Torquil MacLeod- Meet Me In Malmo


aa The first of Torquil MacLeod’s series featuring Swedish detective Anita Sundström , with two further instalments already published: Murder In Malmo and Missing In Malmo. The book opens with the apparent suicide of a young female student at Durham University, from where the story moves forward twenty five years and we first encounter Ewan Strachan, a less than talented journalist working for a tinpot local magazine in the North East of England. Getting wind of Strachan’s former involvement at university with a high-profile film director, Mick Roslyn, now based in Sweden, Strachan is despatched, not altogether unwillingly, to Malmo to interview Roslyn, and Roslyn’s glamorous wife, the actress Malin Lovgren. However, Strachan quickly comes to the attention of Swedish detective Anita Sundström and her team when he stumbles upon a murder scene- Roslyn’s wife has been strangled and Strachan is put firmly in the place of chief suspect. As the investigation progresses, however, Sundström  becomes increasingly attracted to the unprepossessing figure of Strachan, and proving his innocence has serious ramifications for our intrepid detective. And just what are Roslyn and Strachan concealing about their university years?

I think the first thing to say about this book is that I enjoyed the characterisation very much, both of hapless journalist Ewan Strachan, and of MacLeod’s keynote detective Anita Sundström. Strachan was portrayed as a wonderfully underperforming, unfulfilled waster, who let’s face it would never get within an inch of a Pulitzer for his journalistic output. I thoroughly enjoyed his seeming lack of confidence when Sundström begins to take a more than professional interest in him, and his whole little-boy-lost demeanour as he struggles to get to grips with both his potential involvement in a murder, and the trials of dealing with this in a strange country. Equally, Sundström played a significant part in my enjoyment of the book, not being too weighed down with the usual cliches that attach themselves to female detectives, and for the most part carrying a credibility about her character throughout. I was slightly perturbed with the building romantic involvement between herself and Strachan, but think that MacLeod largely succeeded in the believability of their growing attraction. He handled the balance of Sundström’s professional investigation and character well with a sub-storyline that could have caused all manner of pitfalls. Generally, the plot was well played out, and as the events of past and present became more intertwined, my attention was kept focussed by the slow reveal of the skeletons in Strachan’s and Roslyn’s past. However, I would slightly take issue with the ending, as I did experience a growing feeling of ‘oh- he’s not going to do that at the end is he?’- as the murderer is revealed. Maybe my prolific crime reading has bitten me on the bum again as I did feel a little dissatisfaction with the denouement.

It’s always interesting to see how a non-native author depicts a country and its residents based on an outsider’s experience, as MacLeod is a Scot by birth, but obviously has a comprehensive and affectionate knowledge of his Swedish setting. Tempered by the interesting depiction of some very familiar locations to me in the North East of England, it would be fair to say that he achieves this well. My only criticism would be that sometimes, I did feel a little more immersed in his detailed travelogue than was strictly necessary, and that the level of detail he applies to the Swedish locations did feel a little too in depth at times, at the expense of driving the plot forward more quickly, and as we entered another network of streets and buildings, I did lose interest slightly. However, I did accrue some little nuggets of local information that could make me look more interesting at social gatherings, so all was not lost.

In fairness, much of this book worked when looked at as a whole, and as a pre-cursor to my reading of further books in the series, garnered enough of my interest to see how the series progresses. I’m always keen to discover new Scandinavian set crime so MacLeod is another good find to add to my list. Anita Sundström, we will meet again…

(With thanks to McNidder & Grace for the ARC)

Blog Tour- Mark Sennen- Tell Tale- Extract

Tell Tale blog tour bannerMark Sennen has quickly established a niche in the British crime writing genre with his cross-gender crime featuring DI Charlotte Savage, paying outstanding attention to detail in capturing police practices with consistently fast paced and tense narrative. Tell Tale is the fourth in the series, and Savage is seeking revenge on the killer of her daughter, whilst there are strange events taking place in the desolate landscape of Dartmoor with a missing Hungarian turning up dead in very suspicious circumstances. Just to tempt you further, here is an extract from the new book, taking its place in a series it would be a crime to miss…


