Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Eriksson tr. Paul Norlen

Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Eriksson translated by Paul Norlen, May 2014, 350 pages, Allison & Busby, ISBN: 0749015039

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

“What connection do you think there is between the murdered man and Brant?”
“Not a clue,” said Lindell.
“But if you know him.”
“I don't know him.”
“But something...”
“Don't you hear what I'm saying? I don't know him!”


Uppsala, Sweden.
Ann Lindell is lying next to her lover of just a few weeks. It has been a long time since she has felt desired and the flat has been filled with talk, although talk of the present, no past or future. She knows that he is a journalist and he knows that she is a police detective, little else. Ann is just realising that she is in love – when Anders gets up and tells her he has to go and that he will be away for a week or two.

On waste land beneath a viaduct lies a man's body, bludgeoned to death. There is no clue to his identity except a slip of paper with a phone number. He looks like a vagrant and a short distance away is an old site-trailer where he might have been sleeping.

Ann finds it hard to concentrate during the morning meeting. She keeps thinking about Anders Brant and about their love-making. It is clear to the rest of the team that she is not paying attention. Self-conscious, she leaves the room “to make a phone call” but in reality she sits in her office trying to take stock. Her boss steps in and asks how she's doing. Ann parries his concern by suggesting that they ask at the local homeless shelter about the dead man and also suggests that it was a "wino killing a wino" but is pulled up by the reminder that they found no alcohol in the body. Finally – she cannot hide her shock when the chief tells her that the phone number found on the body is that of Anders Brant, a local journalist. He spots her reaction and asks if she knows Brant. Ann answers that they have met socially, but no – she doesn't really know him. She resolves the unspoken issue by suggesting that she works on her "cold case": a missing sixteen-year old whom no-one has seen since she left her home on a shopping trip one spring morning.

The police visit to the homeless shelter gives the dead man an identity, a circle of "friends", and an ex-wife. They interview the ex-wife and she tells them that the dead man had been a sober, hard-working scaffolder until an accident left him unable to continue working. After that – everything went downhill, the drink took over and the marriage fell apart.

Meanwhile Ann has given in to the urge to research Anders Brant on the internet. A colleague rings to tell her that he is at Brant's flat. He tells her that the last sight of him was that morning when he came home in a taxi and half an hour later left again, carrying a small suitcase. Angrily Ann shuts her computer. Anders is now "Brant" in her mind. She returns to the missing girl, further upset to find that the investigation overlooked a reported sighting. The girl was seen on the morning of her disappearance, walking along the road towards Uppsala with a young man in a grey hoody. The caller said that he had been test-riding a moped when he saw them and when he doubled back a short while later the couple were nowhere in sight...

BLACK LIES, RED BLOOD is Swedish writer Kjell Eriksson's fifth "Ann Lindell" novel to be translated into English (this time by Seattle-based Paul Norlen who has also translated books by Leif GW Persson and Carin Gerhardsen). The series is set in Eriksson's native Uppsala and features detective Lindell and her police colleagues. In this story Ann's emotional life as well as her police work are under the microscope when a lover becomes a suspect in the death of a homeless man. Ann attempts to sidestep the implications of her relationship by concentrating on the case of a missing teenager. Meanwhile her lover, Anders Brant, is in Brazil, reconnecting with another love, contemplating his own feelings for Ann, and himself becoming a witness to murder. It's a tangled story of lies, impulse and death.

Eriksson writes at the political sharp-end of Swedish crime fiction, perhaps more so than Henning Mankell. A one-time union activist, he insists that his novels are about the lives of "ordinary" working people as well as the homeless and the immigrant. BLACK LIES, RED BLOOD is no exception, formed from his familiar cross-section of characters' lives which intersect during a crime investigation. Occasionally Eriksson follows such characters out of the context of a central criminal plot, a technique which might leave hard-wired crime fiction fans – focused on chasing towards a whodunnit conclusion – adrift amongst his characters and regarding such diversions as red herrings. But to me these digressions are the result of Eriksson's urge for realism and social reportage and if that informs the spirit of Scandi-noir for you – then BLACK LIES, RED BLOOD is also the latest in your essential reading.

