Sunday Salon: Last Rituals reviewed

TSSbadge3 My review of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's Last Rituals appeared at Euro Crime in the past week. The book is "an 'academic mystery': that is, the crime takes place in a university department (a student is murdered), and the solution depends on the uncovering and understanding of the victim's research, as well as of the broader mores, religion and witchcraft in medieval Europe. Yet the book is by no means heavy-going; the opposite in fact. LAST RITUALS is an assured novel, ably translated by the late Bernard Scudder. I recommend it very highly." Read the rest of my review here.

Another review, some background, and a stimulating discussion about the book can be found at It's a crime! …(or a mystery). Some disagreement is expressed with the Amazon reviews of the book, and about whether the author can be likened to Helene Tursten. (I think not.)

For more discussion of crime and mystery fiction, please join our Friend Feed room. If you join this Friend Feed group and have a relevant blog, let me know and I will include it with the others that feed into this room. (This means that each time you write a post, a link to it is automatically created in the Friend Feed room.)

See Euro Crime for reviews, authors, news and other information about crime fiction. The Euro Crime site has recently expanded to include non-European born authors who are strongly associated with European crime fiction.

Murderous holidays, history, headlines, triffids

A bit of book news from the past couple of days.

Martin Edwards has a new section of his website devoted to Crippen. I'm not much of a one for true crime as a rule – preferring the fictional explorations of the associated mysteries and effects of such events – but Martin's new book out this month, Dancing for the Hangman, looks pretty intriguing. Read more about it here.

But if fictional, and seasonal, mysteries are more your scene, Janet Rudolph links to the Cozy list of Thanksgiving mysteries. "With dysfunctional families coming together for a big turkey dinner, its no wonder there should be so many on this list". Please note, an American said this, not me! 

The Bookseller blog reports on Headline's new thriller titles. After they lost James Patterson to Random House last year (I know, I know- but he sells by the bucketload), the publisher has picked up Jonathan Kellerman, Quintin Jardine, Carol O'Connell and an author not read by me (possibly because not before published in the UK), but for whom they have big plans, Suzanne Brockmann (or Brockman as she is also called in the same blog post).

And, exciting news, the BBC is yet again going to remake The Day of The Triffids, from the novel by John Wyndham. Previous versions (or the two I have seen, one movie and one BBC production from the 1980s on DVD rental a year or so ago) suffered dreadfully from budgetary constraints and risible special effects. As did, in my opinion, the clone of the book, 28 days later, which also suffered in other ways. But the computer-graphics era should take care of that, so maybe we'll get an unbeatable combination of great acting/production, with decent set-pieces. There will be two 90-minute films as well, so the book won't be truncated as much as it was in the movie. Now, all I have to do is to make the time to watch all the other programmes I keep recording (to include Wallander this Sunday) and I'll be well-set for Wyndham.

For more book news, links and discussion, please join our Friend Feed crime&mystery fiction group – a very nice place to hang out.

Time Life photo archive now online

Did everyone know that the LIFE photo-archive is now available via Google image search?  From the Google official blog: "This effort to bring offline images online was inspired by our mission to organize all the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s. Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints. We're digitizing them so that everyone can easily experience these fascinating moments in time. Today about 20 percent of the collection is online; during the next few months, we will be adding the entire LIFE archive — about 10 million photos."

You can search the archive, as well as see some example pictures, from the Google blog post. Some bloggers have already been busy picking out their favourites. See selections and favourites at

The Great Beyond (Nature news blog)

Discover's Cosmic Variance

Symmetry Breaking ("gorgeous physics")

The Hairy Museum of Natural History

Clinical Cases and Images

Flags and Lollipops

Drawn

Lifehacker

 

Vote for The Honeytones, today

The Honeytones are a rock’n’ roll band formed in 2001 by Bob Courtney and two residents of a North Devon care home for learning disabled adults. Their huge enthusiasm attracted new members from the same community, and they are now a nine-piece outfit centred on keyboards and guitar with a large and wide-ranging repertoire. They have performed for local organisations, charities and at many public events and want to continue doing so. Unfortunately the future of the band is bleak. The residential home where they live is scheduled to close, leaving them with no transport. At present, the equipment (three Transit loads!) is stuffed into Bob’s terraced house. The band are clubbing together to hire South Molton Church Hall for weekly rehearsal sessions. But the good news is that they’ve got through to the finals of the “Peoples Millions 2008” on ITV Westcountry which will be televised TODAY, 25 November 2008. If the band wins the public vote then they stand to gain nearly £50,000 to enable them to take their performances out to a wider public, especially the young and disadvantaged in society.

