November 3

CWA Short Story Anthology

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.

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy and to Anne Cater for the opportunity to join this blog tour.

A collection of short stories poses problems which I don’t normally encounter, the primary concern being: How do you read them?

A short story anthology may look like a book and act like a book but a volume of short stories is an unusual beast. It changes, it evolves, characters come and go – never to be seen again, there are often chapters of excellence but sometimes you experience a head-scratching moment and ponder what you have just read.  You may laugh for a few pages then be terrified for the next few only to be moved to tears 10 minutes later.  A veritable roller coaster of emotion and experiences. But how do you read them?

When I read a book of short stories I will never begin at the start of the book and work my way through the tales in sequence. I will dip in and out and pick the story titles which sound the most appealing. But that is only the case when the collection is the work of a single author. If there are multiple contributing authors then I will look for names I know and read those first. But how do YOU read them?

I have never read a full volume of short stories without stopping before all the tales are told. I do return and I keep reading, but I need to dip in and out. I find the changes in narrative and style to be more rewarding when I pick up the book afresh rather than when I read multiple stories back to back. Is that how YOU read them?

The problem I had with the CWA Anthology was that there were too many good stories and contributions came from authors I really wanted to read. A problem?   Well yes – all my normal behaviours were scuppered as I wanted to keep reading (not take a break). There were multiple authors I wanted to read first (how to choose?) and the theme through the book gave it much more structure than many collections I have read in the past which had no commonality.

I had lots of fun reading my way through the CWA Short Story Anthology. I was able to maintain my habit of reading out of sequence – I flicked straight to Susi Holliday’s story and started there. But after Susi, Michael Stanley, Ragnar Jónasson and Gordon Brown I realised that this collection was a bit special. Everyone has brought their “A-Game”.

For the CWA Anthology you do feel that we are being treated to the some of the finest story telling.  A single author collection of short stories can sometimes suffer a little…”chuck in the story about the wombat we need another 8,000 words”.  But this collection is suffering an embarrassment of talent. There was page after page of brilliant narrative and I loved ending one tale and jumping back to the index to find the next journey.

Look at the contributor list – stellar. If you read crime fiction then you should own this book, simple as that.

 

The CWA Short Story Anthology is published by Orenda Books on 15 November 2017. A copy can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/CWA-Short-Story-Anthology-Mystery-ebook/dp/B075YQ9PGS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1509658571&sr=1-1

 

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October 25

Snare – Lilja Sigurdardóttir

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 of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull 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 thanks to Karen at Orenda and to Anne Cater for the chance to join the blog tour.

Sonja is a single mum struggling to keep her head above water and hoping to secure full custody of her young son. When we first meet Sonja she is trying to smuggle a kilo of cocaine through the airport. Her strategy is cleverly played out but we share her tension at the prospect of discovery (and the obvious consequences). It made for a compelling introduction to Lilja Sigurardottir’s Snare and for the next few hours that I read this book I never felt that the tension was ebbing.

Sonja has fallen into a difficult position – she does not want to smuggle the narcotics but finds she has no option. She proves her adeptness at outfoxing the customs officials and this only means that the expectation she will continue to do so increases.  The suppliers want her to increase the size of her next delivery and a new strategy will be required – this increases the risk of discovery and also the consequence of failure.

When we see Sonja at home she is in a complicated relationship with Alga.  Sonja and Alga are lovers but Alga refuses to accept that she may be a lesbian and is clearly not comfortable with being in a relationship with another woman. Adding to Alga’s internal dilemma is the fact she was once a senior figure in Icelandic Banking Circles. Prosecutors are looking to find where they can lay the blame of the recent Financial Crash and Alga is in their sights – she has to face the investigators and provide her side of events but is determined that none of the blame shall be laid at her feet.

It is always a delight when I can start a new book with no idea where the story may take me. Snare was pure reading pleasure.

Translation duties fall to Quentin Bates and once again he has done a phenomenal job. The story flows so smoothly and I tore through Snare loving every twist and turn of the plot.

Snare had a real cat and mouse feel – Sonja trying to outsmart the customs officials and smuggle drugs through the airport at Reykjavik. Alga is under investigation and she too is trying to keep one step ahead of the prosecutors who want to find those to blame for the financial crisis which Iceland experienced.  Tension is tangible and it makes for a brilliantly engaging story.

