Archive for July, 2009

>FURROWED FRIDAY

Posted: July 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Mike Ripley in his amusing column at Shots Magazine was kind enough to mention that in 2008 not one of the “expert readers” of Euro Crime picked the eventual winner the name of which he seemed to have forgotten.;0)


Well this inexpert reader was in the middle of reading that book while the judges were deliberating, and might well have chosen it if given the time. Well that is my story and I am sticking to it. At least my choice got a special mention.

The 2008 International Dagger winner was Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti translated from the French by Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz.

My choice for 2009, not quite ignored by the judges, was Echoes of the Dead by Johan Theorin translated by Marlaine Delargy.

There is a theory being touted that Scandinavian writers are being seduced away from writing proper literature by the financial rewards of crime fiction. I am entirely in agreement with Barbara Fister in her rebuttal of this pomposity.
We are even told that Nordic writers are being sucked into “sub- and semi-literary channels” and actually selling books.
This denigration of crime fiction in comparison with literature will rumble on and on. But it is not as annoying as writers who try to make crime fiction literature, or what they think is literature, by writing very long sentences and using words I have to look up in the OED.

>A PRUSSIAN FROM SPOLETO

Posted: July 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

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My review of Ariana Franklin’s Relics of the Dead was sent to Karen of Euro Crime last night as I wanted to be ready to watch the cricket on TV this morning. I missed the first two balls and wickets of the day but watched the rest of a very sad pre-lunch performance by Australia.


I have started reading A Visible Darkness by Michael Gregorio, the third whodunit to feature Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis and set in the years following Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt in 1806. My review will appear at Euro Crime.



Michael Gregorio are Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio, who have been married over 25 years and live in Spoleto, a charming small town in central Italy, where we coincidentally spent a wonderful holiday a few years ago. An excuse for posting more photographs of Italy.

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I watched the next Swedish Wallander episode, The Overdose, last night which I had recorded on BBC 4 Monday night.

This is a series which is growing on me despite the dark pitiless plots, and the subtitles which mean you have to concentrate hard.
Last week’s episode, The Brothers, was partially a commentary on the social gulf between rich and poor and between indigenous and immigrant populations, this week’s involved the exploitation of fourteen year old schoolgirls by some disgusting older males. You could almost imagine that the plot was written by Stieg Larsson, while hoping all the time that Lisbeth Salander would bounce in with a taser gun. A trial and legal process was far too benevolent a fate for these guys.

When Kurt Wallander is very worried about his health, he confides in Ann-Britt Hoglund, who wouldn’t, meanwhile his daughter Linda is devastated by the case as it brings back very unpleasant memories of her childhood.
There is also a hint of romance in the air between Kurt and Ann-Britt, but when a very upset Linda snuggles for comfort into Stefan’s bed he carries on reading a Donna Leon novel.

I have chosen to highlight these slightly lighter moments because watching The Overdose is a harrowing experience, and it got me extremely angry at the behaviour of the male authority figures.

What acting in this episode did to the psyche of the brilliant actress Johanna Sallstrom, who played Linda Wallander, I would not care to guess.
I will be watching again next week.

>AVALON

Posted: July 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

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More photographs from Glastonbury as I read Relics of the Dead by Ariana Franklin.

>FORGOTTEN PEACE

Posted: July 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

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The recent deaths of our last Great War veterans Henry Allingham [18 July at 113] and Harry Patch [25 July at 111] have brought an age to a close. Millions went off to war and died or were terribly wounded for what?

Our parents were deeply affected by this conflict, my mother always spoke so lovingly about her big brother who died aged 19 in the last few weeks of the war [27 September 1918] in the final assaults on the Hindenburg Line. My mother in law hardly knew her father who was sunk in a Royal Australian Navy submarine in January 1918. Their lives were never the same after that war.

But reading John W. Wheeler-Bennett’s Brest Litovsk, The Forgotten Peace, March 1918 a book written in 1938 when Europe faced another terrible conflict has reminded me of what they were fighting for, or rather against.
This is a book about negotiations between evil power hungry megalomaniacs and while it would be far too simplistic to claim that the governments of the Allies and Associated Powers were at that time fairly benevolent [they proved they weren’t at Versailles] but they were benign in comparison with the Prussian militarism of the German High Command.

Ludendorff is furious, the All-Highest [the Kaiser] nervous and ill at ease (must there always be these clashes?) ; Hindenburg is awakened and Kuhlmann puts a direct question to him ;

“Why do you particularly want the territories?”

Rumblingly from that giant torso comes the Marshal’s solemn answer:

” I need them for the manoeuvring of my left wing in the next war”.

The Treaty of Brest Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918 and by this agreement Russia lost 34% of her population, 32% of her agricultural land, 85% of her beet sugar lands, 54% of her industrial undertakings, and 89% of her coal mines.

The next day the German newspaper Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung stated that the German Government “has worked only for a peace of understanding and conciliation”.

>GLASTONBURY

Posted: July 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

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I have started reading Relics of the Dead by Ariana Franklin and my review will be posted on Euro Crime in due course. The story is set in Glastonbury which gives me the opportunity to post some photographs I took in March this year.

I did not climb the Tor, that is for younger and fitter visitors.
There have been two previous books in the Adelia Aguilar series, Mistress of The Art of Death which won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award and The Death Maze.

Review of The Death Maze.

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Cora Bender on a summer outing to the Otto Maighler Lido with her husband and young son has decided to kill herself, but suddenly she attacks and repeatedly stabs with a small fruit knife a stranger.

She is pulled off the man and confesses to the murder, and it seems a open and shut case. But as police detective Rudolf Govian interviews her and investigates her tragic past he wonders if there is a connection with the victim hidden behind a protective wall in Cora’s troubled mind.
A confused and muddled Cora tells him various lies, half truths and half remembered details of her life. Cora has had a dreadfully deprived childhood in a house where her mother’s insane religious fanaticism is contrasted with her father’s overwhelming sexual frustration and his understandable guilt over his actions during the war in Poland.
The family’s life has been sacrificed to an unhealthy commitment to her beautiful but invalid sister, Magdalena, with devastating consequences.
Petra Hammesfahr takes the reader on a harrowing journey into Cora’s very disturbed mind which leaves you temporarily exhausted but ultimately satisfied.

This must have been a difficult book to translate and John Brownjohn has done a fine job in bringing Petra Hammesfahr’s novel to an English readership. Author Petra Hammesfahr has written over twenty crime novels, and has won several prizes in Germany, including the Rhineland Literary Prize.

The Sinner delves deeply into the psychological quagmire that is Cora’s angst ridden psyche. It is not a comfortable read, because of the subject matter, but it is a gripping story that covers adult subjects in a straightforward almost clinical fashion. The narrative makes the reader feel all the pent up emotion and frustration of the main characters and leaves you drained at the end.
Any family with more than one child is faced with the problem of balancing time between siblings, those families with an invalid or special needs child face a much more difficult time. In Cora and Magdalena’s family the failure to balance their needs in such an extreme manner has caused deep psychological wounds.

The Sinner is simply a brilliant novel about human emotions, desires and how the mind is so vulnerable to trauma both physical and mental.

It is a powerful well written book that is a compulsive reading experience, but probably not if you are feeling a little bit depressed before you start.
The very best crime fiction is all about characters, plot and making you think about life, and The Sinner is a very good psychological thriller that fits those criteria.

I have commented elsewhere that I could not understand how that out of twenty three books nominated in the last four years for the CWA International Dagger only one book was originally written in German.
If the general standard of German crime fiction is anywhere near the quality of The Sinner that state of affairs is even more bizarre.

It was suggested that I might seek some light relief before starting my next crime fiction book tonight. Therefore today I will read some chapters from Brest Litovsk, The Forgotten Peace, March 1918, written by John Wheeler-Bennett in 1938.
The Russian Revolution, Lenin, Trotsky, Hindenburg, Ludendorff and Hoffman will indeed be light relief after the angst ridden emotion of The Sinner.

>BOOMERANG

Posted: July 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Thanks to the lovely Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for the I Keep Coming Back For More Award.


It always always pleasant to win an award and doubly so when it comes from someone who is so knowledgeable. Thanks Kerrie.

>BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS…….

Posted: July 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

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This morning the postman brought me a package of four books sent by the kindly Karen of Euro Crime. A further parcel included one book came sent direct from the publisher Transworld. Many thanks Karen.


I took a photograph of the tottering pile of books on my current TBR pile, those I really want to read in the next few weeks!
When does a hobby, a recreation, a pastime, or a diversion turn into an obsession or a disease?

>SWEDISH WALLANDER ON BBC

Posted: July 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

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On a typical Devon July day, with the rain pouring down outside, I watched a recording of the fourth Swedish Wallander [series one] episode to be shown on British television. For a reason that mystifies me, and I am frequently mystified by the BBC, we were shown episodes one and six previously, these were then repeated and now they have gone on with episodes two and three in the correct order.


The BBC version of Wallander with Kenneth Branagh was a pleasant viewing experience but did not really grab my interest. It was a long time since I had read the Henning Mankell books and Kenneth Branagh was not the Kurt Wallander I had in my head and I found it difficult to identify with him. The BBC production seemed to be all about beautiful settings and the brilliant acting of Kenneth Branagh and just seemed too glossy for me.

The four Swedish Wallander episodes I have watched have been of variable quality, although all are based on plot outlines written by Henning Mankell and scripted by others.
Episode Three, The Brothers, was in my opinion the best so far with excellent acting demonstrating the relationships both personal and professional between the Ystad police team.
This episode features some horrific murders, but also a little low key Scandinavian humour from Kurt in his relationships with his boss Lisa Holgersson, and his colleague Ann-Britt Hoglund. I may be in a minority but I find Krister Henriksson to be more very much like the Wallander I imagined from the books.
The smouldering sexual attraction between Linda Wallander and Stefan Lindman catches fire and their subsequent strained relationship is covered with some insight. These characters play a much bigger part in this series than in the BBC production, and are well acted by Johanna Sallstrom and Ola Rapace.

Ola Rapace is the husband of Noomi Rapace who plays the part of Lisbeth Salander in the Stieg Larsson Millennium film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

It is a bittersweet and sad experience watching this series, and knowing that the brilliant young actress Johanna Sallstrom took her own life in 2007. She was a shining star in Mankell’s Wallander and the series is well worth watching.