Monday, May 25, 2015

New Reviews: Brett, Dugdall, Jaquiery, Kavanagh, Miske, Thorne, Vallgren, Wilson

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

Plus, in case you missed them, here are a few recent links that might be of interest:
The winner of The Petrona Award & the announcement in pictures

Lee Child interviews Maj Sjowall

CrimeFest panel writeups: Euro Noir & Nordic Noir

The International Dagger 2015 shortlist

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

New Reviews

A collection of mini reviews (by me) of recent Scandi-crime novels;

Mark Bailey reviews Simon Brett's Mrs Pargeter's Principle, the eponymous lady returns after a 17 year gap;

Susan White reviews Ruth Dugdall's Humber Boy B;

Terry Halligan reviews Anna Jaquiery's Death in the Rainy Season, set in Cambodia;

Michelle Peckham reviews Emma Kavanagh's Hidden, which revolves around a shooting in a hospital;

Lynn Harvey reviews Karim Miske's Arab Jazz tr. Sam Gordon, which has been shortlisted for the International Dagger;

Amanda Gillies reviews Nothing Sacred by David Thorne, which is the second in the Essex-based Daniel Connell series;

I also review Carl-Johan Vallgren's The Boy in the Shadows tr. Rachel Willson-Broyles

and Terry also reviews the reissue of The Mystery of Tunnel 51 by Alexander  Wilson.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, along with releases by year.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

CrimeFest 2015: Lee Child Interviews Maj Sjöwall

Lee Child interviews Maj Sjöwall.

[Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö wrote the highly influential ten book Martin Beck series (published in English 1965-1975).]

LC read the books in the '70s and hoped he wouldn't come over too fanboy-y in his interview.

Does she mind talking about a ten year period which happened about 50 years ago? Not at all as in this situation she is crime writer.

She was aged between 4 and 9 during WW2, everything stopped during the war. Jazz smuggled in, in '40s' and rock and roll in '50s, smuggled in via England, eg Cliff Richard and then the Beatles.

LC: Image of Sweden at the time as a paradise, all the girls were pretty and would sleep with you! What was wrong with Sweden?

MS: You're right about the girls!

Sweden was turning from social democratic country to a more right wing country. They wrote books during the time the Vietnam war was on. Olav Palme – a great pr man, painted picture of idealistic society but we didn't see that – country more and more right wing and capitalistic. Police were portrayed as more militaristic than civil.

Met Per, both working in same publishing house and MS needed a translator of two Father Brown stories and was introduced to Per. Met again and again.

Per had written 3 political novels (inc 1 about football) and wanted to write something entertaining and bake into it what they wanted to talk about. At the time there were no police novels in Sweden.

Both fond of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Simenon. But didn't want to write like someone else. It was hard to get information about the police then. Our idea was to have not just a single hero but a team.

LC: Introduction to Roseanna is pages of admin about organising the dredger – radically different approach.

MS: Crime novels in Sweden were very bourgeois, wanted it to be realistic – people say their books are slow – but it is realistic. Started series before they had read Ed McBain even though they are often compared and went on to bring McBain books to Sweden.

Book 1 did ok, not fantastic, got good reviews, after books 2 and 3 young people began to react.

Martin Beck is a typical civil servant, rather boring, dutiful, has empathy (Lee Child said he is lovely).

LC: Is she pissed off that people are doing the same as what they did?

MS: Not pissed off that people are doing the same but can't they find some other way to write about society? Books are now half about romance and private life and this stems from Martin Beck as he had a private life - MS said we didn't mean to do it! They won an Edgar for book 3 – only non anglo-saxons to win an Edgar.

Every year there are 10 new Swedish authors...publishers buy at Frankfurt because it's Swedish, Scandinavian noir. Has no explanation for's not that fantastic is it?

They decided on a ten book series, no more no less. One novel, split into ten: Novel of a crime. Wouldn't have carried on for anything.

LC: Here you have integrity on legs.

PW: Per was to planning to write next about modern warships.

Didn't want to write 300 pages on own – too lonely so wrote short things, poetry.

Sat face to face with Per working over a table. Talked a lot about the story and the language and for the first book – the characters.

