Blog Tour – March 2023 – The Ugly Truth – L.C. North

This was a book to be absolutely gobbled down…

I grew up in the era of celebrity magazines, one of which was Heat. Starting of as more of a film/TV review magazine, it quickly saw the way things were going as regards the consumption of everything even the most Z-list celeb was up to, offering £250, if I recall correctly, for the best photograph of a celeb going about their business. As cameraphones were now becoming ubiquitous it turned their readers into cheap paparazzi, and if you didn’t have a cameraphone, well, you could just text whatever your local Big Brother/X Factor/whoever contestant was up to and get it printed in the “Spotted!” section.

Some people doubtless loved the attention that a brief spell in the flashlight of the cameras got you, but as this new book adeptly examines, fame is very much a double edged sword…

This book is written in the form of blog posts/diary entries/Twitter posts and comments/transcripts of YouTube videos and a Netflix documentary, adapting with the times and the favoured technology.

It’s about a girl called Melanie Lange, daughter of a hotel tycoon, who finds fame as a model for a short time before an arrest for a driving offence brings that to an end. She becomes a notorious figure, before she manages to find some happiness with a marriage, children, and her own business empire. But poor mental health and a seemingly controlling – or caring – father figure – the reader is left to decide whether the father is villain or saviour – means a happy ending may be quite an ask for Melanie. But she’s skilled at reinvention, so who knows…?

It’s compulsive reading, and names from the past flick through your mind as you read

Paula Yates, to go right back to my teenage years. Britney Spears, and her father’s controlling grasp on her business empire. Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie’s legal problems for driving offences and drugs. Lindsay Lohan. Jade Goodie. Meghan Markle. Caroline Flack, who killed herself a fortnight before Covid knocked her off the pages of every newspaper…all women, interestingly enough. All darlings of the press, before they turn round and kill their darlings.

It’s such a simple idea…

…that I actually wondered why someone hadn’t done this before. It’s brilliantly executed by L.C. North, who clearly was devouring the same sort of stuff as the rest of us weekly. She superbly mimics the tones of social media commentators, blog posts and celeb mags, as well as the Netflix-tell all favoured by Harry and Meghan. Women are too thin, and on a crazy diet and/or drugs. A month later they’re looking too big and pregnancy rumours swirl. Then there’s talk of post-baby bulges. It put pressure on readers to copy their celeb idols’ mad fad diets.

I was mightily impressed to learn this was her debut novel. What’s interesting will be seeing what comes next from North. This book will probably be everywhere this year. And that’s an EXCLUSIVE! from me.

Not to be missed if you enjoy a real pageturner.

I would like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours who invited me to participate in this blog tour, and Transworld who provided me with a proof. This did not affect my opinion and this is an honest review.

Author L.C. North

Check out the other bloggers on this blog tour!

BLURB: Melanie Lange has disappeared.

Her father, Sir Peter Lange, says she is a danger to herself and has been admitted to a private mental health clinic.

Her ex-husband, Finn, and best friend, Nell, say she has been kidnapped.

The media will say whichever gets them the most views.

But whose side are you on?

Told via interviews, transcripts and diary entries, The Ugly Truth is a shocking and addictive thriller about fame, power and the truth behind the headlines.

Blog Tour – March 2023 – Twist Of Fate – D.L. Mark

So this book has been getting carried around the house (when I’ve been home) for the last ten days or so…

People often use the word “unputdownable” to describe books, but for me, this one truly has been! I’ve not wanted to lose the chance to read even a couple of pages – that’s how compelling it is…

Now a lot of the storyline has religious undertones to it, which I really hope doesn’t put anyone off reading it, as that just adds to how different and original it is.

So what’s the basic storyline?

Well, Claudine Cadjou is a communications executive – something of a mover and a shaker in her Central London world. She works hard, and appears to do very little else. Her only family is her older brother, Jethro, who lives out in the Cambridgeshire Fens. He was an incredibly smart undergraduate but was already suffering mental health difficulties when, at the age of 23, he jumped from the top of the church near their family cottage. Although his body healed, his mind was damaged beyond all repair, and once the funding ran out to keep him in the care facility he’d been in since the accident he returned to their (now somewhat dilapidated) family home where he could live and study quietly, spending time in his beloved Fens. Claudine sends a monthly stipend to his neighbours, Everitt and Peg Goodall, and they deliver food, ensure he takes his medication, and takes care of himself as best as he can (not very well, to be honest…)

But then one morning he appears at the glossy London building Claudine works?

Yes, despite, to her knowledge, never entering London – navigating the city would be impossible for him (and me too, probably, in all honesty…!) he’s found his way to her place of work, where she runs the show in expensive designer clothes. Claudine feels dreadful to realise that she’s actually embarrassed at the state of her brother – he’s very unclean, terribly unkempt, smells of the Fens – she’s really just thinking of the best way to get him out of there without hurting his feelings.

