Friday, September 29, 2006


I have now finished reading Blood From A Stone, and have a warm glow from my memory of the reading pleasure, and thinking about Paola Brunetti.

Donna Leon's Brunetti novels are like a comfortable old pair of slippers, they are not exciting or fashionable, but put them on and they feel just right.

You just know what you are going to get with a Leon.

The gorgeous Paola Brunetti will deliver liberal platitudes as only someone with university tenure, a husband with a secure job and a very wealthy father could.

The solid Viannello and the delicious Signorina Elettra will support Guido in their different ways. The Signorina doing wonderous things with a computer and her multitude of contacts.
Vice-Questore Patta will be devious and obnoxious with a total disregard for justice, and anyone except himself.

Guido our hero will lunch on risotto with radiccchio di Treviso and a plate of cheese, and look pathetic until told that he will enjoy pork with olives and tomato sauce that night.
He will be pragmatic, and above all honest in his pursuit of the villains, and will try his best even when he knows that his best might not be enough.
The city of Venice will beckon to those of us, who rave about Rome and Florence, to visit her and be educated in her unique charms and beauty.

But above all the star of any Brunetti story is Italy that dysfunctional, incredibly corrupt state that somehow functions when in all reason it should collapse.

Italy is like a very naughty aunt you feel you should be shocked at her behaviour, but she is so beautiful and full of charm that you love her all the more.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


With thanks to Peter at Detectives Beyond Borders for the link to a fantastic Maigret resource.



I knew I had been reading crime fiction for a long long time, and deep in the recesses of our garage I found this Simenon golden oldie published in the UK in 1976.

From the Introduction:

Georges Simenon was born at Liege in Belgium in 1903........He has published over 180 novels in his own name, 67 of which belong to the Inspector Maigret series, and his work has been published in 32 languages. He has had a great influence upon the French cinema, and more than 40 of his novels have been filmed.

What a superb body of work Simenon left for us to enjoy.

I wonder who was the better British television Maigret, Rupert Davis 1960-1969, or Michael Gambon 1992-1993?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


This information from David's web site means that it looks like I have a long wait for any more Miguel Lienzo.

David Liss is the author of four novels, with more on the way.
His debut novel, A Conspiracy of Paper (2000) with its hero, the pugilist turned private investigator Benjamin Weaver, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won him the 2001 Barry, MacAvity and Edgar awards for Best First Novel.
David's second novel, The Coffee Trader (2003) was also named a New York Times Notable Book and was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the year's 25 Books to Remember.
His third novel A Spectacle of Corruption (2004) the sequel to A Conspiracy of Paper, became a national bestseller. David's latest novel, The Ethical Assassin (2006) is his first full-length work that is not historical fiction.
The Benjamin Weaver short story,
The Double Dealer (2006) was recently published in Thriller, an anthology edited by James Patterson. The next Benjamin Weaver novel, The Devil's Company, will be published by Ballantine Books in 2009.
David is currently at work on a stand-alone historical novel set in 1790's Philadelphia and New York, due in bookstores in early 2008, as well other projects including another installment in the Benjamin Weaver series.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Florida, David is, in fact, a one-time encylopedia salesman. He received his B.A. from Syracuse University, an M.A. from Georgia State Universty and his M.Phil from Columbia University, where he left his dissertation unfinished to pursue his writing career.
David lives in San Antonio with his wife and daughter.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I have not read any of this authors works featuring gourmand detective Pepe Carvahlo, but may try him in the future.

Certainly Spain is a country with a lot of scope for interesting plots. I remember a visit to a Post Office in Northern Spain, where the machines had instructions in Spanish, Castillian, Valenciana, Basque, Galician and Catalan.


One of the most interesting books I read in my school days was From Dreadnought to Scapa Flow by Arthur J Marder, an American, who was the foremost expert on the Royal Navy in the years of Fisher, Jellicoe and Beattie.

Many years later reading the Washing of the Spears by Donald Morris, I realised that another American had written the definitive history of the Zulu War, and the complications in the tripartite relationship between the English, the Anglican Church, the Boers and Zulus in Southern Africa.

Therefore it is not so surprising that one of the most impressive writers in the field of European 17th and 18th century historical crime is an American living in San Antonio, David Liss.
His knowledge about the birth of the stock market, the South Sea Bubble, finance, Amsterdam and Judaism in the period is encylcopaedic.

His first novel A Conspiracy of Paper won the Edgar Award, and featured Benjamin Weaver, a character modelled on the Jewish boxing champion of a later period, Daniel Mendoza.

