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Archive for August, 2011

German author Andrea Maria Schenkel hit the ground running with her 2006 debut, Tannöd, based on the still-unsolved pickaxe murder of an extended family of six in a Bavarian farming community in 1922. Schenkel’s fictional account is set during the 1950s and won Germany’s prestigious Deutsche Krimi-Preis, as well as Sweden’s Martin Beck Award. The novel was translated into English as The Murder Farm, and was dubbed a “remarkable, sparse, chilling novel…the literary equivalent of The Blair Witch Project,” by the Times Literary Supplement.

Schenkel’s second novel, Kalteis, is set in Munich during the 1930s and features the hunt for a serial killer. This novel was also awarded the Deutsche Krimi-Preis, making Schenkle the first writer to ever win the prize two years consecutively. Translated into English as Ice Cold, Schenkel’s work once again earned critical acclaim, The Times Literary Supplement declared, ” With only a limited number of ways in which violent death can be investigated, crime writers have to use considerable ingenuity to bring anything fresh to the genre. Andrea Maria Schenkel has done it.” (more…)

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British author Michael Ridpath left the high stakes life of a bond trader in the city of London to write thrillers for a living. He naturally turned to high finance thrillers first, penning eight of them before beginning a new series set in Iceland. The series features Magnus Jonson, who is Icelandic but was bought up in the United States and joined the Boston police. Now he has returned to his native land where he is on loan to the Icelandic Police Force as a detective and recruit trainer in U.S. policing methods.

The London Times noted of his first title in the series, Where the Shadows Lie: “A clever blend of murder mystery, myth and up-to-the-minute mayhem … Whether you’re a fan of orcs, Gimli and Legolas or Elmore Leonard and The Sopranos, there’s something in this quixotic, atmospheric alternative thriller for you.” Further praise came from the Literary Review: “This is a good story set in a fascinating place and spiced with some sharp observation.”

In its American edition, just out, Booklist gave the novel a starred review, terming it “exotic and compelling, a first-class mystery,” and Publishers Weekly noted that “Ridpath smoothly melds history, legend, and a police procedural in this first of a crime series set in Iceland.” (more…)

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Some facts and figures.  For many of these I must thank Tony Judt, a gentleman and scholar who is sorely missed. His Postwar is an incredibly readable overview of Europe from 1945 to the early years of the new millennium.

I have mentioned elsewhere that Vienna in the 1960s was, in the words of my poet-friend George Vance, arrested in the Moose Lodge stage of development. Some numbers: Car ownership was low at the time: Great Britain had only about 2,300 cars in 1951; Spain just 89,000; and in France only one in twelve households had a car. But between 1950 and 1980, car ownership doubled each decade.  The advent of the Volkswagen Beetle, the Renault 4CV,the Fiat 500 and 600, and the Citroen 2CV transformed Europe from a continent on public transport to one in the private car looking for the next rest stop. (more…)

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