Kitty Underhay is drowning… in murder.
Kitty Underhay hopes for plain sailing as she caters a 21st birthday party for the Chief Constable’s daughter aboard a luxury paddle steamer. So her heart sinks when she learns that the man her fiancé Matthew has been tailing on orders from Whitehall, Gunther Freiburg, is aboard. And she’s even more horrified when she steps below deck to discover Gunther, dead in the engine room. One of the Chief Constable’s party must be responsible for his demise, but who, and why?
And the evening is on course for further disaster. As the lights go out around the candlelit cake, a terrible scream rings out over the merry hubbub. A priceless diamond necklace has been snatched from around the birthday girl’s neck… Something fishy is going on, but is this the work of the same sailing assassin, or is it a red herring?
With the local inspector in deep water having to investigate his own boss, Kitty and Matt dive in to help. But when Kitty’s eavesdropping puts her in mortal danger, will everything turn out shipshape, or will it be her turn to go swimming with the fishes…?
A crime novel that features a paddle steamer, a party that turns murderous and a priceless diamond necklace to boot – I mean, what’s not to love? These were some of the many reasons that I was drawn to Murder On Board and why I’m so grateful to Noelle Holton & Bookouture for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – although this is the 10th Miss Underhay novel, you can absolutely read it as a stand-alone and I’m sure you’ll be off to look for the back catalogue once you’ve finished…
I love immersing myself in a setting and feeling like I’ve actually travelled back in time whilst I’m reading and this book really achieves this as you feel like you are there witnessing the events on board right there alongside Kitty & the other guests – I know it’s already been said plenty of times – But it really made me hopeful that this quaint and addictive read will be part of a series of books that I can enjoy on the screen shortly- I am already casting Kitty in my mind’s eye and think it would be a fab Sunday night series – All aboard for a cracking new instalment.
Because you’re definitely in a safe pair of hands, with a writer who clearly knows and loves her subject matter and can craft a perfect cosy crime tale, you feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and spend a few days in the company of this eclectic and memorable cast of characters. I really felt like I could imagine the paddle steamer and so many of the characters – and I absolutely loved the 1930s setting, which was wonderfully recreated on the pages.
It was lovely to lose myself in this cosy crime read after a few months where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction. It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real Crime Fiction mission and am looking forward to losing myself in another of my favourite era’s crime stories as soon as possible. I am trying not to give any spoilers at all as I do not want you to be able to guess what’s about to unfold for you once you open the covers of this wonderful take on cosy crime, but you should prepare to be absorbed, entertained and charmed by the idiosyncrasies of these characters and take note that sometimes the most surprising clues can turn out to be pivotal…
The host of engaging characters and their complementary character quirks in this charming and entertaining read allowed me to escape from everything that’s so frustrating in the modern world and just focus on the twists and turns of the mystery. The way that we get to see the ensuing complications of the case that Kitty and Matt attempt to unravel as they attempt to solve the mystery of Gunther’s demise was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’ as you wonder whatever is going to happen next and how Kitty’s somewhat unorthodox crime-busting techniques will win the day.
This was the perfect October break read for me – and if you just want an escape from it all – then this would be a perfect book to lose yourself in. Fans of the cosy crime genre will have hours of entertainment trying to solve the mystery for themselves whilst managing to raise a smile and a theory or two themselves as they go.
If you love a humorous and intelligent read with memorable characters and a setting that you’ll absolutely fall for then this is the read for you. I definitely enjoyed this book just as much as I’d been expecting to and I’m sure that it would appeal to lots of my Book club readers too. Treat yourself to a copy this week and enjoy this trip into the world of 1930s cosy crime for yourself
A totally cozy, absolutely gripping historical murder mystery! The perfect read for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.
Readers love the Miss Underhay mysteries:
‘Five stars are not enough.’ Netgalley reviewer, 5 stars
‘This was excellent and I read it in one sitting, a page-turner I couldn’t put down.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘Fast, fun and utterly unputdownable… perfect for fans of Agatha Christie.’ Robin Loves Reading
‘What can I say? I loved it.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘Excellent cosy mystery! The story was gripping… I loved the character development with the little hint of romance and cannot wait for the next book.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘I love this series… The murder mystery itself was engrossing… It kept me guessing right until the final scene.’ Roberta Reads, 5 stars
‘I felt right at home the moment I started reading… It was a joy.’ Goodreads reviewer
‘This murder mystery is perfect… This story has it all. An absolute page-turner with characters to care about.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘My favourite cosy mystery series.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
‘A page-turner that will keep you guessing.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars
Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen has finally restored order both to his life and to YouMeFun, the adventure park he now owns, when a man from the past appears – and turns everything upside down again. More problems arise when the park’s equipment supplier is taken over by a shady trio, with confusing demands. Why won’t Toy of Finland Ltd sell the new Moose Chute to Henri when he needs it as the park’s main attraction?
