Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Yule Book Flood

 Zoë Sharp


It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered the wonderful tradition of jólabókaflóð,

(jolabokaflod) which is the exchanging of books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading. It’s something I particularly associate with Iceland, and although I understand it’s not unique to that country, it has become something of a cultural phenomenon there.


I seem to recall that chocolate was also mentioned. Books and chocolate—what’s not to like?


Apparently, this tradition really took hold during the Second World War, when strict limitations on imports to Iceland meant many gift items were in short supply. Paper, fortunately, was not one of those items, so books—and the giving of books—became an ideal option.


Iceland is now a famously literary country. Everyone there receives a catalogue from the Icelandic Publishers Association of new book releases out between September and November. At one point, not only did half the population read at least eight books a year, but one in ten of them would go on to write their own.


As this is my last Murder Is Everywhere post before Christmas, I thought I would encourage the establishment of jolabokaflod—literally, Yule Book Flood—elsewhere by giving you some last-minute ideas. Or, to put it another way, the latest publications of my fellow blog-mates.


Annamaria Alfieri

Annamaria’s latest publications are audiobook editions of THE IDOL OF MOMBASA and THE BLASPHEMERS, both in her Vera McIntosh and Justin Tolliver series. The books are set in British East Africa in the early years of the twentieth century, and narrated by Dennis Kleinman. Annamaria is hoping to have news of the next instalment in the New Year...

Cara Black

Cara’s latest is a standalone historical spy thriller, THREE HOURS IN PARIS. ‘In June of 1940, when Paris fell to the Nazis, Hitler spent a total of three hours in the City of Light—abruptly leaving, never to return. To this day, no one knows why.’


The latest in the Aimée Leduc series is MURDER IN BEL-AIR.

Sujata Massey

Reissued as a trade paperback in 2020, THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE takes place in India, 1921. ‘It’s rainy season in the lush, remote Sahyadri mountains, where the princely state of Satapur is tucked away. A curse of deaths has fallen on Satapur’s line of maharajas. The state is now ruled by an agent of the British raj on behalf of Satapur’s two maharanis. The royal ladies are disputing the education of the young prince, and a lawyer’s counsel is required. Enter Perveen Mistry. She is determined to bring peace to the place and make a sound recommendation for the young prince’s future. Yet when she arrives she finds the palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realises she’s walked into a trap…’


Kwei Quartey

Kwei’s latest book is the first in the Emma Djan series, set in Accra: THE MISSING AMERICAN. ‘When her dreams of rising through the police ranks crash around her, 25-year-old Emma Djan’s life takes an uncertain and unfamiliar direction as an agent of a private detective agency in Accra. Elsewhere, Gorden Tilson, a middle-aged widower in Washington D.C. seeks comfort in an online support group, where his love for a young Ghanaian widow ignites. When Gordon runs off to Ghana to find his new love, to the horror of his son, Derek, he vanishes. Fearing for his father’s life, Derek embarks on a journey to find his father before it’s too late.’


The second Emma Djan novel, SLEEP WELL, MY LADY, will be out in January 2021.

Caro Ramsay

Caro’s latest is #11 in the Anderson & Costello mystery series, THE RED, RED SNOW. ‘A family man is stabbed to death at a crowded Christmas Ice Show. Murdered in plain sight. No clues, no witnesses, no known motive… What secrets are lurking within this isolated, superstitious community? As the snow piles higher, detectives Anderson and Costello put their wits to solving a seemingly impossible crime, and gradually uncover a twisted tale of greed, obsession—and cold-blooded murder.’


And in 2021, Caro has THE CURSED GIRLS and another Anderson & Costello, ON AN OUTGOING TIDE coming out.


the Michael Stanleys

The latest in the Africa-set Detective Kubu novels is #7, although it’s actually a prequel. In the previous books, Kubu is the senior detective in the Criminal Investigation Department in Gaborone. A large man — as his nickname Kubu (hippopotamus) suggests – he investigates complex murder cases with southern African backstories.

