Archive for May, 2013

415xym3B66L._In the second book in this series subtitled The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi we are back in Naples in 1931.

An elderly woman Carmela Calise has been brutally beaten to death and because she was both a fortune teller and moneylender there are several suspects. They  range from a wealthy woman who relies on Calise to tell her the future, to a struggling pizzeria owner with a promissory note due in a few days. Ricciardi and Brigadier Maione investigate this crime while Maione also comforts Filomena Russo the most beautiful woman in Naples, whose face has been disfigured by a knife. Both detectives have personal problems Maione and his wife,Lucia, have suffered a great tragedy that has driven them apart, and Ricciardi is still unable to approach the graceful Enrica. These two carry on a silent romance by staring at each other through their windows at night. There are very few authors who can  successfully introduce the supernatural into crime fiction, Asa Larsson springs to mind, and De Giovanni joins that exclusive group, simply because he does not overdo it or dwell on it too much. 

The humid evening embraced Luigi Alfredo Ricciardi, Commissario of Public Safety in the Mobile Squad of the Regia Questura, or the Royal Police Headquarters, of Naples. The man who saw the dead.

Blood Curse is a tangled story of jealousy, love, money, tragedy and lust with well drawn characters in an unusual historical setting. It is beautifully written and full of a sort of earthy wisdom.

Usury is vile, Ricciardi thought to himself: one of the most despicable crimes, because it takes trust and turns it against those that give it. And it sucks away work, hope, opportunities; it sucks away the future. 

In Fascist Italy it is natural that Ricciardi’s boss Angelo Garzo will be a political animal and the author sums him up in a few words. Of course Ricciardi is not a fascist but a good man in a difficult environment.

he also suspected that the thick-headed bureaucrat would miss the point, ignorant as Garzo was of any aspect of the policeman’s profession that couldn’t be performed from the comfort of a desk.

This is one of the best books I have read this year. The reader is given social commentary about the divisions between the wealthy and the deprived in Naples, details about the lives of the detectives, all blended in with a dreadful crime, a few red herrings and some surprises. But there is also importantly some humour that gives a very Italian feel to the story. I hope Blood Curse makes it onto the short list for the CWA International Dagger.

Had she smelled only a woman’s scent, she might have understood. A man has his needs and she’d been distant from him for years now.

But eating at another woman’s table? Not that. That was true betrayal.   

51FzH1ftowL._SL500_AA300_In a blistering action start to the novel Lifetime, cops Nina Hoffman and Andersson are called to a suspected shooting on Bondegatan. Nina realises the address is that of  a colleague Julia and her husband, Sweden’s most famous police officer, David Lindholm. They find David dead shot twice once in the head and once in the groin. Julia is in a distraught state covered in blood, telling Julia that the “other woman” has taken their young son Alexander. At the same time investigative journalist Annika Bengtzon’s house has been firebombed and she has escaped with only the clothes she stands up in, and more importantly her children, Kalle and Ellen. Annika’s husband Thomas has left her for a colleague, blonde Sophia Grenborg.

No two women could be less alike. Sophia was everything Annika despised, mainly because she could never be like her: educated,  feminine and well mannered. And Sophia enjoyed sex, unlike frigid Annika.

When Annika seeks help from her friend, Anne Snapphane she is rejected as Anne is more concerned in keeping a young lover in her bed. Annika has to readjust her dysfunctional life, care for her children, and work out the tangled business affairs that must be behind the murder of David Lindholm. But the Swedish legal system has decided that his wife Julia is the guilty party and that she has also murdered her son.

While all this is going on the editor-in-chief of the Evening Post Anders Schyman  faces the problem of getting rid of 60 employees, and Thomas is struggling with his parliamentary work on the use of lifetime sentences for criminals. This novel is a mine of information about Sweden’s criminal justice system, and it is quite nice to know that this socialist democracy seems to be almost as big a shambles as our own country.

‘I’ve been expelled,’ the head of news said. I forgot to pay my sub.’

‘That’s a bit mean of them,’ Schyman said. ‘

Sixteen years in a row,’ Spike said. ‘I have to say I don’t blame them.’ 


I always enjoy the Annika Bengtzon books, and this one was no exception, because the characters seem like real human beings with an array of  flaws. Annika is certainly a very jealous vindictive woman in Lifetime, and this is part of her charm and attraction. She is a real woman, who shows real emotions, and is neither a complete door mat nor a superwoman. Annika, like many women in real life, does seem to have slightly shaky judgement when it comes to her men, because Thomas is an obnoxious  self important bastard. I do hope they don’t get back together, Annika deserves better.

Practically every murderer these days claimed to suffer from some sort of psychological disorder.

If they didn’t hear voices, they were on anabolic steroids or blamed poor potty-training and broken toys when they were little.  

