Friday, July 08, 2011


Crime Scraps is moving to Crime Scraps Review.

All my old posts have already made the journey to the new blog, and new posts will appear there. But I will post the result of the Win a Camilleri Competition at the new blog.

I hope you will join me at Crime Scraps Review.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Those kind people at Pan Macmillan have sent me a paperback edition of Andrea Camilleri's The Wings of The Sphinx, and the hardback of The Track of Sand.

The Wings of the Sphinx reviewed here is short listed for this years CWA International Dagger.

The Track of Sand, reviewed here, is the 12th book in the superbly entertaining Inspector Montalbano series.

Just answer the questions in this short quiz, and email your answers to by 31 July.
I will draw a winner and a runner up from the correct answers, and the winner can choose which of the two books they will receive.

1] What happened on Via Fani in Rome on 16 March 1978?

2] Name the crime writer who wrote a book about the events of 16 March, and its aftermath, and who was born in Racalmuto, Sicily?

3] Who was the Italian novelist, dramatist and Noble Prize winner for literature who was born in Agrigento, Sicily?

4] Many of the events on the Italian Front [1915-1918] in the Great War have almost been fogotten, but two of the most famous people of the twentieth century were involved in that Italian conflict.
One was an ambulance driver, and one a sergeant in the medical corp was a stretcher-bearer. Who were they?

5] Who was the poet, journalist, novelist, dramatist and self proclaimed superman whose followers seized the city of Fiume on 12 September 1919?

Good Luck.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Last night I watched the BBC/Open University program Made in Britain presented by Evan Davis.
We were smugly told that Britain's move into high value production and service industries was the only way to go.

I immediately thought of the passage in Philip Kerr's Field Grey.

'I don't like the criminals who break the law,' I said.
'What other kind are there?'
'The kind that make the law. It's the Hindenburgs and the Schleichers of this world who are doing more to screw the Republic than the commies or the Nazis put together.'

A smiling, almost smirking at times, Evan Davis suggested a future for the country based on building fighter aircraft for countries that could well use them against us, constructing and selling McLaren MP4-12C cars at £167,000 a throw, designing hotels with helipads in Dubai, selling £25,000,000 plus houses in London to super rich Russian oligarchs, financial services, and selling intellectual property rights.

If you are not an estate agent to the super rich, or an automotive engineer, you can always get a job in a call centre, a fast food outlet, or as a servant.
But if you want to study to be a doctor there might not be a place for you because the University has sold it to the highest bidder from abroad.
We have become in Evan's words "a host nation". An interesting choice of words.

A host: a person or animal on or in which a parasite or commensal organism lives.

*With apologies to Benjamin Disraeli. [Photos-Harrods and somewhere near Wandsworth]

Monday, July 04, 2011


Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends.


Thobela "Tiny" Mpayipheli, a Xhosa, is a former soldier trained in Russia and the old East Germany. When his eight year old adopted son Pakamile is killed in a filling station hold- up he seeks justice in the courts. When that fails him he takes on a mission to get justice for all abused children in the only way he knows.
Thobela is a damaged individual, and so are the other two main characters in the story.
Benny Griessel, an alcoholic who has been thrown out of the house by his wife Anna. He was once a great detective, but now he struggles with his demons. He must remain sober for six months for Anna to take him back into the family home. But Benny has seen too many dead bodies and has a bitterness within him.

'Look here. This is a white skin. What does it mean? Twenty-six years in the Force and it means fuck all. It's not the booze-I'm not stuck in the rank of inspector because of the booze.'

Benny has the task of tracking down an assegai wielding vigilante, while he copes with his alcoholism, media pressure and rivalries between the various departments of the Force.

Christine van Rooyen is a beautiful blonde prostitute who has a young daughter. She has chosen that life for the money and for the feeling of power over men that it gives her. But she is as damaged as Thobela and Benny. When Christine gets a regular client who can't be controlled, the three strands of the story will meet in a violent ending.

Devil's Peak is a novel that goes a beyond the usual thriller to study the problems of three individuals, and through them the deep problems of a beautiful but damaged country.
South Africa the rainbow nation, or South Africa, a country with rampant crime, AIDS, and interracial strife? Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaner, English, Cape Coloured, Asian.
Deon Meyer weaves the three strands of the story together with great skill, moving back and forth in time to explain events while keeping up the tension. The translator K.L.Seegers has left just enough Afrikaaner expressions in the narrative to give us real atmosphere while not making the mistake of overdoing it.

Devil's Peak is a fantastic read and shows crime fiction is an ideal medium for discussing serious problems. In this book the reader is informed about child abuse, the lives of prostitutes, the effect of affirmative action, the complex racial and linguistic mix in South Africa, drug gangs, and the devastating results of alcohol abuse. It is a sobering read.

I am not surprised Devil's Peak won the 2010 Martin Beck Prize awarded for the best foreign crime fiction translated into Swedish.
Deon Meyer, who was shortlisted for the International Dagger in 2010 for Thirteen Hours, is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors, and I await his next book Trackers with great anticipation.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


No reviews at the moment because I am half way through one excellent police procedural, and three quarters of the way through an exciting and intelligent thriller.
I don't normally read two books at once, as that would require too much effort from the old brain box. But when we were ready to depart on a short visit to friends [a teasing clue to their location is in the photo] I decided that although I was really enjoying reading the bulky paperback of Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder perhaps it was too big to carry.

I took my Kindle instead because:

1] It weighed less and fits into a bag more easily.
2] I have the version with a light, which means that if I could not sleep in a strange bed I would be able to read.
3] The fact that the font size can be increased for easy reading is one of the major reasons I purchased a Kindle.

The book I started reading while away Devil's Peak by Deon Meyer was recommended by Karen at Euro Crime some while ago, but when I looked at a paperback copy the font seemed miniscule. That made it an ideal choice for purchase on the Kindle.

So while I still like the feel of real books the Kindle is becoming essential for reading anything with small fonts.

Devil's Peak won the Martin Beck Award in 2010 [for crime fiction translated into Swedish] beating books by Arnaldur Indridason and Reginald Hill.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


There are many houses in England's glorious small towns and villages that seem designed for Miss Jane Marple. Pity about the TV aerial.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


At the start of the seventh book in the Bernie Gunther thriller series it is 1954, and Bernie trying to escape from Cuba is arrested by the US Navy. He is taken to Guantanamo, and then on to New York and Germany, where ironically he finds himself in Cell number 7 at the Landsberg Prison, once occupied by Hitler after his failed Munich Putsch in 1923.
I should warn readers that the front flap synopsis in my hardback copy bears very little resemblance to the actual plot of the book. Possibly the reason for this is that the plot is incredibly complex. I found it a little difficult to follow at times, but that said it is a brilliant novel full of moral ambiguities, difficult compromises, and thought provoking wisecracks from Bernie.
As Bernie is interrogated by his captors, the reader is taken back in various flashbacks to Berlin 1931, France 1940, Minsk 1941 [a particularly horrific part of the story concerning the Einsatzgruppen], and Russia 1945-1946 [when Bernie was a prisoner of war of the Russians].

'Be reasonable, Bernie.'
'These men-Himmler, Heydrich, Muller-they're fanatics. You can't reason with fanatics.'

Bernie is valuable because he can identify Erich Mielke, a real life character, who became Minister of State Security in the German Democratic Republic from 1957-1958, and who was wanted for the murders of two policeman in Berlin in 1931. I always find the pre-war sections of the Bernie Gunther books where Bernie is staunchly anti-Nazi an easier read than the later scenarios, and this book is no exception.

There is an almost overwhelming amount of historical facts within the pages of this book, and sometimes the information is disconcerting.

'Ordinarily, I should send him to the SS quartermaster for an off-the-peg Hugo Boss uniform, but he'll be travelling on the Fuhrer's personal train, so he'll need to look smart.'

But the title Field Grey might not only refer to the uniform Bernie wears but also the shades of grey, and levels of innocence and guilt of the participants.
Hitler, Stalin, Heydrich, Nazis, Germans, Russians, Byelorussians, SS, Gestapo, NKVD, MVD, Stasi, CIA, SDEC [French counter espionage service], French SS, and Vichy all come out of this story with varying amount of blood on their hands.
Reading about all this evil is very unpleasant, but I wonder if our present day politicians could learn something from reading about the past and perhaps avoid the mistakes that they seem to be repeating today.

From the author's notes: Of these [the twenty-four Einsatzgruppen defendants] thirteen were sentenced to death with four hanged on 7 June 1951. Of the remaining twenty all had been released or paroled by 1958. A fact I continue to find incredible.

There are crime fiction series where the author runs out of ideas, but if there is a fault in this superb account of Europe in turmoil it is that in Bernie Gunther's seventh outing there are just too many ideas, too much double dealing and too many historical facts to be fully absorbed in one reading.
Field Grey may not be an easy read, but it is another fine addition to a series that is both educational and thought provoking.

'I don't like criminals who break the law,' I said.
'What other kind are there?'
'The kind that make the law. It's the Hindenburgs and Schleichers of this world who are doing more to screw the Republic than the commies and the Nazis put together.'

The Bernie Gunther series with links to my reviews.

A German Requiem
The One from the Other