#BlogTour- J. G. Sinclair- Walk In Silence

Keira Lynch may be a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean she plays by the rules. She has been summoned to give evidence against an Albanian hit man. She was there the night he murdered the mother of a five-year-old boy. She remembers it well – it was the same night he put three bullets in her chest and left her for dead.
But there are powerful people who want the hit man back on the streets. When they kidnap the boy, she is given a choice: commit perjury, blow the trial and allow the killer to walk or give evidence, convict him and watch the child die. Keira must make a decision. This time, does she have to cross a line to win?

Following Seventy Times Seven and Blood Whispers, this is the third of J. G. Sinclair’s crime thrillers featuring the character of forthright and feisty Irish lawyer Keira Lynch. Lynch is juggling the dual concerns of an explosive court case back in her adopted city of Glasgow, but also tracking down the whereabouts of an orphaned boy in Albania to provide a better future for him after the violent death of his mother. Still recovering from the violent events recounted in the previous book, once again Lynch is in a killer’s sights, and must call on all her mental and physical strength to outwit the bad guys…

Quite honestly I could just say that I absolutely blooming loved this, and leave it at that, but as this is not an Amazon review, although I did receive the book well-packaged, I will share a little more with you. J. G. Sinclair was speaking at a recent crime festival, and said that his writing was incredibly influenced by the visual nature of the scenes and how this committed itself to the page, and I was incredibly struck throughout by the very strong sense of scene setting that Sinclair ingrains in his book. Be it the austere surrounds of a Glasgow courtroom, the terrace of a hotel in Albania, or a small village in which one particularly beautifully described building houses a horrific discovery. A sense of location and atmosphere suffuses the book consistently throughout, giving added depth and colour behind the central action as a backdrop to the increasingly precarious and dangerous situation that Lynch finds herself involved in.

The plot is utterly compelling, bolstered to some degree by the strength of Lynch’s character, but more simply that Sinclair has a knack for pure thrilling storytelling. There are bad guys, good guys, good guys that could be bad and vice versa, and the relentless pressure of Lynch’s mission to rescue this small child, and seek justice for his murdered mother driving the plot on at a furious pace. The violence is swift and uncompromising, but unlike many thrillers I have read where the degree of violence visited on one woman seems somewhat incredulous, Lynch is very much physically capable to meet violence with violence. Aside from her physical prowess, and her amazing knife skills, she is strong, mentally resilient and quick witted, continually assessing, planning, premeditating  and changing tactics to overcome the peril she finds herself in. She’s also a pretty good lawyer. And justifiably killed a man when she was a small girl. She’s great.

I read Walk In Silence at a frenetic pace, as the speed and energy of Sinclair’s writing, just pushes you on mercilessly, and avoiding spoilers I think the ending could be an interesting set-up for a new fork in Lynch’s life. Action, spills, thrills and some emotional depth it has to be said, amongst the maelstrom of violence and duplicity. Great thriller. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

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Blog Tour- Michael Grothaus- Epiphany Jones- Review

92ec49_6e4d53e237f2437cb87cd049f0b4cfaaJerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins…

Entering the surreal and dark world  of Epiphany Jones is very much akin to being thrown out of an aeroplane and spiralling into a freefall with the initial euphoric feeling that, yes there is a rip cord,  but then being stricken by the fear that this rip cord may well malfunction. From the outset you will be repulsed, gripped, endlessly unsettled, and yet strangely moved, as you become more deeply enmeshed in the scatological and disturbing world of a certain Mr Jerry Dresden…

I will confess that on embarking reading this book there was an overwhelming sense of just what the hell is going on here, and who the hell is this crass, sexually gauche and downright weird individual that I am meant to be engaging with? But, I promise you wholeheartedly, that as much as your teeth are set on edge by the sheer social awkwardness and sexual ineptitude of Dresden, it is a testament to the bravery and cleverness of Grothaus’ writing that every preconception you initially hold will be fundamentally challenged as the story progresses. It’s a risky strategy, but what is life without a little bit of risk taking, and producing writing that genuinely challenges and stretches your reader? Such is the case with Grothaus’ unique approach in the characterisation of both Dresden, and the manipulative and deeply emotionally scarred Epiphany Jones, who crashes in to Dresden’s small world with the power of a heat seeking missile. Grappling with his own psychotic delusions, Dresden is inveigled in a world of blackmail, violence and exploitation that proves as much as an epiphany to his own sense of self, as the fractured and dangerous world of Epiphany threatens to destroy them both. At one point Dresden comments that he feels ‘like a figment, of a figment, of a figment’ as the unreliability of formative memories and the blurring of truth and lies, the real and the unreal are consistently explored both in his character and that of Epihany herself.  As the powerfully emotive details of Epiphany’s manipulation and abuse, within the world of sex trafficking come to the fore, there is a reshaping and shifting of Dresden’s character that is joyous to behold. When these two characters are not directly interacting with each other there is a palpable lull in the tension of the book, that Grothaus ramps up when their paths cross again setting up a compelling ebb and flow to the rhythm of their relationship, and giving a real vitality to the characterisation throughout, superbly manipulating and toying with the readers’ emotional responses to both.

