Thursday, December 31, 2015

Some 1950 Titles (for Past Offences)

The latest monthly challenge over at Past Offences is to read a book in January, published in 1950. Here are some British/European crime titles to choose from, first published in English in 1950, pulled from my database:
Margery Allingham - Mr Campion and Others (NB. the revised edition)
Joanna Cannan - Murder Included (apa Poisonous Relations & The Taste of Murder)
Agatha Christie - Three Blind Mice and Other Stories
Agatha Christie - A Murder Is Announced
Carter Dickson - Night at the Mocking Widow
Elbur Ford - Poison in Pimlico
Elbur Ford - Flesh and the Devil
Richard Hull - A Matter of Nerves
Georges Simenon - The Heart of a Man
Georges Simenon - The Burial of Monsieur Bouvet
Georges Simenon - Madame Maigret's Own Case (apa Madame Maigret's Friend)
Josephine Tey - To Love and Be Wise
Patricia Wentworth - The Ivory dagger
Patricia Wentworth - The Brading Collection (apa Mr. Brading´s Collection)
Patricia Wentworth - Through the Wall

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favourite Discoveries of 2015 (4)

The next entry in the Euro Crime reviewer's Favourite Discoveries of 2015 is both a book and a DVD, recommended by Amanda Gillies.

Amanda Gillies's Favourite Discovery of 2015

The Pianist. Co-produced and directed by Roman Polanski (2002) and written by Wladyslaw Szpilman (1946 in Polish and 1998 in English)

I both saw the movie and read the Kindle version of the book in the same weekend. The experience completely blew me away, so this has to be my New Discovery recommendation to you for 2015. Not fiction, but most definitely crime, true crime, “The Pianist” tells the story of one man’s battle to survive in war-torn Warsaw in Word War II. Young Jewish man, Wladyslaw Szpilman is a talented pianist who manages to escape from the German deportations of Jews to extermination camps. He survives life in the Warsaw ghetto and goes into hiding when the ghetto is destroyed. Time after time his talent as a musician saves him from certain death and when his hiding place is accidentally discovered he must give the performance of a lifetime to keep his life.

I loved the way the film was shot and the way the sheer horrors that thepeople experienced were portrayed. Over and over I was sure that Szpilman’s luck would run out and was exhausted at the end. I was also delighted to see that the film stuck very closely to the book and missed nothing out. Polanksi produced a masterpiece of a film and it is a shame that Szpilman died before the film was released. This, of course, gives away the fact that he survives the war but this is no secret as he goes on in later life to become a famous and accomplished musician.

Very Highly Recommended – but a box of tissues is necessary!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Favourite Discoveries of 2015 (3)

The next entry in the Euro Crime reviewer's Favourite Discoveries of 2015 is a new publisher, recommended by Rich Westwood.

Rich Westwood's Favourite Discovery of 2015

My discovery of the year is the publisher Dean Street Press, one of the small number of independent publishers resurrecting classic crime fiction for a new generation equipped with e-readers.

They came to my attention early in the year with two novels by George Sanders. George Sanders was a Hollywood star from the 1930s onwards, appearing in Hitchcock’s Rebecca, a number of films playing the Saint and the Falcon, and as the voice of Shere Khan. He wrote (or more probably just put his name to) two very enjoyable and very different novels. CRIME ON MY HANDS is narrated by a fictionalised 'George Sanders' and is a screwball mystery played out on the set of a western in Northern California. STRANGER AT HOME is a far more serious affair with a degenerate LA high-life setting reminiscent of Raymond Chandler.

Dean Street Press followed the Sanders novels with two by Ianthe Jerrold, a virtually forgotten Golden Age mystery writer. THE STUDIO CRIME, published in 1929, begins with the murder of an art dealer in St John's Wood. The irresistibly named John Christmas plays the part of amateur sleuth. His friendly rivalry with Scotland Yard bears comparison with his Golden Age peers, but in a nice variation on the trope, his friends are sceptical and unwilling to subscribe to his great amateur detective lifestyle.

DEAD MAN'S QUARRY, first published in 1930, could well be my favourite reissue of the year. It opens with a group of young people (and one parent) on a cycling holiday in a polite and ordered countryside, where the consistency of boiled eggs is the main topic of conversation. As events unfold, we meet suspicious locals, mysterious strangers, ginger beer bought at cottages, and that old staple the remote shepherd's hut. And there is a full supporting cast of rustics (who all add something to the story): a philosophically philandering footman, a poetic shepherd, and a grumpy pub landlord. All great fun.

After Jerrold, Dean Street Press has moved on to the somewhat fuller back catalogues of E R Punshon (fifteen titles), Annie Haynes (seven titles), and Harriet Rutland (three titles).

It's great to see these authors given a chance to reach new audiences so long after their heyday, and I hope to see many more new discoveries next year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Christmas 2015

This lovely picture is taken from the Cramar Cat Rescue 2016 calendar available to buy in person or by post. Donations of cat food etc also very welcome. We got our much beloved Nancy from them just over a year ago.

We're having a few technical problems chez Euro Crime resulting from a broken hard disk - so the favourite discoveries posts will continue next week all being well (and restored...).

Merry Christmas to all and of course a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Favourite Discoveries of 2015 (2)

The next entry in the Euro Crime reviewer's Favourite Discoveries of 2015 is a TV series/DVD, recommended by Lynn Harvey.

Lynn Harvey's Favourite Discovery of 2015

My favourite discovery of 2015 was Brit-crime television serial “RIVER”.

I confess that I don't watch many Brit-crime series on the telly so let me make my apologies now to die-hard fans of the genre. However this six-parter (BBC One and Netflix) which was created and written by Abi Morgan (The Hour, Suffragette) was a breath of strange fresh air that hooked me from the start.

Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard plays John River, a London police detective who carries on convincing conversations with voices in his head and sees dead people. Shocked by losing his long-term police partner (Nicola Walker), River bemuses his new partner (Adeel Akhtar) as they strike out in pursuit of a killer. The search takes River through the streets of contemporary London, rattling many shocked passers-by in the process, and what develops is a layered twister of a crime plot. Skarsgard is both powerful and subtle. In fact the entire cast is seriously good, including Eddie Marsan as the malevolent Thomas Cream, a Victorian serial killer who stalks through River's brain whenever he is at his most vulnerable.

“RIVER” is a great ensemble piece whose plot, photography, compassion and performances make up a persuasive and moving whole. True, I lost my partner's viewing-company after a couple of episodes but flashback scenes and "hallucinations" are a stretch too far for his plot-following capabilities – and he was plainly puzzled by the concept of a Swede being a detective in the British police. However, as you can see, none of this was a problem for me. I ate it all up. I loved it all: performances, plot, writing – and I was not alone amongst my acquaintances in being moved by the events uncovered and the ending.

Can or will such an ensemble piece come back for a second series? Much as I loved it, I have my doubts. So I recommend that you catch “RIVER” in any way you can. Well I would, wouldn't I.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Favourite Discoveries of 2015 (I)

As per usual I have asked my fellow Euro Crime reviewers to come up with their favourite crime fiction discovery of the past year - be it book, film or tv series.

The first entry comes from Mark Bailey.

Mark Bailey's Favourite Discovery of 2015

My favourite discovery of 2015 was the DVDs of the French television series Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie (Agatha Christie's Little Murders) – I started out with the Region 1 box set put out by Acorn and got hooked in by the second series featuring Commissaire Laurence Swan (played by Samuel Labarthe), Alice Avril – a journalist (Blandine Bellavoir) and Swan's secretary Marlène (Élodie Frenck) who investigate crimes in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais in the 1950s.

