Blog Tour – August 2021 – No Honour – Awais Khan

So this is an Orenda book – it’s bound to be a cracker, am I right?

Yes! You are, although a tad more exotic than we’re used to, and with a warmer setting too – no Nordic Noir to be found here! The quality, as expected, is just as good as ever. And this is one book which will linger in your mind long after you finish it…

So tell me what it’s all about then?

Well, it’s not hard to guess from the setting – Pakistan – and the title it’s about honour killings, and the book pulls no punches by opening with one such killing – a really disturbing, but necessary, scene. I think we take for granted in the UK the rights and freedoms the main character, 16-year-old Abida, is denied – but honour killings are not unheard of in the UK either, as anyone who follows the news will be aware.

So what happens to Abida?

Like any 16-year-old girl, she meets a boy and falls in love – but when she becomes pregnant realises she has two choices, neither of them palatable – death, or to flee beyond the reach of those in her family who would kill her to defend their “honour.” It’s always struck me as incomprehensible that people consider murder as more respectable than falling in love with the wrong person. So, with the help of her father Jamil, she heads to Lahore, hoping to lose herself in the hustle and bustle of the city. But Abida soon realises there is little kindness to be found in the city, where life is cheap.

What about her father? What does he do?

Jamil follows, and the story alternates between the two of them, who find life in Lahore very different from their quiet village, and not nearly so quiet, with drugs, violence, and horrendous poverty everywhere. Eventually, thankfully, they meet again, both having learnt some hard lessons along the way. Jamil isn’t a bad father, but he’s been brought up in the traditional way Pakistani way, with traditional values – although he may not always agree with them.

How would you describe this book?

It’s not an easy read, in terms of subject matter, although Khan’s style is unfrilly and draws you in from the horrendous opening few pages. I found myself not wanting to put it down, desperate to find out what happened to the characters, especially, obviously Abida, a gutsy heroine who really has you rooting for her. In her, he’s created a wonderful lead character.

The whole book opens up a subject which needs to be talked about – something that doesn’t only happen in Pakistan – amongst other countries – but in first world countries too. Books like these need to be read, and talked about, by everyone, until honour killings become something that belong in the past. I hope that day comes in my lifetime.

In short, an exhilarating, exotic, but hugely enjoyable book. Yet another winner from Orenda Books.

Highly recommended.

With thanks to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advance reading copy and allowing me to participate in this tour.

Author Awais Khan
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Blog Tour – August 2021 – The Killing Tide – Lin Anderson

Fabulous! A new Rhona McLeod thriller from Lin Anderson! What’s Rhona up to now?

Well, this one involves a rather dodgy company who seem to offer whatever nefarious games nasty people of this world get up to in, amongst other venues around the world, a “ghost ship,” the Orlova, which floats into the waters of Orkney, complete with corpses. Keen followers of this series will know Dr Rhona MacLeod and of course Chrissy McNish have been here before. There’s also a stowaway, a fire in a back court in Govan with questions to be asked about the true identity of the victim, some questionable goings-on with the Met…In short, it’s got everything you could possibly desire in a crime novel, as expected from the always-reliable Lin Anderson.

Are the usual cast involved?

Of course! There’s the aforementioned Rhona and Chrissy (my favourite character), Rhona’s partner, jazz musician Sean, DS Michael McNab and his (police) partner, as well as his girlfriend Ellie – also a policewoman. And in Orkney there’s psychologist Magnus, and policeman Erling. Also there is an investigative reporter Ava Clouston and her brother, farmer Dougie, up in Orkney – I hadn’t come across Ava before but I’ve fallen behind a few series. You bookworms know how it is – so many books and series, so little time! Down in London there’s an Afghan family who prove invaluable in helping both Ava and McNab. It sounds like a large cast, but don’t worry, you won’t have problems keeping tabs on them all (something I hate in a book! If there’s a large cast, I like a “cast list” at the beginning of the book – particularly as since my attack I’m a slower reader than ever, so keeping tabs on everyone can be tough!)

Tell me about this company – what do they offer and who on earth would it appeal to?

Well, they’re called Go Wild and seem to offer whatever sick fantasy turns you on! There’s role play fighting (one such fight on the Orlova provides the team with their first two corpses – but a third party was involved in their deaths…) There’s also evidence of other people having been on board – whether to participate in the games, or as bait – willing or not. But the tide will always returns what’s thrown into it, no matter how long it takes…

How have they got away with it for so long?

Friends in very high places, in short – the same way repugnant characters like Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile got away with their foul deeds. Hand certain people enough money and they will turn a blind eye to anything.

Amongst them there are suspected of being officers in the Met – Ava’s one time partner (in work and outside) Mark had gathered information on one particular officer, who McNab also doesn’t trust. So when they do their damnedest to move the investigation south, into their jurisdiction, Police Scotland do their best to fight them. But when they play the, “National Security” card, will Police Scotland be able to retain control of the investigation?

Are there no witnesses to what went on on the Orlova?

Actually, there is – a girl who’s been trafficked around Go Wild’s various venues and used as bait, sexually and otherwise. She’s discovered by Dougie, Ava’s teenage brother, hiding in a small nook on board the ship, and brought ashore and hidden from the authorities by him. But will she be prepared to come forward and tell her story, when she’s already unsure if she’ll be allowed to stay in the UK?

So is this another gripping tale from Lin Anderson – by now definitely a Scottish national treasure in the crime writing world?

It is! And there’s also room for Go Wild to return, as it’s an international “adventure” game playing organisation, although that’s not to say of course that it will. I thoroughly enjoyed yet another novel by Lin, who appeared on the “Tartan noir” scene early – around the same time as Alex Gray – and they’ve both been keeping us consistently entertained ever since the early Noughties. Fans of Lin will enjoy this one.

Very enjoyable and recommended.

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours and Pan Macmillan publishers for the ARC and the invitation to participate in the tour.

Blog Tour – August 2021- Pretty Broken Dolls – Jennifer Chase

Okay, so what’s Bookouture’s latest gem all about?

It’s about Detective Katie Scott, who’s a detective in Pine Valley, California. Katie has two partners – one is Deputy Sean McGaven (known as Gav), the other her ex-army K9 called Cisco, who’s also very useful when it comes to solving crimes.

So what’s this case in what’s now the sixth book of this series?

A serial killer is murdering – watch out Katie! – ex-K9 handlers, posing them with OTT, tacky makeup, making them look like broken dolls, and with a piece of jewellery tied nearby with a ribbon. As a highly efficient cold case investigator – and possibly due to the personal link she has to the investigation – it lands in her and Gav’s laps, with help from Special Agent Dane Campbell of the California High Crimes Task Force, who seems to see them as their last resort to solving the case before more victims appear.

It isn’t the best time for Katie to be given such a case, as her fiancée Chad is away on a six month fire investigating course he’s been waiting to get a chance to participate in. But at least she has her uncle, Sheriff Scott, who runs the department, having lost her parents in a car accident. And Gav and her have a solid partnership, working particularly well together when some routine investigation into the cases ends up with them in the middle of a hostage situation.

So where’s this one heading? Is my sneaking suspicion right?

Well, I wouldn’t want to give anything away, but Katie’s career as an ex-Army K9 handler does put her right in the killer’s crosshairs…and without Chad around, she’s on her own at home. But she does have Cisco. Not to mention Gav and her uncle, the Sheriff. And Special Agent Dane Campbell…

What did you particularly enjoy about this one, then?

Well, it featured two things I particularly enjoy in US books – cold cases, and small towns where everyone sort of knows each other. Star of the show, though, had to be Cisco – an interesting new addition to a cop’s box of tricks! In this case, he’s the woman’s best friend. I wasn’t too fond of the female victims and their posing, but that’s in no way a criticism of the author – it’s just the way things are in the crime fiction arena.

This is the sixth book featuring Katie, Cisco, Chad, et al, and I look forward to catching up on them. If you’re a fan of these small town, female cop American books then it’s a series I recommend you investigate.

Recommended.

With thanks to Sarah Hardy and all at Bookouture for inviting me on to the Blog Tour and allowing me an early read of Pretty Broken Dolls!

BLURB: In the thin light of the moon, the woman’s limp body hangs from the iron fence amongst the redwoods. Looped over the railings is the little gold locket her mother gave her when she turned sixteen. The picture of the girl inside smiles out at a future she’ll never see…

As day breaks over the fairground, Detective Katie Scott forces herself to take in another disturbing scene in front of her. A woman, the same age as her, found slumped in the carriage of the Ferris wheel, red lipstick dragged across her lips, her throat cut.

Katie doesn’t want to believe that the serial killer picking off women across the state has found their way to the small town of Pine Valley, California, but when her team finds a gold engagement ring hanging nearby, it’s a terrifying, but undeniable fact.

With a twisted killer on her doorstep, Katie knows if she doesn’t act fast, she’ll find more women left out in the cold like broken dolls. Her team hit dead end after dead end, but only she can see the vital link between the victims: a connection with Katie herself.

Katie has spent years pushing traumatic memories of her years in the military far out of reach, but she must confront them now or more innocent women will die. But as the killer circles closer and closer to Katie, what if the only answer is to give him what he wants? There must be another way…

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Author Jennifer Chase

Book Review -August 2021 -True Crime Story – Joseph Knox

So what’s this book about, then?

It’s about a missing student, Zoe Nolan, who, with her twin sister Kim, is studying in Manchester. Kim sees Zoe as the favourite in the family – she’s studying music, and her talent has always been nurtured by her father, Robert. Kim, studying English Literature, comes across as always having played second-fiddle to her apparently “hugely talented” sister (however, given this is the opinion of her more-than-slightly biased father, I’d take it with a shovelful of salt…)

How does the story unfold?

It’s told in the form of a book written by an author, Evelyn Mitchell, who, several years after Zoe’s disappearance in 2011, has interviewed all the significant people in Zoe’s life. There’s her sister Kim (very different from her twin sister; sick of being seen as “the missing girl’s sister”);; her flatmate and friend, Liu Wai (highly irritating, clingy, a bit of a scrounger); Andrew Flowers (her boyfriend, a pretty unlikeable character who makes you wonder what Zoe’s doing with him); Jai Mahmood (a talented photographer and one of the group of friends); Robert (her father, who seemed to push Zoe into a musical career regardless of her own choices); Sally (her mother, now separated from Robert, who regrets her husband pushing Zoe towards a course which she wasn’t enjoying); and Fintan Murphy (a friend from her music course, who’s independent of her other friends, and seems to be something of a confidante of Zoe’s, knowing many of her secrets.)

Okay, that’s the cast. But what happens in it that got you carrying this book around the house?

Well…where do I start? This book is one I will guarantee you will see on pretty much everyone who’s read it’s Best-of-2021 list. It’s that good, and original, and daring, and just downright audacious that you’ll probably have to remember to close your mouth after you finish it. It’s presented as Evelyn’s book, and as such consists of small chunks of speech from the above characters (there’s also the police Family Liaison Officer, who’s now left the force, making her free to talk about the case.) There are also (slightly flirtatious) emails between her and Joseph. He has supposedly completed Zoe’s story due to the premature death of Audrey…

Why did you find the book so unputdownable, though?

The student accommodation they’re housed in is pretty creepy – it’s basically a high-rise flat (Glasgow went through a phase in the 80s of letting fully furnished high-rise flats in hard-to-let areas to students for reasonable rents – I was at a few parties in them!) This block, however, had echoes of the Cecil Hotel – strange noises, pipes echoing, hearing conversations from other flats. Students also reported things being moved or stolen – as though some people were somehow able to move through the block, and enter the flats. Unsurprisingly, many found alternative accommodation…

The cast all have conflicting stories about Zoe, and the events of the night she disappeared, and one of the questions readers have to decide is who they believe. Each character is written consistently, and it’s up to you who to like, who to believe – and who you think might be responsible for Zoe’s disappearance. Or did she go away of her own volition…?

Also, their lives have all been altered in various ways by Zoe’s disappearance – no one’s life hasn’t been disrupted in one way or another. The impact of Zoe’s disappearance has really been far reaching.

It’s a hugely entertaining and enthralling book, which had me changing my mind about those in it all the time. The short pieces of dialogue from each character make it a speedy read, and, as I mentioned, very hard to put down. This is a clever move on Knox’s part, who’s fast becoming one of the most exciting crime novelist in the UK – and he’s ridiculously young. He’s original – something that I particularly admired in this book of his – and he’s definitely in the “must buy” category in my mental list of novelists, which isn’t really that long!

Don’t miss out on this book – it’s a classy, modern, very different piece of crime fiction, and I defy anyone to solve the mystery at the heart of it. It’ll make fantastic reading for your “staycation” this year.

Hugely recommended – do not miss this one!

With thanks to Alison Barrow at Penguin Random House for her generosity in sending me a proof.

BLURB: ‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning.