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 TOMB OF ICE

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

A DYING DETECTIVE

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.

AN AGONIZING RECKONING

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).

Blog Tour – November 2022 – Dragonfly Summer – J.H. Moncrieff

Some books take a good fifty or more pages to grab you (indeed, some never grab you at all!) But this book grabbed you from the very off, didn’t it?

It absolutely did! The premise is that Jo, a journalist who has worked in war zones, but is now in the much duller and safer world of PR, receives a cutting appearing to be from a newspaper about the disappearance of her schoolfriend, Sam, who disappeared 27 years previously. On the back was written two words in red, “Find Me.”

Jo had fled her small town of Clear Springs, Minnesota, with the intention of going to New York and becoming a famous writer. She had been a successful journalist, but that much boasted-of novel never appeared. So she decides to take a sabbatical from work and return to the one place she said she’d never return to, and perhaps solve the mystery once and for all…

Tell us a little about Jo’s life in Clear Springs at high school…

There’s a very small, tight-knit group – Jo, Sam, and another friend, Amanda. Sam, the most obvious beauty of the three, was dating Doug, the “most wanted” of their year when it came to high school boys – your typical American jock. Jo also was very close friends – platonically – with Jack, her next door neighbour, whose family gave her refuge from her father’s bad temper which made her own home a living hell.

I must admit, the small cast of characters made it easy to keep tabs on who’s who. Events after Sam’s disappearance – no spoilers! – make Jo a great unreliable narrator, having to be reliant on what she’s told by those who remain in the town.

And someone very important to the story isn’t there…

Yes – Jo discovers her other best friend, Amanda, was killed in a car crash not long before she arrived in town. Jo’s surprised to learn that Amanda had ended up marrying Doug, and was heavily pregnant when the accident happened. However, those close to her believe it was no accident, but that she was murdered.

The creepy thing is, she had received the same cutting Jo had, and was investigating Sam’s disappearance too at the time of her death. So when Jo receives threatening messages, and someone tries to run her off the road too, she starts to wonder if there’s a killer in the town determined to make her his third victim…

Also, it appears Sam’s apparently perfect family was all a facade, hidden by the power the family exerted over the town with their affluence – something which had gone over Jo’s head as a schoolgirl, but which she soon learns about on her return.

There is a small supernatural influence to the book, which you will either enjoy, or feel is being used to fill in explanations the author couldn’t in any other way. Crime purists may find it slightly irkling but it’s a tiny criticism in a book you will otherwise gobble down.

I have a real passion for American small-town stories, with family secrets and odd characters (Megan Miranda is my favourite, and this definitely comes pretty close!) Moncrieff has a definite skill of dropping enough hints that the mystery remains tantalisingly out of reach of being solved for much of the book, as well as misdirecting the reader like an old pro. Intriguing characters, and the fact that this is an incredibly fast and enjoyable read, ensure I’ll be looking out for other works by Moncrieff!

A thoroughly enjoyable small town mystery, which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to fans of such stories!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and to Flame Tree Press for the eARC. These have not affected my review in any way, and this reflects my true opinion.

Author J.H. Moncrieff

Check out what my fabulous fellow bloggers made of Dragonfly Summer!

BLURB: Dragonfly Summer is a gripping thriller that asks: What happens when the past comes back to haunt you? Jo Carter never thought she’d return to Clear Springs, Minnesota. But when the former journalist receives a cryptic note about the disappearance of her friend Sam twenty years before, she’s compelled to find out what really happened. During her investigation, she learns another high school friend has died in a mysterious accident. Nothing is as it seems, and Jo must probe Clear Springs’ darkest corners and her own painful and unreliable memories to discover the truth – and save herself from the killer who could still be on the hunt. Deliciously twisty and suspenseful from the first minute to the last, Dragonfly Summer proves that no small town’s secrets can stay buried for good.

 

Blog Tour – November 2022 – Don’t Talk – Ian Ridley

This is billed as a Jan Mason thriller – can you tell us who Jan Mason is?

Jan is a journalist, who at the start of the book is contemplating taking voluntary redundancy. Although she’s still the star journalist at her paper, it’s a while since she’s had a really big story and she’s considering going freelance.

