A staff member reviews our most borrowed books from the Crimes and Misdemeanours section, one of our most popular sections, and we include links to the catalogue perhaps nudging you towards making an inspired selection. These books can also be found in our Crimes and misdemeanours book displays. If you'd like to borrow any of the books discussed below, simply click on title to be taken to the reservation page. You will need your library card and PIN to request the book.The Alphabet Murders - Lars Schütz No.53☆After a body of a brutally murdered man with an “A” tattooed on him is found in a wildlife park, criminal profilers Jan Grall and Rabea Wyler are thrown into a brutal game of cat and mouse. Later, more people are found with letters tattooed on their skin - it's obvious that this serial killer loves his ABCs and won’t stop till his set is complete.I liked the concept of this story. I thought it was inventive, and I hoped the story reflected that too, but I was sorely disappointed to find out that it wasn’t. Killing is my Business - Adam Christopher No.43 ☆This book is a sequel to “Made to Kill” by Adam Christopher. It's about an alternate universe set in the 1960’s, LA Noir style. Or robot LA Noir style. This is about the last robot left in working order in the world - our protagonist Raymond Electromatic, a former private investigator turned hitman. I liked the mashup of Sci Fi and Noir. If you’re a fan of either one of these genres, this is a good book for you. Murder at Greysbridge - Andrea Carter No.34 ☆Solicitor Benedicta O’ Keefe has been invited to her friend Leah’s wedding, at the newly restored Greysbridge Hotel - the perfect paradise with a private beach and a stunningly beautiful pier. But the festivities are cut short when a young visitor staying at the hotel drowns in full view of the wedding guests. As more and more deaths occur, Ben finds herself and her fellow guests at the center of a murder mystery.I would highly recommend you reserve this if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie’s or love a good old-fashioned murder mystery. A Noise Downstairs - Linwood Barclay No.24☆Eight months ago, Paul Davis discovered two dead bodies in the back of his co-worker Kenneth’s car. After he attends therapy, at night things get much worse, he starts to hear things. Paul thinks he’s losing his mind. Is he? Or does someone want him to believe he is? Gripping and hard to put down. The Death House - Sarah Pinborough No.15☆Taken from his family, our young protagonist Toby now lives in what is now called “The Death House”, an out-of-time existence far away from our own existence, where he and others like him are carefully studied for any sign of sickness by the mysterious and spine-chilling Matron and her team of “nurses”. As soon as they show any sign of sickness, they are taken to the sanatorium. No one returns from the sanatorium. Five stars.
Crime fiction books are forever popular, as a look at any weekly bestsellers list will demonstrate. Think 'The Girl on the Train' (which I've just finished reading, and enjoyed), it's been a bestseller for umpteen weeks. Liz Nugent was topping the Irish bestsellers for a number of weeks recently with 'Lying in Wait', while James Patterson's name features regularly on such lists, albeit with books penned by other authors.Right: Donna Leon in Dubray Bookshop, Dublin, April 2013. (See larger image)Most of my reads are of crime novels in translation, as I like to travel the world a bit, at least in print. This literary journey recently took me even as far as Argentina and new-to-me author Claudia Pineiro (see below), an author I might not have discovered if it weren't for the International Dublin Literary Award. The inclusion of novels in translation adds greatly to the standing of this Award and differentiates it from most other book awards, and you could do worse than visit the Award site where you will be presented with hundreds of books to choose from, many in translation.Without further ado, here are five more crime fiction reads worthy of your consideration, four of which have been translated into English. Can you guess which one of the five was written in English? (answer at the bottom)The star ratings are mine, but I also include the ratings from two of the big book sites.A Climate of Fear by Fred VargasThe murder of a woman, made to look like suicide, is soon followed by another. A strange symbol is found near both bodies, and both victims were members of a doomed party that travelled to Iceland ten years before. The victims also seem to have had an association with a secretive society for the study of Maximilien Robespierre. Plenty of mystery here then!Commissaire Adamsberg and his team are really challenged in their efforts to solve the growing number of related murders with evidence at first pointing one way and then another. While the Icelandic connection seems to lose traction with most of the team, with Adamsberg is does not, resulting in friction and loyalties being called into question. The reader too is challenged to decide if clues are real or merely false trails.I can't say this delighted me as much as previous books by French writer Vargas. I rate her very highly so maybe I had high expectations, however the whole Robespierre angle just didn't grab me I'm afraid and at times I found it a bit tedious. But there is still enough here for me to recommend it, if not heartily; maybe you will think more of it than I did.Ratings: Amazon UK - 4.1/5 Goodreads - 3.9/5A Crack in the Wall by Claudia Pineiro Pablo Simó is a married, middle aged architect in a Buenos Aires practice, living a rather ordinary life, neither happy nor unhappy, and with no great expectations of life. But together with his two work colleagues, he harbours a secret that resurrects itself with the appearance one day of a young woman called Leonor who arrives at their practice asking about a certain Nelson Jara. Keeping the secret under wraps becomes more difficult when he strikes up a relationship with Leonor who has asked him to accompany her around the city on an architectural journey. As the day unfolds and details of the three-year old secret become known to us, one thing seems certain: Pablo's life in so many ways is about to change for ever.Not your typical crime story this, it is as much about one individual looking at his life and finally deciding to do something to change its course. In that regard the ending might surprise a little. I liked this.Ratings: Amazon UK - 3.7/5 Goodreads - 3.34/5The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna LeonCommissario Guido Brunetti is back, this time attempting to discover if, some 15 years before, then 16-year old Manuela Lando-Continui fell into the canal or was pushed. The incident left her brain damaged and forever with the mind of a six year old. Her now elderly grandmother, the Contessa, is keen to discover the truth or otherwise of the outcome of the original police investigation, which concluded, with little or no actual investigation, that she fell.The 25th book in the series starts with a dinner party at which Brunetti is present together with his wife Paolo and her parents. Food always plays a part in the Brunetti series, which I welcome, as I do the home scenes involving Paolo and their children Chiara and Raffi. Ever present also are computer whizz Signorina Elettra, and officers Vianello, Patta and Scarpa, the latter two being as ever less than sympathetic to Brunetti but who the Commissario invariably outwits and out manoeuvers. No different here.An enjoyable enough read enhanced as ever by insights into Venetian life and Venice itself.(Ratings: Amazon UK - 4.7/5 Goodreads - 4.07/5).Midnight Sun by Jo NesboJon, going under the name Ulf for most of the story, is a hapless criminal on the run from his Oslo drug boss known as the Fisherman. His criminal involvement is driven by his desire to pay for his dying child's medical treatment. He somehow becomes the Fisherman's fixer but as an assassin he is an abject failure. As a result he heads for the north of Norway above the Arctic circle where he hides out in a small town. Here he befriends some of the locals including 10-year old Knut and his widowed mother Lea while he waits for the inevitable arrival of the fisherman's henchmen.This differs in so many ways from Norwegian Nesbo's Harry Hole crime series, being shorter (a novella), less violent, having a far simpler plot line and a likable criminal as the central character. It is more about the characters than the crime, it is about second chances. Nesbo is a storyteller first and foremost, thus the prose is simple and you will find this an easy and quick read.(Ratings: Amazon UK - 3.9/5, Goodreads - 3.61/5)Blade of Light by Andrea CamilleriInspector Salvo Montalbano is here investigating an armed robbery that ends with a kiss, and strange goings on at a shed with a disappearing door. Throw in a body that has all the hallmarks of a mafia hit and the involvement of the anti-terrorist police and you have the makings of yet another intriguing and entertaining Camilleri novel.This is the 19th in the Montalbano series and ever present too is the eclectic mix of characters, the beautiful Sicilian backdrop, and Salvo's love affair with food and women, though he has more success with one than the other. Should I maybe mention the presence of yet another love interest to challenge Salvo's long term, long distance relationship with the lovely Livia? If only Livia would come back to live on Sicily instead of making her sad to say brief appearances, sometimes only on the phone at that!Camilleri's crime mystery books are invariably clever, full of twists and humour, and always a great pleasure to read.(Ratings: Amazon UK - 4.6/5, Goodreads - 3.96/5)Below: Donna Leon and myself in Dubray Bookshop in Dublin , 11th April 2013, when she was talking about her work and signing copies of her book 'The Golden Egg' (Commissario Brunetti, #22).And the book written in English is... 'The Waters of Eternal Youth' by Donna Leon. American Donna Leon lives in Venice where her books are based, and all the novels in the Brunetti series (25 to date) have been written in English. Although they have been translated into many languages, she refuses to have them translated into Italian, her explanation being that she doesn't want to be famous where she lives, preferring a certain level on anonymity in her own back yard. Now you know!
