Book Review: The Owl Always Hunts At Night (Munch and Krüger Book 2) by Samuel Bjork

Publisher:  Doubleday (Transworld Publishers)

Publication date:  March 2017

the-owl-always-hunts-at-night-my-review

the-owl-always-hunts-at-night-coverAfter reading and reviewing the truly exceptional I’m Travelling Alone waaaay back in 2015 I have eagerly awaited the return of the homicide investigative team with their very private lives and ‘tells’ that manifest themselves when things aren’t going so well.

I’m thrilled to see Holger Munch back at the helm solving cryptic puzzles for fun, thoroughly embracing his grouchy-smoker-overweight side, and still in denial about his divorce from Marianne despite all the years that have passed and the new man now in her life.

The skills of his team are sorely tested when they receive a call from the scene of a meticulously staged ritual. The victim is an emaciated teenager, inexplicably posed on a feathered bed surrounded by a pentagram of candles, wearing nothing except for a blonde wig. It’s clear she suffered a harrowing ordeal before she was brought to her final resting place but there is no evidence for them to go on, not even to identity her.

Holger Munch needs Mia Krüger back on the team. Rather he needs her enviable talent for discerning what others can’t. I find it admirable and that Holger thinks he knows best, ignoring the facts which prevent Mia returning to work until her therapist declares her fit. So long as she keeps a low profile Holger is confident he can get her expert assessment of this new case, but low profiles and Mia aren’t always compatible. This time, rather than thriving on the thinking process she relies on, she is more distracted and remote than usual which is an unhealthy combination and begins to hinder the significant breakthrough the case requires.

The Owl Always Hunts at Night is brimming with damaged souls and even those who have found a place to belong are ironically more vulnerable than they have ever been in their entire lives. An abundance of decoys are fed into the story to lure you away from the genuine culprit, while brief glimpses into the past had me thinking how tragic the some of the suspects’ lives had been, each experience moulding them into person they became.

All-in-all The Owl Always Hunts at Night is a startlingly phenomenal read where the complexities of the mind, criminal or otherwise, threaten to consume the characters in countless ways. It’s unreservedly compelling and highly recommended – I’m absolutely looking forward to the next instalment!

Rating: 4.5/5

(I requested a copy of this title from the publisher and Becky Hunter who kindly obliged, and it is my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

the-owl-always-hunts-at-night-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When a young woman is found dead, the police are quick to respond. But what they find at the scene is unexpected. The body is posed, the scene laboriously set. And there is almost no forensic evidence to be found.

Detective Mia Krüger has been signed off work pending psychological assessment. But her boss has less regard for the rules than he should. Desperate to get Mia back in the office, Holger Munch offers her an unofficial deal.

But the usually brilliant Mia is struggling and the team are unable to close the case. Until a young hacker uncovers something that forces the team to confront the scope of the murderer’s plans and face the possibility that he may already be on the hunt for a second victim.

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the-owl-always-hunts-at-night-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Samuel Bjork is the pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Øien. The Owl Always Hunts At Night is the second in his Munch and Krüger series, I’m Travelling Alone was the first. Both have been bestsellers across Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.

GOODREADS

Book Review: The Bird Tribunal, by Agnes Ravatn (Translated by Rosie Hedger)

Publisher:  Orenda Books

Publication date:  1st September 2016 (Paperback)

the-bird-tribunal-my-review

the-bird-tribunalAn eerie vibe grumbles throughout The Bird Tribunal and its creeping uncertainty has a surreal allure that I simply can’t explain.

The rolling prose is uninterrupted by speech marks creating disturbingly magical scenes of curt dialogue, so all of your senses are amplified waiting for the baffling relationship between a recent fugitive from life and an emotionally remote stickler for routine to thaw.

Sigurd Bagge’s isolated cottage feels like the coldest place on earth at times, and not just because of the weather. Still, Allis Hagtorn is attracted to the hypnotic bleakness as it allows her to disappear and leave her messy affairs behind. All she had to do to earn this privilege was to apply to Bagge’s advert for someone to carry out various household tasks and tend to the garden while his wife was away.

His wife hadn’t been home for some time judging by the state of the garden which Allis has to tackle with a scythe. He must be desperate too as Allis has very little horticultural experience. Applying strict attention to detail at all times as instructed by her employer she finds the lonely, backbreaking chores oddly gratifying and Allis’s self-imposed banishment will serve as punishment and character eraser all in one. This may be precisely what she craves, but considering she’s a presenter on TV it’s clear she has something she wishes to hide, or forget.

As Allis settles into restless oblivion she discovers life can be unpredictable behind  the cottage’s white picket fence, as Bagge may change his regimental routine to include unscheduled conversation or invite her to sit at the table to eat with him at a moment’s notice. The only constant is an indefinable foreboding until an intriguing metamorphosis is complete for the both of them.

