Wolfy's European Mystery Tour
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As an LT European member I should take on this challenge. I've already joined the Reading Globally challenge so to differentiate between the two I will make this one from books which belong to the Mystery, Crime, Spy & Thriller genre(s). I may at some point do the same for the 50 States challenge.
As the element of crime will feature heavily I have stolen my country selection from RidgewayGirl's thread. There are a couple of changes though as I will split The UK not only into separate countries but also regions as I have done for the Global challenge. It is my home base after all.
Another change from my Reading Globally challenge will be that I will include books that I've already read in 2009. (I've been tracking what I read this year so why not?) Comments on the previously read books can be found on my 999 Challenge so I'm not going to re-post them here.
I will post an updated map in this post though...
create your personalized map of europe
Great Britain and Ireland
Derbyshire - Report for Murder by Val McDermid
Devon - Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles
East Sussex - Dissolution by C. J. Sansom
Greater London - Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom
Norfolk - The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry
Oxfordshire - Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
Yorkshire - Sovereign by C. J. Sansom
Antrim – Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman
Edinburgh, Falkirk & Lothian - Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
Glasgow and Renfrewshire - Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre
Highlands - One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre
Inverclyde - A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre
Ceredigion – Aberystwyth Mon Amour by Malcolm Pryce
Republic of Ireland
Galway - The Guards by Ken Bruen
Isle of Man
The Channel Islands
There is a Reading Globally challenge? Yay :)
Good separations of the countries by the way.
@9 Annie, I can't take credit for that as I just used c&p from RidgewayGirl's thread.
You can find the Global group by clicking here.
It is tempting to divide things into smaller and smaller regions! I'm going to follow your posts closely since I love European crime fiction.
Have you read any Denise Mina? She writes excellent tartan noir set in Glasgow.
11 RidgewayGirl, I haven't read any of her work. I'm presuming Garnethill would be a good place to start?
I used to stick solely to the Fantasy genre with a bit of Science Fiction thrown in for good measure so Mystery, Crime etc. remains largely an untouched scene for me. My 999 Challenge made me realise it's certainly an area I want to explore more of though so thought this would be a novel (excuse the pun) way of doing so.
Wolfy , thanks for the great european maps! It's perfect, just what I was looking for.
@15 Cheli, Again, it's not something I can take credit for. I'm not sure who's thread I snagged mine from (it could even have come from someone in the Global group) but it's certainly not an original idea from me.
Great Britain and Ireland - Oxfordshire
I read Colin Dexter's first Inspector Morse book, Last Bus to Woodstock. There's a lot wrong with the way the investigation proceeded in this story, with basic police work totally neglected in favour of following Morse's half-baked theories. Things like the murder weapon not being examined and a main witness (the man who found the body) not being investigated until over a week had gone by with no real breakthroughs in the case. Slightly annoying but not that off-putting in the overall scheme of things. A decent enough start to a series but I hope it gets better (I have the other 12 Morse books to read as the box set was quite tempting at under a tenner).
Hi essexgirl. Thanks for your suggestion, it's appreciated. I already have The Shadow of the Wind pencilled in for Spain though as it's on my TBR pile already.
How wonderful to have not yet read The Shadow of the Wind yet. I'm hoping that Zafon finishes his third installment before I reach Spain on my tour. Let us know what you think.
I will but it's also scheduled in my 1010 Category challenge so it's going to be a while before I get to it.
Great Britain and Ireland - Devon
Although set in a fictional village I am still going to use Malice Aforethought to count as representing Devon as I still feel it quite representative of the area at the time of the story. Purported to be one of the first psychological thrillers this groundbreaking work informs the reader from the outset who the murderer is. It then goes on to describe the circumstances of the how and why the plot was manifested. Told from the point of view of the protagonist with moments of real wit and cleverness that you can't quite help yourself liking him just a little.
Great Britain and Ireland - Ceredigion
Aberystwyth Mon Amour by Malcolm Pryce is a humorous mystery told in a noirish style. Imagine a Raymond Chandler novel told by Monty Python and you won't be too far wrong in describing this novel. Local night club singer and resident femme fatale hires the only P.I. in town to investigate the disappearance of her young cousin. He soon finds out that he's not the only schoolboy to go missing as the mystery deepens to involve homework and tea cosies not to mention the Druids. Pretty funny and worth the read.
