blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Fallen Angels – Gunnar Staalessen*

Read my review of Wolves at the Door here.

When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob – guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.

Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive … and a killer.

Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writers.

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 Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019.

He lives with his wife in Bergen.

My thoughts:

Varg Veum seems to always find the darkest parts of humanity when he investigates a case and this is no exception. After an old school friend’s funeral he finds himself spending time with another old pal, Jakob, and Jakob’s wife has walked out on him. Could Varg do him a favour and find her? See if she’d maybe come back?

Then Jakob’s former band mate, Johnny, is murdered and Varg starts to dig into the events surrounding the band’s break up, all those years ago and what he starts to dig up is dark and twisted and has brought about a terrible revenge.

Jakob is the only surviving member, and every death starts to look suspicious to Varg, the dead men received postcards with angels on them, counting down the dead.

Dark, gripping and horrifying, this is powerful and exposes the underbelly of the music industry as well as the depravity in some men’s souls. It’s easy to see why Staalesen is regarded as a master of Nordic noir with his pitch black explorations of Norway’s secret corners and hidden horrors.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Coral Bride – Roxanne Bouchard*

In this beautiful, lyrical sequel to the critically acclaimed We Were the Salt of the Sea, Detective Moralès finds that a seemingly straightforward search for a missing fisherwoman off Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is anything but.

When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a woman in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.

When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep…

An exquisitely written, evocative and poetic thriller, The Coral Bride powerfully conjures the might of the sea and the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.Over ten years ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula.

The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies.

Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim, sure to be followed by its sequel, The Coral Bride.

She lives in Quebec.

My thoughts:

This book was really interesting, not just a murder mystery but a study of a small community and a family feud going back several generations that’s built on misunderstandings and fishing rights.

When Angel Roberts’ boat is found floating in the sea minus its captain, a search is launched and Detective Morales is detailed to investigate.

What he uncovers is a complicated family history and a community that’s been struggling for years to get along.

His son joins him, fleeing his own relationship and career problems, but unable to open up and talk to his father honestly. Their time in Gaspè will allow them space to come to terms with the changes in both their lives.

Lyrical and moving, the ocean plays its own role as the reason this town of fishermen and their families are there, providing both livelihood and death over the generations.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Betrayal – Lilja Sigurđardóttir*

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 the death of her father in police custody so many years rears its head once again.

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

The award-winning internationally bestselling author Lilja Sigurðardóttir returns with Betrayal, a relevant, powerful, fastpaced thriller about the worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny that feels just a little bit too real…Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland.

An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide.

The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

My thoughts:

A political thriller, set in Iceland, with Úrsula steps into the role of Minister of the Interior, intending to stay a year but fate conspires against her from the start – or maybe it’s people around her.

Her father’s supposed killer, a homeless man called Petur, keeps turning up, there’s death threats to contend with and she has so many things she wants to do while in post.

Fast paced, I didn’t realise that all this action was only set across two weeks, so much happens. There’s all sorts of twists and turns and the final scenes are shocking and sew up all the various plot points. Brilliant.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Thursday Night Widows – Claudia Piñeiro*

Three bodies lie at the bottom of a swimming pool in a gated country estate near Buenos Aires.

It’s Thursday night at the magnificent Scaglia house. Behind the locked gates, shielded from the crime, poverty and filth of the people on the streets, the Scaglias and their friends hide lives of infidelity, alcoholism, and abusive marriage.

Claudia Piñeiro’s novel eerily foreshadowed a criminal case that generated a scandal in the Argentine media. But this is more than a story about crime. The suspense is a by-product of Piñeiro’s hand at crafting a psychological portrait of a professional class that lives beyond its means and leads secret lives of deadly stress and despair.

It takes place during the post 9/11 economic melt-down in Argentina but it’s a universal story that will resonate among credit-crunched readers of today.

Claudia Piñeiro was a journalist, playwright and television scriptwriter and in 1992 won the prestigious Pléyade journalism award. She has more recently turned to fiction and is the author of literary crime novels that are all bestsellers in Latin America and have been translated into four languages.

This novel won the Clarin Prize for fiction and is her first title to be available in English.

The Translator

Miranda France wrote Bad Times in Buenos Aires which in essay form won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize in The Spectator magazine. A book by the same title was published in 1998 and met with great critical acclaim. The New York Times described it as ‘a remarkable achievement’ and the Sunday Times as ‘an outstanding book’.

My thoughts:

This was a clever book, the opening gives nothing away, and the plot veers away from the shocking discovery to reveal more about the community safe behind their gates, their lies and secrets laid bare to the reader, only returning to the bodies in the pool right at the end, when you’ve almost forgotten about them.

The wealthy elite pride themselves on their beautiful homes, their immaculate green lawns and regular attendance on the golf course and tennis courts, but the veneer of success is thin and starting to crack as the economy tanks, taking with it jobs and security.

Every home holds secrets and the women of this gated community see all, and are telling all. Told mostly by Veronica, estate agent and the one holding her family together, someone who’s seen inside almost every home.

This was such a slow burn of a book, I genuinely forgot about the bodies in the pool until it circled back round to them and the plot that ends in three deaths is revealed. The ending left me wondering if there was a sequel somewhere, I wanted to know what choice was made.

I also tried to find out what scandal the author foresaw, but Google let me down there, if you know, tell me in the comments please.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Seven Doors – Agnes Ravatn*

One of Norway’s most distinguished voices, Agnes Ravatn’s first novel to be published in the UK was The Bird Tribunal. It won an English PEN Translation Award, was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and the Petrona Award, and was adapted for a BBC Book at Bedtime.

She returns now with a dark, powerful and deeply disturbing psychological thriller about family, secrets and dangerous curiosity…

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her adult daughter Ingeborg are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.

When Ingeborg decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman who rents it disappears, leaving behind her son, the day after Nina and Ingeborg pay her a visit.With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt.

Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007.Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility.

Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015.

Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.

My thoughts:

I think Orenda Books (the publisher) is just so brilliant, bringing amazing international voices to an English readership. This book is one such example.

Inspired in part by the fairy tale Bluebeard (Angela Carter’s version is my favourite), this tale of a missing woman with a tragic history, and a literature professor searching for answers was right up my street.

I wanted to sit in on Nina’s lectures on Greek tragedy (I’m a literature graduate and I love Greek plays) and I liked her theory on why people like me would make good investigators.

As Nina unravels the life of the missing Mari and tries to find out what became of her, her personal life and her job start to suffer. Could they be related? Does someone close to her hold the key to Mari’s disappearance?

This was such a good read, I thoroughly enjoyed it, the author is brilliant and I could happily wax poetic on how everyone should read it.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: One Love Chigusa – Soji Shimada

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A love story that explores the mechanics of the heart and humankind’s inevitable evolution.

The year is 2091 AD. A horrendous motorcycle accident leaves Xie Hoyu coming to terms with his new cybernetic body. Reconstructed from the latest biomechanical prosthetics, he is discharged from hospital and tries to return to his life as an illustrator after many weeks in recovery.

But something isn’t quite right. Xie is plagued with inexplicable auditory and visual hallucinations and feelings of despair. He fears he is losing his mind and the desire for life itself until he notices a beautiful woman on the street – his sole reprieve from the madness.

Possessed by her beauty and desperate to understand what is happening to him, Xie follows her in the hope of finding answers that only she appears to offer. But not all is as it seems.

An homage to the great artist and creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, One Love Chigusa by Soji Shimada, one of Japan’s most famous authors, is a tale of obsessive love in a world where technology has crept into the very heart of humanity.

Translated by David Warren, it offers a glimpse into a possible future and questions the purpose of humanity in a manner that only Japan’s master of the postmodern whodunnit can do.

The Author

Soji Shimada’s debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, is ranked among the ‘top five best locked-room mysteries published worldwide’ (Adrian McKinty, The Guardian).

An instant classic, it transformed him into ‘Japan’s Man of Mystery’ and one of the country’s bestselling authors. His novel Murder in the Crooked House was a Sunday Times Best Book of the Year.

He is also known for his Detective Mitarai series (published by Pushkin Vertigo) and the Detective Yoshiki series.

Shimada is the recipient of the Japan Mystery Literature Award and the founder of three literary awards: Amateur Mystery Novel contests, The City of Roses Fukuyama Mystery Award and the Soji Shimada Mystery Award.

The Translator

Sir David Warren was British ambassador to Japan from 2008 to 2012, having served twice before in the British Embassy in Tokyo during his career as a British diplomat.

He is now honorary professor at Sheffield University, a member of the Board of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures at the University of East Anglia, and was Chair of the Council of the University of Kent until July 2020. From 2013 to 2019, he was chairman of the Japan Society, the leading independent body in the United Kingdom dedicated to UK-Japanese cultural, educational and business contacts.