Nails, Axes, Mirrors. And Love! Much ado about Crime
It is all too infrequent these days that I get a chance to post here on the blog regarding my crime fiction reads. It's not to say that I haven't been reading of late, far from it, but it does mean that I can struggle a little to recall the story line details of the many books I have read since my last post and how exactly I felt about them. But let me try at any rate. The following five books are either of an Italian, Thai, French or South African flavour, and I'm glad to say that none of them will disappoint. So read on!Icarus by Deon Meyer Icarus (published 2015) is the latest from South African crime writer Deon Meyer featuring Detective Captain Benny Griessel of the elite investigative team known as the Hawks. Griessel is investigating the high profile murder of Ernst Richter, MD of a new Internet startup company, whose body is discovered buried in the sand dunes north of Cape Town. But Benny has his own troubles, falling off the wagon as he does after 602 days dry. This has consequences both for his private life and work life, and he is challenged to remain focused and sharp at what he does best and to avoid being discovered and chucked out of the force. Richter's company, Alibi, is involved in providing false alibis to people; that and his trying to extract money from clients when his company is strapped for cash, means that there could be any number of possible suspects. There is a parallel story running throughout the book involving the confession of a wine maker under investigation, and the inevitable link between the two does not become clear until near the end.The investigative interviews with winemaker Francois de Toit that punctuate the story throughout were an aspect of the book I found a bit tedious, even if eventually everything does come together. This book also does not have the pace of Meyer's previous titles, however the plot line is as ever intricate and well thought out. His characters too are as ever well developed and interesting to boot. By and large this latest from Meyer is on a par with his previous books, which is another way of saying I can well recommend.Falling in Love by Donna Leon This is the twenty-fourth title in Donna Leon's Venice-based crime series featuring Commissario Brunetti. In this the opera singer Flavia Petrelli is uncomfortable with the level of attention she is getting from a supposed admirer, and when another singer is seriously injured having been pushed down some steps, Brunetti's concern for Flavia is heightened as he thinks both events may be related. The investigation is stepped up therefore before anyone comes to more serious harm. This story has an association with Leon's first book in the series, 'Death at La Fenice' where the soprano Flavia was a suspect in the death of a conductor. It therefore entails a revisit to the opera house La Fenice and the world of opera beloved by both Brunetti and Leon.An improvement on her previous (By Its Cover), but otherwise unremarkable; there is little real mystery, the outcome predictable. I have seen more of the streets and sights of Venice in previous books, but Brunetti's wife Paola and in-laws do feature somewhat, which I welcome, as does the ever resourceful secretary Signorina Elettra, her involvement invariably adding some humour and comedy to proceedings. This time she is on strike against her boss Vice-Questore Patta and his sidekick Lieutenant Scarpa!Game of Mirrors by Andrea Camilleri Game of Mirrors is the 18th in the Salvo Montalbano series from Andrea Camilleri, one of Italy's leading crime writers. Like all the others it is a joy to read and you will surely enjoy as I have Camilleri's style, the humour, the clever plot line, the Sicilian landscape and the culinary delights. I miss though, as I have done with many of the books, the presence of Salvo's longtime girlfriend Livia, living as she does in northern Italy and thus making only brief appearances at the end of a phone line. Their chemistry when she does visit Sicily adds so much to the books, so may she soon return.Summary - When Montalbano comes to the aid of his new neighbour, Liliana Lombardo, after the engine of her car is interfered with, the inspector can little imagine where this innocuous event will lead. It soon transpires that the young woman - beautiful, intelligent and rather vague about the whereabouts of her husband - is being targeted by someone with a grudge against her. But is Liliana's growing interest in Montalbano simply a product of the detective's innate charm? Or is she trying to lead him astray - and into trouble?The Axe Factor by Colin Cotterill This is the third and latest in the Jimm Juree series, following as it does 'Killed at the Whim of a Hat' and 'Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach'. These are humourous, witty reads with quirky characters and comic events, and murder too (!), all set in exotic rural Thailand. The plot is clever too and be certain things are not always as they might appear. The perfect light read for that sunny summer evening.Summary - On the gulf of Thailand, the Juree family are managing their run-down beach resort for the second year - still stalked by disaster. Daughter Jimm has a new love in her life, but finds herself pursued by another man with a markedly different agenda in mind. Meanwhile, Jimm's new case is that of Dr Somluk, a champion of the rights of rural mothers, who is missing following a run-in with the marketeers of infant formula. As ever, there is blood, brine and bedlam aplenty at the Gulf Bay Lovely Resort.Bed of Nails by Antonin Varenne This is the debut crime novel of French writer Antonin Varenne, and what a compelling, powerful debut it is. It can also be described as bleak and dark, but don't be put off by such descriptions. Inspector Guérin of the Suicide Division is investigating an apparent suicide during an S&M act, but things may not be as they appear. Plus also too events in people's past lives have a huge influence on their present state of being. Varenne is very strong on character development and human relationships, though unsympathetic so many of the characters might appear. There is too plenty of suspense and tension. The ending, without giving anything away, will do little to settle you or cheer you up! A must read. Another strong French crime writer to rank alongside the likes of Fred Vargas and Pierre Lemaitre.Summary - It's as if he's being mocked from beyond the grave. When John Nichols arrives to identify the body of an old friend, he is immediately caught up in the detritus of Alan Musgrave's life, the side of Paris the tourists don't see, where everyone has a past but very few count on a future.Happy reading!
Henning Mankell, that giant of Swedish, indeed European, crime fiction writing, has sadly passed away at the age of 67. He had been suffering from cancer. Though not exclusively a crime writer, his Kurt Wallander (pronounced vahl lahń’ der) crime series are known the world over and are must-reads for all fans of the crime fiction genre. The Wallander TV series has also proved a big success, viewers in this country may have been lucky enough to view the series on BBC 4.Mankell is a wonderful storyteller, his writing faultless. Though now passed, I shall continue to think of him in the present tense as he will live on in his books and in his characters.The main character in Mankell's crime novels, Inspector Kurt Wallander, lives and works in Ystad in southern Sweden where he solves crimes with his team of detectives. His daughter Linda follows him into the police force and her uneasy relationship with her dad, and the fact that she works with him on some of the cases, makes for added interest. Central to the series also is Swedish society, and I for one love to see a society and culture portrayed and commented upon through the characters and storyline by native writers in particular. Kurt is a bit of a loner, separated from his wife, with a dad who disapproves of his career choice, and he likes his tipple while listening to classical music. Kurt is a troubled man, his years dealing with crimes having taken its toll on him.There are twelve titles in the Wallander series, and whereas there is some difference in the publishing (in English) order and the chronological order (events timeline), my advice to you is to read them in the following order: Faceless Killers The Dogs of Riga The White Lioness The Man Who Smiled Sidetracked The Fifth Woman One Step Behind Firewall The Pyramid Before the Frost An Event in Autumn The Troubled Man'The Pyramid' is a series of short stories, 'An Event in Autumn' is a novella, while' Before the Frost' in fact features his daughter Linda in the lead role.In terms of Wallander on TV, there were three separate series done, two by Swedish TV and one by the BBC. The first Swedish series stars Rolf Lassgård, while the second stars Krister Henriksson: whereas all the Lassgård episodes are based on the books, most of the Henriksson ones were written for TV. The BBC series stars Kenneth Branagh and consists of six episodes. All three play the character differently, which makes for interesting comparisons if you are a Wallander aficionado. I have to say I loved in particular the Swedish series, I had a little difficulty with the strong English accents in the Swedish countryside in the British production. Though I would watch them again, that be said!Check out the availability of the Wallander DVDs in our online catalogue (yes, you can borrow!).Read also:Henning Mankell Obituary (The Guardian)Henning Mankell, writer - obituary (The Telegraph)Henning Mankell, Writer Whose Wallander Patrolled a Gritty Sweden, Dies at 67 (New York Times)
It's been some time since I've had the chance to share with you my crime reads, so when I do get the chance there is guilty pleasure aplenty. This time round I am focusing on books from the Nordic region, with titles in translation from Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Danish authors. Now this concentration might be no surprise to anyone who follows my posts here on the library blog, as I am an avid reader of crime titles in translation, Nordic writers having a particular appeal for me. But not exclusively, as you will see next time round when I will venture further south to France and Italy and even to Thailand and South Africa!But back to the present, and I have to start with a BIG favourite of mine, Norway's Karin Fossum, and the 7th title in the Inspector Sejer Series, The Murder of Harriet Krohn .Charlo Torp, a flawed if otherwise ordinary individual, robs an elderly widow and in the process kills her when she resists. The story is largely set in the aftermath of the killing and is told by and from the perspective of the killer. Although part of the Inspector Sejer series, the Inspector features little in this one, yet you sense their paths will eventually cross given Sejer's record of having no unsolved cases.Charlo plans the robbery as a way of solving his gambling debts and, in his eyes, giving himself a fresh start. His wife is dead and he is somewhat estranged from his daughter Julie, and he sees this too as a chance to redeem that relationship and leave his gambling problems behind him. Charlo is a weak, unsympathetic, self-pitying sort of person, constantly justifying his actions to himself, who sees himself as a reformed individual and he, not Harriet, as the actual victim.This is largely a character study, something Norwegian crime author Karin Fossum is so very adept at. Fossum's books are often concerned with 'what if' type scenarios, placing ordinary people in despairing situations where things go wrong and spiral out of control, resulting in inevitable tragedy.I'm a huge fan of Karin Fossum and I can highly recommend this book as I do her others.Book Summary:Charles Olav Torp has problems. He's grieving for his late wife, he's lost his job, and gambling debts have alienated him from his teenage daughter. Desperate, his solution is to rob an elderly woman of her money and silverware. But Harriet Krohn fights back, and Charlo loses control. Wracked with guilt, Charlo attempts to rebuild his life and regain his dignity. But the police are catching up with him, and Inspector Konrad Sejer has never lost a case yet. Told through the eyes of a killer, 'The Murder of Harriet Krohn' poses the question: how far would you go to turn your life around, and could you live with yourself afterwards?Next up is Denmark's Jussi Adler-Olsen and Guilt , the 4th title in the Department Q series. Yet another