Welcome to my book-blog. I spend as much time as I can within the pages of a book and hope you'll get some reading inspiration from my library. Catch me on Instagram as well as books.tea.and.me – I'm always looking for recommendations!
It’s my turn to chat about BETRAYAL by Lilja Sigurdardottir and published by Orenda Books, with thanks to Anne for the invite. This is an impressive Nordic Noir thriller set in the heart of Icelandic politics…
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again. But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years rears its head once again. As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witchlike cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…
This is an impressive thriller set within the world of Icelandic politics, and its multi-layered narrative hooks you in via the split perspectives of our central characters, headed by Ursula, as she begins a new ministerial post. The story is built through rather short, sometimes choppy chapters; I really enjoyed the structure of the story-telling, and it dispersed what could have been a heavy read. This is no doubt a busy book, with layers from the past and present pulling together as you pick up the threads of all the characters lives and how they interconnect, as the theme of betrayal roots itself.
I always enjoy the sense of place many Nordic crime novels share, and this book is no exception. From the stilted and austere rooms of parliament, to homes and cityscapes netted with snow, this is a carefully crafted read.
I enjoyed the principal characters of Ursula, Stella and Gunnar. Gunnar in particular is endearing and well-drawn. It’s the complexities of Stella that are also engaging, and her position of a cleaner, is a clever play of this flawed and important character. I enjoyed her interaction and overall plotting with Ursula.
Ursula herself, is complex and has to deal with extremely challenging situations. Her past haunts her, and this builds fascinating layers, particularly as she deals with the issues of her new role. She remains constant as she battles the politics and misogynism around her.
A disconcerting and determined thriller set within the dangerous world of corruption and politics. Highly recommended.
The Blog Tour
Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.
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.
I’m really pleased to be featuring an extract from ‘Blood Red City’ today, I’d have loved to read it, but my review list was a little too long sadly, and I didn’t have enough time before the tour – it’s definitely on my list of books to buy soon! Can’t wait! Keep reading for the blurb, a gripping extract (I really want to keep reading!) and the author bio…
A witness but no victim. A crime but no crime scene…
When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.
Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.
When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.
An extract from BLOOD RED CITY
The day’s penultimate job was an easy one, comparatively. He’d ordered things that way. The self-help manuals he used to read would advise tackling the hardest tasks on your list first; fine in theory, not so easy when there were lives at stake.
So that came next. For now, Michael Stringer had the home of London Assembly member Nigel Carlton in his sights. A nice semi on a nice road in Finchley, the streetlights casting the bay windows in amber relief. He’d done business in worse places.
His skin itched, waiting. Carlton had arrived home ten minutes prior, the house unlit before that. Stringer’s information was that Carlton’s wife was in Brussels for business – a regular occurrence, in his estimation the cover for an affair. Not Stringer’s concern in this matter, but professional rigour wasn’t something he could just turn on and off.
Ten minutes was just long enough. Carlton had showed up in a cab, so the chance of anyone else arriving separately was slim – but not zero. A mistake he’d made once before: on that occasion, Stringer had tailgated a target into his flat after watching him arrive alone, only to have the man’s secretary let herself in minutes later with her own set of keys, just as he was getting to it. Transpired the woman and the target took separate cabs from their office to keep their trysts under wraps.
But ten minutes was enough time to discount that possibility. Any longer ran the danger of a takeaway order showing up, or even the target leaving home again – a late-night urge for a bottle of Pinot or a bag of coke, or who fucking knew what.
Stringer rang the doorbell. The hallway light went on, and then the door opened without a sound. Carlton looked him over, the caution in his expression fading when he took in the wiry man in the charcoal-grey suit on his doorstep. Stringer didn’t immediately speak.
‘Yes?’ Carlton said.
Stringer raised the blue plastic document wallet in his hand. ‘We need to talk about these.’
Carlton squinted. ‘Sorry, have we met? Who—?’
‘The girl you’ve been emailing is fourteen years old. Did you know?’
‘What? What girl?’
‘Jennifer Tully – Jennycat18@hotmail.com. Her Facebook picture is her with glitter all over her face; I’m told it’s something the kids are into these days. If you swore to me she was eighteen I’d probably believe you, but I wouldn’t bet my career on it.’
