French Crime Novel with a Philosophical Touch


Fred Vargas

Fred Vargas is a pseudonym for a very popular female French author. The Chalk Circle Man is the first novel in the series about Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg and it received the International Dagger Award in 2009. Vargas is also a historian and archaeologist.

The Chalk Circle Man

Someone is painting blue round circles on sidewalks at night in Paris which confuses the citizens, especially Commissaire Adamsberg who gets particularly suspicious. What does the person want? Everything escalates when they find a dead woman in one of the circles.

Very French

This novel is a bit weird. The characters are a little twisted and philosophical like caricatures. It feels very French and I like it. You get a bit of an Amelie from Montmartre vibe, but more somber. There is something about the French and their philosophical thinking; it is like it starts in the womb. Either way, I am now interested in reading the rest of the novels in the series. Vive la France!


Original title in French:  L’Homme aux cercles bleus


The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen


The Best Danish Crime Writer

In my opinion there is no doubt who is the king of crime writing in Denmark. I always look forward to every new novel in Jussi-Adler Olsen’s series about Department Q as much as a new season of Downton Abbey. The Hanging Girl is the sixth volume in the Department Q series (ten are planned).

New Age

New age is the theme of this novel. Mørck and his team are contacted by a colleague, Habersaat from the Danish island Bornholm, who wants their help with an old case that the police dismissed as a hit and run, but that Habersaat is convinced is a murder case. All clues lead to a charismatic man who worships the sun and knowingly or not knowingly controls and manipulates people around him.

Psychology and Humor

As usual Adler-Olsen uses his knowledge and feeling for how you describe people from a psychological perspective to create his very entertaining main characters, who in large part, are caricatures. Department Q is a small team who solves old cases. The leader of the group is Carl Mørck, and he is stuck in the basement of the police headquarters with his department because he is considered difficult to work with. Mørck is cynical but has an innate goodness. His assistants are Assad, who has a weird sense of humor and a dark and secret background, and Rose, a complex double-natured headstrong woman, who is more effective than most. Management has also forced the newcomer Gordon onto the team. He is not the smartest one, but he is slowly becoming part of the team.

The Movies

The first two novels (The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Absent One) have been adapted to movies. For some weird reason I have not seen them yet, but I am planning a movie night sometime soon, and I will of course review them as well.


The Hanging Girl will be published on Sep 8, 2015 in the U.S. by Penguin Random House.


I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjørk

travelling alone


I’m Travelling Alone

A six-year-old girl is found dead, hanging from a tree in the woods. She has a backpack and a tag around her neck saying: “I’m travelling alone.” Police Investigator Holger Munch gets assigned to the case. The former investigator Mia Krüger now lives at a secluded island in the Norwegian archipelago and is planning to kill herself. Holger Munch realizes he needs her help and convinces her to return to Oslo. Mia discovers something the others have missed; the dead girl has the number one carved into her fingernail. That means more children’s lives are in danger.

The Main Characters

Mia Krüger’s twin sister is dead and Mia has lost her will to live. She killed the man she held responsible for the sister’s death, but it did not heal her wounds. Mia is a very troubled person, but her intuition is invaluable for the Oslo Police. In some ways she is very similar to Lisbeth Salander. But in this novel the newly hired Gabriel Mørk has the hacker skills instead. Together with Holger Munch they get closer to the killer and the investigation gets dangerous and personal.

Want More

The novel is really good but could have been even better. There are several characters and red herrings that could have been used differently. Children disappear/get murdered, which is horrible, but I do not get that knot in my stomach that you would have expected. Despite that I really like the novel and look forward to the next one in the series.

Todesurteil (Death Sentence)


Austrian Crime Novel

I visited Vienna fairly recently and just had to check out local crime novels written in German. I found Todesurteil by Austrian Andreas Gruber. A long, long time ago I worked as an au-pair in Austria and learned German (with a Vienna accent), but I have not used it in years, so it was a bit rusty, which is why it took me a while to finish the novel. Unfortunately the novel does not seem to be available in English, but my recommendation is to read crime novels in their original language, especially if you are travelling in the country in question since you may even recognize some places.

