Archive for May, 2012

Two criminal masterminds Rhian Davies [It’s a crime! Or a Mystery…] and Margot Kinberg [Confessions of a Mystery Novelist] are co-hosting a tribute to the late Reginald Hill during June.



You can get all the details at Celebrating Reginald Hill, and learn a great deal about one of our finest crime writers of recent years.


This is the 7th book in the brilliant ten book Van Veeteren series. 

A 16 year old boy on his way home from his girlfriend on a dark rainy night is run down by a drunk driver. The driver sees the boy is dead and leaves the scene of the accident and wiping the incident from his mind. But a few days later he receives a letter that makes it clear he was seen and demands money in exchange for silence. The driver goes to a prearranged bar with the money in  a plastic bag ,and puts it in a rubbish bin to be collected by the blackmailer. He waits until the bag is picked up and then outside in the car park kills the blackmailer with a metal bar. But then he gets another letter demanding more money and realises he has made a terrible mistake.  

I won’t divulge any more of the plot as this is a book where the reader knows more than the police, and a lot of the reading pleasure is seeing how the detectives uncover the information with a mixture of solid police work, and sheer intuition. This time the investigative team is lead by Chief Inspector Rheinhart, with Rooth, Jung and Ewa Moreno as the main assistants; but with the retired Chief Inspector Van Veeteren personally involved it is no surprise that he plays a big part in solving the case. 

‘Can I offer you a beer?’ asked Rooth a quarter of an hour later. ‘I promise not to rape you or to make advances.’

Ewa Moreno smiled……’Sounds tempting,’ she said. But I have a date with my bath-tub and a third rate novel-I’m afraid it’s binding.’

The story is told from several points of view, in the early part of the book mostly from the perpetrator, and at the end from the pursuing detectives. It is a darker, sadder story than some of the earlier books, but still retains the sharp dialogue and acerbic wit that makes this series such a  pleasure to read. The reader is  taken into the personal lives  of the detectives, and after seven books they have become almost friends, and we experience their emotions and traumas. The sign of a wonderful writer and yet another fine translation by Laurie Thompson. I am sometimes put off by books which concentrate on the amoral perpetrator, with the police plodding along one or two steps behind, but this one managed to keep me  glued to the page.

‘:if somebody shoots the Minister of Home Affairs or somebody rapes the Pope, those cases are mothballed until we’ve solved this one. Is that clear? Have you understood?  Does anybody object? In which case he or she had better apply for a move to somewhere else without more ado! Fuck, fuck, fuck! Off the record, that is.’

This novel was originally published in 1999 and won the Nordic Glass Key in 2000. The Swedish title Carambole refers to billiard balls hitting each other and producing a reaction on the other balls. This story tells what happens when one event produces a whole chain reaction with results that are unforeseen. I think it is a more relevant title than Hour of the Wolf. But under whatever title this is a wonderful read, and another fine police procedural featuring an ensemble cast from Hakan Nesser.

 I will be waiting very impatiently for the next Van Veeteren.

Thanks to Maxine of Petrona for sending me her ARC.

Some years I have already read most of the CWA International Dagger shortlist before the announcement is made. This year it will be announced at Crimefest on 25 May in Bristol, and unfortunately my limited reading numbers, and the absence of any Liza Marklund’s books on the eligibility list, may mean that I won’t get round to reading all six. But never mind here is my unofficial shortlist from the books I have read, it may be totally out of kilter with the official choices, but at least has a nice geographic spread, with contenders from Argentina, Iceland, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden and Italy .

Sweet Money: Ernesto Mallo translator Katherine Silver

Outrage: Arnaldur Indridason translator Anna Yates

Trackers: Deon Meyer translator K.L.Seegers

The Boy in the Suitcase: Lene Kaaberbol [also translator] & Agnete Friis 

Another Time, Another Life: Leif G.W. Persson translator Paul Norlen

The Potter’s Field: Andrea Camilleri translator Stephen Sartarelli

The cover photo might give you a clue as to which one would be my winner. 


