Some More Recommendations of Historical Crime

Locked Room Mysteries We Have Read

Crime Novels Set or Written in the 1930s

SMSA Library Crime & Mystery Book Club Favourite Stories of 2017

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

The theme for this batch of recommendations is book series that you like. This theme resulted in a joyful discussion on authors and characters that ended up like a trip across Europe into North Africa.  More information on the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Crime and Mystery reading Group can be found here.

The Kiss Murder by Mehmet Murat Somer (Kenneth Dakan - Translator)
The Kiss Murder (2008) is the first book in The Turkish Delight (Hop-Ciki-Yaya) series from Mehmet Murat Somer, which have been translated into English and done very well. Mehmet Murat Somer was born in Ankara, Turkey and studied and worked as an engineer before becoming a banker. In 1994 he became a management consultant. The unnamed heroine of the book is a male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of a nightclub in Istanbul by night and s/he becomes embroiled in the underworld of Istanbul when one of the 'girls' from the nightclub comes to him for help.  The series is described as charming and page-turning, so something to sample at least.

The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub who writes in English. Born in London, he is the child of a British and Sudanese parents. He has lived over the years in the UK, Sudna, Cairo and Denmark. He currently lives in Barcelona. The Ghost Runner is the third novel in the Makana series, named after its lead character, Private Investigator Makana. The book is set in 2002 just as the US forces enter the West Bank after the 11 September attacks in the USA. Makana is living in Cairo at the time, in exile from his native Sudan. He is not in a good emotional space and becomes involved in looking for the murder of a teenage girl. The book follows his travels to Siwa, an oasis town on the edge of the Sahara Desert in search of the murderer.

This series highlights the everyday life of an area of the world that continues to be in turmoil from internal and external political, religious and social forces. 

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker
This debut novel from Martin Walker introduces you to  Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in St Denis, a small village in present day South of France.  Bruno is aiming to have a quiet life and has chosen to live in a small village in the South of France to do just that. He is a former soldier who was wounded while serving in the UN peacekeepers during the siege of Sarajevo. Bruno  likes his routines and calm life and that is disrupted when there is a murder on his patch of an elderly North African who fought in the French army.

Martin Walker used to be a foreign correspondent for the British newspaper, The Guardian,  in the USSR, USA, Europe and Africa. He has written non-fiction history books on the Cold War and 20th Century USA. He, like his creation, is looking for a calm life in the Perigold region of rural France.

Gardens of the Dead by William Brodrick
This is series set in England about Father Anselm, a barrister turned monk. In Gardens of the Dead, the second in the series, Father Anselm becomes involved in solving a mystery when one of his former barrister colleagues dies and it is revealed that she was trying to resolve a case they both worked on when Father Anselm was Anselm Duffy Q.C. The story weaves questions around justice, innocence and redemption throughout the plot. 

William Brodrick was born in Bolton, Lancashire and grew up in Australia and the UK. He joined the Augustinian Friars in Dublin, Ireland in 1979. He lived several years as a friar before he left the order to set up a charity for homeless people. In 1991 he became a barrister. Broderick holds British and Canadian citizenship and is married with three children. He now lives in France. 

The Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland
Barry Maitland has been recommended before by this group, twice. For our recommendation on The Raven's Eye, Maitland's latest novel, go here.  For our recommendation on The Marx Sisters, the first novel from the Brock and Kolla series, go here

Barry Maitland has written twelve novels in total in the series. To quote his website, "the books have been described as whydunits as much as whodunits, concerned with the devious histories and motivations of their characters. Barry's background in architecture drew him to the structure of the mystery novel, and his books are notable for their ingenious plots as well as for their atmospheric settings, each in a different intriguing corner of London."

Lewis Island Trilogy by Peter May
Like Maitland, Peter May has been recommended before by our Mystery and Crime Reading Group. To find our recommendation on The Blackhouse, the first novel in the trilogy, go here, and for our recommendation for The Chessmen, the  last novel in the Lewis Island trilogy, go here.

The Lewis Man is the middle novel and it centres around the discovery of a body in the peat bog off the Isle of Lewis. First believed to be a find for the history books, it is revealed by the discovery of an Elvis tattoo on the body that it is a victim of a very twentieth century crime.

Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White
Also known as The Spiral Staircase, Some Must Watch (1933) is a mystery set in an isolated country home in Wales called The Summit. It focuses on an assortment of people in this house, Helen Cadel (a lady's companion), Professor Warren (the head of the household), his sister Blanche (who is also his housekeeper), his aunt (who is a bit sinister), his whiny son, his high maintenance daughter-in-law, his student and two servants. So it is a big house. Young girls have been murdered in the neighbourhood and this threat starts to infiltrate the house. Tension ratchets up, behave weirdly and everything is not what it seems. It was so popular as a novel it made into a movie three times. 

Ethel Lina White wrote 17 novels in total, her first three being mainstream novels before starting on crime writing in 1931. She was a well known and popular writer in the 1930s and 1940s and two other of her novels were made into movies. Namely The Wheel Spins (1936) which became The Lady Vanishes, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Midnight House (1942) made into The Unseen.

Ethel Lina White was born in Wales in 1876 and died in 1944. Her novels were not a series.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves
We have recommended Ann Cleeves before, however it was in relation to her Shetland Island series, and you can read that here. Silent Voices (2011) is the fourth novel in the Vera Stanhope series that Cleeves began writing in 1999. These novels have been made into a TV show in the UK called Vera, with Brenda Blethyn in the lead role.

Vera is a Detective Inspector with the Northumberland police and she works with her colleague Sergeant Joe Ashworth to solve murder cases. Vera does not play nicely with others but she gets results and much of the series is about delving in behind the masks people wear in everyday life to get to the issues below. 

Skeleton Road by Val McDermid
Skeleton Road is the third in Val McDermid's Inspector Karen Pirie series. Inspector Pirie lives in Fife, Scotland and is a cold case expert. Like the two previous novels featuring Pirie, Skeleton Road is about the remains of a body found in a Victorian Gothic building in the historic part of Edinburgh that is being developed into new flats. Pirie tracks the case to former Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Val McDermid is very good writer and her novels are always complex with great plots intertwined with a study of psychological impulses of killers as well as those who hunt them. McDermid has three well known as established series that we have recommended before. Go here to see that recommendation.  She has also written over a dozen standalone novels. 

Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst
Alan Furst is an American author how writes historical spy novels set in the first half of the twentieth century. Spies of Warsaw (2008) is the tenth in the Night Soldiers novels that Furst began writing in 1988. Each novel has different protagonists, however he has a cast of secondary characters that appear in a number of the stories across the series.

Spies of Warsaw is set in a pre-World War Two Warsaw where French and German spies are playing deadly games that involve the underworld and the elite. Each major European country seems to have a spy in play in town and everyone who is anyone is a piece on the chessboard in the lead up to war.

 Spies of Warsaw was made into a British TV miniseries in 2013. 

Mystery Muses: the 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers by Jim Huang & Austin Lugar
According to the Crumb Creek Press website, Jim Huang and Austin Lugar asked 100 published crime writers: 

"Did a mystery set you on your path to being a writer? 
Is there a classic mystery that remains important to you today?"

These crime writers penned each penned an essay with these two questions in mind and Huang and Lugar edited these essays for this collection. The essays range from insights into Patricia Highsmith, Denis Lehane, golden age authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, and hard boiled legend Raymond Chandler. The essays are arranged in order of the classic novels they cover so there is a sense of change and history in the collection.

Spirit of Steamboat by Craig Johnson
Spirit of Steamboat (2013) is a Christmas themed novella from the writer of the  Walt Longmire series set in Wyoming, which has been made into a TV series called Longmire

Good Reads website puts the plot succinctly, "Sheriff Walt Longmire is reading A Christmas Carol in his office on 24 December when he is interrupted by the ghost of Christmas past: a young woman with a hairline scar across her forehead and more than a few questions about Walt's predecessor, Lucian Connally. Walt doesn't recognise the mysery woman, but she seems to know him and claims to have something she must return to Connally. With his daughter, Cady, and his undersheriff Vic Moretti in Philadelphia for the holidays, Walt is at loose ends, and despite the woman's reticence to reveal her identity, the agrees to help her.

At the Durant Home for Assisted Living Lucian Connally is several tumblers into his Pappy Van Winkle's and swears he's never clapped eyes on the woman before. Disappointed, she whispers "Steamboat" and begins a story that takes them all back to Christmas Eve 1988, when three people died in a terrible crash and a young girl had the slimmest change of survival....back to a record-breaking blizzard, to Walt's first year as sheriff, with a young daughter at home and a wife praying for his safety...back to a whisky-soaked World War II vet ready to fly a decommissioned plane and risk it all to save a life."    

In the Morning I'll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty
This is the third novel in The Troubles Trilogy from Irish writer Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy novels. McKinty was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and grew up in Carrickfergus, County Antrim. He lived in New York city and Denver in the USA in the 1990s and early 2000s. He now lives in Melbourne, Australia. 

His novels are set in the early 1980s in Ireland and focus on the Irish 'troubles'. Sean Duffy in a Catholic cop in the Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary. He is caught between the Irish and the British during Margaret Thatcher's time as UK Prime Minister and the plot delves into this contentious time in British/Irish relations and involves an IRA master bomber, MI5, and the British Conservative Party Conference in Brighton in 1984, where Mrs Thatcher is giving the keynote speech. If you want to know why this occasion is important in the conflict, you can click here

Ratking & Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin
Ratking (1988) is the first in the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin, and Dead Lagoon (1996) is the fourth. Dibdin wrote 11 novels in total featuring Zen, and unfortunately died in 2007 just after finishing the last book in the series. 

Zen is an Italian Police Commissioner and is part of the elite Italian Criminalpol squad stationed in Rome. He is described as middle-aged and "disgusted with - but begrudgingly resigned to - the political bog of corruption and cynicism with which he has to work". These books are a mixture of police procedure and psychological suspense, Dibdin gives us a way into the dealings of the modern Italian police force. They were made into a British TV series in 2011. 

Berlin Noir Trilogy by Philip Kerr
We have recommended this trilogy before, read here. This trilogy is set in Nazi Germany pre World War Two and features Detective Barnie Gunther. The first novel in the trilogy is March Violets (1989) and is set at the time of the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The Pale Criminal (1990) is set two years later and Bernie is investigating the death of Aryan teenage girls. The frog is no longer being slowly boiled in Berlin in relation to how the Nazi regime is impacting every day life for all Germans, especially those who do not support the Nazi party but identify themselves as patriotic Germans. It is basically a nightmare, and Kerr does not shy away from this. It can make this trilogy a difficult read, but it is a fascinating one. The third novel is A German Requiem (1991) is set after World War Two in 1947, and the Russians and the Americans are the new masters of Berlin and Bernie is navigating the shortages that dominate the city as well as the new politics of what becomes the Cold War.

Buried Angels by Camilla Lackberg
Buried Angels (2014) is the eighth (and latest) novel in the Patrik Hedstrom/Erica Falck series from Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg. Her first novel in the series, The Ice Princess, was published in 2003. Patrik is a detective in a small fishing village, Fjallbacka, and his wife, Erica is a crime writer. The books are as much a look at a working partnership as a police procedural and they take the reader into the life of a community that is reliant on the land and the sea. 

Buried Angels focuses on a cold case about a family that vanished from their home on an idyllic island off the coast over Easter in 1974 leaving their one year old daughter Ebba behind. 40 years later Ebba has returned to find out what happened.

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month we focused on crimes and mysteries set during a natural disaster. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 in New Orleans was featured in three of the choices and the Great Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco was the centre of two. One of our members got creative and included books set during the two World Wars, which were not technically natural disasters but disasters nonetheless.

The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason
Published in 2004, The Draining Lake is the fourth Detective Erlendur books from award winning Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason.  Based on an acutal Icelandic lake, Kleifarvatn, which began draining away in 2000 following an earthquake. In this story, the draining lake reveals a body. Erlendur investigates this cold case (no pun intended) which delves into the political and social history of Iceland with left-wing students during the time of communist East Germany during the Cold War. 

This is a great novel fulled with pathos and realism. Indridason is a master storyteller and any books written by him are well worth it.

First the Dead by Tim Downs
First of the Hurricane Katrina novels read this month, First The Dead is the third in the Bug Man series that features forensci entomologist Dr Nick Polchak who volunteers for the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the USA. This is a real life organisation that responds to disasters such aeroplane crashes, fires and hurricanes. The volunteers are doctors, nurses, pathologists, scientists and in the case of Polchak, a forensic entomologist, who deploy and work very hard over a short period of time to identify and investigate the bodies of victims of these disasters.  Polchak is an unusual protagonist, but very likeable and the insight into the bureaucracy that was involved during the actual natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina and the additional disaster which was the lack of assistance and clean up that followed. 

Tim Downs crafts a well written dialogue driven story that is a quick and interesting read. He creates scene and atmosphere through very natural dialogue. Downs has written five Bug Man novels and this is what he says about these novels on his blog, 'my Bug Man stories are not about the bugs—they’re about a man who thinks he’s a bug. Why does he think that? Why would he want to? What’s wrong with him? What was it in his past that made him that way? Will he ever change? Can he? And is there a woman anywhere who could love a man like that? Anyone who has read one of my novels will tell you that that’s what my stories are really about. The bugs—well, they’re just bugs. - See more at: http://www.timdownsblog.com/category/the-writing-process/#sthash.J8ehNloH.dpuf.'

Bony and The Black Virgin by Arthur Upfield
Arthur Upfield's Detective Inspector Napolen Bonaparte (Bony) series from the outback in Australia from 1920s to 1960s features a natural disaster in Bony and The Black Virgin. Bony (a mixed race Australian, his mother was an Aboriginal woman and his father is a white man) is called into investigate the death of two men on a desolate sheep station in outback New South Wales, in the middle of a drought. The men have been beaten to death and it is up to Bony to find out what happened. As usual, Bony is discounted as an investigator because of his heritage and the inherent racism in Australian culture in regards to Aboriginal people.

Upfield is an Englishman who immigrated to Australia in 1910 and wrote copiously about rural Australia, the outback, Aboriginal culture as well as white Australia. His Bony series is an insight into the cultural and social history of Australia.  

Bad Karma In The Big Easy by D. J. Donaldson
Featuring Chief Medical Examiner, Andy Broussard and forensic psychologist Kit Franklin, this seventh novel from Donaldson focuses on the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is August 2005 and Broussard is identifying bodies from the natural disaster. He is intrigued by the bodies of three women who apparently died of foul play and calls in Kit to help him solve the mystery.

Donaldson is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Tennessee and his New Orleans forensic mysteries featuring Broussard and Franklin and his medical thrillers have a strong understanding of science and medicine that gives them a level of authinticity. His writing style is described as 'a hard-hitting, punchy, action-packed prose that’s dripping with a folksy, decidedly southern sense of irony.'

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke
Two of our members read this James Lee Burke novel that focused on Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.  The Tin Roof Blowdown is the sixteenth Dave Robicheaux novel and it follows a number of smaller stories until they meet up against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina. In an interview with Reuters in 2007 when doing publicity for this book, Burke (then 70 years old) said "If you want to know about a society, look at it from the bottom up." This is a personal novel for Burke and in that age old tradition of using crime fiction to look at society he crafts a novel that is full of rage and disgust for the events of Hurricane Katrina. 

James Lee Burke has written over 30 novels, 20 of which are the Robicheaux series. Burke has won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of the year in 1990 for Black Cherry Blues, and again in 1998 he won the Edgar for Best Novel for Cimarron Rose. In 2009 he received the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. 

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
Issac's Storm is a non-fiction novel about the hurricane that devestated Galvastan, Texas on 8 September 1900. Issac Cline was the resident meterologist for the US Weather Bureau who witnessed and was taken by surprise by a massive hurricane that caused Galvastan to be flooded,  completely destroying the town and killing over six thousand people. It is seen as the greatest natural disaster in American history.  This hurricane killed more people than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which Katrina killed at least 1,836 people and inflicted damages estimated at around $125 billion.

Erik Larson is an American journalist and non-fiction author. According to wikipedia, he started writing books in 1992 with' The Naked Consumer: How Our Private Lives Become Public Commodities, followed in 1995 by Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun, Issac's Storm (1999)....and The Devil in the White City (2003), about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and a series of murders by H. H. Holmes that were committed in the ciyt around the time of the Fair....In 2006, Larson published Thunderstruck, which intersperses the story of Hawley Harvey Crippen with that of Guglielmo Marconi and the investion of radio....In the Garden of Beasts (2011), concerns William E. Dodd, the first Amercian ambassador to Nazi Germany.'

An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd
An Unmarked Grave is the fourth Bess Crawford mystery set during World War One. Bess is a nurse and amateur investigator who becomes involved in investigating the murder of an officer, whose body is hidden amongst the numerous dead from the frontline and the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The pandemic infected 500 million people across the world and killed 50 to 100 million of them. That is about three to five percent of the world's population at the time. 

Charles Todd is the pen name for Caroline and Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team from USA. In addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries, they have also written the Inspector Ian Rutledge series set in England just after World War One.  

Shoulder The Sky by Anne Perry
Anne Perry is known for her Victorian crime novels featuring Thomas Pitt and a second Victorian series featuring William Monk. Anne Perry is a prolific writer and has written over 80 novels since 1979.

Shoulder The Sky is the second in Perry's World War One series. It crisscrosses from the trenches, back to London and the intelligence work going on, back Ypres and Gallipoli through three protagonists - siblings Captain Joseph Reavley (an Army Chaplain), Judith who is a driver for General Cullingford and Matthew who is a British Intelligence Officer.

Ashes to Ashes by Barbara Nadel
Set during the London Blitz in World War Two, this third Frances Hancock novel focuses on people sheltering in St Paul's Catherdral during the bombing raids. Hancock is one of those people in St Pauls and becomes involved when a young girl disappears during the night. Hanock is a World War One veteran and undertaker and is half-Indian makes an interesting protagonist as he is quite peculiar but likeable. The book is really about atmosphere and setting and if you like to sink into the era, this will be a good read for you.

English writer, Barbara Nadel is known for her Inspector Çetin İkmen novels (all 15 of them) set in Turkey. There are four books in the Hancock series and she has started on a third series featuring Hakim and Arnold set currently in East Ham in East London, UK. East Ham is an immigrant and low socio-economic neighbourhood and private investigator, Lee Arnold, works with his assistant Mumtaz Hakim, a widowed Muslim working mother.  Sounds interesting. 

Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr
Policeman Bernie Gunther came into being in the Berlin Noir trilogy set in the lead up to World War Two in Berlin, Germany. Prague Fatale is the eighth Bernie Gunther novel and it is now September 1941 and Bernie has returned home to Berlin from the horrors of the Eastern Front. He is invited by his old boss Reinhard Heydrich of the SD, the new Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia to spend a weekend at Heydrich's country house in Prague. In the midst of war there is a murder for Bernie to solve.  Like his previous novels, Philip Kerr explores World War Two from the perspective of the Germans who just try to survive Hitler's Nazi regime and the war they find themselves in. Fighting for ideals they do not believe in.  These books are quite depressing, however there is an element of black humour throughout.  

Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King
Laurie R. King is the creator of the popular Sherlock Holmes pastiche featuring Mary Russell (the American wife of Sherlock Holmes). Locked Rooms in the eighth Mary Russell novel and it is set in 1906 in San Francisco during the Great Earthquake. They are in San Francisco to settle some legal affairs related to Mary's family. The earthquake and the city is the backdrop to peeling back the history of Mary's family and the unexplained deaths that are happening around them.  

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
Published in 2012, The Last Policeman is the first in a trilogy set in the last six months of earth's existence. There is an asteroid heading towards earth and everyone is reacting in their own way. Some people are committing suicide, some are giving up their everyday life and doing what they please. One of those people is a young twenty something policeman in Concord, New Hampshire, Hank Palace, who is promoted from patrolman to Detective and insists on investigating a suspicious hanging in the time remaining. Ben Winters is known for his 2009 bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, however he won an Edgar Award for The Last Policeman and has finished writing the trilogy this year.

Acts of Nature by Jonathon King
This is the fifth Max Freeman novel by Jonathon King featuring Max and his paramour Detective Sherry Richards who head to the Florida everglades for some time off and find themselves in the middle of a tense situation involving looters, killers and corporations during a hurricane. Not your average holiday then. Jonathon King used to be a journalist with a couple of US city newspapers before he created private investigator Max Freeman in 2012. His books are written in a hard boiled style and set on the streets of South Florida. 

The Last Nightingale by Anthony Flacco
This is another novel set during the earthquake in San Francisco in 1906. It teams up 12 year old Shane Nightingale who witnesses the killing of his adoptive mother and sisters the night of the earthquake. He starts to work with Sergeant Randall Blackburn who is investigating the killings. According to Bookreporter, Anthony Flacco "is the author of numerous nonfiction books and novels. He holds an MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, where he was honored with the Paramount Studios Fellowship Award and a Disney Studios Fellowship." This more visual/screenwriting approach is noticeable in this novel as it feels like it is written with a movie adaptation in mind.

Recommendations from the SMSA Crime & Mystery Book Club

This month the theme was debuts and we managed to collate about 9 books that we recommend: 

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The Devil's Playground by Stav Sherev
This debut novel by Englishman Stav Sherev was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger in 2004.  The plot starts when a body of a tramp, Jake Colby, is found in a secluded park in Amsterdam.  The Dutch detective on the case, Ronald Van Hijn, believes the tramp is the ninth victim of a serial  killer stalking the city, even though the the previous victims were young and female. The corpse has contact details for an Englishman, Jon Reed, who befriended Jake in London shortly before the murder. Van Hijn calls Jon to Amsterdam and this begins Jon's own journey into Jake's identity and his and his family's past.  The novel delves into the stories family members tell each other about their past.  It is a tough story with a fascinating take on a family's history and the impact it has for those living here and now.  

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Clea's Moon by Edward Wright
In 2001, Edward Wright won the CWA Debut Dagger for his first chapter and synopsis of what would become Clea’s Moon. The story is set in the late 1940s in Los Angeles behind the scenes of the changing Hollywood system.  John Ray Horn was a big B western movie star in the 1930s before he went to jail for beating up the son of an owner of one of the studios for causing the death of his horse.  When John Ray left jail he found himself blacklisted in Hollywood and divorced from his wife.  The story begins with John Ray working as a bag man for his old co-star Joseph Mad Cow who now runs a casino.  John Ray becomes embroiled in the dodgy side of nightclubs, casinos and local government in LA when he is asked by his old friend Scotty to find out about the photos Scotty had recovered from his father's desk at work after Scot Bullard Sr's death.  The photos are child pornography taken at least 10 years prior and one of the subjects is John Ray's stepdaughter, Clea, who is now 17 years old and has run away from home.  John Ray sets out to find Clea and who was involved in the taking of and participating in the photographs.  This is a well written novel with a film noir tone.  It is well worth a read.

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The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid
This is not exactly a debut, but it is the first book by Scottish writer, Val McDermid, featuring Forensic Psychologist, Dr. Tony Hill, and DI Carol Jordan. It is set in the fictional town, Bradfield, in northern England. Dr Hill is asked to consult by the police after the bodies of young men are found dead after they were abducted and tortured.  Detective Inspector Carol Jordan is assigned to work with Dr Hill and their relationship becomes complicated. Dr Hill also has to juggle his patients with becoming increasingly involved in the investigation. The Mermaids Singing won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year in 1995. Val McDermid is still writing the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series in addition to her Lindsay Gordon series and Kate Brannigan series.  The Hill/Jordan series was adapted for TV, Wire In The Blood, which follows the plots of most of the Hill/Jordan series until an actor change caused the novels content to split from the TVs. Val McDermid is a great writer with intricate plots, but they are a bit gruesome, with quite a bit of violence.

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Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin
This is the first Inspector Rebus novel from Ian Rankin, published in 1987.  There have been nearly 20 stories since then featuring Rebus.  Rankin was a post graduate student at the University of Edinburgh when he wrote this book, and little did he know that this character would become one of the most beloved in modern crime fiction.  Go back to the beginning and see where Rebus and Rankin started.  The plot revolves around the abduction and killing of two young girls and the role Rebus' brother Michael plays.  Welcome to the dark underbelly of Edinburgh and enjoy the great world building and fantastic character sketching of Rankin's writing.  It is a page turner.

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March Violets by Philip Kerr
This is the first novel in a trilogy commonly known as Berlin Noir.  Good Reads describes the plot and tone by saying "Ex-policeman Bernie Gunther thought he'd seen everything on the streets of 1930s Berlin. But then he went freelance, and each case he tackled sucked him further into the grisly excesses of Nazi subculture."  This is true.  The noir tone and styling of the novel is apparent and it evokes a 1930s Berlin under the National Socialist Party that is on a slow boil.  People turn a blind-eye to disappearances and the loss of human rights.  Corruption is rife and the 1936 Olympics are taking place in Berlin.  'March Violets' is the derisive term by which long-time Nazis referred to new party converts. Converts who are jumping on the bandwagon to make a quick buck or just to survive.  Bernie Gunther is deliberately written like a character in a Raymond Chandler novel, and his wry disgust what is happening in Berlin and Germany is palatable.  This is well written and offers up an idea of what day to day life in Berlin in this time could be like.  Quite a different approach from the history books.

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Lonely Road by Nevil Shute
This is the closest to a crime novel written by Nevil Shute.  It was first published in 1932 and is done in an experimental writing style.  Shute was an aeronautical engineer and a pilot who attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, UK.  He started writing novels when he was in his 30s while working as an engineer for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, and keeps his day job as an engineer up to and through the Second World War.  In the 1950s, Shute is well-known enough as an author to do it full time and he immigrated to Australia in 1950.  His post war novels are set in Australia and are what he is most known for, but this experiment he wrote back before the Second World War, focuses on Commander Malcolm Stevenson and how he came to be waking up in a hospital after a car accident.  The book opens with Stevenson narrating and describing a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes.  This structure is way ahead of its time, and understandably the novel did not sell as well in the 1930s.  It is well worth a read to see the flexing of a relatively young author as he weaves a plot that will keep you guessing.  

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The Sands of Windee by Arthur Upfield
Arthur Upfield is the father of Australian crime fiction.  He created Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte (Bony), a mixed race policeman in the Queensland Police Force who is the central character in over 20 novels spanning from 1928 to 1968 (published posthumously).  Upfield was born in England and moved to Australia in 1910.  Following his World War One service he travelled through Australia extensively learning about Aboriginal culture and the geography of the country.  The creation of an Aboriginal protagonist and the depiction of outback Australian life in the 1930s through into the 1950s sets Upfields books apart.  The Sands of Windee was published in 1931 and is seen as one of Upfields best novels.  It was not his debut (it is his fourth novel), but it is highly regarded.  The plot is about the disappearance of Luke Marks near Windee Station. The local police believe he wandered away from his car and been overwhelmed in a dust-storm.  But Bony feels there is more to it and he comes down from Queensland to work at Windee to find the answers.

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Crime by Ferdinand Von Schirach
Ferdinand Von Schirach is a German criminal lawyer who began practicing law in 1994 and became a successful and prominent defense attorney.  Crime is a collection of stories is based on cases from his chamber and was published in 2009.  Amazon describes the short stories as "by turns witty and sorrowful, unflinchingly brutal and heartbreaking, the deeply affecting."  Von Schirach looks into the grey areas of guilt and innocence and offers and insight into why people commit crimes. This book is highly recommended and so is the follow up, Guilt, written in 2010.  

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The Anatomist's Wife by Anna Lee Huber
This debut historical crime novel came out in 2012. It is set in Scotland in 1830 and it centres on the r
ecently widowed and notorious Lady Kiera Darby, who seeks refuge at her sister's house following the death of her husband. The scandal part is due to her late husband, a Doctor and Lecturer who was writing an anatomy book, and used her as an illustrator for his book. An unseemly occupation for a lady of her station.  At a house party at her sister's house in Scotland, Lady Darby is asked to assist in the investigation due to her knowledge of anatomy when there is a death and the closest help is at least two days away due to weather and distance.  This is a well written debut with interesting characters and a tight plot.  It sets up the series (and I am sure there will be a series) featuring Lady Darby, who is called on to 'help investigate' in future adventures.  I imagine the publishers were torn between marketing this as a romance or a crime novel.  But as the novel structure is not traditionally in the romance genre form, I can see why they erred on the side of crime.  

Next month, the theme is colour.  It can be in the title, the plot, the theme.  Whatever.  See you then.