Monthly Archives: December 2016

Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan – review

Published by Harvill Secker

Publication date – 26 January 2017

Source – review copy

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

“YOU CAN RUN FROM YOUR PAST. BUT YOU CAN’T RUN FROM MURDER.

The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners.

With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer, was born Colin Sawyer.

Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal…”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Corinne Sawyer sets off for a run one morning and never returns. She is found murdered, strangled and viciously beaten. What would have been a case for CID is passed to the Hate Crimes team when it emerges that Corinne was born Colin Sawyer. Is Corinne’s death related to a series of violent attacks on members of the trans community? Or could the rapist who has been attacking young joggers finally progressed to murder? Zigic and Ferreira must find out before anyone else dies.

The novel is a commentary on how society accepts transgender people and depicts the fallout and differing responses that occur after a dramatic change occurs in a family . When a husband and a father suddenly becomes a wife and mother. The gambit of emotions are shown in the Sawyer family, from heartbreak and anger, acceptance and love, to violence and shame.

The mystery itself is one with enough suspects, twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. There are three different threads to the story that run along side each other, merging to create a wonderfully rounded and engaging story. I had guessed the culprit before the reveal but this did not spoil my enjoyment of this entertaining novel.

There is a brilliant dynamic between the team depicted in the story, not just between Zigic and Ferreira but also with other colleagues within Hate Crimes and in the larger force. There are touches of reality that help shape the novel, making it feel more authentic for the reader.

Zigic is coming to terms with the reality of having three children, the baby taking a toll on his life, aware he needs to exercise more. This could be mundane under the wrong hands but Eva Dolan uses these aspects of life to round out her character, making him more accessible and relatable, and all the more enjoyable to read about. Ferreira is more introspective in this novel, looking back at a past relationship which has shaped her to this day. The reader finds out why Mel is distant, less inclined for relationships and a new side to the detective is revealed.

Eva Dolan deals with emotive, and often complex, issues with gripping prose that is the perfect balance. By that I mean it is informative, entertaining, rightly judgmental in places yet far from self righteous. It allows the reader to create their own impression of the characters and motive for murder, of the ridicule and trauma the transgender and transvestite community face and therefore the level of anger and sadness that this creates will be different and particular to each reader.

Moving, thought-provoking and emotive, this is a gripping novel focusing on a sadly neglected area of crime, those motivated by hate. If you love crime novels then this book is for you. If you love crime novels but are looking for a book that deals with societal issues and victims who are often viewed, quite wrongly, as the outcasts of society then this book is for you.

Eva Dolan is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I was late coming to her Hate Crimes series. Luckily I have her first two books to read whilst I await her next novel, which can’t come soon enough.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson – review

Published by Urbane Publications

Publication date – 18 March 2016

Source – review copy

death-in-profile_bpb_c-186x285

“The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what?
Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source – a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?
Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.”

A series of vicious rapes and murders have been occurring in Hampstead and police fear a serial killer is on the loose. The old lead detective has been replaced by a younger fast track officer. Can the case be kick-started before another victim emerges?

This is a gentle read, by which I mean there are murders, though they are not described in a gruesome way, there isn’t any swearing, though the dialogue doesn’t seem any less real for the lack of it and there are no great chases or violent scenes. The narrative focuses on the police, which is not unexpected for a police procedural, but what is perhaps more apparent is that they seem to be the sole focus, the victims and the suspects are a much lesser presence on the page. It is set in the modern age but conversely has the feel that it is from a bygone time.

The plot is strong enough to drive the story, there is apparent solving of the case obviously not as watertight as expected as it comes part way through the novel. I did get the twist and work out the killer before the reveal but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

There were a couple of things that didn’t work as well for me one of these being the story involving the appearance of Peter Wimsey. I’ll admit I’ve never read any Dorothy L. Sayers so I’ve no idea if the references and Wimsey character were true to the original. For me, this part of the storyline seemed to set the story slightly off course as it emerged quite suddenly. Another aspect that jarred for me was the references to Karen’s looks. The police officer was frequently mentioned in references to her appearance and her legs and it lent an overtly sexist bent to the story. Had it only been mentioned once I think it probably would have washed over me but as it was the repetition made the matter stand out.

