Friday, February 29, 2008


The Rap Sheet has decided to draw up a must-read list of its own, and I think their panel is going to be rather busy sorting out the numerous suggestions. My own suggestion was The Locked Room by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo as a good example of their definitive ten book series of police procedurals.

Ever since that Telegraph article appeared, we have been thinking that it wouldn’t be a half-bad idea to come up with a must-read list of our own. We won’t limit it falsely to 50 books and authors, but will feature as many names as seems appropriate. However, we will restrict this list to one book per author, so it looks like we’ll finally have to answer the question, “Is Chandler’s The Long Goodbye really better than his Farewell, My Lovely?

Read the full post here, and note the link back to this modest blog and this post.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Investigative reporter Emma Boylan left her husband and is living with Detective Inspector Jim Connolly. Iseult, Connolly's ex-wife asks him to visit her at precisely mid-day at the house that her father bought them as a wedding present. There is no answer at the door and Connolly lets himself in and wanders through the house eventually discovering the body of Iseult in the garage, an apparent suicide.

This is the start of a complex, exciting story set among the beautiful people of Dublin. Well the women are beautiful; the only thing attractive about most of the male characters is their wealth.
Jim Connolly is arrested for the murder of both Iseult and her friend Nuala Buckley whose badly beaten body is found later on the property, and Emma begins an investigation to find the real culprit among the cast of larger than life characters.
I don’t want to go into the plot any more and would advise readers to avoid reading the front flap which I think reveals too much.

Ireland is apparently awash with European Union grants and the economic boom is delivering wealth into the hands of those who probably had a strict Catholic upbringing in convent schools or Jesuit boarding schools.

This is a heady cocktail and KT McCaffrey, who has written six previous Emma Boylan novels, has produced a really good mystery, with some social commentary on the various ills and excesses of the modern age; drugs, ostentatious wealth, the fear of old age, colonic irrigation, anal bleaching, and rich trophy wives with too much time on their hands.

This is a well written real page turner, and while I found his strong female characters great fun to read about I would probably run a mile if I met them in real life. You don’t meet many wealthy women in dark glasses when you drive a Nissan Micra, apart from my 96 year old mother in law of course.

Murder, sex, wealth, glamorous but sinister women, and the glossy world of the Celtic Tiger makes a pretty unbeatable combination for good crime fiction.

The book's cover is both eye catching and a good introduction to the story.
This is a really enjoyable read with enough red herrings to satisfy the most discerning crime fiction addict, and some very topical subject matter.

“I firmly believe they over-prescribed anti-depressants for Nuala; the doctors seemed to rely way too readily on handing out pills to those they considered mentally ill.”

“His grandiose vision for Emma saw her as a latter-day John the Baptist, her mission to prepare the way and spread the gospel of the new political Messiah.”
Highly recommended.

For another more erudite review and to learn more about Emma Boylan go to:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


My review of Andrea Canobbio's The Natural Disorder of Things is up on Euro Crime at:

I very rarely hate a book but I thought this was really terrible, and I would rather have root canal treatment than read another book written like this, with more brackets and colons than a mathematics textbook.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Andrew Mckie one of the contributors to the Telegraph list of 50 greatest crime writers was kind enough to put a comment on this humble blog.

"I wish we'd had a lunch. There was a lot of fighting over this, and I agree the absence of Ross MacDonald and Rex Stout is terrible.

But you can't have read McIlvanney.

And PD James, Colin Dexter and Tony Hillerman can't write."

Yes I plead guilty I haven't read McIlvanney, but P.D. James, Colin Dexter and Tony Hillerman can't write???

An interesting opinion, what do you think?


"This fellow, my dear friend, has a fixation about the mafia. One of these Northerners with a head full of prejudices who begin to see mafia in everything before they even get off the ferry-boat. If he says that Colasberna was killed by the mafia we're sunk......................"

"Do you believe in the mafia?"

