fredag den 30. april 2010

Louise Doughty, Honey-Dew aka An English Murder (1998)

This British novel is the writer´s third. The genre is called satirical cozy, or cozy noir.

The peaceful environment in dusty Nether Bowston may point toward cozy mystery, but the story of Gemma Cowper who fails her O-levels and whose father is far too keen on protecting her against the world out there is unsettling. The tone and setting are old-fashioned, but surprisingly scary. And then both parents are stabbed to death, and Gemma vanishes.

The narrator, Alison Akenside, is a local journalist who lives close to the Cowpers. She has led a quiet single life, but she sees the murders as her one-time chance to have a scoop. And we soon learn that Alison and her family also have plenty of skeletons in the cupboard.

Unfortunately, the book is an uneven performance. On the plus side the first part and the environment are wonderfully sinister, and there is more psychological insight in the characters than in most cozies, but the ending is a bit of a let-down as there is not enough new information for my taste.

I bought the book myself. Reviewed for the 2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge # 3.

Bernadette´s review.

torsdag den 29. april 2010

Thy´s Day # 14

I had planned to show you our pretty anemones today,
but I have run into camera problems
so here you have last month´s books and flowers instead.

onsdag den 28. april 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 63

Have you read this crime novel which is from another millennium – but only just:

“It was four days before the bodies were discovered, by which time Mr Cowper had begun to mottle. He was lying underneath the kitchen window, where the sunlight caught him every afternoon. Sunlight and corpses do not mix.”

The Rules:
If you recognize the quotation, or if you think you are able to guess who wrote it, please post a comment. Just leave a hint, do not spoil the fun by giving too much away. The book will be reviewed on Friday.

tirsdag den 27. april 2010

Sunshine Award

A blog whose “contagious positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging universe.”

My, that sounds great, doesn´t it?

My kind and generous blogging friend, Margot, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, has sent the beautiful award with the flattering epithets my way. Thank you very much for sending me some sunshine, Margot!

I have decided not to pass it on this time, partly because she has already awarded several of my blog buddies, partly because I am still struggling with my boring protagonist. Thank you for all your brilliant suggestions, but if you have not chipped in already, please remember to do so.

Library Discovery:

For the first time in months I have had time to haunt my local library. Terribly tempting because since the last time, they have expanded the crime section which is now twice as large as before! (Need I tell you how much my back hurts now?)

Apart from several Scandinavian treats I selected this one:
Raymond Khoury, The Sign (2009)

I am not at all sure this book is my taste so who can guess why I was pleased to find it on the shelf?

mandag den 26. april 2010

Creating Characters

Right now I am revising a Danish manuscript of 85,000 words so this is a process that takes some times.

One of the problems is my protagonist. She is a 29-year-old middle class girl, and to be honest, she is a bit of a bore. She is interested in history and genealogy (like I am so that is not the boring part, of course), and she is intelligent though she is still a bit immature. Besides, she has several problems to cope with as she is unemployed, her father is ill and … No, I won´t give you that one. Who knows, maybe you will have the chance to read the full story one day.

What kind of things do you want to know about a protagonist? What could she be interested in? Does she dream of children, marriage and mortgage, or is that too early?

Some writers are excellent at creating vivid, three-dimensional characters that seem just as real as your neighbour. What exactly is it they do?

Any suggestions, ideas and tricks of the trade are most welcome.

lørdag den 24. april 2010

Denise Mina, Resolution (2001)

This Scottish novel is the third part of the Garnethill trilogy. Reviews of Garnethill and Exile.

After the first two, I had great expectations to the grand finale, and the first page sounds promising, don´t you think?

“The police were out there. Angus didn´t know what they were going to charge him with yet. He guessed the murders and not the rapes. They didn´t have any good witnesses for the rapes.”

When this volume begins, Maureen is waiting for the trial of Angus Farrell who killed her lover, Douglas. Maureen has spent the money Douglas left her without knowing she would be taxed so she has begun selling cigarettes from a stall together with her loyal friend, Leslie, to pay her debt. Soon an old stallholder, Ella McGee, disappears from the market, and Maureen discovers that she has been assaulted. Even though Ella seems to be on the mend, Maureen takes a keen interest in her son, Simon McGee´s affairs. And last, but not least, she is waiting for the birth of her sister´s baby, dreading the thought of a new baby in the family with her father on the lose.

