My Book Notes: Game of Mirrors (Inspector Montalbano #18 ) by Andrea Camilleri (tr. Stephen Sartarelli)

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Mantle, 2015. Format; Kindle edition. File size: 1082 KB. Print length: 289pages. ASIN:B00SN934T4. ISBN: 978-1-4472-4920-7. Originally published in Italian in 2010 as Il gioco degli specchi by Sellerio Editore, Palermo. Translated by Stephen Sartarelli in 2015.

original_400_600First paragraph: He’d already been sitting for the last two hours, naked as the day God made him, in a chair, writs and ankles bound in iron bands to which were attached a great many wires that led into a metal cabinet all decorated on the outside with dials, pressure gauges, ampere meters, barometers, and little green, red and blue lights blinking on and off, endlessly. On his head was a sort of dome just like the hairdryers that hairdressers put on ladies’ heads when giving them a perm, except that his was connected to the cabinet by a large black cable with hundreds of coloured wires wound up inside.

Synopsis: When Montalbano comes to the aid of his new neighbour, Liliana Lombardo, after the engine of her car is interfered with, the inspector can little imagine where this innocuous event will lead. It soon transpires that the young woman – beautiful, intelligent and rather vague about the whereabouts of her husband – is being targeted by someone with a grudge against her. But is Liliana’s growing interest in Montalbano simply a product of the detective’s innate charm? Or is she trying to lead him astray – and into trouble?
Meanwhile the inspector finds himself drawn into another mystery when a bomb explodes outside an empty warehouse in Vigàta. But who was the bomb intended for? And why was it left in such a peculiar place? As Montalbano and his colleagues investigate the street’s residents – some of whom have suspicious mafia links – they begin to receive a barrage of false clues from an anonymous source.
As Liliana’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and leaks around the case threaten Montalbano’s reputation; the sense of danger grows. The inspector soon realizes that, with this investigation, he is being led into a hall of mirrors, where there is danger at every turn and nothing is quite clear . . .

My take: Games of Mirrors is the eighteenth book in Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries. It was first published in 2010 when Camilleri was approximately eighty-five years old and, what is even even most surprisingly, nine years later Camilleri continues writing and publishing a new episode in the series every year. My admiration for this book series started to develop some ten years ago when reading August Heat (Commissario Montalbano #10). Since then, I’ve read most of his books translated so far, either in English or in Spanish. In a sense I always found reassuring to meet each time the same characters to whom I regard already as old friends: Livia his everlasting fianceé, Enzo the owner of his Trattoria, his colleagues Mimì’ Augello, Fazio, Galluzzo, and Catarella, his friend the journalist Nicolo Zito, Dr Pasquano, and many others.

In this instance, the action begins when Montalbano tries to help a damsel in distress. The damsel in question is his neighbour, the stunning Signora Liliana Lombardo, whose car refuses to start one morning. Gentlemanly, Montalbano volunteers to give her a ride in his car, regretfully his skills as auto mechanic are null. In any case, they  wouldn’t have help him much, given that the engine had been vandalized, a fact that Signora Lombardo wishes to hide from Montalbano, to whom it seems strange that she wouldn’t even want to denounce it. Almost simultaneously there is an explosion in front of an empty warehouse that, fortunately, does not leave any injured. The two storylines unfold with no apparent relationship, though what happens afterwards, always seems to be directed to hide something, as in a game of mirrors.

Probably in this instalment, it becomes more evident the formula employed by Camilleri to produce every year one more book. Though in spite of that, the story proves to be highly interesting and is perfectly crafted. It is also true that the characters have not evolved much throughout the series and remain with fairly few changes since the first book. However, it is worth mentioning in this instalment that, during a great part of the story, the action unfolds in a soft and quite pace, until Camilleri shakes the reader’s consciousness with some horrendous crimes. After all we are in Mafia territory.  Even with its flaws, there’s nothing to prevent us from enjoying the reading of this book. But all in all, perhaps John Grant has find the right words to expressed what I feel when saying that even if he enjoyed the breaded tilapia and fresh vegetables he ate on yesterday supper, he just wouldn’t want it each day. So just find the right dose for yourself and enjoy this series.