"Well, er....."

"And you?"

"No, I don't."

"Good man! We two, both Sicilians, don't believe in the mafia. That ought to mean some thing to you, who evidently do."

from The Day of The Owl by Leonardo Sciascia ,born in Racalmuto, Sicily 1920

My favourite definition of "maffia" is Petrocchi's as stated in the essay Philology also by Leonardo Sciascia.

"An association of people from all classes of society and from all walks of life, who lend each other assistance regardless of legal or moral principles."

That could apply to so many associations that it perhaps even more frightening than just regarding mafia as a load of gangsters.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


The senior members of the Telegraph's literary staff today presented their 50 greatest crime writers of all time, and then for good measure added Robert B. Parker. The creator of Spenser was then interviewed.

I haven't had time to read the Parker interview but the list contains some incredible omissions. Obviously these lists are constructed to stimulate debate, but make a list that at least pretends you have read more than a smattering of crime fiction.
Remember this was touted as the "50 greatest crime writers of all time", but then I suppose it was chosen by the "senior members of .....the literary staff".
No I must not be unkind or nasty, but Denise Mina and no P.D.James!
Pull the other one it's got bells on.
Benjamin Black, the guy has only written two crime novels, which admittedly, I have not read, but how can you leave out Ken Bruen if you want an Irish writer.
Stieg Larsson, which they spelt Steig, only wrote three books of which one has been translated into English, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This sits on my shelf unread as yet, but however good it is he surely does not deserve a place over, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, Karin Fossum, Fred Vargas, or Arnaldur Indridason, all of whom have a solid body of work.
Robert Crais included over Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, John D. MacDonald, Tony Hillerman, Laura Lippman, Peter Temple and Rex Stout, come on let's get real.
William Mcilvanney in and no Colin Dexter or Peter Robinson, absolute nonsense.

And any list of great crime writers that does not include Ross Macdonald has got to be absolute tosh.

Some good inclusions were Andrea Camilleri [of course], Henning Mankell, Reginald Hill, George Pelecanos and Lawrence Block.

I am sure this will stimulate plenty of debate about crime fiction on their forum, which has to be a good thing for the genre. But perhaps they opened a few two many bottles of wine at their lunch, and the suggestion that Robert B. Parker "may be the best crime writer you've never read" makes me feel very old.
They will be spelling Marlowe without the "e" next.


I don't deserve the opinion of the mellifluous Maxine at Petrona as stated below:

When I saw the headline Fashion crimes on this week's table of contents in the TLS newsletter, I immediately thought of Italian crime fiction expert extraodinaire, Uriah Robinson (aka Norman Price) of Crime Scraps, whose fiendish and comprehensive understanding of the country's crime psychology (dentistry pales in comparison) is second to nobody's, and that includes Italians. (See here for a typical Norman post, but there are many others of this ilk at Crime Scraps.)

The TLS article so titled is a review of Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, translated by Virginia Jewiss (Macmillan UK; Farrar, Straus & Giroux US). I've read reviews of this book before, but this is a particularly good one.

Read the full post at:

I have to shamefully admit that I have not read this book, I must remedy that omission soon in order to retain my expert status. ;0)

But it does give me the opportunity to post a photograph, and ask where was it taken?
[Clue in Maxine's post]


An Open Forum at the link below has been started for anyone who would like to discuss the closure of Blackerton, and the other CARE village at Shangton.

You can sign the on line petition to save CARE village Blackerton at:
Many thanks to everyone who has signed, and for the very relevant comments. I just hope the management and funding authorities will take note of people's concerns.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Thanks are due to Karen at Euro Crime for the link to a fascinating interview with Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, creator of the gripping Harry Hole series. A series so good that they can publish it out of order and it still gets rave reviews.

See Karen's post here:

Having just read Massimo Carlotto's short story Death of An Informer on the theme of the "foreigner" in Crimini I was struck by this passage in the Nesbo interview.

