Archive for October, 2012

Updating the Harry Hole series [book two is yet to be translated into English]
I have just finished reading the first book in the Harry Hole series, The Bat, first published in Norwegian in 1997, and the winner of the Nordic Glass Key in 1998.
 A young blonde Norwegian girl, Inger Holter, has been murdered and Harry is sent to Sydney to assist the local police. There he meets Andrew, an indigenous Australian policeman, from whom he learns some of the culture and traditions of the aboriginal people. Harry has a romantic affair with Birgitta, a beautiful Swedish girl who works in a bar, and unfortunately resumes a meaningful relationship with his very best friend, Jim Beam. 
Although this book, brilliantly translated as usual by Don Bartlett, is slightly raw, and at times is a bit like a travel guide of Sydney all the  potential that will be realised in the Oslo Trilogy [ The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil’s Star] and The Snowman is there. Harry’s character is almost fully developed; his love of his sister who has “a touch of Down’s Syndrome”, his insubordination, his problems with women, and his alcoholism. 
You‘re a tiny bit damaged every time you unravel another murder case. Unfortunately as a rule there are more human wrecks and sadder stories, and fewer ingenious motives, than you would imagine from reading Agatha Christie.’ 
Jo Nesbo’s technique of making you think the story is over when you can see a few hundred pages still to go, his plot twists, and surprises are there although not as polished as in the later books. The story is told entirely from Harry’s perspective which is a nice change from books that switch around with mind blowing speed. 
Even though this novel is 15 years old it is still a very good example of Jo Nesbo’s talented writing, and well worth reading for the information it relates about Australian society and little glimpses of Nesbo’s humour that will lighten the violence in the later books.
‘There was always a variety of nationalities-Chinese, Italians, Greeks. And Aboriginals. In those days volunteers could choose who they wanted to box. So, for example, if you were an anti-Semite, you could pick a Jew. Even though the chances of being beaten up by a Jew were pretty high.’ Harry chuckled.        

Empathy with Harry Hole

Posted: October 29, 2012 in Australia, Harry Hole, Norway

I am about half way through Jo Nesbo’s first Harry Hole thriller The Bat [ translated brilliantly as usual by Don Bartlett] and can clearly see the signs of the future clever twists and turns that feature in his later brilliant Oslo Trilogy [The Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil’s Star]. 

The Bat [Flaggermusmannen] is set in Australia winning the Nordic Glass Key back in 1998, and harks back to that distant time when there was an Australian cricket team.

The owner of the Cricket was also the proud owner of the shirt Allan Border wore when Australia beat England four times during the 1989 Ashes series.

But it was not the ancient cricket references that grabbed my interest, but Harry’s sensible analysis of cinema history.

There were no pictures on the wall, just a poster of Braveheart with Mel Gibson-which Harry remembered only for some incomprehensible reason it won an Oscar for Best Film. Bad taste, as far as films go, he thought. And men. Harry was one of those who felt personally let down when Mad max made a Hollywood star out of him. 

The Swedish Crime Academy nominated this year’s five best Swedish crime novels and the five best translated into Swedish crime novels. 

Tove Alsterdal is new in this context, while both Åsa Larsson and Roslund / Hellström won the prize for the best crime novels before: Larson for the blood spilled in 2004 and Roslund / Hellström for three seconds in 2009 Lars Kepler (pseudonym of authors Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril) has been nominated for the price of two of his earlier books (Paganini contract Eldvittnet 2010 and 2011).  Grebe / Hit were nominated in 2010 for more bitter than death. 

Belinda Bauer has managed the feat of getting two of her crime novels – last year was her debut novel Dark Earth nominated, but was beaten off the line by Denise Mina. Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a newcomer in the context, while Arnaldur Indriðason and Peter Robinson both have scooped the award for best crime novel translated into Swedish before, in 2005 and 2001 respectively. 

The winners will be revealed by Detective Academy’s autumn meeting in Eskilstuna Saturday 24 november. 

Tove Alsterdal: In the silence buried (Lind & Co.) 
Camilla Grebe / Asa Hit: Before you died (Wahlström & Widstrand) 
Lars Kepler: Sand Man (Bonnier) 
Åsa Larsson: To sacrifice to Molech (Bonnier) 
Anders Roslund / Hellström Börge: Two soldiers (Piratförlaget) 

Belinda Bauer: You love them (“finders keepers”, translation: Ulla Danielsson, Modernista) 
Belinda Bauer: Shadow Side (“Dark Side”, translation: Ulla Danielsson, Modernista) 
Arnaldur Indriðason: The cold fire (“Furðustrandir”, translation: Ylva Hellerud, Collins) 
Peter Robinson: A poisoned man (“Before the Poison”, translation: Jan Malmsjö, Minotaur) 
Yrsa Sigurdardottir: Eldnatt (“Horfðu á me” Translation: Anna Gunnarsdotter Grönberg, Modernista) 

[from the Swedish Crime Academy website translated by google translator with modifications by me] 

The year so far……..

