Posts Tagged With: Crime Fiction

Three Dog Night by Elsebeth Egholm


Title – Three Dog Night

Author – Elsebeth Egholm

Publication Date – 18 July 2013 (In English)

Rating – 4/5


Ex-convict Peter Boutrup has moved to remote, rural eastern Denmark to start a new life and leave his past behind. But when a young woman goes missing on New Year’s Eve and he then discovers the body of Ramses, an old acquaintance from prison, things start to unravel. Two days after the disappearance they find the body of a young girl in the harbour – she is naked, attached to an anchor and her face has been torn off. Is this the body of the missing woman and is it connected with Ramses’ murder? Peter Boutrup must accept that the answer lies hidden in the past that he is trying to forget. (Taken from Goodreads)


In the ever growing world of Scandinavian crime fiction another author has been given the chance at having their work translated into English for the first time. This isn’t the first book written by Elsebeth Egholm, in fact it is her 10th if my maths is correct and it shows her craft as a writer. It would be easy to fall back on comparisons to other Scandinavian crime writers that I like such as Asa Larsson, Jo Nesbo or Henning Mankell but Egholm has a distinct style all of her own and it stands out.

This book has a cornucopia of characters all with a story of his or her own from the underbelly of Danish society. These characters mesh really well with the harsh Baltic winter in the book. This creates an atmosphere which on the surface is pure as the winter snow but when you scratch the surface there is a more sinister edge to things. Interestingly, I found the main character of Peter Boutrup a little weak at first but as the story goes on there is more flesh added to him and I started to really like him.

Peter has recently been released from prison and wants to make a clean start on life and leave his past behind him. His neighbour Felix has given up on life and is literally a shell of what she was previously. Mark Bille Hanson is a policeman who has returned to his local town with the intention for him to recuperate from an illness. Finally, Kirsten Rojel is a diver who is caught in between her passion for diving and the expectations of her father as to what is a suitable job for a woman. All these characters have secrets and their lives collide during the story. Kirsten was a character I particularly liked and is the one character which really stood out for me. I think this was a combination of her being a strong female while at the same time being distinctly human. None of the character stories require a large leap of faith something which I can find a little annoying at times.

The book really flows well and I found myself reading 50-60 pages at a time, something which I rarely do. I had thought that at 462 pages it would take me a while to get through but it was a real ‘page turner’. I ended up reading it in just over a day due to the way that it really sucked me in. At several times I thought I knew who the killer was only to be thrown off the scent again. The plot is fairly involved but not to the point where I struggled to suss out who was doing what.

I think fans of thrillers and crime novels will love this book and I really hope the next one gets published in English before too long.

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Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride

Title: Birthdays for the Dead
Author: Stuart MacBride
ISBN: 978-0007344178
Publisher: HarperCollins
First Published: January 2012
No .of pages: 496

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Detective Constable Ash Henderson has a dark secret…

Five years ago his daughter, Rebecca, went missing on the eve of her thirteenth birthday. A year later the first card arrived: homemade, with a Polaroid picture stuck to the front – Rebecca, strapped to a chair, gagged and terrified. Every year another card: each one worse than the last.

The tabloids call him The Birthday Boy. He’s been snatching girls for twelve years, always in the run-up to their thirteenth birthday, sending the families his homemade cards showing their daughters being slowly tortured to death.

But Ash hasn’t told anyone about Rebecca’s birthday cards – they all think she’s just run away from home – because if anyone finds out, he’ll be taken off the investigation. And he’s sacrificed too much to give up before his daughter’s killer gets what he deserves…

Ash Henderson isn’t a bad cop; he’s one of the good guys, but if there’s a bad way to do something for the right reasons, he’ll find it. He’d never take a bribe, but it’s not unusual for him to put the squeeze on the bad guys to get something out of a situation for him, and he tends to mix with a crowd that means he’s permanently in a sticky situation. In short, he’s a complete screw-up. Despite all this, there’s something very likeable about this train wreck of a man. He’s fiercely loyal and protective of his family and friends, and will put himself on the line every time to help them. Unfortunately, putting yourself on the line so often means you often cross it…

MacBride is astute when it comes to complex and flawed characters, and they add to his equally complex plotting, making the implausible very plausible and seemingly inevitable. He also has a wonderfully gritty way with gore – it’s visceral and real to the very end, without tipping over into the territory of schlock horror.

This one, however, felt a little rougher around the edges than the Logan McRae novels, a little harder-edged and unpolished in comparison. That’s not to say it was bad – it’s very good, just not as good as the McRae books, but then, they’re pretty hard to beat.

