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How Much Can One Morck Take: Buried

Buried: Book 5Buried by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Over three years ago, a civil servant vanished after returning from a work trip to Africa. Missing, presumed dead, the man’s family still want answers. It is one of the many unsolved crimes left for Department Q, Denmark’s cold case unit headed up by Detective Carl Morck. But what Carl doesn’t know is that the key to the investigation is in Copenhagen. Fifteen-year-old Marco Jameson is tough, smart and suspicious of police. Sleeping rough and hiding in the shadows is his way of life. But what is he running from – and what does he know worth killing him for?

First Impressions: A good story but why exactly did we have to wait so long for Carl and the gang to make an appearance??!!

Highlights: So much bad coffee and too many camel jokes. How much can one Morck take? As you can guess I love the humour of this series. Every time Gordon blundered his way through a police investigation I had a chuckle to myself. On the other side of things, I thought Carl’s eventual meltdown was very well written and my heart went out to him. Finally, I didn’t know if I’d enjoy the chapters from Marco’s perspective – a teenage beggar/pick-pocket gang member – but I did. They were often full of action.

If I was an editor: C’mon Carl, solve a crime in Jutland sometime soon!

Overall: This Department Q series has taken hold of me. I can’t even comprehend starting another novel until I finish this series.

Buried: 5 Stars

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Morck Indulgence: Redemption

RedemptionRedemption by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Two boys, brothers, wake tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. Their kidnapper has gone, but soon he will return. Their bonds are inescapable. But there is a bottle and tar to seal it. Paper and a splinter for writing; blood for ink. A message begging for help… In Copenhagen’s cold cases division Carl Morck has received a bottle. It holds an old and decayed message, written in blood. It is a cry for help from two boys. Is it real? Who are they and why weren’t they reported missing? Can they possibly still be alive?

First Impressions: Exactly as I would have wanted it to start – intrigue… and Carl Morck!

Highlights: This novel was a bit longer than the previous ones in the series which meant the reader gets to indulge in Carl Morck’s actions and interactions. How fantastic! The effects of his coffee drinking and stereotyping of other Scandis (this time the Jutlanders) never fails to amuse. The investigation in this book was a bit more drawn out which meant I got to enjoy more of Carl, Assad, Yrsa and Rose. Fabulous! I am also glad for the final chapter as I would have been very unsettled as I have a young son myself. However, my heart was racing a bit through these pages I must admit!

If I was an editor: What also made the novel a bit longer was the extra detail from the POV of the perpetrator and victims. It was an interesting (religious) crime but I probably would have preferred not to follow this strand so closely. Rather, to have it referred to in a more mysterious way where I had to fill in some of the gaps in the story myself would have been preferable. This part of the narrative was perhaps a bit overdrawn in my opinion.

Overall: A definite must for fans of the series! Everyone else, start at book 1…

Redemption: 4 Stars

7

Peterborough Transients: Long Way Home

Long Way HomeLong Way Home by Eva Dolan

A man is burnt alive in a suburban garden shed. DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are called in from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit to investigate the murder. Their victim is quickly identified as a migrant worker. Zigic and Ferreira know all too well the problems that come with dealing with a community that has more reason than most not to trust the police, but when another migrant worker is attacked, tensions rapidly begin to rise as they search for their killer.

First Impressions: From the first few pages I could tell this would be an engrossing crime read. The setting in particular was well described. For a number of days I squeezed in as many pages as I could between finishing my gym workout and collecting my son from the creche!

Highlights: I found a lot to like in the start of this series. I liked the Peterborough setting and the way the different parts of the greater area were described. Perhaps Peterborough may start to get some literary related tourism? It’s also a good reminder that not all immigrants head straight to London. It’s easy to forget this. I liked the two detectives – they are an interesting mix of personalities and ethnicities – and the way they investigated the crime within their Hate Crimes unit. The author had obviously done a lot of research on the lives of migrant workers and this paid dividends as the novel was both informative and believable. I definitely learnt a few new things about migrant workers such as the renting out of garden sheds. Not the sort of business venture I’m keen to get involved in but it did make me take more notice of my neighbours’ sheds 🙂 Oh, and very importantly, the twists are good.