The Garnethill trilogy is a brilliant crime series, but it is also a wonderful and realistic portrayal of life down among the women. Maureen and her friends know that the police will swoop down on the perpetrator as soon as someone has committed a crime, but who is there to save them from violence, abuse, poverty and alcoholism? No one but themselves.

In short, this is Scottish crime when it is best!

fredag den 23. april 2010

Martin Edwards, The Serpent Pool (2010)

This British crime novel is the fourth Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind story.

As indicated in my bait quotation, the story begins when affluent George Saffell is trapped in a fire together with his beloved collection of books.

A few weeks later, on New Year´s Eve, DCI Hannah Scarlett and her partner Marc Amos meet Saffell´s widow and many of the other people who are involved in this plot. The host is the ruthless lawyer Stuart Wagg, Louise Kind´s latest conquest – or is it the other way round?

Workwise, Hannah Scarlett is involved in the cold case of Bethany Friend, a young woman who drowned in the shallow Serpent Pool six years earlier in what may be suicide or murder. Soon Hannah begins to suspect there is a connection between her case and the new murder case.

As usual in the series, Daniel gets involved in the murders, partly because of Louise´s relationship with Stuart Wagg, partly because of his job. And as Hannah and Marc´s private problems are escalating, it is very tempting for her to discuss the case with Daniel who is single again after Miranda left him and the cottage for glittering London.

Not unexpectedly, this was an exciting and very well-written crime novel. Martin Edwards is in great shape!

The book is a birthday present.

torsdag den 22. april 2010

onsdag den 21. april 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 62

[This pretty box belongs to Kerrie, Mysteries in Paradise]

I have a tasty tidbit for you this week. If you have read the novel, I am sure you will remember this quotation. And if not, I am sure you will want to:

“He felt blood matting his thin hair, leaking onto his scalp. The stench of petrol burnt his sinuses, filled his throat with bile. He tasted the fumes, felt himself sucking their poison deep into his gut. Yet he couldn´t bring himself to shut his eyes and surrender to the dark. The fire cast a spell upon him, he was hypnotised by the horror, he found it impossible to wrench his gaze from his books as they shrivelled and died.”

The Rules:

If you recognize the quotation, or if you think you are able to guess who wrote it, please post a comment. Just leave a hint, do not spoil the fun by giving too much away. The book will probably be reviewed on Friday.

mandag den 19. april 2010

M.C. Beaton, Death of an Outsider (1988)

This is the fourth Hamish Macbeth story.

“Hamish hated change almost as much as he hated work. He had the tenancy of some croft land next to the police station at Lochdubh, where he kept a small herd of sheep, now being looked after by a neighbor. He earned quite good money on the side from his small farming, his poaching, and the prize money he won for hill running at the Highland Games in the summer. All that he could save went to his mother and father and brothers and sisters over in Cromarty. He did not anticipate any easy pickings in Cnothan.”

I think the scene is set with this description of Hamish who prefers solving family problems in the close community to spectacular murder cases. But he is forced to leave his usual beat as his superior is going to Florida for three months, and Hamish must act as his stand-in.

Soon after his arrival at Cnothan, one man disappears and the remains of another one crops up in a lobster tank! As such atrocious crimes are not within Hamish´s powers, Chief Detective Inspector Blair swoops down on the reluctant village while trying to keep Hamish out of sight so the village idiot cannot ´steal his thunder´.

This cozy mystery is very cosy indeed; the country setting, the quirky characters and the bodies which are never described in great detail all add to the fiftyish atmosphere, and when the crimes are solved, everybody is happy (at least the good guys), and order is restored.

I bought the book myself and read it for the 2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge # 2.

lørdag den 17. april 2010

Lotte og Søren Hammer, Svinehunde (2010)

[This new, Danish crime novel has not been translated into English yet, but it will probably be soon as the manuscript was sold to sixteen countries last year.]

Denne krimi er det danske søskendepars debut som forfattere.

To små skolebørn møder alt for tidligt, og de smutter ind i skolens gymnastiksal for at lege, men der er ikke rigtig plads, fordi fem mænd hænger i reb fra loftet.

