#BlogTour Quentin Bates- Cold Malice “Bates consistently draws on his own experiences of living and working in Iceland, providing a real grounded feel and heightened sense of realism to his books.” @graskeggur

Reykjavík detective Gunnhildur Gísladóttir tries not to believe in ghosts. But when Helgi, one of her team is certain he’s seen a man who had been declared dead more than fifteen years ago, she reluctantly gives him some unofficial leeway to look into it. Has the not-so-dead man returned from the grave to settle old scores, or has he just decided to take a last look around his old haunts? Either way, there are people who have nursed grudges for years, hoping for a reckoning one day. Even the rumour of his being alive and kicking is enough to spark a storm of fury and revenge, with Gunnhildur and Helgi caught up in the middle of it…

I am already a confirmed fan of this series, having previously reviewed Thin Ice and Cold Breath and it is a still a source of much puzzlement to me that Quentin Bates still remains relatively little known. Aside from his accomplished translations of Icelandic fiction, I generally find that when I recommend his books in my day job as a bookseller, he becomes a firm favourite, so hopefully I can continue the trend here!

Detective Gunnhildur ‘Gunna’ Gísladóttir is, without a doubt, the lynchpin to this series, where she carefully balances her traits of fairness and determinedness, with a sharp wit and her reluctance to suffer fools gladly. There’s a great observation by one of her police colleagues, “Gunna had no problem in being downright offensive if she felt it was called for, and it was a brave man who picked an argument with her,” which on the surface shows the more antagonistic aspect of her character, but is roundly applauded and respected for her instincts and intuition too. When I read these books, I always picture Marge Gunderson from Fargo, as Gunna shares many a trait with her, and I also like the fact that her family life, at times complicated, is always incorporated into the books, giving us an even more rounded sense of her balancing the roles of detective of some repute and as a mother, with the challenges that this brings. You always feel that she clasps a bit between her teeth, and one of the cases is no exception with a suspicious suicide and a tangled web of past secrets, but also a case that leads her to navigate the unfamiliar and unscrupulous art world.  I also enjoyed the way that a closer focus was put on Helgi, one of Gunna’s police colleagues, as he is on the trail of a face from a past presumed dead, whilst coming to terms with another surprise addition to his brood, and trying to control his wandering eye…

What I love about this series, apart from Gunnhildur and her colleagues , is how Bates consistently draws on his own experiences of living and working in Iceland, providing a real grounded feel and heightened sense of realism to his books. Within this story, the author has ample opportunity to draw us into the workaday world of men at sea, and the dangerous and stressful conditions that this work involves. His descriptions of the stormy seas, the sheer hard physical toil of life, and the stress that life away from home wreaks on family are all beautifully described. You get a real sense of the waves crashing around your ears, and the biting cold permeating you to the core. Aside from this, Bates also casts a perceptive eye on the changes that Iceland has experienced, both politically and socially, in terms of the increase in tourism, the development of the capital city, and the fractures that are appearing more on a social level. Again, this serves to draw the reader in closer to the actual landscape and feel of Iceland, as closely as possible, adding another layer of interest to this police procedural.

There is a real comfort to be had in reading a series where the characters and terrain have become increasingly familiar to you, giving you a feeling very much akin to pulling on a comfy jumper, and being instantly enveloped back into this world and with these people. This series does that perfectly, and as I said in the intro, this is probably one that you might like to discover for yourselves, whether you start with Cold Malice or start from the very beginning. Which as we know, is a very good place to start. Recommended.

(With thanks to the author for the ARC)

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Russell Day- King Of The Crows @FahrenheitPress

Oceans Eleven Meets 28 Days Later- 2028, eight years after a pandemic swept across Europe, the virus has been defeated and normal life has resumed. Memories of The Lockdown have already become clouded by myths, rumour and conspiracy. Books have been written, movies have been released and the names Robertson, Miller & Maccallan have slipped into legend. Together they hauled The Crows, a ragged group of virus survivors, across the ruins of London. Kept them alive, kept them safe, kept them moving. But not all myths are true and not all heroes are heroes. Questions are starting to be asked about what really happened during those days when society crumbled and the capital city became a killing ground. Finally the truth will be revealed…

