The Constant Soldier – William Ryan

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The Constant Soldier was published on 25 August 2016 by Mantle and is available to buy here

The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

My thoughts

The Constant Soldier is an extraordinary and powerful historical drama. All the rumours about it are completely true. It left me speechless. It moved me in the most profound way. It left me with a sense of peace about the world. With taut electrifying poignant prose, we get a complete sense of what it is like to be a soldier during war time.

Paul Brandt returns from the battlefield disfigured and a changed man. It is 1944 and Brandt is a soldier, with disabilities returning to his home village. He spies a familiar face, a woman political prisoner and this changes his life. Brandt surprises his family taking work in a retreat attached to a concentration camp. It is hard to imagine SS soldiers having a social life. However William Ryan based his story on the true account of a retreat at Auschwitz for the SS. This is the story of Brandt wanting to save a girl, of good triumphing over evil and one man’s goodness in the face of inhumanity.

This was a horrific time. William Ryan’s The Constant Soldier reflects how challenging it is to live through the worst times, of the blurring of morality and the degradation of humanity. We see how hard it is to return from the battlefield and to live with differing values. We follow Brandt’s struggle, as he works and lives amongst evil. Brandt is an everyman type of character. A man unfortunate enough to be drafted into the army. He is a man with a conscience and a heart. He is the sort of person we all would want to be, when faced with pure evil and we have to make a choice. He wants to make amends. He is trying to do his best. He is looking for an opportunity to save a women. For the Germans, the end is in sight. The Russians are coming. Tension is mounting. Soon the camp will cease to exist. The prisoners are living through this casual brutality and hardship. Their only hope is to stay invisible enough to survive.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Stirring. Disturbing. William Ryan, thank you for one of the best stories I have read this year. Recommended!

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Zero by Matt Brolly – Guest post – Matt Brolly talks dystopian novels …

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It is a pleasure to welcome Matt Brolly to the blog today, as a part of the #Zero blog tour. Matt talks all about his favourite dystopian novels. I’m sure everyone has read at least one of them!

Zero by Matt Brolly is published by Canelo and is available to buy now here on Amazon.

Dystopian Novels by Matt Brolly

My latest novel, Zero, is set in a dystopian near-world future which has a zero tolerance approach to crime. I’ve always been interested in dystopian fiction and below is a list of five of my favourites.

High Rise by J.G.Ballard

I admit that I only came to this novel recently after the release of the film (which I’ve yet to see). I’ve read lots of Ballard’s work, and many of the themes explored in this book are reminiscent of his other dystopian novels. The dystopian world here is the High-Rise of the title, a luxury building whose inhabitants live on floors according to their wealth. The seemingly idyllic life of the high rise gradually descends into claustrophobia and classic Ballardian (I believe it is now officially a word!) violence.

1984 by George Orwell

It’s impossible not to include the classic tale of government surveillance and repression when talking about dystopian fiction. Set in a society governed by The Party, Winston Smith has to fight the constant surveillance of Big Brother as he strives for a different life. Even his thoughts are not safe as the Thought Police investigate every act of betrayal.  I recently watched the stage production of 1984 and it reminded me how powerful, and forward thinking Orwell’s ideas were, especially as I left the theatre and everyone started texted Newspeak to one another as the CCTV cameras watched whirred above us!

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Again, impossible to ignore this seemingly utopian world governed by The World State who control the world’s population. Citizens are classed into castes and have to accept their given role. Would you be an Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta or Epsilon? Maybe be one of the savages! So full of great ideas, I love this novel.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

A very entertaining look at a future world whose inhabitants spend most of their time in a virtual reality world called OASIS. Wade Watts dreams of solving the treasure hunt left in Oasis by its creator James Halliday which could transform his life. When Watts solves the first puzzle, his life, both virtual and real, takes a dramatic turn as he struggles to solve the final clues which will unlock the fortune to be found within OASIS. Full of 1980’s pop culture references, a film adaptation is supposedly in production from Steven Spielberg’s studios.

The Road – Cormack McCarthy

Post-apocalyptic America is explored in this beautiful novel where a father and son struggle to survive in a world without a future. This enthralling novel contains two of the most harrowing scenes I’ve ever read. Full of sparse, beautiful prose this a stunning, must-read, novel.

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Zero by Matt Brolly was published on 21st November by Canelo

About the Book

A zero tolerance policy results in the death penalty for all crimes, no matter how minor.

When a judge is kidnapped, and a ransom note demands the release of all prisoners awaiting execution, kleptomaniac Detective Inspector Kate Swanson is put on the case.

But soon her boss also disappears. Under increasing pressure from her superiors, and caught between the security services and the growing social unrest, Swanson must race to find a man whose murdered wife and daughter link the missing men.

Can she find him before it’s too late?

Buy from Amazon UK here.

Follow the Blog Tour and learn more about #Zero

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The Mine – Antti Tuomainen – Finnish Invasion Blog Tour Review #TheMine

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The Mine was published by Orenda on 10th October 2016 and is available to buy here

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life. A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results.

My thoughts

I’m always interested in noir delights from around the world. The Mine by Finnish writer Antti Tuomainen is another new release from the bright Orenda publishing house.

The story itself is easy to lose yourself in. We follow young-ish investigative journalist, Janne, as he is hot on the trail of a big story. He is given an anonymous tip about a mining company, that is not what it appears. Corruption, death and widescale ecological disaster surround this company. Janne is soon immersed in this story, much to the detriment of his little family unit. Janne is married to Paulinne, a woman who he seems to have very little in common with and they have a young child together. Added to this, Janne’s long lost father makes a reappearance in his life. Emil is a man of mystery. We slowly discover some of his secrets. The most important one is that Emil is a killer.

The Mine is certainly worth exploring; for its Finnish edge and its ecological conspiracy theme. I was rather fascinated by the glimpses into the Finn culture and the bleak winter weather. Janne and his dogged determination was a definite winner. I was also entranced by the various relationship dynamics, in particular Janne and his father Emil.

Intelligent, gripping and full of a cold noirish wintery landscape! Personally I would have preferred the novel to focus more on the intriguing father/son dynamics, than corruption associated with big business. Worth a read, especially for the insight into Finland and tangled human relationships.

 

Follow Antti on TWITTER

 To buy your own copy on Amazon click HERE

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The Girl Who Had No Fear – Marnie Riches (George McKenzie #4)

cover92192-medium The Girl Who Had No Fear is published by Maze on 1st December 2016 and is available to buy here

The fourth gripping thriller in the Georgina McKenzie series.
Amsterdam: a city where sex sells and drugs come easy. Four dead bodies have been pulled from the canals – and that number’s rising fast. Is a serial killer on the loose? Or are young clubbers falling prey to a lethal batch of crystal meth?
Chief Inspector Van den Bergen calls on criminologist Georgina McKenzie to help him solve this mystery. George goes deep undercover among the violent gangs of Central America. Working for the vicious head of a Mexican cartel, she must risk her own life to find the truth. With murder everywhere she turns, can George get people to talk before she is silenced for good?

My reviews of the first three #thegirlwhoThe Girl Who Broke the Rules

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows

 

My thoughts

I have long been championing #thegirlwho series and singing its praises. After The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, I was willing Marnie Riches to bring back George and Van den Bergen. I was ready to beg Marnie Riches to give us more. Luckily she heard my silent pleas and we have a brand new adventure for George. The Girl Who Had No Fear is the next instalment of what is an exceptional series!

Obviously the series must be read in order. To read this as a standalone would probably be a tad confusing. We have followed George, through her progression to qualified Criminologist and her adventures in Amsterdam and the UK over #thegirlwho series. We know rather a lot about her working class background, her family situation and why she is no longer known as Ella. At the end of The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, George’s rather flaky mother disappeared. We now see George back at University, with her mother still out of the picture. George has been receiving strange emails from someone purporting to be her father. George’s father has not been in her life, since she was a small child. George is called back to Amsterdam by her boyfriend, Van den Bergen to help out on a tricky series of deaths involving class A drugs. Soon George is off gallivanting around the world chasing answers to the drugs problem, with gangsters on her tail and peril around every corner.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED The Girl Who Had No Fear. Marnie Riches has created this wonderful character in George and this amazing dark world she inhabits. Only George would get herself into the most dangerous and life threatening situations with gangsters and drugs barons; dealing with them in a unique, kickass and totally awesome way. No one goes undercover like our George. It was poignant to see her vulnerable emotionally and going on a nightmarish journey. She shows such courage, in the face of evil. Riches ups the ante and gives us one hell of a ride.

Those of you who have not met George, you need to sort it out NOW. Read #thegirlwho series and find out why we all love it so much… The Girl Who Had No Fear was exactly what I needed to lose myself in, on a cold winter’s day. Highly recommended.

 

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The Beautiful Dead – Belinda Bauer

The Beautiful Dead by [Bauer, Belinda]

The Beautiful Dead is published by Bantam Press on 17 November 2016 and is available to buy here

There’s no safety in numbers . . .

Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging, she’ll do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience.

The killer needs death too. He even advertises his macabre public performances, where he hopes to show the whole world the beauty of dying.

When he contacts Eve, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realizes that the killer has two obsessions.

One is public murder.

And the other one is her . . .

My thoughts

After Rubbernecker, I pretty much guessed that The Beautiful Dead would be unique, intelligent and hard to put down. I was RIGHT! The Beautiful Dead blew my socks off!

Belinda Bauer’s The Beautiful Dead follows TV crime reporter, Eve Singer as she gets up close and personal with a killer. This serial killer has taken a particular liking to Eve and feels a connection to her. He wants her help staging his kills, to reach a wider audience. The killer is sadistic and strange, as we see in the opening scenes. A woman loner worker is hunted to death in her office.

It is hard not to grow fond of Eve. She may be determined to stay in her job, to beat the younger prettier reporters on her tail. We see she has a caring side and she isn’t as confident, as she initially appears. She lives with and provides care for her father, who suffers from dementia. We also see her interacting with her neighbour, a lonely widower, Elias.

This is not your standard serial killer story. It is beautiful. It reads like a dream; with characters you gradually find yourself loving and an inevitable build up to the final confrontation between the killer and Eve. Laced into all of this is a subtle dark humour. You really can’t go wrong with Belinda Bauer. Recommended.

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Gallows Drop – Mari Hannah (Kate Daniels #6)

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Gallows Drop is published by Macmillan on 17 November 2016 and is available to buy here

At dawn on a lonely stretch of road, a body is found hanging from an ancient gallows the morning after a country show. Hours earlier, DCI Kate Daniels had seen the victim alive. With her leave period imminent, she’s forced to step aside when DCI James Atkins is called in to investigate. There’s bad blood between them.

When Kate discovers that Atkins’ daughter was an eyewitness to a fight involving the victim, the two detectives lock horns and he’s bumped off the case. It’s the trigger for a vicious attack on Kate, exposing a secret she’s kept hidden for years and unearthing an even darker one.

Shaken but undeterred, Kate sets out to solve a case that has shocked a close-knit village community. As suspects emerge, she uncovers a curious historical connection with a hangman, a culture of systematic bullying, a web of deceit and a deep-seated psychosis, any one of which could be motive for murder.

Previously in this series: Monument to Murder and the very exellent The Silent Room featuring Matthew Ryan, which is out now in paperback.

My thoughts

It’s a pleasure to hold a brand new Kate Daniels in my hands. Gallows Drop is the sixth instalment in an unmissable and excellent series. This is one series that has found its feet and is at its best.

