Archive for the ‘Norway’ Category

UntitledWhen analysing crime fiction I usually consider ten very simple factors. 

1] Is the plot exciting, believable and gripping?

2] Do I like and care about any of the characters?

3] Is it written in an easy to read style which is decipherable to an ordinary reader?

4] Does it have the correct atmosphere  for a crime novel?

5] Is it set in an interesting location?

6] Does it overdo or concentrate on violence against women and children?

7] Does it contain a social commentary or message in the narrative?

8] Is it original?

9] Do the detectives exhibit some humour or give a glimpse of human frailty?

10] Has the book been ballyhooed  and overhyped?

The Caveman comes out very positively when considered with these parameters. From the back cover:

For four months Viggo Hansen’s body has been sitting, undiscovered in front of his television, close to the home of Chief Inspector William Wisting. Has Norwegian society become so coarsened that no one cares? Line, Wisting’s journalist daughter wants to know.

Another body is discovered in the forest that also has been left for four months, and as Wisting and his team meticulously work on that case, Line conducts her own investigation into the sad lonely life of Viggo Hansen, and very gradually the reader begins to suspect a connection between the bodies. 

This is Nordic Noir of the highest quality, a real treat for lovers of accurate police procedural novels, with two great protagonists. The novel has a lot of systematic police and journalistic work with just enough personal details about the characters to keep it really interesting. The author Jorn Lier Horst was a policeman for eighteen years and this shows in the accuracy of his narrative. This is definitely a contender for the prestigious Petrona Award. 

‘How is it possible to be so lonely and forgotten that it takes four months before anyone makes the chance discovery that you are dead. I think it would be a good story to print over Christmas. W’ve just been hailed by the UN as the best country in the world to live in but, in research into citizens experience of happiness, Norway is in 112th place……..’  

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The announcement of the Petrona Award Shortlist is always  a bit of a sad time as I remember my friend the late Maxine Clarke.  

Maxine’s blog Petrona was an inspiration to so many, and she was one of a very small group of bloggers who spread the word concerning  Scandinavian crime fiction at a time when very few had even heard of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, or Stieg Larsson. 

This year’s shortlist looks very impressive with books from Norway, Finland and Sweden. I have read two of these books Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Defenceless and Hans Olav Lahlum’s Satellite People and I enjoyed both immensely. I hope to read at least two of the others before the announcement of the winner at Crime Fest in Bristol. 

Last year for the first time I totally disagreed with the judges on their choice of a winner. I think that one important criteria for the award should be that the book that wins should be one that Maxine would have enjoyed reading. 

A few thoughts about the contenders. I noticed the Lagercrantz on a half price offer in our local Waterstones. I haven’t read anything about this book but my natural reaction, possibly misguided, is that the series should have ended with the death of Stieg Larsson, and that the original fans of the series may regard this novel as an exploitation. 

On a more serious subject when I met Karin Fossum at Crime Fest several years ago we very briefly discussed her social work with children with Down’s Syndrome. She is a charming lady and does know what she is talking about on this subject.

The judges comments about her book The Drowned Boy are very interesting:

After the drowning of a young child with Down’s syndrome, Chief Inspector Sejer must ask himself if one of the parents could have been involved. The nature of grief is explored along with the experience of parenting children with learning difficulties. 

This is a subject about which I know a great deal, but reading this novel in the circumstances might be too traumatic. In our case for the wonderful twenty seven years our son Jacob was part of our family we thought we were looking after him, but in reality he was looking after us.  

I have linked to my reviews of two of these books. 

THE DROWNED BOY by Karin Fossum tr. Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway)

THE DEFENCELESS by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)

THE CAVEMAN by Jorn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding (MacLehose Press; Sweden)

SATELLITE PEOPLE by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle/Pan Macmillan; Norway)

DARK AS MY HEART by Antti Tuomainen tr. Lola Rogers (Harvill Secker; Finland)     

HOL sat peopleFrom the back cover: Oslo 1969.

When a wealthy man collapses and dies during a dinner party. Norwegian Police InspectorKolbjorn Kristiansen, known as K2, is left shaken. For the victim Magdalon Schelderup, a multi-millionaire businessman, and former resistance fighter, had contacted him only the day before,  fearing for his life.