If I was an editor: I would say that while the first and last third of the novel required quick page turning, the middle did lag in parts which is surprising as the investigation kept moving at a reasonable pace. However, this didn’t necessarily hinder my enjoyment of the novel, and to be honest with you, as this is a bit of a belated review, my memory of the novel in hindsight doesn’t involve any lagging.

Overall: An original and believable crime novel to start a series that I can see myself comfortably working my way through.

Long Way Home: 4 Stars

Thank you to Vintage for a copy of the title to review.

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Brilliant Scandi Crime Series: Department Q

I love Scandinavian crime novels and recently stumbled across Guilt, book four of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series in my local library. I have had this series on my radar for a while and I can assure you book four was so fantastic I read books one and two in quick succession. I thought it would be easier to review all three in one post (and I am also behind in my reviews).

I am reviewing the three novels in the order I read them. No spoilers which does make my discussion of the plots a bit superficial…

Guilt Department Q book 4
Detective Carl Morck from Copenhagen’s cold case division is looking into the disappearance of Rita Nielsen, an escort agency owner. The investigation reveals that Rita is only one piece of the puzzle. Because this is not a one-off incident – but part of a disturbing pattern which has been hidden from prying eyes for over twenty years…

To use the cliche, I couldn’t put this book down. Early on I did realise you should try to read the series in order so that you can appreciate all the plot threads and Carl Morck’s wry thoughts. I love the dark understated humour in Scandi crime and this book did not disappoint!  In the middle of a serious train of thought Carl would include an incongruous thought or an incredibly mundane and unnecessary point of reasoning. Morck is my kind of detective!
I don’t usually enjoy reading from the perspective of the perpetrator but it worked really well in this novel. Even though you know who is committing the crimes you can’t stop turning the pages until the end.
Also, all the characters are unique and their relationships believable so this helps make the novel even more enjoyable.
Guilt: 5 stars

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Mercy – Department Q book 1

Copenhagen detective Carl Morck has been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead. Everyone says it’s a waste of time. At first he thinks they’re right…

Why oh why didn’t I start with book 1 in the series! You get the full story about how Department Q is started (not contrived at all) and a bit of Assad’s back story (Morck’s assistant). I love Assad! Admittedly, I did worry that I’d come across a few spoilers in book 4 but that was not the case. These events occurred before book 1. Phew! However, I would have definitely appreciated the relationships between the characters a bit more, as well as each character’s nuances if I had started with book 1. OK, enough about that.

I thought this crime was really original so I enjoyed this aspect of the book. I also continued to love Morck’s mundane and irrelevant thoughts (eg. Don’t the Finn’s have weird names?). Absolutely engrossing. What more can I say?
Mercy: 5 stars

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Disgrace – Department Q book 2

Detective Carl Morck of Department Q, the cold cases division, has received a file concerning the brutal murder of a brother and sister twenty years earlier. A group of boarding school students were the suspects at the time – until one of their number confessed and was convicted. So why is the file of a closed case on Carl’s desk? Carl wants to talk to Kimmie, one of the boarding school gang, but someone else is also asking questions about her. They know she carries secrets certain powerful people want to stay buried deep. 

