Four recent e-book reads: Kevin Wignall, Margot Kinberg, Christina Philippou & Alan M A Friedmann

I’ve recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite to replace the first generation kindle that has lain unused in my desk drawer for years. To be honest, the new version isn’t much different to the old except for the touch screen and the light that I can use to read in bed. It has, however, prompted me to read some authors whose books were either easier to find on kindle or had been sitting on my e-reader for a while.

27810589First up was Kevin Wignall whose A Death in Sweden I’d heard great things about. It has a cracking opening chapter: a bus crash where one of the victims, Jaques Fillon, is proved never to have existed despite living in plain sight a small rural community in northern Sweden. A former CIA hitman, Dan Henricks, is asked to uncover Fillon’s real identity. However, former colleagues are being assassinated and Henricks is both hunter and hunted. I have a penchant for well-written spy thrillers and this one definitely fits the bill.  Wignall doesn’t fall into the Brits in Scandinavia trap. Descriptions of the landscape serve to push along the narrative not hinder it with needless prose and I enjoyed the taut narrative.

pasttensekinbergMargot Kinberg is one of the most popular US crime fiction bloggers and her website, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, is the best around. I reviewed one of earlier books, Publish or Perish, a few years ago and I was delighted to see that she had a new novel out. Past Tense once more takes place at Tilton University where former detective turned professor, Joel Williams, investigates the discovery of bones on a construction site. Kinberg’s books are examples of how American mysteries don’t have to fit in the ‘noir’ or ‘cosy’ category. Past Tense is an excellent tale with a disturbing crime at its core and a perfect winter read.

29502191Christina Philippou is a debut author whose book,  Lost in Static, has an interesting premise. There are four different versions of one story. Who is telling the truth?  Philppou has an strong writing style. To differentiate the characters she switches from first person to third and from present tense to past. The subject matter is hard-hitting and like Doug Johnstone’s recent novel, I enjoyed the protagonists being younger than you normally read. Phlippou is a talented writer who has a promising career ahead.

32710813‘Cosy’ is a term that comes with a variety of connotations but they can be great fun to read. Alan MA Friedman (the nom de plume of a writing duo) describe their debut novel, The Sorrowful Woman, as ‘Tartan Blanc’. Julia Flowers is an Oriental antique specialist who investigates the death of a former diplomat. The tone of the book is light-hearted and humorous and there’s good balance between the professional detective, Inspector Bland and Julia, the enthusiastic amateur. There’s a strong Scottish sense of place to the setting and The Sorrowful Woman is an enjoyable start to what I’m sure will be a great new series.

Can you recommend any e-books for my next kindle reads?


Crime Fiction News

There’s been a bit of a buzz amongst bloggers in relation to bits of crime fiction news and, although late to the party (as usual), I wanted to help promote some of the events, launches and information.


Firstly, the wonderful Margot Kinberg over at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist has edited an anthology of crime fiction short stories entitled In a Word: Murder.  All proceeds will be donated to the Princess Alice Hospice, in memory of Maxine Clarke who blogged at the Petrona website. Maxine was a friend to many of us reviewers and writers and her incisive and objective reviews are much missed by us all. Even now I often find myself wondering what Maxine would have thought of a particular book. The collection includes a short story by me which I hope she’d have enjoyed.

If you are able to download and read the book, and promote the anthology  in any way possible it would be much appreciated . The hospice movement here in the UK is one of our hidden gems and provides a fantastic service to the sick and their families.

CWA60To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Crime Writers Association, the organisation commissioned a poll amongst its members to to determine the ‘Best Ever’ author, novel and series as voted for by members of the CWA. The results were are follows:

Best Ever Novel: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
Best Ever Series: Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
Best Ever Author: Agatha Christie

Some bloggers have pointed out the fairly predictable nature of the result: Rich at Past Offences, in particular, posted a thoughtful critique of the findings. The result more or less reflects my vote, except I chose Agatha Christie’s Crooked House as my favourite book. I have read many more wonderful writers over the thirty odd years I’ve devoured crime fiction but it was Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle who introduced me to the genre and I could reread all the stories today with much pleasure.

Finally, a supporter of this blog, Moira over at Clothes in Books has a regular slot over at the Guardian Books Blog. Although not just focusing on crime fiction, her posts are always interesting and her latest one, on food in fiction can be found here. I’d recommend you take a look.

Academic Mysteries: Margot Kinberg and Hillary Waugh

It’s been a while since I did a classic crime post but I picked up three second-hand books by American writer Hillary Waugh recently at a book stall, attracted as much by the covers as the crime stories. The first one I picked up to read Last Seen Wearing is a murder set on a university campus in Bristol, Massachusetts. By coincidence, I recently read the first novel by Margot Kinberg who blogs at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. Margot’s blog features daily posts, killer quizzes and thoughtful ‘In the Spotlight’ reviews. Margot’s book, Publish or Perish is set in the fictional Tilton University and features a tale of academic infighting and intrigue.

Hillary Waugh started writing in 1947 and achieved critical acclaim with his 1952 book Last Seen Wearing in which he used his fiancée’s experiences as a student at Smith College as the basis of his book. Marilyn Lowell Mitchell is an eighteen year old freshman at Parker College who goes missing on Friday 3rd March, 1950 after attending a history class. What follows is a classic police procedural where evidence is slowly and painstakingly collected until a picture emerges of the girl’s last movements.

Much of the detection work revolves around the discovery of Marilyn’s diary and the investigation focuses on whether the girl had a secret lover. In this respect, the book is startlingly modern, as Marilyn’s loss of virginity is discussed along with the possibilities of an accidental pregnancy and subsequent abortion. Chief of the local police Frank W. Ford narrows the list down to 47 men who could be guilty which includes local doctors who could have acted as abortionists and boys Marilyn has dated. Only by meticulously working through this list does the culprit become apparent.

The book is a good solid police procedural that must have influenced the later books of Ed McBain. It was interesting to read of the attitudes towards pregnancy and abortion in 1950s polite society, and interestingly the compassion of the police towards the victim who falls from respectability.

Publish or Perish is set in a present day American University, featuring the death of Nick Merrill a third-year graduate student on the cusp of being awarded a fellowship. He has a complications in his love life with girlfriend at home and an affair at work with a woman on the Committee that has awarded him the fellowship. He also has colleagues jealous of his appointment and a supervisor with eyes on the teaching tool that Nick’s developed called ‘Learn It!!!’. When Nick’s body is found one evening, apparently the victim of concussion after a fall, Joel Williams a former detective and now college professor decides to dig around the circumstances of Nick’s death. Meanwhile some his students also undertake their own investigations until another murder is committed.

Margot is an associate professor at an American university and cheerfully narrates some of the petty jealousies that characterise life in university campuses. She writes well about the constant struggle for recognition, tenure and publication success and how this can cause people to take drastic measures to ensure their success.  Those familiar with Margot’s blog also know she is also a huge aficionado of Agatha Christie’s books. The structure of Publish or Perish reminded me of some of the classic Christies where a discrete pool of suspects, each with a motive for committing the crime, are presented to the reader and gradually eliminated until the culprit revealed.

So two different and enjoyable reads for my Greek Easter week-end.

Last Seen Wearing is discussed at The Independent and by Petrona,

Publish or Perish has been reviewed by Petrona, Mysteries in Paradise and Reactions to Reading.