Archive for November, 2013

51diL7EFSdL._A man, who is not identified, strangles his wife on a Greek Island and disposes of her body down a ravine. In Maardam a lonely 16 year old Monica Kammerle, who is unpopular at school, begins an affair with her mother lover. When Monica confides in Pastor Gassel, a priest with his own problems, he promises not to go to the police, but takes his concerns to retired Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. Unfortunately Van Veeteren, now running his antiquarian bookshop, has a dental appointment for a broken tooth [ah those problems with dentistry!] and is leaving the next day on a three week holiday with his girl friend, Ulrike. He does not have time to listen to to the priest, and when on his return home he hears that Gassel has fallen under a train he is suspicious. When Martina Kammerle’s body is decomposing under her bed Van Veeteren’s old colleagues investigate even questioning the Chief Inspector himself.

The Strangler’s Honeymoon is the ninth book in the Van Veeteren series and certainly one of the best. Sometimes you come across a book that is 600+pages long and yet you read it as speedily a 120 page novella. A novel that makes you actually glad you read crime fiction. A book with  appealing characters, a compelling plot, some delicious wit and humour, a few surprises and despite being originally published as long ago as 2001 in Swedish with the intriguing title Svalan, Katten, Rosen, Doden, a lot of up to date social commentary about western societies.

Hakan Nesser is one of the few authors who can successfully blend dry humour and the darker side of life in the same story. The reader is taken through the story from the slightly different perspectives of the investigating team; Rheinhart, Munster, Ewa Moreno and Rooth, with more interventions from Van Veeteren in his private investigator role than in the last few books. The personal lives of the team are varied and interesting, and we also get glimpses into the psychotic mind and the past history of the perpetrator; something I don’t usually like but it works rather well in The Strangler’s Honeymoon. The meticulous investigation goes on as those with any information or worries about missing friends are interviewed, and Moreno learns some fascinating facts of life.

And matters were not helped by the fact that when Anna Kristeva arrived ten minutes late, she turned out to be a woman more or less the same age as Moreno. She made no attempt to estimate the cost of the lawyer’s clothes, that wasn’t necessary. The situation was crystal clear already.

There are references to some of the most serious of modern society’s unsolved problems; neglect, loneliness, child abuse, sexual deviance, bullying, alienation, women’s vulnerability and the difficult search to find a sex partner who isn’t a psychopath.

‘He’d signed a prescription for her and phoned the pharmacy once or twice, when she had been in touch; but he says he hasn’t actually met her for a bout three years.’

‘Top class psychiatric care,’ said Rooth.

‘Brilliant,’ said Rheinhart. ‘But that’s not exactly anything new either. Medicine is cheaper than therapy.’

Hakan Nesser’s Maardam is a city with smart restaurants and smart women advertising for lovers, but is also a city where a body can lie undiscovered for a month. Set in an anonymous country in Northern Europe, where Van Veeteren interestingly claims not to understand Swedish, this is one of my favourite crime series and one that has maintained a uniformly high standard. I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

There was a murderer on the loose, that was the crux of the matter.

The whole point of a detective officer’s work was to ensure that there were no murderers on the loose.

My reviews of the rest of this superb crime fiction series:

The Weeping Girl          

Svenska deckarakademin har idag utsett årets bästa kriminalromaner.
Bästa svenska kriminalroman blev: Christoffer Carlsson: Den osynlige mannen från Salem (Pirat)

Motiveringen löd: ”Stark noirroman med förtätad stämning av vemod och uppgivenhet”

51qyzrjrcnl-_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_sx385_sy500_cr00385500_sh20_ou02_Bästa till svenska översatta kriminalroman:
Dror Mishani: Utsuddade spår (övers: Nils Larsson, Brombergs)
”Ett intensivt engagerande familjedrama i lågmäld ton” var motiveringen.                         

Two surprises with three previous winners beaten by Christoffer Carlsson for the Basta Svenska kriminalroman, and the translated/overseas prize, the Martin Beck Award, going to Israeli author Dror Mishani, whose book was nominated for the CWAInternational Dagger!

Fifty Years since Dallas

Posted: November 22, 2013 in USA

Up to nineteen sixty-three it was still possible for thinking men to believe in progress. A just war had been fought and won, and this time the result would be, if not a land fit for heroes, at least a society fit for humans.

 Recalled to Life: Reginald Hill 1992  

I heard the shocking news of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the communal television room at Churchill Hall student accommodation just outside Bristol. In those days we did not have televisions in our own rooms. I was 19 years old and in my first term of what was to prove a difficult five years.

ttoacmI knew very little about the machinations of American politics, and like most of my generation regarded Jack Kennedy as an heroic figure, who had saved the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and challenged the Soviets at the Berlin Wall. There was a glamour about the youngest man to be elected* President, a man who had overcome the perceived and real handicap of being a Roman Catholic to win the most powerful position in the Western world. The fact that he had a beautiful wife in Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, helped his image among the young and made us believe the future was bound to bright. A new golden age was just around the corner.

