Apr 29, 2010

Camilla Läckberg's top 10 Swedish crime novels

from the guardian.co.uk, Thursday 12 March 2009 

There seems to be an endless supply of great Swedish crime writers. One of the latest northern stars to be translated, Camilla Läckberg, here picks out her own strongest suspects.

Born in 1974, Camilla Läckberg began her working life as an economist, but a course in creative crime writing set her on a fresh track that six books later has established her in the front rank of Swedish crime writers. Her mysteries, all set in her tiny home town of Fjällbacka, have all been number one bestsellers in Sweden. The Preacher is the latest of her novels to become available in English translation.

Scandinavian crime fiction has become a great success all across the world and rightfully so. Sjöwall & Wahlöö ushered in a whole generation of Swedish crime writers, many of whom are now available in English. I think ours is a tradition that has much in common with English crime writing: there's a very similar care for setting, characters, and psychology. These are some of my favourites – I hope some of them will become yours.

1. The Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser

Nesser sets his stories in a fictional country that's not quite Sweden, but the people in them are very, very real. He used to be a school teacher before becoming a writer, and it shows in the meticulous way he handles his texts. But yet his writing never feels cold or static – there's heart in everything he writes and you find yourself understanding and sympathising with some real villains.

2. Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman

Loosely based on a true story, this is dark, sinister and wonderfully written. It's been a hugely popular book for many years in Sweden, with an appeal that extends to readers who don't usually touch thrillers. A real classic.

3. Missing by Karin Alvtegen

Karin Alvtegen is the master at psychological suspense, and her plots unfold themselves naturally from the character studies. No one does this better than Alvtegen, and her homeless murder suspect, Sybilla, is one of crime fiction's most memorable characters.

4. Sun Storm by Åsa Larsson

Northern Sweden holds a special kind of magic. It's cold, lonely, and the people are tough and silent, or so the stereotype says. This is Åsa Larsson's home turf and I find as much joy in reading her closely observed descriptions of the environment, as in following her intriguing plots. And I love the fact that the heroine in her books is a tax attorney.

5. The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell

Inspector Wallander has become a household name along with the little town of Ystad where he pursues most of his cases. But Mankell's range is far from parochial. Drawing on his own experience living both in Sweden and in Africa, this tale of a serial killer takes us around Congo as well as Ystad.

6. Unseen by Mari Jungstedt

Emma and Johan, the intriguing couple caught up in this murderous plot, are characters to really fall in love with, and combined with the picturesque environment of Gotland, and a great plot, you've got a book to cherish. Mari is also not only a colleague but a close friend of mine, and we love talking about murder methods, forensics and criminal psychology over dinner.

7. Shame by Karin Alvtegen

Another winner from Alvtegen, this book really touched me. She often has a theme based on human nature and shortcomings in her books - and this book is a searing portrait of someone bearing the shame of being unloved.

8. Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin

Johan is a relative newcomer to crime fiction, but has already really carved out his own niche, which blends the murder mystery with the ghost story. It's so spooky, I could never read this one at night!

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Fiction like nothing else, Larsson's books offer the unusual experience of serious, character-driven writing that also provides helter skelter action. Buckle up before you start reading!

10. Midvinterblod by Mons Kallentoft (not yet translated)

Mons came to crime fiction relatively late, after three other books including Food Noir, a collection of groundbreaking essays on food and travel. As well as a terrific plot, this book also has one of the best-realised female heroines I've read by a male writer. It's not yet translated into English, but it really should be.

Apr 28, 2010

James Church on North Korean Politics, Past and Present

I have been reading all three of the Inspector O novels written by James Church and taking place in North Korea.

Here is a bit by James Church post on Confessions of an Indioscyncratic Mind:

What would be the one thing Americans and the West should understand about North Korean human behavior that hasn't necessarily been transmitted in the press?

Not to mince words, Western media treatment of North Korea has generally been pathetic. “Lazy” and “intellectually bankrupt” also come to mind. Too many reporters and editors love to fall back on “it was a dark and stormy night” journalism when it comes to writing about the country. If one cannot figure out what to say, spill some ink talking about how the North is a mysterious place, a black hole of absurd behavior, a Stalinist Disneyland.

North Korea is a bureaucracy, it is Asian, and it is a totalitarian state inhabited by human beings. None of those attributes are beyond our understanding or experience. In other words, North Korea is not an unknowable enigma, yet we insist on seeing it as the equivalent of the planet Pluto—dark, cold, and distant. Why are we stuck in this rut? It’s a very American problem. Perhaps we don’t understand other peoples as well as we might because, as a nation, we sometimes fool ourselves about ourselves. READ MORE....

Apr 21, 2010

ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky

Books are coming in faster than I can read them. Here is one that I will read soon. 
If you can think of times in your life that you've treated people with extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that with ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it's probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we're here for is to learn how to do it. I know that sounds a little pious.   

- David Foster Wallace

Apr 18, 2010

Against the Wind Nursery


Hello Gardeners!

I believe that spring has at long last arrived!  Along with general seasonal activities, I have been busy getting the nursery ready for opening day, which is this Sunday, April 18th. Come out and see the nursery and the farm - a lot has been going on in the past few weeks.

10am - 5pm

6376 Slocan River Road
Winlaw  (between Winlaw Bridge and Perry's Bridge)
          Regular hours are:
Sunday - Wednesday, April 18th - July 31st 
10am - 5pm 
If you wish to visit the nursery on Fridays or Saturdays please call 250.226.6957
Closed Thursdays

Apr 17, 2010

Ajrakh Blockprint Textiles On Sale

Ajrakh Blockprint textiles in our store in Winlaw are now 20% off to make room for the new Organic cotton Ajrakh blockprints. We do have organic cotton blockprints in stock, but not the Ajrakh style yet.

Visit Maiwa's website.

Apr 14, 2010

Why are Nordic detective novels so successful?

from The Economist 

The neat streets of Oslo are not a natural setting for crime fiction. Nor, with its cows and country smells, is the flat farming land of Sweden’s southern tip. And Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is now associated more with financial misjudgment than gruesome murder. Yet in the past decade Nordic crime writers have unleashed a wave of detective fiction that is right up there with the work of Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, Elmore Leonard and the other crime greats. Nordic crime today is a publishing phenomenon. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy alone has sold 27m copies, its publishers’ latest figures show, in over 40 countries. The release this month in Britain and America of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, the film of the first Larsson book, will only boost sales. READ MORE...

Apr 10, 2010

new fairly traded hand made baskets in stock

Red Telegraph

Red Telegraph sources fairly traded products made by women in developing countries. We work with organisations that are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by training and employing the most disadvantaged women in their regions. By buying one of our products you are helping to support their efforts to establish poverty-free societies across the world.

Apr 9, 2010


from the Globe and Mail: Books

There are no serial killers in Norway. At least, there are none anyone knows about. That’s one of the many snippets in the complex plot of this mesmerizing novel by Jo Nesbo, the fifth Harry Hole book in English translation.

There are so many good crime novels coming out of Scandinavia these days that it’s almost become a cliché. But Harry Hole is different. Yes, he’s a policeman, just like Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander and Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer. But he’s also difficult, isolated and a natural loner, more akin to Philip Marlowe than Wallander. There is a sense of loss in Hole, and this novel plays it up. He’s an alcoholic who’s stopped drinking, subject to the desperate needs of addiction and the ruthless physical symptoms of the “dry drunk.” His girlfriend, Rakel, has found love and meaning with a new man. She’s planning to marry to move to Africa. His closest friend and mentor is gone, shot dead. What keeps Harry moving from one day to the next is the job. In this case, one missing woman who may be dead.

Nesbo begins this story with a small boy’s terror. The cause? A snowman, turned round, staring into his room, not out toward the world. And that’s the brilliance of Nesbo: He takes the simple and cozy, and transforms it into the terrorizing. The snowman is what binds the deaths of several women, all young, all mothers. Harry, the only policeman in Norway with “experience” dealing with a serial killer (in Australia), uncovers the case and then begins tracking the clues, which lead him in some very strange directions.

I guessed the identity of the killer early, but that didn’t detract from the story at all. I wanted to see just why and how, and what happens to the other people in this story. The characters are marvellous, the plot is tight and the setting perfect – just at the edge of a Norwegian winter – and the concept original. Serial killers may have become ubiquitous in North America, but in Norway, they’re still a novelty.

Apr 3, 2010

THE WINGS OF THE SPHINX by Andrea Camilleri

posted on Petrona

I thought I might share some extracts from this latest novel by the supreme Camilleri, aided and abetted by his magnificent translator, poet Stephen Sartarelli.  

Ever since television had come into the home, everyone had become accustomed to eating bread and corpses. From noon to one o'clock, and from seven to eight-thirty in the evening - that is, when people were at table - there wasn't a single television station that wasn't broadcasting images of bodies torn apart, mangled, burnt, or tortured, men, women, old folks, and little children, imaginatively and ingeniously slaughtered in one part of the world or another. 

Not a day went by without there being, in one part of the world or another, a war to broadcast to one and all. And so one saw people dying of hunger, who haven't got a cent to buy a loaf of bread, shooting at other people likewise dying of hunger, with bazookas, Kalashnikovs, missiles, bombs, all ultra-modern weapons costing far more than medicine and food for everyone would have cost.

Apr 2, 2010

John le Carré

Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.