book reviews · Bookish

Betrayal by Lilja Sigurðardóttir (Review)

Good afternoon everyone! Had some technical gremlins so it’s later in the day than I would have liked with this one – I ended up having to re-write it! But I am pleased to be bringing you a review of Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardóttir, translated from Icelandic by Quentin Bates as part of another wonderful Orenda blog tour. Please be sure to check out the other awesome stops on the tour!

I received a copy of Betrayal for free for review purposes.

Betrayal is a standalone work of Icelandic Noir about corruption in politics as Úrsula, the newly promoted minister and former aid worker ends up unknowingly drawn in to a plot to benefit everyone aside from herself.

As soon as Úrsula is in office, she knows what she wants to get done in her year tenure at the ministry. Right off the bat, she makes a promise to a mother who is on tenterhooks about the progress of her daughters rape case, having no idea that there was far more to it than a police officer being the culprit as some of her colleagues attempt to hinder her at every juncture. She finds an unlikely acquaintance in Stella, whom shows Úrsula a place where she can smoke in private. A cleaner whom usually goes ignored.

I really liked the characters in Betrayal. Úrsula was so passionate and believable but also very human. Her driver, Gunnar who was very serious and clearly had far more to him than meets the eye – I’d have liked to have learned more about why he is the way he is. Stella. Rough around the edges. An alright sort whose done some bad things whom I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards.

Betrayal is well paced with short, punchy chapters that flip between the perspective of numerous characters as Úrsula works at the ministry to the best of her ability while receiving threats and tackling obstacles that are deliberately placed to hinder her. I felt really bad for Úrsula as it seemed she would not have an easy run. Often the point was made about having a woman as a minister and the portrayal of her in the media. It felt very believable. All in all, I really enjoyed Betrayal and following Úrsula on what turned out to be a very chaotic and short tenure as minister. I found it to be a compelling read.

About the Book

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.

But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?

As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl (Review)

Happy humpday! Today, I am delighted to be on the blog tour for Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl (Translated by Don Bartlett). It’s a Nordic Noir so I couldn’t say no, could I! I was gifted a copy of the book for review purposes.

About the Book

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.

Review

Sister is the 8th book in the Oslo Detective series. This book was my first introduction to the series and reads perfectly well as a stand alone. It’s translated from Norwegian but reads perfectly well, you’d never guess it wasn’t in it’s native language. Very little gives it away as a translated version.

The characters are brilliantly written and it doesn’t seem to matter at all that I don’t have the previous books for extra context to their characters; though I’m sure I’d benefit from reading those too. The protagonist is excellent, with a lot of depth. He’s not just a straight up good guy, he has his demons, his own battles and this makes him a superbly interesting character.

Frank Frølich is working as private investigator. While away doing some work for a retailer who believes a staff member is skimming off the inventory, he decides to pop in to a quiet cafe and strikes up a conversation with the working staff member, Mathilde. They end up taking a liking to each other and begin a relationship. A short while after dating, Mathilde mentions she has a friend who’s seeking a PI. Unsure about how likely he is to be paid by the job, Frank agrees to at least talk to her friend Guri.

Guri explains that she is trying to assist an asylum seeker who came to Norway a few years after her sister. The young woman is now facing deportation and can’t seem to find her sister anywhere. She claims that returning to home country will likely result in her death. Frølich agrees to help and finds the sister pretty quickly, but things aren’t quite as they seem. An author visits him, questioning why Frank is investigating. Shortly after, the author turns up dead.

It doesn’t take long for Frank to find the woman. Supposedly, she doesn’t even have a sister. During the course of his investigation, he’s warned off the case and several people turn up dead and now he is under suspicion too. This only serves to egg him on to discover what is actually going on, stepping in to the dark truths about illegal immigrants in Norway. There are a whole lot of red flags and things that just aren’t quite right.

Incredibly well written, well paced and pretty darn intense, Sister really gets you hooked. Just as soon as you think maybe you know what’s going on.. BAM! Curveball! I hate to use the trope “twists and turns” but it really does. So much comes under examination and if you blink, you’ll miss it. You really have to pay attention to this one. There is a lot going on. I felt like I was part of the investigation and had to figure out this case alongside Frank Frølich. Excellent for those who like to do their own share of the sleuthing while they’re reading!

book reviews · Bookish

Containment by Vanda Symon (Review)

Happy Friday! Today I’m pleased to be part of another fab Orenda blog tour, bringing you a review of Containment by Vanda Symon, book 3 in the Sam Shepard series. This is out now in both Kindle and Paperback formats. I was sent a copy of this book free for review purposes.

Containment is the third book in the Sam Shepard series. This book reads just fine if you’ve not read the previous installments. Sam(antha) has been promoted to Detective Constable in the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Dunedin. Sam’s life is a little chaotic and she has a lot of problems, but thankfully, her flatmate Maggie will pull her up on them and her colleague has her back at work.

The book immediately jumps in with the drama, when containers wash up on the shore along with the remains of a body. As first officer on scene, Sam gets to control the investigation and it’s her job to figure out just who, how and what the heck happened. The public are making things difficult as people are looting the containers that washed up. Unfortunately, one of the looters doesn’t respect Sam’s authority as an officer, but a member of the public has her back.

DI Johns uses that event as an excuse to try and sit her on the bench and assign her to more menial tasks, tasks that end up becoming quite relevant to the case. DI Johns is a wonderfully written unlikeable character and I found myself frustrated at him for his behavior. Meanwhile, Sam is clever, a little stubborn and pretty tough, but she’s also very human, very believable and has plenty of ups and downs along with the struggle of working in a team dominated by men.

Containment is incredibly immersive – as I have aphantasia, sadly, this level is description is a negative for me as I just can’t put my head in the environments no matter what, I just can’t *see* it (and with the current state of affairs, I struggle to get in to things a little more than usual in general, I’m noticing), but it is incredibly descriptive of New Zealand – I know for many people, this immersiveness is incredibly enjoyable. Combined with such a well written and balanced character, I think people could very easily get absorbed in to reading Containment and lets face it, that’s something a lot of people want from their reading material right now.

Containment is an excellent, dramatic police procedural that will hook you in, right from the start; with a strong, believable female lead who worries about her home life and her work life, this book is great for those who really like to get cozy and lose themselves in an atmospheric and well-paced procedural.

About the Book

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Kult by Stefan Malmström (Review)

Happy Friday! Looking for something to read over the weekend? Today I am on the blog tour for Kult by Stefan Malmström and am bringing you a review. Kult is available now in both Kindle and Paperback formats and is available as part of Kindle Unlimited. I received a copy of the book for free as part of the tour.

Luke is an American former criminal who went with his girlfriend, to check on his friend Viktor and Viktor’s daughter, Agnes, only to find Viktor dead and arriving just in time to see Agnes breathe her last. It appears to be a murder suicide, but Luke is convinced that isn’t the case and decides to investigate things himself, getting himself in to trouble along the way, although he appears to be on to something and notices a link between his friends death and past as a part of the Church of Scientology.

Kult utilises the authors own experiences to present the reader an insight to Scientology, creating an.. intriguing history to the present day events within the book. You can understand why some people may have found Scientology alluring, and just how “convincing” they could be. However, as someone on the outside, looking in, it seems bizarre, messed up and absurd.

Who was taking out these former members of the Church of Scientology and why? Stefan did a great job at building a creepy and chilling environment, mixing reality and fiction, creating a world that made my skin crawl but I couldn’t exit until I found answers. Dark, gritty and disturbing, Kult makes for a compelling read.

About the Book

THE PAST WILL NEVER LET YOU GO…

When a four-year-old girl and her father are found dead in the Swedish city of Karlskrona, the police quickly conclude it was a murder-suicide, a tragedy requiring no further investigation.

But Luke Bergmann, a reformed criminal still haunted by his violent past, believes they are wrong. The dead man, Viktor, was his best friend, and Luke knows he would never commit such a horrific crime.

When more bodies turn up, Luke is certain the same killer has struck again. Alone, he embarks on an investigation which reaches back through decades to his friend’s involvement with a sinister cult and dark secrets are exposed as Luke struggles to keep his own long-buried demons hidden away.

And when Luke finds himself in a killer’s sights, his search for the truth becomes the fight of his life.

Can Luke get justice for Viktor and his daughter and prove his best friend was not a murderer, or will the shadows of the past overwhelm him?

Fans of The Killing, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jo Nesbø and Will Dean will love this dark and gripping début thriller.

NOTE: KULT is inspired by shocking and tragic real events.

book reviews · Bookish

Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen (Review)

Hello! Today I am on the blog tour for Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen and I am bringing you a review! This book is out now and available in Paperback, Kindle and Audiobook editions. I received a copy of this book for free as part of the tour.

Varg Veum is a private detective, operating out of Bergen, Norway. Previously accused of pedophilia, after images were planted on his computer, Varg has been trying to pick up the pieces after he was proven innocent, but his name still tainted.

One day, someone attempts to run Varg down. Around the same time, he has discovered that two people in the aforementioned pedophile case had died, but he senses something is amiss. Nobody has commissioned him to do so, but he decides to investigate their deaths and discovers the dark truth about the people involved in the case.

The books main theme is a case about the deaths of two pedophiles and mentions child abuse including that which occurs in a family setting. Some readers may find this triggering.

The book is translated from Norweigan, but it is well written and immersive. I found it to be suspenseful and really easy to settle in to and I guess that’s thanks to the author also being from Bergen. The nouns threw me off because I spent a while contemplating how they’d be pronounced, but that was all the more interesting to me and I was glad they didn’t anglicize the names. As an English reader, I really enjoyed the foreign setting.

The ending was punchy, hard hitting and satisfying and I was really pleased with the outcome and how the author wrapped the book up. It’s part of a series, but it read just fine as a standalone and I don’t feel overly baited to the next installment – although, I’d be interested to reading it, for sure!

About the Book

One dark January night a car drives at high speed towards PI Varg Veum, and comes very close to killing him. Veum is certain this is no accident, following so soon after the deaths of two jailed men who were convicted for their participation in a case of child pornography and sexual assault … crimes that Veum himself once stood wrongly accused of committing.

While the guilty men were apparently killed accidentally, Varg suspects that there is something more sinister at play … and that he’s on the death list of someone still at large.

Fearing for his life, Veum begins to investigate the old case, interviewing the victims of abuse and delving deeper into the brutal crimes, with shocking results. The wolves are no longer in the dark … they are at his door. And they want vengeance.

About the Author

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for crime fiction. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Black Moss by David Nolan (Review)

I’m pleased to be kicking off the tour for David Nolan’s novel, Black Moss! Available now in both Paperback and Kindle formats, published by Fahrenheit Press and available now. Be sure to check out the other tour stops to find out more.

Black Moss is a story about “Danny Something” and his journey to discover the truth about a poor boy, murdered and left on the county border, only for nobody to really even care because the fame was elsewhere – the riot at Strangeways.
The story switches between 1990 and 2016, from the perspective of Danny, determined to get to the bottom of the child’s murder whilst working with a local officer named John and his daughter, Kate and then revisiting it again a quarter of a century later; where alcoholism takes it’s toll and his life becomes a literal car crash.

Gritty and gripping, I absolutely loved this book. The entire thing felt authentic. I have never been to Manchester, but I feel like the book was very immersive in that respect. The way the characters are written is fantastic, so much depth. They were affected by the things that occurred and I found them to be very convincing. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Danny and a police officer named John who seemed to be the only other person invested in the case. The way Nolan touches upon such substantial incidents such as murder, alcoholism and children in the care system were so well written, I’d never have guessed this was his debut novel and could have easily been led to believe this to be a true tale.

Nolan is a crime reporter and TV producer and he really seems to utilise his expertise to help bring this story to life and provides an interesting insight to 90’s journalism. I felt almost as if I were there, watching it unfold. Crime fiction is my go-to genre, but I still managed to find some surprises in this book, especially toward the final third – you’ll have to read it yourself to see what I mean. 😉

Compelling, convincing and utterly gripping. A must-read for anyone who enjoys crime-fiction and a read they can’t put down.

BlackMossSept18thJPEG

Blurb

In April 1990, as rioters took over Strangeways prison in Manchester, someone killed a little boy at Black Moss.

And no one cared.

No one except Danny Johnston, an inexperienced radio reporter trying to make a name for himself.

More than a quarter of a century later, Danny returns to his home city to revisit the murder that’s always haunted him.

If Danny can find out what really happened to the boy, maybe he can cure the emptiness he’s felt inside since he too was a child.

But finding out the truth might just be the worst idea Danny Johnston has ever had.

NgJgWTON_400x400 (1) Author Bio

David is a multi-award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police. He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called The Abuse Trial. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016. Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Favourite Character to Write (Guest Post)

Today, I am really pleased to be bringing you a guest post from fellow Staffordshire county…human JF Burgess, author of The Killer Shadow Thieves which is available now in both Paperback and Kindle formats; it’s also available on Kindle Unlimited. You can read his post and find out more below!



Favourite character to write.

That’s got to be the protagonist, 45-year-old widowed detective Tom Blake, whose wife and 10-year-old son was tragically killed in a fatal hit and run car crash ten years ago. Tom was driving at the time and his daughter Isabel was also in the car, both miraculously escaped the accident with minor cuts and bruises – but he still suffers from emotional flashbacks and neck pain from whiplash caused by the accident. They never caught the joyrider who killed his family but he vows to bring the perpetrator to justice once day.

He’s an intuitive, firm but fair detective who hates sitting hunched over a computer and loves the thrill of the chase and adrenaline rush you can only get from this type of job. A bit of a perfectionist, who thrives on the uncertainty of each new case and the thrill of the hunt, which brings out the dark side of his personality when good triumphs over evil?

He’s a great leader, but also quite vulnerable at times, which makes him very likeable and real. And like all good detectives, he has to fight tooth and nail for every bit of ground gained against the criminal underworld.
I really enjoyed developing his character and watching him grow. I see a lot of myself in him which is only natural I suppose. Ultimately, I think readers will enjoy rooting for him whilst trying to work out who the murder really is?
Heather Eames at Book Jar Journeys reviews sums the reader character connection up when she says…
“The characters and their development throughout the novel are a definite highlight for me. As the story progressed, I was more drawn in and intrigued by what was going on. I also enjoyed (perhaps the wrong word) the family drama that was introduced and think that it made the characters more human, I was reading with my heart in my mouth when his daughter was kidnapped!”

Graphic2.png

Blurb

Widowed detective DI Tom Blake sets off a chain of events that change his life forever, when the brutal murder of an alcoholic skinhead, and arrest of a vicious Turkish loan shark, unwittingly disrupts an international gang’s daring plans to steal the world-famous Staffordshire Hoard.

In a cruel twist of fate, Blake’s daughter is kidnapped and the trail propels the bereft detective on a personal quest to Miami to save her life. Operating outside the law, he enters into an illicit showdown with a mysterious artefacts Collector, almost costing him his life.

As the body count rises, Blake and his team struggle to unravel the conspiracy of a shadowy killer who leaves no trace. With only circumstantial evidence against each of the suspects, they hit a wall, until twenty-six-year-old photographs linking them to the murdered skinhead emerge. It seems the victim’s depraved past is the key to identifying the killer.

Can the police uncover the truth through all the lies and deception, and crack the case before someone else gets killed? And will they recover a legendary national treasure, worth millions, before it’s lost forever?

jfburgess

Author Bio

I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and spent many years doing less than ideal jobs in and around the Potteries five towns, before finally taking the plunge and quitting work to follow my creative side. As a keen horse-racing fan, I started off in 2007 self-publishing betting how-to manuals.

This is my main business, but my real passion is for crime fiction, both reading and writing.

Inspired by authors such as Mel Sherratt, Peter James, Val McDermid, James Oswald, Kate Ellis, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin, and in need of a new challenge, I decided to try my hand at writing crime fiction.

After months of hard slog and sheer determination, I finished my first novel: The Killer Shadow Thieves. This is the first in a planned series of gritty crime fiction books set in Stoke on Trent, involving charismatic DI Tom Blake and his larger-than-life sidekick DS Jon Murphy.

The follow up, The Deadly Legacy, is a cult serial killer thriller, with a 200-year-old secret at the heart of a plot full of unexpected twists, which push the relationships of a rich pottery family into life-threatening conflicts.

I write tense, gripping, crime fiction mysteries with a twist – or urban crossbreed, as I call it. My thrillers take you deep inside the criminal mind.

I live with my wife and family in Stoke-on-Trent, England. You can find out more about me at www.jfburgess.co.uk, or on Twitter at @burgess1012.