Thursday, December 06, 2018

Review: A Maigret Christmas and other stories by Georges Simenon tr. David Coward

Today's review is courtesy of CrimeTime's Bob Cornwell. Read more of his reviews on Euro Crime.

A Maigret Christmas is being serialised on Radio 4's Book at Bedtime, starting on 24 December.

A Maigret Christmas and other stories by Georges Simenon tr. David Coward, 217 pages, October 2018, Penguin Classics, ISBN: 0241356741

These three first-class Simenon short stories first saw light of day in France in 1951 as a collection titled Un Noël de Maigret. They now return to the Penguin catalogue, newly and ably translated by David Coward, as a Penguin Classic. Then as now, they make an attractive package both for the long-term or intermittent Simenon reader, but also perhaps as a Christmas present for the younger crime reader unfamiliar with his work.

The title story offers an intimate glimpse of the home life of Madame and Monsieur Maigret (not altogether complimentary to the latter) as the former devotedly slips out early on Christmas morning to fetch warm croissants from the local baker for her restless husband. Thereafter the action gradually heats up as two ladies from across the street in Boulevard Richard-Lenoir, one somewhat reluctant, come looking for some advice from their famous neighbour. For whilst delivering some small Christmas gifts that morning to a young girl taken in after her mother’s death by one of the women, they discover her already in possession of an expensive doll – and that Father Christmas has delivered it in person. Astutely, Madame Maigret realises that her husband is unlikely to walk away from such a mystery, however seemingly trivial. “Happy now?” she whispers softly…

In the second tale, Seven Small Crosses in a Notebook, childhood winters and a black pudding of mysterious provenance are the topics of conversation as the night shift telephone operators at the Quai des Orfèvres (Maigret’s HQ in Paris) cope with a busy Christmas Eve. But this not a Maigret story (though Janvier, a young associate of Maigret, makes a little more than peripheral contribution). Instead the focus is on Lecoeur, a twelve-year veteran of the shift, who not only records each incident as it is reported, but also out of idle curiosity the location and the type of crime. So far this evening he has noted three potential suicides, “almost” two hundred of the nastier drunken episodes, 48 stolen vehicles, five stabbings (Paris, 1950 or thereabouts!), a few lost children. There is also a murderer at large. Then Lecoeur, using his intimate knowledge of Parisian geography, spots something deliberate in the pattern he has recorded of seven attacks that have been made on the red emergency phones that line the streets of Paris…

Both these stories evolve into complex investigations. In the first Maigret is soon directing his team of Lucas and Torrence, on Christmas duty in the Quai des Orfèvres, to find the crucial evidence to support his evolving theories. Seven Crosses is even more remarkable. It is also a team effort but it is no less an intimate portrait of Lecoeur, a man fully conscious that, however vital his contribution today “tomorrow he would be just a very ordinary telephone operator sitting at his switchboard”. Simenon’s respect for his humble origins and uncomplaining dedication to his job seeps from every paragraph.

Finally, in another milieu close to Simenon’s heart….just as The Little Restaurant near Place des Ternes (“A Christmas Story for Grown-Ups”) is closing after a low-key Christmas Eve, a tragic event occurs. Two female witnesses are questioned: a pretty young woman, “badly made up”, and the somewhat older Jeanne, known to the police as Long Tall Jeanne. Jeanne casually notes from the young woman’s overheard testimony that she comes from the same coastal area as herself, but decides to leave for ‘home’. The night’s events however have left her troubled, so instead she heads for the bright lights of Place des Ternes, with unexpected consequences. A much shorter tale than its two predecessors, it is another beautifully observed, unsentimental tale that nevertheless warms the heart.

All three stories are packed with background detail, culled from a lifetime of close observation (Lecoeur’s Paris is “a Paris apart…not the Eiffel Tower, the Opera and the Louvre, but dark administrative buildings with a police van parked underneath a blue lamp, and leaning against its wall, the bicycles of the cycle-mounted police patrols” – and a great deal more besides.

