Friday, October 30, 2015

Review: Supping with the Devil by Sally Spencer

Supping with the Devil by Sally Spencer, March 2015, 224 pages, Severn House Publishers Ltd, ISBN: 1847515223

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

Monika Paniatowski's boss is trying to destroy her career, but the dead end case he assigns her turns out to be something else entirely ...DCI Monika Paniatowski recognises her latest assignment as advisor to the Earl of Ridley's rock festival for what it really is - an attempt by the chief constable to destroy her career. Yet it soon becomes apparent that matters are not as simple as they appear. Why, for instance, did the earl choose to employ the notorious Devil's Disciples motorcycle gang to provide the security for the festival? And to what lengths will his mother, the dowager countess, go to destroy it? But it is when the half-naked body of a tabloid journalist is discovered in the middle of Whitebridge that things really start to hot up.

This mystery starts on the 9th August 1976. Detective Chief Inspector Monika Paniatowski is really fed up, she has been sent as an adviser to the Earl of Ridley who is holding a rock festival on his land. Strangely enough, he has decided to use a large biker gang of some forty men as security guards. Monika has had a disastrous personal relationship with Chief Constable Baxter and he has sent her on this assignment for revenge. He has appointed in her place a DCI Wellbeloved who causes major ructions with her team of detectives. There are several well plotted strands to the story and I have read enough of the author's books to know that when she writes her police procedurals the story will be very well plotted, original and told with some wry humour.

Sally Spencer writes the book with her usual panache; I was a little confused at first in that there are several plot lines happening simultaneously: Monika is involved with the rock festival, whilst her old team are investigating a murder and trying to cope without her, but instead with her replacement. As an author of some forty or more titles under her belt nothing phases her and you end up with a really gripping police procedural of the most exciting kind which I could not put down.

The plot, which has some dramatic twists and turns, the vivid, well researched and knowledgeable background, and the widely diverse scenes kept me transfixed until the last page. Well recommended.

Terry Halligan, October 2015.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding

Fall of Man in Wilmslow by David Lagercrantz translated by George Goulding, May 2015, 368 pages, MacLehose Press, ISBN: 0857059890

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

FALL OF MAN IN WILMSLOW by David Lagercrantz (translated by George Goulding) is the first fiction work by this writer translated into English, and was released before the much anticipated THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB. This book takes the form of a fictionalised account of a police investigation into the suicide of noted computer scientist Alan Turing in 1954 a couple of years after his conviction for “gross indecency”. Turing's punishment arising from this conviction was to be coerced into hormone treatment as the only alternative to a prison sentence. The achievements of Turing and the role played by the Bletchley Park codebreakers during the Second World War were to be closely guarded state secrets for decades to come.

The protagonist is the young Detective Constable Leonard Correll. Correll is the first police officer on the scene, called to Alan Turing's house in Cheshire after Turing's body is found by his shocked housekeeper. Turing died in his bed after eating an apple that had been contaminated by cyanide. Correll is a rather unusual policeman. The son of a relatively successful writer and raconteur, Correll feels he had great expectations which were thwarted by the financial ruin of his family and subsequent suicide of his father. Instead of a chance of a Cambridge degree and potential academic career, Correll left his public school, and ended up living and working in the tranquil Cheshire suburban town of Knutsford.

Correll's small official part in the investigation is over after giving evidence at the inquest. But he cannot resist carrying on his own clandestine investigation. Correll looks into Alan's theories and writings and is particularly fascinated by the Liar's Paradox, the conundrum central to Turing's views on logic). While he shares the homophobic prejudices of those he works with, he is impressed by Alan's academic credentials and curious about the nature of his secret war work. This curiosity is fuelled by the interest shown by the Secret Service in Alan's death and possessions left behind. When Correll moves out of library work and starts to seek out Turing's friends and former wartime colleagues in Cambridge, he attracts the attention of dangerous enemies.

Correll is a fully fledged, convincing character, hampered by a sense of social inadequacy coupled with thwarted academic ambitions. But he isn't the submissive pushover he at first appears, gaining confidence as he moves into the academic circles that he aspires to. However the real star character is Turing, and this book contains a wealth of detail about his life and theories. Lagercrantz shows us just how badly Turing was treated by British officialdom despite his vital contribution to the Allies' victory. Scapegoated as part of the McCarthyite witch hunt which meant that even on this side of the Atlantic gay men and women were vulnerable to being scapegoated as likely communist sympathisers. I found FALL OF MAN IN WILMSLOW was very well written, falling more or less in the thriller genre, and that the author had a particularly impressive grasp of the geography and general feel of North West England for a non-British writer. I look forward to reading future books by this author.

Laura Root, October 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths, October 2015, 400 pages, Quercus, ISBN: 1848663331

Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

The abandoned airfields in Norfolk are apparently known as ‘the Ghost Fields’ and these provide the backdrop to the latest outing from Elly Griffiths. As the book begins, Ruth Galloway, archaeologist and sometime consultant to the local police force, is on a ‘dig’ with a large group of students, on the hunt for Roman remains, while being irritated by her boss Phil. Several fields away, a body is discovered inside an old Second World War plane, buried in a field that is part of Devil’s Hollow, which is being prepared for a new housing development. And so, at the start of this, the seventh book in the series, Ruth is called in by DCI Harry Nelson to give her opinion. Immediately, she spots a couple of curious things, such as the fact that the soil has only recently been disturbed and the preservation of the body isn’t consistent with the chalky soil, and then she discovers the bullet hole in the corpse’s forehead, and it’s clear this is not just the body of a pilot trapped in his plane after a crash that has gone undiscovered, but a murder. But, who put the body there, and why? And, who is the murdered man?

A slow investigation ensues, as the first task is to identify the body, who turns out to be someone called Frederick J. Blackstock, of the posh family Blackstocks. A family who once seemed to own much in the local area, and still live in Blackstock Hall, but are clearly down on their luck. However, Frederick had supposedly emigrated to America in the thirties, and while he had been known to be a pilot in the war, the family had been told that his plane went down in the sea, with no survivors. He was one of three brothers. Lewis (the oldest) had survived the war, but disappeared during the 1950s, and as Frederick had already died, the third brother George (the youngest) inherited the Hall. So, how could the body of a man who had apparently died in the war, suddenly turn up in the cockpit of a plane with a bullet hole in his head? And, as this is clearly an old murder, where has his body been all these years?

