Archive for April, 2009


I mentioned the Nordic Glass Key [Glasnyckeln] on Tuesday here in relation to Jo Nesbo’s The Bat Man which one in 1998.

You can read an article which discusses this years nominees here.
I know we won’t have to wait very long for the Arnaldur Indridason Haroskafi [Hypothermia], let us hope the rest will be all translated into English very soon.

The question was:

A Chinese American, and a Belgian as well as ten others are linked by a Central American Republic, an International Police Organization and a philatelic celebration.
Explain and identify the dozen?

There were five correct answers, well done, to this conundrum which was that:

In 1972 Nicaragua to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Interpol  issued a series of twelve stamps with images of great fictional detectives.

Charlie Chan- the Chinese American
Hercule Poirot- the most famous Belgian
Lord Peter Wimsey
Philip Marlowe
Sam Spade
Perry Mason
Nero Wolfe
Auguste Dupin
Ellery Queen
Father Brown
Sherlock Holmes
Inspector Maigret

These are all were male detectives and I am sure that some readers might be able to suggest six female detectives to even up the numbers in this more enlightened age. 
I wonder why they did not include Miss Marple? Or Mrs Bradley?


Posted: April 28, 2009 in Uncategorized


When one looks at a list of the winners of the Glasnyckeln here, the Nordic Glass Key award for the Best Nordic Crime Fiction book of the year, the rather capricious choice by publishers of which books and in which order to translate some authors becomes apparent. 

Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole crime thrillers were translated into English in the order:

The Devil’s Star:  5
The Redbreast:    3
Nemesis:                4
The Redeemer:    6

Quite ridiculous when there was a major sub plot running through books 3-5. Why not start with book one especially when that Flaggermusmannen, The Bat Man, won the Galsnyckeln in 1998? 

At least Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series [translated by Crime Fest Bristol 2009 panelist Reg Keeland] is being published in order and both The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest [due out in September 2009] won Glass Key Awards in 2006 and 2008. 

You can read my previous posts about Jo Nesbo here.
And a selection of posts about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon here.


Posted: April 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

When I am sent or beg a book via Karen of Euro Crime I usually try to say nothing about the book until the review appears on Euro Crime. 

But on this occasion I am reading a book which is such a masterpiece that I can’t resist quoting one passage which so brilliantly expresses the banality of everyday life during the war, and is in stark contrast to the atmosphere of fear that pervades the rest of the narrative.  

Then he was standing in front of the shop and peering in through the shiny silver bars of the birdcages-yes there was Hetty. She was waiting on customers; four or five people were in the shop. He joined them and watched with pride and trembling heart how skilfully she served them, how polite she was with them. 

“We no longer carry Indian millet, madam. India is part of the British Empire. But I have Bulgarian millet which is much better.”  

The Saturday quote about fraternization came from one of the classic Lew Archer series The Zebra -Striped Hearse by Ross MacDonald published in 1962. 

In this novel Lew Archer starts out by looking for dirt on Colonel Blackwell’s prospective son- in- law and as with all this California based series he is soon following a trail of corpses. His books are usually of a manageable length which was convenient because I read them for the first time when I was supposed to be reading textbooks.
This is a great series of detective books with some wonderfully evocative descriptions of California and California people, almost as good as Chandler.


Posted: April 25, 2009 in Uncategorized


The second run of series one of the brilliant French TV series “Engrenages” Spiral has just finished on BBC. I don’t usually watch repeats but this was worth spending the time to view it again bearing in mind that since it was on first time round we have had shown on the BBC the Kenneth Branagh Wallanders, a French Maigret, a Swedish Wallander and the Montalbano programs. Also that magnificent achievement The Wire, which those privileged with cable have already seen, is in the middle of its BBC terrestrial debut. 

How does Spiral compare? Very well, it is right up there with the best TV crime series.
What was the factor that made this series exceptional TV, and has me scouring the schedules for Spiral’s second series? 

That special factor was the superb casting with actors who actually looked the part, unlike the cast of the British hospital series Holby City  who look like models who have never done a day’s work anywhere near a busy hospital in their lives. 

