Ones to Watch in 2018: If I Die Before I Wake Emily Koch.

Publication Date: January 2018 from Harvill Secker

Source: Netgalley

How Do You Solve Your Own Murder?

Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen.

But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger.

As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.

Still a fair few to go in my “Ones to Watch in 2018” feature and next up we have a tense and brilliantly edge of the seat psychological thriller – If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch.

Now this is one of those books that grips you from the outset to the point that you ignore everything else until you are done. Told entirely from the point of view of Alex, in a coma with everyone believing he is to all intents and purposes gone, he is still in there and can hear what’s going on around him and feel what is happening to him. He has had an accident – or was it? As we get drip fed snippets of information from those around him we come to realise that all is not as it seems. Possibly not even Alex himself..

What I loved about this one was the very strong emotional core Emily Koch brings to the storytelling, really digging into the trauma Alex suffers and how it affects his psyche. Torn between wanting to die and wanting to live, all the while trying to work out what the heck happened to him and why, you really feel for him, lying in that bed, unable to communicate –  and even worse realising that the danger has not passed.

You also get a real feel for the characters around him – his Sister, Father, close friends and most of all his girlfriend Bea who is fighting a battle of her own – should she remain loyal or move on – as things progress you get to know them all well, even though you are only getting random snapshots.

The mystery element is brilliantly imagined and the plotting is excellent – there are twists along the way, emotional resonance to the haunting sense of loss and an ending that absolutely kills – one of those that will keep nagging at the edges of your mind for a long time afterwards.

Overall a really excellent, often nail biting, always engaging read and a page turning addition to the genre.


Follow Emily on Twitter for updates and/or pre-order If I Die Before I Wake.

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Ones To Watch in 2018: The Night Market Jonathan Moore.

Publication Date: January 2018 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Source: Netgalley

It’s late Thursday night, and Inspector Ross Carver is at a crime scene in one of the city’s last luxury homes. The dead man on the floor is covered by an unknown substance that’s eating through his skin. Before Carver can identify it, six FBI agents burst in and remove him from the premises. He’s pushed into a disinfectant trailer, forced to drink a liquid that sends him into seizures, and is shocked unconscious. On Sunday he wakes in his bed to find his neighbor, Mia—who he’s barely ever spoken to—reading aloud to him. He can’t remember the crime scene or how he got home; he has no idea two days have passed. Mia says she saw him being carried into their building by plainclothes police officers, who told her he’d been poisoned. Carver doesn’t really know this woman and has no way of disproving her, but his gut says to keep her close.

A mind-bending, masterfully plotted thriller—written in Moore’s “lush, intoxicating style” (Justin Cronin)—that will captivate fans of Blake Crouch, China Miéville, and Lauren Beukes, The Night Market follows Carver as he works to find out what happened to him, soon realizing he’s entangled in a web of conspiracy that spans the nation. And that Mia may know a lot more than she lets on.

Brilliant. The last book in the loosely connected Noir San Francisco trilogy and probably my favourite of the three, The Night Market is creepy and intense, set years after the events of the previous books and throwing us into a world that is the same but also quite quite different.

Beautifully descriptive both in character and setting the San Francisco we find in “The Night Market” has a tangibly different feel to it than before. Carver lives here, is part of the law here and so through him we can see the different nuances and the sense of feeling Mr Moore brings to the narrative is wonderfully absorbing.

From the very first chapters where we, the readers, feel the full impact of what happens to Carver, then watch him haunted by the missing memories, determined to find out the truth, it is utterly gripping and plays on your mind while you are away from it  -It never really lets up  until that very last page, with its beautifully emotive ending. The theme running through it is scarily authentic, a possible future that is far from beyond the realms of possibility – a thought provoking nightmare journey that Carver takes us on with him.

An unpredictable story told with razor sharp edges and deeply felt impassioned moments, The Night Market cleverly and rather brutally yet beautifully brings an end to this show – With The Poison Artist you get a psychological thriller with a classically layered unreliable narrator, with The Dark Room you get a tense, nail biting police procedural and character drama, with The Night Market you get a speculative dystopian tale and holding all of these together is that city – San Francisco – in all its glory – and the people that live there.

If you’ve not read The Poison Artist or The Dark Room yet then I recommend them – whilst each novel stands on its own, read all together they make a complete work of art.

Highly Recommended.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter for updates, you can Pre-Order The Night Market or if you can’t wait why not catch up with The Poison Artist and/or The Dark Room.

Readers in the US click here.

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Ones to Watch in 2018 – The Confession. Jo Spain.

Publication Date: January 2018 from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who – of Harry, Julie and JP – is really the guilty one? And is Carney’s surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

So moving on in the “Ones to Watch in 2018” feature we have Jo Spain’s “The Confession” her first psychological thriller and with any luck for us readers, not her last.

I am used to this type of book by now, I enjoy the majority that I read but these days I look for those that do something different or something special. I wouldn’t say that The Confession necessarily has a whole new hook in to the psychological thriller genre but what I WOULD say is it has that X-Factor, that indescribable something that makes it stand above the rest.

A multi-stranded story taking in three separate narratives – Julie, the wife who sits aghast and unable to move as she watches her Husband brutally beaten, JP, the attacker and Alice, the detective determined to get to the bottom of things – The Confession slowly and intelligently reveals the intersecting lives that have lead inevitably to this one brutal moment.  JP Delaney says of this book “Enthralling, Spain dissects her character’s secrets with razor-sharp precision” – That is spot on and exactly what happens over the course of the story and you cannot look away. This is yet another one sitting (relatively speaking) read for me, the whole thing was entirely fascinating.

I can’t give too much away, this book has twists of character so beautifully done that I would not want to even risk letting anything out before you read it yourself – but you’ll find out about Julie, about Harry who we only meet in retrospect and through the filtered eye of others, about JP and even about Alice, the author bringing this eclectic group dynamic to incredibly authentic life.

Viewed through a glass darkly, the true nature of the players in this drama slowly emerges, their realities and their consequences – it is gripping gripping stuff and takes the notion of a “Whydunnit” to whole new levels.

You’ll find out who did it on the very first page. On the last page you’ll find out why…

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To Kill The President Sam Bourne – Blog tour Interview and Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins.

Source: Review Copy

Today I am very happy to have an interview with Jonathan Freedland (AKA Sam Bourne) all about his controversial and timely thriller To Kill The President. It is a banging good read and my review follows.

Do you find it more difficult to write political thrillers when some aspects of today’s political landscape are seen as even more outlandish than fiction?

It’s definitely a challenge when the nightly news can seem to twist and turn as dizzyingly as a thriller. Think of, say, the makers of the new House of Cards series: how could they compete with reality?

To give one very concrete example, most thrillers rely on an assumption that certain behaviours are out of bounds. If a character is revealed to be involved in corruption or sexual violence, that – the reader assumes – will prove terminal for their career. You can build a whole plot on that assumption: a politician who will stop at nothing to prevent the truth coming out.

But Donald Trump has upended all our beliefs about what revelations a politician can or cannot survive. The notorious “pussy” tape, in which he was heard bragging about having apparently committed sexual assault, was meant to have destroyed Trump. All the old rules of politics said it would be a fatal blow. But he survived it and won the presidency. That means novelists like me have to rethink what kind of revelation or scandal can lie at the heart of a story: what used to be terminal might be terminal no longer.

How close to reality do you think To Kill the President might end up being, particularly considering the current tensions between the US and North Korea?

The book opens with my fictional president, who is never named, ordering a nuclear strike against North Korea and China. When I wrote that, conflict with North Korea seemed wholly hypothetical. It does, I admit, seem a lot less hypothetical now.

What are your three top tips for budding novelist?

1. Read a lot.

2. With the books you like, read them once, then read them again – to see how the author did it.

3. Be nosy. Ask people questions; get them to tell you their stories. Eventually one of them will spark an idea.

Have you read anything recently that you would like to recommend?

It’s not a novel, but it reads like a thriller: All Out War, Tim Shipman’s brilliant account of the Brexit referendum.

The unthinkable has happened. The United States has elected a volatile demagogue as president, backed by his ruthless chief strategist, Crawford Mac’ McNamara.

When a war of words with the North Korean regime spirals out of control and the President comes perilously close to launching a nuclear attack, it’s clear someone has to act, or the world will be reduced to ashes.

Soon Maggie Costello, a seasoned Washington operator and avowed liberal, discovers an inside plot to kill the president and faces the ultimate moral dilemma. Should she save the president and leave the free world at the mercy of an increasingly crazed would-be tyrant or commit treason against her Commander in Chief and risk plunging the country into a civil war?

My Review:

Brilliantly current and really quite scary To Kill The President asks some very important questions and is a real genuine thrill of a thriller.

Utterly absorbing from the very first page, where the world is almost tipped over into all out war, you are completely gripped by the narrative here, not least because it is all so scarily possible given the current political climate and the absolute madness that seems to be overtaking the world lately.  You kind of want to clap your hands over your eyes and not look but you just can’t help it. In life as with reading this novel…

I’ve met Maggie Costello before in previous thrillers from Mr Freedland’s alter ego – in this story she truly is on the edge of reason – can she possibly let a plot against the President go ahead, could she even tacitly help it along?  It would go against everything she has ever believed – with that moral dilemma lies the soul of the story, whilst the rest of it is often heart stopping edge of the seat moments, all entirely character driven, digging deep into an all too likely and very dangerous scenario.

I’m not going to give anything away at all – you just have to read this one and absorb it – it is a madly addictive page turner and a hugely thought provoking drama, written with perfectly poised prose and telling a fascinating, frightening, yet completely entertaining tale, startlingly authentic and completely mind blowing.

Highly Recommended.

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Little Boy Found L K Fox – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now (E-Book only release) from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

One rainy morning, just after Nick drops off his young son Gabriel outside the crowded school gates, he has a minor collision with another car. The driver won’t surrender his insurance details, so Nick photographs the licence plate. When he gets home, he enlarges the shot on his phone and spots something odd about the picture-Gabriel in the back seat, being driven away by a stranger. Nick needs to know what happened to his boy, but losing Gabriel turns out to be far less terrible than the shock of finding him. Now, to discover the truth, he must relive the nightmare all over again…Be warned, this is not another missing child story: what happened to Nick and his son is far more shocking. 

A slightly different take on the “child missing” concept much seen recently – a page turner that was actually rather predictable but great reading none the less.

We have two different anchors here, Nick, whose son goes missing (difficult to say too much about his portion of the tale without spoilers) and Ella (same applies!) The author does a great job of telling two very separate stories and then bringing them together to show how they intersect with each other – the writing has a strong, emotive edge especially within the relationship Nick has with his partner and with Gabriel and within the layers of Ella’s personality. Psychologically speaking this was clever and engaging – despite having worked out the basic resolution there were still things that surprised me and it was a fast paced, intriguing read.

I loved it for its different focus but if I had one bugbear I thought the final final part of it was overkill. For me the story ended in a much more subtle and satisfying way before, I guess, someone decided it needed more of a shock. We don’t always need a shock you know, sometimes less is more. However that is a subjective comment and doesn’t detract from the overall reading experience which was really good.

Recommended for fans of psychological drama. I hope the author tries his hand at it again away from his usual genre because this worked on a lot of levels and I’d be interested in what else he could come up with.

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Ones to Watch in 2018. The Feed. Nick Clark Windo

Publication Date: January 2018 from Headline

Source: Review Copy

It makes us. It destroys us. 

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.

Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.

Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.

Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?

Warning: The Feed is ludicrously addictive so take the day off when you know it’s coming!

So the second of my “Ones to Watch” for next year is this one,  “The Feed” by Nick Clark Windo – and it is a dream of a read, speculative fiction set in the real world and incredibly current considering how fast technology is advancing and what it is becoming capable of – the author writes a cautionary tale about our reliance on such things and manages to make it beautifully authentic, often very emotional and always always fascinating.

In Tom and Kate we have two very engaging and different characters, struggling in a world left bereft. trying to do the best that they can. Then they lose Bea, their 6 year old, the rest of the book is made up of their desperate attempts to find her, it is a “road trip” of extreme danger and frustration – and boy do you feel it.

I loved the very human feel of this – the layers and the nuances – it is one reason for it’s highly addictive quality and the writing is stunning in its descriptive sense and terrific character building. There are a few spanners thrown in the works that will have you on the edge of your seat and there is an ending that may tip you over.

I devoured this story barely putting it down. Great concept, great execution, plenty of book trauma with a huge emotional rush of an ending. Left me vaguely tearful.

Highly Recommended.

You could follow Nick on Twitter

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Conflicts of Interest: Getting to Know You with Terry Stiastny

Very pleased to welcome Terry to the blog today as part of my “Getting to Know You” feature. Welcome!

Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..

Conflicts of Interest is a story of two friends, one a journalist, Lawrence Leith, who’s down on his luck, the other a PR man, Martin Elliot, for whom everything seems to be going perfectly. When they meet again in the south of France, an accident sets off a course of events which show that Martin’s life doesn’t correspond to the image he presents. They both live in a world of politics and the media where image is everything and friendships can easily be betrayed.

Where did you grow up and what was family life like?

I grew up in Guildford, in Surrey. My father’s Austrian and my mother’s Scottish but spent her childhood in Asia; they met in Vienna and moved to Canada where they got married and I was born. We returned to the UK when I was a baby. So I had a fairly conventional English Home Counties childhood, but always with a sense that I might easily have been living somewhere else and might have grown up differently as a result. My British grandparents had spend years abroad and we often had friends and relatives from Austria visit, which added to that feeling of having slightly different horizons.

Academic or creative at school?

Both, really. I was very academic and loved history in particular, but I also used to love drama and taking part in school plays, either on stage or behind the scenes. I used to write for school magazines and set up official and less official school newspapers, with varying degrees of success.

First job you *really* wanted to do?

It’s always been writing in one form or another. I still have handwritten or laboriously typed ‘novels’ and screenplays that I wrote as a child. As a teenager, I wanted to be a film director and screenwriter. Later, as I became more interested in politics, I decided that I wanted to be a journalist, which is what I did after university.

Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?

I recently found a copy of what I’d called ‘Terry’s only book’, a version of Beauty and the Beast, partly written, partly typed, pages stapled together. I must have written it when I was about four or five. I can’t remember a moment that I didn’t want to write, to be honest. I was always writing stories from as soon as I could.

Who are your real life heroes?

Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright turned hero of the Velvet Revolution and then President. In literary terms, John le Carre.

Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?

I remember once falling into the river next to a pub garden — I was jumping from a boat to the bank, I would have been about seven — and feeling more embarrassed at my Mum’s rush through the garden to rescue me than I was worried about being in the water. I’m so terrified of embarrassment that I’ve wiped any later incidents from my mind…

DIY expert or phone a friend?

I was a radio reporter for a long time so I became OK at wiring things up and solving computer problems, mostly through trial and error. So I’m the person in the household who often sorts out the tech. I’m less good at anything properly old-school practical. I can build self-assembly furniture but that’s about the limit of it.

Sun worshipper or night owl?

Anything except a lark. I’m not a natural early riser, but I’m happy to be out in the sun and I don’t mind staying up late — though not as late as I used to.

A book that had you in tears.

The saddest book I’ve ever read is Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. The awful waste of human potential made me despair, and ‘Done because we are too menny’ almost makes me cry just thinking about it.

A book that made you laugh out loud.

Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh, is both the funniest and one of the truest books about journalism ever written. The technology may have changed a bit from when William Boot set off for Ishmaelia with his cleft sticks but the characters he meets are still familiar.

One piece of life advice you give everyone

I generally don’t think I’m qualified to give people life advice, so I try not to do it often. One saying that I’ve sometimes found helpful, though, is not to judge the inside of your own life by the outside of someone else’s.

About the Book:

It is 2010 and failed war correspondent Lawrence Leith has retreated to a small town in the French countryside where he is taking refuge after the end of his marriage and the loss of his job.

When a friend from the past arrives in town, he stirs memories that Lawrence has been trying to forget; memories of a dusty road in the Congo where everything went disastrously wrong. Martin Elliott is convinced that what Lawrence needs is to get back in the game but when that involves returning to Africa, Lawrence isn’t convinced. That is until he meets Isabelle Vernet, the woman leading the trip.

When Martin goes missing, Isabelle’s and Lawrence’s lives are thrown together in ways neither of them could have imagined and when the lies that bind the three of them together start to unravel, truths are revealed that no one could have expected.

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Ones To Watch in 2018 – The Woman in the Window A J Finn.

Publication Date: January 25th 2018 from Harper Collins

Source: Review ARC

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

So now we are midway through the year I’m hoping you all have managed to read some of the great titles from last year’s “ones to watch” list – so its time to kick off the feature that will tell you about some of the best books you can look forward to NEXT year. And let me tell you based on what I’m seeing, once again 2018 is going to up the ante on addictive and brilliantly written reads…

Talking of which, January will see the release of A J Finn’s “The Woman in the Window” an ode to Hitchcockian film noir and a genuine page turner. Featuring a hugely engaging unreliable narrator in main protagonist Anna Fox and delivering a plot twistier than a truck full of pretzels, The Woman in the Window is chock full of beautifully considered prose, atmospheric scene setting and a fair few moments that will have you emotionally traumatised.

