Blog Tour – September 2021 – The Shanghai Wife – Emma Harcourt

Now, this looks a little different from the usual crimeworm fare, doesn’t it?

It is – or it certainly appears to be! It was the exotic setting which appealed to me, as well as the historical aspect – it’s always good to gain a little education while you read! Plus I do like to change genres once in a while, just for a change.

So it’s about Emma Brand, a young woman who’s left her Australian home?

Yes, and relatively quickly she finds herself married to Captain Alec Brand, who captains a boat which travels up and down the Yangtze. Emma joins him on the first journey after their marriage, but news of political unrest further up the river persuades Alec that it would be safer to send Emma back to the International Settlement in Shanghai – a decision she’s not entirely happy with, as she had hoped to see “the real China.”

So she decides to do this back in Shanghai, doesn’t she?

Yes – to the disapproval of the other, somewhat stuffy, European ladies, who are more concerned with the next ball, or bridge game, and have social strictures they all adhere to. Emma definitely stands out, with her attitude of wanting to find out more about the real China.

How does she achieve it?

Partly with the help of the maître d’ of the Club, Chow, who despite the sniffiness and disapproval of the other Club ladies, takes Emma out to discover the real Shanghai. However, at that time there is a great deal of political unrest as the Communists are rising up and making political demands – and white faces on the streets can be putting themselves in danger, as they’re seen as being in control. Emma’s idea of being able to safely see the real China is perhaps somewhat naive…

So things get a bit more dramatic?

They certainly do…and so this book becomes something of a mixture of genres – there’s romance, history and a bit of thriller too! It’s an accomplished debut, and Emma Fancourt looks like being a name to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone!

Author Emma Fancourt
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With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and HQ Fiction for my copy of the book. This review is completely unbiased.

BLURB: Forbidden friendship, political conspiracy and incendiary passion draw Australian woman Annie Brand deep into the glamour and turmoil of 1920s Shanghai.

Leaving behind the loneliness and trauma of her past in country Australia, Annie Brand arrives to the political upheaval and glittering international society of Shanghai in the 1920s. Journeying up the Yangtze with her new husband, the ship’s captain, Annie revels in the sense of adventure but when her husband sends her back to Shanghai, her freedom is quickly curtailed.

Against her will, Annie finds herself living alone in the International Settlement, increasingly suffocated by the judgemental Club ladies and their exclusive social scene: one even more restrictive than that she came from. Sick of salacious gossip and foreign condescension, and desperate to shake off the restrictions of her position in the world, Annie is slowly drawn into the bustling life and otherness of the real Shanghai, and begins to see the world from the perspective of the local people, including the servants who work at her husband’s Club.

But this world is far more complex and dangerous than the curious Annie understands and, unknowingly, she becomes caught in a web of intrigue and conspiracy as well as a passionate forbidden love affair she could not have predicted: one with far–reaching consequences...

Blog Tour – September 2021 – The Family Man – Kimberley Chambers

So, would I be correct in thinking this is a gangland thriller, going by the cover?

You would be right! This is my first book by Kimberley Chambers I’ve read (she’s written fifteen, and three have been no.1 bestsellers!), and it looks like I’ve been missing out!

Martina Cole was the first to spot a gap in the market for these type of thrillers many years ago, and she’s been much imitated. Kimberley Chambers is one of the most successful of the “second wave” of gangland writers – who, curiously, always seem to be women! – and this book is the beginning of a new series, about the Bond family.

So fill me in on the Bonds…

Well, the head of the family is Kenny, there’s wife Sharon, son Donny, and twin grandsons Beau and Brett.

Tell me about them…

Kenny’s been in prison for the manslaughter of a policeman, and he’s released in 1979. He comes out determined that that will be his last stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure…

His son doesn’t have the same hardness as he does, but the twins, Beau and Brett, are definitely cut from his cloth! Brett may occasionally show a more human side, but his twin brother Beau will soon remind him of what’s required from him.

Used to ruling Dark Lane, they’re not best pleased when there looks like there’ll be a feud simmering on their territory…now is the time for the Bonds to remind people who’s boss!

It’s quite a blockbuster novel, isn’t it?

It is! Coming in at close to 500 pages, and with a large cast of characters (although unlike with some books, I didn’t struggle to keep on top of who’s who), this one will keep you rapidly turning pages until well past your bedtime! It’s also well-steeped in the time it was set, with the sort of casual misogyny that was par-for-the-course then, and with women definitely knowing their place… There’s the usual sort of violence (some sexual) you expect in this sort of novel.

Gripping stuff, then?

It certainly is gripping stuff! I normally only read these sort of books when they’re set in Glasgow (familiar territory!), but I thoroughly enjoyed Kimberley Chambers’ fast-moving style and will be on the lookout for more of her novels – particularly those featuring the antics of the Bonds!

