Monday, August 31, 2015

Review Roundup: Collard, Lagercrantz, Larsson, London, Nicol, Palliser, Reading

Here are nine reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, all have appeared on the blog since last time*. With the exception of Stieg Larsson, all these authors are making their first appearance in the review section. The Stieg Larsson reviews are reposts of Maxine's original reviews but I have included the recent paperback cover.

*I am trialling a new approach at the moment in that all reviews will appear on the Euro Crime blog rather than being separate files as part of the Euro Crime website. I feel this will give the reviews more exposure and make them more findable in a search engine. The reviews will usually appear daily ie Monday to Friday, with occasional weekend postings, and roundups will appear on Sundays (or Bank Holidays!). The website will continue with bibliographies etc, the only change is that the reviews will be on the blog.

I'd be interested in any comments about this new approach.

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 The Devil's Assassin by Paul Fraser Collard which features swashbuckling hero, Jack Lark;

The big release last week was David Lagercrantz's The Girl in the Spider's Web tr. George Goulding which is a sequel to Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Review copies were released on the day of publication (UK) and Craig Sisterson kindly shared his review with Euro Crime the same day;

To remind ourselves of Stieg Larsson's original trilogy, I reposted Maxine's reviews of:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo;

The Girl Who Played With Fire

and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

which were all translated by Reg Keeland.

I continue my US cozy review feature with Criminal Confections by Colette London, which introduces a chocolate whisperer as amateur sleuth;

Going from cozy to noir, Lynn Harvey reviews Mike Nicol's Power Play, a Cape Town thriller inspired by Titus Andronicus;

Susan White reviews Charles Palliser's Victorian-styled The Unburied

and Ewa Sherman reviews Mario Reading's The Templar Inheritance.

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

US Cozy Review: Criminal Confections by Colette London

Welcome to another entry in my irregular feature: US cozy review. Again, this is the start of a new series, and it features a likeable lead who has the job of "chocolate whisperer"!

Criminal Confections by Colette London, January 2015, Kensington

CRIMINAL CONFECTIONS is the first in the series and introduces Hayden Mundy Moore, chocolatier aka the chocolate whisperer. Hayden is a troubleshooter, who is hired discreetly to fix problems with products. She is employed all over the world and has inherited a fortune from an uncle – however there are conditions attached to that wealth – including, it seems, not settling down. Her latest assignment brings her to Lemaitre Chocolates at San Francisco. Lemaitre are hosting a long-weekend event at their flagship hotel and Hayden is invited with the proviso that she finishes her report.

Hayden invites a plus-one – Danny – a long-time friend who has a shady past and now specialises in security matters. This turns out to be a fortunate career profession for Hayden as she soon needs his services.

The apparently accidental death of a Lemaitre employee seems to Hayden to be more likely a murder and possibly she, Hayden, was the intended target. Unable to feel safe until she gets to the bottom of the death she begins to investigate. There are several candidates for the role of killer, including the current CEO and the deposed CEO of Lemaitre, a jealous wife, and a business rival.

Fortunately for Hayden she has Danny to help her and on the end of the phone is Travis, her accountant and owner of a very sexy voice, that she hasn't met yet.

I enjoyed CRIMINAL CONFECTIONS with its independent and talented female lead, though it has to be said she's perhaps not the greatest detective. I guessed correctly whodunnit before she did. The mystery element is possibly the weakest bit as the police are absent until the very end and Hayden steals some of what should have been evidence and ships it to Travis for testing. However the information about chocolate is fascinating – the many ways it can be used – not just for food but for example, in the spa as a hot cocoa mud bath. You will want to eat/buy chocolate after/during reading this book. Most importantly, I liked the narration style, which is as if she's speaking to you, similar to Laura Levine's Jaine Austen series and of course there's the mysterious Travis to meet in due course I hope...

I'll be carrying on with this series and the second book, DANGEROUSLY DARK, is published on 29 September.

Karen Meek, August 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding

Today sees the release of book 4 in the Millennium series begun by Stieg Larsson, and now continued by David Lagercrantz in the shape of The Girl in the Spider's Web, translated by George Goulding.

London-based reviewer Craig Sisterson was able to get a copy at midnight and has very kindly shared his review with Euro Crime. This review first appeared on Crime Watch this morning:

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz translated by George Goulding, 448 pages, August 2015, MacLehose Press, ISBN: 0857059998

She's back. After all the waiting, anticipation, and controversy, Lisbeth Salander is back.

It starts with a hand, beating rhythmically on a mattress in an unknown bedroom. Why is the hand beating? Whose hand is it? Whose bedroom? What does it mean?

None of those questions are answered until much later in THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB, and by then David Lagercrantz has taken readers on a heck of an absorbing ride.

Let's address the elephant in the room: not everyone will be happy with this novel. Many people in the books world seem to have decided to avoid it or dislike it on principle: that no-one should continue Stieg Larsson's series, the three books of an intended ten that he'd written but never published before his heart attack.

But those who approach THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB with at least a partially open mind will find themselves pleasantly surprised; it's a very good book. It's terrific to see Salander, who is much more than an antisocial goth hacker, back fighting against injustice in a new adventure. In her own inimitable way.

Undoubtedly the creation of Salander was Stieg Larsson's greatest genius in his initial trilogy: while his tales were swirling epics addressing some dark issues simmering below the seemingly perfect surface of Scandinavian society, Salander was the lightning rod that elevated the stories into something more.

In THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB Lagercrantz does a fantastic job at delving deeper into Lisbeth Salander, offering readers more of an insight into this 'grown up version of Pippi Longstocking' (as Larsson considered her). Lagercrantz treads the fine line between providing more texture about an enigmatic character, without losing the mystery and uncertainty that makes them so compelling in the first place.

Salander is the kind of iconic character who doesn't even need to be in the room to have a presence. Like James Bond, Zorro, Robin Hood, or Sherlock Holmes, she casts a shadow over a wider world, lingering in the minds and hearts of those she's touched, friends and foes alike.

Early on in THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB, Mikael Blomkvist is battling against money-driven evisceration of Millennium, the magazine he loves, when he meets a potential source in a bar to discuss a story tip. Things are stock-standard, and Blomkvist's eyes are glazing as he listens to chat about technology and corporate espionage, when he - and the reader - is suddenly electrified by the passing mention of a female hacker. From there, the story becomes much more interesting, for Blomkvist and the reader.

As Blomkvist delves deeper, the story gets bigger and bigger. A world-renowned Swedish computer scientist, a verifiable genius, has seemingly abandoned his work and boarded himself up in his home. He wants to talk to Blomkvist, but is attacked before they can meet. His work has disappeared, and the only witness is an autistic child, who know becomes the target of a shadowy criminal organisation.

Lagercrantz does well juggling all the players in this tale, from the driven staff of the NSA, who see spying on everyone as the way to protect their country's interests, to Eastern European gangsters, Swedish authorities, and shadowy figures from Salander's own past. While Salander and Blomkvist are the stars, there is a broad cast of fascinating cast of characters who add texture and intrigue - and Lagercrantz does an elegant job keeping THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB building then racing along rather than becoming convoluted.

For those who love Scandinavian crime for the way it delves into social and personal issues, there is plenty of that on offer in the fourth Salander book, from issues of privacy, what the public is entitled to know, to the various ways technology can be used and abused, the changing face of the media, and much more.

For me however, it is the evocation of Salander, who is one of the finest characters created in contemporary fiction, which is the real highlight of THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB. Much like Christopher Nolan did with his tremendous re-imagining of Batman, Lagercrantz delves deeper into Lisbeth while keeping her very much who she is. We see more and understand more, but remain fascinated, intrigued, and unsure.

