Archive for December, 2009

>A BEST OF 2009 LIST

Posted: December 31, 2009 in Uncategorized

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I wanted a positively themed post to end the year, and the decade, so here is a list of the best crime fiction I read during 2009 that had a location outside Europe, or the USA.

These would have been useful for Dorte’s Global Reading Challenge 2010, but I have some more books already lined up for that pleasant task.

[thanks to Crimeficreader]



Each of these books spotlights razor sharp social, and political, commentary combined with a crime story that is just a bit different from the usual fare.

Venturing onto the subject of real life crime, the Honeytones played at Dartmoor Prison this year, and were very well received by what could be called a captive audience.

My best wishes to everyone for a very happy and healthy 2010. Happy New Year.

>SWEDISH WALLANDER SERIES ENDS

Posted: December 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

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The factors that make a TV series a success are varied, but many of the best crime series usually feature an ensemble cast of characters.


The Swedish Wallander series on BBC4 featured brilliant acting by Ola Rapace [as Stefan], Johanna Sallstrom [as Linda], Krister Henriksson [as Kurt Wallander] and Mats Bergman [as Nyberg] that kept you totally gripped throughout each episode.
I will say that watching the final episode was a gut wrenching experience in view of the subject matter and the subsequent tragic death of Johanna Sallstrom, but it was typical of this series that it dealt with unpleasant subjects in a realistic manner.

A new series of the British Wallanders, starring Kenneth Branagh, was advertised at the end of the program, and the trailer promptly emphasised why the British series lacked the veracity of the Swedish version.
Branagh so dominates the screen that the rest of the cast were, in that first series, mere appendices to his personality and acting ability.
In the Swedish series there was a balance to the cast and the performances, which was distinctly lacking in the Branagh version. I hope the second series will be an improvement, and I won’t keep thinking about Henry V every time Branagh speaks.

>GOOD DAYS

Posted: December 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

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This year has been full of what Harold Macmillan would call ‘events, my dear boy, events’.

One of life’s pleasant events occurred yesterday when two very kind fellow bloggers gave me awards.



The pressure is now on to keep producing some interesting posts in 2010, such as 2009’s :

The interviews with Rebecca Cantrell and Philip Kerr.

>WHAT SANTA BROUGHT ME!

Posted: December 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Not exactly Santa, but my daughter and granddaughter, both voracious readers and definitely experts in book selection.

They used their considerable brain power to deal with the problem that I have every translated crime book ever written accumulated in an enormous pile in my cupboard sized study, by selecting two American crime books.

The Way Home: George Pelecanos
Black Water Rising: Attica Locke

An excellent choice was made by each, well done girls!
One of these will be useful for Dorte’s Global Reading Challenge.

Our Christmas Eve was enlivened by the road and pavement outside turning into a skating rink after fresh rain had fallen onto very cold ground and frozen hard. For one second I thought our neighbours had been drinking, then I realised they were sliding around and trying to stay on their feet. They shouted a warning to us and then we warned vehicles that our road was extremely dangerous. I was concerned as we had our family’s three cars parked in a row, and one skid by a passing vehicle could have been disastrous.

On Christmas Day we were able communicate via Skype [plus video!] with my son and his beautiful girlfriend, who were in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Skype is an absolutely incredible technology that still leaves me astonished. Perhaps the next great advance will be an acceptable mobile phone signal in the Tiverton region of Devon.

>MERRY CHRISTMAS

Posted: December 24, 2009 in Uncategorized

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>UNSEEN: MARI JUNGSTEDT

Posted: December 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

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A dinner party on the Swedish island of Gotland goes drastically wrong when Helena Hillerstrom’s jealous boyfriend Per objected to her dancing with handsome single man Kristian. Per smacks Helena who scratches him, and then Per punches Kristian. The party is definitely over.

The next morning Helena goes for a walk on the beach with her dog, and both her and the dog are later found hacked to death.
Inspector Anders Knutas, a solid family man, will lead the police team, while Johan Berg a TV journalist will carry out his own independent investigation. When Frida, a second attractive woman is brutally murdered in a similar fashion, the people of Gotland begin to panic and worry as to their safety and to the reduced holiday trade. There are some people on the island with secrets to hide.

Unseen is a solid police procedural with Inspector Anders Knutas, who is happily married with twins Nils and Petra, leading an investigative team much in the manner of Sjowall and Wahloo’s Martin Beck, and Henning Mankel’s Wallander. We learn a lot about Gotland and its traditions, as well as the importance to the Swedes of Midsummer, not surprising in a country with such long winter nights. There are some fine descriptions of the geography of the island, and the smartly designed and furnished houses of the prosperous young people.

