Archive for June, 2013

51tmhNSvKwL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_The Twelfth Department is the third book in the series featuring Moscow police Militia detective Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolev. The novel has been nominated for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Crime Fiction Award.

The story is set in 1937 during  the height of Stalin’s Great Terror when people were frequently betrayed to state security  to obtain a bigger apartment or merely out of revenge for some perceived insult.

Korolev has planned to spend a week with his son Yuri but is assigned the investigation of the murder of Professor Azarov, a scientist who is doing work of vital importance to the Soviet state and the Revolution. Then Korolev is suddenly relieved and the case is taken over by the NKVD because of aspects of Azarov’s work at the research institute is so sensitive. 

Korolev stepped into the professor’s sitting room and could only imagine the satisfaction the dead man must have taken from the view-the Kremlin, the river and most of central Moscow were visible from the windows. you could leave aside Lenin Prizes, appointments to the Academy of Red Professors and any other accolade the State might throw in the direction of a deserving scientific fellow- this view and the size and number of rooms told anyone who needed to know that professor Azarov had been at the pinnacle of his profession.

Korolev and Yuri go off to stay at author Isaac Babel’s country retreat. But then the murder of Shtange, Azarov’s deputy, brings Korolev back into the investigation as he is co-opted by one department of the NKVD to investigate the murders and obtain details of research conducted at the institute under the auspices of another rival department of Chekists. The situation is complicated by Yuri’s disappearance and possible capture by the Twelfth Department. 

This is a police procedural but greatly embellished and raised above the ordinary by a good sense of the oppressive atmosphere, and a clever evocation of the bizarre frightening world of the Soviet regime of those years.  The narrative conveys a world that is a blend of George Orwell and Franz Kafka, with a touch of Mary Shelley. It is always difficult to write historical crime fiction that balances the criminal and the historical aspects, but William Ryan manages this cleverly not burdening the reader with too much detail, but still creating a very real and frightening world.

The educational value of this book is enhanced by the Historical Notes at the end listing the unpleasant fates met by the real life characters who play a part in the story. There is also a useful list of characters at the beginning that helps the reader reading unusual Russian names.  

‘Comrade Stalin values my advice from time to time,’ Weiss explained. Honestly, Korolev thought to himself, he should move to a different city-some place where people couldn’t possibly have meetings with people like Stalin or be connected with State Security or have mysterious benefactors who could land them apartments as big as a metro station. Omsk , perhaps. 

51UgMlwgpcL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_513mK8Q3A4L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51-2TbBMlIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_516Kb3vwpVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51tmhNSvKwL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51c0Fu8cTKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_It has always puzzled me that an award named after author Ellis Peters who created the medieval monk Brother Cadfael has only once in 13 years been won by a book from that period. That was in 2007 when the award went to the brilliant Mistress of the Art of Death  by the late Ariana Franklin.

Once again this year’s shortlist for the Ellis Peters has no medieval books so the trend will continue. Is it because history teaching syllabus when most authors were at school consisted of Western Front 1914-1918, Stalin, Hitler and the Tudors? If that is the case it is not a surprise that of 31 books short listed for the award over the past five years; 10 are set in the 1940s, 7 in Tudor times and 6 more are set in the 1930s and 1950s.

I aim to read some of this shortlist before the award dinner on 15 July, and possibly spot the winner.

DiSardiniaDeath in Sardinia, the third book in the Inspector Bordelli series, is set in the last few weeks of 1965 mainly in Florence where Inspector Bordelli investigates the murder of a loan shark. Totuccio Badalamenti, a man who made other peoples lives a total misery with his usury and blackmail, has been killed with a pair of scissors driven through his throat.

Meanwhile Piras, Bordelli’s young colleague is convalescing at his parent’s house in Boncardo, Sardinia, after being shot by prison escapees. Piras’s father Gavino, was an old comrade of Bordelli, and he had lost an arm during their time fighting the Germans in the war. A neighbour of Gavino, Pina Setzu became worried about her cousin Benigno, who had not been seen for a while. When Piras investigates  he finds Benigno shot in the head and it is assumed he committed suicide; but later Piras realises Benigno has been murdered. The narrative perspective switches between the two detectives, and between Florence and Sardinia, as they investigate these murders.

