Category Archives: Orenda Books

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson


Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

One of last year’s books I really enjoyed was Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson and Johana returns with a gripping and bloody page turner in Keeper (Orenda Books). Sometimes a book will come along and the cover will tell you what to expect and with Johana’s latest it really jumps out at you and so it is that Keeper is just an incredible and compelling. A novel that delves into London’s Whitechapel area of 1888 and Jack the Ripper is terrifying London. Fast forward to 2005 and the Tower Hamlets area of London and a series of murders. It is now 2015 and actress Julianne Bell has been taken. This after a number of murders in London and Sweden that all seem so similar to the murders of 2005. But there is man already charged and jailed for these 2005 murders. So who is now behind these latest copy-cat abductions and murders? Stand by for a thriller that has many twists. Just when you think you have solved the crime, Johana Gustawsson will make you think again.

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With the murders of 2005 in the Tower Hamlets area of London seeming so similar to the horrific murders of Jack the Ripper. Is there now a serial killer on the loose in 2015? Was the man charged and jailed the right man or did he have an accomplice who has now struck? Julianne Bell was just getting into her car and now she has gone missing. In Falkenberg, Sweden a woman’s body is found and the murder is a copy-cat style murder from London in 2005.

Two investigators Alexis Castells who is crime author and Emily Roy working for Scotland Yard are in a race to find the killer before he strikes again. They have to find Julianne Bell before it is too late.

Throughout Keeper there are flashbacks to 1888 and the reign of terror by Jack the Ripper who preyed on women who worked as prostitutes in the poorest areas of the East end of London, and his murders were nothing short of gruesome. I just have to mention how Gustawsson really manages to capture the historical true-life crimes and weaves them into a modern day crime novel, and is more than enough to keep you awake at night as it really did for me. A well thought out and plotted novel that deserves many plaudits and accolades. The characters of Castells and Roy we have met before in Block 46 and make a welcome return here along with some new characters that really add to the thriller. I am not going to give any spoilers as to what happens next in Keeper as this is superb edge of your seat read that deserves to be read. I make no apologies in saying you are going to have to go and buy a copy and see for yourself. There are many twists and turns to keep you guessing.

I am a big fan of Johana Gustawsson’s writing and cannot wait to see what we have coming next. Keeper I am delighted to highly recommend Keeper and this will be right up there come the end of the year in my best of the year books.

300 Pages.

Thank you Karen Sullivan for the review copy of Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson is published by Orenda Books and is published on 28th April 2018 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and your local independent bookshops.


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We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard


We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard

Translated by David Warriner

Congratulations Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books, yet again you keep delivering some of the best books of the year and here with We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard is another example. To start with, the cover is just incredible it is eye catching and also ties in with the storyline. I just love this book. When I head to the sea in the summer this book is coming with me it needs to be read with the smell of the sea and wind in your hair. The writing is just incredible it sails beautifully, as Roxanne Bouchard describes the landscape and the sea. You can almost taste the salty sea air as you read the amazing prose.



More a crime and also a mystery novel that I think makes this book stand out. Set in Canada and in the sleepy fishing village of Gaspé Peninsula. Catherine Day has left her home in Montreal to this fishing village to try and find her mother but a dead woman identified as Marie Garant is pulled from the sea. Now Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales new to the area has to solve the mystery of the death of Marie Garant. A woman who was beautiful yet both liked and also mistrusted by the local fishing community, and a death at sea always shakes the village but the death of Marie Garant has rocked this sleepy fishing village.

For Catherine Day who is seeking to find her mother, she soon realises that all is not well as the locals seem to have taken a dislike to her mother. But Catherine is looking for something more than just her mother, she is looking to find something else answers deep within herself she seems a soul lost. There was something about Catherine that I really liked and just the way that Roxanne Bouchard creates characters and brings then alive, to me really makes this a stand out novel. Character creation in any novel is really important and Roxanne seems to have found a way of weaving a story of the sea and clever interplay between them.

This may be a crime and a mystery novel but here is a book that actually really got to me, at times I was so consumed by the writing and also the story really touched me. The story flows like a calm sea and the translation by David Warriner is just outstanding. We Were the Salt of the Sea is another Orenda Books success story. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

300 Pages.

Thank you Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of We Were the Salt of the Sea.

We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard is published by Orenda Books and is published on 30th March and will be available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


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Killed by Thomas Enger


Killed by Thomas Enger

They say all good things have to come to an end at some point but this is one end I never wanted to come. So it is that we have reached the finale of one of the great crime series. The last in the Henning Juul series. But what a finale. Superbly crafted and delivered. Killed by Thomas Enger delivers a final punch that is a must read for all lovers of Nordic crime noir.


I did say this was a book worthy of reading. Be prepared as your senses and your emotions will be tried and tested. For Henning Juul life was over after his son was killed. Opening with a step back to thirteen years previous. Our crime investigative journalist Juul is on the trail of his son’s killer. Juul is scarred deeply and life seems to offer nothing more for him except to find whoever murdered his son and he will do whatever he needs to make that happen. But who can he trust now?

He knows that there are dark forces at large out there and that not only his life but the lives of those he loves will be at great danger the closer he gets to the truth. And the truth is out there. All I will say at this point is that some people are going to die in the process of seeking the truth. This is one of the most explosive and emotional rollercoasters I have been on when it comes to reading and reviewing crime novel. It is impossible to review too much without giving a lot away. This final book in the series just explodes in your hands. The pace leaves you breathless. Then the ending will have you reeling and numb.

Just imagine you are Henning Juul and you want answers regardless of the consequences. Your life is over so you have not a lot to live for. Find the truth even if it means dying in the process of seeking answers and finding those who killed your son.

Thomas Enger has delivered a finale that will make you feel you have been hit by an express train. Killed is not just brilliant it is totally outstanding and worthy of hitting our small screens. My advice is simple. Cancel all your plans with this book and ignore the phone and lock yourself away as you will not put this book down. Killed is breath-taking. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 276 Pages

My thanks to Karen Sullivan and also Anne Cater for the review copy of Killed by Thomas Enger.

Killed by Thomas Enger is published by Orenda Books and was published on 15th February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops


For one lucky reader I have a copy of Killed by Thomas Enger to giveaway. Head over to my Twitter page @thelastword1962 and Follow and Retweet the prize draw Tweet to enter.

This is UK only prize draw and the entries will close at 6am Monday 26th February 2018. Good luck.

How to follow the #Killed by Thomas Enger Blog Tour

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Hydra by Matt Wesolowski


Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski’s debut novel Six Stories was just incredible a real thrilling crime novel based around six podcast interviews. It was in the end in my selection of one of my best books of 2017. Matt Wesolowski returns with his follow up crime novel Hydra.


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One very cold night in November 2014, 21-year-old Arla Macleod murdered her mother, younger sister and also her stepfather. All bludgeoned to death. The question is why, what provoked Arla to murder her own family?

What follows is nothing short of extraordinary piece of writing, as Arla now incarcerated in an institution. She now is shut up and drugged up. But she will not speak to anyone about what happened that night. That is with the exception on one person and that is Scott King. Readers of Six Stories will instantly know who Scott King is. King runs a series of Six Podcasts and interviews six people closely connected to the crime.

Here in Hydra Scott King follows creates the next set of six podcasts around interviews as he delves deep into the case. What was the motive for the crime? Through the six podcasts Scot tries to get under the skin of the complex and chilling case and find out what the motive for the horrific crime. Now as we move from one story to another as he interview witnesses something begins to emerge and a story starts to takes shape. Arla never disputes the murders, but what drove her to wipe out her family that cold November night?

Scott manages to interview Arla herself, each podcast was like listening to a thriller in itself I was totally gripped with suspense and wondering what each of the guests. We knew the murderer that was never in question but the five other guests held me in complete suspense.

The real beauty of Hydra is the way that Matt Wesolowski has created his own unique genre around crime solving that involves using podcasts. Scott King is an intriguing chap. Not much is known about him and this just adds to the mystery of these stories. One aspect of Hydra I will not get out of my mind is that of the “black eyed kids” this was straight out of a black and white horror film. It was beyond creepy. I went cold when they were first mentioned. I am a massive fan of Matt Wesolowski and his incredible writing skill that has you on the edge of your seat. It is just innovative and new. If you read Six Stories, then Hydra should be on your to be read pile. A real contender for one of the books for 2018. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

320 Pages

My thanks to Karen Sullivan for the review copy of Hydra by Matt Wesolowski.

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski is published by and is published on 15th January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops


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House of Spines by Michael J. Malone


House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

I raved about A Suitable Lie when it was released in September 2016 now Michael J. Malone returns with a terrific psychological thriller House of Spines. It is compelling and at the same time visceral. If you enjoy a thriller with a touch of the ghost story, then read on!


There have been many books through the course of this year that have kept me up into the small hours as I have been unable to put the book down. There is much to admire about how Malone goes about creating his storyline and the characters. With House of Spines you cannot pin down to any specific genre it crosses so many.

Hidden within this gripping storyline are a leading character who you could say is complex to say the least. There are deep hidden secrets from the past and there is something of a Gothic ghost story, so the reader has many elements in this book to keep them awake long into the night.

Our leading character Ranald is a writer that has fallen on hard times and yet Ranald has inherited a house from his great uncle, but Ranald never even knew him. Ranald is a damaged character and I warmed to him despite everything that he was going through and with worse to come you just wanted him to come through in the end. There is some about the property that has the name of Newton Hall, something about this place both intrigued me and yet at the same time worried me. Every room would be filled with books. A writers dream you could say. Yet Newton Hall would have a deep impact on Ranald as there are dark and worrying secrets from the past lurking in the shadows and as Ranald is a fragile character I was becoming really worried for him. Old homes always contain the history of those that lived within, and for generations Newton Hall has been gathering the everything that was wrong for generations lies, secrets and hidden truths. Now for its new owner those secrets are going to pour out of the walls and how would Ranald cope with this. He is becoming more and more isolated and given his history of Mental Health issues Ranald become detached from the outside world and more locked into Newton Hall as he explores the many rooms in the mansion. You have this sense that something is always lurking just below the surface in this story just waiting to show itself. The question you are asking is how does it end for Ranald and his new house? Well that is something you will have to discover for yourselves. I am just going to leave it here.

Credit to Michael J. Malone for handling with such sensitivity the issues of Mental Health that are written into the storyline of the leading character in House of Spines and yet at the same time writing an incredible story that is just fantastic and gripping. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the review copy of House of Spines by Michael J. Malone.

House of Spines by Michael J. Malone is published by Orenda Books and was published on 15th September 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson


Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson


The Dark Iceland Series of crime novels is one of the best series I have enjoyed. Now the master of Icelandic Crime Noir returns for the fifth instalment with Whiteout. I have praised the writing of Ragnar Jónasson in my previous reviews and now I am just word blind except to say if you have not yet read any of the series then you must have been locked in a freezer because Whiteout is just chilling to the bone. This is pure classic crime fiction.


Do not worry if you have not read any of the previous four in the series as they can be read as standalone books. But if you want to binge read over the festive period then I cannot recommend highly enough the writing of Jónasson, he manages to reach out to the reader in a way that I have not discovered in any other series of books.

Ari Thór is looking forward to spending Christmas with his pregnant girlfriend Kristin, but then the body of a young woman has been found at the foot of cliffs near a desolate village. Ari has been called in to assist with the case. Was this a case of suicide or something more sinister.

This is winter on Iceland so it bleak and the conditions are harsh and unforgiving. But This is an unexplained death and it needs to be investigated. Do not expect a thunderous pace to Whiteout as Jónasson has crafted this to be an old school detective novel and there is real pleasure to be had in reading, prepare for a few false leads along the way. Then it becomes apparent that this woman died in exactly the same place as her mother and sister. What made these three women from the same family take their own lives here. Or did they.

The desolation and isolation of this part of Iceland become apparent and add to this just who does Ari Thór trust in this case? So what are the characters involved hiding. You just know there are secrets being hidden away. Christmas is fast approaching and this a sad case and they want answers quickly and a resolution to the case. There is something about the village and its inhabitants, creepy and odd spring to mind yet they intrigued me. This is a book that will bring the reader in and hold them until you have reached the very final sentence. This is what makes this such a great read. Delivers on every level.

This is a crime novel par excellence it needs to be savoured like fine wine such is the brilliant writing of Ragnar Jónasson. This is a book that heralds winter reading a real fireside treat. Get comfortable with your favourite drink and prepare for a classic. Yes, I am an unashamed fan of Ragnar Jónasson’s writing and already looking forward to seeing what comes next. Whiteout is one of the best crime books of 2017. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy of Whiteout and to Anne Cater for arranging the blog tour.

Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson is published by and was published on 3rd August 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


Today I am offering one lucky reader the chance to win a copy of Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson. Just head over to my Twitter page @thelastword1962 and follow and Retweet the pinned tweet that has my review of Whiteout. The draw will close at 7pm 1st December. Normal T&Cs apply.


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CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour – Edited by Martin Edwards


CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour – Edited by Martin Edwards

Firstly, an apology from me. I am a little late with this review purely down to pressure of work commitments.

Many will know of my love of short stories so I was delighted when a copy of CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour landed on my doormat from Orenda Books. The Crime Writer’s Association has brought together some of the very best crime writers for a world tour – of crime writing. Now this is my kind of world tour.


From the UK to France, the Ukraine, South Africa and India along with many more on a murderous crime spree of twenty-eight short stories. This is just the most incredible collection of stories by some of the very best in crime writing.

With contributions from: Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick.

I do though say that this is the first of the Crime Writer’s Anthologies I have read. How I have managed to avoid not reading any of the prior volumes is beyond me as they are just so good. The names just like a roll call of great crime writers. Ann Cleeves, Anna Mazzola and Ragnar Jónasson just three of the writers I was looking forward to reading as I am a bit of a fan of their writing.

One of the great aspects of a collection of short stories is how different they can be but when you bring together so many different writers the stories just take on a completely new dimension and also the varied writing styles of each of the writers. Diverse and gripping is how I would describe each one in turn. The real beauty of this anthology is that each of the stories is about ten pages in length. Which if you are travelling to and from work is just perfect. I read this book inside two days. But just imagine for a moment how difficult it is in writing a crime story in ten pages. I could not leave this book alone it is that good. One of the stories by Christine Poulsen is called Accounting for Murder and is a crime story based purely on receipts there are no words written it is just receipts.  Think about that one. It is actually rather clever and it worked.

As for the story by Ragnar Jónasson called A Postcard from Iceland yes I loved it. It is two pages and a postcard from someone to their mother. It is just the ending. I will say no more.

To say this is a fabulous collection is an understatement. It is simply brilliant. I am going to dip in and out of some of the stories again and again through the long chilly winters nights. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the review copy of CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour.

CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour is published by Orenda Books and was published on 15th November 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


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The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

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The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

Being a big lover of Scandi Noir novels and having read Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine earlier last year I always knew I was going to love The Man Who Died which is I have to say a thrilling read from beginning to end and a hero that you will cheer on all the way with plenty of twists in the storyline that will have you glued to every page.

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One of the great aspects of The Man Who Died is that we get to see the black humour that lies within Tuomainen the writer. And this book had me smiling all the way through. Antti Tuomainen is a real class act when it comes to writing Scandi Noir novels and add in life and death with so much black humour that makes this book even so much incredible. Inventive and very readable with great characters.

Jaakko Kaunismaa is a successful businessman he is at the prime of his life at just 37 years of age. But something is not right and now his doctor has just given him the news that is dying. Actually to be more precise he is being slowly murdered someone wants him dead and he is being slowly poisoned by, the cause is by prolonged exposure to toxins. His condition is in an advanced state with every organ now affected.

Jaakko decides that he must find out who is slowly killing him before it is too late add to this his business is being threatened by a rival business. What follows is a rollercoaster of a read with some bizarre twists and turns for good measure. Time is not exactly on Jaakko’s side as he goes about finding his killer. Despite his imminent demise his humour is just what makes this book even more incredible.

The emotions that our hero goes through from one moment to the next are all exposed to the reader. Despite the thriller aspect of The Man Who Died, this is a novel about life and living for every moment and also love. Jaakko is a wonderful character and one I just loved from page one. It is hard not to like him. You are cheering him on through every page.

With Antti Tuomainen giving the reader to false moments along the way he really is such a great writer, he gives the reader so much. This may be a little different from some of the other Scandi Noir out there but Tuomainen has delivered a real masterpiece of writing. Not a book to let pass you by. I must congratulate David Hackston for his excellent work in translating The Man Who Died. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

300 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of The Man Who Died and also to Anne Cater for kindly arranging the Blog Tour.

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen is published by Orenda Books and was published on 10th October 2017 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


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Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir

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Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir

How much do I really enjoy a really good Icelandic crime novel and here is one that I read in one sitting during one sleepless night and loved it. Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir is the first in a series of Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. This is an exciting new name in crime writing and one I believe we will be hearing a lot more from.

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Sleepy Iceland you say? Well I don’t think so. After reading a number of crime novels set on Iceland this really is becoming a hotbed for major crime writing at its very best and in Snare this novel deals with drugs and drug smuggling. There is a lot of tension in this fast moving novel that erupts like an Icelandic Volcano.

We find Sonia who is a single mum and has just gone through a turbulent divorce and all the financial costs that go with it. At the heart of this story is that Sonia is devoted to her son yet is struggling so she resorts to the criminal world of smuggling drugs in and out of Iceland. While at the other end of the spectrum is Bragi who works in Customs based at the airport and is determined to stop the drug smuggling that he knows is going on. This is a novel that has everything you would want from a thriller. When you add into the plot the financial crime and the violence that comes with the drug smuggling trade then you know what is coming.

Buried within the storyline is a story of a single mum who is desperate to bring up her son at the same time Sonia embarks on a relationship with another woman so add relationships in this and it becomes quite a potent story being told here and one that explodes. I warn you now. This is one book you will not put down. Just you try!

This is a dangerous game being played out by the lead characters and when you start to deceive and start playing dirty then. Sonia is one hell of a character that has been created by Sigurdardottir one very determined woman who is trying never to be caught. Reading Snare is like watching a great film unfold in your mind, so brilliantly thought out and planned. There is risk on every page and DANGER lurks around every corner and screamed out at me. The writing is just superb and great credit again must go to Quentin Bates for the translation.

If you are looking for a stunning crime novel that delivers on many levels, then Snare is a five star read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of Snare.

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir is published by Orenda Books and was published on 1st October 2017 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

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Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech


Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

Maria in the Moon is the third novel from Louise Beech and by far the best yet. A novel that will test your senses through to the very last page. A dark psychological thriller with complex and damaged characters. So beautifully written, this is a novel that will linger long after you have finished reading.


Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope lost her home in the terrible floods in Hull in 2007, like many she lost everything. People felt loss so a Flood Crisis helpline was set up. But for Catherine there is much more that she has lost. Memory and sleep. Insomnia is just dreadful. Trust me on that one. Now Catherine has volunteered on the helpline and for Catherine she is learns to listen to people who are just in need of help and support through a difficult time even to the point of taking their own lives. But away from the call centre there is another side to Catherine. Memories of a painful breakup of her relationship. Catherine is vulnerable, and lonely. But there is something lurking in the background that is disturbing and she can only deal with this by being brutal and hostile to others. The dark humour she uses is only to cover up the painful memories that are slowly coming back from the past.

Like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces missing for so long suddenly now falling into place her memory now is releasing parts of those missing pieces. The road to recovery is a long road for Catherine and a painful one. Life can be cruel and for Catherine life has been more than just difficult even when it comes to her relationship with her closest family. How I hoped for better times for Catherine through this incredible and beautifully written novel. I have been fortunate to have read all of Louise Beech’s novels and how she writes. She manages to capture the reader and here in Maria in the Moon Louise has managed if that is possible to go further and your feelings will be tested in every sense. It is dark and also a deeply moving story that will stay long after you have finished reading.

I have high hopes that Maria in the Moon will be the breakthrough novel that gets Louise Beech the recognition she so deserves. Sometimes her novels can deal with difficult subjects but how she brings the stories alive with every character in each of her novels. Maria in the Moon is released at the end of September and is one of my books for the autumn. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

276 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy of Maria in the Moon.

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech is published on 30th September by Orenda Books and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

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