Blog Tour: Parallel Lines by R. J. Mitchell #BookReview

9781913230111

PARALLEL LINES is the story of a deadly rivalry on both sides of the law.

With criminal rival and would be underworld kingpin Declan Meehan on the verge of controlling Glasgow’s lucrative illegal drug trade, Detective Sergeant Angus Thoroughgood vows to bring him down. An edgy and fast-paced crime thriller set in the seedy criminal underworld of Glasgow, Scotland, Parallel Lines is the first book in the long-running Thoroughgood series.

With Meechan bludgeoning his competition into submission, seizing the city piece by piece, his conflict with Thoroughgood gets all too personal when Celine Lynott, the woman who broke Angus’ heart ten-years earlier, falls for his nemesis.

Parallel Lines sees author RJ Mitchell drawing from his 12 years of experience as a Glasgow police officer to drag readers into the city’s sleazy underbelly to encounter the violent and lawless stories that can be found there.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Parallel Lines by R. J. Mitchell, the first in the DS Thoroughgood series. I will be reviewing the next two books over the coming weeks. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Welcome to the seamy criminal underworld of Glasgow in all its gory glory. This book will take you on a rollercoaster ride through the dark side of life in Glasgow and introduce to some of the people trying to battle it. These are real people, both the criminals and police, and the author doesn’t pull an punches showing us their true faces, warts and all.

The main protagonists in the book are DS Gus Thoroughgood and underworld kingpin Declan Meechan. The two have a history of butting heads from their opposing sides of the good/evil divide, to the extent that you wonder whether their enmity is purely professional, especially when we find out there is a woman involved in the mix. So far, everything is set up for a rip-roaring thriller with plenty of tension, and this is eactly what you get.

The author pulls no punches with the action on the page here. The book opens with the police being called to the scene of an armed robbery in progress and only gets hotter from there on. Be warned, this book is full of authentic violence that is described in great detail. There are fights, shootings, stabbings, murder, arson, all of it in full colour, so if you are remotely squeamish, this may not be the book for you. However, it feels completely authentic and necessary for the book, for the feel of what it is really like to have to live and work in this world.

There are some great characters in this book and both sides, and I love that the author has given them lives and personalities that you may not expect but feel very real. Thoroughgood goes speed dating, his sidekick Hardie is over-weight and henpecked. Even the vicious gangsters have feelings and problems in their romantic lives. You get the impression that the author is pulling these people from real life and setting them down on the page, which makes for an interesting read.

The book has its flaws. The characters use a lot of Glaswegian dialect which I am sure is authentic but can occasionally be hard for the non-native to read. There is a lot of description, particularly of street names and locations in Glasgow that sometimes slowed down the action and could maybe do with a little trimming in places. The book is incredibly male in tone, which I fear may be a little off-putting for some female readers. I did wonder whether the behaviour of the officers was entirely authentic throughout – there were a couple of parts where their action seemed a little cartoonish, which jarred a bit with the violent authenticity of most of it. However, these were minor niggles in what was, overall, a refreshing and entertaining read.

This book felt like something a bit different in the genre, a truthful peak into the criminal world of Glasgow. I enjoyed the change of beat from some of the books I have read recently. I am looking forward to reviewing the next two books in the series over the coming weeks and seeing what is next for DS Thoroughgood. I had become quite fond of both him and Hardie during the course of the book. Hopefully you will join me.

Parallel Lines is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and other great content:

DS Thoroughgood banner

About the Author

RJ Mitchell
(Pictured Author RJ Mitchell , crime writer , former Herald & Evening Times sports writer and ex cop. He is pictured at the old firing range within the the former Strathclyde Police college in Oxford Street ,next to the Sheriff Court. He has just announced that he has signed a four book deal with McNidder & Grace . His next crime novel The Shift is due out in the spring. It is based on his experiences as a rookie cop in Glasgow. As a cop he had spent many hours in this building over 20 years ago. It was the kind permission of Alistair Brand of Stallan-Brand architects who took over the building earlier this year and found out about the authors history with the place. Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 http://www.martinshields.com FEE PAYABLE FOR REPRO USE NB -This image is not to be distributed without the prior consent of the copyright holder. in using this image you agree to abide by terms and conditions as stated in this caption. All monies payable to Martin Shields (PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THIS CAPTION) This image is intended for Editorial use (e.g. news). Any commercial or promotional use requires additional clearance. Copyright 2015 All rights protected. first use only.)

