GUSTAWSSON LAYS THE FIRST BLOCK IN NEW CRIME SERIES

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BLOCK 46 COVER AW.inddGreat things come in pairs they say, hands, eyes, ears. More practical things include comfy shoes; or slippers that you yearn to slip into after work and the soft white pillows which take you to the land of nod each evening. Then there are things that you wished didn’t come in pairs, but usually have a habit of doing so, such as buses and taxis.

Great detectives usually come in pairs as well. There have been some great partnerships in crime fiction down through the years, such as The Hardy Boys, Agatha Christies Poirot and Hastings and Tommy and Tuppence as well as more recently Morse and Lewis. These have been male dominated. There have been a few female duo’s: take Rizzoli and Isles for example and  not forgetting eighties TV cop duo Cagney and Lacey. This brings us to this month’s  second book review, which sees the introduction of a brand new all-female crimefighting partnership. It’s Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.com) in May of this year.

 

When the mutilated body of a talented jewelry designer is found in a bleak snow swept marina in Sweden, her friends and family travel from London to recover the body. Among them is her close friend, French true crime writer Alexis Castells. She starts to do some digging of her own into the case. In the local police station she bumps into an old associate, Emily Roy  (a profiler for the RCMP Royal Canadian Mounted Police) who is on loan to Scotland Yard. Her reason for being in the same place at the same time? The body of a boy was found on Hampstead Heath in London with the same wounds. Is this the work of a serial killer or a weird coincidence? The two women team up and work the case hopping back and forth across the North Sea. As they do, they discover a link to a World War Two concentration camp. Can the two women get to the bottom of this mystery before the killer strikes again or before culprit turns from pursued to pursuer?
Of the two world wars, the WW2 and the Holocaust has provided writers with a vast and rich vein of material with which to blame the evil deeds of criminals on. Block 46 is no exception. What Gustawsson does is mix the bloody reality of Schindler’s list with Scandi Noir and in doing so produces a very enjoyable and original novel.

 

Johanna Gustawsson

Johanna Gustawsson

What first excited me about this book when it landed on my hall floor was the dramatic picture on the cover. The silhouette of a lone figure in hat and coat walking between two barbed wire fences, all too familiar as those of a concentration camp. But also, combined with the title, they recall images seen on the numerous grainy news reels of that period.
The two main characters are hardly strangers and have some history which is easily explained, thus allowing the story to flow seamlessly, without having to go through a long-winded and roundabout introduction which in some instances distracts from a story. They are also different in their own way, just like Holmes and Watson, Castells is the grounded one who keeps the Canadian Roy, with her unique investigative techniques and strange habits, grounded. It will be interesting to see how the two characters develop over the coming books.

 
I’m a little bemused as to why the author needed a translator of the book as it seems she has been living and working in the UK for many years. So, if you can walk into Sainsbury’s and buy a pint of milk or order a drink at a bar or even a meal from a menu. Why do you feel you need to have a translator rewrite your book? OK, there are a few easy explanations, she finds it easier to write in her native French or possibly that the book was originally written in French.

 
Another thing that did get me was the sudden wrapping up of things at the end. It seemed unrealistically quick. Suddenly one of our heroine’s is in mortal danger and next the cavalry rides in out of nowhere. It’s as if Johanna got tired near the end of the story and just decided to save them and neatly wrap it up.
This is French born Gustawsson’s second book, her first “On Se Retrouvera” which means We will meet each other again.Was adapted for French television in 2015 and watched by over 7 million viewers. She has worked previously for the French press and television, before moving to her adopted home of England with her Swedish husband. She is currently writing the second book in the Roy & Castells series.
So, if you are looking for a new twist on Scandi Noir and the creation of a new crime fighting double act with a very international flair to it, then this is right up your street. I will with wait with bated breath for the next instalment in this series. Meanwhile you can stop off at your local book shop and get it or download it.

