Category Archives: Authors S to U

Reviews by author surname S to U

Blog Tour – The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen *Review*

I am delighted to be one of today’s hosts for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen and I’m finally sharing my review of this fab book. But first the all important blurb…

The Blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.
With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

My Thoughts

I love a book with a cracking first line and Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died has one of THOSE first lines. It is both amusing and unexpected. It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Jaakko is a successful mushroom farmer in Finland and is shocked when he finds out that he is dying. Not only is he dying but it is due to being poisoned. Jaakko embarks on a journey to discover who it is who wants him dead and discovers more secrets and lies than he expects.

I absolutely love Jaakko! Tuomainen has created an incredibly likeable, relatable character. You become completely at one with him and he is the sort of person I would love to have a pint with. Jaakko is incredibly human as we see his everyday concerns – such as having put on a bit of extra weight in his thirties – those things that we all, at times, worry about. His sardonic outlook and wry, dark wit appealed to me greatly. As somebody with a chronic illness who has had to adjust to certain limitations and symptoms, Jaakko’s outlook on his health and situation and how he deals with it really struck a chord with me. He manages to see the humour in his situation and The Man Who Died had me giggling out loud and nodding my head in agreement.

Tuomainen has also written a great mystery novel. As we join Jaakko on is journey to discover who is behind poisoning him we are treated to twists, turns and red herrings all set against a stunning backdrop. Tuomainen’s prose is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s as though he has spent time carefully considering every word to ensure it fits and makes an impact and yet it flows effortlessly. As always with Orenda books, the translation by David Hackston is flawless.

The Man Who Died subverts being categorised into a genre. For me it is a book about the absurdity of living and dying and how we, as humans, deal with it. It’s almost philosophical in tone in that it makes you think about the ridiculousness of worrying about the minutiae of life – something we are probably all good at but which does us no favours.

Full of the darkest, wonderful humour and a gripping plot Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died is a fantastic read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Tuomainen’s abilty to pull off this departure from his usual writing and to pull it off with such skill is a testament to his talent as writer.

Published on 10 October 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his
literary best.

A huge thank you to Antti Tuomainen, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and guest posts…

 

 

 

Blog Tour – Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir *Review*

Welcome to my turn on the Snare blog tour today in which I am sharing my thoughts on this, the first in Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. But first, here is the all-important blurb…

The Blurb

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonja is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonja embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

My Thoughts

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir is a fast-paced, heart-pounding ride that takes you into the depths of Rekyjavík’s underbelly. Following the divorce from her husband, Sonja finds herself in a financially desperate situation. With her ex having full custody of their son, Tómas, Sonja has to find a way to dig herself out of the financial hole she finds herself in in order to regain custody of Tómas. Unfortunately, the spade she has been handed involves her becoming deeper and deeper involved in drug smuggling.

Sigurdardóttir has a way with words that ensures you are with Sonja with every step she takes. The tension when she is going through customs with kilos of cocaine in her suitcase is palpable, and I could literally feel my blood pressure rising! As you get to know Sonja and get drawn into her life you are dying to know how this bright, respectable woman found herself in this predicament. As Sonja has discovered, life’s twists and turns can sometimes result in you doing things and making choices you wouldn’t normally. Snare is the perfect title and accurately describes Sonja’s situation. The question is can she get out of it? I was desperate for Sonja to be able to escape the snare, but knew this was going to be virtually impossible.

The characters involved in the snare are unsavoury and unpleasant, as you would expect, and parts make for uncomfortable reading. Snare is set following the financial crash in Iceland and Sigurdardóttir has cleverly entwined the Snare storyline around the consequences of the crash. The impact the crash has had on relationships, families and behaviour is a theme that runs throughout the book, making it politically and socially current. We can see how each of the main characters have been damaged by financial insecurity.

Narrated in third person but told through different perspectives, Sigurdardóttir’s writing talent really shines through with her effortlessly capturing the unique perspectives and voice of the individuals – from Tómas’s very childlike perspective to the mature, verging on retirement, Bragi. This ensured that I was fully involved in the book. While Sonja and Bragi, the customs officer, are on opposite sides of the fence I found myself routing for both of them. Tómas was the character that touched me the most, however, with his confusion over his living arrangements and the loss of his mother following his parents’ divorce – Sigurdardóttir has portrayed him beautifully.

As always, Quentin Bates has ensured that the translation from Icelandic is perfect making Snare wonderfully readable.

With plenty of twists and turns, a fantastic cast of characters and a plucky female protagonist, Snare is a fantastic start to the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy and I look forward to seeing where Sigurdardóttir takes us next.

Published on eBook 12 September 2017 and paperback on 1 October 2017 by Orenda.

A huge thank you to Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith *Review*

Hurrah, I’m really pleased to be one of the turns on The Kindred Killers by Graham Smith blog tour today alongside Have Book Will Read. I couldn’t wait to read the second Jake Boulder book after thoroughly enjoying the first (read my review of Watching the Bodies HERE). Before I share my thoughts here is the all-important blurb:

The Blurb

Jake Boulder’s help is requested by his best friend, Alfonse, when his cousin is crucified and burned alive along with his wife and children.
As Boulder tries to track the heinous killer, a young woman is abducted. Soon her body is discovered and Boulder realises both murders have something unusual in common.
With virtually no leads for Boulder to follow, he strives to find a way to get a clue as to the killer’s identity. But is he hunting for one killer or more?
After a young couple are snatched in the middle of the night the case takes a brutal turn. When the FBI is invited to help with the case, Boulder finds himself warned of the investigation.
When gruesome, and incendiary, footage from a mobile phone is sent to all the major US News outlets and the pressure to find those responsible for the crimes mounts.  But with the authorities against him can Boulder catch the killer before it’s too late?

My Thoughts

I was lucky enough to read and review the first in Graham Smith’s Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, and knew that I would definitely be following the rest of the series. We haven’t had to wait too long for the next instalment and, I’m pleased to say, The Kindred Killers lived up to expectation, firmly placing Boulder on the ‘must-read series’ list. If you haven’t yet read Watching the Bodies I suggest you do, however, The Kindred Killers works equally well as a standalone.

Private investigator and doorman Jake Boulder is back … and back with a bang! The first chapter introduces/re-introduces the reader to the character of Jake brilliantly and it quickly progresses into, what may turn out to be, possibly the most personal case he and his partner Alfonse ever face. I can’t help but like Jake – he is a tough Glaswegian who finds it difficult to maintain relationships – and The Kindred Killers hints that there is more to find out about him in the next books. I look forward to learning more about him. The combination of his ability to handle himself in almost any situation and his detective skills alongside Alfonse’s tech skills make the duo a great team.

Following the gruesome murder of Alfonse’s cousin and his family, the pair set out to find who is responsible. While looking for the motivation for the killings Jake and Alfonse uncover something more sinister and threatening than they imagined. In The Kindred Killers Smith has written a gripping thriller that is incredibly topical and, quite frankly, a scary look at the extremes that certain factions of society will go to in the name of their beliefs. The gruesome way in which the murders are committed show that Smith has researched many aspects of the issues raised in the book. I don’t want to say anything more on this as I don’t want to spoil anything!

The pace doesn’t let up and I found myself racing through The Kindred Killers in no time at all. Smith ensures that each chapter is essential and has you having to read more. Again, Smith pulls off the setting of America perfectly making you forget that this is written by a British author.

A fantastic follow-up to what always promised to be a great series, The Kindred Killers is a cracking crime thriller and is a must for your bookshelf if you enjoy this genre.

Published on 12 September 2017 by Bloodhound Books.

A huge thank you to Graham Smith and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Unforgivable by Mike Thomas *Guest Post and Review*

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for Unforgivable by Mike Thomas. I’m chuffed to bits to be a part of this and to be sharing my review AND I have a brilliant guest post from Mike on his three favourite supporting characters in his novels. I will hand you over to Mike and then check out the blurb and my review of Unforgivable…

The Three Favourite Supporting Characters in My Novels

It’s always enjoyable writing your protagonist’s story and pushing them around on the page – go here, you swine! – but what I often find more entertaining, certainly if my hero or heroine is having an off day, is writing supporting characters. They’re often great fun, because they’re not really as important (but they’re still very important), and therefore the pressure’s off and there’s more freedom to do things with them that you couldn’t do with your main character. They also act as a counterpoint to your protagonist, and a means to demonstrate your main character’s personality or behaviour without doing the old ‘telling’.

