staff picks

Finnish Crime Writer Passes, But Is Not Forgotten

Matti Yrjänä JoensuuYesterday I discovered, with regret, that Matti Yrjänä Joensuu, probably the best known of Finnish crime novelists, recently died (4th Dec). So I though it appropriate to mark his passing with a post on him, and while I am at it, other Finnish crime writers and authors whose novels have a Finnish setting and whose works I have read to date. Finnish crime writers, unlike other Nordic writers, can be difficult to get in translation, why, I do not not know, and more's the pity. 

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu (1948-2011) retired from the Helsinki police force in 2006, and as a police officer he was ideally placed to write crime fiction. He wrote twelve (Detective Sergeant) Harjunpää novels, most of which were published in Finland between 1976 and 1993; of these three have so far been translated into English, two of which I have read. 

Write to a friend!

Everything you need to know about letter writingDecember is National ‘Write to a Friend’ Month. With the advent of email and social network sites, few people write proper old-fashioned letters anymore - you know: the kind you don’t need to be logged on to read! The only mail we get through our doors these days is bills and junk mail, so we’ve forgotten how nice it is to get a real letter; and we’ve also forgotten how to write one, which is a shame. Here is a selection of books based on letter-writing to hopefully whet your appetite, stir your imagination, and get you into the mood to write to a friend.

You can choose your friends...

The Addams FamilyThe family is a rich source of material for novelists – the dramas, feuds, bonding, support, recriminations, and downright insanity of families have kept writers in ideas for centuries. Happy families don’t tend to make for good reading: all happy families are alike, and who’d want to be a Walton anyway? Here are a couple of suggested reads which revolve around the ups and downs of family life.


Everything ChangesEverything Changes by Jonathan Tropper is the story of Zack, a thirtysomething who finds life becoming increasingly complicated: unhappily engaged to the ideal woman, secretly in love with the widow of his best friend who died in a car crash, and, along with his brothers and mother, still suffering the fallout from being abandoned twenty years earlier by philandering Norm. Norm’s reappearance on the scene, derelict and Viagra-fuelled, and his (pretty funny!) attempts to patch things up with his family, form the catalyst for Zack to take back control of his life. Lots of great characters,  particularly Norm and housemate Jed. Tropper looks at the complications of family loyalties and the sheer inertia that can take over people when going through tough times in a way that’s both humourous and realistic.

Rachel Allen's New Book 'Easy Meals'

Rachel Allen Easy MealsRachel Allen’s new cook book 'Easy Meals. Over 180 Delicious Recipes to get you Through your Life' is now available to borrow from Dublin City Public Libraries. Included in her new book are lots of quick and trouble-free recipes and plenty of great ideas such as her one pot recipes and recipes that have just five ingredients.

As always her book is full of colourful pictures and has lots of interesting and original combinations of ingredients for example Pork, Chorizo, Haricot Beans with Red Wine and Chickpea and Aubergine Salad.

The Danish Invasion

The KillingWhen the Vikings raiders first arrived in Ireland towards the end of the 8th century, they came from Norway rather than Denmark, the Danish Vikings preferring to plunder the English coastline. But in more recent times the Danes have made their mark here and elsewhere with a conquest of a different sort.

French crime writer extraordinaire

Fred VargasThink crime fiction, think France, and the name that ought to come to mind is that of Fred Vargas. In my estimation one of the best fiction crime writers around today. Vargas, born Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau in Paris in 1957, is an archaeologist, historian political agitator and crime writer, but best known for the latter. She, along with her twin sister, adopted the name Vargas having seen the film 'The Barefoot Contessa' starring Ava Gardner. She is BIG in France, but elsewhere too, and rightly so. Vargas's works can be bizarre, quirky, humourous, refreshing, are definitely imaginative, and certainly well written.  Her series starring Commissaire Adamsberg you will find a joy to read; I waited so impatiently for the latest instalment, An Uncertain Place (2011), which I read in June.

Swedish Crime is on the Climb! (Part Three)

Continuing my look at Swedish crime writers, this is the third instalment (of four) and introduces five more from the conveyor belt of Swedish crime writers.

Featured Swedish authors

Laos Coroner is Crafty Crime Solver

Colin CotterillLondon-born writer Colin Cotterill has lived and worked in various countries, but he has spent most of his latter years in either Thailand or Laos, and it is in the latter that his series of novels starring coroner Dr Siri Paiboun are based.

The first thing to say about this series is that humour is bountiful and makes this mystery series a joy to read. As the state coroner, and an unwilling one at that (the position being foisted upon him as he was about to retire, and being the country's only remaining doctor), he nonetheless is in the ideal situation to get involved in investigating curious deaths. Siri is in his early seventies, and though a communist and well connected, he has a rather sardonic view of his country's regime and the everyday effects of its societal changes.

Swedish Crime is on the Climb! (Part Two)

In my first post on Swedish crime fiction I focused on Henning Mankell and Steig Larsson, the two best known and most widely read Swedish authors. But of course they are but two from a lengthy list of talented crime authors emanating from that country; given its relatively small population (9m), Sweden must surely rank as the bastion of fiction crime writing. In this second post I want to draw your attention to four more authors I think worthy of your attention, so I hope you won't be disappointed!

Håkan Nesser

Inspector and Silance

After Larssen and Mankell, the next Swedish crime writer to come to mind is Håkan Nesser, a multiple award winner whose books have also been turned to film (you might get the DVDs on Amazon). Nesser's books are well written with good plots, and have for me proved absorbing reads. The principal character, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, might differ from most crime detectives you encounter; he likes good food, fine wines, owns an antique bookshop, and seems generally cheerful and untroubled. Top of my list is Borkmann's Point 5 star, where Van Veeteren assists in an investigation while on holiday. I can also highly recommend The Return 3.5 star (where he investigates a murder from his hospital bed); The Inspector and Silence 3.5 star (a girl goes missing from a religious sect and the inevitable body or two shows up); Woman with Birthmark 3 star (a woman seeks revenge following the death of her mother); and The Mind's Eye 2.5 star (dead woman with husband accused - guilty or not?). This last is the one I liked the least, but you may well disagree, I have read some reviews that rate it very highly.

Swedish Crime is on the Climb! (Part One)

Map of SwedenSwedish crime writing has always had a good reputation, and its popularity is greater now than ever, largely because of the movie and TV spin-offs which have served to highlight two writers in particular, namely Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. There are several others, but I will write a second post soon where I will focus on those other fabulous writers. There is just too much material for one post! So in this post I am going to concentrate on the two biggies, introducing you (as if I need to) to the books that give us those now famous characters, Liz Salander and Kurt Wallander.