SinC25: Claudia Piñeiro, #7 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level. I managed to get half-way through this level in 2011, but still have four more posts to go before completion. The challenge:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.

Claudia Piñeiro achieves that very difficult balance between writing an involving novel and making you laugh. Her books are not overtly funny in terms of set-pieces, slapstick and so on, as is the case in much “comic” crime. Nor are they conventional crime novels as such, in that they don’t feature detectives or very linear narratives – though murders do happen! For me, these books work because they are satires on human nature as the protagonists desperately strive to maintain their fragile images of themselves in an excessively consumerist social context. The humour works at the level of a light-hearted treatment of serious, warped issues – most particularly about how our materialism forces us into situations that get ever more extreme.

Two novels by Claudia Piñeiro have been translated from Argentinian Spanish into English by Miranda France, and published by Bitter Lemon Press:

Thursday Night Widows, “written in 2005, when the Argentine currency inflation was out of control and the characters are terrified by the potential effects of the 9/11 atrocity. Not only is the book a fascinating harbinger of the financial crisis that hit so many other parts of the world a few years later, but also, according to the publisher’s blurb, it “eerily foreshadowed a criminal case that generated a scandal in the Argentine media.” Do yourself a favour, and read it.”

All Yours, a “perfectly pitched black comedy” about a woman desperate to maintain her view of her marriage as perfect, whatever the evidence to the contrary.

Three other authors who write similar books and whom I’d recommend?

Teresa Solana‘s two Barcelona-based novels, A Not so Perfect Crime and A Short Cut To Paradise, skewer the social, artistic and literary pretensions of the Catalonian scene, while introducing the oddest pair of brother-detectives in crime fiction.

Donna Moore, in Go to Helena Handbasket, whisks hilariously through every cliché in the many crime-fiction genres. This book does not so much focus on the social or political comment aspects, but there are plenty of gems to pick up if can manage to look while you are laughing yourself silly.

Leigh Redhead‘s Peepshow is about women trapped in the “hostess” industry in Australia – yet ‘trapped’ is the last thing they feel they are. One of them, Simone, has a PI license, and when a body is found in the sea, she decides to use this to investigate the crime and escape into a more appealing work life.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

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My favourite books reviewed in 2011

I am going to have to make my list a top 20, I am afraid, as I find it impossible to choose a “best” from the books I reviewed last year. Of these books, 9 are translated. Thirteen are by men, seven by women. There is a fairly good geographical spread: USA (5), Sweden (3), South Africa (2), Norway (2) and one each for Iceland, England, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Argentina, Japan and Denmark. The list is in no particular order: each title is linked to my review at Petrona or Euro Crime.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
The Quarry by Johan Theorin, translated by Marlaine Delargy
Till Thy Wrath be Past by Asa Larsson, translated by Laurie Thompson
Dregs by Jorn Lier Horst, translated by Anne Bruce
Trackers by Deon Meyer, translated by Laura Seegers
Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen, translated by Lisa Hartford.
Mixed Blood by Roger Smith
Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason, translated by Anna Yates
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
Intuition by Allegra Goodman
The Drop by Michael Connelly
The Rage by Gene Kerrigan
All Yours by Claudia Pineiro, translated by Miranda France
Any Human Face by Charles Lambert
Villain by Shuichi Yoshida, translated by Philip Gabriel
Burned by Thomas Enger, translated by Charlotte Barslund
Open Season et seq. by C. J. Box
Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder, translated by Marlaine Delargy
Purge by Sofi Oskanen, translated by Lola Rogers

So hard was it to winnow the list to 20 that I’d also like to mention some other books I very much enjoyed this year: Witness by Cath Staincliff, Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes, Ashes by Sergio Gakas (tr Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife), Headhunters by Jo Nesbo (tr Don Bartlett), The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson (tr Ebba Segerberg), Misterioso by Arne Dahl (tr Tiina Nunnally), Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar (tr Sonia Soto), Why Don’t You Come for Me? by Diane Janes, Prime Cut by Alan Carter, The Caller by Karin Fossum (tr Charlotte Barslund), The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell (tr Laurie Thompson), The Last Lie by Stephen White. Even with all these added, there are some that I am sad to omit from this post!

My favourite reads of European books in 2011 are listed at Euro Crime, together with the choices of the other Euro Crime reviewers. The aggregated favourite books, authors and translators are collected by Karen in this Euro Crime blog post.

All the books I reviewed in 2011, ranked from 1-5 stars. Of these 128, 49 are by women (single authors), one is by two women and four are by a man/woman duo. Forty-six in total are translated.