The films (just over 90 minutes each) are a twist on Agatha Christie with basic plots intact but are very loose adaptations with a little more in the way of humour, gore and emotional relationship that one is used to with the British adaptations. They also travel a lot more over the canon – the 2015 films were Mademoiselle MacGinty Est Morte (Mrs McGinty's Dead), Un meurtre est-il facile? (Murder is Easy), Murder Party (A Murder is Announced) and Pension Vanilos (Hickory Dickory Dock) .

The addiction is such now that I am buying the DVDs from France when they are released and have the 2015 releases lined up for over Christmas to practice my rusty French on (there are no English language subtitles for the latest ones and indeed most of them – only 7 to date are available with English language subtitles of the 22 in the series and the 4 part ‘pilot’ Petits meurtres en famille (based on Hercule Poirot's Christmas)).

Why do I like them so much – because they are fun; they play with the conventions of Agatha Christie, have good characterisation and have characters that do develop as the series goes on (especially Marlène).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cited on Sausage Hall & The Ghosts of Altona

I'll soon be posting the Euro Crime review team's favourite discoveries of 2015, and their favourite reads of 2015 will appear in early 2016. In the meantime here are a couple of recent quotes from reviews that have made it onto the back of the (next) book.

1. Rich Westwood on Christina James's Sausage Hall:

2. Ewa Sherman on Craig Russell's The Ghosts of Altona:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reviews - Double Downing

Here are two reviews by Terry (read more of Terry's reviews for Euro Crime here) of David Downing's most recent book, One Man's Flag, and an early book in his "Station" series, Silesian Station:

One Man's Flag by David Downing, November 2015, 384 pages, Soho Crime, ISBN: 1616952709

Jack McColl, a spy for His Majesty’s Secret Service, is stationed in India, charged with defending the Empire against Bengali terrorists and their German allies. Belgium, he finds, is not the only country seeking to expel an invader.

In England, meanwhile, suffragette journalist Caitlin Hanley begins the business of rebuilding her life after the execution of her brother—an IRA sympathizer whose terrorist plot was foiled by Caitlin’s own ex-lover, the very same Jack McColl. The war is changing everything and giving fresh impulse to those causes—feminism, socialism and Irish independence—which she as a journalist has long supported.

The threat of a Rising in Dublin alarms McColl’s bosses as much as it dazzles Caitlin. If another Irish plot brings them back together, will it be as enemies or lovers?

I read, for review, the previous novel JACK OF SPIES which introduced Jack McColl to readers as a salesman of high end motor cars and also in the employ of a forerunner to MI6. This new book continues the adventures of the previous one but further along in time so that the First World War has definitely begun and for instance McColl's brother Jeb, is presently fighting from a trench in France. The book maybe read as one-off story, as the author gives full historical explanations but I found it very helpful to understanding and appreciating this current book, to have read the previous one.

The narrative of the story is seen through the eyes of Jack and alternatively Caitlin, which works very well. The author has done extensive period and geographical research and the very evocative atmosphere of 1914 India, Belgium, England and Ireland is reproduced very well for this reason.

I very much enjoyed reading his earlier Second World War books, which all had "Station..." in the title and now I'm equally enjoying the author's present books series about the earlier War and I hope that he writes many more.

Extremely well recommended.

Silesian Station  by David Downing, January 2011, 320 pages, Old Street Publishing, ISBN: 1906964599

This unbelievably good book comes hot on the heels of his ZOO STATION, featuring John Russell a British journalist living in Nazi Germany. After just reading a few pages you can imagine the jack boots on the cobblestones and feel the oppressive regulation of life lived under a dictatorship.

In early Summer, 1939, John Russell has returned from a long holiday in the USA accompanied by his son Paul who is aged twelve. Whilst in the States he manages to secure US citizenship and an American passport which makes it unlikely that he would be arrested back home in Berlin if, as he believes, Britain goes to war with Nazi Germany but that the US remains neutral. However, to obtain the American passport he had to promise to send intelligence reports to American Intelligence and he also has a new job working for the San Francisco Tribune newspaper as their Central and East European correspondent.

The Gestapo are very impressed by John Russell's ability to act as a double agent for them against the USSR. John has to accept their orders to provide fake intelligence to a Soviet Embassy. The Gestapo imprisoned John's German girlfriend for a few days in very harsh conditions to persuade him to co-operate with them. He also advises the USSR that the Nazi intelligence he is supplying them is dud but urges them to set up an urgent escape route for him and his girlfriend if they should need to leave Berlin in a rush.

Miriam is a German Silesian Jewish farm girl aged seventeen who has been irritated a lot by local young Nazi thugs and her parents are fearful for her safety and believe she would be better off in a large metropolis such as Berlin as they have a cousin there who will look after her and get her a job. So she travels to Berlin by train, a journey of eight hours or so. In the meantime the man who was supposed to meet her at the Berlin Train Terminal is killed and so a complete stranger asks her if he can help her but she subsequently disappears.

Her parents telephone a few days later but cannot get any information about her from other friends and relations in Berlin and eventually John Russell is asked to help by a mutual friend. John has in the past used an elderly private detective to do research for him on various projects and he uses him to search for the Jewish girl. Unfortunately, the German Police do not want her found? Why? The reasons and answers form the basis of a very exciting story which is mixed with a day to day history of what life was like living in "the cage" for a British Journalist living in Nazi Germany.

David Downing shows his hero, Russell, is a decent practical man working as a journalist, with a reasonable relationship with his son, girlfriend and ex-wife. There is some humour as well which relieves the tension and perhaps indicates that the Germans were not dissimilar to the British in many aspects of daily life.

I enjoyed SILESIAN STATION immensely and look forward to reading the next book in the series, STETTIN STATION.

Read another review of SILESIAN STATION.

Terry Halligan, December 2015.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Review: Silence by Anthony J Quinn

Silence by Anthony J Quinn, November 2015, 320 pages, Head of Zeus, ISBN: 1784971235

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

The motorway cut through a narrow valley, and Daly crossed a bridge. He glanced through his side window, and saw the old country below, felt its dark gravity, its mesh of forgotten roads, its interlocking parishes of grief and murder.

South Armagh, 1974.
During the rain's onslaught the group of policemen in waterproof overalls continue their task at the river's edge: a rhythmical plunging of their prisoner into the waters, hauling him out, interrogating, pressing him back down. Finally a gun is placed against the half-drowned man's neck. Then its muzzle is brought round to face him and the trigger is pulled. Click, no bullet. They drag him out of the water, dump him on the mud, and retreat to their Land Rover. After a pause they drive away. Shaken, cold and confused, the young man staggers through a thorn thicket towards the road when a voice tells him how lucky he has been that day. A man steps forward from the trees and introduces himself as a recruiting agent for a special intelligence unit. Explaining that “we must all choose carefully the gangs we join”, he offers the young man money, training, and protection for the his parents in these difficult times.

