Blog Tour – February 2022 – The Personal Shopper – Carmen Reid

Well this isn’t the type of cover we normally see on crimeworm…

No, that’s admittedly true, but in the past I was a lot more likely to mix things up with my reading, before I stuck pretty much solely to crime fiction in all it’s various permutations. But one author who I always used to really enjoy was Carmen Reid – I loved her wit and feisty characters. It’s also fun sometimes reading something a bit lighter and less grim, as reading crime fiction all the time can be a bit much – hence the importance of the huge “cosy crime” subgenre. But hey, enough of crime for once!

So did you enjoy The Personal Shopper?

I did, for the reasons I mention above. Although it seemed very familiar, and I soon realised I’d read it before – this is a reissue of the first in the Annie Valentine series, which has been repackaged for a new generation of keen shoppers to discover and enjoy!

Tell us about Annie…

She’s a personal shopper (no spoilers there!) in the sort of posh London department store who employ such people, as well as being something of a property fixer upper. She’s also a single mum to two children, who she manages – by hook and occasional panicky crook – to keep in a private school which is slightly beyond her means.

So tell us about the children…

Well, her husband Roddie split from her three years previously, and she has typical teen dramas with 14-year-old Lana, who’s inherited her mum’s feisty character. Owen, who’s nine, is quieter and a sweet child. It being what’s (often unfairly, in my humble opinion, given the talent of many of the writers) dismissively called chick lit, the gap in her life is in the romantic area. But, as you’d expect, there’s a couple of possible candidates on the horizon…

Ooh! Spill the beans on them, then…

Well, when it comes to men in her life, her closest confidante is her GBF (gay best friend) Connor, who Sex And The City fans will know is a must-have for every female. My friend Paul’s been my best mate for 33 years, since we were out clubbing at 17! (And also on this subject, I’m currently adoring And Just Like That…, catching up with my favourite girl gang – well, three-quarters of them, as fans will know, as well as Carrie’s two GBFs!)

But romance! That’s what we’re here for, don’t you know?!

Sorry, I’m digressing…yes, there’s hope on the horizon, in the figure of Gray, an affluent dentist she meets at her mother’s retirement do. (Actually, a dentist boyfriend would save you a lot of money…)

And of course there’s another, less obvious candidate, in the form of her kid’s teacher, Ed. I think regular readers of this type of fiction can see where things go, but hey, it’s the journey, not the destination, and that’s definitely fun!

Anything else you’d mention…?

A varied and amusing supporting cast finish off the fun, from a bitchy boss, moaning customers, a selection of family members from the lovely to the awful, and (again!) Connor, as well as the kids. It makes the book well-rounded and (in my opinion) great entertainment. It might remind readers a little of the Shopaholic series, and anyone who likes expensive clothes will enjoy this – even if, like me, you can’t afford them. (Although I do have a Chloe bag, which my OH thinks is from River Island…there’s a good tip when it comes to a lot of straight men!)

Great light-hearted read I whizzed through, enjoying all the way!

With thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on this Blog Tour, and Boldwood Books for the eARC. This is an unbiased review.

Author Carmen Reid
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BLURB: Meet Annie Valentine: stylish, savvy, multi-tasker extraordinaire.
As a personal shopper in a swanky London fashion store, Annie can be relied on to solve everyone’s problems . . . except her own.

Although she’s a busy single mum to stroppy teen Lana and painfully shy Owen, there’s a gap in Annie’s wardrobe – sorry, life – for a new man. But finding the perfect partner is turning out to be so much trickier than finding the perfect pair of shoes.

Can she source a genuine classic? A life long investment? Will she end up with a mistake from the sale rail, who’ll have to be returned?

Or maybe, just maybe, there’ll be someone new in this season who could be the one . . .

Blog Tour – February 2022 – A Loyal Traitor – Tim Glister

This must have been a bit of a treat, given that spy thrillers are a favourite genre of crimeworm…

Oh my, yes! The sad death of John le Carré left a big hole in the genre – not that there’s a shortage of writers writing spy thrillers, but he was the acknowledged grandfather of the genre. Spy films are something of a tradition when it comes to my Dad, mainly because he did some work for the Fleming family, whose estate bordered our first family farm, and my Dad met Peter Fleming, a successful – now somewhat forgotten – travel writer, his wife Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter, etc), and the rest of the family, including Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. Although due to the cold Scottish weather, Ian spent as little time as possible there, the Caribbean being more to his taste! I’m particularly fond of Cold War-set thrillers; nothing recent is quite as exciting and dramatic. And that’s why this book is one of the best books I’ve read for quite some time.

So tell us a little bit about A Loyal Traitor…

Well, it’s a Richard Knox book, following on from Red Corona, which is on my shelf (and will be moving right up my teetering TBR pile!) Abby Bennett, a US agent also returns, as does (spoiler alert!) Jack Williams, whose future is left uncertain at the end of Red Corona.

And this book travels across the globe…

Yes, like all the best spy fiction, it bounces from the Caribbean, across Europe, into Russia – of course – and back to London, where it reaches it’s climax.

How did the ’60s setting work, in your opinion?

Absolutely perfectly! We’re in 1965 now – four years on from Red Corona – and London is starting to swing. Little mentions, like the coffee bar Knox frequents in Soho, and the clothes he wears, as well as the cars they drive, and the way an office is run, ensure the timeframe is mentioned subtly, but very effectively.

And what about the villain…?

The Wolf…? Oh my days! What a wonderful creation! For much of the book Knox and Bennett are unsure if The Wolf even exists, or is a number of operatives. All the victims have no visible connection, and the way each one is dispatched varies, adding to the confusion. So when Williams dredges from his tortured mind a memory of a threat on the life of Kosygin, one of the troika currently ruling the Soviet Union, and who just happens to be on a state visit to London, they’re initially unsure whether to take it seriously or not…

Sounds thrilling! So definitely one you’d recommend?

Goodness, yes! If you like a good, tense, inventive thriller, I think you’ll be hard pressed to come up with more of a page-turner!

Don’t miss it!

With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this Blog Tour, and to Point Blank books for my ARC. This review is unbiased.

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BLURB: It’s 1966. London is swinging, and the Cold War is spiralling.

Clear cut lines have faded to grey areas. Whispers of conspiracies are everywhere. Spies on both sides of the iron curtain are running in circles, chasing constant plots and counterplots. And MI5 agent Richard Knox is tired of all of it.

But when Abey Bennett, his CIA comrade in arms, appears in London with a ghost from Knox’s past and a terrifying warning that could change the balance of power in the Cold War for good, he has to fight to save the future.

He must also face an agonising choice: who will he believe, and who will he betray – his duty to his country or his loyalty to his friends?

Blog Tour – February 2022 – A Lethal Deception – Rachel Amphlett

This is the first Rachel Amphlett book crimeworm has reviewed…

Yes, it is, although she’s an author who’s always been “on my radar,” as it were. But crime fiction fans will know there’s a multitude of authors out there, and it’s impossible to read everyone who catches your eye. Still, Rachel’s books always sounded really intriguing, so I figured it was about time I read and reviewed one!

So did you enjoy it, after waiting so long?!

I did! This is quite a topical subject matter – the abuse of prescription drugs; something I’ve read a few excellent non-fiction books about in the last few years. However, they’ve mostly centred on the US; this is a UK based police procedural, which regular followers will know is one of my favourite genres.

A bit of background, if, like me, you’re new to the author. Detective Kay Hunter is married to a vet, Adam. It’s nice to come across a functional relationship involving a police officer! Anyway, the case starts when Adam’s veterinary surgery is broken into; he’s slightly injured but what they’re really after is the drugs stored there. Due to her connection with Adam, Kay is slightly sidelined but the case begins to really develop when a woman commits suicide by leaping from the top of a car park.

Dramatic stuff! So what’s happened to the drugs?

Well, there are more deaths, and the victims are found to have a bag of white powder either on their person or in their homes. It seems the drugs stolen from Adam’s veterinary surgery have made their way into the community, and are causing devastating consequences.

This is very topical indeed – even in the very small town I live in, drugs – often prescription ones – are causing the deaths of young people. This is a fairly affluent town, but it’s quite isolated, and boredom, as well as mental health issues, seem to cause a lot of young people to make that one bad choice.

Exactly. I think Rachel Amphlett has picked a subject matter that will resonate with many people, even if it’s just that they’ve read about local problems in their newspaper. The heartbreak it can cause those involved, as well as partners and families, is well portrayed in this book.

How did you find the case? Did you think the police issues seemed realistic?

I can only compare it to other procedurals I’ve read (although my mum was a policewoman in Inverness, in the early ’70s – a whole different ball game then!) but I’d say yes – there was a good amount of banter, and the teamwork made me think this was a series I should have picked up earlier, as it was very much up my street. The good news is, there’s ten previous novels to catch up on – as well as other series featuring different protagonists!

So is it fair to say Rachel has a new fan then…?

Yes, I think you can add Rachel Amphlett to the multitude of authors whose new books I look out for (don’t tell my partner though; he’ll have a fit! Although he’s been reading a Glaswegian police procedural the last few nights, so I’ll convert him yet!)

Highly recommended!

I’d like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this Blog Tour, and sending me an ARC.

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BLURB: When a brutal attack on a business owner is followed by a suspicious death, the police first suspect the beginning of a new underworld drugs war.

Then a second victim is found dead, and the truth starts to look like something much worse.

With the death toll rising and her career under scrutiny from the media and her own superiors, Kay Hunter is running out of time to unravel the deadly secrets hiding behind ruthless ambition and treachery.

But Kay isn’t going to give up easily.

Because this time, the first victim is closer to home…

Blog Tour – February 2022 – Unhinged – Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst

So…the second Orenda title you’re reviewing this month! How did you enjoy this one?

I’ll be honest, and say that initially I thought I’d get far more interest and enjoyment from this book, it being one of my favourite genres (translated – especially Scandinavian – crime fiction.) But then Eve Smith snuck on me with her wonderful Off Target…result: two fantastic books to read this month from Orenda! This series is a collaboration between two big hitters of ScandiNoir, of which this is the third. I’m a massive fan of Jørn Lier Horst’s Wisting series. Enger is responsible for the Henning Jull series (also recommended) as well as several standalones. So it was no surprise to me that I loved this book, finding it really fast-paced and absolutely whizzing through it. It’s begins with a dual timeline, which only serves to increase the tension. It absolutely knocks it out the park!

So what’s the basic storyline?

Police detective Alexander Blix’s colleague Kovic is assassinated whilst trying to contact Blix to pass on information regarding links between several previously seemingly unrelated murders. Blix’s daughter Iselin, who lived with Kovic, escapes from the flat, only to be abducted the next day while under the care of young news blogger Emma Ramm (the other main character in this series, alongside older detective Blix.)

Now, I’m really not wanting to give too much away, but Blix is, at the beginning of the book, under investigation – not for the first time – for shooting a man. However, there’s doubts as to whether he’s even shot the real perpetrator. Meanwhile, Iselin is fighting for her life, having escaped from her abductors…

And there’s more…

Well, Emma and Blix have to figure out what Kovic spotted – the link that out her in such danger – and solve the murders. It’s really nail-biting stuff!

So not one to read if I fancy an early bedtime?

Absolutely not! We have a seamless translation by Megan Ruter, and like it’s predecessors in the series, Death Deserved and Smoke Screen, it will keep you guessing, as all the best crime fiction does. An absolutely solid five star book – and one which may well sneak on to a good few, “Best of…” lists come the end of the year!

Don’t miss it!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on this Blog Tour, and Anne and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my ARC. This is an unbiased review.

Author Jørn Lier Horst
Author Thomas Enger

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BLURB: When police investigator Sofia Kovic uncovers a startling connection between several Oslo murder cases, she attempts to contact her closest superior, Alexander Blix before involving anyone else in the department. But before Blix has time to return her call, Kovic is shot and killed in her own home – execution style. And in the apartment below, Blix’s daughter Iselin narrowly escapes becoming the killer’s next victim.

Four days later, Blix and online crime journalist Emma Ramm are locked inside an interrogation room, facing the National Criminal Investigation Service. Blix has shot and killed a man, and Ramm saw it all happen.

As Iselin’s life hangs in the balance, under-fire Blix no longer knows who he can trust … and he’s not even certain that he’s killed the right man…

Two of Nordic Noir’s most brilliant writers return with the explosive, staggeringly accomplished, emotive third instalment in the international, bestselling Blix & Ramm series … and it will take your breath away.

Blog Tour – February 2022 – Off Target – Eve Smith

This is a bit different from crimeworm’s usual selection – what made you choose this?

Well, it’s an Orenda book, and those who follow the blogging world know that that’s a sort of mark of quality…a “by royal approval,” if such a thing existed in the book world. So yes, very different this time – a book set in the future, where you can have your unborn child genetically altered to remove not only predisposition to disease, but all “undesirable” traits (even going as far as obesity, and depression – the true “designer baby”!)

So this book’s set in two different times, is that right?

Yes – initially, it’s when Susan and husband Steve are struggling to conceive. They, unusually for the time the book’s set, are attempting to conceive naturally. Due to birth rates dropping around the world IVF and other methods are seen as the way to go if you want children. But Steve’s been put off IVF, etc whilst in a previous relationship. However, conception’s just not happening for them. But on a drunken night, Susan sleeps with a colleague, falls pregnant, and decides to do all she can to keep the child, and her secret rendezvous, with it.

And the other part of the book is set eleven years on…

Yes – they have Zurel, but she’s a withdrawn, incommunicative child. Also, children all over the world are behaving strangely – some even committing suicide. Is this going to be Zurel’s fate? And will Susan be able to keep her secret – and if so, at what cost?

What did you think of the book?

I found it a fascinating look at a future that doesn’t seem far from the realms of possibility – who’s to say that this isn’t biologically possible now? As other bloggers will doubtless suggest, it will make for great book club reading, including as it does so much subject matter that people feel strongly about. It would certainly make for some heated debates!

Although it’s not my usual reading fare, I found the story fascinating and definitely enjoyable – it was fast-paced, and there were lots of, “What would I do?” points. The author definitely knows how to keep you reading, and the timeline she depicts is not far away from now, but with uncomfortable subjects like eugenics not too far from the surface. It will definitely leave you thinking, but it’s an enjoyable read, and an absolute page-turner too. I’ll definitely be seeking out this author’s debut, The Waiting Rooms, which has rave reviews – as I suspect this book will be piling up as well!

Don’t miss it!

With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blog tour, and she and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC.

Author Eve Smith
Continue following the Blog Tour!

BLURB: A longed-for baby
An unthinkable decision
A deadly mistake

In an all-too-possible near future, when genetic engineering has become the norm for humans, not just crops, parents are prepared to take incalculable risks to ensure that their babies are perfect … altering genes that may cause illness, and more…

Susan has been trying for a baby for years, and when an impulsive one-night stand makes her dream come true, she’ll do anything to keep her daughter and ensure her husband doesn’t find out … including the unthinkable. She believes her secret is safe. For now.

But as governments embark on a perilous genetic arms race and children around the globe start experiencing a host of distressing symptoms – even taking their own lives – something truly horrendous is unleashed. Because those children have only one thing in common, and people are starting to ask questions…

Bestselling author of The Waiting Rooms, Eve Smith returns with an authentic, startlingly thought-provoking, disturbing blockbuster of a thriller that provides a chilling glimpse of a future that’s just one modification away…