Bee, Mummy, Bee.’ Jamie pointed at a blur of wings hovering over the food. ‘Buzzy bee.’It’s a fly, sweetheart,’ she said, swatting the insect away with a hand and offering her son another Dairylea sandwich. ‘They’re like bees, only they don’t make honey.’Bee,’ Jamie repeated before he took the sandwich and chomped it down. There was the tinkle of a bell and Jamie looked up. ‘Horse.’ She turned to follow his gaze. Samantha and Clarissa were riding up and down the narrow lane on their bicycles, every now and then one of them uttering a ‘trot on’ or a ‘woah’ to control their mounts.Pretend horses.’ She turned and scanned the horizon until she picked out a group of Dartmoor ponies grazing near a clump of gorse. ‘There’re some real ones, darling.’ Jamie had by now lost interest in the local wildlife and turned his attention to his collection of chunky plastic cars. She cleared away the picnic things, then lay back on the woollen blanket, shielding her eyes from the light. The respite wouldn’t last long, she knew. Jamie would need attention or the girls would all of a sudden come over and profess extreme boredom. But for the moment she would enjoy the warmth of the sun, the sound of birds in the heather, the stillness of the surrounding wilderness.Vroom,’ Jamie said. ‘Vroom, vroom, vroooooom.’ She felt something on her thigh. The wheels of a truck climbing the impossibly steep hill of her body. She worried about Jamie sometimes. His sisters were nine – seven years older – and they played with him only when it suited them, so he was, in effect, an only child. With her husband away for much of the time, Jamie only had her to spice up his life. Of course he went to nursery five days a week; she figured the girls there spent many more hours playing with Jamie than she did. Not for the first time she felt a pang of guilt, but then dismissed the thought. She wondered if her husband ever had the same doubts as he lay on his bunk at night.Car, Mummy.’ The wheels rolled up and onto her stomach. ‘Vroom, vroom.’Yes.’ She reached out a hand, keeping her eyes closed and groping for the toy. ‘Let me have a go.’No, Mummy, car! Car!’ Jamie’s voice went up in pitch. ‘Car coming!’ She opened her eyes and sat up, hearing the revving of an engine, something like a racing car, a guttural exhaust spitting and crackling, the squeal of tyres on tarmac. Somewhere the tinkling of a bicycle bell and a shout. She turned her head towards the road and heard a scream silenced as metal screeched against metal. She pushed Jamie away and scrambled to her feet, aware of a flash of blue haring away down the lane, her daughter lying like a rag doll in the road next to the mangled frame of the bicycle, one wheel still spinning round. Even as she ran towards the accident she could hear the tick-tick-ticking as the wheel rotated, and as she reached Clarissa it was the only thing moving, the only thing still making a sound in the whole wide world. Then she woke up.


markMark Sennen was born in Surrey, but spent his formative years in rural Shropshire where he learnt to drive tractors and worm sheep. He has been a reluctant farmer, an average drummer, a failed Ph.D. student and a pretty good programmer. He lives, with his wife and two children, beside a muddy Devon creek from where he tries to write full-time. Visit his website here and follow on Twitter @MarkSennen.



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Don’t forget to visit Killing Time Crime for the next stop on Mark’s blog tour…

William Giraldi- Hold The Dark


wgThree children have been snatched by wolves in the small Alaskan community of Keelut, including the six-year old son of Medora and Vernon Sloane. Wolf expert Russell is called upon to investigate and track the pack responsible, but soon begins to see into the dark psyche of Medora. When her husband Vernon returns from a desert war to discover the boy dead and Medora missing, he begins his own pursuit of his errant wife, across the frozen wastes and with much violence along the way. As Core attempts to intercede in the inevitable collision of husband and wife, he unwittingly unveils a dark secret that exists between them…

During the recent cold snap here in the UK, it seemed entirely appropriate to be reading a novel set in the frozen wastes of the Alaskan tundra. This is a cold, grim and unrelentingly miserable read, but for the most part, I rather enjoyed this grief- filled and violent tale.

Drawing heavily on the naturalistic writing tradition of American literature, Giraldi has produced not only a compelling crime novel, but also one that encompasses a careful study of the human condition. Indeed, at one point in the book there is a direct reference to how to understand the very essence of human nature and behaviour, we should look to the woods and not to the books, and how “the annals of human wisdom fall silent when faced with the feral in us.” There is a primeval simplicity at the heart of the book, as we bear witness to the violence meted out by the Sloanes. With the interweaving of Vernon’s active service abroad, and his pursuit of his wife (taking no prisoners along the way), the central credo of base human emotion drawing on our wilder animalistic instincts comes to the fore throughout. It’s a fascinating psychological study, and although the vast majority of the characters are inherently dislikeable, there is much to be learned and enjoyed about the more base emotions that the characters exhibit in this brutal tale.

Giraldi’s depiction of the wildness of his characters, sits perfectly alongside his portrayal of this unique and bleak location, where everybody’s existence is dictated to by the exacting weather conditions and landscape of this inhospitable place. The community itself exists on the folklore and superstitions of generations past that continue to influence the character’s lives and calling on the spirits of their ancestors to direct their own paths and to deflect evil. There is a sense of other-worldliness throughout the book as we discover the ancient traditions of this society, and set against the vibrant depiction and understanding of the natural world that surrounds them, the folkloric aspect of the book is entirely satisfying.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who was held spellbound by Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone, and books of that ilk. I was also much heartened to see an endorsement by Tim O’Brien, a master of the Vietnam fiction genre, as the passages in Hold The Dark dealing solely with Vernon’s army service are powerfully wrought indeed. As I said it’s not a life-affirming or particularly hopeful read, and the sudden bursts of brutal violence are not for all, but I liked it. Very much.

For the inside track on Hold The Dark, read an excellent interview with author William Giraldi at Crime Thriller Fella

(With thanks to No Exit Press for the ARC)


Karim Miske- Arab Jazz


arab1Kosher sushi, kebabs, a second hand bookshop and a bar: the 19th arrondissement in Paris is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood where multicultural citizens live, love and worship alongside one another. This peace is shattered when Ahmed Taroudant’s melancholy daydreams are interrupted by the blood dripping from his upstairs neighbour’s brutally mutilated corpse.

The violent murder of Laura Vignole, and the pork joint placed next to her, set imaginations ablaze across the neighborhood, and Ahmed finds himself the prime suspect. However detectives Rachel Kupferstein and Jean Hamelot are not short of leads. What is the connection between a disbanded hip-hop group and the fiery extremist preachers that jostle in the streets for attention? And what is the mysterious new pill that is taking the district by storm?

Sometimes, when reviewing books regularly there is an almost fixed template in your mind to construct your thoughts and feelings about a book. You provide an overview of the waxing and waning of a plot, the strength of the characterisation, the use of location and so on to formulate your critique. However, occasionally you are confronted with a book where you cannot resort to this more simplistic template, and even begin to question your own ability to find the words to describe your reading experience of the book in question. This is the dilemma I faced with Arab Jazz. So I will bumble on in my own sweet way- bear with me reader…

I read this book a few weeks ago immediately in the aftermath of the horrific events in Paris which stunned and shocked us all. Perhaps reading this book at such an apposite time provided me with a more visceral reaction to the book, but in hindsight, the strong messages that Miske conveys throughout the book regarding religious tolerance and intolerance are entirely in tune with the contemporary social tensions raised by religious difference. Casting its light on three secular groups, comprising of Muslims, Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Miske provides a balanced and objective study of all three, impartially conveying to the reader the best and worst aspects of all and the protagonists linked to each. Instead, he succinctly reveals the human failings and frailties of each, the black shadow of fundamentalism, and the propensity for greed and violence no matter what faith or race defines you. The melting pot of characters, and the differing natures of their personal interactions form the very heart of this novel, across faiths, class, occupations and even continents (as the action pivots out to America) , thus transcending this book above any conventional tag of a ‘crime novel’, and leading us to the beating heart of a multicultural, multi-faith contemporary European city. In some ways this feels like a love letter to Miske’s adopted city, powerfully illustrating the frustrations inherent in modern society, but by the same token, replete with a sense of the author’s love for this complicated and multi-faceted city. It works beautifully when combined with the socio-political issues of the book, and our own newly formed perceptions of Parisian society.

The central crime of the novel is the hook to add all of Miske’s weightier issues on to, and works well with this in mind. With his two disparate police protagonists- both strong and engaging characters- the plot unfolds at a good pace, slowly inveigling the separate groups of characters that Miske introduces us to, with their singular ways of life and beliefs. The opening murder also gives the author the added scope to introduce a most tentative and heartfelt, albeit slightly stumbling, love affairs that I have ever read, that carries all the simplistic honesty of those great love affairs from classic fiction, and adds a residual warmth to the more weighty issues that Miske addresses.

This is an intelligent, multi-layered and objective novel, that will make you think and increase your awareness of the differences that lay at the heart of any modern society. Aside from a few less fluid passages- perhaps slightly lost in translation- the book consistently flows in pace and plot. You will feel emotionally invested in the character’s lives, and most importantly of all feel that you have read a book that deserves to be read. And if this one doesn’t feature in my books of the year, I will eat my own foot. Possibly.

Born in 1964 in Abidjan to a Mauritanian father and a French mother, Karim Miské grew up in Paris before leaving to study journalism in Dakar. He now lives in France, and is making documentary films on a wide range of subjects including deafness, for which he learned sign language, and the common roots between the Jewish and Islamic religions. He runs a Senegalese restaurant in the 11th arrondissement and has started writing TV scripts. Arab Jazz is the author’s first novel. Visit the author’s website here

Follow this link to hear an upcoming BBC Radio 3 programme (11/2/15) featuring Karim Miske and Aatish Taseer talking about contemporary France.