Then a madman appears in the foyer, and attacks and kills Jethro (this isn’t a spoiler; it happens very early in the book) and others, having already attacked some homeless people in a nearby park. Armed police are soon on the scene, and shoot the attacker twice before he dives into the Thames…something, surely, no-one could survive…

The other main character in the book is a policeman, DS Billy Dean, and this is when he is introduced to us…

Billy’s an incredibly competent policeman who’d supported his wife, Fran, as she’d scaled the heights of the police force. Billy preferred to still have his feet on the ground, working with people rather than signing off on “actions” and not having to be nice to people he dislikes as they can elevate him, career-wise. But at some point Fran became Cesca and Billy, well, he didn’t want to change and at the point in time where we meet Billy, she wants a divorce. So, he’s not in the best place, personally, but he sees this case as something he can get his teeth into – as there’s plenty of things about it that don’t quite ring true to him…

Everyone else sees Jethro as being unlucky – in the wrong place at the wrong time, he died so that his sister – who would otherwise have been in the madman’s path – could live. But what if the truth is a bit more complicated? And what if it isn’t a coincidence that the day of the massacre is the only day Jethro Cadjou has visited his sister at work? Billy Dean is the only one who thinks otherwise…but he’s going to have the Devil’s own job proving it.

So I would highly recommend this novel to well, anyone…

If you like a chewy, get-your-teeth-into psychological thriller that will continually keep you guessing – and you’ll end up carrying everywhere so you can read a couple of pages whenever time allows – then it’s just the ticket. I was utterly enamoured by it.

Don’t miss this book!

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and to Head Of Zeus for the ARC. That has not influenced my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author D.L. Mark

Why not check out some of the great-and-the-good of the blogging world and see what they thought of Twist Of Fate?

BLURB: She says he’s a victim. They say he’s a killer.

When an armed man massacres several people in central London, Claudine witnesses the whole thing. To her horror, one of the victims is her brother, Jethro.

Riven by grief, Claudine retreats to the family home in the Fens, which is where the police find her. She is left reeling when they tell her Jethro orchestrated the attack. Why would a gentle, if troubled, middle-aged man cause such bloodshed – and why would he include himself in the list of victims?

The truth could lie in Jethro’s research on a mediaeval cult. If Claudine can’t solve the mystery in time, more people will die… and the darkness will claim her too.

This twisty, unrelenting thriller is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware, Emma Kavanagh, and Sharon Bolton, using themes of grief to explore how people are never as straightforward as they seem.

Book Review – February 2023 – The Politician – Tim Sullivan

This is a new series that absolutely thrilled you, is that right?

Wow, totally! I think part of the reason for that was because I hadn’t read the blurb, so I think I went into expecting it to be a political thriller, going mainly by the title. Instead what I discovered was a hugely addictive new police procedural series (yeah, like you really needed another of these, Linda!), of which this is the fourth.

Our policeman is DS George Cross, who’s incredibly pedantic and particular about how things are done and said – he’s very probably on the spectrum. His sidekick is DS Janet Ottey, who is probably the only other copper who will tolerate his foibles, and help him out in social and family situations.

So who is the politician?

Peggy Frampton is a retired mayor of the town, and now spends a lot of time on social media as a kind of agony aunt, advising people on a wide range of problems – something which has made her enemies in the past, as she doesn’t mince her words! She’s also still involved in local politics; her main concern is the preservation of special local buildings in Bristol. Again, this causes animosity, mainly with developers, with one particular company’s development being held up for years and eventually turned down for the final time, despite all their attempts to please Peggy, her followers, and the planning committee by making whatever changes they could.

And things aren’t perfect at home, either, are they?

No, that’s right – her husband, a barrister, has been having an affair (the most recent of many, it would seem), whilst her son has big money problems. The only honest and upstanding member of the family appears to be her daughter, who’s a GP.

So the son’s many problems – could that be a motivation?

Well, a considerable amount of valuable jewellery was stolen too, according to her husband – although there’s something about this which bothers George, although he keeps his counsel about it until he’s sure.

George also decides to do some detective work in his private life, too…

Yes – his mother, who left him with his father when he was fairly young, has reappeared on the scene again, and wants to build bridges with George. However, believing she has no right to ask anything of him now, he ignores her approaches. The local vicar, though, asks him to think again, and he’s urged to use his professional skills in his private life, as all may not be as it appears here, either…

To sum things up, then, you’ve found a new detective series you enjoy…

I absolutely loved it – plus the end kept me guessing totally! (Yes, I know, you think you’re good at solving these books as you’ve read loads and got a few villains correctly identified!) There were plenty of possible murderers, and viable theories, so I was left guessing.

I also think there was great characterisation – not just Cross and Ottey, but everybody in the book seemed believable. And I’ll be honest – I immediately looked at the rest of the series, and bought book one (The Dentist – I think they must be named after the victim’s job, or perhaps even hobby – there’s The Cyclist available too!)

The real star of the book, though, is DS George Cross himself. Despite clues about DS Janet Ottey having had doubts in the past regarding working with him, you get the feeling they now rub along just fine, and despite being very different, compliment each other wonderfully. Which makes for a superb read! (And it’d actually make great Sunday night detective telly, too!)

