Blog Tour – Rupture – Ragnar Jonasson

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BLURB: 1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…

In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinsister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.

Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.

It barely seems any time at all since we all fell in love with Snowblind, and here we are no. 4 in the Dark Iceland series. And the books just seem to get better. In this novel, the town of Siglufjördur is in quarantine after a traveller passing through from Africa died of a mystery infection, which he passed on to a nurse who was unfortunate enough to come into contact with. So with everyone holed up at home, it’s the perfect time for Ari Thór to investigate a cold case brought to him by an elderly man, Hédinn. It concerns the death of his aunt 50 years earlier, who was said to have accidentally poisoned herself by putting rat poison in her coffee instead of sugar – or did she? Perhaps the decision was made to label it as such to save the family from the stigma suicide carried. Or is there more to the story than that? Could someone else have been responsible? He produces a photograph which had just come to light showing a teenage boy with the two couples, and himself as a baby, outside the very remote farmhouse at Hedinsfjördur, despite the fact it was only meant to be his parents and aunt and uncle living there. Ari Thór uses his spare time to talk to people who might remember the incident; a surprising number are fortunately still alive!

There’s also a story from Reykjavik brought into the book, featuring Ísrún, an ambitious news reporter. She’s investigating both the fatal hit-and-run of the son of an ex-government Minister, and the abduction of a small child. She’s suspicious there’s a link between the two – which could involve people high up in government. But what could possibly connect them? Is she simply seeing conspiracies where they don’t exist? She also contacts Ari Thór for an interview regarding the quarantine, and he persuades her to help him out with questioning a relative of one of the people in the picture, who’s in a care home in Reykjavik. But will Ari Thór be able to throw any light on such an old mystery, with so few clues?

As ever, this book is ably translated by Quentin Bates, whose own books are hugely enjoyable – seek them out if you haven’t already. Ragnar seems to be more confident than ever blending different storylines, while maintaining his always concise prose. I particularly enjoyed Ari Thór’s attempts to unpick a mysterious case in a isolated and somewhat creepy spot – the sort of place so isolated that it could start to cause one’s mind to unravel…

Very highly recommended.

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour – Burned And Broken – Mark Hardie

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BLURB: A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

The charred body of a policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out-shell of his car on the Southend seafront.

To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague’s murder, dark secrets begin to emerge.

Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?

A brand new author, with a brand new series, set in Essex, in Southend-on-Sea. The book opens dramatically with the murder of a cop, DI Sean Carragher, burnt in his car, and we soon discover he could be somewhat dodgy, and so have built up a multitude of enemies.

Our main characters are DS Frank Pearson and DC Cat Russell. Pearson’s one of these “live for the job” types, with a marriage in its death throes, whereas Cat’s from a shady gangster-type family, who’ve disowned her since she joined the police. As this is the first book, we didn’t get to know them that well, especially Cat, but Frank seemed an intriguing character. Their relationship struck me as more mentor-mentee. They weren’t exclusively partnered together – she usually worked with the late DI Carragher, although as this book is labelled on Amazon: “A Pearson and Russell Novel,” presumably that changes.

Our other main characters are Donna and Malc, with Donna just out of the care system, but both still kids. She was good friends with Alicia Goode, who died, and, from what I can ascertain, whose death prompted an investigation into the Abigail Burnett Children’s Home, and the possibility of sex grooming taking place there. Donna’s angry Alicia’s death was ultimately branded accidental, and drags the somewhat gormless Malc along with her as she seeks to punish the man she believes responsible.

Hardie doesn’t balk at controversial – and highly pertinent – storylines, like the grooming for sex of children in care, the mental health issues of young vulnerable people, coppers (possibly) on the take, etc. There’s a smörgåsbord of sleaze, and sleazy people, throughout, and I found it all horribly realistic. And when it comes to nightclubs, it so often comes with the territory. One particular club, which has had two fires, both vaguely suspicious but nothing the fire investigation department, police, or insurance company could prove, is owned by Pearson’s (probably) soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law, and I loved Pearson’s description of Terry Milton:

“He had the sartorial elegance of a used car salesman, Pearson thought. Or a professional darts player.”

The club ends up part of this investigation when a man called Sickert Downey, who ran the children’s home from whence the children under suspicion of abuse came, and was given “early retirement” at the conclusion of the investigation, hanged himself (…or did he?) from the scaffolding outside PSYgnosis, Milton’s club. Was his choice of places to die simply a matter of convenience, i.e. the scaffolding – or was he trying to say something?

So – gritty; realistic; highly readable – this book has all the hallmarks of being the first in what could be a great series. Even the peripheral characters have their quirks – like Lawrence, who rarely leaves his desk, fed up with the job and marking time to retirement. Or DCI Roberts, with his penchant for Extra Strong Mints, and his habit of fidgeting with things on his desk when they’re discussing a case. I look forward to getting to know them all better.

There are plenty of surprises to be found at the conclusion too – not just in who was responsible for the death of DI Sean Carragher, and why, but from other parts of the storyline too. Mark Hardie has the perfect mind for creating great police procedurals. I very much look forward to reading more of his work.

NOTE: This book is currently £1.99 on Kindle, so do snap it up before it goes up. The paperback isn’t available until May.

My thanks to Sphere Books for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Blog Tour – Sister, Sister – Sue Fortin

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BLURB: Alice: Beautiful, kind, manipulative, liar.

Clare: Intelligent, loyal, paranoid, jealous.

Clare thinks Alice is a manipulative liar who is trying to steal her life.
Alice thinks Clare is jealous of her long-lost return and place in their family.

One of them is telling the truth. The other is a maniac.
Two sisters. One truth.

I do adore a good domestic noir psychological thriller, although I must admit many of them are the equivalent of a book MacDonald’s – quick, satisfying at the time, but often somewhat forgettable. I’m not disrespecting any authors here – it’s quite a feat to have your readers staying up until all hours muttering, “…one more chapter,” knowing they’ll be zombies in the morning!

So, the set-up is this – 20 years previously Clare and Alice’s father took Alice, his younger daughter, to the United States, ostensibly for a holiday – but never returned. Private investigators hired by the girls’ mother with the help of Leonard, a longtime family friend and lawyer (who’s also Clare’s boss – she’s now a lawyer too) didn’t find them. They gave up all hope of seeing Alice again until, 20 years on, a letter arrives from her. Then Alice arranges to come and visit. It’s going to be happy families, at last! Except, of course, it’s not. Because then it’d be some kind of chick-lit novel I’d be avoiding like the Plague! No, I definitely prefer my characters on the nasty side…

Clare doesn’t take to Alice from the word go. Maybe, as her family keep telling her, it’s simple jealousy over Alice borrowing some clothes without asking. Or maybe it’s the easy way she touches Clare’s husband Luke’s arm, or comes down to breakfast wearing only a skimpy T-shirt. But when Clare finds Alice in Luke’s studio in the middle of the night (he’s an artist; she’s always been the main breadwinner) posing for a portrait “as a surprise for Mum” she’s apoplectic with rage.

Then things start happening – hyper-organised Clare loses a hugely important file, getting her in trouble at work. Is all this stress affecting her? Did she in fact leave it where it where it was found? I don’t want to put in any spoilers, but let’s just say everyone is starting to look at Clare with new eyes – mistrustful ones.

Thank goodness she has her colleague, Tom, to vent to. After a romance at university, they’ve settled into an easy friendship and good working relationship – in fact, Clare suggested him for his position with Leonard. He seems to be the only one on her side; at home she’s the baddie, with even her daughters fearful of her when she arrives home lest she sparks another row.

Clare ultimately decides she needs to know the full truth about Alice, not just her version – after all, she’s just appeared, after 20 years absence. What has she been doing in the meantime? Did their father really die just a few months ago? If it wasn’t for her unmistakable blue eyes, seen on treasured childhood photographs, she could be anyone. And when Clare has the truth, if any of it differs from Alice’s version, she’ll know her sister to be the liar she suspects her to be. So it’s Operation Alice…

This book gets wonderfully more and more dramatic as it progresses, and your nails will get shorter with the stress! The family dynamic – both pre- and post-Alice’s arrival – comes across as pretty realistic, but what I most enjoyed was the spats between the two sisters, which got progressively worse as time went on and their “relationship” deteriorated more and more. It turns out they both can give as good as they get!

I don’t know how I managed to miss The Girl Who Lied last year, but I’m pretty sure from reading the blurb that I’d love it. And at only £1.99 currently on Kindle, Sister, Sister is definitely worth snapping up before the price increases! Plus Sue Fortin is certainly an author worth watching in this genre.

My thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for allowing me to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

Blog Tour – Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent

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BLURB: Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must – because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants …

One of the possibilities when people have been raving about a particular title for months is that you could end up disappointed. After all, could this book really be as good as they all say? And of course there’s that sublimely quotable opening line I’ve read so often I know it off by heart (and you probably do too, or the gist of it):  “My husband never meant to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.” Once I got used to the despicably selfish and unreliable Lydia, I realised yes, they were right. This book was every bit as good as everyone said it was, and settled down for a delightful trip into Liz Nugent’s twisted mind.

Straight away that opening comment tells us plenty about Lydia, one of the three narrators who are going to lead us through this story of a missing girl: a bereft sister, Karen; Lydia’s well-meaning, but smothered, son; and the devious Lydia, who will do anything she can to control those around her in order to retain her position as matriarch of Avalon, a large detached villa with substantial grounds.

Karen, Annie’s sister, is determined not to give up the search for Annie, and Laurence, who has a good heart and is torn between protecting his parents (although his father dies shortly after the “incident”, due to a heart attack brought on by the stress of what happened and of being questioned by the garda), and helping the stunning Karen find out what happened to her sister. He knows his father is somehow linked to Annie’s disappearance, although he doesn’t believe his decent, henpecked father could be a murderer – perhaps his position as a judge has led to him having to help get her out of the country, as a witness who’s in danger? And the case is so serious the local garda can’t be informed?

Lydia has to be one of my absolutely favourite creations in fiction for a very long time. Not that that means I like her, you understand – it’s simply that Liz Nugent has created a complete monster, disguised as a harmless judge’s wife, a pillar of the community, who adores her only son, Laurence, and lets him do whatever he wants – for example, letting him eat anything he wants, until he’s very overweight. (This, of course, means he has less likelihood of meeting a girl, marrying her, and leaving her – and Avalon.) Laurence has a mind of his own, and he also knows considerably more about what happened on that particular night referred to at the beginning of the book than Lydia suspects.

However, when she realises Karen’s continuing in her search for Annie, she persuades Laurence to throw her off the scent. But as she realises how close they’ve become, and what they’re plans are, us readers realise exactly how devious and self-serving this woman can be. To what lengths will she go to keep Avalon – and Laurence? What exactly will she sacrifice?

This is a fantastically plotted psychological thriller, with an ending I’d never have conceived of. Liz Nugent‘s debut, Unravelling Oliver, was a superb debut, but this is a far more accomplished book when it comes to character development and plotting – the whole idea is wonderful! I can’t wait to see what this author does next – she’s an incredible talent. Now I’d best wind up, as I’m running out of superlatives…

Don’t miss this one!

My thanks to Penguin Random House for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.


Blog Tour – Her Every Fear – Peter Swanson

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BLURB: The bestselling author of The Kind Worth Killing returns with an electrifying psychological thriller

Following a brutal attack by her ex-boyfriend, Kate Priddy makes an uncharacteristically bold decision after her cousin, Corbin Dell, suggests a temporary apartment swap – and she moves from London to Boston.

But soon after her arrival Kate makes a shocking discovery: Corbin’s next-door neighbour, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police begin asking questions about Corbin’s relationship with Audrey, and his neighbours come forward with their own suspicions, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own.

Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination playing out her every fear, Kate can barely trust herself. so how can she trust any of the strangers she’s just met?

If the colossal hit The Kind Worth Killing was Strangers On A Train for the 21st century, then this much-anticipated follow-up is Swanson‘s paean to Rear Window.

