Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: In Dust and Ashes by Anne Holt tr. Anne Bruce

In Dust and Ashes by Anne Holt translated by Anne Bruce, November 2017, 400 pages, Corvus, ISBN: 1782398821

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

Oslo, Norway: January 2016
Kjell Bonsaksen is looking forward to his retirement from the police and his move to Provence. Squeezing ketchup onto the hot dog, he glances through the window towards the petrol pumps as a man approaches the entrance doors. Their eyes meet and Bonsaksen freezes mid-bite. The man fills his cup at the coffee dispenser and as he passes Bonsaksen, he softly says: “You knew I was innocent. You did nothing.”

Oslo: December 2001

Jonas has continuously recalculated the chronology: if he hadn’t had that extra coffee; if he hadn’t cut his hand and allowed little Dina to bandage it; if he hadn’t fumbled the keys or stopped to sort out the junk mail in the mailbox; those misplaced seconds that led to the fatal timing of a little girl running out into the road and stumbling. He had screamed as he tried to push the wheel of the car from his daughter’s body and he had screamed “My fault” at the bewildered driver, “Mine.”

Oslo: January 2016
Henrik Holme is blocked and jostled by the waiting crowd of journalists as he pushes Hanne’s wheelchair out of the courtroom. Flash photography and shouted questions gradually subside as the journalists examine their phones; the news of the death of Iselin Havorn has pushed the Extremist Trial’s verdict off their agenda.

These days Henrik has his own office and reports to Chief Inspector Sorensen. From seven in the morning until ten at night, he shuttles between this office and his mentor Hanne's apartment, should she need him. Now it is evening and he is staring despondently at his empty in-tray when a burly man darkens the doorway and places an old blue ring-binder on his desk, insisting that Henrik and Hanne look into the case.

Henrik explains that he cannot take a case unless it is referred by the Chief, no matter how much he sympathises over a criminal getting away. The man interrupts, “He didn’t get away,” and tells Henrik that he, Superintendent Bonsaksen, cannot enjoy his retirement until … well. The man was convicted and served time. He never fought the charge of killing his wife. But Bonsaksen always doubted the verdict. When, the other day, he bumped into the man – his eyes were … dead. That man lost everything, Bonsaksen tells Henrik. Jonas Abrahamsen deserves another chance.

Confined to a wheelchair, Hanne Wilhelmsen advises the Oslo police on cold cases from the apartment she shares with her wife and daughter and is assisted by Detective Henrik Holme, a talented but isolated investigator. Hanne is between official cases when she becomes obsessed with the suicide of wealthy businesswoman and blogger Iselin Havorn. Havorn (meaning Sea Eagle) was a successful Marxist-Leninist journalist who, after becoming ill with what she decided was mercury poisoning and electromagnetic sensitivity, had turned towards alternative cures, an alternative lifestyle, conspiracy theories and eventually right-wing nationalism. Her wealth had been founded upon business interests in her wife’s herbal cure company. Recently she became notorious when unmasked as the writer of a virulently racist blog and her sudden death with its suicide note is a media sensation. But Hanne cannot believe that a woman such as Havorn would have killed herself.

Meanwhile Henrik becomes equally concerned by the guilty verdict that convicted Jonas Abrahamsen of the murder of his wife on New Year’s Eve two years after their daughter’s death. The couple were divorcing and Henrik thinks that the traumatised man’s mistake had been to deny visiting his wife on that New Year’s Eve. When Jonas was identified as the figure on the path in the background of a neighbour’s party photograph, with no other suspect in the shooting of his ex-wife, he was convicted. With no fight left in him to appeal, he went to prison for eight years.

Now Henrik and Hanne are at odds with each other. Each is convinced that their cases need investigation, each disagrees with the other’s preoccupation but neither have official permission to investigate. Then everything, it appears, must be put on hold when the child of a national lottery winner is abducted.

IN DUST AND ASHES is described by its publisher as the tenth and “final instalment” in Anne Holt’s “Hanne Wilhelmsen” crime series. An undoubted giant of Nordic crime fiction, Holt has a fine reputation and a host of fans. I have failed to keep up with Hanne since the earlier novels – not following her as a character and the twists, turns and shooting that have led to her confinement to a wheelchair. Nor have I got to know Henrik Holme until now. Therefore I’ll admit to finding the going a bit difficult. The novel unfolds from the working relationship of Hanne and Henrik. Hanne appears to be withdrawing from all social contact other than with Henrik and her family whilst Henrik struggles to modify his compulsive tics and obsessions and to draw closer to “fitting in”. As the plot throws it spotlight on Jonas – it seems as if most of this book’s characters are expressing psychological misery and alienation (with due cause you could say) and this leaves me with the uneasy feeling that Holt has become the queen of bleak. Except for the happy retiree Bonsaksen, whose insistence on re-examining the murder conviction of Jonas provides the impetus for unfolding an ingenious puzzle of a plot.

