BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: WOLVES IN THE DARK By Gunnar Staalesen

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Wolves in the Dark, published by the wonderful Orenda books and available now as an ebook and Oct 1 in paperback

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About the book

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a pedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material . . . and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest—and most personal—case yet. Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

REVIEW

Well, this is my second foray into the world of Varg Veum and I have to say I’ll officially follow him wherever he goes! I first met Varg in Where Roses Never Die (review here) and there was just something so compelling about his character that by the end of that book I felt like I’d found a new friend. I know many of you may see that this book is #21 in the series and may think you’re too far behind to give it a try but you can most definitely pick this up as a standalone as the author does a brilliant job of providing enough backstory for new readers as well as enticing established readers with a different side of Varg.

When Wolves in the Dark begins, Varg is in a much better place emotionally and physically than when we left him in Where Roses Never Die. After having been consumed by his grief over losing his love Karin, Varg had sought to drown his sorrows with copious amounts of alcohol, often blacking out and losing large chunks of time. In Wolves in the Dark, he’s in a stable relationship, sober, and feeling like he’s got a reason to be happy again. This new found happiness is short lived, however, as Varg soon finds himself implicated in a web of internet child pornography so intricate that he may never get himself out and clear his name. Who hates him so much they’d set him up in such a despicable way?  I absolutely loved how the author set this all up. In order to sift through possible suspects in terms of who had it in for Varg, he revisits some of his old cases which was a perfect way to help orient new readers to the bad guys from Varg’s past. Needless to say, there are plenty and soon we have many viable suspects. I have to say a quick point here about the subject matter involved in this story: child pornography. Now, part of me dreaded reading this because I didn’t know how I would get through those details and while it was certainly hard to read certain bits and pieces, overall the author kept the details to a minimum, allowing the subject matter to stay on the periphery of the story.

In terms of the pacing, I really loved how Staalesen upped the action in this story, especially about a third of the way in when Varg makes a snap decision to take matters into his own hands, going rogue so to speak! I loved this aspect as it made for suspenseful, action packed reading. Make sure to pay close attention though, as this is an intricate puzzle of a mystery that had me completely in the dark as far as ‘whodunit’ which, by the way, is exactly where I like to be. If you like gritty, noir mysteries with compelling, layered characters I think you should definitely put this book, or any of the other Varg Veum’s at the top of your tbr.

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About the Author

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die were both international bestsellers.

Many Thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my copy and for inviting me on the blog tour! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Varg in the future

Be sure to stop by the other fantastic blogs on the tour!

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BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: FAITHLESS By Kjell Ola Dahl

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl, available now and  published by the wonderful Orenda Books

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From Goodreads
Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again. 
 

Review
 
Faithless is the fifth book in the Oslo detectives series and yes, I’ve once again jumped into a series mid-way. If I didn’t know it was a series though I’m not sure I would’ve realized it because it very much reads as a standalone. I’m sure there are character threads woven throughout but I can’t say I noticed that I was missing anything.

The story begins with a stakeout and right away we meet Frank Frolich who’s staking out the house of a suspected robber. When a lady (Veronika Undset) leaves the house and he’s sent to follow and subsequently question her, several plot pieces are set in motion. It’s not long before Frank realizes his past seems to have firmly planted itself in his present, making him somewhat uncomfortable and on guard. Then a murder is committed leaving Frank stunned and searching for answers.

Frank’s comrade and fellow Oslo detective, Gunnarstranda, is investigating the disappearance of a University student so we are privy to 2 separate investigations which may or may not have connections. I found Gunnarstranda to be an interesting character as he sought to solve his case using old-fashioned detective work. His disdain for all the modern technology like CCTV’s was apparent and amusing. Then there’s Lena, a female colleague, who I have to say I never quite decided if I liked or not and then later in the story when she goes rogue and puts herself in a very precarious situation, I really thought that perhaps she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

Faithless is classic Nordic Noir in that the pace is slow, the clues are layed out gradually, and the detectives work fairly methodically. The sentence structure was often short and choppy which did take some getting used to on my part. One thing I really appreciated, however, was the linear timeline. The story progresses in a straightforward manner…no flashbacks!   Something that was missing for me in this book though was a sense of place. I never felt like I could picture the surroundings and the atmospheric details I’ve come to enjoy in other Nordic Noir novels weren’t there for me in this one. I did find the characterization to be strong and while the resolution of one of the mysteries seemed to be pretty lackluster, the other one was a surprise. I always love to be fooled and the author managed to pull one over on me in terms of the murder.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan for my copy of Faithless and Anne Cater for inviting me to be on the blog tour. I’m happy to provide an honest review.

