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.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Living Candles – Teodora Matei*

The discovery of a woman close to death in a city basement sends Bucharest police officers Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache on a complex chase through the city as they seek to identify the victim. As they try to track down the would-be murderer, they find a macabre trail of missing women and they realise that this isn’t the first time the killer has struck. Iordan and Matache hit one dead end after another, until they decide they’ll have to take a chance that could prove deadly.

Amazon

My thoughts:

This is a clever police procedural from Romania. The two detectives are smart and dedicated, despite the distractions of their private lives.

The plot leads you through the streets of Bucharest as they hunt for the killer of several red headed women over the years, tracing it back to the apparent suicide of one woman over thirty years before.

The writing is crisp and lean, with minimal unnecessary details and precise use of language. Giving it the feel of a tense episode of a TV drama and creating a sense of the claustrophobia of the crime scene.


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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Mexico Street – Simone Buchholz*

Night after night, cars are set alight across the German city of Hamburg, with no obvious pattern, no explanation and no suspect. Until, one night, on Mexico Street, a ghetto of high-rise blocks in the north of the city, a Fiat is torched. Only this car isn’t empty. The body of Nouri Saroukhan – prodigal son of the Bremen clan – is soon discovered, and the case becomes a homicide. Public prosecutor Chastity Riley is handed the investigation, which takes her deep into a criminal underground that snakes beneath the whole of Germany. And as details of Nouri’s background, including an illicit relationship with the mysterious Aliza, emerge, it becomes clear that these are not random attacks, and there are more on the cards…

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

My thoughts:

This was not what I expected at all. It seemed like a straightforward police procedural, then the protagonist’s apartment talked. There were strange length chapters that seemed to be about something else, bits of plot that didn’t connect to anything.

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, and as with most crime series’ it wasn’t necessary in order to follow the case, but maybe would explain some of these odd bits. Or maybe not.

Either way it’s an interesting case, and just when you think it’s been solved and is all about a feud in a minority ethnic community, it turns out to be about something else entirely.

Though I still don’t know who is setting all those cars on fire…

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Zodiac – Anamaria Ionescu*


When investigator Sergiu Manta is handed the investigation into a series of bizarre murders, he can’t sure what he’s getting involved in as he has to work with regular detective Marius Stanescu, who has his own suspicions about the biker he has been told to work with, and wants to get to the truth. The twists and turns of their investigation takes them from the city of Bucharest to the mountains of rural Romania, and back.

Amazon

My thoughts:

This was a really interesting, twisty, clever thriller. I really enjoyed it. One of the joys of translated literature is getting to read more widely but also see how tropes translate in other cultures. I’d really like to read more from this author, with her great grasp of narrative and suspense. It also gave me a tour of parts of Romania, which was really interesting too.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Aosawa Murders – Riku Onda*

On a stormy summer day in the 1970s the Aosawas, owners of a prominent local hospital, host a large birthday party in their villa on the Sea of Japan. The occasion turns into tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only family member spared death. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery. Inspector Teru is convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident. The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.

Riku Onda, born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers’ Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel for The Aosawa Murders, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television. This is her first crime novel and the first time she is translated into English.

My thoughts:

This took me a while to get into as the first person, half of a conversation, style it’s written in for the most part, felt quite jarring and I needed to adapt to the rhythm of it.

I still can’t quite work out whether Hisako was behind the murders of her family or not – it’s left slightly ambiguous.

I can see the influences of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood in the style and delivery of the various statements made by people involved with, and affected by, the murders.

This is a very clever book, toying with the reader, leading you off on various little detours into the lives of the different narrators. But always circling back round to the horrific events of that summer day.

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