Occasionally you read a book that takes you completely out of your comfort zone. Untouchable was one such read. It tells the story of Stella, an escort, who operates at the high end of London’s sex trade industry. She’s matter of fact about her job. She does it for the money although, from the very beginning, hints are given about a trauma in her past. When, Elisa, a fellow call girl is murdered, Stella’s initial response is simply to meet with the girl’s partner, give her condolences and not get involved any further. But there are a number of strange factors leading up to Elisa’s death that suggests her murder wasn’t by one of her clients. Stella gradually becomes drawn into the Elisa’s dark secrets and puts her own life in danger.
Untouchable is a fascinating read. The first third of the book which introduces Stella, the world within which she operates and the men who use the services of prostitutes is absolutely fascinating. Stella’s clinical approach to what she does allows the read to step outside the narrative and take an overview of the build up of tension. There are fascinate vignettes. The girls use false names and when their private and professional lives occasionally interact there’s confusion over which identity to use. Marsh could have gone down the road of using Stella’s past trauma as an excuse/easy explanation as to why she enters prostitution. It’s to the writer’s credit that it feels far more subtle than that.
Untouchable is an engrossing read and a bit different from the usual crime fiction on offer. I highly recommend it.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged Ava Marsh, Untouchable | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, my debut novel In Bitter Chill was published in the UK. It’s been a special time and I’ve only just drawn breath to write this post.
On Wednesday I was in London signing copies of my novel for the excellent Goldsboro Books. In the evening we celebrated publication at a launch party at the Faber and Faber offices in Bloomsbury. People from across the crime fiction community came to celebrate the book’s launch. I had guests from Switzerland and Greece as well as across the UK. A regular haunt for us crime fiction aficionados is Maison Bertaux in Soho. The day kicked off there with cakes and tea before moving on to the launch. There, we had more cake made by Karen Sullivan, publisher at Orenda Books. For those of us who wanted something to eat on the hottest night of the year we then moved on for a curry. Many thanks to everyone who attended: bloggers, readers, writers, translators, journalists and all crime fiction lovers. Special thanks to Katherine Armstrong, my editor at Faber and Kirsty Mclachlan, my agent, at DGA for helping bring In Bitter Chill into being.
I started Crimepieces before I became an author and I intend to keep posting my reviews here. There’s some great crime fiction out there to discuss. For those interested in the progress of my book, I have an events page and am posting quotes from reviews. All are accessible from the tabs at the top of the website. I also have a Facebook page and Twitter account that can be accessed from the links on the right.
At Maison Bertaux with friends
In the meantime, I want to thank all the regular readers of Crimepieces for their support.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged In Bitter Chill | 18 Comments »
I’m a big Lee Child fan. His books might be similar in style but I like the fact you know what to expect when you open a Jack Reacher novel. That said, some of the books are better than others which is hardly surprising in a long running series that totals nineteen novels. I picked up his latest paperback, Personal, one afternoon and read it in a day. It’s the mixture of accessible storytelling and fast pacing that makes his books so unputdownable. And I think, with this latest book, he’s back on top form.
Someone takes a long-range shot of the French president. International security services identify only four hit men in the world with the necessary skills to have carried out the attempted assassination. The US suspect is an old enemy of Jack Reacher’s and he is given the assignment of tracking the man down who is believed to have made his way to London. But protected by an Essex gang, the hit man creates a web of violent protection to prevent his whereabouts being discovered.
This isn’t the first Reacher to have been set in the UK. The Hard Way ended in the Norfolk countryside but the best Reacher books have been the ones set resolutely within the US heartlands. However, in this instance, I thought Personal’s London and Essex setting perfect for the plot. Connecting the narrative to the US is done through Reacher’s assistant, Casey, who unlike other CIA operatives has a raft of private neuroses that she keeps at bay through medication.
The plot is classic Lee Child and the execution is as professional as we have come to expect from him. All his existing fans will, I’m sure, love it.
