Book Review: Don’t Let Go, By Michel Bussi

Publisher:   W & N

Publication date:  27th April 2017

It’s such a pleasure to kick back and settle down with a book from an author who is reliably brilliant; other than knowing you’re in for a treat you have no idea what to expect, as every story has been utterly unique in their presentation, plot, and finale.

Don’t Let Go exceeded my expectations as it’s a cracker of a cunning mystery, nurtured to perfection.

A missing wife, an anxious husband, and their blood-splattered hotel room all point to a grave outcome, but statements from witnesses conflict with the facts. Despite the carnage no body is found, yet no one saw her leave their room after she went inside. The details that emerge suggest premeditated murder but without the evidence of a physical corpse the fate of Liane Bellion cannot be determined, only that she has vanished into thin air.

Ooh, I do love a book like this! The sharp hook of suspense caught me right away!  I was trying to work out scenarios as to why Liane’s husband would casually leave his daughter swimming in the hotel pool after excusing himself to check on his wife, then call the police to report her missing and successfully draw attention to himself as a pattern of erratic behaviour is revealed.

The chronological time stamps included within each chapter were similar to following a live bulletin, while maintaining a flowing story format. This additional level of reality it impresses just how dangerous lost time can be to an investigation of this nature as every what, why, where, and how take a step closer to the husband’s guilt. The police authorities grow restless and overworked, and the prime suspect makes so many illogical moves I was wondering what he could possibly be trying to achieve. Of course it all becomes quite clear. Until then, the island’s residents are speculating, backed up by sources of gossip and details not exchanged with police during interviews. 

Don’t Let Go is a title you can’t fully appreciate until you near the end of a holiday in this vivid Indian Ocean setting, where some of the characters are wishing they most definitely weren’t there. While the frantic race is on to solve a vengeful riddle before the ultimate sacrifice must be made, the diverse heritage of Réunion Island allows its cultural history to blend into the story at just the right intervals. 

Simply superb

Rating: 4.5/5

(I requested a copy of this title from the publisher, via Netgalley. Huge thanks to them for obliging as it is my absolute pleasure to provide an unbiased review for this cracking book.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Picture the scene – an idyllic resort on the island of Réunion. Martial and Liane Bellion are enjoying the perfect moment with their six-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, clear water, palm trees, a warm breeze…

Then Liane Bellion disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. When the room is opened, it is empty, but there is blood everywhere. An employee of the hotel claims to have seen Martial in the corridor during that crucial hour.

Then Martial also disappears, along with his daughter. An all-out manhunt is declared across the island. But is Martial really his wife’s killer? And if he isn’t, why does he appear to be so guilty?

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(Courtesy of Publisher’s website)

Michel Bussi is the author of the bestsellers After the Crash and Black Water Lilies, both of which were Waterstones Thriller of the Month. In France, where he has published ten novels, he is the second bestselling author overall, with over a million novels sold in 2016 alone, and he has won over sixteen literary awards. When not writing fiction, he is a Professor of Geography at the University of Rouen.

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My Reviews for this author’s other standalone books:

After The Crash

Black Water Lilies

Book Review: In the Light of Madness, by Hemmie Martin

Publisher:  Winter Goose Publishing

Publication date:  7th December 2013

Gravestones jutted out of the ground like candles on a birthday cake. They marked an occasion in a person’s life-span, but were ultimately forgotten once the ceremony was over.

The above quote is the opening of In the Light of Madness. It gives you a taster of the quality of the writing, which was a breeze to read. Its comfortable pace was set from the beginning and the short, snappy chapters allowed me to shadow DI Eva Wednesday and co. as they investigate the a murder of a teenager whose body was discovered in a cemetery. The crime appears curiously motiveless and they have the added pressure of locating the deceased’s closest friend, who hasn’t been seen since the gruesome discovery was made.

The initial impressions of the scene of crime and the manner in which challenging interviews are conducted are expressed effortlessly. The characters find their voices quickly and the little kinks in their personalities trigger quotas of rapport or friction at just the right time.

We learn that the DI shares a house with her journalist half-sister, which causes all manner of issues as the integrity of their professional and personal lives have a tendency to clash. One thing they have in common is the unpredictable presence of their mother’s illness that threatens to consume the family throughout the story. Although the DI copes admirably, the distressing situation adds more pressure to Wednesday’s woes.

It was endearing, if somewhat unexpected, to see the chain-smoking DI blush as often as she did. While this particular vulnerability made her appear more human than other ‘tough-as-nails’ counterparts playing a similar role, given her high rank I would have presumed that ideally she should have a more ‘assertive’ by default.  So kudos to the author for taking the refreshing approach of stepping away from the stereotypical tough-as-nails Detective Inspector I have come to expect.  

Murder. Missing persons. Mental health. This trying investigation unearths more questions than answers for Wednesday and her team, and there’s a terrific mix of social imperfections ranging from those with perceived class to others whose behaviour that is just plain tactless given the severity of the situation. It’s easy to scrutinise a person from their post code or a lifestyle we disapprove of, but as this story will prove all someone needs to take a life is a distorted perspective.

All in all In the Light of Madness had a solid plot that held my attention until the end. Nicely done!

Rating: 3.5/5

(Huge thanks to the author for providing a copy of their book and for patiently waiting for my unbiased review – it’s much appreciated.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A murdered boy in a Cambridgeshire graveyard sets in motion an investigation into the local church and school, with suspicions of a cult murmured throughout the community. With their first case, DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox explore the various levels of desperation and malice that can stem from an unhappy or dissatisfied life, where no one takes responsibility for their actions. They quickly find that everyone harbours a secret which, left uncontrolled, can bring forth devastating self-destruction.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Mental Health Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France. She now writes full time.

Hemmie created the DI Wednesday series, featuring DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, set in and around Cambridge, with fictional villages. There are four books in the series so far. Hemmie has also written a psychological thriller, Attic of the Mind, and two contemporary women’s fiction, The Divine Pumpkin and Garlic & Gauloises.

Mental health often features in her novels due to her background of forensic mental health nursing. Hemmie is a member of The Crime Writer’s Association.

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Book Review: Follow Me Down, by Sherri Smith #FollowMeDown

Publisher:  Titan Books

Publication date:  21st March 2017

Follow Me Down is an intoxicating circus of evidence vs instinct. We all have strong feelings about a loved one’s guilt or innocence, but how well do we really know them? Our gut tells us one thing, yet glaringly obvious circumstances suggest the person we thought we knew may be hiding more than we could ever know.

From the opening chapters I was sitting to attention straight away as there’s a colossal question mark dangling over the head of Mia’s twin brother, Lucas, who has not attended his interview with police concerning the death of one of his students.  Well that was just a red rag to a bull. According to popular opinion (their ex-classmates, a blight of teenagers, random strangers) his actions are as good as confessing to the murder, which is why they asked Mia to return to her home town hoping she can shed some light on his whereabouts.

The town is instantly recognisable by its suffocating tittle-tattle and is not short of complications for the next generation to endure. It goes without saying that Mia’s arrival is met with a reception frostier than the Arctic Circle, after all she is intruding on their grief and her brother is the cause of it. While she can’t battle the entire self-elected jury or convince the police to take their blinkers off she can engage in a spot of truth-wrangling fuelled by a lot of nerve, mostly boosted by prescription medication she has acquired through dubious means during the course of her job as pharmacist.

What is it people say, “when you’re in a hole stop digging?” Between fighting her corner with the locals and letting her guard down when she really ought not to, disturbing and incriminating evidence tip toes behind her as a reminder that she could be wrong, about everything.  Her less lucid or acutely buzzing moments may cloud her judgement, but this confirms just how much she relies on a random assortment of pills to resuscitate her, much like she needs air to breathe.

Elusive Lucas is conspicuous by his absence, a state that actually makes him the most intriguing character in the story! The doubt as to whether he’s a person of interest by default, or whether there is substance to the allegations, is a powerful driving force.  

It takes sixteen days to unearth the ugly truth in a small town with big troubles. Mia’s blindingly realistic first person narration allowed me to vividly experience just how her predicament veered from raging hopelessness to an optimistic hallelujah in a flash I didn’t know who or what to believe until the nerve-piercing finale of this strikingly phenomenal read. 

Rating:   4.5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher and Philippa Ward with my thanks. It is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Mia never intended to go home again, but has no choice when her twin brother goes missing. Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she d buried. Her brother Lucas, a popular teacher, has disappeared on the same day as the murdered body of one of his students was pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumours of Lucas’s affair with the teenager, and unable to reconcile the media’s vicious portrayal of Lucas with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect. All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

S.L. SMITH spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side. Follow Me Down is her first thriller, which has been described as an engrossing page turner by Diane Chamberlain, bestselling author of The Silent Sister.

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Book Review: A Thousand Cuts (A Spike Sanguinetti Mystery), by Thomas Mogford

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication date: 23rd February 2017 (UK)

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a-thousand-cuts-by-thomas-mogford-coverThe present day meets the dark and murky past as friends, politics and a cryptic mystery from World War II become finely tuned to the cry for justice. The title, A Thousand Cuts, is more profound than I first imagined with its meaning becoming significantly clearer as the novel moves forward.

The location itself is superb, such a change to the usual urban crime thrillers I tend to stick with for safeties sake. Gibraltar’s oppressive heat, its ancient facades, and the culture and relationships forged on the island all play a role in unravelling the history itself; it may be haven for most, but for others it’s a life sentence of memories they’d rather forget.

Being burdened by the need to do the right thing often presents a dilemma for Spike Sanguinetti at the cost of his own personal relationships. He’s a contradictory character with equally irritating and redeeming features. In the quest for the truth this lawyer often puts his client’s needs above the ones he cares about most. On one hand Spike is compelled to follow the story of a client, an unreliable alcoholic by the name of Christopher Massetti whose father was executed in the 1940’s for a crime Massetti believes he is innocent of. On the other hand his fiancée Jessica and his family are regularly treated to Spike’s impromptu absences, all for the cause he’s pursuing at the time.  I wanted to give him a good shake at times if only to remind him of what he has to lose.

Why has this case presented itself now and why do the facts matter to Spike so much? The further he travels into the past the road grows rockier and at times impassable. The whole sordid affair leads him to question the motives of the people that have affected the outcome of his life and how far he will he go to protect them. 

The book is separated into seven parts and its clipped chapters make the brooding intrigue incredibly easy to absorb. I was especially interested to read the aged evidence in the form of short transcripts of personal accounts from the 1940s. These were presented in the format they were recorded and made the historical facts appear all that more ‘real’ allowing the emotions, reasoning, and hints of personalities of those being quizzed to break through.

Events conspire throughout to both conceal and reveal the truth, and as a result the strong mystery element and imminent threat dodge and dive with stealthy skill. Very nicely done.

Confession time: when I picked up this book I had absolutely no idea it was part of a series (I know, I know. I will go straight back to my cave after writing this review). Well, it is. A series, that is. Yet it made absolutely no difference that I hadn’t read the previous ‘Spike Sanguinetti Mysteries’ as I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Thousand Cuts as a standalone.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to Bloomsbury for providing a surprise copy of this title for which I am delighted to offer an unbiased review.)

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A thousand cuts … We may be few, but together we can change the world

When a routine court case takes a sinister turn, defence lawyer Spike Sanguinetti starts asking dangerous questions that nobody seems to want answered. Soon, it’s not just the truth that’s at stake: it is everything and everyone that Spike holds precious. As the Gibraltarian sun beats relentlessly down, crimes of the past and present collide, relationships are tested and long-buried secrets exposed. Who can Spike trust? And where do his own loyalties lie?

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(Courtesy of Publisher’s Website)

Thomas Mogford has worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the UEFA Champions League. His first novel in the Spike Sanguinetti series, Shadow of the Rock, was published by Bloomsbury in 2012. It received a starred review from Library Journal, which described it as a ‘breathtaking debut … Mogford’s exotic locales, gorgeous prose, and closing twist make this debut a showstopper’. Thomas Mogford is married and lives with his family in London.

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Book Review: Purged (Matt Hunter), by Peter Laws

Publisher:  Allison & Busby

Publication date: 16th February 2017

(Happy Publication Day to the author of Purged, Peter Laws!)

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purged-by-peter-laws-coverBlimey, this was wickedly good. A close-knit community provides the perfect host for dreadful things to thrive. At times I felt compelled to read the book at arm’s length to put as much distance between me and the practices of the more curious residents of Hobbs Hill as possible!

How do you not rock the boat when you genuinely can’t agree with 99% of the local population’s strong religious principles? He might have been there, done that and burned the t-shirt but Matt Hunter’s previous experience in theological circles only allows him to endure so much. After a stint in Hobbs Hill I got the distinct impression that Professor Hunter would happily beat most of the residents with the oars. 

Yes, the ex-church minister turned professional non-believer arrives with his family to a chorus of enthusiastic worshippers. It makes his toes curl in his Yoda slippers, not that he disapproves of other people’s beliefs. He’d much prefer if he wasn’t made to feel morally inadequate because he chose differently. The whole ’embrace your faith’ atmosphere doesn’t do much for his wife either but a lot’s riding on their holiday visit, like the rest of her career, so it’s advisable not to provoke the townsfolk… which is easier said than done.

Their holiday mood isn’t improved by several unforeseen distractions: the road kill that made me physically wince, an old acquaintance with a captive and highly appreciative audience, and there are missing persons whose disappearances coincide with Matt’s miraculously timed arrival. Life’s not looking good for the sociology professor, not one little bit – and he hasn’t even started on the book he’s meant to be writing.

You have no idea how ridiculous I feel as I admit to physically craning my head to see what was over the shoulder of a fictional character before they did. But isn’t that the sign of awesome scene setting and plotting? There’s nothing quite like the aftershock of a rogue twig snap to get you turning pages just that little bit faster. Plus there are some downright impressive tongue-in-cheek observations and masses of cracking retorts – Matt Hunter is a character I can’t wait to see again soon! 

Purged generously obliges in SO many ways: people are peculiar, their intentions are ambiguous, and suspense is everything. LOVED IT.

Rating:   5/5 

(Mwah! to the lovely Emma Finnigan for putting this one on my radar – thank YOU! It goes without saying that it’s my pleasure to provide this unbiased review. Thank you also to the publisher for the review copy.)

purged-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt finds himself on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances. Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer stay buried deep, Matt is on the trail of a killer determined to save us all.

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purged-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Peter Laws is an author, journalist, film critic and YouTube horror host. He’s also a church minister with a taste for the macabre. His debut novel ‘Purged’, is a horror-tinged crime thriller and will be available in shops and online on February 16th 2017. The follow up, ‘Unleashed’ is out the following year.

He’s currently writing a non-fiction book for Icon Books, which explores why ordinary, everyday people are drawn to morbid, spooky and downright repellent material. It’s called The Frighteners (See intro video on his Author page to see how YOU might be able to become part of the research).

He writes a monthly column in the print magazine The Fortean Times and hosts the popular podcast and YouTube show The Flicks That Church Forgot which reviews scary films from a theological perspective. He also does quirky cover versions of obscure horror songs on there, so why not drop by.

He regularly speaks at churches and events and may be available to speak at your event, if you’d like to get in touch.

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Note: The talented author has also composed a dark and brooding instrumental soundtrack to accompany his book. If you’re interested, it’s currently available to stream from his website… (P.S. It’s very good!)

Book Review: Kill the Father, by Sandrone Dazieri

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster UK

Publication date:  

9th February 2017 (Hardback) | 5th January 2017 (Kindle)

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kill-the-father-coverKill the Father is a wily old fox of a book. Its unwavering intense plot artfully clashes with moments of irrational analysis and a conspiracy on ambitiously immoral scale.

And what flawed characters we have – all the better to love them more! For starters, there’s the human husk that is Dante Torre and the terminally-haunted Deputy Captain Columba Caselli. Both of whom are compelled to attack a case that would prove to be so challenging it may cost them their lives. 

The catalyst that pitches this unlikely pairing together is the rising chill of unease surrounding a missing child and his brutally murdered mother. The authorities have hauled the boy’s father in for the heinous deed, but the chief officer of Rome’s mobile police squad asks his trusted Deputy Captain to step out from her sick leave to ‘unofficially’ poke around the investigation, as higher ranking officials threaten to close it down before considering all the options.

Columba’s only instruction is to deny knowledge of her involvement as she enlists the assistance of ‘the boy in the silo’, the famous Dante Torre, known to have escaped the clutches of an evil kidnapper known as ‘The Father’. After being kept captive for eleven years his personal, harrowing experience will prove to be invaluable as the child’s disappearance resembles ‘The Father’s’ handiwork, a reality that hits like a kick to the gut.

For all his eccentricities I love Dante. The way he channels his crippling claustrophobia and obsessions into spotting details others have missed is remarkable. His mind works in astonishing ways but it’s surprising he can still walk, let alone solve a case of this magnitude, as he practically eats cigarettes, inhales more coffee than fresh air, and rattles like a maraca from consuming a random concoction of pills dictated by his changeable self-medication.

Columba endeavours to resist the PTSD that causes involuntary havoc at the most inopportune moments and spends a lot of time either contemplating a past event referred to as the ‘Disaster’, or her resignation from the department. Part of her time is spent running around in a hospital gown with just her police issue boots for protection, or meeting with unsavoury characters whose uncharacteristic behaviour surprises even her. After that she pretty much does as she pleases.

These two make a tenacious double-act, although they behave like estranged siblings as they strive to endure the grim awkwardness of their situation and each other! Preferred emotional reactions to life threatening situations are restricted to a few finely-tuned sardonic words, so their personal space remains intact. 

The impact and ingenuity of Kill the Father took my breath clean away. With each new chapter a wealth of complexity is waiting to be unwrapped as the shadow of ‘The Father’ grows longer. You can’t help but root for the good guys as they battle their vulnerabilities, a merciless motive, and countless obstacles in their relentless pursuit for justice.  

One particular observation during an interview with the parents of missing child was quite arresting:

It’s as if the two of them had been hollowed out from within by some disease, the kind that takes you apart bit by bit without ever finishing you off completely.

Rating:  4.5/5

(My thanks to the publisher and Emma Finnigan for arranging a copy of this brilliant title. It goes without saying that it’s my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

In this fascinatingly complex thriller, two people, each shattered by their past, team up to solve a series of killings and abductions…

When a woman is beheaded in a park outside Rome and her six-year-old son goes missing, the police unit assigned to the case sees an easy solution: they arrest the woman’s husband and await his confession. But the Chief of Rome’s Major Crimes unit doubts things are so simple. Secretly, he lures to the case two of Italy’s top analytical minds: Deputy Captain Colomba Caselli, a fierce, warrior-like detective still reeling from having survived a bloody catastrophe, and Dante Torre, a man who spent his childhood trapped inside a concrete silo. Fed through the gloved hand of a masked kidnapper who called himself ‘The Father’, Dante emerged from his ordeal with crippling claustrophobia but, also, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and hyper-observant capacities.

All evidence suggests that ‘The Father’ is back and active after being dormant for decades. Indeed, he has left tell-tale signs that signal he’s looking forward to a reunion with Dante. But when Columba and Dante begin following the ever-more-bizarre trail of clues, they grasp that what’s really going on is darker than they ever imagined.

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At the time of writing this review for the hardback copy the Kindle version was just £0.99p – TOTAL BARGAIN so I purchased a copy too!

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Sandrone Dazieri is the bestselling author of eight novels and more than fifty screenplays. Kill the Father, the first in a planned series featuring Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre, is his UK debut.

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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

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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

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(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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(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

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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.)

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(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: Cut To The Bone, by Alex Caan

Publisher:  Twenty 7 – Bonnier Zaffre

Publication date:  3rd November 2016 (Paperback)

cut-to-the-bone-my-review

cut-to-the-bone-coverThis intriguing and complex story of missing Ruby Day shines a light into the murky corners of the online world we innocently immerse  ourselves in. It appears the intricate bread crumb trail of deleted virtual histories can’t be erased as easily as people can.

The unexpected disappearance of a young woman would naturally cause alarm, but what if that person was a little bit famous with a fan base monitoring the progress of any potential investigation? How long do you wait to confirm if it’s simply a case of someone having an unscheduled time out, or if they have attracted the attention of some oddball lurking in the shadows of Cyberville?

Now that’s a difficult call. Balancing the parents’ seemingly early overreaction to plead with the police to find their vlogger daughter against the fact that she was old enough to come and go without their permission, presents many issues for the detectives involved. But it seems being popular online is a hazardous occupation, as concerns escalate when a haunting video feed is uploaded to the online star’s channel showing Ruby Day as her subscribers have never seen her before.

While I was wondering whether her predicament was manufactured to increase viewing numbers or something else entirely, DCI Kate Riley and her assorted team delve into Ruby’s off and online lifestyle to reveal the hidden depths  of her ‘celebrity’ status. After she put herself forward on social media sites to offer diarised life updates and tutorials her popularity proves to be perfect for a huge sponsorship deal. Ruby Day was in demand than anyone (or she) could ever have guessed, giving new meaning to becoming a victim of your own success.

But I feel simply dreadful for the lack of compassion I felt for Ruby Day as the story progressed though, not that it’s the poor fictional girl’s fault! There were so many other stronger characters craving attention throughout, most of them having a major back story just itching to be told and their personal trials overtook Ruby’s at times.

So yes, while I would have liked to have connected more with Ruby Day I loved the creeping trepidation experienced by DCI Riley’s mother which was made worse by her condition, and also the rather unorthodox procedures of detective / loose cannon Zain Harris. He’s a bit ‘spirited’ for someone in such a responsible role, but you’ll discover for yourself that he does have his reasons for people not touching the back of his neck! Like I say everyone has a back story, even if his reactions may be cause for suspension on several occasions!

With its vlogging community undercurrent, Cut to the Bone will greatly appeal to a contemporary audience. There are heaps of devious Red Herrings and characters to get the wrong end of the stick about. For me, the underlying psychology as to how some people react to being in the public eye by either respecting the audience they attract or taking full advantage of them was both enlightening and disturbing.

Rating: 3.5/5

(I received a copy of this title from the Publisher with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

For fans of THE FALL and Sarah Hilary, this slick, dark contemporary thriller will have you on the edge of your seat...

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself?

Ruby’s millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares.

And the videos keep coming . . .

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cut-to-the-bone-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Alex Caan has spent over a decade working in Information Systems Security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English Teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing, and write Cut to the Bone.

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Book Review: Tall Oaks, by Chris Whitaker #TallOaks

Publisher:   Bonnier Zaffre

Publication date:   8th September 2016

tall-oaks-my-review

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

Tall Oaks is a small town that grows progressively smaller as the investigation of a missing child stalks the neighbourhood, relentlessly looking for information as to his whereabouts.

The sinister foundations of Tall Oaks are meticulously laid. But it’s as though I was eavesdropping on conversation exchanges rather than reading, catching snippets of events as they unfurled. I ‘listened in’ as the town remained stoic, and the shockwaves from the disappearance of a three year old boy ripple throughout the streets.

His mother walks the rocky road to self-destruction, blaming herself as she was the last witness to see her boy before he was gone. If only her disbelief hadn’t dulled her reactions after seeing the face of a clown on the baby monitor, as “Clown Face” was sitting in the child’s room looking right down the lens at her.

Casual police interviews of persons of interest reveal more than you could ever imagine – the façade of nice houses and the ‘let’s pretend we have a nice life’ attitudes hide the personal darkness behind the closed doors of the town’s diverse residents, which Jim, the local law enforcement, shines a light on during his investigation.

Everybody has a story: an affair, a history, the not quite belonging. ALL are brilliantly portrayed. There are a few characters who would ordinarily fly under the radar their entire lifetime, if it weren’t for recent events that is. Some are sweating it out more than others and not just because of the cloying heat. While Jim finds the good, the bad and the ugliness of their situations we see just how much of a troubled soul he is, fuelled by the lack of progress in the case and his unhealthy fixation with it.

On reflection to the desperation of a missing child, balance is restored occasionally as the story of a teenage profanity king progresses. He insists on wearing a ridiculously tight Fedora, even though it cuts the circulation off at his temples.  Yes, Manny is a wannabe gangster trying to hustle Tall Oaks with his varied antics producing the most unexpected results. He has some cracking dialogue exchanges throughout and is quite the sensation among his peers.

Tall Oaks is an evolving tragedy with an uncompromising moody vibe and remarkable quick wit.  Its sharp writing and snappy dialogue channel the undertow of deception to absolute perfection. If you asked me right now to name a book that would make an appearance in my top ten of 2016, without shadow of a doubt THIS would be one of them.

Make no mistake, it’s a THUMPINGLY good read.

Rating:  5/5 + (MORE if I could!)

(Much gratitude to the fabulous publisher for providing a copy of this book for which it is my great pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

tall-oaks-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful but full of joy.

“I always know when a book has completely blown me away – as a reader, I want to weep because I’ve finished it and I will never again get to experience it for the first time, and as a writer, it makes me want to weep because I wish I had written it myself. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE BOOKS.”
Lisa Hall, author of the No.1 Bestseller Between You and Me.

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.

Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .

In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.

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tall-oaks-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. When not writing he enjoys football, boxing, and anything else that distracts him from his wife and two young sons. Tall Oaks is his first novel.

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