Simenon’s “characters grow in this thick soil of sensuous experience…they take colour and conviction from their surroundings”. Thus wrote Julian Symons, crack crime writer and critic in an essay on Simenon in Bloody Murder, his classic study of crime fiction back in 1972. All the more remarkable then that in 1945 Simenon had moved to America and would not return permanently to Europe, apart from two short trips in 1952 and 1954, until 1955. Place du Ternes was written in Tucson, Arizona in 1947, and the other two in Carmel, California in 1950.

Great stuff, I think. One for the collection.

Bob Cornwell
December 2018

Saturday, December 01, 2018

New Releases - December 2018

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in December 2018 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). December and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything or got the date wrong, do please leave a comment.
• Anthology: Amsterdam Noir (ed.s Rene Appel and Josh Pachter)
• Anthology: For the Sake of the Game - Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon (ed.s Laurie R King & Leslie S Klinger)

• Alderson, Sarah - Friends Like These
• Bengtsdotter, Lina - For the Missing
• Bilyeau, Nancy - The Blue
• Blake, Robin - Rough Music #5 Titus Cragg, Coroner & Luke Fidelis, Doctor, 1740 Lancashire
• Brown, Eric - Murder Served Cold #6 Donald Langham, Crime Writer, London, 1955
• Carpenter, Elisabeth - Only a Mother
• Carroll, B M - The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy
• Doherty, P C/Paul - The Godless #19 Brother Athelstan
• Downing, David - The Dark Clouds Shining #4 Jack McColl
• Ellis, Kate - The Boy Who Lived with the Dead #2 Inspector Albert Lincoln, 1919
• Falconer, Colin - Lucifer Falls #1 Detectives Charlie George and Clare Reeves
• Fossum, Karin - The Whisperer #13 Inspector Konrad Sejer, Norway
• Griffiths, Rebecca - A Place to Lie
• Heley, Veronica - False Account #13 Bea Abbott, Sixty-something owner of The Abbott (Domestic) Agency
• Holmen, Martin - Slugger #3 Harry Kvist, a bi-sexual former boxer and debt collector, 1930s Stockholm
• Ison, Graham - Hardcastle's Quandary #15 DI Hardcastle, 1900s
• Judd, Alan - Shakespeare's Sword (novella)
• Kara, Lesley - The Rumour
• Kelly, Stephen - Hushed in Death #3 Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Lamb, World War II
• Krisco, Kim - The Celtic Phoenix #1 Sherlock Holmes & Baker Street irregular Tessa Wiggins
• Lake, Alex - The Last Lie
• Levy, Marc - The Last of the Stanfields
• Lloyd, Catherine - Death Comes to Bath #6 Kurland St. Mary Mysteries
• Mace, Lorraine - Retriever of Souls #1 DI Sterling
• McCrery, Nigel - Bloodline #6 DCI Mark Lapslie, synaesthesia sufferer
• Murphy, Peter - One Law For the Rest of Us #6 Ben Schroeder, Lawyer, 1960s
• Rademacher, Cay - Deadly Camargue #2 Provence Mystery
• Randall, Anne - Deceived #4 DIs Wheeler and Ross, Glasgow
• Robb, Candace - A Murdered Peace #3 Kate Clifford, C14 England
• Robertson, Michael - A Baker Street Wedding #6 Brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath, Lawyers, Baker Street
• Rous, Emma - The Au Pair
• Taylor, A M - Forget Me Not
• Templeton, Aline - Carrion Comfort #2 DI Kelso Strang
• Thorogood, Robert - Murder in the Caribbean #4 Death in Paradise (DI Richard Poole)
• Turnbull, Peter - Cold Wrath #25 Detective Chief Inspector Hennessey and Detective Superintendent Yellich
• Turner, Ronnie - Lies Between Us
• Tyler, L C - The Bleak Midwinter #5 John Grey, lawyer, 1657
• Weeks, Stephen - The Man at the Bank #3 The Countess of Prague
• Wyer, Carol - Last Lullaby #2 Detective Natalie Ward

