I must confess to never having read any of the previous novels by Kjell Ola Dhal. However when he was introduced to me as the Godfather of Nordic Noir I jumped at the chance to be on the blog tour for his latest novel, and I’m glad I did.
In the Ice Swimmer it is a few days before Christmas and a woman is being pursued onto a tube station in Oslo. When she is then run over by a train it is at first assumed to be a suicide. Elsewhere a body has been pulled from a frozen lake. This time it is thought that he just fell whilst drunk and the cold got him. However as Detective Lena Stigersand and her colleagues Gunnarstranda and Frølich start to investigate, they begin to realise that there are more sinister forces at work, which reach far wider than they thought.
This is a superb novel that I genuinely couldn’t put down. Set in the cold streets of a Winter Oslo the atmosphere was chilly to say the least. It’s the kind of book where when you are reading the descriptions of the place you feel the need to put an extra jumper on as the cold seeps off the page.
I really enjoyed the character of Lena. Personally I felt she was a really welcome change to a lot of the current female leads out there. Often females are portrayed as either being whisky drinking, one night stand, no feeling types, or weak and pathetic needing to be ‘rescued’ Yet she wasn’t either. She was a tough police officer who could look after herself. However she had a natural vulnerable side to her that helped in her policing. Her health scare, and her blossoming relationship with a local reporter also helped to give her a multidimensional character that worked really well. Although her taste in music was little dodgy (Does anyone really like listening to Christmas music??)
The story itself is fast paced with a huge amount of twists and turns, yet it was easy to follow. The novel is the sixth in the Oslo detective series however it works as a standalone and although I would like to know more about the detectives, that’s because I enjoyed the characters so much rather than I felt I was missing anything. One thing that I also really liked was that to me this didn’t actually feel like it was a translation. Sometimes when reading translated books I find myself having to re-read bits to make sense of them, yet this didn’t which is testament to the translator Don Bartlett.
If you like novels where the story is gripping and the writing is so good that you actually feel like you are in the place it is set then I would highly recommend The Ice Swimmer. I will definitely be reading the rest of Kjell Ola Dahl’s novels.
Find out more about the Ice Swimmer and Kjell Ola Dahl by visiting the other stops on the blog tour or buy the book here:
I was lucky enough to meet Laura Lippman at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival a couple of year’s ago and have always been a fan of her books. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be the final stop on the blog tour for her latest novel Sunburn.
Polly is on a family holiday to the beach when she walks off leaving behind her husband and daughter. She lands in a small town in Delaware and gets a job at the High Ho restaurant. She is soon joined by the mysterious Adam who gets a job as a cook. Whilst he is obviously following Polly for some reason, it is soon clear that he also has secrets. As they both become more drawn into each other’s worlds the lines between truth and lies get more blurred.
This was a really intriguing story. Whilst it wasn’t one you’d class as fast paced, it felt almost hypnotic in it’s telling. It has been likened to some of the classic noir tales such as those by James M. Cain and that is a great comparison. It starts off as a relatively simple premise, we are lead to believe that Polly is the kind of woman who can leave her child behind and therefore is uncaring. Yet as the story flows you realise that things are not as black and white as they seem. Adam could be Polly’s hero turning up just when she needs someone. Yet there is more to him than meets the eye and it soon becomes clear he is not necessarily the person we are first led to believe.
This was change from my usual books, but I really enjoyed it. The gentle pace made for a nice relaxing read on a train. However the twists were certainly there and even though you feel you know most of the story by the time you are halfway through there is still so much that is unknown you just have to carry on. I really liked the fact that everytime I thought I had a handle on who was good and who was bad something else became clear and thoughts changed.
It’s hard to say more without giving away the plot, but suffice to say for me the ending was perfect. I would thoroughly recommend Sunburn especially if like me you enjoy reading a strong female lead in a very compelling story.
Sunburn is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sunburn-Laura-Lippman-ebook/dp/B0771X1KMX
Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour.
Closer Than You Know by Brad Park introduces us to Melanie. Having survived a difficult childhood she is now happily married with a young son. Her life seems to be in control. Until she arrives to pick up her son from his child minder to find out that he has been removed by social services. Her problems then increase when she is arrested for drug possession and she realises that someone is trying to frame her.
The story is told not only from the point of view of Melanie, but also that of Amy who is the assistant commonwealth’s attorney. She is assigned to Melanie’s case, but is also hunting down a serial rapist who has been active for years.
