Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith (audiobook)

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Adjoa Andoh (ISIS Audio Books, 2012, MP3, ISBN: 978-1-4450-2069-3)

THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION is the thirteenth in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series set in Botswana. The detective agency's proprietor is Mma Ramotswe who is ably helped by assistant detective Grace Mma Makutsi.

The previous book, dealt with Mma Makutsi's marriage to the wealthy Phuti Radiphuti and now the happy couple have to find a home. When Phuti sells a builder, Mr Putumelo, two sofas from his Double Comfort Furniture Store, he thinks he has found just the man to build their new house. However, when Mma Makutsi meets Mr Putumelo she is less than happy with his attitude to her and this is a sign of things to come...

Back at Speedy Motors, Fanwell, the second apprentice at Mr J L B Matekoni's (husband to Mma Ramotse) garage, gets himself into to trouble with the law by helping a friend and it's up to his employer and friends to see justice done.

And over at the Orphan Farm, the redoubtable Mma Potakwani, has been fired for disagreeing with a new proposal to build a shared dining room using the funds from a sizeable donation. She asks Mma Ramotswe to investigate one of the board members, Mr Ditso, who has pushed the board to accept the proposal.

Into all this comes a stranger from America, though he is well known to Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi as he is none other than Clovis Anderson, author of their touchstone guidebook, The Principles of Private Detection. Mr Anderson lends his advice and moral support to Mma Ramotswe's investigation of Mr Ditso and she in turn learns about Mr Anderson.

I was slightly disappointed with the previous book, THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY, due to the unsatisfactory resolution to Mma Ramotswe's case however there is no such problem here. And even though Mma Ramotse should not have needed Clovis Anderson's intervention, as the answer is obvious early on, it does not matter, as it is the act of being transported to Mma Ramotswe's Botswana and its gentle way of life which is the reason for reading these. The "crime element" is not as important as catching up with the characters' lives.

I actively seek out these audio books read by Adjoa Andoh. They are an absolute treat to listen to and beautifully done. I've finally tracked down an audiobook of the next book in the series, THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON – a place which appears in LIMPOPO and which provides useful intel – and I can't wait to listen to it.

August 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: Sea of Stone by Michael Ripath

Sea of Stone by Michael Ridpath, May 2014, 324 pages, Corvus, ISBN: 1782393919

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

"All right. In that case, Magnus, I'm arresting you for the murder of Hallgrimur Gunnarsson. Would you like to contact a lawyer?"
Magnus seemed unsurprised at the arrest, Emil thought, as though he was expecting it...

Bjarnarhofn, Snaefells Peninsula, Iceland – 1988
Two young boys stand at a graveside as their mother's coffin is lowered into the ground. Their grandfather has warned them not to cry and after four years of his harsh raising they do as he says. A man stands on the other side of the churchyard and the boys recognise him as their father, Ragnar – come all the way from America. The older brother goes over to him but the younger stays put. There is a ferocious scene, with Grandfather shouting that Ragnar "killed" his daughter, the boys' mother. Ragnar shrugs and walks away. But next day he returns with a court order giving him custody of the boys, Ollie and Magnus. Grandfather rages. Ragnar takes his sons back to America with him.

Snaefells Peninsula – April 2010
Ollie and his new friend Johannes are waiting for Grandfather on the cliff path. Ollie is still scared of Grandfather, even though he must be in his eighties by now, but he feels safe with Johannes around, and Johannes has a tyre iron in his carrier bag.
At the family farm, Magnus finds the body of their grandfather in the tiny neighbouring church. His head is beaten and bleeding. Magnus calls in the death, waiting whilst the police team and the rest of the family arrives. Magnus's Uncle Ingvar is the first to arrive. As luck would have it, he is the local duty doctor come to certify the death. Then Uncle Kollbeinn returns, he works the farm and lives in the main house with Anita and their children. The victim's wife is missing but the family guess that she is at the church in town – she goes to church a lot these days.
It is when Inspector Emil and the forensics team arrive that doubts are raised over Magnus's role in his grandfather's death. Although a homicide detective, Magnus has been clumsy with the murder scene and his aunt spotted him earlier, in the grandparents' cottage, wiping a mug at the sink. There is a sense that Magnus knows more than he is telling and Emil has no option but to hold him on suspicion, eventually arresting him for the murder. When the shocking news reaches Reykjavik, his police colleagues are eager to help clear Magnus. But their boss says "No". He distrusts the "American" anyway. But Vigdis, another member of the team, has a couple of days leave. What's to stop her doing some investigating of her own?...