Morck’s dry humour continues in this book with his thoughts about the cod-eating Norwegian delegation coming to visit. Department Q continues to develop and evolve with a new employee. This novel stays true to the style of the series and while I did enjoy it I have two criticisms (for want of a better word).
The first is that I didn’t particularly enjoy the crime being investigated so much even though it was quite big and exciting to follow the investigation. I wonder if the author was trying to trump the very original book 1, which would be near impossible to do. Also, I rarely read a story linked to school days that I really enjoy. This is just a personal thing.
The second is that the crime itself overshadowed Carl’s personal life and relationships – I wanted to read more about these as I felt more was given to this in the first two Department Q books I read. It is so rare to love all the characters in a crime novel and I wanted to read more about them.
Don’t get me wrong, Disgrace was still a great read but I preferred the previous two.
Disgrace: 3 stars

Overall: How glad I am that book 6 is released this week! Now I can continue indulging in the series without needing to decide if I should ration the latest instalment…

 

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Better than the Scandi set: Death Can’t Take a Joke

Death Can't Take a JokeDeath Can’t Take a Joke by Anya Lipska

I must confess that I don’t read as much crime as I would like. However, I do have an affinity with the Scandi crime novels and in my opinion I think that both the Kiszka and Kershaw novels I have read easily trump a lot of the bleak noir from the north.

The Second Kiszka and Kershaw novel: When one of his best friends is stabbed to death outside his home, Janusz Kiszka – ‘fixer’ to East London’s Polish community – begins a search to discover who is responsible for the crime. Meanwhile, Natalie Kershaw is trying to discover the identity of a man who jumped to his death from a Canary Wharf office block. Kiszka and Kershaw agree to tolerate each other enough to travel to a remote part of Poland together, each with the hope of solving their crime.

First Impressions: Just as much as a page turner as the first novel in the series. I liked the crimes being solved, particularly the jumper (if you can say that…) and I also liked the fact that some time had passed since the first novel as it feels more realistic. Kiszka and Kershaw really do have their own lives and don’t just keep bumping into each other in ‘here we go again’ scenarios.

Highlights: In addition to the mystery of the Canary Wharf jumper, I loved the bleakness of the trip to Poland, the links to other places beyond the former Iron Curtain and the superb historical context that Lipska has researched. Then again, I am a history buff!

If I was an editor: I would say that I wasn’t too fussed with Kershaw’s boyfriend’s problems but everything else kept rolling along so well it didn’t really bother me if I am being honest. Most importantly, there was a point to this part of the story so it did have to be included.

Overall: I have already pre-ordered book 3 in the series – the first pre-order I have ever made!

Death Can’t Take a Joke: 5 stars

Thank you to Harper Collins (The Friday Project) for a copy of the title to review.

3

Japanese Sherlock(s): The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect XThe Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

 Yasuko lives a quiet life in Tokyo with her daughter. Her ex-husband arrives one day to cause trouble and Yasuko takes the situation into her own hands. When Detective Kusanagi begins to investigate, Yasuko’s seedier earlier life is revealed and the case turns into a battle between two superior logicians: Yasuko’s neighbour and Kusanagi’s university friend. Who will be first to solve the cryptic crime?

First Impressions: I wasn’t sure if I would like this book in the first few pages as it seemed quite simplistic. However, very quickly began to like the tone of the story and the writing style.

Highlights: The Tokyo setting is great and I enjoyed the cat and mouse crime solving of two men worthy of giving Sherlock a run for his money. My favourite element of the novel was definitely the characters as they were all so unique and realistic, particularly Yasuko’s mathematician neighbour.

If I was an editor: I would think this was wonderfully translated. The ending is fitting for a Japanese novel but is probably too much an abstract statement for a lot of western readers. However, it is all tied up well and I didn’t feel disappointed.

Overall: A cryptic page turner that keeps you thinking. I will read more by this author.

The Devotion of Suspect X: 4 Stars

1

A Good Egg: Bad Monkey

Bad MonkeyBad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

After reading quite a few heavy books recently I was delighted to win a copy of Bad Monkey on Twitter. I definitely needed to read something lighthearted!

Former police detective Andrew Yancy has been demoted to restaurant inspector, a job he despises but tackles with gusto. When a severed arm is found in his old police stomping ground of Florida Keys, Yancy can’t help but try and solve the crime himself in the hope of impressing his former superiors. Little does he realise the task will take him to a remote island in the Bahamas and a hotel complex in the process of being developed. A seductive morgue worker and a disgruntled local Bahamian and his pet monkey from the title turn out to be his unwilling sidekicks in this caper.

