A whirlwind tour of the international crime scene

Stuck for something gritty to read this summer? Stock librarian – and avid reader of crime novels – Andy takes us on a trip around the international crime genre…

International crime fiction has really taken off in the last few years, and not just the Nordic Noir novels.  I have chosen a few of the best international crime novels published over the last year or so.  I hope you enjoy reading about them, and remember – they are all available to borrow in our libraries!

Irene – Pierre Lemaitre (2014) – FranceIrene - Pierre Lemaitre

Commandant Verhoeven is happily married, expecting his first child with the lovely Irene. But his blissful existence is punctured by a murder of unprecedented savagery.. . It is quickly revealed that the killer- The Novelist- is recreating scenes from cult crime novels.

The book is a beautifully written homage to iconic crime fiction. It is also incredibly disturbing, brutal and tense with an escalating feeling of oh-no-please-don’t-let-what-I-think-is-going-to-happen-happen and the final pages of the book are hair-raising and pulse-pounding. There are not many detectives who become so indelibly fixed in your imagination, and more importantly raise your empathy so effectively, and I look forward to reading the sequels.

Falling Freely As If in a Dream – Leif G.W. Persson (2014) – Sweden FFaiiaDream

Lars Martin Johansson, Chief of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, decides to have a final shot at solving the twenty-year old assassination of then Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme.
This is an odd book in that the assassination of Olof Palme is a real-life event, which has never been properly solved, and at times it is difficult to know which events and characters are real and which are fiction. There is lots of amusing writing and dialogue, and although the story starts out slowly, it builds momentum and totally captured me with interesting characters and an engrossing plot.

Arab Jazz – Karim Miske (2015) – Francearab-jazz-pen-website

Kosher sushi, kebabs, a second-hand bookshop and a bar: the 19th arrondissement in Paris is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood where multicultural citizens live, love and worship alongside one another. This peace is shattered when Ahmed Taroudant’s melancholy daydreams are interrupted by the blood dripping from his upstairs neighbour’s brutally mutilated corpse.

This is another unusual crime novel which asks some serious questions – why do some young men become alienated in the society they live in, and it also examines extreme religion and fundamentalism. This novel will take us from radical Islam, fundamentalist Christianity to radical Judaism, and from mosques in Paris to the headquarters of the Jehovah Witnesses in New York. It has a great sense of atmosphere and some truly memorable characters. It is also obviously very topical.

First Rule of Survival – Paul Mendelson (2014) – South Africathe-first-rule-of-survival

Seven years ago, in Cape Town, South Africa, three schoolboys were abducted in broad daylight on consecutive days. They were never seen again.

This is a bleak but fast-moving novel, with some wonderful writing, particularly when describing the Cape Town setting. It is easy to immerse yourself in absolutely everything; the characters, the animals, the nature, the architecture…and the dust!
The story itself is chilling and thought provoking.

Light in a Dark House – Jan Costin Wagner (2014) – Finland LightinaDarkHouse

Finnish detective Kimmo Joentaa is called to the local hospital in which his young wife died several years before. An unidentified woman in a coma has been murdered by someone who wept over the body, their tears staining the sheets around her.

This is a beautifully written dark, brooding Nordic thriller with a surprise ending that you really won’t see coming. There are no big, gory descriptions of the murders; instead just an unsettling feeling of dread and unease. Rather than the violence of the crimes, the author chooses to focus on the aftermath and the sense of loss that those crimes invoke.

These are my top picks – let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of the books above, or if you think there’s been a glaring omission! 

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