onsdag den 30. juni 2010

Reading & Writing

Have you seen my competition this week: win an Amazon gift voucher.

The library wanted to see the books I carried home last month so I have just selected some new temptations. The most interesting ones seem to be:

Jan Costin Wagner, Ismåne (German novel, translated into Danish. English title Ice Moon)

Julie Hastrup, En torn i øjet (Danish debut – I try to keep an eye on the most promising debuts from my own country)

Sarah Waters, Nattevagt (translation of The Nightwatch)

Torgny Lindgren & Eric Åkerlund, Døden en bekymring (Swedish pastiche)

Have you tried any of these authors? What did you think?

I have not read much the last week, though. I have had some work projects to round off, a good friend´s birthday party, and I have made some progress on my ´old´ manuscript. Besides I have planned “The Cosy Knave” and written three sketchy scenes. I have enjoyed my new project so far – and I think that counts for something.

mandag den 28. juni 2010

Plotting, Planning and Polishing

I have just seen what I blogged about immediately after my summer holidays began last year. Late June seems to be my time for plotting.

First of all I intend to polish an old crime manuscript and send it off to a publisher, probably in August.

Second I need a new project to work on. I am considering a cosy mystery written in English.

My working title: The Cosy Knave.

My preliminary ideas:

Setting: a tiny Yorkshire village called Knavesborough. “The Cosy Knave” is the local tea house.

Detective and sidekick (or vice versa): Constable Archibald Primrose and his fiancé Rhapsody Gershwin, the local vicar´s daughter.

Time: June and July 2010. The drama begins when someone dies during the World Cup match between England and Germany.

Characters: you may meet people you have met before such as Constable Archibald Prewitt (now Primrose) and Arnold and Mildred Kickinbottom.

If you read cosies, does this sound like something for you?

søndag den 27. juni 2010

Football help wanted!!!

Please, help me, supporters of England´s football team:

- what did you (or your spouse) say when you saw that the assistant referee stole England´s second goal (last minutes of the first half)?

No foul language, please, I need dialogue for a cosy story. And if you send suggestions, I take it for granted that I may use your remarks.

Cozies & Competition

2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge

One of my goals for June was to finish my cosy mystery challenge. Done!

1. Donna Moore, Old Dogs (2010) – cosy caper – read in April
2. M.C. Beaton, Death of an Outsider( 1988) – read in April
3. Louise Doughty, Honey-Dew (1998) – read in April
4. Jackie Fullerton, Revenge Served Cold (2010) – read in May
5. Rebecca Tope, Death in the Cotswolds (2006) – read in June
6. Ngaio Marsh, Artists in Crime (1938) – classical whodunit - read in June

Most humorous: Old Dogs
Most traditional: Artists in Crime
Cosiest: Death of an Outsider + Death in the Cotswolds

And now for my ´competition´.
In a few days I expect visitor no 30,000. On this occasion I have decided to give away a gift voucher of £ 10 (or $ 15) for Amazon.com or Amazon.uk

The rules:
World wide competition
Send an email with your name before next Sunday (July 4th) to do.hu.ja (at) mail.tele.dk

Tie breaker: write the name of one writer I like. (Don´t worry, I like 95 % of the books I review)

lørdag den 26. juni 2010

Ngaio Marsh, Artists in Crime (1938)

Ngaio Marsh (1895 – 1982) may still be the most famous crime fiction writer from New Zealand. This novel is the sixth in the Alleyn series, and the story where he meets Agatha Troy, the brilliant painter, whom he marries later.

Here is Alleyn´s first impression of Miss Troy when they meet on a boat from New Zealand back to England:

”Sitting on the canvas cover of one of the boats was a woman. She seemed to be dabbing at something. She stood up and he saw that she wore a pair of exceedingly grubby flannel trousers, and a short grey overall. In her hand was a long brush. Her face was disfigured by a smudge of green paint, and her short hair stood up in a worried shock, as though she had run her hands through it.”

This may not be art crime, but certainly artist crime. Alleyn falls for the interesting artist at first sight; she misunderstands him and feels annoyed by his unwanted attention while he, the nobleman, sees her beauty, her talent, her personality and her great intelligence behind the coat of paint.

Agatha Troy is going back home to Britain to begin a painting class for a handful of promising painters. As the reader expects, a murder soon takes place in the small, closed circle, and of course Alleyn is on the case, giving him a chance to be close to her.

There are several points of resemblance between this fine Golden Age whodunit and Dorothy L. Sayers´ Strong Poison, the novel where Lord Peter Wimsey meets Harriet Vane, the interesting and intelligent author who is accused of murder. Wimsey falls in love at their first meeting and does everything to save his beloved, but she is far too proud to accept his proposal.

2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge # 6

Coming up later this weekend: Competition - win a gift card.

fredag den 25. juni 2010

Repecca Tope, Death in the Cotswolds (2006)

This British novel is the third in the Thea Osborne series but the first I have read.

The murder weapon was a novelty to me, and the idyllic setting is a small Cotswold village:

“I had wasted much of the day thinking about Phil and how it would be to have him across the street for a week, pottering about tidying my house when I should have been working in the garden, digging potatoes, picking up windfall apples for my pig. She was a very beautiful Tamworth, incidentally, called Arabella, living in a patch of old coppice I rented for peanuts half a mile away.”

Even though it is called a ´Thea Osborne´, the main character and first-person narrator is Ariadne, the local woman who lives across the cottage which Thea and her partner, Phil Hollis are staying in.

