The Grand Budapest Hotel

We’ve just seen American director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was a sumptuous viewing experience and will definitely be on my 2014 list of top films.

Mr. Peabody thought the film was ‘a love letter to Europe’, which is an excellent summation. Handily for this blog, it’s also a wonderful crime caper, triggered by the murder of a fantastically wealthy 84-year-old aristocrat (‘she was dynamite in the sack, by the way’), who’s played with panache by Tilda Swinton.

There are so many things to love about this film: it’s expertly constructed on four different time levels – the present day, 1985, 1968 and 1932 – which fit snugly inside one another like Russian dolls; it celebrates friendship, loyalty, love, kindness, courtesy, tolerance, multiculturalism and cosmopolitan ‘old’ Europe before the darkness of fascism and then communism falls; the characterisation is marvellous, especially of concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and bellboy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori/F. Murray Abraham); it shows the importance of writers as chroniclers of memories and history, and the power of literature down the generations; it’s quirky, funny, and profoundly moving; it features a wonderful ensemble cast and is a visual feast from start to finish.

Two extra tidbits. It was filmed largely in Berlin, in and around the famous Babelsberg Studios, and premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. It’s loosely inspired by the life and works of Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig (see a marvellous interview with Anderson discussing this aspect of the film).

Wes Anderson is at the top of his game and has delivered an assured, masterfully crafted work of genius. There. Now go see it if you haven’t already! The official trailer is here.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-Wes-Anderson-01-personnages

 

Posted in America, By country, Europe, Film, Historical | Tagged , | 18 Comments

Spring crime reading: World Noir series

Spring has sprung here in Wales, and we’ve already had a few sunny days to reacquaint ourselves with the pleasures of reading outside in the garden, park, or by the sea. Bliss.

Left: one of my favourite reading benches in Tenby, Wales.

I’ve been getting on well with my research (more on that later), and in my spare time have been catching up with new releases in the ‘World Noir’ series from Europa Editions in New York. There are around 20 titles available from all around the globe (see below), of which I’ve now sampled three from France: Jean-Claude Izzo’s Total Chaos (translated by Howard Curtis, originally published 1995); Philippe Georget’s Summertime, All the Cats are Bored (translated by Steven Randell, first published 2009), and Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol’s (aka Mallock) The Cemetery of Swallows (Steven Randell again, first published 2012).

Image courtesy of World Noir / Europa Editions

Izzo’s Total Chaos – ‘This first installment in the legendary ‘Marseilles Trilogy’ sees Fabio Montale turning his back on a police force marred by corruption and racism and taking the fight against the mafia into his own hands’. Beautifully written, it’s also the story of three boyhood friends – Ugo, Manu and Fabio – and the pursuit of justice in a tough, imperfect world. The novel has a very masculine feel, with women relegated to the role of victim, mother figure or prostitute-with-heart-of-gold, but I can forgive this, because it’s so very good, especially in its exploration of the migrant experience. I’m keen to get my hands on the other two now.

Georget’s Summertime – ‘It’s the middle of a long, hot summer on the French shore and the town is full of tourists. Out of the blue a young Dutch woman is brutally murdered and another disappears without a trace. Gilles Sebag finds himself thrust into the middle of a diabolical game. If he intends to salvage anything he will have to forget his suspicions of his wife’s unfaithfulness, ignore his heart murmur, and get over his existential angst’. Like Total Chaos, this novel quickly immerses the reader in its Mediterranean setting, while drawing the reader into a complex and compelling police investigation. See Bernadette’s excellent review over at Reactions to Reading

Mallock’s The Cemetery of Swallows: ‘One day, Manuel Gemoni travels to the other end of the world to kill an old man. Manuel can only explain his bizarre actions by saying “I killed him because he had killed me.” Unable to comprehend why an ordinary family man would go to such lengths to murder a man he didn’t know, Police Commissioner Amédée Mallock decides to investigate. In order to save Manuel, Mallock must traverse the harsh tropical jungles of the Dominican Republic and the snow-covered streets of Paris’. I’ve just started this one, and am enjoying the intriguing nature of the case, the characterization of the investigator and the Dominican setting. There is a hint – just a tiny, subtle hint – of Vargas, but with the quirkiness dialed down. 

In sum: this is a quality series, showcasing the best of classic and contemporary noir, and we are promised another three to four titles each season. It could be time to hide the credit card, especially as the novels are so beautifully presented.

