Sunday, August 02, 2015

Review Roundup: Griffiths, Law, Lipska, Sansom, Wanner, Watson

Here are six reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, all have appeared on the blog since last time*.

*I am trialling a new approach for the next few weeks in that all reviews will appear on the blog rather than being separate under the Euro Crime website. I feel this will give the reviews more exposure and make them more findable in a search engine. The reviews will appear daily ie Monday to Friday, with roundups on Sundays. This week has been British authors, next week will be Translated authors, the week after that Scottish authors and the week after that, is again Translated authors.

I'd be interested in any comments about this new approach. I think I'm the only one that worries about the distinction between blog and website! The blog is free and I currently pay to have the website. As it stands, if Euro Crime were to cease then the website would disappear after a couple of years but the blog might  remain indefinitely.

You can keep up to date with Euro Crime by following the blog and/or liking the Euro Crime Facebook page and follow on Twitter, @eurocrime.

New Reviews

Michelle Peckham reviews Elly Griffiths's The Zig Zag Girl, the first in a new series set in post-war Brighton;

Ewa Sherman reviews J S Law's debut Tenacity set in a submarine;

Rich Westwood reviews Anya Lipska's A Devil Under the Skin, which is the third in the Kizska and Kershaw series;

Susan White reviews Lamentation by C J Sansom;

Amanda Gillies reviews Len Wanner's Tartan Noir: the Definitive Guide to Scottish Crime Fiction

and Michelle also reviews S J Watson's Second Life.

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

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Some 1980 Titles (for Past Offences)

The latest monthly challenge over at Past Offences is to read a book in August, published in 1980. Here are 50 British/European crime titles to choose from, first published in English in 1980, pulled from my database:

Catherine Aird - Passing Strange
Ted Allbeury - The Reaper (aka The Stalking Agent)
James Anderson - Assault and Matrimony
Alex Auswaks - A Trick of Diamonds
Robert Barnard - Death in a Cold Climate
Michael Bar-Zohar - The Deadly Document
Josephine Bell - A Question of Inheritance
Michael Bradford - Counter-Coup
Simon Brett - The Dead Side of the Mike
W J Burley - Wycliffe in Paul's Court
Anna Clarke - Last Voyage
Liza Cody - Dupe
Peter Conway - Nut Case
Peter Conway - Pulling String
Peter Conway - Repent at Leisure
Eileen Dewhurst - Drink This
Umberto Eco - The Name of the Rose
Ron Ellis - Murder First Glass
Barry Fantoni - Mike Dime
Ken Follett - The Key To Rebecca
Dick Francis - Reflex
Nicolas Freeling - Castang's City
Andre Gide - Lafcadio's Adventures
Gerald Hammond - Reward Game
S T Haymon - Death and the Pregnant Virgin (apa Death of a Pregnant Virgin)
Tim Heald - Caroline R
Reginald Hill - A Killing Kindness
Reginald Hill - The Spy's Wife
Timothy Holme - The Neapolitan Streak
Alan Hunter - The Honfleur Decision
Jacquemard-Senecal - The Body Vanishes
Donald James - A Spy at Evening
P D James - Innocent Blood
Dan Kavanagh - Duffy
H R F Keating - The Murder of the Maharajah
Valerie Kershaw - Rosa
Peter Lear - Spider Girl
Max Marquis - Traitor Machine
Ngaio Marsh - Photo Finish
Michael Parker - North Slope
Anne Perry - Callander Square
Ellis Peters - Monk's-Hood
Ruth Rendell - The Lake of Darkness
Ruth Rendell - The Copper Peacock: And Other Stories
Ruth Rendell - Talking to Strange Men
Gerald Seymour - The Contract
Frank Smith - Dragon's Breath
June Thomson - Alibi in Time
David Williams - Murder for Treasure
Margaret Yorke - The Scent of Fear

Cover Theme - Two Girls

Two recent releases, Ali Knight's The Silent Ones (Crime Fiction - June) and Julia Bell's The Dark Light (Young Adult - July) sharing the same image.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffths

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths, July 2015, 336 pages, Quercus, ISBN: 178429196X

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

In this first in a new series from Elly Griffiths, the setting is Brighton shortly after the war, and starts with the discovery of a murdered girl, cut up into three parts as it she had been in a magician’s trick cabinet and the trick had gone wrong. The detective investigating the case, DI Edgar Stephens, should know because he was once recruited to join a group of magicians in a special unit known as the Magic Men, during the war. The Magic Men were set the task of using their knowledge of trickery to try to deceive the enemy. While the unit didn’t last long, Edgar had made a few magician friends, and he knew he could contact one of them, Max, to find out his thoughts on the murdered girl. And fortunately, Max was working in a theatre not too far away.

The plot thickens when the murdered girl is finally identified, and it turns out that she had links with the magicians in the Magic Men. Slowly, more murders follow, each somehow linked to or involving other members of the group. Is the murderer specifically targeting former members of the group, and if so, why?

This is a gentle, entertaining read, with a lovely flavour of post-war Britain, the age of gentleman but with hints of the first few changes to come as old ways gradually fall away. Edgar is the perfect gentleman Detective Inspector, and Max Mephisto is a clever, sophisticated and good looking magician, still clinging to his life as a performing magician in the theatre, despite the signs that shows of this sort are slowly declining in popularity. And, there is the intriguing character of Ruby, who applies to be Max’s assistant, but really wants to be a magician. Who is she, what is her connection to events, and why does she apparently disappear into thin air. Slowly all is revealed in this wonderful mixture of magic, and detection rolled into one.

Michelle Peckham, July 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Tenacity by J S Law

Tenacity by J S Law, July 2015, 400 pages, Headline, ISBN: 1472227883

Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

All my doubts whether I would want to spend some time aboard a nuclear submarine two-hundred metres below the ocean’s surface are gone now: the closeness of the boat company’s members (the ‘Old Man’ in charge booms that ‘crews’ are on ships); the ‘constant monotonous routine of sleep-wake-eat-work-eat-sleep’; cramped living and working conditions; no privacy; stale air pumped around the confined space; unexciting food; hierarchy and discipline; an atmosphere of camaraderie and very strict unchangeable rules; the ‘us and them’ division; artificial light; a place where disobedience is punished and brothers-in-arms bonds are indestructible; claustrophobia.

All the facts and characteristics of the place where you ‘dream about coffins’ before you descend into the belly of submarine HMS Tenacity, where Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, Dan for short, the best investigator in the Navy, embarks on a tough assignment.

Dan, recently re-assigned to the Special Investigation Branch’s KILL team, is shocked by the hostility she encounters during her investigation into the suicide of Stewart Walker who died on board of the submarine where he was serving. His wife Cheryl was brutally murdered just a day before his death and Dan also unofficially probes into the circumstances and possible connections between these two events.

No one wants to believe that foul play contributed to Walker’s suicide but the Royal Navy, albeit reluctantly, follow the protocol. Dan’s previous investigation hailed as both a spectacular success and a failure had caused irreparable psychological, physical and reputational damage. It’s told through flashback memories and then more tangible experiences as a new violent assault brings back painful recollections of a vicious attack connected to the investigation.

Dan, a lone wolf in her determination to see justice done, paranoid and anxious, trusts no one. Regardless of consequences, she ploughs through piles of paperwork, continues to interview reluctant and antagonistic submariners and intimidating officers, and refuses to give up and conform. To find answers she leaves no stones, or in this case heavy secret containers, unturned nor unlocked.
Gripping from the very beginning TENACITY is an uncompromising portrayal of working in the Navy, both on land and underwater, and the tensions that this kind of close relationship brings. It delivers a new take on solving crime in a formal yet aggressive environment and on being a woman in a tough place where everybody wants to undermine her professionalism. J S Law’s powerful writing style creates a perfect setting for the thriller where flawed yet strong heroine Lieutenant Dan Lewis fights for justice. This first instalment of a new crime series from debut author J S Law is absolutely brilliant. Cleverly constructed, dramatic and tense it leaves you feeling shocked yet wanting more. I can't wait for the second book.

Ewa Sherman, July 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Lamentation by C J Sansom

Lamentation by C J Sansom, May 2015, 650 pages, Mantle, ISBN: 0230744206

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

Henry VIII of England is coming to the end of his life, struggling with his weight and health and trying to leave a country that is secure for his only son and heir, eight-year-old Edward. It is a time of religious tension with many factions from reformers to traditionalists vying for his support and attention and also the chance to control the government under young Edward in due course.

Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr has written a book - Lamentations of a Sinner - concerning her personal thoughts about faith, which, she believes, is more involved with the study of the Bible rather than the ceremony of the Church. This belief was highly controversial and on advice from Archbishop Cranmer, she decides that the book must be destroyed as her thoughts could be construed as treason - especially by the King. However the book has disappeared and she turns to her old protegy, Matthew Shardlake, now Serjeant at the Court of Common Pleas, in the urgent and dangerous - but very secret mission - to find the book and return it to her.

As Shardlake follows the meagre clues, with his trusted colleague Jack Barak. they are taken into the hidden world of people whose thoughts are so radical that, if found, they would be burnt at the stake for heresy. He also has to tread the dangerous path of palace politics, a world he thought he had left far behind.

