Blog Tour: Open Your Eyes by Heather J Fitt

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A Scottish journalist enters a dark online world in this unsettling novel of men, women, resentment, and rage…

Edinburgh reporter Frankie has finally been assigned a high-profile crime story about a series of sexual assaults, and relishes her big break. Her article focuses on the issue of women’s safety, which doesn’t seem to have improved much since the era of the Yorkshire Ripper.

When she faces a torrent of abuse online, it leads her to discover the phenomenon of incels— and puts her in the sights of those trying to stop her covering the story. But she refuses to back down. What she doesn’t realise is that in this murky online world, one man is being goaded into a spectacular and shocking attack with Frankie as his main target…

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Open Your Eyes by Heather Fitt. My thanks to the author for inviting me to review her book and for providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

The world is becoming an ever more frightening place for women at the moment. Rights we thought had been secured decades ago are being rolled back before our eyes. There are daily stories in the news of women being attacked as they walk the streets. Even in the corridors of our Government, men are being accused regularly of inappropriate sexual behaviour. People try and tell us that we have equality in the modern world but a glance around will tell you it is simply not true. This is the stage upon which Heather Fitt has released this book, a book which is extremely relevant in this time, which is why I volunteered to review it.

Heather is exploring the world of extreme misogyny and the incel in this novel. A murky, online world of men who hide in the shadows spouting hate against women and making threats of terrible violence against them. They are the people who pop up on Twitter making threats against politicians and activists who dare to espouse any feminist ideas or campaign for changes to laws which might better protect us, and sometimes their threats actually become actions with terrible consequences. It is a frightening phenomenon that has developed as social media has taken hold of the world and forms the basis for the story that unfolds on these pages.

I thought the plot Heather has constructed here to explore this issue was really well constructed and compelling. A journalist writes an innocuous piece for Valentine’s Day which leads her down an unexpected path of being exposed to and exploring this community of extreme misogyny and becoming a target of it. The book is really well paced, the characters engaging and the subject matter fresh and startling. I read this cover to cover in a single sitting in around three hours because I was so engrossed in the story. There isn’t a much greater endorsement than that.

One small issue I had with the book was the way it ended and what happened to one particular character. I was not convinced that this character would have gone down the route they did so quickly, it just didn’t seem to fit with who they had been, or seemed to have been becoming, throughout the rest of the story and it just sat awkwardly at the end. That aside, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the book or my eagerness to recommend it as something different and interesting to read. Pick up a copy if you are looking for a book exploring something unusual and relevant.

Open Your Eyes is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and also as part of the Kindle Unlimited programme. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour:

OYE Blog Tour ImageAbout the Author

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Heather was born in Scotland and after moving around Europe with her parents and sister, settled in Hampshire where she met her husband, Stuart.

After leaving the rat-race in 2018, Heather re-trained as an editor and proof-reader and entered the world of publishing. These days she works as a part-time freelancer and a part-time Commissioning Advisor for Bloodhound.

Heather was inspired to start writing her novel by the authors who have become her closest friends. Now the ideas are flowing she has plans to write several more over the coming years.

When she isn’t reading, Heather enjoys spending her time watching sport – especially her beloved rugby – and exploring the British countryside with Stuart.

Heather’s debut novel will be published by Bloodhound in Summer 2021.

Connect with Heather:

Twitter: @HeatherJFitt

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Blog Tour: The Daughter by Liz Webb

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I lean in and whisper the question I have never let myself utter in twenty-three years.

“Dad, did you murder Mum?”

Hannah Davidson has a dementia-stricken father, an estranged TV star brother, and a mother whose death opened up hidden fault lines beneath the surface of their ordinary family life.

Now the same age that Jen Davidson was when she was killed, Hannah realises she bears an uncanny resemblance to her glamorous mother, and when her father begins to confuse them she is seriously unnerved.

Determined to uncover exactly what happened to her mum, Hannah begins to exploit her arresting likeness, but soon the boundaries between Hannah and her mother become fatally blurred.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Daughter by Liz Webb. My thanks to Helen Richardson for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Daughter before I started reading it and I have to say it took me a little while to get into the novel. The book is written in the first person, in the voice of Hannah as she is visiting her dementia-stricken father in hospital after he has had a fall. Hannah’s voice was not clear to me to begin with, I wasn’t even sure if the character was male or female at first and, as a result, it took me a little while to become invested in the story.

