Archive for the ‘crime fiction’ Tag

The Girl in the Crime Series Lives!   2 comments

When author Stieg Larsson died 11 years ago, it appeared to be the death knell for the Millennium Series featuring Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist and heroic bad girl Lisbeth Salander. Thanks to David Lagercrantz, the demise of the fictional characters was greatly exaggerated.

Lagercrantz has written the fourth installment, The Girl in the Spider’s Web — doing so in a voice and style remarkably similar to Larsson’s. This is a good thing.

The two protagonists have moved on with their lives;  Blomkvist still writes for Millennium magazine and Salander continues to hack computers. They have not stayed in touch with one another. Then, Blomkvist receives a call in the middle of the night from a source who has been in contact with a hacker whose description can only fit Salander. This thinnest of threads ultimately expands to hold the narrative together. Blomkvist’s source and Salander’s work for him are linked to international cyber-spying, old family vendettas and the pair’s respect and faith in one another.

Many characters introduced by Larsson have new-found life thanks to Lagercrantz. He follows a similar pattern of simultaneous stories occurring within a single chapter until they ultimately come together.

Blomkvist’s source is murdered, the NSA is hacked and a child autistic savant not only has the missing piece to the puzzle that brings these events together, but he brings out an unlikely, albeit extremely slight, maternal side in Salander.

There’s intrigue, righting wrongs and descriptions of Stockholm that make it seem as if Lagercrantz is channeling Larsson.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
400 pages


Held in Suspense   Leave a comment


Child 44 begins in such a predictable manner, with a vignette from the past, it belies the true suspense of Tom Rob Smith’s novel. However, as the tale unfolds each twist and turn is a complete surprise.

In Stalin-era Russia, Leo Demidov is with the State Security Force. In the midst of investigating a possible traitor, he’s ordered to address the death of a colleague’s young son. The family is convinced the boy was murdered but as Leo notes, “If left unchecked, the groundless chatter about murder could grow like a weed, spreading through the community … making them question one of the fundamental pillars of their new society: there is no crime.” The family’s concerns are dismissed.

Although he’s guilty of cold-heartedly dealing with those who denounce Mother Russia through actual or perceived actions, Leo has a soft side. Smith establishes a tangible fear and mistrust that permeate the Russian culture. Leo has kicked in more than his share of doors and had citizens banished, or worse, but the tide changes and he becomes a hapless victim when he refuses to condemn his wife, Raisa.

Consequently, Leo is assigned menial tasks with  small town police force, but a girl’s murder captures his attention by its similarity to the death he had previously scorned. Thus begins a secret investigation, cross-country pursuit, and unraveling of long-held secrets.

This is a rapid-heart rate page turner. However, one fault lies in Leo’s nemesis: Vasili, a one-dimensional character in an otherwise realistic, albeit frightening, world.

Child 44

Four and a half Bookmarks
Grand Central Publishing, 2008
436 pages

Nordic Intrigue and Drug Cartels   Leave a comment


Like other Harry Hole mysteries by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, Phantom accelerates from zero to 120 in no time flat. The quick-pace, heart-thumping action alternates voices between a third-person omniscient narrator and a recently-murdered drug dealer. The latter isn’t as disturbing as it sounds. In fact, it’s a powerful device, identified by italics, having the deceased Gusto reveal a lot about his wasted life and elements of his demise, without divulging who dunnit.

Harry returns to Oslo from his self-imposed exile in Bangkok to help exonerate Oleg, the son of the woman he’s never stopped loving. Although they are not flesh and blood, Harry has strong paternal feelings for Oleg. Consequently, Harry finds it unlikely the young man could be guilty. Harry relies on former connections within the police force to help in his unofficial investigation, as well as employing his own brand of whatever-it-takes approach to solve a crime.

Russian drug lords, crooked politicians and policemen, and Harry’s own demons help propel the story beyond drug deals gone bad. Nesbo is impressive in his ability to create black and white characters with nuance; that is, even the bad guys have a few redeeming qualities, while the good ones can’t help but disappoint from time to time. In the process, it’s difficult to determine the guilty person before Nesbo spells it out.

It is not necessary to have read any of the previous Harry Hole mysteries before jumping into Phantom, the only question is why would you not want to?

Four-and-a-half  Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
378 pages

Posted May 20, 2013 by bluepagespecial in Books, Reviews

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Crime (Lit) Fix   1 comment

I don’t know what it is that makes me crave Scandinavian crime fiction, but I’m addicted. Sweden’s Hakan Nesser’s Mind’s Eye fed my habit, but I know I’ll need more soon. Nesser is a master storyteller whose pacing is neither rushed nor sluggish. The crime scenes aren’t too gruesome and the clues are well hidden. He even manages to throw humor into the mix.

The story begins with Janek Mitter awakening from a drunken stupor only to find his wife drowned in the bathtub. Mitter’s too easy a suspect, but is, nonetheless, tried and convicted before things take a turn and get exciting: Mitter, too, becomes a victim. That’s where Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, a middle-aged investigator with an attitude, comes in. His success rate at solving crimes is impressive. He had early doubts about Mitter’s guilt, but not soon enough.

I had a fairly good idea about who the actual killer was, but was not prepared for why. Van Veeteren knows who but won’t name names because, as he tells a subordinate, “… there has to be a story,” in other words a reason. Nesser’s characters develop slowly, and in an interesting manner. Many chapters begin with stream of consciousness narration and it is unclear who’s doing the thinking. This only enhances the element of suspense. Eventually, it gives way to very clear identities and perspectives.

This is the first of Nesser’s Van Veeteren mysteries. I can’t wait for my next fix, I mean the next installment. Fortunately, Nesser has several.

Mind’s Eye
Four Bookmarks
Pantheon Books, 2008
278 pages

South of the Border Noir   Leave a comment

The Black Minutes by Martin Solares is a two-tiered crime novel held together by in-
teresting characters and captivating murders over a 20-year time span. The writing is
icing. Solares creates easy to envision situations in a fast-paced style. The only problems
occur in the transitions from reality to dreams and the number of personalities filling the

Thankfully, Solares includes a three-page Cast of Characters to help keep track of who’s
who. Most are corrupt law enforcement, politicians, clergy, and businessmen; but not
everyone is a bad guy. While there may not be any white knights, there are a few gray
ones. The story begins with the murder of a young journalist investigating a serial kill-
ing spree that took place 20 years ago in his town of Paracuan, a Mexican port and home
of a drug cartel. Ramon Cabrera is the honest police investigator who is removed from the
case shortly after he connects a few dots. Cabrera establishes a relationship between the
journalist’s death, the past murders and a scrupulous detective, Vincente Rangel, who
led the investigation two decades ago. This is where it gets fun.

Solares incorporates different narrators, while maintaining his role as storyteller. Certain
chapters are identified as “testimony” wherein the first person voice of one of the characters
tells his version before the writing reverts to third person. The majority of the book tracks
Rangel’s investigation, followed closely by Cabrera’s. Several surprises surface that make
the past more closely linked than one can imagine.

The Black Minutes

Four Bookmarks
Black Cat, 2010
436 pages