Author: suzigun

The Silver Road – Stina Jackson

Title – The Silver Road

Author Stina Jackson (translated by Susan Beard)

Published – 2019

Genre – Crime fiction

This is a compelling and darkly atmospheric debut with a seamless translation by Susan Beard.

In a remote part of Northern Sweden middle-aged teacher Lelle spends the long summer nights searching The Silver Road – the main road linking the remote villages – for his teenage daughter. Three years ago he left her at a bus stop early one morning and she hasn’t been seen since, he makes the most of the midnight sun to explore the fringes of the road for any trace of her.

While he is doing this, teenage Meja moves to the area with her mother, Silje. They have come to live with a man her mother met online and Meja hopes that this will finally be the relationship her mother has been looking for.  It quickly becomes apparent that Silje has a whole host of problems, which may explain their previously rootless life. The isolation of the location is something new for Meja, who is keen to escape from her mother’s way of life, but nevertheless she manages to make friends with some young men who work on a nearby farm.

The two threads connect when autumn arrives and the school year begins, Lelle has to stop his search and return to teaching at the school where Meja is now a pupil.

It’s a slow burn of a book, but that is something you should expect from Nordic Noir. Lelle’s desperation is captured through the slow nights of his search and the seemingly futile efforts of the police. The setting is atmospheric and there is a dark intensity to the story that keeps you reading despite the lack of action. I liked the characters of Lelle and Meja, and as a flawed lead Lelle might have fitted into some recognisable stereotypes but there was nothing formulaic about him.

An unusual and compelling read. Many thanks to the publisher for the Netgalley.

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The Mausoleum – David Mark

Title – The Mausoleum

Author – David Mark

Published – February 2019

Genre – Historical crime fiction

A departure from David Mark’s successful Aetor McAvoy series, this an historical mystery set in the late 1960s.

In a small village in the Scottish borders two women are thrown together when a storm of epic proportions forces them to flee the weather. As they dash from the graveyard they were in  lightning strikes and a tree splits open an old tomb, revealing a body, a body which is dressed in a suit and isn’t the dusty bones they would have expected. They make it to the house of one of the women, Felicity, and at the height of the storm her neighbour, Fairfax, stops by. When they tell him about the incident he rushes off to look but never returns. When the storm passes, the body has vanished and the authorities refuse to believe their claims.

The women strike up an unlikely friendship, one that both of them need. Cordelia has a murky past with many secrets but the recent loss of her small son has plunged her into a dark grief that has shut her off from everyone and everything.  She is much more a modern woman than Felicity, one who is more likely to embrace the freedoms that the 1960s will offer her. Felicity is a woman who is stoical, doesn’t shed a tear and just gets on with things, not that that’s how she really feels. As the two women both make a tentative start on their own investigations into what they saw they are drawn together to forge a friendship – particulalry under the pressure of those who would rather they stopped asking questions.

The book owes something to ‘scandi noir’ – a remote location, a main character (Cordelia) who is an outsider, repercussions from a war that people are trying to put behind them and unrelenting bad weather. In fact the hottest day of the year was the perfect time to read this, so permanently sodden were all the characters.
In common with Mark’s other books he shows a deft touch in making his characters realistic and Cordelia and Felicity are well drawn, two completely different characters who complement each other in their friendship. The tentative way that their friendship starts also feels very realistic. He also has a real feel for the period and it was easy to picture him talking about the homes of my grandmothers.

This was an excellent mystery, an insight into the friendship of the two women and a reminder of the social norms of the period (and how things have changed). If I were to draw any parralllels I’d say a cross between Exposure by Helen Dunmore and the TV series The Bletchley Circle.

Thank you to the publisher for the NetGalley. You can see another point of view on The Puzzle Doctor’s blog.

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The 2019 CWA Daggers – shortlists

As has become traditional the CWA Dagger longlists were announced at Crimefest in Bristol in May. The Diamond Dagger has already been confirmed and the shortlists for the remainder have now been published. The winners of all the CWA Daggers will be announced at the Dagger Awards Dinner to be held on 24 October.

The Diamond Dagger – selected from nominations provided by CWA members – 2019 winner is Robert Goddard and the award will be presented at the CWA Dagger Awards Dinner in October.

