Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd

No Shred of Evidence by Charles Todd, March 2016, 352 pages, William Morrow, ISBN: 0062386182

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

It is Autumn 1920 in a village near Padstow in Cornwall and four middle class young ladies who have been spending the weekend together, decide to go out in a rowing boat on the river Heyl, but unfortunately they have an accident. After being out for some time they see a young man of their acquaintance, in another rowing boat, rapidly sink, and as the water is quite deep, he manages to struggle across to their boat. They really have great difficulty in trying to pull him onto their boat as his waterlogged clothing makes him very heavy, one of the girls brings an oar towards him with the hope that he should grab it but the effort for her is too much and she accidentally drops it and it appears to strike his head. A man on the riverbank sees the struggle that the girls are having and swims out to them and clambers aboard and tries artificial respiration on the victim but he still appears unconscious.

The man on the riverbank accuses the girls of attempting to kill the victim and the police are forced, because of adverse local public opinion, to arrest the girls for attempted murder. The girls spend a night in a local jail but as the facilities are very poor they are placed under house arrest at the house of a local magistrate who happens to be the father of one of the girls. Similarly, as the crime is outside the experience of the local constabulary, Scotland Yard are requested to send a detective to investigate. An Inspector Barrington was sent down initially but unfortunately on the first day of his investigation he suffered a fatal heart attack and died. Because of this, Inspector Ian Rutledge is ordered by his Superintendent to replace Barrington and start a fresh investigation.

Rutledge had only just returned from Derbyshire on a previous investigation and was not expecting to be reassigned so quickly, he follows orders, however, and drives down to Cornwall. Rutledge was an officer on the Somme, during the Great War and was forced to shoot a Scottish soldier Hamish MacLeod for directly refusing an order. As a result of this Rutledge is haunted by the inner voice of Hamish constantly pointing out negative possibilities for almost all of his actions. Little was known at that time of post traumatic stress disorder. When Rutledge reaches Heyl village he starts his investigation but is hampered by not being able to locate any of the case notes that his predecessor, Inspector Barrington had made. Accordingly, he feels obliged to start investigating completely from the beginning.

Although 1920 almost seems within living memory, of course it is almost historic in that many of the furnishings and appliances that we take for granted were completely absent. Thus, interviews with all the persons involved was very important to build a picture of the background. As there were very few telephones available to the public Rutledge could not telephone Scotland Yard to report in, he could only send telegrams but that presented problems of confidentiality, as he could not be sure who may read it during transit and therefore had to be very circumspect in his approach. A national telephone service was not available until the mid 1920s.

"Charles Todd" is the pen name of the American authors Caroline and Charles Todd. This mother-and-son writing partnership live in the Eastern USA in adjoining states and have used their writing partnership to co-write more than twenty-five historical mysteries. They have two main series: the Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge one and separately the Sister Bess Crawford books about a First World War nursing sister who gets involved in several mysteries.

This book is extremely well researched for the period and is a testament to the authors' frequent research trips to the UK. I read for review purposes, A FINE SUMMER'S DAY, as well as many of the other books privately and I really enjoy their highly imaginative and well researched plots enormously and always look forward to reading their stories as I know from previous experience that I will be gripped until the last page is closed. Extremely well recommended.

Terry Halligan, May 2016.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

TV News: Dicte on More4

Danish series Dicte - Crime Reporter starts on More4 next Friday (3 June) at 9pm. It appears that series 1 will be shown over five weeks in two-hourly slots. There have been two series so far and a third has been commissioned.
Crime reporter Dicte Svendsen returns to her hometown of Aarhus following her divorce and stars Iben Hjejle as Dicte and Lars Brygmann (Unit One, Borgen) as Detective John Wagner.
The series is based on Elsebeth Egholm's Dicte series of books of which only two are available in English, Next of Kin and Life and Limb (books four and five in the series). These have been published only in Australia at the moment but they can be purchased via the Book Depository website.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

US Cozy Review: Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay

Welcome to another entry in my irregular feature: US cozy review. Again, this is the start of a new series, and it features a lead who runs the local library.

