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If you like crime writing then find out more about the best international crime writers as chosen by our resident crime expert Maxim Jakubowski
Bestsellers in Italy, the Inspector Bordelli mysteries finally reach us here. Set in Florence in the 1960s, they feature a fascinating cop and disillusioned anti-hero who rails against both injustice and the corrupt system but faces classic murder cases with a familiar Christie-like ring, which his sleuthing unravels one clue and red herring at a time. Will appeal to fans of Golden Age mysteries.
Shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger 2011. Already the eleventh volume available in English of the Inspector Montalbano Sicily-set series which is rapidly becoming an acquired taste for the Anglo-Saxon reader (and might even prove more popular should the TV series ever be shown here). Quirky, colourful, and with a unique cop whose taste for food and wine eclipses even Maigret. This time around, he is investigating a case of missing call-girls, his long-distance relationship with his own beloved is on the ricks and, yet again, the Mafia stands in his way. All in a day's sleuthing. CWA Judges’ comments: ‘Camilleri rings the changes on his familiar cast of characters, while developing his anger at the corruption of a fictional Italian president through Montalbano’s discovery of local worthies involved in international trafficking in women.’
Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara works for the Anti-Mafia Investigation Department (not unlike Giuttari himself who ran the Florence Police Force until 2003) and his cases take him all over Italy. The series has taken him so far to Florence and Tuscany and offers a realist view of Italy today and its attendant political and criminal problems. Now in Calabria, Ferrara confronts the dreaded Camorra.
When a whole family is murdered in Stockholm, Inspector Joona Linna is brought in to investigate the murky case and soon uncovers an unsettling connection to disgraced hypnotist and medic Erik Maria Bark. With uber-villains in the Thomas Harris mould and a labyrinthine plot, this is set to be the veritable heir to the Stieg Larsson series. Unsettling and gripping.
Although written in English (unlike his compatriot Deon Meyer who writes in Afrikaans), Nicol's Cape Town-set series of thrillers are as much a total immersion into an alien environment for an English reader. This is the final volume in the Revenge Trilogy (previous titles were Killer Country and Payback) and is packed with thrills and surprises and in security entrepreneurs Mace and Pylon, he has created a fascinating pair of anti-heroes. Cool and stylish.
A young lawyer is brought in to defend a case of wrongful dismissal against a despotic, wheelchair bound industrialist by his younger former mistress and becomes attracted to his wife. German veteran Kettenbach often reminds the reader of Patricia Highsmith at her darkest as he travels through the muddiest of psychological waters and lays people bare together with their worst criminal impulses.
One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011. Winner of the CWA International Dagger 2011. Further explorations of the dark side of Swedish society with a particularly brutal and vivid touch. An undercover cop is sent to a high security prison to investigate a drug-related murder. But all is not what it seems and a gallery of grotesques soon joins the dance in a plot that circles many times on itself and always comes up with the unexpected. The authors are a duo of investigative journalist and actual ex-criminal, so familiar with the dark side. CWA Judges’ comments: ‘The Swedish duo’s usual maverick cop takes a back seat to a riveting exploration of a deniable operation involving an undercover agent deep inside a criminal organisation. Their new character, doomed to betrayal by political manoeuvring, fights for his life with great intelligence and courage.’ February 2011 Book of the Month. A "Piece of Passion" from the Publisher... "Roslund and Hellstrom's Three Seconds offers readers as tense and gripping, edge of seat experience as any novel I can remember reading. And a last twist that defies expectations and leaves the reader wrung out like an old dishcloth. It's what the very best thrillers can do.Like Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Three Seconds starts in a pretty leisurely way and you have to be patient and find your way into this dangerous and terrifying world. Once there you find that the authors don't complicate matters - you are with the hero each step; you will find out why he has a way with tulips and what purpose he has with library books which no-one else will ever borrow, once he gets into the vicious Aspas high security prison.I heard about these authors when their agent gave me a copy of their first novel to be translated into English and persuaded me to commission a translation of Three Seconds, which was just about to be published in Sweden. After some indecision we took the plunge and watched R&H become the true successors to Mankell and Larsson as their new novel dominated the bestseller lists and critical heights of the Scandinavian press. And when the wonderful translation from Kari Dickson came in we felt intoxicated - with the book, with the potential of the book, with the authors whom we had met and knew would be great advocates of Three Seconds and the knowledge that for Quercus, Swedish crime would not end with the incomparable Larsson." - Jon Riley, Editor at Quercus Books
A past winner of Crime Writers' Association International Dagger, French author Manotti's crime books invariably focus on the injustice in contemporary society and the corruption that ensues. Her latest novel to be translated is a tale of intrigue and corruption and begins with the death of a call-girl and the disappearance of a plane between Paris and Iran. All threads lead rookie investigator Noria, to a hot bed of racism and intrigue. Gritty and never less than unputdownable.
Devastated by the end of her relationship, our heroine swaps her catsuit for pyjamas and hides away from the world. But her friends from the nightclub refuse to let her waste away in self-pity and drag her out to make up the numbers for a party. Only full make-up will suffice, and there's serious grooming to be done before our girl's up to the challenge - her state of misery has left her so thin that even her favourite Audrey Hepburn number doesn't cling the way it should. At the soiree, she becomes entranced with a powerful married man, but it's unlikely their paths will cross again. Until a body is found in the street, stabbed to death - the victim, a gigolo, has connections to the object of her affection. And it seems that the gigolo lifestyle can leave one, ahem, exposed to hidden dangers. Our girl valiantly agrees to take on the case - any meetings with her beloved are an incidental added bonus.
Pepe Carvalho, ex-cop, ex-marxist and constant gourmet, is working as a private detective in Barcelona, when a body is pulled out of the sea, its face so badly destroyed that the only way of identifying it is through a tattoo that says: 'Born to raise hell in hell'.A local hairdresser hires Carvalho to find out who the man is. Meanwhile, the Barcelona police make a connection between the murder and local drug dealers and prostitutes, and they begin raiding bars and brothels.A lead on the identity of the murdered man brings Carvalho to Amsterdam, where he gets entangled with a drug gang. As the pace accelerates, Carvalho realises that this is no straightforward John Doe case.
Following the overwhelming success of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander novels, Nordic crime fiction is now all the rage. Both the Wallander novels by Henning Mankell and the Harry Hole investigations by Jo Nesbo are fast following in their footsteps in the bestseller lists, while a cohort of other Scandinavian mystery writers are all queuing at the gates.
Karin Fossum, Anne Holt (Norway), Arnaldur Indridason, Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Iceland), Asa Larsson, Ake Edwardson, Camilla Ceder, Mari Jungstedt, Johan Theorin, Hakan Nesser, Camilla Lackberg, Liza Marklund (Sweden), Leif Davidsen (Denmark) being the most prominent but still the tip of a mighty iceberg. However welcome this new-found interest in foreign culture and crime is, it should not obscure the fact that, outside Scandinavia, there also exists a wonderful flowering of crime fiction in other languages.
These are some of the other 'bloody foreigners' I would recommend you looking out for. None of them require a passport; just a taste for good plotting and mighty thrills.
Below is Maxim Jakubowski's list of International Crime authors. Click the author name to read his comment.
Hans Werner Kettenbach
Manuel Vazquez Montalban