reviews and rants

Maxine Clarke at Eurocrime has high praise for Karin Alvtegen’s Betrayal, which probes the psychology of two couples. She concludes:

BETRAYAL is a compelling read, in which the tension is almost unbearable. The author’s psychological insight is sharp: we identify with each character while we see the world through their eyes, but when the author pulls back and shows a more objective view, we realise things are definitely not as they had seemed. Each player in this grim story is locked into their own particular emotional straitjacket, all of which are cleverly, and with almost unbearable tension, built up into a perfect house of cards. It’s all going to come tumbling down, but for who, and how? The final chapters are horrifically chilling – but in common with the very best of Scandinavian crime fiction, no car chases, fancy technology, thrills or spills are necessary for the gut-wrenching impact. This novel is psychological suspense at its finest.

Maxine also handicaps the CWA International Dagger, giving Alvtegen’s Shadow the nod “by a whisker” over Theorin’s Echoes from the Dead. Her reasoning turns into a lovely review of both books, as well as substantial comments on two of the other contenders.

Peter reviews Gentlemen by Klas Östergren, originally published in Swedish in 1980 and in a translation by Tiina Nunnally in 2007. Peter reports he finds it well worth reading, though he’s doubtful that it deserves quite the reputation for greatness it has earned at home.

In the Times, John Dugdale comments on “Murder Most Global” and briefly comments on Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s My Soul to Take, starting with “Not all Nordic crime novels are gloomy.” He likens it to a Christie country-house mystery, only set in Iceland at a spa. Another brief glimpse of a review of the book was published in The Telegraph. Though the NBCC has mourned the disappearing book review for some time, the incredibly shrinking book review is another problem. Really, how good is a two- or three-line synopsis? Are we practicing for Twitter?

Mike Stotter Ripley delivers the news in his Getting Away With Murder column that “Swedish crime writer Johan Theorin’s Snowbound which will continue the Viking invasion of our bookshops under the title Where The Dead Lay.” Apart from substituting a bland title for one that’s relatively memorable, it sounds incredibly awkward. Is that verb form past tense or present incorrect? Apparently Amazon believes the title will be The Darkest Room.  How about just titling it Indecision?

I suspect publishers have word magnets in the staff lounge that have a superabundance of Dark, Death, Dead, Bones, Grave, Black, and Night, and they just rearrange them until they’ve found a title that sounds like a generic mystery.  This goes along with recycling the same images over and over as if the packaging needs to look the same for readers to say “aha, a mystery! It looks exactly like another mystery I enjoyed” before they will pick it up.

Note to publishers: readers are not stupid and books are not breakfast cereal.

3 thoughts on “reviews and rants

  1. Thanks for the mentions, Barbara, very kind. I agree about the short reviews – the ones in the Guardian seem absolutely tiny, just the blurb, basically. I wish publishers would begin to link to blog reviews on their websites, they would serve customers better I think!

  2. By the way, the Getting Away With Murder column is by Mike Ripley. It’s a monthly column he (author of the Angel series) writes for Shots magazine, whose editor is Mike Stotter. Confusing! A rule of thumb is that if it makes you split your sides with laughter, it’s by Mike Ripley.

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