Sunday, December 30, 2007


Just a reminder that there are only 27 1/2 hours to enter the Quirky Quiz, and win one of a selection of crime mysteries by the masters and mistresses of crime fiction.
A 100% correct answer will win a bonus prize!
Yes, I know the questions are easy for you, but it seems the questions are too difficult for many.
Here are the questions again......

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Whether your a regular visitor to Crime Scraps or someone who just drops in from time to time I would like to wish you a very Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

Despite my doctor telling me that I need to calm down, I must mention some of the perks of blogging for instance I get books sent to me to review by a very nice lady, a publisher used one of my reviews, I got invited to a book launch at the Instituto Italiana di Culturo, brilliant bloggers linked to my posts........there there, calm down, calm down.

But the finest reward of blogging is gaining some wonderful friends........

I will be back in the New Year with the Quirky Quiz answers, my best European Crime novels of 2007, reviews for Eurocrime, and if I can stop giggling long enough a review of Declan Burke's The Big O.

"I don't know, Rossi admitted. "I mean, if you want to fleece the system all the way down to the bone, politics is the only way to go."

Reading more crime fiction it seems is definitely the way to go in 2008............


I think it is appropriate for a blog that has been mainly about European crime fiction to finish the year with a review of a book about the detective who introduced a whole generation to the genre.

The Yellow Dog is a classic novella written in 1931 by Georges Simenon featuring his pipe smoking detective Maigret.

When Monsieur Mostaguen, Concarneau's biggest wine merchant, is shot in the stomach, Maigret, who was in Rennes reorganizing its mobile unit, is sent to investigate.

Then as three prominent citizens are about to drink an aperitif in the bar of the Admiral Hotel it is noticed that in the Pernod there are some floating crystals, which turn out to be strychnine. One of the three Jean Servieres, then disappears and his empty car is discovered with blood stains on the seat.

A mysterious yellow dog is lurking around the hotel, and there are more events to come .....

Crime fiction to be successful needs atmosphere, plot, characters, and a mystery combined together in a sensible cocktail.

In The Yellow Dog Simenon demonstrates his total mastery of the art by creating a perfect mix. We get a cleverly created atmosphere of fear, a real bouillabaisse of a plot, superb characters, and a mystery to untangle.

I particularly liked the way firstly Maigret reads a newspaper article giving details of what has happened, and then later explains the key features of the case to the Mayor. This allows us slow Watsons to organize our thoughts in line with those of the master detective Holmes-Maigret.

Maigret interestingly also gathers all the suspects together for his final explanations in the style of the English country house mystery.

In a surprisingly brief 130 pages Simenon covers an enormous amount of social commentary about life in a small town. He also creates one of the most memorable detectives in all of crime fiction.

Maigret, the incorruptible pipe smoker, calmly thinking his way to a solution amid the general panic.

He drank his aperitif down straight and got to his feet.

"A piece of advice , gentlemen! No jumping to conclusions. And no deductions, above all."

"What about the criminal?"

He shrugged his broad shoulders and murmured: "Who knows?"

Superb stuff from a master, with more action in a short novella than others manage in a 600 page blockbuster.

Leroy, sitting on the edge of the little iron bed, remarked, "I still don't quite understand your methods, superintendent, but I think I'm beginning to see...."

Maigret gave him an amused glance and sent a large cloud of smoke out into the sunshine. "You're lucky, my friend! Especially in this case in which my method has actually been not to have one....."


The blurb on the back cover of The Yellow Dog by Georges Simenon begins:

A local wine merchant is shot dead.......

And yet on page 89 of the story I read

"We should add, parenthetically, that Monsieur Mostaguen did not die and that in two weeks he'll be on his feet again......"

A miracle or just another case of professional blurbers, editors and reviewers not actually READING the book. It is the season of goodwill so I won't be too critical but this masterly novella was only 130 pages long.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I don't expect you all have any money left after buying all those Hannukah, Christmas and Winter solstice gifts.