(With thanks to MacLehose Press for the reading copy)


Peter Swanson- Guest Post- The Kind Worth Killing


THE KIND WORTH KILLING JACKETMarking the publication of Peter Swanson’s second crime thriller The Kind Worth Killing, I am delighted to be hosting a guest post by the author and his thoughts on his murderous female characters! Swanson burst onto the crime writing scene last year with his debut novel, The Girl With A Clock For A Heart, described by Dennis Lehane as ‘a twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride’, and no doubt The Kind Worth Killing will hold the readers in similar thrall.

Opening with a brilliant homage to Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train, disillusioned husband, Ted Severson, embarks on a random conversation with a woman at an airport bar, bemoaning the state of his marriage. A plan is hatched to divest Ted of his troublesome and possibly unfaithful wife Miranda, but how many secrets does his potential partner in crime, Lily, harbour herself, and will this murderous scheme come to fruition? Told in alternate narrative viewpoints from the three characters, in different timelines, Swanson carefully inveigles us in a plot full of surprises, violence and leaves the reader truly appreciative of the old adage regarding the female of the species. The characterisation of the two female characters, Miranda and Lily is exceptionally well done, twisting and changing our perceptions of both as this tale of passion and murder progresses.  Along with the satisfying allusions to Highsmith, Christie and amateur detective Nancy Drew, it was this aspect of the book that intrigued me the most, and here’s what Peter had to say,

Swanson,+Peter (1)“My mom was halfway through reading my new book, The Kind Worth Killing, and she jokingly commented to me that I must be a real misogynist. I was kind of shocked, and asked her why she thought that. She replied: “All those devious murderous women in your books.”

I got her point. In my first two published novels, there are a total of three very bad women, variations on the classic femme fatales, ladies who will kill to get what they want. These women are villains, and yet, I had never thought that creating them showed any kind of anti-women streak in me. I’ve always loved villains, and find them often more interesting than the dull protagonist, always trying to do the right thing.

Of course, female villains can quickly become clichéd. We all know the classic femme fatale, the beauty who uses her sex appeal to talk dumb men into doing bad things. I have nothing against this archetype (especially since I’ve used it myself)—it’s created so many great fictional characters, from Phyllis Nirdlinger in James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity to Maddy Walker (played by Kathleen Turner) in the movie Body Heat. Femme fatales are often (always, really) sexpots, but they are also always the smartest one in the room.

When I realized that my new book was going to have two murderous females in it, I wanted to make sure that they were different. While Miranda is, in many ways, the classic femme fatale, Lily, who is essentially the protagonist of the novel, is not in that mold at all. While not asexual, her sexuality is, in no way, her defining trait. Her main goal in life is a peaceful existence, living alone, free from drama. She is also almost certainly a sociopath, willing to do whatever it takes to guarantee this peaceful existence. Here’s the thing: I like her. Quite a bit.

I also know that one of the reasons I might be so fond of Lily is that she is a fictional creation in a fictional world. Let’s face it, if you read the crime section of any regional newspaper, the violent crimes of the world are being committed by men, and often against women and children. My book is genre fiction that I wrote to hopefully entertain readers (that was the plan, anyway). It was fun to create a devious, brilliant women who murders off the wrongdoers in her life, and I hope it’s fun to read about her, as well.”

Peter Swanson is the author of two novels, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, and The Kind Worth Killing, available from William Morrow in the United States and Faber & Faber in the United Kingdom. His poems, stories and reviews have appeared in such journals as The Atlantic, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Epoch, Measure, Notre Dame Review, Soundings East, and The Vocabula Review. He has won awards in poetry from The Lyric and Yankee Magazine, and is currently completing a sonnet sequence on all 53 of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts. Visit the author’s website here – at Facebook and on Twitter @PeterSwanson3

THE KIND WORTH KILLING by Peter Swanson is out now (Faber & Faber)

Todd Ritter- Death Falls (Kat Campbell 2)- Extract


w566290To mark the reissue of Todd Ritter’s second book featuring  Perry Hollow police chief Kat Campbell,  I am pleased to be hosting an exclusive extract. Death Falls (previously published as Bad Moon) takes us back to the historic moon walk by Neil Armstrong, the same night as nine-year-old Charlie Olmstead jumped on his bike to see if he could get a better look. It was the last anyone ever saw of him. After Perry Hollow Police Chief Jim Campbell found Charlie’s bike caught up above a waterfall, he assumed the worse, and so did everyone else except Charlie’s mother. 40 years later, Eric Olmstead – and famous author and Charlie’s brother – has come back to bury his mother and fulfil her last request: find his brother. To do so he goes to the current police chief and his former sweetheart Kat Campbell, and it isn’t long before they discover that finding Charlie was his mother’s secret obsession, and while she never found him she uncovered clues suggesting that he wasn’t the only victim…


“I’m going to wake Charlie.”