The most interesting of the police team are Karin Jacobsson, who Knutas is perhaps a little in love with, despite his happy home life, and Martin Kihkgard, a prolific eater, who one suspects was sent from Stockholm to provide some light relief to the dark tale.
The clever variation in the normal police procedural theme is the additional presence of TV journalist Johan Berg conducting his own enquiries, and also creating personal turmoil in the mind of Helena’s best friend Emma.
Emma is beautiful, distressed by the loss of her childhood friend, and incidentally has a husband Olle and two young children, but this does not stop the selfish Johan from pursuing her.
The antics and cogitations of this couple play a large part in the novel. I suppose this is what is called ‘femikrimi’, and I have to admit it fitted into the story well without slowing the plot narrative in any way.
But I did not like the character of Johan at all, and it is a compliment to the author and the brilliant translator Tiina Nunnally that he inspired such antipathy.
The technique of interspersing passages of the serial killer’s past and his thoughts worked well and eventually gave us a clue to the murderer’s motives.
I thought the police were a bit slow on the uptake, but that too was credible in a holiday resort where very little serious crime occurred.
I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more about Mari Jungstedt’s characters. I think I might shout ‘Don’t do it Emma’ as I read.

>WINTER QUIRKY QUIZ

Posted: December 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

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I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas and pleasant New Year holiday.

With some people not returning to work until 4 January 2010, I thought that I would set one of my little quizzes to keep you amused, and to provide an excuse to get away from the TV, and the relatives, for a while.
There will be top quality book prizes for the best three entrants so get your thinking caps on.
An easy one to start.

1] Who said ‘Send him to gaol, and you make him a goal bird for life. Besides it is the season of forgiveness.’

2] Which crime writer, and which actor in a crime series, are never odd or even?

3] How would a minister of religion, a word puzzle, a type of code and an aperture be useful in a murder investigation?

4] A famous crime novel begins with the following sentence. Fill in the gaps and name the novel.

‘Some women give birth to ______ , some go to bed with them, and some ______ them.’

5] Grace Kelly starred in the film Rear Window, and Catherine Deneuve starred in the film Mississippi Mermaid [ la Sirene du Mississippi]. What is the connection between these two films, apart from having two very beautiful women as the stars?

6] What is the link between a bird of the Icteridae family with yellow and black plumage, metal drawn out to be thin and flexible, and three roses and a bottle of cognac?

7] What is the nominal connection between the discoverer of the secret of life, an Italian navigator, a transcontinental expedition leader, and an English seaside town? And who were their colleagues?

8] Name a crime writer who was born in Malaya in 1907, and a crime writer who lives in Thailand?

9] What sort of cooperation might mysteriously involve a lonely American jockey, Royal cousins, single colloquial nightwear, and a Gallic pseudonym?

10] Who are these ladies?

a) Dulcie Duveen
b) Mary Marston
c) Ellen Gjelten
d) Nancy Neele
e) Cynthia Murdoch

Best of luck and please send your answers to thbear08@googlemail.com by the closing date Wednesday 6 January [midnight GMT].

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My contribution to this week’s Crime Fiction Alphabet meme at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise is L for Leif. Leif Davidsen.


Leif Davidsen, born in 1950 is a Danish journalist, and author of a number of best selling political thrillers. He spent 25 years at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation as a radio and TV correspondent, specialising in Eastern and Central European affairs, and has been stationed in both Moscow and Spain.

His books that readily available in English:

Lime’s Photograph [winner of the Nordic Glass Key in 1999]
The Woman From Bratislava

The Serbian Dane was written way back in 1996 and is very relevant today because of the issues it raises about freedom of speech and the action totalitarian states are prepared to take against dissidents. The story concerns Sara Santanda, an Iranian author with a fatwa and price on her head, who is invited by the Danish newspaper Politiken to visit Copenhagen. The Iranians through their Russian mafia contacts hire an assassin Vuk to kill the ‘infidel bitch’……

The Sardine Deception was Davidsen’s first novel written in 1984 and was translated into English by the now famous translators Tiina Nunnaly and Steven Murray and published by their own appropriately named Fjord Press of Seattle. I was privileged to receive my copy as a gift from the translators on a very wet Wednesday in May just before Crime Fest 2009.


Poul Jensen, a Danish house husband is married to glamorous TV journalist Charlotte Dansbourg, who is a very modern woman traveling the world in search of stories. When Poul learns that Charlotte has been killed in an ETA [an armed Basque nationalist and separatist group] bombing of a bar in San Sebastian he travels to Spain to collect her body…..