Lynn Harvey, July 2014.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Awards News: Scottish Crime Book of the Year - Shortlist announced

I've just received the following press release announcing the shortlist for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year, the winner will be announced at Bloody Scotland.
SHORTLIST ANNOUNCEMENT: THE DEANSTON SCOTTISH CRIME BOOK OF THE YEAR

Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and the Deanston Distillery are delighted to announce the shortlist for the third annual Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The award, which recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nation-wide promotion in Waterstone’s, will be announced at a gala event on Saturday 20 September as part of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival. The previous winners are Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012.

The shortlist, which was chosen by a panel of readers from a longlist of 49 books, is as
follows:
Chris Brookmyre, Flesh Wounds
Neil Broadfoot, Falling Fast
Natalie Haynes, The Amber Fury
Peter May, Entry Island
Louise Welsh, A Lovely Way To Burn
Nicola White, In The Rosary Garden

Magnus Linklater, journalist and former newspaper editor; Angie Crawford, Scottish
Buyer, Waterstones, and Jenny Niven, Portfolio Manager for Literature, Creative Scotland,
form the 2014 Deanston panel of judges.

Dom Hastings, Festival Manager, Bloody Scotland, said:
‘We are delighted to be working with Deanston again on what is increasingly one of the most prestigious prizes on the Scottish literary scene – and especially given that the lineup this year is so strong. Christopher Brookmyre, Peter May and Louise Welsh are well known to both Scottish and international audiences, but it’s great to be able to welcome Natalie Haynes, known for her work in television and comedy rather than writing, with her first novel, and brand new writers Neil Broadfoot and Nicola White. They’ve all written fantastic books, which take a variety of approaches to the whodunnit structure, whether they’re experimenting with form and darker tones, trying to get inside the mind of a disturbed teenager, creating a dystopian plague-ridden London, examining the murky underworld beneath Edinburgh’s political sheen, imagining reincarnation around the Highland Clearances or exploring the restrictions of convent school life. The strength and diversity of this year’s shortlist proves that Scottish crime writing is still burgeoning and pushing boundaries, whilst enthralling readers.’


AUTHOR COMMENT:
Neil Broadfoot:
‘Being shortlisted for the Deanston is an absolute honour – and totally surreal. The crime-writing scene is bursting with incredible talent and great people at the moment, and to be plucked from all those superb writers to be shortlisted for the Book of the Year Award along with some of the biggest names in the business is a humbling experience. I’ve been a fan of Bloody Scotland as a reader since the festival began, so to be here now on the shortlist is just fantastic. Bloody brilliant, in fact!’

Chris Brookmyre:
‘It is an almighty validation to see Flesh Wounds on this shortlist. I believe that it is the most accomplished novel I have written, so having won plaudits for my earlier humorous work, it is particularly heartening to have the greater maturity and complexity of my more recent writing recognised.

Natalie Haynes:
‘I’m thrilled that Amber Fury has made the Deanston shortlist. This book is - aside from being a psychological thriller - my love letter to Edinburgh. When I was writing it, I hoped very much that Scottish readers would see it as one of their own. I couldn’t be more proud or delighted.’

Peter May:
‘I’m honoured to be on the shortlist for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book prize which, in its third year is going from strength to strength.’

Louise Welsh:
‘I'm surprised and delighted to be nominated for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award, it's lovely to be part of an award that celebrates crime fiction in Scotland.’

Nicola White:
‘I’ve lived in Scotland for thirty years but today I’m feeling freshly adopted. It’s a huge honour to be nominated for the Deanston Prize with my first book, particularly among such talented company and given the mighty strengths of Scottish crime writing now.’

Sunday, July 27, 2014

New Reviews: Fossum, Goddard, Hall, Kerr, Magson. Oswald, Ridpath, Smith, Stiastny

Here are nine reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, two have appeared on the blog over the last week and seven are completely new.