Ruth trailed her to the stairs. “Maggie, wait!”

Maggie didn’t stop, continuing up the stairs with rushed purpose. At the top, her bare feet made slapping sounds on the hardwood floor as she moved down the hall to Charlie’s bedroom. Ruth remained downstairs, calling up to her.

“Please come back! Charlie’s not there!”

Maggie stopped, hand against the closed bedroom door. “What do you mean?”

“Come back downstairs,” Ruth said. “I’ll explain.”

She did the opposite, pushing into the room instead. The streetlight outside the window cast a rectangle of light that stretched across the floor. Just like in the nursery, she didn’t need it. She knew every inch of the bedroom, from the telescope in the corner to the model rockets lined up on the bookshelf.

The window was open, letting in a rainy breeze that dampened the curtains. Beneath it was Charlie’s bed, draped in a comforter dotted with moons, stars and planets. Holding the baby with one hand, Maggie used the other to lift the comforter and whip it away.

The bed, much like the baby’s crib earlier, was empty.

“Please come downstairs.” Ruth now stood in the doorway, breath heavy, face pinched.

“Where is he? Did Ken take him somewhere?”

Ruth moved into the room and tried to clasp her free hand. Maggie yanked it away. “Answer me, Ruth. Where is my son?”

“He’s missing.”

“I don’t understand.”

But Maggie did. She understood quite well as she shuffled backwards and plopped onto the empty bed. The bed that should have contained Charlie. Her boy. Whose whereabouts were now unknown.

“Is that where Ken went? To look for him?”

“He called the police,” Ruth said. “Then he woke me and Mort.”

Mort was Ruth’s husband. Maggie presumed he was also looking for Charlie, along with the police and God knows who else. Apparently everyone but her knew her son was gone.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Ken didn’t think you’d wake up. And if you did, he knew you’d be worried.”

Damn right she was worried. Her body might have been motionless on her son’s bed, but her mind was a whirling dervish of fears and bad thoughts. Where was Charlie? How long had he been gone? Was it too late to find him? When Maggie’s brain settled down, her body started up again. She rose from the bed and stomped past Ruth into the hallway.

“I have to look for him,” she said. “I have to find him.”

Again, Ruth tried to stop her. “I’ll take the baby.”


Maggie tightened her arms around the infant. One of her children was missing. She wasn’t going to let the other out of her sight until he was found…


Death Falls is published by Avon and is available on Kindle now at


Todd Ritter was born in rural Pennsylvania to a bank teller mother and a father who dabbled in taxidermy. He grew up among “Bambi”-esque forests and wide-open fields straight out of the cropduster scene from “North by Northwest.” Appropriately, his two biggest influences are Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. He lives in suburban New Jersey. Visit his website here

January 2015 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)2015 has certainly begun with a bang with no less than 9 reviews posted, four non-starters (which I am far too polite to name), two blog tours, and a huge amount of incredibly tempting books arriving by the day. You crime readers are in for a few treats in the next couple of months, I can tell you! The only downside has been my appalling performance in the TBR Double Dog Dare Challenge hosted by James Reads Books where I have managed the giddy total of…wait for it…one book from my TBR mountain This may take some time to reach the apex of I feel. But I am not deterred, and am aiming for a more solid performance in February. Maybe two- ha! Anyway, asides from this, lots of exciting stuff to come in the next month. Have a good February everyone.


Tom Callaghan- A Killing Winter

Elena Forbes- The Jigsaw Man (

Patrick Hoffman- The White Van

Peter May- Runaway

David McCaffrey- Hellbound

Grant Nicol- The Mistake (

 R. S. Pateman- The Prophecy of Bees 

Marcus Sedgwick- A Love Like Blood 

Philip Taffs- The Evil Inside  


tom white

Absolute dead heat this month between two books, both from debut authors, reflecting my preferred blog content for this year. First, the utterly marvellous A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan, with its bleak and atmospheric Kyrgyzstan setting that totally suited a chilly January night’s reading. Perfect for fans of Child 44. Closely followed by Patrick Hoffman’s The White Van– a gritty and spare San Francisco set thriller that oozed violence throughout, yet delivered so much human vulnerability at the same time. Both different and both brilliant…