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** My thanks to Karen Sullivan for my copy of this book and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear … Sun Protection Factor 100

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary.
With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives – chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

My Thoughts & Review:

Antti Tuomainen has a wonderful sense of humour that he deftly weaves throughout his writing, and so readers are in for a real treat with Palm Beach, Finland.  His unique brand of dark humour is perfectly matched to a superbly plotted narrative and some impressive characterisation, culminating in one of the most impressive reads that will leave you desperate for more!

Jan Nyman is an undercover police officer tasked with some of the most difficult and often taxing operations facing the National Central Police.  His current case, investigating a mysterious death at a peculiar holiday resort billed as Finland’s answer to the Floridan town.
The madcap cast of characters makes this a delight to read, and strangely enough it’s the less wholesome characters that appealed most to me.  Robin, Chico and Holma all have something in common, their actions are the result of circumstance.  Holma in particular is on a mission to get answers and has no qualms about using deception, force or sheer bloody violence to get what he wants.

As with Tuomainen’s other books, the descriptions of settings are magnificent and give the reader the feeling of being transported to the shores of Finland.  The frigid air of the holiday village setting leeches from the pages and leaves you feeling suitably chilled, the plot on the other hand will unnerve you and have you devouring the book to find out what happens.

The writing is clever, it’s electrifying and utterly brilliant.  This is an author you want to watch out for, each of his books is a joy to read and usually renders me speechless at the level of inventiveness woven throughout the plots.

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** My thanks to the wonderful Karen Sullivan for my copy of this book and Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…

Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

My Thoughts & Review:

Trap is the second book in the Reykjavík Noir series by Lilja Sigurdardóttir, and it’s unapologetically brilliant. It’s sharp and clever and displays the high level of excellence that fans of Sigurdardóttir have come to expect from her writing.

The writing is evocative, and teeming with detail and atmosphere. Readers get a real feel for the situations that both Sonja and Agla find themselves in, the danger feels so imposing, the fear is almost claustrophobic.
If I thought that Sonja was a great character in the previous book, Snare, then Sigurdardóttir has well and truly made a character that I love and dare I admit it, admire. Her determination to get out of the jam she’s in really impressed me, her tenacity and stubbornness were great to see and I felt that I was almost cheering for her at times. Agla, I really felt for at times. I wanted to shake her, I wanted to laugh with her and I wanted to yell at her. How is it an author can create characters that we shouldn’t like, but still feel sympathy towards? That’s the skill of this author, she can draw strong emotions from the reader with ease. The character that really tugged on my heartstrings was Sonja’s son Tomas. He is a child stuck between divorced parents, adores his mother and wants to be with her, not his father. The complexities of adult relationships are beyond his comprehension, the whys and hows of his current situation only lead to frustration.

A financial investigation thread to the plot is fascinating, seeing how Agla and others planned to work the system is mindbogglingly clever and I applaud Sigurdardóttir for taking something so complex and making it understandable.

Packed with tension, this is a book that you do not want to put down. Short chapters make it far too easy for you to fall into the trap of reading “just one more chapter”, and before you know it, the supper is burnt or it’s 3am and sleep is something you can’t contemplate until you know what’s going to happen next. It’s the sort of book that you can imagine playing out like a film, and the quality of the writing means that it sweeps you away with a momentum akin to jumping into a vortex.

I absolutely cannot wait to see what book three of the series has instore for readers, but I’ll perhaps lay off the caffeine before it comes out so I don’t feel so jumpy and on edge as Sigurdardóttir casts her icy Icelandic spell on me!

 

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** My thanks to the wonderful Karen at Orenda Books for my copy of this book and Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the blog tour**

 

Description:

Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t…

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story … with a tragic heart.

My Thoughts & Review:

If there’s one author you need to read it’s Louise Beech, this wily wordsmith has a unique gift when it comes to crafting a beautifully evocative tale that will capture the heart of readers.  You will often hear people throw the phrase “this is the best book yet” when they read the latest offering from an author, but in this case I truly believe that The Lion Tamer Who Lost is Louise’s absolute best book yet!