Well helpful Karen at Eurocrime has blasted your 2008 credit card to pieces with her list of Scandinavian crime fiction due out next year.

This is a serious list of must have crime fiction, and I think I might have to come out of retirement to pay for that lot.

OK I know the eyes are not as good as they were and the hands are a bit arthritic [a bit!!!!!!] but I must have those Nesbos, Larssons, Mankells.........


I did not have much time to read much non fiction this year, but among the books I did read was The Great Escape by Kati Marton.

The book tells the story of nine Hungarian Jews who fled Hitler and subsequently had a tremendous scientific and intellectual impact on our world.

Among the nine were four scientists, who helped usher in the nuclear age and the computer,
Edward Teller, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, and Eugene Wigner; two great movie myth-makers, Michael Curtiz, director of Casablanca, and Alexander Korda; two immortal photographers, Robert Capa and Andre Kerstesz; and one seminal writer Arthur Koestler, author of Darkness at Noon.
This was a very inspirational story which I can highly recommend even if you don't know the difference between a neutron and an electron.


I was very pleased to have read during the year so many good books, but one stood out from the crowd as a complete turkey.

Time to Kill by Brian Freemantle was so bad [review here] that I am not going to waste much more time disparaging it as an example of a formulaic so called thriller that did not work on any level.

Luckily I had a review copy but I feel sorry for anyone who actually bought it.

So there........

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I have just seen the very sad news that that Bernard Scudder, the translator for Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigudardottir, has died.

Bernard's sympathetic translations brought great reading pleasure to the English speaking readership, and he will be greatly missed.

Thanks to Karen C for the information.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Firstly I am not going to reveal my top European reads until they are posted on Eurocrime in the New Year.

But there were two books that were outstanding from the crime fiction I read from beyond the European continent.

My posts on the superb Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell can be read here if you scroll down.

The media go on about the US subprime mortgage market, and I wonder if the banks really lent money to redneck dreamers like the Merridews, and then bundled them into a financial package to sell on to other bonehead institutions. The money lost by the big banks would buy an awful lot of trailer parks in the Ozarks.

The other book was The Broken Shore by Peter Temple, which was a brilliantly honest story about detective Joe Cashin and his attempt to solve a murder complicated by racial and social problems in a harsh Australian setting.

I will aim to read a lot more of Peter Temple in the future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


You have until 1 January 2008!

Please send your answers to my new special competition email address at titled Quirky Quiz.

Here we go:

1) In which book was 40 kilos of cocaine smuggled into Italy from Montenegro?

2) Which crime writer was born in Racamulto, Sicily?

3) Which crime writer died in Lausanne, Switzerland?

4) "The day was hot and stifling, without a breath of air." Is the first sentence of a crime novel set in which city?

5) What apart from writing crime fiction did Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout have in common?

6) By what name is Salvatore Lombino better known?

7) Which detective has a housekeeper named Adelina?

8) Which famous crime writer also wrote a History of the War in the Aleutians?

9) Which detective tracked down a killer known as "Pit Bull"?

10) Which crime writer worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency?

11) Who starts a novel on a diet of Lemsip and Greek yoghurt?

12) Which city had sixteen different police forces?

13) Which detective should never play cards?

Good luck. I did not say it would be easy.


With winter having well and truly arrived, and the nights having closed in I have set a testing quiz to keep you busy.

If anybody actually gets all the right answers there will be a prize, the winner will be able to choose from a small selection of books by some of the really great crime writers.

If no one gets all the answers right by New Year's Day I get to keep the books! There's a challenge for you.

I have also decided to delay posting about my choice of five best reads as I had forgotten [it's my age] that the excellent Eurocrime posts the reviewer's choices in the New Year. I am incredibly "chuffed" to be included among this entertaining and friendly bunch so I won't rock the boat.

