I’m delighted to be taking part in today’s turn on the Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson blog tour with the fabulous Noelle at CrimeBookJunkie and I’m sharing my thoughts on the book with you.
Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and the secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place. Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.
I fell in love with this book at the prologue! Whiteout begins with a brief and beautiful prologue that perfectly sets the reader up for the mysteries and secrets that are to follow. Jónasson’s prose throughout is enchanting.
Whiteout is the fifth in the Dark Iceland series, however, it can be read equally well as a standalone. When the body of a young woman is found at the bottom of the cliffs in the desolate village of Kalfshamarvik, Ari Thór is called upon to investigate and determine if this was a suicide or something more sinister.
Whiteout reminded me of a classic crime novel with its emphasis on old school detective work rather than forensic science and that adds to the enjoyment and sheer pleasure you get from reading this book. It is solidly crafted and meticulously plotted. Red herrings abound and Jónasson keeps you on the back foot in regards to who can and cannot be trusted. I adored the characters in Whiteout as Ari Thór finds himself amongst the strange inhabitants of a village that has been largely abandoned. The cast are most definitely odd and, thus, utterly compelling. I found myself mesmerised by Whiteout – not something I usually get with crime fiction.
Whiteout is absolutely brimming with atmosphere and the setting plays an important part in the overall sense and structure of this book. The feelings of isolation and bleakness serve to add to the sinister undercurrent that runs throughout. Whiteout moves at a steady pace and is a book to be savoured rather than rushed through as you want to take in every word.
The perfect winter crime read, especially for fans of more golden age crime fiction, Whiteout is beautiful for a crime novel. Jónasson’s writing talent shines through and it has been translated to perfection by Quentin Bates. Grab yourself a steaming mug of hot chocolate, get cosy in front of the fire and immerse yourself within this stunning book.
Published on 1 November 2017 by Orenda Books.
A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
About the Author
Ragnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 18 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as a lawyer. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.
I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on The House by Simon Lelic blog tour. This appears to be a book that has caused mixed opinions and I would love to know what you think if you have read it! But first, what is it about?
The perfect couple. The perfect house. THE PERFECT CRIME.
Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.
So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.
Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.
AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.
The House by Simon Lelic had all the things I generally love in a book – the promise of a spooky house, a striking cover which differs from what we are currently used to seeing and the tag ‘psychological thriller’. I was really excited to get stuck into this book and I wanted (and expected) to love it, but sadly it turned out not to be for me.
Jack and Sydney have moved into their first home together. A house that should have been out of their reach financially somehow ends up being theirs. As the saying goes: ‘If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ and Jack and Sydney find this out to their cost. Jack always feels uneasy in the house and when he makes a grim discovery in the attic his fears are confirmed and things rapidly decline for them both.
Told in alternating chapters via Jack and Sydney in first person narrative, the story gradually unfolds via their individual perspectives. Lelic is a great writer and his ability to totally capture each unique voice is second to none. I believed I was being spoken to by two different people. Neither of the characters are particularly likeable, again this is something I normally relish within a novel, however, on this occasion I felt numb to it. The House is a very character driven plot and is very much a slow burner. Lelic has weaved together an intricate tale in which the threads are meticulously plotted and all come together well at the end.
While writing this, I can see all the things that should have made me love this book. I have wondered if I have a kind of psychological thriller burn-out, as I have been quite saturated by this genre recently. I worry that my mood at the time of reading may have hindered my enjoyment of this book. Sadly, I had guessed the eventual outcome correctly so I didn’t have the ‘oh my God’ revelation moment that others may have. I wasn’t effected by the characters which also had an impact on my enjoyment and I can’t really put my finger on why this was the case.
From the title and the cover I was expecting the actual house to feature more prominently within the story. I get why the book is called The House, however, I was expecting the book to be focused more strongly around it and it isn’t. A part of me was a little disappointed by this, but bear in mind that I am rather partial to a gothic story with a looming, all-embracing, spooky house and Lelic’s The House is more subtle.
