Thursday, April 30, 2009


I mentioned the Nordic Glass Key [Glasnyckeln] on Tuesday here in relation to Jo Nesbo's The Bat Man which one in 1998.
You can read an article which discusses this years nominees here.
I know we won't have to wait very long for the Arnaldur Indridason Haroskafi [Hypothermia], let us hope the rest will be all translated into English very soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The question was:

A Chinese American, and a Belgian as well as ten others are linked by a Central American Republic, an International Police Organization and a philatelic celebration.
Explain and identify the dozen?

There were five correct answers, well done, to this conundrum which was that:

In 1972 Nicaragua to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Interpol  issued a series of twelve stamps with images of great fictional detectives.

Charlie Chan- the Chinese American
Hercule Poirot- the most famous Belgian
Lord Peter Wimsey
Philip Marlowe
Sam Spade
Perry Mason
Nero Wolfe
Auguste Dupin
Ellery Queen
Father Brown
Sherlock Holmes
Inspector Maigret

These are all were male detectives and I am sure that some readers might be able to suggest six female detectives to even up the numbers in this more enlightened age. 
I wonder why they did not include Miss Marple? Or Mrs Bradley?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


When one looks at a list of the winners of the Glasnyckeln here, the Nordic Glass Key award for the Best Nordic Crime Fiction book of the year, the rather capricious choice by publishers of which books and in which order to translate some authors becomes apparent. 
Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole crime thrillers were translated into English in the order:

The Devil's Star:  5
The Redbreast:    3
Nemesis:                4
The Redeemer:    6

Quite ridiculous when there was a major sub plot running through books 3-5. Why not start with book one especially when that Flaggermusmannen, The Bat Man, won the Galsnyckeln in 1998? 

At least Stieg Larsson's Millenium series [translated by Crime Fest Bristol 2009 panelist Reg Keeland] is being published in order and both The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest [due out in September 2009] won Glass Key Awards in 2006 and 2008. 

You can read my previous posts about Jo Nesbo here.
And a selection of posts about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


When I am sent or beg a book via Karen of Euro Crime I usually try to say nothing about the book until the review appears on Euro Crime. 

But on this occasion I am reading a book which is such a masterpiece that I can't resist quoting one passage which so brilliantly expresses the banality of everyday life during the war, and is in stark contrast to the atmosphere of fear that pervades the rest of the narrative.  

Then he was standing in front of the shop and peering in through the shiny silver bars of the birdcages-yes there was Hetty. She was waiting on customers; four or five people were in the shop. He joined them and watched with pride and trembling heart how skilfully she served them, how polite she was with them. 

"We no longer carry Indian millet, madam. India is part of the British Empire. But I have Bulgarian millet which is much better."  


The Saturday quote about fraternization came from one of the classic Lew Archer series The Zebra -Striped Hearse by Ross MacDonald published in 1962. 

In this novel Lew Archer starts out by looking for dirt on Colonel Blackwell's prospective son- in- law and as with all this California based series he is soon following a trail of corpses. His books are usually of a manageable length which was convenient because I read them for the first time when I was supposed to be reading textbooks.
This is a great series of detective books with some wonderfully evocative descriptions of California and California people, almost as good as Chandler.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Blog dormant go to Crime Scraps Review for all the old posts and lots of new material.

The second run of series one of the brilliant French TV series "Engrenages" Spiral has just finished on BBC. I don't usually watch repeats but this was worth spending the time to view it again bearing in mind that since it was on first time round we have had shown on the BBC the Kenneth Branagh Wallanders, a French Maigret, a Swedish Wallander and the Montalbano programs. Also that magnificent achievement The Wire, which those privileged with cable have already seen, is in the middle of its BBC terrestrial debut. 

How does Spiral compare? Very well, it is right up there with the best TV crime series.
What was the factor that made this series exceptional TV, and has me scouring the schedules for Spiral's second series? 

That special factor was the superb casting with actors who actually looked the part, unlike the cast of the British hospital series Holby City  who look like models who have never done a day's work anywhere near a busy hospital in their lives. 

The beautiful Caroline Proust [police capitaine Laure Berthe] looked suitably exhausted, dishevelled and incredibly dishy at the same time. While her colleague Gilou played by Thierry Godard was a brilliant portrayal of a tough cop whose career was about implode. 

