Crime Fiction Pick of July

Come and join me over at Mysteries in Paradise, led by the very able and well-read Kerrie, to see what everyone has been reading this month.  In my case, fewer books got read this month, for a very simple reason called school holidays!

Even fewer got reviewed, so let me just add a sentence or two about my thoughts for each one:

1) Bernard Minier: The Frozen Dead

A strange tale involving a decapitated  horse, a serial killer and a mental asylum in the Pyrenees. Exciting read to cool off during the hot summer months (it takes place in winter, as you might have guessed from the title).  Full review will be shortly available on Crime Fiction Lover.

2) Frédérique Molay: The 7th Woman

Gokan3) Diniz Galhos:¬†GŇćkan ¬†(in French, no English translation available yet)

Tarantino-like crime caper set in Japan, involving an American assassin, a French professor from the Sorbonne, grumpy yakuza chasing each other and a bottle of saké belonging to (you guessed it!) Quentin Tarantino.  Dynamic, explosive and just a shade incomprehensible.

4) Denise Mina: Garnethill

How did I ever miss this series?  A fantastic narrative voice, plunging you into the gritty world of low-paid jobs, drugs and Glasgow squalour. Not as grim as it sounds: ultimately hopeful and uplifting.

5) Karin Fossum: Calling Out for You (a.k.a. The Indian Bride)

Almost unbearably sad story about settled, peaceful middle-aged Norwegian man Gunder Jomann and his Indian bride, who gets murdered as soon as she arrives in the country.  It was disturbing to see how evil deeds can arise out of nowhere, in the apparently most peaceful little town in one of the safest countries in the world.  Not your average police procedural, and one that will haunt me for weeks to come.

6) Orhan Pamuk: The Museum of Innocence – will get a review of its own for my Works in Translation Challenge.

midas7) Anne Zouroudi: The Taint of Midas

Not as cosy as you might think at first sight, given the idyllic location of the Greek islands, the authoritative presence of the investigator Hermes Diaktoros and the overall charm of the author’s writing style. ¬†The ‘whodunit’ component was not quite compelling enough, but this is a book to savour for its characters, descriptions and telling details. ¬†Perfect holiday read, in the best sense of the word.

8) M.C. Grant: Devil with a Gun

Another great holiday read, this time a would-be noir set in San Francisco, featuring the Russian mafia and starring Dixie Flynn, the most feisty, witty, don’t care-ish female detective (actually, a journalist) since V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone. ¬†Review coming up on Crime Fiction Lover.

9) The PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2012

The quality of the stories is not in doubt, but I was somewhat disappointed by the uniformity of the selection. ¬†All the stories were rather wistful and nostalgic, all a bit oblique – sometimes too much so, to the point where I felt like saying ‘So what?’. ¬†But perhaps that’s just me being obtuse.

FossumHappy to say that half of my reads were by women authors this month, and four of them were originally written in another language. ¬†And my Crime Pick of the Month? ¬†It’s a tie between Denise Mina and Karin Fossum, very hard to choose, ¬†but perhaps the Fossum book will linger in my memory longest.

 

 

Memorable Moments from Lyon Crime Festival

DSCN6589Did you know that 70% of crime fiction editors in France are women?  That is just one of the surprising facts that I found out at the Quais du Polar in Lyon this last weekend.

What I also found there: a great intimacy between readers and writers, a fun-filled atmosphere, resilience to stand in the queue despite the rain and cold, and plenty of memorable quotes and valuable nuggets of information such as:

1) The Festival in Figures: 4 days, 70 authors, 35 panel discussions, 5 live recordings of radio programmes, 5 literary prizes (less to do with money, more to do with prestige and a spike in sales), 10 films introduced by authors, 10 theatre performances and an estimated 60,000 visitors.

ClaudeMespledeClaude Mespl√®de was the President of the Readers’ Jury and the true beating heart of the Festival. ¬†Passionate about crime fiction since the age of 10, he has edited anthologies of crime fiction, written the definitive Dictionary of Crime Literature and been instrumental in setting up the Toulouse Crime Festival.

UrbanPanel2) The Urban Panel: The urban landscape as a scene of desolation, poverty and deprivation, with petty crime and trivial, sensationalised news items. This is crime fiction at its grittiest, providing rich social commentary. Young writers Rachid Santaki and¬†J√©r√©mie Guez write about the Parisian ghettos from personal experience, Petros Markaris mourns the amnesia and almost casual descent into violence and indifference of Athens, John Burdett shows a side of Bangkok that the Thai Tourist Board would undoubtedly not approve of. ¬†It is left to Swiss writer Jo√ęl Dicker to round it off with a critique of the American media reporting on crimes in his runaway success of a debut novel ‘The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair’. (Oddly enough, Dicker has become a bit of a media buzz himself – however, in the picture I took of the panel he is not visible, so you cannot judge for yourselves if he is indeed as good-looking and boyish looking as he is hyped to be).

3) Quotes about writing, sources of inspiration and the joys of being read:

It’s not about faith or inspiration, it’s about work. (David Khara)

I never wanted to write anything else but crime fiction. Writing a story that grips people, with strong characters, seems to me such an art and an achievement. (Sylvie Granotier)

When a community and a society is starting to lose its conscience, perhaps a writer has a duty to act as the collective memory. (Petros Markaris)

PetrosMarkaris
Petros Markaris

The banality of evil is what makes crime fiction so interesting. ¬†We are always surprised to find a killer in our midst, which is why we always say ‘Who could have imagined X doing such a thing?’ But we never know people well enough to see what lurks beneath the surface. We seldom dare to look deep enough within ourselves even. (Jo√ęl Dicker)

I started out with crime fiction because it was something I liked reading and I thought I might be able to do it. But I didn’t think I would stay with it for so long. That’s because it is a genre that also allows you to say something true about men and women, and about the society in which we live. (P.D. James)

Amateurs wait for inspiration, the rest of us go to work. ¬†You can’t be in it just for the money – I don’t chase the money (although it’s nice when I get it), but the readers’ hearts. However, Dickens, Shakespeare, Dumas all wrote for money. ¬†The idea that a writer has to be ¬† lofty and above commerce is a very modern one. ¬†All I want to do is entertain. ¬†If a reader takes my book to bed with them for 15 minutes and is still reading it at 5 in the morning, I have more than accomplished my mission. (Harlan Coben)

Diniz Galhoz
Diniz Galhos

Us younger French writers feel more like global citizens: we can write about America, about Japan, about anywhere in the world. A good story remains a good story, no matter where it is located. (Diniz Galhos)

The authors of obscure literary fiction who say ‘You have readers, but I have my dignity’ are kidding themselves if they think that their notion of success is any different from my notion of success. ¬†Everyone wants more readers. (Jeff Abbott)

ElsaMarpeau
Elsa Marpeau

90% of present-day French crime writers have been influenced by American fiction, especially Elmore Leonard.  I am not sure that all those traditional differences between Anglo-Saxon and French literature still apply. (Elsa Marpeau)

Only bad writers think they are good, all others are insecure. ¬†Your book is never quite what you want it to be. That’s what motivates you to write the next one. (Harlan Coben)

But above all, I found ornate, sumptuous and unusual locations, just right to celebrate literary delights!

Hotel de Ville, Lyon
Hotel de Ville, Lyon

MainHall
Main Hall

And here is my book haul from the festival.  I really made an effort to restrain myself.

DSCN6594