A gentle paced, interesting modern age novel with echoes of the golden age.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Book Bingo

So I’d seen Book Bingo posts from the fabulous bloggers Cleo over at CleopatraLovesBooks and Marina at Finding Time to Write. I thought it seemed like a fun way of looking at the books I had read over the year so thought I’d give it a go myself.

 

untitled

Book with more than 500 pages

9780007486304

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A tongue in cheek re-write of Pride and Prejudice, this novel certainly didn’t feel like it was 502 pages long.

A forgotten classic

This is one I’ll have to skip this year, but I’ve made a note to read more classics, forgotten or otherwise, next year

A Book that Became a Movie

Bit of a cheat because the author is also making a film of this book but I’ll say Fever at Dawn by Peter Gardos.

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

A book published this year

Bit of an easy one in that most of the books I’ve read were published this year. The hard part is choosing just one. I’ll go with When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen, my first of her books but which won’t be my last.

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

A book with a number in the title

Just managed to fill this square with The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

isbn9781472228352-detail

A book written by someone under thirty

Given I have no idea how old an author is when I pick up a book I’ll have to leave this one blank.

A book with a non human character

Turns out I’ve read three such books this year, and I had been inclined to say none. The one I’ll use for this square is the thought-provoking The Man I Became by Peter Verhelst

man_i_became_web_0

A funny book

Possibly a bit of a cheat but I’ll pick Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell, a warm novel shot through with humour.

isbn9781472208927-detail

A book by a female author

Again lots to choose from here, though again I don’t tend to look to see if the author is male or female. I’ll go for The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders.

9781408866863

A book with a mystery

Turns out the majority of my reading is in the crime/thriller category so lots of titles could fit this square on the board. I’ll choose The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh for this square, an engaging novel about kidnap and ransom.

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

A book with a one word title

Again a couple to choose from but I’ll have to go One of the stand out mystery/crime books for me this year (though it isn’t published until next year) was Ragdoll by Daniel Cole.

isbn9781409168744-detail

A book of short stories

Since blogging I’ve discovered a love for short stories and I’ve read two collections this year. The one I’m choosing for this square is Sweet Home by Carys Bray, a lovely collection of stories.

9780099510628

Free square

This is one of my stand out books for this year. It was a joy to read and I’d urge anyone to give it a go. I’m choosing The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace.

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

A book set on a different continent

I like to read books from a variety of locations so I’ve a few to choose from including books set in North America and Africa. But I’ll go for The Dry by Jane Harper which is set in Australia.

isbn9781408708187-detail

A book of non fiction

Initially I thought I wouldn’t be able to complete this square then realised I’ve actually read three non fiction books. I’ll definitely be making room for more on the to read pile next year but my choice for this square is Lab Girl by Hope Jahren.

isbn9780349006192-detail

The first book by a favourite author

I have lots of favourite authors and its often difficult to decide if a new author is going to become a favourite. That said I read both books by Liz Nugent this year and have to say she fits the bill as a new favourite author. Her first novel, Unravelling Oliver was a great read.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707

A book you heard about online

As literally 100% of my reads now come from online recommendations this is list could basically be all of the books I’ve read this year. I’ll pick Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher for this square as it’s a book I don’t think I would have read if I’d not seen it online and it’s one I loved.

isbn9780349007625-detail

A best selling book

I don’t really follow the best seller charts, so unless a book sells so many it is all over the media then I’ve not really a clue. But if I had to guess I’d say that R&J Bookclub pick The Ballroom by Anna Hope would have been a bestseller.