A thorough police procedural and a tour de force in character study and plotting, IN DUST AND ASHES eventually develops suspense and pace and hurtles towards its ending. But it left me unsure of my feelings about it all. I don’t mind my Nordic Noir being dark but I’m not too sure of almost (and I do say almost) relentlessly bleak.

Lynn Harvey, November 2017

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Publishing Deal - Philip Kerr

From the Bookbrunch newsletter:
Quercus has signed three novels by Philip Kerr, continuing his historical noir series featuring Detective Bernie Gunther.
Reviews and series order can be found on the Euro Crime website.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

TV News: The Sinner

The Sinner starts on Netflix on Tuesday. Based on German author Petra Hammesfahr's novel, is stars Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman.
"When a young mother inexplicably stabs a stranger to death, a sympathetic detective struggles to unlock the mystery buried in her missing memories."
Fiona Walker reviewed THE SINNER, translated into English by John Brownjohn, for Euro Crime back in 2008:
Petra Hammesfahr's THE SINNER is a brilliant book, an absolutely masterly piece of crime fiction. Once again I find myself endlessly grateful for the continuing zeitgeist of translated crime, which means that we English readers get the treat of reading this exemplary psychological thriller, a haunting descent into the torments of one woman's youthful years.

...there's been a lot of buzz about Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and deservedly so, but this first translation from Hammesfahr is without doubt of equal quality, and deserves just as much praise.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

New Releases - November 2017

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in November 2017 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). November and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.
• Anthology - CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour (ed. Martin Edwards)
• Anthology - Murder on Christmas Eve (ed. Cecily Gayford)
• Amphlett, Rachel - Hell to Pay #4 Detective Kay Hunter
• Blackhurst, Jenny - The Foster Child
• Boland, Shalini - The Secret Mother
• Bonda, Katarzyna - Girl at Midnight
• Bowen, Rhys - The Ghost of Christmas Past #17 Molly Murphy, PI, 1900s New York
• Bruen, Ken - The Ghosts of Galway #13 Jack Taylor
• Caan, Alex - First to Die #2 DCI Kate Riley and Zain Harris
• Carrisi, Donato - The Girl in the Fog
• Child, Lee - The Midnight Line #22 Jack Reacher, ex MP, USA
• Cutts, Lisa - Buried Secrets
• de Jager, Anja - Death on the Canal #3 Lotte Meerman, a Cold Case Detective, Amsterdam
• Dearman, Lara - The Devil's Claw #1 Jennifer Dorey, journalist & DCI Michael Gilbert, Guernsey
• Doherty, Paul/P C - Devil's Wolf #19 Hugh Corbett
• Fielden, T P - Resort to Murder #2 Miss Dimont, Temple Regis, Devon
• Fortin, Sue - The Birthday Girl
• Fyfield, Frances - Welcome the Stranger #4 Di Porteous
• Griffiths, Elly - The Vanishing Box #4 Stephens and Mephisto, Brighton, 1950s
• Gunn, Alastair - Cold Christmas #4 DCI Antonia Hawkins, London
• Hamdy, Adam - Freefall #2 John Wallace
• Harvey, John - Going Down Slow and Other Stories
• Holliday, Susi - The Deaths of December
• Holt, Anne - In Dust and Ashes #10 Hanne Wilhelmsen
• Jackson, Corrie - The Perfect Victim #2 Sophie Kent, Journalist
• Jonasson, Ragnar - Whiteout #4 Ari Thor, Policeman
• Kernick, Simon - The Hanged Man #2 DI Ray Mason and Tina Boyd, London
• Kirk, Margaret - Shadow Man #1 ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler, Inverness
• Koreto, R J - Death at the Emerald #3 Lady Frances Ffolkes, Edwardian era
• Kray, Roberta - Survivor
• Law, J S - The Fear Within #2 Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, Royal Navy
• Lebor, Adam - District VIII #1 Balthazar Kovacs, Detective, Budapest
• Lehtolainen, Leena - Below the Surface #8 Detective Maria Kallio, Helsinki
• Llobregat, Jordi - The Secret of Vesalius
• Lloyd, Catherine - Death Comes to the School #5 Kurland St. Mary Mysteries
• MacBride, Stuart - Now We Are Dead #1 DS Roberta Steel
• MacLeod, Torquil - Menace in Malmo #5 Inspector Anita Sundstrom
• Mariani, Scott - The Bach Manuscript #16 Ben Hope, Ex-SAS
• Marsons, Angela - Broken Bones (ebook only) #7 DI Kim Stone
• McIntyre, WHS - Last Will #9 Best Defense
• O'Keeffe, Pat - Blind Chance
• Oksanen, Sofi - Norma
• O'Sullivan, Ronnie - Double Kiss #2 Frankie James
• Petit, Chris - Pale Horse Riding #2 Schlegel and Morgen, Germany, 1943
• Pfluger, Andreas - In the Dark #1 Jenny Aaron
• Poulson, Christine - Cold, Cold Heart #2 Katie Flanagan
• Rahman, Khurrum - East of Hounslow #1 Jay Qasim
• Ramsay, Caro - The Suffering of Strangers #9 DCI McAlpine, DS Anderson and DS Costello, Glasgow
• Riches, Marnie - The Cover Up #1 O'Briens, Manchester
• Sharp, Zoe - Fox Hunter #12 Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard
• Shaw, M B - Murder at the Mill #1 Iris Grey, portrait painter and amateur sleuth, Hampshire
• Sten, Viveca - Tonight You're Dead #4 Sandhamn Murders
• Taylor, Marsali - Death in Shetland Waters #6 Shetland Sailing Mysteries
• Todd, Charles - Casualty of War #9 Bess Crawford, battlefield nurse, WWI
• Tyler, L C - Fire #4 John Grey, lawyer, 1657
• Valtonen, Jussi - They Know Not What They Do
• Veste, Luca - The Bone Keeper #1 DC Louise Henderson
• Wynn, Patricia - Whisper of Death #6 Gideon Mars & Mrs Kean

