Friday, February 26, 2021

Review: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I recently posted my review of THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman, on my library's Facebook page.

THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB is ‘National Treasure’ Richard Osman’s debut crime novel and a sequel is on its way. The titular club meets on a Thursday to discuss old/unsolved murder cases and the four current members are Elizabeth, newcomer Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim and they reside in Coopers Chase Retirement Village in leafy Kent.
They soon have a current murder to investigate when one of the builders of the Village is found bludgeoned to death shortly after an argument with his business partner.
Elizabeth, a former secret agent by all accounts, has fingers in many pies and that includes the local police force, following a routine visit from PC Donna who only went there to talk about home security.
Elizabeth is soon at work, getting Donna onto the Murder Squad led by DCI Chris with a view to both teams sharing information.
When a second murder occurs, it brings things closer to home as it seems a killer might live at the Village.
Will Team Elizabeth get to the truth before Team Donna?
This is a very enjoyable read. It’s funny and the characters are a joy. Often in amateur-detective novels the police are portrayed as a bit dim, but Donna and Chris are anything but. Indeed, all the characters are likeable including a few “lovable rogues”. The storytelling is breezy with short chapters and a variety of points of view, interspersed with diary entries from Joyce. It’s well plotted with mystery upon mystery with long-buried secrets reluctantly being revealed.
If you like the sound of this then you might also want to try Simon Brett’s Fethering books, and his Mrs Pargeter series.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Review: The Mist by Ragnar Jónasson, tr. Victoria Cribb

I recently posted my review of THE MIST by Ragnar Jónasson, translated by Victoria Cribb, on my library's Facebook page.

My latest #bookreview is for the chilling (in more than one sense) Icelandic thriller, that is THE MIST by Ragnar Jónasson, translated by Victoria Cribb.
THE MIST is the final (or first?) part of the Detective Hulda Hermannsdóttir trilogy set in Iceland. This trilogy is unusual in that the first book published, THE DARKNESS, is set in more recent times and at the end of Hulda’s career; the middle book, THE ISLAND, is set in 1997 and THE MIST is set in 1987/8.
Taking place at Christmastime the first half of THE MIST revolves around a remote farmhouse in East Iceland. The middle-aged couple who live there are cut-off from the nearest village for several months each snowy winter and so it is most unexpected when they receive a knock on the door. Their visitor claims to be a hunter, separated from his friends. The sense of isolation increases when first the telephone fails and then there is a power cut.
Alongside an increasingly fraught situation at the farmhouse we have Hulda and her family life. Her thirteen-year-old daughter has become moody and withdrawn and when she doesn’t take part in the Christmas festivities things come to a head.
Flash forward two months and the two narratives entwine with Hulda sent from Reykjavik to investigate the discovery of several bodies in a remote farmhouse…
THE MIST is not a long book and makes for a very quick read. The farmhouse-visitor episode is quite nail-biting and lasts quite a while, before there is at least a partial resolution. Readers of the earlier books will be familiar with what’s happening with Hulda’s family but even so, or perhaps because of, it also makes for a tense read. There’s a clever resolution to several mysteries and the wintry, forbidding, claustrophobic setting is well portrayed.
If this is your first outing with Hulda, you’ll be inclined to read more. If it’s your final, you’ll wish it had been a longer series.
Also included is a bonus short story which features policeman Ari Thor from Ragnar Jónasson’s other series, the first of which, SNOWBLIND, also has a wintry setting.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Scandi-Brits in Iceland

Scandi-Brits is a term (I believe) coined by Scandi expert Barry Forshaw to cover those from Britain writing about Scandinavia/Nordic countries in English. I'm going to loosen it slightly for this post so I can include a few non-Brits. I'm starting with Iceland and please let me know any titles I've missed.

For Icelandic authors please see my list on the Euro Crime website.

My own interest in Iceland was piqued by the TV series Running Blind based on Desmond Bagley's 1970 novel which was shown in 1979. Never released for home viewing, you can now watch it on YouTube.

The assignment begins with a simple errand – a parcel to deliver. But to Alan Stewart, standing on a deserted road in Iceland with a murdered man at his feet, it looks anything but simple. The desolate terrain is obstacle enough. But when Stewart realises he has been double-crossed and that the opposition is gaining ground, his simple mission seems impossible…

More recently we have had Quentin Bates and Michael Ridpath setting series there:

Frozen Out (2011) by Quentin Bates is the first book in the Sergeant Gunnhildur series. Currently there are 7 novels and two novellas.

Where the Shadows Lie (2010) by Michael Ridpath is the first of  five novels and a couple of short stories featuring Magnus Jonson, an American-Icelandic detective.

In 2016, Adam Lebor's The Reykjavik Assignment was published. This is the third in a globe-trotting series featuring UN negotiator Yael Azoulay.

UN covert negotiator, Yael Azoulay, has been sent to Reykjavik to broker a secret meeting between US President Freshwater and the Iranian president. Both parties want the violence to stop, but Yael soon realises that powerful enemies are pulling the strings. Enemies for whom peace means an end to their lucrative profit streams. 

Australian author, Hannah Kent's Burial Rites came out in 2013.

Northern Iceland, 1829.

A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover.

A family forced to take her in.

A priest tasked with absolving her.

But all is not as it seems, and time is running out:

winter is coming, and with it the execution date.

Only she can know the truth. This is Agnes's story.

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea was published in 2019.

When Rósa is betrothed to Jón Eiríksson, she is sent to a remote village.

There she finds a man who refuses to speak of his recently deceased first wife, and villagers who view her with suspicion.

Isolated and disturbed by her husband's strange behaviour, her fears deepen.

What is making the strange sounds in the attic?

Who does the mysterious glass figure she is given represent?

And why do the villagers talk of the coming winter darkness in hushed tones?

New Zealand author Grant Nicol has written a five book series: The Grimur Karlsson Mysteries, which begins with 2016's On a Small Island.

In the space of a few days, Ylfa Einarsdóttir sees her peaceful existence in downtown Reykjavík turned on its head. Some unexpected news from one of her sisters and a brutal murder that’s far too close to home for comfort leave her wondering why life has turned on her so suddenly.

When the police fail to take her seriously, her hands-on approach to the investigation soon lands her in hot water.

Following a string of biblical messages left behind by a mysterious nemesis she stumbles upon a dark secret that has finally come home to roost.

As she is about to find out, on a small island, what goes around, comes around.

Northern Light (2018) by Danish author (writing in English) Christoffer Petersen is the first in the PolarPol series and is set in Iceland.

The Icelandic interior, uninhabited, glacial, volcanic, and accessible only in summer, is the last place to be in winter. But during an assassination attempt on the world’s leading cybercrime specialist at a conference in Reykjavík, it's the only place left to hide.

When the Icelandic State Police run out of resources, responsibility for hunting the assassins is given to the Polar Task Force, and it is native Icelander Hákon Sigurdsson’s job to lead a team into the interior.

Plagued by political agendas of sovereignty and power, the Polar Task Force, including members chosen from each of the countries located in the Arctic, needs a win to ensure the survival of the unit. The pressure is on, and it is up to Hákon to choose his team, complete the mission, and bring them back alive.

For any other task force, a winter pursuit of well-armed assassins into Iceland’s interior is nothing short of madness.

American author Betty Webb's The Puffin of Death (2015), the fourth in her Gunn Zoo series, visits Iceland in this outing.

California zookeeper Theodora Bentley travels to Iceland to pick up an orphaned polar bear cub destined for the Gunn Zoo's newly installed Northern Climes exhibit. The trip is intended to be a combination of work and play.

But on day two, while horseback riding near a picturesque seaside village, Teddy discovers a man lying atop a puffin burrow, shot through the head. The victim is identified as American birdwatcher Simon Parr, winner of the largest Powerball payout in history. Is Teddy a witness - or a suspect? Others include not only Parr's wife, a famed suspense novelist, but fellow members of the birding club Parr had generously treated to their lavish Icelandic expedition. Hardly your average birders, several of them have had serious brushes with the law back in the States.

Guessing that an American would best understand other Americans, police detective Thorvaald Haraldsson grudgingly concedes her innocence and allows Teddy to tag along with the group to volcanoes, glaciers, and deep continental rifts in quest of rare bird species. But once another member of the club is murdered and a rockfall barely misses Teddy's head, Haraldsson forbids her to continue. She ignores him and, in a stunning, solitary face-off with the killer in Iceland's wild interior, concludes an investigation at once exotic, thrilling, and rich in animal lore.

And finally, French author Fred Vargas's A Climate of Fear (2016) translated by Sian Reynolds,  has a large portion set in Iceland.

A woman is found dead in her bath. The murder has been disguised as a suicide and a strange symbol is discovered at the scene. Then the symbol is observed near a second victim, who ten years earlier had also taken part in a doomed expedition to Iceland. How are these deaths, and rumours of an Icelandic demon, linked to a secretive local society? And what does the mysterious sign mean? Commissaire Adamsberg is about to find out.

Update 10/2/21

Margot Livesey's The Flight of Gemma Hardy (2012), a Jane Eyre re-telling,  has an Icelandic connection.

Taken from her native Iceland to Scotland in the early 1950s when her widower father drowns at sea, young Gemma Hardy comes to live with her kindly uncle and his family. But his death leaves Gemma under the care of her resentful aunt, and she suddenly finds herself an unwelcome guest. Surviving oppressive years at a strict private school, Gemma ultimately finds a job as an au pair to the eight-year-old niece of Mr. Sinclair on the Orkney Islands—and here, at the mysterious and remote Blackbird Hall, Gemma's greatest trial begins.