In Roseanna, a US character was not chosen to open up another market but just to show how Swedish, Swedish police were, and how they could hardly communicate with the US.

They did the voyage through Sweden for fun and there was a beautiful American woman on the trip, Per was watching her, so I said we'll kill her!

Books don't change the world very much but can change thinking. S & W opened the market – half the population writes crime fiction now! Doesn't read much but likes Leif GW Persson who sticks close to real life.

When asked about the Matthau film - said we needed the money!.

Her favourite is The Locked Room.

Doesn't do much writing for publication, though will write for friends, as publishing means things like CrimeFest – ok in England but not in Sweden. Doesn't want to talk about self, or be looked at.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Arab Jazz by Karim Miské tr. Sam Gordon

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské translated by Sam Gordon, February 2015, 304 pages, MacLehose Press, ISBN: 0857053116

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

"....So, to recap: we've got three Salafists, one Hasidic Jew and a family of Jehovah's Witnesses... That is one holy hornet's nest!"

Paris, 19th Arrondissement.
Ahmed the Dreamer is on the balcony of his tiny apartment, watching the clouds. Dreaming. Poetry. Books. The second-hand, English-language thrillers stacked four deep around the walls of his room. Dreaming. The mountains, rocks, water and sand of his ancestors. He glides above their land, a man-vulture, suddenly plunging down towards a dark and terrible shape. His fellow vultures force him up and away. Banished. Ahmed feels the first drop of blood on his upturned face. He opens his eyes and looks upward, sees the foot of his neighbour Laura hanging from her balcony, blood gathering on the toes. Ahmed has crashed to earth.

9.15 pm. With keys to Laura's flat, for Ahmed looks after her orchids while the young air hostess is away, he goes upstairs. But her door is ajar, the window wide open. A bottle of wine on a table, two glasses and – on a white platter – an uncooked joint of pork bathed in blood and stabbed with a kitchen knife. The horror is out on the balcony. Laura, bound and gagged, T-shirt crimson, one enormous gash from the belly down. Ahmed returns to his flat, changes his stained djellaba and gets back into bed. Sleep. Dream.

3.45 am. Lieutenants Kupferstein and Hamelot, back at headquarters after having examined the murder scene, written their reports, eaten sushi and drunk beer – now sit apart, in their own worlds, distancing themselves from the savagery.

5.25 am. Ahmed gathers his blood-stained clothes and jogs along the canal for the first time in three years. In the undergrowth he burns the clothes. He feels again, he is alive. Back at his flat, carrying morning croissants and baguette, Ahmed finds two police officers. They tell him that his neighbour has been murdered. This time he allows himself to feel the shock. And invites them in. There are questions and it seems that for now detectives Kupferstein and Hamelot tacitly agree that Ahmed is not their man. Do you have a job, Monsieur Taroudant? Sick leave? For what? Depression? Before that, your job? Night-watchman. Thank you. Here are our contact details. Do not leave the arrondissement. But Ahmed never does. He closes the door behind the detectives and later, listening to the iPod that Laura gave him, loaded with her favourite music, he weeps. He will find the killer.

Meanwhile the detectives exit the lift and come face to face with the concierge. who tells them about Laura: her unrequited love for Ahmed, her three girlfriends – Bintou, Aicha and Rebecca. Rebecca is no longer in the neighbourhood but the other girls live around the corner. You can find them every evening at Onur's, the kebab place. Laura's parents? She wouldn't talk about them....

Karim Miské is a Franco-Mauritanian writer and documentary film-maker born in Abidjan but raised in France. ARAB JAZZ is his first novel, winning the 2012 French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. Its title is a tribute to James Ellroy's WHITE JAZZ and its translator, Sam Gordon has made a vivid, natural telling in his own first novel-length translation.