Maarten S. Sneijders

Todesurteil is the second novel about Maarten S. Sneijder. He is a Dutch profiler working as a teacher at the Police Academy in Wiesbaden. Maarten is a high-performer and great at his job, but a jerk as a private person. Sabine Nemez is the sidekick. She is a young, nosy, impulsive, stubborn student. We also get to follow prosecutor Melanie Dietz. She is working on a case in Vienna where someone is kidnapping and killing young girls.

Exciting High-Speed Police Thriller

In summary the novel is an exciting high-speed police thriller. It is entertaining with a fast tempo. I like the characters even though you can find similar characters in many crime novels – middle aged workaholic with a complicated private life and a fiery young woman. That is why I appreciate that the author has added Melanie Dietz who adds some softness and maturity. Her therapy dog is a bonus. The plot is nicely tied together, but there is one twist too many at the end.

Other Crime Novels from Vienna

If you want to read other crime novels from Austria I can recommend Spuren des Bösen by Martin Ambrosch. The novels have been adapted to TV. They are about the psychiatrist and interrogation specialist Dr Richard Broch, who helps the police in Vienna with some cases. Broch is similar to Maarten S. Sneijders in many ways.


Interview with Anna Lihammer


Photo: Johanna Jeansson

Anna Lihammer has a PhD in Historical Archaeology. In January 2014 her first fictional novel ”As darkness is falling” (note: direct translation from Swedish) was published. It was critically acclaimed and received prestigious awards. In March 2015 the sequel was published.

Welcome Anna Lihammar!

You are an author and an archaeologist. What made you combine these careers?

I think the reason is my curiosity. I am driven by curiosity in my work as an archaeologist and in my writing. I have a will to learn more, a will to understand, and a will to find surprising connection between different things.

How did your writing career begin?

Everything actually started with a popular science book about archaeology that is about exciting finds. But after another fact book, that time about the Viking Age, I wanted to write about something else…

Do you think that your career as an archaeologist was why you wrote a historical crime novel?

Yes, I do. Maybe it has also affected my way of writing as a whole, or at least the way I create a story. I usually describe archaeology as a way of looking at the world, a way where you put fragments and material relics together to create a story about what once was.

Crime fiction is a genre that is characterized by good environmental descriptions, something that also is true for archaeology in a way.

In one sentence – How would you describe your crime novels for someone who had never heard of them?

You could maybe say that they are about what you are prepared to do to reach your goals in a world that is torn apart, but also about what you are prepared to do for others.

The main character Carl Hell is a special person. Can you tell us a little bit about him and how you created the character?

Carl tries to be a good person. He probably is a good person, but at the same time he is a pretty introverted and quiet person and others do not always realize that he has good intentions.

Carl and Maria Gustavsson work together because he wants to. He has never really asked her what she wants, which is typical for the time. Maria thinks that he has given her unexpected opportunities, but their relationship isn’t free from friction, rather the opposite.

What is it that fascinates you about the era that both your novels take place in?

The main question I ask myself when I look at the 1930s is: How could this happen? And how was it to live in a society with growing Nazism and threat of war.

How well do you know the places in the novel in real life?

I have visited most places that the novels cover (if they exist in reality). Stockholm, Uppsala, Berlin, Torshälla… I know some of them better than others.

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

It is really difficult to say how long it took. The writing probably didn’t take that long, but then again I have been thinking about them for a very long time. As an archaeologist I worked with relics from that time, e.g. refugee camps for people who come to Sweden to get away from WWII, with city blocks from the middle ages that were bombed to pieces in Germany, and with remains of people who were institutionalized at what would have been called “mental hospitals.”

I get the feeling that your novel is dealing with the standards of the time, that from our point of view are fairly obsolete; how did you relate to, e.g. the views of sterilization, gender discrimination, etc.? Did you want to explain things like that to a modern reader?

I think it is difficult to imagine what life was like in the 1930s society, and how different it was, especially when it comes to personal opportunities. Most people did not have the choices we have today, where gender, class and race do not dictate the conditions of one’s life. On the other hand, I think you can imagine what it would be like to be subjected to such repression. To not be able to be whoever you want and be categorized by others. And in a society that is changing in such a way that it has devastating and appalling consequences for your entire life.

The title ”As darkness is falling” (note: direct translation from Swedish) can be interpreted as a metaphor for the novel; how did you decide on the title?

For me the title reflects how darkness fell over Europe. How it was to live during that development, what you chose to see and what you chose to close your eyes to.

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

I like Christopher Isherwood, who in his books succeeds in combining a distance with a presence that is so palpable. His stories about the late 20s and the early 30s in Berlin – collected in Berlin Stories – are fantastic.

I am always curious about authors’ working places. What does yours look like?

I write a lot of notes by hand, preferably walking in those places the book is about. When I write I prefer to do it on the couch with the computer on my lap.

What is the most fun about writing? Figuring out the intrigue, creating characters, creating environments, or something different?

I think I like everything. It is fabulous to figure out the intrigue and create the characters, but as the writing progresses it’s like they take on a life of their own and break free from the roles I have given them. More often than not the result is something very different from what I had in mind in the first place.

What kind of books do you read?

It is quite a mix: non-fiction, fiction and most genres. Variation makes it fun.

What do reviews (of your novels) mean to you?

Of course it’s fun with positive reviews. But it’s above all exciting to see how others have perceived what I have written. Have I successfully communicated what I wanted? Have people created their own stories/pictures based on what was written and how do they differ from my own? What can I learn?

What is your advice to our readers who are aspiring writers?

My advice is to dare.

We are eagerly waiting for your next novel. Will there be any more historical crime novels with Carl Hell and Maria Gustavsson?

Right now I am working on the third novel in the same series.


Thank you so much for answering our questions and good luck with your future projects!


Please note: This interview has been translated from Swedish. The original interview was published on July 7, 2015 on Deckarhuset.

Win Ten Books

To celebrate the launch of BritCrime’s first free online crime fiction festival, 11-13 July, we have teamed up with BritCrime authors to give away one fabulous prize.

You could win a gift bundle of ten print books, including new releases by Colette McBeth and Sarah Hilary, and MJ McGrath’s Gold Dagger longlisted White Heat. This giveaway is open internationally. One lucky winner will win all ten books.

Please complete the entries in the Rafflecopter before midnight 10th July for a chance to win.

To learn more about the BritCrime festival, please visit http// and sign up to the newsletter. There will be giveaways and live Q&As with bestselling British crime fiction authors hosted on BritCrime’s Facebook page 11 & 12 July.

The Magpies + What You Wish For by Mark Edwards

No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

The Life I Left Behind + Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

White Heat by M J McGrath

Beyond the Rage by Michael J Malone

Follow the Leader + Watching Over You by Mel Sherratt

The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

White Tracks by Emelie Schepp

A woman involved in drug smuggling is found dead on a train in Norrköping. She traveled to Sweden with another woman who flees before the police arrive at the scene. It turns out that the women have ties to a person from Jana Berzelius’s past. As a prosecutor Jana works closely with the police and she definitely does not want to be connected to the person they are looking for. Jana has a double agenda and the question is whether or not she can stay a step ahead of the police, and at the same time help them solve the case without her secrets getting revealed.

Jana Berzelius

Jana Berzelius is a complex and memorable character. She is a strong, independent and successful woman with a dark past. She does not hesitate to use violence if necessary. Will she ever be able to shake off her past? Probably not, and in this novel more surprising details are revealed. Jana Berzelius is the strenght of the series and you cannot help but think of Lisbeth Salander.


This is the second novel with prosecutor Jana Berzelius as the main character. You should read the first one before reading this one, but just like Marked for Life, this novel captures the reader from page one and is impossible to put down. Is the story believable? Maybe not, but it does not matter. Emelie Schepp plans on writing eight novels in the series, and my only question is – when will the next one be published?!


Original title in Swedish: Vita spår.