DON’T BE LEFT IN THE DARK BY MISSING BOOTH’S 17TH COOPER & FRY BOOK.

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dead in drk cvrBorn in Loscoe, Derbyshire, I was raised as an inner city child in Nottingham. Like my ancestors did, I escaped the noise and grime of industrial city life to the fresh air and space of the Peak District national park regularly. Initially on family days out and caravan holidays to the ‘White peak’ and later in my teens on camping and hiking weekends to the northern end of the park, known as the Dark Peak.

The White and Dark refer to differences in the geology of the regions but the author of this months book  casts a dark shadow over the county, even to those of us who might be lulled into a false sense of security by childhood memories, its Dead In The Dark by Stephen Booth, published by Sphere (www.littlebrown.co.uk/sphere) in July 2017.

‘Dead in the Dark’ is the latest novel featuring Ben Cooper and Diane Fry and the seventeenth in Booth’s series, which includes ‘Dancing With The Virgins’  (which won the CWA Gold Dagger in 2001) , ‘Blood On The Tongue’, ‘Scared To Live’, ‘Lost River’ and the 16th was ‘Secrets of Death’ in (2016). ‘Dead In The Dark’ was this reviewers introduction to his work and whilst I was able to enjoy it as stand alone story, it has inspired me to go back to the beginning with ‘Black Dog’ and start to read my way through the long list between their debut and the current story.

Stephen Booth

Stephen Booth

Stephen Booth (www.stephen-booth.com) was born in Lancashire, lived in Yorkshire and now in Nottinghamshire but although he worked on a Derbyshire newspaper, apparently never lived in Derbyshire. Despite this the locations are accurate and perfectly described. I had presumed he lived there and had a farming background. I loved the descriptions of the countryside and was more on Cooper’s side than Diane’s in relation to the attractions of rural life. Stephen Booth has worked as journalist on various midland newspapers, on the Farming Guardian and as a specialist rugby writer on national papers. He also developed an interest in farming, breeding goats. All these aspects of his experience come together in the books. They say you should write about what you know and Stephen certainly knows his stuff.

 
The two main characters in this and his other novels are an interesting duo. Ben Cooper is a local man. His dad was a policeman before him and his brother farms the family farm. Diane Fry is an urbanite, raised in foster care, she moved to Derbyshire to improve her chances of promotion and escape traumatic memories. In most detective novels, detective partnerships the two participants are unevenly matched, in that one is the lead and the other is the one who can’t put the clues together but is loyal and comes to the aid of the lead when required. The duo get on well, the senior explaining things (to the readers benefit) to the junior. Often, I’ve found there’s a difficult relationship with staff higher up the chain of command to allow the duo to challenge authority. Well, while this may be the pattern for many of the most successful crime dramas it’s not the case here! Cooper and Fry are vastly different in their approach and outlook but are often forced to join forces and solve crimes together. From the outset they seem to misunderstand and dislike each other. Fry is logic and protocol driven, whilst Cooper understands people and their motivations. He will often equate a person he meets in the line of enquiries to someone he knows. As Miss Marple pointed out, if you know the people in your village, you know people everywhere.

 
In ‘Dead in the Dark’, Cooper and Fry are more separate. Diane Fry has moved up to the Major Crime unit, whilst Detective Inspector Cooper remains in Bakewell and their paths cross less often. However, Diane Fry is called to Chesterfield to a death which might have links to an operation looking into slave trafficking and Ben Cooper is juggling a cold case and a series of robberies. They meet and exchange cold pleasantries. One of them has a body but no suspects and the other has a suspect but no body. Will the paths of their investigations cross again?
I will say that the only negative comment I have in relation to the books are that so far in my experience there seems to be a brutal animal scene in each book. In some instances, I haven’t felt this adds anything to the plot or to my understanding of characters. It would prevent me recommending them wholeheartedly to some friends. Maybe I’m a little squeamish but I have read that where authors have animal cruelty in their books it loses them readers so maybe it’s not just me?