Central to ARAB JAZZ is Ahmed, the son of a woman confined to a psychiatric hospital and himself a depressive undergoing psychoanalysis. (Or is he some kind of displaced shamanic dreamer?) Ahmed lives in the same arrondissement as Miské himself at the time of writing ARAB JAZZ. The 19th – a quarter made notorious by the Charlie Hebdo killings earlier this year. It is a setting used by other French writers and I think back to the books of Daniel Pennac with the 1980s-90s Belleville of his "Malaussène" series with its lively hotchpotch of immigrant cultures. But the warmth and diversity of Pennac's Belleville has taken a colder, darker turn by the time of Miské's "19th". The neighbourhood's religions still co-exist but each is moving towards born-again extremes. Miské started writing this novel around 2005 after having made a documentary about Judaism and Islam. He was aware of the growing extremism amongst some of these local communities but the Kouachi killings of January 2015 still shocked him. In a "Reader Dad" blog interview he says of his own feelings:

"I had been reading about the trial of the survivors of this [earlier] jihadi group in 2008 …. and the self-proclaimed imam of that group inspired one of the characters of the book. It was this imam who recruited one of the Kouachi brothers. When the Charlie Hebdo attack happened, I was, like everybody, horrified by the murders but also really disturbed by the way reality had re-entered my novel."

With two strong police characters, Kupferstein and Hamelot, a psychotic murderer, brutal corruption and the advent of a little blue pill that delivers a messianic high – we have a very potent brew and a plot that spans the Atlantic, Paris to New York. If you love the distinct flavour of French crime-writing and can take the misogynistic crime (and let's face it there is plenty of misogynistic crime in thrillers) this is a gripping, rich and wonderful book. With the writer's plan to develop a trilogy... start now with ARAB JAZZ.

Lynn Harvey, May 2015.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Petrona Award 2015 Announcement in Pictures

Last night at CrimeFest.

The three Petrona Judges: Sarah Ward, Dr Kat Hall and Barry Forshaw who asks Maj Sjowall up to the stage.

Concentration as the shortlist is read out and Kat clutches the trophy in its box.

Sarah announces the winner....

and Yrsa makes her way to the stage.

and gives her speech thanking firstly her translator Victoria Cribb.

Petrona Award 2015: Winner Announced

Last night at CrimeFest, Petrona Award judges Barry Forshaw, Dr Katharina Hall and Sarah Ward announced the winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

And the winner is Yrsa Sigurdadottir for THE SILENCE OF THE SEA translated by Victoria Cribb and published by Hodder and Stoughton.

The trophy was presented by the Godmother of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, Maj Sjöwall, co-author with Per Wahlöö of the Martin Beck series.

As well as the trophy, Yrsa Sigurdardottr will also receive a pass to and panel at next year's CrimeFest.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

CrimeFest 2015: Euro Noir

Moderator: Barry Forshaw
Panel: Roberto Costantini, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael Ridpath, Jorn Lier Horst

RC: an engineer, Italians surprised that an engineer can write. Used skills to plot. Big diagrams on the wall.

GS: Bergen people quite satisfied with themselves so when they got a successful detective they were quick to put a statue up.

JLH: Wisting pronounced Visting named after a hero who went to South Pole. No plans to stop writing after ten books.

GS: First book tried to do a typical PI in Norway in '70s in the model of Ross MacDonald, Chandler. Didn't really work so second book was different.

RC: Series character Michele is awkward, conflicted so half the audience won't like him, other half love him. Michele is a policeman who acts as a PI which you can do in Italy.

MR: Learned a lot about writing not just Iceland in writing about something new.

GS made Varg Veum quite different to himself but sees him as a best friend, knows him well after 17 books.

GS - Don Bartlett is a great translator; GS read a couple of chapters of new book and recognised his own jokes!

JLH: Translator Anne Bruce has been over to Wisting's town

RC: Books translated into both English and separately into American. Latter was 50 pages shorter.

Friday, May 15, 2015

International Dagger 2015 - Shortlist

Tonight at CrimeFest, the shortlist for the International Dagger was announced. From the CWA's website - with links to Euro Crime reviews:

The International Dagger

Falling Freely, As If In A Dream by Leif GW Persson (tr Paul Norlen)
Camille by Pierre Lemaitre (tr Frank Wynne)
Cobra by Deon Meyer (tr K.L Seegers)
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské (tr Sam Gordon)
The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo (tr Isabelle Kaufeler)
Into a Raging Blaze by Andreas Norman (tr Ian Giles)

The CWA Dagger Awards will be presented on 30th June, to mark the end of Crime Reading Month (, at a gala dinner in central London.

CrimeFest 2015: Nordic Noir: Borders

Nordic Noir Panel: Crime at the Borders of the Arctic

Moderator: Quentin Bates

KH's The Hummingbird is set in a northern, unnamed, Finnish town which doesn't exist. It has sea, mosquitoes, cold in winter.

GS: Bergen is a noir place - rains 250 days a year! Weather is very important to Norwegians - in their genes from being fisherman, peasants.

CC: Wrote from memory, Orkney Twilight is set in 1984 summer when the sun doesn't go down. Going back soon with daughters, daughters are the age she was when she was there. Orkney is a mysterious place full of secrets. She started writing it when she was in the US, longing for home and cool.

CR: Had no intention of writing in Nordic tradition – original plot had a body washed up and it was a girl from Tallyn – but Peter Robinson beat him too it. So had to find another place. Faroe has 300 days of rain. In an  day research trip, stopped raining twice snow. Wind can prevent driving – lift up car if on high points.

GS: Dark winter, light summer so plot during dark winters, write it in summer, publish in autumn. KH agreed.
West Norway has north sea climate like part of UK.

Varg Veum actor speaks with Eastern dialect though book Varg Veum has a western dialect – GS says it is very hard to act naturally with such a different dialect. Varg Veum can keep going past 70.

CC: Next book is set in southern England. Might go back to Orkney. Originally intended to be a one off but publisher wanted a sequel.

CR: Next book is in lower nordic region…Glasgow.
No muder in Faroes for 26 years until half way through writing The Last Refuge when there was a murder. No body has ever been found – Serbian husband convicted of killing his wife on evidence of a frying pan with her blood on it.

KH: Fekete means black in Hungarian. Next book The Defenceless is set in spring and is about drugs and immigrant gangs.

CC: Wove Norse mythology though the story.

GS: Crime just a way of writing about our times in a popular way. Bergen is very safe. The new book about a wind farm. The latest four Varg Veum books are translated in order and all by Don Bartlett.

KH: The village where she lives – she doesn't lock doors, car doors or lock up bike.

KH: Finland is a very racist country. She is the only crime writer writing about immigration. Policy: don't let immigrants come, don't give them houses, jobs etc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall

Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall, April 2015, 304 pages, Legend Press Ltd, ISBN: 1910394599

Reviewed by Susan White.
(Read more of Susan's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

A ten-year-old boy, Noah, falls from the Humber Bridge while out with his friends. His friend, another ten-year-old boy, is found guilty of his murder. Eight years later Humber Boy B, or Ben as he is called now, is paroled from prison and relocated to Ipswich. For his own safety he is told that he is not allowed back to Humberside or to be in contact with his own family and the Noah's family. Cate is the probation officer assigned to the task of re-introducing him to society. Ben is very ill-prepared for life on the outside after spending so long institutionalised, and Cate seems to be the only person who senses the lonely and confused child within the young man.

Meanwhile Jessica, Noah's Mother, has set up a Facebook page asking for people's support in finding her son's killer and a follower on the page, Silent Friend, is determined to help her get justice.

The author has worked with young children that have been committed to prison for similar crimes that form the basis for this story and this experience shows through in the writing. The boy at the centre of the story comes from such an emotional and physically deprived environment that, while making no attempt to provide excuses for Ben, the author manages to generate a degree of sympathy for him, that took me by surprise.

As the story of Ben's life is disclosed, we learn more about the circumstances leading up to the dreadful event and also more about the missed opportunities by various adults who could have intervened and prevented the death.

HUMBER BOY B is a very sad, disturbing read that raises some really uncomfortable truths about the impact on children raised in poverty with parents who cannot or will not care for them and also the difficulty for prisoners of any age who have been jailed for a long time, to assimilate into society without being taught up to date life-skills and receiving massive support.

The subject and the writer's treatment of it reminds me to a degree of Sophie Hannah. Recommended as a thought provoking and good read. This is only the third novel by this author and I will be looking out for more in the future.

Susan White, May 2015