I’m always mightily impressed when an author can effortlessly create arresting drama and suspense when most of the activity occurs in one central location – so much freedom surrounds the oppressive stage and yet the imposing rock face, an army of trees, and exactly one hundred steps leading to a wooden jetty leading out to the mysterious water provide a peculiar spiritual imprisonment. Oh, how easily the days are shattered by the occasional visit to a malevolent shop keeper who needs to pay more attention to restocking the shelves than sharing her random venomous thoughts with Allis. Still, this distracts the inexperienced housekeeper’s mind from fantasies she toys with involving her elusive employer which could be enough to drive anyone to despair…

The Bird Tribunal is heaving with a detached dreamlike quality that edges under your skin and lingers there causing time to stand absolutely still. My only wish would be that there was some way I could unread the pages so I could have the pleasure of devouring them all over again.

Rating:  5/5

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

the-bird-tribunal-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.

Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.

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the-bird-tribunal-author-profile

(Courtesy of Publisher’s press release)

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is an author and columnist. She made her literary debut with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjoldisiplin), 2014. In these works Ravatn shows her unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), 2013, is a strange and captivating story about shame, guilt and atonement. Ravatn received The cultural radio P2’s listener’s prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to The Youth’s Critic’s Prize. The Bird Tribunal was also made into a successful play, which premièred in Oslo in 2015.

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TRANSLATOR, ROSIE HEDGER

Book Review: I’m Travelling Alone (Munch and Krüger Book 1), by Samuel Bjork

Publisher: Random House/Transworld  |  Publication date:  31st December 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Netgalley)

I was utterly spellbound by the quality of this Nordic narrative, which was Im Travelling Aloneengrossing to the point of addiction. It’s one of those books you can really lose yourself in, snatching your attention from the first chapter and refusing to loosen its grip.

The main crux of the story concerns a devilishly unhinged child killer who is on the loose. A six year old girl is discovered in the woods, her body hanging from a tree as part of an intricately staged scene. With this, a signature of mayhem has already made itself known to the officer in charge, Holger Munch: if he has any chance of solving the case, he knows he must assemble the best team of investigators in the Country. But they have been separated following an ‘error of judgement’ on a previous case.

His ‘chosen one’ is Mia Kruger. After some coaxing to leave her isolated home, where she exists day to day with her own deadly agenda, Holger convinces her to re-join him. Mia is renowned for her instincts and she grasps the severity of this case immediately. Only her keen eyes see the number that is etched on the victim’s fingernail. That number was ‘one’ – this child is only the first.

As Holger and Mia make the sinister connections I could almost hear the mental cogs clicking into place, but are they being led merry dance called manipulation, as someone enjoys pulling their strings from the side lines (and everyone else’s too).

When a story is brimming with psychosis, from religious ‘fanatics’ who worship in the woods, others whose mental health is questionable, plus the entire population of Norway who decide to call the crime hotline as the parents have put up a reward for information, how could the exhausted team ever have a hope in hell of conquering the case? The crimes are abhorrent, but things start to get personal for the team and it seems the murderer is heading off on a tangent that no profiler could have guessed.

The clues are mulled over by Mia as she applies her unique, repetitive thought process. Snippets of these are offered to us on the page making it easy to follow along, as if you’re witnessing the revelations as they happen – now THAT was very cleverly done. Despite her quirky knack of solving oddest cases, the author has succeeded in making her human – her connection with her boss  is priceless. In fact, the interaction within the entire team was extraordinary.

I must mention the bravery of Tobias, the lad who found one of the victims, as this was portrayed superbly and I loved the role his character played later in the story. The writer had a gift of making sure all characters are relevant, no matter how brief their initial involvement.

There’s a couple of unanswered questions, but nothing to spoil the stunning plot. In fact, I’d simply urge you to read this as soon as you can – in the words of the killer, ‘Tick-Tock’…    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Rating: 5/5

(My sincere thanks to the publisher @TransworldBooks for providing a copy of this stunning title via Netgalley.)


Footprints final

(Extract taken from Netgalley)

A six year old girl is found hanging from a tree. Around her neck is an airline tag which says ‘I’m travelling alone’.

A special homicide unit in Oslo is re-opened with veteran police investigator Holger Munch at the helm. He must convince his erstwhile partner, Mia Kruger, an extremely talented but eccentric investigator, to leave the solitary island to which she has retreated in order to take her own life.

When scrutinising the murder files, Mia spots the number One carved into the dead girl’s fingernail. She returns to duty to prevent more little girls falling victim to a terrifying, revenge-driven serial killer…