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A TV series based on the novels has been commissioned and is in development. I hope it is filmed in the glorious Peak District. As I plan to read the rest of the books before watching it. I won’t let the darkness of the novels put me off. I still feel safe and at home walking the hills and introducing the wonders of the National Park to my husband.

Reviewed by:  Georgina Murphy

THE “SHRINK WITH INK” REFLECTS A STYLE LONG LOST BY CORNWELL

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Fifth reflectn cvrCrime is no respecter of borders, time or place. So, when I started reading this month’s book and found it was set in a police department in Silicon Valley, I was a little surprised as that was the last place I assumed would have need for law enforcement. I have this rather rose-tinted view that Silicon Valley is a lush green place just outside San Francisco that is a myriad of weird space age glass office blocks, inhabited by leading dot com companies. Where everyone drives a mix of sports cars and Hybrids, wears chinos or jeans alongside retro labelled t-shirts and there are Starbucks and  up market deli’s falling over themselves to serve every conceivable trendy hot and cold drink or food.

Okay, so white collar crime is a serious matter, but what also intrigued me was that the lead character’s profession was one I’d never seen investigate crime before, a police psychologist. This month’s book is The Fifth Reflection by Ellen Kirschman. Published by Oceanview publishing (www.oceanviewpub.com) in July.

Dr. Dot Meyerhoff, is enjoying thanksgiving break in the warm bosom of her partner Frank’s large Iowa family, when the daughter of Frank’s night class photography tutor goes missing.  The two of them head back West, Frank to comfort his friend and tutor and Dot to see what she can do to assist the police. A couple of days later the girl’s body is found in a dumpster; the missing child investigation is ramped up to a murder. This isn’t a straight forward disappearance as the girl’s mother regularly used her as subject in very risqué pictures in which her daughter was nude. On top of that the little girl is the by-product of a one-night stand and her father and step mum are well to do socialites. Dot is caught in a bit of a bind as she is slightly compromised in that she knows the girl’s mum through Frank and works for the local PD. Also as the investigation progresses Dot starts to get concerned for the mental state of the officer leading the investigation, but despite all her protestations, her chief of police, who she just about gets on with, will have none it and shows little or scant concern for the young detective’s welfare.

This book drew me in from start and reminded me why I started reading Patricia Cornwell all those years ago, before she let success get to her head and started messing silicon-valley-signwith her writing style and lost this reviewer, as an ardent fan, to Kathy Riechs. Okay, the subtle difference between the characters is merely their jobs, Scarpetta and Brennan are medical examiners and a forensic pathologist, who deal with the bodies and bones while Meyerhoff deals with the mind, more specifically the minds of the those fighting crime.

When Cornwell first started writing about Scarpetta, her books and descriptions were earthy, homegrown and got down and dirty with the heroine, while also giving acres of substance to her background. Here Kirschman does the same thing, as a result Dot comes across as homely and a very likeable character.

As for the writing and the story, it has the single biggest hook in crime fiction as well as real life. A missing child stops everything, things are never really the same after it happens. From the moment you realise the victim is a young child, you are immediately hooked and nothing is going to stop you from getting back to this book.

Kircschman explores the void left in the wake of such a heinous crime, while also focusing on the ever- complicated world of internet crimes against children as well as the stresses placed upon those officers, their families and colleagues, who must track down the evil monsters who stalk our youngsters over a vast and easily accessible world wide web. All in a way only a skilled professional like she is could do.

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Ellen Kirschman

American author Dr. Ellen Kirschman’s website describes her as a “Shrink with ink”, she’s been a police psychologist for over thirty years and in that time, she has written both fiction and nonfiction. This is her third Dr. Dot Meyerhoff book, the other two are Burying Ben (2013) and Right The Wrong Thing (2015). She’s also written a number self-help books for those working with law enforcement or married to members of the emergency services, these include Counselling Cops, I love A Cop and I love a Firefighter. She currently lives in Redwood City California with her family.

