Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: Blue Night by Simone Buchholz tr. Rachel Ward

Blue Night by Simone Buchholz translated by Rachel Ward, February 2018, 276 pages, Orenda, ISBN: 1912374013

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

“Driving through the countryside alone is like eating sellotape.”

Public prosecutor Chastity Riley’s car coughs and dies somewhere near Mecklenburgh. Since she accused her boss of corruption and shot off a gangster’s family jewels with an unauthorised firearm, Chastity has been sidelined into witness protection – and protection is all she is allowed to do, no investigating. So this country-weekend thing has been an attempt to break the monotony. It hasn’t worked. Now she has to get back to Hamburg for a case and she really needs a lift. Faller, with his big, 1970s, mid-life crisis totem Pontiac, is the one she chooses (all of her other friends being asleep, driving-license free, or out of it). She calls Faller, takes her bag out of her car and sets off down the road in the direction of Hamburg. Later, in that city’s St Georg Hospital, she stares at her unconscious client. He is smashed up badly. Ribs, arms and legs broken and a missing index finger. She holds his huge paw of a hand until night-time then takes a taxi home. Klatsche is making cheese sandwiches to go with the beer. Lifesaver.

Summer of 1982:
Faller: “I still visit Minou’s grave. A girl from the red-light district who died because I wanted her.”
Riley: “Frankfurt glows gold, orange, pink. We ride bikes. I wear my Dad’s American Army shirts. I miss my Mum.”
Klatsche: “I haven’t been born yet.”
Joe: “Hey. Hamburg.”

Hamburg, present day:
Klatsche is out shopping, stocking up his bar “Blue Night”. Chastity returns to her flat to shower then on to forensics at Police Headquarters to examine her client’s clothes: a good made to measure suit, no label; British shirt, American shoes. Upstairs she visits her friend Calabretta who has been locked into himself since his girlfriend dumped him for a Swiss professor. But now, Chastity is thinking that the life is returning to his eyes. Next, to size up the place where her client was attacked. It must have been a gang, no way could it have been a one man job. That evening, whilst baby-sitting Calabretta at Carla and Rocco's cafe, an activity which involves a lot of booze, Calabretta remarks that he thinks Faller is up to something – maybe wanting to go after The Albanian again.

1987:
Faller: “Homicide Squad. I’m new here. A lot of death since coke hit the red-light district.”
Riley: “Why is everyone falling in love?”
Joe: “I mostly work in St Pauli, quick and quiet.”

Hamburg, present day:
The hospital calls Chastity at 5.30 am, the patient is awake. Chastity however is very hungover. The police guard outside her client’s room nods her through when she presents her pass. Her client stares at her. Chastity thinks he was more charming unconscious. When he does speak, his accent is Austrian. He says his name is Joe...

BLUE NIGHT is the first of prize-winning crime writer Simone Buchholz’ “Chastity Riley” series to be published in the UK. Its lively, true-feeling translation by Rachel Ward allows this tale of bars, beers and the nightlife of St Pauli in Hamburg to read well at a brisk pace. Chastity is the daughter of an American serviceman stationed in Germany, brought up by him after her mother left them. By the time of this book she is only just hanging on to her job as a public prosecutor after having exposed some inconvenient truths in the department. She is bored, persona non grata and barred from investigating. But she is also surrounded by a network of friends with equally chequered backgrounds to buoy her up – hence the bars, cafes and beers. It goes without saying that when landed with the job of “protecting” a badly beaten giant of an Austrian who is giving nothing away, Chastity cannot resist some of that forbidden investigating. Who attacked him and why? The investigation takes her to a new contact in the old East, in Leipzig, and a glimpse of the devastation caused by the latest cheap, virulent drug heading in Hamburg's direction.

Buchholz quickly establishes her characters and their individual voices: the ex-jailbird bar owner, a broken hearted cop, an ex-cop with a vengeful eye set on the local crime boss (now “retired” and untouchable) who killed his girlfriend years ago, and an injured Austrian stoic with a missing finger. But it goes without saying that the predominant voice in the story is that of unorthodox, street-savvy and very likeable Chastity. Written with a sense of place, a fresh voice, and a fast pace.

Absolutely recommended.

Lynn Harvey, August 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Foreign Bodies: Zygmunt Miloszewski's A Grain of Truth on Radio 4


The latest endeavour in Mark Lawson's Foreign Bodies series on Radio 4, is a two part adaptation (by Lawson) of Polish crime writer Zygmunt Miloszewski's A Grain of Truth (tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones).

The first part is avalable now to stream or download, and the second is on later today (at 3pm).
The Blood Painting
Foreign Bodies, Grain of Truth Episode 1 of 2

Taut crime thriller by leading Polish writer, Zygmunt Miloszewski, dramatised for radio by Mark Lawson. War time intrigue and modern politics mesh in a murder mystery.

The complexities and frustrations of the modern Polish legal system are the setting for this bestselling crime novel, featuring long suffering State Prosecutor Szacki who finds himself trapped in a limbo land of half-truths and secrets from post-Communist Poland. Will he prove himself to be a redoubtable seeker of the truth or will he compromise?

Episode 1: The Blood Painting
Szacki is finding small town Poland a little dull but a bizarre murder case soon throws him back into action. The crime scene is littered with grotesque clues suggesting that the murder is mirroring an infamous Jewish blood libel, drawing on historical anti-Semitism.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: Salt Lane by William Shaw

Salt Lane by William Shaw, May 2018, 464 pages, riverrun, ISBN: 1786486571

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

Publisher's Blurb (copied from Amazon)

SHE ALWAYS WENT TOO FAR

DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing - resentful teenager in tow - from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Murder is different here, among the fens and stark beaches.

SHE WAS THE ONE WHO FOUND THE KILLERS

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask - but these people are suspicious of questions.

AND NOW IT WAS KILLING HER

It will take an understanding of this strange place - its old ways and new crimes - to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

Salt Lane is the first in the new DS Alexandra Cupidi series. With his trademark characterisation and flair for social commentary, William Shaw has crafted a crime novel for our time that grips you, mind and heart.


After the huge success of the “Breen and Tozer” series of historical police procedural mystery books set in the 1960s ended (see my earlier reviews of A SONG FROM DEAD LIPS and A HOUSE OF KNIVES I was uncertain how the author would follow that initial writing success, but I should not have worried as the first book of the new series is absolutely superb. Set on the coast of Kent it describes the daily trials and tribulations of a former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant who after a love affair with a married colleague ended badly decided to transfer to another police force outside London.

DS Alexandra Cupidi and her teenage daughter have to get used to a completely different environment after the hustle and bustle of city life and the reintroduction of a more rural setting. But settle she does although Zoe her fifteen-year-old daughter has a harder time but become very interested in ornithology and spends a lot of time bird watching with binoculars from various hides along the coast.

When Cupidi and her colleague discover a North African fruit picker apparently drowned in cattle excreta a whole new investigation is started. A lot of difficult questions need to be asked and answered before the enquiry can proceed. The story continues on and a lot of her new colleagues become involved as the investigation becomes larger than originally considered. The story ends with a very dramatic conclusion.

This book was the best one that I have read by the author to date. I thought it marvellous and so well researched it was really very easy to imagine an isolated farming community in Kent.

This is a really superbly interesting, atmospheric and deftly plotted police procedural but unlike his previous books it is set in the present day. I look forward to reading more stories about Alexandra Cupidi and the other authentic characters that inhabit the gripping police procedurals from this very talented author in the future, as I enjoyed this exciting book so much. Very highly recommended.

Terry Halligan, August 2018.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Cover Theme - Reflections

I've noticed an increasing number of covers featuring reflections, or pseudo-reflections or inversions. Here are a few examples. Have you spotted anymore?









































and just in though this might not be the final cover...

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Review: The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories by Teresa Solana tr. Peter Bush

The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories by Teresa Solana translated by Peter Bush, August 2018, 210 pages, Bitter Lemon Press, ISBN: 1912242079

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

I’d never been held up at gun-point before or seen anyone die (in real-life, that is), let alone like that. Bang-bang, a couple of shots and you’re on your way to the other side. You’ll soon see when I put the photos on Instagram …

THE FIRST PREHISTORIC SERIAL KILLER is a collection of short stories by Barcelona-born novelist and translator Teresa Solana. It’s a lively, bizarre, witty, cruel, crude and sometimes picaresque collection. The first five tales start with the story that gives the collection its name: three dead Neanderthals found with their heads bashed in with a rock, one after the other, prompt the weakling of the tribe to find out how they died (after all he has to keep his place in the group somehow). Be prepared for an anachronistic tale with a sharp eye for social status and a sly humour. The following four stories cover motifs such as domestic murder and a solution to corpse disposal, death and satire in the art world, ghosts in a quandary – and vampires in the era of sunblock. The remaining stories in the collection make up the prize-winning “Connections”; a kaleidoscopic collection of eight crime stories involving characters and events in and around Barcelona, all touched by a shooting in a Barcelona pharmacy.

This was my first foray into crime fiction in short story form and I was worried that I would grow tired of what I thought could become a predictable format. But Solana is not predictable and the outcome was that I enjoyed these stories hugely. Translated by Teresa Solana’s husband Peter Bush, this translation must be one of the closest matches to the writer’s voice and intentions possible. Solana’s earthy, dark wit; her ability to speak through varied characters; her satirical eye for the layers and workings of Barcelona society (which speak to everyone everywhere) and her finely crafted invention that knits together the stories in “Connections” mean that I shall definitely be on the hunt for a full length Teresa Solana novel.

Very highly recommended – for those with a taste for murder, the surreal, and possibly – the stories of Saki.

Lynn Harvey, August 2018

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Who is Jack Ford?

Jack Ford's second 'Thomas J Cooper' book, Dead Edge is out this month. The first book in the series, The Killing Grounds, is 99p on kindle at the moment.

*If* you want to know who Jack Ford is/what they've written before then take a look at these two pages: 1 and 2.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Review: The Intrusions by Stav Sherez

The Intrusions by Stav Sherez, February 2018, 352 pages, Faber & Faber, ISBN: 0571297277

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

Amazon blurb:

When a distressed young woman arrives at their station claiming her friend has been abducted, and that the man threatened to come back and 'claim her next', Detectives Carrigan and Miller are thrust into a terrifying new world of stalking and obsession.

Taking them from a Bayswater hostel, where backpackers and foreign students share dorms and failing dreams, to the emerging threat of online intimidation, hacking, and control, The Intrusions explores disturbing contemporary themes with all the skill and dark psychology that Stav Sherez's work has been so acclaimed for.

Under scrutiny themselves, and with old foes and enmities re-surfacing, how long will Carrigan and Miller have to find out the truth behind what these two women have been subjected to?


Stav Sherez's third published novel, A DARK REDEMPTION, which was the first in a London-based police procedural series, was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2013. The second in the "Jack Carrigan and Geneva Miller" series, ELEVEN DAYS, was published in 2013 and I was very impressed with it. THE INTRUSIONS, published in 2017, has recently won the Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year 2018.

I was also very impressed by THE INTRUSIONS, the only problem I had with it was the difficulty in remembering all that had occurred in the previous book as Detective Inspector Jack Carrigan, is still having to undergo the indignity of being investigated for apparent breaches of procedure that occurred in the previous story.

However, that is a subplot that takes away from the main investigation into the murders that happened at the Bayswater hostel. As usual, Carrigan and Miller develop their own theories behind what they think happened and investigate the facts as they feel they lead. However, the head of the department, Superintendent Branch, believes the enquiry needs outside psychological help and therefore insists that a profiler be added to the team. Unfortunately, the one assigned is a person that Carrigan has a terrible personal history with.

Carrigan and Miller, separately pursue different leads to save resources and it is very intriguing how each fact in the case in unearthed and how apparently unconnected details do eventually come together. They explore a lot of data and I particularly enjoyed the forensic intensity of this, which is normally skirted around in other books. The interaction of Carrigan and Miller is also interesting and of course there are tensions there as the chemistry between the two who spend many hours in each other's company can be problematic. Still it all comes to a most satisfactory conclusion and all the loose ends are eventually tied up. This is a very cleverly plotted book which I found most enjoyable. It was one that once you start it is very difficult to put down.

I'm really disappointed that the author doesn't release his books with the frequency of other mystery authors as the quality of the research and detail and sheer readability of his stories is really to be envied by many other less gifted writers. I just could not put this really gripping story down. Please Stav, don't leave it four years before the next Carrigan and Miller story comes out. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Terry Halligan, August 2018.