mandag den 31. august 2009

Inger Frimansson, Godnat, min elskede (2006)

Svensk thrillerdebut (1999). I februar læste jeg fortsættelsen til denne bog, og det var afgjort en dårlig idé. Frimanssons to første bør absolut læses i rigtig rækkefølge.

Min mand lagde mærke til titlen og mente, den burde hentyde til noget positivt. ”Men når det er dig, der læser den, får jeg sådan en truende fornemmelse.”

Allerede fra første side får man en fornemmelse af, at hovedpersonen Justine Dalvik er omgivet af død og mystik, men uden rigtigt at vide, hvilken rolle hun selv spiller i alle begivenhederne. Vi får den ene brik efter den anden af Justines barndom med den franske mor, som døde alt for tidligt, en far som ikke har meget forstand på en lille piges behov, og så er der Flora, den unge stedmor. Flora finder hurtigt sine egne metoder til at håndtere hvad hun opfatter som et trodsigt og genstridigt barn.

Justine overlever og vokser op, men får aldrig nogen tilknytning til arbejdsmarkedet. Hun er ensom og indesluttet, og har svært ved for alvor at knytte sig til andre. Den mest stabile figur i hendes liv er hendes kæledyr, den halvvilde, sorte fugl, som hun ikke kan lukke ud, fordi de andre fugle ville hakke den ihjel.

Romanen springer i tid og bliver fortalt fra flere synsvinkler, for eksempel scener med mobning i skolegården, hvad der er med til at give et bredere perspektiv. Personerne i bogen er ikke sort-hvide, men i bund og grund er de fleste af dem skræmmende onde.

Så mit indtryk er en spændende og velskrevet thriller, men også en grum og dyster bog uden meget tiltro til venlighed og kærlighed mellem forældre, børn og skolekammerater. En bog, som udforsker konsekvenserne af mangel på kærlighed og forståelse.

Vil jeg læse mere Frimansson? Ja bestemt. Hendes tredje bog står klar på hylden, men jeg skal lige nyde noget lysere og lettere inden.

Inger Frimansson, Good Night, My Darling (2007)
Swedish thriller debut from 1999. In February I read the sequel of this book which was certainly a bad idea. Frimansson´s two first novels should be read in the proper order!

My husband noticed this title and remarked that this should be a positive story. “But seeing that you are reading it I get such a sinister feeling.”

Already from the first page one gets the impression that the main character, Justine Dalvik, is surrounded by death and mystery, but without quite knowing which role she plays in the events. We get one jigsaw piece after the other of Justine´s childhood with the French mother who died far too early, a father who is less than an expert on the needs of a little girl, and then there is Flora, her stepmother. Flora soon finds her own ways to handle what she thinks is a naughty and spiteful child.

Justine survives and grows up eventually, but she never gets an education or a job. She is lonely and reserved, and not good at becoming attached to anyone else. The most stable figure in her life is her pet, the half-wild, black bird whom she cannot let out, because the other birds would peck it to death.

The novel moves back and forth in time and is seen from several points of view, for example scenes with bullying in the school yard which gives the reader a broader perspective. None of the characters in the novel is black or white, most of them are horribly evil, however.

So my judgment is an exciting and well-written thriller, but also a cruel and sinister book without much faith in kindness and love among parents, children and school mates. A book which examines some of the possible consequences of a lack of love and understanding.

Am I going to read more Frimansson? Oh yes. Her third is on my shelf, but I need something lighter before I approach her gloomy world again.

søndag den 30. august 2009

My Life According to Crime Fiction

Some memes you just cannot resist. I saw this one on Bernadette´s and Crimefictionreader´s blogs yesterday and today on Maxine´s. First I thought it would be difficult, but in fact it was far too easy. So easy that I could not help adding two or three answers to several of them. (Or perhaps I just read too much?)

The rules: try to use only books you have read in 2009.

My Life According to Books I´ve Read This Year:
Describe Yourself: Woman with Birthmark/The Schoolmistress of Villette

How do you feel: The Suspect/Blind to the Bones/Well-Schooled in Murder

Describe where you currently live: The Crow Trap/The Murder at the Vicarage

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Sorgenfri (the Danish title of Nesbo´s Nemesis: meaning carefree)/Busman´s Honeymoon.

Your favorite form of transport: Last Bus to Woodstock

Your best friend is:
Pippi Longstocking/Penny Black

You and your friends are:
A New Lease of Death (aka Sins of the Fathers)/The Inner Circle

What’s the weather like:
The Shadow in the Water/Sun Storm

Favourite time of day:
Skumringstimen (Johan Theorin, Echoes from the Dead. In Danish: The Twilight Hour)/Wildfire at Midnight

If your life was a:

What is life to you:
What never happens (aka The Final Murder)/Wolf to the Slaughter

Your fear:
Playing with Fire/Death in Oslo/When the Devil Holds the Candle

What is the best advice you have to give:
A is for Alibi/A Shilling for Candles

Thought for the Day:
In the Woods/Telling Tales

How I would like to die:
Not in the Flesh/A Great Deliverance

My soul's present condition:
What is mine (aka Punishment)/Hidden Depths

Would you like to play? Please send a link if you do.

Enjoy Norman´s answers on CrimeScraps, and Kate´s on Kate´s Book Blog.

lørdag den 29. august 2009

Bingo Award

Thank you very much to Louise, Lou´s Pages, for this very special award.

The rules :
This award was started by Bookin With BINGO and here are the rules:

This "B-I-N-G-O" BEAUTIFUL BLOG AWARD means that this blog is...

B: Beautiful: Beth Fish Reads (notice her Wordless Wednesdays)

I: Informative: Scandinavian Crime Fiction and EuroCrime

N: Neighborly: all the blogs I visit regularly (try out my blogroll)

G: Gorgeous: Mystery Writing is Murder (for the wonderful pictures)

O: Outstanding : Cathy, Kittling Books (for her unique features and cute buttons)

A Crime Writer´s Manual

While reading The Herring Seller´s Apprentice I couldn´t help noticing plenty advice for crime fiction writers.

Here are a few examples. Which piece of advice do you think is most useful?

