Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo tr. Isabelle Kaufeler

The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo translated by Isabelle Kaufeler, April 2015, 432 pages, HarperCollins, ISBN: 000752532X

Reviewed by Laura Root.
(Read more of Laura's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN by Dolores Redondo (translator Isabelle Kaufeler) is the first in her best-selling trilogy of novels set in Navarre. These books feature young female detective, Police Inspector Amaia Salazar, who had a traumatic childhood in the beautiful historic small town of Elizondo. The literal meaning of the name Elizondo is “beside the church” , which proves to be a rather apt meaning as quite a few of the characters in this book hold pagan and magical beliefs or believe they have seen supernatural creatures. After leaving home to study at university, Amaia now lives in Pamplona and has a successful police career and happy marriage to her husband, an American sculptor from a wealthy family, with the only fly in the ointment being concerns about her fertility. But then Amaia is sent back to Elizondo to head up the murder investigation after the particularly nasty ritualised murder of a young girl, Ainhoa Elisazu, whose body was found by the riverside in the woods.

Amaia soon discovers that there is probably a serial killer at large near her home town. A girl in her late teens had been found dead some months before after a drug-fuelled row with her boyfriend, and the police had wrongly assumed that the boyfriend was the culprit. But Amaia soon finds out that there are a number of similarities with the death of Ainhoa, and the boyfriend was almost certainly unfairly imprisoned. The forensic reports in Ainhoa's case reveal some puzzling information, that mysterious animal hairs were found at the crime scene. Events taken an even stranger turn when a sighting by a forest ranger spark rumours that a basajaun was present in the forest around the time of the murder. (A basajaun is a creature from Basque mythology, a giant human like hairy creature that is reputed to protect animals in the forest.)

Amaia has to face up to a number of family troubles past and present on her return home, having been cast since childhood in the role of the family scapegoat in the eyes of her mother and older sister Flora. Amaia has a better relationship with her other sister,. Rosaura, who is reeling from a recent split with her ne'er do well boyfriend, Freddy, but this sisterly relationship becomes strained during the course of the investigation. Flora is an overbearing bully who has taken over the family baking business, and made a huge success of it, with book and television deals in the pipeline. Despite this success Flora is bitter as she perceives that Ros and Amaia escaped the responsibility of the business. The burden of her past weighs heavily on Amaia as she investigates this case, and has to battle to gain the respect of some of her male colleagues whilst having painful flashbacks to her childhood

I found that THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN has an intriguing take on the police procedural, moving beyond the gory details of crime scenes and office politics typical of the genre. What is particularly distinctive about this book is the way the atmosphere and the local mythology of the Basque region play such an important part in this story. Amaia is an interesting heroine, whose unfeasibly good detective skills are shown as being the result of the combination of her talent at conventional detective work with a witch-like intuition. The back-story and at times strained relationships between Amaia and her sisters was convincingly depicted. At times though I found the writing a bit overwrought and a little too determined to show Amaia's intellectual and professional superiority compared to her colleagues. Otherwise THE INVISIBLE GUARDIAN is a striking debut, and I would be interested to read future books in this series.

Laura Root, June 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cover Theme - Who You Gonna Call?

From Fenland to the Highlands, the iconic red phone-box:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville, June 2015, 368 pages, Harvill Secker, ISBN: 1846556961

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

Belfast, 2007
The two brothers huddle together on the bed, their hands bloodied. Ciaran asks his older brother Thomas if they are going to jail. Throughout the hammering and shouting at the front door and the sound of the approaching siren, Thomas's voice soothes Ciaran as they lie together.

Belfast, 2014
As soon as she sees the headlines screaming the release of the “schoolboy killer”, Probation Officer Paula Cunningham knows that the case will fall to her. Ciaran was imprisoned for murder at the age of twelve, his older brother Thomas released two years ago. Both boys' names have been released to the press. At nineteen, Ciaran Devine will have no idea how the outside world works.

