All the Beautiful Lies – Peter Swanson

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All The Beautiful Lies was published by Faber and Faber on 3 April 2018 and is available to purchase here

On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father.

But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife? In a brilliant split narrative, Peter Swanson teases out the stories and damage that lie in her past. And as her story entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?

Also by Peter Swanson

Her Every Fear

The Kind Worth Killing

My thoughts

I have quite a soft spot for Peter Swanson’s writing. He impresses me. He has this way of capturing your imagination, with one or two rather engaging and quirky characters. He draws you into their dysfunctional lives, with their casual lack of morality. He makes odd events seem rather normal. He is master of subtlety. Swanson brings us a brand new story in All the Beautiful Lies.

Swanson packs much into All the Beautiful Lies. We get a tale of illicit relationships, deceit, multiple lies and age gap relationships. In fact, there is something very unsavoury about some of these age gap relationships. They are not all about love or passion. We see healthy ones, ones that border on abuse and some that definitely are of a paedophile predatory nature. Swanson deliberately and intelligently makes us reflect. Unsettling. Thought-provoking. Pure brilliance.

The story takes us into the life of young Harry Ackerman. His father has passed away suddenly. Harry grieving returns from college. At the family home is his step mother, Alice, the second Mrs Bill Ackerman. The much younger new alluring wife. Harry has had inappropriate sexual thoughts about her for years. We see Harry trying to get to the truth about what happened to his father. We see Alice in action. All is not what it seems.

As you would expect from a Swanson story, you get presented with an initial idea about the direction of things. Then he swiftly turns everything on its head. He is clever, like that. We hear from Harry, from the young step mother, Alice and from another individual. There are assorted flashbacks, as we gain an understanding about what motivates our key players. Soon we are immersed in their lives and wonder if the truth or some version of it will ever be told. We get a delicious female character in Alice. Swanson’s female characters are always the strongest and the most complex.

This is a story about sex. It is about obsession. It is a slow burning Swanson classic. It might shock you, if you are of a very sensitive disposition. It will definitely make you think. Long may Peter Swanson continue to entertain us with his remarkable brand of noir.

Recommended.

 

 

 

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Dead Girls – Graeme Cameron (Normal 2)

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Dead Girls was published by HQ on 31 May 2018 and is available to purchase here

Five missing. The hunt is on for number six.

THE SERIAL KILLER
With five girls already missing and two dead police officers to add to the body count, the hunt is on. But how do you catch a man who doesn’t exist?

THE VICTIM
Held captive for months, Erica Shaw has now vanished. In the race to find her, the police uncover evidence that leave them wondering, was she ever actually a victim?

THE DETECTIVE
This isn’t DS Ali Green’s first murder case. But only recently recovered from her near-fatal injuries and battling some personal demons of her own, she’s out for justice.

One thing’s for sure. Not everyone is going to make it out of this alive.

Previously in the series

Normal by Graeme Cameron

The author replies to the question of will there be a sequel?

My thoughts

A few years ago, Graeme Cameron made us all fall in love with a very special serial killer. Normal introduced a normal everyday chap, who just happens to kill people. I loved him. I laughed. I (almost) cried. Dark humour at its best. Dead Girls is the much longed for follow up to Normal. How fabulous!

Obviously do not read Dead Girls, without reading Normal first. This is to avoid confusion/tears/the pulling out of hair. This is very much a sequel, which relies on your knowledge from the first book.

Dead Girls takes us to the moment, where our favourite serial killer is about to be caught. We see Detective Sargeant Ali Green being taken down. This results in Ali struggling with memory loss. She cannot remember the face of the killer. She struggles to retain key facts. This she conceals from her work colleagues, to be allowed back onto the hunt for our killer. Life for Ali is one big battle. Our killer from Normal is still lurking in the shadows. Can this killer be finally beaten?

This was fun, with some amusing moments of action and hilarity. We were left with a bit of a cliffhanger in Normal. We expected our anti hero to be caught. However Graeme Cameron plays beautifully with us. That moment is delayed and delayed. Dead Girls is a worthy successor to Normal. I did not think it matched the quirky darkness of Normal. Normal was unique though. The emphasis now is very different. This time, we really get into the head of Ali and see how she copes with a profound memory problem. A girl with a memory problem trying to find the killer, who assaulted her. What is not to love?

If you fell in love with Normal, you must get your hands on Dead Girls. If you haven’t read either book, shame on you. You know what to do. If you love your crime with a dollop of dark humour, look no further. This is a killer read. Recommended.

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A Malmo Midwinter: An Anita Sundstrom Novella – Torquil MacLeod

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A Malmo Midwinter was published by Torquil MacLeod Ltd on 27 October 2015 and is available to purchase here

Inspector Anita Sundström is called away from Christmas with her mother to help investigate a domestic death. Her initial relief at escaping a dull festive season soon fades when she and sidekick, Hakim Mirza, find themselves dealing with a difficult case involving the murder of an unloved father and disliked neighbour. Though suspects and motives abound, they are having difficulty identifying the murder weapon. Has the killing something to do with the victim’s past, or is the reason closer to home? It’s not the Christmas Anita was anticipating, nor the conclusion she was expecting.

