Category Archives: Liza Marklund

There’s a Storm Front Coming*

ForeshadowingOne of the things that just about all crime novels have in common is that something bad happens in the novel. Often it’s murder. So crime fiction fans know before they even begin to read a novel that it’s probably going to involve something terrible.

In that sense, you wouldn’t think that foreshadowing – giving the reader a hint about bad things to come – would be a useful device for a crime writer. But the fact is, even in crime novels, foreshadowing can build suspense and tension, and can get the reader caught up in the story.

Some authors are quite straightforward. They don’t hint at danger; they let you know about it. Here for instance is the first line of Liza Marklund’s The Bomber:
 

‘The woman who was soon to die stepped cautiously out of the door and glanced around.’
 

While Marklund doesn’t tell us who the woman is or how she will die, that’s a very clear sign of what’s to come. The woman, in fact, turns out to be civic/business leader Christine Furhage, who’s played a major role in bringing the Olympic Games to Stockholm. When her body is found after a bomb blast at Olympic Village, it’s thought at first to be the work of terrorists. Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon and her team know that this is major story, so they begin to look into it. What they find is that this death has nothing to do with extremists or terrorists.

In Peter James’ Not Dead Yet, we meet superstar enertainer Gaia Lafayette:
 
‘Gaia Lafayette was unaware of the man out in the dark, in the station wagon, who had come to kill her. And she was unaware of the email he had sent. She got hate mail all the time…’
 

It turns out that the danger to the star is real. She’s just taken the leading role in an historical drama, to be filmed on her ‘home turf’ of Brighton and Hove. So she travels there with her son Roan and her entourage. Superintendent Roy Grace, who’s already involved in a difficult and brutal murder case, is told that protecting Gaia Lafayette is a priority, since no-one is interested in the bad publicity that would come to the area if anything happens to one of its most famous citizens. Grace agrees to do his best to provide protection. But he finds himself caught in a much more complicated situation than he’d imagined, where it’s not really clear what the source of the danger to his charge is. And James alerts us clearly to that danger.

Some authors foreshadow by contrasting the beginning of a story with a hint that things are about to change. That’s what Wendy James does in The Mistake.
 
‘Later, when she looks back on that time – the time before it all began to change – Jodie will see that it was more than good, more than happy enough. It was idyllic.’
 

And it is, too. Jodie Evans Garrow is the wife of successful attorney Angus Garrow, who’s being mentioned as the possible next mayor of their New South Wales town of Arding. She’s the mother of two healthy children who’ve been doing well, and life really is content. It all changes when her daughter Hannah is involved in an accident and is rushed to the same Sydney hospital where, years earlier, Jodie gave birth to another child. No-one knows about that other child, whom Jodie named Elsa Mary – not even Angus. But a nurse at the hospital remembers Jodie and asks about the child. Jodie claims she gave the baby up for adoption, but when the over-curious nurse looks into the matter, she can find no record of adoption. Now questions begin to be raised. What happened to the baby? If she was adopted, where is she? If not, is she alive? If she died, did Jodie have something to do with it? Now the Garrow family become pariahs, and as we slowly learn the truth about Elsa Mary, we see what happens as a family starts to come apart at the seams, so to speak.

Some crime writers use foreshadowing that’s a little more subtle. In Anthony Bidulka’s Tapas on the Ramblas for instance, Saskatoon PI Russell Quant is hired by business magnate Charity Wiser to find out who is trying to kill her. To that end, he’s invited to join the members of her family for a cruise on her ship The Dorothy. That way, so the plan goes, he can ‘vet’ them and figure out which one of them is the would-be murderer. Here are Quant’s thoughts about the cruise:
 

‘I’m not convinced my decision would have been different otherwise, but I found myself answering in the affirmative before I’d thought the whole thing through. But really. A free Mediterranean cruise? Come on!’
 

