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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

Published: March 4th, 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:

They say we’ll never know what happened to those men.
They say the sea keeps its secrets . . .
‘A mystery, a love story and a ghost story, all at once. I didn’t want it to end’ S J Watson

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

What happened to those three men, out on the tower? The heavy sea whispers their names. The tide shifts beneath the swell, drowning ghosts. Can their secrets ever be recovered from the waves?

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on. Helen, Jenny and Michelle should have been united by the tragedy, but instead it drove them apart. And then a writer approaches them. He wants to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. But only in confronting their darkest fears can the truth begin to surface . . .

Inspired by real events, The Lamplighters is an intoxicating and suspenseful mystery, an unforgettable story of love and grief that explores the way our fears blur the line between the real and the imagined.

MY REVIEW:

“This riddle has everything a fiction writer looks for – drama, mystery, peril on the sea. Only it’s real.”

The Lamplighters is the story of the disappearance of three men, their warring widows, ghostly goings-on, and the power and mystery of the sea. Told in dual timelines we follow the men in the days leading up to their disappearance, and their widows twenty years later as they are interviewed by a writer who is hoping to finally find the truth of what happened on that frigid winter day. 

First of all, how is this a debut?! This book is an example of storytelling at its finest. The author shifts seamlessly between the two timelines; holding the reader in the palm of her hand as she weaves her mysterious tale. The imagery is so vivid that I can see, feel and hear the waves, smell the salty sea air, and hear the siren song of the sea as she whispers her secrets.

Based on a true story, the author has changed the time, place and people to craft her own world full of secrets, mystery and intrigue. The characters and community she created are captivating, relatable and richly drawn.  We are given a first person narrative from multiple characters; in 1992 the widows tell their story, and in 1972 the doomed keepers give details of life in the lighthouse and events leading up their disappearance. 

One of my favourite aspects of this book is that it is absolutely drenched in mystery. It seeps from its every pore. There isn’t just the mystery of what happened that day on the Tower, there are other puzzles that we have to piece together so we can get the final, truthful picture of what transpired. But though there were many layers and interwoven storylines, it never felt confusing. It just sent the tension through the roof and made this book impossible to put down. I had to know what happened! In my notes there are many other plot points and aspects of the book that stood out and I would love to talk about, but I won’t because I don’t want to take away from the joy of discovering these engimas for yourself. 

The Lamplighters is a truly accomplished debut. It is one of those books that deserves to be huge and I have no  doubt everyone will be talking about this year. It is also perfect for the big screen and I am hoping I get to see it there one day. 

Atmospheric, haunting, claustrophobic and mesmerising, I found it impossible to put this one down and would have read it in one sitting if not for the pesky need to sleep. If you love an exquisitely written and layered mystery then don’t miss this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Thank you to Camilla at Pan Macmillan for my gifted copy of the book.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Emma Stonex is a novelist and The Lamplighters is her debut under her own name; she is the author of several books written under a pseudonym. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two young daughters

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Support Debuts

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Published: January 7th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Thriller, Domestic Thriller

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Michael Joseph for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

*** Pre-order The Push now and be one of the first to discover why this novel you can’t put down is also the novel you will never forget . . . ***

What if your experience of motherhood was nothing like what you hoped for – but everything you always feared?

‘The women in this family, we’re different . . .’

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life.

It was meant to be a fresh start.

But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right. I have always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me?

Is she the monster? Or am I?

The Push is a heart-pounding exploration of motherhood, obsession and the terrible price of unconditional love.

MY REVIEW:

“One day you’ll understand, Blythe. The women in this family… we’re different.”

What if there was something wrong with your child? Could you still love them? Would others see what you do? Is it you or them? 

Compelling, bold, unsettling, and thought-provoking, The Push explores themes of our expectations of motherhood, unconditional love, family,  and if monsters are born or made.

From the first pages the author had me in the palm of her hand. There is an immediate air of mystery and an impending sense of doom that made me excited to keep reading. I needed to know why Blythe was watching her daughter through the window and why she would feel the need to write her side of the story to give to her ex-husband. From the beginning there is also a spine-tingling terror attached to Violet, though I wasn’t sure if this was because she is someone to be feared or it was Blythe’s perception being pushed onto the reader. This conundrum is at the heart of the story as Blythe tries to solve the puzzle of if her daughter really is born a monster or if she is the monster for thinking that of her child. 

