Books

A clever and sinister twist to Scandi-Noir queen Anne Holt’s The Final Murder

The Final Murder is the second in Anne Holt’s crime series starring senior Norwegianmurder police Superintendent Adam Stubo and psychologist Johanne Vik. The two met in the series debut, Punishment which was released in translation earlier this year, and quite apart from working well together they obviously hit it off socially in a big way.

When The Final Murder opens they are now married and Stubo is on paternity leave after the birth of their daughter, Ragnhild. It’s a sad commentary on the marital skills of many factional cops, that he flatly refused, even when ordered, to return to the back in the office due to a particularly high-profile killing of an attractive TV presenter. Stubo is a refreshingly normal character. Humane and caring. Apart from the occasional forbidden cigar and glass of wine to assist contemplation, he’s devoid of the traits that tend to single out the modern crime buster. He’s a good father both to Ragnhild and to the strangely quirky Kristiane, Vik’s daughter by an

The Windy Season by Sam Carmody: A disturbing sense of menace with a unique Aussieness

CarmodyStark, the small west Australian coastal town which is the setting for Sam Carmody’s debut novel, The Windy Season, is fictitious. But as anyone who has travelled off the tourist track to the more remote parts of Australia can attest, it exists under a number of aliases. It’s just the kind of town which might, to the outsider, at first seem attractively unusual. But it doesn’t take long to reveal its real character, an undercurrent of menace that makes you look over your shoulder when walking down the road, even on a sunny day.

Stark is the kind of town where society’s flotsam and jetsam turn up. A human gyre. The wounded and the wounders. This is a place where people really do just disappear. Because they want to. Or sometimes because someone else wants them to.

Review: Sarah Maine’s The House Between Tides

AMilneI read Sarah Maine’s debut novel The House Between Tides over a couple of days while enjoying Fiji’s balmy climate. It’s a credit to her ability to create a deep sense of place that the winds whistling through the Outer Hebrides island lost none of their chilly bite, nor the wild seas their temper. It’s 2010 and when the last of her relatives dies and bequeaths her the ancestral home, Hetty Deveraux leaves her troubled relationship and travels to Scotland. She has dreams of restoring the house and potentially opening a hotel on the magnificent rocky outcrop where it is perched.

But when she arrives she find it is less a house than a tumbling down neglected memorial to the brilliant but troubled artist Theo Blake who had lived there until his lonely death. Then a skeleton is unearthed beneath what’s left of the floorboards and Hetty finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery surrounding Theo, his young wife Beatrice and Cameron, the charismatic son of Theo’s estate manager.

Review: The Memory Artist by Katherine Brabon

MemoryKatherine Brabon’s The Memory Artist, which won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for debut novelist for 2016, is the story of Pasha Ivanov who grew up in the 1960s in the small Moscow apartment where his dissident parents and their friends gathered. They were determined to find out and circulate information about the Stalin government’s ruthless repression, perpetuated by subsequent regimes, long after his death. Tens of millions had been murdered, exiled to brutal remote gulags, placed in mental institutions or, simply disappeared. Control over information, even thought, brutally enforced. Fear as powerful a censor as a prison cell or a man with a gun.

In the 1980s, following Brezhnev’s death, new leader Mikhail Gorbachev has ushered in fledgling glasnost, an increased openess about the activities of

Review: Understated menace magnifies the tension in Alan Furst’s A Hero in France

FurstAlan Furst has carved out a substantial niche for himself with his meticulously researched thrillers set in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. His latest, A Hero in France, opens in March 1941, ten months after the French premier Marshal Petain’s infamous capitulation and the arrival of the German occupying force.

The hero of the title, code-named Mathieu, lives a double-life, his identity never revealed, even to his lover, Joëlle. He heads a cell of the French Resistance tasked with getting downed RAF airmen out of France and back to England, not just for the propaganda value but also because of the appallingly high attrition rate of pilots. The book spans five critical months in the work of the cell and its web of supporters, supporting network, operating under an increasingly suffocating blanket of fear, suspicion and distrust as the German grip on Paris, and France, tightens.

Review: Punishment by Anne Holt introduces a new team tackling a frighteningly realistic crime

Punishment, the latest offering from Anne Holt, dubbed the “godmother of modern ApunishmentNorwegian crime fiction” by international Scandi Noir author Jo Nesbo, introduces a new fiction team to her readers. Holt has achieved great acclaim with her Hanne Wilhelmsen series, including the recent Dead Joker and Punishment is the first of the series featuring Superintendent Adam Stubo and psychologist Johanne Vik to be translated into English.

Holt draws on her experience working for the Oslo Police, as a lawyer and during a period as Norway’s Minister for Justice, to provide a compelling authenticity to her books, not just of the police and judiciary but also their often fraught intersection with the political system. Couple that with intriguing often (as in this case) fairly complex plotting, you can understand why she’s so popular.

Review Granta New Irish Writing: a vibrant swirling trip through a rich literary landscape

G135 - New Irish WritingI can never quite make up my mind about how best to go about reading a collection of work by different authors: sequentially or randomly? Individually, with a gap between each, or as one continuous experience? If editor Sigrid Rausing had a particular leitmotif in mind when compiling Granta 135 New Irish Writing (in her introduction she writes of identified themes such as the relationship between place and self, and a sense of displacement) it didn’t seem critical. So I played lucky dip, moving backwards and forwards as the fancy took me.

The book gathers together 14 writers ranging from established authors like Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle and Emma Donoghue to “emerging writers” although even these seem to have already garnered an impressive list of official accolades. It just shows the weight of Irish writing talent in that the collection is notable for who isn’t included: Anne Enright whose The Green Road was Ireland’s

Debut novelist Lisa McInerney wins 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

BaileysLisaThe Glorious Heresies, Irish author Lisa McInerney’s debut novel, has won the £30,000 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Ficrion beating a star-studded shortlist including the favourite,  The Green Road by Anne Enright and Hanya Yangihara’s best-selling A Little Life. Chief judge Margaret Mountford described The Glorious Heresies, set in post-financial crash Ireland as “a superbly original, compassionate novel that delivers insights into the very darkest of lives through humour and skilful storytelling. A fresh new voice and a wonderful winner. …“I come from Ireland, so I can say that the Irish do black humour better than anyone else … You get that rich vein of humour throughout this book, which stops it from being bleak.” 

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