The Evolution of Fear : Q&A with Paul E. Hardisty

Today I’m delighted to welcome Paul Hardisty to my blog. Paul is the author of the fantastic thriller The Abrupt Physics of Dying, and has just published a follow-up, The Evolution of Fear.

Evelution of Fear Vis 1

Paul has very kindly answered some questions for me. Over to Paul.
1. Claymore Straker is a wonderfully complex character. How did you come up with the inspiration for him?

Over the past 30 years I have been lucky to work all over the word, and much of that has been in some pretty remote places. Perhaps because of the nature of my work – water and environmental engineering, often associated with severe problems of pollution, over-extraction, and resource exploitation – many of those places have been characterised by corruption and conflict. Sometimes that conflict has been local, and has been played out through peaceful community protest, but all too often that conflict has led to violence, and in some cases (as depicted in The Abrupt Physics of Dying), full blown civil war. Working and living in these places, sometimes completely isolated and often alone, these experiences have shaped me more than I probably realise, and it is only through my writing that I have come to realise just how much. Claymore Straker is, then, a character born of conflict. His life is punctuated by three significant but little know civil wars: in Yemen in 1994 (The Abrupt Physics of Dying), in Cyprus (The Evolution of Fear), and as a young man, on the front lines of the Apartheid-era Border War in Angola (1980’s) – the subject of the upcoming prequel, tentatively entitled Reconciliation for the Dead, out in 2017. These are all places that I know well, and in the case of Yemen and Cyprus, conflicts of which I have had first-hand experience.

2. In The Evolution of Fear I learned a *lot* about boats especially during one particularly tense sequence near the start. Clearly you know your stuff – is this experience or just research?

I have been sailing all my life, starting when I was a boy and my dad got us a little wooden Sabot dinghy. My godfather was ex Royal Navy and a keen ocean sailor, so I learned as a boy and a teenager sailing with him on the West Coast of Canada. When we were first married, my wife and I had a 27 foot Folkboat which we sailed all over the West Coast. I’m not a racer, more a cruiser – I like exploring, getting places. There is something hugely satisfying about getting yourself somewhere using the winds and the tides and currents, about finding that little island and the perfect anchorage. Over the years I’ve also read some great books by ocean voyagers such as Joshua Slocum, and those tales have stuck with me. So no research for this, pretty much just wrote it from what I know.

3. There’s a lot of globe-trotting in the book. How do you choose where your characters end up?

I basically use places I know well, places I’ve worked in or lived in, or spent enough time in to know really well. In The Evolution of Fear, the action starts in Cornwall – a place I love. We lived in the West Country for three years, and did a lot of walking in the countryside. The north coast is so wild, it was the perfect place for the safehouse Clay is hiding in at the start of the book. When I was working in Eastern Turkey in the 1980’s I used to spend all my spare time in Istanbul. I always stayed at the Pera Palas hotel, and loved everything about that amazing city. Given the storyline in the book, it was a perfect place to set some of the key events. And finally, Cyprus, a place I lived for almost a decade, a most beguiling island. I love bringing a place alive on the page, allowing the reader to feel as if he or she is right there, seeing it, hearing its sounds, smelling its aromas, feeling its winds and changes.

4. What is your writing process like?

I can only write in the morning. By mid-day it’s gone – I have no idea where to. So starting early and working through till lunch is good. The things is, I still work full time, so finding those mornings and blocking them out is tough. Those mornings are gold and I have to use them as efficiently as I can. To do that I use whatever other time I have when I am not working or training (triathlon and martial arts) or spending time with my family, doing the plot and narrative engineering. I start a novel with a core theme I want to explore. Then I build an entire basic plot structure, the full arc. First I write that. Then I come back and start adding in the details, the impressions, the twists and turns, and the
exploration of theme, hanging all of that onto the structure, like muscle on the bones. I need to find more time to write, so I’m in the midst of changing my life a bit, trying to move away from the science and engineering a little, to free up more time. Problem is, when you work in the environmental area, there is so much work to do that it could take up your whole lifetime and more.

