Blog Tour: Containment by Vanda Symon #BookReview

Containment Cover

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

I’m so delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Containment by Vanda Symon, the third book in the Sam Shepherd series. I loved the first two books, Overkill and The Ringmaster (you can find my reviews of those here and here.) and could not wait to read this one. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Although this is the third instalment in the Sam Shepherd series, this book would work perfectly well as a standalone for anyone who is coming new to the novels. This book throws you straight in to the middle of the action and in to Sam’s distinctive world and character, as she finds herself immediately in the midst of an affray on a beach where locals are looting beached shipping containers after a wreck. Beaten, but coming back fighting, what at first seems like a minor issue of theft, spirals into something much more sinister as bodies begin to pile up, all linked to the wreck.

This author offers something new with every book, and this time we are confronted with the recovery and examination of a body dumped at sea (fascinating but fairly graphic and gruesome, steel your stomach), the law surrounding recovery of goods from wrecked cargo ships, the market in stolen valuables and the nefarious goings on of the local student population. All her books are packed with description and illuminating detail, meticulously researched and seamlessly stitched into the narrative until the setting and the world come to life for the reader through the text. At a time when we are all housebound, these are books that can take you to the other side of the world and immerse you in a totally different life for a few hours.

The books are well-paced, with short chapters that keep the momentum and new bits of evidence appear around every corner. In the same way a real investigation would unfold, this case starts out in one direction but gradually unfurls like a maze to become something entirely different, veering off in multiple directions and drawing the protagonists down a variety of obscure paths before they find the truth. It demonstrates how a mixture of great detective work, instinct and some pure luck can lead the police to the answer, and it may end up being more than one thing and very far from where they started. The plot is quite convoluted and complex, involving many different strands and characters, and the reader must focus to sort them out, mimicking the thought processes the police have to similarly go through to get there, but the writing is so accessible and flowing and the pace so quick that this is no chore.

Sam is a wonderful character, and she is the main draw for the books. She is small but feisty, brave, impetuous, honest but complicated, with a strong moral code and sense of loyalty. Some of her behaviour is totally outrageous, but she seems to get away with it because it comes from a positive place, a real desire to see natural justice served, which sometimes involves bending the rules. This does not always sit well with her boss, DI Johns, and the tension between the two of them plus throughout the text to add conflict. in addition, her personal life is no more straight forward, either with her blood family or in her romantic life. New developments add strain in this area, and things seem to be getting more complicated not simpler. There were certain matters in the book which were raised but not resolved, leaving me with theories about what might be coming in the next instalment, and eager to find out. However, do not fear, this book is perfectly concluded as a single story for readers who are not yet invested in this as a series, but i predict you will be once you sample Vanda’s writing.

The Sam Shepherd books are always a satisfying read, this one is no exception and I have added a physical copy to my collection. I eagerly await the next book in the series, and my next armchair visit to New Zealand.

Containment is available now and you can get your copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Vanda:

Website: http://vandasymon.com/index.php

Facebook: Vanda Simon

Twitter: @vandasymon

Instagram: @vandasymon

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Blog Tour: Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb #BookReview

Deep Dark Night final cover

Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection.

An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare.

When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.

And that’s just the beginning…

I’m so happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Deep Dark Night by Steph Braodribb, the fourth book in the Lori Anderson series. If you missed my catch up of the first three books in the series, you can find that post here. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Just when you think you know what to expect from a series, an author pulls something totally unexpected out of the bag and really shakes things up. Having binge read the first three books in the Lori Anderson series over the past few weeks, I thought had got into the rhythm of Steph Broadribb’s story-telling and then, boom, she has veered off on a totally unexpected and exciting new course with this latest instalment.

Firstly, we have moved away from the sunny settings of Florida and California for this book and are now visiting the lakeside northern city of Chicago, with its skyscrapers, wide, urban streets and the eerie wave-free lake beaches. It is a place I have visited twice and the writing immediately transplanted me from locked-down rural Yorkshire, back to the Windy City.

