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.

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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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Blog Tour: Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz; Translated by Rachel Ward #BookReview

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Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life – and family – have been destroyed by Hoogsmart’s actions.

With the police looking on from outside – their colleagues’ lives at stake – and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation … and a devastating outcome for the team … all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge.

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my turn on the blog tour for Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz, the fourth book featuring Chastity Riley, and the day is finally here, hurrah! I ADORE this series and I am so grateful to Anne Cater for giving me one of the coveted places on the tour to talk about how much I love it, and to Karen at Orenda Books for providing me with an advance digital copy for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

Nobody writes like Simone Buchholz. I don’t think there are many people who would dare. Every one of her books is different, every one feels like a slap to the face dealt to rouse you from your reading complacency and tell you to pay attention, every one is as fresh and unapologetically brazen – just like the character of Chastity Riley herself. Hotel Cartagena is no different, equally unmistakably Buchholz and unlike any of the previous books in the series.

We start immediately in the action, as Chastity finds herself at the centre of a hostage situation whilst celebrating Faller’s 65th birthday in a bar on the eighteenth floor of a harbourside hotel. The hostage takers are well-organised and determined, there is no easy way out, but it is hard for a bunch of law enforcement professionals to sit around and watch a crime being played out. I was immediately on the edge of my seat, wondering what they would do and fearful for them all, a situation mirrored by Chastity herself. The tensions between her colleagues that have been building over the previous books, largely due to Chastity’s complicated relationships with each of them, transfer themselves to their current situation, and we can see how these relationships are thrown into sharp relief by the stressful, knife-edge situation in which they find themselves.

One person missing from the room is Stepanovic, late to the party due  to a reluctance to put himself in a position of having to see Chastity in a social setting with two of her ex (or not so ex) lovers. The woman drives him crazy, he is trying to convince himself to forget her. However, as we see Stepanovic’s increasingly desperate concern for Riley manifesting in insubordination, aggression and crazy rescue plans, we can glean directly from his first person reaction to her plight his realisation just what she means to him, exactly as he reaches those conclusions himself.

Layered in amongst the present  unfolding of the hostage situation through Chastity’s eyes, we are also given information on the hostage takers and how this whole mess came about through a series of historical flashbacks. Far from taking away from the tension, understanding why what is happening is happening adds to the angst, because it becomes less and less clear who are the good and bad guys in this scenario. Throwing these shades of grey into the equation, exploring the nature of choice and necessity in the descent into a criminal life, and the motivations behind revenge and retribution stir the pot so that, when the inevitable reckoning comes in the now, the line between who to blame and who to pity becomes blurred.

During the course of events, Chastity is injured and becomes unwell and delirious, unsure what is real and what is illusionary, which adds a disjointed and disconnected quality to her observations of the scene. She finds herself in the unfamiliar position of bystander, weakened and helpless, able to do nothing but watch as her colleagues take drastic action. It shows us a different side to Chastity, and I was fully there, trapped in her body, horrified by what I was watching. This powerlessness added to my dismay and heartbreak at the outcome of the incident, a weight which is laying heavy on my chest even now as I write. To be able to write so affectingly, especially in the sharp, snappy, staccato way this author does, is some impressive skill.

This book won’t be like anything you have read before, even if you have read this author or this series. Her ability to continue to evolve, morph, surprise even her biggest fans is what keeps me coming back to her books with child-like excitement and enthusiasm each time. She is never boring, never repetitive, and very, very brave. Aided by a translator who understands her and is with her every step of the way and a publisher who is not afraid to take risks on the extraordinary, who knows where this author can go? Any reader who loves a dark, gritty, hard-boiled novel and prides themselves on stretching themselves in their reading should be taking this ride too.

Hotel Cartagena is out now in ebook and paperback, and on audiobook on 1 April and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out some of the reviews by the other great bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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

Connect with Simone:

Website: https://simonebuchholz.com

Twitter: @ohneKlippo

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Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward #BookReview

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This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

It is my great privilege to be reviewing an advance copy of this book provided to me for this purpose by Sahina Bibi at Viper Books. My thanks to Sahina for the opportunity, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I’ve been wrestling with writing this post for a few weeks now, because I knew this was going to be a very hard book to review for two reasons. Firstly, it is vital that the reader goes into this book completely in the dark as to plot to experience the full impact of the story, so I have to make sure the review doesn’t contain the slightest sniff of a spoiler, which is not an easy feat here. Secondly, the book is stunning in ways it is hard to convey with my inadequate words. However, a review has been promised so a review I shall deliver to the best of my abilities.

As you can gather from the blurb reproduced above, this is a thriller with a murder at its heart and involving a missing child. That’s about as much of the plot as I can tell you. The story is told through the voices of three narrators. Ted, an awkward, socially-inept man who lives alone on Needless Street. Dee, whose younger sister Lulu went missing years before, and for whom she has been searching ever since. And Ted’s cat, Olivia.

I know. A cat as a narrator. Any book using this device wouldn’t normally be my bag but, trust me, here it works. Truly. Do not let this put you off from picking up the book, it is vital to the plot and you will appreciate the genius of it once you have finished the book, I promise.

That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. You have to go into the book with no more knowledge than this. No more chat about characters, or how the plot is put together, or highs and lows or endings or anything. You need to find these things out for yourself by reading it, so that you can experience the mental impact of the book’s events as they unfold on the page, as the author intended. You need to not know to appreciate it. Instead, let’s talk about the writing.

This book is dark and twisted and disturbing and oppressive and upsetting, and so beautiful and poetic that it makes me want to weep with joy and envy. I was baffled and perplexed and confused and surprised and moved and thrown and distraught and horrified and sorry from one moment to the next. I had no idea what was coming, and could never have understood or appreciated it until right at the end, when I was blown away as everything suddenly fell into place. It was totally shocking and utterly, utterly wonderful. I immediately wanted to go back to the start and read it over again from the new perspective of someone who has finished it and sees it all. This is a book where you can NEVER have the same experience you had on your first reading ever again, so savour that first time. How the author has woven this book together, the depth of exploration of the subject matter, the empathy, the tenderness, the poetry of the writing, the gorgeous metaphors – it is nothing short of astonishing. I have never read anything like this book. I have never come away from a novel with the thoughts and feelings that this novel gave me. I was profoundly surprised by what it achieved and how it made me feel.

I know this review is a bit vague, I’d apologise but there is no other way to do it and leave the reading experience intact for you. Suffice it to say, you should read it. Did I love it? That’s not the right way to express how it made me feel and if you read it you’ll understand why I say this. You may think you know thrillers. You don’t. You may think you have seen it all so nothing can surprise you. You haven’t. This book is something else. Just read it and see, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Last House on Needless Street will be published on 18 March in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats and on 30 September in paperback, and you can pre-order the book 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. Her next gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).

Ward’s second novel, 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: Bound by Vanda Symon #BookReview

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The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

I have become a huge fan of Vanda Symon’s books over the past three years, so I am delighted to be one of the blogs launching the tour today for the latest book in the Sam Shephard series, Bound. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

After following Sam through the preceding three books in the series and watching her as she has grown and matured in her life, both in and out of the police force, she has become a bit of a friend now and I am always keen to catch up with and see what she is up to. Well, in this latest instalment, things are kicking off on every front for her.

The book opens with a particularly brutal crime which seems to be firmly tied to some unsavoury underworld bigwigs. However, it all seems to have come together a bit too conveniently for Sam’s liking, and she has her doubts about the way the investigation is going. Knowing Sam as we do by now, she never opts for the easy route and can’t keep her doubts to herself, which sets her on a collision course with most of her colleagues, particularly her boss, DI Johns, with whom her relationship just gets worse and worse. The scenes between feisty, take-no-crap Sam and the cantankerous boss are some of my favourites in the book.

At least Paul always has her back, and their relationship seems to be going from strength to strength. I have to admit, through the author’s descriptions, I have slightly got the hots for Paul myself but things are getting more complicated for Sam in that area of her life too. Then, throw in her father’s illness, her fraught relationship with her mother, the decline in her old partner Smithy … poor Sam has anything but a quiet life in any quarter at the moment. Thank heavens for Maggie!

I thought this book was fabulously plotted from start to finish. The crime was brutal and baffling, and it was a joy to watch things unfold to reveal all, which did not end as I thought it might. Vanda’s writing is smarty and snappy, with short chapters that keep you reading and reading at pace, with no time to even take a breath, it is fairly relentless which keeps it exciting. The clues are there to the solution if you pay attention, but it is fiendish enough to keep you guessing, and there are plenty of surprises at the conclusion to reward the effort of reading to the end (which is no effort at all, to be fair) and leave you panting for the next book to see how certain aspects pan out.

Vanda is a really clever writer. Her plots are ingenious and gripping, her characters living and breathing and she creates a real sense of place, which will make you dying to hop a plane to New Zealand as soon as possible. Sam is a proper, imperfect, relatable, warm and admirable person to carry the story, you really care about what happens because of her. I only have one complaint. I now have to wait a whole year for another Sam Shephard book, which is tortuous. Write faster, Vanda, please. Faster, faster!

Bound is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 4 March, and you can buy a copy here.

The book is taking a month-long blog tour, so do make sure to follow along:

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About the Author

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

Connect with Vanda:

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

Facebook: Vanda Simon

Twitter: @vandasymon

Instagram: @vandasymon

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Blog Tour: Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst; Translated by Megan Turney #BookReview

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Oslo, New Year’s Eve. The annual firework celebration is rocked by an explosion and the city is put on terrorist alert.

Police officer Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm are on the scene, and when a severely injured survivor is pulled from the icy harbour, she is identified as the mother of two-year-old Patricia Semplass, who was kidnapped on her way home from kindergarten ten years earlier … and never found.

Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the unsolved case, as public interest heightens, the terror threat is raised, and it becomes clear that Patricia’s disappearance is not all that it seems…

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst, the second book in the Blix & Ramm series. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for asking me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I haven’t read the first book in the Blix & Ramm series (an oversight I intend to remedy soon, I have now downloaded it to my kindle for 99p!) but it did not impact my enjoyment of this book one bit. It was very easy to take stock of the relationship between the policeman and the journalist, and it was a fascinating and very effective dynamic in carrying the plot of the book.

It would be hard to think of a more dramatic opening to a novel that a bomb exploding in a crowded area just as people have gathered to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and we are immediately set on the road of following a terrorism investigation. However, when one of the survivors is identified as the mother of a missing child, a spur of the investigation leads to the opening of a cold case from Blix’s past, and we are taken on a wild and unexpected ride.

I am always fascinated by how two authors with their own individual voices and ideas manage to knit a book together without the join showing, and this is a particularly fine example. The writing flows perfectly, aided no doubt by the excellent translation by Megan Turney, and is surprisingly light and easy to read for a Nordic Noir novel. However, I don’t want to imply that this detracts from the tension in the plot, it doesn’t one bit, just that the book is an absolute pleasure to read and easily accessible to all, despite being translated fiction. I inhaled this in one single sitting and was very sad when it was done, hence the immediate purchasing of the preceding book.

The alternating between the points of view of Blix and Ramm worked really well to unveil different aspects of the case. Both individuals are invested in its solution for different, personal reasons, and I loved getting to know them both through their thoughts and actions. The relationship between the two of them is complicated as well, both personally and professionally, and the exploration of this adds another dimension to the story. Despite being easy to read, the book is complex and multi-layered, no mean feat to achieve for one author, never mind two working together. Or maybe two minds added an extra dimension – an interesting thought to ponder!

The plot of the novel was satisfyingly convoluted, I had no idea how it was going to pan out until near the end, so it gave my grey matter the workout I am always looking for in a good crime novel. I also really enjoyed the glimpses into life in Oslo; Scandinavia is an area of Europe I have never visited but which inches ever higher on my list of must-gos when the current pandemic is over. The book gave me everything I could want in a great read for an idle weekend – scintillating characters, a fiendish plot, tension and excitement both practical and emotional, and a visit to unknown shores. Ticked all my boxes, great stuff.

Smoke Screen is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here. The first book in the series, Death Deservedis currently 99p on Kindle.

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

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About the Authors

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1 internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved was Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller. They are currently working on the third book in the Blix & Ramm series.

Connect with the authors:

Facebook: Jorn Lier Horst / Thomas Enger

Twitter: @LierHorst / @EngerThomas

Instagram: @lierhorst / @thomas_enger_books

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Blog Tour: Gordon Square by Tracy Martin-Summers #Spotlight

Gordon Square

It is my turn on the blog tour today for Gordon Square by Tracy Summers-Martin and I am happy to be shining the spotlight on the book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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On a cold blustery November night, Detective Sergeant Mike Brugge and his partner Detective Constable Mel Bailey come across a girl, age unknown, in the parkland in Gordon Square. She was frail, malnourished, dirty and covered in excrement.

What had happened to this girl?Why was she covering down, shielding her eyes from the light, with a look of horror on her face? She appeared to be non-coherent, totally unengaged and would not speak to anyone. Nothing could penetrate the world where her soul had taken solace.

Mike and Mel set out to find out where she had come from and what had been per plight. Revealing hypnosis sessions allow them to glimpse some of her pain suffering.Follow their story deep into the horrors that unfold, causing chaos and turmoil among their own lives.

The detectives are about to discover a horrific, gut-wrenching story, that spanned over four decades. But will it end?

I’m shining the spotlight today on this thriller which has great reviews on Amazon and is described as a gripping crime novel with lots of twists and turns and relatable and likeable protagonists. The book is taking a tour, so make sure you follow some of the blogs listed below to read some reviews of the book for yourself.

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If you would like to get hold of a copy of the book, you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Tracy Martin Book Tour

Tracy was born in Harrow Weald, Middlesex in 1964, growing up in a loving family home. She married her first husband in 1990, has two grown up children and a granddaughter.

She studied a variety of topics via module learning, embarking on City and Guilds and NVQ courses, ranging from a brief spell in hairdressing to administration and now works for a utility company in North West London.

Tracy has numerous hobbies consisting of landscape painting to landscape gardening and always likes to paint the scene, even if it’s changing the colour scheme, yet again, within her home.

Tracy has always enjoyed writing and used to write short stories for her own children’s amusement but it has only been in the last few years that she has taken this more seriously and has gone on to write her first debut crime detective Novel called Gordon Square.

Tracy Married her second husband in 2014 and now lives in Bedfordshire in a sleepy hamlet where she writes whenever she gets a spare moment.

Connect with Tracy:

Website: https://www.tracymartinsummers.co.uk/

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Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview

Deity proof cover

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge. Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Why was he never officially charged? Are reports of a haunting really true?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive, spine-chilling thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my turn on the blog tour for Deity by Matt Wesolowski, the fifth book in his fantastic Six Stories series. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher, Orenda Books, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you are a follower of the blog, you will be aware what a fan I am of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. His last book, Beast, was one of my Top Twelve Books of 2020, so I was really looking forward to reading this. The original format of these novels, a six episode podcast delving into a cold criminal case from half a dozen diverse perspectives, gleaned from people involved in the mystery, is fresh and exciting and makes for a very unique reading experience. In this book as well we are treated to snippets from the final interview with enigmatic pop god, Zach Crystal, before his mysterious death.

Pop God. I picked those words carefully because this is the main theme running through the book and the reason for the title. Our obsession with celebrity and the elevating of those with talent to a position where they become untouchable, so they are able to hide their true selves from the world. The way some people become so revered that no one is allowed to say a word against them and their fans will defend them to the last, whatever is revealed about their true nature. I’m sure we can all think of people this has applied to in recent times and how hard it has been to bring certain people to justice for crimes because of their huge power and influence. This has been a hot topic in recent years, and Matt mines it for effect very successfully here, weaving a disturbing and thought-provoking tale.

You can draw your own conclusions on what real-life happenings Matt has drawn from to write this book but there is one obvious parallel to me, and this book managed to raise and explore a lot of the questions I have asked myself in the past when these issues have been raised. Is it possible to separate a person’s art from their actions? How, as a society, are we complicit in deifying these people to such an extent that they can do no wrong? How do we allow money and power to shield people in a way that the man in the street is not shielded from scrutiny and question? How do people allow themselves to be so seduced by money and glamour that they will put their loved ones in a situation that they never would otherwise? As in his other books, Matt is exploring the ways in which our society is broken and corrupt and clearly pointing us at some unpalatable truths.

The book is addictive holding you in thrall from start to finish. Each new interviewee peels back another side to the case so you build the picture slowly, only to have it unpicked and rearranged in the next chapter. You can’t know the truth until the last pages, and even then you will find yourself left with questions and conundrums to mull over long after you close the back cover. The book isn’t a comfortable read, that solves a mystery with a neat little bow. It is dark and ragged and fragmented and sinister. It is probing and questioning and revealing and deeply uncomfortable. Matt’s writing explores the dark side of life, bringing the most terrifying childhood stories into stark and too-real adult life. Pick up this book and prepare to be disturbed and challenged and left unsettled. This is no fairytale.

This series just keeps getting better and better, the writer striding into each new episode with increased confidence and bravado. At least that is how it comes across, and the release of a Six Stories book has become one of the highlights of my reading year. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, now is a great time to start.

(Huge apologies to Matt, Karen and Anne for not getting this posted yesterday as promised.)

Deity is out now in ebook format and will be published in paperback on 18 February, and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

MattWesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies, such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013.

Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

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