If you’re a fan of crime fiction (in particular Scottish crime fiction), this is a must for your collection.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Crippen by John Boyne (Transworld Book Group)

Title: Crippen
John Boyne
Black Swan
First Published:
No. of pages:504

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis (Amazon):
July 1910: a gruesome discovery has been made at 39 Hilldrop Crescent, Camden. Buried in the cellar are the remains of Cora Crippen, former music-hall singer and wife of Dr Hawley Crippen. But Dr Crippen and his mistress Ethel Le Neve have disappeared, and a full-scale hunt for them has begun. Across the Channel in Antwerp, Captain Kendall gives the order for the SS Montrose to begin its two-week voyage to Canada. On board are 1300 passengers, including the overbearing Antonia Drake, the unassuming Martha Hayes and the enigmatic Mathieu Zela. And, slipping in almost unnoticed, a Mr John Robinson with his seventeen-year-old son Edmund …

Well, where to start? How about with just one word: WOW! Crippen is quite one of the most gripping crime faction novels I’ve ever read. That’s the short version.

You want the long version? OK, here goes…

This fictionalised account of a real and infamous crime that gripped the English-speaking world is nothing short of brilliant. The characters are sympathetically drawn, yes, even that of Dr Hawley Crippen himself. Boyne has taken one of Britain’s most notorious and mysterious killers and made him a human being; one with feelings and troubles with which one can readily identify. The relationship he suffers with his overbearing wife, Cora, makes one wish someone would kill her!

Despite Dr Crippen being a name synonymous with gruesome and grisly murder, mystery and misconception surrounds both the man and the case, so proceedings are not so straightforward as one might expect. Indeed, Boyne manages to keep things suspenseful to the very end, which came as a huge surprise to this reader!

I was completely drawn into the plot and loved the back-and-forth style of storytelling which revealed things little by little, drawing things out in such a way that there was always something unexpected around the corner. Time and again I was delighted by some little twist or turn till the thrilling conclusion which was immensely satisfying.

It’s rare that a novel compels me to research a subject further, but this one has had that exact effect. I’m now fascinated by the man and the crime he committed (or did he?), and urge all fans of crime fact and fiction to pick up Crippen as soon as possible.  I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down till the last page has been turned.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

You can find out more about the Transworld Book Group HERE.

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Nameless Night by G. M. Ford

Synopsis (from back of book):
Discovered lying near death in a railroad car, his body broken, his mind destroyed, Paul Hardy has spent the past seven years living in a group home for disabled adults, his identity and his past lost – seemingly forever. Then, after a horrific car accident, he awakens a new man, his face reconstructed, and his mind shadowy with memory. With only a name and a vaguely remembered scene to guide him, he goes on a cross-country quest to find out who he really is. But his search for the truth makes a lot of people uncomfortable – from the DA’s office to the highest levels of the government. Soon Paul is being tailed by an army of pursuers as he finds himself at the centre of a government cover-up that has claimed too many innocent lives – and the numbers are mounting. It’s the kind of thing that could make even a man on the outskirts of society feel the pull of justice that might be worth killing for. Or dying for…

From the shocking opening scenes to the dizzying heights of the finale, Nameless Night had me hooked – I just couldn’t put it down! Watching the lead character of Paul slowly uncovering the secrets of his identity, never sure of where the next lead might take him or what the consequences might be, was breathtaking and wouldn’t have been half so engrossing if handled by a writer with a lesser skill.

The writing is taut, the action is fast-paced and the character interaction is completely believable at every step. There’s danger at every turn, not only for Paul, but for those he comes to know, trust and love. There’s a real feeling of frenetic activity that has been captured perfectly – I was actually breathless at moments and found myself turning the pages faster and faster just to find out what would happen next.

Despite the darkness of the subject, G. M. Ford manages to pull it off with a lightness of touch that is surprising and refreshing, making Nameless Night something a little out of the ordinary.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

Synopsis (from Amazon):
‘Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll believe a word of it.’ So starts the extraordinary tale of Edward Moon, detective, his silent associate the Sonambulist and devilish plot to recreate the apocalyptic prophecies of William Blake and bring the British Empire crashing down. With a gallery of vividly grotesque characters, a richly evoked setting and a playful highly literate style this is an amazingly readable literary fantasy and a brilliant debut.

If you like your historical crime fiction packed full of mystery and intrigue, then you could do a lot worse than picking up The Somnambulist and losing yourself between the covers. From the outset, the anonymous narrator of the tale uses misdirection and half-truths to both draw the reader and throw them off the scent without ever having realised there was a scent to begin with.

It’s a cleverly-written whodunit that borders on the paranormal without ever fully crossing that line and, despite being filed with characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian circus sideshow, it never quite ventures outside the realms of possibility (or, at the very least, it seems that way during the reading). Characters are wonderfully, humanly flawed and inspire a mixture of sympathy, hatred, fear and loathing, and yes, occasionally even a little love and inspiration.

Next time you’re looking for something a little unusual, give this one a try.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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