Review: World Noir: A Tribute to International Crime Fiction

Publisher Europa Editions has recently launched a new series featuring the best of international crime fiction. As a taster, World Noir,World noir is a collection of essays, interviews and short stories on the genre. The book is dedicated to the memory of Marseilles writer Jean-Claude Izzo and has, as you would expect a strong Mediterranean feel. But we are also promised taste of noir from around the world in the forthcoming series that includes writers from Australia, the US and Ireland.

World Noir is broadly split into two parts. The first is a set of essays, interviews and tributes. I haven’t read any of Jean-Claude Izzo’s works but I have one sitting on my shelf. And the best compliment that I can give this book is that I’m now dying to try the author. Essays from fellow crime writers such as Massimo Carlotto and Andrea Camilleri give a sense as to how influential Izzo has been on a generation of authors. Writers and readers seem to have fallen in love with the central protagonist of Izzo’s books, Fabio Montale. The essays do widen in scope of to include an assessment of Irish crime fiction by Gene Kerrigan and the influence of Michael Didbin.

The rest of the book is a taster of fiction from writers around the world including Benjamin Tamuz from Israel and our own Stav Sherez from Britain.  A Dark Redemption was the only book that I had read (I’m a fan) but a taster from the other authors has thrown up some future reading from me. I particularly liked the  passage from the quaintly name Summertime, All the Cats are Bored by French writer Philippe Georget.

I’d recommend this new series to anyone who is hoping to expand their knowledge of noir. This reader was very well produced –  for a paperback it has lovely thick pages and this is a foretaste of things to come from the series. The books that I’ve seen have been produced to a similarly high quality.

The digital edition of the free World Noir reader can be downloaded by following these links: epub (Nook), mobi (Kindle)or PDF

Many thanks to Europa Editions for sending me a copy of the reader.

Review: Stav Sherez – Eleven Days

11 daysThe problem with an iconic city like London is that everyone’s view of the place is different. It makes it difficult to capture the city’s essence in a book, and crime novels have had mixed success in bringing the diverse city to life. Stav Sherez’s previous book, A Dark Redemption, expertly depicted the underbelly of London’s immigrant community and showed a side of the city that I thought authentic and under-exposed. It had a brutal feel to it, and this continues in Eleven Days as he turns his attention to the Catholic church and its secrets.

Eleven days before Christmas, a convent in West London is consumed by a fire. Ten religious sisters are found burned to death but the presence of an eleventh body has the team, led by DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller, searching for the victim’s identity. The convent was known for its outreach work but when Carrigan and Miller try to access church records to see where funds have been allocated, they meet evasion and disinterest. Assistant Chief Constable Quinn leans on the team to go gently when interviewing church officials but, as the police get nearer to the truth, both Carrigan and Miller are subjected to violent assaults.

Reading about murder and intrigue in a religious context is right up my street. It’s got to be cleverly done, because books revolving around the secrecy of the Catholic Church are hardly new. But in Eleven Days the murder of ten, possibly eleven, nuns is presented as a great catastrophe, the roots of which can only be through secrecy on a grand scale. In the book we get glimpses of the politics of liberation theology, the trafficking of young girls and the politicking that takes place within the police force.

Carrigan and Miller are both interesting police characters: Carrigan is still mourning the loss of his wife while Miller has a manipulative ex-husband withholding money from her. There clearly is a mutual attraction between the two detectives which, for the moment, isn’t being realised. It’s good that both take an equally active role in the investigation, rather than the female merely being relegated to side-kick. I’m slightly alarmed at the amount of beatings they both take though

The conclusion to the book is a surprise, and breaks one of Ronald Knox’s ten rules of crime fiction. I’m not telling which – you’ll have to read the book – and if you don’t want any hint of a spoiler don’t click on the link to the rules. By combining an interesting police procedural with elements of religious conspiracy and gang violence, Sherez has written an unusual crime novel that I enjoyed reading.

Thanks to Faber for my copy of the book which is out on the 2nd May. The author’s website can be found here.

 

Review: Stav Sherez – A Dark Redemption

Stav Sherez’s first book, The Devil’s Playground, was a fascinating glimpse of the Amsterdam underworld and a tale of far-right violence spanning from the Jewish holocaust to the modern-day. In his latest book, A Dark Redemption, billed as the ‘first installment’ in a new series he tackles the world of East African partisan violence which spills into London with the murder of a Ugandan student.

The book opens with three male graduates deciding to forsake the delights of a trip to India and to venture to the lesser known Uganda. One evening, travelling in the sparse African countryside they are confronted with a fork in the road and take the turning which leads them into the clutches of a rebel army.

The narrative then shifts to 2011. Grace Okello, a student at the School of African and Oriental Studies is researching revolutionary rebel groups and becomes fascinated by the insurgencies of Uganda. When she is found tortured and killed in her bedsit, DI Jack Carrigan, first on the scene starts to unpick her life in his search for her contacts and explanation for her savage murder.  But Carrigan is considered a maverick by the uniformed police hierarchy and his boss appoints DS Geneva Miller to assist on the investigation, while reporting back to him on Carrigan’s methods. Carrigan is a detective with a number of myths attached to him, his behaviour in the London 7/7 bombings, his reputed early recording contract and, most worryingly for Miller, his apparent link with Uganda.

The book was an excellent read. The flashbacks to Uganda were concentrated into three main sections which I thought worked well and gave the book a strong structure. They were quite difficult passages to read as you could feel the total disorientation of the young men in a strange country and it was clear that once they came into contact with the rebel army, it wouldn’t end well. The descriptions of the modern-day murder were equally chilling but I thought not gratuitously so. The rape and murder of a young black woman is a difficult subject to read about but it was well handled. Another strength of the book was that it didn’t labour too much the links between Corrigan’s past and the present case. It is nice when a reader is treated as intelligent enough to work out any connections for themselves.

The book is full of facts about London, much of which I didn’t know and provided an insight into the lives of African immigrants and their dire living conditions. Both Corrigan and Miller were interesting characters. It is difficult to create a ‘maverick’ detective these days without falling into cliché but I though Sherez managed it with understated ease.

There is a nice twist to the ending, again subtly done and I’m pleased that it is part of a new series as principal characters deserve a second airing.

Stav Sherez is author of the month at crimesquad.com