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay, July 2011, Berkley Books ISBN: 0425242188

BOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING is the first book in the Library Lover's series. As a Library Assistant myself, you would expect me to love this book and you would be correct.

Set in a coastal small town - Briar Creek, Connecticut - the lead character is Lindsey Norris who has recently taken the job of Briar Creek's Library Director after a troublesome personal and professional life elsewhere.

Lindsey's best friend Beth has been working as the children's librarian in Briar Creek for years so it is a happy reunion.

Lindsey has implemented a few changes at the library, much to the disapproval of long-time employee Ms Cole. One of these is a crafternoon session where a group of patrons knit and discuss their book group read.

Beth is an aspiring children's picture-book writer and illustrator and her boyfriend of five years, Rick, is a successful children's author however no-one can see what Beth sees in him. A row over Beth's labour of love leads to the couple splitting and a subsequent revelation has Beth fuming and dashing out to his home on a private island. Accompanied by Lindsey and local sailor Sully they do not expect to find Rick's dead body. The dim-witted local police chief has Beth in the frame however he doesn't count on Lindsey doing her own sleuthing to uncover the real killer.

BOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING imparts a feeling of comfort. The setting is gorgeous and the locals have embraced Lindsey into the community (with the exception of Ms Cole!) and there's just the hint of a salve for Lindsey's broken heart in the shape of hot-chocolate making Sully (recipe included). The mystery side is fine – I didn't guess what was going on - but it takes a while to get a head of steam but the finale is quite action packed and full of peril. There is also a very funny scene towards the end in a college.

I really enjoyed the feel of the book – the ambience, the wonderful library and the book-ish references - so much so that I've just ordered books two and three. The seventh book in the series is due out in November 2016. I may have caught up by then!

Karen Meek, May 2016

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Murder Ring by Leigh Russell

Murder Ring by Leigh Russell, May 2016, 320 pages, No Exit Press, ISBN: 1843446774

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

This is the next book in the extremely popular series featuring Leigh Russell’s DI Geraldine Steel. As usual it is well written but a quick read and can be devoured in a short period of time. Geraldine has gone from strength to strength since we first met her in CUT SHORT in 2009. She has moved towns, been promoted and found herself to be both highly respected and skilled at what she does. I am always delighted to get my hands on another book in the series about this particular police detective. It is only a pity that I read them far too quickly!

In MURDER RING, a dodgy, fresh-out-of-jail, house-breaker called Lenny arrives home after serving his time inside. He is late back, after celebrating his freedom with his mates, and suspiciously offers his girlfriend a diamond ring to compensate for his behaviour. She can’t believe her eyes but her luck soon runs out when Lenny decides to flog the ring and takes it back. Right about the time he is doing this, a body is found in a side street in central London. The victim, a Mr. David Lester, has been shot in the chest and is missing his nice leather jacket – as well as a box containing his wife’s very expensive engagement ring that was being resized.

It is almost immediately obvious to the reader who has the ring but the identity of the shooter remains a mystery; both to us and Geraldine and her team. She has the added worry of a new boss to impress and a new lead on the whereabouts of her birth mother, who might be prepared to meet her at last. The pressure on Geraldine seems greater than ever in this book. She is irritable with Sam, her faithful and talented DC, and silently watching her sister’s developing pregnancy all the while not getting any closer to finding herself either a man or closure on her adoption.

Just as the police begin to turn things around and have the killer in their sights, as well as locked up and under arrest at last, another body is discovered and they have to begin again. Geraldine has to dig deep to find her quarry before any more lives are lost.

