab helped consolidate the emerging publishing genre of detective fiction, as well as drawing attention to the potential of Antipodean writers.

Given Hume’s debut was published more than 125 years ago, how did you go about researching Blockbuster? Was it all based on records and documents, or were you able to speak to descendants of Hume or others who knew him?

Hume never married, had no descendants, though distant relatives do exist. Researchers have interviewed them, so we know about his fascination with reincarnation, that he believed in a former life that he’d been guillotined in the French Revolution (and could remember it!).

I mainly used archives. The problem with Hume is that he left no diaries, there are few letters and the most relevant publishers’ records do not survive. David Green, Trischler family historian, kindly gave me a lot of information about Fred Trischler, Hume’s brilliant publisher. Rowan Gibbs, Hume’s NZ bibliographer, was an endless help. But mostly the interviews I conducted were more about Hansom Cab than its author. In this sense Blockbuster is the biography of a book rather than of Hume.

Even with written sources I had more than enough material. As the book was going to press ever more digitised detail was going online. It was very hard to stop researching Blockbuster. One fact just too late to include was that one of the three lost silent film versions of Hansom Cab was by Eliot Stannard, who went on to work with Alfred Hitchcock.

What were some of the most surprising revelations you gathered about Hume, Melbourne at the time, or the publication and popularity of the book, during your research?

Well, people kept asking me if he was gay, which meant I had to look into the question...

I do think Hume was same-sex identified, and it shows in the novels. But in 1895 the Oscar Wilde trial happened, which meant caution, or else celibacy. There is one incident which suggests he was being blackmailed. He was also highly religious, a Theosophist. His personal life ultimately remains a mystery.

Another insight was how successful the book was in Australasia —could it really have sold out a then and now huge first edition of 5,000 copies in several weeks? All the modern publishers said yes, the book historians tended to say no. But with a high level of literacy, an existing demand for detective fiction, and some really clever marketing—like Hume delivering copies to bookshops in a Hansom Cab, then driving around the suburbs as an advertisement—it did look increasingly possible.

Have you read any of Hume's later novels? Why do you think they didn't have much success?

Hansom Cab was a good crime novel, the next, Madame Midas, a good novel which transcends genre. When he got to London, Hume thought his success with the novel would ensure he achieved his ambition to be a dramatist. His follow up novels are hasty and not very reprintable, and he spent a lot of time trying to establish himself in other areas, such as children’s fiction, futuristic, and utopian fiction. Really, he was best fitted to be a crime novelist, with his legal training, and ear for dialogue and description. He wrote some very fine detective novels in the 1890s and 1900s, but they weren’t as popular. By that stage other writers were leading the field, such as Conan Doyle.

From what you've researched, how did Hume feel about the stunning success of his debut novel (more than a million copies sold in UK and USA), for which he got little financial reward?

He wasn’t expecting it, but as a fortune-teller told him, he did wake up one day and found himself an international sensation. What he resented was being typecast as a writer of ‘shilling-shockers’, popular trash. He was better than that, and knew it. But he couldn’t escape the label, and it gave him a living from writing, rather than the law, which he hated. At the end of his life he believed it was karma, his fate. He died hopeful of better luck in the next life.

Why do you think the novel was such a sensation, devoured by so many readers in several countries in the 1880s?

Hume had consulted booksellers, found what was selling—the French writer Gaboriau’s detective novels—and set out to adapt them to the colonial setting. It was his first attempt at writing crime, but he took it very seriously, working out the plot carefully, rewriting when he found the criminal too obvious. He also understood that the setting, boomtown Melbourne, was as important as a character to crime fiction. As a result he got it absolutely right on his first attempt, which very few authors do.

For you, what is special about The Mystery of a Hansom Cab? What makes it still readable 125 years later?

It draws you in, keeps you reading. It is also a vivid picture of a 19th-century city, its highs and lows, from society parties to the slums and opium dens. Not least, a modern crime reader can still be surprised by the narrative, the whodunit not guessable even after over a century.

Buy Blockbuster! Fergus Hume and the Mystery of a Hansom Cab at Amazon.co.uk.
Buy The Mystery of a Hansom Cab at Amazon.co.uk.
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Many thanks to Lucy Sussex for stopping by and to Craig Sisterson for arranging it.

Do check out the other stops on this month-long tour:


Thursday, September 07, 2017

Free Kindle Book - Dark September by Inger Wolf

Earlier in the year, Danish author Inger Wolf's Under a Black Sky was free on Kindle for a while, and now Dark September has been made free. Both titles are translated by Mark Kline.

If, like me you prefer to read a series in order if at all possible, then you'll be pleased to know that Dark September is the first in the Daniel Trokic series. [Under a Black Sky, currently 99p on kindle is the sixth in the series.]

Dark September: UK Kindle; US Kindle.

It is late September, and Anna Kiehl, a student of anthropology and a single mother, does not return from her evening run in the forest. The next morning, she is found dead. She is naked, her throat is cut, and there is a bouquet of poisonous hemlock on her chest.

Police inspector Daniel Trokic is in charge of the investigation, and it leads him to the case of a prominent scientist and specialist in neurochemistry and antidepressants who disappeared eight weeks earlier. Daniel Trokic must get to the killer before he strikes again, but this turns out to be a dangerous pursuit.

Suspenseful and fast-paced. Winner of the Danish Crime Academy's Debut Award in 2006 for the most exciting debut of the year.