Monday, September 30, 2013

TV News: Young Montalbano Ep.5 The Third Secret

The fifth part of the six-episode run of Young Montalbano - The Third Secret - is on Saturday 5 October at 9pm on BBC Four.

Montalbano receives an anonymous note predicting the death of a local construction worker, only to realise that the note has been delivered too late. Meanwhile, the public notice board announcing the town's forthcoming weddings is stolen. What at first appears to be an innocent prank gradually turns out to have more sinister overtones. Carmine Fazio's young son Giuseppe joins the investigating team following his father's retirement, but there are minor clashes between the enthusiastic new recruit and his boss.

The series is co-written by Andrea Camilleri and Francesco Bruni with the stories drawn from several short story collections.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Reviews: Garnier, Johnston, Kelly, McCarry, Nadel, Ridpath, Rimington, Taylor, Weaver

This week's set of reviews, added to Euro Crime today, is a mixture of new reviews and a catch-up of those posted directly on the blog in the last two weeks, so you may have read some of them before if you're a regular :).

Jut a reminder: I've now set up a Euro Crime page on Facebook which you can like.

Susan White reviews Pacal Garnier's Moon in a Dead Eye, tr. Emily Boyce set in a French gated community;

Terry Halligan review's Paul Johnston's The Black Life, the sixth in the PI Alex Mavros series;
Michelle Peckham reviews the recent paperback release of Erin Kelly's The Burning Air, calling it "a strong, psychological thriller";

Amanda Gillies reviews Charles McCarry's spy thriller, The Shanghai Factor;

Rich Westwood reviews Barbara Nadel's An Act of Kindness, the second in the Hakim and Arnold series and set just before the 2012 London Olympics;

Lynn Harvey reviews the first of two Second World War related titles this week with Michael Ridpath's Traitor's Gate being based on a true event;
Terry also reviews Stella Rimington's seventh and latest outing for MI5's Liz Carlyle, The Geneva Trap which is now out in paperback;

In D J Taylor's The Windsor Faction, reviewed here by Norman Price, the author takes a "what if" situation and presents an alternative version of the 1930/40s

and Geoff Jones reviews Tim Weaver's Never Coming Back the fourth in his David Raker, missing persons investigator series.

Previous reviews can be found in the review archive.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, here along with releases by year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry

The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry, July 2013, 304 pages, Head of Zeus, ISBN: 1781855099

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This book is amazing! It is the first exposure I have had to McCarry’s work and I love him!! The tension and the mystery start off pretty ramped up and just get more and more exciting as you go. The ending is an absolute stonker as well! Well-written and completely absorbing, this is the type of book that is right up my street and I finished it in two days.

McCarry is a former undercover CIA operations officer and has worked in Europe, Asia and America, so his book has an extremely authentic ring to it. He is a well-known spy fiction author and I am only sorry that I’ve not read any of his material before. This one is high on my ‘Best of 2013’ list and I hope it stays there!

In brief, our unknown, and unnamed, hero is supposed to be keeping out of trouble in Shanghai, polishing up his Mandarin and awaiting further instructions. Things take a dramatic turn when a beautiful young woman ‘accidentally’ runs her bicycle into his and their lives become entwined. His language improves in leaps and bounds but people are starting to notice him and then he is followed.

After being kidnapped and unceremoniously chucked into the river, he returns to the USA for further instructions and what happens next leads him further and further into danger. Totally alone but also knowing that his every step is closely followed, he tries to do his job - infiltrate the Guoanbu - to the best of his ability. With no-one to turn to and being unable to trust anyone, he wonders just how far he will have to go in order to serve the country he loves.

This novel is the thirteenth by this highly skilled and successful spy writer. I am extremely keen to get my hands on a few more of his books in the not-too-distant future!

Extremely Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, September 2013.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: An Act of Kindness by Barbara Nadel

An Act of Kindness by Barbara Nadel, July 2013, 464 pages, Quercus, ISBN: 0857387774

Reviewed by Rich Westwood.
(Read more of Rich's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

I'm a fan of Barbara Nadel's other series - the cosmopolitan Istanbul-set investigations of chain-smoking Inspector Ikmen and his friends and family, and the more offbeat books featuring the shell-shocked undertaker Francis Hancock. They're very different series, but if they have anything in common it is their depiction of multi-faith, multi-ethnic communities - and the ways in which different people get along (usually). Nadel brings the same approach to AN ACT OF KINDNESS, the second in the Hakim and Arnold mysteries set in contemporary London.

Lee Arnold is an ex-army, ex-police, recovering alcoholic Private Investigator in the London borough of Newham. Mumtaz Hakim is his veiled partner, providing a specialist service for the Muslim community.

The book opens just before the 2012 Olympics, with the apparently happy scenario of a young couple doing up a derelict house on the Strone Road. Nasreen and Abdullah are newly-weds, still living with her family while they get their new home ready. In the course of the renovations, Nasreen finds two curious things in the house. The first is a photo hidden underneath a painted metal object in the doorway. The second is a troubled Afghanistan veteran, John Sawyer, living rough in the bushes at the bottom of the garden.

Nasreen has worked with veterans before, so is sympathetic to his plight. She starts to bring John food, but hides his existence from Abdullah, who is a traditional man despite his yuppie credentials as a solicitor.

Soon, John is found murdered in the Jewish cemetery backing onto Nasreen and Abdullah's home. The police investigation is led by Lee's girlfriend DI Vi Collins, but runs into the dead ends traditionally associated with investigating the death of a homeless person. Nasreen, though, is beginning to suspect Abdullah. She asks Mumtaz to check into his background.

A parallel investigation is initiated by a converted Muslim woman who is concerned her sister Wendy is becoming a prostitute. Lee and Mumtaz discover it is worse than this - she is basically being forced into being a sex slave for her gangster-landlords the Rogers.

The two investigations intertwine and culminate in more than one tragedy.

Nadel has a warts-and-all approach to her depiction of East End gangsters and the lives of the women they victimise, so this isn't a light read, but she has an adept approach to building sympathy for her characters. For me, the mystery element was almost secondary to the more realistic and involving stories of Wendy and Nasreen. There is also clearly more to learn about Lee and Hakim, who have a touching relationship.

I must admit I haven't read book one in this series, A PRIVATE AFFAIR, but I didn't feel at all left behind. On the basis of AN ACT OF KINDNESS I'd say this is a series to follow.

Rich Westwood, September 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

TV News: The Return of Miss Phryne Fisher

The second series of the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries begins next week on 1 October at 10pm on Alibi. The first of the thirteen episodes is titled Murder Most Scandalous. Kerry Greenwood's heroine Phryne Fisher has appeared in twenty books so far with the first book in the series having been published under three titles: Cocaine Blues, Murder by Misadventure and most recently Miss Phyrne Fisher Investigates.

From Alibi's website:
Miss Phryne Fisher is back to solve crimes and secure justice with her unique style and sophistication.
The second series of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries follows the independent and unflappable leading lady detective Phryne Fisher in an opulent take on the traditional crime drama exploring the fascinating ‘between-the-wars’ era of 1920s Melbourne.

From the shadowy lanes of the city to the halls of academia, from high-class brothels to haute couture, Miss Fisher defends the innocent and juggles admirers with her usual panache, all the while keeping up her delicious dance around Detective Inspector Jack Robinson.

In the opening episode, Jack's ex father-in-law, Deputy Commissioner George Sanderson, is implicated in the brutal crime, but is determined to clear his name. Despite strict instructions from Jack not to meddle in his case – which also reintroduces Jack’s ex-wife, Rosie - Phryne decides to perfect her ‘fan dance’ in order to go undercover at the gentleman’s club of the notorious Madam Lyon…

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TV News: Young Montalbano Ep.4 Mortally Wounded

The fourth part of the six-episode run of Young Montalbano - Mortally Wounded - is on Saturday 28 September at 9pm on BBC Four.

Some unusual posters appear around Vigata in which the moral status of one of its female inhabitants is questioned. This soon becomes the talk of the town and Montalbano finds himself attempting to navigate the local gossip and resulting squabbles. But a murder forces more serious events onto the agenda, as Montalbano investigates the private and business life of the victim, uncovering a string of unsavoury facts in the process. Fazio returns to Vigata police station asking to be reinstated in his job following a bout of serious ill health. Salvo's father makes the acquaintance of new girlfriend Livia.

The series is co-written by Andrea Camilleri and Francesco Bruni with the stories drawn from several short story collections.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review: Traitor's Gate by Michael Ripath

Traitor's Gate by Michael Ridpath, June 2013, 400 pages, Head of Zeus, ISBN: 1781851808

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

The prisoner stood up. They had stripped off his tailcoat, but his white bow tie still hung lose around his neck: one half of it now soaked a deep red.

Berlin, 1938
The last few years have taken their toll on Conrad de Lancey: the International Brigade, Spain, the death of his comrades and back in England the break-up of his marriage. He tried getting back to his history thesis at Oxford, then a year's teaching in Suffolk. But now he has had enough of retreat. It's time to engage with the world and time to write that planned novel. This is why he is here, in a Berlin nightclub, looking forward to an evening of fun with cousin Joachim, a German diplomat on leave from Moscow. As the pair drink bad champagne together Joachim mentions an old friend of Conrad's, now an officer in the German army. Does Conrad trust him? Is he a Nazi? You see, they met recently but Joachim's indiscreet questions about some political gossip seems to have offended him. However Joachim would really like to talk to him about something. Would Conrad ask him to meet Joachim? Mystified, Conrad agrees and the cousins settle down to enjoy their evening. Then two Gestapo officers approach their table and instruct the cousins to accompany them back to headquarters. Conrad is outraged. But his anger and his British passport fail to impress. So he starts a fight, hoping that Joachim will escape during the confusion. Stunned by a pistol blow, Conrad manages to make it out onto the street but a close shot forces him to stop. He raises his hands in surrender. At Gestapo headquarters Conrad tries to explain that his excellent German is due to his half-German nationality, but the accusations that he is a spy continue alongside the insistence that he knows something about a plot against Hitler. Led into a cold cell and locked in, Conrad becomes increasingly frightened. During the night the door is flung open and a uniformed figure appears. With relief Conrad recognises his friend, Lieutenant Theo von Hertenberg, but Theo shouts at him and brusquely marches him to a waiting car. Away from Gestapo headquarters Theo relaxes and Conrad asks him if the Gestapo have Joachim. Theo tells him that Joachim has died of a heart attack in custody. Although shocked and disbelieving, Conrad understands when Theo explains that as he has had to vouch for Conrad he must ask him, for Theo's own sake, to forget everything that has happened. Conrad agrees but he cannot get his cousin's death out of his mind.

TRAITOR'S GATE is a labour of love revisited for its author Michael Ridpath who started to write it in 2005. Several redrafts later and after the success of his Icelandic “Fire & Ice” crime series, Head of Zeus have decided that the time is ripe for a Ridpath spy novel. Ridpath studied twentieth century history at Oxford and has based his story on a real event which took place in 1938 – a plot by part of the German establishment to remove Hitler from power. He creates a group of characters true to their class and period and sets them amongst the nightclubs and cafés of Berlin in the increasingly dark days of an increasingly dark dictatorship. This is a Europe still reeling from the effects of the Great War and the central character – a young, educated and well-connected Englishman, Conrad de Lancey – tries to navigate the polarised politics and his own feelings as he revisits old friendships and enmities and eventually falls in love. Soon he has to decide where his loyalties lie. The pace heats up towards the end of the book as Chamberlain's real-life efforts at appeasement drives the suspense even harder.

TRAITOR'S GATE proves Michael Ridpath's ability to write in a different voice about a different time. The tone of this book is worlds apart from that of the “Fire & Ice” series and hard-drinking detective Magnus Jonson of the Reykjavik police. Conrad's voice, as Ridpath himself puts it, has “a 1930s-style stiff upper lip”. Drop expectations of a fast-moving modern crime thriller, prepare to immerse yourself in another time and place – and you will be rewarded with a spy story containing a slice of history from the eleventh hour.

Lynn Harvey, September 2013.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor

The Windsor Faction by D J Taylor, September 2013, 384 pages, Chatto & Windus, ISBN: 0701187875

Reviewed by Norman Price.
(Read more of Norman's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

THE WINDSOR FACTION is an alternate history fiction novel. In this book’s parallel universe Mrs Wallis Warfield Simpson dies in 1936, and therefore Edward VIII does not abdicate.

The King lives a lonely life in Buckingham Palace, heartbroken and insulated from his people by his advisors and ministers. The idea the novel proposes is that with the King’s pro-peace, pro-appeasement or even pro-German position it would have encouraged the various groups that were working for a “negotiated peace” with Hitler during the years 1936-1939. Most of the novel is set during the period known as the Phoney War between the attack on Poland and subsequent British declaration of war, and the German attack in the West in May 1940.

……..but not of what hardly anybody called the psychology of appeasement, that irrepressible urge to give someone something that it was pretty clear he ought not to have.

The main plot line features young attractive Cynthia Fitzpatrick, whose family lives in Ceylon, along with other expatriate families administering the Empire. A sexual encounter with a rather unpleasant young man Henry Bannister is followed on their journey back by the fumbling Henry crashing the car into a tree. Henry’s death and the world situation mean that the Bannisters, even more unpleasant than their late son, and Cynthia’s parents return to England.

Cynthia gets a position with the literary magazine, Duration, and begins a relationship with a brash American cipher clerk at their Embassy called Tyler Kent, who had previously escorted the weird Hermione Bannister around town. On her visits to the Bannister country house, Ashburton Grange, meetings in London, and Tyler Kent’s rooms Cynthia discovers that these people are part of a “peace” faction of strident anti-Semites lead by an MP, Captain Ramsay, with a Miss Harris-Foster among their members.

"I looked up her file. Do you know she joined the Imperial Fascist League as far back as 1929 when there were just half a dozen of them sitting in a room in Craven Street with Mussolini’s photograph on the wall? And somebody who had tea at her flat said she had an antimacassar with the words “Perish Judah’ embroidered on the back".

At Duration magazine Cynthia meets up with fellow employee Anthea, a tall painfully thin girl of about twenty-four who reads the Daily Worker and has a friend Norman working in a cloak-and-dagger outfit.

Journalist Beverly Nichols, who moves warily among the peace faction, meets the King who is impressed by his articles. He is asked by the King to help him write his 1939 Christmas address to the Empire, an event that excites Captain Ramsay and his associates. This part of the narrative is in the form of a witty and bitchy diary in which Nichols amusingly frequently complains about the acquisitive behaviour of his young male friends. Some other sub-plots reinforce the atmosphere and mood of the class-ridden world of England in the 1930s, and 1940s.

