Euro crime fiction weekly reviews

News just in of a few more reviews, via Euro Crime’s weekly update. Karen herself has chosen two audio books as her favourites of this medium for 2007: Michael Dibdin’s Back to Bologna; and Barbara Nadel’s A Passion for Killing.

This week’s new Euro Crime reviews include mine of Unseen by Mari Jungstedt, "another excellent author in the vibrant Swedish crime-fiction scene"; and The Simian Curve by Mark Lalbeharry, a police procedural with a scientific thriller theme. Star book of the week, however, is The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr, reviewed by Fiona Walker. Fiona writes: "I can’t really praise this book enough. It’s a brilliant piece of work, focused, fascinating, and very well written indeed. It’s a great mystery and a first-class psychological portrait of a woman tormented by her past." Or if you like the mystical, historical genre, Pat Austen was entranced by Manda Scott’s The Crystal Skull. Or, spoilt for choice, Declan Burke compares Ray Banks’s writing style to that of Samuel Beckett in his review of Saturday’s Child. A good week! You can also check out reviews and articles about European crime fiction in the press in the Euro Crime weekly update, which provides links to all the latest news.

A reminder: if you live in the UK or rest of Europe, you can enter the Euro Crime competition to win a copy of Simon Lewis’s Bad Traffic. Closing date 31 January.

It’s an ing mystery

Mysteryandthrillers1 Link: Language Log: A new way of 寫ing Mandarin.

It seems from the post above that the Chinese mystery and thriller magazine is among the leaders in language evolution. Language Log links to an article in Pinyin News discussing how frequent it is now for Mandarin publications and informal writers to add .."ing" to the Mandarin — to look "cool and modern". From the comments to that article:

"For example, the Mystery and Thrillers magazine cover here has a cover line reading “《天机》第二季火热连载ing ” (and I think they’ve used the same wording ever since the magazine launched mid-year). My guess is that it started online (or close to it, like in cutesy IM language), similar to other grammatical borrowings (的说 being another prominent example)."

You can see more examples at the Language Log post, including an election poster.

Sunday Salon: reading ideas

Sunday_salon_2 Some reading recommendations for Sunday Salonists:

I’ve recently discovered a delightful blog straight after my own heart. It is called Mysteries in Paradise. Here, blogger Kerrie reviews Susan Hill’s The Pure in Heart, the second Simon Serrallier novel. I enjoyed the first, The Various Haunts of Men, and have a copy of the third, The Risk of Darkness, thanks to Karen of Euro Crime. All that remains is for me, an orderly soul, to read the second, so I’ll obtain a copy get on to that forthwith. What was stopping me from continuing with the series, I think, was the shocking end to "Various haunts". Kerrie’s review, earlier post and comments have made me resolve to read on.

My pseudonymous friend and devoted carer of Oscar, CrimeFicReader, here reviews Roger Morris’s second book, A Vengeful Longing. I haven’t read it or the first, possibly because historical fiction is not my top priority from the many excellent books demanding my reading attention. On the basis of the It’s a Crime! review, I should probably change my mind. The review also provides details of a Hampstead crime evening featuring Roger Morris and other authors, on 7 February.

Author Martin Edwards here writes about Dorothy L. Sayers’s books, in particular his favourite, Have His Carcase. I loved all these books as a child, reading the old yellow editions from the library several times over. One day…..a re-read?

Declan Burke of Crime Always Pays is rather taken with the cover of Cat Trap, by K. T. McCaffrey. The story sounds pretty good, too.

And Norman Price of Crime Scraps here provides the rationale-in-brief for his five favourite Euro Crime reads of 2007. You can’t go wrong with these books — or at least the four that I’ve read — the fifth is a Ken Bruen about which I constantly hear such good things that I’m sure it deserves its place in this pantheon.

Sunday Salon: No time for goodbye

Sunday_salon No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay is an American domestic thriller in the tradition and style of Harlan Coben, so start it when you have plenty of time in front of you. Twenty-five years ago, the parents and brother of teenager Cynthia Bigge disappeared without trace. The police are completely stumped, and Cynthia never hears from her family again. In the meantime, she is raised by Aunt Tess, goes to college, meets and marries the narrator (a high-school English teacher called Terry Archer), and has a daughter, Grace. Cynthia works in a clothes shop owned by Pam, her best friend from school, as she does not want to move away from the neighbourhood, just in case.

The book opens well, with the making of a reality TV show in which Cynthia and Terry tell the story of the past 25 years in flashback. The strain has told on Cynthia, so seeds of doubt are sown in the reader’s mind, as well as in Terry’s, about her mental stability. She is certainly paranoid about Grace’s safety, refusing to let her out of her sight.

The plot develops with real pace and tension. Strange events begin to happen – a phone call, a psychic who claims to have information, a disappearing door key to the Archers’ house…is someone using the house while the family is out? The reader is cleverly kept on the edge. Most of the story is told by the very straight Terry, so we are never sure if Cynthia is telling the truth, imagining things, or is involved in something more sinister. Terry’s life at school is portrayed in some detail, to some extent to provide a few potential suspects and red herrings, but also bringing some depth to the story in the descriptions of the creative writing Terry teaches to a “difficult” class.

Cynthia’s aunt becomes very ill and Cynthia decides to hire a private detective to look into the past tragedy again, even though she and Terry can ill-afford it. These two events stimulate various crises which lead to a racy, thrilling read and the uncovering of the central mystery.

I have to say that I guessed the bare bones of the solution early on, and also the identity of the “surprise” secondary nasty character. I also felt that the solution depended too much on clues having been overlooked in the initial investigation and subsequently. An example is the box of newspaper cuttings kept by Cynthia’s father. She is said to have pored over the contents many times, yet not one but two essential clues are found in an article and photograph kept in the box. I didn’t mind, though; the book is an impressive debut — a highly enjoyable, exciting account.