Thanks to Transworld for my review copy.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged British crime fiction, Lee Child, Personal, The Hard Way | 5 Comments »
I’ve attended a lot of excellent events over the month of June and I’m finally doing a round-up of everything that’s happened. A lot of my time has been spent working on the sequel to In Bitter Chill and also preparing articles in advance of IBC’s publication. I’m keeping Crimepieces as my reviewing website but there are lots of updates to be found about the publication of In Bitter Chill either on the dedicated page which can be found on the tab above plus my events page. I have a backlog of reviews to complete and I have read some excellent books recently. I’ll be spending much of August catching up on my reviews.
Back to the events I’ve attend. In early June Nordicana took place at the Troxy Theatre in London’s Limehouse. Readers of Crimepieces will be aware that I’m a judge on the Petrona Award for translated Scandinavian Crime Fiction. It was in this capacity that I appeared on a panel discussing the origins of Nordic Noir with expert author Barry Forshaw along with Quentin Bates (author of Frozen Out) and Dr Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (UCL Scandinavian Studies). The event also gave me the opportunity to sign my very first copies of In Bitter Chill. A special moment. It was an excellent event and hopefully will take place again in 2016.
The following week-end was an event hosted by PFD Literary Agents to celebrate the work of writer Georges Simenon. We met the author’s son, John Simenon, who spoke movingly about his father. We were also treated to a short interview with Rowan Atkinson who will be playing Maigret in a future TV series. It should be excellent. The Maigret books are being re-released by Penguin Books with fresh translations. I managed to pick up a few copies at the event and am looking forward to reading them.
Last week-end I continued the classic crime theme with a visit to the Bodies from the Library conference. I’m also a big fan of golden age crime fiction and was an avid reader of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers as a teenager. The panels I saw were fascinating and I particularly enjoyed the presentation on locked-room mysteries. It’s a sub-genre that I’ve never really investigated and I’m determined to read more. Thanks to the organisers for an excellent event. Again, I hope to attend this event next year.
Next week, a special occasion will be taking place. My own launch of In Bitter Chill. I’ll post something on the day but thanks to all readers of Crimepieces for their support over the last few weeks. Reviewing will be back to normal by mid-July, I promise.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged Bodies from the Library, classic crime, Georges Simenon, Golden Age crime, In Bitter Chill, John Simenon, Maigret, Nordicana, PFD Literary Agents, The Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction | 8 Comments »
Gunnar Staalesen is a Norwegian author whose books haven’t had the attention that they deserve in the UK. Only a few have been translated into English leaving us with a tantalising glimpse into what looks like an excellent series. Now, however, Staalesen has a brand new English publisher, Orenda Books, and his first translation in a number of years, We Shall Inherit the Wind. It’s been worth the wait.
It’s 1998 and private investigator, Varg Veum, is at the bedside of Karin, his seriously injured girlfriend, in a Bergen hospital. Blaming himself for the attack, he takes the reader to the beginning of the story and his investigation into the disappearance of Mons Maeland. Maeland is reported missing by his wife who believes his disappearance may be connected to his desire to build a wind farm on his island. But there is already a mystery connected to the place. Maeland’s first wife disappeared in the 1980s and is believed to have drowned although no body was ever discovered. The two strands of the case come together when a body is discovered and the realities of environmental activism are revealed.
Staalesen’s greatest strength is the quality of his writing. The incidental asides and observations are wonderful and elevate the book from a straightforward murder investigation into something more substantial. It’s soberly written but compelling story of passion and revenge.
Varg Veum is rightly revered in Bergen and he fits into the classic lone investigator role. It is his personality that carries the narrative and his relationship with Karin, which is gradually recalled in loving detail as she lies mortally wounded, is a moving part of the plot.
We Shall Inherit the Wind fits well with the other books by Staalesen that have been translated into English. Despite gaps in the series, there is a sense of continuity and I can’t wait to read more of this excellent writer’s work.