Meanwhile, Henri’s relationship with artist Laura has reached breaking point, and, in order to survive this new chaotic world, he must push every calculation to its limits, before it’s too late…
Absurdly funny, heart-stoppingly poignant and full of nail-biting suspense, The Moose Paradox is the second instalment in the critically acclaimed, pitch-perfect Rabbit Factor Trilogy and things are messier than ever…
‘Finnish crime maestro Antti Tuomainen is unique in the Scandi-crime genre, infusing his crime narratives with the darkest humour … [his] often hilarious, chaotic narrative never vitiates the novel’s nicely tuned tension’ Financial Times
What goes up, must come down – and that applies equally as well to your fortunes as well as the thrills and spills of life in an adventure park with a difference. The dichotomy is the source of the absolute genius here and even though people bandy around the idea that ‘you won’t have read anything else like it’ all the time – in this case it’s absolutely true!
I think that for a lot of people, they have a very rigid idea of what to expect when they order themselves a helping of ‘Scandi-Noir’ – this book subverts your expectations by taking you on a literal and metaphorical wild ride where youo have an actuary presiding over a world where things just don’t add up, a theme park like no other and a Moose Shute that just needs to be the main attraction.
Actuaries by their very nature crave order and predictability – that’s why they go into that kind of career. What they don’t crave is uncertainty, chaos and disorder, and it’s the contrast here that makes this series so enjoyable. Henri is still struggling to make YouMeFun a successful venture and his agile mind has a lot to contend with as he tries once again to impose order on chaos as he navigates the ins and outs of life as an eclectic entrepreneur in this second instament of the Rabbit Factor Trilogy
I have loved seeing how this quirky, funny and damn clever series has unfolded and loved witnessing the different ways that this book continues to subvert expectations. If you take all the various elements separately, then they might seem like they couldn’t possiby synthesise into a coherent book – but its very much like the cleverest recipe – it takes all of these diverse ingredients and converts them to something much much greater than the sum of its parts.
I also loved the colourful cavalcade of other characters that we come to know and love across the arc of the trilogy. Henri might prefer to put things in nice tidy boxes, but the characters here defy tidy descriptions.. Esa might be ‘only’ a security guard, but there can be fewer people in the world to ever have taken their job so seriously – and the way that this tale unfolds – and I’m determined to avoid spoilers – it’s a bloody good job that he does! I also loved the character of Laura and enjoyed the way that her freewheeling creative world view causes Henri to rethink some of the ways he looks at the world and start to loosen his necktie and embrace a less rigid and automated world view – it’s been great to see how their relationship has evolved and I can’t wait til the next instalment of their story in the final part of the trilogy…
If you are after something completely different then this is the Orentober read for you! All you need to know is that this is another five star winner from Antti – his sense of humour, originality and turn of phrase will ensure that this book stays with you for a long time after you finish reading it. Here’s to you enjoying the second slice of Henri’s adventures in themeparkland every bit as much as I did. If you are anything like me, you will be longing for the next instalment and looking forward to seeing where this wild and crazy adventure takes us.
Treat yourself to a copy for yourself and tell me that you’ve found a funnier, more original or cleverer read this month – I’ll wait!
So what are you waiting for? Get ordering your very own copy and see how all the statistics in this book mean that it adds up to being one of the most unforgettable reads of 2021
‘Finnish crime maestro Antti Tuomainen is unique in the Scandi-crime genre, infusing his crime narratives with the darkest humour … [his] often hilarious, chaotic narrative never vitiates the novel’s nicely tuned tension’ Financial Times
‘Enter hitmen, serendipity, offbeat comedy and the reappearance of literally the last person Henri expects to see … unlike anything else out there’ The Times
‘A thriller with black comedy worthy of Nabokov’ Telegraph Book of the Year
Praise for The Rabbit Factor Trilogy
**Shortlisted for the CWA Crime in Translation Dagger**
**Shortlisted for the Last Laugh Award**
‘The antic novels of Antti Tuomainen prove that comedy is not lost in translation …Tuomainen, like Carl Hiaasen before him, has the knack of combining slapstick with genuine emotion’ The Times
‘The funniest writer in Europe, and one of the very finest … original and brilliant story-telling’ Helen FitzGerald
‘British readers might think they know what to expect from Nordic noir: a tortured detective, a bleak setting, a brutal crime that shakes a small community. Finnish crime novelist Tuomainen turns all of this on its head … The ear of a giant plastic rabbit becomes a key weapon. It only gets darker and funnier’ Guardian
‘Dark, gripping and hilarious … Tuomainen is the Carl Hiaasen of the fjords’ Martyn Waites
‘A triumph, a joyous, feel-good antidote to troubled times’ Kevin Wignall
‘Finland’s greatest export’ M.J. Arlidge
‘You don’t expect to laugh when you’re reading about terrible crimes, but that’s what you’ll do when you pick up one of Tuomainen’s decidedly quirky thrillers’ New York Times
Writer On The Shelf
Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style,
Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. A TV adaptation is in the works, and Jussi Vatanen (Man In Room 301) has just been announced as a leading role.
Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. In total, Antti Tuomainen has been short- and longlisted for 12 UK awards.
Translator On The Shelf
David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain, two crime novels by Matti Joensuu and Kati Hiekkapelto’s Anna Fekete series (which currently includes The Hummingbird, The Defenceless and The Exiled, all published by Orenda Books). He also translates Antti Tuomainen’s stories. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation. David is also a professional countertenor and a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.
