Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

The Fire Engine that Disappeared is the fifth book in the Martin Beck series, police procedurals, written by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. In this book Martin Beck of Stockholm plays a very small role and his team solves the mystery.

A man commits suicide in Stockholm and the police find Martin Beck's name written on a paper in his home. Was the man planning to call Martin Beck to inform him about anything? The case is suicide and is closed.

A man is under surveillance and his apartment complex bursts into flame. While the policeman in charge Gunvald Larsson saves the lives of eight residents, the man under surveillance and two others are dead. The fire Engine takes forever to reach the spot. The Fire Engine seems to have disappeared. But this is not the only fire Engine that disappears. Ronn, one of the officers in Beck's team, gifts his son a Fire Engine which also disappears. The boy has been unwell and did not leave the home for a while but his foot long fire engine has disappeared. Will Beck and his team solve the problem of the real and toy Fire Engines that disappeared?

I liked the underlying humour and turn of phrase in the book. For Example,

The question of the cause of the fire was Melander's headache, apart from the fact that he had never had a headache.

The blow that produced a veritable constellation of stars was delivered before lunch on the following day, that is, Wednesday, the twentieth of March, and it was Kollberg who quite undeservedly received it.

Interaction between the pathologist and Kollberg is funny. First the crime scene personnel pick up everything and anything and put in an evidence bag for analyses and then Ronn calls up and says the case has been closed and they can throw everything away. Then Larsson calls up to say that the case isn't closed and it's very important. Then Hammar tells him the case is closed. Then Beck calls up enquiring if they found something unusual. When the Pathologists has something important to say he cannot reach any one of them.

As a police procedural the story portrays the conflicts between different police personnel. While Kollberg believes that 'Larsson is not what you'd call a great brain', Larsson believes Sckake is a fool. While they disparage one and another and definitely dislike one another, they all work together efficiently producing results. Melander does the crime scene. Larsson solves the mystery of the (real) Fire Engine that disappeared with help from Ronn. Skacke, who hopes to become the Chief of Police, does the door to door, 'Operation Door-Knocking', to find the mysterious caller. Finally, it is police inspector Mansson of Malmo, third largest city in Sweden, who unties the major knots in the story and also solves the mystery of the toy fire engine that disappeared. Interesting Police Procedural.

I read the second book in the series The man who went up in smoke last year. I look forward to reading all the other books in this series.

Translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate and first published in English in 1971.

White Face by Edgar Wallace

A man with a white mask dubbed 'White Face' is causing havoc in London West End by relieving rich women of thousands of pounds worth jewellery. Nobody knows who White Face is. It looks like the work of a lone operator. Who is the White Face? This story is not a robbery case but a murder case. Dr.Marford of Tidal Basin witnesses a scuffle between two men on the pavement outside his clinic. One man falls down and the other confused runs away. After a while the fallen man rises and has a brief conversation with a passing policeman. The Policeman walks away and the fallen man falls again. An opportunistic small time thief makes an attempt to steal from the fallen man, the policeman notices it and catches him. They find that the fallen man is stabbed. Who stabbed him and how? Is it the devil of the Tidal Basin? Is it the White Face? How could whoever stabbed the man do it without being noticed by the people in the crime scene?

Initially I thought that crime reporter Michael Quigley is going to play a major role in investigating this case. But it is not so. While other policeman play a role, it is Chief Inspector Detective Mason who solves the case. Some of the interactions are funny. For example, when the thief caught at the crime scene quotes poetry while interrogation and detective asks him where he learnt it. He points out

“When I'm in stir I only read poetry," he explained. "The book lasts longer because you can't understand it.”

When the reporter Quigley questions Mason about the case, he responds

“You shall have the story when it's properly cooked—at present the oven is just heating up.”

In this work of fiction, Sergeant Elk explains the difference between real police work and a work of fiction.

“It was all about who-did-it. First of all they introduced you to about twenty characters, told you where they were born and who their fathers were, and what money they wanted and who they were in love with—you couldn't help knowing that the fellow who did the murder was the red-nosed waiter. But that's not police work, Dr. Marford. We're not introduced to the characters in the story; we don't know one. All we've got in a murder case is the dead man. What he is, who his relations are, where he came from, what was his private business—we've got to work all that out. We make inquiries here, there and everywhere, digging into slums, asking questions of people who've got something to hide.”

If you ever wondered what a Jury is, Elk explains
“The jury," said Mr. Elk oracularly, "is a body or institution which gives everybody the benefit of the doubt except the police.”

When Bray complains that his subordinate Elk is taking over the investigation sidelining him, Mason tells him

“As a matter of fact, you oughtn't to complain. These darned regulations about questioning prisoners are so framed that it's good to have some other officer responsible for breaking them—you can always pass the kick on to him. Shoot 'em in, Bray.”

While this book is not as fun as Yellow Snake by Edgar Wallace I read last year, it is a fairly decent mystery. Even though I guessed who White Face is, Wallace plays a nice little trick that very soon I am off track. I couldn't really guess how the man is stabbed with none of the witnesses seeing it.

This work is in public domain in countries where copyright is Life+70 and can be downloaded for free from Feedbooks.

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon

The book cover says "A gripping tale of Intrigue, Music and Obsession." Granted this book is about Music but a gripping tale of Intrigue and obsession it is not. It is more like the leisurely walk you take to your favourite place, stand on the bridge, watch the stream rambling, the boats floating by, the birds flying, enjoy the time with no care just stand and stare, see "in broad daylight Streams full of stars, like skies at night". (I am quoting from William Henry Davies' poem Leisure). Looking at the statues of angels, wonder how do the angels get dressed without causing damage to their feathers. Forget about the Twitter and Facebook obsessions travel back to a different time, holding the mundane correspondence of a great musician, wondering what 'treasure' lies hidden among his possessions. By all this I mean, it takes forever for the rambling stream to get to the hidden treasure. But all research is like that, isn't it? You find things in serendipity that you won't find in breaking your heads over it. Right! Now to the story!

When Caterina finds an offer for research work in her home town Venice, she decides to take the plunge without doing much research about this new work. Caterina is a musicologist specialising in baroque opera. Don't worry, I don't know anything about music too, nor am I familiar with the names the story tells me, but that did not get in the way of enjoying this book. Two chests containing the papers of Steffani a famous musician is discovered by his descendants referred to as the cousins. Caterina's work involves reading the documents in the chests in various languages to see if Steffani has left a Will or any inclination to which of the Cousins he wants his estate to be given. There is also a vague mention of a treasure. What does Caterina discover? Caterina works involves reading the background of the famous musician to make sense of the documents. What will Caterina discover about this musician?

I liked the interactions between Caterina and her sister Lina-Tina via email. There isn't much mystery, you actually know where this rambling stream is going, but it is a relaxing laid back journey.

The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham

Albert Campion narrates this story. I liked the interactions between Campion and Lugg, his butler, reminded me of Wooster and Jeeves. The story starts with the announcement of R I Peters funeral in the 'Deaths' column in the newspaper and an anonymous letter addressed to Campion about Peters' death. 'Pig' Peters was a school bully whose funeral Campion promised to attend after an unpleasant bullying incident in school.

Few months later, Campion starts a murder investigation. Who do you think is dead, this time? It's our late Pig Peters again. So what is happening here? Who killed Peters? Who is sending the anonymous letters to Campion? If Peters was dead this time, who died before? Whose funeral did Campion attend?

I worked out the mystery before the end. There were a few surprises though. Didn't realize that Lugg would play such a huge role in the mystery. About the methods for investigation Campion points out that,

I am not one of these intellectual sleuths, I am afraid. My mind does not work like an adding machine, taking the facts in neatly one by one and doing the work as it goes along. I am more like the bloke with the sack and spiked stick. I collect all the odds and ends I can see and turn out the bag at lunch hour.

Published in 1937, The Case of the Late Pig is a very short novel, enough to whet my interest into reading more Campion mysteries.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Evil Water by Inger Wolf

When two bodies of missing women were found in two suitcases near a farm, it wasn't just me who wondered, “how do you get a woman into a suitcase anyway? Is that really possible?”, Inspector Daniel Trokic of Ã…rhus, in Denmark, also shared my feeling.