Without rehashing the plot, I will say that this is an incredibly moving and poignant read that flows beautifully.  The characters are so vivid and real, you can feel their anguish, their frustration, their happiness and become so invested in them, they become part of you.
This is a love story like no other and it draws emotions from the reader in a way that I cannot explain.  It was likened to the sort of book that brings on a therapeutic cry, a bit like the way that Beaches starring Barbra Streisand never fails to make me weep, and I found that whilst reading this I went through an entire box of tissues.

The most exquisite thing about Louise’s writing is that she portrays emotion and the fragility of it so sympathetically, so understandingly, but with a frankness that does not shy away from the magnetic pull of it.

If you want characters that you can take into your heart, a plot that carry you off to the wilds of Zimbabwe and back again, and writing that will take you on an emotional journey then this is the book for you.  I cannot recommend this highly enough!

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Overkill Cover

 

** My thanks to the wonderful Karen Sullivan for my copy of this book and Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.
A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

My Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit that this author is a new name to me, but when the description of the book is as intriguing as this then you just have to dive straight in! There is something quite refreshing about discovering a new author, you have no preconceived notions as a reader about their writing style, their characters or what the plot may hold. This journey of discovery was an enjoyable one, being able to watch the characters evolve seeing the plot twist and weave around on itself in ways you find inexplicably exciting and with such an explosive and emotive opening, this was a book that held me captive!

Symon has a wonderful writing style, her vivid descriptions of settings conjured such crisp images in my head, I almost felt that I was able to see Mataura, smell the farms, feel the closeness of the small community… it all flows so beautifully from the pages. However, Symon’s talents don’t stop here, she takes great effort and time to create a cast of characters that readers instantly feel a spectrum of emotion towards. From the murder victim and her family, to the local Mataura police constable Sam Shephard, I think I went full circle with shock, sadness, confusion, anger, disbelief and surprise. Sam is delightfully sarcastic, her humour is peppered throughout the narrative, providing a welcomed lightness to an otherwise dark thriller. Her tenacity is matched by her honesty, which can at times be a downfall for her, but this in turn makes her endearing to readers. This is a character I would very much like to meet again!

There is an incredibly “real” feel to this book, the issues at play in the plot are ones that impact on many: love, hate, fear, honesty and secrets. The way that the plot pulls together is superb and leaves you with a satisfying conclusion. Now I just have to hope that there are more books lined up with Sam Shephard …

You can buy a copy of Overkill via:

Amazon UK
Orenda Books eBookstore
Waterstones

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** My thanks to Orenda Books and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s, death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed… When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.

Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

After He Died is an unpredictable and intense read, it’s expertly plotted, has striking characterisation and is a damned good read.

If you’ve read any of Michael Malone’s books you will be aware of just how skilled this author is at setting a scene, making a reader feel that they’ve been transported into the book and facing the situation alongside the characters, but in this book, he’s somehow gone beyond that.  The way that Paula has been written means that readers are experiencing her grief with her, they are able to feel her desperation as she tries to make sense of what is happening around her. If this strong character wasn’t enough, there is another striking figure that stands out, Cara. Her personality, her job, everything about her screams intrigue, and the more time I spent reading about her, the more I liked her.
Equally, the settings are just as fantastically written, so vivid and atmospheric. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve added another place to my list for book related adventures!

One of the best things about this book was the way that it kept me guessing, there are a few authors I can always rely on to give me enough information to keep me hooked without overdoing it, and Malone is definitely one! Masterfully, he weaves mystery and trickery throughout the beautifully written narrative. I had no idea whether characters were trustworthy, whether narrators were reliable, what lay ahead in the darkness that loomed, but I did know that I wasn’t able to put this book down for long.

This is an addictive read that has everything I look for in a domestic noir thriller!

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I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the first stand alone thriller by Michael Stanley, the name behind the fantastic Detective Kubu series!  It’s such a thrill to share this extract with you from Dead of Night, and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do, I know that I cannot wait to devour this book!

