Evil Things by Katja Ivar, January 2019, 320 pages, Bitter Lemon Press, ISBN: 1912242095
Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here and here.)
Feeling curiously devoid of emotion, Hella ran down the steps to where a canvas sack stood on the frozen earth, a dark brown stain spread across it like some exotic flower. She motioned towards it.
“Is it inside?”
Ivalo Police Headquarters, Northern Finland, 13th October 1952.
The speck on the map that is the Sami village of Käärmela, surrounded by marshes and hills, makes Hella wonder why she is determined to go there. Chief Inspector Eklund, her boss, has dismissed the idea of a crime. An accident, he says. An old man disappears, probably got lost or drunk. Hella points out that a man born in that forest wouldn’t get lost. Nor would he leave his six year old grandson alone for days. Eklund is scornful. The man is probably not the perfect grandfather that she imagines. She tries again, pointing out that the local priest’s wife has reported it to them. Won’t an uninvestigated report ruin the section’s statistics? Eklund seems to grow uncomfortable. He orders Hella to tell the priest’s wife that with winter snows due they cannot send an investigator but will take up the case in May when the snows melt. After a long unpleasant haggle which includes suffering Eklund’s opinion that Hella would be better off looking for a husband at the next town ball, Hella takes Eklund’s offer of vacation time to visit the village. But only for a couple of days. She forces a smile at her boss.
Käärmela, near the Finnish-Soviet border.
The priest’s wife, Irja, again tries to reassure the silent little boy that his grandfather will return soon. Four days ago an old woman had dragged the boy into Irja’s home claiming that his grandfather was missing, probably dead, and that she had had to beat the boy to get him to leave the empty house. He won’t eat, sleep or speak, said the woman. It's Irja’s duty, as the priest’s wife, to look after him. Irja tried to reassure the distraught boy as he clutched their old cat for comfort. Putting him to bed, she immediately wrote a letter to the Ivalo Police about the missing grandfather.
Ivalo Police Headquarters, 14th October 1952
Persistently irritated by the sign on her door which reads “H. Mauzer, Polyssister” (she was Helsinki’s first woman detective for God’s sake, not a tea-maker cum hand-holder), Hella is further annoyed to see that her colleague Ranta has again been snooping around her office. She concentrates on leaving her desk in scrupulous order with a view to appeasing Chief Inspector Eklund. At home she packs: a rucksack, walking boots, warm clothes, notebook, her coffee pot. She shudders at having to accept a lift north with Kukoyakka, the only logging driver willing to take her. She decides to take her gun. True, the armed conflict in the countryside is quieter now but if Kukoyakka pushes his luck… She smiles.
Käärmela, same day.
The priest's wife has another visitor, a neighbour of the boy and his grandfather. Has he come to ask after the little boy? No, he says. He has decided to buy the missing man’s house. The boy can live with her and the priest after all. He reaches into his coat and pulls out some notes, pushing them across the table to her. The price of a bag of fish. He rises, announcing the deal done. Irja is outraged and pushes the money back at him explaining that now is not the time. “Bitch!” For a moment she is frightened of him but she stands her ground and he leaves.
Irja had asked the Ivalo police about the disappearance but had been treated with contempt. The boy keeps asking when they will arrive and despite her own doubts she humours him. When a tall angular figure in a parka and carrying a pack approaches their house through the dusk the boy is positive it is the police. Then he whispers in disbelief, “It’s a woman”...
EVIL THINGS is Katya Ivar’s first novel. Raised in both Russia and the US and now living in Paris, Ivar has given us, in EVIL THINGS, a gripping police procedural set in an unfamiliar time and place for most crime readers. Set in a remote community in a time of political turmoil but also a time and society pushing women to conform to tradition, Katja Ivar's collected portraits of the women who conform and those who don't are strikingly drawn. Hella Mauzer herself, as befits a central “cop” figure, is always at the edge: the outsider, the misfit, considered by her colleagues to be mad, bad and possibly dangerous to know. The first woman investigative police officer in Helsinki until disgraced, downgraded and moved to a remote posting in Ivalo near the Finnish-Russian border, Hella is convinced that there is something to investigate in a grandfather’s disappearance from his remote Lapp village, she wangles her way onto the case and organises a search party. When they find animal-savaged human remains in the forest snow it is Hella who realises that the remains are those of a woman and this is truly a murder investigation. Ivar’s slow reveal of Hella's character and past add to the suspense in this mystery filled with strong character writing. Ultimately Hella leads us into a frantic race and final battle of wits to uncover and confront both society’s demons and her own. A strong start to what I hope will become a Hella Mauzer series.