Bordelli is a bit of a Robin Hood among detectives and his attitude to petty crooks and their crimes is fairly unique. He spends an enormous amount of time reminiscing, loitering, eating, smoking marijuana, and thinking.  Along the way we meet his friends Diotivede, the pathologist, Rosa, the whore, Baragli, the old policeman dying in hospital, Ennio ‘Botta’ the criminal who is a superb cook, and others. The reader is given their back stories and memories at considerable length, some of the stories are harrowing as they relate to the activities of the Fascist Black Brigades during the war. We get the 55 year old Bordelli’s thoughts about the war and his slightly embarrassing thoughts about Marisa, a beautiful teenager; linked with his longing for Milena, a 25 year old Jewish girl friend, who I assume featured in an earlier book.

When the perspective shifts to Piras on Sardinia we learn about Benigno’s terrible war, and a property deal which may be connected with his murder. The action is very leisurely, and the narrative I found a bit indigestible despite the descriptions of delicious food. This was unusual as the translation is by the brilliant Stephen Sartarelli, who also translates the Montalbano stories of Andrea Camilleri. 

The Italian title of Death in Sardinia is Il Nuovo Venuto, The Newcomer, which is probably a bit more relevant than Death in Sardinia for a book which is set in Florence for the majority of the time. I know these books are written for an Italian readership but the accounts of Bordelli and his friends fighting Germans, and  one account of not shooting at Italian Fascists because they were fellow Italians were a little difficult to understand. The Italian Fascists were not that particular.

I am sure that Botta’s story of saving Rebecca, a young Jewish girl, was repeated many many times in real life by good Italians. On the other hand I feel it should have been mentioned that Mussolini’s Italy declared war on Great Britain and France on the 10 June 1940. In over 400 hundred pages there is only one very brief reference to this war in Death in Sardinia. 

He’d made it back from the war alive, but there had been many occasions when he could easily have died. He’d been lucky. It was almost though he was protected by a star in the heavens. In 1941, shrapnel from a British torpedo had breached the wall of the submarine he was in. ……………

Italy has been influenced by the four powerful movements of Fascism, Communism, Catholicism, and Mafia. Any country that went on to suffer the post war traumas of Mafia and Red Brigade violence will be sensitive to what happened during the Mussolini regime.  I just wish Marco Vichi’s narrative had been tighter and less wordy. He could have made the point about the anti-Fascist struggle, and the inherent goodness of his protagonist without slowing the pace of the story with so many digressions, but despite this I came to appreciate this novel that gradually grew on me.

Not an easy read and in my opinion not an International Dagger winner, but certainly an interesting and thought provoking book.

‘My dear Piras, after the war, for the sake of peace across the nation, between amnesties and pardons, the few gentlemen of Salo who had ended up in prison were released……And, in fact, many of them were kindly asked to resume their positions in the courts and police departments.

‘ Even the war criminals?’

‘In the end, they all got off scot free.’   

41pmSONWyyL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_I read The Foreign Correspondent a few weeks ago, before I embarked on my International Dagger shortlist reading catch up, which has reached Death in Sardinia by Marco Vichi. 

Alan Furst’s story is set in Paris in the years just before the outbreak of the Second World War. It tells the story of Carlo Weisz, a journalist working for Reuters who was originally from Trieste. Trieste was an important port city of  Austria-Hungary until their defeat in the Great War, when it became part of Italy. Weisz has been in Spain reporting on the end of the Civil War, and the final battles fought by the Republican International Brigades including elements of the Garibaldi Brigade under  the charismatic anti-Fascist Italian Colonel “Ferrara”. General Franco’s Nationalists had received considerable military aid from the Fascist powers Italy and Germany while the democracies had maintained an arms embargo, which in effect ensured the defeat of the democratically elected Republican Government. The bombing of Guernica, immortalised by Pablo Picasso in his famous painting, was a precursor and practice run for later attacks on Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Coventry, Bristol, and all the rest.

Weisz becomes the leader of a group of Italian refugees from Mussolini’s regime, who are publishing Liberazione an anti-Fascist newspaper that is smuggled back into Italy. The former editor has been murdered by the agents of the OVRA. Furst gives his readers an explanation of the name that is more compelling than other books I have read that state that no one knew what the letters stood for during those years of terror.

Today we regard Mussolini as some kind of buffoon, but his regime was no joke for those who lived in Italy during those years.

OVRA- Organizzazione di Vigilanza e Repressione dell’Antifascismo; organisation for the vigilant repression of antifascism

But it is said that it comes from a memo from Mussolini that he wanted a police force that would be like a PIOVRA, a giant octopus with tentacles into every aspect of Italian life. The name PIOVRA was apparently mistyped as OVRA, and Mussolini liked the name so it stuck.  

Weisz travels to Prague to report on the final dismemberment of Czechoslovakia.

Churchill’s famous retort to Neville Chamberlain after Munich is quoted by the author.

“You were given a choice between shame and war. You chose shame and you shall have war.” 

Weisz then goes to Berlin to cover the signing of the Pact of Steel by Hitler and the Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law. Winston Churchill once joked, in the hearing of his new son-in-law, band leader Vic Oliver, that Mussolini was his favourite dictator because he had his son-in-law executed. In Berlin Weisz resumes his affair with his beautiful married lover Christa von Schirren, a committed anti-Nazi. As a result Weisz is then persuaded by the British agent Edwin Brown to be the ghost writer for a propaganda book written by Colonel Ferrara, in exchange for getting Christa out of Germany, a country where people disappear into “nacht und nebel” the night and fog.

The Foreign Correspondent is a standard Alan Furst novel, a lot of spies, a little sex, an easy read with great pre-World War II atmosphere, fairly standard characters, a simple plot, but with an educational value that makes up for any weaknesses and the low key ending.

51qyzRJRCNL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_One evening at a police station in suburban Tel Aviv, Hannah Sharabi reports her sixteen year old son Ofer is missing. Inspector Avraham Avraham [probably a tribute to Meyer Meyer in the 87th precinct books of Ed McBain] dismisses her with a stupid story that Israel doesn’t have crimes like those in books like Agatha Christie or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and that: Regular kids don’t just disappear. 

He almost immediately regrets his attitude, and the next morning when the mother returns, he organises a search for the young man. Avi Avraham is a 38 year old single cop who leads a very dull life outside work, dealing with his elderly parents, and thinking dream-like about his platonic relationship with Ilana, his female superior officer. He is an ordinary policeman in a country where any really serious crime might be referred to the Shin Bet, internal security service.

The story is told from Avi’s perspective, and also from the perspective of a neighbour Ze’ev Avni, who was a part time tutor to Ofer, and who wishes to insert himself into the search and investigation in an unsettling way. He is a teacher, a writer, a little crazy, with an enormous chip on both shoulders. He tells Avi about the school where he teaches.

At fourteen they are already movie directors. Little Spielbergs. Some are poets and writers; they form rock bands and work on albums. They derive their confidence not from themselves but from their environment, from their parents, from society, which tells them they can do anything and everything, that they excel at everything. I am not saying it’s a bad thing, although it may sound like it. I’m simply stating the facts. Ofer comes from a different place and was a different child. 

When he says he is simply stating the facts he is actually just giving his opinion. Ze’ev may be clinically crazy, but he is a far more interesting character than Avi.

The narrative is quite slow, and Avi Avraham does not seem to be a very bright detective, clashing with colleagues; young fireball Shrapstein, the more experienced Ma’alul, and even Ilana. He suggests that Ofer is lying on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, and I was not sure if he was serious.

‘How do I know he isn’t there. I don’t know anything.’

‘You can find out. You can check with Border Security if he has left the country. He didn’t get on a plane with a false passport. He’s not a Mossad agent , he’s a schoolboy.’

Avi likes to watch crime TV and point out the errors the detectives make, but does not seem to notice his own caused by indecision and self doubt. The author is a literary scholar specialising in the history of detective literature, so we get numerous references to Agatha Christie, and he produced a story to make the reader think twice about the truth, and the assumed truth.

During the search for Ofer, Avi Avraham takes a side trip as part of a police exchange scheme to Brussels. An amusing tribute to Hercule Poirot? But the police there are dealing with a murder of a young woman, Johanna Getz, a fictional case that copies exactly, almost incident for incident, suspect for suspect, the  murder in Bristol of Joanna Yeates. 

‘Who was it? Avraham asked, and Jean-Marc said, ‘A neighbour. A different neighbour-not the landlord. A psychopath who lives on the first floor.’ 

I thought this was entirely unneccessary and a bit unsettling. It was particularly bizarre when  a blurb on the cover from Henning Mankell mentions the author writing with “profound originality”.

I very much wanted to enjoy this Israeli novel and did up to a point. But I am just not sure the author managed to create a special enough lead character who I would want to follow through any more books.  

51Jx542D48L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Alex, a beautiful but insecure young woman, is kidnapped off the streets of Paris and bundled into a white van. She is forced to strip and put into a wooden case, a cage, situated in an abandoned warehouse. Commandant Camille Verhoeven, a detective of Napoleonic stature 4’11’, is given the investigation. Camille has returned after a lengthy absence from duty, trying to recover from not surprising severe traumatic stress, after his pregnant wife Irene was kidnapped and found murdered; so this is a particularly difficult assignment for him. As the vital hours go by the desperate race to find Alex before she too is killed becomes frantic. Camille taking the situation very personally has no leads and wonders why has she been kidnapped and by whom?

It’s a hell of an odd team though, thinks Camille. On the one hand you’ve got a kid who’s a rich as Croesus, on the other a miser worthy of Scrooge McDuck. 

There is quite a lot of violence in this book, and a particularly unpleasant description of an unspeakable act, which is perhaps necessary to explain the plot.

But despite this it would be a worthy winner of the International Dagger, because the team of detectives are interesting characters. And more importantly the clever plotting means that nothing is quite as it seems. 

Even when you’re not altogether with it, seeing Louis and Armand standing next to each other is a trip. Louis in his grey Kiton suit, Stefano Ricci tie, Weston brogues; Armand dressed from a clearance sale at a charity shop. Good grief, Camille thinks, staring at him: he looks as though he buys his clothes a size too small to save that much more.

This novel with its multi dimensional plot takes you on an exciting switchback ride that ultimately produces a form of justice. I don’t want to say any more about the plot because the pleasure of reading this book is seeing the detectives  gradually uncover the facts, while you also accompany Alex on her difficult journey.

I can’t wait for Pierre Lemaitre’s next book featuring Camille Verhoeven to be published in the Spring of 2014.

Author Pierre Lemaitre is a teacher of literature and a multi award winning crime writer. Alex is his first book to be translated into English, and confirms my opinion that, while some Scandinavian crime fiction of average quality has been  published over the past few years, we may have missed some top level crime writers from other countries. Well done Quercus, for bringing us Pierre Lemaitre’s Camille Verhoeven. 

CRIMEFEST 2013: a day in Bristol

Posted: June 8, 2013 in notes

I only attended the Saturday of Crimefest in Bristol but it was such an enjoyable day that I am sure, health allowing, I will sign up for the full experience next year. I took an early train, and after performing like Bob Beaman to get on to the Cross Country carriage; an hour later I arrived in Bristol in time to attend the first panel of the day.  Is it beyond the British rail system to put the edge of the platform somewhere in the vicinity of the train, rather than tell everyone to mind the gap?title_bob

The 9.00 am panel was Fresh Blood: Debut Authors with Alex Blackmore, J.C.Martin, Fergus McNeill and Tome Vowler expertly moderated by Rhian Davies. It is obviously much more difficult to bring out the personalities of fresh blood debut authors than some grizzled veterans of these events, and Rhian managed this very successfully. Their respective books were  set in London/Paris about corporate greed [Alex Blackmore], in London during the run up to the Olympics [J.C.Martin], in Bristol featuring a serial killer, who dumps a body at Severn Beach [Fergus McNeill] and a mystery on Dartmoor [Tom Vowler]. 

The next panel was Cold War: An Infiltrating Chill with Tom Harper, John Lawton, Aly Monroe and William Ryan moderated by Martin Walker. I have read all of Aly Monroe’s Peter Cotton spy series, and all of John Lawton’s Troy books so really enjoyed this panel. I must say I was inspired to read the other panel members books after the intelligent discussion. I learned from the participants that spies like talking about themselves especially to journalists; and confirmed in my mind that the current civil war in Syria is not only part of the complex 1,400 year old Sunni-Shia conflict within Islam, but also a proxy war continuation of the Cold War.  I was introduced by Rhian to Aly Monroe, who was charming, and John Lawton, who remarked on my genuine South London accent. An example of the total failure of P1000695those expensive elocution lessons in my youth. 

It was then time for Rhian and I to catch up with a long lunch in the sunshine on College Green. I noticed boarded up shops, a demonstration against the “bedroom tax” and was offered a free lunch in order to bring to our attention the plight of the hungry. Bristol always was a city with a social conscience and a blend of the wealthy and the poor.

Back in the Marriott Hotel venue we went to Creating Sherlock with Mark Gatiss [Mycroft Holmes & co-producer] Steven Moffat [co-creator & producer] and Sue Vertue [producer] interviewed by Nev Fountain. I am old fashioned and although I can appreciate this updated series but in my opinion it can never match the Granada TV series which ran from 1984-1994 with Jeremy Brett as Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr Watson. It must be my age. Of course when the updated Sherlock was originally cast they did not know that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman would become such big movie stars. Their availability in future might be the factor that ends the series prematurely.

The next event featured Felix Francis and the lovely Samantha Norman interviewed by Peter Guttridge about keeping the legacy of their parents Dick Francis and Ariana Franklin alive and well. I have read all of the Mistress in the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin, real name Diana Norman, so I was particularly pleased that Samantha intends to finish an uncompleted novel, even though her mother kept all her research notes in her head. Felix Francis said his and his father’s books are classified as easy reads, but it was very hard work to make them easy reads. Felix Francis also told us he delivers three copies of his new books to Buckingham Palace, one for the Queen, one for the Prince of Wales, and one for the Princess Royal. What did shine through at this interview was love and respect both authors felt for their parents.

The final panel of the day was entitled The Changing Face of London and had a fascinating mix of authors moderated by Alison Joseph. Patrick Easter writes about a river surveyor on the Thames in the late 1790s. Andrew Pepper’s books are set in the 1840s featuring Pyke head of the Metropolitan Police’s new detective branch. John Lawton’s superb Troy series is a social history of England from the 1930s to the 196os. Hanna Jameson despite her youth writes about a contract killer and the very violent world of modern London. John Lawton mentioned that when he came to live in Stepney in 1973 there were still bomb sites from the Second World War. I remember bomb sites all over South London and Bristol in the 1960s, and as Britain received the largest amount of the Marshall Aid I always wondered why it took so long to rebuild our cities. 

Crimefest was for me a stimulating day and any minor niggles were outweighed by the opportunity to meet up with old friends, meet some  people who were previously only online friends, and to chat to authors whose books I had enjoyed.

The only major problem was I could foresee was wanting to read some of the new to me authors appearing on the panels. That TBR mountain may well grow larger.  








Usually when the CWA International Dagger Shortlist is announced I have read most of the books, but this year I have only read one of them, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas. I normally would not comment until I had read more of the books, but the  announcement on the CWA website reproduced below made me think the judges are unhappy at the quality of the shortlist. Surely if “several outstanding books” are not submitted by publishers within the deadlines some kind of failsafe system should be arranged. I can understand the organisers wanting a fee to include the books in a shortlist, but the prestige of the award will be tarnished if the shortlist becomes  a collection of books that wouldn’t have made it but X, Y and Z weren’t submitted in time. There is mention of terrible violence in two of the books, and I always wonder if this is really necessary in any circumstances. I will possibly get round to reading only one of the two violent books, but when I read in the press about the murder of April Jones, and the fact that Drummer Lee Rigby had to be identified from his dental records, I think authors and scriptwriters have some responsibility to tone down any descriptions of violence in their work.