Trokic and his team identify the women before long. They had been missing for months. What are the Y marks on the remaining skin of the rotten bodies? Trokic's team meet an entomologists and botanists to help with their investigation which leads them to a disused brown coal mine. What is the connecting link between both the women? How did the killer choose his victims? Will there be more victims? Will Trokic and his team stop the killer in time before he strikes again? What is the Africa connection? Does the Y signify something?

As murder methods go, here is one that is really bizarre and creepy, literally. Inger Wolf plays on our fears and disgust for slimy creatures and adds some obscure African traditions to create a scary tale. I didn't guess who the real killer is, though they were some clues around, and I should have guessed, given the number of mysteries I read. So the mystery is quite satisfying.

I like the ways the some of the ends are tied up. But there are some loose ends. Who is Bernard? How did Frederick know about the parasites? I don't think the police would be foolish enough to release or leak so much vital information to newspapers. So how did Frederick link the cases. He seemed to have made a huge leap connecting the cases, why didn't Trokic or somebody question him to find out how he made the link. There are other such small issues but they do not spoil the enjoyment of the novel. A creepy journey into a dark alley.

Originally published in Danish translated in English by the author Inger Wolf, herself, Evil Water is available as an ebook from Amazon.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for my opinion or this post.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

2013 Translation Challenge

I am signing up for the 2013 Translation Challenge. I planning to read some Scandinavian Crime and maybe a classic or two.

Criminal Plots III

I enjoyed this challenge last year. So here I am signing up for the Criminal Plots III challenge to read six books from these categories. Here is my tentative list.

1. Novel with an animal in the title : The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham

2. Two short stories written by two different authors who are new to you -

3. Book written by more than one person. - The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

4. A YA crime novel: Shelter by Harlan Coben

5. A book from a series optioned for televsion: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

6. A novel that's been nominated for an Edgar® in the last five years: Gone by Mo Hayder

Saturday, 5 January 2013

British Books Challenge 2013

I am signing up for the British Books Challenge 2013 aiming to read at least 12 books by British Authors. Some of my favourite crime writers are British so this is an easy challenge for me.

2013 Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge

Thanks Kelly and Missie for the $20 giftcard from amazon. I am in for another session of 2013 Why Buy Cow Reading Challenge Hosted by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. My kindle bookshelves are overflowing with freebies I have collected over last year. I would like to tackle some of them this year. I am hoping to read 12 books.

2013 Book Blogger Recommendation

I am signing up to read 5 books from the 2013 Book Blogger Recommendation challenge. I have selected the books from the entire list.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Sail by James Patterson
Explosive 18 by Janet Evanovich

2013 A-Z Reading Challenge

Lori at Escape with Dollycas is hosting 2013 A-Z Reading Challenge. Here are the details...

Challenge will run from January 1st, 2012 until December 31st, 2013. You can join anytime.

There are two different ways you can set up your own A-Z challenge.

A – Make a list now of 26 books, picking one for each letter of the alphabet. For example: A – The Azalea Assault B- Blue Monday C – Crops and Robbers D – A Deadly Grind etc.


B – Make a list on your blog from A-Z. Throughout the year, as you go along, add the books you are reading to the list. Hope that by the end of the year you have read one book for each letter. Towards the end of the year, you can check and see which letters you are missing and find books to fit.

I always like plan B.

Evil Water by Inger Wolf (2/1/13)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (4/1/13)

2013 A to Z Mystery Author challenge

I am signing up for the 2013 A to Z Mystery Author challenge. Last year, I completed this challenge finding an author in 'X' too. So I look forward to this challenge this year too. I will add the books as I read them.

Flynn, Gillian: Gone Girl (4/1/13)
Wolf, Inger: Evil Water (2/1/13)

The Classics Reading Challenge 2013

The Classics Reading Challenge is hosted by Thoughts at One in the Morning. I already signed up for the Back to the Classics Challenge and will be aiming for six books.

2013 Science Fiction Experience

I am signing up for the 2013 Science Fiction Experience . The “rules” of the experience are simple: there are none. Remember, this isn’t a challenge. If you would like to join us in discussing any science fiction reading or television viewing or movie watching you do over the time period, please do.

I am planning to read the following

The caves of steel by Issac Asimov
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 European Reading Challenge

I am signing up for the 2013 European Reading Challenge

In 2012, because of the European Reading Challenge I discovered European Crime mysteries especially the Scandinavian Noir. I look forward to read some of the authors I read in 2012 and some new authors. Instead of a list of books, I will provide with a list of authors I look forward to read for this challenge.

Jo Nesbo (Norway)
Donna Leon (Italy)
Baantjer (Netherlands)
Petros Markaris (Greece)
Domingo Villar (Spain)
Leif Davidsen (Denmark)
Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo(Sweden)

Books Read

Evil Water by Inger Wolf (2/1/2013) (Denmark)
The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon (14/1/13) (Italy)
The Eye Collector by Sebastian Fitzek (16/1/13) (Germany)
The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham (21/1/13) (United Kingdom)
The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (29/1/13)(Sweden)

Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge

I am signing up Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge hosted by Kim at Bookmark to Blog. Kim has chosen ten key words associated with each month in 2013. Your task is to read one book each month whose title includes one or more of the key words for that month. For instance, in January you might read Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. The key words are listed below.


* The title you choose can be a variation on one of the key words. For example- your title could include the word 'snowing' or 'snowflake' even though the key word is 'snow.'

*Key words can be tweaked. For example- You could read "Cinder" or "Ashes" for the key word 'Fire' and that would be just fine. If the key word is 'family' then your title could include the word 'sister' or 'mother.'If the key word is 'food' then your title could include the word 'cake.'

* Link up at the challenge site (click above) to participate and add additional links any time you post about the challenge or post about a book you read for the challenge.

Bookmark To Blog

January- The fire engine that disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
February -

Back to the Classics Challenge 2013

Back to the Classics Challenge 2013 Sponsored by Sarah Reads Too Much. Here are the categories. I will add books as I read them.

The Required Categories:
1. A 19th Century Classic:
2. A 20th Century Classic:
3. A Pre-18th or 18th Century Classic:
4. A Classic that relates to the African-American Experience:
5. A Classic Adventure:
6. A Classic that prominently features an Animal:

Optional Categories:

A. Re-read a Classic:
B. A Russian Classic:
C. A Classic Non-Fiction title:
D. A Classic Children's/Young Adult title:
E. Classic Short Stories:

2013 Mystery/Crime Reading Challenge

I love a good mystery too, my favorite authors include Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and newly discovered (by me) Scandinavian Noir authors so I thought I would join the 2013 Mystery/Crime Reading Challenge hosted by Amy @ thecraftybooknerd to read mystery/crime novels and short stories. Here are some of the books I am planning to read

The Case of Late Pig by Margery Allingham
Trust your eyes by Linwood Barclay
The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine

What an Animal Reading Challenge VI

I am signing up for the What an Animal Reading Challenge VI to read at least six books that have an animal....on the cover, in the title, plays a major role, Main character is an animal or shifts

What's in a Name 6

I am signing up for the What's in a Name 6.

To read books in the following categories

A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You're Sorry, Dreams of Joy
A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

Color Coded Challenge 2013

I am signing up for the Color Coded Challenge 2013 hosted by Bev @My Reader's Block to

*Read nine books in the following categories.
1. A book with "Blue" or any shade of Blue (Turquoise, Aquamarine, Navy, etc) in the title.
2. A book with "Red" or any shade of Red (Scarlet, Crimson, Burgandy, etc) in the title.
3. A book with "Yellow" or any shade of Yellow (Gold, Lemon, Maize, etc.) in the title.
4. A book with "Green" or any shade of Green (Emerald, Lime, Jade, etc) in the title.
5. A book with "Brown" or any shade of Brown (Tan, Chocolate, Beige, etc) in the title.
6. A book with "Black" or any shade of Black (Jet, Ebony, Charcoal, etc) in the title.
7. A book with "White" or any shade of White (Ivory, Eggshell, Cream, etc) in the title.
8. A book with any other color in the title (Purple, Orange, Silver, Pink, Magneta, etc.).
9. A book with a word that implies color (Rainbow, Polka-dot, Plaid, Paisley, Stripe, etc.).

Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013

Happy New Year! Time to sign-up for challenges for the new year! I am signing up for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 2013. Bev @My Reader's Block is sponsoring the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge with a theme of "Scattergories." Our mission would be to fulfill at least 8 of the categories. I am planning to read more than 16 vintage mysteries. I will fit in the categories as I read the books.