FACETS OF DEATH is set in the late 1990s when Kubu first joins the Botswana CID as a raw detective. While he’s trying to be accepted by the current staff and to make a role for himself in the CID, a massive diamond heist takes place on the road from Jwaneng—home of the world’s richest diamond mine… Kubu and Mabaku are sure they can solve the case if only their contacts can stay alive long enough to point them in the right direction. However, when one of the mine’s senior managers becomes the next victim, they’re forced to set a trap for the crime’s mastermind. If it fails, their careers are over—in Kubu’s case before it’s even begun.’


Zoë Sharp

My own newest release is book #2 in the Lakes Crime Thriller Trilogy, BONES IN THE RIVER, featuring CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston. ‘Driving on a country road late at night, you hit a child. There are no witnesses. You have everything to lose. What do you do?’ This and the first Lakes book, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, are available in audio format, narrated by Lewis Hancock, and you can listen to tasters on my website.


I have also put together two eBoxsets of the Charlie Fox series. The first three books, set ‘back when Charlie was still a self-defence instructor with a motorbike and an attitude,’ can be found in CHARLIE FOX: THE EARLY YEARS. The second eBoxset is CHARLIE FOX: BODYGUARD. ‘Ex-Special Forces soldier Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox aced the course in close protection. She already had the instinct. All she needs now is the experience.


Jeffrey Siger

ISLAND OF SECRETS, the tenth book in the Greece-based Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery-thriller series, reveals the wildly lucrative dark side of an internationally renowned Aegean island playground for the world’s rich and famous, those battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.’ (Published in hardcover as THE MYKONOS MOB.)


Plus, in January 2021, a reissue of #1 in the Kaldis series, MURDER IN MYKONOS, with an introduction by Thomas Perry. And in April 2021, #11 will be out: A DEADLY TWIST.

Susan Spann 

CLIMB is a non-fiction work. ‘After more than forty years of living “safe and scared,” Susan Spann decided to break free by climbing one hundred of Japan’s most famous mountains in a single year. But when an unexpected cancer diagnosis forced her to confront her deepest fears, the mountains of Japan became the setting for a transformative journey–from pain and fear to a new life fuelled by hope, confidence, and strength.’


Her latest novel in the Hiro Hattori series is GHOST OF THE BAMBOO ROAD. ‘En route to Edo, Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo spend the night in a rural mountain village whose inhabitants live in terror of a legendary vengeful ghost. When the innkeeper’s wife is murdered and Father Mateo’s housekeeper, Ana, is blamed for a crime she did not commit, Hiro and Father Mateo are forced to investigate and reveal the truth. But when another woman turns up murdered in the snow, the detectives must face the shocking truth that the vengeful yurei the villagers fear might be more than just a legend after all.’

Well, that should give you plenty to read over the holiday season. And, although strict adherents to jolabokaflod believe you should give only hardback books as gifts, I think in these Covid-stricken times, eBooks and Audiobooks are more than acceptable. It’s a little journey the recipient can make, even if they’re self-isolating at home.

And don't think I'd forgotten the chocolate. One of my favourites is Lindor milk chocolate. What about you?


This week’s Word of the Week is plangent, which means loud and resonant, but with a mournful tone. It comes from the Latin plangere, which can mean either to strike or beat, particularly in relation to beating your breast in grief. It also means to lament.


  1. Thank you Zoë, and a wonderful jolabokaflod to you. May the New Year be a happy one.

    1. You're entirely welcome, Stan. I'm hoping for plenty of time reading over the holiday season, and yes, let us indeed hope for better things in 2021!

  2. Zoe, thank you for this timely reminder that, plangent as public discourse needs be in the face of worldwide misery, we can disappear into wonderful stories and find respite. Hooray for floods of books at yuletide!

    1. Ooh, bonus points for you using the Word of the Week, Annamaria.

  3. Thanks, Zoë! I might also mention, Iceland has a great annual book fair. Not sure what they did for 2020, though.

    1. That sounds like a date for anyone's calendar, Kwei. Here's hoping not only that the Icelanders hold their book fair again next year, but that we are allowed to travel there to see it.

  4. Thank you, Zoë, for taking the time to so graciously highlight our work. I thank you, too, for reminding me how much I truly missed Iceland Noir this year, as it truly is a place of readers and wonderful folk...just like our MIE family!

    1. Yes, Iceland Noir was one of the (many) holes in the calendar this year. It's been hard missing out seeing so many friends among the writing community, such as your good self, sir.