In my ignorance I had not heard of author D J Taylor, whose fiction books have been long listed for the Man Booker Prize, and who also writes non-fiction about the interwar and past war years.

THE WINDSOR FACTION is one of those books I did not want to finish because I was enjoying it so much. It is such a clever blend of alternate history and faction that the reader might be confused as to which are the real life characters and which fictional creations. Of course Edward VIII, Beverly Nichols, the “sophisticated” American Tyler Kent, and the fanatical Nazi Captain Ramsay were real life characters. Another case where real people are more frighteningly insane than any fictional creations. Ramsay stated that Calvin’s real name was Cohen, and that Cromwell was an agent of the Jews.

The main character Cynthia develops over the course of the book and turns out to be much more enterprising and determined than the reader expects. The plot is full of intriguing characters at Duration magazine, in the Intelligence services and in the Fascist groups and is scattered with anecdotes from the time. Despite the serious subject the author manages to provide some humour with a sharp witty dialogue.

"Don’t do what Inkerman in B.2 did. He went away for a weekend with that woman he met at the Nordic League-the one who had a picture of Adolf in her bedroom-and there was the hell of a row".

THE WINDSOR FACTION is an excellent read, blending plot, characters, and educational value into a fascinating and interesting novel that reinforces the idea that the Second World War was like the Battle of Waterloo “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life”.

Norman Price, September 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guest Report: Jo Nesbo in Belfast

Euro Crime reviewer Mark Bailey has very kindly written up Jo Nesbo's recent event in Belfast which was  part of the tour to promote Police tr. Don Bartlett:

Jo Nesbø Talk at the Ulster Hall. Belfast
15th September 2013

David Torrans, owner of No Alibis who organised the talk with the publishers introduced the event saying that this was the largest audience of Jo Nesbø's UK and Ireland tour (he later tweeted that the audience was 825 people including press) and that the publishers had originally suggested doing it in the shop.

Initially Marie-Louise Muir (the main arts presenter for BBC Radio Ulster) interviewed Jo about his life and career for about 40 minutes before the audience had the opportunity to ask questions of Jo.

The first question asked by Marie-Louise Muir was where did Harry come from? Jo was a stockbroker by day and a musician by night flying to gigs in Norway when the market closed, performing, sleeping and then flying back to Oslo for the market opening the following day. He was commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with the band which included a tour to Australia which is where he learnt about the Aborigine myths that play a role in THE BAT. After a big tour, he wanted to rest from the band but still wanted to write having been the lyricist with the band and having always written, be it poetry or music. The choice of crime fiction was not driven by an interest in other Scandinavian crime authors but by the fact he didn’t want to return to stock broking and had five weeks to write a novel in – he submitted it under a pseudonym so the publishers didn’t market it as by a major Norwegian musician.

His relationship with Don Bartlett (the translator of all the harry Hole novels) was raised. Jo said that he trusted Don Bartlett as it would be impossible for him to translate the books himself as he knows “a bit of English” (you would not agree with this listening to him as he is fluent and very funny) but there is a “lost in translation” phenomena so he tries not to read the translations trusting Don to do his job as the English translation is important as other languages translate from the English rather than the Norwegian – Korean was given as an example.

Marie-Louise then turned to Jo's first book (THE BAT) pointing out how well it did critically winning the best Nordic crime novel award in 1997 - Jo said that he was so new to the game that he did not realise the significance of the award only realising how exceptional this was for a first time author until later. The critical success did not lead to sales, with sales only picking up with the third book or so; he said that the same pattern followed for the UK – he was not an overnight success as it took 10 years work to get really noticed.

The issue of the Harry Hole name was then discussed before returning to the character of Harry and his origins. Jo said Harry was the result of taking the hard boiled private eye of Chandler & Hammett and taking it one step further with Harry ceasing to function when he drinks – he is a character with flaws which makes him interesting; Superman needing Kryptonite to be interesting was cited as a parallel.

Jo was asked if he likes Harry? – Jo said that he is connected to Harry in the sense that Harry becomes real to him when Jo is writing him as Harry is partially based on himself as he feels most authors long-running creations are to some extent.

Jo feels that the quality of the writing is what attracts us to the Scandinavian crime genre be it in print, television or film - partly due to the number of writers working in the field now, so the best are very good.

He was then asked about where the ideas for the murders came from – as an example he explained that the apple bobbing in THE LEOPARD was adapted from a good childhood memory where him and his brother were told that they could not pick apples but not they could not eat them so they ate them while they were still on the on the tree but one day he got a big apple stuck in his mouth and he thought what would have happen to him as it was still growing. Related to this, he said that he does think that he went too far in the violence on THE LEOPARD but on the whole the violence tells you about the characters and drives the story forward.

