Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Mystery - The Frozen North (AKA the Scandi's) - Part 3

It's mid-week, time for the shuffle (mid-week shuffle that is.. :0)). It's all down hill from here. OK, are those enough idioms for you? :0)

Now, on to the final entry on my Scandinavian (all Swedish this time) mystery writers.

The Scandi's Part 3 (The Swedish Contingent continued)

Hakan Nesser
1. Hakan Nesser (Inspector Van Veeteren). Swedish writer Nesser has written a number of novels, mostly crime novels. I've started his Inspector Van Veeteren series. He has written 10 novels in this series from 1993 - 2003, all of them translated. He has also written a number of books in another series featuring an Inspector Barbarotti, of which only one has been translated. I've read two books in the Veeteren series and have one more on my book shelf.

a. Borkmann's Point (#2 / 1994).

"Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is called to the sleepy coastal town of Kalbringen to assist the local police in the investigation of two recent ax murders. Soon the case turns from bad to worse when another body turns up and one of Van Veeteren’s colleagues, a young female detective, disappears without a trace. Now Van Veeteren must find the killer, and, it is hoped, his colleague, before anyone else comes to harm. Riveting and intellectually satisfying, Borkmann’s Point unfolds like a chess match where each move could prove deadly." (I gave it 4 stars)

b.  The Return (#3 / 1995).

" I have mixed feelings about this mystery, the 3rd Chief Inspector Van Veeteren mystery. It moved along nicely and I liked the cast of characters. The first part of the book featured the other police inspectors as Van Veeteren is in the hospital after having undergone surgery to remove part of his intestine. He follows the investigation via reports from one of the other inspectors. The book moves back and forth from the present, the investigation, to the past, various time frames, various people, as it ties the three cases together. Van Veeteren takes over the case upon his release from hospital and investigates pretty much on his own then as the remaining police officers are assigned other tasks. I liked how the story moved along, not sure I like how it's resolved, how Van Veeteren figures out the murderer, but it's a minor detail. Overall, enjoyed my second experience with Nesser's writing. I will probably check out a few more. (3 stars)"

c. The Mind's Eye (#1 / 1993).

"The swift conviction left Van Veeteren uneasy: Janek Mitter woke one morning with a brutal hangover and his wife dead in the bathtub. With only the flimsiest defense, he is found guilty and imprisoned in a mental institution. But when Mitter is murdered in his bed, Van Veeteren regrets not following his gut and launches an investigation into the two murders. As the chief inspector delves deeper, the twisted root of these violent murders will shock even him."

Maj Sjowall / Per Wahloo
2. Maj Sjowall / Per Wahloo (Martin Beck). Swedish author Maj Sjowall is known for her collaborations with her partner, Wahloo (who passed away in 1975) on the mystery series featuring Martin Beck. One of the books, The Laughing Policeman, was turned into a movie featuring Walter Matthau in 1971. The two wrote 10 books in the series. I've read the first so far and have two more sitting on my shelves.

a. Roseanna (#1 / 1965).

"This is the first Martin Beck police procedural and I found it very interesting. I've found in some cases that the translation of Scandinavian mysteries can be hit or miss. This translation was excellent and helped portray Sjowall's style and story-telling very well. I liked the methodical way the story is approached, the hit and miss of the investigation, the boring aspects of waiting for a break when there are no clues. Martin Beck is a tired police investigator, not happy with his family life and gets deeply involved in trying to solve this case. The mystery is interesting, a dead girls body dredged up by a boat cleaning up a canal. The case involves the investigation, first trying to identify the young woman and then, trying to solve her murder. Excellent story and nicely tense ending. (4 stars)"

b. The Abominable Man (#7 / 1971).

"On a quiet night a high-ranking police officer, Nyland, is slaughtered in his hospital bed, brutally massacred with a bayonet. It's not hard to find people with a motive to kill him - in fact, the problem for Detective Inspector Martin Beck is how to narrow the list down to just one suspect."

c. The Man Who Went Up In Smoke (#3 / 1963).

"The masterful second novel in the Martin Beck series of mysteries by the internationally renowned crime writing duo Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, finds Beck searching for a well-known Swedish journalist who has disappeared without a trace. Inspector Martin Beck of the Stockholm Homicide Squad has his summer vacation abruptly terminated when the top brass at the foreign office pack him off to Budapest to search for Alf Matsson, a well-known Swedish journalist who has vanished. Beck investigates viperous Eastern European underworld figures and--at the risk of his life--stumbles upon the international racket in which Matsson was involved. With the coolly efficient local police on his side and a predatory nymphet on his tail, Beck pursues a case whose international implications grow with each new clue."

Henning Mankell
3. Henning Mankell (Inspector Wallander). Mankell, known for his Inspector Wallander mystery series, lived from 1948 - 2015. Over the course of his life he wrote 14 books in the Wallander series and also one featuring his daughter, Linda Wallander. Jo and I have enjoyed both the original Swedish TV series based on the books, and to a somewhat lesser extent, the English version starring Kenneth Brannagh as Kurt Wallander. I have read two of the books thus far and have one more awaiting my attention.

a. Faceless Killers (#1 / 1991).

