Monday, August 31, 2009


I posted here that I was really enjoying reading Mrs D'Silva's Detective Instincts and and the Shaitan of Calcutta and now have finished this wonderful novel.

It is 1960, the British had departed India for over a decade but the young nation is struggling to find its feet.
Joan D'Silva is a 32 year atttractive widow, with a young 10 year son Errol to bring up, who lives in Calcutta where she teaches at Don Bosco's Catholic school.
A picnic for a group of Anglo-Indians at the shrine of Our Lady by the Hooghly near Bandle with social banter and delicious food is ruined when Errol finds the body of a young woman by the river bank.

The young woman Agnes Lal was a former pupil at Don Bosco's and had been married off to Xavier Lal, a much older very unpleasant character, who had not consummated the marriage.
Two friends of Agnes, Philomena Thomas, who works as a nanny for the family of the managing director of Guest Keith Williams an engineering firm, and Anil Sen ask for Joan's help to find out what happened to their friend.
But when Thomas James, GKW's factory manager is murdered during a riot Anil Sen is arrested and forced to confess to this crime.
Joan and her friend Philip, another school teacher from Don Bosco's, become dangerously involved in this investigation, while Dutta, the eponymous shaitan, leader of the Workers' Revolutionary Movement of Bengal encourages his "brainwashed" followers to create havoc in the city.

Author Glen Peters repeatedly lulls the reader into a pleasant comfort zone with recipes, polite small talk, descriptions of railway journeys, the charm of the Anglo-Indian community, social gatherings and Joan D'Silva's personal relationships.

But then he shatters your reverie bringing you back into the real world of Calcutta with its racism, murder, arson, prostitution, poverty, police brutality and enormous class divisions.

His characters are believable, sharply drawn, and range from the highly sympathetic to the venal and vile. His style is easy to read and the book beautifully produced by Parthian, although I would have placed the very useful and interesting glossary of Anglo-Indian words in use at the time at the front of the book.
This is a minor quibble as any book with a good plot, interesting characters and mouth watering recipes for Fish Molu, Lucknow Biryani and Ponga Kebabs on the cover and flaps is going to get my approval.
But "Mrs D'Silva" also has a good deal of history, political comment and social commentary about India and the Anglo-Indian community with even a Devon connection.

"I want my boys to understand a little about the great poet Tagore. Our literature curriculum is heavy on the likes of Longfellow, Yeats and Walter de la Mare but not a mention of India's most awarded poet," said Joan.
"Ah yes, Tagore was never quite understood by the British, despite his extensive tours to England, setting up Dartington Hall and being knighted. It was only Yeats who really appreciated him and he was Irish."

I hope this book turns in to a series because Joan D'Silva is a charming investigator in a difficult and different location, and I am sure Glen Peters has plenty more to say about the relationship between Joan and Philip, and India and her old rulers.

"Top of the social pile of course were the Shroves, who considered themselves superior Anglo-Indians because they were by far the whitest of the four families."

[Namaskar- a respectful greeting made by holding the palms of one's hands together.]

Sunday, August 30, 2009


My life according to books I have read in 2009.

This is a clever meme that I first spotted at Petrona, and here are links to some other thought provoking contributions from:

Describe yourself:
The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes [I love that title and tomatoes]

How do you feel:
The End of the World in Breslau [bit of a headache today]

Describe where you currently live:
The Sardine Deception [it is a bit small and we are packed in tight]

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go:
Brest Litovsk [that is the problem with reading history as well as crime fiction]

Your favourite form of transport:
The Silver Swan [taking my time]

Your best friend is:
The Einstein Girl [someone far cleverer than me]

You and your friends are:
The Reunion [always a pleasure to see friends]

What's the weather like:
The Darkest Room [well it is Devon with not much August Heat]

Favourite time of day:
A Visible Darkness [the sun setting on the coast is beautiful]

If your life was a:
Bleeding Heart Square [ that is a bleeding heart liberal who has become cynical]

What life is to you:
The Crossroads [we make decisions every day that decide which way we go]

Your fear:
Alone in Berlin [or alone anywhere, I have spent too much time alone to enjoy it]

What is the best advice you have to give:
The Rule Book [don't follow it blindly]

Thought for the day:
The Collaborator [let's work together]

How would you like to die:
Die a Little [over many years without too much pain so I can get used to the idea]

My soul's present condition:
Roses, Roses

Saturday, August 29, 2009


In January I posed a question:

The answer may have been provided by the translator of the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy, Reg Keeland aka Steven T Murray below. [seen here signing books at Crime Fest Bristol 2009]

Friday, August 28, 2009


Update: Please join me at my new blog Crime Scraps Review where you can read all the old stuff and a lot of new material.