Chefkriminalinspektør Konrad Simonsen er på ferie i Nordjylland med masser af smøger og en sød datter til at brygge kaffe. Men naturligvis er freden forbi, Konrad bliver hentet i politibil og bragt til Langebæk Skole i Bagsværd, før datteren kan nå at rette op på hans utidssvarende livsstil.

Blandt Konrad Simonsens nære medarbejdere møder vi Nathalie von Rosen, ´Komtessen´, som er velhavende og sød, og tilsyneladende rigtig glad for sin store, lidt kejtede boss. I det hele taget virker politiholdet som søde og rare mennesker, som godt kan have brug for hjælp mod den store, stygge journalist, Anni Staal.

Det tager noget tid, før politiet er i stand til at identificere de fem stærkt mishandlede lig, og da det viser sig, at alle ofrene er pædofile, mødes de med en mur af tavshed og modvilje, når de forsøger at opspore bødlerne, samtidig med at den kulørte presse gør sit for at spænde ben for politiets arbejde i kampen om forsiden og folkets velvilje.

Og her kører handlingen lidt af sporet. De fleste danskere vil sandsynligvis se det som en formildende omstændighed, hvis en søn eller datter tyr til at tage hævn over en pædofil far, men som debatten om katolske præster i øjeblikket viser, er der ikke noget der tyder på, at den brede befolkning går ind for selvtægt i form af grov vold eller endog henrettelse af pædofile. (Og at det skulle være SÅ let at manipulere med gymnasieelever – nej, det kan I heldigvis godt glemme).

Parrets debut er ikke perfekt, men trods sit barske tema er der en vis gammeldags charme over de pludselige skift i synsvinkel, og det er da udmærket med en krimi, som ikke kun byder på et godt plot, men også tager emnet selvtægt op til overvejelse. Og hvem er så svinehunden? Læs bogen og tænk selv.

Svinehunde er spændende og hurtigt læst trods sine 400 sider, men man kan da godt undre sig lidt over, at den på forhånd er solgt til seksten lande.

Bogen er en (let brugt) gave. Tak, Susanne!

fredag den 16. april 2010

Margot Kinberg, B-Very Flat (2010)

This American crime novel is the second in the series about Joel Williams, the academic detective.

Serena Brinkman is a sophomore student at Tilton University. She is busy following her courses, she has to practice several hours every day for an important violin contest, and just like any other student she tries to squeeze in time with her friends and Patricia Stanley, her lover.

Though Serena is a pretty and considerate young girl, she is not without enemies or rivals. The young photographer Tony Ferguson from the Tilton yearbook falls in love with Serena when he interviews her for the yearbook, and he is not happy when he realizes he has been slighted for a girl. Troy Brinkman is Serena´s cousin and good friend, but how far will he go to get rid of his gambling debts? The violinist Michelle Park likes Serena, but winning the competition is decisive for her with her humble background, and another fellow student, Marcie Bratton, struggles hard to keep a secret which might destroy her future career.

And how many of them know that Serena is allergic to peanuts?

When things go horribly wrong, Patricia appeals to Dr Joel Williams, her advisor, for help to solve the case, as she is certain Serena would never eat anything that wasn´t safe for her.

See my review of Publish or Perish, and here you can find Margot Kinberg´s fantastic blog.

This book was a gift from my husband. I read it for the What´s in a Name Challenge: music term.

mandag den 12. april 2010

Computer problems etc

Don´t expect to see me much this week.

I am busy working, and tomorrow I´ll have to hand my computer in to our computer guru for a few days.

See you later.

lørdag den 10. april 2010

Denise Mina, Exile (2000)

[Dansk udgave: Eksil, 2003]

Mini review.

This crime story is the second part of the Scottish writer´s Garnethill trilogy.

When we meet Maureen O´Donnell again, she is equipped with a gorgeous, young lover, Vikram, but also with a dreaded father who has moved into a flat nearby. Her family do not believe she was abused by him so she feels ostracized by them as if she were the culprit.

The new plot begins when a cyclist nearly is hit by a car in London. During his effort to escape the accident he turns a somersault and lands on the riverbank. He receives his next shock when he realizes that he is sitting on the body of a long-dead woman, Ann Harris from the Glasgow Place of Safety Shelter where Maureen and Leslie work.

