Cursed Thomas Enger. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: May 2017 from Orenda Books.

Source: Review Copy

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Oh I DEVOURED this one. I’ll let you into a little secret, I’m terribly disorganised and only realised  at the beginning of this week that I was supposed to be doing this today. Good job its a damned fine bit of storytelling as I read it in 3 hours straight on Monday evening. Sssh don’t tell anyone…

What you CAN tell them is that for any fan of Nordic Noir Thomas Enger is a must read. Beautifully atmospheric, really quite addictive and although this is my first taste of this series it certainly won’t be the last – also, you don’t need to worry about not having read the previous novels. The lovely Mr Enger tells you all you need to know without generally spoiling anything.

Things I loved:

The opening – it just  drops you right into things, no holds barred this is not a book that waits to present itself.

Once it HAS Thomas Enger then takes you on a taut, immersive, highly compelling journey towards a brilliantly placed and clever conclusion.

Nora and Henning: Their shared grief over the loss of their son and their still deep feeling relationship is palpable. Clever clever characterisation with many layers that shone through despite me coming into it at book 4.

The sense of place. Terrific terrific and huge kudos to the translator as well as the author. Beautiful writing all the way.

Journalists as main protagonists rather than police officers. Opened up so much, made for a different feeling mystery element, allowed for some intelligent plotting that kept Cursed as addictive as chocolate – the very very best kind of book calories. A good evenings intake.

Big fan. Big big fan. That would be me.

Highly Recommended.

 

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The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they are recent – the boiling not the medieval curiosity she thought – DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard of a vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under King’s Lynn, home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

I’m a HUGE fan of the Ruth Galloway novels so it was a treat to be sure to receive a copy of The Chalk Pit for review and it did not disappoint. Also, caused me to randomly shiver at inopportune moments.

This novel has many layers as ever, a homeless community that may have taken refuge underground, the “Chalk Pit” of the title, some go missing and Ruth Galloway finds that the bones she has been asked to assess may not be so ancient after all. Cue the usual brilliant forensic insight that peppers the whole series, combined with those intriguing and utterly compelling mystery elements, some familiar and unfamiliar characters and basically you are good to go.

I read this in two sittings, they never stay on the currently reading pile for long, so fascinating especially the science which is written in very accessible terms and the character dynamics as built up over the course of the novels always make you really keen for the next in the series. One of my favourites to be sure and long may it continue.

As a main protagonist, Ruth Galloway is endlessly engaging, anchoring each story and keeping you right in the action. No change here – she is what keeps me coming back for more.

Excellent writing, excellent plotting, some utterly riveting detail and always a banging good story means this whole series comes highly recommended by me.

 

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Say Nothing Brad Parks – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: March 2nd from Faber and Faber

Source: Review Copy

Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: A prestigious job. A beloved family. On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, he is about to pick up his six-year-old twins to go swimming when his wife, Alison, texts him that she’ll get the kids from school instead.

It’s not until she gets home later that Scott realizes she doesn’t have the children. And she never sent the text. Then the phone rings, and every parent’s most chilling nightmare begins. A man has stolen Sam and Emma. A man who warns the judge to do exactly as he is told in a drug case he is about to rule on. If the judge fails to follow his instructions, the consequences for the children will be dire.

The tension in Say Nothing is palpable – and that is what you want from a decent thriller, for it to actually feel like you are right on the edge of a cliff..

This novel featured many nail  biting cliff hanging moments and is written beautifully to drag the reader into an impossible decision making process taking place within the pages. Judge Scott Sampson is stuck between a rock and hard place, from the moment he and his wife Alison realise their children are gone, you are hook line and sinkered into the rest of the tale which bangs along at breakneck speed, barely giving you a chance to breathe.

At the heart of it is an intriguing and thought provoking theme – how far as parents would you go to save your children, well all the way of course, but this tale also has a lot of twists and turns that make it more edgy and dynamic – and the ultimate resolution was perfectly plotted to maximum effect.

It is the ultimate moral dilemma – whatever Scott does there will be consequences and as the couple try to find a solution, you will be utterly gripped and totally rooting for them. Great characterisation, genuinely riveting storytelling and a bang on target writing style means Say Nothing really is a top notch read.

Recommended.

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Her Perfect Life Sam Hepburn – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins

Source: Netgalley

How far would you go to create the perfect life?

Gracie Dwyer has it all: the handsome husband, the adorable child, the beautiful home and the glittering career. The perfect life.

Her new friend Juliet doesn’t exactly fit in. She’s a down-on-her-luck single parent with no money and not much hope.

So just what is it that draws Gracie and Juliet together? And when the cracks start to appear in Gracie’s perfect life, can both of them survive?

Her Perfect Life was an intriguing read, following the “friendship” of two very different women, one who seemingly has everything, one who seemingly has nothing. As such it was a clever, involving character drama with a psychological thriller twist as motivations and truths start to emerge.

To be honest it was the friendship angle that interested me most – as a reader of many psychological thrillers there are not many surprises – but Sam Hepburn has written a multi-layered and compelling portrait of two different women who come together, a toxic manipulative friendship develops, seeing it as we do from both points of view makes it endlessly fascinating.

Well written, you get sucked into the tale very easily, Sam Hepburn throws plenty of intrigue and twists into the tale, as it unfolds it gets ever more addictive – towards the end of the book I could barely put it down even though it was a  slow burner it was highly involving.

Overall a really good addition to this popular genre and one that as a reader you can take many different things from and a well constructed plot that manages not to be utterly obvious – as such I would definitely recommend it.

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Desperation Road – Michael Farris Smith – Blog Tour Guest Post.

Today I am very pleased to welcome author Michael Farris Smith, talking about writers who inspired him.

Guest Post – Michael Farris Smith.

Sometimes I wonder if I should feel guilt over being so hard on my characters, but then I’m reminded of the writers who have inspired me, and the courage and strength I always find in their stories because they situate their characters firmly between a rock and a hard place. And dare them to find a way out.

The most striking influence of this for me came from the late Larry Brown. As a beginning writer, and fellow Mississippian, I was inspired by Brown’s stories of down-and-out men and women in down-and-out towns, but I was just as influenced about what Brown had to say about writing fiction. His interviews were always full of thoughts about the guts and courage it took to sit down and write, the guts and courage it took to face rejection after rejection and keep trucking. And I learned from this. I learned perseverance and work ethic. And then I began to notice another word he seemingly used over and over when describing the grittiness of his stories. Sandbagging. This is the word he referred to when asked why his characters had to deal with so much. He said he liked to sandbag them, to pile on to see just how much they could take and how they would react. That made sense to me immediately, and still does.

Because in life, you don’t really find out about people until things go bad. It’s not a challenge to be a good person on the days when the sun is shining, and you get off work early, and you find twenty dollars in your pocket, and your favorite person has said something nice to you, and the bills have been paid with more than a little left over. But let the rain wash out the picnic, or let the boss make you put in a few extra hours on a Friday evening and you have to cancel a date with a pretty girl, or let the one nail in the middle of the road find the tire on your car, and that’s when the truth comes out. The real self revealed. And that’s what I want to find out about my characters. When it’s tough, when there is only a faint speck of light at the end of the tunnel, what will they do? How will they get out of it? Will they give up or keep fighting? Can they climb over the pile of sandbags?

I bet they will try.

About the Book.

 

Published by No Exit Press.

For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sits in Parchman penitentiary. His sentence now up, Russell believes his debt has been paid. But when he returns home, he discovers that revenge lives and breathes all around him.

Meanwhile, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a room for the night, a night that ends with Maben holding a pistol and a dead deputy sprawled in the middle of the road.

With the dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save—his own or those of the woman and child.

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Lie With Me – Sabine Durrant. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland

Source: Review Copy

Paul Morris is running out of money, friends and second chances. His new relationship might be his last hope of success.
Alice is not like any of the women he’s pursued in the past: wealthy, lonely, driven. When she invites Paul to her holiday home in Greece, he decides to do whatever it takes to make the romance stick.
But the summer is not the idyll he had planned. Ten years ago, a thirteen-year-old girl went missing on the island, and now a fresh sighting and another attack unsettle the long hot days.
For Paul is not be the only person with a plan… and his dreams of a life worth living may yet turn into a nightmare he cannot escape.

Lie With Me is a real page turner of a psychological thriller, certainly for me the best one from Sabine Durrant I have read with its cool (or hot if you like) setting and taut, clever prose that just drags you right into the story and holds you there.

