Blog Tour – The Mine – Antti Tuomainen

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The Finnish Invasion part two.

BLURB: A hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. Can he uncover the truth before it’s too late?
In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life.
A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results … The Mine is a gripping, beautifully written, terrifying and explosive thriller by the King of Helsinki Noir.

The Mine, the second book in the Finnish Invasion, following Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Exiled, is the story of a dedicated reporter, Janne Vuori, and his investigation into a mine owned by Finn Mining Ltd. in the depths of Northern Finland, hundreds of miles from anywhere. He’s received a tip off via an anonymous e-mail that the mine is creating what will be an environmental catastrophe, and the senders want to know if he’s “the journalist they’ve been looking for.” He probably is – he’s an obsessive investigator, always got his eye out for the next scoop. However, at this moment in time, things are bad at home – he and his partner Pauliine are barely communicating, except regarding their two-year-old daughter, Ella (to be fair, Pauliine is pretty driven career-wise, too, although she doesn’t, like Vanne, get caught up in it to the extent that nothing else ceases to exist.)

What’s more, after 30 years not knowing if he’s dead or alive, Janne’s father Emil is back in Helsinki. He tells Janne that he works in human relations, but us readers learn early on that he’s a hitman. But he’s tentatively reaching out to Janne, to see if there’s any possibility of a rapprochement. But is Emil back for good? And could he possibly have anything to do with the assassination of various board members of Finn Mining Ltd., which is obviously putting him right in the middle of Janne’s story?

I found this a really fascinating read – as well as being a fast one, with plenty of action. It’s very much a story for our times, and had me thinking there are probably parts of the globe where literally anything could be going on, and no-one would get close enough to learn the full story. As soon as Janne takes the story on, after his first trip to the mine, he’s convinced he’s being followed. Antti’s writing combines the family-at-a-crucial-point story with that of the dedicated reporter, desperate to get to the truth – and all of it is beautifully written, guaranteed to keep you reading – and keep you guessing – long into the night! Emil, the hitman father, is a particularly fascinating character. And what of those pushing Janne to investigate the story – given that they’re anonymous, how much can he trust them? Are they revealing their full agenda?

Topical. Frightening. Beautifully written, with a fast-moving story, which makes it almost impossible to put down. Plus it’s a standalone, so you haven’t missed anything up until now. This is another absolute belter from Orenda, but, really, you wouldn’t expect anything less by now, would you?!

Highly recommended.

With many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books who supplied me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Blog Tour – The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

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The Finnish Invasion Part One

BLURB: Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal?

Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?

Chilling, taut and relevant, The Exiled is an electrifying, unputdownable thriller from one of Finland s most celebrated crime writers.

The Exiled is the third in the Anna Fekete series and, due to family illness when the second came out, is the first I’ve got round to reading. However, I intend to rectify that and read The Hummingbird and The Defenceless as soon as I can find space in my reading schedule. Unlike the first two books, which were set in Finland, where Anna Fekete, our main character, works as a Detective Inspector, this one is set in Serbia, to where her mother has returned after bringing Anna and her brother up in Finland. For me, Anna’s the main attraction for reading the books – she could almost be seen as one of The Exiled of the title, in that she’s torn between the country in which she was born, with it’s more traditional ways, and Finland, which is more affluent and forward-thinking. Serbia to me, however, seemed charming, still relying on an a mainly agricultural economy, although, to our eyes, the people would be regarded as poor – in cash terms, which is how the West thinks. However, you can see the old-fashioned thinking, especially when you hear Anna’s mother and friends nagging her about finding a partner and settling down, even though she’s only in her early 30s. Anna enjoys the freedom her career gives her, and she’s a natural law enforcer – for her it’s not about ticking boxes and making quotas; it’s about justice truly being done.

Of course, despite being on holiday, Anna gets involved in solving a crime – and it’s one which has far-reaching consequences both timewise, and for her family. It kicks off almost as soon as she arrives, at an evening of gathering and drinking in the village park (really just a square.) Anna’s handbag is stolen, and is found almost immediately – the next day – with her being told the thief, a man, was dead, from drowning in the river. Anna wonders where a girl with a red skirt, who she’d seen with the thief, has gone. She also insists on seeing the post mortem results, which the Chief of Police agrees to show her (Anna’s father had been a policeman in the town.) Obviously Anna continues with her own enquiries, with the help of her colleagues in Finland, who help as much as they can remotely.

Most people in the town assume it must be the Romani who’d be responsible for such a theft, but there’s another type of exiled people gathering in the area – refugees, attempting to enter the EU. They too could be who the title is referring to.

Anna’s character reminded me a little of M.R. Hall’s Jenny Cooper in his series where she’s a coroner – a woman entirely confident in her career, and relentless in fulfilling the requirements of it, but less sure of herself in her private life and the expectations that are still put on women on that side of her life. (In Jenny Cooper’s case, she feels a failure as her 17-year-old son – understandably! – prefers to live in Bristol with his father, rather than in the countryside with her.) It’s probably worse for Anna as, particularly in this book, she’s being torn between two cultures, and, to boot, is unsure to which she really belongs!

Anna Fekete is another new-to-me female detective I will definitely enjoy following – once I’ve read the books I already have, of course! Those who enjoy their dose of Scandinavian chills will have to wait until the next book, but I found the Balkan setting as intriguing and different as any Scandinavian one. And Kati Hiekkapelto is certainly a talented writer, who can spin a tale with an unexpected ending!


Blog Tour – Crash Land – Doug Johnstone

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CRASH:  An adrenaline-charged thriller from the Kindle-bestselling author of Gone Again and Hit and Run.

Sitting in the departure lounge of Kirkwall Airport, Finn Sullivan just wants to get off Orkney. But then he meets the mysterious and dangerous Maddie Pierce, stepping in to save her from some unwanted attention, and his life is changed forever.

Set against the brutal, unforgiving landscape of Orkney, CRASH LAND is a psychological thriller steeped in guilt, shame, lust, deception and murder.

So many books nowadays can’t tell a good crime fiction story – never mind one packed with action – without hitting the 400-page mark. So Crash Land was an enjoyably racy thriller, with a morally torn hero – definitely a case of “all killer, no filler”! After losing out to Chris Brookmyre in a very strong field for the McIlvanney Prize at Bloody Scotland, with his excellent The Jump, Doug Johnstone is straight back out there with this tale of a crash at Kirkwall airport.

It opens with a discussion between staff at the airport over whether the plane to Edinburgh should fly at all, due to high winds. Then, at the last minute, a beautiful, charismatic and mysterious woman rushes in, getting checked in in full view of Finn – heading home from visiting his gran – and a group of oil workers, who have all taken advantage of the delay by hitting the bar. Seeing one of the beered-up, gym-pumped oil workers is heading over to chat her up, the b, c & m woman – Maddie – heads to Finn and asks him to drink with her, to avert the oil worker’s advances, as he looks more harmless. Of course, as they sit drinking, Finn is magnetized by Maddie, completely forgetting the fact he has a perfectly nice girlfriend, Amy, at home in Dundee. As rumours that they might be grounded are heard around the terminal, Maddie gets increasingly agitated, saying she can’t go back, she has to get off the island, ad infinitum.

Luckily – or, in retrospect, perhaps not – they decide to fly, but soon after take-off Finn heads for the bathroom. On his return, oil worker has his hands on Maddie. Finn asks him to leave her alone, and a fight ensues. On the small plane, with the winds, we have a really dramatic and well-described scene. The combination of the fight, and the winds, causes the small plane to split in two, crashing to the ground. Finn, at the back, is okay, as is Maddie, who, continuing her mantra of “not going back”, runs from the plane wreckage. Charlotte, the stewardess, is okay, oil worker is badly injured but alive, but his friends are dead, as are an elderly holidaying couple at the front, and the pilots. It’s a major accident – and Finn was, albeit inadvertently, part of the cause of it. 

I’ve got to say – I can’t stand women like Maddie. There’s a line where she describes the sort of guys she dislikes: “Players…Guys who think they’re it. Pulling techniques and strategies, targeting women with low self-esteem, conquering the opposite sex.” Alter the sex and you have a perfect description of Maddie, who sees Finn as pliable for anything she needs, even if it’s as small a thing as buying a drink or carrying a bag – although it turns out to be a great deal more than that! Unfortunately for Finn, they’d swapped phone numbers at the airport, and soon she rings him, asking for help, laying it on thick, “If you don’t help me, I’ll die.” Of course, Finn’s being led by his trousers, the idiot, and helps her out – which she takes full advantage of. Meanwhile, the more he learns that getting involved with Maddie was a Very Bad Idea. She certainly had his number up at the airport – daftie who can be manipulated. And that manipulation could lead him straight to jail…

Meanwhile, Amy, the nice girlfriend, has rushed up as fast as possible, as has the media, and Finn is the man they all want the story from, with oil worker in an induced coma, and Maddie missing, Finn’s the man most likely to know her whereabouts – or at least have the best story for the vulture-like tabloids.

Orkney made a superb setting – I’ve no idea how much time Doug Johnstone has spent there over the years, but he made me want to head up for a break asap. Although perhaps not by plane… And we get even more action at the end of the book, making this a real roller coaster of a read. Doug Johnstone is turning out to be one of Scotland’s most reliable, talented and versatile writers, and this one’s definitely worth a few hours of your time. I just wouldn’t read it on a flight…!

Highly recommended.

With thanks to Faber&Faber for my copy of this book.