SinC25: Inger Frimansson, #6 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level. I managed to get half-way through this level in 2011, but unlike many other successfully completed challenges by other bloggers, still have five more posts to go on this one. So, without more ado, I have to:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.

Inger Frimansson is a Swedish author of suspenseful, psychologically dark crime fiction. Or, as the author herself puts it: “You look so nice and decent, how is it that you write such horrific novels? I’m often asked that kind of question. And the answer is, I didn’t exactly choose to, I more or less was compelled to. The characters I meet up with in my fictions, they just seem to take over.” And this sensation of compulsion is certainly experienced by the reader of the three novels so far (to my knowledge) translated (expertly) by Laura A. Wideburg into English. Here are links to my reviews of these books, together with a quotation from each review:

Good Night, My Darling. “This excellently translated, haunting novel weaves together all these elements, as the complete picture of Justine’s life and character comes into focus from all the previous hints and fragments, as she decides to take decisive action. The author deliberately does not allow the reader to sympathise with or condemn most of the characters, which gives this atmospheric and gripping book a satisfyingly unsettling air. The treatment of the police investigation into various incidents is also told with a dry humour and a rather different perspective from the way in which the police are usually portrayed in crime novels.”

The Shadow in the Water, “a very disturbing novel, clouded and obscured by perceptions and suspicions so that nothing is what it seems. I admire the translator, Laura Wideburg, for so ably conveying the many subtleties of atmosphere and character. Both this novel and its predecessor [Good Night My Darling] won the Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year for the years in which they were first published (1998 and 2005), and I can see why. The Shadow in the Water is even less of a comfortable read than its predecessor, in showing the nasty things that go on under the surface of apparently ordinary, small-town lives.”

Island of the Naked Women. (Not connected to the previous two novels.) “I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is a strong candidate for my “best of” list for this year. As well as the satisfying “on the surface” mystery, there is an allegorical aspect to the story, which gives it a haunting quality. The island of the naked women (Shame Island) is where legend has it that, in the olden days, wives from the village who had been unfaithful to their husbands were sent, naked, to fend for themselves. It is presumed they starved. The wives in the story told in the book live in more enlightened times, but is their fate any better than that of their historical counterparts?”

More about the author and her excellent books can be found at her website. Unfortunately this site is not very up-to-date, but I hope we will be able to read more of her work soon.

Three other authors who write similar books and whom I’d recommend? Well, Frimansson’s style is similar in some ways to the queen (in my opinion) of Swedish suspense (!):

Karin Alvtegen, a wonderful author of psychological thrillers. My reviews of three of these, Missing, Betrayal and Shadow, are at Euro Crime. If you haven’t read her, all I can do is to urge you to do so! (But be warned, her books are very bleak.) About her latest book, A Probable Story (not yet translated): “Once again, Karin Alvtegen has proven her skills in telling a story with many depths. It is in many ways a display of human behavior, her characters struggling with their personal demons. It becomes obvious that the behavior we try to hide inside of us becomes instead the inner driving force of our lives. The compelling psychological drama keeps the reader captured to the end.” This passage summarises rather well the genre of “psychological suspense” which, when done well, I enjoy very much.

Camilla Ceder, who I’ve mentioned before in this series, is another Swedish author of psychological crime, though as yet has had only one book translated into English (Frozen Moment). From the author’s website: “With a background in social work and psychotherapy, Ceder brings new perspectives to the Swedish crime genre. She empathizes her characters more than the crimes that they commit (or investigate), and the social and mental mechanisms of the southwestern countryside have become her turf.”

Diane Janes is another author I’ve mentioned in this series. Her second novel, Why Don’t You Come For Me?, is a great little example of a psychological suspense novel in which the author, like Frimansson and Alvtegen, is not afraid to follow her premise to its logical conclusion, however bleak.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

Not just another ‘best of 2011’ reading list

The End of the Year book meme (see Jen’s Book Thoughts, Reactions to Reading, Crime Scraps and The Game’s Afoot) is a little more challenging to the blogger than the more lazy (but appealing!) simple list of favourite titles, so I thought I’d join in.

