Thursday, December 30, 2010


You have only a few days more to enter the 2010 Winter Quirky Quiz.

See the questions here and send your answers to by midnight 4 January 2011 GMT.
Good Luck.


Update: This blog is now dormant and has moved to Crime Scraps Review where you can read all the old posts plus lots of new material.

I read The Power of the Dog for three reasons:

1] It had been named as one of the ten best crime fiction books of the decade by The Times.
2] Don Winslow is a guest at Bristol's Crime Fest in May 2011, and naturally I felt I should read at least one of his books.
3] I was snowed in, and I felt the tightly packed 500 plus pages would snugly fill up the rest of 2010.

The plot deals with an almost thirty year battle between various Mexican drug gangs, and DEA agent Art Keller. The book could be considered faction as real life events [such as the assassination of Cardinal Posadas Ocampo at Guadaljara International Airport in 1993] are used as a basis for a complex story of extreme violence and constant betrayal.

The Independent on Sunday blurbled 'This is Winslow's masterpiece....Superb!'
While an Amazon reviewer stated it was 'just a fun gangsters book for the masses'.

Why was I a bit disappointed with a novel that apparently took six years of research to write?
Firstly I constantly got a feeling of deja vue as I was reading. it seemed like a composite of The Godfather, Good Fellas, Clear and Present Danger, All the Pretty Horses, and No Country for Old Men; and as I got further into the book previous events in the book seem to be repeated over and over again. Real life perhaps, as betrayal followed betrayal, but repetitious and overwhelming.

Then the characters never go beyond the shallow stereotypes one sees in gangster movies, there are Mexican killers, Mafia killers, Ex Vietnam CIA American killers and Irish killers:

Callan- the Irish-American stone cold killer who tells his girl friend, Siobhan, he is going straight and hides a Swedish Model 45 Garl Gustaf 9-mm submachine gun under the bed. [Shouldn't that be Carl Gustav]. Siobhan finds it doing the dusting.

Nora- the good hearted whore, who happens to meet Archbishop Parada in the ruins of Mexico City after the 1985 earthquake and decides to use her position, and his to do some good.
This relationship provides almost the only faint glimpse of humanity and humour in the book.

He smiles again, and nods, and says, " I'm going to wager that you're a very successful call girl."
"I am," Nora says. "I'll bet you're a very successful archbishop."
"As a matter of fact. I'm thinking of quitting."
"I'm not sure I believe anymore."
Nora shrugs and says, "Fake it."
"Fake it?"
"It's easy," she says. "I do it all the time."

When Archbishop Parada embraces liberation theology you know he will go the way of Big Paulie.

The plot is a blur of conflicts and deals between various ruthless government agencies, the Barrera organization [Tio Miguel Angel, and brothers Adnan and Raul], and another equally violent drug lord Guero Mendez. The action whizzes around from Mexico, to New York [you know a character named Big Paulie is bound to be hit], El Salvador, Honduras, and Hong Kong. You start to believe that all Mexican police agencies from federales to state cops are in the pay of the drug cartels, and all Mexican Presidents!
And as Art's thirty year struggle to bring down the Barreras goes on and on and on.....surely an editor could have tightened the plot down to 350 pages? With almost ever major character so flawed it is difficult to feel any sympathy for them or interest in their fate. Perhaps that is why the book was such a quick read despite its length.

You wonder if the tragedy going on in Mexico is the real responsibility of the drug traffickers, the CIA, the Sandinistas, the Vatican, Opus Dei, the Mafia, the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party], Right Wing Death Squads, Left Wing Death Squads, NAFTA, or George Walker Herbert Bush.
Is there a solution? If drugs were legalized and supplied by the government tomorrow, would the gangs carry on dealing in people, women and children for sex, body parts, anything people will pay for?

