Hydra by Matt Wesolowski – a review BLOG TOUR

Last year I was lucky enough to attend the Hull Noir event (funnily enough in Hull) and in preparation for that I picked up a copy of Matt Wesolowski’s debut novel Six Stories. I didn’t actually get around to reading it until after the event but I loved it when I did. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for his latest book Hydra.
Hydra tells the story of Arla Macleod who bludgeoned her parent’s and younger sister to death. She is now in a secure mental institute. Scott King, creator of the Six Stories podcast has picked this case, not this time because he wants to uncover the murdered but because he wants to try and find out why she did it. Again the story is told in the form of six podcasts, each telling a different persons view. With each episode we find out a bit more background and build up a picture of the type of person Arla was and what might have led to the murders.
I absolutely loved this novel. When you read as much as I do it is not often that you find something really unique, to me this is just that. The way of telling the story as a series of podcasts rather than a normal narrative gives it a very different feel to other novels. Scott King is the lead character who takes us through the six different episodes presenting facts about the case alongside the thoughts of the different interviewees. The high quality of the writing means that each character has a very distinct voice which draws you into each individual episode.
Overall this is a relatively simple story and we know from the outset that Arla committed the crime. Yet the beauty of this story is the way it manages to weave other relevant topics into the narrative. Many elements come under scrutiny including social media and its effect on real relationships, twitter and trolls, mental health and even supernatural Japanese rituals.
Hydra manages to use modern day ideas but the outcome is almost an old fashioned ghost story. It’s the type of book that sets you on edge right from the beginning and has you looking over your shoulder until the end.
I would highly recommend Hydra and Six Stories, especially if you are fan of well written original novels.

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I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May – Giveaway – BLOG TOUR

A few years ago Peter May was appearing at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival and in preparation I read The Blackhouse, the first in his Lewis series. I really enjoyed this and went on to read the others in the trilogy. So when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for his latest I jumped at the chance, and I was very glad I did. Read on for a chance to win your own copy of Peter May’s latest novel.

I’ll Keep You Safe is about husband and wife team Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane who co-own a tweed making company on the Isle of Lewis. On a trip to Paris she learns that her husband is having an affair, just before she witnesses the pair being killed by a car bomb. The police rule out terrorism, so Niamh is allowed to return to the island with her husband’s body. French Detective Sylvie Braque is then sent to the Island to try and uncover the killer.

This was a fantastic novel that I read over a few days. Although it starts off in Paris, the majority of the story is set in the Hebrides. It weaves (pun intended) through Niamh returning home and negotiating the funeral, Sylvie’s investigation into the murder, and through flashbacks we are told the story of Ranish tweed and Niamh’s and Ruairidh’s relationship.

I was absolutely fascinated by this book. It hooked me in right from the start. I have to admit that it wasn’t the story I was expecting. I had assumed the focus would be in Paris and would concentrate on the investigation but there was so much more to it. This was a superbly atmospheric book. The isolation and brutality of the islands shone through, yet behind this there was the warmth of a community place that was surrounded by incredible beauty.

The story itself was good and I enjoyed learning about life on the island, and about tweed making. Yet the real pleasure of this novel is in the place and the writing. I would recommend this to anyone who likes being immersed in a setting. 

If you would like to own your own copy of Peter May’s I’ll Keep You Safe then either comment on the blog, or enter via twitter and Midas PR will send one lucky winner their very own copy!

Don’t forget to visit other stops on this fantastic tour:

https://ravencrimereads.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/blog-tour-peter-may-ill-keep-you-safe/

https://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com/

 

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The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer – a review – BLOG TOUR

 

I have previously read and reviewed Kate Hamer’s debut novel which I very much enjoyed therefore I was pleased when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for The Doll Funeral.

I must admit to not really being clear what the book was about before I started it (the perils of ARC copies) so wasn’t really sure what to expect therefore this came as a interesting surprise. The Doll Funeral tells the story of young Ruby who finds out that she is actually adopted. She has always fantasised about this so when she finds out it is true she is determined to find her real parents. She is accompanied by her imaginary friend Shadow, and along the way meets Tom and Elizabeth who live in the woods.

This certainly isn’t my usual type of story. There isn’t a murder or a detective for a start. It is the story of a young girl in the 1980’s with strange powers, and of a single mother in the 1970s stuck in an unhappy marriage.  These two stories intertwine slowly as the characters actions and motivations become clearer.

Whilst the story is certainly interesting, the real strength of this novel is the writing style. The descriptions and prose really are beautiful. You feel for the plight of Ruby, a poor lost young girl who is old before her time. I particularly enjoyed the parts where she was living with her friends in the woods as they struggle to survive. For me the story was quite slow, but the characters are all intriguing, and the story builds up to a haunting ending.

If you enjoy an element of supernatural in your stories, and like good writing then this is definitely a book for you.

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The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn – a review

As regular readers of this blog will know one of my favourite things about the TOPCWF is the opportunity it gives to read authors that have books coming out the following year. Sometimes these books include brand new authors and often there are some real gems within my book haul. One such gem is The Woman in the Window by A J Finn.  

The Woman in the Window tells the story of Anna Fox, a child psychologist who is suffering from severe agoraphobia. She hasn’t left her house in over ten months and spends her days either watching her neighbours through the windows, or watching old films in the company of red wine. When new neighbours the Russell’s move in she is drawn to their picture perfect family. Until the night she hears a scream and thinks she sees something that she wasn’t supposed to. Unfortunately no one believes Anna, thinking she has just let her drunken imagination run wild. Therefore it is left to Anna to prove that she isn’t mad.

