Ragnar Jonasson: Snow Blind Sunday, Jan 29 2017 


Ragnar Jonasson’s Snow Blind introduces a new crime series set in Iceland. Jonasson hones his crime chops translating fourteen Agatha Christie mysteries into Icelandic, and is a founding member of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

Snow Blind introduces Ari Thor Arason, a new policeman who has just moved to the tiny northern fishing village of Siglufjordur. It’s a place where white is the predominant color many weeks of the year, and where avalanches can cut off the small mountain tunnel that allows access to the rest of the world.

Taking this position meant leaving his girlfriend behind, and Ari Thor is still smarting at the way their relationship is floundering. When a young woman, half-naked, is found bleeding and near death in her backyard, he becomes quickly involved in his new community. While he seeks the perpetrator, he suspects not everyone is telling the truth.

That new community involves a local theatre group, one of whom is giving Ari Thor piano lessons. Then someone at the theatre dies, and he must ascertain if this was a tragic accident, or a case of murder.

Is it possible these two instances are connected, as the woman’s partner is a member of the theatre troupe? With only two other members of his police team, and his Chief intent on smoothing troubled waters, it will be left to Ari Thor to investigate on his own.

With its complex plot to keep readers flipping pages, the stark coldness emphasizes Ari Thor’s alienation and sense of claustrophobia. Then his own house is broken into, and the young policeman must figure out if he’s been put on the killer’s list, and why.

A classic whodunit set in a stark place with a twisted ending.

Different Worlds: Japan, Luxembourg, Iceland, Australia x 2 Wednesday, Apr 27 2016 

Auntie M reads more books to review than there are days to review them, it seems at times. So gathering a few together by theme, setting or type often works to get more information out to readers.

This time it’s different worlds, and we’re going around the world to exotic locales, where the unusual setting adds to the crime story.

Midsummer's Equation

We start in Japan, with Keigo Higashino’s thoughtful A Midsummer’s Equation, which brings back the physics professor the author introduced in the highly popular The Devotion of Suspect X.

Manabu Yukawa is known as “Detective Galileo,” and in this book, he’s at the summer resort town of Hari Cove, now fallen down on its luck, to take part in a conference on the proposal for an underwater mining operation. The plan has critics on both sides of the issue, with those opposing concerned about the impact on the town’s pristine waters, and those in favor of it believing it is the town’s only hope for survival.

When a guest at one of the resorts is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, what is deemed at first a simple accident becomes looked at more closely when it’s determined the victim is a former policeman and his death was anything but natural. Galileo finds himself drawn to the inhabitants of the resort, and feels the clue to the murder lies in the complicated relationships he’s observed.

A look at policing in Japan, tied to cultural differences, and how a man who knows human nature most of all can find the answers to questions others miss.


Daniel Pembrey writes nonfiction, but his thrillers and psychological suspense stories have been led Susan Hill to note that he “Tells a cracking tale with verve and style.” In The Candidate, he takes us to Luxembourg, a place he knows well, for a novella you will zip through and be left yearning for more.

Brit Nick Thorneycroft is new to his headhunting job in Luxembourg. When he’s tasked with recruiting a new executive with specific talents to work with a Russian company, the best candidate may turn out to be the worst for Nick. Beautiful and definitely smart, Yekaterina Novakovich may be the best–or the worst–person to enter Nick’s life.

With his ex-girlfriend muddying the waters, Nick has to decide whom to trust, if anyone can be. Smart and complicated, a twisted ride from start to finish.


From the land Down Under comes a tale set in 1932 Sydney, a wickedly funny mystery set in a museum. The Mystery of the Venus Island Fetish is Tim Flannery’s outlandish title that matches an equally outlandish tale that captivates readers with its humor, science and portrayal of anthropologists.

A former museum director, Flannery is currently a Sydney professor who pulls on his science and literary background to delight us with a tale of Depression-era Sydney, when the town was right on the edge of wild land. Any director would have been challenged to keep a museum open and running in the face of a starving population. Enter Archie Meek, newly returned from years on a field trip to Venus Island, where he’s appropriated some of the island’s customs for his own, with interesting outcomes.

It’s Meeks who notices that the island’s famous gift, a ceremonial mask surrounded by 32 human skulls, has been tampered with, and leads to his firm supposition that the differences are caused by substituting skulls of missing museum staff. There will be romance and mayhem before it’s all over. Filled with eccentric characters and charm, this outlandish caper is a delight from start to finish, and you’ll learn about museums, science and how things worked in that era–or didn’t.


Katherine Howell’s Ella Marconi series are filled with telling details, whether of character, emotion or the contemporary Sydney setting. In Web of Deceit, the Davitt Award-winning author brings the series to the USA.

Paramedics Jane Koutoufides and Alex Churchill had given care to a man earlier in the day, when he crashed his car deliberately into a pole and told them he was escaping from someone. Left at the hospital awaiting a psych consult, Marko Meixner absconds before he’s seen. The next time they’re confronted with Marko, he’s dead under the wheels of a train. Did he jump or was he pushed?

Detective Ella Marconi and her partner, Murray Shakespeare, share the paramedics feel that Marko was not paranoid, but truly afraid of someone. But she has trouble convincing her boss of that. When Marko’s boss tries to commit suicide shortly after he’s been questioned, she’s convinced she’s right. Then a woman tangential to the story is attacked in front of Jane’s house, and in another twist, Alex’s daughter goes missing.

Howell does a nice job of blending in the personal stories of the four main characters, and the Sydney setting comes alive under her detailed descriptions. A complex mystery with a determined detective at its heart.


Next we head north to Iceland and Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s newest, The Silence of the Sea, named Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of 2015.

The latest Thora Gudmundsdottir novel brings the lawyer her most intriguing case yet: a luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbor with no one on board. There’s no crew, none of the expected family traveling as passengers, and no captain. The entire passenger list, on board from embarkment in Lisbon, have disappeared.

When the grandparents of the missing family enlist Thora’s help to keep custody of their one remaining granddaughter, left in their care, she becomes embroiled in what is clearly much more than a custody case. The case is reminiscent of locked room murders and the tension ratchets up when rumors that this yacht was cursed reach Thora’s ears. Then a body washes up on the shore, connected to this boat, adding to the complexity of the case, with identity issues adding to the horror.

Under the author’s skilled hands, what could be billed a ghost story becomes a frightening case of murder and intrigue. You will be as spooked as Thora, who thinks she’s seen one of the children when she boards the boat, looking for clues. So atmospheric, even when the explanation is given, you’ll feel unsettled and chilled.

Arnaldur Indridason: Into Oblivion Wednesday, Mar 16 2016 

Arnaldur Indirdason’s Icelandic thriller series, featuring Inspector Erlendur, continues with this look into his early days as a detective in Into Oblivion, an aspect first explored in last year’s acclaimed Reykjavik Nights. The CWA Gold Dagger Award winner is the only author to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel two years in a row, and with good reason.

The book opens a few years after Erlandur decides he wants to be a detective. It’s 1979 and the year springs to life, the mood set by the music, clothing and social mores of the era. The detective is working with Marion Briem, an older, more experienced detective, when the body of man is found in a blue lagoon known for its healing waters.

Examination reveals that the man has fallen from a great height and died before his body was moved to the lagoon. Could he have fallen from a plane? The only immense height in the area is an aircraft hanger on the grounds of the controversial US military base nearby.

When it becomes apparent the base is involved, Erlandur and Briem find themselves tiptoeing around the base to investigate after the US powers that be have stalled their investigation and denied them access to the hanger. It will take an unlikely accomplice to help them get to the bottom of the man’s death, thwarted by a rogue CIA agent.

As the action unfolds, Erlandur also takes it upon himself to run a parallel cold case investigation. A young teen went missing on her way to school, her body never found, and as both cases heat up, the young detective finds himself in his element, conducting interviews and following slender leads to find resolution.

Another hit that gives insight into what made Erlandur the detective he becomes.

Scandanavian Summer: Indridason, Sigurdardottir, Brekke Wednesday, Jul 29 2015 

Here are some of the best Scandanavian thrillers for your summer reading pleasure:
Reykjavik Nights
After the surprising ending of last year’s Strange Shores, Arnaldur Indirdason is back with Reykjavik Nights, a prequel to the series that explains to readers how Insepctor Erlendur became interested in detecting.

Opening with the young policeman walking a beat on Reykjavik streets, he and his colleagues face the kind of crime you’d expect: drugs, domestic violence, traffic accidents, and a death Erlandur can’t seem to leave alone.

It should be a simple matter: a tramp he knew from his rounds has been found drowned in a ditch, yet the young cop find himself drawn to the case. Talks he’s had with the man in the past haunt him, and he soon finds himself connecting this death to that of a missing woman.

With dogged persistence, Erlandur will trace things to solving the case, and ignite his own future. An interesting way to see how this character became interested in detecting.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir has been called the Queen of Crime with good reason. In Someone to Watch Over Me, she brings lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottire her most interesting case yet.

Jakob has Down’s Syndrome and has been convicted of burning down his assisted living centre, killing five people in the process. He resides now in a secure psychiatric unit, where one of his fellow inmates has hired Thora to clear the boy of the charges and prove his innocence. Her reluctance to take the case is fueled by her distaste for Josteinn Karlsson, child abuser and sociopath, who has inherited funds from his mother to pay her.

Yet she’s strangely drawn to Jakob and as she starts a routine investigation, things don’t add up. It soon becomes clear to Thora that to prove Jakob’s innocence, she must track down the real murderer.

The case of a young hit-and-run victim will become tied to the case, as does the financial collapse of Iceland and it’s affect on Thora’s family life. Readers will become as caught up as Thora as she unravels what really happened on that fateful night.

Monsters Dwell
Jorgen Brekke’s first book introducing Norwegian police detective Odd Singsaker is now in paperback. Where Monsters Dwell connects a US case with one in Norway when there are similar murders in Trondheim and Richmond, Virgina.

US homicide investigator Felicia Stone is soon seconded to Singsaker once the connection is known. Recovering from a divorce and a brain tumor finds Singsaker trying hard to keep up with his team and the American detective. Along the way he becomes friends with an interesting character, a young library researcher, Siri, who will be a continuing character.

Soon the two detectives find they must delve deeply into history, to a sixteenth-century book called The Book of John which has been bound in human skin. The book is thought to be the work a Middle Ages serial killer who stalked Europe.

As they race to find the new killer replicating these centuries-old murders, Felicia and Odd find themselves drawn to each other, which helps to alleviate their grisly investigation. A stunning debut with interesting and creative characters. Read this one first to follow the relationships of the two detectives.

Brekke followed his debut up with this year’s Dreamless:Dreamless
Chief Inspector Odd Singsaker is on the case once again, married now to Felicia Stone. His newest case starts with the killing of a young singer found murdered with an antique music box resting on her body, playing a lullaby that has a familiar ring.

With ties to a letter and events of of late 18th century, the music and the lullaby with have far-reaching consequences for Singsaker and turn out to be the clues Singsaker needs as another young girl is found murdered under similar circumstances. With a third young woman kidnapped, time is running out.

And then his team will be affected just as Felicia disappears. This installment solves the mystery but will leave the reader yearning for more of Singsaker’s story.

Arnaldur Indridason: Strange Shores Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

Strange Shores
Multi-award winning Nordic author sets his Inspector Erlendur series in Iceland, where the detective has had to tackle the ghosts of many other criminals’ lives. In Strange Shores he brings Erlendur to his childhood home to face the ghosts of his own past.

Erlendur’s entire life has been affected by the loss of his only sibling, a younger brother. Beggi’s disappearance in a sudden blizzard whilst the boys were on the moors with their father has left a hole in his heart. No trace of the boy was ever found, and he realizes he must discover what really happened to his brother.

The frozen fjords of Iceland, miles away from Reykjavik, present him with a distinct challenge as he camps out in the remains of his old home. The story of a woman who disappeared years before is brother has caught his interest, and he follows the scent of the two lost people, looking for clues to both of their endings.

It will be a long, plodding time, visiting people who are old and have tainted memories and secrets to hide. But Erlandur will persevere until he finds the answers to the questions he seeks. The ending will have readers riveted as Erlandur chases down a decadeds-old case.

These are moody, brooding novels that echo the chilly landscape, with subtle clues and a bone-chilling climax.