Robert James Mitchell was brought up in Stirling. Mitchell was initially detailed beat duties out of the former Blackhill Police Office and then Baird Street Police Office in the former ‘D’ Division, or the North, as it was known to all the men who served in the division. In January, 2007, while recovering from an appendicitis, Mitchell decided to write the first draft of ‘Parallel Lines: The Glasgow Supremacy‘, drawing heavily on his own experiences and featuring the characters of Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and DC Kenny Hardie.

Connect with Robert:

Website: https://rjmitchellauthor.co.uk/

Facebook: R J Mitchell Crime Writer

Twitter: @spitfiremedia

Instagram: @spitfire_07

dpbt 2

Blog Tour: Winterkill by Ragnar Jonasson; Translated by David Warriner #BookReview

Winterkill proof cover

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Time for my first blog tour of the new year and, what a dazzler to start off 2021! I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Winterkill by Ragnar Jonasson, the final book in his Dark Iceland series. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read a book by Ragnar Jonasson before, so I was coming in to the Dark Iceland series at the very end without knowing anything about any of the characters. This did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel one bit, in fact, it just made me want to go back and read the preceding novels in the series.

The book is set in the small town of Siglufjörður in northern Iceland at the start of the Easter weekend. Ari Thor Arason is the police inspector, and is in sole charge of the town’s policing, except for a new, young assistant straight out of the police academy. So when a dead body is discovered lying in the main street of the quiet town in the middle of the night, this is the first serious investigation that Ari Thor has been in sole charge of, and the responsibility lays heavy on his shoulders. To compound his problems, the weekend marks the arrival of his estranged partner and young son for a long-awaited visit.

There were a number of things I really loved about this novel. First was the small town Icelandic setting of the novel. I’ve read a number of books set in Reykavik, but this was my first exploring what life is like in a very remote and tiny town in this small country, and it was absolutely fascinating. The author really brings the setting to life, I could clearly see the town in my mind’s eye, and imagine what it must be like to live there. Coming from a tiny village, I could understand the conflict between the comfort and claustrophobia of small town life, compounded as it is here by remoteness and the harshness of the Icelandic winter. It was the perfect setting for a tense, suspenseful murder investigation, I felt quite in edge throughout most of the book.

Secondly, I loved how human Ari Thor was throughout the book. There is a lot of focus on the balance between his home life and work life. As there is such a small police force, it is almost impossible for Ari Thor to be off duty, and we can see clearly throughout the book how closely his two worlds are intertwined, and how this has impacted, and continues to impact all of his relationships, particularly with his ex and young son. I also thought it was so interesting that the author displays Ari Thor as a man with many uncertainties and frailties in his life and character. He is unsure of his ability to manage such a serious case, unsure about what he wants to do with his future, constantly questioning his decisions, how other people feel about him, what he is capable of. Normally we see men who are hardened, confident, stoic in these roles, Ari Thor is not like that at all and I found it refreshing and honest.

Finally, the actual crime itself and the way the story pans out was gripping. The book is very short, only 225 pages, but a lot of action is packed in to the pages. We start off with something that looks like a simple suicide, but over the course of the investigation so many secrets are uncovered that we end up in a very different place than where we started, but not at all in a predictable way. The plot is engaging, as is the way that Ari investigates it, and the whole book was a rewarding reading experience from start to finish.

All in all, Winterkill is a short but satisfying read, with interesting and very human characters and an atmospheric setting that really drew me in and held me in thrall. A great start to my reading year, and an introduction to a new author that I can’t wait to read more of.

Winterkill is out now in hardback and ebook formats, and in paperback on 21 January. You can buy your copy here.

Please do visit some of the other fabulous blogs featuring on the tour to get their views on the book:

Winterkill BT 4

About the Author

Ragnar

Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015n with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.

Connect with Ragnar:

Website: http://www.ragnarjonasson.com/

Twitter: @ragnarjo

Instagram: @ragnarjo

A Little Book Problem banner

Book Review: The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn

41RSgeDP+5L

Two attorney brothers. Two bullet-riddled corpses. Two sides to the story.