You have to lack human compassion to deal in drugs, and the violence perpetrated by the characters in this book is both horrific and constant. There may be other attendees at Crime Fest, most of whom are female, who may not be able to deal with this level of violence, and the macho attitudes towards women. So be warned if you want to read a Don Winslow book before Crime Fest, and are of a cosy disposition avoid The Power of the Dog.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Heavy snow and slippery ice followed by a case of "man flu" has meant that I have been housebound for two weeks! I have had my flu jab this year, but whatever it was that has been passed on to me by one of the children has knocked me sideways.
After a lovely family Christmas Eve get together, late the following day I started to feel awful and am still lacking in energy, although today I am feeling a smidgen better.
Therefore some of the items I was going to discuss at length will now wait until next year, or go by default.

During this period on television I watched:

David Suchet in a dark version of Murder on the Orient Express. I am one of those people who don't like television productions to deviate from the plot of the book, but watching David Suchet's performance as Poirot is always a pleasure.

Rolf Lassgard, as Kurt Wallander, in a rather long winded two part adaptation of Henning Mankell's Firewall.

Rolf Lassgard, as Wallander, in the superbly acted episode, One Step Behind. I have to admit that Lassgard's Wallander has grown on me, and it does help that he has such strong support from the rest of the cast. I can well understand how those who saw Lassgard's performance first regard him as the definitive Kurt Wallander.

A BBC4 program on Italian Noir that was interesting but perhaps had too much commentary from experts, and not enough comment by the authors themselves. I hope this program encouraged readers to try the novels of Andrea Camilleri, Carlo Lucarelli Massimo Carlotto, and Leonardo Sciascia [1921-1989] all of whose work I have reviewed on Crime Scraps.
Romanzo Criminale, the film mentioned on the program, based on the novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo, is one of the best crime movies I have seen, and definitely something not to be missed if it appears on television.
The message of this program was that Italian crime writers set their plots in the real world where because of circumstances there might not be punishment for a crime, even when the police can identify the perpetrator. I don't think there was quite enough emphasis on the sometimes competing, and sometimes cooperating, movements that have had so much influence on life in Italy, and especially on Sicily; Communism, Fascism, Catholicism, and Mafia.

Italian Noir novels are usually of a manageable length and get their message across with a little subtlety, and even a degree of obliqueness.
Subtlety is not a word you could associate under any circumstances with the 500 page blockbuster, The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow.
I finished reading this book yesterday, and will produce a review in a few days if I am feeling well enough.
One reviewer on said he wanted to put the book down, and have a long hot shower, a sentiment with which I concurred.
I sometimes wonder if I am the only person who reads these books from cover to cover. It is not masochism, but my naturally optimistic nature, because I simply cannot believe that the story is not going to improve.
This was not quoted in the novel, but I was surprised it was not:

'Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the United States' attributed to Mexican President Porfiro Diaz.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I watched David Suchet take a trip on the Orient Express last night.
This program was screened in the USA back in July, but we have had to wait until now because it is an appetizer for the Murder on the Orient Express film starring David Suchet to be screened by ITV1 at 9.00 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Some of the scenery as the train travelled south from Calais to Paris, Innsbruck and Venice, and then back north to Prague was magnificent. The service seemed impeccable and the food on the train looked superb. The 1920s luxury of the carriages appeared a tempting holiday option for someone approaching important milestones in their life, but having investigated the cost and the fact that the train accommodation lacks en suite facilities I have decided that perhaps this is not for me.
But it was an absolutely fascinating program, and David Suchet, was a charming host, who frequently bubbled over with genuine enthusiasm during the trip. Especially when they let him drive the train!
There have been some brilliant depictions of fictional detectives over the past 30 years on British television, for instance as John Thaw as Morse, Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, and Warren Clarke as Andy Dalziel, but David Suchet actually becomes Hercule Poirot.
As my late mother- in- law would say "I like a good murder, when is Piro on."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Of the fifty eight books I read in 2010 a total of fifteen were set in Nordic Countries with a hefty nine from Sweden.
UK 10
Sweden 9
Italy 4
Germany 3
Norway 3