Lifetime is another great addition to this addictive series, and I can’t wait for the next Annika Bengtzon book, The Long Shadow to be published in September.  

41RI5AleUqL._AA160_You can now read my review of Aly Monroe’s Black Bear at Euro Crime.  

If you like intelligent books that will teach you something about the relationship between the USA, Britain and the Soviet Union in the immediate post war period, the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Crime Fiction award winning Peter Cotton series is well worth reading.


Blurbing Black Bear

Posted: May 7, 2013 in England, notes, spy story, USA

blurb2Karen of Euro Crime kindly arranged for Aly Monroe’s latest book in her Peter Cotton series, Black Bear, to be sent to me by the publishers41RI5AleUqL._AA160_ John Murray. I was very pleased to see on the inside pages blurbs from Euro Crime and Crime Scraps, we didn’t quite make the back cover.

I have now finished reading Black Bear, and my review will appear on Euro Crime in due course.

41Tp7vFqe0L._SL500_I read only three crime fiction books during April because I was busy with other activities, and also I read some non-fiction. Those three books:

Pale Horses-Jassy Mackenzie

The Fifth Witness-Michael Connelly

The Weeping Girl-Hakan Nesser

were all enjoyable, but Hakan Nesser’s intriguing police procedural with Ewa Moreno as the main character was my pick of the month.

covers_for_hannah_threeThe first three books in Rebecca Cantrell’s award winning Hannah Vogel series are available now on Kindle UK at exceptional value ranging from £2.99-£3.33. I can heartily recommend this intelligent series, which features a feisty female protagonist while at the same time educating the reader about major events in European history.
 Award winning author Rebecca Cantrell majored in German, Creative Writing and History at the Freie Universitaet of Berlin, and Carnegie Mellon University. She lives in Hawaii with her husband and son.
My review of A Night of Long Knives with links to my four part interview with the author.

51zuS5qOhnL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_Pale Horses is the fourth in author Jassy Mackenzie’s series based in Johannesburg, South Africa and featuring private investigator Jade de Jong.

Jade is hired by wealthy futures trader and base jumper Vincent Theron to investigate the fatal fall of his parachuting partner Sonet Meintjies from 350px-Map_of_South_Africa_with_English_labels.svgthe 68 storey Sandton Views skyscraper. Sonet had worked for a charity helping indigenous people to establish farming projects. As Jade investigates she discovers  Sonet’s obnoxious ex-husband Van Schalkwyk had lost his farm in a land claim to the Siyabonga tribe, and has leaflets scattered in his house from the “Boere Krisis Kommando”.  But the Siyabonga tribe seem to have disappeared and their farming commune is barren and deserted. When Jade starts to return to Johannesburg, her tyres are slashed and as she begins to search for Sonet’s siblings she is involved in shootings, car chases, and a brutal murder.

Meanwhile Ntombi Khumalo, whose husband has died of cancer, is being forced by her employer to act as chauffeur to a vicious killer, because he has threatened her son little Khumalo.

Pales Horses covers all of the essentials of good crime thrillers; it is exciting, has good characters, an intriguing plot, a good deal of social commentary, and a fine sense of place. The atmosphere of modern post apartheid South Africa is evoked on many levels, but especially with the contrasts between the wealthy shopping and business district of Sandton, Johannesburg, and the harsh bleak poverty of rural South Africa.

In less than three hundred pages Jassy Mackenzie introduces the reader to some of the Rainbow Nation’s many problems, corruption, racism, land reform, the vast gulf between rich and poor, and the seemingly ever present violence. Amusingly Jade’s ex-lover Police Superintendent David Patel has difficulty sleeping on the Cape Province coast because it is too quiet. He is so used to  the noise of sirens and gunfire in Johannesburg, a city whose prosperous suburbs feature security gates, high walls, razor wire and guns.

 Jade de Jong is a feisty female protagonist, well suited to her environment, much more VI Warshawski than Miss Marple; and her relationship with David Patel, who has his own personal problems, is one of the interesting sub-plots. Ntombi Khumalo in her perilous situation dreams of being a professional chef, and distracts herself, and interests the reader, by thinking about her menus while driving around with a brutal killer. The reader is given two female protagonists in a genre that usually features men, because this is an out and out thriller, and one which stands up well to a comparison with the better known books of Deon Meyer. But most importantly Jassy’s characters are people you want to follow into the future, and see how their lives develop. Pale Horses is an excellent addition to the ever expanding sub genre of South African crime fiction, and I shall look out for number five in the series.

I received my advanced uncopyedited  from the publishers Soho Press. Jassy Mackenzie was born in what was then Rhodesia, and moved to South Africa when she was eight years old. The three previous Jade de Jong novels are, Random Violence, Stolen Lives and The Fallen.