 But the assassination of JFK on 22 November 1963, in Dallas, Texas, was only the beginning of a series of  events that stripped away our youthful optimism, and altered the close relationship forged during the war between the USA and the UK.

I don’t think young Britons would ever feel quite the same about the United States as they did in the summer of 1963, and that is one tragic legacy of Kennedy’s premature death.

There have been numerous books about the Kennedy Assassination and possible conspiracies, but one of the best fiction books is The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry. This 1974 novel by an former CIA operative was good enough to be plagiarised in 2011, so it is highly recommended.

[* Jack Kennedy was 43 years and 236 days when he became the youngest elected president. The youngest president Teddy Roosevelt, who was only 42 years and 322 days, when he assumed office after the assassination of William McKinley.]  

LeifMr Crime Scraps has made a vow to be nice with his blog comments this year  so I, Grumbleweed, have taken over the blog for today. I do hope I won’t be dragged out of retirement too often. Of course listening to the young whiz kid whippersnappers who work for the BBC this old dinosaur has  learned a lot about the world; Death Valley is in Nevada; Quisling was a Swede; and a couple of weeks ago I was told Istanbul is the capital of Turkey.  Have they moved it recently?

But as Mr Crime Scraps prepares his review on Hakan Nesser’s The Strangler’s Honeymoon, he read it so quickly it must be good, I noticed the cover of the next book he is reading. He Who Kills The Dragon by Leif G.W.Persson. On this is an anonymous blurb which states ‘If You Liked The Killing You’ll Love This. I presume they are comparing the popular Danish TV series with the novel He Who Kills The Dragon [HWKTD]. I haven’t read the novelisations of the TV series but I watched and enjoyed all the series of The Killing. Life is too short to go over old territory however well written.

The comparison between the TV series and the novel is bizarre to say the least. Why would liking one mean you would love the other? The Killing is set in Copenhagen, Denmark. HWKTD in Stockholm, Sweden. Two different countries. The Killing features as its main protagonist a sexy female detective Sarah Lund, who is attractive, liberal in her attitudes, conscientious at work, and wears snuggly Faroese jumpers. HWKTD features Evert Backstrom, a lazy incompetent, heavy drinking, obese, racist, misogynist, homophobe. There is only one person who finds Evert Backstrom remotely attractive, and that is Evert Backstrom.

The Backstrom books are brilliant satires on the Swedish state, written by Leif G.W.Persson, Scandinavia’s most renowned criminologist, Professor at the National Police Board, and a three time winner [1982,2003,and 2010] of Best Swedish Crime novel of the year. The character of Backstrom reminds me a bit of Alf Garnett, in the comedy Till Death Do Us Part that graced British TV screens in the 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately some people took Alf Garnett seriously, and did not understand his racist comments were meant to shock people into realising the stupidity of his attitudes. Backstrom’s extremism is hilarious simply because he is so outrageous, but someone unprepared and expecting Backstrom to be a male version of Sarah Lund might not “love” passages such as:

Darkies, darkies, darkies, Backstrom thought, sighing heavily somewhere deep inside. He would never dream of saying it out loud. Not after all the stories  he had heard about Peter Niemi, who was also a foreigner, a bastard Finn, and a northern foreigner to be more precise, and evidently best friends with the twenty-years-younger Hernandez.


What the hell is happening to the Swedish police? Faggots, dykes, darkies and the usual yes-men. Not a single ordinary police constable as far as the eye can see.

Evert Backstrom is probably about as far as you can get from Sarah Lund on the spectrum of police detectives, and it is about time publishers stopped comparing every Scandinavian writer to Stieg Larsson, or Jo Nesbo, or The Killing.  

51gVF35NXJL 515Lxi9mZ8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51diL7EFSdL._I finished reading John Lawton’s Then We Take Berlin last week [review to appear in due 51BvycWWroL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_course at EuroCrime] and have moved on to read some of the books eligible for the 2014 Petrona Award.  

Full details at

At the moment I am over half way through the 600+ page Hakan Nesser blockbuster The Strangler’s Honeymoon and enjoying it immensely, despite the length. The book, translated by Laurie Thompson, is over 10 years old as it was originally published in Swedish in 2001 as “Svalan, Katten, Rosen, Doden” which translates as “Swallow, the cat, the rose, the death”. Curious, but no doubt all will become clear before the conclusion.

Incidentally the award for the Best Swedish crime novel of 2013, and the Best translated novel will be awarded on 23 November details below of the nominees, who include three previous winners of the basta svenska kriminalromaner. Hakan Nesser won in 1994, 1996 and 2007; Johan Theorin in 2008; and Arne Dahl in 2011. My own selection for the svenska oversatta kriminaroman, having read three of the nominated books, would be Polis by Jo Nesbo, but we won’t have long to wait to discover the judges verdict.

Svenska Deckarakademin har nominerat årets bästa svenska kriminalromaner:

Christoffer Carlsson: Den osynlige mannen från Salem, Piratförlaget
Arne Dahl: Blindbock, Bonniers
Håkan Nesser: Levande och döda i Winsford, Bonniers
Johan Theorin: Rörgast, W&W
Katarina Wennstam: Stenhjärtat, Bonniers

Nominerade till 2013 års bästa till svenska översatta kriminalroman är:

S. J. Bolton: Odödlig, översättning: Karl G. och Lilian Fredriksson, Modernista
Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl, översättning: Ulla Danielsson, Modernista
Dror Mishani: Utsuddade spår, översättning: Nils Larsson, Brombergs
Jo Nesbø: Polis, översättning: Per Olaisen, Pirat
Ferdinand von Schirach: Fallet Collini, översättning: Lena Hammargren, Bonniers

Vilka böcker som får pris som årets bästa blir klart lördagen den 23 november då Svenska Deckarakademin håller sitt höstmöte på Deckarbiblioteket i Eskilstuna.     


51EFLbvyyYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_At one of the panels I attended during Crime Fest 2012 it was suggested by a panellist that when the Scandinavian crime fever had blown over French detective fiction would be the next trend. Perhaps the trend is already here as Fred Vargas, Dominique Manotti and now Pierre LeMaitre have been getting the attention of CWA judges for several years, and I remember the wonderful green Penguin compilations of Georges Simenon’s Maigret stories. 

Is it really 50 years since Rupert Davies smoked his pipe in the old black and white Maigret television series? 

After reading Philippe Georget’s debut novel Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored I can predict a promising future for detective Gilles Sebag and I can even see BBC executives re-adjusting their expense accounts as they tour locations near Perpignan for a series. Perpignan is in a part of Mediterranean France that enjoys a dual Catalan/French cosmopolitan culture. When Perpignan’s Top 14 rugby team play big games they frequently take them across the “border” into what Georget refers to in Summertime as South Catalonia to play in Barcelona. 

Avenue Poincare crosses a residential quarter snuggled up to the foot of the palace of the Kings of Majorca. Built in the thirteenth century at the time when Perpignan was the capital of  a kingdom stretching from Montpelier to Valencia and including the Balearic Islands.

Josetta Braun, a young Dutch woman, is found murdered on the beach at Argeles. Ingrid Raven, another Dutch girl, is kidnapped, and Sylvie Lopez reports that her husband, taxi driver Jose, has gone missing. As Perpignan’s team of  detectives look into the shady world of Jose Lopez and his connection with Ingrid, there is a failed attempt to kidnap Anneke Verbrucke, yet another young Dutch citizen. Detective Gilles Sebag realises they are dealing with a complex case and a deranged perpetrator, one who likes to play games.

Summertime is a very fine debut novel with a good mystery, great location, good food and an interesting team of detectives. In this debut we are really only given a clear picture of Gilles, but if there are further books perhaps we will hopefully learn more about his boss Castello, and his sidekick Jacques Molina.

“Take my advice, old pal, and don’t miss the opportunity. You and Claire are alone together like lovers. It’s a precious moment. A new honeymoon.”

Sebag did not reply. He wasn’t Castello’s “old pal”, and he didn’t want his advice. There was nothing worse than a boss who tried to play marriage counsellor. Especially when he’d screwed up his own marriage. 

Gilles Sebag is a good detective teasing out details others have missed but sometimes relying just on intuition. His clashes with Lefevre, a young smartly dressed Parisian cop, produce some insecurity in his professional life, and worries about his status among his colleagues. Incidentally I am not a fan of those books which give the reader sections with the insane perpetrators thoughts, but in this novel they are not too lengthy or intrusive. 

 Summertime is raised above the normal crime fiction novel by the descriptions and accounts of Sebag’s home life, his relationship with his teenage children, and his intense romance with his beautiful wife, Claire. Gilles professional insecurity is exacerbated by his suspicions that Claire despite her loving attitude and their active sex life may be having an affair.  

A clever book, in places quirkily French, and certainly, in my opinion, a contender for the CWA 2014 International Dagger. 

Abandoned by his family and friends, and with a cat that ran away as his only companion?


“Definitely not.”

The words had slipped out of him. He’d shouted. He finished his glass in a single swig. Inside, he was full of new energy. He was going to resist; he was going to fight. And if he lost anyway, he’d get a goldfish instead.

Reviewing Deon Meyer’s 7 Days

Posted: November 5, 2013 in South Africa

 P1040602Thanks are due to Karen of Euro Crime for steering me to the paperback version of Deon Meyer’s 7 Days. I see my Crime Scraps review is quoted along with those of Shots Magazine, The Spectator and The Independent!

It is always nice to think that your opinion is valued, and that the reviews are even read. You can read the full review of this fine thriller here.