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The Times and Sunday Times
Thursday October 31 2019 | Issue 53
Crime Club
Karen Robinson
By Karen Robinson
 
Winter draws on, as they say in the best circles, and what better way to spend the darkling days than curled up with a cracking good thriller? Luckily the crime writing community has obliged with a new crop of terrific novels. See our November picks, and you might also want to catch up on some European writers who should be better known than they are, selected for Crime Club by one of the genre’s leading authorities. And what goes well with a good book? A piping hot cup of tea, of course (other beverages are available). And now you can imbibe yours from a Crime Club mug — see below for details about what’s bound to become a treasured family heirloom, yours for just six quid.

■ Find previous issues of Crime Club here
Karen Robinson
The Sunday Times
 
Q&A: Abir Mukherjee
 
Death in the East, the fourth book in your Raj series featuring Sam Wyndham and “Surrender-not” Banerjee of the Calcutta police, features a classic Golden Age set-up: the locked-room murder. What did you learn about writing from those books?
My first taste of crime fiction was reading Agatha Christie’s books and being transported to the country houses of the 1920s and 30s, and for me, the best country-house mysteries are the locked-room murders. Not only must you work out who the killer is, but also how the crime could possibly have been committed in the first place. Penning a locked-room mystery felt like a rite of passage. It just took me four years to come up with a means of murder which hadn’t been done before.

The book began as my tribute to Christie. But as I was writing, I became troubled by what was going on in the UK, especially the growth of anger and extremism and the erosion of tolerance and decency. I find this hard to reconcile with the Britain I know and love (I grew up near Glasgow). Suddenly, while writing a historical crime thriller set in India, I felt I needed to write something which reflected my Britain: far from perfect, but it stood up to the likes of Oswald Mosley and rejected Enoch Powell.

Is that why, though your usual fictional territory is 1920s India, Death in the East moves between there and London?
I find it fascinating that the East End of London, which today is home to Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants, was also home to Eastern European Jews, fleeing persecution 100 years ago. Over time, those immigrants, their families and descendants have become part of the fabric of British life. The same has happened with many other communities including my own, and it will happen with these new immigrants. I set half of the novel in the East End of 1905 because I wanted to show that we have been here before and that we have risen to the challenge.

Meanwhile in India, Sam Wyndham has become hooked on opium — did this happen to many westerners?
More than you’d imagine. There were even temperance campaigns against opium addiction. And opium smoking was common enough that phrases linked to it have made their way into everyday parlance. “Pipe dreams” were originally the hallucinations experienced when smoking the opium pipe, while “going cold turkey” referred to the goose-flesh which occurred with opium withdrawal.

Your books describe the way many Brits behaved towards the Indians during the Raj — Sam seems a flawed but decent exception. How realistic is he?
I’m an optimist. I hope Sam is less of an exception than you might think. There are some great accounts of the friendships which developed between individual Indians and Brits, and while many British people did treat Indians abominably, I think there were probably a lot who struggled with their consciences when they realised the truth about their empire. Read George Orwell’s Burmese Days to see that at least some Brits were immensely troubled by the racist system and attitudes of their compatriots.

Sam is unlucky in affairs of the heart — but could he ever have a relationship with an Indian woman?
Why not? It was frowned upon, but it did happen, and Sam isn’t the sort who cares much for public opinion. There are always people who see through the prejudices of their time. Isn’t that how things change for the better? As for Sam’s romantic prospects — I hope things improve for him, but I’m not holding my breath.

Tell us a secret.
Scotland are going to win the next World Cup.

Tell us a joke.
Scotland are going to win the next World Cup.