I think it’s worth reiterating here that if you want to get a real  handle on the dark social and political recesses of any society, that crime fiction is the most reliable narrative form to accomplish this, and this book demonstrates this beautifully. Not only does this book present us with a stark, and painfully truthful, depiction of the nefarious world of sex trafficking, made all the more powerful by the reportage style of Epiphany’s testament, but also challenges and plays with the reader’s sensibilities, and view of the world consistently. So along the way you will also encounter God, cybersex, the overblown world of celebrity, social alienation, and psychotic disturbance, in a sharp, acerbic style and at times underscored with a humour of the blackest black, and top notch satirical observation, which was hugely appreciated by this reader.

Epiphany Jones is a real seat of the pants read, and utterly uncompromising. It’s graphic, visceral, mordantly funny, thought provoking and at times profoundly moving. It’s not for all, but it was certainly all for this one. I absolutely loved it, and big kudos from the Raven for Mr  Grothaus for such clever, risk-taking and challenging fiction writing. Highly recommended.

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Brian Freeman- Goodbye To The Dead- Review and Extract

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It is almost a decade since Duluth said goodbye to its innocence. The city creeps ever closer to the anniversary of the year in which it found itself both gripped by murder and united in terror; and during which the pillar of its community, Detective Jonathan Stride, had his home and heart torn to ribbons by the claws of cancer. Cat Mateo, an orphan with a knack of landing on her feet, has bid farewell to a life on the streets. This once-stray teenager owes her rescue to Stride, the father figure she holds close to her heart. But Cat holds something else to her chest – a secret: the sheer power of which she could not possibly comprehend. A secret that, once out of the bag, will not just viciously scratch at Duluth’s still-healing wounds, but will make Stride wave goodbye to his convictions about the events nine years before, and say hello to his darkest fears…

Aside from Michael Connelly and Jack Kerley, there are few American thriller series where I have committed myself to reading each new book as it arrives. However, having been hooked by Brian Freeman’s Immoral  years ago, I am always happy to be drawn back to downtown Duluth, and to the trials and tribulations of Freeman’s stalwart homicide detective Jonathan Stride and his firecracker police partner Maggie Bei…

Despite my own familiarity with the series, and the characters contained within it, I love Freeman’s ability to so easily hook any new reader in, and this book would be a great place to start. The reason I say that is, that Freeman segues between two timelines, taking us back to the period immediately before the death of Stride’s wife, and how a particularly testing murder case will so resolutely intrude on the present. The balance between both narratives is perfect throughout, providing the reader with not only a more introspective examination of what makes Stride the man he is, but how criminal investigations are not always as clear cut as they seem, and how the sins of the past cannot always stay buried there. Also with the action pivoting between two timelines, Freeman sows small but pertinent details of his characters’ emotional weaknesses and strengths, and how they impact on their personal and professional relationships when put into focus nine years later.

With the police protagonists Stride and Bei being such well-realised characters and so integral to the thrust of the story , I did experience a little irritation at the antics of Cat, and the tendency to slightly simpering neediness of Stride’s current squeeze Serena. Although both these characters have experienced similar problems in the upbringing, I didn’t altogether believe in them, and did find them showing signs of stereotypical behaviour that I have seen oft repeated in fiction writing. However, Freeman’s depiction of Stride’s incredibly touching relationship with his late wife, Cindy, and the characterisation of Cindy herself, helped redress the balance in the female characterisation, and then of course, there’s Maggie Bei who totally dominates every scene she appears in. She is a brilliant character, small in stature, but in possession of a general ballsiness and frankness that will delight and entertain you throughout. And she’s got a soft side too. But not too soft…

I had a few misgivings about the plot, in terms of the use of coincidence as to Cat’s involvement in the whole affair, and the ending was a little contrived, but this can probably be attributed again to too much crime reading on my part. However, there were some nice touches including an ice-cold scheming woman whose character I loved, possibly guilty of mariticide  and her besotted sad act stalker, and the suspicion that arises in the reader as to her guilt or innocence. Did she? Or didn’t she? It’s fun playing detective and trying to work her out, amongst the smoke and mirrors that Freeman employs the way.

