Blackout – Ragnar Jónasson

Blackout | Ragnar Jonasson

On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykjavík to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…

Ari Thór is back in this, the third installment in Ragnar Jónasson’s superb Dark Iceland series. The events of Blackout take place following the volcanic eruptions of 2010 where Eyjafjallajökull managed to close down most of Europe’s airspace, and interestingly, between the events of the first book, Snowblind, and the second, Nightblind.

Ragnar presents us with a number of mysteries here – the dead man being investigated by Ari Thór and his colleagues, the strange emails that are causing Hlynur Ísaksson such distress and the investigation of a young reporter from Reykjavik. Blackout has more depth and complexity than the previous two books, with the myriad of threads and characters weaving together as the book progresses, all told in Ragnar’s wonderfully sparse style. There are a *lot* of threads to keep up with in this one!

Regular readers of this blog (hi!) will know how much I loved Snowblind and Nightblind, and Ragnar has delivered another superbly convoluted mystery.

Nordic Noir, eat your heart out. Icelandic Noir is where it’s at.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

The Arrival of Missives – Aliya Whiteley

the-arrival-of-missives

In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.

The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?

As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley is an interesting, different and sometimes slightly peculiar novella published by Unsung Stories.

It follows the story of Shirley, a young girl living in a remote village more or less cut off from everyday life in the aftermath of the first World War. It’s beautifully written and paced, but it’s a hard story to classify – it starts off apparently as one thing, then evolves facets of sci-fi and magic, though they’re deftly understated. Definitely not YA despite our heroine being a young adult. When I started the book I wasn’t sure it was my sort of thing, but quickly got drawn into the story.

In short (and it is quite short), it’s a fascinating tale. Worth picking up if you want something a little different.

Many thanks to Unsung Stories for the review copy.

Impact – Rob Boffard

Impact | Rob Boffard

A signal has been picked up from Earth.

The planet was supposed to be uninhabitable. But it seems there are survivors down there – with supplies, shelter and running water. Perhaps there could be a future for humanity on Earth after all.

Riley Hale will find out soon enough. She’s stuck on a spaceship with the group of terrorists that is planning to brave the planet’s atmosphere and crash-land on the surface.

But when the re-entry goes wrong, Riley ends up hundreds of miles from her companions Prakesh and Carver, alone in a barren wilderness. She’ll have to use everything she knows to survive.

And all of them are about to find out that nothing on Earth is what it seems…

Regular readers will be aware that I am somewhat of a fan of Mr Boffard’s work. Tracer was fantastic and made my books of the year list for 2015, Zero-G upped the ante, and now we have Impact, book #3 in the Outer Earth trilogy.

The question was, having turned the action up to 11 for Zero-G, could Rob find a new setting on the dial for the finale?

Well, yeah, he knocked it out of the park.

Again.

Impact is an interesting change of setting from the first two as we find Riley and chums down on earth. The action still comes thick and fast, and the stakes are cranked up to the max. Facing new dangers, she has to put her tracer skills to full use just to survive.

Hard to say more without spoilers, but go with me on this – if you liked Tracer and Zero-G, you’re going to love Impact. And if you’ve not read Tracer or Zero-G, what are you waiting for? You’re in for quite a ride…

You can find Rob on Twitter @RobBoffard, his website, and last but definitely not least, on YouTube doing epic rap book reviews.

and launching a book into space to be the first author reading in space. SPACE!

The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road | Beth Lewis

Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

The Wolf Road is, quite simply, brilliant. A wonderfully written, with a superbly strong female lead the like of which I’ve not seen for a very long time. The story is told through her eyes, and she has a distinctive way of telling it – this takes a little getting used to, but you quickly come to love her tough talking, no-nonsense approach to life and the situations she finds herself in.

We follow Elka on her journey across the post-apocalyptic landscape of Canada and the Yukon, where the ‘Big Stupid’ has pushed what’s left of society into the days of the Western and the Gold Rush. Beth Lewis shows a deft hand with turning up the tension as the hunt progresses and we find out more about our young heroine. I loved the way that her life with Trapper is revealed an inch at a time, each one providing a glimpse into what made her the fearless young woman she has become.

I read this over the course of a weekend and found it incredibly hard to put down. It’s one of those books where you close it and just know that you’re going to be pestering others to read it.

So, go read it, before I start pestering you.

If this book doesn’t place very highly in my books of 2016, I will be very *very* surprised.

Poison City – Paul Crilley

Poison City

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except… the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.

It’s not looking good for the world.

Oof. It’s been a bumper year for awesome books, and Paul Crilley’s Poison City sits firmly on the List Of Books Dave Will Insist You Read (Or Else). List needs a snappier title. Suggestions welcome.

