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Archive for March, 2019

Today’s post for Celebrating Indie Publishing features a review of a book that I anticipated so eagerly, the follow up to a book that I got at Christmastime and devoured in one day, and in true book addict style, I finished this one in one day too!

  • Title: Sunwise
  • Author: Helen Steadman
  • Publisher: Impress Books
  • Publication Date: 1 April 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witch-finder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe.

But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witch-finder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft.

Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world.

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly loved Widdershins, so taut and intriguing and found that I connected so strongly with the characters, they haunted my thoughts long after I closed the book and left me wondering the eternal “what if” … So imagine my delight when I discovered that Helen Steadman had written a sequel, and it was due out just a few months later. It’s safe to assume that I let out the odd whoop of delight and instantly began to wonder what fate awaited these beloved characters that I had come to know and worry about.

Picking up from events in Widdershins, Sunwise reconnects the reader with Jane Driver who is slowly getting on with her life after the death of her mother at the hands of John Sharpe, the Scottish witch-finder. Times are hard and there is much danger around, rumours and suspicion are enough to bring someone’s character into question and so Jane feels that she must be careful in her work as a healer and midwife. But more so when her true love Tom arrives back from sea. Tom was press ganged during the course of Widderhins, leaving Jane bereft and open to the deceit of the man she would eventually marry, Andrew Driver. Jane is relieved to discover that Tom did not perish when his ship went down, but distraught to realise that she is trapped in a marriage and there is little that can be done to rectify events.

Running parallel to Jane’s story is that of John Sharpe, the malevolent witch-finder. He believes he is carrying out God’s work to rid the country of witches and their evil ways. The methods he employs are deplorable, his investigations are flawed and his mental state more than questionable, and somehow this malicious character feels larger than life. Steadman brings such a creeping and dark character to life so fluidly that I felt something akin to fear reading the passages of his narration, following his thought processes were frightening, the connections an addled mind made were worrying reading, and I found that the thinking of the period almost made sense given the circumstances and the belief systems in place.

Steadman is a truly gifted writer, vividly setting scenes in each chapter, bringing alive the sights and smells so perfectly. It was hard not to feel transported to the villages and towns as the characters moved around, I could almost smell the ingredients Jane used to make her medicines, feel the heartbreak that Jane and Tom experienced when they realised the impossible situation they were in … incredibly powerful writing that had me struggling to slow down and not race through this book. Taking true events as a basis for her writing, I think it’s fair to say that Helen Steadman has told the story of the period in a way that reflects her knowledge and research well, but also brings to life the superstitious and dark times that are very much part of our history.

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for reviews, giveaways and fantastic guest posts!

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing joins up with the blog tour for Claire MacLeary’s third book in the series featuring PIs Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus in Aberdeen. Having read and loved the previous books, I was very excited to be involved with the buzz for the new book, Runaway. Claire MacLeary is a name you want to remember her books are fantastic!

  • Title: Runaway
  • Author: Claire MacLeary
  • Publisher: Contraband
  • Publication Date: 14th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes, her husband is frantic with worry and turns to local PIs Maggie Laird and Big Wilma Harcus.

Maggie is reluctant to take on a misper case, but Wilma cajoles her into a covert operation trawling women s refuges and homeless squats in search of a lead. But when a woman’s body is discovered in a skip, the unlikely investigators are dragged into a deeper mystery involving people-trafficking, gambling and prostitution and they’re in deadly danger.

With the police struggling to make headway and the clock ticking, the race is on for Harcus and Laird to find answers, further straining their already fraying relationship.

With Runaway, Claire MacLeary delivers the goods again creating a surprising, gritty, fast-paced tale with the warmth and wit of women of a certain age.

My Thoughts:

Where to start … well if you’re unfamiliar with this series, I would highly recommend checking out the previous books, Cross Purpose and Burnout and getting to know the force of nature that is ‘Big Wilma’ and her business partner Maggie, they are by far some of the best characters I’ve ever met in a book.

