A Colder Kind of Death by Gail Bowen

A Colder Kind of Death
by Gail Bowen
McClelland and Stuart, 1994
Joanne Kilbourn #4

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Academia, Award winner, Books, Canada, Crime fiction, Domestic, Mystery, North America, Political, Psychology, Series | Leave a comment

A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read

A Field of Darkness
by Cornelia Read
Warner/Mysterious Press 2006

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 3 star, Books, Crime fiction, Domestic, Humour, Journalism, North America, Psychology, Romance, Series, Social comment, USA | Leave a comment

Old City Hall by Robert Rotenberg

Old City Hall
by Robert Rotenberg
John Murray (pb), 2009

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Books, Canada, Crime fiction, Debut, Legal, North America, Police procedural, Psychology, Series, Social comment | Leave a comment

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Talking to the Dead
by Harry Bingham
Orion, 2012

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 3 star, Books, Crime fiction, Europe, Financial, Police procedural, Psychology, Wales | Leave a comment

Blood Tears by Michael J Malone

Blood Tears
by Michael J Malone
Five Leaves Publications, 2012
Kindle edition

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 2.5 stars, Books, Crime fiction, Debut, Europe, Police procedural, Scotland, Social comment | Leave a comment

Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford

Mogford, Thomas – ‘Shadow of the Rock’ 
Trade Paperback: 272 pages (Aug. 2012) Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC ISBN: 1408824167

Spike Sanguinetti is the unusual name of the protagonist in this speed-read thriller set in Gibraltar and Tangier. Spike’s real name is Somerset (we learn that his deceased mother was fond of “the English short story”) but has elected for a sharper handle, and acts accordingly. He’s a lawyer living on the “rock”, as the promontory of Gibraltar is generally called; the action of the book starts right off when Solomon, a fugitive from justice, seeks Spike’s help.

Solomon knows Spike from their mutual schooldays: Spike was not a particular friend of the younger man but protected him from bullies a couple of times. Now, Solomon is in a much tighter corner than that, as he’s been accused by the police in Tangier of killing a young woman on the beach. He managed to escape across the strait, as he is terrified of being imprisoned in Tangier, not a place which has a fair criminal justice system, especially if the accused is of the Jewish race, we are told.

Spike persuades Solomon to hand himself over to the Gibraltar authorities to prepare a legal case against extradition, while he himself goes to Tangier to find out who really committed the crime. Once he arrives, the pace is frantic, as he finds new clues; meets people whom he charms, bribes or threatens to find out more; encounters a couple of irresistibly “sexy” women; digs into Solomon’s employer’s activities in bidding for a contract to supply renewable energy to the region; and gets into terrible scrapes and danger on half-a-dozen occasions. And of course, he has a caring side, shown particularly by his devotion to his ageing father.

THE SHADOW OF THE ROCK is a light yet well-written thriller that will please those who like adventure-type books in exotic locations. The first third or so is set in Gibraltar and the second part in Tangier; in both cases the reader is inundated with historical, geographical and cultural information somewhat to excess (for example the significance of individual street names in Gibraltar is explained). As well as the school-lesson element of the book, Spike is one of those heroes who is well-connected everywhere (most usefully with an underdeveloped character who is a policewoman in Gibraltar), with convenient friends, and who has a knack for constantly getting into deeply sticky, potentially lethal situations but emerging virtually unscathed each time. He has great luck, also – a woman he tries to interview runs away, but a day later he notices her doing a drug deal in the bar he happens to be in. If this kind of blasé insouciance is your cup of tea, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, even though I found the characters either two-dimensional or stereotypical (especially the Moroccans and the businessmen). Hard-core crime fiction readers may find it rather formulaic despite the unusual locations and the twist in the tail is no surprise.

First reviewed at Euro Crime, August 2012.