Áróra becomes involved in the search for an Icelandic woman who disappeared from her home while making dinner, as she continues to hunt for her missing sister. The second breathtaking instalment in the chilling, addictive An Áróra Investigation series…
When entrepreneur Flosi arrives home for dinner one night, he discovers that his house has been ransacked, and his wife Guðrún missing. A letter on the kitchen table confirms that she has been kidnapped. If Flosi doesn’t agree to pay an enormous ransom, Guðrún will be killed. Forbidden from contacting the police, he gets in touch with Áróra, who specialises in finding hidden assets, and she, alongside her detective friend Daníel, try to get to the bottom of the case without anyone catching on. Meanwhile, Áróra and Daníel continue the puzzling, devastating search for Áróra’s sister Ísafold, who disappeared without trace. As fog descends, in a cold and rainy Icelandic autumn, the investigation becomes increasingly dangerous, and confusing. Chilling, twisty and unbearably tense, Red as Blood is the second instalment in the riveting, addictive An Áróra Investigation series, and everything is at stake.
‘Lilja Sigurðardóttir doesn’t write cookie-cutter crime novels … Isn’t that what all crime writers should aim for?’ The Times
‘Lilja is a stand-out voice in Iceland Noir’ James Oswald
‘Sure to please Scandi noir fans’ Publishers Weekly
‘One of my new favourite series … Áróra’s brains and brawn, combined with the super-cool Icelandic setting, is a winning combination’ Michael J. Malone
‘So atmospheric’ Crime Monthly
‘Áróra is a wonderful character: unique, passionate, unpredictable and very real’ Michael Ridpath
Karen has done it again! Another amazing Orenda read…
Red as Blood is the second instalment in the An Áróra Investigation Series and I cannot wait to share my review! If you follow my blog, you’ll know that Cold as Hell absolutely blew me away – and I was actually nervous before reading Red as Blood as I was worried that it couldn’t possibly live up to the standard that was set in Lilja’s first instalment. Well, let me tell you, I needn’t have worried as if anything this was even better. I love Lilja’s writing and fell hard for her Reykjavik Noir Trilogy, and if you haven’t discovered her writing yet, you are in for an absolute treat.
Áróra is someone that you won’t easily forget and I loved how quickly I refamiliarised myself with her world. She’s a character that sears herself into your consciousness as she is an absolute individual who is not prepared to compromise on her world view. As before, I got completely drawn into her story because of her complexities and challenges and joined forces with her metaphorically to try and unravel the case of Guðrún‘s disappearance as well as the mystery of her sister Ísafold’d disappearance. Áróra is a woman who refuses to be cowed by obfuscation and disinformation, and I was absolutely gripped by her dogged determination to work through the half-truths and evasions and get to the heart of the matter- whatever the cost.
The fact that we share Áróra’s mistrust of the people who surround her brings a sense of being ‘in it together’ with her that was satisfyingly and had you reakky invested in the twists and turns of this intelligently constructed read. Through this story, we are trusted to work for the information we glean, we are not talked down to or patronised and this added real depth to this novel that made it stand out head and shoulders above its competition – I hate reading books where you are looking for the twist or where things are endlessly spelled out to you and this is what makes me such a fan of Lilja’s work.
Many novels in this genre are all plot and display a real disregard for the writing itself. Not so Lilja Sigurdardóttir, her writing is spare and atmospheric, even when she is talking about mundane things like a table setting or bread burning in the kitchen. It’s great to see Áróra back together with Daniel and I love seeing them work in tandem to try and get to the bottom of things. The translation from Quentin Bates is note perfect and it makes me vow as ever when I read Orenda books to read much much more in translated fiction. I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started and gulped this down in two instalments from my new home in Argyll. I loved following Áróra’s intelligent journey to find the truth and try and get to the bottom of all the secrecy and lies surrounding these disappearances as well as her determination not to be beaten down by the the corruption and deceit that are making it so difficult to make any headway
Sigurdardóttir is one of the Queens of the Icelandic crime genre and was the perfect companion for a week in the wilds of Argyll where I could really dedicate myself to my reading. I can’t wait for Mr OnTheShelf to finish reading it so we can chat about it as he loves discovering new crime writers that stand out from the crowd.
#TeamOrenda have rounded up a series of amazing bloggers for this Tour and I’m honoured to be part of it. Check out the #BlogTour poster to see who else is creating the buzz around Red as Blood this autumn. Thank you so much again to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for keeping my TBR and standards high and always providing me with excellent new countries to add to my crime fiction favourites.
“fans of Nordic noir will find plenty to like.” —Publishers Weekly on Trap
“[A] lively conclusion…Fans already invested in this Nordic crime series will race through the pages.”– Publishers Weekly on Cage
“A taut, gritty, thoroughly absorbing journey into Reykjavik’s underworld.” —Booklist on Snare
“Prime binge-reading.” —Booklist on Trap
“Sigurðardóttir knows how to ratchet up the tension…[Trap] is a worthy addition to the icy-cold crime genre popularized by Scandinavian noir novels.” —Foreword Reviews on Trap
“Thriller of the year.” —New York Journal of Books on Snare
“Tough, uncompromising and unsettling.” –Val McDermid
Writer on the Shelf
Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic crime writer and playwright, born in 1972. She is the author of four crime novels, Steps (Spor), 2009, Forgiveness (Fyrirgefning), 2010, Snare (Gildran) 2015, Tangle (Netið) 2016 and Cage (Búrið) 2017.
Her debut stage play Big Babies (Stóru Börnin) was staged in the winter of 2013-2014, became critically acclaimed and won the Icelandic Theatre Prize Gríman as “Best play of the year.”
Follow her on Twitter @Lilja1972
1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.
2002, Québec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…
Queen of French Noir, Johana Gustawsson returns with a spell-binding, dazzlingly dark gothic thriller that swings from Belle Époque France to 21st-century Quebec, with an extraordinary mystery at its heart…
For fans of Laura Purcell, Elizabeth Macneal, Bridget Collins, Anna Mazzola, Ambrose Parry and Laura Shepherd-Robinson
I was so excited to receive this book for two reasons: the first being that I absolutely adored Block 46 and Keeper – and I could not wait to experience Johana’s writing in a more gothic style which could not be more perfect for my autumn break in Argyll. I adore her series featuring Emily Roy and Alexis Castells and was absolutely blown away by this new direction in her writing. Don’t you just love it when writers you adore start a whole new series? And when the series is as good as this, it is absolutely worth blocking out some uninterrupted time and absolutely immersing yourself in this wonderfully-realised fictional world.
The other reason that I was so excited to read The Bleeding is that for as long as I can remember, I’ve absolutely loved books that move between different times, places and settings. From 1899 to 1949 and finally to 2002, you get to follow Maxine’s journey into the dark heart of this story and uncover the way tht all three intertwined timelines unite in an unforgettable and heart-stopping read. When I heard that Johana’s new book was a gothic tale, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and I can tell you that I read it straight through without stopping. Even though I am on holiday right now in my new home in Argyll, The Bleeding transported me to these very different times and places and I got absolutely lost in its twisty depths…
Johana Gustawsson has a unique talent for carrying her readers with her on her exploration of the human psyche and this carries on into the gothic masterpiece that is The Bleeding. Whether you are in Paris or Quebec and whether you are immersed in the twenty-first century or transported back to the beauty and dangers of the Belle Epoque, she doesn’t shy away from shocking and disturbing the reader and her books are definitely not for the faint-hearted. Where other writers might hint or allude, Johana brings her stories brilliantly to life, so vividly that you just won’t be able to look away.
Once more, in trademark Gustawson style, we have three very different narratives going on simultaneously, which allows us to see the world from three very different perspectives – we have the contrast between the past and the present as well as the switching of locations, which makes for an intriguing read that really keeps the pace up and makes sure that the reader is permanently on their toes, turning the pages as we are transported across locations and timelines. Despite the fact that these three women’s lives appear very different on the surface, as you read you’ll become aware of the way they connect and intersect and your admiration for the skill with which their stories interleave with one another will increase tenfold.
I absolutely loved The Bleeding. I am committed to no spoilers, so this was a really difficult task as I really want you to have the same experience as I did whilst lost in this fabulous and immersive read. Whether you get caught up in the story of Lucienne, Lina or Maxine, I’m sure you will agree that the three of them are hiding as much as they are giving away and the way that they chooose to shape their narratives will really keep you on your toes. The international flavour of Gustawson’s novels is something that I’ve really grown to love and I can’t wait to see where she gors next with her writing. This is not a read for the faint of heart: it doesn’t skim over the way that darkness can visibly manifest itself and be unleashed where you are least expecting it. Gustawson is skilled at making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and literally catch your breath as you re-read in horror what you’ve just been exposed to – and I can’t get enough of her writing. You’ll maybe be like me and read the ending over again once you’ve finished – it really is that good. But why don’t you buy yourself a copy and see for yourself…
The Bleeding is a bit like my very favourite artisan gins: full of diverse ingredients, expertly blended into an addictive, complex, and delightfully sophisticated treat. I’m an addict and I am really looking forward to seeing where she takes us next. If for some reason, you’ve not read any of her other novels why not? If you like dark fiction, fabulous characterisation and a unique take on the way that past evils can spill into the present day then you’ll be an absolute convert.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the invitation – yet another wonderful writer that I might never have discovered if I hadn’t started blogging. I love reading such an eclectic range of books on my blogging adventures and can’t wait to tell you about the next few reads on my horizon…
Praise for The Bleeding
‘Intriguingly dark and vivid, and so cleverly told through three different time frames’ Essie Fox
‘A wonderfully dark, intricately woven historical thriller spanning three generations … it will have you hooked from the very first page’ B A Paris
‘This novel is a whirlpool that draws you irresistibly into levels of darkness so much deeper than you can possibly be ready for’ Chris Brookmyre
Writer on the Shelf
|Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015#TeamOrenda have produced a series of amazing blog posts about this novel and if you haven’t read them already then you’re in for a treat. Check out the #BlogTour poster to see who else is creating the #FrenchNoir buzz around Keeper|
The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.
