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Mission to Paris
Mission to Paris
by Alan Furst
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch - stunning!, 13 Aug 2013
This review is from: Mission to Paris (Paperback)
Synopsis/blurb........

Frederic Stahl, a Hollywood film star, travels from Beverly Hills to the boulevards of Paris. It is a dangerous, difficult, seductive time: Europe is about to explode, and the Parisians are living every night as though it were their last. As filming progresses, Stahl is drawn into a clandestine world of foreign correspondents, embassy officials, and spies of every sort. His engagements take him from the bistros of Paris to the back alleys of Morocco; from a Hungarian castle to Kristallnacht, and the chilling heart of the Third Reich. But can he survive as German operatives track him across Paris? Gripping, haunting, and deeply passionate, Mission to Paris is the ultimate portrait of a people at war and Alan Furst's most panoramic, lovingly described, and finest book to date.

My first Alan Furst book and it was an absolute cracker. I have a lot of his earlier work sat around at home unread, but on the basis of this offering, hopefully for not too much longer.
Furst's Mission To Paris is set - guess where? Paris in 1938. Our hero, Fredrik Stahl, an Austrian by birth and a successful actor in LA is making a film in Europe. Returning to Paris, after some years away, he becomes immersed in the manipulations and machinations of Parisian society. His presence in the city is seized upon by none too subtle Nazi elements that seek to use him to advance their cause. Stahl, unsympathetic to their aims, tries to avoid becoming a stooge for the Germans in the war being fought in the press about the French government's preferred stance towards Hitler. Opt for appeasement and hope he leaves them be? Or stand up to the playground bully in the near certain knowledge that French resistance on its own would be easily overcome by the German military machine.
This is where I struggle with my reviews generally, how much detail do I put in, how much do I leave out?
Furst masterfully portrays a conflicted society and city; factions embracing the impending era of Nazi dominance and endeavouring to speed its ascent, factions fearful of the changes to come and the ever-invasive dread of what Nazism will mean for their families and friends, many of them having departed Germany previously in terror at the growing right-wing menace.
Furst's Stahl was a realistic and compelling hero. Overcoming his initial reservations, he is increasingly drawn into a shadowy world of espionage, trying to provide a conduit for information between Americans anxious to influence the President at home regarding the German menace and practical support for agents on the ground in Berlin, at the risk to his public persona. Before too long the stakes are raised and Stahl is sucked into not just a battle to preserve his career, but his life and that of the woman he has fallen for.
Intelligent and educational, gripping, exciting and scary; this was one of the best books I've read in the past year or so, let alone this month.
5 from 5
I borrowed my copy form my local library in Leighton Buzzard.


The Stranger (Patrick Hedstrom and Erica Falck, Book 4)
The Stranger (Patrick Hedstrom and Erica Falck, Book 4)
by Camilla Lackberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great...., 13 Aug 2013
Synopsis/blurb......
To avoid disappointment, please note this book was previously published under the title THE GALLOWS BIRD. Swedish crime sensation and No. 1 international bestseller, Camilla Lackberg's fourth psychological thriller - for fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo. A woman is found dead, apparently the victim of a tragic car crash. It's the first in a spate of seemingly inexplicable accidents in Tanumshede and marks the end of a quiet winter for detective Patrik Hedström and his colleagues. At the same time a reality TV show is being shot in the town. As cameras shadow the stars' every move, relations with the locals are strained to breaking point. When a drunken party ends with a particularly unpopular contestant's murder, the cast and crew are obvious suspects. Could there be a killer in their midst? As the country tunes in, the bodies mount up. Under the intense glare of the media spotlight, Patrik faces his toughest investigation yet...

