Quieter Than Killing @sarahhilary @katieVEBrown @Headlinepg

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

 Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

 

I have been a massive fan of Sarah Hilary’s D.I. Marnie Rome series since her first book, Someone Else’s Skin (which won the Theakston Crime novel of the Year in 2015). That’s why I rushed to sign up for the blogtour because I want everyone to have the opportunity to read and enjoy this series.

This is D.I. Marnie Rome 4 and if you haven’t yet read the others, do yourself a favour and get buying now – you will not regret it.

Marnie Rome’s parents were murdered by her foster brother, Stephen Keele, in their home. He is serving a life sentence for their murder, but Marnie is haunted by the need to know what drove him to it.

Six years later, her parents’ house, let out because she cannot bear either to sell it or to live in it, has been ransacked and both the tenants have been subjected to a severe beating. It seems all too likely that Stephen Keele is behind it, but Marnie needs to know why. Though she is, of course, not investigating the case, still she needs to understand what has happened. This crime is deeply personal to her.

At the same time, Marnie’s partner, D.S. Noah Jake and his live in partner, Dan, are worried about Noah’s brother, Sol. Sol has been too closely involved with some of the teenage gang culture in London and Noah is really worried about keeping Sol on a crime free track.

Hilary creates beautifully drawn characters. You like and respect Marnie Rome and feel just how buttoned up she is. Noah Jake is such a great character, too that you will him to succeed and be happy.

Quieter Than Killing is set during a harsh London winter and we are again in run down council estate territory. As with Hilary’s first three Rome books, each book stands very well on its own, but read seriatim, they form an uncomfortable picture of our fractured society where predators are able to feed on alienated youngsters because deep down, so few of us actually care about the lives of the dispossessed and society does not have the resources to deal with them. I recently read a report from the Child Welfare Inequalities Project which showed that young people from the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods are almost 20% more likely to be on the child protection register. This, then, is Hilary’s territory.

There have been vicious attacks on three released convicts, and Finn, a child, has gone missing, all leading to a tense and thrilling plot which leads Marnie closer to a disturbing truth. Each victim has been punished in a way that reflects the crimes for which they were imprisoned, so when one of the victims dies, Marnie and Noah speculate that they may be looking for a vigilante killer.

The devilish thing about Sarah Hilary’s books is that she raises a lot of questions and sparingly supplies some answers. So, just as you think you are getting closer to understanding what Marnie’s backstory really is, you find once again that you have more questions than revelations, though what we do find out is explosive. But this is a book where Marnie’s story takes centre stage and while she reveals very little to us, when she visits her foster brother, now in Cloverton, an adult prison, he is getting colder and crueller over his need for her to face what he sees as his ‘truth’.

When Noah is attacked with a baseball bat (Sarah Hilary, how could you?!) while investigating the disappearance of someone related to the cases, he thinks he recognises his attacker.

Meanwhile, a prisoner inside Cloverton is beaten up and when Marnie goes to seek answers, she finds out a lot more than she bargained for. It seems that Keele may be connected to the vigilante attacks and then she discovers that there is a shared experience between her and Stephen Keele that she was unaware of, but which connects them intimately.

To add to Marnie’s woes, her lovely boss, Tim Welland, is on sick leave and DCS Lorna Ferguson is brought in. Ferguson is an ambitious woman and Marnie has to carefully negotiate her way round her new boss as the case takes on a deeply personal angle.

There are lots of tense and dramatic twists and turns as the novel reaches its climax, so much so that I could feel my stomach clenching at the end of the book.

Quieter Than Killing is a superbly crafted book. Beautifully written, with characters you care about, it is an exceptional crime novel and Hilary’s best yet. It is a riveting read that is almost explosive in the tension it creates.

I can’t praise these books highly enough. They are all, in my view, 5 star reads, and if I could I’d give this one 6 stars.

Quieter Than Killing is published in paperback by Headline on 5th October 2017

Amazon          Waterstones

About Sarah Hilary

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Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continues with TASTES LIKE FEAR (2016) QUIETER THAN KILLING (2017), with COME AND FIND ME out in April 2018.

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary

 

See what my colleague reviewers think of Quieter Than Killing by following the posts on the blogtour

BlogTour

Sleeping Beauties by Jo Spain @Hannah_Robbo @quercusbooks

The inspector frowned and examined the earth under the trees. As he scanned the glade, his stomach lurched. One, two, three, four. Five, counting the mound of earth disturbed under the tent. Somebody had cleared the earth of its natural layer and sown their own flowers

In five places

Five graves

A young woman, Fiona Holland, has gone missing from a small Irish village. A search is mounted, but there are whispers. Fiona had a wild reputation. Was she abducted, or has she run away?

A week later, a gruesome discovery is made in the woods at Ireland’s most scenic beauty spot – the valley of Glendalough. The bodies are all young women who disappeared in recent years. D.I. Tom Reynolds and his team are faced with the toughest case of their careers – a serial killer, who hunts vulnerable women, and holds his victims captive before he ends their lives.

Soon the race is on to find Fiona Holland before it’s too late. . .

If you are a fan of well plotted, decently paced police procedurals, then you will really enjoy this book.

