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The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdottir

Synopsis

The first in the electrifying new Forbidden Iceland series, The Creak on the Stairs is an exquisitely written, claustrophobic and chillingly atmospheric debut thriller by one of Iceland’s most exciting new talents

When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

 

My review

I often wonder what Nordic noir has done for the tourist industry to that part of the world (ignoring the impact of Covid) since the TV dramas are all in shades of grey with bleak scenery, dismal weather, morose detectives and lots of loaded silences. Add the element of a killer on every street corner in town and in each remote village, and that’s more to put you off!

However, novels such as this one bring out the stark beauty of Scandinavia, in this case Iceland. I liked having a map and also an explanation of elements of the language and names that we need to know. It’s always nice to learn something new.

As you expects from this genre, there are layers to the story. We see both past and present events, and Elma, our central character with emotional baggage, is as much a subject of the novel as the murder mystery. There is social commentary too, so this really is an extremely complex and rich novel.

The writing in clear, concise language is understated in that there’s nothing graphic and no sensationalism. The plot moves steadily and menacingly towards the final denouement, when things shift up a gear.

The Creak on the Stair is a gripping, absorbing read. It’s the first in the series, and I’ve no doubt any subsequent books will be as polished and entertaining as this one.

 

About the author

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland. Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

 

 

 

 

The paperback is priced £8.99 and published by Orenda Books

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‘THE ACCIDENTAL MEDIUM’ and ‘THE GIN PALACE’ by Tracy Whitwell

The Accidental Medium: synopsis  

Tanz is a wine-soaked, potty-mouthed, once successful TV actress from Gateshead, whose career has shrivelled like an antique walnut. She is still grieving her friend Frank, who died in a car crash three years ago, and she has to find a normal job in London to fund her cocktail habit.
When she starts work in a new age shop, Tanz suddenly discovers that the voices she’s hearing in her head are real, not the first signs of schizophrenia, and she can give people ‘messages’ from beyond the grave. Alarmed, she confronts her little mam and discovers she is from a long line of psychic mediums.
Despite a whole exciting new avenue of life opening up to Tanz, darkness isn’t far away and all too soon there’s murder in the air.

 

My review

This is a refreshingly different novel with a refreshingly different heroine. Tanz isn’t the usual twenty-something ditzy lead character you find in a cosy mystery, nor a Miss Marple wannabe. She’s somewhere in the middle: a thirty-eight year old, moderately successful Geordie actor who’s genuine, likeable, occasionally irresponsible and fun to be around. She has gifts of clairvoyance and clairaudience which suddenly make themselves clear to her. She’s been aware of vague ‘symptoms’ of both but it’s only thanks to Sheila at Mystery Pot that she realises what they fully mean. Now she’s coming up against spirits, good and bad, happy and sad, at almost every turn.

The writing is lively and clever, with lots of wit and humour. All the characters, dead and alive, are interesting and very convincing, particularly Tanz’s family with their many foibles.

The story moves swiftly and the writing really flows. All in all, a highly unusual and enjoyable novel.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Accidental-Medium-Tracy-Whitwell-ebook/dp/B08DJ9PKJ7

 

The Gin Palace: synopsis

After a fast-paced introduction to the world of clairvoyance, ghost busting, mystery and murder, Tanz is currently hiding in bed, having nightmares about a suicidal psychopath, drinking red wine, irritating her cat and waiting to be evicted. Life as she knew it seven months ago has turned on its head and only the prospect of a new TV job in Newcastle and a month with her best friend Milo can help pick her up off the floor.
But when she gets home, the Newcastle of more than a century before decides to haunt her bringing all kinds of spooks and horrors with it. She also finds that her new job involves more than it’s own share of intrigue and humiliation. Then it’s a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other, as Tanz, along with her dead friend Frank, attempts to expose a brutal murder that nobody even knows about. Join Tanz and her friends on another crazy, supernatural ride in GIN PALACE, the second in The Accidental Medium series.

 

My review

The mayhem continues in this excellent sequel to ‘The Accidental Medium’. It’s every bit as enjoyable and good quality as the first book, with added character development. Tanz’s honesty lands her a job, at last, and she’s happy to go back to her home town for a while. Having lived both north (in Northumberland) and south (in Cleveland) of Gateshead, it’s a part of the world I know well and its atmosphere comes over brilliantly in the background to the action.

What’s really great about these books is their energy and humour. They’re a real pick-me-up: trust me, their vitality is contagious.

A series not to be missed.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08DJ8NPBM

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tracy Whitwell was born, brought up and educated in Gateshead in the north east of England. She wrote plays and short stories from an early age, then had her head turned and ran off to London to be an actress. By 1993 she was wearing a wig and an old fashioned dress and pretending to be impoverished on telly in a Catherine Cookson mini-series, whilst going to see every indie/rock band she could afford.

After an interesting number of years messing about in front of the camera and traveling the world though, Tracy discovered she still loved writing and completed her first full length play. A son, many stage-plays, screenplays and two music videos followed until one day she realised she was finally ready to do the thing she’d longed to do since she was six. She wrote her first novel. A crime/horror/comedy tale about an alcohol-soaked, gobby, thrill-seeking actress who talks to ghosts. (Who knows where the inspiration came from, it’s almost like she based it on her own ridiculous life.) Then she wrote a follow up and realised she couldn’t stop writing books.

Now Tracy lives in north London with her son, still travels whenever possible and has written novel number four. Now being edited.

Tweet her @WhitwellTracy

 

 

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Murder Ahoy! by Fiona Leitch

Murder Ahoy!

Famous crime writer Bella Tyson is hired to co-host a Murder Mystery cruise, on a luxury liner sailing from Southampton to New York. She’s expecting an easy ride; fun and games, surrounded by amateur sleuths and fans of her books, all the while staying in a deluxe cabin and enjoying the spa and the amazing restaurants on board, culminating in a visit to one of her favourite cities in the world – the Big Apple.

She’s NOT expecting to be stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with her two least favourite people in the world, her hot but unfaithful bastard ex-husband Joel Quigley and fellow crime writer, bitch goddess and Twitter frenemy, Louise Meyers. And when real live dead bodies start turning up – as well as fake not-really-dead bodies – Bella’s dreams of being pampered on the high seas turn sour.

Accused of a murder she would have liked to commit but didn’t, and helped (or hindered) by a gang of unlikely detectives, can Bella find out who the real murderer is before the ship reaches its destination and New York’s finest drag her off?

 

My review

There are certain things that just have to be there for a good cosy mystery: an off-stage crime usually quite near the start of the story with an unlikeable victim; a somewhat limited setting such as in a small town or, as here, a boat; a clever villain but who, fortunately, is not as smart as our generally reluctant amateur sleuth; plenty of humorous touches; a cast of quirky if not downright eccentric characters; clues galore, and a catchy title.

These, as I say, are crucial for any good cozy. Murder Ahoy, however, isn’t a good cozy – it’s a brilliant one! It has all the above and so much more. This author could make an instruction manual for installing plumbing sound scintillating as she has such a lively, sparkly, humour-laden style and vibrant imagination.

Belle is an awesome heroine. She’s feisty but not brashly so, and is wonderfully human with her insecurities and other foibles. She’s down to earth, funny and kind, but can give the occasional tongue-lashing when necessary.

Louise, the victim, is wonderfully vile. In fact, everyone we meet is an enthusiastic example of the role they’re playing. Will is a truly dependable, loyal partner, for example, and Joel is the epitome of the scheming, cheating ex.

The plot is fun and peppered with delightful action of every kind. The story might take place on a stolid cruise ship but it whisks you along as though you’re in a speedboat.

Everything about this invigorating, breath-of-sea-air novel is enjoyable. Grab a copy. Now!

 

Purchase Links – mybook.to/Ahoy

 

Author bio

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters. Her debut novel and first in the Bella Tyson series, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.

Social Media Links

https://twitter.com/fkleitch

www.fionaleitch.com

https://www.pinterest.nz/fionakleitch/

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Lady Anne and the Menacing Mystic by Victoria Hamilton

Synopsis

While in Bath preparing for her upcoming marriage to Lord Darkefell, Lady Anne learns of a profoundly accurate mystic working in town whose uncanny predictions have stunned the gullible and the sceptical alike. Certain there’s a harmless rational explanation for the medium’s supposed otherworldly abilities, Anne’s tolerance turns to defiance when the seer’s dark pronouncements begin having a decidedly harmful affect on her friends—and a troubled local vicar takes his own life.