Author Kimberley Chambers
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With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours for the invitation, and to Harper Collins. My review is completely unbiased.

BLURB: Kenny Bond. A murderer. A gangster. A family man.

Meet the Bonds.

Kenny Bond is finally out of prison after doing a long stretch for killing a copper, and is determined to get back to life on the straight and narrow.

A family like no other.

Kenny’s son Donny might lack his father’s edge but his twin grandsons, Beau and Brett – well, they are Bonds through and through. Like him, they won’t let anyone stand in their way.

But they’re about to meet their match.

Family comes before everything else for Kenny, but there’s a feud brewing that could cause murder, and a new family on Dark Lane might bring the Bonds to their knees. Kenny’s determined that nothing, and no one, will threaten his family. But can the Bonds stick together when someone’s out to take them down?

Meet The Bonds.
You don’t want to be on the wrong side of this family.
A brand-new series from the queen of gangland crime.

Blog Tour – September 2021 – Dark Things I Adore – Katie Lattari

So – Dark Things I Adore! Intriguing title! What’s this one all about?

Well, we couldn’t be further from Berlin in WWII, as we were a couple of days ago! This books skips between 1988 and the present day, and is primarily set in rural Maine.

So first of all, what’s the 1988 section about?

It’s about a rural art school-cum-camp, with cabins for the pupils and teachers to live in, and it’s run by a man called Old Gus, who gives everyone nature-inspired names, starting with the same initial as their real name – so we have Moss, Mantis, Coral, Zephyr…you get the picture. A couple of the characters are from the local area and work in the camp – one of them, Coral, has ambitions of going to art school herself.

And what about the portion set in the present day?

It involves Audra Colfax, a graduating student, taking Professor Max Durant, up to her home (in rural Maine also) to view her thesis work. But Audra has, shall we say, curated their weekend together very carefully, and has big plans for her highly esteemed professor.

And what do his plans for the weekend involve?

To be crude, he wants to bed Audra – and you get the impression she won’t be the first of his students who ends up in his bed, should he succeed. But he may have underestimated his young protegé…

And Audra’s plans?

Well, she has some kind of revenge planned for Professor Durant – and it has something to do with 1988, or at least begins with the events of 1988…

So you say the book moves between the past and present?

Yes, gradually teasing out the events of that summer in Maine, then the weekend in the present day, beautifully dropping hints and clues along the way. I cannot stress how expertly Lattari teases her readers, keeping them guessing as to what happened in 1988, why Audra is so invested in it, and what exactly she wants Max to pay for – and how.

So it would be fair to say you enjoyed this novel?

That is underestimating things just a bit! I was blown away with the skill Lattari had in keeping control of the material, teasing it out…The characters in the camp are just as intriguing as Audra and Max, although it took me a little longer to grasp exactly who they all were, and so to warm to them. But I enjoyed both parts equally, which is unusual – in books where you skip between two different time frames, you generally find you end up preferring reading one. Not so here. I was equally glued to both stories as the author expertly unwound her tale.

What can you tell us about the author?

It’s only her second book – although I’ll be going in search of her debut, American Vaudeville, from 2016, as soon as I’ve finished this review. Katie Lattari is definitely a young author to keep an eye on. I actually opened this book without reading any blurb or the press release that arrived with it, which is really unusual for me, and I was instantly, totally smitten. I really cannot give higher praise than emphasise how quickly this book sucked me in, and kept me engrossed until I finished it – as I said to Sarah, the publicist at Titan Books, I was literally carrying it – or my phone, as I’d emailed her to ask for the Netgalley widget so I could download it on to it – everywhere with me. Everywhere! I lived and breathed this book while I read it – I can’t imagine many books this year beating it! Sarah Weinman, who is a goddess in the US – and to me! – when it comes to crime fiction, gave it a cracking review in the mighty New York Times very recently.

So that’s two 5-star books in a row! Things are good on your bookshelves at the moment!

And there’s more to come – there are some more great blog tours I hope you’ll join me for here at crimeworm, as well as some other belters of Autumn books I hope to squeeze in a review of!

Many thanks to Sarah at Titan Books for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and for sending me a proof copy. This in no way influenced my review of this book.

BLURB: A psychological thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.

A searing thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.

Blog Tour – September 2021 – Blackout – Simon Scarrow

So this is the latest from Simon Scarrow. He’s a huge name in historical fiction – but this is a slightly more recent period than we’re used to reading about from him, isn’t it?

Indeed it is. His books are usually set a lot further back in time, in the Roman Empire, but this one is set in Berlin, in World War II.

And as this is crimeworm, would it be correct to assume it’s crime fiction?

It is indeed – it’s about a killer who stalks Berlin when, like British cities, it was “blacked out” so enemy planes couldn’t see their targets…hence the title.

So what about the killer? And his victim?

The killer’s first victim is a beautiful woman with connections to a high heid yin in the Nazi party, so the pressure is on to solve the murder….

So who’s given the job of tracking him down?

The man in charge of the investigation is Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke. He’s something of an outsider in the department, as, unlike most of his colleagues, he hasn’t actually joined the Nazi party. But as we read the book it becomes apparent he’s an effective investigator, working with a well-depicted team.

There’s also a fair bit of a tightrope he has to walk in terms of politics, isn’t there?

There certainly is – there are so many different departments in Nazi Germany, all jostling to get close to the most men of importance.

Sounds intriguing! What else can you tell us about Schenke the man?

Well, he has a glamorous girlfriend who is related to someone very high up in the Naval department (I found her the only irritating thing about the book, tbh!) He’s a keen reader, and has no truck with the politics of the time – he’s a policeman, through and through.

But then there are more victims, aren’t there?

There are – and Schenke’s team realise they’re all found near rail tracks. Is the killer dressing as something innocuous, like a ticket collector, to blend in?

Does he have any suspects?

Well, the problem is, it starts to look as though the suspect may be involved somewhere within one of the many Nazi political departments – putting Schenke, the non-Nazi party member, in a dangerous position…How will he negotiate the political situation, and avoid being thrown to the wolves, as so often happens to those who don’t toe the line in Nazi Germany…?

Did you enjoy the book?

I loved it, and absolutely romped through it! It’s for you if you miss Bernie Gunther, the cop in the magnificent series by the late Philip Kerr. I really miss these books, so was delighted to read this is the first book in a series.

Simon Scarrow’s experience as a writer shows, as he knows exactly how to build up the story, and keep everything tense, and the readers guessing. It’s really good stuff, and I’d recommend it to fans of writers like the aforementioned Philip Kerr and Robert Harris – yes, it’s really that good!

Don’t miss it!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this tour, and to Headline for my copy of the book. This in no way influenced my review.

Simon Scarrow, the author

BLURB: Berlin, December 1939

As Germany goes to war, the Nazis tighten their terrifying grip. Paranoia in the capital is intensified by a rigidly enforced blackout that plunges the city into oppressive darkness every night, as the bleak winter sun sets.

When a young woman is found brutally murdered, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is under immense pressure to solve the case, swiftly. Treated with suspicion by his superiors for his failure to joining the Nazi Party, Schenke walks a perilous line – for disloyalty is a death sentence.

The discovery of a second victim confirms Schenke’s worst fears. He must uncover the truth before evil strikes again.

As the investigation takes him closer to the sinister heart of the regime, Schenke realises there is danger everywhere – and the warring factions of the Reich can be as deadly as a killer stalking the streets . . .

McIlvanney Prize Blog Tour – Alan Parks Interview

Alan Parks joins me today to talk about his utterly wonderful Harry McCoy series, the most recent – The April Dead – which is on the shortlist for the McIlvanney Prize. Only four books into his writing career (Bloody January; February’s Son; Bobby March Will Never Die and The April Dead) and he is already one of the most exciting Scottish novelists out there. Set in 1970s Glasgow, if you’ve not read him yet – well, what the hell are you waiting for?! This guy has talent by the spadeful!

You’ve already had one successful career in the music industry – managing bands like Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (I’m a huge fan!) then working for London Records. So when did writing become a part of your life? Had you always written, or was it when you left the music industry and were looking for something else to fill your time with?

I really started writing when I got made redundant from Warner Music. Just after I was made redundant and had moved to Scotland they asked me to work three days a week so I ended up with two 5 hour train journeys a week. I started writing on these train journeys, being back in Glasgow had inspired me to start exploring the city again and thinking about how much it had changed. I settled on the idea of writing about the seventies, a time I remember vividly, and it all came from there….!

Was Glasgow always your intended setting for the books? You never considered London, having lived there for some time?
Harry McCoy is very firmly – and very accurately, according to my partner – rooted in ’70s Glasgow. Are you drawing on places and memories of where you grew up? You never considered setting the books in the present day?

Yes, it was always going to be Glasgow. Even though I lived in London for twenty years and it was home I still felt I didn’t really know it that well. Glasgow had always fascinated me since I was a wee boy, and it still does.

I’ve read that you spend a lot of time walking around Glasgow – is that where the strong sense of place comes from (despite the changes in the city)?