Thanks to Europa Editions for sending me these review copies from the World Noir series

German crime research update: I’ve had a fascinating time looking at crime fiction under National Socialism. To my surprise, there was lots produced between 1933 and 1945, and it wasn’t greatly censored until 1939, when authors were instructed to produce crime novels featuring policeman as heroes of the state. However, only a few overtly referenced Nazi ideology, which suggests that crime fiction was viewed more as a benign form of popular entertainment than as a tool for indoctrination. The research carried out by Carsten Würmann has been invaluable for getting an insight into this period.

I’ve also been delving into the Soziokrimi (social crime novel) or ‘new German crime novel’, which emerged in the late 1960s, and was influenced by both the student movement and Swedish writers Sjöwall and Wahlöö. There are some very interesting texts that explore the social causes of crime and the negative impact of capitalism on society. While some are quite earnest, others use humour to get their message across: Horst Bosetzky’s 1972 Einer von uns beiden (One of the Two of Us), depicts a blackly comic battle of wits between a smug, middle-class professor and the working-class student trying to blackmail him. The 1974 film adaptation was quite successful, and can be seen in German on YouTube here. Jürgen Prochnow, the actor playing Ziegenhals, went on to star in 1981′s Das Boot. 

 

Posted in By country, Europe, Film, France, Germany, Historical | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

The Petrona Award shortlist for 2014

*Fanfare of trumpets*. Here is the shortlist for the 2014 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year:

CLOSED FOR WINTER by Jørn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press)

STRANGE SHORES by Arnaldur Indriðason tr. Victoria Cribb (Harvill Secker)

THE WEEPING GIRL by Håkan Nesser tr. Laurie Thompson (Mantle)

LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER by Leif G W Persson tr. Neil Smith (Doubleday)

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir tr. Philip Roughton (Hodder & Stoughton)

LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE by Jan Costin Wagner tr. Anthea Bell (Harvill Secker)

The judges for the award are Barry Forshaw, Sarah Ward and myself – with additional wise counsel from award founder and administrator Karen Meek.

From left to right: Karen, Mrs Pea, Barry and Sarah, following our rewarding shortlisting session in London.

Here are our comments on each of the shortlisted works:

CLOSED FOR WINTERThis highly atmospheric novel sees Chief Inspector Wisting investigate an off-season burglary and disturbing case of murder on the Norwegian coast of Vestfold. As ever, author Jørn Lier Horst’s police background lends the novel a striking authenticity, with readers treated to the outstanding plotting and characterisation that typify this quality series.

STRANGE SHORESDrawn back to his childhood home by the unresolved disappearance of his brother, Inspector Erlendur takes on the most personal and difficult case of his career. Exploring the series’ enduring themes of loss and the impact of Iceland’s twentieth-century social transformation, this remarkable valedictory novel is one of the finest by a truly incisive writer, the undisputed king of Icelandic crime fiction.

THE WEEPING GIRL: While supposedly on holiday, Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno is pulled into the case of a missing teenage girl and the earlier murder of a woman. This quietly compelling novel from Swedish author Håkan Nesser, with its distinctive European feel, is full of the assurance readers have come to expect from the Van Veeteren series. There is not a single misstep as the grim implications of the narrative are teased out.

LINDA, AS IN THE LINDA MURDER:  Leif G W Persson’s sprawling, state-of-the-nation novels make deft use of crime fiction conventions to expose the faultlines of Swedish society. This more closely focused novel is a brilliant exploration of a young woman’s murder, press sensationalism, and the inner workings of a police investigation, with readers reintroduced to the blackly humorous and truly unforgettable police detective Evert Bäckström.

SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME: When a young man with Down’s Syndrome is convicted of arson and murder, lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is hired by one of his fellow inmates to investigate a possible miscarriage of justice. This ambitious Icelandic crime novel, which skilfully weaves multiple narrative strands together with elements of the supernatural, is another gripping and highly entertaining read from author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.

LIGHT IN A DARK HOUSE: Still mourning the loss of his wife, Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa is called to investigate the strange murder of a comatose woman in hospital. German author Jan Costin Wagner delivers another wonderfully written and tightly constructed instalment in the Joentaa series, notable for its moving portrayal of a grief-stricken policeman and its in-depth exploration of victim and perpetrator psychology. 

The winning title will be announced at the international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 15-18 May 2014. I’m already dusting off the posh frock.

More information and updates can be found on the Petrona Award website  (http://www.petronaaward.co.uk).

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

The German Fernsehkrimi … and a lovely milestone

I’m a couple of weeks into my research leave, and am thoroughly enjoying sinking my teeth into German crime. 5000 words are in the bag, mostly on the Fernsehkrimi (TV crime series) for the Crime Fiction in German volume, which has involved watching episodes from series such as Der Kommissar (The Inspector; a very traditional West German police series), Polizeiruf 110 (Police – Dial 110; a relatively progressive East German series that featured the first female German investigator, Lieutenant Vera Arndt, a working mother, in 1971), and of course, the iconic Tatort (Crime Scene).

Vera Arndt (played by Sigrid Göhler) in the East German series Polizeiruf 110

Tatort has been running for over 40 years and is a national institution. It’s a really interesting series, due to its distinctive regional focus (there are over 20 versions set in various cities and regions – the model for CSI, perhaps), and its strong engagement with social issues, such as right-wing extremism, the effects of reunification, and sex trafficking from the east.

In 2008, it was the first German crime series to feature a leading Turkish-German investigator, the Hamburg undercover cop Cenk Batu (played by Mehmet Kurtuluş). His depiction was hailed as ‘ein Quantensprung’ (a quantum leap) in terms of overturning ethnic stereotypes, and I’d argue is indebted in a many ways to a literary predecessor, Jakob Arjouni’s urban private eye Kemal Kayankaya. The first Batu episode, ‘Auf der Sonnenseite’ (‘On the Sunny Side’) is currently on YouTube. It’s in German, but for those who don’t speak the language, even five-minutes will give a sense of Batu’s ground-breaking characterisation and the episode’s high-quality production – aside from the endearingly naff original opening sequence, that is. Around 4 minutes and 40 seconds in, which shows Batu coming off-duty after a stressful job, is a good place to start.

Mehmet Kurtuluş with the famous Tatort logo

And the milestone? Well! Mrs. Peabody Investigates has just reached 250,000 hits. While the most important thing has always been the interaction between Mrs. Pea and the blog’s readers, there’s a certain roundness to that figure that’s rather pleasing. Thanks so much for visiting!

Posted in By country, Germany | Tagged , | 35 Comments

Please do not adjust your sets

In a change to my normal academic routine, I’m embarking on research leave for a whole, glorious semester. The chance for this kind of leave comes around every three to four years, and is really invaluable, as it provides time to build up some proper momentum – in my case for writing up research on German and international crime fiction.

I’ll be focusing on two key projects. The first is a book, Detecting the Past: Representations of National Socialism and its Legacy in Transnational Crime Fiction. As the title suggests, it will explore how crime writers have depicted the Nazi period and its post-war legacy since 1945, exploring themes such as criminality, morality, justice, memory and guilt in larger historical, political and social contexts. One key area of interest is how ‘Nazi-themed crime fiction’ reflects the work of historians on the period. A recent example is David Thomas’ Ostland (Quercus, 2013), which draws on perpetrator studies by historians such as Christopher R. Browning to create a portrait of an ‘ordinary man’, police detective Georg Heuser, who comes to play an active part in the Holocaust. A compelling ‘psychological thriller’, the novel is also a sobering depiction of the mechanics of the Holocaust, and of the attempts to bring perpetrators to justice in the 1960s. It’s an excellent example of how history and the findings of historians can be made accessible to a wider public by harnessing the conventions and popularity of the crime genre. Incidentally, details of the 150 primary texts I’m working on can be found here – a number of which have been discussed on this blog over the past two years.

European Crime Fictions: Scandinavian Crime Fiction

My second project is to finish editing Crime Fiction in German, a volume of essays for the University of Wales Press, which will act as an introduction to the subject for an English-language audience. As well as exploring the development of crime fiction in Germany, Austria and Switzerland from the nineteenth century onwards, the volume examines German-language crime from a number of different angles: the crime fiction of the former GDR; regional crime fiction; women’s crime fiction, historical crime fiction; Turkish-German crime fiction; and the enduring popularity of TV series such as Tatort (Crime Scene). It’s the first time this kind of comprehensive overview will have been published in English, which is very exciting. The volume will join others in UWP’s European Crime Fiction series, such as French Crime Fiction (2009), Scandinavian Crime Fiction (2011) and Italian Crime Fiction (2011).