Description:

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When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

You can buy a copy of Dead of Night via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones
Book Depository

Extract:

After unpacking, Crys went outside and settled on her porch. It was hotter than Pretoria, but there was a freshness to the air, carrying with it a beautiful scent, which seemed to come from a nearby tree covered in lemon-coloured flowers. She made a mental note to ask Johannes what it was.

She opened her laptop and navigated to the folder that contained the photos Michael had asked Sara Goldsmith to store. Starting with the most recent, she flipped through them, paying closer attention than she had when she looked at them on the flight over.

Michael was a prolific picture-taker, but he had outdone himself during the short time he’d been at the rhino farm. There were photos of everything, from the entrance to the farm to the chalets; from a variety of views of the exterior of the house to shots of the interior rooms. There were even several of Anton being served by a black man at the dining-room table. There were photos of the game vehicles, the electric fence, various trees and, of course, rhinos.

Why were there so many of Tshukudu? Crys decided that Michael must have been doing something similar to her – also writing for his main employer, the New York Times. The good news was that if she missed something, she would be able to find it in Michael’s collection.

When she finished looking at the photos, she worked on her notes and photos for a while, and since Tshukudu had Wi-Fi, she was able to catch up on stuff from home. Pretty soon the afternoon was gone. She took a shower and changed, and headed across to the main lodge for dinner.

Johannes and his father were already in the living room. The older man stood up and introduced himself as Anton Malan. Crys guessed he was mid-sixties and he looked fit.

He shook her hand and kept hold of it. ‘Please say your name again. I didn’t quite catch it.’ His accent was even rougher than Johannes’s.

‘Crystal Nguyen. But call me Crys. Everyone does.’ ‘Pleased to meet you, Ms Nguyen.’ He pronounced it carefully, then let go of her hand. ‘Let’s sit down. Boku will get you a drink.’

Crys walked over to a handsome black man dressed in formal waiter attire and stuck out her hand. ‘Pleased to meet you, Boku. I’m Crys Nguyen. Please call me Crys.’

Boku looked very uncomfortable, but eventually he shook Crys’s hand with the weakest handshake possible.

‘I’ll have an orange juice, please,’ she said hastily, then turned back to the others, frowning.

‘He’s not used to being treated like that,’ Anton said. ‘He’s been one of our servants for fifteen years. We treat them well, but not as equals.’ Crys opened her mouth, but then closed it again. She realised she had a lot to learn about this country, which only twenty years earlier had forcibly kept the races apart.

Crys was astonished when they moved through to dinner. It reminded her of old British movies set in the colonies. She’d never encountered anything like it – its formality made her uncomfortable.

They sat at a beautiful table made from a yellow wood, with the white-jacketed Boku waiting on them. When he wasn’t serving, he stood quietly in the corner of the room. Johannes and Anton ignored him, except for an occasional thank-you.

‘You are obviously from the USA, Ms Nguyen,’ Anton said. ‘Whereabouts?’

‘Well, actually I was born in Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City now. My family left after the war and settled in Minneapolis in Minnesota. There are a lot of Vietnamese people there.’ Crys purposefully kept the statement bland, trying to stop any further personal questions. Fortu- nately, Anton was just making small talk and didn’t really want to hear her life story.

‘Bit of a change of scene for you here,’ he went on. ‘You have such a beautiful place,’ Crys said. ‘And I was so lucky to see them taking the snare off Mary.’

‘Bloody poachers,’ Anton growled in reply. ‘They shoot them in the national park, you know, but we have to use kid gloves or there’s no end of trouble.’

‘They weren’t after the rhino, Dad,’ Johannes interjected. ‘It was a snare for a kudu.’

‘They’d take the rhino if they could. Even for the stump of horn that’s left.’ Anton turned to Crys. ‘Did he tell you what they’d get for a horn?’

She nodded, and then asked: ‘According to a World Wildlife Fund survey I read, fewer Chinese now believe that rhino horn is a medicine. Will that help, do you think?’

‘Nearly fifty percent of Chinese still believe in it, though,’ Johannes replied. ‘And that’s a lot of people. A lot of people.’

Anton went on eating for a while, then put his fork down with a clunk. ‘Surveys are rubbish. People changing their beliefs?’ He shook his head. ‘Look at the locals here. They are trustworthy, good workers, Christians. But they still believe in witchcraft.’

Boku cleared away the plates, apparently oblivious to Anton’s com- ments. Crys felt embarrassed for him and wanted to change the subject. In any case, she was really keen to ask Anton about Michael. This was her best chance of discovering something useful, since no one had picked up his trail after Tshukudu. She was almost scared to ask, though. What if he had nothing to add to what he’d told Sara Goldsmith?

‘I wanted to ask you about a colleague of mine,’ she said to Anton after a pause. ‘A man called Michael Davidson. He works for the New York Times.’

Anton looked up. ‘Davidson? Yes, he was here about a month ago. Wasn’t he also supposed to be investigating the rhino-horn trade or something? Also for National Geographic, I think.’

‘That’s right. Do you know where he went after he left Tshukudu?’ Anton signalled with his glass for Boku to bring him more wine. ‘Well, he was here for a few days then said he was going up to Mozam- bique. I told him to watch his step. They don’t like newspaper reporters over there. I told all this to the police when they contacted me. You know anything more about this, Johannes?’

Johannes shook his head. ‘Crys already asked me. I was taking a group of tourists on a camping trip when he visited, I guess. Why did the police get involved?’

‘He never came back to the States from South Africa,’ Crys responded. ‘No one knows where he is. National Geographic asked the police to try and trace him.’

‘Are you a friend of his?’ Anton asked, taking a sip of his wine. Crys nodded. There was a good chance they’d end up more than friends, she thought.

‘Did the police come up with anything?’ Johannes asked.

‘Basically, that he did go into Mozambique and returned to South Africa about ten days later. After that nothing.’ She paused. ‘How can someone just vanish and no one knows what’s happened to them?’ She didn’t mention Lieutenant Mkazi’s theory of a random hijacking.

Anton shrugged. ‘We’re a long way from anywhere here, you know. If you head into the bush you could lose cell phone signal, break down, I don’t know. It could be a long time before you’re found.’

It all seemed very casual to Crys. People had GPS these days. In the twenty-first century, you didn’t just get lost and disappear.

‘Didn’t he tell National Geographic what his plans were?’ Johannes asked.

Crys shook her head. ‘When National Geographic asked me to take over this project, they sent me all his notes for the article, but they were all about the interviews he’d done and so on. Nothing about what he was planning next. There is one thing. Michael sent me an email saying he was onto something big – smuggling horns out of South Africa – but I’ve no idea about the details.’

‘Something big?’ echoed Anton. He sat back, pushing himself away from the table. ‘Something big can be dangerous…’ He stared at Crys as though he didn’t like the taste of this conversation very much.

‘You think he might have been talking about rhino-horn smugglers?’ Anton signalled to Boku to bring dessert. ‘Can’t say. But those are not good people to mess with.’

‘How do you think—’ ‘Look,’ Anton interrupted. ‘I told that lady who phoned from your magazine everything I knew about Davidson. Was it worth you coming all the way out here and going through everything all over again?’

‘Well, I needed to talk to you about your rhino farming anyway,’ Crys said, taken aback by Anton’s reaction. ‘Didn’t he have all that in his notes?’ Crys met Anton’s eyes without blinking. ‘Yes, but they were sketchy. And it is better for a writer to form their own impressions – you can’t write an article like this from someone else’s notes. Not if you’re a professional.’

‘Anyway,’ Johannes soothed. ‘You’re very welcome here, of course.’ ‘Of course,’ Anton agreed, but he didn’t sound as though he meant it. Crys felt a wave of disappointment. Again, she’d learned nothing more. Michael had been here. He’d asked questions. He’d left for Mozambique and when he came back, he’d disappeared.

And somehow, she seemed to have upset Anton in the process of asking about it.

Boku served the dessert – a sort of filled tart that he said was called melktert. ‘That means milk tart,’ Johannes chimed in. ‘It’s a traditional Afrikaner farm dish.’

