Saturday, August 31, 2013

Murder at Hazelmoor: Agatha Christie

Murder at Hazelmoor, published in 1931, is one of Christie's non-series books. The original title in the UK was The Sittaford Mystery.

This book introduced me to a term that I am not familiar with: table turning. At, this is defined as:  "The presumed art of turning tables without the application of mechanical force. Said by some to be the work of departed spirits, and by others to be due to a force akin to mesmerism." The rocking table indicates letters and spell out messages. I have, of course, read books and seen movies where this activity takes place, but I was never familiar with the term. Table turning plays a significant part in this book.

A group of neighbors in the very small village of Sittaford get together for tea on a very cold and snowy night. They have been invited by Mrs. Willet and her grown daughter, Viola, who are visiting England after living in South Africa for many years. Captain Trevelyan has rented his large house in Sittaford to the Willets because of the money he will make on the transaction and has moved to the nearby town of Hazelmoor for a few months. The guests are residents of the smaller houses that have been built in the same area as Trevelyan's home. These guests include Major Burnaby, a friend of the Captain's for many years; Mr. Rycroft, interested in psychic phenomena and criminology; Ronnie Garfield, who is visiting his elderly aunt.

After tea, table turning is suggested as a diversion. As it progresses, a message is spelled out saying that Captain Trevelyan has been murdered. Up to that point, the activity has all been in fun. Immediately, everyone loses their taste for table turning and several of the participants are quite upset.

Major Burnaby decides he must immediately walk to Hazelmoor and confirm that the Captain is safe. Everyone protests, due to the impossibility of the trip on foot (or by car) in the snow, but he insists. He sets off immediately. And, two and a half hours later, he arrives at the house and discovers the dead body of Captain Trevelyan. It turns out the approximate time of death is about the same time as the incident of the table turning.

That is the setup of the story. The unusual part of this story is that there are two investigators. One is Inspector Narracott, summoned from Exeter to lead the investigation. The second is a young lady, Emily Trefusis, who is the fiancee of Captain Trevelyan's nephew, who has become the prime suspect.  Emily knows that her fiancee has some flaws, but she is sure he is not capable of murder.

This is another Christie mystery featuring a strong, confident female character. Emily adds spice to the investigation as she and Inspector Narracott run into each other as they follow leads. Emily is aided by a newspaperman, also from Exeter, who opens some doors for her that would otherwise have been closed. But she is so enterprising and determined, we know she would have found a way no matter what.

The mystery is quite good and kept me guessing for most of the book. Even in the end, although I considered the solution as one of many possible solutions, I was quite surprised at how it was done. Yet it all makes sense. Christie is so good at diverting the reader, and that is one of the reasons I am enjoying her books so much.

This post is my second submission for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, and horror. The event continues through October 31, 2013. Reviews for that event are here.

It is also submitted for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by Mysteries In Paradise.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII

Last year about this time, I stumbled upon the announcement of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII. That was the first year that I participated in this fun event that started seven years ago.

This event is hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. The event starts in September and goes through October and celebrates "all things ghastly and ghostly" as we move into Fall.

A description of the event:
The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:
Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.
There are two simple goals for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII
1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.
See this post for ways that you can participate. In addition to books, movies, and television, you can post about short stories or join in a group read. There is a R.I.P. Review Site where participants may post links to any book or screen posts related to this event.

I am committing to only one peril this year... Peril the First. Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature.

I will most certainly read more than four mysterious books, and I may view (and review?) a movie or two.

These are the mystery / suspense novels I definitely plan to read in the next two months:
Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas  (just finished this one)
A White Arrest by Ken Bruen
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
The Yard by Alex Grecian
Vengeance by Michael Dibdin
Those are all police procedurals... or at least focus on a policeman protagonist. I am on a police procedural binge right now.

These books are some of the books that I considered reading last time and it would be nice to read one or two of them this time:
Ghost Hero by S. J. Rozan
The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver
Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Other books I may include are:
Murder In Belleville by Cara Black
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill
And, of course, a couple of mysteries by Agatha Christie.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

U is for Unholy Ground

Today, for the Crime Fiction Alphabet, I am featuring Unholy Ground. This is the second book in a ten-book series, and I reviewed the first book, A Stone of the Heart, earlier this year.

John Brady is the author. He was born in Dublin but Brady immigrated to Canada at the age of 20. The first book in the series won the Arthur Ellis award for Best First Novel. The next four books in the series were all finalists for the Arthur Ellis award for Best Novel.

This series is called the Inspector Matt Minogue series, but in this second book in the series, Minogue is a Detective Sergeant in the Murder Squad, a division of the Gardai, the Irish police force. I enjoyed the story, but it seems more like a spy story than a standard police procedural. That is fine with me, spy fiction is a favorite sub-genre also.

The death of a elderly resident of Dublin is being investigated; he appears to be merely a British citizen who had settled in Ireland. It turns out he was connected to MI5 in the United Kingdom. This book was published in 1989, and is set in Dublin, Ireland. Thus the political issues in Ireland at the time are a big factor.

Plot and character development are both very well done. Matt Minogue has a strong sense of self, a confidence in his abilities. When his decisions or deductions are questioned, he doesn't let it shake him. He is a family man and we see glimpses of his family, the daily family issues of a man with two children nearing adulthood.

I am including a quote from a review of A Stone of the Heart at View from the Blue House. The author of that blog lives and works in Ireland and knows a lot more about that area than I do.
The social interaction between characters is keenly observed and the dialogue is spot on, capturing the colloquialisms and banter of Irish brogue. Brady does an excellent job of capturing the political atmosphere in the South and the tensions between a somewhat political ambivalence and benign republicanism and an active support for the IRA.
This quote from the review of Unholy Ground at Kirkus Reviews gives a good overview:
A handsomely written, dark journey into Irish politics and English duplicity. Brady is a master of the telling detail, and within the framework of the political novel, has created memorable characters, most especially the estimable Minogue.
 The author's website has a large amount of background on the books in the series and the characters. I am personally holding off on reading a lot of the character background because I want to get further into the series first.

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise.  Please visit this post to check out other entries for this letter.

This is my first book read for the 7th annual Canadian Book Challenge sponsored by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set. You can see information on joining this challenge HERE.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

T is for Helene Tursten

Today, for the Crime Fiction Alphabet, I am featuring Helene Tursten, author of Detective Inspector Huss (first published in Sweden in 1998). This book is the first in a series of ten books (as far as I can tell), only five of which have been translated from Swedish into English. A sixth will be published in the US in early 2014.

As a summary of the book, the copy on the back cover of my edition does very well:
One of the most prominent citizens of Göteborg, Sweden, plunges to his death off an apartment balcony, but what appears to be a “Society Suicide” soon reveals itself to be a carefully plotted murder. Irene Huss finds herself embroiled in a complex and high-stakes investigation. As Huss and her team begin to uncover the victim’s hidden past, they are dragged into Sweden’s seamy underworld of street gangs, struggling immigrants and neo-Nazis in order to catch the killer.
The good news is that I really enjoyed this book. The bad news is that I want to continue the series which will just add to my real or virtual TBR stacks.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss is a strong female character, and I like that. In addition to highlighting sociological issues in Sweden, the book addresses women's roles in male dominated jobs like law enforcement. The supervisor of the group (Detective Superintendent Sven Andersson) is older, not in great health, and doesn't deal well at all with the obvious sexual harassment going on. He doesn't want to face the unpleasant task of confronting the offender. The harrassment does not directly affect Huss, although she is very sensitive to comments on women and age. 

The author has the gift of portraying the characters ... at least the detectives ... as real people with real lives. The details of Huss' day to day life feel authentic but not boring. One of the minor subplots deals with the neo-Nazi movement in Sweden. I found this somewhat shocking, but similar issues were addressed in The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo (set in Norway), so it wasn't that surprising.

We also can feel Irene's dedication to the job.
But she remembered how it had been the first few years. The excitement, the aroused hunting instincts, and the feeling of triumph when the case was solved. Of course she still had these feelings, but noticeably attenuated. Far too many cases had not left behind the sweetness of victory, but rather a bitter aftertaste. You become jaded and cynical in this profession, she thought in her darker moments. But she didn't want to become either jaded or cynical! You had to go on, keep moving forward. You couldn't stop and dig yourself a hole. The job she had chosen was not without its dangers, but she had never wanted to do anything else and had always enjoyed her work. The past few years she had begun to notice an insidious feeling that hadn't existed before. Only recently had she been able to identify it. Terror. Terror of people's indifference to the human values of others and terror of the ever-increasing violence.
The book is somewhat long (but under 400 pages) and deals with a very complicated series of crimes; regardless, it kept me interested the whole time I was reading it.

For more information on this book, see the following links. Some of these articles tell more information than I like to know before I read a book, but they are full of interesting comments.

An article at January Magazine.
At The World of Books.
At Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...
At Reactions to Reading. This one has links to even more reviews.

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise.  Please visit this post to check out other entries for this letter.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Square of Revenge: Pieter Aspe

This book by Pieter Aspe is the first novel in a long-running popular mystery series set in Bruges, Belgium. It was first published in 1995, but was only published in an English language edition this year. The novel opens with the apparent robbery of an upscale jewelry store. Sergeant Guido Versavel and another policeman discover the situation toward the end of their nightshift while patroling the neighborhood. Several persons are called to the scene of the crime.

Newly appointed Deputy Public Prosecutor Hannelore Martens is called into the case somewhat prematurely. It is her first case and she is eager to get involved and worried about what her correct role is. Ghislain Degroof, the proprietor of Degroof Diamonds and Jewelry, is awakened early to find that his establishment has been broken into. His father, Ludovic Degroof, is a very rich and powerful man in Bruges.

After the scene has been evaluated, it is discovered that all of the jewelry has been destroyed, not stolen. The owner and the police are mystified. The chief commissioner of the police calls in Commissioner Van In, an experienced detective who would not normally be his first choice. The elder Degroof has enough pull to tell the Police Commissioner to hold back on the effort to apprehend the culprits.

And here begins a tale of revenge... Further crimes are committed, affecting the Degroof family, and the stakes get higher and higher. Soon the police cannot ignore the investigation.

I enjoyed this book for several reasons. Some books are strong in plot development, but not so good with characterization. Some books focus on characterization, and the plot gets lost. This book strikes a good balance.

The tone was light, and entertaining. Usually I like a more serious tone, but this book kept me involved. Hannelore Martens and Commissioner Van In are unusual protagonists for a police procedural.  They develop an unlikely partnership.

I liked reading a story set in Belgium and especially Bruges. I know very little about that area, but I had seen the movie In Bruges, so I knew what a storybook city that is, as the movie constantly reminds one. There are crime fiction authors from Belgium (Georges Simenon, for one) and at least some of the Henry Castang series by Nicholas Freeling is set in Brussels, but this is the first series set in Belgium or Bruges that I have encountered.

One of the things I learned from this book, and from an interview with the author at the Publisher's Weekly website, is that Belgium is divided into a Dutch part, known as Flanders, and a French part, known as Wallonia. In that interview, Pieter Aspe describes Belgians as he sees them:
Belgians are what we call “bourgondisch.” It means that they enjoy life, including good food and a nice drink. We also have a café culture, so we often go for a drink in the nearest pub. In the end, I think Belgians, when it comes down to culture, are more like the Spanish, French, or Italian. In contrast to Van In, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian detectives are more cold and businesslike.
And definitely, in this book, everyone eats and drinks with relish.

One unusual thing about this book was that there is no murder to be investigated. It is definitely a crime novel, and there are crimes solved in this book, but I did wonder for about half of the book when the death would occur. Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist... recently posted a very interesting overview of a book by two French authors which also did not included the investigation of a death: Jean-Pierre Alaux and Nöel Balen’s Treachery in Bordeaux. Maybe this is more common in European mysteries?

In the reviews section of the Amazon page for The Square of Revenge, this reviewer comment is cited: “A very likable and very politically incorrect group of detectives. Humor is permanent, the plot is well constructed, and the whole story is extremely exotic.” I agree. The series has been compared to the Maigret series by Georges Simenon. I don't agree with that, but I haven't read Simenon in a long time.

The second book in the series, The Midas Murders, will be published in the US in December 2013. The Square of Revenge is not perfect by any means, but it is well done for the first book in a series. I plan to read the next book in the series to follow up on the entertaining and charming characters.

This book was provided for review by Open Road Integrated Media via NetGalley.

Also reviewed here:
FictionFan's Book Reviews
Raven Crime Reads
Patrice's Reading Corner

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Whodunit?: H.R.F. Keating

A few months ago I purchased a used copy of a mystery reference book edited by H.R.F. Keating, published in 1982. The book is titled Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense, & Spy Fiction. And every since I received my copy in the mail, I have been reading through it slowly. At this point, I have read about a third of the book. Most mystery reference books I would not try to read through, either due to spoilers or because there is too much to read. But this one is perfect for this and I am enjoying it immensely.