Convinced that the woman is orchestrating a devious scheme, Anne begins to suspect that she’s working in league with a shrewd newcomer who’s attached himself to many of the town’s wealthy widowers. As she navigates the swirling rumours of Bath society to confirm her suspicions and unmask the charlatans for what they are, she discovers that the treacherous conspirators are plotting to make her own future very dark—and very short-lived . .

 

 

My review

This is an entertaining historical cosy mystery set in late eighteenth-century Bath. Lady Anne is a very forceful heroine, in some ways ahead of her time but, sadly, still constrained by it. She’s quite austere and it takes a while to warm to her, but if you’ve read earlier books in the series this fondness might already be in place. She’s well-meaning and interesting, that’s for sure.
The setting is beautifully described and the era comes over very convincingly with the details about everyday life, dress, furniture, means of travel and so forth.
The plot, although perhaps a little slow to get established, is ingenious and absorbing. It keeps you guessing all the way through.
Much to enjoy.

Buy the book here

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Vanishing Act by Charlie Hodges

Synopsis

A darkly funny whodunnit of sex, death and the tragi-comedy of old age

Ex-SAS officer Tom Knight is now a 73-year-old private detective in a seaside town, with a bad leg, a taste for good weed and a morbid fear of growing old. He’s also fallen in love with Fran, a sprightly 52-year-old carer at a retirement home. The bad news is that she’s dumped him for lying about his age.

So when she’s framed for the murder of three old ladies at the home he resolves to win her back by proving her innocence. His quest takes him behind the town’s veil of respectability, into a murky world of Oxbridge hookers, a lovelorn Tarot card reader and England’s most obnoxious policeman. He even faces up to his fear of old age and dementia, by going undercover at the care home where the murders happened.

But will it be enough to win back the lady of his dreams?

Proving that you’re just as young as you feel, the Tom Knight mysteries combine delicious comedy with a precision-engineered plot.

 

My review

This is a cosy mystery rich with black comedy. We have an unusual – for this genre – protagonist in the elderly Tom, but he’s as energetic as any younger one! You do worry  a bit about his hips and knees when he gets into kerfuffles, but he’s made of stern stuff! I hope I’ll be that robust at his age…

Mature Tom has the added benefit of experience and wisdom, both of which he uses when dealing with the intriguing case, but unfortunately not so much when dealing with the attractive Fran.

The plot is clever and the action brisk. It’s an absorbing, bittersweet read, and highly enjoyable. The author has a lively, light style that’s gripping and entertaining.

 

The book will be published in mid September by Farrago. Pre-order here.

I received an ARC via Netgalley, and this is an unbiased, honest review

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A Quiet Death in Italy by Tom Benjamin

Bologna: city of secrets, suspicion . . . and murder

A dark and atmospheric crime thriller set in the beautiful Italian city of Bologna, perfect for fans of Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin and Philip Gwynne Jones.

When the body of a radical protestor is found floating in one of Bologna’s underground canals, it seems that most of the city is ready to blame the usual suspects: the police.

But when private investigator Daniel Leicester, son-in-law to a former chief of police, receives a call from the dead man’s lover, he follows a trail that begins in the 1970s and leads all the way to the rotten heart of the present-day political establishment.

Beneath the beauty of the city, Bologna has a dark underside, and English detective Daniel must unravel a web of secrets, deceit and corruption – before he is caught in it himself.

Tom Benjamin’s gripping debut transports you to the ancient and mysterious Italian city less travelled: Bologna.

 

My review

This is an exciting and absorbing book with interesting characters, a clever, intriguing plot and lots of excitement. It takes us to a lesser written-about part of Italy – the seedier side of Bologna.

The narrator is Daniel, who is somewhat detached being an Englishman. As such he is all the more observant, and makes the reader more aware of the particularities of Italian culture.

The book is all about connections, relationships, links with the past and betrayal, all of which gradually come to light. The pace of the action gradually builds up and the action and excitement builds up to an exciting and unforeseen conclusion. It’s clever, convincing and a must-read.

A thriller in every sense of the word.

 

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quiet-Death-Italy-Tom-Benjamin/dp/1472131576/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Death-Italy-Tom-Benjamin/dp/1472131576/

Author Bio –

Tom Benjamin started off as a reporter before moving to the press office at Scotland Yard and running drugs awareness campaign FRANK. He moved to Bologna where his work as doorman at a homeless canteen inspired him to create English detective Daniel Leicester in a series that serves up equal helpings of the local cuisine and ubiquitous graffiti; the city’s splendour, decay, and danger.

 

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/tombenjaminsays/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tombenjaminsays

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tombenjaminsays/

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Winter’s Gift by Florence Keeling

Winters’ Gift: A heart warming, feel good romantic comedy.

Bea Winters is in desperate need of a fresh start. Being bullied at work is not her idea of fun and she longs to follow her dream of becoming a published author. When an advert appears in her local paper to work in a publishing house in the sleepy village of Bloomsdale, it sounds too good to be true.

She strikes up an instant friendship with gorgeous aspiring author, Eddie Richards and her dashing millionaire boss Scott Summers

But all isn’t as it seems in the sleepy village of Bloomsdale.

How does the local clairvoyant know her name? Who does the little black dog that keeps appearing belong to and why does she keep bumping into the mysterious Charlie?

As she starts to unravel the truth, it seems that everyone in Bea’s life is keeping secrets.

 

My review

There’s an interest combination of mystery, self-discovery and the paranormal in this book, as well as a nod to a few serious contemporary issues such as job dissatisfaction and apparent family failings.

Bea is a bit of a dreamer but she gains a sharper focus as the book progresses. She finds her feet – and more besides! She’s likeable and kind and makes for a pleasant heroine.

The mystery is intriguing and enjoyable.

All in all a gentle bit of escapism.

 

Purchase Links:

 UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Winters-Gift-Florence-Keeling-ebook/dp/B07KDWRWXP/#ace-4131440328

US – https://www.amazon.com/Winters-Gift-Florence-Keeling-ebook/dp/B07KDWRWXP/

 

About Florence Keeling

?Florence Keeling adopted for her pen-name her Great Grandmother’s name, chosen because of the shared birthday of April Fool’s Day.  She is married with two teenage chidren.  Born and raised in Coventry, England she now lives just outside in Nuneaton.  Reflected Destinies is her first novel.

Florence Keeling also writes for children under the name of Lily Mae Walters.

 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/florence.keeling.7

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KeelingFlorence

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/florence.keeling/

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An Implacable Woman by K T Findlay: a gritty black comedy

Synopsis

If a tooth costs a tooth and an eye costs an eye

When a man hits his wife, then it’s his turn to die

Furious that the courts and police can’t prevent respected surgeon John Kirby from beating his wife, Sally Mellors steps in to save her. Permanently…

But Grace Kirby isn’t the only one who needs saving and Sally quickly discovers she’s taken on a much bigger job than she’d thought.

With her unique ability to blend justice with fun, Sally sets joyfully about the business of removing the monsters from women’s lives, but is she in danger of becoming a monster herself?

As her friends in the police get ever closer, Sally has some serious questions of her own to answer.

 

My review

This is the second book in K T Findlay’s Sally Mellors series. It follows A Thoughtful Woman, but works as a standalone.

It’s a gritty black comedy, making us really think about our moral standpoint. Is killing always wrong? Isn’t putting an evil person permanently out of action an act of goodness? It’s for the greater good of the majority, after all. It’s all a bit of a grey area but it’s well handled in this novel.

Our characters continue to develop in this clever and complex thriller. We find out a little more about what makes Sally and Grace tick. There’s much more to them than straightforward vigilantism.

It’s not all about the action. The settings are beautifully drawn and add to the richness of the writing. This author has a sharp eye for creating an atmospheric backdrop.

Much to enjoy in this unusual, challenging novel.

 

Purchase Links

The main Amazon.com link is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088HJJ6NW/

The UK link is https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088HJJ6NW/

The Indian link is https://www.amazon.in/dp/B088HJJ6NW/

The Canadian link is https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B088HJJ6NW/

Additional maps of where An Implacable Woman is set-https://ktfindlay.com/an-implacable-woman-maps/

 

Author bio

K.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry and convincing the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a vital part of its job description.

 

Social media links 

Webpage : www.ktfindlay.com

Youtube :   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0UIrcFBnHtHXQzbr37Ay-Q

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/KTFindlayauthor

Twitter :     https://twitter.com/ktfindlay

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The Lazarus Charter by Tony Bassett: entertaining and edgy

Synopsis

Bob Shaw is baffled to see a man in a brown coat at a bustling Underground station. Surely it can’t be his friend, the scientist Professor Morley? Morley perished weeks before in a blazing car. Is the man an impostor or did his friend fake his death?

This fascinating and ingenious thriller tells of Bob’s battle to find out the truth, helped by his wife Anne. They are confronted by ruthless enemies and forced to flee their home in this fast-paced spy thriller from the author of Smile Of The Stowaway.

 

My review

The author set himself a high standard with the prequel to this novel, Smile of the Stowaway, but he surpasses even that with this novel.

It’s a very exciting thriller with political elements as well as a fascinating mystery at its core, featuring husband and wife team Bob and Anne. As their names hint, they’re an ordinary couple who just happen to find themselves plunged into quite extraordinary goings-on. Here a dead man has apparently come back to life – hence this book’s title.

The author doesn’t hang about! He sets a brisk pace, but never so rushed that he skimps on scene-setting or creating atmosphere. The action is largely set in Canterbury and London and you get a wonderful sense of these two very different cities.

As regards the plot, it’s clever and complex. You really have no idea what’s round the corner. You feel a bit like a leaf being whisked along by a gale-force wind! It’s wonderful.

Entertaining, edgy escapism, this novel will absorb your full attention from the first word to the last.

I can’t wait for the author’s next book.

Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lazarus-Charter-English-Tony-Bassett-ebook/dp/B085MN9KL4

Copies are also available from the publisher.

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A Thoughtful Woman by KT Findlay

Synopsis

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but where’s the fun in that?
Artist Sally Mellors has planned the perfect revenge, but with two secret agents on her tail, and her best friends running the police investigation, getting away with murder is going to be tricky…
Everybody loves Sally. She’s a funny, generous, warm hearted friend, without a nasty bone in her body.
Isn’t she?
Unknown to her friends, Sally’s discovered another side to herself, cool headed and relentless, as she hunts down the three men who killed her husband. But Sally’s not the only one with an interest in the trio. Unknown to her, two agents have arrived in town, urgently hunting a missing man and his diary, which could blow their organisation apart. Their best leads are the very men that Sally’s hunting, and she’s getting in the way…
The inspiration behind A Thoughtful Woman.
The justice system is an intriguing beast. We expect it to be fair, which is why we allow it to resolve our disputes instead of simply taking revenge ourselves, but watch an individual case play out in court and it can seem more like a high stakes game between lawyers than the pursuit of absolute truth. And if you think it’s a game, do you still accept the result if you lose? Is that still justice? At what point will a perfectly normal, perfectly decent person snap, and what happens when they do? Is it possible to plunge into the darkness of revenge and remain the normal, decent happy person you were before you started? Sally Mellors is about to find out.

 

My review

This is a novel about taking revenge into your own hands. You can’t really blame Sally and Emma for wanting to do so: their husbands’ killers escaped justice thanks to a bent lawyer. You know it’s morally wrong but you want these two to succeed. We do like it when the worms turn.

The action gradually builds up and reaches a brisk pace. There’s plenty of conflict and intrigue, shadowy menacing figures, helpful allies, and clever twists and turns in the plot. It makes for an exciting and original read.

The characters are all convincing. Sally is the stronger of the two women, and she makes for a fascinating psychological study. She shows what happens when a seemingly kind and normal person is pushed too far. She throws herself into her new persona and does seem to enjoy being her own evil twin.

It’s a book that really makes you think and question your own moral values.

 

About the author

K.T. Findlay lives on a small farm where he dovetails his writing with fighting the blackberry and convincing the quadbike that killing its rider isn’t a vital part of its job description.

 

Buy the book here: www.amazon.co.uk/Thoughtful-Woman-Sally-Mellors-Adventures-ebook/dp/B07YYZX8NC/