Granite Noir Reading

I’m off to Aberdeen at the end of this month for Granite Noir, Aberdeen’s celebration of crime fiction. Last year’s event was great fun and I’m looking forward to visiting the granite city again. If you’re nearby, I’ll be appearing alongside Jorn Lier Horst and Mari Hannah on the May the (Police) Force be with You on Friday evening. It would be lovely to see you if you can make it.

I’m also moderating four panels which I’ve been reading for over the last few weeks. It’s always great to see what others are writing and, as usual, it’s heartening to see the diversity of stories which make up the crime fiction genre. Because there are a fair few authors involved, I’ve split my reading over two blog posts, the second of which will come next week.

My moderating begins on Friday lunchtime with the Breathtaking Thrillers panel with Lilja Sigurdardottir and Catherine Ryan Howard. I reviewed Lilja’s English language debut, Snare, in a previous post in a and it’ll be fascinating to dig deeper into the world of her Reykjavik thriller.

Appearing alongside her is Catherine Ryan Howard who I met in a recent trip to Dublin. It was a fascinating city to visit not least as I’d just read Howard’s latestbook, The Liar’s Girl. In this tightly-plotted thriller, Alison Smith, after a decade living in the Netherlands returns to Ireland to face her former boyfriend who is serving a sentence for multiple murders. Following a recent copy-cat killing, he states he has some news on the murderer that he is only prepared to reveal to her. The Liar’s Girl is very well written and unsettling thriller set around Dublin’s canals which explores the assumptions we make about those accused of heinous crimes.

On the Saturday, I’ll be interviewing Lucy Atkins, Sarah Stovell and Louise Hutcheseon about their books.  It’s rare in a panel that themes intertwine seamlessly but all three authors have a written books that explore the world of authors and the truthfulness of particular narratives. In The Night Visitorprofessor Olivia Sweetman publishes a bestseller, a book based on a Victorian diary found by Vivian Tester in a house where she is working as a housekeeper. Vivian’s role has been kept hidden from Olivia’s publisher and readers, but has created a dependent relationship that Olivia is determined to break. It’s a fascinating, page-turning read with the narrative alternating between London, Sussex and the South of France.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell also documents a destructive relationship, here between bestselling author Bo Luxton and Alice Dark, an aspiring writer recovering from a fractured childhood. The women are drawn together after meeting on a writing retreat led by Bo but soon their views on what their relationship entails begin to diverge wildly. The unsettling Exquisite cleverly portrays  an intoxicating relationship where secrets and power struggles hint at darker forces at work.

The Paper Cell by Louise Hutcheson is a short, exquisitely written book about the deception that Lewis Carson undertakes when, as a publishing assistant, he steals a young woman’s novel after she is found strangled on Peckham Rye. Hutcheson is excellent at deceiving the reader and it’s an intelligent and satisfying book.

I hope to see some readers of Crimepices at Granite Noir. Do come up and say hello if you’re there. I’ll be posting lots of pictures on my Facebook page.

 

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Nordic Noir Round-Up

Christmas has been an excellent time to catch up on my Nordic Noir reading. We seem to have had a record year for submissions to the Petrona Award for Scandinavian crime fiction and, as well as old favourites, I’ve been trying to catch up new writers to see what they have to offer.

At 467 pages, The Anthill Murders is Hans Olav Lahlum’s longest book yet. Lahlum’s books are distinguished by his classic-crime style plots and the unusual relationship between criminal investigator Kolborn Kristiansen and Patricia, his intelligent, paralysed assistant. The subject matter is unusual for Lahlum. There is a serial killer at large attacking women on the streets on Norway, thereby giving the narrative a wider canvas than Lahlum’s previous books. Nevertheless, I found the plotting to be very tight and, also, without giving too much away, with a nod to Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders. This is probably Lahlum’s best book yet and is translated by Kari Dickson.

The White City by Karolina Ramqvist is the English language debut by a writer whose sparse and moving prose provided a much needed bite of reality over the Christmas period. It’s the story of a woman whose partner, involved in a series of shady dealings, has disappeared. Left with her baby, Dream, in a house that authorities are intending to take from her, Karin tries to track down her husband’s associates to claim his share of any remaining assets. It’s a very short but powerful read and an interesting insight into the partners of those involved in organised crime. I thought the book beautiful written and I hope more from Ramqvist is published here in the future. White City is translated by Saskia Vogel.

Hakan Nesser is one of my favourite writers and he never disappoints. The Darkest Day is the first novel in a new five-part series Inspector Barbarotti. In a small Swedish town, a family are gathering to celebrate two generations of birthdays. When two members of  the family go missing in apparently unconnected events, Barbarotti has to dig deep into family tensions to solve the crimes. The Darkest Day is an unusual book. It’s written in Nesser’s characteristic intelligent style but the resolutely Swedish setting and unusual plot lines are a departure. Although it took me a while to get into the story, it’s a clever and disturbing book. The translation is by Sarah Death.

Snare is the much anticipated English language debut by Icelandic writer Lilja Sigurdardottir. Sonia is a single mother blackmailed into smuggling drugs through Keflavik airport by associates threatening to harm her son if she doesn’t comply with their instructions. A customs  officer, Bragi, beings to notice the smart young woman travelling regularly through the airport. Snare is a taut thriller with strong characterisation and some frank sex scenes. It’s good to read a book with a realistic lesbian character. The translation is by Quentin Bates.

I’ve had Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito on my shelf for a while and I’m sorry I took so long to get around to reading it as it’s a compelling book. Maja Norberg is on trial for her part in a classroom killing which saw her boyfriend, best friend, teacher and classmates killed in a shooting massacre. We see the events leading up to both the killing and the trial through her eyes only, including her take on how her legal team handle her defence. Giolito effectively pulls the reader into the story with a single narrator and there are no easy answers as to motives behind the killings. An excellent translation by Rachel Willson-Broyles serves to highlight the occasional childishness of Maja’s justifications for her actions.

Have you read any good Scandinavian crime fiction over the festive period? I’d love to hear some of your recommendations.