Category Archives: crime

Review of A Darker State (Karin Müller #3) by David Young

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Excellent and compelling crime novel with the added bonus of being set in the former East Germany.

This is episode 3 of this fascinating police procedural, however each book works as a standalone.

What sets it apart from others is the unusual location, combined with the ideology, bureaucracy and secrecy that Oberleutnant Karin Müller and her team have to deal with

In this story Müller has been promoted to run a serious crimes unit and quickly has a difficult case on the border with Poland.

This story lives up to its title, showing a darker side of the GDR that challenges Karin’s belief in the GDR and her personal loyalties as well as the looming influence of the Stasi blocking enquiries and influencing the investigation. There’s various different timelines at play here, so you need to keep your wits about you, but I found this a real page turner.

David Young knows East Germany well. There’s some great details that would appear insignificant to many not familiar with the period or the politics. As a result the book portrays a fascinating landscape where David Young’s research captures well the feel (and the smell!) of 1970’s East Germany. It’s well worth reading his notes at the end about how the book developed and his research.

However, it’s worth not losing sight that it’s also a great crime novel with a richly detailed and complex female lead. According to David he’s contracted for another two books and I’m very much looking forward to the further adventures of Karin Müller.

If you like police procedurals, strong female characters, along with an Orwellian landscape then I recommend this.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but was not required to write a positive review.

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Review of District VIII: A Thriller by Adam LeBor

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Adam LeBor has created a fascinating character in Gypsy murder detective Balthazar Kovac. Even though he’s a policeman, he’s on the outside, not trusted by his colleagues and shunned by his own family.

When Kovac gets a text message with a photo he’s drawn into a web of government, international organized crime gangs and the ghosts of the Soviet and Nazi era that still haunt Budapest.

LeBor describes the gritty back alleys of District VIII with a knowledge seemingly of having walked these streets on the ground, and his knowledge of the Romany community with its customs and practices adds an extra layer of authenticity and gives the book a rich atmospheric feel.

His characterisations are strong too with menacing criminals, corrupt politicians and truth seeking journalists all described in compelling detail.

I greatly enjoyed this book and found it to be quite a page turner. I will be looking out for further works by this author.

I was given a copy of this book to review by the publisher, but wasn’t obliged to provide a positive review.

Review of The Blood Card (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery #3) by Elly Griffiths

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Another solid very readable atmospheric crime thriller from Elly Griffiths

This is the third outing of the “Magic Men” and I’m really enjoying the characters.

It is May 1953 and England is on the cusp of crowning a new Queen. The murder of a gypsy fortune and the stabbing of their old boss from the Magic Men days are linked as DI Edgar Stephens investigates.

Loads of strong characters here and excellent period details that provide and enjoyable and compelling British whodunit.

Elly Griffiths continues to capture the seedy, down at heel feel of the English South Coast expertly creating another highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place. I can’t wait for the fourth instalment of the “Magic Men”.

My thanks go to NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read an advance copy of this book.

Review of ” The Woman in Blue (Ruth Galloway, #8)” by Elly Griffiths

Another great labyrinthine Norfolk murder mystery.

Book 8 in the Ruth Galloway series and this centres around Walsingham, site of a popular religious pilgrimage & shrine. A young woman is found dead in a ditch and as always archaeology and history play a significant part in the story.

Having read previous books in the series this is like a comfortable pair of shoes as I’m already familiar with the great cast of characters and their complicated personal lives. New readers will find it easy to pick up, but best to start from the 1st book in the series.

The character of Ruth works really well. She’s strong, but with the human frailties we all have and prefer to keep hidden and the book captures the beautiful Norfolk coast well with a blend of fictional and real locations sprinkled through the story.

There are plenty of twists to keep you guessing and I for one didn’t guess the culprit at all!

I’d recommend the whole series for fans of Midsomer Murders, Morse, Endeavour, etc.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” Smoke and Mirrors” (DI Stephens & Max Mephisto #2) by Elly Griffiths

A highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place.

A double murder is committed as pantomime season is in full swing in Brighton in the 1950s.

Somehow the two are connected and DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate.

Assisting Stephens is Max, one of the pantomime’s stars who served with Stephens in a shadowy, secret unit called the Magic Men, formed to use stage trickery to confuse the enemy.

This is the second book by Elly Griffiths to feature the “Magic Men” and she continues to capture the seedy, down at heel feel of the English South Coast expertly. Reading the end notes it is clear she has researched the period extensively and illustrates well the showbiz element.

There’s many other characters richly portrayed and watch out for Emma the only female in DI Stephens investigative team. I can see a spin off coming featuring her career!

The book itself twists and turns and I failed to spot the culprit, with Elly expertly sending me down various blind alleys .

All in all a highly readable atmospheric crime thriller, with a great sense of time and place. I’m really looking forward to the further adventures of the “Magic Men”.

Review of " Death in Shanghai" by M.J. Lee

Review of ” Death in Shanghai” by M.J. Lee

Solid police procedural set in rarely covered location.

Set in the Shanghai International Settlement, Russian Inspector Danilov is working for the Shanghai Municipal Police, a predominantly British force who policed the British and American Concessions.

It’s worth explaining the origins of the Shanghai International Settlement as it’s an interesting 19th century and early 20th century anomaly.

It originated following the Treaty of Nanking. Under the terms of the treaty, the Chinese city of Shanghai opened to foreign trade. The British, already active in Hong Kong, which had been ceded to them under the Treaty of Nanking, quickly established a settlement.

American and French involvement followed with distinct areas of settlement for the French in the south and the Americans to the north drawn out of the British settlement. The three countries created the Shanghai Municipal Council to serve all their interests, but in 1862, the French concession dropped out of the arrangement. The following year the British and American settlements formally united to create the Shanghai International Settlement.

The book is set in 1928 and the book starts with Danilov’s arrival on the scene of one of a series of brutal killings. A number of interesting characters populate the book which effectively shows the limitation of the police force at that time and the ethnic friction created by the overtly racist views of some of the British population.

Danilov’s background story is an interesting one and certainly provides further subject matter for what appears to be planned as a series of books.

Although compared to Philip Kerr and the Bernie Gunther books I’m not sure that’s fair, it’s an entertaining read and bodes well for further stories in the series.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of ” Stasi Child (Karin Müller #1)” by David Young

Excellent and unusually located police procedural set in the former East Germany.

I can’t think of many English language detective novels set in the former East Germany and David Young has created a fascinating character in the damaged but tenacious Oberleutnant Karin Müller.

In most countries she’d be just a regular cop in charge of the murder team, however this is communist ruled East Germany and she’s a card carrying party member believing in “real and existing socialism”.

Investigating a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Berlin wall Karin has to walk a political tightrope that adds an extra frisson to the story as she deals with her superiors and the Stasi, the East German secret police.

Whilst many police procedurals have conflict with superiors in East Germany conflict with superiors can mean at best dismissal then demotion to a menial job or at worst death.

David Young’s research is impeccable with fantastic attention to detail from the procedures in the Stasi remand prisons to the uniqueness of Volvo tyre tracks as well as capturing well the feel of 1970’s East Germany.

If you like police procedurals, strong female characters, along with an Orwellian landscape then read “Stasi Child”.