In this issue of the Blood-Letter: a preview of upcoming Bloody Thursday guest Rod Englert, an interview with Lena Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis, a preview of upcoming Scandinavian books, and more!

January 2012

Secrets That Blood Can Reveal with Rod Englert

Rod Englert

What can the blood left at the scene of a crime tell us about the crime? Our guest speaker, Chief Deputy (Retired) Rod Englert, is an expert in the area of homicide crime reconstruction and blood spatter interpretation.

A 42-year veteran of law enforcement, Englert retired as Commander of the Operations Division, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland, Oregon, in 1995. He began his career with the Downey, California Police Department after graduating from the Los Angeles Police Academy. He joined the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in 1969, where a large part of his career was associated with working major crimes, narcotics and homicide.

Chief Deputy Englert lives in West Linn and has his own consulting business. He has consulted in over 350 homicides in the United States and has testified and is a qualified court expert in homicide in 26 states.

Englert is a member of the International Homicide Investigator’s Association; several states’ Homicide Investigator’s Association, a Fellow, Distinguished Member, President (2001/2002), and Chairman of the Board (2002-2003) of the Association of Crime Scene Reconstructionists; a Fellow in the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, and is Past-President of the International Association of Blood Pattern Analysts. He is an adjunct faculty member and has received the Lecturer of Merit and Distinguished Faculty Awards from the National College of District Attorneys.

Chief Deputy Englert is also an author, having written Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstructionist , with the assistance of award-winning reporter and writer Kathy Passero. Murder by the Book will have copies of the book available for sale at the meeting.

We hope you will be able to join us for what promises to be a fascinating presentation. The program will begin at 7:30 pm and will be held at Terwilliger Plaza in the White Auditorium. Directional signs will be posted in the building. The meeting is free and open to the public. Free parking is available in the Terwilliger Plaza employee parking lots across 6th Avenue from the lower level entrance, and on Sheridan Street. Handicapped parking is available at the upper level entrance. Tri-met bus #8, Jackson Park, stops just in front of the lower level entrance. Click here for directions to Terwilliger Plaza, including a map which shows parking in the area.

Date: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 7:00pm

Location: Terwilliger Plaza, 2545 SW Terwilliger Blvd, Portland, OR

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What’s New in Nordic Crime Fiction?

by Jeannette Voss

One of the advantages to picking up the FOM mail is getting books for possible review, or others which qualify to be read for our Spotted Owl Award. This past month we received several books by Nordic crime fiction writers, and I had time to read three of them.

Night Rounds
Tursten, Helene. Night Rounds: An Inspector Irene Huss Investigation.

This is the fourth book in the series featuring Inspector Irene Huss, the previous books being Detective Inspector Huss, The Torso, and The Glass Devil.

In this book Inspector Huss investigates the murder of a nurse in a private hospital in Goteborg, Sweden. One witness says that she saw the ghost of a nurse who committed suicide in the attic of the hospital 60 years ago. More murders occur before the solution to the case is found.

This was an advance uncopyedited edition – the book will be published in February.

Indridason, Arnaldur. Hypothermia: An Icelandic Thriller.

The sixth in a series featuring Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson set in Reykajvik, Iceland. Erlendur is investigating a suspicious suicide and an old puzzle of two young people who went missing thirty years ago.

Indridason won the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel for both Jar City and Silence of the Grave; in 2005, Silence of the Grave also won the Crime Writers Association’s Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of the year.

The Boy in the Suitcase
Kaaberbol, Lene and Friis, Agnette. The Boy in the Suitcase.

This is the first book in a projected trilogy, featuring Red Cross Nurse, Nina Borg. Nina is asked by a friend to pick up a suitcase from a train station locker. When she opens the locker, she finds a three-year-old boy, drugged and crammed into the suitcase.

How she deals with the situation makes for “you can’t put it down” reading. The book is the winner of the Harald Mogensen Award for Best Danish Crime Novel, and a finalist for the coveted Scandinavian Glass Key Crime Fiction Award. This is the U.S. debut and first collaboration between bestselling authors Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis.

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Interview: Lena Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis talk to Barry Forshaw, British author, book critic, and biographer of Stieg Larsson

Rod Englert

Do you see yourself as Scandinavian writers – or as writers who happen to live in a Scandinavian country?

We certainly owe quite a lot to Scandinavian tradition. We may not think consciously about it with every syllable we write, but there are roots that it would be hard to cut ourselves off from – a sense of the climate, the people, the social consciousness, the culture.

How important for you is the picture you paint of your own region when writing your novels? Is it something you consciously think about – or is the main thing for you the narrative?

The narrative comes first – and second, and third. That said, we do not expect the tourist board and Wonderful Copenhagen to hand out awards in our direction any time soon.

Are you political writers? Do you see politics as being part of your books – even if only as a background?

We write about crime, and that makes it very hard to avoid politics, unless one sets murders exclusively on archealogical expeditions or the Orient Express. In creating Nina Borg, we quite deliberately sketched our main character as someone who is constantly driven to try and “save the world” both through legitimate and slightly less legitimate means. As a Red Cross nurse, she has long since lost any complacency she may have had about society and the way it treats its outcasts. So yes, in that sense, we are indeed political.

Can crime novels paint an accurate picture of society?

Crime by its nature is that which society does not accept, and this makes for a sort of negative outline that focuses mainly on that which is outside – that which is illegal, unacceptable and inadmissible. A crime novel can of course only paint a very partial and piecemeal picture, but then again, few mainstream novels claim to do more.

Many crime novels deal in corruption – in society, business, government; how do you keep these issues fresh if you’re dealing with them again and again?

If various studies are to be believed, Denmark is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. And actually, corruption is not a major theme for us – we aim our guns more at complacency and plain incompetence.

The image of Scandinavia that UK and US readers get from today’s crime fiction is subtly changing our perceptions – are non-Scandinavian readers getting an accurate picture?

Scandinavian countries are perhaps not quite the models of social welfare and fairness that we would like to believe. However, crime novels are not the most accurate source of information, particularly not where crime statistics are concerned. Iceland is a perfect example – they average about 2.5 murders a year in reality, but Icelandic crime writers merrily kill off four or five hapless victims in every single novel, just like the rest of us. Happy contented characters tend to make for boring stories, so we focus on discontent, crises and disasters.

Are issues such as immigration and the rise of the far right in Scandinavian countries significant for Nordic crime writers?

In a word – yes.

Does the notion of an ideal social democracy still hold sway for Scandinavian countries – or do we all live in the same world these days/

The ideals are still there, but they are under siege. Thirty or forty years ago, it was a much simpler matter to offer such benefits as free hospital treatment, free education and affordable child care to all comers. With globalization has come new challenges, and we do not always meet them well.

Who were the Scandinavian writers who inspire you? Sjowahl and Wahloo? And the non-Scandinavians?

Sjowahl and Wahloo are definitely an inspiration. There are several other Scandinavian writers whose works we both enjoy – Arnaldur Indridason, Asa Larsson and Johan Theorin, to name just a few – but we don’t necessarily feel that we could or should try to write like them. As for non-Scandinavians, we both particularly admire writers like Ruth Rendell and P.D. James for their powers of characterization. Theirs is certainly an example we would like to emulate…

Are there any particular issues you are keen to address through your crime writing?

This strange question of inside and outside. There is a sort of charmed circle within which “people like us” are protected and cushioned to the best of society’s ability, whereas those outside the circle, the ones considered “not like us,” have no such protection. We accept or ignore considerable abuse and misery as long as it does not strike within the circle. During our research for The Boy in the Suitcase, we learned that more than 600 children had disappeared from Danish refugee centres over a period of seven years. Granted, some of these so-called “unaccompanied minors” probably absented themselves voluntarily and may have gone to join relatives elsewhere. But some did not. And some, we are fairly sure, were bought and paid for. We have no idea how many, and the point is, we don’t seem to care. Had they been Danish children vanishing from Danish institutions there would have been an uproar, there would have been searches and enquiries, debates and appeals – no stone left unturned. As it is, it barely rated a mention.

We write first and foremost to entertain. But if we do have a mission beyond that, it is to lure the reader into identifying with those outside the circle – to imagine, for the duration of the narrative at least, what it is like to be someone like that, with no protection, no charm against callousness, exploitation and deliberate malice.

Can you tell me a little about your latest book – or about the book you’re working on now?

Currently, we are writing the third Nina Borg novel. It is set partly in Denmark, partly in the Ukraine, and has more historical background than the first two – the roots of the central mystery reach back to the early days of Stalin’s rule and the Holodomor, the famine induced by his policies of collectivization and “dekulikization.”

(Interview courtesy of February Partners and Soho Press.)

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Whose Books Do You Look Forward To Reading?

Share your favorite authors with fellow mystery readers. Send your five favorite authors to: or to Friends of Mystery, Att: Jeannette Voss, PO Box 8251, Portland, OR 97207. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Upcoming Events in the 2011-2012 Bloody Thursday Season

Vanishing Acts

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Submissions Needed

Members and readers are encouraged to submit book or film reviews, comments on authors, and recommendations for books to read or questions about mysteries, crime fiction and fact. You can mail these to our PO Box 8251, Portland, Oregon 97207 or send to our email address at

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