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About the author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Be sure to stop by the other fantastic blogs on the tour 
 
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Faithless is available now for ebook and paperback in the UK. Publication for print in the US is Sept 1 or you can order now through Book Depository

REVIEW: WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE By Gunnar Staalesen

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From Goodreads

Published August, 2016 by Orenda Books

September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl, disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. Almost 25 years later, as the expiration date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge. Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost crime thriller writers.

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While the missing child storyline is nothing new, this one drew my attention for several reasons. One, it’s an Orenda book and I have yet to read a book that Karen Sullivan has published that I haven’t really enjoyed; two, the fact that this missing child case has been unsolved for 25 years and the statute of limitations is almost up made it feel more intense, like the clock really is ticking to find out and bring someone to justice; three, I’ve recently discovered I love Scandinavian crime novels for the dark, somewhat gloomy settings as well as the often dark, gloomy characters involved.

Put all that together with the beginning pages of the story and I was hooked. The book begins with the armed robbery of a jewelry store gone wrong when a passerby literally runs into the robbers and gets shot and killed. When said robbers basically vanish into thin air it’s intriguing to say the least. The question will soon become, how, if at all does this seemingly random robbery tie in with a 25 year old missing child case?

From here we meet PI Varg Veum who’s losing the battle with himself over continually draining his liquor (Aquavit) bottle while on the job. There’s something tragic about Varg that made me really like him right off the bat. When the mother of Mette Misvoer, the little 3 year old girl who vanished from her front yard 25 years ago while playing in her sandbox pays Varg a visit you could feel his compassion coming through the pages and I immediately realized I was rooting for Varg to not only find the little girl but to save himself from the brink of what seemed like his own personal despair.

What follows is a story told in the style of traditional crime novels. By that I mean there’s no fancy detective tricks, no unreliable narrator, no high speed car chases or shoot’em up filler scenes…this is a guy battling his own personal demons who employs old fashioned detective work to find the missing Mette. With his amusing verbal sparring with suspects, I really found Varg to be a realistic and plausible character. As for the pace of the novel, it’s slow and steady (not in a bad way just in a methodical one)  until about the last quarter when the puzzle pieces begin to fall and click into place and I was racing to the end to find out every last detail. Can I just say…I didn’t see that ending coming! I had my theories but they always remained kind of fuzzy, I just couldn’t figure it all out which is exactly how I like to feel when reading a mystery.

I do have to say that many of you may look this up on Goodreads or Amazon and see that this is Book 18 in the series. FEAR NOT friends because this can be read as a standalone and really the only thing I wanted more answers to involved what happened to Varg’s love Karen which is what has led him to drown himself in Aquavit. So, with that said, I’ll be going back and reading Book 17, We Shall Inherit The Wind. I’ll also be eagerly awaiting Book 19, Wolves in the Dark,  which will be published by Orenda this June!

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review

BLOG TOUR AND REVIEW: CURSED By Thomas Enger (translated by Kari Dickson)

I’m beyond thrilled to welcome everyone to my stop on the blog tour for Thomas Enger’s CURSED which was published Jan 21,2017 by the wonderful Orenda Books

 

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Blurb

When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to another persodeath. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex- wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Norway’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. When their lives are threatened, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history. Chilling, gritty and unputdownable, Cursed marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers.

 

MY REVIEW

This week appears to be Thomas Enger week on my blog as I just reviewed Pierced (book 2) on Monday and today the spotlight shines on his new novel Cursed. I have to say I couldn’t be happier to highlight such a fantastic author and his books, I would highly encourage all of you reading this to put him at the very top of your must read lists…you won’t be sorry!!