Audrey Fleurot, another very attractive actress, played the enigmatic lawyer Josephine Karlsson, and Phillipe Duclos was the crusty difficult Judge Francois Roban. 
It was very interesting to see the French criminal justice system, which I still don't understand, in operation with the independent examining magistrates given their own mission to uncover the truth, and to discover evidence both incriminating and exonerating before the case comes to court.
In the main case in the series, the murder of a Romanian girl, the handsome Acting Chief Prosecutor Pierre Clement, played by Gregory Fitoussi, tries to protect his old school friend, the really smooth and nasty Benoit Faye [Guillaume Cramosian] from Judge Roban's enquiries. While Faye is under pressure from the even more disgustingly creepy government advisor Arnaud Laborde [Scali Delpeyrat] to keep him out of the investigation. 

I hope we get to see the second series of this sophisticated French thriller and that some of the same excellent cast feature in it. 


Here is the Saturday quotation for this week and I will give the solution tomorrow.

"All the ways he could think of. He went in for enforcement of petty rules. He was very keen on the anti-fraternization policy. My men had murder rape and black-marketeering to contend with. But Blackie expected us to spend our nights patrolling the cabarets suppressing fraternization. It drove him mad to think of all the fraternization that was going on between innocent American youths and man-eating Frauleins."
"Is he some kind of sex nut."    

Friday, April 24, 2009


I always like reading other people's lists of their favourite writers and detectives. Michael O'Byrne, former Chief Constable of Bedfordshire, adds a postscript chapter in The Crime Writer's Guide to Police Practice and Procedure in which he lists his choices. 
He states "I am probably more comfortable reading police procedural crime which is based abroad, like the books of James Lee Burke and Michael Dibdin, as I know very little about police procedures in either USA or Italy and thus the story never jars if the author gets it wrong."

James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux, Michael Dibdin and Aurelio Zen, and the third foreign writer that he chooses is Henning Mankell and Kurt Wallander, of whom he writes "......Wallander's plots keep you involved until the end [except The Dogs of Riga in which his raid of the Latvian police archives is frankly ludicrous]."

This last quote is from the 82 word last sentence of the book, and seemed to me to be a strange way of ending a useful guide. The Dogs of Riga is one of two of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels that I have not read.
Previously Michael O'Byrne had named his four favourite writers with British based investigators, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, P.D. James and Peter Robinson. 

Do you mind if the author gets it wrong?
Not seriously wrong [e.g light as a feather 3 kg firearms] but wrong enough for a police officer or a crime aficionado looking up a guide to notice that it is wrong. Aren't plot and character more important than that sort of detail? Of course meticulous research adds to a story but can you still enjoy a book even if you know details of police procedure are far fetched and you have to take some things with a pinch of salt. Would a police officer actually keep his job if he was described thus:

"He is a violent and recovering alcoholic, spends significant parts of books being suspended or under threat of arrest and has as his best friend a homicidal maniac."

That description could indeed cover more than one detective in crime fiction, and perhaps a few politicians,  as well as Dave Robicheaux. 
Michael O'Byrne is not the only one more comfortable reading crime fiction based abroad as is obvious from today's Amazon UK crime fiction best seller lists with Lee Child at number one and the Lisbeth Salander series of Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland, sitting at numbers three and five. 

The photo is not of some prison camp in the Third World but of the entrance to our allotments. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009


My recent reading material has been of a very high quality. After finishing Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios which I reviewed here I read:

The Jerusalem File: Joel Stone 
Gallows Lane: Brian McGilloway

I have now begun Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada and  this is a novel whose cover note and blurbs  are an accurate appraisal of the work. 

"Alone In Berlin is one of the most extraordinary and compelling novels ever written about World War II. Ever. Please do not miss this." Alan Furst

Reviews of these three books will appear in due course on Euro Crime

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Allotment: noun: a plot of land rented by an individual for growing vegetables and flowers.

Shed:noun: a simple roofed structure used for garden storage, to shelter animals or as a workshop.
Or to hide in with a good book and avoid the digging. 


A post over at Declan Burke's always interesting Crime Always Pays here discusses whether the general public or publishers are responsible for brilliant writers not being published, or not selling enough books to make a living. 
This does not apply to the phenomenal triumvirate of John Grisham, Dan Brown and James Patterson who must be responsible for the deforestation of half the planet given their combined sales. 