Focusing my energies on academic writing means that I’ll be blogging a little less than I usually do over the next few months. But I’ll still be popping up with recommendations now and then, so please do not adjust your sets! And normal service will most definitely be resumed…

Posted in Austria, By country, Germany, Historical, Switzerland | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Apocalyptic crime fiction from America and Finland

I’ve just finished reading Finnish crime author Antti Tuomainen’s The Healer, which was a gripping and quietly powerful read.

Set in an unspecified future where climate change is causing profound damage and mass migration to the safe haven of the north, the narrative follows the search of poet Tapani Lehtinen for his journalist wife Johanna. She has vanished, apparently without trace, while reporting on a series of murders by the self-styled ‘Healer’, an activist targeting those he deems responsible for the environmental catastrophe. Part crime, part love-story and part dystopian fiction, this is an unusual novel that will hopefully be followed by a sequel. I particularly enjoyed its measured pacing and stylistic precision, which in keeping with its narrator has a distinctly poetic feel – beautifully translated by Lola Rogers. It won the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel in 2011, and has just been published in paperback by Vintage. It’s also one of the submissions for the 2014 Petrona Award.  

Along with other reviewers such as Bernadette and Sarah, The Healer reminded me of Ben Winters’ excellent pre-apocalyptic crime novels, The Last Policeman and Countdown City, which are set in the States prior to an asteroid strike. The three novels explore similar, fascinating questions. What happens to social structures, but particularly to law and order when society begins to collapse? Why bother to investigate crimes or fight for justice (or write poetry) when everyone’s going to die anyway? And how do individuals respond when making moral choices in extreme circumstances? While all of this sounds pretty depressing, there is also a hopefulness to these narratives, which as Bernadette notes in her review of The Healer, makes them curiously uplifting reads.

I have to confess that I’m getting quite fond of apocalyptic crime. Here are the ones I’ve read recently (all good) and another I found while nosing around on the web. There do seem to have been quite a few published in the last couple of years, which suggests that they could be the product of a global zeitgeist. Reading The Healer while extreme weather hit UK shores and the US experienced a severe cold snap certainly added to my appreciation of the climate change theme.

Ioanna Bourazopoulou, What Lot’s Wife Saw (Greece / Black and White Publishing, 2013)

Quinn Fleming, DMQZ (USA / ebook, 2013 – still to read)

Hugh Howey, Wool (USA / Century, 2013)

Antti Tuomainen, The Healer (Finland / Harvill and Secker, 2013)

Ben H. Winters, The Last Policeman (USA / Quirk, 2012)

Ben H. Winters, Countdown City (USA / Quirk, 2013)

Posted in America, Finland | 24 Comments

#45 / Eduardo Sacheri, The Secret in Their Eyes

Eduardo Sacheri, The Secret in Their Eyes (La pregunta de sus ojos), translated from the Spanish by John Cullen (New York, Other Press, 2011 [2005])  5 stars

Opening line: Benjamin Miguel Chaparro stops short and decides he’s not going.

I’d been looking forward to reading The Secret in Their Eyes ever since seeing Juan José Campanella’s film adaptation, which won the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Happily, the novel was as pleasurable to read as the movie was to view – a complex, multilayered narrative of genuine humanity and warmth.

Benjamin Miguel Chaparro is newly retired from his position as Deputy Clerk of an investigative court in Buenos Aires. Now a man of leisure, he decides to write a novel about a case that has haunted him since 1968 – the murder of a young wife, Liliana Colotto, in her own home one summer’s morning. Oscillating between the past and the present, and spanning twenty-five years of Argentine history, the narrative tells the story of the murder and its repercussions for those left behind: grieving husband Ricardo Morales, investigator Benjamin, and the murderer himself.

While undoubtedly crime fiction, The Secret in Their Eyes is also partly a historical novel, exploring the time before, during and after Argentina’s Guerra Sucia or Dirty War. This period (1976-1983) saw a state-sponsored campaign of violence against citizens deemed to be leftist and/or politically subversive, resulting in the ‘disappearance’ of between 13,000 and 30,000 ArgentiniansBoth narrative strands – the criminal and the historical – provide an in-depth consideration of the nature of justice, and the impact of a justice that is delayed or denied. But at the same time, the novel can also be viewed as a pair of love stories – that of a husband and wife (Ricardo Morales and Liliana), and of long-time co-workers (Benjamin and his boss, Irene Hornos) – as well as the moving chronicle of a friendship (Benjamin and his colleague Sandoval). Beautifully written, with complex and often endearing characters, the novel is a rich, satisfying read.  