He revealed that PHANTOM and POLICE were written in one big stretch so there is lots of linking back to PHANTOM from POLICE.

The session then turned into a question and answer session with the audience.

One audience member asked if the turbulent lifestyle of Harry has ever made him tempted to kill him off – Jo revealed that he does have a plan for Harry's life which he drafted while writing the third novel but that doesn’t mean that he will get there with the series. At the moment, he is a bit tired of Harry so he is writing a standalone novel but in six months time he will miss Harry so will want to sit down and write a new Harry Hole novel.

One interesting comment he made in the Q&A was that he is now writing for the readers as he has enough money for the rest of his life (you can see the Economics training at work there!).

The potential for film and TV productions was also discussed with The Snowman adaptation produced by Martin Scorsese being discussed but Jo doesn’t believe these things are happening until he is told it is being shot – however there is a television pilot based on a non-Harry story being shot in the US and a film based on his Doktor Proktor books for children should be out next year.

He was asked how he wrote the books – he said the process was forming the characters, then deciding key scenes and then tying it all together.

The evening then finished with a book signing with a very, very, long queue.

Mark Bailey

Monday, September 16, 2013

TV News: Back to Basics for Young Montalbano

The third part of the six-episode run of Young Montalbano - Back to Basics - is on Saturday 21 September at 9pm on BBC Four.

Just as he's starting to settle into his new job, Montalbano is surprised, and somewhat irked, by the unexpected arrival of the new deputy inspector, Mimi' Augello. The two soon find that their personalities are as alike as chalk and cheese. Together, they investigate the kidnapping of a young child and make the acquaintance of a beautiful Genoese architect, Livia Burlando. A rivalry immediately ensues for the girl's attentions.

The series is co-written by Andrea Camilleri and Francesco Bruni with the stories drawn from several short story collections.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Reviews: Downing, FitzGerald, French, Giambanco, Jordan, McIlvanney, Matthews, Nesbo, Wagner

This week's set of reviews, added to Euro Crime today, is a mixture of new reviews and a catch-up of those posted directly on the blog in the last two weeks, so you may have read some of them before if you're a regular :).

Jut a reminder: I've now set up a Euro Crime page on Facebook which you can like.

Terry Halligan reviews David Downing's Jack of Spies, set just before World War One;

Susan White reviews Helen FitzGerald's The Cry;
Michelle Peckham reviews Nicci French's Waiting for Wednesday, the third in the Frieda Klein series;

Lynn Harvey reviews V M Giambanco's debut, The Gift of Darkness, set in Seattle;

Amanda Gillies reviews Will Jordan's Sacrifice, the second in his Ryan Drake series;

Geoff Jones reviews Liam McIlvanney's Where the Dead Men Go, set in Glasgow;
Terry also reviews Jeanne Matthews's fourth Dinah Pelerin mystery, Her Boyfriend's Bones, this time set on the Greek island of Samos;

I review Jo Nesbo's Police tr. Don Bartlett, "the new Harry Hole thriller" according to the cover...

and I also review Jan Costin Wagner's Light in a Dark House, tr. Anthea Bell the fourth in the haunting Kimmo Joentaa series set in Finland.

Previous reviews can be found in the review archive.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, here along with releases by year.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Police by Jo Nesbo tr. Don Bartlett

Police by Jo Nesbo translated by Don Bartlett, September 2013, 528 pages, Harvill Secker, ISBN: 1846555965

If you've read PHANTOM then you'll be wanting to know what happened to Harry Hole. If you haven't read PHANTOM then you'll be wondering after a hundred pages plus, where is this Harry Hole, especially given that the cover shouts out “the new Harry Hole thriller”.

The friends of Harry have been brought together by Harry's old police boss Gunnar Hagen to form an unofficial small task-force to solve the latest serial killing spree. The victims are police officers and they are being killed at the scenes of unsolved murders, ones where they themselves were part of the investigation team. The team comprises Katrine Bratt, on loan from Bergen, Beate Lonn and her sidekick Bjorn from Forensics and psychologist Stale Aune and they are working out of the familiar, over-heated room in the basement.

As well as the murder plot there are also several plotlines carried over from PHANTOM including the rise and rise of Police Chief Mikael Bellman and the decline of his enforcer/friend Truls. There is also the matter of the tall coma victim kept under armed guard who seems to be waking up.

Indeed there are so many plotlines that it's impossible to cover them all but the tension is relentless; from the first hundred and forty pages where you want to say “just tell me what happened to him”, to the terrifying murder scenes and the overlapping narratives – where the story cuts away at critical moments to another character, delaying the resolution. In Harry Hole, Jo Nesbo has created one of crime fiction's most charismatic heroes and this is reinforced by his absence from the investigation team. Fans of Harry Hole and Jo Nesbo will enjoy POLICE and be thoroughly absorbed in this typically well-plotted, complicated story with its many misdirections and dead ends. There is a lot going on and not all is neatly tied up at the end.

