Review: Stiffed by Rob Kitchin

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Snubnose Press (2013). Kindle Edition. 393 KB. ASIN: B00CO9U4ZG

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Maybe I should start by saying that I received this book from Rob Kitchin. Rob, besides his profession in academia, is a writer, a blogger and a great crime fiction aficionado. His blog The View from the Blue House is an excellent source of new and interesting crime fiction books. You can find my reviews of two of his previous books HERE and HERE.

Tadhg Maguire arrives home one night, slightly more drunk than he thought. When he gets into his bed, Kate, his girlfriend, remains wrapped in the duvet without uttering a single word, at least that’s what he thinks. They’ve been together for seven months, lately, only bicker. Before dawn, Tadhg wakes up suddenly and finds Kate screaming at the foot of his bed. There is another man in the bed. A naked man. With a hairy back. All covered in blood. A dead man. When he finally reacts. Kate is gone. The dead man turns out to be Toni Marino, Aldo Pirelli’s right hand man. Pirelli is the local boss of organized crime in this small New England town of barely 35,000 inhabitants. Tadhg works for the local newspaper, The Spring Times. He has been covering all kinds of social events for the last five years.

The right thing to do would be to wait until the police arrive. The sensible thing would be to go away and disappear forever. The only remaining option is to dispose of the body pretending it has never been there. No body, no crime. Problem solved. Life goes on.

To help him getting rid of the body, Tadhg calls his best friend since he arrived to America from a small Irish town when he was fourteen, Jason Choi. Jason is a second-generation Korean who weighs 350 pounds. But Tadhg’s problems won’t end up there. A second body appears, and  Annabelle Levy, another former school mate, also shows up. She’s is mixed race – white Jewish father, black mother. She’s intelligent, beautiful and pissed off with the whole world. To get rid of the two bodies they need a van. Here is where Paavo Poukkanes, another old school pal, comes into play. And then an unknown man shows up and demands a million dollars that belong to him. or so he claims. For some reason, he thinks that Jadhg has the money. Following a series of crazy races Tadhg will become the most wanted man in America. He may end up in prison without even knowing what’s up. But first he is determined to rescue his friends who have been kidnapped.

Thanks to this book I have come to discover a new subgenre, at least to me, ‘screwball noir’. A combination of two film genres, the screwball comedy and the film noir, that  can be applied to any other artistic expression. The name was first coined in the nineties. In Spain a pioneer in this genre is Pedro Almodovar with his film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988. (Spanish title: Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios).

Stiffed is a farce, a crazy comedy and a black tale written in a humorous tone. As such, some essential features are: an amateur detective, a ‘femme fatale’ and a dizzying action full of ridiculous but funny situations. It’s also an easy and enjoyable read. For some it may be irrelevant, I disagree. Above all, it’s nicely written. The plot is interesting and well structured, and the characters are very attractive. Tadhg and his friends will be hard to forget. And, who knows, maybe we can see them again one day. A highly recommended reading..  

My rating: 4/5.

You can buy Stiffed as:
an ebook: Amazon US and Amazon UK and Amazon.ES
a paperback: Amazon US and Amazon UK and Amanzo.ES

For some additional information and reviews please visit: Spinetingler magazine, Pattinase, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and International Noir Fiction.

Stiffed (Engañado) por Rob Kitchin

Tal vez debería empezar diciendo que recibí este libro de Rob Kitchin. Rob, además de su profesión en el ámbito académico, es un escritor, un bloguero  y un gran aficionado a la novela negra. Su blog The View from the Blue House es una excelente fuente de nuevos e interesantes libros de ficción criminal. Mis reseñas de dos de sus libros anteriores están AQUÍ y AQUÍ.

Tadhg Maguire llega a casa una noche, un poco más borracho de lo que pensaba. Cuando se mete en su cama, Kate, su novia, permanece envuelta en el edredón sin pronunciar una sola palabra, al menos eso es lo que él piensa. Llevan juntos siete meses, últimamente, sólo discuten. Antes del amanecer, Tadhg despierta repentinamente y encuentra a Kate gritando a los pies de su cama. Hay otro hombre en la cama. Un hombre desnudo. Con una espalda peluda. Todo cubierto de sangre. Un hombre muerto. Cuando por fin reacciona. Kate se ha marchado. El muerto resulta ser Toni Marino, la mano derecha de Aldo Pirelli. Pirelli es el jefe local del crimen organizado en esta pequeña ciudad de Nueva Inglaterra de apenas 35.000 habitantes. Tadhg trabaja para el periódico local, The Spring Times. Él ha estado cubriendo todo tipo de eventos sociales durante los últimos cinco años.

Lo correcto sería esperar a que llegue la policía. Lo más sensato sería marcharse y desaparecer para siempre. La única opción restantes es deshacerse del cuerpo y pretender que nunca ha estado allí. Sin cuerpo, no hay crimen. Problema resuelto. La vida sigue.

Para ayudarle a deshacerse del cuerpo, Tadhg llama a su mejor amigo desde que llegó a Estados Unidos procedente de un pequeño pueblo irlandés cuando tenía catorce años, Jason Choi. Jason es un coreano de segunda generación que pesa 350 libras. Pero los problemas de Tadhg no terminarán allí. Un segundo cuerpo aparece, y Annabelle Levy, otra ex compañera del colegio, también aparece. Ella es mestiza, hija de padre judío blanco y de madre negra. Ella es inteligente, guapa y cabreada con todo el mundo. Para deshacerse de los dos cuerpos necesitan una furgoneta. Aquí es donde Paavo Poukkanes, otro viejo amigo del colegio, entra en juego. Y entonces un desconocido aparece y reclama un millón de dólares que le pertenecen, o al menos eso dice. Por alguna razón, piensa que Jadhg tiene el dinero. Tras una serie de carreras locas Tadhg se convertirá en el hombre más buscado de América. Él puede terminar en la cárcel sin saber lo que pasa. Pero primero está decidido a rescatar a sus amigos que han sido secuestrados.

Gracias a este libro he llegado a descubir un nuevo subgénero, al menos para mí, llamado ‘screwball noir’. Una combinación de dos géneros cinematográficos, la comedia excéntrica y el cine negro, que se puede aplicar a cualquier otra expresión artística. El nombre fue acuñado por primera vez en los años noventa. En España, uno de los pioneros en este género es Pedro Almodóvar con su película Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, 1988.

Stiffed es una farsa, una comedia loca y un relato negro escrito en clave de humor. Como tal, algunas características esenciales son un detective aficionado, una ‘femme fatale’ y una acción vertiginosa llena de situaciones ridículas pero divertidas. También es una lectura fácil y amena. Para algunos puede resultar irrelevante, no estoy de acuerdo. Por encima de todo, está muy bien escrita. La trama es interesante y está bien estructurada, y los personajes resultan muy atractivos. Tadhg y sus amigos serán difíciles de olvidar. Y, quién sabe, tal vez podamos verlos de nuevo algún día. Una lectura muy recomendable.

Mi califiación: 4/5.

The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier

Publication date: 01 Aug 2013. Mulholland Books. Translated by Alison Anderson.

Bernard Minier grew up at the foot of the Pyrenees. He has received several awards for his short stories. The Frozen Dead, originally titled Glacé (2011), is his first crime novel.

The blurb reads: The first victim is a horse: its headless body hangs suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff. On the same day as the gruesome discovery, a young psychiatrist starts her first job at a secure asylum for the criminally insane, just a few miles away. Commandant Servaz, a Toulouse city cop, can’t believe he has been called out over the death of an animal. But there is something disturbing about this crime that he cannot ignore. Then DNA from one of the most notorious inmates of the asylum is found on the corpse… and a few days later the first murder takes place. In this snowbound valley, deep in the Pyrenees, a dark story of madness and revenge is unfolding. It will take all of Servaz’s skill to solve it.

You can read my previous post Glacé – Frozen.

His second novel El círculo, originally titled Le Cercle (2012), has just been released in Spain. (Roca editorial).

Just wonder if we won’t speak soon of a Pyrenees Noir. After all Adamsberg was born there.

The Inaugural Petrona Award Shortlist

The award has been created to honour the memory of Maxine Clarke who, blogging as Petrona, was tirelessly promoting Scandinavian crime fiction translated into English long before Stieg Larsson grabbed the world’s attention. This year’s shortlist was derived from Maxine’s published reviews of Scandinavian crime fiction published in the UK in 2012.

Just click on the book title to access my review:

  • Pierced (Faber & Faber, 2012) by Thomas Enger. Translated by Charlotte Barslund.
  • Black Skies (Vintage, 2012) by Arnaldur Indridason. Translated by Victoria Cribb.
  • Last Will (Transworld Digital, 2012) by Liza Marklund. Translated by Neil Smith.
  • Another Time, Another Life (Doubleday/Transworld 2012) by Leif GW Persson. Translated by Paul Norlen.

More information at Petrona Remembered

Review: March Violets, by Philip Kerr

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March Violets (Penguin Books, 2004) First published by Viking in 1989. Published together with The Pale Criminal, 1990 and A German Requiem, 1991 as Berlin Noir (Penguin Books, 1993). 256 pages. ISBN: 978-0-14-200414-2.

March VioletsMarch Violets is the first book written by Philip Kerr featuring detective Bernhard ‘Bernie’ Gunther. The action is set in Berlin, 1936 when the city is preparing to host the Summer Olympics. Following the large increase in votes of the NSDAP at the Federal Elections held on 5 March 1933, many joined the Nazi Party. Those newcomers were considered opportunistic, and were called March Violets, the title refers to them.

Bernie Gunther, after leaving the Kriminalpolizei, Kripo for short, to become the house detective at the Adlon Hotel, has turned into a private investigator.

‘This days I do (almost) anything (except divorce) from insurance investigations to guarding wedding presents to finding missing persons – that’s the ones the police don’t already know about, as well as the one they do. Yes, that’s one are of my business that’s seen a real improvement since the National Socialists took power.’ 

One day, Gunther is hired by Doktor Hermann Six, a major Ruhr industrialists, to investigate the murder of his daughter Grete. Grete and her husband Paul Pfarr had died a few days ago on a fire set at their house in Lichterfelde-Ost. They were both  murdered, and their safe was ransacked before the fire destroyed their home. Herr Six doesn’t know the exact contents of the safe, except for a highly valuable diamond necklace, of whose existence the Kripo has not been informed. This should provide an advantage to Gunther to track down the murderer, ahead of the criminal police. The necklace must be returned to Herr Six, before handing the murderer to the authorities. Under no circumstance should fall the necklace into the hands of the criminal police.  

The novel is told in the first person by Bernie Gunther and follows the model of the American hardboiled. But Kerr’s narrative skill and the location of the events within a specific historical context, make it a memorable reading. It is a fine recreation of the atmosphere of Berlin during the rise of the Nazis to power and is well documented. It underlines the relationship between the Nazis and the underworld, the similarity of their methods, the necessary cooperation of the main industrial groups and  internal power struggles among different Nazi leaders. Besides, Bernie Gunther is a remarkable character, the story is nicely plotted, and the result is a solid read with good doses of humour. I wonder why it took me so long to start reading this series and I look forward to reading The Pale Criminal, the next one in the series.

My rating: 4/5.

Philip Kerr is the author of many novels, but perhaps the best known are the nine books featuring Bernie Gunther: March Violets (Viking, 1989), The Pale Criminal (Viking, 1990), A German Requiem (Viking, 1991), The One From the Other (Putnam, 2006), A Quiet Flame (Quercus, 2008), If The Dead Rise Not (Quercus, 2009), Field Grey (Quercus, 2010), Prague Fatale (Quercus, 2011), and A Man Without Breath (Quercus, 2013). The first three make up a trilogy published as Berlin Noir.

March Violets has been reviewed by Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Norman at Crime Scraps/Crime Scraps Reviews 

The Bernie Gunther novels by Philip Kerr at Crime Fiction Lover

About Philip Kerr

A Five Parts Interview with Philip Kerr (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V)

Penguin Books (USA)

Penguin Books

Violetas de marzo, de Philip Kerr

Violetas de marzo - PHILIP KERR

Violetas de marzo es el primer libro escrito por Philip Kerr protagonizado por el detective Bernhard “Bernie” Gunther. La acción se desarrolla en el Berlín de 1936, cuando la ciudad se prepara para acoger los Juegos Olímpicos de Verano. Tras el gran aumento de votos del NSDAP en las elecciones federales celebradas el 5 de marzo 1933, muchos se unieron al Partido Nazi. Los recién llegados fueron tachados de oportunistas y recibieron el nombre de Violetas de marzo, el título se refiere a ellos.

Bernie Gunther después de abandonar la Kriminalpolizei, Kripo abreviadamente, para trabajar como detective del Hotel Adlon, se ha convertido en un investigador privado.

“Estos días hago (casi) todo (excepto divorcios), investigaciones para las compañías de seguros, guardar regalos de boda y encontrar personas desaparecidas – tanto a los que la policía no conoce, como a los que conoce. Sí, este es uno de mis negocios que ha visto una auténtica mejoría desde que los nacionalsocialistas llegaron al poder.”

Un día, Gunther es contratado por Herr Doktor Hermann Six, uno de los principales industriales del Ruhr, para investigar el asesinato de su hija Grete. Grete y su esposo Paul Pfarr habían muerto hace unos días en un incendio provocado en su casa de Lichterfelde-Ost. Ambos fueron asesinados, y su caja fuerte fue saqueada antes de que el incendio destruyera su casa. Herr Six no conoce el contenido exacto de la caja fuerte, a excepción de un collar de diamantes de gran valor, de cuya existencia la Kripo no ha sido informada. Esto debería proporcionarle una ventaja a Gunther frente a la policía criminal, para encontrar al asesino. El collar debe volver a las manos de a Herr Six, antes de entregar el asesino a las autoridades. Bajo ninguna circunstancia debe caer el collar en manos de la policía criminal.

La novela está narrada en primera persona por Bernie Gunther y sigue el modelo del hardboiled norteamericano. Pero la habilidad narrativa de Kerr y la localización de los hechos en un contexto histórico específico, hacen que sea una lectura memorable. Es una buena recreación de la atmósfera de Berlín durante el ascenso de los nazis al poder y está bien documentada. Pone de relieve la relación entre los nazis y los bajos fondos, la similitud de sus métodos, la necesaria cooperación de los principales grupos industriales y las luchas internas entre los diferentes líderes nazis. Además, Bernie Gunther es un personaje extraordinario, la historia está muy bien tramada, y el resultado es una lectura sólida, con buenas dosis de humor. Me pregunto por qué tardé tanto tiempo en comenzar a leer esta serie y espero con interés la lectura de Pálido criminal, la siguiente de la serie.

Mi calificación: 4/5

Philip Kerr es el autor de muchas novelas, pero quizás las más conocidas son las nueve protagonizadas por Bernie Gunther: Violetas de Marzo (RBA, 2009), Pálido Criminal, (RBA, 2009), Réquiem Alemán (RBA, 2009), Unos por otros (RBA, 2009), Una llama misteriosa (RBA, 2009), Si los muertos no resucitan (RBA, 2009), Gris de campaña (RBA, 2011), Praga mortal (RBA, 2012 ) y Un hombre sin aliento (2013). Los tres primeros conforman una trilogía publicada como Trilogía berlínesa (RBA, 2012).

Violetas de marzo ha sido reseñada entre otros por Golem – Memorias de lecturas, Microscopio del Dr. Winter, Cruce de caminos, Leer sin prisa, Viaje alrededor de una mesa,  

RBA libros

La Cerdanya

The comarca (local district) of La Cerdanya (Spain) contains the upper part of the Segre river valley, and lies in the centre of the Catalan Pyrenes (Spain), between France, Andorra and the comarques of El Ripollès, El Berguedà and L’Alt Urgell (Spain). It has a total surface area of 546 m2 and a population of 12,500 spread amongst a total of 126 municipal areas. Administratively speaking, it belongs to Catalonia, Spain, France, Girona, Lleida and the Western Pyrenees. Although it is possible to divide this region in various different ways, such as into L’Alta Cerdanya (the French part of the territory) and La Baixa Cerdanya (the Spanish part), the present administrative divisions separate the French and Spanish parts of the territory. Within the latter, there is a further subdivision between the provinces of Girona and Lleida. This comarca has important tourism resources: ski resorts, fishing, an excellent gastronomy, tremendously beautiful natural scenery, Romanesque monuments and high mountain villages with their own popular folk festivals and traditional sweet dishes. Some of the most popular attractions for visitors include the hiking and cycling routes that pass through its magnificent natural scenery, which is dominated by the Serra del Cadí (Cadi Ridge), and run across the mountain range itself (taken from Ara Lleida).

Carolina Solé’s debut novel, Ojos de hielo (Ice Eyes) is set there.