Reading Wrap Up for March 2020 – and a whoops… I forgot to post my February reads!

Firstly, wishing everyone well in this pandemic!

Well, this is certainly a new lifestyle change to when I was writing my last monthly wrap-up. With the close of my businesses and the re-direction of thoughts, my reading certainly suffered.

So, only seven books this month. Here’s some snappy thoughts on last month’s books… oh and I’ve listed the books I read in February, I wrote a post and just saw it in my drafts – so decided it was a little late to post now – lol!

Are Snakes Necessary? by Brian De Palma (the famous film director) and Susan Lehman – a caricature Film Noir style thriller, a quick, fun & quirky read (check out my previous blog posts for more chat) 3.5/5

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory – set in England, in 1648 – so Civil War and a renegade King as the backdrop for a love story, throw in some witchcraft rumours and you have ‘Tidelands’. I didn’t realise this was the first book in a series, so wasn’t prepared for the abrupt ending. Started well, but I lost my way and I didn’t overly like the male lead. 3/5

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry – beautifully written book, with such powerful imagery (second in a series) based on a young Lakota orphan adopted by former soldiers; it explores the aftermath of the Civil War in America. 4.5/5

Thorn by Intisar Khanani – nice YA fantasy read, based loosely on The Little Goose Girl fairy tale. A princess, an unwanted betrothal, and a malicious sorceress. I enjoyed it. 4/5 YA stars.

Maybe One Day by Debbie Johnson – Hidden letters and a long-overdue reunion form the basis of the plot. This was addictive fun, and I’ll be chatting in more detail later this week as part of the blog tour. 4/5

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell’s Library 1) by A.J. Hackwith – the first book in a new fantasy series based in Hell’s library – a real bibliophile’s book, as book characters come to life, and characters battle to save libraries! I had fun reading this, and will definitely look out for book 2. 4.5

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller – another YA fantasy read with a feisty anti-hero lead and a tormented Shadow King. Great escapism and fun. 4/5

Many thanks to the publishers: Titan Books, Hot Key Books and Orion for sending me books to chat about!

February Booksspeedy chat!

Firstly, a movie serialisation, which is a new format for me. This was ‘Bloodshot’ which comes out this month and stars Vin Diesel. (see earlier blog post for more chat)

Death Deserved by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (see blog tour post)

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue. A mystery with a mixed time-frame based on themes of obsession, jealousy and power-play. I liked this.

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda – a clever, puzzle of a novel (see blog tour post for further chat)

Beast by Matt Wesolowski – see blog tour post for more chat, but I loved it.

The Harlech Beach Killings by Simon McCleave – stronger than book one in his DI Ruth Hunter series set in Snowdonia.

The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne – fun YA romance based on misconceptions and set in space. Based on Austen’s ‘Persuasion’.

The Woman Downstairs by Elizabeth Carpenter – see blog tour post for more chat, and I really enjoyed this mystery thriller.

The Sisters Grimm by Menna van Praag – I struggled a bit with the slow pacing. It’s the first in a series.

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin – based around a podcast and the investigation of a series of 1970s murders. I liked it.

‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ by Brian De Palma and Susan Lehman.

A huge thanks to @TitanBooks and @HardCaseCrime for sending me a copy to read and chat about. For those that don’t know who Brian De Palma is, he’s the world-famous director of more than 30 films! These include ‘Carrie’, ‘Scarface’, ‘The Untouchables’ and the original ‘Mission: Impossible.’ He is considered to be one of the most accomplished filmmakers of the last fifty-years, a peer to Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese.

Susan Lehman is a former editor of the New York Times and author whose writing has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Spy magazine. An attorney by training, she also served as communications director at the Brennan Center for Justice.

‘Are Snakes Necessary?’ is their first novel.

Hard Case Crime ‘brings you the best in hard-boiled crime fiction, from lost pulp classics to new work by today’s most powerful writers.’

The Blurb

When the beautiful young videographer offered to join his campaign, Senator Lee Rogers should’ve known better. But saying no would have taken a stronger man than Rogers, with his ailing wife and his robust libido. Enter Barton Brock, the senator’s fixer. He’s already gotten rid of one troublesome young woman – how hard could this new one turn out to be?

