Norman Price's favourite reads of 2015
I did not read as many books as I usually do that could be classified as Eurocrime in 2015.
I was distracted for much of the year by both pleasant and unpleasant events, and several of my best reads came from the other side of the Atlantic.
But British and European authors also produced some great reads. I only reviewed one book for Euro Crime during the year and it was one of my top five:
1] The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr.
The tenth novel in the Bernie Gunther series was another great read bringing the reader excitement, tension, great characters and a nice dollop of historical education about the war in the Balkans. An adult read because of the accounts of the particular horror of the Second World War in Yugoslavia, where ethnic tensions exploded in an orgy of killing that were to repeat themselves in the 1990s.
I was rather pleased that a brief section of my review for Euro Crime was used in the paperback version of the book located between blurbs by the Irish Times and The Sun.
2] and 3] The Hummingbird and The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto translated by David Hackston
The explosion of Nordic noir that has hit our bookshelves, and TV screens, since the Stieg Larsson phenomena has meant that as well as some very good examples we have also seen some pretty poor stuff. If it is Nordic it must have a market has been the mantra.
It is nice to report that in Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto we have a Nordic author, who is so good her books remind me of the Martin Beck series. The novels are set in a Northern Finnish coastal town and feature the classic combination of mismatched detective colleagues. Young attractive Anna Fekete, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia of Hungarian ethnicity, and Esko, a middle aged Finnish redneck, a racist with a slightly soft centre beneath the harsh exterior. The books discuss some of the major problems of our time, immigration, the status of minorities, racism and loneliness, blending social commentary and police procedural quite brilliantly.
4] Viper by Maurizio De Giovanni translated by Anthony Shugar
Viper is another in the superb series set in Fascist Italy in the 1930s. The murder of a beautiful prostitute leads Commissario Ricciardi and his portly colleague to investigate a series of suspects. But in my opinion it is the two subplots, one involving the conversations and political jokes between Ricciardi, Maione and pathologist Dr Bruno Modi, that add spice to a story in a country where one wrong word can lead you to fall into the clutches of the OVRA, Mussolini's frightening secret police. The second subplot is the love triangle as two very different women, Livia the worldly glamourous widow and Enrica the shy bespectacled neighbour, struggle to attract Ricciardi's attention.
5] Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon
A spy story set in post-war Berlin that emphasises the desperate situation in a defeated country, and that the Soviet liberators are not that different from the former Fascist rulers.
It is sometimes a distressing read as dedicated communists slowly realise that the socialist state they arrived at hoping for some kind of utopia will eventually become the only country in history that builds a wall to keep people in rather than out.
The tragedy is made more real by the current situation in Britain where a major political party has been hijacked by people who wave Mao's little red book around in the Houses of Parliament, and apparently wish to recreate that GDR [East German Stasi state] in England's green and pleasant fields.