Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Evil remembers…
Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.
Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?
Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.
Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

My Review

I had heard plenty about Block 46 prior to reading it. But nothing I had heard prepared me for what I would be reading. It is probably one of the most chilling and thought provoking books that I have ever read. One that can still make me feel edgy a week after finishing it.
It is mainly set in the modern day in England and Sweden where detectives from each country are joined by Alexis who was a close friend of the latest victim and Emily a profiler. They were all trying to find out who was responsible for murders in both countries.
But there are also parts of the novel that are set in Buchenwald in 1944/45. I have read a few novels that mention the Holocaust before but never before have I read anything that felt as personal and affected me as much as this. The cruelty and random acts of violence, the hunger, the stench, loneliness, and the desperation all had a huge impact on me. One section of the novel towards the end left me freezing cold and in tears. It also had me re-evaluating a section of the novel I had read earlier and how different events are when seen through another person’s eyes. As the novel progresses you see how the two stories connect but the author is very clever. At no point during the narration did I see or work out anything.
The relationship between Alexis and her parents was light relief during the novel even though they only appear briefly. I liked Alexis and Emily, at times they seemed to clash but I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship progresses. I think there is a lot more to learn about Emily.
I found the story strong enough to work out well as a series but the Buchenwald storyline made this book so much more than a usual crime novel. This was an account that needed to be told and has catapulted it into my top ten list of books read. Not just in 2017 but my all-time top ten.
With thanks to the publisher for my copy received.

You can buy the book at Amazon and Waterstones

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Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary – Review.

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About the Book

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.
Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

My Review

The series featuring Marnie Rome and Noah Jake is now one of my favourite. One of those where you soak up every word and look for hints for what might happen in the future.
This latest offering focuses on a missing child, revenge attacks on perpetrators of crime, gang culture and more insight into the personal lives of Marnie and Noah. Whilst we have got to know them both quite well in the past this time it is slightly different. There seems to be a connection between their personal and professional lives.
As always it is very believable. Low income, poor housing and limited opportunity areas that recruit their gang members early. Some of the gang members here are devastatingly young, showing vulnerability and fear but also a hard side where if these emotions are not controlled there would only be one way out.
Steven, who is now serving his sentence in an adult prison has a hold over Marnie, his grip gets tighter with every novel. The scenes where he features make me cringe with the distress that she can’t escape from. But this time it is Noah who I feel more sympathy for. The situation he is in becomes increasingly difficult and he has only one option. I can see both storylines continuing into the next novel.
It’s a brilliant series that I have followed from the first novel. I have enjoyed getting to know all the characters that Sarah Hilary has created.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. You can buy the novel at amazon or Waterstones

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby. 2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame … As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating.

My Review

I decided to read Six Stories in the way that it was written, one podcast daily. It gave me a chance to digest what I learned and to recover from the increasing eeriness.
I have never been to Northumberland, but have seen various fells in Cumbria. I have also stayed in centres just like the one described in the book when I was at school. The way that everything is described is all very similar. Isolated but beautiful with a sense of menace when it is nighttime and  the level of darkness that you would only ever experience on a fell.
Each of the six podcasts describe the events surrounding Tom from people who he connected with at the time. His ‘friends’, their guide and a local man who was treated maliciously and mercilessly by Tom and a few of the others. Tom was not a nice person, there was nobody who escaped his mind games and viciousness. Scott King coaxes them all into reliving the way that he was with them and this wasn’t welcomed.
Nana Wrack and the other apparitions seen were very convincing. I have always been wary of opening curtains and seeing somebody stood on the other side of the window. And the descriptions here brought back memories that I can laugh about now but had me fearful when I was a teenager.
It is a difficult book to read without giving away too much but if you enjoy podcasts, serialised books with a high level of spookiness you won’t be disappointed. It’s also fantastic storytelling in a unique style.

You can buy the book at  amazon or  Waterstones

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

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He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly – Review

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About the Book

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.
She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, four lives change forever.
Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.
And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, she also knows that you can never see the whole picture: something is always hidden… something she never could have guessed.

My Review

He Said, She Said is one of the best books that I have read this year.
Told by two different people over a period of fifteen years it focuses on Laura and Kit who are witnesses to an attack at a festival to celebrate the eclipse. When Laura makes an error of judgement at the trial she is afraid of the consequences. But she doesn’t expect to be still living in fear years later. Beth, the young woman who was attacked is very much a part of their lives but they are not comfortable with her being so close to them. Laura’s story covers the way she has suffered since the trial and how she has kept it secret but Kit’s shows a more selfish side and how he has done things that places them in more danger.
I love a book with more than one narrator that also covers more than one period in time and I should imagine that it is difficult to do. Erin Kelly though has done it very well. There is a lot of drama and tension all the way through the book and both Laura and Kit have really suffered since the eclipse. At times, I felt very tense while reading and when it switched narrator I couldn’t wait to return to see what happened next.
The court scenes were the most convincing that I have read. A very convincing villain who maintained his innocence, a ruthless lawyer who had no sympathy at all for a victim. It was also, just as terrifying as I imagine it to be on a witness stand.
This is only the second book I have read by this author and I’m looking forward to reading more by her.
Erin Kelly will be appearing at First Monday Crime on the 6th March. This looks like a very interesting evening and details can be found here

With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.

Mischling by Affinity Konar – Review

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About the Book

It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain. That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks – a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin – travel through Poland’s devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.

My Review

When I first started reading Mischling I was intrigued by the title but had no idea what it meant. When I found out, it was the first of many times that I felt chilled reading this novel. Pearl and Stasha are twins and have recently arrived at Aushcwitz and soon realise the level of danger that they are all in. Very soon after arrival they have the attention of Josef Mengele. Stasha feels that she has the power and will to charm him into getting better treatment for her mother and grandfather. She believes his promises and outwardly accepts all what he does. But in her mind, she only wants revenge.
There is so much about the novel that is devastating. The images created of suffering loss and death were very vivid. But the strength, loyalty and willpower shown by the twins and their friends was humbling. I had to keep reminding myself that the twins were only twelve years old and their friends not much older.
The narrative switches between Pearl and Stasha, both say how they suffer under Mengele, Elma a nurse and Taube a guard. Mengele was evil, I was aware of that prior to reading but the venom displayed by Elma and Taube was just as upsetting. Especially Taube, just as I thought things would be ok. But then there were others, who had no choice but to do what they were told and really struggled coping with their deeds.
Whilst both narratives were fascinating it was Pearl’s account that I preferred. There was part of her story that left me distraught and that image will stay with me for a while. There was a lot to get upset about in the novel but the strength of character, will and loyalty made it much easier to read. It gave a sense of hope that there could be a future for all the ones who suffered.
There will be some who believe that novels like this shouldn’t be written but my opinion is that they need to be. I believe that we are heading into a situation that nobody will remember or be aware of what happened during this time. Affinity Konar was inspired by the twin girls Eva and Miriam Mozes who both survived Mengele’s experiments.
A desperately sad novel that was also full of love and hope.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.