tram stop international review: marc-antoine mathieu, 3″

This wordless graphic novel is really something: a crime from the point of view of a light particle that spends three seconds (and 900,000 kilometres) bouncing from one place to the next (over shoulders into an eye into a phone camera into a mirror into the reflective surface of a trophy into you get my point), zooming in with painstaking and incredible detail to create a series of scenes and then revisit them from another angle milliseconds later. It’s an inventive idea and one that will slow you right down as you study each panel, ridiculously impressed that someone actually achieved this visually, and managed to create a pretty interesting three-second-long mystery to boot. Lend it to a friend so you can chat about it afterwards – like me and my partner, you’re bound to miss something, and that discovery will bring out your gruff chain-smoking inner detective, poring over the pictures again and again.

tram stop international review: simone van der vlugt, safe as houses

An escaped prisoner invades the isolated home of a young mother, taking her and her five-year-old daughter hostage.  And the only witness has suffered a head injury in a car accident sustained fleeing the scene.

In the mood to spend a few hours gripped by unspeakable narrative tension, but you’re almost out of Breaking Bad?  Dutch author Simone van der Vlugt has the novel for you!  This is short — 262 pages of very large text — but compelling, using the present tense to draw the reader in and distract them from the clunkier dialogue.  The intimacy of the writing makes the tediously inevitable rape scene all too vivid, but the real strength of the story is in the careful, unreliable bond created between hostages and captor.

Another quality guest post by Liz Barr

Arrested and charged with the trafficking of books. Charges dismissed after bribing the judge with some new releases. Small. Ginger. Enjoys history, cephalopods and tween media. lizbarr.wordpress.com

tram stop international review: elisabeth egholm, three dog night

Guest post by Liz Barr! Also, allow for two stops.

I love a bit of Scando-noir. If crime fiction reflects the fears and concerns of a society, then the Scandinavian offerings raise an interesting paradox: these countries with international reputations for being egalitarian, democratic and transparent tend to produce fiction that confronts the failures of these ideals.

Danish novel Three Dog Night attempts to continue this trend, with a protagonist who grew up in state institutions and spent time in prison for manslaughter committed under complex circumstances. But the social concerns it reflects are straight out of a news.com.au comments page — what the average Dane fears, the author seems to suggest, are criminal motorcycle gangs, Muslims and women. The central plot, dealing with the murder of an ex-convict and the disappearance of a local teenager, is gripping, if driven by a series of unlikely coincidences, but the subtext is altogether unpleasant.

Egholm is a seasoned crime writer, but her narrative is let down by a stilted translation that keeps the reader at arm’s length. The female body count climbs higher and higher, and the climax depicts graphic animal cruelty and sexual violence against women. There’s a last-minute attempt to frame the whole affair as a fight against misogyny, but that’s a bit hard to take seriously when there are nipples flying about.

 

Arrested and charged with the trafficking of books. Charges dismissed after bribing the judge with some new releases. Small. Ginger. Enjoys history, cephalopods and tween media. lizbarr.wordpress.com

tram stop international review: val mcdermid, cross and burn

A review just long enough to get you to the next stop. Just don’t forget to get off.

DCI Carol Jordan’s last case damaged her team and her self-worth irreparably. While she hides in her brother’s house, former colleague DS Paula McIntyre is on the hunt for a serial killer, and not happy with the route her new boss is taking. Can she solve the case with the people at her disposal or are her old team—from profiler Tony to computer whiz Stacey—the only solution? This is a great but standard English crime read with a psychotic bad guy with no redeeming humanity and women being tortured in boxes, but is elevated by its neat sidestep around the straight white drunk male protagonist and the comforting, Agatha-Christie type way that one person’s little grey cells can help solve a mystery.