In 2010 I read 58 books.
Twenty seven were translated into English, and thirty one were originally in English.
Thirty eight and a half were written by male authors and nineteen and one half by female authors. That odd half author is a result of reading Murder at the Savoy by the husband and wife combination of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Last night we watched Nordic Noir: The Story of Scandinavian Crime Fiction on BBC4.
We really enjoyed one of the most intelligent discussions about crime fiction, and its ability to address the problems of society that I have seen on television. A lot more than the Stieg Larsson phenomenon was covered, and it even got Mrs Crime Scraps interested. When it comes to crime fiction usually Mrs C is a one man girl, and that man is Tony Hillerman, but this program was great marketing for several superb authors.
There were thoughtful contributions from authors Maj Sjowall, Hakan Nesser, Jo Nesbo, Karin Fossum, and actor Krister Henriksson.
Henriksson spoke with emotion about the lovely actress Johanna Sallstrom, and convinced me that British actors should not attempt to play introspective Swedes such as Kurt Wallander.
It is like a Swede playing Lord Peter Wimsey.

Hakan Nesser was amusing, as he was at Crime Fest 2009, but he also spoke about the traumatic effect the shooting of Olaf Palme had on the Swedish people. Their 9/11 he called it.
Maj Sjowall spoke about her pleasure at working with Per Wahloo in the evenings on the ten books that make up the story of a crime from 1965-1975.
Jo Nesbo made interesting comments on the effect sudden wealth had on the social fabric of Norway.
Stieg Larsson was praised as a great campaigning journalist, and the Pippi Longstocking genesis of the character of Lisbeth Salander was analyzed.
And of course Krister Henriksson and the other contributors discussed Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander at length.
There were shots of dramatic Icelandic scenery, and the iconic clip of Arnaldur Indridason's Erlendur tucking into his sheep's head in the film Jar City.
Hopefully next week's Italian Noir program might have some more enticing meals.

Incidentally was Karin Fossum [who was charming at Crime Fest 2008] telling us that she wanted the reader to care about her victims, and the isolated communities they live in that captured Mrs Crime Scraps interest.
My only criticism of the program was that new stars Johan Theorin, and Anders Roslund/ Borge Hellstrom, and leading sellers Liza Marklund and Camilla Lackberg, were not mentioned.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I am well and truly grounded as the roads and pavements are still covered with snow and ice.

Those of us old enough to remember the English winter of 1962-1963 realise this could go on for several months even until March!
It could mean more reading time?

I only managed to read 58* crime fiction books this year for several reasons:
1] My accident and subsequent operation in March meant that I was unable to concentrate for several weeks.
2] Some of those 58 books were 500 page doorstops, for instance Leif G.W. Persson's Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End.
3] I also read some lengthy, but interesting history books.
4] More family activity.
5] I spent a lot of time reading all the excellent blogs linking in to the Friend Feed Forum.
6] Too much time watching television!

[*At the moment I have started reading another particularly thick 500 page book The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow, which I think might take me through to the end of the year.]

That is enough excuses. The authors new to me that I did I manage to read were:

Petros Markaris**- Che Committed Suicide
Martin Edwards**- The Arsenic Labyrinth
Qiu Xiaolong*- Death of a Red Heroine
Jonathan Valin- Extenuating Cirunstances
David Zelsterman*- Pariah
Deon Meyer**- Blood Safari and Thirteen Hours
Craig Nova*- The Informer
Ernesto Mallo**- Needle in a Haystack
Louise Penny- The Brutal Telling
Leah Giarrantano*- Vodka Doesn't Freeze
Paul Cleave- Cemetery Lake
Carl Hiaasen**- Skinny Dip
Andrea Maria Schenkel*- Bunker
Teresa Solana**- A Not So Perfect Crime
Barbara Baraldi- The Girl with the Crystal Eyes
Jan Costin Wagner**- Silence
Val McDermid**- Trick in the Dark
Lenny Kleinfeld**- Shooters and Chasers
Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom**- Three Seconds
Leif G.W. Persson**- Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End
Domingo Villar**- Water Blue Eyes
Ben Pastor*- Lumen
Gunnar Staalesen*- The Writing on the Wall
Don Winsow **- The Power of the Dog

I have given two asterisks to those authors I definitely plan to read again, and one asterisk to those I might read possibly again.
You can read more about bloggers 'First Time Authors' at:

Friday, December 17, 2010


Private Detective Varg Veum is hired by Sidsel Skagestol, who is separated from her husband, to try and find her teenage daughter Torild, who has disappeared.
Varg Veum begins by questioning Torild's friends and their parents, but his investigations will lead him through Bergen's underworld where young women are bought and sold; and the case becomes connected to the discovery of the body of a seventy year old judge dressed in women's underwear in one of the town's better hotels.

