Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Favourite Euro Crime Reads of 2017 - Ewa

The final entry in this series of Euro Crime reviewers' favourite British/European/translated reads of 2017 is from Ewa Sherman:

Ewa Sherman's favourite reads of 2017
Top 5 of 2017

The following Scandi books had a huge impact on me in various ways, and are simply unforgettable. In alphabetical order by title:

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund (tr. Neil Smith): dark, disturbing, unpleasant – and completely addictive as the authors examine the damage caused by abuse and how people attempt to deal with it through vengeance, revenge, or developing personality disorders.

The Dying Detective by Leif G W Persson (tr. Neil Smith): inquisitive, intelligent and emotionally mature, just like the main protagonist Lars Martin Johansson, obsessed with finding the truth of a forgotten cold case. A masterpiece from the celebrated criminologist.

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (tr. Victoria Cribb) full of hidden love, trademark dark humour and desire to understand the chilling impacts on those connected to a Children’s Home, while imagination runs riot, finding ways to extinguish people’s lives.

The Mine
by Antti Tuomainen (tr. David Hackston) brings together environmental issues, snow and secrets, and complex relationship between family and crime, and delivers exquisite gems like ‘We don’t think rationally about the things we love’.

Snare by Lilja Sigurðardóttir (tr. Quentin Bates): a sparkling firework of a novel, tightly-plotted, fast-paced and cracking with tension. And dangerously fun as the trapped heroine survives on a cocktail of cocaine smuggling and love for her young son.

Huge thanks to the translators who continue to bring these incredible books to the English-speaking world. Without their skill, talent, hard work and magic with words the reading spectrum wouldn’t have been so exciting.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Favourite Euro Crime Reads of 2017 - Mark

The penultimate entry in this series of Euro Crime reviewers' favourite British/European/translated reads of 2017 is from Mark Bailey:

Mark Bailey's favourite reads of 2017
Top 5 reads of 2017

In alphabetical order by author:

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (Non-fiction)
I was raised on golden age crime fiction (I have a school report from when I was aged 11 telling my parents off for allowing me to read such age-inappropriate material). Here Martin Edwards explores the evolution of the crime genre during the first half of the twentieth century through acknowledged masterpieces and some lesser known works.

The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway 9) by Elly Griffiths
In the underground tunnels beneath Norwich boiled human bones have been found by Dr Ruth Galloway. The finding that they are relatively recent and not a medieval curiosity means DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.
DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper with the only lead being the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might just be a figure of speech, but the discovery of the bones and the rumours that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers give cause for concern.
As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. Another woman goes missing and the police are under pressure to find her. The dark secrets of “The Underground” seems to be the key – can Ruth and Nelson uncover its secrets before it claims another victim?
I am a big fan of the Ruth Galloway novels but I do feel that they are best enjoyed in sequence but you can probably pick up most of the background needed to enjoy the novel as you go along.
As usual there is the excellent characterisation that one expects in Elly Griffiths’ books that gives you believable albeit flawed but ultimately likeable ongoing main protagonists (Ruth Galloway, Harry Nelson & Judy especially in this one although Kate is coming to the fore). There is also the usual sufficiently twisty plot to keep you engaged whilst giving you a chance to solve the mystery before the protagonists do and there is a well-researched backdrop to hang the story on.
As I have stated about previous Ruth Galloway mysteries- if you do have a liking for modern cozies with perhaps a little hint of grit then I would strongly recommend this to you.

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly
(Sean Duffy 6) by Adrian McKinty
Detective Inspector Sean Duffy is on holiday in the Donegal Gaeltacht with his girlfriend and baby daughter. He is called back to Carrickfergus where a man has been shot in the back in the Sunnylands Estate with an arrow. Uncovering who has done it takes Duffy down a dangerous road leading to a lonely clearing where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave. Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs and with his relationship with his girlfriend on the rocks, Duffy needs all of his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
Once again, this a very assured police procedural with multiple serious themes (the peace process is still in the background along with the ongoing war (both in Ireland and elsewhere – the Gibraltar shootings provide a spark to more rioting)), economic regeneration (or the lack thereof in Carrickfergus) is in the middle and another cover up in the foreground) and great writing which is strongly literate but still keeps you engaged and turning the page.

