Maria Wern #17

radslans-fangar

There is something special about authors that publish a novel every year. Anna Jansson has written a crime novel about Maria Wern every year since 2000. Part 17 (!) had a slow start and something worth noting is that a character in the book describes how important it is to catch the audience’s interest (the character describes a speech, but same thing goes for a novel).

I got through the slow beginning and after that the novel became really interesting, and the ending is much better. As usual it is a typical Wern-novel and you know what you are in for if you have read Jansson’s other novels in the series.

End of the World

The police on Gotland are preparing for the summer tourists while trying to minimize the spread of drugs on the island. Privately Maria Wern struggle with having a new bonus-son, and at work she leads the investigation of a brutal murder. Her husband is stuck on the mainland since all ships have been cancelled due to the weather, which is anything but normal with hurricane strong winds.

Is the end of the world near? Yes, at least if we are to believe a group of people on Gotland. An astronomical clock made by Christoffer Polhem has counted down since the 1700s and the family that owns it has long prepared for their survival. Now it seems like the end is near.

 

Original title in Swedish: Rädslans fångar

Interview with Märta Holmerin

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Märta Holmerin, welcome to TheCrimeHouse!

How would you describe your novels for someone who have never heard about you?

I write suspenseful crime novels with a touch of humor and love and a modern 50s vibe. I focus on finding exciting environments and creating interesting characters. Human relationships and actions are as important as the plot and I like to mix in romance to see what happens.

In the novels we meet the former journalist Julia Nöjd, Chief Inspector Alexander Malmsten, and Julia’s aunt, the chainsmoking criminology professor Margareta Drake.

The second novel in the series about Alex and Julia takes place in a factory in Södertälje and is about power struggles, illusions and deadly mistakes. The first novel takes place on Gotland and is about misunderstandings, betrayals and hidden history. Right now I’m working on the third novel in the series, which also takes place in and around Södertälje.

What do you enjoy most about writing? Figuring out the plot, creating characters and settings, or something different?

I enjoy all of it, so it is difficult to say. But I really enjoy discovering new places and creating on the spot. For me the story begins with the place/environment. Maybe it has a certain smell, it is an exciting, dangerous or beautiful place, which gives me an idea. Often I see an event that has taken place there or a picture of a person. Something that makes me want to include the place in my novel.

Usually a character is also born then. And then the questions: Who? Why? Etc.

That’s probably the most fun that the characters come to life and start telling the story.

I am always curious about writers’ workplaces. What does it look like? Are you working at a desk, at cafees, or at the kitchen table? Is it organized or messy?

I mostly work at home, at my desk or the kitchen table. It is pretty messy, since I need a large area where I spread out the manuscript and post-it notes. When I do research I always carry a notebook so I can write down thoughts and ideas.

What advice do you have for our readers who are aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Both good and not so good novels, different genres, read whatever you feel like. I will read a good book several times – the first time I am just caught up and then I wonder how the writer did it. Then I read again. And again. Every time I reread the novel I will discover new ways to tell a story and learn more about the craft.

Write a lot. Not just now and then, but set aside time for writing, e.g. Saturday morning, or whatever suits you. After a while your brain will learn that it’s time to write at a certain day and time, and it becomes easier.

Set goals. It can be a certain amount of words per week or a date when you will have your first draft done.

When you have finished the manuscript, ask experienced readers close to you to read the manuscript. Ask for honest, constructive criticism that helps you find strengths and weaknesses so you can continue your work with the novel. If you don’t know anyone like that you can find an editor.

It takes a lot of will, commitment and time to finish a manuscript. Keep working!

Please list three novels you think our readers should read (in addition to your own).

What I read varies greatly – novels about relationships, thrillers, non-fiction, crime fiction (mainly traditional whodunits), so that is hard, but here goes:

Classic whodunit: ”And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

Action and suspense: Lee Child’s novels about Jack Reacher, e.g. ”The Affair”

Psychological thriller: ”Misery” by Stephen King

A big thank you to Märta for answering our questions!

 

Note: This interview has been translated from Swedish. It was first published on Deckarhuset on February 22, 2016.

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Girls, Girls, Girls

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It seems like the key to a successful novel is to throw the word girl in the title (well, that and it being a well-written book with a good plot and great characters…).

Following the success of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series starting with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, we have seen “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins”, “The Hanging Girl” by Jussi Adler-Olsen, and the list could go on and on… Do you think writers and/or publishers do this on purpose?

What difference does a title make?

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I find it interesting that the Swedish originals in the Millenium series did not follow this formula. Directly translated “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” would have been “Men Who Hate Women” (Män som hatar kvinnor) and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” would have been “The Air Castle That Was Blown Up” (Luftslottet som sprängdes). The second novel “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is the only one where the original name was used (Flickan som lekte med elden). Do you think the novels would have been as successful internationally if they had not used the “girl-formula”?

The Secret Place by Tana French

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The Secret Place is Tana French’s 5th novel about the Dublin Murder Squad. I like Tana French. She is a master at creating an uncomfortable feeling and skilled at creating exciting and complex characters. The detectives Stephen Moran and Antoinette Conway are no exceptions. Stephen is a young detective that takes every chance to advance his career and Antoinette has become somewhat of an ice queen to deal with the macho culture in the department.

Girls’ Boarding School

The novel circles around two cliques of teenage girls at an upper-class girls’ boarding school. A student from the neighboring boys’ boarding school is found murdered outside the girls’ school. The investigation is closed after a while, but then one of the girls comes to Stephen with a clue suggesting that someone from the girls’ school is involved. The girls have a bulletin board, The Secret Place, where secrets can be shared anonymously and someone posted a note saying “I know who did it.” Moran and Conway visit the school and start investigating the tangled web of secrets and intrigues. Two rivaling cliques soon become the focus of the investigation.

What is the deal with…

…intriguing/mean/confused teenage girls?  There must be something extra fascinating with the idea that a cute, young and seemingly innocent teenage girl also can be the opposite. Tana French digs deep into the teenage girls’ insecurities, friendships, envy, newly found hormones and expectations, and she does it well. It is just that I have read similar things before. It does not feel fresh. That is why I, despite the novel being well written and uncomfortable, still do not get hooked. Tana usually varies settings and themes, so I look forward to her next novel. Unfortunately she also tends to create new main characters, which is too bad, because I would have liked to follow these in coming novels as well.

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The Mousetrap

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Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play. 64 years! It is a clever murder mystery for us who love whodunits. The story takes place in a newly opened hotel in an old house in the countryside where several people get snowed in, without contact with the outside world. The 2.5 hour play takes place in one room, where one of eight people die and one of the others is the killer. Many turns, gruesome secrets and many aha-moments later it turns out that…

No, I will not be the first person in 64 years to reveal he identify of the killer, sorry!

Birthday Gift

The story around the play is as exciting as the play itself. It opened in the West End of London in 1952 under the name The Mousetrap, but it actually started as a radio play broadcast in 1947 called Three Blind Mice. The reason to the name change was that Emile Littler already had done another play with the name Three Blind Mice.

Agatha Christie gave her grandson Matthew Prichard the rights to the play as a birthday gift. Since its premiere at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham in 1962 it has transferred to different places until 1974 when it moved to St Martin’s Theatre in West End, where it is still playing today. The play has been playing continuously for 64 years, and it was still almost sold out the rainy February evening when I went.

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Not Scary

If you are in the neighborhood, go see it! And feel free to bring your children as there is nothing frightening about it (believe me, I am an overprotective mom) and the articulated Queen’s English makes it possible for everyone to follow along.

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Interview with Mikaela Bley

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Photo: Michel Widenius

Mikaela, welcome to TheCrimeHouse!

For our readers who may not know who you are, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Mikaela Bley and I am 36 years old. I live in Stockholm, Sweden, with my husband Dag and our two children Hermine Lily (5 years old), and Douglas (3 years old). My first crime novel Lycke was published in March 2015 and I am writing the sequel Liv right now (it will be published in Sweden after the summer). My  series about the willful TV4 reporter Ellen Tamm is sold to ten countries, so far. My dream is to continue to write for a living.

How did your writing career start? And how did it happen when Lycke was published?

I have always dreamt of writing and creating stories. The writing has always been there and I have always had many stories, characters and scenarios in my head.

I worked as a purchaser at TV4 and bought movies, TV-series and documentaries and when I could decide it was often well-made crime documentaries. I have always had a fascination for dark stories. I think it’s because I want to understand. Find nuances and grey areas for the good and the evil and in that way process my fears. There is nothing black or white. To understand the reason for an action does not make it right, but it can increase the understanding, and there somewhere was the seed for my series. There are so many things I want to bring about and even more I want to explore and find out and I do that by writing fiction.

A story developed. A story that was so so strong I had to do something with it.

I signed up for a writing class, which was one week long, and it was a good way of getting started. I received some basic advice on how to structure my work.