First Impressions: I loved the author’s writing style and the amount of detail he was able to squeeze into each sentence. Hiaasen’s characterisation is supurb and Yancy’s character leaps from the page at you.

Highlights: A real interesting mix of characters. I thought it was brilliant how all the various threads of the story (and there are many) are tied together so well. The ending was great. I did wonder if the story may be a bit too zany for my liking but this fear was unfounded. It is believable at all levels in a wild way.

If I was an editor: There’s really not anything I can suggest to improve this novel. I’m not really one for voodoo or animals in stories so I wouldn’t have been upset if some of the voodoo woman and monkey involvement was cut out.

Overall: I didn’t necessarily laugh out loud but found the whole story entertaining and unpredictable. A clever read.

Bad Monkey: 4.5 Stars

Thank you to Little Brown and Co for a copy of the novel!

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Online Transgressions: The Telling Error

The Telling ErrorThe Telling Error by Sophie Hannah

I think it is impossible for a Sophie Hannah book to have a blurb that does not sound intriguing yet I have only ever managed to read one of her books, Little Face, which I finished while sitting in a park on an unexpectedly sunny day shortly after it was published in 2006. Unfortunately I chose a rather grim day to read The Telling Error so I hope this hasn’t clouded my judgement!

Nicki Clements goes to great lengths to avoid a certain policeman on a school run. She is clearly hiding something. Is it linked to her secret online activities? The next day Nicki is taken to the police station for questioning in relation to the murder of the controversial columnist Damon Blundy. She has no idea what the killer’s cryptic message ‘He is no less dead’ could mean but does that prove she is not involved?

First Impressions: I got into the story really quickly and was curious to discover what it was Nicki was hiding.

Highlights: Sophie Hannah did a really good job of keeping her novel contemporary with the focus on online identities, anonymous news site comments and chat rooms. Although it is easy for a TV show like Sherlock to focus on modern technology with text messages flying back and forth, I think it is a lot more difficult for a novelist to achieve. Despite my comments below, another strength of this novel is that there was enough in the story for me to want to finish it and see the mystery unfold.

If I was an editor: One word: overwritten. Not only were Blundy’s newspaper columns too long but for me there were far too many long discussions hypothesizing who may have had a motive to commit this crime.

Overall: This novel was just not for me although I did want to finish it. Sophie Hannah has a lot of fans but based on other reviews I have read I think her novels are a bit like marmite; different groups of readers love certain novels and dislike others. So many reader factions for one author! Despite this, it seems that most stick with her novels to the end and read all her new releases regardless of how they felt about her previous offering. Now that is a loyal fan base.

The Telling Error: 2 stars

Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for a copy of the ARC to review.

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To Catch a Killer: Eye Contact

Product DetailsEye Contact by Fergus McNeill

I usually keep my small crime novel selections to Scandinavian authors as I love the bleakness of the setting. However, I met Fergus McNeill at the New Books Magazine Readers Day in 2013. Fergus’ interview was not only interesting but his path to writing a novel is most aspiring writers’ dream (chipping away at it in a creative writing class, if you were interested).

Robert Naysmith is a killer who randomly selects his victims. He plays a timed game with himself: the first person to make eye contact with him is the target. DI Harland is drawn into one of the murder investigations, not realising the scale of the murders. Still struggling to overcome tragedy in his personal life, can he keep his personal and professional lives separate long enough to find a killer who strikes without motive or pattern?

First Impressions: I wish I did not begin this book at 10.30pm on a Sunday night. I found it incredibly addictive and had to force myself to put it down and turn my light off so I wouldn’t be too tired the next day at work!

Highlights: I love great settings in crime novels. Fergus walked all of his locations while drafting the novel and his intimate knowledge of each place showed. He pulled off the descriptions and detail successfully without it sounding like a list of notes. The story flips between the two main characters seamlessly and the showdown between the two is well handled and not predictable. I could not guess the ending either.

If I was an editor: I would commend Fergus for creating interesting characters in a crowded genre. DI Harland was not a stereotype either, despite being an experienced cop battling his own demons. I did think that the descriptions of Naysmith’s stalking became a little repetitive towards the end. Furthermore, Naysmith’s one error did seem a little foolish for such an intelligent killer but I can forgive this as it was an unexpected and tense moment in the novel.

Overall: A really enjoyable read that kept me guessing until the end. I like how it set up the next book in the series, Knife Edge. An excellent debut!

Eye Contact: 4 stars

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Surfacing Memories: How to be a Good Wife

 

How to be a Good WifeHow to be a Good Wife – Emma Chapman

A few years ago I read Little Face, the first crime novel by author Sophie Hannah. As it was a while ago, I don’t remember the fine details of the story but I remember enjoying it and reading it rather quickly. Perhaps I have lovely memories of reading it because I read it while spending an afternoon sitting in the long awaited summer sunshine at the end of a particularly rainy spring.

I remember being intrigued by the main female character who spent much of the novel unsure of her memory and, by the end, questioning her sanity. The villain causing this terror was her husband; he insisted that the child sleeping in the crib was theirs yet instinct and small details made her equivocate between challenging him and doubting herself. Throw in a conniving mother-in-law and it was a rather creepy read!

The reason this book comes to mind now is because there is a current trend for novels that follow a similar plotline: a woman with a hazy memory is kept under tight control by her husband yet glimmers of hope and memory occasionally surface. I read a blog discussing what this may indicate about the female mind and whether these novels challenge or endorse subservience and reliance. Most importantly, is it a concern they are so popular? These debates don’t bother me; if it is a good read I will happily ignore the embedded psychology that some think may underpin a novel!

One of the most engaging books I have read recently is How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman. The story is told by Marta. Married to Hector for many years, she begins to feel at a loose end when their son makes a permanent move to the city. She begins to see visions of a young blonde girl but is this evidence of psychosis and her long history of mental illness, or is it indicating something more sinister about her past? The exact setting of this novel is never explicitly revealed but it seems to be in a small Scandinavian village, perhaps in a commuter belt outside a city. The small town makes for a claustrophobic setting, as does Marta’s domestic routine. From the first page I was curious about Marta’s fear of leaving the house and her cleaning obsession. Not really knowing what to expect with this novel, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself completely absorbed in the story, almost to the point where I would force myself to take breaks in order to stretch it out! It is an amazing debut and one of the best books I have read for a while.

How to be a Good Wife is a similar story to the 2011 debut Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson. However, How to be a Good Wife is a much more sophisticated and gripping read. One of the main reasons for this is length. Chapman keeps her novel short and sharp. With both books having the female characters bound to the house, both Chapman and Watson had limited characters and events to work with. It was wise of Chapman not to make an epic out of rather restricted plot parameters. Before I go to Sleep was a page turner that keep me engaged but it was mostly to see how it ended; I never felt compelled to savour it and linger over the small details as I did with How to be a Good Wife. A few of the plot twists in Before I go to Sleep edged the unbelievable and the ending was too drawn out. One thing that did irk me was the chapters of Christine’s journal – I would have much preferred to have read proper diary entries to hear her voice more distinctly. Despite this, I did recommend Before I go to Sleep to a colleague who ranked it as a favourite book of the year.

My final thought for this blog: Do the husbands in these stories really have nothing better to do with their time than create such elaborate lies in order to fool so few people?

How to be a Good Wife – 5 Stars
Little Face – 4 Stars
Before I go to Sleep – 3 Stars

Orange Pekoe’s Update: When I originally published this post I ended by saying I wanted to read Gone Girl as it was also promoted as having unreliable narrators in a domestic setting. I have since read it and unfortunately I fall far from being in the ‘love it’ category. I thought that it surely couldn’t end as badly as I anticipated it would, but it actually exceeded my fears concerning plausibility.