A Rising Man (Sam Wyndham 1) by Abir Mukherjee (2016 publication)
Captain Sam Wyndham, formerly of Scotland Yard, is newly arrived in Calcutta seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War. He has just arrived when he is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj. A senior British official has been murdered, and the note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.
This is a well-researched book with Calcutta and India beautifully described. The dominant factor for me is relationship between Sam and his Indian Sergeant (who is preparing for an orderly transfer of rule by acquiring the requisite skills of a detective). This is both a very good historical novel and a very good thriller and the next in the series is on my to-be-read pile.

The Hidden (Monika Paniatowski 12) by Sally Spencer
The prologue has the daughters of PC Michael Knightly finding the body of a woman in the grounds of a local country house – he recognises her as DCI Monika Paniatowski.
Her team believe that the girl found dead in the woods is the victim of a ritual killing by a secret society in the heart of Whitebridge but without Paniatowski to back them up they are forced to treat it as a domestic. Therefore Meadows, Crane and Beresford operate by themselves – cutting corners, ignoring procedure, and running the risk that their careers could be brought to an abrupt and dramatic end.
Monika knows who the killer is and also knows that he is stalking her daughter Louisa but there is nothing she can do about it as she is one of the killer’s victims too and is lying in a coma – hearing everything, but unable to move or speak!
This is a good solid police procedural which is well researched and plotted and you are kept engaged as the plot twists and turns. The absence of Paniatowski is an issue but the other characters make up for it especially DS Kate Meadows and Louisa Paniatowski. I would recommend it to fans of police procedurals in general but especially those set in Britain.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Favourite Euro Crime Reads of 2017 - Lynn

Today it's Euro Crime reviewer Lynn's turn to reveal her favourite British/European/translated reads of 2017:

Lynn Harvey's favourite reads of 2017
2017 Top Five
In no particular order I give you my favourite Euro Crime reads of 2017, although I think one or two may have been published earlier.

Donna Leon – Earthly Remains (2017 Heinemann)
Donna Leon was one of my favourite early introductions to "European Crime" and I have always enjoyed her novels featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice police and his wife Paola. In EARTHLY REMAINS Guido has reached crunch point with the system. Burnt out, he is ordered to rest and takes advantage of the chance of some isolation and reading on an island in the Lagoon. But Brunetti is Brunetti and sooner or later there is a death which he feels drawn to investigate. I really enjoyed this novel, its laguna setting and its insight into Brunetti's own past.
Donna Leon still has magic for me.

Frédéric Dard – Crush (2016 Pushkin Vertigo) Translated by Daniel Seton
I have never read Frédéric Dard before. A prolific French crime writer, friend of Simenon, he died in 2000. CRUSH is set in a grim industrial town in Northern France in the 1950s. It tells the story of 17 year old Louise who is fascinated by a wealthy American couple, the Roolands, with their glossy American car and totally alien lifestyle. Her fascination becomes obsession and the novel takes a dark route. A concise but gripping thriller, I read this in one sitting.

Leif GW Persson - The Dying Detective (2017 Black Swan) Translated by Neil Smith
Retired Chief of Police Lars Martin Johansson is in hospital recovering from a stroke when a chance encounter alerts him to a fact concerning an old investigation into the rape and murder of a child. The case's statute of limitations has expired. Nevertheless Johansson becomes determined to solve it. My first Leif Persson crime novel, I shall have to go retrospective.

Kati Hiekkapelto - The Exiled (2017 Orenda) Translated by David Hackston
Hiekkapelto's third "Anna Fekete" crime novel is set in Anna's home village in Northern Serbia rather than Finland. She is on holiday revisiting friends and family when she becomes a victim of a bag-snatch. The incident draws her deeper into an investigation of a death and then deeper into her own past.
I do my travelling in my crime reading and this was a captivating new landscape to explore.

Parker Bilal - Dark Water (2017 Bloomsbury)
I am a Parker Bilal fan, faithfully following the investigations of his Sudanese private eye, Makana, in his adopted country of Egypt. But this time Makana is drawn into an unfamiliar world of espionage as he is persuaded by a mysterious Englishman to escort an Iraqi scientist to safety from his hiding place in Istanbul. It's a case that once again brings Makana into contact with his own painful past.

And a sixth book for luck! And because this has become my "go to" Nordic Noir for Christmas and, yes, it is possible to re-read it and still be spellbound.

Johan Theorin - The Darkest Room (2010 Black Swan) Translated by Marlaine Delargy
Theorin's second novel in his Öland Quartet, Öland being an island off the Swedish coast large enough for its own community and towns but these days primarily home to vacationers and the elderly. Set in a bitterly cold mid-winter, this crime novel tells the stories of Katrine and Joakim who have come with their children to make a new home and renovate an isolated house near two lighthouses on the island's northern coast. Their plans are shattered by a death. What follows is a wonderful Christmas blend of snow, crime and creepiness. I had to add it to this list.