Ten years ago, a capital murder case in the heart of Texas split the Lynch family in two. Now, estranged lawyer brothers Travis and Jake Lynch find themselves on opposing sides of the courtroom in a high-profile, grisly double murder case—with another accused criminal’s life on the line. Conscience-stricken Travis left his high-powered law firm to become a public defender, while bullish Jake rose to become District Attorney. The case pits brother against brother in a contest of wits, wills, and legal savvy that will shake the justice system to its core: both Lynches are convinced they’re in the right, but the truth turns out to be more complicated—and deadly—than either could have possibly imagined.

A drug deal double-cross turns lethal, leaving two corpses and one victim paralyzed for life. The victim never saw the gunman, but he knows one name: Sam Park. Travis defended Sam’s brother years before, and his heart won’t let him turn down the case, even knowing it’ll bring him face-to-face with Jake after ten years of cold silence. Jake, meanwhile, runs afoul of the Austin political machine and needs a high-profile conviction to win a tough upcoming election. And Sam, the star witness and prime suspect, won’t talk—not to Travis, and certainly not to the high-and-mighty DA—and time is running out.

Can these feuding brothers put aside a decade of enmity in the name of true justice? Or will the truth of what really happened that bloody night go to the grave with Sam Park?

Today I have my second guest reviewer of the week. This time Sandra Forder has reviewed The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn and I am grateful to her for providing this fabulous review. My thanks also go to Maria Inot at TCK Publishing for inviting the review and for providing the digital copy of the book for that purpose. The book has been reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book follows the story of Travis and Jack Lynch, brothers working on the same side of the law but with opposing views on the death penalty. It is about so much more than the senseless murder of the ‘Rich Kids’ by Mark, Sam, and Roger.  Told with flashbacks to a previous case, it’s a tale about the decimation of a family bond when brothers Travis and Jack take different sides in a murder trial. Then the Rich Kids murder case leads them back to each other. I loved reading the unfolding dynamic within the family.

The flashbacks which are spread throughout the book give a deeper insight into the divide between the brothers. They help you understand why they have progressed in their careers in the way they have. Coming from a well-known family of lawyers, Travis is like an outsider and is resistant to accepting any help, even though he is struggling with paying his own bills. Unbeknownst to him, more and more work starts coming his way which he doesn’t question as he is focused on helping the Parks with their son Sam’s case. He had previously represented the other brother. You can see his need to help those in need outweighing his need to pay the bills.

When I first started this book, I did wonder what year I was in, but the need to know soon waned as I delved further into the story. I really came to like and picture Travis as he worked to help those who couldn’t afford representation. The juxtaposition between his life and that of Jake was shown without overstating it.

It was great to see the way Jake acted in his role as DA. The way he had the measure of people without them realising he was onto them. This is shown with his interactions with those in his office but also at the club with his Dad.

The killing of the ‘Rich Kids’ was slightly confusing, it seemed like they were just shot with no real argument or causation. I understand the boys thought the ‘Rich Kids’ had $5000 to buy the drugs from Sam, but why did someone shoot? Later in the book Sam is in custody for the killings but was he actually the one who pulled the trigger?

The appearance, and reappearance, of Christine Morton is key to the story. She is a hard-nosed journalist, who not only helps Jack get information he needs, she is also passing important findings to Travis too.  When I was first reading her, she came across as hard, but she softens as the story progresses which I liked. It gave her a softness which she had been lacking but was realistic in its portrayal.

When the trial starts, Travis realises someone has been helping him with his case from behind the scenes.

This book is about finding justice in a sea of injustice. It also shows how bridges can be rebuilt after they are burnt.

There is a lot to like in this book, so much so it kept me reading to the end. There are few areas where I would have liked the author to take a little time to clarify things, but overall, I enjoyed reading it.

The Guilty Die Twice is out now as a paperback and ebook, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Don-Hartson-Image

Don Hartshorn is an author, freelance editor, volunteer mediator, and globetrotter. He draws inspiration for his stories both from man’s highest aspirations and from his petty, grimy motivations. After traveling the world for the US government and doing time as a prisoner of Corporate America’s well-oiled machine, this Texas native son has come home to roost in San Antonio. And there he’ll stay—until the next big adventure comes calling.

Don is the author of the legal thriller The Guilty Die Twice published by TCK Publishing.

Connect with Don:

Website: https://donhartshorn.com/

Twitter: @donhartshorn

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: The Murder Club by Nikki Crutchley #BookReview

The Murder Club

I’m so late posting my review for my stop on the blog tour for The Murder Club by Nikki Crutchley today. Massive apologies to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources and to the author for my tardiness, time has escaped me. I hope it is a case of better late than never. Thanks to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

dfw-nc-mh2-cover-mid

‘Not all evil, on the surface, is ugly and menacing. It doesn’t always lurk in city centres after dark. It mows your lawns, frequents your local pub, takes its kids to school and contributes to communities.’

When the first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck.

Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye.

Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours.

The lives of Miller, Cassie and Logan – all affected differently by murder – become entwined as The Scarf Killer, desperate for infamy, and Miller’s attention, makes his mark on the small town of Lentford.

Nothing is creepier than evil in small town. In a city, people expect it. The night is full of strangers with unknown motives and desires. We learn young to be fearful of strangers. How much worse is it when murders begin on your doorstep in a small town, where you know everyone? Everyone is a friend or neighbour. Who then should you suspect, be afraid of? How quickly will people become suspicious and turn on each other, pointing out how creepy they have always found one previously harmless character? How long before they start taking notice of their friend’s suddenly suspicious behaviour?

This is the premise behind The Murder Club and is definitely one that will get the hackles on your neck rising. Journalist Miller Hatcher has moved into the home of her mother in the small New Zealand town of Lentford where some people have lived for generations and you are outsider unless you have been a resident for at least a decade. When the murders begin, Miller is perfectly placed to view the crimes with an unbiased eye, but the murderer seems determined to draw her further in to the case that is comfortable. On top of that, she has also attracted the attention of the town’s weird murder groupie and the daughter of a murder victim, whose mother’s case remains unsolved after 14 years. Is there a link between all three?

I really enjoyed The Murder Club. I found Miller to be a fascinating and likeable protagonist, and her position as journalist, with an inside ear in the police investigation gave an interesting perspective on the case. The author’s portrayal of small town lives and prejudices felt very real and familiar to me, coming as I do from a close knit community, but at the same time with enough variety to keep me interested. As it is set in New Zealand, there were a lot of things that were unfamiliar and enticing to grapple with.

The novel was well-paced with plenty of twists and turns and red herrings. I thought I had solved things a couple of times, but I didn’t get it quite right, and the story kept me gripped until the very end. I particularly enjoyed the human angles of the story dealing with the trauma people suffer as a result of family members being victims of crime, or they themselves, and I thought the author dealt with this very well. I note that this is the second book featuring Miller Hatcher and, whilst it works perfectly as a standalone, I will definitely go back and read the first book, because I would like to know more about what happened to Miller in Castle Bay and why she ended up where she did. I feel that there is more to explore with this character and, despite the author saying she never intended Miller to end up as the centre of a series, I would be very interested in seeing more from her.

The Murder Club is highly recommended for anyone who likes a claustrophobic thriller with a strong dose of the exploration of human nature within it.

The Murder Club is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

The Murder Club Full Tour Banner

About the Author

High Res Author photo

After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls.
Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and before she turned to crime writing had success in flash fiction. She has been published in ‘Bonsai: Best Small Fictions from Aotearoa New Zealand’, and ‘Fresh Ink’ anthologies.
Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Her first novel, ‘Nothing Bad Happens Here’, featuring journalist Miller Hatcher, is set on the Coromandel Coast of New Zealand. It was a finalist in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel. Her second book, ‘No One Can Hear You’, was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best novel in 2019. ‘
The Murder Club’ is the second in the Miller Hatcher series.

Connect with Nikki:

Website: https://www.nikkicrutchley.com/

Facebook: Nikki Crutchley Author

Twitter: @NikkiCAuthor

Instagram: @nikkicrutchleywrites

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald #BookReview

Ash Mountain Cover Image

Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

I am happy to be taking my part in the blog tour today to mark the paperback publication of Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my digital copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is quite a difficult review to write, because I want to give a true reflection of how I felt about the book, whilst balancing that with external factors that I believe affected my reading of it. I have really struggled this last week emotionally for a variety of reasons and, unfortunately, I think this bled through to my reactions to this book. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading it for a blog tour, I probably would have set it to one side to come back to at another time, when I was in a different frame of mind. As it was, I ploughed on, but probably had a different feeling about the book than I would have if I’d come to it in a more upbeat frame of mind.

I’ve had a difficult week, and I think I really needed some escapist fiction, and this isn’t it. This is a dark, noir exploration of the dark undercurrents running through a small town, which are brought in to sharp focus when Fran returns to the place she hates to nurse her seriously ill father, just at a time where the town is threatened by a deadly bush fire. A lot of the topics explored in this book are extremely harrowing, and the author addresses them head on, without flinching and with huge emotional impact. This is something I normally love in a book, and I know it will be what draws a lot of readers to the novel. Rightly so, the novel deserves a wide readership because the writing is stunning, unfortunately I was emotionally unequipped to deal with it this week and it felt extremely bleak to me.

There is no doubt that the character development in this book is expertly done and works perfectly to draw the reader in and make the reader love or hate them. Again, this was part of the problem. I was TOO emotionally invested in the characters to deal with their struggles at the moment, and could feel their pain and distress. The book is a real rollercoaster of a ride emotionally, and the reader needs to be prepared for it. It packs a powerful emotional punch that I am sure would leave me fairly breathless at any time but completely floored me on this occasion.

The timeline jumps about between the day of the fire, the ten days or so leading up to it, and events that happened thirty years before when the main protagonist, Fran, was a teenager. At times I did find it a little hard to follow the timelines, because they were so disjointed, but this I know is deliberate and was done to add to the feeling of tension and anxiety which permeated the book. It just needs a level of concentration that was just a little of a strain for me at the moment, but I know I would take in my stride and truly appreciate for what it adds to the story at any other time.

This is a book that is powerful, emotional, challenging and full of tension from first page to last. The author is skilled at manipulating all of these elements and this is clear throughout. Unfortunately for me, she does this a little too well and I was just mentally in the wrong place for this book when I read it. I could see glimpses of the humour that I have seen other bloggers refer to within it, but just couldn’t appreciate it fully. Fabulous book, wrong time for me. I know it is one I will put aside and reread when I am in the right mindset for it. I would not want anyone else to be put off reading it though, because this is a wonderful book, and I know the issue was me and my emotional state at time of reading. More emotionally robust readers will love it, I have no doubt.

Ash Mountain is out as an ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback on 20 August and you can buy a copy here.

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

Ash Mountain PB BT Poster

About the Author

Helen Fitzgerald Author Pic 2

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

Connect with Helen:
Twitter: @FitxHelen
random-thingstours-fb-header

Tempted By…. Audio Killed The Bookmark: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

IMG_7466

Mercy is hard in a place like this. I wished him dead before I ever saw his face….

Mary Rose Whitehead isn’t looking for trouble – but when it shows up at her front door, she finds she can’t turn away. 

Corinne Shepherd, newly widowed, wants nothing more than to mind her own business and for everyone else to mind theirs. But when the town she has spent years rebelling against closes ranks she realises she is going to have to take a side. 

Debra Ann is motherless and lonely and in need of a friend. But in a place like Odessa, Texas, choosing who to trust can be a dangerous game. 

Gloria Ramírez, 14 years old and out of her depth, survives the brutality of one man only to face the indifference and prejudices of many. 

When justice is as slippery as oil and kindness becomes a hazardous act, sometimes courage is all we have to keep us alive.

This is the first time I have featured an audiobook on Tempted By…, but Berit of Audio Killed The Bookmark was so enthusiastic about the narrators of this book in her review of it that audio seemed the only way to go.

The blurb for this book doesn’t give much away, but it sounds intriguing, doesn’t it, and the book has had a lot of buzz about it. I mean, you only have to read Berit’s review, where she describes it as “authentic, profound, and beautiful” to know that it is a special debut, because whatever Berit says, I trust I am going to feel the same. I agree with her reviews about 99% of the time, so I knew this book was going to be worth the cost of an Audible credit.

Berit makes it sound like the book is totally immersive and evocative, which are things I am always drawn to in a novel. I love books set in the USA, but I read more set in the South Eastern states, so a book set in Texas will make for an invigorating change. It also sounds like it is extremely female-centric, something I also love, so I am really looking forward to listening to it soon. I am sure it will make the hours of housework and mucking out a little less tedious!

I love this blog, it is one I have been following for a long time. As I said previously, Berit’s thoughts seem to align to mine on most books that we have in common, and her reviews are always informative but succinct (something we do not have in common, as I tend to be quite long-winded, she has the advantage over me on this score!) I really love the way she sums up a book in emojis too, a quirky touch that I have fun figuring out. If you haven’t visited this blog before, please do pop over there and have a look around, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. You can find it here.

And, if Berit’s review has tempted you to try Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore for yourself, you can get it in all formats here.

 

Blog Tour: Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver #BookReview

Hinton Hollow Death Trip Cover

It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.
Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.
Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow.
Because something was coming.
Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.
Making them cheat.
Making them steal.
Making them kill.
Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.

I am very excited to be taking part today in the blog tour for Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver. Huge thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for asking me to take part in the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Have you ever wondered why makes people do the terrible things they sometimes do? You must have. When you heard the last horrendous news story about someone doing something unthinkable to another person, you must wonder what makes them tick? How  did they end up in this place? Is there something wrong with them? Are they being driven by an outside force? I know I have. I’ve often wondered how people can be so….evil. Well, in this book, Evil tells you himself how a group of residents in the small, ordinary town of Hinton Hollow come to the point where they commit the series of crimes that take place here over five, intense days.

Except, things are never that simple with a Will Carver novel, as you will know if you’ve ever read one before. And, if you haven’t, pick up this extraordinary book and prepare to have your mind bent. Actually, bent isn’t the right word, corkscrewed round and round on itself until you don’t know which way is up and which is down, and you meet yourself coming back is a more accurate description. This author is fiendish in the way he twists and turns the plot and the ideas, feeding in little clues and prompts to flip on its head the thing you thought he was trying to say and forcing you to look at it from another angle. Reading the book almost made me dizzy, and left me reeling with questions and conclusions. Spending a few hours inside his head is quite a trip in itself.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the idea that good and evil are somehow separate entities that infect human beings and make us act in a certain way. It seems a bit of a cop out to me, an excuse for people not to take responsibility for their own choices, because the actions we take are always a choice. Not always an easy choice, or a pleasant choice or a good choice, but a choice nonetheless and, despite Will Carver actually giving us Evil as a separate character in this book who claims to be nudging people in a certain direction, I get the feeling that this is a clever way of saying he agrees with me. Because, sometimes, the people here don’t take any nudging at all, and Evil is just playing to their innate desires, making their natural instincts a little easier to act on, removing some of their inhibitions, revealing their true souls. That is what is really scary. This is who we really are, he is showing us what we are capable of and, by his twisted logic, telling us that the fact society is embracing these baser instincts more and more freely, becoming selfish and uncaring and lascivious and greedy, we are bringing out the evil in the world, to shock us, show us where we are going wrong. Without us, he isn’t needed. If we choose to be good, he has less to do. Perversely, Evil is not the wicked one, we are.

Does this sound twisted enough for you? I told you this book was a brain pretzel of a novel. Honestly, you will strain a neurone trying to figure all this stuff out, the man is an evil genius. All of these complex ideas are packed into a book that is filled with fascinating and quirky characters and a plot with a shock around every corner. Just when you think you have it all figured out, he pulls the rug out from under you and delivers another scene you never saw coming. How the guy managed to pull this together without losing the plot (literally and metaphorically) is the most baffling thing of all to me. I know I could not do it, I am in awe of the skill it has taken to pull this thing together, and the originality of his ideas, the audacity with which he has delivered them blows my mind. This is a quite unbelievable achievement of a novel.

I know it won’t be for everyone. There are very graphic scenes in this book, both violent and sexual. Some of the acts that take place are of a very disturbing nature, but that is the fundamental point of the novel. This is not an easy read, both from the point of the imagery and because it is a book that takes brainwork to digest. You can’t coast through this read if you want to wring the meaning from it but, boy is it worth the effort. A book that will stay with you long after you’ve read it, will haunt your dreams, will sit up and make you really think, if you choose to. When was the last time that a 400-page novel gave you this much bang for your buck?

Hinton Hollow Death Trip is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you visit some of the other fabulous blogs taking part of the tour for a variety of reviews:

FINAL Hinton Hollow BT Poster

About the Author

Will Carver Author pIc

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children.

Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Connect with Will:

Facebook: Will Carver Author

Twitter: @will_carver

Instagram: @will_carver

random-thingstours-fb-header

Tempted By…Traveling Sisters Book Reviews: Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith

IMG_6683

The small town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, but now seems stuck in a black-and-white photograph from days gone by. Unknowing, the town and its people are about to come alive again, awakening to nightmares, as ghostly whispers have begun to fill the night from the kudzu-covered valley that sits on the edge of town.

When a vagabond family appears on the outskirts, when twin boys and a woman go missing, disappearing beneath the vines, a man with his own twisted past struggles to untangle the secrets in the midst of the town trauma.

This is a landscape of fear and ghosts, of regret and violence. It is a landscape transformed by the kudzu vines that have enveloped the hills around it, swallowing homes, cars, rivers, and hiding terrible secrets deeper still. Blackwood is the evil in the woods, the wickedness that lurks in all of us.

Today’s Tempted By… is for a book that I bought following this review by Brenda of the Traveling Sisters Book Reviews blog, run by a trio of Canadian sisters. I often find that, being on a different continent, they review books that I might not come across on many UK book blogs, so their recommendations are a good way to inject some variety in to my reading. This book had already been raved about by the author, Sarah Knight, so once Brenda confirmed that she loved it too, I knew I simply had to get it. Plus, I just LOVE that cover.

The book I am talking about is Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith.

It is very hard to tell from the review, and from reading the book’s blurb, what genre of book this is. Is it a horror story? Supernatural? Romance? Crime? Thriller? A combination of all of them? This uncertainty is one of the things that drew me in, I have to say. I love the idea of going in to a book without really knowing what I am going to get.  And that mixture of emotions that Brenda describes – “a quiet feeling of bleakness, darkness and hope” – I am intrigued to know how this combination manifests itself in the story. It is a great skill to write a review that is so tempting without giving anything at all away!

You may have visited the Traveling Sisters Book Reviews blog without realising it, when it was known as Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee. If not, and you do take a look, you will find a friendly blog with a great mix of reviews in lots of different genres, author interviews and Q&AS, and plenty of other bookish stuff designed to keep bibliophiles delighted. You can find the blog here.

And, if you find yourself intrigued by the book after reading Brenda’s mysterious but glowing review, you can buy Blackwood in all formats, here.

Blog Tour: The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone #BookReview

The Big Chill Cover

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone today. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for including me on the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the novel, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the second book featuring the Skelf women, following on from A Dark Matterand I would recommend that you read that book before embarking on this one, because The Big Chill contains some spoilers for the first book. However, if that isn’t something that bothers you unduly, or you aren’t planning on reading the first book, The Big Chill works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

The book is told from the perspectives of, and in the voices of, three generations of Skelf women. Dorothy is the matriarch, running a funeral service and PI agency side by side, whilst trying to hold her family together in the aftermath of her husband’s death and the events of book one. Her daughter, Jenny, is embarking on a new relationship, whilst still coming to terms with her ex-husband being in prison. And Dorothy’s granddaughter, Hannah, is struggling with depression and anxiety following her father’s crimes. Each woman is battling her own demons, in her own way, but together they form a strong and fascinating unit.

As well as the lives of the three women, the author also presents us with a number of different mysteries to tussle with. Who was the homeless man killed in the car that crashes into one of Dorothy’s funerals? What has happened to Dorothy’s teenage drum student, missing from her parents’ house for several days? And what secret is Hannah’s professor hiding from his wife? Curious by nature and by profession, the Skelf women set about trying to get to the bottom of these puzzles, whilst exploring their own internal problems at the same time, so there is a lot for the reader to absorb.

The author paints the characters so vividly, that they are truly alive on the page. These are living, breathing, complex women who take no imagining to make believable, Doug has done all that work for you. I think Dorothy is my favourite, the Californian wild child, displaced to cold and rainy Edinburgh, still coming to terms with the fact that she is no longer young and drumming as a way to mindfulness. Cool doesn’t begin to cover it. She is one of those older women that we all aspire to be, and made me want to pick up a pair of drumsticks immediately. I absolutely loved her choice of music to drum to, too! She is definitely someone who is there for everyone else, putting the needs of all those she cares about before her own, but we get a glimpse under the surface to the turmoils she, herself, is experiencing, and hope that she may have found someone that she can share those with in the aftermath of widowhood. When I was younger, my mum always used to tell me that, no matter how old you get, you never feel any different inside. As I am not firmly ensconced in middle age myself, I understand what she meant, and Dorothy is a character who embodies this phenomenon to the full. I love her.

Hannah, at the other end of the scale, ponders her place in the universe and finds it small and insignificant, although its hard to tell whether this is a comfort or a cause for despair. She is seeing a therapist but, as a talented physics student, one gets the impression that she may be beyond the understanding of her counsellor. In their own way, all three women are pondering their place in the cosmos, trying to work out where they fit in after their lives have been shaken up and put down in a different place, a bit like an agitated snow globe, all their emotions and possibilities up in the air. The only thing holding them together in the maelstrom is the strength of their family bond and the certainty that, whatever else is happening, they can absolutely rely on each other.

This book is a gripping thriller, but it is also so much more. An exploration of family, of female strength, of ageing and death, relationships, community and where we fit in the world. There is so much depth and ideas to mine, but it is also pacy and darkly comic in places. In addition, Doug brings Edinburgh to life on the page. This is obviously a city he knows and loves, and that affection permeates every page of the book. I raced through the novel, loving every syllable, and I can’t wait for more. This writer has a natural talent and a keen eye and is someone that any fan of crime, thrillers or simply great writing should pick up.

The Big Chill is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 20 August and you can get a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for this book:

The Big Chill BT Poster

About the Author

Doug Johnstone Author Pic

Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin.

He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years.

Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Connect with Doug:

Website: https://dougjohnstone.com

Twitter: @doug_johnstone

Instagram: @writerdougj

random-thingstours-fb-header

Blog Tour: Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl; Translated by Don Bartlett #BookReview

Sister Cover Image

Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

Today I am posting my review for Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl, the latest in the Oslo Detectives series. My huge apologies to the author, publisher and tour organiser for the lateness of this review. I was unable to post on my scheduled date due to an accident, but I hope you enjoy it now. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to review the book and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was my first introduction to the world of Detective Frolich, despite being the the fact that it is book eight in the series. However, it works perfectly as a standalone, although I would like to know more about Frolich’s back story, as he is a fascinating character. In this book, we meet Frolich as he is working as a private detective, having been suspended from the police, and is trying to find his footing in this new world and work out how to make a living. Despite this, he gets involved in a case that is set to be hugely unprofitable for him at the behest of his new girlfriend, and a woman who begs him to help a refugee she is working with. The fact he accepts gives us great insight into Frolich’s character and what drives him. It is a sense of justice and wanting to help people that is his biggest motivator, rather than money.

The book takes Frolich across the Norwegian landscape, from Oslo to more remote places, and I found the descriptions of the locations enticing, if a little bleak. It felt like there was a darkness seeping into every corner of this novel, not just the crime but the setting and the characters too. In fact, the word that really encapsulated the feel of the book for me was melancholy. There was a sadness seeping from the pages; from Frolich and his situation; from the plight of the subjects of the investigation; and from the very landscape itself. The references to unfortunate things that have happened in Norway may have contributed to this throughout, the book felt sad and a little hopeless.

This is largely due to the driving narrative behind the story, which is the problem of refugees in Norway and the desperate situations in which they find themselves. Fleeing from places of war and persecution, they risk a lot to reach countries they believe they may be safe, only to find that they may be in as much danger where they have arrived than the place they are left. Subject to prejudice and at risk of exploitation, they find they have not reached the nirvana they were hoping for. The book is a damning indictment of how Western societies are failing these vulnerable people, as well as an illuminating social commentary on the risks that they face at either end of their journey. A very modern and relevant story, as well as being a gripping thriller.

I was hooked o this book from start to finish, although I did find it a heart-rending and thought-provoking read. I just wanted to mention the skill in the translation of this novel from Norwegian. It was seamless and barely noticeable, which is the great skill in translating fiction, I was not distracted by the translation at all. Another great, new writer to me from the astonishing Orenda stable, I can’t wait to catch up on the instalments I have missed and see what is next. Intelligent writing.

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

Please do make sure you check out the rest of the tour, as detailed below:

Sister BT Poster

About the Author

Kjell Author Pic

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Connect with Kjell:

Twitter: @ko_dahl

random-thingstours-fb-header