Posted: October 22, 2012 in Book Awards

Up to this September I had been reviewing every crime fiction book that I read, and after six years that amounts to a lot of reviews. It has also meant that my non fiction reading has been very limited. The fact that the last three Swedish crime fiction books I have read: Dark Angel-Mari Jungstedt, Silenced -Kristina Ohlsson and Autumn Killing-Mons Kallentoft* [* this one I will review later] have been so dark and miserable making one wonder if there are any normal functioning people in Sweden has made me reconsider my reviewing policy. 

I will probably now not review every book I read from now on unless there is something particularly interesting to which I want to draw attention. Loud cheers from some authors. This will give me a chance to catch up with my non fiction reading. But I will be reading the 2013 International Dagger Shortlist, and the 2013  Ellis Peters Shortlist and giving my opinionated views. 

My crime fiction reading total has reached 39 books so it is time to weed out some and consider the most enjoyable so far in preparation of a final pick of the best at the year’s end.

My top ten in no particular order:

The Potter’s Field- Andrea Camilleri

Deadheads- Reginald Hill

Seven Days- Deon Meyer

Another Time, Another Life- Leif G.W. Persson

Last Will- Liza Marklund

The Blind Goddess- Anne Holt

Outrage- Arnaldur Indridason

Burned- Thomas Enger

Prague Fatale- Philip Kerr

Icelight- Aly Monroe

Seven translated three in English, seven men three women authors, and representatives from Italy, England , South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Scotland. Interestingly of the 39 crime fiction books I have read so far this year the breakdown is 25 male and 14 female authors, and 25 translated and 14 in English.

It doesn’t seem like three years since I posted this post about Greenway. We had visited Highcross House at Dartington, a classic of modernist architecture from the 1930s, and Torquay Museum on our way back to Exeter, and this inspired us to go back the next week to Agatha Christie’s beautiful home of the River Dart. We took the scenic coastal route,  but this deteriorates after Torquay as it goes through the heart of Paignton.Then you turn off into a different world as you drive through narrow country lanes to park within a pleasant walk of the house. Make sure you pre-book a parking space, or walk, or take the ferry and walk up  the hill. [Hills in Devon are steep and demanding even if you don’t have a smashed up knee]. 

I made a tour of the house, which is a must for all Christie fans, bought some books [I am a book-aholic with no resistance] and we had lunch in the gardens. A beautiful trip back in time to a different age.

You have only a few weeks to view the exhibition at Torquay Museum of Agatha Christie book covers by Tom Adams which closes on the 2 November. The museum also houses  a permanent exhibition of Christie memorabilia, but these brilliant artwork covers are absolutely fascinating. Photography is allowed in that gallery [though not in the permanent Christie exhibition] so I thought I would share some with you.

A travel tip if you are going to Torquay from Exeter take the scenic coastal route through Dawlish, Teignmouth, Shaldon and Babbacombe. The sea and estuary views are well worth it and as you drive down into Torquay  the museum is on your right before you get to the busy part of the town.

I was a little surprised that the edition with what would be now be considered a very offensive title and cover dates from as late as 1975. 

During September I took an extended break from blogging. 

I was busy sorting out hundreds of receipts from my son’s involvement in the London Olympics, and taking advantage of the good weather to visit some beautiful places in Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon. When I have finished the paperwork, and other matters have resolved themselves, I hope to be able to report on the crime fiction related visits I made around the time of the Agatha Christie Festival. 

I was able to read six books during the month including:

Dark Angel: Marji Jungstedt translator Tiina Nunnally

Nordic Noir on Gotland with a neat switch of emphasis to the dysfunctional Swedish family.

Silenced: Kristina Ohlsson translator Sarah Death

A bizarrely complex tale of even more dysfunctional families and miserable lives.  Alex Recht’s crime team must be the most unhappy group in crime fiction. Not one of the best examples of Swedish crime fiction I have read.

Peril at End House: Agatha Christie

This 1932 book is very evocative of the period, and has one of Christie’s most brilliant plot twists. 

Underworld: Reginald Hill

A superb novel that paints a picture of a small mining community in Yorkshire. Hill really does understand human nature and writes such wonderful characters.

Deadheads: Reginald Hill

An absolutely brilliant book full of humour, great characters and insight. You could say that although both these books are billed as Dalziel and Pascoe novels the real star is Ellie Pascoe.

Seven Days: Deon Meyer translator K.L.Seegers

An exciting South African thriller blending the investigation of a cold case with the hunt for a ruthless sniper. I missed the Christie like clues dropped at the start and enjoyed this one immensely. Perhaps not quite as good as Trackers, but still good enough because of the tension and excitement to deadheat with Deadheads as my pick of the month.