1. Best Book of 2011. A read a dozen books last year that I thoroughly enjoyed, and depending on my mood du jour I could pick any of them. So, with a slightly random perturbation amongst the twelve I am going to choose The Quarry by Johan Theorin, translated by Marlaine Delargy. I loved the book for its sense of place, its atmosphere, and way in which it was haunted by a yearning for the past ways of life. I also like the fact that it is part of a series but the author does not make the same characters central in each book; another reason I enjoyed The Quarry is because I did not like the two main characters at the outset but had come to be very fond of them by the end. Plot resolutions are rarely great in crime novels – this let down the otherwise excellent Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen for example (I suggest “best plot resolution” for next year’s list!), but this one is good compared to many others. Like all my favourite books, this book is much more than a crime novel; there is a lot of undercurrent and observations of human nature in it, with an insightful, spot-on, last sentence. Finally, the translation is superb: it is always a pity not to be able to read a book in the original language, but the partnership between Marlaine Delargy and the author epitomises the empathy and care that makes all the difference for the non-native-speaking reader.

2. Worst Book of 2011. Unfortunately there are quite a few candidates for this slot, too, but I don’t mind as who wants to read “safe” novels all the time? Experimentation is important. I think, however, I’ll award this prize to Where or When by Anita Shreve, not only because it is a really terrible book about the most self-indulgent, boring people imaginable, but also because the author is very good (I love many of her books) and can write properly. So why on earth she wrote this drivel I have no idea. Read the first two or three comments at GoodReads to get the picture.

3. Most Disappointing Book. I’m going to say Awakening by S. J. Bolton, because I’d read and very much enjoyed Blood Harvest (written after Awakening) earlier in the year. I therefore bought Awakening but found it to be the most silly book imaginable, with just so many snakes in it I lost count and a really offensive way (to me) of describing the heroine’s feelings about her facial disfigurement. This is the kind of heroine who goes weak at the knees every time a man walks into the room and despite being a professional woman is tongue-tied as if she had never met a member of the opposite sex before. I could go on…..If the author was writing it as a serious novel then it failed, if she was writing it as a send-up I could forgive her but somehow I don’t think she was. For a diametrically opposed view to mine of this book, see Euro Crime!

4. Most surprising (in a good way) book. Dregs by Jorn Lier Horst, translated by Anne Bruce. I bought this book at a time when several good, solid translated novels were being published, so I had a batch of several to read (Ashes, Burned, Anger Mode, Misterioso, etc). When I picked it up, Dregs was “just one” of these, but for me it was a stand-out. It is sixth in a series, unlike the rest of the batch which are first novels or first in a series, which may account for its maturity. It’s my favourite kind of crime book – a police procedural with a typically dour protagonist no longer in the first flush of youth, a good plot, unflinching without being gratuitous, well-told, family relationships, a moral compass, and a satisfying plot. Although I don’t like comparing authors to other authors, I do believe that this series is the next Mankell/Wallander – though Norwegian rather than Swedish.

I shall also mention here Purge by Sofi Oksanen translated by Lola Rogers as I was expecting to hate this book but actually loved it. It’s about a family of (mainly) women as they live through various wars and regimes in Estonia and (to a lesser extent) Russia.

5. Book you recommended to people most. Quite a few! But I actually bought Dregs and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin to give to people, so I should choose those.

6. Best series you discovered. In January I read Open Season, the first in the Joe Pickett series by C J Box. I found it so engaging that I have now caught up with the entire series of eleven books. My reviews are collected here, in reverse chronological order. Joe Pickett is a Wyoming game warden; the novels reminded me of the Wild West books I loved in my youth (think Shane by Jack Schaefer) but they have a strong domestic element too, via Joe’s wife and daughters. The books often have scientific themes connected with the environment, which are accurately presented, a refreshing change from the way science and technology are depicted in most novels. The books are all race-throughs even though they address pretty dark themes. Before I started on this series, I’d read and enjoyed a couple of the author’s standalone titles. Then the UK publisher, Corvus, made Open Season part of a Kindle promotion, and the rest (for me) was history.

7. Favourite new authors you discovered. I’ve winnowed this question down to eight answers (no special order): Roger Smith, Charles Lambert, Tom Franklin, Jorn Lier Horst, Shuichi Yoshida, Alice LaPlante, Allegra Goodman and Jussi Adler-Olsen. I discovered many other very good authors in 2011 also, and hope to continue this trend in 2012. (See here for my post on new authors read in 2011.)

8. Most hilarious read. All Yours by Claudia Pineiro translated by Miranda France, a very black comedy about a wife who suspects her husband of having an affair….. A very close runner-up for me was Headhunters by Jo Nesbo translated by Don Bartlett – a blast, but strong stuff.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book. Trackers by Deon Meyer translated by Laura Seegers. Deon Meyer is up there with the best as a thriller writer who can convey emotion, a rare talent. By creating Trackers as a set of interlinked short stories, he ratchets up the tension and the “how on earth is this all going to fit together” factor, while the race against time is on. A true page-turner.

10. Book you most anticipated. Till Thy Wrath be Past by Asa Larsson translated by Laurie Thompson. I’d waited three years since reading the previous book by this wonderful author, The Black Path. I was not disappointed!

11. Favorite cover of a book you read. An increasingly difficult question to answer as the proportion of e-books one reads increases. A minipicture on Amazon or a black and white rendering in the Kindle is not the same as the full Monty. There have been many cliched covers of course, but I think Until Thy Wrath Be Past is one of my favourites because of the lovely dark-haired girl (not a Scandinavian blonde!) on the cover, and because the cover has no blood, weapons or religious icons on it! (Or chairs or stairs, or a snow-scene.)

12. Most memorable character. Gerlof in The Quarry (and previous Oland books by Johan Theorin). He’s in his eighties and is just so lovely, he outdoes even the most grumpy detective! Of the female characters I read about, I find Rebecka Martinsson (Asa Larsson) very memorable and easy to identify with – particularly in a year that did not include a book featuring Erlunder, Arnaldur Indridason’s usual protagonist.

13. Most beautifully written book. This is a hard one to answer given the number of translated books I read, which I’ll exclude here as one does not know the relative contributions of author, translator and editor/publisher. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin is beautifully written in its descriptions of the natural wildlife of the region in a manner that reminds me of John Steinbeck. I also think Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante, The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, and Intuition by Allegra Goodman are exceptionally well-written.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you. Many of these books had an impact on me but as I haven’t awarded it a category yet, I’ll say Villain by Shuichi Yoshida translated by Philip Gabriel, in its convincing portrayal of the hopeless gap between young and older, and the alienation from society of young Japanese people.

15. Book you can’t believe you waited until 2011 to finally read? Intuition by Allegra Goodman, first published in 2006, as I had been told many times that it is the best modern example of science-in-fiction but had never got around to reading it. In fact it did not turn out to be about science very much, but more about professional rivalries and personal relationships. I highly recommend it. Also last year I read Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels, all of which are massive tomes and highly enjoyable. However, I know I’ve read some or all of them before, but can’t remember which, so can’t honestly count these for this question!

I wanted to add another category to be able to mention the two books by Michael Connelly I’ve read and enjoyed in 2011: The Fifth Witness and The Drop. I think the most appropriate category is “best selling author who could do what other best-sellers have done and sacrifice loyal readers on the altar of yet more commercialism, but who has nobly resisted”. Connelly seems to love writing, he has such energy and verve, and he surely never lets his readers down. One of the greats.

I read lots of very enjoyable books in 2011, and reviewed 128 of them, so please do check out some of the others that I have not been able to include in this post.

New (to me) authors read in 2011

Seeing Bernadette’s list of new (to her) authors whose books she has read in 2011 reminded me that I must do the same, as I always like to try new authors and to see how many I’ve managed to discover each year. I have to admit, though, that this process does inevitably involve a few duds and even DNFs (did not finish). Nevertheless, I am usually lucky thanks to the various website and blog reviews I follow. It seems as if 2011 was no exception, from the 56 new (to me) authors I tried. I found eight books truly excellent, nine very good and ten good – a pleasing total of 27 authors whose other books I am keen to try (or will be when they are written and, where appropriate, translated). A further nine books were a bit “meh” and ten more less compelling than that. Finally, I did not enjoy (or did not finish) eleven more – a total of 29 authors that I possibly or probably will not read again.
The books listed below are not ordered within each category. Where I’ve reviewed the book (in most categories except the last) I have provided a link to the review.

Excellent:

Smith, Roger Mixed Blood (South Africa)

Lambert, Charles Any Human Face (Italy setting)

Franklin, Tom Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (USA)

Horst, Jorn Lier Dregs (Norway)

Yoshida, Shuichi Villain (Japan)

Adler-Olsen, Jussi Mercy (Denmark)

Goodman, Allegra Intuition (USA)

LaPlante, Alice Turn of Mind (USA)

Very good:

Oksanen, Sofi Purge (Estonia setting)

Tegenfalk, Stefan Anger Mode (Sweden)

Gakas, Sergios Ashes (Greece)

Enger, Thomas Burned (Norway)

Dahl, Arne Misterioso (Sweden)

Haynes, Elizabeth Into the Darkest Corner (England)

Carter, Alan Prime Cut (Australia)

Staincliffe, Cath Witness (England)

Ceder, Camilla Frozen Moment (Sweden)

Good:

Perissinotto, Alessandro Blood Sisters (Italy)

Kallentoft, Mons Midwinter Sacrifice (Sweden)

Kaaberbøl, Lene & Friis, A The Boy in the Suitcase (Denmark)

Arion, George Attack in the Library (Romania)

Watson, Nicole The Boundary (Australia)

Moorhead, Finola Still Murder (Australia)

Ngugi, Mukoma wa Nairobi Heat (USA/Kenya setting)

Jones, Stan White Sky, Black Ice (USA)

Templeton, Aline Cold in the Earth (Scotland)

Symon, Vanda Overkill (New Zealand)

Neither good nor bad:

Ohlsson, Kristina Unwanted (Sweden)

Arvas, Paula and Nestingen, A (ed) Scandinavian Crime Fiction (various; non-fiction)

Sipila, Jarkko Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall (Finland)

MacLeod, Torquil Meet Me in Malmo (Sweden setting)

Gazan, Sissel-Jo The Dinosaur Feather (Denmark)

Schwegel, Theresa Officer Down (USA)

Stabenow, Dana A Cold Day for Murder (USA)

Himes, Chester A Rage In Harlem (USA)

Sub-average:

Porter, Henry The Dying Light (England)

White, Neil Fallen Idols (England)

Walker, Blair S. Up Jumped the Devil (USA)

Vichi, Marco Death in August (Italy)

Roncagliolo, Santiago Red April (Peru)

Parot, Jean-François The Châtelet Apprentice (France)

Clark, Marcia Guilt by Association (USA)

Logue, Mark and Conradi, Peter The King’s Speech (Australia/England, nonfiction)

Nicholls, David One Day (England)

Kepler, Lars The Hypnotist (Sweden)

Poor, not to my taste, and/or DNF:

Black, Benjamin Christine Falls (Ireland)

Hanif, Mohammed Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (Pakistan)

Culver, Chris The Abbey (USA)

Hancock, Penny Tideline (England)

Lapidus, Jens Easy Money (Sweden)

Webster, Jason Or the Bull Kills You (Spain setting)

Hilliard, Sam The Last Track (USA)

Byatt, A.S. Ragnarok: the End of the Gods (England)

Gallagher, Stephen Rain (England)

Miller, A.D. Snowdrops (Russia setting)

Fitzek, Sebastian Splinter (Germany)

Fuller Jr, John Grant The Airmen Who Would Not Die (England setting)

SinC25: Karen Campbell, #5 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.

Karen Campbell is my fifth choice in the expert challenge. She’s written four novels set in Scotland, all featuring to a greater or lesser degree Anna Cameron, who progresses from a Glasgow lower-ranking detective in the first novel to a more senior role in the fourth. None of these books obeys a formula: the first highlights the general ghastliness of inner-city policing in a crime-ridden, poverty-stricken area; the second is a detailed account of the failings of the Scottish criminal justice system, in particular the failure of prison to act as a reforming influence; the third tackles police politics and various issues concerning care homes for the elderly; and the last is about policing big events and the influence of technology on privacy, against a background of a crime from the first novel that comes back to haunt Anna, who has been on a long journey to arrive at a very different place from where she was in that first book.

The four novels, with links to my reviews providing some more of my impressions and views about them, are here:

The Twilight Time

After the Fire

Shadowplay

Proof of Life

Three authors who write in a similar vein? Well, I’ve read books by quite a few male authors writing about senior female police detectives, for example Martin Edwards, Mons Kallentoft and Kjell Eriksson, but I have read fewer women authors who choose to focus on the female DI (or thereabouts in rank).

Denise Mina is another Scottish author who writes big, muscular books. Until recently she had not focused on the police force, but in her two last novels (Still Midnight and The End of the Wasp Season) she has introduced Glasgow DS Alex Morrow, who has to act tough in a man’s world in order to progress. Alex, like Anna, has personal dilemmas to deal with as well as professional ones. And like Karen Campbell, Denise Mina attacks many issues of social and political injustice, but from a perspective that makes it more obvious what she, the author, wants the reader to think. Karen Campbell writes with more shades of grey, perhaps presenting a more rounded look at some of these issues.

Helene Tursten is a female author writing about a female detective inspector – Irene Huss of the Gothenburg police. I love the three books in this series that have so far been translated into English (another is due early next year). But although Irene is a tough, senior and clever cop, she does not have the same personal problems as Anna Cameron in Karen Campbell’s books. Irene does have some pretty grim cases to solve, though, and does so with focus and determination, along with the town’s team of detectives. (Reviews of these books can be accessed from this Euro Crime page.)

Aline Templeton is an author I’ve discovered this year who writes a series about DI Marjory Fleming of the Galloway police. Although set in Scotland, these books are rather different from Karen Campbell’s and the others mentioned in this post in their rural setting and their rather less edgy nature. But Marjory is a tough protagonist and even though she has a very settled marriage (so far!) she has a troubled relationship with a teenage daughter. I’ve read and enjoyed the first three of this series and intend to catch up with the rest soon. (My review of the first in the series, Cold in the Earth, is here; links to reviews of the rest, to date, can be found at this Euro Crime page.)

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

More progress on reading books eligible for the 2012 International Dagger award

Books published in translation in the UK for the first time between June 2011 and May 2012 are eligible for the CWA’s International Dagger award, so long as the publisher submits them to the competition. Each year, I try to read most of these books and make my own predictions about the shortlist and eventual winner. (See here for all my posts on the topic.) I do not read those that seem to be sensationalistic, on religious/spiritual themes, or otherwise unappealing (one Swedish and one Libyan novel are out for me because of their themes of torture); because there isn’t time to read all the rest, I don’t read many of the purely historical titles.

Of the list of 75 eligible titles (up from 55 at time of my last post on this topic!) so far known this year listed by Karen of Euro Crime (also at Goodreads when a cover image is available), I’ve read and reviewed 26 (click on title to see my review):

Kjell Eriksson – The Princess of Burundi, tr. Ebbe Segerberg (Sweden, my review from 2007 is of the US edition)
Asa Larsson – The Black Path, tr. Marlaine Delargy (Sweden, my review from 2008 is of the US edition)
Andrea Camilleri – The Track of Sand, tr. Stephen Sartarelli (Italy)
Arnaldur Indridason – Outrage, tr. Anna Yates (Iceland)
Camilla Lackberg – The Hidden Child, tr. Tiina Nunnally (Sweden)
Ernesto Mallo – Sweet Money, tr. Katherine Silver (Argentina)
Johan Theorin – The Quarry, tr. Marlaine Delargy (Sweden)
Jan Costin Wagner – The Winter of the Lions, tr. Anthea Bell (German, Finland setting)
Karin Fossum – The Caller, tr. Kyle Semmel (Norway)
Mons Kallentoft – Midwinter Sacrifice, tr. Neil Smith (@neiltranslator) (Sweden)
Anne Holt – Fear Not, tr. Marlaine Delargy (Norway)
Yrsa Sigurdardottir – The Day is Dark, tr. Philip Roughton (Iceland)
Asa Larsson – Until Thy Wrath be Past, tr. Laurie Thompson (Sweden)
Deon Meyer – Trackers, tr. K L Seegers (South Africa, language Afrikaans)
Hakan Nesser – The Unlucky Lottery, tr. Laurie Thompson (Sweden)
Marco Vichi – Death in August, tr. Stephen Sartarelli (Italy)
Jorn Lier Horst -Dregs, tr. Anne Bruce (Norway)
Thomas Enger – Burned, tr. Charlotte Barslund (Norway)
Sergios Gakas – Ashes, tr. Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife (Greece)
Claudia Pineiro – All Yours, tr. Miranda France (Argentina)
Stefan Tegenfalk – Anger Mode, tr David Evans (Sweden)
Gianrico Carofiglio – Temporary Perfections, tr Anthony Shugaar (Italy)
K O Dahl – Lethal Investments, tr. Don Bartlett (Norway)
Jo Nesbo – Headhunters, tr. Don Bartlett (Norway)
Roslund and Hellstrom – Cell 8, tr Kari Dickson (Sweden)
Kjell Eriksson – The Hand that Trembles, tr Ebbe Segerberg (Sweden)

In my possession, to read:
Friis and Kaaberbol – The Boy in the Suitcase (Denmark)
Kristina Ohlsson – Unwanted (Sweden)
George Arion – Attack in the Library (Romania) (Kindle edition)

Not yet published and/or awaiting purchase:
Bernhard Jaumann – The Hour of the Jackal (Germany)
Petros Markaris – Basic Shareholder (Greece)
Gunnar Staalesen – Cold Hearts, tr. Don Bartlett (Norway)
Jussi Adler-Olsen – Disgrace (Denmark)
Valerio Varesi – The Dark Valley (Italy)
Camilla Lackberg – The Drowning (Sweden)
Helene Tursten – Night Rounds (Sweden)
Charlotte Link – The Other Child (German, UK setting)
Liza Marklund – Last Will (Sweden)
Mari Jungstedt – The Dark Angel (Sweden)
Jo Nesbo – Phantom, tr. Don Bartlett (Norway)
Guillermo Orsi – Holy City (Argentina)
Eva Joly & Judith Perrignon – The Eyes of Lira Kazan (French, Nigeria setting)
Hakan Nesser – Hour of the Wolf (Sweden)
Andrea Camilleri – The Potter’s Field (Italy)
Mons Kallentoft – Summertime Death (Sweden)