Happy New Year, best wishes and good reading for 2018.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

US Cozy Review: Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend

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

Though it's not obvious from the cover this is set in a very cold and snowy January...

Tempest in the Tea Leaves by Kari Lee Townsend, August 2011, Berkley Prime Crime ISBN: 0425242757

Tempest in the Tea Leaves introduces Sunny Meadows who hails from a wealthy but domineering family who don't believe in her psychic abilities. She buys a reputedly haunted house in Divinity, New York State where she sets up her fortune-telling business. Her first client, however, the head librarian is much troubled and when Sunny reads her tea leaves she foresees the librarian's death.

Sunny gives the librarian some of her calming home-grown tea leaves to take away but after the librarian's departure she begins to worry. About an hour later she calls the police and she meets the ruggedly handsome Detective Mitch Stone for the first time.

When the librarian is found poisoned by Sunny's tea leaves, Sunny becomes the number one suspect. In a remarkable twist though, the Mayor, who wants a speedy conclusion to the case, insists that Sunny partners Mitch in investigating the case to clear her name.

Much banter and awkward scrapes ensue as each tries to outdo the other whilst denying their obvious attraction to each other.

Sunny's house comes with an inhabitant – an eerie white cat who can be seen and touched but who doesn't eat or drink and appears and disappears at will. And proves himself very useful at times.

I enjoyed this book. I liked the sparky relationship between the two leads though some of it is a bit juvenile and some of Sunny's actions were downright dangerous. I did, though, guess correctly whodunnit nearer the end.

My only real nit-pick is that the cause of death as determined by the coroner is different to that given by the murderer and if the murderer is correct then Sunny would never have been much of a suspect in the first place.

Overall though, this was a light read in a new series to which I looked forward to returning. I have books two and three already, and there is a fourth plus a short story available on ebook.

Karen Meek, January 2018.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Audio Book News: Mistress of the Just Land

For fans of the Inspector McLevy radio series, there is now a (currently) two-book series featuring Mistress Jean Brash: Mistress of the Just Land (2016) and The Lost Daughter (2017) written by David Ashton.

Mistress of the Just Land, is currently 99p on kindle but the bonus is that the add-on Audible narration is only £2.99 and is narrated by "Jean Brash" herself, Siobhan Redmond.

Jean Brash, who first appeared in BBC Radio 4's Inspector McLevy mysteries, is a formidable woman in her prime. Once a child of the streets, she is now Mistress of the Just Land, the best bawdy-hoose in Edinburgh and her pride and joy. But a murder in her establishment could wreck everything.

New Year's Day - and through the misty streets of Victorian Edinburgh an elegant, female figure walks the cobblestones - with a certain vengeful purpose. Jean Brash, the Mistress of the Just Land, brings her cool intelligence to solving a murder, a murder that took place in her own bawdy-hoose.

A prominent judge, strangled and left dangling, could bring her whole life to ruin and she didn't haul herself off the streets, up through low dirty houses of pleasure and violent vicious men - to let that come to pass. The search for the killers will take Jean back into her own dark past as she uncovers a web of political and sexual corruption in the high reaches of the Edinburgh establishment.

A young boy's death long ago is demanding justice but, as the body count increases, she has little time before a certain Inspector James McLevy comes sniffing round like a wolf on the prowl.

Jean may be on the side of natural justice but is she on the side of the law? Or will the law bring her down?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Favourite Euro Crime Reads of 2017 - Laura

Today it's Euro Crime reviewer Laura's turn to reveal her favourite British/European/translated reads of 2017:

Laura Root's favourite reads of 2017 (in no particular order)
The Dry by Jane Harper.
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent.
A Traitor in the Family by Nicholas Searle.
The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson
The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt translated by Joel Agee (Pushkin Vertigo edition)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Radio News: Angstrom on Radio 4

Starting tonight at 6.30pm on Radio 4, four-parter Angstrom, a spoof of Scandinavian crime stories...


A comedic Scandinavian detective yarn starring Matthew Holness, written by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris.

Knut Angström is a brooding, alcoholic, maverick Swedish detective from the tough streets of Oslo. Following the death of his wife, he is posted to the Njalsland peninsula where he becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine murder (or possibly not-murder) case which bears an eerie similarity to the Askeladden killings - a case from his distant past.