Book reviews by country: Unites States of America

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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 I'm ending this series with the United States. I've reviewed 46 novels from this country, unsurprisingly as it is a big country, the main language is English, and it is full of people who love reading and writing crime fiction. I read the classic US authors too many years ago to have written up reviews of their books, so among my archives are more recent favourites such as Michael Connelly, Robert Crais and Harlan Coben.

Other gems among the books I have reviewed are the two novels so far published by Margot Kinberg, Publish or Perish and B-Very Flat. I highly recommend these two classic crime novels, each of which displays all the reasons why the genre is popular – good plot, attractive characters, energy and fizz, with a strong dash of humanity.

I'm keen on legal thrillers, so there are several reviews by Oregonian Philip Margolin – who can't be bettered in this genre in my opinion. Another favourite of mine is Mary Higgins Clark, "the queen of suspense" as she is known. Lighter and more commercial than the likes of Connelly, Higgins Clark always delivers a reliable, solid read with admirable, independent female protagonists. 

There is a huge range of crime fiction to choose from anywhere in the world, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the USA. My reviews are a tiny, tiny tip from a hugely massive iceberg.

My USA reviews.

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Book reviews by country: Sweden

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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Sweden
is a big favourite of mine: I have 37 archived reviews of books from this region, and probably a few more on Euro Crime. They start, properly, with Roseanna, the first of the magnificent ten-book classic series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (various translators). I have so far read and reviewed nine of these, saving up the tenth one because it is the last.

Following in the footsteps of these authors, I've read and reviewed some of the Kurt Wallendar series by Henning Mankell (various translators), though most of these novels I read as they were translated (out of series order, annoyingly) some years before I had ever heard of blogging, or of Sjowall and Wahloo, so have not written up reviews of them. Most recently, I enjoyed this author's non-series novel The Man From Beijing.

There are several other Swedish authors who are serious favourites of mine. Asa Larsson, whose books Sun Storm, The Blood Spilt, and The Black Path are darkly excellent and wonderfully translated by Marlaine Delargy. There are three more to go in this series. Helene Tursten writes about the admirable Detective Inspector Huss (followed by The Torso and The Glass Devil), various translators. I am hoping so much the rest of her books will be translated into English.

Karin Alvtegen is another huge favourite: her (non-series) novels Missing, Betrayal, Shadow and Shame (Anna Paterson and Steve Murray have translated these) are totally my kind of book. Kjell Ericksson and Ake Edwardson write solid police procedural series set in Uppsala and Gothenberg, respectively. And on the islands, Johan Theorin is a wonderfully talented author whose novels are set on the island of Oland. Echoes from the Dead is a marvellous debut, and The Darkest Room deservedly won the 2010 CWA International Dagger. The translator, again, is the excellent Marlaine Delargy. The nearby island of Gotland is the scene of the novels by Mari Jungstedt (translator Tiina Nunnally), a nice mix of police procedural, journalism and romance.

One cannot mention Sweden, of course, without the magnificent Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. I've reviewed all three novels (ably translated by Reg Keeland) and am thrilled at the amazing success that they are now enjoying.

Add to this array of talent the novels of Inger Frimansson (Good Night, My Darling, The Shadow in the Water, and Island of the Naked Women); Hakan Nesser (the highly enjoyable if often bleak ten-book Inspector Van Veeteren series set somewhere that seems suspiciously like Holland to me); Camilla Lackberg (translator Steve Murray); and the duo Roslund-Hellstrom, and it begins to become apparent why I spend so much time in this neck of the woods.

My Swedish reviews.

Book reviews by country: The Netherlands

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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 I may not have read and reviewed many novels by authors in The Netherlands, but I have certainly enjoyed them. Saskia Noort's two short but totally gripping books Back to the Coast and The Dinner Club absolutely go down a treat. So does The Reunion by Simone van der Vlugt and Close-Up by Esther Verhoef. There is something energetic about all of these novels that really carries the reader along. They all have strong psychological elements about them, concerning errors of perception in a landscape where nothing is as it seems. 

