Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Review: Behind God's Back by Harri Nykanen tr. Kristian London

Behind God's Back by Harri Nykanen, tr. Kristian London (January 2015, 208 pages, Bitter Lemon Press, ISBN: 1908524421)

BEHIND GOD'S BACK is the third in the Ariel Kafka series but is the second to be translated. The other being the first book in the series, NIGHTS OF AWE.

Ari is one of two Jewish police officers in Helsinki/Finland and he is called in to investigate the murder of leading Jewish businessman Samuel Jacobsen. Many years ago Ari dated Jacobsen's daughter and recently Ari's brother Eli's law firm arranged a loan for Jacobsen. These factors are positives rather than meaning Ari has to recuse himself.

The killer seems to be a professional, no evidence is left behind and the getaway car is found, also completely clean. Ari's small team have to discover whether this is a racist killing or had Jacobsen got involved with criminals?

Just when Ari is beginning to get somewhere, a second killing occurs. Is there a connection to the upcoming visit by an Israeli politician? An unexpected source holds all the answers.

BEHIND GOD'S BACK is an easier book to follow than NIGHTS OF AWE. It is fairly short, so plot overrides characterisation I feel and I haven't got much of a handle on Ari's colleagues. Setting the crime in the Jewish community however, means that not only do you get information about Jewish customs but you get almost a "village" setting as Ari knows everyone and they know him and he will get information that "outsiders" won't.

BEHIND GOD'S BACK is an interesting read and Ari is a typical fictional cop: forty-ish, single, smart-mouthed but for once without a drink problem. The pace is steady, there are no dips, and overall it's a solid police procedural. I hope that more of the currently five-book series get translated into English.

Karen Meek
May 2016

Monday, May 02, 2016

Some 1957 Titles (for Past Offences)

The latest monthly challenge over at Past Offences is to read a book in May, published in 1957. Here are some British/European crime titles to choose from, first published in English in 1957, pulled from my database:

Catherine Arley - Woman of Straw
Josephine Bell - Double Doom
Gwendoline Butler - Dead in a Row
Agatha Christie - 4.50 from Paddington (apa What Mrs McGillicuddy Saw!)
Katherine Farrer - Gownsman’s Gallows
Ian Fleming - From Russia With Love
Alan Hunter - Landed Gently
Alan Hunter - Gently Down the Stream
Austin Lee - Miss Hogg and the Squash Club
Osmington Mills - No Match for the Law
Georges Simenon - The Negro
Georges Simenon - The Son
Georges Simenon Maigret's - Little Joke (apa None of Maigret's Business)
Clark Smith - The Case of Torches
Margaret Yorke - Summer Flight

There are more suggestions in the comments on the Past Offences page.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

New Releases - May 2016

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in May 2016 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). May and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.

• Atherton, Nancy - Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure #21 Aunt Dimity
• Bale, Tom - See How They Run (ebook only)
• Billingham, Mark - Die of Shame
• Cavanagh, Steve - The Plea #2 Eddie Flynn, USA
• Cleverly, Barbara - Diana's Altar #13 Commander Joe Sandilands, India
• Damhaug, Torkil - Death By Water #2 Oslo Crime Files
• Ewan, Chris - Long Time Lost
• Furst, Alan - A Hero in France
• Hayes, Sam - In Too Deep
• Holt, Anne - No Echo #6 Hanne Wilhelmsen
• Honda, Tetsuya - The Silent Dead #1 Detective Reiko Himekawa
• James, Peter - Love You Dead #12 Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, Brighton
• Jardine, Quintin - Private Investigations #26 Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Skinner, Edinburgh
• Jarvela, Jari - The Girl and the Rat #2 Metro
• Kepler, Lars - Stalker #5 DI Joona Linna, Stockholm
• Khan, Vaseem - The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown #2 Inspector Chopra
• Kutscher, Volker - Babylon Berlin #1 Detective Inspector Rath, berlin, 1929
• Lehtolainen, Leena - The Devil's Cubs #3 Hilja Ilveskero, bodyguard
• Longo, Davide - The Bramard Case
• Muir, T F - Blood Torment #6 DI Andy Gilchrist & team, St. Andrews
• Mukherjee, Abir - A Rising Man #1 Captain Sam Wyndham, Calcutta, 1919
• Palmer, Matthew - The Wolf of Sarajevo
• Parsons, Tony - The Hanging Club #3 Detective Max Wolfe of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, London
• Raabe, Melanie - The Trap
• Roberts, Mark - Dead Silent #2 DCI Eve Clay, Liverpool
• Russell, Leigh - Murder Ring #8 DI Geraldine Steel
• Tope, Rebecca - The Hawkshead Hostage #5 Persimmon Brown, Florist, Lake District
• Westo, Kjell - The Wednesday Club

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Awards News: CrimeFest Awards Shortlists Announced

The shortlists for the CrimeFest Awards have been announced. [Don't forget you can try and win a free pass here.]