This is the second book in the series featuring K2, and his brilliant young associate, the wheel chair bound Patricia, and is dedicated to Agatha Christie. The narration is in the first person by K2, and the plot is a classic in that there are a limited number of suspects, the ten that attended the dinner party, and that the victim is a thoroughly unpleasant character. Therefore the book comes over as being very similar in atmosphere to The Human Flies, the first book in the series. One persistent theme, like the previous book, is events during the German occupation of World War II.

One misconception about Agatha Christie’s body of work is that she wrote the same English country house mystery over and over again, when in fact by varying the location and producing new plot twists she kept her work fresh. If she did parody herself there were usually thirty or forty years between the books.

The ten guests at the Schelderup dinner party, include a wife, two ex-wives, three children from the various wives, a young attractive secretary, and friends who go back to his wartime activities. K2 must negotiate his way through this plethora of suspects, numerous red herrings, and of course in true Christie tradition some of his suspects will not survive till the end of the book. 

The combination of K2 and Patricia is unlike Poirot and Hastings, or Holmes and Watson, and much more like Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. K2 tells the story and does the legwork, but Patricia is very much the brains behind the duo.

I found myself faltering while reading Satellite People, as I was distracted by advancing old age, the serious political problems facing this country, and very much more pleasant events. I would not say that Satellite People is a great read because the plot lines are very derivative, as they were intended to be, but this means that it lacks a freshness and the ability to grip the reader. But if you haven’t read a lot of classic crime fiction it is a very interesting take on the genre.

Patricia stared at me wide-eyed for a moment.

‘You surpass yourself,’ she remarked, apparently serious.

My joy lasted for all of ten seconds. Because when she continued it was far less pleasant.

‘I would not have believed it was possible to get so much wrong in two sentences, and at such a late stage of a murder investigation.’ 

 

TPA2015S

 

 

It is sometimes difficult to get old dinosaurs like me, who are very set in their ways, to read new authors, and therefore I am grateful to the judges of the Petrona Award in adding two impressive authors, new to me, to their shortlist. I have now read four of the shortlisted six books, and may possibly have the time to read one more book before the winner is announced.

HummThe Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated from the Finnish by David Hackstrom, is an excellent police procedural with an interesting female main protagonist, Anna Fekete, a Hungarian immigrant from the northern part of the former Yugoslavia. The book begins with a murder, and as more murders occur and a serial killer investigation begins, it widens its remit to deal with the problems of multiculturalism in a democratic society.

Although Anna has lived in Finland for most of her life and speaks perfect Finnish she faces a lot of antagonism from Esko, one of the police team. Esko could be classified easily as a racist, or is he just someone very scared of the changes in Finnish society.

As a rule, minorities weren’t oppressed in the former Yugoslavia- except for the Roma, a sin of which the whole world is guilty. 

 

A subplot and another narrative theme blended into the story involves a Kurdish family, and the possible forced marriage or even “honour killing” of their daughter. We also learn about Anna’s family life, her brother, Akos, has failed to adjust to life in Finland and can’t even speak the local language, while her sexual liaisons and the marital problems of her fellow team members add to the interest.

Finland it seems has a difficult combination of problems with wide gun ownership, and heavy alcohol consumption. The Hummingbird is yet another excellent Scandinavian crime book that adds a layer of realism to the  myth of Scandinavia’s social democratic utopia. This is definitely a strong contender for the Petrona Award. 

Bihar Chelkin is lying. I’m convinced this is a matter of honour violence,’ Anna said eventually. She felt compelled to repeat herself  one last time, especially to that arsehole.  

‘Finnish law doesn’t recognise such a crime,’ he replied impassively.

The Human Flies by Hans Olav Lahlum translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson is a very different book. This novel is set  in theflies distant past, 1968, when I was a young man in my prime, and the world was almost in as big mess as it is today. 