Gunnar Staalesen has twice won Norway's top crime fiction prize, the Golden Pistol, and published the first book in the long running Varg Veum series in 1977. The Writing on the Wall, translated by Hal Sutcliffe, dates from 1995 and is the 11th book in the series.

Varg Veum is a pun on the expression in Norwegian, varg i veum which means persona non grata or outlaw. Varg means wolf or culprit. Varg Veum was a social worker specializing in child care until he became disillusioned with the hopeless life situations of some of the children, and left the service to become a private detective.

I did find this book a little bit ponderous and predictable, while the first person narrative limited both the action and possible plot development. That said it was a solid private eye novel with a subject matter, the exploitation of young teenage girls, that possibly needed bringing to public attention in conservative Norway back in 1995. The author obviously feels strongly about his subject matter, but attempts to lighten the mood with descriptive passages that take you to winter in Norway, and are in stark contrast to the harsh reality of the plot.

Around Lille Lungegard Lake the flock of ducks had thinned out considerably. Only the omnivorous gulls tottered about on the half melted ice, pecking around one of the holes near the edge in the hope of finding something to eat.

However the character of Varg Veum came over to me as a bit one dimensional, and there was a jerkiness in the narrative with incidents appearing to be added on to the basic plot. But then perhaps I have become too reliant on plot pyrotechnics and outlandish characters for excitement to fully appreciate a solid private eye story.
Of course reading the eleventh book in a series first is not the best introduction to a character, but the out of order publishing of Scandinavian authors seems almost unavoidable.

'In other words, the power apparatus! The people who occupy positions of power in society at large also have to be in a position of power when they buy sex too. They have to feel secure and feel they're on top, literally, so they won't be challenged just where they feel most vulnerable, if you get my drift.'

I will possibly try another Varg Veum book, and see if the character grows on me, because his fifteen year old social commentary is perhaps even more relevant to our society today.

'I believe you when you -! You sound just as daft as those social freaks in Child Welfare and places! You're all just as daft, the whole lot of you! You lot don't have a fucking clue about-anything-about what it's like to be young nowadays...'
Suddenly there were tears in her eyes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We may be facing another burst of arctic weather but this weekend we have on British television a veritable cornucopia of crime fiction programs to keep us warm.

On Saturday 18 December at 9.00pm on BBC4 we have another episode of Wallander starring Rolf Lassgard. This is the two parter Firewall which is concluded at 10.00pm Monday 20 December.

Preceding this Swedish Wallander at 9.00pm is a program about the success of Nordic Noir, narrated by Mariella Frostrup [the presenter of The Book Show on Sky Arts 1].

On Sunday 26 December at 9.00pm there is another Rolf Lassgard Wallander, One Step Behind.
On Monday 27 December at 9.30pm a program on Italian Noir, and a repeated episode [from two years ago] of Inspector Montalbano program that I can recommend for among other things a brilliant portrayal of Catarella.
All these programs are on BBC4.

But not to be outdone ITV1 at 9.00pm on Sunday 19 December have the program 'David Suchet [the definitive Hercule Poirot] on the Orient Express'. This is a trailer for their 9.00pm Christmas Day production of David Suchet as Poirot in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
A lot to enjoy, and if you do want to talk to your relatives over the holiday period you can always record these programs to watch later.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Only three weeks to go to the 4 January 2011 deadline for entries to the Winter Quirky Quiz, see the questions here.
Book prizes to be won.

Monday, December 13, 2010


This blog is now dormant. You can read all my old posts along with the new stuff at Crime Scraps Review

On Saturday night BBC4 showed The Man Who Smiled [2003] starring Rolf Lassgard as Henning Mankell's detective Kurt Wallander.
This was the sixth of nine films produced by SVT [Sveriges Television] between 1994 and 2007 which all starred Rolf Lassgard. The films were scripted from the actual novels rather than based on new stories using Mankell's characters.

Lawyer Sten Tortensson contacts his old friend Wallander, because he believes the death of his father Gustav, also a lawyer, in a car crash was not an accident. Wallander is busy thinking about his own problems, which involve a mistake made on a work trip to Stockholm that will come back to haunt him.
But when Sten Torstensson is found shot through the eyes Wallander's team begin to investigate the lawyer's clients. Gustav worked for Skane's most popular man millionaire philanthropist Alfred Harderberg, who is of course too good to be true.

Rolf Lassberg's Kurt Wallander is the third interpretation of the character we have seen on British TV in the past couple of years; following the Kenneth Branagh and Krister Henriksson versions. There is bound to be a lot of discussion over the merits of the actor's performances and the respective quality of the productions.
My problem in deciding which I prefer is that I have only read five of the Wallander books [Before The Frost, Faceless Killers, Sidetracked, One Step Behind and The Fifth Woman] and that was about eight years ago.
If I had watched the Rolf Lassgard first I think he would be closer to my memory of the character, although with shorter hair. While I enjoyed Krister Henriksson in the part on the evidence of this one film, and taking into account my failing memory, Rolf Lassgard is more like the introspective depressing Wallander of the books.

The Man Who Smiled's excellent cinematography showed off the beautiful scenery around Ystad, and I thought the production was superior to the equivalent BBC Kenneth Branagh version.
Lassgard was aided by fine supporting performances from Kerstin Andersson as Wallander's boss Lisa Holgersson, Christer Faust as Svedberg, and the gorgeous Marie Richardson as Maja Thysell, Wallander's colleague and girlfriend. The part of Alfred Hardeberg was played by Claes Mansson, who is one of Sweden's best known comedians.
I am looking forward to next week's episode, Firewall, a two parter from 2006, which is scheduled for Saturday 18 December, and I think Monday 20 December.
A question: Why don't they show the nine films in order starting with Faceless Killers from 1994?

Sunday, December 12, 2010


On occasions a photo can say a lot more than pages of prose. On the right Cpl Ricky Ferguson MC gravely injured in Afghanistan, a true hero.

On the left the stupid son of a wealthy pop star who has issued an apology for defacing the Cenotaph. He now says he is ashamed, or was it his parent's public relations firm that said that. Frankly it is an apology that needs to be made in person preferably in court.

It is not entirely young Gilmour's fault that he behaved so foolishly, because he has been failed by both his upbringing and his expensive education.
A history student at Cambridge should at least have the common sense to look around the corner to read the sign on the monument. A history student should know what happens when mob rule takes over the streets.

Unfortunately the constant denigration by the glitterati of our history and the sacrifices made for our freedoms have left too many of our young people with a warped view of society and the world.

One could say that there are not enough proper graduate level jobs in the country, so why should the tax payer artificially fund so called vocational courses that cannot cannot possibly provide employment. It is a fraud perpetrated on the young people to say that everyone who takes a degree in Football Studies, or Food Styling with Photography, or Television Outside Broadcast [production operations], is going to be able to gain employment in those specialities.
I wonder if some courses are more about providing jobs for the lecturers than a viable career for the students.
One thing I am certain of is that the unacceptable violence, and the desecration of the Cenotaph, on Saturday have damaged any case against the rise in the tuition fees.

Friday, December 10, 2010


The last few weeks I have watched a couple of DVDs of the subtitled episodes of Beck, a Swedish series based on the characters created by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo starring Peter Haber as Martin Beck, and Mikael Persbrandt as Gunvald Larsson.
They were fine viewing mainly because I got the impression the actors had read the books from cover to cover, and then were determined to stick to those original characters rather than create their own version. Many thanks to the kind person who brought them back from Sweden.

There have also been some really good crime fiction series on British TV, and the cable channels which show some of the best from past years.
I watched Sherlock, Foyle's War, Morse, Garrow's Law, and on Sky 1 David Morrisey in Thorne: Sleepyhead and Scaredycat, based on Mark Billingham's books.
I have only read one Tom Thorne book, and these TV programs were a bit too graphic for me.
Sherlock was superb fun, with Bernard Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, an eccentric but believable modern day Holmes and Watson.
Garrow's Law is an interesting historical drama series based on the real life cases of the 18th century lawyer William Garrow.
However my personal favourites are Morse, with John Thaw's definitive performance as Morse and the wonderful Oxford scenery, and Foyle's War, with Michael Kitchen's superb portrayal of the thoughtful wartime detective.
Foyle's War is beautifully acted, and so evocative of the time exhibiting all the restrained attitudes and accents of that period.
I could listen to Honeysuckle Weekes as Samantha Stewart all day long.

But when I have ventured away from wartime Hastings, and the dreaming spires of Oxford, the one US series that has gripped me is The Good Wife, with the winning combination of attractive women, the law, and political intrigue.
And now there is only a day to wait for Rolf Lassgard's Wallander on BBC4 at 9.30 pm.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Most of the books I read I get on recommendation from other bloggers, and these I almost always enjoy. The Friend Feed Crime and Mystery Forum know their onions.
But sometimes I ask for books from Karen at Euro Crime based not on her recommendation, but on my interpretation of the publishers blurb, and it is here that occasionally I run into trouble. So I was very interested to see on Monday Dorte at DJS Krimiblog posting about books she did not finish, and asking what made you give up on a book.
This subject was expanded on by Rob at The View from the Blue House yesterday with an excellent ten point list of failings that led to a DNF.

I am a bit stubborn in that if I have started a book I almost always finish it, especially if it is one of those received from Karen at Euro Crime. I have felt obligated to finish and review every book, although this has caused problems for poor Karen in the past. I have felt guilty about this as the problems have been entirely my fault.
She has wisely decided not to publish one negative review [book A]; and I decided not to review another book [book B] as in my opinion it qualified on at least four of Rob's ten points for a DNF.
I had struggled through to the end of book B as I thought it had to improve at some point, but I was gravely disappointed.
Book B was a perfect example of two of Rob's points:
'A writing style that is all style and no substance-nice prose is good, great story is better' and 'Too much sermonising and/or pretentiousness'.

I shall be most interested in other reviews of Book A [the paperback is out shortly] because it was a case of an author, who I had previously read and enjoyed, really disappointing me with a story that totally lacked credibility.
I very nearly chucked book A in the bin when after two hundred pages the leading character decided to whiz down to his local Gestapo HQ to discuss his girl friend's membership of an anti-Nazi resistance group; and then try to make a deal with those brutes. I would suggest that by 1942 most people in Nazi Germany had worked out that whoever you were you stayed as far away as possible from the Gestapo, and SS, based on events such as the Night of the Long Knives [June 1934] when the Nazis slaughtered large numbers of their 'friends', including Hitler's predecessor as Chancellor General von Schleicher, his wife, and Gregor Strasser, father of Hitler's godchildren.
There were other glaring examples of what Rob mentions as 'Lack of credibility and realism in what purports to be realistic fiction.' Perhaps more of those another time.

In future I won't be wasting time with books that don't grab me and are too much like hard work. There may be a few more DNFs or WNRs [will not reviews].

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Part of this Aussie Author Challenge is not to mention the cricket at all, even a little bit. At Adelaide England won by an innings and ....Oops.

I am tackling this at the Tourist level: read three books by three different Aussie authors.
I have already selected the three books for this challenge:

Gunshot Road: Adrian Hyland
Deep Water: Peter Corris -joint winner of the 2009 Ned Kelly
Wyatt: Garry Disher-winner of the 2010 Ned Kelly


Another day, another challenge.
You can read the rules here.
This time I am going to be strict with myself and stick to surnames for the titles of my posts.
I may review a book by that author, or just write a short bio, or perhaps a item concerning some aspect of the author's life.
But I will be trying to avoid too many of the subjects I used last year, although some of the posts may double up with other challenges, or refer back to older posts.

Monday, December 06, 2010


This is the time of year when the 2011 reading challenges come thick and fast. I have already committed to Dorte's Global Reading Challenge, and now I cannot resist the chance to dive into some of the books on my TBR shelf for the 2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. [all the rules are there]

The books to be included as vintage have to date from before 1960!
Obviously younger bloggers have a different perspective on what is a vintage mystery.
With my other commitments, I am only entering this one at the basic level-'In a Murderous Mood', which involves reading 4-6 books.

I have lined up the following seven books from some of the greatest crime writers of all time, and will select four [or possible six] to read during the year.

Before the Fact [1932] Francis Iles
The League of Frightened Gentlemen [1935] Rex Stout
Peril at End House [1932] Agatha Christie
And Then There Were None [1939] Agatha Christie
Green for Danger [1944] Christianna Brand
The Case of the Footloose-Doll [1958] Erle Stanley Gardner
The Eighth Circle [1958] Stanley Ellin

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Italian noir writer Massimo Carlotto has teamed up with screenwriter Marco Videtta to give us a bleak tale of corruption in the industrialized north east of Italy. The book is translated by Antony Shugaar, and the original title Nordest has been given a neat twist to the English Poisonville, which is apt on several levels.

The book is partly narrated by Francesco Vitelin, a rich young lawyer from one of the two families that run everything, including the justice system, in the region, and partly by a narrator who follows various other characters. Francesco will be taken into his father Antonio's very successful firm on his marriage to the beautiful lawyer Giovanna, who already works for Vitelin senior.
Francesco's future is assured as his father's firm represent the Torrefranchi Foundation, the local consortium which controls industry in the region.

Then just before their wedding Giovanna is murdered, and the superficial nature of everything around him is exposed. There are various sub plots scattered through the narrative, Giovanna's previous lover Filippo is deranged, and there is a gang of hoodlums carrying out a series of home invasion robberies, but most readers will easily guess the identity of the murderer. But this does not reduce the novel's impact. As Francesco, along with Giovanna's friend Carla, and one honest policeman begin to investigate they uncover other crimes and murders, that were covered up to ensure profit and position.

Small businessmen who had become arrogant with rivers of cash they had made in the eighties and nineties, and who were now wetting their pants at the prospect of being swept away by their hungry and ambitious Chinese rivals.
And the anger was growing rapidly because they couldn't blame the usual crowd of thieves running the government, now that the government was being run by people just like them-irate businessmen and media tycoons.

Poisonville was written in 2005 and deals with many of the major problems that face Western Europe; corporations moving factories to the non-regulated low labour cost countries of the East, illegal toxic waste disposal, the inability to control immigration, an irresponsible frenetic media and the treatment of small business by the banking system.

"Zuglio, that bastard son of a bitch," he snarled. "He was the bank officer who destroyed my business. I had a contract to manufacture furniture for a chain of hotels in Turkey. It was two solid years of production, but he cut off my line of credit, out of the blue, and demanded all the money back. It was a knockout blow."

You cannot really feel sympathy for any of the novel's characters who look down on ordinary workers from their position in society, even if like the Hermes clad Contessa Selvaggia they were not born into privilege. The message is far more important than the messengers in this dark factional satire.

Il Mattino states that Poisonville is a black fable that exposes that dark side of the wealth that has been generated over the last few decades.
La Republica tells us the novel is about Corruption. Cynicism. Illegality. Collusion.

In Poisonville the wealth makers have no loyalty to anything except profit, and locality, region, country, and even family mean nothing to them.
Is this the reality behind globalization, and the European Union?
Poisonville is another brilliant example of how crime fiction can tackle the problems, and attitudes, that non-fiction writers may be nervous of tackling.

"We're packing our bags," he added, after biting into a pastry. We're all heading for Romania. Fuck the Chinese, and fuck the tax collectors."
"Will you still be dealing in waste?"
"What about the others?"
He shrugged. "A lot of them are third -world immigrants, and they can just go back home, because we're sick and tired of blacks and Moroccans.

You can read other reviews of Poisonville by Maxine at Petrona, and Glenn at International Noir.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


This blog is now dormant but you can read all the old posts and lots of new material at my new blog at Crime Scraps Review.

Thanks to the encyclopedic Karen at Euro Crime for the information that on Saturday 11 December at 9.00pm we will get a chance to see Rolf Lassgard as Kurt Wallander in the original 2001 SVT series.

Unfortunately we won't see this episode, but this short clip gives me the idea that this Swedish version might be better than the Branagh version.


I had to laugh when after reading Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise [I must not mention the cricket ;o)] I went over to A Novel Challenge to find the latest post was about a US Civil War Challenge!

I think I will give this one a miss on the grounds that Mrs Crime Scraps, has accompanied me [translation 'been dragged round'] on five trips to a number of Civil War related sites, and thinks I have already read every book ever written on the subject.
I still haven't forgotten that someone put a Quilt Museum at Paducah KY on the route between the Lincoln Boyhood Home in Southern Indiana, and Shiloh.
How much time can you spend looking at quilts! A lot!!

Friday, December 03, 2010


Those of us who read a lot of crime fiction are somewhat less surprised by the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar than the British media. Modern crime fiction provides us with information about the real world, and not to the out of date Bulldog Drummond/Richard Hannay dream world, in which one Englishman can thrash ten foreigners, that appears to be inhabited by our Government and establishment.
We have to face reality, FIFA wanted to take the World Cup into Eastern Europe for the first time, and there was very little we could do about it. This was apparently not recognised by anyone involved in the bid, with the result that David Cameron, and more importantly Prince William were totally humiliated. We got only two votes, one of which was ours!

Our multicultural video presentations did not seem to have much to do with England. The case was inadvertently made that because the very successful Premier League had the biggest stars playing on English grounds every week we really did not need to host the World Cup.
During the videos I had to concentrate to spot the few English participants [Harry Rednapp, Rio Ferdinand and Adrian Chiles??] who were outnumbered by Roberto Mancini [Italy], Arsene Wenger [France], Fernando Torres [Spain], Didier Drogba [Ivory Coast] and Carlos Tevez [Argentina].

The idea that our team of high profile "celebrities" would go to Zurich and clinch the deal was incredibly naive.
David Beckham, David Cameron, and Prince William against Roman Abramovich, Natalia Vodianova, and the unseen presence of their overseer, Vladimir Putin.
Eton against the Russians!
No contest.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


It is time for the Winter Quirky Quiz! After all there is snow outside Crime Scraps HQ, an unusual occurrence this close to the English Riviera, so it must be winter.
Please send you answers to by Tuesday 4 January 2011, and the winner and runner-up will be able to chose a book or DVD from a list of prizes.
I hope these questions are not to easy for my highly intelligent visitors.

1] Who are the crime writers in the two photos?

2] What is the cinematic link between Patricia Highsmith, and the British band Coldplay?

3] Who was "inquisitive, impetuous, alert, skeptical, pertinacious and resourceful"?

4] Which crime fiction books end with the words;

a) X as in Marx.
b) ........never retired from work and came to grow vegetable marrows.

5] Which crime fiction writer lost a name, the art of working together and a burial place when he crossed the Atlantic?

6] What is the link between:

a) Sir Max Mallowan and 10 Rillington Place.
b) Betty Joan Perske's first husband, and a dealer in ship's supplies.
c) A place of worship and a Celtic people.

7] How are transport to a music festival, biblical daughters, a lengthy conundrum and a path through trees, all linked to a Maltese Jew?

8] Who was going to "stop at Marcini's for a little dinner on the way", and what was the connection to Yaakov Liebmann Beer?

9] A colourful British regiment should give you firstly a few clues that will lead you to the cinema versions of a 1944 crime novel, and the fictional scourge of the French Revolution, on to a 1942 British war movie and a Pulitzer Prize winning novel?
If you have found all the links you should have four matching pairs.

Good luck!