And when the final page came, I was no longer doubtful of whether the books should be continued or not. In fact, I am very much hoping that we will see more from Lagercrantz, Blomkvist and Salander in future.

Craig Sisterson
August 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review Redux: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson tr. Reg Keeland

To celebrate the publication on Thursday of the new "Lisbeth Salander" book, The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz translated by George Goulding, I have been reposting Maxine's reviews of the original trilogy by Stieg Larsson translated by Reg Keeland, concluding today with:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson translated by Reg Keeland, 720 pages, June 2015, MacLehose Press; Reissue edition.

The long-awaited final part of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy reaches an English-language readership in 2009, five years after its first publication in Sweden. And it is certainly worth the wait. The story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist (after earlier hints, here explicitly adult versions of Astrid Lindgren's children's characters Pippi Longstocking and Kalle Blomqvist), pulls you right in on page 1, and is terrifically difficult to leave behind on page 600, especially as so many aspects of their stories (particularly Lisbeth's) have not begun to be explored - and never will be, owning to the sad early death of the author.

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS' NEST begins directly after the dramatic finale of THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, the first 100 pages reflecting the confusion of deaths, illnesses, attacks and conspiracy that culminated in the confrontations at Gosseberga. Most of these 100 pages take place in hospital where Lisbeth lies critically injured, where Zalachenko, her father, is also severely wounded, and where the police, security personnel and other vultures are circling round the pair. Anyone who has not read the previous two books will probably find this long introduction almost incomprehensible in its details - those who have read the predecessors will need good memories but will have no difficulty being drawn into Lisbeth's predicament as she lies paralysed in the knowledge that her father, lying in a nearby room down the corridor, is trying to finish his malign task - while other forces are keen to try her, label her as insane and send her back to the secure institution where she spent her unhappy adolescence - assuming she survives her terrible injuries.

Next, the canvas of the book expands to a compelling history of Swedish politics post-1964, consciously continuing from the social analysis of the Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo Martin Beck series, charting the failures of Swedish democracy from within the security forces by the formation of the SSA, an unofficial secret police within the official secret police (Sapo), known only to one or two people in the country. Real and fictitious events and characters are seamlessly juxtaposed, though there's an essential brief glossary to help the non-Swedish reader grasp the non-fictional essentials.

In this novel, SSA consists of a small, secret core of very hard-liners, determined to uphold and protect what its members consider to be the country's best interests. Primarily, it seems, this task has consisted of containing Zalachenko, the most important Soviet defector to the West ever. The grey men of the SSA have created a new identity for him and over the years have given him free rein and protected him from the consequences of his criminal activities and gross abuse of his wife.

This army of old men from another time come together in the realization that the Zalachenko affair is likely to blow wide open once he and his daughter Lisbeth are able to communicate with the authorities. Although they have lost one of their main means of controlling Lisbeth (how she disposed of her guardian is part of the plot of book 2), they enlist the help of psychiatrist Peter Taleborian, the man who locked Lisbeth away after her pyrotechnic actions when aged 12, and whom she has good reason to hate. Only Dr Jonasson, the surgeon who is currently caring for Lisbeth, seems to stand between her and the strong forces who want her silenced.

The book bursts into real life after this long prologue, history and setting-of-scene, when an odd coalition including Mikael, Lisbeth and her hackers' group form the online ‘knights of the idiotic table' in their first real act of striking back. Mikael begins to dig into the story of Zalachencko, gradually becoming to suspect the existence of ‘The Section', as he calls what the reader knows to be SSA. When a crucial report is stolen from his apartment, he uses this circumstance to find out more than the perpetrators had bargained for, and to strike back at them, in a clever game of double bluff.

In THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS' NEST, Lisbeth (who until the final chapters is a relatively insubstantial figure in the novel) serves as an allegory for Sweden itself - both the woman and the country have been betrayed over many years by secret allegiances of people bound together by delusions and evil impulses. Just as the young Lisbeth is wrongly diagnosed with mental illness and incarcerated in an isolation cell, so the young Swedish democracy is betrayed by people whose actions can only be explained by Mikael as being like those who have a mental illness and have separated themselves from normal society (p 475). Mikael is as much driven by his journalistic, crusading need to expose political corruption as his friendship and gratitude to Lisbeth compel him to expose the corruption that is continuing to threaten her by this coalition of "men who hate women".

Yet the novel is not a mere spy thriller - what gives it such massive heart are the characters - Mikael, Erica, the Millennium journalists, the Armansky operation, the police, Sapo agents, asylum seekers and others who give the novel such life - and the immense amount of absorbing, authentic details - of the workings of a newspaper office, a secret police organisation, computer hacking, police operations, investigative journalism, the security business, the race to publish Mikael's discoveries, and far more than can be covered in this review - a rich, dense and compelling context for the gradual uncovering of Lisbeth's story, cumulating in her trial where the main players take turns on centre stage.

There are certainly gaps in this book. One glaring weakness is that we never know why Zalachenko was so useful to the SSA, and why he continued to be so uniquely valuable for so long after he defected. We learn little of his criminal empire. Lisbeth, the very core of the trilogy, plays a passive role for almost all of the book. Some plot lines, for example the police search for the cop-killer Niedermann, are never developed. Other stories are hinted at but never told - we can only imagine that the author intended to pick those up in future books.

The Millennium Trilogy is a fantastically exciting and original set of books, admittedly with flaws, but with a great breadth and intelligence - of the characters as well as of the story - and with an ability to draw the reader in to an exciting narrative so that one is lost in the book, not knowing whether to turn the pages rapidly to find out what happens next, or to turn them slowly to prolong the totally mesmerising read, so ably conveyed to English readers by the translator, Reg Keeland.

Maxine Clarke, England
October 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review Redux: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson tr. Reg Keeland

To celebrate the publication on Thursday of the new "Lisbeth Salander" book, The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz translated by George Goulding, I am reposting Maxine's reviews of the original trilogy by Stieg Larsson translated by Reg Keeland, continuing today with:

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson translated by Reg Keeland, 576 pages, June 2015, MacLehose Press; Reissue edition.

This long book is the second in the Millennium Trilogy, the first of which, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, introduced the reader to Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, a campaigning journalist. It is a very exciting read, and I'm eager to read the final volume.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is in some senses two books. The first 200 pages is an extensive prologue telling the story of Lisbeth, previously a tantalisingly insubstantial figure: we learn quite a lot of her back-story, as some of the previous hints about her past are filled in (including a rather gruesome prologue chapter). At the same time, we learn that she has been travelling the world since the end of the first book, arriving in Grenada at the start of this one, where she has a brief affair, witnesses an attempted murder during a freak tornado, and sets out to solve Fermat's last theorem without the aid of a computer program. The rest of the book - in itself a hefty 400 pages, shifts to Sweden and ignores most of the Grenadan events. Perhaps some of them will be picked up in book three. Otherwise, I'm not sure of their point.

What follows is mostly a straight police procedural, at the same time revealing more of Lisbeth's history. Soon after she returns to Stockholm and sets herself up in an apartment that is off the official radar, three brutal murders occur on one night. Lisbeth, the only apparent link between all the victims, is the prime suspect and becomes the focus of a national police hunt. She has suffered terribly in her life - the reader by now knows some, but not all, of this background - and her treatment by the media is a horrible, insensitive parallel of her earlier abuse by those who should have cared for her - teachers, doctors, guardians and 'friends'. Lisbeth becomes a fugitive, yet refuses to be victimised by her ordeal. She is not only determined to find out the identity of the killer(s), but also, as she becomes more aware of how the crimes are linked to her, goes onto the attack to deal with the situation on her own. She has long since learned not to trust institutions such as the police and the law.

