The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carre – giveaway BLOG TOUR

For my final review of the week I am very excited to be taking part in the John Le Carré blog tour. Now I must confess that I have never actually read any of John le Carré’s books before. I know that is shocking but then I’ve also never seen a James Bond film so I’m maybe not the normal target audience. However I do like to read books that I wouldn’t necessarily choose myself therefore when I was asked to take part in a blog tour by Penguin Modern Classics I jumped at the chance to discover a new (to me) author.

Yesterday Penguin completed a major nine-year project to publish twenty-one of John le Carré’s novels in Penguin Modern Classics. The last one to be published is The Little Drummer Girl which is also going to be the subject of a major six-part BBC adaptation this October produced by the team behind The Night Manager.

John Le Carré is the living author with the greatest number of works awarded this classic status. To celebrate this achievement I am delighted to say I have now read one of his books, namely The Secret Pilgrim.

The Secret Pilgrim, although following on from a trilogy, was actually probably a really good one for me to start with. The main character of George Smiley clearly features in this book however the main focus is actually on a character called Ned. Ned has asked George to give a speech to a group of pupils at a spy school. As George begins to talk Ned is reminded of varying points of his own career and we are then treated to stories from Ned’s past as we follow him from his first assignment through to his final interrogations and from a young single spy to a rather unfaithful married one.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Pilgrim. The book almost felt like a series of short stories with George Smiley’s speech being rather peripheral. It was fascinating to read about the exploits of Ned and his colleagues and I really enjoyed the fact that due to the nature of the book each story was simple and easy to follow (perfect for someone like me with a rather short attention span!)  One thing that struck me was actually the story although written in 1990 still resonates today, with its ideas that things are not always what they seem and that sometimes the lines between right and wrong get blurred. Whilst I imagine that a lot of the characters make appearances in previous novels I think this works perfectly as a stand alone book and is a great introduction to the world of espionage.

If you would like to give The Secret Pilgrim a go yourself then as luck would have it thanks to the lovely people at Penguin Modern Classics I have a copy to give away. To be in with a chance to win simply comment, or share this post or retweet my tweet about it. The winner will be picked on Friday 5th October.

The Secret Pilgrim and all of the novels are available on amazon.

To find out about the other 20 books in the series make sure you visit the other stops on this exciting blog tour.

John le Carre - Blog Tour Card

 

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After He Died by Michael J. Malone – a review BLOG TOUR

I am on a role recently with excellent books and my next one was no exception. After He Died by Michael J. Malone.

After He Died starts as you might expect from the title with a death. Thomas Gadd the husband of Paula has died of a heart attack. Paula had seemingly been leading a rather charmed life until the death of her son in a car accident a few years previously and now the death of her husband who she adored. Whilst at the funeral a young woman called Cara comes up to Paula and slips a note in her pocket telling her that her husband is not the man she thought he was. Paula eventually agrees to meet up with the woman to find out what she means. This meeting leads to Paula soon realising she may not have known her husband of thirty years as well as she thought she did and that both her and Cara might be in more danger than she had ever known.

After He Died was an intriguing story that kept me guessing to the end. At first it is easy to assume that Thomas Gadd has another family which is often how this kind of story pans out, but not in this case. The plot is a twisty and clever weaving of hidden facts and characters that drag you along until the end. I liked the two main female characters of Paula and Cara although at some times their actions were a little frustrating. The male characters namely Thomas’ two brothers were very much chalk and cheese and balanced each other out nicely, as well as giving an added dimension to the story outside the marriage of Paula and Thomas.

The writing style is quite poetic (not surprisingly given that Michael J Malone is a poet as well as a novelist) and it has a flow that is propelled along by the short snappy chapters.  There is quite a lot of complicated financial mystery within this story, which gives it an added element taking it to a different place than just your normal domestic noir. One really stand out element of this book is the setting. The story takes place in Glasgow and the surrounding area, with some fantastic descriptions of places that make you want to visit. Occasionally there were Scottish phrases and words among the paragraphs yet this didn’t distract from the story even for a non-Scottish speaker like me, it just added to the charm and intrigue.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and would recommend if you like your fiction with strong characters and great writing.

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The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran – a review BLOG TOUR

Whilst normally I wouldn’t post twice in one day, sometimes there are just books that it is impossible to say no to, and this was one of them. The Infinite Blacktop is the first I have read by Sara Gran, although it is actually the third novel featuring Private Investigator Claire De Witt.

The book starts with a bang, literally, as Claire comes round after a car accident and realises that someone is trying to kill her. This starts off a novel that is actually three stories in one. There is the mystery in the present day of who is trying to kill Claire. We then shoot back to 1986 where Claire and her friends are teenage detectives until one of them goes missing. Then in the middle we visit 1999 where Claire is trying to get enough hours under her belt to qualify for her PI license investigating a murder in the art world.

I must confess that this took a little while for me to get into. It read at first as a bit Agatha Raisin with each title being The Case of something. (Yes I know lots of other classic detective stories also use this idea that’s just the one that sprang to my mind!) However Agatha Raisin this certainly wasn’t. Claire is moody, violent, has a penchant for drug taking and is happy to use whatever methods necessary to protect herself and solve her cases. I think I would probably have warmed to her more if I had read the previous books whereas in this I didn’t really take to her much. However the stories themselves were interesting. I especially liked the younger version of Claire and it was clever how all the parts interwove throughout.

This was an good read, despite the three timelines it was easy to keep track of and the story went along at speed. Once you get into the swing of the writing I really enjoyed it. Despite my odd reservation about some of Claire’s actions it shows what people are capable of when they are pushed. It is also fascinating to find out about Claire’s previous life and these other time lines give a great insight into why Claire is like she is.

If you like strong female lead characters who take no prisoners then you can’t go far wrong with this gritty tale of a female PI. I will definitely be starting this series from the beginning.

Sara Gran is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Come Closer and Dope. She also writes for film and TV, including ’Southland’ and ’Chance’, and has published in The New York Times, The New Orleans Times Picayune and USA Today.

Her latest novel is available here

 Visit the other blog tour stops to find out more:

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The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech – a review BLOG TOUR

thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover finalWow, is the only word I can really think of to describe how this felt when I finished it. This is a story that grabbed me from the beginning and literally didn’t let me go until the end. I read The Lion Tamer Who Lost on a recent trip to Copenhagen and it certainly got me some rather concerned looks at times as it was hard not to be outwardly emotional whilst reading.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the second novel I have read by Louise Beech after Maria in the Moon and I have to say this I think this is even better than the first (which is good going as I loved the first one too, read my review here)

Ben is in Zimbabwee after the breakup of a relationship. He is fulfilling his childhood dream to go and work at a lion sanctuary. Andrew is a writer who is hoping for his big break. Their paths cross and events unfold that mean neither of them will ever be the same.

This was a truly fantastic read. Described as a love story, a phrase that would normally put me off a book, it is that but so much more. The story is told from both the characters viewpoints. It almost starts in the middle before going both backwards and forwards. Yet what could be a complicated structure is an absolutely flawless read which I suspect is testament to the quality of the writing.

The two main characters are both very intriguing. For the first half of the book I kept swinging between sympathy and irritation with them both, yet as the story weaved it’s way to the conclusion I was so deeply invested in the characters that I wanted nothing but a happy ending. Therefore as the twists kept getting more shocking the story just got more emotional.

There is a great sense of place within the novel. The descriptions of Zimbabwee and especially those of the sunrises that Ben enjoys are so vivid you almost feel like you are about to open the door onto a lion.

Louise Beech is a fabulous writer and her novels are definitely ones that will stay with you for long after you have finished them. Whilst this is certainly not a standard murder mystery and so not my usual fare I think this novel could quite possibly be my favourite book of the year.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is available now.

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The Guilty Dead by PJ Tracy – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read alot of the previous PJ Tracy novels and their series is one of my favourites. Therefore I was delighted to receive an email from Katie at Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House inviting me onto the blog tour for the latest in the series The Guilty Dead.

The Guilty Dead starts with a suspected suicide. On the anniversary of his son’s fatal drug overdose Greg Norwood is found dead, apparently shooting himself after being overcome with grief. Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth are asked to go along and investigate. When it becomes apparent that the victim was left handed yet was shot with his right hand the investigation starts to take a different turn. Alongside this we meet up with our favourite computer wizards the Monkeewrench team. They are creating a new computer programme that will help track terrorists. When they receive a visit from the police asking for their help in outing a suspected terrorist attack on the city they have to work round the clock to try and get their programme finished.

The Guilty Dead is a twisting fast paced book that leads you through terror, politics, computers and family secrets. The stories all run alongside each other with a big list of characters all pulling the threads of their own narrative eventually linking together for the final conclusion.

