Thursday, 21 June 2018


I've not read too much crime fiction from Scandinavia over recent years. More intent on stock-piling than actually reading them. I have six different authors from Norway to get my teeth into at some point....

Gunnar Staalesen, Karin Fossum, Jo Nesbo, K.O. Dahl, Anne Holt and Jorn Lier Horst

K.O. Dahl - The Fourth Man (2007)

Dahl is an unknown quantity - this has sat on the pile for a fair few years, along with the second in the series.

In the course of a routine police raid, Detective Inspector Frank Frolich of the Oslo Police saves Elizabeth Faremo from getting inadvertently caught in crossfire. By the time he learns that she is the sister of Jonny Faremo, wanted member of a larceny gang, it is already too late. He is obsessed. Suspected, suspended, and blindly in love, Frolich must find out if he is being used before his life unravels beyond repair.

Gunnar Staalesen - The Writing on the Wall (1995 - probably later in translation) 

Enjoyed something from Staalesen about a year ago - Wolves in the Dark, but I've not rushed back to him.

In this crime drama, set in Bergen, Norway, detective Varg Veum's adventures take him into a dark world of privileged citizens who have been drawn into cross-dressing, drugs, and prostitution. When the local judge is discovered dead and clad only in women's lingerie in a luxury hotel, Varg is called in to explain the judge's death. Soon, when a teenage girl suddenly goes missing and her parents ask that he find her,Varg finds that all of the clues lead him deeper into Bergen's criminal underworld.

Karin Fossum - Don't Look Back (2002)

Another author I thought I might have read, but I was wrong  - confusing her with Sweden's Karin Alvtegen, doh....

Beneath the imposing Kollen Mountain lies a small village where the children run in and out of one another's houses and play unafraid in the streets. But the sleepy village is like a pond through which not enough water runs - beneath the surface it is beginning to stagnate. When a naked body is found by the lake at the top of the mountain, its seeming tranquility is disturbed forever. Enter Inspector Sejer, a tough, no-nonsense policeman whose own life is tinged by sadness. As the suspense builds, and the list of suspects grows, Sejer's determination to discover the truth will lead him to peel away layer upon layer of distrust and lies, in this tiny community where apparently normal family ties hide dark secrets. Critically acclaimed across Europe, Karin Fossum's novels evoke a world that is terrifyingly familiar. Don't Look Back introduces the tough, ethical Inspector Sejer to British readers for the first time.

Anne Holt- 1222 (2007)

Another speculative punt in the dark. I've heard of this series, but only bought this one which I liked the sound of.

1222 metres above sea level, train 601 from Oslo to Bergen careens of iced rails as the worst snowstorm in Norwegian history gathers force around it. Marooned in the high mountains with night falling and the temperature plummeting, its 269 passengers are forced to abandon their snowbound train and decamp to a centuries-old mountain hotel. They ought to be safe from the storm here, but as dawn breaks one of them will be found dead, murdered. With the storm showing no sign of abating, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. But Hanne has no wish to get involved. She has learned the hard way that truth comes at a price and sometimes that price just isn't worth paying. Her pursuit of truth and justice has cost her the love of her life, her career in the Oslo Police Department and her mobility: she is paralysed from the waist down by a bullet lodged in her spine. Trapped in a wheelchair, trapped by the killer within, trapped by the deadly storm outside, Hanne's growing unease is shared by everyone in the hotel. Should she investigate, or should she just wait for help to arrive? And all the time rumours swirl about a secret cargo carried by train 601. Why was the last carriage sealed? Why is the top floor of the hotel locked down? Who or what is being concealed? And, of course, what if the killer strikes again?

Jo Nesbo - Phantom (2012)

Read a few Nesbo's but only one Harry Hole so far - The Bat - 5 1/2 years ago!

When Harry left Oslo again for Hong Kong - fleeing the traumas of life as a cop - he thought he was there for good. But then the unthinkable happened. The son of the woman he loved, lost, and still loves is arrested for murder: Oleg, the boy Harry helped raise but couldn't help deserting when he fled. Harry has come back to prove that Oleg is not a killer. Barred from rejoining the police force, he sets out on a solitary, increasingly dangerous investigation that takes him deep into the world of the most virulent drug to ever hit the streets of Oslo (and the careers of some of the city's highest officials), and into the maze of his own past, where he will find the wrenching truth that finally matters to Oleg, and to himself.

Jorn Lier Horst - Dregs (2011)

Liked the cover, liked the blurb, bought the book, shelved it, forgot it.

Meet Chief Inspector William Wisting, Head of CID in Larvik, Norway, the latest unforgettable import from Scandinavian crime fiction. An experienced policeman who is familiar with the dark side of human nature, he lives in challenging times for the Norwegian police force, meeting them with integrity and humanity, and a fragile belief that he can play a part in creating a better world. A police report of a shoe containing a severed foot washed up on the sand introduces CI William Wisting. Soon a second is washed up, but it is another left. Has there been some kind of terrible accident at sea? Does it indicate the killing and dismembering of two victims? Is there a link with the unsolved mystery of a number of disappearances in the Larvik area in recent months? In this gripping police procedural, Wisting gradually gets to the bottom of the mystery with the help of his all too human colleagues and his journalist daughter, Line.



Cornell Woolrich, best known as the author of Rear Window, is unsurpassed in his ability to create and sustain sheer suspense. In his tales of terror, ordinary people find themselves in the most extraordinary circumstances and, as readers, we share their spine tingling tension every step of the way. Here, collected for the first time, are four of his most nail biting novellas.

Eyes That Watch You

Greedy Vera Miller plots her husband’s murder right under the nose of her mute, paralyzed mother-in-law. After all, the old lady won’t be able to tell anyone about the crime. Or will she?

The Night I Died

Nice guy Ben Cook, goaded by his scheming common-law wife, fakes his own suicide and moves to another town—all to trick his life insurance company into making a large payout. No one en route or at the new address will recognize him, will they?

You’ll Never See Me Again

Ed Bliss’s new bride, miffed by her husband’s insults about her biscuits, promises that Ed will never have to see her again—and storms out! When she doesn’t return within a few days, Ed begins to suspect foul play—but when he reports the crime to the police, he’s the first one they suspect!

Murder Always Gathers Momentum

For his wife’s sake, Dick Paine approaches a former employer for back wages he is owed—but things go terribly wrong and the old boss ends up dead. Now the guilt-ridden Paine, who’d never before committed a crime, is convinced that people will figure out what happened. As his paranoia gathers momentum, anyone he meets is at risk of becoming his next victim. 

A collection published in 2010, but all the stories were from the 30s and early 40s. I've not read anything from Cornell Woolrich before and was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed these - a helluva lot more than I was expecting to.

My favourite was You'll Never See Me Again. A newly wed couple have a row over her biscuits, harsh words are exchanged, pride gets in the way and the wife walks out. Anger, turns to regret and worry. The wife has vanished. A visit to the parents, a few odd incidents, a report to the police, a frenzied car journey or two, a race against time, and a sort of happy ever after. Humorous to begin with, followed by ratcheting tension. I liked how seemingly innocuous details in the story, acquired significance later on when the puzzle is resolved.

Eyes That Watch You was clever. Murder is planned in front of a helpless witness. The woman is paralysed and unable to speak, she hears her daughter-in-law plot to kill her son with her lover. An event which happens. Patience, intelligence and respect all play a part in bringing justice to bear.

Murder Always Gathers Momentum read a bit like one of Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected with the twist at the end. A couple of incorrect assumptions and a lack of bravery lead a good man to make a wrong choice and the end result is murder; with an ever-increasing sense of paranoia and an escalation as events spiral out of control. One death begets another and another. The final twist is just one more nail in our protagonist, Dick Paine's coffin - a somewhat ironic nail.

An insurance scam, a faked suicide, a plotting, calculated wife, an unfortunate meeting, an untimely newspaper report - crime doesn't pay in The Night I Died.

I liked Woolrich's writing. I wasn't too concerned about figuring out how things would get resolved at the end of each story, I was content to enjoy the ride and see where the author took me. I enjoyed the fact that the resolutions to the stories were varied. There's a couple where there is a happy ever after of sorts, but no actual fairy tale ending. A loved one has died, loss is endured and justice is delivered to the perpetrators. The outcome is as good as it gets. In the other two, a couple of ordinary Joes discover the hard way that breaking the law can have some harsh outcomes. An event, an unintended consequence, some panic and some poor choices from which there's no turning back.