Benjamin, Irene and Sandoval

As soon as I finished the novel, I watched the film again. What a fabulous adaptation this is, especially in its use of the visual to bring out key themes (close-ups of eyes and gazes, for example, and the symbolism of the colour red – look out in particular for Irene’s roses). The acting is superb, and the wittiness of the script really captures the dynamics of Benjamin, Irene and Sandoval’s relationships.

But it was also interesting to note some modifications to the plot: Irene is much more of a participant in the film than in the novel (which I liked), and there were a couple of other changes towards the end designed to provide some extra drama (which I wasn’t so keen on). However, the latter certainly aren’t deal-breakers. It’s rare that a novel and film adaptation complement each other so well, and I’d recommend both wholeheartedly.   

If you’re interested in further Argentinian crime set during this period, see Ernesto Mallo’s Needle in a Haystack.

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Posted in 5 stars, Argentina, Book reviews, By country, Film, Historical | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Reminder: The Bridge 2 and Hinterland air this Saturday 4 January

A quick reminder that this Saturday is a bumper one for crime fans, with the start of not just one but two cracking crime series on the BBC.

On BBC Four from 21.00 to 23.00, we have the first two episodes of The Bridge 2, the Danish-Swedish co-production that attracted considerable praise in the UK when the first series aired in 2012. You’ll find further details about Bron/Broen 2 over at The Radio Times website – and here’s a bit of what they have to say about it:

>> In a thrilling opening sequence, a cargo vessel wanders from a shipping lane to head directly for the gigantic Øresund Bridge linking Denmark and Sweden. Despite frantic radio pleas from the coastguard, there is no word from the ship as it crashes into the structure that spans a mass of chilly, lonely water. Yes, The Bridge is back. After nearly two years in “real time” and precisely 13 months in fictional time, the cult Scandi thriller’s brilliant cop partnership of Saga Noren and Martin Rohde returns. <<

An amusing clip of Saga and Martin’s reunion is available on the BBC4 website here - isn’t it great to see them together again?

And lest you’ve forgotten, here’s the wonderful title sequence, featuring the song ‘Hollow Talk’, by The Choir of Young Believers. Marvellous stuff.

Meanwhile, over on BBC One Wales from 21.30 to 23.05, we see the start of the gripping Welsh crime drama Hinterland, which aired a little while back in a Welsh-language version and will now be shown again in a bilingual version. I am SO pleased that both English and Welsh feature (the latter with subtitles), as this accurately reflects life in Wales, where you hear speakers hopping from one language to the other all the time.

This is what the BBC has to say on the decision to film in both languages (full press release available here):

>> The special adaptation of the drama for BBC One Wales will feature dialogue in both English and Welsh – the first time both languages have played a prominent role in a drama series broadcast by the BBC. The Welsh-language elements of the programme will have on-screen subtitles.

Starring Richard Harrington, Hinterland has already attracted critical acclaim for its brooding portrayal of police life in west Wales. The Guardian said “fans of washed-out noir are going to love this for its slow, confident pacing, attention to detail and Harrington’s engrossing performance.”

The new series follows a commitment made by BBC Cymru Wales Director, Rhodri Talfan Davies, at the Celtic Media Festival in April to better reflect Welsh language life and culture on BBC One Wales. At the time, he said: “I think we have to spend more time finding bridges that can connect different audiences to cultures, view-points and experiences they might not normally encounter. On BBC One Wales I want us to think creatively about how we allow Welsh language voices and experiences to be heard and experienced a little more.” <<

For my take on the Scandi-influenced, Welsh-language original Y Gwyll, including a spoiler-free review of the first episode, see here. Further details are available in The Radio Times.

The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that these two programmes clash… Set those recorders now – neither should be missed!

Posted in By country, Denmark, Sweden, TV, Wales | Tagged , | 45 Comments

Out with the old, in with the new. Happy 2014!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I always love those quiet days between Christmas and New Year. They’re the perfect time for reading, and – for the bloggers among us – provide a great chance to tie up loose ends and plan ahead.