The Container Lorry was a harrowing episode of Wallander in which we returned to the theme of immigration and the moral dilemma faced by those who want to make this a better world.

A socially concerned organization LLU [Life Line Unlimited] in conjunction with a convent of nuns have been bringing illegal immigrants into Sweden from Iraq.
They sincerely believe that they are bringing the families to a better and safer life in Sweden, and do not consider that the immigrants will be illegals living in a strange country and as such extremely vulnerable to exploitation relevant.

Two Iraqi children are already safely in the convent, when something goes "amiss" and an abandoned container lorry is found in a beautiful wooded area. The beauty of the area is contrasted with the rubbish round the lorry and then Linda and Svartman find nine dead bodies in the back; theses people have suffocated leaving as the solitary survivor a six month old baby.
As the investigation proceeds Kurt and his team discover that the nuns and LLU are simply being used by vicious criminals for their own purposes.

Kurt, Stefan and Linda face the horror of this investigation in different ways.
Kurt, becoming a bit of a babe magnet, sleeps with the attractive blonde Europol expert on people trafficking, before devising a clever plan.
Stefan rages at the Abbess of the convent and follows his own personal code of justice.
While Linda despite still functioning and finding important links in the case has a reaction to the constant stress and the psychological trauma of police work.

This was a very thought provoking episode that raised a lot of questions without attempting to find any real solutions, although Kurt Wallander did mention that the lack of real border controls under the EU made policing more difficult.

The wagon photographed on the left [taken at Mendenhall Plantation, Jamestown near High Point, North Carolina] is the "container lorry" of the period 1830-1860 and with its secret compartment was used to smuggle escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad to the Free States of the USA.
The Mendenhalls were Quakers who acted only with the best of motives, but I wonder how many of those freed slaves were then shipped out to Haiti, Liberia, or Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I will be reporting on today's trip out on the 17 September as part of the Celebrating Christie Week-Blog Tour at Kerrie's Mysteries in Paradise blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Many many years ago I was invited to play cricket for a club team in South West London and naturally assumed they had heard of my exceptional abilities.
The team captain then asked me quite casually if I could bring along the Indian oral surgeon, who worked for me on a part time basis. My Indian friend, also a well known superb squash player, was immediately moved into the cricket club first team while I was sent to languish among the lower echelons.

The relevance of this rambling is that I am reading Mrs D'Silva's Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta by Glen Peters which is about the fascinating Anglo-Indian community in 1960s India.
Many thanks to publishers Parthian for the book, and to Crimeficreader for recommending this very enjoyable read [I am only half way through so far].
The book, which was published with the financial support of the Welsh Books Council is a beautifully produced and printed paperback with mouth watering recipes inside the covers and on the front flap. While food is a vitally important component of the narrative:

He then used the stock to cook the rice, giving it its rich meaty texture. Later, raisins, almonds and fried onions, and an array of various spices, in their stick and seed form, all helped to make the Biryani a complete meal rather than a mere accompaniment.

The author Glen Peters is founder of Project Rhosygilwen, a Pembrokeshire based rural arts regeneration venture and yet another Welsh connection is explained:

Except the faces here were different shades of white, black and brown and the accents an odd mix of Indo Welsh, inherited a century earlier during the construction of the railways, when the workers from West Wales, brought to India, intermarried with Indian women.

I have even managed to find a photo of Wales, although not a typical location, to go along with this post. [to be continued]

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


My review of The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington has been posted at Euro Crime. This complex intelligent thriller, with various subplots and back stories, was a really good thought provoking read.
I am frequently asked why I read so many books like The Einstein Girl set in the inter war years in Weimar Germany. Well they are a reminder that however bad we think things are today, they were very much worse within the lifetime of my parents and grandparents. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War I think that is something worth remembering.

