Blog Tour – Cold As Hell – Lilja Sigurdardóttir

First of all, I must apologise for this blog tour post being late – I was actually in hospital when it was due to be posted but, as it was mostly written, I’ve left the title of it as a blog tour post.

So, two things close to crimeworm’s heart are Orenda Books and Icelandic crime fiction – and as is often the case, this combines both. Here’s the lowdown…

The main premise of this story is the disappearance of a half Icelandic, half English woman called Ísafold. She lives in Reykjavik with her abusive fiancée, Bjorn. The story begins with her younger sister, Áróra, arriving in Iceland from her home in Edinburgh for the umpteenth time at the behest of her mother. Usually it’s because Bjorn’s beaten her sister up, but this time things could be more serious, as Ísafold hasn’t been in touch with their mother, nor has she posted on Facebook – most unlike her. So, yet again, Áróra reluctantly heads to Iceland, sure it’ll be another false alarm, and her sister will, despite any beatings and promises to the contrary, soon be heading back into the arms of the persuasive and repulsive Bjorn.

What about Áróra’s job? As that is woven into the storyline too, isn’t it?

Yes, it is – she tracks down missing money that people might have stolen from banks or the companies they work for, or be hiding from a spouse in a divorce case. She takes a cut of the retrieved assets – and she’s not too long in Iceland when she spots a possible case where her skills could be put to use. However, at this point she’s essentially dating the possible rogue she’ll be fleecing of his ill-gotten gains.

There’s plenty going on to keep Áróra busy in Reykjavik then – and there’s lots of other characters who come into the story, aren’t there?

Yes indeed! One thing I utterly adored about this book was that none of the characters were clichés – they were all slightly quirky, and, bizarrely, the book series this aspect put me most in mind of was the wonderful – and classic – Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City – a series I read more than twenty years ago, but which still gives me a warm feeling every time I think of it. Of course, it’s not crime fiction – but Lilja clearly knows, like Maupin, that characters have foibles, odd habits, and more going on in their lives than may appear at first glance. It adds to the depth of story, and really impressed me – I’ve described fellow Orenda alumni Rod Reynolds as a “natural writer,” and I’d put Lilja in the same bracket.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though…

No, certainly not – there’s also some funny moments too – one in particular sticks in my mind when Áróra falls off a table while attempting to install a piece of spyware in her mark’s ceiling, waking him – and has to explain her crashing to the floor as because she’s “just pissed” (which she definitely is!)

There’s also a possible romance on the cards for Áróra too – and not with the sexy but dodgy money launderer. But readers can discover that for themselves…

And the good news is…

The good news is, as well as being an utterly brilliant read, this is the start of a new series featuring Áróra – and hopefully some of her fellow characters from this opener!

Don’t miss this one!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blog tour, as well as being really understanding when I was unwell, and Orenda Books for the eARC.

Look back at the blog tour!

BLURB: Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren‘t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace. 

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation. 

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…

Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

Blog Tour – October 2021 – The Rabbit Factor – Antti Tuomainen

So, another Orenda release – up to their usual standard would be my first question…?

Of course it is would be my reply! In fact, this one’s going to be made into a major movie production starring Hollywood megastar Steve Carell – who, in my humble opinion, is perfect for the role!

So what’s the story here?

Basically – and bear with me here, as it does sound insane! – our lead character, Henri Koskinen is an insurance actuary, which means he can work out the mathematical probability of something happening – and does this throughout his whole life. He lives alone, happily, with his cat, Schopenhauer – and that’s not really surprising as he would definitely be an acquired taste as a partner or even flatmate. However, as a book’s main character, he’s, well, utterly fabulous – as well as extremely original! So life’s rumbling along quietly until Henri – who tells the story in the first person – loses his job after a company rejig that doesn’t suit his style of being left alone to get on with his calculations…

Disaster! What does he do next?

Well, luckily (it initially seems…) his brother has died and left him his amusement park, which is in the hands of manager Laura, who oversees a curious mixture of employees.