The politics of religion and religious freedom made living in the time of Henry VIII very frightening for both noble and commoner with the structures of faith and worship seeming to change almost daily. The author obviously knows the history of this time inside and out and is able to portray the excitement, the politics, the danger and the confusion of it very vividly. LAMENTATION is a must for readers of quality historical fiction.

This is the sixth in the series featuring Matthew Shardlake

Susan White, July 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: A Devil Under the Skin by Anya Lipska

A Devil Under the Skin by Anya Lipska, June 2015, 320 pages, The Friday Project, ISBN: 0008100357

Reviewed by Rich Westwood.
(Read more of Rich's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This is the third in the Kizska and Kershaw series, set in London's Polish community, that began in 2013 with WHERE THE DEVIL CAN'T GO.

As the book opens, we have moved on more than a year since the events at the end of book two, DEATH CAN'T TAKE A JOKE.

Kasia, the long-time girlfriend of East London Polish 'fixer' Janusz Kiszka is about to move in with him, having finally decided to leave her useless husband Steve. Kiszka hopes that she is a hundred percent committed to her decision, but has lingering doubts...

Then Kasia fails to turn up. Kiszka visits her home to find that both Kasia and Steve have vanished, leaving one-way tickets to Alicante behind in their flat. He begins tracking them down, starting with Steve's dodgy acquaintances in the local pub. Soon Steve's friends begin dying in mysterious circumstances. As the dead Cockneys begin to pile up, Kiszka realises he needs to call in the police (even though the thought of officialdom makes him feel queasy).

Meanwhile Natalie Kershaw, now a firearms officer in the Met, has been cleared of any wrong-doing after fatally shooting a samurai-sword-wielding maniac outside a McDonald's in Leytonstone. But she still has to endure psychological evaluations before being allowed back on active duty. Has the stab-wound she endured in the last book made her trigger-happy?

Kershaw jumps at the chance to use her rusty detective skills to help out her old ally Kiszka. The hunt leads them from small-time crooks to big-time gangsters, and the investigation turns official, with Kiszka alternately working with Kershaw and hiding his own discoveries from her. Kiszka has some tough choices to make as he gets closer to Steve and Kasia.

An interesting subplot concerns Stefan Kasparek, an elderly hacker with some much-needed IT skills. Who knew that it was Polish codebreakers who first cracked the Enigma code?

A gritty story heightened by its depiction of the Polish community and some good jokes (as usual, Janusz's clownish friend Oskar provides laughs and loyal support to his old army friend).

As with most series, it probably pays to begin with the first book before it's too late, but this works fine as a standalone story. The inclusion of a little glossary and pronunciation guide at the back is much appreciated.

Rich Westwood, July 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Tartan Noir by Len Wanner

Tartan Noir by Len Wanner, April 2015, 256 pages, Freight Books, ISBN: 1910449083

Reviewed by Amanda Gillies.
(Read more of Amanda's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

This book, which calls itself "the Definitive Guide to Scottish Crime Fiction", is simply wonderful. A beautiful, well-written assessment of what Tartan Noir actually is and how it came to be given that name. All too frequently Crime Fiction is described as not being 'proper' literature, that it is formulaic, simplistic and not worthy for consideration of things such as the Booker Prize. In complete contrast, therefore, what a delight to read an intellectual assessment of crime fiction that gives it, according to William McIlvanney, "deeper significance than is normally accorded".

TARTAN NOIR is divided into four chapters – each of which consider a different sub-genre of Scottish crime fiction; detective novels, police novels, serial killer novels and Noir novels. Each of these chapters thoroughly analyses its topic and includes an absorbing examination of ten different novels that fit within its remit. Throughout his writing, Wanner invites us to engage with what we are reading and to think about things for ourselves – which is one of the many excellent aspects of this highly-polished work that I love. TARTAN NOIR is so full of information that it must have been no small undertaking to produce and deserves to be widely known and read. At the end of the book you know exactly why Ian Rankin has become known as the King of Tartan Noir and why this isn't necessarily the truth. You will also have a very clear idea, maybe for the first time, of the distinctions between Tartan Noir and Scottish Noir, along with a whole heap of ideas of new books to read!

I loved every single page of this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to you. Don't skip bits! Read the whole thing! My favourite chapter was the final one. I was delighted to see an extended discussion of Allan Guthrie's "Slammer" – my all-time favourite book – and to finally have a name to put to the genre that I like best; Scottish Noir. TARTAN NOIR is a must-read for every fan of Scottish Crime Fiction. You will love it!

Extremely highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, July 2015