Just look at Saul Goodman in ‘Breaking Bad’, or Bunk in ‘The Wire’, or The Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. And what about Ron and Hermione in the Potter books? All of them, fully-formed and interesting supporting characters that add further depth and shade to the protagonist and the story itself.

So who are the three favourite supporting characters in my novels? Which of them were the most interesting and gratifying to write? Let’s take a look…

1. DC Warren Harrison – rotund, perpetually eating and wrapped in a fug of smoke, ‘Wazza’ is the ‘senior man’ – in age, not rank – on the team of CID officers who feature in the MacReady novels, ‘Ash and Bones’ and ‘Unforgivable’. An old sweat who has seen it all, he’s world-weary but has a mischievous sense of humour, not least in his choice of footwear: he refuses to wear shoes and turns out for duty every day in socks and sandals. The inspiration for Warren was an ex-colleague who could regularly be found wandering the corridors of the police station looking like a lost German tourist who’d raided the nearest vending machine. Lots of older real cops end up like Wazza: nothing fazes them, they couldn’t care less about anything other than their approaching pension, and they think all new officers are utterly useless. Often they’re not wrong.

2. FLUB – real name David Murphy, FLUB is the elder PC on the elite public order team in my 2014 novel ‘Ugly Bus’. His nickname, gifted to him by his colleagues on the van, is an acronym for Fat Lazy Useless Bastard. Given that FLUB likes food and moving slowly – his favourite line is ‘I may not look like I’m busy most of the time but on a molecular level I’m a hundred fuckin’ miles an hour’ – he was happy enough to shrug and accept the moniker. Like Warren Harrison above, FLUB is the old sweat, but while Wazza is a spiky individual, David Murphy is an anything-to-keep-the-peace sort – which backfires spectacularly for all concerned at the climax of the novel. I love old FLUB, he’s a lot like I used to be towards the end of my career – especially his penchant for disgracefully unhealthy takeaway food on night shifts.

3. PC Frank MacReady – or ‘Frankie’ or ‘The Frankster’ as ‘Pocket Notebook’s protagonist (I hesitate to call him a hero) Jacob Smith calls his best buddy. Frank is a specialist firearms officer, working alongside Jake, and is Jake’s only true friend – he’s patient, wise, loyal, and long-suffering – but Jacob even manages to lose him, in the most despicable manner possible, during a house party where far, far too much alcohol is consumed. Without Frank anchoring him our protagonist is finally doomed, and we see it happen in real time during the latter part of the book. I always think of Frank and Jake as mirroring my wife and I during this period in our lives: she was the strong sensible, caring one who had to support me while I lost my marbles writing this crazed debut novel…

Brilliant post, thank you so much Mike. I love Wazza too!

The Blurb

Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation.
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside.
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . .

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . .

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman.

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.

My Thoughts

The second DC Will MacReady novel is totally explosive … and that’s not just because of the bombs that go off in the book! Unforgivable totally lived up to all of my expectations with Thomas proving that this is one hell of a crime series!

If you haven’t read the first in the series, Ash and Bones, don’t worry as Unforgivable works as a standalone. Thomas perfectly gives enough information in order for you to be able to follow how MacReady and his colleagues got to where they currently are without deflecting from the new plot. However, trust me when I say you will want to read Ash and Bones!

I was expecting from the blurb a fairly straightforward story about the police investigating a terrorist attack. Unforgivable delivers more than this, however, with Thomas turning the theme of terrorism on its head. Thomas taps into the rise of Islamophobia and far-right groups across the country resulting in Unforgivable being incredibly current.

You are dragged into the story from the start. Unforgivable starts with a bang (literally!) and the pace is unrelenting from there on. The vivid descriptions within the first few chapters place you directly in the middle of the action, experiencing everything that is going on, and all its horrors. This is a book that you struggle to put down as its pace and plot beg for it to be read quickly and it becomes all absorbing.