February, 2013.
The call comes whilst Inspector Celcius Daly is preparing for bed. A fatal car crash on the new motorway. Daly arrives to find the familiar sight of police tape and flash-lights. Figures walk to and fro amongst the heavy digging equipment as a police officer explains that they were called out by reports of diggers being vandalised. They found the diversion signs and traffic cones rearranged, leading towards a drop of some thirty feet, so they set up a cordon and were replacing the cones when an elderly driver, Father Aloysius Walsh, drew up. For some reason he took fright and drove off again at high speed. He followed the misplaced cones and was killed when his car went over the edge into the bushes below.
Daly walks through the watching police and down the thorny slope to the crashed car. He notes that there are no skid marks on the road, no attempt to brake on the part of the elderly priest. He studies the body, fascinated by the ragged bundle of rosary beads and holy charms in the priest's dead hand which speak to Daly's own Catholic upbringing. He looks up at this point and spots a man who turns to face the light of his torch, Detective Irwin of Special Branch, a man always hovering at the edge of his investigations. Stopping for petrol on his way home down the rural lanes, Daly asks if there is a holy well in the area. The garage man's answer is hostile but Celcius Daly is used to it, born and raised a rural Catholic, now part of the “modern, integrated” Police Force of Northern Ireland, hostility is something he knows about …

SILENCE is Anthony J Quinn's third “Celcius Daly” novel and his protagonist, Daly, is that familiar, necessary figure for readers of crime fiction – the “loner” detective. Celcius Daly is a divorced, rural-born detective who has returned to live in his childhood home, an isolated, lakeside cottage. He is a man still unsure of his place in the modern Police Service of Northern Ireland. The central crime of Quinn's previous novel, BORDER ANGELS, was the very contemporary one of sex-trafficking but the manipulated, violent past of Quinn's border country is never far away in his fiction and with SILENCE we return to that ground. A car crash kills an elderly priest from a Belfast abbey and the priest's obsessional research into a series of callous sectarian murders during the Troubles reopens the tragedy of Daly's own childhood – the death of his mother and his father's profound silence about it. Fascinated by a painstaking map with its tangled lines of killings and dates which he finds in the priest's study, Daly is drawn to investigate Father Walsh's death and is led back into a world inhabited by old spies, old spy masters, old hatreds and old crimes.

In SILENCE Quinn acknowledges his fellow Northern Irish writer Stuart Neville's THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (THE TWELVE (UK)) during a passage of conversation, between Daly and an old informer, about differing responses to the ghosts that haunt a violent past. Quinn's crime writing, well-plotted and threaded with suspense, looks to those same ghosts and while he does not provide Neville's blood-pulsing rides towards thrilling conclusions, Quinn does give us speculations and meditations upon life in that see-saw world. The atmosphere of SILENCE is inseparable from Quinn's rural landscape, filled with forgotten thickets, fields, waterways and ruined cottages. It is a landscape which affords Quinn a retrospective of the equally muddy events of the past from a present still peopled by its ageing protagonists and ghosts. Be prepared for the rain, the mud and the loneliness of Daly as he sits by his peat fire clutching a little black hen. Be prepared for the ever present waters of Lough Neagh and a way of life that is fast disappearing but above all read SILENCE, a grand continuation of Quinn's “Celcius Daly” series.

Lynn Harvey, December 2015

Monday, December 07, 2015

New Releases - December 2015

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in December. Further months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.
• Bannister, Jo - Desperate Measures
• Bjork, Samuel - I'm Travelling Alone #1 Holger Munch & Mia Kruger, Oslo Police
• Damhaug, Torkil - Fireraiser (ebook only) #3 Oslo Crime Files
• de la Motte, Anders - MemoRandom
• Dehouck, Bram - Sleepless Summer
• Friedman, Daniel - Riot Most Uncouth: A Lord Byron Mystery
• Grant, Andrew - False Positive
• Jonasson, Ragnar - Nightblind #2 Ari Thor, Policeman
• Lehtolainen, Leena - Death Spiral #5 Detective Maria Kallio, Helsinki
• McCrery, Nigel - The Thirteenth Coffin #4 DCI Mark Lapslie, synaesthesia sufferer
• Nesser, Hakan - The Summer of Kim Novak
• Rickman, Phil - Friends of the Dusk #13 Rev. Merrily Watkins, Ledwardine, Herefordshire
• Thompson, James - Helsinki Dead #5 Inspector Kari Vaara, Finland
• Tursten, Helene - The Treacherous Net #8 Inspector Huss, Gothenburg
• Tyler, L C - A Masterpiece of Corruption #2 John Grey, lawyer, 1657

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Review Roundup: Carson, Dahl, Jonasson, Kestin, Millar, Siger

Here are six reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, all have appeared on the blog since last time.

You can keep up to date with Euro Crime by following the blog and/or liking the Euro Crime Facebook page and follow on Twitter, @eurocrime.

New Reviews

Amanda Gillies reviews Clare Carson's debut, Orkney Twilight;

Lynn Harvey reviews Arne Dahl's To the Top of the Mountain tr. Alice Menzies;

I review Ragnar Jonasson's Snowblind tr. Quentin Bates the first in his Dark Iceland series;

Michelle Peckham reviews The Lie by Hesh Kestin;

Amanda also reviews Louise Millar's City of Strangers

and Terry Halligan reviews Jeffrey Siger's Devil of Delphi.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, along with releases by year.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Review: The Lie by Hesh Kestin

The Lie by Hesh Kestin, October 2014, 256 pages, Scribe Publications, ISBN: 192224774X

Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

The book begins with a short prologue, describing an event forty-five years ago in which two women, one Jewish and one Arabian in hospital, have both just given birth to a child; the Arabian to a girl, her seventh, and the Jewish woman to a boy. This sets the scene for the big ‘lie’ that follows on later in the book, but the whole story is about lies and subterfuge. First, Edward Al-Masri, a professor at McGill University and famous author, is about to travel back to Israel, where he was born and lived as an Arab in Israel for many years. He is taking with him a suitcase packed with money in a hidden compartment. This is deliberate act, with inevitable consequences when this is discovered on his arrival. Second, Dahlia Barr, forty-four-years-old and a well-known human rights lawyer is summoned to see the head of Israeli security, Zarman Arrad. He wants her to work for him, to assess suspects and decide when stronger means of interrogation might be allowable. She is married (but about to be divorced) with two sons, one of whom, Ari, is currently doing his national service in the paratroops. And then disaster strikes. Terrorists kidnap Ari on the border of Israel and Lebanon, and hold him hostage. Somehow there are connections between Edward and Dahlia, which feed into the developing story, and Edward becomes key to the release of Ari.

THE LIE is an enjoyable short book, which has real insight into the issues of Arabs and Jews in Israel and surrounding countries, their behaviour towards each other, and the inevitable consequences of their actions. The first part of the book was particularly strong, with characters well described and a real feel for the local culture. The latter part of the book was slightly less believable, as the real consequences of the big lie start to unfold. But overall I liked this book a great deal and recommend it.

Michelle Peckham, December 2015

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Review: To the Top of the Mountain by Arne Dahl tr. Alice Menzies

To the Top of the Mountain by Arne Dahl, tr. Alice Menzies (June 2015, Vintage, ISBN: 0099587572)

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

“Should we check, then?” asked Paul Hjelm. “If all this is just a figment of our imagination, two frustrated CID officers who aren't happy with it being just a pub brawl?”

Stockholm, Midsummer – Paul Hjelm and Kerstin Holm of the city's Violent Crimes Division are interviewing witnesses about the killing of a football fan during a bar-fight between rival supporters. Their young witness is quiet to the point of being uncooperative, claims to have had his back to the fight and to have been reading a book the whole time. All right, he had turned round now and then and he had heard the crack and had seen the blood streaming from the guy's head. When there had been a rush for the exit, before the doormen blocked it, the killer had been one of the first to get out, alongside the other Hammarby fans. Most of a group by the door got out as well.
Kerstin and Paul have only recently been reunited as work colleagues after the beak up of their old unit. Its members had been dispersed to various squads and their boss Hultin “retired”. After Kerstin takes the witness off to the police artist in an attempt to get a picture of the guy who slammed a beer glass onto another's head, the pair catch up on news before resuming their meticulous interviews of a bar-load of witnesses.

A man is released from Kumla prison on a fine summer morning and walks towards a waiting van. He checks his wallet and a small device that looks like a calculator. Glancing between the prison and the van, he presses a button on the device and smiles as he climbs into the van which speeds away before the sound of the explosion can reach it. Ex-A-Unit colleagues Arto Södersteft and Viggo Norlander, currently on loan to Kumla's regional CID, are called in to investigate the prison blast. The explosion has spread most of Lordon Vukotic's body around the walls of his cell. He had been a member of drug dealer Rajko Nedic's circle but lately Vukotic had become a model prisoner, training to be a business lawyer, perhaps Rajko's business lawyer. Norlander, a new father with baby-sick on his shoulder, is half asleep. It surprises the waiting investigating team to see him suddenly take efficient and energetic command. But Norlander is determined to get the case cracked. It's almost Midsummer's Eve and he means to celebrate it with his new daughter.

