Archive for February, 2013

51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_You can read my review of Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W. Persson translated by Neil Smith at Karen’s great resource for crime fiction fans, Euro Crime


The anti-hero of this book, detective Evert Backstrom featured as a minor character in Leif G.W. Persson’s earlier book [Another Time , Another Life] but he was unique and definitely deserved a whole series all to himself.


‘ Hang on a minute,’ Backstrom said. He had suddenly remembered who they were talking about. “Didn’t he get life? Is that fucker already on the loose?

‘First he got life imprisonment in the district court. But the appeal court sentenced him to a secure psychiatric ward with specific probationary requirements, and according to our records he’s still inside, even though it’s now six years since he was sentenced. Must be a new record for a secure psychiatric unit.’ 

Anyone who thinks Swedes have no sense of humour should read this novel and try and work out how much is the author’s invention, and how much is an account of what really goes on among Stockholm’s finest.

engerPierced is the second book in the series [after number one Burned] about journalist Henning Juul, who works for the internet news company 123news in Oslo.

This book is set two years after the fire which badly scarred Henning, and killed his young son Jonas.  Henning has been contacted by prisoner Tore Pulli, a former enforcer, who has been sentenced to fourteen years for the murder of Joachim ‘Jocke’ Brolenius. Tore tells Henning that he is innocent and that if Henning can clear him before his appeal hearing he will give him information about who arranged the fire that killed Jonas. There are a number of strands to a complex plot scattered with lots and lots of Scandinavian names, some of whom disappear quite quickly, or only make a fleeting appearance in the narrative. Numerous steroid enhanced body builders and enforcers are questioned and interrogated during the story, and there are even references to a book by Roger Morris in his Porfiry Petrovich series, which is a clue to the perpetrator. The reader has to concentrate reading Pierced.

There are some compelling features in Thomas Enger’s Pierced. Firstly the character of Henning Juul and his struggle to come to terms with both the loss of a child to a violent death, and the fact his ex-wife Nora is in a relationship with his work colleague, Iver Gundersen. Secondly, the plot to threaten the family of TV2 cameraman Thorleif Brenden forcing him to commit a murder; the tense chapters as Thorleif attempts to evade the villains are the best part of the book. Thirdly, the detailed description of the everyday work of an internet journalist. But the writing style which I found rather irritating means that in my opinion the book is not a candidate for the 2013 CWA International Dagger.

Pierced is a very good 350 page book, the problem is that it is 538 pages long. The book has a very slow start and there are an incredible 119 chapters as the perspective is switched from one character to another, and the reader is left with cliffhanger after cliffhanger at the end of chapters. Perhaps my concentration and memory wasn’t up to the technique, and for me the choppiness spoilt the flow of the story. The book also ended with a somewhat unnecessary teasing hook for the next volume in the series. Pierced is a good read but could have been even better, the characters and basic plot are interesting enough that I don’t think it needed so many cliffhangers and so many chapters.

I will be reading number three not because of the hook, but because I want to see what happens to Henning Juul.

51+wvaeaGYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1990 and was the 11th book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. It is the fourth Dalziel and Pascoe book I have read since Reginald Hill death last year. Bones and Silence is 524 pages long but I read it in very quick time because it is full of great characters, humour, red herrings and plot twists. 

Andy Dalziel witnesses a murder across the street from his back garden, and although he is inebriated at the time he is quite sure of what he saw. The victim’s husband local builder Peter Swain is the culprit, but Swain has a story to tell that explains what Dalziel saw-it was a tragic accident. Meanwhile an anonymous letter writer has confided in Dalziel that she plans to commit suicide, and Peter Pascoe and his wife Ellie have helped rope in the Fat Man to play God in a medieval Mystery Play. The devil is to be played by none other than chief murder suspect Peter Swain. Reginald Hill takes the reader on a series of twists and turns, disappearances, and intrigues involving leggy blondes, drugs, doctors and nurses, and jobbing builders. 

This is a brilliant read and a reminder of Hill’s superb writing ability and huge talent. I don’t think, despite the long running television series, he received the recognition he deserved. But I should warn those who dropped their books, gasped and were shocked and stunned by Gone Girl’s telegraphed plot twist that this twenty three year old story has has some real surprises. It also has a lot of laughs and in the wonderfully politically incorrect Andy Dalziel, one of the most unique characters in crime fiction.

This was the house he’d moved into when he got married and never found time or energy to move out of. On that very kitchen table he’d found his wife’s last letter. It said ‘Your dinner is keeping warm in the oven’. He’d been mildly surprised to discover it was a ham salad.

But there are also a wealth of interesting minor characters, and some social commentary that belies the age of the book.

But he hung onto the land. A wise move, when you see what has happened since between the village and the town. To this government, a Green Belt is a martial arts qualification for survival in the cabinet.

Reginald Hill is one of those writers to whom I return when I want to recharge my enthusiasm for crime fiction. 

51ZVqbXsTKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_Time to catch up on blogging about my February reading after a very busy time last week.

The Bridge of Sighs is the first in  set of five books set in a fictional Eastern European country between 1948 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; each book is set in a different decade. In the first book it is 1948 and we follow Emil Brod, a young recruit in the People’s Militia, as he investigates the murder of a state songwriter in the newly liberated country. The reader discovers the vast gulf between the wealthy and the ordinary people has not been altered by the people’s republic and communism, there is just a different elite. Emil follows the clues, despite the efforts of members of the party hierarchy and his uncooperative colleagues to dissuade him, going to Berlin during the Allied airlift, and getting involved with the seductive Lena Crowder, the songwriter’s widow.  I really enjoyed this novel,which was a blend of police procedural, political treatise and love story, and it well deserved the shortlisting for the CWA Ellis Peters, Barry, Macavity, Anthony and Edgar Awards. The writing style is smooth and the narrative is full of interesting characters especially Emil’s “red” Grandfather, Avram Brod, a man with a sad past.

I look forward to reading the rest of this series set in a part of the world where “liberation” after the Second World War  left a bitter legacy for the population. I think I could  designate The Bridge of Sighs, Animal Farm for crime fiction fans.

Author Olen Steinhauer was raised in Texas, but was inspired to write this series while studying on a Fulbright Fellowship in Romania. 

The “thick Muscovites” were those men who, after spending the 1930s throwing rocks and shooting politicians, had escaped to Moscow during the war, where they camped out in hotels. General Secretary Mihai had been among them. They appeared again just behind the Red Army to set up the interim government, and with the 1946 elections had the remarkable good fortune of being voted immediately into power.

They were called “thick” because when they returned from Moscow they were almost without exception, so plump their own families had trouble recognizing them.  

…with 25 blurbs* must:

a] be a “near-masterpiece”.

b] be the beneficiary of a very large advertising budget, and a Twitter campaign.

c] likely to feature big stars in the movie version.

d] be set in the scary tribal regions east of the Rockies and west of the Appalachians.

e] make it impossible to review the book, as so many people have given it so much praise that any opinion that varies with that will mark the reviewer down as an eccentric.

[* in the British paperback edition.]

I am referring to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a book I had trouble getting into, and discovered that another blogger, whose opinion I respect, had given up at about page 80. It was around that point in the narrative that I wondered if I had got a different version of this book than that read by the blurbers. But I stuck it out and finished reading the book, and I have no quibble with the author, who produced an interestingly plotted psychological thriller. What I find mildly annoying is all the blurbling ballyhoo, and fuss, which raised my expectations to a level that could only have been satisfied by some brilliant new plot twist devised by a combination of Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell and Reginald Hill. Some of the blurbs are interesting, one is by someone who hasn’t even read the book yet…. 

‘Just about everyone I meet, and everyone on Twitter, is telling me it’s brilliant, so I can’t wait to see what the fuss is all about’  S.J. Watson, Sunday Express 

Many are frankly just a little bit over the top.

 (with a mid-story twist so shocking you’ll drop the book)- a gasp-inducing twist- A near-masterpiece- wildly unexpected plot twists- you’ll beg others to read it so you can discuss it with them- The plot has it all- her terrifying wonderful conclusion is reached. 

I didn’t drop the book because the blurbs had prepared me for some brilliant new plot idea and it wasn’t there. Readers who gasped in complete shock and dropped their books perhaps haven’t read much crime fiction.

Also I would have preferred to have been given less information on the location of the major plot twist. Soon we may have blurbs telling the reader there are plot twists on page 234 and 356. The book itself has at least one flaw in that the main characters Nick and Amy are both horrid, spoilt, pretentious and arrogant, and I did not really care what happened to them. One could say that Gillian Flynn’s writing is brilliant in that she inspires strong emotions in her readers, and succeeded in creating two of the most unpleasant characters in modern crime fiction. 

51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_pickofthemonth2012I read more books last month than I ever thought possible. The weather kept us in a lot of the time, and many of the books were easy to read, and only one was near 500 pages. There were two non-fiction books as well as six crime fiction:

The Fall of France-The Nazi Invasion of 1940: Julian Jackson

I have read several accounts of this debacle including the classic 1969 book by Alistair Horne, To Lose a Battle: France 1940. I hope the current Franco-British alliance is more successful in their latest adventures in Francophone Africa, but I doubt it.

Interestingly in 1931 Time magazine chose the “calm, masterful” Pierre Laval as Man of the Year. He was Prime Minister of France four times. The collapse of France in 1940, and subsequent armistice, lead to the establishment in unoccupied France of the Vichy regime. After the Allied victory Pierre Laval was found guilty of high treason and executed by firing squad in 1945.

The Real Jane Austen-A life in small things: Paula Byrne

We have just passed the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice so I thought this book was an appropriate read to mark this important date in English literature. The book is full of interesting anecdotes and details about life in the Georgian and Regency period, and many of the sites associated with Jane Austen and mentioned in the book have a special significance for us.

We would frequently stop at the Jane Austen Museum at Chawton, in Hampshire, to break our journey down from London to Gosport visiting my in laws. This was in the early 1980s well before the Colin Firth TV production created a new following for Mr Darcy and Jane Austen’s books. Many years ago my wife lived in Winchester, where Jane lived her last few weeks and is buried in the cathedral. My son went to university in Bath, where Jane lived from 1801-1806 and where she set two of her novels, and I worked in Teignmouth for 15 years, where Jane holidayed in 1802. Our first holiday was at Lyme Regis, where Jane and her family visited in 1803, and 1804, and where Louisa Musgrave falls from some steps on the Cobb in Persuasion. 

Well that’s enough literary stuff for one post. The crime fiction books I read were:

Standing in Another Man’s Grave: Ian Rankin 

Spies of Warsaw: Alan Furst

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst: Anne Holt 

Perfect Hatred: Leighton Gage

Linda, As In The Linda Murder: Leif G.W. Persson  [a review will appear at Euro Crime in due course]

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn [I will be posting about this phenomenon in the next few days]

Some very good reads but the best by a whisker was Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W. Persson.