The phone number to Vote Honeytones is 0871 626 8166 and you can vote ten times. The cost is 10 p from a local landline and more from mobiles. Voting is 9.00 a.m. to midnight UK time, so please support this very good cause.

"Four of Her Majesty’s prisons have expressed interest in The Honeytones. If they are successful with the Peoples Millions award, The Honeytones will purchase their own minibus, a trailer for their equipment along with generator and marquee which will make them virtually independent. They will not have the safe rehearsal and storage base which they previously enjoyed but their music and infectious enthusiasm will continue to entertain audiences in North Devon and beyond."

Crime Scraps archive posts on The Honeytones.

North Devon Gazette: 'Care home band stands to win £50,000'.

More on The Honeytones.

Scandinavia getting everywhere

An event occurred today that I had predicted would never happen. Of course, I know that one should never say never, but this time I thought I was safe. I was wrong.

Tonight, my husband told me he had started reading a blog.

I was not sure he even knew what a blog is, but he's reading one. So I took a look at it (in fact, I subscribed, sight unseen). Here is what I read:

"Tonight, the British economy has taken on a Scandinavian, left-wing tinge."

Well, it isn't quite my scene to read about such matters but Scandinavia is quite fashionable at the moment on this blog, so I'll give it a chance. (Even though its author seems over-fond of one-sentence paragraphs.)

In the meantime, if Scandinavia is more your scene than the economy, Karen Meek of Euro Crime is continuing her one-woman speed takeover of Facebook by discovering a group called 'Fans of Scandinavian crime novels', so feel free to join that. (If the direct link doesn't work, you can find me, Karen or Norman Price on Facebook and join from there.)

(More Scandinavian crime fiction.)

Sunday Salon: following Wallander’s footsteps

Skane_385x185_437391a Three of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels have been filmed by the BBC; the first (Sidetracked) will be shown at 9 p.m. on Sunday 30 November and in the USA earlyish next year. The Times ran a feature in its travel section yesterday about holidays to Ystad, home of the fictional detective. Despite an initial wobble in which Wallander is said to be so similar to Colin Dexter's Inspector E. Morse (incorrect!), being referred to as "Inspector Norse", that the BBC resorted to "doing away with his penchant for classical music" in order to distinguish the two characters (subtlety not being the strong point of the film medium), the article is a fascinating account of the area in which the books are set.

Mankell's eight Wallander novels were published between 1991 and 1998 and have apparently sold more than 25 million copies, dealing with more than 100 killings. The real Ystad has experienced one murder in the past seven years, not the only reason why it is an attractive holiday destination – whether beautiful countryside, mediaeval architecture, or Mankell-related events and activities.

From the Times piece: "Five actors have played him [Wallander] in more than 20 films – it's like James Bond. Rolf Lassgård is the Sean Connery.” Cineteket is next to Ystad Studios, an impressive facility that, on the back of the series, has produced a stream of films including the award-winning Mother of Mine, transforming Ystad into one of Sweden's film-making centres. The inhabitants of the town are proud of its new celebrity: an estimated 15 per cent of its population of 17,000 has appeared as extras in a Wallander production, and many have also benefited from the influx of tourists from Sweden, the rest of Scandinavia and Germany, where Wallander is huge." Apparently there are several tours available for fans of the books; the Times article describes some of the places one can visit, as well as some more general highlights of the region. Here are some links for more information about Ystad, Skane and Sweden.

I've enjoyed the Wallander books, though like most other early fans, I read them out of order as they were translated. I have only read one of them since starting blogging and reviewing books, The Man Who Smiled, an early outing for Wallander, upon its US release. Apparently the author is not going to write any more Kurt Wallander books, though I hope he continues writing about Linda, the detective's daughter and now a police officer herself. (He has, however, just published a collection of short stories, The Pyramid, about Wallander's life before Faceless Killers, the first in the series of novels.)

Inspector Wallander website.

Kenneth Branagh on playing Kurt Wallander.

Guardian review of The Pyramid.

A view of Stockholm, 1970

An excerpt from the book I am currently reading, Murder at the Savoy, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo and translated by Joan Tate, first published in 1970:

Stockholm.

Not much was left of the city where Kollberg was born and grew up. With the approval of the city planners, the steam shovels of property speculators and the bulldozers of the traffic 'experts' had devastated most of the respectable old settlement. By now the few sanctuaries of culture that remained were pitiful to look at. The city's character, atmosphere and style of life had disappeared, or rather, changed, and it wasn't easy to do anything about it.
Meanwhile more creaks were coming from the police machinery, which was overworked, partly because of the shortage of men. But here were other, more important reasons.
It was less important to recruit more policemen than to get better ones – no one seemed to have thought of that.
Thought Lennart Kollberg.
It took a while to get out to the housing project managed by Hampus Broberg. It was located far to the south, in a area that had been countryside in Kollberg's youth, a place where he used to go on school excursions when he was a child. It resembled far too many of the rent traps built during recent years – an isolated group of high-rise flats, slapped together quickly and carelessly, whose sole purpose was to make as large a profit as possible for the owner while at the same time guaranteeing unpleasantness and discomfort fo the unfortunate people who had to live there. Since the housing shortage had been kept alive arartificially for many years even these flats were in great demand, and the rents were close to astronomical.

The Martin Beck series in order.

That’s what Frank Wilson said

Frank Wilson, of Books Inq., the Epilogue,  and formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer, will be writing a weekly column for When Falls the Coliseum — 'That's What He Said'.The column consists of quotations, essays and "following a train of thought wherever it leads". Frank's inaugural article is here, and here's a taster:

"The door of the bedroom slowly opened and a short, squat figure clad in black entered the room. The only light was that coming from the hall and I couldn’t make out any details. The figure seemed to be carrying something like a cushion, and when it got to the bed began to lower it toward my face. I reached up to ward this off, but found my hands wouldn’t move beyond a certain point. I could feel the muscles in my forearms tense but it was as if they had encountered an invisible force field."

Intrigued? Frank's columns are archived here, so do check out the link each week.

POD moves up a further step

The Bookseller blog reports that Random House is to begin marketing its print-on-demand titles as a distinct list, Random Collection, in January. Random is launching a dedicated website, which will be interactive and searchable, beginning with a list of 750 titles with further books added throughout the year. If readers request a book that is out of print, the publisher says it will check out the rights to see if it can be reissued POD. Among the authors set to be available in the POD format when the new site launches are Josephine Tey, some of the lesser known Neville Shute novels, Henry Green, Patrick White, Elizabeth Bowen, all the Ebury backlist and lots of non-fiction.

I've written about this before (and I am not alone in that!), for example in this post of December 2006 , which caused a bit of a row. Seems as if time is proving me right (along with a lot of other people who think the same way that I do).

Ian McEwan defines Obama’s agenda

"America finally has a president who, whatever his profession of faith, has a high regard for science (look at his sturdy views on intelligent design in Nature magazine of September 25) and has surrounded himself with scientific advisers of impeccable quality, and committed himself to the dreamy target of an 80% reduction below 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2050." Thus writes Ian McEwan in The Guardian, in a wonderful piece ('The world's last chance') defining the scientific agenda that faces the new president as his most pressing challenge.

Ian McEwan's inspiring, confident and stirring article describes, with his characteristic poetic precision, the environmental devastation of the Earth and our inability to translate the power of the Sun or the wind to large-scale renewable energy resources. He urges the new president not to become sidetracked or to be cautious about tackling this uniquely important crisis, and to go to Copenhagen to "make a bold commitment". The world has tipped into a financial crisis "because we always thought we could": Obama may succeed in tipping the nations toward a low-carbon future "simply because people think he can."

This piece is the most inspiring and important piece of writing I've read for a very long time. I urge everyone to read it. 

Thanks so much to Karen of Euro Crime for alerting me to it.