Catch this superb series before it’s stratospheric!

I read this book courtesy of The Pigeonhole, an app which daily releases “staves” of books just before they come out, and allows you to leave thoughts and communicate with other readers too, making it a sociable experience, as well as a way of getting to read some great new books, and discover new series and authors. Many thanks to all at Pigeonhole, and my lovely fellow readers!

Author Tim Sullivan

Blog Tour – February 2023 – Expectant – Vanda Symon

First of all, apologies for this post being a bit late – I was unwell, but here we are, finally…

So another novel from the Southern hemisphere, and from Orenda Books – both sources of great things, book-wise – am I right?

Well, to be honest, that’s how it is, the vast majority of the time! And Vanda Symon’s Sam Shepherd series, now onto its fifth book, is one that I’d say you can rely on for an excellent yarn – although I haven’t read every single one of the series yet.

It begins pretty dramatically…

Yup, it’s a really high-octane start when a team of teenage graffiti taggers stumble upon a woman lying in a pool of blood. As they’re up to no good themselves, and don’t want to be dragged into what initially looks like a stabbing, most of them make themselves scarce – except one, Timi, who bravely stays with the victim through what ends up being her last few minutes.

Except it isn’t a stabbing…

The victim was in fact pregnant, and was bleeding to death because someone had, horrifically, cut her baby girl out of her, taken the child, and left the mother to expire in a city centre lane…a pretty gruesome beginning.

This is all a wee bit personal for Sam…

It is, given that she’s heavily pregnant herself and confined to “light,” office-based duties – and doubtless the nature of the crime puts the tin lid on that. Naturally, this doesn’t prevent Sam from doing all the digging she can in the office – as well as doing some investigating in her own time, heavily pregnant or not.

Vanda Symon’s style of writing is such that, even though the subject matter is kind of horrific, it retains a witty, light style that is 100% Sam’s voice and opinions. This makes it a speedy, highly enjoyable read. I was reading for over two hours when I first started the book late one night, and I couldn’t believe the time – I thought half-an-hour had gone by! It’s that kind of read – so if you’re reading it on a train journey, beware you don’t miss your stop!

Everything in this book rings wonderfully true – all the pregnancy anecdotes, for example – they certainly brought back memories! Ditto Sam’s mother’s passive-agressive relationship with her daughter – it’s so realistic.

And what did you make of the (highly dramatic) denouement?

Yes, it’s a book that’s book-ended by an exciting start, and a similarly thrilling end. I think most readers will see what’s coming – I certainly did – but that doesn’t in anyway detract from the thrill of seeing how it all plays out. It’s nerve-shredding stuff!

Another fabulous read from Vanda Symon!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this Blog Tour, and Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not influenced my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Vanda Symon

Do check out some of the other wonderful bloggers’ thoughts on Expectant!

BLURB: A killer targeting pregnant women.

A detective expecting her first baby…

The shocking murder of a heavily pregnant woman throws the New Zealand city of Dunedin into a tailspin, and the devastating crime feels uncomfortably close to home for Detective Sam Shephard as she counts down the days to her own maternity leave.

Confined to a desk job in the department, Sam must find the missing link between this brutal crime and a string of cases involving mothers and children in the past. As the pieces start to come together and the realisation dawns that the killer’s actions are escalating, drastic measures must be taken to prevent more tragedy.

For Sam, the case becomes personal, when it becomes increasingly clear that no one is safe and the clock is ticking…

Blog Tour – February 2023 – Final Term – Leigh Russell

Incredibly, this is the nineteenth in the Geraldine Steel series – which really is an outstanding achievement!

It really is – and looking at the cover above, you can see that over one million copies of this series have been sold, which is highly impressive – very few authors can boast of such huge sales. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve read one of this series, but I’m glad to see Geraldine has settled down to domestic bliss with a fellow copper, Ian. It’s also useful to have someone who understands the pressures of the job, and who she can bounce theories and concerns off.

At their heart, these books are just really good police procedurals, aren’t they?

They are, and as such are perfect for anyone who’s satisfied by a really good whodunnit. They’re also really quick reads, as they’re so good, you simply cannot wait to see what happens next! Short chapters add to that sense of urgency.

So what is the case facing Geraldine and the team this time around?

A schoolgirl is murdered, shortly after accusing a teacher of sexual harassment. Naturally, all eyes are on the teacher, Paul Moore – but the fact is, without the pupil, Cassie, withdrawing her accusation, he will forever be under suspicion. So for him to commit murder does his career or name no good whatsoever – but having said that, murder doesn’t always make sense!

And then a second schoolgirl is murdered…

Ella, best friend of Cassie, is found next, in a location close to where her friend’s body was left. The police investigation naturally centres around the school, continually questioning Cassie’s boyfriend and Paul Moore, as well as all other staff members and classmates of the girl in the hope of a lead of some kind. Moore’s wife, Laura, is also questioned on several occasions.

And the teacher appears to be the team’s main suspect…

Yes – but Geraldine appears to be the only member of the team who thinks this is something of a rush to judgement, which is being made because the team are floundering for a better option. And she’s right – there’s no actual evidence, barring suspicion, and I think it’s fair to say the CPS would never charge Moore with the evidence they have – they desperately need something more.

Geraldine decides to question someone tangential to the investigation, with the belief that they weren’t being entirely truthful, either deliberately or because they simply couldn’t remember. But when she’s struggling to track this woman down, she begins to wonder where she is. Because if Paul Moore is the murderer, he’s in custody, so can’t be responsible for this disappearance. Have they made a terrible mistake, and overlooked a possible suspect? Has she been the only one right to have doubts about Paul Moore’s guilt? And is it really wise, going looking for this missing woman, all on her own…?

Sounds like an intriguing procedural…

That’s exactly what it is. It doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and there’s a good number of possible suspects for the reader to pick as their culprit (I was utterly and totally misled, despite being sure I was right! So great misdirection from Leigh Russell, as ever!)

This series is going from strength to strength, and it’s my intention to go back and try to squeeze in some of the books I’ve simply not had time to read. Apologies to Leigh Russell, for forgetting how damn good you are at these books!

A classic police procedural that makes for a perfect fast read!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and to No Exit Press for the ARC. All opinions are my own, and this is an unbiased review.

Author Geraldine Steel

Please have a look at some of the other superb bloggers and Instagrammers taking part in this tour!

BLURB: When a pupil accuses a teacher of molesting her, his career and marriage are threatened…

The girl’s corpse is discovered in the woods, and the teacher becomes a suspect in a murder enquiry. The victim’s best friend is then murdered so she cannot reveal the killer’s identity. The investigating team are satisfied the teacher is guilty, apart from Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel, who believes the wrong man has been arrested.

All of her colleagues disagree… but if she is right, the real killer remains at large.

Perfect for fans of Martina Cole, Mel Sherratt and LJ Ross.

Blog Tour – January 2023 – Dead Of Night – Simon Scarrow

After thoroughly enjoying Blackout, the first in the new Horst Schenke series, it’s now onto the next in the series, Dead Of Night…and if possible, it’s even better!

As I doubtless mentioned in my review of Blackout, the enthralling beginning to a new historical crime series set in Nazi Germany, I’m missing a dose of crime solving in Nazi Germany in my reading diet. Since the premature death of Philip Kerr, who wrote the fantastic long-running Bernie Gunther series, there’s been a gap in my reading diet – and doubtless many others’ – for a policeman who has a conscience about what’s happening in his country, but is pragmatic enough to realise he has to put up and shut up, and, in this case, do his job at Kripo, which investigates serious crime.

Scarrow has assembled a great cast for his series…

Horst Schenke is an ex-racing driver who had to retire after a serious leg injury. His main sidekick is his sergeant, Hauser, and there’s also the quirky Liebwitz on secondment from the Gestapo. We recognise he’s probably on the spectrum but they merely regard him as something of an “odd fellow,” but affection is starting to build for him among the team.

In Schenke’s life outside Kripo there’s Karin Canaris, his other half, who adds glamour, with her Louise Brooks-style bob, and who has an uncle high-up in the Admiralty. Personally, though, she resents Hitler and his henchmen, and her loudmothed criticism of their politics in public sometimes worries Schenke. Far more interesting and intelligent, though, is Ruth, a young Jewish woman hiding out in Berlin with the help of a sympathetic network. She helped Schenke solve the crime in Blackout, and asks him for help investigating the death of a doctor who was kind to her family, and whose suicide she regards as suspicious. Schenke is attracted to Ruth, but realises he cannot seen to helping her, or even with her.

So there’s this death which doesn’t really make sense…what other crimes are Schenke and the team investigating?

His boss is getting irate about a gang of ration coupon solvers who are costing the government dear, but Schenke (rightly, in my opinion!) clearly finds this investigation somewhat dull, and much prefers to get involved in investigations which do nothing to endear him to Heydrich and other powerful men in the Reich.

Firstly, there’s the suicide of Schmesler, Ruth’s doctor friend. His wife is also adamant he wouldn’t have killed himself, and the shooting certainly appears staged. However, Schenke is soon roughed up by a violent gang, and a phone call from Heydrich himself advises him to drop things. Ruth, however, has nothing to lose and is adamant she’s continuing her investigation.

And there’s the deaths of children in the Schiller clinic…

Disabled children are being sent to a clinic at the recommendation of their doctors. This is a crime that history allows us to look back on and instantly see as the work of enthusiasts of eugenics, and the beginning of the Reich getting rid of those it regards as inferior.

