Book review: Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff

Some Kind of Peace
by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff
translated by Paul Norlen
Simon & Schuster 2012
First published in Sweden 2009

Some Kind of Peace is an atmospheric, well-written book. Yet it demands, almost, ambivalence from the reader in continually challenging us with the characters and their behaviour, as well as the way the authors present the crime part of the plot.

Siri Bergman is a psychologist. She’s depressed after the death of her partner Stefan some years previously, living alone in the remote seaside cottage which they bought together because of Stefan’s love of diving. Siri is a nervous, anxious person terrified of the dark, so sleeps with all the lights on. Nevertheless, she does not use curtains or blinds for her windows, it seems.

Siri practices with two colleagues, her best friend Aina and an older man, Sven, who has previously lost his university professorship for having an affair with a student (he’s married to another professor, of gender studies, an ironic touch), so has now turned to private practice. Both Sven and Aina are sex addicts.

Part of the book takes the form of Siri’s therapy sessions with her patients, and these are perhaps the best-described and most interesting sections. Another part is a “mind of the killer” theme, in which someone is stalking Siri, intending to cause her pain and harm. This threat escalates from some nasty tricks on Siri, to the extent that one of her patients is found dead on the shore by the cottage, in circumstances that point suspicion at Siri. The police become involved, and it becomes clear that the stalker is someone who has access to Siri’s patient records – in fact he (or she) may even be one of her other patients. The tension escalates as Siri attempts to live her life while pondering on who might be obsessed with her and wish to cause her harm. A very lonely woman, she becomes attracted to a young policeman who is working on the case.

I found Some Kind of Peace a frustrating book: sometimes sophisticated, sometimes over-simple. It is well written, and in many places intelligent and absorbing. The crime plot, however, is unpleasant as I do not like reading about the point of view of someone who abuses and exploits vulnerable women. Some of Siri’s behaviour seems incomprehensible for someone under threat, and her passivity towards a couple of men who make unwelcome passes to her during the book seems at odds with other times when she is very direct in conversation. Her loneliness is very well-conveyed, as she attempts to come to terms with a double loss in her past. Yet the outcome of the crime plot, when we learn the identity of the stalker, is one of those “pick one from the cast of characters” let-downs.

I bought this book.

Read other reviews of it at: S. Krishna’s books, Publisher’s Weekly and The Eloquent Page.

About the book at the publisher’s website.

Book review: The Camera Killer by Thomas Glavinic

The Camera Killer
by Thomas Glavinic
translated by John Brownjohn
Amazon Crossing, 2012
First published in Austria, 2002

This novella, just over 100 pages long, takes the form of a statement. A young man and his partner Sonja travel to the country to stay with their friends Heinrich and Eva for a few days over Easter, in the middle of rural, conservative Austria. The foursome hear of a terrible crime, in which a man has kidnapped three boys and persuaded two of them to commit suicide. The book consists of a description of the foursome’s activities in the days leading up to an arrest: cooking, eating, playing games and some degree of interaction with the locals.

While the friends pursue their apparently innocent activities, they follow the horrible story of the murders on TV. The killer’s video camera has been found, so there is much debate on the media, from politicians and religious authorities about the justification of showing the film of the boys’ deaths. Heinrich becomes obsessed with the TV coverage, whereas the two women alternate between hysterical fear and fascinated horror. All four of them seem compelled to not only watch the case unfold, but also, when it appears that the killer may still be on the loose and in the area where they are staying, to participate in local gossip and speculation.

The Camera Killer won the Friedrich Glauser prize for crime fiction in 2002, so it is a book to be taken seriously. I found it unenjoyable, as it is a straight description of events designed to show the characters’ moral emptiness and detachment from reality – for example by the way Sonja is named only once, and by the way that the foursome switch to playing badminton or cooking dinner whenever there is nothing about the case on TV or in the papers. The crime itself is so horrific that I did not want to read any of the details about it. There is no explanation of the motivation for the murders here (perhaps not a bad thing): people are simply blank slates whose characters and motives can only be surmised by the reader.

Book review: Season of the Witch by Arni Thorarinsson

Season of the Witch
by Arni Thorarinsson
translated by Anna Yates
Amazon Crossing, 2012
first published in Iceland as Tími nornarinnar (The Witching Hour), 2005
Einar #4

Einar, a journalist with the Afternoon News, is posted to Akureyri in the north of Iceland to boost the paper’s regional coverage. He is fed up at having to leave Reykjavík for this backwater, not least because it separates him from his 14-year-old daughter. Nevertheless, he determines to make the best of it, helped by photographer Joa but hindered by office manager Asbjorg, with whom Einar does not get along.

The book begins at a fast pace, with Einar reporting on a story that interests him: the case of a woman who drowned while on a white-water-rafting team building exercise. His Reykjavik bosses, however, send him on assignment even further north to investigate what they think to be cases of racist-inspired brawling, due to the large influx of foreign workers on the multinational construction sites being developed everywhere. Then, a teenage boy who is putting on a production of a traditional Icelandic play goes missing, later to be found dead. Einar had interviewed the boy previously about his production, and is curious about what happened to him, even though any details are hard to obtain.

Einar makes peace with Asbjorg in order to get an “in” with the police, while at the same time dealing with his obnoxious news editor, and their mutual corporate henchman boss, who want him to spend more time on trivial stories than on investigative journalism. By his persistence in befriending relatives and those who knew the two people who have died, Einar gets gradually closer to the truth.

There is a lot to like in Season of the Witch, whose title refers to a 1960s song by Donovan: the mystery is solid, the Icelandic setting well-conveyed, and the characterisation more rounded than a typical crime novel. The mother of the drowned woman, now living in a care home, is a particularly well-observed creation, as is Einar’s relationship with her.

The dynamics between the colleagues are well-drawn, and small subplots, such as a dognapping theme and Einar’s feelings towards the parrot he is looking after, provide light relief from the main themes of corporate greed and social breakdown. There are lots of details about Einar’s journalism, but I found it hard to credit that a paper would not have an internet edition in 2005, necessitating delays before Einar’s stories can be printed.

The main downside of the book for me is that he middle section drags, being too repetitive rather than developing the story, and spending too much time on quoting song lyrics. In the final section, when Einar begins to see how the various cases he is working on are connected, the pace picks up. But it has to be said that part of this is due to him waiting until very late in the book to meet and interview certain people, and on a somewhat serendipitous, but crucial, discovery.

This is the fourth book in a series, but the first to be translated into English. There has clearly been some back-story about Einar concerning his daughter and his previous job in the capital that can only be surmised here, but the book can be enjoyed without having read the previous titles.

I was sent this book by Amazon Vine.

Reading in Reykjavík : review of the Icelandic edition of this book.

Book review: Sebastian Bergman by Hjorth Rosenfeldt

Sebastian Bergman
by Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt
translated by Marlaine Delargy
Trapdoor/Little, Brown 2012
first published in Sweden 2010
Sebastian Bergman #1

Sebastian Bergman is a slightly overweight, messed up criminal psychologist. He has not practised or done any work for about 6 years, since a devastating personal tragedy. He has a recurring terrible dream, and having tried abusing prescription drugs and alcohol, he’s settled into being a sex addict. He’s very good at seducing 40-something women and abandoning them before the next morning.

Yet Sebastian is a likeable chap, and one whom the reader wishes to know better. His mother has died before the novel opens, so Sebastian travels to her house in Vasteras (a “polite” small town in Sweden) to sell up. He did not get on with his parents, to the extent that he does not want to know how his mother died, and has not attended her funeral. While roaming round the house one night, he finds some letters written to his mother thirty years ago: letters that change his life.

In parallel with Sebastian’s story, a murder has taken place. Sixteen-year-old Roger Eriksson has gone missing. Because of the incompetence of the local police, nobody begins to look for the boy for a few days, whereupon his body is found in a lake – and drowning was not the cause of death. Internal police politics ensure that a small specialist team from Riksmond, led by Torkel Hoglund, is bought in to take over the investigation.

Vasteras is a small place, so Sebastian becomes aware of the investigation when he witnesses the delinquent son of his neighbour running across his garden, away from the police who want to question him. It turns out that Sebastian is an old colleague of Torkel, and that the two men have helped each other through some difficult personal times in the past. Sebastian isn’t in the least interested in helping with the murder case, but calls in favours to get himself on the team and, he hopes, access to the police computers which will help him track down the information in the letters he has found.

The juxtaposition of the police investigation, which brings up more and more nasty secrets of small-town life, and the unwelcome Sebastian’s contributions, make an interesting and unusual tale. After the chapters outlining the set-up, the action slows down considerably as the police follow up boring and useless leads, but the personalities of the local and specialist police-force make up for this lack of pace. Sebastian himself is a fascinating character, as he gradually becomes drawn into the investigation despite himself, and finds some degree of rehabilitation in doing so. In the end, he’s left as a bit of a frustrating enigma, doubtless to be explored further in future books. I look forward to reading them, not least because of Marlaine Delargy’s characteristically excellent translation.


I bought this book.

Sebastian Bergman has been made into a TV series, together with the second (as yet untranslated) book – the authors are TV producers. The first episode tells the story of the book I’ve reviewed here. Although the TV show sticks to the plot of the book, it is far more superficial (and violent), and the character of Sebastian exaggerated almost to caricature. The show is reviewed here by Mrs Peabody. I much preferred the book!

Although the book has been available to purchase for a while, I can’t find any (proper) reviews of it (even Amazon UK only has one), though there are lots of reviews of the TV show out there. (A search of Trapdoor’s or Little, Brown’s websites does not turn up the book, either!) There is some reader discussion at GoodReads, mostly in Swedish.

Book review: The Wandering Soul Murders by Gail Bowen

The Wandering Soul Murders
by Gail Bowen
McClelland and Stewart 2004
first published 1992
Joanne Kilbourn #3

In the third novel of this engaging series, Joanne Kilbourn has moved back to Regina to establish a home for her new daughter Taylor. As ever, a strong element of family ties pervades this novel, as Jo’s eldest daughter Mieka has returned to live with Jo while she establishes a second branch of her Saskatoon catering business. Mieka’s wedding is looming, so Jo is both concerned with the arrangements, and with her worries about Mieka, who has given up her college degree course to start her business.

A couple of coincidences kick-start the mystery plot. First, Mieka finds the murdered body of her temporary cleaner in a garbage can behind the city hall site of her business. Then, an unwelcome visitor turns up: a manipulative woman called Christy who was engaged to Peter, Jo’s eldest son. The young couple had broken up and Peter is currently away working, but Christy tells Jo that they have now got back together again and that Peter has invited her to Mieka’s engagement party weekend at her future in-laws’ house. Reluctantly, Jo includes Christy in the trip to the party, slowly realising the extent to which Christy is obsessed with her. Christy is also abruptly rude about the dead girl, upsetting Jo by her lack of sympathy. The second coincidence arrives in the form of the next murder victim.

Jo is determined to uncover some truths about the blight that seems to be hanging over her family. There is also some good news, though, as an old friend invites her to be a panellist on a TV show about Canadian politics. One of the other participants, on a different side of the ideological fence, is Keith, the uncle of Meika’s fiance Greg. Jo becomes romantically interested in Keith.

Although the main framework of the novel concerns Jo’s family relationships and domestic arrangements, there is a strong undercurrent of social tragedy underlying events, which gradually builds to a tense climax when Jo and little Taylor are on a lakeside holiday.

The Wandering Soul Murders is a compelling, easy read: the account of Jo and her family’s life carries the reader along. The darker themes are handled well on an emotional level, but perhaps not so strongly in terms of plot. I do recommend this series: I’ve now read the first three books and shall definitely read more.

I bought this book.

Other reviews of The Wandering Soul Murders: Kirkus reviews and Books in Canada. The book has also been made into a TV film, which from the IMDB plot summary differs in some central respects from the book.

Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan: posts about Gail Bowen and her books.

My reviews of the first two books in this series: Deadly Appearances and Murder at the Mendel (in which Taylor is introduced).

Author’s website.

Book review: In the Darkness by Karin Fossum

In the Darkness
by Karin Fossum
translated by James Anderson
Harvill Secker/Vintage, 2012
first published in Norway in 1995
Inspector Konrad Sejer #1

The opportunity to read Karin Fossum’s first novel in her series about Inspector Sejer is very welcome. Originally published in 1995, In The Darkness already contains all the elements that are familiar to readers of this excellent Norwegian novelist. As with the second couple of novels (chronologically), there is more about Sejer as a character, and about the police team, than there is in more “fabular”, abstract, recent books in the series.

The tale here, as readers familiar with Fossum will expect, is deceptively simple: Eva and her six-year-old daughter Emma discover the body of a man in the river one night. Although Eva tells her daughter she has called the police, in fact she has not. Later, however, another person reports seeing the body, and so Inspector Sejer awards himself the case.

In his characteristic laid-back but observant style, Sejer has befriended the widow and young son of the dead man, who has been missing for six months. Unable to progress, but now knowing he has a murder case on his hands, he decides to look into the only other case of unnatural death that has been reported to the police in the past year. Sejer’s slow but methodical investigation gradually brings to light some small clues that he can follow up. Whether or not the two cases are linked becomes gradually clear to the reader, but the author keeps some surprises up her sleeve.

The book is in two halves: the first half tells the story of the investigation and of Eva’s life from the point of discovery of the man’s body; the second is from Eva’s perspective of previous events, providing a rich psychological portrait of a woman struggling to make ends meet without compromising her artistic integrity, and retain her sanity, in the wake of a divorce and some very stressful life-events. The details of small-town life, together with the touching portrait of two lonely widowers (Sejer and Eva’s father) adjusting to a solitary existence, are very moving and beautifully observed. The book is not without humour, particularly in a scene about an unconventional hiding place Eva is forced to use, which will be familiar to readers of Headhunters (written much later) by Jo Nesbo, another Norwegian crime author.

The author wastes no words in telling her tightly plotted story with its hidden depths, ensuring that the reader will be haunted by it, and Eva’s struggles in particular, for some time after finishing it.

I obtained this book from Amazon Vine.

Other reviews of In The Darkness: Euro Crime (Karen Meek), Irish Independent, Finnish and Scandinavian Review.

Euro Crime: The Inspector Sejer series in order, with links to reviews.

Book review: Another Time, Another Life by Leif G W Persson

Another Time, Another Life
by Leif G W Persson
translated by Paul Norlen
Doubleday/Transworld 2012
First published in Sweden 2003
Johansson/Jarnebring trilogy #2

Another Time, Another Life is a marvellous book. Part of a trilogy subtitled “The story of a crime”, it begins with a terrorist attack on the German embassy in Stockholm in 1975. This was the year that the last Martin Beck book, The Terrorists, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, was published in English translation; as might be expected from the use of the same overarching title, Persson’s first section directly continues the themes of this novel, both in content and in style. Based on a true event, some young radicals manage to get into the embassy and take some people hostage: the police and authorities are taken unawares, but in the end cannot investigate the crime as government ministers do a hasty deal to return the surviving perpetrators to their native Germany. There are one or two loose ends, however, concerning the local support that the terrorists must have received.

The presentation of this first, short section of the book is so distinctive, setting the tone for the rest. It is measured and sober, describing enormities of violence, procedural deficiencies, and institutional stupidities in dispassionate terms, allowing the reader to absorb their full impact. The author’s refusal to be overtly opinionated at first gives his words a face-value authority, but as the book progresses one sees the extent to which the author is wooing the reader to his particular subversive perception of his country’s criminal justice system.

