Archive for December, 2008


Posted: December 31, 2008 in Uncategorized


The problems with ‘best’ or ‘most enjoyable’ lists is that so many really good books get left off for minor reasons. Books that are just as good as the chosen ones but require a little bit extra concentration to read or books that are brilliantly written but perhaps you don’t quite agree with their political message or just great books that you read early in the year and were pushed out by books read much later in the year. That happens with us over 60s as our memory falters. I find I can remember events and books I read 50 years ago but not something that happened 3 months ago. 

So here are some more really excellent books that I read during the year. 

Darkness Rising: Frank Tallis [review to appear on Euro Crime in 2009]
and last but certainly not least

What a lot of good books and I still haven’t mentioned my five top of the year selections. 
I will be back next year with an interesting Camberwell criminal connection, a review of a review that indicates the death of ‘Liberal England’, the quiz answers, a review of The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson, and my best five books of 2008. 
I wish everyone a very Happy Healthy and hopefully Prosperous New Year.

Just a reminder your Quiz answers should be in by midnight GMT on Monday 5 January. 

The questions really are a lot easier than they seem at first glance. 
The prizes on offer include a choice of books by John Dickson Carr, P.D. James, Reginald Hill, Rex Stout, Michael Walters, Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald.  
The Quiz questions are here.


Posted: December 29, 2008 in Uncategorized


Everyone is listing their top reads of the year and my top FIVE most enjoyable books will appear in due course on Euro Crime. I must take the opportunity once again to thank Karen for her wonderful resource.

So this list of books is the ones that did not quite make it to the very top group. All of them would have been worthy of top status but I had to keep my choices down to five. So here are my number 6 to number 11 of the year in no particular order.

A wonderful juxtaposition of horror, humour, and academic research made this a fine debut novel. The book was made special by the relationship between Thora, an attractive Icelandic lawyer, and German ex policeman Matthew Reich as they investigate a particularly brutal murder.

The problems of an immigrant community are discussed in this story of the death of young Thai-Icelandic boy. Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg are once again a top investigative team but I did not think this was quite as outstanding as The Draining Lake and here or Voices.

The Polish crime writer and university lecturer takes us back into the past of his beautiful but frightening city of  Breslau [now Wroclau] and introduces us to another offbeat detective Eberhard Mock. Weimar and Nazi Germany have been fertile ground for crime fiction novels and  this is up there with the best. My interview with Marek Krajewski can be read here and here. The Eberhard Mock series is one to look out for in 2009 and 2010 as the rest of the quartet of books are published.

I feel a bit awkward not including this in my top five because it was a superb read and the description of Kristallnacht and the internment of aliens on the Isle Of Man are brilliant. Lawton calls his books ‘a social and political history of my time’ 
which means that they are just that little bit different and better than the average crime thriller.

The next book chronologically in the Troy series; in another year the Lawtons would have been automatic top five choices as they were extremely enjoyable and well constructed novels full of memorable characters.

A really fast moving thriller set in Brazil with an intriguing team of police investigators. 
The Booklist review of this novel made comments  such as ‘Gage’s talents include captivating characters and realistic plots’ and finished by saying that Chief Inspector Mario ‘Silva just may be South America’s Kurt Wallander.’
I would not go that far yet but Buried Strangers is a smooth easy read and this is another series to watch for in the future.

You will have to wait for my best of the best choices which like the books above are a very personal choice.  


Posted: December 27, 2008 in Uncategorized


A few days ago The Rap Sheet posted Ali Karim’s short but very interesting interview with Christopher Maclehose. Maclehose heads up Quercus Publishing’s Maclehose Press Imprint who have the rights to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.

From the interview 21 December 2008:

AK: So what in your opinion makes the books ‘unique’ ?

CM: Lisbeth Salander, no question. 

“Stieg Larsson for all my criticism created in Lisbeth Salander one of the most interesting characters in modern crime fiction.” Crime Scraps 5 August 2008

Not a difficult call I admit but….

AK: What other crime fiction delights might you recommend from the Maclehose Press Catalogue?

CM: Crime fiction umm. I would indicate Death in Breslau by Marek Krajewski.

Well I reviewed that excellent book here and one of my year’s highlights was an informative interview with Marek here and here
Sometimes it really is nice to be ahead of the game.


Posted: December 27, 2008 in Uncategorized

>Many thanks to Barbara of Scandinavian Crime Fiction [2008’s Best New Blog and a wonderful resource] for giving me an award for ‘Critical Perspicacity’. The idea coming from a meme via the prolific Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

Perspicacious is defined as ‘having a ready insight into and understanding of things.’

Therefore ‘Critical Perspicacity’ means not wasting time watching a modern day Haman give an alternative Christmas message on Channel Four. If we really want to learn about the views of a strange society, with an alternative world view from a completely different perspective the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special is still on the BBC iPlayer. Website here.