"This is the first book in the Swedish Wallander series. I've enjoyed the TV series previously and overall I enjoyed this introduction to the series. There were flaws, I think partly due to the translation. But I liked the mystery, Wallander is a flawed personality, with family and personal issues. But he is dogged, not always correct with his assumptions, but he sticks with his case, the violent murder of two elderly farmers. The investigation wanders down many paths, involving a mysterious past for the husband and also an inbred racism in his town. I can't say Wallander is a great detective, there are many stumbles and pratfalls along the way but he relies on his gut instinct. Does it help him ultimately solve the case? You'll have to read to find out. A solid 3.5 stars and interesting introduction to this series."

b. The Fifth Woman (#7 / 1996).

"I'm surprised I've only read two books in Henning Mankell's Wallander series. It's probably because I've watched both the original sub-titles series and Kenneth Brannagh's own interpretation of the books that I think I've read more. Anyway I enjoyed The Fifth Woman the seventh book very much.

Wallander has returned from a vacation in Rome with his father, a chance for them to rekindle their relationship. On his return he is thrown immediately into a mystery; a bizarre gruesome murder of an elder man. He is found on his property impaled on bungie stakes (his bridge having been sawed through to make him fall). This begins an investigation involving all of the detectives in Wallander's division. We get the perspective of the perpetrator which adds to the interest. Other murders occur over the course of the story and as well, Wallander must deal with the death of his father. This leads him to spend considerable time mulling his future; does he want to retire, does he want to buy a house, a dog and encourage his girl friend to move from Latvia to live with him? As well, Citizen Militias are forming to take the law into their own hands.

All makes for a rich, detailed mystery story. At time Wallander gets on my nerves; he can be hesitant, quick to anger, doubt his abilities. But at the same time, these characteristics make Wallander more human and realistic. His team is also an excellent mix of people. The story takes its time developing and the investigation at times runs to a halt as they search for other clues and information. But it is also so well written that it seems to move along at a nice pace belying its length.

All in all, I enjoyed very much and I hope I won't take so much time to get on with the next story. (4 stars)"

c. Firewall (#9 / 1998).

"A body is found at an ATM the apparent victim of heart attack. Then two teenage girls are arrested for the brutal murder of a cab driver. The girls confess to the crime showing no remorse whatsoever. Two open and shut cases. At first these two incidents seem to have nothing in common, but as Wallander delves deeper into the mystery of why the girls murdered the cab driver he begins to unravel a plot much more involved complicated than he initially suspected. The two cases become one and lead to conspiracy that stretches to encompass a world larger than the borders of Sweden."

NOTE - I didn't necessarily like these next two authors. It may have had more to do with the translations. Anyway, be forewarned, even though I'm not the be-all and end-all in book critiques.. :0))
Leif G.W. Persson
4. Leif G.W. Persson (Evert Backstrom).  Swedish crime writer Persson has written a number of series; homicide detective Evert Backstrom (3 books), police officers Jarnebring and Johansson (several novels) and police detective Anna Holt (2 novels). Jo and I enjoyed the US TV series based on the Backstrom books. It starred Rainn Wilson and was set in Seattle. As far as I can tell from reading one book, they are really nothing alike. I've read one of the Backstrom books and it didn't make me want to read any more.

a. He Who Kills the Dragon (#2 / 2008).

"I was quite disappointed in this story. I had watched the TV series based on the books, the setting switched from Sweden to the US West coast and enjoyed the humour of the series. But with the book, I got none of the humour and really a disappointing mystery. Backstrom is a gruff, racist, sexist cop in Stockholm, recently moved to a new appointment. He and his team are involved trying to solve a murder and the story rambles around introducing characters and the plot. The ending sort of came out of left field and wasn't really satisfying. Ah well. They can't all be a favourite. (2 stars)"

Helene Tursten
5. Helene Tursten (Detective Inspector Huss). Tursten is known for her DI Irene Huss mystery series, of which there are 11 books / 10 translated. One of the characters in the Swedish TV series about Wallander left the series to take the role of Huss. I saw the first book at my local book store, The Laughing Oyster and liked the cover. This was one of those books where the translation affected my enjoyment, or, if the translation was perfect, then I didn't like the writing style.

a. Detective Inspector Huss (1998).

"I kept trying to like this story and unfortunately just couldn't finish. I don't know if I should blame the author or the translator. It's written very amateurishly, doesn't flow, seems almost high schoolish. The plot looked very interesting and I've enjoyed all of the other Scandinavian fiction I've read so far. This one didn't work. I read 200 pages and probably could have finished, but I finally felt that to put more effort into this book would take away from other books I want to read. Sorry for the bad review. Maybe with a different translation, it might flow better and sound more professional. Sorry again. (2 stars)"

Synopsis - "One of the most prominent citizens of Göteborg, Sweden, plunges to his death off an apartment balcony, but what appears to be a “society suicide” soon reveals itself to be a carefully plotted murder. Irene Huss finds herself embroiled in a complex and high-stakes investigation. As Huss and her team begin to uncover the victim’s hidden past, they are dragged into Sweden’s seamy underworld of street gangs, struggling immigrants, and neo-Nazis in order to catch the killer."

So there you go, folks. If you want to try any Scandinavian mystery writers, please feel free to try some of the ones I've highlighted in my past three entries. Let me know what you think. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Monday, 13 August 2018

Mystery - The Frozen North (AKA the Scandi's) - Part 2 + New Books

I'll continue with my 2nd post featuring Scandinavian authors whose books reside on my shelves. The remaining authors are all from Sweden and I'll break that down into two entries. Before I do that, though, I received two books in the mail on Friday. I'll start with those. Both are mysteries by new authors for me.

New Books

1. The Caterpillar Cop by James McClure (Kramer and Zondi #2).

"When a twelve-year-old boy is found strangled and hideously mutilated it looks like the work of a sex killer.

There are some bizarre clues: tangerine lipstick, a coded message, an accidental drowning, the death of a dog and a sliced caterpillar ... Lieutenant Kramer of the Trekkersburg Murder Squad and his Zulu colleague, Sergeant Zondi, really have to sweat it out before the facts make any kind of sense."

2. A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak #1).

"Kate Shugak returns to her roots in the far Alaskan north, after leaving the Anchorage D.A.'s office. Her deductive powers are definitely needed when a ranger disappears. Looking for clues among the Aleutian pipe-liners, she begins to realize the fine line between lies and loyalties--between justice served and cold murder."

The Scandi's Part 2 (The Swedish Contingent)

Karin Alvtegen
1. Karin Alvtegen. Early this year I started another ongoing thread, Bill's Author List A - Z, where I've been going through my Goodread's bookshelves and highlighting the author residing on that list. One of my first authors, since her last name starts with A, was Swedish author Karin Alvtegen. In that post I linked to another post which highlighted the Alvtegen books I've read (threads within threads.. lol). Alvtegen is one of my favorite standalone mystery writers, right up there with Canadian Margaret Millar and English writer, Minette Walters. 5 of her 7 novels have been translated into English and I've finished 4 of them. When I find a copy of her 1st novel, Guilt, I'll make sure to read it.

a. Guilt (1998 / translated 2007).

"Peter Brolin is sitting by himself in Nyléns café. Heavily in debt, unable to improve his situation and waiting for another fit of angst. Suddenly the door opens and a woman unknown to him walks up to his table. Obviously she mistakes him for someone else, and Peter is, due to his present state of periodical panic attack unable to protest. She disappears and leaves a parcel behind – for 1000 Swedish kronor, he is to deliver it to her husband. The parcel and the frightening content drags Peter into a nightmare, in search for this insane, obsessed woman – a pursuit in which he is eventually forced to confront the shadows of his own past."

Lars Kepler
2. Lars Kepler. Kepler is the pseudonym for Swedish husband and wife team, Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril  and Alexander Ahndoril. They are known for their Joona Linna mystery series set in Stockholm. There are currently six translated books in the series with one more from 2018 to be translated. So far I've read the first book in the series and have the next sitting on my bookshelf.

a. The Hypnotist (#1).

"My first exposure to Lars Kepler. I enjoyed this story very much. I had worried that it was too long and might run out of steam, but the story is well-paced, lots of tension and an excellent plot. Very interesting concept, a disgraced psychologist/ hypnotist, Erich is called in by the police to help with a case, to potentially save the life of a young woman. His actions have consequences that will lead Erich, Detective Inspector Joona Linna, Erich's wife, Simone and her father, an ex policeman, on a tense, action-filled chase to catch the killer and also try and save their son. So many twists and turns in this story, an excellent back-story and you have a well-crafted thriller. Looking forward to reading more of Lars Kepler. (4 stars)"

b. The Nightmare (#2).

"On a summer night, police recover the body of a young woman from an abandoned pleasure boat drifting around the Stockholm archipelago. Her lungs are filled with brackish water, and the forensics team is sure that she drowned. Why, then, is the pleasure boat still afloat, and why are there no traces of water on her clothes or body? The next day, a man turns up dead in his state apartment in Stockholm, hanging from a lamphook in the ceiling. All signs point to suicide, but the room has a high ceiling, and there's not a single piece of furniture around -- nothing to climb on. Joona Linna begins to piece together the two mysteries, but the logistics are a mere prelude to a dizzying and dangerous course of events. At its core, the most frightening aspect of The Nightmare isn't its gruesome crimes -- it's the dark psychology of its characters, who show us how blind we are to our own motives."

The other books in the series are -
- The Fire Witness (2011)
- The Sandman (2012)
- Stalker (2014)
- The Rabbit Hunter (2016)
- Lazarus (2018 / not yet translated)

Camilla Lackberg
3. Camilla Lackberg. Since 2003, Lackberg has written 11 novels and some novellas. I've read the first book in her Patrik Hedstrom / Erica Falck mystery series. I've read the first book in the series so far and enjoyed it enough to get the next book.

a. The Ice Princess (#1).

"I have mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I think that Camilla was trying a bit too hard. By that I mean that there were little threads in the story that just drifted off and ultimately meant nothing. Maybe that's what she intended. I'm thinking of the school teacher with agoraphobia that Erica visits who has some sort of secret (obviously related to events that are discovered later on by Patrick). But it's just left there, hanging, with no sort of resolution. The same thing occurs with Erica's sister and what takes place with Anna and her husband. Now maybe these are explored in future stories, but it did leave me somewhat frustrated. Having complained above, I do like the characters of Erica and Patrick and I enjoyed their burgeoning romance. I also like Annika, the secretary at the police station, who assists Patrick with gathering information.  The story/ mystery was interesting and disturbing. I will try the next book to see how her style develops. I think it's worth the effort. One other point I will make is that I was satisfied with the translation of Stephen Murray. This has been hit and miss with some of my other Scandinavian authors and can impact on my enjoyment of the story. An entertaining first book. (3 stars)"

b. The Preacher (#2).

"During an unusually hot July, detective Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck are enjoying a rare week at home together, nervous and excited about the imminent birth of their first baby. Across town, however, a six-year-old boy makes a gruesome discovery that will ravage their little tourist community and catapult Patrik into the center of a terrifying murder case.

The boy has stumbled upon the brutally murdered body of a young woman, and Patrik is immediately called to lead the investigation. Things get even worse when his team uncovers, buried beneath the victim, the skeletons of two campers whose disappearance had baffled police for decades. The three victims’ injuries seem to be the work of the same killer, but that is impossible: the main suspect in the original kidnappings committed suicide twenty-four years ago.

When yet another young girl disappears and panic begins to spread, Patrik leads a desperate manhunt to track down a ruthless serial killer before he strikes again."

Stieg Larsson
4. Stieg Larsson. Larsson lived from 1954 - 2004 and is known for his Millennium trilogy, the series starring Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist. The books have been turned into movies both in Sweden and also with English language versions. The books have been continued by author David Lagercrantz. I've read the first two books in the series and enjoyed very much. I now have to find a copy of the third to finish it.

a. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (#1).

"It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism—and an unexpected connection between themselves."

b. The Girl Who Played with Fire (#2).

"The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second book in the Lisbeth Salander series. I've had it on my bookshelf for a couple of years and I'm glad that I finally dusted it off. Lisbeth, after the events of the first book, has left Sweden and spent the last couple of years traveling around the world. We find her in Grenada, still keeping tabs on events in Sweden and also on a troublesome man who has some sort of secrets. Back in Sweden Blomquist is working with a young journalist and his wife to publish a book and series of articles in his magazine, Millennium, about the Swedish sex industry. This will cause problems for many people; police, politicians, etc. Lisbeth returns to Sweden to make contact with people that she left behind on her departure and also to check up on the lawyer, Bjurman, who had abused her when she was a young teenager and who she holds under her thumb now. Her return will instigate a series of events, murders that will threaten Lisbeth's life and those of her friends. The story is told very matter-of-factly but holds your interest. So many people involved in the investigation of the murders; for which Lisbeth is the main suspect. The police include some who hate Lisbeth and want to bring her down, others with more open minds. You will reconnect with Armansky, her old boss who wants to try and help her. As well, Blomquist who trusts her implicitly, also works to solve the murders and proves Lisbeth's innocence. Of course, you also have Lisbeth, such an innocent character, smart, troubled, independent; such a neat character. There are some nice surprises in this second story and an exciting ending. I will have to get the third book and see what else Lisbeth becomes involved with. It's a long story, but doesn't seem long. (4 stars)"

The third book in Larsson's trilogy is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Lagercrantz has written two books so far; The Girl in the Spider's Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye.

So there you go. Still a few Swedish mystery authors for you to consider. Next time. Have a great week!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Mystery - The Frozen North (AKA the Scandi's) - Part 1

So it's still fairly hot, although it doesn't feel too bad sitting next the fan as I write this entry. Jo is in the other room checking an old season of The Great British Bake-off. The puppies are stretched out on the floor around my chair. Lucky for them, they're scheduled for a bath and haircut later in August. Of course, then it'll be just in time for the fall cool down. Timing is everything.

OK, today my entry on the Mystery genre deals with Scandinavian authors. I hope I'm not insulting anyone by calling it The Scandi's - my apologies if I am). For this region I'm including Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Once again, my apologies if I'm adding countries. Please let me know.

From my book lists, I've got over 12 authors to mention so I'll break this down into 3 sections. The first will be those authors I've enjoyed that aren't from Sweden. So on that note, away we go!

Scandinavian Authors not from Sweden

1. Denmark. I've only tried one author from Denmark, that being Jussi Adler - Olsen, author of the excellent Department Q series.

Jussi Adler - Olsen
a. Jussi Adler - Olsen. Olsen was born in Copenhagen in 1950. He has written 7 books so far in the Department Q series so far. Department Q is Denmark's cold case section. I've read the first two books in the series thus far and enjoyed the humour, the stories and the characters.

i. The Keeper of Lost Causes (#1).

"What a surprisingly excellent mystery and story. I've had it on my bookshelf for awhile and am so glad that I finally pulled it down to read. The mystery, the cold case involving the disappearance of Merete, was different from any I've read before. The main characters, Carl Morck, head of new Division Q and his assistant, Assad, were so well crafted.

Carl is a police detective just coming back to work after he and his two partners were ambushed, one killed, one a cripple still in hospital and Carl, recovered, now trying to get back to work. His boss assigns him to a newly created unit as its chief, partly to keep him away from the other detectives.

Carl avoids work until his new assistant, Assad brings him the cold case involving Merete, who was reported missing, presumed dead, five years ago on a ferry to Germany. The story weaves between Carl and Assad, working their way through the old case and Merete, working from the past, 5 years before, until the present as she tries to adjust and sort out where she is and why she was abducted in the first place.

Carl is an interesting character, his personal life also slowly being developed and his investigating talents becoming more visible. All in all, it was an excellent story, witty, but also with a great deal of tension as the story winds up to its climax. Loved it and am looking forward to reading more Department Q mysteries. (5 stars)"

ii. The Absent One (#2).

"The first book in the Station Q mysteries, set in Denmark, was a pleasant surprise last year. I was worried about the sophomore jinx with this second book, but I needn't have been. The story was different and excellent. Detective Inspector Morck is such an interesting character, intelligent, troubled, thoughtful and funny. His assistant, Assad, is a wily, hard working character and I still want to find out more about him. Added to the mix in this second story is Rose, an unwanted assistant thrust upon Morck by his boss. But we find that Rose, even though she is outspoken and irritates Morc to no end, she also proves to be a smart, independent thinking and hard working. I like how Olsen presents his stories, alternating from the point of view of Morck and that of the suspect(s). It's a dark story, edgy and hard hitting but engrossing all the same. If you enjoyed the first book, you won't be disappointed with the next in the series. Give it a try. (4 stars)"

The other books in the series are -
- A Conspiracy of Faith
- The Purity of Vengeance
- The Marco Effect
- The Hanging Girl
- The Scarred Woman

2. Finland. I've read one collection of short stories featuring Finnish authors or set in Finland.

a. Helsinki Noir. The book was edited by James Thompson.

"This is a collection of mystery short stories set in Finland by, you guessed it, Finnish mystery writers. There are three themes; Deep Cuts, Broken Blades and Winds of Violence. This Noir series is quite extensive with books set in cities and countries around the world. I tried this book by chance and for the most part, I enjoyed the experience. I haven't read a great many 'noir' mystery books so it was interesting to finally attempt it. I didn't find any great stories, but at the same time, I didn't hate any either. It was an entertaining selection of stories, some fairly gritty and all showing the darker part of life. An entertaining, three star read."

3. Norway. I've tried two mystery authors from Norway so far. I've read a couple of the books and have more on my shelf for my enjoyment.

Karin Fossum
a. Karin Fossum (Inspector Sejer). Fossum was born in 1954 in Sandefjord, Norway. Since 1994, she has written 13 books in this series. There have been adaptations of the books on Norwegian TV. I may have to try and find them. So far, I've read one book in the series but I have purchased a few others. I'll highlight three.

i. Don't Look Back (1996 / #2).

"Don't Look Back heralds the arrival of an exotic new crime series featuring Inspector Sejer, a smart and enigmatic hero, tough but fair. The setting is a small, idyllic village at the foot of Norway's Kollen Mountain, where neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But when the body of a teenage girl is found by the lake at the mountaintop, the town's tranquillity is shattered forever. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went so terribly wrong? Doggedly, yet subtly, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town's seemingly perfect façade. (I gave it 4 stars)"

ii. He Who Fears the Wolf (1997 / #3).

"A boy arrives - breathless and aghast - at his police station, to report the discovery of a horribly maimed body outside an isolated house in the woods. Yet there was another person in the woods that day - standing nearby, hidden within the trees, was the mysterious figure of the local misfit, Errki. The next morning a bank in the nearby town is robbed at gunpoint. The gunman takes a hostage and flees. As his plans begin to come apart he, unlike his passive hostage, rapidly loses control. Meanwhile the search for the killer has developed into a manhunt - everyone is looking for the enigmatic Errki."

iii. Calling Out For You (2000 / #5).

"Gunder Jomann thinks his life has been made complete when he returns from a trip to India a married man. But on the day his bride arrives in Norway she vanishes. Then the town is shocked by the news of an Indian woman found bludgeoned to death in a nearby meadow.

Inspector Sejer and his colleague Skarre head the murder inquiry, planting seeds of suspicion in a community which has always believed itself to be peaceful and safe."

Jo Nesbo
b. Jo Nesbo (Harry Hole). Nesbo was born in Oslo in 1960 and is best known for his Harry Hole crime series. It is much grittier than Fossum's books, but both series are excellent. There have been 11 books published so far with another planned for 2019. One has been adapted to film so far, that being The Snowman.  I've read 3 of the Nesbo books so far and have another 3 awaiting my attention. I'll highlight two I've read and one I've not yet read.

i. The Redbreast (2000 / #3). This was the first book in the series that I tried.

"Harry Hole, drunkard, loner and brilliant detective is reassigned to surveillance after a high profile mistake.

He's bored by his new job until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest because of its possible links to Neo Nazi activity. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. Next Harry's former partner is murdered. Why had she been trying to reach Harry on the night her head was smashed in? The investigation leads Harry to suspect that the crimes have their roots in the battlefields of Eastern Front during WWII. In a quest that takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. He will be both winner and loser by the novel's nail-biting conclusion." (I gave it 5 stars)

ii. Cockroaches (1998 / #2).

"Detective Harry Hole arrives in a steaming hot Bangkok. But it's work, not pleasure. The Norwegian ambassador has been found dead in a seedy motel room, and no witnesses have come forward. The ambassador had close ties to the Norwegian prime minister, and to avoid a scandal Harry is sent there to hush up the case. But he quickly discovers that there is much more going on behind the scenes and very few people willing to talk. When Harry lays hands on some CCTV footage that will help him unravel what happened that night, things only get more complicated. The man who gave him the tape goes missing, and Harry realises that failing to solve a murder case is by no means the only danger in Bangkok." (I gave this one 3 stars)

iii. The Snowman (2007 / #7).


A young boy wakes to find his mother missing. Their house is empty but outside in the garden he sees his mother's favourite scarf - wrapped around the neck of a snowman.


As Harry Hole and his team begin their investigation they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years.


When a second woman disappears it seems that Harry's worst suspicions are confirmed: for the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his home turf.


4. Iceland. I've read one Icelandic mystery writer so far and have enjoyed very much.

Arnaldur Indridason
a. Arnaldur Indridason. Indridason was born in Reykjavik in 1961. He is known for his Detective Erlendur crime series. Since 1997 he's written 11 books in the series, of which the last 9 have been translated into English. I have read the first two of the translated books so far and have the 4th on my bookshelves.

i. Jar City (2000 / #1).

"When a lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime. Did the old man’s past come back to haunt him?

As the team of detectives reopen this very cold case, Inspector Erlendur uncovers secrets that are much larger than the murder of one old man--secrets that have been carefully guarded by many people for many years. As he follows a fascinating trail of unusual forensic evidence, Erlendur also confronts stubborn personal conflicts that reveal his own depth and complexity of character." (I gave it 3 stars)

ii. Silence of the Grave (2001 / #2).

"Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriðason is the second Inspector Erelendur mystery that I've tried. Set in Reykjavik, Iceland, it is definitely a grim old story. It's a cold case; a body is found in an excavation and Erlendur and his detectives, Elinburg and Sigurdur Oli begin an investigation into the identity of the skeleton, which they figure has been in place since the 1950's. The engage the support of an archaeologist to help ascertain the identity of the bones and when it was buried.

Interspersed with this investigation we go back in history and follow the domestic abuse of a family by their awful father. This is a terribly grim and upsetting part of the story. As well, Erlendur must try and cope with the coma his daughter is in, visiting at the hospital and trying to cope with their feelings for each other and with his own personalities difficulties.

The story moves along nicely with the investigators checking various possibilities, while the story from the past progresses nicely. It did end with a bit of a surprise which was very nice. I enjoyed the story and the mystery but it was a bit dark and depressing for my taste. Still, I think I'll continue with the series and see how the various relationships progress. (3.5 stars)"

iii. The Draining Lake (2004 / #4).

"In the wake of an earthquake, the water level of an Icelandic lake drops suddenly, revealing the skeleton of a man half-buried in its sandy bed. It is clear immediately that it has been there for many years. There is a large hole in the skull. Yet more mysteriously, a heavy communication device is attached to it, possibly some sort of radio transmitter, bearing inscriptions in Russian. The police are called in and Erlendur, Elínborg and Sigurður Óli begin their investigation, which gradually leads them back to the time of the Cold War when bright, left-wing students would be sent from Iceland to study in the ‘heavenly state’ of Communist East Germany. The Draining Lake is another remarkable Indriðason mystery about passions and shattered dreams, the fate of the missing and the grief of those left behind."

So there you go. Part One complete. I'll start with my first batch of Swedish writers next. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

A Reading Update and my Author's A - Z (It's been a while)

Whew! 30 degrees today. I know that's not much but it's made things pretty stuffy. Fans going all over the house.. lol. It's supposed to cool down a bit by Friday. Yay!!! We've been wrapping the puppies up with wet towels. They seem to like.

Anyway on to a discussion of books. I've completed two books in August so far. I removed a book from my Little Free Library outside. Somebody dropped it off and it sounded interesting. I'll also get back to my Author's A - Z discussion.

New Book

1. The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi.

"In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-great grandmother, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way."

Just Finished

1. Slicky Boys by Martin Limon (Mys).

"Slicky Boys by Martin Limón is the 2nd book in the Bascom and Sueno mystery series. The first book was Jade Lady Burning. George Sueno and his partner, Ernie Bascom are Cpl's in the 8th Army's CID organization. They spend a lot of time in Seoul's red light district, partly investigating black marketing and other crimes, but also, they just like the place.

A young woman asks them to deliver a message to her boyfriend, a British soldier who is part of the UN militaries honor guard. This message unfortunately results in the soldier being murdered. Feeling a responsibility for this, Sueno and Bascom take on the investigation. The two play fast and loose sometimes with the law. They sometimes work with the local Korean National Police. They often rile their boss, the Top Sgt in the CID with their methods.

The story is told mainly from Sueno's perspective as he is the more thoughtful of the two. He has made the effort to learn the Korean language and he respects the locals. Ernie Bascom is his wild partner, loves drinking, sex, tearing things apart... that sort of thing. Sueno asks questions and when answers are not forth coming, Ernie steps in.

The murder leads to others. We are introduced to the Korean Slicky Boys, the organized underworld of Korea, dealing in the black market, stealing and selling US items. We meet Herbalist So, the king of the Slicky Boys, always seeming to be one step ahead of the crime fighting duo.

There is another wild card in this, a mysterious serial killer, who might be an American soldier. He is a constant threat throughout the story and we do get sneak peeks at him as the story develops.
At times the story is quite far-fetched, but at the same time, it's tense, exciting and portrays a fascinating cultural conflict; that of the South Koreans and their American allies. The story moves along at an excellent pace and draws you in totally. It's a well-crafted, page turner and well worth trying. I'm looking forward to finding a copy of the 3rd book, Buddha's Money. (4 stars)"

2. Bear Island by Alistair MacLean (Thriller).

"I read a great many of Alistair MacLean's thrillers / adventures back when I was in high school (I won't say how long ago that was). Bear Island, originally published in 1971, was one of those books. So, yes, this is a reread. I've been trying many of his books again the past few years.

Bear Island is set on a frozen island, part of Norway's Svalbard archipelago, in the North Atlantic. An old trawler, the Morning Rose, is carrying a film crew to the island where they plan to make a movie. On the way, almost immediately, bodies start to crop up. The film crew's doctor, Dr. Marlowe, suspects murder. But there is more to Marlowe than meets the eye. He hides his suspicions from Capt Imrie and the company's producer, Mr. Gerran. When the Capt wants to take the ship to another location to have the murder's investigated, Marlowe sides with Gerran to have them still brought to Bear Island where the final events will be acted out.

There are many suspects, many victims. Why are the people being killed? We hear about NATO exercises being conducted north of the island. One of the directors was a prisoner in Russia during WWII. Is he a spy? We hear about the Nazis hiding spoils of the war at locations throughout the world? Is it a treasure hunt?

Marlowe is an interesting character and there are many sympathetic characters in the story as well; Smithy, who leaves the ship and hides on the island; Mary Stuart, the 'Latvian' girl who Marlowe likes but who may or may not be involved; the loving couple, Allen and Mary 'darling'. There are also many unlikable characters who could be involved.

As with most MacLean's adventures, there is no shortage of action and he moves the plot along at a steady pace. It's a somewhat convoluted story, but that is part of MacLean's charm. Everything is resolved satisfactorily. Not MacLean's best story but still a good 'un. (3 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (Spy).

"In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.

Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, trade-craft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC."

2. The Moor by Laurie R. King (Mary Russell #4). 

"In re-creating Sherlock Holmes in previous books as an adjunct to her chief protagonist, Mary Russell, King has set the couple's adventures in a milieu consistent with her own creation and, although true to the place and period, independent of Conan Doyle's work. Holmes has been invited by his old friend the Rev. Baring-Gould to look into not only an unexplained death on the moor but, more important in the ancient cleric's mind, sightings of a phantom coach on the moor - possibly inhabited by a phantom noblewoman and accompanied by some phantom dogs. Holmes, in turn, pulls Mary from her studies at Oxford, enlists her in the quest, and finds himself taking a second seat to her endeavors. True to their expectations on the forbidding and difficult moor, the rumors have a real-world explanation, but it is one that combines more wild emotion, surprise, and frightening suspense than any ghost story could."

Bill's Authors A - Z

Nick Cutter
1. Nick Cutter. Nick Cutter is one of the pen names of Canadian writer Craig Davidson. As Cutter he has written 4 horror stories. I've read two so far, much preferred The Troop to The Deep. I'll highlight both of them. The other two books he's written as Cutter are -
- The Acolyte (2015)
- Little Heaven (2017).

a. The Troop (2014).

"A good, solid horror story a la Stephen King's earlier books. 5 boys and their scout master leave their town on Prince Edward Island to spend the weekend on a smaller island off the coast. It's to be a scouting adventure weekend, hiking, map reading, etc. Unfortunately for them, another boat lands on the island, bringing an escapee from a lab who is infested with experimental worms. That is the gist of the story; the army and navy are involved in sealing off the island, the boys are isolated, trying to fend off the worms and a psychotic member of their troop. Interesting story, good solid horror. (4 stars)"

b. The Deep (2015). 

"The earth is in the throes of some sort of pandemic, the 'Gets', short for forgets. People begin to forget how to do anything, ultimately even eating. Mankind is being decimated. A small group of scientists are on the ocean floor in the Pacific, trying to harvest something called 'ambrosia', which may have properties that might cure the disease. Luke, a veterinarian who has lost his family, is called to the site by his brother, a famous scientist, and finds himself being transported deep to the facility below the waves, claustrophobic in its own right. But what he finds below is even worse than simple claustrophobia. What is ambrosia? How and why is it affecting the scientists so drastically. A tense, spooky story set in a location that you can't just leave if you want. Almost overloading the senses with creepiness. This is Cutter's second horror story after The Troop. He has a unique perspective. The story is gruesome but more tightly written than the first. I don't know which I enjoyed more, but it was definitely an exciting read. Worth giving a shot to. (3 stars)"

Roald Dahl
2. Roald Dahl. Dahl is a British author, born in Wales in 1916 and died in Oxford in 1990. He was a pilot and intelligence officer during WWII. He wrote children's stories, fantasy, mystery, horror and was also a screenwriter. Over the course of his life, he published 50+ stories. I haven't read many of his books; one collection of short stories. I have one more on my book shelf.

a. Tales of the Unexpected (1979).

"A wine connoisseur with an infallible palate and a sinister taste in wagers. A decrepit old man with a masterpiece tattooed on his back. A voracious adventuress, a gentle cuckold, and a garden sculpture that becomes an instrument of sadistic vengeance. Social climbers who climb a bit too quickly. Philanderers whose deceptions are a trifle too ornate. Impeccable servants whose bland masks slip for one vertiginous instant.

In these deliciously nasty stories an internationally acclaimed practitioner of the short narrative works his own brand of black magic: tantalizing, amusing, and sometimes terrifying readers into a new sense of what lurks beneath the ordinary. Included in Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected are such notorious gems of the bizarre as "The Sound Machine," "Lamb to Slaughter," "Neck," and "The Landlady."

b. Someone Like You (1953).

"There's the gambler who collects little fingers from losers...there's the lady who murders her husband with a frozen leg of lamb...not to mention the man who has made a machine that can hear grass scream...Roald Dahl's particular brand of bizarre, alarming and disturbing story-telling has already attracted a huge following which can only be more disturbed, alarmed and - thankfully - amused by 'Someone Like You'."

Elizabeth Daly
3. Elizabeth Daly. I did mention Elizabeth Daly and her Henry Gamadge mysteries in a previous BLog entry, where I featured the Queen's of Crime Fiction. (click on the highlighted portion to see that entry.) In that entry, I highlighted two of her books I'd already enjoyed. Below are two that are currently on my bookshelf.

a. The House Without a Door (1942 / Henry Gamadge #4).

"Mrs. Vina Gregson should be sitting pretty. Acquitted of murdering her husband, she has inherited all his money, and can afford to dress in the height of 1940s style. Unfortunately, her fashionable clothing and coiffure go unseen, and much of her money unspent, as the Widow Gregson remains essentially a prisoner, trapped in her elegant New York apartment with occasional, furtive forays to her Connecticut estate. A jury may have found her innocent, but Mrs. Gregson remains a murderer in the eyes of the public, and of the tabloid journalists who hound her every step. Worse, she has recently begun receiving increasingly menacing letters – letters written, she is certain, by the person who killed her husband. Taking the matter to the police would only heighten her notoriety, so she calls on Henry Gamadge, the gentleman-sleuth known both for his discretion and for his ability to solve problems that baffle the police. Originally published in 1942, The House Without the Door is the epitome of the charmingly civilized mystery, offering ample proof as to why Ms. Daly was Agatha Christie’s favorite writer."

b. The Book of the Lion (1948 / Henry Gamadge 13).

"It should be a fairly routine job for Henry Gamadge: Examining the papers of a dead poet and playwright with some early promise but not much commercial success. But it's not so much the life and letters as the death of the author (murdered in Central Park) that interests Gamadge. Add in a dead witness and the odd behavior of the family, and Gamadge decides something criminal is afoot."

So there you go folks. I hope your week is going well. It's all down hill from today. :0) 
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