Archive for November, 2010

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Dorte at DJS Krimiblog has organized a 2011 Global Reading Challenge following the great success of her 2010 challenge.

I managed the Medium challenge this year, and you can read my 2010 roundup post here, including links to the reviews.

In 2011 I will attempt to reduce my TBR pile by using some of those books in the Medium challenge [two books each from the six continents, twelve different countries, and also two from that seventh continent in my case, History].
My preliminary reading plans, subject to change, for this challenge are:

Africa:
Devil’s Peak: Deon Meyer [South Africa]
??????

Asia:
Villain: Shuichi Yoshida [Japan]
Disco for the Departed: Colin Cotterill [Laos]

Australasia:
Gunshot Road: Adrian Hyland [Australia]
?????

Europe:
Prime Time: Liza Marklund [Sweden]
River of Shadows: Valerio Varesi [Italy]

North America:
Havana Fever: Leonardo Padura [Cuba]*
The Song Is You: Megan Abbott [USA]

South America:
The Feast of the Goat: Mario Vargas Llosa [Dominican Republic]*
The next book by Ernesto Mallo [Argentina] ??????

History:
Phantoms of Breslau: Marek Krajewski [Germany 1919]
A Little White Death: John Lawton [England 1963]

* I am allowing myself a certain latitude in placing books from Central America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean.
[Images show the new logo for 2011, and my 2010 challenge books.]

>WHAT’S OCCURRING?

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

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Whatever is happening in other parts of the UK here the brisk cold is relieved by beautiful clear skies and bright sunshine. Long may it continue.


I have finished reading Lumen by Ben Pastor, and shortly will be writing a review for Euro Crime.

The kind Mrs Crime Scraps bought me a Kindle. The fact I can enlarge the font on this device will make it a vital reading aid as there are several books that I have been unable to read recently because of the small fonts. I might even delve into those classics that I never read at school because I was on the science side! Font enlargement and the fact you can carry a whole library around with you are the big advantages. The ease with which you can buy books could be a financial disadvantage.

But there are so many books on my TBR shelf it will have to be print for a while longer, and I am now reading Poisonville by Massimo Carlotto and Marco Videta. The title is of course almost certainly a tribute to Red Harvest by Dashiell
Hammett.

My reviews of Massimo Carlotto’s novels; The Colombian Mule, The Master of Knots, Death’s Dark Abyss, The Fugitive.
Also a short post about Massimo Carlotto.

Later this week I will be posting a Winter Quiz with prizes!

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One of the perks of retirement is the ability to go to the cinema on a winter’s afternoon, when most people are working, while paying the concessionary ticket price.


The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest was being screened at our newly refurbished local cinema, and the weather outside was very cold and bleak, so off I went.
The virtually empty cinema had blissfully luxurious seats, superb sound [they show live performances by satellite from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York] and a wonderfully wide screen.

Did I enjoy the film? Yes, but then I am addicted to Swedish crime fiction.
This was a film adaptation of a complex book that was going to prove very difficult to translate to the screen.
In September Maxine at Petrona succinctly defined the three Stieg Larsson books very different themes; the first Tattoo, a locked room mystery, the second Fire, a fugitive drama, and Hornets’ Nest, a political spy thriller in the Le Carre mould.
At the time I wondered if Hornets’ Nest would have been better arranged as a six part TV serial similar to Le Carre’s spy thrillers featuring his famous spy master, George Smiley.
The book Hornets’ Nest has four interwoven plot lines, and the film was an example of the limitations of a two hour movie in comparison with the depth possible in a novel. That said the film was entertaining, and with the court room scenes fully replicating the tension created in the book. Perhaps I would have left more of the book’s Monica Figuerola in the film, but something has to be cut from a 500 page book, and we lost Milton Security’s Susanne Linder and Police Inspector Bubanski entirely.

There were some outstanding performances, once again Noomi Rapace is the perfect Lisbeth Salander [why on earth is Hollywood trying to remake the Millenium trilogy without her], and Anders Ahlbom was the epitome of evil as the psychiatrist, Peter Teleborian.

My verdict, a worthy effort at bringing a complex book to the screen.

>HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Posted: November 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

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>GIVE BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

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On a lighter note Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise suggests giving books for Christmas and I entirely agree. There is nothing quite like the excitement of unwrapping a parcel of books.

I have read some outstanding crime fiction this year, but I would suggest Truth by Peter Temple as a book likely to take the minds of Australians off the events of the next couple of months.
Peter Temple is a South African who moved to Australia on 1980, and interestingly a very high proportion of the England cricket team, who will retain the Ashes this winter, are also South Africans. ;o)

>READING LUMEN AND MORE

Posted: November 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

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At the moment I am reading Lumen by Ben Pastor, and the review will appear on Karen’s wonderful Euro Crime website around the publication date of 20 January 2011.

I am about half way through the book, and unless the plot falls off a cliff my review will be very positive.
The book is set in Cracow in 1939.


The map shows the division of Poland following the ” second Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact” of 28 September 1939, and is signed by Ribbentrop and Stalin.