My reviews from The Netherlands.

Book reviews by country: Spain

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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 To my shame, I have only archived three reviews from Spain. I loved Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar (translator Martin Schifino) and At Close Quarters by Eugenio Fuentes (also translated by Martin Schifino), so I am going to have to do something about this sorry state of affairs.

Water-Blue Eyes: "You simply can’t beat this book for plot, character, atmosphere, a sense of place and poetry, and sheer readability." 

At Close Quarters: "I found this a wonderful book, both in its confident telling of the story with no need for over-complicated, violent solutions, and in the author's fantastic ability to write from the perspective of the teenager, the old man or woman, the widow or divorcee, the soldier, the businessman or the maid. And in the telling, the country and its people come alive before your eyes. Without a doubt, a five-star read."

My Spain reviews.

Book reviews by country: South Africa

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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South Africa consists of four reviews, three of them of books by Deon Meyer (written in Afrikaans, translated by K L Seegers). Dead Before Dying is the author's debut, about a country in transition from one regime to another, and the subsequent organisational challenge to a local police force against a background of criminal activity. I am yet to read the three intervening novels by this talented author, but loved Blood Safari (more or less a standalone, a little reminiscent of Peter Temple) and the very exciting Thirteen Hours, deservedly on the shortlist for the 2010 CWA International Dagger.

The fourth novel I've read from this region is Like Clockwork by Margie Orford (written in English).I am due to rectify my lack of South African variety very soon, I hope, although I'm also not going to leave it for too long before catching up on the remaining books by Deon Meyer. 

My South Africa reviews.

Book reviews by country: Scotland

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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I've archived 15 reviews of books by authors from Scotland. Some of these, of course, are by Val McDermid and  Ian Rankin, the country's most famous current crime fiction exponents. Mainly known for his series of novels starring John Rebus, Ian Rankin has recently branched out – I liked The Complaints, the start of another police procedural series, very much, although I would not be surprised if Rebus or some of his associates crop up in the new novels. Val McDermid has written a very impressive and varied range of novels over the years. Currently she is alternating her Carol Jordan/Tony Hill "profiling" series with various standalones that show her at the top of her game.

Anne Cleeves's Shetland Quartet is extremely good indeed, and a wonderful tour of some of the northernmost extremes of this lovely part of the world. S. J. Bolton also sets her debut novel, Sacrifice, in the Shetlands, and it's worth checking out. Tartan comic noir is brilliantly represented by Donna Moore (Go To Helena Handbasket – or not, if you are sensible) and Helen Fitzgerald (My Last Confession and Dead Lovely). One novelist I've fairly recently discovered and can highly recommend is Karen Campbell (The Twilight Time and After the Fire).

My Scotland reviews.

Book reviews by country: Norway

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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The next country where I've reviewed books by a few different authors is Norway, land of translator supreme Don Bartlett. Don has translated the books I have read and enjoyed so much by Gunnar Staalesen (Consorts of Death, Yours until Death); K. O. Dahl (The Last Fix); Pernelle Rygg (The Butterfly Effect and the less successful The Golden Section) and, last but not least, Jo Nesbo (Redbreast, Nemesis, The Devil's Star, The Redeemer and The Snowman, so far). 

There are some Norwegian authors who aren't translated by Don, it is true. One of my favourites among them is Karin Fossum (Broken, The Water's Edge, and earlier titles), who these days is ably translated by Charlotte Barslund (previous novels were translated by Felicity David). Anne Holt (translator Kari Dickson) is another top-notch Norwegian author – I've reviewed the three of her novels so far translated (The Final Murder, Punishment and Death in Oslo) and am looking forward to the next one later this year.

Another author, from a few years' back, is Ella Griffiths, whose Murder on Page Three (translator, J. Barry Cowlishaw) is about "Norway's Agatha Christie" – worth checking out. And one to watch- Frode Gryttan, whose debut The Shadow in the River very much impressed me with its themes of small-town racism when I read it in early 2008. 