In Runaway, the reader is faced with a frantic man searching for his wife who seems to have vanished, his phone call to the emergency services starts the book with bang. Who is the missing woman, what has happened to her, where has she gone, is there more to her disappearance than meets the eye … so many questions based on an opening chapter!
As the police investigation develops and the frantic husband, Scott begins to lose faith with the detectives and hires Harcus and Laird to look into the disappearance of his wife Debbie. Unbeknownst to Scott, the police investigation has picked up some speed and with information from another branch of Police Scotland, the case is soon escalated to CID which should mean that Harcus and Laird step back and allow the police to do their work. Big Wilma firmly has the bit between her teeth with this case and is adamant she will not give this case up. After the previous case that the agency worked on, the women are keen not to make the same mistakes again, and Maggie especially is wary of taking things at face value, and tries to push back on Wilma every time her dogged determination tries to take over or push her.

With two such strong characters it’s hard for readers not to connect with them. Billed as ‘women of a certain age’, they certainly don’t feel outdated or difficult to like, they are what I would think of as “normal” women, trying to make a living doing something they are actually good at whilst juggling running a household, family, life … admirable really. The thing I found most appealing about these characters is the way that they secretly want to be a little more like the other. Wilma, always impressed at the vocabulary that Maggie possesses, seems to want to expand on her knowledge, wants to use the intelligence she clearly already has and it’s wonderful to see this develop through the book. Maggie often seems as though she wishes she had Wilma’s confidence and sure-footedness in many situations and slowly begins to take chances with it.
Underneath their often heated exchanges, is a genuine care for each other, these women may not have started out at best friends, but there’s a strong friendship between them which has grown with each new book in the series, I’ve loved seeing how these two vastly different women have not only formed a lasting friendship but become the emotional support that the other needed.

If strong characterisation wasn’t enough to make this book a winner, then it has to be said that the writing itself is a thing of beauty! Hailing from the Granite City, I know a lot of the landmarks and settlements mentioned within the book and Claire MacLeary distills their essence perfectly. Even down to the little details such as the railings inside the Dutch Mill hotel and pub. She brings the people and the places of Aberdeen alive and shows that no matter the city, there is always a side to things you may not be aware of. And as Maggie and Wilma work their way through their investigation, their paths crisscross through some dark and dangerous streets, MacLeary ensures that readers can ‘feel’ the danger that lurks in the shadows ahead, she makes sure they can ‘sense’ the dread and anticipation, but most of all she takes some truly difficult themes and makes them understandable, writing them in a way that does not simplify or remove any of the severity surrounding them.

A gripping, dark and gritty read that is the perfect addition to the series and I truly cannot wait to see what Claire MacLeary writes next! If you ever get the chance to see Claire talking at a book festival, or even just see her in the crowd, do say hello. She is one of the loveliest people, and genuinely wonderful to speak to!

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  • Title: A Death in Chelsea
  • Author: Lynn Brittney
  • Publisher: Mirror Books
  • Publication Date: 14th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Set against the backdrop of WW1, Mayfair 100 is the telephone number for a small, specially-formed crime fighting team based in a house in Mayfair.

A call comes through to Mayfair 100, where the intrepid team of investigators eagerly await their next case. A society gossip queen has been found hanged in her room in mysterious circumstances. Her enemies are numerous – and her family are convinced she was murdered.

Can the group uncover the truth?

My Thoughts:

Although A Death in Chelsea is the second book of the Mayfair 100 series, it was the first book that I read and I did feel that I could read it and get a grasp of the characters in the investigation team. However, I would recommend reading Murder in Belgravia for completeness sake.

This is an enjoyable read set in 1915, a time that of course sees Britain engaging in WWI and facing many social challenges on the Home Front. So when the death of Lady Adeline Treborne is brought to the attention of the MET Commissioner, it’s only a matter of time before the case is assigned to Beech and the Mayfair 100 team.
The cast of characters that drive the story are magnificently created, appearing very realistic in the time and setting, the women that make up the investigative team are fascinating, each possessing their own quirks and personalities. Heading up the Mayfair 100 team are police officers Chief Inspector Peter Beech, Detective Arthur Tollman and PC Billy Rigsby, who must juggle the legalities of the investigation whilst ensuring that they get results. But for me, it was the strong and opinionated women who stole the show, Mabel, Sissy and Caroline are just brilliant!

