28 September 2015

Review: THE GHOSTS OF ALTONA, Craig Russell

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1033 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (June 4, 2015)
  • Publication Date: June 4, 2015
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00TOOS2D0
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Jan Fabel is a haunted man.

Head of the Polizei Hamburg's Murder Commission, Fabel has dealt with the dead for nearly two decades, but when a routine enquiry becomes a life-threatening - and life-changing - experience, he finds himself on much closer terms with death than ever before.

Two years later, Fabel's first case at the Murder Commission comes back to haunt him: Monika Krone's body is found at last, fifteen years after she went missing. Monika - ethereally beautiful, intelligent, cruel - was the centre of a group of students obsessed with the gothic. Fabel re-opens the case. What happened that night, when Monika left a party and disappeared into thin air?

When men involved with Monika start turning up dead, Fabel realizes he is looking for a killer with both a hunger for revenge and a taste for the gothic. What he doesn't know is that someone has been aiding and grooming a deranged escapee as his own, personal tool for revenge.

A truly gothic monster to be let loose on the world.

Winner of the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year 2015
Read a free chapter here

My Take

The announcement on Crime Watch that this novel is the winner of the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year 2015 reminded me that Craig Russell is an author that I was taken with nearly a decade ago, but I have read only the first two in the Jan Fabel series, and none since I began this blog.  I know I have some hard back copies of at least one or two novels on my shelves somewhere.

So this seemed an opportune moment to do some catching up with Jan Fabel.

What THE GHOSTS OF ALTONA did is convince me that I must read some of the novels I have missed in the intervening years. Jan Fabel has come a long way since the novel I read nearly ten years ago. Two years ago (in "novel time") he nearly died, and his near death experience (NDE) changed his whole approach to life. Not only is he now a member of the Club of the Living Dead, people who have experienced similar NDEs, he is participating in group research into what actually happens as people experience death.

There is a remarkable depth to this novel, a feeling of good research, as the reader meets others who have also had NDEs and reacted quite differently to Fabel. There is also an exploration of Fabel's leadership style, the way he feels as if he is a fatherly figure for his hand-picked colleagues in Hamburg's Murder Commission.

And this is a novel where cold case meets the present day. The discovery of Monika Krone's skeleton under the asphalt of a car park, a murder unsolved for fifteen years, seems to trigger a number of deaths, seemingly unrelated.

Excellent story telling.

I was however struck by plot similarities with a novel I completed last week, SILENT SCREAM by Angela Marsons: where the discovery of a skeleton in wasteland next to an orphanage triggers murders. But in reality the two novels take entirely different paths. THE GHOSTS OF ALTONA features a seasoned investigator, while in SILENT SCREAM we see a career just beginning.

My rating: 5.0

About the author (Fantastic Fiction)
Craig Russell is a British-born novelist and short story writer. His Hamburg-set thriller series featuring detective Jan Fabel has been translated into 23 languages. Russell speaks fluent German and has a special interest in post-war German history. His books, particularly the Fabel series, tend to include historical or mythological themes.
Author's web site:  http://www.craigrussell.com/

In February 2007, Russell was awarded the Polizeistern (Police Star) by the Hamburg Police, the only non-German ever to have received this accolade. In June 2007, Russell was shortlisted for the £20,000 CWA Duncan Lawrie Gold Dagger, the world's largest literary prize for crime fiction. He was the winner of the 2008 CWA Dagger in the Library. Russell was a finalist for the 2013 Ellis Peters Historical Dagger for Dead Men and Broken Hearts.

Mini review of BROTHER GRIMM published 2006 (My rating: 4.6)
A girl's body has turned up on a Hamburg beach with a note concealed in her hand. The note gives her name, that of a 13 year old who went missing on her way home from school 3 years earlier. But it is not the same girl. Fabel has worked this out even before her parents come to identify the body and confirm his suspicions. Then two more bodies turn up, posed at a picnic table in the woods, also with notes concealed in their hands. The notes say Hansel and Gretel, in the same tiny, obsessively neat writing.

Jan Fabel series (list from Fantastic Fiction)
1. Blood Eagle (2005)
2. Brother Grimm (2006)
3. Eternal (2007)
4. The Carnival Master (2008)
5. The Valkyrie Song (2009)
6. A Fear of Dark Water (2010)
7. The Ghosts of Altona (2015)

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

I need to catch up with Russell's work, myself, Kerrie. Thanks for the reminder.


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