However, after a couple of chapters, things began to fall into place and my interest was piqued. Hannah is clearly a troubled young woman, engaging in destructive behaviours, and I was curious about what had led her to this place. As we find out more about her dysfunctional family and the tragic events that splintered their family decades before, the reasons begin to make sense, but I was left wondering if she was an entirely reliable narrator, which always makes a book more interesting. Not knowing whether you can believe what the main protagonist is telling you always builds tension, and even Hannah herself questions whether her memories are reliable when they conflict with those of other people present at the time. Who is mistaken? Who is lying to themselves, or others, to hide the dreadful truth?

This mistrust bleeds through to the other characters, particularly her father, who is in a fog of confusion and has begun to mix Hannah up with his long-dead wife, and her brother, from who she has been estranged for 14 years and is practically unknown to her now, and who practises make-believe for a living. Who is telling then truth and who will benefit from lying? These are the puzzles the engaged reader if left to solve.

The cast of characters is small and manageable, the plot engaging and tense and the writing easy to read and flows well. I thought this stood out as a story I hadn’t read before in the domestic thriller genre and, after a shaky start, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is full of twists and turns and interesting ideas about families, how they work and how they can mess you up. A theme many people will be able to relate to on some level. This book has a different feel to many books in the genre, an interesting edge to it and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new author.

The Daughter is out now in all formats and you can buy your copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for other great reviews:

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About the Author

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LIZ WEBB originally trained as a classical ballet dancer but had to give up following a back injury. She then worked as a secretary at the British Library whilst going to night school at the City Lit to get into Oxford University age 23. After graduating, she worked as a stationery shop manager, an art model, a cocktail waitress, stand- up comic, voice-over artist, script-editor, and radio drama producer before becoming a novelist.

Liz Webb was a stand-up comic for ten years performing at clubs across the UK and at festivals in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester and Cardiff. At the same time, she worked as a voice-over artist voicing many TV ad campaigns including The Times, Kellogg’s Just Right cereal and Organics hair products.

She also worked for fourteen years as a prolific radio drama producer for the BBC and independent radio production companies.

Liz lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie.

Connect with Liz:

Website: https://lizwebb.co.uk

Facebook: Liz Webb

Twitter: @LizWebbAuthor

Instagram: @lizwebbauthor

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Blog Tour: Faceless by Vanda Symon

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Worn down by a job he hates, and a stressful family life, middle-aged, middle-class Bradley picks up a teenage escort and commits an unspeakable crime. Now she’s tied up in his warehouse, and he doesn’t know what to do.

Max is homeless, eating from rubbish bins, sleeping rough and barely existing – known for cadging a cigarette from anyone passing, and occasionally even the footpath. Nobody really sees Max, but he has one friend, and she’s gone missing.

In order to find her, Max is going to have to call on some people from his past, and reopen wounds that have remained unhealed for a very long time

and the clock is ticking…

Vanda Symon has become one of my favourite authors over the last few years so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for her new release, Faceless. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Wah, where is Sam? That was my first thought when I heard that Vanda Symon’s latest novel didn’t feature the detective in whom I have become so invested. Was I going to enjoy one of Vanda’s book as much without Sam? No, Julie, I chided myself, keep an open mind and don’t go into the book loaded down with prejudices. I’m really glad I did because, despite the Sam-shaped hole, this is an excellent book.

Told in the voices of the four main protagonists, we get the story from every angle. An ordinary family man picks up a teenage prostitute on the streets of Auckland, an action completely out of character. What happens next takes this man further and further away from where he started. Unluckily for him, the girl is not the friendless, lost soul he assumes. She has someone looking out for her, and he has friends, and so a chain of events is set in motion that quickly spiral out of control.

Vanda has created a quartet of fascinating characters here to carry this story, every one of them complex, rich and believable. Billy, the girl, has a tragic story that gradually unfolds across the pages until we fully understand why she has ended up where she is. She is a victim, but refuses to surrender herself to that identity and the reader’s heart goes out to her from the beginning. It is only too easy to imagine any young girl finding herself similarly exposed by only a tiny slip of circumstance and, as a mother of girls, it is troubling and heartbreaking. Max is similarly sympathetic, once we understand what has lead him to the streets. The book is a thoughtful exploration of how one mistake, one bad decision, one untreated mental health catastrophe can quickly lead to the disintegration of someone’s life and them falling through the cracks.

Bradley is an entirely different proposition, He embodies the darkness that can lurk behind a benign facade. How a seemingly mild-mannered personality can hide suppressed proclivities that, once unleashed, cannot easily be put back in their box. The fact that he is so believable as a character makes for uncomfortable reading for women; it reminds us that it is all too easy to fall foul of a person who hides their demons behind a bland face, that we can never really know what lurks beneath the surface of a person.

This book is a hard tale to read, because it shines a light on a subset of society that it is too easy for the rest of us to forget. The souls who have dropped off the grid of normality that the rest of us inhabit and eke out an existence in the shadows that puts them at great risk. It is shameful that, in modern, wealthy nations, so many people are homeless and lost and prey to people who wish to exploit them. I admire Vanda for taking on this topic and dealing with it so tenderly and with great understanding. This is not a book I am comfortable saying that I enjoyed, but I was certainly gripped by it and left with the uneasy feeling that I am sure the author fully intended.

Faceless is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of my fellow bloggers to find out their views on the book:

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About the Author

Vanda-Symon

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, which includes Overkill, The Ringmaster, Containment and Bound, hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award. Overkill was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.

Connect with Vanda:

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

Facebook: Vanda Simon

Twitter: @vandasymon

Instagram: @vandasymon

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Blog Tour: River Clyde by Simone Buchholz; Translated by Rachel Ward

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Mired in grief after tragic recent events, State prosecutor Chastity Riley escapes to Scotland, lured to the birthplace of her great-great- grandfather by a mysterious letter suggesting she has inherited a house. In Glasgow, she meets Tom, the ex-lover of Chastity’s great aunt, who holds the keys to her own family secrets – painful stories of unexpected cruelty and loss that she’s never dared to confront.

In Hamburg, Stepanovic and Calabretta investigate a major arson attack, while a group of property investors kicks off an explosion of violence that threatens everyone.

As events in these two countries collide, Chastity prepares to face the inevitable, battling the ghosts of her past and the lost souls that could be her future and, perhaps, finally finding redemption for them all. Nail-bitingly tense and breathtakingly emotive, River Clyde is both an electrifying thriller and a poignant, powerful story of damage and hope, and one woman’s fight for survival.

I am so thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest Chastity Riley novel by Simone Buchholz, River Clyde. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher, Orenda Books, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I always go into writing reviews of Simone Buchholz’s books with a sense of inadequacy and trepidation because I know, whatever words I put down on the page, they are going to be inadequate to describe what I just read. In the case of River Clyde, I am feeling this even more keenly than usual because this book is so unlike anything I’ve read before, so difficult to describe, so impossible to categorise.

It’s more of a surreal dreamscape than a classic crime novel, with the story wandering between the mean street of Hamburg, the mean streets of Glasgow, the blasted heath of Rannoch Moor and the interiors of the messed up minds of the main characters, all still trying to process the tragic events which occurred in Hotel Cartagena. This book brings the reader much closer to Chastity than we have ever been before, I left the book feeling like I had crawled into her skin and was watching things unfold from behind her eyes, and it was sometimes a bizarre place to be.

Anyone who has read any of the previous Chastity Riley novels will know that they are not your run of the mill crime novel, but Simone has taken the story telling to a completely different place in this book. The crime that the police in Hamburg are trying to solve is a mere footnote in the book, and afterthought, a distraction from the real meat of the story, which is the fallout that are all feeling personally after the horror that unfolded in the last book and the fact that Stepanovic treats the investigation as such is a clear indicator of what is important to all of these people now. Riley has gone a step further and removed herself from Hamburg and her old life altogether to travel to Scotland in search of family history. Both running away, and running towards, her story here is one of soul-searching. She is looking for a place in the world, now that everything she had in Hamburg seems to be gone.