The regular characters of Tom, Ray and Laura are warm and likeable, the newly promoted boss rather less so, and the crimes they have to solve are difficult and gruesome in a way that contrasts beautifully with the sleepy rural Ireland setting of most of this book.

Though there are two previous books involving Tom Reynolds and his team, each works perfectly as a stand-alone and can be read in isolation.

Fiona Holland has gone missing and while the police search for her in the woodlands of Glendalough they make a grim discovery. Five graves, with the bodies of five women are found and it soon becomes apparent that these women were the victims of a serial killer.

The women have a number of things in common; each has the same flowers planted above her grave; each was given the same gift and each had a certain reputation in their locality. After DNA matching, it seems that Fiona’s body was not amongst the dead, and this, along with other evidence, makes the police wonder whether Fiona might yet still be alive.

What helps to make this a fascinating book is the way in which the old fashioned rural setting throws up the kind of prejudices and misogyny that you hope died out years ago. Yet in this setting, these attitudes are not only alive and well but worryingly are present in some parts of the Garda whose actions have sometimes been influenced by the reputations of women who have gone missing, leading to delays in investigations and sometimes they are ignored altogether. This is a terrible indictment of attitudes to women in contemporary society, but sadly rings quite true.

The way in which this plays out is a nice parallel to the interplay between Tom Reynolds and his ‘modern’ ‘progressive’ boss – who is rather more concerned with image than substance and it is therefore satisfying that it is good old fashioned policing that saves the day.

There are some personal sorrows too in the lives of Tom and his wider family and team, and these make for a poignant counterpoint to some of the misogyny elsewhere in the story.

Overall a good and satisfying read.

 

Sleeping Beauties was published by Quercus on 21st September 2017

Amazon                            Waterstones

About Jo Spain

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Jo Spain has worked as a party advisor on the economy in the Irish Parliament. Her first novel With Our Blessing was shortlisted in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition in 2015. And went on to be a top ten bestseller in Ireland. Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four children.

 

 

Shadows by Jackie McLean – Cover Reveal @JackieJamxx

A body washed up on Arbroath beach echoes a previous murder. Now a third woman is missing. For DI Donna and her new team, it’s personal. 

When DI Donna Davenport is called out to investigate a body washed up on Arbroath beach, it looks like a routine murder inquiry. However, it doesn’t take long before it begins to take on a more sinister shape.  There are similarities with a previous murder, and now a woman who is connected with them goes missing.   For Donna, these events become personal, and added to the feeling that she’s being watched, she is convinced that Jonas Evanton has returned to seek his revenge on her for his downfall.  Fearing they may be looking for a serial killer, the trail leads Donna and her new team in an unexpected direction.  Because it’s not a serial killer – it’s worse. 

Moving from Dundee to the south coast of Turkey and the Syrian border, this is a fast-paced novel about those who live their lives in the shadows and those who would exploit them.

I don’t usually do cover reveals, but I have recently been impressed by a number of writers in the Thunderpoint publishing enterprise, and it’s great to introduce writers to a wider audience.  Jackie’s  previous book, Toxic,  was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2011 and Jackie has also been longlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize.

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Toxic is a great read. It is set in the university city of Dundee, where life and all its complications are proceeding much the same as usual. The recklessly brilliant DI Donna Davenport, struggling to hide a secret from police colleagues and get over the break-up with her partner, is in trouble with her boss for a fiery and inappropriate outburst to the press. DI Evanton, an old-fashioned, hard-living misogynistic copper has been newly demoted for thumping a suspect, and transferred to Dundee with a final warning ringing in his ears and a reputation that precedes him. And in the peaceful, rolling Tayside farmland a deadly store of MIC, the toxin that devastated Bhopal, is being illegally stored by a criminal gang smuggling the valuable substance necessary for making cheap pesticides. An anonymous tip-off starts a desperate search for the MIC that is complicated by the uneasy partnership between Davenport and Evanton and their growing mistrust of each other’s actions. Compelling and authentic, Toxic is a tense and fast paced crime thriller.

About Jackie McLean

Jackie lives in Glasgow with her partner Allison and their dog Loopy.  She has a varied background, including being a government economist, a political lobbyist, and running a pet shop.  She is in and out of prison a lot (in her current job with social work services).  Toxic is her first crime novel, introducing DI Donna Davenport, and was shortlisted in the Yeovil Literary Prize before publication by ThunderPoint Publishing Ltd.  The sequel, Shadows, is about to be published, and she has begun work on the third book in the DI Davenport series (Run).  She runs Get Writing Glasgow, which is a kind of weight watchers for writers, hosted by Waterstones at Braehead.

https://www.facebook.com/WriterJackie/

Twitter @JackieJamxx

So…..are you ready for the cover of Shadows yet???

Shadows cover

Shadows is published by Thunderpoint Publishing on 19 October 2017 

You can pre-order it on Amazon

Tidelines Festival, Irvine #tidelines @tidelinesfest @orendabooks @michaeljmalone

In another lifetime, I used to be a regular visitor to the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine, which then was home to the lovely Borderline Theatre Company. So it wasn’t hard to find my way back to this very pleasant space, located on the front of Irvine’s harbour. I found myself humming as I approached…Irvine, I’m in Irvine, and my heart beats so that you would hardly know…. Anyway, I was of course there for the Tidelines Book Festival, a festival which can fairly lay claim to having a first class programme of authors. I was only there for the Saturday, but the festival actually lasts for three days and puts on events for a wide range of readers, both adults and children.

As I arrived, lots of children had just come out of a session led by Mark Smith entitled ‘Slugboy Saves the World’ and it was great to see so many little superheroes who had clearly really enjoyed their session.

Pleasantly located, with a very nice café in the heart of the centre, what better way to spend a day than in the company or readers and writers?

First up on my list was the exceptional Su Bristow, whose book, Sealskin, based on the legend of the Selkies, was such a huge hit when it launched at the end of last year.

Interviewed by Alison Craig, Su was fascinating and quite enthralling when she talked about what inspired her to write Sealskin and how her own life experiences had contributed to the themes of the book.

I loved this book so much that even though I have it on kindle I just had to buy a hard copy and get Sue to sign it – that’s how good it is.

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Me with Su Bristow

But I’m not going to expound on this in any depth, because Sharon Bairden has already done so on her blog – and as her ability to share is limited right now, I’m going to suggest that you nip over and read her account of the session at her blog Chapter in My Life.You can purchase Sealskin here : Orenda Books    Amazon      Waterstones

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The second session I attended was for a book I’d been keen to know more about since its launch and as I hadn’t been able to attend the Edinburgh Book Festival session, it was a real delight to be able to attend a discussion about Nasty Women, published by 404 Ink and originally published as a crowdsourced enterprise.

The title, is of course, taken from that horrible Trump quote about Hillary Clinton.

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It was both a joy and an inspiration to listen to Jonatha Kottler and Laura Waddell talk about their experiences of writing for the book which is a selection of writing by women on what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Both Laura and Jonatha were full of praise for the passion and inspiration of the editors behind the project, Laura Jones and Heather McDaid and how every woman who worked on the book very much felt that it was a collaborative project.

Each woman came from a different perspective and each wrote about quite different things, but all felt very supportive of each other and the project as a whole.

Laura Wadell’s piece is very much about what a Scottish working class girl faced when she wanted to try and break into the world of the arts and media – and in her case, publishing, something she has now achieved very successfully, but which in the 21st Century was a lot harder for her than you might imagine – in what is supposed to be, but clearly is not, a classless society.

As Laura says; “It is not our stereotype and it is not, for the most part, our reality……a lack of stories told from our perspective has lent itself to dull, flattened portrayals that do not reflect the reality of diversity

Jonatha’s essay is entitled ‘Fat in every language’ and she spoke engagingly and with humour on being larger than whatever the norm is. But living comfortably in your own skin and not for the expectations of others, is what her piece is about, alongside the reality of how fat people are commercially exploited.

Nasty Women covers a range of voices and a whole host of different and diverse experiences, from experiencing racial divides in Trump’s America, to sexual assault, Brexit, pregnancy and more. These are the women who share their real experiences and hold the truth to account in the midst of a global society where inequality and intolerance is bubbling to the surface.

This is why I think Nasty Women is a really important book for me, and as Margaret Attwood said on the cover why it is “an essential window into many of the hazard strewn worlds younger women are living in right now’.

I’m really looking forward to dipping into this one. You can buy Nasty Women here: Waterstones           Amazon

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My final session of the day was just delightful. Three of the nicest men in crime fiction were chatting about Nordic Noir.

Gunnar Staalesen, the grandfather of Nordic Noir and celebrating 40 years of writing about his protagonist, detective Varg Veum, was paired with the massively talented Thomas Enger, writer of the Henning Juul books.

Both were in conversation with our own Michael J. Malone, whose House of Spires has just been published. All three are published by Orenda Books, so you just know that they are all going to be exceptionally well written.

Gunnar Staalesen began writing at the age of 17 and published his first book at 22 – an experimental novel inspired by the work of Jack Kerouac.

What really introduced him to the idea of being a crime writer though was the work of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, to whom he is very quick to pay a fulsome tribute. Reading the Martin Beck books introduced him to the possibilities of writing crime and he began to read and be inspired by the books of Chandler, Ross McDonald and Dashiel Hammet.

He credits Sjöwall and Wahlöö as the writers who really began to stir the interest of academics and newspapers alike and sparked off the interest in Norwegian crime. Then, in 1974, Norway’s biggest publishing house held a competition for a new crime novel and Gunnar entered and came second.

This led to the publication of his two police procedurals, published in paperback, not hardback as was usual for other genres, but that had the happy fortune of making his books more instantly affordable.

Then he came up with the idea of translating the idea of the American P.I. into a Norwegian setting and thus Varg Veum was born.

Thomas Enger was only 4 when Gunnar published his first book! Thomas’ father was a teacher who really wanted his son to read the classics, but that didn’t really interest him and when he read his first crime novel at the age of 15/16 he knew he had found his genre and was hooked for life.

He read the books of Gunnar Staalesen and Henning Mankel as well as many others. He saw that others had found a way of telling their stories through crime novels and that a good crime story could be a way of seeing ordinary society through the stories, utilising language and that crime literature could be just as good as any ‘serious’ literature.

As Staalesen says, throughout time from Dickens onwards, people want to hear big stories well told, whatever the genre.

Enger is writing a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news.

Enger’s protagonist lost his son in a fire in their apartment. Each Henning Juul book can be read as a stand-alone in that each has its own mystery or mysteries, but throughout each book is the running theme of Juul searching for his son’s killer.

Enger has built a fair bit of himself into his protagonist; both are journalists, both compose music and Juul lives in an apartment not at all dissimilar to Enger’s own. But there are of course serious differences, not least that Juul is quite grief stricken over the loss of his son. His wife, Nora, has managed to get back to work and in doing so has been able to process her grief and move on, but Henning spends two years and a lot of Aquavit just staring at the walls.

Enger does though like to mix humour with his darkness to temper the effect of the blackness.

So what is it about Scandi Noir that grabs us so firmly? Perhaps, the authors speculated, it is the fact that they create their fiction over a series of long, dark wintery nights which whisper their melancholy?

Or maybe it is the fact that nature is always present around them. Whether in Staalesen’s Bergen or Enger’s Oslo, there is always a view of nature to surround you.

Enger agrees that it great that fantastic authors have put Scandinavian writing firmly on the map, but points out that it can also create unrealistic expectations especially hrough the marketing. So the temptation to call a new voice ‘the next Jo Nesbo’ is huge, when of course the new authors style and voice may be very different indeed.

It was a fantastic discussion, lightly and ably chaired by Michael Malone and was a great end to a brilliant day.

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My huge thanks to Tidelines and to Michael Malone for their help and to all the authors who I was able to meet and chat to – you are all fabulous.

Thomas Enger’s recent book Cursed is here: Orenda  Amazon  Waterstones

Gunnar Staalesen’s recent Wolves in the Dark is here: OrendaAmazonWaterstones

Michael J. Malones House of Spines is here:Orenda  AmazonWaterstones

Put Tidelines in your diary for next year. You won’t regret it.

Grantown-on-Spey CrimeFest 2017 – The Wee Crimefest

When Bloody Scotland is over and your thoughts turn to where to get your next crime fix, where do you go? There are, of course lots of book festivals out there, and great new ones arriving every day, such as Noireland.

But if you are looking for something that no other crime festival can give you, a more relaxed and close up and personal approach to crime writing, there can be no better place to look than Grantown-on-Spey in the Highlands of Scotland.

The programme has now been unveiled and I am pure dead chuffed that Caro Ramsay has written an article for this blog on what makes The Wee Crime Festival, now in its fifth year, quite so special.

So over to you, Caro:

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‘The Wee CrimeFest 2017’ at Grantown-on-Spey, Highlands

There are crime writing festivals and there are crime writing festivals.

And then there’s the Wee festival up at Grantown on Spey. Bouchercon, in Long Beach, California, has its charm (and sunshine), Bloody Scotland may have a torchlight procession and the McIlvanney Award, but Grantown has a dark, misty charm all of its own.

It is quite simply unique with its friendliness and intimate setting.

The location, tucked away in the Spey Valley at the foot of the Cairngorms, lends itself to dark deathly deeds during long cold nights of merriment, laughter… and the odd dram or two. It’s a ‘wood burning stove and poison in the porridge’ kind of festival.

For me though, the village lost a lot of its charm when the Gorilla disappeared off the high street (don’t ask).

Crime writers who have attended have enjoyed the individuality of the events and the intimacy of the venues so much that it’s now an annual fixture in their busy diaries. All brought together by she who goes by the name of ‘Wee Marj’.

The festival normally takes place around Halloween, which lends itself to the surreal plotting of the murder of the Kardashian clan over an excellent smoked salmon and scrabbled egg breakfast.  I turned up one year in fancy dress and the only person who noticed was my mother in law.

This year, the festival is closer to Guy Fawkes night, so I’m bringing my fire extinguisher. I know what Douglas Skelton and Michael Malone can be like. I’m taking no chances…

And then there was the magnificence of Carry On Sleuthing, ‘Death On The Ocean Wave’. At one point the audience were crying with laughter at Michael’s Yorkshire accent. Or just crying to get out.

This year sees the inaugural performance of Carry on Sleuthing 2, ‘Murder at the Knickerage’. I’ve read the script. It’s funny.

And in amongst all that we’ll be discussing all things criminal – murder and mayhem, shooting and stabbing – everything a fan of crime fiction could want. So, come along and enjoy it. You won’t be disappointed.

Caro Ramsay

You can see the full programme here

 

The Devil’s Wedding Ring by Vidar Sundstøl translated by Tiina Nunnally

On Midsummer Eve in 1985, a young folklore researcher disappears from the village of Eidsborg in the Telemark region of Norway.  Exactly thirty years later, the student Cecilie Wiborg goes missing. She too had been researching the old, pagan rituals associated with the 13th-century Eidsborg stave church.  And then Knut Abrahamsen, a former police officer from the area, is found drowned in the nearby Tokke River, a presumed suicide since his pockets were filled with stones.

Hearing of the death of his former colleague and friend, private investigator Max Fjellanger feels compelled to leave his long-time home in Florida and return to his native Norway to attend Knut’s funeral. Even though they haven’t spoken in more than three decades, Max is not convinced that Knut killed himself.  There are details about the circumstances of his death that just don’t add up. And there seems to be a link to the case of the missing researcher in Telemark, which the two of them had worked together—until threats from a corrupt sheriff put an end to the investigation and to Max’s career on the police force.

This time Max is determined to find out the truth. Reluctantly he finds himself drawn into a dark universe in which ancient superstitions, religious cults, and sinister forces are still very much alive. And the stave church, with its famed wooden statue of Saint Nikuls, is at the center of it all.

Finding an unlikely partner in Tirill Vesterli—a university librarian and single mother who is obsessed with crime novels—Max is plunged into a menacing world of ghostly monks, severed pigs’ heads, and mythic rites, all somehow connected to Midsummer Eve, which is fast approaching. As Max and Tirill quickly learn, it’s a misconception that the past is past—the truth is that it’s never over.

 

Max Fjellanger left Norway and the Norwegian Police force 30 years ago, ashamed of a decision he made which he knew then was a cowardly act and which he has spent his life regretting. He immigrated to Florida where he set up a detective agency, which has now grown sufficiently to enable him to simply oversee work, rather than get his hands dirty.

In Florida he met and married his wife Anne, but he is recently widowed. When Max hears of the death of his former colleague, Knut Abrahamsen, he decides to return to Norway and attend the funeral.

Both Max and Knut had been involved in the search for Peter Schram, a folklore researcher who disappeared on Midsummer Eve. Schram was never found and this is the case that has followed and haunted Max ever since. When he meets Knut’s wife his suspicions about Knut’s cause of death are aroused and he decides to stick around to see what he can find out.

Vidar Sundstøl is not a writer I know of, but his story had me hooked in from the beginning. Richly atmospheric, with a real sense of place and small town life, his book is populated with characters you want to know more about.

He expertly takes the core of the town’s folk legend and weaves it into the heart of his crime thriller. Here we find the stories of ancient Norse gods worshipped by the townspeople for centuries; traditions steeped in mythology and legend and very real, contemporary crimes.

In a small town, it is hard to stay under the radar, and Max soon begins to realise that he is the target of some hostility, but whether because he is poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong, or because he is stirring up unwelcome truths is not clear to begin with.

Early in his enquiries, he meets Tirill Vesteri, a single mother to Magnus and an avid crime reader. Tirill has her own theories about a woman who disappeared in the town around midsummer; theories which the police have roundly dismissed. But when Max encounters Tirill at her work in the local library, he realises that his two cases have something in common with the third disappearance, that of Cecilie Weiborg.

Together they begin to piece together the different stories. Max uses his research and investigative skills and Tirill puts into practice what she has learned from years of studying detective fiction. Here the reader can so easily put themselves in Tirrill’s place, and work side by side with her detective. They work pretty well together and their various skills enable them to bounce ideas off each other on the way to solving the mystery. These are fascinating characters with whom it is easy to identify and together they make a formidable team.

The action takes place in the Telemark region of Norway, where the main source of income is farming, and central to the story is the old stave church. A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church whose name derives from the buildings’ structure of post and lintel construction, a type of timber framing where the load-bearing ore-pine posts are called stafr in Old Norse.

The stave church of Eidsborg is a real place with hundreds of years of history, folklore and culture in its eaves. It was easy to imagine that tales of ghostly monks and walking statues would have permeated the town and I loved the way that stories of pagan rituals entwined with academic study to create a fascinating, taut and suspenseful tale.

I was engrossed in the story and really enjoyed the characters of Max and Tirill as they struggle to make sense of what they know.

 

Highly recommended and a quite different take on my usual Nordic Noir fare.

 

The Devils Wedding Ring is published by the University Of Minnesota Press on 26th September

 

Amazon                                           Waterstones

 

 

About Vidar Sundstøl

Vidar Sundstøl

Vidar Sundstøl won the prestigious Riverton Prize for the Best Norwegian Crime Novel for The Land of Dreams, the first volume of his acclaimed Minnesota trilogy, published in the United States by the University of Minnesota Press. The other two volumes are Only the Dead and The Ravens. Sundstøl has lived in the United States and Egypt, and now resides with his family in Telemark, the setting for The Devil’s Wedding Ring.

 

Tiina Nunnally is an award-winning literary translator. She was appointed Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit for her contributions to Norwegian literature in the United States.

The Cost of Living by Rachel Ward @sandstonepress @cerisjones #blogtour #CostofLiving

 

When a young woman is attacked walking home from her local supermarket, Bea Jordan, a smart but unfulfilled checkout girl, is determined to investigate. Colleagues and customers become suspects, secrets are uncovered. While fear stalks the town, Bea finds an unlikely ally in Ant, the seemingly gormless new trainee, but risks losing the people she loves most as death comes close to home. The Cost of Living is a warm, contemporary story with likeable leads, an engaging cast of supporting characters and a dark thread running throughout.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rachel Ward’s first crime novel for adults, but I enjoyed reading this book. The Cost of Living is primarily set in the local supermarket of the small town of Kingsleigh. Bea is our protagonist; a bright young woman who deserves more than life is currently offering her, Bea is a check out attendant who likes to take an interest in her customers.

