Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Can't Wait to Read: SOMETHING ROTTEN by Adam Sarafis

Last year I launched a new irregular series here on Crime Watch, "I Can't Wait to Read", which features myself and some great guest bloggers highlighting crime novels that we are really looking forward to reading. Today I'm very happy to showcase the debut crime novel from a new New Zealand crime writer who is much more then he seems. 

The book blurb: 
When budding writer Brent Taylor dies a horrific death in the Auckland University Library, his friend, sex worker Jade Amaro, refuses to believe it is suicide. She seeks help from Sam Hallberg, a former government advisor on terrorism, now working as a mechanic.

As Sam reluctantly agrees to look into the death, a hunt for a lost manuscript leads him ever deeper into a complex case of corruption and deceit. Meanwhile, Sam’s friend, brilliant business journalist Lynette Church, embarks on an investigation of dirty political dealings with major global implications, and with ties to the Iraq War.

It soon becomes clear that something is indeed very rotten…

Beginning in New Zealand, a small, clean and green country at the end of the earth, then winding its way around the globe, this clear-sighted and tense thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. Something is Rotten is beautifully written morality tale with Shakespearean twists and turns.

The author: 
Adam Sarafis was born in 1967 in Auckland, New Zealand. He gained his undergraduate degree at Auckland University before completing his post-graduate studies at the university of Copenhagen. He worked as a reporter for various newspapers in Europe and Australasia eventually becoming a freelance foreign correspondent for some the world’s largest agencies. Based in Auckland, Adam also spends considerable time in the Greek archipelagos and Skagen, Denmark. This is his first novel. (Note: Adam Sarafis is the creation of author Linda Olsson and screenwriter Thomas Sainsbury. He has now taken on a life of his own.)

Why I can't wait: 
I'm always on the lookout for upcoming New Zealand crime novels, and intrigued by the potential of new authors joining the growing genre here - particularly writers who have been successful in other areas and have decided to dip their toes into the crime and thriller writing deep end. So when I came across word of this soon-to-be published novel over the weekend (thanks Linda Lee of Penny's Bookstore in Hamilton), I was keen to find out more. From the blurb, I'm curious about the characters involved and the story, as well as looking forward to reading the evocation of the setting - given I used to live across the road from the University of Auckland. 

I'm also very curious to see how this book, which I found out is a collaboration between two writers working together under a pseudonym, unfolds in style and substance. The two authors are both based in Auckland, and have both studied at the University of Auckland, but on the surface might seem like unlikely writing partners. One is a middle-aged Swedish-born woman with a family who has written novels about unlikely friendships, love and dealing with past, the other an energetic young man who has written dark and subversive comedies for stage and screen (including 30 plays in six years) and alternative work like a comic dance troupe and a Vietnamese children's show. How the two authors blend their styles and voice will be very fascinating.

I understand that SOMETHING IS ROTTEN is intended to be the first book in a trilogy (the Matakana series), so I'm also looking forward to how the series begins, characters are introduced, and where things are left when it comes to ongoing threads and developments. 

I really am looking forward to this one!

When it's available: 
May 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, from Echo Publishing

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You can read more about the book and the author(s) here: 

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What do you think of the blurb and backstory for SOMETHING IS ROTTEN? Would it be a book you'd like to read? Do you like crime novels where local incidents tie into global events? What writing partnerships or author collaborations have you enjoyed? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Whangaparaoa author in line for international thriller writing prize

New Zealand mystery writer Stephen Ross has been announced as a finalist in the ITW 2015 International Thriller Awards for his short story "Pussycat, Pussycat". 

It is not the first time the Whangaparaoa author has been feted by overseas critics and awards judges, as his short stories and novelettes have previously been nominated for the Derringer Award, the Edgar Award (considered the Oscar of crime writing), and the Ellery Queen Readers Award.

Ross has been published several times in both Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, the leading journals of the best mystery short fiction from around the world. His work has also featured in other magazines, and he was included in THE BIRDHOUSE, the 2013 anthology of the best short fiction compiled by the Mystery Writers of America.