Well, that’s a relief, isn’t it? At least he’s got something to do with his life, as well as an income!

Yes, sounds ideal, doesn’t it, even if it is an utter change of direction. But then he discovers that the only way his brother’s kept the business afloat is by borrowing large sums of money from a variety of dodgy sources…who, not surprisingly, now want a return on their investment…from Henri, obviously! How does an actuary figure out the mathematical probability of getting himself out of this without ending up, well, dead…? Will he find a solution to keep himself – and the amusement arcade – afloat, while learning along the way to work with Laura, Kristian the maintenance man, and the rest of the staff.

Is it as screwball as it sounds?

Pretty much! I’m not usually one for much comedy in my crime fiction – in my opinion very few writers can pull it off – but Tuomainen can, rather like Carl Hiaasen, who’s the only author I’ve read to whom this is remotely comparable – and if I’m comparing it to him you’ll realise what high quality crime writing this is – but then if you’ve read Tuomainen before, you won’t be surprised at that comment. He’s a seriously versatile writer, and very reliable quality-wise too.

Kudos, too, to the translator, as comedy can be difficult to translate, as, I’m told, can Finnish, so to combine the two successfully is a massively impressive achievement.

And this is the first of Tuomainen’s books not to be a one-off novel, isn’t it?

Yes – this is going to be the first in a trilogy, and I think once you get stuck into The Rabbit Factor – bizarre as it may sound – you’ll be as delighted as I am with this news!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blog tour, and Orenda books for the eARC. This has in no way affected my review.

Our author, Antti Tuomainen

Look back at more of the blog tour posts!

BLURB: Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.

Blog Tour – October 2021 – The Lighthouse Witches – C.J. Cooke

The Lighthouse Witches – sounds spooky! Is it as creepy as it sounds?

Now we’re at the time of year where we’re encouraged to think of spooky things, with Hallowe’en on the horizon, and for readers of all ages there’s no shortage of creepy and disconcerting books out there. The Lighthouse Witches is both – and it’s really, really good! I was incredibly reluctant every time I had to put it down to go and do something!

So we’ve established it’s a great read – but what’s it about?

This is one of these books you don’t want to spill too much detail about in your review, as much of the enjoyment is the unfolding of the creepy atmosphere! But here’s the basic outline – it’s 1998, and Liv Stay arrives on the island of Lòn Haven, in the north east of Scotland, with her three daughters. There’s Sapphire, 15, Luna, 9, and Clover, 7. She’s arrived to take on the commission of a mural – unusually in a lighthouse, called The Longing. The mural is somewhat bizarre, and the island has an intriguing history, involving witches, strange disappearances, and hauntings – and we’re flung straight into the action when Liv thinks she sees the body of a baby on the floor of the lighthouse…

Fast forward to the present day, and we learn that three of the Stays have disappeared, with only Luna remaining. Until she receives a telephone call, telling her that Clover has, unbelievably, been found, alive and pretty much unharmed.

So I imagine it’s a happy family reunion then?

Well, there’s a problem with Clover when Luna meets her – without getting into spoiler territory, she’s not what Luna expects at all! Still, she’s definitely Clover – that’s indisputable. So after a short stay in hospital (as much for Luna as Clover, as she’s pregnant and has had a series of miscarriages) they depart together, Luna having sent her partner Ethan home early by train. They figure it’ll give the sisters a chance to get to know each other again.

So the book moves back and forward between 1998 and the present day?

Yes, whilst also weaving in historical stories about the island from a book called a “Grimoire” belonging to Patrick Roberts, the man who’s contracted Liv to paint the mural, as he apparently intends to use the lighthouse as an office for writing. These stories are very disturbing, telling of witches on the island, the accusations made towards them, and their subsequent punishment. They really ramp up the tension in the book as a whole, which builds and builds nicely as the book goes on.

So it’s an effective read to prepare yourself for the spooks and scares of Hallowe’en?

Oh my yes! It’s a highly entertaining creepy book, and the tension just increases as it goes on. I absolutely adored it – and as I have C.J. Cooke’s previous creepy novel, The Nesting, in my Kindle, I’ll be sure to read it soon!

If you’re a fan of disturbing, shiver-inducing novels, and are looking for something original and attention-grabbing to read this Hallowe’en – or indeed at any time – I can’t recommend The Lighthouse Witches highly enough!

Don’t miss it!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blog tour, and Harper Collins for my ARC. This has not affected my review in any way.

Author C.J. Cooke

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BLURB: Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

Blog Tour – October 2021 – Black Drop – Leonora Nattrass

So what is this book about? We’re onto historical fiction, judging by the cover…

We are indeed – one of my favourite genres, although it’s only in the last few years that that’s become the case…now I can’t get enough of it, if it’s set not too far back, and it’s good. (Spoiler alert – this is very good indeed!)

This book is set in 1794, in a London that’s seething with spies, attempting to infiltrate the working mens’ “Corresponding Societies,” which were a prelude to Chartism and the fight for universal suffrage (that is, for all working men over 21.) Paris is in a similar state, and, with the two countries at loggerheads, each are attempting to plant spies in the other’s government or indeed any place where useful information can be picked up.

What else is going on at this time?

There’s an envoy over from the United States, Mr John Jay (this is based on fact) – he’s attempting to negotiate on behalf of the newly independent American colonies. He has with him his son, Theodore Jay, and a slave, Peter Williams, although Theodore is a fictional character.

And who is our main character?

The story is told in the first person from the perspective of Lawrence Jago, who, at the beginning of the book, is a clerk in the Foreign Office to Lord Grenville, the Whig Foreign Minister to the Tory Prime Minister, William Pitt. Don’t worry too much about the politics though! Also working there, as the permanent under-secretary, is George Aust, who is something of a mentor to Laurence. He also has a widowed step-daughter, Anne Bellingham, who Laurence is keen on – she’s bright, and you can’t help thinking how infuriating it must be for her, as she appears to do little with her days bar paint – but that’s how it was for women back then; they were not given any education bar the most basic.

Who else makes up the main cast of characters?

There’s a man called William Philpott, who’s editor of a new weekly newspaper called the Weekly Cannon – he’s loosely based on William Cobbett, a reforming newspaper editor. He gets together with Laurence after one of Laurence’s colleagues is found hanged, and evidence making it look like he’s a French spy is found in his room. Together they attempt to prove this man, Will Benson, is innocent.

A problem for Laurence is that he has, in the past, passed (fairly inconsequential) secrets to a woman called Aglantine, a Jacobine spy, who pops up frequently. Unbeknownst to those he works for, Laurence can read and speak French, as his mother is from France, although she’s now a widow in Cornwall.

Does Laurence know who the true spy is?

Not definitely, but he’s got his eye on a Mr Canning. Unfortunately, he’s well above Laurence in the social strata of the time, being an MP. So making accusations against a man like that isn’t wise, unless you have solid proof – which Laurence is attempting to get, with Philpott’s help.

Unfortunately, Laurence’s judgement may be impaired by the “Black Drop” – opium, which he has a habit of taking…and which may be responsible into leading him into at least one situation with Canning he’s lucky to get out of alive!

Was it a hit with crimeworm?

I absolutely loved this book! Think le Carré-type happenings, but set a good two hundred years earlier. Leonora Nattrass knows the era incredibly well, and brings the London of that time to life deliciously well, throwing in things which were happening at the time – a visiting circus, for example, and waxworks depicting the demise of Robespierre, one of the main architects of the French Revolution, by guillotine. She portrays the city wonderfully, from the drawing rooms of Downing Street, to the meetings of the Corresponding Societies, filled with cobblers, tanners, and other working men. Laurence Jago is a likeable man, but you can’t help feeling a sense of impending doom, as he gets himself in a little too deep as he tries to prove his colleague’s innocence, whilst finding the real culprit!

All in all it’s wonderful stuff – not at all dry; Philpott is a particularly amusing, larger-than-life character. All of the characters are superbly drawn, and Nattrass is a welcome addition to the historical fiction stable.