The story is told by Paul, a really divisive fellow, you sure are not meant to like him and I did not, who leeches off the people around him based on one successful novel years earlier. His latest provider is Alice, a widow, who when they start a relationship invites him on holiday to Greece with the family. Never one to turn down a freebie, off he goes. But maybe this time he is not the one with the nefarious motivations…

It really is quite clever this novel because to be honest nobody in it is particularly lovely. The plot bubbles with untold secrets, every conversation, every action is layered with insinuation, as the story unfolds it is totally gripping and best of all you really are not sure where it is going. Rather than a Game of Thrones “Everybody Dies” vibe instead you have “Everybody Lies” – true in real life as in this book, but Sabine Durrant plays with that so beautifully, leaving the reader with an off kilter, slightly disturbed feeling throughout.

Lie with Me is a slow slow burn of a tale, the character interactions are loaded with the promise of future revelations, which when they arrive illicit a truly emotional response – despite really hating Paul at times I did feel vaguely sorry for him. The group dynamic once they all reach Greece is intelligently woven into the wider plot involving a missing girl and a long ago crime, the mystery elements are perfectly in harmony with the intense character studies. The end, when it comes, is brilliantly placed and hugely satisfying – basically this book simmers, comes to the boil, then goes BOOM.

I really loved this one. It was clever, immersive and totally unsettling. Beautifully done.

Highly Recommended.

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The Elisenda Domenech Investigations: City of Drowned Souls. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Canelo

Source: Review Copy

When a child disappears, the clock starts ticking.
Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years. The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse.

When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins. People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.

Could there be a connection? Why is nobody giving a straight answer? And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…

Be careful not to drown.

I love the way Chris Lloyd  writes because he does that slow burn to the finish thing that involves many moving parts, all cleverly layered and all coming together but without necessarily tying it all up in a beautiful bow.

Such is the case with City of Drowned Souls, a beautifully engaging crime novel within the Elisenda Domenech investigations series. Elisenda herself continues to have multiple intriguing layers that just feeds into the wider plot and makes for an anchor to the rest. The descriptive prose is vivid and immersive, the political threads are fascinating and in all that you have a great mystery too. An emotive one in this case and throughout the read I was not sure where things might end up. You just travel along with it, caught up in the moment.

You can read this one on its own too, this is my second that I’ve read and just confirmed for me that I want to read the rest. The scene setting is particularly good both in relation to the places and to the social attitudes, a great depth to things and that is what I personally look for in my crime drama.

Overall an excellent read. Bring on the next one I say. You really can’t ever have too many great books to look forward to. Chris Lloyd gives good book.

Recommended.

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One Little Mistake Emma Curtis. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 23rd Feb 2017 from Transworld

Source: Review Copy

Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.

When she risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only person she trusts enough to turn to.

But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them . . .

Really enjoyed One Little Mistake and it is an extremely thought provoking page turner.

Strangely, considering it IS a psychological thriller that does have that popular and gorgeous twisty goodness in it, that was not the part that gripped me. When you read a lot of psychological thrillers, as I do, surprises in actual plot twists are rare but One Little Mistake didn’t need that anyway because you had Vicki and you had Amber.

There is a lot of insightful reality in One Little Mistake. Vicki outwardly has the perfect life, the perfect family but if you dig a little deeper you soon see the real life stresses and strains, the old adage about not judging until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes comes into sharp focus here. Never the less her life is pretty good – until she makes one little mistake. It is unthinking and one of those throw away moments that we all may come to, even if not in the same way, at some point in our lives. That spur of the moment act during which things go terribly wrong.

Then we have Amber. Seemingly a great friend to Vicki, her most trusted confidant, of course that is who Vicki looks to in her time of need. But Amber is not as steady as would first appear, scratch her surface and you’ll find something very different. The relationship and then the relationship breakdown of these two is where this story comes into its own. Gripping, cleverly written to really show all the layers of each of the women, drip feeding personality page by page until you get to the core of them both, it is utterly riveting. Utterly.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, the truth of what lies behind Amber’s personality and actions, yes the mystery element is great and fans of the twist will enjoy it muchly as did I. But what Emma Curtis does here so brilliantly is the nuances of human nature, the truth that whatever we show on the outside can never truly reflect what we are on the inside. It is that element of One Little Mistake that held me in its thrall.

