The Great Silence (Skelfs #3) by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 19 June (e-book) 19 August p/back
PP: 300
ISBN-13: 978-1913193836

My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review purposes

The discovery of a human foot in an Edinburgh park, the inexplicable circumstances of a dying woman, and the missing daughter of Jenny’s violent ex-husband present the Skelf women with their most challenging – and deadly – cases yet…

Keeping on top of the family funeral directors’ and private-investigation businesses is no easy task for the Skelf women, and when matriarch Dorothy discovers a human foot while walking the dog, a perplexing case presents itself … with potentially deadly results.

Daughter Jenny and grand-daughter Hannah have their hands full too: The mysterious circumstances of a dying woman lead them into an unexpected family drama, Hannah’s new astrophysicist colleague claims he’s receiving messages from outer space, and the Skelf’s teenaged lodger has yet another devastating experience.

Nothing is clear as the women are immersed ever deeper in their most challenging cases yet. But when the daughter of Jenny’s violent and fugitive ex-husband goes missing without trace and a wild animal is spotted roaming Edinburgh’s parks, real danger presents itself, and all three Skelfs are in peril.

I approached this book with some trepidation. I loved both A Dark Matter and The Big Chill and so was eager to read The Great Silence. Yet, at the same time, I knew I did not want this series to end. I have to say though, as far this trilogy goes, The Great Silence is an absolutely perfect end, bringing the narrative arc to a close in a way that mirrors the way the trilogy opened.

This is as perfect a book as I have read in a long time. The women are so beautifully and richly drawn that they feel real to me. They could be my friends and neighbours. These are women I care about and I understand them, have felt the way they feel and this book made me cry for them, too.

Over the course of three books I have watched them grow and seen them suffer. Their lives mirror our own and we recognise them all the better for it. Their health, their emotions, their concerns are so universal and utterly believable we see ourselves in them. In my case, it is Dorothy, but others will identify with their own character.

Johnstone packs a huge amount into this book; there are multiple cases and so many levels that give us a depth and a richness that is unsurpassable. These are women you engage with on an emotional level, but somehow Johnstone manages to elevate the book beyond that; building in some of the big philosophical and scientific questions and even occasionally proffering answers. When Hannah takes on a case, you can see the way she has matured and developed through the way she handles it with sensitivity, using her scientific brain and her life experience to understand the problem and find a way to resolve it.

Johnstone has delivered a superbly plotted book with great themes and a number of tense storylines all beautifully woven together and has brought them together with an expertise that shows what a master of his craft he has become. There’s humour too that helps relieve some of the unbearable tension, but it’s a humour that is inclusive, that draws you in closer to these women; makes you love them more.

Even as you love and empathise with them, you find that you are caught up in the horror that they experience and sometimes there is a shocking brutality to this narrative that leaves you gasping with shock and fear for these characters. It is visceral and as a reader, that sense of tragedy hits you full force without comfort. This is a book whose essence lies in family, love, pain and betrayal.

Yet for all that, what I came away with, as the tears rolled down my face, was an ineffable sense of love. Love between generations. The pain of being young and knowing hurt, betrayal and cruelty, tempered by the love of family and friends. Love between lovers and between parent and child. Love for the craft of a job well done and love for science and reaching to the stars to ask some very big questions. Love for Edinburgh and its environs shines through here, too.

Verdict: The Great Silence has left me in awe of Johnstone’s immense talent, but also bereft because I may never see these characters again. I can only hope that these women I have come to love have gone to recuperate and regroup because I so do not want to contemplate a life without Dorothy, Jenny, Hannah and Indy in it. Are you listening, Doug?

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Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve previous novels, most recently The BigChill (2020). Several of his books have been bestsellers and three, A DarkMatter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), were shortlisted for theMcIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade, and has been an arts journalist for over twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three solo EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.
Follow Doug on Twitter @doug_johnstone
Visit his website: dougjohnstone.com

The Dinner Guest by B.P. Walter

Source: Review copy
Publication: 1 April 2021 from One More Chapter
PP: 416
ISBN-13: 978-0008446086

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy


Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen. And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.
Classic crime meets Donna Tartt in this nerve-shredding domestic noir thriller that weaves a sprawling web of secrets around an opulent West London world and the dinner that ends in death.

We open with the murder.  Matthew Allerton is murdered whilst at the dinner table. Charlie, his husband, can only watch as Rachel, clutching the bloody knife that was the instrument of his death, phones for an ambulance..

Matthew and Charlie are the perfect couple. The couple who have it all. Charlie lives an Instagram life and their adopted son, 15 year old Titus, fits in perfectly with that. Living in the opulent surrounds of Kensington and Chelsea, they are happy together and enjoy a life full of good things from Waitrose. Culture comes in the form of their occasional theatre visits and Matthew’s regular book club.

Charlie and Rachel are our narrators.  Charlie is living the glossy mag dream. Rachel is the cuckoo in the nest. A seemingly chance meeting in Waterstones leads to a friendly exchange; a second encounter in M&S  leads Matthew to invite Rachel to their home for the book club. Rachel seems to become a part of their lives and Charlie is discomfited.

He knows something isn’t right, but he can’t pin it down. Matthew thinks he is being snobbish, but it’s more than that…Charlie can’t understand why, but his seemingly perfect life is slowly starting to unravel.

B.P. Walter’s novel peels back the layers on an affluent, entitled couple living a superficially glamorous life. Into that life Rachel comes and like the worm in the apple, everything turns rotten from the inside while the skin still glows.

As Rachel becomes a fixture in their lives, so Charlie and Matthew seem to become further apart.

Did Rachel murder Matthew? If so why? There are not so many suspects in this novel that this is a whodunit; rather this is about motivation. Not really who did it, but why did they do it?

There are stereotypes here; affluent Londoners and the Northern girl. (It’s grim up North). Poor v rich lifestyles as Rachel lives on a housing estate in Pimlico and Charlie and Matthew a house in Chelsea. But under the bonnet of this sleek car is a host of loose wires and the veneer that sets off Mathew and Charlie’s perfect life starts to chip as soon as Rachel enters their lives.

Neither Charlie nor Rachel is a sympathetic character. Charlie is vain, narcissistic and a snob. Rachel is more of a blank canvas. A schemer, but we don’t know why or to what end, though we are drip fed clues throughout the book.

As we learn more about these lives, so it becomes clear that that each of them, even Titus, is prepared to play the angles to get what they want.

Verdict: The Dinner Guest is a fast paced, entertaining read that keeps the reader guessing. Full of secrets, lies and dreadful people it is like watching a car crash and knowing you can’t stop it happening. The carnage will be dreadful, but you have to keep on watching. Walter keeps the chapters short and snappy and there are plenty of twists and misdirection to keep the reader wrong footed.

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B.P. Walter is the author of A Version of the Truth (published in the US as The Couple’s Secret) and Hold Your Breath. He was born and raised in Essex and after spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management.He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and currently works in social media coordination for the head office of Waterstones. He lives in Central London.

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021- LONGLIST REVEALED (and it is a corker)!

Congratulations to all the awesome authors whose books have today been included on the longlist for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year! This is an incredibly strong list and it’s going to be really difficult to single out one novel from so many great books.

The longlist of 18 of the best in crime writing includes industry titans (Ian Rankin, Steve Cavanagh, Val McDermid, Lucy Foley, Mark Billingham) and newcomers looking to state their claim. One of my favourite writers, Doug Johnstone makes the list with the second book in his fantastic trilogy about the Skelf women – The Big Chill.

Now in its 17th year, the most coveted prize in crime fiction, presented by Harrogate International Festivals celebrates crime writing at its best. This year’s longlist transports readers around the world from California to Sweden and Calcutta to a remote Irish island and explores every subgenre from Scandi noir to murderous families.

The line-up of returning champions is led by crime fiction titan Ian Rankin, who has received a nod for his A Song for The Dark Times, Mark Billingham, hoping for a third win with his Cry Baby, and Steve Cavanagh looking to beat the competition with Fifty Fifty.

This year’s longlist recognises a number of authors who have previously never been listed by the prize. Hoping to claim the trophy on their first appearance are Lucy Foley with her No.1 Sunday Times Best Seller The Guest List, Chris Whitaker with We Begin at The End, Scottish author Doug Johnstone with The Big Chill and Liz Nugent with Our Little Cruelties, and Jane Casey with her latest Maeve Kerrigan instalment The Cutting Place.

The longlist also features several previously nominated authors hoping to go one step further and clinch the trophy with Elly Griffiths securing her seventh pick for her much lauded The Lantern Men and Susie Steiner getting her third nod for Remain Silent and Brian McGilloway’s second nomination for The Last Crossing, and best-selling author Louise Candlish hoping to win on her second pick with The Other Passenger.

Joining these outstanding names is the undisputed ‘Queen of Crime’herself, Val McDermid with her newest Karen Pirie novel Still Life. Celebrated in the industry for her impeccable ability to select emerging talent for the annual New Blood panel at Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, McDermid find herself competing against many New Blood alumni including: Will Dean for his latest Scandi noir Black River; Eva Dolan for the newest instalment of her critically-acclaimed Zigic and Ferreira series, Abir Mukherjee’s new Calcutta and Assam-inspired Death in the East, and finally Trevor Wood – who has gone from the 2020 New Blood panel to longlisted for Crime’s biggest award.