Meanwhile DCI Serena Flanagan's first day back at work after her cancer treatment is one she has been dreading: the stares, the whispers, the pussy-footing. As she repositions the photos of her husband and two children on her desk, her boss enters with a file under his arm. Serena's heart sinks to find it is a clear-up job on the cases belonging to a retiring DCI but her boss reminds her that it is early days yet in her return to work. He pauses on the way out to pass on the message that the Devine boy's probation officer would like to speak to her.
Serena remembers Ciaran: a boy, a child. How she had gained his confidence but struggled with the facts when he confessed. And the letter that he had sent to her from prison. The letter that made her blush and that she had kept. Talking to Paula Cunningham, Serena also recalls the horrendous crime scene, the body of the boys' foster father in the corner of the master bedroom, the brothers lying on the bed. At the police station, Ciaran – thin, bearing the scars of self-harm – asked to see his brother. When she explained that he could not, she saw the panic in his eyes. He began to weep uncontrollably and she did what any mother would do and put her arms around the boy, comforting and rocking. Later, at the formal interview with a social worker observing, Ciaran made a full confession, stating that his older brother had tried to stop him but couldn't. Serena suspended the interview. She knew the brothers' stories would match....

Stuart Neville's latest book is signalled as the start of a new series featuring DCI Serena Flanagan. Serena first appeared in THE FINAL SILENCE – as one of DI Jack Lennon's adversaries. And I do hope we will read more Jack Lennon in the future. As with all “good” police protagonists, Serena has her own ambiguities not least the stubborn strength of her own feelings. (But where would we be without stubborn police detectives?) In THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND she not only struggles with her memories of Ciaran Devine and his shocking confession but with the double suicide of a friend and her husband. But she is not in charge of the suicide investigation and her subsequent “meddling” does not endear her to her boss. Character is something that Neville does very well and Paula Cunningham, the probation officer, convinces well – a hard-pressed worker who is perhaps close to burn out.

But the true chill of THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND lies in Neville's laying out of the Devine brothers' relationship with an empathic and devastating precision that had me flinching from what might yet come. Neville's work can be chilling but in this book he explores new territory. This is not the supernatural shiver that occasionally enters the “Jack Lennon” books. Nor the wintry brutality of old terrorists turned crime bosses. This is a full-on psychological ice, a dreadful, intimate study of two brothers, the youngest of whom confesses to a brutal killing as a twelve-year-old and whose release into a world as rushed and unforgiving as the one that nurtured the brothers spells disaster for those who cross their path. I have admired all of Neville's previous thrillers – including RATLINES, his departure into a political faction, thriller-land of 1960s Ireland as haven for fascist war criminals. But this latest book displays Neville's grasp of psychological suspense and reminds me of Scandinavian crime writers such as Mons Kallentoft, Karen Fossum and Henning Mankell. Don't let me muddy the waters of Northern Irish Crime writing however. Just read this book. And whilst it keeps you in fear and suspense – appreciate how beautifully it is written.

Lynn Harvey, June 2015

Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Reviews: Atherton, Bates, Howard, Johnston, Jones, Knight, Magson, Moliner, Richmond

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

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

New Reviews

I review Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well, the nineteenth in the Aunt Dimity series set in the Cotswolds;

Ewa Sherman reviews Quentin Bates' Summerchill, in which we catch up with Icelandic police officer Gunna;

Susan White reviews Cold Revenge by Alex Howard, which is the second outing for DCI Hanlon;

Mark Bailey reviews Paul Johnston's Heads or Hearts: the return of Quint Dalrymple;

Geoff Jones reviews J Sydney Jones' Cold War thriller, Basic Law;

Laura Root reviews Disclaimer by Renee Knight, her debut;

Terry Halligan reviews Adrian Magson's Close Quarters, the second Marc Portman thriller;

Lynn Harvey reviews The Whispering City by Sara Moliner tr. Mara Faye Letham

and Michelle Peckham reviews What She Left by T R Richmond, also a debut. 

