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Exploring books that have been translated from a different language can lead to a really special reading experience. The skill of a translator is of course key, they need to be able to truly feel the book in order to successfully and seamlessly translate it. A great translator has the ability to make you feel right at home, while also letting you experience the wonders of a different culture. These books all encourage you to discover the sense of a different place, so we invite you to step forward and broaden your horizons.
Set in Iceland, this novel introduces a new policing team in a tense and unsettling crime novel. Winner of Iceland’s Blackbird Award and translated by prizewinning Victoria Cribb The Creak on the Stairs marks the beginning of a new series. The prologue provokes a sense of unease, which lies in wait through the rest of the tale. Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir gradually introduces more characters, adding more layers of information and increasing the intrigue. We are allowed to see into the past, childhoods torn apart, still affecting the present. The policing team are an interesting bunch, with their outside lives altering their investigating ability. The setting in Iceland is fascinating, the descriptions creating a vivid picture of the reality of living in a small town. The Creak on the Stairs is a captivating tale with plenty of tension and a plot to really get your teeth into.
With short fast-moving chapters this is a piercing and riveting political thriller. Sitting within a time period of just over two weeks, former aid worker Ursula finds herself in deep water when she becomes Minister for the Interior in Iceland. Author Lilja Sigurdardottir and translator Quentin Bates team up again after the successful and fiercely intense Reykjavik Noir trilogy which I absolutely adored. The writing here is just as smart and powerful with dirty politics and corruption leading the charge and an otherwordly feel slinking around in the background. A number of characters are introduced, from Ursula who takes a high-profile role in government, to driver and bodyguard Gunnar, and cleaner Stella. A picture slows builds with a teetering edge of tension remaining in place throughout. I hovered on the edge of knowing and understanding, my focus sharp and waiting for what was to come. In summary, Betrayal is an edge-of-your-seat political thriller just brimming over with attitude.
A ferociously gripping read from a Norwegian writing legend. Private investigator Varg Veum is in serious trouble, child pornography is found on his computer, from prison he starts to pull all the pieces together in a quest to discover who has planted evidence and why they want to take him down. This novel is set after ‘Where Roses Never Die’, yet delves back in time to when Varg was in a pit of pain. Gunnar Staalesen allowed me to have my suspicions, yet kept my mind on high alert as the past cases are explored. This is at times an uncomfortable read, yet fascinating, thrilling, and action packed too. Varg sits on the edge of official, and dangles his legs over lawful, yet his morality is clear to see and feel. ‘Wolves in the Dark’ is another profound, dark, yet enjoyably readable tale from Staalesen and I can thoroughly recommend joining this series. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to read a Q&A with Gunnar Staalesen about this book.
Steadfast, tenacious and fascinating can be used to describe both the book and lead character in ‘Wolves at the Door’. Private Investigator Varg Veum was previously set up and linked to a horrifying case, now the men actually found guilty of the crime are dying one by one, is Varg next on the list? Gunnar Staalesen was in at the beginning of Nordic Noir, he started this series 40 years ago (there is a statue of Varg Veum in Bergen where the series is set) and has been published in 24 countries. This book does specifically link to previously translated novels so if thinking of stepping into the series you might want to start with ‘Where Roses Never Die’, followed by ‘Wolves in the Dark’ as a lead into this particular novel (‘Big Sister’ also sits in there too). Don Bartlett successfully ensured the thought of a translator didn’t enter my head as I was reading, I was sucked straight into the story and stayed there. I particularly enjoyed the slow slog of the investigation, each piece of information entering the fray and increasing the tension until it reached breaking point. With short, smart, darkly punchy chapters ’Wolves at the Door’ is a provocative and gripping read.
This is a gripping, biting crime mystery set in northern Iceland, and the fifth novel in the ‘Dark Iceland’ series. Do start at the beginning of the series with the ‘Snowblind’, as these books deserve to be, and should be read in order. Ari Thor investigates the death of a young woman found at the bottom of cliffs, is it murder, or an accident? The chillingly simple prologue shocks, creating echoes that remain throughout the book. Ragnar Jonasson introduces new characters slowly, allowing a quiet unease to settle over the pages as they enter your thoughts. The Icelandic christmas traditions hover, creating moments of warmth and love that highlight the grim nature of the tale. Translator Quentin Bates continues to ensure the words flow from the page, with no interruption or separation from the storyline. ‘Whiteout’ confirms Jonasson’s series as a must read, it is compelling, thrilling, and just so, so entertaining. Liz Robinson
A 2016 World Book Night selection. ‘Whispering Shadows’ may be classed as a murder mystery, however it is one with true heart and soul, and is a sincerely beautiful read. The first in a trilogy, Jan-Philipp Sendker has departed from the format of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats and A Well-Tempered Heart, yet the enticing mix of East and West again weaves its magic touch. Paul Leibovitz has spent 30 years living in Hong Kong, he has experienced tragedy and has cut himself off from the rest of the world; a chance meeting sets him on a collision course with his feelings, his past and a possible future. Sendker obviously has a profound connection with China, his writing not only allows you to open your eyes in a different land, but also to feel, to touch, to think with consideration and compassion. Ranging from delicate and thoughtful to commanding and persuasive ensures this a convincing and fascinating read. ~ Liz Robinson
A truly tenacious and back to basics Nordic crime novel featuring private investigator Varg Veum. Staalesen has been writing about Veum since 1977, however this is my first foray into the series, and found it could easily be read as a standalone. 25 years after a three year old disappears in mysterious circumstances, the mother hires Veum to take one last look at the case. As Veum begins his painstaking detective work, he begins to dig deeper and further than the police have been before, and starts to uncover some disturbing links to another crime. Staalesen writes with a clipped, matter of fact style, the sharp delivery in the first person really sets Veum centre stage. There are an awful lot of characters to get to grips with and it’s worth getting them straight in your mind, right at the beginning of the novel. With plenty of surprises in store and an intriguing case, ‘Where Roses Never Die’ sets your mind working overtime and is a gripping read. A 'Piece of Passion from the Publisher... 'Gunnar Staalesen is one of the fathers of Nordic Noir and the creator of the unforgettable private investigator Varg Veum. Only six of the 20-odd titles in the series have been translated into English to date, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to publish the remainder, beautifully translated by Don Bartlett. Known as the ‘Norwegian Chandler’, Staalesen is a master of his craft, creating tightly plotted, page-turning and extraordinarily atmospheric thrillers that tackle social issues in the finest tradition of Nordic Noir. As Sarah Ward says in Crime Pieces, ‘Staalesen’s greatest strength is the quality of his writing. The incidental asides and observations are wonderful, and elevate the books from a straightforward murder investigation into something more substantial.’ I could not agree more. Where Roses Never Die is Staalesen’s best book to date, and I could not put it down until I had devoured every last word, and then re-read the stunning, completely unexpected denouement, just in case my eyes had deceived me. ~ Karen Sullivan, Publisher, Orenda Books
March 2018 Book of the Month What a beautifully written, captivating, and soulful read this is. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly transferred, begins to investigate the death of a women found in fishing nets out at sea. Catherine Day leaves Montreal for a remote fishing village, looking for answers about her birth mother. The Gaspe Peninsula sits centre stage in the story, remote, set apart, and yet intimately connected to the sea. I immediately fell headlong into the story, the seamless translation encourages the words to join together, creating a vividly stunning picture. Catherine tells her own tale, having such personal access allows a connection, yet she still feels hidden from view. Other peoples thoughts tumble freely over the pages, yet they belong, they anchor the story. I felt that the author Roxanne Bouchard has a profound connection to the sea, she loves it, respects it, yet the immense power simmers, occasionally rages in the background. I quite simply adored ‘We Were the Salt of the Sea’, refreshingly different, unpredictable, yet deeply rich and touching, it became a part of me.
