Book Review: Blackout (Dark Iceland #3) by Ragnar Jónasson

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 15th July 2016 [Paperback]

Source:  My own purchased copy

black-out-my-review

black-out-by-ragnar-jonasson-coverThe rich storytelling technique of the Dark Iceland Series has a pure brilliance that’s as fresh as a snow flurry. Once again, the ruthless beauty of the Icelandic environment is depicted in such humble, yet striking detail.

The optimism that summer brings is a welcome relief for Ari Thór Arason. Previously weighed down by his label as the out-of-towner, with his theological studies earning him the irritating nickname of ‘The Reverend’, not to mention the never ending melancholy he experienced during an Icelandic winter in Snowblind, our rooky police officer has grown in confidence and is now consulted for his opinion, rather than rebuked for it.

It’s now 2010 and despite a rocky start to his career Ari Thór remains at the Police Station in Siglufjörður. What’s clear in Blackout is that he has earned his role there becoming a more assertive officer, although I noticed he appeared curter when wanting people to get to the point. Has his frosty relationship with his long term girlfriend (ex) Kristin affected his mood, or is he growing tired of the kid glove approach to investigations that the inspector relies on?

See, that’s where Ari Thór and Tómas differ. Being an outsider and socially detached can have its advantages as there is no previous history to cloud his judgment. In contrast, Tómas knows everyone in town either by schooling, working or being related to the residents somehow and bases his instinct on his personal perception of them, which isn’t always correct. For a town that feels so safe it doesn’t lock its doors, it’s often more difficult to accept what’s happening behind them.

This time around, a murder hits the headlines as a construction worker overseeing the new tunnel is found murdered at an isolated property with a blooded plank of wood at his side. Ari Thór, Tómas, and an overly-eager journalist armed with nothing but a suitcase filled with skeletons from her closet all focus their attention on solving the mystery of his death and are surprised to discover the dark motive as they drag some disturbing facts into the open.

As the smothering volcanic ash in Reykjavik enriches the gloom of the economic crisis, the revelations of the Siglufjörður locals and the increasing distance between Ari Thór and Kristin are nurtured to perfection. The clever sub plots are captivating and as their complexities progress, so does the anxiety of officer Hlynur’s personal storyline; already disgruntled by Ari’s success, the threat of his childhood deeds catching up with him creates another darkening avenue of misery to follow.

From the glorious Icelandic place names to the extreme and fascinating geology, everything about this series invites you to sit back and appreciate the winding journey until you reach the final destination – and with Dark Iceland you always travel first class. Can’t wait for the next instalment – Rupture.

Rating:   4/5

black-out-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit.

What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies… Dark, terrifying and complex, Blackout is an exceptional, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s finest crime writers.

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black-out-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK. Author photograph courtesy of Publisher)

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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 has sold over 3000 copies in advance of publication.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) and set up its first overseas chapter in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. 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.

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Book Review: Snowblind (Dark Iceland #1) by Ragnar Jónasson

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 15th June 2015 [Paperback]

Source:  My own purchased copy

snow-blind-my-review

snowblind-by-ragnar-jonassonSnowblind is our introduction to the authentic and changeable atmosphere of the Dark Iceland series with chief characters you can’t help but warm to, despite the extreme weather conditions and their colossal indiscretions.

So here we are. Siglufjörður, Iceland, in 2008. A single tunnel leading in and out may isolate the town but fails to protect it from the unseen jeopardies that lie ahead.

Ari Thór Arason is a new police officer from Reykjavik who accepts a position at the small police station in Siglufjörður, much to the surprise of his long term girlfriend Kristin as he didn’t discuss the move with her first. She remains in the South, he moves north until the frostiness of their relationship feels right at home during the dark days and oppressive nights of an Icelandic winter that seeks to smother Ari Thór with despair. With both of them possessing frustrating stubborn streaks it threatens to cancel out rare opportunities to resolve matters between them.

Ari Thór is convinced he has to take this rare career opportunity, as the current financial crisis doesn’t present that many. He is welcomed by the inspector, Tómas, and gets to know the locals, or rather the locals single out newcomers on sight and irritatingly refer to him as The Reverend, a reference to his abandoned theological studies before joining the police.

“Ah, we don’t lock our doors here,” the inspector bellows at the new recruit. That throw away comment would seem rather quaint if a semi-naked woman hadn’t been discovered in a pool of blood, there was trouble at the local drama group where someone fell to their death, and a break-in threatens to undermine the close community feel Ari Thór was led to believe existed in these parts. It leaves him pondering what he’s let himself in for.

As an outsider, Ari Thór has no previous connection to the victim or the witnesses and can remain impartial during his questioning. In stark contrast Tómas is either related to someone and knows everybody. Ari Thór doesn’t want to embark on character assassination but history is clouding the investigation but he has to watch his step with his boss. Tómas’s mantra of “try not to upset the locals, it’s a small town” doesn’t mean these people aren’t capable of being merciless and simply keep it under their thermal hats.

The graceful word skill in Snowblind is exceptionally soothing, it’s as though you’re listening to an interesting stranger recounting a story of cosy Icelandic life that’s been tainted by some rather dreadful occurrences. Everyday realism is performed on a majestic stage with the most striking backdrop, allowing interludes of drama to disturb the tranquillity when the cast least expect it.

Rating: 5/5

snow-blind-book-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life.

An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying, Snowblind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.

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snow-blind-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK. Author photograph courtesy of Publisher)

ragnar-jonasson-author-photographRagnar 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 has sold over 3000 copies in advance of publication.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

Ragnar is a member of the UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) and set up its first overseas chapter in Reykjavik. He is also the co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. 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.

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Book Review: The Book of Mirrors, by E. O. Chirovici #TheBookOfMirrors

Publisher:  Century (Cornerstone – Penguin Random House UK)

Publication date:  26th January 2017

book-of-mirrors-my-review

You don’t know what pain is until you get a cut deep enough to make you realise that previous wounds have been only scratches.

the-book-of-mirrors-coverIntrigue, confusion, and considerable fact distortion reign supreme in the extreme trial by memory presented by The Book of Mirrors.

Endeavouring to excavate the truth concerning a part manuscript that reveals something sinister yet confirms nothing, three men chip away at its ambiguity by applying their professional skills at different stages throughout the tale. Each one passes the baton to the next hoping the challenge can be resolved, each one unearthing new information based on the testimony of the “characters” that make an appearance.

These characters are individuals known to the author of the manuscript and when questioned their recollections differ markedly from his. The person investigating at the time has immense difficulty establishing who has something to genuinely hide, or if all of them are simply convinced that their version of events is correct. Without being able to retrieve the full manuscript the only way to determine the facts with any degree of certainty is to take the story apart piece by piece and reassemble it – and I’m mightily impressed how cleverly this was done!

Doors open part way, some are bolted shut, and others are slammed in their faces. The entire process is maddening and has a profound effect on them. But the hint of a psychology professor’s death in the mysterious text is something that cannot be ignored. For one thing, any new true crime case makes a damned good headline and literary agent Peter Katz is both excited and disturbed by the story’s potential. Reaching a dead end he enlists the assistance of a reporter, and John Keller investigates further. Finally Keller passes what he has learned to a retired detective with his own trying memory problems and the case becomes a personal challenge for Roy Freeman who hopes to solve the conundrum that is The Book of Mirrors.

Everything is narrated without embellishment as the characters recall personal encounters leading up to the violent death of the professor who affected their lives in different ways. As to the accuracy of their accounts you’ll have to read it for yourself to discover the truth!

This warped tale made for compelling reading. It has a distinctive curiousness I can’t quite put my finger on, and that’s my kind of book. 

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this book via the publisher (Francesca Pathak & Francesca Russell) with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

book-of-mirrors-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

THE ONE BOOK YOU WON’T FORGET IN 2017

A gripping psychological thriller full of hidden fragments and dark reflections.

How would you piece together a murder?

Do you trust other people’s memories?
Do you trust your own?
Should you?

Princeton, 1987: renowned psychologist Professor Joseph Weider is brutally murdered.

New York, twenty-five years later: literary agent Peter Katz receives a manuscript. Or is it a confession?

Today: unearth the secrets of The Book of Mirrors and discover why your memory is the most dangerous weapon of all.

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book-of-mirrors-author-profile

(Courtesy of publisher’s website)

E. O. Chirovici was born in Transylvania to a Romanian-Hungarian-German family. He made his literary debut with a collection of short stories, and his first novel, The Massacre, sold over 100,000 copies in the Romanian language. He spent years as a journalist, first running a prestigious newspaper and later a major TV station. He has been writing full time since 2013 and currently lives in Brussels.

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Book Review: Kill The Next One, by Frederico Axat

Publisher:  Text Publishing

Publication date: 

26th January 2016 (UK) – Paperback

28th November 2016 (UK) – Kindle

kill-the-next-one-my-revew

kill-the-next-one-by-frederico-axat-coverThe second I spied the book summary for this one I knew I had to read it. The premise is ingenious by itself, yet Kill The Next One goes beyond the dominion of ordinary psychological suspense to amuse itself with the twisted intellectual intricacies of Theodore ‘Ted’ McKay.

Ted is coming to terms with the thought of his inoperable brain tumour and has decided to take matters into his own hands and end his life. His family is away. Everything’s prepared. There’s nothing to stop him. Nothing, that is, until he is ‘saved’ by the doorbell.

This unexpected caller is insistent and Ted has no choice but to abandon his plans and open the door. A man called Justin Lynch invites himself in and Ted listens in intently as he explains the reason for his visit: people who are contemplating taking their own lives or have a terminal illness are enlisted by an anonymous organisation to kill chosen targets that have evaded justice through the usual channels. The enlisted vigilante receives a name, executes the plan, and in turn for their grateful participation the vigilante’s name is then passed along the ever growing list of willing volunteers until another person, like them, reciprocates.

The reasoning is simple. While it may be shocking for the family to discover you’ve been taken from them, the cause of your death may be easier to process than if you decided to ‘leave’ them behind of your own accord. After questioning exactly how Lynch knew what he was contemplating Ted accepts, receives the names of his targets and we watch as he carries out his part of this bizarre partnership. What I wasn’t banking on, and I don’t think Ted was either, was the immense fallout that follows. Despite meticulous planning and insider information from Lynch, things don’t exactly go according to plan.

Ted may be used to living the dream but now he can’t escape this disorienting nightmare. The combination of paranoia, bordering on a conspiracy theory, allows Ted to replay aspects of his life on a ground hog day loop. As he unlocks his reality deficiencies as a result of his condition, I realised I was reading one of the most unpredictable tangents I’ve come across.

A complex plot emerges, involving a handful of cryptic characters. Their distinctive roles continually challenged my opinions throughout as they unleashed irregularities in Ted’s life I hadn’t remotely prepared for: Dr Laura Hill, Edward Blaine, Justin Lynch, Wendell, his parents, and the curious possum… each of them manoeuvring through Ted’s mind mangle until everything can be straightened out.

The level of mistrust and claustrophobia is exceptional. From the sleight of hand outfoxing to the reward of that epic finale, Kill The Next One is unconventional, inventive and thoroughly, thoroughly riveting. Feeling extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to read and review this one.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

(I requested a digital download of this title from the publisher and NetGalley, and this is my unbiased review.)

kill-the-next-one-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

An audacious psychological thriller where nothing is what it seems.

Ted McKay had it all: a beautiful wife, two daughters, a high-paying job. But after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor he finds himself with a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. Then the doorbell rings.

A stranger makes him a proposition: why not kill two deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer who, like Ted, wants to die. After executing these kills, Ted will become someone else’s next target, like a kind of suicidal daisy chain. Ted understands the stranger’s logic: it’s easier for a victim’s family to deal with a murder than with a suicide.

However, as Ted commits the murders, the crime scenes strike him as odd. The targets know him by name and possess familiar mementos. Even more bizarrely, Ted recognizes locations and men he shouldn’t know. As Ted’s mind begins to crack, dark secrets from his past seep through the fissures.

Kill the Next One is an immersive psychological thriller from an exciting new voice.

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kill-the-next-one-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Federico Axat was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1975. His first novel, Benjamin, was published in Spain by Suma de Letras and translated into Italian. His second novel, El Pantano de las Mariposas, was published in 2013 and translated into Portuguese, French, and Chinese. Kill The Next One is his U.S. debut.

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Book Review: The Girl Who Had No Fear (George McKenzie, Book 4), by Marnie Riches

Publisher:  Avon (Harper Collins UK)

Publication date:  1st December 2016

~ A very happy publication day to Marnie Riches! ~

the-girl-who-had-no-fear-my-review

the-girl-who-had-no-fear-by-marnie-richesOooh, I have SO MUCH LOVE for the George McKenzie Series! It’s a riptide of a read where the past, present and future collide for The Girl Who Had No Fear.

How these characters live and breathe! With every investigation there’s something new to discover about them as their comfort zones are stretched to unrecognisable proportions. And for those loathsome individuals who lurk in the shadier corners of the globe there is no ceiling where exploitation is concerned. Marnie Riches demonstrates this with perceptive ease, harnessing the extreme best and desperately worst traits of the good, the brutal and the downright reckless.

In The Girl Who Had No Fear our maverick criminologist, Georgina McKenzie, is compromised both emotionally and professionally as she continues to receive disturbing emails from the estranged Spanish father she hasn’t seen for twenty years. Her mother has gone AWOL too and despite the fact that Letitia (The Dragon) is probably living it up somewhere sunny  with cocktail bar George still worries, especially after the cliff hanger from Book 3 where she received an alarming parcel forewarning her that she would need to keep an ‘eye’ on situation that was yet to evolve.

Yet none of these relatively minor distractions are enough to keep George from jumping feet first into the next case Paul Van Den Bergen has enticed her into. Men are dying, their bodies discovered in a canal after an enthusiastic evening where a lethal blend of drugs and intense company were enjoyed.

An undercover operation launches involving George and her colleague Elvis (Dirk) leading them both on a fiercely dangerous and personal journey. In George’s case it will take her to the cold heart of Mexico’s hostile terrain. While she investigates the links and possible origins of drug manufacture to the killings in Amsterdam, maybe she can track down the last known whereabouts of her Spanish father on route. I genuinely didn’t believe her impulsiveness could test the gangly, medically challenged hypochondriac, Van den Bergen, to new limits but it does, and their text exchanges when the going gets tough are legendary (as is the Dutch Chief Inspector’s failure to adapt his dress sense to the oppressive Mexican climate).

If her spirited attitude doesn’t act as a repellent to those who throw themselves in her way, hopefully the gift of the ‘blag’ from her experience of gang culture as a teen will prove invaluable against the varying degrees of low life. Unfortunately the notorious ‘El Crocodilo’ is circling in the shallows and George is unwittingly dipping a toe into his territory.

Fair warning, this tackles fairly explicit themes including trafficking, drugs, an execution scene, and unconventional ‘reunions’. But have #NoFear. The plot is as complex and fiery as our unlikely heroine, and has a phenomenal, adrenaline charged ending – IT’S BLISTERINGLY GOOD STUFF!

Rating:  5/5

(I am grateful to have received a copy of this title I requested from the publisher via NetGalley and this is my unbiased review. It’s also been on pre-order since I can remember!)

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Amsterdam: a city where sex sells and drugs come easy. Four dead bodies have been pulled from the canals – and that number’s rising fast. Is a serial killer on the loose? Or are young clubbers falling prey to a lethal batch of crystal meth?

Chief Inspector Van den Bergen calls on criminologist Georgina McKenzie to help him solve this mystery. George goes deep undercover among the violent gangs of Central America. Working for the vicious head of a Mexican cartel, she must risk her own life to find the truth. With murder everywhere she turns, can George get people to talk before she is silenced for good?

A pulse-pounding race against time, perfect for fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo.

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the-girl-who-had-no-fear-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK. Photograph courtesy of publisher.)

Marnie Riches

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester. She learned her way out of the ghetto, all the way to Cambridge University, where she gained a Masters degree in German & Dutch. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist, a property developer and professional fundraiser. Previously a children’s author, now, she writes crime and contemporary women’s fiction.

Marnie Riches is the author of the George McKenzie crime thriller series, published by Maze and Avon at Harper Collins.

In her spare time, Marnie likes to run (more of a long distance shuffle, really) travel, drink and eat all the things (especially if combined with travel) paint portraits, sniff expensive leather shoes (what woman doesn’t?) and renovate old houses. She also adores flowers.

Winner of the Patricia Highsmith award for ‘Most Exotic Location’.

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Other books in the George McKenzie Series…

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…And here are my Reviews

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – Book 1: http://wp.me/p5N83r-k9

The Girl Who Broke The Rules – Book 2: http://wp.me/p5N83r-GD

The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows – Book 3: http://wp.me/p5N83r-1nL

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Book Review: Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller #SwimmingLessons

Publisher: Fig Tree (Penguin Books UK)

Publication Date:  26th January 2017

swimming-lessons-my-review

swimming-lessons-by-claire-fullerSwimming Lessons has  a distinctive grace – the enchanting quality of such exquisite writing is nothing short of an emotional ambush. It’s so tragically beautiful, flawless, magnificent even, I’m confident that when the cover is closed all of the words must huddle together in the dark to comfort each other.

Twelve years have passed since Ingrid disappeared from the Beach outside the Coleman’s home. It was 1992 when she stepped out of the house one day to never return from her swim, leaving a husband, two daughters and distorted memories of their family life in her wake.

So much time has elapsed and yet Gil thinks he sees her, his Ingrid, looking up at him through a book shop window where he tries to desperately retrieve the volumes his daughter has hastily donated. Before he can overthink anything, other than clutching a letter from Ingrid and the book he is holding at the time, he chases her down the street. But when he finds she has vanished he takes a nasty tumble and a trip to the hospital to deliriously recover from his ordeal.

Ingrid’s letters consume him. These intimate, soul searching letters that she creatively slipped between the pages of Gil’s precious book collection to join the random jottings already scrawled in the margins by their original owners, and keep them hidden from her children. Gil could probably tell you more about the minds of a thousand anonymous readers defacing his copies of literature than he could about his wife. But so much changed with the strokes of Ingrid’s pen.

Leading up to what would be her final swim on the Dorset Beach outside their home Ingrid tried to keep her head above water and she writes about their passion, the regrets, the betrayal, and the unexpected defeat of her efforts as her life frayed further around the edges. It would be as though her words were carved on her heart rather than paper.

Gil’s children have grown and are oblivious to the twelve year old mystery that is unravelling.  The younger daughter, Flora, continues to reach for the minutest optimism that all will be well, along with the memories of a delightful childhood, the trips to the beach, the misremembered moments they shared and can smile about. The eldest, and by far the more down to earth of the two, Nanette, recalls raising her unruly sister single-handed, taking on her mother’s role at the grand old age of fifteen and unselfishly sacrificing most of her life to the difficult circumstances imposed upon her.

Every raw and touching detail harvested from the Coleman’s turbulent lives is delicately mined with finesse, making Swimming Lessons quite possibly the most perfect book I have had the privilege of holding this year. Sometimes it’s not just about letting go but learning to, which is easier said than done on this occasion as I didn’t want to put this one down.

Rating: Sheer perfection/5

(I received an ARC of this title from the author and publisher with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

swimming-lessons-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The second novel from the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize and was a 2016 Richard and Judy Book Club Pick.

‘Gil Coleman looked down from the window and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.’

Gil’s wife, Ingrid has been missing, presumed drowned, for twelve years.

A possible sighting brings their children, Nan and Flora, home. Together they begin to confront the mystery of their mother. Is Ingrid dead? Or did she leave? And do the letters hidden within Gil’s books hold the answer to the truth behind his marriage, a truth hidden from everyone including his own children?

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swimming-lessons-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Claire Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, was published by Tin House in 2015 and went on to win the Desmond Elliott prize in the UK and was a finalist in the ABA Indies Choice Award, an IndieNext pick, and chosen as a Goodreads Debut Spotlight.

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P.S. Look out for my publication day post on 26th January 2017 where I will be running a little giveaway to celebrate this wonderful book!

Book Review: Death is a Welcome Guest (Plague Times Trilogy 2), by Louise Welsh

Publisher:  John Murray

Publication date:  January 2016 (Paperback)

death-is-a-welcome-guest-my-review

death-is-a-welcome-guest-by-louise-welshIn this second book in the Plague Times Trilogy, Death is a Welcome Guest, the ‘every person for themselves’ reaction to the global pandemic continues as it threatens to indiscriminately wipe out the world’s population. As it cleaves through families to leave a single survivor, or in most cases no one at all, I began to wonder which group should be considered the most fortunate – the living or the dead.

The increasingly lawless state encourages small pockets of communities to gather. They appear to observe minimal social graces while a feral streak is itching to get to the surface. Sinking into biblical regression is just one of the options for those who have tried or lost everything else and the author reinforces the ferocity of their situation as scenes of panic, repulsion, and defensive tactics are portrayed vividly but in perfectly timed wake up calls.

With the combination of a variety of characters and their degrees of despair, the story marches on at quite a pace until the most unlikely hero emerges in a stand-up comedian by the name of Magnus McFall. His initial problems began when he tried to save a girl from being assaulted only to find he was arrested for the offence himself. When ‘The Sweats’ hit, being trapped in a cell with his putrefying cellmate would seem like a walk in the park compared to what awaits him outside his door.

We follow his escape from prison under the reluctant wing of fellow inmate, Jeb Soames, an enigmatic loner with one or two skeletons in the cupboard. As with most people in this story, it’s unwise to make assumptions based on someone’s past or first appearances as their behaviour continually challenges your expectations.

As Magnus makes his way out of London to travel home to Orkney my liking for him grew. His mother’s telephone rings out which should tell him everything he needs to know, but he clutches to the vaguest hope that all is well. For the moment it’s all he’s got as it’s not just the threat of illness or his new convict companion he has to worry about, it’s the casual strangers they meet whose cause of death is swathed in suspicion. While the ‘whodunnit’ element isn’t overly complex I enjoyed the creeping suspense immensely.

Facing the harsh reality of a civilisation on the verge of imploding, Death is a Welcome Guest offers both the best and the worst of people. To learn that some people have preserved their integrity when others have lost their moral compass is reassuring, even in fiction.

Very much looking forward to reading No Dominion (Book 3) in 2017 to see how the trilogy concludes. Hopefully we’ll see more of our first survivor from A Lovely Way to Burn (Book 1), as Stevie Flint makes only the briefest appearance on this occasion. Not to worry though, Magnus McFall confidently holds the spotlight from beginning to end.

Rating:  4/5 (With special mention to the woman in the ‘Village in Bloom’ competition – what a trouper.)

(Source: My own purchased copy that’s been sitting on my shelf far too long!)

death-is-a-welcome-guest-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about.

Thrown into unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish island.

He finds himself in a landscape fraught with danger, fighting for his place in a world ruled by men, like his fellow traveller Jeb – practical men who do not let pain or emotions interfere with getting the job done.

This is a world with its own justice, and new rules.
Where people, guns and food are currency.
Where survival is everything.

Death is a Welcome Guest defies you to put it down, and leaves you with questions that linger in the mind long after you read the last page.

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death-is-a-welcome-guest-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Louise Welsh is the author of six highly acclaimed novels including The Cutting Room and A Lovely Way to Burn. She has been the recipient of several awards including the John Creasey Memorial Dagger and the Saltire first book award. Death is a Welcome Guest is the second novel in the Plague Times trilogy.

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