The story told in a crisp first person narrative by young detective Inspector Kolbjorn Kristiansen, known as K2, is a variation on the locked room mystery being a tribute or pastiche of an Agatha Christie novel. The English country house mystery moved to an Oslo apartment block at 25 Krebs’ Street. The victim is Harald Olesen, one of the heroes of Norway’s wartime resistance movement to the Nazi occupation, and a cabinet minister in the post war period. When Kolbjorn begins to unravel the lives of the other occupants of 25 Krebs’ Street he finds a group of people who underneath a facade of comparative respectability have many secrets. Kolbjorn has few leads, and when a friend of his parents Professor Borchmann tells him that his daughter Patricia, an eighteen year old girl with a brilliant mind, who is confined to a wheelchair, can help him he accepts the offer. Patricia swiftly solves the mystery of how the locked room murder was committed, but the pair still have to discover the identity of the murderer. She has worked out how, now we want to know why and that will lead to who.

Kjolborn and Patricia uncover a web of lies and intrigue, marital infidelity, love affairs, wartime treachery and collaboration as they hunt for the killer. 

Those who enjoy Agatha Christie novels, and good crime fiction will love the twists and turns in this tale. The Human Flies is yet another contender for the Petrona Award, and I congratulate the judges on providing readers with such a strong shortlist. 

‘He is everything that I have ever dreamed of in a man. There is a physical aspect, obviously. I have always been attracted to to blond men of my height, and he has just the right physique and is so elegant’………….[my comment: he also has a wife and young baby]

………….

As I walked down the stairs, I pondered whether the ever more mysterious Sara Sundqvist had been aware of the fact that I too was a blond and well-built man of about her height.  

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

photoxii The unusually mild and dry autumn weather in Devon this year has affected my reading, simply because we have been out a lot enjoying the sunshine. I do have another of my quizzes in preparation to keep readers busy over the holiday period. These were a feature of the blog in earlier years and I hope this one will tempt people to enter for the prize. More about this in a few weeks.

Interestingly the folks at Thriller Books Journal seem to approve of  some of my efforts as they informed me of their item Crime Fiction Blogs Worth Investigating [part eight]. 

Crime Scraps Review:

News, reviews and thoughts about crime fiction by Norman Price, a man with NOIR written through him like a stick of rock. Tremendous.

I would have thought that if there was a word written through me at the moment it was probably RHEUMATISM, but it was very pleasant to read such a flattering appraisal. 🙂

It has encouraged me to make a few comments on the recent CWA Daggers handed out a few days ago at the Specsavers Crime and Thriller Awards.

ctacutoutweb-300x263The Best Actress Dagger: Keeley Hawes, Line of Duty

 The Best Actor Dagger: Matthew McConaughey, True Detective

The Best Supporting Actor Dagger: James Norton, Happy Valley

The Best Supporting Actress Dagger: Amanda Abbington, Sherlock

The TV Dagger: Happy Valley

The Film Dagger: Cold in July

The International TV Dagger: True Detective.

The Specsavers ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read: Peter May, Entry Island 

 Crime Writers’ Association Goldsboro Gold Dagger for the Best Crime Novel of the Year: Wiley Cash, This Dark Road to Mercy 

 Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for the Best New Crime Writer of the Year: Ray Celestin, The Axeman’s Jazz 

 Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the Best Thriller of the Year: Robert Harris, An Officer and a Spy 

Last year I read the Gold Dagger novel Dead Lions by Mick Herron, which I enjoyed very much, and will certainly read this year’s winner This Dark Road To Mercy by Wiley Cash, a previous winner in 2012 of the John Creasey New Blood Dagger. I will also try and get round to reading Entry Island by Peter May.

I was very pleased to see that An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris won this year’s CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, it was one of my best five reads of 2013photoxx1

An Officer and a Spy is not only an exciting read, but perhaps might educate those who read it to the dangers of  anti-Semitism, and politicians attempting to cover up gross miscarriages of justice. That list of my best reads of 2013 also included the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger winner the masterly Norwegian By Night by Derek B. Miller

In picking the Robert Harris book for the 2014 Steel Dagger the judges have chosen a quality novel after last year’s poor choice of Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. I read Ghostman and deciding that I did not want to be too negative deliberately did not review it. My failing memory and time have mollified my feelings somewhat, but I still do not think it warranted a prestigious dagger.

My reasons were that Ghostman was a first person monologue by Jack, a professional armed robber, a man who lives off the grid, and who gave readers  a series of laundry lists of how to get in through a locked door, how brilliant he was, how a shovel makes a terrible weapon, how clever he was, and how he blended into the background by arriving in a simple private jet, and how successful he was. But despite being this master criminal he failed to notice his car had a tracking device installed etc etc etc etc…..

I can’t remember much more about it except all the characters were totally amoral thugs, and criminal geniuses, one proved that by telling Jack how he had made a young child drink drain cleaner. Personally I lost interest in Ghostman at that point, but in reality that probably means it will be made into a high grossing movie starring Brad, or Ben or Tom, or all three. 

On a more positive note TV programs that I watched and enjoyed received three daggers: James Norton-Best Supporting Actor in Happy Valley, Best TV series-Happy Valley, and Best Actress-Keeley Hawes in Line of Duty [written by Jed Mercurio].

Happy Valley was written by Sally Wainwright, the creator of another brilliant TV series Scott & Bailey, which has unfortunately  just ended on ITV. In any other year Sarah Lancashire who played police Sergeant Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley would have won Best Actress, but Keeley Hawes did produce a mesmeric performance as Detective Inspector  Lindsay Denton in the superb Line of Duty. 

I think that Happy Valley, Line of Duty, and other gritty series like Southcliffe, and Mayday prove that the best of British TV crime series can match any Nordic or American  series, with the possible exception of the Dickensian brilliance of The Wire. But then of course almost everyone in The Wire was British. 😉  

photo 3_2

 

 

The next book I read  was Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger, author of the Cork O’Connor series, which is a stand alone novel that not only won the 2014 Edgar Award for Best Crime Novel, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, but has been nominated for several others.

 

51UQkttWO5L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_The opening prologue sets the scene as the narrator Frank Drum  looks back from the perspective of forty years on the summer of 1961, and the seemingly idyllic setting of a small town in middle America when he was 13 years old. 

All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota.

Ordinary Grace is beautifully written lyrical, emotional, multilayered, schmaltzy and very American novel. I admit to crying at one point as the plot unfolded and I realised that all the characters are flawed in some way. Their visible flaws, Frank’s younger brother Jake has a bad stutter, his older sister Ariel has a hare lip, her boyfriend Karl’s family includes Lise who is deaf and her uncle Emil, a concert pianist who is blind, are as nothing to the secrets they keep hidden inside.

It is as if Frank is feeling nostalgia for a lost time and a utopian childhood world that never was. The tone of Ordinary Grace has been compared, by The Detroit News, to Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird with its combination of dread and nostalgia. The nostalgia is heavily laid on so that the terrible events are that much more shocking.

Ordinary Grace is a very good read but be prepared to have your heartstings pulled as the crisply drawn characters exhibit feet of clay, and the reader is made to understand that although at times life is very hard we have to go on even though we are distraught with grief.

IMG4The Hunting Dogs by Jorn lier Horst translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce has won both The Golden Revolver [Top Norwegian Crime Novel 2013] and The Nordic Glass Key 2013. The Hunting Dogs is written in a clinical factual police procedural style which is compelling. I thought this a superior book to the author’s Closed For Winter. 

Seventeen years earlier William Wisting lead the investigation into the murder of Cecilia Linde, now it seems the evidence may have been fabricated and DNA may have beenn planted by the police. The convicted man Rudolf Haglund is free and Wisting is suspended as an investigation begins. 

Meanwhile Wisting’s crime reporter daughter Line is looking into the murder of one Jonas Ravneberg , and is also very concerned that the media have already made a negative judgement about her father. Then another young woman goes missing…….

‘We killed Cecilia Linde,’ Wisting repeated.

‘When you approached the media and told them about the cassette you gave the murderer no alternative.’

The Hunting Dogs explores the relationship between father and daughter, the media’s responsibility in dealing with abduction cases, and the stress placed on the detectives in such cases. It also raises issues about the question of how a system of law that is balanced heavily in favour of  perpetrators and their human rights as opposed to those of their victims can function in a very violent world. As a retired policeman once said to me “we can’t interrogate people anymore we have to bore them into a confession”. 

The Hunting Dogs has to be a strong contender for the International Dagger and Petrona Awards next year.

‘What’s he doing?’ Morten P asked.

‘He’s just sitting watching people,’ Line said but, at that moment, it dawned on her he was not simply looking. He was selecting individuals and studying them in detail. All of them young women.

51oNv3l+zUL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_Cobra by Deon Meyer translated from the Afrikaans by K.L.Seegers is a fast moving thriller set in Cape Town. Benny Griessel  is called to a bloodbath when trained bodyguards have been executed at a luxury guesthouse by a professional killer, or killers, leaving behind distinctive shell casings marked with a cobra. A mysterious Briton Paul Morris, a man seemingly with no past, is missing presumed kidnapped.

Meanwhile charming young pickpocket Tyrone Kleinbooi is plying his trade in order to help pay for his sister Nadia’s university fees. But when he is picked up by security guards for stealing a beautiful foreigner’s purse, a figure intervenes killing the guards but allowing Tyrone to escape leaving behind his mobile phone. 

Tyrone still has the disk wanted by the killers, and when Paul Morris is identified a race develops to save him and Nadia who has been seized by the Cobra killers. Yes it is all very complicated, and exciting. Although Cobra is marketed as a Benny Griessel novel, my favourite police person in the novel is:

Captain Mbali Kaleni was the only woman in the DPCI’s Violent Crimes Team. For six long months now. She was short and very fat. She was never to be seen without her SAPS identity card on a ribbon around her neck, and her service pistol on her plump hip. When she left her office, there was a huge  handbag of shiny black leather over her shoulder. 

She is my favourite character because doesn’t fit the stereotype of women cops in crime fiction, and above all she is honest.

‘State security eavesdropping on us, taking over a criminal case. Just like in apartheid times. We are destroying our democracy, and I will not stand by and let it happen. And it will, if we let it. I owe it to my parents’ struggle, and I owe it to my country.’

Another fine book that should be a contender for the International Dagger.   

51eK2UHfulL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_We have been away for a week touring the beautiful houses and countryside of Kent and East Sussex in wonderful summer weather [possibly some 09-22-~1 (2)photos later] so that I have only just finished the Arctic set Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc. 

Olivier Truc was born in France but has worked as a journalist based in Stockholm since 1994. He has produced television documentaries including one about the work of the Norwegian Reindeer Police in Lapland. Forty Days, his debut novel draws on that documentary and blends in his journalistic interest concerning social issues such as the treatment of minorities.

The story begins with a short prologue set in Central Lapland in the year 1693, showing the persecution of the Sami by Christian pastors. The reader is taken forward to the present day in January when the polar night will end and the sun will return. At Kautokeino in Norway we are introduced to the main protagonists who are two members of the Reindeer Police. Klemet Nango, a veteran Sami officer, who at one time was working in Stockholm on the Olaf Palme investigation; and the young blonde stunningly beautiful Nina Nansen, a new recruit. They have to investigate the theft of a sacred Sami drum from a local museum, apparently one of only a limited number to survive the drum burning carried out by Christian pastors in a campaign against Sami religion and culture. As they investigate the theft and question reindeer breeders in the harsh Arctic environment Nina moves into unknown territory.

How could people live like this here in Norway, in her own country? The scene reminded her of a TV documentary she had seen once, about a Roma encampment in Romania.

When Mattis one the reindeer breeders is murdered the investigation becomes far more complex. With a UN conference being held shortly in Kautokeino the mismatched pair of police officers must look into a 1939 expedition that included anthropologists from Sweden’s State Institute for Racial Biology, hunt down the Sami drum, and search for Andre Racagnal, a villainous French geologist with a liking for adolescent girls. Racagnal is plotting with local figures to exploit the mineral wealth of the region. When Nina travels to Paris to interview Henri Mons, who donated the Sami drum to the museum and was on the 1939, she learns some shocking facts as she studies photos taken by the Swedish anthropologists.

It did not take Nina long to realise that they were clearly intended to illustrate the racial superiority of the Scandinavians, and the inferiority of not only the Sami, but also the Tartars, Jews, Finns, Balts and Russians.

Forty Days is an excellent read, rather dark and perhaps a little longwinded at times as Klemet and Nina travel hundreds of kilometres back and forth across the Arctic wastelands on their snowmobiles, but it would certainly be a worthy winner of the CWA International Dagger.

The characters are interesting, while the information about Sami culture and the problems that affect their society reminded me of Tony Hillerman’s wonderful books about the Navajo. And I took one of the messages of the book to be that indigenous peoples in many many countries are exploited, and their way of life and their culture threatened in some way by incomers. 

‘The Swedes recruited the Sami by force,’ Nils Ante went on, ‘to work in the mines. And they used reindeer to transport the ores to the rivers. There’s your story. Any Sami who refused was beaten and imprisoned.

Behold the foundations of the wealth of your splendid Nordic kingdoms.   

[the photo shows the nearest we have been to the Arctic…having left the train somewhere north of Helsinki into the freezing wilderness]

51eK2UHfulL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_518g9AKCspL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_P1040738P1040757Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc translated from the French by Louise Rogers Lalaurie is a very interesting read set in Lapland, where the Reindeer Police enjoy cross border jurisdiction. The Sami like indigenous people all over the world struggle to hold on to their way of life, as incomers try to exploit the mineral wealth of the country. My own personal experience of the Sami people is limited to a brief alcoholic conversation on a train journey from Uppsala to Stockholm over twenty years ago.  

 

See The Swedish Apache. I mention this blog post from 2009 because there are some particularly interesting  replies to my post. 

I haven’t read as much of Forty Days Without Shadow as I had originally planned simply because I have been pleasantly distracted by some summer weather, trips out to Devon’s scenic sites, and American visitors. Those visitors from the USA have included, very old friends who emigrated from England to the beautiful Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in 1981. And fellow blogger Margot Kinberg, who it was a great pleasure to meet in person after a few years of enjoyable internet contact. 

And I have also been seduced into reading chunks of Bill Bryson’s brilliant best seller One Summer America 1927, Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Herbert Hoover and Al Capone in a very different USA. I have also been distracted, possibly temporarily, by some football matches. Champions_statue

 

All this means that unfortunately the announcement of the International Dagger Award and the Endeavour Historical Award winners will take place before I have had a chance to read more of the shortlists. 

More about Forty Days Without Shadow next week……………

 

From the website Typographical Era [see below] I was pleased to learn that translator Don Bartlett has been nominated along with author Karl Ove Knausgaard for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award. Don translates Jo Nesbo and K.O.Dahl among others; so he has brought to mono-linguistic English readers  many exciting books over the past few years. I was very pleased to see part of my interview with Don was used to publicise the award. The photo shows Don with the late Maxine Clarke, a great champion of Scandinavian crime fiction and an admirer of Don’s work. 

“A novel, short story, or other piece of fiction might be great in its original form, but let’s face it, without the loving attention of a skilled translator it could end up destroyed when it arrives in its English version.  The Best Translated Book Award isn’t just about the authors, it’s about the translators who take their work and make it accessible to an even greater audience as well.  To drive that point home, the award’s$10,000 cash prize is split equally between the winning author and the translator of his or her book.

P1010564My Struggle: Book Two / A Man in Love
By Karl Ove Knausgaard
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

Don Bartlett lives in Norfolk and works as a freelance translator of Scandinavian literature. He has translated, or co-translated, a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian novels by such writers as Per Petterson, Lars Saabye Christensen, Roy Jacobsen, Ingvar Ambjørnsen, Jo Nesbo and Ida Jessen. (Official Bio, taken from My Struggle: Book Two / A Man in Love)

Bartlett on translating from the Norwegian: …I read the book in Norwegian first, get an idea of what strengths there are, what I will have to make sure I bring out, what knotty problems there might be, then make a first draft, which is usually poor because it keeps too close to the source language. Then I start making it sound more English and slowly begin to crack the problems. I go through three or four drafts and there are more adjustments as the translation goes through the editing stage. No such thing as perfection, just gradual improvement. (from Crime Scraps)”