Snowblind cover image

Snowblind cover image

I’ve been raving about this book for a while now and so I’m really thrilled to be a part of the Snowblind blog tour. Written by Ragnar Jónasson, Snowblind is published by fabulous new publisher Orenda Books and translated from Icelandic by crime writer Quentin Bates.

What the blurb says: “Siglufjörđur: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thór Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by the snow, and with a killer on the loose.”

Ari Thór Arason relocates to the remote costal village of Siglufjörđur to take up his first job in the police. He’s thorough and tenacious, keen to learn and enthusiastic to do a good job in a community where no one locks their doors and the crime rate is virtually zero – until now. When the seemingly accidental death of an elderly writer is followed by what seems to be a vicious attack on a young woman the community is thrown into chaos – is a killer among them? And how, in a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, can there be no witnesses?

Distanced from his girlfriend, Kristín, both by the geography and the unspoken upset each feels with the other from their reaction to Ari’s job move, Ari feels increasingly alone. Tómas, his boss, is one person who helps him feel more part of the community, but it is Ugla – living now in Siglufjörđur as a self imposed exile for a tragedy in her past – who he connects with most. Before long it’s a relationship that starts to create complications of its own.

Determined to get to the truth, Ari presses for answers, and as he does Siglufjörđur is covered in ever deepening snow – becoming cut off from the rest of the country and trapping the inhabitants together. As darkness descends, and Ari takes increasing risks to lure out the killer, the claustrophobic suspense ramps up to the max.

Snowblind uses its stunningly beautiful yet brutally remote setting to create a chilling, atmospheric locked room mystery. It’s a fantastic read with great writing, engaging characters and an expertly crafted plot filled with twists, turns and slight of hand.

Ragnar Jónasson is an outstanding new voice in Nordic Noir, and I’m really looking forward to the next in the series – Nightblind – that’s out next year.

Highly recommended.

 

To find out more about Ragnar Jónasson visit www.orendabooks.co.uk/book/snow-blind

You can follow him on Twitter @ragnarjo and his publisher @OrendaBooks and translator Quentin Bates @graskeggur

Find out about Quentin Bates’ experiences of translating Snowblind from Icelandic in his guest post here

And get a glimpse at the Snowblind book launch here

Also, be sure to check out all the great tour stops on the Snowblind Blog Tour …

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The Other Half album cover

The Other Half album cover

Today is the release day of something rather wonderful. Best selling crime writer Mark Billingham and award-winning country duo My Darling Clementine have come together to collaborate on a fabulous album – The Other Half.

Here’s what the blurb says: “With her best years seemingly behind her, a former Las Vegas showgirl works double shifts in a rundown Memphis bar. Alone and estranged from her daughter, Marcia lives life vicariously through her customers and the everyday tragedies of people falling in and out of love. These are moving tales of grief and heartbreak, lust, murder and domestic horror. Serving beer and burgers as these very different stories unfold, Marcia reflects on her single doomed shot at happiness. Then one day, she receives a phone call that changes everything …”

I was super lucky earlier this week to go to the launch event for the album and got to hear some of the story performed live. It’s breathtakingly good – great story, fascinating characters, amazing music and vocals – and transports you right there to the bar in downtown Memphis where Marcia works.

It’s a perfect pairing of spoken word and songs woven together to tell a hauntingly compelling story of heartbreak, horror and hope.

Simply wonderful – a real must-listen.

Mark Billingham & My Darling Clementine on stage

Mark Billingham & My Darling Clementine on stage

The album is available on CD, Audiobook and limited edition vinyl. On it Mark Billingham and My Darling Clementine are joined by special guest performances by brilliant actor David Morrissey, singer-songwriter legend Graham Parker, and the Brodsky Quartet.

To listen for yourself, hop on over to The Other Half website to hear a clip http://www.theotherhalfshow.com/content/the-album

And, you can watch them perform The Other Half live on their UK tour (I’ve already booked my ticket!) – for dates and venues head over to http://www.theotherhalfshow.com

To find out more about Mark Billingham hop over to http://www.markbillingham.com and follow him on Twitter @MarkBillingham

To find out more about My Darling Clementine pop over to http://www.mydarlingclementinemusic.co.uk and follow them on Twitter @My_Darling_Clem

 

[I bought my own copy of The Other Half]

 

 

Killer Women logo

Killer Women logo

Last night I was thrilled to attend the launch event for the fabulous new Killer Women group. Held at the lovely Collyer Bristow Gallery, with a plentiful supply of gorgeously yummy wine from Naked Wines, it was a brilliant evening.

Set up by Melanie McGrath and Louise Millar, Killer Women is a group of fifteen established female crime writers: Jane Casey, Tammy Cohen, Helen Giltrow, Paula Hawkins, Alison Joseph, Erin Kelly, Anya Lipska, Colette McBeth, Melanie McGrath, Kate Medina, Louise Millar, Kate Rhodes, Helen Smith, Louise Voss, and Laura Wilson.

Between them they write in many sub-genres of crime writing from psychological thrillers to procedurals, to political thrillers and more – just look at the fantastic range of books on display last night (pictured). And as a group they’re looking to connect with readers through a range of fabulous sounding activities from talks at festivals to events at libraries and bookshops, to debates around women and violence, interviews with crime writers and criminal justice experts, and much more.

books by the Killer Women

books by the Killer Women

It sounds like a great idea to me, and I can’t wait to see the Killer Women in action at their next event.

To find out more about Killer Women and their upcoming events, talks, debates, workshops and giveaways hop on over to their website at www.killerwomen.org and follow them on Twitter @killerwomenorg

 

 

Summerchill cover image

Summerchill cover image

What the blurb says: It’s the tail end of a hot summer when half of Reykjavík is on holiday and the other half wishes it was. Things are quiet when a man is reported missing from his home in the suburbs. As Gunna and Helgi investigate, it becomes clear that the missing man had secrets of his own that lead to a sinister set of friends, and to someone with little to lose who is a fugitive from both justice and the underworld. It becomes a challenge for Gunna to tail both the victim and his would-be executioner, racing to catch up with at least one of them before they finally meet.”

This pacey novella is a perfect weekend read. Published this month, it continues Quentin Bates’ popular Icelandic detective series and, at 142 pages, is a perfect stop-gap to tide you over until his next novel comes out.

The story focuses on Logi, a carpenter (amongst other things!) who finds himself doing a job for some people who turn out to be rather dodgy. As one incident leads to another Logi finds himself getting deeper into trouble and is soon forced to take some dramatic actions of his own.

As their investigation for the missing man encounters dead ends and non co-operative witnesses Gunna and Helgi have to draw on all of their resources to piece together what has happened. The story thunders along as both criminals and police race to locate their target before its too late.

Although the story follows Gunna and Helgi’s investigation, it’s more about the criminal underworld lurking beneath the surface of Reykjavík. It immerses the reader into the world Logi becomes drawn into, highlighting some of the illegal practices and the ways in which criminal gangs extort money from the vulnerable and unsuspecting.

Recommended for fans of Icelandic noir and police procedurals.

You can find out more about Quentin Bates by hoping over to his website at www.graskeggur.com and follow him on Twitter @graskeggur

You can also read a guest post by Quentin Bates on his experiences in translating Icelandic Crime fiction here

 

 

 

 

The Lie cover image

The Lie cover image

I’m delighted to be part of the #TheLie Blog Tour, and for the tour stop today I’m posting my review of this fabulous psychological thriller …

What the blurb says: “Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .”

How well do we really know our friends, and how strong are those bonds when they’re tested to the limit? These are two of the questions C.L. Taylor’s latest psychological thriller prompts the reader to think about as they follow the dual storyline narratives of The Lie to their explosive conclusion.

The story pulls you in straight away, and the flowing narrative holds you captive until the final page has been turned. It’s a story packed with tension, twists and turns, immersing you into Jane’s world and feeling the fear inside her building as she’s contacted by someone who can’t possibly be alive. Or can they?

Deeply unsettled, Jane relives the horror of the past through a series of flashback chapters which transport her (and the reader) back in time to the ‘trip of a lifetime’ she took with her then best friends – Daisy, Leanne and Al – to Nepal. As they travel from their hotel to a remote retreat in the mountains it soon becomes clear that the ripples of tension and jealousy within the group are rising, and it’s not long before the friendships start to unravel with devastating consequences. As the creepy, shocking truth (and serious danger they’re in) becomes more apparent in the Nepal timeline, the threat level in the present escalates to a critical level.

I can’t really say much more about the story without giving away some of the excellent twists, but what I will say is that C.L. Taylor has brilliantly captured the complex and changing dynamics between the four young women on their adventure turned nightmare, bringing them to life in a wholly believable (and therefore very scary!) way. Jane is a wonderfully complicated character – she’s passionate about her job at the animal sanctuary and determined and bold in dealing with the difficult characters she encounters, yet claustrophobic and terrified into panic when a trigger to a memory from the past is pressed. She’s a character that I found myself really caring about and rooting for.

High drama and high stakes, this is a real pulse-pounder of a psychological thriller and a must-read for 2015.

Highly recommended.

 

You can find out more about C.L. Taylor and her books at www.cltaylorauthor.com and follow her on Twitter @callytaylor

And be sure to check out all the other #TheLie blog tour stops …

BlogTour

 

I Let You Go cover image

I Let You Go cover image

What the blurb says: “In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating …”

Opening with a hit-and-run incident which leaves a five-year-old boy dead, this hard-hitting psychological thriller grabs you by the throat and keeps you pinned until the very last page.

Jenna has left everything behind to make a new life for herself in Wales. At first she stays inside the remote cottage she’s rented, not engaging with the community, and reliving the horror she’s been through, unable to see a way through her grief. But as the months pass, she gradually begins to forge tentative relationships and starts to believe that perhaps it is possible to continue living. That’s the moment the past catches up with her with terrifying consequences.

Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Ray Stevens hasn’t given up on getting justice for the little boy killed in the hit-and-run. Although his superior officers have told him to move onto other cases, and his wife is getting increasingly irritated by his lack of support in helping resolve the problems their son is having at school, he continues to work the case supported by Kate, the newest Detective Constable in his team. As his home life becomes tenser, and the case remains a mystery, Ray and Kate get increasingly closer as they spend more and more time investigating the details in secret.

With brilliantly drawn characters, and a hard-hitting emotional core to the story, this is a truly gripping novel. From the hauntingly atmospheric winter at a Welsh seaside town, to the claustrophobic terror of Jenna’s inner demons, and the tenacious determination of Ray and Kate to bring justice to a case no matter how long it might take, this is a thought-provoking book.

Beautifully written, and with a twist that will have you gasping out loud (it did me!) I Let You Go is an utterly compulsive read, and one that will stay with you long after you’ve read the final page.

Undoubtedly one of my top reads of 2015.

Highly recommended.

 

You can find out more about Clare Mackintosh by hopping over to her website at http://claremackintosh.com/, looking her up on Facebook at ClareMackWrites and following her on Twitter @claremackint0sh

She also did a brilliant guest post for the CTG blog yesterday on TWISTS – you can read it here

And be sure to check out all the fabulous stops on her blog tour …

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I Let You Go cover image

I Let You Go cover image

Today on the CTG blog I’m delighted to be joined by Clare Mackintosh author of I Let You Go – a phenomenal psychological thriller that’s out now. I Let You Go has a superb ‘gasp out loud’ twist and I’m thrilled that Clare is talking about twists here today.

So over to Clare …

They say writers should write the book they would like to read, rather than trying to meet any perceived trend or gap in the market. A life-long lover of crime (of the fictional kind) I have always read widely within the genre, but I began to seek out a particular element: twists.

Twists can be hard to define, but to my mind they are sections of a novel where the story takes a completely unexpected turn, turning upside down what the reader had previously believed. A good twist novel lures you in, making you believe one state of affairs, then slams you against the wall with the truth. Sometimes there can be more than one of these ‘gasp moments’, leaving you lurching from side to side like an out of control train.

It could be said that all crime books have twists in them, but when the story contains a cast of suspects, the reveal of an offender isn’t necessarily a ‘twist’. The big ‘reveal’ could certainly be surprising, even shocking, but in order to be a twist it should shake up a significant proportion of what you have read up to that point.

