The Best of July’s Reading

CalverFor crime fiction readers and writers the month of July is dominated by the Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. The weather was perfect and I had a wonderful time catching up with old and new friends. A summary of the days can be found here and here.

My reading slowed down a little because of work commitments but at least there wasn’t a bad book amongst the ones that I did read. I’m trying to alternate between Scandinavian crime fiction for the Petrona Award and everything else I want to read. My book of the month is one of the submissions for the Petrona. Cold Courage by Pekka Hiltunen was an unusual and creepy read and it was fascinating to read about London through the eyes of an expat.

The five books I read for crimepieces were:

1.  Scafell by Matthew Pink

2. Someone to Watch over Me by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

3. Redemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen

4. Cold Courage by Pekka Hiltunen

5. The Innocence Game by Michael Harvey

To view the pick of the month from other crime fiction readers, head over to Mysteries in Paradise which has a useful round up reviewers choices.

Review: Redemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen

JussiAfter Mercy and Disgrace, we have a new offering from Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. Redemption is the third novel in the Department Q series featuring cold case detective Carl Mørck. He is asked to investigate an old and decayed message that has been found in a bottle. Forensic examination indicates that it was written using human blood and, by painstakingly deciphering the jumble of legible letters still on the note, the team realise that they are reading a cry for help from two young boys.

The kidnapping and murder of children is always a difficult subject to write about well. The writer cleverly juxtaposes the cold case with the latest attempts by the kidnapper to ingratiate himself into a family to kidnap the children. This means that we get the immediacy of a real-time sequence of events with a more reflective investigation into a strange and disturbing message in a bottle.

The character of the kidnapper is given plenty of depth. A disturbed childhood dominated by religious mania has repercussions for minor religious sects later in life. I think more could have been made of the close religious communities that we get glimpses of. Their claustrophobic way of life means that, when harm is done to them, they shy away from involving the police and other representatives of authority and prefer to rely on the help of those in their small circle of acquaintances. This allows the presence of a serial killer in Denmark to go unnoticed for a significant period of time.

Carl Mørck keeps a relatively low profile in this book and I actually preferred the present day kidnapping  mystery although the message in the bottle gives a poignancy to the narrative that hangs over the whole book. The novel is a compelling and strange read and highly recommended to anyone who wants to read something a little different to the usual Scandinavian crime fiction fare.