The Man Who Loved Islands – David F. Ross

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 10 years. A bizarre opportunity to honor the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive and forget. With the help of the deluded Max Mojo and the faithful Hamish May, can they pull off the impossible, and reunite the legendary Ayrshire band, The Miraculous Vespas, for a one-off Music Festival—The Big Bang—on a remote, uninhabited Scottish island?

Regular readers of the blog will be well aware of my fondness for Mr Ross and his books – The Last Days of Disco was my first experience of a blog tour (and what a way to start!) and The Rise & Fall of The Miraculous Vespas followed last year, raising the bar once more.

A year later (more or less) and we’re back again with The Man Who Loved Islands, rounding out the trilogy in fine style. I adored the first two books for both their amazing sense of place and time.  Book three continues with this, taking us on a journey through the later 80 and from Ibiza to Shanghai, bringing us up to the present day and back full circle to Scotland as Max, Bobby, Hammy and Joey come together one last time for one final, glorious outing.

This is a book of three parts – we follow the rise and rise of Bobby Cassidy and his ever-faithful sidekick Hamish as they take over the Ibiza music scene. Joey (now Joseph) has become an architect, adrift in the corporate world of Shanghai. A message from Hammy brings Joey back to see his old friend and, when one thing leads to another, hijinks ensue.

And what glorious hijinks they are. Max Mojo and the boys decide to put on a gig and reunite the Miraculous Vespas for one last, epic gig the like of which the world has never seen…

I loved seeing how Bobby and Hammy took on the Ibiza club scene. Growing up around the same era as the books were set gave it something extra for me, though I was never into the club scene, the musical references are, as ever, perfect. Fascinating to see them grow up from the young, vibrant guys in the first books into middle age – still gloriously foul-mouthed (this book is probably not for the prudish!), and with a fine line in bickering.

Heartbreaking, poignant, and ferociously funny, it’s a perfect ending to a fabulous trilogy. If you’ve not come across the Vespas, the Heatwave Disco boys

If you’ve not come across the Vespas, the Heatwave Disco boys or the incomparable Max Mojo, then get yourself all three Disco Days books, a nice wee dram (or maybe a bottle) of something and settle down for a musical journey through the years.

You’re in for quite a ride.

Book 18 of 2017 The Man Who Loved Islands by David F. Ross, finished last night with a wee dram of @copperdogwhisky. Highly recommended, both!

Enormous thanks to Karen at Orenda Books (@OrendaBooks) for the review copy, to David F. Ross (@dfr) for taking us on one last journey back to Ayrshire (and to @CopperDog for the splendid whisky!)

Opinions are, as ever, entirely my own.

The blog tour continues tomorrow!

Cursed – Thomas Enger

CURSED AW.indd

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.

Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb

Deep down dead - steph broadribb

Lori 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.

If I have one thing to say about Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead, it’d be this: Go read it.

Featuring a kick-ass heroine, Deep Down Dead is a helter-skelter thrill ride pretty much from the off. Lori is unusual in many ways, but mostly because she’s that rarity in thriller books: she’s *interesting*. So often in thrillers you get these cookie-cutter characters, seen one, seem them all. I’ve never seen anyone quite like Lori though.

It’s a cat and mouse game all the way, when what appears to be a simple job goes south in a spectacular fashion. I love nothing more than a good thriller, and Steph has delivered a *great* thriller, steeped in Americana with settings and characters which feel completely authentic and with a plot which insists that you don’t put it down. I read this on holiday recently and found myself staying up entirely too late to read just one more chapter. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) is out now from Orenda Books. You can find out more on Steph’s website, crimethrillergirl.com

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

The Exiled - Kati Hiekkapelto

Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal?

Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?

The Exiled is the third of Kati Hiekkapelto’s books featuring detective Anna Fekete. This time she’s headed home to a little Balkan village to visit her family when her bag is snatched whilst on an evening out with her friends. She finds herself ensnared in a mystery which goes much further than a simple robbery.

It feels strange to be part of a blog tour for a Finnish author, but to be reading about the stifling heat of summertime in Kanizsa, a town in northern Serbia.

Anna herself is a fascinating character, adrift in her home town in the summer heat, a long way from Finland. The exiled is a very topical tale as the influx of refugees on their way to Europe makes its mark on the little town, bringing murder and corruption and even on holiday, Anna can’t escape her instincts to find out what’s really going on.

Kati Hiekkapelto has a great knack with characterisation, and the story  flows at a gentle pace, much like the river which plays such a central part of the story. Anna’s investigations take their toll on friendships and family, but you’re always on her side, willing her to uncover the truth, no matter how hard it might be to hear.

You can find Kati Hiekkapelto on twitter @HiekkapeltoKati or at her website, katihiekkapelto.com

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

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The Mine – Antti Tuomainen

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In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life. A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results.

Well, another corker from Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books – regular readers of this blog will be under no illusions that I am huge and unashamed fan of this publisher. She has a phenomenal eye for a story.

The Mine is no exception. Part crime story, part conspiracy, with a dash of mystery thrown in for good measure. It’s a splendid concoction of beautifully evocative locations and compelling characters. Can Janne get to the bottom of the mysterious goings-on at the Mine before it’s too late?

I really liked the way the story played out with Janne’s investigation contrasting with the killer at work (and some deliciously horrible scenes there!). Definitely a page-turner that’ll keep you up into the wee small hours, though it’s a pretty quick read so not *too* many late nights!

You can check out a Q&A with Antti Tuomainen over at Lucy Hay’s blog. Antti can also be found on Facebook (you can like  his page here) and he’s also on Twitter @antti_tuomainen and Instagram@anttituomainen, or his website at www.anttituomainen.com.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

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Blackout – Ragnar Jónasson

Blackout | Ragnar Jonasson

On 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 Reykjavík to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður 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…

Ari Thór is back in this, the third installment in Ragnar Jónasson’s superb Dark Iceland series. The events of Blackout take place following the volcanic eruptions of 2010 where Eyjafjallajökull managed to close down most of Europe’s airspace, and interestingly, between the events of the first book, Snowblind, and the second, Nightblind.

Ragnar presents us with a number of mysteries here – the dead man being investigated by Ari Thór and his colleagues, the strange emails that are causing Hlynur Ísaksson such distress and the investigation of a young reporter from Reykjavik. Blackout has more depth and complexity than the previous two books, with the myriad of threads and characters weaving together as the book progresses, all told in Ragnar’s wonderfully sparse style. There are a *lot* of threads to keep up with in this one!

Regular readers of this blog (hi!) will know how much I loved Snowblind and Nightblind, and Ragnar has delivered another superbly convoluted mystery.

Nordic Noir, eat your heart out. Icelandic Noir is where it’s at.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

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.

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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 livemanylives.wordpress.com

Evolution of Fear Blog tour