excellent title from Adler-Olsen. Plot, characters, atmosphere, tension, this story of revenge is strong on all fronts. While the underlying story might be a dark one, there is even humour and mystery around members of the team itself that will maintain your interest on several levels. The ending will not disappoint. I can highly recommend.Book Summary:1987: Nete Hermansen, a young woman brutally assaulted in her youth, sterilised without her consent by a fanatical surgeon, and banished to Sprogo, the island for outcast women is planning her escape and her vengeance. And soon people begin to go missing and no one - certainly not the police - knows why, nor that individual cases are connected.Today: Carl Mørck and his assistants Assad and Rose in Department Q are examining old missing persons cases and spot a disturbing pattern from 1987.Sweden's Hakan Nesser is the author of the Chief Inspector Van Veeteren series, which is set in a town called Maardam, situated in a fictional northern European country. G File , is the final book in the series. The now retired Chief Inspector can't help being drawn away from his antiquarian book store when his one unsolved case resurrects itself. While Van Veeteren featured to a lesser degree in a number of the most recent titles in the series, here he takes centre stage, which is a welcome development. The book covers two time periods, 1987, when the death of a woman results in an unsolved case as the prime suspect has a water tight alibi, and 2002, when the disappearance of a private investigator involved in the unsolved case results in Van Veeteren revisiting the case.This is the only case Van Veeteren had failed to solve in over 30 years of police work, so it is fitting that it should be the subject of this, the final book in the series.In 1987, ex-police officer and private detective Verlangen, whose life has been heavily influenced by his drinking , is hired by a woman to follow her husband. However her death soon after and the fact that her husband had recently taken out a policy on her life lead to he being charged with her murder but walking free soon after due to his watertight alibi. Fifteen years later Verlangen goes missing and his daughter seeks Van Veeteren's help. It turns out that Verlangen seems to have uncovered new evidence regarding the death in 1987, and so Van Veeteren pursues the investigation afresh as well as the discovery of Verlangen's whereabouts.Van Veeteren displays his usual talent and determination in pursuit of this case, despite he being retired for some five years. The question is - can he finally solve his one outstanding case and what might well have been the perfect crime?The book is quite a long one (600 pages), with the first half set in 1987, but because it is in two parts your interest won't wane. Lend to that the fact that Nesser delivers an atmospheric crime thriller with a well constructed plot line, and interesting and well developed characters, not least Van Veeteren himself. Nesser's ability to surprise also makes his books interesting reads. A worthy finale to the series, it is up there with Nesser's best and will be time well spent.This series has been so successful that most of the books have now been turned into film.Iceland's Arnaldur Indridason's Reykjavík Nights differs from other titles in the series featuring Erlendur in that it takes you back to when Erlendur was a young policeman on the beat and first showing an ability for crime solving. So very different to the books featuring the older Inspector Erlendur and, should you have read any, you have to try and forget everything you know and think about him to large measure as it isn't really relevant to the young Erlendur.Erlendur works the night shift with two colleagues patrolling the streets of Reykjavík, and in so doing he meets and interacts quite closely with many of those who live rough on the streets and whose lives are hard and marked by drink, violence and poverty. The death of one man living rough, whom Erlendur knew, from an apparent drowning and the disappearance of a woman the same night show no clear signs of being related until Erlendur starts to enquire into the man's life and death.In the course of his private investigation unknown to his colleagues, he interacts with several characters living rough and others of questionable character, and it is this aspect of the book which holds most interest, the insight into the lives of those unfortunates proving interesting and revealing. In fact the scenes are probably reflective of the lives of many such unfortunates in any European city. They don't welcome his interest and interference as they would see it, and are suspicious of his motives and guarded of their lives and circumstances. So his investigation, while well intended, meets most resistance from those whom he seeks to help.True to form, Erlendur does make progress with his investigation and in true style his doggedness, his humanity and his eventual success serve to show why he went on the become the successful detective we are so familiar with in the other books he features in and set later in his life. While his own personal tragedy, namely the disappearance of his brother when he was a young boy, does not really feature in the story, its influence on him is evident in his desire to discover what has happened to the woman who has disappeared.While not quite on a par with his best, Indridason has nonetheless delivered here a book worth reading and certain not to disappoint.Closed for Winter was my first encounter with Norway's Jorn Lier Horst, and I'm afraid this particular police procedural didn't quite do it for me. Due in part to the author's style, also I found the very short chapters stilting and interrupting of the flow. It is slow moving, and I have to say I just struggled to engage with it.Book Summary:Ove Bakkerud, newly separated and extremely disillusioned, is looking forward to a final quiet weekend at his summer home before closing for winter. But, when the tourists leave, less welcome visitors arrive and Bakkerud's cottage is ransacked by burglars. Next door, however, there is an even more shocking discovery - the body of a man who has been beaten to death. Police Inspector William Wisting has witnessed grotesque murders before, but the desperation he sees in this latest murder is something new.Happy reading!
In recent months I have continued apace with my crime fiction reading, and here I share with you just some of those reads, they being books by Gillian Flynn, Donna Leon, Thomas Enger and Fred Vargas. So read on!Who at this stage is not familiar to some degree with the story that is 'Gone Girl' seeing how the film version was such a hit? Gillian Flynn's book, upon which the film is based, has proved a huge success, being the 25th bestselling adult fiction title of all time and spending 8 weeks at the top of the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. 'Gone Girl' is the classic tale of a wife going missing and the finger of suspicion regarding her disappearance pointing at her husband. Where is Amy Dunne, and has loving husband Nick got something to do with her disappearance?This is a well crafted thriller with twists and surprises that will keep you guessing and likely ensure you are always one step at least behind the storyteller. Amy's diary and the gradual release of its contents adds to the mix and has you second guessing at the turn of every page. Nick's actions and thoughts don't help matters. As you delve further into the story things get even darker and the truth behind the seemingly happy marriage begins to unfold. The switching back and forth between the two narrators (Amy & Nick) is done intelligently and in a way that ensures your interest will not wane. This book begs the question - how well can you really know someone?I can well recommend 'Gone Girl', so get reading!. By Its Cover is the twenty-third title in Donna Leon's Venice-based crime series featuring Commissario Brunetti. The theft and vandalism of antiquarian books from a prestigious Venetian library form the basis of this story, and while the staff suspect that an American researcher has stolen them, Brunetti doesn't quite buy in to this theory.As the investigation proceeds, Brunetti seeks to enlighten himself about the stolen books, it being the subject matter rather than the physical beauty of such rare texts that is the appeal. Events take a sinister turn however (albeit half way into the story before so doing) when one of the library's regular readers, an ex-priest, turns up dead, murdered in brutal fashion. As the story progresses, developments point towards the black market in antiquarian books and the involvement of more than one person in the thefts from the library.To my mind, the focus on antiquarian books, in particular the subject matter of the stolen books is likely to be the strongest draw of this story, but if only for bibliophiles. Missing for me was the usual mix of interesting characters and the interactions between them and Brunetti, also the near absence of Brunetti's family and the Venetian cuisine we have become so accustomed to. Add to this the sudden, and for that reason, unsatisfying ending and this all adds up to, for me, one of Leon's least enjoyable works.Pierced by Norway's Thomas Enger is the follow up to 'Burned' and the second in the series featuring Oslo-based journalist Henning Juul. The series is centred around Juul's struggle to deal with the death of his son, which he largely feels responsible for, and his efforts to get to the bottom of the fire that resulted in his son's death and he receiving extensive injuries.In Pierced, Tore Pulli, a prisoner with an upcoming appeal into his conviction for a murder, challenges Juul to find evidence of his innocence, Juul's incentive being that Pulli knows something about the fire that resulted in his son's death and will share it with him in due course. Convinced that something untoward resulted in the fire, Juul has no choice but to investigate despite the weight of evidence against Pulli and the type of character he is. With assistance from fellow journalist, Iver Gundersen, who also happens to be his ex-wife's partner, Juul sets about delving into the seedy and dangerous world of underground gyms and clubs in Oslo.A parallel story involving a news cameraman has you wondering for some time what relevance that story line plays but all eventually become clear. Its inclusion and outcome lends to a complicated and involving plot which, for me, was largely satisfying and deemed the book a worthy read despite the book maybe being unnecessarily long at over 500 pages.Juul's struggle to deal with his son's death, plus his relationship with his ex-wife and her current partner, add nicely to the story and indeed serve to enhance the book's overall appeal.Given that the series continues with 'Scarred', which I now look forward to reading, it might be safe to assume that Juul's struggle will continue a bit longer despite what this story might reveal. Enjoy, I did!It's always a joy to read a book by France's Fred Vargas, the creator of the fabulous Commissaire Adamsberg series. Dog Will Have His Day , though not from the Adamsberg series, predates all but one in fact of the Adamsberg titles. Originally published back in 1996, it is the second of three in The Three Evangelists series, the first being The Three Evangelists; we await the third in translation.This book features Parisian Louis, or Ludwig, Kehlweiler, who, having discovered a human toe bone that was deposited by a dog (!) near his regular park bench, sets about investigating its source and, as he suspects, a possible murder. This investigation takes Louis and his pet toad (!) ,which he keeps in his pocket, to a town in Brittany as he follows the trail of the offending dog and his walker. Here an old woman has been found dead on a beach, minus of course a toe!The book is full of interesting and colourful characters, some you might even think eccentric, which is what you come to expect from Vargas, character development though being only one of her many attributes as a writer. There is Louis of course, a former investigator with the Ministry of Justice; old Marthé, a former prostitute; Marc, a medievalist and one of the evangelists; and others. Vargas also here paints a vivid and interesting picture of a provincial town and Breton life.This book is a wonderful crime mystery and was my delight to read, you will certainly want to seek out other titles by Vargas having read it. And I would highly recommend you to!Happy reading!