After the grimness of PHANTOM and the extreme violence of THE LEOPARD, POLICE is more akin to the earlier novels in the series, emotionally similar to THE REDBREAST, and as always, I can't wait for the next one.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: Where the Dead Men Go by Liam McIlvanney

Where the Dead Men Go by Liam McIlvanney, September 2013, 352 pages, Faber & Faber Crime, ISBN: 0571239854

Reviewed by Geoff Jones.
(Read more of Geoff's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This is the second book by this author to feature the Journalist Gerry Conway, set in Glasgow just before the vote on Independence, and the hosting of the Commonwealth games. Gerry has rejoined the Tribune newspaper, but his crime spot has been taken by his former protégé Martin Moir.

Moir always comes up with good stories but rarely comes into the offices. So when nothing is heard from him for several days, no one is concerned. His body is then recovered from his car in a flooded quarry. Is it suicide or has he been murdered? There are two rival gangs in the city and Moir has made enemies of at least one of the gangs.

Conway is promoted to take over from Moir but because of the paper's perilous financial position due to falling sales, he has to cover Politics as well. Gangland killings are happening and Conway is busy but Moir’s wife Clare is convinced her husband was killed and wants Martin to investigate. Conway’s home life is settled but complicated. Living with Mari, a New Zealander, they have a little boy Angus. Conway’s ex wife Elaine has remarried and lives much to Conway’s consternation in their old family home with their two boys.

Conway has a close relationship with a senior police detective called Lewicki. Besides doing his two jobs and trying to find out what Moir was doing, Conway is introduced to the Leader of Glasgow Council, Gavin Haining, a charismatic character who wines and dines him, but is he after something?

WHERE THE DEAD MEN GO is a well written novel, full of believable characters and dialogue. The pace of the book is a slow build up to an exciting conclusion. I have already downloaded the ebook of the author's previous book ALL THE COLOURS OF THE TOWN. Recommended.

Geoff Jones, September 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TV News: Next on Young Montalbano

Young Montalbano which started last Saturday appears to have been well received [I am of course still on the classic series of Inspector Montalbano and cannot comment yet!]. The second part of the six-episode run is New Year's Eve, and is on Saturday 14 September at 9pm on BBC Four.

A man is shot dead in his hotel room on New Year's Eve, so Montalbano spends his first New Year's Day in Vigata investigating a murder. The case presents several unusual conundrums, not least the fact that the victim was co-owner of the hotel.

The series is co-written by Andrea Camilleri and Francesco Bruni with the stories drawn from several short story collections.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Review: Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner

Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner translated by Anthea Bell, July 2013, 336 pages, Harvill Secker, ISBN: 1846556538

LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE is the fourth in the Detective Kimmo Joentaa series set in Finland. Kimmo is a widower of a few years now and still coming to terms with his wife's death. In the previous book, THE WINTER OF THE LIONS, a young woman takes up residence in his house - and she is still there. They have a relationship of sorts even though he does not know her real name. “Larissa” is a part-time kiosk attendant as well as a prostitute and in the other-worldly feel to this series, Kimmo's strange set-up doesn't seems remarkable.

Kimmo and his colleagues are called to the hospital (the one where Kimmo's wife died) to investigate the death of a woman in a coma. The woman's identity is unknown despite appeals, however someone cried tears over her as they turned the life-support off. In addition to this investigation Kimmo has to cope with the disappearance of Larissa.

A murder in the capital sees the return of Helsinki detective Westerberg from THE WINTER OF THE LIONS along with his young sidekick Seppo who provide some humorous exchanges.

Eventually the two investigation threads collide and Kimmo joins Westerberg and Seppo in rooting out the cause of the recent deaths which stems from events some decades ago.

During the course of the book, Kimmo waits for the return of Larissa. She occasionally responds to his emails with useful tips for the case – though it is never made clear how she has this information or whether its intuition. There are also extracts from a diary which reveal what happened those many years ago and provides a motive for the current day's events.

A new book from Jan Costin Wagner is always to be welcomed and I enjoyed this one very much. Part cold-case enquiry, part police-procedural this entry is perhaps a more traditional crime novel than the earlier books, but still with that unreal quality about it; the plot keeps the reader interested and at times wrong-footed. Kimmo is starting to look outside his own grief – shown by his concern for Larissa and for that of a gambling-addict colleague – and I look forward to the next book to see how he's getting on.

Read another review of LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Euro Crime goes Global aka Website Updates - September 2013

After several years of collecting data on my database about crime books in translation from outside of Europe for the unofficial International Dagger speculation lists I've decided to put that information on the Euro Crime website and expand its remit ie to also cover all crime fiction in translation.

I have added a number of countries to the Bibliographies page eg Argentina, Japan. I would say that my non-European translated titles section isn't as comprehensive as the European one yet as I've only recently been logging the information but I will add to it.

As always, if you spot something wrong or missing, please do let me know.