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Awards News: Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017 - Winners

Last month, Euro Crime took part in the Ngaio Marsh Awards blog tour and I'm very pleased to publish the press release revealing the winners:

Fresh blood on the ferns: new voices dominate Ngaio Marsh Awards

The usual suspects took a back seat as first-time crime writers Fiona Sussman, Finn Bell, and Michael Bennett swept the spoils at the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards in Christchurch on Saturday night.

The talented trio made history on several fronts at a special WORD Christchurch event hosted in Dame Ngaio’s hometown by Scorpio Books as part of nationwide NZ Bookshop Day celebrations.

“Each of our winners this year is a remarkable storyteller who uses crime writing as a prism through which to explore broader human and societal issues,” said Ngaios founder Craig Sisterson. “When we launched in 2010 we wanted to highlight excellence in local crime writing, beyond traditional ideas of puzzling whodunits or airport thrillers. Our 2017 winners emphasise that broader scope to the genre, and showcase the inventiveness and world-class quality of our local storytellers.”

Sussman is the first female author to win the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. THE LAST TIME WE SPOKE (Allison & Busby) is her second novel but the first foray into crime storytelling for the former GP who grew up in Apartheid South Africa. It explores the ongoing impact of a brutal home invasion on both victim and perpetrator. “Laden with empathy and insight,” said the international judging panel. “A challenging, emotional read, harrowing yet touching, this is brave and sophisticated storytelling.”

It took Sussman seven years to research and write her winning novel. She travelled Aotearoa visiting prisons, talking to police and victims, inmates and ex-gang members, and seeking advice from Māori writers to ensure she brought authenticity to the disparate worlds of her characters. She won a Ngaios trophy, special edition of a Dame Ngaio book, and $1,000 cash prize courtesy of WORD Christchurch.

Self-published e-book author Finn Bell won Best First Novel for DEAD LEMONS and was a finalist for Best Crime Novel for PANCAKE MONEY. His debut explores themes of addiction, loss, and recovery as a wheelchair-bound man contemplating suicide decamps to a remote cottage in Southland, only to be obsessively drawn into a dangerous search for a father and daughter who went missing years before.
Bell has worked in night shelters, charities, hospitals, and prisons. He is the first author to ever have two books become finalists in a single year. The judges called him "a wonderful new voice in crime writing” who “delivers a tense, compelling tale centred on an original, genuine, and vulnerable character."

Experienced filmmaker Michael Bennett (Te Arawa) won the inaugural Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Non Fiction for IN DARK PLACES (Paul Little Books), the astonishing tale of how teenage car thief Teina Pora spent decades in prison for the brutal murder of Susan Burdett, and the remarkable fight to free him. The international judging panel called it “a scintillating, expertly balanced account of one of the most grievous miscarriages of justice in New Zealand history".

“Decades ago a woman from Christchurch was among the biggest names in the books world,” said Sisterson. “In recent years there’s a growing appreciation abroad for the top talent of our contemporary Kiwi crime writers; a reputation that’s going to flourish even more thanks to this year’s winners.”

For more information about the Ngaio Marsh Awards, contact the Judging Convenor: or

Friday, October 27, 2017

Awards News: CWA Daggers 2017 - Winners

The Press Release announcing the winners (shortlists can be found here):

CWA Daggers 2017 Awarded to

The Dry, Spook Street and Tall Oaks

The 2017 winners of the prestigious CWA Daggers were announced at a gala dinner sponsored by publishers Pan Macmillan at the Grange City Hotel, Cooper’s Row, London on Thursday 26 October.

The CWA Daggers, the crème de la crème of crime-writing awards, were awarded to:

Gold – for the best crime novel of the year: Jane Harper for The Dry

Ian Fleming Steel – for the best crime thriller of the year; Mick Herron for Spook Street

John Creasey New Blood – for the best debut crime novel; Chris Whitaker for Tall Oaks

Endeavour Historical – for the best historical crime novel; Abir Mukherjee for A Rising Man

Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction – for non-fiction crime; Stephen Purvis for Close But No Cigar: A True Story of Prison Life in Castro’s Cuba

Short Story – for a short crime story published in the UK; L C Tyler for ‘The Trials of Margaret’ from Motives for Murder, edited by Martin Edwards

International – for crime fiction translated into English and published in the UK; Leif G W Persson for The Dying Detective, translated by Neil Smith

Dagger in the Library – for the author of the most enjoyed collection of work in libraries; Mari Hannah (announced earlier in the year)

Debut Dagger sponsored by Orion Books – for the opening of a crime novel by a writer with no publishing contract at time of submission: Sherry Rankin for Strange Fire

The Diamond Dagger, for a career’s outstanding contribution to crime fiction as nominated by CWA members, was announced earlier in the year and awarded to the very popular author Ann Cleeves, who received the stunning Cartier Diamond Dagger. Ann is known for her work with libraries and for her TV series: with Vera and Shetland, she is the only living author to have two major drama series broadcast at the same time.

The after-dinner speaker was Robert Thorogood, creator and writer of TV series Death in Paradise, and Master of Ceremonies was leading crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw, author of Brit Noir. The quality of entertainment and crime-writing erudition on display was excellent, and much enjoyed by the authors, publishers, literary agents, CWA members, actors and crime writing fans at the event.

For more details on the authors and the books, including publishers, and for photos of the event soon to be posted, please visit the website:

Dagger Review Competition
The CWA is launching a public competition for the best review of a CWA Dagger-shortlisted or winning title, or a book by the Diamond Dagger or Dagger in the Library winners. The competition is open to anyone; simply submit a review on The writer of the best review wins a full weekend pass to CrimeFest 2018 (event only), and a copy of the new anthologies shortly to be released by both the CWA and CrimeFest.

CWA Daggers 2018
Nominations from publishers are now open for the CWA Dagger Awards 2018. Longlists will be announced at CrimeFest on 18 May 2018.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Publishing Deal - Isabel Ashdown

From today's Bookseller:
Trapeze will publish an “unsettling thriller” set in Norway from novelist Isabel Ashdown which promises “jawdropping twists and turns”.

Sam Eades, editorial director at the Orion imprint, acquired world rights (all languages) for two more books by Isabel Ashdown.

The first book, Lake Child, will be published in spring 2019, set in Norway and London, exploring the "dangerous lengths parents will go to in the name of love".

Lake Child follows a young Norwegian woman who wakes from an accident missing her most recent memories and trusts her parents’ advice that she must stay confined to her bedroom while she recuperates. However when she breaks out she discovers a world of secrets and lies which force her to question her who her parents really are.