So, if you want more from your heroines than being up to their elbows in blood and cadavers and you are looking for an original female crime fighter with their head screwed on, who can bring a new and unique insight into modern day police procedure, while also delivering a cracking story, then pick up a copy at your local book shop or download it.

ANWAR’S PUNCHY DEBUT STEPS OUT OF THE FRINGES TO DELIVER A KNOCKOUT BLOW

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Western Fringes CvrIf Jimmy Van Heusen’s 1953 song lyrics are to be believed, supposedly love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. But that rule doesn’t apply the world over. There are certain religions and societies where you don’t need love to have a marriage, just the decision of a group of third parties that a man and woman should marry, more for money and social standing than any other reason.

In the west arranged marriages are frowned upon and go against all the social norms, this is why it is usually leads to fatalities in the form of “Honour Killings” committed by family members against other family members. In most cases the victim is the girl when she follows her heart and falls for a man naturally and often outside her social and religious circle.  According to www.HBV-awareness.com there are 5,000 of these murders perpetrated around the world each year, 1000 in Pakistan and 1000 in India annually while in the UK there are 12 reported annually. That’s the basis and setting this month’s second book, its Western Fringes by Amer Anwar, published by Edurus Books (www.edurusbooks.com) in June of this year.

In Southall, West London, Rita Brar the daughter of a Hindu builder’s yard owner has gone missing, so her father summons Zak Khan, a lowly but tough looking, delivery driver to his office. There he blackmails Zak, who’s just out of prison for killing a man in self-defence.  He asks Zak to find his daughter or he’ll go back to prison on trumped up robbery charges. With no experience and a few leads, in the form of a list of phone numbers, Zak ,with the help of his best mate Jagdev (Jags), a savvy and successful salesperson, set out to track down Rita. Thinking this could be a walk in the park, Zak soon finds himself, slightly out of his depth and the target for everyone with a right hook including those from his past, with a taste for revenge. However, Zak has spent his time wisely inside and can look out for himself. What was supposed to be a simple missing person location turns out to be a girl escaping an arranged marriage and the prospect of an honour killing. Before long the body count is starting to add up, along with discovery of more sinister and high stakes reasons for the family fallout. Can Zak stay out of trouble long enough to find Rita? If he does find her can he convince her to trust someone who works for her dad?

To say this book comes out of its corner fighting is an understatement, it arrived in the post with a tea bag and a plaster in the envelope with it. From the first page, Anwar sets a staggering pace and within the first thirty pages, I thought I was going to need to have a first aid kit next to me.

Then there’s the taut drama and rapier wit which is mixed skilfully into this punchy debut, to help drive the story forward. The descriptions of Southall are expertly described and immediately you are immersed into the close-knit community so much so you can smell the spices and easily get a hankering for the food.

This is a very gritty and full on novel that always makes you feel as if you are actively involved in the hunt.  One example is a very graphic torture and subsequent murder witnessed by Zaq, that will leave even the most stoic readers uncomfortable.  Although, this is all par for the course in one of the most engrossing books I’ve read in a while.

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Arthur Daley and Terry McCann in Minder

Zak is a very believable character – expertly crafted with just enough flaws to bring him to life on the page. He comes across as a regular Terry McCann, the whole story has the feel of “Minder” with an Asian twist. It’s a pity it’ll probably a once off, although who knows if Anwar has plans for another adventure featuring Zaq and Jags.

If there is anything that takes marginally away from the book, it’s the Punjabi language which is used very liberally (on almost every page) throughout the story when the characters are talking to each other. Whilst this may add authenticity and really does bring the story to life, without any sort of hint as to what they are saying  (maybe the addition of a one or two-page list of popular phrases translated at the front or back of the book) it detracts from the experience and at times I felt as if I was being deliberately left out of the conversation.

