blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Urgent Matters – Paula Rodriguez

A train crashes in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, leaving forty-three people dead. A prayer card of Saint Expeditus, the patron saint of urgent matters, flutters above the wreckage.

Hugo, a criminal on the run for murder, is on the train. He seizes his chance to sneak out of the wreckage unsuspected, abandoning his possessions – and, he hopes, his identity – among bodies mangled beyond recognition.

As the police descend on the scene, only grizzled Detective Domínguez sees a link between the crash and his murder case. Soon, he’s on Hugo’s tail. But he hasn’t banked on everything from the media to his mother-in-law getting in the way.

My thoughts:this is a short book but it packs a real punch as Hugo, suspected of murder, is involved in a terrible train accident. He escapes from hospital and goes into hiding, sort of.

His partner and daughter have no idea if he’s even survived and his mother-in-law sees an opportunity to get herself on TV. Seeking Hugo (but not for any particularly altruistic reasons) her family are suddenly all over the news, and the impact on Marta and her daughter is carefully and cleverly revealed.

This is an intriguing and complex narrative, peopled with a cast of newsreaders, sisters, assistants and stray dogs. A slice of unreal life really. Very interesting and enjoyable.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Red as Blood – Lilja Sigurđardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

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 contracting 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…

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An awardwinning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series and Lilja’s English debut shortlisting for the CWA International Dagger and hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap soon followed suit, with the third in the trilogy Cage winning the Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year, and was a Guardian Book of the Year. Lilja’s standalone Betrayal, was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel. In 2021, Cold as Hell, the first in the An Áróra Investigation series was published, with Red as Blood to follow in 2022. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja is also an award-winning screenwriter in her native Iceland. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

My thoughts: this was very good, much like my favourite Russian dolls, this was plot within plot. The kidnapping, Flosi’s dodgy financial arrangements, the family’s complex relationships, all neatly stacked inside one another as Daniel and Áróra dig into Flosi and Gudrun’s lives and business, more things start coming to light and it gets scary.

And then there’s Daniel and Áróra and their tangled personal relationship. He wants her but she wants him to find her sister more. Throw in an extravagant drag queen who believes in the little folk, Helena’s system and you have a complicated, messy world that this case makes more so by throwing people together in new and not entirely happy ways.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Moose Paradox – Antti Tuomainen, translated by David Hackston

Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen has finally restored order both to his life and to YouMeFun, the adventure park he now owns, when a man from the past appears – and turns everything upside down again. More problems arise when the park’s equipment supplier is taken over by a shady trio, with confusing demands. Why won’t Toy of Finland Ltd sell the new Moose Chute to Henri when he needs it as the park’s main attraction? Meanwhile, Henri’s relationship with artist Laura has reached breaking point, and, in order to survive this new chaotic world, he must push every calculation to its limits, before it’s too late.

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author Iin 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. Little Siberia (2020), was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The Rabbit Factor (2021), the first book in Antti’s first ever series, is in production by Amazon Studios with Steve Carell starring. The Moose Paradox, book two in the series is out in 2022.

My thoughts: back to Finland’s maddest adventure park we go. Just as Henri thinks he’s solved all his problems, more appear. There’s shady businessmen/gangsters who seem to be determined to ruin the park, with inferior equipment and a hostile takeover, the staff are in revolt, and he’s not sure about whether to take the next step with the lovely Laura. Just another day’s work at YouMeFun then.

Although we never find out exactly what the Moose Shute does (and some of the other creations of Toy Finland sound downright nuts and beyond dangerous), the lengths Henri goes to to secure it are hilarious. For someone who spends their time calculating risk, he’s prepared to go to extremes for the park.