The full longlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021 is:

–          Cry Baby by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere)

–          The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster)

–          The Cutting Place by Jane Casey (HarperCollins, HarperFiction)

–          Fifty Fiftyby Steve Cavanagh (The Orion Publishing Group, Orion Fiction)

–          Black River by Will Dean (Oneworld Publications, Point Blank)

–          Between Two Evils by Eva Dolan (Bloomsbury Publishing, Raven Books)

–          The Guest List by Lucy Foley (HarperCollins, HarperFiction)

–          The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths (Quercus, Quercus Fiction)

–          The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (Orenda Books)

–          Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton (Penguin Random House UK, Viking)

–          Still Life by Val McDermid (Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere)

–          The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway (Little, Brown Book Group, Constable)

–          Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)

–          Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent (Penguin, Sandycove)

–          A Song For The Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Orion, Orion Fiction)

–          Remain Silent by Susie Steiner (HarperCollins Publishers, The Borough Press)

–          We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker (Bonnier Books UK, Zaffre)

–          The Man on the Street by Trevor Wood (Quercus, Quercus Fiction)

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “The way the global obsession with the crime genre continues to grow year on year is simply astonishing and this year’s longlist proves the remarkable talent on offer in crime writing– from legends of the craft to eager-eyed newcomers. The shortlist is already too close to call so we encourage all to get voting! A hearty toast of Old Peculier to all longlisted authors for this coveted award – and we look forward to what we know will be a fiercely fought competition!”

Run by Harrogate International Festivals, the shortlist will be announced in June and the winner on 22 July, at the opening evening of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – with the public able to vote for the winner on harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com.

The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021 by UK and Irish authors.

The longlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith.

The public are now invited to vote for a shortlist of six titles on www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com, which will be announced in June. The winner will be revealed on the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 22 July, and will receive £3,000, and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakston Old Peculier.

The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs (Tempe Brennan #20) @KathyReichs @simonschusterUK @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 29 April 2021 from Simon & Schuster
PP: 368
ISBN-13: 978-1471188893

My thanks to Simon & Schuster and Random Things Tours for an advance copy for review

NO CRIME CAN STAY HIDDEN FOREVER

When a hurricane hits the Carolinas it uncovers two bodies, sharing uncanny similarities with a cold case in Quebec that has haunted Temperance Brennan for fifteen years.

At the same time, a rare bacterium that can eat human flesh is discovered in Charleston. Panic erupts and people test themselves for a genetic mutation that leaves them vulnerable.

With support from her long time partner Andrew Ryan, in a search that soon proves dangerous, Temperance discovers the startling connection between the victims of both murder cases – and that both the murders and the disease outbreak have a common cause . . .

A new book about forensic anthropologist , Temperance Brennan is always a cause for celebration. I found that in her 20th book in this series – (what an achievement!) Reichs can still pull it out of the bag.

It’s hurricane season and as ever Tempe, who lives between Charlotte in North Carolina and Montreal, is always in the wrong place when the hurricane strikes. As the book opens Tempe is in North Carolina with her cat Birdie, and missing her partner, retired Montreal Homicide Detective, Andrew Ryan.

Tempe is cleaning up in Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office, ready to head home before the hurricane hits when an elderly woman asks for her. She has a find for Tempe – pictures of a woman, including a death mask, which the woman believes may belong to a long gone relative.

Then, post hurricane, two bodies are washed up on the South Carolina shore. They are badly decomposed and have been sealed in a medical waste container. Wrapped in plastic, they are badly decomposed. Each has received a single bullet to the head, and each is missing teeth and fingers, rendering identification almost impossible. These bodies stir a memory within Tempe’s brain and she recalls an old case in Quebec some 15 years ago, which mirrors this discovery. That case was never solved. Fortunately she has Ryan to call on to help her investigate.

While Tempe is investigating these bodies, she asks Anna, her high maintenance friend, to look into the death masks case. All the while, hovering in the background in news reports and conversations, is the knowledge that there is an ongoing outbreak of something called capnocytophaga (capno) which manifests itself first in dogs who then pass it along to humans on whom it has a devastating impact. As yet there is no cure and this is a growing problem.

