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The Shadow Friend by Alex North – a review

Back in March I attended the Hull Noir online event which not only had some great guests but also a link up with a bookshop to offer signed books, which of course I can never resist especially when it includes the latest by one of my favourite authors, Alex North.

The Shadow Friend is the second book by writer Alex North. The story starts when Paul returns to his home town for the first time 25 years after he left. Returning to visit his mother he is surrounded by memories he has tried hard to forget. However the day his friend Charlie committed a terrible crime isn’t easy to forget especially when it appears there is a copycat criminal now operating.

The Shadow Friend is a creepy read that had me hooked from the start. It is one of those books where when you look back actually the ‘action’ isn’t that much. It is the quality of the writing that gives it a really immersive quality where the tension crackles off the page.

There are two different timelines as we find out about Paul both past and present. In the present we follow Paul dealing with his ailing mother who has been moved into a hospice as well as the creaks and threats that seem to be all around him. A younger Paul is coping with moving to a new school and trying to fit in whilst not being certain he actually wants to. As things get more and more creepy he pulls away but is never really let go.

I felt for the character of Paul, he came across as lonely and lost. Clearly despite moving away he has never managed to put the past behind him and it has affect his whole life. His lonliness almost gives the story an extra dimension as it makes it feel quite a claustrophobic tale as we get further inside his head.

I really enjoyed the book and the short chapters ending on cliff hangers kept me up late every night as I just wanted to read more. Throughout the story there is an undercurrent of the supernatural which adds to the uneasy feeling you get as you head to the final reveal. I didn’t see the ending coming at all. However as soon as you look back you realise that the clues where there but easily missed.

I throughly enjoyed this story and without wanting to give anything anyway there were some twists that I was completely blindsided by. I would highly recommend this, and if you haven’t yet read his first The Whisper Man then that should also be added to your pile!

You can get your copy of The Shadow Friend here.

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Bound by Vanda Symon – a review BLOG TOUR

Back in the days of old when we had face to face events I was lucky enough to attend the Antipodean Noir session at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2019 and heard Vanda Symon speak. I’ve been a big fan ever since and therefore was really excited to be invited onto the blog tour for her latest novel Bound, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Bound by Vanda Symon

Bound begins when a businessman is murdered in his home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch her husband die. Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, and soon discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas and in need a distraction from her personal life she launches her own investigation. When another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

This is the 4th in the series starring Detective Sam Shephard and I would go so far as to say that Sam is one of my most favourite Detective’s of the moment. She’s funny, confident and sassy, yet believable. In this book we see a more vulnerable side of her as she deals with her father’s cancer diagnosis, as well as within her relationship with partner Paul.

The story itself is a great twisty read that starts down one path and then keeps throwing you down other routes as it picks up pace to the final reveal. I liked the short chapters and each one kept me wanting to just read one more. Although the story itself focusses on some rather somber subjects there are light hearted moments and an element of comedy that really helps lift it throughout.

Set in New Zealand you get a real sense of the place, and I enjoyed learning about the city of Dunedin through the descriptions flawlessly written in the story. Yes the real focus throughout is Sam and how she navigates her way through her personally and professional life. Although this is the fourth in the series it could be read as a standalone, but I would recommend reading the others first as you’ll get to know Sam so much better and appreciate how she seems to have matured in this novel.

I would definitely recommend Bound and do hope that this isn’t the last in the series.

Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the Blog Tour to find out what they thought of Bound.

You can also revisit some of the highlights of the TOPCWF including Antipodean Noir here:

https://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/hif-player/antipodean-noir/

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Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst – a review BLOG TOUR

I’ve been lucky enough to have a bit of a flurry of blog tours these past couple of weeks, with some excellent books, but I have to say this latest one is definitely in my top five so far!

Smoke Screen is a joint collaboration between authors Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst. Set in Oslo, the story begins with a suspected terror attack on New Year’s Eve. One of the injured is the mother of a young girl who went missing ten years before, and has never been found. Both Police Office Alexander Blix and journalist Emma Ramm are on the scene when the explosion happens, and therefore have a personal interest in the case. As the terror threat is increased it becomes clear that the missing girl case is not all it seems.

I’m a big fan of Nordic Noir and this one didn’t disappoint. Smoke Screen was a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I found both the main characters to be really engaging. Blix is almost a brother to Emma, and I liked the fact that there didn’t seem to be anything other than friendship between them. Emma has clearly been through a tough time, and sadly things don’t seem to be improving for her. She is used to reporting on tough cases but this time it is distinctly personal.

I found this story really gripping, it’s hard to review without giving too much away, but suffice to say it’s definitely worth a read. It was a fast paced novel, that flits between present day and ten years prior. Gradually the story of the attack and the missing girl unravel as both Blix and Ramm get caught up in their investigations, until the explosive finale.

Smoke Screen is actually the second in the series, although was the first book I’ve read by the pair. It can definitely be read as a stand-alone (as I did) but I loved it so much that as soon as I finished I ordered the first one.

Thanks to Orenda Books and Random Things Tours for inviting me ont this tour. To find out what others thought of the book visit the other stops on the tour:

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Evil Impulse by Leigh Russell – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read a number of the Geraldine Steel series by Leigh Russell so was pleased to be invited onto the blog tour for her latest Evil Impulse.

Evil Impulse brings us up to date with the latest in the life of DI Geraldine Steel. Still living in York, now with long term love interest DI Ian Petersen, she seems to finally be happy. When a body is found in the river initially they think she fell in and drowned, but when it is revealed that she was actually killed days before she entered the water it becomes clear that there is a dangerous killer on the loose.

I enjoyed this story although I have to admit it didn’t keep me gripped as much as some of the previous ones. The murder story was good but I felt that a random kidnapping and disappearing sister storyline actually distracted from the main event and felt a bit shoehorned in. It may just be that I’m always more interested in a grizzly murder than a persons relationship!

I like the character of Geraldine. She has certainly had a complicated life and it was nice to see her happy, at least for a while. She does have a tendency to be a bit ‘hot headed’ and there were times when you want to bang her and Ian’s heads together, but I still always find myself rooting for her.

The setting in York is both a good and bad thing. I enjoy reading stories set in the place I’ve called home for over twenty years, but I also realise I spend a good bit of my time tracing the steps in my mind working out how accurate things are (yes I’ve become one of those people!) I’m pleased to say it was all very accurate.

Whilst this could be read as a standalone you will definitely enjoy it more if you know all the back story.   This is book 15 of this great series and I’ll look forward to the next. Don’t forget to find out what the other stops on the blog tour thought:

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