The idea of children being born evil or being deliberately manipulative is one that is controversial; you aren’t supposed to dislike your child let alone voice that feeling. We see in this story how people are aghast and disgusted with Blythe when she voices her concerns about Violet or tells them the things she’s done. Children are supposed to be innocent and born good. We like to believe that as parents we have an element of control over how they turn out and that by raising them the right way, they will be good people. When people do bad things we look for a reason – neglect, abuse, absent parents, poverty – anything that will reassure us this can’t happen to us. Not our children. This book addresses that fear in all of us that it may not be in our hands and that some people might just be born bad.

The characters are all well-written and compelling, particularly Blythe and Violet. Not since We Need To Talk About Kevin has a child given me the chills or been so unlikable. I thought the author wrote her brilliantly as while she evokes these feelings, we’re never quite sure if they’re the truth or if it is all in Blythe’s head. Every time I made my mind up about Violet something would happen to make me doubt my conclusion, the author keeping me on the edge of my seat until the final page. 

I liked the confessional style of writing and how it is mixed with flashbacks to the older generations of women in Blythe’s family. The flashbacks give important insight into not only Blythe’s mindset, but the mystery of the women in her family and the raw truth of motherhood. They also help to show how the past can ripple down through the generations with devastating effects. 

Riveting, pacy and insightful, The Push certainly packs a punch. It is a story that feels both shocking and sadly familiar and I think it will resonate with many people as every mother’s nightmare come true. I am still in awe that this is the author’s debut novel and can’t wait to read more from her in the future.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

TW: Child death, postnatal depression, mental illness, self harm.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ashley Audrain is a Canadian writer. During a July 2019 interview with the Toronto Star Audrain described her debut novel, The Push, as a “psychological drama told through the lens of motherhood.” Prior to turning her hand to writing, Audrain was publicity director for the publisher Penguin Canada.
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First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday: Cover Your Tracks by Daco S. Auffenorde

A violent gust of wind rocked the passenger train as it rolled down the tracks inside Glacier National Park. The cars yanked and pulled from one side of the track to the other, zigzagging like pinballs travelling though a narrow chute. Without any apparent reason, the breaks on the train squealed, and twenty-three cars and the powerful engine kangerooed into a hard deceleration.
Margot Fletcher, who was seated toward the rear of the train inside a viewing car, tightened her seatbelt and grasped the arms of her seat. At eight and a half months pregnant, she couldn’t afford a fall. Her heart rate shot into overdrive, and her baby shifted as if turnaning a complete somersault. Her stomach clenched as if she were experiencing a contraction. Unable to mask the pain and worry, she groaned. She hoped the baby hadn’t turned breech, prayed that she wasn’t going into labor.

Today’s First Lines Friday is taken from Cover Your Tracks by Daco S. Auffenorde, which I was kindly gifted by the author. This one sounds fantastic. And with a snowy cover I couldn’t resist sharing it while we have the perfect weather.


SYNOPSIS:

Margo Fletcher, eight months pregnant, is traveling by train from Chicago to Spokane, her childhood home. While passing through an isolated portion of the Rockies in blizzard conditions, the train unexpectedly brakes. Up ahead, deadly snow from a massive avalanche plummets down the mountain. Despite the conductor’s order for the passengers to stay seated, former Army Ranger Nick Eliot insists that survival depends on moving to the back of the train. Only Margo believes him. They take refuge in the last train car, which Nick heroically uncouples in time to avoid the avalanche. The rest of the train is hurled down the mountainside and is soon lost forever in a blanket of snow. Margo and Nick, the sole survivors, are stranded in the snowstorm without food, water, or heat. Rescuers might not arrive for days.

When the weather turns violent again, the pair must flee the shelter of the passenger car and run for their lives into the wilderness. They must fend off the deadly cold as well as predatory wild animals foraging for food. Eventually, Nick leads Margo to shelter in a watchtower atop a mountain. There, we learn that both Margo and Nick have secrets that have brought them together and threaten to destroy them.

Cover Your Tracks is a chilling story of love and hate, the devastating power of nature, and the will to survive.