Coming on top of the CoVid virus, this may be tough reading for some, but Reichs has highlighted here something that we should, at the very least, be aware of. While we marvel at the way that scientists have managed to come up with a vaccine to help us deal with CoVid, so we should be aware that now that we have the knowledge of how to tackle such viruses, there will always be those who seek to use that knowledge unscrupulously. The whole issue of gene editing and virus management is one that will not go away and as a society we should be learning as much as we can in order to engage in the debate around the ethical issues before it is too late.

On the other hand, I’ll be interested in how this book is received in America, where the vaccine programme is meeting resistance and all efforts are pointed to making sure people understand how safe it is. The timing of this book will certainly make for some interesting debates, I reckon. At the very least, I know understand better than I did before just why they ask me if I’m allergic to eggs before I get my flu jab!

This is Tempe’s narrative and we follow her as she travels between North Carolina and Montreal working primarily on the bodies in the barrel case, while she asks Anne to do some research on the death masks.

Working with the Charleston Police and in particular with Detective Tonia Vislovsky, a policewoman whose modus operandi is brusque and unforgiving, the pair set out to find out who these women are, how they link to the cold case of 15 years ago and who the killer is. As they travel together they reach an understanding which shoukd stand them in good stead for future investogations.

Reichs weaves the science and the personalities together very well and the small personal details and tinges of humour peppered through her relationships with Anne, Ryan and of course her most important relationship with Birdie, help to keep the science just one part of this complex human equation.

Verdict: The pace is good, the plot is highly topical and nicely woven as Tempe once more gets the dead to give up their secrets and help her to solve the case. There are references to Tempe’s brain tumour that was the focus of her last book, mirroring Reich’s own experience, but fortunately that seems to be in the past and we hope it stays that way so that we can enjoy Book 21!

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Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead was a number one bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones,which is based on her work and her novels.
Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.

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The Rapunzel Act by Abi Silver (Burton &Lamb 4) @abisilver16 @amberachoudhary @EyeAndLightning

Source: Review copy
Publication: 15 April 2021 from Lightning Books
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1785632266

My thanks to the publisher and Midas PR for an advance copy for review

When Breakfast TV host and nation’s darling, Rosie Harper, is found brutally murdered at home, suspicion falls on her spouse, formerly international football star, Danny ‘walks on water’ Mallard, now living out of the public eye as trans woman, Debbie. Not only must Debbie challenge the hard evidence against her, including her blood-drenched glove at the scene of the crime, she must also contend with the nation’s prejudices, as the trial is broadcast live, turning it into a public spectacle.

For someone trying to live their life without judgment, it might just be too much to bear. Legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb are subjected to unyielding scrutiny as they strive to defend their most famous client yet.

It’s always a joy to find a new series to enjoy. I love a good legal thriller; there’s something about the drama of declamation in a courtroom that appeals to my love of words so choosing this book to review was easy.

Judith Burton is the barrister; Constance Lamb the solicitor. Theirs is an interesting relationship. They’ve worked together before and are comfortable in each other’s company. Constance is more of a sleuth than Judith, doing a lot of the leg work while Judith decides on strategy. Constance offers advice but Judith is the one who decides whether or not to accept it. The pair do seem to get on though and in this book it seems that they may be about to share more than a working brief as Constance gets close to an old friend of Judith’s.

Their case is absolutely fascinating.  Debbie Mallard used to be Danny; an ex England and international footballer. Now she has transitioned and her 20 year marriage to breakfast TV darling, Rosie Harper, has ended in divorce. Debbie now coaches a junior women’s football team.

Debbie Mallard is the client. Rosie Mallard has been found brutally murdered in her home and one of Debbie’s motor bike gloves has been recovered at the scene. Not only that, but when the police come looking for Debbie, she does a runner. The case looks bleak. And it’s only going to be further complicated when the court in which the case is scheduled is chosen for a pilot of televised court trials and Constance and Judith will find their client is in the forefront of the public eye a their case is filmed and then dissected and discussed on a nightly basis on a TV programme called Court TV.

Abi Silver’s book guides us through the case without sensationalism and there’s a very strong sense of authenticity about her trial process. The addition of TV cameras does make a difference from the way those conducting the trial dress and act, to the discussions on social media which in turn lead to pile-ons, crowds demonstrating outside the courts and a focus on the trial and all those involved.

It’s a great way to highlight a real dilemma; the extent to which cameras in our courtrooms will alter behaviour and whether that, in turn, has an impact on the jury’s verdict? It’s a great debating point and Abi Silver gets the most out of it.

The decision to focus on the transgender issue also plays into a whole host of issues around bias and prejudice and feeds the idea that that it is this as much as the murder that Danny is on trial for, exacerbated again by the whole Court TV discussions which have a tendency to focus on the more sensationalist aspects of the trial as a whole.

Alongside this element is the real murder mystery, played out in the courtroom, of who did murder Rosie? Silver plays this out in a very convincing courtroom scenario where as the trial progresses we learn more about the evidence and hear from witnesses about Rosie and Danny/Debbie’s relationship.

This, together with some smart investigating by Constance, allows us to build a picture of the family and how their relationship changed when Danny decided to transition. It isn’t until the perpetrator is disclosed though, that we understand the full extent of how Rosie and Debbie’s relationship had evolved.

Verdict: A really interesting and thought provoking book that tackles sensitive and topical issues well and that leaves the reader with lots to consider even after the murder has been wrapped up. It’s a fascinating and sometimes intense book and I really got caught up in it. I’ll certainly read more in this series.

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Abi Silver is an author and lawyer who grew up in Leeds in a traditional Jewish family. Watching Granada TV’s ‘Crown Court’ in between lessons led her to study Law at Girton College, Cambridge. Abi then worked in London at international law firm, Allen & Overy and at RPC, before spending five years in Israel, where her husband, Daniel, was posted. During her time there, alongside raising her three young sons, Abi completed an MBA by distance learning, learned Hebrew and pottery on the wheel and began to write fiction, usually late at night. On returning to the UK, she went back to law before quitting a permanent position in 2015 when she decided to try her hand at writing again which led to publication of The Pinocchio Brief. Based in Radlett, Hertfordshire, Abi works part-time as a legal consultant and author.

Cover Reveal COLD AS HELL by Lilja Sigurðardóttir @lilja1972 @OrendaBooks

I am delighted, excited and honoured to bring you this AMAZING cover for Cold As Hell, the first book in a brand new series from the FABULOUS Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Orenda Books. Cold As Hell is the first in the An Áróra Investigation series and I think you can tell from this cover, designed by Mark Swan, just how amazing a series this is going to be.

What’s the book about, I hear you ask? Sit back and relax, but not too much, because this one is an edge of the seat thriller that will leave you gasping. Here’s the skinny:

Áróra returns to Iceland when her estranged sister goes missing, and her search leads to places she could never have imagined. A chilling, tense thriller and first in a gripping new series, from one of Iceland’s bestselling authors…

Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren’t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace.

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever darker web of intrigue and manipulation. 

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…

Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

Cold As Hell, translated by Quentin Bates, will be out in October (e-book in August) from Orenda Books.

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir 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.

Silenced by Sólveig Pálsdóttir trs Quentin Bates @solveigpals @graskeggur @CorylusB

Source: Review copy
Publication: 15 April 2021 from Corylus Books
PP: 212
ASIN : B08Y5KZ98J

My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review

The darker the secret, the harder to bury it.

As a police team is called in to investigate a woman’s suicide at the Hólmsheiði prison outside Reykjavík, to detective Guðgeir Fransson it looks like a tragic but straightforward case.

It’s only afterwards that the pieces begin to fall into place and he takes a deeper interest in Kristín Kjarr’s troubled background, and why she had found herself in prison.

His search leads him to a series of brutal crimes committed twenty years before and the unexplained disappearance of the prime suspect, whose wealthy family closed ranks as every effort was made to keep skeletons securely hidden in closets – while the Reykjavík police struggle to deal with a spate of fresh attacks that bear all the hallmarks of a copycat.

Unusually, I’m going to start with the translation. Because all the way through reading Silenced, which I enjoyed enormously, I was struck by just how Icelandic this voice is. It’s not just the names, which, admittedly, help, but there’s something about the construct of the sentences from translator Quentin Bates that can’t be other than Icelandic. I love that…this is a translation that is firmly rooted in the country, its language and that sense of doing things properly that is the hallmark of civilised Icelandic society.

Detective Guðgeir Fransson is looking forward to embarking on a new chapter of his life. He is back in Reykjavík, in charge of the Special Investigations unit, and he and his wife Inga are moving back in together, this time into a new apartment which he is assiduously making sure is ready to receive them. Everything from the parquet floor to the plastered walls will be clean and fresh for this new start.

As he visits the flat one day, he runs into his neighbour, Andrea Eythórsdóttir, a social media influencer, who – on finding that he is a policeman – tells him plaintively of how little the police did to find her lost brother when he disappeared some twenty years ago. Johannes Eythórsson disappeared during the day an earthquake hit Reykjavík and was never found. There’s something vulnerable about Andrea and he resolves to at least look into it, as it sticks in his mind, not least because he doesn’t really understand what a social media influencer does…

Then Guðgeir and his partner Elsa Guðrún are called to investigate the suicide of Kristín Kjarr.  Kjarr was in prison, and in her cell at the time of her death but there are marks on her body indicating that she may have been involved in a struggle or altercation, so Guðgeir and Elsa need to investigate further. Not only that, but the warden tells them that Kristin had not seemed anxious or depressed; rather she had been enjoying a creative period and was painting more than ever. In the cell they find a series of drawings that all seem to be of the same person.

What they also learn is that Kristin has been jailed for almost killing his Andrea’s mother. Kjarr was driving under the influence of drink and drugs when she crashed her car straight into the home of Andrea and Johannes’ parents.

Guðgeir is intrigued by this link to his neighbour and he begins to follow up on her plea to find out what happened to her brother, only to find that he is met with a wall of silence. Ansrea herself seems to have changed her mind and none of the rest of her family, including her other brother, Daði, want the case re-opened as it would be too painful.

The Eythórsson family are prominent business people in the city and have many important connections, all of which has served to underscore Andrea’s ability to grow her social media profile and business. But as Guðgeir and Elsa investigate Kjarr’s death, they come across more links to the family that raise more questions than answers.

It seems that Krstin Kjarr dated Johannes before his disappearance but the relationship was not an equal one. He treated her very badly, was violent and domineering and his actions culminated in the most brutal of actions. Kristin never recovered from that and her life thereafter was a shadow of the young, vibrant woman she had been.

Meanwhile in Reykjavik, other brutal rapes have been occurring and Guðgeir can’t help but wonder if some kind of copycat is at work.

Silenced is a strong piece of writing that demonstrates the myriad ways in which women can be silenced. She has created an intricately plotted dual timeline story that puts family firmly in the centre and then slowly pulls it apart to look at the ugliness than can be covered up in the name of reputation, loyalty or ‘a good name’.

Once the façade starts to crumble, we see only too clearly the kind of chains that have bound Andrea over the years as well as the damage that has been wrought on Kristin Kjarr.

On one level, this is a fascinating police procedural with a great cast of characters and a team of officers who work well together, refreshingly devoid of petty jealousies or massive flaws, but who are focussed on getting the job done. In that sense Silenced is a tense and exciting police procedural with excellent plotting and great characters.

But on another level the insights that Sólveig Pálsdóttir brings to the character of Andrea and the gaze that she is able to turn on Kristin Kjarr, make this a more intense insight into how women are disempowered and what value they often have in society alongside the lengths that some will go to in order to ensure they do not have a voice. Thus Andrea is an empty shell and Kristin Kjarr’s voice can only be heard through the power of her art.

Verdict: This is powerful writing that gets right under the skin and is sometimes very uncomfortable reading. But like the best crime novels, it asks uncomfortable questions about the society we live in and what we are prepared to accept. Highly recommended

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Sólveig Pálsdóttir trained as an actor and has a background in the theatre, television and radio. In a second career she studied for degrees in literature and education, and has taught literature and linguistics, drama and public speaking, and has produced both radio programming and managed cultural events.Her first novel appeared in Iceland in 2012 and went straight to the country’s bestseller list. She has written five novels featuring Reykjavík detective Guðgeir Fransson and a memoir, Klettaborgin, which was a 2020 hit in Iceland.Silenced (Fjötrar) received the 2020 Drop of Blood award for the best Icelandic novel of the year and is Iceland’s nomination for the 2021 Glass key award for the best Nordic crime novel of the year. Sólveig lives in Reykjavík.

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Hyde by Craig Russell @littlebrownuk, @TheCraigRussell and @thecrimevault @ClaraHDiaz

Source: Review copy
Publication: 29 April 2021 from Constable
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-1472128393

My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.


A new Craig Russell is always a cause for celebration and excitement. I adored his last book, The Devil Aspect and this time Russell has brought his Gothic demons much closer to home.

There’s nowhere better than Edinburgh to cast a spellbinding Gothic story. Edinburgh with its surgical traditions, its black history of grave robbers Burke and Hare, its underground streets and the famous Arthur’s Seat coffin dolls. Russell takes all these very real moments and some real historical figures and uses them to mould a dark and seriously fiendish tale that strikes at the heart of Victorian Edinburgh society.

Nothing could be more natural. Russell takes his creator back to the Edinburgh of Robert Louis Stevenson to show us the origins of Stephenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. Captain Edward Henry Hyde has returned from his tour of duty in the British Army after defending the Empire in India. Now he is Superintendent of Detective Officers for the City of Edinburgh Police. In this douce city where bourgeois respectability is everything and craftsmen are held in high esteem, Russell lifts the veil of respectability to look underneath at the dark and evil monstrosities that lie below.

He does this, intriguingly, against the backdrop of a Scotland that is not entirely comfortable with its role as part of the Empire since the Act of Union; a Scotland that dares to dream of a more glorious future and this element is mirrored in Hyde, a man who struggles with what he has seen and done in the name of the British Empire. There are levels and layers to this book and they work together perfectly to allow us to see the hypocrisy of both man and the society he treasures while beneath the surface ugly boils suppurate and threaten to break through to the surface.

Hyde, according to his his friend and psychiatrist Dr Samuel Porteous, is epileptic. He only knows that he loses time and after an episode comes to with no memory of where he has been or what he has done. Porteous is treating Hyde privately and in secret so that Hyde can conceal his condition from his employers. But he is also increasingly concerned that Porteous is experimenting on him in the hopes of gaining glory through the development of an innovative treatment.

 Everyone, we realise has dual motives and aspects in this clever book that wondrously marries fact and fiction in an altogether too persuasive telling of a beautifully Gothic masterpiece.

Hyde works as a fabulously gruesome, entertaining story in its own right. It is a rich, layered story full of dark demons, old folk tales, and a bit of devil worship all combined with wonderful imagery and mysterious characters whose very presence makes us quail and fear them.

Hyde is a fantastic murder mystery, full of sulphurous smells, rich in atmosphere and twisty as you like. Russell provides strong female characters too in the form of that most undouce of things, Dr Cally Burr, a female surgeon and in Elizabeth Lockwood, a formidable business brain and heir to her father’s business empire.

Hyde is a chilling and deeply scary tale of madness, myth and pure evil, rooted in the legend that is Jekyll and Hyde, and yet altogether different.

Verdict: I could not love this book more. The language is glorious, the settings perfect. The rich layered storytelling is suspenseful, chilling and full of meaning. There’s so much deftly embedded in this story that you could go on discovering gems for some time. I love this outstanding book and give it all the stars for an absolute must buy – must read book.

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Craig Russell’s novels have been published in twenty-five languages, four have been made into major films in Germany, in one of which he has a cameo role as a detective. He has won the CWA Dagger in the Library and the McIlvanney Prize (for which he has been shortlisted another twice), and has previously been shortlisted for the CWA Golden Dagger, the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, and the SNCF Prix Polar in France. A former police officer, Craig Russell is the only non-German to have been awarded the Polizeistern – the Hamburg Police’s Police Star. When not writing, Craig Russell paints, cooks and reads, but not simultaneously.

Dead Secret by Noelle Holten (DC Maggie Jamieson #4) @nholten40 @OneMoreChapter @BOTBS

Source: Review copy
Publication: E-book 23April 2021 from One More Chapter (P/back July 22nd 2021)
PP: 433
ISBN-13: 978-0008383688

My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review

Psychopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

Maggie Jamieson and her cohorts are starting to feel like old friends now that we have got to book 4, though Noelle Holten does provide enough background to enable new readers to jump in and enjoy the book straight away. Part of the reason this series work is the way that the different agencies interact with each other, allowing Holten to direct a story from the perspective of social services, refuge workers, probation officers or the police. This does mean that you sometimes have to deal with more acronyms than a night with AC-12, but Holten always makes it clear who people are and which agency they are working for, so it’s never an issue.

This time Maggie has two cases on her hands and it’s proving very difficult. Staffing is really stretched. DCI Hastings (Mother of God!) has been off, presumed sick but now seems to have gone missing and closer inspection has revealed a nasty can of worms wriggling under the most respectable of facades.

Not only that, but a young man has been found dead on a patch of waste ground, his face inked with four dots, a pattern that stirs a remembrance in the back of Maggie’s mind.

Meanwhile, Lucy Sherwood is preparing to open her refuge; her way of dealing with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex, and when a distraught young woman turns up at the door, she can’t turn her away. But this woman is so distraught she won’t speak about or report her abuse and Lucy is left to try and deal with it as best she can.

I do enjoy these different story lines running alongside each other and Holten does a great job of making them really interesting by weaving in threads from her characters personal lives, making you more even invested in her protagonists. Maggie especially is going to have to decide what (and who) she wants from her life, but for now she’s juggling a potential new romance with a longing for an old friend and a love for her job that seems all consuming. These choices are never easy…but for now there’s intense pressure to get to the bottom of this case as another dead body turns up…

Verdict: Strong female characters filled with determination are a hallmark of this series, whether it’s the fierce journalist, Julie Noble, Maggie herself or the determined Lucy Sherwood. Of course they have flaws and vulnerabilities, but this is a series that is hallmarked with the character and determination of the women that populate the pages. Good storylines, excellent pace and a nice series of twisty moments with lots of deflection keep this in the ‘must buy’ category.

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

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The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter (D.I. Adam Hawley #5) @CaraHunterBooks @VikingBooksUK

Source: Audiobook review copy
Publication: 29 April 2021 from Penguin Audio
Narrators: Lee Ingleby, Emma Cunniffe and Roy McMillan
Listening time : 12 hours 22 minutes
ASIN: B08FMWBYX2

My thanks to the publisher for an advance copy for review purposes


An attractive student. An older professor.

Think you know the story? Think again.

She has everything at stake; he has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.

When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department and the student a six-foot male rugby player.

Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don’t realise is that someone is watching.

And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good….

I’m a fan of this series and when the opportunity arose to listen to it on audiobook, I grabbed it. Readers of this series will know that Cara Hunter uses social media, e-mails, TV reports, newspaper headlines and reports to underline parts of her stories and I wasn’t sure how this would translate to the listening experience. I need not have worried. In fact this aspect works really well and helps to make it a really good listen.

I really enjoy this series. As with the best of all such series, it is the fact that you can connect with the characters, understand their vulnerabilities and enjoy the interactions with their teams that makes them feel like people you know. And in case you’ve forgotten any of them, Cara Hunter provides a very useful run down of the key characters at the beginning of this story.

As the book opens, Alex Fawley is heavily pregnant and somewhat uncomfortable as she awaits the imminent arrival of their baby. It’s a difficult time for them both, having lost a child – their ten year old son, Jake – in very sad circumstances a few years earlier. DI Adam Fawley is doing all he can to support his wife, but as it transpires, that’s not going to be easy because their past is about to rise up and bite them – hard.

But before that happens Alex has an unusual case to deal with. There’s been an accusation of sexual assault at Oxford University. This accusation is from a student against a Professor, and a high profile Professor at that. One who draws a great deal of business support towards her College. The complainant is a male student.

Caleb Morgan, is no wallflower. He’s a six foot well-built lad with a steady girlfriend and he is claiming that Professor Marina Fisher sexually assaulted him when she returned from a College dinner and he was in her home, babysitting her son. Morgan’s mother is an MP, so the team are faced with 2 high profile antagonists and they have to work out which one is telling the truth. It’s a beautifully presented case of ‘he said: she said’ and Cara Hunter does an amazing job of keeping the reader on edge not knowing who is the unreliable narrator as the evidence does not help them one iota. You really feel for DC Gareth Quinn, just demoted after getting involved with a suspect and now put in charge of this case in the absence, on holiday, of DS Chris Gislingham.

Then a friend of Alex Fawley’s is found murdered on the railway tracks; initially thought to be a suicide, she has been brutally raped. This happens just as Gavin Parrie, the Roadside Rapist is released from jail on licence. Alex Fawley has been listening secretly to the true crime podcast, The Whole Truth, which campaigns on miscarriages of justice. The Whole Truth is supporting Parrie’s claim that he is innocent, and is examining all aspects of the case in the podcast.

Suddenly, Adam’s life goes into meltdown. Not only is Alex about to give birth at a difficult age (she’s 44), but now evidence has been uncovered that seems to suggest Adam could be implicated in the young woman’s murder.

Cara Hunter really does flesh out all her characters very well and as a result you feel invested in them and their welfare. She really does highlight the interdependency of the team and I enjoy getting to know them, their partners and learning about their lives inside and out the police station.

In this book, we know at least who Adam can rely on, and that’s clearly not everyone involved in investigating the murder. As things start to look very bleak indeed, Adam believed he’s being set up, but with no way of proving it, the tension is mounting as things start to get very heated.

The Whole Truth intertwines these two main storylines really well; keeping our interest and at the same time challenging stereotypes and making us uncertain of who to believe. It’s brilliantly executed, nicely twisty and keeps the reader on the hook all the way through.

Verdict: This is a great addition to the series. Hunter does a terrific job in raising interesting and intelligent topical questions that really make you think in the context of a twisty and often surprising storyline that is pacy and holds the attention in a vice-like grip.  The narration is excellent and very clear. Highly recommended.

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Cara Hunter is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling crime novels Close to Home, In the Dark, No Way Out and All the Rage, all featuring DI Adam Fawley and his Oxford-based police team. Close to Home was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and was shortlisted for Crime Book of the Year in the British Book Awards 2019. No Way Out was selected by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 best crime novels since 1945. Cara’s novels have sold more than a million copies worldwide, and the TV rights to the series have now been acquired by the Fremantle group. She lives in Oxford, on a street not unlike those featured in her books.

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