Review: Paul Harrison – Revenge of the Malakim

Paul Harrison is a retired police officer who has worked on a number of high profile cases. His debut novel, Revenge of the Malakim, is the first in a series described as ‘The Grooming Parlour Trilogy.’ This title gives an insight into the horror that is to come. Set in Bridlington in East Yorkshire, DCI Will Scott is called to a murder scene where a man has been brutally tortured. It becomes clear that the victim was  responsible for horrendous child abuse cases and, as authorities close rank, Scott has to investigate a murder where sympathies are divided.

I’ve read an interview with the author who mentions that the serial killer within the pages of Revenge of the Malakim is based on real life murderers he has met in the course of his work. He uses his experience to pull the reader into the story and the subject is tackled with sensitivity to the victims. There’s a strong sense of evil in the book and the murders are described graphically. This might not be to everyone’s taste but is realistic given the author’s background and the revelation that the killer is likely to be a victim of the child abuser. There’s a fair amount of descriptive prose at the beginning of the book which sets out the background to the Will Scott the but once the narrative gets going, it’s an interesting story on how the legacy of abuse can explode into violence.

Malakim incidentally is part of the Judaic hierarchy of angels. Harrison describes his as employed by God to wreak destruction on mortals who intentionally harm children. It’s an interesting subject and I enjoyed doing some background reading on angels in Judaism.

Nordic Noir Giveaway

I’m travelling down to meet my fellow judges today to select the shortlist for the 2017 Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction. To celebrate this exciting event, I’m giving away some Nordic Noir titles. To enter all you need to do is subscribe to my newsletter by clicking on the image below.

The newsletter is sent out quarterly and contains book news and giveaways. My spring newsletter will be coming at the end of the month and there will be more Scandi titles to be won. If you’ve already subscribed to the newsletter, it’s not a problem. Just leave a comment below telling me who your favourite Nordic writer is and I’ll enter you into the competition.

I’ll select the winner at 6pm on Sunday. The competition is open to Scandi fans worldwide. Good luck!

 ***This competition is now closed. Congratulations to the winner, Sian Dennis***

Three Psychological Thrillers – Emma Flint, Ali Land and CL Taylor

Psychological thrillers are hugely popular at the moment although regular readers of my reviews will spot that they don’t feature often on Crimepieces. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that they tend to get pushed to one side by all my other reading commitments. However, an event at Waterstones in Liverpool and an early proof of CL Taylor’s next book gave me the opportunity to indulge in this genre.

Little Deaths is Emma Flint’s debut and has recently been long listed for the Bailey’s Prize. It’s the story of Ruth Malone who comes under suspicion of killing her two children by authorities who disapprove of her lifestyle choices. Based on the true life story of Alice Crimmins who was imprisoned for a similar crime, Flint looks at collusion between newspapers and police, the attitude towards women who don’t fit into ideals of motherhood and how an injustice can result in a woman’s imprisonment. The book is beautifully written and perfectly balances the story of the crime and wider social issues.

Motherhood is also a feature of Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land. However, the mother is a serial killer whose daughter, Annie, shops to the police. Annie is fostered and becomes Milly, staying with her counsellor as she awaits her mother’s trial. The book is an exploration of how childhood abuse leaves its mark on a person and, as Milly’s court appearance approaches, the tension ramps up as the full extent of this damage is revealed. Good Me Bad Me is a compelling story that I read in almost one sitting. It was literally unputdownable.

The Escape is CL Taylor’s fourth book but my first read by this author. It’s a great example of how tension can be gradually ratched up to make an enthralling denouement. A stranger who asks Jo Blackmore for a lift in her car reveals she knows Jo’s husband, Max, and has a glove belonging to their daughter, Elise. What follows is a nightmarish scenario where Jo’s assessment of the danger she is in is ignored and she comes under suspicion of kidnaping her own daughter. Like with all the best thrillers, you’re rooting for the protagonist and desperate to know how the plot ends.

