Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray

Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray, June 2014, 320 pages, Urbane Publications, ISBN: 1909273120

Reviewed by Terry Halligan.
(Read more of Terry's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

London, 1986. A newspaper editor is horrifically murdered, his death quickly followed by a series of more brutal, and often bizarre, slayings. The police are baffled, the only clear link between the murders being a single blood red rose left at the scene of every killing. Why? What does the rose mean? What connects the killer to each bloody corpse? Scotland Yard detective Alan Winters leads a hunt for the elusive prey. As the body count rises, Jennifer Chapman, renowned investigative journalist and daughter of the murdered newspaper editor, sets out on a personal quest for revenge. Drawn together in their pursuit of a deadly quarry, Winters and Jennifer unwittingly face a fatal surprise, for the killer is closer than they think. As they close in on the truth of the blood red rose, their unseen foe plots a shattering end to his reign of terror, and death awaits them all.

This first new police procedural from this very talented new South African author will keep you engrossed until the last exciting page. I really enjoyed the very tight plotting and immensely imaginative story. The richly drawn characters, such as Inspector Alan Winters and his associate Superintendent Van Deventer, I found very fascinating and I hope that they are featured in future books. I understand that the author was a Chief Crime Reporter in Johannesburg's biggest daily newspaper and has personal experience of dozens of violent cases of murder to draw on. Having personal experience from what is considered the crime capital of the world is an invaluable experience for an author. The book, as it was based in 1986 is very atmospheric and well researched and I didn't detect any flaws in his presentation of London during that period.

The author brings out the troubled relationship between the police, who just want to get on and investigate the crime and the press who want to provide details to their readers, that may interfere with the enquiry and how the happy balance between these two opposing forces can be agreed. I was enthralled by the suspense and the brutal reality of the story and I do hope that this becomes a series and I look forward to reading books by this author again. I have read books by the only other South African mystery author I'm familiar with, Deon Meyer, but he writes his stories set in his country of residence whereas Kevin Murray is writing about London which is no mean feat for a foreign based author. Strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, October 2014.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TV News: River starring Stellan Skarsgård

Stellan Skarsgård is to star as a police officer in BBC One's River, to be shown next year.

From the BBC Website:

Production has begun on River, a new drama series written and created by Emmy award-winning Abi Morgan for BBC One.

Stellan Skarsgård (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) stars as John River, a brilliant police officer whose genius and fault-line is the fragility of his mind - a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest.

Nicola Walker will play River’s colleague and confidant, Detective Sergeant Jackie ‘Stevie’ Stevenson, with Adeel Akhtar as Detective Sergeant Ira King. Lesley Manville will play their superior, Chief Inspector Chrissie Read. Eddie Marsan also joins the cast as a notorious killer who haunts River.

Further confirmed cast include Sorcha Cusack as Stevie’s mother, Bridie, and Georgina Rich plays police psychiatrist, Rosa.

The 6x60-minute series [] is being filmed in East London for transmission in 2015.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Reviews: Chambers, Hauxwell, Perry, Ramsay, Robinson, Simenon, Sundstol, Wagner

Here are nine reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, five have appeared on the blog since last time, and four are completely new.

NB. You can keep up to date with Euro Crime by following the blog and/or liking the Euro Crime Facebook page.

New Reviews

Susan White reviews Kimberley Chambers's The Victim which she recommends for readers of Martina Cole and Lynda La Plante;

Amanda Gillies reviews Annie Hauxwell's A Morbid Habit the third book to feature PI Catherine Berlin;

Terry Halligan reviews the latest in the William Monk series by Anne Perry, Blood on the Water which is now out in paperback;

Terry also reviews Caro Ramsay's The Blood of Crows the fourth in her Anderson and Costello series;

Michelle Peckham reviews Caro Ramsay's fifth and most recent Anderson and Costello book, The Night Hunter;

Michelle also reviews Ray Robinson's Jawbone Lake;

Lynn Harvey reviews Georges Simenon's Pietr the Latvian freshly translated by David Bellos as part of Penguin's project to republish and re-translate all the Maigret novels; this being the first in the series;

Laura Root reviews Vidar Sundstol's Only the Dead translated by Tiinna Nunnally and is the middle part of the Minnesota trilogy

and Lynn also reviews the Petrona Award shortlist-listed Light in a Dark House by Jan Costin Wagner, translated by Anthea Bell which is now out in paperback.

Previous reviews can be found in the review archive.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, here along with releases by year. NB. Forthcoming releases by category for 2015 are now available.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Publishing Deal - Ragnar Jónasson

From today's Bookseller, Ragnar Jónasson has been signed up by new company Orenda Books:
Arcadia Books managing editor Karen Sullivan has left the company to set up her own publishing company, Orenda Books.

Launching next week with a small, “exciting” list of commercial literary fiction, the company has already signed three début novels, including David F Ross’ The Last Days of Disco, which Sullivan said will draw comparison with Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh.

Sullivan has also negotiated British Commonwealth rights with David Headley at DHH Literary Agency and Monica Gram at Leonhardt & Høier Literary Agency A/S for Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson’s atmospheric, gritty début thriller Snowblind, and a second title, Dark Night (Bjartur Veröld). It will be author Jónasson’s first publication in English.

Crime Scene Britain and Ireland: A Reader's Guide

A review copy of John Martin's Crime Scene Britain and Ireland: A Reader's Guide arrived this morning. It's available to buy now and from a quick flick (at the East Anglia section naturally), is the sort of book I would love to have written, sigh, but at least the Euro Crime website gets a credit.

Here's the blurb:

This book is for all readers of crime fiction. Dividing Britain and Ireland into twelve regions, the author describes the work of contemporary and historic crime writers and their novels where the setting of the novel is crucial, giving the story context and local relevance. While regional crime novels go back to The Hound of the Baskervilles, identifiably regional crime within specific cityscapes and landscapes only came into its own twenty years ago with Ian Rankin, John Harvey and Val McDermid. Their work, together with hundreds of others, and thousands of titles are described in this volume which will be essential for the serious crime reader.

Another title, which might also be of interest is Scene of the Crime: A Guide to the Landscapes of British Detective Fiction (2002) by Julian Earwaker and Kathleen Becker, which is now out of print but second-hand copies are available (at least at amazon). The blurb:
Great writers of crime fiction not only create memorable detective heroes, they also firmly establish them in a setting. The home counties town of "King's Markham", for example, is the perfect "patch" for Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford and Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael is as inseparable from the cloisters of medieval Shrewsbury as John Harvey's D.I. Resnick is from the mean streets of modern Nottingham. Addicts of the British detective story should enjoy this gazetteer. With it in their hands they can navigate the streets and alleyways of Edinburgh where Sherlock Holmes sprang to life in Conan Doyle's imagination and where Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus now tracks down villainy (and a dram or two). They can explore the desolate coast of East Anglia, a favoured venue for P.D. James' Adam Dagliesh and the home of Margery Allingham, who also set many of the adventures of her enigmatic Albert Campion amid the Essex marshlands. In Oxford, they can tread in the footsteps of Inspector Morse or pay homage at the site where, in "Gaudy Night", Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey embraced - at long last - his Harriet Vane. The many black and white and colour photographs evoke the atmosphere and history of these and many other settings with which hundreds of thousands of readers will already be familiar in their imaginations. Based on interviews with leading writers and extensive research, and fuelled by the authors' enthusiasm for Britain's most popular literary form, this book should be an interesting read for all crime addicts.

Publishing Deal - Andrew Taylor

In The Bookseller yesterday, news of a publishing deal for Andrew Taylor with HarperCollins:
Crime and thriller publisher Julia Wisdom signed world English-language rights to The Ashes of London and two more 17th-century-set novels.

The Ashes of London is set in 1666 as the Great Fire of London rages, when a murder victim is found in the ashes of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Review: Only the Dead by Vidar Sundstol tr. Tiina Nunnally

Only the Dead by Vidar Sundstol translated by Tiina Nunnally, September 2014, 152 pages, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN: 0816689423

Reviewed by Laura Root.
(Read more of Laura's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

ONLY THE DEAD is the second in the acclaimed Minnesota trilogy by Norwegian author Vidar Sundstol, set around Lake Superior and takes place soon after the end of the first instalment, THE LAND OF DREAMS. In THE LAND OF DREAMS Forestry Services cop Lance Hansen found the body of a young Norwegian tourist at Baraga's Cross, and was involved in the investigation of the murder. As a local history enthusiast, Lance has also become obsessed with another possible murder that took place in the area over a hundred years previously, of a Native American trapper, Swamper Caribou, who disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

At the start of this novel, Lance is supposedly taking it easy on a weekend hunting trip with his brother Andy. But despite the tidy resolution of the murder case, Lance is riven by doubts. He is unable to voice his suspicions of Andy, who lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murder and becomes increasingly unable to act naturally around him. Lance's Ojibwe ex-father-in-law tries to reach out to Lance, sensing the stress that he is under, but Lance is unreceptive. An incident where Lance uses excessive violence when carrying out what he justifies as a mercy killing of a wild animal seriously injured by his car, shows that Lance may not the stolid principled man he seemed in the previous book.

When Lance goes out on a second hunting trip with Andy, the scene is set for fraternal relations to deteriorate further. Sundstol alternates the story of paranoid fear and suspicion between Lance and Andy with a similar tale over a hundred years early, of the relationship between Lance's ancestor, Norwegian immigrant Thorson Ormod, and the lethal distrust he develops towards Swamper Caribou, who rescues him after he falls through ice in Lake Superior and takes him to his cabin to dry off. (Though whether this version of events is to be accepted by the reader as definitive, or the product of Lance's imagination remains ambiguous).

ONLY THE DEAD has a very different feel to the previous instalment in the series. THE LAND OF DREAMS opened out, via the central character Lance Hansen, to show a whole community and way of life of a Scandinavian-American diaspora, and how they are viewed by big city incomers, such as the FBI agents involved in investigating the murder at Baraga's Cross. By contrast ONLY THE DEAD is a claustrophobic thriller focussing on the interaction between hunter and the environment, and between two sets of men, the Hansen brothers Lance and Andy, and the men of the past, Thorson and Swamper Caribou, where the hunter becomes the hunted and vice versa.

Although hunting-based thrillers tend not to be my choice of reading, I found ONLY THE DEAD was genuinely gripping. The author was very successful in building up tension in the relationships between the men, and showing how fear and poor communication can lead to fatal misunderstandings. Sundstol also very convincingly shows the perils faced by his characters in dealing with the hostile environment of the wintry lake and forest. Overall I felt this was an unexpected but surprisingly enjoyable follow up to the first book in the series, and I look forward to seeing how this trilogy is concluded. Although this book could work as a standalone, I would recommend reading THE LAND OF DREAMS before this book, to see the characters in their full context.

Laura Root, October 2014

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Danish Crime at the Manchester Literature Festival

On Monday I went up to Manchester to both visit Sarah of Crime Pieces (and a Petrona Award judge) and to go with her to a Nordic Noir event hosted by the Manchester Literature Festival.

The event, Danish Crime, featured Peter Guttridge interviewing Elsebeth Egholm and Lene Kaaberbol.

Elsebeth Egholm is the author of the Dicte Svendsen series and the Peter Boutrup series (more about the relationship between these in a moment). Only one of the Dicte Svendsen series has been translated into English - the fourth, Next of Kin - and this was only published in Australia. Both of the Peter Boutrop series are or soon will be available in English in the UK.

Lene Kaaberbol, co-writing with Agnete Friis, is the author of four Nina Borg novels (only three are available in English at the moment). Nina Borg is a Red Cross nurse, living in Copenhagen.

The event opened with both authors reading from one of their books:

Elsebeth Egholm read a section from Three Dog Night, the first of the Peter Boutrop series, where Peter discovers a body.

Before reading she gave some of the background to the series: Peter is the son of her series heroine Dicte Svendsen. Dicte is a Jehovah's Witness and got pregnant aged sixteen. Her baby, Peter, ended up in an orphanage and had a terrible upbringing and ended up in jail.  Peter doesn't forgive his mum and only meets Dicte in book five of her series when he needs a new kidney.

The title Three Dog Night comes from an Australian saying which refers to a very cold night when you need three dogs to keep you warm!