The find is exciting enough to attract the media, and in particular an old acquaintance of Ruth’s, a TV presenter with whom she appeared on a TV show before (Women who Kill), and with whom she has a sort of relationship (Frank Barker). This leads to further complications in Ruth’s private life, as she has a young daughter who was fathered by Nelson, but they do not live together or even have a romantic relationship, as Nelson does not want to leave his wife Michelle. Cue romantic agonizing by Ruth as she tries to decide if Frank is still interested in her or not, and even if he was, what would she do anyway. Meanwhile, even Nelson’s private life is becoming somewhat complicated, as Michelle seems to be up to something behind his unsuspecting back.

The investigation into Frederick’s death is not a major priority although Nelson does gradually push ahead with it. While Nelson wishes he was investigating a standard current day murder, Ruth loves to engage with the layers of history beneath their feet. Eventually, it’s down to Ruth’s insatiable curiosity that a few clues start to be uncovered that begin to lead to the final denouement. Some interesting history about the Second World War, and the American airbases in Norfolk are weaved into the plot. But in the end, it is all going to boil down to old family secrets waiting to be discovered. A gentle, meandering plot with a tense ending, and enjoyable as always.

Michelle Peckham, October 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure, August 2015, 416 pages, Allison & Busby, ISBN: 0749019476

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This book was simply beautiful; well-written and a bittersweet story. One of those books that you don’t want to end, not only because you are enjoying it so much but also because you are in love with the main character and are hoping against hope that he survives but don’t feel brave enough to find out. Charles Belfoure, the author, is himself an architect and the authenticity this adds to the descriptions of our hero’s musings adds even more to this wonderful tale. Belfoure lives in the USA but this story qualifies for Euro Crime as it is set in Paris.

It is 1942 and France is under occupation. Lucien, our hero, is ambitious and frustrated by the lack of work in wartime Paris. Then he is approached by a wealthy man and given a commission that could see him facing certain death if he is found out – he is asked to design a secret hiding place for a Jewish man. At first he is excited by having the opportunity to outwit the hated Germans but then begins to see the humanity behind his actions and when one of his designs goes wrong, leading to a terrible death for the couple who are hiding, he is shocked to the core. Now his actions take on a different meaning and the reader gets caught up with him in his desire to save lives. As well as designing hiding places for Jews, Lucien ends up becoming an architect for the Germans and designing munitions factories for them. Called a traitor by his own people, when all he wants is to be able to design beautiful buildings, he feels as if he could be shot by either the Gestapo or the French Resistance. You, the reader, desperately hope that he escapes the clutches of both and survives to the end of the book but it could go either way – which only adds to the beauty of the story.

This is the second book by Charles Belfoure and is a truly wonderful read. If you like stories that bring a lump to your throat and show how good people can be when all around them there is nothing but evil, wickedness, and betrayal, then you are going to love this book as much as I did.

Extremely Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, October 2015.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review Roundup: Bolton, Carol, Carter, Den Tex, Edwards, Gordon-Smith, Hodgson, Jones, Kelly, Mankell, Marklund, Mogford, Patterson & Ellis, Staalesen

Here are sixteen reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, all have appeared on the blog since last time.

If you like translated crime fiction then you may be interested in the International Dagger 2016 Speculation list of titles.

You can keep up to date with Euro Crime by following the blog and/or liking the Euro Crime Facebook page and follow on Twitter, @eurocrime.

New Reviews

Michelle Peckham reviews Sharon Bolton's Little Black Lies, set in the Falklands;

Susan White reviews James Carol's Prey, the third in the Jefferson Winter series set in the US;
Amanda Gillies reviews Chris Carter's I Am Death, the seventh in his Robert Hunter series set in LA;

Guest reviewer Bob Cornwell reviews the Dutch thriller Mr. Miller by Charles Den Tex tr. Nancy Forest-Flier;

Rich Westwood reviews Martin Edwards's The Golden Age of Murder - a history of the Detection Club;

Terry Halligan reviews Dolores Gordon-Smith's The Chessman, the ninth in the 1920s Jack Haldean series;

Terry also reviews The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson, the sequel to the award winning The Devil in the Marshalsea;

Geoff Jones reviews J Sydney Jones's The Third Place, the sixth in the Viennese mystery series;

Geoff also reviews Jim Kelly's Death on Demand, the sixth in the Shaw & Valentine series set in North Norfolk;

Lynn Harvey reviews Henning Mankell's An Event in Autumn tr. Laurie Thompson;

Michelle also reviews Liza Marklund's Without a Trace tr. Neil Smith - the tenth and penultimate entry in the Annika Bengtzon series;

Lynn also reviews Thomas Mogford's Sleeping Dogs which takes Gibraltar-based lawyer Spike Sanguinetti to Corfu;

I review parts Three, Four and Five of Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis

and Ewa Sherman reviews Gunnar Staalesen's We Shall Inherit the Wind tr. Don Bartlett which is the sixteenth in the PI Varg Veum series though only six are currently available in English and is the first of three from Orenda Books.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: The Third Place by J Sydney Jones

The Third Place by J Sydney Jones, June 2015, 224 pages, Severn House Publishers Ltd, ISBN: 072788526X

Reviewed by Geoff Jones.
(Read more of Geoff's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Austria - early in the twentieth century. Herr Karl Andric is the well respected Head Waiter at the Cafe Burg. He lives a quiet life in his landlady’s house, collecting toy soldiers depicting the Napoleonic wars. One night leaving work he is brutally murdered. Although not able to identify his murderer, his death is witnessed by a waiter at Herr Karl’s Austrian Tea Room.

The waiter and his uncle approach Advokat Karl Werthen asking him to investigate. However no sooner has he commenced his investigation, Werthen is summoned to see Prince Montenuovo. The Prince is Second Master of the Court and answerable to the Emperor Franz Josef himself. Franz Josef has been widowed since his wife Empress Elizabeth was stabbed to death by an Italian anarchist. He has formed a relationship with Katharina Schratt, a leading actress. One of his letters to her has gone missing and would be very embarrassing in the wrong hands.

Werthen is tasked to recover the letter and his old friend the eminent criminologist Dr Hans Gross joins him in the investigation. When this mission is successfully concluded, but before Werthen can resume his Herr Karl case, the Prince again summonses both him and Gross. There has been an assassination attempt on the Emperor, and the belief is there will be further attempts.

Leaving Werthen’s wife Berthe to continue investigating Herr Karl’s death, Werthen and Gross soon realise they are trying to identify a resourceful killer who will stop at nothing to achieve his aim. The man is an old adversary of theirs, who has nothing to lose having fled Russia when sentenced to imprisonment in Siberia.

