Category Archives: Orenda Books
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski
The idea of setting a thriller around a series of six podcasts is a unique one and in the debut novel Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski I was not sure at first how this was going work, but have no fear I devoured this gripping psychological thriller on my journey to London for the recent book fair were I was going to meet the publisher of this gripping psychological thriller Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books. And it really is a book I recommend.
Podcasts have really taken off over recent years, there are podcasts that cover all manner of things, just search the internet and it is all there. I am a fan of listening to podcasts on my journeys. But here in Six Stories is a series of six podcasts based around a murder mystery. The host of the Podcast series Scott King is an ex journalist and through his chosen medium he sets out to investigate mysteries that have not been solved. It is a clever way of getting an audience and then the listeners could end up being the judge and the jury in some cases. Through his podcasts Scott King interviews key people involved with the mysteries thereby breathing new life into a case that may have been long since closed or forgotten about. Now he has turned his attention to attention to the death of the teenager Tom Jefferies who died on Scarclaw Fell in 1997. Now twenty years on King is attempting to uncover just how Tom Jefferies died and just what why was he on Scarclaw Fell when he met his death.
Through his six interviews Scott King will talk to those with close links to the teenager and each of them has a story to tell of that time and of the group of teenagers that Jefferies was involved with. Each character has a story and you the reader are listening to the podcast through the pages of this dark twisting story and through the podcasts more and more details become available to the reader/listener. Scarclaw Fell is depicted as a dark and desolate place and just how Matt Wesolowski through his words describe this place and foreboding, just why would Tom Jefferies would want to be there is part of the story.
By talking with those linked to Jefferies Scott King slowly uncovers just what was going on and as the plot deepens and thickens you become deeply involved. This is a clever trick by the author as he wants you to come to your own conclusion as if you are listening to the very podcasts themselves. It really works, I found this very addictive. Slowly the jigsaw of this case is put together through the interviews and more of the mystery is uncovered. This is a classic murder mystery and reads like one.
The one great aspect of this is that it in my view was completely unpredictable and I was never sure what was coming in the next podcast. I will not give any clues here as to how this ends but I found this to be a dark and at times very unsettling and sinister for different reasons but one thriller I am so glad I have read and Matt Wesolowski is a writer I am looking forward to hearing more of. Yet again Orenda Book has pulled off another great scoop of a novel and one that you need to read and be warned. Once started you will not put this book down. It is impossible.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Cursed by Thomas Enger
Translated by Kari Dickson
Hands up if you are like me a fanatic reader of crime Nordic Noir? I thought there would be many. But how many have come across the name of Thomas Enger? Ok I will admit I had not up to this point, but thanks to the amazing Karen Sullivan the owner Orenda Books we can now add a new name to the long list. Thomas Enger’s latest novel Cursed deserves to be added to the list of the very best in Nordic crime writing.
Cursed is an ambitious novel in that I found it was a bit of a slow burner like waiting for a firework to go off and then when it does it just knocks you off your feet, but then it does get quite explosive through this twisty thriller that packs so much into nearly 350 pages that I raced through and even abandoned sleep to get to the end, and what an ending.
This being the fourth novel for Henning Juul but do not be concerned if like me you have not read the previous three, this really does stand out as a standalone read and once you have read Cursed you may then want to explore the previous outings. Nora and Henning once lived a happy married couple but after the tragic death of their son their marriage was put under so much strain as any marriage would do. A personal tragedy and a couple trying to take their own steps forward in their lives.
Both Nora and Henning are journalists, neither are serving police officers, while Henning is still looking for answers to his son’s Nora is now investigating the disappearance of Hedda Hellberg after she failed to return home from a trip to Italy, now Hedda’s life is being looked into as she never reached Italy and something about her life has shocked her husband. Was Hedda living a double life.
Something about this novel when reading Cursed told me that despite both Nora and Henning investigating on two completely different levels, there was a feeling both were going to connect the dots at some point. What are Hedda’s wealthy family hiding from this inquiry. Secrets and lies. How many times have we heard that in a crime novel? This is a thrilling crime read that is so multi-layered that at times especially through the first chilling opening pages makes you wonder what really is going on, then it explodes in your hands. It is complex and that is why it really appealed to me. As chilling as a freezing Norwegian winter this will keep guessing as to what really is at the heart of this book. Both Nora and Henning will face real personal danger in their quest to get to the truth. With an ending that will make your jaw drop and is a breath-taking climax. Roll on book five. A powerful new Nordic crime writer.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.
Cursed by Thomas Enger is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
You can follow the Cursed Official Blog Tour on the following dates
Sealskin by Su Bristow
I could not even begin to think of how many books I have read in my life and especially since I started writing book review that has affected me in one way or another there have been many through the years. In March 2014 I was about to enter hospital for heart surgery and to take my mind of the worrying time a friend drove me to the beautiful City of Exeter and to see the very first Exeter Novel Prize for 2013 being awarded. We very quietly sat and watched the local MP Ben Bradshaw award the first ever Novel Prize to Su Bristow for her hauntingly beautiful novel Sealskin. I had done my homework on the novels that had a chance of winning that afternoon. I recall saying to my good friend on the way home that I had a feeling that we would be hearing many good things about Su Bristow and Sealskin in the months that lay ahead. My only disappointment is it has taken so long and yet again to the immense credit of Karen Sullivan the brains behind Orenda Books that at last many people are now making this dream come true. I am just so delighted to have been present that day and Su Bristow deserves the success that her novel Sealskin deserves.
This has been the hardest review I have written to-date and no doubt long after it has been posted I will still be struggling to write a review that will do Su Bristow’s Sealskin the justice that is deserves. There are a number of reasons why this novel has so affected me, firstly the setting any novel that is set on the West Coast of Scotland is going to affect me for those personal reasons that I won’t go into here but when it is mixed with the poetic tale and prose of Su Bristow then it becomes something more. Sealskin deeply affected me like no other novel has in many years. Now I know that many reviewers I have spoken with have all struggled to find the right words to describe its astonishing beauty. So I will just give a brief outline of why YOU must go and buy a copy today and experience the magical story of Sealskin.
This is a story based around the old Scottish legend that is Selkies. Some will know of this legend and to some they will when they have read Sealskin. Set on a quiet West Coast fishing village, were the landscape is hard but stunning and the people are tuned into nature and have become resilient and resourceful. It is here that Donald and quiet and lonely fisherman experiences something he only believed came straight from the myth and folklore and watches a Selkie shed her skin that transforms her into a human but Donald makes a life changing mistake. For Donald and Mairhi there cannot be any undoing what has just happened. From the very beginning I transfixed by the beautiful poetic prose and the story had only just begun. My heart was sold. The real beauty of this story lies at the heart of the communities of the West Coast a part of Scotland that will be forever be a part of me it is the close knit community that comes together but for both Donald and Mairhi their relationship has an immediate impact as one or two locals clearly know something is going on and they face all manner of gossip and the prejudices. You cannot help but be taken by Mairhi she is just leads the story with her presence although she may be vulnerable she also brings a certain peace and tranquillity to the story. I was transfixed by her presence on every page. There are many characters and everyone has a part to play, we are all human and have qualities and failures and some are complex and here you will experience all this but you just cannot fail to become part of the story as you move from page to page totally transfixed.
I don’t think I have experienced the range of emotions I have gone through both reading and writing this review and since I finished reading I have not stopped thinking of Sealskin. Something about its pure beauty has got inside me and won’t leave. The setting and the story are a heady cocktail that have left me with a hangover from a book that I have not yet experienced. When a grown man tells you I shed a number of tears over this story then you know that there is something incredibly beautiful to be experienced here.
What happens to both Donald and Mairhi is something I will not reveal here as it would be remiss of me to give it away. I can now see myself on the West Coast of Scotland looking out to sea listening to the sound of the gentle waves caressing the shoreline and sat re-reading this mesmerising magical novel that has to be experienced to be believed. My message is simple. ‘Just read it for yourself and enjoy the magic and beauty’ A novel for 2017 that will not be forgotten by me. My mind goes back to March 2014 and watching Su Bristow collecting the 2013 Exeter Novel Award and I for one am so pleased I was present. I have no idea how Su Bristow is going to follow up this but I for one can only hope for more.
Thank you to Karen Sullivan for the advanced review copy.
Sealskin by Su Bristow is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Sealskin Official Blog Tour Continues