Monday, August 24, 2009


In between watching the England-Australia test on cable television [it is an outrage it is not on free terrestrial TV] I have read a brilliant book about a victorious Ashes tour to Australia.
How We Recovered The Ashes by P.F.Warner, an account of the 1903-1904 Tour of Australia.

I noted that some things remain the same even after 105 years while others are very different.

Pelham Warner England's captain March 3, 1904:

"Hirst bowled down Cotter's wicket, and after many long years of waiting and disappointment, the prestige of English cricket was restored. I suppose every man has a great moment in his life, and this was certainly mine...... I shall look back on the evening of March 3, 1904, as the golden evening of my cricket career, an evening of memories never to be repeated, but never to be swept away. "

Pelham Warner was wrong in that he captained [although did not play due to illness] an even greater England team to Australia regaining the Ashes once again in 1911-12.

From Pelham Warner's speech in 1904 at the end of the tour:

"Before the first test match I said I wanted the game played in this spirit, and which ever side was beaten, they would admit themselves beaten and not put it down to bad luck, or to umpiring, or to the hundred and one reasons so often brought forward by beaten sides."

"But Noble is not only a great cricketer, but a great captain, and a great sportsman...."

So is the present Australian captain Ricky Ponting, but his brittle team were beaten by an England team who played far better at key moments in the series.

That means there is not much difference in how test series are decided in those 105 years, but there are definitely more moustaches in 1904 than in the present England team, and the attire at team outings with wives and fiancees was slightly more formal.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Katrine and Joakim Westin have moved with their children from a house they renovated in Stockholm's suburbs to an old manor house at Eel Point on the western side of the island of Oland. In the 1960s Katrine's mother and grandmother had rented part of the outbuildings, now Katrine and Joakim intend to renovate the house and live their permanently. Joakim returns to Stockholm to collect some possessions and leave the house keys, and while he is away Katrine is found drowned.
Johan Theorin tells us some of the haunting stories about tragic episodes that have occurred in the past at Eel Point, a house which seems to be cursed with bad luck.
There are other threads to the story, Oland has many summer cottages owned by "Stockholmers" which are unoccupied for most of the year, rather like many of the villages in Devon. Local man Henrik Jansson, is encouraged to return to his former ways by the half crazy Serelius brothers, Tommy and Freddy, and they begin a campaign of burglaries.
The police station in Mornas has reopened and Tilda Davidsson, fresh from training college, will be working from there investigating the burglaries while trying to recover from the recent emotional trauma of being dumped by her creepy married lover Martin. Tilda is meanwhile researching her dead grandfather's past and the old stories about Oland by interviewing his brother, the old sea captain Gerlof Davidsson, who we met in Echoes From The Dead, Theorin's award winning debut novel. Gerlof in his chats with Tilda suggests that perhaps Katrine Westin was murdered.

As Joakim struggles to cope with his grief at Katrine's death he hears noises in the manor house and in the old barn. He explores the barn and discovers a mysterious room hidden behind a wall with the names of those who have died at Eel Point chiseled onto the wooden panels.
As the winter skies darken all the strands of the story will come together on the night of a terrible blizzard, and when tradition claims the dead gather to celebrate Christmas.

This brilliant novel is part ghost story, part detective story, and a really gripping thriller. The book reads as if written in English so translator Marlaine Delargy has done a very good job. The human characters are all well drawn but the island of Oland and its folklore are the dominating characters.

Tilda knew how quickly it could happen. The blizzard transformed the alvar into a white, ice-cold desert and made it impossible to travel by car anywhere on the island. Even the snow scooters would sink and get stuck in the snow.

This is a beautifully constructed story with all the various threads and layers interwoven so cleverly, but as with most good crime fiction nothing is quite as it seems and there are some unseen and unexpected twists at the end. This is without doubt one of the best crime fiction books I have read in 2009.

"Oh, that's an old story," said Gerlof. "It's told in many places, not just here at Eel Point. The Christmas vigil of the dead, that's when those who have passed away during the year return for their own Christmas service. Anyone who disturbed them at that time had to run for their life."