This is the sixth Viennese mysteries by the author. It is very well researched, and is an interesting part of history. Archduke Franz Ferdinand appears in the book. He was the heir apparent to Franz Josef’s throne since the suicide of his son Prince Rudolph. Franz Ferdinand and his morganatic wife Countess Sophie Chotek were assassinated in 1914 on a visit to Sarajevo. Austria and Hungary declared war against Serbia. However they had Russia as an ally and this led to World War One.

The book provides a very interesting backdrop to these events, well written and entertaining. Although I haven’t read any of the other Viennese series, I have read other books by the author and this is well up to his high standard. As usual his book title has a meaning. In Austria, the first place is home, the second place is work and the third is the coffee house. Highly recommended.

Geoff Jones, October 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

International Dagger Speculation (2016)

It's time to consider the titles eligible for the 2016 CWA International Dagger.

Here's the list of translated crime novels published between 1 June 2015 and 30 March May 2016 ie the period of eligibility. There's 93*  (cf 94 last year). NB. Only 1 book per author can be submitted for consideration.

For ease of purchase/library reservation here they are listed by UK month of publication:

In addition to the list I have set up a Good Reads widget on the right-hand side of the blog. This allows the covers to be visible plus you can add them to your wish-list on Good Reads. Should you wish to, you can subscribe to this list through RSS. I've added as many as I can find though I have used the original covers if the English one isn't on Good Reads yet.

In the list below I've also included the country of birth and gender of the author(s) plus the translator's name (where I can find it) and the publisher.

*this total includes titles published by Amazon Crossing. I am not sure if these count as UK publications however I imagine people interested in this list will also be interested in these books. Also listed but not eligible are two short story collections. I have left them in for the same reason.

The CWA website now has the list of official submissions

June 2015

Sascha Arango - The Truth and Other Lies (Germany, M) (tr. Imogen Taylor, Simon & Schuster UK)
Charles Den Tex - Mr Miller (Holland, M) (tr. Nancy Forest Flier, World Editions)
Karin Fossum - The Drowned Boy (Norway, F) (tr. Kari Dickson, Harvill Secker)
Carin Gerhardsen - The Last Lullaby (Sweden, F) (tr. Paul Norlen, Penguin)
Hjorth-Rosenfeldt - The Man Who Watched Women (apa The Disciple (Aus)) (Sweden, M) (tr. Marlaine Delargy, Century)
Ragnar Jonasson - Snowblind (Iceland, M) (tr. Quentin Bates, Orenda Books)
Leena Lehtolainen - The Lion of Justice (Finland, F) (tr. Jenni Salmi, AmazonCrossing)
Liza Marklund - Without a Trace (Sweden, F) (tr. Neil Smith, Corgi)
Stefan Spjut - Stallo (tr. Sweden, M) (tr. Susan Beard, Faber & Faber)
Gunnar Staalesen - We Shall Inherit the Wind (Norway, M) (tr. Don Bartlett, Orenda Books)
Dominique Sylvain - Dirty War (France, F) (tr. Nick Caistor, MacLehose Press)

July 2015

Xavier-Marie Bonnot - The First Man (France, M) (tr. Justin Phipps, MacLehose Press)
Nik Frobenius - Dark Branches (Norway, M ) (tr. Frank Stewart, Sandstone Press)
Lotte & Soren Hammer - The Girl in the Ice (US: A Price for Everything) (Denmark, M & F) (tr. Paul Norlen, Bloomsbury)
Arnaldur Indridason - Oblivion (Iceland, M) (tr. Victoria Cribb, Harvill Secker)
Robert Karjel - My name is N (apa The Swede) (Sweden, M) (tr. Nancy Pick & Robert Karjel, HarperCollins)
Bernard Minier - A Song for Drowned Souls (apa The Circle) (France, M) (tr. Alison Anderson, Mulholland)
Hakan Nesser - The Living and the Dead in Winsford (Sweden, M) (tr. Laurie Thompson, Mantle)
Alexander Soderberg - The Other Son (Sweden, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Harvill Secker)
Michel Tarou - Deadly Aid (France, M) (tr. Alexis Pernsteiner, AmazonCrossing)
Johan Theorin - The Voices Beyond (Sweden, M) (tr. Marlaine Delargy, Doubleday)

August 2015

Ahmet Altan - Endgame (Turkey, M) (tr. Alexander Amadeus Dawe, Canongate Books)
Andrea Camilleri - Blade of Light (apa A Beam of Light) (Italy, M) (tr. Stephen Sartarelli, Mantle)
Arne Dahl - Europa Blues (Sweden, M) (tr. Alice Menzies, Harvill Secker)
Kjell Eriksson - Open Grave (Sweden, M) (tr. Paul Norlen, Allison & Busby)
Sebastian Fitzek - The Child (Germany, M) (tr. tbc, Sphere)
David Lagercrantz - The Girl in the Spider's Web (Sweden, M) (tr. George Goulding, MacLehose Press)
Hans Olav Lahlum - The Catalyst Killing (Norway, M) (tr. Kari Dickson, Mantle)
Jorge Magano - Turned to Stone (Spain, M) (tr. Simon Bruni, AmazonCrossing)
Patricia Melo - The Body Snatcher (Brazil, F) (tr. Clifford Landers, Bitter Lemon)
Deon Meyer - Icarus (South Africa, M) (tr. K L Seegers, Hodder)
Mike Powelz - Terminal (Germany, M) (tr. Steve Anderson, AmazonCrossing)
Cay Rademacher - The Murderer in Ruins (Germany, M) (tr. Peter Millar, Arcadia)
U A Siebert - Last Date (Germany, M) (tr. Elena Mancini, AmazonCrossing)
Anton Svensson - Made In Sweden Part I: The Father (Sweden, M) (tr. Elizabeth Clark Wessel, Sphere)
Dirk Trost - A Murderous Storm (Germany, M) (tr. Bernhard Sulzer, AmazonCrossing)
Alberto Barrera Tyszka - Crimes (Venezuela, M) (tr. Margaret Jull Costa, MacLehose Press) (short stories)