The%20Ballroom

A book based on a true story

Turns out I have a few that could cover this square too. I’ll go for The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola, a wonderfully atmospheric and well researched novel about a woman accused of murder in Victorian England.

isbn9781472234735-detail

A book at the bottom of your to read pile

I have long since lost sight of my to read pile, and have decided to no longer attempt to tame it or try to read in order of receiving the books but I guess one of the books I’d had the longest out of the ones I’d read was The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer.

24901.books.origjpg

A book your friend loves

This one has to be filled by In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings, much loved by the blogging community.

In-Her-Wake-HBcover-copy-275x423

A book that scares you

I don’t really read scary books, or I should say that books rarely scare me. The Last Days of Jack Sparks was however found to be creepy by many readers.

isbn9780356507187-detail

A book that is more than 10 years old

Can’t fill this one this year. All the books I’ve read are far younger than a decade old.

The second book in a series

I love a good series and since blogging I’ve found loads to satisfy my series craving. One of my new favourites features Oswald De Lacy and I read the second book in the series – The Butcher Bird by S.D. Sykes, this year.

isbn9781444785821-detail

A book with a blue cover

A couple of choices for this square but I’ll go with The Museum of You by Carys Bray, a lovely story of growing up and moving on.

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

 

So I managed to fill 22/25 squares. How many would you fill?

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Wildflower Bay by Rachael Lucas – review

Published by Pan

Publication date 11 August 2016

Source – review copy

9781447265757wildflower%20bay

This little island has some big secrets…

Isla’s got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she’s been so single-minded in her career that she’s forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by – until disaster strikes.

Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.

A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla . . .”

Isla has been so focussed on her career that the rest of her life has left her behind. Suddenly finding herself with nothing to do after a disaster at work she is dragged into helping her aunt in her hair salon on Auchenmor. Reluctantly roped in, and counting the days until she can leave Isla finds that the island and its inhabitants have started to work their magic on her, with possibly one resident having more effect than others…

I was soon absorbed in Isla’s tale and found myself nearly half way through the book before I put it down for the first time. Rachael Lucas has a wonderful writing style that draws the reader in, immediately making them feel at home and amongst friends.

This was a charming story set in a lovely location and filled with wonderful characters. Isla was a considerate person, kind to her friends but could also come across as brittle and distant. As the story develops we see her change as she makes friends and lets go of the past. Finn was funny and charming and it was lovely to see him change over the course of the story as his relationship with Isla developed. I loved the surrounding cast of characters, who all added warmth and humour to the story including Shannon and Jinny in the salon, Isla’s dad and Ruth, the independent 80 year old Isla befriends.

Rachael Lucas has set a previous novel in Auchenmor, Sealed With a Kiss which I have not read. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Wildflower Bay and I’ll certainly be reading Sealed With a Kiss soon.

This is a warm-hearted, humorous and entertaining book and I spent a lovely few hours lost in its pages.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley – review

Published by Corgi

Publication date 26 January 2016

Source – review copy

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

What happens when what you wish for is only half the story…?

Flirtatious, straight-talking Jo Gold says she’s got no time for love; she’s determined to save her family’s failing footwear business.

New mother Sarah Hudson has cut short her maternity leave to return to work. She says she’ll do whatever it takes to make partner at the accountancy firm.

Bored, over-eating housewife Carrie Radley says she just wants to shift the pounds – she’d love to finally wear a bikini in public.

The unlikely trio meet by chance one winter’s day, and in a moment of ‘Carpe Diem’ madness, embark on a mission to make their wishes come true by September.

Easy. At least it would be, if they hadn’t been just the teensiest bit stingy with the truth…

With hidden issues, hidden talents, and hidden demons to overcome, new friends Jo, Carrie and Sarah must admit to what they really, really want, if they are ever to get their happy endings.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

Jo, Carrie and Sarah meet at a friend’s funeral and are struck by the fact that time could run out for any of them at a moment’s notice. Driven by the idea to seize the day, and helped somewhat by the fact that they don’t really know each other, they decide to make a ‘wish list’ of aims to be completed by September. But what they’ve said they want to do, and what they actually want to happen might not be the same thing after all…