And, whilst we are back in the world of ruthless mobsters, shady FBI agents and bounty hunters, the author completely alters the feel and tone of the book from the previous novels where Lori was pursuing her prey across open vistas, by presenting us here with a locked room mystery. This time she finds herself trapped in a sealed penthouse with a group of dangerous men, with both time and air running out and a rush to find out who amongst the group is not what they seem before tensions spiral out of control.

Anyone who enjoyed the film, ‘Molly’s Game’ starring Jessica Chastain will immediately relate to the plot set up here, with a young woman hosting a high roller private poker game, but here the background to the contest is far from simple, and throughout the plot we find out, along with Lori, how all of the players are interconnected and what has lead to the situation they all find themselves in when the penthouse locks down.

Placing everyone into a confined space, with spiralling danger and increasing paranoia and rising stakes works brilliantly to crank up the tension to breaking point, in the characters and, consequently, in the reader. You can feel the temperature rising, muscles flexing, heart rates and stress increasing and anticipate the explosion that is imminent. It compels the reader to keep flying through the pages, to see how long it is going to take someone to break and what will be the outcome when it does.

I love the fact that Steph continues to give JT more of his own plot in this book, rather than just appearing as a sidekick to Lori. He is establishing himself in importance and relevance in the minds of the reader, just as he is in the lives and hearts of Lori and Dakota. Here, as in book two, when he and Lori are separated we get to see the action from their distinct viewpoints and it gives us an interesting dual perspective on the story. Seeing how JT reacts when Lori is in peril, and vice versa, allows the reader an intimate insight in to the dynamics of their relationship, which increases our investment in it and, consequently, the value of what is at stake for us as the risk for them increases. It gives the reader a fantastic pay off by the end of the book.

Every volume of this series has drawn me further in to Lori Anderson’s world and made me care more and more about what happens to her and her little family group. I think this was my favourite book yet, it had echoes of all the great mystery books I love, combined with the excitement of this unique thriller series. I really love these books, and I look forward to what is to come next. These books are so different to a lot of what I usually read, I really can’t get enough of them.

Deep Dark Night is out now and you can get your copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of this extended blog tour for some great reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter- ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges in her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls.

Steph is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori Anderson thrillers. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.

Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym, Stephanie Marland, was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

Connect with Steph:

Website: https://crimethrillergirl.com

Facebook: Crime Thriller Girl

Twitter: @crimethrillgirl

Backlist: Lori Anderson Series by Steph Broadribb #BookReview

BACKLIST

The third in my backlist series is catching up with the previous three books in the Lori Anderson series by Steph Broadribb before I take part in the blog tour for her new book, Deep, Dark Night. I’m really enjoying this binge-reading of the backlist titles in a series, it’s the literary equivalent of a consuming Netflix box set over a single weekend.

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Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia.

But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. 

I listened to the first two of these novels on audio and this was a really great way to get to know the characters. The narrator, Jennifer Woodward, maintained a perfect Florida drawl for Lori throughout the book which brought the character sharply in to my mind’s eye. It made me realise that I never really read with the accent of the character in my mind when I read from text, and it gave the story an extra level of texture. I found myself hearing Lori talk in this voice throughout books three and four, despite the fact that I was reading rather than listening to them.

I’ve never read a book with a bounty hunter as the main character before, and a female one at that, so it was a delicious departure from the norm for me, and the book truly transported me to another world, as all really immersive novels should. I fell in love with Lori immediately, a tough, independent, determined woman, but we, the reader, also get to see her vulnerability with regards to her daughter, Dakota, and in her relationship with JT, as the book unfolds.

Having a bounty hunter, rather than a police officer, lawyer, detective or other member of the law-enforcement establishment, as the main character raises some interesting questions of where the moral lines sits between justice and revenge, where the line between good and bad blurs, and whether people can judge that for themselves according to their own moral code. Lori’s actions go beyond what you may perceive on paper as being truly law-abiding, but then you ask yourself what you would do in the same situation.

The book is packed front to back with drama, action and tension, as we criss cross the US from the mountains of West Virginia to the alligator-infested swamps of the Florida Everglades. It is a book that picks you up and runs with you from the opening pages, and doesn’t put you down until the last chapter. Even then, there is the tantalising prospect of the next case dropped in at the end, and you are left desperate to see where fate is going to take Lori next. A kinetic opening novel to a thrilling series.