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Close Quarters by Adrian Magson

Close Quarters by Adrian Magson, April 2015, 256 pages, Severn House Publishers Ltd, ISBN: 0727885049

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

Marc Portman, who works as a freelance close protection specialist for Government Agencies such as MI6 and the French Foreign Legion has just completed a successful operation in Iran for the CIA and is rehired by them to go to Ukraine for another mission.
Here he has to locate, identify and rescue an American diplomat who is being held by Russian separatists. The CIA has undercover operatives in the country who are able to provide 'safe houses' to shelter the diplomat from his pursuers but obviously they are putting themselves at great risk.

Mark is able to enter the country, in disguise and is soon able, over the course of a few days, to identify the location where the diplomat is held under close guard. With great difficulty he manages to release him and soon both he and Marc are hunted animals who must be caught and it is the tension here that the author successfully puts across that provides most of the action in this very highly plotted and gripping story.

This very exciting and hard to put down thriller rushes on to its final dramatic conclusion. I have had the privilege of reading for review purposes the author's earlier Marc Portman story THE WATCHMAN, and his NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL in his Riley Gavin series and two of his Lucas Rocco stories set in provincial France during the early 1960s: DEATH ON THE MARAIS and DEATH ON THE RIVE NORD.

Adrian Magson is a very experienced author with a large number of books published under his name and other pen-names. When you open one of his books you know that you can count on a really interesting plot and well rounded characters, that has been thoroughly and painstakingly researched. That there is a real sense of action and a very dramatic page turning suspense almost to the last sentence.

I look forward to reading more gripping adventures of Marc Portman and in fact any new books by this very exciting author. Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, June 2015.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well by Nancy Atherton

Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well by Nancy Atherton (March 2015, Headline, ISBN: 147221630X)

I read the first book in the Aunt Dimity series, AUNT DIMITY'S DEATH, close to its release date in 1992. Like many, many, readers I was charmed by the book. The details of the plot are vague in my mind but I remember well the warm fuzzy feeling I got from reading it. The first book, introduced Lori Shepherd, a somewhat down on her luck young American woman who via a fairy tale-like story orchestrated from the grave by Aunt Dimity, ends up with a house and a husband in the small village of Finch in the Cotswolds.

Twenty years later and there are now twenty books in the series, with AUNT DIMITY AND THE WISHING WELL, being the nineteenth.

Lori and her lawyer husband Bill, a fellow American, have eight-year-old twins. Bill has his office in a house near the village green and Lori looks after their cottage and children, and helps out around the village. The book opens with the funeral of Finch's most reclusive resident Hector Huggins. As he appeared to have no family, the funeral is only attended by the villagers – giving Lori a chance to introduce them to new readers – until at the last moment a young Australian turns up: Jack MacBride, Mr Huggins' nephew.

Jack is staying in Finch whilst he puts his uncle's affairs in order and prepares his uncle's home, Ivy Cottage, for sale. Lori and Bree, a young New Zealander, offer their help in tidying up the garden. Jack makes a discovery in the back garden – a wishing well. When Lori's wish for it to stop raining comes true, the villagers are soon queueing up to make their own wish!

And when more wishes come true, Lori begins to feel that more than coincidence is at play. But how are these wishes coming true?

Lori's sounding-board is Aunt Dimity – who “speaks” to her via a special journal – Dimity's words appear on the page in response to Lori's spoken words. Dimity advises Lori that someone's going to get hurt if all these wishes come true and she should investigate…

I have to say that AUNT DIMITY AND THE WISHING WELL is not a crime novel as nothing criminal takes place but it is certainly a mystery novel as it's quite a puzzle as to how someone could orchestrate so many things and also the identity of that person. There is also some romance and the local gossip makes it feel like you're stepping into a long running soap opera. However you categorise it, as long as you're not expecting blood and gore or even a murder, then this should provide a few hours entertainment, with its gentle nature and its genteel environment and occupants.