This is a very easy to read book, in that I soon found myself a third of the way through it after trying to decide which book to read between two choices. The storyline involves the trials and tribulations of three women who all have different aims in life, who want to support each other to get those aims, but who might not have been completely truthful with the others. There are mishaps and misunderstandings along the way. But also there was a lot of self-denial, each of the protagonists were misleading themselves as to what they wanted, and as to how they had got in the position they found themselves before they made friends. Carrie used self-deprecating humour as a defence mechanism but also failed to see her role in why she felt so sad and alone in her marriage. Sarah’s determination made her quite selfish when she was trying to please everyone and Jo failed to see what was in front of her, so driven was she to run the family business well.

I did like the characters in the book. Carrie who’s shyness hides someone who does not love herself at all, blossoms as her friendship with Sarah and Jo develops. She begins to gain confidence, self-awareness that allows her bubbly demeanour and caring nature to emerge. Sarah likes to be the one to organise, to control aspects of her life. She is desperately trying to juggle life so she can do best by her family. As she gets to know the others it becomes apparent that she in not in control and learning to let go sometimes. Jo is determined and driven, putting her own life on the backburner as she contends with keeping her staff happy and employed and believing she doesn’t need close friends but learning that there are benefits to having them after all. All three women before meeting were somewhat loners, with seemingly few friends to rely on they all blossomed as their relationships developed. There were some parts of me I recognised in each of them, Jo’s romantic side, Sarah’s guilt at returning to work after having a baby and Carrie’s lack of self-confidence. I did feel however that sometimes it seemed that there was too much guilt and too much lack of self-esteem from the characters. I sometimes wanted to shake Sarah and Carrie and tell them to look properly at their situations, tell them to talk to their husbands, though that of course would have cut the story very short!

This is an enjoyable, gentle read, perfect for a spot of escapism. I like Cathy Bramley’s novels and her writing style and luckily I have a couple of her earlier books to keep me going before her next one is published.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

The Book of Mirrors by E O Chirovici – review

Published by Century

Publication date 26 January 2017

Source – review copy

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

“A gripping psychological thriller full of hidden fragments and dark reflections.

How would you piece together a murder?

Do you trust other people’s memories?
Do you trust your own?
Should you?

Princeton, 1987: renowned psychologist Professor Joseph Weider is brutally murdered.

New York, twenty-five years later: literary agent Peter Katz receives a manuscript. Or is it a confession?

Today: unearth the secrets of The Book of Mirrors and discover why your memory is the most dangerous weapon of all.

Already translated into 37 languages, The Book of Mirrors is the perfect novel for fans of psychological suspense and reading group fiction.”
Read more on the Penguin website.

A literary agent receives an intriguing manuscript. Drawn in by the covering letter sent by Richard Flynn, he starts to read the submission. Soon he is enthralled by the manuscript which describes how Richard Flyn came to know Joseph Weidner who was brutally murdered 25 years ago. When the manuscript abruptly ends the agent tries to track down the story. But what is the true story? How much do memories warp over time  and what really happened all those years ago?

I very much enjoyed this interesting crime novel.

The book’s theme is that memory can become warped or altered, either immediately after a traumatic event or over a period of time. This can be the brain’s natural way of dealing with trauma or through being manipulated. The question is how much can we trust our memories?

The book is divided into three parts, each with a different narrator. I thought this device worked extremely well. The first third deals with the manuscript and is almost a story within a story. The reader is lured in with Richard’s tale, reading the manuscript in time with the agent. The first impression we get of the characters is through Richard’s eyes. This effects how we view the characters as they appear during the remainder of the book. For things appear to not be as Richard remembered and the reader is challenged to decide who and what to believe. The voice of each narrator is slightly different as is their own take on the case. Some were involved in the case, others not, but the reader has to decide what to believe.

The story draws the reader in, the use of a story within a story is a great technique of adding a layer to the narrative. Conversely, the use of narrators who are not directly involved in the incident has the effect of separating the reader from the tale, a distance that could make the story too remote, without enough layers to make the reader care about the protagonists but luckily the author manages not to cross that line. There is the constant niggle that the main players in the murder story can’t be trusted. The reader is led to question who is telling the truth, or rather whose memory is the more accurate.

The Book of Mirrors is an engaging book. I found myself nearly a third of the way through the book after initially picking it up to see if I wanted to read it. It also makes you think about whether your first memories are actual memories or images created as a result of what we think happened. I will add though that the book seemed more about who could be trusted than whether the memories mentioned in the book were true or not, that’s to say more about the manipulation of truth and different view points tag memories of events.

This book nearly didn’t happen in that the author had nearly give up hope of being published. A kind, and very honest publisher who loved the book but knew he couldn’t honour the advances the book deserved advised EO Chirovici to try one more time. Luckily he did as his book was snapped up by a London agent and to date has sold in 30 territories.

An entertaining, clever story, told in an engaging manner that fit the story. I’ll be keen to read more work by EO Chirovici in the future.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell – review

Published by Headline

Publication date – 12 January 2017

Source – review copy

isbn9781472208927-detail

“Love is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…”

Clemency Price is settled in St Carys, her home town. Working as an estate agent she has a lovely set of friends. She can’t, however, forget the man she met three years ago. A man she couldn’t be with. She is therefore surprised to see him in St Carys, and broken-hearted to realise he is still unavailable. Trying to hide her feelings she ropes her friend and boss Ronan in to help. But Ronan is hiding heartache of his own and soon wires become very crossed.

Having recently re-discovered Jill Mansell’s novels I was thrilled when a copy of her latest novel arrived. I settled down with the book and was soon caught up with life in St Carys.

There are a host of charming characters. Clemency is a lovely character. Loving to her friends and family, good at her job as an estate agent but with strong morals that she maintains, even when it causes her heartache. Ronan is a Jack the Lad, having a reputation in town as a cheeky but charming lothario. It is a joy to read about his transformation as he comes to terms with the fact that he may have met his romantic match. The rapport between Clemency and Ronan was a delight to read, the banter between the two bringing laughter and humour to the pages. Belle is a perhaps more in depth character. Step sister to Clemency, the sibling rivalry is apparent and a point which does divide the sisters to some extent. She is more acerbic and less easy going but as the story progresses it becomes clear that a secret she has been keeping for a long time has affected her demeanour to a degree even she isn’t aware of.

I could often be heard chuckling to myself as I read this book, dashed through as it was with humour and light-hearted banter. I found myself racing through the book but also wanting to take my time so it wouldn’t be over too soon.

Jill Mansell has a wonderfully comforting style of writing. Her books are extremely engaging, drawing the reader in, filled with laughter and loveable characters, and story lines that are strong throughout the novels. Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay is no different and fans won’t be disappointed.

This is a warm and witty novel, packed full of wonderful characters. Perfect for a lazy summer’s day or a dark winter’s night. A lovely bit of escapism for a few hours. I’m looking forward to the next book from Jill Mansell soon.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Harriet the Hedgehog by Victoria Brock – review

Published by Victoria Brock

Publication date – 2 April 2013

Source – review copy

41toekmcel__sy498_bo1204203200_

“Beautiful Children’s book with traditional illustrations. This book is about a Hedgehog who doesn’t have any spikes. Written for my twin nieces who were diagnosed with leukaemia in September 2009 within a week of each other. £1 of every book sold goes to Starlight Children’s Foundation.” (synopsis and image from Amazon)

It is always difficult to write an in depth review for a children’s story such as this as often times the review would turn out to be longer than the actual book.

This is a charming little tale about a hedgehog who is different from her family and friends. Apprehensive when she has to attend school, she doesn’t know how the other hedgehogs will treat her.

This is a short story, told in rhyming couplets and matched with lovely illustrations. My two year old likes to settle down and listen to the tale, a couple of readings at a time, solemnly turning to me and saying ‘got no spines’ with a little shake of the head.

