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Fresh from the book launch in Swansea, crime fiction blogger Mrs Peabody (aka editor Katharina Hall) has paid us a visit (along with her sidekick, Erich, the Bavarian duck). Seeing as this book is going to be a foundation stone in my reading for the rest of 2016, I couldn’t resist asking a few questions – particularly fiendish number 5.

What were your objectives?

When I started researching German crime fiction in 2006, I realised there was no comprehensive overview of the Krimi in English. This seemed surprising given that there was so much great German-language crime fiction already in translation – from Friedrich Dürrenmatt to Jakob Arjouni to Ingrid Noll – and sowed the idea of the book. The volume showcases the most interesting Krimis from the nineteenth century to the present day, and places them in their larger social, historical and cultural contexts, hopefully helping readers to appreciate the richness of crime fiction from the German-speaking world.

Who is your target audience?

We hope that the volume will be useful to academics in the field, but have also written very much with the general reader in mind. The first chapter is a standalone overview of German-language crime (which can be downloaded for free here! https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa25191) and the idea is that readers can dip into other chapters that interest them. There are chapters on early crime fiction, Austrian crime fiction, Swiss crime fiction, women’s crime fiction, historical crime fiction, the Afrika-Krimi (crime set in or about Africa) and the Fernsehkrimi (TV crime drama). We’ve tried to focus on crime novels that are already translated, and hope that readers will seek out lots of lovely Krimis as a result!

Did you have any difficulties finding contributors / or a publisher? Crime fiction is hardly an academic subject…

There’s actually been lots of academic work being carried out on crime fiction – it’s a really vibrant area with articles and books being published all the time. But these need to be less expensive if they are to reach wider audiences. Bridging the world of academia and the world of crime blogging/discussion is one of the main aims of the ‘Mrs. Peabody Investigates’ blog, and it’s why we’ve made the first chapter of the volume available to everyone for free. We’re having giveaways of the volume and German crime fiction as well – spreading the Krimi love all around the world.

Finding contributors was an organic process over time, and they’ve been brilliant in terms of their commitment to the project. We’re a truly international bunch, based in Germany, the UK, Ireland, the USA, Kuwait and Namibia. As for finding a publisher – this proved to be remarkably easy. The University of Wales Press (just down the road from Swansea University) already had an established series called ‘European Crime Fictions’, with volumes on French, Italian, Scandinavian and Iberian crime, so we slotted in quite nicely there.

How much fun was this project? How many Krimis did you read for it?

Researching the volume was enormously fun. As editor, I must have read over a hundred Krimis that were new to me, and discovered all sorts of gems thanks to the expertise of the contributors. I particularly enjoyed reading social crime fiction from the 1970s by Richard Hey (whose novels feature the first female German police inspector, Katharina Ledermacher) and watching vast quantities of TV crime drama. A favourite was the black and white East German crime series Blaulicht (Blue Light) – I can still remember the tune of the police siren in the opening credits!

My own wishlist has grown exponentially (and I’m only two chapters in.) Could you create an essential reading list by recommending just one Krimi from each chapter of your book?

This is such a hard task! I could have created at least five different lists! But here we go:

Chapter 1 (Crime Fiction in German) – Jakob Arjouni, Happy Birthday, Turk! (No Exit Press, trans Anselm Hollo). This novel was published in 1985 and features the first Turkish-German private eye – Kemal Kayankaya – in German-language crime fiction. An innovative social crime novel with biting humour and an unforgettable investigator.

Chapter 2 (Early Crime Fiction) – Auguste Groner, The Case of the Golden Bullet (Amazon, trans unknown). This popular female author was a pioneer of Austrian crime fiction and created the first German-language police detective series. Joseph Müller investigates in this opening novella, originally published in 1892.

Chapter 3 (Austrian Crime Fiction) – Paulus Hochgatterer, The Sweetness of Life (MacLehose, trans Jamie Bulloch). This crime novel won the 2009 European Literature Prize and shows Detective Ludwig Kovacs and psychiatrist Raffael Horn working on a murder case in which the only witness is a girl too traumatised to speak. Like many Austrian crime novels, it explores the darker sides of small-town society.

Chapter 4 (Swiss crime fiction) – Friedrich Glauser, In Matto’s Realm (Bitter Lemon Press, trans Mike Mitchell). Originally published in 1936, In Matto’s Realm is the second in the landmark ‘Sergeant Studer’ series. Studer is shown investigating the escape of a murderer from a psychiatric institution, a setting that holds a mirror up to pre-war Switzerland.

Chapter 5 (Afrika-Krimi) – Bernhard Jaumann, Steinland (Stoneland/not yet translated). Steinland is set in Namibia, which was once a German colony, and explores the tensions created by the government’s land reform policy, which aims to return land appropriated during colonialism to its rightful owners. It features the wonderful Namibian police inspector Clemencia Garises.

Chapter 6 (women’s crime fiction) – Doris Gercke, How Many Miles to Babylon (Women in Translation, trans Anna Hamilton). This crime novel features iconic, world-weary Hamburg investigator Bella Block, who is called to a seemingly idyllic village to investigate two suicides that may have been murder. A classic example of the Frauenkrimi, which inspired a long-running TV series.

Chapter 7 (historical crime fiction) – Simon Urban, Plan D (Vintage, trans Katy Derbyshire). This ambitious novel blends police procedural, detective novel and alternative history genres. Set in a 2011 in which the Berlin Wall still stands, it explores East-West tensions as the GDR teeters on brink of bankruptcy. A biting social satire.

Chapter 8 (TV crime drama) – ‘Cenk Batu’ Tatort episodes. This groundbreaking set of episodes from the famous TV drama Tatort (Crime Scene) plays in Hamburg and features Turkish-German undercover policeman Cenk Batu. The episodes are currently available in the UK with subtitles via All 4/‘Walter Presents’ – Walter has described them as ‘Montalbano on speed’ (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/cenk-batu/on-demand/63253-001).

The Giant Krimi Giveway is currently underway at ‘Mrs Peabody Investigates’ and is open until Sunday 17 April.

I said earlier this year that I needed a reading project. Associate Professor of German at Swansea University, Katharina Hall, better known in the blogging world as Mrs Peabody, has delivered one, that will help me reach my target (40% of 2016 reading to be translated from German) without it being hard work.

imageAs editor of Crime Fiction in German, she has put together a selection of essays by academics and translators, including herself, covering the extraordinary range of crime fiction written in the German language. Topics include The Emergence of Crime Fiction in German, Austrian Crime Fiction, Swiss Crime Fiction, Africa in German Crime Fiction, Women’s Crime Writing in German, Historical Crime Fiction in German, as well as an overview of German Television Crime Drama.

I have browsed quickly and what really strikes me is that these essays are readable in a way that other academic writings often are not. (You know how it usually is, why use a word of one syllable when a word with five or six will do.) It is also highly dangerous. For instance, having read chapter 1, written by Mrs Peabody herself (I do hope Professor Hall doesn’t mind me referring to her in this way), I wrote down a list of titles in my TBR for immediate reading. I found 13. 13!!!! That said, chapter 1 Concepts, Developments and Trends, is an overview of Crime Fiction in German from the early 19th century to the new millenium. It covers a lot of ground, some of it not mentioned elsewhere.  (Edit: And it’s available to read for free online!)

On that basis, it’s not surprising that I pulled 13 unread novels from the TBR. But neither is it practical for me to read them before moving onto chapter 2. So this is how I’ve decided to proceed with my project. I’m moving onto chapter 2 right away and with each chapter I shall read 1 or 2 (or maybe 3) titles, summarising it all together in one post. At a rate of one chapter per month, I will finish the project in November. Fittingly because that will be German Literature Month.

I’m launching my reading project today to coincide with the official launch of the book in Swansea. I hear rumours that there will be lashings of German beer too! The chances are that, if you’re reading this, like me, you’re not in Swansea, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t join in the celebrations. Mrs Peabody is holding a giant Krimi giveaway. Hie thee over here before April 17 to be in with a chance of grabbing yourself a fantastic read.

I recommend all that I have read: (Links to my reviews) Alone in Berlin, The Sweetness of Life, The Murder Farm, Plan D and The Collini Case.

Stand by for thoughts on chapter 2 …..

imageHaving read 10 of Penguin’s republished Maigrets, I confess I’ve had enough. I enjoyed Rowan Atkinson’s recent portrayal of the man in Maigret Sets A Trap, but Maigret just isn’t dynamic enough for me. He sits around and thinks too much, and the plots are sometimes obvious. So for the 1938 Club, I chose to read a Roman Durs (a hard novel – although I think of them as dark novels). They certainly have more meat, typically involving a criminal,  alienated from his surroundings, with no hope of redemption.

That sounds like Europe in 1938 to me, although I don’t think that Simenon was consciously drawing a prophetic allegory of the political situation, even if many respectable citizens were about to be pushed over the edge into insanity ….

Kees Popinga is such a man. Married for 16 years, with two children, he works for a local shipping company. He has built his own house and is proud of it. The novel opens with a terrible discovery. The company is about to go bust, and, as Popinga has invested all his savings in it, he is a ruined man. His boss seems to relish telling him the hard truth, just before faking his death and making a getaway to start over.

This betrayal of trust tips the sensible Kees over the edge.  He casts off the shackles of responsibility and respectability.   With the money his boss has given in (in a fit of guilt), he decides to track down his boss’s mistress (a high-class prostitute) and make up for opportunities missed years before. She laughs at him, which leads to an accidentally fatal outcome. Popinga is no longer simply on a spree. He is now evading justice.

He escapes to Paris, but how can a Dutch murderer evade arrest? Fortunately he has plenty of money, can speak English, French and German fluently, and so can disguise himself. For a time. Inexorably, however, the downward spiral gathers momentum – not helped by his fixation with the woman he meets on his first night in Paris. Yet he remains unaware of being dragged ever lower due to his resilience and absolute confidence in his abilty to outwit the French police,

who seem not to be doing very much.  Which makes Popinga mad.  They’re not taking him seriously.  Like Maigret, they are just sitting it out waiting for him to give himself away.  Well, he’ll show them!

This psychological portrait of a criminal on the run and his descent into madness is the core of the novel. Bang on the money too. Next time an overconfident criminal starts sending letters to the press, pick up Simenon’s novel. It will inform you of the mind games behind the press releases and psychological profiling.  Police methods haven’t changed that much in the almost 80 years since Simeon published this.

It’s becoming a habit.  For the third year in a row, I’ve saved up a full series from Peirene Press to binge read over a long weekend.  It gives me an opportunity to see how they play off each other and assess them as a series, and my view of series 5 is that it is the best yet.  In each series so far, there’s always been one that didn’t gel with me.  That’s not true here.  Nor is that due to them being of a likeness because the books in this trio are as different as different can be.

Let’s start at the beginning.

imageWhite Hunger by Aki Ollikanen
Best Finnish Debut Novel 2012
Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2016
Translated from Finnish by Emily and Fleur Jeremiah

It is 1867, the second year of the last great famine in Finland, and the population is paying the price. It is estimated that 270,000 people died of starvation in Finland that year, and Ollikanen pitches us right into the midst of this suffering. Winter approaches with a farmer’s family fishing for food – the store cupboards are almost empty because the crop has failed. His marital life has been affected – his wife does not want one more mouth to feed. The next time we see them, he is dying of starvation and his wife, Marja is about to leave him to his fate and set out with the two children, Mataleena and Juno, to walk to St Petersburg in search of food. It’s a desperate action. The winter is harsh, the snow is knee deep in places, and they’re cold and hungry before the journey even begins. Nor are they the only ones facing such a trek.

Success depends on the ofttimes begrudging kindness of strangers, sharing the little they have for themselves, or giving them a lift to the next place of shelter. The gruel they are served becomes thinner, the bark content of the bread ever higher. The shelters they find – whether communal or private – are not always safe, particularly for Marja. Even well-meaning folk can do harm. (The stomachs of the starving cannot handle food in normal quantities.)

Contrasting with the experience of the rural migrants (can we call them that?) is that of the urban townsfolk. The difference is emphasised in the novella’s structure which alternates between Marja and her family and the urban scene. The townsfolk are not as badly affected, although life is far from easy for all, apart from the ruling classes. Attitudes to sex are more casual. In fact, so much so that Teo Renqvist earned my intense dislike for … well, that would be telling. Which was a bit unfortunate because I can’t give him any credit for his show of humanity at the end.

Returning to the structure. Ollikanen honours the victims of the famine, Marja, Mataleena and Juno by naming a book after each. For two, this means a book of memorial. For the third a book of hope. Spring arrives at the end of the longest winter. Add this to the language which is highly evocative whether describing landscape or the effects of hunger on the body, and it’s not hard to understand the Man Booker International Prize Longlisting.

The story has obvious contemporary political resonance – something that the IFFP judges valued, it seemed to me, above all else. It remains to be seen whether the MBI judges think likewise.

imageReader for Hire by Raymond Jean
Translated from French by Adriana Hunter

If a book lover ever needs a lightening of heart, this little gem is guaranteed to deliver.

When Marie-Constance G’s friend, Françoise suggested “Why don’t you put an ad in the papers offering to read to people in their own homes?”, my mind flew immediately to Scout’s successful foray into the same field in To Kill A Mockingbird. What can possibly go wrong?

Well, well …. and well again.

I don’t recall Peirene doing comedy before, but this is de-lic-ious. (Dear Nymph, give me more.)

Some mishaps are due to Marie-Constance’s naïvety, and others due to her “paragon” of a husband, who gives her free reign to behave as she will. And she behaves in some very dubious ways.

(I could sidetrack into a discussion as to whether indifference to one’s spouse is a virtue? But I don’t want to spoil the mood, so we’ll leave philosophy out of it.)

In addition to the farcical romp, this book delivered something entirely unexpected. Marie-Constance chooses to read from the French naturalists, and, because of the – shall we say – (mis)adventures that result from the power of this literature, I now have a curiosity to read them too.

Well, well … and well again.

imageThe Looking-Glass Sisters by Gøhril Gabrielsen
Translated from Norwegian by John Irons

Ragna sat on her stool and shone, she shone and glittered and tossed her hair, so thick, so long was it that she could plait it, gather it in a ponytail, roll it up and let it cascade down again in long, soft curls. I stared straight ahead, pretended she wasn’t there, didn’t take any notice of her lapping up my humiliation – Mum cutting and my tears falling at every strand of hair that gave way before the scissors.

Afterwards, I sneaked over to the mirror unseen, alone. …. Ragna appeared out of nowhere and stood beside me. We stared at each other for a long time …. Nothing was said, but both of us saw, what our reflections had to tell.

What do the reflections tell? Ragna, the healthy, pretty sister, is full of promise, but already showing a propensity for psychological cruelty. The standing at the mirror is designed to drive a point home. Look at me, I’m not like you. It’s true. The unnamed narrator, at the age of 7, has survived a serious childhood illness which has left her disabled and unable even to grow a healthy mane. She is now entirely dependent on her parents. When the parents die 12 years later, the duty of care falls on the 23-year old life-loving and man-loving Ragna and with she too loses her prospects. Living in a remote spot in a northern, godforsaken part of the world, there are no other family members, no social care services to ease her burden, which she carries with increasing resentment and rage.

Ragna dutifully looks after her sister, but with bad grace, never resisting an opportunity to inflict further humiliation. The narrator has nothing to do all day, but read and devise ways of irritating the sister to pay her back in some small measure. As this cycle continues for over 30 years, it needs a stranger to break the pattern.

Enter Johan who moves into a long deserted house nearby. Broad and tall and with a stomach well outside the band of his trousers,  he’s no catch but to the emotionally and sexually deprived Ragna, he is salvation! As their relationship develops, the narrator realises the threat to her existence. Of course, they want peace to enjoy each other. Of course, they’ll want to ship her off to a care home. Of course, she doesn’t want to leave the house she hasn’t been outside since her childhood. It is her world, her only world, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. So she mounts a campaign to thwart their every move.

Is this a miscalculation?

This is an intense, bitter and twisted tale, infused with acts of breathe-taking cruelty. Here are three people in a situation designed to bring out the worst in each other. And yet, despite doubting the reliability of the narrator (is she telling us everything – particularly about her own acts of attrition), it is possible, if not always easy, to sympathise with everyone. Abuse notwithstandig.  Life is complicated like that sometimes.

I think that The Looking-Glass Sisters may be my favourite Peirene. (Although I’ll have to re-read Next World Novella just to make sure.)

I will:

  • Thank James for his fabulous hosting (and beg him to do it all again next year.)
  • Pat myself on the back for completing the dare, with only one minor slipup, and I’m blaming the Three Percent Book Club for that.  I’m certainly not beating myself up about it.  Of the 29 books in this picture (3 on the Kindle), only 3 were new for 2016. The aforementioned Fritz plus Myerson and Rosoff, which were allowed due to the exception I made at the beginning of the dare.  (Books required for Ayewrite!)
I feel so accomplished!

I feel so accomplished!

  • Analyse the stats in relation to my objectives for 2016.

