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Blood, Bandits and Dark Nights: Most Recent Crime Reads

In my last post (8 August) I discussed four titles from yes, Nordic climes, two being Swedish, one Finnish and one Icelandic. While Nordic writers tend to dominate my reading, they are by no means the only crime writers on my list, case in point being my posts on French crime fiction, Italian crime fiction, and my post on writers from as far afield as Australia, the US, Laos and Africa.

While this my latest update does include two Nordic titles, it also includes an Italian and a South African, and it is the latter that I will start with, as it is the book that excited me the most and which I am only dying to share with you.

City of BloodThe book is 'City of Blood' 5 stars, and it is the debut novel of M.D. Villiers (Martie de Villiers), a South African living in London. Set on the dangerous streets of Johannesburg, it is the tale of Siphwe, a 19-year old orphan who, after rushing to the aid of a woman stabbed on the street, unwittingly gets caught up in the turf war between two rival and dangerous crime lords, one South African, the other Nigerian. With the danger to him and those close to him ever growing, he has to have his wits about him and forge alliances with criminals and police alike in order to survive. The story is told mainly through Siphwe's eyes. Read more »

The French Crime Fiction Challenge

I think it fair to say that the Nordic countries have not got it all to themselves after all! What might I be referring to, you may ask? The market in crime fiction of course. But maybe some of you never thought they had to to begin with - after all we have always had a wealth of crime fiction emanating from the United States and from Britain, and you could add to that several others including the Italians and in recent times the Irish too. I have to say it IS great to see Irish crime fiction writing blossoming in recent years, a subject I really must blog about soon.

DivaBut there is another jursidiction we must visit and pay tribute to also, and that is France. Crime fiction is hugely popular in France; I have read where it says one in five books sold there is a crime novel. As a bit of an aside, I recall many years ago seeing Diva (1981), that wonderful french film about a Parisian mail courier (Jules) in possession of two highly sought-after tapes: the first containing a rare recording of an American opera singer with whom he has fallen in love; the second is a tape slipped into his bag by a young woman just before she is murdered. The unwitting Jules finds himself being pursued by a gang of drug-dealers who will do anything to get their hands on the cassettes. A marvellous film, do borrow the DVD from the library when you get the chance (and sitting on the shelf in Pearse Street Library as I write!). Read more »

Book vs film

Film adaptations of books can be divisive. Often it depends on which one you came across first, but in my case, it’s pretty nearly always the book first; and at this stage I’m wary of checking out  film adaptations that can potentially ruin a favourite book (Lolita, anyone?). I just prefer my own imagination. That said, some films manage to avoid the pitfalls of plastic actors, dodgy accents, weird lighting effects, and blatant changes, and let you see the story from a new angle. And some even knock the socks off the book. Here’s a roundup of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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An Italian Love Affair - Italian Crime Fiction Re-visited

Donna Leon

Donna Leon

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with crime fiction author Donna Leon at a book signing in Dubray Bookshop (see photo on left) in Dublin on the 11th April last, where she was talking about her work and signing copies of her latest book 'The Golden Egg' 4 stars. Her description of this, the 22nd in the  Commissario Brunetti series, as a "love letter to language" just increased my desire to get started on it, which I did soon after.

In this, Commissario Brunetti, at the behest of his wife Paola, looks into the suspicious death of a deaf-mute man who may also have had mental issues. Of interest too of course is that no one seems to know much if anything about the man, who worked in their local dry cleaners for many years. So it becomes an investigation to discover who this man with no paper trail was and what were his circumstances. Without wanting to give too much away, this is not a conventional crime story but rather a tale of a different sort of crime and the tragedy and injustice that can befall an individual born into the wrong circumstances. Read more »

Out of Europe, Into Africa, Laos, Australia, USA. Crime Reads

I bet most people are somewhat familiar with the film 'Out of Africa' (1985), starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and which is based loosely on an autobiography by Karen Blixen, it first published in 1937. The setting is British East Africa, better known today as Kenya, a point which leads me nicely on to the first crime novel I want to tell you about here, it too based in Kenya. As you might by now have guessed this post does not include any books with a European setting. But change is good, no?

A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa'A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa4 stars is the only title I have yet read by Nicholas Drayson, and it is the sequel to 'A Guide to the Birds of East Africa'. The first thing to say about it is that if you like the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency books (McCall Smith), you should like this. Which I did, although I was initially slow to warm to it, probably because of its slower than what I am used to pace. But it has humour, style and interesting characters in its favour, and all helped to draw me more and more into the book with each page turning. The story like I said is based in Kenya, and around a number of different events and characters; Mr. Malik and his planning of the Asadi Club's annual safari, his daughter's impending marriage, a threat to the club's very existence, theft, political corruption, and the mystery surrounding a seventy-year old unsolved murder. The question: can Mr. Malik, who is of course a bit of a sleuth together with the help of lawyer Tiger Singh, unravel the mystery and save the day? An entertaining read this, I think you will like it. Regrettably, we do not have this title in our (Dublin City) libraries (horror!), for that I must apologise, I will ask for it to be purchsed. Read more »

Wilde thing, you make my heart Synge

April is the month for Dublin City Council’s One City, One Book initiative – this year it’s Joseph Plunkett’s Strumpet City. This campaign drums up a huge amount of interest in its chosen book each year, and by extension in Irish literature generally; so if you enjoy each year’s nomination, keep the momentum going, and try other Irish authors: there are hundreds to choose from, so here’s a small selection of both classic and modern to whet your appetite. Read more »

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