Ariadne lives alone with her independent cat and her beloved pig, spinning and knitting beautiful garments and scarves. She is the very enthusiastic leader of the local group of pagans, or wiccans, so when one of her few close friends, young Gaynor, is found murdered in Notgrove Long Barrow, a holy site used for pagan rituals, the police have to put her on the initial list of suspects. This results in a strained relationship with Phil Hollis who is not only Ariadne´s childhood friend, but also a Detective Inspector. As he was on the spot, he is put on the case, of course, leaving Thea and Ariadne to spend most of the week together, feeding Phil with useful bits of information about the villagers.

Though the motive did not seem very convincing to me, this was a fast, but really enjoyable read.

Reviewed for the 2010 Cozy Mystery Challenge # 5.

torsdag den 24. juni 2010

onsdag den 23. juni 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 66

[This cute box belongs to Kelly, Kelly´s Thoughts and Ramblings]

I have no idea how many of my readers know this British writer – but let´s see.

“She was wearing a sleeveless body warmer over a shirt. The ghastly weapon sticking out from her front coalesced as I stared at it, horrifying me all over again when I finally understood what it was. Grey, with a neatly shaped head at its end, I finally identified it as a knitting needle. A slender 2.5 mm knitting needle, which must have been pushed with great force through Gaynor´s ribcage. Pointed they might be, but certainly not sharp enough to kill a person easily.”

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.

mandag den 21. juni 2010

I Write Cozies (Jackie Fullerton)

Today´s guest blogger is Jackie Fullerton, American crime fiction writer. I read and reviewed her second novel “Revenge served Cold” recently and asked her what she thought about her books being branded ´cozy mysteries´. Thank you very much, Jackie, for writing a post for me.

I first heard the term “Cozy” at a Murder Mystery Writers Conference. For someone who fancies herself an author, I found it amazing that I had not heard the term before. Part of the conference involved pairing up authors with agents looking for new talent. The agent I had been paired with made it clear in one of her earlier workshops that she was not interested in any book with a supernatural flair. I felt my heart sink when my card revealed her name. Even though I could only dream of signing with her, my book had a ghost as one of the main characters. I was sunk. When our appointment came, I had a choice—skip the meeting altogether, or brave it and gain by the experience. I chose the latter. When we came face-to-face, the first words I found coming out of my mouth amounted to an apology because my mystery deals with a ghost. To my surprise, she waived that concern away and said she would still consider signing me as long as it wasn’t one of those cozies. Since I was unfamiliar with the term, I responded that I didn’t think so. She requested my first three chapters, and needless to say, I have not heard from her since.

Following the meeting, I set about educating myself as to what constitutes a “cozy”. As I now know, it is a murder mystery where the murder usually happens off stage; the protagonist is an amateur with “connected” friends—police department, coroner, etc.; and, there is no sex or profanity. In short, an Agatha Christy book you can curl up with in front of a fireplace and not be shocked or offended. Except for a little sex and a few “Damnits” and “Sons-of bitchs” in my books, they had all the elements of a cozy. There it was. I was doomed. Or was I?

After a few drinks and several hours of conversation with my fellow authors, I realized my fears were unfounded. There is no shame in writing cozies. A huge market exists and many readers enjoy a murder mystery without the gory details. There isn’t any disgrace in enjoying Agatha Christy or reruns of Murder She Wrote. When I write a story, it is my intention to create a light read—if murder can ever be light, with a little humor thrown in. A story that explores relationships as well as solving a crime. A book a person could pick up at the airport or take to the beach and enjoy reading.

Yes, my murder usually happen off stage and the protagonist is an amateur who uses her friend’s connections and abilities to help solve the crime. Hopefully, my readers will curl up in a chair, whether in front of a fire or on the beach, and enjoy a good read. If there is a smile on their face when last chapter is read, I have done my job.

Yes, I write cozies, and I am proud of it.

søndag den 20. juni 2010

Kaaberbøl og Friis, Et stille umærkeligt drab (2010)

Denne danske spændingsroman er den anden i trilogien om sygeplejersken Nina Borg. Jeg var fræk nok (ivrig nok?) til at tigge forfatterne om et anmeldereksemplar, og det fik jeg heldigvis. Tusind tak!

Se min anmeldelse af Drengen i kufferten.

Dramaet tager sin begyndelse en nat i det nordlige Ungarn, hvor et par halvvoksne knægte, Pitkin og Tamás, leder efter værdier de kan fjerne og sælge på en forladt militærforlægning. De er romaer, eller sigøjnere, og deres marginaliserede familier har hårdt brug for ekstra indtægter. Der er ikke meget tilbage, men de har hørt historier om, hvad andre unge har tjent på stjålet udstyr. Og netop denne nat er en stump væg styrtet ned og har åbnet et hul til kælderen, hvor de gør en storslået opdagelse.

For at skaffe kontakt til en aftager, låner Tamás sin bror Sandors computer. Herefter kommer Sandor i myndighedernes søgelys, og da det kommer frem, at han er Roma, bliver han smidt ud af universitetet. Tamás er i mellemtiden taget af sted for at møde sin kunde i Danmark, og fra dette tidspunkt breder konsekvenserne af hans tyveri sig som ringe i vandet.

Nina Borg arbejder i Røde Kors-lejren i Furesø, og hun har lovet sin mand at blive hjemme og tage sig af sine egne børn, mens han er af sted på en boreplatform, men der kan vel ikke ske noget ved et enkelt, lillebitte sygebesøg til en dreng, som kaster voldsomt op. Måske er det også lettere at redde nødstedte Romaer end at håndtere en teenagedatter, som har udnævnt Nina til ´lortemor´.

Som regel irriterer det mig med hovedpersoner, som bliver ved med at rode sig ind i uløselige problemer og farlige situationer uden at tænke på deres nærmeste familie, men i dette tilfælde var det alt for nemt for mig at forstå og acceptere Ninas engagement. Slutspurten, hvor de mange tråde væves sammen, er rigtig spændende om end lidt kulørt, men det tilgiver jeg også gerne, for jeg kan dårligt huske, hvornår jeg sidst har fået hjertebanken undervejs af lutter medfølelse med de stakkels mennesker!

Og så et stort tillykke til de to forfattere, som lige har solgt deres Nina Borg-trilogi til et amerikansk forlag!

”Amerikansk forlag køber dansk krimitrilogi”

Kaaberbøl & Friis, Quiet, Imperceptible Killings
This Danish thriller is the second in the trilogy about the nurse Nina Borg. I was cheeky (or eager) enough to beg the authors for a review copy, and they did send me one! Thank you very much!

See my review of The Suitcase Boy

The drama begins one night in the northern part of Hungary when two teenagers, Pitkin and Tamás, are looking for valuables they can remove and sell at an abandoned military base. They are Roma, and their marginalized families need the extra income badly. Not much is left, but after an earthquake a wall has tumbled down, creating an opening to the basement where they make a remarkable discovery.

To get in touch with a customer, Tamás borrows his brother Sandor´s computer. Afterwards the police suddenly take a keen interest in Sandor´s movements, and when the authorities realize he is Roma, he is expelled from the university. In the meantime Tamás has gone to Denmark to meet his contact, and from then on the consequences of the theft spread like rings in the water.

Nina Borg works in a Red Cross camp, and knowing her engagement in refugees and other minority groups, her husband has made her promise to stay at home with their children while he is off on a business trip. But surely nothing can happen because you pay a visit to a boy who is vomiting violently. Or perhaps it is just easier to save Roma in distress than handling a teenage daughter who has appointed Nina crappy mother of the year.

Usually protagonists who keep getting involved in insoluble problems and dangerous situations without considering their family annoy me, but in this case it was far too easy for me to understand and accept Nina´s engagement. The exciting ending may be a bit over the top, but again I am very willing to forgive as I can hardly remember the last time when my heart throbbed because I was so engrossed in what happened to the poor characters.

And let me round off by congratulating the two writers who have just sold their Nina Borg trilogy
to an American publisher, Soho Press.

Monday´s blog post: American guest blogger on cozy mysteries.

lørdag den 19. juni 2010

Pia Juul, Mordet på Halland (2009)

Den danske forfatter Pia Juul er nok bedst kendt for sine digte, men denne roman er havnet på spændings-hylden på mit lokale bibliotek. Det er heller ikke helt forkert, da den begynder med et skuddrab, men som forfatteren selv siger, er den ”ingen ægte krimi.”

Den kvindelige hovedperson, forfatteren Bess vågner ellers op til det helt store drama: hendes samlever, Halland, er blevet dræbt af et skud på torvet lige uden for parrets hoveddør. Politiet dukker op og giver sig til at udspørge vidner, men det er ikke drabet, bogen handler om.

I stedet bliver Hallands død anledning til at Bess giver sig til at tænke over deres forhold, og hvor godt hun egentlig kendte Halland, som hun har boet sammen med i ti år. Hun forlod sin mand og teenagedatter Abby, og det må vel betyde, at hun elskede Halland højt og kendte ham til bunds?

Ind imellem får læseren dog spor og oplysninger, som måske rummer nøglen til Hallands liv. På sin søgen efter svar finder fortælleren en filmplakat fra ”Le Retour de Martin Guerre”, den franske film om en ægtemand, som forlader sin kone. Mange år efter vender han tilbage – eller er det nu den rigtige Martin Guerre? Man aner, at der har været adskillige hemmeligheder i Hallands liv, både før og efter han flyttede sammen med Bess. Men selv om Pia Juul bruger mange elementer fra krimigenren, ser hun det ikke som sin opgave at give læseren svar. Spørgsmålene og meningsløsheden vokser bare i denne postmoderne roman, som har visse ligheder med Paul Austers New York-trilogi.

Pia Juul, The Murder of Halland.
This Danish novel which I found on the crime shelf in the local library begins like a crime novel, but as the writer says herself, it is not.

It begins with drama: the female protagonist Bess wakes up when her lover Halland is killed by a shot practically outside their door. The police appear and begin asking questions, but the story is not about the murder and the solution.

Halland´s death makes Beth consider their relationship and how well she knew Halland whom she has lived together with for ten years. She left her husband and her teenage daughter Abby so surely she must have loved Halland and known him well?

But like Paul Auster´s City of Glass, the questions and the meaninglessness take over in this well-written, postmodern novel.

torsdag den 17. juni 2010

Computer problems

I am away from home Thursday + Friday as a censor, and now I have finally managed to log on, but the connection seems very unstable.

- so am I after 12 exams today, and I will be even worse after the next 12 tomorrow, but I will be back!