British writer Michael Ridpath's "Fire & Ice" series is set in Iceland and features Icelandic-born, Boston homicide detective Magnus Jonson. Magnus and his younger brother Ollie were brought to the US as children by their father Ragnar. Eight years later Ragnar was murdered and his unsolved killing draws Magnus to join the police. Now Magnus is back in Reykjavik, as Serious Crime advisor to Iceland’s National Police Commissioner. But Magnus is an outsider. Accepted or not by native Icelanders, he feels strong links to Iceland but, raised in America and working as a tough city cop, has experienced a very different life; the two cultures and his brutal childhood are an uneasy mix within him.

SEA OF STONE is the fourth book in the series and begins where the previous novel, MELTWATER, ends Рshortly after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull with dust clouds isolating the country and forcing the grounding of most air flights. Magnus has been drawn back into his obsession with his father's murder and its possible link to an unsolved killing in Reykjavik. When his brother Ollie arrives from America, Magnus heads out to the family farm on the Snaefells Peninsula, scene of the brothers' unhappy childhood. Death, deceit, hatred and revenge follow in short order, complete with ghostly warnings. The twisting plot travels through the mists and distorted lava fields of the past and present, gradually heating up with Ridpath's trademark race to the finish.

I relish the realism and dark nature of much Scandinavian crime fiction but I also enjoy the opportunity to mollify the psychological chill with some fiery action from Ridpath's Icelandic crime books. They hit the spot, safely straddling the worlds of "American" action crime thriller and a starkly beautiful Northern landscape drenched in history, sagas and supernatural belief. It's possible that readers new to the series might do well to read the first novel, WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE, in order to gain background on Magnus. This would be no loss – the whole series is one to recommend. But established fans can welcome SEA OF STONE which looks as though it may finally lay some of Magnus's ghosts to rest. Or will it?

Lynn Harvey, August 2014.

Friday, August 22, 2014

TV News: Agatha Raisin & the Quiche of Death coming to Sky One

From M C Beaton's website:
We can finally reveal that Ashley Jensen, who has starred in hit TV series such as Extras and Ugly Betty, is to play Agatha Raisin in an upcoming adaptation of The Quiche of Death commissioned for Sky Television. More details will be forthcoming, but for the moment we have the details from the press release below:

As part of Sky’s investment in original content and continuing the tradition of drama on the channel at Christmas, Sky 1 HD today (Friday 22nd August 2014) announces the commission of AGATHA RAISIN AND THE QUICHE OF DEATH, starring Ashley Jensen as PR turned detective Agatha Raisin.

[] this 1 x 120 contemporary and quirky crime drama written by Stewart Harcourt is based on the highly successful novel series by M C Beaton, creator of Hamish Macbeth, and can be enjoyed by the whole family this Christmas on Sky 1 HD.

AGATHA RAISIN, PR whiz, gives up her successful life in London, landing with a bang in the quiet village of Carsely with hopes of beginning a new dream life. Bored, lonely and used to getting her own way, Agatha finds that life in the Cotswolds isn’t quite the picture-perfect existence she imagined...and when her highflying city attitude is met with puzzlement and suspicion from country locals, Agatha enlists the few allies she can find. Among them are DC BILL WONG, a lovelorn local policeman, GEMMA SIMPSON, her suffer-no-fools cleaning lady, and ROY SILVER, a faithful former assistant from London. But with her unique brand of feisty truth telling finding little favour, it seems the community is not quite ready for the acerbic Agatha.

In an attempt to ingratiate herself, Agatha enters the annual quiche making competition and inadvertently becomes a suspect in a murder case. As her reputation sinks ever lower, and any hopes of romance with her dashing ex-Army neighbour JAMES LACEY swiftly thwarted, Agatha has no choice but to clear her name and earn the respect of her fellow villagers. Determined to wring out the truth, Agatha sets about solving the mystery of the quiche of death. Further casting to be announced.

Ashley Jensen comments: “I am absolutely delighted to be on board! It's not often a part like this comes along for a woman. Agatha Raisin is a strong forthright, independent, driven, successful woman, who is both funny and flawed, a real woman of our time. Determined to fulfil her lifelong dream and in doing so discovers that all is not quite as rosy as she had anticipated, undeterred she finds a new purpose in her life! Based on the hugely successful novels and filled with wonderful hilarious characters set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, it has all the ingredients for a great show. I can't wait!”

Filming begins in September in Bristol and the Cotswolds.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: The Bone Seeker by M J McGrath

The Bone Seeker by M J McGrath, June 2014, 384 pages, Mantle, ISBN: 0230766889

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

This is the third crime novel from this author, all of which have the unusual background setting of the Arctic providing a strong flavour of the local culture and how it affects people's perceptions and reactions to events. The main protagonist in these stories, including the current book, is Edie Kiglatuk, half Inuit and half qulunaat (a term for 'white person' or southerner). She is currently living in a tent in the front yard of the house of her policeman friend Derek Palliser, on Ellesmere Island, and at the start of the book, she is working as a teacher in the local school.

The story revolves around the disappearance and murder of one of her pupils, Martha Salliaq. At the very start of the book, Edie says goodbye to Martha at the end of the school week, not knowing that it would be the last time she would ever see her. Martha disappears that weekend, and then Edie, as part of the search team is one of those to find her body in Lake Turngaluk; a lake avoided by the locals, who believe it to be evil. She has suffered a horrible violent death.

With Sergeant Palliser's deputy away, Derek asks Edie to help him try to find out what happened to Martha, against the complicated backdrop of the local culture and a general lack of resources. Into the mix is the presence of the army, and a Guatemalan woman called Sonia Gutierrez, who are both involved in some kind of local clean up/decontamination at Glacier Ridge, close to where Martha's body was found. The clean up has to be delayed while the investigation starts, and the lake is drained to try to find the murder weapon.

Edie and Derek quickly trace Martha’s last footsteps, and then a neat solution to the crime apparently presents itself, but Edie is suspicious. Everything seems to be just a bit too neat, and she keeps on investigating. Equally important is Sonia’s own bit of sleuthing into the recent history of Glacier Ridge and what’s really behind the clean up, which neatly feeds into the overall story.

This was an absorbing book, with an authentic feel of life for the Inuit in the Arctic, right down to the rather unappetising descriptions of Edie’s cooking. (Some of the slightly more appetising recipes are on M J McGrath’s website). The treatment of the Inuit by the government, the installation of the army, relationships between the local people, and their general mistrust for outsiders all feed into the plot development, and there is a small closed community feel to the story. Edie is a strong, independent character, only dropping in to see her new boyfriend when she feels like it, and using all her local knowledge and resources to track down what really happened to Martha. An intriguing read then, and while I found the overall story a little predictable in places, it was made up for by the backdrop, and insight into a completely foreign culture.

Michelle Peckham, August 2014

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New Reviews: Dunmore, Eriksson, Gibson, Gordon-Smith, Larsson, May, Neville, Simpson, Walker

Here are nine reviews which have been added to the Euro Crime website today, five have appeared on the blog since last time, and four are completely new. Interestingly, the settings of the books reviewed range from Canada to Venezuela.

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

New Reviews

Terry Halligan reviews Helen Dunmore's The Lie writing that "it is not a book that will be forgotten very quickly";

Lynn Harvey reviews Kjell Eriksson's Black Lies, Red Blood tr. Paul Norlen which is the latest in the Ann Lindell series set in Uppsala;
Rich Westwood recommends Jasper Gibson's A Bright Moon for Fools set in an unvarnished Venezuela;

Terry also reviews Dolores Gordon-Smith's latest Jack Haldean mystery, set in the 1920s: After the Exhibition;

Michelle Peckham reviews the newest in Asa Larsson's Rebecka Martinsson series,  The Second Deadly Sin tr. Laurie Thompson, which is set in Northern Sweden;

Michelle also reviews Entry Island by Peter May which is now out in paperback;
Lynn also reviews Stuart Neville's The Final Silence, featuring DI Jack Lennon;

Geoff reviews Ian Simpson's  Murder on the Second Tee, set at St Andrews

and Amanda Gillies reviews Martin Walker's latest "Bruno, Chief of Police" mystery set in France: Children of War.

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, August 15, 2014

Liz Evans's Grace Smith series becoming available digitally

The first three books of Liz Evans's well regarded Grace Smith series are now available as ebooks. The first book in the series, Who Killed Marilyn Monroe? is available on amazon and kobo however the next two appear to be Kindle only at the moment.

Book Two, formerly titled JFK is Missing is now called Blindsided and is currently free on UK Kindle.

Book Three, Don't Mess with Mrs In-Between, is now called Heir Apparent.

The six-book series, set on the South Coast, was first published between 1997 and 2005.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville, July 2014, 336 pages, Harvill Secker, ISBN: 1846556945

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

The water came to meet him, swallowed him, as tender as it was cold. A million images streaked through Raymond's mind, each one as bold and brilliant as the last, faces he'd known, many he hadn't, some of them twisted in terror...

Northern Ireland, Belfast - present day.
Raymond wants to die by the river, no hospital, no family and no one going into his house. He knows that there are things in there which he should destroy – but he can't. He locks the front door behind him and makes his way through the streets, his sick heart pounding and his breath short. At the pub on the towpath, one last drink, Black Bush. He savours it and leaves the pub as the cold sweat and the pain in his left arm strengthens. Not here. Further on, away from the people and buildings. Finally, with numbing fingers, he digs out his keys and throws them into the river before collapsing, falling towards the water's surface.
A few weeks later, Rea sits in the empty house with her dead uncle Raymond's few possessions in black bags, ready to be dumped. She hadn't seen him since she was a child, he seemed to spurn all contact with the family. Now he's gone, his body fished out of the Lagan where it had lain undiscovered for some time. Rea's father's first reaction was to call the solicitor, before even comforting his wife over the death of her brother. The solicitor said it was a matter of searching out any documents, bills and so on, before they can lay claim to the house. Rea's parents have decided that as soon legalities are sorted, the house will be hers. Rea has cleared the rooms with her mother but has found nothing. There is only the back bedroom left, its locked door proving stubborn against her father's shoulder. Rea sends her tired mother home and, taking stock, decides that she really wants the house and she will have that upstairs door open before the day ends. She finds a crowbar in the garage and returns upstairs. Working the bar into the door frame, pushing, slipping, falling, but battling on until, with a furious scream, attacking it with such force that she is driven backwards as a loud crack rings out. She falls, hitting her head and tasting blood. Recovering, she sees the room beyond the door – a dark cave. Within? A single light bulb and a desk whose only drawer contains a ledger, or is it an album? And within that book? Names, newspaper cuttings, hand-written entries, locks of hair and other dreadful mementos...

In THE FINAL SILENCE, Stuart Neville's fourth book in his DI Jack Lennon series, Jack himself is in a bad way. Suspended from the police force for shooting a fellow officer, still recovering from his own injuries, struggling to keep his young daughter out of the clutches of her dead mother's family – and with his old nemesis, DCI Hewitt of C3 Intelligence, still on his back. Rea Carlisle, an old girlfriend of Jack's, makes a macabre discovery in her dead uncle's house. Her politically ambitious father forbids her to go to the police, promising instead that he will deal with it, but Rea cannot rest easy. She calls in the only person she can think of to help her – Jack. Dragged into the mystery of the macabre find, Jack faces yet another police opponent in DI Serena Flanagan who seems determined to push him deeper onto the ropes.

Stuart Neville is an excellent writer whose books (the earlier three in this series and RATLINES, a politico/intelligence thriller set in the world of 1960s Ireland) are exciting and absorbing. I have been waiting anxiously for the latest Jack Lennon. I am not disappointed. On his website's blog, Neville has written about his struggles with writer's block both before and early on in its writing, so I am relieved that STOLEN SOULS, the previous DI Lennon, was not Lennon's own "final silence". Neville has found a way through the block to give us another story that builds suspense and pace without sacrificing depth of character. Human stories intertwine with ambition, deceit and the darker regions of the psyche. Jack Lennon is already more physically battered and scarred than Ian Rankin's "Rebus" but he too continues to slide down the greasy pole of his police career, notching up enemies with each lurching descent. Bad history and bad company contribute to his beleaguered state. Yet something within Lennon still urges him to play the “knight chivalrous” down streets filled with the bitter legacy of Northern Ireland's political struggles and factions. I am trusting that he will remain a force to be reckoned with – and I'm glad that both he and Neville are back.

Lynn Harvey, August 2014