We know, because this is a crime novel, that something bad is going to happen. In fact, several bad things, including murder, happen. Quant knows the cruise is risky too. Rather than go on and on about the possible danger, Bidulka hints at it and invites the reader to board the ship and find out what happens next.

In Aaron Elkins’ Loot, Boston art historian/expert Benjamin ‘Ben’ Revere gets a call from an acquaintance Simeon Pawlovsky, who owns a pawn shop in the area. Pawlovsky thinks that he may have gotten his hands on a valuable painting and he wants Revere’s judgement about its worth. Revere agrees and visits the pawn shop. To his shock, he discovers that Pawlovsky is probably right. This looks to be a very valuable Velázquez that was ‘borrowed’ by the Nazis ‘for safekeeping.’ Revere wants to do more research on the painting before he can be absolutely sure, so he asks Pawlovsky to lend him the painting, saying that it’s not safe to keep something so valuable in a pawn shop. Pawlovsky refuses, which is the first hint that something is about to go very wrong. Revere agrees to be gone no more than two hours. When he returns,
 

‘I saw that Simeon hadn’t come back out front to pull the metal shutters closed, although five o’clock had come and gone.’
 

You can imagine that things take a very bad turn, as Revere discovers that Pawlovsky has been killed. Revere feels guilty about having left the man alone with such a valuable painting, and determines to find out who the killer is. It occurs to him that if he can trace what happened to the painting after the Nazis ‘secured it for safekeeping,’ he can find the killer. This he sets out to do, and it ends up bringing him danger he hadn’t imagined.

And then there’s Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, which begins in the village of Malton-under-Wode. There, we are witness to a conversation between Mr. Burnaby, the landlord of the Three Crowns, and a friend. They’re discussing Linnet Ridgeway, who’s just purchased nearby Wode Hall. Here’s what Mr. Burnaby’s friend says about Linnet:
 

‘It seems all wrong to me – her looking like that. Money and looks – it’s too much. If a girl’s as rich as that, she’s no right to be a good-looker too. And she is a good-looker…got everything, that girl has. Doesn’t seem fair.’
 

It turns out that Mr. Burnaby’s friend is right about Linnet Ridgeway. She’s beautiful, wealthy and smart, so it’s understandable that she’d turn the head of Simon Doyle, fiance of her best friend Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ de Bellefort. When she and Simon marry, they take a cruise of the Nile as part of their honeymoon. On the second night of that cruise, Linnet is shot. Jackie’s the primary suspect, since she had a very good motive and since she’s along on the cruise. But it’s soon proved that she could not have killed the victim. So Hercule Poirot and Colonel Race, who are also aboard, have to look elsewhere for the murderer. Christie hints from the beginning that all will not go well for Linnet and although the foreshadowing is faint at first, crime fiction fans know that something is going to go very, very wrong.

And that’s the thing about foreshadowing. It can be subtle or obvious; it can happen right at the beginning of a novel or a bit further on. But however it’s used, it can build suspense and tension. Which ‘foreshadowing moments’ have stayed with you?
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Storm Front.

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Filed under Aaron Elkins, Agatha Christie, Anthony Bidulka, Liza Marklund, Peter James, Wendy James

From the Beginning*

Book BeginningsIt can be very tricky to write the beginning lines of a book. Many readers decide within the first paragraph whether they’re interested in reading the story or not. And even for readers who wait a bit longer to decide how they feel about a story, the first few words are important ‘hooks.’ So most authors put a lot of thought into how they’ll start a story. Perhaps that’s even a bit of the reason that some writers find it challenging to begin the actual writing of a novel.

Crime novels start in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes, the first sentence tells the reader right away that things are not going to go well. One of the best examples of that (at least in my opinion) is the famous first sentence of Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone:
 

‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.’
 

Of course Rendell goes on to explain how it all started, who the Coverdales are, who Eunice Parchman is and so on. But right from the very start we know that something terrible is going to happen.

That’s also true in Liza Marklund’s The Bomber, which begins this way:
 

‘The woman who was soon to die stepped cautiously out of the door and glanced around.’
 