Posted in 2 star, Africa, Books, Europe, Gibraltar, Legal, Morocco, Thriller | Leave a comment

The Eyes of Lira Kazan by Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon

The Eyes of Lira Kazan
by Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon
translated by Emily Read
Bitter Lemon Press, 2012
First published in France, 2011

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 4 star, Africa, Books, Current affairs, Debut, England, Europe, Faroe Islands, Financial, France, Journalism, Nigeria, Political, Social comment, Thriller, Translated | Leave a comment

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End by Leif G W Persson

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End
by Leif G W Persson
translated by Paul Norlen
Black Swan/Transworld 2010
first published in Sweden 2002
Johansson/Jarenberg #1

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 2.5 stars, Books, Crime fiction, Europe, Historical, Mystery, Police procedural, Political, Series, Social comment, Sweden, Translated | Leave a comment

Some Kind of Peace by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff

Some Kind of Peace
by Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff
translated by Paul Norlen
Simon & Schuster 2012
First published in Sweden 2009

Reviewed at Petrona, August 2012.

Posted in 3.5 stars, Books, Crime fiction, Debut, Europe, Mystery, Psychology, Series, Social comment, Suspense, Sweden, Translated | Leave a comment

Summertime Death by Mons Kallentoft

Kallentoft, Mons – ‘Summertime Death’ (translated by Neil Smith) 
Paperback: 496 pages (May 2012) Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks ISBN: 1444721577

The second in this seasonal quartet set in Linköping, south of Stockholm, is as hot as its predecessor, MIDWINTER SACRIFICE, was cold. Police detective Malin Fors is suffering in the sweltering temperatures, missing her daughter Tove who is on holiday in Bali with her ex-husband. Brooding over her parents – eternally absent and, Malin is convinced, keeping an important family secret from her – and without anything to do in her life outside work, Malin is abruptly awakened from her ennui by the discovery of a teenage girl in a children’s park. The girl has been abused but is catatonic.

For the next 250 pages of this nearly 500-page novel, Malin and other colleagues desperately try to find out what happened to the girl, as well as search for another girl who has gone missing. This section of the book ends with the discovery of a body, buried near a municipal outdoor swimming pool. The pace picks up, as another young woman goes missing and the urgency increases.

SUMMERTIME DEATH is a well-constructed novel with an atmospheric, well-observed setting. Malin is the person who has to carry the book, and to a large extent she does, though the hints about her conflicts with her parents are repetitive and inconclusive (the reader can make an educated guess at the nature of the secret that she has sensed). The investigation itself is frustrating for a regular crime fiction reader as there is too much that the police omit to do. For example, they round up two young men who have been previously accused of rape, but don’t investigate the others who were initially arrested with them. A bizarre clue emerges, but nobody thinks to investigate the only shop in town that sells such objects. The house and garden of one of the girls is not examined. People who had regular access to the girls’ houses are not followed up. Not all these omissions turn out to be relevant, but when combined they make the book too drawn-out.

Most of the police are reasonable people, but one of them is not – yet his otherwise politically correct colleagues turn collective blind eyes when this man beats up more than one suspect to obtain information that verbal questions have not elicited. The narrative is interspersed with “dead victims speaking from the grave” segments, an unnecessary cliché (a device used previously, but less jarringly, by the author in MIDWINTER SACRIFICE).

The final scenes, while Malin works out who is responsible for the crimes and how they were carried out, are tense, but ultimately crazy in terms of psychological explanation, as well as featuring a heavily signalled, predictable victim. They also depend on Malin behaving in uncharacteristic ways, for example when she mishandles a press conference by volunteering two pieces of incendiary information, and her incredible insistence in not asking her colleagues for help in the final “race against time” sequences. There are certainly good things about the book, for example the character of a Serbian kiosk-owner and its portrait of small-town life, but as a crime novel it would have been better if shorter, without the supernatural elements, and less reliant on mistakes or accidents for its outcome.

Review first published at Euro Crime, August 2012.

Posted in 3 star, Books, Crime fiction, Domestic, Eurocrime, Europe, Mystery, Police procedural, Psychology, Series, Sweden, Thriller, Translated | Leave a comment