Lynn Harvey, March 2019
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Is Birmingham becoming more popular as a setting for crime fiction? This April we have Lucie Whitehouse's Critical Incidents, the first of projected trilogy set in Birmingham and next year sees Neon from the pseudonymous G S Locke. Details from today's Bookseller:
Orion has scooped a debut thriller by G S Locke, about a Birmingham detective and hitwoman tracking down a serial killer.More Birmingham crime fiction can be found here.
It will be published by Orion Fiction in spring 2020.
The book follows “desperate detective” Matt Jackson and hitwoman Iris as they try to find the murderer who killed Jackson’s wife. The synopsis explains: “But the killer, dubbed ‘Neon’ for the way he displays his victims among elaborate, snaking neon light installations, is also on the hunt – and has both Jackson and Iris in his sights.”
Locke, the pseudonym for a Birmingham based crime writer, said: “For some time, I’ve had this powerful image in my head of a desolate detective sitting alone in a café, picking up the phone and ordering his own murder after his wife is killed by a serial killer. With that, DCI Jackson was born, and with him, Iris, a contract killer who I hope is as fierce and unrelenting a character as Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander and Killing Eve’s Villanelle. What follows is a story of survival, revenge, an unorthodox investigative partnership, and a serial killer with a particular fondness for neon art.”
Friday, March 15, 2019
I'm very pleased to be able to confirm the judging panel for this year's Petrona Award. The judges will be meeting shortly to determine the shortlist which will be taken from this list.
Judging Panel Announced for The 2019 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year
The Petrona Award team would like to extend a warm welcome to our new judge, crime fiction expert and well-known blogger Raven Crime Reads. Raven has been a bookseller for 17 years and brings a wealth of critical expertise to the judging panel and we are delighted to welcome her on board.
Raven joins Dr Kat Hall and Sarah Ward on the judging panel for the 2019 Petrona Award.
Barry Forshaw, one of our founding judges, has stepped down to work on his magnum opus, Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide – which, he tells us, will have a large Nordic Noir section. We would like to thank Barry for his enormous contribution to our judging panels over the past five years, and for his help in making the Petrona Award such a success since its creation in 2013.
More details on the Petrona Award, which is sponsored by David Hicks, can be found at www.petronaaward.co.uk.
Monday, March 11, 2019
News has been released today of the next book(s) from Euro Crime favourite, Sarah Ward. She is changing tack to historical crime fiction, and so the new book will be under the pseudonym of Rhiannon Ward.
Here are some of the details (from The Bookseller):
Here are some of the details (from The Bookseller):
Trapeze has acquired historical mystery The Quickening by Sarah Ward, writing under a pseudonym, in a two-book deal.
 Written by crime writer Ward under the pen-name Rhiannon Ward, the first book will be published by Trapeze in hardback, e-book and audio in February 2020.
The novel’s protagonist is Louisa Drew, based on the celebrated Christina Broom, a pioneer of women’s press photography in the Edwardian era.
Its synopsis states: “Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.
“She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered almost thirty years ago to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, she finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with Clewer Hall’s.”
CrimeFest has kindly donated a pair of weekend passes to the upcoming event in Bristol (9-12 May, 2019).
The passes - worth £200 - provide access to all panels and interviews, Thursday through Sunday, as well as a delegate goody bag and a programme. (Accommodation, food and travel expenses are not included.)
2019's headline authors include John Harvey and Robert Thorogood, and there will be a special appearance by Agatha Raisin herself - Ashley Jensen.
The competition closes on 24 March 2019 at 11.59pm.
There are no geographical restrictions on entrants, but please only enter if you are able to attend. (The passes are non-transferable.)
Only 1 entry per person please.