The investigation is far from easy or straightforward, the team find that they are led down various paths, uncovering secrets and skeletons from their pasts, but the wonderful dynamic of the personalities involved makes this so enjoyable to follow. Watching the development of relationships between the members of the team were fantastic, especially the contrast between the policing of Tollman’s days and the more modern ways of Rigsby, but their friendship always felt strong and real, despite opposing viewpoints at times.

Clever characterisation, strong research into social and economic factors and some brilliant writing make this a must read for fans of historical crime fiction. There’s so many threads to the plot, and I hate to admit it, but Lynn Brittney had me fooled as to the motive and identity of the killer. But she didn’t half wow me with her crafty writing and leave me desperately hoping for another case for the Mayfair 100 team!

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The second of my reviews today comes from a vastly different book, this time a book called The Silver Moon Storybook written by Elaine Gunn and illustrated by Megan MacPhie.

  • Title: The Silver Moon Storybook
  • Author: Elaine Gunn
  • Publisher: Self published

Early copy received from the author for review purposes.

Description:

What darkness lies in the past of a little witch, cursed into the shape of a giant? Who will save a magical unicorn, imprisoned for generations in the castle of a tyrant? As the silver moon rises in the sky, an enormous clown and a powerful siren join a humble weaver and other enchanting characters in these haunting tales of illusion, discovery and love.

An exquisitely illustrated bedtime story for the age of #MeToo, The Silver Moon Storybook transforms themes of modern feminism into touching fables full of the magic and shadows of traditional fairy tales.

My Thoughts:

The words of Elaine Gunn are brought to life with the impressive artwork of Megan MacPhie in what I believe is Gunn’s first published book. And what an intriguing book this is, with a cast of characters that are crafted with detail and clear personalities.

Each of the tales within this book features a strong female character that found a sense of freedom from the ties that bound her in the beginning. There are also themes of love, loss and relationships throughout the tales, which make for thought provoking reading.
The notion that these are modern feminist tales will attract many readers, the magical creatures and wonderful illustrations will also appeal to the audience, but there is a feeling of reality in all of this. Stick with me on this train of thought, but even in a tale featuring witches, unicorns or giant spiders, there are characters who can rely on each other, support each other or just be allies in times of need. These characters can be all female, they can be all male or they can be a mixture of both sexes and show an accurate portrayal of modern struggles – therefore making this feel very current and real for modern life.

I this book would be worthy addition to any bookshelf, the tales themselves are magical and entertaining for readers who just want to read the story, but perhaps for those who want to read between the lines, who want to explore the themes and deeper meanings of the text then this is also an idea read. There are so many different things you can take from The Silver Moon Storybook. It’s one of those that I read at leisure, taking the time to enjoy each story, think about what I read and the meanings behind it before moving on to the next story. The handy note section at the back of the book providing ample space for me to jot down thoughts about what I had read, and means that when I undoubtedly go back to read this book again, I will be able to see if the story still conjures the same ideas as before.

I don’t often mention the cover of books, but in this case I want to make an exception. The Silver Moon Storybook is an exquisite book, from the beautiful purple cover, to the flowing silver image and font … it’s eye catching and hard to resist.


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I’m thrilled to welcome you to a special Indie Publishing Friday , today I have two fantastic books that I want to share with you. Two vastly different books, but two brilliant ones.

I’ve also got a great Q&A with one of the authors to share.

The book in this post is A Letter From Sarah by Dan Proops. It was published by Urbane Publications on 7th March and is available from Waterstones, Amazon etc.

  • Title: A Letter From Sarah
  • Author: Dan Proops
  • Publisher: Urbane Publications
  • Publication Date: 7th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Adam’s sister, Sarah, has been missing for seven years, but he hasn’t given up hope of finding her. He is a sculptor and lives with his bedridden father who is a bully and a curmudgeon.

One morning, as the anniversary of Sarah’s disappearance nears, Adam receives a letter from her and she is apparently alive and well, living in New York. Adam travels to Brooklyn to search for Sarah as he’s desperate to see her, but she seems determined to avoid him.

Sarah’s letters arrive weekly, but she continues to remain elusive. Adam is perplexed by Sarah’s requests for secrecy, as is his father and his girlfriend, Cassandra.

He is determined to find her, whatever the cost to his wellbeing, health and sanity….

My Thoughts:

A Letter From Sarah is an exploration of human emotion and the bonds of family/friends. In this book, Dan Proops takes great care to weave a story that illustrates the best and worst character traits a human can possess. There is obsession, love, betrayal, faith, and loyalty to name but a few, but somehow Proops manages to balance these perfectly to showcase a cast of characters that are distinctly different from each other, acting in ways you might not always agree with or understand. With such strong characterisation it’s hard not to feel some pull towards Adam, through his desperate need to find answers about his sister Sarah, readers watch him slowly become obsessed with the letters that begin to arrive. The very idea that his sister is alive and living in New York buoy him up, but at the same time, he guards his heart against being hurt. There have been plenty time wasters over the years, ones who have pretended to be Sarah or have information about her and left Adam and his father no better off for answers.

The writing is pitched just right, at times it feels as though events are seen through the eyes of Adam, it feels as though you are following his muddled train of thought as he tries to piece together information from the letters, memories of childhood and process events around him. It feels like his mind is unravelling at times, and his slow descent into a dark abyss feels all too real, the people around him taking advantage of his generosity or kind nature make this all too brutal to witness sometimes.

It’s an addictive read and one that I found myself thinking about when I wasn’t reading it, why was Sarah keen to evade him, why was Adam treated so harshly by his father, how would this all impact on Adam’s relationship with his girlfriend Cassandra … so many questions swirled around in my mind about this book and haunted my thoughts as I read.
A truly remarkable read and one that I think would be perfect for book groups, the possibilities for discussion are endless!


Author Feature:

Dan Proops has been a full time writer for six years and has completed four novels and a memoir. Previous to this he was a professional artist, organising a one man show at the age of fourteen. He has had many exhibitions over a long career and his artwork was purchased by internationally acclaimed art dealer, Eric Franck. His artwork appeared frequently in the national press and his painting was featured in Image of the Week in the Times. One of his exhibitions was previewed in the Telegraph by columnist Colin Gleadell.

Dan is a Twitter influencer and has a following of 22,000; last year 1.2 million people read his tweets, and he currently attends the advanced writing class at Morley College, run by the renowned radio four dramatist Mike Walker. Dan Proops is also the grandson of legendary advice columnist, Marjorie Proops. He lives and works in London.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I love being an author. I can create a place, populated by characters and wonderful locations. It’s like creating my own world where I control the actions of my people, their dreams and ambitions. I give them dilemmas, emotions and difficulties that are sometimes hard to overcome. And their unique traits are woven into the fabric of my story.

I can envisage, in detail, my characters’ tone of voice, how they act, and their demeanours. And I love description, perhaps a building painted liquid bronze in the sunshine. Characterisation, description and plot all intertwine to create my own personal universe.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

As I write a lovely sentence, at the back of my mind, I wonder if anyone has Tweeted on my notifications page, so I’ll just have a five second peek. (really, this time just five seconds).

An hour later, I’ve lost my place and can’t remember what I was writing about! The other problem I face as an author is strict discipline, which involves sticking to only five double espressos a day, which is hard at the best of times. Coffee is the fuel of writing.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why? 

A novel that I would love to have written is Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days. He served as a policeman in Burma and the descriptions of the Burmese jungle are beautiful and evocative. I particularly like the protagonist, Flory, a vulnerable character who’s beleaguered with the racism of his members club; he struggles to find his footing as he’s close friends with a Burmese doctor.

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I enjoy reading, and meeting up with friends. I also enjoy meeting with fellow authors to discuss writing.

I’m also an avid PC gamer and enjoy story-run fantasy games that draw me in o a fascinating narrative.

Now my first novel has been published I’m really enjoying promoting A Letter From Sarah and am thrilled that an Indie bookshop is stocking the novel. For me, seeing my novel in a bookshop is as important as my online presence, connecting with my Twitter followers and making sure my website is up to date. And I’m really excited about blog tours.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

About ten in the morning, I go to a particular café that I like, flick through a newspaper, then I read some fiction for an hour. After that I begin writing. I work for four hours, then I take a break and try for another hour.

What’s on the horizon? 

I’m currently working on a new novel. I’m always excited about the book I’m currently writing, and this particular manuscript needs a thorough edit. I’m quite ruthless when it comes to editing, and can spend up to eight months perfecting a book. The first draft feels like having fun at a party, after a few beers, when you can say anything you want, without worrying about the consequences!

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

I’d advise any reader to try out books from different decades. I love Orwell, Grahame Greene, and F. Scott Fitzgerald as I really like the style of writing in those times. So, if you’re a crime addict, try an Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle or Daphne Du Maurier. For me, reading the classics is as important as perusing contemporary literature.

Can you tell me a little about your latest book?  How would you describe it and why should we go read it? 

Here’s a brief description of the novel: for seven years Adam has been tormented by the disappearance of his beloved sister Sarah. And then, with no warning he receives a letter from her. She refuses to meet but won’t explain why. Adam fears she’s in trouble and sets off to find her, but the harder he looks the more elusive she becomes.

A Letter From Sarah is not autobiographical in the strict sense, but I was inspired to write it after falling out with my only sibling.

I think that anyone who likes psychological thrillers, mystery, suspense would enjoy the book.


A huge thank you to Dan for joining me today for a chat, it’s a huge honour to welcome indie authors to The Quiet Knitter blog to speak about their books, their writing habits and find out what their next project might be about.

To find out more about Dan and his books, check out his website or Twitter!
Website: http://dan-proops.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dan_Proops




 


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I am thrilled to welcome you to another Celebrating Indie Publishing spot on The Quiet Knitter blog and share a review of a book that intrigued me and entertained me in equal measure! Today’s book in the spotlight is The Red Light Zone by Jeff Zycinski, an affectionate, humorous account of inside life at the BBC.

  • Title: The Red Light Zone: An Insider’s ‘Laugh ‘n’ Tell’ of BBC Radio
  • Author: Jeff Zycinski
  • Publisher: The Lunicorn Press
  • Publication Date: 24th January 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Stop! Danger! Sex for sale! A red light can signify any one of those, but in a radio station it means a microphone has gone live: the walls may be soundproof, but in studio space, everyone can hear you scream … or sneeze.

For twenty-five years, Jeff Zycinski worked for BBC Radio and became the longest-serving boss of Radio Scotland. He made the big decisions buying a new vacuum cleaner for the Selkirk office and chaired a meeting that almost erupted in violence when someone suggested cats were better than dogs. He has a lot to say about Brexit, Scottish Independence, football, BBC bias, Islam and strippers … but not in this book. Okay, he talks about them a bit … mainly the strippers. An affectionate, humorous account of inside life at the Beeb.

You will never buy chips in the same way again!

My Thoughts:

The radio has always been there in my life, whenever I went into the kitchen my mum had the radio on, in the car, even taking a wee battery operated radio outside into the garden when we played outside, and so when I saw the description of this book I was curious. What interesting nuggets of information would this book give? Would this give me a sneaky look behind the mysterious world of radio that I’d always wondered about?

With a very relaxed style of narration, The Red Light Zone is a very enjoyable read. Jeff strikes me as a very easy to speak to and listen to sort of guy, it feels as though you’ve sat down for a coffee (or a pint) with him whilst he regales you with tales of his career at the BBC. And I’m sure there were so many options of tales he had the choice to share, but the ones he chose make for fascinating reading. It’s interesting to watch the development of radio over the years, seeing how production of radio differs from TV and how the dynamics shifted.

Jeff’s frankness is refreshing, he is open about successes and failures over the span of his career, the impacts his career had on his family and indeed shares various anecdotes of family life, all of which endear him to the reader.

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  • Title: Where No Shadows Fall
  • Author: Peter Ritchie
  • Publisher: Black and White Publishing
  • Publication Date: 7th February 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description

Expose the truth or let the dead lie still?

Grace Macallan’s life is on an even keel – at last. But a 9-to-5 career away from the frontline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

So when she’s sent to investigate a suicide at Glasgow’s notorious Barlinnie prison, Grace gladly escapes her desk. The dead inmate is Tommy McMartin, heir to a ferocious criminal family. His murder conviction saw Tommy’s fall from power; cast out not for violence but because the victim was his gay lover.

The investigation drags Grace into contact with her McMartin adversaries of old. But the gangland dynasty is under threat and, as it topples, secrets once dead and buried are unearthed.

As she unravels Tommy McMartin’s fate, Grace senses someone watching her from the shadows, someone who aches for revenge. An awful dilemma faces her: to expose the truth or let the dead lie still.

My Thoughts:

The fourth book in the Grace Macallan series was a book that I eagerly anticipated, this is a series I’ve followed from the beginning and have become somewhat attached to the characters. The writing never fails to emphasize the danger or the hard conditions that Peter Ritchie has his characters working under, something that I suspect comes from experience as opposed to imagination.
An immersive and thrilling read, this series has taken readers on a journey into the darkness of the criminal underworld and the hierarchies of the powerful, and brought them face to face with some of the most terrifying and impossible situations.

Without saying much about the plot, I will say that the scenes set in Barlinnie prison are some of the most powerful pieces of writing from Peter Ritchie. He manages to set the scene perfectly, convey the harshness of the atmosphere and the bleakness of the situations facing his characters incarcerated there without being overly dramatic or taking away from the seriousness of it all. But for me, what really steals the show is the characterisation.
Being able to see another side to an already complex character such as Tommy McMartin when he’s in prison really fascinated me. Ritchie’s writing has this wonderful way of making a reader not only feel the emotions of the personas at play, but to feel as though they are there in the moment. Seeing this powerful and dangerous gangland figure unravel and became fair game in prison, the abuse meted out to him had a serious impact, both physically and psychologically, left him feeling there was only one course of action open to him. Being able to make me feel sympathy towards Tommy shows the skill of the author perfectly, his writing evokes great emotion for a character who has possibly carried out some of the most violent and deadly actions in the gangland setting, I applaud Ritchie for this impressive feat.

Macallan’s life has moved on somewhat from the end of book three, and the continuity of her timeline has been wonderful to watch develop. The way that she has been cast makes for engaging reading, not the stereotypical female in a male heavy workplace. She has earned her place and the respect of those around her through hard work and years of working in some of the most dangerous environments. Watching her life take shape outside of the job allows readers to get to know this character deeply, understand some of her motivations and why she will always remember those who’ve helped her get where she is.
She walks a dangerous tightrope, balancing what is right for her family and what is right for her, whilst fighting the good fight and finding justice.

A brilliantly gritty crime thriller that adds to the series perfectly, it examines the bonds between family, loyalty and friends, leaving readers questioning what will happen next.

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  • Title: Thunder Bay
  • Author: Douglas Skelton
  • Publisher: Polygon (An Imprint of Birlinn Books)
  • Publication Date: 7th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When reporter Rebecca Connolly is told of Roddie Drummond’s return to the island of Stoirm she senses a story. Fifteen years before he was charged with the murder of his lover, Mhairi. When he was found Not Proven, Roddie left the island and no one, apart from his sister, knew where he was or what he was doing.

Now he has returned for his mother’s funeral – and it will spark an explosion of hatred, bitterness and violence.