The sequel is captivating, but the tone is sadder and more serious than volume one. The violence and troubles in Maureen´s family take up so much space in her life that she cannot accommodate young Vikram or anything else.

I bought the book myself, and I know that if you enjoyed the first volume as much as I did, you will read the second no matter how much or little I write about it. And if you have not read the first, what are you waiting for?

fredag den 9. april 2010

Ann Cleeves, White Nights (2008)

This crime novel which takes place in Shetland is the second Jimmy Perez story.

Apparently the Finns run amuck because of their everlasting dark nights, the Shetlanders do because of their white summer nights.

“It´s the time of year,” he said. “The light nights. It makes us all go a little bit mad.”

During this ´simmer dim´ Jimmy Perez goes to the opening of an art exhibition in Biddista, a small village. The painters are the local celebrity Bella Sinclair and Perez´ newfound love, Fran Hunter who is a very promising artist.

An English guest breaks down over one of the paintings, and when questioned by Perez, he claims he suffers from amnesia. The next day a local farmer finds the Englishman hanging in his shed. Someone has killed him and tried rather inefficiently to make it look like a suicide.

The competitive Inspector Roy Taylor rushes to Shetland from Inverness, and he does his best to unveil the old back story behind the murder before Perez, but he is no match for the local man who is acquainted with everybody in Biddista beforehand and knows how to make them feel comfortable enough to share their secrets.

I liked the first in the series but enjoyed this one even more - though the solution seemed a bit improbable to me.

I bought the book myself, and here is my review of the first in the series, Raven Black.

torsdag den 8. april 2010

Thy´s Day # 12

At the request of an expatriot

- snowdrops aplenty

onsdag den 7. april 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 61

This novel is the second in a series.

“Waiting at the foot of the gangplank was a performer. A moving piece of art or street theatre. A slender man, dressed like a Pierrot. A clown mask on his face. He didn´t speak, but he acted out a pantomime for the visiting travelers. He made a lavish bow, one hand held across his stomach, the other sweeping towards the floor. The tourists smiled. They were willing to be entertained. To be accosted in a city was one thing – a city housed beggars and disturbed people and it was safest to turn away, not to catch the eye – but this was ....... There could be nowhere more safe.”

The rules
If you recognize the quotation, or if you think you are able to guess who wrote it, please post a comment. Just leave a hint, do not spoil the fun by giving too much away. The book will probably be reviewed on Friday.

tirsdag den 6. april 2010

Y for The Yellow Face

For the second-last post in Kerrie´s alphabet game I have chosen an old Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Yellow Face.

In many ways this is a typical Sherlock Holmes story. A very upset husband, Grand Munro, calls in our near-omniscient protagonist because he is worried about his secretive American wife. Together with an awestruck Dr Watson, Holmes follows Mr Munro to the countryside to solve the little problem.

Another typical feature is the description of a churlish servant, “a tall, gaunt woman with a harsh, forbidding face” and the good, little wife who cannot tell a lie without trembling and fidgeting. The mysterious cottage and the old secret that seems to haunt Mrs Munro are other well-known aspects.

Two things are unusual, however. Sherlock Holmes is not exactly proud of his own performance, and we meet a foreigner who is both handsome and intelligent!

In a Flash (Recession flash)

[Recession Flash – a story written for a flash fiction challenge at Do Some Damage]

He slit open one envelope after the other with his antique paper knife. Unpaid accounts, reminders and circulars. He considered fetching a third cup of coffee to maintain his ulcer, but he was sure his secretary would notice. She had cast strange glances at him when he told her he would see to the post himself. He toyed with the knife, stabbed a pile of letters on the surprisingly sharp point.

What could he do? Last year he had made fifteen per cent of his employees redundant. He had fired the old, the lazy and the incompetent, and though it had been unpleasant, he had known it was for the best. The annual accounts had been promising, and he couldn´t help noticing that the remaining staff pulled harder. They probably realized they could be next in turn.

He had been so sure that with spring, things would be better. With spring would come a surge of optimism, and people would buy more clothes, more shoes, more accessories. His accountant and his financial adviser had both been optimistic in January and hopeful in February, but now it was March.