Rear Window being the obvious inspiration, AJ Finn takes that psychological dramatic element and runs with it – there is a very visual quality to the writing, almost like watching a movie (and hey you’ll be able to do that too, this having been picked up by Fox)  but he does what a movie cannot do as well, taking you deep into the psyche of his main character and by means of telling her story, the psyche of those she watches.

Utterly gripping, beautifully voyeuristic and best of all insanely well written, The Woman in the Window is unpredictable, intense and ultimately lead to one of the best reading day’s I’ve had in ages. By the time I finished it I was literally on the floor. I love those moments so AJ Finn gets the first Gold Star of 2018 from me.

There will be more, one of which I’m reading right now (watch this space) but they say you never forget your first. So don’t forget this – The Woman in the Window. One to sink into in 2018. And hey, just after Christmas too. We all need a pick me up. This will pick you up then probably throw you out feeling slightly dazed but it’ll be worth it I promise.

Highly Recommended.

You could Follow AJ on Twitter for updates and Pre-Order The Woman in the Window so you don’t forget. I will certainly be picking up a hardback edition for my collection because I’ll be reading it again for sure, it being perfect for those second read nuances.

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Walk In Silence J G Sinclair – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: 6th July from Faber

Source: Review Copy

Keira Lynch may be a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean she plays by the rules.

She has been summoned to give evidence against an Albanian hit man. She was there the night he murdered the mother of a five-year-old boy. She remembers it well – it was the same night he put three bullets in her chest and left her for dead.

But there are powerful people who want the hit man back on the streets. When they kidnap the boy, she is given a choice: commit perjury, blow the trial and allow the killer to walk or give evidence, convict him and watch the child die. Keira must make a decision. This time, does she have to cross a line to win?

Walk In Silence is an excellent, pacy and considered thriller featuring main protagonist Keira Lynch – it should be pointed out that I have not read the first novel, Blood Silence, but this did not prevent me enjoying this one muchly. J G Sinclair writes with a brilliantly immersive style and I immediately engaged with Keira who is not entirely as she seems.

The plot follows her search for a young boy, hidden from the Albanian mafia, whilst at the same time attempting to give evidence against said Mafia’s Glasgow leader – not an easy task and one that finds her often in danger. The fact that she is no ordinary lawyer may stand her in good stead.

Walk in Silence is dark and clever with a masterfully imagined twisty plot and characters who have a great amount of depth. The author manages to put you right into the action, Keira is a very full on and highly intriguing character to follow along with and this was a novel I devoured in one gulp of a sitting. Beautifully done to keep you turning the pages, I immediately went out and got myself a copy of Blood Silence to see where it all began.

Really very good indeed. Yes I’m a fan.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: A Man Of Shadows Jeff Noon

Publication Date: 1st August from Angry Robot 

Source: Netgalley

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk. 

I really will never look at time passing in the same way again.

Sometimes a book comes along that just ticks every box in the “things I love about reading” stakes – A Man of Shadows is such a novel, so incredibly immersive, such brilliantly incisive descriptive prose and a set of fascinating, beautifully imagined characters  – that you just dive into it with abandon and leave the real world behind.

A Man of Shadows has a decisively built world, a world of literal light dark and shade, where time is of the essence and the residents live with a kind of permanent jetlag as they jump between one timepiece and another. Into this strangely authentic place we find John Nvquist, Private Eye, damaged individual, hunting for a missing teenager and becoming entangled in a dark and dangerous web.

He is quintessentially of the 1940’s, the wonderful noir feel the author brings to proceedings is quite simply incredible considering the scifi setting and the increasingly bizarre yet compelling narrative – the dialogue is of another age yet sparkles against the advanced backdrop, all the way through this strange beauty echoes in your mind, you do live it and breathe it.

A Man of Shadows is a heady mix of science fiction, old school detective noir, horror and thriller – I was almost literally holding my breath as the final moments unfolded and I have no doubt there are some surreal dusk fuelled dreams awaiting  me when I sleep tonight – I almost welcome them, so much did I enjoy this one that despite the dark nature of it I’d love to return. Oh look – this is John Nvquist 1 apparently – so I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

Surreal, dazzling, unusual and extraordinary – A Man Of Shadows will haunt you for a long time after turning that last page.

“You can walk away from events but not from your own darkness”

Highly Recommended.

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