My crime fiction reads have taken me to many lands and long may that continue. In my previous blog post I visited Italy, Iceland, Sweden, South Africa and Botswana. In this latest compilation of crime reads I revisit Italy and South Africa, while also venturing to the USA, Sweden, Norway and France.Starting with France and moving in a clockwise-direction, we first encounter Pierre Lemaitre, whose book 'Alex' I have covered previously and thought very highly of. Now it is time to mention 'Irene' , the prequel to 'Alex', yet which followed it in translation. But reading 'Alex' first, as I did, can prove a bit unfortunate for obvious reasons, so I do recommend you stick to the proper order if you haven't yet read either. And read you must, for I can't recommend this author highly enough. He writes so well, and he is excellent on plot, characterization, atmosphere and tension building. But there is a word of caution: his portrayal of violence is not for the meek, and may put off some. So while you would be forgiven for moving quickly on at some points, you should not let it detract from your pursuit of otherwise top quality crime writing, which both 'Alex' and 'Irene' are. It would be good to know though that an author of Lemaitre's obvious talent could produce just as capable a work without the need for such graphic depictions of violence.A serial killer is on the loose, and his murders show marked similarities to those featured in some classic, and even some obscure, crime fiction novels. The diminutive and rather interesting Commandant Camille Verhoeven of the Paris police force and his team have the task of trying to find the murderer. To add even more interest to the plot, the Irene of the title refers to Verhoeven's wife, who is pregnant with their first child. Thus all the while you are reading this book you might wonder how and to what extent Verhoeven's personal life forms part of the story. Also too there is present in the story an academic who identifies the similarities between one murder and that featured in a crime novel by James Ellroy, and an irritating journalist who is not making Verhoeven's life any easier.Inevitably there is a race to catch the killer before he strikes again, you will be working just as hard as Verhoeven to make sense of the clues as you go. 'Irene' is an engaging read, you will soon want to follow it up with 'Alex'.Heading south-east, we land in Italy, or to be more precise, Sicily, land of an eternal favourite of mine, Commissario Salvo Montalbano. 'Angelica's Smile' is the 17th in the Montalbano series from Andrea Camilleri, and while still a clever, humourous, and entertaining read, it is not quite on a par with some of his previous. In this latest mystery, as usual based in the (fictitious) coastal town of Vigata in Sicily, Salvo is involved in trying to solve a string of copycat burglaries of seeming acquaintances who all own two properties. While not enamoured at being involved with mere burglaries, he is so because of the reputation of some of those burgled, and any disquiet he has is quickly dispelled when he meets and becomes infatuated with one of those burgled, the beautiful Angelica. What is it that ties the burglaries together, and why is the perpetrator sending him clues in anonymous messages? Is the reason for the burglaries something other than mere theft?Camilleri's plots are nearly always well thought out and need to be in order to keep this long series fresh. Yet I always yearn for more of Livia, Salvo's long-time girlfriend, whose appearances are always all too frustratingly short. There is the usual midnight stakeout, regular visits to his favourite eateries, trouble interpreting Officer Cateralla, and uncertainty regarding his relationship with Livia. And also, as appears usual, not everyone may be as they might appear. Maybe therein lies the clue to events.Sometimes Camilleri's books end with a tinge of sadness; this one may fall into that bracket, but for what reason I won't reveal. The reason could be either that the story is too short, someone maybe not deserving of it proves guilty, or that the ending is slightly ant-climatic or maybe even unsurprising. But see what you think!Leaving Sicily, we travel a great distance south to encounter the latest from South Africa's Deon Meyer, namely 'Cobra' . 'Cobra' is the fourth in the Captain Benny Griessel series based in and around post-apartheid Cape Town. In this thriller/police procedural, Griessel is in a race against time (isn't he always?) to find a kidnapped British scientist (Adair) before further killings ensue. Further, that is, to those that occurred when the scientist was kidnapped by an assassin, or group of, whose call signs are bullet casings engraved with a spitting cobra. They seem to be a very professional and ruthless group of hitmen determined to recover a memory card which has fallen into the hands of a pickpocket who plies his trade in an effort to support his sister who is attending college. With his sister's life also under threat, the pickpocket pursues his own means of safeguarding her life while maybe trying to profit from having the memory card in his possession. Invaluable information regarding global terrorism seems to be what's at stake, and maybe even the involvement of big business. Thus the mystery; who is behind efforts to recover the memory card and the kidnapping of the scientist? Will we find out?This is a pacy, well plotted suspenseful thriller, as Meyer's books invariably are. Much of the story revolves around the kidnapper and his role in proceedings, you might say at a cost to Griessel's own role. Griessel is a recovering alcoholic who does not always see eye to eye with his superiors, a trait common to the principal police characters in many crime/thriller novels. The ending is violent (but not descriptively so), but will it leave you satisfied? Read and see!The flight from South Africa to Mississippi, USA, is a very long one but one well worth taking in order to encounter the prolific John Grisham. 'Sycamore Row' is his latest but one novel (his most recent being 'Gray Mountain') and is also the sequel to 'A Time to Kill' starring small town lawyer Jake Brigance. This courtroom drama is set in Mississippi in 1988, three years after events in 'A Time to Kill' (Grisham's first novel), and again race relations and prejudice are at the centre of the story.In 'Sycamore Row' wealthy businessman Seth Hubbard rewrites his will shortly before taking his own life, a decision heavily influenced by his advancing cancer. This will leaves the bulk of his estate to Lettie Lang, his black housekeeper, much to the ire of his relatives and surprise of everyone else. Thus ensues a courtroom challenge to the will, central to the challenge of the relatives being Seth's 'testamentary capacity' and the possible 'undue influence' of Lettie Lang. Jake of course has been charged with defending the last will by Hubbard in a letter sent before his death, and while its defence looks a relatively straightforward task initially, events unfold which threaten to tear down the defence and see the will put aside in favour of an earlier version. Meanwhile also a search ensues for Seth's long lost brother, himself due to inherit in the new will and who also is the only link with the past, a past which may or may not have a bearing on events of the present. A certain humour is introduced by Grisham in the manner in which he deals with Seth's relatives and their supposed new found love for their Uncle Seth, a love which was not very evident when he was alive. How the possibility of inherited wealth can sway the hearts of so many!The courtroom element of this novel is its strongest aspect, which by and large covers most of the book! So yes, I enjoyed this, as I usually do Grisham's novels. The ending too is quite strong, something I can't say about a number of Grisham's other novels. The only gripe I might have is the character of Jake himself, too clean, too nice, no faults to list or complicate him as a character. I guess it makes the book ripe for another film blockbuster like 'A Time to Kill' became, starring as it did Matthew McConaughey.I just about give this four stars out of five, which I did to his previous 'The Racketeer', but 'The Racketeer' I can definitely say I did prefer. Crossing the Atlantic we arrive in Norway, home of that ex-soccer player come ex-rock band member come rock climber come well known author, Jo Nesbo, creator of the bestselling Harry Hole series. 