The beautiful Caroline Proust [police capitaine Laure Berthe] looked suitably exhausted, dishevelled and incredibly dishy at the same time. While her colleague Gilou played by Thierry Godard was a brilliant portrayal of a tough cop whose career was about implode. 

Audrey Fleurot, another very attractive actress, played the enigmatic lawyer Josephine Karlsson, and Phillipe Duclos was the crusty difficult Judge Francois Roban. 
It was very interesting to see the French criminal justice system, which I still don’t understand, in operation with the independent examining magistrates given their own mission to uncover the truth, and to discover evidence both incriminating and exonerating before the case comes to court.
In the main case in the series, the murder of a Romanian girl, the handsome Acting Chief Prosecutor Pierre Clement, played by Gregory Fitoussi, tries to protect his old school friend, the really smooth and nasty Benoit Faye [Guillaume Cramosian] from Judge Roban’s enquiries. While Faye is under pressure from the even more disgustingly creepy government advisor Arnaud Laborde [Scali Delpeyrat] to keep him out of the investigation. 

I hope we get to see the second series of this sophisticated French thriller and that some of the same excellent cast feature in it. 

>Here is the Saturday quotation for this week and I will give the solution tomorrow.

“All the ways he could think of. He went in for enforcement of petty rules. He was very keen on the anti-fraternization policy. My men had murder rape and black-marketeering to contend with. But Blackie expected us to spend our nights patrolling the cabarets suppressing fraternization. It drove him mad to think of all the fraternization that was going on between innocent American youths and man-eating Frauleins.”
“Is he some kind of sex nut.”    


I always like reading other people’s lists of their favourite writers and detectives. Michael O’Byrne, former Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, adds a postscript chapter in The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure in which he lists his choices. 

He states “I am probably more comfortable reading police procedural crime which is based abroad, like the books of James Lee Burke and Michael Dibdin, as I know very little about police procedures in either USA or Italy and thus the story never jars if the author gets it wrong.”

James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux, Michael Dibdin and Aurelio Zen, and the third foreign writer that he chooses is Henning Mankell and Kurt Wallander, of whom he writes “……Wallander’s plots keep you involved until the end [except The Dogs of Riga in which his raid of the Latvian police archives is frankly ludicrous].”

This last quote is from the 82 word last sentence of the book, and seemed to me to be a strange way of ending a useful guide. The Dogs of Riga is one of two of Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels that I have not read.
Previously Michael O’Byrne had named his four favourite writers with British based investigators, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, P.D. James and Peter Robinson. 

Do you mind if the author gets it wrong?
Not seriously wrong [e.g light as a feather 3 kg firearms] but wrong enough for a police officer or a crime aficionado looking up a guide to notice that it is wrong. Aren’t plot and character more important than that sort of detail? Of course meticulous research adds to a story but can you still enjoy a book even if you know details of police procedure are far fetched and you have to take some things with a pinch of salt. Would a police officer actually keep his job if he was described thus:

“He is a violent and recovering alcoholic, spends significant parts of books being suspended or under threat of arrest and has as his best friend a homicidal maniac.”

That description could indeed cover more than one detective in crime fiction, and perhaps a few politicians,  as well as Dave Robicheaux. 
Michael O’Byrne is not the only one more comfortable reading crime fiction based abroad as is obvious from today’s Amazon UK crime fiction best seller lists with Lee Child at number one and the Lisbeth Salander series of Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland, sitting at numbers three and five. 

The photo is not of some prison camp in the Third World but of the entrance to our allotments. 


My recent reading material has been of a very high quality. After finishing Eric Ambler’s A Coffin for Dimitrios which I reviewed here I read:

The Jerusalem File: Joel Stone 
Gallows Lane: Brian McGilloway

I have now begun Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada and  this is a novel whose cover note and blurbs  are an accurate appraisal of the work. 

“Alone In Berlin is one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. Please do not miss this.” Alan Furst

Reviews of these three books will appear in due course on Euro Crime


Posted: April 22, 2009 in Uncategorized


Allotment: noun: a plot of land rented by an individual for growing vegetables and flowers.


Shed:noun: a simple roofed structure used for garden storage, to shelter animals or as a workshop.
Or to hide in with a good book and avoid the digging.