Kate Daniels is the DCI with secrets. We discover why this is the case, over the course of the novel. Daniels and her team take on the case of a young man found hanging at an isolated gallows, after a country show. She has an old adversary DCI James Atkins to deal with, who becomes her immediate boss. Atkins has it in for Daniels. They have a gigantic shed load of history together. The murder victim is known by Atkins’ teenage daughter, who was a witness to some of the events of that day. When Atkins is taken off the case, Daniels is forced to abandon precious annual leave and to deal a case that resonates personally for her.

Kate Daniels is just brilliant. Mari Hannah really makes her suffer this time. Authors can be so cruel. She has the boss from hell in Atkins to deal with. This man hates the sight of her. She has work take priority over a holiday, which she accepts with grace. She has family problems, that she cannot avoid. Plus she has girlfriend trouble and her private secrets all come out. Poor Kate! Everything is thrown at her. Lesser people would want to hide away and cry. Kate has guts and fight back, in her own unique style. Although she needs to work on her ‘letting the love of her life know she can’t go on holiday’ communication skills. Kate should probably stay single. She really is poor at relationships and just seems to take the long suffering Jo for granted.

We get a complex story, that takes us into Kate’s early years as a teenage police constable to the present day death of a young man, with bullying and jealousies thrown in for good measure. Expect a few gasps as you start to make sense of Kate and her unusually secretive nature. I always wondered about this. Now I know! *smug face* James Atkins makes the perfect villian of the piece; as he has it in for our Kate and is loathsome in his behaviour towards her. The twist is wonderful. Everything plays out beautifully and we get to the heart of Kate Daniels.

You will not be disappointed reading Gallows Drop! I guarantee you will get to the end and be wishing that Mari Hannah could quickly write the next instalment and deliver it by hand to you. Totally recommended!

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Cold Earth – Ann Cleeves (Shetland #7)

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Cold Earth was published by Macmillan on 6 October 2016 and is available to buy here

Cold Earth is the seventh book in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series – a major BBC One drama starring Douglas Henshall.

In the dark days of a Shetland winter, torrential rain triggers a landslide that crosses the main Lerwick-Sumburgh road and sweeps down to the sea.

At the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait, Jimmy Perez watches the flood of mud and peaty water smash through a croft house in its path. Everyone thinks the croft is uninhabited, but in the wreckage he finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. In his mind, she shares his Mediterranean ancestry and soon he becomes obsessed with tracing her identity.

Then it emerges that she was already dead before the landslide hit the house. Perez knows he must find out who she was, and how she died.

Also available in the Shetland series are Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones, Blue Lightning, Dead Water and Thin Air.

My thoughts

Just when I was wondering when we would ever get a new instalment of the Shetland series, up popped Cold Earth on my horizon. Cold Earth is the seventh in the successful series, following DI Jimmy Perez up in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Like all the other Shetland lovers out there, I got myself immersed in Cold Earth as soon as I could.

A landslide on Shetland leads to a body being discovered in a house. The woman has been strangled. Jimmy Perez and his team are soon looking for a killer. Who killed the mysterious dark haired woman and why?

Ann Cleeves’ winning formula of the hard working and caring Shetland police officer, working in the remote islands in Scotland continues. We have Jimmy Perez, a man grieving for the loss of his beloved girlfriend, Fran. It is great to see him showing more signs of moving on with Willow. Will they ever get to the snogging stage? I really don’t know. I do think Cleeves captures Perez’s grief beautifully and in a very realistic way. I can completely empathize with him. He is a special character.

I much prefer the books to the television series; although the BBC Shetland series is very well done. Anyone who hasn’t encountered either, I suggest you start at the beginning and get to know Jimmy Perez in the haunting beautiful landscape that Ann Cleeves paints.

Excellent, as ever. May Jimmy Perez be back very soon. I miss him already!

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