'The Son' , however, is a stand-alone revenge thriller, so no Harry Hole here. But Nesbo has done that before with 'Headhunters'. In this rather long book (over 490 pages), 30-year old drug addict and convicted two-time murderer Sonny Lofthus, having served 12 years in prison, escapes to seek revenge for his father's death. His father was a police officer who apparently hung himself leaving a note admitting to corruption and disgracing his family. Thus the reason Sonny went off the rails and ended up in prison. While in prison Sonny behaves like a model prisoner but only so that he can have his drug habit fed; he is even ready to admit to crimes in order to continue feeding his habit. But discovering the truth of his father's death brings an about-turn. When Sonny escapes, he goes on a murder spree, seeking out those who had anything to do with his father's death. One of those he seeks is the 'Mole' an unidentified police officer guilty of feeding information to the Twin, one of Oslo's leading mobsters and a very dangerous man. The principal other character in the story is police officer and reformed gambling addict Simon Kefas, the once best friend and partner of Sonny's father, and the man given the task of capturing Sonny and thus bringing the killing spree to an end.This is the type of book which requires you to suspend belief somewhat. Sonny, a long-time heroin addict willing to admit to crimes in order to feed his habit, is suddenly able to kick the habit and escape prison; while in prison he is seen by other prisoners as having powers of healing and forgiveness and thus they are quite willing to confide in him in the hope of gaining spiritual forgiveness; and Sonny's ability to survive on the outside, despite 12 years incarceration, are quite remarkable. There is also a love interest; how this formulates itself and why may also require some blind acceptance on the part of the reader.All through the story is the underlying question as to who is or was the Mole? Whether or not this is revealed by story's end I won't say as that might be to reveal too much. Overall, I think you will enjoy the level of action, the story's twists and turns, its fast-pace, and a certain suspense. But you may struggle with the book's length and those elements which require suspension of belief. And maybe too the level of violence that is present. This book seems a perfect fit for film adaptation, which may have been in the author's mind when writing it I suspect; the latest word has it that Channing Tatum may co-direct and star in a Hollywood production. The final part of our trip takes us the short hop to Sweden, home of many a well known crime writer, including in this instance Johan Theorin. I was initially reluctant to read Theorin's 'The Asylum' , and for a time my progress was a little tentative, as the subject matter involves children and a child carer of suspect character and with a troubled past. Given the story is told from the main character's point of view, albeit in the third person, there is an unsettling feeling in having such access to his train of thought, his mindset. But if you stick with it, this slow moving psychological thriller will not disappoint, providing you don't mind a story that doesn't really allow you to side with, or feel sympathy for the main character, indeed any character, for fear that your sympathies might be ill-placed. Thus an unease stays with you throughout.In the story Jan, the main character, takes a job as a child carer in a day care centre attached to a secure psychiatric hospital. The children in this centre are the offspring of some of the inmates of the hospital, and they are allowed in on regular visits to their parents via a connecting passageway. Supposedly housed in the hospital is a woman from Jan's past whom he hopes to make contact with again. Indeed its his reason for applying for this particular post. Jan's past is revealed piece by piece, including his previous association with this woman, his previous employment in another pre-school and a particular experience that left an obvious mark on him. There are others of course held in the hospital, include a child killer, with whom another working in the day care centre has contact. The plot thickens!The story's psychological aspect, the tension, the uncertainty, all are its strongest points, and despite some unlikely circumstances, the slow pace, and an ending that is not quite the equal of the rest of the book, this book is still worth your attention. That being said, it is not quite on a par with the author's best ('Echoes from the Dead' and 'The Darkest Room'). Happy reading!
Upon reading a blog post recently where book reviewers highlighted their favourite crime fiction reads of 2013, I got curious as to how my year just gone had fared in similar respect. So I took a look back over my 2013, what I had read, what I had thought of the various authors and their books, and in so doing see what overall impression I was left with, and what books made it to the top of my list.Right: The Top 4 of 2013 (see below for more details)I should preface what is to follow by stating that most, but not all, of the books I read tend to be either recently published or, if in translation, recently translated. After reading a book I give it a star rating, 5 being the maximum number of stars. Anything that gets 3.5 stars or more I can well recommend, 3 stars is borderline, while anything less disappointed. The star system of course is not a precise measure, but can be used as a rough rule of thumb. But enough of that!To begin with I listed for myself the titles I had read, and if I exclude the one non-fiction title I did read (a book on the Irish famine), the list extended to some 24 books. Now I don't know how that compares to you or Joe Public, but it sounded about right, a book a fortnight. Then I got even curiouser and checked back over 2012, only to discover that I read some 36 titles! Now I can't swear for the preciseness of that figure but I reckon it isn't far off the mark. You may wonder (or not!) how I keep track: I can, and do, by using librarything.com! First, the general statistics: 22 authors and 24 books read; only one author read more than once (Italy's Andrea Camilleri, three titles); 12 countries represented by the 24 titles; most represented country - Italy (5 titles), followed closely by France (4), Sweden and Finland (3 each), and then Norway (2). Other countries represented were Denmark, South Africa, Iceland, Laos, Kenya, USA and Australia. As is evident, continental European countries are heavily represented, as my preference is for books in translation. Before anyone wonders as to the absence of Irish authors, or Irish and UK-based titles, yes they are absent, I haven't been reading them, but I hope to rectify that before this year is out.Next, I can tell you that four titles received the coveted (!) 5 stars; these were titles by Italy's Camilleri, South Africa's Villiers, and France's Lemaitre and Vargas. Two other titles received 4.5 stars, one by Camilleri, the other by Denmark's Adler-Olsen. Eight titles received 4 stars, while 5 received 3.5 stars. Only four titles received 2.5 stars or less, so overall I can safely say that very few titles disappointed. The reason for this is that I generally research titles well, checking other reviews and picking titles by authors I have previously read and liked to some degree.And so to the list!The 5 Star Reads MD Villiers 'City of Blood' 2013. This debut novel from M.D. Villiers (Martie de Villiers), a South African living in London, is set on the dangerous streets of Johannesburg and 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. A terrific, engaging and well crafted story by a wonderful storyteller.Pierre Lemaitre 'Alex' French ed. 2011, English transl. 2013. This is the first novel in English translation by Frenchman Pierre Lemaitre, and a damn good one it is. Not an easy book to put down this, it is easy to see why Lemaitre is held in such high regard in his native country. If you can see past the rather gruesome elements, you will see a well crafted, intricate plotline and a novel well worth your attention. The story starts with a kidnapping and a race against time to locate and free the kidnapped woman. But as the story develops it twists and you begin to realise that efforts to predict its path and its outcome will be a waste of time. This is a gripping read, quite different from most everything else I have read. Fred Vargas 'The Ghost Riders of Ordebec' French ed. 2011, English transl. 2013. What a wonderful storyteller Parisienne Vargas is! I had so looked forward to this, the seventh and latest in the Commissaire Adamsberg series, and it did not disappoint. Following a visit from an old woman Adamsberg travels to Normandy, intrigued by her tale of ghostly horsemen who, since medieval times, have returned time and again to inflict gruesome punishments on some of society's more unsavoury characters. And who now again seem to be wreaking a certain havoc on the village of Ordebec. In parallel, the death of a Parisian businessman, burnt to death in his car, occupies Adamsberg and his team's attention.Andrea Camilleri 'The Dance of the Seagull' Italian 2009, English transl. 2013. This is the 15th and latest in translation in the Salvo Montalbano series, which is based in Sicily. This one is slightly pacier than the Camilleri norm, or so it felt, due in no small measure to the urgency in finding Montalbano's colleague Fazio who has gone missing and may have had a terrible fate befall him. Montalbano is getting older of course, he is now 57,and the interchanges between him and his alter ego now and then add to the entertainment factor and help give some insight into the man himself. Camilleri's ever humourous style never fails to delight.The 4.5 Star Reads Jussi Adler-Olsen 'Redemption' Danish ed. 2009, English transl. 