Deep Down Dead is out now and you can get your copy here.

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Single-mother Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson’s got an ocean of trouble on her hands. Her daughter Dakota is safe, but the little girl’s cancer is threatening a comeback, and Lori needs JT Dakota’s daddy and the man who taught Lori everything alive and kicking.

Problem is, he’s behind bars, and heading for death row. Desperate to save him, Lori does a deal, taking on off-the-books job from shady FBI agent Alex Monroe – bring back on-the-run felon, Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher, and JT walks free. This is one job she’s got to get right, or she’ll lose everything…

So, we’re back with Lori and now she is faced with the reality of the love of her life in jail awaiting trial for murders he didn’t commit and at risk of facing the electric chair. Despite the ordeal she and her daughter, Dakota, have just faced in book one, Lori now has to leave Dakota behind and travel to San Diego on a mission for a dodgy FBI agent who has promised to arrange for JT to be exonerated if she brings in an escaped felon.

This novel adds a new dimension to the narrative by having us follow two timelines, one led by Lori and her attempts to track down the criminal in California, and the other charting the trials and hardships JT is suffering in jail. We also meet a new central character, a PI named Red who lives on a houseboat and has helped Lori in the past. I have to say, Red quickly became one of my favourite characters and I fell a tiny bit in love with him. If he were to be cast in a movie, he would be played by Sam Elliot, and I refuse to entertain any other suggestions.

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So, again, we have Lori dashing around in California, trying to track down the missing ‘bad guy,’ having to work as part of a team of other bounty hunters she doesn’t know that goes against her instincts. She is trying to work out who she can trust, who is on the make and whether the facts she has been given are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of course, they aren’t, the lines between right and wrong, justice and injustice bleed in to one another. the right people don’t always end up winning and Lori is muddling through the best she can, relying on her own moral code and what is best for her daughter and her partner. You can’t help but get taken along as she battles the outside enemies, and the demons within, whilst only relying on her own skills, smarts and the three people in the world she knows she can trust.

The books are fast-paced and quite bloody, with lots of devious twists and turns of fate, and the author is really excellent at ramping up the peril. This book is mad, extreme entertainment, the equivalent of an action-movie in novel form and I raced to the end to find out if everyone I cared about made it out alive and free. Fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled excitement, perfect for getting your heart pumping while you sit on the couch.

If this review has tickled your fancy, you can get a copy of the book by following this link.

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A price on her head. A secret worth dying for. 48 hours to expose the truth…

Single-mother bounty-hunter Lori Anderson finally has her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With North due in court in 48 hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family. Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

In this race only the winner gets out alive…

The author gets really ambitious in this book, when Lori gets blackmailed into doing a job for the head honcho of the Miami Mob, a man whose vendetta has been haunting her since the events of book one and who she needs to get off her back if she is ever going to manage a quiet life with JT and their daughter, Dakota. That possibility seems to get further and further away throughout the course of this novel, as Lori is once again separated from JT and her daughter, chasing down a mobster-turned-rat, with only 48 hours to find him.

Steph keeps finding ways to ramp up the stakes with every book, and finding new ways of testing Lori and her loyalties. She has to, once again, involve herself with Alex Munroe, the FBI agent who has his own agenda and whose motives she can never 100% trust. Again, nothing is as straight-forward as it seems and she has to evaluate whose side she is really on, whilst only truly being able to rely on herself to get everyone out of trouble.

This is a fantastic book for anyone who loves a gangster story, and there is the most marvellous battle towards the end that would grace the screen of any mob movie you ever saw. In fact, these books would make perfect films, I would definitely go and watch them (IF Sam Elliott is playing Red – see above – non-negotiable!) but, until that happens, the story completely comes alive on the page and is surely something you should all be reading to take your minds off the current situation we find ourselves in. Anything more completely unlike what you are currently experiencing locked in at home in the UK you’ll be hard-pushed to find, and it will sweep you out of reality for a little while, without requiring you to strain yourself, the author has done all the heavy lifting in the flow of the writing. I still find it hard to believe she is from Buckinghamshire!

