About Margot Kinberg

I'm a mystery novelist and professor who loves to read, write, and talk about crime fiction.

A Great Book Recommendation

The Lost GIrlsThis recommendation comes from Margot Kinberg, who blogs at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...  

As a way of remembering the late and much-missed Maxine Clarke, and of building a resource of fine crime fiction novels, Bill Selnes at Mysteries and More From Saskatchewan had a terrific idea. Each month, different crime fiction bloggers could contribute a post about a book they would recommend to Maxine.  This is my contribution.

Wendy James’ The Lost Girls 

As The Lost Girls begins, forty-four-year-old New South Wales antique shop owner Jane Tait gets some disturbing news from her daughter, Jess. Documentary filmmaker Erin Fury is working on a new project about families who’ve survived the murder of one of their members. According to Jess, Fury wants to interview the Tait family about the 1978 murder of Jane’s cousin, Angela Buchanan.

For Jane, her brother Michael ‘Mick,’ and her parents. Doug and Barbara Griffin, Angela’s death was a tragedy they’ve all tried to put behind them, although it’s had a profound impact on all of their lives. Still, Jane agrees to be interviewed, and we learn about the murder.

In 1978, fourteen-year-old Angela spent the summer with the Griffin family. During her visit, she made friends with Mick and several of his friends, and the group spent quite a lot of time together, mostly playing pinball and hanging out, as teenagers do. One day, Angela disappeared. Her body was later discovered, strangled, with a scarf wrapped over her head. At first, the police concentrated their attention on the members of the Griffin family; in fact, they actively suspected Mick for a time.

Everything changed, though, when another girl was found dead a few months later. This time, the victim was sixteen-year-old Kelly McIvor. She, too, was found with a scarf around her. Soon, the police liked the two killings, and the press dubbed the murderer, ‘The Sydney Strangler.’ Nothing much came of the investigation, though, and it’s gone cold.

With Erin Fury bringing it all up again, Jane and her family members revisit the murder. Bit by bit, we learn what really happened to Angela, what led to it, and what happened to Kelly McIvor. In the end, we discover that these murders aren’t what they seem on the surface.

There are several reasons I think Maxine would have enjoyed this book. One of them is the layers of character in the novel. Maxine liked books with character depth and complex relationships, and that’s certainly the sort of book this is. As the story goes on, we see how multidimensional these characters really are. Some are not what they seem; all are more than you might think at first. And throughout the novel, we get an increasingly clear picture of the character of Angela Buchanan. As Fury interviews the members of the family, each provides a different perspective on the victims, and that helps us get to know them better.

Maxine would, I think, also have liked sort of mystery this is. The truth about the deaths is revealed layer by layer, and Maxine would have appreciated the motive. She was never one for motives that lacked credibility, or for killers who just killed for pleasure. And she had her fill or psychotic serial killers. This isn’t that sort of novel at all. The motive here is, if you will, a much more human one. And Maxine liked novels where issues were brought to the human level.

Another element of this novel that Maxine would likely have appreciated is that James shows us, through the experience of one family, the impact of grief and loss on more or less ordinary people. Maxine disliked melodrama, preferring instead the stories of real people facing the circumstances of the plot. That’s the sort of novel this is. As the story is told, we see that Angela’s loss has devastated the family members, each in a different way. And none of them really talk about it or face it. The interviews and forthcoming documentary make avoiding the topic impossible, and James shows what that’s like for them.

The story has an authentic New South Wales setting, and Maxine would have liked that, too, I think. She appreciated books with a solid sense of place. The same thing might be said of the time in which the book is set. Part of the novel takes place in the here and now, as the (now older) characters are interviewed, and as we see what happens to them as a result of facing Angela’s murder. The other part of the novel is set in 1977 and 1978 (with one short bit set in 1982), and James places the reader there distinctly. Clothes, speech patterns, and so on all reflect those two different times, and the place.

The focus of this novel is much more on psychological suspense than it is on the actual murders, and Maxine would have liked that, I think. Violence is almost inevitable in a crime novel, and Maxine didn’t flinch at it. But at the same time, she appreciated books where the violence doesn’t take over the plot. This book is like that. There is violence, but it’s really its impact on the characters, more than the violence itself, that is central to the story.

The story is told in mostly the present tense, with different points of view presented in different interviews and chapters. Present tense wasn’t Maxine’s first choice, but I think she’d give this one a pass for that.

The Lost Girls tells the story of the loss of a young girl, and impact both her life and her death have had on everyone around her. It takes place in a distinctly Australian setting, and shows what life was like both when the murder happened, and in the present day. I think Maxine would have liked it very much. I only wish she were here to read it.



A Great Book Recommendation

Rogue LawyerThis Recommendation Comes from Bill Selnes, who blogs at Mystery and More From Saskatchewan

Another July has come and I have spent time this month thinking about what book I have read in the past year that I would recommend to Maxine if she was still with us. After looking through a year’s reading I have decided upon Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham.

I have chosen Rogue Lawyer because Sebastian Rudd is such a great character. In a departure from my usual method of recommendation for Maxine I am putting up my post about Sebastian rather than the post in which I reviewed the book.

Maxine loved many types of books. Browsing in Petrona reminded me of how many great posts she had in the blog. Among those posts is her review of Grisham’s book, The Litigators. She enjoyed the book and liked many, not all, of Grisham’s books.

I believe she would have found Sebastian as brilliant a character as I found him when I raced through the book. In particular, I think Maxine would have appreciated his passion for fighting for the individual in the courts of the United States.

I think of you often Maxine.


Sebastian Rudd in Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham – I am confident I have just read the next Grisham book to be made into a Hollywood feature film. Sebastian Rudd is a larger than life criminal lawyer swashbuckling his way through the criminal and occasionally civil courts of an unnamed 1,000,000 inhabitant mid-America city.

Rudd is fearless. He challenges the police, opposing counsel, witnesses, judges and clients. Anyone looking for a fight he will make it a brawl.

He despises the tactics and actions of overly aggressive and unethical district attorneys and police.

Rudd has a brutally wicked wit that he rarely restrains in and out of court.

Rudd is as far from the grey clad lawyers occupying the towers of corporate law in Manhattan as possible in America.

He is the second American fictional lawyer to function from a rolling office. Where Michael Connelly’s lawyer, Mickey Haller, practises criminal law in Los Angeles from the back seat of a Lincoln it is a custom equipped van for Rudd. While Haller chose mobility Rudd was forced out of his office by a firebomb.

Rudd has a compelling driver in Partner, a physically imposing black man who, after being successfully defended by Rudd, has taken on the challenge of protecting and assisting the hyper-aggressive defence counsel.

Rudd has a monastic home life in a high rise tower. It is harder for a disgruntled _______ (pick any of the above he has confronted) to attack him in such a residence.

To while away the sleepless hours he regularly endures Rudd has a full size pool table occupying his den / living room and plays games against himself.

While he has little time in his hectic life for the ladies he is the father of a 7 year old boy, Sketcher, who is surprisingly normal despite his father’s chaotic life and his mother’s tumultuous lesbian relationship.

Rudd is really the type of daring courtroom lawyer all litigators wish we could be if we did not care about consequences. He is dancing on the edge every day.

And, by the way, he is a part owner of an upcoming professional cage fighter looking to reach the upper echelons of mixed martial arts. Rudd wears a brilliant yellow jacket and cap as one of the fighter’s handlers.

What leading male actor in Hollywood would not leap at the opportunity to play Rudd in the movies? Grisham thinks Rogue Lawyer and Rudd would be better suited to being a T.V. series. It has been a decade since one of his books has become a movie. Grisham, in a CBS interview, provided encouraging news that he hopes Rudd will return in future books as he has lots of adventures to tell readers.

A Great Book Recommendation


The Hidden LegacyThis recommendation comes from Cleo, who blogs at Cleopatra Loves Books

The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett


Although I never ‘knew’ Maxine, all the tributes point towards her being a lover of ‘intelligent’ crime fiction and in my opinion this book, a debut novel, fits that phrase exactly. The Hidden Legacy doesn’t just have excellent plotting, it is one of those books that ask the big ‘moral’ questions wrapped up in a story that touches on some big issues.

With the action opening with a heinous crime committed  in a school playground in the city of Gloucester in 1966 in one of the most ‘grab-you-by-the-throat’ scenes I’ve ever read you could be forgiven for thinking that this book is all about the action, you’d be wrong. Not that there isn’t plenty of action, but this book is one of those that will make you think, let you decide whereabouts on the line of justice do you stand? Are some of the characters actions justifiable, at least to some degree, once the entire picture has been drawn?

The Hidden Legacy’s past may begin in the sixties but all that happened then is bought to life by a solicitor’s letter hailing from Cheltenham straight into the hands of Ellen Sutherland in West Sussex. She is the beneficiary of an unknown Eudora Nash and with no way of finding out who Eudora is Ellen squeezes in a trip to Cheltenham to find out. The mystery only deepens when she is door-stepped by the wonderfully portrayed journalist, Andrew O’Halloran. Ellen pleased to find the trip hasn’t been a total waste of time, she after all in possession of a fine legacy and so returns to her home, and her best friend Kate and the two women start investigating the past. Someone must know why Eudora left her a cottage?

With the story set in the sixties and the life of the child perpetrator struggle into adult-hood with the newspaper headlines ever-ready to be reproduced every time another child commits a crime the reader is invited to question should anyone be expected to pay for the rest of his life for an act committed as a child, however appalling that act may have been? This book simultaneously looks at the role of the media in such instances, does the need to sell papers really justify the hounding of that person, forever, no matter what consequences that has on him and everyone who knows him? Worthy yet difficult questions, I think you’ll agree.

This story touches on all the good things that make for an interesting read; secrets, past tragedies, along with their consequences, and the human need to protect others. It also tackles the far bigger issue of redemption and not in a way that is a common in a debut author, G.J. Minett puts these decisions firmly in his reader’s hands, in that this book, which is expertly-plotted, peopled by fascinating and complex characters, can be read as a story with a mystery to be solved, or you can ponder on where the moral rights and wrongs really lie. How far back in time do you have to go to get to the events that led to the tale that unfolds?

Despite the big questions the author never forgets that many of us read for pure entertainment so as well as having characters who are far from being two-dimensional the story is engaging, the switching of timelines and narratives expertly handled thereby giving the reader many different viewpoints as well as a sense of place and time, all topped off with a cracking good mystery.

Ever since I read this book, I have continued to ponder some of these questions and wonder how realistic some of the answers to them really are especially when emotions are added into the mix, so I hope that Maxine would agree with me that this belongs in the genre of intelligent crime and that she too would have appreciated the fine storytelling that backs up this story, which is one to make you think.



A Great Book Recommendation

night blindThis recommendation comes from FictionFan, who blogs at FictionFan’s Book Reviews.

Although I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Maxine, I hadn’t been blogging long before I learned from other bloggers how active she had been in promoting what tends now to be known as Scandi-crime. So I’m sure she’d have been enjoying Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series as much as I am.

Nightblind by Ragnar Jónasson

It’s autumn in tiny Siglufjördur but it feels like winter is on the way. Ari Thór Arason, one of the town’s two police officers, is off sick with flu, so his colleague Herjólfur is on his own as he stands in the wind and rain outside an old, abandoned house a little way out of town, watching a light inside that seems to come from a torch. Summoning up his courage, he goes to investigate. It’s only when his wife reports him missing the next day that he is found, shot through the chest…

This is a cracking start to what turns into an excellent book. The combination of Jónasson’s great descriptive writing and Quentin Bates’ flawless translation immediately create an atmospheric sense of the isolation of this small weather-beaten place on Iceland’s northern shore. The characters of both Ari Thór and Herjólfur are quickly introduced with enough information for us to feel we know and care about them and, though this is part of a series, it works perfectly well as a standalone.

Although this is apparently the 6th in the Dark Iceland series, it’s only the second to be translated into English, so there has been a gap of a few years since we last met Ari Thór in Snowblind. He’s now living with Kristín and they have a baby son, though Kristín and he seem to be growing apart – a source of ongoing anxiety to Ari Thór, who loves his little family but isn’t always good at communicating how he feels. Ari Thór’s old boss, Tómas, has moved on to a promotion in Reykjavik, and Herjólfur has been brought in as the new inspector. Although the two men work together professionally, Ari Thór can’t help but be a bit resentful of the man who got the promotion he had also applied for, and this has caused a distance between them, preventing them from becoming friends. When Herjólfur is so seriously injured that he is unlikely to live, Ari Thór feels a sense of guilt that he never made more of an effort to get to know him better. But he’s happy to have his old mentor, Tómas, back – seconded to Siglufjördur to run the investigation into Herjólfur’s shooting.


There are so many things I like about Jónasson’s books – the characters, the sense of place, the way he stays well within the bounds of credibility at all times and, perhaps most of all, the excellent plotting. The books are solid police procedurals that don’t, as so much current crime fiction does, suddenly turn into ridiculous shoot-’em-up thrillers in the last few chapters. Instead, Ari Thór gets at the truth the old-fashioned way, by questioning people, sifting through evidence and motives, and using his brain. Jónasson plots beautifully, providing plenty of side tracks and red herrings for the reader to chase after, and using each of them as a way to show another facet of the small community of Siglufjördur. Ari Thór may have lived there for a few years now, but he’s still an outsider, still doesn’t know all the complicated relationships and old secrets that the locals share.

There’s some suggestion that the abandoned house may have been being used as a drop-off point for drugs. With a new access road, Siglufjördur is becoming more open to the outside world, bringing in tourists for the ski-ing, and new types of crime along with them. But Ari Thór can’t discount the possibility that the crime might have been personal – someone may have been deliberately targeting Herjólfur because of some secret in his past or present. It appears that Herjólfur’s last phone call was made late in the evening to the town’s new mayor, and the explanation the mayor gives for this sounds unconvincing – does he have some involvement? The old house has seen another tragedy in its time – a death, assumed to have been accident or suicide, of a young man who fell from a window balcony. Ari Thór thinks it’s unlikely there’s a connection, but feels he must investigate anyway. And meantime, the reader is being given short excerpts of a journal, written by an unnamed man in a locked psychiatric ward in the 1980s, gradually revealing what brought him there. It will be near the end of the book before we see how this strand fits in.

There’s also a side plot relating to the mayor’s deputy, Elin – a woman who has changed her name to escape from an abusive relationship. But with all the publicity surrounding Herjólfur’s shooting, her new identity is soon under threat. In this thread, Jónasson gives an utterly credible and terrifying picture, full of almost unbearable tension, of what it’s like to be the victim of extreme domestic violence; and introduces some real moral ambiguity that had me feeling thankful I didn’t have to make a decision regarding the rights and wrongs of it.

So plot, pacing, characterisation, sense of place, atmosphere and tension, translation – all excellent, and while Ari Thór’s personal life is developed enough to make him an interesting character, it never overshadows the more important detection element. I didn’t get close to the solution, but found it logical and satisfying once it was revealed, which makes it my favourite kind of plot. And looking back, I could see that all the clues were there. For me, this is about as good as the police procedural can get, and I sincerely hope they’re working hard on translating the rest of the series. If you haven’t guessed already, highly recommended!


A Great Book Recommendation

widow coverThis recommendation comes from Moira, who blogs at Clothes in Books

A Book for Petrona

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Published 2016

I am always glad to contribute to this site, because although I didn’t know Maxine Clarke, Petrona, for long, she made a big impression on me. She was kind and generous and very welcoming to a new blogger – she was part of a group of crime fiction fans who very kindly invited me in to their circle. The others are friends to this day, and so we all miss Maxine, who should still be here.

The Widow is a new book by first-time novelist Fiona Barton, and I am sure Maxine would have wanted to read it.

The story is apparently simple.

Glen Taylor has died in a road accident, and that is going to change things for a number of people. Glen was the chief suspect in the disappearance of a toddler some years back, and although he walked free, most people think he was the guilty party. The child, Bella, might be dead or alive: she has never been found. So the policeman who was in charge of the case is now on the alert for more information – perhaps the widow knows something vital? A reporter, Kate, is hoping she might get hold of the true story of the disappearance. The mother of missing Bella has never had any closure.

And, more than anyone, Glen’s widow Jean is facing a huge decisive moment in her life.

The book has a complex time scheme – which I did occasionally find confusing. Often a double time-frame  book has a gap of, say, 20 years, but in this one the crime was only four years before, so there are fewer internal clues to where you are. The dates are clearly printed at the beginning of each section – but as they are all in the past 10 years, that’s not as helpful as it might be. But this is a minor quibble.

We go back and follow the story of Bella’s disappearance, and the police investigation, and we look at Jean and Glen’s life together. In the contemporary time frame, Kate has found her way into Jean’s house, and is trying to get information from her. Was Glen guilty, does Jean know, does she hold vital information on what happened to Bella?

The Widow is claustrophobic – there are multiple points of view in the narration, some of it first person from Jean, but it’s a single plot thread, no subplots. Although there aren’t going to be many surprises (how many different ways could this story be resolved? – not many), Barton does a terrific job of creating tension and atmosphere. I would have liked a little more clarity in the ending, but really it’s an excellent page-turner, and I look forward to more books from her.

It’s a dark and cheerless story with some very harsh aspects of modern life featured, and it is very sad overall, but it also contains some nice characters, and good hearts. The reporter and the policeman are both worthwhile people, trying to do their jobs.

I particularly liked the portrayal of Kate – the reporter who talks to the widows and partners and mothers. She might seem hard and ruthless and callous at times, but Barton also shows that she does have principles, and she does actually help the people she talks to. I have never done Kate’s exact job, but as a reporter I have often talked to people – in circumstances where others might assume the worst – and been told by my interviewee that it helped to talk, that they really wanted to tell the story. And it is true, as in this book, you sometimes stay in touch with people you meet on a story – the assumption that the interviewee hates the reporter afterwards is far from accurate. (One woman used to ring me late at night when I was doing night shifts to talk about the tragedy in her family, and would say ‘you are the only person who will listen to me, everyone else tells me I should be moving on.’)

Fiona Barton did do the same job as Kate for many years – but you would know that without even checking her author bio, as the details are so authentic. She says she was fascinated by those wives who stood by their man, a man accused of a terrible crime. Did they know, did they suspect, did they trust? What were they really thinking? This book is an excellent attempt to get inside the head of one of those women. I think Maxine would have enjoyed it very much.

(c) St Edmundsbury Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) St Edmundsbury Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The picture is the portrait of a 17th century widow by Mary Beale, from the Athenaeum.

Although painted more than 300 years before the book was written, she has a very enigmatic and serious look about her and perhaps, like Jean in the book, knows more than she’s saying.




A Great Book Recommendaion

someone-elses-skin-pb-2_4x2This recommendation comes from José Ignacio, who blogs at A Crime’s Afoot.

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

Headline, 2014. Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 1372 KB. Print Length: 434 pages. ASIN: B00F0LV0OO eISBN: 978 1 4722 0771 5.

A Book for Maxine: Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

To Maxine Clarke (1954-2012) in Memoriam

With my sincere thanks to Margot Kinberg, at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…., and Bill Selnes, at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan for their initiative to convene this second edition of ‘A Great Book Recommendation’ to honour the memory of Maxine Clarke. Our contributions are posted at Petrona Remembered.

When Detective Inspector Marnie Rome and Detective Sergeant Noah Jake arrive at a care centre for battered women in Finchley, they thought they were going to interview one of the residents aiming to convince her to press charges against her family. Instead, they find a man who was not supposed to be there, stabbed on the floor. Next to him, a woman holds in her hand an ordinary kitchen knife.

DI Rome manages to keep the situation under control, while the prompt response of DS Jake saves the live of the wounded with the help of Ayana Mirza, the woman to whom they had come to question. The man turns out to be Leo Proctor and the woman who has stabbed him, his wife Hope. It’s hard to believed how a woman like Hope has been able to put a knife into her husband’s lung, but according to Simone Bissell, one of the women under protection there, he had beaten her so many times that Hope can’t see straight any more. She didn’t even know what she was doing with that knife.

Parked outside the foster home, an unknown man keeps a close watch on the entrance.

Inside the shelter house, only five women have witnessed what really has happened. All of them have been victims of gender-based violence. DI Rome thinks it will be better to wait, under the present circumstances. before collecting their statement. She knows she needs to find out how Leo got in and how he was able to discover the whereabouts of her wife, but first it’s necessary for every woman to feel safe again.

Meanwhile DS Jake can’t forget the reason they’d come here. Ayana had been attacked by her own brothers. While two were holding her down, a third one sprayed her with bleach all across her face. She finally managed to escape and, in the hospital, the surgeons achieved to save her right eye but the vision of her left eye was lost forever. The CPS believes her witness statement would help to put her brother Nasif Mirza behind bars, but so far she’d kept quiet about what her brothers did.

Once at the hospital where Leo was admitted, his wife Hope is also examined by a doctor that claims that, although he has seen worst cases, she has the sort of injuries one can expect to see in someone who has kept a sadomasochistic relationship.

The same man, whom we had seen before watching over the front door of the foster home, is parked now in the vicinity of the hospital.

The story takes an unexpected turn when Hope runs away from the hospital with the assistance of her friend Simone and Ayana, all of a sudden, disappears.

Someone Else’s Skin has a strong narrative vigour and a well constructed plot. The story is told from the point of view of various characters, has several subplots, and occasionally the events transport us to a few years back. The book covers also a wide range of issues, mainly the manipulation to which some individuals are subject, and the control that some persons exercise on other people. It also addresses other matters, closely related, such as domestic abuses, gender-based violence, and female genital mutilation, with great rigour and effectively. Secrets and lies play an important role, and things aren’t always what they seem. It’s, after all, a modern novel that does not hesitate to tackle any matter, however difficult it is. Therefore it’s no surprising that Sarah Hillary’s debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, was awarded the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2015. And I look forward to reading her second book in the series No Other Darkness. If I had to point any flaw, perhaps I should highlight that it tries to encompass far too many themes that might be addressed in other novels.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Sarah Hilary lives in Bath with her daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012. Her debut novel Someone Else’s Skin was selected as a Richard & Judy Autumn 2014 Book Club pick and won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2015. No Other Darkness is the brilliant follow-up to her outstanding debut. Her third novel, Tastes Like Fear is scheduled to be published in April 2016 by Headline Publishing Group, an Hachette UK Company.

For more information have a look at Sarah Hilary’s website: www.sarahhilary.com; or follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary and on Facebook at Sarah Hilary. Someone Else’s Skin has been reviewed by Sarah at Crime Pieces, Michelle Peckham at Euro Crime, DeathBecomesHer at Crime Fiction Lover, Barry Forshaw at Crime Time, Sharon Mensing at Reviewing the Evidence, Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books

Penguin Random House
9mm: An Interview with Sarah Hilary at Crime Watch
What’s Your First Draft Like? – Sarah Hilary by Rebecca Bradley
Sarah Hilary Space at Blogspot
Gregory & Company
Un libro para Maxine: La piel de otro de Sarah Hilary

Para Maxine Clarke (1954-2012) in Memoriam

Con mi más sincero agradecimiento a Margot Kinberg, en Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…., y a Bill Selnes en Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan por su iniciativa al convocar esta segunda edición de ‘A Great Book Recommendation’ para honrar la memoria de Maxine Clarke. Nuestras contribuciones se publicarán en Petrona Remembered.

Cuando la inspectora Marnie Rome y el sargento Noah Jake llegan a un centro de atención para mujeres maltratadas en Finchley, pensaban que iban a entrevistar a una de las residentes con el objetivo de convencerla para presentar cargos contra su familia. En su lugar, se encuentran con un hombre que no se suponía que debía estar allí, apuñalado en el suelo. A su lado, una mujer sostiene en su mano un cuchillo de cocina común y corriente.

La inspectora Rome se las arregla para mantener la situación bajo control, mientras que la pronta respuesta del sargento Jake salva la vida del herido con la ayuda de Ayana Mirza, la mujer a la que habían ido a interrogar. El hombre resulta ser Leo Proctor y la mujer que lo ha apuñalado, su esposa Hope. Resulta difícil creer cómo una mujer como Hope ha sido capaz de introducir el cuchillo en el pulmón de su marido, pero de acuredo con Simone Bissell, una de las mujeres bajo protección allí, él la había golpeado tantas veces que Hope ya no puede discernir con claridad.Ella ni siquiera sabía lo que estaba haciendo con ese cuchillo.

Estacionado fuera de la casa de acogida, un desconocido mantiene una estrecha vigilancia sobre la entrada.

Dentro de la casa refugio, sólo cinco mujeres han sido testigos de lo que realmente ha sucedido. Todas ellas han sido víctimas de violencia de género. La inspectora Rome piensa que será mejor esperar, en las actuales circunstancias. antes de recoger su declaración. Sabe que tiene que averiguar cómo Leo entró y cómo fue capaz de descubrir el paradero de su esposa, pero primero es necesario que cada mujer se sienta segura de nuevo.

Mientras tanto el sargento Jake no puede olvidar la razón por la que habían acudido alli. Ayana Mirza había sido atacada por sus propios hermanos. Mientras que dos estaban sujetándola, un tercero le rcocó con lejía en toda su cara. Finalmente logró escapar y, en el hospital, los cirujanos lograron salvar su ojo derecho, pero la visión de su ojo izquierdo se perdió para siempre. El CPS cree que su testimonio ayudaría a poner a su hermano Nasif Mirza entre rejas, pero hasta ahora había mantenido silencio sobre lo que sus hermanos le habían hecho.

Una vez en el hospital donde fue internado Leo, su esposa Hope también es examinada por un médico que afirma que, a pesar de que ha visto casos peores, ella tiene el tipo de lesiones que uno puede esperar ver en alguien que ha mantenido una relación sadomasoquista.

El mismo hombre, a quien habíamos visto antes vigilando la puerta principal de la casa de acogida, está estacionado ahora en las proximidades del hospital.

La historia toma un giro inesperado cuando Hope huye del hospital con la ayuda de su amiga Simone y Ayana, de repente, desaparece.

La piel de otro tiene un fuerte vigor narrativo y una trama bien construida. La historia está contada desde el punto de vista de varios personajes, tiene varias subtramas, y en ocasiones los acontecimientos nos transportan a unos años atrás. El libro abarca también una amplia gama de temas, principalmente la manipulación a la que algunos individuos están sujetos, y el control que algunas personas ejercen sobre otras. También se ocupa de otras cuestiones, estrechamente relacionadas, como los abusos domésticos, la violencia de género y la mutilación genital femenina, con gran rigor y eficacia. Secretos y mentiras juegan un papel importante, y las cosas no son siempre lo que parecen. Es, después de todo, una novela moderna, que no duda en abordar cualquier asunto, por difícil que sea. Por lo tanto no es de extrañar que la novela debut de Sarah Hillary, La piel de otro , fuera galardonada con el Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel del año 2015. Y espero con interés la lectura del segundo libro de su serie No Other Darkness. Si tuviera que destacar algun defecto, tal vez debería resaltar que pretende abarcar demasiados temas que podrían ser tratados en otras novelas.

Mi valoración: A (Me encantó)

Sarah Hilary vive en Bath con su hija, donde escribe textos poco convencionales para una conocida editorial de viajes. También ha trabajado en una librería, y con la Royal Navy. Una galardonada escritora de relatos cortos, Sarah ganó el Premio Cheshire de Literatura en el 2012. Su primera novela Someone Else’s Skin fue seleccionada como el libro elegido por el Club Richard & Judy en el otoño de 2014 y ganó el Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel del año 2015. No Other Darkness es la brillante continuación de su excepcional debut y su tercera novela, Tastes Like Fear, tiene prevista su aparacición en abril de 2016 publicada por Headline Publishing Group, una compañía del grupo Hachette en el Reino Unido.

A Great Book Recommendation

defenceless200This recommendation comes from Norman, who blogs at Crime Scraps Reviews.

A Book for Maxine: The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Looking out for crime fiction books that would have interested the much missed Maxine Clarke is always a bittersweet experience.

Sweet because she was such an excellent judge of a good crime fiction novel, and her own choices would almost always exhibit superb characters, complex plots, and an easy to read style, important themes and evocative atmosphere.

Bitter because when I read through the hundreds of emails we exchanged [we only met in person twice] I realize what a good friend I have lost. Maxine encouraged and inspired so many bloggers that I am certain I am not alone in missing her influence.

I have to admit a certain bias in choosing The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto, translated from the Finnish by David Hackston, because I thought her first book The Hummingbird should have won last year’s Petrona Award. Kati is a punk singer and author; she lives in a 150 year old house on the island of Hailuoto in the Gulf of Bothnia in Northern Finland. She has a Masters degree in Special Education and studied racism and bullying among young immigrants in Finland.

The Defenceless is the second in the series featuring a mismatched pair of detectives. Anna Fekete is a young attractive woman, an immigrant as a child from the former Yugoslavia. She is Hungarian by ethnicity and her family, apart from Akos, her alcoholic brother who lives near her, still lives in the Hungarian speaking area of Serbia. Esko is a middle aged Finnish “redneck” with health problems, who hates all immigrants. The only thing they have in common is their desire to catch criminals, and their problem with alcohol and smoking. Anna is no virginal Miss Marple, and her drinking sometimes lead to sexual activity with some pathetic men that she regrets the next day.

The stark contrast between Esko living a pathetic lonely physically inactive life in a tiny apartment and worried at the dangerous age of 56 about his heart and lungs, and Anna a keen runner and skier makes for an interesting story.


Not everybody could be sporty health-freaks in top physical condition. Society needed the drunk, the obese, the depressed, as examples to the rest of us and to provide statistics with which to frighten people.


In both books we see that Esko who starts off as a horrid racist misogynist, may have a softer centre to this hard outer shell. Perhaps he is merely terrified at getting older, and the enormous changes that have occurred in his country. The arrival of 300,000 immigrants into the UK may create difficulties in providing schools, housing, and health services, but in a country like Finland with a much smaller population it alters the whole ethnic and social make up of the country.


The Finnish authorities and all the tree-hugging humanists should visit Copenhagen and Malmo and take a look at what an open-door immigration policy really means, thought Esko.


The story opens with Viho, an elderly Finn, having an argument with his noisy drug-dealing neighbour, Macke, while Sammy, a drug addicted Pakistani Christian, is trying to get a supply of subutex from the dealer.


But first he had to find some subs. Bupe. Orange guys. A dear child has many names.


When Gabriella, a Hungarian au pair, is arrested for dangerous driving as she has apparently knocked down and killed an old man on a snowy road, Anna is called to deal with the case because she speaks Hungarian, although she finds her ability to converse in her native language has faded over the years.

The book investigates the themes of, immigration, drug gangs, the status of minorities, racism and human rights, along with the loneliness of old age. Anna’s kindness towards Sammy, and her friendship with a gay immigrant pizza restaurant owners show her internal struggle with her identity, and her hopes for the future.


The idea of a Hungarian man, and especially one from Kanisza, seemed quite tempting, at least in theory., but in practice, in reality, it was something quite different. It was a culture that reared boys into a world in which women could never become their equals.


With the story being told from the perspective of Anna, Esko and Sammy I am sure it would have been the sort of book Maxine would have enjoyed, and we could have discussed it at length.

Could there be a more topical book in Europe 2015 than one about the problems of immigration, and the scourge of drug gangs?

The police procedural with a team of detectives working with Anna and Esko, and the social commentary reminded me of the Martin Beck books by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

There can be no better recommendation for this brilliant book.