One Love Chigusa is part of Red Circle Minis, a series of short captivating books by Japan’s finest contemporary writers that brings the narratives and voices of Japan together as never before. Each book is a first edition written specifically for the series and is being published in English first.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting short story about love, Hoyu is recovering from a terrible accident that meant his body and brain were repaired using cybernetics. His memories are fractured and the people he sees all look like terrible monsters.

Traumatised and struggling to recover, he wanders the city, taking refuge in a coffee shop where he sees a beautiful woman, who doesn’t turn into a monster.

He starts following her, desperate to connect and learn about her. His loneliness and despair lead him all over the city on her trail.

When he finally finds her and tries to form a connection, she seems confused and struggles to understand him.

The ending is tragic and leaves poor Hoyu with more trauma.

The suggestion that humanity’s evolution does not lead to happiness is a dark, morbid one.

A strange, unsettling story of love that ends without redemption. Incredibly well written, you follow Hoyu, desperate to find out more about Chigusa and who she is, winding through the city, trying not to look at the monstrous faces of humanity as he does.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Stray Cats of Homs – Eva Nour*

Sami’s childhood is much like any other – an innocent blend of family and school, of friends and relations and pets (including stray cats and dogs, and the turtle he keeps on the roof).

But growing up in one of the largest cities in Syria, with his country at war with itself, means that nothing is really normal. And Sami’s hopes for a better future are ripped away when he is conscripted into the military and forced to train as a map maker. Sami may be shielded from the worst horrors of the war, but it will still be impossible to avoid his own nightmare…

Inspired by extraordinary true events, The Stray Cats of Homs is the story of a young man who will do anything to keep the dream of home alive, even in the face of unimaginable devastation. Tender, wild and unbearably raw, it is a novel which will stay with you for ever.

My thoughts:

This book was beautiful, sad, moving and tender. Sami and his friends find ways to live despite the war in the streets and the constant terror of rocket attacks around them.

A gentle person, Sami is conscripted and forced to work for a military he does not believe in, waging war on their own people. He becomes a journalist, trying to share the reality of life under fire.

His escape and journey to the safety of Paris, where he meets the author, had my heart in my mouth at times.

Written under a nom de plume to protect the real “Sami”, the author is now his partner, and there is a sense of that affection throughout. As well as that of Sami’s for animals – he never loses his tender heart.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Creak on the Stairs – Eva Björg Ægisdottir*

The first in the electrifying new Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs is an exquisitely written, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric debut thriller by one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents.

When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area. Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel.

Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland. Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel.The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller.

Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

My thoughts:

What starts as a fairly straightforward police procedural develops into a complex and knotty plot, moving back and forth between the present and thirty years before as the detectives attempt to unravel the mystery of who would want this apparently unassuming woman dead and why.

Small towns hold many secrets and people have long memories, some with more to lose than others. As Elma and her team travel back in time and try to extract information from some very tight lipped people, they discover a tragic history, the kind you never really let go of.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books

Cover Reveal: Sword – Bogdan Teodorescu

On the streets of Bucharest, a brutally efficient serial killer is at work. His targets: individuals from the Roma community with a criminal record. Each victim is killed with a single blow to the throat and tensions rise at the same rate as the body count. For not everyone disagrees with this vigilante killer.

With Presidential elections about to take place, and the police seemingly unable to track down the elusive assassin they’ve nicknamed Sword, the government struggles to keep control while other political figures try to stoke public resentment for their own ends.

The demons in Romania’s fractured society begin to resurface, as old distrust and prejudices grow with each new victim from the Roma community. The case is under the media’s relentless spotlight. Meanwhile, ruthless figures both inside and outside the government are manoeuvring to take advantage of the situation. But are they playing with political fire for their own purposes – are they in danger of sparking a vicious racial conflict?

Bogdan Teodorescu paints an acid portrait of a divided society in this powerful political thriller containing themes that will echo around the world.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Sister – Kjell Ola Dahl*

Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…

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.

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich.

In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

My thoughts:

What starts as a seemingly straightforward missing person’s case dives into the world of refugees and asylum seekers, people living in limbo as they wait to see if they can stay or will be sent away.

There are police cases, murders, “honour” killers, threats, secrets and lies ahead for police officer turned PI Frølich as he attempts to unravel the mystery hidden beneath all of the chaos he’s uncovered.

Clever, twisty, turny plotting that keeps you guessing, unreliable and untrustworthy characters, and new avenues that seem to pop up everywhere. Really enjoyable reading.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.