Tag Archives: Against the Wall

coming soon, or recently arrived

Catching up on a backlog of reviews and other things … I thought this time I would be geographically organized.

Nordic countries in general

Break out your wallets; Simon Clarke provides a tempting list of recent and forthcoming translations.

Norm has a poll going at Crime Scraps on which women crime writers from Nordic countries are most popular, his first entry in the Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary book bloggers’ challenge.

Denmark

At Crime Segments, NancyO reviews Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes  (apa Mercy), which she enjoyed tremendously, particularly for its characters and all-around originality, concluding it’s “amazingly good.”

More praise for Adler-Olsen in the Winnepeg Free Press, with a shout-out to the translator.

Dorte offers some intriguing commentary on the background of a book in the Department Q series, not yet translated into English. Fascinating stuff, and something to look forward to.

Violette Severin visits Denmark on a Europass challenge.

Finland

I review Jarkko Sipila’s Nothing but the Truth, which I enjoyed quite a lot. Maxine reviews the author’s Against the Wall and finds it a pretty good police procedural.

Maxine also reviews Sofi Oksanen’s Purge and sparks off a debate about whether it should be considered crime fiction or not. The paperback release is trending that way, though it’s more of a historical saga. Whatever it is, she found it extremely good.

—– not a thing for Iceland at the moment, sorry —–

Norway

At How Mysterious! Karen Miller Russell finds her patience with Karin Fossum running out, being particularly unhappy with The Water’s Edge (which I liked a great deal). The author’s focus on crimes involving children has made her lose interest – though Maxine, in a comment, may have coaxed her to give The Caller a try.

Jose Ignacio Escribano takes a look at K. O. Dahl’s police procedural series featuring Gunnarstand and Frolich to remind himself that Lethal Investments will be released soon.

Sweden

Jose Ignacio Escribano reviews Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Locked Room (in both English and Spanish), the eighth in the Martin Beck series.

Lynn Harvey reviews Camilla Lackberg’s The Preacher at Euro Crime, enjoying the contrast between the main character’s loving home life and the convoluted (perhaps too convoluted) troubles of the family embroiled in tragedy. Incidentally, Philip reports in the FriendFeed Crime and Mystery Fiction room that Lackberg is getting involved in a television series and feature films and will be slowing down her book publishing schedule as a result.

Bibliojunkie (who is not looking for a cure) is impressed by Hakan Nesser’s Woman With Birthmark, saying it’s “very well constructed and elegantly told” in a thorough and insightful review.

The Sunday Business Post (Ireland) has a lengthy and interesting interview slash profile of Liza Marklund exploring her motivation as a writer and a politically-involved journalist and documentarian.  And oh, look who wrote the interview – Declan Burke! No wonder it’s so well done.

yes, we have more links

Matthew Seamons is not impressed by Lars Keppler’s The Hypnotist, which he finds populated by flat and unsympathetic characters. The plot is clever, but the execution, he feels, lets it down.

At January Magazine, Tony Bushbaum disagrees, saying it adds up to more than the sum of its parts, has razor-sharp writing, and will be the book everyone is talking about this summer.

NancyO splits the difference with a very reasoned and thoughtful review.

CNN interviews the authors, who are planning a series of eight books. They say they originally tried to write anonymously but were found out by the media. They also say “we really need a kind of inner calm to be able to write, so we’re actually trying hard not to think about the success. ‘The Hypnotist’ has sold to more than 36 countries and has been a best-seller wherever it’s been published.” Hmm . . . maybe you need to work on that inner calm thing.

In non-hypnotic news, Peter Rozovsky has had several posts about Scandinavian crime fiction lately at his globetrotting blog, Detectives Beyond Borders. e uses a couple of quotes from Jarkko Sipila’s Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall to introduce a question: what characteristics, if any, are common to Nordic crime fiction – and he gets lots of answers. He links to his review of The Snowman in the Philadelphia Inquirer and posts highlights of an interview he did with Jo Nesbo. And he takes some notes as he reads Harri Nykanen’s Raid and the Blackest Sheep, which he finds dark with a sprinkling of deadpan humor.