Cursed starts off with a prologue that left me breathless! Thomas Enger propels us into the story with an event that I wasn’t quite prepared for, but was an absolute zinger of a way to start off the novel.  We are then introduced to Nora, an investigative journalist who works for Aftenposten and is also Henning Juul’s ex-wife. If you’ve read any of Enger’s previous books you know Henning Juul is also an investigative journalist working for 123News and that he and Nora split up after their son was killed in an arson fire (meant to kill Henning) while staying with Henning at his flat. If you haven’t read the previous novels (I’ve only read Pierced) fear not because Enger does an amazing job of cluing readers in on the backstory of Henning and his ongoing investigation into who set fire to his flat, killing his son.

The story moves forward at breakneck pace, alternating between Nora’s perspective as she investigates Hedda Hellberg’s disappearance and Henning’s as he delves further into his investigation of the possible parties responsible for the death of his son. Both Henning and Nora will come to find that their own lives are at risk as they uncover long buried secrets and lies that have led certain people to kill to keep buried….and who will undoubtedly kill again to make sure they stay buried.

What Enger does flawlessly is put the reader into the hearts and minds of Henning and Nora by immersing us into each and every scene with such precise, vivid prose and dialogue that we can’t help but feel a connection to these characters. I was deeply invested in both Nora and Henning’s investigations and felt compelled to keep turning the pages as quickly as possible because I could sense the imminent danger surrounding each of them. The use of short chapters also helped to create additional tension.  Little by little,  the threads of each investigation start to entangle and what is left is nothing short of a masterfully plotted web of deceit, betrayals and murder.

I’m going to be honest here…my detective skills are nowhere near the level needed to have accurately put together this jigsaw puzzle of a plot and I can’t tell you how happy that made me! Thomas Enger is at the TOP of his storytelling game with this novel. Not since reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series have I felt so riveted by characters and plot…until now. And the ending…utter perfection! Needless to say, I will be anxiously awaiting 2018 and book 5; in the meantime, I’ll be going back and reading Burned (book 1) and finishing Scarred (book 3).

5/5 Stars

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Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

 

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Many Thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Thomas Enger for my copy of CURSED and including me on the blog tour. I’m happy to provide an honest review

CURSED was published January 21,2017 by Orenda Books and can be purchased at AmazonThe Book Depository and Orenda’s Ebookstore

Make sure to stop by all the fantastic blogs on the tour!

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Praise for Thomas Enger

‘Thomas Enger is one of the finest writers in the Nordic Noir genre, and this is his very best book yet. Outstanding’ Ragnar Jónasson

‘Slick, compelling and taut, Thomas Enger combines a sophisticated layers of mysteries with an intensely scarred hero embarked on a tragic quest. A dark and suspenseful blast of Nordic exposure’ Chris Ewan

‘The Killing took us by surprise, The Bridge was a good follow-up, but the political drama Borgen knocked spots of both. For readers who enjoy these Scandinavian imports, this novel is a treat … the dialogue is sharp and snappy, and the characters seem to come alive in this sophisticated and suspenseful tale’ Jessica Mann, Literary Review

‘It has real strengths: the careful language, preserved in the fine translation, and its haunted journalist hero … An intriguing series’ Guardian

‘A powerful new voice and a writer I will follow with great interest’ Raven Crime Reads

‘Suspenseful, dark and gritty, this is a must-read’ Booklist

‘This promises to be a crime fiction series worth watching’ Library Journal

‘The careful revealing of clues, the clever twists, and the development of Henning Juul and the supporting characters make this a very promising start to a new series’ Suspense Magazine

‘Superbly compelling … the characters leap right off the page, and the relationship between them is as twisted and complex as the story itself’ Shotsmag

‘Thomas Enger writes a murderous thriller that begs comparison to Jussi Adler-Olsen or Stieg Larsson. With Cursed Enger has proved that he definitely belongs in the top ten of Scandinavian authors’ literaturmarkt.info

‘Unexpected and surprising … like a fire in the middle of a snowfall’ Panorama ‘Thomas Enger is like a bottle of very good red wine. With time he just gets better and better.

Cursed is a top-class crime thriller from a top-class author’ Mokka

‘A fascinating addition to the Scandinavian Noir genre. I look forward to the series unfolding’ Crimesquad

Cursed is visceral and heartfelt – a gripping deep-dive into the secrets that hold families together and tear them apart’ Crime by the Book

‘Spine-chilling and utterly unputdownable. Thomas Enger has created a masterpiece of intrigue, fast-paced action and suspense that is destined to become Nordic Noir classic’ Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

 

 

REVIEW: PIERCED By Thomas Enger (translated by Charlotte Barslund)

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The acclaimed author of Burned is back with more heart-stopping suspense in a gritty and thrilling sequel that pits Norwegian crime reporter Henning Juul against an international crime ring.

Oslo’s top investigative crime reporter Henning Juul is still haunted by the death of his son. Every time he looks in the mirror, he sees the scars from the horrible fire that killed his six-year-old boy. So when he receives a message from convicted murderer Tore Pulli, he can’t stop himself from following up: “If you find out who set me up, I’ll tell you what happened the day your son died.

 

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Please don’t let the fact that the blurb above says “sequel” make you disregard this book because you haven’t read the first book Burned because I haven’t either and I didn’t have one iota of a problem getting into this story and following the plot.

Henning Juul is an investigative journalist in Oslo whose son was killed in a fire at Henning’s home that has left him scarred and disfigured. Little by little , Henning has come back from the brink of death and now, two years later, has returned to work at the online magazine 123News.  Soon after returning, he receives a call from convicted murderer Tore Pulli, a previous enforcer turned property developer, who asks Henning to help prove his innocence; in exchange, he will tell him who was behind the fire at his flat that killed his son. Henning jumps at the offer and begins his own investigation into the murder for which Tore Pulli was convicted. Suffice it to say, there are ruthless people who aren’t too thrilled that Henning is turning over stones and kicking up dust and it’s not long before he realizes his own life is at risk. So many questions start to haunt him…Has he made a deal with the devil? Does Tore Pulli really know who set fire to his flat or is he stringing Henning along to get himself out of prison? What was Henning investigating before the fire that someone wanted to silence him for? Since he has no memory of the weeks prior to the fire, Henning knows that if he can answer this third question, he’ll find out who’s responsible for his son’s death.

I know I’ve focused so far on Henning’s investigation of Tore Pulli, but it’s important to note that there are several threads to this story which bring us a wide variety of compelling characters, all of whom had intriguing backstories and storylines.  I literally had no idea how or if they’d all tie in together but rest assured,  Enger has a plan and it’s masterfully executed! While the plot is complex, not once did I feel lost.  In fact, I was so enthralled by the characters and the layered mystery that I couldn’t turn the pages quick enough. At one point I thought to myself…stop trying to figure it all out and sit back and enjoy being completely snowed over by the addictive plot and perfect pacing! This brings me to my need to highlight Enger’s brilliant use of short chapters with cliffhanger endings. I just couldn’t stop reading as I HAD to know how things would turn out from one chapter to the next..the result was a binge readathon in which I finished this book in about a day and a half. And that included a day of traveling involving 2 flights, 2 airports etc in which my kindle was basically stuck to my face.

Pierced has MANY strengths in addition to the ones I’ve just discussed but the one I really want to emphasize is Enger’s ability to bring Henning, along with a cast of other memorable characters to life. For better or worse (some are truly frightening), they were realistic and multidimensional. I read somewhere that when you find a character that you connect with, root for, sympathize with whatever, then you, the reader, will follow that character wherever he/she goes and that’s how I feel about Henning Juul. He could’ve been folding laundry, driving through McDonald’s etc and I would follow him because that’s just how connected I am to this character. Of course, something exciting would probably end up happening to him while he folded the laundry, but you get my point. This book, in particular, and the series overall have everything I look for in a crime story and I can’t wait to see what Enger has in store for us in the future!

5/5 Stars

 

**Pierced is book two in a planned 5 book series featuring Henning Juul.  Be sure to check back on Wednesday when it’s my stop on the blog tour for Thomas Enger’s newest novel, Cursed!!