The Dying Detective by Leif GW Persson

Bratwurst. With mustard and all sorts of extras for the delicious, craved sausage. And then Swedish CSI Detective Lars Martin Johansson takes a bite and has a stroke. Thus begins a wonderfully written 500 page Scandinavian mystery about an extraordinary man and detective. In the National Crime Police, Johansson is the cop who is known as the “man who could see around corners.”

Persson has expertly drawn out the several characters we follow from hospital to sofa at home to chauffeured car rides – But our main interest is in Johansson, who is paralyzed on one side, whose mouth droops and has debilitating headaches! But he leads his little team on the chase of a murderer of a little girl killed many years before.

The remarkable writing brings these characters into your home as you read Persson’s novel, which though a mystery novel, does not show us any violence. Strangely this book is uplifting, and yet you can guess the expected outcome from the start. Our hero Johansson is in a race against time to catch his foe.

I was sorry to turn the last page on this book. I laughed sometimes with the wonderful dialogue and closed the book several times to ponder a sentence or thought that Persson had written. How often does one do that in reading any novel.dying detectiv e

Persson is from Stockholm and works as a professor in criminology at the Swedish National Police Board. The Dying Detective has won not just the Crime Writer’s Association International Dagger 2017, but it also is the winner of the Dannish, the Finnish and the Swedish Academy of Crime Writer’s Awards (that is three separate awards, not one!), as well as the Glass Key, which is the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel.

This is a book not just for those who like Scandinavian mysteries, however. As I said the typical Scandinavian mystery violence is missing. Rather this is a mystery for those who like a well-written, 500-page, quick read which will please your reader’s need for pleasure and action.

5 of 5 Stars


The Ex by Alafair Burke

Since I had heard such great things about this book, I started it with apprehension. Often the reviews gush over mystery novels that I find less than “a mystery.” Sorry to say that this too is an example of over-hype.

The plot starts off fine. The main character is quite appealing (a tough hard-boiled NY City criminal defense attorney with a touch of humor about herself). And the pose was easy to sweep through, if not exactly gripping.

But then…. nothing happened that you could not predict, the other characters remained cardboard at best and the ending suffered from obviousness.

The Ex givThe Exes us Olivia Randall, the quite enjoyable, tough-woman attorney, who sees that her ex-boyfriend of 20 years ago has been arrested for the murder of 3 people and of course, feels compelled to take his case. The soap opera story line about their past together was over the top with tragedy (battered mothers, abusive fathers, cancer, cheating lovers, car accidents, psychiatric hospitals, blackmailers, mass shootings). I wish I were kidding.

Allegedly the man the ex-boyfriend targeted was the father of the killer who shot his wife during a mass shooting. As Olivia investigates the crimes she begins to switch from advocating for the ex to not believing anything he says. Much of the book is about whether or not the ex is to be trusted.

I would qualify this novel as a combination chick-lit/mystery. So perhaps the over emphasis on the relationship between the ex and Olivia is more acceptable to readers who like this type of mystery. The straight mystery elements, however, suffered here. Too much coincidence. The character’s actions were often unbelievable and kept taking me out of the story. The ending has been written hundreds of times in a mystery – it no longer surprises anyone who reads mysteries, especially if it is advertised for 200 pages.

But let me add, I rather liked the book! Seriously, it was a quick and good read if you want something light and don’t have the energy to focus. The author, Alafair Burke, is a former prosecutor turned criminal law professor who has written 10 previous mysteries. Plus, (BIG CLUE) she has co-authored two other “mysteries” with Mary Higgins Clark, the grande-dame of chick-lit suspense novels.

3 out of 5 stars

The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

Having read Gun Street Girl by McKinty last fall, I decided to go back and read the first in his Irish historical series on The Troubles. And I am certainly glad I did. I am a big fan of Irish Noir (Ken Bruen, Tana French, Stuart Neville, Declan Hughes, Alex Barclay, Declan Burke) but only tolerate the routine violence to enjoy the prose. Here with McKinty, I have finthe-cold-cold-ground-adrian-mckinty1ally found a great noir writer who gives the Irish experience without detailing all the gore.

It is 1981 in Northern Ireland, and Belfast is on the verge of outright civil war. Soldiers, riots, bombings. And in the midst of it all, a serial killer of gay men. Poor Sean Duffy, a young and Catholic detective in a Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to personally survive as he uncovers a smart plot of deceit and false clues.

The setting and the characters are written superbly. You know you have a winner when you like the protagonist and cheer him/her on – even when they do foolish things like drink to excess when the killer is headed his way or forget to check for bombs under his car! You will really enjoy this series. Start with this one if you haven’t read any before

My rating 5 of 5

Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty

For some reason I usually avoid mysteries set in Ireland. I guess I feel that they are too dark and foreboding and that there is just too much violence and too few realistic women. I have read Benjamin Black, Tana French and Stuart Neville — all with heavy drinking and heavy soul searching but not eFeatured imagenough thoughtful detecting by likable characters.

I am glad to find a series set in Ireland which I thoroughly enjoyed — Adrian McKinty’s Detective Sean Duffy is my kind of cop. Clever, funny, thoughtful and believable. McKinty is a fine writer who makes the writing seem readable while at the same time uniquely profound. He gives us complex female characters as well as male characters which we admire and want to follow! How daring!

It is Belfast 1985, so the plot does involve “the troubles.” Also gun runners, arms dealers, MI5 and a rogue American agent with a fake identity. McKinty gives us a genuine mystery with twists and turns while teaching us about those times in Ireland. Detective Duffy isn’t at all innocence with his drugs and self-loathing tenancies, but he’s a loyal boss and friend. And he is a good cop.

I am definitely going back to read the first three in this Sean Duffy series, the first being The Cold, Cold Ground from 2012. There is another expected out in 2016 as well, called Rain Dogs. My rating — 4 of 5.