I have no problem whatsoever recommending this on several levels.

Excellent stuff.

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Death Games Chris Simms (Late!) Blog Tour Review. Giveaway.

Publication Date: Available Now from Richmond

Source: Review Copy

Manchester: an injured survivor from a motorway pile-up flees the scene, leaving behind evidence that a terror attack is being planned…

Jon Spicer, newly trained as a Specialist Firearms Officer, has joined Manchester police’s Counter Terrorism Unit. Thrown out of his previous department and demoted to Detective Constable, he is being kept in the force only because he’ll take on the most dangerous of jobs.

Iona Khan is struggling to find respect and recognition in the male-dominated Counter Terrorism Unit. Her mind might be sharp, but many of her colleagues value physical strength above anything else.

As the investigation quickly snowballs, Spicer and Khan are thrown together. The two officers must learn to trust each other – and fast. Because in this chase, any wrong move could be your last.

Death Games opens with a bang and basically bangs on from there – fast paced and really rather gripping, involving a possible terrorist attack in Manchester this is one of those books you read fast and get immersed into almost immediately.

I liked Spicer as a character – this is book 8 of a series that I have not read before, but there was enough detail in there to give me a general idea of where he has been – well drawn and I found his interactions with Iona to be one of the strengths of the book, thrown  together in difficult circumstances, with a lot at stake, it made me want to go back and read the previous novels.

The writing is great, engaging and often intense, descriptively speaking very cleverly putting the reader right on the spot, immersive well flowing prose that keeps you hooked. Great plotting to take you on a bit of a thrill ride to the finale, overall I really enjoyed this one and did it in pretty much one sitting.

Top notch crime thriller – I’d recommend giving these a go.

Fancy trying it? Email Chris comment@chrissimms.info with Death Games Proof in the subject for a chance to win a copy.

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The Road to Publication with Su Bristow. Sealskin Blog Tour.

Today I am delighted to welcome Su Bristow to the blog talking a little about getting to the point of publication of her beautiful novel Seal Skin. Part of the ongoing blog tour.

Publication Journey – Su Bristow.

‘How did you get to the point of publication?’ is a question that often comes up. For me, the real turning point was winning the Exeter Novel Prize in 2014. You have to submit a synopsis and the first 10,000 words, and I’d only got to 50,000 at that point, but my goodness, that put a rocket under me!

When I entered, I wasn’t thinking ‘What if I win?’ at all. In fact, the main reason for entering was that the three writers who set up the competition – Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and Sophie Duffy – are good friends of mine, and I wanted to support their business, Creative Writing Matters. I should add here that they read all the entries without knowing who the authors are, and that the finalists are chosen by Broo Doherty on the merits of the writing alone.

I’d been working on Sealskin for five years or so at that point, as well as writing short stories, and I was feeling my way slowly and carefully through, not in any particular hurry. I had the general outline of the plot, of course, because it started from a traditional folk tale, but the finer details emerged from the development of the characters themselves, and it took time to get to know them, living with them and thinking about them pretty much every day.

The last 30,000 words took about three months to write, and then it was another few months before Broo Doherty came back to me with some editorial suggestions. I worked on those, and eventually, at the second Exeter Novel Prize awards a year later, she agreed to take me on.

Then came the rejection phase. When you send a manuscript to a publisher, the response time can vary enormously, from almost at once to many months, or maybe never. And I knew from the experience of other writers that it can be many years – if ever – before it gets accepted, so I simply tried to put it out of mind and get on with other things. But eventually – hallelujah! – it was accepted by Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books.

Karen had left Arcadia the year before, and was working hard to build her own list, so she really got behind Sealskin. There was more re-drafting to do, and more waiting until she had a time slot for publication, but at last – just before Christmas last year – the ebook came out. The paperback will be launched in March, and the audiobook follows shortly after that.

But you don’t just publish a book, of course. There’s the blogging and the reviews and the talks and the tweets, and all the other things that are essential to help it on its way. Karen is sending out review copies as I write, complete with lovely herbal tea (I’m a herbalist by profession, and one of the main characters in Sealskin is a healer) and tissues, because I seem to be rather good at making people cry!

About the Book:

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies—seals who can transform into people—evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set.

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