The picture postcard idyll of the nice cobbled streets, the City Hall, Holmenkollen and the Kontiki museum are still there, but now have company. Foreign beggars sitting in the slush on street corners and Baltic prostitutes shivering in the cold in Skippergata. The world has come to Oslo.

"Yes, Oslo is a cosy little capital town, but it is also what you have seen. It has the highest number of fatalities from drug overdoses in Europe.

Last year the number of rapes reported per inhabitant was three times what it is in New York.

There is organised crime, hardcore prostitution, trafficking, drugs from the Balkans and the Russian Mafia......It is still asafe very beautiful town in one of the richest countries of the world, a safe town, but there is all the rest,......."

The full interview is available at:

It is an incredibly honest interview that does not pull any punches especially about the Norwegian participation in the Second World War.

I am certainly looking forward to the rest of the Harry Hole series being published in English.


This morning the total was at 108 signatures! Thanks to everyone who has signed and please tell your friends.

A country that plans to spend billions on the Olympics should be ashamed that villages like Blackerton and day services for those with learning disabilities are being closed.

You can sign the on line petition to save CARE village Blackerton at:

You can also link to my other posts putting the case to keep Blackerton at:

And you can read what people in Leicestershire think about the closure of their village at Shangton at:

The Honeytones are CARE Blackerton's rock group, one of the many activities that would probably be lost if the Blackerton community is dispersed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I am working my way through the short stories in Crimini, The Bitter Lemon Book of Italian Crime Fiction.

The themes of Crimini as defined in the preface by editor Giancarlo De Cataldo are:
1] Corruption

2] The foreigner

3] The obsession with success, fame and celebrity
The fourth story in the collection Death of an Informer by Massimo Carlotto, a master of dark Italian noir, is right on theme with a tale of violence and foreign gangs.

Carlotto does not embellish his message and he describes a very violent world in a swift almost staccato like style that frequently leaves little time for meditation.
Amelia's body was loaded into a police mortuary van. Campagna had to bite his knuckles so as not to start bawling again.

A car took him back to Padua. Throughout the journey he sat in silence, thinking.

Murder, violence, sex, action, described in relatively short sentences, these are the staples of Carlotto's style.

When he does spend time with long descriptions they are suitably politically incorrect, and add to the steamy atmosphere of decadence.

About twenty five, tall, black hair cut in a bob, long legs, a nice behind, and a shapely bosom, she walked with the elegance of a model.

The foreigner dominates this story from the Bolivian drug dealers, to Croatian mafia, through to Chinese gangsters, as Campagna's informers and colleagues are killed along the way. The message is clear, in that far from invigorating an old jaded society the foreigner is destroying Italy.

Too many foreigners. And too many lowlifes among them.

What's Missing by Marcello Fois is the tale of the murder of a politician's grandmother.

The endemic corruption of the Italian state and legal system are the main theme here in a purely Italian mess. The villains are the corrupt politicians, mayoral candidate, Deputy Prosecutor, and Prosecutor General who attempt to influence an investigation hoping to pin the blame upon a convenient suspect.

Precossi intervened before Curreli could reply. "We're holding a man, so let's try and bring things to a rapid conclusion."

"A rapid conclusion?" asked Curelli.

"A rapid conclusion," replied De Pisis.

Is there something , I'm not quite getting?" asked Curreli provocatively.

The five Crimini I have read so far have all been very good reads, slightly different in style and at thirty to forty pages just the right length to develop a story.

They are certainly a good introduction to reading the longer work of these authors.

The use of something as coarse and democratic as an Anglo-Saxon jury would be unthinkable....... the law will remain always a thing of bamboozlers, of cryptic language, which is of liars, a power used only to take in and deprive the weak.

Ernesto Galli della Loggia, L'identita italiana quoted in The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Karen of Euro Crime explains the future publication plans of Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole books at:

I read The Devil's Star number 5 before I read The Redbreast number 3, and even that only very slightly spoilt my enjoyment of these great crime fiction books.