So, we have Kate Priddy, an anxious, nervy young lady in a strange city, trying to learn to live normally again after a horrendous attack by her deranged ex. Obviously something like this makes you question your ability to judge who’s trustworthy. But an apartment swap by her cousin – who she’s never met – gives her a chance for a fresh start. Unfortunately, shortly after her arrival, Kate’s new neighbour is discovered dead. She, along with the police, begin to question whether Corbin could possibly have been responsible for her death just before leaving for London – especially as another resident of the building, who’d developed a crush on the dead girl and begun watching her, tells Kate that Audrey and Corbin were seeing each other – but only in the privacy of Audrey’s apartment, never out in public. Why would they behave like this, when neither of them are seeing anyone else?

This building, like the one in the Hitchcock film, provides great opportunities for many of the residents to spy on each other. It begins to appear that if Corbin isn’t a killer, someone’s certainly trying to point the finger at him. But who could be responsible?

It’s a game of cat-and-mouse, with Kate having to gather her wits together and discover if her family hosts a murderer – and if not, who is a killer – and could she be next on his list? Especially as there are some strange goings on in her apartment…

A spectacularly dramatic ending makes this a tense and hard-to-put-down thriller, with Kate needing to get over her anxiety to deal with a possible monster. As before, Swanson screws with our minds beautifully, keeping us guessing what on earth the story is. For what it’s worth, my theory was wrong! His ability to place himself inside the head of psychopaths is somewhat worrying, if a treat for us thriller fans. This doesn’t quite have the plotting perfection of The Kind Worth Killing, but such books are exceptionally rare. I’ve been raving about it since it came out, and I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t adored it. This is, however, a good, solid thriller in it’s own right, and is certain to provide plenty of sleepless nights.

Thanks to Faber & Faber for my copy of this book to review in exchange for my honest opinion. 


Why Did You Lie? – Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

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BLURB: The Sunday Times top crime read of the year.

A journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide. An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the States to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing.Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea.

They have one thing in common: they all lied. And someone is determined to punish them…

Why Did You Lie? is a terrifying tale of long-delayed retribution from Iceland’s Queen of Suspense.

The title of this latest standalone novel by the “Queen of Icelandic Noir” is the question anonymously in letters of three seemingly disparate people, or groups of people. Firstly, there’s Nói, Vala and their 15-year-old son Tumi, who return from a house swap in the US to find their house in disarray, their American guests missing, but having left behind some of their belongings, as well as notes bearing messages asking why they lied, or variations of the same question. Then there’s the four people (Heida, a female engineer who’s to fit radio equipment in the rock’s lighthouse; two male workmen, Ívar and Tóti, there to do basic repairs; and Helgi, a male photographer who’s taken the rare opportunity to tag along and take pictures) stranded out on the rock, as the helicopter due to return to collect them 24 hours later develops problems, and the claustrophic nature of the situation, as well as suspicions of each other set in – particularly when their number is reduced by one, with one of the mysterious notes discovered in Tóti’s bloodstained sleeping bag. Finally, there’s a policewoman, Nína, whose seemingly hitherto content journalist husband, Thröstur, attempted suicide and is now on a life-support machine, with Nína sitting night after night as she has to make a decision about when it’s switched off.

The novel moves between each group of people, drip-feeding us clues and ramping up the tension almost unbearably, then moving on to the next group, as we try to work out the connection between them, what the lie was, and why it’s so important to someone – and who that person is. It’s possible to figure out who that person could be when we discover, thanks to Nína (who uses her position as a pariah in the police station to dig for clues in the basement she’s meant to be clearing out) when the lies were perpetrated. But who they are now is an entirely different story – as are the lengths they could go to to punish those they see as the transgressors. Are the tormenting notes enough to unsettle the victims – or could they go so far as to kill?

Sigurdardóttir has an admirable understanding of human psychology, and although they geographically fall into the ScandiNoir category, the events described in her books could happen anywhere in the world, so even if you don’t consider yourself a huge fan of books set in cold dark Northern places, don’t let that put you off. The interaction between her (always realistic) characters is what makes her novels so readable and authentic; the settings are secondary.