Bea lives with her mum, Queenie, who has been experiencing mental health issues since the death of her husband, Bea’s father some six years earlier. It is this that has kept Bea living at home and working nearby so that she can attend to her mother’s need for order and routine.

Ant is a young man with troubles of his own. He’s the general dogsbody, otherwise known as trainee, and all his life he has been written off as trouble. Gavin, the supermarket manager is giving him a chance, and while he is a cocky lad, Bea takes a liking to him as does her colleague Dot, an older woman who takes time and trouble with her appearance.

Bea keeps herself interested by taking an interest in her customers guessing what their lives are like through their shopping and behaviour. Costsave, the supermarket, is a microcosm of the town. On Thursday nights, people in search of a date come along to do their shopping and Bea, along with everyone else, knows that if they put a banana in their basket, it means they are single and looking for a date. Bea is sure she has seen Dot there recently.

All is, however, not well in Kingsleigh. One night, Bea thinks she is being followed on her journey home. She usually takes a shortcut along an alley and by the time she gets home she is trembling with fright.

Later that evening, she hears the noise of a helicopter overhead and the following morning she learns that there has been an attack on a young woman just a few streets away. When Bea realises that she knows the woman, Emma Crosby, and that she had been in the supermarket only the day before, she is more frightened than ever and reports her experience to the police.

When another attack occurs, Bea becomes convinced that the perpetrator must be someone who comes into the supermarket and the police seem to agree as they focus their search on staff, customers and those who have recently come into contact with them. But there are also consolations in the midst of the fear and Bea finds herself attracted to one of the policemen.

Discussing events with Ant and Dot, Bea enlists them into some amateur detective work, tracking customers and finding out more about them and their lives and what their alibis are.

Just as you might imagine, this leads them into a whole heap of trouble and various characters fall under their spotlight as they discover some unsavoury things about their regulars.

Ant and Bea are not an obvious pair and that’s nicely refreshing. They develop a mutual respect and interest and they play off each other very well as they start to understand more about each other’s lives. I enjoyed the Dot character a lot and the whole mystery has a fresh and down-to-earth appeal to it. The lively and witty banter and straightforward writing add to its appeal.

While it does probably fall into the cosy crime category, I would describe it it more like an urban Midsomer Murders meets a young Agatha Raisin.

It’s not my usual crime fare, but the thread of darkness and the engaging characters coupled with the plausible setting makes it more than just a cosy crime story.

 

The Cost of Living is published by Sandstone Press on 21st September

 

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About Rachel Ward

rachelward

Photo Sean Malyon

 

Rachel Ward is a best-selling writer for young adults. Her first book, Numbers, was published in 2009 and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. An avid reader of detective fiction, The Cost of Living is her first book for adults. Rachel is married with two children and lives in Bath.

The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet translated by Don Bartlett #blogtour @annecater @noexitpress #FrozenWomanBook

TWO TIME WINNER OF NORWAY S BEST CRIME NOVEL

A FROZEN BODY.

A MURDERED BIKER.

A LAWYER WITH NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE.

In the depths of the Norwegian winter, a woman s frozen corpse is discovered in the garden of a notorious ex-lawyer, Vilhelm Thygesen. She has been stabbed to death.

A young biker, a member of a gang once represented by the lawyer, is found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Thygesen starts receiving anonymous threats, and becomes ensnared in a web of violence, crime and blackmail that spreads across Northern Europe.

Does the frozen woman hold the key?

 

I am delighted to be on the blogtour for this award winning Nordic noir novel. Today I want to share with you an extract from the book, which will give you a flavour of the novel..

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‘Banzai, Samurai, banzai!’ screams the young man sitting on the pillion of the motorbike. The rider turns the bike into a clearing by the road through Våler Forest wherethere was once a gravel pit.

He comes to a halt in front of a damaged building with rusty reinforced steel protruding from the concrete. The man, twenty years old, slides off the seat, raises his arms in the air and does a jig on the gravel.

‘Tell me, Kykke, that it’s not shit cool to be out again,’ the young man says, pinching himself on the upper arms. He removes his helmet and reveals a head of hair that is dyed bright yellow, combed and gelled into tufts.

‘You look like something the cat brought in, Beach Boy,’ says the man called Kykke.

‘My sis said the same at the funeral, and if my mother’d been able to say anything she would’ve probably had a go at me as well. But no one bothered to ask me whose hair was like this. I modelled myself on the drummer in Marilyn Manson to celebrate my freedom,’ Beach Boy says and switches on the Walkman attached to his belt.

It isn’t a Manson song that reaches his ears via the earplugs. It is a song by a singer called Laurie Anderson, whom he had never heard of before he was given the CD by his sister after the funeral.

He spins the helmet round on the index finger of his right hand and is all smiles and summer happiness. Then he listens to what the American lady sings and he repeats the verse with his face creased in grief: When my father died we put him in the ground, when my father died it was like a whole library had burned down.

 Beach Boy switches off the music and takes out the earplugs.

‘I’ll tell you one thing, Kykke,’ he says. ‘If my father really had been a library it would’ve been one crammed with instructions on how to assemble nuclear rockets.’ Kykke isn’t listening. He is lost in his own thoughts and polishing the speedometer on his bike with a cloth.

