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Åsa Larsson: Crime fiction as contemporary myth

Åsa Larsson, arguably Sweden’s greatest living crime author, has just released her fifth novel in English, The Second Deadly Sin. If you haven’t already, you should buy it immediately (possibly alongside Book 4 - Until Thy Wrath be Past - available now in paperback), but in the meanwhile here’s a snippet of a fascinating discussion we filmed with her last year, where she reflects on the puzzling question of why we read crime fiction.

Enjoy!

Until Thy Wrath be Past

Until Thy Wrath be Past by Åsa Larsson (translated by Laurie Thompson)

In the first thaw of spring the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Torne in the far north of Sweden.

Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Kiruna, her sleep troubled by visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the girl in her dream?

Joining forces with Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson will need all her courage to face a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried under half a century of silent ice and snow.

Buy now from Amazon ¦ MacLehose Press ¦ Waterstones

COMPETITION – win all six of our brilliant January titles!

-*-*- The competition is now CLOSED-*-*-

Congratulations to Taylor Jones, who won the competition thanks to the below tweet.

Winning Tweet

 
Thanks everyone for entering – we hope you enjoyed the competition, and that you manage to get your hands on copies of the books!

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Happy 2014! Here at the MacLehose Press we’re positively bubbling with New Year’s enthusiasm, and our first resolution is to reward our loyal readers with some great competitions. First up, we’re giving someone the chance to win a free copy of all 6 of our January titles. Read on to see what’s on offer, and then enter by telling us which you’re most excited about, either by commenting below, tweeting @MacLehosePress, or commenting on our Facebook page!

(And, since we’re new to the whole competition business, why not let us know what sort of prizes you’d love to see us giving away in 2014!)

The competition will close next Wednesday at 11.59pm, and we’ll announce the winner on Thursday 9th.

The Second Deadly SinThe Second Deadly Sin - Asa Larsson

At the end of a deadly bear hunt across the wilderness of Northern Sweden, the successful hunters are shaken by a grisly discovery.

Across in Kurravaara, a woman is murdered with frenzied brutality: crude abuse scrawled above her bloodied bed, her young grandson nowhere to be found.

Only Rebecka Martinsson sees a connection. Dropped from the case thanks to a jealous rival, she now stands alone against a killer who brings death to young and old, spawned by a horrifying crime that festers after one hundred years on ice.

News from BerlinOtto de Kat

June 1941. Dutch diplomat Oscar Verschuur has been posted to neutral Switzerland. His family is spread across Europe. His wife Kate works as a nurse in London and their daughter Emma is living in Berlin with her husband Carl, a ‘good’ German who works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Briefly reunited with her father in a restaurant in Geneva, Emma drops a bombshell. A date and a codename, and the fate of nations is placed in Verschuur’s hands: June 22, Barbarossa.

What should he do? Warn the world, or put his daughter’s safety first? The Gestapo are watching them both. And with Stalin lulled by his alliance with Hitler, will anyone even listen?

The Library of Unrequited LoveThe Library of Unrequited Love - Sophie Divry

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight.

She starts to talk to him, a one-way conversation that soon gathers pace as an outpouring of frustrations, observations and anguishes. Two things shine through: her shy, unrequited passion for a quiet researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love of books.

A delightful flight of fancy for the lonely bookworm in all of us . . .

Until Thy Wrath be Past

Until Thy Wrath be PastAsa Larsson

In the first thaw of spring the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Torne in the far north of Sweden.

Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Kiruna, her sleep troubled by visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the girl in her dream?

Joining forces with Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson will need all her courage to face a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried under half a century of silent ice and snow.

The InvestigationThe Investigation Philippe Claudel

The Investigator is despatched to a provincial town to find out the truth behind a disturbing spate of suicides amongst employees of The Firm. But from the moment he steps off the train, he finds himself in a world that is alien, unrecognisable, and diabolically complex.

From the hostile weather and the fickle hospitality at Hotel Hope to the town’s bewildering inhabitants, everything seems to be against him to the point where he wonders whether he is trapped in a recurring nightmare, or has passed into the realm of death itself.

Cold, hungry and humiliated, and always one step behind, he nevertheless remains determined to find the only man he can hold to account – The Firm’s legendary but elusive founder.

In the Gold of TimeIn the Gold of Time - Claudie Gallay

A world-weary young father holidays by the sea near Dieppe with his reproachfully perfect wife and their twin daughters.

A chance meeting with an eccentric old lady leads to intense encounters in her mysterious home, full of old photographs and strange objects – sacred ceremonial masks once belonging to the Hopi Indians of Arizona.

The old woman takes comfort in her new companion, and he, in turn, is drawn by her secrets. As he begins to push his family into the background, her stirring tales of the Hopi become the only salve to his despondent soul.

2014 Preview: Part Two

Picking up where we left off last week, check out part two of our 2014 Preview: the conclusion of Jakob Ejersbo’s gripping Africa Trilogy, a new thriller from Asa Larsson, and what might just be the novel of the year . . .

As you may have heard, THE TRUTH ABOUT THE HARRY QUEBERT AFFAIR (May) by Joël Dicker has become Penguin Books’ most expensive acquisition ever in the USA, so you’ll be unsurprised to hear we’re moderately excited about it. It’s electric – a huge and brilliant novel, that’s at heart a murder mystery, but ultimately achieves so much more than that. We can’t put it down (a shortage of early English copies has driven our part-time bilinguals to the French edition), and we know you’ll love it.

The Second Deadly SinÅsa Larsson is a perennially brilliant writer, but her enormous success across the world hasn’t quite been replicated in the UK yet – THE SECOND DEADLY SIN (January) might be the book that does it. Her brilliant warm-hearted investigators are back – Rebecka Martinsson is forced to go rogue after being forced off a case due to internal politics – and there are two villains who manage, in very different ways, to be so loathsome you’ll want to swear at them in Swedish. And separately there’s a murderer.

Set in the years following the Spanish Civil War, THE CALLIGRAPHY OF DREAMS (June) is the crowning literary achievement of one of the great Spanish men of letters, a coming-of-age novel that is poetic and knowing in equal measure, a latin counterpart to Atonement or The Go-Between. A young man who lives for the stories and dreams in his head, and whose dreams of an exalted future are crushed by cruel circumstance, finds himself suddenly central to an adult passion far beyond his comprehension. This is a novel to savour, with a devilish little twist for dessert.

liberty hbLIBERTY (April) is the epic final instalment of Jakob Ejerbo’s monumental Africa Trilogy. Full of sex, corruption, intrigue, murder and angst, it shows us the dark side of 1980s Tanzania, a country riven by intractable post-colonial divides, where good intentions last as long as a glass of ice in the midday sun. Ejerbo’s great talent was for breathing life into charismatic, flawed characters so real it’s as if you’ve met them yourself, and Marcus, the young boy from Serengeti who dreams of making it to Europe someday is surely his finest creation. Wise, impassioned, cynical, honest and smart, his voice is utterly and unforgettable mesmeric.

Following the success of OUTSIDERS this year (which received multiple nominations for the C.W.A. Short Story Dagger), JUDGES (May) is a new collection, featuring stories by some of the great contemporary Italian writers: Camillieri, Lucarelli and De Cataldo. Each story centres around a judge, but each brings an entirely fresh perspective, meaning these tales of corruption and intrigue have something for everyone.

Asa Larsson, The Black Path: Review

The fabulous blog I Will Read Books has written a nice review of Asa Larsson’s latest dark and exciting thriller The Black Path:

Åsa Larsson is back with a new Rebecka Martinsson crime thriller, The Black Path. Actually, this is part three in the series and Until thy Wrath be Past was part four. For some reason, which I should look into, Quercus has decided to publish them in reverse chronological order.

Anyway, as I enjoyed the part four I’m in debted to Quercus Books for providing me with a review copy of The Black Path as well. Not indebted enough to be lenient, obviously. . .

What makes The Black Path such a refreshing read is Åsa Larsson’s characters. Although the series is called The Rebecka Martinsson Investigations, the book is as much about almost everyone involved. Åsa Larsson not only tells what the characters are doing now, but also what they did in their past to end up in their current situation.

This often goes as far back as their childhood. It’s effective, makes you feel you know the characters quite intimately. All these flashbacks to the past does slow down the story, but Åsa Larsson does get the balance right, maintaining the momentum of the plot.

Having said that, I’m glad not every writer shares so much of the past of every character. . .

Head on over to I Will Read Books for the review in full.

Åsa Larsson: Swedish Crime Queen

Such is the fitting epithet bestowed on Åsa Larsson by Mr Barry Forshaw in his review in the Independent last week of her latest crime blockbuster in translation, The Black Path:

There is a piece of sleight-of-hand at the beginning of this novel by Swedish crime queen Åsa Larsson.

It is a tactic which both wrong-foots the reader and imparts some vivid local colour. A man is sitting fishing on a spring evening in Torneträsk. At this time of year, residents make the trip to a secluded area where the ice is more than a metre thick, riding snowmobiles, and towing their “arks” behind them. These arks are small fishing cabins with a hole in the floor through which the fishermen drill into the ice, and sit inside warmed by a gas stove.

But the fisherman in The Black Path, translated by Marlaine Delargy, is unlucky. Stepping outside in his underwear to relieve himself, he watches in horror as his ark is whipped away by a storm. He knows he will die unless he finds another. Finding a deserted one, he breaks in; he sees a blanket on the bed and pulls it off. Underneath lies the body of a woman, her eyes frozen into ice.

At this point the reader realises that this stunningly described chapter is, in fact, a clever revision of one of the oldest clichés in the crime thriller lexicon: the discovery of the corpse that sets the plot in motion. But those who have read Larsson’s The Savage Altar will know that every element of her work is always granted an idiosyncratic new twist. While many Nordic crime writers are content to locate their bloody deeds in suburban cities not unlike those of Britain, Larsson is always looking for the more off-kilter setting.

Read the full review

But this is just the latest in a flurry of glowing notices for perhaps the strongest book in the series . . .

“Another enormously successful Swedish import, Larsson is a remarkably good writer who has been well served by her translator” Literary Review

“Torture, corruption and perversion: there is no shortage of naughtiness in Åsa Larsson’s The Black Path . . . A superior example of Scandinavian noir” Sunday Telegraph

“Larsson’s chilling insight into the worst of human nature cannot be faulted” Irish Examiner.

“A compelling read . . . this series is really amongst the cream of recently translated Scandinavian crime fiction” Eurocrime

The Black Path is available now in hardback and from September in paperback,

 

 

International Dagger Delight

The shortlist for the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger was announced on Friday at Bristol’s CrimeFest, and two of the books on the list — one third of them, that is — were MacLehose Press books.

Åsa Larsson, who was present at the announcement, has been shortlisted for the second time for Until Thy Wrath Be Past (trans. Laurie Thompson) (The Savage Altar was one of the six in 2007), which Valerio Varesi has made it two years in a row with The Dark Valley (trans. Joseph Farrell), the second of his Commissario Soneri novels to be published in English. His first, River of Shadows, was shortlisted for the 2011 award. The full list reads as follow:

The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri, translated by Stephen Sartarelli
I will have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni, translated by Anne Milano Appel
Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Åsa Larsson, translated by Laurie Thompson
Trackers by Deon Meyer, translated by T K L Seegers
Phantom by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
The Dark Valley by Valerio Varesi, translated by Joseph Farrell

 

Our Friends In The North

Whispers from Sweden inform us that Åsa Larsson’s Til offer at Molok (The Sacrifice to Moloch) is riding high at number one in the book charts. It is the fifth novel in Larsson’s series of Rebecca Martinsson/Anna Maria-Mella investigations. We will be publishing The Black Path, the third novel in the series, in hardback in June, and Larsson will be appearing at Bristol’s CrimeFest in May.

Meanwhile, Icelandic author Jon Kalman Stefánsson, of whose landmark trilogy only Heaven and Hell is as yet available in English, has been nominated for the Italian Premio Gregor von Rezzori – City of Florence, a literary award that honours foreign fiction, named for the author of The Snows of Yesteryear, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite and The Czar of Czernopol. Fingers crossed for Mr. Stefánsson.

MacLehose Press Publicity 19/09/11

We begin with the paperback of Daniel Pennac’s wonderfully prognostic book, School Blues – which has caught the attention of both the Economist:

“. . . Describes what faces a school dunce when the teacher before him cannot recall what it felt like to be ignorant . . . Playfully written . . . “School Blues” joyously combines the profound with the seemingly trivial. It gently reminds readers how ignorant it is to have forgotten what it felt like to have but little knowledge.”

And the Sunday Business Post:

“What makes a good teacher? In this reflective and philosophical account, Frenchman and former teacher Daniel Pennac suggests his own theories for this timeless conundrum, in a drily humorous, yet impressively cohesive way. Translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone, as a manual preaching mutual understanding in the classroom, this is hard to beat. Essential reading for any teacher.”

The Vintage and the Gleaning has made it into the September review pages of the Irish Tatler:

“Written with an authentic voice and infused with beauty, brutality and sadness, this is a compelling observation of men, women and country. A remarkably accomplished debut novel that is unputdownable.”

The paperback of Claudie Gallay’s  The Breakers, has been reviewed in the Guardian this weekend:

“ . . . the recursive prose is subtly hypnotic, mimicking the obsessive circularity of mourning and the tendency of insight to be always belated . . . the effect is oddly intriguing.” Chris Ross

 

Librarian, Aileen Smedley, picks Jacques Bonnet’s outstanding book about books, Phantoms on the Bookshelves for the Lytham St Anne’s Express:

“It is witty, entertaining and slightly intimidating in its breadth. Well worth a read for anyone passionate about books.”

Journal by Hélène Berr has been reviewed in the South Wales Evening Post:

“A harrowing account but an incredibly important piece of writing.”

Jake Kerridge has  reviewed Until Thy Wrath Be Past in this weekend’s Telegraph:

“Larsson’s laid-back style makes her unflinching probing of icy depths of the human heart all the more chilling”

Whilst in the blogosphere a senior member of the Royal Navy reviews Until Thy Wrath Be Past for the website dedicated to members of the British army:

“Set in contemporary rural Sweden the author has created a variety of detailed characters each with a richly painted background … The story unfolds at a quick pace and seems straightforward but there are one or two twists that I didn’t expect which make for great reading. Sadly, despite being 300+ pages in hardback this is a very quick book to complete. Good news for some but I enjoyed it so much I wanted it to continue. In fact the storyline was so good I could see this making a really good feature film. A good book and one I enjoyed so much so that I’m going to hunt out more from the author, to that end I’m giving this book 4 out of 5.”

Yet another review for Until Thy Wrath Be Past, this time found on Winston’s Dad blog:

“I’ve read other Nordic crime books over the last few years and this one needs to sit near the top of the pile . . . The crime is realistic – which is more than I can say of some of the other Nordic crime novels I’ve read. I enjoyed reading female leads that I could get on with as a male reader . . . So much better than Harry Hole [Jo Nesbø’s main character] for me. Yes she is the ‘other’ Larsson but Rebecka [Martinsson] is not another Lisbeth Salander, she is a new face for Nordic crime.”

And the Book Bag also gets in on the Åsa Larsson action, with their review:

“The words ‘third book’ might give you cause for concern, but don’t worry. I have to admit that I, too, was an Åsa Larsson virgin. I suspect that there are spoilers for the earlier books in Until Thy Wrath Be Past . . . but it works perfectly well as a standalone. It’s a good story and a neatly-turned plot which can’t help but pull you in. I knew where the story was going but the evolving detail of the background and exactly who has instigated the murders caught me by surprise. Martinsson makes an excellent protagonist too – intelligent, physically courageous and very much her own woman – and an elegant contrast to Mella with her insecurities.”

And last but not least the paperback of The Road continues to be reviewed across the papers. This time in the Daily Express (5 stars):

“From satire to comedy and tragedy this is a fantastic collection translated into English for the first time. Including Stalin’s purges and the Holocaust, these short stories and articles are accompanied by introductions that put Grossman’s life into context.”

And the Sunday Times:

“. . . his vivid dispatches, some newly translated for this superb collection, retain a freshness that only the finest journalism can. The 11 short stories also collected here show a writer of infinite variety, and the bulk of them will enhance his reputation . . . his is a powerful voice of conscience.”