The other main character is Jan’s contact, friend and, in the past, on/off lover, counter terrorism officer Frank Phillips. The action really starts when Frank is at an AA meeting – he’s been clean for a number of years, but still attends them regularly. This particular meeting is held by candlelight, and a man bursts in near the end. He’s unwilling to give his name but claims he may have killed someone in an alcoholic blackout. Thinking he may be a fantasist, or an attention seeker, or indeed someone in an alcoholic blackout, he gives little credence to the man’s claim.

However, the next day he hears about a murder close by the night before, and his police antenna starts twitching. But what’s said in the AA is sacrosant…isn’t it? Even murders…?

And Jan is on the case too…?

Of course she is! She’s heard about the murder, and is on the case, using all her police contacts and building a relationship with any possible witnesses. It’s soon the case that Jan seems to have more information than the police, which displeases the Investigating Officer, Hanley, greatly!

But who’s the victim?

The victim is a well-off young woman called Camilla Carew, and her father is the leader of a far right party – but one of these semi-respectable ones where they wear suits, not football tops and tattoos. He’s rich, and well-connected, so there’s pressure on the police to get this solved. (One can guess who he’s modelled on immediately!)

Apparently her father’s had one bugbear, according to Camilla’s very helpful neighbour and good friend, Nancy, a retired actress and widow. That was Camilla’s choice of male company. He reckoned all her boyfriends (as well as her ex-husband) were fortune hunters, preying on the generous Camilla. There was the recent ex, unsuccessful antiques dealer Bexington, who had an alcohol problem. Her ex-husband, Dewlish, had been a scrounger too, and despite moving to New York, was back in England, skint. And most recently – and shockingly, for her father – she was involved with a Labour Party aide called Wilson, and was planning on donating money to Labour in the hope of getting a safe seat to stand in at the next election. All end up as suspects.

But then there’s a second murder…?

Yes – a young gay man called Sean Malahide. There’s a link – Camilla’s Hermes scarf, the one that was possibly used to strangle her, is found in his flat, and was possibly used to kill him. There’s no reason for the two victims to know each other – but Sean had recently joined the AA group that the man had appeared at. Is he getting rid of Sean as he thought he might have recognised him?

But the police have their sites set on Bexington, who’d been harassing Camilla, and had gone to AA in the past. Do they have the right man, or are they barking up the wrong tree?

An attack on another AA member – which they fight off – shows this is a dangerous man who must be got off the streets at all costs. But there are so many with motives, it’s hard to know which horse to back…

So how did you enjoy Don’t Talk?

A great deal actually – I particularly liked where the title came from, a 10,000 Maniacs song from the In My Tribe album – one of the albums I listened to a great deal through the ’90s, and still adore!

I kept changing my opinion as to who the killer was, and so in that respect Ian Ridley really kept me on my toes, as all the best crime books do. There were a couple of small errors – ages changed, and rugby only gets a capital R if it’s the school you’re referring too – but nothing that detracted from the tension and pace of the novel.

Most of all, Jan, especially, and Frank too, as well as Deena Andrews, a young police officer in Hanley’s team – and not forgetting Nancy, who the police underestimated greatly, unlike Jan – were all hugely charismatic and likeable characters. I would have liked to have thought the Met were slightly more open minded about policemen being in the AA, so that Frank’s fears about people finding out about his membership would have been irrational. But they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently…

I’d definitely like to read more about Jan and Frank in the future – Hartley is a hugely promising writer!

A solid police procedural/journalism investigation that could develop into a really good series!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, and V Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and this is an honest review.

Writer Ian Ridley

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BLURB: When catching a killer means betraying a code…

When investigative reporter Jan Mason discovers that a young woman found strangled to death in her Chelsea flat is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands.

What she doesn’t know yet is that a mystery man has just told a stunned Alcoholics Anonymous meeting nearby that he might have killed his partner in a drunken blackout. And that Jan’s old flame, Jim Phillips, the Metropolitan Police’s deputy head of counter terrorism and a recovering alcoholic himself, was in that meeting – bound by its confidentiality. Soon, a member of the AA meeting will also be found dead, strangled with the same scarf.

