Sunday 23 December 2012


Having been glued to the Danish detective series The Killing with its morose heroine detective Sarah Lund I've been wanting to dip my toe into the genre of Scandi-crime novels.

Radio 4 recently adapted the classic Swedish crime novel Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo who famously wrote the Martin Beck series after putting their children to bed.  Roseanna was so riveting on the radio I knew I had to read the book.

The body of a young woman is spotted in the scoop of a dredger clearing a Swedish lake.  Detective Martin Beck is bought in to investigate and he begins the painstaking process of identification which takes several weeks as no missing person has been reported.  After discovering her identity he then attempts to unravel the events which resulted in her death.

Before internet, mobile phones and sophisticated forensics the process is time-consuming with long periods of inactivity and boredom.  Beck, however is tenacious and assisted by his able colleagues he finally makes a breakthrough.

Published in the 1960's this classic police procedure novel has barely dated.  Although you may wince at a couple of the expressions used to describe women it is not gory or excessively violent.  I now want to read more in the Martin Beck series and I'm also going to try Liza Marklund.

Any Scandi-crime recommendations would be very welcome.  Season's Greetings to all bloggers and readers!

Sunday 2 December 2012

Penguin Classics

Every now and again I like to read outside of my comfort zone and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad was certainly that. A perceptive examination of the music industry with its drug casualties, sell-outs, passion and punks.  At times it's brilliant, at others uneven but I did like the kleptomaniac Sasha.  If you've ever sat through a 'death by Powerpoint' presentation at work you will appreciate Egan's creativity with one whole chapter relayed by Powerpoint slides.

I blame Anbolyn and this lovely post for my inability to resist the new clothbound Penguin Classics editions of Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park . I do like the embossed covers and best of all Sense and Sensibility has the original Penguin introduction by that most perceptive of Austen critics Tony Tanner.

Talking of Austen critics The Sky Arts Book Show which seems to have been renamed Mariella's Book Show featured a highly enjoyable interview with John Mullan talking about his excellent book What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved.  Much as I like Mariella (and I always like to check out what she is wearing!) she seemed a bit lukewarm about Austen.  No accounting for taste I suppose.

I like the fact that Jane Austen is down-to-earth about money.  In a letter to her brother she wrote of her pride in receiving royalties for Sense and Sensibility "I have now written myself into £250 and it only makes me long for more."  She knew that women - particularly single women - needed money to survive and thrive. 

The novel is dominated by money.  Mrs Dashwood and her daughters are forced to live in reduced circumstances because of the selfishness of their brother and his appalling wife.  Willoughby marries an heiress rather than Marianne to clear the debts caused by his extravagance.  Mrs Dashwood continually imagines she can live beyond her income and her optimistic speech about her financial outlook is one of the most amusing in the novel.

"I could wish that the stairs were handsome. But one must not expect everything; though I suppose it would be no difficult matter to widen them.  I shall see how much I am beforehand with the world in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly."  In the mean time, till all these alterations could be made from the savings of an income of five hundred a year by a woman who never saved in her life, they were wise enough to be contented with the house as it was ...
Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility,1811