Three great examples of how alive and diverse the genre is and a refreshing change from my usual crime reads.

Review: Anthony Horowitz – Magpie Murders

51rcyrensjlIt’s not often I ask for a crime novel for Christmas. There are always plenty to read in this house but I had my eye on Anthony Horowitz’s new book Magpie Murders which I hadn’t yet managed to read. There’s a trend at the moment towards traditional ‘golden age’ style mysteries written in a contemporary style. Martin Edwards has written a very good piece on why golden age is popular again. He himself has played a huge part in resurrecting the genre and in a post-Brexit world it can be a great escape to immerse yourself in a very contained world.

Magpie Murders is a difficult plot to summarise as it’s effectively a book within a book structure. The novel opens with editor Susan Ryeland beginning to read the new novel by one of her authors, Alan Conway. Readers love his detective Atticus Pünd although it looks like ‘Magpie Murders’ will be his last outing as Conway has given his protagonist a fatal illness. Ryeland (and us readers) then read the manuscript of the book and realise that the last few chapters are missing. Susan attempts to track down the missing pages, a task looking increasingly unlikely.

It can be difficult to effectively integrate two distinct narratives within a book and Horowitz does this successfully by making the stories different in tone and style. At first reluctant to leave the London ouvre of Susan Ryland, I became engrossed in the mystery that Atticus Pünd sets out to solve in Saxby-on-Avon. In fact, Pünd is the most interesting character in the book and could easily hold a set of novels on his own merits.

Horowitz has great fun with the book within a book theme. There are fake quotes from writers such as Ian Rankin, Matthew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson makes an appearance talking about the fictional writer and there’s an interview between Horowitz and his creation right at the end. For someone who shies away of books about writers and the publishing industry (it can feel quite incestuous given that I spend a significant amount of time interacting with this in real life) I thought the book was a fantastic read. Well done to Horowitz for doing something a bit different with the crime novel.

Review: Tana Collins – Robbing The Dead

tana-flyerI’ve been looking forward to the publication of this book as I first read the manuscript in its early stages after meeting the author on an Arvon course. It’s always interested to see what a writer has done in the revision process and Robbing The Dead, which was published last week, is a gritty addition to Tartan noir.

An RAF squaddie is killed and his girlfriend is convinced he has been caught up in a feud between locals and military stationed at the base. DI Jim Carruthers is trying to unpick the case but when a lecturer’s car is bombed and the academic can’t be found, events take a darker turn.

Robbing The Dead is a tense,  well-written police procedural which adroitly uses the Fife setting to show how tensions can fester for years. The book is a start of a new series and there’s plenty of mileage left in Caruthers and I can’t wait to read the next offering from Collins.

Nordic Noir round-up: Helen Tursten, Gunnar Staalesen & Katja Kettu

Apologies for the lack of reviews on Crimepieces in the last two weeks. As well as promoting  the publication of the paperback of A Deadly Thaw, I’ve also been proofreading the next book in the series, A Patient Fury,  which is out in September. This hasn’t stopped me reading, however, and I’m finally catching up with my reviews.

First up is a summary of the Nordic books I’ve read.

51l2hlts9l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Helene Tursten is a Swedish writer who isn’t as well known in the UK as she deserves to be. Her novels, featuring detective Irene Huss, are well plotted police procedurals that, in the finest Scandi tradition, also draw readers into the personal lives of the characters.

In her latest book,  Who Watchetha man is stalking his women victims and sending them gifts before strangling them. An early victim who survived the attacks remembers his unpleasant smell but nothing else. Huss is also being persecuted by a cyber stalker who is unhappy with Huss’s involvement in an earlier case. It’s been a while since I read Tursten and I think she’s one of the best Nordic writers around. The prurient nature of the killings is never overdone and Who Watcheth is enhanced by a finale that isn’t overly dramatic. The  translation is by Marlaine Delargy.

whererosesneverdie300Another favourite writer of mine is Gunnar Staalesen. His latest book, Where Roses Never Diefeatures the resurrection of an investigation into the disappearance of a missing girl and the social dynamics of a small housing estate in the 1970s. Staalesen’s detective, Varg Veum, is in a sorry state, drinking heavily and forced to take on cases he would normally reject.