Amer Anwar

Amer Anwar

This is London born Anwar’s (www.ameranwar.com) first book and it has already won the CWA Debut dagger award for its first chapter. His own back story is almost as colourful as his lead character, he’s been a driver for emergency doctors, a chalet rep in the Alps and graphic designer.

So, if you’re looking for a hard hitting and edgy book, with refreshingly original characters. Download a copy or pop into a local bookshop and on your way home pick up a curry, a naan and some poppadum’s, then settle in for a great British-Asian thriller.

DON’T GIVE UP ON CLIFFORD’S THIRD IN THE SERIES: BUT DRESS FOR THE CLIMATE

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Give Up The dead cvrRag and Bone men have been around since the early 1800’s, originally they were known as “Bone Grubbers” who collected old carcasses and rags. Primarily an English phenomenon, they may have been known by other names in Europe.

During the 19 and 20 centuries, most rag and bone men went around on foot collecting scrap metal but the wealthier ones who operated around the big English towns and cities used horse and carts before eventually moving on to vans or lorries. The squalid and hand to mouth existence of the Rag and Bone men was highlighted in the late sixties early seventies, when the BBC ran the comedy series Steptoe & Son.

Nowadays the rag and bone man has been all but replaced by the house clearance people and antiques dealers who will collect scrap but more lucratively unwanted furniture, ornaments or junk and sell them on. While all the time, hoping to stumble on an antique, even these modern day rag and bone men have been portrayed in a British TV drama, yes before Ian MacShane crossed the pond to make himself a household name in American dramas like Deadwood, he played the title role in the TV series, Lovejoy as an  antiques dealer. A wide-boy, who along with his hired help, solved murders and mysteries around England. Never has the rag and bone man or even the house clearance guy had a major role in the literary crime fiction world, that is until this month’s book. It’s ‘Give Up The Dead’ by Joe Clifford and published in June this year by Oceanview Publishing (www.oceanviewpub.com) .

 

Jay Porter is a former insurance investigator, whose life is now in tatters, three years after he broke up a Paedophile ring in his local town in New Hampshire run by a Judge with connections. The result was a severe beating by a local gang of hoodlums and near death experience on a frozen lake which have left him with a permanent limp.  It also cost him  his marriage, family and job and his junkie brothers life.  Now he works as a house clearance operative for a local firm. He’s in line to become partner and possibly owner when his boss retires but there is stiff competition in his hometown of Ashton as another house clearance firm is trying to squeeze Jay and his boss out. One snowy night around Thanksgiving, Jay is visited by a mysterious stranger who offers him a life changing amount of money to find a missing teenager, who it appears, is the centre of a custody battle between two wealthy parents in Boston. Jay treats the offer with skepticism and passes on it, only for his boss to be found beaten to within an inch of his life the next day, with all the evidence pointing to Jay. Under suspicion from his boss’s family (while he’s in an induced coma), the law and the locals, Jay must prove his innocence, stay one step ahead of the local house clearance competition and try to find the missing boy…

With the summer now well and truly upon us – it’s peak reading season for those escaping for two weeks to hotter climbs with nothing better planned then lounging by the pool or on the beach with book in hand. In Cliffords Give Up The Dead – you have a perfect read, if nothing else takes your fancy.

Steptoe-and-Son2

Steptoe & Son

Although the story isn’t original, it does keep you intrigued and you get a real feel for the character and his woes in relation to the current hand life has dealt him. I could really get into the other books in the series and also with any future stories Clifford has planned for Jay Porter.

The setting in deep mid-winter in North America might give do more than take the edge off the hot balmy holiday, even I felt a deep shiver go through my body regularly when I read it in early May. Along with a bit of SAD setting in with every page seemingly describing grey dull days or horrendous whiteouts and driving snow.

This is the third book in the jay porter series the previous two being Lamentation in 2014

Joe Clifford

Joe Clifford

and December Boys in 2016. Although these aren’t the only books written by Joe Clifford (www.joeclifford.com)  a former drug addict who now lives with his family in San Francisco. The others are Junkie Love in 2013, Wake The Undertaker in 2013, Choice Cuts in 2012 and a collection of crime stories inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen which he edited called Trouble In The Heartland which was published in 2014.