Anyone looking for a straight forward crime investigation is looking in the wrong place and I think, if you aren’t familiar with the previous Chastity Riley books, this wouldn’t be the ideal place to start. Go back, at least one novel, and catch up on previous events. It will help make sense of what is going on here and be immensely rewarding in its own right. For those of you who have read the previous books, be prepared to be confronted by a completely different novel, and a different view of all of the characters you believe you’ve come to know. They are all finding surprising ways to process their grief, none more so than Chastity herself. All of her usual BS-free, no-nonsense acerbic personality is here, but we see more of her underbelly, more of her inner softness and vulnerability and it is enlightening. There is a blurring of reality and fantasy throughout, the reader, along with the character, finds it hard to tell what is true and what is imagination. There is confusion, pain, understanding, realisation and a letting go. It’s melancholy and life-affirming in equal parts, and I found the whole thing painful and very moving.

Simone Buchholz writing continues to be brutal, honest, startling, fearless and utter unique and her books leap out from the literary landscape in a way that demands they be given attention. Once you’ve read one, you’ll never forget her voice and you’ll be addicted to the rush immediately. A year is too long to wait between hits. I feel the need now to go back to the beginning and ride the whole rollercoaster from beginning to end, although I’m unsure if my nerves could take the force of the full blast in one sitting. I don’t know where she will go with this character next, that’s part of the appeal of the books, but I’m here for the hit.

River Clyde is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 17 March and you can buy your copy here.

Please make sure you check out some of the other blogs taking part in the blog tour:

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About the Author

Simone-Buchholz

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. The critically acclaimed Beton Rouge, Mexico Street and Hotel Cartagena all followed in the Chastity Riley series, with River Clyde out in 2022. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

Connect with Simone:

Website: https://simonebuchholz.com

Twitter: @ohneKlippo

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Book Review: Hold My Place by Cassondra Windwalker

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Obsession never dies.

When librarian Sigrun falls head-over-heels for the sophisticated and very married Edgar Leyward, she never expects to find herself in his bed—or his heart. Nevertheless, when his enigmatic wife Octavia dies from a sudden illness, Sigrun finds herself caught up in a whirlwind romance worthy of the most lurid novels on her bookshelves.

Sigrun soon discovers Octavia wasn’t Edgar’s first lost love, or even his second. Three women Edgar has loved met early deaths. As she delves into her beloved’s past through a trove of discovered letters, the edges of Sigrun identity begin to disappear, fading into the women of the past. Sigrun tells herself it’s impossible for any dark magic to be at play—that the dead can’t possibly inhabit the bodies of the living—but something shadowy stalks the halls of the Leyward house and the lines between the love of the present and the obsessions of the past become increasingly blurred—and bloody.

I was offered a digital copy of Hold My Place by Cassondra Windwalker by Lindy Ryan at Black Spot Books for the purpose of review, for which I am extremely grateful as always. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by this author and, I have to say, I was captivated by her writing. The characterisation, the plotting and the language all combined in an elegant symphony to deliver a book that lingered in my mind long after I had finished it. It was not at all what I was expecting from the blurb but I am so glad that the invitation from the publisher led me to this book which I likely would not have discovered otherwise.

The protagonist of the book is librarian, Sigrun. A lover of dark and gothic literature, uncompromising in attitude, she surprisingly finds herself drawn to smooth, handsome, society chef, Edgar. Surprising because they seem diametrically opposite in character, and Edgar is happily married to the beautiful, sophisticated Octavia. Despite this, they start a friendship and Sigrun finds herself becoming obsessed with him. Then his wife dies unexpectedly and Sigrun is drawn completely into his life.

The book is set during the recent pandemic lockdown, which adds to the feelings of claustrophobia and isolation that surrounds Sigrun and Edgar and their dangerous, exclusionary love. Set almost exclusively within the confines of Edgar’s brooding house, and the deserted city streets, Edgar and Sigrun’s total devotion to one another feels all the more unhealthy and lonely than it would in more normal times. Sigrun’s paranoia and confusion is heightened by her distance from other people in her life, and you can easily see how her thoughts have become so distorted in this environment.

The author’s use of language is just beautiful, it is almost like reading poetry, which enhanced my enjoyment of the book immensely. The book had the air of a gothic fairytale, one of the original ones written by the Brothers Grimm, not the Disney version with the guaranteed happy ending. The book has an aura of menace and doom hanging over it. There is more than a whiff of Daphne du Maurier in its twisted portrayal of unhealthy love and hint of the supernatural. The book was not, however, in any way predictable and I did not see the ending coming at all.

I love discovering new authors, as well as books that surprise and delight me, and this book ticked every box. Something out of the norm, that really generated an extreme of feeling within me as I read. A book that I will remember for a good while.

Hold My Place is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Cassondra Windwalker is a poet, essayist, and novelist presently writing full-time from the southern Alaskan coast. She enjoys hearing from readers via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, smoke signals, and interstellar songs.

Connect with Cassondra:

Facebook: Cassondra Windwalker Writes

Twitter: @WindwalkerWrite

Instagram: @cassondrawindwalker

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Book Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

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You can’t escape the desert. You can’t escape Sundial.

Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because of what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to Sundial, her childhood home deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

Catriona Ward’s last book, The Last House on Needless Street, was one of the highlights of my reading year last year, so I was delighted to be invited to preview her new book, Sundial. I am very grateful to the publisher, Viper Books, for providing me with an advance proof of the book for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Anyone who read The Last House on Needless Street will be wondering what is to come next from this author. That book was so brilliantly unexpected and out of leftfield that it seems impossible she could come up with anything to match it. It was out on its own, so distinctive that she could not possibly replicate the things that made it so standout, a book that was talked about by everyone last year. And she hasn’t replicated the genius of The Last House on Needless Street. What she has done is write something totally different but equally, if not more, compelling in its own distinctive way.

This is the story of two people, Rob and her daughter, Callie. Rob is struggling in a tempestuous relationship with her husband, Irving, and is concerned about the impact this is having on her two daughters. In particular, the elder of the two, Callie, has begun to exhibit behaviours that Rob finds deeply concerning, particularly as they pertain to the safety of her other child. She decides to take Callie back to her family home in the Mojave desert to try and deal with Callie’s behaviour. In a series of flashbacks to Rob’s own childhood, we discover it was far from normal and begin to wonder if DNA may be at play here.

This book was addictive from beginning to end. An extremely dark, oppressive, creeping psychological horror story with a pair of completely unreliable narrators and underlying themes that will burrow into your brain and take root to the point that you will not be able to extricate yourself from this story until you have finished. The very pinnacle of unputdownable reading, this story held me in thrall from beginning to end.

The story is twisted in every definition of the word. What goes on in both the present day and the historical back story is disturbing to say the least, and will raise some interesting scientific and moral questions in the reader. The plot itself is so serpentine and cleverly constructed that I defy anyone to work out where it is is going until the very end, and there are myriads of shocks along the way. The setting of the book is oppressive in the extreme, and brought brilliantly to life on the page and is absolutely essential to the plot. I has such clear imagery in my mind throughout the novel that it was almost like being in a movie of the book. A terrifying movie it was much of the time too; if it was playing out on the screen I would be hiding behind a cushion. This author has a brutal, ingenious mind, I have no idea which dark part of her psyche dreamt up this plot, but it must be scary and thrilling to live with.

This book is not an easy read. It is not the type of book you pick up to lift you on a dark day or doze off under in bright sunshine on a poolside lounger. It is a book that will challenge you, excite you and grasp onto you with a ferocious hold until you reach the end. You won’t be able to leave it behind, even when you aren’t holding it in your hand, and it will be one you remember long after you have read it. Much as I loved The Last House on Needless Street, I think I may love Sundial more. What this says about me as a person, I don’t know, but this is not a book that fades in with all the others on the bookshop shelf. Another book that will be a big talking point amongst book lovers this year.

Sundial is out on 10 March and you can pre-order in hardback, ebook and audio formats here.

About the Author

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CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

‘The Last House on Needless Street’ (Viper Books, Tor Nightfire) was a Times Book of the Month, Observer Book of the Month, March Editor’s Pick on Open Book, a Between the Covers BBC2 book club selection, a Times bestseller, and is being developed for film by Andy Serkis’s production company, The Imaginarium.

‘Little Eve’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.

Connect with Catriona:

Facebook: Catriona Ward

Twitter: @Catrionaward

Instagram: @catward66

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Blog Tour: Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen; Translated by Don Bartlett

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I’m delighted to be taking part in my first blog tour of the year for the new book in the Varg Veum series by Gunnar Staalesen, Bitter Flowers. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially as always.

Bitter Flowers proof cover

PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when three complex crimes land on his desk.

A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool. A young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.

As the threads of these three apparently unrelated cases come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.

What a fabulous way to start off the blogging year. This is my first Varg Veum novel, but it definitely won’t be the last one I read, as I was completely sucked in to his world.

Coming in to the series completely cold, it took me a little while to sort out what Varg’s situation was and who he was as a character, but that just made me more intrigued by the book. We are dropped straight into the action as there is the discovery of a corpse and a disappearance in the first couple of pages, and we are introduced to Varg’s fractious relationship with the local police in Bergen. In the best traditions of hard-boiled PIs, Varg can’t resist getting involved in situations that should really be left to the police and inveigles his way into the heart of the investigation, managing to get information that the police struggle to access, because he doesn’t have to do things by the book.

There were three particular aspects of this novel that particularly made this book stand out from a run-of-the-mill PI novel. The first was the intricacy and complexity of the plot. Taking the very topical issue of climate change and ecological protest as one of its central plot points, Gunnar weaves together two different crimes to make a story of such devious twistedness that I truly had no idea what was behind the crimes or who was the perpetrator at any point and I would never have got to the conclusion by myself in a million years. The author clearly has a mind like a fiendish labyrinth and how he managed to keep it all straight as he was writing is a skill I would like to learn. I think I need to go back and try and find all the clues I missed the first time now I know how it unravels.

The second aspect I loved was the writing. For a dark crime novel, the writing is utterly poetic. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in this genre where the author manages to wax so lyrical about landscape, people and feelings and have it sit so naturally beside the darker aspects of the plot. It was a real pleasure to read, and made the book stand out for me as a literary cut above the herd.

Finally, and probably most appealing to me, was the beautiful evocation and exploration of the landscape of Norway. The book really brings it to life and it is fascinating to me as a country that is so vastly different to our own. A place of vast wilderness, where travel by ferry is as natural as taking a bus or train. Where being surrounded by nature is the norm and the populace really appreciate and revel in the natural landscape that surrounds them. It is a place that fascinates me and which features at the top of my bucket list, and I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in the sense of place which this book evoked. A book that was transportative in so many different ways.

This book has set a high standard for the coming year and I highly recommend it to fans of Nordic Noir, who are looking for a novel that represents the pinnacle of the genre.

Bitter Flowers will be published on 21 January and you can pre-order your copy from all good bookshops or online here.

Please do check out the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Granite Noir fest 2017. Gunnar Staalesen.

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour); Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

About the Translator

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Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgaard. He has previously translated The Consort of DeathCold HeartWe Shall Inherit the WindWhere Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.

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Book Review: The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo; Translated by Robert Ferguson

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Murder. Assassination. Revenge.

Discover the first short story collection from the King of Scandi Crime.

Meet a detective on the trail of a man suspected of murdering his twin; a hired assassin facing his greatest adversary; and two passengers meeting by chance on a plane, spelling romance or something far more sinister.

In his first ever collection of short stories, this master of crime delivers a gripping, edge-of-your seat read that you won’t be able to put down.

The first short story collection by Jo Nesbo and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this collection really blew me away with the range and depths of the ideas the author explores in these stories. He really mines the darkest and most base instincts of human kind here, and delves into some very dystopian ideas that are all the more disturbing for not being entirely incredible.

Normally I race through a book of short stories quite quickly, because they are consumed in easily digestible chunks – like grazing on snacks rather than consuming a three course meal. This book didn’t unfold that way for me. Firstly, many of the stories are not short, a couple are more like short novellas. Secondly, every one of them is dense and complex, in characterisation, theme and development so, for me, it was just impossible to race through them quickly. Each of them needed slow and careful reading to unpack and appreciate all the nuance contained within. This is a book which has to be read in a considered and thoughtful fashion. A pause after the end of each was necessary to fully absorb what the author have revealed in the story, and I even broke off halfway through and read something a little lighter to break up the experience because of the effect the book was having on me.

Because I found this book quite bleak in general in the issues it explores and the conclusions that are drawn in the stories. These are not tales of uplifting experiences and positive affirmations of human nature. They are all dark, even fatalistic, in tone and paint quite a negative view of humanity. They feel quite appropriate for the way things are developing at the moment, maybe even prophetic, so if you are looking for a book to cheer you up when the current news gets too heavy, this isn’t it. It is, however, brilliantly written, thought-provoking and a masterclass in how to write a complete and satisfying short story. I am more impressed than ever by Nesbo’s writing, and his fans will love it.

