Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

I have a tiny confession to make. The book turned up and, dear reader, I judged it by its cover. More specifically, I judged it by its title, the ‘Wyld’ made me think of the terrible fantasy epics of my youth and Wyld Stallyns from Bill & Ted.

Oh how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Kings of the Wyld is, quite simply enormous fun. Clay Cooper, determinedly helmetless member of the Watch, returns home to find his old mate Gabe with one last job: Let’s get the band back together and go on a quest to find his daughter on the other side of the world. It’s only a thousand miles through a monster-infested forest. Should be no problem.

What follows is a splendid rollercoaster of the most rollicking kind, with a grand smörgåsbord of beasts and monsters, evil villians, ex-girlfriends, former managers, relentless bounty hunters and what will soon become your favourite wizard since Gandalf (or Rincewind, depending on your literary tastes), Moog.

Kings of the Wyld has a simply delicious premise – what if the bands of adventures were treated as rockstars, with bookers sorting out gigs to clear out a horde of goblins, or dealing with an infestation of kobolds? Clay’s band really do get back together (one even wields an axe) and go on one final world tour with the action cranked firmly up to 11.

The cast are all brilliantly depicted, but my favourite would have to be Moog the somewhat eccentric (is there any other kind?) wizard, with his all-in-one pjs and a sideline in, ahem, gentlemen’s medicine. Then there’s Matrick, the cuckolded king and to complete the set, Ganelon. Who has his own set of issues…

It’s an epic quest which simply rattles along, putting our ageing heroes with their sore backs and gammy knees through trials and tribulations one after the other until the grand finale.

As you can probably tell, I adored this book. It’s gone immediately onto my Books of 2017 list and I will pester you mercilessly to read it.

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames is published by Orbit and is out now. You can find Nicholas on twitter @Nicholas_Eames, or at his website nicholaseames.com.
Thanks to Nazia at Orbit for the review copy and David @bluebookballoon for the gentle encouragement (ok, nagging) to read it!

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.

Movies of 2017: Suicide Squad

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A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force. Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse.

Suicide Squad. 2016, 6.3 stars on IMDb. Written and directed by David Ayer and starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis, amongst many others.

Regular readers of this blog may just about remember my movie A-Z back in… crikey. April of 2014. I could have *sworn* it was last year. I had enormous fun doing it and have been meaning to do more movie things for some time now. Slightly more time than originally intended. I blame the books. You may also have noticed that I quite like talking about books. Thought I’d branch out into movies.

So, here we are in 2017 and I finally got round to watching David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

You know what? It was alright. Better than I was expecting, though a little light on story. Will Smith is hugely watchable in just about anything, as is Jared Leto. His Joker, whilst not up to Heath Ledger standards, was perfectly serviceable. Could have done with a bit (lot) more screen time, and a more developed character arc. Or indeed any kind of character arc.

Most of the other characters get a bit lost in the mix, as is so often the case with these ensemble movies. Killer Croc turned up to do basically one job. Diablo was pretty good, but remarkably easy to talk out of his ‘not doing this any more’ thing. The Enchantress was probably the most interesting character, but again, woefully underused. It did feel a bit like getting all these cool bad guys together, do a Snake Plissken on them and set them loose against an even bigger bad guy. Viola Davis was utterly splendid and ruthless as Amanda Waller.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the other character with some semblance of development. Fun to watch, though her relationship with Joker was a bit weird. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly up on much of the Joker/Quinn from the comics, so I can’t say how well it fits with that.

Could have done with being a movie with half the squad and Joker as the Big Bad. Never really felt the menace or the stakes.

Overall, it was a fun popcorn movie. I give it six deranged evil villains out of ten.

Have you seen Suicide Squad? What did you think? Should I do more movie reviews? Answers onna postcard please…

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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Burned and Broken – Mark Hardie

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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 Dry – Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane Harper

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone things Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

First book read of 2017 and it’s a corker. The Dry is set in the town of Kiewarra, a small farming community which hasn’t seen rain for two years. Aaron Falk is back in town for 18 hours to attend the funeral of his friend Luke, but soon gets embroiled in the investigation. After all, he and Luke grew up together and some secrets shouldn’t ever come to light…

The Dry is a gritty, superbly atmospheric crime noir where the heat and tension in the small tight-knit community practically ooze off the page and the pages demand to be turned. Jane Harper weaves a net of intrigue packed with twists and turns, secrets and lies more than the odd red herring along the way. There’s a deft sleight of hand going on as the plot unfolds leaving you thinking that you’ve finally figured it out, only for the cards to be turned over one by one and, of course, the lady has vanished.

The story reveals itself through the current day investigation by Falk and local cop Raco into the murders, but also via a series of flashbacks to Falk’s younger days growing up in the town with his best friend Luke. It’s neatly done and each time we jump back in time, something new is revealed which alters our perception on events both past and present.

All the more spectacular for being a debut, The Dry should be quite firmly on your list of books to read in 2017. I will be very surprised if it doesn’t grace my books of the year list come December.

You can find Jane Harper on twitter @janeharperautho, or at her website. The Dry is published by Little, Brown on 12th January 2017.

Many thanks to Grace at Little, Brown for the review copy of this book.

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