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee is published by Harvill Secker on November 14. Read first chapter / Buy it here
Win five Deon Meyer books
 
Deon Meyer is crime fiction’s most compelling South African voice with fast-paced thrillers featuring police captain Benny Griessel. In Meyer’s sixth Griessel book, The Last Hunt, translated from Afrikaans by KL Seegers, the action starts with a cold case — did an ex-cop really jump from South Africa’s most luxurious train? — and an assassination attempt. Publisher Hodder & Stoughton is offering five Crime Club readers a chance to win the first five books in the series: Devil’s Peak, Thirteen Hours, 7 Days, Cobra, and Icarus, all translated by KL Seegers. Enter here by Friday, November 8. Winners will be picked at random.
What’s Europe ever done for us?
 
Barry Forshaw, author of the new Crime Fiction: a Reader’s Guide, points us towards his top six European writers

Italy
Gianrico Carofiglio

The author is a brave man: a former anti-Mafia judge in Puglia who has taken on the powerful and lethal corruption that is endemic in Italy. His debut novel, Involuntary Witness, begins with the discovery of a child’s body in a well at a southern Italian beach resort. A Senegalese peddler is arraigned for sexual assault and murder, but series hero Defence Counsel Guido Guerrieri realises that the truth is more complex as he uncovers systemic racism and judicial corruption.
Involuntary Witness by Gianrico Carofiglio, translated by Patrick Creagh, is published by Bitter Lemon Press. Read first chapter / Buy it here

France
Dominique Manotti

The French crime writer, economic historian and winner of the 2011 Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, writes thrillers that feel plugged into the hidden levers of power. In Affairs of State, a murdered prostitute — whose incendiary black book contains the names of her upscale international clientele — is found murdered in an underground garage; a plane bound for Iran laden with illegal arms disappears from the skies over Turkey; and the president’s closest adviser, head of a controversial Elysée security unit, illegally manipulates the system with consummate ease. Rookie investigator Noria Ghozali is determined to untangle the threads.
Affairs of State by Dominique Manotti, translated by Ros Schwartz & Amanda Hopkinson, is published by Arcadia Books. Read first chapter / Buy it here

Sweden
Liza Marklund

Marklund shares the sobriquet of the “godmother” of modern Scandi noir with Maj Sjowall, though Marklund is much younger. The latter’s taut Lifetime is typically unadorned and begins with the most famous police officer in Sweden found murdered in his bed — and his son missing. It’s a characteristically lean and focused example of Marklund’s series featuring investigative reporter Annika Bengtzon.
Lifetime by Liza Marklund translated by Neil Smith, is published by Corgi. Buy it here

Germany
Jakob Arjouni

Achieving literary acclaim at the age of 20 is not always the soundest of moves, but Jakob Arjouni was able to parlay the rapturous reception for his first Frankfurt-based crime novel into a highly successful career, leaving behind an impressive corpus of work upon his death in 2013 at the age of 48. These included a further four of the quirky private eye novels featuring his Turkish detective working in Frankfurt, Kemal Kayankaya. Arjouni dealt provocatively with such issues as the Balkan wars and, in One Man, One Murder, sex trafficking.
One Man, One Murder by Jakob Arjouni, translated by Anselm Hollo, is published by No Exit Press. Read first chapter / Buy it here

Spain
Antonio Hill

Hill’s The Summer of Dead Toys became a sensation in Spain in 2011. Inspector Hector Salgado has been brutally beaten by a suspect in a case he was involved in. The investigation had touched upon two risky subjects: paedophile rings and voodoo worshippers. But the beleaguered policeman’s enforced leave of absence is not to bring him peace as he undertakes an unofficial enquiry into the circumstances behind the death of a student.
The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio Hill, translated by Laura McGloughlin, is published by Doubleday. Read first chapter / Buy it here

Holland
Simone van der Vlugt

Simone van der Vlugt’s Safe as Houses sold a million copies in Holland. When a man forces his way into Lisa’s house, taking both her and her young daughter hostage, a terrifying experience ensues. Psychological suspense, rich in frisson-producing effect. The Dutch novelist also writes young adult fiction, and an adult detective series starring sleuth Lois Elzinga is based in Alkmaar — where Vlugt lives.
Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt, translated by Michele Hutchison, is published by Canongate Books. Read first chapter / Buy it here