Crys took a forkful and liked it immediately. It was smooth and deliciously creamy. After she’d enjoyed a couple more forkfuls, she thought that asking Anton about the business might lighten things up. ‘I’m interested in your business model,’ she said to him. ‘Is it mainly tourists coming to see the rhinos?’

But Anton looked annoyed and gave a sour laugh. ‘Business model? Let me explain something, Ms Nguyen. If I want a business model, I have real businesses in Joburg, where I make good money. Here, I don’t make money – it costs a fortune to run this place.’ He paused. ‘So, you’ll want to know why I do it, then. Well, I’ll tell you. They’re predicting that the white rhino will be extinct in fifty years. But they’re wrong. It isn’t going to happen, because I’m not going to let it happen. That’s my business model.’

Crys didn’t respond and focused on finishing her dessert.

About the Author:

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand.

On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.

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As we’re almost half way through the year I figured that it might be a good time to round up some of the great indie books that I’ve featured so far, and some of the great authors who have given their time to take part in the author interviews.

Links to each of the book features and author features are below, alternatively if you want to use the search function at the top of the page just type in the name of the book or author to bring up the relevant page.

The books that have featured:

Book Feature Links:

Goblin – Ever Dundas
The Wreck of The Argyll – John K. Fulton
Blue Night – Simone Buchholz
The Trouble Boys – E.R. Fallon
Last Orders – Caimh McDonnell
Never Rest – Jon Richter
Spanish Crossings – John Simmons
Rose Gold – David Barker
Bermuda – Robert Enright
The Story Collector – Evie Gaughan
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter – Cherry Radford
Rebellious Spirits – Ruth Ball
Ten Year Stretch – Various
The Soldier’s Home – George Costigan
Burnout – Claire MacLeary

 

The authors who have taken part in author features, either alongside a book feature or alone:

 

Author Feature Links:

E.R. Fallon
Derek Farrell
Heather Osborne
Jon Richter
Steve Catto
Mark Tilbury
David Barker
Evie Gaughan
Cherry Radford
Anne Stormont
George Costigan

As always, I am forever grateful to the authors, publishers, and publicists for taking part in my Celebrating Indie Publishing feature.  I’m also deeply grateful to you, the reader for joining me each Friday and sharing my love of indie publishing, joining in, commenting, sharing posts and buying some of these wonderful books.

Without each of the fantastic people mentioned above, none of this would be possible!

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I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Gunnar Staalesen’s Big Sister today, and so excited that I can share a really great post with you written by the author, which I have to admit has my stomach rumbling!

But before the guest post, lets look at what Big Sister is about and where you can get a copy.

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Description:

When PI Varg Veum is approached to find a missing girl, by a half-sister he barely knew, his investigation takes him deep into the dark web, and some personal history he’d rather forget…

Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.

Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal…

Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

You can buy a copy of Big Sister via:

Amazon UK
Kobo
Waterstones

 

Are you hungry?

What does a private detective eat?

One of my Norwegian crime-writer colleagues, Jon Michelet (The Frozen Woman), who died this year, told me an anecdote once. One of his books was translated into Spanish, and when he was looking through it, he found that one of the chapters was much longer than it had been in the original version. He asked the translator why, and the translator replied: ‘I thought there was too little eating in this book, so I put in a good meal for your detective.’

This gave me some food for thought (excuse the pun). There are a lot of things private detectives never or very seldom do in books. They seldom go to the toilet. Do they brush their teeth sometimes? When do have they time to do the dishes? And before they do – when or what do they eat?

Of all of these activities, I think eating is the most interesting. Does my hero, Varg Veum, ever eat?

Yes, he does, from time to time – but not in every book, I am afraid. As he lives alone throughout the whole series, he has to fix his dinner himself. I know that he follows in the footsteps of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in this regard (as well as many others), so scrambled eggs are always a good solution. As a Norwegian he will always have some smoked or dried meat in his fridge that he can add to the eggs. In my newest book he serves himself some smoked herring with potatoes, sour cream, beetroots and spring onions, which is a dish the writer also enjoys. As with ale and aquavit, the writer and his hero share similar tastes.

A real private detective should, of course, prefer a bloody beef steak with a lot of fried onions and mashed potatoes. Varg Veum would not say no to such a meal, but when I ask him what his preferred dish is, it happens to be the same as my own: bacalao. Bacalao is in fact a Spanish and / or Portuguese word that means cod. Fresh cod is delicious when you get it directly from the Artic Sea in January or February, but when Norwegians speak about bacalao, they are talking about a very special form of cod: in Norwegian klippfisk, originally fish dried on the cliffs and sprinkled with salt. When you buy it from the fishmonger’s, you have to put it in water for at least twenty-four hours before you can prepare the meal. Then you chop it up and cook it with onions, potatoes, olive oil, tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes, olives, perhaps some red pepper, perhaps garlic, and other flavourings of your choice – I myself like to add at least oregano. I have a recipe that I call ‘Varg Veum’s bacalao’, which is very popular among my friends and family. In one of the books Varg Veum goes to Ålesund, one of the important bacalao cities in Norway, on the west coast, north of Bergen. He is served bacalao at a local restaurant there, a meal he remembers as one of his best ever!

It is not a big mystery: a man has to eat to live. A private detective has to eat to solve mysteries. Bon appetite, Varg! I share my meal with you.

 

Gunnar Staalesen

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I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Orenda Books blog tour for the latest novel by Paul Hardisty, which is sadly the last of the Claymore Straker series.  Whilst it’s the last of the series, word is it’s quite possibly one of the best too … be sure to check out some of the reviews on the blog tour if you don’t believe me!

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Description:

It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.

So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible. Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible.
Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy. At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolution is a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.

You can buy a copy of Absolution via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Orenda eBookstore

This blog tour is about my new novel, Absolution, the fourth (and at this stage I think, last) of the Claymore Straker series. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. The female lead character has her own voice, delivered through her diary. I enjoyed writing it. A lot of the stuff in there is pretty personal. Stuff I experienced, places I went, true things that happened. I hope you enjoy it, if you get a chance to read it.

But being a writer, even one who works full time at another job, means writing.  So I am already working on a new book. It’s almost done now. I’m not quite sure yet what it is. It’s quite different to the Straker thrillers.  More literary. More introspective, perhaps. The subtitle is unofficially: Imagining My Own Death. I’m not sure yet what the main title will be. It takes the form of a series of stories that fit together to tell the story of two interlinked lives. Here is the opening story. It’s called First Snow:

 

Looking back, the old man was no longer sure if this realisation was new, had come upon him slowly over years, or if perhaps, somehow, he’d known it back then, as a child. This lack of certainty did not change the truth of it, he knew. The world was entirely different, now. In tone and texture, in scale and colour and voice, in the abundance of animals and birds, in the everyday behaviour of people, in the places that were covered in trees and bushes and meadows and were later transformed into houses and roads and shopping centres. Even the weather was different, back then.

It was the year before the men came and cut down all the big Elms on their street. Summer had been hot, had seemed to last forever. Autumn had come, the first frosts, and the boy’s father piled the gold and red leaves into mountains on the front lawn. The boy loved to jump into the leaves and roll inside the pile until he was completely covered, the sweet smell of the new-dead leaves strong inside him so that the old man could smell it now, so much closer to the end than the beginning.

The boy knew it was close. Days were shorter. Three mornings in a row now he’d awoken to see frost crusting the grass, icing the naked branches of the trees. Porridge for breakfast, mittens and hats to school, steam in your breath, Christmas coming. Hockey season close, perhaps a new pair of skates if he was lucky. Time thick and heavy and viscous, unwilling to be rushed, infinite. Completely trustworthy. And the boy, who had not yet learned of Relativity, had no conception of time’s variant properties, its fluidity, its ultimate dependency on the observer.

And every night the boy would lie in his bed and stare at the window and the glow from the streetlight through the curtains, and the slow progress of a car’s passing headlights thrown as a wedge of light angling left to right across the ceiling, and he’d hope that tomorrow would be the day.

Sometimes, lying in the darkness, unable to sleep, he’d think about his father’s gun. He’d found it in the closet in his bedroom, hidden inside a shoe box in the back amongst a pile of other boxes. It was a short thing, with a barrel that spun like the ones he’d seen cops carrying on TV, and spaces for six bullets. Smith & Wesson it said on the handle. He found the bullets, too. He wasn’t sure how to work it, how to open the barrel up so you could put the bullets in. He’d tried putting them in from the front but they didn’t fit. He knew he wasn’t supposed to play with it, that it was dangerous. He didn’t tell anyone about it, put it all back the way he found it. Except for three bullets. Those he kept. There was a whole box. No one would miss them. He’d put them into his treasure tin, hidden it away in his desk drawer.

In his head he knew how it would be. He’d wake and it would still be dark. The first thing he’d notice would be the quiet. As if someone had thrown a blanket over the city, muffling its groans, its cries and complaints. He’d jump down from his bed and run to the window, duck under the heavy curtains. His little brother would be there beside him. He’d help him up onto the ledge so he could see out. And there it would be. A new world. Everything transformed, softened somehow, all the hard edges rounded out, corniced and bevelled, houses and cars and trees, the street and the curbs and gutters made pure. And in the yellow cone of lamplight, thick heavy flakes streaming down and down.

The boy lay listening to his brother’s slow rhythmic breathing drifting up from the lower bunk. The occasional rattle of the radiator, the gurgle as the hot water flowed into the pipes. The wind in the trees outside the window. He was warm and safe and excited. Tomorrow might be the day.

 

FINAL Absolution blog poster 2018

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** My thanks to the wonderful Karen at Orenda Books for my copy of Fault Lines **

 

Description:

 

A little lie … a seismic secret … and the cracks are beginning to show…

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, where a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.
On a clandestine trip to new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

 

My Thoughts & Review:

It’s no surprise that I have a soft spot for books set in Scotland, and there are certain locations that will always grab my attention, Edinburgh being one.  Doug Johnstone is a new author to me, I read a short story he wrote for Bloody Scotland – Painting the Forth Road Bridge and was blown away by the intensity of his writing.  I was aware of a very trusted fellow blogger raving about Fault Lines and was curious why she was so hooked by this book, so it seemed like a smart move to dive in and see what the excitement was about.

Set in an Edinburgh with a difference, the reader is plunged into a world of volcanology and death.  The shifting tectonic plates of the Earth have caused the formation/eruption of a volcano in the Firth of Forth, which brings regular seismic activity for the surrounding areas.  This backdrop is perfectly matched to the clever plot, the brooding malevolence of the volcano ties perfectly with a fast paced thrilling read that has you holding your breath in anticipation.

When an author can transport you to the location of their book and let you “see” the landscape through their words is one thing, but the way that Johnstone writes means that his readers can experience another sensation, they can feel what goes on in Fault Lines.  The way that the tremors are described feels so tangible, the threat that volcano poses feels so real and the feel of the water as Surtsey’s boat sails between The Inch and the mainland are just some examples of the wonderful writing that awaits readers in this book.  There’s a marvelouslly hypnotic quality to Johnstone’s writing, it’s utterly engrossing and you stop trying to guess ahead about “the who”, “the what” or “the why”, and just sit back and revel in the small details of the such an intricately plotted masterpiece.

The fragility of human psychology is deftly explored, emotions are laid bare and the rawness of grief and the associated disbelief at events makes this such a powerful read.  The characters are cleverly crafted, Surtsey is an extremely interesting character that you cannot quite fully fathom out.  Her thoughts and actions don’t always seem to make complete sense to the reader, her responses to the events around her are driven by feelings of grief, confusion and desperation.  It’s almost poetic to think of her as being as the personification of the volcano in a way, a dominant presence with glimpses of fragility and instability, but also with indeterminate power, leaving readers wondering what will happen next.

A highly recommended thriller that’s clever and imaginative, and will leave readers reeling!

You can buy a copy of Fault Lines via:

Amazon UK
Orenda Books eBookstore

FINAL Fault Lines blog poster 2018

 

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