Lots of love for this book – it looks like another winner from Orenda Books.

 

Snare is published by Orenda Books and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Snare-Reykjavik-Noir-Lilja-Sigurdard%C3%B3ttir-ebook/dp/B06ZYLBJFN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1508875450&sr=8-1&keywords=snare

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April 10

Faithless – Kjell Ola Dahl

FaithlessOslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour

I have been on a nice wee reading run of police procedural stories recently, Faithless keeps that run going whilst transporting me to Oslo at the same time. Good start!

The principle focus was on Inspector Frank Frølich and as the story opens he is parked up in his car, watching a suspect’s house. A woman passes and Frølich risks being spotted yet the woman continues into the suspects house only to leave a few hours later.  Frølich picks her up for questioning and she is discovered to be carrying a small amount of drugs.  Charges are pressed and Frølich is no further on in gaining evidence against his suspect.

Away from work Frølich has been invited to re-unite with an old friend who is celebrating his engagement. Frølich has lost contact with his friend over the years and realises it has been over 20 years since they last met.  Wary of the passage of time he decides to attend the engagement party. However, when he meets his friend’s fiancée he realises that this is not the first time that he has met this  woman – he charged her with drug possession some hours earlier.

From this awkward opening I was drawn in to Frølich’s difficult investigation. The woman (Veronika) remains a potential lead which will give Frølich an opportunity to gather intel on his chief suspect.  However, his unexpected personal association with Veronika will create a problem – and it is a problem which is destined to become more complicated.

Concurrent to the problems he will face with Veronika, Frølich and his colleagues are also investigating the disappearance of a student from Uganda who has been studying at the university. He will need to juggle time and resources and we get to see the benefit of having a great supporting cast who can assist Frølich.

Faithless marked my introduction to the works of Kjell Ola Dahl. Frølich has appeared in previous novels but I didn’t feel that I needed to have read the earlier books to keep up with events in Faithless – it stands well on its own. Given how much I enjoyed this book I am keen to try others in the series, especially if there is a book which follows Faithless because THAT ENDING totally shocked me. Clearly I am not going to say why, but I was left wanting more after a breath-taking finale to the story.

The original novel has been translated by Don Bartlett and I’d like to acknowledge what a splendid job has been done. Faithless flows really well, is very accessible (which is to say the language is not stilted or fussy) and I raced through the book keeping up with Frølich et all.

Cracking stuff. If I enjoyed all my books this much I’d be a very happy reader.

 

Faithless is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format from 15 April 2017. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Faithless-Oslo-Detectives-Kjell-Dahl/dp/1910633275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491862043&sr=1-1&keywords=faithless+kjell+ola+dahl

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April 9

The Man Who Loved Islands – David F Ross

The Man Who Loved IslandsThe Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK …In the early ’80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive … and forget.

Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy

 

If you were here for The Last Days of Disco and then The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas then The Man Who Loved Islands is an absolute treat. We have returning characters, you will know how David Ross can tear at your heartstrings then have you howling with laughter and, of course, we have the best soundtrack and musical references that you will find in any book on the fiction shelves.

If you have not read the first two books (and you really should) then fear not…The Man Who Loved Islands can stand alone and be thoroughly enjoyed. Where the earlier stories were very much tales of Ayrshire, this time we have a much more international feel. The first third of the book sees the narrative jump back and forward in time and events mainly take place between the Far East and Ibiza. The changing timeline and the locational switches give Islands a very different feel to the first two novels (albeit the conversational language is 100% Scottish).

Bobby and Joey are old friends who have drifted apart. Though both have achieved a degree of success in their lives, they have both reached a stage where they are largely unhappy with where they find themselves now. The chance of a reunion arises – the opportunity to build bridges and re-establish that old friendship and both men find themselves drawn together again.

The Man Who Loved Islands splits the pacing. The first half of the book is slower, reflecting the unhappy position that the boys have found themselves in.  We spend time with Bobby in Ibiza during the off season, he scrimping and slaving to try to make that elusive breakthrough on the club scene. The long quiet days will frustrate and leave him almost fatigued with lethargy, sleeping late, watching tv re-runs he is in a spiral of waste. Joey is an architect but is being edged out of his firm by younger and more hungry colleagues. He is listless and travelling from hotel to hotel in an unfulfilling existence.