H.R.F. Keating supplies the introduction.  There are lovely black and white photos and illustrations throughout.

The first section is a series of essays on "Crime Fiction and Its Categories." There are a couple of sections on the history of crime fiction, followed by discussions of nine sub-genres. The essay about the English detective story is written by Robert Barnard and features Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L. Sayers.
Next is the American detective story; Julian Symon starts with the history of the pulps, then moves on to the "Big Three" -- Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler. Hillary Waugh discusses the American police procedural; Michael Gilbert focuses on the British police procedural.

John Gardner provided a great overview of the espionage novel, covering a lot of ground, including Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, Len Deighton, John Le Carre, and Charles McCarry. Here is an interesting paragraph on the last two:
While John le Carré remains the British guru of literary espionage fiction, there is no doubt in my mind that another author, the American ex-CIA officer, Charles McCarry, really leads the field in terms of the world league. This is purely a personal viewpoint, obviously not shared by the majority. Strangely, McCarry's books have never had the stratospheric success accorded to le Carré.
He goes on to say that it may have to do with McCarry's "realistic eroticism." At the time, McCarry had written only three novels. While I have no desire to rate McCarry over le Carré, I have read almost all of his books and have his most recent one on the TBR pile. He writes very different and compelling spy fiction.

The second section is short pieces by crime fiction authors on the subject "How I Write My Books." The authors covered include Stanley Ellin (titled "Under Financial Distress"), P. D. James, Desmond Bagley, Dorothy Eden, Patricia Highsmith, Gregory Mcdonald, Lionel Davidson, Len Deighton, Eric Ambler, and H.R.F. Keating.  I was thrilled to read how Deighton writes, in his own words, but all of them were interesting.

This is followed by a section called "Writers and Their Books: A Consumer's Guide." That section consists of brief overviews of various mystery authors, listing a few representative books for each. Per the back cover of my book, it covers more than 500 authors and 1500 recommended books.
A fourth section is called "The People of Crime Fiction." It consists of brief descriptive pieces on crime fiction characters, with illustrations for each. Each is about a half a page long; some get a whole page. The back cover says: "the 90 most popular characters."  I haven't sampled that section at all, but I am looking forward to it. The very last section is a six page essay titled "Why People Read Crime Fiction," written by Philip Graham, a psychiatrist.

I first heard of this book through Sarah at Crimepieces, in this post on a vintage mystery by Frances Crane. As she says, the book is "a mine of information in relation to lesser known authors."

I love mystery reference books of all types, old and new, and this one is especially entertaining and informative.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

S is for Skulduggery

This week I am featuring the fifth book in the Yellowthread Street series by William Marshall for my submission for the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme.

This is a series that came highly recommended by my husband. I read the first in the series years ago and it just did not hit the spot. So when I decided to sample the series again, I started with Skulduggery (1979).

The series is about a group of quirky detectives who work out of the Yellowthread Street Precinct in the Hong Bay district of Hong Kong. The first book in the series was published in 1975; the last one in 1998. Thus it covers roughly the last twenty two years of the British administration of Hong Kong.
Other words to describe this series are zany and humorous. Usually this type of mystery doesn't appeal to me, but I found much more than those elements in this mystery. Some reviews say that the mysteries in these books are secondary, and for some readers, that may be true. But I found this book to be a very satisfactory mystery novel.

Although Hong Bay is a fictional section of Hong Kong, the books do give the reader a sense of Hong Kong of that time. As mentioned above, my husband is a big fan of the series and appreciates them for the setting, the eccentric characters, and occasional elements of the fantastical.

Skulduggery features three crimes under investigation. Two of them are dealt with fairly quickly, but the puzzle of a twenty year old skeleton discovered floating in the bay is the primary case. As the pathologist at the Hong Bay Mortuary points out:
"The age of the skeleton is thirty to forty years."
"That's how long ago he died?"
"That's how old he was when he died."
"Then how long ago did he die?"
"He died about twenty years ago."
Initially DCI Feiffer, the lead detective, has a difficult time seeing this skeleton as important. Why give priority to the investigation of a skeleton of a person who died twenty years ago? Gradually he sees the man as a real person, and begins to be obsessed with solving the mystery of his identification and his death. Accompanying the skeleton are some unusual items, which lead to some clues that seem straightforward but often lead in conflicting directions.