Lene Kaaberbol then read the scene from The Boy in the Suitcase (the first in the Nina Borg series) where Nina discovers the boy, in the suitcase at Copenhagen station.

Then Peter began his interview.

EE's first book was published in 1999 and her first three books weren't really crime but did contain mysteries. She then embraced crime with the Dicte Svendsen series. Dicte is a journalist, as is EE, however EE is not a crime journalist so this involved lots of research.

LK has written children's and YA books but the scene she's just read out popped into her mind. An avid crime reader she got 'stage fright' over the idea of writing a crime novel so called an acquaintance Agnete Friis. They have a 'bible' and storyboard the series. They felt that there were lots of police characters, both male and female, as protagonists so they though who else would discover bodies - doctors and nurses - so they settled on a tough nurse. Nina is a terrible detective however, say LK, as she doesn't care who killed who!

EE originally thought the Dicte series would be a trilogy. There are currently six with two more planned. She commented on how you can't undo something like a pregnancy which was in the first book.

Peter asked about humour in Scandinavian crime fiction. EE feels that there is humour in her books. LK says that Danes are the Italians of the North (they live in the "beer belt" of Europe - below it's wine and above it's the hard stuff). She then gave an example of a Finnish joke:

How do you tell an extrovert Finn?
He's looking down at your shoes, not his own.

EE said she was inspired/influenced by Sara Paretsky and Liza Marklund, (comment from LK - "volvo envy" - as Swedes get everything first) and LK was also inspired/influenced by Sara Paretsky, Agatha Christie and Sjowall and Wahloo. Sjowall and Wahloo wanted people to move over to socialism and decided the best way to influence people was via a crime series. The political element increases through the [Martin Beck] series.

The Dicte Svendsen series has been made into a tv series with the first six books making up the first series. The second series is based on original stories. EE chose not to get involved with the scripts - based on her experience with Those Who Kill - it is very time consuming.

One of LK's children's books is being made into a film - she is not involved as she has an Oscar winner doing the script.

LK said that she didn't consider children's books as lesser to adult as though an adult can get a few days entertainment from your book, a child can be influenced for life by your book.

It is most rewarding when someone hasn't read a book before and says that I've read one of yours and then went on to read all of them.

Sarah asked the question about reading from an English translation of your own books: EE said it puts a slight distance but she loves the English language and thinks it sounds better in English :). LK said she had a close relationship with her translator for Boy, as it was herself!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Review: A Morbid Habit by Annie Hauxwell

A Morbid Habit by Annie Hauxwell, July 2014, 400 pages, William Heinemann, ISBN: 0434022969

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This series by Annie Hauxwell is fabulous. Her protagonist, private investigator Catherine Berlin, is a damaged soul who struggles with her heroin addiction at the same time as doing her best for the people who hire her, even when her own neck is on the block. Hauxwell writes extremely well and her tales are as addictive for her reader as the drugs are for her main character. I was delighted to be given another of her wonderful books to review.

This book, A MORBID HABIT, is set at Christmas time. Berlin actually has a job – as a security guard – and is watching monitors in the warehouse she is working in. Things start to go wrong when an undocumented delivery van arrives and appears to drop something off. Her boss tells her to forget what she saw and attempts to help her with this by means of a £50 note. But Berlin can't. She leaves her job, disgusted at the bribe, and tells a journalist friend what she has seen. This is just the beginning of her problems. Initially all seems well as she is given another contract, by a reputable company, really quickly and is set to go to Moscow to perform a due diligence investigation on a businessman. All nice and straightforward. Or is it? Her guide and interpreter is not everything that she appears to be and then a body is found at the airport, clutching a sign with Berlin’s name on it. All too soon Berlin is on the run from just about everybody and, with her passport and prescription drugs taken from her, has no way of returning home or controlling her withdrawal symptoms. The pressure builds as Berlin tries to get to the bottom of everything and the reader is left wondering whether this time she really has reached the end of the line.

If you like a good book that has a gutsy woman as the main character, as well as a nail-biter of a plot, then you are going to love A MORBID HABIT. There is no need to worry if you haven't read either of the previous two books in this series, as each one works well on its own. However the series is so good that you won't be able to leave it at just the one instalment!

Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, October 2014.