From the press release:

2016 awards shortlist announced
CrimeFest, the UK’s biggest crime fiction convention, is thrilled to announce the shortlist for the Annual CrimeFest Awards. The shortlist includes a mix of established names in crime fiction as well as a host of new talent. 

Crime fiction heavyweights Stephen King, Ian Rankin and Robert Galbraith will be fighting it out in the listener-voted Audible Sounds of Crime Award, with other competition including debut novelist Clare Mackintosh for her breakthrough smash hit I Let You Go, and Paula Hawkins for her international bestseller The Girl On The Train, now a major feature film. Denise Minda and Linwood Barclay are up for the eDunnit Award, along with debut novelist Jax Miller for Freedom’s Child which she wrote whilst travelling round America on the back of the motorcycle. Elly Griffiths, Simon Brett and Christopher Fowler are amongst the names nominated for the Last Laugh Award for best humorous crime novel. Finally, Barry Forshaw is up for two H.R.F. Keating Awards, and Adam Sisman has also been shortlisted for his acclaimed biography of John le Carré.

The winners will be announced at the CrimeFest Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday, 21 May. For full shortlist details, please see below. 

Representing his fellow organisers, CrimeFest co-director Adrian Muller said: 

‘The shortlist for our awards this year is our most exciting yet, with some of crime fiction’s greatest writers up against some of the most successful debut novelists we’ve seen in recent years. To have such a diverse selection of authors spanning crime, thriller, humour, biography and non-fiction on the list is fantastic and showcases the talent out there within the genre! We are all very much excited about seeing who wins on 20th May.’

Peter James, Anne Holt, Ian Rankin and Hugh Fraser are among the top names set to speak at this year’s CrimeFest convention. Close to 500 attendees, including more than 150 authors, agents, publishers and crime fiction fans from across the globe, will descend on the city for a jam packed four days of 65 speaking events and panel discussions.

The CrimeFest programme includes a full schedule of panel events covering everything from a mock-trial debating the hotly contested conviction of Steven Avery in Making A Murderer, to panels discussing topics such as ‘Crimes Against Humanity: Terrorism, War and International Intrigue’ and ‘Deadly Dames: Women As Killers, Investigators And Victims’

This year CrimeFest will be giving four independently published crime authors the opportunity to discuss their work at the Emerging Indie Voices Panel after what has been a landmark year for self-publishing. The convention also includes a Pitch an Agent strand, a literary agent speed-dating session where unpublished authors can present their ideas in a Dragon’s Den style session.   Those wishing to pen their own crime novel can take part in a Crime Writing Day, which includes sessions with agents and editors, optional manuscript assessments and a workshop with bestselling crime writers M.R. Hall and William Ryan.

Finally, Ian Rankin, Susan Moody, Laura Wilson and others will be battling it out in ‘Sorry I Haven’t A Cluedo’ – the ultimate quiz for crime fiction buffs, hosted by Mike Ripley

For the full line-up of authors visit

The winners will be announced at the CRIMEFEST Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday, 21 May.


The Audible Sounds of Crime Award is for the best unabridged crime audiobook first published in the UK in 2015 in both printed and audio formats, and available for download from, Britain’s largest provider of downloadable audiobooks. Courtesy of sponsor Audible UK, the winning author and audiobook reader(s) share the £1,000 prize equally and each receives a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

Nominees for Best Unabridged Crime Audiobook:
- Rachel Abbott for Sleep Tight, read by Melody Grove & Andrew Wincott (Whole Story Audiobooks)
- Lee Child for Make Me, read by Jeff Harding (Random House Audiobooks)
- Harlan Coben for The Stranger, read by Eric Meyers (Orion Publishing Group)
- Robert Galbraith for Career of Evil, read by Robert Glenister (Hachette Audio UK)
- Paula Hawkins for The Girl on the Train, read by Clare Corbett, India Fisher & Louise Brealey (Random House Audiobooks)
- Stephen King for Finders Keepers, read by Will Patton (Hodder & Stoughton)
- David Lagercrantz for The Girl in the Spider’s Web, translated by George Goulding and read by Saul Reichlin (Quercus)
- Clare Mackintosh for I Let You Go, read by David Thorpe & Julia Barrie (Hachette Audio)
- Ian Rankin for Even Dogs in the Wild, read by James Macpherson (Orion Publishing Group)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers, and Audible UK listeners established the shortlist and the winning title.