Thy´s Day # 19

Around ten years ago we had all our elm trees to the North removed because of the Dutch elm disease. It looked like a huge, black sore so we really enjoy the white and lilac bushes.

onsdag den 16. juni 2010

Mari Jungstedt, Den døende Dandy (2009)

Bogen er den fjerde i den svenske serie om kriminalinspektør Anders Knutas og journalisten Johan Berg på Gotland.

Den succesrige kunsthandler Egon Wallin har netop sikret sig en udstilling af en lovende ung kunstners værker, men samtidig har han åbenbart lagt planer om at sælge sit galleri på Gotland og forsvinde i al ubemærkethed.
En anden vigtig person, morderen, lægger også ambitiøse planer, og snart hænger liget af Wallin til offentlig beskuelse i en af Gotlands middelalderbyporte.

Knutas og hans team kommer på overarbejde, og inden længe opdager de tråde til det homoseksuelle miljø i Stockholm, men der er også en forbindelse til den afdøde maler Niels Dardel og hans mesterværk, ”Den døende dandy.”

Jungstedt har altid været god til at skildre det gotlandske miljø, og kunstnertråden er interessant og velfortalt, men i modsætning til sin noget tamme debut har hun nu også fået styr på krimiplottet og serverer et godt og spændende stykke politiarbejde. Selv om bogen ikke er uden svagheder i slutspurten, er den helt klart hendes bedste værk indtil videre.

Bogen er lånt på biblioteket.

Mari Jungstedt, The Killer´s Art (2010).
The novel is the fourth in the Swedish series about Inspector Anders Knutas and the journalist Johan Berg on Gotland.

The successful art dealer Egon Wallin has just arranged an exhibition by a promising young painter, but in secret he has sold his gallery on Gotland and planned to run off with the money afterwards. The murderer is also busy scheming, however, and soon the body of Wallin is hanging very publicly from one of Gotland´s medieval town gates.

Knutas and his team discover a connection to the homosexual environment in Stockholm, but there are also links to the late painter Niels Dardel and his masterpiece, “the dying dandy”.

One of Jungstedt´s strong points has always been the lively description of the environment on Gotland, and the art crime plot is interesting and well-written, but contrary to her somewhat tame debut, she also handles the police work and the plot really well this time. There are a few weaknesses in the ending, but this novel is clearly her best work so far.

The book is a library book. See Maxine´s thorough EuroCrime review of The Killer´s Art.

tirsdag den 15. juni 2010

Mari Jungstedt in the Pink

The Swedish, British and Danish covers of Mari Jungstedt´s fourth crime novel. Do you think her Danish publisher expect male readers to sit around reading such a pink book?

mandag den 14. juni 2010

How to Cook Up a Cozy

Here is my second blog post written by an American writer of crime fiction (and a wonderful blog you must visit if you don´t know it already): Elizabeth Spann Craig

Thanks so much, Dorte, for allowing me to guest post today—and talk about cozy mysteries, my favorite genre!

I was a cozy mystery fan before becoming a cozy mystery writer. There’s something really nice about settling down with a gentle book, characters you feel acquainted with, a charming setting, and a puzzle to work out. If you’re new to cozies, you might be interested in the Cozy Mystery List (an exhaustive directory).

After reading a good number of cozies you’ll start to get a feel for their structure and pacing.

Here are some things to consider when writing your own cozy mystery:

Your sleuth: The detectives in a cozy mystery are usually gifted amateurs. You’ll want to make sure their involvement in the murder investigation is plausible.

Your suspects: Don’t overload your reader with too many suspects or they may lose track and wonder who the character is when the killer is unveiled! On the other hand, too few means there really isn’t much of an element of surprise when the murderer is revealed. I usually shoot for five suspects (six at the most.)

Your crime: In cozy mysteries, the murder takes place off-stage. When your sleuth or other character discovers the body, spare the reader gory depictions.

The puzzle: You’ll want to play fair with readers, who will enjoy figuring out the killer for themselves. Usually the solution is found in a clue or series of clues that point to the murderer. Complex forensics take a backseat in cozy mysteries...the fun is in deciphering the clues.

The setting: Although many cozies use rural or small town settings, cozies set in cities are also doing well. The cozy atmosphere can be created in a variety of places.

The method: Anything is fair game (blunt force trauma, strangulation, gunshot wounds, drowning), but again, you’ll want to stay away from graphic depictions of the victim.

The red herrings and clues: You won’t want to lead the reader too far astray for too long with your red herrings. But it’s fun to have your suspects tell both truths and lies to the sleuth—then we’ll need to piece together which is which. Your clues need to be clear to the reader, but you can use distraction as a method of diverting the reader’s attention from the clue when it’s laid.

The sidekick: It’s great if the sleuth has someone to bounce ideas off of. Otherwise, you end up in the internal monologue arena for long periods of time. Sidekicks can also provide a little comic relief, or provide the sleuth with a different perspective on the suspects.

Offbeat characters: One fun part of reading a cozy is the lively cast of characters. Cozies are frequently full of quirky secondary characters that threaten to steal the limelight from the protagonist.

Subplots and hooks:
It’s not all about the mystery in a cozy. Many cozies now feature subplots that revolve around different hobbies or epicurean pursuits. These subplots revolving around hobbies give readers an opportunity to learn a little more about the characters, too, aside from their relation to the murder.

Other things to know:
You’ll want to keep an eye on your language. Minor or zero profanity is usually preferred by editors.
Having a cat in the book can’t hurt. :)
Word count—about 65,000 to 75,000, roughly.
It’s probably best to keep away from any cringe-inducing subjects as a new cozy writer—death of a child, animal cruelty, etc… cozies are all about the escape.

