Monthly Archive: July 2015

Read Me Deadly: Breaking Out of a Slump 0

Read Me Deadly: Breaking Out of a Slump

I’ve had a terrible time finding good mysteries lately, to the point where I feel happy if I find a book I think is even just OK. But I finally read a couple in the past month that I felt a lot more than OK about. William Shaw’s The Kings of London (Mulholland Books, January 27, 2015) is the second in his police procedural series set in 1960s London.

But this is only a little bit the Swinging London of the Beatles, Stones, long hair, granny glasses and Mary Quant minidresses. Mostly, it’s the just-barely-out-of-postwar rationing, lousy food, racist and sexist London. Cathal Breen is a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police, and the son of an Irish workingman.

Breen looks and speaks like any other Londoner but, inevitably, the rest of the members of the force call him Paddy, and he will never be fully accepted as one of them. Another misfit is his sometime partner, WPC Helen Tozer. Tozer, one of the few women on the force who does anything other than traffic patrol and serving as a family liaison, has it even worse than Breen when it comes to taking guff from the other police officers and firefighters and anybody on the street.

As The Kings of London begins, Breen’s in a bit of a funk. His father, who had dementia for a long time and whom Breen had taken care of, has now died and this casts a pall over the upcoming Christmas season. He’s even more glum knowing that Tozer is soon to leave the force to go back to run her family’s farm after her father has become too ill to manage.

As if this isn’t enough, Breen is getting death threats at work and he has a new neighbor from hell up above his basement flat. It’s almost a welcome relief to Breen when he catches the gruesome case of a man’s body found in a burned building with his skin and hands removed and the carcass drained of blood. Though this looks like a case of torture, Breen soon figures out what really happened.

Now it’s just a question of why and whodunnit. Those are tougher questions than usual, given the resistance Breen and Tozer receive from the victim’s family and higher-ups in the Met. If you’ve been looking for a good police procedural, check this one out, especially if the idea of a novel set in London in the 1960s appeals to you.

I’ll be looking forward to the third book in the Breen and Tozer series, A Book of Scars , which came out in the UK in June. When I first started reading mysteries back in the 1970s, one of the first series I read was Peter Lovesey’s Cribb and Thackeray books, about two police detectives in Victorian London. I’ve never been much of a fan for the Victorian period, but Lovesey knows how to write a cracking good story with plenty of wit and puzzle-solving interest.

Here it is, 45 years since his first crime novel, and Lovesey is still getting the job done. Since 1991, most of his books have been about Peter Diamond, a homicide Detective Inspector with the Bath, England police force. Usually, Diamond does his sleuthing with the able assistance of his team, the stalwart Keith Halliwell, plodding John Leaman and cheeky former crime journalist Ingeborg Smith and the occasionally bedeviling by his boss, Georgina Dallymore.

Dallymore couldn’t detect her way out of a corner shop, but that doesn’t prevent her from interfering. When she does, at least Diamond gets to go home to the comforts of his cat and his lady friend, Paloma. Down Among the Dead Men (Soho Crime, July 7, 2015) is the 15th in the series, and it’s a change of pace.

To Diamond’s dismay, Dallymore insists that he go off with her to West Sussex to help with an internal investigation. What; no team, no home, no cat, no Paloma? Just lots and lots of Dallymore?

Diamond is horrified, but he keeps his feelings to himself. Dallymore is frustratingly close-mouthed about the details of the case and Diamond doesn’t find until they reach West Sussex that this is a complaint about a senior detective who succeeded in getting a conviction of a car thief for the murder of a man found in the trunk of a car he’d stolen, but then failed to pursue later evidence that her niece’s fingerprints were found in the trunk. Diamond is gobsmacked to learn that the officer in question is an old acquaintance, Henrietta (“Hen”) Mallin.

Diamond knows Hen as a supremely competent detective who’s rough around the edges and has a raucously humorous approach to life and work kind of the female version of Diamond. Georgina and Hen promise to be oil and water, so Diamond gives Hen the high sign that they should pretend not to know each other. A second strand of the story involves a posh girls’ school and the disappearance of their unpopular art teacher.

