Thursday, November 18, 2021

E C R Lorac - These Names Make Clues

I mentioned E C R Lorac a few short months ago after having read Two Way-Murder. I've since read Crossed Skis under her pseudonym Carol Carnac, and These Names Make Clues.

These Names Make Clues was first published in 1937 and republished just last September.

Official blurb from amazon:

‘Should detectives go to parties? Was it consistent with the dignity of the Yard? The inspector tossed for it—and went.’

Chief Inspector Macdonald has been invited to a treasure hunt party at the house of Graham Coombe, the celebrated publisher of Murder by Mesmerism. Despite a handful of misgivings, the inspector joins a guestlist of novelists and thriller writers disguised on the night under literary pseudonyms. The fun comes to an abrupt end, however, when ‘Samuel Pepys’ is found dead in the telephone room in bizarre circumstances.

Amidst the confusion of too many fake names, clues, ciphers and convoluted alibis, Macdonald and his allies in the CID must unravel a truly tangled case in this metafictional masterpiece, which returns to print for the first time since its publication in 1937.

I enjoyed this very much, especially the first half at the treasure hunt party and I loved this sentence taken from the second half of the book, when a character (name omitted) gets lost and asks for help:

The errand boy thus addressed gave directions which involved too many "firsts on your right and thirds on your left" for XXXX to follow, but with a general sense of direction culled from the complicated instructions he turned down a narrow suburban road and was rewarded shortly by the sign of that gallant gentleman "Major Road ahead".

My favourite of the three I've read so far though is Crossed Skis, set partly in Austria and giving an enormous flavour of post-war life and travel, as well as a good puzzle.

Chief Inspector Macdonald returns in February 2022 in Post After Post-Mortem. In the meantime I hope to catch up with more of the British Library Crime Classics collection and listen to more Shedunnit podcasts, in particular a recent one which revisits E C R Lorac.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

More Agatha Christie-related crime fiction

I did a short post last year about Golden Age crime writers and/or their characters living on and in 2017 a more specific post about Agatha Christie featuring in crime novels, however it's time to revisit this theme and we have not one but three recent/upcoming books which include her (or her homes), all from US authors/publishers.

Have you read any of these or plan to?

Here are the covers and blurbs taken from amazon:

Death at Greenway by Lori Rader Day

Bridey Kelly has come to Greenway House--the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie--in disgrace. A terrible mistake at St. Prisca's Hospital in London has led to her dismissal as a nurse trainee, and her only chance for redemption is a position in the countryside caring for children evacuated to safety from the Blitz.

Greenway is a beautiful home full of riddles: wondrous curios not to be touched, restrictions on rooms not to be entered, and a generous library, filled with books about murder. The biggest mystery might be the other nurse, Gigi, who is like no one Bridey has ever met. Chasing ten young children through the winding paths of the estate grounds might have soothed Bridey's anxieties and grief--if Greenway were not situated so near the English Channel and the rising aggressions of the war.

When a body washes ashore near the estate, Bridey is horrified to realize this is not a victim of war, but of a brutal killing. As the local villagers look among themselves, Bridey and Gigi discover they each harbor dangerous secrets about what has led them to Greenway. With a mystery writer's home as their unsettling backdrop, the young women must unravel the truth before their safe haven becomes a place of death . . .

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge

Tucked away among Devon's rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses... 

The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. Phyllida is both loyal to and protective of the crime writer, who is as much friend as employer. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha's Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor...

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense--and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands--along with a distracted, anxious staff--but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered--this time, one of her housemaids--Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot's footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans' guests is the killer. With help from the village's handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida's wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end...

The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.
I’m no Hercule Poirot.
I’m her husband’s mistress.

Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

Monday, November 08, 2021

Review: When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson

I recently posted my review of WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE by Joan G Robinson on my library's Facebook page. 

Next year sees the publication of Zoe Somerville's THE MARSH HOUSE which according to her website is

"inspired by the classic children’s novel When Marnie Was There, and the otherworldly, watery landscape of the North Norfolk marshes, [] is a supernatural tale of families, madness and murder."

I confess I hadn’t heard of the 1967 classic WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE by Joan G Robinson until the Studio Ghibli film of the same name was released in 2014. Hearing it was based on a book set in Norfolk I decided to seek it out.

