SinC25: Erin Kelly, #10 (and final) post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ easy and moderate challenges, I have with this post reached the end of the expert challenge! The task:

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’m choosing Erin Kelly for my last post. Her second book The Sick Rose is a suspense novel told from the point of view of two characters, in two different time frames. Yet unlike many books that use the “switching time” device, Kelly writes with discipline and focus. Hence there is a strong framework for the story she tells to be revealed gradually to the reader. Kelly’s first book, The Poison Tree, was mainly set in London and concerned some young people who spent a lethal summer living in a big house owned by the father of two of them. The Sick Rose* is set in two contrasting areas of London for its earlier time frame, but in the present the action occurs in Warwickshire – at a castle not unlike Kenilworth, and in the town of Leamington Spa. Rather than recommend three authors who write similar novels to Kelly (who could be Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine, Morag Joss and Tara French), I am going to highlight three authors from, and who write about, the same midlands region of the UK, which is somewhat unfashionable in international, and even national, terms.

(*The Sick Rose is retitled as The Dark Rose in the USA, which is incomprehensible as the author explains the meaning of “the sick rose” during the book.)

Catherine O’Flynn has written two wonderful novels set in Birmingham. The first, What Was Lost, is a very different kind of detective story, a very sad one, featuring England’s first (real-life) enormous shopping mall and its effect on the lives of the characters. Her second book, The News Where You Are, has a detective story element (again very “different”), and conveys the same sense of sadness in human relationships. One of its themes is of the architecture of Birmingham, widely derided nowadays as a soul-less “concrete jungle” but in the eyes of its architect a marvellous vision of the future. The architect is loosely based on the visionary but misunderstood John Madin, who died earlier this year. Here is a Guardian profile of the author, written just before this novel was published.

Diane Janes set her first novel, The Pull of the Moon, in the countryside round Birmingham and Hereford. The main character, Kate, grew up in the city, went to college there, and as the novel opens is enjoying early retirement. The novel tells of a traumatic experience one summer in Kate’s youth. Janes’s second novel, Why Don’t You Come For Me?, is an excellent suspense novel in the Karin Altvegen mould, set a little further north in the Lake District.

Judith Cutler lived and worked in Birmingham for many years. Her first series of novels featured Sophie Rivers, a teacher at a college in the city. She has also written several other series, some of which are set in the region.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge was started by Barbara Fister. Thank you, Barbara, for the fascinating journey – even though I completed it after the end of the official 25th anniversary year!

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SinC25: Simone van der Vlugt, #9 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now working hard on the expert level and believe the end is almost in sight! 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.

Reading Rich Westwood‘s recent Euro Crime review of Shadow Sister reminded me of the Dutch author Simone van der Vlugt, whose two novels that have been translated into English are both very enjoyable, in a dark, suspenseful way. Shadow Sister (translated by Michele Hutchinson, my review at link) is about twins, one a schoolteacher and the other a photographer. Their different attitudes to materialism, men and the job market first strike one about these young women, but gradually we come to see how their past life when children has affected them. One of the nice things about this book is the unreliable perception of reality, depending on which twin is narrating the story.

The Reunion is the other book by this author that has been translated (again by Michele Hutchinson) and published in English. Again, there is an unreliable, possibly unstable, narrator, Sabine, recently returned to work after a bout of depression. Gradually, we come to learn more about Sabine’s life and past, and it is not pleasant.

Rich’s Euro Crime review of Shadow Sister touched upon the ordinary lives of the characters. He writes: “Its setting in suburban Rotterdam may as well be suburban Slough, and its Further Education college, shopping mall, and nightclubs could be situated in Leicester, Hull or Stoke. The characters are teachers, photographers, software engineers and teenagers, all people that you might find in your local town centre next Saturday lunchtime.” This made me wonder, in the context of this challenge, what other books by women authors use the ordinariness of setting to cover up distinctly non-ordinary secrets, secrets that gradually are revealed? I have to think of three such authors….

Jessica Mann‘s The Mystery Writer is in one respect about an ordinary character (“Jessica Mann”) who is in Cornwall researching a book about a (true-life) disaster of World War 2 – the sinking of the ship City of Bernares as it was carrying evacuees from the UK to Canada. She witnesses the attempted suicide of a woman, which is the start of the gradual revealing of many family secrets and previously hidden crimes, in a very clever set of plots.

Esther Verhoef, another Dutch author, tells the story of Margot Laine in her novel Close-Up. Margot is an ordinary salesperson who has to cope with being dumped by her husband after seven years of marriage, including being looked down on by her own parents and being stood up by a girlfriend when she attempts to take a holiday to cheer herself up. Soon, the insecure Margot is being wooed by a very handsome man, a celebrity artist — but what does he see in her, and what happened to his first wife? Margot is increasingly sucked into a maelstrom that is very far from ordinary.

School is a place that is much the same the world over, one might think. In Yaba Badoe‘s debut novel True Murder, young Ajuba is trying to get over her mother’s death. She lived in Ghana but has been placed by her father in an English school in an attempt to provide her with a “normal” life. There, Ajuba is befriended by Polly Venus and hence gets to meet the Venus family in the school holidays. Another situation that becomes distinctly abnormal as the pages turn!

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

SinC25: Laura Wilson, #8 post of expert challenge

Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ moderate challenge, I am now working hard on the expert level. 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.

Laura Wilson is well-known in the UK both as an author of crime fiction and as a reviewer of crime novels for The Guardian. She wrote half a dozen suspense novels, mostly historical, between 1999 and 2006, but here I want to mention her series about London policeman Ted Stratton, as an example of a historical series that, in examining social and political trends over a period of time (the Blitz to the 1960s), does not get bogged-down in the past in the way that many historical novels can tend, rather self-consciously, to do.

Stratton’s War (2007): “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.
Part of the pleasure and poignancy of this book is the objectivity and frankness that this talented author can bring to bear on events of nearly 70 years ago. For 30 years or so after the war, novels of this type were still, on the whole, covered with a veneer of propaganda and, although exciting, were often too black-and-white to seem realistic or involving. Laura Wilson examines all the issues: social, sexual and political, with a clear-sightedness that provides real insight to the modern reader. This is an admirable novel, both as a good piece of historical crime fiction, but also as a social and emotionally telling commentary on the snapshot of time in which it is set.”

An Empty Death (2009): ” I enjoyed this novel as much, or perhaps even more than, Stratton’s War. The earlier novel focused on events that could only have taken place in the context of the war, whereas An Empty Death is a timeless mystery that is given added interest and excitement by taking place during such unusual times. I am not usually a fan of historical novels, nor of books set in World War Two, but the apparent authenticity of the many domestic, professional* and general details in this novel, as well as its triple plot, soon had me absorbed. The characters seem so genuine: so often when one reads a contemporary novel set in the past, the characters seem to act knowingly about the future, or to have attitudes that anticipate the modern era. There is none of that here, the author simply presents her characters as of their times, which is very effective.”
(*I have since been corrected on an aspect of this point by Norman of Crime Scraps.)

A Capital Crime (2010): “Laura Wilson has written an excellent novel in A Capital Crime. Her invented characters, whether central or tangential, are completely realistic and of their time yet with a subtle overtone of present-day perspective. Her observations of the social mores of the day are acute, and her cast-list (with the exception of the criminal) sympathetic yet unsentimental. Her settings are beautifully detailed and convincing throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and so much hope that it will not be too long before the next episode in the life of DI Ted Stratton.”

I now have to name three women authors who write in a similar vein. This is quite a challenge to me as I don’t read much historical fiction (I read a great deal of it in my teens and then had enough, rather like science fiction), but I’ll try:

Aly Monroe has so far written three books about Peter Cotton, The Maze of Cadiz (which I’ve read), Washington Shadow and Icelight (which I haven’t yet). Like Laura Wilson’s, these novels begin in the Second World War and continue after it, but the protagonist is a military intelligence agent.

Jacqueline Winspear set the main part of her first Maisie Dobbs novel in 1929. There are nine books to date about this psychology-oriented, ex-nurse investigator with her own business, but I’m afraid I have read only the first of these. In that novel, the themes of the effects of war (in this case, the First Word War) on civilian society and on those involved in it, were very much to the fore.

Andrea Maria Schenkel‘s first two novels, The Murder Farm and Ice Cold (both translated by Anthea Bell), are much grimmer affairs about the myths of war and the brutal crimes committed by those caught up in the maelstrom. They are also relentless depictions of claustrophobic German societies and attitudes, in which in each brief novel the reader can only surmise the war’s cause and effect.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.

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.

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.

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.

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: Margot Kinberg, #3 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.

Margot Kinberg has written two delightful books in that enticing subgenre, “academic crime”. Her detective, Joel Williams, is both an ex-cop and a professor, bringing a calm sense of wisdom to the disturbing events that have happened previously. Margot herself is a professor, so she depicts university life with authenticity and insight, but never with a heavy hand.

Publish or Perish, I wrote in my review a couple of years ago, “is a literate, light yet engaging read. The account of life at Tilton University rings authentically true, as one might expect from the author’s credentials as an associate professor at a prestigious US university. The pace never flags as the investigation narrows down to a small group of suspects, and previous associations become clearer. I thoroughly enjoyed Publish or Perish, and can recommend it to anyone who wants to be taken out of themselves for a couple of hours, and who is curious about the backstabbing and doublespeak that can go on in the groves of academe.”

About her second novel, B-Very Flat, I wrote: “The author has a lovely light writing style while at the same time conveying the sadness of the story she’s telling. The pace of the book never falters, and in particular the author’s identification of the concerns and feelings of young adults is remarkable. I highly recommend this book, which I am sure will rank highly among my favourite reads of the year. I discovered Margot Kinberg’s books via her excellent blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and I am very glad I did. I can’t wait for the next.”

Now I have to recommend three authors who write in a similar vein.

Carole Schmurak‘s Deadmistress is not set in a university but in a “posh private school”. The headmistress is killed and Susan Lombardi, a professor and educational consultant, sets out to solve the crime because a friend of hers has been accused of it. I enjoyed this novel, but have not yet read its two sequels, Death by Committee and Death at Hilliard High (all are available for a very reasonable price in Kindle format, I note!).

Elly Griffiths has written three very enjoyable novels about an academic, Ruth Galloway, who as a forensic archaeologist is a consultant to the local (Norfolk) police. In The Crossing Places, The Janus Stone and The House at Sea’s End, we follow not only Ruth’s detective skills but her somewhat chaotic private life.

Sisal-Jo Gazan‘s first novel, The Dinosaur Feather, is apparently based in part on her PhD thesis on the evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds. This question is at the root of the crime in which PhD student and single parent Anna Bella Nor becomes tangled up. Although not as light in touch or as smooth to read as Margot’s novels, The Dinosaur Feather features a similarly authentic view of academic life, this time in a university in Denmark, and the tensions of academic success or failure.

My reviews of Publish or Perish and B-Very Flat, by Margot Kinberg.

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: Denise Hamilton, #1 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.

Denise Hamilton is the female author who most nearly made it onto David Montgomery’s “top ten” detective novels list. I enjoyed her first novel, The Jasmine Trade, upon its initial UK publication as part of an Orion “new authors” promotion. Eve Diamond, an investigative journalist with the LA Times, struggles to make and keep a career in a city hypersensitive to ethnic and ethical tensions, and is as determined as hell to get to the bottom of things. The plot and outcome of The Jasmine Trade was original and moving– all in all a great debut.

Although I enjoyed subsequent Eva Diamond novels (Sugar Skull and Last Lullaby), by the fourth, Savage Garden, I felt the series was becoming a bit formulaic and have not read any more of the author’s books since then (2006). Checking out the author’s website to see what she’s published since Savage Garden, she has written another Eve Diamond novel, Prisoner of Memory; edited two short-story collections (LA Noir and LA Noir 2); written another standalone novel, The Last Embrace, set in Los Angeles again but in 1949; and, most recently, written a novel called Damage Control, “murder and scandal in a wealthy political family” in southern California.

I’m quite keen to try Damage Control, but in nominating the required three other authors writing similar novels, I’m going to stick to the journalism theme because I’ve only read the Eve Diamond (journalism) novels by Denise Hamilton so can’t compare any of the others to anyone.

Mari Jungstedt: Swedish novels set on the island of Gotland, TV journalist Johan Berg investigates crimes in parallel to the police and usually collaborates with them to share knowledge and hence find the solution. He has an on-off-on relationship with Emma, a local schoolteacher.

Elaine Viets wrote four novels about New Orleans journalist Francesca Vierling between 1997 and 2000. As well as being witty investigations of crimes, they offer clever insights into the ethics and management of newspaper publishing, as well as a window into the world of the “rehabbers” of pre-Katrina New Orleans. Highly recommended if you like brisk, humorous books with a bite. (Viets has more recently focused on her Mystery Shopper and Dead End Job series, which are very “pink”.)

Liza Marklund is author of one of my top favourite series, about Swedish newspaper journalist Annika Bengztrom. Annika exposes a range of crimes including conspiracies among the political elite and the trafficking of young women, as well as dealing with a complicated personal life.

My previous posts in the SinC25 challenge.

The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge.