Monday, August 29, 2016

The Moomin Colouring Books

I haven't yet succumbed to buying one of the "adult" colouring books now available but I did spot this the other day in W H Smiths and it is a little bit tempting:

This stylish and unique Moomin Colouring Book features original artwork from the coveted archive of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins; one of the most cherished children's book series ever written.

Beautifully conceived and designed, this contemporary colouring book features striking patterns and scenes as well as all your favourite Moomin characters and their most memorable quotes. The perfect gift for Moomin fans.

Or, in November, this pocket-sized edition will be out:

In a new, perfectly pocket-sized format, The Pocket Moomin Colouring Book features original artwork from the coveted archive of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins; one of the most cherished children's book series ever written.

This smaller edition, perfect for colouring on-the-go, features striking patterns and scenes as well as all your favourite Moomin characters and their most memorable quotes. Including all your favourite scenes from The Moomin Colouring Book.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Birmingham Literature Festival - Euro Pass

The Birmingham Literature Festival is 6-16 October and one of the threads is a selection of events which can be covered by a Euro Pass (£30/£24) (or booked individually):

Walter Presents
Writers from the Ukraine
Cristina Sanchez-Andrade
Diego Marani and Frank Witzel: Europanto, pop, politics and paranoia
Jonas Hassen Khemiri and Elif Shafak
David Lodge and Philippine Hamen
The Bridge to Hinterland: With Hans Rosenfeldt and Ed Thomas
Beyond the Water’s Edge

Here is more information on a couple of the sessions:

Walter Presents
October 7 @ 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm
£10/8, Festival Pass/Euro Pass: FREE WALTER PORTRAIT

Walter Iuzzolino, the man behind Channel 4’s hugely successful Netflix of foreign drama, Walter Presents, watched over 3,500 hours of international television to curate a catalogue of TV and online hits including Deutschland 83, Spin and Blue Eyes.

He believes foreign drama is giving people the greedy fix once provided only by novels: “One episode is just not enough. And that type of fiction, built on cliff-hangers, is Dickens. It’s Balzac…. These TV series are also something that unite people. In the same way as people join book clubs, now they discuss TV series’.

In this very special event, hear from Walter himself about how Walter Presents came to be, and what makes it so compelling for UK audiences.

The Bridge to Hinterland
October 8 @ 7:30 am - 8:45 pm
£10/£8, Festival Pass/Euro Pass: FREE

Bilingual, border-town crime drama, The Bridge, set the bar for Nordic Noir. Season 3 attracted over 2 million viewers in the UK and Swedish detective Saga Noren became something of a national treasure. A fourth series is due to be filmed later this year.

Award-winning Welsh crime drama Hinterland was originally broadcast in English and Welsh, a first for BBC television drama.

The first two series have been screened internationally via Netflix. Filming of a third series began earlier this year.

Tonight, for the first time, we bring together the writer-creators of both series, Hans Rosenfeldt and Ed Thomas, to talk about making compelling bilingual TV drama. This is a unique opportunity to hear from the writers behind some of the most talked-about dramas to hit our TV screens in recent years.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

TV News: Ängelby on ITV Encore

Swedish series Ängleby starts next week on ITV Encore. Episode 1 (of twelve) is on 31 August at 10pm.

A brief description from the ITV Press Centre of Episode 1:
Vera Fors, a mother of two, loses her job and her husband at the same time. The only work she can find is in a small community she’s never heard of, yet she gathers her belongings and the kids and drives off to start fresh in Ängelby. Right before she enters the town, she seemingly hits a boy with her car. In complete shock she concludes the boy is dead. But was it really Vera who killed him?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Rough Cut by Anna Smith

Rough Cut by Anna Smith, January 2016, 416 pages, Quercus, ISBN: 184866432X

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

The long-awaited sixth book in Anna Smith’s fabulous series featuring feisty journalist Rosie Gilmour is with us, and it is every bit as fabulous as the previous books about her. Smith writes books that consume you. Her protagonist constantly finds herself up to her eyes in all sorts of trouble in her quest for the truth and takes you with her every step of the way. I love Rosie’s drive and ambition. I also love the way these books are written. They hold you captive and keep you guessing but are also a relatively quick read, so possible to whizz through in a couple of days – leaving you an exhausted heap by the time you have finished.

The novel opens with the gruesome scene of a prostitute with a dead punter at her feet. She has accidentally killed him in an erotic game that has gone terribly wrong and is left wondering what to do. She calls her friend, and fellow prostitute, for advice and the two of them are soon making their get-away; taking the punter’s mysterious briefcase with them. The contents of the briefcase turns out to be a pile of fake passports and a large number of rough diamonds. This discovery opens a whole can of worms and before too long there are threats being made on the girls’ lives by less than savoury men who want the case returned as soon as possible. Not knowing what to do, the girls turn to Rosie for help and she sets out to get to the bottom of the trouble.