It appears to me that Dr. Dawson Baume, the pathologist at the morgue, is introduced in this mystery. He is described by one of the detectives as the H.R.P.M, the "Happy Phantom of the Rue Morgue." He plays postal chess with Russian grand masters, and he is "more than a bit odd." But then, that describes most of the characters in this book.

By the time the mystery is solved, the solution seems very obvious. Yet the author kept me guessing to the very end and I never considered that solution. The best kind of mystery.

This review by Yvette at in so many words... gives more detail of the various plot threads in Skulduggery.

It looks like all of the mysteries in this series are under 300 pages and many of the earlier ones under 200 pages, which also is a plus factor for me.

I will close with some quotes from mystery reference books to give an overview of the series.

From The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction (2002), compiled by Mike Ashley.
[The detectives] are wildly eccentric and take the bizarre cases in their stride. In Gelignite, they encounter a serial bomber. In The Hatchet Man a psychotic starts chopping people up at the cinema. ... Perfect End has a series of police murders take place during a typhoon. That book is not the end, though, as WM has continued the series through "to the end" and the handover of Hong Kong to China.
This excerpt from 1001 Midnights (1986), from a review of Sci Fi by Bill Pronzini, describes the team:
Marshall's protagonists, the men of the Yellowthread Street station -- Detective Chief Inspector Harry Feiffer, Senior Detective Inspector Christopher O'Yee, and Detective Inspectors Spencer and Auden -- are delightful and utterly zany characters. There are plenty of action, bodies galore, and a spectacular sock finish.
The Crime Fiction Alphabet is sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise.  Please visit this post to check out other entries for this letter. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blood of the Wicked: Leighton Gage

I have stated often at this blog that I am partial to police procedurals. Blood of the Wicked (2008) by Leighton Gage is a great example of that genre. It is a police procedural with a difference because it is set in Brazil and the police authorities are structured differently in Brazil than here in the US, or so it seems to me. There is a Federal group (Brazilian Federal Police) and State Police. I suppose that could correspond to the FBI and local police authorities in the US, but the Federal Police don't seem to have jurisdiction over the state in this book. It made for a complex interaction between the protagonist, Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the federal branch, and the Colonel in charge of the state police in the remote town of Cascatas do Pontal.

Silva has been dispatched to Cascatas do Pontal because a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church has been assassinated. Dom Felipe Antunes, Bishop of Presidente Vargas, was in the town to consecrate a church. The Pope has called the Presidente, and he has called Silva's boss, who wants the situation taken care of quickly.

Silva brings his team, Delegado Hector Costa and Agente Arnaldo Nunes. Hector is his nephew and all three of them work well together. There are plenty of suspects, a lot of bodies piling up, and corruption in the legal system working against any progress towards a solution.

In addition to the police procedural aspects, I liked the picture of Brazil and the political and sociological issues in that country. The story is told in a straightforward way; there are not a lot of descriptive passages. Time is spent on fleshing out characters, even the peripheral ones. The back story of how Silva has become a policeman is covered in depth and provides insight into his character.

But the reader should be forewarned that there is a lot of violence and brutality in this book. I felt that the level of violence was warranted, in that the book is describing a very corrupt situation in Brazil. It all seemed realistic, although it was not a comfortable read.

Please see a detailed review of this book by Bill Selnes at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. There are some interesting comments from the author on this post.

The author of this book, Leighton Gage, died at the age of 71 in late July. There is a tribute post at the Soho Press website. Gage's wife is Brazilian and they spent part of each year living in Brazil. Blood of the Wicked is the first of the Mario Silva series; there have been five other books published. In January 2014, the seventh book, The Ways of Evil Men, will be published.
The Ways of Evil Men
The Ways of Evil Men

Sunday, August 4, 2013

R is for Roseanna

Today I am featuring Roseanna (1965) by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö for my submission for the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme.

Roseanna is the first in a series of ten books by the husband and wife team. The couple were dedicated Marxists and their goal was to advocate for that philosophy in their books. The earlier books in the series are more straightforward mysteries, and gradually the stories blend crime solving with criticism of the political status quo.