Resourceful, well-connected, and always one step ahead of the police, Jan is willing to put herself in harm’s way if it means catching a killer. And landing a front page exclusive. 

Blog Tour – November 2022 – The Pain Tourist – Paul Cleave

Paul Cleave – now that’s a familiar name to crimeworm followers, isn’t it? (Assuming some exist…!)

It is – many of you might remember me raving about a book called The Quiet People previously, so naturally I did a little dance (well, I can’t physically dance any more, but in my head I did one, if you get me!) when word came in there was a blog tour for another Paul Cleave book. Now, this is one of those books that’s difficult to review, as you want to give your readers some info on the concept of the book, but not hit dreaded spoiler territory…

So what is the concept?

This is an audaciously daring high-concept thriller so I’m going to take a deep breath and do my best… A house invasion in a family home in a quiet New Zealand suburb sees the parents being shot. The eleven-year-old son James hears the commotion downstairs and rushes through to warn his older sister Hazel with the hope they can both escape through her window, but her refusal to heed his warning sees him letting her escape, while he is taken downstairs and also shot by the robbers.

But unlike his parents, James survives, and, miraculously, after nine years in a coma, awakens. During that time he had what the doctors and his sister initially thought were extremely vivid dreams about the life he and his family would have gone on to live if that night had ended differently. But when the dates things that happened in what James calls “Coma World” (he writes a huge amount about Coma World for Hazel and his doctor, Dr McCoy, to read) correlate with things that happened in the real world – for example, the exact dates of his grandmother’s death and funeral – they are totally gobsmacked.

As the perpetrators of the home invasion are still on the loose, when James wakes up Detective Kent wants to know if he remembers anything more about that fateful night nine years previously. But they’ve also got wind James is awake and is a loose end they need to tie up…

But they’re not the only killers on the loose, are they?

No – there’s a killer called Joe Middleton, and another killer who seems inspired, shall I say, by his crimes, who the media christen “Faux Joe.” He also seems to have insider knowledge of the original Joe’s crime scenes. The question is, how is James possibly aware of the existence of other killers? And can he access any information from Coma World to help the police – particularly Detective Kent, and Tate, who had left the force but always maintained an interest in James’s welfare and that particular case?

Phew! Quite a lot to pack into one novel!

Indeed – but only Paul Cleave could manage it, make it plausible, and incredibly readable. Several times I woke up at 5 am with the light still on as I’d been suffering from the “one more chapter” disease – which doesn’t hit me an awful lot nowadays, as my multitude of medication (love a bit of alliteration!) usually means it’s lights out at a fairly sensible hour. I’m aware I keep saying this about books, but it’s one of my favourites of recent times. And don’t just take it from me – even Lee Child says Cleave is an “automatic must-read” for him. And as he reads a book a day, as well as one of his own selling every nine seconds, you better believe he knows a good read!

My mind is particularly blown by Paul Cleave’s imagination and originality. That, coupled with his ability to write a real page-turner, peopled with a multitude of fascinating characters, has me in utter awe (yeah, okay, and extreme envy!) at his writing talent. Please don’t miss this book – you will really be missing out!

Hurrah! Another real triumph for Orenda Books!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Paul Cleave

Please check out my wonderful fellow bloggers’ thoughts on The Pain Tourist!

BLURB: How do you catch a killer…

When the only evidence is a dream?

James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.

But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help. Especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…

Blog Tour – November 2022 – Havana Fever – Leonardo Padura

First of all, I must apologise to everyone for my recent absence – I was forced to miss a few blog tours due to a private problem where other things were forced to take precedence. I have, however, still managed to read most of the books, and hope to post reviews of them over the next few weeks.

