Thursday, January 21, 2016

Favourite Euro Crime Reads of 2015 - Ewa

In today's penultimate entry of the Euro Crime reviewers' favourite reads of 2015, it's Ewa Sherman's turn to detail her favourites:

Ewa Sherman's favourite reads of 2015

I had an opportunity to read some amazing and thought provoking books that provided many thrills and emotions, and expanded my knowledge about European writing (and countries) so choosing a top five favourites is a challenge...

For a start The Hummingbird, by the fascinating Kati Hiekkapelto and translated by David Hackston, was a revelation. The Finnish writer, punk singer and performance artist created a real female heroine, fighting for justice for those with no voice: immigrants in a snowy fictional town. Through the eyes of Anna Fekete who fled ex-Yugoslavia as a child, now a competent police officer in her adopted country, Hiekkapelto poses a question of where individuals fit within a society. Intelligent powerful prose, in a very measured manner expressing the anger at modern world. Quite rightly so.

We Shall Inherit the Wind, finally published in English (translated by Don Bartlett), reintroduced me to the Norwegian author Gunnar Staalesen. The story brings together environmental terrorism, religious fanaticism and family secrets, but most of all it can be read as a love story. Social worker turned private investigator Varg Veum is one of my favourite fictional characters, both in print and on screen. I watched nine films based on Staalesen’s novels, which are more graphically violent than the original writing but very engaging, exciting and showing the underbelly of peaceful and beautiful Norway. Nothing is ever perfect but often great writing comes very close to perfection.

And then there is Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson, masterfully translated by Quentin Bates, himself an author of books set in Iceland. What a wonderful introduction to the Dark Iceland series by a writer fully exploring his knowledge of intricacies of Icelandic society and nature, with a lightness of pen, intelligent plotting, and desire to put his own mark on the classic murder mystery. The sense of claustrophobia is created by the constant darkness and the unknown environment of a small remote town. A young policeman Ari Thor Arason on his first posting experiences isolation and uncertainty. But over the course of other books he might graduate to the same level as Arnaldur Indriðason’s famous detective...

Indriðason, the King of Icelandic crime fiction and a master storyteller, weaves history, geography and social issues, and creates the perfect sense of location. I’ve read the recent Reykjavik Nights (paperback) and Oblivion (hardback), in sensitive translation by Victoria Cribb, at the same time so I would like to include them as one entry. They both provide background story for the young Erlendur Sveinsson who is both endearing in his pursuit of justice/closure, and infuriating because of his doggedness and lack of communication. But he became the iconic gloomy Icelandic policeman and these two instalments throw some light on the circumstances that made the compassionate man we know from previous novels.

I also love to travel by means of excellent writing, and so The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell took me to Hamburg’s district of Altona, a protagonist in its own right. This is a most disturbing and compelling modern stylish Gothic story set in the 21st Century. Jan Fabel, Head of Hamburg’s Murder Commission, investigating a gruesome murder of a charismatic woman and struggling with the aftermath of his Near Death Experience, is an awe inspiring character. He’s so well developed that I felt I could know him in real life. At the time I was also watching 1864, the Danish heart-breaking historical drama, where northern Germany features heavily, and hence by connecting the TV production with restrained Russell’s writing, I travelled back to my favourite region: Scandinavia.

1 comment:

Little Grey Doll said...

I very much enjoyed "Snowblind" as an audiobook recently... and there are others here that I must take a look at. Thanks, Ewa.