The story is told by Anna, whose age is not specified but seems to be around eleven. She is orphaned at a young age and when her grandmother who was caring for her, also dies she is sent to a children’s home. She is later fostered by a London couple. But Anna doesn’t seem to fit in and is lonely and struggling at school and her health is suffering. In desperation her foster mum sends Anna to stay with friends of hers at the North Norfolk coastal village of Little Overton (modelled on the real-life Burnham Overy Staithe). Anna is immediately drawn to the Marsh House at the end of the creek and imagines who might live there.
Anna spends all her time outside, on the beach, paddling in the creeks and one day sees a young girl having her hair brushed in a window of the Marsh House.
One night, Anna finds a small boat tied up near her house and assumes it has been left for her to visit the Marsh House and she finally gets to meet the young girl, Marnie.
Marnie and Anna spend lots of time together though nobody sees them together and Anna is heard talking to herself. Is Marnie real or imagined?
When Marnie must leave, a new and happier chapter begins for Anna.
This is a very interesting and captivating book which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. The book teases the mystery of who is Marnie: is she real, a figment of Anna’s imagination or even a ghost? It quietly covers themes of loss and loneliness and grief and acceptance in a beautifully realised Norfolk setting.
A remote, quiet world where there were only boats and birds and water, and an enormous sky.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Cover Theme: Children's Playgrounds III

Swings on covers continues to be popular. I've already done two posts but a crop of fresh titles means I can do a third!

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The Petrona Award 2021 - Winner

Winner of 2021 Petrona Award announced – a first win for historical crime

The winner of the 2021 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year is:

TO COOK A BEAR by Mikael Niemi, translated from the Swedish by Deborah Bragan-Turner and published by MacLehose Press.

As well as a trophy, Mikael Niemi receives a pass to and a guaranteed panel at CrimeFest 2022. Mikael Niemi and Deborah Bragan-Turner will also receive a cash prize.

The judges’ statement on TO COOK A BEAR:

The judges adored TO COOK A BEAR, a historical crime novel set in northernmost Sweden in 1852, and were unanimous in our decision to select it as the Petrona Award winner for 2021. We were particularly impressed with the novel’s use of historical detail, its fascinating reimagining of a figure from history, the sense of location and atmosphere, the rumination on religion versus the natural world, and the depiction of early forensics. TO COOK A BEAR’s superb characterisation of the main protagonists Læstadius and Jussi, which is tinged with sadness yet hope, also allows the author to explore the issues of literacy and class with sensitivity and compassion. The beautiful translation by Deborah Bragan-Turner lets the novel shine for English-language readers around the world.

TO COOK A BEAR is the first historical crime novel to win the Petrona Award.

Comments from the winning author, translator and publisher:

Mikael Niemi (author):

I am very proud and happy to have received the Petrona Award and would like to thank my editor, Katharina Bielenberg, my translator Deborah Bragan-Turner, and my agency, Hedlund Literary Agency, who have made it possible for this novel to reach British readers. This happy news has brightened the growing winter darkness here in the very north of Scandinavia. I am sending my warmest thanks to all my British readers.

Deborah Bragan-Turner (translator):

I am absolutely thrilled and very honoured to receive the Petrona Award. It’s a great privilege to be in the company of such accomplished authors and translators on the shortlist. Many congratulations to you all. Thank you to MacLehose Press for your support and editorial advice, and to the panel of judges for your championing of and enthusiasm for Scandinavian fiction in translation. And of course thank you most of all, Mikael Niemi, for bringing the story of Jussi and the pastor to us in TO COOK A BEAR, an inspired novel and a joy to translate.

MacLehose Press:

We are delighted that Mikael Niemi’s novel has been recognised with the Petrona Award. TO COOK A BEAR is immersive and transporting, historical crime fiction at its best, and it has been thrilling to watch it find its readers in English. Powerfully vivid and lush in its descriptions of Sweden’s very far north, and brilliant on literacy and the power of language, it has been beautifully and imaginatively rendered in Deborah Bragan-Turner’s translation. Congratulations to them both!

The Petrona team would like to thank our sponsor, David Hicks, for his generous and continued support of the 2021 Petrona Award.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

New Releases - November 2021

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in November 2021 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). November 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. I've added the translator's name where known.