Among other mysteries, Marilyn Stasio reviews Hakan Nesser’s The Inspector and Silence, which she finds drier than most thrillers coming out of the north, with a morose and quirky hero in Van Veeteren.

Keishon reviews Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis at her blog which is (despite the name) not “just another crime fiction blog,” but a very good source of thoughtful reviews. She also recommends Johann Theorin and Arnaldur Indridason to readers who haven’t yet discovered them.

Kerri reviews Mari Jungstedt’s The Killer’s Art from her perch in paradise and finds it a bit flatter than other books in the series, but it still gets a pretty high score.

Fleur Fisher reviews The Gallows Bird and uses the occasion to unpack what it is she loves so much about Camilla Lackberg’s series and it’s “real people with real emotions.”

Maxine has early reports from Johan Theorin’s The Quarry and has made me exceedingly jealous.

Glenn Harper at International Crime Fiction reviews Mons Kallentoft’s Midwinter Sacrifice, which sounds quite unusual. Not as odd as sentient stuffed animals a la Tim Davys, but with the point of view of a corpse who apparently has not had a pleasant time of it.

Mediation’s To Be Read blog features an attempt to map Carl Mork’s Copenhagen, which has less definitive markers than Mankell’s Ystad or Larsson’s Stockholm. Still, he manages to illustrate it nicely with photos.

Stickers? We don’t need no stinking stickers, but the last one is priceless.

a review of Jarkko Sipila’s Against the Wall

Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall by Jarkko Sipila, translated by Peter Ylitalo Leppa (Ice Cold Crime, June 2009)

Though Finland’s literary scene is a lively one, not very many Finnish writers have had their crime fiction translated into English. A small publishing start-up in Minnesota is setting out to change that. Ice Cold Crime has just published its first title, Jarkko Sipila’s Against the Wall. I was lucky enough to get a copy from the publisher, who happens to be the brother of the author. I admit to having slight misgivings about that all-in-the-family relationship, but the fledgling publisher is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and is taking an all-business approach. The first volume hot off the press is nicely produced, very affordably priced, and the translation is as straightforward as the story (though noticeably Minnesotan – “hot dish” is served up in one scene, and a housing style is described as a “rambler” – which would be casseroles and ranch houses in other places; not that I object, being fluent in Minnesotan myself).

Against the Wall is a no-nonsense gritty police procedural that gives equal time to the crooks and the cops and rather more time to plot than to character development. Pitted against an ensemble cast of police, with an undercover officer who plays both sides taking a lead role, there is a ragtag group of cons, ranging from a low-level junkie who runs errands and tries unsuccessfully to avoid getting in over his head, to a businessman who lives in an expensive Art Nouveau buliding, his luxurious lifestyle paid for by arranging deals with Russian partners to fudge shipping manifests, turning a truckload of rubber gloves into a profitable shipment of large-screen televisions.

The story begins with a man being lured to an isolated garage where he is executed in cold blood; a second man is similarly lured to the site, where he is told to dispose of both the weapon and the body. He doesn’t have the stomach for this kind of violence and he panics, later trying to get out of the crack by tipping off the undercover cop, though for a time he becomes their prime suspect.

For a relatively short book – coming in at just under 300 pages – there’s a lot going on, with the scene shifting from seedy parts of Helsinki to prisons to wealthy neighborhoods, the point of view roving from one perspective to another. Though Sipila doesn’t indulge in the meditative character analysis of so much Scandinavian crime fiction – we see little of the home life of the police, and they are too busy knocking heads and following leads to indulge in personal introspection – there are some quick sketches that make a vivid impression: Juha Saarnikangas, the hapless addict who gathers crumbs at the fringes of criminal tables, and who can deliver an impromptu lecture on Finnish architecture; Markus Markkanen who is always on the lookout for ways to skim a percentage off of whatever scam is going down; Jouku Nyholm, a depressive customs inspector who is trapped in a meaningless job with a viscious boss; and Suhonen, a cop who is totally at home among criminals. It is he who pulls together the threads of the plot, tying the murder, the black market dealings, and the criminal rivalries together in a . . . well, if it’s in Helsinki, can it be described as a Mexican standoff? At any rate, the book begins and ends with violence, and in the middle shows criminals trying to score a few extra points against each other, as the police work together to solve the murder.