Above all, have fun and your enjoyment will shine through your words.


Bio: Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin as Riley Adams, the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink (under her own name), and blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010. Delicious and Suspicious releases July 6, 2010. As the mother of two, Elizabeth writes on the run as she juggles duties as Brownie leader, referees play dates, drives carpools, and is dragged along as a hostage/chaperone on field trips.

Elizabeth Spann Craig (Riley Adams) http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com http://mysteryloverskitchen.com Twitter: @elizabethscraig


And next Monday: come back for a new guest blogger.

søndag den 13. juni 2010

Viveca Sten, Stille nu (2009)

Denne politikrimi er en svensk debut, lånt på biblioteket.

Som tidligere nævnt er starten lovende, og beskrivelsen af skærgårdsmiljøet er fin og interessant.

Hovedefterforskeren er den sympatiske kriminalinspektør Thomas Andreasson, som mistede sin familie for et år siden. Han stammer selv fra øen Sandhamn, og han får hjælp med sagen fra Nora Linde, hans bedste barndomsven, som stadig bor på Sandhamn med mand og to børn. Thomas og Nora udgør et udmærket makkerpar, og måske passer de bedre sammen end Nora og den dominerende læge Henrik.

Andre anmeldere har sammenlignet bogen med Camilla Läckberg og Mari Jungstedts krimier, og hvis de dermed tænker på let sommerunderholdning, hvor detektivparrets privatliv fylder mindst lige så meget som plottet, er der noget om det. Svagheden er nok især, at forfatteren forsøger at holde spændingskurven oppe ved hele tiden at servere nye lig i stedet for at byde på solidt og interessant politiarbejde.

Men til en eftermiddag i solen (hvad for en sol?) går den nok.

Viveca Sten, Silent Now.

This police procedural is a Swedish debut from the library (not translated into English).

As indicated earlier the beginning is promising, and the description of the archipelago is credible and appealing.

The main investigator is the likeable Inspector Thomas Andreasson who lost his family a year ago. He grew up on the small island Sandhamn, and he is assisted by Nora Linde, his childhood friend, who still lives on Sandhamn with her husband and two children. Thomas and Nora make a fine detective and sidekick, and perhaps they are better suited for each other than Nora and the dominating doctor Henrik.

Other reviewers have compared the book to Camilla Läckberg´s and Mari Jungstedt´s crime novels, and if they think of light summer entertainment where the private lives of the detectives take up at least as much space as the plot, they have a point. The main weakness may be that the writer tries to keep up suspense by adding new bodies all the time instead of offering solid, interesting police work.

But for an afternoon in the sun (what sun?) it should be okay.

lørdag den 12. juni 2010

The Global Reading Challenge

I have just checked the 2010 Global Reading Challenge blog, and will you believe it, we are 100 participants now!

When I came up with the challenge in December, I would have been happy with ten or twenty participants, especially as I know how busy you all are out there. So it has been such a pleasure to see it growing - and even being ´bullied´ into adding a fourth level.

So far, I have only read eight novels out of fourteen myself, but then I have never planned to finish this challenge early. I want to spread the books out over the year (and if you suspect I am afraid I may forget all about the challenge blog if I finish too early, you are not quite wrong).

Tomorrow: book review.
Monday: guest post on Cozy Mysteries.

torsdag den 10. juni 2010

Grebe og Träff, Jeg ser dig (2009)

Svensk thrillerdebut, skrevet af to søstre. Jeg lånte bogen på biblioteket.

Jeg-fortælleren Siri Bergman er en dygtig og kompetent psykoterapeut. Efter sin mands død føler hun sig imidlertid alene og udsat i sit øde skærgårdshus, og hun overvejer, om hun overhovedet bør være terapeut, når hun har så mange personlige problemer at slås med.

”Mit hus er lille og ligger kun et stenkast fra stranden. Store glasdøre dækker hele facaden ud mod vandet. Det er et lyst hus. Gulvene er dækket af brede, gamle, slidte gulvplanker, som skilles af dybe sprækker, der er fyldt til randen af flere årtiers nullermænd. … Soveværelset vender ud mod klipperne på den ene side af pynten, og gennem det store vindue kan jeg se havet, selv når jeg ligger i sengen, som er alt for bred for mig.”

Snart sker der et dødsfald; en af Siris kvindelige klienter bliver fundet druknet lige neden for skærgårdshuset. Uanset om Siri vil eller ej, bliver hun hurtigt dybt involveret i sagen, fordi alt tyder på at hun er morderens egentlige offer. Desuden kan hun ikke rigtig stå for Markus, den unge betjent på sagen.

Denne spændingsroman er velskrevet og fængslende, lige fra første side. Jeg syntes især godt om hovedpersonen Siri og hendes nære veninde og kollega, frigjorte Aina. Plottet er som sådan ikke anderledes end så mange andre, men forfatterne jonglerer fint med miljøet, personerne og deres psykiske problemer hele vejen igennem.

Overbevisende debut, og jeg håber at høre mere til søskendeparret inden længe.

Grebe & Träff, I See You.

This Swedish thriller, written by two sisters, has not been translated into English, but I think it will be. The book was a library book.

The first-person narrator Siri Bergman is a very competent psychotherapist. After her husband´s death she feels alone and exposed in her isolated house in the archipelago, however, and she considers whether she ought to be a therapist at all as she has several personal problems.

“My house is small and only a stone´s throw from the beach. Large glass doors cover the façade facing the water. It is a light house. The floors are covered in worn old floor boards separated by deep gaps filled to the brim by dust mice. … The bedroom faces the cliff on the one side of the point, and through the large window I can see the sea even when I lie in the bed which is far too wide for me.”

Soon a death takes place; one of Siri´s female clients is found drowned on the beach below her house. Whether Siri wants to or not, she is soon deeply involved in the case as it seems that she is the murderer´s real target. Besides she cannot resist Markus, the young officer on the case.

This thriller is well-written and absorbing from the first page. I especially liked the main character Siri and her near friend and colleague, the liberated Aina. The plot may not be different from many others, but the writers handle the environment, the characters and their mental problems really well all the way through.

A convincing début, and I hope to hear more from the two sisters before long.

tirsdag den 8. juni 2010

Reading Report

Right now I am on page 100 of one of my library books. Viveca Sten, Stille nu (Silent Now), a Swedish debut.

If I had a dog, I would never dare to walk it, because it seems that no matter where you go, you will find a decomposed body!

The environment is the archipelago, and the style might be compared to Camilla Läckberg´s femikrimi. Interesting and likeable characters who all have problems of their own, and a promising plot.

mandag den 7. juni 2010

Academic Crime (Margot Kinberg)

June is a very busy month for me so I am pleased that good blog friends are ready to help me out. Today´s guest post is written by Margot Kinberg, California, an excellent blogger and writer of crime fiction.

Thanks so much, Dorte, for hosting me on your blog. I’m excited and honored.

Dorte’s asked me to do a post on academic crime fiction murders. It’s an interesting topic, too. The traditional view of the college or university atmosphere is of a group of scholars, both students and their mentors, who seek out knowledge and share it. Students choose topics of interest, chart their course of study and, with guidance from their professors, earn their degrees. Faculty members conduct research, teach classes, serve on committees, and supervise student work. It all sounds very peaceful and for many people, it is. But the reality is, the academic atmosphere is often not the peaceful, serene gathering of scholars we’d like to imagine it is. I’ll be blogging next week about the campus setting on Mason Canyon’s terrific blog, Thoughts in Progress. For now, I’m going to focus on the politics of higher education. Academe is too often plagued with pettiness, politics and “turf wars,” not to mention personal and professional jealousy. So it’s no surprise that the academic atmosphere is the background for several crime fiction novels.

There’s a lot at stake among academics. One of the biggest things at stake is one’s rank. That’s what we see in Colin Dexter’s Death is Now My Neighbor. In that novel, Sir Clixby Bream, Master of Lonsdale College, Oxford, is preparing to retire. The two most likely candidates to replace him are Dr. Julian Storrs and Dr. Denis Cornford. Each of them would like to serve as the next Master of Lonsdale. Their wives are no less eager for their husbands to succeed to that position. Both candidates, and their wives, are hiding secrets in their pasts, though, and are not eager for anyone to find them out. Enter Geoffrey Owens, a journalist who has a habit of finding out people’s secrets and, more dangerously, has the habit of blackmail. Inspector Morse and Sergeant Lewis are already investigating the shooting death of Rachel James, who lives in Owens’ neighborhood, when they learn that Owens has been murdered, too. As they work to figure out who would want both James and Owens shot, Morse and Lewis find out what these academics were hiding. There are, of course, several other of Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels that deal with the politics of academia.

Besides rank, or maybe along with rank, tenure is another factor that can make the academic atmosphere so political and dangerous. Tenure is sought by just about every academic. It means an assured career, a higher rank, and several other benefits. Tenure isn’t easy to get, and the process can be fraught with politics. Most tenure recommendations are made by committees, so the candidate for tenure knows that she or he has to worry about not only the quality of work, but also about relationships. That’s the challenge that Connor Hadley faces in my own Publish or Perish. Hadley is up for tenure at Tilton University, but unfortunately, the Chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, Pete Nash, doesn’t like Hadley very much. Because of the resentment Nash bears him, Hadley is very much afraid he won’t get tenure, so he takes a desperate step. Shortly afterwards, his graduate student, Nick Merrill, dies suddenly one night from what looks like an accident, but is later proved to be murder. Former police officer-turned-professor Joel Williams gets involved in the case because Nick had been working with him on a project. He soon finds out that several people had a motive to kill Nick. One of them is Carrie Woods, a member of the department where Nick works. She also happens to be his lover. When she and Nick are found out, Carrie worries about what this could do to her career. It doesn’t help matters that she’s found out that Nick is also seeing someone else. Carrie cares for Nick, but she’s not ready to sacrifice her career for him. She’s among several people who could have been ruthless enough to kill Nick Merrill.

We see ruthlessness in other academic crime fiction as well. For instance, in Amanda Cross’ Death in a Tenured Position, Janet Mandelbaum goes up against some very ruthless people. She’s the first woman hired in Harvard’s English Department, and her male colleagues are, to say the least, not pleased about it. They have to accept her, though. A benefactor has left the school a million dollars to fund a chair for a woman, and the college is eager for the money. When Janet arrives at Harvard, she’s ostracized and made to feel unwelcome. Then, one day, she’s attending a tea when someone drugs her drink. She’s later found, drugged, on the floor of the men’s bathroom. At first, it seems that this is a campaign of protest against Janet Mandelbaum’s presence. Then, things turn lethal when Mandelbaum is poisoned. An acquaintance of Janet’s visits Columbia professor Kate Fansler, Cross’ sleuth, to ask her to get involved. Kate agrees to spend a term at Harvard, trying to find out who killed Janet Mandelbaum. It’s been argued that this book is dated, especially with regard to its portrayal of feminism. Still, it’s an interesting study of academic ruthlessness.