Into the latter stages of the story the pace dramatically lifts, the fun is back and the hijinks return. It is funny, fresh and damned entertaining. Plus there is the music – always the music and the forgotten songs, the trivia and the sheer depth of knowledge which infuse David Ross brings to his books make reading them so very enjoyable.

Fabulous, funny and frequently foul mouthed.

 

The Man Who Loved Islands is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Loved-Islands-Disco-Days/dp/1910633151/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491683160&sr=8-1&keywords=the+man+who+loved+islands

 

 

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April 2

Deadly Game – Matt Johnson

Deadly GameReeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered.

Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy

 

After the events in Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game we welcome the return of Robert Finlay who this time is facing a Deadly Game.

Early housekeeping first: I hadn’t read Wicked Game before starting Deadly Game.  I don’t believe it is necessary to have read the first novel, however, the opening chapters do provide a summary of how events at the end of book 1 ended (ie spoilers). If you read the two out of sequence then you will potentially spoil some plot twists.

After the events of Wicked Game we find that Finlay is not going to find it easy to return to his former job, a change of scene will be required and fortunately there are some influential people keen to utilise his special talents. Finlay is posted to Eastern Europe where he finds himself learning to dive and is by chance also placed in close proximity to a young Romanian woman (and her bodyguard). With fate receiving a few helping hands Finlay and the girl end up diving together and a friendship is formed.

I found the opening sequences held my attention really effectively. The short chapter lengths and Johnson’s easy flowing writing style made for prime “one more chapter” material and before I knew it I had been drawn into the story. Finlay is a fine lead character, more human than the average international jet-setting adventurer. He is not bulletproof, he tires, he displays emotion and is someone you want to read about.

There is too much going on within Deadly Game for me to spill the beans on many of the plot twists suffice to say this is a cracking adventure tale and one which should grace the shelves of thriller fans. I’d welcome many more Finlay books, he is a character going places.

 

Deadly Game is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. Copies can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Deadly-Game-Robert-Finlay-Matt-Johnson/1910633666/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491161541&sr=8-1&keywords=deadly+game

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February 6

Sealskin – Su Bristow

SealskinWhat happens when magic collides with reality?

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous …and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence?

Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice.

With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the chance to be involved in the tour.

Before I read Sealskin I had seen huge amounts of praise being lavished upon it. Much of the focus is on the beautiful writing, the haunting story and the beautiful gentle tale.

I was a bit surprised with how the story began as immediately we encounter a shocking act of violence. It caught me unawares and I wondered where the “gentle” story I had been expecting was going to come from. Well stick with it as things do settle down and the relationship story I had been expecting starts to unfold.

Sealskin is a story based around the myth of the Selkie, a seal can shed its skin to take on human form. In Sealskin we meet Donald, a fisherman living in a remote community – he is somewhat alienated by the others in his village but when he brings home a mysterious woman she will transform a community in a way they could never have foreseen.

It is a powerful and emotive story which will impact upon all its readers. Very much out of my comfort zone of reading and quite unlike what I normally pick up so I have a limited benchmark to compare and contrast Sealskin with.

I very much enjoyed the depiction of the remote community and the environment which the fishermen all worked. Capturing the location is essential to engage a reader and Su Bristow does a marvellous job in setting the ideal scene to let her selkie play.

A fantastical tale which is fantastically told.

 

Sealskin is published by Orenda and is available in digital format and paperback. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sealskin-Su-Bristow/dp/1910633607/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486344510&sr=1-1&keywords=seal+skin+su+bristow

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January 7

Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

deep-down-deadLori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong.

The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour.

 

There has been a real buzz of anticipation around Deep Down Dead. Early reviews were glowing and a glance at the back cover of the book lets us see over 2 dozen authors singing the praises of Steph Broadribb and her debut thriller.

I now know why – it is an absolute corker of a read.

Perfectly paced. Edgy. Tense and with a lead character you will want to root for. Deep Down Dead delivers the thrills and keeps you reading, it will grip you as it has that elusive “one more chapter” magic.

Deep Down Dead introduces Lori Anderson.  She is a bounty hunter working out of Florida. She is also mother to 9 year old Dakota who is recovering from serious illness and has accrued some sizeable medical bills for her mother to contend with.

Lori needs work but the only bounty available is going to be challenging – if she accepts the job then she needs to bring in a fugitive called JT (the man that trained her). Lori is successful as she has followed the lessons that JT taught her, but it is a shock to her to learn that he has broken his own personal code and fallen foul of the law. Can she outfox her tutor, track him down and bring him to the police?  If she does then she needs to do it with Dakota in tow as her baby-sitter has just left town. Taking a child to track down a fugitive should be a no-no but Lori knows JT of old and knows that he would never harm her daughter. Would he?

Lori’s trip to recover JT is going to be fraught with danger. She will need to be at her kick-ass best to keep one step ahead of the enemy that she doesn’t even know is looking for her. But Lori is smart, feisty and packs a taser which will drop anyone in their tracks…you just know it is going to get messy.

Deep Down Dead was practically inhaled once I started reading. I usually juggle 3 or 4 books at once but when I began to read this nothing else got a look-in until I had finished. Utterly captivated. Nice work Steph, I am ready for more from Lori when you get a chance…

 

Deep Down Dead is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format now.  You can order copies by clicking here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deep-Down-Dead-Lori-Anderson/dp/1910633550/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483750394&sr=8-1&keywords=deep+down+dead

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December 7

The Mine – Antti Toumainen

the-mineA 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 result.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

An investigative reporter, Janne Vuori, is digging into the background behind the 2 Euro sale of a large mine in Northern Finland. The story becomes his sole focus and the distraction is having a detrimental impact on an already strained home life. As Janne uncovers more detail on the mine and the personnel behind the scenes the bigger the story becomes.

I really enjoyed how Toumainen depicted Janne’s dogged pursuit of his story, we could see how Janne was chasing down leads, quizzing involved parties whilst hoping for a nugget of information which would open a new line of questioning. You can’t help but get caught up in his quest for the truth – something decidedly wrong has happened at Finn Mining Ltd and you want to know what.

As if the whiff of corruption and scandal was not enough to keep me reading I was (disturbingly) delighted when the directors of the mining company started to die…a hitman had entered the mix. The killer will cross paths with Janne and with a totally unexpected outcome.

I read The Mine over a couple of days (it was my commute book) and I found myself wholly absorbed by the story. Big shout to David Hackston who has done a phenomenal job with the translation of the original work as I was completely sucked in by the telling of the tale. The locations felt real and I could easily visualise the bleak Northern landscapes. The tension between Janne and his partner Pauliina made me feel uncomfortable and the awkwardness when Janne meets an unexpected face from his past was handled superbly. There are so many layers of story and characterisation to The Mine which give the story that extra edge.

I was disappointed when The Mine ended as I wanted more – that can only be a good sign! One to watch out for.

 

The Mine is published by Orenda Books in paperback and digital format and you can get a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mine-Antti-Tuomainen-ebook/dp/B01BOGQDS6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1481147967&sr=8-1

 

And YES there is a bad pun in the first sentence of my review but I’m not going to apologise for it.

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December 3

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

the-exiledAnna 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?

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

The Exiled sees the return of Anna Fekete (first encountered in The Hummingbird and then The Defenceless). Ordinarily Anna is found in Finland where she is a member of the police force, however, in The Exiled Anna has returned to her homeland in the Balkans to enjoy a summer holiday in the company of her family.

Soon after her arrival, Anna is attending a party in the town square of her hometown and her purse and passport are stolen.  But Anna has realised something is amiss and gives chase.  Her pursuit takes her out of town where she loses sight of the thief (and the young girl who accompanied him). Anna finds herself at a Romany settlement where she asks if anyone has seen the suspected thief.  There are denials and Anna is uncomfortably aware that she is guilty of appearing to believe a stereotypical view that the Romany are thieves.

The Exiled is a wonderfully well timed story, released at a time where racial tensions are at a level higher than we have seen for many a long year but Kati Hiekkapelto is challenging these. Anna denounces the prejudices and the author also ensures she highlights the plight that refugees face, it is done with simple elegant prose and the story benefits from the compassion displayed.

Anna’s hunt for her thief takes an unexpected development when his body is found the next day. The local police do not seem keen to investigate and declare the death accidental.  Anna has doubts and begins her own investigation but someone is not happy with this decision and soon Anna will find herself in danger.

Despite being the third book in the series it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel and for new readers this is a great introduction to Kati Hiekkapelto’s books. I enjoyed The Exiled (as I did The Defenceless when I read it last year) and would encourage everyone to seek out these books.

 

The Exiled is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy by clicking HERE.

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December 2

2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books

As a Scottish blogger I am always keen to read crime/thriller books set in my native land or tales written by fellow Scots. I love to read stories which are set in the towns and cities I know so well. I like when the characters talk like me and I enjoy knowing that I am being entertained by someone who knows what is meant by “getting the messages.”

Before I share my choices for my Top Ten Reads of 2016 I am taking this chance to highlight my Top 5 Scottish Books for 2016.

 

The Dead Don't Boogie5. The Dead Don’t Boogie – Douglas Skelton

A missing teenage girl should be an easy job for Dominic Queste – after all, finding lost souls is what he does best. But sometimes it’s better if those souls stay lost. Jenny Deavers is trouble, especially for an ex-cokehead like Queste. Some truly nasty characters are very keen indeed to get to Jenny, and will stop at nothing…including murder. As the bodies pile up, Queste has to use all his street smarts both to protect Jenny and to find out just who wants her dead. The trail leads him to a vicious world of brutal gangsters, merciless hitmen, dark family secrets and an insatiable lust for power in the highest echelons of politics.

There are not many authors that can inject massive doses of humour into a thriller and get the balance of laughs and thrills right. Douglas Skelton manages to hit that combination perfectly as he introduces us to Dominic Queste in The Dead Don’t Boogie.

Order a copy here.

 

 

Willow Walk4.  Willow Walk – SJI Holliday

When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight?

When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run but how can he confront her when she’s pushing him away?

 

SJI Holliday returns to Banktoun in the follow-up novel to 2015’s Black Wood.  I loved this story as it was deliciously dark and creepy with some nasty twists thrown in for good measure.  As an added bonus we get Susi Holliday’s fantastic characterisation – she creates the most believable people in her books, I swear that I have actually met half the people she writes about.

Order a copy here.

 

 

In Place of Death3. In Place of Death – Craig Robertson

A young man enters the culverted remains of an ancient Glasgow stream, looking for thrills. Deep below the city, it is decaying and claustrophobic and gets more so with every step. As the ceiling lowers to no more than a couple of feet above the ground, the man finds his path blocked by another person. Someone with his throat cut.

As DS Rachel Narey leads the official investigation, photographer Tony Winter follows a lead of his own, through the shadowy world of urbexers, people who pursue a dangerous and illegal hobby, a world that Winter knows more about than he lets on. And it soon becomes clear that the murderer has killed before, and has no qualms about doing so again.

 

A brilliant murder mystery which makes the most incredible use of Glasgow and its landscape.  Craig Robertson brings back Narey and Winter and introduces us to urbexing. In Place of Death was a fabulous read but it also got me looking at Glasgow in a whole new light too. When a book educates as well as entertains then I am never going to be unhappy.

Order a copy here.

 

 

Killer Instincts2. Killer Instincts – Linden Chase

There’s darkness in the heart of Tranquility. Society has developed reliable tests to detect psychopathy in individuals. Those with the disorder are re-classified as victims rather than monsters. The question remains though, how does a liberal society deal with the inherently violent impulses of human predators who live among us. In response a government think tank is launching an experiment, Tranquility; an island where psychopaths will be isolated and left to form their own community.

Zane King, an investigative journalist, has been given a tip-off by a high-level government source that something big is happening on a remote island. After a heart-stopping journey Zane manages to infiltrate Tranquility by persuading the citizens that he’s a psychopath just like them. It doesn’t take Zane long to realise that something has gone very wrong with the experiment but by the time he fully understands what the island is really all about the community is already imploding in a wave of monstrous violence. “Not for the faint hearted…

 

If Lord of the Flies were a slasher movie then you have Killer Instincts.  Loved the idea of a sinister, shadowy agency that controlled Tranquility. Loved the idea of the Hunt. Loved the unpredictable characters.  It is dark read. Very, very dark. But it’s really, really good.

Order a copy here.

 

 

a-suitable-lie1 A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

 

A “wow” book. Michael J Malone tells a harrowing story of domestic violence in a book which is chilling, memorable and incredibly important. I don’t think I could claim to have “enjoyed” reading A Suitable Lie but I couldn’t put it down, I HAD to find out what was going to happen next.

This is a book which will stick with me for a long time to come. It was frequently too realistic for this reader and it tackled a significantly under-reported subject in a sensitive yet compelling voice.

One of the stand-out books of 2016.

Order a copy here.

 

 

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on 2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books