As usual, Rosie doesn’t make things easy for herself and is looking into the apparent suicide of a young Pakistani bride at the same time as helping the prostitutes. What she finds out takes her to Pakistan, to rescue another young girl who suddenly disappears. What Rosie discovers shocks her to the core and soon she is once again running for her life. With diplomatic aid to help her escape, it seems as if Rosie might be safe this time, but you do start to wonder how long her luck will last.

One of the best things about Rosie is her sense of justice. Being a journalist, her purpose and passion is to seek out the perfect story. However, she also has an overpowering desire for fair-play and honesty. She keeps the police informed as much as she can and does her utmost to help those who ask her to. Only one thing is missing – TJ, her love. She misses him constantly and you, the reader, are also caught up in the loneliness she feels when she thinks about him. You have your fingers crossed that she will be reunited with her love but are not quite sure if she will ever see him again.

If you like a good plot that keeps you guessing and covers a current, controversial topic with sensitivity and tact, then you are going to love this book. It is not necessary to read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one but it makes it much more interesting if you do.

Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, August 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Hard Cover by Adrian Magson

Hard Cover by Adrian Magson, March 2016, 256 pages, Severn House Publishers Ltd, ISBN: 072788607X

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

I have read many books by Adrian Magson and there has not been a bad one yet and he has done it yet again with this latest Marc Portman thriller, the third one in this series.

Marc (codename Watchman) is working, as he usually does as a private contractor for the CIA/MI6 and has been sent into Russia to provide hidden, black ops, back-up for a wealthy Russian businessman who has lived in the UK for many years. Leonid Tzorekov was a former KGB officer but is now sympathetic to the West and is thought to be in Russia now with the object of meeting his old friend President Vladamir Putin to persuade him to be more sympathetic and moderate towards the West.

There are many, however, who do not want Leonid Tzorekov to meet with Putin and will do anything possible to stop him. Portman goes into Russia in disguise and under cover of darkness and puts an electronic beeper under the bumper of the Russian's car. He hopes this will aid him in following the target less overtly then without it. However, there are others who are considering the same tactic, but for more aggressive purposes.

This very exciting, tense adventure kept me guessing right up until the final sentence. I have had the privilege of reading the author's two earlier Marc Portman stories CLOSE QUARTERS and WATCHMAN; I have also read his NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL in his Riley Gavin series and two of his Lucas Rocco stories set in provincial France during the 1960s: DEATH ON THE MARAIS and DEATH ON THE RIVE NORD.

Adrian Magson is a very experienced author and when you open one of his titles you know that the book in question will provide a really interesting and tense plot, and thoughtful, well-described characters. He researches his plots in a thorough and painstaking manner in a similar way to fellow authors such as Stephen Leather and Simon Kernick. The reader can always expect a real sense of tense, nail-biting action and dramatic, page-turning suspense.

I look forward to reading any further adventures of Marc Portman and in fact any new books by this very talented and exciting author. Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, August 2016.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Rage by Zygmunt Miloszewski tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Rage by Zygmunt Miloszewski translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, August 2016, 426 pages, Paperback, AmazonCrossing, ISBN: 1503935868

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Olsztyn, Poland, November 2013.
In the morass of Olsztyn’s traffic system, Prosecutor Szacki can feel his belief in the sanctity of life waning – particularly regarding Olsztyn’s traffic designer. It is a cold, damp morning with some kind of persistent frozen sludge falling from the sky and accumulating on his windscreen. He considers running the lights, but being caught by the traffic police would be a dark stain on his service history as a state prosecutor. He ponders the mishmash of architecture in this once German city as he drags his old Citroën through its clogged streets. He has no great love for the Germans, they destroyed so much of his home city of Warsaw, but he considers the only characterful buildings in this city to be those built by its German administration. This morning he is due to make a presentation at a local high school. He is mortified, when he finally arrives, to find he is also expected to make a speech.

In the suburbs, a woman contemplates her endless list of imperfections. She tries to chose something to wear that will please her husband. From another room her small son lets out a wail. She rushes to soothe him, tries to find a DVD to stop his crying. What has she done with the day? She puts the kid in his high chair and gives him microwaved pancakes with cottage cheese. She’d better put on some make-up, get down to the supermarket, buy some real food and cook a proper meal for them. “Don’t want it!” yells the kid. She rushes back to her son. Can’t believe what she sees. The kid has encased the new, designer-smart, universal remote with cottage cheese and is aiming it at the TV whilst shouting for the Teletubbies. She could rip his head off. Really. But instead she snorts with laughter and hugs him, daubing her sweater with cottage cheese.

