Four translated crime novels: Fred Vargas, Steinar Bragi, Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Agnes Ravatn

With the launch of A Deadly Thaw, I’m falling a little behind with my reviews and I’ve read some great books recently. So for my next few reviews, I’ll cluster the books into groups  – translated crime novels, British crime fiction and some more ghostly tales.

51dWXz1LAoL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_First up, is A Climate of Fear by one of my favourite crime writers, Fred Vargas. I absolutely love her detective Adamsberg and also the way in which Vargas looks at the world. I find her output variable but still always look forward to her latest offering. A Climate of Fear  is set both in France and Iceland and, if not her best, it’s an excellent read and a well-plotted mystery. There’s less emphasis on Adamsberg’s personal life and more on the series of gruesome murders centred around a modern day cult devoted to Robespierre. In both style and subject matter this is classic Vargas. The translation is by Sian Reynolds.

41wQKF6SYYL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_On contrast to Vargas, Steinar Bragi is a completely new writer to me. The Ice Lands isn’t out until the 20th October but I was sent a very early review copy in July. Set in the wilds of Iceland, it narrates the disorientation of four friends on a camping trip whose car breaks down and who are forced to seek shelter in a nearby farmhouse. Butchered animals, shadows seen at night and merciless weather combine to make a dark horror-style read. Perfect for fans of Stephen King. The translation is by Lorenza Garcia.

9781473605053Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a consistently good writer whose books have a tinge of the supernatural about them. Why Did You Lie has three storylines, revolving around punishment for a lie that different characters have committed in the past. A journalist investigating an old case attempts suicide, a couple returning from a house swap discover that their guests are missing and four strangers are trapped on windswept rocks. You can’t go wrong in Yrsa’s hands and it’s a compelling tale.The translation is by Victoria Cribb.

9781910633359The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn is set on an isolated fjord where a former TV person presenter, Allis, seeks refuge with a recently widowed man. Isolated from other villagers the book explores the dynamic of the relationship as secrets are gradually revealed. The writing reminds me of that of Karen Fossum and it’s a joy to read. The translation is by Rosie Hedger.

Review: OxCrimes

I like short stories. I remember reading a lot of them when I was a teenager, although those with a crime theme were less popular Oxcrimes-Bookthen. More recently there have been a number of good anthologies containing stories from across the crime fiction genre. In particular, I always enjoy Otto Penzler’s annual anthology of The Best American Mystery Stories. Last week, Oxfam published its own compilation containing 27 stories from an impressive list of crime writers. OxCrimes authors include Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman, Anne Zouroudi, Ann Cleves and Peter Robinson.

There are a couple of stories in particular I’d like to recommend. I’ve read very little by Christopher Fowler but I loved his story, The Caterpillar Flag. Set in Spain, it has a brooding feel and relates a tragedy seen through innocent eyes. Another story set in Europe is Reflections in Unna by Louise Welsh. It’s an overtly menacing tale with a strong sense of impending doom and written in her trademark compelling style. Finally, OxCrimes features one of my favourite crime writers, Fred Vargas. Her story, Five Francs Each, has Commissaire Adamsberg trying to persuade a down-at-heel street seller to give up the identity of a murderer.

There are many more readable stories and it is a tribute to the excellent work that Oxfam undertakes that it has managed to get so many high quality crime writers to contribute to it.

My anthology was from Oxfam bookshop in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Run by Lynsey and the team, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’re in Derbyshire you should definitely pay it a visit.

With previous books ‘OxTravels’ and ‘OxTales’ having raised over a quarter of a million pounds since their 2009 publication, Oxfam is hoping ‘OxCrimes’ will raise even more, helping to tackle poverty and suffering around the world. Visit Oxfam’s emergency Response pages to find out more about how you can help.