The House appears to be one of those books that divides opinion and, unfortunately, I’m one of those who it didn’t work for. I certainly appreciate the writing and the way in which Lelic has created the main characters and woven the plot together, but it just didn’t effect me or shock me. As stated earlier, it may be that I have read too many novels in this particular genre recently. Would I recommend it? This is tricky for me to answer as although I wasn’t grabbed by it, I know others who were. Read a selection of reviews and decide from there would be my advice.
Published on eBook on 17 August 2017 and in paperback on 2 November 2017 by Penguin.
About the Author
Simon Lelic is the author of The House, Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy New Blood Dagger), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012).
The House is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.
Simon is married, with three young children, and lives in Brighton, England. Other than his family, reading is Simon’s biggest passion. He also holds a black belt in karate, in which he trains daily.
A huge thank you to Simon Lelic and Penguin for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
I am really excited to be taking part in the blog tour for M. Jonathan Lee’s Broken Branches today, sharing my review AND Jonathan’s Author Influences. I adored this beautiful book which is published Hideaway Fall … judging by the quality of their first publication, Hideaway Fall have an exciting future ahead of them!
‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’
A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.
There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.
Oh my goodness, where to start with this review? An inheritance, a marriage on the rocks and a curse all combined with gorgeous writing make Broken Branches a beautiful and emotional read.
I was completely swept along by the first chapter in which we first meet the main character, Ian Perkins, and his property Cobweb Cottage. We learn of a family tragedy that has resulted in Ian and his family moving into the cottage and also a possible inherited curse. With gorgeous descriptions of the cottage and the imposing Sycamore tree that stands outside the front of the house Broken Branches promises an intriguing, somewhat gothic, tale and it continues to deliver.
Ian is an interesting character who is trying to prove that the curse his family have talked about through the generations exists. We meet him in the midst of his failing marriage to Rachel and, for a reason of which we are unaware, Ian believes that establishing there really is a curse on the Perkins family will save his relationship. Broken Branches is told largely from Ian’s perspective; switching between the present day in which he is completing his genealogical research and his childhood growing up in the cottage he is again inhabiting. I was really touched by his teenage experiences – his sense of loneliness, the difference in the way he is treated compared to his older brother and the difficulties in his relationship with his family members – and his love of reading resonated with me, bringing back memories of my own worn and underlined copies of Wuthering Heights and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Ian’s desperation in his search for the truth about his family grows and becomes more apparent as Broken Branches unfurls. I was with Ian throughouthis journey and felt his emotions and sense of urgency.
Punctuated with brief glimpses of Rachel’s point of view later in the book, the reader begins to question Ian’s version of events adding to the captivation of the novel. This really enhanced my interest in the story that was unfolding.
Broken Branches has a quietly disconcerting feel to it which stays with the reader throughout the course of the book. There are a few seemingly supernatural elements that send delicate shivers down your spine. Lee’s prose is stunning and he uses nature to maximum effect to create atmosphere. The ominous Sycamore tree plays a large part and that, along with the other references to nature, gives it that gothic feel I spoke about at the beginning of the review. The imagery Lee presents gives Broken Branches a thoughtful perspective and an added layer that is compelling and irresistible.
Part mystery, part gothic novel Broken Branches is a gorgeous book about grief and guilt that will stay with me for a long time. Simply wonderful!
Published on 27 July 2017 by Hideaway Fall Publishing.
A huge thank you to M.Jonathan Lee and Hideaway Fall for my advance copy in exchange for my review and to Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
I will now hand you over to Jonathan to tell you about his author influences.
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child? Roald Dahl was and always has been my favourite. I love everything that he has written. I read the short stories and Unexpected Tales over and over again.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it? It was by far my best subject. As a ten year old I was sent to the headmaster for writing a story where the lead protagonist met his end half way through the story and a second character became the main character. I was told that type of writing was inappropriate.