“It was Elsie too who taught me that the royalties on a 300-page book are generally greater than those on a 200-page book, even if the story could be told better in 200 pages.”

“But one cannot lie to one´s readers, particularly when it comes to crime writing. There is a standard of honesty to be maintained that runs strangely contrary to the murky subject matter. Above all, the reader must be given a fair chance to identify the murderer by (say) three-quarters of the way through the book, and the murderer cannot be some obscure character glimpsed briefly in chapter seven and never mentioned again.”

“There is an important difference between fiction and real life. Fiction has to be believable.”

Dear reader: WHY can´t I help feeling someone is pulling my leg?

fredag den 28. august 2009

L.C. Tyler, The Herring Seller´s Apprentice (2007)

(Denne britiske krimidebut er desværre ikke oversat – men mon ikke den kommer).

The first-person narrator of this British debut, Ethelred Hengist Tressider, who is three writers in one (i.e. writing under three names he prefers to his own) has just come home from a research trip to France when the police inform him that his ex-wife has disappeared and they fear she may have committed suicide.

His quite special literary agent, Elsie Thirkettle, is not at all sure Geraldine has killed herself, and she insists that Ethelred take a look at the disappearance using his supposed detective skills. Elsie reminds him that his wife always called him the herring seller while she assigns the more humble role as his apprentice to herself.

This highly amusing crime story is teeming with quirky characters you will not forget soon, and all the way through Tressider plays with his roles as writer, narrator and detective.

Tyler´s story is a quick and entertaining read with a fine and surprising plot. If you like cozy mysteries with a delicious British atmosphere, this one is a must!

Thank you to Karen, EuroCrime for hosting a competition where I won my first copy, and to Maxine, Petrona, for giving me my second copy. As you can see, I have a fine prize ready for my next competition.

Karen Meek´s review.
Maxine´s review.

torsdag den 27. august 2009

Danske Kriminalsager 2000-2004.

Det er ikke så tit jeg læser om autentiske sager, men jeg faldt over bogen her på biblioteket og tænkte, at den måske kunne være nyttig læsning for en lærling i krimiforfatterfaget.

Det specielle ved disse bøger er, at mange af dem er skrevet af kriminalfolk med fingeren på pulsen: vidende og erfarne opdagere, men ikke nødvendigvis særligt dygtige forfattere.

Indtil videre er det kun Peter Lundin-sagen fra 2000, som har vakt min interesse. Lundin, som myrdede sin amerikanske mor, afsonede en fængselsstraf og bagefter blev udvist til Danmark. Her gifter han sig straks med en dansk pige, som har skrevet til ham i fængslet, og bliver hurtigt involveret i et forhold til den enlige mor Marianne også.

Et år senere bliver han anholdt for mordet på Marianne og hendes to halvstore drenge. En tragisk sag, som sandsynligvis huskes af de fleste danskere.

Et spørgsmål jeg sidder tilbage med efter at have læst om sagen: Hvad er det, der får adskillige kvinder til at skrive kærlighedsbreve og fri til en kvindemorder, som sidder i fængsel?

Authentic Crime Cases.
I don´t often read about real crime cases, but I stumbled upon this book in the library and thought it might come in handy for an apprentice in the crime writing business.

What is special about these books is that many of them have been written by experienced detectives, but not necessarily skilled writers.

So far the only case which has caught my attention is the Peter Lundin case of 2000. Lundin murdered his American mother, went to prison and was deported to Denmark afterwards. Here he married a young Danish woman immediately, a woman who had written to him during his stay in prison, and he soon got involved in a relationship with the single mother Marianne.

A year later he was arrested for the murder of Marianne and her two school boys. A tragic case which most Danes will probably remember.

What really puzzles me is this: what makes several women write love letters and propose to an imprisoned murderer?

onsdag den 26. august 2009

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 30

[Denne krimi-debut er ikke oversat til dansk].

This crime novel is the first in the series.

“He gave an officious cough, half in Elsie´s direction, and said, ´I am afraid that I have to tell you that our wife is missing.´

´My ex-wife. We were divorced some years ago.´

´Your ex-wife, of course. For the moment she has simply been reported as a missing person. My apologies for putting this so bluntly, but we have good reason to believe that she may have committed suicide.´

I remained, though I say it myself, admirably composed. ´I am very sorry to hear that,´ I said, ´but I can´t see what it has to do with me. Not after all this time.´

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 as usual.

tirsdag den 25. august 2009

August Status

Februar - de første 100 gæster.
February - my first 100 guests.
April - en god blanding fra den store verden.
April - a mix from near and far.
August - danske bloggere & læsere er færdige med at holde ferie, og antallet af danske gæster stiger hurtigt fra ca 10 til 22 %. Velkommen tilbage!

August - Danish bloggers & readers have ended their holidays. Their number is up from c 10 to 22 % in a few days. Welcome back!

søndag den 23. august 2009

Oh My Blog!

I had several plans for this weekend, blog-wise and crime-wise, but my mother came to visit me quite unexpectedly.
We have been talking, looking at holiday snapshots, drinking coffee, talking, looking at snapshots, drinking coffee etc. Wonderful, and as I know, some of you will enjoy a few pictures from Sweden even more than a long, rambling post from yours truly.

And finally: feel free to laugh - but the very trendy helmet did the trick - no brain injuries (as far as I recall).

Humane Award

The Humane Award is to honor certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn't for them, my site would just be an ordinary blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a regular basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world.

Thank you, Elizabeth, Mystery Writing is Murder, for this very fine award. (If you are interested in cozy mysteries, you must visit her blog).

And for this one, I know exactly where to send it on: my Crime and Mystery Fiction room. If you love crime fiction, this is the right place for you. But I warn you, it is terribly addictive!

fredag den 21. august 2009

BBAW nomination!

Wednesday I received the following message:

I am so thrilled to inform you that you have been nominated for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award in the category Best Thriller/Mystery/Suspense Blog.

Well, I think I am the one who is thrilled! Someone out there nominated MY blog – thank you so much – I am thrilled AND honoured!

The next step: I was asked to submit links to five posts that I “consider to be the best representation of my blog.”

