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Pizza Lover’s Mystery series

When her husband Joe died in a car accident, Eleanor Swift takes over running the Slice of Delight, a pizzeria in the sleepy town of Timber Ridge, North Carolina.  Eleanor’s much divorced and not altogether reliable sister Maddy Spencer helps staff the shop.  Timber Ridge being a fictional cozy town, at least one body per book is found and, more often than not, Eleanor is targeted as the prime suspect.  Pizza recipes and pizza lore add to the fun.  Killer Crust (Kensington, 12/2012) is the 5th book in the series.  Cris Cavender is the pseudonym  of Tim Myers, author of many cozy series.

–posted 12/18/2012

Posted December/18/2012

Finnish Mystery Series

http://www.esequels.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/round-finland.jpgFinland seems to have a rich history of crime novels, including  Mika Waltari’s curmudgeonly Inspector Palmu of the Helsinki police who made his first appearance in 1939.  The books were made into popular films in the 1960s. Kirsti Porras, Finland’s first female author of detective novels, wrote three books in the 1940’s featuring Helsinki Inspector Kanerva.   Marton Taiga was a prolific author of police procedurals starring the very fat but wily police Inspector W.J. Kairala, popular in the 1930s and 40s.  But very few modern Finnish mysteries have been translated into English, perhaps they are too bleak for American tastes.   Here is a sampling of what is available.

Joensuu, Matti

Matti Joensuu, until recently a criminal investigator in the Helsinki Police Department, started writing crime fiction because it helped him process the sad and terrible crimes he has seen in the line of duty.  He has extraordinary insight into the lives of ordinary people and how easily they may fall into crime.  So far he has written ten novels starring Detective Sergeant Timo Harjunpää of Helsinki’s Violent Crimes unit.  Harjunpaa’s fatalism seems even deeper than Kurt Wallander’s.  The criminals Harjunpaa pursues reflect the callousness of society and the resulting apathy that seems to afflict so many lives.  Only three novels have been translated into English

1.  Stone Murders (St. Martin’s, 1987)

2.  The Priest of Evil (Arcadia, 2006)

3.  To Steal her Love (Eurocrime, 2008)

Lehtolainen, Leena

Leena Lehtolainen started writing novels when she was ten years old and has now become one of the best-selling novelists in Finland, having twice won the Finnish crime novel society yearly prize. She is best-known for her crime series featuring red-headed Maria Kallio, of the Helsinki police. There are ten books in the series, though only four have been translated into English. By the second novel in the series Maria has left Helsinki and gotten a law degree, but she is still an investigator at heart.  Later books in the series will show Maria getting married, having children and balancing work and family with ease.  Maria is refreshingly upbeat, not weary and depressed like so many of her male counterparts.

1.  My First Murder, (Amazon Crossing, 2012)

2.  Her Enemy (Amazon Crossing, 2013)

3.  Copper Heart (AmazonCrossing, 2014)

4.  Snow Woman (AmazonCrossing, 2014)

Nykanen, Harri

Finnish author Harri Nykanen has written nearly 30 books, including two series. He won the Finnish crime novel society’s yearly prize in 1990 and 2001.  Nykanen’s series about an underworld hitman named Raid was a hit in Finland and was made into a successful 12-episode TV series which has been shown in parts of the U.S.   Raid gets into all sorts of scrapes that bedevil Detective Lieutenant Jansson of the Helsinki police force. Carl Hiaasen fans will enjoy these books.  Only two of the Raid series are available in the U. S.

1.  Raid and the Blackest Sheep (Ice Cold Crime, 2010)

2.  Raid and the Kid (Ice Cold Crime, 2012)

Nykanen’s second series stars  the eccentric Inspector Ariel Kafka of Helsinki’s Violent Crime Unit.  Kafka is one of only two Jewish policemen in the country.

1.  Nights of Awe (Bitter Lemon, 2012)

2.  Behind God’s Back (Bitter Lemon, 2015)

Sariola, Mauri

In addition to writing more than 100 books, Sariola translated a dozen English-language authors, including Erle Stanley Gardner.  He achieved popular success with two crime series:  the Inspector Susikoski books and the Inspector Wolf Rapids series which were made into a Finnish television series.  Sariola won international recognition with The Helsinki Affair, which was translated into many languages, including English.  Of the four subsequent novels featuring young lawyer Matti Viima, only the Torvick Affair was published in the U.S.  Sariola’s good eye for detail makes his books an interesting chronicle of life in Finland from the 1950s to mid-1980s.  He also wrote books under the pseudonym of Esko Laukko.  He died in 1985.

1.  The Helsinki Affair (Walker, 1971)

2.  The Torvick Affair (Walker, 1972)

Sipila, Jarkko

Finnish reporter and crime novelist Jarkko Sipila, has written nine Helsinki Homicide novels featuring Lieutenant Detective Kari Takamaki, the head of the Helsinki Police Violent Crimes Unit. Takamaki is refreshingly different from most Nordic policemen, he is a good husband and father, he’s not an alcoholic and he gets along with his colleagues and superiors. Another prominent character is Suhonen, who does most of the undercover work. Sipila’s police procedurals, which he has adapted for TV, take readers into a world of organized crime, gangs and corrupt officials. So far only five books in the series have been translated into English.

1.  Against the Wall (Ice Cold Crime, 2009)

2.  Vengeance (Ice Cold Crime, 2010)

3.  Nothing But the Truth (Ice Cold Crime, 2011)

4.  Cold Trail (Ice Cold Crime, 2013)

5.  Darling (Ice Cold Crime, 2014)

Christmas on Duty (2013) is a short story only available on Kindle.

Thompson,  James

Thompson (d. 2014) was an American who lived in Helsinki.  His protagonist Kari Vaara, is a hardened Helsinki police detective, trying to navigate honorably through the pervasive corruption of the country and the police force.  The first book in the series, Snow Angels, was nominated for both an Edgar and an Anthony award.  Later in the series we see Vaari’s health threatened by a brain tumor and his wife succumbing to alcoholism.   This is undoubtedly one of the darkest Scandinavian crime series, but it is well written and very moving.

1.  Snow Angels (Berkley, 2010)

2.  Lucifer’s Tears (Putnam, 2011)

3.  Helsinki White (Putnam, 2012)

4.  Helsinki Blood (Putnam, 2013)

Helsinki Noir (Akashik, 2014) is a collection, edited by Thompson, of short stories, mostly about crime in Helsinki.

Wagner, Jan Costin

When we first meet him, Finnish police detective Kimmo Joentaa, is dazed with grief. He has just nursed his beautiful young wife through her decline and death from cancer. Though he should be on leave, he insists on going back to work in order to bring some semblance of meaning back to his life. He throws himself into a strange serial murder case and in the process comes to terms with his loss. Wagner’s touching and insightful portrait of this policeman doing his job under extreme emotional tension is memorable.

1.  Ice Moon (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

2.  Silence (Pegasus, 2011)

3.  The Winter of the Lions ( Harvill Secker, 2011)

4.  Light in a Dark House (Random House UK, 2014)

–revised 4/6/2015

Posted December/10/2012

Australia’s flapper sleuth

phrynePhryne (pronounced “fry knee”) Fisher, Australia’s inimitable flapper sleuth, is now well-known to American readers thanks to Poisoned Pen’s reprints of the this charming cozy series.  When we first meet her, Phryne is a fabulously wealthy, single woman living in London in the late 1920s. Although she enjoys the daring high life and fashions of the era, Phryne craves adventure and decides that “it might be rather amusing” to move to Australia and become a private detective.  In spite of her upper class background Phryne  never hesitates to delve into Melbourne’s  lower depths with the help of some slightly disreputable fellows  who become her assistants.   Her trusty housemaid Dot also gets roped into Phryne’s investigations.  When not actively chasing down criminals, Phryne lounges in bed with her mysterious Asian lover, at least in the books.  Australian author Kerry Greenwood has published 20 Phryne books so far and they seem to be still coming.

Note:  Thirty-four episodes of the TV series made by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are available  in the United States through Acorn Online and Netflix.  The TV series is called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  

–post revised 1/2015

Posted December/9/2012

The Curse of the PTA

Beth Kennedy, divorced children’s bookstore owner in Rynwood, Wisconsin, is secretary of the PTA at Tarver Elementary school, where her two children, Jenna and Oliver, go to school.  Beth is savvy and determined–skills she has honed tangling with her contentious nemesis, PTA Vice-President Claudia Wolff.  Unlike Claudia, Beth has a sense of humor.  Beth’s skills also make her an excellent amateur sleuth who goes into action when she spots something suspicious. With the PTA, the school, or her bookshop as a possible setting, author Laura Alden has a fairly wide choice of plot possibilities.  Murder at the PTA was an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel.  The fourth novel in the series, Curse of the PTA will be published by Signet in April, 2013.

–posted 12/4/2012

Posted December/4/2012

 
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