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 David Lagercrantz, Fall of Man in Wilmslow, MacLehose Press, Swedish crime fiction, The Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction | 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 »
I read Shallow Waters, the debut novel by Rebecca Bradley, over a month ago and enjoyed it. It’s taken me an age to review simply because of the amount of time I’ve been dedicating to my second book, the sequel to In Bitter Chill. It’s eaten into my reading time and has also meant I’m behind on writing reviews of books that I have read. However, as my own novel has now been sent to an early reader, I’m using the time to catch up.
Shallow Waters is set in Nottingham where a young girl is found murdered in an alleyway. When another girl is killed, detectives working on the murder investigation, led by DI Hannah Robbins, embark on a hunt for the murderer under the full glare of media scrutiny. Progress is slow and the manner of deaths horrifying. The race is on to prevent more victims of the terrifying crimes.
Bradley is an ex-murder detective and brings a wealth of her knowledge to the story. Shallow Waters is solidly in the police procedural genre. I don’t read as many of these types of crime novels these days and it was good to return to this style of writing with a book that contains such a wealth of detail. It’s a fairly harrowing read because of the subject matter and the focus on the police investigation helps to mitigate the horror of some of the story.
This is a strong debut from a writer who clearly knows the realities of working on a murder investigation and it is very well plotted. I hope it’s the first in a series as Hannah Robbins has an interesting back story and plenty more to give to a crime story.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged British crime fiction, Rebecca Bradley, Shallow Waters | 18 Comments »
I was in two minds whether to review this book. It’s not a crime novel although it does have elements of a psychological or domestic thriller. What made up my mind was how strongly I want to recommend the book. It’s a very powerful and dark read and had a profound effect on me after I’d finished it.
Anna Benz is an American who now lives with her husband and three young children in Dietlikon, a suburb of Zurich. Although perhaps not as wealthy as some of the other inhabitants, Anna has what might be considered to be a perfect expat lifestyle. Except in the nine years that she has lived in Switzerland she hasn’t learnt German and feels isolated from the rest of the community. At her therapist’s suggestion she enrolls in a language class and embarks on an affair with Archie, one of her fellow students. As the story develops, we uncover Anna’s past indiscretions and how risks taken in the past and present can devastate a family.
Hausfrau is a powerful read. I found myself unable to put it down but was helped by the choppy narrative structure. This allows the reader some breathing space in what could be quite a grim read. The character of Anna is one of the reasons that the book is so powerful. She’s both passive in the infidelities that she follows and yet clearly has a strong self-contained personality. There’s a significant sexual element to the story. But this is no confessions of a bored housewife. There’s a sense of impending doom that makes for a compulsive read.
The book was recommended to me by a publicist who knows I review crime books. And I can see why. There are some complex characters and the story is a dark, harrowing tale. I’d highly recommend it to all readers.
Posted in Reviews | Tagged HAusfrau, Jill Alexander Essbaum | 12 Comments »