Category Archives: Crime

Bookwitch bites #136

The rain is very wet as I write this. There is lots of it. We’ve got men working on making a new front garden and the Resident IT Consultant is feeling guilty for leaving them out in the rain. I told him they must do this a lot, so are used to it, and that they can’t very well put paving down inside the house anyway.

Here is Adrian McKinty reading the first chapter from his latest novel, Rain Dogs. It’s the one where Duffy meets Muhammad Ali. It’s rather nice hearing Adrian’s voice. It brings you closer to Carrickfergus.

Whether the weather was drier in Wexford when Eoin Colfer was a boy, I have no idea. But the photo the Guardian used for their column looks lovely and sunny. Here is the Laureate na nÓg musing about slightly illegal behaviour during his childhood. Me, I use my own photo to avoid argument (other than Eoin being told off for waving at me). It’s from the same occasion as theirs.

Eoin Colfer

Someone else who is very friendly and has a fancy title is the new Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay. I have to admit to being rather hazy on what a makar actually is, as I only encountered the term after moving north (for some reason you don’t talk so much about particularly Scottish things down south). Looking it up on Wikipedia the answer is poet or bard. And Jackie certainly is that. I’m so pleased they chose her as our new Makar.

Jackie Kay

And, there is the Manchester connection, too. Jackie still lives there, while being thoroughly Scottish.

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

It’s grisly. That’s what it is. And good. Here is Marnie Riches’s third George McKenzie novel, and it is as bloody as the first two. It deals with child trafficking in Europe, so is not easy to read about. Nor are the murders, where the reader as always is sitting in the front row of the stalls, seeing everything.

At one point I paused to think, wondering whether it’s good for me to read about this much blood and gore, accompanied by generous dollops of swearing and sex. I decided it probably was, and that the difference lies in the fact that the books have been written by a woman.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

We meet first hand, parents whose children go missing, live through their agony, seeing how their lives fall apart. We are cold, too. Both London and Amsterdam are freezing, caught in exceptionally low temperatures and masses of snow.

Criminologist George is busy visiting jails as well as being annoyed with her lover van den Bergen, until he calls her in to help with his murder hunt and the missing children.

Should I have seen the end coming? I don’t think so. You just know that something not terribly good is about to happen, while hoping there will also be some positive news for a few characters. (If there are more books, I’d like some solutions for Elvis and Marie, please.)

Marnie has put more of herself in this book, giving it more of a raw edge. If you can cope with the grisliness, this is great stuff.

(Order your ebook here.)

Working out

Or whatever happened to the recycling?

I spent Sunday morning ‘working out’ on Daughter’s balcony overlooking Lake Geneva. So I was ‘working out’ as well as working ‘out.’ It was cold out there, but I soon warmed up and had to take my coat off. I know, coats are not exactly gym standard.

I felt quite literary doing this. The doing was ripping apart large cardboard boxes from Ikea. Hard work, when there is plenty of it and the cardboard is thick. Particularly the box that contained a sofa. We were lucky it even fit out there on the balcony, or we’d have been hard put even shifting sideways inside the flat.

The literary aspects have to do with Swedish crime writer Bo Balderson’s detective, who had galoshes that were too large. It was as he tried to rip up a newspaper to stuff those galoshes with, that the [then] Prime Minister Tage Erlander happened to walk past his office, and was so impressed by our detective’s loyalty (the front page contained an attack on the PM) that he made him a government minister. According to the new minister’s brother-in-law the minister was so weedy that ripping up a newspaper looked more like he was trying to tear the phone directory into pieces. (=loyal)

As I said, I did similar work on all that cardboard. And then I stuffed the black sack sized pieces into black sacks, tied them up and dumped them as anonymously as possible in the bins for the block of flats. Because contrary to what you’d think, far less is recycled in Switzerland than could be. On the other hand, I believe they might use the contents of everyone’s bins to heat the country. Which I suppose makes it more all right.

And the paper cut on my finger is healing…

Bookwitch bites #135

Super-publicist Nina Douglas has got a new job. Or I could turn the statement around and say that Barrington Stoke have got themselves a new publicist. I’m really quite pleased to see such a top publicity person go to such an excellent publishing house. I imagine that they will now be able to propel those wonderful little books with the big content much further, to reach many more potential readers who need those stories.

Over at Booktrust, their current writer-in-residence, Phil Earle, is into vlogs. Here you can hear and see him talking to Tom Palmer about boys who don’t read (basically themselves, as neither of them were boys who read books), and it is a tremendously inspiring short chat. (It’s quite funny too, as both are wriggling and wiping their noses, and stuff, despite being quite grown-up…) So really, you can read magazines and newspapers, or websites. It doesn’t have to be books. It can even be a book about Leeds football club. It could make you into a reader, and in some cases, as with Phil and Tom, an author. Really great.

Someone who’s waited a long time to write his first novel, is David McCallum. Yes, Illya Kuryakin is a novelist at the age of 82. I have not read the book, unfortunately (would welcome a copy, you know…), but the excellent people at Crime Review managed to ask David a few questions (Facebook for Dummies? Really?) on the publication of Once a Crooked Man last month. Lucky them!

And finally, wishing plenty of luck for all who found themselves on the Carnegie longlist this week:

Book by John Agard (Walker Books)

A Song For Ella Grey by David Almond (Hodder)

One by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

The Earth Is Singing by Vanessa Curtis (Usborne)

The Door That Led To Where by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books)

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold (Bloomsbury)

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (Bloomsbury)

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Neilsen (Andersen Press)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (Walker Books)

Jessica’s Ghost by Andrew Norriss (David Fickling Books)

Panther by David Owen (Little, Brown Book Group)

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett (Penguin Random House)

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders (Faber)

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (Indigo)

Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books)

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (MiraInk, HarperCollins)

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine (HarperCollins)

My Name’s Not Friday by Jon Walter (David Fickling Books)

Liccle Bit by Alex Wheatle (Atom Books)

 

Rain Dogs

Another mid-January, another Duffy review. This is a tradition I’ll happily keep going for much, much longer. I could have sworn Adrian McKinty intended Duffy to be a trilogy. Or perhaps I only imagined it. Suffice to say, when I opened the package and found the fifth Duffy novel inside, I was one happy witch.

Duffy has just been abandoned by his live-in partner (I had a moment of fear that I’d forgotten someone so significant in his life, but she was new, and is already leaving. Because Duffy is too old…), and he has also just shaken the hand of Muhammad Ali (fictitious, but realistic, visit to Northern Ireland by the great man), when he is faced with his second locked-room mystery. This seems like too much of a coincidence, for one policeman, in such a short time. In Carrickfergus.

It is.

He is up against more evil and cunning criminals. In fact, the murderer is who you’d expect, except it’s so obvious, but you can’t work out how it could be possible. And Duffy continues to look for bombs under his car.

Adrian McKinty, Rain Dogs

Our detective travels to Liverpool and to London, as well as to a snowy Finland where the sea freezes over and the policemen don’t talk. He meets Jimmy Savile, who’s nowhere near as friendly off-camera as he seems on television…

McCrabban is a rock as always, and Lawson, the newbie from last year’s book, looks promising, if only Adrian will let him live.

Towards the very end I feared for Duffy’s safety. I could see how his creator might want to finish him off (despite giving him a cat), but luckily he didn’t, so I live in hope of book six. And perhaps even books ten or twelve?

(For probably the first time in my crime-reading life I could tell how the murderer got out of the locked room.)

Floods

The Retired Children’s Librarian phoned to ask if we had been flooded. She and her sister had discussed this after seeing the news. I said we were all right.

She asked after everyone in the family, finally checking if I was out meeting authors all the time. (As if.)

Then she said ‘You know the one who wrote Harry Potter [she hasn’t read the books], who has now written some other books? What do people think of them? Because I like them.’

I replied that people who feel they must dislike J K Rowling on principle won’t have much good to say about her Galbraith crime novels, but that those who are not thus afflicted tend to say they like the books. She was a bit surprised that there are people who can’t stand fame and riches in others. And I admitted to not knowing J K personally and that she’s definitely not one of the authors I might see, frequently or otherwise.

Her next question was whether the press here had reported on Henning Mankell’s death, and I said they had, as he’s quite big here. She was a bit surprised, especially when I went on to mention the number of people who try to, or want to, learn enough Swedish/Danish to watch crime on television without subtitles. (I didn’t mention that I think they are doomed.)

Knowing we are safe from the rivers, she hung up, because she needed to phone to order a bus timetable. The internet is so taken for granted in Sweden that they feel passengers can look up their next bus there. Or travel to Stockholm to pick one up. Which would be easy enough if it wasn’t 70 kilometres and almost an hour away by bus. And if you had a timetable.

Let them read crime novels instead.

Traitor’s Purse

A S Byatt has a lot to answer for. I’ve now come across several reviews of Margery Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse, where the reviewer only read the book after her article in the Guardian last year.

Personally, I wanted to remind myself of the plot, so went to our Allingham shelf to reacquaint myself with the book, only to discover we didn’t have a copy. Hence its appearance on my Christmas wish list, and because it was the only item on the list issued to the Resident IT Consultant, I wasn’t massively surprised to receive a copy. Which, had been my plan all along. [Don’t give them a choice.]

Margery Allingham, Traitor's Purse

It’s been years since I read Margery Allingham’s Campion books. I loved them, and I rather loved him as well, being much more fun than Lord Peter Wimsey. And I obviously would have loved to be Lady Amanda; the girl who decided she was going to marry him.

In Traitor’s Purse, set in 1941, Campion has had a knock on the head and doesn’t even remember her, or his manservant Lugg, or who he himself is, let alone what he’s supposed to be doing. (Saving the country is what.)

Being a man, he doesn’t start asking useful questions like ‘Who am I?’ but sets about quietly grappling with each thing as it comes along. He makes the mistake of thinking Amanda is his wife, and his private fears about maybe losing her are wonderfully described. You take a girl for granted for years and…

This is a great detective trying to solve a puzzle in the dark. He works out who is good and who is bad, and almost what the problem is, but hasn’t got a clue what to do.

After this long away from Campion’s world, I noticed the social aspects much more. But it’s a marvellous story and the writing is as good as ever, and you have to overlook the fact that occasionally the upper classes are portrayed as more reliable than the rest of us. It’s the way it was.

But behind it all is the usual humour and courage and an exciting plot. ‘Good lord, he could climb like a cat!’ This is a handy discovery when you are forced to flee over the rooftops. Most of us will already know whether a route like that is likely to be successful, but Campion hasn’t got any idea of what he can and can’t do. He just knows he has to try.

My thanks to A S Byatt. I hadn’t read this one, and I’m so glad I did. Might be time to return to more old diamonds.