September 2015

Jussi Adler-Olsen - The Hanging Girl (Denmark, M) (tr. William Frost, Quercus)
Esmahan Aykol - Divorce Turkish Style (Turkey, F) (tr. Ruth Whitehouse, Bitter Lemon Press)
Annis Bell - The Girl at Rosewood Hall (Germany, F) (tr. Edwin Miles, AmazonCrossing)
Piero Chiara - The Disappearance of Signora Giulia (Italy, M) (tr. Jill Foulston, Pushkin Press)
Roberto Costantini - The Memory of Evil (Italy, M) (tr. N S Thompson, Quercus)
Gianrico de Cataldo - Romanzo Criminale (Italy, M) (tr. Antony Shugaar, Corvus)
Kati Hiekkapelto - The Defenceless (Finland, F) (tr. David Hackston, Orenda Books)
Kristina Ohlsson - The Chosen (Sweden, F) (tr. Marlaine Delargy, Simon & Schuster)
Katja Piel - Death on Ibiza (Germany, F) (tr. Maxine Gorman, AmazonCrossing)
Soji Shimada - The Tokyo Zodiac Murders (Japan, M) (tr. tbc, Pushkin Press)

October 2015

Jean-Luc Bannalec - Murder on Brittany Shores (Germany, M) (tr. Sorcha McDonagh, Hesperus Nova Press)
Torkil Damhaug - Medusa (Norway, M) (tr. Robert Ferguson, Headline)
Keigo Higashino - Journey Under the Midnight Sun (Japan, M) (tr. Alexander O Smith, Little Brown)
Anne Holt - Dead Joker (Norway, F) (tr. Anne Bruce, Atlantic)
Risto Isomaki - Lithium-6 (Finland, M) (tr. Owen Witesman, AmazonCrossing)
Jari Jarvela - The Girl and the Bomb (Finland, M) (tr. Kristian London, AmazonCrossing)
Yrsa Sigurdardottir - The Undesired (Iceland, F) (tr. Victoria Cribb, Hodder & Stoughton)
Viveca Sten - Still Waters (Sweden, F) (tr. Marlaine Delargy, AmazonCrossing)
Antti Tuomainen - Dark as My Heart (Finland, M) (tr. Lola Rogers, Harvill Secker)

November 2015

Jorgen Brekke - Dreamless (apa Death Song) (Norway, M) (tr. Steven T Murray, Pan)
Donato Carrisi - The Hunter of the Dark (Italy, M) (tr. tbc Abacus)
Umberto Eco - Numero Zero (Italy, M) (tr. Richard Dixon, Harvill Secker)
Indrek Hargla - Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf's (Estonia, M) (tr.tbc, Peter Owen)
Pierre Lemaitre - The Great Swindle (France, M) (tr. Frank Wynne, Maclehose Press)
Jo Nesbo - Midnight Sun (Norway, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Harvill Secker)

December 2015

Samuel Bjork - I'm Travelling Alone (Norway, M) (tr. tbc, Doubleday)
Anders de la Motte - MemoRandom (Sweden, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Harper)
Bram Dehouck - Sleepless Summer (Belgium, M) (tr. Jonathan Reeder, World Editions)
Ragnar Jonasson - Nightblind (Iceland, M) (tr. Quentin Bates, Orenda Books)
Leena Lehtolainen - Death Spiral (Finland, F) (tr. Owen Witesman, AmazonCrossing)
Hakan Nesser - The Summer of Kim Novak (Sweden, M) (tr. tbc, World Editions)
Eduardo Sacheri - The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina, M) (tr. tbc, John Murray)

January 2016

Stefan Ahnhem - Victim Without a Face (Sweden, M) (tr. Rachel Willson-Broyles, Head of Zeus)
Sebastian Fitzek - The Nightwalker (Germany, M) (tr. Jamie Lee Searle, Sphere)
Jogvan Isaksen - Walpurgis Tide (Denmark, M) (tr. John Keithsson, Norvik Press
Fuminori Nakamura - The Gun (Japan, M) (tr. Allison Markin Powell, Soho Press)
Leif GW Persson - The Sword of Justice (Sweden, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Doubleday)
Claudia Pineiro - Betty Boo (Argentina, F) (tr. Miranda France, Bitter Lemon Press)

February 2016

Andrea Camilleri - Montalbano's First Case and Other Stories (Italy, M) (tr. Stephen Sartarelli, Mantle) (short stories)
Augusto De Angelis - The Murdered Banker (Italy, M) (tr. tbc, Pushkin Press)
Steffen Jacobsen - Retribution (Denmark, M) (tr. Charlotte Barslund, Quercus)
Raphael Montes - Perfect Days (Brazil, M) (tr. Alison Entrekin,Harvill Secker)
Valerio Varesi - A Woman Much Missed (Italy, M) (tr. Joseph Farrell, MacLehose Press)
Marco Vichi - Death in the Tuscan Hills (Italy, M) (tr. Stephen Sartarelli, Hodder)

March 2016
Augusto De Angelis - The Hotel of the Three Roses (Italy, M) (tr. tbc, Pushkin Press)
Lotte & Soren Hammer - The Vanished (Denmark, M & F) (tr. Martin Aitken, Bloomsbury)
Jorn Lier Horst - Ordeal (Norway, M) (tr. Anne Bruce, Sandstone Press)
Kaaberbol and Friis - The Considerate Killer (Denmark, F) (tr. Elisabeth Dyssegaard, Soho Press)
Camilla Lackberg - The Ice Child (Sweden, F) (tr. tbc, HarperCollins)
Leif GW Persson - The Dying Detective (Sweden, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Doubleday) Moved to June
Viveca Sten - Closed Circles (Sweden, F) (tr. Laura A Wideburg, Lake Union Publishing (Amazon))
Hideo Yokoyama - Six Four (Japan, M) (tr. Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, Quercus)

Due to a revised eligibility period, the following will now be eligible for the 2017 Dagger instead.
April 2016

Gianrico Carofiglio - A Fine Line (Italy, M) (tr. Howard Curtis, Bitter Lemon Press)
Pascal Garnier - Too Close to the Edge (France, M) (tr. Emily Boyce, Gallic Books)
Simon Pasternak - Death Zones (Denmark, M) (tr. Martin Aitken, Harvill Secker)
Erik Axl Sund - The Crow Girl (Sweden, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Harvill Secker)

May 2016

Torkil Damhaug - Death by Water (Norway, M) (tr. Robert Ferguson, Headline)
Tetsuya Honda - The Silent Dead (Japan, M) (tr. tbc, Titan Books)
Mons Kallentoft - Souls of Air (Sweden, M) (tr. Neil Smith, Hodder) Moved to October

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kindle offer on Carrie Bebris books

I've received an email from new UK publisher, South Downs Crime & Mystery, and they have picked up the Carrie Benris series which features Austen's Mr and Mrs Darcy with the first three titles being 99p on Kindle for a brief time.