In his second book The Coffee Trader we go back in time to Amsterdam in 1659 and follow Miguel Lienzo, a Portugese Jew, through a complicated series of adventures as he speculates in the wonder new drink. I found this book even more fascinating than A Conspiracyof Paper.

Davis Liss takes us right into the Nieuwe Kerk and Bloemenmarkt and makes us feel a real connection with Amsterdam and its people.
Miguel who has previously lost a considerable amount of money in sugar trading, lives in his brother Daniel's house. There is brotherly conflict exacerbated by the fact that Miguel is atracted to Daniel's beautiful wife Hannah, who was only told on her wedding day that she was Jewish.
Some of the Jews of Portugal had practised their religion in secret, but many had lost all knowledge about their ancestors faith and fully accepted Catholicism.

Miguel is encouraged by the enigmatic Gertrude Damhuis to dabble in the coffee trade, although Jews are not permitted to be in business with non-Jews.
This a condition imposed on the community by the Ma'amad, the Jewish ruling committee who have the power to excommunicate and expel from all social contact those who don't obey.

The secret relationship between Gertrude and Miguel, and the intricate plot involving Solomon Parido, a member of the Ma'amad, and an excommunicated Jew Alonzo Alferonda keep you guessing until the final pages.

David Liss has written a second Benjamin Weaver book, but I do hope we have not seen the last of Miguel Lienzo, and Amsterdam in the Golden Age.


I am having problems posting comments so I will reply to comments in main blog.

Is the gorgeous Paola the perfect wife? Excellent mother to Raffi and Chiara, professor of literature and wonderful cook , who rustles up superb meals for the ever hungry Guido at lunchtime!

I suppose the answer is yes, but I must say my own wife gets pretty close to Paola in a lot of ways especially the size of her library of literature, poetry and religious books. Although one published article in an obscure magazine does not qualify her as a professor of literature, she should be one!

Monday, September 25, 2006


Peter Robinson's Alan Banks in A Piece Of My Heart has moved on from fry ups to M&S Vegetarian Lasagne .

Donna Leon's creation Guido Brunetti in Blood From A Stone is served a lunch by the gorgeous Paola, consisting of linguine with scampi followed by sole fried with artichoke bottoms and a rucola salad.

Italy 1 England 0


Thanks to that excellent site Detectives Beyond Borders for the link to an interesting Bloody Foreigners tour.

Of the six authors featured I have Gianrico Carofiglio's A Walk In The Dark on my TBR pile.


I am having a few difficulties with my blog today following installation of a new Norton antivirus update!

So if I don't post a comment in reply to your much appreciated posts, I am not ignoring you I am struggling to find a way through firewalls, cookie blockers, and the mysterious javascript.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I suppose this photo exhibits one of my qualifications for commenting on Scandinavian crime books as we find ourselves waiting for a train somewhere north of Helsinki in 1991.
I felt like Napoleon on the retreat from Moscow, February is not the best month for holidays in Finland if you want warm weather.


I seem to have mastered adding links to my blog [I hope], and now I have the updated link to Eurocrime, and new links to :

International Noir Fiction
Detectives Beyond Borders

All four are excellent, and clearly designed to bankrupt me with their book recommendations, or have me ejected from our local library for demanding they increase the size and scope of the crime fiction department.

Friday, September 22, 2006


It has been a long time since I read this the first of ten outstanding books that were written from 1965-1975 by the husband and wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Three of the books which had previously been unavailable will be published next year.

They are:

Murder at the Savoy
The Abominable Man
The Fire Engine that Disappeared

The current crop of Scandinavian crimewriters owe a lot to the Sjowall and Wahloo style of social comment mixed with police procedural, even those two masters of the genre Henning Mankell and Arnaldur Indridason.


I had become quite worried at this apparent wealth: what had become of the South London I had loved as a child.

In fact a fight broke out on the bus back from King's College to Forest Hill .

One old lady pensioner attacked another with a walking stick and chased her off the bus, where they stood screaming at each other on the pavement.

And when I returned to my cousin's house one of the neighbour's cars had been wheelclamped by the baliffs.
Tradition maintained.


I returned home from a visit to London yesterday.
I drove into London on the M4 and travelled the 13 miles from the motorway exit round the South Circular road to Forest Hill in just a mere 1 hour 15 minutes.
Later I travelled by bus back to King's College Hospital which is very close to Denmark Hill where I lived from 1955 to 1963.

I noticed that in the 43 years since I had lived in South East London, firstly Denmark Hill had mysteriously got a lot steeper, and secondly the area had generally become much more prosperous.

For example East Dulwich, which was quite run down in the 1950's boasted several French, and Italian restaurants, and there was even an organic butcher. On the South Circular near Wandsworth I spotted an Argentinian restaurant in an area where fish and chips were considered a luxury in bygone days.

Obviously I could never afford to move back to the area!

Monday, September 18, 2006


I am about to start Blood From A Stone, and anticipating reading a Brunetti book is like waiting for the antipasto in an Italian restaurant.
You just know life is just about to get better.


Tonino Benacquista is a writer for whom I will look in the future.

In Holy Smoke Tonio Polsinelli, a child of the Italian diaspora , travels from Paris to his ancestral home near Naples following the murder of a friend, who has bequeathed him a plot of land.

Events become predictably dangerous with every cliche thrown into the mix, a clever scam, an Italian village, New Jersey Mafia, Vatican Mafia, Mussolini's blackshirts, pasta and family.But despite the cliches or possibly because of them the book is cleverly plotted, brilliantly composed, and above all it is tremendous fun to read.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


This book is my next read and I find it surprising that it was published in France in 1991 and it took 13 years before it reached the UK in an English edition.

After all Holy Smoke won the Grand Prix de la Litterature Policiere, the Prix Mystere de la Critique and the 813 Trophy in one year.

Now that the Scandinavians have been discovered is it not time for more French crime writers to be published in English.
Well done Bitter Lemon Press for their recent publications.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


The Richardson Gang was a 1960s group of South London criminals. Less well remembered than their rivals the Krays, they nevertheless had a reputation in their heyday as being some of London's most infamous and sadistic gangsters. Also known as the 'Torture Gang', their "speciality" was pinning victims to the floor with 6inch nails and removing the victims' toes with bolt cutters. [from Wikpedia]

These charming guys were our neighbours in the early 1960's as our back garden joined on to the notorious Peckford's Scrap Metal Yard. [Crime Scraps see ok a bit pathetic]

I remember them as being very handsome more like Robin Hoods than real criminals. Yes the Richardsons and their chief enforcer Mad Frankie Fraser [the dentist] are still alive!

I think my sheltered childhood, it was too dangerous to go out after school in Camberwell, led to me becoming a voracious reader.

I am just about to finish the Peter Robinson book Piece of My Heart, before moving on to a European crime book [not sure which one yet]. I suspect the road manager of the Mad Hatters, or Tania, but am probably completely wrong.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I have just finished reading The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri.

This is the second Inspector Salvo Montalbano book I have read [The Snack Thief was the first] and I enjoyed it immensely.
I think Shape was the first in the series so I have read them out of order, but this did not matter in this case.

Of course you have to get used to the unconventional methods used by Montalbano as he negotiates his way through a complicated web of politicos, drug dealers, immigration problems, and prostitutes, with tactics that bear little or no resemblance to British policing methods.

The charming Italian is no Morse, Dalgeish, Banks or Wexford, he is a far more balanced character who would far rather enjoy a plate of baby octopus than rush off to solve a case.
But then this is Sicily not Oxford, Yorkshire or the Home Counties although Montalbano's superiors and the local bigwigs are the same as all over the world, obstructive.

Sometimes in Italian crime mysteries the crimes solve themselves, or the perpetrators are not brought to justice, but that is all part of the charm of Italy.

Andrea Camilleri has created a great detective in an interesting setting, and I note he lives in Rome well away from the some of the nasty characters he has created.

I shall read more of Salvo Montalbano, and his long suffering mistress Livia, in the future.
Rating 4 out of 5


From Der Spiegel

Kidnapped when she was ten, Austria's Natascha Kampusch escaped eight-and-a-half years later. During her captivity she thought carefully about how she wanted to live once free. Now she's a media star and keeping to her script, surrounded by a team of eager advisors.

Many times one half hears news on the radio or TV and thinks it happened in the USA simply because we are bombarded with American films, news, books and TV concerning crime in Las Vegas or Miami.

Yesterdays drive by shooting case in Boreham Wood, the Dunblane Massacre, and the Hungerford shootings were all USA moments.

But the kidnapping of Natascha Kampusch was the classic USA moment as we could not believe it happened in "civilized" Europe.



Crime scraps will be a personal blog discussing crime books in Europe, and by that I mean continental Europe not Britain and Ireland.

I will from time to time discuss my own experience of crime and criminals. The name Crime Scraps has some relevance to a criminal connection in my past, but you will have to wait until I post that story.