After the end of the embassy siege, the action moves forward to the autumn of 1989, and a murder investigation by the Stockholm police, under the command of the odious DI Backstrom. The lead detectives, Bo Jarnebring and Anna Holt, conduct an impeccable investigation into the murder of a government statistician in his apartment, but Backstrom continually undermines them by stealing liquor from the murder scene and, more importantly, by his inherent, longstanding but evidence-free conviction that the victim was gay and that the murder was a squalid crime of passion.

The crime investigation ultimately seems to lead nowhere, and the book shifts into another “Another Time” section describing the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the origins of the Swedish secret police organisation SePo. Slowly and cleverly, all the themes raised in the novel converge, in terms of international and national spy-politics, in terms of some individuals on either side of the law, and in terms of the two main crimes whose investigations are described with such thoroughness.

In parallel with these accounts, Persson conveys something of the inner thoughts and machinations of his principal characters, some in the “public facing” police force and some in the “private” branch of SePo. The full degree of the author’s indictment of the way in which his country is run behind the scenes is simply brilliantly conveyed, a superb extension and development of the ten-novel “story of a crime” – post-war Swedish society – depicted by Sjowall and Wahloo. The intelligence, thoughtfulness and tension delivered in Persson’s novel are rarely encountered in crime fiction (or probably any fiction), as the author shows how the “solution” to a crime is only the beginning of the story.

I don’t like the common tendency to liken authors to other authors, but I will do so here because this book is reminiscent of Le Carre at his best: think of Smiley’s People, which starts with an apparent “petty” crime on Hampstead Heath, then mushrooms in many unanticipated directions. Persson writes from the perspective of the police institutions and how they, and the individuals within them, have adapted to survive in the changes that have taken place (in this case) between the 1970s and the turn of the millennium. By then, the goals of the police force are even more removed from those for whom they supposedly existed to help in the first place, and those in power in the service are those who have adapted to these immoral and illegal “high level” purposes. Persson also shows his colours concerning the institutionalised sexism of the police, somewhat unclear in his earlier novel Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End, but here presented in an uncompromising fashion via his team of three female detectives and the inevitable comparisons readers will make with the self-interested male policemen depicted in this book.

There are many layers of subtlety in this gripping novel which I haven’t addressed in this brief review, but which I greatly appreciated – in particular the acute characterisations, including (in some cases) the disparities between people’s thoughts and actions. I can only urge you to read it. I eagerly devoured every word, even though it is a very long book. In its superb anatomy of Sweden using the police and criminal justice system as a metaphor, as well as many of the ways characters are presented and evolve, Leif Persson is the true heir of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, authors of the best crime-fiction series ever written. (My reviews of nine of those ten books can be accessed at Euro Crime.)

I thank Karen for a proof copy of this novel. The UK cover of the novel is a generic “Scandinavian” picture of a person walking in the snow, which does not seem to reflect anything in the book. The lower cover image is the US version, which is aesthetically nicer and somewhat less generic.

A small point that interested me is that the name of the main victim is Kjell Eriksson, also the name of a well-known Swedish crime novelist. And the admirable female detective, Anna Holt, has a name reminiscent of Norwegian crime author (and ex-justice minister) Anne Holt.

Other reviews of Another Time, Another Life are at: Euro Crime (Laura Root), Crime Scraps and International Noir Fiction.

Book review: Sail of Stone by Åke Edwardson

Sail of Stone
by Åke Edwardson
translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles
Simon & Schuster, 2012 (US edition)
First published in Sweden, 2002.
Chief Inspector Erik Winter #6

Sail of Stone is a book of two parts: a rather mystical, music-name-checking-heavy first half in which nothing much happens; and a more down-to-earth, faster-moving second half. Following the tradition set in earlier books, there are two main plots in Sail of Stone. In both of them, it is not clear whether a crime has been committed, consequently much time is taken up with obfuscation, hesitation and ponderings as to whether there is even an investigation to be undertaken.

Both storylines involve Gothenburg’s team of police detectives. In one, Aneta Djanali follows up a neighbours’ report of possible spousal abuse in the downmarket area of Kortedala. The woman concerned, Anette Lindsten, will not open the door, and when Aneta returns later to allay her feelings of unease, she encounters a bizarre scene. It becomes Aneta’s mission to find Anette and discover what is happening to her and who is responsible, questions that are frustratingly intangible but which lead in unpredictable directions. During her investigation, Aneta reflects on her African heritage – her parents were immigrants from the Upper Volta, a country that since changed its name to Burkina Faso – and also continues her relationship with her colleague, the widower Fredrik Halders, a touching sub-plot.

The other storyline concerns Erik Winter, who is more concerned with buying a piece of land by the sea and building a house for his partner Angela and their daughter Elsa, than in his work. (This is a change of character caused by dramatic incidents in a previous novel, Frozen Tracks.) However, when an old girlfriend who lives on an island on the archipelago contacts him because her father has gone missing in Scotland, Erik eventually decides to act. After much introspection, he contacts his old friend Steve Macdonald from the Met; the two men, together with their partners, travel to Scotland to unravel the mystery.

Åke Edwardson’s novels are idiosyncratic. The separate stories are told in paragraphs within a chapter, together with what seem to be random paragraphs about un-named people (at least one of whom seems mad). In addition, several characters in Sail of Stone have the same, or a very similar, name. This can be a disorienting experience for the reader, and together with elements such as all the music references and the various reflections on sea, stone and sail, make the first half of the book seem a little self-indulgent. One advantage of this style, however, is that the atmosphere of Gothenburg is extremely well-depicted, and is a most enjoyable component of the novel.

The second half of the book is in many ways much more satisfactory, in that things actually happen and reader becomes genuinely involved in how both stories will pan out. However, it skates over many obvious questions, particularly in Aneta’s investigation, in which she does no checking of the characters she encounters, nor does she interview any of the neighbours who have allegedly observed and reported the problems. The ending of the book is disappointing in that the resolutions take only a couple of pages, which feels too truncated after such a long preamble and build-up. Despite its discursive, leisurely nature, Sail of Stone is a very enjoyable book for all the reasons I’ve given; because of the excellent translation; and because of its evocative descriptions of the sea and of the fishermen’s trade.

A note about the order of the series and my reading of it: the first books to be translated were Sun and Shadow (#3), Never End (#4) and Frozen Tracks (#5). (Click on the titles to read my reviews at Euro Crime.) Then, the first two books, Death Angels (#1) and Shadow Woman (#2) were translated and published. Because reviews of these books were mixed and because I did not feel that enthusiastic about going backwards in the series, I haven’t read these. I hope that future books in the series will be translated in chronological order! (The next up is Room No. 10 (#7), so it looks as if my wish is granted in the short term, at least.)

I thank Barbara Fister for so kindly sending me this book. Her review of it is at Reviewing the Evidence.

Other reviews of Sail of Stone are at: International Noir Fiction and Nordic Bookblog.

Book review: Killer’s Island by Anna Jansson

Killer’s Island
by Anna Jansson
translated by Enar Henning Koch
Stockholm Text (e-book) 2012
First published as Drömmen Förde dig Vilse (The Dream Led You Astray), 2010
Maria Wern #11

The island of the title is Gotland, best known to me as the setting for Mari Jungstedt’s novels. Killer’s Island is the first in the Maria Wern series to be translated into English but in fact is 11th (or according to some, 10th), chronologically. The books have also been filmed as a very popular TV series in Sweden.

Maria is a criminal inspector in the police team on the island. On the way home from a night out with her colleague Erika, she witnesses a boy being attacked by three men and tries to help him. She herself is seriously injured and ends up in hospital. Much to her annoyance, she can’t investigate the case because she is a witness, but she follows progress with interest.

Maria is not inactive for long, as a few days later the body of a woman is found, clad in a wedding dress, in the botanical gardens. The victim is found to be a nurse at the same hospital where Maria was treated, who has been consulting a local doctor because of insomnia – a doctor who turns out to be the new love-interest of Maria’s colleague Erika.

Killer’s Island is a very quick and compelling read. However, it is very much a mystery in the Agatha Christie style than one that is realistic. The reader is only told information if it is (or will be) relevant to the plot. Everybody turns out to be connected to everyone else. The identity of the killer is not a surprise. He or she is someone who, we learn at the start of the book, has hacked into a Russian satellite that monitors an oil pipeline, and uses this information to track people on the island. He or she is also able to hack into police and hospital computers so knows everything about the potential victims and the investigation. So there isn’t much of a crime puzzle element to the book, though there is plenty of suspense.

The strongest element of the novel is its depiction of the characters, including the members of the police team and their various romantic and other dilemmas. Clearly there is a lot of background that the English language reader cannot know about, but even so, the individuals and their problems are real, often involving their children (almost all of them are divorced). The other characters – witnesses, suspects and victims – are also presented well so that the reader becomes involved in their concerns and lives. Another strong element of the book is its local atmosphere, providing a fascinating picture of daily life on Gotland.

Killer’s Island is an old-fashioned book (despite its nods to mobile phones and the internet). It is rather like the books that have been churned out non-stop by crime authors since the Golden Age of Christie, Sayers and Allingham. If that’s your cup of tea, I am sure you’ll like this engaging, pleasing account in which everything is solved and tied up in ribbon at the end. I enjoyed the book as a change from my usual reading, but I am not converted to this subgenre.

I bought this book.

Other reviews of Killer’s Island: Criminal Element (includes interesting information about visiting Gotland), Simon Clarke (Amazon), Rhapsody in Books and International Noir Fiction.

Stockholm Text: about Killer’s Island.

Wikipedia: Anna Jansson and her books (titles in Swedish!).

July reading report and book of the month

July was a relatively quiet month for reading and reviews. Two reviews were published at Euro Crime and eight at Petrona. Of these ten, five are by women and five by men. The geographical spread is: USA 3; UK, 3, and one each for Canada, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Four are debut novels (to the best of my knowledge).

A smaller number of books means that, in principle, it is easier to select a book of the month. All the novels I read in July are good, and I can recommend any of them. So far as picking a “best” is concerned, I am not able to choose between two of the titles I read, so I’ll make one award for a debut author, and one for an author who has published novels before.

My non-debut award for July goes to Pierced, by Thomas Enger. From my review: “I urge you to read this novel (ideally after reading Burned), and hope you enjoy it as much as I did, even though it is written in the present tense. Its pleasures are enhanced by the excellent, colloquial translation by Charlotte Barslund.”

And my debut award goes to A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller, a wonderfully well-observed novel combining an evocative portrait of impoverished life in small-town West Virginia, with a crime investigation by a prosecuting attorney and her colleague, the sheriff. The author, a journalist, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her account of the deadly tornado in Utica, Illinois.

The full list of books reviewed during July is below. Click on the book’s title for the review.

Euro Crime:

Meltwater by Michael Ridpath (UK author, set in Iceland – Fire and Ice #3). “….those looking for an exhilarating yet light read with a difference – provided by the Icelandic setting – will be well satisfied by this book.” 3/5

Border Run by Simon Lewis (UK author, set in the China/Myanmar borderlands). “Perhaps this book is best suited to a teenage readership because of its “coming of age” themes, or for those who prefer to read a simple adventure story without much else to it.” 2/5


Murder at the Mendel by Gail Bowen (Canada) 3.5/5

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain (USA) 4/5

Gone in Seconds by A. J. Cross (England) 2.5/5

Pierced by Thomas Enger (Norway) 4.5/5

Playing Dead by Julia Haeberlin (USA) 2.5/5

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller (USA) 4.5/5

The Collini Case by Ferdinand von Schirach (Germany) 3/5

Death of a Carpet Dealer by Karin Wahlberg (Sweden) 3/5

For other bloggers’ choices of their books of the month, see the round-up post at Mysteries in Paradise.