Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson tr. Quentin Bates

Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson, tr. Quentin Bates (June 2015, 300 pages, Orenda Books, ISBN: 1910633038)

If Arnaldur is the King and Yrsa the Queen of Icelandic crime fiction then Ragnar is surely the Crown Prince...more please!

SNOWBLIND is the first in the Ari Thor series set in Siglufjordur, a small fjord town on the north coast of Iceland. Ari Thor has dropped out of studying first philosophy and then theology but has just completed his police training in Reykjavik. It's 2008 and jobs are scarce so when he is offered a post in Siglufjordur he accepts without discussing it with his girlfriend Kristin.

Ari Thor moves to Siglufjordur, alone in the winter and is soon wondering what he's done. A townie and an outsider in a small place where everyone knows everyone else and there's no crime to speak of. And then the snow starts.

As well as Ari Thor's progression from Reykjavik to Siglufjordur, the narrative, via several points of view, includes the background to a number of the residents of Siglufjordur, most of whom are in the Dramatic Society.

Tragedy strikes the Dramatic Society with the death of one its main members. Ari Thor thinks it wasn't an accident but his boss, Tomas, disagrees and doesn't want to attract lurid stories from the press. A second incident however, leads to Tomas thinking that maybe Ari Thor was correct and that they have a murderer in their midst.

SNOWBLIND is a traditional crime novel with a confined set of suspects - trapped in Siglufjordur by the metres of snow that have fallen – all of whom have secrets. Most of the characters have suffered a loss of family, including Ari Thor, or have had a bleak childhood. Ari Thor does have the makings of a good detective though he appears rather naive and a bit clueless with regards to his girlfriend however is there more to his move to Siglufjordur than just getting a job? The setting of Siglufjordur adds a new dimension with the weather impacting so greatly on the inhabitants and makes a refreshing change from Reykjavik.

I raced through this very enjoyable debut from Ragnar Jonasson and I look forward to catching up with Ari Thor and his colleagues' lives in NIGHTBLIND.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger

Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger, October 2015, 276 pages, Poisoned Pen Press, ISBN: 1464204322

Reviewed by Terry Halligan.
(Read more of Terry's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Delphi once stood at the centre of the world, a mountainous, verdant home to the gods, where kings and warriors journeyed to hear its Oracle speak. The Oracle embodied the decree of the gods―or at least the word of Apollo. To disobey risked…everything.

Young Athenian Kharon chooses modern Delphi to rebuild his life among its rolling hills and endless olive groves. But his dark past is too celebrated, and his assassin’s skills so in demand, that his fate does not rest entirely in his own hands. Greece is being flooded with bomba, counterfeits of the most celebrated alcoholic beverages and wine brands. The legitimate annual trillion-dollar world market is in peril. So, too, are consumers―someone is not just counterfeiting booze, but adulterating it, often with poisonous substances. Who is masterminding this immensely lucrative conspiracy?

Kharon learns who when the ruthless criminal gives him no choice but to serve her. Her decrees are as absolute as the Oracle’s, and as fearsomely punished. Kharon agrees, but dictates his own payoff. And his own methods, which allow his targets some choice in the outcomes.

When Kharon unexpectedly shoots a member of one of Greece’s richest, most feared families, he draws Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis into the eye of a political and media firestorm threatening to bring down Greece’s government.

This is the seventh novel by this very gifted author about DCI Andreas Kaldis and his team of Athenian detectives and the book is as well crafted as ever; we are not only reading about Andreas Kaldis, but his wife and four-year-old son, and his team of detectives and their individual characteristics, much in the same tradition as the late Ed McBain describes the detectives of his 87th Precinct series.

The author has a light touch and there is a lot of very wry humour in his books to offset the often very dark violence. Siger, spends some time each year in Greece and also time in his other home in the US and is able to comment on the political and economic troubles that have faced Greek society over recent years and reveals some of the creative ways the Greeks have of avoiding personal taxation!

The case is investigated by checking out many different lines of enquiry before reaching the exciting conclusion. There are many twists and turns and assorted red herrings before the end of the story. Of all of the books that he has written, this one, I believe, was the author's best; with so many changes of direction in the fast paced but highly imaginative and tightly plotted story, one could not guess what would happen next.

Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis is an exciting, intriguing and well drawn creation and we learn a little bit more about him from book to book. The books are all very gripping and whilst they are very evocative of the rustic tourist landscape of Greece, they are also extremely readable examples of the best international police procedurals, similar perhaps to those of authors such as Donna Leon and Joseph Wambaugh. I look forward to reading his next one.

Highly recommended.

Terry Halligan, November 2015.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

TV News: the return of The Doctor Blake Mysteries

Series 3 of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, starring Craig McLachlan, returns to BBC One next Monday at 2.15pm.

The first in the eight episode run is King of the Lake.

A champion rower is thrown into the lake in celebration and never comes up again. Called in to investigate the cause of drowning, Dr Lucien Blake soon suspects foul play.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: City of Strangers by Louise Millar

City of Strangers by Louise Millar, October 2015, 400 pages, Macmillan, ISBN: 144728111X

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

This superbly crafted thriller takes its inspiration from the subject of identity. It centres on the fact that everyone who knows Lucian Grabole, a man who was found dead in an Edinburgh flat, describes him differently to the reporter who is trying to find out about him. Other issues of identity also arise. First, Grace Scott, the reporter and central protagonist, is struggling to find herself professionally, after being with her first love for years and always putting his needs before her own. Then there is her new husband, Mac, who thinks Grace is somebody that she very obviously is not and seems to be struggling with a concept of marriage that is at odds with the person he is married to. Both characters are very likeable, decent people but at times their relationship makes you want to scream at them in frustration.

Interwoven with Grace’s journey of discovery, is another story that is also about people who are searching for answers. Crime reporter Sula McGregor and her new assistant Ewan, are following up on the discovery of a body found stuck down a well shaft on an Edinburgh hillside. Initially unknown, the body is later identified as a missing hill-walker but things get even more confusing when a second body is also found in the well. Sula and Ewan uncover a nasty plot of lies and deceit and nothing is as it first seems.

Ewan knows Grace from their time at college together and it is he who encourages her to pursue her story and realise her dreams with something big. Her search sends her to Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen before taking her back to Edinburgh, where she started. What she finds is a totally unexpected, but wonderfully complex, nightmare that will give the reader chills.

Louise Millar is a first-rate author who started her career as a journalist with several well-known magazines, including being senior editor at Marie-Claire. CITY OF STRANGERS is her fourth book and is a page-turning stunner.

Highly recommended.

Amanda Gillies, November 2015.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review Roundup: Abbott, Baylis, Belfoure, Griffiths, Indridason, Jordan, Lagercrantz, Lang, Lironi, MacLeod, Pembrey, Spencer, Thomas

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

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

Terry Halligan reviews Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott;

Lynn Harvey reviews M H Baylis's Black Day at the Bosphorus Cafe;

Amanda Gillies reviews The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure;

Michelle Peckham reviews The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths, set in Norfolk;

Michelle also reviews Arnaldur Indridason's Oblivion tr. Victoria Cribb;

Amanda also reviews Black List by Will Jordan;

Laura Root reviews David Lagercrantz's Fall of Man in Wilmslow tr. George Goulding;

Rich Westwood reviews J A Lang's Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle, set in the Cotswolds;

Amanda also reviews Oh Marina Girl by Graham Lironi;

Ewa Sherman reviews Murder in Malmo by Torquil MacLeod;

Ewa also reviews Daniel Pembrey's The Harbour Master (books 1 - 3), set in Amsterdam;

Terry also reviews Sally Spencer's Supping with the Devil

as well as Ugly Bus by Mike Thomas.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

TV News: The Coroner on BBC One

Starting on Monday 16 November at 2.15pm on BBC One is the first of ten episodes of The Coroner, starring Claire Goose and filmed in Devon and Cornwall. The first five of the ten episodes, in a DVR intensive way, will be shown daily Monday to Friday. It's not clear yet if the next five will follow the following week.

As coroner, Jane Kennedy’s job is to investigate sudden or unexplained deaths in a beautiful English coastal community. With a new and intriguing case to investigate in each episode, starting with the discovery of a body, Jane finds herself having to work with her old flame Davey Higgins, who is now the local detective sergeant. The Coroner combines mystery and potential danger with the warm, lighthearted tone of Jane’s relationships with her colleagues, family and the local community. While Jane is talented and tenacious in seeking justice for the dead, her personal life is a bit more haphazard.

The first episode is called First Love:

When a teenager is found dead at the foot of a tower, Detective Sergeant Davey Higgins believes it was a tragic suicide, but Coroner Jane Kennedy thinks there is more to the case than meets the eye.

Update: here's a statement from M R Hall:

The BBC daytime drama entitled, ‘The Coroner’, which is airing from 16 November 2015, has not been made with the permission or authorisation of M R Hall or his publishers. Any similarities between M R Hall’s original work and the BBC drama, are, according to the BBC, coincidental. The BBC was placed on notice of a number of potential similarities in early 2015 prior to filming. The BBC has been invited to change the name of its production but has declined to do so.

The screen rights to M R Hall’s books are held by a North American company which is currently developing a series based on them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review: Ugly Bus by Mike Thomas

Ugly Bus by Mike Thomas, March 2015, 336 pages, Windmill Books, ISBN: 0099559234

Reviewed by Terry Halligan.
(Read more of Terry's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

It's Boxing Day and in Cardiff there is to be a big football match between Cardiff and Swansea and the police expect trouble between the rival groups of fans and those with militant tendencies, so vans of officers are sent in anticipation of violence.

This story is about the officers on one particular bus or TSG (territorial support group) vehicle. There are a lot of acronyms and police jargon used in this book such as MOP for member of the public but a handy glossary is available in the back explaining it all. The officers involved include newbie Police Sergeant Martin Finch who gets a lot of aggravation and flack from the more experienced but less senior officers, Andrew Mills, David Murphy, Alan Redding and lastly but not least Vincent Vinyard. It becomes apparent that each officer has at least one major character defect but this only comes out gradually to Martin as the shift progresses. There is a lot of repartee and general good natured humour between the men.

The shift on the van have a maxim "What happens on the van stays on the van" and there is a lot of petty skulduggery and theft done by the van occupants and there is a detailed character background about all the hangups and problems of the people on board.
The book covers the complete shift from about 2pm when they start and are initially given a pep talk by a senior officer, to them preparing their food to carry with them for their meal break and general preparation of their kit and stowage on the vehicle. Then we get the progress of their shift as it carries on until about 3am.

There is a preface to the story in which terribly distraught and inebriated girl staggers into a police station to report a rape and this is further dealt with in the final chapter.

I haven't read the author's previous book and consequently the rhythm of this book and the general drift took me by surprise with the completely unexpected ending to this story.

The author was a serving police officer for over twenty years and took inspiration for his two books from those years, but he now lives in Portugal. His first novel POCKET NOTEBOOK was longlisted for the Wales Book Of The Year Award.

I was greatly surprised with this book, the coarse language between the various officers is perhaps typical of groups of men on their own but the amount of criminality carried out by these people really surprised me but I was absolutely really blown away by the completely unexpected ending to the story. A very arresting story. Recommended.

Terry Halligan, November 2015.