1930s Crime

The Lake District Murder by John Bude

The Lake District Murder (British Library Crime Classics)

Five words from the blurb: body, garage, puzzle, 1930s, village

I used to live near Cockermouth, Cumbria so when I saw Margaret’s post on The Lake District Murder I immediately reserved a copy from the library. I’m so pleased I did as it contains some wonderful information about what it was like to live in the area in the 1930s.

The book begins with the discovery of a body in the village of Braithwaite. It initially looks like suicide, but the police soon find a number of inconsistences and launch a murder inquiry. It is a quaint, gentle story with none of the action or violence you’d find in a typical crime novel today; instead it shows the simple, methodical way in which crimes were investigated nearly a century ago. 

The slow pace of the story and the lack of any real action would normally be a big problem for me, but this book managed to capture my attention with the period detail. I loved reading about catching a train from Keswick to Cockermouth (the line closed in 1964) and it was interesting to read about the shops present on Cockermouth Main Street back then. If anything these little details weren’t enough – I’d have liked to discover more about what was present in the towns back then.

Shortly after ten he swung right off the Braithwaite road and headed for Bassenthwaite lake.. About a hundred yards beyond the turning which led to Braithwaite station, he drew up at the roadside and consulted his Bartholomew’s map. He reckoned Jenkin Hill to be a little over a mile ahead, at which point the railway line was shown as being some three hundred yards away from the road. This fact was of vital importance to Meredith, as he knew there was a Cockermouth train due in at Braithwaite station at 6.25 on Saturday evening,

I think I’d have found the book boring if I hadn’t such a strong bond with the setting – the solution to the mystery wasn’t that interesting, the characters all seemed so similar that they merged into one, and there wasn’t any real forward momentum. I’d read another of his books if it was set in the same area, but his otherwise his writing style was too gentle for me.


2014 Books in Translation Chunkster Crime Uncategorized

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair Translated from the French by Sam Taylor

Five words from the blurb: American, disappearance, mystery, writer, love

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is an intricately plotted murder mystery set in New England. It begins with Harry Quebert, a famous author, being arrested for the murder of a 15-year-old girl who went missing thirty years ago. Marcus Goldman, an old friend who was mentored by him at college, is convinced that Harry is innocent and rushes to his side. He sets out to investigate the truth behind the crime; discovering a host of secrets buried in the small coastal town.

Joël Dicker is a Swiss author, but it is impossible to know this from reading the novel. He’s somehow managed to produce a novel that feels authentically American. The characters are all well drawn and all hide secrets from their past. It is like the literary equivalent of Broadchurch (a fantastic British crime drama that I highly recommend) in that almost all the characters have a motive for the murder, but the clever plot keeps you guessing right until the end.

The pacing and structure of the book was perfect, with new information and plot twists added regularly. The way everything came together at the end was especially good and I found myself marveling at the construction of it all. I also loved the meta aspects of the novel. Some of the sections reminded me of the wonderful HHhH, although I’m not sure if the similarities were simply due to the fact both novels have the same translator.

The book was long, but it never dragged and I loved the way I felt as though I knew a wide-range of characters by the end. The reader occasionally has to suspend their disbelief and there were a few cliches sprinkled throughout, but I was willing to forgive these as I was so engrossed in the plot. 

This isn’t great literature, but it is a fantastic piece of story-telling. I recommend this book if you’re after an entertaining diversion that will keep you guessing for hours.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

Joël Dicker succeeds in pulling off one of the best literary deceptions in years. Pretty Sinister Books

…the sort of magnificently awful book to sharpen hatchets over while idly eyeing up your kitchen knives. Domestic Sluttery

 It’s 656 pages of pure readable summertime bliss. 3G1B

2013 Crime Uncategorized

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

Snow White Must Die Translated from the German by Steven T Murray

Five words from the blurb: girls, vanished, convicted, mystery, solved

Snow White Must Die is set in a small village near Frankfurt. Eleven years ago two teenage girls disappeared and 20-year-old Tobias was convicted of their murder, despite a lack of real evidence. After serving time in prison he returns to the family home, but the tight-knit community are upset by his release and begin a series of attacks on his family. Then another girl goes missing and Tobias becomes the prime suspect. The police and local residents soon realise that certain aspects of the case don’t add up and do everything possible to discover the truth, before things deteriorate further.

Snow White Must Die is a long book with plenty of twists and turns. The narrative complexity and the strong character development reminded me of Tana French and I’m sure that anyone who enjoyed In The Woods will appreciate this one.

Some aspects of the plot didn’t feel entirely realistic, but that can be forgiven in this genre. It had a compelling plot and managed to hold my attention throughout –  I especially liked the way the conclusion can be guessed if the reader pays attention to the clues sprinkled through the text.

At one point in the book I was disappointed by the portrayal of a character with autism and was planning a big rant in this post, but without spoiling anything I’ll just say that this was rectified in the end!

I read this book for German Literature Month but it didn’t feel very German. I’m not sure if this is a positive or a negative and I guess that depends on what you are looking for. It could have been set in any Western country and this universal nature means it will have broad appeal, but I felt it lacked a sense of place. I’d have liked to see more German culture in the book, but I’m probably in the minority.

Overall this was a solidly good piece of crime fiction. Nothing about it particularly stands out, but it was an enjoyable diversion while it lasted.


Post Reading Note: After finishing the book I discovered that Snow White Must Die isn’t the first book in the series, but it is the first to be translated into English. I never normally read books out of sequence, but when reading this one I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything. In fact the police played a fairly minimal role in this book, with the main emphasis being on Tobias and the residents of the village. I’d be interested to read other books in the series and see if this improves my relationship with the Detectives.

2000 - 2007 Crime Thriller Uncategorized

Pecking Order by Chris Simms

Pecking Order

Five words from the blurb: farm, chickens, kill, secret, project

Earlier in the year Scott Pack recommended Pecking Order and I decided to give it a try. It was free at the time, but the kindle edition is still only 99p and I recommend that you get a copy if you’d like a gripping piece of crime fiction.

Pecking Order is a psychological thriller that investigates how willing people are to follow the orders of someone in authority. It cleverly uses the plight of battery chickens as a backdrop; using the bird’s pain and fear to increase the tension of the human drama. The chickens also emphasize what is wrong with our society and, although this book can be seen as a quick, entertaining read, there are several deeper messages hidden under the surface:

As he walked back across the lawn to his own house he reflected on the concern shown for a missing cat while, if events so far were anything to go by, an old person could lie dead and undiscovered in their flat for days.

The book demands the reader’s attention from the very first page. The descriptions are vivid and sometimes disturbing – if you don’t eat free-range chickens already, you’ll certainly be more inclined to do so after reading this book!

The central character, Rubble, is deliciously evil. He enjoys his job slaughtering chickens and it is wonderful to read a book where it is a joy to hate most of the characters. The book also contains some scenes within a university and I loved this campus-novel aspect of the plot.

Overall, Pecking Order is an original, thought provoking and entertaining read. I look forward to reading more of Simm’s work in the future.


Have you read anything by Chris Simms?

Which of his books would you recommend I try next?

1960s Crime

Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Roseanna (The Martin Beck series)Translated from the Swedish by Lois Roth

Five words from the blurb: detective, Sweden, crime, strangled, boat

Martin Beck is commonly described as one of the best fictional detectives ever created and this series always tops crime fiction “must-read” lists. Roseanna is the first of ten books and I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time. I’m pleased I’ve finally read this crime classic and look forward to enjoying the rest of the series. 

The plot was quite simple, revolving around the discovery of a dead woman in a lake. The identity of her killer is quickly narrowed down to one of the 85 people on board a passenger ferry. Martin Beck uses his slow, but thorough detective skills to locate the murderer in this easy to read, but gripping narrative.

Roseanna was written in the 1960s, a golden age for crime fiction. In our Internet age there is something charming about the lack of mobile phones and the fact that it takes two weeks for messages to travel from America to Sweden.  The writing also has a gentleness that means it isn’t disturbing, no matter how violent the crime. 

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed by the ending. Despite the initial slowness of the investigation, the resolution seemed to happen too easily. I wished that there had been several suspects so the reader had the opportunity to guess whodunnit.  Instead it just seemed like a charming introduction to Martin Beck – nothing really wrong with that, but not that exciting either:

When he smiled, you could see his healthy, white teeth. His dark hair was combed straight back from the even hairline and had not yet begun to gray. The look in his soft blue eyes was clear and calm. He was thin but not especially tall and somewhat round-shouldered. Some women would say he was good looking but most of them would see him as quite ordinary. He dressed in a way that would draw no attention. If anything, his clothes were a little too discreet.

I’ve heard that the real joy of this series is seeing how Beck (and Sweden) develop over time and so although this wasn’t completely satisfying I’m still keen to try the rest of the series.


Have you read this series?

Were you hooked from book one?

Which books in this series did you enjoy the most?



2012 Crime Non Fiction Recommended books

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan's Shadows

Five words from the blurb: Tokyo, hostess, dismembered, fate, family

Lucie Blackman was just 21-years-old when she disappeared in June 2000. She had been working as a hostess in Tokyo and for months no-one knew what had happened to her. It was suggested that she’d joined a cult or run away with a boyfriend, but after a difficult search her dismembered remains were discovered in an isolated cave. Richard Lloyd Parry spent 10 years researching the case; interviewing everyone and gaining detailed information about the personalities of those involved. People Who Eat Darkness provides an insight into the bizarre world of the Japanese hostess and explains the legal system in the country. It is a fascinating book that must rank as one of the best pieces of true crime ever written.

The pace of the book was slow and Parry’s meticulous research was obvious throughout, but what made this book special was the way that every single person was thoroughly developed. I felt as though I knew them, understanding their actions and feeling their pain/frustration.

The book was perfectly structured. In the hands of a lesser author the story could be seen as quite simple, but Parry arranged the fragments to create an engaging book that introduced new threads of information at exactly the right time. Complex moral questions were raised throughout and I’m still thinking about what I’d do if faced with similar circumstances.

People are afraid of stories like Lucie’s, stories about meaningless, brutal, premature death; but most of them can not own up to their fear. So they take comfort in the certainty of moral judgements, which they brandish like burning branches waved in the night to keep off the wolves.

Lucie’s case was high profile and I remembering hearing some details from the press at the time, but this book revealed how little the public actually know about an individual case. I was shocked by certain aspects of the story and surprised by the number of twists and turns.

I love Japanese culture and this book provided me with lots of interesting snippets of information. I found the details about the police force particularly revealing – who knew that the symbol for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police is an orange fairy named Peepo?!

Overall this was an impressive book that will shock and entertain you. Highly recommended.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

It was a fascinating  and intense read. The Literary Stew

…a thorough investigation of a crime that can offer no answer to its questions. In Bed with Books

…a compelling and unputdownable read, that will haunt you for days afterward. A Bookish Way of Life