Murderous Mistral, by Cay Rademacher (2015, 2017)

Murderous Mistral, by Cay RademacherParisian gendarme Capitaine Roger Blanc has just completed a sweeping corruption investigation that resulted in several high-profile arrests, but also led to his being banished to Provence. It’s a punishment for being a bit too successful in a society where political lives are built on back-scratching and favours. To make matters worse for our hero, his wife announces she is staying in Paris. With her lover. Newly single, Roger heads to Sainte-Françoise-la-Vallée, nearly 1000 kms south of Paris. His new commandant is a rising star who is not happy to have a corruption expert sent to his stable of officers, and he assigns the Capitaine to a corner space with an ancient computer and a lethargic partner who enjoys long lunches with bottles of rosé. Read more of this post


The Little French Bistro, by Nina George (2010, 2017)

Contemporary Fiction
The Little French Bistro by Nina GeorgeHere is another story of life and love found at last by middle-aged characters from the German writer who gave us The Little Paris Bookshop. Originally published in German in 2010, this English translation, again by Simon Pare, comes on the heels of George’s success with Bookshop. Living in a loveless marriage to a truly horrid man, Marianne decides to end her life by jumping off a bridge over the Seine in Paris. The attempt fails and she is hospitalized. Following a visit by her furious husband, she walks out after stealing a lovely hand-painted tile depicting a seaside town in Brittany. Enchanted by the sea she has never seen, Marianne decides to go there and complete her suicide by walking into the sea. Read more of this post

Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman (2014, 2016)

Britt-Marie Was HereFrom the author of the delightful A Man Called Ove comes a quirky, sweet and heart-breaking story of a woman at odds with the world. Britt-Marie is 63 years old, and after 40 years of trying to make a happy home with her distant and cheating husband Kent, she has walked out. She needs work, but with few skills other than cleaning, she ends up taking the job of caretaker of a recreation centre doomed to close in the declining community of Borg. Confronted by dirty handprints, muddy floors, noisy children playing soccer badly in the parking lot, and an apparent community-wide disregard for any sort of order, Britt-Marie retreats into familiar territory. She cleans. Read more of this post

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (2013, 2016)

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThis is a book for booklovers. A book about books, in the vein of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or 84, Charing Cross Road. Sara Lindqvist is a self-described mousy-haired bookshop clerk from Sweden. She has been exchanging letters for some two and a half years with Amy Harris, who lives in the downtrodden and tiny town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. When the bookshop closes and Sara finds herself out of a job and with plenty of time on her hands, she accepts Amy’s offer of a place to stay, and makes the voyage with intentions of spending her days chatting about books and life with her pen pal. Alas, she arrives to discover that Amy was in fact quite ill, and has passed away. Read more of this post

Death in Brittany, by Jean-Luc Bannalec (2012, 2015)

Death in BrittanyCommissaire Georges Dupin is responsible for policing the small Breton town of Concarneau, a fishing village on the Atlantic coast in the northeast corner of France. He’s been there nearly three years, since being banished from Paris for “certain disputes” with his superiors – the first clue that this bad-tempered cop will be an interesting character with little regard for the way things are done. He has accepted his fate, contentedly starting each day with several morning coffees and croissants at a pretty cafe devoid of annoying tourists. The morning of July 7, his custom is interrupted with a phone call from the irritating Inspector Labat informing him of a murder in nearby Point-Aven, a village whose top cop is on holiday. Read more of this post

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George (2013, 2015)

Literary Romance
The Little Paris BookshopWhat a wonderfully multicultural novel this turns out to be! Originally written in German by Nina George and published in 2013, it has been translated into English by Simon Pare. The novel is set in France, and features mostly French characters, as well as a wonderfully earthy Italian lover and cook. Jean Perdu is our protagonist, who has been mourning the loss of his great love Manon, who left him two decades ago. Now 50, he lives in an unadorned Paris apartment and operates a book barge, The Literary Apothecary, moored on the banks of the Seine. From the barge he dispenses books as therapy for emotional ailments. Until he meets Catherine, a neighbour who is in deep emotional pain after being discarded by her husband. Read more of this post

The Land of Dreams, by Vidar Sundstol (2008, 2013)

The Land of DreamsI stumbled across this series when the final book in the trilogy was released to NetGalley members. Intrigued by its description as an award-winning Norwegian crime novel set in the national forest of Minnesota, I found a copy at my local library and delved in. This first title in The Minnesota Trilogy was published in 2008, and translated into English by Tiina Nunnally for the 2013 release in North America. Lance Hansen is a police officer for the U.S. Forest Service, literally a cop in the woods. His normal work involves poachers and litterers. Until the morning a report of illegal camping leads him to discover two men, one dead. Both are naked, covered in blood, and both are Norwegian tourists. Read more of this post

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules, by Catharina Ingelman Sundberg (2012, 2014)

