Have you been watching the Euro 2012 football championship? It seems to have been a little more interesting than some of the other recent international competitions, with a less hype and some good contests. The other day we were looking at the list of countries that have been competing in the tournament and wondering if, since starting the site about 10 months ago, we have written about crime fiction from all the nations involved. The answer is no, but we’ve covered European crime fiction pretty well nonetheless.
So, to tie in with the tournament, here’s one crime book selection from each country and we’ve formed them into something of a league table. A handful of countries are missing from our list and but we’ve decided to have some fun with that and ask for your input. See below for a chance to win a signed copy of The Killing. Both author David Hewson and producer Søren Sveistrup have signed the prize making it all the more desirable.
Sweden – One Step Behind
Well this is a league table and we think it’s safe to say that Sweden is pretty much the Brazil of the crime fiction genre. From Sjöwall and Wahlöö to Stieg Larsson, the country has led the way in Nordic Noir. One of its most famous fictional detectives is Kurt Wallander and One Step Behind is quite possibly the finest in the series by Henning Mankell. Beginning with the hunting down and execution of three innocent people it’s a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching read and the book was one of our first reviews at Crime Fiction Lover. Read it here.
Ukraine – The Child Thief
The Ukraine is co-hosting Euro 2012 and like fellow host Poland they have been eliminated, unfortunately. They were beaten by England and their fans may well think it was highway robbery because their team probably outplayed England on the night. So we hope they don’t find it too much of a slap in the face that The Child Thief, our Ukraine book, was written by Englishman Dan Smith. Here a group of villagers head out hunting for a killer they believe to be a cannibal, but instead he starts hunting them. It’s set in a harsh 1930s Ukranian winter and proves to be cold, bleak stuff. Read our review here.
England – The Vanity Game
If we’re talking football and crime fiction, England’s entry has to go to The Vanity Game by HJ Hampson. This ingenious work satirises the ludicrous lifestyles of top class football players and their wives and girlfriends (WAGS) within a dark and brutal crime story. If you like football, iconoclasm and writers like Brett Easton Ellis then add The Vanity Game to your bookshelf. Read our review here.
Denmark – The Killing
And here’s the book of the TV series that gave Danish crime fiction a cult following worldwide. It’s also our prize (see below). The Danes proved to be plucky opponents, beating Holland and nearly scraping results against Germany and Portugal, but let’s face it their crime writers are a little more world-beating than their football team. We might have gone for Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen here but The Killing it is. We wouldn’t want to go up against Sarah Lund at any sport, and here the jumper-wearing detective is at her best tracking down the killer of 19-year-old Nanna Birk Larsen in a tale that’s as twisting and turning as it is chilling. Read our review here.
Italy – I Will Have Vengeance
England’s opponents tonight have proven themselves to stoic and resiliant so far in Euro 2012, and alongside flamboyant footballers, frascati and Ferraris the country has produced many a fine crime writer, from Carlo Emilio Gadda to Andrea Cammileri. However we’re going to go with I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni. The story follows the Naples detective Ricciardi as he investigates the murder of celebrated and famous tenor Arnaldo Vezzi. Like so many crime novels of late it has a touch of the supernatural to it – Ricciardi has a special power. Read our review here.
Spain – Or the Bull Kills You
Perhaps we’re cheating here a bit. It doesn’t look like we’ve reviewed anything by a Spanish author but we have reviewed a book set in Spain by someone who lives there. Jason Webster’s Or the Bull Kills You follows the tough Valencia detective Max Camara as he deals with the murder and brutal mutilation of the city’s top bullfighter. We’ll give you one clue – it wasn’t the bull! Spain, holders of the Euro and World Cup trophies, may well win it again this year, which will be phenomenal. Read our review here.
Holland – Amsterdam Cops: Collected Stories
The Netherlands turned a curious orange at this tournament. They played in the World Cup Final two years ago but couldn’t magic up even one win this year. The Dutch players may well be reading books by Janwillem Van De Wetering now that their season is over. In our look at the best police procedurals out there recently RoughJustice recommended his Amsterdam Cops: Collected Stories. Here you get all the author’s books starring Henk Grijpstra and Rinus de Gier including five that previously have not appeared in the UK. Read our article here.
Poland – Where the Devil Can’t Go
Now it’s over to one of Euro 2012’s co-hosts Poland, and for this country we’ve selected Where the Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska. Starting off amongst the Polish diaspora in London, it takes you over to Gdansk as Janusz Kiszka tries to find out what happened to a missing waitress. Meanwhile British detective Natalie Kershaw is investigating a body found in the Thames. We thought it was an admirable first novel for the author. Read our review here.
Ireland – Death at Christie Burke’s
Our site has covered several gritty books set in Northern Ireland – perhaps Ulster Noir will be the next big thing – but relatively few from the Republic. Death at Christy Burke’s stands out as Anne Emery’s amatuer sleuths Father Brennan Burke and Monty Collins sup pints of the dark stuff in Dublin before heading off to solve the mystery of a disappeared American priest. Humour, a touch of politics, and a thoroughly good mystery. On the football pitch, however, Ireland were pretty much the whipping boys of the tournament, unfortunately. Read our review here.
Germany – Sorry
Apparently all of Germany expects their team to win the European Championship but when it comes to crime fiction their neighbours to the north have ruled over them for decades. However some inventive new books from Germany have landed on the CFL doormat and Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar is one of them. A group of friends set up an agency that companies can hire when they’ve done wrong by somebody – fired them, for instance. The agency, called Sorry, will deliver some compensation and an apology. It all goes wrong when they go to apologise to someone and find a murdered woman. The killer toys with them in this dark, dark mystery. Read our review here.
France – The Paris Lawyer
We’re going to cheat slightly here – after all, didn’t Thierry Henry knock the ball on with his hand so that France could score and qualify for the last World Cup? Our sin is less controversial, but we are nevertheless a little ashamed that we haven’t yet reviewed a crime book set in France. That’s going to change soon though as our writer Marina Sofia is already working on The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier. We have brought details of the story to you in our On the Radar pages though, so check it out here.
Russia – Snowdrops
The land of the mighty bear made a fearsome start to Euro 2012 with a thrashing of the Czech Republic but couldn’t follow that up and win their group. There are many great crime fiction books set there too – think Gorky Park – though during the Soviet regime detective stories were considered bourgeois. Our pick here was writen by Brit AD Miller and like Russia’s performance on the pitch Snowdrops did not receive a resounding thumbs up. However it is an interesting and atmospheric book about how a solicitor working in Moscow becomes embroiled in a property scam. Read our review here.
Win The Killing – signed!
So that’s it for our listing. If you’re statistically astute you’ll have noted that we’ve not included anything for the Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece or Croatia. And that’s simply because our site has never written about crime books from those nations. We’d like to change that and that’s where our free signed copy of The Killing comes in. If you suggest crime books from one or more of those countries in the Comments below, you’ll be entered into a draw to win the book. Post your comment before 10pm on Tuesday 26 June to be in with a chance to win!