Later that night, she is indeed killed, and her body discovered in the wreckage of a bomb blast. When Kvällspressen crime editor Annika Bengtzon is told about the blast, she rushes as quickly as she can to Victoria Stadium, in the Olympic Village that’s been recently constructed for the upcoming Games. The dead woman is later identified as Stockholm business/civic leader Christine Furhage, and immediately the suspicion is raised that the bombing is the work of terrorists. There are other possibilities though, and Bengtzon and her teammates work to find out who really killed the victim and why. The tension continues throughout the story, but we know from the first sentence that something is going to go very, very wrong.

Of course, not all stories start that way. Some authors choose to build suspense by contrasting what happens later in a novel with a more optimistic beginning. Here, for example, is the first bit of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile:
 

Linnet Ridgeway!’
‘That’s her!’ said Mr. Burnaby, the landlord of the three Crowns.’
 

Burnaby and his friend are referring to the wealthy and beautiful Linnet Ridgeway, who’s just purchased Wode Hall. In the first few pages of the story, we learn that she seems to have it all: looks, money, brains. She’s the kind of young woman many other people envy. Christie chooses to slowly build the suspense by contrasting that bright beginning with what happens later in the novel, as Linnet marries Simon Doyle, former fiancé of her best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort. They take a honeymoon cruise of the Nile, and on the second night of that trip, Linnet is shot. Hercule Poirot and Colonel Race are aboard the same ship and they work to find out who the killer is.

Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives also begins on a bright, optimistic sort of note:
 

‘The Welcome Wagon lady, sixty if she was a day but working at youth and vivacity…twinkled her eyes and teeth at Joanna and said, ‘You’re really going to like it here! It’s a nice town with nice people! You couldn’t have made a better choice!”
 

And at first, the small, pretty town of Stepford, Connecticut does seem like an idyllic place for Joanna Eberhart, her husband Walter and their two children Pete and Kim. They settle in and before long they’ve made friends and begun to become a part of community life. Slowly, though, Joanna and her friend Bobbie Markowe begin to suspect that something is very, very wrong in Stepford and it turns out that they’re all too right…

There are also authors who choose to use the beginnings of their stories to set the scene and give the reader a sense of time and place. That can be effective too, as a sense of atmosphere and setting can add much to a novel. Here, for instance, is the beginning of Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency:
 

‘Mma. Ramotswe had a detective agency in Africa, at the foot of Kgale Hill. These were its assets: a tiny white van, two desks, two chairs, a telephone, and an old typewriter.’
 

McCall Smith goes on to describe the part of Botswana where Mma. Ramotswe’s agency is located. In this first novel in the series, he also introduces Mma. Ramotswe’s first cases, and gives background on her and her family. This approach gives the reader a strong sense of place and culture, and invites the reader to be drawn into the stories once the scene is set.
 

That’s also the case in Johan Theorin’s Echoes From the Dead, which begins this way:
 

‘The wall was made of big, rounded stones covered in grayish white lichen, and it was the same height as the boy…Everything was gray and misty on the other side.’
 

Theorin goes on to explain that this is a garden wall, and describes the boy’s first journey to the other side of that wall. Soon afterwards the boy, whose name is Jens, disappears. His family is of course devastated. In fact, his mother Julia is so distraught that she leaves Öland, where the story takes place, intending not to return. Twenty-five years later, Jens’ grandfather Gerlof Davidsson receives a strange package that contains one of the sandals Jens was wearing on the day he disappeared. Hoping he’ll at last get answers, Davidsson contacts Julia, who reluctantly returns to Öland. The two then work to find out what happened to Jens on that terrible day.

