Sunday Salon: August reviews

TSSbadge3 A few (four to be precise) of my reviews have been published at Euro Crime over the past few weeks while I have been away and catching up after returning.

I enjoyed Helene Tursten's The Torso so much (as well as the earlier Detective Inspector Huss) that I was unable to resist immediately reading her third, and so far the last to be translated into English, The Glass Devil (best title of the three, not that it's much of a contest). The Glass Devil is well up to the standards of the previous two, but is more stripped-down. This trilogy (so far) of police-procedurals is very highly recommended. From my review: "The author's interest, one feels, is not so much the way in which the mystery is solved, but the nature of fate and self-fulfilling prophecy…….once the case begins to bite, THE GLASS DEVIL becomes a focused, bleak tale about evil stripped down to its basics, portrayed with this author's unflinching yet unsensational style." I gather from reading the Scandinavian mysteries edition of the Mystery Readers' Journal that not only are there more in the series not yet translated into English, but there is a Swedish TV series based on them. Lucky Swedes.

A second review is The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin, his penultimate Rebus book. It is a somewhat meandering excursion for Rebus and Clarke, set at the time of the G8 summit in 2003 and strongly featuring the anti-war protests at that time. The sporadic flashes of familiar excellence and my long-term investment in the Rebus series (I've been reading them since they were first published, before the author became Britain's crime-fiction megastar) allowed me to enjoy the book, but I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't read the earlier books, some of which are a great deal stronger than this. Since I wrote this review, I have read the (possibly) final Rebus book, Exit Music (reviewed here by Fiona Walker), which is just out in paperback in the UK and widely available for £3.99. My take on this book is similar to my reaction to The Naming of the Dead. The start (the set-up) is good, the middle (most) of the book rather dull and stuck, with the investigation going round and round a set of indistinguishable Russians and central casting politicians: but redeemed somewhat by a good ending (though in true life, would three out of three crimes be solved in seven days? Never mind, it is Rebus after all).

Third up is Peter James's exciting thriller Dead Man's Footsteps. All the ingredients for a relaxing holiday read: plenty of action, plenty of plot (four separate strands), all put together with smooth professionalism and lots of style. There's also a tease of an ending that will leave regular readers desperate to know more.

Finally is the superb Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason: my review coincides with the UK paperback publication. From my review: "The interplay between the detectives is drolly portrayed, with Sigurdur Oli as smug and rigid as ever – until his own personal happiness is threatened – and Elinborg is obsessed with her cookery book which is being published and publicised in parallel with the investigation. Erlunder himself becomes momentarily sociable, attending a party in honour of the author, almost relating to his son, Sindri, who seems by far the best adjusted of Erlunder's family, and tentatively proceeding with his relationship with Valgerdur, whom we met in Indridason's previous book, VOICES. But the special beauty of the book, and the reason for its haunting quality, is the story of Tamas, Ilona and the group of students who study together in Leipzig in the 1950s." As with so many of the crime-fiction stories I enjoy the most, the parallel and then intersecting stories of past and present provide depth and lift the book far above "genre". I also learn from Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays that the Icelandic film of Jar City (a.k.a. Tainted Blood), Indridason's first novel, is about to be released in Ireland in a version with English-language subtitles. My fingers are crossed that the film will wend its way to these parts (or the DVD to Amazonia).