When the investigation of Hen’s case leads Diamond to inquire into Hen’s interest in a series of missing persons cases in West Sussex, the two strands begin to look as if they might be intertwined. I missed Diamond’s working with his team, but his interplay with Dallymore was surprisingly satisfying. At times, Lovesey’s depiction of Dallymore tends to the caricature-ish, but there are flashes of a real (though flawed) person in there and I had to admire the way Diamond cleverly plays on Dallymore’s vanities to steer the investigation the way he wants.

The solution of the mystery was a little abrupt and not quite satisfying, but it was still a very enjoyable read and definitely helped me feel my good-book drought wasn’t dire just yet.

ボクの事件簿: Nostalgia Station – Ho-Ling no Jikenbo – Blogger 0

ボクの事件簿: Nostalgia Station – Ho-Ling no Jikenbo – Blogger

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ” ” ‘ ( I jump in the orange Heaven’s Express of love to go see him I fly across stations with tremendous speed It’s no use talking to me, my mind isn’t here anymore Each time I read an alibi deconstruction story, I chuckle, thinking how horribly impossible it would be to pull one off perfectly with the Dutch railways. Nishinohata Gousuke, owner of the Touwa Spinning Company, may have won the battle against the labor union and their strike, but he lost something more important: his life. The body of the much-hated C.E.O.

was found on the tracks of a train and after blood was discovered on top of a train carriage, the police managed to figure out that the man was shot and thrown off a bridge, on top of a riding train. The case starts easy enough, but the police soon finds out that Nishinohata had more to fear than just the labor union: the Shaman, a shady new religion, was also after his head. But even though there are a lot of suspects and an abundance of significant clues, perfect alibis and dead ends forces the investigation into a wall.

That is, until Inspector Onitsura 1 is set on the case in Ayukawa Tetsuya 2 ‘s Kuroi Hakuchou (” Black Swan “, 1960). This year is rather heavy on alibi deconstruction stories, it seems: there was that little Crofts 3 boom I had early in the year, and Matsumoto Seichou 4 ‘s Jikan no Shuuzoku 5 a couple of months ago. Ayukawa Tetsuya was also famous for his alibi deconstruction stories (as well as impossible crimes and guess-the-criminal stories…

I guess he did everything). Three years ago, I reviewed Kuroi Trunk 6 ( “The Black Trunk “), which was also an Inspector Onitsura 7 case and a great, but perhaps too complex an alibi cracking story involving the movements of a black trunk containing a dead body across Japan. In Kuroi Hakuchou , the movements of a dead body by train once again forms the focus of the investigation, but the atmosphere is completely different from Kuroi Trunk.

The investigation itself does bring Onitsura to Kyoto and Fukuoka ( Kashii 8 !), and I am starting to suspect that famous Japanese alibi deconstruction stories have a rule about featuring both Tokyo and Fukuoka ( Ten to Sen 9 , Jikan no Shuuzoku 10 and Kuroi Trunk 11 ). And the change is sometimes good, sometimes not as good. For example, Kuroi Trunk 12 was way too focused on just the movements of the titular trunk, and it resulted in an investigation where the police would try to determine the exact location of the trunk down to the minute , across a space of Tokyo-Fukuoka (for those who don’t know: it’s a very large distance in time and space ).

It was at times too specific, too detailed and too focused. Kuroi Hakuchou on the other hand features a much more varied investigation, with lots of clues in different directions and even a much more dynamic way of presentation: in the course of the book, no less than three parties contribute to the hunt for the murderer, with series detective Onitsura only making his late first appearance in the second half of the story. The flow of the story thus does more to attract the reader: oh, this clue leads to a dead end?

Let’s go in this direction then? Oh, this gave us a new suspect, let’s go in that direction for a bit, etc. On the other hand, especially in the first half of the novel I had the feeling the story wasn’t moving forward at all, only sideways, which I thought a bit tiring and boring.

The jumping between investigating parties was also part of that; especially as I had to wait half the book for Onitsura to appear. I remember that in most of the Crofts 13 I read, Inspector French 14 also arrived late on the scene, but the story set-up was also quite different from Kuroi Hakuchou . Most of them were inverted mystery stories, so it was all lead-up to the murder and painting the scene.

In Kuroi Hakuchou however, the murder happens very early in the book and it starts almost right-away with an investigation; it’s just that Onitsura isn’t called for until in the second half. Which reminds me, I knew this was an alibi deconstructing story when I bought it (that was all I knew about it), but I loved how Ayukawa Tetsuya still presented Kuroi Hakuchou as a full-fledged whodunnit story. A lot of alibi-cracking stories give you an obvious murderer and focus completely on deconstructing his/her alibi, but in this story, you’d vagely guess that there was an alibi trick pulled off somewhere by someone, but the when and who were equal parts of the mystery besides the how.