I was pleased to spend time with MacReady et al again and Unforgivable takes up where we last left off a few months down the line. While MacReady is no longer the new boy within his team, he is still treated as such especially following events that occurred during Ash and Bones. He has a new partner in the completely unlikable Paul Echols who isn’t making his life any easier! MacReady’s personal life remains complicated which adds another layer to the book. I really like MacReady; he is intelligent, plucky and on the ball.

Thomas’s first-hand experience of police work shines through and his writing remains authentic. He doesn’t shy away from describing the less than glamorous side of police work and in Unforgivable the impact of austerity cuts enforced by the current government are starkly visible. While as a civvy you are aware that the cuts have an impact, Thomas brings the actual realities straight into your consciousness as resources to investigate the murder of a young woman are scant following the terrorist attacks. This true-to-life approach is one of the things that really appeals to me about Thomas’s books.

Unforgivable is a fantastic, high-adrenaline, close-to-the-bone read and the DC MacReady books are now firmly placed on my list of favourite and highly recommended detective series’.

Published on 27 July 2017 by Zaffre Publishing.

A huge thank you to Mike Thomas and Emily Burns at Bonnier Zaffre for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

You can read my review of Ash and Bones HERE and Mike’s Author Influences HERE!

Be sure to catch the rest of the tour for more reviews and brilliant guest posts by Mike … they really are worth reading!

Review – The Devil You Know by Terry Tyler

The Blurb

Every serial killer is someone’s friend, spouse, lover or child….

Young women are being murdered in the Lincolnshire town of Lyndford, where five people fear someone close to them might be the monster the police are searching for.
One of them is right.

Juliet sees an expert’s profile of the average serial killer and realises that her abusive husband, Paul, ticks all the boxes.

Maisie thinks her mum’s new boyfriend seems too good to be true. Is she the only person who can see through Gary’s friendly, sensitive façade?

Tamsin is besotted with her office crush, Jake. Then love turns to suspicion…

Steve is used to his childhood friend, Dan, being a loud mouthed Lothario with little respect for the truth. But is a new influence in his life leading him down a more sinister path?

Dorothy’s beloved son, Orlando, is keeping a secret from her—a chilling discovery forces her to confront her worst fears.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is a character-driven psychological drama that will keep you guessing until the very end.

My Thoughts

I read a lot of crime and psychological thrillers and at the time I got around to reading The Devil You Know I have to admit to being in the mood for something a little different. The Devil You Know had been sitting on my kindle for a while and I completely forgotten what the premise of the book was. I dived into it and was very pleasantly surprised. Tyler has written a compelling psychological thriller that is unique in its perspective. Despite being a thriller, it satisfied my need to read something different and I struggled to put it down.

A serial killer is murdering women in Lincolnshire and, of course, the police are desperate to find the killer to prevent the death toll from rising further. Sounds like your regular crime thriller right? Wrong! Tyler completely changes the perspective and follows the thoughts and lives of five unconnected individuals who each suspect, following the release of a photofit, that the killer may be someone they know.

How would you react if someone you were close to resembled a photofit of a suspected serial killer? Especially if their behaviour is unusual? Would you speak to them about it, look for evidence or go straight to the police? What effect would this have on your relationship? This is what each of the characters face in The Devil You Know and it makes for great reading. It takes you deep into the emotions, thoughts and feelings of each of the characters and their reactions. Tyler has given a wide range of experience within her characters – there is the abused wife, the lonely single mother of an adult child, the colleague with a crush on her work mate, the childhood friend who finds himself disagreeing with his friend’s views and behaviour and the teenage girl whose mother is in a new relationship – and gives each their own voice.

The Devil You Know has quite a complex plot with a lot of different characters and perspectives, however, Tyler pulls this off without ever causing confusion and ensuring that the story flows effortlessly. This is a real testament to her writing skills and shows meticulous plotting.