My Norway reviews.

Book reviews by country: Italy

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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I am very keen on crime fiction from Italy so I was unsurprised to find seventeen reviews in my archive. The marvellous Andrea Camilleri (abetted by the brilliant translation of Stephen Sartarelli) accounts for quite a few of these: The Scent of the Night, The Snack Thief, The Terracotta Dog, Voice of the Violin, August Heat, Excursion to Tindari, Paper Moon and The Wings of the Sphnix have all left warm afterthoughts in my mind.

Gianrico Carofiglio is another marvellous Italian author, who has written three novels about a lawyer, set in Bari, and another standalone – The Past is a Foreign Country. Then there is Donna Leon, "honorary Italian", author of the enduringly popular Comissario Brunetti novels. Carlo Lucarelli (Almost Blue), Massimo Carlotto (Poisonville) and Luigi Guicciardi (Inspector Cataldo's Criminal Summer) have all been enormously pleasurable finds for me.

I also very much enjoyed a novel by Andrew Wilson called The Lying Tongue, a creepily atmospheric psychological thriller set for its first half in Venice, a very absorbing and exciting tale about the nature of talent, jealousy and greed. If I were in the blurb-writing business, I might write "Particia Highsmith meets Daphne Du Maurier, with a dash of John Fowles" of this very good novel, 

My Italy reviews.

Book reviews by country: Ireland

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

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 Today I look at Ireland. I've reviewed fourteen books from both sides of the border, including a few that go back and forth during the course of the pages, notably Borderlands, Brian McGilloway's excellent debut. From my review: "As with many of the best crime-fiction novels, the strengths of this book lie both in its convincing portrayal of place, and in the shadows of the past, into which Devlin and his junior partner Caroline Williams, have to travel in order to make connections, and hence sense, of the present." I have reviewed the author's subsequent novels: Gallow's Lane, Bleed a River Deep, and The Rising. 

Another of my favourite Irish authors is Gene Kerrigan. I haven't archived my review of his debut, Little Criminals, myself, but you can find what I thought of it at Euro Crime. My review begins: "I was not sure I'd want to read a book about an Irish gang who kidnap a businessman's wife and demand a huge ransom. But, persuaded by great reviews by the authors of some of the blogs I regularly read, I decided to try it. And I am glad I did: it is excellent." I have archived my reviews of the next two novels in what can't really be described as a series (though there are recurring characters): The Midnight Choir and Dark Times in the City. Wonderful –  noir poetry.

Declan Burke's The Big O is a black comedy caper well worth the read, and Alan Glynn's Winterland is shaping up to be in my top 5 of this year so far. Together with one or two others on a range of themes and in varying styles, my reviews of novels by Irish authors demonstrate amply the crime fiction talent of this part of the world.

My Ireland reviews.

Book reviews by country: Iceland

For my series this summer, I am providing selections of book reviews by country. Either the author is from the country named in the post, or the book is set there.

Iceland 

Iceland is bound to feature quite a few reviews, given my interest in crime fiction. Of the seven books I've reviewed from that country, four are by Arnandur Indridason (Voices, The Draining Lake, Arctic Chill and Hypothermia). I read Jar City very early on in my blogging days, but though I noted it I did not review it as at that time I was not very confident at the prospect of reviewing books. I've also read, but did not review, the second novel in the series (going by translated – there are two before Jar City not yet translated), Silence of the Grave. All are brilliant: this is a great series to recommend to anyone thinking of trying crime fiction. The first several are translated by the late Bernard Scudder, and the recent ones by Victoria Cribb. Arnaldur Indridason wins many awards for his writing, and deservedly so. 

Of the remaining books, two are by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, another Icelandic author I highly recommend for her highly acute observational talents, her great plots and her biting sense of humour. My final title is set in Iceland but by an English author: Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath. It's a highly readable novel and a rather interesting perspective on the country if you have read the novels by the native authors Indridason and Sigurdardottir (which, in case you haven't noticed, I strongly recommend that you do!).

My Iceland reviews.