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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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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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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:

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

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Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds – extract BLOG TOUR

Today I’m delighted to be on the Blog Tour for the new novel by Rod Reynolds, Cold Desert Sky and to be able to share an extract with you.

Cold Desert Sky is set in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 1946. Journalist Charlie Yates and his wife Lizzie are hiding out in motels on the run from gangster Benjamin Siegel. Rather than just move away Yates is determined to stay until he has found out what happened to two missing girls. Nancy and Julie were both aspiring actresses who have been missing for days and Yates has become obsessed with finding them.

Cold Desert Sky is a very atmospheric novel, evoking a real sense of 1940’s American noir. The book tells of cities that are dark and dangerous, filled with gangsters and seedy bars. The story itself is fascinating, with twists and turns that just keep coming throwing the story backwards and forwards across the two cities. This is the third novel from Rod that features the character of Charlie Yates. Although it is the first one I’ve read it won’t be the last. To find out more read on for an extract from chapter one which follows the extract you can find at Bibliophile Bookclub’s blog: https://bibliophilebookclub.com/

Cold Desert Sky by Rod Reynolds – extract

‘Charlie?’

‘Have a seat.’

He glanced around as if looking for his real guest, then slid down the backrest, realisation dawning. ‘You a gumshoe now, or am I a mark?’

‘How’ve you been, Whitey?’

‘Better than you, what I hear.’

I sat back, a glance over his shoulder, wrong-footed by the remark. ‘And what’s that?’

‘You don’t need me to tell you. It’s on your face.’

‘Make like I’m dumb.’

‘You must be. Being in town when he’s looking for you.’

I shrugged. ‘I’m not a hard man to find.’

‘You ought to reconsider that.’

I traced a line across the table. ‘I didn’t come here to talk about Bugsy Siegel.’

‘No?’ He showed real surprise. ‘Hard to believe you got big­ger troubles.’

‘How’s your luck with the horses?’

He set his cup down on the Formica. ‘Some days are better than others.’

I took my money clip out – two tens and a twenty wrapped around a wad of ones to pad the roll. ‘I’m looking for informa­tion on a couple women. Hollywood-dreamer types.’

He made a point of not looking at the cash, a stool pigeon in a fraying suit clinging to the remnants of his pride. ‘I don’t know Hollywood from dirt.’

‘They were fresh off the bus. They were living in a boarding house in Leimert Park. Nancy Hill and Julie Desjardins.’

He half-smiled. ‘Julie Desjardins from Kansas – sure. Real names?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘These are the missing dames your woman called me about?’ I nodded. ‘They’ve been gone more than a week.’

‘Were they turning tricks?’

My arms tensed.

‘What?’ he said. ‘How else would I hear anything about a couple starlets?’

I closed my eyes and flattened my free hand on the table again. The question was a fair one. ‘The names mean anything to you or not?’

‘Not. But you must’ve figured that, so my guess is you want me to ask around.’

I peeled a ten off.

He shook his head, held up two fingers. I breathed out through my nose and peeled the other one off.

To read more don’t forget to visit the other stops of the blog tour. COLD DESERT SKY_BLOG TOUR POSTER

Cold Desert Sky is available on amazon.

 

 

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Just by Jenny Morton Potts – Q&A BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to welcome Jenny Morton Potts to acrimereadersblog. Jenny is the author of Just, an intriguing story of ‘love and loss, terror and triumph’ Thanks for joining me Jenny. firstly what inspired Just?

It feels like the major problems of the complex modern world are very present among us. We’re filmed wherever we go and we watch everyone closely, for weapons at school, for bombs on the underground. Our threats walk alongside us daily. It’s inescapable. I wanted innocent characters to get caught up in all that, to be pawns in today’s global greed and prejudice.

 Have you always been a writer?

 Pretty much, since about nine years old, writing plays. Quite gory as I recall. Half the cast would be dead by the end of Act I. I loved every minute of it.

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

My day is very 9 to 5. I don’t take a lunch break though. And I don’t take days off during a draft of a book. I have a cabin where I work. Animals wander in and out. Just domestic pets, nothing too hefty or predatory.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Probably at the theatre. I’ve got Wimbledon tickets this year, so that will be a favourite afternoon off

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I have blasts of reading a lot and then not reading at all. It’s of course useful to see what other authors are up to, in a technical sense, but I’m quite instinctive and don’t like to be influenced during the draft of a book. I’m always receptive to new authors but there are certainly a few whose books are numerous on my shelves, E Annie Proulx, Paul Auster, Jane Smiley, Sheen Mackay, Lesley Glaister, Zadie Smith, Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Solzhenitsyn, Nabokov, Woolf

 Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on

I’m working on a triptych novel with three intertwining stories set in different times but they all have a cello link. It’s not necessary to know anything about the cello to enjoy the book. It’s structure is like The Hours, a book and film I loved.

I’m also working on a memoir for a ballet star from the golden era. This will ruffle a few feathers at The Royal Ballet

Then in the autumn, I’m back to thrillers!

 That all sounds like you are going be rather busy! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions today.

Just is out now and is available here.

 

 

 

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The History of Bees – a comment

For my birthday Mr F bought me a book called The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. Now as most people know if they read this blog I only read crime fiction. The clue is in the name. So when I opened this I was a little disappointed if I’m honest (the other book was called The Ice which looked much more like me so I didn’t get the locks changed straight away!)

However I do like bees, and I like reading, and sometimes I like Mr F so I thought I’d give it a go. Well I’m glad I did as this was one of the most thought provoking and gripping books I’ve ever read.

The History of Bees is a novel of three parts. In England in 1851 William is a seed merchant who has a vision for a new type of beehive that will make him famous. However he isn’t the only one who has ideas when it comes to bees. In America it’s 2007 and George has a bee farm that he hopes his son will one day inherit. His son however wants a different life from that of his family and wants to go to University. When colony collapse disorder hits the family farm they all have to revaluate their lives. Finally in China it is 2098 and Tao lives with her husband and young son. During the day her role is to climb into the trees and hand pollinate the fruit trees as all the bees have long died out. On a rare day off her son ends up in hospital and Tao is determined to find out the truth about what happened.

This is both an incredibly bleak, yet hopeful novel. Unfortunately the idea of the bees disappearing is not one that is too far into the realms of unbelievable. Colony collapse disorder is a real issue in America that fortunately hasn’t yet hit the UK, and it’s no surprise that without the bees pollination doesn’t happen. (Disney’s ‘B movie’ had it spot on!) This novel explores not only the environmental consequences with the lack of pollination, but also the effect that this has on people’s lives and families.

This is a book that takes a little getting into as the chapters are short and so you feel that the changing viewpoints happen very abruptly. However once I was into the rhythm I was absolutely hooked. The stories are seemingly disparate linked only by bees, but links start to emerge as the book progresses. The characters are all fascinating, and I thought they were all very well written. This really is a fantastic story with an added bonus of teaching you lots about bees.

For anyone with even a small awareness and care of the environmental impact that we are having on the planet this is a must read book, especially today as it is world environment day. This is the day that the UN uses to promote awareness of the impact our lives are having on the environment. This year the focus is on reducing plastic waste, as only around 10% of the plastic ever created is recycled, the rest ends up in landfill or washed up on beaches. So think before you buy things covered in packaging, read this book and then go and plant some flowers. The bees and our environment will thank you for it.

 

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