2013. Featuring cold case detective Carl Mørck, the plot centres on the disappearance of a number of children over time, the investigation of which is triggered by a message in a bottle washed up on foreign shores. And while you the reader know that the killer is still active, the investigating team do not and for some time are not even sure if a crime has in fact taken place. Being privy to the present day activities of the killer, you wonder when and if the investigating team will ever make the necessary breakthrough and if they will in time to stop the killer adding to the number of his victims. Adding to the story mix are a troubled childhood and religious sects ever mindful of their privacy.Andrea Camilleri 'The Age of Doubt' Italian ed. 2008, English transl. 2012. The arrival of a yacht in the harbour with a dead body in tow engages Sicily's Inspector Salvo Montalbano's curiosity, it stirred further by the parallel appearance of a woman who may not be all she appears. And then of course our famed police Inspector meets Coast Guard official Laura, and 'besotted' only just begins to describe the effect on him! But what of long time girlfriend Livia?? Plenty of Sicilian cuisine, plenty of humour and intrigue here to grab and hold your interest.The 4 Star Reads Andrea Camilleri 'The Treasure Hunt' Italian ed. 2010, English transl. 2013. In this, the 16th in the Sicilian-based series, Inspector Salvo Montalbano, after a strange incident involving a blow-up doll (!) and a shoot-out with an elderly couple (!!), receives a letter containing a riddle, the first of several that serve to mystify and intrigue him, and which instigates the "treasure hunt" of the title. Montalbano is also challenged to find a young girl who it would appear has been snatched right off the street, her disappearance quickly giving major cause for concern.Hakan Nesser 'The Strangler's Honeymoon' Swedish ed. 2001, English transl. 2013. In this, the ninth in the Inspector Van Veeteren series, a teenage girl has an affair with her mother's lover, but when she disappears and a woman is found murdered there is a race against time to find the killer before he strikes again. Van Veeteren himself is now retired and running his antiquarian bookshop, but when a priest who has called on his assistance falls under a train, his investigative skills are again called upon. This series is, unusual to say, set in a fictitious Northern European country.Jo Nesbo 'Police' 2013. Harry Hole becomes involved when police officers associated in one way or another with unsolved crimes they were investigating are murdered. Also too in this, the follow up to Phantom, there are sub-plots involving some less savoury members of the force.Antti Tuomainen 'The Healer' Finnish ed. 2011, English transl. 2013. This story is set in the not-too-distant future where climate change is wreaking havoc and society is breaking down, indeed already largely has. Struggling poet Tapani travels the city of Helsinki in search of his journalist wife Johanna who had gone missing and in so doing discovers things about Johanna and her past life, things that he was never aware of. In the process he meets some shady and dangerous characters, none more so than the serial killer known as ‘The Healer’. Donna Leon 'The Golden Egg' 2013. In this, the latest in the series, Venetian Commissario Brunetti looks into the suspicious death of a deaf-mute man. It soon becomes an investigation to discover who this man with no paper trail was and what were his circumstances. Not a conventional crime story but rather the story of a different sort of crime and the tragedy and injustice that can befall an individual born into the wrong circumstances.Colin Cotterill 'The Woman Who Wouldn't Die' 2013. Madame Daeng is the wife of 76-year old Laos state coroner Doctor Siri Paiboun, and someone from her mysterious past has evil intent towards her in mind. Meanwhile an expedition into the jungles of Laos to retrieve human remains could prove to be something other than was it is supposed to be. Set in Laos in and around the late 1970s, the Dr Siri murder mysteries are a joy to behold. Quirky characters, humour aplenty, a mix of the supernatural, and a plotline that is never dull or straightforward.Nicholas Drayson 'Guide to the Beasts of East Africa' 2012 (apologies, not in Dublin City Libraries!). The story 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 sequel to 'A Guide to the Birds of East Africa', it is a stylish, humour-filled and entertaining read.John Grisham 'The Racketeer' 2012. The story centres around a disbarred lawyer doing prison time as a consequence of he representing the wrong people. His time in prison and the relationships he strikes up, together with the opportunity provided by the murder of a federal judge, provide the opportunity for a way out of prison, based on what is commonly known as Rule 35. This has a good plot, with twists and turns, is well crafted, and the intrigue should keep your interest throughout.The 3.5 Star Reads Thomas Enger 'Burned' Norwegian ed. 2010, English transl. 2011. The debut novel of Norwegian Thomas Enger. Upon his return to work for an online newspaper two years after a fire took his young son's life, Oslo-based investigative journalist Henning Juul is immediately involved in the reporting of the murder of a young female film student who met her gruesome death in a tent in an Oslo park. Bernard Minier 'The Frozen Dead' French ed. 2011, English transl. 2013. The first novel from French thriller writer Bernard Minier, this is a tale of murder and revenge set in the harshness of a Pyrenees winter. The decapitated body of a horse found hanging from a frozen cliff triggers the involvement of Toulouse police Commandant Martin Servaz, but it isn't long before human bodies start turning up.Jan Costin Wagner 'Light in a Dark House' German ed. 2011, English transl. 2013. The fourth title in translation from German-born, but largely Finnish-based, crime writer Jan Costin Wagner. In this, Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa investigates the murder in a hospital of an unidentified comatose woman, her murder soon followed by a number of others. Massimo Carlotto 'Bandit Love' Italian ed. 2009, English transl. 2010. Third in a series by Italian Massimo Carlotto. When his close friend Beniamino Rossini's beloved Sylvie is kidnapped,Marco Buratti ('the Alligator'), a former blues singer and ex-con turned private investigator, set out with his friends to find and free her. Her kidnapping may it seems be an effort to punish them for a past criminal involvement. This book is essentially about war and revenge between criminal rivals.Leif G. W. Persson 'Another Time, Another Life' Swedish ed. 2003, English transl. 2012. This book takes us from the (factually real) bombing of the West German embassy in Stockholm in 1975 to a (fictional) murder investigation in 1989, and finally to a revisiting of that murder in 1999 when a link to the 1975 event suggests itself. It is a mix of police procedural, political satire and psychological study, and of added interest maybe to the reader with an interest in the murkier side of politics and the establishment.The 3 Star ReadsKristina Ohlsson 'Silenced' Swedish ed. 2010, English transl. 2012. The death of a vicar and his wife shortly after a daughter is reported dead, the whereabouts of another daughter, plus the death of an unidentified man, all prove challenging for the team of Stockholm detectives ably assisted by civilian researcher Fredrika Bergman. Then too there is the horrific attack on a young girl years before. The story involves immigration and people smuggling, persons having their identity taken from them, and of course the age-old crime motivators of jealousy and revenge.The 2.5 Star Reads Harri Nykanen 'Nights of Awe' Finnish ed. 2004, English transl. 2012. Set in Helsinki, it is the story of a Jewish police inspector (Ariel Kafka) investigating the violent deaths of a number of men, all Arabic, in a number of separate but clearly related incidences.Yrsa Sigurdardottir 'I Remember You' Icelandic ed. 2010, English transl. 2012. Three friends are renovating a derelict house in an isolated Icelandic village where a scary and seemingly sinister presence lurks in the shadows. Elsewhere a young doctor is ever troubled by the disappearance of his young son. The two stories seem destined to converge amidst the harsh Icelandic landscape.The 2 Star Reads Peter Mayle 'The Marseille Caper' 2012. From British-born author Peter Mayle. Hollywood lawyer Sam travels to Marseille with his partner Elena to champion a property tycoon's bid for a seafront development over two rival entries. However danger beckons and various shenanigans are soon uncovered.Peter Temple 'Bad Debts' 2007. From South African-born Australian Peter Temple. Melbourne-based part-time debt collector, sometime lawyer and private investigator Jack Irish looks into the death of an ex-client who had turned up seeking his help. The book involves murder, dodgy property dealings, and underage pornography, all with some high-level involvement, and also too sub-plots based around the horse racing industry.Happy reading!