My wife read this about a month ago, and was quite insistent that I get to it. After all I had inflicted it on her. Suffice to say she didn't particularly enjoy it much; ok - not at all then! I've been avoiding it for a couple of weeks, in the hope I could delay it until May and count it as my Scandinavian read for the month which is one of my own personal reading challenges in 2013. One of the many things I love about my wife is her persistence!
This was a 390'ish page book where not very much seemed to happen at the beginning, other than we spend a lot of time with the chief investigator's family. In fact throughout the book we spend a lot of time with Hedstrom's wife, Erica and sister, Anna......who I'm guessing suffered some "event" in one of the author's previous books. Most of the time, I enjoy stories where detectives or investigators personal lives are shown to us. I need to see another side to them, apart from the job. It adds flesh to their bones and gives them substance. Here it bored me unfortunately.
After maybe the halfway point the pace picked up a bit and there were some interesting developments. The investigation into the car crash victim developed with other similar cases uncovered. I did guess the identity of the killer early, and as I'm no Sherlock Holmes perhaps it wasn't concealed as cunningly as the author thought it had been. Conversely, it could have been her intention to telegraph the culprit to the reader. She did cleverly link the two crimes of reality show murder victim and drunk driver together.
The supporting cast of police investigators were on the whole likeable and fairly believable. Perhaps my favourite was Gosta. Initially jaded and uninterested, counting down the days until he could get out on the golf course; he became invigorated and brought his A-game to the investigation. Maybe his transformation stretched the bounds of credibility a little bit, but as I liked him I'll buy this one.
There were a couple more downsides to the book in my opinion. I felt the minor back story with the chief of police, Mellberg was clichéd and predictable. The ending where she served up a hook for her next book was annoying, irritating and blatantly unsubtle and patronising to an intelligent readership.
I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first, despite the gripes mentioned above. I do have another book of hers to read, The Drowning. It won't be something I'll be rushing to in a hurry. As a further sidenote, my 2012 edition states that the author was the 9th best-selling author in Europe in the previous year. She must have a very big family, I reckon.
2 from 5
I bought this new for my wife earlier this year from Buzzard Books in my hometown. Perhaps I need help when shopping for my wife?


Lionel Asbo: State of England
Lionel Asbo: State of England
by Martin Amis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, though it did have a great cover, 13 Aug 2013
Synopsis/blurb.....
Lionel Asbo - a very violent but not very successful young criminal - is going about his morning duties in a London prison when he learns that he has just won £139,999,999.50 on the National Lottery. This is not necessarily good news for his ward and nephew, the orphaned Des Pepperdine, who still has reason to fear his uncle's implacable vengeance.
Savage, funny, and mysteriously poignant, Lionel Asbo is a modern fairytale from one of the world's great writers.
Well May's reading started with a bit of a damp squib. Having previously struggled valiantly with House of Meetings, been subsequently less tortured when reading The Pregnant Widow, albeit falling short of rapturous admiration for Amis, I had higher hopes for this one.
Not the worst book I have ever read, but when I'm long into my dotage, probably a couple of weeks or so from now, I reckon I will have banished this long from the memory. It wasn't that it was "bad", in the sense that it was awful, it was just fairly uninteresting. When you can't empathise with a character, you don't particularly care how he behaves and what the consequences of such behaviour are. I was bored and irritable when reading it, so bored I had to down tools halfway through and start another book, which by the way was only slightly less boring.
Back to Mr Asbo; an unsuccessful career criminal, from a deprived family, in a deprived area where everyone hates everything and everyone, and expresses the hate through violence and feckless sex and alcohol and drugs. Lionel's unmarried mother had her first child at 12 years of age and Lionel her 5th or 6th at..........zzzzzzz.
Oops sorry I dozed off there for a minute...............that's it in a nutshell.
I bored myself reading it, and I'm bored trying to write about it!
Highlights, at less than 300 pages long, I could have been more bored if he had dragged things out. Plus, I borrowed it from the library, so apart from the time wasted I didn't part with any cash for it. 2 minor plusses, and I'm grateful for small mercies.
On the basis that I didn't feel like sticking pins in my eyes when reading it, so it can't qualify as the worst ever book I have had the misfortune to read I will give it a 2 from 5.