The Darkest Room was voted Best Crime Novel by the Swedish Academy of Crime and also won the Glass Key for Best Nordic Crime Novel.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Seamus Scanlon's original post at Crime Always Pays was followed by Barbara Fister's post with her own accurate assessment of the Martin Beck books.

"-they're shot through with humour and irony".

Seamus has replied in the comments that "I agree that the Beck books are full of black humour and irony which I neglected to highlight."

Here is another example of the Sjowall and Wahloo circa 1965 humour that perhaps in these more sensitive times would not get past the editor.

"Yes, of course your colleague showed me her portrait, but you understand, it wasn't her face that I recognize. It's the dress, or more correctly, not exactly the dress, either."
He turned to the left and placed his powerful index finger on Martin beck's chest.
"It was the decollete," he said in a thundering whisper.
Roseanna: Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

It has become almost a Scandinavian tradition to break up the tension of even the bleakest stories with a little humour. I recall Harry Hole having problems with the 'e' on his computer while trying to write a report on neo-Nazis, and Van Veeteren's colleague Rheinhart brilliant ironical reply to the inquiry whether a headless corpse was really a case of murder that no, it might be someone who could not afford a proper funeral and had donated his head to medical science.

When it comes to dark, scary and sombre Johan Theorin's latest number one best seller The Darkest Room takes some beating, but even among that bleakness he creates a little humour.
Two elderly ladies at the residential home where the elderly sea captain Gerlof Davidsson lives provide the light relief as policewoman Tilda Davidsson waits to take out her grandfather's brother and over hears their conversations.

"Talk things, through, yes," said the first lady. "Once and for all. She says I never supported her. You only thought about yourself and Daddy, she said. All the time. And us kids have always been in second place."
That's what my son says as well, said the other lady. "Although with him it's the exact opposite. He rings before Christmas every year and complains and says I gave him too much love."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The weeks seem to go past quicker and quicker, and I have watched yet another Wallander episode, The Photographer.
I enjoyed this episode because of a symmetry between the main plot, and the subsidiary plots involving the unhappy love lives of Kurt and Linda Wallander.

An expensively dressed beautiful woman is dropped by taxi at a house, and after arguing with the bearded householder leaves in an agitated state.
The next scene is an evening event at a smart gallery where we learn the bearded man is the famous photographer Robert Thuresson and his work, photographs taken in war zones and other dangerous places, is being exhibited for the first time in Sweden.
The woman now attired in green silk argues with Thuresson takes one of the photographs from the wall and leaves. But on the marina she is deliberately knocked down by a car and the next morning her body washes up on the shore.

The woman Sarah Lyell, an American, was doing good works in Afghanistan, when Thuresson was there and he is regarded as the number one suspect. The devotion of Thuresson's mother Anita to her drunken violent son may mean she has given him a false alibi.

In the two sub-plots Kurt learns that he has just been a temporary diversion for Anja while her husband and family have been away, and Linda and Stefan's relationship is very much on the rocks.
Kurt and Linda spend time together talking about pleasant memories of her childhood while Kurt plays Puccini on his hi-fi. It is all very melancholic but at least this investigation gave us the chance to find out that Kurt is 60 years old, and get a view of the superb bridge between Sweden and Denmark.

I don't think these Wallanders, despite the impression in the main stream media, will ever be as depressing the Morse episodes where the very lonely Oxford detective sits down and plays Wagner.
Kurt Wallander has both his Puccini and his beloved daughter Linda, and they are able to help each other survive the dark times.

The series is produced by Yellow Bird and I do hope we see some of their other work on BBC 4 such as the Irene Huss series.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This tension filled police procedural is Rob Kitchin's first foray into writing crime fiction. He has previously written sixteen scholarly non-fiction books, and is a Professor of Human Geography and Director of the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

A young woman is found with a sword speared through her throat at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in the Wicklow mountains, and with her body is Chapter One of The Rule Book, a self help guide for would be serial killers. Chief Superintendent Colm McEvoy from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is assigned to the case. But Colm's wife Maggie has died recently and he is struggling to cope with being a single parent to his young daughter Gemma, and trying to give up the dreaded cigarettes that killed his beloved wife.
When a second murder occurs within 24 hours, and another chapter left near the murder scene, Colm becomes involved in a battle of wits with a self proclaimed master criminal, The Raven.
The Raven is taunting the police to catch him before he completes all the chapters in his book.

Rob Kitchin has shown there is still some life in the serial killer theme if the main investigating officer and the villain can capture your attention.
Policeman Colm McEvoy is a sympathetic character who has so many problems to face both personal and professional that you feel for him and can identify with the stress he is under.

Superiors who want to stay away from any potential trouble, but take the credit for success, and very ambitious subordinates who want to make a name for themselves at anyone's expenses are prevalent in most organizations.
Rob Kitchin writes about that situation with some insight, and he also cleverly blends in facts about Ireland.

At one time, Ireland had the highest institutionalized rate per head of population in the world, almost double that of practically everywhere else in Europe.

The compressed time scale of the murders over the period of a week mean that the investigative team do miss a vital connection, but that would be forgivable in real life and in fiction.

This was a very promising first crime novel, and I hope Rob can take enough time off from his day job to produce a sequel, because there is a hint that profiler Kathy Jacobs and Colm might get together in the future, and the poor man needs some pleasure in his life.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


In this post at Scandinavian Crime Fiction Barbara Fister rightly points out:

Martin Beck.... has a dose of melancholia [as well as frequent colds] the books themselves are hardly gloomy -they're shot through with humour and irony. Which is another way they resemble McBain more than Mankell.

I would definitely put Sjowall and Wahloo's Martin Beck books possibly just behind Hakan Nesser on the extreme range of ironic/humorous Scandinavian Crime Fiction. Henning Mankell is almost at the other end of the spectrum, but not quite as dark as Karin Alvtegen and with all the other writers positioned along the scale.

There is almost as much variation in style, sometimes in the same book, among Scandinavian writers as among writers from other countries. It is the irony and subtle humour in the most unlikeliest of situations that breaks the tension and makes reading a pleasure.

Elofsson had mechanically begun to push the nearest bystanders back.
"Don't push people, " said Mansson.

Then he looked straight at the people nearest to him, one by one, and said in a loud calm voice:

"There's a dead man in the car. And he looks horrible."
Not a single person pushed forward.

The Fire Engine That Disappeared: Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo 1969

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I have just finished reading The Einstein Girl by Philip Sington [to be reviewed on Euro Crime] and started The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin.

Rob Kitchin works at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, where he is a Professor of Human Geography and Director of the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis. He has written sixteen non fiction books and The Rule Book is his first venture into crime fiction.

At the start of The Rule Book I like the way Rob breaks the considerable tension of this police procedural with a humorous but very accurate social comment.

"Myself and Peter go way back," McEvoy explained. "John's our bright young thing. Has a doctorate from Trinity in sociology, which sharpened the mind but didn't exactly provide a career path, if you know what I mean."

I do know what he means especially as my daughter has a first in sociology from University of Sussex, and is unemployed.
One of my son's friends recent decided to train as an infant teacher. He told us that one morning he was instructed on how to laminate the children's course work, and he thought that was far more useful to his future career prospects than his three year philosophy degree.

Friday, August 14, 2009


The latest episode of the Swedish Wallanders on BBC4 was number 7 in series one, The Tricksters.
This was a curious episode and one that for once was more about space than race with some marvelous shots of the beautiful sparsely populated rural landscape around Ystad. Of course there was the one regulation anti immigration neo-Nazi lunatic as this seems to be a compulsory component of the series. This enabled Stefan to completely lose his professional detachment and play the tough cop, while in a sub-plot Kurt loses his cool and gets romantically involved with a married female psychiatrist, Ania.
The main plot involves the vulnerability of lonely women to a charming but evil trickster, who is a horse dealer with a serious gambling problem. The contrast to the lonely Kurt drifting, or being dragged, into his relationship with Ania was clever, but this particular episode didn't quite work for me and showed some of the limitations of a 90 minute television program compared with the depth possible in a 300 page book.
I may be becoming a bit more critical as the novelty of the series wears off, but my recorder is definitely set for future episodes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I was sent recently Megan Abbott's first two novels, and although they were not my usual reading matter Karen of Euro Crime thought I might enjoy them. Possibly because the front covers have on them pictures of women, and the back cover blurb mentions "seamy, sexy corruption".
I read Die A Little as a bit of light relief while I was entangled with a blockbuster, and thought that it was a well written atmospheric thriller. The female first person point of view narrative was a little bit difficult to get used to, but Megan Abbott tells a good story taking the reader back to Chandler's 1950s Los Angeles.

Schoolteacher Lora King is worried when her brother Bill, a junior investigator with the District Attorney's office marries Alice Steele, a beautiful Hollywood wardrobe assistant with a mysterious past. Lora begins to investigate but complications ensue when she is introduced to handsome debonair Mike Standish, an old friend of Alice.

He knows the right restaurants to be at and the right times to beat them, he knows the drinks to order, the maitre d's to grease.........
And it always helps that he is from Connecticut and went to Columbia [and nearly graduated] and has the sheen of class and breeding everyone he works for lacks.

This novel made me think of the television series Mad Men in its meticulous recreation of a period in the quite recent past.
It is a book about obsession and corruption set in an interesting time as the child like city of Los Angeles grows into adulthood.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The three questions:

1] Which authors created the following investigators:

Stoner, Studer, Scudder, Sejer, Asch, Bosch, Balzic and Banks.

Answer: Jonathan Valin, Friedrich Glauser, Lawrence Block, Karin Fossum, Arthur Lyons, Michael Connelly, K.C. Constantine, and Peter Robinson.

2] This question gave people the most trouble

What is the connection between:

a southern Slavic Viking: The Serbian Dane, hence the clue referring to Danish Dorte.

a misleading small herring-like fish: The Sardine Deception, which was the first book that Tiina Nunnally and Steve Murray translated together and it was published in 1986 by their own Fjord Press in Seattle.

and the image of a small citrus fruit: Lime's Photograph.

All of course thrillers written by the Danish author Leif Davidsen.

3] Who or what connects a diurnal bird of prey. Lucile de Vasconcellos Langhanke, Laszlo Lowenstein and a former tea planter from Sandwich in Kent?

bird of prey: a falcon
Lucile Langhanke is better known as Mary Astor
Laszlo Lowenstein is Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet was a former tea planter.

So the answer was The Maltese Falcon in which they all starred along with Humphrey Bogart.

Thanks very much to those who were brave enough to take part.
The competition has three more rounds to go and there are now four contenders any one of whom could win. They come from Texas [and Belize], Denmark, Scotland and Virginia, well done to all of you.
I hope to come up with some questions worthy of your attention in September.

Monday, August 10, 2009


My review of Ariana Franklin's third book in the Adelia Aguilar medieval series, Relics of the Dead, has been posted on Euro Crime.

I possibly enjoyed this book more than her previous book, because we had a few days holiday in Glastonbury in March, and I had the photographs of the ruined abbey to remind me of that fascinating and mysterious place.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


The August Miniquiz 7 question 2 seems to have stumped people.
Mack in Virginia used the word stumped, we English will not be using any cricketing terms for at least 10 days following a very heavy defeat today by Australia.

I will be kind and provide two clues:

The question:

What is the connection between a southern Slavic Viking, a misleading small herring- like fish and the image of a small citrus fruit?

Clues: Dorte should have got this question right, and there is a link to the couple in the photograph.

I have made it too easy now. Answers to the quiz to be sent to by midnight BST on Monday 10 August.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


This weeks episode of Wallander, The African, was compelling viewing and attempted to dispel those myths about Sweden's perfect democracy.
A black man's body is found in a train in Gdansk Poland, and he was dumped in the train in Ystad so it is a case for Kurt Wallander. The racism of certain sections of the population, an election campaign by the Social Democrats on a pro- immigration program and meeting up with a childhood friend complicate matters for Kurt, while his daughter Linda completely loses her cool about housemate Stefan's active sex life.

Because of the possible political repercussions Stockholm send in their fixer Farzan to take charge. I was amused by the somewhat hostile reception given to Farzan by the local Ystad team. A natural reaction to an interloper in most police jurisdictions but sometimes ignored in crime novels.

The scenic beauty of sparsely populated Scania is once again a feature of the programs in this impressive series made by Yellow Bird the company that produced the Stieg Larsson Millennium film, Men Who Hate Women.

Friday, August 07, 2009


In between reading a historical blockbuster I whizzed through the 200 page How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson.
This useful guide book contains a wealth of information, stories and quotes from writers who have become successful historical mystery authors. But it is also appropriate for ordinary readers and even amateur reviewers as the book reinforced my opinion that this sub genre is extremely difficult to write successfully. All the numerous problems and pitfalls that a writer will come across in creating a believable historical world are discussed.

The book contains a massive amount of information including definitions of cozy, hard boiled and soft boiled crime stories, as well as an appendix containing lists of historical crime from every era and every place in history.

My favourite quotation from the book is one from Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times from a 2006 review:

"Here is my standard approach to historical mysteries: Open book. Read until first anachronism. Toss."

It is good advice, and not only for historical mysteries.

Most of the authors live and breath their period of history and probably know as much as a professional historian, maybe more as their readership insists on accuracy down to the smallest detail. I think it is far more difficult than writing a contemporary novel.

Kathy Lynn talks about trying to catch a trend in historical interest being tricky due to the time taken for a book to reach the book sellers from inception. Economic trends also play a part as she states "Barrington Court [near Glastonbury and Wells] is filled with furniture made and displayed for sale by Stuart Interiors. These replicas can be touched and signs clearly date each object."

Unfortunately since the book was published the replica furniture has been removed by the receivers as Stuart Interiors ceased trading, yet another victim of the recession.
But this book remains a fascinating and worthwhile read for anyone interested in history and mysteries.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I have been following with interest the John Banville/Benjamin Black saga at Declan Burke's sparkling blog Crime Always Pays concerning the impression that was allegedly given that Banville was "slumming it" when writing crime fiction as Black.

My concern is with Mr Banville's choice of words, and use of evocative language. I might not have noticed this, but because I have reviewed some historical crime novels recently, I have been reading the very useful How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries by Kathy Lynn Emerson.

Kathy Lynn refers to author Laurie R. King choosing as her original title for The Beekeeper's Apprentice, "the subtitle of a book on beekeeping written by Conan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, 'With some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen'."
King's editor reminded her that "segregation" is a word with decidedly negative connotations.

I then looked again at John Banville's comments in the Guardian:

"I deplore the apartheid that has been imposed on fiction writing so that in shops the crime books are segregated from the proper novels."

Apartheid and segregation were appalling policies directed against human beings, not books, and perhaps it is a sign of my own semi-literate status, or my general bolshiness, that I find their use in this context totally inappropriate.

Monday, August 03, 2009


The weather was terrible again today, therefore in the next few days I will be posting the questions for the Crime Scraps Summer [it is summer although it does not seem like it] Quiz with a prize choice of books for the best answers.

But for now here are the questions for the August mini quiz number 7 part of the marathon entering the home straight.
Please send your answers to by midnight BST Monday 10 August.

1] Which authors created the following investigators, Stoner, Studer, Scudder, Sejer, Asch, Bosch, Balzic and Banks?

2] What is the connection between a southern Slavic Viking, a misleading small herring-like fish and the image of a small citrus fruit?

3] Who and what connects a diurnal bird of prey, Lucile de Vasconcellos Langhanke, Laszlo Lowenstein, and a former tea planter from Sandwich, Kent?

Good Luck.


There has been some discussion recently concerning the boom in Scandinavian crime fiction. Some have suggested that it is anachronistic to produce so many crime fiction books set in countries where there is supposedly little real crime.

Unfortunately murders occur everywhere today as was brought home to us on Saturday when we drove to South Molton to watch the Honeytones perform in the town square.
A young man Luke Alexander, aged 21, had been stabbed to death on the Friday night, and his brother Mark injured.
Murder is a tragedy where ever it happens but when it occurs in a small rural market town where everyone knows everyone else it has a devastating effect on the community.