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Quickie review: The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Synopsis

Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

My review

In a nutshell, the best book I’ve read this year – and I’ve read a lot of books. Possibly the best book in several years!
If you’re expecting, despite the title, a cosy mystery with a feeble old dear as the main character, think again! This mystery takes on international dimensions and involves real, modern threats. Mrs Pollifax certainly starts her volunteer work with the CIA in at the deep end!
Everything’s pretty much perfect about this book – a delightfully likeable heroine, who’s more of an anti-heroine until push comes to shove, quirkiness grounded in brutal reality, the right combination of lucky coincidences and thwarted plans in the exciting action, and detailed, lively background..
The characterisations throughout are wonderful, the settings dramatic, and frequently terrifying, and the plot is clever with sheer brilliance thrown in here and there for good measure.
I literally couldn’t stop reading this book once I’d started. I was hooked from the start.
I can’t wait for Mrs P’s second adventure!

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Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Synopsis

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.

But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years ago rears its head once again.

As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witchlike cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

The award-winning internationally bestselling author Lilja Sigurðardóttir returns with Betrayal, a relevant, powerful, fast-paced thriller about the worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny that feels just a little bit too real…

 

My review

This is another outstanding novel from a very talented author.

Úrsula is very much the lynchpin in the novel, not just because she’s our central character but because the various themes converge around her. We have crime, the search for justice, politics and domestic life all swirling around in the story, each one taking its turn to surface as it spins in ever-decreasing circles around Úrsula.

There’s a strong sense of motion in the novel as a whole with its short chapters and intense energy. Despite being damaged, Úrsula is a very strong character, restless in seeking to do what’s right.

She’s supported by an impressive cast of intriguing secondary characters, all with an important role to play. Like Úrsula herself, you get the sense the author is also someone who doesn’t want to waste time – who wants to get to the crux of the matter in the most efficient way possible.

The plot is very clever and cards are kept close to the chest until the denouement.

An enjoyable and enjoyably unsettling read.

 

About the author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

 

 

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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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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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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/

 

 

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An exciting cover reveal: Silent Cry by Jenny O’Brien

I’m delighted to be taking part in this cover reveal 🙂

 

About the book:

Five years ago, Izzy Grant’s boyfriend Charlie took their newborn daughter Alys out for a drive.

They never came back.

After years of waiting, Izzy has almost given up hoping that they’re still alive – until a note is pushed through her door telling her they’re fine, not to look for them. Suddenly the case is top priority again, and Izzy is swarmed with faces from the past: the detective who was first on the scene to help; an old friend who vanished not long after Alys and Charlie.

Izzy doesn’t know who she can trust, who is sending her notes, where Charlie and Alys might be. Her only ally is DC Gabriella Darin, recently transferred from Cardiff and fleeing a painful past of her own.

Gaby knows something doesn’t fit with the case, and she knows Izzy won’t rest until she finds out what really happened to her daughter. Could someone she knew and trusted really have taken Alys from her?

Wherever Alys and Charlie are, Gaby is determined to find them, no matter what it takes. Somewhere in Izzy’s past is a clue, if Gaby can only find it…

A gripping and unputdownable thriller for fans of Patricia Gibney, LJ Ross and Angela Marsons.

Previously published as Missing in Wales. This edition contains editorial revisions.

 

And here’s the cover!

Readers LOVE Jenny O’Brien!

Wow – this book had me on the edge of my seat!… I loved every minute of it.’ Goodreads reviewer

LOVED IT.’ Goodreads reviewer

I loved this book… A couple of times I thought I had it all solved, but I was SO wrong!!’ Goodreads reviewer

I devoured it and wanted to read the next in the series immediately!!’ Goodreads reviewer

Kept me reading into the small hours… An unexpected twist at the end.’ Goodreads reviewer

‘Thrilling… Amazing book, I couldn’t put it down.’ Goodreads reviewer

I absolutely loved this book… Jenny O’Brien is quickly becoming one of my favourites!’ Goodreads reviewer

 

Pre-order the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Cry-absolutely-addictive-Detective-ebook/dp/B07ZLW2844

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Rage and Retribution by Lorraine Mace: a powerful read

Can two wrongs ever make a right?

A man is found by the side of a canal, comatose and brutally attacked.

It quickly becomes clear that someone is abducting men and subjecting them to horrific acts of torture. After three days they’re released, fighting for their lives and refusing to speak.

A councillor is accused of fraud.

Montague Mason is an upstanding member of the community. That is until he’s publicly accused of stealing the youth centre’s funds – an accusation that threatens to rip through the very heart of the community and expose his best-kept secret. But how far would he go to protect himself?

Two cases. One deadly answer.

As the two cases collide, D.I. Paolo Sterling finds he has more questions than answers. And, when torture escalates to murder, he suddenly finds himself in a race against time to find the killer and put an end to the depravity – once and for all.

 

My review

I usually like my mysteries cosy and tongue-in-cheek so a challenging, gritty, brutal novel like this certainly too me out of my comfort zone. It made for a refreshing change in the way that a walk by the sea does – when there’s a gale blowing and you’re being soaked in spray. It certainly wakes you up.

The story grips you from the first page with its graphic opening scene. From here on the pace rarely lets up. The only times it does is to allow for necessary character development. This book isn’t a one-dimensional police procedural, which can be the downside of this particular genre: here we have an exciting, chilling plot peopled by rounded and interesting characters and taking place in atmospheric, detailed settings.

There’s plenty of edge-of-your seat, tense suspense to keep you turning the pages quickly, interspersed with moments of reflection and revelation. The rage and retribution elements are given equal treatment and justification in the book.

A powerful read.

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1786156857

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1786156857

 

Author bio

When not working on her D.I. Sterling Series, Lorraine Mace is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions. A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service. She is co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of THE WRITER’S ABC CHECKLIST (Accent Press). Other books include children’s novel VLAD THE INHALER – HERO IN THE MAKING, and NOTES FROM THE MARGIN, a compilation of her Writing Magazine humour column.

Social media links

Website: www.lorrainemace.com

Blog: thewritersabcchecklist.blogspot.com

Twitter: @lomace

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lorraine.mace.52

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The Profit Motive by David Blecker: a ‘wow!’ read

Synopsis

When firefighter Adam Sterling arrives at the scene of a horrific car crash, little does he imagine it will lead him back to his mother’s homeland.
Kate, the woman he pulls from the wreckage, needs his help. Her father has been left for dead after a hit-and-run, in Wenzhou, China.
She suspects it wasn’t an accident and so does Jie Gang, the senior policeman investigating the case, and whose efforts are obstructed from on high.
When events escalate, Kate employs Adam and Byron Mason, Adam’s best friend and fellow former Royal Marine, to go with her to China.
Catapulted into an alien environment, and unable to trust anyone, Mason and Sterling face escalating challenges.
The struggle becomes personal, and Adam has to confront a ruthless enemy determined to destroy him and Kate.
THE PROFIT MOTIVE is the second crime novel in the Mason & Sterling thriller series: gritty, hard-boiled page-turners with an urban setting.

My review
There really is only one word to sum this book up: wow!
And ‘wow’ for numerous reasons. The wide-ranging action leaves you breathless, the characters are tough, energetic and fascinating, the settings are astounding and the plot is real knife-edge, keep-you-guessing stuff.
It’s exciting and interesting, and once you start reading you’re compelled to just keep going. It’s a book that’s hard to put down, but if and when you do it stays with you as it’s powerfully written. The various threads of the story become increasingly tightly wound and result in a real explosion of an ending.
This is the second book in a series, but works fine as a standalone. However, once you’ve read this book, I’m sure you’ll want to read everything this author has written.
In summary, this is a high-octane, intelligent, enthralling thriller.

Purchase link: mybook.to/TheProfitMotive

 

About the author

I write fast-paced action thrillers populated with well-rounded characters.
Born in Addis Ababa in 1960, I spent my first eight years living on an agricultural college in rural Ethiopia where my love of reading developed. After dropping out of university I became a firefighter and served 19 years before leaving to start my own business.
I began writing in 2010 and use my work experiences to add realism to my fiction.
The Mason and Sterling series centre on two ex-Royal Marines, Byron who now runs a security company and Adam who is a firefighter. A strong cast of characters support my protagonists. Long Stop Books published Brotherhood, the first novel in the series, in September 2019 and will be publishing the second, The Profit Motive, on December 16th 2019. Brotherhood is set in Manchester and The Profit Motive in Manchester and Wenzhou, China.
I live in Manchester, my adopted home since 1984. In my spare time I try to keep fit—an increasingly difficult undertaking—listen to music, socialise and feed my voracious book habit.

Social media links:
Website: www.davidbeckler.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/davidbecklerauthor
Twitter: @DavidBeckler1
Goodreads www.goodreads.com/author/show/8364947.David_Beckler
Bookbub www.bookbub.com/authors/david-beckler