Are the general reading public morons? Or do the publishers just treat them as such?

If I could make three wishes to help improve the quality of the books being published what would I wish for, and could anything bring about a change for the better? 
The situation to me seems governed by the publisher's fear. Fear that if they don't pay the well known author an obscene advance, and in the process reject those superb books from aspiring writers, he or she will go elsewhere. Fear that if you tell them their last five books were really absolute tosh and they should take a look at their own early books to see just how far their standard has fallen, they will go off to a rival firm. 
This is the same argument that is used to justify the top banker's huge bonuses. We only lost 250 billion dollars with you running things so you must be absolutely vital to the bank. 

So here are my three very simple wishes:

1] Publishers should be brave. "Hang on Dan, I recall I read all this plot about 20 years ago and the name Leigh Teabag just won't work."

2] Blurb writers should actually read the books. Blurbs should be subject to the Trade Descriptions Act, and this might prevent the nonsense that entices the reading general public into the spider's web of the big name writers. Those gushing reviews that compare the writer to everyone from Ernest Hemingway, Eric Ambler, Enid Blyton and the Venerable Bede should be banned. 

3] All property and house renovation programs on the television should be replaced by book programs that educate the viewer. If Richard and Judy can push a complex novel, such as The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld, into the best seller lists it is clear the public will buy good books if they are put in front of them.

This would at least be a small step to a situation where good writing is rewarded and the reading public would buy books based on their quality rather than on just name recognition. 

Monday, April 20, 2009


I seem to be back as a "non spam blog" therefore I am taking the opportunity of posting the full list of my Dartmoor Dozen books.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: Kate Summerscale
The Hound of The Baskervilles: Arthur Conan Doyle
Death on The Nile: Agatha Christie
The Long Goodbye: Raymond Chandler
The Locked Room: Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes: K.C. Constantine
The Reunion: Simone van der Vlugt
The Big O: Declan Burke
A Quiet Flame: Philip Kerr
A Coffin For Dimitrios: Eric Ambler
Nemesis: Jo Nesbo
Excursion to Tindari: Andrea Camilleri

This list makes me think of those cookery programs where pretentious chefs comment on the amateur cooks and pontificate "what I want is flavour, flavour, flavour". 
The books in this list are definitely full of different flavours and they all feature wonderful characters and dialogue that sticks in the mind.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I have been identified as a possible spam blog!

I can only assume that in trying to be helpful and putting several links back to the reviews on Euro Crime I triggered some robot at Blogger HQ.

I feel like Salvo Montalbano with his 'certificato di esistenza in vita', I am not spam, I am alive.  Please do not delete me! 


You can read my review of the first in Michael Walter's Inspector Nergui series, The Shadow Walker here.

I enjoyed the novel especially the fascinating location and the account of the problems faced by developing countries wishing to exploit their natural resources without destroying their unique culture. I kept mentioning interesting passages in The Shadow Walker to Mrs Crime Scraps with the result that we are booked into a Mongolian Yurt on Bodmin Moor for a holiday. I might pass this on to a more ecological and ethical offspring as Bodmin can be wet and cold at any time of the year.

You can read reviews of the other books in the series The Adversary here and The Outcast here. And another review of  The Shadow Walker here. These reviews are by Maxine Clarke of Petrona.

Author Michael Walters has a very interesting blog here.


Yesterday's quotation came from California Fire and Life by Don Winslow.

I thought it was relevant because of the current recession, the violent reaction of British cops to the G20 demonstrators, and the fact that Don Winslow won the Palle Rosenkrantz Prisen awarded by the Danish Crime Academy in 2008. 

Previous winners include Karin Alvtegen, Hakan Nesser and Peter Robinson.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Last month I took up the challenge from Dorte at DJS Krimiblog originating at Weekly Geeks of posting a quote a day. I have decided to regularly quote from books taken at random from my shelves that might have some significance to current events and world problems. Anyone who wants to guess the identity of the book can do so in the comments, the answer will be posted tomorrow.

Worst thing is he can't get a job.
Any job.
He's a lying felon. A corrupt brutal cop. And with that kind of reference he can't get a gig asking, "Would you like fries with that, sir?" 

Friday, April 17, 2009


We went to see the Danish film Flame and Citron, discussed  on here on FriendFeed crime and mystery room,  yesterday evening at the Barn Cinema at Dartington. You can read an interview with one of the film's stars Mads Mikkelsen here

The film, directed by Ole Christian Madsen, is a brilliant portrait of the a country under occupation and the moral problems faced by those who refuse to collaborate. It is a very violent film but gets inside the emotions of the characters and shows that no one can be trusted in that situation. Denmark was in a unusual position among the occupied countries in that the Germans regarded Danes as fellow Nordics,  and the occupation regime was not as harsh as it was in Poland. The population were caught in a moral dilemma of whether to resist and bring down the wrath of the Germans, or accept their privileged place in Nazi Europe.

Citron played by Mikkelsen starts out as the driver for Flame [Thure Lindhardt], a dedicated anti-Nazi, who is the designated assassin killing Danish Nazis and collaborators for the Holger Danske resistance movement. They work under orders from their shifty superior Aksel Winther, who might in fact  be the traitor within the network. The situation escalates when he gives orders to begin assassinating Germans, and also the femme fatale Ketty Selmer, played by Stine Stengade. We never know who is going to betray, or to be betrayed, as the film progresses to its violent end.

The effect of all the violence on us was mitigated by the setting of the Barn cinema on the beautiful Dartington Hall estate near Totnes , and an excellent post film dinner in the Great Hall. 
I could not help thinking as we had our meal how grateful I was for the location of English Channel, and the deeds of the RAF and Royal Navy during those years. The resistance movements in Occupied Europe were only very small minority of the population but they made up for that with extreme bravery and a necessary ruthlessness.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Yesterday I received a review copy of The Crime Writer's Guide to Police Practice and Procedure by Michael O'Byrne, a former chief constable in Bedfordshire. 

My first reaction was that this thin little book was not going to compare with the thick and very comprehensive Police Procedure & Investigation, A Guide for Writers, by Lee Lofland but digging into the pages of the O'Byrne it appears very useful if you want to understand English police procedures. 
Neither of these is the sort of  book one sits down and reads like a novel, they are reference books although written in very different styles. 
The Lofland is a much more detailed book in a serious textbook style with full explanations about the American system of policing covering everything from autopsies to prisons.

The O'Byrne is very much more a short fact packed short guide, and his writing style is  geared to a British readership with phrases like:

 "They cannot do a Paxman and ask the same question nineteen times....". 
And "a bit like Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson's subtlety and political correctness."

Michael O'Byrne gives us an honest picture of what a former senior officer thinks about some of his colleagues.

"Of course the shift is the home of the 'canteen cowboy', who has been everywhere, seen everything, done everything, but no one can remember when he last made a decent crime arrest."

CID ...tends to reflect the cynical edge of policing, and detectives still tend to have the poorest marriage record and the biggest drink problems [when this gets too bad they are sent back to uniform]. 

And Lee Lofland is just as honest:

Police officers can be a vindictive group. Revenge is the word. Hurt one of their gang , or spew hateful words against the brethren, and see how long it takes to receive a speeding ticket or find your car in the police impound lot. There are rotten eggs in any profession-police agencies are no different.

I think both these books are a mine of valuable and interesting information for the writer [who probably has researched much of this before commencing to write] and the crime fiction aficionado. 
However I wonder what level of readership the O'Byrne book is aimed at when he tells us  "the fictional world that Brown [The Da Vinci Code] had created looked comical rather than mysterious" and "It has been known for lawyers to be in cahoots with the criminals they represent." 
There is a great deal of valuable information within the pages of The Crime Writer's Guide to Police Practice, especially about forensics, profiling and British serial killers, but the reader just needs to switch off and ignore the odd colloquialism, or perhaps the publisher should have provided subtitles for non-British readers.

"Stop and search however remained a dog's dinner until the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 [PACE]."

Lee Lofland's excellent website is here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009



This is the category in which I would really like to cheat and say read anything by Fred Vargas, Andrea Camilleri, or Jo Nesbo, but I have to make a choice.

I have chosen Nemesis by Jo Nesbo which I think is slightly superior to The Redeemer because he doesn't hide as much from the reader, and it is more of a police procedural than a thriller. 

Harry Hole investigates a murder committed during the course of a bank robbery, and makes an unfortunate choice of female companion for dinner. Nesbo shows his trademark skill in handling the many complex strands of the story and bringing them together in a satisfactory conclusion, but it is the fantastic start of this novel with the bank robbery that marks it out as outstanding crime fiction.

The masked man whispered in Stine's ear as he turned the machine gun on Helge, who took two unsteady steps backwards.
Stine cleared her throat: "He says open the ATM and put the money in the black holdall."
In a daze, Helge stared at the gun pointing at him.
"You've got twenty-five seconds before he shoots. Not you. Me"
Helge's mouth opened and closed as though he wanted to say something.
"Now , Helge, "Stine said.


I have chosen Excursion To Tindari by Andrea Camilleri because it is more multi dimensional than many of the Montalbano mysteries and also it contains some of Camilleri's best lines. 

He opened the fridge and let out a sheer whinny of delight.


The eyes on these fish were bright and sparkly, as though they were still swimming in the water.
"Grill me four bass."


Did one simply write on a sheet of paper something like: 'I, the undersigned Salvo Montalbano, hereby declare myself to be in existence"...

Montalbano investigates the murder of a young Don Juan outside his apartment building and the apparently unrelated disappearance of an elderly couple on their excursion to Tindari. This was one of the televised episodes of Montalbano shown on BBC4 a few weeks ago which I enjoyed so much. 
I hope BBC4 show more of these excellent productions.

There I have made my dozen choices and all the books I think have as their main feature great characters, although if I started choosing again I would possibly choose twelve different books. ;o)

Monday, April 13, 2009


At the moment I am enjoying the superb Bank Holiday weather here in the West Country. No wonder they call Torbay the English Riviera. These  photographs were taken yesterday on Budleigh Salterton beach.

I now have a large pile of tempting books to read, and am wondering do you make a reading plan or just pick up books at random off  your shelf ?

If you get ARCs do you feel obligated to read these books before the books you have bought yourself, borrowed from the library, or begged from friends? 

Do you feel obligated to finish an ARC more than you would a bought or borrowed book? 

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I have been tagged by Dorte of DJS Krimiblog here.

I thought the sight of me early in the morning was a bit off putting so

 my granddaughter is in the photo to make it a bit more acceptable. And the eagle eyed among you will see that young Miss Crime Scraps is reading The Lady Grace Mysteries: Assassin by Grace Cavendish aka Patricia Finney a "gripping historical thriller". I have her well trained to be well read.   

Friday, April 10, 2009



My regular visitors will have worked out that my Random Quotations 3 and 4 were taken from the classic thriller A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.
I had first read this book about 30 years ago [possibly longer] and could only recall the basic plot therefore I decided to read it again before recommending it for the Dartmoor Dozen.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that the story written in 1939 is as vibrant and tense a reading experience as I remembered. So many times one is disappointed by the tricks that life and a fading memory plays on one. Ooops I am starting to sound like the wonderfully horrible character Mr Peters from the book. 
With this story of an ordinary man getting into a situation and finding himself way out of his depth Eric Ambler paved the way for John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum and a host of other thriller writers.

Charles Latimer, a successful crime writer, is visiting Istanbul where he  meets Colonel Haki, "something to do with the police there", who gives him a ridiculous plot he has been working on for a future novel, and asks him if he is interested in real criminals. Dimitrios Makropoulos had been found dead in the Bosphorus and Colonel Haki shows Latimer the body, and tells him about the man's criminal record. 
Latimer, partly for amusement and partly to indulge in some harmless amateur detection, decides to trace the history of Dimitrios. 

Latimer travels across Europe to Smyrna, Athens,  Sofia, Geneva and Paris, meeting along the way the loquacious and mysterious Mr Peters, as well as the master spy Grodek.
Ambler gives the reader just enough of the politics and interesting history of post Great War Europe to give context to the various crimes committed by Dimitrios. 
What is slightly surprising is that those crimes recorded in a seventy years old novel are so up to date; drug smuggling and the "traffic in women". 

And of course the current financial shenanigans  would lead us to expect there to be a villain behind Dimitrios. 

"The Eurasian Credit trust was not, nor is for that matter, the sort of bank to accept a loss like that."
"What sort of bank is it?"
"It is registered in Monaco which means not only that it pays no taxes in the countries in which it operates, but also that its balance sheet is not published and that it is impossible to find out any thing about it."

If Latimer didn't travel everywhere by train one could quiet easily imagine that the book was written yesterday, in a civilization that has lost its way  and the pursuit of money, power and fame are more important than right livelihood and worthwhile employment. Enough preaching, read the book I am sure you will enjoy it.

The logic of Michaelangelo's David, Beethoven's quartets and Einstein's physics had been replaced by that of the Stock Exchange Year Book and Hitler's Mein Kampf. 



This was an incredibly difficult category to choose because I have read so many excellent historical crime fiction books. But I finally after much deliberation made the choice of A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr, which I reviewed here for Euro Crime. 
You can read an interview with Philip Kerr and a discussion of the book here.

Bernie Gunther finds himself in Argentina in 1950 posing as an escaped Nazi war criminal. He considers the past: 

I think something happened to Germany after the Great War. You could see it on the streets of Berlin. A callous indifference to human suffering. And, perhaps after all those demented, sometimes cannibalistic killers we had during the Weimar years, we ought to have seen it coming: the murder squads and the death factories.

Do we see today a certain extra brutality in the crimes we see reported in the media? Are we about to enter a period of depression which will destroy the middle class? Will some charismatic leader offer us easy answers to our problems allocating blame on to the "others"?

A Quiet Flame warns us over and over again about the dangers of following philosophies that put ideas above human beings. Towards the end of the book Bernie allocates the blame in a long moving passage that ends:

I blame the inflation and the Bauhaus and Dada and Max Reinhardt. I blame Himmler and Goering and Hitler and the SS and Weimar and the whores and the pimps. 
But most of all I blame myself. I blame myself for doing nothing. Which was less than I ought to have done. Which was all that was required for Nazism to succeed. I put my survival  ahead of all other considerations. That is self evident.
If I was truly innocent, then I'd be dead, Anna.  And I'm not. 

Thursday, April 09, 2009


It is time for the April Mini Quiz, which is part three in the ten part battle for not only a prize, but the honour of being crowned the champion. 
Talking of champions I will refrain from mentioning the name Branislav Ivanovic more than once in today's post. 3-1, 3-1. 

The contenders in the Miniquiz over the first two rounds come from Australia, Denmark, New Mexico, Scotland, Texas, Virginia and Wales. But of course with 8 rounds to go there is plenty of time to enter and win the grand prize.

The questions are stored at Crime Scraps HQ with certainly more security than Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick could muster for his documents.  

Here we go, opening the safe and taking out the question, which is really fairly easy:

A Chinese American, and a Belgian as well as ten others are linked by a Central American Republic, an International Police Organization and a philatelic celebration.
Explain and identify the dozen?

Please send your answers to by 28 April


Many thanks to the lovely Dorte at DJS Krimiblog for the Grasshopper Award probably given to me for my not so subtle hints on her very testing Bait in the Box quizzes.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Britain's most senior counter terrorism police officer Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, a man who perhaps has never heard of cameras with telephoto lenses, clutches a secret file in his hot little hands.
Can we not afford a box file or a nice briefcase for a counter terrorism "expert", or has the country's money all gone on bath plugs for our Home Secretary? 
If a thriller writer put this scenario in a novel he or she would be laughed at by critics. This country is in the mess it is in because people in all walks of life from finance, politics, NHS, social care and the police are promoted for various reasons to positions way above their abilities. 
UPDATE: Thursday 9th April 
Bob Quick has resigned.


'In a dying civilization, political prestige is the reward not of the shrewdest diagnostician, but of the man with the best bedside manner. 
It is the decoration conferred on mediocrity by ignorance.' 


I f you blog about books please go over to Crimeficreader's It's a Crime or a Mystery blog here to participate in a survey.

Monday, April 06, 2009


"The new will, which he has been prevented from signing by the murder's bullet, leaves all to one of those relations. Therefore"-he pointed his ice cream spoon accusingly-"one of the five other relations is the guilty one. That is logical, is it not?"
Latimer opened his mouth, then shut it again and nodded.
Colonel Haki grinned triumphantly. "That is the trick."
"The trick?"
"The Lord was murdered by none of the suspects, but by the butler, whose wife had been seduced by this Lord!
What do you think of that ,eh?"
"Very ingenious." 

Sunday, April 05, 2009


I noticed on a quiet day that I had two visitors to Crime Scraps this morning from Poland. Obviously they were brilliant mind readers, who knew that I finished reading The Polish Officer by Alan Furst the other day. I had bought the book on our short break holiday to Somerset in Wells having finished The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes and having left the bulky Jo Nesbo back at Crime Scraps HQ. It was a good decision.

The Polish Officer was written back in 1995 but has been reissued  along with other Alan Furst books last year. Furst who has lived in France for long periods and travelled widely in Eastern Europe writes books [if this novel is an example] that are exciting spy thrillers, history lessons and a lot more.
In The Polish Officer he manages to create interesting characters, give us an account of the first months of the Second World War, and still keep the action going at breakneck speed. He writes well in an episodic style and tells the story of Captain Alexander de Milja, a cartographer in the Polish Intelligence service. The reader follows de Milja as he escapes Warsaw in 1939 transporting Poland's gold reserves to safety, and then on to  Paris and the forests of the Polish -Ukrainian border where he fights with a partisan group. In France he assumes the identities of a Russian emigre, and then a Slovak of German ethnicity as he runs a resistance organization in France keeping one step ahead of the Gestapo. 
It is a story of tragedy, and the temporary triumph of barbarity but also of loyalty and friendship in a time of incredible stress. 

'That winter in Warsaw, an English grammar couldn't be had for love or money. Even so, the joke everybody was telling around town went like this: the pessimists are learning German, the optimists are learning English, while the realists, in January of 1940, were said to be learning Russian.'

de Milja leaves a defeated Poland to go to a France about to be defeated, and the reader learns a lot about the battle of wits between the spy and counter-intelligence police. The Gestapo have captured a radio operator 'Marie Ladoux' who manages to take her cyanide capsule. They now examine the real prize-the clandestine radio.

Grahnweis took a soft leather pouch from the pocket of his uniform jacket and selected a screwdriver for the task of getting behind the control panel. To the senior officer looking over his shoulder he said. "Maybe something new inside."
There was.

Amidst all the historical knowledge that Furst imparts in this wide ranging story we learn: 

The Swedes are neutral. And it's no technicality -they're making money hand over fist selling iron ore to the Germans........
Meanwhile they were righteous as parsons; issued ringing indictments at every opportunity and sat in judgement on the world.


De Milja was incredulous. France remained powerful, had a formidable navy, had army unts in Morocco, Syria, Algeria, and could have fought on for years. "In Warsaw-"
"This isn't Warsaw," Vyborg said. "In Tours, they lost a top-secret cable, turned the whole chateau upside down looking for it. Finally a maid found it, crumpled up in Reynaud's [the French Prime Minister] mistress's bed."

The Polish Officer is an intelligent book that tells an exciting story taking the reader back into a terrible time in history. It is well worth reading for an accurate picture of the past and of how brave people tried to survive. 

Friday, April 03, 2009



It has been such a long time since I read any Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine psychological suspense novels that I have chosen The Reunion by Simone Van Der Vlugt which I read recently, and reviewed here
You can read another review of The Reunion by Crimeficreader here

Most of the story involves  Sabine struggling to recapture her repressed memories from the day her friend Isabel went missing nine years before, but there is a very interesting sub plot concerning a form of abuse in the work place. This is such a common practice in many organizations when they "restructure" that I am surprised more is not written about it. 

"Sabine, did you send that authorisation to Pricewaterhouse yesterday? I've got an email here asking where it has got to go."
"Authorisation? Which authorisation?" I ask.
"The authorisation I asked you to send yesterday. I left a note on your computer because I had to leave. You did see it, didn't you? It was right in the middle of your computer screen."
"I didn't see a note."

Sabine in The Reunion gives us an idea of what it is like to be both ostracized and bullied in school and then later in the workplace, and the psychological damage this causes. 

You can read another review with nice maps here at Steph's blog, Wheredunnit.


The choice in this category was a difficult decision to make, but then I thought which book has made me laugh the most since I started Crime Scraps and I chose The Big O by Declan Burke, reviewed here
Characters are probably more important than the plot in comic crime books and in The Big O Declan's quirky creations kept me giggling for days after I had finished the book. 
I particularly liked Frank, the crap plastic surgeon, whose problems included Karen, his receptionist who moonlighted holding up gas stations, Madge his ex -wife, his demanding twin daughters, and the medical ethics committee. When Frank decides to arrange for Madge to be kidnapped in order to claim the ransom from an insurance company...... Well read the book which as well as being packed with laughs has some philosophical wisdom as well.

That's was when it finally dawned on him: it's not the way a woman looks, it's the way she looks at you.