This book might actually be even more fun and ridiculous than The Rabbit Factor, as chaos lurks around every corner, not to mention the police, furious criminals, the park’s own staff (no one else would hire them) and a blast from the past that could destroy everything Henri has worked so hard for.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Salt Crystals – Cristina Bendek, translated by Robin Myers

San Andrés rises gently from the Caribbean, part of Colombia but closer to Nicaragua, the largest island in an archipelago claimed by the Spanish, colonized by the Puritans, worked by slaves, and home to Arab traders, migrants from the mainland, and the descendents of everyone who came before. For Victoria – whose origins on the island go back generations, but whose identity is contested by her accent, her skin color, her years far away – the sun-burned tourists and sewage blooms, sudden storms, and ‘thinking rundowns’ where liberation is plotted and dinner served from a giant communal pot, bring her into vivid, intimate contact with the island she thought she knew, her own history, and the possibility for a real future for herself and San Andrés.

WINNER OF ELISA MÚJICA PRIZE FOR NOVELS (Colombia, 2018)

My thoughts: this was a really interesting book, I don’t know a huge amount about South America, let alone Colombia, and certainly not San Andreś. I think because it was mostly conquered by the Spanish, it just doesn’t get covered in British schools. Which is a shame, as this book demonstrates. The island has had a complex and tumultuous history, being settled by various colonisers (including the British – no surprise there) seeking a foothold in the Caribbean.

As Victoria starts to trace her family’s history, exploring her deep connection to the island, she uncovers a rich and often quite dark history. Her ancestors were involved in settling the island – but they brought slaves with them, to farm sugar, as with much of the Caribbean, and she is both horrified and intrigued by the people she’s descended from.

The modern island is not without its problems either – arguments about water, sewage, pollution and land rage around her, she’s drawn into the politics by her friends, despite her late parents never really getting involved, she feels she should, after all it’s her home too.

Challenging and questioning history, this is a slim and intelligent book. Despite the serious nature of some of the things Victoria is learning, the tone is light and never hectoring. You feel Victoria’s surprise and horror as she uncovers the truth about her family, but also her affection for these long dead relatives. Emotions are never black or white, as Victoria learns, like the past, it’s more complicated. But as she looks to the future, to her future on San Andreś, there’s hope too, by understanding her history, she can look to shape a better future.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Night Shadows – Eva Björg Ægisdottir, translated by Victoria Cribb

The small community of Akranes is devastated when a young man dies in a mysterious house fire, and when Detective Elma and her colleagues from West Iceland CID discover the fire was arson, they become embroiled in an increasingly perplexing case involving multiple suspects. What’s more, the dead man’s final online search raises fears that they could be investigating not one murder, but two.

A few months before the fire, a young Dutch woman takes a job as an au pair in Iceland, desperate to make a new life for herself after the death of her father. But the seemingly perfect family who employs her turns out to have problems of its own and she soon discovers she is running out of people to turn to.

As the police begin to home in on the truth, Elma, already struggling to come to terms with a life-changing event, finds herself in mortal danger as it becomes clear that someone has secrets they’ll do anything to hide…

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel, The Creak on the Stairs. The book went on to win the CWA Debut Dagger, the Blackbird Award, was shortlisted (twice) for the Capital Crime Readers’ Awards, and became a number one bestseller in Iceland. The critically acclaimed Girls Who Lie (book two in the Forbidden Iceland series) soon followed, with Night Shadows (book three) following suit in July 2022. Eva lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík.

My thoughts: so we return to the unluckiest town in Iceland where a teenage boy’s body is found locked in his house after a fire. Was it arson? And why would anyone want to kill him?

It’s up to Elma to find out, and when she finds a missing young au pair might be linked to the dead boy, she breaks open the secrets of his friends and their families. Someone here knows a lot more than they’re willing to share.

It’s actually quite sad as all these young lives are shattered, two dead teenagers, families devastated, and more young people implicated in a horrid plot to cover up an accident that becomes a crime.

Elma is a sympathetic figure, she wants the truth and is also dealing with her own personal issues. She doesn’t open up much, even to her family – her sister seems a much bigger personality, but it keeps the suspects from guessing what she’s thinking. She puts herself in harms way, refusing to accept the explanation she’s been given – it doesn’t quite fit.

Clever, suspenseful and with at least one disturbed mind at play here, this is very enjoyable crime writing.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Tasting Sunlight – Ewald Arenz, translated by Rachel Ward

Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she is to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace. Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single­handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.

From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked.

The first night lengthens into weeks as Sally starts to find pleasure in working with the bees, feeding the chickens, and harvesting potatoes. Eventually an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land

Ewald Arenz was born in Nurnberg in 1965, where he now teaches. He has won various national and regional awards for literature; among them the Bavarian State Prize for Literature and the great Nuremberg Prize for Literature. One of seven children, he enjoys nature, woodturning, biking, swimming, and drinking tea. He lives with his family in Germany. #TastingSunlight #JubilantJune @EwaldArenz

My thoughts: this is a rather strange but beautiful love story. Sally runs away from the mental health unit her parents have sent her to, and finds shelter on Liss’ family farm. Both women are wounded and lonely, together they slowly start to heal.

But Sally’s parents and the authorities are looking for her, and in finding her they drag up Liss’ sad, painful past. This time Sally will be the one helping Liss recover and move on. Their bond is fragile, and the farm is full of complicated memories, but among the pear trees and vines, there is the gentle hope for the future.

Moving, tender and bittersweet, I was swept up into the world Liss and Sally create for themselves as they harvest the fruit and go about their daily chores. The outside world brings them pain so they seek to hide from it. Something I think we can all relate to at times.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Little Drummer – Kjell Ola Dahl, translated by Don Bartlett

When a woman is found dead in her car in a Norwegian parking garage, everyone suspects an overdose … until a forensics report indicates that she was murdered. Oslo Detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda discover that the victim’s Kenyan scientist boyfriend has disappeared, and their investigations soon lead them into the shady world of international pharmaceutical deals. While Gunnarstranda closes in on the killers in Norway, Frølich and Lise, his new journalist ally, travel to Africa, where they make a series of shocking discoveries about exploitation and corruption in the distribution of foreign aid and essential HIV medications. When tragedy unexpectedly strikes, all three investigators face incalculable danger, spanning two continents. And not everyone will make it out alive… Exploding the confines of the Nordic Noir genre, Little Drummer is a sophisticated, fast-paced, international thriller with a searingly relevant, shocking premise that will keep you glued to the page.

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published thirteen novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

My thoughts: what starts off as a bit of paperwork following a suspected OD becomes a far more complicated beast, when the police discover the victim was murdered and CCTV shows a man fleeing the scene. He flees all the way back to his small village in Kenya, and detective Frølich follows him there, he doesn’t think the young scientist is a killer, but he’s definitely a witness.

Covering international relations, big business, fraud, murder, conspiracy and all sorts of other nefarious practices, this book unfolds a shocking tangle of bodies and lies that all ultimately link to the biggest evil of all – money.

Journalist Lise is personally involved from the start – she found Kristine’s body, but her own life is at risk when she starts digging into the case, hoping for a cracking story, she bites off a bit more than she can chew, but a partnership with Frølich means she’s not in too much danger as his instincts mean he’s watching out for her.

As the case unfolds and they start to connect the dots, one man is their suspect, but is he a red herring? Could another, rather more innocuous man, be the real mastermind and murderer?

Clever, twisting and turning, revealing some of the crimes of international development in the global South, this book takes you from Norway to Kenya and back, following the money and peeling back the layers of secrecy and control to find the killer at its heart.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: River Clyde – Simone Buchholz, translated by Rachel Ward

Mired in grief after tragic recent events, State prosecutor Chastity Riley escapes to Scotland, lured to the birthplace of her great-greatgrandfather by a mysterious letter suggesting she has inherited a house. In Glasgow, she meets Tom, the ex-lover of Chastity’s great aunt, who holds the keys to her own family secrets – painful stories of unexpected cruelty and loss that she’s never dared to confront. In Hamburg, Stepanovic and Calabretta investigate a major arson attack, while a group of property investors kicks off an explosion of violence that threatens everyone. As events in these two countries collide, Chastity prepares to face the inevitable, battling the ghosts of her past and the lost souls that could be her future and, perhaps, finally finding redemption for them all. Nail-bitingly tense and breathtakingly emotive, River Clyde is both an electrifying thriller and a poignant, powerful story of damage and hope, and one woman’s fight for survival.

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. The critically acclaimed Beton Rouge, Mexico Street and Hotel Cartagena all followed in the Chastity Riley series, with River Clyde out in 2022. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

My thoughts: this was told in a really interesting, fractured style, with the river Clyde itself as one of the voices. Following the events of Hotel Cartagena the characters of Chastity and her friends/colleagues are still reeling and struggling to recover.

As Chastity heads for Glasgow, her drinking is excessive, and she has so many questions about her family and where she comes from. The aunt she’s inherited a house from is completely unknown to her, and she roams the city’s bars trying to drown out her worries and questions.

Her relationship with Stepanovic is on hold while she’s away, but she’s never out of his thoughts even while he investigates some dodgy individuals and their connection to an explosion and several murders.

The end doesn’t draw everything together, some people are still struggling with the after effects of the previous book, which feels realistic, trauma doesn’t just go away. There are still things to carry on with. As Chastity returns to Germany, how things will change is all still to be seen.

Incredible writing, moving and clever, at times a bit mind bending, there is a lot going on and different plots weave around each other and leave the reader with questions and an urge to re-read to see what else can be teased out.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Corpse Flower – Anne Mette Hancock

Danish journalist Heloise Kaldan is in the middle of a nightmare. One of her sources has been caught lying, and she could lose her job over it. Then she receives the first in a series of cryptic and unsettling letters from a woman named Anna Kiel.

Wanted in connection with the fatal stabbing of a young lawyer three years earlier, Anna hasn’t been seen by anyone since she left the crime scene covered in blood. The police think she’s fled the country until homicide detective Erik Scháfer comes up with a lead after the reporter who originally wrote about the case is found murdered in his apartment. Has Anna Kiel struck again, or is there more than one killer at large? And why does every clue point directly to Heloise Kaldan?

Meanwhile, the letters keep coming, and they hint at a connection between Anna and Heloise. As Heloise starts digging deeper, she realizes that to tell Anna’s story she will have to revisit the darkest parts of her own past–confronting someone she swore she’d never see again.

The Corpse Flower is the first in the #1 bestselling Danish crime series, the Kaldan and Scháfer mysteries.

My thoughts: this was really, really good, I’m glad it’s now available in English as I would otherwise have missed out on this utterly gripping, thrilling book. It’s an intelligent and compelling thriller that sees journalist Heloise Kaldan investigating the whereabouts of a murderer on the run – Anna Kiel, who has been writing her slightly cryptic letters.

As the story unfolds we learn more about the circumstances around the murder Anna committed, and Heloise is placed in considerable danger from a shadowy figure who wants her to stop digging. Which of course makes her want to dig more. Along with detective Schàfer, Heloise finally starts to get some answers, answers that will rock society and take up the front page as a series of arrests are made. But will Anna be brought to justice? And will the man who had Heloise attacked be stopped?

The writing was excellent, I could not put this down. I really hope the rest of the series also gets translated and published here as it’s cracking stuff.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Unhinged – Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger, translated by Megan Turney

His colleague is dead. His daughter may be next. It’s time to do things his way… Two of Nordic Noir’s most accomplished writers return with the explosive, staggeringly complex and unbearably emotive third instalment in the international bestselling Blix & Ramm series.

When police investigator Sofia Kovic uncovers a startling connection between several Oslo 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…

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. Thomas Enger is a journalist-turned-author whose trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved was Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller, closely followed by Smoke Screen, and the series has sold more than two million copies worldwide, outselling Jo Nesbo in their native Norway, Sweden and Germany. @LierHorst @EngerThomas.

My thoughts: this was a shocking book, starting with the violent death of Blix’s friend and colleague Sofia Kovic and the brutal kidnapping and assault of his daughter Iselin. Blix is off the case but can’t stay away from trying to solve it. With the help of blogger Emma Ramm, he’s determined to work out why Sofia and Iselin were targeted and by whom.

I could not put this down, it was so tense and gripping. It was also really sad and awful at times, neither Sofia or Iselin should have had to suffer, but Sofia had spotted a link between a series of cases, and was determined to pursue it and the killer couldn’t let her stop him. Blix will have to finish her work. But in doing so Blix comes into the spotlight and risks his career.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.