“You will have to cut your expenses by another ten per cent,” his financial adviser said, not specifying how.

“We could lay off one of the secretaries and a warehouseman or two,” the accountant suggested. “We will have to find the last few per cent in the publicity department.”

Recession. His mind chased the word around in a nauseating spiral, and he wondered if he could tell his pretty secretary it was a flu. He had to get away. They would be much better off without him anyway.


“You already home, darling?” Elaine met him in the hall, twirling around in some almond coloured dress he had never seen before, falling into an acquired catwalk in front of him.

Oh, god, she had been shopping again. Not three days since they argued about her expenses, and here she was, showing off her gorgeous body in new threads, so certain that when she wagged those firm little breasts and buttocks of hers he would forget the price he paid. And none of his ready-made rags for her, the former top model.

She turned her back but twisted the upper part of her body, giving him a full view of all her advantages before she switched from the professional, cool air to a flirtatious smile. “What do you think? Twenty per cent off because it was me.”

“Drink?” He managed to get the word past his clenched teeth and put her G & T on the coffee table. “I had that appointment with our financial adviser today. He suggested we got rid of the flat and found something smaller. Or we could drop that holiday in Egypt.” He looked around him in the penthouse flat, not sure he cared about it anyway. Not any more. But she did.

“You can forget that.” She paused to swallow her drink. “Not the flat. It is just not on.”

“Elaine, you know that we have to do something. If you knew how many companies are packing in right now ...”

“Is it my fault if you can´t make ends meet? Why don´t you fire some of the old relics from your father´s time?”

“We laid off fifteen per cent of the staff right before Christmas, you know that. Our accountant says we must ...”

“So why not fire your accountant? Or that secretary, Ms Silicone Boob?”

“Our accountant? But we have to have an accountant.”

“No one is indispensable.” She poured herself another drink without bothering to offer him any. “I hate it when you are mean and crabby. You weren´t like that when I met you.”

He had stopped listening. What if he gave up the extra life assurance and the holiday. But Elaine in London with nothing to do would be a disaster. How on earth could he keep her off Bond Street for weeks? He had suggested Egypt in the first place because he knew she wanted to go to Paris.

He did not notice she had gone outside until the scent of daffodils from the park across the house reached him. The view which was the reason why they had settled for exactly this flat. He picked up his glass and followed her.

The low rays of sun dazzled him through the trees which were slowly coming into leaf. He put his arm around her, trying to gauge her mood. She accepted a kiss at the back of her shapely neck, but she didn´t put down her glass. He let his hand run down her bare arm, noticing her shiver and a new perfume.

“Aren´t you cold, love?” He tried to wrap his jacket around her without revealing that he already had a hard-on.

She seemed acquiescent until his hand strayed up her thigh inside the almond skirt. “You´ll crease my new dress.”

Frustrated and dizzy, he leaned over the parapet, measuring the distance to the pavement below. How many seconds would it take before ...? No one is indispensable. He bent down, seized her tiny feet and tilted her over the low wall.

mandag den 5. april 2010

Donna Moore, Old Dogs (2010)

This ´cozy crime caper´ is Scottish writer Donna Moore´s second novel. See my review of her debut, Go to Helena Handbasket

“The contessa came back into the living room and glided to the window. She looked down at the imposing gravel driveway of the very smart, very exclusive, country house hotel with its view of Loch Lomond.”

Excellent surroundings – but will the first impressions last?

Two invaluable gold dogs are displayed at a Glasgow museum, and the main characters of this fantastic story, Contessa Letitzia di Ponzo and her sister Signora Teodora Grisiola, former tarts, now conwomen, see the dogs as a nice route to a very comfortable retirement.

The problem is that all and sundry want those dogs: a Scottish born-and-bred idealistic young Buddhist, a former employee of the museum, two thugs who work at a crematorium, plus a vindictive Australian. I have probably forgotten a handful, but I am sure you get the drift.

By coincidence they all plan to steal the dogs on one and the same Saturday evening, and Glasgow can turn from order to chaos. How will the handsome Chief Constable McEnteggart solve all these simultaneous mysteries – while looking good on the screen? No more about all the devious twists and turns: curl up in your best armchair with the book – be ready to forget all about real life and recession and have a laugh!

Donna was kind enough to send me this ARC, but from this week you can buy it fresh from the printing press.

Read for the 2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge

søndag den 4. april 2010

Cozy Mystery Challenge

Just like last year, I have decided to participate in the Cozy Mystery Challenge, hosted by Kris of Not Enough Books.

The main rules are as follows:

1. The challenge runs April 1st, 2010 through September 30, 2010.

2. The goal is to read at least 6 cozy mysteries, one for each month. You can choose to read more, but you must read 6 in order to complete this challenge.

3. While you can overlap with other challenges, please try to have at least 2 of the books only count towards this challenge.

Apart from the first book which will be reviewed tomorrow, I have not made any definite plans for what to read, but I think I have one or two on my shelf.

Or would you like to help me by suggesting a book or an author?

Here is my wrap-up post from 2009 so you can see what I read last year.

Readers suggest:
L.C. Tyler
Caroline Graham
Elizabeth Spann Craig, Delicious and Suspicious
Jasper Fforde
Carola Dunn, the Daisy Dalrymple series

lørdag den 3. april 2010

Paul Cleave, Cemetery Lake (2008)

This thriller from New Zealand is the author´s third. I chose this one for the title because I wanted one I could use for both my reading challenges.

The novel is well-written and captures one´s attention immediately (though it is written in the present tense), just as there is a nice streak of (dark) humour.

It begins when private investigator Theo Tate watches the exhumation of a grave. While waiting for the coffin of Henry Martins to resurface, he and the diggers see three bodies rise to the surface of the lake nearby. Later it turns out that the body in the coffin is not even the one that should be there.

Theodore Tate is a former police officer who lost his little daughter and nearly lost his wife to a car accident (a drunken driver) two years ago. He soon gets personally involved in the case, partly because he cannot help feeling that if he and his colleagues had done a better job two years ago when Henry Martins died, they might have prevented the murders of four young girls.

The plot of this somewhat dark thriller is exciting and unexpected, and even though the protagonist is not always very likeable and sometimes hits the bottle at the wrong moment, the reader gets to know him and to understand his flaws to some extent.

I found the middle part less convincing than the rest as there are a few chapters which are more like Greek tragedy than real life, but after this lapse, the ending turned out to be very satisfactory.

I bought the book myself because I had seen glowing recommendations of the writer here

If you want to know something about New Zealand crime fiction, Craig´s blog Crime Watch is the place to go.

Read for:
2010 Global Reading Challenge: Australasia/New Zealand

What´s in a Name: A body of water.

fredag den 2. april 2010

Denise Mina, Garnethill (1998)

[Oversat til dansk i 2002 også under titlen Garnethill]

This Scottish debut is the first part of a trilogy about Maureen O´Donnell from Glasgow.

“When she first met Douglas she knew that this would be a big one. His voice was soft and when he spoke her name she felt that God was calling or something. She fell in love despite Elsbeth, despite his lies, despite her friends´ disapproval. She remembered a time when she would watch him sleep, his eyes fluttering behind the lids, and she found the sight so beautiful that it winded her. But on Monday night she woke up and looked at him and knew it was over. Eight long months of emotional turmoil had passed as suddenly as a fart.”

Even though Maureen has come to her senses after a hectic affair with married Douglas, she receives a nasty shock when she finds him tied to a chair, brutally murdered, in her own living room. Maureen came home very late and very drunk the night before so she did not even notice the body until the following day.

Of course the police suspect that Maureen or her drug-selling brother Liam may be behind the murder. Maureen who has a past including abuse and a mental breakdown seems shattered, but it soon becomes evident that the young working-class woman has hidden resources, especially when she conspires with her energetic friend Leslie.

This novel was another first-class March discovery. I enjoyed the wonderfully crafted characters (especially Maureen and Leslie), the credible working-class setting, and the fine plot. Furthermore, Mina writes well and adds a nice streak of humour even in the darkest scenes.

I bought the trilogy myself, and I am looking forward to volume two and three which are waiting for me on the shelf!

torsdag den 1. april 2010

Thy´s Day # 11

Need a new perspective?

NB: Who is your favourite female detective?
Visit Petrona today.