• Ace, Cathy - The Corpse with the Granite Heart (ebook only) #11 Welsh-Canadian Professor Cait Morgan, Criminologist
• Allingham, Merryn - Murder on the Pier #2 Flora Steele, Sussex, 1955
• Baskerville, B - Northern Roulette (ebook only) #4 DCI Erica Cooper
• Beckett, Simon - The Lost #1 Jonah Colley, Armed response officer, Met Police
• Beevis, Keri - The People Next Door
• Bennett, S J - A Three Dog Problem #2 The Queen
• Bolton, R P - The Perfect House
• Brightwell, Emily - Mrs. Jeffries and the Midwinter Murders #40 Mrs Jeffries
• Brolly, Matt - The Mark #4 Detective Louise Blackwell
• Cambridge, Colleen - Murder at Mallowan Hall #1 Phyllida Bright, housekeeper to Agatha Christie
• Carver, Will - Psychopaths Anonymous #4 DS Pace
• Celestin, Ray - Sunset Swing #4 City Blues Quartet
• Clare, Alys - Magic in the Weave #4 Gabriel Taverner, Former ship's surgeon, C17 Devon
• Comley, M A - I Can See You #14 DI Sarah Ramsey
• Cross, A J - A Dark, Divided Self #3 Will Traynor, Criminologist
• Davies, Martin - Mrs Hudson and the Blue Daisy #5 Mrs Hudson and Sherlock Holmes
• Dennison, Hannah - Murder in Miniature at Honeychurch Hall #8 Kat Stanford
• Ellis, Bella - The Red Monarch #3 The Brontë Mysteries
• Ellis, Joy - The Night Thief (ebook only) #8 DI Rowan Jackman & DS Maria Evans, Lincolnshire
• Farrington, C J - Death on the Trans-Siberian Express #1 Olga Pushkin
• Fellowes, Jessica - The Mitford Vanishing #5 Louisa Cannon, Maid to the Mitfords, 1919
• Fitzek, Sebastian - Amok tr. tbc
• Follett, Ken - Never
• Gallagher, Charlie - Lethal Game #1 DI Joel Norris
• Gamboa, Santiago - The Night Will Be Long tr. Andrea Rosenberg
• Gerlis, Alex - Agent in Berlin #1 The Wolf Pack Spies
• Gibbons, Seán - Back Street Murder (ebook only) #2 Ben Miller, Taxi Driver, Galway
• Glenconner, Anne - A Haunting at Holkham
• Golding, Melanie - The Replacement
• Gray, Lisa - Lonely Hearts #4 Jessica Shaw
• Greenwood, Ross - The Cold Killer #4 DI Barton
• Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia - Dying Fall #23 Bill Slider, Shepherd's Bush CID
• Heafield, Jane - Her Dark Past
• Hendy, Hannah - The Dinner Lady Detectives
• Herron, Mick - Dolphin Junction #1 Short Story Collection
• Higgins, G D - Deathly Silence #2 Detective Conal Brophy
• Hodges, David - Stalker on the Levels (ebook only) #9 DC Kate Hamblin
• Hollow, Mike - The Pimlico Murder #6 Blitz Detective
• Holt, Anne - A Memory for Murder #3 Selma Falck tr. tbc
• Horst, Jorn Lier - A Question of Guilt #15 Chief Inspector William Wisting, Larvik tr. Anne Bruce
• Jardine, Quintin - Deadlock #33 Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Skinner, Edinburgh
• Jenkins, Victoria - The New Family
• Kent, Tony - No Way to Die
• Kernick, Simon - Good Cop Bad Cop
• Kitson, Bill - Cut-Throat (ebook only) #13 Detective Mike Nash, Yorkshire
• Kray, Roberta - Double Crossed
• Larkin, L A - The Safe Place
• Lebor, Adam - Dohany Street #3 Balthazar Kovacs, Detective, Budapest
• Mariani, Scott - The Crusader's Cross #24 Ben Hope, Ex-SAS
• Marsons, Angela - Stolen Ones #15 DI Kim Stone
• Martin, Faith - A Fatal Night #7 Ryder & Loveday, Oxford, 1960s
• Maslen, Andy - Plain Dead #3 DI Ford
• McCleave, Simon - This is London, SE15 (ebook only) #4 DC Ruth Hunter
• McLean, Rachel - The Monument Murders (ebook only) #4 DCI Lesley Clarke, Dorset
• McPherson, Catriona - Scot Mist #4 Last Ditch Mysteries
• Mukherjee, Abir - The Shadows of Men #5 Captain Sam Wyndham, Calcutta, 1919
• Nordin, Karen - Last One Alive #2 Detective Kjeld Nygaard, Sweden
• Norek, Olivier - Turf Wars #2 Banlieues Trilogy tr. tbc
• Odden, Karen - Down a Dark River #1 Inspector Corravan, Victorian London
• Oldham, Nick - Transfusion #27 DCI Christie
• Ollerton, Ollie - All Or Nothing #2 Alex Abbott
• Oswald, James - Nowhere to Run #3 DC Constance Fairchild
• Park, A J - Don't Speak
• Petersen, Christoffer - Arctic Recoil (ebook only) #4 Guerrilla Greenland
• Richards, Malcolm - Down in the Blood (ebook only) #2 PI Blake Hollow, Cornwall
• Richardson, Matthew - The Insider
• Ryder, John - The Hostage (ebook only)
• Scarrow, Simon - The Honour of Rome #20 Macro and Cato, Roman soldiers
• Shah, R D - Project Icarus #1 The Disavowed
• Sherratt, Mel - The Life She Wants (ebook only)
• Slater, K L - The Widow (ebook only)
• Smith, Fiona Veitch - The Crystal Crypt #6 Poppy Denby, 1920s Reporter
• Teague, Paul J - First To Die (ebook only) #1 Morecambe Bay Trilogy 3
• Templeton, Aline - Old Sins #4 DI Kelso Strang
• Thomas, Sherry - Miss Moriarty, I Presume? #6 Lady Sherlock
• Trow, M J - Four Thousand Days #1 Margaret Murray, Archaeologist, London 1900
• Vagner, Yana - To the Lake tr. Maria Wiltshire
• Walker, Martin - Bruno's Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales #1 Short Story Collection
• Waller, Anita - Code Blue #2 Connection Trilogy
• Walter, B P - The Woman on the Pier
• Watson, Sue - The New Wife (ebook only)
• Weaver, Tim -The Shadow at the Door #11 David Raker, Missing Persons Investigator

Monday, November 01, 2021

Book Tour: Extract from The Commandments by Óskar Guðmundsson tr. Quentin Bates

Welcome to the second stop on the book tour for The Commandments by Óskar Guðmundsson translated by Quentin Bates. The first stop was at the Nordic Lighthouse.

I am very pleased to be able to share this intriguing extract from The Commandments, courtesy of Corylus Books. The Commandments is a standalone novel, first published in Iceland in 2019 and is the first of Óskar's books to be published in English.

Official blurb:

Former police officer Salka Steinsdóttir finds herself pitched into the toughest investigation of her life, just as she is back in the tranquil north of Iceland to recover from a personal trauma.

The victim is someone she had pursued earlier in her career – and had never been able to pin down. Now a killer has taken the law into their own hands and meted out brutal retribution for ancient crimes. Salka is faced with tracking down the murderer of a stalwart of the church and the community, a man whose dark reputation stretches deep into the past, and even into the police team tasked with solving the case.

As the killer prepares to strike again, Salka and her team search for the band of old friends who could be either killers or victims – or both.

A bestseller in Iceland, The Commandments asks many challenging questions as it takes on highly emotive and controversial issues.


He’s been here in the house. The man who murdered Hróbjartur and Helgi. He heard you come in, made a break for it and went this way through the bushes.’Salka looked to one side when there was no response and realised that the police officer hadn’t followed her. She could see him talking to a colleague in the living room. 
She stood up, shone the beam of the torch between the branches, and squeezed through into the next garden. The light of the torch showed faint but definite tracks leading to the back of the next house. She followed them as far as the sun deck behind the house. She stopped and switched the torch off as she noticed a movement behind the living room window. The house’s occupant sat at the living room table and opened a laptop. The reflections on the inside of the windows meant that he had probably noticed nothing. 
Salka saw barely discernible prints on the decking left by feet that had been through wet grass. They tracked at an angle across the deck towards the corner of the house. Salka cautiously followed them. She peered around the corner of the building and looked into the gap between the house and the garage. There was a small window on this side of the house and a dim light found its way into the gap, but not enough to illuminate the complete darkness at the far end. 
She felt for the torch switch, knowing she was taking a risk turning it on. When she pressed the button, nothing happened. She slapped it hard against her palm and a narrow beam appeared. The first thing she saw was the wood wall that closed off the gap between the house and the garage. The light went off. She banged it against the flat of her hand, but nothing happened. 
The next thing she saw was the man who rushed at her from the darkness. He grabbed her by the neck, and threw her to the ​ground.


Follow the tour: