søndag den 31. oktober 2010

Trick or Treat?



”You daren´t …” Their voices taunted me all the way up the drive.

I knocked on the heavy oak door, and an ancient butler opened the creaking door. ”Whom may I announce?” he whispered, trying to focus his watery eyes on me.


This story is now for sale in DJ´s Daim Stories: Candied Crime.
.

October´s Reads

In October I read and reviewed eight novels and one short story.

The very best reading experience was Ann Cleeves´ Red Bones.

Brian McGilloway´s Borderlands, Erin Kelly´s The Poison Tree, Tyler´s A Very Persistent Illusion and Ruth Newman´s Twisted Wing were also delicious reads each in their way. Amazing that three of these are debuts!

I haven´t written much, but it seems that The Cosy Knave is shaping up. My beta readers have been very helpful (and their judgments far more positive than I had expected at this stage). When it comes to my new work, The Halloween Murderer, I have the characters, the setting and a fairly detailed plot outline. I will have to research a few things once I get into the writing process, but I am not the type who reads long dissertations on superstition and witchcraft before I begin writing.

My challenges: I have finished three, and read thirteen of fourteen for the 2010 Global Reading Challenge. The last book should be on its way from the US.

Finally, October was the month when our Discount Noir anthology was published. The first reviews are already up. Cathryn, Kerrie, Amazon.

Tomorrow: a flash fiction story – a birthday present for Donna Moore.

lørdag den 30. oktober 2010

A Red Plastic Rake

Many of you seemed to like my Thursday photo, and when I posted it, I thought there must be a story in it.
There was. Exactly 100 words which is called a ´drabble´.




The little girl was paddling in the small pool in the park, playing with her toy rake. She had her new wellies on. She trampled in the shallow water and spirited her footprints away with the rake.

”Do you like playing in the water?”

She nodded cautiously. She couldn´t see him, just hear the voice from the shadows.

”I have a much larger pool at home.” He left the bushes and squatted near her. When he smiled, he looked like a wrinkled apple, and her mother laughed and waved at them.

She dropped her red rake somewhere in the shrubbery.

fredag den 29. oktober 2010

Malla Nunn, A Beautiful Place to Die (2009)

This debut is written by an Astralian author, born in South Africa.

The setting is South Africa of the 1950s, a country marred by rigid race laws and strict hierarchies, making police work an intricate act of balance.

The story begins when Willem Pretorius, Afrikaner and police captain, is shot. He belongs to the leading family of the local community so the write detective Cooper knows how important it is to find the killer – at least if the perpetrator is not someone who belongs to ´volk´ in the eyes of his temperamental sons.

“The younger brothers nodded a greeting, wary of the city detective in the pressed suit and green-striped tie. In Jo´burg he looked smart and professional. On the veldt with men who smelled of dirt and diesel fuel he was out of place.”

Even among the police force the hierarchy is strict. From bottom to top: Shabalala, half-Zulu and half Shangaan – an intelligent man who is excellent at reading a crime scene. Hansi Hepple, the naive Afrikaner, Emmanuel Cooper, the white detective from Johannesburg, and above him, the security branch who do what they can to take over the case when it seems that the motive was political.

Even though I enjoyed the environment and the characters, I read the four hundred pages very slowly. As I could only snatch a chapter in between work, it took a lot of time to keep track of all the layers of the South African society. Besides, I think the depiction of the Apartheid-ridden society is the best part of the book while the murder plot struck me as less engaging.

Maxine
sent me the book which was an excellent choice for the 2010 Global Reading Challenge (South Africa).

torsdag den 28. oktober 2010

onsdag den 27. oktober 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 77


I thought this quotation was most suitable for a bait post:


“He clocked the police uniform instantly. A captain. Wide-shouldered and big-boned with blond hair cut close to the skull. Small silver fish danced around what looked like a bullet round in the man´s head and another gash torn into the middle of his broad back. A thicket of reeds held the body fast against the current. A blood-stiffened blanket and an overturned lantern with a burnt-out wick marked a fishing spot. Bait worms had spilled from a jam can and dried on the coarse sand.”

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 or Saturday.

tirsdag den 26. oktober 2010

I won, I won ...

See what the postman brought me! Four wonderful book marks - or cards.
Depends on the way you see - or use - these pretty creations.

I won them in a competition on Beth Fish´s blog several weeks ago - and now they are here.
(America is a fairly remote place, you know)


Before you ask: I am reading a crime novel, but slowly. 
I will try to explain why in my review - hopefully on Friday.

mandag den 25. oktober 2010

What´s Your Pick?

This pretty mushroom is one my husband ´shot´ Saturday when the whole family took a nice walk in the wood near our cottage. Don´t worry, it wasn´t one of my family members that snatched a bite.




What is your favourite murder weapon?
What is your best example of a story where it is used?

lørdag den 23. oktober 2010

Ruth Newman, Twisted Wing (2009)

This British debut takes place in Cambridge, or in Ariel College, to be precise – a college for the privileged few who for once get into trouble money cannot just conjure away.

Did you know that a twisted wing is a parasitical insect that takes over the abdomen of its host, e.g. a wasp? In this novel it is used as a symbol for one of the characters, and the title suits the story with all its twists and turns.

The novel begins near the end with the third murder committed by a serial killer who selects bright, female students and mutilates them horribly. What is different about the third crime is that the police find one of the male students, Nick Hardcastle, in a precarious situation with the body, and his girlfriend Olivia Corscadden next to it, too shocked to speak for weeks.

The rest of the story moves between flashbacks where we get to know the group of young students and the relations between them, and sections where we follow DCI Weathers and Matt Denison, the psychiatrist who treats Olivia during her stay in the institution Coldhill.

The academic setting is very well done by Newman who is a former Cambridge student herself. The story is exciting, and on the whole the characters are credible (though not all likeable), especially the young students. As other reviewers have mentioned, the two protagonists, Denison and Weathers, are not quite as rounded characters, and their friendship did not strike me as convincing either. Throughout their long friendship, they must have experienced the schism between Denison´s concern for his clients and Weathers´ agenda of bringing someone to trial before.

Well, one minor flaw in what is otherwise a well-written and very convincing debut. There are a few scenes which describe the mutilation of the victims, but the book as such did not strike me as off-putting or very graphic.

The book was a gift from Maxine whose review you can read here.

fredag den 22. oktober 2010

Discount Noir hits the streets


I just had an e-mail from my editor (I couldn´t help it - i just had to write that) informing me that our e-book anthology, Discount Noir, is not only in the shops, but also on the streets! More than forty dark or funny (or dark and funny) flash fiction stories which began as a flash fiction challenge hosted by Patti.

If you should be curious, our MegaMart stories are for sale in several places, but the best place (eh, for the authors) is directly from Untreed Reads Store.

A Kindle version will be available via Amazon soon, but if you can´t wait, Smashwords sells a version that can be read on Kindle - though not quite as well-formatted.

A warm thank you to my editors, Patricia Abbott and Steve Weddle, plus our agent, Stacia Decker for your work!

NB: Did I remember to tell you that it is on sale in October? Save 25 % - only $ 4.49

Kindle version of "Discount Noir" now available from Amazon.

torsdag den 21. oktober 2010

onsdag den 20. oktober 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 76

[This week´s box belongs to Kelly, Kelly´s Thoughts & Ramblings]

I am afraid this week´s quotation is as unguessable as last week´s, but you won´t catch me underestimating my bright readers (at least not today). A British debut; does that help?

“In another corner a girl was hurled up in the foetal position. She was bright red with the blood that covered her. At first glance Denison took her to be naked, then realized that her bra and knickers were soaked through with the stuff. A paramedic was trying to shine a torch in her eyes. Denison instinctively went over to see if he could help. The girl was rocking to and fro, eyes unseeing, her pupils huge and black, ringed with only a thin line of iris.”

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 or Saturday.

Wade McMahan, Witches Witch (2010)

As I said the other day, I am quite prepared to take a risk – at a price of $ 1.49.

The protagonist of this American short story is the private detective Richard Dick. Dick has been hired by Montague Johnson, an onion farmer of Georgia, to take a look at Barbie Fritzweller who is supposed to be a witch. Richard Dick does not believe in witches, however, so he seems to be more interested in Montague´s ravishing girlfriend, Savannah Periwinkle. 

Of course excellent writers can make first-person narrators just as credible and interesting as the third-person protagonist, but Richard Dick struck me as a rather flat character. The female characters were marginally better, but even in a short story I expect more than this.

This humorous fairy tale takes place around Halloween. Soon read – soon forgotten, and as it was only fourteen pages, I didn´t mind too much reading it on the screen.

tirsdag den 19. oktober 2010

Two Sentence Tuesday


Sometimes (as often as I have some fresh sentences to share) I participate in Laura Curtis´ Two Sentence Tuesday (Women of Mystery). And why not put them up here on my own blog for once?

Laura calls her contribution ´sexy edition´, but as usual mine is just cosy - or at least meant to be.
Two sentences from the very first scene of "The Halloween Murderer":

Rhapsody found the brushes and cloths she had brought with her from home, filled a bowl with hot water and set about purging the house of its former inhabitant. She wished she wouldn´t die so suddenly or under such circumstances that strangers would have to clear out most of her belongings.
.
NB: Believe it or not, but sometimes I wonder whether my name games may be too silly.
So thank you to Pia who sent me this link, proving that at least I am not the only one:
UN Savory tale.

mandag den 18. oktober 2010

E-Books & Edits

Yesterday I did it. I spent $ 1.49 on an e-book. It took a minute or two to select the book, pay for it via Pay-Pal and download the pdf file. Alarmingly simple it was. So now I´d better try if I can put up with reading a story on my computer screen. (I know pdf + computer is not the same as Kindle + real e-book but I am not quite there yet.)

The book was “Witches Witch” by Wade J. McMahan, an American writer I have never heard about before, but for $ 1.49 I am prepared to take a chance. I´ll tell you about my reading experience later.

Editing
For unpublished writers, beta-readers and other sources of critique are invaluable! We do what we can to catch those grammar errors, typos and other mistakes before the editor sees them, but even though you go through your text several times, it is so difficult to see what you wrote and not what you think you wrote.

So when Clarissa Draper offered to review the first chapter of “The Cosy Knave”, I leapt at this chance (I really did, Clarissa, it wasn´t my fault that my first three e-mails were eaten by your spam folder!)

If you are curious, visit Clarissa´s interesting blog to see my chapter and her comments. And if you are even more curious, I can tell you that I am busy checking point-of-view in the manuscript these days.

NB: I had no idea Clarissa was blogging about Kindle today.



For Word Lovers

No, not the computer programme Word (which I have to use but often loathe). For lovers of a large, nuanced vocabulary.

Recently, I sent the Literacy Builder Award on to Cathy, Kittling Books knowing that she is a blogger of many words! Please visit Cathy and enjoy a few of her gems ´around the huckleberry bush´.
.

lørdag den 16. oktober 2010

The Halloween Murderer

The next week is my autumn holiday. Wonderful!

I have been busy planning my second cosy mystery, The Halloween Murderer, featuring Constable Archibald Primrose and Rhapsody Gershwin again. I have a fairly clear overview of the plot, the place and the characters so I expect I´ll begin writing the first scenes this weekend.

And with regard to those characters, it will hardly come as a surprise that I have had a lot of fun selecting their names. (Remember, you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it.) My own table is a bit more detailed than this one. No need to tell you too much yet, but in my table I have all this information in one page plus colour codes for victims, suspects and villagers who are into witchcraft.

Which name is your favourite?

fredag den 15. oktober 2010

Erin Kelly, The Poison Tree (2010)

This novel is a British debut. In many ways it resembles Barbara Vine´s “The Fatal Inversion” and also to some extent her later novel “Grasshopper”.

Young Karen Clarke is an ordinary student who leads what she regards as a boring, insignificant life, until she meets the drama student Biba and her brother Rex in 1997. Their world is so different and infatuating that within a few days, Karen is whirled into a fascinating world of drinking, partying, irresponsibility - the kind of sweltering summer she feels a young person has to experience at least once.

On the whole, the characters are interesting and well-drawn though Karen may seem a bit too naive about the ways of the new world she is absorbed by. There is a strong sense of premonition throughout the story. The reader knows from the beginning that everything is going to change by the end of the fatal summer, people are going to die, but not exactly who or how or why.

We also know that one of the consequnces of the dramatic summer was Alice, Karen´s young daughter, and that Karen is prepared to go to great lengths to protect her family. Some old secrets are festering like wounds, however, meaning that even though Karen escaped, the past will not let her alone.

Erin Kelly may not be quite in Barbara Vine´s league, yet she knows how to put an exciting story together, and I hope to read more crime fiction from her hand.

The book was an ARC kindly sent to me by Maxine who also noticed this similarity with “A Fatal Inversion”

Maxine´s Euro Crime review.

torsdag den 14. oktober 2010

onsdag den 13. oktober 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 75

This week´s quotation comes from a debut.

“I let the telephone fall from my hand. Panic first cripples and then revives me. My fingertips tingle as they feel their way around the coffee table, scrabbling first for my car keys and then for my mobile. I seem to have eight limbs as I try to get dressed in the dark, pulling on my coat and a pair of oversize sheepskin boots that I usually wear as slippers.”

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 or Saturday.

mandag den 11. oktober 2010

L.C. Tyler, A Very Persistent Illusion (2009)

This British novel, Len Tyler´s second, is a stand-alone, but apart from that it is rather difficult to pin it down.

As I have read his debut, I expected a cosy mystery, but what exactly was it I got? A mystery, perhaps, but not that much crime. A love story? But I don´t like romances. And worst of all, even though the main story takes place ´this year´, there is also an old philosophy thread. But I loathe philosophy!

A few words about the plot: Chris Sorensen (or Christian Sørensen as is his Danish name) has a good job (better than he deserves, if I may say so) and the perfect girlfriend so what more can a man wish for? A solid grasp of reality, perhaps, which could prevent him from running into the most unexpected obstacles on his way to marital bliss together with Virginia. Chris may not be your typical philosopher, nevertheless he is not at all certain reality is anything but a very persistent illusion.

Did I remember to mention how much I loathe dumb-smart fortyish guys who think they are still young and who do not appreciate their wonderful girlfriends?

So why on earth did I enjoy this story so much?

First of all it was the humour, of course. Second, the tongue-in-cheek fashion Tyler treats his own Descartes-for-dummies thread.

An example:
“Well, fancy that,´ said the waiter, who had known all along that he existed and did not need a philosopher to tell him.”

I must say that I am one hundred percent on the side of that waiter, and between us we really enjoyed gloating over the pathetic philosopher whose principles couldn´t even get him a proper meal. (As long as I have a chance of winning, I don´t mind a philosophical discussion – apparently).

In two words: different and delicious – and I bought it myself.


My review of Tyler´s debut.

søndag den 10. oktober 2010

Award Day

Kerrie, Mysteries in Paradise, has been so kind to send this fine award my way, among other reasons because I came up with the 2010 Global Reading Challenge

I´m a Literacy Builder 

Thank you very much, Kerrie!


Award conditions
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Display the award logo on your blog site.
3. Tell us five of your favorite words and why you like them, (add as many as you like).
4. Pass the award on to three bloggers you feel are excellent literacy builders, and link to their sites.
5. Contact the bloggers you’ve chosen and let them know about the award.

My words: peculiar, quirky, circumspect, perpendicular, Aspidistra


No, they are not really my favourites, apart from peculiar. 

How should I know yet which words are my personal top five? When it comes to your language (I do envy you that language a bit, did you know that), I think I have a few thousand favourites. Especially adjectives.

But how to pick the very best ones – I haven´t even met them all yet, have I? I hope not!

I would love to award Cathy, Kittling Books, first of all because you deserve it for your wonderful blog. Second, because I´d love to see the words you love.
.

lørdag den 9. oktober 2010

While the dust settles

There were quite a lot of things I had planned to do today, but for some reason we (my family and I) decided it was time to attack the dust and dirt in our living-room and dining-room.