"Pussycat, Pussycat" was published in the September/October 2014 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and is one of five finalists in the "Best Short Story" category for the 2015 ITW Awards:

  • Richard Helms – “Busting Red Heads” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
  • Stephen Ross – “Pussycat, Pussycat” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
  • Gigi Vernon – “Show Stopper”, MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA PRESENTS ICE COLD: TALES OF INTRIGUE FROM THE COLD WAR (Grand Central)
  • Bev Vincent – “The Honey Trap”, MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA PRESENTS ICE COLD: TALES OF INTRIGUE FROM THE COLD WAR (Grand Central)
  • Tim L. Williams – “The Last Wrestling Bear in West Kentucky” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
While Ross is from New Zealand, his tale "Pussycat, Pussycat" is set in 1960s England. The narrator sells weapons, and his good friend Pussycat comes asking about a rifle, so that he can shoot pumpkins on a stick from a hidden spot in a tree. Is he planning to shoot someone, perhaps one of The Beatles? 

ITW is an organisation comprising 3,000 thriller writers from 28 countries around the world. Its directors include the likes of #1 bestselling authors Lee Child and Peter James, and its mission is to: "bestow recognition and promote the thriller genre at an innovative and superior level for and through our Active members; to provide opportunities for mentoring, education and collegiality among thriller authors and industry professionals; and to grant awards for excellence in the thriller genre". 

The 2015 ITW Thriller Award winners will be announced at ThrillerFest X on 11 July 2015, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. To see the full list of ITW 2015 International Thriller Awards finalists and categories, click here

Wanderlust, Argentinean stars, and Oprah: 9mm interview with Annamaria Alfieri

Do you like your crime fiction in traditional locations such as contemporary London or the big American cities, or do you prefer to read great murder mysteries set in different times and places much more exotic? If you're fond of a bit of history, or intrigued by South America or Africa, then you might want to try an author I met for the first time at Iceland Noir last year: Annamaria Alfieri.

Alfieri, who had a successful business career and wrote several popular business books under her legal name Patricia King before becoming a novelist, is a keen global traveller who is fascinated by the history and culture of the places she visits. She has used that passion and knowledge in her crime novels, starting with CITY OF SILVER, which is set in the Bolivian city of Potosi - once the coin-making capital of the Spanish empire and the richest city in the world (along with being the highest city in the world). Having visited Potosi myself back in 2007, including a trip down into the still-working silver mines (blowing up things, and making offerings to El Tio, the devil guardian for the above-ground-Catholic miners), I had a wonderful conversation with Alfieri at Iceland Noir about the magic and magnificence of South America. Her passion and enthusiasm for travel, history, and mystery writing was infectious.

After three novels set in historic periods in South America (Potosi, Paraguay, and Buenos Aires), Alfieri turned to East Africa for her latest mystery: STRANGE GODS. Described as Agatha Christie meets Out of Africa, the book delves into both the natural beauty of the continent, and the complications caused by colonisation and clashes between cultures. All in all, Annamaria Alfieri would be a terrific pick for anyone working on the 2015 Global Reading Challenge, as I've often found that South America and Africa can be the continents that are toughest to complete. In the meantime, however, Annamaria Alfieri becomes the 109th author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


9MM: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNAMARIA ALFIERI

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?

I am sure I should think about this for while longer so I can make myself out to be extremely well read and erudite. I tried that, but I keep coming back to the same answer anyway: Amanda Peabody, the creation of the late, great Elizabeth Peters. The series begins at the end of the 19th century in Egypt where Amanda falls in love with an archeologist. The ensuing books are all absolutely delightful. Peters, whose real name was Barbara Mertz, had a PhD in Egyptology so she was no slouch when it came to research and knowing her subject, but the book are anything but labored. They are pure fun—with suspenseful, twisting plots and vivid pictures of the time and place. They move along at breakneck speed and are hilarious. Reading them is like watching Fred Astaire dancing—pure entertainment that looks absolutely effortless. But if it were that easy, everyone would do it. Peters is an idol and an inspiration for me.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
As a child, most of what I read came from the nearby public library, but the one book we had a home—called the Wonder Book of Knowledge as I recall—had everything to fire a child’s imagination. A huge volume, with a blue linen cover, at least five inches thick, it contained an encyclopedia, a collection of children’s stories, brain teasers and riddles, glossy pages showing the flags of all nations and birds and animals of the world. And best of all, an atlas. My brother and I would lie on the living room floor for hours on end, pouring over the maps. I especially liked ones that showed small islands off exotic coasts, remote and intriguing. I would point to a tiny pink speck in the blue ocean off a pale green coast and say, “Imagine going to a place like that.” Those maps fed the wanderlust I still carry.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
Before my first novel, I had five published nonfiction books—all on business subjects, using my legal name Patricia King. The most popular was Never Work for a Jerk, which landed me on the Oprah Winfrey Show. It remained in print for over seventeen years, and was translated into Dutch and Spanish. A sequel, Monster Boss, is still available. My first published crime fiction was a short story “Baggage Claim” in the anthology Queens Noir.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?

Like a lot of writers, I like to cook. It’s nice to have a creative activity that begins and ends and gives pleasure all in an hour or two. Living in New York, I have a panoply of cultural possibilities at my disposal—opera, concerts, theater, cabaret, museums, galleries. These are the things I like to enjoy with my family and my friends. I serve on the board of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. I am a Bardolator, so a connection with a company that performs the plays is wonderful to me.


I am also an active member of the Mystery Writers of America/ New York Chapter—a tribe of generous and friendly writers who give one another much needed moral support and cheer one another on.


5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?

Since New York City is my home, the territory has been gone over with a fine-tooth comb. Because it is spring here, I offer the Conservatory Garden in Central Park. One enters at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue. Soon the flowering trees and the wisteria will be in bloom. It will be gorgeous; its loveliness will change as the seasons go on but will last into the fall. Not many tourists go there, but it is well worth a visit.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Yikes that’s a hard question. The one who comes to mind is the great Argentine actress Norma Aleandro. But most people will not have heard of her. She looks more like me than any other actress I can think of. Female movie stars are usually glamorous, which I am not. So yes, I think I will stick with Norma. If people want to see her, I highly recommend her movie The Official Story, which is a brilliant film and worth seeing regardless of the reason.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
Another very tough choice to have to make. That is like picking a favorite child. Strange Gods is the latest, and I am attached to its characters. It is the first of a series. My others have been stand alones. Now I have characters that I will be going with through several books, and this is a new and very nice experience for me. The second in the series is with my agent. I have just finished a first draft of the third. I like the characters. They are growing and learning and deepening. I am finding them good company.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
I wanted to be a novelist when I was nine years old. But I grew up in a working class neighborhood in a moribund city. We kids of that place and time did not aspire to be starving artists. So, I had a business career before I wrote a novel worthy of publication. Then it took ten years for it to find an agent, then a publisher, and come out in print. I was deliriously happy. In my 60s, I realized my childhood dream. That is pretty special! After my agent called me to tell she had sold City of Silver, every once in while over the next couple of weeks, I went to look at myself in the mirror and said, “You are going to be published novelist.” It felt unreal and HAPPY!

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
As I said, my first published fiction was a short story in an anthology. The publisher arranged an event at a big Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Queens—the borough of New York where all the stories take place. The editor and four of the storywriters were there to do readings and to sign books. There were five of us on the dais. In the audience were the spouses of the three of us, the bookstore marketing coordinator, the janitor, and a homeless person! We soldiered on and had fun teasing and joking about the situation. Since then, I have had my self-promotion ups and downs, but none has been as disappointing—and few have been as much fun. Mystery writers are such a mutually supportive group. We can get each other through some tough moments.


Thank you Annamaria. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch

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You can read more about Annamaria Alfieri and her writing here: 

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Do you enjoy historical mysteries? Crime novels set in Latin America or Africa? What have been some of your favourites? Have you read Alfieri's books - if so, what did you think? Comments welcome. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 Global Reading Challenge: Progress Report

As I noted back in February, I've signed up for the 2015 Global Reading Challenge, a terrific initiative set up by crime bloggers back in 2010, encouraging people to read more widely, to try new authors, and try books written or set in a range of different countries and regions.

I've chosen to go for the expert challenge: three books from each of seven continents, with each book to be from a different country/state.