In parallel with Lisbeth's story, Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, is also investigating the murders. Two of the victims were colleagues and friends of his, and he's convinced that their deaths are related to the work they were doing in uncovering a massive scandal of prostitution and drug trafficking between Russia, Eastern Europe and Sweden. Although Lisbeth has rejected him as a lover and will not contact him, Blomkvist is convinced that she is innocent. Therefore, in contrast to the police investigation, which is focused solely on finding Lisbeth and convicting her, he attempts to uncover other motives for the crime.

The book is packed with incident, thrills, characters, rich details and plot revelations. Because Stieg Larsson is juggling stories about Millennium (the publication and its journalists), the international sex trade, an investigation agency, evil bikers, and the police investigation, as well as Lisbeth's associates and past, which itself contains several strong and moving subplots, the pace never lets up, emotions are intense, and there are no boring moments as, in J K Rowling style, the author gradually reveals more of the intention of his triptych. However, there are plenty of flaws - too often, people remember a crucial fact that they'd forgotten previously (one such, Blomkvist's discovery in his kitchen that leads into the final section, is truly clunky - and this is not the only clumsy device used); Lisbeth can find out anything she wants via magic, that is her (unexplained) hacking skills and her international geeks' undercover network. People often see each other by coincidence (Blomkvist and Lisbeth spot each other several times before they communicate directly), and there are quite a few cliches in terms of criminal masterminds, spooks and an evil Russian thug who is huge and feels no pain.

There is also a strong element of male wish-fulfilment running through the book. Lisbeth is almost a Modesty Blaise-like figure at times, having her breasts enlarged, living off junk food yet remaining "anorexically thin" (as we are often reminded), and enjoying lusty sex with men and women. The Millennium journalists are similarly idealised, being portrayed as liberal-thinking, high on integrity and very highly sexed. On the other hand, most of the other men in the book are either decent enough yet bland (the police chief) or pure evil - rapists, abductors, child abusers and "men who hate women" to name but a few of the types in the pages. Most of these aspects add to the overall excitement, but they also create a slightly comic-book atmosphere.

Nevertheless, despite these flaws (some of which the author might have revised before publication had he lived) this book is truly powerful. The criminal investigation turns out to be directly related to the events in Lisbeth's horrific past, and the way in which old events are gradually revealed in order to explain how the crimes occurred is very cleverly done, with a stunning, emotionally draining climax.

Although there is a resolution of sorts, there are a great many loose ends. It remains to be seen whether the third book will address these, in particular the mystery of Lisbeth's sister as well as the wider issues of the corruption of the Swedish "special services" and of the sex/drug trade. As things stand, we are left on a cliffhanger, with little closure in the characters' life-stories or on the wider issues that were being addressed by two of the murdered people. A perfect recipe for a third, and final, instalment.

Maxine Clarke, England
January 2009

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review Redux: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson tr. Reg Keeland

To celebrate the publication on Thursday of the new "Lisbeth Salander" book, The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz translated by George Goulding, I will be reposting Maxine's reviews of the original trilogy by Stieg Larsson translated by Reg Keeland, starting today with:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson translated by Reg Keeland, 544 pages, June 2015, MacLehose Press; Reissue edition.

Mikael Blomkvist is a financial journalist in Sweden who, as publisher and co-owner of the independent magazine Millennium, is able to publish hard-hitting investigations into the shady dealings of the country's richest companies. He goes too far, however, in his story about the crooked but enormously wealthy financier Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Wennerstrom sues Blomkvist for libel, Blomkvist loses and is sentenced to a few months in jail. Almost worse than the sentence is the fact that Millennium has lost credibility, not to mention advertising revenue, and its future is in jeopardy.

After Blomkvist's sentence, he and his on-off lover, fellow publisher Erika Berger, decide the best way to ensure the magazine's survival is for Mikael to take a year's leave of absence, during which time he will serve his jail sentence (clearly a very civilized procedure in Sweden). His confidence shaken by his experiences, Mikael is astonished to be summoned by Herr Frode, a lawyer, to meet the reclusive, wealthy Henrik Vanger, who has been following the case and who has a proposition for him.

Vanger is one of the oldest members of a family dynasty, of a completely different hue from Wennerstrom both personally and in business philosophy. However, the old man is haunted by a dreadful event in the 1970s, when his great-niece Harriet, then 16, vanished on the eve of the traditional annual gathering at the island where the old man and most family members live. The subsequent investigation of the disappearance was severely hampered by an road accident on the bridge connecting the island to the mainland: despite the most thorough investigation possible over the intervening years by both the police and her distraught great-uncle, the mystery of Harriet's disappearance was never solved, so it has been concluded by all that she had died. Nevertheless, every year on his birthday, the old man receives a single flower in a frame, a bitter-sweet memory of the birthday presents Harriet used to give him. Henrik cannot rest until he has discovered who is sending this taunting message, which he is convinced will lead him to Harriet's murderer.

Initially refusing Vanger's commission, Mikael changes his mind when he learns that not only will he be paid for his work but that Henrik will provide him with evidence to convict Wennerstrom - and by so doing will ensure the survival of Millennium. The two men agree that Mikael will live on the island inhabited by the various Vanger family members and, as cover, will write a biography of the family. In reality, however, he will be poring over old documents and questioning anyone who will speak to him to try to cast new light on the tragedy of Harriet's disappearance.

It does not take Mikael long to discover that he has been the subject of a covert surveillance himself to determine to Vanger's satisfaction his own suitability for the job. Via Vanger's lawyer Frode (an attractive if minor character), he soon discovers who is responsible: Dragan Armansky's investigative agency, specifically a highly unlikely operative called Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is an emaciated young woman, a drop-out from society, whose mother is in an institution and does not know her daughter. Lisbeth has a long history of childhood rebellion and refusal to conform, has been labelled dangerous by assortments of social workers, and is a ward of court unable to control her own finances or manage her own life apart from a shadowy existence with alternative, drop-out associates. She does, however, have amazing computer skills, and so is employed on a freelance basis by Dragan, who has mixed feelings for the young woman - she of the titular dragon tattoo.

Aided by Lisbeth, Mikael becomes increasingly absorbed in the biography, living in an isolated guest cabin on the island and digging into old photographs, befriending the local cafe owner, and gradually working through Henrik's archives, in the process befriending the old man, a poignant character. Mikael pieces together the complicated Vanger family - thankfully, the reader is helped by a family tree and a table (but in my edition, no map of the island, which would have helped) - to try to work out who might have had a motive and the opportunity to kill Harriet and dispose so completely of her body. He undergoes his prison sentence, a relief from his daily worries, but after that his investigation becomes bogged down - until a series of dramatic events provide him with a breakthrough of sorts.

In the meantime, we learn more about Lisbeth and her life, as well as her shocking persecution by her guardian and the revenge she enacts. Her character is intended to show us how a supposedly liberal and caring society can utterly fail someone who has a mild condition (Mikael immediately diagnoses her as having Asperger's), and how she and others like her can "slip through the cracks" into a life of abuse and poverty. First Dragan and than Mikael hold out a hand of help - in Mikael's case, he does not expect anything from her, so Lisbeth gradually comes to trust and even to love him.