So get your Parka jacket on or if you are reading this on holiday,  slip on a jumper and see if you can’t get into the world of Jay Porter in the icy, snow blanketed countryside of New Hampshire. Then go peruse the other books in the series whilst you await the next installment from an up and coming American writer.

GOING OFF SCRIPT PROVES THE BIGGEST FLAW IN WESOLOWSKI’S STORIES

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Sixstry CvrThe British Isles and Ireland are pockmarked with moorland and bogs, from as far south as Dartmoor to the Yorkshire Dales, Rannoch Moor in Scotland and The Burren in the West of Ireland. All through history, as well as in literature, these vast tracts of desolate land have fascinated us. Whether it’s as the roaming area of the fabled Hound of the Baskervilles in Sherlock Holmes, the setting for a doomed love affair between Cathy and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire moors, the hunting grounds of the reputed beasts of Bodmin Moor or as burial grounds for the Saddleworth Moors victims,the moorlands of Britain and Ireland are notorious for their role in the darker side of life and literature. So they are a great setting for this month’s book. Its “Six Stories” by Matt Wesolowski, published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.com) at the end of March.

The book follows a collection of interviews between Scott King, a mysterious investigative journalist, who regularly posts examinations of complicated cases online via Podcasts. This series is called “Six Stories” – in it Scott is looking back over the events surrounding the discovery of a body on Scarclaw Fell in 1997. The body is that of Tom Jeffers, who disappeared from an outdoor adventure centre on the Fell while on a weekend away with an inner-city youth group. No one was ever found guilty of his murder in a court of law but the media had a good go at pinning the blame on various people. The interviews are with members of the youth group and locals who he’s managed to track down ten years later and, who are willing to talk. As the tagline on the cover states, one death six stories, which one is true…

From the front cover to the blurb on the back, everything about this book shouts, Read Me!!! Along with promising a great thriller inside but then you open the book and basically you realise you are reading the transcript of a radio documentary / podcast.

Being a confident public speaker and actor who has trodden the boards in amateur drama, I was able to get over this obstacle by reading aloud and putting my own accents and inflections into the characters, although – this limited me to places I could read the book, thus reading while I was commuting was a no-no.

Alistair Cooke speaks at taping of his 2000th program 'Letter From America' at the British Broadcasting Company's Manhattan studio

Alastair Cooke

I love radio documentaries, In Ireland there is the “Doc on One” which is broadcast weekly on RTE radio – Ireland’s national broadcaster – and has won numerous awards, both in Ireland and abroad. The idea for the Six Stories was inspired by the real-life podcast phenomena “Serial”.  But could I see myself reading the transcripts of either of these shows… No, why?!

Now I grew up listening to Alistair Cooke’s “Letter from America” which was broadcast on BBC Radio Four from 1946 up until his death in 2004. Cooke wasn’t just a radio journalist but also a print journalist and author of over twenty books. Eleven were his “Letter from America” ,which were the transcripts of said broadcast. The difference between Six Stories and Alistair Cooke’s The Americans’, was that they weren’t broadcast like a radio show, but like a letter or a newspaper column, hence the ease with which I took to Cooke’s books.

This doesn’t take away from Six Stories, despite the style of writing which may put some people off… The mystery at the heart of the story intrigues the reader and keeps you turning the pages until the very end when the killer punch surrounding the mystery is delivered.

This is Newcastle – Upon – Tyne native Matt Wesolowski’s first novel, but not his first

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Alex Wesolowski

book. His first novella The Black Land, a murder mystery set on the Northumberland coast was published in 2013 and his second novella set in Sweden will be published shortly. He started writing horror stories for various publications and anthologies, then in 2015 he won the Pitch Perfect Bloody Scotland competition. He is currently working on his second novel Ashes.