Here's a summary of the usual updates:

The Author Websites page now lists 996 sites.

In Bibliographies there are now bibliographies for 1960 authors (9902 titles of which 2649 are reviewed).

I've added new bibliographies for: Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noel Balen, Pieter Aspe, Cedric Bannel, Francois Barcelo, Michael Bar-Zohar, Anouar Benmalek, Bernard Besson, Marcs Blake, Roberto Bolano, Ioanna Bourazopoulou, Diana Bretherick, Sheila Bugler, Martin Caparros, Eva Dolan, Michael Donovan, Santiago Gamboa, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Pascal Garnier, A D Garrett, Philippe Georget, Helen Giltrow, Sylvie Granotier, F G Haghenbeck, Shiro Hamao, Abdelilah Hamdouchi, Paula Hawkins, Aleksandar Hemon, Keigo Higashino, M R C Kasasian, Yasmina Khadra, David Khara, Natsuo Kirino, L A Larkin, Mario Vargas Llosa, Ernesto Mallo, Guillermo Martinez, Seicho Matsumoto, Edna Mazya, A P McCoy, Patricia Melo, Deon Meyer, D A Mishani, Miyuki Miyabe, Frederique Molay, Fuminori Nakamura, Shizuko Natsuki, Asa Nonami, Guillermo Orsi, James Oswald, Leonardo Padura, R S Pateman, Claudia Pineiro, Santiago Roncagliolo, Juan Jose Saer, Yoshida Shuichi, Edney Silvestre, Joshua Sobol, Michael Stanley, Akimitsu Takagi, Noboru Tsujihara, Luis Fernando Verissimo, Luca Veste and Christopher J Yates.

I've updated the bibliographies (ie added new titles) for:  Belinda Bauer, M C Beaton, James Becker, Simon Beckett, S J/Sharon Bolton, Simon Brett, Gianrico Carofiglio, Jean Chapman, Ed Chatterton, Sam Christer, Cassandra Clark, Barbara Cleverly, Martina Cole, Elizabeth Corley, Deborah Crombie, Paula Daly, David Stuart Davies, Maurizio De Giovanni, Luke Delaney, James Douglas, David Downing, Zoran Drvenkar, Elizabeth J Duncan, Christopher Fowler, Dick Francis, Ann Granger, Elly Griffiths, Simon Hall, Robert Harris, Susan Hill, Graham Hurley, Mari Jungstedt, Mons Kallentoft, Jessie Keane, Laurie R King, Ali Knight, Camilla Lackberg, Asa Larsson, Pierre Lemaitre, Michael Litchfield, Adrian Magson, G M Malliet, Jessica Mann, Edward Marston, John Matthews, Ian Morson, Guillaume Musso, Mark Oldfield, Ian Rankin, Eileen Robertson, Jacqui Rose, Leigh Russell, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Jarkko Sipila, Dan Smith, Martin Cruz Smith, Rebecca Tope, Fred Vargas, Bill Vidal, Tim Weaver, Kerry Wilkinson and Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Review: The Gift of Darkness by V M Giambanco

The Gift of Darkness by V M Giambanco, June 2013, 506 pages, Quercus, ISBN: 1780878702

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

"...This here is the father. James Sinclair – late thirties, she thinks. That's the wife, Anne. Same age. These are their kids, John and David, nine and seven years old. Someone took out the whole family".

Seattle, Washington, two weeks before Christmas.
Homicide Squad Detective Alice Madison is on a cold night-time stake-out with her partner, Sergeant Brown. Two more detectives are in a car at the other end of the street. The team waits on the slim chance of catching the killer of a local student. At 4.15 in the morning they pack up and decide to rendezvous at a 24-hour convenience store a couple of blocks away. Leaning against their car outside the store, Madison notices a young girl, dressed too lightly for a December night and holding something under her jacket. She follows the girl into the store. The girl's attempt to steal candy bars at gun point fails and they take her back to precinct headquarters. She is thirteen years old so they call in social services. Meanwhile Madison talks to her, telling her about her own first visit to a police station when she was twelve and had run away from home...
"Bullshit" says the girl. But it isn't.

At six in the morning Madison clears her desk and heads home, stopping for a beach run on the way. Back home Madison sleeps but she dreams that same old terrifying dream. On Monday morning, at the office of law firm Quinn, Locke and Associates, Quinn opens a cream envelope. It contains a card with two words printed on it: "Thirteen Days". A couple of hours later there are blue-and-whites drawn up outside a house on Blueridge. A press helicopter hovers overhead as Brown and Madison get out of their car. Brown shows his badge to the officer on the door.
"It's pretty bad." says the young cop.
And it is. The father, mother, their two young children – all dead. Blindfolded and marked with a blood-drawn cross on their foreheads. Carved on the bedroom door-frame are two words: "Thirteen Days"....