Great Britain and Ireland - Antrim
First of the six counties of Northern Ireland means I can also add the UK to the main map. In Divorcing Jack we have another book not meant to be taken too seriously as we have a Belfast Journalist getting involved in politics and marital problems. This has serious repercussions for his health and record collection. Finding himself on the wrong end of a double murder charge and being hunted, not only by the police but both sides of the sectarianists as well. Of course, the only thing you can do in a situation like that is to set about clearing your name and sorting out your marriage all at the same time. The trouble is that he doesn't know why everyone (except the police) are after him and his wife has just been kidnapped.
ooo Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre I will have to see if I can find that. We have Quite Ugly One Morning read by David (sigh) Tennant on our iPods. I swear that man could make a grocery list sound interesting, so of course I am totally in love with Jack too. Too bad DT could only do so much with Whiteout by Ken Follett, I don't even think that Bruce could finish that story, but we have both listened to Quite Ugly multiple times.
I will have to keep checking back on what you are reading, you never know, I could run out of books to read and need inspiration! Not so much of a problem now that I found LT, especially from RidgewayGirl! Tartan noir - really? How am I expected to finish my steam punk outfit by July if you guys keep reading & writing about all these good books?
(Bruce's evil twin :-))
That's actually the 5th (and my least favourite but still better than average) of the Jack Parlabane series. I'm glad he moved on to some different characters and other stand-alone books though. His other series featuring Angelique de Xavia is equally as good as the other and is thoroughly recommended (so far I've read 2 out of the 3). Starts with A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away. Christopher Brookmyre has quickly become a favourite author of mine having devoured 8 of his 13 releases so far. I have 4 more in my tbr pile with the other waiting for the paperback release. Another author I've found that writes along similar lines is Colin Bateman. He has a series of books featuring a character called Dan Starkey which starts with Divorcing Jack (see a couple of messages up for my comments on this one).
I know what you mean about not running out of books, I had to buy a new bookshelf just to keep the new additions I've bought because of LT until I can add them to the read shelves.
Scandinavia and the Baltic Nations - Denmark
The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
A mystery/thriller built around people that can influence others through the power of reading. The premise of this book was really intriguing but either the translation got in the way or the author needs to learn how to pace his books a lot better and add more depth to his central characters. In the end it turns out to be a fairly standard thriller without too many surprises though I was hoping for much more.
There are some nice descriptive passages about Copenhagen and some of the locations are quite vivid. You don't really get too much of a sense for the Danish people though as the characterisations are fairly standardised for the main protagonists and the subsidiary people who seem only there to provide background noise and exposition.
Great Britain and Ireland - Highland
One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre
Brookmyre does Die Hard though on a converted oil rig instead of an office tower block. A gloriously violent start with lashings of black humour let you know what you're in for (to give you some idea of what I mean a flying arm knocks out a recently retired policeman out for a walk). Terrorists invade an oil rig that's been converted into a floating resort. Instead of the expected pre-launch party full of investors and other high-rollers they encounter a school reunion that's been 15 years in the making.
Former school non-entity, Gavin, wants to show off to all those people who took no notice while at school. He's now a successful travel entrepeneur and has developed a floating resort on an oil rig which is scheduled to be transported to off the coast of Africa. So what better place to have a reunion so that he can gloat. Events take an unexpected turn when his party is crashed by the most ragtag bunch of terrorists you've ever seen.
This book contains all the elements you'd expect from a Christopher Brookmyre novel. You may have to take some time deciphering the unfamilliar Scottish words and if you don't like violence or bad words then this book is not for you. For those that like their humour on the dark side with thrills and suspense thrown in then this is fully recommended.
The majority of this book takes place off-shore but there are a few passages in the book which describe the area around Cromarty Firth.
Great Britain and Ireland - Galway
The Guards by Ken Bruen
Jack Taylor is an ex-Garda turned private investigator. Except there are no PI's in Ireland, only people who find things. Jack usually finds them at the bottom of a bottle. With a bit of luck on some early assignments he has garnered a bit of a reputation and on this occasion is asked to look into a young girl's suicide by her mother who doesn't believe her daughter would take her own life.