There have been an abundance, some might say a plethora, of books about Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium Trilogy, and creator of a unique fictional heroine in Lisbeth Salander. Writers have to make a living and if they think there is enough interest in the journalist they have a perfect right to author a book on the subject.

But I won’t be reading all of these in a hurry:

StiegLarsson, My Friend- Kordo Baksi

Stieg & Me- Eva Gabrielsson

Stieg Larsson, Man, Myth & Mistress- Andrew McCoy

Secret of the Tattooed Girl- Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer, John-Henri Holmberg

The Man Who Left Too Soon- Barry Forshaw

But one book I have bought and will delve into when I have time is The Expo Files, articles by the crusading journalist, Stieg Larsson [translated by Laurie Thompson] which has an introduction by Tariq Ali. I have read this introduction and learned that Sweden’s reputation as a social democratic utopia has been creaking for some time. I never knew that during the Second World War the University of Lund invited Joseph Goebbels in order to honour him. They were spared the disgrace. Goebbels declined the invitation. Also from the introduction:

The Scandinavian joke-it took several weeks for the Germans to take Norway, a day to occupy Denmark and a telephone call to take Sweden-is based on reality.

Many will still regard Swedish crime fiction as some kind of Midsomer Murder comedy exaggeration, and think of Sweden as a low crime country with no real problems. Perusing some of the articles titles* I think this book will be an education, but certainly not easy reading. 

* The worlds’ most dangerous profession, The return of anti-Semitism, Terror killings can happen in Stockholm, Swedish and un-Swedish violence towards women.

There were some very good entries to the Diamond Jubilee Quiz, with some contestants doing a lot of research. It was very difficult to pick a winner as no one got every question completely correct. Sometimes the answer was a bit simpler than it seemed at first glance sometimes a bit more complex. 

Here are the answers:

1] What is the “Royal” connection with an Old  Brownstone House at West Thirty-Fifth Street ?

Detective Nero Wolfe lived in that Old Brownstone House, and the royal connections I wanted were that:

 The books were written by Rex Stout, “Rex” is Latin for King, Nero was an Emperor, and one of Rex Stout’s well known novels is Some Buried Caesar. But I also learned that there are  omnibus editions of the books entitled Royal Flush and Kings Full Aces.

2] Where is the “Queen of Watering Places”?

This question refers to opening sentences of The Majestic Hotel, Chapter 1 of Peril at End House by Agatha Christie.

“No seaside town in the south of England is, as attractive as St Loo.  It is well named the Queen of Watering Places and reminds one forcibly of the Riviera.”

3] How Royal are Daniel Nathan and Emanuel Lepofsky?

Quite royal. Daniel Nathan was the real name of Frederic Dannay and Emanuel Lepofsky of Manfred B. Lee. Dannay and Lee in their writing used the pseudonym Ellery Queen.

4] Who did Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein employ, and what is the Royal connection?

This comes from Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia. Wilhelm von Ormstein, aka Count von Kramm, employed Sherlock Holmes to retrieve a photograph of himself with Irene Adler.  Wilhelm von Ormstein was in fact the hereditary King of Bohemia and his marriage plans would be ruined if that photograph was circulated.  

5] How are a Cornish Duchess and a Frozen Princess linked?

The name Camilla. The Duchess of Cornwall is the former Camilla Parker-Bowles, and the frozen princess comes from The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg.

6] Which novel features an assassination attempt on a Crown Prince, and a criminal known as the Prince?

The novel is The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo.

The winner came from British Columbia, but thanks to those who took part and better luck next time.  [photo of Royal Crescent , Bath]

Last Will by Liza Marklund, and the previous tome I read by Leif G.W. Persson, provide a short answer to the question being asked by the media. Why has Swedish crime fiction become so popular? Simply because the books tell good stories with exciting plots, and have interesting characters. 

This story starts with reporter Annika Bengtzon covering the Nobel banquet for the tabloid Evening Post. During the post dinner dancing a female assassin, known as The Kitten, after stepping on Annika’s foot and making eye contact shoots Israeli Nobel recipient Aaron Wiesel in the leg and then with one shot aimed at the heart kills Caroline von Behring, chair of the Karolinska Institute’s Nobel Committee, before escaping down a service elevator, and out of the building onto a speed boat. Annika is prevented from reporting on the crime because she is a key witness, which gives her boss, Anders Schyman, the opportunity to put her on extended “gardening leave”.