Leigh Russell has begun two other series since we were first introduced to Geraldine and the others are equally excellent but this series is my favourite. I love this feisty female detective and feel as if we are friends. This latest instalment does not disappoint and has you guessing and looking for clues, right until the very end. It is interesting to follow an author from their very first book and watch how their work develops. I am really enjoying the journey with Leigh Russell and am looking forward to the many more books that are sure to come!

Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, May 2016.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Petrona Award 2016: Winner Announced

On 21 May 2016, at the Gala Dinner at CrimeFest, Bristol, Petrona Award judges Barry Forshaw, Katharina Hall and Sarah Ward announced the winner of the 2016 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

The winner was THE CAVEMAN by Jorn Lier Horst translated by Anne Bruce and published by Sandstone Press.

The trophy was presented by last year's winner Yrsa Sigurdardottir to Jorn Lier Horst's representative, Robert Davidson of Sandstone Press.

Mr Davidson read out the following remarks from Jorn Lier Horst:

This is the fourth Petrona Award and I feel highly honoured to follow Liza Marklund, Leif GW Persson, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. I am also very grateful to the jury for the trouble they have taken, for their expert knowledge and their commitment over the years. They pay great tribute to their late colleague, Maxine Clarke, whose memory is perpetuated in this most suitable of ways.

Our present time will be referred to in future as the ‘Golden Age of Scandinavian Crime Literature’. Never before have so many Scandinavian authors written so many good crime novels, with a vitality and quality that not only attracts readers worldwide but also enhances the whole crime genre. In such a time it is especially an honour to receive the Petrona Award, particularly gratifying and a source of great pride. Thank you.

Mr Davidson added: This is yet another recognition of a very fine author. More than just a crime writer, Jorn Lier Horst is a novelist who has extended beyond his genre. I would like also to pay tribute to his translator, Anne Bruce. All of us at Sandstone Press are very proud to be the publishers of this great series.

As well as the trophy, Jorn Lier Horst receives a pass to and a guaranteed panel at next year's CrimeFest.

The judges's comments on THE CAVEMAN:

THE CAVEMAN is a gripping police procedural drawing on Jorn Lier Horst’s experiences as a murder detective. All the books in the 'William Wisting' series have had compelling narratives and THE CAVEMAN is no exception, exploring a Norwegian society where, in a supposedly close-knit community, a man can lie dead at home unnoticed and unmourned for weeks. Excellent plotting, well-drawn characters and writing of the highest quality make this book a worthy winner of the 2016 Petrona Award.

As well as the Petrona Award winner, the winners of the CrimeFest Awards were also announced and are as follows:

Audible Sounds of Crime Award
WINNER: Paula Hawkins for The Girl on the Train, read by Clare Corbett (India Fisher & Louise Brealey)

Kobo eDunnit Award
WINNER: Michael Connelly for The Crossing (Orion Publishing Group)

Last Laugh Award
WINNER: Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May and the Burning Man (Transworld)

H.R.F. Keating Award
WINNER: Martin Edwards for The Golden Age of Murder (HarperCollins)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: The Firemaker by Peter May

The Firemaker by Peter May, April 2016, 560 pages, riverrrun, ISBN: 0857053965

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

It is 1998, Margaret Campbell, an American Forensic Pathologist has left the USA, following a broken relationship, for Beijing, China on an initial six-week course to teach at the Police Academy. The opportunity had been given to her at short notice and she was very unprepared for the vast difference in language, customs, culture and general way of life there. Li Yan is the lead detective for the Beijing version of Scotland Yard and on his first case after just being promoted has to investigate the discovery of a grotesquely burned corpse discovered in a city park. In order to get to the bottom of this, he needs outside expert help and he discovers, to his dismay, that Margaret's speciality is the pathology of burns' victims.

Initially, there is a lot of animosity between Margaret and Li Yan as they originally met when jet-lagged Margaret accidentally crashed her car into his bike. He tells her off in perfect English. This was particularly upsetting for him as he was on his way to the initial interview for the job of Deputy Section Chief. Turning up for the interview in soiled blood stained clothes at such an important time made him very resentful towards this foreign lady but fortunately it did not stop him getting the job.

Li Yan and Margaret work together to try to discover the identity of the victim and whether it was suicide as everyone initially thinks or could it be murder? There are two other murders discovered at the same time but whether they are connected or separate cases needs also to be investigated. Margaret does the autopsy of the victim and is able with her expert knowledge to discover a great deal of useful information about the victim. She even telephones a contact in the FBI in the US for more information.

The difficulty of investigating a criminal case in a communist state with all their strange (to Western eyes) customs and hierarchical traditions is explained very well by the author, who explains in extensive notes at the beginning of the book how often he has travelled on research trips to China over the years and how much it has changed. Li Yan lost most of his family during the Cultural Revolution and his last surviving main mentor is his uncle with whom he lives and discusses his cases, and gets the benefit of his insightful experience.

The author manages to inject into the story, which is quite lengthy at 560 pages a lot of thoughtful, highly atmospheric descriptions of life in the new China. One could almost taste the contents of the wok the characters ate from as Li Yan took Margaret to various restaurants, during the case. The beautifully rich vocabulary that the author uses transports you immediately to China. As the case developed it became clear that the three victims that were initially investigated were just the tip of an iceberg that could lead to the death of millions, not only in China but around the world.

This is the first in a series of six books with these characters and was originally published in 1999; they are now being introduced to new readers such as me and I look forward to reading the whole series and also his Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides. The quality of his writing is first class and I was very impressed as I have not had the pleasure of reading his books before. Extremely well recommended.

Terry Halligan, May 2016.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Review: The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria

The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria, April 2016, 384 pages, MIRA, ISBN: 1848454406

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

The book begins with Audrey Templeton on holiday with her two adult children, twins Alexandra and John. She goes missing, presumed having fallen overboard whilst at sea.

In 1970 Audrey Bailey, devastated following the death of her beloved father (her mother having pre-deceased him) decides to sail from England for Bombay to make a new life. She quickly falls under the spell of a suave businessman, Ralph Templeton. After a whirlwind courtship he proposes to her, but tells her he has two children, their mother having committed suicide.

Marriage is difficult because of Ralph's moods, jealousy and his need to control. She makes the best of it for the children. They eventually return to England to live. Audrey misses the sights and sounds of Bombay. She goes to Art class and gets involved with the tutor, but Ralph eventually finds out and takes a violent revenge.

After Ralph's death Audrey moves from London to Cornwall as she misses the sea. Her son John lives near and her daughter and her husband also move close. However John and Alexandra find trying to keep visiting Audrey exhausting and John in particular would like her to move into sheltered accommodation. Audrey who is only just approaching her seventieth birthday does not feel old and disagrees.

Then the twins receive an invitation to go on a cruise of the Greek islands with their mother. What could go wrong in such idyllic settings?

This is the second novel from this Dubai-based British journalist. Her first book was COMING HOME. I enjoyed the story of Audrey's life. The book reminded me of the type of book that Robert Goddard writes, and this is high praise indeed! I intend to download her first book now and would thoroughly recommend this one.

Geoff Jones, May 2016

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Review: Behind God's Back by Harri Nykanen tr. Kristian London

Behind God's Back by Harri Nykanen, tr. Kristian London (January 2015, 208 pages, Bitter Lemon Press, ISBN: 1908524421)

BEHIND GOD'S BACK is the third in the Ariel Kafka series but is the second to be translated. The other being the first book in the series, NIGHTS OF AWE.

Ari is one of two Jewish police officers in Helsinki/Finland and he is called in to investigate the murder of leading Jewish businessman Samuel Jacobsen. Many years ago Ari dated Jacobsen's daughter and recently Ari's brother Eli's law firm arranged a loan for Jacobsen. These factors are positives rather than meaning Ari has to recuse himself.

The killer seems to be a professional, no evidence is left behind and the getaway car is found, also completely clean. Ari's small team have to discover whether this is a racist killing or had Jacobsen got involved with criminals?

Just when Ari is beginning to get somewhere, a second killing occurs. Is there a connection to the upcoming visit by an Israeli politician? An unexpected source holds all the answers.

BEHIND GOD'S BACK is an easier book to follow than NIGHTS OF AWE. It is fairly short, so plot overrides characterisation I feel and I haven't got much of a handle on Ari's colleagues. Setting the crime in the Jewish community however, means that not only do you get information about Jewish customs but you get almost a "village" setting as Ari knows everyone and they know him and he will get information that "outsiders" won't.

BEHIND GOD'S BACK is an interesting read and Ari is a typical fictional cop: forty-ish, single, smart-mouthed but for once without a drink problem. The pace is steady, there are no dips, and overall it's a solid police procedural. I hope that more of the currently five-book series get translated into English.

Karen Meek
May 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

Some 1957 Titles (for Past Offences)

The latest monthly challenge over at Past Offences is to read a book in May, published in 1957. Here are some British/European crime titles to choose from, first published in English in 1957, pulled from my database:

Catherine Arley - Woman of Straw
Josephine Bell - Double Doom
Gwendoline Butler - Dead in a Row
Agatha Christie - 4.50 from Paddington (apa What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw!)
Katherine Farrer - Gownsman’s Gallows
Ian Fleming - From Russia With Love
Alan Hunter - Landed Gently
Alan Hunter - Gently Down the Stream
Austin Lee - Miss Hogg and the Squash Club
Osmington Mills - No Match for the Law
Georges Simenon - The Negro
Georges Simenon - The Son
Georges Simenon Maigret's - Little Joke (apa None of Maigret's Business)
Clark Smith - The Case of Torches
Margaret Yorke - Summer Flight

There are more suggestions in the comments on the Past Offences page.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

New Releases - May 2016

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in May 2016 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). May and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.

• Atherton, Nancy - Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure #21 Aunt Dimity
• Bale, Tom - See How They Run (ebook only)
• Billingham, Mark - Die of Shame
• Cavanagh, Steve - The Plea #2 Eddie Flynn, USA
• Cleverly, Barbara - Diana's Altar #13 Commander Joe Sandilands, India
• Damhaug, Torkil - Death By Water #2 Oslo Crime Files
• Ewan, Chris - Long Time Lost
• Furst, Alan - A Hero in France
• Hayes, Sam - In Too Deep
• Holt, Anne - No Echo #6 Hanne Wilhelmsen
• Honda, Tetsuya - The Silent Dead #1 Detective Reiko Himekawa
• James, Peter - Love You Dead #12 Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, Brighton
• Jardine, Quintin - Private Investigations #26 Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Skinner, Edinburgh
• Jarvela, Jari - The Girl and the Rat #2 Metro
• Kepler, Lars - Stalker #5 DI Joona Linna, Stockholm
• Khan, Vaseem - The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown #2 Inspector Chopra
• Kutscher, Volker - Babylon Berlin #1 Detective Inspector Rath, berlin, 1929
• Lehtolainen, Leena - The Devil's Cubs #3 Hilja Ilveskero, bodyguard
• Longo, Davide - The Bramard Case
• Muir, T F - Blood Torment #6 DI Andy Gilchrist & team, St. Andrews
• Mukherjee, Abir - A Rising Man #1 Captain Sam Wyndham, Calcutta, 1919
• Palmer, Matthew - The Wolf of Sarajevo
• Parsons, Tony - The Hanging Club #3 Detective Max Wolfe of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, London
• Raabe, Melanie - The Trap
• Roberts, Mark - Dead Silent #2 DCI Eve Clay, Liverpool
• Russell, Leigh - Murder Ring #8 DI Geraldine Steel
• Tope, Rebecca - The Hawkshead Hostage #5 Persimmon Brown, Florist, Lake District
• Westo, Kjell - The Wednesday Club