When Caroline Bingley marries a rich, charismatic American, her future should be secure. But strange incidents soon follow: nocturnal wanderings, spooked horses, carriage accidents, an apparent suicide attempt. Soon the whole Bingley family seems to be the target of a sinister plot, with only their friends the Darcys recognizing the danger. A jilted lover, an estranged business partner, a financially desperate in-law, an eccentric supernaturalist — who is behind these events? Perhaps it is Caroline herself, who appears to be slowly sinking into madness…

Pride and Prescience is the first novel in a series of romantic mysteries featuring Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as reluctant sleuths who become embroiled in intrigues surrounding their friends and family. The newlywed Darcys' courtship hasn't ended, and their adventures have just begun.

The publisher describes themselves thus: South Downs Crime & Mystery is a new independent publisher of cosy, historical and golden age mysteries. We believe crime doesn't always have to be bloody and that great characters, settings and plot are what make mysteries so satisfying.

And they have a Facebook page.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Review: Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Mogford

Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Mogford, April 2015, 256 pages, Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN: 1408846616

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

The city of Saranda curved around its amphitheatre-shaped bay. The concrete blur only hazily visible from Corfu now resolved into Soviet-era tower blocks, a low port complex, a few stunted palm trees embedded along the sandy beach.

Kavos, Corfu.
The girl thrusts her things into a bag and nervously checks the window. This is when the door to her room bursts open …

With his law partner, Peter Galliano, on long-term sick leave and the firm struggling financially, lawyer Spike Sanguinetti sits in the psychiatrist's office reluctant to discuss his insomnia and panic attacks. He doesn't even manage the allotted hour. As he leaves, the therapist reminds him that his problems won't just “go away”. At home that night, babysitting the young, grieving son of his dead lover, he finds his elderly father rocking the boy on his lap, soothing his night terrors.

By way of a much needed break, Spike's father has insisted on their going ahead with their pre-arranged stay with Peter Galliano at his home on Corfu's northern coast. Their friendly driver names the villa-owning billionaires of the region, not least the media mogul Sir Leo Hoffmann whose estate borders Peter's home. A warm greeting and an idyllic evening drink on Peter's terrace is interrupted by the arrival of Spike's ex-girlfriend, Gibraltar Police detective Jessica Navarro, another of his father's surprises and a jolt for them both. Their awkwardness eases over the meal cooked by Katarina, Peter's housekeeper. The view of the Albanian coast across the Corfu Channel prompts Katarina to describe how her husband swam across the channel to escape that country's Communist regime. They met, married, and had two sons, but her husband died ten years ago and is buried back in Albania. Towards the end of the evening Peter tells them that everyone has been invited to the Phaeacian Games on the Hoffmann estate tomorrow, a celebration inspired by Sir Leo's passion for Ancient Greek history and archaeology. Spike decides on another bottle of wine and in the kitchen interrupts an irritable quarrel between Katarina's son Lakis and Arben, the handsome young Albanian who accompanied Jessica to the house tonight. Arben comments on Spike's blue eyes, an evil omen in his native Albania …

Sometimes you just want to plunge head first into a short, sharp thriller; one that keeps your attention from start to finish and – if you share my taste for crime in faraway places – paints a vivid picture of its setting and characters. This is just what Thomas Mogford, ex-journalist and translator, provides in SLEEPING DOGS. His fourth Spike Sanguinetti novel sees Gibraltarian lawyer Spike, burnt out and broke, holidaying with his law partner Peter in Corfu. During a grand soiree at the neighbouring villa, celebrating the archaeological finds of its owner billionaire media mogul Sir Leo Hoffmann, more than the statues of the title's Sleeping Dogs are revealed in the caves below; the dead body of a young Albanian leads to the arrest of another young man for murder. Spike is called in to provide legal help and the story escalates into the pursuit of a missing witness and the murderous terror of vendetta.

This Corfu-set episode stands up to reading without “prior knowledge” of the previous three Sanguinetti books. Its short, sharp chapters pick up increasing pace as the story weaves between the terrified flight of a young woman from Corfu to her native Albania and Spike and Jessica's attempts to find the real killer of a murdered man. With a peppery mix of young and old, the mega-rich and the working locals, and the contrasts of Corfu and Albania, this is a well constructed, entertaining and accessible thriller.

Lynn Harvey, October 2015

Friday, October 09, 2015

Review: I Am Death by Chris Carter

I Am Death by Chris Carter, July 2015, 400 pages, Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 1471132234

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This book is a complete heart-stopper. It’s starts off brilliantly and just gets better and better. The story catches your interest right away and continues to throw grenades at you. Right until the end. When you read the credentials of the author, Chris Carter, it is not surprising that this novel has the effect on the reader that it does. Carter originally studied psychology and criminal behaviour at the University of Michigan, then had a career in this field before moving to London and turning his hand to writing. His understanding of the criminal mind, as well as his skill at putting pen to paper, combine to make this book a truly delicious nightmare.

The story is the seventh in Carter’s series featuring LAPD detective Robert Hunter; a man with a skill for catching really nasty killers. When the body of a young woman is found, laid out in a star shape, on grass near LA airport, Hunter and his team are put on the case. A gruesome note, written in the victim’s blood, is found lodged in her throat and at this point Hunter knows there will be more bodies. His suspicions are proved correct when another body is found – tied to a chair in her own living room and horribly tortured – with the same message written in blood. All of Hunter’s skills are put to the test as he races against time to find the killer before the bodies start to mount up.

The chapters in I AM DEATH alternate between Hunter’s race to find the killer and the story of a young boy, Squirm, who is kidnapped by the killer and forced into slavery by him. Squirm’s story is shocking and you wonder when he will be added to the pile of bodies too, especially when he is forced to watch videos of his captor’s killing sprees.

Don’t be fooled by this book. You won’t be able to guess the end; it has a fabulous twist in its tail and will leave you reeling. Carter does not hold back on his descriptions of torture of murder scenes, so if you are a bit on the squeamish then maybe this isn’t the best book for you to read. However, if you like books by Jeffrey Deaver, Peter James or Thomas Harris then this book is most definitely going to be right up your street. Although this is the seventh in a series it works very well as a stand-alone novel. It is the first of Carter’s books that I have read and I am now extremely tempted to go and find the earlier six.

Highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, October 2015.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Review: Without a Trace by Liza Marklund tr. Neil Smith

Without a Trace by Liza Marklund translated by Neil Smith, June 2015, 352 pages, Corgi, ISBN: 0552170968

Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This tenth book in the series that features the journalist Annika Bengtzon, focuses around the mystery behind the disappearances of two women. One is Nora, the wife of the ex-politician Ingemar Lerberg, who has just gone missing. The other is Viola Söderland, who went missing twenty years ago.

At the start of the book, Nora’s husband Ingemar, is being tortured rather horrifically and the perpetrators clearly want to know where Nora is. His almost lifeless body is found and reported anonymously, and Annika is sent to cover the story. Viola’s disappearance was covered by Annika’s boss: Anders Schyman, in a TV documentary for which he was given an award for Excellence in Journalism. Although the consensus was that Viola had been murdered, Anders found evidence that the billionairess, faced with some kind of financial crisis, had planned her disappearance very carefully. But on searching the web for information about Ingemar, a man whom Schyman knew and sometimes socialized with, he comes across a website calling itself the ‘Light of Truth’ where the author has started to call into question Schyman’s story about Viola, and appears to have started a personal attack on Schyman himself. These two threads form the main part of the story.

Meanwhile, there is the usual family background as part of the story. Annika is now living on Södermalm, a very cool and trendy part of Stockholm, with Jimmy Halenius (with whom she got together in the last book, while her ex-husband Thomas was kept hostage in Africa), her two kids, and his two. Thomas, also appears from time to time, and true to form, is feeling very sorry for himself after their break up, as well as very self conscious about the hand he lost while captive, which is now simply replaced with a hook. And there is the re-appearance of Nina, assigned to National Crime, and working with Annika’s long term inside contact ‘Q’. Nina and Annika also know each other from the past (as detailed in an earlier book). Nina is in charge of finding out who tortured Ingemar, and what has happened to Nora, and it’s she who starts to uncover Nora’s secret life, as we start to find out something about Viola’s through Annika.

There are also the interesting reflections on how journalism has changed, with there no longer being the print deadline, but with Annika videoing herself in front of the crime scene, editing some footage, and uploading the video as well as text on line, as soon as she is ready. But is Annika a little battle-weary? At one point she comments on how she could write several of the articles on line, without even leaving the office and going to see anyone, as the same types of stories resurface again and again. Annika also has an intern to look after, Valter Wennegren, son of the man who owns the paper, who turns out to be very useful. The ‘Light of Truth’ also highlights the ability of anyone to write anything they like online, and how destructive this can be especially when what appears to be a hot story, is taken up by other online media and goes into the mainstream. It’s interesting to see how Schyman, himself a veteran journalist, deals with the character assassination and how doubts raised about him and his integrity raised by an anonymous blogger start to take on a life of their own, as myths are circulated as truths.

WITHOUT A TRACE is a book with lots of bits and pieces, that just about hangs together as a whole. There is much musing on journalism, Annika’s role in it, her slightly jaded approach to it all, and yet still her engagement with it, and love of her job. The pressures of her new family and various uncertainties there also play an important part in the book, while the stories of Nora and Viola are almost plot devices to compare journalism then, and now. That is, one is rather less concerned as to what has happened to these two women, than how the stories are (or were) presented. I always enjoy Marklund’s books, and this is no exception, and while it didn’t have the taut drama of some of the previous books, it was a thought-provoking read.

Michelle Peckham, October 2015

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Review: An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell tr. Laurie Thompson

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell, tr Laurie Thompson (September 2015, Vintage, ISBN: 1784700843)

There was no sign of other bones. Just that hand sticking up out of the ground. He bent down again and poked cautiously into the earth. Was there a whole skeleton under there, or was it just the hand? He was unable to decide for sure.

I was writing this piece about the “Wallander” novella AN EVENT IN AUTUMN when the news broke that it's author, Swedish writer and playwright Henning Mankell, had died. Mankell was my first introduction to Scandinavian crime fiction and for me he was its yardstick. As such, the quote that starts this review is not just an example of good writing but could well stand for the essence of good crime fiction. The irony is that Mankell never set out to be a crime writer. He had returned to Sweden from a long stay in Africa in the early 1990s and was struck by the increase in racism in Swedish society. He decided he wanted to write about it and he also decided that a crime story was the perfect vehicle for writing about the subject and that he would need “a policeman” to carry out the investigation. Thus Kurt Wallander, a character intrinsic to Scandinavian crime fiction, was born.

AN EVENT IN AUTUMN started as a novella for the Dutch market. Some of its plot points were later taken as foundation for an episode in the third season of Kenneth Branagh's BBC television's Wallander series. The novella itself was translated into English by veteran Mankell translator Laurie Thompson (who, sadly, also died earlier this year) and published in the UK for the first time in 2014. It is beautifully written and equally beautifully translated.

Ystad, Sweden. October, 2002.
Wallander has worked until the early hours. He is tired. He reviews his feelings about being a policeman, now, at this time, then leaves the office for his flat which he currently shares with his daughter Linda. It's Linda who wakes him next morning with news of a phone call, much to Wallander's annoyance. It is his day off, he shouts. But Martinson isn't calling about a case, he is calling about a house. It belongs to a relative of Martinson's wife. The relative has had to go into a home and now they want to sell the house. Is Wallander interested in looking at it? That dream of a house in the country and the companionship of a dog? Wallander walks to the police station where Martinson gives him a bunch of keys and tells him that the house is not far from where Wallander's father used to live. Wallander isn't too sure about that but takes the keys, collects his car and drives out into the countryside – to what turns out to be an old farmhouse standing in a neglected garden of fruit trees and currant bushes. He enters the house and walks around the rooms. It would need work. It's been neglected. Then he rings Martinson and after some cautious, reluctant haggling he says that he will take it but that he wants to discuss it first with his daughter. He walks around the house again, taking note of things to be done, trying to imagine living there. Once more he goes out into the garden, tasting the water from the pump, imagining a bowl of water set out for a dog. Back in his car he hesitates. He had seen something when he had tripped in the garden. A small rake? A root?….

What Wallander has found is a hand – the bones of a hand which lead to a search for the rest of the skeleton and an investigation into the past of the house and of its successive owners, their putative crimes and real crimes. This short novella, a crime story about a buried victim and a buried crime, successfully carries us from beginning to end in contemplative, smooth-flowing and psychologically observant narrative. For many reasons this is a book you cannot miss. Ending with an essay by Henning Mankell on the genesis of the Wallander novels and the relationship between the writer and his character “Kurt Wallander” (as seminal a character in crime fiction as Maigret, Marlow or Poirot) it also gives those who found THE TROUBLED MAN to be a difficult farewell to the character and series – a gentler, more autumnal remembrance of Wallander and his creator.