NB. You can keep up to date with Euro Crime by following the blog and/or liking the Euro Crime Facebook page.

New Reviews


Laura Root reviews Karin Fossum's The Murder of Harriet Krohn tr. James Anderson, the seventh in the Inspector Sejer series and which completes the set of one to ten in English; however it appears, pleasingly, that there are a couple more, newer, Sejers to be translated;

Geoff Jones reviews Robert Goddard's The Corners of the Globe, which is now the middle part of a trilogy;



Michelle Peckham reviews The Burning by M R Hall, the latest in the Jenny Cooper, Coroner series;

Terry Halligan reviews a standalone by Philip Kerr - Research;


Lynn Harvey reviews Adrian Magson's Death at the Clos du Lac, the fourth in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series set in 1960s France;

Dead Men's Bones is the fourth in James Oswald's Inspector McLean series set in Edinburgh, reviewed here by Terry;


Lynn also reviews Meltwater by Michael Ridpath, the third in his Icelandic series;

Amanda Gillies reviews Anna Smith's Betrayed, the fourth in the Glasgow reporter Rosie Gilmour series





and Susan reviews Terry Stiastny's debut Acts of Omission.

Previous reviews can be found in the review archive.

Forthcoming titles can be found by author or date or by category, here along with releases by year.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny

Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny, July 2014, 336 pages, John Murray, ISBN: 1444794280

Reviewed by Susan White.
(Read more of Susan's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Alex Rutherford is a young civil servant who loses a disk of highly sensitive material when out with some friends. Despite his attempts to recover it, he finally has to admit that he broke all the rules and took the information away from the secure office. He is suspended and investigated for betraying the trust of his office.

Mark Lucas is an MP and the newly appointed Foreign Minister. He believes in transparency in government and when approached by the German government about information concerning former East German informers his instinct is to give it to them, but his colleagues disagree. So when the information finds its way to a newspaper - the same newspaper for which Alex's former university colleague now works – both Alex and Mark are considered as potential security risks. This heightens when Mark’s father, an eminent professor, is named as a former East German informer.

Both Alex and Mark find their lives turned upside down and their careers in doubt as the media storm hits their personal lives and the police and secret services start to question how the disk was obtained by the newspaper and where the breach in security lies.

I am not normally fond of political dramas but enjoyed this one very much. The characters are believable and it is easy to be sympathetic to both Mark and Alex in their attempts to serve their country to the best of their ability. The role of the newspaper and the journalist, Anna Travers, and what she will do to get her story is an unpleasant read and one that is realistic given the recent revelations in to how far the press will go to find the information they want, citing public interest in their quest for the scoop.

This is a first novel written by a former BBC reporter and is based on a true story. It has a decent enough pace, enough for the characters to develop, without the reader feeling they are being rushed on too fast. An author to watch I think.

A good read.

Susan White, July 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Award News: Icepick short-list announced

Quentin Bates, author of the Iceland-set Gunnhildur series, is one of the judges for the new crime fiction award, the Icepick, and has sent me the following press release:

Dicker, Flynn, Nesbø, Nesser and Tuomainen shortlisted for the inaugural Icepick

The authors and Icelandic translators of the following five novels are shortlisted for the inaugural Icepick Award – the Iceland Noir Award for translated crime fiction.


Joël Dicker: La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert [The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair] – Icelandic translation: Friðrik Rafnsson
Gillian Flynn: Gone Girl – Icelandic translation: Bjarni Jónsson
Jo Nesbø: Panserhjerte [The Leopard] – Icelandic translation: Bjarni Gunnarsson
Håkan Nesser: Människa utan hund [Man Without Dog] – Icelandic translation: Ævar Örn Jósepsson
Antti Tuomainen: Veljeni vartija [My Brother’s Keeper] – Icelandic translation: Sigurður Karlsson

The award is founded by the Reykjavik Crime Festival Iceland Noir, The Icelandic Association of Translators and Interpreters and The Icelandic Crime Writing Association. The Icepick will be awarded for the first time at the Nordic House in Reykjavik on 22 November 2014.