Mikael and Lisbeth work together to solve the awful mystery of Harriet's disappearance - and it is, indeed, truly awful. Although the book is extremely leisurely (most of it is taken up with Mikael's researches into the Vanger history), the pace picks up at the end as all the threads come together in a suspenseful conclusion: Harriet's fate, the future of Millennium, Wennerstrom's power, the Vanger secret - and the shadow of a Nazi and racist past. Taken together with the story of Lisbeth, as yet incomplete as this is the first in a trilogy, the whole has a haunting power. Despite its length, and the fact that most of the Vangers encountered by Mikael are two dimensional, I very much enjoyed this powerful book which combines a good story with haunting characters and a crusading message.

The book is the latest in a fine tradition of Swedish fiction begun in the 1960s by Maj Stowall and Per Wahloo in their Martin Beck series, and continued by Henning Mankell and other excellent authors. THE GIRL IN THE DRAGON TATTOO is in the same vein as two other recent Swedish books: the superb PARADISE, by Liza Marklund, which covers similar themes of investigative journalism, financial mismanagement and racist violence against women (particularly immigrants) and Asa Larsson's SUN STORM, an intense story about a young woman unable to function in society after being ostracised by her family and community for her alleged rebellion. All three of these sad stories resonate in the mind long after the last page has been turned.

Maxine Clarke, England
January 2008

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: The Devil's Assassin by Paul Fraser Collard

The Devil's Assassin by Paul Fraser Collard, January 2015, 384 pages, Headline, ISBN: 1472222717

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

Bombay, 1857. Jack Lark is living precariously as an officer when his heroic but fraudulent past is discovered by the Devil - Major Ballard, the army's intelligence officer. Ballard is gathering a web of information to defend the British Empire, and he needs a man like Jack on his side. Not far away, in Persia, the Shah is moving against British territory and, with the Russians whispering in his ear, seeks to conquer the crucial city of Herat. The Empire's strength is under threat and the army must fight back.

As the British march to war, Jack learns that secrets crucial to the campaign's success are leaking into their enemies' hands. Ballard has brought him to the battlefield to end a spy's deceit. But who is the traitor?

THE DEVIL'S ASSASSIN sweeps Jack Lark through a thrilling tale of explosive action as the British face the Persian army in the inky darkness of the desert night.

The descriptions of battles with the hand to hand combat involving Jack and his fellow soldiers are truly incredible but apparently based on fact. This book is really extraordinary, the author's research, and the descriptions of life in the military and the Indian campaigns, is first rate and I was not surprised that the author indicated that he was influenced by reading the "Sharpe" books of Bernard Cornwell and the "Flashman Papers" of George McDonald Fraser in his youth.

I was very impressed by the deep historical research that this author has made in order to present a story that is truly compelling as this one is. You do not need to have read the previous two books in this series as the author fully explains Jack's present situation and what he needs to do to extricate himself from his desperate situation! The book comes with a map of nineteenth century Persia and also thoughtfully provides a detailed glossary of some unusual words that are used in the text. I have not read any of this author's previous books but I will certainly look out for the future adventures of Jack Lark. This is one of the best historical mysteries that I have read so far this year. Well recommended.

Terry Halligan, August 2015.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: Power Play by Mike Nicol

Power Play by Mike Nicol, June 2015, 400 pages, Old Street Publishing, ISBN: 1910400211

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

South Africa, Cape Town.

The big man sits beside the pool and watches Krista Bishop making coffee in her kitchen. She watches him. Takes a gun out of her bag and fits the silencer. His dark eyes remain on her and eventually he stands, his own gun in full sight. Krista thinks of her father Mace's words – about taking justice when it comes.
Lagoon Beach.
The Anders family are eating supper at a seafood restaurant by way of mourning the youngest son, Boetie. They must be seen in public at this time. Unbowed. Because Anders is an old-time retired gang lord and respectable businessman, one of “The Untouchables”. Boetie's weighted body had been found in deep water, chained to a plastic buoy marked “property of Titus Anders”. Quint, the youngest surviving son, assures his father that everything is sorted; the tit-for-tat boy is already chained up in the warehouse ready to be sent home to his mother in pieces. But the Anders children – Lavinia, Quint and Luc – still bicker about the next move. Titus tells them to shut up. Down the street, two men wait in a car. When the signal comes that the Anders family is leaving the restaurant, they start up and move alongside the Anders's heavy old Merc. Their window slides down and the Russian aims the Uzi.
Cape Town International Airport.
Krista Bishop and her security partner, Tami Mogale, greet the Chinese businessmen who seem delighted with their female security team. Tami and Krista have trouble defining the boundaries of their duties with their new clients. In the coffee shop across the way, a government agent watches the small party. He is Mart Velaze, the spook who put pressure on Krista to drop their strict women-only client base and guard these two businessmen. He had had to emphasise how easy it was for Krista's lovely house and car to disappear via a tax audit. So she accepted the job. As Velaze tails the group to their hotel, he receives a call from “The Voice” telling him to leave the businessmen and get over to Lagoon Beach – a shooting involving the Anders family.
Lagoon Beach.
In the adrenalin rush of the hit, Tamora's driver takes off early. The Russian is furious. A sharp turn results in him losing the gun to the road. The driver ignores his fury and drives on. Outside the restaurant, in the midst of shattered glass and bullet-holed steel, the Anders family take stock. Everyone OK, just cuts. And they recognised the driver. Tamora's man, Black Aron. The shooter? White. Czech, Russian, something like that. Titus tells his sons to finish the job with Tamora's son but Lavinia warns that nothing will be settled while the mother is still around.
Back at their hotel, the Chinese announce that they want to eat the famous abalone. But Tami reports that the seafood restaurant that they have in mind is out of bounds tonight. Some kind of shooting....

Mike Nicol is a South African writer who sets his crime thrillers in his native Cape Town. His latest thriller, POWER PLAY, continues the Bishop connection from Nicol's earlier “Revenge Trilogy” which concluded with BLACK HEART and featured the Cape Town security firm of Mace Bishop and Pylon Buso. The security firm is now in the hands of Mace's daughter Krista. With her business partner Tami Mogale she concentrates on a women-only client list. Rival gangs The Pretty Boyz and The Mongols are at war over the abalone poaching trade. For this, read three “retired” gang lords known as The Untouchables versus Tamara Gool, upcoming and ruthless. The Chinese arrive, wanting a slice of the abalone trade. With the war heating up, Krista and Tami soon have another woman client to protect – Titus Anders' daughter Lavinia. Then there are the government agents. All in all, a stew of revenge, riddles and violence. Revenge figures in this novel on an intense and bloody level. By the end I was thinking its emotions, motives and gestures were on a Shakespearean scale. Absolutely. Nicol's inspiration is Shakespeare's “Titus Andronicus”. But this is not a casual rip-off. It is well crafted, well voiced, dark and thrilling. Nicol has said of the potential of a crime novel: “...the fun you can have with characters having outrageous conversations after or during the most appalling situations. Appeals to my sense of humour...” and POWER PLAY's violence is truly bloody but Nicol's writing does not gloat. Instead he brings us a powerful, fast-paced, well-observed thriller set amongst the gangsters, businessmen and politicos of Cape Town. With its own blend of subtleties and vividly drawn characters POWER PLAY is an absolute recommend.

Lynn Harvey, August 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: The Templar Inheritance by Mario Reading

The Templar Inheritance by Mario Reading, April 2015, 400 pages, Corvus, ISBN: 1782395334

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

1198: On the eve of his execution, Bavarian knight Johannes von Hartelius writes a last confession. His parchment conceals the location of the Copper Scroll, said to hold the secret of Solomon’s treasure, and the key to the building of a new Temple in the Holy Land. Years before that, Hartelius attempted to rescue the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, from drowning in a river during a battle. Although now a disgraced Templar knight, Hartelius is still a guardian of the Holy Lance and does not want the Scroll to be sold to finance a Fourth Crusade.