Lynn Harvey, England
October 2015

(Read an earlier Euro Crime review of AN EVENT IN AUTUMN.)

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Review: We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett

We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen translated by Don Bartlett, June 2015, 300 pages, Orenda Books, ISBN: 1910633070

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

I’ve been a fan of a private investigator Varg Veum (meaning ‘wolf in a sanctuary’ in old Norwegian) for ages. I’ve read WRITING ON THE WALL and watched nine movies based on Gunnar Staalesen’s books. I was also incredibly lucky to visit Varg Veum’s Corner in a hotel bar in Bergen. Outside the guests are greeted by a life-sized statue of Bergen’s most famous literary creation. And so I could not wait to read WE SHALL INHERIT THE WIND by the Norwegian Raymond Chandler, superbly translated by Don Bartlett.

1998. Veum is sitting by the hospital bed of his fiancée Karin who is seriously injured, fighting for her life. Blaming himself for what happened to her, he reflects on the events that led to this tragic outcome. As the story unfolds we learn of his latest assignment, starting with Karin’s request to investigate the disappearance of a successful businessman Mons Maeland, reported missing by his wife Ranveig, Karin’s friend. When Veum and Karin visit distressed Ranveig in her lovely summer cottage by the sea, they also meet a family friend, Brekkhus, a retired policeman, friendly yet hardly volunteering any information. Brekkhus was involved in a search for Mons’ first wife Lea who had also vanished in suspicious circumstances without trace seventeen years earlier. Ex-child welfare worker and idealist at heart, Veum reluctantly agrees to find Mons and is slowly pulled into a complicated family drama where there is no love lost between Ranveig and Mons’ two grown-up children Kristoffer and Else. Also, Mons’ disappearance happens at the time when he had apparently scrapped his highly controversial plans to develop a wind farm on his own plot of a beautiful untouched island. The speculations are wild, Kristoffer and Else find themselves in opposite camps, and long buried personal secrets surface.

A deceptively straightforward investigation turns into a life-changing experience for Veum, propelling him into a world of religious fanaticism, big money and bold environmental activism, all coming to an explosive confrontation on Bergen's islands. Lives of all characters are affected.

Tenacious and persistent Varg is a complex character, existing on the outside of the prosperous society, crossing paths both with the police and the criminal ‘underworld’. He stubbornly searches for justice and truth for those most vulnerable. A classic lone PI Veum is flawed yet so human and passionate, and truly unforgettable.

Grippingly, WE SHALL INHERIT THE WIND brings together great characterisation, fast paced plot and social conscience. The writing style is superb. You can smell the wet wind and taste the coffee. You feel so strongly for the sad situation of Veum and Karin, and understand people’s motives.

The beauty of Staalesen’s writing and thinking is in the richness of interpretations on offer: poignant love story, murder investigation, essay on human nature and conscience, or tale of passion and revenge. I choose all options.

Two further titles in Varg Veum series will be published by Orenda Books, in 2016 - WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE, and in 2017 - NO ONE IS SAFE IN DANGER.

Ewa Sherman, October 2015

Monday, October 05, 2015

Review: The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson, June 2015, 400 pages, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN: 1444775456

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

Antonia Hodgson's first novel, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA, which I reviewed last year, won the CWA Historical Dagger Award 2014 and was shortlisted for the John Creasey Dagger for Best First Novel. It was also chosen as a Richard and Judy and Waterstones book club selection. In the author's second novel, she continues the adventures of Tom Hawkins and I thought this book was even better than the previous one, which won so much praise.

It is 1727 and Tom Hawkins, the protagonist who survived a full three months of incarceration, now lives in Covent Garden with his companion Kitty Sparks. Three months after his release he has been found guilty of a brutal murder and he is currently being dragged on a cart to Tyburn to hang, while the crowds jeer his name. What on earth has gone wrong and why does he expect none other than the Queen of England to save him with a last minute pardon? This is the beginning of the reader's increasing tension during the latest instalment of the adventures of Tom Hawkins, the Norfolk vicar's son who decided not to enter the church after university but is now a bit of a rake and lives in a house producing pornography in Covent Garden, spending his free time in bars engaged in drinking and gambling.

In the next house there is a man, Joseph Burden, a huge giant of a man, who is always protesting that Tom and Kitty are leading lives of the utmost depravity and they should repent and become decent human beings. He is a member of an organisation called The Society For The Reformation of Manners (morals), which was formed many years ago to rid the city of whores, thieves and sodomites and he has great influence with John Gonson, a city magistrate and a leading member of The Society and over the years they had investigated and closed a number of brothels etc and Tom is always arguing with him, sometimes quite violently.

On the journey to Tyburn, which can take apparently over over two hours, Tom is hauled in a cart behind his presently empty coffin and we recap over the circumstances that led to the present terrible predicament. We hear of his decision to agree to help, at the request of the Queen, to get rid of the husband of the King's lover who is causing a lot of problems at court. I should mention that this book is not for those who are easily shocked, as in order to portray an accurate account of life in London in 1727, the author describes some of the coarseness of human behaviour at that time but sometimes exhibiting a rather naughty wry humour in so doing.

The body of Joseph Burden is discovered, stabbed multiple times, the day after half of the street heard Tom shout at Burden that he would kill him during a rowdy confrontation and Tom is quickly arrested.

I thought that the first book, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA, was one of the best historical thrillers that I have ever read. The breadth of the author's research and scholarship to give an accurate portrayal of life at that time is is truly remarkable. I was gripped completely with the fantastic and enthralling storyline in this continuation of the story in THE LAST CONFESSION OF THOMAS HAWKINS. I look forward to reading many more books from this very promising and talented new author. Extremely well recommended.