“Chapter twenty-three of the Judicial Procedure Act,’ Annika said, “paragraph ten, final section. The accounts of key witnesses can be protected by the head of an investigation where a serious crime is suspected.”

When an Islamic terrorist group claim responsibility the media become confused as to who was the intended victim. 

Aaron Wiesel and Charles Watson were stem-cell researchers, and vocal advocates of therapeutic cloning. The decision to award them the Nobel Prize for Medicine had been controversial. It had unleashed a wave of protests from Catholic and radical Protestant groups.

As the story moves forward six months it covers a series of themes that make the plot both interesting and stimulating.

On the domestic front Annika received a large reward for finding a bag of Euros which converted came to 128 million kronor. Her ten percent [12.8 million kronor] allows the family to move to a villa in the wealthy suburb of Djursholm. Annika is devoted to her young children, Kalle and Ellen, but her relationship with her uptight husband Thomas has not recovered from the trauma of  his affair with Sophia Grenborg. Annika’s struggle to maintain a career and care for her demanding family are a constant theme, and the situation is not improved by the aggressive antics of a loopy elderly neighbour, Wilhelm Hopkins.

At work Annika returns from her “leave” to find big changes at the newspaper, and one the interesting features of the whole series, and this book in particular are the details of how a media outlet is organized.

The staff glanced at each other, slightly embarrassed. Most of them didn’t work on the dusty old print edition at all, but on the online version, local television, commercial radio, or on some shiny supplement. Many of them didn’t even read the actual newspaper.

Thomas is working on government legislation that involves snooping into private communications, and anti-terror laws based on mere suspicion, and that leads to further conflict  with Annika. 

Following up the criminal investigation, which her old sparring partner Q leads, takes Annika into the world of animal research, scientific rivalry, the Nobel Prize winning process, and the vast amount of money that pharmaceutical companies can make with bio-medical patents. 

The reader is also given some historical background into Alfred Nobel’s life and literary ambitions. 

When more murders occur the story moves to a very tense and exciting climax, but one which still leaves unanswered questions in Annika’s personal life. 

This is an excellent addition to what is becoming a classic crime fiction series, and one which exhibits so many of the key factors that have made Scandinavian crime fiction so popular. Detailed coverage of a subject, social commentary, large doses of cynicism, dollops of humour both light and dark, characters who distrust their superior’s motives and who feel loneliness and despair, and of course the interesting female protagonist. The reader is helped by an excellent seamless translation from Neil Smith and I am definitely looking forward to reading the next one in the series, Lifetime, due out later in the year. 

My review of Red Wolf, the chronological predecessor in the Annika Bengtzon series

My review of Exposed 

The Annika Bengtzon series

A gentle reminder that the deadline for answers to the Diamond Jubilee Quiz is midnight BST Sunday 13 May.

Send your answers to and perhaps claim the prize as the winner. 



Leif G.W. Persson’s Another Time, Another Life: The Story of a Crime has a blurb on the back cover from Dagens Arbete telling the reader that it is ‘one of the best detective novels ever written in Sweden’, and this amateur reviewer agrees with that opinion. I really enjoyed this superb crime novel and recaptured my reading ‘mojo’ polishing it off  in four days.

Another Time, Another Life  won Best Swedish Crime Fiction Novel  in 2003, a year in which the other short listed nominees included Karin Alvtegen, Asa Larsson and Kjell Eriksson. Enough said.

The story is divided into three parts, firstly an introductory section about the violent occupation of the West German Embassy in Stockholm in 1975 by German terrorists demanding the release of members of the Baader Meinhof Group held at home. Then a police procedural investigation about the murder of an unpleasnat Swedish civil servant in 1989, with a discussion of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the release of files held by the Stasi.

Finally in 1999/2000 a reopening by the security services of the investigation into Swedes involved in the Embassy outrage before the 25 year statute of limitations expired, which leads to the Eriksson murder case also being reinvestigated. 

My summary, although factually accurate, does not do justice to the cleverness of the plot, which although appearing convoluted is in fact simple to follow. This is a book more about compelling characters and human relationships than plot. The reader gets a mixture of facts, satire, police procedural, mystery and humour, and the 404 pages just whiz past. 

West German Embassy, 1975

After that they very carefully started to ease back down the stairs with the stretcher dragging after them while Jarnebring held the sight of his revolver aimed steady at the door to the upper corridor. It was approximately that moment that he acquired his lifelong memory of the German terrorists’ occupation of the West German embassy in Stockholm. There was a smell of burnt telephone.

The Eriksson murder investigation, 1989

This part of the story is a brilliant black comedy as Bo Jarnebring and his new temporary partner, Anna Holt investigate the murder of Kjell Eriksson, a very unpleasant civil servant, who lives in a luxurious apartment and in a style way above his salary level. The investigation is complicated by the fact that the detectives are lead by the odious, crude, corrupt Evert Backstrom, and his colleague the only slightly less odious Wiijnbladh, although both are equally incompetent.

“Backstrom,” said Jarnebring with a sneer. “Backstrom,” said Johansson. “Do you mean Backstrom at homicide?”

“One and the same,” said Jarnebring. “Backstrom is the leader of the investigation.”

“Sweet Jesus,” said Johansson with feeling. 

The homophobic Backstrom has his own theory.

” My gut feeling tells me we have an ordinary homo murder here,” said Backstrom. 

It’s nice that you’re starting to sound like yourself again, thought Jarnebring.

Despite evidence that Eriksson is neither interested in men or women, and his only desires are money and power over people, Backstrom both ignores and obstructs the solid police work of Holt and Jarnebring, and the case remains unsolved. 


With the statute of limitations about to expire Lar Martin Johansson, Bo Jarnebring’s best friend and another “real policeman”, is appointed head of operations of the Swedish secret police, Sepo. They have received a tip off about four Swedes, who assisted the terrorists back in 1975. One of these is Kjell Eriksson and as a result the murder investigation is re-opened. 

But this time Johansson is assisted by three brilliant hard working women police detectives, Anna Holt, who was on the original investigation, Linda Martinez and Lisa Mattei.

“If we were real detectives we would go down to the bar and knock back eight beers, do a little arm wrestling, and bring home a real hunk,” said Martinez. “Either of you ladies in the mood for that?” 

Holt and Mattei shook their heads.

Their meticulous investigation is bound to solve the murder. But the involvement of other intelligence services and Sweden’s complex political intrigues mean that the conclusion will not be straightforward, and in some aspects not even just.  

Another Time, Another Life is full of dark humour and is thankfully far less convoluted than the first book in the trilogy Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End.  Leif G.W. Persson first won the award for Best Swedish crime novel in 1982, with The Pillars of Society, Another Time, Another Life won in 2003 and his most recent book The Dying Detective won in 2010, and this book also won the Nordic Glass Key in 2011.

His series of books featuring the morally corrupt and thoroughly repulsive detective Evert Backstrom have been optioned for a television series by 20th Century Fox in the USA. Some readers might find the few short passages of Backstrom’s homophobic ranting objectionable rather than funny, but they say a lot about the character, and perhaps the views of certain sections of most police forces. 

I first started reading this book with some trepidation, after struggling with his previous tome, but before long it reminded me of my discovery of the Martin Beck series, and it is almost up to that standard.  Leif G.W.Persson has created some memorable characters, and Another Life, Another Time successfully blends both a police procedural, and political intrigue together with a dose of very dark humour and satire. This novel has definitely removed any trace of Swede fatigue from my future reading  plans. 

When his boss was assassinated the undersecretary left Rosenblad….. In any event he could not have been sent out into the real cold, because he had come back again quickly  and nowadays he was on his third prime minister and things had gone better and better for him. Prime minister number two had retired with a pension and in the best of health, and number three, the undersecretary’s current boss, positively glowed with vitality.