Cursed – Thomas Enger

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When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Cursed follows the interlocking narratives of Henning Juul and his ex-wife Nora as they investigate what appear to be different mysteries. Nora is looking into the disappearance of Hedda Hellberg who was supposed to be on a trip to Italy but appears not to have left Oslo. Henning is delving into the tragic events surrounding the death of their son. Despite being the fourth book to feature Henning Juul, this can easily be read as a standalone – there are hints at previous cases and events, but this story stands firmly on its own two feet. Henning and Nora are two fantastic characters, with a real and compelling depth to their relationship and backstory.

I particularly loved Nora and her story – a strong, wilful investigative journalist who will stop and nothing, and brook no nonsense from anyone in pursuit of the truth, whilst dealing with a complex and challenging personal life.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love reading a story with a real sense of place, and Cursed has that feeling that you could visit the locations in the story and know them immediately from the book.

Cursed is dark and riveting, with a plot which zigs and zags through a twisting landscape of suspense, truth and lies. Brutal in places, but beautifully layered and plotted.

If you like your noir of the nordic variety, Thomas Enger is definitely an author you need to read.

Cursed by Thomas Enger is published by Orenda Books and is out now. You can find Thomas on Twitter @EngerThomas. Many thanks, as ever, to Karen at Orenda Books for the book to review.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North

The Sudden Appearance of Hope | Claire North

Listen.
All the world forgets me. First my face, then my voice, then the consequences of my deeds.
So listen. Remember me.

My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.

It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.

A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.

No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .

A globe-trotting jewel thief who no-one can remember. An app which promises perfection. A truly fascinating protagonist.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is a remarkable book, with a unique voice. What would you do if no-one could remember you? How would you cope? Relationships are out, and you’d struggle to get medical treatment. Every time someone met you, it’d be the first time, kind of a never-ending groundhog day.

Hope is a curious and wonderful character who is remarkable for being unremarkable, and the author really gets under Hope’s skin, with all her worries and fears and the spectrum of grey morality that Hope inhabits. The fight against Prometheus, the makers of the Perfection app, plays out this moral ambiguity beautifully – are they really the bad guys, wanting to help people become perfect? What lines will Hope cross to bring them down?

At times it’s not an easy read, living inside Hope’s head, with a constant stream of trivia, definitions and counting to help herself remain sane (or as sane as one could be with such a condition). It does put you into Hope’s shoes as she bounces from country to country, always on the run to or from someone or some place.

Highly recommended. You can find Claire North on twitter @ClaireNorth42

Many thanks to David @BlueBookBalloon for the copy.

Day One – All the Missing Girls – Megan Miranda

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It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared without trace. Then a letter from her father arrives – ‘I need to talk to you. That girl. I saw that girl.’ Has her father’s dementia worsened, or has he really seen Corinne? Returning home, Nicolette must finally face what happened on that terrible night all those years ago.

Then, another young woman goes missing, almost to the day of the anniversary of when Corinne vanished. And like ten years ago, the whole town is a suspect.

Told backwards – Day 15 to Day 1 – Nicolette works to unravel the truth, revealing shocking secrets about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne.

So, here we are. Day 1 of the upside-down blog tour for All The Missing Girls. It’s a very… unusual book. The story is told in reverse, starting at the end then skipping backwards a day at a time. It reminded me a little of the film Memento (which, if you’ve not seen it, is awesome – go check it out!) which has a similar structure – you follow the events of the moment, but then jump back to what happened before and get a whole new spin on what you’ve just experienced, shedding a new glimmer of light onto the unfolding mystery of what happened to Corinne and her friends on that fateful night so long ago.

It’s a small town thriller with a splendid cast of characters. Everyone thinks they know everyone else, and it’s only when an outsider comes along that things start to unravel. I’m a huge fan of books with a great sense of place, and Megan has captured the claustrophobic small-town America perfectly.

This is a book which absolutely demands that you pay attention – more than once I had to skip back a chapter (but forwards in time) to double check what had happened to a person or a thing – had she spoken to that person? What did she say again? Did she still have that item at that point? It’s meticulously organised and beautifully constructed. If you like your crime dark and twisty, this one is most definitely for you. Highly recommended.

Follow @MeganLMiranda on Twitter
or at her website meganmiranda.com. All The Missing Girls is published by Corvus and is out now.

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January round-up

Right, that’s January out of the way. Time for a round-up! Or is it roundup? I’m never sure.

Anyhoo. All the cool kids are doing round-ups/wrap-ups/stuff about their month, so I figured I’d join in.

As seen on damppebbles’ Case Closed and Jo’s Beat the Backlist Challenge update, this may well turn into a regular thing. Maybe even monthly, eh? 🙂

Blog posts

Seven blog posts this month. All based around blog tours.
Two extracts, both from brilliant books:

Two fabulous guest posts (thanks CJ and Tim)

And three reviews:

Note to self: Must write more non-blog tour stuff. They’re fun to join in, but I want to do more of my own stuff.

