More Reviews and Some New Writers on the Scene

Jan Wallentin is a newly translated author who undergoes torture at the Guardian where reviewer John O’Connell describes Strindberg’s Star (published in 2010 and apparently popular in Europe) as “post-Da Vinci Code assemblage of ancient artefacts, Norse myth, nazism, travelogue and secret societies.” He  finds the characters “almost as preposterous as the plot” and he’s not enthusiastic about the translation, either.

The site Crime Fiction Lover lives up to its name by loving it, however, saying it’s dark, unsettling, and compelling.

Glenn Harper reviews Ake Edwardson’s Sail of Stone and does a remarkable job of describing why he likes this author’s style so much. Since I have always had trouble describing Edwardson’s very particular style, I can’t resist quoting him:

The two stories hardly seem weighty enough for a crime novel, despite the considerable parallels between them, but in Edwardsson’s hands there is considerable tension and forward motion, as well as a pair of unconventional climaxes. A good deal of the novel is carried forward in oblique dialogue that’s frequently comic in its indirectness. Along the way there’s considerable discussion of music (Erik is a jazz fanatic who doesn’t care about any other music, while the other detectives have their own soundtracks) and vivid evocations of Göteborg/Gothenburg in Sweden and Scotland from Aberdeen to Inverness. We also get lively glimpses of Erik’s and Aneta’s private lives, without descending into soap opera.

Edwardsson is one of the best writers in the Swedish crime wave.

And I will add that Harper is one of the best reviewers.

He’s been quicker than I am to review one of the new Stockholm Text books, Anna Jansson’s Killer’s Island. He wasn’t taken with the writing style, but found it improved as the book went on. It has the same setting as Mari Jungstedt’s series and a preoccupation with personal lives of the characters that reminds him of Camilla Lackberg. He recommends the television series based on these books if you are lucky enough to catch it .

Philip at To Be Read … reviews one of my TBR books, The Murder of Halland by Danish author Pia Juul. Though it is fiction that includes a crime, he wonders whether it’s a mistake to consider it crime fiction as it is circuitous and more of a literary approach to a woman’s trauma than the sort of plot-oriented investigation crime fiction fans anticipate. I guess I will find out in due course how I come down on this issue. The review itself is intriguing, so I hope to enjoy an intriguing novel, whatever its genre.

He also reviews Stefan Tegenfalk’s Anger Mode, which sounds like a great deal of intelligent fun.

Bill Selnes reviews Helene Tursten’s Detective Inspector Huss at Mysteries and More and is eager to read more in the series. (So am I!)

Norm at Crimescraps enjoyed Jo Nesbo’sPhantom, but thinks (having set himself a very high bar) it’s not the author’s best. It does sound like quite a detailed ethnography of drug addition in a large European city, as well the development of Harry Hole’s paternal side.

He also reviews Hakan Nesser’s Hour of the Wolf, a Van Veeteren series book that won the Glass Key in 2000. He recommends it highly. Jose Ignacio also gives it high marks at The Game’s Afoot. Even though I’ve not yet read this book, I wholeheartedly agree with one line of the review: “Reading becomes an addiction.”

Margot Kinberg puts Camilla Lackberg’s The Ice Princess under the spotlight – particularly focusing on the small town setting and how that affects the story.

W. J. H. Read reviews Lief G. W. Persson’s Another Life, Another Time at I Love a Mystery, saying it is “compelling, suspenseful and at times very funny,” recommending it highly. In general, this seems to be a more accessible book than the first in the series. It also confirms that the author likes long titles.

Fleur Fisher (aka Jane) thought very highly of the book, and does an excellent job of explaining why, summing up by saying “I was impressed by the tightness of the plotting, and that though the story was complex it was not at all difficult to follow … I was held from beginning to end, by a very capable piece of crime writing, set in a very real and wonderfully evoked world.”

Kimbofo is favorably inclined toward Arnaldur Indridason’s Outrage, finding the focus on Elinborg rather than the usual protagonist, Erlendur, more pleasing than she expected and pointing out that it wouldn’t be a bad place for readers new to the series to start. Maxine in the comments points out that the next in the series, Black Skies, takes place during the same period of time and focuses on Sigurder Oli who makes a more interesting protagonist than expected.

Book Geeks reviews Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s The Day is Dark, finding it solid, but not exceptional, with many interesting features but pacing that is . . . oh, no, I feel a terrible pun coming on, given it’s largely set in Greenland. Never mind.

In the most recent issue of Swedish Book Review, Paul O’Mahoney offers a translated snippet from Kjell Westo’s novel, Don’t Go Out Alone Into the Night. Westo is known to crime fiction readers as the author of the psychologically suspenseful novel Lang. This issue also reviews new fiction in Swedish, including a novel by Johann Theorin, Sankta Psycho, that is not set on the island of Oland, but rather takes place in a psychiatric facility connected to a preschool (!). Marlaine Delargy is translating this book which will be titled in English, The Asylum.

If you’d like to learn more about Eva Gabrielsson’s relationship with Stieg Larsson, she was interviewed on WHYY’s Fresh Air program. I realize many of you would prefer not to.

Mrs. Peabody investigates Harri Nykanen’s Nights of Awe. She wasn’t all that impressed by the convoluted plot, but really liked the way the Jewish-Finnish lead character was developed.

Sarah at Crime Pieces reviews Asa Larsson’s The Black Path, which (confusingly) has just been published in the UK, though it precedes Until Thy Wrath be Past.  She feels it’s quite good, but the backstory gets rather heavy-handed and the ending “out of proportion with the rest of the narrative,” which means our feelings are practically identical. I do like this series, though, even when it’s not at its top form.

She also has an excellent essay on how the Sjowall and Wahloo novel The Man on the Balcony and Marco Vichi’s Death and the Olive Grove manage to deal with a difficult topic – abuse and murder of children – without the usual missteps, but rather with insight and understated respect.

And carrying on with Scandinavian crime, she reviews Thomas Enger’s Burned, which she picked up after hearing the author speak at CrimeFest. She thought it was very good, particularly for its depiction of the non-stop contemporary news business. (I liked that part, too.)

Good grief. The New York Times has had some silly ledes lately (“Men invented the internet” for example, “Men with pocket protectors” and with powers that make them invisible to fact checkers and skeptical editors) but it’s nevertheless a bit embarrassing to have them tell us “Norway has Noir” as if it’s, you know, news or something. Jo Nesbo spoke at Book Expo America. He was pretty funny, according to my Twitter informants. The Gray Lady should perhaps pay more attention.

Kerrie reviews Johan Theorin’s The Quarry, which she gave high marks. (I did, too.) Another book she has reviewed recently is Next of Kin by Danish author Elsabeth Egholm, whose sleuth is a journalist. Kerrie recommends it as a good read.

Mons Kallentoft’s second book in English, Summertime Death, gets Sarah’s attention at Crimepieces. She praises his writing style and found most of the book well-paced, except toward the end. It sounds a bit “once more with feeling” but still a good one – though Sarah hopes he’ll try for more variety in future books. The book is also reviewed favorably in the New Zealand Listener, where Bernard Carpinter declares it “complex and excellent.”

Kerrie adds another thumbs up to the general praise for Jorn Lier Horst’s Norwegian police procedural,Dregs. How about translations of the entire series? And a US release, while I’m being demanding? She had a bit of trouble getting into Anne Holt’s The Final Murder, but once into the swing of things enjoyed the Stubo/Vik story. Incidentally, Holt’s 1222 has just been nominated for a Macavity award, with the winners to be announced at Bouchercon this coming October.

Speaking of CrimeFest, Karen of Euro Crime did some wonderful on-the-fly reporting, including a detailed report from Death in a Cold Climate – a panel moderated by Barry Forshaw featuring Asa Larsson, Thomas Enger, Ragnar Jonasson (sadly, not yet translated into English), and Gunnar Staalesen, as well as Roslund and Hellstrom interviewed by Janet Laurence.

I should take this opportunity to thank Karen and her partners in crime reviewing. The Euro Crime site now has 2,303 reviews, bibliographies for 1,793 authors, and information about close to 10,000 books. That’s an awesome achievement, and all done for love.

reviews and more

The New York Daily News has some travel advice for those who want to follow the footsteps of Swedish sleuths. If you are truly obsessive, you may even reserve Wallander’s table at his favorite restaurant.

The Australian Courier-Mail has an interview with Asa Larsson and manages to work Stieg Larsson into the title.

Ali Karim, the consummate fan, has an appreciation of Arnaldur Indridason at Shots Magazine, marking his appearance (again) at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where his books originally found their international audience with Jar City.

I reviewed Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Keeper of Lost Causes (also known as Mercy) for Mystery Scene magazine. (Shortcut: I liked it quite a lot.) For an alternative view, see what Glenn Harper has to say – he feels it’s not a bad book, just a bit flat and lacking in nuance. At Reviewing the Evidence, Yvonne Klein didn’t care for all of the ingredients, but liked the results very much. And Bernadette has some insightful things to say – including the way the role of humor in the book, in spite of some horrific goings-on, sets it apart, as does the way that a tired fem-jep trope is given fresh life by creating a woman who is extraordinarily tough and resourceful.

More recently, Glenn has reviewed Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason, in which Elinborg takes the lead. He writes that she is “fully the equal of other female detectives in Scandinavian fiction.”

While dallying in the north, Glenn also reviews Jorn Lier Horst’s Dregs, which he declares “a first-class police procedural” with an interesting protagonist. Though it’s actually the sixth in the series (and first to be translated into English) he finds the author did a good job of filling the reader in sufficiently to make it a good place to start.

(For more on this author, who is himself a policeman, check out an interview published at Cyprus Wells.)

And Glenn also reviews Stefan Teganfalk’s novel Anger Mode, which he likens to Jussi Adler-Olsen and Leif G.W. Persson. The author’s strength is plotting, but the dialogue, Glenn feels, can be on the wooden side, making the book longer than it needs to be.

Keishon reviews Arnaldur Indridason’s Voices, which she finds sad and realistic – a good review that captures the mood of the book well.

Maxine Clarke reviews Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft for Euro Crime, finding it a good if over-hyped portrait of small town life, its limitations thrown into relief by a murder. She thinks the main character has potential and gives the translator, Neil Smith, high marks, particularly for the sections of the book that are told from the victim’s perspective.

She also points out that if you follow people on Twitter, you might want to follow @SwedishNoir.  Thanks, Maxine!

Margot Kinberg puts Detective Inspector Irene Huss in the spotlight, particularly looking at the way that author Helene Tursten weaves together the personal and professional in this character. (I do like this series, and having a lead character who is so balanced and pleasant to be around is part of it.)

The Independent has reviews of Camilla Lackberg’s The Hidden Child and Asa Larsson’s Until Thy Wrath Be Past. Both involve crimes of Sweden’s past and both are recommended.

In the Irish Times, Declan Burke reviews Liza Marklund’s Exposed, which is apparently the first in the Annika Bengtzon series, summing up: “concise, pacy and direct, eschewing any literary pretensions to language or characterisation in favour of a hard-hitting polemic on the topic of domestic violence, in which the personal is very much the political.”

The Globe and Mail reviews Jo Nesbo’s The Headhunters, mincing no words: “If you thought Scandinavian crime fiction couldn’t get better than Steig Larson and Henning Mankell, you’re wrong.. Norway’s Jo Nesbo is better than either and this book is far and away his finest.”  Paired with this review is one of Karin Fossum’s The Caller, giving her points for psychological suspense and her ability to find ” violence in the everyday,” which I think is Fossum in a nutshell.

At Petrona, Maxine also reviews Headhunters, calling it “a dazzling, relentlessly paced thriller, combining classic noir elements with Nesbø’s trademark intricate plotting that constantly challenges the reader’s wits and attention span. What a refreshing read!”

Mrs. Peabody investigates a couple of Scandinavian television crime dramas coming to BBC in 2012. (Oh dear, another brilliant and maverick profiler mourning the death of his wife and child . . .) More at the BBC site.

Fox is developing Leif G. W. Persson’s series into a television drama series with the director of Syriana and Traffic (the US version) directing. This plus more on Fincher’s Girl, a von Trier adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series, an American Jar City, and a confused reference to who will play the detective in Mankell’s novel Italian Shoes being made into a film – sorry, folks, but it’s not about Wallander; it’s not even crime fiction.  Another article in Word and Film reports that Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters is being made into a film, then speculates about which part of the world will be the next hot destination when we’re tired of Scandinavia.

And while we’re on the subject of reinterpretations, here’s news that DC Comics has acquired the rights to turn the Millennium Trilogy into six graphic novels. I have to say – strange though it may sound – I think this is great. Maybe it’s because I grew up with Classics Comics or maybe because Larsson was such a fan of pop culture himself, but I quite like this idea. I’d rather they be Swedish, and not by a mega-company, but these seem to me books that will work well in graphic format.

Finally, let’s let the New Yorker have the last word . . .