Archive for December, 2014

A Mid Winter Quiz

Posted: December 21, 2014 in Quiz, Uncategorized

I haven’t posted one of my quirky quizzes for some time, probably because my old brain box has been creaking lately.

But knowing that this holiday period will last two weeks in the UK, and that readers might need some mental stimulation after friendly discussions with relatives and their third helping of turkey, I have therefore produced this effort for your amusement.

The prize is a copy of The Poisoned Chocolate Case by Anthony Berkeley, and all answers should be sent to by midnight GMT on Sunday 11 January 2015. 

Good Luck!

1] Try this one without wikipedia. 😉

By what names are the following better known? [a] Salvatore Albert Lombino [b] Elizabeth Mackintosh [c] Daniel Nathan [d] Juliet Marion Hulme [e] Willard Huntington Wright [f] Edith May Pargeter [g] Janet Quin-Harkin

2] Who was “the man who could see round corners”?

3] Which detective found his perfect life partner in Enscombe?

4] Who cinematically linked a Hungarian born member of the Detection Club, with an aircraft, and a city chronologically between Barcelona and Sydney?

5] Who were married to [a]Heloise Plisson [b]Mary Marstan [c]Thomas Samuelsson [d] Dulcie Duveen?

6] How did a bleeding ulcer and a broken leg connect Christina Collins and Edward V?

7] Who noted a lack of any ornithological reference in the Memoirs of the Verney family?

8] Name a crime fiction author who has worked as [a] an osteopath [b] a forensic anthropologist [c] an eukaryotic archaeologist [d]  an architect

9] Identify the people in these photos.











10] Andy Dalziel likes choosing nicknames for his colleagues, for example Shirley Novello naturally becomes “Ivor” after the actor and composer Ivor Novello.

How and why did Andy’s choice of nickname for Sergeant Whitby link an unfinished 1817 novel with a epistolary novel of 1897? 

Anne Holt Lions MouthWhen Norwegian Prime Minister Birgitte Volter is found slumped across her desk shot dead, the investigators are faced with a variation on a ‘locked room mystery’, and the question whether the shooting is politically motivated, or relates to a personal matter in Birgitte’s background.

Hanne Wilhelmsen is in the USA living with her partner Cecilie, and only returns to assist lead investigator Billy T part way through the book.

Three factors make this book, with its neat blend of police work, political intrigue and social commentary a good read.

Firstly it was published in 1997 eleven years after the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme, when a supposed Kurdish connection hampered a proper investigation. The utopian view of the Scandinavian democracies had been brought shudderingly into the real world by this event.

Secondly the book deals with a possible neo-Nazi plot to murder leading figures in Norway fourteen years before the country was shocked by Anders Breivik’s massacre of young people perpetrated on Utoya Island.

Thirdly it was jointly written with Berit Reiss-Andersen*, a Norwegian lawyer and member of the Nobel Committee, and state secretary to the Minister of Justice and Police when Anne Holt briefly held that government post. Therefore the details of the political background and infighting between the characters have a ring of authenticity.

The reader learns about Birgitte, her family, husband Roy Hansen, and son Per, and her swift rise to power. Her childhood friend Supreme Court judge Benjamin Grinde, chair of a commission looking into a spike in deaths of young babies back in 1965, comes under suspicion as the last person to visit Birgitte in her office. And while most of the politicians and journalists in the book are fairly unlikeable Benjamin’s mother Birdie is probably the most unpleasant character, although Health Minister Ruth-Dorthe Nordgarden runs her pretty close. 

He [Tryggve Storstein, the new Prime Minister] had crushed her. It astonished him that he did not feel even a scintilla of regret or sorrow. When he took stock, he realized he felt pity for her, but that was all. Someone should have destroyed her long ago. 

1997 was an interesting year, because although it is clear that Anne Holt may not think that highly of her political colleagues, we in the UK naively believed in the newly elected Labour Government. Some of us actually celebrated the result of that election.

There have been two great political rivalries in British history. In the Nineteenth Century that between Tory Benjamin Disraeli and Liberal William Gladstone, and in recent times that between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The only problem was that Blair and Brown were supposed to be in the same political party. The populace awoke from a thirteen year long nightmare to discover the country was virtually bankrupt, and after a new election we were now ruled by a different bunch of incompetents.

What happened to an “end to boom and bust” and the “golden age of banking”?

But I digress Anne Holt sums up the state of most Western democratic systems quite succinctly in The Lion’s Mouth in a passage that bears a strong resemblance to the situation in the UK as the powers that be search for someone to chair a commission on child sex abuse.

“This kind of thing has become worryingly common in our society,” Professor Brynjestad continues.

“Namely, that members of the social elite increasingly have links to one another, allowing them to operate beyond the usual boundaries and without being accountable to ordinary citizens. We end up with an invisible network of power we cannot control.” 

My reviews of the first three Hanne Wilhelmsen books:

The Blind Goddess

Blessed Are Those That Thirst

Death of the Demon       

Anne Holt Lions Moutha

Von Bora 3A Dark Song of Blood by Ben Pastor [Maria Verbena Volpi] is grown up crime fiction, a fine book that raises difficult moral questions concerning loyalty to one’s country, a cause and the church.

The third book in the Major Martin Bora series finds the anguished war wounded officer in Rome during that period in 1944, when the Allies were battering the German defences round Monte Cassino, and shortly after the start of the book have landed at Anzio. It has been said that the Second World War was simple you shot everything in front off you. The situation in Rome is much more complex for the anti-Nazi Martin Bora. He mixes with the upper echelons of Italian society, and the Vatican hierarchy, but has to watch his back as Italian Fascists, German SS, Gestapo, the Resistance, and the Wehrmacht are all struggling for a fleeting advantage in a rapidly deteriorating situation. DSC00301

Martin Bora and Italian policeman Sandro Guidi must investigate the suspected murder of  Magda Reiner, a German Embassy secretary, who has “accidentally” fallen from a fourth floor window to her death. Magda has had several lovers, and one of them Merlo is Secretary General of the National Union of Fascists. Dr Caruso the head of Rome’s police tells Guidi……

“Keep looking into the dossier, there’s plenty about His Excellency’s goings-on. The Germans want his neck so prove he killed her.”

When Bora’s elderly university teacher now a cardinal is found with a Roman society lady in a compromising position, both shot dead, he has to examine his conscience and face the corruption all around him and investigate two more murders. 

DSC00297As well as the relationship between the Third Reich and the Vatican, the fate of Rome’s Jews, and the civil war in Italy, A Dark Song of Blood also deals with the less serious subjects of Sandro Guidi’s lust for the mysterious and pregnant Francesca, Bora’s rocky marriage to the ice queen Benedikta and his obsession with the glamorous Mrs Murphy. 

“Sometimes you leave people to set them free, as I did with your stepfather. Of course it was impossible, in our position, to stay married after Sarajevo started the Great War. It worked out for the best. He found your mother and married her happily, and I fell in love with D’Annunzio.”

A Dark Song of Blood is one of the best books I have read this year, cleverly blending real life events and characters, such as Field Marshall Kesselring, in with the fictional narrative producing a work that is both a mystery and a worthy historical record.

Ben Pastor was born in Italy but lived for thirty years in the United States working as a university professor in Vermont. 

My review of Lumen at Euro Crime. 

My review of Liar Moon at Euro Crime.


The good news is that the next Martin Bora novel Tin Sky is due out in April next year.