The Jealousy Man is available in all formats here.

About the Author

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Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jonesbo.com

Facebook: Jo Nesbo

Instagram: @jonesbo_author

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Book Review: The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter

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Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

I am delighted to be posting my review of The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter today. I received an advance digital copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, and I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Have you ever read a book in which none of the characters were likeable? This is one of those books. Honestly, all of the characters are fairly awful, selfish people with a litany of faults and you’ll spend half the book wanting them to get their comeuppance. Especially the main two characters who takes turns in voicing the story, Charlie and Rachel. I didn’t like either of them from the beginning.

You’d think this would be the death knell for a novel, wouldn’t you, but you’d be wrong. The Dinner Guest had me hooked from first page to last in a way that I meant I could not look away and I raced through the pages. To achieve this with characters for whom I had practically no sympathy was nothing short of bare genius by the author.

The book thrusts us into the perfect world of Charlie, a man who has never known a day of hardship in his life and who seems to have everything anyone could wish for. Perfect home, great job, perfect husband, perfect stepson, no financial worries. Then he bumps into Rachel whose life is the exact opposite. For some reason, Charlie’s husband decides to take Rachel under their wing and, from then on, the perfect facade starts to crack and disintegrate, as if Rachel’s appearance has infected it with rot.

The book jumps around in time, beginning with the aftermath of the murder of Charlie’s husband and then going back to the introduction of Rachel into their lives, and exploring all the characters back stories until we understand what has happened and why. The author has been extremely clever with the plotting of this novel, building the tension as facts are revealed piece by piece, but taking us off in different directions, so it is impossible to guess what is the truth and who is responsible for what until the very end. Many times I thought I had worked it out, only to be proven wrong and sent off down another path, so I had to keep reading and reading to construct another theory.

This book is a great psychological thriller, whose very ending completely chilled me and the whole thing left me shaken and excited for what I had just read. This writer is clearly very talented and I will be looking out for more of his work to pick up in the future. A great addition to the genre that I would highly recommend to its fans.

The Dinner Guest is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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B P Walter was born and raised in Essex, England. After spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management. He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and works in social media coordination. His debut novel, A Version of the Truth, was published in 2019, followed by Hold Your Breath in 2020, and The Dinner Guest, which was chosen as a Waterstones Book of the Month, in April 2021.

Connect with Barnaby:

Twitter: @BarnabyWalter

Instagram: @bpwalterauthor

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Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by Lucy V Hay #BookReview

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Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

Did You Know …?

Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.

Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lynmouth Stories, a short story collection by Lucy V Hay. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a very brief book containing just three short stories but it packs a punch that greatly belies its length. Tightly woven with impressively realised characterisation in such a small word count, Lucy V Hay has produced here a masterclass in the art of the short story.

All three stories are set in the tiny, coastal village of Lynmouth, popular with tourists. However, we visit during the low season, when the village shuts down and empties out, giving it a deserted and melancholy air, which provides the perfect backdrop for this collection  of dark and brooding stories. Focusing on the kind of threats that lurk behind closed doors, they remind us that appearances can be deceptive and we never know what dangers are lurking unseen in the most ordinary of settings.

All three stories have female protagonists, who are all very different. Some strong and determined, some finding strength they never knew they had and some crumbling under pressure, the stories explore different reactions under stress and what women can do in protection of themselves and those they love. Probing the darkest aspects of the human psyche, the author manages to convey an awful lot about these women in a very compact word count so you can feel exactly what they are going through in that moment. I really enjoyed the fact that the focus here was entirely on the women and their experiences, with the men largely remaining nameless, shadowy figures whose feelings and motives exist only in relation to the women’s.

This book left me feeling very unsettled. The author has produced an oppressive atmosphere throughout the stories, asking the reader to put themselves in the far from comfortable shoes of the protagonists and walk a little way in them. The stories will shake you out of your complacency and ask you to think about what other women may be dealing with in places we don’t see, even in the cosy seaside towns that the rest of us visit on happy family holidays for reasons of pleasure. It’s easy to sail along, forgetting that our fellow women may be struggling and fighting against enemies we can’t envisage. Maybe we should be more alert for the signs that may be laying in plain sight. The stories are asking us to look and ask, to think about what we are actually seeing. 

A short, uncomfortable but enthralling read.

The Lynmouth Stories is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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