The shortlists for the following daggers are

Gold Dagger

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

The Puppet Show by M W Craven

What We Did by Christobel Kent

Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon

American By Day by Derek B. Miller

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better by Benjamin Wood

 

 

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger

Give Me Your Handby Megan Abbott

Safe Houses by  Dan Fesperman

No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones

To The Lions by Holly Watt

Memo From Turner by Tim Willocks

 

 John Creasey (New Blood)

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham

Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Overkill by Vanda Symon

International Dagger

A Long Night in Paris by Dov Alfon, translator Daniella Zamir

Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard, translators Maya Fowler & Isobel Dixon

The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio, translator Howard Curtis

Newcomer by Keigo Higashino, translator Giles Murray

The Root of Evil by Håkan Nesser, translator Sarah Death

The Forger by Cay Rademacher, translator Peter Millar

Non-Fiction Dagger

All That Remains by Sue Black

An Unexplained Death by Mikita Brottman

Murder by the Book by Claire Harman

The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

CWA Short Story Dagger

Strangers in a Pub by Martin Edwards in ‘Ten Year Stretch’, edited by Martin Edwards and Adrian Muller

Death Becomes Her by Syd Moore in ‘The Strange Casebook’ by Syd Moore,

The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing by Danuta Reah in ‘The Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing and other Fantastic Female Fables’

I Detest Mozart by Teresa Solana in ‘The First Historic Serial Killers’ by Teresa Solana

Bag Man by Lavie Tidhar in ‘The Outcast Hours’, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin

Debut Dagger (unpublished writers)

Shelley Burr – Wake

Jerry Krause – The Mourning Light

Catherine Hendricks – Hardways

David Smith – The Firefly

Fran Smith – A Thin Sharp Blade

Historical Dagger

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Destroying Angel by S G MacLean

Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee

Tombland by C J Sansom

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney

 

 

Dagger in the Library longlist

M C Beaton

Mark Billingham

John Connolly

Kate Ellis

C J Sansom

Cath Staincliffe

 

So how’s your reading going – will you have read enough to judge a category for yourself?

Blood & Sugar – Laura Shepherd-Robinson

81+E4V5p1LLTitle – Blood & Sugar

Author – Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Published – January 2019

Genre – Historical Fiction

This is a debut by Laura Shepherd-Robinson,  a murder mystery set within the landscape of the slavery trade.

In June 1781 an unidentified and mutilated body is found hanging at Deptford Dock, branded with a slaver’s mark. When Captain Harry Corsham is asked to investigate the disappearance of old friend and committed abolitionist Tad Archer he is drawn into the dangerous world of Britain’s slaving industry.

What follows is an atmospheric and immersive mystery that plunges Corsham into the dark heart of the slaving port of Deptford – a place that bears little resemblance to the modern day area of London. As he tries to uncover what became of his old friend he enters a community keen to protect its secrets and profits.

One interesting approach within the story is the shades of grey that lie between the slavers and the slaves and abolitionists, not all matters are as cut and dried as they might appear. And as ‘freedom’ is a theme in the story, Corsham has his own secrets and has something in common with those who have made an ‘accommodation’ to get by.

In starting the book I did wonder if I’ve read anything else set in the same period and wondered why not – is it me that’s missed a swathe of historical fiction or is it not seen as being suitable fictional setting?

In a way this is quite a topical book, it would be difficult to watch the TV news and not notice the language used by some politicians to describe groups of people. While we might not be about to embark on a new era of slavery it does make it easy to see how the treatment of groups of people, to their detriment, can be sanctioned by those in power.  It’s also timely as people rethink the modern day links to those who pursued and profited from slavery.

It’s disturbing to find that the incident at the heart of the investigation is based on real events and it’s perhaps easier to take in the horrors of the trade in reading this mystery than in trying to read a more objective non-fiction telling. It’s always a positive to learn from the fiction you read!

A fascinating, dark and atmospheric read with a convoluted mystery at its heart. Many thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley.

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Out of the Ashes – Vicky Newham

Title – Out of the Ashes

Author – Vicky Newham

Published – 30 May 2019

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the second outing for Detective Inspector Maya Rahman following on from Vicky Newham’s debut ‘Turn a Blind Eye‘ last year.

In the heart of Brick Lane a flash mob gets people dancing in the street, only for a sudden explosion to replace the excitement with terror. A frantic phone call brings Maya to the scene which turns out to have been a fire at an upmarket soup shop. Inside the gutted building are two bodies, arson becomes murder, but while the identity of one victim is clear who is the second?

As the investigation unfolds it draws Maya back to her own past, she grew up in the location and alongside some of the characters central to the case. In pursuing it she is prompted to deal with some of the issues that she and her family have avoided, including the disappearance of her own father.

I preferred the plot of this story to its predecessor, where the first book followed more of a serial killer route this story felt more true to life (I know – it’s all fiction really!).  The story starts with the single incident and the subsequent direction of the plot is driven by this. The ‘race against time’ aspect is in controlling the fallout from the initial incident – and there is plenty to keep them busy. The detectives have a lot of questions to answer – who is the mysterious second victim, were the victims deliberately killed, who is behind the mysterious anti-gentrification group,  does the diverse ethnicity of the location have a bearing?

The book is told from two main perspectives – Maya’s and her colleague Dan’s – both giving insights into the development of the police investigation and the characters of the detectives. In Maya’s case there’s perhaps less focus on her backstory than in the first book, but her character and her life beyond the investigation form an important core to the story.

While it might appear to some people that the author has perhaps tried too hard to include as many different ethnicities as possible, anyone who has walked down Brick Lane will easily recognise the landscape, which is vividly depicted. And while it may be the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community it is a hugely diverse location with the new and the old sitting cheek by jowl – it’s surprising more authors don’t use the setting.

A topical novel which deals with issues it’s easy to spot on London’s streets, the social commentary is woven into an intriguing mystery with some strong and memorable characters. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out more about Maya’s story. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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Fault Lines – Doug Johnstone

816HGaMoWLLTitle – Fault Lines

Author – Doug Johnstone

Published – 2017

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while and if I’m honest I was slightly put off by the blurb. While I do read speculative fiction books they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule and it was the ‘reimagined contemporary Edinburgh’ that caused the delay in my starting. In fact I needn’t have delayed, the premise concerns the discovery of a man’s body on a volcanic island in the Firth of Forth, the reimagining having created a volcanic island, but in fact this is actually the only part of the book that is different to contemporary Edinburgh, in every other way this book’s world is ours.

The body is discovered by Surtesy, a PhD student, and the dead man, Tom, is her boss and her clandestine lover. In a decision she may come to regret she abandons the body and waits for someone else to make the discovery. In the meantime she receives a mysterious message from someone who knows something they shouldn’t.

The story is told from Surtesy’s point of view and her life wasn’t a particularly happy one before her lover’s death. She is sharing a house with her younger sister, who is something of a rebel, and her best friend from the university, and they seem to spend a lot of time drinking or taking drugs. They’re all living in the house that was Surtsey’s family home as her mother is in a hospice along the road.

As the discovery of Tom’s body opens up a police investigation aspects of Surtsey’s life come under the spotlight and she has to acknowledge the damage that her affair has done. At the same time she has to contend with her terminally ill mother with whom she has an uneasy relationship, then there is another death of someone close to her.

This is a book that just didn’t do it for me. I did find the ‘mysterious message’ aspect of the story gripping and it added an extra level of tension. I do think it could have a better sense of the place, I felt that the volcanic island could have been off any piece of coast and it wouldn’t have made too much difference to the story. I enjoyed the writing and was swept along with wanting to reach the end but I didn’t really like Surtsey too much, I was confused by the need for the volcanic island and I figured out the ‘whodunnit’ too soon.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

81ofF+-8H-LTitle – The Craftsman

Author – Sharon Bolton

Published – 2018

Genre – Crime fiction

I’ve been a fan Sharon Bolton’s books since I read Sacrifice, I missed The Craftsman when it was published so picked it up on an offer in (whispers) Tesco.

The story is told across two timelines. The book opens in the present (1999) with a dramatic scene in a graveyard, as it transpires a location that has some prominence within the story; it’s the funeral of Larry Glassbrook – former casket (or coffin) maker and convicted child-murder. The story is told in the first person by Florence Lovelady, now an Assistant Commissioner in the police, who has returned to the place, and the case, where her career was made. She and her teenage son are staying in the village for a couple of nights which seems to be in order bring some closure for her. As the day of the funeral unfolds the disturbing and chilling details of the death of the final teenager to die are revealed and it becomes clear why Glassbrook was so reviled.

While in Sabden Lovelady takes a trip to Glassbrook’s house, where she roomed as a WPC when she was in the local police,  while there she makes a discovery that makes her wonder if Glassbrook acted alone and implies that she may now be a target.

The story then skips back to 1969, the disappearence of the teenagers and the investigation to find them. This is a ‘Life on Mars’ type of leap, where the male-dominated force didn’t take kindly to any input from a woman, WPC or not. Sabden is a villlage in the shadow of the infamous Pendle Hill and not a welcoming one for the young Flossie Lovelady. So Lovelady is an outsider in lots of ways but seems to be the brightest person on the force – picking up on clues no-one else spots and eventually becoming a target herself. The location isn’t used by chance – the connection to the Pendle witches and the history of witchcraft is an important one and Lovelady herself finds a connection to some of the women in the local coven.

As the case is resolved the story moves back to 1999, Lovelady’s opened old wounds and yet again finds herself at the centre of the action.

I found the events of the case in 1969 a little flatter than most of Bolton’s police procedurals. It’s not a fault in the writing but a result of the structure of the story – giving the end of the investigation and the solution to disappearences upfront means that the opportunities for tension and jeopardy were reduced. Afterall, however damaged Florence may now be in 1999 we know that she survived whatever came her way.

The real tension and the real ‘creepy’ aspect of the story came towards the end of the book when the timeline returns to 1999 and Florence decides to pursue the idea that the case wasn’t resolved correctly.  There is one scene when she is in a house in the dark at night that I found particulalry tense!

Even if this was a little slower in the middle than I would have liked it was still an enjoyable (if dark) story. Lovelady was an engaging main character although she could be frustrating and behave inconsistently at times – but then we can all be a bit like that! The setting and the hints of witchcraft are used with quite a light touch, particularly at the beginning of the book – I can be quite critical of the use of supernatural elements in crime fiction but nothing here felt out of place.

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