Thanks to Orenda for my review copy. The translation was by Don Bartlett.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged Gunnar Staalesen, Norweigian Crime Fiction, Scandinavian Crime Fiction, The Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction, We Shall Inherit the Wind | 7 Comments »
David Lagercrantz has recently become known as the writer who will be continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. His book, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, will be published at the end of August and, I’m sure, a review will appear on this blog in due course. Meanwhile MacLehose have just published a translation of one of Lagercrantz’s earlier books Fall of Man in Wilmslow. I pushed it to the top of my reading list partly because of the focus on the death and life of Alan Turing but also because it’s set in Wilmslow, a Manchester suburb near where I grew up. I was interested to see how a Swedish writer would tackle the setting in particular. Wilmslow has distinctive identity that I think makes it hard capture in a book. And, on balance, I think he did a pretty good job.
On the 8th of June 1954, mathematician Alan Turing is found dead in his Wilmslow home having eaten an apple dipped in potassium cyanide. Turing is a convicted homosexual who has been forced to take the female hormone oestrogen as a possible ‘cure’. The coroner has no problem delivering a verdict of suicide but the policeman investigating the case, DC Leonard Corell becomes fascinated by his work and the links to the intelligence services. But as he studies Turing’s life he is increasingly under pressure by his superiors to close the investigation and concentrate on hunting out other ‘deviants’ in the Manchester area.
The life of Alan Turing is fairly well-known and he holds a particular affection amongst the people of Manchester despite the fact that it was that city that treated him so shabbily. Turing’s life, although forming a pivotal position in the narrative, nevertheless doesn’t dominate the plot. It was good to read about Turing’s end rather than his war work. It’s desperately sad and his naivety seems to have contributed to part of his downfall. The sheer grimness of suicide by poisoning is particularly well described. The focus of the plot is on Corell’s increasing obsession with Turing. His sexual identity is confused and his Marlborough and Cambridge education out of place in a suburban police force.
What I was most prepared to dislike was the Wilmslow setting, an area I know very well. It’s archetypal suburbia with a northern slant. But I thought he captured it pretty well. The road names were accurate, descriptions of the houses well done and I got the feel of an area. It’s an example that it’s a good idea to put your prejudices aside when you pick up a book. The plot is fairly slow-moving. It’s a book to be enjoyed at leisure and my main gripe would be the ending seemed a bit lame. But overall I though Lagercrantz an impressive writer.
Thanks to MacLehose for my review copy. The translation is by George Goulding.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged Swedish crime fiction, MacLehose Press, The Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction, Fall of Man in Wilmslow, David Lagercrantz | 8 Comments »
Next weekend the Troxy in Stepney, East London will be hosting a festival to celebrate Scandinavian drama and fiction. Nordicana is in its third year and promises an array of talent from prime TV shows including The Bridge’s Sofia Helin and Sofie Gråbøl, who played Sarah Lund in The Killing. The full schedule is available on the Nordic Noir TV website.
It should be an excellent two days but the highlight, for me, will be the book event that’s taking place on Saturday 6th June. Crime fiction expert, Barry Forshaw, will be discussing the origins of Nordic Noir with a panel of guests. Joining me will be Quentin Bates author of a crime fiction series set in Iceland and Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen from the UCL Scandinavian Studies department. It promises to a fascinating conversation.
Any readers of Crimepieces who want to attend are able to buy tickets for the day’s event on the Troxy’s website. However, what struck me recently was the number of readers who contact me through this blog to ask questions about Scandinavian crime fiction. I know you live all around the world; it’s absolutely fascinating to discuss this genre by e-mail so please don’t stop getting in touch. However, I thought if you wanted to post any specific questions to me, we could discuss them on the panel.
You can do this in two ways: via the comments section below which will send your question direct to me by e-mail or you can reply to this post so other readers can see what you’re interested to learn. I’ll be giving a prize for the best question. Scandinavian crime fiction related. So do let me know if you’d like to ask the experts something.
Otherwise, bring your questions along on the day. See you there.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged Nordic Noir, Nordicana, Scandinavian Crime Fiction, The Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction | 3 Comments »