Maybe/maybe not:
Lars Kepler – The Nightmare (Sweden)
Keigo Higashino – The Devotion of Suspect X (Japan)
Hans Koppel – She’s Never Coming Back (Sweden)
Leif GW Persson – Another Time, Another Life (Sweden)

Even if I manage to read all of these, there will still be 20 or 30 titles I won’t have read by the time the shortlist is announced. And which, so far, would be my winner? Impossible to say, but for a shortlist I would so far vote for Asa Larsson’s Till Thy Wrath Be Past; Deon Meyer’s Trackers; Jorn Lier Horst’s Dregs; Arnaldur Indridason’s Outrage; and for the last two slots I could not decide between about six others. And the choice looks set to become even more difficult, given some of the tempting titles that are not yet published.

See all my posts on the International Dagger.

Euro Crime blog post listing all eligible titles.

Official CWA International Dagger page, containing synopses and articles about the 2011 winner and shortlisted books, as well as archives about past years’ awards.

SinC25: Asa Larsson, #4 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.

Asa Larsson is my fourth choice in the expert challenge. I read a review of her first novel, Sun Storm, at Sarah Weinman’s now-retired blog, and was entranced when I read the US edition soon afterwards (the UK edition was not published until later), in a wonderful translation by Marlaine Delargy. The character of Rebecka Martnisson was the first aspect of the book that made an impression on me. She’s a financial lawyer in Uppsala, but grew up in the far north of Sweden, near Kiruna. She returns there when an old childhood friend is accused of murder. As the story progressed, I was won over by the atmosphere and location of the novel, as well as by its sympathetic descriptions of the old people still living in this remote region and Rebecka’s identity with them (in particular her dead grandmother and the old neighbour Sivving). There is a religious-mystical element to the novel, but this is not at the cost of a down-to-earth denoument. The author herself wrote to her potential readers about the book thus:

I hope you’ll like it. That you’ll like the biting cold of midwinter, the austerity of the people, the dogs that are so important in all my books. I hope you’ll like my police officers: pregnant Anna-Maria with her horse-face, her idle husband whom she loves in spite of everything, and all her children; her colleague Sven-Erik Stålnacke, a man of few words, with his moustache which resembles a squirrel that’s been run over. And I really hope you’ll like my main character, Rebecka Martinsson. I know she’s a little bit isolated from other people and a little bit difficult. The kind of person who works herself to death instead of asking herself how she’s feeling. But she does have her own story, a story she’s running away from.

Asa Larsson’s next two novels, The Blood Spilt and The Black Path, were translated into English, and continued the story of Rebecka’s conflicts between old and new, city and country life, the real world and the “spirit” world. These stories were wonderful, but sadly the rest of the series was not translated and some time elapsed before a new publisher took on the books. The fourth, Until Thy Wrath Be Past, was published in the UK this year in a translation by Laurie Thompson, and continues the themes of the earlier novels. There is one more novel in the series so far written but not translated; according to Larsson’s prologue to The Black Path, her intention is for the series to consist of seven novels.

I hope that anyone who has not yet read this author will try her books: they are listed below, with links to my reviews.

Sun Storm (UK title: The Savage Altar)

The Blood Spilt

The Black Path

Until Thy Wrath be Past

Three authors who write in a similar vein to Asa Larsson – this is quite a hard one. The author whose books I think are quite similar is Johan Theorin, with his stories of the old island legends and ageing populations, but he isn’t a woman author! So I shall choose:

Stef Penney, whose novels The Tenderness of Wolves and The Invisible Ones share themes of old mysteries, and of protagonists who are outside the society in which they live, and are conflicted about this. The two authors have a rather similar approach to wolves, in Penny’s first novel and in Larsson’s The Savage Altar, in which the life of a wild wolf is entangled with Rebecka’s fate. But the lupine aspect is not the only similarity that these authors share!

Camilla Ceder is another Swedish author who so far has had one novel, Frozen Moment, translated into English. It shares with Asa Larsson a sense of people struggling in a remote community while the rest of the world is fixated on city dwelling and its associated “benefits”. There’s a police procedural element, in common with Larsson, and a tragic past back-story involving some of the themes addressed in Sun Storm. There isn’t an explicit religious or mystical aspect to the plot, however, although there is a great sense of location.