This was an absolutely cracking novel. I have to say I read a similar story last year which helped me guess one of the major plot twists quite early on. Yet this in no way detracted from what was an superb read. It did literally keep me up all night. There is a scene with Anna in bed with her cat that really shouldn’t be read when in bed on your own with a cat.

I thought the story itself was interesting and really didn’t see the ending coming. I found the character of Anna incredibly likeable. Despite her excessive self-medication and the slight self-pitying feel to her, she is a character that you quickly feel sympathy for as she struggles with the reality she has created. The beauty of this story is that it is a slow burner, this draws you into Anna’s world and you actually feel like you are looking through the windows with her. Obviously the setting rarely changes, which means there are few descriptive paragraphs included which I felt gave it a really claustrophobic feel. I was drawn in from the beginning and you are gradually taken along with Anna as she slowly declines before the ending shatters into sight.

This was a superb story, with excellent writing that I would highly recommend. I look forward to reading more by AJ Finn and to what little gems will be in the TOPCWF 2018 goody bag this year.

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Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this at the Festival back in July. I had heard a lot about this novel and was looking forward to reading it, so Anatomy of a Scandal quickly went to the top of the reading pile. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

James is a politician, best friends with Tom who is Prime Minister. They were both at Oxford University which is where James met his wife Sophie. She has kept his secrets from his student days throughout their married life so when he gets embroiled in another scandal and is accused of a crime, he assumes that she will stand by him again. Prosecuting James is barrister Kate. She is sure that he is guilty and is determined he will pay for everything.

This was a really intriguing story that I couldn’t put down. It is part political court room thriller, part domestic noir. The portrait of a marriage thrust into the limelight is fascinating. The story is told from the three points of view of James, Sophie, and Kate, and between them the past slowly unfolds.

Throughout the novel my opinions of the characters kept changing. Although I did feel sympathy for wife Sophie, equally I was left feeling frustrated with her. She seemed to be very naïve and let her husband essentially get away with whatever he wanted. Kate was another character that I had mixed feelings about. Clearly she still struggled with what had happened when she was a student, yet in her professional life she is so sorted you really want her to just put the past behind her.

This was an excellent novel that kept me up til late in the night reading. It’s focus is on a marriage, and around the issue of consent, yet it’s much more than that. The writing is superb and focuses on the subtleties of human nature in the aftermath of a scandal rather than just concentrating on sensationalism.

I would highly recommend Anatomy of a Scandal if you like political intrigue alongside domestic portrayals. Although prepare to be kept up late into the night!

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Class Murder by Leigh Russell BLOG TOUR

Today I’m delighted to be the next and final stop on Leigh Russell’s top ten tour. 

For those of you who don’t know, Leigh writes the fantastic Geraldine Steel series. The tenth novel Class Murder is out now. In it Geraldine moves to York and has been demoted to Detective. She finds herself investigating the murder of two people, both of whom went to the same school and were in the same class. It soon becomes a race against time to stop the killer before more bodies appear. 

Obviously any novel using York as a setting instantly heads to the top of my tbr pile. It’s always nice to read stories set where you live and I’m very glad I did. This is a fantastic story that kept me gripped throughout. The chapters from the killer’s point of view were especially chilling. 

Although this is the tenth it works perfectly well as a standalone. I suspect this is helped by the move to York as I got to know Geraldine along with her new colleagues. Having only read a couple of her early novels before I definitely want to go back and read the whole series now. 

To celebrate the release of the tenth novel I’m pleased to share Leigh’s latest top ten and this time we are finding out her top ten TV shows :

Homeland
Breaking Bad
Judge Judy
The West Wing
Have I got News for You
The Coroner
Line of Duty
Safe House
Sherlock
Death in Paradise

Some interesting choices there. I thought I was the only Death in Paradise fan! 

If you want to find out more about Leigh’s top tens then visit the other stops on her tour. 

Thanks to No Exit Press for my copy of Class Murder.

http://www.noexit.co.uk/index1.php?imprint=1&isbn=&ebookid=1607

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Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson – a review Blog Tour

I’ve recently been hearing a lot about Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson so I was delighted when I was asked to take part in the blog tour for his novel Whiteout, the latest to be translated into English.

Whiteout is the perfect winter novel to pass a cold evening. Just before Christmas a young woman’s body is found at the bottom of a cliff. Detective Ari Thor gets a call from his old boss Tomas to help investigate the case. Ari, along with his pregnant partner Kristina, travels to a remote village to help investigate whether she fell, or was pushed. When he finds out that this is the same spot both the girl’s Mother and Sister were also found dead, he soon starts to suspect foul play.

Whiteout is a fantastic read. Set in Iceland the novel is incredibly atmospheric and gives you a real impression of a dark, cold, isolated place. The story itself is interesting being a classic whodunit that had me trying and failing to guess the outcome throughout. The crime is set in an abandoned village with only a small number of characters and so you get a real sense of claustrophobia surrounding the story. You also know whilst you are reading it that if indeed it is foul play there is only a very small number of suspects.

The characters were well drawn, and I especially liked the way we get to know the murder victim. Although I must admit to finding the whole pregnant partner story a bit unnecessary. However that may be because although this is the first of this series I have read, it is actually the 5th in the Dark Iceland series featuring Ari Thor. I suspect that there was a lot of back story that I had missed which would have given me a different impression of the characters. However that is not to say the book doesn’t work perfectly well as a standalone. The story alone is superb.

This is a fantastic novel for anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery. It is also a great example of the Icelandic traditional crime story, despite being bang up to date. I thoroughly recommend this to those of you who like your traditional crime stories with an added layer of ice and intrigue.

Thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of Whiteout

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