 

This book has been hailed in some quarters as a new departure in thriller writing, but it didn’t really work for me because it’s biggest flaw, was this new departure, which placed it in the wrong media. It will make a better Audio book than it has a printed one. Even then it may struggle to hold its audience.

If this was made into a radio drama it would be one of the best and darkest programmes out there and ripe for a TV adaptation.

So, if you are looking for a new thriller writer and can overcome the unusual writing style of this book, then download it or hike down to your local bookshop and pick up a copy.

YOU’LL WANT TO BE EXILED FOR A DAY TO ENJOY HIEKKAPELTO’S THIRD BOOK

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TheexiledcbrOne of the main rivers in central Europe is the Tisza at one stage called “The Most Hungarian River“ for despite now also flowing through Hungary,  Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia  at one stage it flowed entirely though the kingdom on Hungary. Along it banks you will find numerous forms of wild life among them is the Mayfly. It was the Swedish – Finnish journalist Heidi Avellan who coined the phrase ‘The Mayfly Effect’, to describe a movement or an event which harnesses the right social current at the right time.

Avellan’s comment sprang to mind while I read this month’s book as it is set during the Mayfly Flowering on the Tisza.  The book is The Exiled, the latest offering from Kati Hiekkapelto’s’ and published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk)  in November 2016.

This is the third novel featuring Hiekkapelto’s Finnish Police detective heroine, Anna Fekete. Here, she travels from Finland to her home village in the Balkans to have a holiday and catch up with family and friends. Her visit is set to coincide with the much anticipated ‘Flowering of the Tizsa’ when the mayflies hatch and take to flight in great clouds over the river. A cause for celebration in the locale each June. Her break gets off to a poor beginning however, when her bag is stolen. Later the thief is found dead by the riverbank.  Anna cannot help but take an interest in the investigation, which she feels is being poorly carried out. The victim is identified as a refugee and local in tolerances and prejudices come to light.  As she delves deeper Anna finds links to her own father’s death. Untangling a web of deception and corruption, her own life and that of a refugee child are put in danger.

Kati Hiekkapelto

Kati Hiekkapelto

This is the first of Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto’s (www.katihiekkapelto.com)  three books I have read and I will certainly be reading the others. The Hummingbird was published in the UK in 2014 and her second , The Defenceless was published in the UK in 2015.  Hiekkapelto started writing when she was two recording her stories on to a tape cassette, her first job was as a special needs teacher to immigrant children. Nowadays she devotes her time to writing from her base in a 200 year old farm house in northern Finland, while in her spare time she performs with her band, runs, ski’s hunts and tens her garden.

Anna Fekete is a strong female lead. I was particularly impressed by the sensitive portrayal of the strained relationship between herself and her mother and how, as secrets are revealed, Anna and her mother learn to understand each other better.

The movement of populations and the rezoning of country boundaries loomed large in the book and made it very relevant in the current refugee crisis. Whilst we were given descriptions of the refugee camps and the problems they faced we were also aware that Anna’s family were themselves had been refugees. I was also given the impression that the Hungarian inhabitants of the area where being sidelined by the Serbian population. Anna is herself, living as an immigrant in Finland and much was made of the differences in the two cultures. My knowledge of the geography and history of the area are poor and I was prompted to do a small amount of background reading. However, my own lack of ‘sense of place’ did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.

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Mayfly “Flowering” On The Tisza

I found the book to be well written and tightly plotted with a good level of suspense. It had a certain depth and I would not consider it a light read, whether that is due to the setting or the content I’m not sure. Anna is a multidimensional character. Driven and feminist, she can also show a more vulnerable side, which we see in her relationship with Peter. The supporting cast of characters were also well drawn and I was fascinated by  the descriptions of the riverside village, the camps  and the library club.

Whilst the mayfly only lives for the briefest of times , I hope Anna Fekete makes many more appearances. So flit down to your local bookshop for a copy or download it.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy