Thursday, February 19, 2009

FAN MAIL by P.D. Martin

Published: Pan Macmillan, 2008
ISBN: 978 1 4050 3826 3

First line: The voice is deep and smooth. 'Agent Sophie Anderson?'

Australian FBI profiler Sophie Anderson, on her last day at FBI headquarters at Quantico before transferring to the Los Angeles field office, is given the task of showing crime author Loretta Black around the facilities. She finds Black to be rude and overbearing, and is glad when the tour is over.

Within days of Sophie's arrival in Los Angeles, Black is found murdered in bizarre circumstances. She has been killed in exactly the same way as the victim in her latest book. It doesn't take long for Sophie to link this crime with the murder of another crime author several months earlier in San Francisco. She too had been killed in the same manner as one of her fictional victims.

When another author disappears in circumstances similar to the plot of her most recent book, Sophie is involved in a desperate race against time to catch the killer before he can kill again.

FAN MAIL is the third book featuring psychic FBI profiler Sophie Anderson. I have to admit that I don't normally like woo-woo in crime fiction, and Sophie's psychic ability initially made me wary of this series. However, thankfully Martin has resisted the temptation of having Sophie have a convenient vision and voila! - crime solved. Actually there was one such moment, relating to a side plot, but I didn't mind that instance as I'd already figured it out for myself some time before without any psychic intervention!

Rather Sophie's visions help provide her with a better picture of the victim and the crime scene, and she combines this with the more usual profiler techniques to build a better picture, more quickly, of the perpetrator. She chose to transfer to a field office so she could make better use of her psychic abilities at crime scenes when the details are likely to be fresher and her visions stronger.

Alongside the main plot, the finalisation of the investigation from the previous book, THE MURDERERS' CLUB continues. I would recommend reading the earlier book before starting FAN MAIL as it contains significant spoilers. As we follow the course of the investigations, a lot of detail about investigative and forensic procedures is included and, while mostly interesting, it sometimes gets a bit tedious and has a tendency to slow down the story.

It takes a brave crime author to write a story about a serial killer murdering crime authors! But luckily Martin had no such qualms because FAN MAIL is good fast paced thriller with an interesting and unique character in Sophie.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Carnival of the Criminal Minds #31

I have the pleasure of hosting this episode of the Carnival. The brainchild of the esteemed Barbara Fister, the Carnival has travelled to many corners of the world. After it's recent return season at Julia Buckley's Mysterious Musings, it's setting up here at It's Criminal for the first time.

As I'm sitting here sweltering in the middle of a hot hot hot Australian summer, and especially as I'm in Newcastle, where fab beaches abound, I thought I'd have a surf carnival theme. This also gives me the opportunity to rectify what appears to be a shocking oversight in previous Carnivals - a distinct lack of buff Aussie blokes!

If you are thinking that this means the following will be a tour of bright summery crime fiction, then you'd be wrong. Maybe it's to counter all that sunshiny cheeriness, but my taste in crime fiction veers to the dark and dreary, much of which seems to take place in the colder regions of the Northern hemisphere. So I find myself looking at blogs like International Noir Fiction where Glenn Harper talks about and reviews mostly translated crime fiction. In his latest posting he talks about a forgotten pioneer of Swedish crime fiction, Kerstin Ekman. He places her in the context of the more well known Sjowall and Wahloo, and the later Swedish writers.

At the wonderful Euro Crime, a survey of their reviewers favourite books of 2008 found Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo came out at number 1, and I learned that the DVD of Jar City based on the book by Arnaldur Indridason has just been released in the UK. (Amazon here I come!) Apart from the blog, the Euro Crime site includes reviews, bibliographies, awards and one of my favourite parts, the Future Releases, where I can add to my wishlist well into the future. At least it gives me time to save up!

Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders always seems to have something interesting to say about crime fiction set in foreign climes. This week he had an interview with Mehmet Murat Somer; discussed Matt Rees' views on the difference between fiction and reality and on the difficulties of being a journalist in the Middle East; and linked to an interview with Stephen Sartarelli, Andrea Camilleri's translator.

A new entrant into the blogosphere is Reg Keeland, Stieg Larsson's translator. Reg welcomes comment on Larsson's books, but also provides insight into translating, and how he got started. He notes that generally, he forgets a book as soon as he's finished with the translation, but the Larsson books stuck in his head. He calls this "the mark of a genius writer".

A fairly recent blog discovery for me is DJs Krimiblog, where Danish blogger Dorte H writes bilingual posts and reviews (as a monolinguist, I'm seriously in awe!). Here I found out that an old favourite of mine, Sara Paretsky now has a blog and has been publishing chapters of a new VI Warshawsky story. So far she is up to chapter 3.

Another of my newish finds is Mack Captures Crime. In a recent post Mack brings one of his favourite podcasts to our attention at the site, where podcasts of authors reading their own short stories are available for download. I'm definitely planning on spending a bit of time over there.

Of course, this is just a smattering of posts that have caught my eye this week, but I can't pack away the surf skis, reels and flags, and shake the sand out of my cossies without mentioning my favourite site for all things relating to Australian crime fiction - Karen's wonderful AustCrime. The latest news there is about the filming of author Leah Giarratano's new 8-part true crime television series due to screen here around March. Another recent post is an interesting summary of early Australian women crime fiction writers. Apart from the blog, the whole AustCrime site is a treasure trove of information about Australian crime fiction and true crime.

The Carnival next moves on to Barbara Fister's own blog.

Photos courtesy of rodc and Roger OZ