When I had the idea for I Let You Go, it was the twist that came first. I hugged it to myself for ages, not knowing exactly what would lead up to that point, or what would happen afterwards, but knowing it was the sort of twist that I loved to read. The story developed, changing significantly over the course of the next two years, but the twist remained the same, flanked by other, smaller twists. It was technically difficult to pull off: how could I ensure the twist was truly shocking, yet at the same time plant enough ‘clues’ that when the reader looked back they could see them?

I am lucky to have a fantastic editor, who helped me tighten the screws on the twist until it was as watertight as possible. By that point we had both read the manuscript so many times it was hard to know how the twist would work for a new reader. I became convinced my ‘oh so clever’ twist was utterly obvious. It was time to find out, so my editor passed the manuscript to a few trusted members of her team, and we held our breath…

When the first reaction came in I breathed a sigh of relief. The twist worked! It has been fantastic to see the tweets, emails and reviews from readers taken by surprise by the turns in the book, and I never tire of hearing about their ‘gasp’ moments. If you read I Let You Go do let me know what you think of the twist: maybe you’ll be the first one to guess it…

Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh

A big thank you to Clare for making the CTG blog one of the stops on her tour.

You can find out more about Clare by hopping over to her website at http://claremackintosh.com/, looking her up on Facebook at ClareMackWrites and following her on Twitter @claremackint0sh

I Let You Go is out today. Here’s what the blurb says: “In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever. Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating …”

And here’s a sneaky peep at an extract from the story …

“When I wake, for a second I’m not sure what this feeling is. Everything is the same, and yet everything has changed. Then, before I have even opened my eyes, there is a rush of noise in my head, like an underground train. And there it is: playing out in Technicolor scenes I can’t pause or mute. I press the heels of my palms into my temples as though I can make the images subside through brute force alone, but still they come, thick and fast, as if without them I might forget. On my bedside cabinet is the brass alarm clock Eve gave me when I went to university – ‘Because you’ll never get to lectures, otherwise’ – and I’m shocked to see it’s ten-thirty already. The pain in my hand has been overshadowed by a headache that blinds me if I move my head too fast, and as I peel myself from the bed every muscle aches. I pull on yesterday’s clothes and go into the garden without stopping to make a coffee, even though my mouth is so dry it’s an effort to swallow. I can’t find my shoes, and the frost stings my feet as I make my way across the grass. The garden isn’t large, but winter is on its way, and by the time I reach the other side I can’t feel my toes. The garden studio has been my sanctuary for the last five years. Little more than a shed to the casual observer, it is where I come to think, to work, and to escape. The wooden floor is stained from the lumps of clay that drop from my wheel, firmly placed in the centre of the room, where I can move around it and stand back to view my work with a critical eye. Three sides of the shed are lined with shelves on which I place my sculptures, in an ordered chaos only I could understand. Works in progress, here; fired but not painted, here; waiting to go to customers, here. Hundreds of separate pieces, yet if I shut my eyes, I can still feel the shape of each one beneath my fingers, the wetness of the clay on my palms. I take the key from its hiding place under the window ledge and open the door. It’s worse than I thought. The floor lies unseen beneath a carpet of broken clay; rounded halves of pots ending abruptly in angry jagged peaks. The wooden shelves are all empty, my desk swept clear of work, and the tiny figurines on the window ledge are unrecognisable, crushed into shards that glisten in the sunlight. By the door lies a small statuette of a woman. I made her last year, as part of a series of figures I produced for a shop in Clifton. I had wanted to produce something real, something as far from perfection as it was possible to get, and yet for it still to be beautiful. I made ten women, each with their own distinctive curves, their own bumps and scars and imperfections. I based them on my mother; my sister; girls I taught at pottery class; women I saw walking in the park. This one is me. Loosely, and not so anyone would recognise, but nevertheless me. Chest a little too flat; hips a little too narrow; feet a little too big. A tangle of hair twisted into a knot at the base of the neck. I bend down and pick her up. I had thought her intact, but as I touch her the clay moves beneath my hands, and I’m left with two broken pieces. I look at them, then I hurl them with all my strength towards the wall, where they shatter into tiny pieces that shower down on to my desk. I take a deep breath and let it slowly out.”

I Let You Go is one of my top reads of 2015. Be sure to pop back tomorrow to check out my review.

And, don’t forget to check out all the fabulous tour stops on the #ILetYouGo blog tour …

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