This book is not really about the mystery being aimed more at a character study with less than equal parts of despair and redemption. Told from our protagonist's point of view there is plenty of self-deprecation on offer along with buckets full of dark humour to go along with it. Turns out that Jack is also a bit of a reader, especially American crime novels, and often drops a few authors names into the narrative. Some of these are also used in quotes that precede the short chapters.
Set in Ken Bruen's hometown of Galway so I'm sure everything is in its right place though most of the descriptions are saved for where the nearest pub/bar is located. There are plenty of characters which add quite a bit of local colour to proceedings though.
A great start to a series and I'll be intending to track down the next few volumes soon.
Great Britain and Ireland - Derbyshire
Report for Murder by Val McDermid
Freelance (read struggling to make ends meet) journalist, Lindsay Gordon, finds herself covering a fund-raising weekend at a girls' public school at the behest of long-time friend Patricia 'Paddy' Callaghan. Being a self-described cynical socialist lesbian feminist, it's also a chance for her to see how the silver spoon brigade are nurtured. She also desperately needed the cash that the job would bring in.
Her plans are ruined when the star turn for the concert part of the event is found murdered just moments before she's due on stage, it's time for some amateur sleuthing which turns more serios when Paddy is arrested for the crime. Teaming up with new love interest and potential suspect, author Cordelia Brown, they try and prove Paddy's innocence and track down the real killer. The police seem happy enough with their arrest and don't seem intent on doing much more about it. There's plenty of plot-twists and enough suspects to keep you guessing until the final showdown. Not a bad debut novel and I'll look forward to reading more of this series and others from the author.
The book is mainly set in and around the school but gives a pretty good assessment of the locale involved. Not many of the protagonists are locals so you don't glean much about the area from them.
Great Britain and Ireland - Greater London
Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom
The second book in a series featuring Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked lawyer, set in London during the reign of Henry VIII. This time there are two cases for him to investigate. The first arrives in the shape of murder, an old acquaintance's niece has been charged with the murder of her cousin but refuses to plead or testify. She will be forced to speak by being crushed by weights until she either does so or dies. The intervention of Thomas Cromwell gives the young lady a stay of execution at the cost of involving Shardlake in another investigation for the King's chief minister.
The secret of Greek Fire has been rediscovered but its keeper is refusing to give it up easily. Cromwell sends out the lawyer for its retrieval as he is a trusted party to both sides. When he arrives along with Jack Barak, Cromwell's appointed helper, they discover a scene of bloody murder and discover the theft of the formula.
The plot of this book has been woven into an historically accurate portrayal of the times of Reformation and you really get a sense of how things were at this point in history. A great read for fans of historical and crime fiction alike.
For some reason I'd put in the same book for London as I had in my World Tour challenge so I'm changing it for this one to keep things separate.
Western Europe - France
The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas
Former opera singer asks her three new neighbours to investigate the sudden appearance of a beech tree in her garden. Finding nothing she is somewhat reassured and returns to her normal life. Shortly afterwards though she disappears without a trace and the three young men together with one of their godfather’s, a disgraced police inspector, take it upon themselves to investigate.
The story unwinds slowly but what saves this book from the mediocre are the characters of the Three Evangelists of the title. They’re all historians but each covers a different period. Mathias is interested in pre historic man, Marc is the Middle Ages and Lucien The Great War. Marc’s godfather, Vandoosler, nicknames them after saints, Matthew Mark and Luke when they start their investigation the names stick.
In the end I liked the book and didn’t guess the ending until the reveal but it’s not one that I could easily recommend.
Although set in Paris, France you don’t get to see much of it as the story is mainly set in 2 houses and a bistro. Neither do you get much of a feel for the French from the fairly limited character set.
The Mediterranean Countries - Spain
Twelve Step Fandango by Chris Haslam
Martin Brock is close to the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to drug-dealing crime lords. He sells cocaine to holidaymakers on the Costa del Sol while living in a castle with a bunch of other of life's drop-outs and those with things to run away from. He has a dream of making one big deal and riding off into the sunset on a motorbike. It looks like this might become a reality when an old acquaintance turns up and promptly expires on his couch leaving him a bike that has a large stash of high grade cocaine hidden under the seat. The problems start when some unpleasant Frenchmen turn up and want their drugs back.