5. How was your book launch?

It was fantastic. Goldsboro Books in London hosted and did a great job. My fabulous publisher Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books made amazing cupcakes with edible book cover toppings, and old friends I hadn’t seen in years made the journey into London to attend. Just wished Heidi, my wife of 28 years, could’ve been there too.

I wish I could have made it too! Thanks Paul. The Evolution of Fear is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and ebook now. Don’t forget to read The Abrupt Physics of Dying first!

The blog tour continues tomorrow at

Evolution of Fear Blog tour


A slice of Carver: Meet the author

I’m delighted to welcome CJ Carver, author of the fantastic Spare Me The Truth (review up soon!), to my blog today.


Without further ado, over to CJ!

1. Tell me about ‘Spare Me The Truth’.

I was inspired by an article by the Telegraph’s science correspondent Richard Gray, who stated, ‘Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact.’
Great, I thought. A memory-erasing drug! But when I looked closer things weren’t quite as clear cut, but who am I to split hairs when creating a
I’ve always liked looking into the future and seeing what science is up to, because a lot of what seems like sci-fi today can be reality tomorrow, like test-tube babies, cloning, and growing potatoes on Mars which NASA really are trying to do. I like writing high-concept thrillers where the stakes are high as well as thought provoking.

2. What made you decide to want to explore the delicious world of espionage? Have you been a top secret spy? (We won’t tell!)

I think it’s the word “secret” that drew me to write about the spying world. Anything undercover or hidden to me is immediately fascinating. As a child I’d pretend I was a spy. I found the idea of knowing something while everyone around me was oblivious, incredibly powerful.
Writing about espionage means I’m telling a story with high stakes, because the consequences if you get caught ranges from being fired from your job to being executed. It’s a terrifying place.
Also, I’m a very open, straight-talking person and I find writing about people who are nothing like me – wily, shrewd and duplicitous – very stimulating.

3. Which was your favourite character to write?

What a question! I love Dan as he’s nothing like me, and I also love Lucy for the same reason. Dan is taciturn and aloof while I’m neither. Lucy has a terrific temper on her that I admire immensely – I wish I had the courage to let rip like she does. If I had to choose between them . . . argh! I couldn’t! I seriously loved writing them both.

4. Do you have any more adventures planned for Dan Forrester? You know how much we all love him.

Dan definitely has another exploit or two to undertake. He’s got to sort out his love life! And when he’s approached by a “dead” agent he recruited in Moscow years ago – a beautiful woman he can’t remember – he gets a lot more than he bargained for.

5. Are you a reader? Can you recommend any good books?

I am a voracious reader. I’ve just finished The Pale House by Luke McCallin, an incredible war-time thriller with one of the best protagonist’s I’ve met in a long time. I loved Stasi Child by David Young (his first novel) and got blown away by Reginal Hill’s latest The Wood Cutter (his 37th novel).

6. Are you planning on going on a book tour or visiting any of the crime festivals this year?

You bet! I’m at CrimeFest in May and Harrogate in July and can’t wait to meet some readers – the whole reason for my existence.

7. Cats or dogs?

Dogs. Just look at the Rottweiler’s in Spare Me The Truth. Cats just couldn’t do the same job.

8. What were you afraid I was going to ask you?

As long as you don’t ask me to lie in a box filled with tarantulas, you can ask me pretty much anything!

Thanks CJ!. Spare Me The Truth is out now and is published by Zaffre Publishing. Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post with Lisa over at Reading Room with a View

A Time of Torment – John Connolly: Charlie Parker’s world

This week Liz Barnsley from Liz Loves Books has been taking us on a reader’s journey through the world of Charlie Parker from the books of John Connolly. John’s latest book, A Time of Torment is published today.

On Monday she started the tour by looking at the mythology of Charlie Parker.

On Tuesday she talked about Louis and Angel – the anti-heroes of Charlie Parker’s world .

Wednesday found her talking about the Travelling Man and beyond.

Thanks to @Lizzy11268 for taking us on this literary road trip, and to @northernlass73 and @grabthisbook for being such gracious hosts.

Today I’d like to welcome Liz to *my* little blog (hi Liz!) where she’s going to talk about Charlie Parker’s world. Without further ado, over to Liz…

Welcome to Maine
Photo by aresauburnphotos | Flickr

Like Stephen King, John Connolly sets a lot of his action (although not all of it) in Maine – a place of beauty and atmosphere, described so wonderfully at times within the stories that it comes to life around you – as a reader it is a perfect setting for Charlie, it informs the character almost as much as the events do.

Photo by rghoel
Photo by rghoel | Pixabay

Whilst Portland is a mainstay, the atmospheric and deep seated imagery comes when Charlie moves away from the wider communities into the small, more insular and less well known spots – the country and those hidden spaces, the places where it is easy to imagine evil might lurk, biding its time, waiting for a moment IN time.

Looking back over my experience with the settings within the books, the sense of place and the haunting feel that comes with some of the scenery was especially unforgettable in book two. In “Dark Hollow” the hunt for Caleb Kyle, who may be man or myth, takes Charlie back to the places of his childhood and out into the wilderness, a stark and unforgiving place that is a character in its own right. In this novel the shivery feeling that the atmospheric sense of place John Connolly creates every time brings becomes tenfold – you feel the chill, you see the landscape, you are right there in that place and time.

Spooky Woods
Photo by lightsoutfilms | Flickr

Again with book eleven the setting comes into its own. “The Wrath of Angels” finds us deep in the woods in more ways than one as certain things come to a head and the hunt for the site of a crash is on – Charlie up against some terrifying rivals in his attempt to track down a very important list that may change everything. The backdrop to this tale is so visceral, so real in its description that you are again transported into that world, the events unfolding with intense and simply stunning surrounding imagery that is a thing of beauty. And of terror.

146. where's Elm-o? Hurricane Valley
Photo by nhoulihan | Flickr

These are just two examples of many of how the places inform the story, add an extra and extraordinary level to an ongoing series that is full of them. Who knows where Charlie will go next – but wherever it is we will be right there with him.


John Connolly’s A Time of Torment, the 14th book in his Charlie Parker series is published by Hodder & Stoughton on April 7th in the UK and Ireland, and by Emily Bestler Books/Atria August 2nd in the US.

Jerome Burnel was once a hero. He took action to save lives, never imagining how that might put his own at risk. Unknown forces humiliated him and stripped him of everything, sending him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He believes it’s only a matter of time before these forces kill him—but before he dies, he wants answers. Burnel turns to Charlie Parker: who are the people who ruined his life? What happened to the young woman he saved? And what is the secret concealed in a small town in West Virginia, where an ancient power rests?
Charlie Parker, reborn from death, is finding new ways to do battle with old evil. He and his longtime allies, Louis and Angel, descend on a strange, isolated community called The Cut, whose leaders serve only the Dead King.

john and dog 2011

In Her Wake, by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake HBcover copy 4

A perfect life … until she discovered it wasn’t her own
A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella’s comfortable existence. Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but also her life. Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family –and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home

What if someone told you that you’re not who you think you are? Who you’ve been brought up and lived your whole life as?

That’s the central premise behind Amanda Jennings’ In Her Wake.

The story starts, in a way, with a ending. Bella Campbell is an only child, brought up by her doting mother Elaine and her father Henry in an old vicarage in Oxfordshire, barely seeing the outside world except for their annual holiday to the Cotswolds.

Bella’s mother has passed away, and Bella returns home for the funeral. Her father has a secret, but can’t seem to find the words to admit to it. Then, tragedy follows tragedy and soon Bella is left questioning her entire life…

So. At the most basic level, this is a story of family dynamics, secrets and relationships. The fears that face parents when something endangers the safely and wellbeing of their children. The catastrophic sense of loss and sadness when someone is taken from us.

But it’s so much more than that. In Her Wake is a complex, layered tale of identity and control – husbands controlling wives, wives controlling husbands, and how it feels to break those shackles, to become your own person and not who everyone else is insisting that you are.

At the beginning you wonder what Bella sees in her controlling, older husband David. He’s genuinely awful to her (I got very cross with him from very early on in the book), but it seems that she just can’t see it. He clearly feels he’s doing the Right Thing, and has an absolute, unshakeable conviction that he knows best. Similarly with Elaine and Henry, Bella’s parents. Each feels they do what they have to do, with us the audience on the outside wondering why they can’t see what we can. It can be all too easy to write people off as bad, but things are never black or white.

Amanda Jennings has a phenomenal gift for story, layering real depth onto each and every character in the book. She also has a wonderful ability to bring you into a place – I’ve been to Cornwall many times over the years and could almost feel myself back there with Bella, with the sand between my toes on the beach and the waves crashing nearby.

It’s hard not to say too much and spoil the story. You really need to go on the journey with Bella to find out who she is, who she was, and who she ultimately wants to be.

It’s quite a trip. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

In Her Wake is published by Orenda Books and is available now in paperback.


And what’s more, I have a copy to give away! Tell me about your favourite beach, either in the comments below or on twitter. Use the hashtag #InHerWake and don’t forget to tag me (@dakegra). I’ll pick a winner this Friday (8th April 2016). Good luck!

Many thanks to Karen (@OrendaBooks) for the review copy, and to Amanda Jennings (@MandaJJennings) for writing it! As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow with Wendy at Little Bookness Lane with @BooknessLane.

In Her Wake Blog tour

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Something a little different on the blog today. I’m delighted to reveal the cover for Laini Taylor’s upcoming Strange the Dreamer.

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperilled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

It’s not out until September, but here’s a sneak peek!

UK Jacket - Strange the Dreamer HB

Isn’t it splendid?

Here’s the UK cover and the US one – which do you prefer?

And that’s not all – here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite


On the second sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.

Her skin was blue, her blood was red.

She broke over an iron gate, crimping it on impact, and there she hung, impossibly arched, graceful as a temple dancer swooning on a lover’s arm. One slick finial anchored her in place. Its point, protruding from her sternum, glittered like a brooch. She fluttered briefly as her ghost shook loose, and then her hands relaxed, shedding fistfuls of freshly picked torch ginger buds.

Later, they would say these had been hummingbird hearts and not blossoms at all.
They would say she hadn’t shed blood but wept it. That she was lewd, tonguing her teeth at them, upside down and dying, that she vomited a serpent that turned to smoke when it hit the ground. They would say a flock of moths had come, frantic, and tried to lift her away.

That was true. Only that.

They hadn’t a prayer, though. The moths were no bigger than the startled mouths of children, and even dozens together could only pluck at the strands of her darkening hair until their wings sagged, sodden with her blood. They were purled away with the blossoms as a grit-choked gust came blasting down the street. The earth heaved underfoot. The sky spun on its axis. A queer brilliance lanced through billowing smoke, and the people of Weep had to squint against it. Blowing grit and hot light and the stink of saltpeter. There had been an explosion. They might have died, all and easily, but only this girl had, shaken from some pocket of the sky.

Her feet were bare, her mouth stained damson. Her pockets were all full of plums. She was young and lovely and surprised and dead.

She was also blue.

Blue as opals, pale blue. Blue as cornflowers, or dragonfly wings, or a spring—not summer—sky.
Someone screamed. The scream drew others. The others screamed, too, not because a girl was dead, but because the girl was blue, and this meant something in the city of Weep. Even after the sky stopped reeling, and the earth settled, and the last fume spluttered from the blast site and dispersed, the screams went on, feeding themselves from voice to voice, a virus of the air.

The blue girl’s ghost gathered itself and perched, bereft, upon the spearpoint-tip of the projecting finial, just an inch above her own still chest. Gasping in shock, she tilted back her invisible head and gazed, mournfully, up.

The screams went on and on.

And across the city, atop a monolithic wedge of seamless, mirror-smooth metal, a statue stirred, as though awakened by the tumult, and slowly lifted its great horned head.

Strange the Dreamer is published by Hodder & Stoughton in September 2016. You can find out more about Laini Taylor her and her international bestselling series DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE here:

Thanks to Hodderscape for the sneak peek 🙂

Laini Taylor © Jim DiBartolo

Wicked Game, by Matt Johnson

Wicked Game | Matt Johnson

2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royalty Protection team based in London. He s looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans. Finlay’s deeply traumatic, carefully concealed past is about to return to haunt him. A policeman is killed by a bomb blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both of the murdered men were former Army colleagues from Finlay’s own SAS regiment, and in a series of explosive events, it becomes clear that he is not the ordinary man that his colleagues, friends and new family think he is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse a wicked game in which Finlay is the target, forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined and unidentified enemy.

Wicked Game is a taut, action packed, emotive thriller about a man who might be your neighbour, a man who is forced to confront his past in order to face a threat that may wipe out his future, a man who is willing to do anything to protect the people he loves. But is it too late?

Despite my recent flurry of reviews of more traditional crime books, I must confess that I have a bit of a soft spot for a good, fast-paced action thriller. Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game delivers on all counts.

Former SAS officer Robert Finlay has moved back into the Met after a stint in the Royalty Protection service. But people he knows are being killed, and he might very well be next on the list…
Some background might be useful here (cribbed from the press release).

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for 25 years. He was at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1992, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing. Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. While undergoing treatment for PTSD, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism.

It’s this first-hand experience of these terrible events (more of which you can read about in Matt’s guest post on crime thriller girl’s blog) which really gives Wicked Game an unshakeable feeling of authenticity which is woven deep into the fabric of the story. The prose is taut and to the point, especially when we’re dealing with Finlay and his investigation into the killings and entirely in fitting with the character. The dealings that Finlay has with the various departments looking into the killings feels authentic, and there’s a race against time to see who will get to the bad guys first.

What I particularly liked, and what puts the story into a different class for me is that Finlay is no longer the youthful SAS officer he once was and his expertise in planning, which in another thriller would have him disposing of his opponent easily, here is more believably slightly rusty. Things go wrong, and he’s forced to adapt on the hoof, quite literally in some cases!

I also liked the way Matt Johnson manages to get you into the mindset of the terrorists. No cardboard cut-out baddies here – these are fully realised and well thought-out with solid, clear, if disturbing, rationales for what they’re doing.

I really enjoyed Wicked Game. It’s a fresh, fast-paced and authentic thriller and I’m delighted to hear that Matt is working on a second book.

You can read an extract from Wicked Game over at Raven Crime Reads.

Wicked Game is published by Orenda Books and is available now.

Many thanks to Karen (@OrendaBooks) for the review copy, and to Matt Johnson (@Matt_Johnson_UK) for writing it! As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow at Northern Crime Reviews with @northernlass73.

Wicked Games Blog tour

Jihadi: A Love Story, by Yusuf Toropov


A former intelligence agent stands accused of terrorism, held without charge in a secret overseas prison. His memoir is in the hands of a brilliant but erratic psychologist whose annotations paint a much darker picture.
As the story unravels, we are forced to assess the truth for ourselves, and decide not only what really happened on one fateful overseas assignment, but who is the real terrorist. Peopled by a diverse and unforgettable cast of characters, whose reliability as narrators is always questioned, and with a multi-layered plot heaving with unexpected and often shocking developments, Jihadi: A Love Story is an intelligent thriller that asks big questions.
Complex, intriguing and intricately woven, this is an astonishing debut that explores the nature of good and evil alongside notions of nationalism, terrorism and fidelity, and, above all, the fragility of the human mind.

Jihadi is utterly unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m about halfway through, and as I’ve been reading, I’ve had one eye on the date I’d agreed to for the blog tour, watching it tick every closer. But this is a book that demands concentration. Rewards it, even. So I think it’s only fair to preface this review by saying that I’m only about halfway through.

I’ve read a fair few books recently. And I’ve been fortunate in that they’ve been almost universally good. They’ve also, in the main, been books that you can pick up for a few minutes, read a chapter and then go do something else. Jihadi is not one of those books. It’s a deeply complex story – as others have said, it’s a book which takes you a little while to get into, but once you’ve allowed it to get under your skin, you’ll find yourself hooked.

Jihadi takes the form of a memoir. An annotated memoir of an intelligence agent being held in what he calls ‘the beige motel’, a secret overseas prison where he’s being held without charge and tortured. As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder exactly what has happened and who these people actually are. We’ve got not one, but two unreliable narrators in play here. It’s darkly funny in places, deeply shocking in others, thought-provoking and beautifully constructed. Yusuf’s writing challenges our perceptions of good and evil and makes you think long after you’ve closed the pages.  Who is right, who is wrong, who is the real terrorist?

And you may want to cue up The Beatles’ White Album as you read.

Here’s an extract from chapter 2. Warning, it’s pretty graphic in places.

In Which Liddell Engages in Fashionable Howling
During the first hour of September 9, 2005, he showered, dressed, ate his breakfast in the middle of the night, gathered his things, stared out the window to make sure his limousine was there, and, after a suitable delay, climbed into the back. He enjoyed making the limousine wait, then making it hurry. He told the driver he preferred to do at least eighty on these predawn jaunts to Logan.

When his plane touched down in the Islamic Republic, nineteen hours later, Wafa A––, a twenty-one-year-old pregnant mother-tobe, had not yet begun her breakfast. Wafa happened to live in a disputed region of the Islamic Republic. She did not have an appetite. She was thinking about her sister Fatima. Wafa reminded herself that she must call Fatima and congratulate her for being hired as a translator for the Bureau of Islamic Investigation.

Wafa sat on a plastic lawn chair in an overgrown green area, at a bone-white plastic table she shared with her husband and motherin-law, drinking tea with them in the sun, thinking this thought of reaching out to her sister Fatima, of warning her again about the dangers of working with men, when hundreds of tiny metal darts, their points tight and sharp as needles, tore into her flesh and the flesh of her unborn baby.

According to Wafa’s husband, the tea drinkers heard a strange collapsing sound. Almost an inhalation.
you can download the rest of Jihadi chapter 2 here >>


toropov 120215 copy
Yusuf Toropov is an American Muslim writer. He’s the author or co-author of a number of non-fiction books.
Jihadi: A Love Story, which reached the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is his first novel. He lives in Ireland, and seeks to create ‘the possibility of harmonious acceptance in the Middle East, USA and Europe via literature and a global conversation about coexistence’.


Many thanks to Karen (@OrendaBooks) for the review copy, and to Yusuf Toropov (@LiteraryStriver) for writing such a thought-provoking piece. As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow at Raven Crime Reads.

JIHADI Blog tour Banner

Thin Ice, by Quentin Bates

Thin Ice

Today I’m delighted to welcome Quentin Bates (@graskeggur to the blog. Quentin was best known to me as the translator for Ragnar Jonasson’s excellent Dark Iceland books, Snowblind and Nightblind. I had no idea that he was (and indeed is) an accomplished author himself, though am not surprised. Whilst Thin Ice is part of an ongoing series, it can easily be read as a standalone book in its own right.

Snowed in with a couple of psychopaths for the winter…
When two small-time crooks rob Reykjavik’s premier drugs dealer, hoping for a quick escape to the sun, their plans start to unravel after their getaway driver fails to show. Tensions mount between the pair and the two women they have grabbed as hostages when they find themselves holed upcountry in an isolated hotel that has been mothballed for the season.
Back in the capital, Gunnhildur, Eiríkur and Helgi find themselves at a dead end investigating what appear to be the unrelated disappearance of a mother, her daughter and their car during a day’s shopping, and the death of a thief in a house fire.
Gunna and her team are faced with a set of riddles but as more people are quizzed it begins to emerge that all these unrelated incidents are in fact linked. And at the same time, two increasingly desperate lowlifes have no choice but to make some big decisions on how to get rid of their accidental hostages…

Thin Ice has a splendidly chilly premise – two crooks pull off a robbery only to find that their getaway plans are scuppered. They hijack a car and take a mother and daughter hostage, ending up in a hotel that’s been closed for the winter, deep in the Icelandic countryside. Then the snow starts falling…

Tensions rise between captors and captives and Officer Gunna and her team try to track down the missing women whilst the wonderfully-named Alli the Cornershop and his underworld cronies hunt for the crooks who stole their money.

Here’s a short excerpt from the start of the story. I loved the characters of Magni and Össur, both unique in their own special ways.

The hard guy in the leather jacket was big, with bulky shoulders and knotted forearms, and his jaw jutted forward as if asking to be punched.
So Magni obliged, swatting the tough guy aside with an effortless backhander. He never could resist an invitation; the big man stum- bled back, emitting a high-pitched keening sound as he hit the wall, his dinnerplate hands held to his face as blood seeped through his fingers.
Magni felt no animosity towards the meathead who had been stu- pid enough to be in the wrong place at the right time. Or was that the wrong time, he wondered? Whatever, the guy was spitting teeth into his cupped hands and whimpering, so he only needed a casual eye to be kept on him. Nothing to worry about, Magni decided with satisfaction. At any rate, the ugly black pistol in Össur’s nervous hand was far more persuasive than mere muscles. The old man’s face went pale, paler than it normally was, and Alli the Cornershop didn’t look like a man who spent much time in the sun. He looked sick as he handed over a carrier bag that Össur glanced into before tucking it under one arm.
‘You must know you don’t have a chance in hell of getting away with this,’ Alli snarled. ‘I’ll have the pair of you bastards brought back here trussed up in barbed wire.’
‘Good luck, grandpa.’

Thin Ice is great – the secluded, wintry hideout of Magni and Össur starts to become more claustrophobic as the story progresses. Tensions flare and burn slowly, expectations growing for something to kick off. And Össur has a gun…

Perfect for fans of Icelandic Noir and Ragnar Jonasson. I’m going to have to go back and catch up on the back story of officer Gunna!

Many thanks to Linda at Constable for the review copy. Thin Ice is out now.

As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow with Victoria from Off The Shelf Books

Blog Tour

The Rise & Fall of The Miraculous Vespas, by David F. Ross

The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas - David F. Ross

Rock ‘n’ Roll doesn’t necessarily mean a band. It doesn’t mean a singer, and it doesn’t mean a lyric, really. It’s that question of trying to be immortal’ Malcolm McLaren

The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is the timeless story of the quest for such pop immortality. When a young Ayrshire band miraculously hits the big time with the smash hit record of 1984, international stardom beckons. That’s despite having a delusional teenage manager propelled by a dark, malign voice in his head … Can Max Mojo’s band of talented social misfits repeat the success and pay back the mounting debts accrued from an increasingly agitated cartel of local gangsters? Or will they have to kidnap Boy George and hope for the best?

Featuring much-loved characters from the international bestseller, The Last Days of Disco, this is an absurdly funny, riotously ambitious and deeply human story of small-town rivalries, music, confused adolescence and, above all, hope, from one of Scotland’s finest new voices.

Hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since David Ross’ debut novel (and my first even blog tour!) with The Last Days of Disco.  As I said then, David captured the mood and spirit of the time impeccably, with a wonderful cast of characters and a fabulous soundtrack.

And with The Miraculous Vespas, that ‘difficult second album’, he’s done it again. Bigger, bolder, oozing with confidence, even more Scottish and sweary and with even darker vein of humour running throughout.

We’re back in the eighties, of course. Music plays a pivotal role, of course – just see David’s guest post over at!

We get to meet a few old friends, but they’re very much at the peripheral – this is very much Max Mojo’s story and that of his bandmates. Max is a force of nature and sometimes hard to like, but impossible to look away from, propelling his fledgling band from small gigs to the big time. Miraculous Vespas, as with Disco, is populated by a wonderful cast of characters. The brewing romance between lead singer Grant Delgado and tempestuous drummer Maggie is beautifully played – David has a lovely touch with his characters and they have more depth and… realness than you see in a lot of other books.

The Miraculous Vespas simply oozes nostalgia, and delights in its eighties vibe and its Ayrshire setting. Possibly the only book to come with its own 7″ single too! And there’s a brilliant, hilarious cameo by a certain pop star from the period who is somewhat of a.. chameleon.

In my review of The Last Days of Disco I said that David Ross had set the bar pretty high, and that I couldn’t wait to see what he came up with next. I’m delighted to say that he’s cleared the bar with some room to spare, and I’m even more intrigued to see what book 3 will entail!

The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas is out now, published by Orenda Books.

Many thanks to Karen  (@OrendaBooks) for the review copy, and of course to David F. Ross (@dfr) for writing it. As ever, the opinions are entirely my own. The blog tour continues tomorrow!

David Ross