More (lockdown) crime reads

My reading this month has consisted of books by international authors. Probably due to the restriction on travel, my mind has needed to journey into spaces other than Derbyshire! The good news is that we’re lucky in the UK in that publishers are willing to take a chance on writers from around the world.

First up was Australia. I’m a big fan of the recent books by Jane Harper and Chris Hammer so I put this debut to the top of my reading pile. Hermit by S R White is the twelve-hour narrative of a crime investigation in rural Australia. Nathan Whittler disappeared fifteen years earlier and is found next to the body of a murdered shopkeeper. Detective Dana Russo has a short period of time to question the troubled, inscrutable suspect and get to the bottom of both the murder and the man’s disappearance. Tense and absorbing, I loved everything about this intelligent thriller which is out in September.

I love Iceland in the winter and The Mist, the new novel from Ragnar Jonasson, beautifully evokes the splendid isolation of its rural farmsteads. In 1987, an elderly married couple are found murdered in their farmhouse after a month long snowstorm. Hulda Hermansdottir is sent from Reykjavik to investigate but she is haunted by her own family tragedy and her failure to spot a crime which was taking place in her own home. Bleak and haunting, I read this lovely novel in one sitting. The translation is by Victoria Cribb.

 

Hijack City is a novel set in Cape Town by Michael Williams. A group of car jackers are terrorising the city and detective Jake Mulligan is given the task of setting up an anti-hijack unit in a crummy building away from the main police station. His partner, Jackson Sondile, has been accused of corruption, tainting all he has come into contact with especially Jake. I loved the descriptions of various facets of Cape Town society, the excellent pace and, most of all, the character of Jake Mulligan.

 

Finally, the trenches of the First World War are the setting for Jon Wilkins’ excellent Poppy Flowers at the Front. Poppy is a ambulance driver ferrying wounded soldiers to the casualty clearing station. This is the story of a young girl plunged into the horror of the trenches, the experience of which assaults all her preconceptions of what it is to live and die. Her companion is Elodie, a French nurse, who provides Poppy with hope and flashes of joy amongst the horror. Beautifully written, with letters to home peppering the prose, I enjoyed this endearing love story.

 

Review: Quentin Bates – Summerchill

Quentin Bates is one of the organisers of Iceland Noir, an excellent event that I’ve attended since it first started. He translates51hN2ErUx7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Ragnar Jonasson’s books from Icelandic into English but is also a very good writer himself. He recently published a novella, Summerchill, featuring his protagonist Gunnhildur (Gunna) Gisladottir which was a lovely read for the July sunshine we had here.

At the end of a warm summer, a man goes missing from his home in the Reykjavik suburbs. Gunna and her partner Helgi investigate his disappearance but discover that he has been keeping some unsavoury company. The challenge is to follow both the missing man and his nemesis before murder is committed.

Novellas are a great way to try new writers and Summerchill certainly gives readers a flavour of Bates’s style of writing. Its title is a clue to the atmosphere of the book. You get an insight into Iceland in the summer with its long hours of daylight and an empty-ish Reykjavik. The pace of the narrative is perfectly suited to a novella form. The action is fast with a regular influx of new characters. Unlike many crime stories, you don’t necessarily sympathise with the alleged victim but become engrossed in the chase for a resolution to the mystery.

A great, short read to take away on your kindle this summer.