Kersten Ekman is more of a literary than a crime writer, and I’ve only read one of her books, Blackwater. This novel is longer and more convoluted than Asa Larsson’s books, but shares many of the same elements: remote communtity; tensions between rural and city life; value-systems of the old and the young; superstitions; and a sense of threat if any old secrets should be in danger of being revealed.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

SinC25: Joanna Hines, #2 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now embarking on the expert level:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.

Joanna Hines is known to me as the author of The Murder Bird, a book I reviewed for Euro Crime, having first heard of it via a review at It’s a Crime! blog. I summed up the book as “a compelling little psychological thriller of dark family secrets” – it’s a story of the apparent suicide of a poet, and the efforts of her daughter to find out how she really died. The post at It’s A Crime provides the opening paragraph of the book, which is extremely “must-read-on-ish”, as well as some background information about the author.

I am not sure why I haven’t read any more novels by Joanna Hines since I read The Murder Bird, but I have decided to rectify this omission as soon as I have reduced my stack of recently acquired books to manageable proportions. I enjoy reading suspenseful novels, and this author seems to specialise in the genre, with Improvising Carla, about a death on a Greek island; Surface Tension, another novel about family secrets concerning a 20-year-old murder; and Angels of the Flood, set in Florence and again about an old mystery. The author has also written historical novels set in Cornwall, in the south-west of England, and some earlier books “about secrets” which are categorised separately from the titles mentioned above. More about the books and the author can be found at Joanna Hines’s website.

Based on The Murder Bird, I’d recommend the following three authors who write in a similar vein:

Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell), whose books are on “themes of human misunderstandings and the unintended consequences of family secrets and hidden crimes.” A listing of Barbara Vine’s books, with a synopsis of each, is available at Wikipedia. I’ve read seven of the thirteen listed.

Diane Janes has written two suspenseful novels of family secrets: The Pull of the Moon and the superior Why Don’t You Come For Me? Both these novels are in the same vein as Hines and Vine in tapping into the tensions bubbling below the surface of apparently normal domestic life.

Morag Joss has written a book called Half-Broken Things which is about an odd collection of people living in a country house – how they got there and the consequences of the secrets that they all keep. Joss has written several other standalone books and a series about a musician in Bath (England), none of which I’ve (yet?) read. But on the evidence of Half-Broken Things, Joss’s books can be said to fall into this suspenseful “domestic secrets” genre, where the tensions between a small cast of characters are the focus of the book as opposed to police-procedural investigations, private detectives, or “thrills and spills”.

I don’t think I am familiar with books from the USA in this subgenre, so any recommendations would be gratefully received.

My Euro Crime review of The Murder Bird.

Crime fiction reader’s review of The Murder Bird (at It’s a Crime!).

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

SinC25: Progress so far and preparing for the ascent

Pretty soon after starting it, I realise I messed up on this Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge – probably because I don’t really understand these challenges! I’ve completed the easy and the moderate levels, so have the expert challenge left to do:

write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend

I realise that what I should have done was to have started out on the expert challenge, because by completing the easy challenge (one post about one woman author, recommend 5 others) and the moderate challenge (five posts each about a woman author, recommend 1 other in each), I’ve used up a large number of authors already, and it’s a lot to come up with 10 more to post about and 30 others to recommend! But I’ll give it a go.

Before I attempt this Everest, I’ll just recap on my previous SinC25 posts (which are collected here).

I decided that I’d try to write a post about an author from a different country each time. For the easy post, I chose Unity Dow, from Botswana. For the 5 moderate posts, I chose:

Diane Setterfield, US author, setting England.
Similar author/book: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
Catherine Sampson, English author living in China, setting England (first two novels) and China (second two novels).
Similar authors: Liza Marklund (Sweden) and Diane Wei Lang (China).
Saskia Noort, Dutch author (and setting).
Similar authors: Claudia Pineiro (Argentina) and Simone van der Vlugt (Holland).
Katherine Howell, Australian author (and setting).
Similar author: Sue Grafton (USA).
Miyuke Miyabe, Japanese author (and setting).
Similar author: Dominique Manotti (France).

I’d like to clarify that “similar” author does not mean “always writes the same type of book”; rather it means that there are elements of the books I’ve highlighted in these posts that are also present in some books by the “similar author” chosen. In other aspects, the paired (or tripled) authors are very different.

I wonder how I’ll get on with this 10 plus 30 part of the challenge? I’ll have to drop the concept of writing about an author from a different country each time, as I’m not that well read. Do you think I’ll make it? (Suggestions that might help are very welcome!).

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.