Quote from H. R. F. Keating, in Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books:
The ten books were planned as an assault on Swedish society, and by implication on all Western society. The authors, according to an essay Per Wahloo wrote when the series had just begun, aimed to start with one or two seemingly innocuous stories, and then, having established a sympathetic hero, Inspector Martin Beck, and a group of colleagues around him, bit by bit to introduce more and more direct criticism of the Swedish state and the Swedish way of life.
The book is very slow to start, very unlike today's books where the author is usually working to grab the reader immediately. The body of a dead girl is found, the autopsy reveals that she has been brutalized, but the body was in water for a while and they can only guess at the exact sequence of the acts involved in her death. There is a long and painstaking investigation to find out who she is and then how and where the death occurred.

I liked the slow revelation of the entire investigation so I will not go into more detail of the story, although I found many elements of it surprising and charming. The investigation does build to a thrilling climax, which surprised me at the end, because of the slow, detailed buildup. A very satisfying read overall.

One of the things that struck me throughout was that the detectives were allowed to focus so much of their time and manpower on one case over so long a time. Was this kind of crime so unusual in that time period to allow such focus? Was there less crime in that time and place?

With most of the detectives we get some idea of their personalities and how they work together, but the most fully developed character is Martin Beck, the primary detective on this case (in Stockholm). His daily life and his family life are pictured. The point of view is mainly his. He is methodical and determined, almost obsessed with solving this crime. His home life is not ideal; the spark has gone out of his marriage and he doesn't feel like he knows his children anymore.
He put down his knife and fork, mumbled “thanks for dinner,” and absorbed himself with his rigging problem. Gradually, this activity calmed him completely. He worked slowly and methodically on the model ship and had no unpleasant thoughts. If he actually heard the noise from the television in the next room, it didn't register. After a while his daughter stood on the threshold with a sullen look traces of bubblegum on her chin.
“Some guy's on the phone. Wouldn't you know, right in the middle of Perry Mason.”
Damn it, he would have to have the telephone moved. Damn it, he would have to start getting involved in his children’s upbringing. Damn it, what does one say to a child who is thirteen years old and loves the Beatles and is already developed?
Another favorite quote. His colleague, Kollberg, talks to him about the case:
“Don't think so much about the case. It isn't the first time we have failed ...”
“Don’t brood. It isn’t good for the morale.”
“The morale?”
“Yes, think what a lot of nonsense one can figure out with plenty of time. Brooding is the mother of ineffectiveness.”
I found this book to be like the Ed McBain series in that neither series was as flamboyant as I expected. The books are quieter, the detection is more methodical, than I expected. I liked the writing style; spare prose, nothing fancy.

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is sponsored by Mysteries in Paradise.  Please visit this post to check out other entries for this letter. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mysteries in July and Picks of the Month

Crime fiction is my favorite genre, even though I have been reading more widely this year. In July, I read seven crime fiction novels. Only one vintage mystery this month, by Agatha Christie. Two books translated into English from Swedish, one published in 1965, the other in 1993.

These are the books I read in July:
  1. Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser
  2. Green-Eyed Lady by Chuck Greaves
  3. Open Season by Archer Mayor
  4. Plots and Errors by Jill McGown
  5. A Question of Identity by Susan Hill
  6. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
  7. Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
Of all the books I read this month, I actually rated Plots and Errors by Jill McGown the highest (on Goodreads). The author was talented and versatile, and I enjoyed rereading the book. But it was a re-read, so I don't want to choose it for Pick of the Month.

Of new reads, I enjoyed the two books by Swedish authors the most. They were very different. Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser and Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö are my joint Picks of the Month.

Mind's Eye (1993) features the depressive Inspector Van Veeteren, a very talented and determined detective. I found all the characters to be interesting and believable. The book was more of a psychological study than a fairly-clued mystery.

I have not reviewed Roseanna (1965) yet. Detective Inspector Martin Beck is also talented and determined, almost obsessed with his job. The book is very slow to start, very unlike today's books where the author is usually working to grab the reader immediately. The body of a dead girl is found, the autopsy reveals that she has been brutalized, but the body was in water for a while, so there is a lot of guesswork. There is a long and painstaking investigation to find out who she is and then how and where the death occurred.

The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. Bloggers link to summary posts for the month, and identify a crime fiction best read of the month. Check out the link here to see the other bloggers picks.