There are of course other ways to begin a novel. There isn’t a set ‘rule’ for how to start. The key is that whatever the author chooses needs to get the reader wanting to find out more. What’s your view on this? Do you prefer novels that start by letting you know something terrible is going to happen? Do you like optimistic beginnings that soon change to something quite different? What about beginnings that set the scene? Perhaps you have another preference? If you’re a writer, how do you prefer to get readers ‘hooked?’
 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Greg Lake.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith, Johan Theorin, Liza Marklund, Ruth Rendell

In The Spotlight: Liza Marklund’s The Bomber

SpotlightHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. Liza Marklund has become both well-known and popular, and it’s about time this feature included one of her novels. So let’s remedy that today. Let’s turn the spotlight on The Bomber, the first of her Annika Bengtzon series to be published, but not the first chronologically.

The real action in the novel begins a week before Christmas, when a major explosion rocks Stockholm. The city was chosen as the site for the upcoming Olympics, and to many people’s shock, the explosion went off in Victoria Stadium, in the Olympic Village. Annika Bengtzon, crime editor for Kvällspressen, gets a late-night/early morning ‘phone call about the event and soon rushes to the scene. At first it’s believed that the only injuries were to a taxi driver who was in the area. But then the body of an unknown victim is discovered in the wreckage.

After a short time, the victim is identified as Christine Furhage, one of Sweden’s business and civic leaders, and head of the committee that brought the Olympic Games to Stockhom. One theory is that this is a terrorist attack by people who do not want the games to be held there. There’s even the possibility that this is the work of a man who’s actually set explosions before, and who has since disappeared. Those in power, both in the Swedish government and on the Olympics Committee, don’t want anyone to panic, so they’re not eager to have either of those theories widely discussed.

Soon enough though, another possibility arises. There is reason to believe that this might have been an ‘inside job’ – the work of someone either on the committee or closely associated with the Olympic Village. If so, this opens up a whole new avenue of exploration. As the police follow up on different leads, Annika Bengtzon and her team begin to look more closely not just at the obvious possibilities, but also at the victim’s personal life.

Then there’s another explosion. This time the victim is Stefan Bjerling, a construction worker who was employed by one of the subcontractors used to build Olympic Village. Other than the fact that he was killed in another Olympic Village building, there seems to be no immediate connection between this victim and Christine Furhage. Now Bengtzon and her team have to re-open the terrorist angle on this story as well as continue looking into each victim’s personal life.

As Bengtzon begins to get closer to the truth about these bombings, she also unwittingly gets closer to real danger for herself. In the end though, she and her team find out who is behind the bombings and what the motive is. It turns out that the motive has nothing to do with terrorists who may want to sully Sweden’s reputation.

One very important element in this novel is Bengtzon’s work life at Kvällspressen. News gathering and reporting is a very ‘high-octane,’ sometimes very stressful job. There is a great deal of pressure to get a big story first and to get as many people reading about it as possible. At the same time, there’s also pressure to be accurate. This means that when a major story breaks, there are long hours, sometimes uncomfortable working conditions and more. Everyone’s nerves get frayed, and sometimes it boils over into arguments among members of Bengtzon’s team. The atmosphere gets very tense at times, but most of the members of the team are professionals who want to do the job well.

Because the story is about a sleuth who’s a journalist, we also see how news professionals go about their jobs. They learn the truth from interviews, from looking through whatever records they can get and from sources in the police department and other places. As Bengtzon and her team work this case, we also see that journalists are often not welcome. Not at crime scenes, not at the homes of the bereaved, and not at police stations. Readers also get a chance to see the intense competition between news outlets and among journalists to be the one with the major story.

For this sort of reason, Bengtzon has to be tough. And she is. She is intelligent, outspoken and not afraid to go after the story, no matter where it leads. She’s sometimes faced with extremely difficult decisions, and she has to make and live with a lot of ‘judgement calls.’ That means that sometimes she’s not exactly popular with her team. But for her, getting the story is more important than protecting anyone’s feelings. It doesn’t make her life any easier that she’s a woman in what’s traditionally been a man’s world, and has been recently promoted (over a rival) to her present position. She faces criticism on a regular basis.

Perhaps Bengtzon’s most difficult choices have to do with balancing her work life and her home life. She loves her husband Thomas Samuelsson and their children Kalle and Ellen. But the demands of being a wife, mother and full-time crime editor take their toll. On the other hand, Bengtzon loves her profession (if not always her particular job). When a story breaks, she feels no option but to cover it. This tug-of-war causes more than a moment of conflict in the story, and Bengtzon doesn’t come out unscathed.

Another important element in this novel is its Stockholm setting. Marklund places the reader there in several ways. Certainly there’s the geographic setting. But there’s also the lifestyle and cultural context. Along with a look at the life of a busy crime reporter and a busy newspaper, readers also get a look at life in modern Stockholm.

One more interesting note is in order about the story. The Bomber was first published in Swedish in 1998. Readers will notice that some of the technology is quite different to what we’re accustomed to now. So the novel also gives readers a look at how journalists got their leads and got their stories out in the days before social networking and online news.

The Bomber is the story of a Stockholm news outlet responding to a major story that involves murder and some very highly-placed people. It features a protagonist who’s trying to balance a home life with a very demanding job, and a mystery that isn’t nearly as obvious as it may seem. But what’s your view? Have you read The Bomber? If you have, what elements do you see in it?

 
 
 

Coming Up On In The Spotlight
 

Monday 25 August/Tuesday 26 August – Gone Baby Gone – Dennis Lehane

Monday 1 September/Tuesday 2 September – A Hank of Hair – Charlotte Jay

Monday 8 September/Tuesday 9 September – Dead Simple – Peter James

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Filed under Liza Marklund

Do You Remember Your President Nixon*

NIXON RESIGNATIONAs I post this, it’s forty years today since Richard Nixon resigned as President of the United States. Whatever you think of Nixon’s presidency, his politics, or the scandal that brought down his administration, it’s hard to deny the impact of his resignation, at least in the US.

Of course, there’d been scandals before at very high levels of the US and other governments. But this was the first time for the US that a scandal led to a presidential resignation. What’s more, the investigation into Nixon’s activities and those of other members of his administration were very public – on television for the world to see. For many people who’d always trusted their government, the Nixon resignation was a rude shock and a bitter lesson that sometimes that trust is misplaced.

But if you look at crime fiction, you see that high-level government scandal has been around for a long time. There are a lot of examples of this plot point in the genre; space only permits me a few. But I’m sure that you’ll be able to think of many more than I could anyway.

A few of Agatha Christie’s stories feature government scandals. One of them is the short story The Incredible Theft. In that story, Lord Charles Mayfield hosts a house party that consists of himself, his secretary Carlisle, Retired Air Marshal Sir George Carrington and Carrington’s wife Julia and son Reggie. Also present is an enigmatic American Mrs. Vanderlyn. During the visit, Mayfield and Carrington want to consult about the plans for a new air bomber. Those plans have been kept top secret since they would be of great interest to England’s enemies. During the evening, the plans are stolen. Recovery of the plans is essential in order to protect them, and it’s got to be done quietly, too. Otherwise the scandal and the insinuation that someone powerful is aiding the enemy could bring down the government. So Sir George calls on Hercule Poirot to help find the plans.

Reginald Hill’s Recalled to Life concerns a case from 1963. Cissy Kohler was arrested and imprisoned for her involvement in the murder of her employer’s wife Pamela Westropp. At the time, Ralph Mickledore was also arrested and convicted in connection with the murder. As the novel begins, Kohler has recently been released from prison, and new hints are surfacing that suggest that she was innocent. More than that, they suggest that the investigating officer Wally Tallentire know that and hid evidence of it. When Superintendent Andy Dalziel finds this out, he’s determined to prove those allegations false. Tallentire was his mentor, and he has absolute faith in the man’s integrity. So Dalziel looks into the case again and from a different angle, so does Peter Pascoe. One interesting thing about this case is that it was tried in the same year as the famous Profumo case, in which John Profumo’s relationship with Christine Keeler was made public and eventually led to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. In fact that scandal is mentioned in the novel as a way of explaining public attitudes towards the Westropp case, and the assumption that Kohler was guilty.

In Kel Robertson’s Smoke and Mirrors, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Officer Bradman ‘Brad’ Chen is recovering physically and psychologically from his last case (detailed in Dead Set). His plans are to work on his Ph.D. thesis and have a normal life, whatever that means. But he’s drawn back to AFP work by a double murder at Uriarra, a writer’s retreat near Canberra. The victims are Alec Dennet, a member of the 1972-75 Gough Whitlam government, and Dennet’s editor Lorraine Starke. As the investigating team learns, Dennet and Starke were working on Dennet’s memoirs at the time of their deaths. Since the manuscript has disappeared, it looks as though someone committed murder to be sure it wouldn’t be published. And that suggests several possible suspects. For one thing, there are some very highly-placed people who don’t want everything about the Whitlam government’s activities to be known. For another, there are some very nasty groups from other countries too who would very much like that manuscript, not just for the information it may contain, but also for its monetary value. Among other things, this novel gives readers a look at the effects of a scandal years after it’s broken.

And then there’s Philip Margolin’s Executive Privilege. Washington-based former cop-turned-PI Dana Cutler is hired by prominent attorney Dale Perry to follow a young intern Charlotte Walsh and report on where she goes and whom she sees. Cutler doesn’t see why a ‘nobody’ intern could be of interest to anyone, but a fee is a fee. So she begins her work. Then one night, Walsh leaves her car in a mall parking lot, is picked up in another car and is taken to a secluded safe house. Cutler is shocked to find that Walsh is meeting with US President Christopher Ferrington. The next morning, Cutler learns that Walsh’s body has been found in her car, which is still in the parking lot. Now Cutler is an important witness – and a target for some very powerful people who don’t want the young woman’s death investigated. It turns out that Charlotte Walsh’s murder is connected with another murder and a common experience the two victims had.

There are also several books by Margaret Truman, including Murder at the White House, in which scandal at the very highest levels of government is explored. But Nixon’s resignation didn’t just change people’s attitudes about government and its leaders. It also made heroes out of journalists such as Robert Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who uncovered what was going on in the Nixon administration.

The perception of journalists as interfering annoyances (you see this attitude come up in some classic crime fiction) changed for a lot of people during the Watergate investigation. And we see that shift in some modern crime fiction. For instance, Liza Marklund’s Annika Bengtzon is a crime reporter who breaks several high-level scandals in the series that features her. One of the recurring characters in Peter Temple’s Jack Irish series is journalist Linda Hiller. She helps Irish bring down some very powerful people in Bad Debts, and even though she doesn’t appear in all the novels, she’s presented in a positive light, as a someone who’s working to stop corruption. And of course to get herself a major story. And Ian Rankin’s John Rebus co-operates more than once with journalist Mairie Henderson. The image of the reporter/journalist as the gutsy, heroic protagonist may not have originated with Woodward and Bernstein, but it certainly got a boost as a result of their Watergate investigation.

The Nixon resignation had powerful and lasting effects, and not just on those directly involved. It was one of the pivotal US events of the 1970s. Little wonder that scandals are still given nicknames that end in ‘-gate.’

ps. If you’re kind enough to read this blog occasionally, you know that I almost always take my own ‘photos. But this one’s far better than any I could take. Thanks, Channel One News.

 

 

 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from David Bowie’s Young Americans.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin, Kel Robertson, Liza Marklund, Margaret Truman, Peter Temple, Philip Margolin, Reginald Hill

Never Been to Spain*

SpainI’m very much enjoying my visit to Spain thus far. And I am happy to report that I haven’t run into any criminal situations. But not every visitor to Spain is quite so fortunate. Just look at crime fiction and you’ll see lots of examples. I’m only going to mention a few of them, but that should be enough to show you what I mean.

In Agatha Christie’s 4:50 From Paddington (AKA What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!) we meet the Crackenthorpe family. They get involved in a murder case when the body of an unknown woman is found on the property of their family home Rutherford Hall. At first, no-one in the family even knows the body is there. But Miss Marple has deduced it based on what she’s learned from her friend Elspeth McGillicuddy. So Miss Marple gets her friend Lucy Eyelesbarrow to help her in finding out the truth about what’s really been going on at Rutherford Hall. One of the family members is Cedric Crackenthorpe, son of patriarch Luther Crackenthorpe. Cedric becomes a suspect in the murder and becomes quite interested in Lucy. And it just so happens that he lives on Ibiza.

Helen MacInnes’ Message From Málaga is the story of Ian Ferrier, who works with the US Space Agency. He’s UsedBookstaking some time to visit his friend wine exporter Jeff Reid. What Ferrier doesn’t know is that Reid is also a CIA operative. His particular charge is helping communist defectors (the book was published in 1971) who want to start a new life in the West. Instead of a relaxing holiday in Spain, Ferrier finds himself helping to cover up and assist the defection of a high-level KGB agent. Matters are made more complicated by the fact that Ferrier doesn’t know the local culture; nor does he know whom he can trust.

Both Jonathan Robb and Alan Furst have written historical novels that focus on the Spanish Civil War. In Robb’s The Second Son, which takes place in 1936, we meet Chief Inspector Nikolai Hoffner. He is a former member of the Kriminalpolizei who was forced out of his position because he is half-Jewish. Having any Jewish background is dangerous enough. But then Hoffner discovers that his son Georg is in danger; he’s gotten mixed up in the Civil War in Spain. Nikolai travels to Spain to rescue his son if he can, and finds that events there aren’t really any safer than they are in Germany.

Furst’s The Foreign Correspondent is the story of Reuter’s journalist Carlo Weisz. He’s been living in Spain, reporting on the end of the Spanish Civil War and the ultimate defeat of the Republicans. While there, Weisz learns of the links between the Nationalist forces and the Fascist regimes of Italy and Germany. That’s how he becomes involved with, and later the leader of, a group of anti-fascist Italian refugees. Among their resistance activities is the smuggling of an anti-fascist newspaper into Italy. With that background, you wouldn’t think that Weisz would risk a trip to Germany, but he does. This novel depicts the political links among the various fascist powers of the pre-World War II era.

In Anthony Bidulka’s Tapas on the Ramblas, Saskatoon PI Russell Quant gets a new client. Wealthy family business owner Charity Wiser is convinced that one of her family members is trying to kill her. She wants Quant to join a family cruise on her private boat to sleuth the various members and find out who her enemy is. Quant agrees and prepares for the trip. The boat is supposed to travel smoothly from Barcelona to Rome, but a murder attempt and, later, a murder turn the trip deadly. Among other things, this novel gives readers a look at one of Spain’s truly lovely cities.

And then there’s Liza Marklund’s The Long Shadow. Usually, journalist Annika Bengtzon lives and works in Sweden, mostly in Stockholm. But then a gang of thieves kills former sport star Sebastian Söderström and his family and because he was Swedish, the Swedish media picks the story up. Among other plot threads in this novel, Bengzton follows this story to Spain’s Costa del Sol, where the killings occurred. She has to cope with more then the murders, too; there are issues with her ex-husband and an interesting undercover detective, among other things. This novel really has two major contexts, and shows the culture of ex-pat Swedes who’ve made lives in Spain.

See what I mean? Spain is irresistible…  I’ve given a few examples. Your turn.

 

ps That sign on the second ‘photo says ‘Used Books.’ OK, don’t tell me you’re surprised… ;-)

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Three Dog Night.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Furst, Anthony Bidulka, Helen MacInnes, Jonathan Robb, Liza Marklund