The Icepick shortlist is announced on the date of birth of Raymond Chandler, who used an icepick as a murder weapon in his 1949 novel, The Little Sister.

The jury for the award is composed of Magnea J. Matthíasdóttir, Chairman of The Icelandic Association of Translators and Interpreters, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Culture and Education, journalist and literary critic Kolbrún Bergþórsdóttir, and crime writers Quentin Bates and Ragnar Jónasson.

The judging panel commented that Veljeni vartija [My Brother’s Keeper] by Antti Tuomainen and translated by Sigurður Karlsson is a very well written crime noir from Finland. The author’s strong and sharp style is impressive and memorable, and is delivered well in translation.

Panserhjerte [The Leopard] by Jo Nesbø, translated by Bjarni Gunnarsson, is a terrific crime novel from the Norwegian grandmaster, well translated; the eighth Harry Hole novel and one of the best in the series.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, translated by Bjarni Jónsson, is seen as a brilliant and exciting thriller, fluently translated; an unusual and surprising storyline, with a wonderful plot twist.

The panel found Människa utan hund by Håkan Nesser, translated by Ævar Örn Jósepsson, to be a first class family drama in the form of a crime novel, driven by strong characters; impressively translated.

In La Vérité sur l'affaire Harry Quebert [The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair] by Joël Dicker, translated by Friðrik Rafnsson an unusual hero gets caught up in a murder mystery full of surprises, keeping the reader’s attention for 700 pages; a cleverly constructed book, and a very fine translation.

ICELAND NOIR – Reykjavik International Crime Festival will take place, for the second time, the weekend of November 20 – 23, 2014. Around thirty authors, from all around the world, will take part in panels and interviews. Featured authors 2014 are Peter James, Johan Theorin, Vidar Sundstøl and David Hewson. The festival is open to all fans of crime fiction. For registration information please visit icelandnoir.com.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: The Burning by M R Hall

The Burning by M R Hall, February 2014, 400 pages, Mantle, ISBN: 0230752047

Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

In THE BURNING, the latest in the series of books featuring the coroner Jenny Cooper, she investigates what really happened when a house was burnt down, with three people inside. Did one of the victims (Ed Morgan) kill his two daughters using a shotgun, before setting light to the house, and then shooting himself? Where is his three-year-old son Robbie, who is missing, and why does he seem to have deliberately hidden him from his 'whore' of a wife Kelly, who was out at work. As usual, Jenny becomes engrossed in the case, and starts to uncover facts and details that others would rather leave uncovered. Her assistant Alison, who had a serious accident in the previous book THE CHOSEN DEAD is keen on returning to work to help, although intriguingly, the damage to part of the frontal lobe in her brain has apparently affected her social behaviour. No longer is she the disapproving assistant of the past, she is now quite gung-ho and eager to help. Jenny's relationship with her pilot boyfriend Michael seems to be going well, but then becomes complicated, as Jenny can't quite bring herself to completely trust him. More unrelated deaths work their way into the mix, which, on further investigation turn out to play a part in the story, and a larger conspiracy begins to unfold.

In the first few books, Jenny was fairly dependent on a range of pills and tablets to help with her various anxieties. Despite finally having weaned herself off these, and her regular therapy sessions, she finds herself having to occasionally resort to the odd pill or two in this story, as she encounters the usual resistance to her dogged determination to leave no stone unturned. A bull-headed character, apparently lacking in confidence to some degree, but yet still determined to go where others are reluctant to go, to discover the truth, she is an interesting woman. I'm not sure how much I actually like her, but one can't help but admire her determination. It all ends in a final climactic scene, and then a final solution to the last remaining mystery, nicely tying everything off. I found the big conspiracy story-line a little bit unconvincing, but otherwise the novel is nicely put together, entertaining and is another enjoyable read from this author.

Michelle Peckham, July 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014