I will say that I haven't got round to reading The Big O by Declan Burke [who blogs at Crime Always Pays] as I am saving that up to cheer me up over a particularly dismal January weekend, otherwise I am sure it would be in my top choices for this year.
The questions will be posted next............

Monday, December 10, 2007


I have been very busy recently preparing for and worrying about a very important meeting today. I am involved in an attempt to keep open a CARE village for people with learning difficulties in Devon.

We will see what happens in the next few months?

But coming up in the next few days a new December/Christmas/Hannukah/New Year Special Quirky Quiz.

Some of the questions will be very difficult, and you will need a brain and memory the size of a small asteroid to get the correct answer. Others will be easy enough for even me to get, assuming that I had not set the questions. I am sure that does not make sense but you know what I mean.
I will name my favourite five best books, and reveal my best blogging moments of the year.

And I will award the Scraps Turkey for the worst book I have read this year.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


In Ken Bruen’s novel Priest he brings Jack Taylor, his Galway based private investigator, out of the “madhouse” to solve a horrific crime.

Jack’s lack of attention has caused the death of Serena May a three year old little girl with Down’s syndrome and that drove him to a breakdown. Serena May’s parents, Jeff and Cathy, have been traumatised by their loss and drifted back into a world of drugs and alcohol.
Jack comes out to face the world, and cope with his many demons. His only friend is the Ban Gardai Ridge, and it is one of the ironies off Jack’s life that this woman is unattainable. Ridge is gay.
But she has a stalker and asks Jack to deal with that problem, which he does in his inimitable way.

Meanwhile Father Joyce, a child abusing priest, has been beheaded in the confessional. Father Mulcahy, Jack’s dead mother’s priestly “friend”, is so worried by the murderer at large he asks Jack to investigate. Father Mulcahy is a man consumed by frustrated desire for choir boys, surrounded by a haze of tobacco smoke, and concerned that he might be next for decapitation.

In the course of his investigations Jack inherits an apartment, and gains a surrogate son and partner in Cody, a fresh faced youth with a sharp line in dialogue straight from Hollywood.
Jack investigates the men who came forward when young to report their abuse by Father Joyce, and comes across some very nasty characters.

“I play golf with your old buddy Superintendent Clancy, a man who is not fond of you I’m afraid. Think of golf as our version of the Masons, those who play golf together save their arse together.”

While young Cody has success with a young lady.

“Fellas and pubs that’s what she cares about, Pity they don’t give a degree in that.”

But Jack Taylor’s Galway is a place of failure; and this novel is all about failure by the church, by the city and even by a whole country to adapt to the ferocious change brought about by new found wealth. A place so fast moving that even the Poor Clares have a website.

"Tis not that people kill themselves in Ireland Jack, that’s no mystery, with the fierce weather.
The mystery is more don’t."

This is a powerful brilliant dark book, full of insight in to the human condition, and with wonderful little vignettes about interesting characters.
Ken Bruen has a child with Down's syndrome and their inherent goodness does give you a real insight into how pathetic and scrambling the rest of humanity is.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I have just read Ken Bruen's novel Priest [review to be posted in next few days] and I think I will tuck it away from sight just in case. I have visions of one of the "Holy Dusters" the little Irish ladies, who volunteer to clean the local Catholic Church dropping in, seeing Priest, and exclaiming "Oh! a religious book can I borrow it!"

I might have to spring across the room and rip it from their hands. On the other hand listening to these Irish ladies it is pretty clear that they understand that Ireland has changed, and that the new wealth has not brought happiness to everyone.

The Celtic Tiger has a fierce appetite, which is great for the inspiration and plots it gives crime writers, but not so good for the victims.

The suicide of young men has been called the Irish Disease, so perhaps the "Holy Dusters" might nod their heads in agreement with Jack Taylor, and his creator Ken Bruen.


Thanks to The Rap Sheet for the news that the Wolfe Pack have awarded this years Nero Award to Julia Spencer-Fleming for her novel All Mortal Flesh.