Participants can chose other parameters, beyond the 1-3 books per continent requirement. I will focus on crime fiction for this challenge (though I will read other books this year), and I'll generally list books by the setting first, while also seeking to read as many author nationalities as possible too - ie I will see if I can tick off the challenge on both fronts. I'll go for books at least partially set in exotic/unusual places, although I will list them by their main setting first.

Here's my progress so far, with books read and acquired, as of 31 March 2015.

AFRICA
  1. Botswana: DEATH OF THE MANTIS by Michael Stanley (Headline, 2011). When a series of bizarre deaths point to a nomadic bushmen tribe, Detective "Kubu" Bengu must journey into the depths of the Kalahari to uncover the truth. What he discovers there will test all his powers of detection . . . and his ability to remain alive. Author nationality: South African/USA  Status: On shelf/To be read
  2. Kenya: STRANGE GODS by Annamaria Alfieri (Minotaur, 2014). A British doctor's body is found with a tribal spear in his back. An idealistic policeman focuses on a local medicine man, but the case proves just as complicated and dangerous as the clash of colonial and local cultures. Author nationality: USA Status: On shelf/To be read
  3. TBC


ASIA
  1. Yemen: THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING by Paul E. Hardisty (Orenda Books, 2015). An oil company engineer with a violent past is ensnared between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival factions as he tries to rescue his friend who was kidnapped by a wanted terrorist who thinks his employer is poisoning a local village. Author nationality: Australian/Canadian. Status: Read. To be reviewed.  
  2. Sri Lanka: IN THE LION'S THROAT by Bob Marriott. Motivated by the death of his younger brother, undercover Interpol cop Brett Sadler searches for a missing friend and wages war against the tidal wave of drugs flowing out of South-East Asia. Author nationality: New Zealand. Status: To be read
  3. TBC

AUSTRALASIA/OCEANIA
  1. Christchurch, NZ: FIVE MINUTES ALONE by Paul Cleave (Penguin NZ, 2015). Old police colleagues Theo Tate and Carl Schroder, both trying to put their lives back together after several tough cases that almost destroyed them, are in action once more as someone is helping violent crime victims exact revenge on their attackers. Author nationality: New Zealand. Status: Read and reviewed in print
  2. Fiordland, NZ: POISON BAY by Belinda Pollard (Small Blue Dog, 2014). Aussie TV journo Callie Brown joins friends from the past on a trek into New Zealand's most brutal wilderness, in the hope of healing a broken heart. What she doesn't know is that someone wants them all dead. Lost in every sense of the word, the hikers' primal instincts erupt. Author nationality: Australian. Status: Read and reviewed. 
  3. Australia: TBC
Other books read for this continent: BLOOD, WINE & CHOCOLATE by Julie Thomas (Waiheke Island, NZ); 


EUROPE
  1. Iceland: FROZEN OUT by Quentin Bates (Robinson, 2011). The discovery of a corpse washed up on a beach sparks a series of events that propels the village of Hvalvik's police sergeant Gunnhildur into the deep waters of a cosmopolitan world of shady deals, hired killers, government corruption and violence. Author nationality: English. Status: Read
  2. Glasgow, Scotland: BEYOND THE RAGE by Michael J Malone (Saraband, 2015). Glasgow criminal Kenny O'Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class prostitute girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother s suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl's attacker and find out the truth about his father... but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet. Author nationality: Scottish. Status: Read
  3. Greece: ASSASSINS OF ATHENS by Jeffrey Siger (Piatkus, 2009). When the body of a boy from one of Greece's most prominent families turns up in a dumpster in one of Athens' worst neighbourhoods, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis - now head of the Special Crimes Division - is certain there's a message in the murders. But who sent it - and why? Author nationality: USA. Status: On shelf/To be read. 
Other books read for this continent: PRAYER FOR THE DEAD by James Oswald (Scotland); 


LATIN AMERICA
  1. Cuba: HAVANA GOLD by Leonardo Padura (Bitter Lemon Press, 2011). A 24-year-old teacher is beaten, raped, and then strangled. Lieutenant Conde is pressured by 'the highest authority' to conclude his investigation quickly. Set in a Havana of crumbling, grand buildings, secrets hidden behind faded doors and corruption. Yet also a eulogy to Cuba: its life of music, sex and the great friendships of those who chose to stay and fight for survival. Author nationality: Cuban. Translated: from Spanish by Peter Bush. Status: On shelf/To be read. 
  2. TBC
  3. TBC


NORTH AMERICA
  1. Washington DC/Virginia/Maryland (USA) + Iraq: THE NIGHT CREW by Brian Haig (Thomas & Mercer, 2015): Cocky US Army lawyer Lt Col Sean Drummond is forced to take a case with a fiercely anti-war civilian lawyer defending a naive or evil female prison guard accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners. As Drummond uncovers evidence that his client has been used as a pawn in a secret strategy involving torture, he realizes that he’s caught up in a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of government. Author nationality: USA. Status: Read
  2. Canada: TBC
  3. Pennsylvania, USA: DEATH FALLS by Todd Ritter (Avon, 2015, originally published by Minotaur as BAD MOON in 2011). Decades after nine-year-old Charlie Olmstead went missing, presumed drowned, on the night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell is convinced by Charlie's brother to follow newfound evidence that Charlie might have been abducted, and that he wasn't the only victim. Author nationality: USA. Status: Read
Other books read for this continent: MISSING YOU by Harlan Coben (New York); DON'T LOSE HER by Jonathon King (Florida); CRASH & BURN by Lisa Gardner (New Hampshire); 

THE SEVENTH CONTINENT - REMEMBERING THE WARS
For the seventh continent, which used to be Antarctica (for expert readers), participants can chose their own category - historical murder mysteries, a particular theme, etc. I have decided that since we are currently commemorating the centenary of the Great War, I will focus on books that harken back to the two world wars - whether being written during that time, set there, or being modern books whose plotlines tie into things that happened during the war and have come home to roost for the contemporary characters.
  1. Ireland and World War II: THE LOST AND THE BLIND by Declan Burke (Severn House, 2015). Journalist Tom Noone is hired to ghostwrite the biography of a forgotten thriller author but instead stumbles upon a tale of a never-discussed Nazi atrocity on Donegal. What it covered up (and if so, why) or has he been hooked by the ravings of senile old men? As he digs further and bad things start happening he realises that powerful people don't want anyone to know what's true or not. Author nationality: Ireland Status: Read and to be reviewed
  2. New Zealand, Italy, and WWII: THE CASSINO LEGACY by Michael Wall (Penguin, 1999). Former SAS soldier turned ski patroller Adam Kennedy's life changes when he meets glamorous Italian art expert and keen skier Toni Travato in rural New Zealand. But when someone tries to kill them both and she disappears, he's left with hundreds of unanswered questions. Who was she really? What is really going on? And how does it relate to a military scandal from fifty years ago? Author nationality: New Zealand Status: Currently reading
  3. TBC

GENERAL COMMENTS AND LOG
31 March 2015: I'm on to my 24th book, and 16th crime novel of the year, and so far I've covered fifteen different authors of seven different nationalities, who have set their thrillers in six different countries. So that's not too bad a start! I'm looking forward to a lot of great authors and books to come, and am excited about some of the new-to-me authors on my bookshelf.

Feedback welcome.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Kiwi crime: FINAL RETRIBUTION by Nettie Cox

FINAL RETRIBUTION by Nettie Cox (Goldstein, Goosen, Friedlander Trust, 2014)

It's 1987. After dealing with a surfeit of murders in Auckland, Detective Inspector Clyde Landen is commanded to take two weeks leave in some quiet haven, far away from big city villains and their senseless villainies. A tall order, perhaps, in these times, but Clyde does know such a place. 

In Northern Buller, on the West Coast of the South Island, his widowed sister still lives in the family home in the small township of Eniram Hills. A visit is well overdue. Clyde looks forward to seeing his sister again and catching up with his old schoolmates. Saturday night at the pub? Just what the doctor ordered. What could go wrong? Clyde's arrival coincides with a body being washed up on the beach. When it becomes evident the young man has been murdered, Clyde's idyllic dreams shatter and the nightmares begin.