To celebrate my return, we have a touch of exotica now – we’re off to Cuba, where a cold case from 1960 has intrigued retired police investigator, now book dealer, Mario Conte…

Do you ever read a book that totally captivates you, and whisks you off to a different time and place? I’m sure you all know what I mean, but I have to say – I cannot recall a book which has grabbed me so absolutely as Havana Fever. It’s an absolutely magical book – in fact, as I type this I’m listening to Cuban music from the 1950s, both to get me in the mood, and because I’m so seduced by the time and place about which I’ve been reading. Reviews in the press release from The Independent compare Padura’s writing to that of James Lee Burke’s, one of my favourite writer who brings rural Louisiana and New Orleans vividly to life in a similar fashion to Padura’s Cuba – the island both of noughties Havana, when the book is set and was originally released, and of the city before Batista was overthrown by the Communist regime of Castro and Guevera (the man of a million student t-shirts and posters!) This saw the end of the mafia’s huge lucrative casinos, with Cuba being closed off to American tourists and imports, and reliant on Russia. Desperate Cubans flocked to the US (particularly Florida) – including the affluent businessman whose untouched library Conte stumbles upon while cold calling in the hope of making a few dollars.

So what is the Cuba of the Noughties like?

People are starving, and on ration books, but a black market exists for those with dollars. So the brother and sister whose house Conte calls at that day are finally selling the last thing of value – the house’s library. Their mother had forbade them from doing so as she’d always promised the family who’d left the house in her care she’d look after their things, but forty years have passed, and they must eat. They let Conte enter a fascinating library packed with absolute gems, which is a great story itself as part of the book, but the Count, as he is known, is particularly obsessed with a newspaper cutting he finds of a bolero singer called Violeta del Rio, whose name rings a vague bell from his childhood…

He starts to research her, but it appears she disappeared without trace around 1960. Is she married, living with a family somewhere on Cuba? Or is there, as the Count suspects, a darker story attached to her disappearance…?

It seems he’s still an investigator at heart…

Yes! Absolutely! And so begins a journey to find the few still alive who can take him – and us – back to the world of smoky bars, casinos, and all-night clubs. In those years Havana was a city filled with music, American celebrities, with mafia gangsters running the gambling dens and controlling this night-time underworld. The descriptions bring the city alive as we begin to piece together that world, its characters, and what happened. In parallel, we’re exploring the depleted city just after the millenium. The writing is incredibly descriptive, to the extent you can smell the cigars, hear the jazzy sounds, taste the rum, and see the well-dressed people from the past laugh, not knowing soon it’ll be the end for them of this city of gambling, drinking, prostitutes, sex, and partying to the unique soundtrack of the boleros.

So it’s fair to say you enjoyed this book?

That is an understatement! It will most definitely be one of the best books I’ve read this year – it’s a masterpiece of noirish writing. I remember reading a great book many years ago called The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love – it became a film, with a young-ish Antonio Banderas, if I’m recalling correctly, and this book brings similar music alive like it did.

I was also reminded of writers like Jake Arnott, who injects a night-time underworld with life similarly, albeit in different countries. And I can see why James Lee Burke was name-checked in reviews.

I read somewhere that this incredible book was out of print for ten years until Bitter Lemon Press, who supply us with so much absolutely excellent translated fiction, brought it back into print. I’ll also be looking to invest in the quartet of books written about Conte’s days as a policeman, and those that follow this one!

An absolute masterpiece!

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. This has not influenced my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Leonardo Padura

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BLURB: Mario Conde has retired from the police force and makes a living trading in antique books. Havana is now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. In the library of a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950s who disappeared mysteriously. A murder soon follows. This story, set in today’s darker Cuba, also evokes the Havana of Batista, the city of a hundred night clubs where the paths of Marlon Brando and Meyer Lansky crossed.

Havana Fever is many things: a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to the literature and music of Padura’s beloved, ravaged island.

Blog Tour – October 2022 – Red As Blood – Lilja Sigurdardottir (translated by Quentin Bates)

So…the second in the Arora series, the first of which you really enjoyed. How did the second measure up to the first?

I absolutely loved the first – such great characters! And a fantastic storyline, which kept me guessing! I’m happy to report we’ve got more of the same – in terms of quality, that is – but a very different storyline. Flossi arrives home from work one day to find his house in disarray, his wife Gudrun gone, and a ransom note demanding two million Euros.

Now, as Arora’s speciality is finding missing valuables – usually hidden financial assets, such as in a divorce case or as the result of white collar crime – she is requested by Flossi’s accountant in Edinburgh (where she lived, before her sister went missing, and she came to search for her – a search she’s still conducting) to visit his client and attempt to help.

So what can Arora do? This isn’t really her field of expertise, after all…

Exactly – so she calls on Daniel, a police friend (with whom she has something of a romantic spark!) and requests that he meets her, in plain clothes, as though he’s merely a friend offering Flossi moral support, to see what help he can offer.

And there’s lots more happening in the book…

Well, naturally there’s the fact that her sister Isafold is still missing. There’s also Flossi’s complex family situation, with ex-wife Karen, daughter Sara Soi – and of course the missing Gudrun. I was kept guessing, imagining every possible suspect and circumstance!

And some of the characters from Cold As Hell make a reappearance?

They do – and what fabulous characters they were, and were, as I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite things about Cold As Hell – there’s Michael, Arora’s friend, as well as Daniel’s neighbour Lady Gugulu. They flesh the story out and create a real existence for Arora in Iceland, and as a crime novel too it works wonderfully – it’s really fast moving from the off, and there are various tendrils of criminal activity going on throughout the book to keep this reader glued. I loved the way my sympathies and suspicions were being torn every which way, and I really loved revisiting those wonderful characters Lilja created. Arora, Michael and Daniel – although particularly Arora – are all superbly three-dimensional characters.

Oh, and I must mention Quentin Bates’ superb translation, which, as ever, made for a seamless read – thank you as ever, Quentin. And now I’m on tenterhooks waiting book three in the series!

It’s one of those books you can’t wait to get to the end of to see what the conclusion is, then you’re absolutely gutted it’s finished. I’m sure all bookworms will know exactly what I mean by that!

An absolutely wonderful book, yet again, from a country that really punches above it’s weight when it comes to electrifying reads – with Lilja being one of the foremost talents!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Lilja Sigurdardottir

Follow the rest of the fabulous bloggers on this stupendous Orenda blog tour!

BLURB: Áróra becomes involved in the search for an Icelandic woman who disappeared from her home while making dinner, as she continues to hunt for her missing sister. The second breathtaking instalment in the chilling, addictive An Áróra Investigation series…

When entrepreneur Flosi arrives home for dinner one night, he discovers that his house has been ransacked, and his wife Gudrun missing. A letter on the kitchen table confirms that she has been kidnapped. If Flosi doesn’t agree to pay an enormous ransom, Gudrun will be killed.

Forbidden from contacting the police, he gets in touch with Áróra, who specialises in finding hidden assets, and she, alongside her detective friend Daniel, try to get to the bottom of the case without anyone catching on.

Meanwhile, Áróra and Daniel continue the puzzling, devastating search for Áróra’s sister Ísafold, who disappeared without trace. As fog descends, in a cold and rainy Icelandic autumn, the investigation becomes increasingly dangerous, and confusing.

Chilling, twisty and unbearably tense, Red as Blood is the second instalment in the riveting, addictive An Áróra Investigation series, and everything is at stake…

Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Blame Game – Sandie Jones

Okay, hands up and time for a confession – being slightly distracted the day the invitation for this blog tour popped in, I actually assumed it referred to SADIE Jones, who is one of my favourite authors (I’ve loved her since The Outcast, and whenever I see a new book of hers online or in a shop I automatically buy it – and have yet to be disappointed. In fact, I can thoroughly recommend her.)

BUT – it’s most definitely not bad news! Having not read the blurb (it was an eARC, and before I start them I, rarely do) it didn’t take me long to realise I wasn’t reading Sadie Jones…

So what was the book you’d agreed to review?

The Blame Game is about a psychotherapist called Naomi, who specialises in supporting the victims of domestic abuse from the garden shed (as she calls it; it came across more as a posh summer house-type place a bestselling author might use to get peace to write their next, well, bestseller!) Naomi is an American, although her husband Leon is English, and she has a tendency to go above and beyond what’s strictly professional with her clients – this led to her leaving her previous position, within an established practice (where she probably had more protection, both psychological and physical, than in her current system of working from home.) This specialisation – and her tendency to push the boundaries of professionalism – is due to the fact that when she was a child, her father, who’d previously abused their mother, eventually murdered her. It led to Naomi’s father going to prison, her little sister Jennifer being adopted one night, never to be seen again (their foster family spitefully told her she was too old, and no-one would want to be her “forever family”), and the whole family being ruptured in the worst way imaginable. Hence she appears to spend her life trying to right her own family’s wrongs by crossing the professional line in her clients’ lives.

So what exactly is happening at the moment in Naomi’s life?

She has two clients we meet – Jacob Mackenzie, a male client who’s a teacher being abused both mentally and physically by his wife Vanessa; and Anna, a fellow New Yorker whose marriage has deteriorated after the death of their son Ben, to the point where she feels she should leave with her children before things escalate and the minor acts of violence increase. As is her wont, Naomi is getting overly involved: putting Jacob up in her and her husband’s currently empty flat, without his knowledge (her husband’s new job came with accommodation), and offering Anna and her children their two spare rooms!

And aren’t there things happening across in the States, as regards her father?

Yes – her aunt telephones to tell her that her sister, Jennifer, who’d had addiction issues, and had previously blamed Naomi both for them being split up and her subsequent issues, had visited her, now apparently clean, wanting her and Naomi to attempt another rapprochement. (A previous attempt had failed, with Jennifer taking the money Naomi wired her for her flight and disappearing back into her life of addiction.) It also turns out that her father has now, to Naomi’s shock and fear, been released – probably none too pleased with the fact that she lied on the stand as a child giving evidence, making his plea of manslaughter look like a lie and ensuring he’s found guilty of murder. He’s had ample time to plan any revenge he might have had on his mind…

Things are deteriorating over here too, aren’t they?

Jacob disappears, and it turns out much of what he’s told her is lies – even his name. This results in the police appearing, questioning her about their relationship and whether it goes beyonds the bounds of professionality. Leon has similar questions – and it appears he be more aware of what’s been going on than Naomi has given him credit for.

So who is this man who called himself, “Jacob Mackenzie”? Is he connected to Naomi’s American side of her family? Is Anna being entirely truthful about her situation, or is she merely trying to insinuate her way into Naomi’s home? And what about Leon?

Naomi’s getting to the stage where she’s questioning exactly who everyone is – and whether they can be trusted…

Ooh! This sounds like a really dramatic psychological thriller!

It certainly is that! From opening the book with absolutely no expectations at all, I found myself immediately tugged into the undertow of drama that was sweeping Naomi off her feet and destroying her carefully curated professional and personal life. I was kept guessing and changing my mind time after time, as we forever are with the best of these books.

I’d thoroughly recommend this one – and yet again I have an author whose backlist I’ll need to investigate, for the umpteenth time this year…!

Superior domestic psychological thriller, guaranteed to keep you on your toes! A must-read for all fans of the genre.

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation, and Macmillan and Netgalley for the eARC. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and my review is an honesrt one.

Author Sadie Jones

Please do check out some the wonderful bloggers – and Instagrammers – on this tour!

BLURB: There are two sides to every story


He came to me for help with his marriage.
I was alone and afraid. She was there when I needed to talk.
I needed to make him understand that he had to get away.
I knew what I needed to do. I just couldn’t do it on my own. I trusted her.
Now it has gone too far. And I can’t tell anyone what I have done.
Now I have nowhere to turn and I just pray they find me before she does.


And then there’s the truth.

The Blame Game is a dark, entertaining and suspenseful thriller from Sandie Jones, the author of The Other Woman and The Guilt Trip.

Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Rising Tide – Ann Cleeves (DI Vera Stanhope)

Now this is one really big hitter – the latest in the acclaimed DI Vera Stanhope series, which has become as well-known for the TV series it spawned as it has the books!

This is the tenth book, and naturally it’s set in Ann Cleeves’ (and Vera’s!) beloved Northumberland – this time on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. Now, I’m not a big fan of TV crime, preferring the written word, but Ann Cleeves’ series all make for unmissable viewing – particularly Vera, where Brenda Blethyn brings the oft-times crabbit, and always single-minded, character, so wonderfully to life!

We’ve had a blizzard of island-based “locked room” mysteries, from Lucy Foley to Sarah Pearse to Chris Brookmyre, and here one of the queens of modern-day crime gives us her version.

And what’s the storyline here?

A group, who first met fifty years ago on a local school trip, get together on the island every five years to mark the anniversary of that first meeting. On the first reunion, one of their number, Isobel Hall, died while attempting to make her way across the causeway too late, with her car “tossed from the road like a toy,” as a stormy tide encroached upon it. An event that could have ended the reunions there and then appeared to cement them, curiously enough.

On this latest occasion Rick Kelsall, a journalist who’d recently lost his job at the BBC for inappropriate behaviour towards younger female colleagues, is found hanged naked in an open bathrobe in his room by Annie Laidler, one of his closest friends. Immediately Annie – who still lived locally and was well-known as a part-owner of local artisan deli, Bread And Olives, questions the notoriously vain Rick’s question to hang himself with his naked sixty-something body on show, but she simply assumed he was heavily depressed at losing his celebrity status. However, as he had recently been given a book deal, that assumption doesn’t really hold water.

Who else was present?

There was Philip Robson, an Anglican vicar who was based in London, and Ken Hampton, an ex-headteacher who was succumbing to dementia, and who was married to Lou, who was also an ex-alumni of Kimmerston Grammar, albeit three years younger, and who attended the reunions with her husband. Previous reunions had included babies, then children, then teenagers, now all grown, as well as partners come and gone, and had now reverted to the original core group.

Others connected to this group and living on the island include Rick’s ex-wife, the former model, now owner of a yoga salon, Charlotte; the group’s original teacher, now retired, Judith Marshall; Annie’s ex-husband and now local businessman, Daniel Rede; and his new partner and local Police and Crime Commissioner (!) Katherine Willmore.

And Rick’s will, when revealed, only adds to the mystery…

Does Vera have any early ideas?

It’s no spoiler that Vera’s determined from more or less as soon as she knows she’s dealing with a murder, that the answer in one place: the past. So her investigation concentrates on the relationships between the group, and what happened, from that first school trip, then the reunion which saw Isobel’s death, right up until the present day.

And the real strength in this book lies, as it does in all of Ann Cleeves’ novels I’ve read, in the characters: both from those early days, and in their development. There’s always, in all her books, such an air of authenticity to them all: they feel real, as do the crimes and their motives. I have to say, too, that this book has an absolutely killer conclusion, if you’ll excuse the pun! Cleeves has outdone herself on this occasion!

It’s always hugely enjoyable to come across Joe (DS Ainsworth) and Holly (DC Clarke) again, and their slight rivalry for Vera’s favour – it’s become like meeting old friends. And references to Vera’s childhood, and her difficult relationship with her father, as well as her classmates, remind us that Vera’s real skill lies in examining the worst of human nature, as one who has experienced some parts of it at first hand, and in so figuring out who is responsible for the very worst of it: who, behind their carefully applied mask, is a murderer?

Just when you think she won’t get any better, Ann Cleeves hits you with another utter belter – perfect for long time fans, or those new to one of the best in British crime writing!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Pan Macmillan for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this review reflects my honest opinion.

The unmistakeable Ann Cleeves

Do check out what my fellow bloggers and Instagrammers make of The Rising Tide!

BLURB: Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.
Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.
Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .
But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

Blog Tour – September 2022 – Blackstone Fell – Martin Edwards

This is the third in the Rachel Savernake books, Martin Edwards’ Golden Age-set series…

It’s also, despite having the first two, the first I’ve read (that teetering TBR pile is responsible, of course) the first I’ve read – something I intend to rectify at my earliest possible opportunity. And yes, I do know that I’ve said that about goodness how many series this year, and then new books come out, and of course the big TBR wheel will keep spinning…

However, I think you’ll realise it means I was mightily impressed with this book! Either it’s a hell of a year for books, or my reading mojo, which kind of deserted me after that attack, is back with a BANG! Anyway, ’nuff about me, let’s get to Blackstone Fell, and the intriguing Rachel, and the intrepid Nell, and this superlative locked room mystery.

But the two men disappeared 300 years apart…?

Yes, from Blackstone Lodge, where – oh dear! – journalist Nell Fagan is staying. She’s originally in the area for another reason: to investigate the mysteriously convenient death of an affluent woman, Ursula Baker, who’d recently married a much younger playboy, Thomas Baker. She’d changed her will in his favour, to her son’s chagrin, and the son, Vernon Murray, had asked Nell to investigate his mother’s death – she’d been in the area as an inpatient at Blackstone Sanatorium, an allegedly cutting-edge psychiatric hospital. Vernon is suspicious as the only occasion his new stepfather, Thomas Baker, had visited his wife was the day before her death.However, before Nell can get down to really investigating, Baker is dead. He’d fallen under a London Tube train – the day after being the victim of an attempt of a hit-and-run, However, the main suspect, his stepfather, was 150 miles away.

Cripes! Sounds like a dangerous place for Nell to be sniffing around…

It is – she’s nearly hit by a falling rock. But did it fall, or was it pushed…? Shortly after filling in Rachel on the goings-on at Blackstone Fell, with the help of Jacob Flint, a fellow journalist (who has his own mission, exposing fraudulent mediums) she returns to the Lodge…and then disappears herself.

That’s an awful lot of deaths and disappearances for a small village, no?

It is, but it ensures Rachel is really hooked and decides Blackstone Fell is worthy of her own mystery solving prowess. The moors make for excellent territory for such a story; the Sanatorium, run by Professor Sambrook, with his children Denzil and the scarred Daphne, is menacing as and suspicious as these places always are. Most of those in the village have secrets of some description – although they may not be as serious as murder. I don’t think it’s any great spoiler to say that the two main storylines – Blackstone Fell, and Nell and Rachel’s mutual chum Jacob Flint’s investigation into Ottilie Curle, a dubious medium – do converge.

With 1930 as it’s setting, Martin Edwards gathers some key issues of the time: spiritualism and fake mediums (so many easy marks after the Great War and Spanish Flu); the taking-off of psychiatry; and eugenics. His vast knowledge of Golden Age Murders (his book, The Golden Age Of Murder, is one of my favourite books to dip in to) means this reads just like one, although there is perhaps a little more character development than we see in them – which makes it chunkier, too, which is a definite plus point!

It’s an easy, fast read, and plenty of dialogue speeds the tale along, with references to era-appropriate props and occurrences adding to the sense of authenticity. Rachel gathers everyone together at the end to unveil the murderer and reveal how she came to her conclusions, as is traditional in books from this era. And, if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a clue-finder, so crime solving readers can see where they went wrong – or right, if you’re smarter than me! An absolute joy to read, from beginning to end – roll on book four!

A fantastic book, guaranteed to please both those who like their Golden Age murder stories, as well as more recent ones!

With thanks to Sophie Ransom for the blog tour invitation, as well as Head of Zeus’s Aries Fiction imprint for the ARC. This has not influenced my review, and this is my honest opinion.

Author Martin Edwards

Check out the rest of this blog tour!

BLURB: Rachel Savernake investigates bizarre crimes and a baffling locked-room puzzle in this Gothic mystery from the winner of the Diamond Dagger.

Yorkshire, 1606. A man vanishes from a locked gatehouse in a remote village. 300 years later, it happens again.

Autumn 1930. Journalist Nell Fagan knows there’s only one person who can get to the bottom of this mystery: Rachael Savernake. But someone wants Nell dead, and soon, while investigating a series of recent deaths at Blackstone Sanatorium, she’s missing entirely.

Looking for answers, Rachel travels to lonely Blackstone Fell, with its eerie moor, deadly waters and sinister tower. With help from Jacob Flint – who’s determined to expose a fraudulent medium at a séance – Rachel will risk her life to bring an end to the disappearances…

A dazzling mystery peopled by clerics and medics and embellished with science and superstition, Blackstone Fell explores the shadowy borderlands between spiritual and scientific; between sanity and madness; and between virtue and deadly sin.