May 2013: In present-day Iraq, British photo-journalist John Hart survives a bomb explosion near a roadside café. He’s accompanied only by Nalan Abuna, his intelligent beautiful Kurdish Christian translator. They are shaken and terrified for different reasons but this event will lead them both to uncover shocking brutal stories, firmly set in the modern history of the area.

At the same time Hart also discovers the message hidden in his ancestor’s testament, placed in the Holy Spear. The famous treasure appears to be concealed in a hollow mountain, known as Solomon’s Prison. Hart, besotted with Nalan, becomes obsessed about getting to Iran where the mountain is located. With Nalan’s help he sets out to find the Copper Scroll, following in Hartelius’ footsteps and his epic battle hundreds of years ago, and his life changes dramatically. What follows is a dangerous adventure where past and present are interwoven, and the finale is utterly unexpected.

Similarities between Hart and Hartelius are plentiful. True love features strongly in their lives, along with the desire for truth and honesty. Both are heroes in a way…

There are vivid descriptions of torture and humiliation in the present times. I assume that style might have been chosen as a way to engage the reader more in the story, and its political context, and also to demonstrate the differences between two separate modern worlds: that of the quite naïve idealistic Hart and that of the disillusioned, older-than-her-years Nalan.

THE TEMPLAR INHERITANCE is an intense fast paced thriller in the 'Dan Brown' tradition. Mario Reading uses short chapters, each ending with a little cliff-hanger which encourages the reader to keep reading and wanting to know more; his preference is for firmly defined characters and the historical background that might not always be accurate but provides an interesting setting for this plot-driven novel.

Ewa Sherman, August 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Blog Tour: Q & A with Lin Anderson

I'm very pleased to welcome Lin Anderson to Euro Crime as the latest stop on the blog tour for The Special Dead.

Amanda, who reviewed The Special Dead, last week asks the questions in the following interview:

Hello, Lin, thanks for agreeing to come and talk to us today.

First of all, many congratulations on being shortlisted for the Crime Book of the Year award! It's a fantastic achievement. How did it feel when you found out?

Astonishment mainly, because I’m very aware of all the excellent books being written and submitted to the Scottish Crime Book of the Year award. Followed, of course, by excitement and delight and, as Chris Brookmyre said on twitter, ‘Honoured to be among such reprobates.’

Tell us about Rhona, your main character. What was your source of inspiration behind creating her? Do you see any of yourself in Rhona MacLeod? She features in over ten books now and goes from strength to strength. What do you think makes her so popular?

One of my excellent Maths pupils at Grantown Grammer School in the Spey Valley went off to do Forensic Science at Strathclyde University. We lived in the same village, Carrbridge, and her mum was a good friend. When she came back home in the holidays she talked with great enthusiasm about her course. This was before CSI. Emma Hart became the inspiration for Rhona the forensic scientist (in her professional not personal life). Emma was working in London when I wrote Driftnet, the first in the series, and she helped me with the forensic aspects of it. The dilemma that Rhona finds herself in in Driftnet propels the story. Having given up her son for adoption seventeen years before, she thinks the latest victim may be her son.
I find I’m getting to know more about Rhona all the time. (A woman is like a teabag, you don’t know her strength until you put her in hot water). And I do put her in a lot of hot water. As for why readers like her, you’ll maybe have to ask them. One of her fans wrote to me recently to say ‘Rhona – what a woman! But she didn’t say why.

We have heard that your Rhona novels are currently being adapted for ITV. Is this true? When do you think we will see Rhona on our TV screens?

Elaine Collins, when she was with ITV was a big fan of Rhona and developed a series beginning with Final Cut. This was at the same time as she was working on Vera. There was much excitement about it, but sadly Elaine has now moved from ITV and the rights are back with me... On the plus side others are interested.

It must be difficult watching your creation being turned into something suitable for another medium and having no say in the matter. How involved are you in this process or is it totally out of your hands?

During the process Elaine very much kept me on board, and the script for Final Cut was excellent. As someone who writes for screen myself, I was confident that they understood the characters really well. When I was asked if I had any worries, my only comment was that Rhona MacLeod is not a ‘wee lassie’, but a mature woman.

Thinking of writing for film and TV, you have written several screenplays yourself, and been successful there as well. Can you tell us about this? How did it all get started? Any current projects that you can tell us about?

I had a drama on television called Small Love before I had Driftnet published. I went on to write short films. River Child won best drama at the Celtic Film Festival and a student Bafta while I completed my MA in Screenwriting from the Film Academy at Edinburgh Napier University.
The current project is a full length feature, a paranormal crime thriller called Dead Close, inspired by a short story of mine of the same name. Set in the Old Town of Edinburgh, both above and below ground, it’s being directed by Graeme Maley. September should see the start of the countdown on production with Makar Films. We’re all very excited about it.
My latest venture is a rock musical which I’m writing with John Sinclair, keyboard player with Ozzie Osbourne for 17 years, who now has a recording studio in the highlands near my home village. I’m writing the Book (script) and he’s writing the music and lyrics. It’s called Voice of a Generation and is set in 1975 in New York when it was known as Fear City. We’ve been working on it for the last 18 months and hope to complete it by the end of the year.

Another hugely successful project you are involved in is, of course, Bloody Scotland, the Scottish crime writing festival that is now in its fourth year. What inspired you to start this festival in Scotland? Why Stirling?

Bloody Scotland was born at a Crime Writers’ Association conference in Lincoln. Alex Gray and I, while drinking Prosecco, pondered why we Scots always came south for crime festivals when we had such a large body of excellent crime writers at home, and decided it was time for folk to come to us. Brilliant idea, followed by three years hard work and planning launched the festival. Four years later and it’s gone from strength to strength with an international reputation. We were also very fortunate to have great advice from Val McDermid, who began the Harrogate festival. We chose Stirling as the venue because of its unique position as the gateway to the Highlands, within easy reach of both Glasgow and Edinburgh, and because of its spectacular and history. When Alex came up with the name Bloody Scotland, it matched the festival content and location perfectly. Many of our visitors come from the USA and various European countries and use the visit to explore the highlands before or after the festival.
When Ian Rankin launched the first festival he said Scandinavia doesn’t have better crime writers than Scotland, it has better PR. Bloody Scotland was created to change that. 

What is it, do you think, that has made Bloody Scotland so special?

For me, it’s doing what we dreamt of – encouraging new writers, celebrating the success of established writers, plus bringing UK and international stars to a Scottish audience. Bloody Scotland is now a brand, operating throughout the year to celebrate Scottish Crime Writing at home and abroad.

You used to be a teacher. How did your writing career start? What was it like taking the step to writing full time?

I come from Irish/Scottish parentage where story telling was very much a part of life. My first play was written at primary school. It featured Mary Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley. I studied Maths and Astronomy at Glasgow University, along with computing and went on to teach Maths first of all and later solely computing science. In between I had three children and spent five years in a remote part of northern Nigeria where I taught in the Savanah Sugar Company school. My first short stories, set in Nigeria, were written about that time and were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in various collections. When I wrote Driftnet I was still teaching full time and was Principal Teacher of Computing at an Edinburgh School. It was very difficult to give up a full time job and salary to write full time, but it was what I wanted to do. After writing three books in the few hours after work, I suddenly had the freedom to write when I wanted. It was wonderful.

And finally, what next for Rhona?

I am currently working on None But the Dead, the sequel to The Special Dead. Set on the island of Sanday in Orkney, strange things begin to happen when the remains of a woman are found in the grounds of an old schoolhouse.

Thanks again, Lin. We have really enjoyed chatting with you. All the best with the short list. Euro Crime will have its fingers crossed for you!

A big thank you for your support and good wishes. Hope to see you at Bloody Scotland in the near future.

Lin Anderson’s new novel The Special Dead is published by Pan Macmillan 13 August 2015, £12.99 HB. For more information about Bloody Scotland (11-13 September 2015) go to

Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: The Unburied by Charles Palliser

The Unburied by Charles Palliser, April 2015, 432 pages, W&N, ISBN: 1780229135

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

Dr Constantine is a university professor at Cambridge and is invited by an old friend to visit for a few days. He decides to visit his friend in Thurchester on his way to spend the Christmas holidays with his niece. Constantine also intends to combine his short visit with some research into the Cathedral Library and Archives in order to further his research into the death of Wulflac, a senior advisor of King Alfred, a project he is passionate about. Constantine finds his friend, Austin, much changed. A fellow student who was expected to follow the same academic path as Constantine, he now works as a tutor at the Cathedral School.

Austin welcomes his friend and they spend the first evening quietly at home and to pass the time Austin tells a story concerning a murder of a Canon-Treasurer and his ghost who still haunts the Cathedral Close.

Constantine soon realises that Cathedral politics are still causing rifts and factions amongst the men who work within its walls and tries to ignore them while carrying out his research. He is quite daunted when he realises the state of confusion of the documents he is hoping to search and finally realises that not only are the politics of the Cathedral impeding his search but so are the politics of his college in Cambridge. He is be-friended by an old man, Mr Stonex, who is renowned for his miserliness and for being anti-social due to his paranoia and fear of thieves. However, when Constantine arrives for tea with Mr Stonex he finds himself drawn into a murder investigation.

THE UNBURIED is a complicated story, set in the early years of the twentieth century and taking place in the closed, traditional and patriarchal societies of a Cathedral and a Cambridge College. It is written in a style that looks back to the great Victorian novels of Dickens and Trollope, which feels old fashioned now but is suited to the story. Two story-lines entwine through the book, that of Constantine's search for evidence to prove his theory and that of the murder that he is drawn into and sometimes the history that Constantine is researching is given in a bit too much detail and somewhat distracts from the main storyline

The book was originally published in 1999. This is a good read especially if you are a fan of Victorian novels.

Susan White, August 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review Roundup: Adler-Olsen, Anderson, Cahoon, Costantini, Cross, Daly, Hiekkapelto, Hjorth & Rosenfeldt, Johnstone, Mina, Sundstol

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

*I am trialling a new approach at the moment in that all reviews will appear on the Euro Crime blog rather than being separate files as part of the Euro Crime website. I feel this will give the reviews more exposure and make them more findable in a search engine. The reviews will appear daily ie Monday to Friday, with roundups on Sundays. The website will continue with bibliographies etc, the only change is that the reviews will be on the blog.

I'd be interested in any comments about this new approach.

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

Michelle Peckham reviews Jussi Adler-Olsen's Buried tr. Martin Aitken, the fifth in the Carl Morck and Assad series set in Copenhagen;

Amanda Gillies reviews Lin Anderson's The Special Dead, the eleventh in the Rhona Macleod series (check back on Tuesday for a Q & A with Lin);

Not Euro Crime, but as part of an occasional special feature, I review Lynn Cahoon's Guidebook to Murder, the first in a series set in a coastal Californian town;

Lynn Harvey reviews Roberto Costantini's The Root of all Evil tr. N S Thompson, the middle part of a projected trilogy;

Also set in America is Scottish author Mason Cross's The Samaritan, reviewed by Terry Halligan;

Terry also reviews Bill Daly's Double Mortice the second in the DCI Charlie Anderson series set in Glasgow;

Ewa Sherman reviews Kati Hiekkapelto's The Hummingbird tr. David Hackston which introduces Finland's Detective Anna Fekete;

Geoff Jones reviews Hjorth & Rosenfeldt's The Man Who Watched Women tr. Marlaine Delargy, the second in the Sebastian Bergman series;

Amanda also reviews The Jump by Doug Johnstone, and concludes "I am lost for superlatives to describe this book";

Michelle also reviews Denise Mina's Blood Salt Water, the fifth in the DS Alex Morrow series

and Laura Root reviews Vidar Sundstol's The Ravens tr. Tiina Nunnally, the conclusion to his Minnesota Trilogy.

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

Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: The Samaritan by Mason Cross

The Samaritan by Mason Cross, July 2015, 416 pages, Orion, ISBN: 1409146162

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

When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows this isn't the work of a first-time killer. She's seen this MO before - two and a half years ago on the other side of the country. Allen begins to dig deeper and soon uncovers a terrifying truth. A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for the past decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer 'the Samaritan', but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.
That's when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He's a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan's next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they're tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake is forced to reveal that the similarities between the two men are closer than even Allen suspects.
With time running out and an opponent who knows all of his tricks, Blake must find a way to stop the Samaritan . . . even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.

THE SAMARITAN is a very powerful and literate thriller set in California, written by a very talented new author from Glasgow. This is the second book by this author with Carter Blake as principal protagonist. Carter Blake is a strange but friendly loner who has extraordinary abilities that he appears to have learned doing CIA black ops but which he is very unforthcoming about.

Blake heard about the problems that "The Samaritan" is causing on the TV news before he arrived in Los Angeles and so could not be the killer himself as some suppose. Blake first appeared in the author's debut book THE KILLING SEASON when he helped FBI agent Elaine Banner catch a serial killer named Caleb Wardell otherwise known as "The Chicago Sniper" and thus Banner is well disposed to give him a good reference when asked by LAPD Detective Jessica Allen about this man she is so unsure about trusting.

The murders of young women, killed when their vehicle breaks down reaches a high number and the public are very worried about their personal safety in the US where ownership of a car is so important as the distances of travel are so much greater than here.

The book was very atmospheric and deftly plotted. All the characters are very richly drawn and the author writes the book seeing the story from different viewpoints (e.g. Allen, the detective, or Carter Blake or even The Samaritan which makes for some compelling reading). There are a few red herrings to draw the reader to the wrong conclusion before the very exciting last page.

I was fascinated by the story and once started I just could not put it down. This author who has only published one other book so far, writes with such dexterity and expert plotting that one would think he has many, many titles to his credit. I must try and get hold of his earlier book as I don't think I can wait until next year to read more about Carter Blake. Extremely well recommended.

Terry Halligan, August 2015.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: The Special Dead by Lin Anderson

Lin Anderson's The Special Dead is released today and is reviewed below by Amanda; check back next Tuesday for her interview with Lin.

The Special Dead by Lin Anderson, August 2015, 448 pages, Macmillan, ISBN: 1447298314

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

THE SPECIAL DEAD is the tenth in Lin Anderson’s series featuring her forensic scientist, Rhona MacLeod and it is everything that we have come to expect from this highly talented author. Rhona holds her own brilliantly, as usual – both professionally and in her private life – and it is always refreshing to see a successful and focused woman doing so well in her career.

After the traumatic ending to the last novel, PATHS OF THE DEAD, things are cold between her and her old pal, McNab. Demoted and demoralized, McNab tries to make amends with Rhona and stay away from the booze, the source of his troubles, but the secret they both share is getting harder to avoid. They both spend a significant amount of time in this novel making, drinking, and offering each other strong coffee. So much so that you can definitely smell it!

