Iceland Noir #1

IMG_0828Reykjavik is currently hosting its first festival of crime fiction, Iceland Noir, an idea conceived by the Icelandic brach of the Crime Writers Association at their inaugural meeting in June during Crimefest. To have pulled together an event of this scale in such a short period of time has been a huge achievement and the event had a great start yesterday with the opening session featuring Norweigian writer Jorn Lier Jorst.

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a fan of Horst’s writing and my only regret is that his books have been translated from mid-series onwards so we’re missing a huge amount of backstory in relation to his main protagonist, William Wisting. Yeserday, the writer was interviewed by his Icelandic translator, Sigurdur Helgason, who questioned him about both his crime IMG_0833fiction and children’s books. Like other crime writers I’ve seen interviewed, he cites the influence of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö on his work and had originally intended to write ten books in his own series. However, having just written his ninth book, he now intends to continue with William Wisting. Until a few months ago, Horst was a serving police investigator and the in-depth knowledge he has accumulated over the course of his career was touched upon. According to the writer, he has seen an increase in both violent and organised crime with less people employed to investigate cases.

What I thought fascinating was that despite his police background, Horst cited his love of crime fiction as one of the reasons he started writing in the genre. It’d always a relief to hear a writer say he loves to read crime novels and interestingly, like me, he came to the genre via the books of Enid Blyton and those featuring Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

In the evening, I attended a reading featuring writers Quentin Bates, Ann Cleeves and Jorn Lier Horst, along with other IMG_0838Icelandic authors such as Ragnar Jonasson who are yet to be translated into English. It was an enjoyable event and it was wonderful to hear the rhythm of readings in a language I can’t understand. Special mention goes to Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson who I met earlier in the day. I read and reviewed his excellent Flatey Enigma last year on the recommendation of  the late Maxine Clarke at Petrona. Meeting him has reminded me that I need to catch up with the rest of the series. Good to catch up too with fellow blogger Sue G from Novel Heights and her husband Jim.

Thanks to everyone for all their hard work in making Day 1 such as success.

The Best of October’s Reading

I finally managed to get my reading mojo back in October, helped in part by a five day trip to Finland which gave me plenty of IMG_0813opportunity to catch up on all those books I’d been meaning to try. This, and my forthcoming trip to Iceland Noir, accounts for the overwhelming Scandinavian bias of my reading. My book of the month is in fact by an American author, Elizabeth Hand. Available Dark, however, is set in Finland and Iceland and provides a creepy and disturbing tale which, if you read the comments on the review, has split opinion amongst readers.

I already have a few books under my belt to review in November and I promise a wider geographical spread this month.

The six books I read for crimepieces were:

Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand

Closed for Winter by Jorn Lier Horst

Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel

The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund

Death of the Demon by Anne Holt

Police by Jo Nesbo

As usual, the pick of the month for crime fiction reading is being collated by Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise. The photo above was taken at the launch of Iceland Noir at the Icelandic Embassy in London. Also present were wonderful bloggers Ayo Onatade from Shots and Steph from Crime Thriller Girl. Do check out their blogs if you get a chance.

Review: Jorn Lier Horst – Closed for Winter

Jclosed for winterorn Lier Horst’s Dregs acquired a number fans when it was published in 2012 including Maxine Clarke at the Petrona blog. It is sad to note that Lier Horst’s second book to be translated into English, Closed for Winter, has been submitted as an entry for the 2014 Petrona Award for Translated Scandinavian Crime Fiction which was set up in Maxine’s memory. Dregs picked up the story of police inspector William Wisting more or less mid series and the publishers have made the wise decision to translate the books forward from this point so that there is continuity in the narrative.

Ove Bakkerud arrives at his summer cottage in the middle of winter to discover that it has been ransacked after a burglary. Checking the neighbouring properties, he discovers the body of a man beaten to death. William Wisting investigates the case which is complicated by the presence of his daughter living in a cottage near to the scene of the murder. When more deaths follow, he travels to Lithuania to follow the trail of what is clearly more than a burglary gone wrong.

Lier Horst has recently retired as a senior investigating officer in the Vestfold police district. As in the previous novel, his experience in investigating crime comes through clearly on the page and the reader is often treated to small snippets of why the investigation proceeds in a particular way. This makes for a solid police procedural with a strong emphasis on the method by which crimes are solved.

Wisting is an attractive character, grieving for his dead wife but happy with a new partner. His relationship with his journalist daughter, Line, which was one of the highlights of Dregs, is explored further here.  I wasn’t was enamoured of the ending as some other reviewers but overall the book was an excellent read. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the series when Lier Horst speaks at the Iceland Noir event.

Thanks to Sandstone Press for my review copy. The translation was by Anne Bruce.

Iceland Noir

Poster Iceland NoirThere are a raft of crime fiction events that take place around the UK and we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to attend. However, I often cast envious eyes towards other crime writing events around the world, especially Bouchercon in the US and The Body in the Garden in Australia as they often include writers who don’t make it over here. For once, I’ve found it impossible to resist an event: Iceland Noir which is taking place in Reykjavik between the 21st and 24th November.

The king of Icelandic crime fiction is, of course, Arnaldur Indridason and he is the special guest of honour at the festival. Also appearing are some of the best of Iceland’s writers including Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jonasson and Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson. All of these authors have had their novels reviewed on this blog with the exception of Ragnar Jonasson whose books are yet to be translated into English. I was lucky enough to read the first six chapters of his novel ‘Snowblind’ which is currently only available in Icelandic or German. Fingers crossed that he gets a British publisher soon.

Other writers attending the event include Ann Cleeves, Jorn Lier Horst and Willian Ryan. The full itinerary can be found here. There are limited places available so if you’re tempted now’s the time to book. I have already booked mine. It promises to be a special event.