In the next few weeks I will be reading another book set in Nazi Occupied Poland, The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler, and the third book in the eccentric Eberhard Mock series by Polish author Marek Krajewski; this one Phantoms of Breslau.
I will definitely have to read some lighter books in between these gloomy novels, but at least reading books set in Cracow 1939, Warsaw Ghetto 1940 and the former German city of Breslau in 1919, make one realise that present day conditions could be a lot worse.

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Continuing my Swedish theme a hat tip to Bokmania for the news that the prize for Best Swedish Crime Novel of 2010 was won by:


Den doende detektiven [The Dying Detective] by Leif G.W. Persson

This was the veteran Prof. Persson’s ninth crime novel, and he has won this prize twice before, in 1982 with Samhallsbararna, and more recently in 2003 with En annan tid, ett ahat liv [Another time, another life].

I reviewed Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End [which I believe is the prequel to Another time, anther life] here and here.
I am hoping that when, and if, The Dying Detective reaches us in English it is a less repetitive and verbose tome than Between Summer’s Longing.

The Martin Beck prize for the Best Crime Novel translated into Swedish went to Devil’s Peak by Deon Meyer. I haven’t read this book , but really enjoyed two of his other novels, Thirteen Hours and Blood Safari.

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Viktor Palmgren, a powerful businessman is dining at the Elite Hotel Savoy in Malmo with the managers of his varied companies. At the end of the meal as he begins to make a speech a man walks up to him, and shoots him in the head, sticks the weapon in his pocket, swings himself through an open window and steps down onto the pavement and then disappears.

The main suspect is not arrested at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport because the task of arresting him was given to that comedically lazy and incompetent pair of Keystone Kops, Karl Kristiansson and Kurt Kvant.
Martin Beck is therefore sent from Stockholm to Malmo, to join Per Mansson in conducting an investigation. The dinner guests are all interviewed, and as their lives are exposed we learn something about Swedish society.
Palmgren’s business practices and his involvement with dubious overseas organizations could mean a variety of people wanted him dead. The ludicrously incompetent Swedish secret service send an agent to Malmo, and he does not have a clue how to proceed.

This police procedural has a fairly simple plot, and is fairly short, but is a classic example of Sjowall/Wahloo’s superb technique.

Their message is crystal clear. Capitalism is evil because it benefits the rich and powerful while leaving ordinary people with nothing.

‘Gentlemen, the world of business is tough today. With the credit market in its present state there is no room for philanthropy or sentimentalism.’

Was this really written forty years ago?
But I think the main strength of the books is the author’s ability to create in a few lines characters that are so memorable. The reader is given almost the character’s entire back story in one brief paragraph. Here are two examples, firstly Gunvald Larsson;

‘This is my eldest brother,’ said the blonde. ‘Unfortunately. Gunvald’s his name. He’s a ………policeman. Before that he was just a thug. The last time I saw him was more than ten years ago, and even before that the times were few and far between.’

Then the young Benny Skacke:

He imagined himself coming up with the solution, tracking down and catching the murderer single -handed. He would be promoted, and after that the only direction would be up. He was close to becoming Chief of Police when a new ring on the phone interrupted his vision of the future.

Murder at the Savoy has been superbly translated by Joan Tate, and remains forty years after it was written a wonderful example of the police procedural.
The combination of social commentary and great characters is typical of this great ten book series, and makes reading each one such a supreme pleasure.

You can read two more reviews from Maxine at Eurocrime and Jose Ignacio at The Game’s Afoot.

>HE CAN’T HELP IT

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

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I was going to post my thoughts on completing reading Murder at the Savoy by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, but earlier today Jose Ignacio already posted an excellent review of this book at The Game’s Afoot.

I will therefore delay my effort a few days, and see if I can possibly come up with anything fresh to say about the wonderful Martin Beck series.

I don’t know whether it is my age but I have recently found myself when browsing in bookshops, or the book sales areas of supermarkets, opening conversations with complete strangers. These people who have tentatively picked up a crime fiction book are informed as to the merits of that particular book. The trouble is I don’t stop talking, and someone who was only glancing at the blurbs on the back cover of a Stieg Larsson or a Liza Marklund, will get a condensed history of Swedish crime fiction, and a long list of Scandinavian authors to read.
Luckily I am fairly harmless, and eventually Mrs Crime Scraps will come and lead me away still mumbling about Arnaldur Indridason, Jo Nesbo, and Liza Marklund. Mrs Crime Scraps and my victim will both sigh and nod kindly at my idiosyncratic behaviour; an explanation follows “He can’t help it he is a blogger”.

>AROUND THE WORLD UPDATED

Posted: November 17, 2010 in Uncategorized

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On 10 July I posted a map of the countries that had visited Crime Scraps in the previous thirty days.

On 25 August I updated the map but the time has come for a further update as there have been even more visitors from new countries ranging from Algeria to Zambia, Greenland to Guadeloupe, and Cameroon to Costa Rica.
The maps show the situation on 10 July 2010, and on 16 November 2010.

Update: On 18 November, I had a visitor from Laos. The map will need updating sometime. :o)