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

TO TELL THE STORY OF HOW GREAT ZOMBIES CAN BE…

Ha! Enough of the dodgy 70s music reference and strap yourselves in folks for one helluva read. When Fahrenheit Press started giving loaded signals about them having got their mitts on a zombie heist thriller, my interest was piqued. Reading this book in the grip of a global pandemic ourselves, is an individual decision for the reader, but I guarantee that if you do take the plunge you will be blown away by the prescience, cleverness and kaleidoscopic reach of this novel, conceived and written a long while before these dark and mystifying days…

In a good way, King Of The Crows is a nightmare to review, simply because it is one of the most multi-faceted, meaty books I have read. Kind of with the ergodic pull of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves with less footnotes, but with the scope and energy of a rip roaring thriller like Terry Hayes I Am Pilgrim and the visual impact on the reader of the best of the zombie cinema. Charting the course of a devastating HV-Tg pandemic that renders a majority of the infected into a zombie-like state dubbed as Gonzos, through shifting timelines and alternative forms of narrative, this is both a highly original and beautifully textured read.

The narrative and remembrance of events past and present is not only structured as a traditional thriller, but also cleverly injects different mediums: film script, dictionary, street art, memoir, chat room conversations, media reports and so on. Not only does Russell Day keep a conscious awareness that we know exactly where we are in terms of past and present, but also uses these forms to root us in the period and elucidate us further to events within these particular timelines. Being a bit of an arty farty bookworm myself, I was particularly fascinated by the changes and development in language that occur during, and in the wake of the pandemic as new signifiers come into being to deal with the strangeness of events. I also appreciated the cheeky nods and winks that Day inserts about the political state of America, a little homage to Kurtz of Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, and other potential spoilers I could mention, that will make you raise a knowing eyebrow. It’s very clever but not in that look at me and how clever I am kind of way. It’s most definitely that hot damn this is clever and a feast for my brain kind of way…

I think the wee synopsis gives you an overview of what this book is about, and I am really really reluctant to go into much further detail on that score as I was entrusted to read this book literally knowing just what the blurb said. I would love you to experience this book with the same wide-eyed enchantment. All I will say is that the book pivots between the events of the pandemic of 2020, and people traversing dangerous and threatening situations both in London and France. This is interspersed with the present day, in this case 2028, with the myths and the contrasting accounts that have grown up around the Crows- a band of raggle-taggle survivors and the dominant figures within this group. One of these, Colin Robertson, finds him at the centre of a police investigation involving murder and robbery, conducted by a mentally scarred male officer, Winslow, and Cross, a female American detective allayed to the Washington Police Department, who underwent her own baptism of fire during the pandemic. As their questioning of Robertson unfolds, we begin to have a kaleidoscopic view of past events through Robertson’s not always truthful testimony, other’s perceptions of him and the hero status ascribed to him though cultural forms, the linear narrative of the characters and life within the Crows, and what Winslow and Cross discover in the course of their investigation. Day pits unreliable narration against investigative truth, against media double speak extremely effectively, leaving the reader to unpick and re-stitch what we think we know, until we are cajoled into thinking that we have worked it all out. Rest assured you won’t, as the insanely clever yet wholly believable ending of the book more than demonstrates.

Additionally, the characterisation is superb and within the construct of each individual, Day is given a tremendous amount of scope to meld a psychological commentary within the book too. As we observe the activities of individuals in the Lockdown of the pandemic and how they adjust, survive or fall victim to the new dangerous climate and some of its attendant mumbo-jumbo too, each character brings something vivid and important to the book. It’s clever how Day uses most of his characters to represent the differing reactions and instincts that people would experience in this situation- the survivor, the schemer, the weak, the strong- and so on, and how we then perceive some of them on the other side of the pandemic too. No spoilers!

Throughout the book the reader is kept well and truly on their toes, being assailed by shifting timelines, shifting narrative forms and shifting zombies too. I can truly say that King Of The Crows is like nothing I have read before, and I was blown away by the scope and visuality that Day has achieved with this book. I loved the story, the characters, the crows both feathered and otherwise, the structure, the science and you can’t go wrong with a good old zombie heist combo, in my humble opinion. Mind officially blown. Make sure yours is too.

Highly hot-damningly recommended.

Buy your copy of King Of The Crows (digital format, paperback or incredibly cool limited edition hardback) direct from Fahrenheit Press HERE When buying a physical format of any of Fahrenheit’s books you also get the digital copy free. 

 

Read an interview with Russell Day about the conception of King Of The Crows at Writers Online here

Check out King Of The Crows HQ  here

If you’re still not sure how great this book is check out these reviews too…

Barking Mad Blog Spot

And this one from Grab This Book

King of the Crows – Russell Day

With much thanks to Fahrenheit Press for the ARC

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#BlogTour- William Shaw- Deadland

The two boys never fitted in. Seventeen, the worst age, nothing to do but smoke weed; at least they have each other. The day they speed off on a moped with a stolen mobile, they’re ready to celebrate their luck at last. Until their victim comes looking for what’s his – and ready to kill for it.

On the other side of Kent’s wealth divide, DS Alexandra Cupidi faces the strangest murder investigation of her career. A severed limb, hidden inside a modern sculpture in Margate’s Turner Contemporary. No one takes it seriously – not even the artwork’s owners, celebrity dealers who act like they’re above the law. However,  as Cupidi’s case becomes ever more sinister, as she wrangles with police politics and personal dilemmas, she can’t help worrying about those runaway boys. Seventeen, the same age as her own headstrong daughter. Alone, on the marshes, they’re pawns in someone else’s game. Two worlds are about to collide… 

The latest addition to William Shaw’s superlative DS Alexandra Cupidi series following The Birdwatcher and Salt Lane, Deadland returns us to the haunting coastal area of Dungeness, and two compelling investigations for Cupidi and her colleagues…

It’s no secret that I think William Shaw is one of the most accomplished, and consistently good crime authors at work in Britain today, and I always embark on his new books with a slight nervous tingle, hoping that each will be as satisfying as the previous. Which brings us to Deadland which was everything I hoped it would be (massive sigh of relief). What I love with this series (and his previous trilogy featuring DS Cathal Breen and PC Helen Tozer) is the way that Shaw, in common with his coastal location, ebbs and flows with his characters, moving them around like chess pieces bringing them back and forwards to the centre of the storyline with Capaldi being at the rooted centre. Consequently, this book reintroduces us to disgraced ex-police officer William South from The Birdwatcher, and where Salt Lane was very much involved with the generational differences of Capaldi, her mother and her daughter, this book switches the focus more onto Capaldi’s colleagues, alongside the central investigations.

I think it’s worth drawing attention to this, to emphasize the sheer quality of Shaw’s characterisation, and how roundly and believably drawn his characters are. Capaldi is a professional working mother with a recalcitrant teenage daughter, South is a man obviously tarnished by his prison experience, constable Jill Ferriter experiencing professional and personal difficulties, a diversion into the weird and wonderful inhabitants of the ‘art’ world and, at the heart of the book two wayward teenage boys, Tap and Sloth, with their own trials and tribulations. Without a doubt, each and every one of these characters are brimming with realism, so that you feel totally part of their contrasting experiences and world views. The narrative voice of each is precise, and authentic, and this is particularly true of Tap and Sloth, and the changes we see in their brash teenage bravado as the book progresses. With subtle changes in rhythm and syntax, Shaw brings all these voices to life, and with it an even greater connection to them for the reader.

Another element of this book that I enjoyed was the striking juxtaposition of the two investigations that Capaldi and her colleagues are tasked with. Throughout his books Shaw has always tackled difficult social issues be they of the 1960s or now, and the fact that this book straddled two very economically and materially different worlds was an interesting facet of the book. From the dripping wealth and pretentiousness of the art world, to the very different world inhabited by the teenage protagonists, Shaw retains the tension of both, and how crime bridges all social strata and class. It’s also interesting to observe the changes of attitude in the police characters between both investigations, and where their sympathies lie, and how their own attitudes reveal themselves. Indeed, the fears and frustrations at play in this book, in both their professional and personal lives too, are as finely balanced with the arc of the plot, holding the whole book in balance, as Shaw assuredly takes us between these contrasting worlds and characters. Sometimes with two storylines playing out there is a tension in the reader to return to one more swiftly than the other, but I think this was neatly avoided with both strands of the story having their own particular pace and moments of peril. I must confess that my former blissful ignorance of the art world kept me wholly engaged as the book progressed, and admittedly none of my preconceptions about the inhabitants of this world were largely disproved. Which was nice.

So a glowing review for Deadland and another heartfelt plea to discover this author for yourselves. With pitch perfect characterisation, immersive storylines, a striking use of location, and accomplished writing and plotting, there is so much to enjoy in this series. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Riverrun for the ARC)