The clinic is in Potsdam – a place students of the Nazi regime will know is to be feared – and Schenke is approached by the family of a little girl called Greta, who despite being born with problems, was physically healthy. What initially appeared to be a good option for her – fresh air, good food, other children, the possibility of training for work in the future at this clinic – soon took on a more sinister tone, with stories of children disappearing, never to be seen again, and brutal treatment. Then within a few months Greta is dead, from pneumonia. Soon her mother has compiled a list of parents with tales that are almost identical. And, as no-one else is interested, Karin, and an American journalist friend who’d been researching the story, persuade Horst to look into it. Yet again, he’s burrowing into things the Nazi party would prefer kept hidden…

Sounds like a dangerous path to take.

It is, and so it leads to plenty of drama, and of course violence, as the regime attempt to keep a lid on it’s most hideous crimes. Plus it’s soon established there’s a link between the doctor’s “suicide” and the goings-on at Potsdam.

It’s high drama throughout – the absolute epitome of a pageturner. I’m even thinking of investigating some of Simon Scarrow’s Roman Empire-set books, as he is the most wonderful plotter, and creates memorable characters. As for Horst Schenke et al, well, I cannot wait to see what he has planned next for them, as we get deeper into the war years. It’s thrilling stuff; one of those books where you really begin to care about the characters and which is sure to leave you yawning the next day!

An absolute must-read for fans of historical crime fiction!

With thanks to Jess at Midas PR for inviting me to participate in the blog tour, and Headline Books for the ARC. This has not influenced my opinion, and this is a fair review.

Author Simon Scarrow (top); the other wonderful bloggers who are participating in this blog tour (below)

BLURB: After Germany’s invasion of Poland, the world is holding its breath and hoping for peace. At home, the Nazi Party’s hold on power is absolute.

One freezing night, an SS doctor and his wife return from an evening mingling with their fellow Nazis at the concert hall. By the time the sun rises, the doctor will be lying lifeless in a pool of blood.

Was it murder or suicide? Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is told that under no circumstances should he investigate. The doctor’s widow, however, is convinced her husband was the target of a hit. But why would anyone murder an apparently obscure doctor? Compelled to dig deeper, Schenke learns of the mysterious death of a child. The cases seem unconnected, but soon chilling links begin to emerge that point to a terrifying secret.

Even in times of war, under a ruthless regime, there are places in hell no man should ever enter. And Schenke fears he may not return alive . . .

Blog Tour – January 2023 – Trouble – Katja Iver

So, off to Finland now, and the early 50s…This is a book from one of crimeworm’s favourite imprints, isn’t it?

It is indeed! Bitter Lemon Press have had me travelling vicariously all over the world, with their translations of high quality crime fiction. This is the third book in a series, and after reading it, I can assure you I’m really keen to get my hands on the first two.

From this book it’s clear that Hella Manzer was a homicide detective in the first two in the series, but now she’s moved on to being a private investigator…

Yes, and the main crime she wants to investigate is described in the prologue, and occurred eleven years earlier, when she was in her late teens, and only survived as she was at home unwell. It’s the death of her entire family, who were mown down by a truck on a remote country road, with no witnesses, excepting of course the driver, who failed to stop. Both of her parents, her sister, and her infant nephew were wiped out in this hit and run. If it weren’t for the fact that Hella’s father was a very high-ranking officer in SUPO, the Finnish Secret Service, there would probably be no reason to consider anything awry.

Hella’s given a PI job by her old boss, Jokela, now Chief Of Police, isn’t she?

Yes, but her only reason for accepting it is as a quid pro quo for finally getting to see the file into the investigation into the deaths of her family. The job he gives her is to assess someone’s suitability as head of homicide, Jokela’s previous position. This candidate, Johannes Hiekkinen, is currently in SUPO, the Secret Service where Hella’s father had been employed prior to his death. On the plus side, he might be able to help Hella into the investigation into her family’s death, even in the smallest way.

Hella’s made a couple of other changes to her life since her move into becoming self-employed, hasn’t she?

She’s finally felt able to move back into the family home, which had essentially been mothballed since their death. She’d also ended her five-year relationship with Steve, as he’d been married, so it was essentially going nowhere. Even when he arrives to see her and tells her he’s now divorced she has little inclination to re-ignite things between them – for her, it’s time to change everything in her life. The fact that there’s a handsome new neighbour makes taking up with Steve again even less appealing! Even if nothing happens between her and Erkki, it’s showing her there are other possible options out there for her, and it’s time to start living.

But the file on the deaths of the rest of her family proves a disappointment…

When she goes to pick it up, it’s empty, as she expected. However, that in itself tells a story – for if there wasn’t anything to hide about their deaths, the file would’ve surely still existed, as a cursory investigation at least.

Also, a scruffy-looking stranger is leaving parcels at the house. Are they intended for her – or does someone think her father is still alive? And why are these being left now, eleven years after his death?

What about the job Jokela had given her?

Johannes Heikinnen’s only family seems to be an estranged who everyone describes as slightly bonkers. He’s certainly eccentric, and something of a hoarder, but it’s difficult to judge whether he’s a fantasist. Regarding Heikinnen, his son had died, as had his (now severely depressed) wife shortly afterwards, in a fire. There doesn’t appear to be anything suspicious there, but Hella investigates it thoroughly – imagine how disastrous it would be were they to appoint a murderer as head of the homicide division!