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write? I read a lot of true crime. I am an obsessed with what makes somebody do something horrific to another human being, though I don’t like reading any of the actual grisly details. I read anything that interests me though, and usually switch between fact and fiction. I do think that it has an impact on my novels. I actually think that everything around me in life has a tiny input into what I read.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why? I hate sci-fi. Anything that ‘couldn’t happen’ in real life is not my thing. However, I do have this crazy sci-fi idea about a company that trades in death which comes to the forefront of my mind from time to time. Maybe I’ll write it one day.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why? I think Mark Haddon and Joseph Connolly had the biggest impact. A Spot of Bother and Summer Things respectively.
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it? Not really. I’m the same with music. I am obsessed and there are numerous bands I adore, but I tend to buy books and music when the mood takes me as opposed to waiting for something to come out. I’m a massive Stephen King fan, and haven’t read anything by him for about five years. Last week, I suddenly thought “I fancy some Stephen King,” and went online and bought four recent novels. I’ve read three.
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book? Ha. So many times. Misery sticks in my mind as one.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!) Yes absolutely. I observe everything around me and I am always taking note of little snippets of conversations or mannerisms that I hear. So in that sense all my books have a bit of reality in them. A Tiny Feeling of Fear (my third novel) is very personal to me, and there is more in there which reflects reality than people may think. I’d recommend people watching my documentary short, Hidden (on YouTube) for more information.
Thank you Jonathan for taking part!
About M. Jonathan Lee
M. Jonathan Lee is based in Yorkshire and is the author of several award-nominated novels. He began writing seriously in 2006 shortly after the suicide of his brother, Simon, who had been struggling with depression. Jonathan is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness. He has written for Mind and Rethink charities and has a regular blog on the Huffington Post. He is divorced and now remarried, between them they have five children, two cats and a dog.
I am delighted to bring you an exclusive excerpt today of Reality Rehab, the debut novel by former producer Lisa Mary London. Grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy!
Faded soap star Gloria Grayson swaps banoffee pie for humble pie with a stint on reality TV. But her last ditch bid to salvage her celebrity backfires, when the ex-husband from hell is sprung on her in front of 10 million viewers. Can Gloria win back A-list status, happy ever after and her Rear of the Year title? Reality is stranger than fiction!
Faded TV star Gloria Grayson has hit rock bottom. Sacked from her starring role in a top soap, divorced from hell-raising actor ‘Mad’ Tommy Mack, and obese from binge eating, her days as Britain’s sexiest blonde are well and truly over.
But her luck changes when cruel paparazzi photos relaunch her career, and she and her fat, feisty dog are booked to appear on TV’s Reality Rehab.
Gloria is incarcerated with an American psychotherapist, a rabble of D-list celebrities and umpteen cameras, then put on a starvation diet. But worse is to come, with the shock arrival of her alcoholic ex-husband.
Tears and tantrums ensue as the divorced couple’s therapy sessions take over the show, and ratings soar. The other celebrities are infuriated to be sidelined and Reality Rehab fast becomes The Tommy and Glo Show.
But Gloria and Tommy are hiding explosive secrets from each other and 10 million viewers – Reality is stranger than fiction!
Life’s A Bitch And Then You Diet
The weirdest thing just happened. A woman walked up to my table at Highgate Bistro and said: ‘Excuse me – Didn’t you used to be Gloria Grayson?’
I was reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest diet in a celebrity magazine, a forkful of steak and chips halfway to my mouth. I was taken aback. Used to be Gloria Grayson? What a strange question. Whatever could she mean?
I put down my cutlery, gave her my most dazzling smile and replied, wittily, that I was still Gloria Grayson the last time I looked. She was a dumpy old lump bless her, but the burden of fame weighs heavy on me. I can’t begrudge a fan the chance to bask in my celebrity aura, even a fan as drab as this one. Then I awaited the inevitable selfie request.