A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger.
An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.
As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…
“Johnstone is fast becoming the toast of the gritty and funny Tartan noir scene. And with good cause. . . . It keeps you hungry from page to page. A crime reader can’t ask for anything more.” —The Sun
“This is a must for those seeking strong, authentic, intelligent female protagonists.” —Publishers Weekly starred review on The Big Chill
‘Emotionally complex, richly layered and darkly funny. An addictive blend ofCase Histories and Six Feet Under.’ Chris Brookmyre, author, Places in the Darkness onA Dark Matter
“I’d say that A Dark Matter showcases a writer at the peak of his powers, except that with every book, Doug Johnstone just gets better.’ Val McDermid on A Dark Matter
“I was addicted from the first page; gripping, gritty and darkly funny as hell.” Erin Kelly, author, He Said/She Saidon A Dark Matter
“This is their third outing and the stories get better each time. . . . Told with a wry humour and affection, the novel underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become.” —Daily Mail
“Domestic noir at its finest, with shrewd observation, warmth and darkly comic undertones.” —Herald Scotland
Each time I swear that I’ve read the best Doug Johnstone yet, I’m always proven wrong and Black Hearts is no exception. When you love Scottish Crime Fiction as much as I do, there’s a great deal of stiff competition for the coveted title of a ‘five star read’ – yet this book kicks all competition to the kerb once again and ably demonstrates why I love his books so very much
I’ve been waiting for book four of this fantastic series ever since I finished The Great Silence and as ever I’m grateful to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Karen Sullivan from Orenda for always picking the best books to blog about as part of #TeamOrenda. Getting back to school and settling into the autumn term always makes me turn to crime fiction and I love a dark read once the nights start to shorten. I literally flew through this book in three days and could not wait to get my thoughts down on paper. But the one thing I’m finding harder and harder as this series unfolds is to articulate just how good each successive book is and how much they stand out – even in such a very strong field…
For all those who love The Skelfs, it’s undeniable that life with Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah is never dull. Picking up the latest installment feels like being reunited with old friends and it’s plain to see why Doug remains such a favourite with all the Orenda bloggers, both old and new. The genius in his writing is that even though we are plunged into ever more complicated scenarios in each successive read, it always feels believable due to the relationship we’ve forged with the characters and the familiarity we feel when we walk the streets of Edinburgh alongside them and experience the twists and turns of a family business like no other…
Reading book four, I got absolutely engrossed in the intertwined tales and loved feeling like my understanding of the Skelfs’ back stories only magnified the way that their individual situations resonated with me. Doug Johnstone’s deft handling of big ideas such as grief, loss and trauma really do set this series apart from rival series that focus so heavily on plot that your emotional engagement with the unfolding narrative just can’t be as strong or sincere. I am vowing to keep this spoiler free so I’ll stop myself from explaining just why I found Udo’s story so fascinating and thought-provoking – I’ll just say that I’m sure that you’ll find the discussion of the wind phone as compelling as I did. I am still thinking about the final few pages now and parting from these characters definitely gets harder every time.
Doug Johnstone remains one of my very favourite writers as he understands the precise balance between mystery and tension and everyday ordinary conversations and that’s why his writing is so very satisfying. He never sacrifices character in the name of plot and that’s why we’ve become such dedicated Skelf fans. You want to get to the bottom of the cases they are unraveling, but you care just as much about them as people as you do about how the loose ends will be tied up. Their lives are complex and three-dimensional, their problems are the ones caused by their challenging jobs, of course – but also the problems that we’ve all struggled with in terms of our life choices and our relationships that make them feel like people we know and people who matter to us. I often think of them, even when I’m not reading about them – as they’ve come to feel like friends rather than just characters I’ve read about and that’s why I love them so much.
Johnstone writes best about human connections – the way that the people we love affect our lives is superbly handled as he highlights the way that we often are totally unaware of the way that our actions can impact on those closest to us. It’s not just the Skelfs that he brings to life in this way – all of the families in the novel are beautifully written and often it’s the little things that resonate the most honestly. Dorothy remains my favourite Skelf and I think it’s a tribute to her name that she has very definitely got under my skin and I think of her often when I’m walking in Edinburgh, like she’s someone I could literally bump into and strike up a conversation with about Thomas and their relationship – or Jenny and Hannah’s troubles
All three Skelf women have their own struggles and I love the way that the extended narrative across the three novels means that I feel like I’ve really got to know them fuly now. They are far greater than the sum of their parts and there are aspects of them all that I connected with -although in this book that it’s Hannah’s stalker and its impact on her relationship that I’m most compelled by – as this is the last thing she needs and you can see its impact on her relationship with Indy. I love the way that the three women have all had their sorrows to seek, and their different ways of dealing with challenging situations makes them spring off the page and inhabit your thoughts, long after you’ve finished reading about them.