The moral of the story is that it’s ok to be different, that we shouldn’t fear it and that people can be far more accepting than we give them credit for.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviewing it for the Kids

Favourite Crime Films by Kati Hiekkapelto & Antti Tuomainen -Guest Post

Today I’ve something a little different. I’m a huge fan of Orenda Books and two of the latest novels to be published by them are The Exiled and The Mine. To celebrate the publication of both of these books the authors, Kati Hiekkapelto and Antti Tuomainen, decided to have a chat between themselves about their favourite crime films and they let us sit in on the discussion.

Favorite Crime Films

by

Kati Hiekkapelto & Antti Tuomainen (both translated by David Hackston)

Antti: Hi Kati, I thought we’d talk about something that often comes up when crime fiction writers meet and talk: movies. And I thought we’d narrow it down a bit and discuss our favorite crime films. And I don’t think they even have to be all-time favorites, let alone classics, just crime films that, for some reason or other, have stuck to mind. I will begin from the beginning.

One of the first crime films I saw – that I understood to be one –  was Sam Peckinpah’s Getaway. Based on Jim Thompson’s book, of course, it stars Steve McQueen, his pump-action shotgun and Ali McGraw. Powerful stuff, especially when you’re around 13 or so. Do you have any ‘first’ movie memories?

Kati: I remember that we had a small black and white TV when I was a child. My parents watched the Charlie’s Angels series every Saturday evening and didn’t allow me to join them. I was too small and innocent for that terribly violent and scary series, they thought. But I was watching it secretly via the reflection that the TV made on the window. I pretended to go into my bed and then sneaked quietly to the doorway where I could see that reflection. I followed the whole series like this and I was definitely not badly traumatised! Maybe I should confess this to my mum … after all these years. My first powerful film memory is Ben Hur. It is not a crime film but it was the first I ever went to see in cinema without my parents. I think I was about 11. But the first real crime fiction film … hmmm … I don’t have any idea what that could have been. My explanation for this will come a bit later!

Antti: For some reason, I find many crime films from the 1970s rank among my favourites. Films like Coppola’s The Conversation (Gene Hackman is brilliant), Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (Gene Hackman again), Marathon Man (with Dustin Hoffman, script by William Goldman), Pakula’s Parallax View, even Polanski’s Chinatown (Faye Dunaway and some bloke), to name a few.

Maybe some of it is due to my being born in 1971 and growing up with both my mum and dad liking films very much, and being introduced to all these films early on. Or maybe not. It could be that these films all have strong storytelling with very few special effects. It’s just story, nothing but story. Do you have any special period that you look upon with special fondness or remembrance?

Kati: I think I don’t. I have never been a real film freak. Actually you could actually say that I suffer from film dementia! I forget the names of the films, directors and actors, no matter how much I liked them. I’m pretty bad at this and it is so embarrassing!  I go to cinema every now and then and watch something from Netflix occasionally. I didn’t have a TV in my apartment when I moved away from my parents’ house, so I missed out on a lot. But I agree with you that there are excellent movies from the 70s. I loved The Godfather, Chinatown and Taxi Driver (Woo hoo, I remembered the names!). There is something special about films made during that time, something raw and unembellished that we don’t often see nowadays.

Antti: Recently I’ve noticed that I’ve started to lean towards films in the genre or in the mood of the Coen Brothers’ Fargo which I’ve seen numerous times: dark noir stories with some humour of the darkest sort. There is a great film called A Simple Plan (based upon a novel of the same name by Scott B. Smith). Just as the name of the film suggests, it starts with a simple plan: after finding a huge sum of money, you just keep it. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a fantastic story with brilliant actors. Billy Bob Thornton is unforgettable. Recent favourites, relatively new ones, include Nightcrawler (Jake Gyllenhaal is chilling), The Departed (okay, it’s a remake and a few years old, but still great), Michael Clayton and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Sidney Lumet directed this at 83!). Have you seen anything good lately?

Kati: I’ve been more into series lately. Or maybe I always have been. Adaptations of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are just fantastic to watch again and again. I really liked new Sherlock Holmes, too. I think the best crime series come from the UK. They are stylish and very well done. The Shetland series was absolutely amazing. Now I’m following American series called The Affair, which is not a pure crime story but has crime subplot cleverly knitted into it. It is disturbing series to watch, not something that makes you feel happy; however, it really hooks you in. Interestingly, the story is through two/four different characters, and each episode shows event from the perspective of two different people. And even when they talk about the same day or week, the same happenings, the things they experienced together, it feels like it is a completely different story every time. It’s the structure that is familiar to me from many Nordic Noir books and it has made me to think a lot about ‘remembering’ – a very philosophical AND also a very personal thing (and I don’t mean my ‘film dementia’).

We could also discuss Nordic crime series and films, many of which are super, super good, but perhaps we should leave our own genre out this time. Without even mentioning Finnish crime adaptations. Is there such a thing? Of course there is, I’m just joking. But for some reason there has not been super hit from Finland. Yet!

Tweet Kati (@hiekkapeltokati) and @antti_tuomainen with YOUR favourites!

About the books:

the-exiled-copy-275x423

“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-mine-copy-275x423

“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.”

2 Comments

Filed under Spotlight on Authors

2016 reading highlights

So it’s that time of year when the best books of the year lists emerge. I am always in two minds as to whether to do my own list. For starters I am so indecisive I can’t narrow books down to a certain number. And I always feel bad about books that I’ve left out. There’s no way I can do a list in order. If I name a book number one on the list I might offend the other authors that didn’t make it to number one! Plus I’m never really sure if anyone cares what my humble opinion is on the top reads of the year. After all, it’s just my opinion and I’m unlikely to cause a huge spike in sales. But I’ve been kindly advised that people are interested and I have to admit I’m nosy so always interested in what books other reviewers have picked, to see if the same books appear and to see which gems I might have missed.

So with that in mind I’ve decided to bite the bullet and do a list of my top reads of the year. Any I’ve read and not reviewed yet, or any I read until the end of the year will have to appear on next year’s…

The Song Collector

isbn9781444736410-detail

The Song Collector tells the story of Harry Fox-Talbot, struggling with the loss of his wife. Beautifully told and flitting between the present day and the time he met Edie, we see how the two meet and fall in love, and how divisions from the passed may finally be reunited.

The Finding of Martha Lost

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

A story that has stayed with since reading it in March. The Finding of Martha Lost is a wonderful tale of Martha, left at Liverpool Lime Street train station as a baby. Having never left the station the authorities are about to find her and remove her from the only home she has ever known. Helped by her friends Martha must find out who she truly is, and opens up her world in the process. Reminiscent of Roald Dahl this is a magical, all encompassing novel that wraps itself around you and never truly lets go. Too many people are missing out if they haven’t read this book.

When She Was Bad

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

We spend 35 hours a week with them, see them more sometimes more than family, definitely spend more time with them than friends. Some we get on with, others we secretly can’t stand. But how well do we really know the people we work with? A true psychological thriller, this taut story drags you along, keen to find out what happens to one of the characters, and why.

Daisy in Chains

cover.jpg.rendition.150.225

There is a fascination with serial killers that often extends beyond what could be classed as the norm. For some women, the lure of a multiple murderer is too much. Writing to the incarcerated we often hear of women who marry their murderous pen pals. Daisy in Chains tackles this phenomenon with a gripping tale of  Hamish Wolfe, convicted serial killer who asks true crime writer Maggie Rose to look into his case.  Oh so cleverly done.

Death of a Diva

Book_DOAD

First in a series of crime novels published by the renegade Fahrenheit Press, this story of Danny Bird investigating the murder of an aging TV star he finds in his pub is peppered with humour and leaves you waiting for the next in the series.

The Unseeing

isbn9781472234735-detail

This debut novel from author Anna Mazzola is the riviting tale of Sarah Gale, accused of the murder of her love rival. Based on a real murder this book vividly evokes the horrors of Victorian prison and the subjugation women at the time had to endure.

The Secrets of Wishtide

9781408866863

First in a new series I was soon charmed by this tale of murder and intrigue featuring the refreshing Laetitia Rodd. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly gentle storyline, this book also looks at the way women were held in society in Victorian England.

Tastes Like Fear

isbn9781472236838-detail

Sarah Hilary has firmly cemented herself on the crime writing scene and quickly became one of my favourite authors in the genre. Tastes Like Fear doesn’t disappoint. Marnie Rome has to face possibly her most dangerous foe to date. One girl is found dead, others are missing and its a race against time to find them before they meet the same fate.

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew

isbn9780349007625-detail

Susan Fletcher’s novel of the reimagined relationship between Vincent Van Gogh and Jeanne Trabuc, wife of the warden of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the asylum in which Van Gogh spent some time is a joy to read. The relationship between Vincent and Jeanne slowly develops and the painter opens Jeanne’s eyes to the world around her, and that much closer to home. Beautifully told.

The Constant Soldier

9781447255017the%20constant%20soldier

Inspired by photographs of SS officers from the Second World War, this is a moving and well written account of a wounded German soldier who returns home from the front to find a woman from his past incarcerated in an SS camp. Determined to free her, he has to infiltrate the camp and work with the SS officers he loathes.

Lying in Wait

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

Opening with one of the best lines I’ve read in a long time, this is the chilling tale of the lengths a woman will go to achieve her aims. The characterisation is fantastic, Lydia, truly chilling and the book is shot through with an underlying thread of malice.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

isbn9780349141077-detail

Having passed me by when it was first released I was recommended this book by the publisher when I asked for recommendations for books about books. This charming tale is the story of A.J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, who grumpily recommends books to his customers. When he happens to find a baby left in his shop his life changes in unforeseen ways.

The Missing Hours

cover_jpg_rendition_460_707

Dealing with the oft ignored area of kidnap and ransom, this is a gripping and tightly woven tale of a woman who vanishes for a few hours. The police try to piece together where she went for those few hours and whether her disappearance is linked to the murder of a local solicitor. Fascinating and entertaining.

Orenda books have their own place in my heart so I have to mention the novels I have read from this publishing house this year. Treats included Deadly Harvest, In Her Wake, Nightblind and The Bird Tribunal.

Bit of a cheat but these are the books to be published in 2017 that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Dry

isbn9781408708187-detail

Already a best seller in Australia, this darkly compelling novel of the brutal slaying of a family in the outback is conversely claustrophobic as small town secrets try to bury the truth of what happened to the Hadler family.

Ragdoll

isbn9781409168744-detail

Subject to a publisher battle to secure rights and with those rights sold to over 32 territories to date this gruesome yet highly original tale of a serial killer who leaves a body made up of six victims had me hooked. This isn’t even published yet and I can’t wait for the next book from Daniel Cole.

The Keeper of Lost Things

isbn9781473635463-detail

This novel cast it’s spell over me, I was soon caught up in it’s pages. This is a charming yet gentle read of friendship and love and the meanings we attach, or don’t attach, to the physical objects we deal with every day.

The River at Night

9781408886564

Image you just feel like a relaxing break with your friends. Imagine one of your friends has a different idea and books a white water rafting trip. Then imagine if that trip takes a deadly turn. A battle for survival that drags the reader along much like a white water river.

The Vanishing

the-vanishing-9781471151606_lg

Described as perfect for fans of Jane Eyre, there is something decidedly more dark and sinister about this gothic moorland tale. Captivating from the outset, this book is full of wonderfully evocative writing.

I also have to mention The Trouble With Goats and Sheep which appeared on my best of list last year but was published in 2016. It still stays with me as a memorable and enjoyable read. If you haven’t read it yet the paperback is released on 26 December 2016.

Now I can’t wait to see what bookish treats 2017 will have to offer.

 

 

23 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized