Book reviews by country: Germany

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.

Christkindl_Market_Nuremberg_Bavaria_Germany
I've reviewed seven books from Germany, and of them all my favourite by far is The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr (translator John Brownjohn), which I called "a brilliant portrait of the dark places of one woman's memory". I've reviewed another book by the same author, which I didn't like much, two by Andrea-Maria Schenkel (The Murder Farm and Ice Cold) and one by Julie Zeh (Dark Matter). The other two books I've reviewed aren't really "German", one is partly set there – Peter Temple's John Le Carre-style novel In the Evil Day, and the other is the older novel Thumbprint by Friedrich Glausner, an Austria-Germany-Switzerland mix. I really like Thumbprint, and shall be reading the other novels by this rather tragic author.

I've read other books by German authors of course, including many non-crime-fiction ones, some I haven't liked enough to review, and others I read before I started writing reviews – for example the very good novels by Ingrid Noll, with their black humour. I feel I haven't really cracked German crime fiction – I need to discover some more authors from the region.

My Germany reviews.

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Book reviews by country: France

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.

Chartres Cathedral, France
For today's country, France, I have seven reviews, among them assessments of two books by Dominique Manotti and three by Fred Vargas, so I haven't been very adventurous in this part of the world and must rectify that.

One novel that isn't by either of these authors is Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker, who is not French but has lived there part-time for many years. From my review: "Although in many respects this is a "feel-good" book, providing an idyllic and partisan depiction of the French country way of life which exists still despite the efforts of the relentless modern world to homogenize it, the author is not afraid to address difficult issues head-on, personal and political. The stories of the French resistance in the Nazi regime and the fate of the French North Africans during the DeGaulle years are sombre, told with authority and style, as one might expect from an author who has written distinguished histories (as well as a previous novel about the famous prehistoric art in the caves of the region) and covered many international conflicts during his journalistic career. I am glad that BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE is the first in a series, as I look forward to reading more about this charmingly self-deprecating man, his past (plenty of angles are hinted at) and his neighbours – not forgetting, of course, his next criminal case."

The author has now written and published two more novels in this series, The Dark Vineyard and Black Diamond –  the jackets have become sombre and moody rather than jolly and bright, perhaps indicating a shift of emphasis. They are both on my shelf waiting patiently to be read, so I hope soon to find out.

My France reviews.

Book reviews by country: England

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.


Countryside-of-bath-england
 England
, I am slightly ashamed to say, has a collection of 92 reviews. I suppose it is my own country, but it is a bit of a shameful number when I think about the very small quantity of books I've reviewed that are by authors from elsewhere. Or maybe it is a more crime-ridden place than some other regions? 

I can't really summarise 92 books in this post (!) but here are one or two snippets from my reviews:

"Jack rises to every challenge with wit, insight and vulgarity, often sleeping at his desk fully clothed for a couple of hours before facing the next crisis – as well as failing to stem the usual flood of urgent admin from the ghastly Superintendent Mullett." (A Killing Frost by R. D. Wingfield)

"The plot is both solid and satisfying: sharp without being cynical, funny without drifting into pastiche, and serious without being stodgy. Most readers will probably be surprised by the final twist, owing to some crafty red herrings." (The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards)

"The plotting is excellent, dovetailing perfectly with the excitingly tense World War Two background. The constant personal frustrations of Stratton and Diana, as the truths they separately uncover are suppressed for the "greater good" or for the war effort, or for the retrospectively quaint (but no doubt accurate) imperative to preserve the status quo of the class structure, make the book far deeper than a genre novel.(Stratton's War by Laura Wilson)."

My England reviews.

Book reviews by country: Denmark

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.

Denmark
 

It is the turn of Denmark, but to my shame I have only two book reviews from that region. One is The Woman from Bratislava, by Leif Davidsen (translator Barbara J Haviland), an excellent if a bit sprawling political and historical thriller about post-war Europe, the Balkans and more. I had previously read and very much enjoyed the same author's The Serbian Dane, a shorter and more focused thriller. Some of the characters from the former book are also present in the latter.

The other Danish book I've reviewed is The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (translator Tiina Nunnally) which despite a very good start I did not enjoy all that much but that's more to do with the type of book it is than anything else. If you enjoy magical history as well as your crime plot, then it might be worth checking out. 

My Denmark reviews.

Book reviews by country: Canada

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.

Lake-louise-canada
Next I turn to Canada, with five book reviews. One of them is Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves, about which I wrote: "This phrase, "the sickness of long thinking", is the key to this wonderful book. The story turns into a book of journeys by most of the characters, and by these journeys we come to know their true natures. Several, but not all, of the mysteries, old and new, are eventually solved, and several of the characters come to know themselves and their families more deeply." 

Other authors whose books I cover include Fred Vargas, who is French of course, but who set Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand partly in Canada; Linwood Barclay, master of the irresistibly readable domestic thriller; and Kitty Sewell, whose Ice Trap qualifies for Wales as well as for Canada.

My Canada reviews.

Book reviews by country: Australia

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.

Australia
Today it is the turn of Australia. I've reviewed fourteen books from this region. Some, such as those by Adrian Hyland and Peter Temple, are set there and are replete with "placeism". Others, such as those by Barry Maitland and Helen Fitzgerald, are set elsewhere (England and Scotland, respectively).

A few samples:

Black Tide by Peter Temple: "All the usual Peter Temple ingredients are here: the writing is fabulous, so evocative of Melbourne life as Jack knows it,  poetic and spare in its mourning for the old ways that are fast being swept away by the pseudo-sophisticated and flashy, bland “multiculturalism”. Yet the book isn’t sentimental in its nostalgia – we see how the past wasn’t that great either."

The Darkest Hour by Katherine Howell: "The police investigation is compelling, with several different divisions coordinating various lines of enquiry as it becomes clearer that certain events must be connected. The question is, how? I really enjoyed the way in which witnesses were interviewed, phone records checked, and evidence gradually put together to build up a complete picture."

My Australia reviews.

Book reviews by country: Argentina

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. 

Argentina-mendoza
First up is Argentina. I've reviewed two books from this region, No-one Loves a Policeman by Guillermo Orsi (translator Nick Caistor) and Thursday Night Widows by Claudia Pinerio (translator Miranda France).

"Thursday Night Widows is written with deceptive lightness, creating a closed world in which I was fascinated, as it is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Because the author refuses to judge any of her characters, however unsympathetic, the reader is almost unaware of the grossly distorted morality of these ludicrously pampered women, with their wasted, empty lives bought at the expense of other people."

From No-one Loves a Policeman: “Argentina was like some huge, sleeping beast, a mythical elephant like those the ancients believed held up the world. It had just shaken off a president and all its ministers. It got rid of them because they did not know how to steer it, could only torment it with their absurd decisions on a journey to nowhere.  Today the beast was resting, digesting, occasionally regurgitating its favourite, its only nourishment:madness."

My Argentina reviews.