December 31

My Favourite Audiobooks – 2017

Earlier this year my day job changed and my daily commute suddenly involved 5 hours of driving. This ate into my reading time but a subscription to Audible meant I could listen to all the books I wasn’t getting a chance to read.

So after six months and many, many miles I thought I would share the books I enjoyed the most.

It should be noted that three audiobooks made it into the list of My Ten Favourite Books of 2017 it should come as no surprise that they are also included here (the first three).

 

 

Whiteout – Ragnar Jonasson

Whiteout sees the return of Jonasson’s popular Icelandic cop Ari Thor What made Whiteout special for me was the way the author took the smallest cast of possible suspects and made a brilliant “whodunnit” murder mystery. I have compared Ragnar Jonasson’s works to that of Agatha Christie in the past…Whiteout only reaffirms my assertion.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Murder – AK Benedict

The audiobook of The Beauty of Murder was recommended to me by JS Law (author of The Dark Beneath). Boy did he call that right! The Beauty of Murder is a serial killer story in which the killer has the ability to travel through time. Loved that twist and it gave The Beauty of Murder an edge which most books simply didn’t have. The time travel is not just a clever gimmick though, this is a wonderfully compassionate and clever story. With much of the action taking place in and around Cambridge University (with a Philosophy Lecturer as a lead character) it throws up some interesting discussion points too. Hugely enjoyable but with one of the saddest moments of my reading year too…

 

Block 46 – Johana Gustawsson

I was captivated by this tale which takes the reader from WW2 concentration camps to present day and shows how a serial killer was able to stay hidden for decades.

Two narrators on the audiobook really highlighted the “then” and “now” side to Block 46 and the story was outstanding.

 

 

 

 

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

I generally don’t read non-fiction, however, both my parents worked for the NHS and I grew up hearing about life in and around hospitals. When I learned of Adam Kay’s “secret diaries of a junior Doctor” I knew I had to read this book.

It was magnificent. I laughed, winced and shed a tear over his tales. Dr Adam narrates his own book and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Funny, graphic, sweary and over all too soon – I loved this!

 

 

Dark Suits and Sad Songs – Denzil Meyrick

My first DCI Daley thriller and I have already bought more in the series.

An explosive opening throws Daily into a political thriller which will have him facing unknown foes both from home and from far overseas.

With his home life in a shambles, his oldest friend and colleague battling a drink problem and an international hitman loose in his home town Daley is going to have a busy few days.

All with added UFO sightings too!

 

 

From The Cradle – Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

A chilling kidnap tale which kept me hooked.

The heart of the story is the investigation into the missing children and it was great following the ebb and flow of their enquries.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards kept the twists and surprises coming throughout the story and it had an ending I would never have seen coming.

 

 

Storm Front – John Sandford

I love John Sandford’s books and the Virgil Flowers series (of which Storm Front is one) are well worth seeking out.  They are consistently great crime thrillers yet Flowers brings the humour to his investigations which made Storm Front great listening.

 

 

Quieter Than Killing – Sarah Hilary

I am a huge fan of the Marnie Rome series but this was the first time I had “met” Marnie in audiobook.  The narration by Imogen Church was fantastic, bringing much loved characters to life.

Quieter Than Killing is a great read but then I have never been disappointed in a Sarah Hilary novel – she writes stories with an edge.

Marnie is investigating a series of vicious beatings across London but she cannot tell if she is hunting a single person or a vigilante group. It is not long before the stakes are raised and danger will lie ahead.

 

The Girl in the Ice – Robert Bryndza

The first Erika Foster thriller and a dark and murderous tale from a frozen London. This was one of the first books I listened to (two more in the series soon followed) and I became a firm fan of Robert Bryndza’s wonderful thrillers.

 

Chase – Shaun Hutson

My last pick was the chilling Chase. I love a horror tale and Mr Hutson writes some of the best. An English couple are on a driving holiday in remote USA but the trip will bring them face to face with forces they could not have ever envisaged. Their dream holiday, tinged with tragedy even before they set off, becomes a nightmare roadtrip.