Just one or two old colleagues to reunite. The giant, one-time “Mr Sweden”, Gunnar Nyberg, is now part of the National CID's “Paedophile Hunters” team. He spends his days in front of a computer screen watching some of the most dreadful things he has ever seen – but just now he is bumping into ex-colleague Paul Hjelm at a café near headquarters.
With an explosion and gun fight on an industrial estate claiming the lives of several drug dealers and far-right extremists, Jorge Chavez, another ex-A-Unit man enters the picture. Investigative threads from all of these cases start to intersect. It seems as though the original A-Unit is about to be reassembled…

Arne Dahl's TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN presents a sprawling spider of crime. Murder, drugs, neo-Nazi terrorism and paedophile rings intersect to reunite the old Intercrime Unit. Even boss Hultin is dragged out of retirement to head the team again. The exciting, involving plot builds suspense to the end: an examination of love and hate through crime fiction, all facets, both ends of the scale – lovers and ex-lovers, family and children, colleagues and teams, nationalism, racism and a lot of things in between. I enjoyed the previous book BAD BLOOD. This one has a different translator in Alice Menzies and there seems to be a slightly more disjointed feel to the narrative – but this may be true to Dahl’s writing. Although TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN became part of Series One of the Swedish Arne Dahl television series, don't be deterred from reading the book if you watched the series. Dahl's writing is a wry, richly charactered experience and well worth exploring in its own right.

Lynn Harvey, England
December 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Review: Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson

Orkney Twilight by Clare Carson, September 2015, 352 pages, Head of Zeus, ISBN: 1784080969

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

This lovely book is Carson’s first novel and is exquisitely written. It is a poignant tale of the relationship between a father and daughter and focuses on a holiday they take together in Orkney; a place that had been a firm favourite many years ago. Carson herself spent many childhood holidays with her own father in Orkney and her memories are vivid in the telling of this tale.

Jim is an undercover policeman and Sam, his daughter, is convinced that he is up to something. After his disgraceful performance at her birthday party, where he showed up late and drunk then proceeded to embarrass her in front of her friends, she is determined to find out just what this ‘something’ is. When he starts to talk about retiring from the police and finishing his degree Sam’s suspicions grow and she goes to Orkney with him to see if she can catch him and work out what is going on. As she trails around Orkney, remembering things from her past and her relationship with her dad, Sam discovers that the truth is a dangerous thing and is soon far more involved in Jim’s secrets than she had originally planned.

This book has clearly been penned by someone who is loaded with talent and is a name to watch out for. Based on Carson’s own childhood, the descriptions of midsummer Orkney are beautiful and bring the story to life in a very personal way. The relationship between Jim and Sam is very sad – put under strain by his career and need for secrecy and made very evident by the way she not once calls Jim “Dad”. All the way through it is not possible to guess at what the end of this book with be. When it comes it leaves you shocked and cold; making you reassess your relationships with your own family members and hoping that none of them harbour dark secrets that you know nothing about. I am definitely impressed by Clare Carson and will be following her progress with interest.

Highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, December 2015.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Some 1941 Titles (for Past Offences)

The latest monthly challenge over at Past Offences is to read a book in December, published in 1941. Here are some British/European crime titles to choose from, first published in English in 1941, pulled from my database:
Margery Allingham - Traitor's Purse (apa The Sabotage Murder Mystery)
Dorothy Bowers - Fear and Miss Betony
Christianna Brand - Heads You Lose
Joanna Cannan - Death at the Dog
Agatha Christie - Evil Under the Sun
Agatha Christie - N or M?
Manning Coles - They Tell No Tales
Patrick Hamilton - Hangover Square
Georgette Heyer - Envious Casca (apa A Christmas Party)
Ngaio Marsh - Death and the Dancing Footman
Ngaio Marsh - Death of a Peer, published in 1940 in the US, but published as Surfeit of Lampreys in 1941 in the UK (I believe).
Georges Simenon - Black Rain
Georges Simenon - Justice
Georges Simenon - The Outlaw
Georges Simenon - Strange Inheritance
Georges Simenon - The Country Doctor
Beryl Symons - Magnet for Murder
Patricia Wentworth - Danger Point (apa In the Balance)
Patricia Wentworth - Unlawful Occasions (apa Weekend with Death)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson tr. Quentin Bates

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson, tr. Quentin Bates (June 2015, 300 pages, Orenda Books, ISBN: 1910633038)

If Arnaldur is the King and Yrsa the Queen of Icelandic crime fiction then Ragnar is surely the Crown Prince...more please!

SNOWBLIND is the first in the Ari Thor series set in Siglufjordur, a small fjord town on the north coast of Iceland. Ari Thor has dropped out of studying first philosophy and then theology but has just completed his police training in Reykjavik. It's 2008 and jobs are scarce so when he is offered a post in Siglufjordur he accepts without discussing it with his girlfriend Kristin.

Ari Thor moves to Siglufjordur, alone in the winter and is soon wondering what he's done. A townie and an outsider in a small place where everyone knows everyone else and there's no crime to speak of. And then the snow starts.

As well as Ari Thor's progression from Reykjavik to Siglufjordur, the narrative, via several points of view, includes the background to a number of the residents of Siglufjordur, most of whom are in the Dramatic Society.

Tragedy strikes the Dramatic Society with the death of one its main members. Ari Thor thinks it wasn't an accident but his boss, Tomas, disagrees and doesn't want to attract lurid stories from the press. A second incident however, leads to Tomas thinking that maybe Ari Thor was correct and that they have a murderer in their midst.

SNOWBLIND is a traditional crime novel with a confined set of suspects - trapped in Siglufjordur by the metres of snow that have fallen – all of whom have secrets. Most of the characters have suffered a loss of family, including Ari Thor, or have had a bleak childhood. Ari Thor does have the makings of a good detective though he appears rather naive and a bit clueless with regards to his girlfriend however is there more to his move to Siglufjordur than just getting a job? The setting of Siglufjordur adds a new dimension with the weather impacting so greatly on the inhabitants and makes a refreshing change from Reykjavik.

I raced through this very enjoyable debut from Ragnar Jonasson and I look forward to catching up with Ari Thor and his colleagues' lives in NIGHTBLIND.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger

Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger, October 2015, 276 pages, Poisoned Pen Press, ISBN: 1464204322

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

Delphi once stood at the centre of the world, a mountainous, verdant home to the gods, where kings and warriors journeyed to hear its Oracle speak. The Oracle embodied the decree of the gods―or at least the word of Apollo. To disobey risked…everything.

Young Athenian Kharon chooses modern Delphi to rebuild his life among its rolling hills and endless olive groves. But his dark past is too celebrated, and his assassin’s skills so in demand, that his fate does not rest entirely in his own hands. Greece is being flooded with bomba, counterfeits of the most celebrated alcoholic beverages and wine brands. The legitimate annual trillion-dollar world market is in peril. So, too, are consumers―someone is not just counterfeiting booze, but adulterating it, often with poisonous substances. Who is masterminding this immensely lucrative conspiracy?

Kharon learns who when the ruthless criminal gives him no choice but to serve her. Her decrees are as absolute as the Oracle’s, and as fearsomely punished. Kharon agrees, but dictates his own payoff. And his own methods, which allow his targets some choice in the outcomes.

When Kharon unexpectedly shoots a member of one of Greece’s richest, most feared families, he draws Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis into the eye of a political and media firestorm threatening to bring down Greece’s government.