Martin is not a nice guy but everyone else we encounter in this story is even worse so when the bad things start to happen to him you can't help feel a little bit of sympathy. His plans just never seem to work out. Even his girlfriend calls him a loser. Can he survive until the end of the book? Can he come out on top if he does?
This book doesn't tell you much about the Spanish people as most of the characters are not local but it does provide a good sense of place as we wander around Andalusiain Martin's company.
I think my preconceptions about it may have tarnished my enjoyment slightly. I bought it because of the quote on the front from Christopher Brookmyre (I hope he doesn't turn into Mr. Rent-a-Quote) and was expecting something along similar lines. It doesn't quite fit in the same black humour crime-capers that he's associated with and possibly a fairer comparison would be Carl Hiaasen. You also can't say that any of the characters in that book are truly likeable but you do want to learn how it's all going to end so they must have something about them. I will also be reading the 2nd in the series soon (possibly even tonight in work) to see if it gets any better.
Scandinavia and the Baltic Nations - Iceland
Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason
The first of the Inspector Erlendur books translated into English but not the first in the series. Despite that it's very easy to pick up on the characters involved as they investigate the death of an old man. This case has tendrils that stretch back into the past as the investigation turns from a simple burglary gone wrong into something much more sinister. This is a nicely plotted detective novel and contains enough personal interplay between the main character of Erlendur and his colleagues and his daughter.
The action does take place around various locations in Iceland there isn't too much in the way of description of the locale's though you do get a little feel for the country.
Scandinavia and the Baltic Nations - Greenland
Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
When a young boy's death is pronounced as accidental Smilla knows this not the case and sets out to find what really happened and who killed him and why. Isaiah's mother is a drunk and so Smilla had often cared for him and he's one of the few people in her life that she had grown close to. Full of the dogged determination of her own mother, an Inuit hunter, she relentlessly pursues each lead in her investigation using everything at her disposal to uncover the truth.
A beautifully written thriller which doesn't gloss over the political and moral issues of Denmark's exploitation of Greenland. A terrific female lead backed up with other interesting characters that we meet along the way. While not much of the action of this book takes place in Greenland it does certainly offer a good insight into the Inuit people and their way of life so that's where I'm going to put this one.
Great Britain and Ireland - Inverclyde
A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre
Mr Brookmyre takes us back to school in an examination of why they're called your formative years. When Detective Superintendent Karen Gillespie gets the case of two bodies that have attempted to be disposed of in various ways: dissolved by acid, burned to a crisp. Neither satisfactorily so they were just left buried in a shallow grave. Due to the ineptness of those attempting the disposal it's not long before two suspects and the two bodies are identified and she realises that they all went to school together. Can she use what she knew about them then to help work out what happened now?
Into the mix comes another old school friend in the shape of Martin, he's since made it big as a media lawyer in London. One of the suspects still remembers him as the smartest kid he knew and asks him to look into the case as he thinks the police will just accept what looks to be an easy judgement and not listen to what really happened, just like the teachers from back in the day.
Most of this book deals with their school days with only quick returns to the modern day murder inquiry to spark more reminiscences. We travel all the way back to first day in Primary school and go right through to the end of school dance in 5th year. There's plenty of choice language (a dozen uses of the F-word & 2 of the C-word on the first page alone) as well as local Braeside vernacular (don't worry, there's a helpful and amusing glossary located at the end of the book) on show so you have been warned if you're tempted to pick this one up. Not the best work of Mr. Brookmyre's that I've read so far but still more enjoyable than most of the type.
Eastern Europe and Eurasia - Albania
The Successor by Ismail Kadare
This is a fictionalised account of the events surrounding the death of Mahmet Shehu (the titular character) and how it affected those involved. His place as designated heir to the Albanian leadership under question and with an enquiry paused overnight where final pronouncement is due, the successor is found dead in his home with a gunshot wound to the head. A verdict of suicide is quickly announced and despite this, or perhaps because of the speed and lack of a thorough investigation, rumours appear of it being a murder instead. Potential suspects abound, regardless that the house was all locked up, and even the Guide (Albania's leader) is thought to be involved. Is there any truth to the existence of a secret passage between their adjacent properties? Perhaps a member of the family is guilty with the daughter having to break off her engagement due to political influence.
Are there any answers to be had at all? This is the question that drives you on to the end as we hear the thoughts of the protagonists and see how subsequent events affect their own lives. Less about the geographical aspect of Albanian life we do learn of the political adherence to the Communist rule of the time as well as the fear of denunciation of the people, especially those closest to the seat of power. Note: This book was translated into English from the French which itself was translated from the original.
I have only started dipping my toe in these threads.. there is a lot to catch up on but Hi :) Also I seem to have forgotten poor old Greenland, yes its owned by Denmark but I want to read fiction set there.
Wow! Not been here for a while. A sadly neglected thread.
Central Europe - Germany
Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni
Classic hard-boiled private investigator tale that uses most of the tropes of the genre with one exception. The woman who hires Kemal Kayankaya is neither young or beautiful but she does want him to find out who killed her husband who was stabbed to death in Frankfurt's red-light district and she doesn't hold out much hope of a proper investigation by the police due to his Turkish descent. Even though he was raised by a German family, Kayankaya knows all about the prejudice received by migrants because of his own Turkish heritage. It's not too long into the investigation that he's either being threatened, beaten up or getting the girl though and all with a glib remark not far from his lips. Drugs, prostitutes and crooked cops all feature as the search for the killer continues.
This is a good, quick story that flows very well so a nod to the translator is in order. There really isn't much here to distinguish a sense of place and it really could have been set anywhere without any use of local landmarks and no discerning characteristics for the people involved. While offering up nothing wholly original it's still worth a look if you like books of this kind. I'll be adding More Beer, the 2nd in the series, to my wishlist to pick up at some point.
Great Britain and Ireland - Yorkshire
Sovereign by C. J. Sansom
With the death of Cromwell, London lawyer Matthew Shardlake has fallen out of favour. Many of his clients have taken their business elsewhere. So it's a bit of a surprise when he's offered a job by none other than Archbishop Cranmer. He's to go to York and meet the Royal Progress and help prepare the petitions that will be handed to the King. Needing the money to pay off his late father's debts, Shardlake has no option but to accept and is far from delighted when Cranmer adds another task to his duties, the welfare of a prisoner that will need to be returned to the Tower of London for questioning. So it's off to York for Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak.
The death of a glazier and the attempted poisoning of the prisoner set off a chain of events that may lead to another rebellion that threatens to overthrow the Tudor reign. As well as being caught up in the middle of these events, Shardlake also has to deal with Sir Richard Rich who wants to get Shardlake to drop a case that they are on opposing ends of. How far is he willing to go to get Shardlake out of his hair?
This mystery is woven into a well researched historical account and the author spills the beans at the close of the book as to what he's embellished or where he's taken certain things from. It's a fairly thick book but as it reads very well you don't really notice the size. Set mostly in York, this story gives a good feel for the politics and general feeling of the times as well as being historically accurate allowing the reader a real sense of place. 4½★'s
Central Europe - Hungary
The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
A Swedish journalist, Alf Matsson, has gone missing in Budapest and Martin Beck is asked to go and investigate and try to locate or discern what happened to him. Having only a month long vacation on a remote island with his wife and children to look forward to, Beck readily accepts the case and after a quick investigation of the events prior to the journalist's departure he's soon following in Matsson's footsteps by jetting off to Hungary. Initial enquiries seem to lead nowhere and it's not long before it all seems like a complete waste of time. But why is someone following him around everywhere he goes?
Budapest gives a great setting allowing the reader to dissect the character of Martin Beck while he struggles to be enthused by this new investigation. Later in the story we get to see more of the teamwork and camaraderie that was shown in the first book, Roseanna, as well as the dogged nature of the policework involved in actually solving a case like this. It's quite a low-key, almost meandering, plot and those who want a wham! bam! thank you, ma'am approach to their crime novels will probably be disappointed but for those looking for a series that develops it's leading characters as it progresses then you could do a lot worse than this one.
My copy of the book came with a nice little introduction by Val McDermid and and features about the book and on the authors (including a Q&A) and an if you liked this then you might like... snippet too. Well translated by Joan Tate. 3½★'s
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