But it never came. She just raised a shaggy eyebrow, sniggered and lumbered back to her equally frumpy friend. They’re sat two tables down having coffee and tarte tatin. I hope they didn’t nab the last slices, that’s my favourite dessert. They’re whispering and giggling… People can act strangely in the presence of a star. It’s intimidating for them I suppose, they’re overwhelmed God love ‘em.
Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I was approached by a fan. When I was on TV every week, the lead actress in Britain’s top soap, I was forever being mobbed. Fans chased me down the street pleading for photos and autographs, desperate to cop a feel of a genuine, bona fide star. Well there are so few of us around these days, thanks to reality television and all the ghastly fake celebrities it’s spawned.
To a great extent I blame my agent Belinda. She’s taken loads of these reality TV types on her books, you know the sort. Nonentities who are famous for absolutely no good reason. People without an ounce of talent, whose hitherto biggest life achievement was producing a bowel movement. These no-marks are NOT celebrities, but Belinda’s getting work for them hand over fist and neglecting me, the genuine article!
I wouldn’t mind if they had a talent, could dance, sing, tell a joke or even read autocue without squinting. But they can’t and they’re stealing work off us pros! We’ve earned our fame the hard way, been to drama school, toured the provinces, slept with TV executives. These cretins spend a fortnight in a house with CCTV cameras and walk out of there megastars. The world’s gone mad.
I met that Joey Essex at a showbiz do once. Nice enough lad, but he should be stacking shelves at Homebase, not hosting his own TV shows! He was all over me, horribly star struck. Gushed he was my biggest fan ever, said I was ‘Peng’ and ‘Sick’ and begged me to pose for a selfie. I duly obliged and later found he’d posted it to Instagram with the caption: ‘Me & Barberra Windser – Wot a carry on, LOL!!!’ It got 10,000 Likes and what’s more, NO ONE CORRECTED HIM! And this is what the millennial generation calls a celebrity… Liza Minnelli would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead.
Skimpy pile of French fries today, I’m still peckish. I’m sure these bistro portions are getting smaller you know. Maybe I’ll order myself a baguette basket. Baby-Girl’s fast asleep on the chair beside me in her tutu and tiara, snoring like a tractor. She had bangers and mash with onion gravy and petits pois, licked the plate clean. The vet says she’s obese but she looks fine to me. Though recently I’ve been buying her doggy dresses a size bigger. Last week I had to put my foot in her back to zip up her ra ra skirt… Maybe I won’t order her a dessert today…
Well there’s nothing else for it with no money coming in, I’m going to have to sell my engagement ring. It’s not like it has any sentimental value, I even paid for it myself. Tommy said he’d stump up, but needless to say he never got round to it. Oh I know, I know, the omens were there from the start. Last week I took it to the village jeweller for a valuation and he said the diamond was severely flawed. I said: ‘So was the marriage’.
Sad to say, it’s the only bit of bling I have left that I haven’t sold. Apart from my gold ‘GG’ necklace, but I wouldn’t part with that. Not because Tommy gave it to me you understand, just because… Well it’s my signature piece, my trademark if you will. I was pictured wearing it when I picked up Soap’s Sexiest Female Award, and at my big leaving bash for Jubilee Road. Oh and in those famous tabloid shots of me throwing Tommy’s clothes out of our bedroom window, into the swimming pool. It’s funny really, he’s the only one who’s ever called me GG.
‘Pour me a scotch GG, it’s medicinal – I’m sick of being sober’.
‘Where’s that bacon sarnie GG – My belly thinks my throat’s been cut’.
‘Get me a beer GG – I’ve got a gob like Gandhi’s bum-crack’.
I told him GG made me sound like a horse and he said: ‘Well you are an old nag’.
God I’m so glad to be shot of the vodka-soaked loser! What did I ever see in him? I should have married a millionaire, not a third rate actor and first rate drunk. I had my pick of men. I copped off with Richard Branson at a party once, honestly I could kick myself now. Or was it Richard Bacon? I forget. Either way, I could have done a lot better than Tommy!