I’ll be honest and say I was first looking at the wrong suspect, as he was the first to have a perfect alibi in the story, and well, considering all I knew about the book was that it was an alibi deconstruction story, it was natural for me to suspect him, right? Of course, this was completely my mistake, but I love it when mystery stories try to present themselves as one type of mystery story, when they are in fact another (i.e. making one trick appear to be another).

There are some great ones there (which I can’t name by title because it would spoil the fun), but playing with expectations at a meta-level is something I always appreciate. Oh, by the way, I kinda liked how just like in Kuroi Trunk 15 , this book is based on the actual train time tables at the time and that the time tables are also included in the book. Maybe it was just Matsumoto Seichou 16 and Ayukawa Tetsuya, but it’s interesting to note that the tricks in their stories were actually based on the actual time tables and could all actually be pulled off back when they wrote the stories (the one in Matsumoto’s Ten to Sen 17 in particular is very famous, but that one became impossible I think quite soon after publication).

Not sure actually whether I’ve seen that with Western writers, now I think about it. At the very end of the story, a minor hint is revealed to Onitsura ( and the reader), which I actually quite love, but it’s almost impossible to pull off good in the form of a novel. Really a shame, because the hint itself is good and deliciously hard to spot, but fair, but it just doesn’t really work here.

It almost feels like Ayukawa just used the hint because he liked it, rather than that it really added to the story, but it is the one element in the book that really made me wish there was an adaptation of this book for screen/big screen/radio/whatever. I quite enjoyed Kuroi Hakuchou as a very competently written alibi-deconstructing whodunni. I do think I like Kuroi Trunk more, but I think that for most readers, Kuroi Hakuchou is probably the better one because it is much more varied and simply more enjoyable to read as a story.

Original Japanese title(s): ‘ References ^ Inspector Onitsura (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Ayukawa Tetsuya (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Crofts (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Matsumoto Seichou (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Jikan no Shuuzoku (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Inspector Onitsura (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kashii (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Ten to Sen (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Jikan no Shuuzoku (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Crofts (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Inspector French (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Matsumoto Seichou (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Ten to Sen (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl)

ボクの事件簿: Nostalgia Station – Ho-Ling – Blogger 0

ボクの事件簿: Nostalgia Station – Ho-Ling – Blogger

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ” ” ‘ ( I jump in the orange Heaven’s Express of love to go see him I fly across stations with tremendous speed It’s no use talking to me, my mind isn’t here anymore Each time I read an alibi deconstruction story, I chuckle, thinking how horribly impossible it would be to pull one off perfectly with the Dutch railways. Nishinohata Gousuke, owner of the Touwa Spinning Company, may have won the battle against the labor union and their strike, but he lost something more important: his life. The body of the much-hated C.E.O.

was found on the tracks of a train and after blood was discovered on top of a train carriage, the police managed to figure out that the man was shot and thrown off a bridge, on top of a riding train. The case starts easy enough, but the police soon finds out that Nishinohata had more to fear than just the labor union: the Shaman, a shady new religion, was also after his head. But even though there are a lot of suspects and an abundance of significant clues, perfect alibis and dead ends forces the investigation into a wall.

That is, until Inspector Onitsura 1 is set on the case in Ayukawa Tetsuya 2 ‘s Kuroi Hakuchou (” Black Swan “, 1960). This year is rather heavy on alibi deconstruction stories, it seems: there was that little Crofts 3 boom I had early in the year, and Matsumoto Seichou 4 ‘s Jikan no Shuuzoku 5 a couple of months ago. Ayukawa Tetsuya was also famous for his alibi deconstruction stories (as well as impossible crimes and guess-the-criminal stories…

I guess he did everything). Three years ago, I reviewed Kuroi Trunk 6 ( “The Black Trunk “), which was also an Inspector Onitsura 7 case and a great, but perhaps too complex an alibi cracking story involving the movements of a black trunk containing a dead body across Japan. In Kuroi Hakuchou , the movements of a dead body by train once again forms the focus of the investigation, but the atmosphere is completely different from Kuroi Trunk.

The investigation itself does bring Onitsura to Kyoto and Fukuoka ( Kashii 8 !), and I am starting to suspect that famous Japanese alibi deconstruction stories have a rule about featuring both Tokyo and Fukuoka ( Ten to Sen 9 , Jikan no Shuuzoku 10 and Kuroi Trunk 11 ). And the change is sometimes good, sometimes not as good. For example, Kuroi Trunk 12 was way too focused on just the movements of the titular trunk, and it resulted in an investigation where the police would try to determine the exact location of the trunk down to the minute , across a space of Tokyo-Fukuoka (for those who don’t know: it’s a very large distance in time and space ).

It was at times too specific, too detailed and too focused. Kuroi Hakuchou on the other hand features a much more varied investigation, with lots of clues in different directions and even a much more dynamic way of presentation: in the course of the book, no less than three parties contribute to the hunt for the murderer, with series detective Onitsura only making his late first appearance in the second half of the story. The flow of the story thus does more to attract the reader: oh, this clue leads to a dead end?

Let’s go in this direction then? Oh, this gave us a new suspect, let’s go in that direction for a bit, etc. On the other hand, especially in the first half of the novel I had the feeling the story wasn’t moving forward at all, only sideways, which I thought a bit tiring and boring.

The jumping between investigating parties was also part of that; especially as I had to wait half the book for Onitsura to appear. I remember that in most of the Crofts 13 I read, Inspector French 14 also arrived late on the scene, but the story set-up was also quite different from Kuroi Hakuchou . Most of them were inverted mystery stories, so it was all lead-up to the murder and painting the scene.

In Kuroi Hakuchou however, the murder happens very early in the book and it starts almost right-away with an investigation; it’s just that Onitsura isn’t called for until in the second half. Which reminds me, I knew this was an alibi deconstructing story when I bought it (that was all I knew about it), but I loved how Ayukawa Tetsuya still presented Kuroi Hakuchou as a full-fledged whodunnit story. A lot of alibi-cracking stories give you an obvious murderer and focus completely on deconstructing his/her alibi, but in this story, you’d vagely guess that there was an alibi trick pulled off somewhere by someone, but the when and who were equal parts of the mystery besides the how.

I’ll be honest and say I was first looking at the wrong suspect, as he was the first to have a perfect alibi in the story, and well, considering all I knew about the book was that it was an alibi deconstruction story, it was natural for me to suspect him, right? Of course, this was completely my mistake, but I love it when mystery stories try to present themselves as one type of mystery story, when they are in fact another (i.e. making one trick appear to be another).

There are some great ones there (which I can’t name by title because it would spoil the fun), but playing with expectations at a meta-level is something I always appreciate. Oh, by the way, I kinda liked how just like in Kuroi Trunk 15 , this book is based on the actual train time tables at the time and that the time tables are also included in the book. Maybe it was just Matsumoto Seichou 16 and Ayukawa Tetsuya, but it’s interesting to note that the tricks in their stories were actually based on the actual time tables and could all actually be pulled off back when they wrote the stories (the one in Matsumoto’s Ten to Sen 17 in particular is very famous, but that one became impossible I think quite soon after publication).

Not sure actually whether I’ve seen that with Western writers, now I think about it. At the very end of the story, a minor hint is revealed to Onitsura ( and the reader), which I actually quite love, but it’s almost impossible to pull off good in the form of a novel. Really a shame, because the hint itself is good and deliciously hard to spot, but fair, but it just doesn’t really work here.

It almost feels like Ayukawa just used the hint because he liked it, rather than that it really added to the story, but it is the one element in the book that really made me wish there was an adaptation of this book for screen/big screen/radio/whatever. I quite enjoyed Kuroi Hakuchou as a very competently written alibi-deconstructing whodunni. I do think I like Kuroi Trunk more, but I think that for most readers, Kuroi Hakuchou is probably the better one because it is much more varied and simply more enjoyable to read as a story.

Original Japanese title(s): ‘ References ^ Inspector Onitsura (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Ayukawa Tetsuya (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Crofts (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Matsumoto Seichou (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Jikan no Shuuzoku (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Inspector Onitsura (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kashii (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Ten to Sen (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Jikan no Shuuzoku (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Crofts (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Inspector French (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Kuroi Trunk (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Matsumoto Seichou (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl) ^ Ten to Sen (ho-lingnojikenbo.blogspot.nl)