Month: November 2015

Review: Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J A Lang

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Purple Panda Press, 2015. Format: Kindle Edition. File size: 500 KB. Print Length: 242 pages. ASIN: B00TOO2QW8 ISBN: 978 1 910679 03 6

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Maurice is the owner and head chef of Le Cochon Rouge, the one and only restaurant of Beakley, a fictional village in the Cotswolds. One day, he’s very much worried. The mushroom season has just started and Ollie, his local forager and supplier of wild products, has not yet arrived. He was counting with some mushrooms for his evening dishes. Perhaps the recent increase in demand for all kind of ‘wild’ products is going to leave him without his regular supplies. For this reason, Maurice himself, heads to Ollie’s house to find out what has happened. Ollie is nowhere to be found and the door of his house is ajar. Without thinking twice, Maurice gets into the kitchen and in the fridge, between several  other plastic boxes, there’s one labelled Le Cochon Rogue, misspelled, Maurice likes that. His case isn’t quite full, but at least has a decent selection of mushrooms. Engrossed, Maurice doesn’t notice the shadowy figure who comes creeping up behind him and hits him hard in the head.

Upon regaining consciousness, Maurice comes across PC Lucy Gavistone, the only member of the Cowton and Beakley Constabulary who lives in Beakley itself, and she prevents Maurice to take anything away with him, including the box with his mushrooms. According to a neighbour, Ollie has not been seen for a few days. But later on, Maurice returns to Ollie’s house to pick up his mushrooms, and has a chance encounter with his friend Arthur Worthington-Smythe, the gastronomic critic of the England Observer. Arthur tries to convince him not to disturb a possible crime scene, unsuccessfully. And Maurice, thanks to his fine sense of smell, makes an amazing discovery. Among the plants and vegetables at Ollie’s kitchen there’s a highly coveted white Alba truffle. Back at the restaurant, Maurice realises that maybe the truffle doesn’t come from Italy and he starts looking for a dog and train it in the search for truffles. When he can’t find one, he has to settle with a pig. At this point is when the body of poor Ollie appears with obvious signs of having been killed. Chef Maurice becomes an amateur detective and, with the help of his friend Arthur in the role of his sidekick, is determined to unravel what happened.

I do enjoy reading mainly ‘noir‘ fiction and hardboiled mysteries rather than ‘cozies’ or soft-boiled, but I occasionally savour a nice piece of cozy mystery, not to mention a Golden Age detective fiction. And I must admit, in this case, I have spent a good time reading Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle. The story is fun, the characters are charming, the plot is well-assembled, it unfolds in the Cotswolds and, to top it all, it revolves around food. A book that, without doubt, helps to keep up our spirit and to enjoy life. A delight.

My rating: B (I really liked it)

chefmauricefishyJ.A. Lang is a British mystery author, living in Oxford, England. She is the author of the Chef Maurice series of culinary mysteries:

Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes (Book #2)

Chef Maurice and the Bunny-Boiler Bake Off (Book # 3)

Subscribe to J A Lang’s reader newsletter to hear about new releases, as well as other Chef Maurice news and giveaways, at: http://www.jalang.net/newsletter, where . You can also connect with J.A. Lang on Facebook or at J A Lang website.  Specifically you can download a free prequel of the series, a short story Chef Maurice and the Rather Fishy Tale.

One day, Chef Maurice finds a small wooden fish in his daily shipment of fish from his new supplier Bert Soundman. After a careful examination, he discovers a message for help engraved on the fish. Chef Maurice together with his friend Arthur Wordington-Smythe are ready to investigate what happened. 

As a short story it can be read and serves as a nice introduction to the series.

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle has been reviewed at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel (Steve), Mysteries in Paradise (Kerrie), At the Scene of the Crime (Patrick) and at Euro Crime (Rich), among others.  

Chef Maurice y un sitio de trufas de J A Lang

Maurice es el propietario y jefe de cocina de Le Cochon Rouge, el único restaurante de Beakley, un pueblo ficticio en los Cotswolds. Un día, él se encuentra muy preocupado. La temporada de setas acaba de comenzar y Ollie, el recolector local y proveedor de productos naturales aún no ha llegado. Contaba con algunas setas para sus platos de la tarde. Tal vez el reciente aumento de la demanda de todo tipo de productos “naturales” lo va a dejar sin sus suministros regulares. Por esta razón, el propio Maurice, se dirige a la casa de Ollie para averiguar qué le ha podido pasar. Ollie no aparece por ninguna parte y la puerta de su casa está entreabierta. Sin pensarlo dos veces, Maurice se mete en la cocina y en el refrigerador, entre otras varoas cajas de plástico, hay una marcada Le Cochon Rogue, mal escrito, a Maurice le gusta eso. Su caja no está muy llena, pero al menos tiene una buena selección de setas. Absorto, Maurice no se da cuenta de la figura oscura que llega sigilosamente por detrás de él y lo golpea con fuerza en la cabeza.

Al recuperar la conciencia, Maurice se encuentra con PC Lucy Gavistone, la único representante de la Policía de Cowton y Beakley que vive en el mismo Beakley, y ella evita que Maurice puede llevarse nada con él, incluyendo la caja con sus setas. Según una vecina, Ollie no ha sido visto desde hace unos días. Pero más tarde Maurice regresa a la casa de Ollie para recoger sus setas, y se encuentra por casualidad con su amigo Arthur Worthington-Smythe, el crítico gastronómico del England Observer. Arthur trata de convencerle de no perturbar la posible escena de un crimen, sin éxito. Y Maurice, gracias a su fino sentido del olfato, hace un descubrimiento asombroso. Entre las plantas y verduras de la cocina de Ollie hay una muy codiciada trufa blanca de Alba. De regreso en su restaurante, Maurice se da cuenta de que tal vez la trufa no proviene de Italia y comienza a buscar un perro para entrenarlo en la búsqueda de trufas. Cuando no puede encontrar uno, tiene que conformarse con un cerdo. En este punto es cuando el cuerpo del pobre Ollie aparece con signos evidentes de haber sido asesinado. Chef Maurice se transforma en detective aficionado y, con la ayuda de su amigo Arthur en el papel de su ayudante, está decidido a desentrañar lo ocurrido. 

Disfruto de la lectura, principalmente de nvelas negras o ‘noir’ y hardboiled que de ‘cozies‘ o soft-boiled, pero de vez en cuando saboreo una buena pieza de misterio cozy, por no hablar de una novela de detectives de la Golden Age. Y debo admitir que, en este caso, he pasado un buen rato leyendo Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle. La historia es divertida, los personajes son encantadores, la trama está bien montada,, se desarrolla en los Cotswolds y, para colmo, gira alrededor de la comida. Un libro que, sin duda, ayuda a levantar el ánimo y disfrutar de la vida. Una delicia.

Mi valoración: B (Me gustó mucho)

J. A. Lang es una escritora británica de misterio, que vive en Oxford, Inglaterra. Es autora de la serie de misterios culinarios protagonizados por el chef Maurice:

Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes (Book #2)

Chef Maurice and the Bunny-Boiler Bake Off (Book # 3)

Usted puede suscribirse al boletín de JA Lang para enterarse de sus nuevas entregas, otras noticias del chef Maurice y en donde conseguir también algunos regalos: http://www.jalang.net/newsletter. También puede ponerse en contacto con ella en Facebook o en su página web. Concretamente se puede descargar una precuela gratuita de la serie, una historia breve, Chef Maurice and the Rather Fishy Tale.

Un día, el chef Maurice se encuentra un pequeño pez de madera en su expedición diaria de pescado de su nuevo proveedor Bert Soundman. Después de un cuidadoso exámen, descubre un mensaje pidiendo ayuda grabado en el pez. El chef Maurice junto con su amigo Arthur Worthington-Smythe están dispuestos a investigar lo sucedido.

Como relato corto se deja leer y sirve como una buena introducción a la serie.

Review: The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Orenda Books, 2015. Format: Kindle edition. File Size: 899 KB. Print Length: 320 pages. Originally published by Otava, Finland, as Suojattomat, 2014. Translated into English by David Hackston, 2015. ASIN: B00U2K5TX6. ISBN: 978 1 910633 14 4.

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Sammy arrived in Finland, following the same route as the heroine, to escape from the religious persecution in his own country. He waited for two years, four months, and one week, until his application for asylum was finally denied. He was going to be deported shortly and went underground. He found solace in Subutex, a synthetic drug for the treatment of opioids addiction, and has managed to survive partly with the help of two Pakistanis who run a pizzeria. Maalik and Farzad are Muslims but are not religious zealots as so many people in Pakistan these days and don’t care if Sammy, their fellow countryman, is Christian.

Chief Inspector Pertti Virkkunen has an special assignment for Senior Constable Anna Fekete. A young woman of Hungarian nationality who works as au pair, was arrested the previous night charged with reckless driving for having caused the death of an old man. She wasn’t driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance, but the weather conditions were such that she should have adjusted her speed below the authorised limit. She can’t express herself in Finnish fluently, her English is pretty weak and it would be helpful, if Anna could take charge of the questioning. Anna has doubts about her capacity, there are far too many words in her native language she can’t remember or that she has never heard before, and she might not be able to know the adequate legal terms to the case. The victim was wearing only his pyjamas, wasn’t carrying any document and his identity has not yet been determined. When Anna and his colleague Esko Niemi go to examine the site of the accident, a fact calls powerfully their attention, there are no footprints that could have explained how the victim got there.

A day later, two fifteen-year-old girls have found a knife in a woodland area. It’s not a normal knife, it has the blade curved and is all soaked in blood. This means another job for Anna, while Esko has to help the National Bureau of Investigation, the NBI, in the investigation of a young local immigrant called Reza Jobrani. It is believed that Reza is the mastermind behind the expansion plans in Finland of the Black Cobras, a Danish-Swedish street gang.

The Defenceless is the second novel of Kati Hiekkapelto following her successful debut The Hummingbird, see my review here. Despite of what my introduction may suggest and of the several plotlines that we’ll find in this book, I found it’s easy to read and a police procedural extremely interesting. The social consciousness of the author is undeniable, and it’s very well written, or at least that’s what it appears to me. The characters are very powerful and look to be made of flesh and blood. The reader will never get bored with what, in my view, is a plot tightly constructed and with a great sense of place. Certainly, Kati Hiekkapelto is an author that is well worth following and The Defenceless is a first class read. Highly recommended. 

My rating: A (I loved it)

Kati Hiekkapelto is a bestselling author, punk singer, performance artist and special-needs teacher. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland, where she is currently setting up a retreat for writers and artists in danger. Hiekkapelto has taught immigrants and lived in the Hungarian region of Serbia, which inspired her to write her highly regarded debut crime novel, The Hummingbird. Shortlisted for the Petrona Award, The Hummingbird has been published in six languages to date. The Defenceless won best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014. Kati is currently working on the third novel in the Anna Fekete series.

The Defenceless has been reviewed at Crime Fiction Lover (MarinaSofia), Crime Thriller Girl, Petrona Remembered (Norman), Raven Crime Reads, Crime Time, among others.

Crime Watch 9mm interview: Kati Hiekkapelto

Crime Fiction Lover Interview: Kati Hiekkapelto

Orenda Books

Otava Group Agency

The Defenceless Audiobook Narrated by: Julie Masiey

Los desamparados por Kati Hiekkapelto

Sammy llegó a Finlandia, siguiendo la misma ruta que la heroína, para escapar de la persecución religiosa en su propio país. Esperó dos años, cuatro meses y una semana, hasta que su solicitud de asilo fue finalmente denegada. Él iba a ser deportado en breve y pasó a la clandestinidad. Encontró consuelo en el Subutex, una droga sintética para el tratamiento de la adicción a los opiáceos, y ha logrado sobrevivir en parte con la ayuda de dos paquistaníes que dirigen una pizzería. Malik y Farzad son musulmanes, pero no son fanáticos religiosos como tanta gente en Pakistán en estos días y no les importa si Sammy, su compatriota, es cristiano.

El inspector jefe Pertti Virkkunen tiene una misión especial para la agente de policía Anna Fekete. Una mujer joven de nacionalidad húngara que trabaja como au pair, fue arrestada la noche anterior acusada de conducción temeraria por haber causado la muerte de un anciano. Ella no estaba conduciendo bajo la influencia del alcohol o de cualquier otra sustancia, pero las condiciones meteorológicas eran tales que ella debería haber ajustado su velocidad por debajo del límite autorizado. Ella no puede expresarse en finlandés con fluidez, su Inglés es bastante flojo y sería de gran ayuda, si Anna pudiera hacerse cargo del interrogatorio. Anna tiene dudas sobre su capacidad, hay demasiadas palabras en su lengua materna que no puede recordar o que ella nunca ha oído antes, y ella podría no ser capaz de conocer los términos legales adecuados al caso. La víctima vestía sólo su pijama, no llevaba ningún documento y su identidad aún no ha sido determinada. Cuando Anna y su colega Esko Niemi van a examinar el lugar del accidente, un hecho llama poderosamente su atención, no hay huellas que podrían haber explicado cómo la víctima llegó hasta allí.

Un día después, dos chicas de quince años de edad, han encontrado un cuchillo en una zona boscosa. No es un cuchillo normal, tiene la hoja curva y está todo empapado en sangre. Esto significa otro trabajo para Anna, mientras que Esko tiene que ayudar al NBI, el National Bureau of Investigation, en la investigación de un joven inmigrante local llamado Reza Jobrani. Se cree que Reza es el cerebro detrás de los planes de expansión en Finlandia de las Cobras Negra, una banda callejera de origen danés y sueco.

The Defenceless es la segunda novela de Kati Hiekkapelto tras su exitoso debut en The Hummingbird, ver mi reseña aquí. A pesar de lo que mi introducción pueda sugerir y de las varias líneas argumentales que encontraremos en este libro, me pareció que es fácil de leer y un procedimiento policial extremadamente interesante. La conciencia social de la autora es innegable, y está muy bien escrito, o por lo menos eso es lo que me parece. Los personajes son muy poderosos y parecen estar hecho de carne y hueso. El lector nunca se aburrirá con lo que, en mi opinión, es una trama bien construida y con un gran sentido del lugar donde se desarrolla. Ciertamente, Kati Hiekkapelto es una autora que merece la pena seguir y The Defenceless es una lectura de primera clase. Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Kati Hiekkapelto es una autora de éxito, una cantante punk, una creadora de performances y una profesora de niños con necesidades especiales. Vive en una antigua granja en la isla de Hailuoto en el norte de Finlandia, donde actualmente está montando un refugio para escritores y artistas en peligro. Hiekkapelto ha enseñado a inmigrantes y ha vivido en la región húngara de Serbia, lo que la inspiró a escribir su muy notable primera novela negra, The Hummingbird. Candidata al Premio Petrona, The Hummingbird ha sido publicado en seis idiomas hasta la fecha. The Defenceless ganó el premio a la mejor novela negra finlandesa en el 2014. Kati está trabajando actualmente en la tercera novela de la serie Anna Fekete.

OT: Hiking in Madrid

My hiking group enjoyed this morning of a magnificent day en route from Torrelodones to La Presa del Gasco.

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Route details here

However …..

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E. T. A. Hoffmann’s novella, Mademoiselle de Scudéri. A Tale from the Times of Louis XIV [Das Fräulein von Scuderi. Erzählung aus dem Zeitalter Ludwig des Vierzehnten], was first published in 1819 and can be considered an early example of crime fiction. (Source: Wikipedia)

Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann is one of the best-known representatives of German Romanticism, and a pioneer of the fantasy genre, with a taste for the macabre combined with realism that influenced such authors as Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852), Charles Dickens (1812–1870), Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), George MacDonald (1824–1905), Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881), Vernon Lee (1856-1935), Franz Kafka (1883–1924) and Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980). Hoffmann’s story Das Fräulein von Scuderi is sometimes cited as the first detective story and a direct influence on Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue. His stories form the basis of Jacques Offenbach’s famous opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based. The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann’s Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann’s character Johannes Kreisler. (Source: Wikipedia)

Today, I’m feeling slightly less ignorant.

First Detective Novel

I could be reinventing the wheel but have thought it might be of interest to regular or occasional readers of A Crime is Afoot.

notting-hill-serial The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Felix, dating back to 1862, preceded The Moonstone by some years. (Thank you Kerrie)

The author Julian Symons identified The Notting Hill Mystery as the first detective novel in 1972, calling its primacy “unquestionable” and its plot “strikingly modern”. The British Library first made the novel available via print-on-demand last March, as part of a collection of hundreds of 19th century novels. While most sold just two to three copies apiece, The Notting Hill Mystery took off following a glowing write-up in the New York Times which identified Adams as its author and described its ending as both “ingenious and utterly mad”, selling hundreds of copies and prompting the library to issue its new trade edition this month.

Read the complete article at The Guardian here.

For additional information:

51666n4WvzL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_ The Thrilling Detective Web Site

British Library Crime Classics

The Notting Hill Mystery at Wikipedia

Maybe as Les éditions de Londres says: “Not so popular when released, forgotten a few years later, fallen into oblivion for over hundred years, “The Notting Hill mystery” can still be seen technically as the first detective novel. But, as we said earlier, it is not so important. The true contribution of “The Notting Hill mystery” to the history of detective and crime novels it its novelty, it utter originality and how ahead of its time it was.”