Incidentally, the American author does well with her use of British English for the supporting cast, with only a few slip-ups eg bugs for insects.

I regret waiting twenty years to continue reading the series so I have been ordering some earlier books and I also, ahem, have a few on my tbr already.

First published in the US, Headline have now published some of the latest books. Plus they are all available as ebooks. Some of them may be in the 'Large Print' collection at your public library.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Awards News: Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 Shortlist & CWA Dagger Longlists

The shortlist for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 has been announced.

In addition "Sara Paretsky, will receive the Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award, joining past winners Lynda La Plante, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Colin Dexter and Reginald Hill".

Read more about each title in the Harrogate News:
The Facts Of Life And Death by Belinda Bauer, Black Swan
The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin, Mantle
The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths, Quercus
Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary, Headline
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson, Hodder & Stoughton
Entry Island by Peter May, Quercus

Also today longlists have been announced for the Gold, John Creasey and Ian Fleming CWA Daggers. The shortlists will be announced on 30 June.

From Booktrade:


The Shut Eye - Belinda Bauer/Transworld Publishers/Bantam Press

The Rules of Wolfe - James Carlos Blake/Oldcastle Books/No Exit Press

The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith/Little, Brown Book Group/Sphere

Missing - Sam Hawken Profile Books/Serpent's Tail

Mr Mercedes - Stephen King/Hodder & Stoughton/Hodder & Stoughton

Pleasantville - Attica Locke/Profile Books/Serpent's Tail

The Bone Seeker - M.J. McGrath/Pan Macmillan/Mantle

The Serpentine Road - Paul Mendelson/Little, Brown Book Group/Constable

Life or Death - Michael Robotham/Little, Brown Book Group/Sphere

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson/Faber and Faber/ at Bloomsbury House


The Abrupt Physics of Dying - Paul E Hardisty/Orenda Books

Dear Daughter - Elizabeth Little/Vintage Publishing, Penguin Random House/Harvill Secker

Dry Bones in the Valley - Tom Bouman/Faber and Faber

Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng/Little, Brown Book Group

Fourth of July Creek - Smith Henderson/Random House/William Heinemann

The Girl in the Red Coat - Kate Hamer/Faber and Faber

The Killing of Bobbi Lomax - Cal Moriarty/Faber and Faber

The Well - Catherine Chanter/Canongate Books

You - Caroline Kepnes/Simon & Schuster


No Safe House - Linwood Barclay/Orion Publishing Group/Orion Fiction

The Defence - Steve Cavanagh/Orion Publishing Group/Orion Fiction

The Stranger - Harlan Coben/Orion Publishing Group/Orion Fiction

Missing - Sam Hawken/Profile Books/Serpent's Tail

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins/Transworld Publishers/Doubleday

Nobody Walks - Mick Herron/Soho Crime/ Soho Crime

The White Van - Patrick Hoffman/Atlantic Books Ltd/Grove Press

The Final Minute Simon Kernick/Random House/Century

Runner - Patrick Lee/Penguin/Michael Joseph

The Night The Rich Men Burned - Malcolm Mackay/Pan Macmillan/Mantle

Cop Town - Karin Slaughter/Random House/Century

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson/Faber and Faber

Heartman - M.P. Wright/Black & White Publishing

Review: Disclaimer by Renee Knight

Disclaimer by Renee Knight, April 2015, 304 pages, Doubleday, ISBN: 0857522817

Reviewed by Laura Root.
(Read more of Laura's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

DISCLAIMER is a highly assured debut novel with a cracking premise. Middle-aged wife and mother Catherine has moved into a new house, when she idly picks up a book that she doesn't recall buying. Catherine suffer many sleepless nights of anguish due to reading the book. As this book doesn't abide by the conventional “disclaimer” that it isn't intended to resemble any real life person. Although the names have been changed, the novel depicts a sequence of events that Catherine has tried hard to forget, and has kept secret for decades, even from her husband. Catherine struggles to cope with this intrusion into her life, and desperately tries to hide her worries whilst she investigates who on earth could have written this book, and left it at her house.