So is James Yaffe’s A Nice Murder for Mom. In that novel, English professor Stuart Bellamy is murdered by a blow to the head on the night of an important cocktail party being given by the Chair of the English Department at Mesa Grande College in Mesa Grande, Colorado. Mike Russo, another member of the department, seems to be the obvious suspect. He was passed up for tenure in favor of Bellamy, and Russo can’t account for his time during the period when the murder was committed. Russo claims that he’s innocent, though, and Ann Swenson, Mesa Grande’s Public Defender, decides to have the case investigated. For that, she chooses Dave, a former Bronx police officer who’s moved out to Mesa Grande to start over after the death of his wife, Shirley. Dave soon finds that Mike Russo wasn’t the only one with a grudge against Stuart Bellamy. Dave has to untangle the web of departmental politics, petty jealousy and resentment to find out who really killed Stuart Bellamy. Along the way, he gets help from his mother, who’s been visiting from New York, and whose common sense and intuition give him valuable clues to the case.

It’s not just faculty and staff members who get caught up in the politics and bad feeling that can sometimes be engendered by the university atmosphere. Competitiveness, bitterness, jealousy, and pettiness also happen among students at universities. For instance, in Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s Last Rituals, attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is offered a large sum of money to find out the truth behind the death of Harald Guntlieb, a German student living and studying in Iceland. Guntlieb was brutally murdered, and the police think they have the guilty party in custody – a fellow student and former friend of the dead man. But the Guntliebs don’t believe that this student is guilty, so they send their family’s representative, Matthew Reich, to Iceland to work with Thóra to uncover the truth about their son’s death. Along the way, Thóra and Matthew uncover some secrets that Harald’s friends have been keeping, and we get to see the pettiness and jealousy, as well as the interesting interactions among them.

In my own B-Very Flat, Serena Brinkman, a gifted violinist, dies suddenly on the night of an important music competition. Her partner, Patricia Stanley, is convinced that Serena didn’t die naturally, so she asks her advisor, Joel Williams, for help. Williams somewhat reluctantly agrees. He and the Tilton police begin to investigate the death, and in the process, get to meet several of Serena’s friends and fellow students, as well as her cousin. Practically all of them, as it turns out, had a motive to want Serena dead. For all of them, Serena stood between them and something they wanted or needed.

And of course, no discussion of crime in the academic atmosphere would be complete without a discussion of Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night, the story of Harriet Vane’s visit to her alma mater. She’s invited to Shrewsbury College, Oxford, to participate in the Gaudy Night festivities. A few months later, the Warden of the college writes to Harriet, asking her to return and help find out who’s responsible for some unsettling events at the college. Harriet reluctantly agrees and uses the cover that she’s doing some research. The acts of vandalism, threatening letters and other occurrences get worse, and in fact, almost cost Harriet her life. Lord Peter Wimsey comes to the college to help find out who is behind these frightening acts. He and Harriet find that it all has to do with academic politics and a grudge that someone is holding.

Academia isn’t always the safe, serene atmosphere we might wish it were. But that makes it especially effective for crime fiction. It’s one reason that I’ve used that atmosphere in my own novels.

Thank you again, Dorte, for your hospitality!


Remember to visit Margot´s fantastic blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist if you are not already one of her faithful readers.

And do you like academic crime fiction? Then you MUST read Publish or Perish and B-Very Flat, Margot´s delightful novels about professor Joel Williams.

søndag den 6. juni 2010

Sudoku Weekend

This weekend did not go quite as planned, but perhaps Sudoku was just what my scatterbrain needed.

Tomorrow: great guest post about Academic Crime - just for you!

Tuesday + Wednesday: exams - don´t expect to see me much.

fredag den 4. juni 2010

Joanne Harris, Gentlemen & Players (2005)

This novel should have been a real treat for me. A British whodunit which takes place in an old boys´ school, and a plot involving a fifteen-year-old grudge.

And I liked the environment, the plot idea and to some extent the ending. I have some reservations, however.

First, in my opinion it is confusing (and quite unnecessary) to have two first-person narrators: the Latin teacher Roy Straitley, and the murderer who felt excluded from the posh school as a child and now wants to take revenge because of this old grudge.

Second, the only character who really made an impression on me was the old Latin teacher. The others, teachers as well as school boys - including the murderer - seemed more like chess pieces in the game Ms Harris has set up than real people.

Third, the book reminded me too much of a riddle of the kind: a school employs five new teachers, Light, Meek, Easy, Dare and Keane [sic]. Who is the French teacher, the English teacher, the geography teacher, the murderer etc. So all the way through, the writer spends her energy on scattering clues rather than making the most of the interesting environment or giving us a really exciting drama. A puzzle mystery, but not as engaging as it could have been, and the final twist was not such a great surprise to me.

And as the drama unfolds and one teacher after the other is suspected and accused of various derelictions of duty and even crime, why does no one suspect that they have a Trojan horse in their midst? Well, if you love guessing at who did it, this might be something for you.

It will be very easy to find enthusiastic reviews of this library book, but there are people who share my view: see Bernadette´s review.

Joanne Harris, Dobbeltspil (2007)

Denne britiske krimi, som udspiller sig i en drengeskole fuld af gamle traditioner, burde have været en stor nydelse for mig, især pga plottet: hævn over en femten år gammel uret.

Jeg satte også pris på miljøet, plotideen og til en vis grad slutningen, men jeg har visse forbehold.

For det første er det efter min mening forvirrende (og fuldstændig unødvendigt) at have to jeg-fortællere: latinlæreren Roy Straitley, og morderen, som følte sig holdt uden for den fornemme skole som barn, og nu vil tage hævn.

For det andet var latinlæreren den eneste person, som gjorde indtryk på mig. De andre, lærere såvel som skoleelever – inklusiv morderen – mindede mere om skakbrikker end virkelige personer.

For det tredje mindede bogen mig alt for meget om en gåde af typen: en skole ansætter fem nye lærere, Light, Meek, Easy, Dare og Keane. Hvem er fransklærer, engelsklærer, geografilærer, morder osv. Så hele vejen gennem bogen bruger forfatteren sin energi på at strø små hints ud, i stedet for at få mest muligt ud af et spændende miljø, eller skabe et rigtig spændende drama. En puslespilskrimi, men ikke nær så fængslende, som den kunne have været, og den overraskende slutning kom ikke rigtigt bag på mig.

Og mens dramaet udvikler sig, og den ene lærer efter den anden bliver mistænkt for pligtforsømmelser og endda grove forbrydelser, hvorfor er der så ingen, som fatter mistanke om, at der er en trojansk hest på spil? Men hvis du går meget op i at gætte, hvem morderen er, så er bogen måske noget for dig.

Det er let at finde begejstrede anmeldelser af denne biblioteksbog, men der er dog læsere, som er enige med mig: se Bernadettes anmeldelse.

torsdag den 3. juni 2010

Thy´s Day # 18

The area around our cottage is near the dunes of the North Sea,
and there are strict rules as to what we may plant.
Can you spot the ´illegal immigrant´?

Well spotted!
Fruit trees are certainly not indigenous
- but some may think they are prettier than the local stock.

onsdag den 2. juni 2010

Jógvan Isaksen, Korsmesse (2009)

Denne færøske krimi er den tredje i serien om Hannis Martinsson, journalist og konsulent i Torshavn. Jeg lånte den på biblioteket.

Historien begynder med et grindedrab. Alle færinger i nærheden smider, hvad de har i hænderne, og styrter ned til bugten, mens både driver hvalerne ind mod stranden.

”Grindedrabet var overstået på ti minutter. Selvom hvalflokken ikke var stor, var det alligevel gået langsomt med at drive den ind imod vigen i Sandárgerdi. Men da den først var på rette kurs, svømmede flokken uden videre op på stranden. Et stort antal grindemænd vadede ud og skar halsen over på hvalerne. Lidt efter lidt farvedes havet rødt.”

To engelske miljøaktivister, Jenny McEwan og Stewart Peters, er travlt optaget af at fotografere, men samme aften bliver de fundet myrdet og efterladt til parade sammen med de slagtede hvaler.

Miljøaktivister og dyreværnsorganisationer kaster sig ud i kampen for at forbyde grindedrab på Færøerne, og før bølgerne har lagt sig, bliver Hannis Martinsson hyret af et britisk medlem af organisationen Guardians of the Sea til at opklare mordet på de to. Den filosofiske, ensomme ulv kaster sig ud i sagen, og selvfølgelig klarer han sig bedre end det lokale politi.

Udmærket krimi om kultursammenstødet mellem dyreaktivister og lokale færinger, som kæmper for at overleve i det lille øsamfund, og man mærker, at forfatteren kender sit miljø indefra, men også er i stand til at se det udefra.

Jógvan Isaksen, Cross Mass.
This Faroese crime novel (a library book) has not been translated into English. It is the third in the series about Hannis Martinsson, journalist and consultant in Torshavn, the capital of the islands.

The story begins with a ´grindadráp´ (pilot whale killing). All Faroese drop what they have in their hands and run down to the bay while boats drive the whales ashore.

“The pilot whale killing was over in ten minutes. Even though the school of whales wasn´t large, it had taken a long time to drive them towards the bay in Sandárgerdi. But when it was on the right course, the school swam up on the beach without further ado. A large number of whalers waded out to cut the throats of the whales. Little by little the sea was coloured red.”

Two English environmentalists, Jenny McEwan and Stewart Peters, are busy photographing the scene, but later the same evening they are found murdered, left on parade together with the slaughtered whales.

Environmentalists and animals rights groups engage in the fight to forbid pilot whale killings in the Faroe Islands, and soon Martinsson is hired by a British member of the organization Guardians of the Sea to solve the murder of the two. The philosophical lone wolf engages in the case, and of course he gets better results than the local police.

A fine crime novel about the culture clash between environmentalists and local Faroese who fight for survival in the small island community, and it is clear that the writer knows the environment from the inside but is also able to look at it from without.

tirsdag den 1. juni 2010

Faroese Crime

As I have promised, I will read my new batch of library books in the order suggested by my readers.

So I have begun reading Jógvan Isaksen´s Korsmesse (The Cross Mass), my first crime novel from the remote Faroe Islands. We visited them in 1994 and can testify to their beauty.

Before anyone asks: no, I cannot read Faroese so I have to read a Danish translation.

Review coming up soon.