Well, what a humdinger of a book this turned out to be. A mash-up of dystopian, futuristic fiction and Nordic police thriller, with a dash of the supernatural. It’s set 50 years in the future in Eldisvik, a Scandinavian city where you’re all right if you’re in the Free Zone, but venture outside its borders and you’re in increasing danger (and even the police won’t enter the Double Red Zone without some serious protection). The initial premise of the story is that a Decoy (sort of undercover agents aided by packs of vixens – I know, I know . . . .) has gone rogue and the police, led by Nero Cavello, have to investigate. There’s a second storyline of a young student, Bruno, who is kidnapped by the rogue Decoy who wants to use Bruno’s telepathic abilities. Alongside all this, we have political chicanery, corruption and possible infiltration of the police. Oh, and Nero also has telepathic abilities, just like Bruno. The descriptions of the technological advances felt realistic – just advanced enough from where we are now to feel futuristic, but not unbelievably so. However, I really wanted to know how things had got to be as they are. Why have the police lost control of the outer zones? What’s happened in the rest of the world? There are a few hints of catastrophes elsewhere – the city seems to be a real multi-cultural mix and there are references to lots of people being refugees. It took me a while to really engage with the book – there were too many things going on and I could have done with the characters being fleshed out more; I didn’t feel particularly invested in any of them until quite a way in. However, the characters eventually came to life and once that happened the story fairly hurtled along. The ending was a real cliff-hanger – rather too much so for my taste. Of course, you don’t want all the loose ends neatly tied up, otherwise, why read the rest of the series? But hardly any questions at all were answered. Nevertheless, I’m well and truly hooked. It’s rare that I reach the end of a book shouting “Oh no” as I realise it’s finished. I look forward to my next visit to Eldisvik. Bernadette Scott, A LoveReading Ambassador
Smart, taut and fabulous, Trap really does deliver a first-class read. Following quite beautifully on from Snare (and yes you do need to have read Snare first) can I just mention the covers, they are stunning in their simplicity and how they link to the novels. Set in Reykjavik just after the volcanic eruption in 2011, Sonja discovers that running away doesn’t solve anything, but declaring war can be just as deadly. Lilja Sigurdardottir ensures sharp shocks of chapters hit with increasing energy. The translation by Quentin Bates is again so fully complete, I existed in this Icelandic world without question. My feelings hovered with regards to the characters, swooping one way and then the other, which felt entirely right, as innocence and guilt are so often two sides of the same coin. A short book Trap may be, it’s also a towering powerhouse of read and I gobbled it up in one intense sitting. Please Orenda, may we have some more?!
Sharpen your thoughts, and pay close attention as this is a fascinating, intricate and complex case. Top Dog follows on from Stockholm Delete, and can I suggest that you do start at the beginning of these two books, otherwise you will be playing major catchup as you are introduced to the many layers of characters. Set in Stockholm, an unlikely pairing continue to investigate a set of horrific crimes exploiting young girls. Author Jens Lapidus is a criminal defence lawyer, the authenticity of his world fully connects with the page. I slowly sank into the story, which as well as flinging heart in mouth moments in my path, was also capable of great subtlety. The translation is beautifully done by Alice Menzies, I felt entirely at home and yet fully aware of the fact that I was in a different country. I was wired and vigilant to changes as I read Top Dog, it really is a hard hitting, absolute wow of a read, I simply loved it.
A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.
This is a fascinating Japanese noir thriller, exploring fate and free will as well as giving the reader insightful views on Japan's culture and personality. Nishimura is a supremely gifted pickpocket who has a conscience but is detached from society, lifting wallets from people he sees as begin able to afford it. Asked to help out in a seemingly straightforward crime leads him into a dangerous set-up. The short book (210 pages) is a refreshingly intense read. August 2012 eBook of the Month.
This is a strange little book indeed; soulful, sorrowful and yet curiously engaging and charming. Translated from Japanese and including wonderful illustrations, drawings and photos, this quirky tale draws you into it’s deep dark secrets from the moment you turn the very first page. The illustrations have been beautifully considered and hold hands with the tale as it slinks and skulks along. Even though this is narrated by a schoolboy, with fairly simple language, this is anything but simplistic and childish. Sheep and doughnuts have appeared before in this author’s works - make of that what you will! As a word of warning, reading this may leave you wanting to run in the opposite direction from any little old men who happen to approach you in the library, especially if it has a basement, but it’s well worth that particular affliction.