On paper Catherine seems to have the perfect life; she has a successful career as a crusading journalist/documentary maker, a loving high-earning husband and a grown-up son. But Catherine struggles to carry through her confident professional fa├žade into her domestic life. She has long had a troubled relationship with her twenty-something son, Nicholas. Robert has a superficially better rapport with Nicholas than Catherine; he is a workaholic lawyer who secretly looks down on Catherine for preferring to work and have a nanny during Nicholas' childhood.

Meanwhile we see events from the point of view of the man who deposited the book at her house, Stephen Brigstocke, starting two years before the beginning of this book. Brigstocke is an elderly widower and failed author with an absent adult son, so lonely that he clings to his late wife's clothes and belongings for solace. He was a teacher who retired before he was fired from his private school after accusations of cruelty towards his pupils. He is determined to wreak revenge on Catherine for an unspecified wrong, and has spent the last few years calculating how best to hurt her, seriously considering pushing her under a Tube train. Brigstocke's manoeuvres cunningly exploit the fault-lines in Catherine's family relationships as he continues to stalk her.

DISCLAIMER is at heart the tale of two families and the ripple effects of a chance interaction between them, which have the potential to affect relationships decades later. Knight continually challenges our perceptions of the main characters, and the stories they have told themselves to allow them to survive their hardest moments (it is no coincidence that both the main characters are writers). The author manages to shade in the nuances of the situation that motivated Stephen Brigstocke's intrusion into the life of Catherine and her family, and make the reader care about both Catherine and to an extent Stephen Brigstocke, despite their rather prickly, brittle natures. I found this a remarkably well written page turner, as much a meditation on parenthood and grief as a traditional crime novel. I very much look forward to further books by this author.

Laura Root, June 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Event News: the return of Noirwich

An exciting press release in my inbox today...The return of Noirwich. No authors have been announced yet other than Lee Child but last year there was a Scandi-crime day with Barry Forshaw. My birthday falls in the middle of this festival so I will be keeping a beady eye on

Crime Writing Festival Noirwich, returns for a second year this September, launching its programme with Lee Child, and announcing new partner Dead Good Books

After the success of last year’s festival, Noirwich Crime Writing Festival is returning to the streets of Norwich from Thursday 17 September to Sunday 20 September to bring award winning authors to the UNESCO City of Literature.

In 2014, over 500 people attended the festival and this year plans to be even bigger with Lee Child announced as the headline act on Thursday 17 September at Jarrolds Department Store.

This year, festival goers can experience the breadth of crime writing, from exciting debuts to new author collaborations at the festival.

This year is particularly exciting as it sees the collaboration change with Dead Good Books joining University of East Anglia (UEA) and Writers’ Centre Norwich (WCN) in partnership for the festival. Dead Good Books is uniquely placed as a community that covers books, TV and film across the industry with a highly engaged crime readership.

Lynsey Dalladay, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Dead Good Books said:
“I’m thrilled we’re partnering with Noirwich in 2015. The crime fiction community thrives on live events and festivals and we’re committed to bringing the best of our events to our online audience in a creative and engaging way.”

The crime fiction and thriller market is the most popular literary genre in the world, with UK sales alone rising by 80 per cent in the last decade. Norwich became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2012, making the festival a perfect fit for Norwich.

This September also sees the launch of a new Creative Writing MA in Crime Fiction at UEA. Drawing on the success of the University of East Anglia’s internationally acclaimed Creative Writing programme, this course will be one of the first fully dedicated, specifically designed, low-residential crime fiction Masters in the world.

Henry Sutton, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at University of East Anglia and award-winning crime novelist co-founded Noirwich and commented: “with such exciting partners, and at such an exciting time for the genre, our aim is to make Norwich the world’s leading centre for the study, practice and enjoyment of crime fiction. We believe we are a big step closer this year.”