Julia joins Tess Gerritsen, who won last year, Lee Child, Walter Mosley, S.J.Rozan, Linda Fairstein and Laura Lippman as winners of this award.

If you thought that was exalted company the Archie award for lifetime achievement was won by Dorothy L. Sayers, and she joined Rex Stout, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie as the only other holders of the award.
The other nominees were Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ngaio Marsh, and Edgar Allan Poe!

Saturday, December 01, 2007


The Naming of the Dead is the penultimate book in Ian Rankin’s long running series featuring John Rebus and Edinburgh.
It is 1 July 2005 and the G8 are to meet in Scotland with demonstrators from all over the world descending on Edinburgh, and in a few days hundreds of miles to the south the summer will be marked for ever in our memory.

Cyril Colliar, convicted rapist and nightclub bouncer, had been murdered but the police were not really interested in pushing the investigation. But his employer was Morris Gerald Cafferty, long-time sparring mate of John Rebus, and now a piece of his missing jacket has turned up at a strange place of remembrance, Clootie Well, close to Gleneagles where the G8 will meet.

“The trees around were strung with rags and remnants”

When the cloth on the trees contains evidence of two more murders of convicted sex offenders, Trevor Guest and Edward Isley, it is clear that a serial killer is on the loose. Detective Inspector John Rebus and DS Siobhan Clarke begin an investigation, in which they become involved with Cafferty, his business empire, and a website that targets sex offenders called BeastWatch.

When Rebus also begins to look into the apparent suicide of trade secretary Ben Webster MP, he is warned off the case by the arrogant David Steelforth of SO12, who is in charge of security at the G8. What was the relationship of Ben Webster with arms dealer Richard Pennen, whose company paid Webster’s hotel bill?

Siobhan’s hippy parents, straight out of Dharma and Greg, are attending the protests, but Siobhan’s mother is assaulted and ends up in hospital. Siobhan becomes personally involved in tracking down the assailant and of course Ger Cafferty is just the man to exploit such a situation.
Meanwhile Rebus uses both his relationship with journalist Mairie Henderson, and his general insubordination, to embarrass Richard Pennen, and his associates.

“We’re Lothian and Borders Police, Mr Dobbs. And I want to thank you for your frank answers to our questions.” Rebus stared over the seat towards the civil servant’s lap.
“You seem to be crushing all your lovely papers. Is that to save on a shredder?”

What is the interest of the mysterious and influential Councillor Gareth Tench in Cafferty’s criminal activities? And how is he able to come conveniently to Siobhan’s aid when she is threatened by local thugs?

Will the solid police work of Rebus and Clarke solve the triple murder, before any more of the “beasts” listed on the website are murdered?

This novel is both standard Rankin, full of sharp dialogue, and a typical multiple investigation crime fiction novel. We assume that perhaps the various investigations will spin together in a climax, but Rankin keeps us guessing till the end. Rebus is once again the insubordinate, hard drinking, chain smoking rogue, who is surrounded on all sides by unreliable cops and those on the make from all levels of society. Siobhan is the only person he can really trust, and even she is knocked off course when her mother is hurt.
Rankin can certainly create interesting characters, but sometimes his plots can feel strained as he strives to include the Cafferty-Rebus symbiotic relationship in each novel.
I did enjoy this book a lot more than the three other Rankin books I have read, maybe that was because I agreed with his demolition of the hypocrisy of both the demonstrators and the delegates at the G8, or maybe because it is just a better book.
This is a very convoluted and very complicated story with numerous minor characters, several red herrings, a few surprises and while it is probably 100 pages too long it is a real “page turner”. Drawing one of Siobhan’s “mind-maps” might assist the reader in following the actions and interactions of the protagonists.
As in most good crime fiction novels, and especially long running crime series, it is the characters that become more important than the plots.
I think I must have been converted, because I now want to know how John Rebus ends his career in Exit Music.