Italian-born Valentina Giambanco lives in England and works in the film industry. With THE GIFT OF DARKNESS she has made a convincing and gripping début on the crime thriller scene. Her lead character, detective Alice Madison, is new to the Seattle Homicide Squad and comes with baggage – those nightmares for a start. Giambanco has fleshed out her characters well and already there is a bond developing between Madison and her reticent partner, Brown. For sure you know that both characters have back stories. With a setting that embraces both the city of Seattle and its surrounding ancient forests, the story is well embedded in place and atmosphere. And the atmosphere is one with a dark edge. The plot takes a while to pull together. There are quite a lot of characters to establish and the story refers both to a past crime – the abduction of the "Hoh River boys" – and to the present day murders of a lawyer and his family. It is not long before the police have a prime suspect. But as the story develops so does the darkness and the suspense, notched up by the repeated refrain of "Thirteen Days". With sharp, intriguing plotting (Giambanco credits her work in film editing for a grasp of plot construction and storytelling) the book takes a closer look at the nature of evil, with a sideways squint at survivor guilt and revenge. Just what you need in what is already quite a thriller.

THE GIFT OF DARKNESS is an impressive début, absolutely recommended for a good read, and if this is the start of a new crime series, which I hope it is, I am ready to read more about Madison and Brown of the Seattle Homicide Division.

Lynn Harvey, September 2013.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Review: Sacrifice by Will Jordan

Sacrifice by Will Jordan, August 2013, 512 pages, Arrow, ISBN: 0099574470

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

SACRIFICE is the second novel by Will Jordan, and also the second in his Ryan Drake series. Jordan's original plan was to become an actor and his casting as a soldier in a film about World War II led him to doing extensive research about weapons and military history. His depth of knowledge is very evident in his books and this, along with his gripping plots and likeable characters, makes him the first rate author that he is.

In this instalment, Drake, a British CIA agent, and his shepherd team are sent to Afghanistan, in search of a senior CIA operative who has been shot down and taken hostage by insurgents. Their search takes Drake to places and situations where he is clearly not wanted and it is not long before snipers are taking pot shots at him as well. His skill in the field keeps him alive and ahead of the game but, when he is betrayed and set up by someone he thought he could trust, Drake finds himself on the run from the 'good guys' as well. As if that isn't bad enough, lurking in the shadows is a mysterious woman, with her own scores to settle, and it isn’t long before their paths cross and Drake’s past catches up with him.

Will Jordan writes in a way that catches your attention right from the start. You are grabbed by the eyeballs and taken on a whirlwind journey through the pages of his book, then dumped, exhausted, at the other side. I love the way he sucks you into the story. You become involved in it and are there with him, crouching behind a tree to remain hidden from the terrorists, or wincing with pain from a gunshot wound to your side.

I am delighted that there is more to come with Ryan Drake. He is an interesting, no-nonsense character and I am looking forward to getting to know him better!

Highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, September 2013.

Monday, September 02, 2013

TV News: Young Montalbano on BBC Four

Young Montalbano is a six-part series, with Michele Riondino as Montalbano. The first episode, on Saturday 7 September at 9pm on BBC Four, is The First Case:

Young detective Salvo Montalbano is posted to a remote village in the Sicilian mountains, where he struggles to adapt to the somewhat unwelcoming climate, but a promotion and transfer bring him to the more agreeable seaside town of Vigata. Here he finds himself supervising a team of local policemen, including veteran Carmine Fazio and affable but bumbling agent Catarella. Montalbano's first case in Vigata involves investigating an attempted murder at the hands of a vulnerable young woman whose motives appear unfathomable.

The series is co-written by Andrea Camilleri and Francesco Bruni with the stories drawn from several short story collections.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

New Reviews: Crouch, Dunne, Ferris, Hannah, Harper, Kallentoft, Kitchin, O'Connor, Shaw

This week's set of reviews, added to Euro Crime today, is a mixture of new reviews and a catch-up of those posted directly on the blog in the last two weeks, so you may have read some of them before if you're a regular :).

Jut a reminder: I've now set up a Euro Crime page on Facebook which you can like.

Michelle Peckham calls Julia Crouch's Tarnished, an "excellent book";

Geoff Jones reviews Steven Dunne's The Unquiet Grave, the fourth in the Derby-set DI Damen Brook series;

Susan White reviews the paperback release of Gordon Ferris's Pilgrim Soul;

Susan also reviews the paperback release of Sophie Hannah's The Carrier;

Amanda Gillies reviews Tom Harper's The Orpheus Descent;

Lynn Harvey reviews Mons Kallentoft's Savage Spring, tr. Neil Smith, the fourth in the Detective Malin Fors series;

Rich Westwood reviews Rob Kitchin's screwball-noir Stiffed;

Terry Halligan reviews Niamh O'Connor's Too Close For Comfort, the third in the Dublin-based Det. Sup. Jo Birmingham series

and Terry also reviews William Shaw's debut, A Song From Dead Lips, the first in a series set in the 1960s.

Previous reviews can be found in the review archive.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, here along with releases by year.