This was a good read. The story itself was interesting although in parts it did feel a little implausible. However it is no lie that I couldn’t put this one down. The twists and turns just kept coming giving it a real rollercoaster feel. The characters of Melanie and Amy were both well written. Both women were in incredibly frustrating situations and despite their different circumstances they both felt powerless at times. One thing that really stood out for me was the fact that at no point did it become obvious that this was a man writing from a woman’s point of view. I find often certain words or phrases sound a bit out of kilter but not with this one.
This was the first I have read from Brad Park’s but I’ll certainly keep an eye out for the rest of his novels if they are all such a roller coast as this one was. Closer Than You Know is out on the 15th March. Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour.
A while ago I read Fever City which was a fascinating portrayal of the Kennedy era (review here) Therefore I was delighted to be asked to join the blog tour for his latest novel City Without Stars.
City Without Stars is described as an epic novel. Which I have to say would normally put me off as I find in the film world that just means overly long. However I’m glad I hadn’t seen that before I agreed to read it as this was absolutely fascinating and certainly not too long.
The novel is based in Ciudad Real, Mexico where a deadly war is erupting between rival drug cartels. Alongside this, hundreds of female sweatshop workers are being murdered, which policeman Fuentes believes is linked to the main drug lord El Santo. Activist Pilar is trying to take matters into her own hands and arranging protests at the sweatshops to try and improve conditions and make people take the killings seriously. She starts working with Fuentes and also gets involved with journalist Ventura. As they investigate further the name that keeps arising is that of the Padre Marcio, a local hero who is known for his work with orphans. No one wants to believe that he can be involved, yet there is evidence they can’t ignore.
This was an interesting read. It’s certainly not one for the feint hearted. As with Tim Baker’s previous novel, this is a story that intertwines fact and fiction to create a fascinating insight into a corrupt and dangerous society. It is a violent novel, by necessity, as the world it is depicting is cruel and harsh. Yet it is also a story of hope and good trying to overcome evil.
Mainly the story is told with chapters focussing on the main characters. Yet they are also interspersed with other personalities and scenes including some women who end up victims. However despite the many characters, it is easy to keep track of and I felt the writing flowed easily. For me, one of the strengths of the novel is the portrayal of the females within it. Despite the high number of victims, there are also some incredibly strong characters that are standing up for change throughout immensely difficult circumstances.
This is an incredibly evocative novel, that is disturbing yet captivating at the same time. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a powerful story with characters that will stay with you long after the final page.
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.
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
I am a big fan of Rachel Amphlett and have read all of her series featuring detective Kay Hunter. Therefore it is a great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for her latest book Hell to Pay. I’m very pleased to be able to welcome Rachel to acrimereadersblog.
Thanks for joining me Rachel. It must be incredibly exciting to have a novel published, so how do you spend the night before publication day and what do you do on the actual day?
Publication day for me is a bit weird, as I’m in a completely different time zone to a lot of my readers. I’m originally from the UK, but Australia is currently home. So, after I get up in the morning in Brisbane, feed the dog, and make the first cup of coffee of the day, it’s still late afternoon the previous day in the UK!
The night before, I’ll have checked all the links to my books are working on the different retailers, and I’ll prepare the newsletter to go out to my Reader Group, so I don’t have to worry about that – everyone who joins my Readers Group gets the chance to buy the book at a discounted rate, so it’s really important to me to have that ready to go.
For the past four releases, I’ve had a number of book bloggers kindly take part in a book tour for me, and by the time publication day comes around, that tour has typically been running for a week.
I get a flurry of activity on social media as the rest of the world starts to wake up (I’m a very early riser, so that means 5:30am for me!), but before I do anything else, I hit my word count on my current work in progress – that way, I can concentrate on the launch of the previous book without feeling guilty!
The rest of the morning is spent responding to emails and social media shout outs from readers and the incredible book bloggers that support my new releases.
The action really kicks off once the UK is wide awake and continues through the night as most of my book blogging buddies are in the UK and North America – I can get a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the notifications, but it’s a lot of fun, and I really appreciate the support everyone gives to authors in this way.
I don’t get much sleep that night, either – again due to time differences, my Facebook launch party usually starts pretty early the following morning for me, even though it’s still only 8pm in the UK. I don’t mind though – I know for at least 48 hours I’m going to be running on pure adrenalin!
Once the Facebook party is over, it’s a case of monitoring emails and social media for any notifications – I try to respond to every shout out I receive from readers and bloggers, and I always respond to every email I receive from readers. I wouldn’t be here without any of them.
The blog tour runs for another week after publication day to help me spread the word about the new book, but in the meantime, it’s back to business as usual for me, and that of course means finishing the next book!
Sounds like a very busy day, but completely worth it of course. Hell to Pay is out now and is a great read either as a stand alone or as part of this excellent series. I would throughly recommend them, and a huge thanks to Rachel for taking the time to join me today.