The CWA Anthology of Short Stories Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards – Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour.

Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

My Review

I rarely read short stories, and when I do they are usually all by the same author. Reading this proved to me that I am missing out on some fabulous stories and some great authors. Out of the twenty-eight that featured I had heard of about a dozen and read about eight.
They all had a common theme, that of travelling but all approached the subject in different ways. There were some fascinating places but also some which you would hope never to see.
I know that some of the reviewers chose to read these stories at random, picking known or favourite authors first but I chose to read them in the order they were in the book. I read a couple a day, that way each of the stories were getting the same amount of attention. I liked them all, I won’t say which was my most or least favourite, there are some clever, some humorous and some bizarre stories on offer. I didn’t dislike any of them.
I do find short stories harder to read than a full length novel, I find myself more aware of how many pages long they are. I wonder if it is similar for the author. Are they easier or harder to write?
I received my copy from the publisher for the review but I am eagerly looking forward to my limited edition copy arriving that will have been signed by some of the authors.
If you would like a signed copy you can find it here
If you would like the usual copy you can find it here.

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Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier…

My Review

Whiteout is book four in the series that features Ari Thór. When the books were translated into English, book one was published first followed by book five. So this book neatly finishes the series and fills in all the gaps regarding Ari Thór, Kristen and Tómas’s personal lives. I can also reread the five books in order at my leisure.

It takes place at Christmas time after an eerie prologue that sent the hairs up on the back of my neck. Ari Thór is asked to accompany Tómas on a trip to a remote area to investigate a suspicious death. Because Kristen is heavily pregnant he convinces her to go with them. She agrees because she want to do some investigating herself, concerning her family’s history.

The personal stories in the series have always been strong and I  enjoyed seeing Tómas again. It was also the first time that I warmed to Kristen. The differences between her and Ari Thór are still evident but for once I had sympathy for her. His refusal ( or reluctance) to discuss his past was upsetting for her, whilst she was determined to find out about her own family history.

It was fascinating reading about Iceland and its customs. The celebration of Christmas was magical, despite some of the slightly strange delicacies that were eaten. Some of the traditions were humbling when you live in a society that is often dubious.

The book put me in mind of an Agatha Christie novel. There were only a few characters. All had different personalities and had known each other for years. They all had their secrets, desires, fears and disappointments. One of these characters I liked a lot and I was cringing at times, hoping it wasn’t them who was a murderer. The area in which it takes place sounded beautiful but intimidating. I couldn’t imagine it feeling welcoming even if there wasn’t the bad weather.

I truly hope that there are more books to come in this series, it is one that I will miss if it has finished. There is still plenty of room on my shelf for limited edition signed copies.

 

 

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book.

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavik still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

My Review.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I first started to read Snare. I am only vaguely aware of the Icelandic banking crisis. I can remember that many people faced ruin but that was all. But the banking scandal is only one part of this novel.

Agla, is a high-ranking bank employee who has been made scapegoat by her colleagues. She is in a relationship with the ex-wife, Sonia, of another colleague whose hands are just as dirty as hers are. Agla is not a character I cared for. I found her brittle, snobbish and at times cruel. Mainly to Sonia who seemed to have strong feelings for her.

Sonia, struggling financially since the collapse of her marriage is smuggling cocaine. initially the amounts are only small and she is confident of getting through customs without raising suspicion. But the amounts she has to bring in are increased, threats are made against her son and she is starting to be noticed by customs. But she is determined to provide a decent life for her and Tomas.

Finally there is Brago, a customs officer who is close to forced retirement. It was his character who I liked most. I loved his devotion to his wife who was in ill-health in a nursing home that could have been better. And his approach towards Sonia’s predicament.

The novel showed the worst side of people. Agla seemed to have no feeling for the people who had lost everything. Sonia, who had suffered for years living with an abusive husband chose the worst possible way to get a better life. Some of the people she had to deal with were very intimidating. There were quite a few scenes where I cringed at the hazards of smuggling drugs.

I’ve not read anything like this before. Most crime novels are told from the police point of view not the criminal’s. Nor have I read a novel where a person is getting covered in volcanic ash as they go about their daily activities.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

My Review

The Man Who Died is a dark, extremely funny novel about the murder of Jaakko. He has not yet died but he knows that his death is imminent and that somebody else is responsible for it. You might think that this book would be depressing but it’s not. Not even Jaakko is depressed, he just wants to find out who wants him dead, eat ice cream and chocolate and drink cola. Without having to worry about weight gain. There was no self-pity, at times he found his situation comical. Even the parts that should have been hurtful, embarrassing or annoying were just accepted.
There were parts of this novel where I couldn’t talk for laughing. It reminded me of a Coen Brothers movie I watched years ago when I had the same reaction. Once I had that image, I started to see this book as a film. I even picked the cast, strangely the lead actor is mentioned later in the book.
As with many reviews, it is easy to reveal too much in a review. There are only a few characters and many bizarre situations that made me think I knew who the murderer was, only to find out that I had been duped. After a while, I gave up trying to work out who had murdered Jaakko and just enjoyed every bit of it.
It is at times slapstick, but original and I could visualize everything as I was reading, unfortunately it could be a while before I eat mushroom soup again.
It will probably be a long time before I read a novel as funny as this

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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House of Spines by Michael Malone – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

A terrifying psychological thriller cum Gothic mystery, as a young man with mental health issues inherits an isolate mansion, where all is not as it seems…
Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror… the reflection of a woman… A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

My Review

House of Spines is completely different to A Suitable Lie, the author’s previous novel and demonstrates that Michael Malone has more than one string to his bow. It is a dark thriller with a gothic slant that is at times creepy and  has an unreliable narrator. I like these types of novels a lot, and I imagine that they are difficult to write – this book does not disappoint.
Ran is very surprised when he discovers that he has inherited a mansion complete with huge library on the outskirts of Glasgow. He had never known any of his mother’s family, and never knew about their wealth. One of the few conditions he has to abide by is that the library stays intact. Initially he is overwhelmed and very happy but he soon starts to suffer. There is something unhealthy about the house, his mental state is under strain and it doesn’t take long for him to feel under pressure.
Firstly. I loved the title. The Spines are not human spines, they are the spines of the novels in the library. I could just picture the size of the library and how it must have looked. There couldn’t have been a more fitting title. With regards to the novel itself, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more unreliable narrator than Ran. Knowing his past problems, the loss of his parents, the medication he stopped taking that controlled his bipolar condition made me question everything. I couldn’t work out which was reality and which was hallucinatory.
There are likeable and unlikeable characters, some of the more likeable characters do things that aren’t very nice, but you could see why they did them. There were a few moments where I had goosebumps. I would have liked more but I felt that the novel was more than just a gothic thriller, it was also a study of mental health and coercion. It had an unsettling ending that left me very uneasy. I sometimes wish the reader could know what happens after the last page has been turned. House of Spines is one of the better novels of this type that I have read this year.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

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