I adored the psychological aspect of Tyler’s book. I’m always intrigued about what goes on in the mind of a killer and Tyler provides us with an explanation for his actions. She has pretty much considered every aspect; from the family and friends point of view during suspicion, the reason why the killer commits his crimes and the fall-out from the suspicions and the impact on the family members of the killer after prosecution. You are taken on a journey of trying to figure out who the killer is with carefully placed snippets of information from the police. While I had drawn the correct conclusion in respect of one of the suspects, Tyler kept me guessing (incorrectly I might add) and finishes with one hell of a twist.

The Devil You Know is a great read. It is refreshingly different, utterly engrossing and compelling and really well written. It needs to be on your ‘to be read’ list!

A huge thank you to Terry Tyler for my copy of The Devil You Know in exchange for my review. The Devil You Know is out now.

Review – Ash and Bones by Mike Thomas

The Blurb

A cop killer on the loose in Cardiff – introducing a dark and gritty new voice in crime fiction, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and David Mark

At a squalid flat near the Cardiff docks, an early morning police raid goes catastrophically wrong when the police aren’t the only unexpected guests. A plain clothes officer is shot dead at point blank range, the original suspect is left in a coma. The killer, identity unknown, slips away.

Young and inexperienced, Will MacReady starts his first day on the CID. With the city in shock and the entire force reeling, he is desperate to help ­- but unearths truths that lead the team down an increasingly dark path…

My Thoughts

I have had Ash and Bones sitting waiting to be read for a while. The perfect opportunity came up to read it as part of the 144 books around the UK challenge and the fact that the second in the Detective MacReady series is due out over the summer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading it.

Set in Cardiff, Ash and Bones follows trainee detective Will MacReady as he sets out on his new career path. He is introduced to his new team with a bang when a raid goes wrong and one of Cardiff’s oldest and most respected Detectives is killed on the job. Determined to bring the killer to justice, especially as it is one of their own that has been killed, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to this killing than first meets the eye.

Ash and Bones is a no-holds barred, gritty and compelling read. Thomas’s experience of being a police officer comes through to give the novel a really authentic feel. There is no glitz and rose-tinted view about what it is like to be a detective, instead all of the difficulties and challenges that the police face are there, along with the mindset that comes following a number of years in the force and the sections of society you deal with on a day to day basis. I really got this and understood the frustrations after a number of years working within social services where you are governed and frustrated by red-tape and you spend the majority of your life dealing with the darker side of human nature. This worked brilliantly for me and really helped to draw me into the book as the experience felt real. There is quite a lot of police jargon, however this is easy to follow and adds to rather than detracts from the book.

I really liked MacReady as a character and I liked the fact that he is a novice detective. All of the frustrations of not being considered able to carry out certain duties until he is fully trained, yet wanting to get stuck in and show initiative is there and I could relate to him. He has had a difficult upbringing and has his share of family troubles but he does not come across as a cliched. I look forward to following his career in the rest of the series.

As I said the novel is set in Cardiff, however there is also an international edge with the book being punctuated by a story set between Nigeria and Portugal. This intrigued me from the outset and gave me another reason to keep on reading to find out how the storylines would connect. Thomas kept me on my toes throughout the book with an ending that I hadn’t figured out.

A great start to a new detective series, Ash and Bones will appeal to those readers who like their crime novels to have a realistic edge and are not shy to walk on the seamier side of life in their reading. Gritty, dark and totally compelling, Ash and Bones is a cracking read.

Published on 25 August 2016 by Bonnier Zaffre

Continue reading Review – Ash and Bones by Mike Thomas

Blog Tour – Dying to Live by Michael Stanley *Review*

Delighted to be taking part in the Dying to Live blog tour today with Sam over at Clues and Reviews

The Blurb

The body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, and the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles … but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case becomes… A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane detectives.

My Thoughts

Typically, I am once again coming into a series late! Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series, however it worked brilliantly as a standalone and I had absolutely no difficulties in picking up the story and getting involved with the characters.

When a Bushman is found dead outside the Kalahari Game Reserve his death appears to be an accident. The autopsy on his body, however, reveals some unusual findings – while he is outwardly old his internal organs are those of a much younger man. When his body is stolen from the morgue and a Witch Doctor is reported missing it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to this than meets the eye. Detective Kubu and his colleague Detective Kahma find themselves embroiled in a case of murder, smuggling and, ultimately, greed.

I adored the characters in Dying to Live. Detective Kubu is instantly loveable – a big bear of a man who clearly thinks the world of his family, loves his food and uses nana naps to help him think through his cases. Stanley brings him completely to life through the pages of the book and you are left with a real sense of affection for him. He is definitely a character I want to meet again in the rest of the books.

The setting in Dying to Live uplifted me – which is probably a bit strange for a crime novel that involves murder and corruption – with the sunshine and the African setting bringing light into what is otherwise a book touching on dark issues. The setting also ensures that when reading this book from a UK perspective it is highly unlikely that you will have read anything else quite like it. The cultural aspects of the book are one of the things I enjoyed the most. The Witch Doctors, Muti and storyline involving Kubu’s adopted daughter give Dying to Live a uniqueness, making it a thrilling crime novel that completely transports you to a different world while making you think of subjects you probably haven’t considered before. The juxtaposition between the modern and traditional aspects of life in Botswana are wonderfully portrayed in Dying to Live.

As the plot unfolds the reader is left wondering how the threads all fit together. Dying to Live reminded of the classic crime novels in both its pace and construction. It took me down routes I wasn’t expecting to go while throwing red herrings onto my path along the way. A thoroughly enjoyable read, Detective Kubu definitely has a new fan!

About Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were
born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to
Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest,
eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A
Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal
Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA
Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book,
Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award.
Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award, and book
5, A Death in the Family, was an international bestseller.

Dying to Live is published on 12 July 2017 by Orenda Books

A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for the advance copy. Follow the rest of the tour…

 

Blog Tour – Exquisite by Sarah Stovell *Review*

I am delighted and excited to be on the Exquisite by Sarah Stovell blog tour today and finally able to share my review of this wonderful book alongside the brilliant The Book Trail.

The Blurb

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers…
Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops… Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

My Thoughts

I could not wait to get my hands on Sarah Stovell’s debut psychological thriller Exquisite as I was drawn in by the title and the stunning cover. I adore a book with complex characters and unreliable narrators and in Exquisite Stovell has provided me with these in abundance.

Exquisite takes you into the lives of forty-year-old, successful author, married, mother of two Bo Luxton and mid-twenties, stumbling-through-life, aspirational writer Alice Dark. What the women have in common is their love and talent for the written word and a difficult and traumatic childhood. When the two women meet at a writer’s course in Northumberland there is an immediate spark and the chain of events that are set in motion are cataclysmic.

Stovell has, in my mind, created the perfect psychological thriller. It draws you in immediately and the narrative structure of the book works in such a way that you never quite know who to believe. Doubt prevails as you follow each character through the course of their relationship, getting deep into their thoughts and feelings. But whose thoughts and feelings are genuine and which version of events should you believe? Stovell has cleverly created characters who simultaneously made my heart ache and sent chills down my spine.

Exquisite’s ending is left to the reader’s interpretation and yet is satisfying. It ensures that the book stays with you long after you have read the final page. This, for me, fit perfectly with the tone, feel and the doubt that endures through the course of the book.

One of the joys of Exquisite is the literary quality that combines so perfectly with the twists and turns Stovell creates. Her prose throughout the book is outstanding and she is a formidable talent. Exquisite is sublime in that it is both breathtaking and unsettling. Stovell has you basking in its beauty while shivering in its darkness.

Exquisite is a delicately woven tale of passion, obsessive love and the impact of not being mothered. I haven’t read a book about a relationship that has affected me in this way since Jeanette Winterson’s Written On The Body. There is a dark beauty within its pages and Exquisite is set to be one of the books of the year.

Published on 15 June 2017 by Orenda Books.

A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy in exchange for my review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. 

Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in Gunnar Staalesen’s Wolves in the Dark blog tour today with Dee at It’s All About The Books and sharing my review.

The Blurb

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.
When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material… and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.
When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet.
Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

My Thoughts

Wolves in the Dark is the 21st book in Staalesen’s Varg Veum series and yet this is the first Veum novel I have read. I was a little concerned about jumping into a book so late in a very established series, however, Wolves in the Dark works perfectly as a standalone.