So a wee bit of a mixed affair for me personally, but I think the good aspects of this one, more than outweigh the little niggles it produced in me, and I would certainly recommend this as a series that warrants further investigation. Here’s an extract to tempt you in…

PROLOGUE

The Present

Serena spotted the Grand Am parked half a block from the

Duluth bar. Someone was waiting inside the car.

Mosquitoes clouded in front of the headlights. The trumpets

of a Russian symphony – something loud and mournful

by Shostakovich

blared through its open windows. Serena

smelled acrid, roll-your-own cigarette smoke drifting toward

her with the spitting rain. Beyond the car, through the haze,

she saw the milky lights of the Superior bridge arching across

the harbor.

There were just the two of them in the late-night darkness of

the summer street. Herself and the stranger behind the wheel of

the Grand Am. She couldn’t see the driver, but it didn’t matter

who was inside. Not yet.

She was here for someone else.

This was an industrial area, on the east end of Raleigh Street,

not far from the coal docks and the paper mill. Power lines sizzled

overhead. The ground under her feet shook with the passage

of a southbound train. She made sure her Mustang was locked,

with her Glock securely inside the glove compartment, and then

she crossed the wet street to the Grizzly Bear Bar. It was a dive

with no windows and an apartment overhead for the owner.

Cat was inside.

Serena felt guilty putting tracking software on the teenager’s phone, but she’d learned

quickly that Cat’s sweet face didn’t mean she could be trusted.

When she pulled open the door of the bar, a sweaty, beery

smell tumbled outside. She heard drunken voices shouting in

languages she didn’t understand and the twang of a George Strait

song on the jukebox. Big men lined up two-deep at the bar and

played poker at wooden tables.

Inside, she scanned the faces, looking for Cat. She spied her

near the wall, standing shoulder to shoulder with an older girl,

both of them head-down over smartphones. The two made an

unlikely pair. Cat was a classic beauty with tumbling chestnut

hair and a sculpted Hispanic face. Her skinny companion had

dyed orange spikes peeking out under a wool cap, and her ivory

face was studded with piercings.

Serena keyed a text into her own phone and sent it. Look up.

Cat’s face shot upward as she got the message. Her eyes widened,

and Serena read the girl’s lips. ‘Oh, shit.

Cat whispered urgently in her friend’s ear. Serena saw the

other girl study her like a scientist peering into the business end

of a microscope. The skinny girl wore a low-cut mesh shirt over

a black bra and a jean skirt that ended mid-thigh. She picked up

a drinks tray – she was a waitress – and gave Serena a smirk as

she strolled to the bar, leaving Cat by herself.

Serena joined Cat at the cocktail table where she was standing.

The girl’s smile had vanished, and so had all of her adultness.

Teenagers drifted so easily between maturity and innocence. She

was a child again, but Cat was also a child who was five months

pregnant.

I’m really sorry’ Cat began, but Serena cut her off.

Save it. I’m not interested in apologies.’

She stopped herself before saying anything more that she’d regret. She was too angry even to look at Cat.

Instead, by habit, she surveyed the people in the bar.

It was a rough crowd, not a hangout for college kids and middle-class tourists like the bars in Canal Park.

Hardened sailors came to the Grizzly Bear off the

cargo boats, making up for dry days on the lake with plenty of

booze. She heard raspy laughter and arguments that would spill

over into fights. The bare, muscled forearms of the men were

covered in cuts and scars, and they left greasy fingerprints on

dozens of empty beer bottles.

In the opposite corner of the bar, Serena noticed a woman

who didn’t fit in with the others. The woman sat by herself, a

nervous smile on her round face. Her long blond hair, parted

in the middle, hung down like limp spaghetti. She had an all-American

look, with blue eyes and young skin, like a cheerleader

plucked from a college yearbook. Maybe twenty-two. She kept

checking a phone on the table in front of her, and her stare shot

to the bar door every time it opened.

Something about the woman set off alarm bells in Serena’s

head. This was a bad place for her. She wanted to go over and

ask: Why are you here?

She didn’t, because that was the question she needed to ask

Cat.

Why are you here, Cat?’

I wanted to go somewhere. I’m bored.’

That’s not an answer.’

Anna works here,’ Cat said. ‘She and I know the owner.’

Cat nodded at the waitress who’d been with her at the table.

Anna was playing with her phone as she waited for the bartender

at the taps. One of the sailors made a grab for the girl’s ass, and

Anna intercepted his hand without so much as a glance at the

man’s face.

She used to live on the streets, like me,’ Cat told Serena. ‘We’d

hang out together. If she found a place to sleep, she let me crash

there, too.’

I get it, but that’s not your world anymore.’

I’m entitled to have friends,’ Cat insisted, her lower lip bulging

with defiance.

You are, but no one from your old life is a friend.’

Serena knew the struggle the girl faced. Not even three months

ago, Cat Mateo had been a runaway. A teenage prostitute. When

someone began stalking her in the city’s graffiti graveyard, she’d

gone to Duluth police lieutenant Jonathan Stride for help. Serena

and Stride had been lovers for four years, and she knew he had

a weakness for a woman in trouble. They’d helped capture the

man who’d been targeting Cat, and when the girl was safe, Stride

made a decision that surprised Serena. He suggested that the

teenager live with them, have her baby there, and grow up in a

house with adults who cared about her.

Serena said yes, but she’d never believed that it would be easy

for any of them. And it wasn’t.

You’re a sight for sore eyes in this place,’ a male voice

announced.

A man in a rumpled blue dress shirt and loosely knotted tie

stopped at their table. His eyes darted between Serena’s face and

the full breasts swelling under her rain-damp T-shirt. He wiped

his hands on a Budweiser bar towel.

This is Fred,’ Cat interjected. ‘He owns the bar.’

The man shot out a hand, which Serena shook. His fingers

were sticky from sugar and limes. ‘Fred Sissel,’ he said cheerfully.

Sissel was around fifty years old, with slicked-back graying

hair and a trimmed mustache. He wore the over-eager grin of a

man who’d tried to smile his way out of everything bad in life.

Fights. Debts. Drunk driving. His cuffs were frayed, and his shirt

and tie were dotted with old food stains. His face had the mottled

brown of too many visits to a tanning salon.

So what’s your name, and where have you been all my life?’

Sissel asked. The teeth behind his smile were unnaturally white.

Serena slid her badge out of her jeans pocket. ‘My name’s

Serena Dial. I’m with the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office.’

Sissel’s mustache drooped like a worm on a fishing hook. The

sailors at the other tables had a radar for the gold glint of a badge,

and the tenor in the bar changed immediately.

Sorry, officer, is there a problem?’ Sissel asked, losing the

fake grin.

Do you know this girl?’

Sure, she’s a friend of Anna’s.’

Do you know she’s seventeen years old?’

Sissel swore under his breath. ‘Hey, I don’t want any trouble,’

he said.

You’ve already got trouble, and if I find her in this place again,

you’ll have even more.’

Yeah. Understood. Whatever you say.’

The bar owner raised his arms in surrender and backed away.

Serena saw emotions skipping like beach stones across Cat’s face.

Shame. Guilt. Embarrassment. Anger.

Fred’s a nice guy,’ the girl said finally. ‘You didn’t have to be

mean to him.’

Does he serve you alcohol?’

No,’ Cat said, but Serena didn’t trust her face. She leaned

closer to the girl, and although there was no booze on her breath,

she smelled cigarette smoke like stale perfume on her beautiful

hair.

You’ve been smoking.’

Just one.’

Serena wanted to scream at the girl, but she held her voice

in check. ‘You’re pregnant. You can’t smoke. You can’t drink.’

I told you, it was just one.’

Serena didn’t answer. She couldn’t fight teenage logic. As a

cop, she’d seen good girls make bad choices her entire life. She

knew how easy it was to cross the line. At Cat’s age, she’d been

a runaway herself, living with a girlfriend in Las Vegas after

escaping the grip of a Phoenix drug dealer. Not a month had

gone by in Vegas where she hadn’t fended off the temptation

to gamble, buy drugs, steal, or sell herself for the money she

needed. She felt lucky that the only serious vice she carried from

those days was being a recovering alcoholic. But luck was all it

was. A bad choice on a bad day, and her life would have taken

a different turn.

Across the bar, Serena saw the young blond woman – the

school cheerleader type – grab her phone suddenly and get to

her feet. She was nervous and excited and couldn’t control her

smile. She smoothed her long straight hair and moistened her

lips. If there was a mirror, she would have checked her reflection

in it. She took a breath, and her chest swelled. She headed for

the bar door, but backtracked to retrieve a baby-blue suitcase

from behind her table.

To Serena, it felt wrong. Visitors didn’t come to Duluth and

wind up in this bar on their first night. Her instincts told her to

stop the woman and ask questions. To intervene. To protect her.

Are you going to tell Stride?’ Cat asked.

Serena focused on the teenager again. She knew that Cat was

afraid of Stride’s disapproval more than anything else in her

life. He was like a father to her, and she was terrified of disappointing

him.

Yes,’ Serena said. ‘You know I have to tell him.’

Cat’s eyes filled with tears. She was a typical teenage girl,

using tears to get her way, and Serena worked hard to keep her

own face as stern as stone. Meanwhile, the bar door opened and

closed, letting in the patter of rain from outside.

The blond woman was gone.

It doesn’t matter what you tell him,’ Cat said, rubbing her

nose on her sleeve. ‘He’s going to kick me out sooner or later.’

Her voice was choked with self-pity. She was smart and beautiful

and eager to believe the worst about herself. She looked

for any reason to believe that her life wasn’t worth saving. To

sabotage the second chance she’d been given. That was part of

her guilt over who she’d been.

It has nothing to do with that,’ Serena told her calmly, ‘and

you know it.’

When he was married to Cindy, Stride didn’t want kids,’ Cat

protested. ‘So why would he want me now?’

You’re wrong about that, but even if it were true, it doesn’t

matter. He took you in, Cat. He wants you there. We both do.

What happened in the past, what happened with Cindy, has

nothing to do with who he is today.’

You wish,’ the girl snapped.

The words shot out of her like a poisoned arrow. Funny how

teenagers could always find your weak spot and apply pressure.

If there was anything in Serena’s life that made her feel like an

insecure child, it was the thought of Cindy Stride. It was the suspicion

that Jonny was still in love with his wife.

Still in love with the wife who died of cancer eight years ago.

Cat knew what she’d done. She looked upset now. ‘I’m sorry.

I didn’t mean that.’

But she did. And she was right.

Come on,’ Serena said, shoving down her own emotions. ‘Let’s

get out of here.’

She took Cat’s arm in a tight grip, but then something made

her freeze. A woman screamed. It came from the street, muffled

by the clamor of the bar. She almost missed it. The cry stopped as

quickly as it started, cutting off like the slamming of a window,

but Serena knew exactly who it was. She cursed herself for not

listening to her instincts when she had the chance.

Serena told Cat to stay where she was. She shoved through

the crowd and broke out into the street. Outside, the drizzle had

become a downpour, blown sideways by the wind. The Grand

Am she’d spotted earlier was still parked half a block away, its

headlights white and bright, steaming in the rain. Immediately

in front of the sedan was the woman from the bar, her body

flailing as she fought to free herself from a man who held her

in a headlock.

Serena shouted, and the woman saw her. Soundlessly, in panic,

she pleaded for rescue. Serena marched toward them to break

up the assault, but she’d barely taken a step when a gun blew up

the night. One shot. Loud and lethal. The blond woman’s pretty

face, twisted in panic, became a spray of bone, brain, blood, and

skin. Her knees buckled; her body slumped to the wet pavement.

In shock, Serena threw herself sideways toward the outer wall

of the bar.

The bar door opened, and Cat called out curiously, ‘What was

that? What’s going on?’

Serena yelled with the protective fury of a mother. ‘Cat, get

back inside right now!

Then she was running. She saw a tall man in a hooded sweatshirt,

his back to her as he escaped. The killer. She didn’t stop

for the woman lying in the street. There was nothing she could

do to help her. She charged after the man, struggling to match

his steps, but the pain of the effort weighed on her chest. Rain

soaked her black hair and blurred her eyes. The asphalt was slick.

The man sped into the darkness of a side street that ended in

dense trees, with Serena ten feet behind in pursuit. Matchbox

houses on both sides bloomed with light as people crept to their

windows.

Serena closed on the man when he slipped and lost a step.

The woods loomed directly ahead of them. She knew where she

was; the street ended in sharp steps that led down over a creek

into the grassy fields of Irving Park. She took a chance, and she

jumped. Her body hit the man in the square of the back, kicking

him forward, bringing both of them down. He slid onto the mossslick

concrete steps. She scrambled to her feet and dove for him,

but he was ready for her. He spun around in the blackness and

hammered a fist into her stomach. He grabbed her head. His

fingers drove her chin into the rusty railing bordering the steps,

where bone struck metal. Her teeth rattled as if driven upward

into her mouth. She collapsed to her knees.

He skidded on his heels and jumped down the rest of the steps.

She heard his footsteps splashing into the creek below them. He

was gone, breaking free into the wide-open land of the park. She

hadn’t seen his face.

People from the bar ran toward her, shouting. Somewhere

among them, Cat called her name over and over in fear. Serena

tried to stand, but she was too dizzy, and she fell forward, tasting

blood on her tongue. She was on all fours now. Her hands pushed

blindly around the muddy steps, hunting for the railing to use

as leverage as she stood up. She felt rocks and tree branches

and bug-eaten leaves beneath her fingers, and then, finally, she

brushed against the iron of the railing.

Except – no.

What she felt under the wet skin of her hand wasn’t the railing

mounted beside the steps. It was something else. Something

metal and lethal and still hot to the touch.

When her brain righted itself, she realized it was a gun…

 

Bernhard Aichner- Woman of the Dead

ber Billed as a tantalising combination of Dexter, Kill Bill and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, here for your delectation and delight, is another highly enjoyable slice of European crime fiction. Focussing on the character of Blum, the widowed mother of two young daughters, and the owner of a funeral home, The Woman of the Dead, is a singularly intriguing thriller, that opens with an extremely unsettling scene eight years previously, and then transporting us to the present to a scene of domestic bliss. This picture of homely comfort- a mother, father and two young daughters- is then forcibly shattered when Blum’s police officer husband, Mark, is killed on the road outside of their home, in an apparent hit-and-run. Fighting against the tidal wave of loss this produces, Blum discovers through a series of her husband’s recordings of an interview with a young immigrant woman, that his death is inextricably linked to his investigation into this young woman’s experiences as a formerly imprisoned sex slave. What Blum further discovers is that the men who are guilty of this abuse are notable figures in the local community, and with revenge boiling hard in her veins, Blum seeks to track down this woman, and exact revenge on her abusers, and her husband’s killer. Blum’s role as the avenging angel is clear to see, but what of her own murky past and the secrets she carries within? It was gratifying to see that Aichner had spent six months as an undertaker’s assistant to add credence to the more visceral details of the story, as there is a wonderfully sensitive handling of the everyday business of Blum’s handling of the dead. This sensitivity is beautifully balanced with Blum’s one woman bloody mission to track down and punish her husband’s killer or killers, where her retribution is swift and uncompromising. This is a brutal, and unrelenting read, peppered with vivid scenes of violent that by turns shock and jolt the reader, and with the added frisson of many of these being committed by a woman, the shock value intensifies. Despite the more graphic details (which some readers may struggle with) I was not unduly disturbed by them, and found the balance between Blum’s family life and professional standing, was perfectly weighted with this completely opposite picture we get of her. She is a completely intriguing character, encompassing a blend of strong morality which is then shaken by the slowly revealed less savoury aspects of her past, giving the reader a multi-faceted woman, who will challenge your empathy, as your opinion of her will undoubtedly change and change again as the book progresses. As I have said Aichner pulls no punches where the subject of sexual and physical violence arises, and this merely compounded for me his wider comment on the subject of sex-trafficking and abuse that young women immigrants can encounter in their search for a better life. The fact that Blum as a woman, later aided by Reza an employee at the funeral home, who himself has a back story of violence and immigration, adds a karma-like feel to their pursuit of the guilty, compounding the intensity of Aichner’s sociological observations on the plight of immigrants throughout Europe. It’s a strong message, strongly delivered, of the damaging effects, and the all too common danger and violence that these protagonists encounter, adding again to the power and intensity of the book. Likewise, the simple and dispassionate feel to Aichner’s prose, heightens the emotionally intense and claustrophobic feel to the novel. Perhaps a nod to the translator Anthea Bell is warranted here for the exact and compelling translation that fuels this intensity throughout. I am a huge fan of spare, pared down prose and curtailed dialogue, more commonly observed in American crime fiction, and so this was a eminently satisfying style for me. Overall, this was a brave, unsettling, but hugely compelling crime thriller that I can’t recommend highly enough if you are of stout heart and stomach. European crime fiction at its best. Bernhard Aichner was born in 1972 and lives in Innsbruck, Austria, where he works as an author and photographer. Visit his website here  Anthea Bell has won numerous awards for her translations. Best known for her translation of the Asterix series, Bell was awarded an OBE in 2010 for services to literature. (With thanks to Orion for the ARC)