I enjoyed both these exciting books, and have the other two on my to be read in 2010 list.

>GIVE BOOKS ABOUT DETECTIVES

Posted: December 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Giving books as a gift is always tricky especially when your significant other has seemingly almost every book ever published, but I think any crime fiction aficionado would love the books I have selected as potential stocking fillers.



Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D.James is a discussion of the genre which ranges from the 19th century origins to TV’s Prime Suspect. At a mere 157 pages it is hardly a comprehensive study, but it has a certain charm in that the reader will feel that Baroness James is naturally much more at home in the cosy villages of England than with the genre’s later developments.
One aspect that might concern the modern reader is that the book is very Anglo-American in its viewpoint. There is only the very briefest mention of the explosion of crime fiction writing in Sweden and other non-English speaking countries, with only two authors being mentioned by name; Henning Mankell and Georges Simenon.

‘Our planet has always been a dangerous, violent and mysterious habitation for humankind and we are all adept at creating those pleasures and comforts, large and small, sometimes dangerous and destructive, which offer at least temporary relief from the inevitable tensions and anxieties of contemporary life. A love of detective fiction is certainly among the least harmful.’

The Lineup, The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell The Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler, is a wonderful series of astute character sketches that offer interesting insights into writing detective fiction.
So far I have read only the first six out of the twenty one biographical essays, but these have been as good as one would expect from a star studded lineup of Ken Bruen, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Robert Crais and Jeffrey Deaver.
This is definitely a collection that should not be missed, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the essays, and learning more about that very personal relationship between a writer and their detective.

Perhaps one day someone will publish a collection of biographical sketches by Jo Nesbo, Fred Vargas, Karin Fossum, Mari Jungstedt, Marek Krajewski, Gunnar Staalesen, Andrea Camilleri, Henning Mankell, K.O.Dahl and other European authors discussing their detectives.

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I have just finished reading John Lawton’s Black Out earlier this morning, and I am still humming with the delightful thought that there are on my shelves three more Troy books to be read.


It is February 1944, and as the country waits for the opening of the Second Front a ragged stump of a human arm is found by boys playing on a bomb site in Stepney. When Polish pathologist Kolankiewicz identifies the body as that of a German, from a cufflink with a Munich hallmark, and informs Frederick Troy about another German found the previous year on Tower beach, with a bullet hole in his cheek, Troy realises he is on the trail of a serial killer. But a very unusual serial killer with some powerful connections.

‘Forty-five automatic? There’s a Colt forty-five automatic that’s a standard issue American-forces weapon.’
‘Yes-but the black market these days. I know a pub in Mill Hill where you could buy a Howitzer over the counter.’ Kolanciewicz gestured at the cafe window. ‘Most of your colonial cousins would sell you any thing from a pair of nylons to a half- track. You need a second-hand Flying Fortress? Try the Railwayman’s Arms in Mill Hill.
And the money they get they spend monopolising the buttered scones of Olde England!’

If you thought you had read everything on the theme of the serial killer this superb police procedural gives it a new twist, and keeps you guessing the outcome until the very end.
On top of the excellent plot with a few surprises John Lawton gives the reader an evocation of wartime London second to none, and a group of unforgettable characters. The clever reliable Constable Jack Wildeve, Kolanciewicz the mad Polish pathologist, the solid Superintendent Stanley Onions, Troy’s eccentric scientist uncle Nikolai, the tall elegant Lady Diana Brack, and the short bubbly blonde American WAC Tosca all feature in a wonderful ensemble cast along with the hero Frederick Troy.

Troy is the younger son of a millionaire Russian emigre newspaper owner, who has become a dedicated policeman abandoning the vacuous lifestyle of many of his class to be an ordinary ‘copper’.
His family connections gained him a special dispensation from the Met’s height restriction, but his shortness never hampers his ‘success’ with women, and I wondered if this was one reason why I liked the Troy series so much.

Black Out is a wonderful read with an original plot, evocative atmosphere, and great characters it represents crime fiction at its very best. And it is quite fun as well.

‘Gorgeous,’ he said, inhaling from the jar. ‘Pity we’ve nothing to eat with it.’
‘We have,’ she said out of sight.
‘Such as?’
‘Such as…….me!’
He turned. She had taken of her blouse and was unhooking her brassiere, unleashing a bosom of such magnificence as to stagger the beholder.
She grasped the jar and upended it over her torso.
‘OK, baby. I’m yours. Sauce me!’