To me this novel felt a little different to the previous one’s I’d read. Grace MacBride, previously a paranoid loner with only her Monkeewrench crew for company is now living with Detective Magozzi and expecting a baby. Also the detectives seemed to take a much more prominent role in this novel than the computer geeks do. However for me that was a good thing as I really enjoy the characters in this series. The oddball Monkeewrench team are a brilliant group and each one of them brings a different dynamic to the story. Having read them from the start it is interesting to see how they have all developed over the series. The detectives themselves are a great pair, and the banter between them certainly lightens up what can be some pretty dark stories.

The stand out part of all these novels though, is the whirlwind of a story which is complex yet easy to follow and will keep you hooked throughout. I would highly recommend this as a series if you haven’t yet been introduced to Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth, and if you want to just dive straight in then The Guilty Dead is a great place to start.

The Guilty Dead is available on amazon.

More about the author:

The Guilty Dead is the eagerly-awaited ninth instalment of the Twin Cities series which has sold over 1
million copies in the UK and more than 3 million worldwide.
P. J. Tracy was the pseudonym for the mother-and-daughter writing team of P. J. and Traci Lambrecht.
Together P. J. and Traci were authors of the bestselling thrillers Want to Play? (a Richard and Judy Book
Club pick), Live Bait, Dead Run, Snow Blind, Play to Kill, Two Evils, Cold Kill and Nothing Stays Buried.
P. J. passed away in 2016, but Traci is continuing the series with this book, The Guilty Dead

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas – a review BLOG TOUR

Do Not Disturb begins when Kirsty moves with her family into a small B&B in Wales which she is going to run with her Mother. Having had a hard time in London, Kirsty sees this as the opportunity for her husband Adrian and their two girls to all have a fresh start and are delighted when guests start arriving. Unfortunately one of their first guests is Kirsty’s cousin Selina, who Kirsty hasn’t seen for years after they fell out. Whilst they start to rebuild bridges strange things start happening around the house and soon Kirsty doesn’t know who she can trust.

The idea of a family having a fresh start is always an intriguing premise to me and this book didn’t disappoint. Do Not Disturb was a great story of a family with secrets all threatening to tumble down. I liked the dynamic between all the characters, which were well written and believable. All the usual family niggles were in this novel, the husband and wife trying to get along, the children at new schools throwing tanturms. The slightly strained relationship between Kirsty and her Mother who she is reliant on for the business adds to the tension of a family already on the edge.  Kirsty is clearly hanging on by a thread trying to keep her family together and not let her daughters know what is going on. Selina on the other hand plays the victim and comes across as the struggling single mother trying to care for her daughter and make amends to how she treated Kirsty in the past.

Whilst part of the Selina story was quite obvious from the start this didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment. There were lots of twists and red herrings, and every character has their own skeletons in the closet which just added to the tension.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable story that kept me guessing all the way along and I certainly didn’t see the end coming. Thanks to Katie at Penguin House Random UK for letting me read it. Do Not Disturb is available here 

To find out what others thought of Do Not Disturb make sure you visit the other stops on the blog tour:

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Dead of Night by Michael Stanley – BLOG TOUR Q & A

I am lucky enough to have a hobby that brings me into contact with loads of fantastic books and authors. It is always an absolute pleasure to be contacted by authors and publishers and invited to read their books. However every now and again I get emails that truly send my excitement levels rocketing, and one recently inviting me onto the blog tour for the latest by crime writing duo Michael Stanley was just such an email.

I am a huge fan of their Detective Kubu series having read my first one as part of my TOPCWFC a couple of years ago (after the challenge finished unfortunately) and absolutely love them. Their latest however is a departure from Detective Kubu, still set in South Africa, it introduces us to journalist Crystal Nguyen. When her friend goes missing whilst investigating a rhino poaching ring she is determined to find out what has happened.

I am absolutely delighted therefore to welcome Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip to acrimereadersblog. Thanks so much for joining me.

Firstly I have to ask, what inspired Dead of Night and why the move away from Detective Kubu?

We haven’t moved away from Detective Kubu. We really enjoy writing about him and his cases in Botswana, each set against a different backstory arising from the realities of southern Africa. There are certainly more Kubu books ahead! However, when you write a series, there are some inevitable constraints. Although every story stands alone, the focus always needs to be the series protagonist. And the very features that make the series appealing – the history of the main characters and their development – also constrain where one can go. Finally, a police procedural has an internal structure that must be respected.

Writers always need to be challenged to avoid their work becoming stale and boring, both to them and to their readers. We wanted to write a novel with a backstory of the South African rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling, but we wanted it to have the structure of a thriller – quite different from the police procedural. In a thriller, the action and the protagonist have to be believable, but they don’t have to follow the laws and evidence as police procedurals do. The rhino issues are really complex, and we wanted to get right into the action rather than pick up the pieces afterwards, as one does in a mystery.

So we imagined Crystal Nguyen. A strong female protagonist, born in Vietnam, she has a passion for conservation and a strong commitment to the American Gray Wolf. And she is someone who is willing to go beyond the rules when she feels it’s necessary. She is commissioned by National Geographic to visit South Africa to complete an article exploring the rhino-horn trade at the same time as trying to find the National Geographic reporter who disappeared while working on it. It turns out to be a much more dangerous and challenging assignment than she could ever have imagined. 

I’m glad there will be more Kubo, although I have to say I loved the character of Crystal, as someone who on the whole prefers animals to people I certainly warmed to her passion and commitment to conservation!  Have you both always been writers?

Well, Michael tried his hand at science fiction when he was at university, but we came late to mystery fiction. We started working on our debut book, A Carrion Death, in 2003. In another sense, however, we both have always been writers – in the academic non-fiction space. Both of us have written many research papers, and Stanley has written four text books on topics ranging from the use of computers in education to human factors in aviation. And most of our work has been done in collaboration with other people, so it seemed very natural to us to work on a novel as a collaborative project.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

Michael: I’m involved in a lot of things, including image processing research and graduate students at the university, and being a director of a start-up company in the geophysics area. Then, there are many communication activities around the books, including blogs and reviewing for ITW and the New York Journal of Books. Eventually – usually in the evenings – the dust settles enough to write. I feel very fortunate that I can do all these things for the pleasure of doing them rather than to earn a living.

Stanley: I am not disciplined at all when it comes to daily writing. I, too, have many interests including travel, various sporting activities and attending classical-music concerts. So, I write in between all of these and have developed the ability to write anywhere, even when sitting next to a screaming baby on a plane. I can block out almost anything.

It certainly sounds like you are both busy. How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Michael: Doing what I’m doing right now – sitting by the Olifants River at my place in the African bush near the Kruger National Park, relaxing and appreciating the complete wildness of the area and the beauty of its animal and bird life. The more afternoons like that you put together, the better it gets.

Stanley: Being in the bush would be my first choice too. I think too few people take the time to completely relax for extended periods of time.

That sounds absolutely amazing. South Africa is definitely on my list for places I’d like to visit. One of the things I love about your books are the real sense of the beauty and wildness of the country that comes across in the writing. Are you an avid readers yourselves? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Michael: Yes I read a lot; most of the fiction is mysteries or thrillers of one sort or another. I write a monthly piece called Africa Scene for the International Thriller Writers in which I feature a book set in Africa and its author. My favourite South African crime fiction author is Deon Meyer. I think his latest book Fever (which is a near future post-apocalypse novel set in the South African karoo) is one of his most powerful books. I’m also a great John Le Carré fan. I think he is one of the best writers in the genre – or in any genre. (Henning Mankel reputedly said that Le Carré is the best author who will never win a Nobel prize.) His semiautobiographical A Perfect Spy is brilliant – I’ve read it several times and keep learning about writing from it.

Stanley: I mainly read mysteries, but also some historical non-fiction. I’m attracted to stories that are in translation, giving me an insight into different cultures. I enjoy Sunshine Noir because I prefer being warm to being cold!

Sunshine Noir is a great term! Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?

We’re writing a prequel in the Detective Kubu series. In the book, Kubu is a new detective joining the Criminal Investigation Department. He has a tough time; because he hasn’t followed the usual route to being a detective, and the current detectives don’t like it. Then the CID is thrown into turmoil by a daring heist of diamonds from the world’s richest diamond mine at Jwaneng. Kubu has to prove himself in short order. Our working title is Facets of Death.

I can’t wait to read that one either. Thank you so much for joining me Michael and Stanley and taking the time to answer my questions, and thanks to the lovely Anne Cater of Random Things for inviting me onto this.

If you haven’t yet read Michael Stanley then you are in for a real treat and I’d highly recommend them.

Dead of Night is available now.

To find our more about Dead of Night and Michael Stanley make sure you visit some of the other stop on the blog tour:

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