Auntie M’s reading list includes many fine Nordic and European authors she hopes you’ll investigate. These books are all great reads, and with the holidays approaching, make great gifts for the bibliophiles on your list.

blessed-are-those-who-thirst.jpg.pagespeed.ce.Y23Pst4KrgHanne Wilhelmsen is a police investigator first introduced in Holt’s Blind Justice. Blessed are Those Who Thirst finds her battling a brutal Oslo heat wave, which has set off a huge upward spiral in violent crime in the area. She’s balancing it all with an unsolved rape case which disturbs her.

The newest crime scene she is sent to baffles her at first: in an abandoned shed, covered with blood, an eight-digit number is scrawled in blood on one wall. Is it human blood?

But there’s no victim, at least none at this site. Is this a terrible prank or the mark of a more sinister killer?

More of these bloody crime scenes start to crop up, all in isolated locations throughout the city, all with different numbers. Then Hanne’s colleague discovers the significance of those numbers: they belong to female foreign immigrants who have gone missing.

As her team races to track down this killer, the rape victim and her father separately plan their own vengeance.

How these intersect, with horrifying consequences, will keep readers rooted to the page. This is a well-plotted mystery in a fascinating series.

Holt’s inclusion of Hanne’s domestic situation adds nice texture and reminds us that police personnel all have home lives.

 

Bernard Minier’s The Frozen Dead was first published in French with the title Glace`, but this translation loses none of the chilling aspects frozen1444732252-detailof the original.

Minier draws on little-known facts to build his suspense, from the bizarre psychiatric methods at some points, to the subterranean power plant that becomes a plot point.

When a headless horse is found suspended from a frozen cliff in southwest France, it annoys the city cop assigned to investigate. Servaz should be dealing with three teens suspect of killing a homeless man.

Yet he cannot ignore this highly unusual and disturbing crime as the rumbling of a cable car brings the horse’s corpse into view. Everyone in attendance is disturbed.

Only miles away, a young psychiatrist named Diane Berg embarks on a journey that will mean so much more than just a year’s assignment in the Pyrenees at the Wargnier Institute.

When DNA from the Institute’s most infamous inmates is discovered on the animal, it is the first hint to Servaz of the nature of the madment he seeks, and sparks a series of horrific murders.

There’s no escaping the cold as theme in this thriller, from the gritty settings to the dark, grisly deeds carried out in the names of healing, and of revenge.

Minier’s novel explains the complicated and different police investigation method of France’s system, which adds to the tone. Readers will look for more by this talented crime writer and await the reappearance of Servaz and his music.

 

17286708Staying with the cold, we head to Reykjavik, Iceland’s setting for the Erlendur series. This tenth entry is Black Skies, by award-winning author Arnaldur Indridason, who won the CWA Golden Dagger Award for Silence of the Grave.

This time it’s Sigurdur Oli in the spotlight of this subtle and superbly crafted police procedural. Oli finds himself reluctantly agreeing to a friend’s request to head off a blackmail attempt in a scheme of wife swapping. Then he finds the woman accountant found bludgeoned to death was involved with her husband in the scheme.

But Oli is forced to look beyond this obvious motive when the victim’s association with a group of disreputable bankers becomes known.

This has an almost sociological feel to it, without judging or hitting the reader over the head, as Oli follows leads that will take him to the heads of high-finance and the lowest criminals on the economic ladder.

That he becomes disgusted with both extremes speaks volumes. The laziness of the criminals he encounters stands in stark contrast to the greed and flagrantly accepted corruption of the upper class.

By showing how these encounters affects Oli’s own thoughts about his family and marital history, we become involved with him as a real person who happens to be a policeman. That he is tasked with this unenviable job that is sometimes at odds with his personal feelings becomes the heart of the book.

 

Another Nordic entry not to be missed comes from Denmark’s sibling team of Lotte and Soren Hammer. 16044964The Hanging brings readers the unusual team of lead detective Konrad Simonsen in this startling novel that starts off with a bang and never lets up.

When two Turkish children get to school early, they find the mutilated and naked bodies of five men hanging from the gymnasium ceiling. It doesn’t help the investigation when a prejudiced policeman takes his time responding to the call.

The horrific crime sees Simonsen recalled from a vacation, which stirs a media frenzy that is compounded when the link between the victims is known: all were pedophiles.

Fighting public opinion that their killer should be overlooked complicates his team’s investigation. At the heart of the matter will be the lingering question: when is justice served?

Adding texture to the book is the feel for Copenhagen the authors transmit, as is the team the authors they give to Simonsen. These include a young policewoman feeling her way through the start of her career, and another with independent financial means who doesn’t need the job.

The first of a planned six-part series, Lotte and Soren Hammer have fans already clamoring for the next translation.

 

n401410The lovely vintage feel and VW bug on the cover of Marco Vichi’s Death in Florence tell the reader immediately that we are not in contemporary times but rather in 1966.

This is the fourth in the series featuring the novel’s protagonist, Inspector Bordelli, owner of the VW.

“How can a boy vanish into thin air?” That’s the question absorbing Bordelli at the moment.

Giacomo Pellissari seems to have melted into the pouring rain leaving his school. When his mother’s car won’t start, his lawyer father arrives to the school to pick him up an hour late. The boy was seen running into the downpour–and there his trail grows cold.

Bordelli begins an increasingly desperate investigation into the boy’s disappearance with the help of his young sidekick, Piras. They will uncover abuse of power, rape, murder and a ring of homosexuals as they delve deeply into the case.

But he is thwarted by the flood that overwhelms Florence. Based on a real occurrence in November of that year, the swollen river Arno laps over the arches of the Ponte Vecchio, breaks its banks, and completely overwhelms the city.

While streets become rushing torrents, the force of the water sweeps away vehicle and trees, doors and even a coffin lid. Mud piles of debris line the city Bordelli calls home, yet the obstinate detective persists in finding a resolution to the disappearance of a little boy.

Written in an atmospheric and literary style, the ending will leave readers surprised and questioning the next volume to follow.

 

Moving from Florence to Venice, the debut novel The Abomination by Jonathan Holt has been hailed for its complex plot involving two forceful abominationwomen, the Carabiniere Captain Kat, and her American counterpart, Holly.

Their case kicks off when the body of a woman washes up from the Grand Canal wearing the robes of a priest, a desecration seen by the Catholic Church as The Abomination. That this happens on the night of the Feast of the Epiphany with its masked balls add to the drama.

Duality is enhanced with the idea of Carnvia.com, a virtual Venice, a social network revolving around a simulated world that gives users complete anonymity by letting them hide their identities behind carnival masks.

The narrow canals and thick, sewage-scented fog that envelops Venice at times is aptly represented, a counterpoint to the usual image of artworks and tourist cathedrals, and provides the backdrop for the corruption and conspiracy the two women will find.

The action never flags in this combination of mystery, tech thriller and conspiracy. The two worlds of Venice and its cyber-counterpart create a compendium of mysteries that are skillfully rendered.

There are two more volumes in the works from this talented author who blends and balances intriguing characters with multiple story-lines of action.

 

 

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