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.
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.”
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!
Pictures and instructions (in Swedish from 2013) can be found on Martin Melin’s blog (Camilla Läckberg’s ex-husband).
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.
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.
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.
Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Below are some books that will make great gifts!
The 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The Edgar award winning short story “The Grownup” by Gillian Flynn originally appeared as “What Do You Do?” in George R. R. Martin’s “Rogues” anthology in 2014, and it was recently published as a standalone.
The narrator (whose name we never learn) is a woman just over 30, who loves books, particularly horror stories. As a child she and her lazy mom begged for cash and now she is administering hand jobs in the back of a fortuneteller’s office with the clever name Spiritual Palms, but because of an injured wrist she moves into the front office and starts working as a medium instead.
There she meets the client Susan Burke, a rich, disheveled woman who believes her Victorian house is haunted. The narrator offers to cleanse the aura of the house to make some easy money. However, she quickly realizes something is very wrong, but is the house or family to blame? As expected in anything written by Flynn things are not as they first seem and the story takes many twisted turns.
Creepy, Twisted and Dysfunctional
If you have read any of Gillian Flynn’s novels: Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, or Dark Places, you know that she is a master of creating creepy and twisted plots with dysfunctional characters. This eerie short story is no different. It leaves you wanting more and I feel the story could have been fleshed out to a novel and I also think it is movie-adaptation worthy. If you liked Flynn’s novels you won’t be disappointed!
The Director is the moviemaker Angelika Braun’s debut in the crime fiction world. There has been a lot of hype about this novel, and there are already plans for a movie.
The novel was presented as a fast paced and film-like whodunit. It is definitely fast paced and film-like, but I do not see the whodunit connection. This is a thriller with a classic serial killer. Someone is murdering men in Stockholm in spectacular ways. The main characters are Signe, a director who is trying to succeed in the cutthroat movie business, and Björn, a behavioral scientist and teacher who is working on his temper.
Film, Yes! Novel…Not So Sure
I have no problem seeing this story as a movie. The characters are definitely interesting, but I am not sold on the story as a novel. After all, there is a difference in how you write scripts and novels and you can tell.
Anders de la Motte became known thanks to the Geim-trilogy, which was innovative, fresh, and fast paced. Then MemoRandom came, which was the first part in a new series that is much more hardboiled. UltiMatum is #2 and there will probably a third novel as well.
It really annoys me when publishers advertise novels as independent when they are not. You could of course read this novel separately, but you would probably be confused. The novels definitely belong together! In other words, read MemoRandom first and things will make more sense.
Power Struggles, Betrayal and Business
That’s what it’s all about. What are people prepared to do to get power? There are pacts that are created and renegotiated and sometimes broken due to betrayal. And in the criminal world it comes right down to business. Win or lose, if you show any sign of weakness you’re out. Police, politician or gangster, it doesn’t matter. Everyone is playing the game and who is on what side is negotiable.
Comeback of Women
I complained that women only played a small role in MemoRandom, especially compared to the Geim-trilogy. Here it’s better again. Both the character Natalie and the police Julia get more room, although Julia’s cleverness and “I’m the best in the class” syndrome annoy me. Another wish was granted as well. The gangster with the big heart, Atif, plays a bigger role in this novel.
With the Geim-trilogy and the two latest novels Anders de la Motte shows that he is a Swedish crime writing force to be reckoned with. It took a few chapters to get into the story and refresh the memory from the last novel; there are many things to keep straight. But then I got the great and at the same time sad feeling you get when a book is really good; you want more but then you realize that it may be a year or more until the next novel is published…
It will be extremely interesting to see how he’ll tie it all together with a third novel (a trilogy is sufficient, no never-ending series please). Then I want to know what’s next. More hardboiled ficton? Something innovative again, or something in a different crime genre? Bring it on!
I read about the bidding for the international rights for this novel and became curious. The novel had barely been published in Sweden and there was already so much interest abroad. What’s so special about it? I had to see for myself, so I downloaded the novel and started reading.
The publisher summarizes the novel like this: “On an idyllic late summer evening Greta, Alex and four-year old Smilla take a boat from the holiday cottage by mythical lake Maran and steer toward the small island in its centre. Greta remains behind in the boat whilst the other two go ashore to explore. Hours pass, but Alex and Smilla don’t return. Confused, Greta makes her way ashore, certain she’ll find them caught up in some game. Calling out and searching the island, she can find no trace of the two. They’ve simply vanished. No trace left behind. The mysterious disappearance, and the feverish search that follows, lead Greta step-by-step down into an abyss of confusion and increasing darkness…”
If you were to summarize the novel with one word it would be – unpredictable. You never know what is real, dream, imagination or fantasy. I get vibes from both Gone Girl and Night Film. Greta’s standard phrase “it escapes me” describes the reading experience perfectly. You think you know what’s going on but since the storyteller never tells the whole truth it is difficult to know for sure. The novel is a very original novel that keeps surprising you.
I have to admit that during the first half of the novel I almost gave up. It was not my style at all. But since it’s a short book, only 209 pages (on my tablet) I decided not to give up. I’m happy I didn’t, because nothing is what it first seems like and when the novel is finished I was exhausted from all its twists and turns, but also happy I finished it. Because otherwise I would have missed the reading experience that Caroline Eriksson gave us, and it turns out that the novel was actually the perfect length.
Adam Sarafis is the pseudonym for Swedish author Linda Olsson, who lives in New Zealand and the New Zealand born author Thomas Sainsbury. Something is Rotten is the first part in a planned trilogy.
A young man is found dead at a library in Auckland. The police think it was a suicide, but a friend of the man is convinced it was murder and asks Sam Hallsberg, former government advisor on terrorism now working as car mechanic, for help. Meanwhile, Lynette Church, one of the country’s best journalists, embarks on an investigation into the past of one of New Zealand’s most powerful businessmen.
Suspense = Main Priority
This is a pure thriller. Innocent people stumble on a mystery/conspiracy, get into trouble and then they are chased while they search for the truth. New Zealand is a whole new crime fiction setting for me, so that felt new and exciting, which made up for some clichés and the fact that this is not the first ragged/traumatized man we have seen as the main character. But when the plot got underway it mattered less. I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen to the characters and that is after all the main purpose of a thriller. The result is an ok thriller with plenty of questions and threads to follow up on in part two and three of the trilogy.
Libby Day’s mother and two sisters were brutally murdered on their Kansas farm when she was only seven years old. She testified that her brother Ben, fifteen at the time, was the killer and he has been in prison ever since. But was he the real killer?
The Kill Club
Almost thirty years later Libby Day (Charlize Theron) needs money and meets with “The Kill Club,” who believes her brother is innocent. They will pay her if she agrees to help them investigate the case (even though she testified her brother was the killer and he has never tried to appeal the verdict). It does not take long before she learns that her past may not be what it seems.
The film (released in 2015) based on the novel Dark Places by Gillian Flynn received mixed reviews and was not a blockbuster like the adaptation of her bestseller Gone Girl. However, I like the movie, mainly because I like the story. I am intrigued by the female characters in all of Flynn’s novels and how we are constantly reminded that both girls and women can be bad. (There are plenty of bad boys and men too.)
However, I see how some people can have issues with Charlize being cast as Libby Day. Flynn said in an interview with People that “Charlize was kind enough to apologize to me that she didn’t look enough like the character in the book” but Flynn also said “I was like, ‘You know what? I think we’re going to be just fine.'” I agree and, and if you had not read the novel you would not have even thought about it.