It's been some time since I last posted about crime fiction, November it was, in fact I last reviewed my own reads on the 7th November. So time to catch up, not another moment to be lost! I have in fact been reading away, and here I am going to mention five books I read before Christmas, and unusual enough for me, it is my second time to read one of these. That book is 'Echo Park' by American Michael Connelly, while I will also mention two books by Sweden's Hakan Nesser and a book each by Italians Andrea Camilleri and Maurizio De Giovanni. Though I missed Michael Connelly's visit to Dublin in late November, I thought it a good time to revisit his Harry Bosch series, it being some time, years even, since I had last read him. My choice was 'Echo Park' , for no particular reason other than it being ready to hand. 'Echo Park' was first published in 2006 and is the 12th in the series featuring Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch. In it a convicted killer is ready to admit to a killing thirteen years previously as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, a case Harry was involved in but which remained unsolved. Harry over the years had revisited the case time after time to see if any further progress could be made, but never to any avail, despite his resolute belief in the guilt of one particular suspect. And now this new development suggests that his long time chief suspect was innocent all along.Not the most riveting of reads this police procedural, for me it lacks a certain atmosphere and is a bit formulaic. That said the plot is well enough constructed, but character development is not very strong, Bosch included, mores the pity. Depth of character I like, but it ain't here. An ok read at best, but nothing memorable. I had given this 4 stars first time around but found myself downgrading that slightly to 3 on a second reading, maybe the result of having read a lot of superior crime novels in the interim.Next to an old favourite, Italy's Andrea Camilleri. 'The Treasure Hunt' is the 16th and latest in the wonderful Sicilian-based Inspector Salvo Montalbano series from Camilleri. In this Montalbano, after a strange incident involving a blow-up doll (!) and a shoot-out with an elderly couple (!!), receives a letter containing a riddle, the first of several that serve to mystify and intrigue him, and which instigates the "treasure hunt" of the title. He also has an avid young fan who as a student of human behaviour wants to observe Montalbano and study how his mind works in his approach to crime solving. In the main investigation, Montalbano is challenged to find a young girl who it would appear has been snatched right off the street, and her disappearance quickly gives major cause for concern. Montalbano's beautiful Swedish friend Ingrid makes an appearance here after an absence, much to the irritation of his mainland-based girlfriend Livia when Ingrid happens to answer Salvo's home phone when Livia calls. Livia's own appearances unfortunately yet again are ever so brief and only by way of a phone conversation or two. I implore upon Camilleri to feature Livia far more in the next book!The Inspector Montalbano books are in large part very different from many crime novels I come across. Far from being dark, gritty and violently graphic, as for example so many of the Nordic crime novels might tend to be, Camilleri's books are humourous, downright comic at times, generally light in tone and largely free of overtly descriptive scenes of violence. However in saying all of that, the latter stages of this story are somewhat darker than the Camilleri norm, which I have to say surprised me somewhat. And maybe disappointed me a little too if I am honest. But let me not end mention of this book on anything like a negative note! I love too in this series the quirky characters, the sense of mystery that is often prevalent, the beautiful Sicilian landscape that features so much, and the attention given to the local cuisine and the lives and lores of the local population. You can almost feel the warmth of the Sicilian sun on your skin as you read! So get reading!'I Will have Vengence' is my first encounter with Italian writer Maurizio de Giovanni, and on the basis of it I look forward to starting 'The Crocodile', which lies close to hand awaiting my attention. Commissario Ricciardi is an effective investigator, if a solitary-type figure, based in Naples in the fascist 1930s, and together with his loyal assistant Maione he investigates the murder of a famous if much disliked Italian opera singer, found dead in his dressing room during a public performance. The victim was apparently a favourite of Il Duce, so the pressure in on Ricciardi from his superiors for a speedy resolution. This of course poses a problem for Ricciardi in resolving the matter to his own satisfaction, for he is far from convinced by the solution that initially presents itself. Ricciardi is resolute in his attempts to see justice prevail, but as the complexity of events begins to unfold, you begin to wonder how that might happen. A twist in the tale is called for you feel, but is there one?Ricciardi is an enigmatic but likable character, the nature of which will add considerably to your interest level in this book. He is a wealthy aristocrat who leads a rather solitary existence, he sees the ghosts of those who have died violently, he has an admiration that borders on an infatuation for a neighbour who he has never met but who he likes to observe each evening as she sits embroidering by her window, and he wears a hairnet to bed. Furthermore, he has no time for the pretentiousness of some of those he encounters during his investigations, something that marks him out as an anti-establishment type figure, which in 1930s fascist Italy one might think could be to his disadvantage.I would have welcomed a little more of a sense of fascist Italy and Naples in the 1930s, but that is my only quibble, my being greedy. This is a relatively short, slow-paced book, but one I think you will enjoy. I know I did.The Van Veeteren series from Sweden's Hakan Nesser consists of ten titles published between 1993 and 2003. The series is set in a fictitious country, probably northern European, which differentiates Nesser from other crime writers, at least those I have read. So far all but the last book in the series have been translated into English, with some of the earlier titles translated out of sequence. The odd thing for me, and something the reader needs to be aware of, is that Chief Inspector Van Veeteren himself does not feature very much in a number of the books, from book six (The unlucky Lottery) in fact, as by then he has retired. Book nine (The Strangler’s Honeymoon, see below) does see him play a greater part, but he only makes a cameo appearance in the eight book in the series and my most recent read, 'The Weeping Girl' (publ. 2000, English transl. 2013).Instead it is Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno who features most prominently in ‘The Weeping Girl’ as she becomes involved in the case of a missing girl while she is supposedly on holidays with her boyfriend. Supposedly I say because she seems to find it very hard to drag herself away from her work, whether it be by choice or circumstance. Moreno is a dedicated, compassionate, resolute police officer who finds it difficult to subdue her curiosity and her desire to investigate. On the train journey to her holiday destination she meets a young woman who is on her way to meet her father for the first time after finding out about him on her 18th birthday. He, a former teacher, is now in a psychiatric unit having been convicted of the murder of a female student some sixteen years before, a student he had a brief affair with. Soon after meeting her father the girl goes missing, and soon after that the father too. A body soon shows up and the mystery surrounding the events present and past is too much for DI Moreno to ignore.Then too there is a sub-plot concerning a villain who has information that suggests that a colleague of Moreno’s is a paedophile, and it is this story that allows Van Veeteren to make his cameo appearance; in fact it is difficult to see what other reason the sub-plot serves, as to my mind it adds little in anything to the storyline. This sub-plot could have got a lot more attention for it has the potential to be an interesting story of itself.A further sub-plot concerns Moreno’s personal life and her difficulty in having one, probably made all the more so by her reluctance to commit. If you are expecting anything new or surprising in regards to how this aspect of the story is dealt with, don’t, you will be disappointed. The path that this particular relationship takes mirrors that of many police officer relationships in crime novels, exceptions noted.Yet there are surprises in ‘The Weeping Girl’, it is far from predictable (bar on the relationship front), and you will likely be kept guessing ‘til the end. Nesser is generally good on atmosphere and characterisation, but this book did not quite hit the heights of others such as 'Borkmanns’ Point', 'Hour of the Wolf' and 'The Strangler’s Honeymoon' (see below). Nevertheless, if a Nesser fan, I think you will enjoy it well enough.Quick on the heels of 'The Weeping Girl' is 'The Strangler's Honeymoon' , the ninth in the Van Veeteren series, and this only serves to solidify Nesser's position amongst the cream of European crime writers. His stories are invariably well plotted, intelligently constructed, perfectly paced and nicely written. And always satisfying. This one is no different. In this, a teenage girl has an affair with her mother's lover, but when she disappears and a woman is found murdered there is a race against time to find the killer before he strikes again. For it looks like he has struck before. But there is no trace of his existence, and the investigation seems to be going nowhere fast. The story starts with an event some years before, and the tie-in of events past and present is well worked. Van Veeteren himself is now retired and running his antiquarian bookshop, but when a priest who calls on his assistance falls under a train before he can actually enlighten Van Veeteren, his investigative skills are again called upon, a link having been made between the at first seemingly separate events. Van Veeteren is not your usual detective with personal troubles and a solitary lifestyle, but a character of wit, intelligence and good taste. Other characters too you will find interesting, none more so than DI Ewa Moreno, who I wanted to feature even more in the story than she in fact did. The killer is one who will send a chill down your spine, his own personal story and his coldness make certain the fact that he must be caught before more deaths ensue. This is probably the longest of the Van Veeteren novels, but your interest you will find will never wane. Enjoy, I did!'Til next time, enjoy your reading!
I've been meaning for so long to do a post or three on Irish crime fiction, and the weight of guilt for not so doing before now has finally proved enough of a catalyst to get me across that line, thankfully.But where to start? In light of the fact that the shortlist for the Irish Book Awards (IBA) "Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award" is to be announced on the 31st October, I thought I would start with a mention of what books published over the past year might find themselves in the running. I have to say in that regard that Declan Burke's 'Crime Always Pays' blog has been an invaluable jump-off point and is well worth a visit if you want to keep informed about the Irish crime fiction scene. Last year's IBA winner by the way ('Broken Harbour' by Tana French) was selected from a shortlist of six, and I will revisit last year's winner and shortlist on another occasion (and soon!).(Update: 'Irregulars' by McCarthy added, 30 Oct.)In examining the current state of Irish crime fiction writing you soon realise that it's in a pretty healthy state, with high profile writers such as John Connolly, Gene Kerrigan, Benjamin Black and Tana French being joined by several others pushing their claim for a position on the top table. Below (in no particular order) you will find mention of some of those, and over the next number of months I hope to touch more on these and some others not mentioned here.(note: title links are to the library catalogue records)------------------------- 'The Deal' by Michael Clifford (Publ. June 2013)Michael Clifford is a Dublin-based journalist and media commentator who writes for the Irish Examiner."Michael Clifford’s latest offering is a relentless, captivating story of greed, immorality, revenge and treachery playing out against the backdrop of an Ireland strangling in a recessionary hold.""Michael Clifford is steadily building a name for himself among the elite voices of Irish crime fiction."The Deal advances his claim for a seat at the top table."in review by Billy O’Callaghan, Irish Examiner, Saturday, August 03, 2013.-------------------------'The Stranger You Know' by Jane Casey (Publ. July 2013)This police procedural was recently longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. Jane Casey was twice shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award as well as the Mary Higgins Clark Award."THE STRANGER YOU KNOW is a beautifully mature outing from Jane Casey, which builds nicely on the characters and relationships of the investigating team from earlier books... a highly absorbing read." Eurocrime blog."Gripping and hugely entertaining, The Stranger You Know is peopled with richly drawn characters and the gritty realism of contemporary London." It's a crime! (Or a mystery…) Blog.-------------------------'Graveland' by Alan Glynn (Publ. May 2013)This, the concluding chapter of a loose trilogy of conspiracy thrillers, is set in New York, the previous volumes (Winterland, Bloodland) being set partly in Dublin during and after the economic boom. Alan Glynn's first novel 'The Dark Fields' (2004) was released as the movie 'Limitless' (2011) starring Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro."a gripping and cleverly constructed thriller." - Myles McWeeney, Irish independent.-------------------------'The City of Shadows' by Michael Russell (Publ. November 2012)Michael Russell is a regular contributor to the TV crime series 'Midsomer Murders' and recently scripted the last ever episodes of 'A Touch of Frost'. This, his debut novel, is set in Dublin in 1934 and was longlisted for the CWA John Creasy New Blood Dagger Award 2013."A dark, atmospheric thriller that moves from the streets of 1930’s Dublin to the streets of Danzig as the shadow of Nazism spreads. A page-turner with a real sense of history." (CWA Judges comment)-------------------------'Screwed' by Eoin Colfer (Publ. May 2013)Eoin Colfer is best known as the author of the Artemis Fowl series of books. This novel sees the return of Irish ex-pat and ex-soldier Dan McEvoy, a New Jersey bar owner, who first appeared in his debut adult crime offering, 'Plugged' (2011)."a hugely enjoyable caper... a story that reads a lot like a Coen Brothers' take on The Sopranos." Declan Burke, Irish Times"a fast-paced, witty and gritty thriller.. (with) a welcome dose of black humour and fast action." Eurocrime Blog------------------------- 'The Twelfth Department' by William Ryan (Publ. May 2013)Set in the USSR at the height of Stalin's power (1930s), this is the third in the Captain Korolev series. Previous titles in series are 'The Holy Thief' and 'The Bloody Meadow'.William Ryan was educated at Trinity College Dublin before becoming a corporate lawyer in London, though his career took a literary turn when he acquired an interest in Soviet history and politics."the balance of pungent period detail and increasingly tense plotting are handled with total authority and Korolev remains one of the most persuasively conflicted characters in crime fiction." William Ryan, UK Express"Ryan's achievement is to make his characters and their milieu so tangibly immediate that you feel you're actually in their presence." Irish Independent-------------------------'Cold Spring' by Patrick McGinley (Publ. March 2013)This crime novel is set in rural Donegal in 1948."Filled with elegiac prose, this shocking tale of moral decay that spreads from one black heart to claim everything in its path will keep readers turning the pages." Publishers Weekly"a revenge thriller, although it is considerably more complex than such novels tend to be.""a pleasingly intricate blend of ‘whodunit’ and ‘whydunit’." Declan Burke, Irish Independent-------------------------'Ratlines' by Stuart Neville (Publ. January 2013)In this thriller based on real-life events, Lieutenant Albert Ryan is called in to investigate the murder of Nazi collaborators who claimed asylum in Ireland after the Second World War. Set in ireland in 1963.Neville made the CWA Steel Dagger 2013 shortlist with 'Ratlines' (with winner to be announced on the night of the 24th October, tonight!)."an immersive, atmospheric book""The author's clean, direct prose, well-utilised research, intricate plotting and deep characterisation all add up to a seriously impressive piece of crime fiction, that lingers long in the memory" Doug Johnstone, UK Independent"a first-rate story that seizes the imagination, and never lets go." UK Daily Mail-------------------------'Holy Orders' by Benjamin Black (Publ. July 2013)Benjamin Black is the pen name of acclaimed author John Banville, winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize with 'The Sea'.This is the sixth novel in Black's Quirke Dublin series and opens with the discovery of a corpse in the canal near Leeson Street Bridge in Dublin. The series, featuring Quirke, a Dublin pathologist is set in the 1950s. The first crime novel in the series, 'Christine Falls', came out in 2006. The series is about to be adapted for BBC1 and will star Gabriel Byrne."the power wielded by the Catholic Church provides a sinister undertone to Benjamin Black’s Holy Orders" Declan Burke, Irish Times"The books are dominated by Black's brilliantly convincing picture of Dublin 60 years ago. It’s all here - the smoky pubs, the seedy buildings, the rain and the muted despair of so many of the inhabitants of this tainted world.""Few crime novelists bring such a painterly attention to detail as Black does, and few write in such limpid and expressive prose." Andrew Taylor, The Spectator-------------------------'I Hear the Sirens in the Street' by Adrian McKinty (Publ. January 2013)This is the sequel to 'The Cold Cold Ground' featuring Detective Sean Duffy. The last part of the trilogy, 'And in the Morning I'll be Gone', is due in January 2014Set in and around Carrickfergus and Belfast in Northern Ireland in 1982, it begins with the discovery of a male torso, stuffed into a suitcase, and lobbed into a skip outside a warehouse on the outskirts of Belfast!"an absorbing thriller... the sense of place and the history happening around the story adds a sense of reality to Duffy's narration." Crime Fiction Lover Blog"an enjoyable read... the background of both the Troubles and the onset of the Falklands War gives the narrative a sense of anything is possible which helps the slightly OTT action, especially towards the end." Crimepieces Blog------------------------- 'The Station Sergeant' by John McAllister (Publ. May 2013)Set in the late 1950s/early 1960s in Ballymena in Northern Ireland, it tells the story of Station Sergeant John Barlow, a complicated and intelligent man, decent and honest."The Station Sergeant is a gem. Mr. McAllister is a superb storyteller whose prose is lean and realistic, a breath of fresh air in a world of bloated crime thrillers." Sam Millar, New York Journal of Books"While not a novel likely to appeal to fans of hardcore, gritty crime, this is a book that evokes a long forgotten era and way of life, cleverly combined with the classic elements of a rip-roaring, good old fashioned whodunit." Crime Fiction Lover Blog-------------------------'The Memory Key' by Conor Fitzgerald (Publ. August 2013)This, the fourth in the Commissario Alec Blume series, features an American-born police detective now living in Rome. The author Fitzgerald himself lives in Italy. 'Fitzgerald' is in fact a pseudonym. Conor Deane is the son of the renowned Irish poet and academic, Seamus Deane.The victim is Sofia Fontana, the sole witness to a previous killing. Blume's enquiries lead from a professor with a passion for the art of memory to a hospitalised ex-terrorist whose injuries have left her mind innocently blank; from present day Rome’s criminal underclass, to a murderous train station bombing in central Italy several decades ago. (from book description)Of Fitzgerald and "The Fatal Touch" (2nd is series):"Alec Blume is an inspired creation.. Fitzgerald is an elegant, visual writer... highly recommended." UK Guardian-------------------------'The Doll's House' by Louise Phillips (Publ. August 2013)This Dublin-based psychological thriller is the second novel from Phillips. It features criminal psychologist Kate Pearson and DI O’Connor."a gripping, suspenseful story peopled with well-drawn characters" (Irish Independent, 10 August 2013)"every bit as good as her debut, 'Red Ribbons'." Writing.ie-------------------------'Purgatory' by Ken Bruen (Publ. August 2013)This is the 10th in the Galway-based (Private Detective) Jack Taylor series. The series began in 2001 with the award-winning 'The Guards'. It is now also a TV series."While the plotting is not necessarily Bruen’s main concern, I was ultimately won over by his razor sharp prose and bookish, belligerent hero in this brutal yet funny state-of-the-nation noir novel." Crime Fiction Lover Blog-------------------------'Irregulars' by Kevin McCarthy (Publ. April 2013) This is the second novel featuring former RIC man Sean O’Keefe from Kevin McCarthy. Like his first, 'Peeler' (publ. 2010), this historical crime novel is set during the Irish War of Independence (circa 1922). In this, O'Keefe finds himself in Dublin looking for a missing teenager. 'Peeler' was selected by The Irish Times as one of its Top Ten Thrillers of 2010."Like George P Pelecanos with his DC Quartet, McCarthy has made Dublin his own, populating it with heroes, shooters, spies and street urchins who look good for two decades and a dozen books, all far from The Gathering crowd." RTE Ten Book ReviewOf Peelers:"Peeler is an impressive debut novel, superb at conveying a sense of place and history, and well plotted, deftly handling changes of perspective and the finer details of the whodunnit element and the crime scene, and should appeal to fans of Philip Kerr or C J Sansom." Eurocrime blog------------------------- ps. Couldn't help noticing that 8 of the 15 books mentioned above are what you might term historical crime works or historical thrillers. Made me wonder do Irish writers seem to favour giving their stories a historical setting more so than their counterparts in other countries? A question for you!