May 27, 2010

When crime pays: Names to watch out for

taken from the by John Crace

Stieg Larsson

He spent the best part of 25 years editing a small left-wing magazine before delivering to a publisher the finished manuscripts of three books – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. They were originally intended as a 10-part "Millennium" series and the framework of a fourth book does exist, though it is not considered publishable. Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004 just before the first book was published in Sweden.

Henning Mankell

After making his name, but little money, as a writer of serious plays and novels, Mankell hit the big-time in the 90s with his series featuring Kurt Wallander, the harddrinking, divorced, lonely, angry everyman detective. The books also reflect Mankell's left-of-centre politics with cutting dissections of Swedish society and have picked up numerous awards around the world. It's been 10 years since he wrote The Pyramid, his last Wallander book, but another is rumoured to be on the way.

Peter Høeg

Like Mankell, Høeg started out as a serious writer before Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow made his a household name outside Denmark in 1992. Unlike Mankell, Høeg didn't choose to follow up his success; his next book, Borderliners, was a semi-autobiographical novel about a Copenhagen private school and in 1996 he published The Woman and the Ape, which was mauled by the critics. Høeg went into hibernation for 10 years before publishing The Quiet Girl in 2006 which was also panned for being too difficult and postmodern.

Arnaldur Indridason

He began the Detective Erlendur series in 1997 with Sons of Dust and has one on to write a further eight, becoming the most widely read Icelandic author in the process. Has been acclaimed both by his peers – Harlan Coben is a big fan – and by the critics for transcending genre with the quality of his writing . Arctic Chill, his most recent book in translation, won the prestigious Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger in 2006. A new book, Hypothermia, is due out in translation this year.

Håkan Nesser

Only became a full-time writer in 1998, having already knocked out eight books – mostly crime fiction – while working as a teacher in Uppsala. So far only his early books, The Mind's Eye, Borkmann's Point and The Return, which feature a detective called Van Veeteren, have been translated into English, though a fourth, Woman With a Birthmark, is due out this year. Since 2006, Nesser has written three books with a new character, Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti, that have picked up prestigious awards in Sweden and should appear in English in the near future.

Jo Nesbø

After dumping careers fi rst as a journalist and then as a stockbroker, Nesbø now splits his time between singing lead vocals for Norwegian rock band Di Derre and writing thrillers featuring Harry Hole, a typical maverick anti-authoritarian cop. Most pundits reckon he should stick to the writing. So far only The Redbreast, The Devil's Star and Nemesis are in print in the UK, though The Redeemer is due out in March. If that does well, expect translation of the other three Harry Hole thrillers shortly.

Karin Fossum

Started out as a poet – her first collection, published when she was just 20, won a major prize in Norway - but has since been dubbed the "Norwegian Queen of Crime" for her Inspector Sejer series that has been translated into more than 15 languages. Her most recent UK book is Black Seconds about a missing child, and The Water's Edge is due out later this year.

Sjöwall and Wahlöö

The husband and wife team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö can legitimately claim to be the grandparents of Scandinavian crime fiction with their series of 10 novels published between 1965 and 1975, featuring Martin Beck as a Stockholm detective, that were published between 1965 and 1975. Beck was the archetypal loner and the books established the principle of turning a critical eye on contemporary society. Their books are still in print in the UK, though they are much more popular on mainland Europe – most French bookshops have piles of them. Almost certainly overdue a revival here.

May 21, 2010

G K Chesterton on the essential value of detective fiction

that it is the earliest and only form of popular literature in which is expressed some sense of the poetry of modern life.

May 13, 2010

Twilight descends over baby names

from the

As vampire-loving Stephenie Meyer fans line up to name their babies after characters from her bestselling Twilight series, what are the literary names you would ward off with garlic?

Scary, scary news from the US: Twilight-loving parents are naming their children after characters in the books. The annual list of the most popular baby names in America, released on Friday, shows that Isabella (the name of Stephenie Meyer's drippy human heroine) is the most popular girl's name, while Jacob (the werewolf part of Bella's love triangle) tops the list for boys.

OK, Jacob's actually topped the chart for years, but the New York Times points out that Cullen (the surname of Edward, the vampire part of the love triangle) showed up at 485 on the list, "leaping almost 300 spots from 2008 for the biggest increase of any boy's name". One of the 555 couples to name their baby Cullen was Brad Lafferty and Michelle Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen told the NYT that she read Meyer's Breaking Dawn while pregnant. "I like old names," she said. "And most of those characters in there are vampires. So they are really, really old names."

Hmm. Quite apart from the fact that Breaking Dawn must be one of the worst books to read while anticipating giving birth – there's a horribly gruesome scene when a half-human, half-vampire child is born which, I would have thought, would send any prospective mother into meltdown – I have to wonder whether these little Cullens are going to thank their parents when they discover their parents' inspiration. I know I wouldn't appreciate being named after a weedy, obsessive vampire.

But it makes me wonder if there are any characters I'd appreciate as a namesake. Scarlett O'Hara is one of my all-time favourite heroines, but I'm not sure I'd lumber a child with her name; ditto Frodo – although Bilbo is quite sweet. And I'm rather fond of Lolita, but thanks to Nabokov, I think I'll probably give it a miss. Have you been literarily inspired in naming your child, or are there any fictional characters whose names you'd avoid like the plague?

May 12, 2010


Just finished the fourth in Ariana Franklin's series set in twelfth-century England, medieval mysteries featuring the forensic doctor Adelia Aguilar. I have enjoyed every one and look foreward to the next.


Mistress of the Art of Death begins with the murder of four children in Cambridge, England in 1171. The Christian townspeople blame the local Jewish community and they go on a murderous rampage. The Jews retreat behind castle walls and King Henry II's protection. The king wants the murders quickly resolved since he needs the prosperous Jewish community to start paying their taxes again. He asks his cousin, the king of Sicily, for help. This sends Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a doctor and forensic pathologist, to England, accompanied by Simon, her protector, and her Arab servant, Mansur. Since a woman can't be a doctor in England without being accused of witchcraft, Mansur acts as a doctor following Adelia's instructions. It's a time of knights returning from the Crusades, Christian/Jewish/Islamic strife, and religious fervor versus scientific enlightenment, and Adelia's investigation puts her own life in peril. Ariana Franklin's novel has received positive reviews with the Washington Post saying, "It's a historical mystery that succeeds brilliantly as both historical fiction and crime-thriller. Above all, though, Franklin has written a terrific story, whose appeal rests on the personalities of the all-too-human beings who inhabit it."

May 8, 2010

Salander’s final bow - An exclusive excerpt from The Globe and Mail

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

In an exclusive excerpt from the final novel in Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium Trilogy, Lisbeth Salander awakens from brain surgery while another woman stumbles, bleeding, through the woods

Salander was aware of the smell of almonds and ethanol. It felt as if she had alcohol in her mouth and she tried to swallow, but her tongue felt numb and paralyzed. She tried to open her eyes, but she could not. In the distance she heard a voice that seemed to be talking to her, but she could not understand the words. Then she heard the voice quite clearly.

“I think she’s coming around.”

She felt someone touch her forehead and tried to brush away the intrusive hand. At the same moment she felt intense pain in her left shoulder. She forced herself to relax.

“Can you hear me, Lisbeth?”

Go away.

“Can you open your eyes?”

Who was this fucking idiot harping on at her?

Finally she did open her eyes. At first she just saw strange lights, until a figure appeared in the centre of her field of vision. She tried to focus her gaze, but the figure kept slipping away. She felt as if she had a stupendous hangover, and the bed seemed to keep tilting backwards.

“Pnkllrs,” she said.

“Say that again?”

“ ’diot,” she said.

“That sounds good. Can you open your eyes again?”

She opened her eyes to narrow slits. She saw the face of a complete stranger and memorized every detail. A blond man with intense blue eyes and a tilted, angular face about a foot from hers.

“Hello. My name is Anders Jonasson. I’m a doctor. You’re in a hospital. You were injured and you’re waking up after an operation. Can you tell me your name?”

“Pshalandr,” Salander said.

“Good. Would you do me a favour and count to 10?”

“One, two, four … no … three, four, five, six...”

Then she passed out.

May 4, 2010


Fun from Marty Hykin


" . . . Patients with narcissistic personality disorder can be grandiose, attention-seeking and demanding. . . ."

" . . . Dr. Masterson became so well known as an expert on narcissism that he sometimes attracted patients for whom only a high-profile therapist would do — in other words, narcissists. In the 1980s, after The New York Times cited him as an authority on the disorder, he received a dozen calls from people wanting treatment."

"Too busy to accept new patients, Dr. Masterson referred the callers to his associates. As The Times reported in 1988, not a single one made an appointment."