Archive for October, 2010


Posted: October 30, 2010 in Uncategorized


Here at Crime Scraps HQ I am frequently confused, but I do have certain old fashioned standards.

Boring standards such as reviewers reading the books they review, and publishers playing fair with their customers.

I know I am not a time traveller so I was surprised to read at the back of my copy of Red Wolf by Liza Marklund that her gripping new thriller, The Bomber, will be available in the Spring of 2011. New????
I am sure I read this book in English some years ago before I started blogging? The Bomber was published in English in 2002/2003, and is certainly not a new thriller.

Here are the Annika Bengtzon books in chronological order, along with their dates of publication in Sweden.

1] Studio 69 [1999]- action takes place 8 years before The Bomber.
2] Paradise [2000]– takes place after Studio 69.
3] Prime Time [2002]- action takes place after Paradise.
4] The Bomber [1998]
5] Red Wolf [2003] -action takes place after The Bomber.
6] Nobel’s testamente [2006]- action takes place after Red Wolf.
7] Livstid [2007] a sequel to Nobel’s testamente.
8] En plats i solen [2008] sequel to Livstid

Books 6,7, and 8 have yet to be translated into English.

Author Liza Marklund along with Malin Crepin who will play Annika Bengtzon in Yellow Bird’s film /TV versions of the novels.


Posted: October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar, translated from the Spanish by Martin Schifino, features one of the most horrific murder methods I have read, but despite this the short police procedural leaves you feeling you want to read more from this author. The plot has a nice twist at the end, but it is the evocative atmosphere, Galician location, humour, characters and culinary details that make this novel, and detective Leo Caldas, a fine addition to the variety of European crime fiction.

It was the winner of the Brigada 21 Prize for best first crime novel, and also the Sintagma Prize.

Inspector Leo Caldas takes part in a regular radio program, Patrol the Waves, which he hates because the phone calls concern the work of the city police rather than the homicide section. But this makes him well known in Vigo, and this celebrity does help when he introduces himself to potential witnesses.

He is called to attend a twenty floor high rise on Toralla island where Luis Reigosa, a young jazz saxophonist, has been found dead in his luxurious apartment. The body has horrific burns in the stomach and groin region, and Reigosa had been tied by his wrists to the headboard of the bed.
Leo Caldas, and his subordinate Rafael Estevez, start an investigation that will lead them to jazz clubs, gay bars and involvement with Vigo’s influential upper class.

Rafael Estevez is a hulking six foot five “bull in a china shop” from Zaragoza, who is finding it difficult to cope with the changeable Galician weather, the people and the steepness of the streets. He is a stern Aragonese, who loses his temper at the slightest hint of opposition, and has been banished to Vigo as a punishment for some previous incident.

‘Is Estevez with you?
‘Yes,’ ratified Caldas. ‘Shouldn’t he have come?’
‘He shouldn’t have been born,’ replied Soto and rang off.

There is a amusing confrontation when Estevez, after being stung by a weaver fish on his foot, takes his shoe and sock off in a gay bar, and has to fight off admirers offering him a foot massage.

Leo Caldas like Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano, is a man who enjoys fresh seafood, and wine, so it is doubly convenient that his father owns a vineyard, and that he lives near the Galician coast.

‘I thought you wouldn’t,’ muttered Caldas, helping himself to a piece of potato and placing the sardine on top of it, so that the potato would soak up the grease and salt of the fish.

Author Domingo Villar writes scripts for film television and is also a radio food critic so it is no surprise that food plays such an important part in a Caldas investigation.

He’d gone for a small dish of beef stewed on a low heat, with potatoes seasoned with olive oil and a mixture of paprika and cayenne pepper, and a good portion of scallop quiche, served just the way he liked it: the pastry thin and crispy, and the scallops simply cooked with browned onions. Carlos had opened a bottle of wine for both of them before dinner.