So this is another one for your to-read lists (whatever you might call them). Imagine Harry Potter grew up, moved to South Africa and adopted a sherry-loving spirit guide called Dog – a hard-boiled urban fantasy detective noir
.
It’s like a bit of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London mixed with Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police, with a healthy dash of Lauren Beukes.

And I *love* all three of those authors.

Great characters, fabulously sarcastic spirit guides and a boss from Yorkshire.

Very *very* recommended. Not for the faint-hearted.

You can read chapter one here

Thanks to the lovely folks at @Hodderscape for the advance review copy. You can find Paul on twitter @PaulCrilley

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Right. Where to start?

OK, how about this. You remember how much I loved Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy? And how I’d pester you mercilessly about reading it until you finally gave in and read it[1]?

Move aside, Brown. There’s a new kid in town and his name’s Kristoff. Jay Kristoff[2].

Nevernight is just simply wonderful. The worldbuilding is astonishingly good. Shades of Locke Lamora, with a ton of Pratchett-esque footnotes[3]. Superb, complex characters. And a sand kraken called Alfi[4].

Imagine if Hogwarts was a school for assassins where a young girl goes to learn how to avenge her father’s murder[5]. A school where you learned how to kill or be killed, with a blade, with poison, or with your wits. And you might learn some of the more… subtle[6] arts too.

The characters are plentiful and wonderful. Even the bad ones. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry[7], you’ll tell yourself ‘just one more chapter’[8]

And this is just book #1. I cannot wait to see where Mr Kristoff will take us next.

Many thanks to the lovely folks at Harper Voyager for the advance copy. You can find them on Twitter at @HarperVoyagerUK. Whilst you’re there, you should also say hi to Jay (@MisterKristoff) . He’s ace, and won’t bite[9].

[1] and then you loved it and started doing the same to all of your friends? SEE I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!
[2] OK, so it turns out he’s not *that* new and has written many other things. You should probably check them out. I know I will.
[3] I *love* footnotes. Possibly a little too much, some would say.
[4] I mean, how could you not love a sand kraken? Especially Alfi. Alfi is awesome.
[5] Shades of The Princess Bride as well then. Seriously, have you not already ordered and read this book? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
[6] You might blush. No, seriously. I didn’t blush. Much.
[7] no, really. Page 553. I’ve still not forgiven Jay for *that*
[8] and we all know how *that* ends, don’t we?
[9] Much. Probably. He does look rather like that Dave Grohl chap though, but much, much taller

The Dali Deception – Adam Maxwell

Dali_small

Five criminals. Two forgeries. And one masterpiece of a heist.

Violet Winters—a professional thief born of a good, honest thief-and-con-artist stock— has been offered the heist of a lifetime. Steal a priceless Salvador Dali from the security-obsessed chairman of the Kilchester Bank and replace it with a forgery.

The fact that the “painting” is a signed, blank canvas doesn’t matter. It’s the challenge that gives Violet that familiar, addicting rush of adrenaline. Her quarry rests in a converted underground Cold War bunker. One way in, one way out. No margin for error.

But the reason Violet fled Kilchester is waiting right where she left him—an ex-lover with a murderous method for dumping a girlfriend. If her heist is to be a success, there will have to be a reckoning, or everything could go spinning out of control.

Her team of talented misfits assembled, Violet sets out to re-stake her claim on her reputation, exorcise some demons, and claim the prize. That is, if her masterpiece of a plan isn’t derailed by a pissed-off crime boss—or betrayal from within her own ranks.

Now then, regular readers will be aware of my fondness for a good heist story, be it in the movies (The Thomas Crown Affair is one of my favourites) or in print.

The Dali Deception is a fine addition to the list. It’s a cracking ensemble piece – Violet Winters must assemble a crack team to lift a priceless painting from an impregnable vault whilst various obstacles stack up in her way, including one very annoyed crime boss, Big Terry.

It’s all too easy for these ensemble stories to fall a little flat when it comes to character, but Adam has shown a neat flair for characterisation, with each getting their own moment in the sun. They’re all essential to the plot and all feel like real, well-rounded individuals. I particularly loved Katie. She might not say much, but she’s a refreshing change to The Muscle you normally find in such tales. The classics are all there – computer hacker whizkid, the wheelman, the con-artist, but they all feel fresh. And Big Terry is a character I’d love to see more of.

There’s a lovely stream of wit throughout too, with sarcastic put-downs, pithy one-liners and a real feeling of camaraderie amongst the gang.

However, you can have all the fabulous characters in the world but a heist story lives or dies on the strength of its plot. And The Dali Deception’s plot delivers in spades. Plenty of twists and turns along the way, with more than one moment of ‘how *exactly * are they going to get away with it now?’.

How do they get away with it? You’ll just have to read it and find out!

The Dali Deception is out now in ebook. You can find Adam Maxwell on twitter @LostBookshop or on his website. Go say hi, then go read the book.

Many thanks to Adam for the review copy. The opinions are, as ever, my own.