Most of the Harry books are set in the north of Glasgow. Possil, Springburn, Milton. These are the places my family came from and where I used to go and visit all my relations when I was wee. We lived in Elderslie, a very quiet village, so to go to somewhere where there were lots of kids and dogs on the streets and a lot seemed to be going on was exciting.   Yes, I spend a lot of my time wandering around Glasgow. I’m always looking for places to set scenes or be inspired by. Hopefully that sense of place comes through in the books.

When you’d written your first book, did it take you long to get representation from an agent or picked up by a publishing company?

My experience was very different from most people’s and I still feel a bit guilty about it. I have a friend called John Niven who is a novelist. When the book was finished I gave it to him to read and he liked it. He gave it to his agent who didn’t! Then he sent it to Sarah Pinborough who suggested another agent and he took it on. From there he sent it out and Canongate wanted to publish it. Not the usual experience I know! I appreciate how difficult it is for most people to get their work read so I realise how lucky I was.

So, finally, do you have a full year of month’s titles, and storylines for Harry McCoy for us all to look forward to?

Yes I have all the titles and plots worked out. That is what I say when I am lying…. I have a rough idea of the over arcing story but other than that I tend to start writing each book a bit blind and see what happens…..

Thank you so much, Alan, for answering my questions – as I’ve already made apparent, I’m a huge fan of the Harry McCoy books, and can see you becoming one of the biggest crime writers in Scotland, if not Britain.

The nominated book for the McIlvanney Prize

With thanks to Fiona Brownlee and Alan Parks for being so generous with their time and allowing me to participate in this extra-special Blog Tour!

Blog Tour – September 2021 – Black Reed Bay – Rod Reynolds

Fabulous! A new Rod Reynolds book from Orenda! But he’s moved on from the Charlie Yates series to a new one?

He has indeed! This one is set in the present day, again in the States, under the jurisdiction of Hampstead County PD. Our main character is Detective Casey Wray, known as Case (as in “Big Case”), and she’s partnered with Detective Dave Cullen. They’re one of these “got your back” American partnerships, which is essential when your life is at risk should your partner screw up, or get caught unawares. Casey’s one of these detectives for whom their whole life is the job, whereas Cullen is married with two daughters.

So what’s the case?

A young woman calls in the middle of the night from an affluent area of beach houses, far from home, hysterical and insistent that someone was going to kill her. Tina Grace is then cut off from her call, and to all intents and purposes disappears.

She’d been visiting an apparent “casual” boyfriend, Jon Parker, and it was his house he was fleeing from. But there’s nothing to suggest he’s dangerous, or was intimidating her, as seen from a neighbour’s webcam. So who was Tina terrified of and attempting to flee from?

Police are brought in to search for Tina in the area surrounding the exclusive beachfront development…and that’s when the first body is found…

So does this match up in terms of quality to the Charlie Yates series?

It certainly does! There’s some great characters in the department, and good relationships and banter between them all that remind me a bit of a Joseph Wambaugh novel – and anyone who’s read him will know that’s the very highest praise indeed! There’s also departmental politics higher up – what Michael Connelly would call “high jingo” – which has Casey at a dilemma as to who to trust in the department.

What’s Casey like as a character?

Well, as I said, the job is everything to her – she shows great empathy to Tina Grace’s mother over her missing daughter, and as well as being close partners, she’s also friendly with Cullen’s wife Luisa and his two daughters. If anything, she pushes herself too hard and doubts herself too much. She’s certainly got the potential to be the lead in the series this is apparently going to be. Personally, that’s something I’d really look forward to.

I can’t say anything more about the storyline as that’d take us into spoiler territory, and I want you to enjoy the story unfolding as much as I did!

So Rod Reynolds is here to stay?

Most definitely! He’s a natural writer, hugely enjoyable to read, with a knack for coming up with great storylines. I don’t want to go over the top with praise, but he reminds me of Michael Connelly in the way he builds a storyline – and that’s high praise indeed, coming from me, as I think I’ve mentioned more than once that he’s one of my favourite authors. His skill at setting his books in the States, despite being English, is really impressive. All I can say is – don’t miss this book, and if you’ve not read his backlist, well, you’re in for a treat there too – you’ll also get a chance to see his versatility!

Not to be missed!

With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in the blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the early proof copy. This in no way influenced my opinions expressed in this review.

Author Rod Reynolds
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BLURB: When a young woman makes a distressing middle-of-the-night call to 911, apparently running for her life in a quiet, exclusive beachside neighbourhood, miles from her home, everything suggests a domestic incident.

Except no one has seen her since, and something doesn’t sit right with the officers at Hampstead County PD. With multiple suspects and witnesses throwing up startling inconsistencies, and interference from the top threatening the integrity of the investigation, lead detective Casey Wray is thrust into an increasingly puzzling case that looks like it’s going to have only one ending…

And then the first body appears…