Books read: 29
From the pre-2016 TBR: 26 (89 % Target for the year is 80%)
Books translated from German: 13 (45% Target for the year is 40%)
Books culled:   86
Purchase allowance = (Books read + books culled) / 5 = 23
Purchase allowance balance = 1

I’m on track.  Does that deserve another pat on the back?

  • Celebrate by choosing something to read from my new-for-2016 pile. Oh dear.
With thanks to the publishers for the review copies - it may take me a while to read them!

Purchases plus review copies. (With thanks to the publishers for the latter  – it may take me a while to read them!)

  • Move straight into a #TBR20 challenge.  Needs must.

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Book Three  of TJ’s 12 Germans in 2016 and, at last, things are coming together.  I abandoned Book One (Sasa Stanisíc’s How The Soldier Played The Gramophone), and read, enjoyed and promptly forgot everything about Book Two (Judith Hermann’s Summerhouse, Later).  No point trying to blog about it now.

But here we are blogging – to schedule –  about Book 3 … even though I wouldn’t use the word enjoy to describe the (s)experience!

imageMaria is 16, has fled her divorcée mother’s home because she can’t stand the sadness.  She now lives with her boyfriend, Johannes Brendel,  in his attic bedroom on his family’s farm.  Although they are both still attending school, Maria is playing truant, unsure whether she will ever return.  She biding her time.  The Brendels take her in, accept her and gradually she learns some useful skills – how to cook, how to sell in the farm shop, serve at the local tavern. She also learns the arts of duplicity and deception … because she meets a man.

Hard-drinking Henner,  40 years of age, abandoned by his wife years ago, lives alone on a neighbouring farm.  Even with a bad reputation, he’s a bit of a hunk.  Johannes’s mother has the hots for him.  But from the moment he makes a pass at Maria, she is his, as he awakes desires in her that Johannes has yet to imagine.  From here on in, its one tryst after the next.  The emphasis on feeling, not graphic physicality, but there is sufficient detail to know that Henner is not a tender lover – in fact, he is abusive more often than not.

And here I take issue with the blurb.  Does this rather sordid tale sound like “a magnificent love story” to you?  There’s only one piece of evidence that convinces me that Henner is not simply taking advantage of a gullible young girl, and that’s the ending.

Fortunately there’s more to this novel than the affair.  Set in the Thuringian countryside, during the transition – after the fall of the Wall but before reunification- the concerns of Johannes’s family reflect the worries of DDR farming communities of the time.  Will Western safety laws and machinery standards force their antiquated farms out of business?  At the same time new opportunities arise.  Freedom of movement, for instance.  There are a number of outings to the West,  where the wonders of the consumer society become apparent. A brother who left the East is reunited with his family 25 years later. And most importantly, doors to higher education that had been closed to Maria, due to her refusal to pledge allegiance to the socialist state, are suddenly reopened.

Not that she has grasped this as the story starts. Perhaps those closed doors account for her lack of purpose and what I’m seeing as her captivity to Henner. It’s only when she’s entirely free from Henner aka the DDR that a meaningful future is possible.  Or am I reading too much into it?

imageThe first volume of Louise Welsh’s Plague Trilogy, A Lovely Way to Burn, is set in contemporary London.  The apocalypse is just beginning, arriving  in the form of a virus known as The Sweats.  People are falling like flies and only a very few survive.

Stevie Flint is one such.  You can imagine how interesting this makes her to the medical community, which she spends much of the novel avoiding because she is investigating the suspicious death of her boyfriend, the paediatric surgeon, Simon Sharkey.  It  appears that Simon has died of sudden adult death syndrome, a hypothesis that is called into question when Stevie inherits a laptop with explicit instructions to deliver to a named colleague – no substitutes accepted.

She arrives at the hospital to find her contact dead of the sweats, but other colleagues far too keen to take the hardware from her, and detain her for medical research purposes. Her suspicions aroused, she flees and her life becomes the stuff of nightmares. Not only on a personal level, as she tries to keep ahead of those now pursuing her and resolve the mystery of her boyfriend’s death but also because she finds herself in the midst of a disintegrating society.  It was this aspect that I found so compelling.

At first this pandemic seems like a severe flu – a number of deaths are inevitable. It soon dawns though that most people die – only a very few have survivor’s immunity.  Fear and panic spread and society begins to break down.  As this happens, normal and dystopian realities run in parallel, and, in a blink of an eye an individual can switch between them.

… suddenly she felt as if the wakening streets around her were an illusion that might be peeled back any time, to reveal another, shadow world that could suddenly drag you under without a by-your-leave.

Still it is a world in which a woman of Stevie’s resourcefulness can prevail, and while she may resolve the mystery of Simon’s death, it’s not without sacrifice.  More on that in Max Cairnduff’s review.  The question I want to answer is what happens next, and from the viewpoint of Clare Morrall’s When The Floods Came.

Assume for a moment tha The Sweats is the same as Hoffman’s – the virus in Morall’s novel.  (We can because Morrall doesn’t detail the symptoms – she’s more interested in what comes after.) Stevie, if she were a character in this novel would probably be esconsed with the majority of survivors in Brighton.  The big cities, including London, are now ghost areas, encircled by the barriers that prevented their populations escaping certain death.

imageOther survivors, like the Polanskis, live in isolation so complete that Roza, at 22, hasn’t met anyone her own age for twenty years. Their only connection with the outside world is through the internet with the survivors in Brighton and occasional clues that others pass through their vicinity.  They live in a block of flats, beyond the barriers around Birmingham, with their domestic animals on the top floor.  These cannot graze outside because of the hostile environment. The floods are now so severe that life outside is impossible during the winter months and dangerous, due to flash flooding, at all other times.

For twenty years the Polanskis have  been self-sufficient, but things are about to change.  The law states that Roza must marry by the age of 25.    Those who survived Hoffman’s are rendered infertile; those with natural immunity can still conceive, so Roza must do her duty for the country.  She has recently become engaged to Henry and will soon leave the family home for Brighton.

But change has a way of accelerating beyond our control and the out-of-the-blue arrival of Aashay is the catalyst for that.  It’s clear he has been watching the family for some time – he knows them all by name.  Does he harbour malicious intent or is he simply seeking a family to belong to?   He’s certainly full of charm, and, despite their initial doubts, he is accepted into Roza’s family. As well as playing havoc with Roza’s hormones, he opens the eyes of the younger Polanskis to life outwith their solitary existence, to an alternative lifestyle.  (There are more survivors than the Polanskis are aware of.) He persuades them to attend a fair, and that day out heralds an ominous unravelling.  The dangerous secret at the bosom of Roza’s family is about to revealed to the outside world.

At her recent AyeWrite! event Morrall explained that the novel’s genesis came with an  eerie image of an empty Spaghetti Junction (a huge tangle of interconnecting motorways – and traffic jams – just outside Birmingham).  From that image she builds up  a feasible world and hypothesis, so that by the time we stand on the empty junction with Rosa and her family, it feels entirely natural.  The injection of pre-Hoffman’s nursery rhymes serves as an anchor to the past, and, as Morrall say, adds beat, rhythm to the text.  There’s subtlety in the characterisation too, particularly of Aashay. A subliminal message is sent when Roza encounters Jacob Eppstein’s Lucifer during a surreptitious visit to the abandoned Birmingham Art Gallery.  Is this charmer really a devil in disguise? We can never be sure, not until the end anyway, and even then, we can’t be sure that the ending for the Polanskis is entirely positive.  Morrall playing with ambivalence for all its worth.

There’s no equivalent ambivalence in A Lovely Way to Burn.  Not that I’m criticising.  Welsh is writing a genre novel for a different audience. Thrillers are about pace, mystery, resolution.  Welsh delivers all three.  The apocalyptic  reality serves as a backdrop, it’s not the central theme as in Morall. Therefore the brushstokes are broader, but as I pointed out earlier, effective none the less.  The same applies to the characterisation. Welsh gives us what we need to know for the sake of the plot.  Yet, while the pace is manic, and the population is being decimated by the thousand, a focus on the emotional devastation caused by the death of Stevie’s friend Joanie highlights the human cost that each fatality represents.

Like a good bottle of Vin de Pays glugged down quickly, I read all 369 pages of A Lovely Way to Burn during a 4-hour flight. I raced through it, and that’s what I expect from a thriller. I’ll happily read the second in the trilogy.  When The Floods Came, with its meticulous attention to detail took me longer.  It had to be drunk slowly to appreciate its complexity, like an excellent Grand Vin.

Which do I prefer – Vin de Pays / Crime Fiction or Grand Vin / Literary Fiction?  There’s  room in my drinking / reading life for both. 😄

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