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Book Features

Endgame by Carol Wyer

It’s no secret that Carol Wyer is one of my favourite crime fiction authors. Her Detective Natalie Ward series is one of my favourite crime series and having just read An Eye For An Eye, the first book in her new Detective Kate Young series, I can see I’m going to have another favourite on my hands. But today I’m not here to talk about either of those. I’m here to talk about her first series.

The Detective Robyn Carter series comprises of five installments and, from today, there is a new bonus story available.

Endgame is only available as a bonus story at the end of the fifth book, The Chosen Ones. If you don’t have a copy of the book you can still access the story by watching Carol read a chapter a day on her YouTube channel here.

Unfortunately, because I’ve not yet read this series I haven’t read the story (I didn’t want to spoil the series for myself). But I have it on good authority from other members of her Street Team that it’s fantastic:

Steph Lawrence said, “…thoroughly enjoyed it and it wraps up a brilliant series.”

Ann Jones said, “Wow Endgame! What a cracking read!”

Melanie Robertson-King said: “Holy wow! Just finished reading Endgame. ❤ ❤ ❤ it!’“

I will certainly be starting the series from the beginning so I can read it ASAP!

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Silent Ridge (Detective Megan Carpenter 3) by Gregg Olsen

Published: December 4th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Hardboiled, Police Procedural, Crime Series

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this razor-sharp thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

One bath wall is a mural of a brilliant-yellow sunflower. The theme carries over to the shower curtains, but the yellow vinyl is spattered with red blotches. Propped against the mirror is a South Kitsap High School photo of a teenaged girl.

Detective Megan Carpenter is no stranger to horrifying crime scenes, but when she arrives at the home of a woman whose body has been brutalized, Megan is shocked to discover that she knows the victim. Monique Delmont helped Megan when she was in danger years ago. And the killer has left a disturbing calling card… two laminated photographs of a sixteen-year-old high school girl – Megan.

Someone is taunting her in the worst way possible and Megan is convinced she knows who is responsible. She just has to find him.

With the help of her new partner, Deputy Ronnie Marsh, Megan begins to unravel the clues that will lead them to the killer including links to three female murder cases from nearly twenty years ago – one of which was Monique’s daughter.

But to protect those closest to her, Megan must continue to hide the dark truth of her past, even if that means lying to her team about her connection to Monique.

When two photographs of a teenage Megan are found at her boyfriend’s place in Snow Creek, she knows the killer is circling and ready to strike again.

Can she get to him before he finds her? And will she pay the ultimate price for trying to keep her terrifying past buried?

An addictive edge-of-your-seat crime thriller from the Number One, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Amazon Chart bestselling author.

MY REVIEW:

“I’m a monster. But the good kind.”

Deliciously dark, unflinching and addictive, the third installment in the Megan Carpenter series is the best one yet. 

Arriving at a horrifying crime scene, Detective Megan Carpenter is shocked to discover that she knew the victim. Not only that, but the killer has left her a very personal message.

Megan is sure she knows who’s behind it. She just needs to find and stop him before her dark secrets are revealed.

“Monique’s body hangs from the shower head… Her skin is all in one piece, lying in the tub beneath her. One piece. Like a wetsuit with a wig and face mask.”

This book is exactly the kind of twisted thriller I can’t get enough of. It gets off to a shocking and unforgettable start, leaving the reader in no doubt what they’re in for. This isn’t a book for the faint hearted. 

By book three in a series you’re familiar with the characters and there’s a sense of comfort in revisiting them. But what I love about this series is that while you get that feeling, it is also fresh and exciting. You never quite know where the author is going to take things next.

“They don’t realise they’re just fanning the flames. I can always move. Take on a new persona, a new job, a new life. They’ll be dead.”

Megan is fast becoming one of my favourite crime series protagonists as she’s like no one else. Her history is better known to the reader by now and I enjoyed how the investigation in this book made her step back into her past and reveal more about parts she’s skipped over before now. As in the previous books there are extracts from her sessions with her psychiatrist Dr Albright and flashbacks to the times in her life she’d rather forget. But, unlike in previous books, this time she’s using them to catch the killer. We also see just how dark and vengeful she can be, which was another side to her that I absolutely loved. 

Fast-paced, and twisty, Silent Ridge will have you on the edge of your seat from the hard-hitting opening to the jaw-dropping climax. Though I would highly recommend the series, this could be read as a standalone too. Whichever you choose, if you’re a fan of this genre, you don’t want to miss this book! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮. 5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

A #1 New York Times, Amazon Charts, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, Olsen has written nine nonfiction books, seventeen novels, a novella, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on dozens of national and local television shows, including educational programs for the History Channel, Learning Channel, and Discovery Channel.

The Deep Dark was named Idaho Book of the Year by the ILA and Starvation Heights was honored by Washington’s Secretary of State for the book’s contribution to Washington state history and culture.

Olsen, a Seattle native, lives in Olalla, Washington with his wife, twin daughters, three chickens, Milo (an obedience school dropout cocker) and Suri (a mini dachshund so spoiled she wears a sweater).

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Blog Tours

Her Sister’s Child by Alison James

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

She rolls over and reaches for her instinctively: her baby. Her hand hits air and flaps redundantly. She stumbles out of bed and switches on the light. But this only confirms it. The baby is gone. Someone has taken her.

Sixteen years ago, Lizzie Armitage woke to find her newborn baby gone. Just days later, Lizzie was dead.

Her sister Paula swore she would do everything she could to find the child. If she hadn’t promised to keep Lizzie’s pregnancy secret, maybe the baby wouldn’t have disappeared. And maybe Lizzie would still be alive. But, in nearly a decade, Paula’s never found any trace. Until now

When Paula bumps into an old friend from the past, she realises she wasn’t the only one who knew about her sister’s child. Someone knows what happened that day. Someone knows where Lizzie’s baby went.

But can Paula find out the truth before another family is ripped apart?

A twisty, unputdownable psychological thriller that will keep you hooked until the last page. Fans of Behind Closed DoorsFriend Request and The Girl on the Train will love Her Sister’s Child.

MY REVIEW:

“But the baby is gone. Someone has taken her.”

Her Sister’s Child is a domestic thriller told from the point of view of three women – Paula, Charlie and Marian. Moving between timelines, it tells the story of a tragic death and the search to find out the truth about a baby who went missing sixteen years ago.

A quick and easy read, I flew through this book in just a few hours. Though there were some issues with the novel – it felt a little predictable and confusing at times as it shifted between characters and timelines – it captured my attention for the first page and held some surprising twists along the way.

The characters are well written and each of the protagonists are flawed and complex. There were times they’d pull on my heartstrings and others I’d want to shake some sense into them. Their connection might seem obvious, but the full picture of how these women are linked is more intricate than it first appears and there are plenty of shocking revelations as the full picture is slowly unveiled.

A moving, compelling and twisty thriller, this is a great read for anyone who enjoys this genre.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

Trigger Warning: Infant death, infertility, alcoholism

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Born in the Cotswolds, Alison spent most of her formative years abroad. She studied languages at Oxford, then became a journalist and author, returning to university after her two children to take a law degree. After a three-year stint as a criminal paralegal, Alison worked as a commercial copywriter and then a TV storyliner, before coming full circle to write fiction again.

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

Published: January 21st, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller, Horror Fiction

Thank you to Michael Joseph for my #gifted copy of this outstanding novel. This is one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and was joint BOTM for October.

SYNOPSIS:

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.

And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.

Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.

Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?

Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.

But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .

MY REVIEW:

“If you see the burning girls, something bad will befall you.”

WHAT. A. BOOK! Creepy as hell and absolutely brilliant, this was an easy 5 stars from me.  

Chapel Croft, East Sussex, a small hamlet where everyone knows everyone; or at least they think they do. Rev Jack Brooks and her teenage daughter Flo have moved to the area in search of a fresh start. 

But soon Flo is plagued by visions of burning girls, and someone is sending them threatening messages. Jack realises they’ve come to a place not of solace, but one that is haunted by local legends and dark, sinister secrets. And there are some people who will do anything to keep it that way… 

To my shame, this is my first time reading a C. J. Tudor book despite the fact that I own them all. I am now wondering why I waited so long. I immediately fell in love with her writing style. The way she wove together chilling mystery, tension and humour that had me chuckling away to myself after just a few pages. I also loved the historical feel it had; The strange sights and events that are combined with local folklore make it feel like I was reading something based in fact. 