My rating: A (I loved it)

About the Author: Andrea Camilleri born 6 September 1925) is an Italian writer. Originally from Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri began studies at the Faculty of Literature in 1944, without concluding them, meanwhile publishing poems and short stories. From 1948 to 1950 Camilleri studied stage and film direction at the Silvio D’Amico Academy of Dramatic Arts (Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica) and began to take on work as a director and screenwriter, directing especially plays by Pirandello and Beckett. With RAI, Camilleri worked on several TV productions, such as Inspector Maigret with Gino Cervi. In 1977 he returned to the Academy of Dramatic Arts, holding the chair of Film Direction and occupying it for 20 years. In 1978 Camilleri wrote his first novel Il Corso Delle Cose (“The Way Things Go”). This was followed by Un Filo di Fumo (“A Thread of Smoke”) in 1980. Neither of these works enjoyed any significant amount of popularity. In 1992, after a long pause of 12 years, Camilleri once more took up novel-writing. A new book, La Stagione della Caccia (“The Hunting Season”) turned out to be a best-seller. In 1994 Camilleri published the first in a long series of novels: La forma dell’Acqua (The Shape of Water) featured the character of Inspector Montalbano, a fractious Sicilian detective in the police force of Vigàta, an imaginary Sicilian town. The series is written in Italian but with a substantial sprinkling of Sicilian phrases and grammar. The name Montalbano is a homage to the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán; the similarities between Montalban’s Pepe Carvalho and Camilleri’s fictional detective are remarkable. Both writers make great play of their protagonists’ gastronomic preferences. This feature provides an interesting quirk which has become something of a fad among his readership even in mainland Italy. The TV adaptation of Montalbano’s adventures, starring Luca Zingaretti, further increased Camilleri’s popularity to such a point that in 2003 Camilleri’s home town, Porto Empedocle – on which Vigàta is modelled – took the extraordinary step of changing its official name to that of Porto Empedocle Vigàta, no doubt with an eye to capitalising on the tourism possibilities thrown up by the author’s work. On his website, Camilleri refers to the engaging and multi-faceted character of Montalbano as a “serial killer of characters,” meaning that he has developed a life of his own and demands great attention from his author, to the demise of other potential books and different personages. Camilleri added that he writes a Montalbano novel every so often just so that the character will be appeased and allow him to work on other stories. In 2012, Camilleri’s The Potter’s Field (translated by Stephen Sartarelli) was announced as the winner of the 2012 Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger. The announcement was made on 5 July 2012 at the awards ceremony held at One Birdcage Walk in London. Camilleri now lives in Rome. (Source: Wikipedia)

To the best of my knowledge, the complete book series comprises so far the following titles in publication order: The Shape of Water, 2002 [La forma dell’acqua, Palermo, Sellerio, 1994];The Terra-Cotta Dog, 2002 [Il cane di terracotta, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996]; The Snack Thief, 2003 [Il ladro di merendine, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996]; The Voice of the Violin, 2003 [La voce del violino, Palermo, Sellerio, 1997]; The Excursion To Tindari, 2005 [La gita a Tindari, Palermo, Sellerio, 2000]; The Smell of the Night aka The Scent of the Night, 2005 [L’odore della notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2001]; Rounding the Mark, 2006 [Il giro di boa, Palermo, Sellerio, 2003]; The Patience of the Spider, 2007 [La pazienza del ragno, Palermo, Sellerio, 2004]; The Paper Moon, 2008 [La luna di carta, Palermo, Sellerio, 2005]; August Heat, 2009 [La vampa d’agosto, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006]; The Wings of the Sphinx, 2009 [Le ali della sfinge, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006]; The Track of Sand, 2010 [La pista di sabbia, Palermo, Sellerio, 2007]; The Potter’s Field, 2011 [Il campo del vasaio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008]; The Age of Doubt, 2012 [L’età del dubbio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008];The Dance of the Seagull, 2013 [La danza del gabbiano, Palermo, Sellerio, 2009]; The Treasure Hunt, 2013 [La caccia al tesoro, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; Angelica’s Smile, 2014 [Il sorriso di Angelica, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; Game of Mirrors, 2015 [Il gioco degli specchi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010]; A Beam of Light aka Blade of Light, 2015 [Una lama di luce, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012]; A Voice in the Night, 2016 [Una voce di notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012]; A Nest of Vipers, 2017 [Un covo di vipere, Palermo, Sellerio, 2013]; The Pyramid of Mud, 2018 [La piramide di fango, Palermo, Sellerio, 2014]; The Overnight Kidnapper, 2019 [La giostra degli scambi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2015]; The Other End of the Line (2019) [L’altro capo del filo, Palermo, Sellerio, 2016]; La rete di protezione, Palermo, Sellerio, 2017; Il metodo Catalanotti, Palermo, Sellerio, 2018; Il cuoco dell’Alcyon, Palermo, Sellerio, 2019; and Riccardino (inedito).

About the Translator: Stephen Sartarelli was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on July 5, 1954. He holds a BA in literature and languages from Antioch College and an MA in comparative literature from New York University. Sartarelli is the author of three books of poetry: The Open Vault (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), The Runaway Woods (Spuyten Duyvil, 2000), and Grievances and Other Poems(Gnosis Press, 1989). He has translated over forty books of fiction and poetry from the Italian and French, including The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini(University of Chicago Press, 2014), which received the 2016 Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize. About Sartarelli’s winning translation, judges Antonello Borra and Alessandro Carrera write: “Thanks to Stephen Sartarelli’s magnificent volume, flawless translation and sound scholarly apparatus, the English-speaking readership will now be aware that Pier Paolo Pasolini was as great as a poet, and possibly even greater, as he was a filmmaker. Not only does Sartarelli intelligently select and elegantly translate from Pasolini’s poetic opus, he also gives us a clear, informed introduction, a useful, concise set of notes, and an essential bibliography. This book is a must have for both scholars and lovers of poetry alike.” Sartarelli’s other honors include the International Dagger Award from the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain, the John Florio Prize from the British Society of Authors, and the Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize for Songbook: Selected Poems of Umberto Saba in 2001. He has also received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities for the ongoing translation of Horcynus Orca by Stefano D’Arrigo, originally published in 1975. Sartarelli currently lives in the Périgord region of South West France with his wife, the painter Sophie Hawkes. (Source:

Game of Mirrors has several reviews at Leer sin prisa (in Spanish), Crime Review UK, reviewingtheevidence, the crime segments, and The Bookbag among others.

Pan MacMillan publicity page

Penguin Random House publicity page

Sellerio publicity page

Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series


El juego de los espejos de Andrea Camilleri

Primer párrafo: Llevaba unas dos horas sentado, como Dios lo había traído al mundo, en una especie de silla peligrosamente parecida a una silla eléctrica. Le rodeaban las muñecas y los tobillos unas argollas de hierro de las que salían manojos de cables que iban a parar a un armario metálico decorado con cuadrantes, manómetros, amperímetros, barómetros y luces —verdes, rojas, amarillas y azules— que se encendían y se apagaban sin cesar. En la cabeza llevaba un casco idéntico al que los peluqueros ponen a las señoras para hacerles la permanente, pero éste estaba unido al armario por un grueso cable negro dentro del cual había centenares de hilos de colores. (Traducción del italiano de Teresa Clavel Lledó)

Sinopsis: La explosión de un pequeño artefacto frente a un almacén vacío, en pleno centro de Vigàta, y la consiguiente investigación puesta en marcha por el comisario Montalbano y su equipo, precipitan una serie de acontecimientos que se suceden de forma caótica y vertiginosa: pistas contradictorias, cartas anónimas, delaciones misteriosas… Montalbano tiene la sensación de que alguien pretende guiar sus pasos, confundirlo y manejarlo como si fuera una marioneta, alejándolo de la verdad de los hechos. Y cuando además entra en escena Liliana, su nueva vecina, una mujer de rompe y rasga cuyo marido se halla a menudo ausente por razones de trabajo, Salvo se encontrará inmerso en un mar de confusión que dificultará su trabajo más allá de lo tolerable. Realidad e ilusión se confunden en esta última entrega del comisario Salvo Montalbano, en la que Andrea Camilleri rememora la magistral escena de los espejos de La dama de Shanghai, de Orson Welles, en la que sólo una de las imágenes es la auténtica. Para escapar de este laberinto de reflejos, Montalbano habrá de recurrir a su veteranía y su finísima intuición, sin perder nunca el irreverente sentido del humor que lo caracteriza.

Mi opinión: El juego de los espejos es el decimoctavo libro de los misterios del inspector Montalbano de Camilleri. Se publicó por primera vez en 2010, cuando Camilleri tenía aproximadamente ochenta y cinco años y, lo que es aún más sorprendente, nueve años después, Camilleri continúa escribiendo y publicando un nuevo episodio de la serie cada año. Mi admiración por esta serie de libros comenzó a desarrollarse hace unos diez años al leer Ardor de Agosto (Comisario Montalbano #10). Desde entonces, he leído la mayoría de sus libros traducidos hasta ahora, ya sea en inglés o en español. En cierto sentido, siempre encontré reconfortante encontrarme con los mismos personajes a los que ya considero viejos amigos: Livia, su eterna prometida, Enzo, el dueño de su Trattoria, sus colegas Mimì ‘Augello, Fazio, Galluzzo y Catarella, su amigo el periodista Nicolo Zito, el Dr. Pasquano y muchos otros.

En este caso, la acción comienza cuando Montalbano intenta ayudar a una dama en apuros. La dama en cuestión es su vecina, la impresionante signora Liliana Lombardo, cuyo auto se niega a arrancar una mañana. Gentilmente, Montalbano se ofrece voluntario para llevarla en su coche, lamentablemente sus habilidades como mecánico de automóviles son nulas. En cualquier caso, no le habrían ayudado mucho, dado que el motor había sido destrozado, un hecho que la Signora Lombardo desea ocultar a Montalbano, a quien parece extraño que ni siquiera quiera denunciarlo. Casi simultáneamente hay una explosión frente a un almacén vacío que, afortunadamente, no deja heridos. Las dos historias se desarrollan sin una relación aparente, aunque lo que sucede después, siempre parece estar dirigido a ocultar algo, como en un juego de espejos.

Probablemente en esta entrega, se hace más evidente la fórmula empleada por Camilleri para producir cada año un libro más. Aunque a pesar de eso, la historia resulta ser muy interesante y está perfectamente elaborada. También es cierto que los personajes no han evolucionado mucho a lo largo de la serie y permanecen con pocos cambios desde el primer libro. Sin embargo, vale la pena mencionar en esta entrega que, durante gran parte de la historia, la acción se desarrolla a un ritmo suave y tranquilo, hasta que Camilleri sacude la conciencia del lector con algunos crímenes horrendos. Después de todo estamos en territorio mafioso. Incluso con sus defectos, no hay nada que nos impida disfrutar la lectura de este libro. Pero en general, quizás John Grant haya encontrado las palabras adecuadas para expresar lo que siento al decir que, aunque disfrutara del pescado empanado y las verduras frescas que comió en la cena de ayer, simplemente no lo querría todos los días. Solo encuentre la dosis correcta para usted y disfrute de esta serie.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sobre el autor: Andrea Camilleri nació en 1925 en Porto Empedocle, provincia de Agrigento, Sicilia, y actualmente vive en Roma, donde impartió clases en la Academia de Arte Dramático. Durante cuarenta años fue guionista y director de teatro y televisión. En 1994 crea el personaje de Salvo Montalbano, el entrañable comisario siciliano protagonista de una serie que en la actualidad consta de veintiséis novelas. Todos sus libros ocupan habitualmente el primer puesto en las principales listas de éxitos italianas. Andrea Camilleri es hoy el escritor más popular de Italia y uno de los más leídos de Europa. En 2014 fue galardonado con el IX Premio Pepe Carvalho. (Fuente: Ediciones Salamandra)

Ediciones Salamandra página de publicidad

Shortlist for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Announced!


I learned this morning that the shortlist for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, has been announced.

The shortlist in full:

Belinda Bauer – Snap

Steve Cavanagh – Thirteen

Mick Herron – London Rules

Val McDermid – Broken Ground

Liam McIlvanney – The Quaker

Khurrum Rahman – East of Hounslow

I’ve not read any yet. Thirteen, London Rules and Broken Ground are on my TBR pile and I’ve just added the other three to my Wishlist.

The winner is announced on the opening night of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, on 18 July.

Sorry if it has been announced by many bloggers before, but this post is intended to be just as a reminder for myself.

My Book Notes: Maigret’s Pickpocket, 1967 (Inspector Maigret #66) by Georges Simenon (tr. Siân Reynolds)

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Penguin Classics, 2019. Format; Kindle Edition. File Size: 2032 KB. Print Length: 186 pages. ASIN: B07GRHJ16G. ISBN: 978-0-241-30418-1. A pre-original version was published in the daily Télé 7 Jours n° 358-371 between 28 January and 6 May 1967 (15 episodes). First published in French as Le Voleur de Maigret by Presses de la Cité in 1967. The story was written between 5 and 11 November 1966 in Épalinges (Canton of Vaud), Switzerland. The first English translation came out as Maigret’s Pickpocket in 1968. Ten subsequent editions followed through 1996 aka Maigret and the Pickpocket. The translator for all was Nigel Ryan. This translation by Siân Reynolds was first published in 2019.

imageOpening paragraph: ‘Sorry, monsieur.’
      ‘Not at all.’
      It was at least the third time since the corner of Boulevard Richard-Lenoir that she had lost her balance, bumping into him with her bony shoulder and crushing her string bag full of groceries against his thigh.

Book description: A pickpocket steals Maigret’s wallet only to return it the following day, on the condition that he visit the thief’s apartment. When the thief leads Maigret to the body of his dead wife he becomes embroiled in an unusual murder case.

My take: One morning, while Maigret is travelling on the platform of a bus, someone robs his wallet. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the fact that he gets his wallet back the next day on the mail, with nothing missing. What is even more strange is that he gets a call from the man who stole his wallet asking him for an appointment outside Quai des Orfèvres, to which Maigret accesses. The thief in question is some  François Ricain, an odd young man who thinks himself a genius while surviving writing cinema reviews hoping to become one day a celebrated film director. Nothing uncommon until Maigret accompanies him to his house to find out that Ricain’s wife, Sophie, has been murdered. Ricain, with all the evidence against him, fears to be charged of murdering and declares himself innocent. As usual, Maigret will have to dig deeper into their lives to uncover the truth.

‘This is a strange case. Strange people. I’m in the world of cinema and, just like at the cinema, it all started with a stunt, the theft of my wallet.’

It was a tough moment to get through. In almost all his investigations, Maigret experienced this more or less long period of uncertainty, in the course of which, his colleagues whispered, he seemed to be ruminating. During the first phase of a case, that is when he was suddenly faced with a new milieu, and people about whom he knew nothing, it was as if he was breathing in the life around him, absorbing it like a sponge.

He was sometimes met with disapproval, especially from the prosecutor’s office, for doing in person tasks which should be handled by his inspectors, leaving headquarters to interrogate witnesses on the spot in stead of having them summoned revisiting the crime scene for no good reason, even taking over surveillance duties, rain or shine.

Even at risk of repeating here the opinion of another reviewer at Goodreads here, with whom I find myself very much in accordance. I venture to say that nothing is seemingly outstanding in this book. The story turns out to be quite banal, the plot looks like as if we have already read it before, the characters do not seem to have anything that can make them interesting, and even the writing is by no means exceptional. Nevertheless, even when Simenon is clearly far from his best form, he manages to set up a novel that is not at all boring and that even manages to hook us from the beginning. Something reserved only to true geniuses. Recommended.

My rating: B (I liked it)

Maigret’s Pickpocket has been reviewed at The Budapest Times, and at Georges Simenon & Maigret International Dailyblog.

About the Author: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. Altogether, about 550 million copies of his works have been printed. He is best known, however, for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Commissaire Maigret. The first novel in the series, Pietr-le-Letton, appeared in 1931; the last one, Maigret et M. Charles, was published in 1972. The Maigret novels were translated into all major languages and several of them were turned into films and radio plays. Two television series (1960-63 and 1992-93) have been made in Great Britain. During his “American” period, Simenon reached the height of his creative powers, and several novels of those years were inspired by the context in which they were written. Simenon also wrote a large number of “psychological novels”, as well as several autobiographical works. (Source: Goodreads).

About the Translator: Siân Reynolds is Emeritus Professor in French at the University of Stirling. Born Cardiff 1940. BA Modern Languages, Oxford (St Anne’s College); MA, Sussex; Doctorate (History) Université de Paris-VII-Denis Diderot, supervised by Michelle Perrot. Taught at Sussex and Edinburgh, appointed to the Chair in French at Stirling in 1990. Since taking early retirement, she has continued research in French and Scottish history and translating fiction (Fred Vargas, Georges Simenon, Virginie Despentes et al.). Past translations include most works by the French historian, Fernand Braudel. Current editor of the English online edition of the journal Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire, and Chair of the Scottish Working People’s History Trust. Officier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques; Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales; Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Nottingham (2015-2018). Source: University of Stirling.

Penguin UK publicity page

Penguin US publicity page

Le Voleur de Maigret 

Maigret of the Month: July, 2009

Tout Maigret

El ladrón de Maigret, de Georges Simenon

Primer párrafo: “Lo siento, señor.”
       ‘En absoluto.’
       Era por lo menos la tercera vez desde la esquina del bulevar Richard-Lenoir que perdía el equilibrio, lo golpeaba con su hombro huesudo y aplastaba su malla llena de productos de la compra, contra su muslo.

Descripción del libro: El comisario Maigret viaja en la plataforma de un autobús observando a los viajeros que le rodean y, en concreto, a una mujer, que, a cada sacudida del vehículo, le golpea las piernas con su bolsa de la compra. Esto hace que no se dé cuenta de que alguien, en un descuido, le sustrae la cartera del bolsillo trasero del pantalón.
Al día siguiente, Maigret recibe, en su despacho de la Policía Judicial, un paquete que contiene la cartera con todo lo que llevaba, incluida su placa de bronce.
Poco después, recibe una llamada del ladrón, en la que éste le explica el porqué del robo y le pide una entrevista para contarle una historia, siempre y cuando Maigret no lo denuncie y acuda solo.
Así da comienzo un nuevo caso del comisario Maigret.

Mi opinión: Una mañana, mientras Maigret viaja en la plataforma de un autobús, alguien le roba la billetera. Nada fuera de lo común, excepto por el hecho de que recibe su billetera al día siguiente en el correo, sin que falte nada. Lo que es aún más extraño es que recibe una llamada del hombre que le robó la billetera y le pide una cita fuera de Quai des Orfèvres, a la que Maigret accede. El ladrón en cuestión es François Ricain, un joven extraño que se cree un genio mientras sobrevive escribiendo críticas de cine con la esperanza de convertirse algún día en un famoso director de cine. Nada raro hasta que Maigret lo acompañe a su casa para descubrir que la esposa de Ricain, Sophie, ha sido asesinada. Ricain, con toda la evidencia en su contra, teme ser acusado de asesinato y se declara inocente. Como de costumbre, Maigret tendrá que profundizar en sus vidas para descubrir la verdad.

“Se trata de un caso extraño, con gente extraña. Me encuentro en el mundo del cine y, al igual que en las películas, todo comienza con un ardid, el robo de mi billetera “.

Era un momento difícil de superar. En casi todas sus investigaciones, Maigret experimentaba este período de incertidumbre más o menos largo, en el curso del cual, sus colegas susurraban que parecía estar reflexionando. Durante la primera fase de un caso, esto es cuando de repente se enfrentaba a un nuevo entorno, y a personas de las que no sabía nada, era como si respirara la vida que lo rodeaba, absorbiéndolo como una esponja.

En ocasiones sus prácticas eran desaprobabadas, especialmente por la oficina del fiscal, por encargarse de tareas personalmente que debían asumir sus inspectores, abandonar la sede central para interrogar testigos de inmediato en lugar de citarlos regresando a la escena del crimen sin razón aparente, incluso haciéndose cargo de labores de vigilancia, lloviera o hiciera sol.

Incluso a riesgo de repetir aquí la opinión de otro en Goodreads aquí, con quien me encuentro muy de acuerdo. Me atrevo a decir que no hay nada aparentemente sobresaliente en este libro. La historia resulta ser bastante banal, la trama parece como si ya la hubiéramos leído antes, los personajes no parecen tener nada que los haga interesantes, e incluso la escritura no es excepcional. Sin embargo, incluso cuando Simenon está claramente lejos de su mejor forma, logra crear una novela que no es para nada aburrida y que incluso nos engancha desde el principio. Algo reservado solo a los verdaderos genios. Recomendado.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó)

Sobre el autor: Georges Simenon (1903-1989) fue uno de los escritores más prolíficos del siglo XX, capaz de escribir de 60 a 80 páginas diarias. Su obra incluye casi 200 novelas, más de 150 relatos, varias obras autobiográficas, numerosos artículos y decenas de novelas baratas escritas con más de dos docenas de seudónimos. En total, se han realizado unos 550 millones de copias de sus obras. Sin embargo, es más conocido por sus 75 novelas y 28 relatos cortos protagonizados por el comisario Maigret. La primera novela de la serie, Pietr-le-Letton, apareció en 1931; La última, Maigret et M. Charles, se publicó en el 1972. Las novelas de Maigret se tradujeron a todos los idiomas principales y varias de ellas se convirtieron en películas y obras radiofónicas. En Gran Bretaña se hicieron dos series para la televisión (1960-63 y 1992-93). Durante su período “americano”, Simenon alcanzó la cima de su capacidad creativa, y varias novelas de esos años se inspiraron en el contexto en el que fueron escritas. Simenon también escribió una gran cantidad de “novelas psicológicas”, así como varios relatos autobiográficos.

My Book Notes: Big Sister, 2016 (Varg Veum # 19) by Gunnar Staalesen (tr. Don Bartlett)

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Orenda Books, 2018. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1523 KB. Print Length: 276 pages. ASIN: B078GWYY4K. eISBN: 978-1-912374-20-5. Translated by Don Bartlett. First published in Norwegian as Storesøster by Gyldendal in 2016.

BIG_SISTER_AW.inddOpening paragraph: I have never believed in ghosts. The mature woman who came to my office on that wan November day was no ghost, either. But what she told me awakened something I had long repressed and opened the door to a darkened attic of family secrets whose existence I had never suspected. From behind my desk I sat staring at her, as I would have done if she really had been just that: a ghost.

Synopsis: Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously. Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal… Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

My Take: According to my information, Big Sister is the nineteenth instalment in the series featuring Varg Veum, a former social worker turned private investigator, by Norwegian crime writer Gunnar Staalesen. The story begins in November 2003 and, in case there is any doubt that the title renders homage to Raymond Chandler, the following paragraph will altogether dispel it.

On the front doorstep we felt one of the North Sea’s freshest winds blowing into the town. You could say a lot about Haugesund, I supposed. The sky was high above the town, and the light strong, but there were no mountains high enough to protect the town, as in Bergen. The winds came straight in off the sea, like the shoals of herring in the nineteenth century, allowing Haugesund to spring up on the old historic sites and turning it into a town where the salty smell of fish never meant anything but money. The herring were still there, but the oil industry had taken over the stream of money – and made a return, little by little.

There is little doubt also that Staalesen, among all the Nordic crime writers, is the closest to Chandler’s universe. Plot-wise, perhaps it may be enough to say that a woman who introduces herself as Veum’s unknown half-sister, wants to hire him to find out the whereabouts of her goddaughter, a young nursing student who has disappeared without trace. The police doesn’t seem to do anything about it, and considers it a simple case of adolescent rebellion that might be solve on its own.  Though Veum soon finds out that the case may well have its roots on another case that took place well over fifteen years ago that was never properly investigated. Simultaneously Veum will begun to dig into a past which affects him personally. The three storylines wiil intertwine as the novel unfolds. By no means I want to hide my enthusiasm on this series. And this instalment is no exception. I do have also in very high esteem its author, and it is always a pleasure to read him thanks to some extent to the excellent translation by Don Bartlett. Highly recommended.

Big Sister was shortlisted for the 2019 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

My Rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the Author: One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He took his M.A. at the Bergen University, studying English and French language and literature as well as comparative literature. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve films adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for crime fiction. He lives in Bergen with his wife.

To the best of my knowledge, the list of Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum book series in chronological order is as follows:

  1. Bukken til havresekken (1977) The Fox takes the Goose Book #1 in the Varg Veum series,
  2. Din, til døden (1979) English translation by Margaret Amassian Yours Until Death (Arcadia Books 1993)
  3. Tornerose sov i hundre år (1980) Sleepy Beauty Slumbered for a Hundred Years
  4. Kvinnen i kjøleskapet (1981) The Woman in the Fridge
  5. I mørket er alle ulver grå (1983) English translation by D. MacDuff At Night All Wolves Are Grey (Quartet Books, 1986)
  6. Svarte får (1988) Black Sheep
  7. Falne engler (1989)  Fallen Angels
  8. Bitre blomster (1991)  Bitter Blooms
  9. Begravde hunder biter ikke (1993) Dead Dogs don’t Bite
  10. Skriften på veggen (1995) English translation by Hal Sutcliffe The Writing on the Wall (Arcadia Books, 2004)
  11. Som i et speil (2002) Reflections in a Mirror
  12. Ansikt til ansikt (2004) Face to Face
  13. Dødens drabanter (2006) English translation by Don Bartlett The Consorts of Death (Arcadia Books, 2009). Spanish translation: Los círculos de la muerte (Alba Editorial)
  14. Kalde hjerter (2008) English translation by Don Bartlett Cold Hearts (Arcadia Books, 2012) 
  15. Vi skal arve vinden (2010) English translation by Don Bartlett We shall Inherit the Wind (Orenda Books, 2015) 
  16. Der hvor roser aldri dør (2012)  English translation by Don Bartlett Where Roses Never Die (Orenda Books, 2016)  Petrona Award for the best Scandinavian crime novel of the year
  17. Ingen er så trygg i fare (2014) English translation by Don Bartlett Wolves in the Dark (Orenda Books, 2017)
  18. Storesøster (2016) English translation by Don Bartlett Big Sister (Orenda Books, 2018)
  19. Utenfor er hundene (2018) English translation by Don Bartlett Wolves at the Door (Orenda Books, 2019) Book #19 in the Varg Veum series.

Plus two collections of short stories: Hekseringen (1985) The Fairing Ring and De døde har det godt (1996) The Dead are All Well.

About the translator: Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgård. He has previously translated The Consorts of Death, Cold Hearts, We Shall Inherit the Wind, Where Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.

Big Sister has been reviewed at Cafe thinking, Euro Crime, Nordic Noir, Crime Fiction Lover, Reviewing the evidence, acrimereadersblog, Crime Review, International Noir Fiction, among many others.

Orenda Books publicity page

Gunnar Staalesen


La hermana mayor (Big Sister), de Gunnar Staalesen

Párrafo inical: Nunca he creído en fantasmas. La mujer madura que se presentó en mi despacho ese aburrido día de noviembre tampoco era un fantasma. Pero lo que me dijo me despertó algo que había reprimido durante mucho tiempo y abrió la puerta a un oscuro desván de secretos familiares cuya existencia nunca había sospechado. Detrás de mi escritorio, me sentaba mirándola, como lo habría hecho si realmente hubiera sido eso: un fantasma.

Sinopsis: Varg Veum recibe una visita sorpresa en su oficina. Una mujer, que se presenta como su hermanastra, tiene un trabajo para él. Su ahijada, una enfermera en prácticas de 19 años de Haugesund, hace dos semanas que se cambió de su cuarto de alquiler en Bergen y, desde entonces, nadie ha sabido nada más de ella. No dejó dirección alguna y no contesta a su teléfono. La policía se niega a tomar en serio su caso. La investigación de Veum descubre una serie de delitos cuidadosamente encubiertos y odios contenidos, y el rastro llega hasta a una pandilla de motociclistas radicales a la búsqueda de un grupo de personas cuyas oscuras maniobras se ocultan tras el anonimato de Internet. Y entonces las cosas toman un giro personal … Estremecedora, impactante y tremendamente absorbente, Big Sister, confirma a Gunnar Staalesen como uno de los escritores de suspense más importantes del mundo.

Mi opinión: Según mi información, Big Sister es la decimonovena entrega de la serie protagonizada por Varg Veum, un antiguo trabajador social convertido en investigador privado, del escritor noruego de novela negra Gunnar Staalesen. La historia comienza en noviembre del 2003 y, en caso de que haya alguna duda de que el título rinde homenaje a Raymond Chandler, el siguiente párrafo lo disipará por completo.

En la puerta de la fachada principal, sentimos soplar uno de los vientos más fríos del Mar del Norte hacia la ciudad. Podría hablarse mucho de Haugesund, supongo. El cielo se encontraba muy por encima de la ciudad y la luz era intensa, pero no había montañas lo suficientemente altas que protegieran a la ciudad, como en Bergen. Los vientos llegaban directamente del mar, como los bancos de arenques en el siglo XIX, permitiendo que Haugesund floreciera en el antiguo sitio histórico convirtiéndolo en una ciudad donde el olor salado del pescado no significaba nada mas que dinero. Los arenques aún estaban allí, pero la industria petrolera había tomado el relevo del flujo del dinero y, poco a poco había conseguido una rentabilidad.

Hay pocas dudas también de que Staalesen, entre todos los escritores nórdicos de novela negra, sea el más cercano al universo de Chandler. Por lo que respecta a la trama, tal vez sea suficiente decir que una mujer que se presenta como la desconocida hermanastra de Veum, quiere contratarle para averiguar el paradero de su ahijada, una joven estudiante de enfermería que ha desaparecido sin dejar rastro. La policía no parece hacer nada al respecto, y lo considera un caso simple de rebelión adolescente que podría resolverse por sí solo. Aunque Veum pronto descubre que el caso puede tener sus raíces en otro caso que tuvo lugar hace más de quince años y que nunca se investigó adecuadamente. Simultáneamente, Veum comenzará a indagar en un pasado que le afecta personalmente. Las tres historias se entrelazarán a medida que se desarrolla la novela. De ninguna manera quiero ocultar mi entusiasmo por esta serie. Y esta entrega no es ninguna excepción. También tengo en muy alta estima a su autor, y siempre es un placer leerlo gracias en cierta medida a la excelente traducción de Don Bartlett. Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Uno de los padres de la novela negra nórdica, Gunnar Staalesen nació en Bergen, Noruega, en 1947. Finalizó sus estudios en la Universidad de Bergen,  de lengua y literatura inglesa y francesa, así como en literatura comparada. Debutó a los veintidós años con Seasons of Innocence y en 1977 publicó el primer libro de la serie Varg Veum. Es autor de más de veinte títulos, publicados en veinticuatro países y ha vendido más de cuatro millones de ejemplares. Doce adaptaciones cinematográficas de sus novelas policíacas con Varg Veum se han estrenado desde 2007, protagonizadas por el popular actor noruego Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen ha ganado tres Golden Pistols (incluido el Premio de Honor) y Where Roses Never Die ganó el Premio Petrona Award 2017 a la mejor novela nórdica policiaca. Vive en Bergen con su mujer.

COLD HEARTS by Gunnar Staalesen

Petrona Remembered

This week’s post is from Spanish crime fiction lover Jose Ignacio Escribano who takes us on a visit to Norway to catch up with the latest installment of a series featuring a ‘slightly’ alcoholic private detective who’s been on the case since the late 1970’s.

ColdHeartsStaalesenLike many other authors, I discovered Gunnar Staalesen’s books through Maxine Clarke’s blog, Petrona. Paraphrasing Maxine COLD HEARTS ‘has the added advantage of being translated by the superb Don Bartlett, who also translates (among other authors) Jo Nesbo and K. O. Dahl’. In addition to that COLD HEARTS is eligible or, to be more accurate, can be submitted for the 2014 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year

The story, like most if not all the books in the series, is set in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway. Varg Veum, the leading character is a private investigator…

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