Pursued from Washington D.C. to the streets of Paris, 18 year-old Fanny Cours knows her reputation and budding career are on the line. But what she doesn’t realise is that her life might be as well…

My thoughts

I was genuinely excited to receive a copy of ‘Are Snakes Necessary?’, particularly with a recommendation from Martin Scorsese on the cover (lots of Scorsese fans in my house). We’re a film watching household, and my daughter is studying film for A’Level, so there’s lots of talk of directors, and in particular auteurs. This made a new Hard Case Crime read co-written by Brian De Palma something to look forward to.

Firstly, I read a lot, so I had to adjust myself to the narrative style of this book – it’s very tell and not show. This inevitably leads to surface level characterisations, or types. It that sense, I often felt the book was a little like a ‘pitch’ at times. The characters are introduced, justified and then pulled along as plot devices, rather than being developed. They have ‘through-lines’ but they all seems subservient to the action and plot structure. But with the style of this book, it seems to work.

I found it generally fun, and like the sub-plots feeding the main narrative; the link to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ (and other film references) was great, and really was full on towards the end. It absolutely reads like a film, I did find it a little unbalanced at times, and much preferred the last 40% of the story – but it is really readable.

It’s a thriller; a dark comedy; a cynicism of human nature, with an intense murder plot orchestrated by a cast of Film Noir-fed caricatures. I think it’s a fitting addition to the Hard Case Crime collection.

‘Thorn’ by Intisar Khanani, published by Hot Key Books – a mini review.

For every girl who has ever doubted she has what it takes…

Mini ReviewYA Fantasy novel

My thoughts…

‘Thorn’ by Intisar Khanani is a really lovely fairy-tale retelling, linked to ‘The Little Goose Girl’ tale.
The story centres around Princess Alyrra who had a difficult, restrictive and abusive (brother physical and mother emotional) upbringing. Her journey only becomes more desperate when she is betrothed to a stranger from another land. Magic and power becomes a dominant theme when a powerful sorceress strips Alyrra’s identity. I loved how she takes advantage of this to start her life afresh, and by living a more simple life finds genuine friendship, and an understanding of who she wants to be.
The theme of responsibility, betrayal and justice are explored as Alyrra is drawn into a fight to save the Kingdom, and of the troubled Prince that is slowly capturing her heart.

The romance is a sweet one; the pace is steady, it does hold your attention throughout. A YA fantasy read that comes recommended from me: charming, creative and inspiring, a wonderful jump back into the fairy tales of your childhood.

‘Deep State’ by Chris Hauty, published by Simon & Schuster #RandomThingsTours

I’m delighted to share an extract from ‘Deep State’ as part of the #RandomThingsTour for this debut thriller by Chris Hauty. With thanks to Simon & Schuster, and Anne for the invite. I’m looking forward to reading ‘Deep State’ and chatting about it soon.

THE DEEP STATE – noun
A covert state hidden within a government;
a secret organisation of high-level operatives;
exerts control through manipulation and a culture of pain and fear.

Who can you trust?

About the book

Hayley Chill isn’t your typical West Wing intern. Ex-military and as patriotic as she is principled, she is largely vilified by her peers and lauded by her superiors – it’s a quick way of making enemies. It is Hayley who finds the body of the White House chief of staff, Peter Hall, on his kitchen floor having died from an apparent heart attack. It is also Hayley who notices a single clue which suggests his death was deliberate, targeted. That he was assassinated.
Unsure who to trust, Hayley works alone to uncover a wideranging conspiracy that controls the furthest reaches of the government. And Hall is just the beginning – the president is the next target.
Hayley must now do the impossible: stop an assassination, when she has no idea who the enemy is, all while staying hidden, with Peter’s final words to her ringing in her ears: Trust no one. Because the Deep State will kill to silence her. And they are closing in.

It is entrenched.
It is hidden.
It is deadly.
Who can you trust?

EXTRACT from the PROLOGUE of the novel

She can remember every fight. Whether childhood brawls back home in Green Shoals, West Virginia, or organised bouts as an amateur fighter since enlisting in the army, physical combat is the fierce memoir of a hardscrabble life. The oldest of six children—her single mother laid low by multiple cancers—Hayley defended herself and her five siblings with savage determination.

Losing her first four fights, she absorbed hard lessons with each defeat. Eight victories followed those early routs, a dozen fights in total before graduating first in her class from high school. Hayley has fought as many times as an army boxer and remains undefeated.

Tonight, she defends her regimental title.

After thirty minutes of steady jogging, her muscles have become elastic beneath a sweat- drenched T- shirt and shorts. Her thoughts are as measured and orderly as her heart rate. Barely winded, Hayley stops and checks the time on a Citizen Eco- Drive Nighthawk Black Dial watch she took off an army pilot who challenged her to a barroom arm- wrestling match. At her feet is the loose stone and gravel of the construction site for a new PX. Hayley bends down and picks up one of the jagged rocks, clenching her fist tightly around it. The stone’s sharp edges send jolts of pain through her body, acute and clarifying. She maintains the intensity of this clench for ten seconds, then twenty more. Finally, Hayley takes a deep breath and drops the stone to the ground. Studying the palm of her hand with clinical detachment, she sees blood seeping from multiple quarter- inch lacerations. There is nothing to fear. Blood has been drawn. Now she can fight.

The Author – Chris Hauty

Chris Hauty is a screenwriter who has worked at all the major movie studios, in nearly every genre of film. He currently lives in Venice, California, in the company of a classic Triumph motorcycle and a feral cat. Deep State is his first novel.

Random Things Blog Tour List

‘Bloodshot’ – the official movie novelisation by Gavin Smith, published by Titan Books.

BEING A HERO IS IN HIS BLOOD.

After he and his wife are murdered, Marine Ray Garrison is resurrected by a secret team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he becomes a superhuman, biotech killing machine – “Bloodshot” – without any memory of his previous life.

But some things can’t stay buried, and Ray refuses to back down when his memories begin to surface. Haunted by the face of his family’s killer, he will stop at nothing to take his revenge. And discovers a conspiracy going deeper than he could have possibly imagined…

My thoughts…

I love watching movies, not as much as I love reading, but it’s a favourite pastime, so when Titan Books released a movie novelisation for Bloodshot, I was intrigued. I do enjoy an action film, evident from the fact I’ve recently bought a John McClane Funko Pop for the top of our Christmas Tree – lol! I also loved the 1980s Cult Sci-fi film ‘Robocop’, and the premise of this movie seemed similar, on the surface. However, there’s more of a sinister depth to the technology that resurrects Bloodshot.

This novel is exactly as you expect it to be, pretty much non-stop action, battles, conflict, bloodshed, trauma and surface level relationships. It’s a short read and I enjoyed it, it certainly plays like a movie in your head as you turn the pages. The ‘hero’ is a fascinating construct, and whose embedded nanotechnology enables him to reconstruct himself in battle (watch the trailer for how dramatic this is). The other biotech soldiers are creative and perfect for this kind of action fest! One of them is played by Outlander’s Sam Heughan, so a bit of eye-candy for the ladies! (But sadly his character is nothing like Jamie Fraser) I think this was a really well-written movie novelisation, there’s enough depth to satisfy readers, and to add detail to the watching of the movie. There’s also a bonus short story at the end called ‘Into the Fire’ and features one of Bloodshot’s female characters.

A high octane read, that drives you through the pages into the deadly and dramatic climax – it’s certainly entertaining and recommended for those who enjoy action movies and of course the original comic book character.

The Movie

This book is from the hotly anticipated action movie, Bloodshot, based on the bestselling Valiant comic series and starring Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Sam Heughan, and Eiza Gonzalez, and directed by Dave Wilson.

Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot is scheduled to rollout worldwide beginning February 2020 and is scheduled to hit North American cinemas on March 13, 2020. Based on the bestselling comic book, the film stars Vin Diesel as Ray Garrison, a soldier recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by the RST corporation. With an army of nanotechnology in his veins, he’s an unstoppable force – stronger than ever and able to heal instantly. But in controlling his body, the company has sway over his mind and memories, too. Now, Ray doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not – but he’s on a mission to find out.

Trailer link above

Guest Post for ‘The Golden Key’ by Marian Womack @titanbooks – WELCOME!

I’m really happy to be hosting a ‘Guest Post’ today from Marian Womack, author of the fabulous ‘The Golden Key‘ and published by one of my favourite publishing houses, Titan Books, on 18th February 2020. Marian Womack is writing about the real life inspirations behind the characters in her novel – scroll down to read.

The book blurb:

After the death of Queen Victoria, England heaves with the uncanny. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.
Helena Walton-Cisneros, known for her ability to find the lost and the displaced, is hired by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.

But the Fens are an age-old land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. The locals speak of devilmen and catatonic children are found on the Broads. Here, Helena finds what she was sent for, as the Fenland always gives up its secrets, in the end…

GUEST POST

The Golden Key – Real Life Inspirations

by Marian Womack

My new novel, The Golden Key, is a work of fiction. Its protagonist, the detective Helena Walton-Cisneros, came to me gradually, over the course of many years. I wanted to explore a world in which things are not what they seem, in which women are forced to perform a role in society, at times hiding their real abilities. I soon realized that, in order to make this world more plausible, it would help if I populated it with real-life people and events. Luckily, my research for the novel helped a lot, as it uncovered many interesting people and events that spoke so much of the epoch, of the trials women feared and the tribulations they faced, that it was no problem to pick a few and include them in the book. These real-life inspirations, both people and places, include the following:

George MacDonald: I have always loved fairy-tales. The first short stories that I ever wrote were fairy-tale retellings, as dark and strange and unnerving as I could manage. I have a large collection of fairy-tale books from around the world, covering many cultures and epochs. I am not an expert, though, and my knowledge of the vast Victorian fairy-tale corpus was patchy, composed of what had found its way to my hands via second hand bookshops. I was introduced to George MacDonald’s work as an adult, and it shook my entire conception of what “a story in the fairy-fashion” should be. I became obsessed with MacDonald. He seemed to speak to my deeper concerns as a writer: the unavoidable sense of indeterminacy of his tales, of porous borders surrounding us, between the real and the unreal. I think it is fair to call MacDonald a true weird-fiction fairy-tale writer. His world found its way into my novel, partly because I could not write about worlds that mixed together without recognising a huge debt to him.

Peter Henry Emerson: I thought I had seen Norfolk, I thought that I knew Norfolk. Then I was introduced to the work of the early photographer, Peter Henry Emerson. The eeriness of his Norfolk images helped redefine the “feeling” of the entire novel. Here was a pictorial representation of everything I had felt about the place since I first set foot on it in 2002-2003: a haunting, ghostly feeling about the Fens and the Broads; a sense of more things, hidden, happening beyond the frames of the pictures. Even in his more “normal” rural scenes, one has the sense of looking upon another realm, a sort of parallel world. True, he did not own a camera until 1881, so it is a stretch to think that he might have photographed the hunting weekend for the Matthews family, but a writer has to imagine, after all, and my active imagination placed him firmly in the middle of the events.

Eunice Foote: Foote is perhaps the most important real character mentioned in the novel. An American physicist, she was the first person to establish a connection between the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and what we now identify as climate change. However, she has been swallowed by history, and now it is John Tyndall whom everyone associates with this scientific discovery.

https://titanbooks.com/

Blog Tour: ‘Death Deserved’ by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger (translated by Anne Bruce)

Huge thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the blog tour invite!

Police officer Alexander Blix and celebrity blogger Emma Ramm join forces to track down a serial killer with a thirst for attention and high profile murders, in the first episode of a gripping new Nordic Noir series…

The Book Blurb

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at
the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When
celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she
finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the
number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.
Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons
investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation
nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl.
Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the
appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a
bigger picture that he’s just not seeing…
Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless
killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention.
Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

My thoughts…

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Death Deserved’, the first book in the Blix and Ramm crime series, and steeped in Nordic Noir. I’ve read a few books recently that link the blogging world into the crime genre, but this brings something fresh to the table. It’s smart, intricately plotted and boosted by several moments of high tension. I really liked the characters of both Blix and Ramm, and look forward to reading more of the series. Both characters have vulnerabilities that create some fascinating depth and their developing relationship is unusual, so I’m curious to see where this may lead.

The serial killer in this book certainly has a flair for the dramatic, which is great for us readers! I loved trailing the crime scenes and attempting to work out who was behind it all. A challenging puzzle!

All in all, this book’s great. I didn’t want to put it down and would highly recommend it to crime novel fans. It’s smart, expertly paced, fuelled by tension and blooming fun to read!

Highly recommended.

The Authors

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling
Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series
respectively.

Jorn Lier Horst

Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1
internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in
the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled
realism and suspense.

Thonas Enger

Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind
the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s
trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social
messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and
young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved is
Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller.

PUBLISHED BY ORENDA BOOKS http://orendabooks.co.uk/

Blog Tour for ‘SOOT’ @danvyleta and published by @orionbooks #CompulsiveReaders

Wishing ‘Soot’ every success on its blog tour and with the publication. I’m really pleased to be contributing today with some content into the characters of the novel, and the world they inhabit. With thanks! Check out the tour list below for other fabulous contributions from the book loving community.

Book Blurb

Welcome to a world where every desire is visible, rising from the body as a plume of Smoke. A world where bodies speak to one another and infect each other with desire, anger, greed. It is 1909 and this world stands on a precipice – some celebrate this constant whisper of skin to skin, and some seek to silence it forever.

Enter Eleanor, a young woman with a strange power over Smoke and niece of the Lord Protector of England. Running from her uncle and home, she finds shelter in a New York theatre troupe.

Then Nil, a thief hiding behind a self-effacing name. He’s an orphan snatched from a jungle-home and suspects that a clue to his origins may lie hidden in the vaults of the mighty, newly-risen East India Company.

And finally Thomas, one of the three people to release Smoke into the world. On a clandestine mission to India, he hopes to uncover the origins of Smoke and lay to rest his doubts about what he helped to unleash.

In a story that crosses continents – from India to England’s Minetowns – these three seek to control the power of Smoke. As their destinies entwine, a cataclysmic confrontation looms: the Smoke will either bind them together or forever rend the world.

I. The Story


Imagine a symphony made up of distinct themes and melodies.
It starts with a young woman, Eleanor, afraid that the long reach of her uncle will at last discover her in her Canadian exile and summon her home. She has a ‘talent’—a special relationship to the Smoke—that she fears others will want to put to use. Then she meets a playwright, a master of the new art of Smoke Theatre, and he offers her shelter within his troupe.
Then there is Nil—No-One, Nothing—a thief and confidence man, getting by on his wits. His latest mark is the New York City branch of the mighty East India Company, a trading corporation that controls the Indian Raj and is one of the dominant economic powers in this world after the ‘Second Smoke’, for they hold a monopoly on the only substance that can supress the Smoke. Nil is an orphan who does not know where he was stolen from when still a young child. He suspects that somewhere in the Company vaults slumbers the truth of who he is.
And then there is Thomas, hero of Smoke, who has travelled to India to learn what really happened in the revolution he helped to start ten years ago. He meets the Singhs, a local couple who themselves are revolutionaries of sorts, dreaming of freedom from Company rule. Will what Thomas finds lay to rest his guilt and doubts about what he helped to unleash?
These three melodies soon begin to intertwine, tying together events in North American and on the Indian subcontinent, and leading back to Britain, that sundered, Gale-haunted ‘Isle of the Smoke’, where the Smoke-affirming North of Minetowns and the Smoke-denying South under the stewardship of its Lord Protector are fighting over the country’s future.

About Dan Vyleta

Dan Vyleta is the author of four previous novels: Pavel & I, which gathered international acclaim and was translated into eight languages, The Quiet Twin, which was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, The Crooked Maid, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and winner of the J.L. Segal Award, and the critically-acclaimed Smoke.

His is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. After growing up in Germany, Dan left to attend university in the US, where he completed a PhD in History at King’s College, London.

He lives in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Praise for Dan Vyleta

‘For once both comparisons (with Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights) are apt . . . this is a novel that stays in the imagination long after it has been read’

  • The Guardian

‘It’s detailed, multi-layered and feels authentic – and might just win over historical fiction fans too’

  • The Pool

‘Mr. Vyleta writes with intricacy and imagination and skillful pacing’

  • New York Times

‘Vice is made visual in Vyleta’s sprawling, ambitious novel, a Dickensian tale tinged with fantasy’

  • Entertainment Weekly

‘One of the most original and enthralling books I have read in a long time.’

  • Shelf Awareness

Blog Tour: ‘The Aosawa Murders’ by Riku Onda

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for the blog tour invite, and the publishers Bitter Lemon Press. This novel has been translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts. ‘The Aosawa Murders’ won the 59th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for best novel.

Blurb:

On a stormy summer day in the 1970s the Aosawas, owners of a prominent local hospital, host a large birthday party in their villa on the Sea of Japan. The occasion turns into tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only family member spared death. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery.

Inspector Teru is convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident. The truth is revealed through a skilful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbours, police investigators and of course the mesmerising Hisako herself.

My thoughts…

This is a steadily paced read that draws you in by beautifully directed prose and takes you through a journey of questions and puzzles to the final pages. Through the accounts of an author, an assistant, a housekeeper’s daughter, a detective, an elder brother, a young master, a tobacconist’s grandson, an editor, a friend and some other snippets of prose, poetry, diaries and file extracts – we are introduced to a horrific mass murder during an aggressive deluge of rain at a birthday party on the Sea of Japan and its sombre aftermath.

Each narrative voice opens up more information and pulls the reader into the complexities of the event and the psychologies of everyone involved. The delicacies and nuances in the writing are lovely, despite the pain and brutality of the deaths in the umbrella arc of the story.

What I really enjoyed is the distance some of our narrators have from the actual event, for example, the housekeeper’s daughter is recalling events via her mother, who was at the party and one of the only survivors. Another is the young master observing a man who holds his interest and keeps drawing his attention, and who we find is wrapped up in the shocking events. I do enjoy novels that offer varying perspectives on a single event, and this novel is a joy in how the reveals are constructed.

I think this book would suit readers who enjoy unusual mysteries. The final conclusions I found were ambiguous and there are gaps in the story when you read the closing lines, but I feel this book is more about the people affected by the shocking crime; I found more fascination from their viewpoints than in the hunt for the perpetrator. There’s also the bonus of insight into Japanese crime literature and culture that reading this novel brings.

A complex, ambiguous puzzle of a crime novel with a darkness at its core.

The Author – Riku Onda

Riku Onda, born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers’ Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel for The Aosawa Murders, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television. This is her first crime novel and the first time she is translated
into English.

Translated by Alison Watts, who is an Australian-born Japanese to English translator and long time resident of Japan. She has translated Aya Goda’s TAO: On the Road and On the Run in Outlaw China (Portobello, 2007) and Durian Sukegawa’s Sweet Bean Paste (Oneworld Publications, 2017), and her translations of The Aosawa Murders and Spark (Pushkin Press, 2020) by Naoki Matayaoshi are forthcoming.

Blog Tour

Check out these other brilliant bloggers posting now until the 3rd of March.

Beast by Matt Wesolowski

I’m very pleased to be part of this Blog Tour for ‘Beast’, with thanks to the lovely Anne and Orenda Books.

Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never
return…

The Blurb

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East ’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘ The Vampire Tower ’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged cult, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong ’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…

My thoughts…

This is, in a nutshell, brilliant storytelling. It’s the fourth book in a series of similarly presented books: ‘Six Stories’, ‘Hydra’ and ‘Changeling’. I haven’t read any of the other books, so ‘Beast’ is my first taste of Matt Wesolowski’s work. I am hugely impressed, what a dark and addictive read. It’s one of those books that would work brilliantly as an audio-book (just checked and I can see the first are all available on Audible – so I’ll be adding them to my collection soon), as it’s designed around a series of six interviews for a podcast. I must admit, I’m only a minor book blogger, and I don’t completely understand the more commercial blogging world, so I found the concepts running through this book fascinating, and particularly as a social study of our ever-modernising world. It also contains the central theme of power and the impact social media has on people, and considering the awful news about Caroline Flack this week, the resonances are incredibly disturbing. This awful power-play for importance and ‘deemed’ value is very scary, and as a parent slightly terrifying. I’m currently in a room with a teenager who is flicking through her phone, and I have no idea what’s going on in her mind and on her phone screen (she’s 17, and we’ve had many discussions and I am 99.9% sure she is honest, caring and compassionate to others).

But back to ‘Beast’ which is built around the brutal murder of a blogger in a site connected with the legend of a local vampire, and considering she was beheaded, it builds questions and fear from the local community. Her crime is solved, and the perpetrators imprisoned, so when a new question arises, a new interest in her cases emerges. This introduces our online journalist Scott King and we follow his investigation via six reports. It’s clear I have missed something about Scott’s personal life from the previous books, but it by no way affects the read, it does make me want to order the previous three books pretty pronto though.

I really do recommend you pick up this book, it’s addictive and underneath the witness accounts there festers a dark and gothic tale of elusive, satanic behaviour waiting to inflict pain and misery. There’s also the valid and current debate of our modern society and its narcissistic and needful personalities thriving in the world of social media and the consequences of this. I was hooked from start to finish. Loved the mystery, the darkness and the debate it raises.

Highly recommended!

The Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is
an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in
horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an
US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End
of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller

The Publisher

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher
and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been shortor long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international
literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen,
Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.
http://www.orendabooks.co.uk
@OrendaBooks