Defying her editor’s wishes, Rebecca joins forces with local photographer Chaz Wymark to dig into the secrets surrounding Mhairi’s death, and her mysterious last words of Thunder Bay, the secluded spot on the west coast of the island where, according to local lore, the souls of the dead set off into the after life. When another murder takes place, and the severe weather that gives the island its name hits, she is ideally placed to uncover the truth about what happened that night fifteen years before.

My Thoughts:

A remote island setting, a murderer unpunished and a tight knit community holding secrets in their pasts. Doesn’t that just grab your attention and make you want to get reading?! It did for me and I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to read an early copy.

Douglas Skelton is a skilled wordsmith, he can craft characters with great depth that tug on the hearts of readers, but equally he can conjure characters that make you feel a boiling rage towards their attitudes and actions. The emotion that he draws from the reader towards these characters helps to make this such an addictive read and indeed I found myself utterly hooked reading this, desperately needing to know if person x was going to continue as a “wrong’un” or if person z would finally get the answers they sought.

This wonderful characterisation is complimented perfectly with the island of Stoirm. The island comes alive through the vivid descriptions, especially those of Thunder Bay and the coastline surrounding it. When Rebecca goes for a trek around the island and to the Bay to get a better idea of the area mentioned in the dying breath of Mhairi some years previously, readers get a fantastic atmospheric image in their minds of the rugged landscape.

Plot wise, this has to be one of the most fascinating books I’ve read so far this year. There are so many little details to the plot, so many things that click together to make the bigger picture and it just blew me away. And craftily, just as you become immersed in one arc of the plot, Skelton deftly throws you off course, intrigues you with another line of narrative and has the reader gasping in shock at the revelations uncovered. I’m not saying anything more about the plot, this deserves to be discovered at your own pace.

A gripping and thrilling read from one of the great Scottish crime writers, themes of crime, mystery, secrecy and loyalty all woven together to make Thunder Bay one of those books that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

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It’s a great honour to be able to showcase some of the wonderful books and authors from indie publishing, and today is no exception.

Today’s book in the spotlight is The Courier by Kjell Ola Dhal, known affectionately as “one of the fathers of Nordic Noir”, he has written several books over the course of his writing career including a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers (Oslo Detectives series) featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich.

Ebook publication was January 2019, and paperback publication is set for March 2019.

  • Title: The Courier
  • Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Paperback Publication Date: 21st March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:
In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.
And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in an exceptional, shocking thriller.

My Thoughts:

Kjell Ola Dahl has the wonderful gift of writing something so full of tension, atmosphere and intricate detail that truly moves the reader. And so, when you start this book you know that what lies ahead will be a literary treat, but you cannot begin to imagine where the plot will take you and how it will affect you.

I have always found WWII and Occupation settings fascinating, something about the strength and courage exhibited by the characters is truly remarkable, their determination to survive leaves a lasting impact on me. And the characters here were no different, I found that the more I read about Ester, the more invested I became in her fate. As she makes her way through the dark world of resistance movements and the threats posed by shadows and enemies unknown, readers witness her strength to survive despite her heartache over what has happened in Oslo. Seeing her father being taken by Gestapo shakes Esther, her turmoil and anguish feel so real, and it’s hard not to be affected by this, the eternal ‘what ifs’ that run through Ester’s mind were ones that I found myself pondering too.

Ester is not the only character that draws the reader in, each of the characters is rich in detail, their backstories and motivations are depicted so vividly that it’s hard not to imagine these as real people. It’s hard not to be moved by the circumstances and situations they face, Kjell Ola Dahl writes so beautifully that this becomes more than just a book, it becomes an experience.
Quite possibly the best things about this book is the portrayal of the female characters. Each of female is depicted as strong, strong enough to take on any man and indeed they do. In a time when males were the driving force of power, government and espionage, we see a force to be reckoned with in the females of this book.

I raise my hat to Don Bartlett once again for his translation skills, allowing more readers to enjoy this masterpiece, he ensures that the English version of The Courier is not only readable, but exceptionally enjoyable.

A tension filled thriller that packs a remarkable amount of story into just the right amount of words to carry a reader off on a wave of emotion and render their heart both broken and mended within the space of a few hundred pages.

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