The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.03

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars okay in an averagely decent sort of way...., 13 Aug 2013
Synopsis/blurb.....
In this first novel in his epic fantasy masterpiece, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own.

In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.

Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, THE GUNSLINGER leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

And the Tower is closer...
Well, I'm tracking my 18 year old son's reads as well as my wife's and this was one of the books he devoured recently. I have read the original probably 30-odd years ago when Mr King was top of the tree as far as my teenage self was concerned.

Picking up the new and improved version, as apparently King updated it in the intervening period, wasn't a particularly pleasurable trip down memory lane, one filled with nostalgia and a yearning to instantly re-read about possessed cars, rabid dogs or scary clowns appearing out of road-side drains.

I enjoyed the tale, as far as it went. Book 1 of 7, isn't going to finish with a neat resolution or conclusion. I was re-introduced to Roland the Gunslinger and found out about his apprenticeship and passage into manhood. We joined with him in his pursuit of the elusive man in black (not Johnny Cash, apparently) and along the way we killed a few people, ok a lot of people. This particular part of the journey or quest ends at the sea, with a link in to the second book in this 7 or 8 books series.

King who could probably write his shopping list and have a host of people queuing up to buy and read it, is very skilled at crafting a story and making you want to turn the page to read more about a character that you are growing to care about......usually.
I haven't yet reached that stage with Roland and I'm not having sleepless nights, anxious to read the next thrilling instalment.

My son has a couple more of the books in the series, if he opens one up sometime soon I'll get to this after him no doubt. I reckon I may have read the second book in my earlier life as a slimmer, leaner, fitter, brown-haired, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young man anyway. He has commented that the next couple are somewhat longer in length than this volume. King has a tendency to use 50 words on occasions where 1 or 2 would do, so I `m not pushing him to crack the spine just yet.

FYI - I have just checked paperback length on volumes 2 to 7 plus the last published book, which sits between books 4 and 5. They are as follows; 406, 624, 896, 816, 480, 736 and a rather paltry 384 pages long.

Overall, 3 stars from 5.

I borrowed this one from my son, and I'm unsure where he picked it up from.


B is for Beer
B is for Beer
by Tom Robbins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.03

2.0 out of 5 stars First taste of Robbins - disappointing!, 13 Aug 2013
This review is from: B is for Beer (Paperback)
Synopsis/blurb.......

Have you ever wondered why your daddy likes beer so much? Have you wondered, before you fall asleep at night, why he sometimes acts kind of "funny" after he's been drinking beer? Maybe you've even wondered where beer comes from, because you're pretty sure it isn't from a cow. Well, Gracie Perkel wondered those same things.
So begins bestselling author Tom Robbins' first fiction in five years (and perhaps his most audacious ever), B Is for Beer explores various aspects of beer culture - ancient, modern, and otherworldly; brutal, infantile and divine - and dramatizes the surprising things that happen when the life of a feisty nursery school kid named Gracie Perkel intersects with each.
Billed by Robbins as 'the first children's book about beer,' this inspired work taps into the barrel of life's existential mysteries and is, of course, truly meant to sit proudly with his other novels in the grown-up literature section.

Review
'One of the wildest and most entertaining writers in the world' --Financial Times

'Tom Robbins has a grasp on things that dazzles the brain' --Thomas Pynchon

'Impossibly imaginative' --Vanity Fair

'One of the bravest writers in America.' --Chicago Tribune

'whimsical, absurdist' --Billy Heller, New York Post
About the Author
Tom Robbins has been called "a vital natural resource" by The Portland Oregonian, "one of the wildest and most entertaining novelists in the world" by the FT, and "the most dangerous writer in the world today" by Fernanda Pivano of Italy's Corriere della Sera. A Southerner by birth, Robbins has lived in and around Seattle since 1962. His novels include Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life With Woodpecker, Skinny Legs And All and Half Asleep In Frog Pyjamas and Beer.
I like to step outside the crime fiction genre fairly frequently, just to keep my reading fresh. Tom Robbins is an author I've never read before, though I do have a couple of his books laying around somewhere, acquired in the belief that from what I've read about him they may well be quirky enough to tickle my fancy.
Well whilst struggling through Amis's Lionel Asbo, I picked up this book in the hope of a short, light, entertaining diversion.
Short - tick
Light - tick
Entertaining - cross
I just didn't understand the whole raison d'être for the book, styled as a "Grown-up book for Children" and a "Children's book for Grown-ups." Stunned that this ever got into print as it was in my opinion a massive indulgence on the author's behalf.
We have a young girl, Gracie living with her parents and feeling the effects of their failing marriage. Her only confidant is her uncle, who lets her down and moves away with his latest girlfriend. Gracie has a slight obsession with beer, somewhat bizarrely. She gets in trouble at Sunday school when she mentions it. She has a drink, gets drunk, gets sick and is visited by the beer fairy...........do I need to go on? I'd rather have a drink.
On the basis that it was short and light, we'll go 2 from 5
I'm not ripping up trees to get to my copy of Villa Incognito or Still Life With Woodpecker.
Acquired second- hand from a charity shop in the charming city of St Albans, so at least someone should benefit from my purchase.


No Second Chance
No Second Chance
by Harlan Coben
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok....not his best though!, 12 Aug 2013
This review is from: No Second Chance (Paperback)
Synopsis/blurb....
No Second Chance is yet another of Harlan Coben's terrifying explorations of the worst of fears--Marc Seidman wakes in hospital after narrowly surviving a shooting in which his wife died and their baby daughter went missing. The handover of a ransom from his rich in-laws goes wrong and Seidman realises that he is not only without wife and daughter--and the sister who may have been an accomplice--but he is also the principal suspect. The reader knows even more than Seidman just how much jeopardy he is in--Coben does a brilliantly disturbing job of introducing us to a pair of psychotics who are in charge of the ransom plot and who plan to take Seidman and his in-laws for another ride into insecurity and hell. Marc turns to the one person he thinks can help him--the ex-girlfriend who still has a place in his heart and used to be a senior Federal agent. The problem is that Rachel comes with baggage, and enemies, all of her own...
Coben is one of the crime writers I enjoy who is probably more mainstream than some of the authors I read. Chances are that after 24 or 25 books, you've happened on at least of couple of his titles when browsing the crime section of your local bookshop. He's written a series of 10 books featuring Myron Bolitar that has now digressed into a series of 2 so far, starring Myron's nephew, Mickey. All of his other books are standalones, including this 2003 effort, No Second Chance.
Over the past year, I have maybe read 4 or 5 Coben's as he is an author that my wife enjoys. This time around I grabbed this from her as she was struggling a bit to muddle through it. It's been on the go for a couple of months, picked-up, put down, read a chapter, leave it for a week. When the reading is that spasmodic and interrupted, it's easy to lose the thread and any interest you may have in the tale barely registers on the barometer.
Well having gained possession, I read about 200 pages on the first day, 100-odd on the second and the last 90 on the third, avoiding the pitfall that my wife had fallen into.
Verdict....... fast, interesting, enjoyable, likeable characters - including one of the rogues of the piece, a story that whilst stretching the bounds of believability didn't transgress too far into the realms of fantasy to make me hit the switch to the off button. Not the best of his I have read, but not the worst either. It was a decent enough filler, that won't probably remain long in the memory but served a purpose until hopefully the next great read, happens along. Everything was kind of wrapped up nice and neatly at the end, which ironically irritates me just a little bit. If only life turned out like a Harlan Coben book, we'd all probably sleep a lot better in our beds at night, most of the time at least.
3 from 5
My/our copy was second hand and I'm unsure where or when I acquired it, not too recently that's for sure.


Blacklands
Blacklands
by Belinda Bauer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut book., 12 Aug 2013
This review is from: Blacklands (Paperback)
Synopsis/blurb....
THE BOY WANTED THE TRUTH. THE KILLER WANTED TO PLAY... Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school and at weekends, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven digs to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged 11 and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.
Only Steven's Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it's too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he'll do it.
So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer...
I managed to kill two birds with one stone here. Blacklands will probably end up being my one sole female author read this month, but hey one is a bit more than zero isn't it and Blacklands was also an award winning book, insofar as Bauer bagged the CWA Gold Dagger in 2010 for this impressive debut.
I think this ticked a lot of boxes for me without actually setting me ablaze. It had an interesting, if slightly unbelievable plot. It had a sympathetic main character who at times I wanted to shout at for his passivity in the face of peer conflict. And who at other times, I wanted to smother with support, love, friendship and comfort in the lack of all the aforementioned being forthcoming from his own family. At times Steven cut a heart-breaking, solitary figure in the face of such indifference from those who should have known better. Bauer made me pause and think about my own relationships and whether I always meet the standards of behaviour, I was so quick to judge others by.
Steven's adversary in the book, Arnold Avery was well-drawn. Clever, interesting, organised and skilled but conversely cold, callous, manipulative and murderous, Avery was shown by Bauer to be human, with qualities as well as defects. More real and frightening for this, rather than being sketched and portrayed as a cartoonish bogeyman with just a dark side.
I was away over the weekend with my better half and still managed to devour the 350 pages in two days, spent sightseeing abroad. A two hour flight helped, as did an afternoon on the beach, albeit some of it spent dozing, but it was testimony to the quality of the prose and the way the plot unfolded quickly that the end seemed to approach in no time at all.
This was my first taste of the author, but on this showing not my last, although unusually for me there is nothing else of hers on the pile waiting.
4 stars from 5 and a strong contender for my book of the month. Why only 4? Just a slight suspension of belief over the premise of a 12 year old being able to communicate with a convicted paedophile. No stunning, amazing 5 star reads for me just yet in July, though there's still a week to go!
I obtained my copy by swapping another book, on the money saving Readitswapit website a couple of months ago.


Headhunters
Headhunters
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.86

3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best., 12 Aug 2013
This review is from: Headhunters (Paperback)
Synopsis/blurb......
Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter, and he's a master of his profession. But one career simply can't support his luxurious lifestyle and his wife's fledgling art gallery. At an art opening one night he meets Clas Greve, who is not only the perfect candidate for a major CEO job, but also, perhaps, the answer to his financial woes: Greve just so happens to mention that he owns a priceless Peter Paul Rubens painting that's been lost since World War II - and Roger Brown just so happens to dabble in art theft. But when he breaks into Greve's apartment, he finds more than just the painting. And Clas Greve may turn out to be the worst thing that's ever happened to Roger Brown.
With the month fast disappearing and not having got my Scandinavian crime fiction fix yet, I was, after an exchange of views with Keishon from Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog tempted into giving this standalone book by Nesbo a spin. Nesbo's adult books tend to deal with his main character Harry Hole in a series of police procedurals, with Headhunters being his sole venture away from Hole. My first experience of the author was earlier this year when The Bat, his debut novel was finally released in English for the first time. As the second Hole adventure doesn't appear until towards the end of this year, my OCD tendencies steered me away from later books in the series, that have long been available in the UK.
Well, how did we get on with Headhunters?
At 380-odd pages long and only taking maybe 2 or 3 working days to read, it was fast and using the old cliché - a bit of a page-turner.
What was our overall assessment? Enjoyable, interesting, one to recommend?
Hmm.... I would have to say I enjoyed it, without actually being able to gush or enthuse about it dramatically. Would I recommend it.........I wouldn't put anyone off reading it, but conversely it's not a book that I will be forcing on to other people either. A bit of a fence-sitting here.
What was the problem then?
Whilst the plot and premise of the book interested me to a degree, my main problem was that Roger Brown wasn't particularly likeable. There's a thin line between characters that exude self-confidence and have an appeal that has you rooting for them and characters that emit arrogance and leave you indifferent to their fate. Brown/Nesbo crossed the line, whether Nesbo intentionally portrayed Brown in this unflattering way would be interesting to know. His combatant in Headhunters, Clas Greve instead of contrasting with Brown was of the same ilk, gaining his super-ego from having previously excelled whilst in the Dutch military.
The plot was a little bit far-fetched, but as all fiction is made up words, I was ok suspending belief for the duration of the story. Nesbo introduced a twist towards the end, that whilst not quite telegraphed had a certain predictability about it. I was a little bit confused at the switch around, but not enough to force myself to re-cap and reread maybe the previous 10 or so pages to see if it was totally plausible or to perhaps pick-up on a small hint I may have missed.
The characters I liked most in the book were several of the supporting cast. One whose name escapes me was Brown's partner in crime. I found myself somewhat sympathetic to him, particularly as he was so hopelessly love-struck, though I'm not sure his paranoid tendencies would have earmarked him as ideal boyfriend material. The second character I enjoyed was Ferdy, Brown's underling in the workplace. Had both Brown and Greve exploded from a dangerous overload of testosterone, I would happily have watched Ferdy sail in to take the spoils.
Overall?
I'll go a 3 from 5. There wasn't enough about it to merit a 4 or drag it above the barrier of averagely-interestingly- enjoyable. It was better than a 2, insofar as I was never mired in treacle reading it or ever felt like stopping at any point.
I'm unsure where I picked up my copy from. It would have been late last year or early this year, second hand either via Amazon, E-bay or as a book swap.
I haven't been put off reading more from Nesbo, but as stated before will be holding off until I get my hands on Cockroach.
As a further note, I believe there has been a film adaptation of the book. I haven't been compelled to find out more about it, or hunt it down.


Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine
Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, black horror-humour!, 12 Aug 2013
Synopsis/blurb......
Possessed by the Devil. Obsessed with Rock and Roll. Under the spell of a charismatic Ford Focus driven by a diesel compression engine and a thirst for motor oil. This little collection of horror stories spruced up by a healthy splash of Northern Irish smart-arsery revisits some classic themes and tips its hat to some new ones. You'll laugh, gasp and cringe, at times all at once.

Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine is a short collection of six interlinked comic-horror stories. A fun, fast and Faustian read.

If you enjoyed FIREPROOF, this is a perfect companion read.

"The freshness of the voice in this collection of stories is very welcome, as is the cut-throat pace with which the action happens. These are not sprawling tales of morality and comeuppance, rather these are punch to the groin (in some cases literally) bits of story where everybody needs to be on their toes, the reader included." - Pete S. Allen SFReader.com

"If Robert Rankin was from Northern Ireland and had been reading a lot of R. Scott Taylor and Paulo Coelho, PODCE is the book he would write." - 'Critical' Mick Halpin

"Gerard Brennan is a master of gritty violence." - Colin Bateman

About the author:

Gerard Brennan is the author of the novels, WEE ROCKETS and FIREPROOF, the novella, THE POINT, and co-editor of REQUIEMS FOR THE DEPARTED, a collection of crime fiction based on Irish myths. He lives in Dundrum, Northern Ireland.

6 short stories dealing with primarily the devil and music. This was a short and fun blast of irreverent humour from the author. I probably won't find myself pondering on these stories in the days ahead but I enjoyed them and it was a decent way to wake up over a couple of mornings with a strong coffee and a Brennan short or two.
Truth be told, my preference is for the author's longer work where he can develop characters in greater depth but he definitely entertains. Not a stinker amongst the six, which is unusual for a short story collection, where there are usually a couple of weaker offerings. My favourite of the bunch was a tale concerning exorcism. From my previous experiences with Catholic priests, I can't recall their language being quite as colourful, but hey the world's moved on since I was a boy! Fierce and funny!
4 from 5
The author was kind enough to send me a copy of this for a read.