This book will be sure to please Doug Johnstone’s many fans with its satisfying blend of family drama, compelling cases and heartache as well as thought-provoking philosophical ideas about loss and grief. Buy yourself a copy of Black Hearts and set aside some time to really enjoy it. It’s a perfect Autumn read I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a strong contender for my read of the year and one that I can’t stop thinking about. I made sure that it was included in my Autumn Book Club and I know it will be a big hit with my 17 Degrees readers too. It’s an absolute 10/10 from me for one of my favorite Scottish writers. If you haven’t met the Skelfs yet, it’s high time you did, they’re definitely a family you’ll not forget in a hurry…
‘The Skelfs keep getting better and better. Compelling and compassionate characters, with a dash of physics and philosophy thrown in’ Ambrose Parry
‘Expertly written, with poise, insight and compassion’ Mary Paulson-Ellis
’If you loved Iain Banks, you’ll devour the Skelfs series’ Erin Kelly
‘Dynamic and poignant … Johnstone balances the cosmos, music, death and life, and wraps it all in a compelling mystery’ Marni Graff
‘Just when you thought you couldn’t love the Skelfs more, Doug Johnstone finds a way to turn up the heat’ Live & Deadly
Praise for The Skelfs series
***Shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year***
***Longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year***
***Shortlisted for Amazon Publishing Capital Crime Thriller of the Year***
‘An engrossing and beautifully written tale that bears all the Doug Johnstone hallmarks in its warmth and darkly comic undertones’ Herald Scotland
‘Gripping and blackly humorous’ Observer
‘A tense ride strong, believable characters’ Kerry Hudson, Big Issue
‘The power of this book, though, lies in the warm personalities and dark humour of the Skelfs, and by the end readers will be just as interested in their relationships with each other as the mysteries they are trying to solve’ Scotsman
‘Remarkable’ Sunday Times
Writer On The Shelf
Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His tenth novel, Breakers, was published by Orenda Books in May 2019, and was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. His previous books include The Jump, shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Gone Again, an Amazon bestseller, and Hit & Run, which was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.
Doug has been Writer in Residence with William Purves Funeral Directors. He is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow, and was RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh 2014-2016. Doug was also Writer in Residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. He is also a manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy and Emergents in the Scottish Highlands. He has taught creative writing at festivals and conferences and regularly at Moniack Mhor, and he has mentored aspiring writers for New Writing North and Scottish Book Trust.
Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield as player-manager. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released three solo EPs. He plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a crime writing supergroup featuring Val McDermid, Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste.
Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars. He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.
Remember Me? is a memoir about caring for a parent with dementia and the memories that resurface in the process.
In her first book, Shobna Gulati sets out to reclaim her mother’s past after her death, and in turn, discovers a huge amount about herself and their relationship.
Remember Me? captures the powerful emotions that these memories hold to both Shobna and her mother; secrets they had collectively buried and also the concealment of her mother’s condition. What ensues is a story of cultural assimilation, identity and familial shame.
I absolutely love it when I find a book that I just can’t put down. I was absolutely engrossed on my travels through Canada by this honest, and important read. I can’t stop thinking about it as I want as many people as possible to pick up this book and be as caught up as I was in this unputdownable portrayal of Shobna Gulati’s life through all the ups and downs and feel like she reaches out through the page to talk directly to you as a reader.
It’s great when a book you pick up really ’speaks’ to you in a voice you can just hear in your mind’s eye and I feel that it allowed me to spend time with Shobna getting to know her and her family through the pages. I just can’t stop thinking about the way that she made me think about both the diffeences and similarities of our very different cultures, and see how there is so much that we have in common, quite apart from the differences. It is a testament to the power of the writing that you are absolutely with her throughout this read and feel like you’ve lived through the difficulties alongside her.
The fact that she speaks so openly and directly about some fairly challenging societal and family circumStances increases our bond with her as we read and you will definitely feel like you have got to know her family, as if you have been part of their story. Shobna’s story and the story of her family was not only immersive but absolutely emotionally compelling too and the writing will keep you turning those pages as you start to see the impact of her mum’s health on the rest of the family and I know that Shobna’s willingness to be so open and reflective in this memoir will strike a chord with many readers who have walked the same path, albeit in slightly different shoes.
The world of caring for a loved one with dementia is so skilfully portrayed that you get to see how this evolves for one family as well as being able to reflect about dementia more holistically and thinking about its impact societally The skillful way that she weaves the many and diverse strands of public and personal in this intensely personal book is superbly done and remains emotionally honest throughout. I found it it so moving in places and it really opened my eyes to the systemic racism experienced by South Asian immigrants both in her mother’s time and also sadly in the present day. It does so in a very unsensational way, which is all the more shocking and impactful in the way it opens your eyes to the way that the way that we experience healthcare, education and support might be quite different if we looked or spoke a different way.
I loved the way that this book wove ideas about both the personal and the community together in a really balanced way which allows you to get more insight into the complexity of life in Britain as an immigrant, and as the child of an immigrant family feeling both part of your own culture and yet part of another country’s culture too. This is the perfect read for the summer break, as its one you can really immerse yourself in, and would be an absolutely amazing book club choice – I guarantee that you’ll be recommending it to so many people afterwards – as you’ll not be able to stop thinking about this emotionally resonant and beautifully written autobiographical tale and you’ll want to see what other readers think as soon as they’ve finished.