This is the seventh novel by this very gifted author about DCI Andreas Kaldis and his team of Athenian detectives and the book is as well crafted as ever; we are not only reading about Andreas Kaldis, but his wife and four-year-old son, and his team of detectives and their individual characteristics, much in the same tradition as the late Ed McBain describes the detectives of his 87th Precinct series.

The author has a light touch and there is a lot of very wry humour in his books to offset the often very dark violence. Siger, spends some time each year in Greece and also time in his other home in the US and is able to comment on the political and economic troubles that have faced Greek society over recent years and reveals some of the creative ways the Greeks have of avoiding personal taxation!

The case is investigated by checking out many different lines of enquiry before reaching the exciting conclusion. There are many twists and turns and assorted red herrings before the end of the story. Of all of the books that he has written, this one, I believe, was the author's best; with so many changes of direction in the fast paced but highly imaginative and tightly plotted story, one could not guess what would happen next.

Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is an exciting, intriguing and well drawn creation and we learn a little bit more about him from book to book. The books are all very gripping and whilst they are very evocative of the rustic tourist landscape of Greece, they are also extremely readable examples of the best international police procedurals, similar perhaps to those of authors such as Donna Leon and Joseph Wambaugh. I look forward to reading his next one.

Highly recommended.

Terry Halligan, November 2015.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

TV News: the return of The Doctor Blake Mysteries

Series 3 of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, starring Craig McLachlan, returns to BBC One next Monday at 2.15pm.

The first in the eight episode run is King of the Lake.

A champion rower is thrown into the lake in celebration and never comes up again. Called in to investigate the cause of drowning, Dr Lucien Blake soon suspects foul play.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: City of Strangers by Louise Millar

City of Strangers by Louise Millar, October 2015, 400 pages, Macmillan, ISBN: 144728111X

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

This superbly crafted thriller takes its inspiration from the subject of identity. It centres on the fact that everyone who knows Lucian Grabole, a man who was found dead in an Edinburgh flat, describes him differently to the reporter who is trying to find out about him. Other issues of identity also arise. First, Grace Scott, the reporter and central protagonist, is struggling to find herself professionally, after being with her first love for years and always putting his needs before her own. Then there is her new husband, Mac, who thinks Grace is somebody that she very obviously is not and seems to be struggling with a concept of marriage that is at odds with the person he is married to. Both characters are very likeable, decent people but at times their relationship makes you want to scream at them in frustration.

Interwoven with Grace’s journey of discovery, is another story that is also about people who are searching for answers. Crime reporter Sula McGregor and her new assistant Ewan, are following up on the discovery of a body found stuck down a well shaft on an Edinburgh hillside. Initially unknown, the body is later identified as a missing hill-walker but things get even more confusing when a second body is also found in the well. Sula and Ewan uncover a nasty plot of lies and deceit and nothing is as it first seems.

Ewan knows Grace from their time at college together and it is he who encourages her to pursue her story and realise her dreams with something big. Her search sends her to Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen before taking her back to Edinburgh, where she started. What she finds is a totally unexpected, but wonderfully complex, nightmare that will give the reader chills.

Louise Millar is a first-rate author who started her career as a journalist with several well-known magazines, including being senior editor at Marie-Claire. CITY OF STRANGERS is her fourth book and is a page-turning stunner.

Highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, November 2015.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review Roundup: Abbott, Baylis, Belfoure, Griffiths, Indridason, Jordan, Lagercrantz, Lang, Lironi, MacLeod, Pembrey, Spencer, Thomas

Here are thirteen reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, all have appeared on the blog since last time.

You can keep up to date with Euro Crime by following the blog and/or liking the Euro Crime Facebook page and follow on Twitter, @eurocrime.

New Reviews

Terry Halligan reviews Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott;

Lynn Harvey reviews M H Baylis's Black Day at the Bosphorus Cafe;

Amanda Gillies reviews The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure;

Michelle Peckham reviews The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths, set in Norfolk;

Michelle also reviews Arnaldur Indridason's Oblivion tr. Victoria Cribb;

Amanda also reviews Black List by Will Jordan;

Laura Root reviews David Lagercrantz's Fall of Man in Wilmslow tr. George Goulding;

Rich Westwood reviews J A Lang's Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle, set in the Cotswolds;

Amanda also reviews Oh Marina Girl by Graham Lironi;

Ewa Sherman reviews Murder in Malmo by Torquil MacLeod;

Ewa also reviews Daniel Pembrey's The Harbour Master (books 1 - 3), set in Amsterdam;

Terry also reviews Sally Spencer's Supping with the Devil

as well as Ugly Bus by Mike Thomas.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, along with releases by year.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

TV News: The Coroner on BBC One

Starting on Monday 16 November at 2.15pm on BBC One is the first of ten episodes of The Coroner, starring Claire Goose and filmed in Devon and Cornwall. The first five of the ten episodes, in a DVR intensive way, will be shown daily Monday to Friday. It's not clear yet if the next five will follow the following week.

As coroner, Jane Kennedy’s job is to investigate sudden or unexplained deaths in a beautiful English coastal community. With a new and intriguing case to investigate in each episode, starting with the discovery of a body, Jane finds herself having to work with her old flame Davey Higgins, who is now the local detective sergeant. The Coroner combines mystery and potential danger with the warm, lighthearted tone of Jane’s relationships with her colleagues, family and the local community. While Jane is talented and tenacious in seeking justice for the dead, her personal life is a bit more haphazard.

The first episode is called First Love:

When a teenager is found dead at the foot of a tower, Detective Sergeant Davey Higgins believes it was a tragic suicide, but Coroner Jane Kennedy thinks there is more to the case than meets the eye.

Update: here's a statement from M R Hall:

The BBC daytime drama entitled, ‘The Coroner’, which is airing from 16 November 2015, has not been made with the permission or authorisation of M R Hall or his publishers. Any similarities between M R Hall’s original work and the BBC drama, are, according to the BBC, coincidental. The BBC was placed on notice of a number of potential similarities in early 2015 prior to filming. The BBC has been invited to change the name of its production but has declined to do so.

The screen rights to M R Hall’s books are held by a North American company which is currently developing a series based on them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review: Ugly Bus by Mike Thomas

Ugly Bus by Mike Thomas, March 2015, 336 pages, Windmill Books, ISBN: 0099559234

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

It's Boxing Day and in Cardiff there is to be a big football match between Cardiff and Swansea and the police expect trouble between the rival groups of fans and those with militant tendencies, so vans of officers are sent in anticipation of violence.

This story is about the officers on one particular bus or TSG (territorial support group) vehicle. There are a lot of acronyms and police jargon used in this book such as MOP for member of the public but a handy glossary is available in the back explaining it all. The officers involved include newbie Police Sergeant Martin Finch who gets a lot of aggravation and flack from the more experienced but less senior officers, Andrew Mills, David Murphy, Alan Redding and lastly but not least Vincent Vinyard. It becomes apparent that each officer has at least one major character defect but this only comes out gradually to Martin as the shift progresses. There is a lot of repartee and general good natured humour between the men.

The shift on the van have a maxim "What happens on the van stays on the van" and there is a lot of petty skulduggery and theft done by the van occupants and there is a detailed character background about all the hangups and problems of the people on board.
The book covers the complete shift from about 2pm when they start and are initially given a pep talk by a senior officer, to them preparing their food to carry with them for their meal break and general preparation of their kit and stowage on the vehicle. Then we get the progress of their shift as it carries on until about 3am.

There is a preface to the story in which terribly distraught and inebriated girl staggers into a police station to report a rape and this is further dealt with in the final chapter.

I haven't read the author's previous book and consequently the rhythm of this book and the general drift took me by surprise with the completely unexpected ending to this story.

The author was a serving police officer for over twenty years and took inspiration for his two books from those years, but he now lives in Portugal. His first novel POCKET NOTEBOOK was longlisted for the Wales Book Of The Year Award.

I was greatly surprised with this book, the coarse language between the various officers is perhaps typical of groups of men on their own but the amount of criminality carried out by these people really surprised me but I was absolutely really blown away by the completely unexpected ending to the story. A very arresting story. Recommended.

Terry Halligan, November 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason tr. Victoria Cribb

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason translated by Victoria Cribb, July 2015, 352 pages, Harvill Secker, ISBN: 1846559790

Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

A woman, swimming in a lagoon for her psoriasis, stumbles across a body, starting off a new investigation for Erlendur and his boss Marion Briem. The pathologist confirms although the body seemed, on a first look, to have been severely beaten, in fact the pattern of broken bones suggested that he must have fallen from a great height probably onto a smooth hard surface. But where, and how?
The man was about thirty, no real identifying features, and no one seems to have reported him missing. His clothes all seem to have come from the USA – cowboy boots, jeans, and so on. Bought on a visit? Is he a genuine American? Or, is there some connection with the American military zone on Midnesheidi, where around five or six thousand Americans, including their families, live. A reference to the controversial military base, which was sited in Iceland between 1951 and 2005, after the government made a deal with the Americans concerning Military protection.

After about three days, the man’s sister eventually realizes that the body could be that of her brother’s and then she identifies him. Finally, the investigation can start properly, or can it? The problem is that Kristvin, the murdered man, was an air mechanic, who has some sort of connection with the naval air base at Keflavík. The Icelandair premises where he worked are located inside the military zone. In fact, shortly after he is identified, his car is discovered on the base, with its tyres slashed. Simple enough to perhaps think that he may have met his death there, but the police have no jurisdiction in the military zone, which is controlled by the US Navy. Complicated negotiations with the Americans are needed to allow the Icelandic police to follow up their investigations actually on the naval air base itself.

Meanwhile, Erlendur is pursuing his own investigation in the background, into the disappearance of an eighteen-year-old girl, Dagbjört, as she walked to school past the old barracks where Camp Knox used to be in the Second World War. An old investigation, where many who were around at the time are either dead, or old. And a disappearance that prey’s on Erlendur’s mind, as a man obsessed with the disappeared, many of whom have never been found.

A common theme on the uneasy relationship between the US military and the native Icelanders, clearly highly controversial at the time, wends its way throughout these two main threads of the story. Erlendur is still a junior detective as these latter novels from Indriḋason have returned to the earlier days in this detective’s career. However, he still displays the same knack of uncovering secrets, and seeing beyond the lies and half-truths that people choose to tell him, to get to the truth. And he doggedly obtains small parts of the jigsaw from different people, to piece together the secrets of (in this case) Kristvin’s life and how he met his death. Mixed in is an interesting relationship between Erlendur and Sergeant Caroline Murphy from the US military police, initially mistrustful, but then developing into something more complex as the two investigators decide to work together. Although I sometimes miss the more morose older version of Erlendur, I enjoy these books with the younger Erlendur, and this latest outing, with its insightful reflections on the US-Icelandic relationship is highly recommended.

Michelle Peckham, November 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: The Harbour Master: The Collected Edition (Books 1-3) by Daniel Pembrey

The Harbour Master: The Collected Edition (Books 1-3) by Daniel Pembrey, November 2014, 384 pages, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, ISBN: 1497384052

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

Two key characters in THE HARBOUR MASTER are equally important: Henk van der Pol and Amsterdam. They cannot exist without each other.

Having spent years in the military and living abroad Henk is a maverick cop on the verge of retirement, the owner of a typical houseboat, strongly believing that ‘we Dutch remain at heart a seafaring people’. He is happy with his personal life, still attracted to his wife Pernilla, a newspaper features writer, and slightly anxious about daughter Nadia, a headstrong media student. In the professional sense Henk is growing disillusioned with the budget-and-target driven management at the police station where he’s stationed. Also, it seems that politics and connections take priority over decent policing and clearing the streets of criminals. And as Henk and the city are one, the work and private lives merge constantly into one, too.

When on a cold morning Henk finds a woman’s body in Amsterdam Harbour, he’s told by his boss to back off. The photos he took on his mobile vanish. But the weathered detective isn’t going to give up. He follows gut feelings and tenuous clues: a tattoo seen on the dead body, leading him into the Red Light District and then the den of a vicious Hungarian pimp. His involvement threatens his family life. Henk must decide who his real friends are, especially as his own investigation creates more problems with his superiors, though his own small team of Stefan and Liesbeth duly deal with orders and suggestions.

In the second part Henk investigates a mysterious case involving diamonds and a Ghanaian diplomat, fine art and drugs. He travels to Rotterdam and Brussels, visits places that are out of limits, questions a glamorous art insurer and a head of a notorious bike gang. There is a high class prostitute viciously beaten by a client. And a murder of a Norwegian diplomat which takes Henk to Oslo in the third book. The finale also sees Henk working outside of the official investigation into the kidnapping of a powerful Dutch politician Rem Lottman who might (or not) be his friend. The situation mirrors the kidnapping of Freddy Heineken in 1983 and Henk cut his professional teeth on that case.

Daniel Pembrey is a master of concise stylish writing. It demonstrates not only his craftsmanship and discipline but also an intelligent ability to convey mood and atmosphere of the setting and urgency of Henk’s actions within the clearly defined framework of a novella. This vivid and mesmerising portrait of the city is not for the faint-hearted. However, murky, dangerous and illegal Amsterdam is very appealing as Pembrey weaves tiny pearls of history and geography into the tightly constructed stories.

Putting three books together makes perfect sense: it allows the reader to immerse in Henk’s life while he manoeuvres through the maze of political options, criminal underworld and old friends. He is a good player yet feels threatened by all the changes… So Henk van der Pol tries to remember his own motto: Things evolve. And they will keep evolving in further instalments of the Harbour Master series.

Ewa Sherman, November 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: Black List by Will Jordan

Black List by Will Jordan, August 2015, 374 pages, Canelo, Ebook

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

BLACK LIST is the fourth book in Jordan’s Ryan Drake series and is every bit as excellent as his earlier offerings. The tension that is evident in the earlier books is still there, if not more so, and it is a captivating read, right from the very first page. BLACK LIST has been produced by a different publisher to Jordan’s previous Drake books and this is the first one to be available just in e-format. To be honest, I am not a great fan of ebooks, but BLACK LIST is so engrossing that the format wasn’t an issue and I loved it anyway.

The story begins with Alex, a gifted computer expert and failed hacker, standing on the top of a building in Istanbul, dangling a pen-drive over the edge and then, after pondering how crazy his life has become and realizing he has nothing to lose, stepping over it himself.

We then go back to ten days earlier and are filled in on what exactly brought our hero to this point in his life. Alex Yates is down on his luck. Newly released from prison after serving a sentence for being a hacker, he is forbidden from even going near a computer and works in retail. Life sucks. Then his old friend and partner in crime Arran Sinclair gets in touch and says he needs his help with something sensitive. Alex refuses and walks away but a few days later an envelope drops through his door, containing nothing but a pen drive. Worried now, Alex becomes even more concerned when his friend goes missing, presumed dead, and heads to an internet café to look at the contents of the drive. This is when his problems really begin. With armed operatives closing in on the café, Alex is phoned by a mysterious woman with a foreign accent who tells him to run. And so he does…

Will Jordan is a gifted story-teller and his plots keep your imagination running in overdrive. Jordan’s interest in military history and background in IT are very evident in his latest work. His details are authentic and add to the story without becoming overpowering. If you haven’t tried any of this Ryan Drake series yet, then I suggest that you do so. They are a quick read – due to them being so captivating – and are guaranteed to keep you up late because you can’t put them down.

Highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, November 2015.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Review: Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J A Lang

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J A Lang, April 2015, 240 pages, Purple Panda Press, ISBN: 191067902X

Reviewed by Rich Westwood.
(Read more of Rich's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Chef Maurice is the proprietor of Le Cochon Rouge, Beakley, a renowned restaurant nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds.

As A SPOT OF TRUFFLE opens, Maurice is panicking about a missing supplier. Ollie Meadows, the local forager, has disappeared with no forwarding address. Maurice needs his precious champignons for the night's menu, so he breaks in to Ollie's cottage and retrieves his latest finds - a variety of mushrooms including an unexpected trove of expensive truffles.

Maurice's keen chef's nose picks up the earth notes of the English countryside and concludes the truffles are local. Are the nearby Farnley Woods growing on top of a fungal goldmine?

Luckily, Maurice knows how to find out. He visits the local animal sanctuary and comes away with a new pet, miniature pig Hamilton. Hamilton's first hunt in Farnley Woods (for various reasons disguised as a baby) turns up zero truffles, but does locate one dead forager.

Then when Hamilton is stolen, Maurice realises that the police won't pour all of their available resources (PC Lucy Gavistone) into locating his pig until the murder of Ollie Meadows has been solved. With visions of a vanishing truffle menu, he channels his not inconsiderable energies into finding the killer, with a flagrant disregard for propriety or procedure.

The comic timing is excellent, there are some good set-pieces (Maurice interrupting a police interrogation by shouting through a grille is very funny, as is his three-course stake-out menu), and some almost Pratchett-esque one-liners...Alf had “moved to Bleakley from the hamlet of Little Goving, population six. Life in the big village was currently exceeding all his expectations”. And here's Ollie's nosy neighbour: “I could hear them shouting through the walls. Terrible the way sound travels through these walls. Had to turn the telly right down, I did.”

Chef Maurice, monomaniacal about his work, never short of a pastry, and with a tenacious French accent, has the makings of a comic crime classic. Much recommended for fans of Simon Brett or M C Beaton.

Rich Westwood, November 2015

Friday, November 06, 2015

Review: Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott, May 2015, 372 pages, Black Dot Publishing Ltd, ISBN: 0957652240

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

Rachel Abbott's books were all originally published on Amazon Kindle to great success and she sold more books using this medium than any other author. I have just had the pleasure of reading her fourth novel.

Caroline Joseph is driving back to her home with her six-year-old daughter in the child seat at the back of the vehicle when her mobile rings and then shortly after, she sees a car blocking the road. She tries to avoid it but cannot and the car overturns and crashes. The crash regrettably kills Caroline but the daughter, Natasha, mysteriously disappears.

Six years later, David Joseph, the grief-stricken husband of Caroline has since happily remarried to Emma Jacobs and they have a very young baby son, Ollie, and are very contented together. Then one day a stranger walks into their lives and it tilts their world on it's axis as she claims to be Natasha who disappeared after that accident all that time ago. Where has she been during the last six years? Who has been holding her and why hasn't she contacted her Dad to reassure him? Why doesn't she want the police to be contacted? Secretly, Emma contacts her old friend, DCI Tom Douglas, for help...

The extremely well thought out plot of this book carries on from this very promising start but it would be remiss of me to give any more details except to say that some of the characters that are featured in her previous three books also appear in this one.

I found this book, which is both a psychological thriller and also a police procedural incredibly well plotted, I just could not guess what would happen next and the characters are all so well described which made the book very exciting and atmospheric. This is the first of her four books that I have read and I hope to have a look at the others in due course.

The author, who divides her time between the Channel Islands and Italy, used to run an interactive media company with her husband, developing software for the education market, before selling it and eventually retiring in 2005 aged fifty-three. She settled into retirement quite happily until one day when she was snowed in and there wasn't anything else she could think of doing and she had an idea for a book and spent several months writing and editing it. After writing, unsuccessfully, to a number of book agents she decided to publish on-line in 2011 and ONLY THE INNOCENT, her debut crime novel was the result and it became the Kindle number one in November 2011. She went on to become the fourteenth best-selling author on Kindle.

So if you want to read a book that once started you'll find almost impossible to put down then don't delay getting this one.

Extremely well recommended.

Terry Halligan, November 2015.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

New Releases - November 2015

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published this month (November). Further months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page.
• Aaronovitch, Ben - The Hanging Tree #6 Rivers of London
• Adams, Jane A - Murderous Mind #11 Naomi Blake, blind ex-police officer
• Anthology - The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories (ed. Maxim Jakubowski)
• Beckett, Simon - Where There's Smoke
• Blackmore, Alex - Killing Eva #2 Eva Scott
• Bowen, Rhys - Away in a Manger #15 Molly Murphy, PI, 1900s New York
• Brett, Simon - The Killing in the Cafe #17 Carole and Jude, Fethering, Southern coast of England
• Carrisi, Donato - The Hunter of the Dark
• Carter, Maureen - Next of Kin #5 DI Sarah Quinn, Birmingham
• Damhaug, Torkil - Death By Water (ebook only) #2 Oslo Crime Files (paperback out in May 16)
• de Jager, Anja - A Cold Death in Amsterdam #1 Lotte Meerman, a Cold Case Detective, Amsterdam
• Dunn, Matthew - The Spy House #5 Will Cochrane, Super-spy
• Eco, Umberto - Numero Zero
• Fowler, Christopher - Bryant & May - London's Glory Short Stories
• Fyfield, Frances - A Painted Smile #3 Di Porteous
• Gregson, J M - Backhand Smash #19 DI Peach, Lancashire
• Griffiths, Elly - Smoke and Mirrors #2 Stephens and Mephisto
• Hannah, Mari - The Silent Room
• Hargla, Indrek - Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf's
• Harrison, Cora - A Fatal Inheritance #13 Mara, Judge, Tudor Ireland
• Hilton, Matt - Blood Tracks #1 Grey and Villere, Louisiana
• Hurley, Graham - The Order of Things #4 DS Jimmy Suttle
• Lemaitre, Pierre - The Great Swindle
• Lloyd, Catherine - Death Comes To Kurland Hall #3 Kurland St. Mary Mysteries
• McCoy, A P - Narrowing the Field #2 Duncan Claymore, Jockey
• Mosbahi, Hassouna - A Tunisian Tale
• Nesbo, Jo - Midnight Sun #2 Blood on Snow
• Nickson, Chris - Skin Like Silver #3 Detective Inspector Tom Harper, Leeds Police, 1890s
• Quinn, Anthony - Silence #3 Celcius Daly, Police Inspector, Northern Ireland
• Rankin, Ian - Even Dogs in the Wild #20 Rebus
• Rhea, Nicholas - Constable on Trial
• Russell, Leigh - Blood Axe #3 DS Ian Peterson
• Turnbull, Peter - In Vino Veritas #5 Detective Inspector Harry Vicary, London
• Weaver, Ashley - Death Wears a Mask #2 Amory Ames
• Weeks, Lee - Cold Justice #4 DC Ebony Willis, London
• Wood, Tom - The Darkest Day #5 Victor, Assassin

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Review: Black Day at the Bosphorus Cafe by M H Baylis

Black Day at the Bosphorus Cafe by M H Baylis, June 2015, 320 pages, Old Street Publishing, ISBN: 1910400173

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

The walkway ended in a dark stairwell. You could go up, to higher levels of the “city”, or down, towards the street, in both cases accompanied by piss and gang graffiti and the mounting fear of encountering someone less scared than yourself.

North London: the seedy part of Wood Green Shopping City.
Rex Tracey, a journalist with the local paper s: Haringey, is following the tag end of the new Labour candidate's meet-and-greet when it happens – the burning girl tumbling from the top floor, colours that will stay with him for months. During the following commotion Rex looks up and catches sight of something near the safety rail. The flash of a face? The mortally injured girl wears a Kurdish PKK T-shirt. A protest? Later, after her body has been shrouded in coats and hastily gathered coverings, Rex is touched by a brooch in the shape of a peacock near her hand. Rex and his photographer colleague Terry try for a few words with the Labour candidate but her posse is defensive. The pair move off, Terry taking a few discrete photos of the scene. They plan to go to the pub but that's an idea interrupted by a phone call from the local planning officer with whom Rex had an appointment about installing windows on the top floor of his garage-conversion home.
Rex is starting to feel the shock of witnessing the girl's death but he takes time to ring a couple of paragraphs through to his editor before hurrying home. The planning officer is waiting by his obviously new BMW, customised plate, and all. What follows is not a good result for Rex. He has entered the nightmare world of Catch-22 regulations. Whilst giving Rex a lift to his next meeting, the planning officer tells him to get some advice. Of course this will be costly says the man, keeping a blank face whilst he points out that Rex has his phone numbers. In his shocked state it takes a while for Rex to figure out that the planning officer had been asking for a bung.
At Turnpike Lane Station Rex finds his next interviewee, a Greek doctor working with the local Cypriot community. And a very attractive doctor she is too. At this point the shock catches up with Rex. He lurches towards collapse and, over a cup of strong tea in the nearby Bosphorus Café, Dr Helena Georgiadis of the “UN War Crimes Unpronounceable Acronym” carries out a desensitisation exercise by making Rex follow her moving finger with his eyes whilst recounting what he saw of the girl's death. It takes several goes before Rex realises that something has settled within him. In the middle of their discussions about the doctor's work with the local Cypriot community and the “Disappeared” of the 1963 and 1974 Cyprus conflicts, the police enter the café. They quietly ask its owner to accompany them into the kitchen and shortly afterwards Rex hears the man's anguished howl. A weeping waitress comes out of the kitchen and asks everyone to leave. It's then that Rex remembers the café owner's pretty daughter – and the peacock brooch she always wore....

In this dramatic beginning of BLACK DAY AT THE BOSPHORUS CAFÉ, the third M.H. Baylis “Rex Tracey Murder Mystery”, nineteen-year-old law student and budding political activist Mina Küçüktürk dies, burning and falling to the floor of Wood Green Shopping City. Everyone assumes that her death is a suicide protest. But after realising that he has known the girl for years, Rex considers the possibility that she did not take her own life. With his beloved “Harringay and Tottenham” undergoing rapid changes under its new council leadership, there is an equally rapid pace of change for hard-pressed journalist Rex, a man held together by painkillers and lager. He has to contend with his paper's new, temporary editor, the imminent transfer of his invalid wife away from the local convent to her sister’s home in Paris and the effect on his libido of one Dr Helena Georgiadis.

M.H. Baylis has wryly described himself as inventing the “urban cosy”. I am not one for polite tales of murder and mayhem set in the English shires but the Rex Tracey series in which Baylis opens up the enclaves and communities of North London and delicately displays their structures and complications against a backdrop of murder and corruption, is just the ticket for a stay-at-home, would-be globe-trotting crime fan. THE TOTTENHAM OUTRAGE, his previous book, was set amongst the Hasidic Jewish community of Stamford Hill. BLACK DAY AT THE BOSPHORUS CAFÉ explores the cafés, shops and factories of the Borough's Kurdish–Turkish community. Skilful, vivid writing and a complex, involving plot set amongst the intersecting worlds of Kurdish identity, war crimes, honour killings and split communities has Rex battling to unravel the motives for a murder (or two) whilst enduring his own increasing emotional chaos. Plenty to read about, plenty to think about and plenty to enjoy.

Lynn Harvey, November 2015.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Review: Murder in Malmö by Torquil MacLeod

Murder in Malmö by Torquil MacLeod, July 2015, 322 pages, McNidder & Grace Crime, ISBN: 0857161148

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

Tommy Ekman, the charismatic head of an advertising agency, is found dead in his shower. With no tangible evidence the suspicion falls first on his employees, and then on his wife Kristina, daughter of the powerful and rich industrialist Dag Wollstad. Tommy’s death has been caused by inhaling gas, similar to what was used in Nazi gas chambers. The discovery is shocking and completely incomprehensible. Soon another prominent Malmö businessman is found murdered, and the investigating team stumbles in the dark, trying to dig into the backgrounds of victims and to connect conflicting motives. A third murder follows…

At the same time a gunman is targeting immigrants in Malmö, shooting to spread the fear, and then shooting to kill. No traces are left but the message is clear and disturbing. The ghost of the King Gustav Adolf, famous for leading Sweden to military supremacy in the seventeenth century, seems to be lurking in background…

However, Inspector Anita Sundström is not allowed to be involved in either of these investigations. Returning to work after her disastrous error of professional judgement (set out in a first novel MEET ME IN MALMO) she is side-lined and sent to track a stolen modern piece of art. That case is more to please the well-connected Commissioner Dahlbeck rather than to seriously find the painting. Anita’s previous protégé is sent to Stockholm so she is teamed with Hakim, a young conscientious but hot headed policeman of Iraqi origin. She feels equally annoyed and motherly towards Hakim but has no say within the boundaries set by her antagonistic boss Chief Inspector Moberg and her colleague and nemesis Inspector Karl Westmark, a particularly unpleasant person, lusting after any attractive woman he sees and chasing after people who could further his career. He would become a caricature; however, MacLeod’s skilful characterisation builds up tension where it is needed and moves the story forward.

I confess I want Inspector Anita Sundström to be my friend. She messes up, kills the wrong man, falls in love with the killer and cannot move on. She’s big on self-pity. Occasionally she disobeys orders. But she definitely wants to do her job to the best of her abilities, and although reluctantly, she can admit that misogynist opportunist Westmark is actually an excellent cop. Only a clever author can create a believable protagonist, flawed and honest.

Fast paced, with a strong plot and full of references to the history of Sweden and geography of Skåne, where Malmö is located, the second novel by Torquil MacLeod is very visual, with a very rich sense of location. Anita Sundström’s stories would make a great TV dramas. I would also recommend it to the fans of the much darker Kurt Wallander’s series: Ystad is not that far from Malmö. Read, compare and enjoy.

Ewa Sherman, November 2015

Monday, November 02, 2015

Review: Oh Marina Girl by Graham Lironi

Oh Marina Girl by Graham Lironi, April 2015, 176 pages, Saraband, ISBN: 1908643919

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

This quirky novel is simply brilliant. Several of the reviews on its back cover say that it is a cult classic in the making and they are not wrong. OH MARINA GIRL is the third novel by Graham Lironi, who is a former journalist and based in Glasgow. He is described as a “bad boy of Scottish fiction’ and is definitely a name to look out for.

OH MARINA GIRL is the narrated memoir of a spaceman – the nameless letters editor of a newspaper, who has had the same job for many years and follows the same routine every day. One morning he is dragged out of his usual pattern by a letter that states “Intolerance will not be tolerated” and threatens to kill a hostage – who had written to the newspaper criticizing a recently published book review and whose views had been printed the day before. The letter goes on to say that unless it is published, unedited, on the front page of the next day’s paper, the hostage will be executed. It also adds that failure to do this will mean that he, the letters editor, will also meet with an unpleasant end.

Our narrator ponders upon what he should do next and tells us a bit about himself and his family history at the same time. He decides to give the letter to his boss, who calls a board meeting and is far from happy, then try and discover the identity of the mysterious letter writer himself. He spends a great deal of time either in the library, talking with people whose names are, weirdly, all anagrams of each other, or meeting with a private detective who seems to be following him but wants to help him as well. It is all beautifully written and impossible to guess what is going to happen next.

I love Lironi’s way with words. He had me captivated and curious right from the start. This wonderful book is very short and a quick read but its impact stays with you for a long time after you finish it. It doesn’t feel like a short, quick read at all. If you like cult classics and books that make you think “eh?”, then you are going to love this one – especially the ending!

Extremely Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, November 2015.