Holiday reading and the 2015 Betty Trask Award: The Spring of Kasper Meier

The Crime Fiction in German volume has had its final polish and been delivered into the tender care of the University of Wales Press. Time for a little break, then – a tour of west Wales in our trusty VW camper, with plenty of downtime for reading in various seaside cafes.

I’ve been eyeing up my real and virtual bookshelves to see what I fancy taking along. So far I have the following modest pile, which will no doubt expand a bit by tomorrow morning.

 Behind God's Back

Finnish author Harri Nykänen’s Behind God’s Back (trans. Kristian London, Bitter Lemon Press, 2015) is the second in the Ariel Kafka series – I enjoyed the first, Nights of Awe, very much. Here’s the publisher description:

>> There are two Jewish cops in all of Helsinki. One of them, Ariel Kafka, a lieutenant in the Violent Crime Unit, identifies himself as a policeman first, then a Finn, and lastly a Jew. Kafka is a religiously non-observant 40-something bachelor who is such a stubborn, dedicated policeman that he’s willing to risk his career to get an answer. Murky circumstances surround his investigation of a Jewish businessman’s murder. Neo-Nazi violence, intergenerational intrigue, shady loans – predictable lines of investigation lead to unpredictable culprits. But a second killing strikes closer to home, and the Finnish Security Police come knocking. The tentacles of Israeli politics and Mossad reach surprisingly far, once again wrapping Kafka in their sticky embrace. << 

Emily St. John Mandel, The Lola Quartet (Picador 2015). I’ve heard lots of good things about this Canadian/British Columbia writer, who often uses crime conventions in her literary works (have heard comparisons to David Mitchell of Cloud Atlas fame):

Emily’s website describes Lola as ‘literary noir’, with the following overview >> Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he’s fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. The last thing Gavin wants is to return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he’s drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he’s offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a girl who bears a strong resemblence to Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin’s high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin — a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed homes, obsessed with film noir and private detectives — begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter.<<

And then today saw the announcement of the 2015 Betty Trask Award, a £10,000 prize for debut writers under 35. The winner is Ben Fergusson’s The Spring of Kasper Meier (Little, Brown, 2014), which is set in the ruins of Berlin after 1945 and looks mighty like a crime novel to me. So that’s coming along too.

Here’s the blurb from Ben’s website >> Set in Berlin in 1946, The Spring of Kasper Meier follows the friendship that develops between Kasper Meier, a black-market trader, and Eva Hirsch, the young woman who is blackmailing him. As soldiers in Berlin begin to be killed in mysterious circumstances, both Kasper and Eva’s troubled pasts threaten to reveal themselves, and their fragile lives begin to spiral out of control. <<

The novel has also featured on the Radio 2 bookclub (you can access a free extract via its website here).

What holiday reading do you have lined up? All recommendations gratefully received!

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14 thoughts on “Holiday reading and the 2015 Betty Trask Award: The Spring of Kasper Meier

    • Looking forward to it very much, Margot! And thanks – feels very good to have submitted the volume. The contributors have been wonderful; couldn’t have done it without them.

  1. I’ve been eyeing The Lola Quartet as well as other books by Emily St. John Mandel. I really liked hearing her speak at Quais du Polar in Lyon, and I was impressed by Station Eleven, even though not quite as superlatively as the buzz had it.

    • She looks like such an interesting author, doesn’t she? I haven’t read anything by her as yet, though I feel like I’ve been circling her books for a while, and getting the odd nudge from posts like yours on the Quais du Polar. It’ll be good to have the time to get properly stuck in.

    • Just about to head off. Can’t wait to be in the wilds (though with cafe close at hand…). Hope you have a nice summer break lined up too x

  2. Congratulations on the events concerning your book. And how I envy that drive around Wales with stops at seaside cafes, good books and tea and treats. Now, that is a vacation to me!
    For myself, I’ll be sitting in my air-conditioning, reading from my stacks and the library, with tea and chocolate in any form.
    I read Eva Dolan’s first book “Long Way Home,” and liked it very much; has all that I want — interesting plot, character development, social issues — and an occasional dollop of wit. I have sitting at the top of my stack her second book.
    And I read the eminent blogger, Sarah Ward’s new book, “In Bitter Chill.” It’s perfect for settling down on a few rainy days with tea and bistuits, totally absorbed in the well-constructed plot.
    Am reading Peter May’s “Entry Island,” and then the new Donna Leon and new Michael Connelly.
    Just finished the very enjoyable “Baksheesh,” which I highly recommend for a fun read.

    • Just back from a lovely holiday, Kathy. The weather was nice to us and it was every bit as relaxing as we’d hoped.

      Thanks for your reading updates and for reminding me that I must get round to Eva Dolan’s Long Way Home. I have a copy and have heard so many good things about it. I’ll be blogging on Sarah Ward’s In Bitter Chill on the 10th as part of her blog tour. I found it hugely absorbing and enjoyable too.

      Happy reading with your tea, chocolate and air conditioning 🙂

    • I totally understand, Jose Ignacio. I’m trying to make my peace with *not* reading every single book in my TBR pile at the moment. There’s no way I’m going to get through everything!

    • Thanks, Elena – we’re just back and have had a lovely time 🙂 So important to have proper time off with plenty of good food and relaxation!

  3. As an additional point about Eva Dolan, her second book “Don’t Tell Tales” is a perfect read to me.
    It has multi-dimensional detectives, right-wing politicians and social issues concerning anti-immigrant violence. Very absorbing and interesting. Could not wait to pick it up each time I had to put it down.

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