Carlton dug into his pocket, produced his phone. ‘I’m calling the police.’
Stringer waited, staring at him doing nothing. ‘Well? You don’t need my permission.’
‘I don’t know … Look, you’ve got your wires crossed somewhere so why don’t you bugger off before…’ He swiped the phone to unlock it.
‘“Assembly Member”. That your title?’
Carlton looked up.
‘Awkward as honorifics go, so I’ll use Nigel. Nigel, have a listen to some of this.’ Stringer dipped his head, mimicking reading even though he had it memorised. ‘“I’ve been thinking about you all night, I couldn’t help myself, couldn’t sleep … I can smell you on my shirt and I just want to eat you up … I haven’t felt this way about anyone since I was a teenager … I don’t know what’s come over me.”’ Stringer handed him the email printout, pointing to the sender details at the top. ‘That’s you, yes?’
Carlton skimmed the page, his mouth coming ajar. ‘I’ve never … This is not me. I’ve never seen it in my life, I’ve never heard of this girl…’
‘Let’s go inside.’
‘Who the hell are you?’
Stringer jutted his chin. ‘Inside.’
Carlton backed up, staring at the printout as if he could wish it into thin air.
Stringer made his way down the hall and into a large kitchen, the rest of the house in darkness. The room was centred on a walnut-topped island unit and was straight out of a design catalogue: black bi-fold doors to the garden, brushed steel fridge, gleaming pans hanging above the counter. A cooker that looked like it’d never been lit. A faint smell of cleaning products.
Stringer took two glasses out of a cabinet above the sink and filled them with water. He set one down for Carlton and watched him inch down the hall, flipping the page to read the full email trail as he came.
‘I’ve been hacked.’ Carlton looked up, his face as pale as hypothermic flesh. ‘Where did you get these?’
Stringer pushed a glass towards him. ‘Word of advice: no one buys “I’ve been hacked” anymore. You’re supposed to use WhatsApp for this shit, Nigel. Snapchat.’
Carlton set the sheet of paper on the counter, the spotlights in the ceiling so bright it gave off a glare. ‘I’ve never seen any of these emails. Those are not my words, these are fakes.’
Stringer sipped his water. ‘You didn’t give me those, so where else would I have got them from?’
‘How the hell should I…?’ The penny dropped. ‘The girl?’
He frowned in confirmation.
Carlton rubbed his face.
‘Who are you?’
‘No it fucking isn’t. Why are you doing this to me?’
‘I’m just a fixer.’
‘Then who are you working for?’
‘You’re asking the wrong questions.’
As he brought the glass to his mouth again, Stringer’s shirt cuff gapped, flashing the melted skin on his arm. Carlton snapped his gaze to the counter, his discomfort a sure sign he’d noticed. Ten years ago Stringer would have made something of it; now he put the glass down and let his hand fall to his side. Not embarrassment; just taking away the distraction. ‘The question you need to ask is what am I going to do with these?’
‘I’m not having this.’ Carlton snatched up his phone again.
Stringer took out his own mobile and tapped the screen twice, Carlton’s phone vibrating a second later when the message came through. He stared at the image, his eyes flaring wide.
Stringer pointed to the picture, upside down from his viewpoint but more than familiar. It appeared to show a man and a girl at the start or end of an embrace. ‘As you know, that’s Jennifer Tully.’
‘No … no, I don’t know her…’ Carlton screwed his eyes shut, a memory coming back. ‘She dropped her purse, I picked it up for her and she gave me a hug. A thank-you thing, I was as surprised as anyone. I was on my way into Pret, for god’s sake.’
To Stringer, the snap looked too professional – the image a higher resolution than the average phone camera could manage, a red flag to anyone paying attention. But Nigel Carlton was a newborn baby, wiping his own shit out of his eyes in the harsh new world he found himself in.
‘There’s a dozen emails here, Nigel, and the photos. My guess is the Standard will put you on page five, but you might make the cover. And then the nationals will grab it, and that will be that. Fourteen years old … Christ.’
Carlton deleted the picture, visibly shaking. ‘This is a bloody setup.’
Stringer took his time putting his phone away, then stretched the silence to breaking point, taking a sip of water. ‘On Tuesday of next week, you’ll meet a gentleman named Jonathan Samuels at an office in the city. You’ll get a message telling you exactly when and where. Mr Samuels will have some suggestions for you to take back to your colleagues on the planning committee.’
‘What do you want?’
‘That’s Mr Samuels’ business. Miss the meeting and the story goes to the papers that afternoon. Speak to the police or anyone else about this and copies of everything go to your wife.’
Carlton planted his fists on the island. ‘No one would believe this of me. Least of all my wife.’
Stringer put his hands in his pockets, calling time on proceedings. ‘You sure about that?’ He moved closer to Carlton. ‘Absolutely sure?’ He stepped around him and made his way out of the house.
Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); The Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir’. A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books will publish his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters
Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks for the invite onto the #Sister blog tour. I hadn’t read the other books in this series, so was excited to find out all about the Oslo Detectives in this Nordic Noir thriller.
Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide… Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death. Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run… A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.
I really enjoyed this Nordic Noir, what begins as a seemingly straightforward investigation becomes increasingly more complex. A topical issue of asylum seekers and deportation introduces themes of abuse, the immigration system, twisted truths, and murder. I loved the plotting and the drip feeding of clues as our investigator, and suspended detective, Frolich pieces the clues together in missing persons case that develops into murder and heart-break.
I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but it didn’t matter at all and ‘Sister’ works perfectly as a standalone. It’s an atmospheric novel, that is grounded in realism; the contours of the novel are meticulous and authentic. The social aspect is the standout message, rather than the crime aspect, and through the asylum story-line the reader is immersed into harrowing corruption and cover-ups. The core of this novel is dark and it forces you to open your eyes to the world that is often hidden.
Addictive, dark and complex.
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.
Blog Tour Dates
With thanks to Orenda Books for the gifted book and Blog Tour invite!
I’m super pleased to be on the blog tour for Louise Beech’s ‘I Am Dust’ – with thanks to Karen Sullivan/Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the lovely invite.
When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast… The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer… Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room? Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games? Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything. And Chloe has been watching…
Immediately I regretted reading this book late at night: a creepy rhyme; the haunted theatre setting; the cursed Scottish play ‘Macbeth’ mentioned in the opening paragraph, and I was straight away seeing shadows in the corner of my room! I trained in a Repertory Theatre when I first started my theatre career, and this book took me back into the past. Backstage, props, the wings, the fly floor, actor companies, dressing rooms, corridors, front-of-house and superstitions. We had a resident ghost called the Grey Lady, and pretty much everyone working at the theatre had a creepy story to tell. I remember working backstage during the ‘Woman in Black’, I had to cover stage-right (essentially, a tiny dark corridor, with access to the even creepier sub-stage) by myself; there were many times I saw shadows ‘move’ and often felt watched. This is probably as the show was incredibly creepy to work on, where I had to create the Woman in Black’s ghostly effects… I’ve goose bumps writing this! Great memories…anyway, I’m digressing, back to what’s important, and that’s Louise Beech’s novel ‘I am Dust’.
I genuinely had a great time reading this, and if I hadn’t had to wait until the light of day to keep reading, it would have been a one sitting read. Without repeating the ‘blurb’ above this is essentially a murder mystery ghost story with depth. It’s intense, suspenseful and has a strong ‘I see dead people vibe’ from the cinematic world of ‘The Sixth Sense’. Beech provides a haunting narrative for the reader that wraps you up in the central protagonist’s story. Chloe Dee is our narrator, the theatre usher and, like many, dreams of being on the stage, but is fighting the confidence to push herself. We do connect with her fragility, and the damage she inflicts upon herself pulls in our concern. There’s certainly heartbreak in this story, and I really appreciated the emotional depth Beech provides.
With themes of obsession, desire, greed, shallowness and unrequited love this book is packed full of energy via its thoroughly entertaining storytelling – that’s what all good books should be: passionate storytelling! Louise Beech certainly can tell a great story. Fun, creepy, suspenseful escapism with heart – just what’s needed right now.
Many thanks to both the author and publisher for ‘I Am Dust’. From your reader! 🙂
Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.
Check out the amazing bloggers on this tour below for more book chat:
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…
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!
Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively.
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.
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.