Poland
Marek Krajewski

Atmosphere and piquant period detail saturate the pages of Krajewski’s novels set in pre-war Wroclaw (known then as Breslau), pushing him into the upper echelons of literary crime fiction. His cynical, sybaritic anti-hero Eberhard Mock — with his eternally unslaked appetites and cruel brutality to his beautiful wife Sophie — moves in a privileged, decadent society. The first in the series, The End of the World in Breslau, kicks off a ferocious odyssey.
The End of the World in Breslau by Marek Krajewski, translated by Danusia Stok, is published by MacLehose Press. Read first chapter / Buy it here

Denmark
Jussi Adler-Olsen

Adler-Olsen’s thrillers ratchet up the tension to almost unbearable levels, with Carl Morck’s seemingly maladroit assistant Assad — utterly lacking in social skills but possessed of an astonishingly counterintuitive intellect — intriguing the reader as much as the burnt-out copper. Not much can be given away about the plot of Mercy: suffice it to say that, just when the reader thinks the torments visited on a woman incarcerated in a bizarre chamber couldn’t get any worse, that’s just what they do.
Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen, translated by Lisa Hartford, is published by Penguin. Read first chapter / Buy it here

Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide by Barry Forshaw is published by No Exit Press. Read the introduction by Ian Rankin here / Buy it here. Pictured: Alain Delon as a Parisian hitman in Le Samourai
Order your Crime Club mug
 
The ideal Christmas gift for the crime fans in your life, these exquisite limited-edition Crime Club mugs come in three colourways: the classic noir logo; the dramatic scarlet logo; or the racy red and, er, noir logo. Why not have one of each? Only £6 each, or £30 for a set of six. Order yours here — hurry, while stocks last.
Our November picks
The Night Fire by Michael Connelly
Orion
Three Connelly heroes for the price of one here, as Bosch gets involved with helping his half-brother Mickey “Lincoln Lawyer” Haller, and working a cold case with his new unofficial partner, Renee Ballard. Bosch, retired from LAPD, is showing his age, what with his walking stick, but his detecting instincts are undimmed as he does what it takes to get justice for the dead. The stories weave into a multi-plot, which muffles the impact somewhat, but nobody writes Los Angeles street life better than Connelly.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Cold Fear by Mads Peder Nordbo, translated by Charlotte Barslund
Text Publishing
Nordbo returns to the icy wastes of Greenland to create another dramatic mystery for Danish journalist Matthew Cave and Tuypaarnaq Siegstad, a young Inuit woman. Opening with a disappearance that leaves a smear of blood on the snow as the only clue, the pair are rapidly involved in digging into the murky past, where the geopolitics of the remote and inhospitable region may provide some troubling answers.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Under Occupation by Alan Furst
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Paris in 1942 is under Nazi occupation and Paul Ricard, a writer of Ambleresque thrillers, is drawn into the real world of spying and subterfuge to work with British agents and the resistance. His Polish sidekick Kasia is brave and resourceful, but he must (and does) look elsewhere for erotic encounters. Furst’s army of devotees will recognise the territory immediately: the reluctant hero, the minxy women, the murky blurring of battle lines and the atmosphere of a city under siege, where trust is in as short supply as decent cheese — the tiny, telling details take us there. Fans will love it; new readers can start here.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
The Lure by Felice Picano
Muswell Press
This was something of a sensation when first published in 1979. After he witnesses a brutal killing, Noel, a young (and handsome) sociology lecturer still grieving his drowned wife, gets whisked into a mysterious undercover police operation that sends him into the gay clubs and bars of New York to flush out an elusive killer. As he explores dives with names like Le Pissoir, his academic detachment, which delivers a running analysis of the city’s gay culture, starts to slip and he finds himself caught up with violence that sees the body count mount in a milieu that Picano, one of the founders of American gay literature, brings to pungent life.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
★ Star pick
The Scorched Earth by Rachael Blok
Head of Zeus
Richly-textured follow-up to Blok’s St Albans-set debut, Under the Ice, has Dutch DCI Maarten Jansen in a close call with personal tragedy, while the discovery of a body forces him and his colleagues to revisit a family murder that they thought was solved. The wife of the jailed killer appears to be holding onto damaging secrets, and everyone is sweating their way through the 2018 heatwave. An engrossing and twisty procedural.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Unknown Male by Nicolas Obregon
Michael Joseph
Hard-boiled Japan-set noir doesn’t get any darker or more twisted than this, as tortured cop Kosuke Iwata — with Brit detective Anthea Lynch his only ally — hunts the murderer of a British student in a seedy “love hotel”, while a salaryman plumbs new depths of sadistic depravity beyond even the reaches of the ever-inventive Tokyo sex trade. Not for the faint-hearted.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson
Faber & Faber
The real Josephine Tey was a terrific author of knotty mysteries. Upson’s Josephine Tey is a mystery heroine to cheer: a cool, clever writer, independent of thought, sexuality and income, concealing all manner of deep emotional waters. In this latest outing for the fictional Tey, she and her partner Marta find themselves in 1930s Charleston with the Bloomsbury crowd, investigating a troubling incident at the remote Sussex farmhouse two decades earlier when it was a girls’ gardening school.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Berge by Jan Kjaerstad, translated by Janet Garton
Norvik Press
Hot off the academic press that specialises in Nordic writing, this Norwegian psychological thriller in three voices has literary ambitions beyond the mere resolution of a terrible crime. A charismatic left-wing politician and members of his family circle are slaughtered in a ferocious knife attack at his country cottage, and the aftermath is related by the journalist who’s just written his biography, the judge presiding over the murder trial — and the accused, a young man with connections to the family. Intriguing deep dive into three individual characters, and a clever deconstruction of the certainties of the courtroom drama.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver
Orenda Press
Heavy gusts of bedsit nihilism usher in this strange mystery, in which groups of unconnected people gather at London landmarks and top themselves. The narrator attributes their extreme anomie to the meaningless, loveless grind of modern life. But is it a cult? Do they have a leader? DS Pace, trying to keep paranoia at bay and prove himself fit to return to police duty, seizes on the case — and his investigations lead in a frighteningly unexpected direction. Weirdly page-turning.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
★ Star pick
The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell
Orion
Matt Buchanan speaks in the — expletive laden — voice of the true cop, and lets it really get to him when young women are hurt. Blackwell, a former New Zealand detective himself, has created an exceptionally realistic main character who feels like a bloke you could know and like. This debut police procedural — full of authentic detail — is impeccably plotted up and down a lengthy timeline against its Kiwi setting, from stunning scenery to meth labs, and delves deep into some terrible crimes and one man’s refusal to let them go unpunished.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Galway Girl by Ken Bruen
Head of Zeus
The comedy sprite of Irish noir delivers a seductive concoction as his wry hard-boiled hero battles a smoking hot female psychopath bent on murder and mayhem in Galway. Ex-cop Jack Taylor, with his almost-constant companion, a glass of “Jay”, dodges the threats and tries to keep up with the rapidly rising number of dead bodies. Acerbic commentary on the current scene in post-Tiger Ireland, plenty of literary references and razor sharp dialogue create the sense of being in on some fine pub banter.
Read first chapter
Buy this book >
Win five Mark Timlin books
 
Mark Timlin is the creator of one of British noir’s most memorable characters, south London gumshoe Nick Sharman. Now there’s a new collection of Sharman short stories, Reap the Whirlwind, which puts him and his copper pal DI Robber (really) ducking, diving and rocking in the London underworld of the 1990s. Publisher No Exit Press is offering three Crime Club readers the chance to win five novels from Timlin’s Sharman backlist: A Good Year for the Roses, Take the A Train, The Turnaround, Zip Gun Boogie and Hearts of Stone. Enter here by Friday, November 8. Winners will be picked at random.
Crimewave: the latest books news
 