If you enjoy a read that challenges your preconceptions, tugs on your heartstrings and tests your prejudices in a fresh and original way then you will love this book as much as I did. I absolutely can’t recommend it enough and feel like I haven’t been so emotionally caught up in a book for a very long time. It will make you rethink your definition of family and open your eyes to the power of love and forgiveness, perhaps even the way that we have to be open to forgiving ourselves…
If you feel intrigued and would like to order yourself a copy and find out for yourself what has had such a huge impact on me, then buy yourself a copy here
Check out these other fantastic bloggers on the tour. Thank you so much to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the invite – You know that I love an autobiographical read and I love the diversity of books I read each year on her recommendation!
Writer On The Shelf
Shobna became a household name for her role as Anita in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies and as Sunita, in Coronation Street. She also appeared as a presenter on Loose Women (ITV), and most starred in Series 1 of the BBC One television show River Walks.
On radio, Shobna hosted her own late night show on BBC Radio Manchester, and has appeared in many plays for BBC Radio 4, most recently in the sitcom ‘The Break’.She trained at Manchester University, Trinity Laban Conservatorie of Music and Dance, Goldsmith’s College, London, Darpana Academy for Performing Arts, India, and has also completed a post graduate diploma in teaching dance from Middlesex University.
Shobna has just finished filming the role of Ray in the upcoming feature film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
A mind-blowing, unputdownable serial killer thriller of a very different kind – perfect for all fans of Mindhunter and Girl A
Twelve-year-old Sophie and her mother, Amelia-Rose, move to London from Massachusetts where they meet the charismatic Matty Melgren, who quickly becomes an intrinsic part of their lives. But as the relationship between the two adults fractures, a serial killer begins targeting young women with a striking resemblance to Amelia-Rose.
When Matty is eventually sent down for multiple murder, questions remain as to his guilt — questions which ultimately destroy both women. Nearly twenty years later, Sophie receives a letter from Battlemouth Prison informing her Matty is dying and wants to meet. It looks like Sophie might finally get the answers she craves. But will the truth set her free — or bury her deeper?
I absolutely love a book that scares me senseless and comes to me in my dreams even after I’ve finished reading it. Victoria Selman has done an amazing job of helping me to completely believe in her characters– this exciting and atmospheric read drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me captivated by its setting and characters until its very final page.
Charismatic and mysterious characters, relationships with a twist, a mysterious atmosphere and a sense that there are lots of things just bubbling beneath the surface that you’re not quite sure of– I mean – what’s not to love. These were some of the many reasons that I was so drawn to Truly Darkly Deeply and why I’m so grateful to Joe from Quercus for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – as this book was definitely right up my street!
I love immersing myself in a book over a weekend and not looking up apart from to pour another cup of tea and this book answered the brief perfectly. If you haven’t already ordered a copy, you should definitely put it on your Summer TBR
Don’t just take my word for it – look at the praise this book is attracting
Truly, Darkly, Deeply is beautifully written and moves at the pace of wildfire. It draws you into the dark world of serial murder without celebrating it. Victoria Selman is an exciting and powerfully fresh voice, and her new thriller is one you won’t put down ― Patricia Cornwell
An absorbing and captivating read, this held me in its thrall from beginning to end. Brilliant! ― SJ Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep
Gravely compelling, sophisticated, terrifying. Victoria Selman truly excels with this clever, nuanced mystery― Chris Whitaker, bestselling author of We Begin at the End
Original and clever – an incredibly tense read which pulled me inexorably along to its chilling denouement― Harriet Tyce, bestselling author of Blood Orange
This is a thriller that lives up to its title and then some – chilling and compulsive, and with a wicked twist. I loved it ― Cara Hunter, bestselling author of Close To Home
A breathtakingly original novel, it’s an utterly absorbing twisted story and a strong contender for the thriller of 2022 ― John Marrs, bestselling author of The One
A twisty psychological thriller that goes to the heart of how and who we love. Can’t wait to see what Selman does next ― Sarah Pinborough, bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes
Truly, Darkly, Deeply is such a clever, immersive crime novel, and like nothing I’ve ever read before. I lived every unbearably tense second of Sophie’s powerful story, unable to put the book down. It’s only January and this could well be my book of the year! ― Caz Frear, author of Sweet Little Lies
I feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and strap in and enjoy the ride I really felt like I could experience some of the terror alongside the victims and found it very difficult to detach myself from this immersive reading experience that allowed me to plunge into the setting and experience the atmosphere right alongside them. It was so tense at times that you could absolutely imagine the hairs rising up on the back of your neck and every time I stopped reading it, I kept imagining myself lured back there and trying to navigate the truth for myself.
I got really caught up in the twists and turns of this cleverly constructed read and keep turning the possibilities over in my head about what exactly was going on and whether we were getting a sense of the whole truth at times. It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real serial killer streak and have been drawn to exploring more true crime and losing myself in another of my favourite genre’s darker sides. I am trying not to give any spoilers at all as I do not want you to lose a single element of the twists and turns of this satisfying and compelling read.
I really loved the way that Victoria Selman draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the twists and turns that beset Sophie and Amelia-Rose as they attempt to understand what exactly is going on as well as understand the questions that arise years later as a consequence of them trying to unravel these twists and turns. The way that the past and future interconnect and collide with one another was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’
This was the perfect weekend read for me – and if you want something to absolutely lose yourself in and forget about everything that’s going on in the world – then this would be a perfect book for you, it’s so immersive! If you love a deliciously scary tale with well-drawn characters and a plot that will keep you gripped then you’ll really love Truly Darkly Deeply and should treat yourself to a copy
Thank you so much to Joe for recommending such great reads. I love being prompted to read such a diverse and eclectic range of books and being able to share my views with other book lovers is an absolute pleasure.
‘An utterly absorbing twisted story and a strong contender for the thriller of 2022’ John Marrs
‘A creepy, engrossing novel which plunges the dark depths of a serial killer and his crimes’ Araminta Hall
‘Original and clever – an incredibly tense read’ Harriet Tyce
‘Chilling and compulsive, and with a wicked twist. I loved it’ Cara Hunter
‘Clever, immersive . . . like nothing I’ve ever read before’ Caz Frear
She thinks of blue mountain, her favourite place. ‘We’re going somewhere where we can be safe. We never have to come back here.’
As the rest of the world lies sleeping, Eleanor straps her infant daughter, Amy, into the back of her car. This is the moment she knew must come, when they will walk out on her husband Leon and a marriage in ruins since his return from Vietnam. Together, she and Amy will journey to blue mountain, a place of enchantment and refuge that lit up Eleanor’s childhood.
As the car eats up the miles, so Eleanor’s mind dives back into her fractured relationship with her mother, Kitty. Kitty who asked for so much from life, from love, from family. Kitty who had battled so hard to prise her husband George out of the grip of war. Kitty, whose disapproving voice rings so loud in Eleanor’s head.
Tense, visceral, glittering, it is a masterful return to fiction from the author of the acclaimed See What I Have Done.
This was the first book I read on my Summer holidays and what a book to kick start my summer reading extravaganza! I absolutely loved See What I have Done and found its writing style really compelling. It’s the equivalent of a literary striptease – you definitely do not get to see everything all at once and I love the fact that once again Sarah Schmidt masterfully maintains the art of withholding and the slow reveal. Blue Hour did not disappoint, for such a long-awaited read and I am delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the blog tour today. Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the Blog tour and ensuring that my TBR is as eclectic and enticing as always as I head into my Summer break.
Blue Hour definitely was a fantastic read. Sarah Schmidt has crafted a book that you’ll take a long time to forget once you’ve finished it. It certainly had me well and truly hooked and I’ve thought about it a lot since I finished it and feel like it’s the kind of read that really gets under your skin – Eleanor and Kitty’s stories are connected whilst so different and the depth of insight you gain from the way that they are juxtaposed means that you won’t be able to forget either of these two characters or what they go through in a hurry.
One of the most striking things I’ll remember about Blue Hour – and there are many – is that although I was reading it imy garden – in my head, I was very firmly transported into the world of this book, experiencing all of the twists and turns alongside them. In an interview with Sarah Schmidt, she says that the best stories often make readers uncomfortable. “I see the role of fiction when it’s sometimes dark is to help readers understand or experience something through the safety of a book,” she says. The fact that it’s so closely interwoven with her own experiences makes this book all the more visceral a read – “I want people to walk away from the book having a true feeling about something,” Schmidt says. “It’s my complete and entire life. It’s also nothing to do with my life.”
Both Kitty and Eleanor’s characters really spoke to me and they both definitely stepped off the page and appeared before me warts and all; the visceral way in which we get a real insight into their internal struggles mean that we see motherhood in its rawest sense. This is not a book you will forget easily and it may make readers confront some inherently uncomfortable truths about their own relationships and experiences. Despite the potentially challemging parts, it’s a book to savour and think deeply about – both as you are reading it and afterwards as you experience the full force of emotions through its pages.
Blue Hour is such an evocative read that I’m still thinking about it now If this sparks your curiosity, you should definitely order yourself a copy so that you can see for yourself how Sarah Schmidt pushes the boundaries of family relationships and challenges her readers to think about the dark moments in our lives that make us who we are as well as the bright spots.
This will definitely appeal to fans of intelligent and multi layered fiction . It really is well worth your while to cast your net more widely in terms of what you read over the summer when you might have more time on your hands, so if you haven’t heard of Sarah, this is my sign to get yourself a copy and see what you have been missing.
I’d like to pass on my thanks to the ever-lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour and sending me a copy of the book. It’s such a gorgeous cover that will make you think about the ties that bind us as well as the temptation to take flight from the limitations of our roots at times – and the inside is definitely just as striking. Get your hands on your own copy here – it’s a 10/10 summer read that I can’t recommend enough.
Writer On The Shelf
Sarah Schmidt is the acclaimed author of See What I Have Done, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and won the AIBA Literary Fiction of the Year 2018. She lives in Melbourne where she works as a librarian.
You can follow her at https://sarahschmidt.org/ and on Twitter @ikillnovel.