Terry Halligan, October 2015.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Some 1969 Titles (for Past Offences)

The latest monthly challenge over at Past Offences is to read a book in October, published in 1969. Here are 34 British/European crime titles to choose from, first published in English in 1969, pulled from my database:
Catherine Aird - The Complete Steel
Rennie Airth - Snatch!
Peter Alding - Murder Among Thieves
James Anderson - Assassin
Anders Bodelsen - Think of a Number (apa The Silent Partner)
W J Burley - Death in Willow Pattern
Gwendoline Butler - Coffin's Dark Number
Philip Youngman Carter - Mr Campion's Farthing
Agatha Christie - Hallowe'en Party
David Craig - Message Ends
Dick Francis - Enquiry
James Fraser - Cockpit of Roses
Nicolas Freeling - Tsing Boum
Romain Gary - The Dance of Genghis Cohn
Alan Hunter - Gently Coloured
Stanley Hyland - Top Bloody Secret
Sebastien Japrisot - One Deadly Summer
H R F Keating - Inspector Ghote Plays a Joker
Bill Knox - The Tallyman
Osmington Mills - Many a Slip
Peter O'Donnell - A Taste for Death
Ellis Peters - The House of Green Turf
Ellis Peters - Mourning Raga
Stella Phillips - Death in Arcady
Ruth Rendell - A New Lease of Death (apa Sins of the Fathers)
Ruth Rendell - The Best Man to Die
Leonardo Sciascia - Man's Blessing
Leonardo Sciascia - Salt in the Wound (apa Death of an Inquisitor)
Georges Simenon - Maigret and the Killer
Georges Simenon - November
Sjöwall & Wahlöö - The Fire Engine That Disappeared
Frank Smith - Corpse in Handcuffs
Malcolm Torrie - Churchyard Salad
Margaret Yorke - The Limbo Ladies

Friday, October 02, 2015

Review: Prey by James Carol

Prey by James Carol, February 2015, 384 pages, Faber & Faber, ISBN: 057132231X

Reviewed by Susan White.
(Read more of Susan's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Jefferson Winter is an ex FBI-profiler who now works as an independent consultant helping police forces across the world. One evening he is approached in a diner when having his evening meal. The young woman gets his attention by suddenly and brutally killing the diner's cook. Reluctantly, Jefferson is drawn into the search for the woman. He knows he needs the help of the police to gain access to their records so he enlists the help of Carla Mendoza, the policewoman whose case of a psychopathic killer, Ryan McCarthy, he helped to solve.

The meagre clues that they have regarding the identity of the mysterious woman lead Jefferson and Carla to the murders of a husband and wife and the subsequent suicide of the killer. As they look into these deaths, they find a trail leading to more murders and Jefferson realises that he has been stalked by the woman - who is convinced that she and Jefferson have a lot in common - not least, she feels, their desire to kill people.

PREY is an interesting book but I felt little connection with the main characters of Jefferson or Carla and this did impact on my enjoyment. If you like the books of James Patterson, you might like this, the third in the series of books featuring Jefferson Winter.

Susan White, October 2015

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Review: Mr. Miller by Charles Den Tex tr. Nancy Forest-Flier

Today's review is courtesy of CrimeTime's Bob Cornwell

Mr. Miller by Charles Den Tex, tr. Nancy Forest-Flier, 405 pages, June 2015, World Editions, ISBN: 9462380112

MR. MILLER is the first novel in English for Charles Den Tex – and it’s a cracker. He’s a three time winner of the Netherlands’ Golden Noose award for best crime novel (this is the winner from 2006, a best-seller there). It’s a little late in arriving here. But as the debut of Hunted, Channel 4’s electronic surveillance reality show in September demonstrates, the book has lost none of its relevance.

The bottom drops out of the world of Michael Bellicher, high-level EU-serving communications consultant, one afternoon at Schiphol Airport. He’s there with his ‘Bible Belt’ parents to meet the younger brother he hasn’t seen for five and a half years. What is revealed to him there triggers a mental collapse that results in a lost alcohol-fuelled weekend, punctuated by half-heard TV news bulletins (the Netherlands like Britain, appears to be suffering from acute post 9/11 Islamophobia), along with frantic emails from his agitated clients and colleagues. Brought to something like his senses by one from Jessica, his girlfriend in San Francisco, he stumbles into work three days later to find himself on the point of dismissal. Michael decides to work through the night in an effort to rescue his lost credibility. But on the way down to the staff canteen for some refreshment, he is startled to discover the body of a woman, dead. Shortly after he hears the body being removed, only for it to turn up later in the basement car park, with Michael the key suspect in the murder. His nightmare begins.

Right from the start (as you might expect from a writer who once was himself a communications consultant and management advisor) Den Tex succinctly and credibly outlines the world of the consultant. Michael lives for his work, high pressure round the clock influential work, assignments that have brought him “to the heart of every major development”. The company meanwhile knows everything about him, what his favourite music is, his IQ (nothing less than 180 will do), when he last visited the dentist. His friends, including Jessica, fulfil similar demanding requirements, whilst also displaying other “audacious talents and bizarre gifts”. His parents are unhelpful. But one or two friends rally to his cause.

His options at the company starting to run out, he gathers up all the information that he can quickly commandeer, lap-top bag on his shoulder, and decides to go under the radar. Accompanied, it appears, by the mysterious Mr Miller whose website appears amongst a list of email addresses Michael has extracted from the computer of the dead woman. But who is Mr. Miller? And how is Miller tracking him everywhere he goes?

What follows is a fast-moving thriller in which Michael, credit cards invalidated, abandoning cell phones as they become traceable, follows up every lead he has, however unpromising. His predicament has been picked up in the media, friends are endangered or attacked, even Jessica (by email, at first) begins to have her doubts. And, as his investigation starts to reveal the international all-embracing nature of the network – and its malign intent, Michael too begins to question his whole existence. He also uncovers some unexpected sources of help: a reconciliation with that estranged brother that brought about his mental collapse for instance, a South African connection proves fruitful (and how!), as well as a connection with some maverick elements of the computer world itself.

The pace is perfectly judged, the writing astute and perceptive, both economical and expressive (Den Tex acknowledges British thriller writer Desmond Bagley as a key influence, and, I believe significantly, Michael's bookshelves include books by Dashiell Hammett, that master of the taut narrative). Most of all tension is continually raised, up to and including the splendidly engineered, occasionally surreal climax. And it is very readably translated by Nancy Forest-Flier. Miraculously too Den Tex has managed to incorporate without lecturing, themes of work/life balance, the importance of family, and above all, that the most serious risks to democracy come not from the many external threats, but from unbridled abuses within the democratic framework. “An action thriller with brains” said a Netherlands newspaper. I couldn’t put it better myself. Well worth reading.

FOOTNOTE. I have known Charles Den Tex since 2004. For Crime Time magazine in 2008, we collaborated on a Crime Scene: The Netherlands feature, some of which was updated by Charles to appear in Barry Forshaw’s Euro Noir (Pocket Essentials,2014). But apart from that and a short story (Charles, Australian by birth, can write very capably in English), I have never read anything else that he has written. It can be a real test of friendship when finally you get to read something for which you have waited for some time. No such problems here. It’s an excellent novel and I heartily recommend it. Let’s hope World Editions will follow it up, perhaps with others from the Den Tex oeuvre.

Bob Cornwell
October 2015