books, reviews

Book Review: The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer – Joel Dicker

In the summer of 1994, the quiet seaside town of Orphea reels from the discovery of two brutal murders.

Confounding their superiors, two young police officers, Jesse Rosenberg and Derek Scott crack the case and arrest the murderer, earning themselves handsome promotions and the lasting respect of their colleagues.

But twenty years later, just as he is on the point of taking early retirement, Rosenberg is approached by Stephanie Mailer, a journalist who believes he made a mistake back in 1994 and that the real murderer is still out there, perhaps ready to strike again. Before she can give any more details however, Stephanie Mailer mysteriously disappears without trace, and Rosenberg and Scott are forced to confront the awful possibility that her suspicions might have been proved horribly true.

What happened to Stephanie Mailer?

What did she know?

And what really happened in Orphea all those years ago?

My thoughts:

I got an advance copy of this book at Capital Crime, which is due to be published by Quercus translated into English in May next year.

This is a doorstop of a crime thriller, but one that cracks along at quite a pace. Fantastic characterisation, strong, tense plotting, an abundance of strange suspects, and a clever, knotty plot.

I raced through this book, desperate to know what was about to happen, to solve the various crimes – Stephanie Mailer’s disappearance and the murders from 1994. I’m often pretty good at solving the crimes in most thrillers but this one was so smartly done that I got completely tangled up in the various threads and could empathise with Rosenberg, who struggled to unravel it himself.

I’ve not read any of Dicker’s other books, but I did watch some of the TV adaptation of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, which I gave up on as too long and meandering. Hopefully that was just the adaptation and not the book, as if this is anything to go by Dicker’s books are definitely worth reading.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Horizontal Collaboration – Navie & Carole Maurel*

“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair. In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution. This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.


Carole Maurel cut her teeth on animated films before devoting herself to illustration, in particular, graphic novels. Her 2017 book The Apocalypse According to Magda was awarded the Artémisia Avenir award, which celebrates women in comics.

Navie is a screenwriter for press, cinema and television. She has a degree in history from The Sorbonne in Paris, where she specialized in the history of fascism – making Horizontal Collaboration an excellent fit for her first graphic novel


This is a beautifully drawn story, translated into English by Margaret Morrison from the original French. The beating heart of the book is the love affair between Rose and Nazi officer Mark. But there are other stories in every apartment, of hiding Jews, and resistance, of love and loss, art and pain.

I loved this, told through the lives of women; a period where so often much of the focus is on men at war and not those left behind or under siege.

Part of my family originally came from France and I was raised by Francophile parents so I have a deep affection for the country and its people, as well as a fascination with its history, so linked are Britain and France. This year I want to read more French writers (especially women) and so this book slots beautifully into that aim.

*I was kindly gifted this book to take part on the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz


The Millennium trilogy was the publishing sensation of the early twenty first century, Steig Larsson’s three novel story featuring antisocial hacker Lisbeth Salander and noble journalist Mikael Blomkvist sold in their millions, translated from the original Swedish, made into films (including a not very good Hollywood remake – seriously, stop it!).

But then Larsson died. With rumours of a projected further seven novels and a legal battle over his drafted fourth book, it looked like that was it for Salander and Blomkvist.

But here we are, legal wrangles over (however you feel about it), and a fourth book. Written by fellow Swedish novelist David Lagercrantz, from Larsson’s notes, The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Larsson’s books were noticeable not only because they were hefty tomes, but also because of their often extremely violent and graphic content. The planned title for the first book was “Men Who Hate Women”, but The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was easier to sell to a public who might have felt uncomfortable with such a clear misogynistic theme.

Larsson, like his hero Blomkvist, was a journalist who believed in the socialist ideals the Nordic region is famed for, he wrote campaigning political pieces, espoused feminism, fought corporations he saw as exploitative in his writings and his novels, to some extent, are a continuation of his beliefs and ideals.

Lagercrantz, isn’t quite as heavy hitting. Spider’s Web has less explicit violence, fewer political rants, and seems a little gentler on the reader.

That’s not to say it isn’t good, it is. Well written and paced, with a story that suits a world post Edward Snowden and the Panama Papers, a world that knows the governments of most nations are spying on their citizens, a world that has heard about the NSA’s counter intelligence game, a cynical world that knows criminals are more tech savvy than law enforcement and manage to get away with their crimes because of it.

Blomkvist is older, battle weary and close to giving up, it’s been some time since he last saw Salander, and his magazine is in trouble.

When a tech genius calls him in the middle of the night claiming his life is in danger, little does Blomkvist realise he’s about to he thrust into international conspiracy, tech fraud and meet a young boy who sees the world very differently. This case will bring him into contact once again with volatile Salander, who has her own reasons for getting involved.

I really enjoyed this, it was different in tone to the original trilogy, but I don’t think it suffers for it, personally I can do without extreme sexual violence, and I thought this was well executed.  

Have you read Girl in the Spider’s Web? Were you a fan of the original trilogy? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.