It is a bittersweet irony that the first ever Israeli crime novel to be shortlisted D.A. Mishani’s The Missing File appears alongside a book by the grandson of Baldur von Schirach, Reichhsjugendfuhrer and then Gauleiter of Vienna, a man who served 20 years for crimes against humanity. No one could blame author Ferdinand von Schirach for the terrible crimes of his grandfather, but equally I don’t believe he can absolve his family name by writing novels, however well intentioned.

The last time Fred Vargas won this award in 2009, the shortlist included Karin Alvtegen, Arnaldur Indridason, Stieg Larsson, Jo Nesbo, and Johan Theorin. Was this a stronger shortlist than that of 2013?

An analysis of International Dagger shortlists over the past five years shows 8 Swedish, 7 Italian, 6 French, two  South African, Norwegian and Icelandic, and one  German, Argentinean, Spanish and Israeli novels were nominated. 

The announcement of the winner is on 15 July therefore I hope to review more of the shortlist before then.  

From the CWA website:

“Questions of quality led to two long discussions by the judging panel: one is whether a socially important book which is otherwise not exceptional in originality or aesthetic quality is, nonetheless, an ‘outstanding’ book; the other is the problem of exceptional violence.

In both cases, the judges agree that one of crime fiction’s claims to attention is when it reveals, analyses, and publicizes issues of social concern. Crime fiction can alert its publics to failures in laws and law enforcement, on the street, in the courts, and in legislation. It can perform the work of historical memory and bring injustices to public attention. Three of the shortlisted books raise these questions: one performs the work of publicity and has called the attention of its society to a questionable change in its laws; in two, though there is terrible violence, it is employed in the service of serious questions, and is never gratuitous.

The judges regret the non-submission of several outstanding books, and wish to remind publishers of the CWA’s deadlines.”

51-XXpEMoPL._SL500_AA300_P1010564I am very pleased that Last Will by Liza Marklund has won the prestigious Petrona Award.

This award is in memory of Maxine Clarke, who very sadly died last December. I greatly miss her kindness, cheerfulness, constant encouragement, and of course her brilliant reviews. 

Maxine was a champion of Scandinavian crime fiction, bloggers, and women in crime fiction, and I think it is appropriate that Last Will written by Liza Marklund and featuring Annika Bengtzon won this inaugural Petrona. 

When at the end of last year I picked my favourite books of 2012 Last Will was high on my list and I commented: 

Last Will by Liza Marklund tr. Neil Smith

Annika Bengtzon, the most popular and attractive journalist in Scandinavia continues the struggle to balance her career and family. In this brilliant book the reader learns about Alfred Nobel, his prize, how a media outlet is organised, and tales of scientific rivalry. No wonder Liza Marklund was one of Maxine’s favourite authors. 

You can get read Maxine’s review of Last Will here.  

[photo shows Maxine at Crime Fest along with one of her favourite translators Don Bartlett]

P1040204The weather is finally showing some change from one of the coldest springs on record.P1040198


My reading in May ranged consisted of  three crime fiction books, five science fiction books that varied from the very clever to the very unreadable, and one history book. This book by Frederic Morton was about Vienna in the period 1888/1889 and concerned the build up to the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress the young Baroness Marie Vetsera at Mayerling. If I tell you that the book ends on 20 April 1889 you might guess why the last few sentences sent a chill through me far greater than any crime book. 


I will always enjoy reading history books but even though many years ago I read a lot of science fiction I have now decided it is not really my scene.  I like a good murder. My enthusiasm for crime fiction was revived by reading three books of equal quality that I really enjoyed. It would be a bit unkind to separate these excellent books:

Lifetime:Liza Marklund

Black Bear: Aly Monroe

Blood Curse, The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi: Maurizio De Giovanni

I will report on my day and the stimulating panels I attended on the Saturday of Crime Fest in Bristol, and the International Dagger and Ellis Peters Historical Dagger shortlists next week.