Category Archives: Crime

Those murdering Scots

How I love them!

It’s Monday morning, and it’s Book Week Scotland. And here at Bookwitch Towers, I am most likely to spend it reading, rather than being out and about, despite all the events on offer. I feel as if I’ve finally got into the swing of reading again, after far too much travelling, or agonising over things, and it does my mental state a lot of good.

And you really don’t want me too mental.

Scottish Book Trust have looked into what everyone else in Scotland is doing, and it appears that Scots are into crime, in a big way; ‘crime/thriller books are the single most popular type of fiction in Scotland.

In a recent Ipsos MORI Scotland survey of 1,000 adults, just over 1 in 4 Scots (27%) who read for enjoyment said that books which fictionalise crimes, their detection, criminals and their motives topped their choice of reading or listening genres. — While the crime genre was the most popular among readers of all ages, the second most popular genre among young readers (aged 16-34) was science fiction/fantasy (15%). — Eight in ten Scots (79%) read or listen to books for enjoyment and 39% do so either every day or most days. Additionally, among those —  50% read or listen to more than 10 books per year.’

Well, that’s good to know; both that people read, and that they like what I like. (If I hadn’t given up ironing, I’d be listening to more audio books as well.)

I suppose that with their fondness for a good murder, the Scots really are – almost – Nordic. It’s dark up here, although possibly more cheerful than ‘over there.’

And, on that cheery note I will dive back into my waiting book mountains, before the January books arrive. There tends to be this brief lull for a couple of weeks, or three, as one year [in the publishing world] comes to an end and the new one begins. When the publicists go off on their Christmas holidays, they might fire off the ‘first’ 2017 books. (That’s apart from the ones I’ve already received and filed away because 2017 was such a long way off…)

Another ‘Girl’ crime novel

I wonder how long the ‘Girl’ phenomenon will last? And would we have had it at all, had someone not made Lisbeth Salander a ‘girl’? For someone like me, the plethora of girl-titled crime novels now means that I cannot tell them apart. But presumably they sell a bit better for it.

Anyway, this one, by Liselotte Roll, was called Tredje Graden [third degree] in the original Swedish. The translator and I have spent some time discussing a suitable English title, and I felt we came up with some good ones. But on the other hand, I do quite like the sound of Good Girls Don’t Tell.

Liselotte Roll, Good Girls Don't Tell

Published today by a Dutch publishing company, recently bought by a UK publisher, I have to say I also like the look of the actual book. It has curved corners, and the font used on the cover looks good. And as with most female Swedish crime writers, Liselotte has ‘been compared to Camilla Läckberg,’ which I suspect isn’t always a useful thing for authors. But there you are.

The blurb on the back gives away too much of the plot, in my opinion. Knowing what has to happen, someone like me would read on tenterhooks, just wondering when ‘it’ would come. And then the next ‘it.’

Translation by Ian Giles, as you may have suspected.

Murder on the Caledonian

I mean drinks. Of course I do. There was no murder.

After I arrived at King’s Cross, which was not Euston, I then had to travel home again. After I’d done what I came for. To confuse matters, I travelled home from Euston.

Rather than spend the night in a hotel (I find I’m going off hotels) I suggested to Son we should book ourselves on the Caledonian Sleeper, and travel in style. I’m keener now, since discovering the beds have new mattresses and pillows, as well as duvets and duvet covers. The beds are still narrow, but the rest is fine.

We had an interconnecting door between our ‘rooms.’ Son was awfully excited by this and had to take a photo. (I hasten to add that he is so young and I am so old, that both of us qualify for a third off the fare, which is how you make this affordable. Before you think I’m rich, or something.)

He then invited me for a bedtime drink in the Lounge. It was very civilised and straight out of Agatha Christie. (Until the Americans turned up.)

While Son had something I’m glad mother-of-witch couldn’t see, I had tea. Or it would have been tea had the lovely barman not forgotten the teabag. But that just added to the jollity, and with teabag, the tea tasted like nectar. (Well, it had been a long day.)

There were a few other passengers drinking, chatting politely to strangers across the aisle. Someone ‘old,’ who looked like they came straight from the opera, and a white-shirted beautiful young man who could have starred in any Poirot you care to mention.

So there we were, enjoying our Agatha-ness and the sophistication of sleeper travel. No one was being murdered or anything.

When in walked a party of Americans, maybe ten of them. I love Americans, but these were so very American, somehow. Loud, dissatisfied with what they found, ordering American whisky and not liking there was none. Suggesting there ought to have been soft music in the background. (Wouldn’t have been enough of a sound barrier.) Taking photos of each other and wanting to put them on Facebook, asking if there was wi-fi.

Thank goodness there was no wi-fi.

There could have been murder. (I’m hoping they went to Glasgow. I didn’t see them – or hear them – in the morning.)

The Damage Done

James Oswald’s sixth outing for Tony McLean is about power hungry men with unusual sexual tastes. They like to abuse their power to satisfy their needs, and they don’t care who is hurt because they end up in the middle, or are seen as weak and expendable enough that they can be used in whatever way these men want.

James Oswald, The Damage Done

Tony is working two jobs, or so it seems. He is in the Sexual Crimes Unit, but also back at his old police station, and no one is happy with him. There is a raid on a brothel, there is the supernatural element we’ve got used to, and his old enemy Duguid is obsessed with some old cold cases.

In the way of these novels, most of what McLean works on, ends up being part of the same bigger picture. It just takes a while to connect the dots. He also finds himself on the same side as those he has previously disagreed with most. (Happens to us all on occasion.)

Privately Tony wonders whether to give up dreaming of Emma’s return, and he suddenly has a pregnant woman on his hands, with subsequent childbirth (James might want to read up on that), and interesting developments on the romance and sex front. But Tony is almost always a complete gentleman.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I could afford to spend more time on this loveable but slightly hopeless Edinburgh detective, but to continue being perfectly honest, it took only a few pages to hook me, and this book gave me more pleasure reading than many I’ve started on recently. I suspect there’s no hope for me, and I will simply have to keep returning to James’s underworld of ghostly crime.

The next curry is on me.

The author crack’d

Well, what do you do? You have an event, some distance away from where you live. And you discover you are pretty ill on the day. You have that stomach bug your child got a day or two ago.

Authors are hardworking people for the most part. They don’t want to let people down, so obviously you work out how (if) you can somehow stagger to this – sold out – event tonight and deliver what you have agreed to do. (Even if it ‘kills’ you.)

The thing is, it’s the killing, or seriously affecting, other people you need to think about. Not whether you can stay upright for long enough to get through an event.

Someone on social media recently started a discussion on this very subject and after the first comments of encouragement, the sensible brigade stepped in and told the author on no account was he/she to travel. Reminders were posted on the effects their noble suffering could have on the audience, the organisers, people on the train there, and so on.

(This is the problem with a society that allows for no weakness. Far too many people believe that you should stretch yourself that little bit more; come into work with a sniffle or a temperature. But it’s not just the discomfort or danger for the patient to be considered. It’s everyone else. Is the office really benefitting from X passing on what they are suffering from to most of the others?)

And no amount of disappointment because you didn’t get to see your chosen author that evening can make up for hundreds more people falling ill, potentially seriously, if they are vulnerable.

It made me recall Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. It’s one thing to innocently go out before you know you’ve caught a virus. Quite another to go out when you know.

The author stayed at home. And the organisers found a – very attractive – replacement. So there was not even the need for them to turn away a venue full of literary fans. They got an event, and if they contracted any vomiting bugs, it wasn’t from our original author.

Another Light on Dumyat

And by that I mean a brand new edition of Rennie McOwan’s Light on Dumyat, and some extra ‘light’ on the book in the local Waterstones shop window. It’s as it should be, since Rennie is very local and so is his adventure, up in the Ochils, just above town. As I said in my review last year, this is Enid Blyton in Stirling. A bit better written, but not as well known as it deserves to be.

Light on Dumyat at Waterstones

Now is your opportunity to rectify this. If you are near me, you can buy it at Waterstones this week, whereas the rest of you need to wait another week until its general release date.

Rennie McOwan

Because he lives a few streets away, I thought I might occasionally see Rennie out and about, but that honour befell the Resident IT Consultant a few weeks ago when he discovered Mr and Mrs McOwan occupying ‘his’ table at the local library. They chatted a bit about the new Dumyat, and the window launch at Waterstones. (That should teach me for not visiting the library too.)

Rennie has kept ‘a lively interest in the run up to the publication of LOD and was able to mark up page proofs’ for the book. There has been plenty about the new edition in the local press, with one columnist reminiscing about reading Light on Dumyat as a boy. If only we were that young!

Rennie McOwan, Light on Dumyat

I quite like the new cover. It manages to look retro and up-to-date all at once. I prefer the retro, but I can see that in order to attract new readers you need to have something for them to identify with as well.

IMG_4393

(According to the Resident IT Consultant the map in the window is showing the wrong bit of the map… Only he would notice a thing like that!)

Fatty and friends

Geriväg, his name was. Clear-Orf, to you English language readers. I always used to wonder what the original name might be, since at the time I read Enid Blyton’s books I didn’t know enough English to even begin guessing.

I’ve long been confused about the name of the series of books as well. (You’ll find I’m confused about quite a lot.) The Find-Outers seems to be the answer, except when I look at the book titles they are all The Mystery of… and that’s presumably why we called them Mysterie-böckerna in Sweden.

Enid Blyton, The Find-Outers - The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage

About the only thing I have really remembered all these years is the name Fatty for one of the characters. It wasn’t as unkind as it might seem. First, Fatty himself appears not to have minded too much. (Unless he did, weeping in secret every time the other children referred to him as Fatty.) Second, I didn’t speak English, so to me it was just a name. I understood it was a nickname, and there could even have been a footnote of sorts to explain what it meant. But the name wasn’t translated into anything like Tjockis. And I obviously mispronounced it.

So that’s all right…

Now he’s back, along with Larry and Daisy, Pip and Bets. Plus the charming Clear-Orf. And there are mysteries. I have in my hand The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, and even though the years have passed, I do feel some of the old Blyton thrill when holding it, and checking out how clever and polite the children are. (I used to believe this was an English thing. Apart from calling your friend Fatty, then.)

I hope a new generation of readers will discover Blyton, for better or for worse. The cover illustration is up-to-date in a way I don’t care for, but I suppose that’s what modern children require. I prefer retro.