After rescuing a young girl from two killers the couple flee to keep the girl safe – the killers are in pursuit and they know the area far better than the holidaymakers.

Chilling and as nasty as I had anticipated – great listening.

 

 

 

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November 16

Whiteout – Ragnar Jonasson – Audiobook

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. As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.

 

Huge thanks to Karen at Orenda for the opportunity to listen to this audio book.

 

Whiteout was sublime listening. A tale of Iceland at Christmas time and the audiobook wonderfully conveyed a feeling of chilled darkness.

In a very remote settlement a young woman has been found dead at the foot of a steep cliff. Ari Thor Arason is drafted in to help his former boss investigate the circumstances surrounding her death. Suicide seems likely but when it is discovered that the woman’s mother and sister both died in the same spot it merits a little more investigation.

If the potential suicide is actually a murder then there are very few suspects – three residents in the house she had been visiting (all three older than the dead woman) and in the neighbouring house resides a couple who were roughly of ages with the deceased. None appear to have any possible motive for wishing her dead, she has not been in their company for over 20 years so why can murder not be ruled out?

Unpicking the mystery of this unusual death will be a challenge but it makes for excellent reading. Masterful teasing out of clues, slow reveals and clever, clever plotting by Ragnar Jonasson kept me hooked.  I have always been a fan of the Dark Iceland series but Whiteout is easily my favourite thus far, it was quite brilliant.

The audiobook was narrated by Leighton Pugh and he does a terrific job. Character voices were easily identifiable and perfectly fitted how the players had been described in the text. The story flowed around me as I listened and I felt transported to the craggy cliff edges, the stone lighthouse and the old houses where the five suspects tucked away their secrets.

Whiteout is set at Christmas and I discovered so many wonderful Icelandic traditions whilst listening to the book. Hearing about the Christmas Messages, the gifting of books and other heartwarming memories contrasted sharply with the investigation into a death – my sadness accentuated at the timing of a life lost.

 

Whiteout is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback, digital and audiobook format.

You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whiteout-Dark-Iceland-Ragnar-J%C3%B3nasson-ebook/dp/B06Y6HWP9Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1510871147&sr=1-1&dpID=51j8pDxoAML&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

 

 

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January 12

Rupture – Ragnar Jonasson

Rupture1955. Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…

In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.

 

My thanks, as ever, to Karen at Orenda for my review copy.

Ragnar Jonasson can get a LOT of story in one book. There is tonnes going on in Rupture so for Ari Thor fans this is going to be a bit of a treat.

Siglufjörður is in lockdown. A quarantine on the town as illness has claimed a life and nobody is prepared to risk their health just to meet their neighbours.  Ari Thor is using this down time to investigate a cold-case which has been brought to his attention. In the mid 1950’s a woman in the remote settlement of Hedinsfjörður seemingly took her own life by drinking poison.  There were only 4 people in the settlement at that time and it was assumed that the isolation became too much leading her to take her own life. Spin forward to the present day and an old photograph has come to light which suggests that the four may not have been alone as a shot of a mystery man is captured on film.

Away from Siglufjörður I was delighted to see journalist Isrun return (she first appeared in Black Out). Isrun is still working in the newsroom and has significantly enhanced her position amongst her colleagues since we first encountered her. Isrun is reporting on the abduction of a child but as she digs deeper into the story she starts to believe there may be a much bigger story hiding behind the shocking kidnapping.

When I first reviewed a Jonasson novel (Snowbound) I remarked on the similarities with the plot of an Agatha Christie novel. Rupture gave me that same feeling as I read it – even down to the scene where Ari Thor gathers a small number of characters together to outline his deductions. It really was a fun book to read.

Delightfully twisty, frequently sinister and utterly engrossing. I do love the Dark Iceland series and Rupture is another corker.

 

Rupture is published by Orenda Books and is available now in paperback and digital format.

You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rupture-Dark-Iceland-Ragnar-Jonasson/dp/1910633577/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484262126&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=rupture+ragna

The Rupture blog tour is in full flow and you can follow it here:

Rupture tour

 

 

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September 1

Blackout – Ragnar Jonasson

BlackoutOn the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance.

Ari Thor Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjordur struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies… Dark, terrifying and complex, Blackout is an exceptional, atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland s finest crime writers.

With thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.

 

The third release in the Dark Iceland series: Blackout nestles between Snowblind and Nightblind.

Having read Nightblind (which follows Blackout) relatively recently I knew how a couple of the plot threads in in Blackout were going to be resolved. This slightly reduced the impact of one of the twists as I was watching for the hints of what was to come. But watching for clues actually gave me a greater appreciation of the  delightful story crafting that is on show once again from Ragnar Jonasson!

The story opens with the discovery of a body, someone has been brutally murdered and the Siglufjordur police are required to investigate. The victim is a contractor staying in the area to work on construction of a tunnel – this means he is not a local and the lack of the Siglufjordur gossip will mean a more thorough investigation will be required. This is where I feel Ragnar Jonasson excels, he can compile a whodunnit (and a whydunnit) like an old master. With the victim discovered Jonasson can take the reader on a journey of slow discovery. You know that while you read you are being taken ever closer to the point you learn the name of the killer. But before enlightenment comes the careful and clever reveals: clues, red herrings and side plots wonderfully interwoven as the author lays out the secret lives of his characters for our entertainment.

Of the three books Blackout has replaced Snowblind as my favourite Ari Thor novel. This story takes a much darker tone, the characters are dealing with harsher events, they seem to have more troubled backgrounds. Even the main players do not appear to be coping so well with daily life. The character angst gives the whole book a more tense and nervous feel which dramatically differentiated it from Snowblind which I still believe had quite a gentle narrative feel.

I did think that Ari Thor features less in this book than in past adventures with a fair bit of focus diverted towards the journalist Isrun. She plays a key role in Blackout and I am hoping she may return in more books in the future (or the past) as I really enjoyed her scenes. The investigative reporter added a different dynamic to Blackout and helped to contribute to the different feel of this book to the previous two.

One final word – on the words.  Blackout is translated by Quentin Bates who very much deserves the plaudits too, my enjoyment of the Dark Iceland stories is partly due to the fact that they are so very readable.

I make no secret of the fact I am a fan of the Dark Iceland books and Blackout only reaffirms my belief that Ragnar Jonasson is a wonderful teller of tales. The wait for the next book is always a frustrating period (but always worth the wait). If you are not reading these books – you really should be!

 

Blackout is published by Orenda Books and available now in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blackout-Dark-Iceland-Ragnar-Jonasson/dp/1910633461/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1472684931&sr=1-3&keywords=ragnar+jonasson

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January 8

Nightblind – Ragnar Jonasson

NightBlind BF AW 2Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house.

With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will.

Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.

 

Thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and also the opportunity to join the blog tour.

Last year we met Ari Thór Arason in Snowblind and followed his move to Siglufjörður. He struggled to adapt to being the new cop (and a stranger) in a small town while also dealing with the added distraction of conducting a murder investigation. Snowblind was one of the reading highlights of 2015 and you can read my review here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=854

Nightblind picks up with Ari Thór some five years after the events of Snowblind. The book opens with an explanatory note for the reader outlining the significant events in Ari Thór’s life and explains that his colleague Tomás has moved to Reykjavík. Ari Thór now has a new boss, Herjólfur, but the two do not appear to have bonded – perhaps as Ari Thór applied for promotion but was unsuccessful.

Trouble is not far away for Ari Thór: the murder of his colleague brings tragedy too close to home. He knows not why his colleague visited a deserted house in the middle of the night, why he may have been targeted or even if the killer has remained in town. Ari Thór’s investigations will become political as the local mayor joins the suspect pool and small town grapevine speculation threatens to spill into scandal. A local drug dealer may hold some vital information but their co-operation may come at too high a price for Ari Thór.

Jonasson builds a brilliant narrative as Ari Thór’s investigation progresses. We have a small circle of characters who will play an important part in the story, red herrings, side plots and subtle clues – all the hallmarks we have already come to expect from Ragnar Jonasson. The frequent comparisons of a writing style that is similar to Dame Agatha’s are well merited.

Nightblind is a murder story so to reveal too much about the actual story would require massive spoilers – nothing should be allowed to spoil your enjoyment of Nightblind, it’s magnificent. I felt it pitched slightly darker than Snowblind with one plot thread (not to the detriment of the story) but it was a book I didn’t want to end. I could read about life in Siglufjörður for days, Jonasson makes the town come to life around me as I curl up with his books.

Ragnar Jonasson (courtesy of the beautiful translation by Quentin Bates) has delivered another literary delight – I cannot heap enough praise upon Nightblind.

 

Nightblind is published by Orenda Books and is available now in digital format and in paperback from 15th January 2016.

The blog tour continues and I urge you to check out as many of the hosts as you can – the full schedule is included below.

Nightblind Blog tour

 

 

 

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December 5

2015: My Top Ten Reads

December already and time to look back over 2015 and draw up my Top Ten reads of the year.  Before I start I would like to thank all the authors and publishers that have trusted me with their books, shared my reviews and (on exciting occasions) quoted my reviews. Your support keeps this blog running and I am grateful beyond measure.

Reading and blogging is not the solitary venture as you may believe. I would like to thank all the authors who gave up some of their valuable time to join me during 2015 (answering my Q&A’s and providing guest posts). Special thanks at this time to Marnie Riches for many, many Twitter name-checks and to Alexandra Sokoloff for her phenomenal guest feature on Serial Killers (found here).

I would also thank my fellow bloggers who help my reviews reach a wider audience, give me guidance when I hit a blank and provide the support I need to keep me going – too many to name individually but special thanks to Liz, Sonya, Sophie, Lou and Shaun.

So the books – Ten in all. The ones I recommended most throughout the year or the stories which stick with me long after I have finished reading – with my goldfish memory it takes something special to remain memorable.

They are not ranked in any order…but the last three on the list ARE my three most recommended for the year!

 

No Other Darkness

 

No Other Darkness – Sarah Hilary

The second Marnie Rome thriller from Sarah Hilary and it did everything that I hoped it would do. Terrified, entertained, developed the characters that I had really liked from her debut novel and it left me pining for more. I read No Other Darkness in January so my wait for Book 3 must hopefully be nearing an end!  Review here

 

 

 

hellbound

Hellbound – David McCaffrey

David McCaffrey took the serial killer story and did something totally unexpected – the concept he explored was one I now often consider when I read other murder stories. Hellbound was engrossing, thought provoking and a bloody good story too. David kindly agreed to take part in a Q&A and he was the first to be asked what I came to call my “Serial Killer” question – this question has subsequently featured many times throughout the year (and will be revisited in a special feature post soon). The Serial Killer question only came about because of Hellbound – my thanks to David for that inspiration, every different answer fascinates me.  Review Here.

 

 

 

the girl who wouldnt die 2

 

 

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – Marnie Riches

Explosive opening and a punchy heroine in George McKenzie I was hooked on The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die from the outset.  I loved the Amsterdam setting, I loved the dynamic between George and the Dutch police. I got frustrated by the characters, I hated the bullies and I was delighted that Marnie Riches did not sugar coat the violence of her villains. Dark and nasty is how I like a crime story. (Review Here)

 

 

 

Evil Games

Evil Games – Angela Marsons

Angela Marsons released three books this year featuring lead character Kim Stone. Evil Games was the second of the three and although I could easily be writing about the third book (Lost Girls) in this space I just felt that Evil Games edged it. The clinching factor in Evil Games inclusion in this list was the character playing the Evil Games – no spoilers but the villain in Evil Games wins my ‘Best Baddie of 2015’ award.  If you have not yet read any of the books in this series then you need to put that right as soon as possible. (Review here).

 

 

Snow Blind

 

Snowblind (Dark Iceland) – Ragnar Jonasson

Snowblind stands out in my selection of ten as it is the least frenetic of the books but it reads beautifully. The storytelling, the scene setting, the characterization and the sheer sense of being part of the story made Snowblind an easy pick for my list. (Review here)

 

 

 

Killing Lessons

 

The Killing Lessons – Saul Black

In the height of summer (while lying beside a Spanish swimming pool) I was transported to a dark, snowy American wood as I read about a young girl fleeing the family home to escape a pair of killers that had murdered her mother and brother. The Killing Lessons just ticked all the right boxes for me. A cleverly written slick thriller that follows the cops, the killers and the victim they missed. (Review here

 

 

breathe 2

 

 

Breathe – David Ince

How can you not love a book that is the first book in The Meat Puppet Trilogy?  Breathe is non-stop action. A chase scene from first page to last. Random and unexpected deaths, blackmail, terror and a mysterious criminal figure commanding an army of unwilling foot soldiers. It will keep you turning page after page and promising yourself ‘just one more chapter’. (Review here)

 

 

A Kind Worth Killing

 

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

In my Top Three because it just kept blowing me away with the twists I did not see coming. So many clever, clever twists. A nightmare to review without giving away plot twists because it is so damned twisty. Did I mention the twists?  If you enjoy a murder story and you don’t mind knowing who the murderer is then this is the book for you. But the police are on the trail of our killer and you start to think that this time you would quite like to see them fail – and it looks like they will!  (Review Here)

 

 

Tenacity 2

 

 

Tenacity – J.S. Law

In the Top Three because I loved it. From the stunning opening sequence through to the claustrophobic submarine scenes and the brilliant finale which left me screaming for more chapters – I just could not get enough of this book.  Everyone should read Tenacity.  (Review here)

 

 

 

Untouchable cover

Untouchable – Ava Marsh

Also in the Top Three this year is Untouchable by Ava Marsh. The protagonist is a high class call girl and the story takes an unflinching look at her lifestyle.  Untouchable stood out this year as a book quite unlike any I had read. The treatment of the characters was handled superbly and any judgements on the characters is made entirely by the reader. Contains scenes of violence and explicit sexual content so perhaps not suitable for everyone but if that stops you reading a fantastic story then it is your loss. I recommend this book to everyone (except my mum coz of the rude bits). (Review here)

 

 

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June 26

Snow Blind (Dark Iceland) – Ragnar Jonasson

Snow BlindSiglufjorour: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.

Ari Thor Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind.

When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying, Snow Blind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.

Snow Blind – a masterclass in scene setting and subtle tension building. Siglufjorour is brilliantly depicted, the town and its inhabitants are vividly recreated by Ragnar Jonasson and the hero, Ari Thor, is a likeable yet vulnerable lead character.

Nothing happens in sleepy Siglufjorour yet Ari Thor decides the opportunity to develop his career in this remote coastal town is too good an opportunity to pass up. He leaves his life (and girlfriend) in Reykjavik and we follow his attempts to adjust to the slower pace of life in Siglufjorour – any resident of a small town will be able to relate to Ari Thor’s new environment.

The good news for the reader is that the tranquility is soon to be shattered – a death in the community and before long secrets are unearthed. Suspicion shifts around the town and Ari Thor soon learns that his tranquil new home is not the idyllic haven he initially believed.

Investigations commence and soon Ari Thor finds that being an outsider in a small community will put him at a distinct disadvantage. Friends close ranks and his ‘big city’ approach is not going to work amongst neighbours who have lived in each other’s pockets all their life. Ari Thor does have an ally in the form of his piano teacher – a young woman who also sought out the solitude of Siglufjorour -but what secrets has she left behind from her past life?

I really enjoyed Snow Blind. The story unfolds at a pace consistent with life in Siglufjorour – there is plenty going on but you know there is no rush to the end. You are confident that everything will come good and all will become clear. Why hurry through when the journey is so pleasant?

Where Agatha Christie created a murder mystery with a small suspect pool on a fast moving train or within a large country house, Ragnar Jonasson creates the same feel in a whole town. I hope to have the chance to read more of Ari Thor in future. Snow Blind is a welcome and fresh addition to our book shelves.

 

Snow Blind is published by Orenda Books and is available now in both paperback and digital formats.

Ragnar Jonasson is on Twitter: @ragnarjo

And at ragnarjonasson.com

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