‘You certainly came out with the summer, Beach Boy,’ Kykke says at length, dismounting with an effort because he is so big; he flicks the heavy bike on to the stand, takes off his helmet and places it on the seat. ‘Brontes’ is written on the petrol tank in ornate golden letters, and underneath, in smaller letters, ‘Son of Uranus and Gaia’. The bike is a standard black Kawasaki, the largest model, KZ 1100, which is so old that, as Kykke often says, ‘if Brontes had been a trotting horse it would’ve been taken behind the stable and shot’.

Kykke leans against the bike and stretches his legs. Massages his elbows and knees.‘Think I’m starting to get rheumatism in my joints,’ Kykke says. ‘I s’pose that’s the sort of shite you have to expect when you’ve been sitting on a four-stroke pot-boiler since you were fourteen.’

‘You’ve been riding a bike for half an eternity then,’ Beach Boy says with reverence.

‘It’s thirty-five years since I burned rubber through the school playground in fuckin’ Arnes on my first Kawasaki Samurai,’ Kykke says, looking at his watch, which is a Rolex Oyster. The superb timepiece doesn’t match the style of the man, who looks like a labourer, someone who has done heavy manual work. ‘It’s only ten. It’s going to be boiling hot today. You still like being called Beach Boy, boy?’

‘Beach Boy, Banzai Boy or Nike Boy. The name I use depends on my mood. The psychologist at Trøgstad said I’ve got a split personality, but my personality as a whole is a fountain of talent. Does it matter if the water in it isn’t as pure and clear as in the psalm at the funeral?’ Beach Boy says, not caring that Kykke isn’t listening with even half an ear.

‘Am I in a good mood now or what?’ the boy shouts, dancing a jig and causing the dust to lift in a cloud towards the concrete wall. ‘God, how I’ve yearned to be back here at the clubhouse. You picking me up and bringing me here to The Middle of Nowhere is almost too good to be true.’

He catches sight of a tiny figure drawn in a black felt pen on the wall. The childish line-drawing represents a stick man hanging from the gallows. Underneath there is a name in weather-beaten letters, and that name is Vilhelm Thygesen.

‘That’s the devil I painted on the wall,’ Beach Boy mumbles to himself. ‘A little snot-nosed kid painted a big sack of shit.’

He pokes at the concrete. A flake peels off and the stick man has one leg less.

‘Serves you right, Thygesen,’ Beach Boy whispers. ‘You should have been knee-capped because you screwed up everything for the Seven Samurai.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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The Frozen Woman - FINAL

 

About Jon Michelet

Jon_Michelet_2011_(cropped)

Jon Michelet has been one of Norway’s leading authors through five decades. He made his debut in 1975 with the crime novel He Who Is Born to Be Hanged, Shall Never Be Drowned. He has since published numerous novels, plays and non-fiction books, and co-authored five bestselling reportage books from the Football World Cup with Dag Solstad. Michelet has also worked as a sailor, a docker, a journalist, publisher and newspaper editor. He is renowned in Norway for his strong commitment to a number of political and cultural causes.

Michelet has been awarded the Riverton Prize for Best Norwegian Crime Novel twice, for White as Snow and The Frozen Woman both part of his long running Vilhelm Thygesen series. He has also had phenomenal success with his epic series, A Hero of the Sea. Telling the story of the dramatic experiences of a Norwegian merchant navy sailor during WWII, the five novels published so far have been topping the charts since 2012, and have sold well over half a million copies, making Michelet a household name in Norway.

The Zealot’s Bones by D.M. Mark @kerryhood1 @davidmarkwriter @HodderBooks

 

From Hell, Hull and Halifax, may the Good Lord deliver us.

In 1849, Hull is a city forgotten and abandoned; in the grip of a cholera outbreak that sees its poorest citizens cut down by the cartload.

Into this world of flame and grief comes Meshach Stone, a former soldier, lost upon his way. He’s been hired as bodyguard by a Canadian academic hunting for the bones of the apostle Simon the Zealot, rumoured to lie somewhere in Lincolnshire.

Stone can’t see why ancient bones are of interest in a world full of them…but then a woman he briefly loved is killed. As he investigates he realises that she is just one of many… and that some deaths cry out for vengeance.

From the twisted imagination of David Mark, author of the McAvoy series, THE ZEALOT’S BONES is historical crime with a difference.

I am not usually a massive fan of historical crime fiction, but I do know and like David Mark’s contemporary fiction, so I was intrigued to find out what his first foray into historical crime would be like.

And what a blistering read it turned out to be. I was transfixed from the opening pages right through to the explosive climax of the novel.

I rather like Hull and I’m delighted that it is City of Culture this year. But today’s Hull is rather different from the plague ridden Hull of D.M. Mark’s book.

Set in 1849, Hull is in the grip of a cholera epidemic, running rife as a result of the squalid slums and rat infested hovels that are the unenviable dwellings of the poor.

Our protagonist is Mesach Stone, a hero of Afghanistan who was subsequently brutally injured and then court-martialled in his absence. Mesach is an imposing figure and one who now uses his strength and abilities to operate as a personal bodyguard and occasional companion.

His current employer is the son of a wealthy Canadian. Diligence Matheson, is not a dilettante but has an academic bent and is set on pursuing the trail of the remains of Simon the Zealot, which remains are rumoured to be buried in the Lincolnshire area.

Though somewhat unlikely companions, Mesach and Diligence have struck up a friendship of sorts, for Diligence is a decent, mild mannered chap and he can all to easily see that Mesach carries with him more demons than any man should have to bear.

On a trip into Hull Mesach, who will indulge in to any and all forms of alcohol and drugs in order to sublimate his demons, decides to go in search of a prostitute with whom he felt a connection last time he visited the town. But when he gets there, he finds that she has died and feeling a violent outburst of remorse, he pays to have her looked after and well buried; for this is a place where the epidemic means that bodies are carried off by the cartload and dumped in graves where no-one can ever find them.

Diligence meanwhile, is heartened by the news that a new lead he has followed as to the whereabouts of Simon the Zealot’s artefacts may be about to pay off. A new acquaintance could be just the one to help him gain access to a reliquary belonging to Lord Ansell, who lives in a large mansion on the outskirts of the city.

While Diligence settles in as a guest at the mansion, enjoying the best of food and wine, Mesach is relegated to a draughty stone hut on the estate, for Lord Ansell has recognised our fallen hero and is not best pleased to see him.

Mesach resolves to use the time while his master is a guest to go and ensure that his instructions regarding Laura, the prostitute have been followed. But in the course of trying to find her grave he discovers to his horror that Laura was one of a number of prostitutes who have been brutally killed, not by taken cholera, but murdered by a merciless butcher of women.

As Mesach hunts down the killer he will not allow anyone to stand in his way, and Diligence Matheson is also beginning to feel the first stirrings of unease in his new surroundings…

This is probably* not a book for lovers of uplifting cosy crime. This is a harsh and unforgiving era and Mesach’s demons are strong and repellent; his guilt all too well deserved and his conscience rightly heavy.  D.M. Mark’s characters are rich with deep and compelling backstories; the Hull air is redolent with the sounds and smells of a cholera pandemic.

There were moments of real horror in this book and it is so beautifully descriptive that my skin literally felt crawled upon and I shivered at some of the detail offered up. This is a dark, grim and menacing tale that left me feeling weak and horrified.

But I loved it, and felt the gothic atmosphere unfold around me as I read. This is a compelling and utterly absorbing read. Beautifully written, with great characters and real tension, I could not put it down.

The Zealot’s Bones is published by Hodder Books on September 21st 2017

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*understatement

About D.M.Mark

d.m.markjpg

David spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Hector McAvoy novels.

He has written five novels in the McAvoy series, Dark Winter, Original Skin, Sorrow Bound, Taking Pity and Dead Pretty. David has also written a McAvoy novella, A Bad Death, which is available as an ebook.  Dark Winter was selected for the Harrogate New Blood panel, a Richard & Judy pick and a Sunday Times bestseller.

He lives in Lincolnshire with his partner, two children and an assortment of animals.

Cold Blood (Detective Erika Foster 5) by Robert Bryndza @bookouture

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

I am a huge fan of the Erika Foster books. There’s nothing like a fast paced, well plotted book with a female protagonist, to whom the author will always do such awful things, to keep you transfixed on a book.

Poor Erika doesn’t get an easy ride from her author; when not being physically beaten, she is also emotionally battered and bruised. The cast of regular characters is tautly written and always interesting, from her erstwhile boyfriend, D.I. Peterson, recovering from the injuries he sustained in their last case, to Commander Marsh, who plays a central role in this book.

Erika herself is a fearless character. Never afraid to push her point of view with her superiors, she is outspoken and results driven. The path of diplomacy and advancement is not for Erika, she does not mind who she has to step on to close her case and when she sees budgetary constraints or bureaucratic meddling, she is never afraid to speak her mind.

This doesn’t always make her a popular detective with the top brass, but she knows how to fight for her officers and never fails to do so. Her personal life is pretty shredded, but she is prepared to set that aside in her quest to find the killers she is pursuing.

Bryndza has added complications to the police team this time, by implicating one of their own in a nasty and sordid betrayal which leaves some of their previous cases open to question. Quite what the implications of this betrayal will be on the team is left open and we will doubtless hear more of this in future books.

Max is a dangerous drug dealing psychopath; narcissistic and sadistic, he has targeted the young and vulnerable Nina until she is completely under his spell and driven to please him partly through fear and partly because he is the only real human contact she has. Nina’s story is told through her diary extracts and we learn to feel sorry for a young woman whose path in life has not been easy and is about to get a lot harder….

Overall, while I enjoy Robert Bryndza’s characters and writing, and I really love the way his characters thrill me in a heart-pounding ride through London, I didn’t engage with this one quite as much as his other books,I think because of the way the plot involved a somewhat implausible focus on Commander Marsh and his family. That said, he still writes a strong and gutsy book and I’m glad I had a chance to read it.

Cold Blood is  a compelling, gritty read and I will certainly won’t want to miss out on future books in the Erika Foster series.

Cold Blood is published by Bookouture on 20th September 2017

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About Robert Bryndza

bryndza

Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller is the first book in the Detective Erika Foster series.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water and Last Breath are the second, third, and fourth books in the series, and the fifth book, Cold Blood is now available to pre-order.

Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies, and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

You can find out more about Robert here.

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