The author, a journalist who has covered crime for both newspapers and television, has written eleven books, most of them entries in this series. He has also written scripts for a televised version, and it’s easy to see how well this story, which won the 2009 Clue award for best work of Finnish crime fiction, could translate to the screen.  Though chances are Finnish readers are well familiar with the police characters, from the squad room clown, Mikko Kulta, to the lieutenant in charge, there’s no missing backstory to confuse the new reader. The large number of characters and their unfamiliar names can be a challenge, but luckily there’s a character list in the front of the book to help keep them straight. And though a map might have come in handy, too, the author provides a good sense of place, showing Finland as a borderland between a typically orderly Scandinavian state and the new Russia, between law and disorder, a country that has a a unique language but which has changed hands between Sweden and Russia over the years, a place where Western Europe rubs up against the wild frontier of Eastern Europe. A good place, in other words, to spin tales about crime, corruption, and cops.

For more about the author, see an nterview at finpop. Juri Nummelin has the backstory to the new publishing endeavor at pulpetti; Peter Rozovsky discusses the book at his invaluable Detectives Beyond Borders. And Glenn Harper reviews it at International Noir Fiction.

It looks as if we’ll see more Finnish crime fiction from Ice Cold Crime, and I am looking forward to it.

photo courtesy of lasi.kurkijarvi

random round-up

Peter beat me to reviewing a new English translation of Jarkko Sipila’s Against the Wall, just published this month by Ice Cold Crime, a new small publishing house in Minnesota that promises to bring more Finnish crime fiction into English. I am about halfway through it and hope to post a review next week, but so far agree with Peter that it’s a gritty procedural that doesn’t mince words but gets on with the story of petty criminals caught up in a dangerous trade – and the team of police who track them down.

An anonymous Australian bibliophile at The Genteel Arsenal samples Swedish crime fiction after reading about the BBC Branagh version of Mankell’s series and is favorably impressed when reading Sidetracked. She(?) picks up on several features that make it unique: a vulnerable hero who is dismayed by crime and has family issues, its insight into Swedish society as the police try to come to grips with the kind of violence they think only happens in America, and complex rendering of victims and criminals.

Wilda Williams of Library Journal has an interview with Sonny Mehta, publisher of the US edition of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and Paul Bogaards, Knopf’s executive director of publicity.

Norm (aka Uriah) has now read all of the International Daggar contenders and is wondering how the judges will make their choice. He has so far winnowed Vargas and Arnaldur Indridason from the list, arguing the current nominees are not their strongest work, but is making us wait as he ponders the remaining four excellent Scandinavian contestants. Meanwhile, you can read his reviews of them all.

UPDATE: I’ve taken so long preparing this round-up that Norm has posted his hot tip. Or perhaps its a properly cold one. In any case, you must read his rationale, which manages to make all the contenders sound good.

Kerrie reviews Jo Nesbo’s Redeemer and gives it (and the translator) high marks. I especially liked this bit: “You can almost feel Nesbo building this book, layer on layer, investigating how events that took place over a decade before, can have consequences in present time.” What a great description. No wonder I love his stuff.

More on K.O. Dahl’s Last Fix from International Noir Fiction. Sounds like an unusual structure at work.

Martin Edwards talks about Hakan Nesser at his blog with the great title, Do You Write Under Your Own Name?

John Baker reviews Peter Høeg’s Borderliners, calling it “a difficult and inspiring novel, rich in meditations on the human condition.” Not exactly crime fiction, but mentioned because so many of us know the author via Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

And finally, my somewhat Scandinavian crime fiction-related news: I just signed a contract with a Finnish publisher, Nemo, who plans to publish a Finnish translation of my mystery In the Wind. I couldn’t be more pleased to have a chance to be part of the Scandinavian crime fiction scene, even if the book is set in Chicago. A great big kiitos to the Finnish reader who brought it to their attention.