4.5 from 5

Cornell Woolrich was fairly prolific during the 20s, 30s and 40s. He also wrote under the names George Hopley and William Irish. He died in 1968.

I have a couple of his novels on the pile, which I'm looking forward to with a bit more enthusiasm than before - The Bride Wore Black and I Married a Dead Man.

Read in June, 2018
Published - 2010 (previously separately, 1936, 1939 x 2, 1940)
Page count - 192
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


Another Wednesday and a couple of books from the 70s and Joseph Hansen

Hansen wrote a dozen or so books featuring a gay insurance investigator - Dave Brandstetter.

The first - Fadeout was published in 1970 with the others following at regular intervals up to the early 90s.

Hansen according to Fantastic Fiction website wrote about 40 books in his lifetime, but only 20-odd are listed on the site. He died in 2004.

His full Brandstetter series is as follows....

1. Fadeout (1970)
2. Death Claims (1973)
3. Troublemaker (1975)
4. The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of (1978)
5. Skinflick (1979)
6. Gravedigger (1982)
7. Nightwork (1984)
8. The Little Dog Laughed (1986)
9. Early Graves (1987)
10. Obedience (1988)
11. The Boy Who Was Buried This Morning (1990)
12. A Country Of Old Men (1991)
Brandstetter and Others (1984)
The Complete Brandstetter (omnibus) (2007

Fadeout is the only one I've read to date and it was enjoyed back in 2013. Thoughts here. Not sure why I have left it nearly five years to give him any thought.

I think the series has recently been republished for Kindle for anyone who likes the sound of these and doesn't fancy tracking down dog-eared old paperbacks. Me, I kind of like them.

Death Claims (1973)

After forty years, Hammett has a worthy successor' The Times

Dave Brandstetter stands alongside Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Lew Archer as one of the best fictional PIs in the business. Like them, he was tough, determined, and ruthless when the case demanded it. Unlike them, he was gay.

Joseph Hansen's groundbreaking novels follow Brandstetter as he investigates cases in which motives are murky, passions run high, and nothing is ever as simple as it looks. Set in 1970s and 80s California, the series is a fascinating portrait of a time and a place, with mysteries to match Chandler and Macdonald.

John Oats is dead; drowned in the treacherous waves of the Pacific. But was it accident, suicide, or murder? Between the mysteriously absent son, the bitter ex-wife and the current lover, there are plenty of people with reason to lie to Dave about what really happened that night - and why.

Troublemaker (1975)

Rick Wendell never made an enemy in his life, but he died all the same; and Larry Johns was found standing over him with the gun in his hand still smoking. Only Dave can't see it as an open-and-shut case - what was Johns' motive? What happened to the cash Wendell withdrew that day? As his investigation progresses, he comes to realise the danger of assumptions, particularly where love and money are involved.

Monday, 18 June 2018


Dale Brendan Hyde, author of The Ink Run (on the blog yesterday - here) answers a few questions for me...

I’m guessing the book writing’s maybe not full time? If not, what’s the day job? Can you give us a quick biography of yourself?

Writing is my full time work, I have done many jobs over the years from Sales jobs working abroad, time shares, running my own sales team in Belfast, working in the Middle East doing casual jobs, like fuelling boats on the jetty, but for the past fifteen years all I have concentrated on is to enhance my writing skills.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

No, I don’t have a typical writing schedule, I only got into some kind of routine when writing my debut novel, which I found was necessary to put into some kind of schedule to complete the typing of the manuscript, I usually work by hand writing everything first, making note books with ideas and then I build from there into some more kind of structured document, until I find it is time to start the actual typing.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

I have used certain friends and family members to reflect in my debut novel, I certainly focused on my Mother and Father, especially my Father as one of the main characters Stan! I do have to point out though, that he is nothing at all like I have portrayed him in the book, only certain characteristics and mannerisms that I found suited to the structure of the book.  I also used certain names from my family tree, that I attached to characters in my book.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

Yes, when I start plotting in my note books I have always have a strong feeling of how the end of the novel will read, as I continue to hand write ideas into the note book. I always draw and sketch the front covers and titles, I also work on the blurb for the back covers.