Sounds brilliant right? Published in the UK on 12 July 2017 you can order your copy now.
About Lisa Mary London
Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows. Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Tony Curtis to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.
‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’
Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.
‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of fattitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’
Gloria’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’). Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube). The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.
A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.
Five stories – Five Lives Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
I have always been interested in psychology and the human psyche, so I couldn’t resist reading Leuschel’s Manipulated Lives. This intriguing book takes the form of five novella length stories, each focusing on a different perspective of somebody who has been subjected to manipulation.
Leuschel has created a good mix of age ranges in order to tell the tales and experiences of those who have found themselves to be on the receiving end of manipulation. There is an octogenarian, a thirty-year-old, a teenager and the mother of a grown-up son. I liked the scope of the stories and found the story about the teenager particularly pertinent as the issue of domestic abuse within teenage relationships is something that has been highlighted recently as prevalent. My only slight criticism is that none of the stories gave the perspective of a female manipulating a male. As domestic abuse does occur in heterosexual relationships in which the female is the abuser and thus uses manipulation techniques I personally would have liked to have seen this covered.
In The Narcissist Leuschel writes from the point of view of the manipulator and this adds a different layer to the book. Leuschel writes this particular story incredibly well, really taking you into the mind of the narcissist and their disturbing thought patterns.
It is clear that Leuschel has carefully researched narcissistic personality traits and human behaviour as the feelings and thoughts that come through the characters are insightful and intelligent. The story that really resonated with me was The Spell which focuses on the relationship between a young woman and an older man who has a child. As an ex-social worker I came across many men like David and it rang so true for me. She portrays really well the niggly feeling you get that something isn’t right but you can’t put your finger on what it is, the feeling that the stories they tell you don’t quite add up and the use of a child that often compels people to stay within these destructive relationships. Leuschel’s observations of the behaviours used by the abuser – making out they are the victim, rapid mood changes – are all accurately portrayed.
If you are wanting a book that explores the dark side of the human psyche that is both authentic in its approach but not difficult to understand or read check out Manipulated Lives. It is thought-provoking and chillingly accurate in its portrayal of manipulation in everyday life.
Published on 28 June 2016 by CreateSpace.
A huge thank you to H A Leuschel for the copy in exchange for my review.
A mystery always begins with a murder – but what if it’s the killer who turns up dead?
Detective Charlie Cooper is on the verge of leaving Homicide to spend more time with his young family. But when the serial killer he’s been chasing for a decade is murdered, Cooper has the chance to save the killer’s final victim and atone for all the ones he’s failed.
After a life-saving heart transplant, Eva Matthews just wants things to get back to normal. But when she learns she’s received the heart of the serial killer, she can’t ignore the strange dreams that now haunt her. Is the killer’s heart telling her where his final victim is hidden?
DARK HEART is the first book in the Dark Series of contemporary mysteries set in Sydney, Australia. If you love a tough, clever detective, a loyal sidekick, an evil villain, and a twisting plot, you’ll love the first book in Catherine Lee’s page-turning series.
Pick up Dark Heart to discover this exciting new series today!
I have to admit to having Dark Heart sitting on my Kindle for a while. This is the first in Lee’s Dark Series featuring detectives Charlie Cooper and Joe Quinn, set in Sydney, Australia. I began reading this book having not reminded myself of the synopsis and was expecting your average run-of-the-mill crime thriller. Boy, was I wrong, Dark Heart proved to be anything but!
For nine years Cooper has been trying to find a serial murderer dubbed the Adultery Killer to the point that it has made him reconsider his position within the homicide team. Imagine his surprise when the victim of a recent murder is discovered to be the elusive Adultery Killer! A chain of events is set in motion which takes Cooper, Quinn and the reader on an unusual, twisting journey. Will Cooper and Quinn be able to find the Adultery Killer’s latest victim before it’s too late? Dark Heart moves along at a great pace and while I enjoyed the crime and procedural aspect to the book, it is the social and psychological themes that really appealed to me.
Cellular memory features heavily in Dark Heart and gives it a thought-provoking edge. Following a transplant Eva Matthews discovers the new heart she has so desperately needed comes from a multiple murderer and this completely rocks her world. As she becomes unwittingly caught up in the frantic search for the Adultery Killer’s last victim. This really got me thinking about organ transplants and the psychological issues that can arise from this. I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that it is done anonymously or the reasons why this is the case, and Dark Heart caused me to mull this over. Lee has carefully considered the emotional fall out of finding out the heart you have placed inside of you that has, ultimately, saved your life, has come from a less than salubrious person. Would this have been as much of an issue to Eva if she hadn’t read about cellular memory prior to her transplant? While I’m not sure if I believe in the existence of cellular memory, I did wonder how I would feel to have the organ of a murderer inside of me.
Dark Heart flits between three points of view. There is the police procedural conducted by Cooper and Quinn, Eva’s experience of receiving a heart from a killer and Amanda, the final victim of the now deceases killer. Lee has also added a depth to the story of Amanda. As Amanda helplessly awaits her fate, not knowing if she will live or die, she contemplates her life and the decisions she has made. This effectively brought Amanda to life for me as more than ‘just’ the victim who has to be found.
An enjoyable read, Dark Heart surprised me with its hidden layers and thought-provoking themes making this different from your average crime thriller. As a result, I will be checking out the rest of the series.
Published on 31 July 2013 by CreateSpace Publishing.
Thank you to Catherine Lee for the copy in exchange for my honest review.
I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on the Deadly Game blog tour and sharing my review of Matt Johnson’s amazing new thriller. But first a little bit about what Deadly Game is about…
Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed.
Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all…
Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.
Deadly Game is the second book in the Robert Finlay series, the first being Wicked Game. I have to confess to not having read the first book and I did worry initially that Deadly Game wouldn’t work as a standalone. I didn’t have to worry as Johnson has written the book in such a way that you get enough information about what happened in the first book making it easy to pick up and follow.
Police Inspector Robert Finlay has been assigned to a new team to investigate people trafficking and the sex-slave industry. This brings him, inevitably, into contact with a ruthless Eastern European gang intent on keeping their business going. This becomes personal when the life of a fellow police officer comes under threat. We learn that in the previous book attempts were made to take Robert and his family’s life and this threat has not yet fully diminished, leading you into a world of spies, terrorism and conspiracies.
The prologue draws you in immediately and sets the tone for the rest of the book. The tension you initially feel does not let up as Deadly Game twists and turns its way through to its dramatic and breath taking conclusion. The writing is slick and smooth with short chapters that tease and keep you turning those pages. I found myself muttering ‘oh my God’ frequently to the book. I could really see DeadlyGame on the big screen, it would make a great movie!
Characters, whether good or bad, are really important to me in a book. Robert Finlay comes across as real and authentic, and Johnson has done a great job in creating a believable character. As ex-SAS and recently having had his and his family’s life on the line he is suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the dark and frantic nature of the book, Johnson has portrayed this aspect in a sympathetic, knowledgeable way. It does not get in the way of the character, rather the subtle way it is dealt with adds to the character and those around him. Finlay is really likeable and I will definitely be following his story throughout the rest of the series.
There is so much going on in Deadly Game, and with dual storylines it could easily get muddled and confusing but Johnson pulls it off seamlessly. This is not your straight forward detective story and I really enjoyed the thread involving MI5 and MI6 which gives it a real edge. With conspiracies, cover-ups and doubts over who is to be trusted, Deadly Game is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes throughout.
Johnson has created a gritty and current novel dealing with, sadly, very real issues. It is disturbing yet credible and has a real intelligence behind it. Days after finishing the book I still find myself worrying about one of the characters demonstrating just how immersed you become in this book. I eagerly anticipate the next book in the series.