This is only the second Yrsa Sigurdardóttir book I’ve read since I was lucky enough to meet her at Bloody Scotland – the first was Someone To Watch Over Me, which is one of the series of six Thora Gudmundsdottir books (so far) about a lawyer and which I’ll review soon. And I’m delighted to have another two here to read. I’m now a firm fan and she will definitely be in the autobuy category for me from now on. She’s excellent at sending shivers up your spine in the most innocuous situations, and leaves most of the crowded market of so-called “psychological thrillers” standing. Little wonder she won the prestigious Petrona Award in 2015 for The Silence Of The Sea – and don’t bet against her winning again sometime soon!

Very highly recommended.

Purchase a copy  from Amazon UK, or support your local bookshop or library.

I’d like to thank the publishers Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Blog Tour – The Dry – Jane Harper

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I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that…

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

Sometimes, participating in a Blog Tour can be a double-edged sword. Sure, you get to read the latest books, usually a real book, and you get additional hits on your blog from participating in a high-profile tour. But the fact is, sometimes you feel the pressure is on to say you really enjoyed the book, even if it was just kind of average, as you know the publicist, and very possibly the author, may be reading your thoughts. I’m a bit of a sop – I hate the thought of hurting author’s feelings, after all the time and work they’ve put into their “baby.” After all, I know how devastated I’d be if it were me!

No such worries here. Despite this being the author’s debut novel, years of working as a journalist at national newspapers in the UK and her new home, Australia, have honed her skill with words. However, we all know that’s not enough – a great story is crucial, and The Dry is a bloody fantastic story. Not in a million years would you peg this as a debut.

The story begins when Aaron Falk receives a message from his teenage best friend’s father, demanding his presence at the funeral of his son, Luke Handler, daughter-in-law Karen, and grandson Billy. The police from the nearest large town, Clyde, came to Kiewarra, the rundown bushtown where they lived, and their conclusion was that it was a case of family annihilation: Luke shot his family – sparing only his 13-month-old daughter Charlotte – then drove to a clearing, and turned the gun on himself.

Aaron wouldn’t normally have appeared at the funeral – he and his father were run out of town 20 years previously, after the death of one of Aaron’s friends, Ellie, by drowning. All it took for suspicion to fall on them was a very small thing, that could have meant something, or nothing. Since then, Aaron and his father had existed, little more as country folk out of place in the city of Melbourne, with Aaron joining the police, specialising in financial crimes. The last thing he wants to do is return to a town with so many memories.

While there, Luke’s parents, Gerry and Barb, ask him to run his eyes over the farm’s books to see if it was impending financial disaster that caused Luke to do what he did. Most of the farms in the area are in a bad way financially, due to a drought that’s the longest in living memory. He agrees, as he feels obligated to the family that were so good to him when he was younger. He also meets the new(ish) local policeman, Raco, who admits he has doubts about the way the investigation was run, and they end up teaming up to see if they can discover anything the Clyde police missed.

And like any small town anywhere, Kiewarra has it’s secrets, some relevant to the investigation, many not. Hanging over their investigation is the spectre of Ellie’s death – 20 years on and grudges are still borne, and not just by her alcoholic father and cousin.

There are plenty of suspects, with lots of potential motives, and Aaron and Raco make a likeable and efficient investigative duo. To be honest, I’d have galloped through this book in a day or two, but eked it out for longer as it was SO enjoyable. Great characters, amd the classic trope of the small community, cut off from elsewhere, and, we know, containing our villain. Also the added “bonus” mystery of what happened 20 years previously, the events of which we are drip-fed in short extracts.

If we get even, say, ten books of this quality this year, I’ll be a very happy crimeworm. Don’t miss The Dry – you’ll only be kicking yourself when the rest of the fiction-loving world are raving about it (and it’s not just for crime fans; the quality of the writing lifts it above any genre pigeonholing.) Buy it, or borrow it, but whatever you do, ensure you read it!

Purchase it on Amazon UK or support your local bookshop or library.

Very highly recommended.

Many thanks to Little Brown Book Group, who sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.