Are there any subjects off limits? From my reading of The Ink Run (a few pages to go now) and the trials and tribulations Otiss endures, I’m guessing not many.

There are no subjects off limit to my writing at all as I actually got into my writing as I have a number of social issue to write about from a personal point of view, I would say that The Ink Run covers a lot with reference to the abuse of children in the home, and also covers the abuse of patients in asylums, where my second book,The Death Row Thrift shop is more of a main stream crime/horror story, and the only reason that I have decided to write something of this nature is in the hope I can get into a bigger publishing company where I can then get the main book published which is titled STITCHED. I am getting quite tired of the main stream writers that are out there and seemingly at the top of the game, I respect their craft of storytelling, these however do not seem to be pushing the boundaries of social problems, which I hope to eventually cover within my own novels, as for instance the third novel that I will be publishing under the title of Stitched, covers the horrific social stigma of enduring a miscarriage of justice.I found whilst researching, that only the highest profile of case get some kind of media attention, the Stitched book will highlight the little man on the street, the one that does not have a big shot lawyer or has some kind of business in the echelons of high society that may be able to influence the outcome of trials, while most miscarriage of justice centre around murder, my intention is to highlight fully the stigma of an innocent man dealing with a rape case.

How long from conception to completion did The Ink Run take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

The Ink Run took at least 15 years to complete, that doesn’t mean I sat at a type writer for 15 years, I would put it in that time bracket as an example from when I first initially wrote anything first used in the novel to the actual day of typing the end. It certainly wasn’t a smooth journey, there were many obstacles in my own personal life that put the book on the back burner, from things as being totally skint and having to put my laptop into the pawn shop, and due to having no money to get it back out I lost it! Then having to save for a new laptop to work on to more, personal horrific bumps in the road like being diagnosed with bowel cancer, which then spread to the liver and lung! Which for the past five years has slowed the process down, but did not stop me from getting the book finished and published.

Did the end result mirror your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

The book was completed totally as I imagined from how I had written the manuscript, although I put off typing this due to the monumental task of editing it, but once I had taken the plunge and over a couple of years steadily edited into the hand written manuscript I found that once I began typing the book it almost typed itself as I had read the book through so many times, this was implanted into my mind as an already completed piece of literature.

Is The Ink Run your only published work to date or do you have more stuff out there?

I do have more published work, although this is not out for sale, I first published through Route a poetry book, which I entered in for the TS Elliot prize, I have also contributed to a friend’s book called Why about the alienation of fathers in custody battles and why this is important to have both mother and father present in their lives as they grow up, many magazines I have also written for, which include MMA Uncut, Glasgow Eyes Magazine and Inside Time the national paper for prisoners.

Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I do have a few unpublished gems in my bottom drawer, things that have been plotted out and given titles to, such as Concer and The Different Doors in Heaven, and I am also in the future going to re-package and publish my poetry book, which is now newly titled, The Gods R Watchin.

What’s the current project in progress?

My current project in progress is as mentioned previously, The Death Row Thrift shop based in Dripping Springs, Texas and is a crime/Horror novel, it follows a widower from Ireland who flees Ireland to America and gets caught up with three serial killers who are all operating in her new hone town.

What’s the best thing about writing?

The best thing about being a writer is the freedom to write anywhere in the world at any given time and to have the chance to have your thoughts read all over the world, if you are writing something that is a powerful perception of a certain subject, then that can become a very appealing reason to become an author in the first place.

The worst?

The worst thing about writing is, spending many years working very hard and feeling that sometimes you have not been given the money/pay that reflects your hard work.

What are the last five books you’ve read?

The last books that I have read are the two follow up books to the Steig Larsson trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, after his unfortunate death A writer called David Lagercrantz took up the mantel of the trilogy using the same characters and in my opinion did a marvellous job, I have had many books on my to read list but due to writing my own things haven’t got around to, but I have managed to read a book that Jamie Byng the director of new books at Cannongate sent to me it was a book about alcoholic writers by Olivia Laing titled A Trip to Echo Springs, I found this a very thought provoking novel about the literary giants that wrote with what some assume as a burden, not my personal thoughts however. Another great book I have read that won the Man Booker Prize was A brief History of Seven killings by Marlon James, which covers the political turmoil which surrounded the shooting of Bob Marley in Kingston, Jamaica.  Whilst on holiday in Mauritius I read Steinbeck’s buccaneering novel The Cup of Gold about the life of the Pirate Sir Henry Morgan, which given the setting only added to the genius of the writing.

Who do you read and enjoy?

See above

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

The book I wish I has written is Papillon, by Henri Charriere who was sentenced to life in a French penal colony for a murder he didn’t commit, it has been quoted on the cover as the best adventure story ever written.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

I used to enjoy boxing and training however due to the ongoing issues with my health I am unable to train to my full ability, I do however enjoy socialising with my friends, the cinema and spending time with my dog Nap

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

On my way home from my last holiday in Hong Kong, on the inflight entertainment I watched a great film put together by polish students it was an animated adaption of Van Gogh’s life and murder/suicide, using the actual paintings he produced as the back drop of the film, which was titled Loving Vincent.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Hyde household?

I don’t usually watch much TV as I find this a distraction to my writing and I know that the majority of people have seen The Sons of Anarchy, but for me I am only just bingeing out on this on Netflix,

Many thanks to Dale for his time.

Sunday, 17 June 2018



Book Description

OTISS is an abused child, physically & mentally tortured for years in the home by his sadistic parents. His Father STAN plots an elaborate alibi enabling him to set up the boy for the murder of his own Mother.

A trial of sorts, hanging on the basis of a defense of automatism( murder when sleepwalking) sees a detainment to the FABERON institution for the criminal insane.

In this cloudy pond, where the staff are every bit as dangerous & disturbed as the patients.

Young OTISS is placed on a wing funded as a trial by the Government which uses olden day methods from centuries past to cure madness.

Eventually released a decade later as an even more tortured soul, he sets up THE VILLAGE EYE pub as a front to his real nocturnal activities of being a VIGILANTE.

Warning beatings on the scum of the village soon becomes tiresome as he reaches new limits of retribution.

Still traumatized from youth, will he find the courage to finally confront STAN?

You can't truly escape your blood lines DNA as fatal mistakes see a familiar face from the INSTITUTION reveal that our main protagonist has not been the only one keeping the VIGIL & upping the ANTE.

The Ink Run is the debut novel from author Dale Brendan Hyde. It's a book which catalogues the life of Otiss from childhood and the sadistic abuse of his father with the indifference to his suffering by his mum, who is also a victim. Onward through the false imprisonment and his detention in an asylum, after being framed for his mother's murder. To his life after freedom and a continuation of the violence which has accompanied him throughout his life, albeit with Otiss now as the harbinger.

Intense, dark, disturbing, cruel, uncomfortable and challenging. I don't think I could say I enjoyed it, who could with such a life described? It was a book I needed to read in short bursts over a prolonged period of time.

Difficult themes are explored ...... child abuse, institutional abuse and a corrupt justice system. These are contrasted with displays of resilience, spirit and defiance and the comfort gleaned from friendship and strength garnered from shared experiences.

Pre-imprisonment, there are temporary moments of light and respite in a solitary friendship with Johnny and the brief connection Otiss forms with his grandfather, but they are few and far between. Normality for Otiss is abuse.

We also get a feel for incarceration and the sadistic nature of the institution Otiss finds himself in. Staff abuse is commonplace with the hierarchy a cruel regime. One early hope for compassion and humane treatment in the guise of  Doctor Woo is quickly extinguished with Woo's departure and Otiss' suffering continues, indeed greatens.

Post freedom, I struggled to empathise with Otiss and his actions. Our victim turned vigilante and whilst the targets of his ire were bullies and deserving of punishment, in some ways it was sad that Otiss was the one to dispense it. A balancing of the scales for previous sins suffered in some ways diminished him in my eyes. The D-Day showdown with Stan - father and chief architect of Otiss' misery was gratuitously prolonged and cruel. Violence begets violence, which may be the author's point. I wish he had walked away and broken the cycle. Easier said than done, I guess.

On the downside - it could have been much shorter and we could have gotten where we were going in a few less pages. The numerous incidents related from the first stage of life, pre-murder after a while seemed a bit repetitious and numbing. I got the message early and was a little bit irked by the narration of another episode of cruelty, followed by another incident of abuse and and ....

