Category Archives: Domingo Villar

We’re Not the Same But We Can Talk*

Different CulturesAs I’ve mentioned before on this blog, culture has profound effects on the way we think, act, dress and speak. Sometimes we’re not even aware of how much we are affected by culture until we work with someone from another culture. The experience of working with a team-mate from another culture can broaden our horizons and enrich us. But it can be awkward at times too. Different cultures see the world in different ways, and those differences can result in ‘culture clash.’ But as the world continues to get smaller, so to speak, it’s more and more the case that people work with others from different cultures.

In fiction, those cultural differences, and the way they’re worked out, can add a really interesting layer to a story. Certainly it can in crime fiction. Here are just a few examples to show you what I mean. I’m sure you’ll be able to think of lots more than I can.

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings are from two different cultures. In many ways their cultural differences don’t impede their work. Yet there are some cultural issues that both of them have had to get used to over time. For instance, Poirot grew up in a culture where greeting and leave-taking involves embracing. Hastings on the other hand is not accustomed to that kind of physical contact in that context. So Poirot has had to learn to shake hands, because he knows that anything else makes Hastings feel awkward. For his part, Hastings has had to get used to Poirot’s habit of hot chocolate for breakfast and tisane instead of beer, wine or something like whisky. Their cultural differences add an interesting layer to their characters and a measure of interest to the stories that feature them.

In Anya Lipska’s Where the Devil Can’t Go, we meet Janusz Kiszka, unofficial ‘fixer’ for London’s Polish community. When a young woman named Weronika goes missing, her landlady Pani Tosik gets concerned and asks her priest about it. The priest in turn asks Kiszka to try to find out where Weronika is and what happened to her. The trail leads to a friend of Weronika’s, who is later found murdered. That’s how Kiszka’s path crosses that of DC Natalie Kershaw, who is investigating a series of deaths. The two are suspicious of each other at first. Kershaw sees Kiszka as a possible suspect in the murders. For his part, Kiszka isn’t fond of the police to begin with, and Kershaw is certainly not his idea of what a cop ought to be like. They have many cultural differences too that make communication a challenge. But slowly they begin to work together as each comes to see that the other can be helpful. You couldn’t call them friends, even at the end of the novel, but they do establish an understanding and they do learn to work together.

Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan has to work with someone from a different culture in Andrew Nette’s Ghost Money. Madeleine Avery has hired Quinlan to find her missing brother Charles. Since Charles Avery’s last known whereabouts was Bangkok, Quinlan starts his search there. It turns out that Avery isn’t in Bangkok though. He’s gone on to Cambodia, so Quinlan follows the trail there. When he gets to Phnom Penh, Quinlan meets journalist’s assistant Heng Sarin, who’s lived in Cambodia all his life. Sarin and Quinlan are from different cultures, but each has reasons to want to find out what happened to Avery. As the novel goes on, Nette uses those cultural differences to share some of Cambodia’s history and culture with the reader. And it’s interesting to see how these two, who are from very different backgrounds, work together.

Angela Savage’s PI Jayne Keeney is also Australian. She lives and works in Bangkok though, so she’s gotten accustomed to the Thai culture. Keeney is a reader of crime fiction (you gotta like that in a fictional sleuth ;-) ) so she becomes a regular at a bookshop in Bangkok’s Indian neighbourhood. That’s how she meets Rajiv Patel, whose uncle owns the shop. In The Half Child, we learn that Patel is from a traditional New Delhi family. He doesn’t want to live that traditional lifestyle, but he is a product of that culture. Keeney of course has her own culture and cultural assumptions. The two become business partners and later, lovers, so they are motivated to work together and get along. But they do sometimes have to bridge cultural gaps. For instance, Patel communicates a great deal of information by moving his head in certain ways. As we learn in The Dying Beach, Keeney comes to know that Patel’s side-to-side head nods are


‘…as nuanced as a Thai smile…’


Patel has to get used to Keeney’s way of looking at life too, and it does cause friction between them. Those cultural differences and nuances add much to this series.

In Shamini Flint’s A Calamitous Chinese Killing, Inspector Singh of the Singapore Police is asked to go to Beijing to help investigate the death of Justin Tan. Justin was the son of Susan Tan, First Secretary at the Singapore Embassy, so his death is not going to be ignored. What’s more, his mother believes he was deliberately murdered. The police theory is that he was murdered in a robbery gone wrong, and that’s the theory under which Singh operates when he begins his investigation. But soon enough he begins to suspect that Susan Tan is right. As he digs more deeply into the case, Singh works with former Beijing police officer Li Jun to find out who would have wanted to kill the boy and why. Singh and Li Jun are from different cultures, and they have to get used to each other. And sometimes that does cause some tension. But each respects the other and each has skills that contribute to solving the case.

What’s interesting about cultural differences is that you don’t even have to be from a different country to have cultural differences. Just as an example, Domingo Villar’s Leo Caldas is Galician by birth and culture. He lives and works in Vigo and is accustomed to life there. His assistant Rafael Estevez on the other hand is from Zaragoza, in the autonomous community of Aragon. Even though both men are Spanish, they are from different cultures and have different ways of looking at life. And those differences do come up in the course of their investigations, although each respects the other. It’s an interesting look at the number of different cultures there can be, even in the same country.

I’ve only had space to mention a few examples of team-mates who work through cultural differences. There are a lot of others of course (e.g. Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, or Margaret Coel’s Vicky Holden and Fr. John O’Malley). Which ones do you like best?



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Who’s Unholy Trinity.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Andrew Nette, Angela Savage, Anya Lipska, Craig Johnson, Domingo Villar, Margaret Coel, Shamini Flint

You Picked a Real Bad Time*

Bad TimingReading and reading experiences are often very subjective. Of course, no matter who’s doing the reading, ‘flat’ characters, stilted dialogue and cumbersome detail are signs that a book isn’t well-written. But the fact is, our impressions of a book are also affected by things such as personal taste and preference. What we think of a book is also arguably affected by when we read that book. Let me just offer a few examples from crime fiction to show you what I mean about the way timing can impact our impression of a book.

A lot of people prefer lighter reading during holidays. Somehow, lighter, cosy mysteries such as Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series or comic caper novels such as Carl Hiaasen’s just seem to ‘fit’ when you’re beach reading or curled up by the fire. There are many, many examples of this kind of lighter reading, and of course, personal taste is going to figure into which novels one chooses. But there’s something about holidays and vacations that seems to invite one to read a lighter novel.

What’s interesting is what happens when you pick up that kind of novel at another time, say, when you’ve just been reading about an important social issue and you want to mull it over. Suddenly, the Bev Robitai or Simon Brett theatre-based novel that seemed so absolutely perfect…doesn’t seem that way anymore. Nothing at all has happened to the quality of those novels (I recommend both authors, by the way). They’re still interesting stories with appealing characters. What’s happened is that the timing isn’t right for them.

The same kind of thing happens with novels such as Unity Dow’s The Screaming of the Innocent or Kishwar Desai’s Witness the Night. Those are both difficult novels to read in that they deal with important but harrowing social issues. And there are times when one’s open to those more challenging stories. You might just have read an article about a certain topic, or you might have just come back from a holiday and be ready for a challenge. At those times, books like these can feel like the perfect choice. You can appreciate the message and you’re willing to invest yourself in the harder parts of the story.

But suppose you decide to try something such as Cath Staincliffe’s Split Second when you’re off on a fun trip. The same book that you might have thought of as difficult, even harrowing, but exceptionally well-written and worth reading, now becomes far too difficult to read. Now this kind of book is unutterably depressing and hard to finish. The fact is (and you already know this of course) nothing’s happened to the book’s quality at all. It’s still an excellent story with a lot of ‘food for thought’ and some compelling characters. The timing’s just wrong for the book.

Did you ever notice that when you’re planning to travel somewhere, you get quite interested in reading books that take place in your destination? I know that’s happened to me. So if you’re planning a trip to Spain you might be especially interested in Teresa Solana’s, Antonio Hill’s or Domingo Villar’s work. I’ve only mentioned a very few examples of Spanish crime fiction but you get my point. As you read those books you try to get every nuance of culture and geography you can, since you’re attuned to it.

But what if you choose a book like Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X when you’re having ‘one of those weeks’ and you’ve only got small amounts of reading time? Then, the very nuances of culture and geography that you love at other times can seem burdensome, or you might not pay attention to them and really appreciate them. That feeling might not have much to do with the quality of a given book. Rather, it’s the timing of your reading.

There are times when the action and suspense of thrillers such as Lindy Cameron’s Redback are exactly right. Thrillers like that can be the perfect accompaniment to a quiet evening when it’s fun to imagine what it would be like to be up against international terrorists. But maybe it isn’t the best choice if you’re not feeling well and not ready to deal with edge-of-the-seat ‘roller coaster rides.’

A ‘quieter’ sort of mystery such as you find in Nelson Brunanski’s John ‘Bart’ Bartowski series might be really appealing for those times when you have a few days to follow along and appreciate the subtler approach and more slowly-evolving story line. At those times, you can see the real appeal of character development and nuance. But pick that sort of book up when you’re waiting in an office or when you’re anxiously awaiting word on whether you got that job, and you could easily find such a novel too slow. Those details of character development that so draw you in at other times now just seem irritating. The series hasn’t changed (by the way, I recommend Brunanski’s series – I really like Bart’s character a lot). The fact is, it’s the kind of series that’s best enjoyed when you’ve got the time to ‘slow the pace down’ a bit.

And I think we’d all agree that mood plays a role too in what we think of a book. Grumpy or feeling crotchety? Virginia Duigan’s The Precipice might be the perfect fit. Need a good, irreverent laugh? Christopher Brookmyre has done some very funny novels. You get the idea.

So as we all start to plan what we’re going to read in 2014, do you think about this timing issue? Do you plan your reading so that you’ll take the lighter stuff with you on holiday for instance? Or do you adapt yourself to the book you’re reading?  What about when you start a book and then realise it’s the wrong time for that novel? Do you give up or pick it up at another time?



*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a Billy Joel song.


Filed under Antonio Hill, Bev Robitai, Carl Hiaasen, Cath Staincliffe, Christopher Brookmyre, Domingo Villar, Keigo Hagishino, Kishwar Desai, Lindy Cameron, Nelson Brunanski, Simon Brett, Susan Wittig Albert, Teresa Solana, Unity Dow, Virginia Duigan

I Write About What’s Real to Me*

Authentic Writing Phil Northern DEOne of the many things to love about reading is the sense of place one gets in a well-written novel. Some books give us a new perspective on places we know well; others show us places we’ve never been. But either way, a solid and authentic sense of place and therefore culture adds much to a story. Some would say it’s an essential ingredient.

Giving readers a sense of place and culture is partly a matter of scenery, locations and so on. But it’s more than that. It’s also giving readers a sense of the way the people who live in that place speak, act and interact. Subtle nuances such as eating customs, idioms and so on can give a novel a real richness. They can also add real authenticity to a novel and have readers thinking, ‘I felt like I was there.’

What’s interesting about that authenticity is that we may not pay close attention to it unless it’s not there. That’s when many readers get cranky.  For instance, I read a blog review recently of a novel that takes place in the US, but where the characters didn’t ‘feel American.’ I understand the point. However one defines ‘being American,’ or ‘being Australian,’ or ‘being English, ‘ or ‘being Russian,’ (or any other culture for the matter of that), one wants fictional characters to seem authentic.

As with most things in writing though, it’s a proverbial double-edged sword. On the one hand, people do notice a lack of authenticity and sense of place. And they often get ill-tempered about it. On the other hand, if the characters aren’t interesting in and of themselves (apart from their cultures), then what the author intends as authenticity can come off as stereotyped. If the plot isn’t interesting, then the setting can’t always save a story. And there is such a thing as ‘dumping’ information about a culture or setting. That makes readers cranky too. Nonetheless, a skilled author shows what a place is like in all sorts of obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

Some authors (I’m thinking for instance of Deon Meyer, Nelson Brunanski, Denise Mina and Domingo Villar) are members of the cultures depicted in their stories. They write authentically because they know from growing up in those cultures what they’re like. I’m sure you have your own list of favourite authors like that – authors who are skilled at sharing their own ‘home’ settings, cultures, speech patterns and the like. It takes a special ability to balance writing about one’s own culture while at the same time including and welcoming readers who may not know about it. And a word of praise is due too I think to those who translate these authors’ stories. It takes a great deal of skill to capture that authenticity in another language. Trust me. So kudos to people such as Stephen Sartarelli, Anne Trager, Marlaine Delargy and Martin Schifino.

Other authors write truly authentic novels because they’ve lived in an area for a long time and really gotten to know the culture. That’s true for instance of Peter Temple. Born in South Africa, he moved to Australia in 1980 and he’s set his novels there. His stories and characters are distinctly Australian. In fact, his novel Truth won Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin Award, which is given to a novel


‘…which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.’


You can’t get much more Australian than that.

The same sort of thing might be said of Tony Hillerman. Born in Oklahoma, he moved to the American Southwest and became thoroughly familiar with the Navajo Nation. Hillerman fans know that his Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn series portrays life among the Dineh (the Navajo) in a respectful and authentic way. In fact it’s easy to forget (or perhaps it’s just me) that Hillerman was not a member of the Navajo Nation. He spent years among the Navajos and got to know the culture, the language and the subtle nuances of life and interaction before he really wrote about them. And he did so in such an authentic way that the Navajo Nation gave him their Special Friend of the Dineh Award – a mark of true respect.

As an interesting (well, I hope so) side note, Hillerman is said to have been much inspired by the work of Arthur Upfield, Upfield was originally from the UK, but moved to Australia in 1910. Most of his novels are about half-Aboriginal police detective Napoleon ‘Bony’ Bonaparte. Upfield was neither born in Australia nor a member of any of Australia’s Aboriginal cultures. And yet his depictions of the land and the people ring very true.

Authors can also do a lot careful research to make sure their stories are authentic in terms of characters, language, interactions, setting and the like. Of course, it’s a good idea for any author to ‘do the homework’ as a part of writing a story. Otherwise the story is not only inauthentic, it’s inaccurate. And that’s another thing that can make readers quite grouchy. And authors such as Shona (S.G.) MacLean and William Ryan have to rely quite a bit on that careful work because they write historical series. So they have the added challenge of giving readers a realistic sense of a different time with different technology, assumptions, lifestyles, and lots more.

What about you? Do you find yourself irritated if the characters and setting you’re reading about don’t feel authentic to you? Or are you more plot-driven, so if the story is a good one, that’s what matters? If you’re a writer, what do you tap to make the story authentic? Your own experience? Research? Something else?


ps. The ‘photo is of winter in Southeastern Pennsylvania/Northern Delaware. I write about that area in part because it’s my home. I know the place.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Hands Like Houses’ Weight.


Filed under Anne Trager, Arthur Upfield, Denise Mina, Deon Meyer, Domingo Villar, Marlaine Delargy, Martin Schifino, Nelson Brunanski, Peter Temple, Shona MacLean, Stephen Sartarelli, Tony Hillerman, William Ryan

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction: Drowning

DrowningThe Crime Fiction Alphabet meme continues on our treacherous journey through the alphabet. I’m pleased to say that thus far, we’ve had no casualties – yet. That’s thanks to our tour leader Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, who’s seen to all the arrangements.

Today we’ve arrived at the Hotel D. It’s quite a hotel, with its own fitness center, steam room and pool. That last is actually maybe not such a good thing, as my contribution for today’s stop is drowning.

The thing about drowning is that it can look deceptively like an accident. And it doesn’t really require a lot of specialised knowledge or weaponry. So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of cases of drowning in crime fiction.

Several of Agatha Christie’s works involve drowning. That’s what happens in for instance Hallowe’en Party. Thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds is with a group of young people who are helping to prepare for a Hallowe’en party. She boasts that she’s seen a murder and although just about everyone hushes her up she insists that it’s true. That evening Joyce is drowned in a bucket of water used for a bobbing-for-apples game. Christie’s fictional detective story author Ariadne Oliver was at both the preparations for the party and the party itself, and she is convinced that Joyce was killed because she really did witness a murder and the murderer wanted to keep her quiet. Mrs. Oliver asks Hercule Poirot to visit the village of Woodleigh Common and investigate. He agrees and starts to ask questions. Then there’s another murder. Poirot discovers that both murders are related to some events in the town’s past and a murder that occurred a few years earlier.

Minette Walters’ The Breaker tells the story of the murder of Kate Sumner, whose body is discovered on a beach near Chapman’s Pool in Dorsetshire. Forensics reports show that she was choked, drugged and then drowned. Shortly after her body is discovered, her toddler daughter Hannah is discovered wandering around a nearby town. PC Nick Ingram works with WPC Sandra Griffiths, DI John Galbraith and Superintendent Carpenter to find out who killed Kate Sumner and how Hannah got to the village. Their search for answers leads them to three main suspects: Kate’s husband William; Stephen Harding, an actor with whom Kate had flirted several times; and Harding’s roommate Tony Bridges. This murder turns out to be related to be much more psychological in nature than anything else.

DCI Hannah Scarlett and her Cold Case Review team investigate a case of drowning in Martin Edwards’ The Serpent Pool. Six years earlier Bethany Friend was drowned in the Lake District’s Serpent Pool. At the time, the case was put down as a suicide. But Scarlett has never quite believed that explanation. So she and her team re-open the case. At the same time, Scarlett’s friend and co-worker Fern Larter and her team are investigating two more recent murders. The two compare notes and it’s not long before they determine that the three murderers are related. And so they turn out to be. With help from Oxford historian Daniel Kind, Scarlett and Larter find out who killed all three victims and what the motive was.

Gail Bowen’s The Wandering Souls Murders also includes a drowning. Political scientist and academician Joanne Kilbourn gets involved in a case of multiple murders when her daughter Mieka discovers the body of a young girl in a trash bin. The police are just beginning to look into that case when there’s another death. Christy Sinclair is the former girlfriend of Kilbourn’s son Peter. When the two broke up, Kilbourn was only too happy to see Christy go. Then, she suddenly comes back into Peter’s life, going so far as to say they’re back together. One night she drowns in what looks like a tragic boating accident. But her death was quite deliberate. Kilbourn discovers that both deaths are related to a secret from Christy’s past and to some dark truths about some of the characters.

There’s a tragic case of drowning in Wendy James’ Out of the Silence, which is based on true incidents. Born and raised in Victoria, nineteen-year-old Maggie Heffernan was imprisoned in 1900 for the drowning death of her baby son Jacky. The novel is a fictional portrayal of Maggie’s life, her meeting with Jack Hardy, their brief affair and the resulting pregnancy. By the time Maggie realises that she’s pregnant, Jack has left for New South Wales to find work. Jack doesn’t respond when Maggie writes to tell him about her pregnancy, and she knows that her family won’t accept her. So she moves to Melbourne to find work and hopefully trace Jack. She gives birth and after a time, she finally traces Jack. When she does, he claims that she’s crazy and won’t have anything to do with her. With nowhere to go, Maggie searches through Melbourne for a place to stay and is turned away from six different lodging houses. That’s when Jacky’s death occurs. Through diaries, letters and news items, we read of Maggie’s experiences, the trial, and the efforts to free her once she is imprisoned.

And then there’s Domingo Villar’s Death on a Galician Shore. In that novel Vigo police detective Leo Caldas and his team investigate the mysterious drowning death of a local fisherman Justo Castelo. The evidence suggests that he committed suicide but there are just a few hints that suggest otherwise. So Caldas and his assistant Rafael Estevez dig deeper into the case. As they do so, they get to know about Castelo’s background they learn that his death could very well have to do with a 1996 tragedy in which he and two fellow fishermen were the only survivors of a boat tragedy that claimed the life of their captain Antonio Sousa. Bit by bit, Caldas and Estevez find out how Castelo’s drowning is related to the 1996 Sousa drowning.

See what I mean? Drowning happens a lot in crime fiction. Well, now; I’ve finished unpacking. What about a swim? ;-)


Filed under Agatha Christie, Domingo Villar, Gail Bowen, Martin Edwards, Minette Walters, Wendy James

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades*

New booksCrime fiction is an awfully diverse genre and in a lot of ways that’s a good thing. In fact in most ways it is. There’s something in the genre for just about anyone to enjoy, no matter how dark, light, thriller-ish, character-driven, plot-driven or any other way they like their novels. And for the crime writer, writing in a diverse genre means there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of the kind of novel to write. But here’s the thing. A diverse genre with a lot of authors means that the crime fiction fan’s TBR list/library can get out of control. But that doesn’t stop crime fiction fans from getting excited when a new release by a favourite author is coming out.

Of course, everyone has a different set of favourites. But here are just a few of the new books coming out this year that I am very much looking forward to reading.

Coming out in April will be Martin Edwards’ The Frozen Shroud, the sixth in his Lake District series featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and Oxford historian Daniel Kind. Edwards has a real gift for depicting the beautiful Lake District, and this series weaves together strong characters, past mysteries and present mysteries. Little wonder I’m so eager for this new novel. In it, Scarlett and her Cold Case Review team investigate the connections between the World War I-era murder of Gertrude Smith, the five-year-old murder of Shenagh Moss, and another murder closer to home for Scarlett.

Another book I’m very much looking forward to reading is William Ryan’s The Twelfth Department. This is the third in his historical crime fiction series featuring Moscow CID Captain Alexei Korolev. These novels take place mostly in Moscow during the Stalinist years leading up to World War II. Korolev lives and works during a very dangerous time in the then-Soviet Union. He’s assigned to investigate murder cases and he is committed to his job. At the same time, he is fully aware of the political tinder box in which he lives and he knows that he has to move carefully and trust no-one completely. In The Twelfth Department which is scheduled to be released in July, and which has already been getting excellent advance reviews, Korolev is excited at the prospect of a visit from his son Yuri. But he’s soon caught up in something quite different when he is assigned to investigate the murder of a noted scientist who’s been shot. It turns out that the victim was working on a sensitive, and very dark, project, and when another scientist is murdered, Korolev knows that this case is going to be extremely dangerous for him and also for his family.

Also being released in July will be Angela Savage’s The Dead Beach. This is the third in her series featuring Australian ex-pat Jayne Keeney, who lives and works in Bangkok. Savage creates a very real picture of life in Thailand and what it’s like to be a farang – a foreigner – who lives there. In this novel, Keeney is hired to find out who murdered a young tour guide who worked in the southern part of Thailand. From what Savage says about the novel, this case


‘…brings her [Keeney} face-to-face with unscrupulous businessmen, embittered thugs, environmental zealots and deadly cobras.’


Sounds like just another day’s work for Keeney, who’s already had to go up against child traffickers, corrupt cops and unscrupulous charity workers.

July will be a good month for me reading-wise because I’m also looking forward to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s Rubbed Out, the fourth in her Memphis Barbecue series which she writes as Riley Adams. This series features Lulu Taylor, who owns and runs Aunt Pat’s Barbecue, a popular Memphis restaurant. One of the things I like about this series is its authentic portrait of Southern life and culture. There’s humour and strong characterisation in this series, too. In this particular novel, Taylor gets mixed up in the murder of barbecue pitmaster Ruben Shaw. Taylor’s good friend Cherry Hayes gets into a violent quarrel with Shaw at a barbecue competition, so when Shaw is found murdered only a few hours later, Hayes is a very likely suspect. Taylor wants to clear her friend’s name, so she investigates the murder and finds that Hayes is not at all the only person who had a good reason to kill Ruben Shaw.

I’m also looking forward to a couple of October releases. For one, Jørn Lier Horst’s Vinterstengt is coming out in English as Closed For Winter. This is the seventh in Horst’s series featuring Chief Inspector William Wisting, who lives and works in Stavern, Norway. Horst creates (in my opinion at any rate) a strong sense of place and local culture and some well-drawn characters in this police procedural series. Closed For Winter continues Wisting’s story. In this novel, Ove Bakkerud is preparing for a last few quiet weeks in his summer home before closing it for the winter. Then his home is burgled. As if that’s not enough, Bakkerud discovers the body of a neighbour in the house next door. Wisting and his team investigate, only to be faced with the discovery of other bodies on the same archipelago. And what does all of that have to do with an unusual number of dead birds in the area?

October will also see the release of The Case of the Love Commandos, Tarquin Hall’s fourth novel featuring Punjabii private investigator Vishwas ‘Vish’ Puri. Puri lives and works in Delhi, which Hall depicts in all of its beauty, squalor, vivid colour, life, and variety. Puri’s team consists of his secretary Elizabeth Rani, his office boy Door Stop (so called because he does as little as he can get away with doing), his driver Handbrake, and his fellow investigators Tubelight (who always takes his time sputtering to life in the mornings), Flush (whose family was the first in his village to get an indoor toilet) and Facecream (so called because she blends in perfectly in any surroundings). In this particular novel, Puri and his team investigate the abduction of a student named Ram, a member of India’s untouchable caste. He was set to marry a girl from a high caste, who’d been rescued from her family by the Love Commandos. But when Ram doesn’t appear at his own wedding, Puri takes the case. The trail leads to rural India so Puri travels to an area outside his usual element, so to speak. He also has to look over his shoulder because his rival Hari Kumar is also on this case. Word is too that Puri’s mother Mummy-ji, of whom I am very fond, features in this novel as well.

And then there’s December, when Michael Connelly’s The Gods of Guilt is set for release. This novel features attorney Mickey Haller, whom Connelly fans will know made his first ‘starring’ appearance in The Lincoln Lawyer. In The Gods of Guilt, Haller discovers that a former client – someone he thought he had saved and helped start a new life – has been murdered. Connelly is a master of creating flawed but basically sympathetic characters such as Haller, and forcing them to face their own pasts. He did it (in my opinion) brilliantly with his other famous creation Harry Bosch in novels such as Echo Park and The Last Coyote. And in The Gods of Guilt, it seems it’ll be Haller’s turn to deal with his past. I’m a fan of Connelly’s work, so this is one of those novels I’ll probably pre-order…

I’m also looking forward to lots of other releases as well. For instance, Domingo Villar’s Cruces de Piedra (Stone Crosses) will be released in Spain in May. I’m not sure how long it’ll take for this third Leo Caldas novel to be released elsewhere, but as soon as it is, I will definitely be reading it. Oh, and I’m currently reading T.J. Cooke’s Defending Elton which is due to be released very soon, but I’m not commenting on it much at the moment as I’ve not finished it; you’ll hear more about it, I can say that much.

What about you? Which novels are you really, really, really looking forward to reading this year?

If you’re a writer, here’s your opportunity: Got anything crime fictional being published this year?



*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Timbuk3


Filed under Angela Savage, Domingo Villar, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Jørn Lier Horst, Martin Edwards, Michael Connelly, Riley Adams, T.J. Cooke, Tarquin Hall, William Ryan