The Kobo eDunnit Award is for the best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the British Isles in 2015. Courtesy of sponsor Kobo, the winning author receives £500 and a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

Nominees for the eDunnit Award:
- Linwood Barclay for Broken Promise (Orion Publishing Group)
- Judith Flanders for A Bed of Scorpions (Allison & Busby)
- Suzette A. Hill for A Southwold Mystery (Allison & Busby)
- Laurie R. King for Dreaming Spies (Allison & Busby)
- Jax Miller for Freedom’s Child (HarperCollins)
- Andrew Taylor for The Silent Boy (HarperCollins)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title.

The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel first published in the British Isles in 2015. The winner receives a Bristol Blue Glass commemorative award.

Nominees for the Last Laugh Award:
- Sascha Arango for The Truth and Other Lies (Simon & Schuster)
- Alan Bradley for As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Orion Publishing Group)
- Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May and the Burning Man (Transworld)
- Malcolm Pryce for The Case of the ‘Hail Mary’ Celeste (Bloomsbury)
- Mike Ripley for Mr Campion’s Fox (Severn House Publishing)
- Jason Starr for Savage Lane (No Exit Press)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title.

The H.R.F. Keating Award is for the best biographical or critical book related to crime fiction first published in the British Isles in 2015. The award is named after H.R.F. ‘Harry’ Keating, one of Britain’s most esteemed crime novelists, crime reviewers and writer of books about crime fiction. The winning author receives a commemorative Bristol Blue Glass award.

Nominees for the H.R.F. Keating Award:
- David Stuart Davies & Barry Forshaw for The Sherlock Holmes Book (Dorling Kindersley)
- Martin Edwards for The Golden Age of Murder (HarperCollins)
- Fergus Fleming for The Man With the Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters (Bloomsbury)
- Barry Forshaw for Crime Uncovered: Detective (Intellect)
- Julius Green for Curtains Up: Agatha Christie – A Life in Theatre (HarperCollins)
- Maysam Hasam Jaber for Criminal Femmes Fatales in American Hardboiled Crime Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan)
- Fiona Peters & Rebecca Stewart for Crime Uncovered: Anti-hero (Intellect)
- Adam Sisman for John le Carré: The Biography (Bloomsbury)

Eligible titles were submitted by publishers, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review: Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths

Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths, November 2015, 352 pages, Hardback, Quercus, ISBN: 1784290262

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

This is the second book from Elly Griffiths that is set in Brighton, post-Second World War, featuring detective Edgar Stephens. There is a new person on the CID team, a woman called Sergeant Emma Holmes, the subject of a lot of teasing, although Edgar takes a good professional attitude, and knows not to ask Emma to ‘put the kettle on’. The case facing the team at the start is the disappearance of two children; Mark, aged twelve and Anne, aged thirteen. They had been out playing after school, but had failed to come home when it became dark. And then, the children are found dead a few days later, discovered by a dog walker, with a trail of sweets leading to the bodies.

Edgar’s old friend Max Mephisto is also in town, playing in the pantomime 'Aladdin' as Abanazar, the Demon King, a job forced on him due to lack of work. Magicians are losing out to comedians such as Tommy Cooper, and the new development of television.

It turns out that Annie was a budding playwright, and had not only been writing plays, but had organised the other local children into an acting troupe, so that they could perform the plays in the garage of ‘uncle’ Brian. The garage itself had been set out as a mini theatre with red curtains above a small stage at one end. Brian is sure that the children hadn’t just run away, as they’d been looking forward to going to see 'Aladdin' the following week. But even more strangely, Annie’s latest play had been entitled ‘the Stolen Children’. Is there a connection? Or can the children’s death be somehow related to another similar children’s play ‘Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Babes in the Wood’?

The usual slow but careful investigation follows, with Edgar and Emma both following up on different possible leads, to try to find out why the children went missing and who took them. Is there a link to the theatre and even to the theatrical production that Mephisto is starring in? The introduction of Emma onto the investigating team is a nice touch, and Edgar seems to have an incredibly modern attitude to women, choosing to use her skills and intelligence, rather than giving her more menial tasks to do. A gentle, entertaining story, that makes good use of the backdrops of Brighton and the theatre.

Michelle Peckham, April 2016

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: The Drowning Ground by James Marrison

The Drowning Ground by James Marrison, March 2016, 384 pages, Paperback, Penguin, ISBN: 1405916931

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

A noise came behind me, muffled in the roar of the fire. A shout. I looked back. Turner was crouching in the opening of the space, gesturing wildly for me to get out. I had never seen anyone so angry or so scared. I ignored him and concentrated on the body in front of me.

Lower Quinton, Cotswolds, August 1997.
The housekeeper had managed to pull the body of Sarah Hurst out of the swimming pool and when DCI Guillermo Downes arrives the medical and police teams are already in place. It takes two men to hold back Frank Hurst when he sees his wife's body. Somewhere else in the house the housekeeper is comforting Hurst's teenage daughter.

Moreton-in-Marsh, Cotswolds, December 2002.
DS Graves arrives at his new posting, a police station neat and quiet, very unlike his previous place. His boss, Guillermo Downes has not yet arrived but lunchtime chat in the canteen introduces Graves to his boss's nickname of “Shotgun”, no-one can tell him how he earned it. They do tell him however that Downes has got through two new assistants in no time at all. Graves loses his appetite; this isn't going to be the easy fresh start he was hoping for. Graves' introduction to Downes himself comes as he stares at a magazine cutting pinned to their office wall: a photo, headlined in Spanish, of a leaping footballer and an ecstatic crowd. “Hooligans” says the voice behind him, fondness in its tone. Then Downes extends his hand to Graves, all business. Next morning, Chief Inspector Downes drives to Lower Quinton, Meon Hill to be precise. A body has been found by a dog walker. Two bodies in fact. A man with a pitchfork thrust into his neck. And his black labrador, hanging from a tree by its choke chain. The dead man is Frank Hurst, owner of the land around Meon Hill. Seeing Hurst brings back memories for Downes: the man's dead wife, lying beside their pool five years ago...

Frank Hurst, a reclusive local landowner, is found brutally murdered whilst mending the hedges of his field, his dog also dead. A witness reports seeing a white van earlier in the afternoon, its driver standing arguing with Hurst. DCI Guillermo Downes had had strong suspicions of Hurst over the death of his wife, drowned in their swimming pool, but the chief had insisted that Hurst had a good alibi and there was no case to prove. It was the rusted flower-hairpin that Downes found in the swimming pool that stoked Downes' suspicions of Frank Hurst, and not just for the murder of his wife. Downes is wondering about the unsolved disappearance of two young local girls a couple of years before the death of Mrs Hurst. When a fire in the Hurst mansion reveals another, long dead, corpse – DCI Downes and his new assistant DS Graves are led into the dark territory of child abduction.

THE DROWNING GROUND is James Marrison's début crime novel. Marrison having been born and raised in the Cotswolds but now living in Argentina and working as a journalist gives us a clue to the origins of Marrison's protagonist, the Anglo-Argentinian police detective Guillermo “Shotgun” Downes. And as my usual reading choice is that of foreign crime in translation how can I resist the call of an Argentinian police detective working in the heart of rural England? In the earlier passages of the book, Downes' thoughts include the occasional Argentinian phrase or comparison which brings a sense of the “otherness” of Downes but further into the story this flavour in Guillermo's internal speech seems lost and I missed it. There are references to what might have caused Downes to leave Argentina, rooted in the dark days of the military junta in the early 1980s, but his full story remains a mystery. As does the reason for his new Detective Sergeant’s apparent fall from grace in his previous Oxford posting. I get the sense that Marrison plans more for this pairing.

Marrison's writing is atmospheric. Good at capturing place, landscape, weather, time of day, he paints pictures well. His characters are carefully observed and he successfully builds anticipation and suspense. The twist of the final “whodunnit” moment is surprising. But I did have difficulty with Marrison's device of first-person voicing most of the book from the point of view of Guillermo Downes then placing DS Graves' passages in the third person. It's a risky ploy and, although some readers seem to have liked the technique, it didn't work for me – I found the narrative switch jarring. But even though this book did not always hit the spot for me, I hope James Marrison will continue to write about the criminal world of Graves and Downes. There are definite strengths in the writing and plenty of room for its Broadchurch-like darkness. I hope there will be more to come for this Argentinian cast adrift in the assumed gentility of the Cotswolds.

Lynn Harvey, April 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Win: A Pass to CrimeFest 2016

CrimeFest have kindly donated a weekend pass to the upcoming event in Bristol on 19-22 May 2016.

The pass includes admittance to all panels and interviews Thursday to Sunday, as well as a delegate goody bag and a programme, and is worth £195.

2016's featured guest authors include Ian Rankin, Peter James and Anne Holt.

From the CrimeFest website:
CRIMEFEST is a convention for people who like to read an occasional crime novel as well as for die-hard fanatics. Whether you come with someone or on your own, by the end of the weekend you are likely to have made new friends. Drawing top crime novelists, readers, editors, publishers and reviewers from around the world, CRIMEFEST gives all delegates the opportunity to celebrate the genre in a friendly, informal and inclusive atmosphere. The programme consists of interviews with its featured and highlighted guest authors; over forty panels with more than a hundred participating authors; a gala awards dinner*; and possibly a surprise or two.
*The Petrona Award 2016 winner will also be announced at the Gala Dinner.

As CrimeFest will be drawing the winners, all entries will be forwarded on to them. I've included a box in the form below for entrants to agree to this.

The competition will close on 6 May 2016 at 11.59pm.
There are no geographical restrictions on entrants.
Only 1 entry per person please.
All entries will be deleted once they have been forwarded to CrimeFest.

To enter the competition, please complete the form below.

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