Deep Dirty Truth is available now and you can get it in all formats here.

So, hopefully this has caught us all up to the current state of affairs with Lori Anderson and we are ready to hear what the latest book, Deep Dark Night, has to offer. Come back to the blog later today to see my review.

About the Author

Steph Broadribb Author Pic

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter- ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges in her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls.

Steph is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori Anderson thrillers. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.

Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym, Stephanie Marland, was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

Connect with Steph:

Website: https://crimethrillergirl.com

Facebook: Crime Thriller Girl

Twitter: @crimethrillgirl

Blog Tour: Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz; Translated by Rachel Ward #BookReview

Mexico Street final jacket

Hamburg state prosecutor Chastity Riley investigates a series of arson attacks on cars across the city, which leads her to a startling and life-threatening discovery involving criminal gangs and a very illicit love story…

Night after night, cars are set alight across the German city of Hamburg, with no obvious pattern, no explanation and no suspect.

Until, one night, on Mexico Street, a ghetto of high-rise blocks in the north of the city, a Fiat is torched. Only this car isn’t empty. The body of Nouri Saroukhan – prodigal son of the Bremen clan – is soon discovered, and the case becomes a homicide.

Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is handed the investigation, which takes her deep into a criminal underground that snakes beneath the whole of Germany. And as details of Nouri’s background, including an illicit relationship with the mysterious Aliza, emerge, it becomes clear that these are not random attacks, and there are more on the cards…

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for Mexico Street, the third book in the Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

So, following my review of the first two books in the Chastity Riley series (which you can find here), we are now on to the author’s latest novel and the third in the series, Mexico Street and I was wondering how she was going to keep the momentum going after the first two stunning books. Was there anywhere different to go, anything new to explore? The answer is, of course, yes.

The third book might even be my favourite so far. In this book, Chastity is drawn into an investigation that takes her to Bremen and a world away from what she knows and understands in Hamburg. A world dominated by tribal gangs with animosities and traditions going back generations, a societal hierarchy that is completely separate and unique, an attitude to family, and women in particular, which is archaic and unforgiving, and a section of the population that simply does not recognise the right of Germany’s legal system to police them and their affairs.

Again, the author switches her narrative approach to divide it between events in Chastity’s current life, the present investigation and the historic story of the victim of the crime which gives us the foundations of motive for what has occurred. I found the window that the author creates on to the community she is exploring in Bremen riveting – rich and detailed – and quite startling. It is an issue that is very current and relevant, as the strains in society between different communities is constantly under the spotlight and influencing decisions we make at the highest levels, and this book explores the idea that the strains are on both sides. There is a very stark question to be addressed here, what do you do when a community won’t integrate and simply refuses to submit to the local rules of law and society?

Well, this book explores this question, but doesn’t necessarily supply all the answers, and this is one of the unique factors of Simone’s writing and one of the things I love about it. The author is constantly posing conundrums and queries, both in the crime and in Chastity’s personal life, but doesn’t then supply an easy answer. She leaves work for the reader to do, for us personally to explore those questions and make our own judgements or possibly reach the conclusion, as maybe Chastity does, that there is no easy, obvious answer to be found. It is intelligent writing that assumes a pleasing and stimulating level of intelligence and curiosity in the reader, and there is nothing I love more than a book that challenges me.

Of course, Chastity’s personal life is not progressing smoothly either. She is missing Klatsche, her relationship with Ivo is complicated and, to top matters off, a face from the past makes a reappearance to muddy the waters. Chastity has some working out to do but, as a woman, she is a law unto herself and seems in no hurry to do it, I adore that about her. In this book, her personal relationships take somewhat of a back seat, she seems to be gaining some confidence again on her professional front, and I think the way the author switches the focus up between books to reflect how Chastity’s life and priorities and ebb and flow and change is inspired.

Another great addition to this series, possibly the best so far and, as for the ending well, what the hell just happened? A book that left me oddly satisfied, yet breathless and wanting more at the same time. Yes, more please.

Mexico Street is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit the rest of the fabulous blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and content:

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About the Author

Simone Buchholz Author Pic

Connect with Simone:

Website: https://simonebuchholz.com

Twitter: @ohneKlippo

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Backlist: Chastity Riley Series by Simone Buchholz; Translated by Rachel Ward #Blue Night #Beton Rouge

BACKLIST

So, next in my occasional feature where I catch up on the back titles in a series before I review the latest release, are the first two books in the Chastity Riley series by Simone Buchholz. I will be reviewing the latest release, Mexico Street, tomorrow, so let’s see what we’ve missed so far, shall we?

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‘The hair stands up on the back of my neck and I get an age-old feeling in my belly. Like there’s a fight ahead. Like something’s really about to go off…’

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble.

However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and refusing to speak in anything other than riddles Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in.

Fresh, fiendishly fast-paced and full of devious twists and all the hard-boiled poetry and acerbic wit of the best noir, Blue Night marks the stunning start of a brilliant new crime series.

When you first jump in to this novel, you can be forgiven for thinking it is the second or third book in a series and go off hunting for books one and two so you can catch up on the back story. But you won’t find them, certainly not in an English translation anyway, so you must just get to grips with the nature of the narrative construct that the author has used, disjointed and non-linear, jumping back and forth in time, bobbing between different characters’ viewpoints and using a mixture of straight forward narrative, snippets of memories and random thoughts. It is a very unique approach, and one that takes a little getting used to but, once you get in to the rhythm of the writing, it is pacy and gripping, but also poetic and lyrical and strangely effecting, given the genre.

So, we meet Chastity Riley, a state prosecutor for the city of Hamburg, following some kind of fall from grace which we discover more details about as the book unfolds but never really discover the whole story. She has been consigned to what basically amounts to babysitting a victim of a crime as her recovers in hospital, waiting for him to divulge evidence that made lead to them catching the perpetrator. Inevitably things turn out to be more complicated than anticipated and the simple assault opens onto a world of drug running and gang warfare.

The crime investigation is fascinating and brilliantly portrayed but fairly straight forward and the less interesting part of the book for me. What really stood out and made this a really startling and noteworthy read was the character of Chastity herself and the people with whom she surrounds herself. She is a flawed and complicated person with some kind of darkness driving her that is compelling but never fully uncovered in this book. She is obviously tormented, has unwise attachments and is someone we long to know better but know we have barely scratched the surface of what there is to understand about her in this book. The author reveals some of her innermost thoughts, while keeping so much still concealed and making us care for her deeply, whilst maintaining her hard veneer, all at the same time. It is some of the most skilful writing I have read in a long time. You get the feeling that the reason we can’t fully understand what drives Chastity is that she isn’t quite sure herself.

On top of the fascinating characterisation, I was really drawn to the dark and gritty portrayal of the Hamburg underworld, a setting I have not read about before. Despite the fact that the author is describing some of the seediest and least attractive parts of the city and its inhabitants, there is still a sense of life and affection and kinship here, perhaps more so than Chastity now feels with some of her law enforcement colleagues. The book blurs the lines between good and bad, wrong and right and light and dark in an intriguing way.

This is a book that takes you places you’ve probably never been before, and leaves as many questions as it answers, but with a deep affinity for Chastity and an urge to discover more about her, to help her figure out her life whilst she herself perhaps doesn’t feel the drive to do so. It is a relationship different to any I think I have had with a fictional character before.

I just have to mention the translation of this book, which is seamless and impressive. All of the nuance and sensation of the book has been maintained, the poetry and lyricism of what is, in places, sparse language. Not an easy feat, I wouldn’t have thought, especially to leave the reader without any inkling that they are reading a piece of translated fiction.

Delightful, in a deeply noir-ish way.

You can buy a copy of Blue Night here.

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On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.

Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect…to the dubious past shared by both victims.

Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the elite world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred…monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

On to book two and this book is a horse of a slightly different, but equally unusual colour, to the last one. Beton Rouge has a much more straight forward narrative that Blue Night, less of the disjointed skipping around and back and forth. As we are now fully conversant with the main characters, there is less back story to be woven in and we can focus more on the current situation, and the new characters the author throws in to stir up the mix. And stir it up they do, particularly Chastity’s new partner on the case, Ivo Stepanovic, who is more than a match for Chastity. Even a soulmate, perhaps?