It is all very civilized compared with the average British cop , who is lucky if he gets a hurried bacon roll during a case.
Villar pays homage to some of the great crime writers as the saxophonist with the blue eyes has on his night table The Terracotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri, and bookshelves packed with novels by Montalban, Ellroy, Chandler, and Hammett; all this detail adds to the successful chemistry created in the book.

I remember from our trip to Santiago del Compostela, a few years ago, reading the graffiti written in English:
‘This is not Spain-Freedom for Galicia’.

Villar uses the contrast between the laid back local Caldas, at home in the environment, and the exiled Estevez totally stumped by the manners, food, and climate to emphasize the internal differences in Spain. A fascinating short novel which packs a lot into a mere 167 pages.

As a starter Leo Caldas ordered half a kilo of goose barnacles which he had reserved over the phone, and as a main course a huge sole he chose from the display counter.

I am definitely going to read the second book in the series, Death on a Galician Shore, when it is published in English next April.
You can read excellent reviews of Water-Blue Eyes by Maxine at Petrona, Jose Ignacio at The Game’s Afoot, and Glenn at International Noir Fiction.


Posted: October 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

What to read next?

After reading two Swedish door stops from Roslund and Helstrom [506 pages], and Leif G.W. Persson [551 pages], do I take a break from Northern European angst or read another more attractive Swedish author, whose book contains a mere 508 pages?


October’s Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival was a bumper edition with 40 contributions from 22 contributors.


Posted: October 25, 2010 in Uncategorized


This post continues my thoughts at the post Between Summer’s Longing…..

I have now finished reading Leif G.W.Persson’s 551 page novel Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End. [BSLAWE].
The plot begins with the apparent suicide of John Krassner, an unpleasant American journalist, who is writing a book “The Spy Who Went East” based on his even more unpleasant uncle’s exploits in the CIA.
The eponymous spy is the Swedish Prime Minister, who is assassinated at the end of BSLAWE.
The plot of BSLAWE follows two separate timelines covering the secret police investigations of Krassner, and the investigation of his suicide by the Stockholm police.
The rest of the book is commentary with a very large cast of characters appearing and disappearing at various intervals, and the narrative frequently halted by complex back stories.
There are accounts of numerous meetings between the unnamed special advisor to the Prime Minister, and Berg the head of the SePo [secret police] in which they talk a lot but little is decided.

One feature of the novel is the author’s very dark, and sometimes self-deprecatory sense of humour.

Then Berg had started his climb towards the top of the police pyramid while Persson had played it safe and chosen to remain down below. Twenty years later, and in Persson’s case twice as many pounds round the middle,…..

A real old time constable, thought Berg affectionately when he saw Persson’s fat rear end disappearing through the door.

Those familiar with Swedish crime fiction will note the names Guillou and Marklund also are mentioned in the book.

I don’t know whether Professor Persson is deliberately cultivating his image as an irascible old misogynist, but the behaviour of some of his characters especially Berg’s obnoxious deputy Claes Waltin is interesting to say the least.

If the hair on her head were allowed to grow a little, she could be almost perfect, with two small braided pigtails. Little Jeanette aged thirteen……..

Why can’t he fuck like other people anymore? thought Assistant Detective Jeanette Eriksson, who this weekend was spending more time bent forward across his knees with her redder and redder backside straight up in the air than her lover, Police Superintendent Claes Waltin, was spending between her legs.

The other main character Lars Johansson, head of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is a much more pleasant personality;

“What’s he like? What do you mean?”
“I mean, what’s he like as a detective?”
“He’s the best ,” said Berg. For he is, of course, he thought with surprise at the same moment he said it.
“What’s he good at? The special adviser nodded at him to continue.
“At figuring out how things stand,” said Berg.

Johansson stands almost alone as a competent policeman among the lazy, the incompetent, and the corrupt who serve in both branches of the police force. We read about the idiotic Stockholm chief constable and his ludicrous seminars on “The Scientific Detective”, secret policemen who while on surveillance go off to buy burgers, the covering up of crimes committed by off duty police officers, and the invention of threats to inflate the departmental budget.
The book rambles over international espionage, conspiracy, murder, and abuse of state power, and while it can be funny, subtle and nuanced it is also brutally crude in places.

While I was reading I kept thinking of a chef who wanted to include all his best dishes in one banquet, and although some dishes were memorable the whole meal became indigestible because there was just too much food presented to the diner.

Was BSLAWE a police procedural, an insider’s exposé of incompetence, a political thriller, a satire, a black comedy or a blend of all of these?
I am certain there was a very good 300 page crime fiction thriller, or police procedural hiding among the 551 pages, but for me it was swamped by too much material and too many different stories.
Will I read the sequel ‘En annan tid, ett annat liv’ which won Best Swedish crime fiction novel in 2003 if it is translated into English?
Probably because just when you thought Professor Persson had depressed the reader quite enough with a dark turn of events, he kicks you in the guts with yet another appalling twist right at the very end.
Not an enjoyable read, but I do want to know what happens to Lars Johansson……..

The nominations for the basta svenska kriminalroman [best Swedish crime fiction] for 2010 have been announced. They are:

Camilla Grebe & Asa Traffe: Bittrare an doden
Lars Kepler: Paganinikontraktet
Olle Lonnaeus: Mike Larssons rymliga hjarta
Kristina Ohlsson: Tusenskonor
Leif G.W. Persson: Den doende detektiven

A book by Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist will be published in English next April; and Leif G.W. Persson’s Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End [the book I am reading at the moment] is available in English translation.

The nominations for the svenska oversatta kriminalroman [Martin Beck Award] are:

Faisa Guene: Sista Bestallningen psa Balto
Arnaldur Indridason: Morka strommar [Myrka] not translated into English.
Deon Meyer: Devil’s Peak
Iain Pears Stone’s Fall

I think the awards will be made on the 20 November.


Posted: October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized


I have reached page 353 of Leif G.W. Persson’s Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, the story of a crime, and it is growing on me, although I have found it an uneven read.

I wondered at first whether this could be because of the translation by Paul Norlen, or the sometimes convoluted writing style of Professor Persson, but then decided it was simply because I enjoyed reading one of the two threads of the story much more than the other. Persson has such a very dark sense of humour, that I did feel a trifle guilty at times finding some of his material amusing.

The plot concerns the apparent suicide of an American journalist John Krassner, who probably jumped out of the 16th floor window of student accommodation in Stockholm. The story follows the two separate investigations of his past activities and his subsequent death alternating between two different timelines and threads. One investigation is run by SePo, the Secret Swedish State Police, whose operation is lead by Berg, and carried out by Waltin, who is a particularly unpleasant character.

He had spent the last thirty-six hours with Jeanette Eriksson, and they hadn’t even set foot outside the door. With the exception of a few brief meals and a few hours’ sleep, he had for the most part screwing her the entire time, and everything had gone according to plan. Women were naturally submissive.

The other investigation is lead by Lars Martin Johansson, head of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who is a much more nuanced and subtle character.

It became clear when they sat down at the table in her small kitchen that he didn’t need to worry about the food and drink that he hadn’t brought with him. Excellent assortment of pickled herring, gravlax, and smoked eel, an excellent potato casserole with just the right creaminess, golden-brown meatballs, and little sausages that sizzled as the hostess lifted them out of the oven. There was lots of beer and wine besides.
She must be rich too, thought Johansson, loading up another spoonful of scrambled eggs with finely chopped fresh chives. Nice to look at and fun to talk with. Prepares food like Aunt Jenny herself, motherly as well, patient, and……probably wealthy.

I was a little surprised in view of the author’s close connection with the police, he has served as a professor at Sweden’s National Police Board and an adviser to the Swedish Ministry of Justice, that he describes in detail the bigoted attitudes of members of the police. After all he is an establishment figure in comparison to investigative journalists Stieg Larsson, and Anders Roslund and ex -criminal Borge Hellstrom who have written so interestingly about the abuse of state power by the police.

Perhaps the attitudes of cops are the same the world over, and it intrigues me when my local police contacts always refer to being “in THE job” creating an emotional wall between themselves, their families, and the rest of society.

The back cover blurbs are full of remarkable praise such as:

“One of the best Swedish crime novels of all time.” Expressen
“This is a masterpiece.” Il Sole 24 Ore

Is this deserved? The book is amusing in places, so far very cleverly plotted, and has some memorable characters and situations, but like many blockbusters it could have done with a bit of editing.
On to read the endgame now as there are still 200 pages to go, and I hope to finish before winter’s end.


Posted: October 19, 2010 in Uncategorized


I am an old fashioned grumpy, and I like my libraries to look like a library, and not to be used for other purposes. A library should be a place that raises the human spirit, and gives a feeling of well being and contentment.

Last month I went to a Christie conversation at Paignton Library and Community Hub.

Some of the overseas visitors had just been to Agatha Christie’s beautiful home at Greenway, and coming on to the library must have been an interesting contrast.

Greenway is situated at an idyllic location on the River Dart, Paignton’s £6.5 million lottery funded library is not.
The traffic roars past the library, and the surrounding area must be one of the bleakest places in what is one of England’s loveliest counties. I think libraries should be places to seek enlightenment and to have moments of quiet reflection reading a newspaper, or a book, or looking up facts in reference books or even on a computer.
I am sorry to say Paignton’s library is like a busy train station that seems to have been designed by Albert Speer, and Wayne Rooney after a night out on the tiles. The upper floor was being advertised for rent at £17,000 a year, which would leave the train station downstairs on its own.
The library is also a community hub with offices for the police, a benefits office, and a small cafe. The toilet facilities were clearly inadequate for use by large numbers of visitors; and this had been recognised because the staff had their own facility protected by a code entry system.
But my main criticism is that the library/hub is situated on a site which is isolated by a stream of fast traffic. The pedestrian crossing is situated at the point where the vehicles reach maximum speed, and an elderly person weighed down by a few books would need to be fairly nifty on their feet to get across.
I suppose after the pending budget cuts we will be lucky to keep any of our libraries in any form, so perhaps I should not complain.
[The three photos of the library, and one of Greenway, don’t actually convey the cheerlessness of one, and the beauty of the other.]


Posted: October 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

The old stories are sometimes the best and anyone who has ever been involved in drug and alcohol programs has heard this story, here used in Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellstrom, in one form or another.

[Although during my own membership of a special professional panel on drug and alcohol abuse our main concern was those dentists who thought that six cans of strong lager for breakfast was a suitably nourishing start to the day.]

Every day in every prison, every waking hour was about drugs: how to get them in, and how to use them without it being discovered by the regular urine tests. A relative who came to visit was also a relative who could be forced to smuggle in some urine, their own, urine that was clean and would test negative.
Once in his first few weeks in Osteraker, some mouthy Serb got his girlfriend to piss into a couple of mugs, the content of which was then sold for a great deal of money. None of them tested positive, despite the fact that more than half of them were under the influence, but the tests did show something else, and that was that every man in the unit was pregnant.


Posted: October 15, 2010 in Uncategorized


Apparently some Swedish novel was named crime fiction book of the decade at Boucheron 2010.

I have done my own very simple analysis of the years 2000-2009 in Swedish crime fiction to discover who was the Swedish crime writer of the decade.
My system involved awarding three points for a Nordic Glass Key, two points for winning the Basta Svenska Kriminalroman, and one point for a nomination.

The result was inconclusive as it produced a triple tie for first place!

Stieg Larsson- 8 points [Glass Key 2006, 2008: basta svenska 2006]
Hakan Nesser- 8 points [Glass Key 2000: basta svenska 2007: nomination 2000, 2001, 2009]
Anders Roslund-Borge Hellstrom- 8 points [Glass Key 2005: basta svenska 2009: nomination 2005, 2006, 2007]

Having finished reading the thriller Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom I have started another Swedish blockbuster, Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif G.W.Persson.