That was a tough one, but here comes my selection:

1. DJ´s Bait in the Box – my very own weekly feature, competition and crimi-tainment.

2. A bilingual review: Yrsa Sigurdardottir Last Rituals, Icelandic crime fiction read in Swedish, reviewed in Danish and English.

3. An article about Stieg Larsson´s Lisbeth Salander, a modern-day Pippi Longstocking. Not exactly a new post, but one which has had several hits over the months.

4. A question post: An Unkindness of Ravens – inviting my readers to contribute with books they have read containing a certain theme.

5. My own flash fiction: The Witch.

These were my ideas. But do tell me what you think: what (if anything) makes my blog special and worth returning to?

Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Det tredje tegn (2006)

Islandsk debut (Jeg læste bogen på svensk og beklager, hvis der er unøjagtigheder i forhold til den danske oversættelse.)

Et mishandlet lig dumper bogstavelig talt ned i hovedet på en stakkels underviser, som åbner døren til printerrummet på universitetet i Reykjavik. En ung tysker er blevet myrdet, liget er skændet på forskellig vis, og tre dage efter pågriber politiet morderen, en lokal narkohandler.

Thora Gudmundsdottir, advokat og enlig mor til to, bliver bedt om at gennemgå sagen af den myrdedes mor, som tvivler på, politiet har fundet den rette person. Thora er lidt forbeholden, men kvinden tilbyder et salær og en bonus, en enlig mor umuligt kan sige nej til.
Hun arbejder tæt sammen med familiens tyske advokat, Matthew Reichs, og i starten er samarbejdet noget belastet af, at de er så vidt forskellige personligheder. Hen ad vejen finder hun dog ud af at tackle sin samarbejdspartner (eller er det omvendt?)

Sigurdardottir har skrevet en spændende og lovende debut, hvor hovedpersonernes interesse for heksebrændinger og trolddomskunst spiller en stor, og interessant rolle. Romanen kan derfor på nogle måder sammenlignes med Boltons debut, Sacrifice, men efter min mening uden at være på helt samme niveau. Sigurdardottirs personer er levende og vedkommende, især Thora selv, men samspillet mellem dem virker ikke altid psykologisk troværdigt, og der er også lovlig mange personer, som på stående fod kan levere rene forelæsninger om heksekunst i middelalderen.

Trods disse begynderfejl glæder jeg mig til at læse mere islandsk krimi, blandt andet for miljøskildringernes skyld.

Har du læst andre nyere krimier, hvor hekse og trolde udgør et væsentligt tema?

Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Last Rituals (2007)

Debut from Iceland.

A maltreated body tumbles down on the head of a poor professor who opens the door to the printer room of the university of Reykjavik. A young German student has been murdered, his body has been violated in various ways, and three days later the police apprehend the murderer, a local drug dealer.

Thora Gudmundsdottir, lawyer and single mother of two children, is hired to go over the case by the mother of the victim who doubts that the police have caught the right person. Thora has certain reservations, but the woman offers her a fee and a bonus a single mother cannot refuse. She has to cooperate with the German lawyer of the family, Matthew Reichs, and in the beginning their collaboration is somewhat strained by their very different personalities. As they go along, she learns to tackle her companion, however (or is it the other way round?)

Sigurdardottir has written an exciting and promising debut in which the main characters´ interest in witch burnings and sorcery play a large and interesting role. Therefore the novel can be compared to Bolton´s debut, Sacrifice, in some ways, but without being on quite the same level. Sigurdardottir´s characters are credible, especially Thora herself, but the interplay is not always psychologically convincing, and there are too many people who are able to deliver off-hand lectures on witchcraft in the Middle Ages.

Other reviewers have commented on the language, but as I read this in Swedish I´d better refrain from that. All I can say is that it was fairly easy to read.

Despite these beginner´s errors I am looking forward to more Icelandic crime, for the environment and the excitement among other things.

Have you come across other modern crime novels in which witches and trolls play an important part?

torsdag den 20. august 2009

Birger Baug, Straf (2008)

Norsk krimidebut.

Det bedste ved denne krimi, som foregår i Oslo er absolut plottet. I 1982 udsætter en flok skoledrenge en klassekammerat for grov mobning. Mange år senere sker der en række dødsfald. Er der en sammenhæng?

En udmærket plot-idé, men personerne virker ikke særlig vedkommende, sproget er ikke videre originalt (i hvert fald ikke i oversættelse), og det tog mig adskillige dage at komme igennem de 250 sider. Personerne bliver simpelt hen ikke så levende for mig, at det interesserer mig, hvad der sker med dem.

Slutningen: tja, forfatteren tilføjer spænding med et lille twist, men det virkede nu mere påklistret end sandsynligt, og morderens motivation forekom mig også noget søgt.

Birger Baug, Punishment.
This Norwegian crime debut from 2008 has not been translated into English.

A brief review:
The best part of this crime novel, which takes place in Oslo, is the plot. In 1982 a group of schoolboys subject a classmate to cruel bullying. Many years later some deaths occur among this group. Is there a connection?

Good idea, but the characters do not seem very engaging, the language is not really original (at least not in translation), and it took me several days to get through 250 pages in my own language! The persons never seemed so real to me that I cared what happened to them.

The ending: well, the author adds excitement through a twist, but it was not that convincing, and the murderer´s motivation seemed a bit far out as well.

My judgment: a mediocre reading experience.

onsdag den 19. august 2009

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 29

This Nordic thriller is the first in a series.

”He could make no sense of the mutterings coming from the professor´s drooling mouth. He had a hunch that the body – it had to be a body, nothing living could look like that – had fallen onto Gunnar when he opened the door of the printer alcove. Against his will his gaze was drawn to the appalling human remains. The black patches on the eyes were not patches at all. His stomach clenched. God help us all. The knot in his stomach tightened, and he threw up."

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 as usual – hopefully.

Gæt en bog # 29.

Denne nordiske krimi er den første i en serie.

“Han begreb ikke meget af den usammenhængende mumlen, som strømmede ud af fyren. Men han begreb så meget som at liget – det måtte være et lig, intet levende menneske kunne se sådan ud – var faldet ned oven i Gunnar da han åbnede døren til printerlokalet. Mod hans vilje søgte hans øjne mod det forfærdelige syn, kroppen udgjorde.

Herre min skaber. De sorte lapper over øjnene var slet ikke lapper.”

Hvis du kan genkende citatet, eller hvis du tror du kan gætte hvem forfatteren er, så læg venligst en kommentar. Skriv bare et hint til nye besøgende, lad være med at ødelægge fornøjelsen for andre. Jeg er forhåbentlig klar til at anmelde bogen på fredag som sædvanlig.

tirsdag den 18. august 2009


Nej, det kender du ikke til, vel?

Men altså, i går var jeg i dårligt humør og sådan lidt småtræt af det hele. Og hvad gør man så, når vejret er endnu værre, og sommerferien er slut, prut finale?

Joe, sådan lidt trøsteshopping er slet ikke det værste, man kan finde på. Jeg fandt min ønskeseddel frem, og krydsrefererede den med Abebooks.
Dvs, jeg fandt bøger til billig pris fra den samme forhandler – på den måde sparer man porto, i modsætning til Amazon, hvor der ikke er noget at spare ved at købe flere bøger fra samme underforhandler.

Her er dagens lækkerier:
Ruth Rendell, Portobello
Laura Wilson, Stratton´s War
Louise Penny, Still Life.

Nå ja, og så ´overtalte´ min datter mig til at købe denne her, fordi hun faldt for omslaget.
Elizabeth Spann Craig, Pretty is as Pretty Dies. Jeg ville egentlig have haft den første i serien, men den er udsolgt fra forlaget, og en pris på 36 dollars + porto for en brugt krimi? – Aldrig i livet.
Kan du finde på at købe bøger for at redde en dårlig dag?

Comfort Shopping.
No, you wouldn´t do that, would you?

Well, but … yesterday I was in a bad mood and just about a bit tired of everything. And one does a person do when the weather is even worse, and the holidays are so much over?

In such a situation a spot of comfort shopping may not be a bad cure. I found my wish list, compared with the prices on Abebooks. (The only secondhand bookshop I have found where you save on the shipping by ordering several books from the same place. Smart!).

Here are my finds:
Ruth Rendell, Portobello
Laura Wilson, Stratton´s War
Louse Penny, Still Life.

Well, and then my daughter ´persuaded´ me to buy this one because she fell for the cover:
Elizabeth Spann Craig, Pretty is as Pretty Dies.
I really wanted the first in the series, but it was out of stock which meant prices from $ 36 + postage for a used copy. – No way.

Have you tried to make an awful day better by buying books?

mandag den 17. august 2009

The Witch

As soon as her feet touched the ground, she carefully lifted her excited little puppy out of her handlebar basket and put him down on the grass. She chucked the bike aside and followed the black, woolly bundle into the woods.

Together they ventured into a carpet of anemones, the little girl as elegant as a ballet dancer, the dog in a clumsy gallop. He trundled along over tree roots, barking enthusiastically while enticing her further in among the dense trees. Laughing and shouting she whirled around until the world turned into blurred streaks of colour. Dizzy, she threw herself face down among the flowers, burying her nose in the white petals oblivious of the yellow freckles that dotted her face.

Tired but happy she lay down in the white and green world. It would soon be time to return home, though. She called the dog which was peeing on straddling bow-legs; it hadn´t even learned to cock its leg yet. Automatically she patted her pocket to check if her key was still there.


She sped around in the clearing, in and out among naked beech trees, bent like an old orang-utan, brushing the anemones aside with her hands. Where had she been? But they had been everywhere! The sun was setting among the tree tops so now she would be in for trouble. The playful puppy ran between her legs and made her tumble down into a ditch. She sprained her ankle and landed head first in a stinking puddle. The dog fell on top of her, and in a fright she yelled at him to move.

In her struggle to get up she grabbed a tree root sticking out of the slope. It came loose, and she sat down in the mud again. Her heart throbbing, she realized she was holding a long, grey bone in her hand. It looked like … She flung it away, and caught sight of the witch who stood above the ditch glaring at her.


“Now, you thought that it was a real, human skeleton.” The witch cackled with pleasure behind her steaming tea mug. She had long, yellowish nails, but at a close range she didn´t look the least scary. She had probably just been digging in the garden.

“Of course I didn´t!” The girl took a curious look at the old-fashioned kitchen. She had never been inside a cottage remotely like this one before.

She spread a thick layer of blackberry jam on her fourth pancake and took a giant mouthful. Now there was no reason to admit how scared she had been out there. The witch was really kind, and it wasn´t her fault that her brother had disappeared around here last year. The witch had even promised to drive her home soon and tell daddy he mustn´t scold her for losing her bicycle key again.

“May I have another pancake?”

The witch didn´t seem to hear her. She was busy stoking the huge oven.

søndag den 16. august 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Thank you very much, Beth from Beth Fish Reads, for awarding me the Kreativ Blogger Award.

This award is really a meme, so now I am supposed to list seven of my favourite things (how fortunate it does not have to be seven activities).

1) reading
2) writing
3) travelling
4) blogging
5) watching a good film
6) researching
7) teaching

And now the difficult part, selecting seven bloggers to pass the award on. I have decided to copy Beth´s brilliant idea: nominating the last seven people who commented on my blog.
Please enjoy your award, just like I appreciate each and every comment you leave, and feel free to do with it what you want.

Donna, Big Beat from Badsville
Elizabeth, Mystery Writing is Murder
Rob, The View from the Blue House
Martin, Do you write under your own name
Maxine, Petrona
R.T., Novels, Stories, and More
Bernadette, Reactions to Reading

lørdag den 15. august 2009

Place and Crime Fiction

Welcome to today´s guest blogger, Rob Kitchin. Thank you very much Rob for obliging me.
See my review of Rob´s debut, and a blog post by Rob on "Landscape and Crime".
Remember to think about - and comment on - Rob´s question: I’d be interested to learn your thoughts about crime fiction and place.

When Dorte asked me to contribute a guest post I was very flattered, but unsure what to write about. After a bit of consideration, given that most of my time is spent working as an academic geographer, I offered to try and write a short piece on the role of place in crime fiction. It’s not my area of specialization, and I should have done some research, but not knowing what I’m talking about hasn’t stopped me before so I didn’t let it here either.