Some loose ends now neatly tied up in a bow:

  • I took part in two reading challenges last year, the 2013 Global Reading Challenge and the 2013 Translation Challenge. I completed both, and enjoyed the global challenge in particular, as it made me reflect on the geographical distribution of my reading (somewhat biased towards Europe and the US). You can see which books I read for the challenges here.
  • I’ve managed to finish my two Christmas reads, which complemented one other very well. Patricio Pron’s My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain is a literary memoir exploring a father-son relationship and the legacy of Argentina’s military dictatorship. It’s an interesting read, but took a little while to get going (it would probably benefit from a second reading, as the significance of earlier sections becomes clearer in the light of later ones). While not a crime novel, criminality is a key theme and the genre is frequently referenced, albeit in slightly contradictory ways. For example, the narrator comments: ‘I understood for the first time that the children of young Argentines in the 1970s were going to have to solve our parents’ pasts, like detectives, and that what we were going to find out was going to seem like a mystery novel we wished we’d never bought’ (p.152). But then a little later it’s suggested that exploring ‘social crime [...] through the artifice of a detective novel’ is inadequate, because ‘the resolution of most detective stories is condescending, no matter how ruthless the plotting, so that the reader, once the loose ends are tied up and the guilty finally punished, can return to the real world with the conviction that crimes get solved and remain locked between the covers of a book, and that the world outside the book is guided by the same principles of justice as the tale told inside and should not be questioned’ (p.153). Of course that’s not always the case: lots of contemporary crime authors have pushed the boundaries of the genre to explore the absence of justice for state crimes. I wonder if Pron has read Ernesto Mallo’s outstanding 2006 crime novel Needle in a Haystack (see my review here), which examines the same historical period? It’s precisely the lack of a resolution/punishment for the crimes committed by the junta that gives the narrative its power.

  • My other Christmas novel was Jan Costin Wagner’s Light in a Dark House (Harvill Secker 2013), the fourth in the German/Finnish Kimmo Joentaa series, which was an excellent read. Even though each installment is made up of quite similar elements, the quality of the characterisation and narrative construction is such that they never appear formulaic. The starting points in Light in a Dark House are the disappearance of Kimmo’s secretive on-off lover, and the murder of a nameless, comatose woman in a hospital. Intriguingly, the only clue left by the murderer is ‘lacrimal fluid’, or tears.
  • And the connections between the two? The legacies of past violence, unresolved traumas, and the damaging effects of silence. These issues are presented quite differently in each, which makes them an interesting pair to read together.

Looking ahead:

  • Santa was kind enough to bring me a number of crime novels, including Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (Phoenix 2007), Eduardo Sacheri’s The Secret in their Eyes (Other Press 2005/2011) and John le Carré’s A Delicate Truth (Viking 2013). I’m going to make the Sacheri my first crime novel of 2014, as I enjoyed the Oscar-winning film adaptation of 2010, and am keen to read the original novel. That’ll keep me going on my Argentinian reading path as well for now.
  • As a 2014 Petrona judge, I need to pick up the pace of my reading. Thus far I’ve read 20 of the submissions, which means I have rather a lot to go. (This is by way of a confession to Karen, Barry and Sarah, but I will get cracking now, promise…once I’ve read the Sacheri, that is).
  • More generally, 2014 is going to be different compared to other years, as I’m on research leave for a semester from the end of January *happy face*. More on my plans for that interlude another time…

Wishing you all a great start to the year and many hours of good reading!

Posted in America, Argentina, Book reviews, By country, Germany | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Merry Christmas! Frohe Weihnachten!

So we’re about to head off on our seasonal travels. My brother is cooking the big Christmas dinner this year, while the rest of us chill out on the sofa. What a hero.

I’m packing a couple of novels to read over the Christmas break. The first is Jan Costin Wagner’s Light in a Dark House, the fourth in the German/Finnish Kimmo Joentaa series, and a submission for the 2014 Petrona Award (a list of all the eligible novels can be seen over at Euro Crime). The other is Argentinian writer Patricio Pron’s literary memoir, My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain, in which the author/detective investigates his family’s past. I’ve been saving both of these up, and look forward to reading them with a late-night glass of wine. How about you? What literary treats do you have lined up?

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Here are Gonzo, Rizzo the Rat, Kermit the Frog, Pepe the King Prawn, Miss Piggy and Fozzy Bear singing ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’. Enjoy! Viel Spaß!

Posted in Argentina, By country, Finland, Germany | Tagged , , | 24 Comments