Varg Veum is a private investigator working in Bergen, Norway and when we first meet him in Wolves in the Dark he is being arrested by police officers for suspicions of being part of a paedophile ring. As child pornography is found on his computer, Veum has to find out who put it there and why in order to clear his name and prove his innocence. What follows is a hard-hitting story that takes you into Norway’s dark and shocking underbelly.

Veum is a complex character who, it becomes apparent, has gone through his share of difficulties over the past few years. Losing his partner has left him bereft and turning to alcohol to help him cope with his loss. Staalesen’s characterisation is fantastic and he is incredibly skilled at bringing Veum out from the pages and into real life. As Veum struggles to sift through his precarious memories of the past few years to unearth who may have bode him ill, his humanity shines through via his sardonic outlook and self-depreciating humour.

Wolves in the Dark has a complex plot with a large cast of characters which demonstrates Staalesen’s story-telling skills as he intricately weaves each thread together. It does take an amount of concentration to keep track, but it is worth the added effort as he pulls it all together in the highly climatic and shocking ending. As each revelation and connection was unveiled I found myself wondering if there really is any such thing as coincidences. Each chapter is short yet perfectly formed and this serves to add to the pace and plot.

This is a gritty and socially-aware novel with Staalesen being unafraid to raise uncomfortable issues that are, sadly, a part of today’s society. While this may make Wolves in the Dark uncomfortable reading at times Staalesen, in my opinion, approaches the difficult subject of child sexual abuse in a non-gratuitous way that serves to highlight the organisation behind these crimes.

Compelling, dark and perfectly plotted with a protagonist that shines, Wolves in the Dark is a great read that will appeal to those who yearn for a more complex storyline than their usual crime thriller.

Published on 15 June 2017 by Orenda Books.

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of Wolves in the Dark and for inviting me to part of the blog tour.

Follow the tour…

 

Review – Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

The Blurb

From the white doe appearing through the dark wood to the blue-winged butterflies rising in a cloud as a poignant symbol of happier times, the creatures of the Suffolk landscape move through Rosy Thornton s delicate and magical collection of stories. The enigmatic Mr Napish is feeding a fox rescued from the floods; an owl has been guarding a cache of long-lost letters; a nightingale s song echoes the sound of a loved voice; in a Martello tower on a deserted shore Dr Whybrow listens to ghostly whispers. Through the landscape and its creatures, the past is linked to the present, and generations of lives are intertwined.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to Sandlands by the cover and synopsis that promised ‘delicate and magical’ stories that incorporate wildlife and nature. It has been a long time since I read a collection of short stories, the last being Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, and I have to say it made a really nice change from novels. I read them in sequence but it was nice to dip in and out of the different stories and reflect on each one in turn.

Each story is perfectly constructed with a mix of first and third person narrative which results in each tale being unique to the characters within. There are common threads throughout each, such as the setting and certain landmarks appearing regularly, giving a sense of continuity. Therefore, despite each story being a separate tale you get a real sense of place and they work beautifully together while simultaneously having a uniqueness.

Thornton’s prose is stunning. There is a breadth and beauty throughout the pages that transports you to the mudflats and marshes of Suffolk, combined with a tone that is haunting and evocative that has a deep effect on you. As a reader you become completely immersed in the surroundings and the narrative leaving you with the sense that you have been transported to another place.

Myth and legends, paganism and religion–many of which are unique to the setting–all play a part in each tale and along with the prose add a magical quality. This is, ultimately, a book about how the past and present collide and the connections between them. With each tale I was left feeling emotional and moved. The use of nature throughout gives Sandlands a mystical quality and, in some ways, a gothic feel. The placing of each separate story within the book is perfect beginning with the ethereal The White Doe and ending with the poignant Mackerel.

I adored Sandlands and it is book I will return to again and again. It is enchanting, alluring, evocative and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

Published on 21 July 2016 by Sandstone Press.

A huge thank you to Rosy Thornton for the copy of Sandlands in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.


#AroundTheUKIn144Books Challenge Book 6 – County: Suffolk