Spine-chillingly atmospheric, twisty, addictive, and thick with malevolence, The Burning Girls is a fiendishly delicious read. The definition of unputdownable, I devoured this in under a day and had a major book hangover when I was finished. 

An absolute must read. Just don’t turn out the lights… 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories

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Blog Tours book reviews

Body Language by A. K. Turner

I’m delighted to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour to for Body Language, the first book in an exciting new series. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Zaffre for the gifted eBook ARC.

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Noir Fiction, Police Procedural, Medical Fiction, Medical Thriller

SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs comes a gripping debut thriller introducing Camden’s most exciting new forensic investigator.

Cassie Raven believes the dead can talk. We just need to listen . . .

People think being a mortuary technician is a seriously weird job. They can’t understand why I choose to cut up dead bodies for a living. But they don’t know what I know:

The dead want to tell us what happened to them.

I’ve eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone I know before – someone who meant a lot to me; someone I loved.

The pathologist says that her death was an accident.

Her body is telling me differently.

MY REVIEW:

“From her first day in the mortuary five years ago it had felt totally natural to talk to the bodies in her care, to treat them as if they were still alive — still people. Occasionally they would even answer.”

Body Language introduces us to a new and original voice in crime fiction. Cassie Raven is a goth mortuary assistant who secretly believes the dead speak to her, practices taxidermy in her free time and has held a fascination with the dead since childhood. It goes without saying that she’s viewed as strange by some. But I liked this complex, flawed and slightly offbeat protagonist. 

When the body of her former teacher, mentor and friend Geraldine Edwards is brought into the morgue following her sudden death, Cassie is hit by not only a tidal wave of grief, but the feeling that this wasn’t a natural death. When the police and pathologist rule out foul play she decides to listen to what the body is telling her and embarks on her own investigation. 

This was an entertaining read. It took me a while to get into, but asked halfway through the pace picked up and oozed tension. From that point on I was unable to stop reading and stayed up until the early hours finishing the whole thing. 

The novel is full of interesting and memorable characters and storylines that feel both far-fetched and relatable. The author’s examination of grief and trauma stood out to me in particular for the sensitive, moving and realistic way in which it is portrayed. And Cassie isn’t our only protagonist. We are also told the story from the point of view of DS Phyllida Flyte. She and Cassie are poles apart and yet at their core they are very much like. They are both strong women who are seen as outsiders and believe in fighting to get the answers and justice that victims deserve. I liked how the pair paralleled each other while instantly disliking each other and enjoyed watching the slow shift in their dynamic over the course of the book. 

A tense, twists, darkly humorous and sometimes grisly read that keeps you guessing, this is a great start to a new series. I’m especially excited to see where the author takes Cassie next after the jaw-dropping conclusion. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

A.K.’s first foray into crime fiction was a detective thriller trilogy, written under the pen name Anya Lipska, following the adventures of Janusz Kiszka, tough guy and fixer to London’s Polish community. The first of the trilogy led Val McDermid to select her for the prestigious New Blood panel at Harrogate Crime Festival. All three books won critical acclaim and are currently under option as a potential TV crime series.

Set in a Camden morgue, A.K.’s new novels feature crime-solving Goth-girl mortuary attendant Cassie Raven. Cassie has already appeared in Cut and Paste, a crime short for BBC Radio 4, who are interested in commissioning further stories featuring the character.

In her other life as a TV producer and writer, A.K. makes documentaries and drama-docs on subjects as diverse as the Mutiny on the Bounty, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Nordic Noir, Mystery, Thriller, Book Series

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping piece of Nordic Noir. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Karen at Orenda for the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Ever-dogged Bergen PI Varg Veum is forced to dig deep into his own past as he investigates the murder of a former classmate. Vintage, classic Nordic Noir from international bestselling author Gunnar Staalesen.

***Now a major TV series starring Trond Espen Seim***
________________

Exploring his own dark memories may be the only way to find a killer

When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.

Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive and a killer.

Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writers

MY REVIEW:

“On the stairs going down it struck me that actually there was something I had omitted to mention: the fact that of the four men who had constituted The Harpers rock band from 1959 to 1975 only one was still alive…”

After a former classmate is murdered, Private Investigator Varg Veum must delve deep into his past and that of his childhood friends. But he’s unprepared for the dark and murky secrets that will finally be revealed in this classic Nordic Noir. 

As with any book published by Orenda, I went into this one with high hopes. It was my first time reading a book by this author and I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series, but I didn’t feel like that put me at any kind of disadvantage.

“Opening a photograph album is like being captured by the past.”

 Set in 1986, this was a fun trip down memory lane to a simpler time without mobile phones or social media. I think that setting the story in this time period added to the mystery as people genuinely lost contact and didn’t instantly hear about current events. It allowed for an element of surprise in the investigation that wouldn’t have been there in the present day.  

I liked the author’s writing style, particularly his use of metaphors. This was a steadily-paced novel rather than a quick page-turner, and it wasn’t until almost half-way through that the murder actually occurs. For the first half of the book Varg is investigating the whereabouts of his school friend Jakob’s wife Rebecca, who also happens to be the one that got away. While it is a compelling story overall, there were times I felt like it got bogged down in Varg’s walk down memory lane and daydreams of Rebecca. But once the murder had occurred the tension began to increase, building to a crescendo as we approached finale and its shocking revelations. 

Fallen Angels is a darkly atmospheric, layered and gripping thriller that keeps you guessing right until the last pages. It is particularly perfect for those who like a dark tale without the blood and gore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Package by Sebastian Fitzek

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this jaw-dropping thriller. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the hairdresser’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

MY REVIEW:

“And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.She has no idea what she’s let into her home.”

Omg! What a book! This one starts as it means to go on, jumping straight into the terrifying action with a prologue so chilling it sent shivers down my spine. The author had me in the palm of his hand from that moment on and I devoured the book in one sitting, both unwilling and unable to put it down.

The story moves between multiple timelines, all told from the point of view of the protagonist, Emma. Much of the story is her first person account of what happened starting on the day she takes in a package for her neighbour and shifts between this and her discussing the events with her friend and lawyer. It is clear early on that Emma is in trouble both legally and mentally, and is in custody for a crime, while also being treated for mental health problems.

“The message on the mirror had awoken the darkest memories from her childhood.”

This is an exquisitely crafted novel. The sinister, foreboding and malevolent atmosphere pervades from beginning to end and as we get deeper into the story we discover that this is a more intricate, layered and twisty novel than it first appears.

One of my favourite tropes is an unreliable narrator. And Emma is the ultimate in unreliability. Even she has no idea what is reality and what is her paranoid imagination a lot of the time. I loved that I spent the whole book trying to decide if what she’s telling us is truth, lies or a figment of her imagination. And, honestly, most of the time I felt as clueless as the narrator herself. She is a great protagonist: layered, flawed, fractured, likeable, unlikeable, and, most of all, compelling. You are pulled in by her and I was soon utterly immersed in her world.

“Those who weren’t afflicted were often suspicious of the mentally ill… But these people knew nothing of the demons that would embed themselves, particularly into sensitive souls, then at the moment of that person’s greatest happiness whisper into their ear and reel off their shortcomings

A big part of Emma, and the story, is mental health struggles and how others perceive those who face them. As someone with anxiety, depression and PTSD, I thought the author did an outstanding job of portraying both aspects without judgement. He made it clear that Emma’s mental illness is unquestioned while also showing us how it makes even Emma doubt what she experiences and sees. He makes her pain and torment leap from the page so the reader can’t help but be moved by what she’s going through while also allowing them to see how it might skew her perception of reality, leaving them to make their own conclusions about what the truth is. It is a powerfully observed look at how those who struggle with their mental health are perceived and treated by the mentally healthy that I hope will bring awareness and understanding while also entertaining the reader.

Addictive, chilling, tense and gruesome, The Package is a jaw-dropping thriller you don’t want to miss. Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sebastian Fitzek is a German writer and journalist. His first book, Therapy (dt. Die Therapie), was a bestseller in Germany in 2006, toppling The Da Vinci Code from the first position. Fitzek is currently one of the most successful writers of Germany.

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