The story switches to and reveals different aspects of the Hamburg social hierarchy from the first book, as we move from the night time streets of St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn to some of Hamburg’s most powerful men and the world of elite boarding schools. The plot even ventures out of Hamburg to a small village in Southern Germany and secrets hidden behind ancient school walls. And, as things are switching up in Chastity’s work, so drastic change is rippling through her social group at the same time. Everything is changing, and we follow Chastity as she tries to work out how all of these things are affecting her.

The book is written in short, sharp, snappy chapters which bowl the plot along at a riveting pace and the criminal investigation is again deliciously twisted and captivating. However, it was Chastity herself and her life and relationships that fascinated me once more, and formed the more absorbing part of the book. Her acid humour cuts through the narrative like a whiplash and makes it a joy to read, her developing relationship with Ivo, the way they bounce off each other, the new side of Hamburg that both Chastity and the reader see with his guidance were all great aspects that hooked me in to the plot. At the same time, her other deteriorating relationships bit deep, and I could feel her conflict and her pain. I think I’ve become a little obsessed with her, to be honest, and the way the author has achieved this in a couple of books with less than two hundred pages in each and pared back, not-a-word-wasted text is an admirable skill.

The more I read of this series, the more invested I have become in the character and her life. The more I get to know her, the more I want to know, and to burrow through the layers of complexity and defence she has built around herself and understand what makes her tick. The author has created a wonderful character and world in this series, and I have a feeling it is just going to get better and better.

Fresh, quick and surprisingly moving, whilst being dark and dirty. I absolutely loved it.

Beton Rouge is also available now and you can find it by following this link.

If this has whetted your appetite for this crime series, I hope you will head back over here on 13 March to read my review of the third title in the series, Mexico Street. I’ll see you then.

About the Author

Simone Buchholz Author Pic

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

Connect with Simone:

Website: https://simonebuchholz.com

Twitter: @ohneKlippo

Tempted by…Chapter in my Life: Bloody January by Alan Parks @sbairden @AlanJParks @canongatebooks #BloodyJanuary #tartannoir #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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When a teenage boy shoots a young woman dead in the middle of a busy Glasgow street and then commits suicide, Detective Harry McCoy is sure of one thing. It wasn’t a random act of violence.

With his new partner in tow, McCoy uses his underworld network to lead the investigation but soon runs up against a secret society led by Glasgow’s wealthiest family, the Dunlops. McCoy’s boss doesn’t want him to investigate. The Dunlops seem untouchable. But McCoy has other ideas . . .

In a helter-skelter tale – winding from moneyed elite to hipster music groupies to the brutal gangs of the urban wasteland – Bloody January brings to life the dark underbelly of 1970s Glasgow and introduces a dark and electrifying new voice in Scottish noir.

Today’s Tempted by… comes courtesy of a long-established and active crime book blogger who dwells north of the border. I am, of course, talking about the marvellous Sharon Bairden of Chapter in my Life  blog and the book she persuaded me to pick up was Bloody January by Alan Parks, as featured in this blog post.

This post is long overdue, as I’ve had the book for almost a year, and Sharon’s review was also overdue when it was posted, so this book is a couple of years old now. In fact, this was the first in the Harry McCoy series, and the third book in the series, Bobby March Will Live Forever is coming out this week, so this may be the first book to feature on both Tempted by… and my new Backlist spot, who knows! Still, better late than never and a good book remains a good book, whenever you get round to reading it.

I was drawn to pick out this book because of Sharon’s description of the authenticity of time and place in the book, and and the intricacy and vividness of the plot. It sounds like a gritty, realistic, hard-hitting thriller with something to say about the place and era in which it is set, and since Sharon describes it as ‘unmissable,’ I thought I had better not miss it!

I love Sharon’s blog because it is full of such variety of content within the context of crime novels, and her reviews are always enthusiastic, detailed and considered. She is also a frequent attendee of bookish events which, as someone who would love to be able to attend but is currently somewhat hampered by single parentdom, I love to live through vicariously through her posts about them. If this sounds like something you would enjoy reading, why not pop over to Chapter in my Life and have a look around.

If you have been similarly tempted to buy a copy of Bloody January after reading Sharon’s review, you can find it here.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview #BlogTour (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #Beast #DeadFamous #SixStories

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In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged cult, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…

So excited to be on the blog tour today for Beast by Matt Wesolowski, the fourth book in his Six Stories series. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

So hopefully my mini reviews of the first three books in the Six Stories series yesterday will have whetted your appetite for this one. (If you missed that post, you can find it here.) Having read the first three, I was champing at the bit to get to this one, knowing how much I had enjoyed them and then, reading that blurb! It sounds fantastic, right? Who wouldn’t want to dive right in?

The central theme of this book is extremely current and relevant in the present day, as it deals with the quest for internet fame and the lengths people will go to to get it. It really struck me how much of an issue this is while I was reading the book because, at the same time, I was enjoying the half term holiday in Wales with my five daughters/step-daughters aged between 12 and 16. They are all, to different degrees, obsessed with the app Tik-Tok, how many followers they have, how many followers you need to start earning money from your videos, learning the dances, and talking about people who are ‘Tik-Tok famous,’ and live in something called the ‘Hype House’ without their parents. It is all double Dutch to me but it is actually quite terrifying that this is something that young people strive to achieve these days, such superficiality of ambition. The author has captured this moment in the zeitgeist perfectly and written a story that ramps up this mild unease that I was feeling listening to them to the power of a thousand. It is a morality tale for our times.

The setting for the book in a grim, forgotten town on the bleak North Eastern coast during the worst winter storms in living memory. A more barren and hopeless place you could not imagine, and it is the perfect foil to the story because, what else is there for the young people of this town to aspire to outside of the bright thrall of the internet and the shiny, fake worlds that social media tantalises them with? The reality of their immediate surroundings are a decaying town that no one cares about and where there are no jobs. There is no hope for them but escape, either by moving away or by moving into the virtual world. Like the previous books, Matt manages to bring the location to vivid life, I could picture it perfectly, and imbue it with menace and darkness on every page. The darkness punches out of the page and squeezes a fist around the reader’s heart, and never eases its grip for a minute until the final page. I was almost breathless throughout my reading of the book, inhaled it in practically a single sitting and my heart was pounding the whole time. He really is a master storyteller, holding the reader in the palm of his hand as he plays deftly with every emotion in his arsenal, whilst making you think at the same time.

The plot was labyrinthine, with the pendulum of suspicion swinging wildly from suspect to suspect as every chapter unfolds. The format of presenting this as a podcast and interviewing six people with different roles in the story continues to work brilliantly. I was particularly impressed this time as Matt manages to tell the story without having access to any of the four main protagonists, the victims and the three convicted killers. All the people we hear from are on the outskirts. Or are they? Once again, things are not always what they seem and the reader’s perspective changes with the turn of every page, as the light shines on the prism from different sides and casts a new shadow with every twist. Again, there is the hint of the supernatural with the legend of the Ergarth Vampire and the allegation of cult activities factoring into the murder. But, as always, things are never what they seem and this story takes probably the most dramatic of turns so far.

This is my favourite of Matt’s books so far and, given how much I loved the others, that is a high bar to cross. This is a writer who is going from strength to strength, you can see the confidence in the format and his writing increasing with every novel. Aside from the masterful writing, the ominous atmosphere that seeped from the pages and into my bones, the fascinating character studies and clever and absorbing plot, this book brings to light a very real and very scary trend amongst the younger generation obsessed with online fame and the dangers that this can bring. It really made me stop and take notice of what he was saying, more so than any of the previous books, but in an entertaining way. This is no schlocky, superficial thriller, this is a book that has something to say that is worth listening to.

How long do I have to wait for the next one?

Beast is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Beast is taking a month-long tour with Random Things Tours so do make sure you check out some of the other reviews written by my fabulous fellow bloggers:

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About the Author

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Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is
an English tutor for young people in care.

Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013.

Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

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