Archive for May, 2014

51L9kyz3feL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51ANBYTT1nL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51MIKOBq3-L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51kss+dFjYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51Ll7rHYubL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_61S3rEHE0cL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_51ycKO1H8bL._There is a new sponsor for the CWA Historical Crime Fiction Prize, the Endeavour press. There is a shortlist of seven novels and the award will be made on the 30th June 2014. I think historical crime fiction is the most difficult sub genre to write successfully. Simply because the author has to add accurate  historical research to the mix of plot, character and atmosphere. 

My thoughts on the shortlist:

The Devil in the Marshalsea: Antonia Hodgson

Set in London’s Marshalsea debtors prison in 1727 this debut novel hopefully will live up to the hype. “Detail and atmosphere rivals The Master, Dickens, with added crime.”

The Late Scholar: Jill Paton Walsh

A novel which moves Dorothy L. Sayers characters Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane into the 1950s. I have read so little of Miss Sayers that I couldn’t compare it to the originals.

Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders: Kate Griffin

I got the impression from reading reviews of this book that it was a young adult book, but if it is good enough it does not matter who is the intended readership. Is it good enough?

Treachery: S.J.Parris

The fourth Giordano Bruno adventure set in Elizabethan England 1583. Monk, poet and detective Giordano is just the man to work for Sir Francis Walsingham in foiling Spanish plots against England and her Virgin Queen. 

The City of Strangers: Michael Russell

This is the second in a series set in the years just before the Second World War with protagonist Garda Sergeant Stefan Gillespie. The first The City of Shadows was set in Dublin and Danzig, this sequel in 1939 New York. 

Theft of Life: Imogen Robertson

London, 1785. The unconventional Harrriet Westerman and anatomist Gabriel Crowther investigate the murder of a former West Indies planter and face the reality of the slave trade. 

The Dead Can Wait: Robert Ryan

I was intrigued by the blurb of this book. “At a time when Sherlockian recreations are ten-a-penny, Ryan’s Dr Watson at War series seems likely to be the one that would most have won the approval of Conan Doyle himself.”

Didn’t Conan Doyle became totally bored with Sherlock Holmes, and attempt to kill him off at the Reichenbach Falls? 

I find it rather depressing that two out the seven shortlisted books use characters created by dead writers. Perhaps I am being very unfair, I frequently am.

When entries that did not make the shortlist come from writers such as Laura Wilson, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Harris [the superb An Officer And A Spy], Robert Goddard, Michael Ridpath, Patrick Easter and John Lawton, I wonder if my status as an amateur historian and apprentice reviewer is under threat.        

51TrOIn6sFL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_I finished reading A Cure For All Diseases, Reginald Hill’s superb completion of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sandition a few days ago. 515BTE113AL._Following on from The Death Of Dalziel I have read 1210 pages of Reginald Hill’s writing and am not bored by his creations, Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe. 

This novel is a quirky pastiche of Sanditon in which the novel is both finished and updated, in a fairly respectful but very modern manner; if respect is possible with Fat Andy featuring prominently in the action. Andy Dalziel is recuperating in Sandytown after getting in the way of a bomb in the previous novel in the series.

When Tom Parker, his wife Mary and their children Minnie, Paul, Lucy and Lewis are looking  for  Willingdene and end up driving their hybrid 4×4 into Stompy Heywood’s tank trap in Willingden they become house guests of the Heywoods. Stompy, an old rugby playing mate of Andy Dalziel’s, is affectionately known as HB, Head Banger from his  frequent refrain that he “might as well bang my head against a brick wall”.

When their vehicle is repaired they reciprocate the Heywood’s kindness by inviting Charlotte Heywood to spend some time with them at Kyoto House in Sandytown, Home of the Healthy Holiday. There Charlotte, Charley, like Austen’s character observes and notes the habits and idiosyncrasies of a large cast of characters. A very large cast……

Lady Daphne Denham, formerly Daphne Brereton, whose two ex-husbands are now dead; she obtained wealth from her first husband Howard “Hog” Hollis and a title from her second Sir Henry Denham. She is involved in business dealings with Tom Parker, a follower of alternative medicine, and is pursuing romantically Dr Lester Feldenhammer, who runs the Avalon Foundation. 

Lady Denham, lives with a distant cousin and companion, young beautiful Clara Brereton at Sandytown Hall, while Denham Park is occupied by her young niece and nephew by marriage Sir Edward Denham and Esther Denham.

Then there is Tom Parker’s younger brother Sidney, a city financier, Gordon Godley, a healer, Miss Lee an acupuncturist, Nurse Sheldon, Harold “Hen” Hollis, Ollie Hollis, Alan Hollis, landlord of the Hope and Anchor, Tom Parker’s sister Diana, an “invalid”, her friend Mrs Sandy Griffith and Franny Roote. Enough….enough, that is enough suspects for any crime fiction novel. 

Peter Pascoe will arrive after the first murder along with DS Edgar Wield, and DCs “Hat” Bowler, Shirley Novello and Dennis Seymour to investigate, only to find Andy recovering his strength in more ways than one.

A great part of the charm of this novel is the jocular way it imitates the style of the epistolary novel, but of course updated to the twenty first century. Charley instead of writing letters e-mails her observations to her sister Cassie in Africa, while Andy is given a digital recording device to dictate his innermost thoughts as an aid to his recovery. He names the device “Mildred”. Therefore most of the novel can be classified as a dialogic epistolary novel. 

The wit and wisdom of Fat Andy plays tribute to an 1897 epistolary novel when we are told that local Police Sergeant Whitby’s nickname is Jug. 😉

A Cure For All Diseases is a superb light hearted read that does not take itself too seriously. 

Dalziel let out a sighing groan, or a groaning sigh, the kind of sound that might well up from the tone-deaf man who has just realized the second act of Gotterdammerung is not the last.    









Arnaldur Indridason- Strange Shores translator Victoria Cribb

Pierre Lemaitre – Irene translator Frank Wynne

Arturo Perez-Reverte – The Siege translator Frank Wynne 

Olivier Truc – Forty Days without Shadow translator Louise Rogers LaLaurie

Simon Urban – Plan D translator Katy Derbyshire

Fred Vargas- Dog Will Have His Day translator Sian Reynolds

I have only read one of the books on this shortlist and will probably only read one more before the award is made on 30 June. Although this should mean I am not qualified to comment I have never let lack of qualifications discourage me in the past. This is the first time in the history of the International Dagger, which admittedly only goes back to 2006, that there is no Swedish book shortlisted. I wonder if this is because of the existence of the Petrona Award. The Swedish novel Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W.Persson won this award defeating among others the International Dagger shortlisted Strange Shores by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason. Of course Olivier Truc’s highly acclaimed Forty Days without Shadow, although originally written in French, is set in Lapland so there is still a Scandinavian connection.

The International Dagger has been dominated by French and Swedish books; of the 54 books nominated from 2006 to 2014 French books make up 14 and Swedish 12, with the Italians coming in third with nine. The French have won the dagger five times, the Swedes twice and Andrea Camilleri won in 2012.

Why have I read so few of this year’s list? In the past I have read them all or almost all the shortlist. 

Arnaldur Indridason’s Strange Shores I have read and I thought it was a dull depressing read, and below the very high standards set by the earlier books in the series.   

Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas. I may get round to reading this, but I did not enjoy The Three Evangelists [a past winner of the Dagger] as much as the Adamsberg series, which is one of my top favourite detective series.

Pierre Lemaitre’s Irene is the first book in the Camille Verhoeven series. The second book Alex was translated into English last year and deservedly, despite the violent content, won a share of the International Dagger. Why these books were published out of order is beyond my comprehension? Jo Nesbo’s Oslo Trilogy suffered a similar fate with The Devil’s Star number 3 in the trilogy was published in English first! 

I am surprised that I haven’t read any of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s books as some of them feature chess and the works of Alexandre Dumas, two of the few subjects I know something about. But The Siege is a formidable 672 pages long, and I wonder if  historical crime fiction might be out of place in the International Dagger field. 

Simon Urban’s Plan D set in a world where the Berlin Wall never fell has been compared to Fatherland by Robert Harris. But the translator Katy Derbyshire has said it is more literary with “long sentences running on for whole paragraphs”. Certainly the 528 page book’s first sentence gives the reader no inkling that they are beginning a book  of great literary merit. If it wins I will read it otherwise not for me.

Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc set in Lapland has won seventeen international awards, and I will definitely read this one and hopefully write a review before the winner is announced.    

51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_There are some intelligent thoughts from Bernadette about the 2014 Petrona shortlist over at Reactions to Reading.persson

You can also read my own rambling opinions here and here.

The judges chose as the winner Leif G.W. Persson’s Linda, As In The Linda Murder, the first of series featuring the obnoxious and unforgettable Evert Backstrom as the main character.  You can read my review of this excellent book at Euro Crime.



22b874cThe translator was Neil Smith who also won the inaugural  Petrona translating Liza Marklund’s Last Will. 51-XXpEMoPL._SL500_AA300_

We are fortunate today that there are so many outstanding translators around, and we can enjoy the best of foreign crime fiction. 

Update: Read Professor Persson’s message of thanks at Euro Crime.

51a6twGKBUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_When I want to read for pure enjoyment with no thought that I should be reading this or that to keep up with what is occurring in reg hillthe world of translated crime fiction, I turn to Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe long running series.

I suspect I am addicted to these books and in making a brief appraisal of the series I might butcher some Tolstoy: “All dull books are alike; each Dalziel and Pascoe is interesting in its own way”. I thought of Tolstoy because a lot of the Dalziel and Pascoe books are of of epic length. Luckily the Harper paperback versions have a large font or else the almost 600 page length of many would be off-putting.

In the last few years I have read:

Deadheads 1983, Underworld 1988, Bones and Silence 1990, Recalled to Life 1992, Pictures of Perfection 1994, The Wood Beyond 1995, On Beulah Height 1998, The Death of Dalziel 2007, Midnight Fugue 2009 and have just begun A Cure for All Diseases 2008 [the opening chapters of which are extremely funny].

I regret not reading the books in order, but I may well go back and fill in the gaps.

The Death of Dalziel [Death Comes For The Fat Man in the USA] weighing in at 598 pages was published in 2007 the year of the terrorist bombings in London. When Police Constable Hector, not the brightest copper in Mid -Yorkshire Constabulary’s employment spots a man with a gun in a video rental shop in Mill Street that stocks Asian and Arab stuff, Dalziel and Pascoe get called in. The property has been flagged by CAT [Combined Anti-Terrorism] but Dalziel’s lack of confidence in Hector’s ability to tell the difference between a gun and a lamb kebab mean he and Pascoe get caught in the blast when the shop  blows up. Pascoe is protected behind the fat man’s vast bulk, but Andy Dalziel is severely injured and spends the majority of the book in a coma.

Pascoe is determined to track down the perpetrators of this outrage and other connected attacks carried out by vigilantes. The reader is given more information than the police concerning the reasons for attacks committed against those who preach, or are perceived to preach violent jihad. Some of the questions concerning treatment of our troops in Iraq, revenge, hatred, personal loss, and fear of the other are cleverly raised with great care in this tense story.

The Death of Dalziel was a very enjoyable and thought provoking read, with the serious subject matter pleasantly distracted by the wise words of St Andy. 

Bump into your best mate coming out of the Black Bull, that’s coincidence. Bump into him coming out of your wife’s bedroom, that’ s co-respondence.     

Everyone In Their Place, subtitled The Summer Of Commissario Ricciardi, is the third volume in author Maurizio De Giovanni’s historical series, following on 51PgXyPu1LL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_from I Will Have Vengeance [The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi] and Blood Curse [The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi]

It is August 23, 1931.

Year Nine. Of the New Era. The era of black ribbons on hats and high black boots, the era of full page newspaper photographs of men in shirtsleeves, guiding a plow. The era of enthusiasm and optimism. The era of law and order and clean cities, by government decree.

But Commissario Ricciardi, the man cursed by seeing and hearing the final seconds of life of those who meet a violent death, still has to investigate the brutal crimes that occur despite government decree. Ricciardi, and his trusty subordinate Brigadier Maione, are instructed to investigate the brutal shooting of the beautiful Duchess di Camparino. The Duchess has a much older invalid husband and a stepson Ettore, who spends his time looking after plants and has his own secrets. The old dying Duke is looked after by a housekeeper, Concettta, who supervises the  servants, the Sciarras, man and wife, who live in the palazzo with their young children. When Ricciardi discovers that the Duchess had a vibrant nature, and at least one infatuated lover the investigation becomes even more complex, with the Commissario having to tread very carefully to avoid alienating the local power hierarchy. 

Everyone In Their Place is a brilliant example of noir that drifts pleasingly into black comedy at times. A delicious blend of murder, love affairs, commentary on Mussolini-balcony-Palazzo-Veneziaworking in a totalitarian state with terrible poverty existing alongside ostentatious wealth; and with that green-eyed monster jealousy playing a large part, this is the best book of the trilogy so far.

The relationship that has failed to reach even a sub-platonic level between the “very secret lovers” Ricciardi and Enrica Columbo takes a difficult turn as Enrica’s mother encourages her to meet the unprepossessing Sebastiano, who lives off his wealthy parents. Ricciardi sees Enrica with Sebastiano, and Enrica sees Ricciardi with the beautiful elegant Livia, the widow of opera singer Arnaldo Vezzi, who was murdered in an earlier book. Livia has come back to Naples to seduce the shy Commissario. Enrica and Ricciardi are both heartbroken.

Meanwhile Raffaele Maione, all 265lbs of him, is on a strict diet. His wife Lucia has been flirting with Ciruzzo, a fruit vendor and Maione has the idea that the thinner man might take his beloved from him. All these misunderstandings, with interventions from the sycophantic and useless Deputy Chief of Police Angelo Garzo, and the boldly anti-Fascist Doctor Modo go along way to create a story that at times resembles Italian comic opera, but it is never far from the harsh brutal reality of life, violence and murder in Mussolini’s Italy.

A superb beautifully written crime thriller with a cast of memorable characters, it should definitely be a strong contender for the International Dagger and the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger.