Category Archives: Orenda Books

House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

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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!

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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.

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Whiteout by Ragnar Jónasson

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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.

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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.

BOOK GIVEAWAY PRIZE DRAW.

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.

 

How to follow the Whiteout Blog Tour.

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

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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.

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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.

 

How to follow the CWA Anthology of Short Stories – Mystery Tour

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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.

 

How to follow The Man Who Died Official Blog Tour

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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

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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.

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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.

The Other Twin – L V Hay

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The Other Twin – L V Hay

Take a bow Karen Sullivan founder of Orenda Books yet again she has found yet another outstanding writer and one to watch for the future. L V Hay may not be a name you are familiar with but this may be about to change as with her debut psychological thriller The Other Twin was released earlier this month and if you are heading for a Summer holiday then this is one book you may want to seriously consider packing this in your case as one of your holiday reads. It really is a wonderfully layered thriller.

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Where do it start with this review apart from telling the world that they must read The Other Twin? Poppy wakes from a night that she can barely recall and with the hangover to go with it, she finds her mobile and the battery is lifeless finally finding the charger she heads off for a shower to wash away the night before. When she finally gets to access her phone there are many messages from her mother and the tone concerns Poppy. The call she makes gives her some shocking news her sister India is dead! How could this have happened? The two sisters may not have been close in recent years but she is her sister and Poppy finds herself heading on the next train to Brighton to be at the family home. India has taken her own life by jumping from a bridge onto a railway. But still the question will not go away as to what really happened to India to make her take her own life?

 

For Poppy she is not convinced by what she is being told by officialdom and decides to begin her own investigations. There are secrets out there and the more Poppy digs the more she begins to find the tangled web of secrets. Now she must access India’s laptop and she thinks there could be information that could be more than just useful. A name crops up from here and that is Jenny but who is she and what exactly is Jenny hiding? Clearly India was on to her? This is a brilliantly crafted thriller that takes the reader on a journey in and around Brighton and tackles many current themes. The Other Twin is packed with tension with some uneasy moments. A complex and addictive storyline mixed with the fresh writing talent from a new name that I am looking forward to hearing more in the future.

260 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.

The Other Twin by L V Hay is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

How to follow the Blog Tour for The Other Twin by L V Hay

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

Exquisite the debut psychological thriller by Sarah Stovell is not just as the title says but this just exceptional. It is a precise and powerful thriller set among the rolling fells of the Lake District. It is a terrifying novel that is intended to keep you turning the pages long into the night until you get to the end.

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I like nothing better than to curl up with a taught, dark and compelling thriller, and when I first heard of Exquisite and that it was set in the Lake District, I was already hooked, but as soon as I opened the first page I realised this was going to be an extraordinary debut. My goodness it delivers on fronts. It does everything you want a good thriller to give the reader.

I really enjoyed the way that Stovell has created her main characters in this thriller. Bo Luxton a successful author and mother of two children and married to a man some years younger than herself. The family live near the beautiful setting of Grasmere and surrounded by the fells of the Lake District. Then we meet Alice Dark who is desperate to succeed as a writer, she is in her twenties and seems to bounce from one job to another. The two meet at a writing retreat and they seem to hit it off instantly they have after all a love of writing. But this sudden friendship is destined to have dramatic and more frightening consequences as they embark on a relationship.

Both women had very difficult childhoods and may be this is why this was always going to be a fatal attraction. Both are flawed characters living lives that are so different, one very successful and living a life that that many could only dream of. But sometimes all that glitters are not gold. Sometimes the truth is somewhat different. A story of obsession and desire and truth and lies that some people live. This is a fast paced thriller that will have your pulses racing until the very last page. Not one to put down.

The setting is just stunning and the story-line is chilling. Exquisite is a thriller that is unforgettable and I am already looking forward to seeing what Sarah Stovell has in-store for us next. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

250 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.

Exquisite by Karen Sullivan is published by Sarah Stovell and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

Block 46 – Johana Gustawsson

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Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson

A psychological thriller that covers not only the current but also the past and the past being 1944 and Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is at times harrowing and dark and one thriller not for the faint hearted. This is a serial killer novel with more than just a twist. At the end my review you have a chance of winning a copy in a free prize draw.

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The storyline is split between two timelines from 2014 in Sweden the body of a young talented fashion designer is found brutally mutilated, then a young boy is found dead in London and also mutilated. A serial killer is on the loose. It is 1944 and we move back in time to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and these parts of the story are just as harrowing as we see the pure hellish horrors unfolding, here is one man Erich Ebner trying to survive from one day to the next.

How Gustawsson describes the terror that went on in the camp is harrowing and is written with incredible power and honesty that brings home to the reader just how barbaric those that ran the camps. As psychological thrillers go this even beat me as at times I had to stop reading for moments to catch my breath. Block 46 takes many twists and turns as move from the historical to the current as both Emily Roy and Alexis Castells try to understand the parallels between the cases and find the serial killer before it is too late and the killer strikes again. There is a certain evil that pervades this book and it stalks you like the killer itself. You have been warned. Gustawsson’s writing is just chilling and will bring you out in a cold sweat as the story heats up. Just when you think you may have figured out who is behind it the killings then Gustawsson strikes. We flit from Sweden to London then back to the darkest times in our history those of Nazi Germany. This is no easy read it is dark and some of the detail is very descriptive. This is one thriller that will haunt you for some time after you have finished reading. But it is a five star read. The first in a series and if the next instalment is anything like this then prepare yourself. A very talented writer that I think we are going to hear a lot more from.

300 Pages.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy of Block 46.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 Competition:

How do you fancy winning a copy of Block 46 by Johan Gustawsson. This is a free prize draw and the rules are simple. Head over to my Twitter page at @thelastword1962 and then follow and retweet the pinned tweet that carries this review. The draw will be open until 7pm on Wednesday 24th May. Good luck.

 

You can keep up with the Block 46 Blog Tour

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Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

 

 

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Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

(Translated by Don Bartlett)

Kjell Ola Dahl made his literary debut in 1993 and has won a number of prizes and has been shortlisted on two other occasions. He has become known as one of the fathers of Nordic Noir. Yet again Orenda Books has come up with another incredible find.

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This is the latest instalment featuring the Police investigators Frølich and Gunnarstranda The story starts with a stakeout and then subsequent arrest of a young woman but on letting her go after she was charges in possession of cocaine, but later this very same young woman is found dead, dumped in a dumpster. But for the arresting officer Frank Frølich he did not know it at the time but she was the fiancé of one of his best friends. Who killed her and why? Did she know something that the police would be keen to know? So now the two investigating officers set about trying to uncover who she really was. But then Gunnarstranda finds a body during the subsequent investigation. For both police officers time now is of the essence as they believe the killer has struck again.

Although this was a slow-burner of a start and the story moves along at a pace that is not hurried in any way, there was something rather chilling and intense in the drama that began to unfold from page one. This is a clever piece of writing the internationally renowned writer who writes in a very atmospheric style that sets the tone for a Norwegian thriller with some very dark and twisting undercurrents. You feel you are being slowly sucked into the story and before you realise it you have raced through half the book.

Having read many Nordic crime thrillers there is something unique about this that stands out from the rest. It is slower than most but the two main investigators are two that are going to get answers. So is the door ajar for more for these two Oslo detectives. I for one really hope so.

Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.

Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl and published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl Blog Tour Continues

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