My thoughts

Malmo in Midwinter is a short novella, which takes place after the fourth story, Midnight in Malmo. If you are a fan of Anita Sundstrom, this is an essential part of the series. It is a Christmas story. It gives a little insight into the celebrations in Sweden on Christmas Eve. It is funny how I always end up reading Christmas stories in summer.

Anita is spending Christmas with her tiresome relatives. Her son is away with his girlfriend, for some winter sun. She is keen to escape, when her sidekick phones her about a murder. Hakim Mirza, who is on duty over the Christmas period, has plenty to keep him occupied. A man has been killed, who was pretty much universally disliked. His family seem to be living in fear of him. At the same time, there is a spate of burglaries hitting Malmo. A criminal gang is targetting wealthy males and stripping the contents of their apartments.

Although this was only a short read, it was very welcome. Torquil MacLeod lets Hakim shine in this one, with Anita taking more of a supporting role. It is your classic locked door story, with a small cast of character and a wintery vibe. It was all very entertaining. I really do recommend this series.

 

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Midnight In Malmo: The Fourth Inspector Anita Sundstrom Mystery – Torquil MacLeod

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Midnight in Malmo was published by Torquil MacLeod Books on 26 February 2015 and is available to purchase here

When a woman is stabbed to death while jogging in Malmö’s main park, the Criminal Investigation Squad need to discover who she is before the case can properly get under way. Soon they realise the victim had flown in from Switzerland, and with links to important people in the city, she wasn’t everything she seemed.

Meanwhile, enjoying the hot summer away from Malmö, Anita Sundström is on her annual leave and is showing Kevin Ash the sights of Skåne. Their holiday is interrupted by the apparent suicide of a respected, retired diplomat. After a further death, Anita finds herself unofficially investigating a case that has its roots in the 1917 chance meeting of a Malmö waiter with the world’s most famous revolutionary. All she knows is that the answers lie in Berlin.

Two investigations that begin and end at Midnight in Malmö – the fourth Inspector Anita Sundström mystery.

My thoughts

I read Torquil MacLeod’s Anita Sundstrom series, a while back. I thought it was time to catch up with her. This is crime, with a lovely Swedish flavour and a British author. Seriously pleasurable crime. Midnight in Malmo is the fourth book in the series.

The story takes us to back to Malmo, Sweden. A jogger is stabbed to death in the park, near where Sundstrom lives. Fortunately Anita Sundstrom is on her holidays, with her English boyfriend, Kevin. She misses out on the action. Anita would probably not refer to Kevin as her boyfriend yet though. They are in the early stages of a relationship. We met DS Kevin Nash, in Missing in Malmo. The park murder is left to her keen sidekick, Hakim Mirza, and DCI Moberg to solve. Anita’s vacation with Kevin turns into a unofficial murder enquiry. Two of Anita’s close friends die in suspicious circumstances. One is a retired diplomat with some longstanding secrets to tell. Anita and Kevin are soon looking for answers in Germany, as well as Sweden. What they discover casts a light on Sweden’s neutral stance in the Cold War years.

This was my kind of read. Addictive and puzzling. As usual, MacLeod delivers the kind of novel that makes you want to grab your suitcase and head for the nearest airport to visit Sweden. I remembered exactly why I was addicted to this series. I really am fond of Anita. It is great being back in her world. I am now dying to get hold of the next in the series, A Malmo Midwinter.

Recommended.

 

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The Reckoning: Children’s House Book 2 (Freyja and Huldar) – Yrsa Sigurdardottir

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The Reckoning was published by Hodder and Stoughton on 3 May 2018 and is available to purchase here

Yrsa Sigurdardottir, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel, delivers another tour de force in her second novel in the Freyja and Huldar series.

A chilling note predicting the deaths of six people is found in a school’s time capsule, ten years after it was buried. But surely, if a thirteen-year-old wrote it, it can’t be a real threat…

Detective Huldar suspects he’s been given the investigation simply to keep him away from real police work. He turns to psychologist Freyja to help understand the child who hid the message. Soon, however, they find themselves at the heart of another shocking case.

For the discovery of the letter coincides with a string of macabre events: body parts found in a garden, followed by the murder of the man who owned the house. His initials are BT, one of the names on the note.

Huldar and Freyja must race to identify the writer, the victims and the murderer, before the rest of the targets are killed…

Also in the series

The Legacy: Children’s House Book 1 (Freyja and Huldar) – Yrsa Sigurdardottir

My thoughts

I discovered the Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir, last year. I read the first story in the Children’s House series, The Legacy this week. I was very impressed. I simply had to get my hands on The Reckoning and see what else Sigurdardottir has in store for us. This is such a fantastic series. I guarantee you will do the same.

In The Legacy, we got to know two key figures. Freyja is a child psychologist, whose job it is to work with traumatised and damaged children and young people. She was formerly the director of The Children’s House. She has recently been demoted, following events in The Legacy. Huldar is a police detective, whose last case led him into direct contact with Freya. This also had a detrimental effect on his career.

In The Reckoning, we get a brand new story to mull over. Someone has left in a time capsule, at a school, a deadly list. This is a list of people who will die in 2016. This is the case that Huldar, our disgraced detective, is forced to work on. Low level. His punishment. No one seems to take this list seriously. There are soon body parts being discovered in peculiar places. Severed hands. Severed feet. Something dark and devilish is happening. Soon Huldar has roped in Freyja, to support him. The question is who is demanding a reckoning?

Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a force to be reckoned with. This was superb. We see development in the Huldar/Freyja potential romantic relationship. Huldar completely wrecks his chances with Freyja. We have a story which strongly resonates, with themes of historic child abuse. The writing is flowing and exciting. It is hard to believe that this is a translated work from Icelandic. I am now itching to read the next book in the series. Unfortunately I do not know when it will be published. This is a must read author for fans of dark crime.

Strongly recommended.

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The Legacy: Children’s House Book 1 (Freyja and Huldar) – Yrsa Sigurdardottir

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The Legacy was published by Hodder and Stoughton on 23 March 2017 and is available to purchase here

The first in an exciting new series from ‘Iceland’s outstanding crime novelist’ (Daily Express) Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
THE INTERNATIONAL PRIZEWINNER

‘Believe all the hype – this is crime at its best.’ Heat

Detective Huldar is out of his depth. His first murder case is like nothing he’s seen before – a bizarre attack on a seemingly blameless woman.

The only evidence is a list of numbers found at the scene, and the testimony of the victim’s eleven-year-old daughter, who isn’t talking.

While his team attempt to crack the code, Huldar turns to child psychologist Freyja for her expertise with traumatised young people.

Because time is running out…and the one thing they know for certain is that the murderer will strike again.

My thoughts

I can see why Yrsa Sigurdardottir has been crowned the queen of Iceland noir. She simply is the best. I was drawn to The Legacy, after hearing about it last year. The description of the storyline intrigued me. Little did I know what an outstanding read, I would be getting.

The series introduces child psychologist Freyja and a local police detective, Huldar. The Children’s House is place of therapy and support for children and young people. Freyja is a director at the Children’s House.

The story starts with a case of three children, being separated by social workers. We do not see the significance of this strange act, until much later. After all, it is more usual for children to be placed together where possible in foster care. However this is very much connected to a horrific crime taking place in 2015. We see a brutal crime and a very sadistic killer. The killer has new and shocking use for household cleaning equipment. This killer targets a woman, who is alone at home with her young children. The only witness is a small child, the traumatised daughter of the victim. Freyja is soon under pressure for her team to get results, from Huldar. The child might offer vital clues, as to the identity of the killer. We follow the investigation, through its deliciously dark twists and turns.

On a lighter note, we also discover Freyja and Huldar have a past. They recently had a one night stand. This leads to awkwardness, when they meet on a professional level. This adds gorgeous nuances to their interactions. It is comic. Huldar realises that he wants to get to know Freyja better. Freyja is very mistrustful of him. It is fairly obvious that they will work things out, in time.

Beautifully dark and utterly powerful, with strong characterisation. The Legacy is compelling crime. I loved everything about it. I didn’t want it to end. I will definitely be devouring everything that Yrsa Sigurdardottir has ever written.

Strongly recommended.

 

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Whiteout – Ragnar Jonasson (Dark Iceland series #5)

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Whiteout was published by Orenda Books on 15 September 2017

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place. Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.
Previously in the Dark Iceland series

Snow Blind

Night Blind

Blackout

Rupture
From the Hidden Iceland series

The Darkness

My thoughts

I do enjoy a bit of Icelandic noir. With Whiteout, Ragnar Jonasson is now at the fifth story featuring Ari Thor. I am a big fan of his Dark Iceland series. This is really a series that needs to be read in order, to appreciate the character development of our heroic Ari Thor. Jonasson’s more recent novel The Darkness, which starts his Hidden Iceland series, is also worth checking out. Ragnar Jonasson writes quality Icelandic crime, that is incredibly accessible and engaging.

In Whiteout, we get a peculiar puzzle for Ari Thor to solve. A woman returns to her roots, only to be found at the bottom of the cliffs the next day. She has been murdered. There is something odd about Asta’s murder. Her fate seems to be identical to that of two close members of her family. Both Asta’s mother and sister were found dead, in precisely the same place over twenty years ago. Three suspicious deaths from one family rings alarm bells. Ari Thor and his former boss, Tomas, are soon looking for answers in this remote spot.

With a small cast of suspects and an isolated setting, this has the feel of a gorgeous classic whodunnit. Evil is lurking. The body count is rising. It is a place of secrets. It is also Christmas time. Iceland is a winter wonderland, with heavy snow falling in the bitter cold. This all intensifies the sense of isolation and climate of escalating uncertainty. We also get a little insight into the traditional celebrations in Iceland. Exchanging books at Christmas is rather wonderful.

Accomplished and tense, with the perfect tone and pace. This series hits all the right notes. Excellence from Ragnar Jonasson, as usual. Recommended.

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