Friday, October 20, 2017

Review: The Magdalena File by Jon Stenhugg

The Magdalena File by Jon Stenhugg, August 2017, Endeavour Press, ISBN: 978-1549581441

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

Sara Markham, 36-year-old Homicide Investigator at Sweden’s National Bureau of Investigation is called to a crime scene: a body of a tortured man was found in his own home on Sela Island. He seemed to have been electrocuted and then shot twice closely in the chest. Initial investigation showed that the victim was Leo Hoffberg, outspoken and rebellious MP who had recently quit Parliament, interested in environmental matters, former member of the Defence Department Committee. Just before his death he had seemingly delivered a letter to the Prime Minister, threatening to expose secrets and to destroy the entire city of Stockholm.

His shocked and grieving wife Kristina couldn’t fathom any reason for the murder, though she pointed at Magdalena, a cleaner from Poland, and decided to check through all her husband's possessions. Documents come to light showing that Hoffberg might have bought a manual for a Shkval, a nuclear Russian torpedo.

But as Sara begins to work on the case, she gets contradictory messages from her superiors. She’s also required to look for Martin Spimler, whose boat was found drifting empty in the waters opposite Stockholm’s City Hall. The missing man, a retired Navy diver was interested in a ‘fish project’ and travelled to Estonia some time ago with Hoffberg.

At the back of her mind is the tragedy of MS Sally, brought to her attention at the victim’s home. The sinking of MS Sally in September 1994, off the coast of Sweden and close to Estonia, had put the entire nation into a state of mourning. The wreckage of the ship has never been discovered, but several theories float around, implying that the dangerous weapon, the infamous Shkval, was being smuggled to Stockholm.

The quote at the beginning of the book is indeed very apt: "Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead". The author cleverly moves between different points of views, to muddy the waters, not just for the readers for also for the main players. Hard-working Sara is kept in the dark; her boss Sven Peterson wants quick results yet seems to withhold certain information; Chief Inspector Lars Ekman, head of the Counter Terrorism seems to be pulling all the strings, and then a legendary retired US Army CID Lieutenant John Hurtree is brought to Europe as a ‘tourist’ and the only person who might have seen the elusive Schneller, an ex-Stasi secret agent. Sara tries to balance the conflicting demands and her own equilibrium while convinced that a certain Kim Lemko, somehow connected to the murdered man, and a technological company in Tallinn, is behind the murder, and also a link to the dangerous torpedo hidden underwater.

Jon Stenhugg is a pen name of a Swedish author born in California, USA. A graduate of Education, Psychology and Statistics from Stockholm University his career involved teaching and IT. THE MAGDALENA FILE follows his debut novel THE SECOND CHILD, and again demonstrates his fascination with European history. The fast-moving tight plot offers plenty of surprises, and an occasional cynical sense of humour which lightens the mood of an otherwise very serious thriller and shady politics, with the caricature-like Swedish Prime Minister and a sleazy Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs at the centre of the current investigation. Relationships between central characters keep changing as quickly as the priorities which move from the local searches to the wider international arena. The dark past is never far behind and its enigmas can have devastating consequences, as shown by the background stories of Kim Lemko and the mysterious Magdalena.

THE MAGDALENA FILE is a good solid read.

Ewa Sherman, October 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

TV News: Jordskott Series 2

The second series of Swedish drama, Jordskott, starts on ITV Encore tomorrow night (19 Oct) at 10pm. There are 8 episodes.

Episode 1

Two years have passed since Silverhöjd was rocked by harrowing events. Eva Thörnblad has left Silverhöjd to return to the grey concrete of the big city and her job with the Stockholm police. Eva is trying to move on, but struggles with her grief over Josefin and the pain that the Jordskott causes her. Soon, Eva is drawn into a mysterious case with a connection to her own past, and she is forced to confront the mystical world she decided to put behind her.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Review: The House of Four by Barbara Nadel

The House of Four by Barbara Nadel, May 2017, 336 pages, Headline, ISBN: 1472234650

Reviewed by Susan White.
(Read more of Susan's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

There is an old crumbling house that the locals know as the Devil’s House, believed by most to have been long abandoned. However it was occupied by 3 brothers and their sister – all in their 90s – and all apparently stabbed through the heart on the same day.

Inspector Ikmen slowly unravels the history of the house and the sad history of the four old people who only communicated with each other by letters which show their hatred of each other. Ikmen comes to believe that their murder can only be solved by uncovering the events of years before.

At the same time someone is killing people at random in the City and Inspector Mehmet Suleyman is charged with identifying and stopping the killer. The cases move slowly together but is it the same killer?

This is the latest of the series featuring Inspector Cetin Ikmen. Set in Istanbul, a secular city but with a rising number of citizens who would like to see the return of a more conservative Muslim society.

For me the history of Istanbul and its people is an important and interesting part of this series. The complexity of that history and how that still influences life today make these a fascinating read.

Susan White, October 2017

Sunday, October 01, 2017

New Releases - October 2017

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in October 2017 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). October and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.
• Anthology - The Usual Santas: A Collection of Soho Crime Christmas Capers
• Anthology - Deadlier: 100 of the Best Crime Stories Written by Women (ed. Sophie Hannah)
• Akunin, Boris - All The World's A Stage #11 Erast Fandorin, Gentleman Sleuth, Russia
• Alexander, Tasha - Death in St. Petersburg #12 Lady Emily
• Beaton, M C - Agatha Raisin and the Witches' Tree #29 Agatha Raisin, Retired PR person, Cotswolds
• Becker, James - The Templar Brotherhood #3 The Lost Treasure of the Templars
• Brightwell, Emily - Mrs Jeffries and the Three Wise Women #36 Mrs Jeffries
• Brody, Frances - Death in the Stars #9 Kate Shackleton, Bradford, 1920s
• Brown, Vivien - Lily Alone
• Burnet, Graeme Macrae - The Accident on the A35
• Carter, Andrea - The Well of Ice #3 Benedicta 'Ben' O'Keeffe, Solicitor, Inishowen peninsula in County Donegal, Ireland.
• Chapman, Julia - Date with Malice #2 The Dales Detective Series
• Clare, Alys - The Rufus Spy #8 Lassair, 11thC, East Anglia
• Cookman, Lesley - Murder by the Barrel #18 Libby Sarjeant, middle aged actress/investigator, Kent
• Cutler, Judith - Head Count #2 Jane Cowan, Wrayford, Kent
• D'Andrea, Luca - The Mountain
• Day, Alex - The Missing Twin
• Driscoll, Teresa - I Am Watching You
• Dunn, Matthew - Act of Betrayal #7 Will Cochrane, Super-spy
• Edmondson, Elizabeth - A Matter of Loyalty (with Anselm Audley) #3 Very English Mystery
• Ellicott, Jessica - Murder in an English Village #1 Beryl and Edwina Mystery, 1920s
• England, Caroline - Beneath the Skin
• Finch, Paul - Shadows #2 Lucy Clayburn
• Hamdouchi, Abdelilah - Bled Dry #1 Detective Hanash, Casablanca
• Harris, Robert J - The Thirty-One Kings #1 Richard Hannay
• Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia - Shadow Play #20 Bill Slider, Shepherd's Bush CID
• James, P D - Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales
• James, Peter - Absolute Proof
• Jardine, Quintin - State Secrets #28 Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Skinner, Edinburgh
• Law, Janice - Mornings in London #6 Francis Bacon
• Macmillan, Gilly - Odd Child Out #1 Detective Jim Clemo, Bristol
• Magson, Adrian - Rocco and the Nightingale #5 Inspector Lucas Rocco, Poissons-Les-Marais, 1960s
• Malliet, G M - Weycombe
• Mankell, Henning - After the Fire
• Marston, Edward - Under Attack #7 Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy
• Masters, Priscilla - The Deceiver #2 Dr Claire Roget, Forensic Psychiatrist
• Masterton, Graham - The Coven #2 Beatrice Scarlet, 1750s
• McNab, Andy - Line of Fire #19 The Nick Stone Missions
• Nesser, Hakan - The Darkest Day #1 Inspector Barbarotti
• Poulson, Christine - Cold, Cold Heart #2 Katie Flanagan
• Purcell, Laura - The Silent Companions
• Rendell, Ruth - A Spot of Folly (Short Stories)
• Rowe, Rosemary - The Price of Freedom #17 Mosaicist Libertus, Glevum (modern Gloucester)
• Schumacher, Tony - An Army of One #3 John Rossett
• Sharp, Zoe - Fox Hunter #12 Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard
• Sigurdardottir, Lilja - Snare
• Smith, Anna - The Hit #9 Rosie Gilmour, Crime Journalist, 1990s
• Spencer, Sally - Dry Bones #2 Jennie Redhead, PI, Oxford, 1974
• Thomas, Will - Old Scores #9 Barker and Llewelyn, Victorian London
• Thomson, E S - The Blood #3 Jem Flockhart, Apothecary, 1850s
• Tuomainen, Antti - The Man Who Died
• Upson, Nicola - Nine Lessons #7 Josephine Tey, real-life crime writer
• Watson, Allan - Heart Swarm
• Wilson, Laura - The Other Woman
• Winslow, Emily Look for Her #3 Detective Inspector Chloe Frohmann and her partner, Morris Keene, Cambridge

Sunday, September 17, 2017

US Cozy Review: If You've Got It, Haunt It by Rose Pressey

Welcome to another entry in my irregular feature: US cozy review.

If You've Got It, Haunt It by Rose Pressey, December 2014, Kensington Publishing ISBN: 1617732494

If You've Got It, Haunt It is the first in a series which currently runs to five books, with a sixth out in 2018, and it introduces vintage-clothing shop owner and blogger Cookie Chanel. Cookie's shop, It's Vintage, Y'All is in the small town of Sugar Creek, Georgia.

Cookie is attending the estate sale of the late Charlotte Meadows, a successful businesswoman who died under mysterious circumstances. Cookie doesn't just acquire some new stock for her shop though...she comes home with the ghost of Charlotte. And Charlotte won't leave Cookie alone until Cookie finds Charlotte's murderer.

Encouraged by Charlotte – and not having much choice really – Cookie begins to do some snooping and even some breaking and entering. As no-one else can see Charlotte, Cookie has to be on her toes to not look like she's talking to herself all the time! Cookie crosses paths with a new to the town, and attractive, police detective when she discovers a body. And she acquires a cat who can communicate via a Ouija board.

This is an enjoyable and light read, well paced with a likeable lead character and the mystery is satisfying. It's high on the woo-woo factor with not only a ghost but a very mysterious cat but I don't mind that. I don't know whether Charlotte stays around in further books but I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

Karen Meek, September 2017.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Free TV Episodes on Amazon have updated their list of "first episode for you" choices where you can "buy" the first episode in a series for free.

The list includes one Scandi title - Dicte (NB. first episode of a two parter); British series include Sherlock, Death in Paradise, Inspector George Gently, Cuffs; also available is the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries, and the Australian series Rake, and Deep Water.

Browse the whole list at

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Review: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante, August 2017, 400 pages, Zaffre, ISBN: 1785762818

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

During 1974 and 1975 the IRA subjected London to a terrifying bombing campaign. In one day alone, they planted seven bombs at locations across central London. Some were defused - some were not.

Jane Tennison is now a fully-fledged detective. On the way to court one morning, Jane passes through Covent Garden Underground station and is caught up in a bomb blast that leaves several people dead, and many horribly injured. Jane is a key witness, but is adamant that she can't identify the bomber. When a photograph appears in the newspapers, showing Jane assisting the injured at the scene, it puts her and her family at risk from IRA retaliation.

'Good Friday' is the eagerly awaited date of the annual formal CID dinner, due to take place at St Ermin's Hotel. Hundreds of detectives and their wives will be there. It's the perfect target. As Jane arrives for the evening, she realises that she recognises the parking attendant as the bomber from Covent Garden. Can she convince her senior officers in time, or will another bomb destroy London's entire detective force?

This was a very atmospheric and fast moving story. I was gripped by this fabulous page turning read. I have not read any of the Tennison stories before but have distant memories of the TV series and in 2010 I reviewed her book BLIND FURY, which featured her other protagonist DI Anna Travis and was very impressed with that story. I remember the 1970s very well and the IRA bombing campaign was very shocking and the TV news reports very filled with all the latest outrages and the difficult reporting of all the latest news from Northern Ireland.

This was thoroughly engrossing read and the very experienced author has done her research impeccably and the book is infused with period detail to give a real flavour of life as I remembered during the mid 1970s. One just could not fault the plotting of this story. The dramatic plot with many twists and turns in the story telling kept me gripped until the sensational conclusion. Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, September 2017