Blood, Bandits and Dark Nights: Most Recent Crime Reads

In my last post (8 August) I discussed four titles from yes, Nordic climes, two being Swedish, one Finnish and one Icelandic. While Nordic writers tend to dominate my reading, they are by no means the only crime writers on my list, case in point being my posts on French crime fiction, Italian crime fiction, and my post on writers from as far afield as Australia, the US, Laos and Africa.

While this my latest update does include two Nordic titles, it also includes an Italian and a South African, and it is the latter that I will start with, as it is the book that excited me the most and which I am only dying to share with you.

City of BloodThe book is 'City of Blood' 5 stars, and it is the debut novel of M.D. Villiers (Martie de Villiers), a South African living in London. Set on the dangerous streets of Johannesburg, it is the tale of Siphiwe, a 19-year old orphan who, after rushing to the aid of a woman stabbed on the street, unwittingly gets caught up in the turf war between two rival and dangerous crime lords, one South African, the other Nigerian. With the danger to him and those close to him ever growing, he has to have his wits about him and forge alliances with criminals and police alike in order to survive. The story is told mainly through Siphiwe's eyes.

Latest Crime Writers' Association Shortlists Announced!

Crime Writers' AssociationToday the Crime Writers’ Association announced the shortlists for the remaining three CWA 2013 Daggers. Great to see Stuart Neville make the shortlist for the steel dagger (thriller) with Ratlines, which explores the lives of Nazis who were harboured in Ireland. Doug Johnstone a book critic for the newspaper described Ratlines as a "seriously impressive piece of crime fiction, that lingers long in the memory".

The shortlisted authors are:

For the CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger:
Belinda Bauer for Rubbernecker (Bantam/Transworld)
Lauren Beukes for The Shining Girls (HarperCollins)
Mick Herron for Dead Lions (Soho Crime) (not yet in stock, sorry!)
Becky Masterman for Rage Against the Dying (Orion) (not yet in stock, sorry!)

Nordic Crime Catch-Ups

Redemption and Light in a Dark HouseWith the prospect of some added free time coming my way over the next couple of weeks, a chance to catch up on my reading beckons. So no better time than the present to have some good luck, with two recently (18 July) published crime novels landing on my desk just today! The two are: 'Redemption' (US title: A Conspiracy of Faith) by Denmark's Jussi Adler-Olsen and 'Light in a Dark House' by German-born but Finnish-based Jan Costin Wagner. Having read and enjoyed both authors before, I can now look forward to reading these two new titles in the near future.

CWA Award Winners Announced!

Alex and The Ghost Riders of OrdebecLast night saw the winners announced in a number of categories in the annual CWA (Crime Writers' Association) Dagger Awards, PLUS the longlists announced in the remaining categories. The announcement that excited me most was that of the International Dagger winner, or rather winners! Yes, in a rather unusual step, the judges saw fit to share the Award between two French writers, Pierre Lemaitre for Alex, and Fred Vargas for The Ghost Riders of Ordebec. Personally I couldn't be more pleased, I have long been a fan of Fred Vargas, loving this her latest as much as any of her previous, and being equally pleased having read the first book in translation by Pierre Lemaitre. Lemaitre is a real find and I can't wait for the next in the Verhoerven series to be translated - or maybe it is just the incentive I need to brush up on my french? You can read what I had to say about both titles in a recent post of mine here on the blog.

The French Crime Fiction Challenge

I think it fair to say that the Nordic countries have not got it all to themselves after all! What might I be referring to, you may ask? The market in crime fiction of course. But maybe some of you never thought they had to to begin with - after all we have always had a wealth of crime fiction emanating from the United States and from Britain, and you could add to that several others including the Italians and in recent times the Irish too. I have to say it IS great to see Irish crime fiction writing blossoming in recent years, a subject I really must blog about soon.

DivaBut there is another jurisdiction we must visit and pay tribute to also, and that is France. Crime fiction is hugely popular in France; I have read where it says one in five books sold there is a crime novel. As a bit of an aside, I recall many years ago seeing Diva (1981), that wonderful french film about a Parisian mail courier (Jules) in possession of two highly sought-after tapes: the first containing a rare recording of an American opera singer with whom he has fallen in love; the second is a tape slipped into his bag by a young woman just before she is murdered. The unwitting Jules finds himself being pursued by a gang of drug-dealers who will do anything to get their hands on the cassettes. A marvellous film, do borrow the DVD from the library when you get the chance (and sitting on the shelf in Pearse Street Library as I write!).

An Italian Love Affair - Italian Crime Fiction Re-visited

Donna Leon

Donna Leon

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with crime fiction author Donna Leon at a book signing in Dubray Bookshop (see photo on left) in Dublin on the 11th April last, where she was talking about her work and signing copies of her latest book 'The Golden Egg' 4 stars. Her description of this, the 22nd in the  Commissario Brunetti series, as a "love letter to language" just increased my desire to get started on it, which I did soon after.

In this, Commissario Brunetti, at the behest of his wife Paola, looks into the suspicious death of a deaf-mute man who may also have had mental issues. Of interest too of course is that no one seems to know much if anything about the man, who worked in their local dry cleaners for many years. So it becomes an investigation to discover who this man with no paper trail was and what were his circumstances. Without wanting to give too much away, this is not a conventional crime story but rather a tale of a different sort of crime and the tragedy and injustice that can befall an individual born into the wrong circumstances.

Out of Europe, Into Africa, Laos, Australia, USA. Crime Reads

I bet most people are somewhat familiar with the film 'Out of Africa' (1985), starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and which is based loosely on an autobiography by Karen Blixen, it first published in 1937. The setting is British East Africa, better known today as Kenya, a point which leads me nicely on to the first crime novel I want to tell you about here, it too based in Kenya. As you might by now have guessed this post does not include any books with a European setting. But change is good, no?

A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa'A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa4 stars is the only title I have yet read by Nicholas Drayson, and it is the sequel to 'A Guide to the Birds of East Africa'. The first thing to say about it is that if you like the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency books (McCall Smith), you should like this. Which I did, although I was initially slow to warm to it, probably because of its slower than what I am used to pace. But it has humour, style and interesting characters in its favour, and all helped to draw me more and more into the book with each page turning. The story like I said is based in Kenya, and around a number of different events and characters; Mr. Malik and his planning of the Asadi Club's annual safari, his daughter's impending marriage, a threat to the club's very existence, theft, political corruption, and the mystery surrounding a seventy-year old unsolved murder. The question: can Mr. Malik, who is of course a bit of a sleuth together with the help of lawyer Tiger Singh, unravel the mystery and save the day? An entertaining read this, I think you will like it. Regrettably, we do not have this title in our (Dublin City) libraries (horror!), for that I must apologise, I will ask for it to be purchased.

Crime (Cream?) Always Rises to the Top!

Vanishing PointLooking at the list of the most borrowed adult fiction titles in our libraries in recent weeks, even I was surprised at the level of dominance of thrillers and crime fiction. It must be true to say that crime holds an endless fascination for readers the world over. I would venture that over 50% of the top 20 adult fiction titles are in the thriller/crime category. The following is a listing of the most popular of those, and for me it is noticeable that two Scottish authors feature at the top:

Some Christmas Crime Fiction Reads?

While some people like to escape to the sun for Christmas, many prefer the embrace of a traditional white Christmas. Whichever group you fit into, maybe one or other of these books might allow you to escape, in a fashion, to the sun or, if it is your preference, to more northern climes. The following are just some of the books I have read in recent months and I hope you get to enjoy them. So travel with me to Australia, South Africa, Iceland, Norway and Sweden!

Going to sunnier regions...

The BatTo Australia first. 'The Bat3.5 stars is the first in the Harry Hole series by Norwegian Jo Nesbo, but the last to be translated, reason being I understand is that the publisher thought the others in the series more marketable as they were based in Norway, while this novel is based in Australia. In this, Harry is sent to Sydney to assist the investigation into the murder of a young Norwegian woman, it being a race against time to catch the serial killer before he strikes again. Harry is here teamed with an Aboriginal police officer, the Aboriginal aspect being strong in this book. You also learn something of Harry the person, while his problem with alcohol raises its ugly head also. A gritty ending as you come to expect from Nesbo.

Where Scotland meets Germany

Brother GrimmYou might well wonder, where does Scotland meet Germany? Or to be more precise, where does Glasgow meet Hamburg? The answer lies in the person of Craig Russell, Scottish-born author and the creator of two wonderful crime series, one set in Hamburg, the other, needless to say, in Glasgow.

The series set in Hamburg stars Detective Jan Fabel, he being half-Scottish and half-German, and stems from Russell's interest in the culture and people of Germany. Russell, born in Fife in Scotland in 1956, is an ex-policeman and fluent German speaker, and his Fabel series have been a big success not alone in Germany but elsewhere, having been translated into 23 languages.