crime fiction

REVIEW: I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

When the body of a young girl is discovered hanging from a tree, the only clue the police have is an airline tag around her neck. It reads “I’m travelling alone”. In response, seasoned investigator Holger Munch is charged with assembling a special homicide unit. That means tracking down his former partner – Mia Krüger – a brilliant but troubled detective who’s plans are to die. Reviewing the file, Mia finds something new – a thin line carved into the dead girl’s finger nail; the number 1. This is just the beginning. To save the other children Mia must push aside her own demons and see the bigger picture before the murderer becomes a serial killer.

I’m Travelling Alone is told from multiple perspectives meaning that the action never really lets up and while you may have more information than the detectives, that doesn’t mean you can see how everything’s connected straight away. There’s subplots that on the surface don’t look to be related to the main case but slowly the people become connected and the way everything is interwoven together is very natural.

The chapters are very short, often less than 10 pages, and they nearly all end on a mini cliff-hanger which makes this over 500 pages story a quick read. I’m Travelling Alone is often tense and it definitely has some unexpected twists and turns as the case develops and it becomes clear that there’s something seriously disturbing about the killer.

Mia and Holger are very different people but the way they work together is great. There’s the mentor-mentee relationship but Mia is so good at seeing patterns and the connections between things that she’s often smarter than Holger. That doesn’t mean Holger’s an idiot though, they each bring something to the partnership and the scenes when they bounce ideas off each other are enthralling. The whole team is great and it’s clear why they have been brought in on this case and they all bring a unique perspective to the team.

I’m Travelling Alone does end somewhat suddenly. Everything’s been building and building, and then it doesn’t really have the closure that I was expecting. Besides from that, it is an enjoyable and engrossing detective story. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman by E.W. Hornung

A collection of short stories about A.J. Raffles, a cricketeer and gentleman thief, who doesn’t need to commit burglaries and steal money and jewels, but enjoys the rush of it, and his former schoolmate Harry “Bunny” Masters who he ropes into being his accomplice.

Written in the 1890’s, these stories are set in Victorian London and they’re a lot of fun. Raffles is a charming, loveable rogue, he likes to gamble and take risks. He’s a very cunning guy who can read people and is usually one step ahead of everyone else – especially, Bunny.

Bunny is the one downside to these stories. They’re told from his point of view I found him a bit wet as he kept flip flopping between enjoying his escapades with Raffles and then getting a conscience and panicking about what he’s involved with. Bunny is also not particularly trusting of Raffles when it comes to the crimes they’re planning to commit together. Part of that is because of a lack of communication between the two, Raffles rarely tells Bunny all his plans so Bunny then acts in a way that may put them both in danger, so you can see where Bunny’s frustrating is coming from.

Possibly because of the Victorian setting and how Raffles know London like the back of his hand, this collection reminded me of Sherlock Holmes – especially the films featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. There’s also the dynamics between the two main characters, there’s some similarities between how Holmes and Watson act and how Raffles and Bunny act, however Raffles definitely talks down to Bunny more than Holmes does with Watson.

All the stories are no more than 25 pages long so they’re fast-paced and get to the crimes themselves very quickly. The crimes are often clever and don’t go the way you’d expect. Naturally there’s some stories I enjoyed more than others and it took me some time to get used to the Victorian vernacular, but they were all engaging reads and I loved the adventurous and often over-the-top vibe these stories had. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Argentina: Death Going Down by María Angélica Bosco

When young, beautiful Frida Eidinger is found dead in the lift of a luxury Buenos Aires apartment block, it looks like suicide but none of the building’s residents can be trusted. When Inspector Ericourt and his assistant Blasi take the case, they uncover a disturbing tale of survival, extortion and obsession and slowly the lies begin to unravel.

At 150 pages, this is a crime novel that speeds along. It’s set during the 1950’s so there’s some mention of World War Two and some of the characters are Europeans who have emigrated to Argentina. This offers some interesting historical and social background on these characters.

The people who live in the building where Frida Eidnger was found are all suspicious. There’s the womanizer, the controlling husband, the secretive siblings, and the deceased’s husband is also behaving strangely. As the death is investigated you learn more about the potential suspects, their motives and their lives. However, some characters end up being more fleshed-out than others.

You never really got to know the detective team on the case, and become attached to them in any way. They often seemed like the eyes for the reader and had little personality. Ericourt, Blasi and Lahore are all detectives but I was never really sure who was in charge, especially as they each do their own investigations and drop in and out of the story.

I can’t really say I liked this book, but there was something about it that kept me reading – maybe it was because it was so short. I personally didn’t figure out who had done it until everything was revealed, especially as more and more people kept seeming to incriminate themselves. Death Going Down is quick, intriguing crime story that will keep you guessing.

READ THE WORLD – Denmark: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Copenhagen Detective Inspector Carl Mørck has been taken off Homicide to run a new department for unsolved crimes and he’s not happy about it. Soon things get busy when his first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, a politician who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead, he thinks they’re right. But that might not be the case, and Merete’s time is running out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a detective thriller and The Keeper of Lost Causes did not disappoint. Carl is one of those typical cranky detectives who doesn’t work well with others, his colleagues don’t really like him but they still ask his advice on difficult cases, but he’s still a decent person who’s good at his job. It’s great to see bits of the case come together because as the reader you sometimes know more than Carl but you never get the whole story till the final chapters.

Carl Mørck’s department is in the basement of police headquarters and it’s just him and his assistant Hafez el-Assad. They’re an odd combination and provide some moments of humour. Assad is Syrian so he doesn’t always get how things work in Denmark but he’s never portrayed as stupid, in fact he’s a great help to the case, seeing things others don’t. It was really nice to see how Carl respected Assad’s religion, getting a floorplan of the station so Assad knew which direction to pray – the religious aspect of Assad’s life was so natural and just a part of him and no one made a big deal of it.

Assad is a very likeable character with some hidden talents, I enjoyed seeing him and Carl slowly start getting to know each other, each dealing with each other’s unusual habits and personal traits. Carl is definitely a character I didn’t like to start with but he grew on me, especially because he has a very dry sense of humour and is often brutally honest.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a proper-page turner, there were revelations at the end of most chapters and a sense of desperation as the novel progressed as you learnt more about Merete and the horrible situation she’s in. 5/5.

REVIEW: Crime Wave by Rose Pressey

crime wave elenasquareeyesMaggie has taken over her late uncles PI agency in Miami. With a love of old detective shows Maggie feels like she knows what she’s doing. That all changes when her client who hired her to find out if his wife is having an affair suddenly turns up dead. Her cheating-spouse case becomes a murder one and when the police don’t always want to listen to her, Maggie with the help of her elderly, knitting needle–wielding assistant Dorothy are on the case. But when more people seem to be getting hurt and men begin to follow Maggie, will her first case be her last?

I shall start by saying I did not like this book but as it was short at just over 200 pages and completing and reviewing it would fill the PI crime genre for the Eclectic Reader challenge I powered through it.

I found the language and writing incredibly simple and full of awkward and cringe-worthy clichés. As I was reading it some sections reminded me of bad fanfiction (I will be the first to say there’s some amazing novel-length fanfiction out there but also some very paint-by-numbers stuff) in this instance Crime Wave was paint-by-numbers. One example of the not-great writing is: “It was hard to concentrate with Jake sitting beside me, especially when his manly scent kept tickling my nostrils.” Seriously?! Manly scent?! There was so many phrases that just made me roll my eyes. (more…)

REVIEW: Geezer Girls by Dreda Say Mitchell

FullSizeRender (70)Jade, Amber, Ruby and Opal are all fifteen and scared. They’re forced to smuggle drugs and guns for the man they call “the Geezer” and it isn’t till a shocking event reveals to them what’s really going on that they can make their escape. Now ten years on they’ve all made a life for themselves. Jade, now going by the name Jackie, is about to get married and her three best friends are her maids of honour. But then the Geezer arrives back into their lives and either he’ll kill them or they have to do one last job for him. Jackie and the girls must decide if they can trust him and if they can risk their new lives for this job.

I found Geezer Girls a bit hard to get into to start with. I think it’s because thanks to the blurb, you know the girls get away from the Geezer so it’s the story where they’re older that I was more interested in. Also I found it frustrating as Geezer Girls is one of those books where the reader knows more than the characters (at least during the first section) so it’s frustrating when they trust someone who you know is the bad guy.

All the girls were different and each had their strengths and weaknesses and they all balanced each other out very well. It was great to read a book that’s essentially about female friendships and found families. My favourite out of the four was Opal, she had been through terrible things but still managed to find love and friendship.

There’s heists and deception, violence and surprises in Geezer Girls. I loved to see how the girls worked together to protect each other and to plan various schemes. There were some great secondary characters too and I liked looking into the world of gangs and crime.

If you like crime thrillers with great female characters then you should check out Geezer Girls. It is the first part in a series but luckily it doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger (I thought it would) so I will probably be checking out the other books in due course. 4/5.