LittleOldLadyA group of five elderly folk rebel against the restrictions and cost-cutting measures imposed on them in the retirement home, and decide to embark on a life of crime. This book opens with such promise – 79-year-old Martha Andersson grips the handles of her walker and makes her way into the bank, checking out security as she waits her turn. Much fitter than she used to be as a result of illicit time in the gym, she makes an effort to seem feeble and nonthreatening. Little does the teller know what is about to unfold. This book, an international bestseller originally published in Swedish, caught my attention on the bookshelves at a nearby store, and I patiently waited for its arrival from my public library. Read more of this post

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe, by Romain Puertolas (2014)

Contemporary Fiction
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA WardrobeI don’t mind admitting the title of this novel caught my attention. Originally published in French, it is translated by Sam Taylor, who does an amazing job of conveying the original text’s humour in puns (not an easy feat!). A fakir is a person who lives on alms, in this case earned through magic tricks. The eponymous fakir is Ajatashatru (mangled by the folks he meets into A-Japanese-Ass-Toot, I-Just-Had-Sex-Too, something about Rat-Stew and many more), who leaves India for the first time in his life, intent on buying a bed of nails from Ikea in Paris. The bed takes a night to be delivered, and he cannot afford a hotel stay, so Ajatashatru does the only thing he can; he hides under a bed as the store closes, and proceeds to spend the night. Read more of this post

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (2014)

Genre: Fiction
Interest Level: Adult
A Man Called OveThis heartwarming tale of a man in mourning, demanding neighbours, and a stubborn cat, comes by way of Sweden. Translated by Henning Koch, it is the story of the eponymous Ove, stymied by the new world order in which people drive imports instead of Saabs, don’t know how to reverse a trailer or bleed radiators, and fail to value men who do these things and more, and who act rather than speak. In the vein of The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, this novel slowly reveals Ove’s life story, from his first job to how he fell in love to just how he happened to adopt the Cat Annoyance. His gruff and grumpy exterior hides a solid citizen who believes what’s right should trump what’s now. Read more of this post

Why We Took the Car, by Wolfgang Herrndorf (2010, 2014)

Genre: Contemporary
Interest Level: 12-17
Why We Took the CarMike Klingenberg is facing the start of summer vacation completely on his own. His mother is, once again, in rehab – what she calls “the beauty farm.” As the cab takes her way, Dad hands Mike 200 euros, tells him not to get into any trouble, and hops into the car for a “business trip” with his hot young assistant, leaving Mike alone at home in Berlin. There is little chance of any mischief – Mike has just been dealt a crushing blow to his ego. Tatiana is the love of his life but doesn’t know he exists. She is throwing a party and invited practically the whole class, but not Mike, and not their newest classmate, Andrej Tschichatschow. Tschick convinces Mike to do something about the overlooked invitations. Read more of this post

Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored, by Philippe Georget (2013)

Genre: Mystery
Interest Level: Adult
Summertime All the Cats Are BoredWhat a great summer read this was! A translation of the French novel L’été tous les chats s’ennuient, originally published in 2009, this mystery is set in the south of France, on the shores of the Mediterranean near the border with Spain. Detective Gilles Sebag deeply loves his family, having sacrificed his career prospects by choosing to make them his priority. But this summer, they are pulling away – his children are spending their vacation with friends, and his wife has opted for a solo cruise during her extra month of holidays. Meanwhile, Sebag is pulled into a mystery when a kidnapper focuses his attention on him over all the other investigators. A young Dutch woman disappears, another is murdered, and a third escapes an attack. Read more of this post

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson (2012)

Genre: Historical-to-Contemporary Fiction
Interest Level: Adult
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and DisappearedA blurb on this book says it’s the next great fiction from Sweden after Dragon Tattoo. That little marketing ploy will disappoint those looking for a little more Lisbeth. I’d describe this more as Forrest Gump, but for the entire 20th Century. On the day of his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson escapes from his retirement home, just as the mayor and others are gathering for the big celebration. In no time at all, he steals a suitcase containing a fortune, befriends a petty criminal, disposes of a body and escapes both the police and the hated retirement home director. A parallel storyline reveals Allan’s story – his entire story – from his birth in 1905 to present day. Along the way, Allan blithely blows up his house (not just once), Read more of this post

Stargazing Dog, by Takashi Murakami (2011)

Genre: Contemporary, Graphic Novel format
Interest level: Adult
Stargazing DogThis heartbreaking story opens with a punch – an abandoned car is found, with two bodies inside. One is a man who has been dead for about 18 months. The other is of a dog, dead only about three months. We then shift to the story of the dog, an adorably drawn little fellow named Happie. Happie is adopted as a puppy by Miko, the little girl who plays with him, by Mom, who always feeds him, and by Daddy, who always takes Happie for his walk. We witness Miko growing up and the parents growing apart, until the inevitable divorce. Happie helplessly watches his Daddy’s pain: “I think that was a lie, that ‘It’s not that I hate you’ crap. Then what the hell is this ‘Request for the division of property’?” Read more of this post