This entire investigation opens up a huge can of worms, as it appeared the “mad cousin” had held something of a torch for Heikinnen’s wife – did he kill her in a fit of jealousy? Or was the fire simply the accident it appeared to be? Heikinnen, after all, still seems a man shattered by grief, and injured himself in his desperate attempts to rescue his wife. And ultimately, which of the men would you believe?

Hella is a thorough and capable investigator, then?

Absolutely, and that’s why I’m looking forward to reading the first two books in the series – and any future volumes, of which I hope there will be many! Ivar is a thorough and capable plotter of historical crime fiction too! She knows how to build a fast-paced story that doesn’t overstay its welcome, at a compact 217 pages. It also taught me some things I didn’t know about Finland historically, both during the war and afterwards.

This’ll be another hit from Bitter Lemon Press, then…

Indeed it is, giving them a score of 100% for quality from me!

Original, well-plotted, and with an engaging heroine at its heart very highly recommended.

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and to Bitter Lemon Press for the ARC. That has in no way influenced my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Katja Ivar

Check out some of the other bloggers who took part in this blog tour!

BLURB: Helsinki, June 1953, at the heart of the Cold War. Hella, now a reluctant private investigator, has been asked by her former boss at the Helsinki murder squad to do a background check on a member of the Finnish secret services. Not the type of job Hella was hoping for, but she accepts it on the condition that she is given access to the files concerning the roadside death of her father in 1942, at a time when Finland joined forces with Nazi Germany in its attack against the Soviet Union. German troops were sent to Finland, the Gestapo arrived in Helsinki and German influence on local government was strong, including demands for the deportation of local Jews. Colonel Mauzer, his wife and other family members were killed by a truck in a hit and run incident. An accident, file closed, they said. But not for Hella, whose unwelcome investigation leads to some who would prefer to see her stopped dead in her tracks.

Blog Tour – January 2023 – Death And The Conjuror – Tom Mead

Wow! How much did I adore this book!

Cutting to the chase right there, lest there be any doubt…I think all long-term fans of crime fiction adore a locked-room mystery. To my mind, it’s the purest test of those “little grey cells” Poirot and his ilk enjoyed exercising, and it’s a direct link back to those wonderful Golden Age mysteries so many of us cut our crime fiction reading teeth on, and of which author Tom Mead is clearly an aficionado.

He was originally a short story writer, yes?

Absolutely – many of his early published work was writing for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I know a lot of writers think perfecting a short story is the way to really hone your craft, as you have to get everything bang on within a limited word count – and it’s very clear Mead has honed things thus. His other talent is doing his homework – he’s learnt from the biggest and most beloved names in Golden Age fiction, which means setting things in his clearly beloved timeframe was the right idea – things are ruined so much nowadays for Macchiavellian villains by technology, scenes of crime officers and forensics, CCTV et al! That’s probably why people only really write “closed island” mysteries, which often take place off the Scottish West coast, somewhere near me!)

And there isn’t only one “locked room” mystery in this book, is there?

No, there isn’t, and there’s a very specific cast of possible offenders. The fun is for the readers to attempt to spot the clues and figure out the identity of the murderer. Our policeman, Inspector Flint, requests the help of his friend, celebrity stage magician, Joseph Spector, whose expertise he requires to solve the murders.

Spector’s explanation of each crime was particularly enjoyable, wasn’t it?

Yes – he obviously revels in having figured out the murderer’s modus operandi for each death, and his explanation to Flint demonstrates what a showman he is, as he lists the group around the celebrated psychologist – his mere three patients (and those around them); his daughter; her fiancee – and those present at each murder. Each and every piece of misdirection is referred back to the appropriate page of the book, so the reader can check back – a tool I found particularly useful, and used on every occasion! – and often to the Golden Age “locked-room” mystery from which the murderer (and by extension Mead!) got their inspiration.

So you thoroughly enjoyed this book, then?

I absolutely revelled in it, racing through it until well into the night. My hope is that it’s the start of a new series. I’d also love to see a collection of the Joseph Spector short stories released at some point too…that’s if that’s not being too greedy!

This book is one for those who love their Golden Age crime, as well as fans of more recent crime novels. Indeed, it’s for anyone who enjoys pitting their wits against a clever writer – although it would take a very smart reader to outwit Tom Mead!

An absolute masterpiece!

With thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to participate in this blog tour, and to Head Of Zeus for the ARC. This has not influenced my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review.

Author Tom Mead

Check out what the other fantastic bloggers on this tour made of the book!

BLURB: An enthralling locked-room murder mystery inspired by crime fiction of the Golden Age, Death and the Conjuror is the debut novel by acclaimed short-story writer Tom Mead.

Selected as one of Publisher Weekly‘s Mysteries Of The Year.

1936, London. A celebrity psychiatrist is discovered dead in his locked study. There seems to be no way a killer could have escaped unseen. There are no clues, no witnesses, and no evidence of the murder weapon. Stumped by the confounding scene, Inspector Flint, the Scotland Yard detective on the case, calls on retired stage magician turned part-time sleuth Joseph Spector.

Spector has a knack for explaining the inexplicable, but even he finds that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye. As he and the Inspector interview the colourful cast of suspects, they uncover no shortage of dark secrets… or motives for murder. And when a second murder occurs, this time in an impenetrable elevator, they realize the crime wave will become even more deadly unless they can catch the culprit soon.

Blog Tour – January 2023 – A Winter Grave – Peter May

Wow! Peter May, one of the biggest crime and thriller writers there is, has a new novel out! Tell me more…

This is what is apparently called “cli-fi,” which is a new term to me, but if this is what it’s like, sign me up for more!

The novel itself is absolutely packed with twists, turns, thrills, and action, not to mention shocking revelations. There’s also the very, very scary element of what the future could look like, according to the research May has done – and this is a writer who’s a stickler for doing his research! It’s set in the near future, in 2051 – so within the lifespans of many alive today. Be afraid, younger people, be very afraid…

So what kind of world are we looking at?

Well, in the West of Scotland the two main things that have changed are climate and technology. The melting ice caps have naturally seen the seas rise dramatically, and “water taxis” (boats as taxis) are a necessity to negotiate your way around the centre of Glasgow. The ground floors of many buildings are unuseable. Police Scotland have new headquarters at Pacific Quay, and Cameron Brodie, a detective in his mid-50s, is summoned there as a body has been found encased in an icy grave near Kinlochleven, a village at the head of Loch Leven. It’s a popular destination for hillwalkers, and an experienced policeman is required to investigate whether the death is suspicious, with the aid of a pathologist who he’ll pick up en route. As Brodie enjoys hillwalking and is capable on the hills, he’s asked to go along. Despite initially refusing due to an urgent medical appointment, after receiving a grim prognosis he reluctantly decides a visit to that particular village is about due – as there’s someone he hopes to see there before it’s too late.

And throughout the book there are flashbacks which fill in Cameron’s background?

That’s right, and both strands are equally gripping, which I don’t always find to be the case. Brodie travels by what are essentially mini-helicopters, first to Tobermory on Mull (the island where I grew up and my family still live), to pick up the pathologist, Dr Sita Roy, and her equipment. Then it’s onto their ultimate destination, and en route we learn something of his past – about his wife Mel, and the unusual circumstances of their meeting, and his estranged adult daughter, Addie, as well as what happened between him and Mel, and the reason for his daughter’s refusal to acknowledge him.

The entirety of it is gripping – it really is the hardest book to put down I’ve read for a long while. Cameron’s personal life and its events are totally intriguing, and then when we get to the Highlands…well, it’s absolutely action-packed, and will knock your socks off!

This sounds thrilling!

Believe me, it’s one drama after another – all of them unexpected. An ice storm knocks out all power to the village, despite there being recently constructed nuclear power stations just along the glen, which provide employment to the village, and guaranteed electricity to all of Scotland – something of a coup for the fictional Scottish Democratic Party and its leader Sally Mack, as no other country has continual power (weather permitting, naturally!) The internet is also down, which prevents Dr Roy and Cameron from reporting back to police headquarters, and confirming they’re dealing with the murder of investigative reporter Charles Younger. Then there’s another murder, and, finding the helicopter sabotaged so that even when power returns, he still can’t leave, Cameron knows he’s a sitting duck for a ruthless killer – who could be anywhere in the village…

There’s also the very big question of what a journalist who had no interest in hillwalking was doing in the village, where the notes for the story he was writing are, and why he would possibly be in possession of a Geiger counter…Was this story so important that people might be prepared to kill to prevent it getting out?

Plus he has something important from the past to deal with, too – and that just might be the hardest thing of all…

There’s so much going on in this book!

Absolutely – and in the best possible way, in that you cannot put it down. I haven’t read all of Peter’s considerable output, but I’d say this the best book of his I have read – even the wonderful Lewis trilogy, which shot him to fame.

I love the way he uses traditional Scots words like “dwam” and “trauchling” (a favourite of my late mother’s.) We see huge change, through ecological disasters and technological advances. However, people and families don’t change at all, and that’s so perfectly illustrated.

All in all, it’s something of a masterpiece. It’s only January and I’ve a couple of candidates for “Best of 2023” already!

Join me tomorrow when I ask Peter a few questions about what prompted him to look into the future, and write A Winter Grave.

A Winter Grave is published by Quercus and is out now in hardback priced £22.

Don’t miss this one!

I’d like to thank Ransom PR for kindly inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour, and to Quercus for the ARC. This is an honest review.

Author Peter May

Check out what some of the other fabulous bloggers on the tour thought!

BLURB: From the twelve-million copy bestselling author of the Lewis trilogy comes a chilling new mystery set in the isolated Scottish Highlands.


A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven discovers the body of a missing man entombed in ice.


Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective, sets out on a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate a murder case so far from his beat.


Brodie must face up to the ghosts of his past and to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that his investigation threatens to expose.

Set against a backdrop of a frighteningly plausible near-future, A WINTER GRAVE is Peter May at his page-turning, passionate and provocative best.

Book Review – January 2023 – Dead Man’s Creek – Chris Hammer

So this is the latest from one of your favourite writers, Chris Hammer…

It is, and it’s a book I’m really excited about – as I think anyone who reads it will be! I know he’s written some exceptional books before – Opal Country, which I reviewed last year, and Scrublands, from 2019, spring instantly to mind – but despite it only being January I can already see this as a contender for one of the books of the year (I’m still to do a list of favourites from last year; indeed I’m still to review a couple of them, and some other very good books as well – I’ll get there eventually…!)

We have the return of Nell Buchanan from Opal Country in this book, too?

Yes, and on this occasion she moves onto centre stage, because although Ivan Lucic does make a reappearance in this book, it’s very much Nell’s story, some of it literally. The reason I say this is because part of the backstory involves her family history, in the form of one of the cold cases. Now she’s been promoted to homicide she’s sent to investigate, partly as she’s from the area – but obviously that’s before it emerges she has a family connection to a case…

One of the cold cases suggests there’s more than one…

Indeed there is – and both of them have equally compelling back stories, which are contained in the book. It’s similar to the way Michael Connelly builds a back story to a cold case and, like him, it’s masterfully done. Whenever I read the words, “cold case” in the description of a book I get really excited – I feel it gives a writer licence to do almost anything, in any historical period, and the best are really good at it. Let’s face it: modern investigations often involve more desk work and technological examinations of phones, laptops, etc, whereas digging into old cases are guaranteed to involve more shoe leather and talking to those who were actually there – and these things are the real building blocks of a good crime fiction novel.

So this must have been really enjoyable for you!

It’s exceptionally well written, the way we learn the back stories to the two cases. The bodies are discovered when a regulator, which controls the amount of water which goes into the forest, is bombed (presumably by an eco-warrior) and the area beyond it is drained, revealing a skeleton.

In other chapters, we are taken back to two different times: 1943, when most of the local men are away at war, but a camp for Italian POWs is in the forest, where they are put to work. This timeframe is narrated with the use of an elderly man’s statement, remembering in detail his boyhood, taking care of the cattle grazing in the forest while his father is at war. These portions of the book are beautifully detailed: the horror of the war may be lurking in the background, but he and his friend Bucky are up to typical boys’ larks – swimming in the river; spying on the Italians, imagining them to be spies, before he realises they are ordinary men, just like his father; helping out at the charcoal furnace by weighting the empty water buckets with their bodies. It’s probably the highlight of the book, and just so wonderfully written.

The other time we go back to is 1973, where we meet teenagers in a really hot summer, swimming in the regulator (now built) and dreaming of getting away from their small town lives, while they listen to music like Joni Mitchell’s Blue. As the names are revealed we realise this is the case with the connection to Nell’s family. Could she have a murderer in the family?

And the present day isn’t short of action, either…?

It certainly isn’t, with the attempted murder of a twitcher, and an attack on Nell – not the first; the vaxxers, cookers, and preppers, as well as a long-time feud with her family and another, ensure she has to watch her back in what used to be a quiet town, where she knew everyone, and where she could relax. She’s beginning to learn that police aren’t welcome everywhere – just when she’s trying find her feet with the homicide promotion. She’s desperate to prove to Ivan she can run an investigation single-handedly, but of course the family connection means she has to step aside…at least officially. It doesn’t stop her investigating on the quiet, naturally…

This sounds like a really busy book!

There are a lot of things happening – but bear in mind there are 470-odd (wonderful!) pages for it all to happen, so nothing feels rushed; it’s an exceptionally well-paced novel. Both of the historical storylines are really engaging, and I’d be hard-pushed to pick a favourite, but, if forced to choose, I’d say the wartime tales, told in James Waters’ voice, nudges ahead, as it really brings the era and place alive, just as it must have been for a boy.

This novel really shows Chris Hammer to be a master of his craft – it’s his best so far, and that’s saying something, especially after the wonderful Opal Country. Weaving all these storylines together takes an exceptional level of talent, and that’s something Hammer’s proving he has – and then some. This book, and it’s characters, are guaranteed to linger long in the memory.

With thanks to Wildfire Books for the proof copy. This review is unbiased and is my own opinion of the novel.

Author Chris Hammer

BLURB: Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her hometown, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, her arrival provoking an unwelcome and threatening response from the small-town community. As more bodies are discovered, and she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her, Nell realises that finding the truth could prove more difficult – and dangerous – than she’d ever expected.

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more treacherous her path becomes. Can she survive to root out the truth, and what price will she have to pay for it?

Gripping and atmospheric, Dead Man’s Creek is a stunning multi-layered thriller from Chris Hammer, the award-winning author of Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year Scrublands (2019) and Times Crime Book of the Month Opal Country (January 2022).