We did, and now priority two (which I thought would have been priority one) is editing The Cosy Knave. Twenty-five pages or so to go. I will probably feel I have to go through it at least once more before it is good enough to send off to an agent or publisher, but still that day is getting nearer.

And while you are waiting for a proper (criminal) blog post from me, you might enjoy a few of my blue bottles, now reasonably dust-free.

11:15 - second version finished.

fredag den 8. oktober 2010

Ann Cleeves, Red Bones (2009)

My review number 200 is of the third Jimmy Perez story, set in Shetland.

After what seems to be a shooting accident, an old woman dies in Whalsay, a small island east of the mainland. Mima is the grandmother of Sandy Wilson, Jimmy Perez´ young subordinate so this case gives Sandy a chance to show what he can (or can´t) when Perez isn´t around to hold his hand.

Through the story we get to know Sandy´s family, Mima and her offspring, and the Clouston family who have been neighbours forever – but are they mainly friends or rivals?

The outsiders to the place are the archaeologists Hattie, the enthusiastic PhD-student who sees Whalsay as her new home, her lively assistant Sophie and their Professor Paul Berglund who is in charge of the dig next to Mima Wilson´s croft.

Red Bones is a fine police procedural, but it is so much more than that. It conveys a strong sense of the remote environment and the stubborn characters of our two main families, including a story which dates back to the Second World War, a past which casts its shadows and to some extent explains how the family members have turned out.

I bought the book myself.

Incidentally Bernadette, Reactions to Reading, has also posted a review of Red Bones today. Read and enjoy her thorough post.

torsdag den 7. oktober 2010

Thy´s Day # 28

Red brick - probably the most beautiful, Danish building material

Egebaksande (1862)
.

onsdag den 6. oktober 2010

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 74

Absolutely no help for you this week. Except for the quotation, that is.

“Someone rested a dry hand on her forehead and murmured words she didn´t understand. She spat out an obscenity at him. 

More pain. 


This is what it is to die. 


The drug must be wearing off because she had a sudden burst of clarity as she opened her eyes again to bright, artificial light. 


No, this is what it is to give birth.”


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 or Saturday.

tirsdag den 5. oktober 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa, Who Killed Palomino Molero? (1987)


As I mentioned in my quotation Sunday, this crime story takes place in Peru of the 1950s. Not a peaceful and cosy environment, but if you get through the first page, you´ll have survived the worst bit.

The young airman, Palomino Molero, is killed in the most brutal fashion, but neither his comrades from the air base nor the villagers want to talk about the case. They appear scared, and the locals have made up their mind anyway that no one will ever be punished because ´the big guys´ always shut the police up.

The book is about crime, but it is also a different story where the reader meets ´gentlemen´ and coloured men, fat women and intense women, vultures and delusions, and many versions of one death – and where exactly lies the truth?

The two policemen on the case are smart, worldwise Lieutenant Silva who knows how to manouvre in a world of corruption, and the inexperienced Officer Lituma who stands in awe of his superior – or is this impression also a delusion?

Other surprises were the unexpected ending and the fine, but different tone of dark humour. If you want to try something out of the ordinary, I recommend this remarkable, little story.

I bought it myself – read for the 2010 Global Reading Challenge, Peru, South America.

NEWS: I just heard that Mario Vargas Llosa received the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature.

mandag den 4. oktober 2010

M.C. Beaton, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (1992)

This British cosy mystery is far from the writer´s debut, but it is the first in the Agatha Raisin series.

Agatha Raisin chooses early retirement and fulfils her dream, a cottage in a Cotswold village, only to realize that she has no friends and nothing to do with all her time. On the surface, the villagers seem kind and open, but as anybody but Agatha knows, it takes a generation to be accepted in a village. And with so much time on her hands, she begins to discover that her social skills are not very well developed.

In order to find a social circle, she decides to try for the local quiche competition but the result is not quite what she had bargained for. She cheats by buying a professionally made quiche, and when the judge dies after having eaten it, she feels she has to solve the crime to escape the cloud of suspicion.

The plot moves a bit back and forth but is okay, I suppose. The strong points of the novel are the village setting and the character Agatha Raisin who seems to have embarked on a journey, getting to know herself and to try to dig out some positive sides to her character.

Will I buy and read the next twenty Agatha Raisin stories? Well, perhaps not, but I might buy one now and then to get into cosy mystery mood as I don´t think it is a good idea to write a subgenre without reading books of the same kind occasionally.

søndag den 3. oktober 2010

Going Global

All the ambitious blog friends around me keep reminding me that I have a Global Reading Challenge to finish. I have read & reviewed eleven out of fourteen books, and I brought two with me to our cottage.

So right now I am in Peru in the 1950s. Seen from my Scandinavian perspective, the fifties were the quiet, cosy time that we tend to call ´the good old days´. Perhaps it was not quite like that in other parts of the world?

“The boy had been both hung and impaled on the old carob tree. His position was so absurd that he looked more like a scarecrow or a broken marionette than a corpse. Before or after they killed him, they slashed him to ribbons: his nose and mouth were split open; his face was a crazy map of dried blood, bruises, cuts, and cigarette burns.”

The book in questions is Mario Vargas Llosa´s “Who Killed Palomino Molero?”, and I think I ought to tell you that apart from the very first page, the writer does not seem to revel in graphic violence. I have read one third of the rather short novel which I plan to review in a few days.

Tomorrow´s blogpost will be about cosy mystery, though.

lørdag den 2. oktober 2010

My September

Readingwise, September was a pathetic month with six reviews only. On the other hand, most of them were wonderful books.

With regard to my fiction writing things went quite a lot better. I finished the first draft of my first cosy novel ever, The Cosy Knave. Besides, five people offered their help as beta-readers in a day or two. The community of blogging is marvelous!

So what I should be doing now is editing, editing, editing. And I am. But after ten days I have reached a point where I can see that my poor imagination has to have another project to keep it alive. Last night I said, okay then, let me see what you can do.

Here is what my imagination came up with around midnight:

The Halloween Murderer

Rhapsody and Primrose have found the cottage – and at a very reasonable price because the previous owner´s heir wanted to sell it immediately. They are not quite ready to get married yet, but they plan a week´s holiday there to paint and such.

Of course something happens in Knavesborough, meaning Rhapsody will be alone most of the week. By accident, some of the previous owner´s books are mixed up with Rhapsody´s so one sleepless night she stumbles on a diary or something. Did the little, old lady really die peacefully in her sleep, or was she murdered because she knew too much?


The village is heavily ridden by superstition. They are all certain that around Halloween, somebody will die. Just like last year, and the year before that ...


Rhapsody is not the least superstitious, but when she needs some solid facts, she has to get in touch with the daughter in California to find out what´s what.


Well, that was as far as I got (or rather: that was as much as I want to tell you beforehand).

Anyone who would want to read on?

fredag den 1. oktober 2010

Brian McGilloway, Borderlands (2007)


I had a feeling that the Irish Inspector Devlin series would be exactly my taste so when a friend gave me the third book, I bought this debut plus the second volume myself so I could read them in order. 

Already in the first paragraph, we get a strong sense of the setting peculiar to this story:

“It was not beyond reason that Angela Cashell´s final resting place should straddle the border. Presumably, neither those who dumped her corpse, nor, indeed, those who had created the border between the North and South of Ireland in 1920, could understand the vagaries that meant that her body lay half in one country and half in another, in an area known as the borderlands.”

As the border is relatively new, the local population cross the arbitrary border all the time to work, meet friends and commit crimes, and the local police on both sides try to make the best of it by cooperating. Not necessarily flawlessly, but less dramatic and conflict-ridden than a few years earlier.

The story offers a fine mystery; why would anyone kill a sixteen-year-old girl and leave her almost naked, but with a valuable ring on her finger? More deaths take place before Ben Devlin and his colleagues can pin down the murderer, and at some point they realize they have to go back to another case twenty-five years ago when a woman went missing, a case one of their own superiors may have been involved in.

A well-written debut of high quality and lots of suspense. Furthermore, the characters are well-drawn and interesting, especially Ben Devlin who seems to be a good family father and a competent investigator though his flaws, e.g. his nasty temper, make him very human indeed.