As we expect from Staalesen, social issues are combined with a fine murder plot but the multi layers of the deception that’s revealed makes Where Roses Never Die his best book yet. The translation is by Don Bartlett.

51gues2nt2l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Finally, I read in January an unusual and thought-provoking novel by a Finnish writer, Katja Kettu. In The Midwife, a woman unflatteringly named Weird-Eye by the small community where she delivers babies meets Johannes, a war photographer working for the SS. She takes a job as a nurse in a nearby prison camp to be near him but gets drawn into the mechanics of the surroundings as the war’s end draws near.

It’s a difficult book to review as I was completely captivated by the language of the story which must have been a joy to translate. The prose is earthy and brutal, describing a period in time where survival is a result of stamina, circumstance and finding a place in the community and landscape. I knew little of the stationing of German troops in northern Finland and the Lapp setting is woven into the narrative. The timeline makes for some challenging reading with the occasional inclusion of superfluous official documents but the story of Weird Eye is unique and moving. The excellent translation is by David Hackston.


Paperback Publication Day

a-deadly-thaw-paperbackThe paperback of A Deadly Thaw is published today in the UK. It has a brand new cover by Faber Books and looks very chilling. I’ve already seen it on the shelf at two bookshops, the fabulous Simply Books in Bramhall and Pengwern Books in Shrewsbury. I’ll also see it tonight at Urmston Books in Manchester where I’m doing an event.

Thanks to everyone who has supported A Deadly Thaw and continues to visit Crimepieces for book reviews and news.

To say thank you, I’m giving away two prizes.

The first is a signed and dedicated copy of both In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw. The second is a copy of the paperback and audio of A Deadly Thaw. To enter, simply fill in your name and e-mail address and the name of your favourite British crime writer. As usual, your e-mail addresses will only be used for this competition and to receive my quarterly newsletter. I’ll draw the winners on Sunday evening.








** This competition is now closed. The winners are being notified and will be announced here soon! **




Review: Sheena Kamal – Eyes Like Mine

cover104801-smallI was sent Eyes Like Mine on Friday morning and was struck by its beautiful cover. By Friday night, I’d finished it. Regular readers of the blog will know how much I love translated crime fiction but I’m also a fan of the American PI genre. I read Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller and Sara Paretsky in my late teens and I absolutely loved them.  Eyes Like Mine is isn’t an American PI book. It’s written by a Canadian debut novelist, Sheena Kamal, and is set in and around Vancouver. Neither is the protagonist, Nora Watts, a private investigator. Rather she works for a PI company doing research and acting as a personal assistant. However, there’s a feel to this book of the early Paretskys and Graftons and I absolutely loved it.

Nora March was subjected to a brutal rape fifteen years earlier and gave up the child, Bonnie, for adoption. However Bonnie’s adopted parents track her down to say the girl had been looking for her real parents and has now gone missing. Drawn into the lives of the family, Nora discovers it’s not as simple as a teenager who has gone off the rails but some serious security employees are also searching for the girl for reasons which are unclear.

Written in the first person, the reader engages with Nora from the outset although her story is only revealed in increments. The sticker on the front of the book compares her to Lisbeth Salander which I can understand but I feel sells the character short. Kamal has come up with an unusual and engaging character that is uniquely her own. Nora carries a plot which could veer into unbelievably with panache and there’s a page-turning thrilling element to the narrative.

The pace ramps up considerably towards the latter part of the book but, for a debut writer, Kamal steers clear of neat or soppy endings. There’s plenty of mileage left in Nora and it’s good to hear that a sequel is in the offing. This could be my book of the year and it’s only January.

Eyes Like Mine  is out on the 9th February.


Nordic Noir Round-Up

My Nordic reading continues for both The Petrona Award and for Granite Noir where I’ll be interviewing three Scandi authors: Kristina Ohlsson, Kati Hiekkapelto and Gunnar Staalesen.

9781509809486chameleon-peopleChameleon People is the fourth book in the series featuring detective Kolbjorn ‘K2’ Kristiansen and his trusted advisor Patricia. As usual Lahlum mixes Golden Age writing style and plot structure  with political intrigue, in this case Norway’s 1972 vote on whether to join the EEC. It’s a substantial book and I enjoyed the fact that K2 has to investigate the case largely by himself due to Patricia’s antipathy towards his girlfriend, Miriam, and her own love life. Lahlum’s style is distinctive and I suspect you’re either a fan of this writer or you’re not. I always look forward to each new novel. The translation is by Kari Dickson.

41mxo4kt01l-_sx322_bo1204203200_Kati Heikkapelto writes books of a consistently high quality and The Exiled is no exception. Her protagonist, Anna Fekete, has returned to the Serbian village of her birth for a holiday but, after her bag is snatched and the perpetrator found drowned, she is dragged into an investigation that throws up questions about her own father’s death decades earlier. Probably Hiekkapelto’s best book to date, The Exiled  looks with insight and compassion at the lot of displaced people migrating through Europe and depressingly familiar attitudes to Roma. The translation is by David Hackston.

unwantedKristina Ohlsson is a security police analyst in Sweden and her books clearly reflect her in-depth knowledge of  criminal investigations. Unwanted  was her first book, published in English translation in 2011. A child is abducted on the Stockholm underground and initially the girl’s family comes under suspicion. In the finest tradition of Swedish crime fiction, the case is solved through meticulous team work, in this case by Investigative Analyst Fredrik Bergman and detectives Peder Rydh and Alex Recht. The subject matter makes it a shocking read which is balanced by the sobriety of police investigation. The translation is by Sarah Death.

I’m in the middle of two other Scandi books. The Midwife by Katja Kettu (on my kindle) and Who Watcheth by Helen Tursten. Reviews of these and more Nordic Noir coming soon…

Review: Maurizio de Giovanni – Viper

aa589d44bcbf750eb532944b45020caa-w2041xDaniela at Europa Editions has been kind enough to send me a few books by Maurizio de Giovanni to review which I’m finally getting around to. I’ve had my eye on the series for a while as the premise is fascinating. Commissario Ricciardi is a 1930s Naples detective with an unerring ability to see the last few moments before a victim’s death. Naturally his ‘gift’ isn’t sufficient to reveal the murderer but it does allow Riccardi to gain an insight into the victim’s state of mind before their death.

Viper is the sixth book in the series. In a high class brothel, a renowned prostitute is discovered, suffocated with a pillow. Some of her clients are well known Neapolitan residents and Ricciardo has to cut through the reticence of the brothel’s habitués as well as fellow sex workers to unearth the culprit.

As a murder story, the plot is straightforward and single stranded although it is well thought out. Suspects are tracked down and interviewed and the past of the dead girl, known as Viper, is disected. The straightforward plot allows de Giovanni to explore the characters of Ricciardo and his family and colleagues. Ricciardo is the subject of amorous attention from two women, the glamorous Livia who has relocated from Rome to Naples to be near him and Enrica who is learning Neapolitan cooking from Ricciardo’s grandmother, Rosa, as a means to gain Ricciardo’s attention. Unlike most literary love triangles this one has real bite and is clearly set to continue.

I found the description of thirties Naples as fascinating as the mystery. The killing takes place a week before Easter and we’re treated to descriptions of Italian Holy Week customs and food preparations. De Giovanni is a fantastic discovery and I’m looking forward to reading the series from the start as there’s plenty here to enthral the reader.