To enter the competition, put Petrona and the answer to the question below, in the subject line of an email, adding your name and address in the body, and send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Who won the very first Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year?The winner of the 2019 Petrona Award will be announced at the CrimeFest Gala Dinner (tickets available separately).
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Saturday, March 09, 2019
Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in March 2019 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). March and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything or got the date wrong, do please leave a comment.
• Alvey, J M - Shadows of Athens #1 Philocles, Athens, 443BC
• Arlidge, M J - A Gift for Dying
• Beaufort, Simon - Watchers of the Dead #2 Alec Londale, Victorian Era
• Bjork, Samuel - The Boy in the Headlights #3 Holger Munch & Mia Kruger, Oslo Police
• Blaedel, Sara - Her Father's Secret #2 Ilka Nichols Jensen
• Brightwell, Emily - Mrs Jeffries Delivers the Goods #37 Mrs Jeffries
• Caine, Will - The Inquiry
• Celestin, Ray - The Mobster's Lament #3 City Blues Quartet
• Charlton, Karen - Murder in Park Lane #5 Detective Lavender and Constable Woods
• Dahl, Kjell Ola - The Courier
• Daniels, Natalie - Too Close
• Ellory, R J - Three Bullets
• Ford, M J - Keep Her Close #2 DS Josie Masters
• Fowler, Christopher - Bryant & May - The Lonely Hour #16 Inspectors Bryant and May, London
• Gitsham, Paul - A Deadly Lesson #5 DCI Warren Jones
• Gray, Alex - The Stalker #16 DCI Lorimer & psychologist Solomon Brightman, Glasgow
• Grebe, Camilla - After She's Gone
• Green, Linda - The Last Thing She Told Me
• Hancock, Penny - I Thought I Knew You
• Hannah, Mari - The Scandal #3 Stone and Oliver
• Harris, C S - Who Slays the Wicked #14 Sebastian St. Cyr, Regency England
• Harrison, Cora - Season of Darkness #1 Gaslight Mystery
• Heller, Mandasue - Brutal
• Hunter, Cara - No Way Out #3 DI Adam Fawley, Oxford
• Jackson, Stina - The Silver Road
• Judd, Alan - The Accidental Agent #6 Charles Thoroughgood, ex MI6
• Kristjansson, Snorri - Council #2 Helga Finnsdottir
• Leather, Stephen - The Bag Carrier
• Leon, Donna - Unto Us a Son Is Given #28 Commissario Guido Brunetti, Venice
• Mackay, Niki - I, Suspect #2 Madison Attalee
• McDonald, Christina - The Night Olivia Fell
• McGrath, Mel - The Guilty Party
• McTiernan, Dervla - The Scholar #2 Cormac Reilly
• Moloney, Catherine - A Mind Diseased #4 DI Gilbert Markham
• Nolan, Dominic - Past Life
• O'Reilly, Judith - Killing State #1 Michael North
• Parker, Kate - Deadly Deception #4 Olivia Denis, 1930s London
• Patis, Vikki - The Girl Across the Street
• Runcie, James - The Road to Grantchester #1 Sidney Chambers prequel
• Russell, Craig - The Devil Aspect
• Scragg, Robert - Nothing Else Remains #2 Porter & Styles, Police Officers
• Selman, Victoria - Nothing to Lose #2 Ziba Mackenzie
• Simms, Chris - Marked Men #2 DC Sean Blake, Manchester
• Smith, Alexander McCall - The Department of Sensitive Crimes #1 Detective Varg, Malmo
• Smith, Graham - A Body in the Lakes #2 Detective Beth Young
• Suter, Martin - Allmen and the Pink Diamond #2 Allmen
• Thomson, E S - Surgeons' Hall #4 Jem Flockhart, Apothecary, 1850s
• Tinnelly, Rebecca - Never Go There
• Todd, Charles - The Black Ascot #21 Insp Rutledge
• Tope, Rebecca - The Grasmere Grudge #8 Persimmon Brown, Florist, Lake District
• Trow, M J - Black Death #10 Christopher Marlowe
• Watts, Kerry - Heartlands #1 Detective Jessie Blake
• Winspear, Jacqueline - The American Agent #15 Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, 1930s London
• Yokoyama, Hideo - Prefecture D
• Zander, Joakim - The Friend