blog tour, books, reviews

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.

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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.

blog tour, books, reviews

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.

blog tour, books, reviews

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.

blog tour, books, reviews

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.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Bitter Flowers – Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett

Fresh from rehab, PI Varg Veum faces his most complex investigation yet, when a man is found drowned, a young woman disappears, and the case of a missing child is revived. The classic Nordic Noir series continues…

PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when three complex crimes land on his desk. A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool. A young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found. As the threads of these three apparently unrelated cases come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.

A stunning, sophisticated, tension-packed thriller – the darkest of hardboiled Nordic Noir – from one of Norway’s most acclaimed crime writers.

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour); Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

My thoughts: this was really good. After a stint in rehab Varg Veum is back on form and tracking down a killer after literally finding a dead body. This case seems to be connected to several tragedies from some years before – a missing child and the accident that returned a young woman to a childlike state.

As he digs in, more and more details come to light, and could these tragic events be connected by more than just the date?

Gritty, clever and with echoes of today’s climate crisis, this is a compelling and gripping read and one where for once I couldn’t figure out whodunit in the first few pages. Masterly work.

*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: To The Lake – Yana Vagner, translated by Maria Wiltshire

A deadly flu epidemic sweeps through Moscow, killing hundreds of thousands. Anya and her husband Sergey decide they have no choice but to flee to a lake in the far north of Russia.

Joining them on their journey are her son and father-in-law; Sergey’s ex-wife and son; and their garish neighbours. But then some friends of Sergey show up to complete Anya’s list of people she’d least like to be left with at the end of the civilised world.

As the wave of infection expands from the capital, their food and fuel start to run low. Menaced both by the harsh Russian winter and by the desperate people they encounter, they must put their hatreds behind them if they’re to have a chance of reaching safety…

Inspired by a real-life flu epidemic in Moscow, To the Lake was a number one bestseller in Russia, and has now appeared in a dozen languages and been adapted into a Netflix TV series.

My thoughts: it took me a while to get into this book, I might be a bit pandemic fiction-ed out, but as I went on reading and Anya’s convoy went on driving across Russia, I got more into the story of these determined survivors crossing the snow in search of refuge.

You forget how vast Russia is, even though I’ve been there, I travelled from Moscow to St Petersburg on the sleeper train, completely unaware in the dark of the distance. There’s also 9 different timezones. The lake in question is not far from the Finnish border, which seems crazy when you look at a map, Russia is absolutely huge. It takes them 12 days, including a few stopped in a small summer cottage, to reach it. You can drive from one end of the UK to the other in less than 2.

Thankfully those 12 long days mean that a lot can happen in a book, interactions with people, friendly and not so, the farmer who rescues them from the snowdrift was kind and they behaved badly, which is a shame as they were “good people” in his eyes. I’m glad Anya made a canine friend, animals are always worth having around and he made he feel better. I felt bad for Mishka, wanting to be an adult and be with the men, but often treated like he’s still a child, like Dasha and Anton.

I’m not sure how well they’re all going to get along on the island, lots of personalities clashing, and Ira stirring up trouble because she’s still angry that Sergey left her. At least he came to get them and took her and Anton with them. Yes, I got very involved with the characters in a book again, it happens! And now I’m going to watch it on Netflix and see if the way the actors play the characters reflects the way I saw them when I was reading.

*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: The Hideout – Camilla Grebe, translated by Sarah Clyne Sundberg

After eighteen-year-old Samuel finds himself in the middle of a drug deal gone wrong, he is forced to leave home in a hurry. Heading south, he finds refuge in a sleepy coastal town, working as a live-in assistant to the son of a wealthy family.

When the body of a young man washes up in Stockholm’s southern archipelago, investigator Manfred Olsson is called in to work the case. With his two-year-old daughter in a coma, he is reluctant to leave her bedside – but once another body is discovered, his search for the killer intensifies.

As Samuel adjusts to life under the radar, he begins to feel safe, even with a gang out for blood and the police on his trail. But it isn’t long before he realises that his sanctuary may be home to a deadly secret.

My thoughts: first off, Samuel is a bit of an idiot – he gets involved with criminals and he keeps turning the phone they gave him on, clearly he doesn’t watch many crime dramas! But he does find somewhere supposedly safe to hide out from them. Unfortunately it’s the home of a completely disturbing situation. And he’s lined himself up to be the next victim.

The cops are on the case, Manfred might have a lot going on at home, with his young daughter in a coma, but he still manages to commit himself to the case and starts to put together the clues. The bodies and then the information Samuel’s loving if conflicted mother, Pernilla, gives them. She and her friend go off on their own investigation, almost jeopardising Samuel’s life. Not the most helpful thing to do, but a worried parent will do whatever they can.

I liked Pernilla, especially when she grew a backbone, told the creepy pastor off, and set out to save her son. She worried about being a bad parent, but she loves her son and lets nothing stop her in her quest to find him. I also liked Manfred and his team, they were smart and funny, working through the evidence and gathering information as they hunted for the killer leaving bodies wrapped in chains.

This was really clever and compelling, the reveals shocking and horrifying, a real “who would do that?” feel. The role of social media was interesting and smartly done, especially the way it connected Rachel and Afshana, the fact Manfred was so ignorant of it. A very enjoyable, twisted thriller.

*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 Rabbit Factor – Antti Toumainen, translated by David Hackston

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal. Until he is faced with the incalculable, after a series of unforeseeable events. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from some dangerous men who are very keen to get their money back. All improbable and complicated problems. But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, a happy-go-lucky artist with a chequered past, whose erratic lifestyle bewilders him. As the criminals go to increasingly extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

ABOUT ANTTI TUOMAINEN Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 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. A TV adaptation is in the works, and Jussi Vatanen (Man In Room 301) has just been announced as a leading role. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. His latest thriller, Little Siberia, 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. In total, Antti Tuomainen has been short- and longlisted for 12 UK awards.

My thoughts: this is a very funny book, I giggled all the way through. My sense of humour is a bit weird. I think Henri would be confused as to why I found his misadventures so funny.

Henri is part of what makes it so entertaining, he has a very precise way of seeing the world, he is an actuary after all. Everything he does he weighs up and runs the numbers.

Having worked at an indoor soft play centre (known as Hell to staff) I could picture the adventure park Henri inherits from his financially disastrous brother very well. The hordes of screaming children, the deeply obnoxious parents, the dead eyed staff. I doubt our bosses ever had the bright idea of turning it into a bank though. Or getting involved with criminals who like to bake. Mostly because I’m pretty sure they were the criminals.

But Henri decides to save the park, his oddball employees, and the giant rabbit by the entrance with his rather crazy idea, and that means getting involved with loan sharks, avoiding the police inspector who’s showing a keen interest in the park, and generally trying not to panic.

It’s all utterly hilarious and charming, especially as his only ally is Schopenhauer the cat, who can’t exactly help out. And maybe Laura, who he’s rather charmed by. But Henri is determined to prevail and win the day. It’s that or a rather ugly death at the hands of the baking loan shark. I loved this book, it was over far too quickly and I need to know what became of Henri and Laura.

*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: Cold as Hell – Lilja Sigurđardóttir, translated by Quentin Bates

Estranged sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries, and are not on speaking terms. When their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to look for her. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without a trace. As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is drawn into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation. Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, to help her track her sister’s movements, and tail Björn. But she isn’t the only one watching…

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, her 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. 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, which isn’t a surprise when you consider the author. A clever, twisting narrative, where all the characters have secrets and you can’t quite work out who the killer is, there’s something very odd about Ísafold’s neighbour and he certainly knows more than he’s saying. Àroŕa might be an excellent financial investigator but she’s stumped by her sister’s disappearance and distracted by hotelier Hakon and his dubious financial dealings.

Flicking between different perspectives, slowly the events surrounding Ísafold’s disappearance start to coalesce. Then there’s Olga and Omar downstairs, with their own reasons for not wanting to speak to the police, trying to keep out of the way. But also not attract suspicion, unlike Ìsafold’s ex-partner, Bjorn, a thoroughly unlikeable man who thinks he’s above it all, despite being the main suspect.

It’s all very cleverly done, with the overlapping narratives weaving together as Daniel, the sisters’ sort of uncle, using his detective skills first unofficially, then very much opening a case, to try to find Ìsafold in the long sunny Icelandic summer. The writing is crisp and precise, keeping the reader hooked. A pleasure to read.

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