On the upside - it's a thought provoking novel which doesn't shy away from presenting abuse and putting it to the forefront of your mind. Better to be confronted by such things, than exist in a bubble where you can pretend they don't happen. 

A difficult read - very challenging but worth the effort.

3 from 5

Read in May/June 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 416
Source - review copy from author
Format - paperback

Thursday, 14 June 2018


Scratching my head, I can't actually recall whether I've read anything from this continent or not - probably not then.

There's a  couple here from Brazil and four from Argentina, no other country on the continent has a presence in the collection.

Sergio Bizzio, Particia Melo, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, Guillermo Orsi, Ernesto Mallo and Ricardo Piglia....

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza - The Silence of the Rain (2002)

The first in a seven book series. Somewhat foolishly, I think I have most of them despite never having read him. Go figure.

The first in a stunning new literary crime series featuring Detective Espinosa of the Rio de Janeiro Police Department. A handsome young businessman is found dead in downtown Rio, a suicide who left no note, who had everything to live for. But by the time the police are called, all traces of the man's identity and the weapon have been removed. Then as Detective Espinosa discovers that the man moved in the upper echelons of Rio society, and meets his beguiling and remarkable wife, clues to the way he lived and how he died lead Espinosa tantalisingly close to the truth. But is he on the right track?

Serge Bizzio - Rage (2009)
I think this is his only novel, or at least the only one translated into English

"A portrait etched in acid of a Buenos Aires society menaced by economic and political crisis. Without value judgement but with light irony, Bizzio reveals the ugly secrets of a family, seen through the eyes of his naive squatter. The imagery is often blinding and the dialogue pitch-perfect." - Le Temps

Jose Maria, a construction worker, is in love with Rosa, a maid in an exclusive Buenos Aires mansion. Subjected to constant humiliation by his foreman, Jose Maria kills him, then hides on an empty floor in the mansion. He silently observes the decadent behavior of the owners and watches Rosa in her most intimate moments. Jose Maria is also privy to more humiliating experiences - he watches as Rosa is raped by the young son of the family, and so he must kill again.

A metaphor for the decline of a social class, a country, and the resentment that spreads like a plague penetrating to the core of its people, Rage is also a tale of love and suspense that raises the tension with each successive page until it unavoidably shifts toward an intimate, shattering catastrophe. Humor, misfortune, shrewd social commentary, and thrilling erotic fantasy come together, offering the reader an inside vision of contemporary Argentina.

Guillermo Orsi - Holy City (2012)
I think this was a Poundland bargain a few years ago. Not sure when I'll get around to reading it. It seems to have lost its appeal at the minute.

Buenos Aires, Argentina. A passenger liner runs aground on the muddy banks of the nearby Rio de la Plata. The passengers are reduced to sleeping in the corridors of hotels and fall easy prey to the city's criminal class, who are always willing to take a wealthy tourist hostage. The first to go missing are a Colombian drug baron and his girlfriend, apprehended by Federal Police who may or may not be all they claim to be. But criminal celebrities of this calibre are a valuable commodity, and their abductor soon finds that the couple has been lifted from under his nose. Into the confusion steps Walter Carroza, a weary but honest cop. With his sidekick and confidante, Veronica Berutti, a policeman's widow and crusading lawyer, he embarks on an investigation that will lead him from the shanty markets of Buenos Aires' Bolivian quarter through layer upon layer of corruption towards the 'Holy Land', a theme park based on ancient Palestine, where a killer with a grisly taste for memorabilia lurks.

Ricardo Piglia - Money to Burn (2003)

Probably the one from the six that shouts out to me the most. I do like my tales of robberies and heists, more than murders.

Love and betrayal complicate a robbery gone wrong in this edgy true-crime novel based on a 1965 Argentine bank robbery. There's the drama of the botched raid itself, followed by a blowout afterparty, an attempted double-crossing of the corrupt local authorities, and a final shootout where, as a last act of rebellion, the robbers burn all the loot. This gritty tale has been adapted for a major motion picture by renowned Argentine director Marcelo Pinyero.

Ernesto Mallo - Sweet Money (2011)

Needle in a Haystack is the first in the series.