Friday, November 30, 2018

TV News: Young Wallander

It's recently been announced that Netflix has ordered a UK-Swedish production of a "Young Wallander" series, a six-parter featuring a 20-something Wallander and his first case. Details via Variety:
The adventures of “Young Wallander” are coming to Netflix. The streaming giant has ordered a U.K.-Swedish series based on the early life of Henning Mankell’s popular police inspector, who has already been already depicted on the small screen in the BBC “Wallander” series with Kenneth Branagh and a Swedish version with Krister Henriksson.

“Young Wallander” will see the titular detective tackling his first-ever case. Netflix’s VP of international originals, Erik Barmack, announced the project Wednesday at C21’s Content London event.

“We’re looking at Wallander when he was in his early 20s, before he became so jaded,” he said, noting that Mankell’s books had sold 50 million copies around the world in multiple languages. “When we talked to Berna [Levin] at Yellow Bird and saw the opportunity to work on a project like this, we got really excited.”

Production starts on the serialized six-parter, which will be in English, in 2019.

Levin, creative director at Banijay-owned Yellow Bird U.K., said that “getting to meet Wallander as a young man and explore how the times and his new experiences will shape him to eventually become the man we already know and love is a thrilling opportunity. We are confident he will captivate new audiences and delight longstanding fans once again with his sharp intelligence, youthful enthusiasm and unmistakable humanity.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

Website Updates: November 2018

I've updated the main files on the Euro Crime website today. "Euro Crime" includes both British and other European crime fiction writers (that have been published in English); non-British/European born crime writers who are strongly associated with British/European crime fiction (eg. Donna Leon), and crime writers in translation from outside of Europe.

I've also streamlined the site a little by removing several pages which were obsolete and/or out of date: Competition, Links, and News. New entries have been added to the sidebar for the Euro Crime Facebook page and the Petrona Award website.

Just a couple of reminders regarding the New Releases page:

1. The main by month/by author pages refer to when a book is published (in English) anywhere in the world however the 'by category ie historical, translated etc' is specific to when it's published in the UK.

2. When a book is released "early" in ebook I am taking the publication date as to be when the print edition comes out (this is the rule we use for determining Petrona Award eligibility).

As always, if you spot something wrong or missing, please do let me know.

Here's a summary of the usual updates:

The Author Websites page now lists 1083 sites.

In Bibliographies there are now bibliographies for 2696 authors (13532 titles of which 3098 are reviewed).

I've added new bibliographies for: G D Abson, Michelle Adams, Claire Askew, Lizzy Barber, Hannah Begbie, Alison Belsham, Rachael Blok, Guy Bolton, Jonas Bonnier, James Brabazon, Simone Buchholz, Laura Carlin, B M Carroll, Holly Cave, Lezanne Clannachan, Louisa de Lange, James Deegan, Angus Donald, Sophie Draper, Charlotte Duckworth Nuala Ellwood, Clare Empson, Mick Finlay, Jack Ford, M J Ford, E C Fremantle, Anthony Good, Emily Gunnis, Bradley Harper, Paul Harrison, James Hazel, Kate Helm, K J Howe Christopher Huang, Stina Jackson, Jo Jakeman, B E Jones, Bill Jones, Sandie Jones, Lesley Kara, Serena Kent, Tony Kent, Merle Kroger, Antoine Laurain, Caroline Lea, Mariette Lindstein, Asia MacKay, Louise Mangos, Kate Mascarenhas, H P Maskew, S R Masters, Sarah Meuleman, Alex Michaelides, Emiliano Monge, Phoebe Morgan, Anthony Mosawi, Niklas Natt och Dag, Alex North, Martin Osterdahl, Darren O'Sullivan, Vikki Patis, S W Perry, Heather Redmond, Rebecca Reid, Ane Riel, Maggie Robinson, Palle Rosenkrantz, Jacob Ross, Emma Rous, Michael Rutger, Joanne Sefton, Victoria Selman, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, John Simpson, C J Skuse, A M Taylor, Michael Theurillat, Rebecca Tinnelly, Alan Trotter, Harriet Tyce, Pål Undall, Jessica Vallance, Holly Watt and Yigal Zur.

I've updated the bibliographies (ie added new titles) for: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jane Adams, Tasha Alexander, Hania Allen, Lin Anderson, M J Arlidge, Jennifer Ashley, R J Bailey, Jackie Baldwin, Fiona Barton, Samuel Bjork, Helen Black, Sara Blaedel, Robin Blake, Hilary Bonner, Oliver Bottini, Rhys Bowen, Alan Bradley, Conor Brady, Gyles Brandreth, Simon Brett, Neil Broadfoot, Frances Brody, Ken Bruen, Steve Burrows, Andrea Camilleri, Sam Carrington, Chris Carter, Will Carver, Steve Cavanagh, Ray Celestin, Kimberley Chambers, Paul Charles, Clare Chase, E O Chirovici, P F Chisholm, Rosie Claverton, Rory Clements, Daniel Cole, John Connolly, Lesley Cookman, Julie Corbin, Jane Corry, Colin Cotterill, James Craig, Mike/M W Craven, Richard Crompton, A J Cross, Bill Daly, Paula Daly, Lindsey Davis, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Maurizio De Giovanni, Anja de Jager, Will Dean, J P Delaney, Hannah Dennison, Katerina Diamond, P C/Paul Doherty, Claire Douglas, David Downing, Teresa Driscoll, Joy Ellis, Thomas Enger, Ramon Diaz Eterovic Jessica Fellowes, T P Fielden, Helen Fields, Paul Finch, Elena Forbes, Frederick Forsyth, Christopher Fowler, Dick Francis, Guy Fraser-Sampson Agnete Friis, Robert Galbraith, Robert Goddard, Dolores Gordon-Smith, Andrew Grant, Alex Gray, Camilla Grebe, Susanna Gregory, J M Gregson, Bear Grylls, Patricia Hall, Adam Hamdy, Peter Hanington, Mari Hannah, Elodie Harper, C S Harris Cora Harrison, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, L V Hay, Elizabeth Haynes, Mandasue Heller, James Henry, Mick/M Herron, Nir Hezroni, Sarah Hilary, Casey Hill, Martin Holmen, Anthony Horowitz, Anna Lee Huber, Graham Ison, Hanna Jameson, Diane Janes, Quintin Jardine, Michael Jecks, Luke Jennings, Philip Gwynne Jones, Emma Kavanagh, Jessie Keane, Erin Kelly, Claire Kendal, Simon Kernick, T E Kinsey, Ali Knight, Renee Knight, Roberta Kray, Snorri Kristjansson, David Lagercrantz, J S Law, Anna Legat, Leena Lehtolainen, Simon Lelic, Donna Leon Catherine Lloyd, Frances Lloyd, H B Lyle, Shona/S G MacLean, Torquil MacLeod, Gilly Macmillan Susan Elia MacNeal, Adrian Magson, Karen Maitland, Michael J Malone, Antonio Manzini, Scott Mariani, David Mark, Edward Marston, Andrew Martin, Faith Martin, Priscilla Masters, Peter May, Nigel McCrery, Andy McDermott, Catriona McPherson, Danny Miller, Caroline Mitchell, Mandy Morton, Peter Murphy, Amy Myers, Jo Nesbo, Hakan Nesser, Vicky Newham, Chris Nickson, John Niven, Ronnie O'Sullivan, James Oswald, Alan Parks, Tony Parsons, Ben Pastor, Anne Perry, Christoffer Petersen, Andreas Pfluger, Henry Porter, Marc Raabe, Cay Rademacher, Deanna Raybourn, Sarah Rayne, Eric Mayer & Mary Reed, Alex Reeve, Rod Reynolds, Matthew Richardson, Phil Rickman, Stella Rimington, Mike Ripley, Peter Robinson, Jenny Rogneby, Jacqui Rose, Emma Rowley James Runcie, Leigh Russell, Simon Scarrow, Jan-Philipp Sendker, Gerald Seymour, Sara Sheridan, Mel Sherratt, Soji Shimada, Jeffrey Siger, Alexander McCall Smith, Anna Smith, Helen Smith, Teresa Solana, Roz Southey, Jo Spain, Michael Stanley Mel/Melvin R Starr, Viveca Sten, Abbie Taylor, Andrew Taylor, Aline Templeton, Sherry Thomas, Will Thomas, E S Thomson, Lesley Thomson, Peter Tickler, M J Tija, Rebecca Tope, Peter Tremayne, S K Tremayne, C J Tudor, Helene Tursten, L C Tyler, Martin Walker, Rachel Ward, Ruth Ware, Douglas Watt, Ashley Weaver, Matt Wesolowski, Neil White, Lucie Whitehouse, Andrew Williams, Andrew Wilson, Jacqueline Winspear, Michael Wood, Tom Wood, Jake Woodhouse and Joakim Zander.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Review: Never Proven by Bill Daly

Never Proven by Bill Daly, November 2018, 320 pages, Old Street Publishing, ISBN: 1910400777

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

This is the fourth book in the Charlie Anderson series by this very talented writer from Glasgow and set in around the town he knows so well.

John Preston an IT consultant is found dead on the streets of Glasgow and DCI Charlie Anderson is very disturbed by the circumstances of the killing which indicate that the victim perhaps knew his assailant. On the same night a local man was attacked in a local pub and had his hand nailed to the floor and it looked like the assailants were connected to the killing but the DCI has a hard case attempting to prove the connection.

As this is the fourth book in the series the detectives in the story become more familiar to the regular reader and their back story provides the author with a rich seam of content to pass on.

As is usual in books of this kind there are many false trails before the ultimate reveal in the final paragraphs.

Bill Daly originally came from Renfrew (near Glasgow). Having spent forty years away from Scotland (living mainly in France) he returned to live in Glasgow in 2015. In 2016, he was awarded The Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Trophy for his novel writing. His first DCI Charlie Anderson thriller BLACK MAIL, published in 2014 became a No 1 Kindle Bestseller in the “Scottish Crime” category.

I always look forward to reading Bill Daly's books as they effortlessly incorporate the seedy nastiness of the tougher parts of Glasgow. They are always very fast moving and evocative and the characters all have a rich credibility. I was, as usual, absolutely gripped until the final dramatic paragraph and look forward to reading more from this very exciting and gifted author.

Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, November 2018.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett

Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen translated by Don Bartlett, June 2018, 271 pages, Orenda Books, ISBN: 9781912374199

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

Norway, Bergen, Spring 2003
Moving out of his office whilst the owners redevelop the building has been unsettling enough for private investigator Varg Veum. But now he is back behind his desk and the woman sitting across from him is telling him that she is his sister. Varg tells her that he found a birth certificate and adoption papers amongst his mother’s things but he admits that he had been reluctant to look for her. His sister in turn had visited their mother back in 1975, to find out who her father was. However big sister Norma Johanne can’t tell Varg anything about the yellowed newspaper cutting he also found amongst their mother’s papers, an article about a jazz band called The Hurrycanes. In fact Norma has really come to Varg to ask him to find her god-daughter Emma, a 19-year-old trainee nurse who disappeared several weeks ago. Her Bergen landlord and flatmates say that she packed up and moved out but they don’t know where to and she isn’t answering her phone. Emma’s father happens to live in Bergen but he left the family under a cloud when Emma was only two years old. Norma Johanne has tried the police but they think she has just taken off somewhere and aren’t interested in pursuing an investigation. So she has come to Varg. Explaining that only the police can check Emma’s bank cards and phone, Varg agrees to investigate.

Varg's first try is Emma’s last known address starting with the landlord's flat on the top floor of the building. There is not much there for him except the landlord’s wife who is drunk and available, her husband being away on business. Varg makes his way downstairs to Emma’s apartment where he speaks to one of the flat mates. She seems disinterested and vague, explaining that they hadn’t really known Emma, she had simply answered their advert for a housemate. But she does remember her once talking about trying to see her father. Emma’s father must be Varg’s next step. There he is greeted by the father’s second wife, Emma’s stepmother, dressed in a tracksuit and impatient to get out on her twice daily run. She dismisses any talk about “that hysterical daughter”. There is a sizeable motorbike chained in the carport and Emma’s father, dressed in leather and denim, is hostile too. He doesn’t want anything to do with Emma. He doesn’t care what, if anything, has happened to her. He never really knew her anyway. Varg continues his search: Emma’s schoolfriend, now studying in Berlin; Emma’s college; her fellow students. But he draws a blank and his impression is that nobody cares much about the girl except perhaps her friend in Berlin.

The past begins to haunt both Emma’s story and that of Varg as he and his new sister make their tentative first steps in connection. Shadowy motives and past traumas begin to emerge alongside connections to a biker gang. Another death closer to home ensnares Varg into real physical danger but still the mystery of Emma refuses to yield its answers until the end of this surprisingly poignant story.

BIG SISTER is the first novel that I have read in Staalesen’s mammoth, established and prize-winning Varg Veum series. I can only hang my head in shame that it has taken so long for me to arrive here. But this also means that there is one thing I can vouch for: Staalesen weaves Veum’s past into the narrative so deftly that the reader can pick up the thread of his life, in as much as it relates to the story, seamlessly. Neither too much is explained nor too little. My hat is doffed. This is the ninth of the UK published Varg Veum series and reads easily and fluently in this translation by Don Bartlett, veteran translator of Nesbo and Knausgaard.
Bartlett himself once described Staalesen’s crime writing as “soft hard-boiled crime”. I suspect Staalesen pays homage to Raymond Chandler and his American West Coast creation Philip Marlowe in its details: the bottle of spirit in the office desk drawer; Norma Johanne Bakkevik – does that ring a bell for Norma Jean Baker/Marilyn Monroe? Even the title of this novel recalls Chandler’s own titled work “The Little Sister”. But perhaps I’m getting carried away.

In BIG SISTER, Staalesen has written a densely interwoven mystery and it's down to Varg Veum to pick apart the strands; a solidly satisfying private eye tale crafted with detailed storytelling, pace, wit and a compassionate eye.
A definite recommend.

Lynn Harvey, November 2018

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

TV News: The Brokenwood Mysteries Series 5


New Zealand's equivalent to Midsomer Murders, The Brokenwood Mysteries, returns to tv channel Drama on 23 November. This is the fifth series, and I believe, like the others is four episodes long.

You can watch previous episodes via the Drama homepage. If you want to watch them in HD - the Drama channel is SD only - then HD copies can be purchased via Amazon Prime Video. They are currently £8.99 a series. This price does fluctuate - I bought series 4 a few days ago at £4.99.

From the Drama website:
On the face of it, Brokenwood is another quiet, country town in New Zealand, the kind you might find just a few hours drive from any city. The people are pleasant and there's a strong sense of community. It has a golf club, regular wine shows, everything you would expect... and a few things you wouldn't, like buried secrets, treacherous lies and fiendish murders. DI Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) and DC Kristin Simms (Fern Sutherland) are on hand to investigate these small-town crimes in big-sky country.