The story beings with Mark travelling through to Glasgow to enjoy a night out with his best mate. Placating his girlfriend by telling her that they are planning to play football, the lads go drinking and in search of girls instead. Much to his delight, Mark manages to pull Leila and she takes him back to her flat. High and drunk, he can’t believe his luck when she orders him to strip. Unfortunately, the night turns out to be slightly wilder than he had hoped: upon waking up, groggily, with only a dim recollection of what happened, he discovers that he is alone in bed. He decides to make a hasty exit but then makes the grim discovery of Leila’s lifeless body, hanging from a hook with a red silk cord round its neck, in a room with weird rows of Barbie dolls suspended from the ceiling. This is only the start of his trouble, especially when he decides that going to the police is not a very good idea.

Meanwhile, Rhona’s investigations indicate that Leila was a practising Wiccan. The red cord in particular suggests that sexual magick was involved and when another witch, one of Leila’s friends, is also found dead both Rhona and MacNab must hurry to solve the case before a third young woman, Freya, also loses her life.

Rhona MacLeod is one of my favourite crime fiction characters. I love the way she deals with everything that is thrown at her, but still has time for a bite to eat with Chrissy, her colleague, or a coffee with MacNab, despite their current differences. Rhona is very much her own person and comfortable in her own skin. She enjoys men but doesn’t want the complications of having one live with her; even though the thought is tempting after a tough day at work. THE SPECIAL DEAD, as with all the Rhona series, is an addictive change to the usual police procedural and looks at the world of crime through the eyes of a scientist instead. If you like books with feisty females in the lead then you are going to love this one. Next please!

Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, August 2015.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: Double Mortice by Bill Daly

Double Mortice by Bill Daly, April 2015, 320 pages, Old Street Publishing, ISBN: 1910400130

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

Rich, successful and married -- with a beautiful mistress on the side -- top Glasgow lawyer Michael Gibson is to all appearances an enviable man. On the inside, his life is falling apart.
Philippa, his lover, is demanding a divorce, but his wife refuses to cooperate. Meanwhile, an event from his shady past threatens to resurface and wipe out everything he's achieved. Worst of all, the city's most notorious psychopath, Jack McFarlane -- a man whom Gibson has good reason to fear -- is about to be released from prison.
When Gibson's wife goes missing, DCI Charlie Anderson has to establish if he's dealing with a case of abduction, suicide or murder. As events unfold against the uneasy streets of modern Glasgow, Anderson finds his renowned analytical skills seriously challenged.

DCI Charlie Anderson has to look into these events as well as other cases that his team are handling in this thoroughly engrossing and very well written police procedural. As is usual there are lots of different clues to be checked and eliminated and a finite time to it and as always there are senior policemen threatening to bring in fresh people if the team cannot complete the leads and get a result. Anderson, however is not put off by all the pressure as he has an understanding wife and family and his police team are very well chosen and supportive.

DOUBLE MORTICE is a brilliantly gripping and well plotted story by an extremely talented author who handles his subject matter with great dexterity and humour. This is one of the best police procedurals by a British author that I have read in a considerable time. I found the story very exciting and fast moving with enough twists and turns to keep you gripped as the pages just flew by. The author has great story telling abilities and all of his characters are very well drawn with a rich credibility to them which is often absent from other similar books.

I had the pleasure of reading for review purposes his previous and debut DCI Charlie Anderson novel BLACK MAIL and enjoyed it tremendously and was therefore very pleased to read this his second book in the series.

The locality of Glasgow is well evoked with plenty of references to the Scottish diet and humour as well as street names and other geographic descriptions which should appeal to Scottish readers, but which may have been a bit beyond me without the help of Google maps. I truly loved reading this book and enjoyed it tremendously and didn't want it to end and will definitely look out for further books by this greatly talented British author who now lives and works in Montpelier, France. Extremely well recommended.

Terry Halligan, August 2015.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Blood Salt Water by Denise Mina

Blood Salt Water by Denise Mina, July 2015, 304 pages, Orion, ISBN: 1409140741

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

Iain and Tommy take an unidentified woman out to some sand dunes, near Loch Lomond and murder her. As she dies, Iain sucks in her dying breath, as she seems to say the name ‘Sheila’, the name of his mother. He feels that he has sucked in her soul and it is now trapped inside him. Driving back after dumping her body in the Loch, he cannot shake the feeling that she is inside him. He looks at his hands, which have traces of watery blood, and remembers that his mother once told him that only salt water lifts blood. But they’d dumped the body in a fresh water loch. The effects on his psyche of committing his first ever murder, influence his behaviour throughout the book.

Alex Morrow, a detective based in Glasgow, is involved in a surveillance case, following someone called Roxanna. She is somehow involved in possible drug related activities/money laundering. But Roxanna disappears and the police don’t know where she has gone. One of her kids rings in anonymously to alert the police, and after confirming that it was one of the kids (through CCTV), this allows them to follow up her disappearance officially. But no one seems to know where she’s gone.

Boyd Fraser runs an organic, local farmer’s market café in Helensburgh. A woman called Susan Grierson turns up. Long years ago, Susan was Boyd’s Akela in the Scouts, and his first ever sailing instructor. She has been living in the USA for the last twenty years, and is just back following her mother’s death, to sort out her house.

These three strands set the scene for the story to unfold; the criminal suffering from a conscience, the unhappy and bored café owner, and Morrow’s drugs investigation. Sooner or later, all three storylines link up and as usual, Denise Mina cleverly weaves the three strands together. There is an insightful look into police politics and how they influence their investigation, the ‘dos and don'ts’, and the consequences of receiving rewards and attribution for catching criminals also wanted elsewhere. The real villain is right under everyone’s noses the whole time without anyone suspecting, and there is a satisfying conclusion to the story once the drama has played out. This is a full-fat story with plenty of plot, character development, insight and local colour. Beautifully written, lovely to read and highly recommended.

Michelle Peckham, August 2015

Monday, August 10, 2015

Blog Tour: Review of The Jump by Doug Johnstone

Today, the Blog Tour for Doug Johnstone's The Jump arrives at Euro Crime where we have a review of The Jump, written by Amanda Gillies.

The Jump by Doug Johnstone, August 2015, 288 pages, Faber & Faber, ISBN: 0571321577

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

THE JUMP is the seventh book written by the very talented Doug Johnstone. Just when you start to wonder how on earth it could be possible for him to write anything better than his last masterpiece, he does it again and ups the stakes still further. Magnificent. This book is full of the usual Johnstone chaos but beautifully mixed in with a sad tale of life after bereavement – specifically, the tragic loss of a teenage son to suicide and how his parents struggle to cope in the aftermath.

Ellie’s life was torn apart when her son, Logan, jumped off the Forth Road Bridge. THE JUMP is set six months after this tragic event, with Ellie taking daily walks onto the bridge, and her husband flyering and obsessed with conspiracy theories, in an attempt to keep on going when they feel as if they have nothing left. One morning Ellie is following her usual pattern when she encounters Sam – another teenage boy – in a highly distressed state and clearly about to hurl himself from the bridge as well. Ellie talks him back from the edge and takes him home, determined to save this life even though she couldn’t save her son. Sam does not want to go back to his parents and Ellie goes to find out what the problem is. By doing so, she becomes embroiled in some very dark secrets and the reader wonders just how far she is prepared to go in order to save Sam. But, as it says on the front of the book, “you can do anything if you have nothing left to lose …”

If you have yet to read anything by this author then I suggest you do so, without delay. His words always have a particularly hard-hitting edge to them, that lingers when the book is done and safely on your bookshelf. THE JUMP is the saddest of all Johnstone’s books and has left me with a lump in my throat, along with, of course, the usual exhilaration from being carried along on the tidal wave of emotions that work by this author never fails to evoke.

I am lost for superlatives to describe this book. It’s excellent. Go and read it. Now.

Extremely Highly Recommended.

Amanda Gillies, August 2015.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

US Cozy Review: Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon

Regular readers might know that I enjoy an occasional US cozy to break up my Euro Crime reads and my wandering mouse has meant that I've downloaded several US cozies from Netgalley. I thought, therefore, I would introduce a new but infrequent slot for US Cozy reviews.

Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon, April 2014, Kensington

GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER is the first in the 'Tourist Trap' mystery series, with the fifth out this month (August 2015).

Five years ago, Jill Gardner, a family lawyer, moved from the big city to the small coastal Californian town of South Cove to own and runs the coffee/book-shop, Coffee, Books, and More. One of Jill's friends, the elderly Miss Emily, owns a rundown house which the Council feels is an eyesore and are continually on her to mow the lawn, fix the fence etc. It seems the council has had enough and have hired an outside lawyer firm to serve Miss Emily with a condemnation order.

When Jill goes to visit, she is horrified to find Miss Emily, dead in her bed. Convinced that this is not a natural death she swears to find the murderer. The police, in the shape of hunky Detective Greg King are not so sure that the death is suspicious.

When Jill is named heir, things get even more complicated. Jill moves into her friend’s house and has thirty days to get it up to code. She hadn't bargained on death threats, vandalism, lost heirs and disappearances to slow her down. The only positive note is that Det. Greg is spending a lot of time with her, though she knows he is off limits as one of her building contractors said he was the best man at Greg's wedding…

Though Jill says she will investigate, she doesn't actually do that much. The pace of GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER is leisurely with much time devoted to painting and refurbishing of her new home. There are several side-plots involving stolen paintings, gold coins and her ageing aunt who comes to help out/take-over the shop but it never feels that urgent and disappointingly (to me) very little of the book is set in the book-shop. On the plus side is the time afforded to the reader to get to know Jill and also her will-they won't-they romance with Greg. As this is the first book, I feel that the scene has been set and its players introduced and I'm hoping that in the next book there will be a tighter mystery and less time spent in the equivalents to Home Depot.

Karen Meek, August 2015

Friday, August 07, 2015

Review: The Ravens by Vidar Sundstol tr. Tiina Nunnally

The Ravens by Vidar Sundstol translated by Tiina Nunnally, April 2015, 272 pages, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN: 081668944X

Reviewed by Laura Root.
(Read more of Laura's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

THE RAVENS by Vidar Sundstol (translated by Tiina Nunnally) is the closing instalment in the Minnesota trilogy featuring unlikely hero Lance Hansen, plodding US Forestry service cop. This sequence of books is set amongst the small lakeside towns of the Norwegian-American diaspora. First book in the series is THE LAND OF DREAMS, in which Lance had a tangential role in a murder investigation, after he found the body of Georg Loftus, a Swedish tourist who had been brutally killed at Baraga's Cross. The second book in the trilogy, ONLY THE DEAD was very different in feel. Instead of focussing on Lance's interactions amongst the small-town Norwegian-American and Ojibwe communities, the main action of ONLY THE DEAD revolved around a grim wintry hunting expedition by Lance and his brother. This book was tense and claustrophobic, as it was unclear who was the prey. THE RAVENS proves to be different yet again from the preceding books.

At the start of THE RAVENS, Lance has run away from his troubles and is hiding out at a small town just over the Canadian border. He has lied to his family and colleagues by telling them that he has decided to take a holiday to Norway to visit his ancestral roots. Eventually Lance gives up this ridiculous charade and returns to his home-town, forcing himself to confront his fears about his brother Andy. Lance is afraid of his brother. He is convinced that Andy was involved in the murder at Baraga's Cross, and is tormented by the dilemma of whether or not to speaks up about his suspicions. He is particularly troubled as if he stays silent an innocent man, Lenny Diver, who is currently on remand for the crime, may end up serving a long prison sentence.

Lance forces himself out of his comfort zone and ineptly delves into the past in his attempts to uncover what exactly happened at Baraga's Cross. He tracks down Clayton Miller, victim of an assault by Andy as a teenager, to find out more about what makes Andy tick. He tries to rebuild connections with family and friends in his quest for information, as he fights the anguish in his head and the lure of the snowy lake, driving himself to the brink of his sanity. His improving relationships with his niece, teenage Goth rebel Chrissy and with his ex, Debbie Ahonen, help provide some stability for Lance at this difficult time.

THE RAVENS is an intriguing finale to an unusual trilogy. As with previous books in the series, the focus is more on the landscape and people of the borderland communities, and the turmoil in Lance's mind, than on action and thrills. THE RAVENS did feel a little slow at times, and Lance's failure to simply ask direct questions of his brother can be a little frustrating. But Lance's reticence is just about credible as being in keeping with Lance's emotionally inarticulate nature. The themes of dreaming and of Lance being haunted by the spirit of Swamper Caribou are interestingly developed in this book and play a part in Lance's eventually uncovering of the truth about the murder. The ultimate resolution of the crime ties up the loose ends more or less satisfactorily, managing a reasonably thrilling twist in the tale. THE RAVENS would be readable as a standalone, but the reader would get more out of having read at least THE LAND OF DREAMS beforehand.

Laura Root, August 2015

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Review: The Man Who Watched Women by Hjorth & Rosenfeldt tr. Marlaine Delargy

The Man Who Watched Women by Hjorth & Rosenfeldt translated by Marlaine Delargy, June 2015, 528 pages, Century, ISBN: 1780894554

Reviewed by Geoff Jones.
(Read more of Geoff's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Stockholm, Sweden. The Riksmord is the national based homicide squad and their leader is Torkel Hoglund. Reporting to him are Ursula Andersson (a forensic expert who is married but having an affair with Torkel), Vanja Lithner and Billy Rosen.

There have been three brutal murders in the city. Women dressed in a particular nightdress with their hands and feet bound. They have been raped and have had their throats cut. The way the murders have been executed is reminiscent of a serial killer named Edward Hinde. But Hinde has been in the Lovhaga prison for fourteen years.

The man who helped put Hinde behind bars is Sebastian Bergman. A psychologist and profiler he has written books about Hinde. However life is getting difficult for Bergman. He lost his wife and daughter in a Tsunami and has never fully recovered. He has a history of seducing women and has lost count of his conquests. Amongst these is the mother of Vanja Lithner, although she has no idea Sebastian is her father, and hates the man.

With the Press making life difficult, Torkel and his team must find the connection between a copycat and the original serial killer. Sebastian wants to interview Hinde but Vanja feels she should be the one. Feelings are running high, as Billy the fourth member of the team feels he should play a more prominent role. Whilst the “office politics” are played out another murder is about to happen. Is Hinde involved and if so how? Can Sebastian recreate his best achievements and help the Riksmord team to solve who is the killer?

The authors are famous in Sweden for TV and film writing and they have written a few Sebastian Bergman books, but this is only the second published in the UK. A TV series based on the character was shown on BBC Four. This is a well written exciting story; the pace is fast but actually speeds up near the end which leaves you holding your breath as events unfold. I’ll be definitely reading more about Sebastian and highly recommend this book.

Geoff Jones, August 2015