Szacki thinks his image represents the strength and stability of the Polish State – prematurely white hair, his “Bond” outfit of grey suit, sky-blue shirt, skinny grey tie, cuff links and steel watch. Standing on the assembly hall’s platform he stares out at the students. The speech looms. He wants to be upbeat, start with a joke, but he realises this isn’t his style. After a long, awkward silence, he starts his address: “The statistics are against you...” and coldly lists the horrors which are the crimes they are likely to commit during their lifetimes: theft, violence, murder, harassment, rape. If they want to avoid this outcome, the answer is simply – “Do no wrong.” The head teacher glares at him and herself hands the framed certificate to the winning student. Applause. Slipping away, Szacki answers his boss’s phone call with relief. Roadworks (what else) have exposed an “Old German”, their slang term for a long-dead cadaver. All he needs to do is go over and check it off as such.

The hole in the road has revealed an underground room, some kind of offshoot from the hospital. The body, lying on a rusted bed frame, is indeed no more than bones. A complete set. Szacki signs the remains off and heads home but with a sense of dread. Since August he has shared his home with the “Two Witches”: his girlfriend and his daughter, an unhappy sixteen-year-old recently transplanted from Warsaw when her mother, Szacki’s ex-wife, moved to live abroad with her new husband and his research job in Singapore. Szacki had found it fine living with his girlfriend and fine with his daughter. But the two together was another matter.

At the office next day Szacki listens to junior prosecutor Edmund Falk’s report. Szacki knows that the rest of the legal system have dubbed them “king of the stuffed shirts” and “prince of the starched collars”. Truly, in Falk, Szacki has met his buttoned-up match. He is just about tolerating Falk’s jibes at Szacki’s performance at Falk’s old high school when he is summoned by Professor of Anatomy, Professor Frankenstein no less, to the University Hospital’s anatomy department. The professor has been examining the “Old German’s” bones and has found a remarkable component: a modern prosthetic toe joint. So modern in fact that this particular one was fitted only two weeks ago….

Miloszewski’s third “Prosecutor Szacki” novel – RAGE – begins with a murder. It’s a shocking murder on many levels, springing out from the book’s first pages and vividly painted as a physical struggle between two bodies – one to kill and one to survive. A great hook. Most of the rest of the novel is written in flashback, describing the events of the previous ten days which start with skeletal remains being found in a basement tunnel in the Polish city of Olsztyn. These turn out to be not only very modern but composed of bones from more than one body and Prosecutor Szacki begins to think he has a serial killer on his hands, one who likes to dissolve his victims in lye. But the cases are not so straightforward. Not all the victims are dead. Some have been mutilated and left to live in terror. Szacki must find this madman soon. Even sooner when the threat and fear touches him personally.

Stitching his crime themes throughout the fabric and imagery of each of his novels, the theme which runs through Miloszewski’s RAGE is domestic abuse, more particularly, the abuse of women. He even uses Greek myth to underscore his topic, when the co-owner of a travel agency explains the subject matter of a poster on the agency wall, a reproduction of Iphigenia in Tauris (modern day Crimea). The myth’s story is told in shorthand: a Greek tragedy, a family tale of murderous fathers, mothers and sons. In this novel Szacki is older and psychologically darker as his Sheriff of Cool stance is increasingly disrupted by his own rising sense of rage. But RAGE is a terrific story, convincingly translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones; full of potential suspects for the reader, full of suspense, strong characterisation and a tang of one of Miloszewski’s own crime writing heroes, Henning Mankell. But this is Mankell through Miloszewski's lens of wit and irony laced with affection.

In an author’s note at the end of the book, Miloszewski reveals that RAGE is the final episode in a trilogy featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki. I have read all three – ENTANGLEMENT, A GRAIN OF TRUTH and now RAGE – and have become a devoted fan of Szacki. If this review tempts you, then read them all. You must. Myself, I shall miss Szacki’s elegance, irony, sarcasm and flawed calm. In fact I shall have to miss Miloszewski's crime writing altogether as he has announced (in a blog interview and a guest post on “Crime Fiction Lover” and “Reader Dad” respectively) that he has also given up writing crime fiction.

“It’s always better to stop too soon rather than too late” he says. In Miloszewski’s case – not for this reader.

Lynn Harvey, August 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Heads Up: A Deadly Thaw blog tour

I'm currently reading Sarah Ward's second book, A Deadly Thaw, in preparation for the upcoming blog tour. You may remember how much I enjoyed In Bitter Chill and I can report that book two is every bit as full of well-rounded characters and contains an even more puzzling mystery.