One of the city centre venues for the festival will be grade 1 listed Dragon Hall, the brand new home of Writers’ Centre Norwich. Jonathan Morley, Programme Director at Writers’ Centre Norwich said: “Norwich currently doesn’t have a free-standing literature festival, so we’re very excited to fill that gap with Noirwich. Celebrating crime fiction (the UK’s most popular literary genre) in England’s only UNESCO City of literature will attract sizeable audiences, enabling local retailers to make a killing!”

The full line-up, tickets and more information about Noirwich can be found on

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Heads or Hearts by Paul Johnston

Heads or Hearts by Paul Johnston, April 2015, 240 pages, Severn House Publishers Ltd, ISBN: 0727885030

Reviewed by Mark Bailey.
(Read more of Mark's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This is the sixth novel in the series of novels featuring Quint Dalrymple and the first new novel for fourteen years.

The Year is 2033. The United Kingdom, along with most of the world, was torn apart by civil wars and criminal gangs in the early years of the twenty-first century. Edinburgh, in the last free election in 2003, voted in the Enlightenment Party (a small grouping of university professors) who, with a mind-set influenced by Plato, guaranteed basic human rights such as work, food and housing but removed most elements of choice from people's lives. Crime has been pushed underground where it is fed in part by envy of the tourists who come for the year-round festival with its legalised gambling, prostitution and drugs just for the them.

Quintilian Dalrymple was a senior policeman in the City Guard who was demoted for his authority issues to work as a labourer, which is where we meet him at the start of the first book, BODY POLITIC, but he handles missing persons' cases in his spare time. He is an intellectual hard-boiled detective who doesn’t like the use of violence but tolerates it as a means to an end.

Now a referendum is looming to reform Scotland from its disparate elements – a quasi-democratic Glasgow, a quasi-monarchy in parts of the Isles and other systems elsewhere.

At the start of HEADS OR HEARTS, a human heart has been found on the football pitch at Tynecastle, rather appropriately the home of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Quint Dalrymple is called in and the body count goes up before he uncovers a link to the planned referendum.

There are two big issues that have to be addressed here first in a review:

Yes, this is a mix of science fiction and crime fiction in that it is set in the future but there is very limited technology which is entirely lower-level than what most people have access to today with the computers in particular seeming quaintly archaic.

The second issue is can you start the series here? I think that you can start here, as there is enough back-story sprinkled throughout the first few chapters to give you both an overview of the milieu and a view into the mind-set and motivation of Quint, without it dominating the plot.

The plot itself is engaging and does go along at a rate of knots and you can understand the motivation of the characters whilst not agreeing with them - a key driving force is the camaraderie between Davie (his sidekick in effect) and Quint which has been built on throughout the series. The denouement does make sense given what has gone before and sets up the scene for future books.

The one slight downside is that Quint does tend to make allegations before he has the evidence to justify them which one suspects would have got him removed from the case quite early on in the novel, given the borderline dictatorship nature of the regime for which he reluctantly works.

This is a good addition to the series and I would definitely like to see where Quint Dalrymple goes from here.

Mark Bailey, June 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Publishing Deal News: Puzynska & Khemiri

News of potential and actual publishing deals for Katarzyna Puzynska and Jonas Hassen Khemiri respectively. From Publishers Weekly:

Polish Crime Series Hits U.S. Shores
The first book in the Lipovo crime series, Butterfly, is now on submission in the U.S. and U.K. Polish author Katarzyna Puzynska has been drawing comparisons to bestselling Swedish crime writer Camilla Lackberg for the series, which was published in Poland by Proszynski. Gregory Messina, of the newly formed Linwood Messina Agency, is representing rights for the novel on behalf of Proszynski, and has recently closed deals with publishers in Romania and Lithuania. Butterfly opens with the discovery of the body of a nun outside a small Polish village. When another victim is found days later, police begin a race to find the killer. As the investigation gets underway, Proszynski explained, "dark secrets from the nun's past" as well as the secrets of the villagers, are revealed.

Swedish 'Serial'-esque Novel Lands in the U.S.
Everything I Don't Remember, the new novel by Swedish author Jonas Hassen Khemiri (One Eye Red), has been heating up in the international market. The book has sold to 10 publishers around the globe recently, including to Atria in the U.S., where editor Rakesh Satyal has acquired it. After a young man dies in a car crash, a writer begins interviewing the young man's friends and relatives in an effort to map out the victim's final day. The writer's goal: figure out if crash was an accident or suicide. Satyal said the book reminded him of the popular podcast Serial because it's a "multilayered, ethnically diverse narrative in which reportage and mystery coincide masterfully.” Rights to the book are controlled by Astri von Arbin Ahlander, at the Ahlander Agency, and the originating publisher is Albert Bonniers in Sweden.

Monday, June 08, 2015

TV News: Echoes from the Dead on BBC4

BBC Four continues to treat us Scandi-drama fans. After the gripping 1864 (I have 2 episodes left still), next Saturday (13th) at 9pm we have the film of Johan Theorin's Echoes from the Dead.

Echoes from the Dead (2008 in English) is the first book in a loose quartet with the final part, The Voices Beyond, being released in English on 2 July.

In Maxine's review of Echoes from the Dead, tr. Marlaine Delargy, she wrote: "On finishing the book, I can only advise that if you read one crime-fiction novel [published] this year, make it this one."

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Review: Summerchill by Quentin Bates

Summerchill by Quentin Bates, May 2015, 142 pages, ebook, Constable

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as got my hands on SUMMERCHILL. I am big fan of Gunnhildur (Gunna) Gisladottir, the down-to-earth and determined Icelandic policewoman with a sense of humour who feels more at home in her small provincial town than in Reykjavik where she is employed. And this time, at the end of the hot summer she and her sidekick Helgi work particularly hard to find out how the alarming and unsettling events around the city might (or not) be connected.

Meanwhile in the countryside the carpenter Logi toils away at the building site during the day and returns to his flat in Reykjavik in the evenings. When he finds a gun hidden under the floorboards his first thought is to keep it a secret until there is an opportunity to sell this unusual find. While pondering about his next move Logi half-heartedly agrees to help his former brother-in-law Danni to complete another building job: tax-free cash and a 'no questions asked about anything' type of contract from some ruthless customers. But Logi has huge financial commitments and so decides to continue, regardless of starting to feel slightly uneasy… Then an unexpected visit from an extremely unpleasant debt collector results in Logi skilfully using his tools. A body needs to be disposed of. Logi asks his friendly Polish workmates for a favour, and they are helpful and efficient, as always.

SUMMERCHILL, published only as an e-book, a novella, about a half of the length of a standard book, suits the story very well. There is an urgency in Gunna and Helgi's actions as they try to make sense of the strange and apparently unrelated events which elude them. The settings in Reykjavik and in the countryside lend themselves to the book’s structure. The time-frame of several days fits with Logi's and the police' thinking.

There is murder and there is violence; Gunna's frustration, and the investigation which isn’t going quite right, and the excellent portrayal of a small chunk of the Icelandic underworld. However, the mood of SUMMERCHILL seems fairly relaxed compared to other books by Quentin Bates. The story moves fast and it never loses its momentum. Definitely a noir story, with a summer twist, with an expectation of cold, snow and long dark nights, but also with an undercurrent of fun.

The finale of the story is a surprise. Logi wants to escape from two unhappy women, his mounting debts and the shady characters following him, and from the police, just in case... I don't wish to give away the ending but for me it was a really unexpected scenario, demonstrating the author's excellent perception of people’s motives, and his sense of humour. Read SUMMERCHILL, you'll love it.

Ewa Sherman, June 2015