Linda, As in the Linda Murder: Bäckström 1
Linda, As in the Linda Murder: Bäckström 1
by Leif G W Persson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.24

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked it, could have been shorter though!, 12 Aug 2013
Synopsis/blurb.......
In the middle of an unusually hot Swedish summer, a young woman studying at the Vaxjo Police Academy is brutally murdered. Police Inspector Evert Backstrom is unwillingly drafted in from Stockholm to head up the investigation.
Egotistical, vain and utterly prejudiced against everything, Backstrom is a man who has no sense of duty or responsibility, thinks everyone with the exception of himself is an imbecile and is only really capable of warm feelings towards his pet goldfish and the nearest bottle of liquor. If they are to solve the case, his long suffering team must work around him, following the scant few leads which remain after Backstrom's intransigence has let the trail go cold.
Blackly comic, thrillingly compelling and utterly real, Linda, As in the Linda Murder is the novel which introduces the reader to the modern masterpiece that is Evert Backstrom, a man described by his creator as 'short, fat and primitive'. He is, without doubt, the real deal when it comes to modern policing.
This was my third Persson book this year and after reading the 490 pages and finally finishing, my reaction was similar to that felt at the conclusion of the previous two...........interesting, enjoyable, entertaining, intriguing, educational and humorous - all positives, but offset frequently by spells of writing that were for me.......frustrating, dull, superfluous and infuriating.
We start with the murder initially investigated by the local police, but soon after the NCP are called in. The team is headed by Evert Backstrom, a character I have previously encountered in Persson's earlier books. Backstrom with his barely disguised disdain for the locals sees the murder case as an opportunity to milk overtime, fiddle his expenses, get caught up on his laundry and kick back and enjoy a few beers after a hard day masterminding the investigation. Oh and if we can enjoy a bit of late night porn, whilst patiently waiting for our journalist contact to warm to the thought of a portion of Backstrom "super salami", all the better. Backstrom, never one for self-doubt seems oblivious to the regard in which his colleagues have for him. If I had a minor niggle with Persson's portrayal it would be in questioning whether someone so blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, corrupt, incompetent and yes, funny at least to the reader, could be in a position of responsibility within the police service. Though perhaps the frequent mentions of his union, may explain his continued employment.
Persson excels at portraying the minute detail of an investigation where with no obvious suspect for the murder, police have to painstakingly build a portrait of Linda's life and of those close to her, whilst hoping to catch a break. When a Polish neighbour, briefly becomes a person of interest, Backstrom is all too ready to grab the glory. When eliminated, oh well time for another drink. The investigation soon seems to focus on obtaining DNA samples from every male in the locale in the hope of a match to the physical evidence left at the scene. Eventually, some old-fashioned detective work, by Lewin, one of the NCP team, breaks the case and a resolution is achieved.
Persson re-introduces a couple of his characters from his previous books, Johansson and Holt. Both fully functioning, well-rounded officers one of whom endeavours to befriend the suspect and obtain reasons and a rationale for the murder. The other, Johansson, heads the department and as Backstrom's boss, gets to call him to task for his previous actions.
Overall, very good but I can't help feeling that the book would have been enhanced by a little bit more judicious editing. Did I constantly need to re-live Lewin's dreams of his childhood and his father teaching him to ride a bike? No and if there was a greater significance attached to these scenes, I'm afraid they eluded me.
I did enjoy the pedestrian pace of the investigation, where it often seemed as if no headway was being made. It made the book more realistic. Similarly, I liked the supporting cast of officers, diligent and decent in the main, though in truth Backstrom stole the show!
4 stars from 5, because yet again Persson managed to irritate and frustrate me, albeit in much smaller measures than the upsides.
I obtained my copy a month or two ago on E-bay.
October sees the release of his fourth translated book, He Who Kills The Dragon. I have already placed a copy on reserve at the library. Apparently it's 90 pages shorter than this, so shouldn't prove too daunting when I meet up again with the fat, primitive Evert Backstrom later this year.


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