17 November 2015

JFK The Smoking Gun by Colin McLaren, Australia, 2013

When asked 'Who killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy on the 22nd November 1963?' most people would instantly reply 'Lee Harvey Oswald.' There would be some who would refer to a complicated conspiracy theory involving any one (or perhaps a combination) of the following: the CIA, Soviet Russia, the Mafia, the Vice President, Cuba... but, in the main, the answer would be Lee Harvey Oswald.

Yet, according to McLaren, it is almost certain that Harvey did not kill the president. He shot him, but he did not fire the bullet that killed him.

Colin McLaren, a retired Australian Detective Sergeant and a Task Force Team Leader, spent almost five years researching the death of the president and writing his book. He not only visited the site of the killing, he also pored over the results of ballistic expert Howard Donohue's 25-year study into the bullets that were used. As well, he read the thousands of pages comprising the Warren Report – an account of the Warren Commission's months' long attempt to uncover the truth. Sometimes, however, there are people who do not want the truth uncovered, and this was most obviously the case with the killing of JFK. Of course, not all people agree with McLaren's findings; however, it is refreshing with a different, highly possible, perspective on a fifty-year-old assassination.

According to McLaren, the conspiracy was not to kill the president but to conceal who had actually killed him. The killing itself was a horrible accident. Should the perpetrator's name have come to light, it was an accident that could have had devastating consequences for a certain group of people and, by extension, America herself.

JFK The Smoking Gun is interesting and the facts are presented in a balanced manner – McLaren is not taking sides, but he is trying to uncover the truth. The truth, exposed as it is in the pages of McLaren's book, is heartbreakingly simple.

This is a book that will appeal first and foremost to those people who can remember where they were the day that JFK died. They are the people who were caught up in the disbelief and, later, in the host of conspiracy theories. The book should, however, also have appeal for the generations since 1963 – generations that have had to rely on books and films (many based on dubious conspiracy theories) for some kind of understanding of the death of the 35th President of the United States. A book well worth reading.

03 November 2015

Paganinikontraktet by Lars Kepler, Sweden, 2010

Lars Kepler is the pen name used by the two Swedish writers Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, who together have written about five books. Paganinikontraktet or, in English The Paganini Contract, is the second book with the Finnish Detective Inspector Joona Linna at its centre. It is a well written, extremely suspenseful thriller with a scope that includes everything from political and international intrigue, professional assassins, high-speed police chases, arson, unexplained deaths and a terrifying, unbreakable thread that slowly emerges as the common denominator tying everything together.

According to legend, Paganini entered a contract with the devil where he sold his soul in order to realize his greatest wish: to be able to play the violin better than anyone else. Those caught up in the modern-day version of this contract are forced to reveal both their greatest wish and their greatest nightmare. In the end, both become intertwined with unbelievably tragic results.

The background of the novel is Stockholm, but place is not as important as the characters and the situations in the story. The pace is fast with the book broken up into short chapters, most of them ending with a hook or a question mark. It is  a book that demands to be read in one sitting, although at almost 570 pages this could be a bit of an ask. The criminal side of the book is extremely well researched and intelligently described; the story is built up in logical steps, and although it may at times stretch reality to its most extreme limits it is always feasible. Moreover, the criminal side of the story is beautifully balanced by descriptions of music that could only come from someone who is well versed in both musical performance and theory.

 Photo of the authors from

Exploring both the dark world of the criminal mind as well as the longing associated with beauty and music, this novel is by no means a run-of-the-mill detective story. It is definitely worth reading.