Jo Nesbø is the recipient of many prestigious awards including:
The Riverton Prize (Rivertonprisen) 1997,
The Glass Key (Glasnyckeln) 1998,
The Booksellers' Prize (Bokhandlerprisen) 2000,
The Finnish Academy of Crime Writers' Special Commendation for Excellence in Foreign Crime Writing 2007
and The Booksellers' Prize (Bokhandlerprisen) 2007
as well as the special award Best Norwegian Crime Novel of All Time (Tidenes Beste Norske Krimroman) awarded by NRK and the Norwegian bookclubs. In addition, Nesbø has been shortlisted for Duncan Lawrie International Dagger.


I admit that this question was not up to the standard of the Quirky Quiz, which will return in April with ten difficult [I hope] questions.

I may have to institute two prizes for this forthcoming quiz, one for anyone domiciled or born in Canada, and one for the rest of the world.

The question was:

What is the link between a cinematic recreation of a Roman slave revolt, a Turkish museum, Dr Albert Hirsch, and the odd son of antiques dealer Mogscha Rosenberg?

The answer:

The cinematic recreation of a Roman slave revolt was the film Spartacus, in which Peter Ustinov won the Oscar for best supporting actor.

The Turkish museum was the Topkapi, the film of which based on an Eric Ambler story produced yet another Oscar for Peter Ustinov.

Dr Albert Hirsch was the character in the film The Bourne Ultimatum played by Albert Finney, hence the references to Saturday Night and Sunday Morning a film he starred in way back in 1960.

The "odd" son of Mogscha Rosenberg was Alfred Leonard Rosenberg, also known as Tony Randall. Tony played opposite Jack Klugman in 114 episodes of The Odd Couple.

Peter Ustinov, Albert Finney and Tony Randall all played the part on screen of Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot.

"And since then -I know very well what you will say-I am like a prima donna who makes positively the farewell performance! That farewell performance, it repeats itself an indefinite number of times!" Hercule Poirot in The ABC Murders

Sunday, February 17, 2008


My review of A Vengeful Longing by R.N.Morris is up on Euro Crime at:

I really enjoyed this excellent historical crime novel set in 1868 St Petersburg which featured Porfiry Petrovich the detective created by Dostoevsky.

Also featured this week were a review by Karen Meek [Euro Crime herself] of the Crimini short stories, which made me want to dive into the remaining stories that I have not had time to read.

Fiona Walker confirmed once again just how much the modern Nordic crime writers owe to the masters Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. I know am a bit of a bore about this subject but it is true.

And Maxine Clarke writes an intriguing review about a complex book.

Friday, February 15, 2008


(ANSA) - Bologna, February 8 - An Italian widow sent a young assailant packing Friday by hitting him in the face with her shopping in a village near Bologna.The young man, said to be ''about 25'', set on the 75-year-old woman and tried to tear away her shoulder bag.The widow hung on fiercely and swiped him a hefty blow with a supermarket bag.Bashed in the face, the attacker gave up and ran away.''I'm glad I bought those two jars of jam,'' the woman told police.''That's what probably did for him''


The melliflous Maxine at Petrona was kind enough to mention my last quiz,and to be the representative of Crime Scraps at the London book launch of Crimini.

You can read about Maxine's day job here as publishing executive editor of Nature magazine. This probably explains why Maxine's reviews are always such a pleasure to read and her writing flows so smoothly in comparison with a certain bearded blogger.

The deviously convoluted mind of Uriah Robinson, inspired, apparently, by the "Round Britain" radio quiz, has come up with a set of questions so fiendish (and he's been called worse than that, he says) that one can only read the answers in utter amazement -- an amazement that is increased when one reads that somebody in the world was able to score 80 per cent. We are assured that an easier version is in the works for the Spring. These retired dentists!

At the moment I am reading The Man at the Window by K.O.Dahl [for Euro Crime] and will then start on The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin [also for Euro Crime] but I will probably be able to fit in a Crimini short story for a post here sometime.

I thought I might exercise my "deviously convoluted mind" with a quicky quirky question to stretch your brains over Saturday night and possibly Sunday morning.

No prizes this time I am afraid you will have to wait for Quirky Quiz: Spring Edition for that, and no performance enhancing drugs beyond coffee and tea!
Here we go:

What is the link between a cinematic recreation of a Roman slave revolt, a Turkish museum, Dr Albert Hirsch, and the odd son of antiques dealer Mogscha Rosenberg?

It is deviously convoluted, but really very easy when you know the answer.;)
Clue: This is a crime fiction blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


From the BBC website:

The Coen brothers are to adapt author Michael Chabon's bestseller The Yiddish Policeman's Union for the big screen.
Joel and Ethan Coen will write and direct the Alaskan murder mystery, set in a fictional Jewish settlement, after Columbia Pictures acquired the rights.
The Coens' current film No Country for Old Men, which earned the brothers a Bafta for best director at the weekend, is nominated for eight Academy Awards.
Its producer Scott Rudin has also signed up for the new project.

I haven't bought The Yiddish Policemen's Union yet but as it has been nominated for an Edgar, and also for a Hammett, it looks like a must buy.


We may have to wait a year or two for Arnaldur Indridason's new novel Hardskafi to be published in English, but it sounds as if it will be worth the anticipation.
"Hardskafi (2007) is Indridason’s best book since the publication of Silence of the Grave. Named after a mountain in east Iceland, the title indicates where the story is headed, back to the childhood home of detective Erlendur, back into his past, into the depths of his soul."

Read the full review at the link below and thanks to Sarah Weinman at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind for the info:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Many thanks to everyone who has signed the petition. We have reached fifty signatures so far and in the circumstances I think that is a pretty good start, but we do need a lot more people to sign.

You can sign the on line petition to save CARE village Blackerton at:

You can also link to my other posts putting the case to keep Blackerton at:

And a special vote of thanks to author Declan Burke, and fellow blogger crimficreader who kindly posted about the petition on their blogs.

You can follow the links below to their excellent and informative comments.

Declan here:

and crimficreader, who must take the credit for the idea of a petition, here:

Sunday, February 10, 2008


France [26-21 victors over Ireland this weekend] now has a rugby team to match its President.

Brilliantly eccentric, very fast and with a slightly off beat selection policy that favours the beautiful over safe reliability.

If there was ever a crime writer, who also could be considered beautifully eccentric it is the two time Duncan Lawrie International Dagger award winner, Fred Vargas.
From Eurocrime:
Fred Vargas' latest in the Commissaire Adamsberg series, 'This Night's Foul Work', was published this week in the UK. To celebrate, this week the new reviews on Euro Crime are all of the Adamsberg series, including the new one, at:

They include my own review of This Night's Foul Work at:

All the Euro Crime reviewers agree Fred Vargas is an author not to be missed.
There is also an excellent interview with the translator of the Vargas books, Sian Reynolds at:

"True Gloire does not flit like a butterfly; it is only achieved by solid actions." Vauban (1633-1707)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I was astonished that the winner managed an incredible 8/10 correct answers, Well done!

A prize paperback [The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly] will be on its way to the winner as soon as I can find a Post Office, which can be difficult in the UK.

1) Which President was Governor of two different states?

A little trick question because Sam Houston was governor of Tennessee and governor of Texas, but was also President of the Texas Republic.

2) Raymond Chandler went to school at Dulwich College, which crime writers were educated at :

Stonyhurst.......Arthur Conan Doyle

Scollard Hall.....Giles Blunt.

Cambridge High School.....P.D.James

Abraham Lincoln High School..... David Dodge in L.A. or Reed Farrel Coleman in Brooklyn?