Highly recommended, Deadly Game is tense, topical, exciting and gripping. More than ‘just’ a detective novel it really packs a punch and leaves you breathless!
Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda.
A huge thank you to Matt Johnson and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
Chuffed to bits to be hosting today’s turn on the After She’s Gone by Maggie James blog tour. I love a good psychological thriller so quickly agreed to take part in this one. What did I think? Read on to find out…
Lori Golden’s family has had more than its fair share of troubles. But through it all, Lori and her sister, Jessie, have always supported each other. Then Jessie is killed. And Lori’s world turns upside down.
Devastated, Lori struggles to cope with her loss, and to learn to live in a world without her bright, bubbly sister by her side. Around her, her already fractured family starts to fall apart. And as Lori and her mother try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, secrets long thought buried are coming painfully to light.
Faced with the unthinkable, Lori is forced to ask herself how well she really knows those who are left behind…
Having never read a Maggie James novel before I was keen to discover a ‘new to me’ author. When Lori Golden’s sixteen-year-old sister, Jessie, fails to return home one night, Lori’s family are thrust into a rapid descent of grief, mistrust and suspicion as long held secrets are gradually revealed.
The prologue introduces us to a mysterious figure who is setting fire to Bristol’s disused buildings and serves to hook the reader in immediately. From there we are introduced to Lori hours before her world falls apart. I really liked the way James sets the scene in chapter one and the sense of foreboding she instils into the reader. Largely told from the perspective of Lori with brief glimpses into the thoughts and feelings of her mother, step-brother and the arsonist, you are taken along with the tide of emotions and individual worries they all have.
The beauty of After She’s Gone for me was the portrayal of a family unravelling in the wake of a tragedy. James depicts this brilliantly. The Golden/Hamiltons are a blended family and the small cracks that were there from the beginning become ravines in the aftermath. The doubts and misgivings Lori and her mother had about their newest family members become more prominent in their minds and take on more significance and meaning, resulting in the family becoming fractured. As long held secrets are gradually revealed they all begin to look at each other through different eyes.
I thought I had it all figured out in regards to who was responsible for Jessie’s death. In some respects I did, but in other ways I was very wrong…which won’t make sense unless you read it! James cleverly plants red herrings and the plethora of secrets within the family has the reader second guessing themselves. Who, if anyone, can truly be trusted?
After She’s Gone is a great psychological thriller which plays on the fear of not being able to trust those closest to you. I loved the combination of trying to figure out who had done it along with the emotional response I had to a family falling apart. A great read.
Published on 16 March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.
Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.
Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.
For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?
These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognise when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.
Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.
All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organisations focusing on mental health issues.
I have mulled over this review for a while, worrying about my abilities to write a review that is also sensitive given the subject matter of A Mother’s Reckoning and the fact that it is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, whose son was tragically one of the shooters and took his own life during the event.
Sadly, the name Columbine has become synonymous with high school shootings in America and is now, I would guess, largely recognised for that than being an actual school. If you are unfamiliar with Columbine, on 20 April 1999 two high school students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, set off numerous bombs within their school. As they failed to detonate, the boys entered the school with guns shooting students and staff before committing suicide.
Although I always very much viewed as what happened on that cataclysmic day as a tragedy for both victims and shooters, I admit to being concerned on starting this book that Sue Klebold may try and excuse and absolve her son of responsibility. She doesn’t at all and writes with honesty about her son and her feelings towards him. I was also concerned that I may feel voyeuristic while reading this, however, Sue has, as I hoped, written about the extenuating circumstances which may have resulted in her son’s actions and highlights the impact of, as she terms ‘brain health’, and our inability as a society and as parents to recognise the signs and access the help needed.
While school shootings—in which students open fire on other students—don’t happen here in Britain, mental health amongst our children and teens is an escalating issue with a lack of resources available to provide support in a timely and appropriate manner, making this an interesting read for parents and professionals who work with children. In trying to understand why her son committed this act before taking his own life, Klebold has clearly spent a lot of time researching the subject and talking to professionals in the field. It is this clear emphasis on research that sets this book apart.
