I really enjoyed this book. It is absolutely not for the faint-hearted who like a cosy mystery. This book is anything but. It introduces Fabel and a cast of characters who you can see are going to develop in the coming series. When something happens to one of the characters I, for one, was extremely shocked and upset.
There is a Glossary in the front of the book so you can always check who stands where in the police hierarchy. This is a book where you will keep flicking between pages to see who is where and what they represent, but if you are happy to do this then you will enjoy this journey. I urge you to buy this book, I am certain that you will not regret it. Given Craig Russell’s second book, Brother Grimm, is in the can I’m sure that we will soon be hearing a lot more about Kriminalhauptkommissar Fabel.
Reviewed by CS
Fresh Blood Questionnaire
1.) What type of crime writing would you say you write?
Blood Eagle is the first in a series of crime thrillers set in Hamburg, Germany. All of these books feature Hauptkommissar Jan Fabel of the Polizei Hamburg.
I suppose you could say what characterizes these books is their geographical, political, cultural and historical context: something which adds menace to them and places the English-speaking reader in an environment which is disconcertingly familiar and foreign at the same time. All of the books in the Jan Fabel series (I have completed the second book, Brother Grimm, and I am currently working on book three) explore dark themes from history, mythology and legend. In Blood Eagle, for example, Fabel has to race to catch a serial-killer who is replicating a gruesome ancient Viking ritual of human sacrifice. So, although the story is 21st century contemporary, the additional darkness and menace comes from the fearsome image of some kind of new ‘über-Viking’ stalking the streets looking for victims.
Also, Hamburg is a beautiful and enormously varied city. It is considered (by its inhabitants) to be the most ‘British city outside the UK’. It is also a city of amazing contrasts and a great background for thrillers.
2.) What type of crime do you prefer? Series or standalone?
All in all, both as a writer and a reader, I would have to say a series. I think that in such a ‘psychological’ area as crime fiction, you need to get into the head of the protagonist. This said, good writing is all about achieving that quickly and effectively and should be achieved within a single book. However, I believe that, as a writer, a series gives you the opportunity to develop and ‘mature’ the principal character; as a reader, it allows you to develop a relationship with them and understand and empathize with them better.
3.) Have you always had ideas to write a crime novel?
I always wanted to write a novel, and with my background – and I suppose my psychology – crime thrillers were the natural way to go.
4.) What influenced you to write a crime novel in the first place?
Personally, I feel it allows you to have a more direct relationship with the reader. I have said it before: crime readers are an increasingly intelligent and discerning bunch and they offer the writer a challenge and an opportunity. You have to stretch yourself as a writer in crime fiction. The readership demand an ever higher literary standard and you have to write at the top of your game; but unlike other forms, you cannot rely on the quality of your writing alone, the crime reader demands to be engaged, challenged, involved and carried along by the story.
The short answer, then, is that crime writing is one of the most exciting and challenging genres in which to work.
5.) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
God, that’s tough. Chandler is the governor for me and I would have to say The Big Sleep.
6.) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire?
I would say my literary influences have tended to come from outside the crime genre. Everything from Heinrich Böll to Mikhail Sholokhov. I am a fan of the American writer Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer books: the Drowning Pool, The Chill, etc. I like the Swedish writers Henning Mankell, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. Neil Speight, who works for my publishers, introduced me to the Dutch writer Janwillem van de Wetering, and I’m currently getting very much into his Amsterdam-based ‘The Streetbird’.
7.) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Probably Sean Penn’s version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Pledge. I am usually a vehement opponent of European novels being re-located to America, but the substitution of the snow-covered highlands of Nevada for the original Swiss cantons worked amazingly well. And, of course, Jack Nicholson turned in a superb performance as the obsessed murder detective.
8.) Where do you see crime fiction going next?
My honest feeling is that we are entering an exciting new era for crime writing. I certainly see it as an exciting time to be writing crime fiction, with a readership who is continually looking for something more, something different.