When I felt that the story could actually turn into something I decided to go for my dream, so I quit my job to write full-time. I needed that pressure and I needed to decide. If not, there would have been a semi-finished manuscript in a drawer now.

When I finally finished, which took longer and was much harder than I had thought, I sent the manuscript to a few publishers. Then a horrible wait followed. It took several months before they responded and there was nothing I could do to influence the situation in the meantime. That is when I started writing the sequel. And then I googled, kind of like you do when you have a symptom, but I googled how difficult it is to get published, how they handle all the manuscripts they receive, how they barely read them and different stories of how writing dreams were crushed and how terrible it is to get a refusal letter.

I received a couple of refusals, and that was tough. A no is a hello, my husband (who works in sales) said to encourage me. I started thinking about how to change the manuscript when Lind & Co contacted me and not only wanted the novel, but a whole series! It still feels surreal.

How long did it take to finish the novel and how much of that time was research and how much was writing time?

It took approximately three years to finish Lycke, but during that time I had our second child, so I did not write full-time. It is difficult to say how I have divided the time. I have spent a lot of time doing research, and since Lycke is my first novel I have also spent a lot of time on the writing and the dramaturgy.

Can you please tell us a little about the main character Ellen Tamm and how you came up with the character?

Ellen came to me bit by bit and when she was clear enough I started writing her story.

I am often asked if I have a lot in common with my main character Ellen, and I think I do, probably more than I had intended when I started writing her story. Ellen has a dark past, something she has not faced and that impacts her daily, I call it a frozen grief. Ellen handles her frozen grief by working with things that hurt, so she doesn’t have to face her own pain. She focuses on things that distract her to try to suppress the memories of what happened. That’s why she works with terrible crimes and death.

I do too. I write about terrible crimes and death. I also process things in my past, things I have experienced in one way or another. But not to the same extent as Ellen, for me it’s mostly about fear of things that could happen.

Ellen Tamm works as a criminal reporter for Swedish channel 4 (TV4). How have you used your own knowledge and experiences from your time at TV4 in your writing?

A lot. You should write about what you know, and I really like TV4 and I am happy that I can use my old workplace as a believable setting for a fictitious story. It is an exciting world and I think many are interested in finding out what is going on behind the cameras.

Where did you get your inspiration? (Ellen Tamm reminds me of Liza Marklund’s reporter Annika Bengtzon, and the environment reminds me of Denise Rudberg’s crime novels.)

I am inspired by everything and everyone. It can be a conversation at a café, a movie, something I see on the street, an event or a feeling I want to understand. I am inspired by all people I meet.

I really like both Denise Rudberg and Liza Marklund, so I am honored to be mentioned in the same context as them. But I don’t think Ellen Tamm and Annika Bengtzon has anything more in common than the fact that they are both female reporters.

When it comes to crime, they exist in all social classes. Denise and I partly use the same environments. I think it’s an exciting setting to write and read about.

If (or when) Lycke is adapted into a movie, what actors would you like to see as the main characters?

WHEN :) Lycke is adapted to a movie in Sweden I would like to see Aliette Opheim playing Ellen. And Zlatan as Jimmy :)  (Translators note: Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic)

Do you have any writing role models? If so, who? And why?

Many. All writers are role models, but in different ways. I can find something to be inspired by in almost everything I read. I like when there is a structure in the way the story is told. The language and characters are often more important than the story, even though I need to find out early where I am going when I start reading. If not, I will be bored, unfortunately. Right now I almost prefer to read preliminary investigations ( förundersökningar) than fiction.

What advice do you have for our readers who are aspiring authors?

Visualize a goal and be prepared to work hard to get there. Don’t give up! For me it was important to decide that I would succeed. I think that if you want something badly enough you will get there eventually, but there are no shortcuts and it takes a lot of hard work. At the same time it’s important that you write because you think it’s fun.

Then it’s also important to believe in yourself and your story! I quit my job and bet all on my writing. I was focused and a clear goal of succeeding, there were no other alternatives. You need to have a comprehensive faith in that what you do is right and that is a big challenge when you work alone. I believed in myself and my story, even though there were many sleepless nights and much concern.

How is the work on the sequel going? And can you please tell us a little bit about it?

Liv, the sequel to Lycke, will be published after the summer. Liv takes place in the part of Sweden where Ellen grew up and begins the summer after Lycke disappeared. In Liv we get to know more about Ellen and her history. In parallel we find out about Liv’s destiny. It has been and exciting journey to write Liv and very emotional. I have laughed, cried, been scared, in love, angry, sad, mad and had panic attacks just like Ellen. Death, death, death. The pressure to perform has been brutal at times, but now, I am so happy with the novel and look forward to seeing it in stores.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with the next novel!

 

Note: This interview has been translated from Swedish

Making a Murderer

Making-a-Murderer

Crime Documentary

Is there anyone who has missed the documentary Making a Murderer? It is a somber crime documentary mostly consisting of courtroom footage, recorded phone calls and conversations with relatives, attorneys and police. The Netflix series has become a phenomenon and few series have engaged the public this much. People cannot stop discussing the case and drawing their own conclusions. I bet we will see many similar series in the near future.

Steven Avery

The series follow the American Steven Avery, who was convicted of attempted rape in 1985. He served 18 years in prison until he was exonerated thanks to DNA evidence and another man was convicted instead. Steven Avery then started a civil lawsuit process against the sheriff’s department and district attorney of Manitowoc County. When the conclusion was near Steven was accused of murder. The photographer Teresa Halbach had been murdered and the evidence pointed to Steven. The question throughout the series is whether or not he will be convicted and spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“They’re not just going to hand Steven Avery $36 million” —Kim Ducat, Steven’s cousin

Guilty or Not?

The goal of the series was not to express Steven’s guilt (or innocence) but to discuss the American justice system. Regardless of his guilt, the case was handled in a highly irresponsible way and I doubt anyone can help but be touched when Steven’s underage nephew Brendan Dassey says: ”I’m stupid, Mom… I’m really stupid.”

A Taste of Crime: Risotto à la Camilla Läckberg

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One of Swedish crime writer Camilla Läckberg’s favorite dishes is risotto, and this dish has become one of our favorites too. Risotto, salmon, balsamic glaze, mascarpone, cashew nuts, and croutons. Yum!

Risotto Läckberg

Pictures and instructions (in Swedish from 2013) can be found on Martin Melin’s blog (Camilla Läckberg’s ex-husband).

Lycke by Mikaela Bley

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Missing Girl

The novel should have a warning-label – should not be read by parents. Or maybe it is because I am a parent that the book scares me a little more. Nothing would be worse than your child going missing and that is exactly what happens when 8-year-old Lycke disappears without a trace. We soon find out that Lycke had a pretty miserable life. Her parents are divorced and do not get along, the dad has remarried and his new wife does not think Lycke fits in in the new family, and she does not seem to have any friends.

Ellen Tamm

The main character is the criminal reporter Ellen Tamm who works at Swedish TV Channel 4, and she is covering the case. It reminds her of an event in her past that she has not fully processed and she is swept up by her feelings. As if that was not enough, her ex-boyfriend is now her boss, which further complicates the situation.

Many Suspects

The novel is an easy read and flows well. At first the chapters shift focus between the novel’s female characters and you find out things they want to keep secret. Almost all of the adults in the novel can be considered suspects. I still have a few questions when the book ends, but it does not matter too much and I guess that some will be answered in the coming novels about Ellen Tamm.

Christmas Gift Ideas

Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Below are some books that will make great gifts!

maThe Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

A great book! Suspenseful, interesting, beautiful, loving…there are many words you could use to describe The Murderer’s Ape. The fact that this novel has not become a success in the same class as Harry Potter is a mystery to me.

If you have a difficult time getting your children to read books – give them this one as an audiobook! I bet they will be so caught up in it that they’ll even forget to ask when Santa is coming.

 

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UltiMatum by Anders de la Motte

This is the second book in the series that started with MemoRandom. I actually have not read this one yet; I have saved it as a Christmas present for myself. #treatyourself

But Anders de la Motte have become somewhat of Sweden’s equivalence of the American computer animation film studio Pixar. If you see that name on something you know that it is good!

Read Sara’s review…

 

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This may be the year’s most hyped up crime fiction novel internationally. It is good, but it does not make it into my top 5 list of crime fiction novels read in 2015. With that said, it will still make an excellent Christmas present for someone who likes to discuss novels on their coffee break.

 

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Mr Mercedes av Stephen King

A hard boiled thriller by Stephen King, could that be something? Yes, actually. This one is really good. King knows how to create a suspenseful story and this time the plot is also excellent. It is very hard boiled and raw.

 

cuckoos-calling

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

This is the second novel in the series about Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. If someone does not know, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for one of our times bestselling authors. Unfortunately it was disclosed way too early by mistake. Too bad, because this novel is really good. Give the first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and the sequel The Silkworm, to someone who appreciate an entertaining suspense novel.

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