Books read in January:

  • The Dry (review copy)
  • Steal Like an Artist (christmas present)
  • Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods (review copy)
  • Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye (review copy)
  • All the Missing Girls (review copy)
  • Burned and Broken (review copy)
  • Year of No Clutter (review copy)

All great. The Dry was superb, Steal Like An Artist was inspirational, and Warren the 13th was huge fun with some brilliant artwork. Burned and Broken was reviewed. I’m on the blog tour for All the Missing Girls later in February.

Year of No Clutter was awesome – more on that closer to the publication date, but it made me look at the piles of stuff (and yes, books) that I possess in a new way. Recognised a lot of myself in that book.

Currently reading

  • Cursed – Thomas Enger (started in Jan 2017 for a blog tour in Feb)
  • The Burning Page – Genevieve Cogman (Jan 2017 – kindle)
  • The Ninth Rain – Jen Williams (Jan 2017 – ARC)
  • Defender – GX Todd (Jan 2017 – ARC)
  • Spiderlight – Adrian Tchaikovsky (bought in Sep 2016 when it first came out)
  • The Shadow of What Was Lost – James Islington (ARC received in Sep 2016)
  • Moskva – Jack Grimwood (NetGalley from June 2016)
  • Nimona – Noelle Stevenson (bought in Jan 2016)
  • A Burglar’s Guide to the City – Geoff Manaugh (bought in umm, late 2016?)

Yikes. That’s a lot, even for me. As you can tell, I start reading books then get horribly distracted by, erm, other books. Mmm, books.

The TBR Pile Update

I decided that I needed to take control of the TBR pile, both physical and virtual, so spent a merry hour exporting a list of books on my Kindle then wandering around the house taking photos of piles of books.

Currently I’ve got 66 review copies of books – 42 hard copy/ARCs, 21 on my NetGalley shelf, and 3 other ebooks sent by lovely publishers (*waves at Karen from Orenda*)

On top of that,  I’ve got 96 of my own purchased books: 25 in hard copy and 71 on kindle. Crikey. I knew I was a sucker for the 99p kindle sales but that’s just silly.

So, job for February: Finish the currently reading list. Crack into the NetGalley TBR pile.

Right. Best get reading!

The Role of Manipulation in Daily Life – guest post by Angela Marsons

Today I’d like to welcome Angela Marsons to the blog. Angela is the author of Evil Games (more on that later!).

Angela has been on the blog before talking about tips for aspiring writers, and is back again, this time to talk about the role of manipulation in daily life.

Without futher ado, over to Angela.

While researching the art of manipulation I was astounded at some of the techniques used in our everyday life. Although I was primarily interested in one on one influence it became incredibly useful to learn about subtle manipulations that occur in our everyday life.

We already know the subtle manipulations used by supermarkets in the placement of products to encourage the shopper to walk the entire store even for just a couple of purchases. Essential items are positioned far away from each other. Soft music is played to relax the shopper and slow them down, encouraging them to peruse. Sale and roll back signs are placed at eye level appealing to the bargain hunter in us all. Impulse buys are placed strategically en route so that only the most disciplined shopper will leave with only the items on their list.

But one thing I found incredibly intriguing was the use of colour, especially in the retail sector. Millions of pounds have been spent in analysing the psychological associations and properties of colour. Many food outlets use the colour red as it stimulates the appetite and is seen as an action colour. Mid to dark Blue is perceived as stable and intellectual. We trust the colour blue. Yellow represents emotion and violet spirituality. We gain comfort from the colour Orange and balance from anything Green. I found it very interesting to match the colours to many top name brands.

Subtle manipulation is used by most sales people. Many use techniques such as mirroring which is when the person affects a similar demeanour or behaviour trait like scratching the nose or rubbing the chin. We trust familiarity and this assures us on a subconscious level that we are dealing with someone who is similar to ourselves.

More obvious are the techniques of gleaning a great deal of information from someone by asking just a couple of questions and then tailoring their pitch to those facts.

While researching Evil Games I was walking around a local dealership looking to change my car. A very personable young salesman quickly extracted from me that I was a writer, a dog lover and that I was in the market due to a change in circumstances. The salesman proceeded to Google me and then talk at length about my books demonstrating an enthusiastic level of interest. He then attempted to sell me a top of the range brand new vehicle which I didn’t want. I left the showroom without making a purchase as he incorrectly assumed I wanted some kind of status symbol.

Had he listened more closely he would have understood that I wanted to change my car due to my dogs decreasing mobility and would have stood a better chance of a sale if he had told me he had a dog himself.

It is a subject I researched to write a book which ultimately also helped me spend just a little less money at the supermarket.

Thanks Angela. Evil Games is published by Zaffre on 26th January 2017. You can order a copy here. You can find Angela on twitter @WriteAngie. Go say hello!

evil-games

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

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Burned and Broken – Mark Hardie

burned-broken

The charred body of an enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend sea front.

Meanwhile, a vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery of their colleague’s death, dark, dangerous secrets begin to surface. Can they solve both cases, before it’s too late?

An interesting one, this. It starts with the death of a policeman, then jumps back in time four days, leaving us with the grim knowledge of things to come. It’s a cracking opening scene. Indeed for me the strongest parts of the story were the start and end, with the middle just starting to meander a little before the plot takes hold again and delivered a pretty satisfying conclusion. The story does like to play around in its chronology too – you need to be paying close attention not only to who said or did what to who but also when!

There’s a nice subplot weaving through the book about Donna, a young girl who’s come from the care system and her friend Malc. A pair of intriguing characters, with plenty of depth and, of course, a few secrets. At times I found myself more interested in what they were up to than the central investigation into the body.

I liked Russell and Pearson as a duo. Both interesting in their own ways, and I was pleased to see that this is the first in a series featuring them. Keen to see what Mark Hardie does next. If there was any criticism to be had, it could have done with more of a sense of place – the story could have been set in any seaside town in the south of England. Regular readers of this blog will know that I do love a story which makes you *feel* the place the story inhabits, and for me, there wasn’t enough of that here. It’s a minor niggle though.

That said, Burned & Broken is a solid police procedural and an entertaining read. Worth checking out if that’s your sort of thing.

You can find Mark on twitter @MarkHardieCrime.

Burned and Broken is published by Little, Brown @LittleBrownUK and is out now in ebook, paperback on 4th May 2017.

Plenty more on the blog tour today – go check some of my fellow bloggers out!

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The day I found out I had a book deal – guest post by TM Logan

Today I’d like to welcome TM Logan, author of Lies, to the blog to talk about the day he found out that he’d got a book deal.

Over to you Tim…

The day I found out I had a book deal
It was April Fool’s Day. A Friday afternoon. I was at work, about to go into a meeting, when I saw an email from my agent pop up on my phone. The subject line was simply ‘Hello’.
I had a little ‘What if…?’ moment, and made a mental note to check the email later.
An hour later I came out of my meeting and caught up on some other work issues. I picked up my mobile, looked at the subject line of the message from my agent, put the phone down again. Didn’t open the email.
I realise this sounds a bit weird. I guess most people would have read the email straight away. To be honest, I was trying not to think too much about LIES at this point: the manuscript had gone out some weeks earlier and so far I’d heard nothing back. The doubt was starting to creep back in – a previous book of mine had gone out to publishers in 2013, had lots of positive feedback but didn’t get picked up. Maybe LIES was destined to go the same way.
Since that previous experience I had chosen my moments when looking at emails from my agent, so I could prepare myself for whatever news she had. Depending on the update, I reckoned I’d either be banging my head on the desk or dancing around the office – but at this point no-one at work had any idea that I had written a book, and I wanted to keep it under wraps until I had something concrete to tell them.
Driving home, I tried to think about Playoff Weekend instead. This is the last big event in the UK ice hockey calendar. My team – the Nottingham Panthers – had qualified for the first time in three years and I was looking forward to a weekend of games to round off the season.
Basically, I was trying not to think about the book.
I didn’t actually sit down to look at the message until 5.30pm, several hours after it had landed. I took my laptop into the kitchen and opened the email.
Hi Tim,
I have some lovely news which I wanted to tell you on the phone but I didn’t want to interrupt your work day unceremoniously! So since the day’s drawing to a close and I want you to have this news before the weekend… We have two offers for LIES!
I read on, not really believing it, feeling my heart banging in my chest. One of the offers was a two-book deal with Bonnier, who wanted to publish LIES on their Twenty7 imprint.
The email continued.
They said about LIES: “…It’s hard to put into words how refreshing it was to read this, amidst a sea of perfectly competent but ever-more-unexciting psychological thrillers. I think Tim’s writing style is incredibly accomplished for a first novel, and had me gripped from the word go – and it was interesting to see that as I circulated the manuscript to more and more people internally, in each case they came to me within minutes of beginning the manuscript to say they were already hooked…”
I read it all, then read it again, not really believing it. Said something unprintable. The stupid part of my brain was saying: April Fool? (surely it was too late in the day…)
Still not really believing it, I told my kids. They both came over and hugged me and we all sat down, in a state of collective shock. I had been waiting for this moment for such a long time, but now it was here I didn’t know quite what to do. At this point, my wife walked in from work to find the three of us sitting in the kitchen, stunned into silence. She assumed the worst.
‘What’s up?’ she said, looking at my expression. ‘Is everything alright? Are you OK? What’s happened?’
‘I got a book deal,’ I said, finally managing a smile.
It wasn’t an April Fool. But it didn’t feel real at the time, and there are moments when it still doesn’t now, if I’m honest…

You can find TM Logan over on twitter @TMLoganAuthor.

Lies is published by Bonnier Zaffre/twenty7 and is available in ebook now.

lies tm-logan

 

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message…