While the crime genre is clearly defined by its focus on criminal activity of various kinds, the milieu in which that activity occurs is, I would argue, a central component of any good mystery because it provides vital context. Crimes take place somewhere, shaped by the setting in which they occur and which, in turn, re-shape that place in their aftermath. Crime fiction is thus a genre that generally takes place seriously, often on multiple levels – as a descriptive backdrop, as context, as a clue, as a solution, as a puzzle, as ambience. Whilst a story could, in theory, be set anywhere, much crime fiction is interwoven with the geography of a specific location so that the setting and its landscape become a core element of the plot, in much the same way as the characters do. As an illustration, here’s a passage by Raymond Chandler, who always vividly described the rooms, streets and landscapes that his Private Investigator, Philip Marlowe, prowled.

I got down to Montemar Vista as the light began to fade, but there was still a fine sparkle on the water and the surf was breaking far out in long smooth curves. A group of pelicans were flying in bomber formation just under the creaming lip of the waves. A lonely yacht was taking in toward the yacht harbor at Bay City. Beyond it the huge emptiness of the Pacific was purple-gray.
Montemar Vista was a few dozen houses of various sizes and shapes hanging by their teeth and eyebrows to a spur of mountain and looking as if a good sneeze would drop them down among the box lunches on the beach.
Above the beach the highway ran under a wide concrete arch which was in fact a pedestrian bridge. From the inner end of this a flight of concrete steps with a thick galvanized handrail on one side ran straight as a ruler up the side of the mountain. Beyond the arch the sidewalk café my client had spoken of, was bright and cheerful inside, but the iron-legged, tile-topped tables outside under the striped awning were empty save for a single dark woman in slacks who smoked and stared moodily out to sea, with a bottle of beer in front of her. A fox terrier was using one of the iron chairs for a lamppost. She chided the dog absently as I drove past and gave the sidewalk café my business to the extent of using its parking space.
I walked back through the arch and started up the steps. It was a nice walk if you liked grunting. There were two hundred and eighty steps up to Cabrillo Street. They were drifted over with windblown sand and the handrail was as cold and wet as a toad’s belly.
Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely (1940)

For me, a crime novel that manages to create an entire lifeworld - which captures the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures of a location, as well as the essence of its people, its architecture, its social relations and culture, its political and legal system, and its economic life - enhances the reading experience because it fosters in the reader an acute sense of place. Through such writing one intuitively comes to know a place, and over several books in a series, as more and more details and layers of information and insights are revealed, one doesn’t just inhabit the psychological lives of the main characters but their geography too. As such, the books become travelogues that reveal much more about a place and the lives of people living there than any Lonely Planet guide. For example, in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series one comes to know the landscapes and communities of Trenton, New Jersey. On the first page of the first book Evanovich conjures up in a few short words ‘the burg’. From then on I have that place in my mind’s eye, providing a snapshot to which I gradually colour in detail.

Morelli and I were both born and raised in a blue-collar chunk of Trenton called the burg. Houses were attached and narrow. Yards were small. Cars were American. The people were mostly of Italian descent, with enough Hungarians and Germans thrown in to offset inbreeding. It was a good place to buy calzone or play the numbers. And, if you had to live in Trenton anyway, it was an okay place to raise a family.
Janet Evanovich, One For the Money (1994)

As Evanovich demonstrates, creating a sense of place does not need to rely on heavy and laboured description of each locale. It can be fostered quite lightly. It can also be created suggestively through what people do in each locale (in the same way as we can come to know a character through what they say and do, rather than a description of what they look like or their thoughts). The kinds of books I tend to enjoy tend to be driven by dialogue and action, with relatively light description of characters and place, and little reflection and introspection. I’m thinking here of authors such as Joe Lansdale, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, Philip Kerr, Katy Munger, Peter Temple, Laurence Shames, and Ian Rankin. Despite having relatively thin descriptions of places, they nonetheless manage to convey a lasting sense of East Texas, Los Angeles, Trenton (New Jersey), Berlin, Raleigh (North Carolina), Melbourne, the Florida Keys, and Edinburgh. That they do this is because, regardless of writing style, these authors understand that place is critical to the crime stories they tell. For example, I don’t know about you, but after reading this passage from Peter Temple, I was in this bar and I knew the old fellas.

I parked a block away, two wheels on the kerb in a one way street, and made the run for the Prince. I could have found it by smell: a hundred-odd years of spilt beer. My grandfather used to drink there. So did my father. His dark, intense face is in the faded photographs of Fitzroy Football Club series of the late 1940s on the wall near the door marked GENTS.
There are only a few dozen Fitzroy supporters left who remember my father; to them I represent a genetic meltdown. Three of these veterans were sitting at the bar nursing glasses of beer and old grievances. As I stood brushing rain off my sleeves, they looked at me as if I were personally responsible for Fitzroy’s 36-point loss to despised Carlton on Saturday.
‘Three in a row, Jack,’ said Eric Tanner, the one nearest the door. ‘Played like girls. Where the hell were you?’
‘Sorry men,’ I said. ‘Business.’
‘Three sets of eyes with the combined age of 220 examined me. They all held the same look. It was the one the boy in the gang gets when he is the first to put talking to a girl ahead of kicking a football in the street.
‘I had to go to Sydney,’ I said. ‘Work.’ I might as well have said I had to go to Perigord for truffles for all the exculpatory power this statement carried.
‘Should’ve taken the team with you,’ said Wilbur Ong.
‘What kind of work does a man in Sydney on a Satdee arvo?’ said Norman O’Neill in a tone of amazement. These men would no more consider being away from Melbourne on a Saturday in the football season than they would consider enrolling in personal development courses.
Peter Temple, Bad Debts (1996)

In my own modest efforts to create some sense of place for Dublin I try to combine physical description with some basic history and facts about the location, along with some sense of what is happening there. In The Rule Book all of the places detailed in and around Dublin are real locales. When I was writing the book I visited each place, spent some time there and took photos I could consult later. Given that the geometry of the city is an integral part of the story I also took GPS coordinates. I wanted locals to be able to feel that they recognized parts of the city and for others to get a sense that they could visualize and inhabit the landscape. The extent to which I’ve managed to achieve that you can judge for yourself from the following passage set in O’Connell Street, a key location in the book. It ends with the vista reproduced on the front cover.

McEvoy stood at the three metre wide base of the steel spire and looked up towards where it tapered to a thin point one hundred and twenty metres above. It had been erected in 2003 to replace Nelson’s Pillar blown up in 1966 by the IRA. At the time McEvoy had thought it a tremendous waste of money – it cost a fortune, you couldn’t go up it, and it was boring; just a bloody big spike rising into the sky. His opinion hadn’t changed with time. He lowered his face and looked around at the street-lamp lit scene, dragging the smoke from his cigarette deep into his lungs.
The spire was positioned in the middle of a crossroads, standing on a strip of pavement that separated the double lanes of O’Connell Street, one of the widest thoroughfares in Europe, fifty metres in width. Off to one side was Earl Street, a short pedestrian area leading onto Talbot Street that led down past the bargain basement shops to Connolly Station. Opposite was Henry Street full of high street, brand name shops. On the corner of Henry Street was the GPO – the general post office – a long, squat, stern looking building with a grand central portico of six, wide classical Ionic columns, still pockmarked with bullet holes from the 1916 rising. On top of the portico, looking down onto the street, were the three statues of Mercury, Hibernia and Fidelity.
McEvoy set off on a circuit, walking to the north corner of Henry Street, then alongside the drab, four storey shop fronts, the dark brown portico of the National Irish Bank, up as far as McDonalds, still doing a brisk trade to gangs of teenagers and bewildered looking tourists, then across to the central reservation again. Standing next to a giant statue of a running hare set on a wide plinth, part of a temporary exhibition of Barry Flanagan’s sculptures running the length of O’Connell Street, he looked back toward the spire through some thin trees just gaining their new leaves.
The area was still relatively busy. Buses and taxis trundling their way up both sides of the reservation, office workers heading home after a few Friday night drinks, early revellers disgorging from buses and traversing between bars, tourists fresh in on weekend city breaks wandering aimlessly seeking the sights and the craic, and a handful of plain clothes guards trying to get a sense of the space.
He weaved his way through the traffic to O’Brien’s sandwich shop and headed back towards Earl Street, pausing to look down its length, past the entrances to Boyers’ and Cleary’s department stores to the smaller shops beyond, and then right at the spire blocking the route to Henry Street, people waiting at the traffic lights to cross, a timer counting down the seconds until the lights would change. It reached zero and the pedestrians surged forward, across onto the central reservation, streaming either side of the spire, heading for the far side.
He continued down O’Connell Street, past Abrakebabra, the smell of cooking meat and fries wafting out onto the pavement reminding him that he’d once again barely eaten all day, the saucy underwear in Ann Summers’ window display, to the imposing frontage of Cleary’s, mimicking the GPO opposite with twelve flat columns along its length, a large black and gold clock hanging above the entrance. Restrained neoclassical style buildings, their fronts a mix of limestone, granite, red brick and Portland stone, their roofs capped with copper, stretched down the rest of the street to the Liffey. He crossed the road back to the central reservation at the statue of radical labour leader, Jim Larkin, his hands held aloft, behind him the spire rising up through them. He drew to a stop and looked at the way he had come and then across to the GPO.

Usually I’m much more economical in the description of a place but, given the importance of this location, in this instance I wanted to provide a more detailed picture. Indeed, The Rule Book mainly consists of a series of short scenes of dialogue and I suspect that that is the longest passage between conversations in the entire book! Hopefully it gives some sense of O’Connell Street at ten o’clock on a Friday night.

In conclusion, my argument is basically that crime fiction is not simply a genre defined by crime, but one also highly sensitive to place (and, of course, time). Place provides vital context and structure, not simply a backdrop. I don’t know the extent to which others agree with that sentiment – one of the problems of being a geographer is the tendency to slip into spatial fetishism; that is we think that space and place is critical to everything! I’d be interested to learn your thoughts about crime fiction and place.

fredag den 14. august 2009

S.J. Bolton, Sacrifice (2008)

["Offer" kan nu findes på bibliotekernes hylder. Den anbefales varmt]

This British thriller is a debut, and it takes place on Shetland.

When surgeon Tora Hamilton wants to bury her dead horse, she discovers the body of a young woman whose heart has been removed.

“Keep out of it” says her husband. The police, her boss, and her father-in-law say the same. Has any (curious) woman ever listened to this useless piece of advice? The police do not seem to make much progress, and of course Tora feels obliged to find the truth about the young woman: who was she, what happened to her, and how did she end up in Tora´s field?

Perhaps it is true that Tora gets too involved. Soon she sees conspiracies all around, and nearly begins to believe in the old Shetland legends about a powerful tribe of male trolls who forced human women to give birth to their sons.

The plot is not (quite) as fanciful as that, yet Tora and the enthusiastic DS Dana Tulloch uncover several layers of deception, and soon the two women don´t know whom of the many influential men around them to trust – if any. Dana notices a parallel to Wilkie Collins´ classical crime story, The Woman in White, though one of the main themes of Sacrifice appears to be a very up-to-date ethical problem.

As indicated, the story may not be quite realistic, but give me a Shetland setting, a body in the back yard, some interesting characters and lots of excitement – and I am really happy!

Saturday: guest blogger – a crime writer blogs about “Place and Crime fiction.”

torsdag den 13. august 2009

Gardiner: Thriller than Ever

[You may want to read about Meg´s contest and the first part of my answer before you read this – not sure you will be any the wiser, though.]

Squidders yelled until a smart woman opened the door. “And what do you think you are doing in Meg´s fridge? You eh… centipede?”

“Miss Octopus to you, sister.” Squidders kept the torn pantyhose well away, and tried to show the rest of her legs off to their best advantage. “Just drifting about a bit I was.” No need to admit the truth.

“Jo Beckett. Pleased to meet you. But why would anyone choose to stay in a fridge?” She shuddered involuntarily. “And Meg´s fridge – can´t exactly be healthy for you.”

“Well, the famous Ms Gardiner wanted me for dinner,” Squidders boasted.

“You … for dinner? Good grief, can anyone be so daft?”

Squidders wriggled angrily. Daft – as if she could help it. Her folks sent her off to a school of fish, but she never passed the entrance exam.

“Quick! There she is – knived! Squidaddle! “ Beckett spun around. “Oh, … hi Meg.”

“Jo! Great you could make it. Now, where did I put …” Absent-mindedly she waved the knife.

“Oh, that old squid – gone off, I´d say. Been on the shelf too long.”

When Squidders was apprehended after having strangled both women with a pair of pantyhose, she pleaded non-complimented.

onsdag den 12. august 2009

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 28

[This wonderful box belongs to Julia, A Piece of My Mind]

This British thriller is a debut – it has not been translated into Danish.

“Moving my fingers gently I could feel the bone structure beneath the skin, a callus on the little toe and a patch of rough skin under the heel. Real after all, but stained a rich, dark brown by the peat.

The foot was a little smaller than my own and the nails had been manicured. The ankle was slender. I´d found a woman. I guessed she would have been young, in her twenties or early thirties.

I looked up at the rest of the linen-wrapped body. At the spot where I knew the chest would be was a large patch, roughly circular in shape and about fourteen inches in diameter, where the linen changed colour, becoming darker, almost black.”

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 as usual.

tirsdag den 11. august 2009

A Question - and an Answer

As yesterday´s readers will know, poor bewildered Meg Gardiner does not quite remember how the photo and the weird squiggles below ended up on her fridge. As she says, she would very much like readers to explain to her what´s going on.

Here we go: 200 words for Meg, including the title.


Squidders Calamari shuddered at the sight of her sqiddly legs, sporting a sadly laddered pair of pantyhose. Today, of all days, when she was off to a Gasoline concert, the squidgyest Danish rock band ever, in “The Submarine”. It must be that chain swordfish she ran into down “The Ink Sac”.

“Me love cuttle fish” the pushy Scandinavian said, whatever that meant. All she knew was she couldn´t stomach him.

Well, there was nothing for it than a squickie, a brief shopping spree in the local Fish and Cheap Store on her way. She tried a clumsy salsa; shopping was soooo liquefying! Elevated, she squirted herself generously with “Squidoo´s Best Shark´n´Swordfish Repellant,” set her OPS, Ocean Positioning System, and swannied off.

Squidders was squarely tempted to squeeze into Putrid´s House, the squalid Bone Meal King en route, but resisted. Squealing with delight she squashed herself into the store just before closing time. Gasoline, here I come!

After a brief calculation of her extremities she tentacly asked for roughly four pairs of pantyhose.

“Would that be ordinary, fireman or cephalopod hose?”

Disconcerted, Squidders uttered a chilling squelch as she realized she would have to consult M.S. Gardiner´s FreeGidaria® once again!

mandag den 10. august 2009


I know, I know - I am under the inFLUence of a bug of some kind, and this post is neither planned nor FLUent. I just FLU to the keyboard when I saw this, knowing that as I was too FLUstered to come up with anything remotely interesting due to my FLUctuating temperature, here (on Meg Gardiner´s blog - see below) was the inspiration I had been waiting for:


Announcing: my third annual contest. The winner will have a character named after him or her in my next novel.

For the chance to be immortalized — or perhaps mortalized — in the next Jo Beckett book:

In 200 words or less, explain what’s going on in the photo above.

Deadline: 11:59 p.m. GMT, Tuesday August 25th.

For more information, see Meg Gardiner´s blog, Lying for a Living.

søndag den 9. august 2009

Rob Kitchin, The Rule Book (2009)

[Denne krimi er desværre ikke oversat til dansk]

This Irish police procedural is the author´s first work of fiction.

The first paragraph:
“His eyes fixed on the sword and started to travel its length, down from the black handle, over the plain hilt and along the two-inch wide shaft to where it penetrated the young woman´s mouth. Beneath her head the pillow and sheet were stained a mix of red and black.”

A young woman is brutally killed, and the murderer has left what seems to be the first chapter of a rule book for serial killers in her shoulder-bag.

The arrogant murderer who calls himself “the Raven” continues to kill one person every day, leaving his calling card and a new chapter of his rule book on the scene of crime, but no other traces. He is convinced that the serial killer who adheres to these rules is invincible, and this game with rules (broken as well as unbroken) forms an important part of the intriguing web Rob Kitchin has spun around the reader.

Soon Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy is so absorbed in this case that he forgets to eat and sleep. He is a single father who lost his wife to cancer recently and now he struggles to give up her killer, the cigarettes, and to be there for his eleven-year-old daughter, Gemma (while she does her best to take on her mother´s role).

For this flu-ridden reader it took a few pages to get into the story, as there are quite a lot of DIs and DSs to relate to in this complex mystery. It was certainly worthwhile, however, and after the first day I was entangled in the web and forgot all about my headache and my runny nose. In the beginning I feared that the combination of serial killer plus male writer might turn into a hard-boiled, graphic story, but in the best traditions of British crime fiction the focus stays with the police work and the increasingly personal battle between McEvoy and the killer.

And Colm McEvoy - the very human but frustrated copper and father - is one of those characters you really want to meet again – the sooner the better!

lørdag den 8. august 2009

An Unkindness of Ravens

[Picture: RSPB]

“… the raven appears in a whole load of different religions and myths – Norse, Celtic, North American, Greek. It´s associated with death in all of them. It´s either the messenger of death, or a medium of communication with the underworld. It´s also considered by some to be the bringer of war or misfortune, mainly because it hung round battlefields and ate the dead.”

“In Irish folklore, the raven is omniscient, all seeing and knowing. It´s linked to a couple of mythical characters – the Celtic goddess Morrigane and the war goddesses of Badbh, Macha and Nemain who took the form of ravens. For North American Indians it seems that the raven appears as a deity and is a powerful shapeshifter, being able to transform into anyone or anything to get what it wants. Or he´s a trickster, fooling people into giving him what he wants, something that might be of great personal harm.”

Small wonder that this black bird has appealed to several writers of crime fiction.

Offhand, I can remember one American and two British novels – plus the fairly new one which I ´stole´ the above quotations from. I think the author may forgive me tomorrow when I reveal the source in my review, however.

How many crime novels do you know in which ravens play a role?

NB: this is not a bait post so you don´t have to worry about giving too much away.

My readers´ suggestions:

Ruth Rendell, An Unkindness of Ravens
Ann Cleeves, Raven Black
Ellis Peters, The Raven in the Foregate

Karin Fossum, Black Seconds (Dansk: Sorte sekunder).

fredag den 7. august 2009

Karin Fossum, Den som elsker noget andet (2008)

I det ottende bind i den norske serie om Konrad Sejer bliver en smuk og spinkel lille dreng fundet død i skoven, efter at være blevet misbrugt af en pædofil.

Bogen er to historier i én: opklaringen af forbrydelsen mod Jonas, men også historien om de dønninger som hans død er skyld i; alle reaktionerne blandt hans familie, venner og det ægtepar, som fandt ham.

Hovedtemaet er pædofili, eller måske snarere parafili, det at elske ´noget andet´, elske noget, som ligger udenfor lovene i det samfund, man lever i. Makkerparret Konrad Sejer og Jakob Skarre fører lange diskussioner om, hvad der er årsag til denne type forbrydelser, om de skyldige på nogen måde kan undskyldes osv.

Fossums stærkeste side er hendes evne til at beskrive følelserne hos de personer, som bliver hvirvlet ind i sagen, og selv om Sejer og Skarres diskussioner om lov og etik fylder meget i romanen, har hun hele tiden et par overraskelser klar i ærmet til krimi-elskeren.

Tak til Maxine, Petrona, og Karen, EuroCrime, for et anmeldereksemplar af en spændende bog!

Karin Fossum, The Water´s Edge.
This is the 6th volume of the Norwegian series about Konrad Sejer which has been translated into English. A beautiful little boy is found dead in the wood, having been abused by a paedophile.

This thriller is two stories in one: the solution of the crime, but also the story about the ripples which are caused by little Jonas´ death: the reactions of his relatives, friends and the couple who found him.

The main theme is paedophilia or rather paraphilia, loving something else, something which is beyond the laws of the society you live in. The detectives Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre have long discussions about what causes these crimes, can the perpetrators be excused in any way, etc.

Fossum´s foremost strength is her ability to describe the emotions of all the people who get involved in the case, and even though Sejer and Skarre´s discussions about law and ethics take up much space, she keeps some genuine surprises up her sleeve for the crime fiction enthusiast. A deceptively quiet story!

Thank you to Maxine, Petrona, and Karen, EuroCrime, who sent this excellent book my way.

torsdag den 6. august 2009

Dorph og Pasternak, Afgrundens rand (2007)

Handlingen i denne danske spændingsroman udspiller sig i København i 1979.

Nogle væsentlige ingredienser i bogen er et rituelt mord på en kendt entrepenør, bøssebarer, pædofili, indsmugling af mindreårige drenge fra Tyrkiet. Da det naturligvis ikke er spændende nok, udvikler historien sig senere til en sag om nazisme, Stasi og forræderi.

Politiet: udmærkede personbeskrivelser, men også kluntede cowboys som farer frem med bål og brand & somme tider gør mere skade end gavn. En ung, enlig kriminalassistent slås med sin voldelige eksmand om forældremyndigheden i retten, men hen mod slutningen er det svært ikke at tænke, at det barn da vist ville have det bedre i et roligt hjem langt væk fra begge forældre.

Deres modstandere: Departementschefer & ambassadefolk, som er mestre i at feje pinlige sager ind under gulvtæppet. Og slutspurten går naturligvis ud på at redde den vestlige verden i bedste action-stil.

Bogen er såmænd godt skrevet, og vist meget populær, men handlingen er lidt for kulørt og ikke helt min smag. Som forfatterne udtrykker det selv er serien tænkt som ”en kulørt og anderledes fortalt Danmarkshistorie”. Aha.

Christian Dorph & Simon Pasternak, On the Edge of the Abyss.
This Danish thriller has been translated into German, Swedish and Norwegian, but not English. The German Title is “Der Deutsche Freund”.

This part of the series takes place in Denmark in 1979. The main themes are: ritual murder, paedophilia, smuggling of little boys. As this is not enough, Nazism, Stasi and treason are added later. And the ending: a top secret police action to save the Western world. No less.

The language and the characters are okay, but as you may have guessed the plot is not really my taste. In the words of the writers the series should be “a colourful and different History of Denmark.” As someone who remembers 1979, I can confirm that this is indeed colourful and different. But history? Not quite as I recall it.

onsdag den 5. august 2009

DJ´s Bait in the Box # 27

[This beautiful box belongs to Julia, A Piece of my Mind]

A Scandinavian thriller written by an experienced writer.

“He placed the burden on a bed of soft moss. He got up and wiped the sweat from his brow; it felt hot. This does not look good, he thought, not in any way. Emotions surged inside him, a mixture of panic and rage, nothing ever worked out for him, it was a mistake, the whole thing. … Fate had played a mean trick on him and dealt him a rotten hand; now he was being hurled down towards condemnation and denunciation. Hanging´s too good for him, people would say, lock him up and throw away the key; a man like him should never be allowed out again.”

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 as usual.

Gæt en bog # 27.
En moderne spændingsroman skrevet af en skandinavisk ekspert indenfor genren.

”Han lagde sin byrde på en bund af blød mos. Han rejste sig og tørrede sveden af øjenbrynene; det føltes varmt. Det her ser ikke godt ud, tænkte han, ikke på nogen som helst måde. Følelser vældede op inden i ham, en blanding af panik og raseri, der var intet der fungerede for ham, det var en misforståelse det hele. … Skæbnen havde spillet ham et ledt pus og givet ham en dårlig hånd; nu blev han hvirvlet ned mod afvisning og fordømmelse. Hængning er for godt til ham, ville folk sige, lås ham inde og smid nøglen væk; en mand som ham skulle aldrig lukkes ud igen."

Hvis du kan genkende citatet, eller hvis du tror du kan gætte hvem forfatteren er, så læg venligst en kommentar. Skriv bare et hint til nye besøgende, lad være med at ødelægge fornøjelsen for andre. Bogen bliver anmeldt på fredag som sædvanlig.