I gather she’ll be releasing another book next year, called Blue Water, for which I can’t wait! Will Laurence survive to fight another day? Well, I couldn’t possibly reveal that! C’est un secret!

Definitely one of my favourite books of the year so far – an utter joy!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this blog tour, and Viper Books for the ARC.

BLURB: This is the confession of Laurence Jago. Clerk. Gentleman. Reluctant spy.

July 1794, and the streets of London are filled with rumours of revolution. Political radical Thomas Hardy is to go on trial for treason, the war against the French is not going in Britain’s favour, and negotiations with the independent American colonies are on a knife edge.

Laurence Jago – clerk to the Foreign Office – is ever more reliant on the Black Drop to ease his nightmares. A highly sensitive letter has been leaked to the press, which may lead to the destruction of the British Army, and Laurence is a suspect. Then he discovers the body of a fellow clerk, supposedly a suicide.

Blame for the leak is shifted to the dead man, but even as the body is taken to the anatomists, Laurence is certain both of his friend’s innocence, and that he was murdered. But after years of hiding his own secrets from his powerful employers, and at a time when even the slightest hint of treason can lead to the gallows, how can Laurence find the true culprit without incriminating himself?

A thrilling historical mystery, perfect for readers of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor, Antonia Hodgson and Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

Blog Tour – October 2021 – His Loving Wife – Miranda Smith

Back to psychological thrillers – a genre crimeworm loves! There’s so much of it out there now – how did this one measure up?

Very well, actually – Miranda Smith has created a compelling portrait of a family, who were subject to a home invasion by an ex-boyfriend of Kate, the mother of the family. As the book opens, they’re on their first vacation since this happened – and it coincides with the release of the attacker, Paul Gunter. Gunter appeared to be under the delusion that Willow was his daughter, and that was the reason for his attack on the family – Kate believed he planned to abduct her slaughter7.

What else is going on in the family?

Andrew, the father, has a secretive online men-only group called Second Chances that’s for men who’ve been through difficult experiences – but, to my mind, he’s suspicious in the way he spends so much time with these strangers! Noah isn’t coping great at school, either, being the victim of bullies. And with Kate’s mega-successful sister, Auster, and her husband David, on the sidelines, Kate constantly feels like the second-best sister.

So it’s about the aftermath of the attack?

Yes – and it gets kind of creepy when Kate starts thinking she sees the perpetrator near their holiday home. With Andrew glued to his online support group, or finding solace in a bottle of booze, it looks like Kate will have to be the one to keep her family safe. The fact is, she feels guilty because it was her ex who perpetrated the home invasion, and she hadn’t told her husband he’d been harassing her. She constantly beats herself up that she could have put a stop to things before they got so serious…

So the question is…is Paul back, and will they survive a second attack by him? As it looks like Kate is on her own…

This is a fast, enjoyable read, which bounces back and forward to different points in the year since the attack, where we see how each member of the family is coping – particularly Kate and Andrew.

Highly recommended!

Author Miranda Smith
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With thanks to Sarah Hardy for organising the blog tour, and Bookouture and Netgalley for access to the eARC.

BLURB: I would do anything to protect my family. It’s my fault they’re in danger…

Our vacation house is beautiful. With its pastel-blue walls, the swimming pool outside, the boardwalk stretching down to the shore. My children play in the waves and my husband grills burgers on the deck. It is so peaceful.

But I can’t relax. When I drive to the store, or stroll down the beach, I am always looking over my shoulder, my heart racing. I am looking for him.

The man who nearly destroyed everything, a year ago, because of the secrets I kept.

I swear I didn’t do anything wrong. But no matter how hard my husband tries to pretend, we both know it’s not over.

This vacation was meant to be a chance to heal. Instead, I think it might break us. Because my husband still doesn’t trust me… and I’m not sure I can trust myself.

An absolutely compelling psychological thriller that will make you question how well you know those around you—and how safe you ever are. Fans of The Girl on the TrainBehind Closed Doors and Gillian Flynn will be completely hooked by His Loving Wife.