3) How are Jeroen van Aken and the River Porciuncula connected?

Well Jeroen van Aken was the real name of Hieronymous Bosch. From whom we get Michael Connelly's detective Harry Bosch based in L.A., and the River Porciuncula is the original Spanish name of the river through Los Angeles.

4) I am seven and three, with Eve's favourite fruit, created in Sardinia, but I only live in China and the USA? Who and what am I?

A tricky one, but what only lives in China and the USA?

Seven parts calvados with three parts of drambuie, with a slice of apple created by a barman in Cagliari for ........An alligator cocktail for Massimo Carlotto's character, Marco Burati aka The Alligator.

Can't make them too easy can I.

5) What does an Icelandic policewoman do that would endear her to an Italian policeman?

In Arnaldur Indridason's novel the detective Elinborg writes a cookbook which would surely please Italian detectives Salvo Montalbano and Guido Brunetti.

6) Who disappears in Budapest, and who goes to find him?

Alf Matsson disappears, and Martin Beck goes to find him in The Man Who Went Up In Smoke by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

7) Name the grandson of Mr Reich?

Peter Temple's detective Jack Irish....I.Reich

8) Who worked as an administrator in the British National Health Service?

P.D.James, and she seems to have retained her sanity.

9) Maurice Roy Ridley was a visiting professor at Bowdoin College, what is his claim to crime fiction fame?

He was the model for Lord Peter Wimsey, the aristocratic detective created by Dorothy L. Sayers.

10) Samarkand, and Snowden's Ladies Companion. What is the connection?

Another tricky one. Edgar Allan Poe's first published poetry was entitled Tamerlane and other poems (1827). Tamerlane's capital was Samarkand and Poe's Mystery of Marie Roget first appeared in Snowden's Ladies Companion.

The next Quirky Quiz, the Spring Edition will be in March or April, but I may have a mini quiz to keep the little grey matter working a bit before then.

Thanks for taking part, and perhaps next time you will win a prize with a choice from some of the greatest crime books ever written.

Monday, February 04, 2008


We really do have to thank Bitter Lemon Press for bringing us Crimini a fine collection of Italian noir. I have only read the first three stories but even if the others don't reach this standard the book deserves a place in the collection of all crime fiction fans.

Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini with You Are My Treasure Chest give us an amusing crime caper story about a drug addled cosmetic surgeon. The story may not be entirely politically correct as it concerns a "boob" job that has unfortunate complications for both the surgeon and the patient.

The surgeon Paolo Bocchi had done a Master's in maxillofacial reconstruction in Lyon and he was nothing like the excellent maxillofacial surgeons I knew during my career. But I did know an eye surgeon once.............better not go there.

Carlo Lucarelli's The Third Shot involves the shooting of two Albanians and the suspicions of an attractive policewoman Lara about the sequence of the shots. There are a number of twists and turns in this tale of corruption and fear that will keep you guessing.

A Series of Misunderstandings by Andrea Camilleri shows how the master of the Italian detective story can produce darker noir just as good as his lighter Montalbano mysteries. It is also a warning never to answer a phone in Palermo.


I had decided to reduce my serious posting and stick to crime fiction for a while, but I so very rarely agree with any policy of this government that I had to post on something with which I am in total agreement.

Two sixth formers from every school in England will be sent on an educational trip to Auschwitz.
The aim is ensure the lessons of Nazi genocide are never forgotten.
Schools Minister Jim Knight wants the chosen teenagers to educate their classmates about the Holocaust when they return.
Each will meet an Auschwitz survivor, be shown around the camp's barracks and crematoria and see the registration documents of inmates and piles of hair, shoes, clothes and other items seized by the Nazis.
The Holocaust Education Trust has also produced a DVD containing testimonies of survivors, which schools can order.
The DVD, which took four years to develop, features 18 witnesses to the Holocaust and survivors of the associated Nazi eugenics programme including Roma and Sinti gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses and political prisoners.
For the full article follow the link below:
I believe this is particularly relevant today in view of what is going on in Darfur [now out of the headlines], and Kenya.


Karen at Euro Crime and Faber and Faber have sent me the new K.O.Dahl, The Man in the Window to review.

I find it very exciting to find a new author [for me] and perhaps this shows what a quiet life I lead.

At least I will be reading these books in sequence because as with Jo Nesbo they are being translated out of order.

The first of K.O.Dahl's Gunnarstranda and Frolich novels to be published in English, The Fourth Man was the 5th in the series.

The Man in the Window is number 3.

I won't say too much now as my review will appear in due course on Euro Crime, but first impressions are very good, and it seems to be very much in the style of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, and Henning Mankell.

The translation from the original Norwegian is by Don Bartlett, who also translated the excellent The Redbreast and The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo.

K.O.Dahl is number one among Norwegian Crime Writers: Aftenposten [Norway]

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Many thanks to crimeficreader, who adds her support to the campaign to save CARE Blackerton at the link below:

If you would like to support the campaign please post, comment and sign the petition, you can follow the links from:

Frankly it's a crime or at least a mystery why the trustees are closing down, breaking up and relocating the village.
Many thanks. The photos show the Honeytones rock band formed by the residents at Blackerton.


(ANSA) - Caltanissetta, January 30 -

A court here in Sicily on Wednesday ordered the arrest of executives at Italy's leading concrete producer and impounded the company's assets.

Calcestruzzi CEO Mario Colombini was arrested at his home in a Milan suburb. He is accused of fraud collusion with the Mafia.

Also arrested were Fausto Volante, Calcestruzzi's division chief for Sicily and the southern region of Campania, and Giuseppe Giovanni Larino, a former Calcestruzzi employee who was an area chief in Sicily.

Calcestruzzi is a division of Italy's biggest cement maker Italcementi and the assets seized have an estimated value of 600 million euros. According to investigators, Calcestruzzi created a slush fund to pay bribe and kickbacks. The company is also suspected of delivering inferior quality concrete for public works contracts and of working in favor of Cosa Nostra.
A month ago Calcestruzzi suspended the activities of its seven plants in Sicily because of suspected infiltration of organized crime.
You could not make this stuff up.........I am surprised crime fiction sells so well in Italy, the reality is like a crime novel.


British MP Derek Conway has stated in today's newspapers that "I did nothing wrong".
[The photo is of course not Derek Conway, but Silvio Berlusconi]

This relates to the discovery that he allegedly paid money from public funds to both his sons, and a boyfriend of one son, for work they never did. Many families are really struggling to help their children get through university, and then pay off their student loans after university.

The news that Conway's children were paid by the taxpayer, and he does not think he did anything wrong proves conclusively that we are really in the heart of Europe. [hat tip to Peter at Detectives beyond Borders for this idea]

The culture of clientelismo in looking after your friends and family, and keeping outsiders out of the loop, and the importance of having the backing of a famiglia importante seem endemic in Italy.

Millions compete in Italian society for the soft clerical jobs, a poltrona, an armchair, which offers the prize of a contract for tempo indeterminato, time immemorial.

If you go into some provincial post offices, and you will see the beautiful daughters of the local famiglia importante draped behind the counters.

We used to laugh at this European behaviour in the UK, but now it seems government avarice and bureaucratic incompetence have become fully established here.

What happens eventually when the people no longer trust their rulers to deal fairly with them?

"Instead we see Italian ministers of every party setting the example by engaging in those interested transactions that are the ruin of Sicily...." Lepoldo Franchetti 1876

In the short stories in Crimini [I have only read the first two so far] corruption is the major theme. The search for the "quick buck" and also the creeping moral corruption with the subsequent removal of any limits to behaviour if it brings rewards.

The other two themes of the foreigner, as a disruptive criminal force rather than an invigorating benefit to a jaded society, and the obsession with success are well developed in the UK.

The desire to be a celebrity is all pervasive with talentless people becoming famous for sleeping with some other talentless individual, or even just for taking heroin.

The ordinary hard working person feels desperate as the government even awards medals to these "glitterati" and the dangers are clear.

The IRA, Mafioso, and even the Klan cultivated an image of helping the poor and downtrodden from the "carpetbaggers" and other oppressors, but in fact never hesitated to use violence to further their own interests.

"The desire to prevail over the competition, combined with the lack of a credible state, cannot bring about a normal marketplace: the common practice is not to do better than your rivals but to do them in."

Paolo Borsellino, anti Mafia prosecutor killed with his five bodyguards by a car bomb in Palermo 19 July 1992

Sources: Excellent Cadavers,The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic, Alexander Stille; The Dark Heart of Italy, Tobias Jones and Crimini edited by Giancarlo Cataldo.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


The recent events in Iraq show how vulnerable people are who have learning disabilities.

The treatment handed out to Steven Hoskin in Truro, and Brent Martin in Sunderland was equally as disgusting and a blot on our society. Care in the community is not the answer when it puts vulnerable people in danger. There are successful alternatives that have operated for 40 years, such as CARE village at Blackerton.

Thanks to Crimfic reader [a lady with a beautiful Welsh accent] for steering me to the Go Petition site. And what a fantastic second half comeback by the Welsh rugby team today in their first victory over England at Twickenham for twenty years.

You can sign the on line petition to save CARE village Blackerton at:

And read my posts on this matter at the following links:

Friday, February 01, 2008


I have started to read Crimini, The Bitter Lemon Press Book of Italian Crime Fiction, a collection of short stories, edited by Giancarlo De Cataldo, and translated from the Italian by Andrew Brown.

The preface by De Catlado discusses the three themes of the stories, corruption, foreigners, and the obsession with individual success.

I have only read the first tale by Niccolo Ammaniti and Antonio Manzini, and the start of the second by Carlo Lucarelli, but the writing in both stories has been exceptionally sharp, and incisive. I may save the rest after I finish the Lucarelli for another day, I don't want to spoil myself.


Some time ago January magazine discussed an Essential Mystery Library and of course the list started with the works of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. But the list was a long one and I purchased some of the other essential authors works someof whom I had read before and some whose names were completely new to me, such as K.C. Constantine.

I shall be delving into these books from time to time, and last week I finished Looking for Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker. I had read some Spenser novels before but this one was new to me, and reminded me why I like crime fiction.
It was fast paced easy to read with crackling dialogue, a good but simple plot, and it dealt with discrimination against gay women in the workplace at a time when it was not being discussed. The clash between militant lesbian feminism and extremist right wing groups, and gender stereotyping are the book's other themes.
The fact that it was written way back in 1980 is a tribute to the ability of the crime novel to tackle subjects that are considered controversial.
But it is the sharp dialogue that gripped me in this PI novel.

"What did you think of it?"
"I thought Simone de Beauvoir already said most of it."
"Have you read The Second Sex?"
"Don't tell the guys down the gym," I said.........

"I also have an active sex life. Not only active but often diverse. You'll have to be prepared for that, and you'll have to conceal whatever hostility you may feel toward me or the women I sleep with."
"Do I get fired if I blush?"

"And she hasn't read the book."
Linda smiled and shook her head."Almost none of them ever do.You can't blame them. Sometimes you get several authors a week plus all the other stuff."
The pressure must be fearful," I said. "To spend your working life never knowing what you're talking about."

"I had always thought," she said, her face still pressed in my shoulder,"that men of your years had problems of sexual dysfunction."
"Oh, we do," I said. "I used to be twice as randy twenty years ago."

Full list of the Essential Mystery Library at: