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.

review of Vengeance by Jarkko Sipila

Jarkko Sipila, Helsinki Homicide: Vengeance translated by Peter Ylitalo Leppa (Independence, MN: Ice Cold Crime, 2010).

The second novel in the “Helsinki Homicide” series to be translated into English (though not the second in the series – the author has published eleven books, some of them earlier entries in this series) is another no-frills, hardboiled and gritty crime story that pits a dedicated police unit against criminals.

A gang leader has just been released from prison. As the second in command of the Skulls, he begins to rebuild an organization that is crumbling, thanks to successful prosecutions and competition from other  criminal organizations that are angling for a chance to get in on the action. Undercover officer Suhonen connects with another ex-con, a close childhood friend who took a different path in life. Eero Salmela wants to go straight but faces an uphill battle. When he gets in a bind, becoming an informant is either a chance to escape a long prison sentence–or a death sentence.

The story is a bit slow to start, but I found the second half more compelling. With the police on one side, doggedly gathering evidence, and the criminals on the other, taking a brutal approach to organizational dynamics, the sides play out their chess moves with the black and white pieces clearly demarcated. But it is Suhonen and Salmela who are the most valuable pieces in play, and they are not so clearly black and white.

Unlike much crime fiction, the personal lives of the detectives are lightly touched on; this story is all business. The criminals, too, are straightforward in their goals; they are not larger than life or exotically evil, they are just a business organization bonded by violence and heavily invested in illegal trade. If anything characterizes this series, it’s gritty realism. There are no heroes here, just hardworking police trying to keep the lid on crime. The characters keep their feelings close to their chests, but the relationship between Suhonen and Salmela makes for an interesting intersection of both worlds. In some ways Sipila’s work reminds me of the human comedy that John McFetridge is creating in his books about Toronto, but without the literary grace notes, the insights into character, or the complication of police corruption.

Neither Toronto nor Helsinki might strike the average American as flashpoints for  violent organized crime, but both authors take us to the shady side of the street and create a teeming world where both cops and the criminals they pursue seem locked into a weary and unending game where a checkmate doesn’t end anything; the board is just set up again for the next round.

The translation is very well done; the lack of literary stylistics seems to be an authorial choice to present a stripped-down, story-driven tale sprinkled with a light dusting of irony. As with the first book, rather than being transported to a richly realized world, I felt as if I were watching a televised police series, one that valued story  more than character development, and realism over dramatic plot twists.

Peter also has a review of this book at the Nordic Bookblog.  He concludes it is “suspenseful, exciting, fast paced, and written in a crisp style, full of cynicism and dark humor.”