What six things do I want in my crime fiction reading:

A decent plot and some interesting sub-plots
Entertainment with a bit of humour alongside the horror
Memorable characters that I want to follow through a series of books
To be educated and learn something
To be made to think about society and the world
Photographs of attractive female authors

What I particularly dislike in the world of crime fiction are:

Books with very long sentences [193 is the record so far]
Authors using words that shout pretentious, ‘prolix’ for example
Poor research for example a 300 gram handgun does not weigh 3 kilograms
Blurbs that bear no relation to the plot of the book 
Reviewers who skim books and have no idea what happened in the story
Violence against women and children described in detail

I am only giving one Award and it goes to the entire Crime Fiction Blogging Community who have made this such a very pleasurable year.   


Posted: December 24, 2008 in Uncategorized


There were some personal highlights and low points during the year. 

May, the best mother in law in the world, died aged 97 but she had a good innings and lived long enough to see the highlight of our year, her granddaughter Clare getting a FIRST in Sociology from the University of Sussex.  

I appeared on ITV West Country News talking about the Honeytones, and my cousin’s daughter appeared on Newsnight talking about the Greek riots. She is a ‘real expert’ on International Crime with a PhD proving that interest in crime runs in the family. 

On the blogging scene the highlight of the year was meeting up with that brilliant group of superbloggers at Crime Fest in Bristol. 
Other highlights were ‘on line’ interviews with K.T.McCaffrey, Leighton Gage and Marek Krajewski, [link and scroll down for multiple entries] and some nice comments made about  my review of Philip Kerr’s March Violets  by the talented crime writer Michael Walters. The review is here.

Many thanks to all those who have linked to my posts on crime fiction and the Honeytones  or commented during the year. I would put links to all of your blogs but the list would be very long and I am still suffering from ‘cold’ therefore I might forget someone; so thanks to  everyone in the side bar plus a few others. ;0)

What pleased me about my reading and blogging this year is that sometimes I got it right, but more about those rare occasions after Christmas. 


Posted: December 24, 2008 in Uncategorized

Wishing everyone Seasons Greetings [Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa]  and a Happy Healthy Prosperous [I am a deranged optimist] New Year.


My choices for my best five books of the year have been sent to Karen at Euro Crime and after I had sent them in I realized that I had not even mentioned Andrea Camilleri!

But last night I was feeling a bit better from my recent illness [bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis etc I am a man I don’t get mere colds it is always more serious] and watched the first Montalbano episode I had recorded from BBC 4’s Euro Sleuths season.

I can therefore create a new category alongside best crime fiction TV series in 2008, The Wire [what else], of best episode in a crime series, Montalbano, Excursion to Tindari. 

The cast were almost perfect and although perhaps Luca Zingaretti, was a teeny bit younger than the Salvo Montalbano  I had imagined, he made up for it with a virtuoso performance, which had me fully convinced well before the end of the episode. The supporting actors were superb with Cesare Bocci and Peppino Mazzota an example of perfect casting as Mimi Augello and Fazio. 
Angelo Russo brillantly exhibited all the childlike vulnerability and bungling keenness of Catarella, although with subtitles a lot of the malapropisms were lost.  

Food did not play such a major part in the TV production as it does in the books but there was recompense in the fact that Isabell Sollman as Ingrid and Katharina Bohm as Livia were even more gorgeous than the characters my imagination had created. 

The stunning backdrop of the countryside around Ragusa, in Sicily, was beautifully filmed and the whole production was a real treat for Camilleri fans. 

All the RAI TV episodes can be watched without subtitles here but let us hope the BBC show all the rest or they are released on DVD soon. 


Posted: December 20, 2008 in Uncategorized

Just a reminder that the Winter Festival Quirky Quiz answers should be sent to and the closing date is Monday 5 January.

Having been called a fiend and a few other things for setting the questions I have decided to add a gentle clue to question one. ;O)
Good Luck the questions are here.


Posted: December 19, 2008 in Uncategorized


I have been rather ill [bronchitis, tonsillitis, laryngitis, and a chest infection] this week and could not even concentrate to read. 

I had begun The Shadow Walker by Michael Walters, the first  Nergui and Doripalam investigation set in Mongolia, and was very impressed with the excellent beginning.

I frequently mention the locations of crime novels to Mrs Crime Scraps with the hope that we can return on holiday to Sweden, Finland and Italy or even visit Norway for the first time, but apparently the credit crunch has struck the Crime Scraps budget. 
However Mrs Crime Scraps was so impressed by the Mongolian setting of the Michael Walters series that we will be spending part of the summer in a Yurt on Bodmin Moor! Luckily it only rains 350 days a year the rest of the time it is snowing.

A review of The Shadow Walker will appear on Euro Crime in the New Year.