Klebold expresses her emotions during the aftermath with real feeling and intelligence. Describing how she loves her son and misses him and yet also feels angry with him and cannot come to terms with what he has done is incredibly moving. It is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been through it, yet Klebold manages to evoke empathy within the reader.
Powerful, raw, honest, heat-rending and intelligently written, I give all credit to Sue Klebold for putting herself out there in a bid to assist others despite potential back lash. is certainly not an easy read due to the subject matter but it is a thought-provoking and essential read and it has made me think more deeply about the issues raised and given me a different perspective on Dylan.
My thanks go to Sue Klebold, Ebury Publishing and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
Published on Ebook on 15 February 2016 and on paperback on 9 February 2017 by Ebury.
I’m absolutely delighted to be hosting a stop on the Devour by L A Larkin today and have a brilliant guest post by her about creating a series character. Without further ado, I will hand you over to L A Larkin…
Creating a series central character by L.A. Larkin
Thank you for asking me to write a guest post on how to create a series central character.
Devour is the first book in the new Olivia Wolfe thriller series. It’s one thing to create an engaging central character for a one-off novel. It’s a whole different ball game when that character is to keep readers interested across a number of books.
While thrillers and crime fiction are generally regarded as very plot-focused, it is the characters that readers fall in love with. Take, for example, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, or Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. When I prepare to write my next thriller, I spend a lot of time on my central characters, regardless of whether they are in a one-off novel, or, in a series. I create a whole back story, their childhood, their family, their relationships. I know their strengths and weaknesses, their fears, their quirks. I know more about them than I am ever likely to reveal in a story. This means that because I know them so well I can predict how they will react and what they will say without having to think too hard about it. As a result, I can keep the pen moving. Or, in my case, fingers tapping at the keyboard.
When creating Olivia Wolfe, I had to think ahead. If the series keeps going for a long time, how old will she be? Will she still be able to perform the role I want her to? How will she develop and grow over the series? Creating a book series means holding back on character revelations and history. In Devour I choose not to reveal too much about her relationship with father-figure, Jerry Butcher, or much about her parents, or why she is driven to expose the corrupt and the criminal. Wolfe must battle her demons over a number of books.
I also wanted to ensure that Wolfe’s skills allow me to keep creating exciting, high-stakes thrillers. For example, because I like to set my novels in different locations around the world, I needed it to be credible for Wolfe to travel with her job. So I made her an investigative journalist, who cut her teeth reporting from war zones. This experience has made her resilient and resourceful and, also, used to danger.
There is much, naturally, I cannot plan for in future books. I plot each book but I also believe it’s important to let characters write their own stories: to watch them fall and pick themselves up again and head off in unexpected directions. It’s a combined left and right brain dance: plot the chapter you are about to write and then give your characters the freedom to do something better.
I like my lead characters to learn something about themselves with each book, just as we do as we go through life. In Devour, Wolfe will lose everything she holds dear to stop a man who would use an Antarctic discovery to obliterate civilisation. But she will also discover something important about herself along the way.
Welcome to the high octane world of Olivia Wolfe.
As an investigative journalist, Wolfe lives her life in constant peril. Hunted by numerous enemies who are seldom what they first seem, she must unravel a complex web of lies to uncover an even more terrifying truth.
From the poppy palaces of Afghanistan and Antarctica’s forbidding wind-swept ice sheets, to a top-secret military base in the Nevada desert, Wolfe’s journey will ultimately lead her to a man who would obliterate civilisation. she must make an impossible choice: save a life – or prevent the death of millions.
L.A. Larkin’s thriller, Devour, is published by Constable at the end of January 2017. Peter James says Devour ‘delivers action and intrigue in spades,’ and Culturefly says, ‘If you are only going to read one novel in 2017, I suggest you make it Devour.’