■ A final (final) farewell: when superstar of crime writing Margery Allingham (pictured) died in 1966 at the age of just 62, her last Albert Campion mystery was completed by her husband and published two years later. But now there’s more: author Mike Ripley discovered another unfinished manuscript and has turned it into Mr Campion’s Farewell, sending the sharp-eyed sleuth to uncover all manner of goings on in the quaint Suffolk village of Lindsay Carfax. Published by Blackthorn on November 7. Read first chapter / Buy it here

■ Do you turn pages, or swipe them? No Exit Press, which boasts authors including Bill Beverly, Leigh Russell and James Sallis, picked up the gong for Best Crime Publisher at the Crime Writers’ Association awards last week. They’re making more than 200 of their titles available in ebook format, and Crime Club readers can join the No Exit Book Club with the first month’s £7.95 membership fee reduced to 99p. Sign up here.

■ The wild grandpas of Scandi noir: two writers more or less invented crime fiction in the Nordic lands. In 1903, Palle Rosenkrantz published The Forest Lake Mystery, the first Danish detective novel. He had inherited his father’s title at the age of six, became a bankrupt and narrowly avoided prosecution for nicking public funds. Six years later, Norwegian Stein Riverton published The Iron Chariot, in which two violent deaths are connected to a ghostly legend. Riverton also couldn’t keep his hands out of the till, but he became a sensational newspaper reporter who interviewed Adolf Hitler and spent a day in a lion’s cage. Lightning Books has brought out new versions of these classics.
Read the first chapter of The Iron Chariot, translated by Lucy Moffatt / Buy it here. Read the first chapter of The Forest Lake Mystery, translated by David Young / Buy it here
Win four Simon Kernick books
 
Ray Mason and Tina Boyd, Simon Kernick’s detective duo, have been through a lot together, including a passionate love affair. In Kernick’s new novel Die Alone, a career-ending debacle has Mason awaiting trial for murder, and he has to enlist his old partner to take on a dangerous foe: a well-connected politician who is in with a chance of becoming prime minister, but just can’t resist young women — and can’t stop killing them. Publisher Cornerstone is offering five Crime Club readers the chance to win four classic Kernick titles: three Mason and Boyds — The Bone Field, The Hanged Man, and The Witness — plus We Can See You, a standalone thriller. Enter here by Friday, November 8. Winners will be picked at random.
Crime in the papers
 
■ John le Carré was on top form this month, hitting back at ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove, who accused the author of corrosive “counter-intelligence nihilism”. All excellent publicity for le Carré’s latest novel, Agent Running in the Field. Read the reviews by Robbie Millen and Alexander Nurnberg

■ In Black Sun by Owen Matthews, the KGB visits a 1960s nuclear weapons lab to investigate a suspicious death, says Joan Smith
Read the full story

■ John Grisham’s The Guardians is a multistranded thriller set in the American South, says John Dugdale
Read the full story

■ Wild Finnish caper and death in Sixties Brighton intrigue Mark Sanderson
Read the full story

■ Blue Moon by Lee Child is a revenge fantasy that packs a punch, says Dominic Maxwell
Read the full story
Crime & thriller bestsellers
 
Hardbacks
1
No Mercy by Martina Cole
2 Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré
3 The Guardians by John Grisham
4 The Institute by Stephen King
5 19th Christmas by James Patterson
6 Ghost Fire by Wilbur Smith & Tom Harper
7 Nothing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer
8 Many Rivers to Cross by Peter Robinson
9 The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
10 Whatever It Takes by Andy McNab

Paperbacks
1
18th Abduction by James Patterson
2 Dead at First Sight by Peter James
3 My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
4 The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
5 My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
6 Tombland by CJ Sansom
7 Lies Lies Lies by Adele Parks
8 Sleep by CL Taylor
9 Sea of Greed by Clive Cussler & Graham Brown
10 The Reckoning by John Grisham

Lists prepared and supplied by and copyright to Nielsen BookScan, taken from the TCM for the four weeks ending 26/10/2019
 
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