In the second book in the Superintendent Lascano series, Lascano is drawn into a war between the Buenos Aires chief of police and the Apostles, drug-dealing cops who want to control the city. When the chief of police is murdered, Lascano becomes the Apostles' next target. His only way out of the country is to retrieve the loot from a bungled bank robbery. 

Ernesto Mallo paints a scathing portrait of Argentina, where the Junta's generals are paraded in court in civilian clothes and treated like mere petty thieves. Corruption and violence continue to rule, but at the center of the novel lies a touching portrayal of two broken men, a cop and a robber, whose humanity is sorely tested by the troubles racking their beloved country.

Patricia Melo - The Killer (1997)

I've a few of her books on the pile, but not got around to her yet.

The Killer follows the incandescently gory trial of Maiqeul, a casual hood in a poor part of Sao Paulo as he escalates to the protected glory of full-blooded organised crime. It starts with an innocent hairdying scene, followed by sex and a murder, as chillingly incidental as the opening to Camus' L'Etranger. Melo enters the naive, brutal and oddly sympathetic mind of the killer with a poetic stream of consciousness that grips you till the relentless end. There is a quiet gentleness reminiscent of Banana Yoshimoto, mixed with the coolly horrific imagination of Quentin Tarantino: "I learned to walk once I started using weapons. To crush sidewalks." The long sentences build into a ferocious rhythm of panic, fear and lawlessness. The more Maiquel assassinates, the more he is praised by the community, until he kills the wrong kid. As hatred accumulates, the prose reaches a violent splendour that is a rush to read. Even his love life is tragically flawed as he gets the good girl pregnant and falls for the bad babe, Erica. "I hate you, out, love is a detonator, spitting in the face, out, explosive charges, signed Erica, pain, I was exhausted ..." With clever, deadpan satire, Melo pulls off a fabulous critique of class hatred, legal hypocrisy and anomie. Superb. --Cherry Smyth

Wednesday, 13 June 2018



Four twisty, short reads.
Addictive works of suspense,
That will leave you breathless and give you goose bumps…

Trading with Death
What sacrifice might we make for those we love? In the face of death, will we be selfish or selfless?

Tell Me a Secret
Deceit, lies and secrets – how well do we know those close to us?

Sweet Justice 
We follow Tess as she confronts the dark side…

Written on the Apple Tree 
A moment from a past life, a possession, or a simple meeting between strangers?

Another new-to-me author in Ann Girdharry and a collection of four quite different tales of suspense, a couple of which have supernatural elements.

Trading with Death almost fairy tale like setting, two sisters talking a shortcut through the deep dark woods, one is sick and ailing, the other older, concerned and loving. Minor spoiler - one makes it home and one doesn't. A pact with death with the appearance and reassurance of a deceased grandmother to smooth the way. Not my usual thing, but it worked and I really enjoyed it. I was convinced.

Tell Me a Secret .... an unmarried couple, each separately considering their future and their commitment to each other. Some impatient third party involvement and a reminder that love wasn't part of the plan. Some issues that demand an urgent resolution. More straightforward storytelling and firmly set in the real world - very tense as the climax approaches.

Sweet Justice ....... two siblings - one older and approaching womanhood, the other a young boy, a missing mother and a stepfather with an unhealthy appetite. Again, it kind of read like a modern day fairy tale. Death, abandonment, an ever-increasing unease transforming into all out dread, a plan of action and a taking back of control, albeit at the risk of the ultimate sacrifice. My pick of the bunch.

Written on the Apple Tree ...... another tale which requires a suspension of disbelief to buy into the premise. A tale of thwarted love and romance across the generations, with a continuing attempt to reconnect and get the happy ever after. Probably the least favourite of the four, not that I was stabbing my eyeballs with a fork wanting it to end. I still enjoyed it, just a bit less than the others.

My first time with Ann Girdharry's work, but hopefully not my last, as I really enjoyed these.

4 from 5

Girdharry has a couple of series novels to her name, featuring Kal Medi. The second - London Noir sits on the pile.

Her website is here.
Author Facebook page is here.

Read in June, 2018
Published - 2018 (as a collection, each is available individually and all dropped first in 2015)
Page count - 98
Source - review copy from Rachel's Random Resources as part of a blog tour
Format - Kindle