Update 13/2/21

A R Kennedy's second book in the 'Traveler Cozy Mystery' series, RIP in Reykjavik goes to Iceland.

Traveling with your family can be murder.
One wedding party + one estranged mother = another vacation that goes array for Naomi.

Naomi is off on another international vacation. She thinks traveling with her mother will be the most difficult part of her trip until she meets the rest of the tour group—a wedding party. It only gets worse when she finds the groom dead. Everyone’s a suspect on her Icelandic tour of this stunning country.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

TV News: Bloodlands Trailer

Here is a first look at Bloodlands, from Jed Mercurio and starring James Nesbitt. 

From the Radio Times website: "The miniseries stars Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt as a Northern Irish detective on the hunt for a serial killer known as Goliath, who murdered his wife."


Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Cover Theme: Children's Playgrounds II

The trend for swings on covers continues to thrive. My first post on this was back in January 2019. Here are a few new ones. [NB. New blogger doesn't let me arrange them as nicely!]


[<=This is the same cover as Kelley Armstrong's Wherever She Goes.]

Monday, February 01, 2021

New Releases - February 2021

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in February 2021 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). February 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.
• Adolfsson, Maria - The Fatal Isles #1 Doggerland trilogy
• Abbott, Rachel - Close Your Eyes #10 DI Tom Douglas
• Adams, R G - Allegation
• Allen, Hania - The Ice Hotel
• Bailey, Martine - The Prophet
• Baker, Tina - Call Me Mummy
• Bishop, D V - City of Vengeance #1 Cesare Aldo, Florence, 1536
• Black, P R - The Long Dark Road
• Blake, Robin - Secret Mischief #7 Titus Cragg, Coroner & Luke Fidelis, Doctor, 1740  Lancashire
• Craig, James - Circus Games #15 Inspector John Carlyle
• Cross, A J - Devil in the Detail #2 Will Traynor, Criminologist
• Díaz, Eloísa - Repentance
• Donnelly, Gary - Never Ask the Dead #3 DI Owen Sheen, Northern Ireland
• Duckworth, Charlotte - The Perfect Father
• Dunford, Caroline - Hope to Survive #2 Hope Stapleford, Secret Agent, 1939
• East, Philippa - Safe and Sound
• Ellory, R J - Proof of Life
• Ewart, Andrew - Replace You
• Fennell, David - The Art of Death #1 DI Grace Archer & DS Harry Quinn, London
• Fields, Helen - The Shadow Man
• Finch, Charles - An Extravagant Death #11 Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and armchair explorer
• Fitzek, Sebastian - Passenger 23
• Fois, Marcello - Valse Triste
• Griffiths, Elly - The Night Hawk #13 Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist and DCI Harry Nelson
• Herron, Mick - Slough House #7 Slough House
• Hore, Rachel - A Beautiful Spy
• Horst & Enger -Smoke Screen #2 Alexander Blix
• Hunter, M A - Isolated #2 The Missing Children Case Files
• Jackson, Stina - The Last Snow
• Jarratt, Laura - Mother
• Khadra, Yasmina - Khalil
• Lark, J S - The Twins
• Leather, Stephen - The Hunting
• Lowe, Katie - Possession (apa The Murder of Graham Catton)
• Lowery, Christopher - Triple Jeopardy #4 African Diamonds
• Magson, Adrian - A Hostile State #5 Marc Portman
• Martinez, Guillermo - The Oxford Brotherhood
• Matheson, Nadine - The Jigsaw Man #1 DI Henley, London
• Muir, T F - The Murder List #10 DI Andy Gilchrist & team, St. Andrews
• O'Connor, Carlene - Murder in an Irish Bookshop #7 Siobhan O'Sullivan, Kilbane, County Cork
• O'Keeffe, Bernard - The Final Round #1 DI Garibaldi, Barnes, London
• Olguin, Sergio - The Foreign Girls #2 Veronica Rosenthal
• Oswald, James - What Will Burn #11 Detective Inspector McLean, Edinburgh
• Pearse, Sarah - The Sanatorium
• Quinn, Cate - Black Widows
• Ridpath, Michael - The Diplomat's Wife
• Ryan, Sadie - When He Finds You
• Sakhlecha, Trisha - Can You See Me Now?
• Sennen, Mark - Rogue Target #2 Holm & da Silva
• Shepherd-Robinson, Laura - Daughters of Night
• Sherratt, Mel - Good Girl #4 DS Grace Allendale
• Shindler, Will - The Killing Choice #2 DI Alex Finn & DC Mattie Paulsen, London
• Skuse, C J - Dead Head #3 Sweetpea
• Spencer, Sally - The Company
• Stirling, Joss - Red House #3 Jess Bridges
• Szymiczkowa, Maryla - Karolina, or the Torn Curtain
• Talbot, Catherine - A Good Father
• Todd, Marion - What They Knew #4 DI Clare Mackay
• Wyer, Carol - An Eye for an Eye #1 DI Kate Young, Staffordshire