Afraid of the Light

Another author new to me. Don’t you just love to find new people to follow.

The book is written completely from the male protagonist’s perspective. Something rare in today’s novel choices.

Brendan is a 56 year old man, living in Los Angeles with a wife he no longer loves and queries if he ever did. After losing his sales job in a corporate downsizing, he becomes an Uber driver. His wife determines she can no longer work following a still birth and that adds to his many worries, mainly about money. But also about his wife’s developing increasingly extremist tendencies.

The one bright spark in his life is his daughter Klara, who is constantly at loggerheads with her mother. His best friend is Todor a Catholic priest, but as the story moves on we become aware that he is not the person Brendan had always thought him.

One dismal afternoon, Brendan picks up a retired professor, Elise and this is where the chaos begins.

 It is unlike any other thriller/novel I have read recently. it moved me and tugged at my heart. We are introduced to the dark underbelly of abortion and anti-abortion, and watch aghast as how one man (an Uber driver) gets caught up in this chaos.

I loved all the characters and how complicated each one is. This is not just a thriller. it’s a portrayal of how unstable religions and beliefs can be when forced to confront their fears and how they use their scaremongering tactics that can and often do, lead to tragic deaths.

I recommend this book and this author. I haven’t read any other of his books but am about to rectify that.



Once again we are with Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir as she nears retirement. She is not looking forward to it. She has no hobbies to fill in the time that looms ahead of her.

Her boss wants her gone even though she still has several months to go. He wants her to leave immediately, clear her desk and go to make way for a younger man. everyone in the department is younger than her. After she convinces him to let her investigate a cold case, for the remainder of her time in the force, two weeks instead of the several months still in her contract. She is allowed to pick the case, and chooses that of a young Russian asylum seeker, found dead and classed as a suicide.

The Russian girl/woman Elena, was found dead at a cove just over a year ago. An incompetent colleague, Alexander, who handled the case did a very poor job, deciding almost from the outset that it is suicide.

 As she investigates the case it proves to be more difficult and complex than she thought. On the way, Hulda inadvertently wrecks a covert police operation involving a sex/people trafficker which brings the wrath of Magnus, her boss, on her head. This is compounded by Hulda’s reactions to a woman hit-and-run driver who targets a paedophile.

Hulda’s life rapidly begins to spiral out of control and then a confident and skilled murderer begins to feel that Hulda is getting too close to the truth.

We learn a little more about Hulda, her past and her blossoming involvement with Peter, a climbing friend, but is she ready to open herself to another person?

Jonasson gives us a multi-layered story of darkness everywhere, in the geography and financial crash of Iceland, the glimpse of her childhood and the future that Hulda faces, and the case of Elena and what turns out to be the disappearance of another Russian woman, Katja.

Well written and once again, the identification of the murder of two young women is unexpected. Although I did think it might be him but could not think of a reason for him to commit a murder or two.

Of the three books, this is the darkest. I am glad I read the other two first.

The Island

Another book from Icelandic author, Ragnar Jonasson. This is a series of three books with Detective Hulda Hermannsdottir as the protagonist.

I reviewed The Mist a couple of weeks ago. I was thrilled to have found a new author and a series set in Iceland, a totally unknown area for me. I waxed “lyrical” on the book and the author.

The Mist is book three in the series. The books are in the reverse order and travel back in time, so we know what has happened to Hulda as we read this second book in the series.

Four longtime friends decide to have a reunion at an old hunting lodge. They haven’t been in touch for a long time but this is the tenth anniversary of the murder of one of their friends and they agree to get together in her honour and to reconnect. When one of the friends is found dead suicide is suspected, but Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is not convinced and is determined to find out the truth.

There are several suspects but the unravelling holds one transfixed. I was totally amazed at the outcome – two murders, how many suspects?

Jonasson’s characters are totally believable and he did a great job showing how good people’s lives can be derailed seemingly easily. We also got some more insight into Hulda’s life. A good book. Well worth reading.

The Mist

Another author new to me. I picked up this book at the library earlier this week and I am so glad I did. I had never even heard of this author.

Ragnar Jonasson is an Icelandic author. lawyer, investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University. So a busy man.

The Mist is no 3 in a three-book series with his protagonist Detective Hulda Hermannsdottir.

It is set in and around a deserted farmhouse at Christmastime and, as is apparently usual in Iceland at Christmas, it is snowing hard and there is a storm building.

There are two mysteries to be uncovered by Hulda and her team, but how can they be connected?

Meantime, Hulda has domestic problems brewing in the background.

The setting is so clear one can see it for oneself; the well-developed characters and the plot as it unravels are all superb. And you will never have imagined how these two mysteries tie together.

As I said it is book three in the series, but as the books travel back in time, I am glad I read this one first. And after finishing this book, I promptly ordered the first two books in this series.

I have seen the comment – this author is superb and I absolutely agree.

I have also posted on the blog, A World Apart, that I share with my Canadian friend, Chris of BridgesBurning. That post has details about Iceland and how it compares to New Zealand. Click here to read that post.

The Night Ferry

I have recently finished another of Michael Robotham’s books. This one is called the Night Ferry. This is not in the Jo O’Loughlin series but instead is a stand-alone book.

Detective Alisha Barba is recovering having been badly injured while making an arrest.  . After a very long stay in the hospital, while they fixed her back, she wonders if she will ever run again.  Now she is sufficiently recovered to start running again and it becomes her lifesaver.

The school reunion is coming up and she has no plans to go. But things change when she receives a note under her door from her one-time best friend Cate. The note simply says “Ali, I’m in trouble. I must see you. Please come to the reunion. Love, Cate”. The women haven’t spoken for eight years but Ali decides that she will attend the reunion and find out just what Cate wants her to do.  

Cate is 8 1/2 months pregnant and when the two women have a chance to speak, Cate tells Ali that “they” are trying to take her baby. She does not indicate who they are and why they would want to take her baby. Very shortly after dropping this bomb Cate and her husband are run down and killed, and on arrival at the hospital, it is discovered that Cate is not pregnant at all.

There follows an absorbing tale of people smuggling and forced pregnancies of refugees being paid to provide surrogate children to desperate couples and thereby paying off their debt to the smugglers, murders, IRA links, prostitution, and downright shady characters. It questions the ethics of adoption, the fragility of life faced by orphans in war-torn nations and the inequality of life.

The amount of research that has gone into this book is mind-blowing.  The characters are well written and both they and the scenes are totally believable.

Another great read from this author who seems to have taken over my life currently

The Suspect.

Quite by accident, I came across The Suspect. And I was absolutely fascinated by the protagonist Clinical Psychologist, Joe O’Loughlin. 

 At first sight, he is someone who has it all – a thriving practice, a beautiful and loving wife and a young daughter.  But when he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he makes a bad choice as to whom to talk to about this diagnosis and has to face the outcome.

He gets called into a high-profile murder investigation, and soon recognises the victim as one of his former patients, an emotionally disturbed young woman. At first, he doesn’t let Inspector Ruiz the lead investigator know this, and he, Joe, soon becomes the chief suspect in the murder.

At that stage we are or I am, beginning to question just how involved he is. At the same time, Jo starts to suspect another of his patients, but he keeps dismissing these thoughts as fanciful. He also suspects his best friend Jock of having designs on his wife Julianne. Would Hock his long-time friend  turn on Joe to get a woman he has always desired?
The evidence against him mounts and soon Joe finds himself shunned by his wife and colleagues.

This is a book that you really have to read, if possible in one or two long sessions.  Totally fascinating read.  The characters are believable even if they make mistakes.  And the setting in and around London brought me back to when I lived there many years ago.  I gave this book five stars.

Note. I have also read the ninth book in the series – The Other Wife.  It too is reviewed on this blog.

The Other Wife

Joe O’Loughlin is barely coping after his wife’s sudden death just over a year ago and is still struggling to come to terms with his recently diagnosed Parkinson’s disease.

He and his two daughters move from their country cottage to London where he hopes they can all move on and perhaps, make a new life.  Charlie the eldest girl, appears to be coping well and has returned to Oxford to complete her degree in clinical psychology.  but Emma, the 12-year-old is not managing. She refuses to talk about Julienne, her mother and is a cause of concern for her father.

So, Joe’s life is already unsettled when he receives a call from the hospital that his father is in a drug-induced coma.  In answer to his question, he is told his mother is at his father’s side.

But when Joe gets to the hospital, his life spins totally out of control.  The woman sitting at the bedside is not his mother, but she identified herself as William’s wife to the hospital and gave them Joe’s number to call. 

Everything begins to unravel: how his father, a prominent surgeon in his day, led a secret life.  In collusion with his lawyer and best friend, he had two families he kept apart for over 20years.  Did his mother know, and how much? 

But who attacked him so viciously and left him for dead?   Who would want to harm him? Joe reflects on his childhood, and the father he remembers and questions everything he ever believed about his father  The two were never close but as he reminisces Joe sees that perhaps his father was more involved in his life than he realised.

As more details come to light the list of possible perpetrators grows.  There is a schizophrenic step-brother, a drug addict, a former soldier and the brother of a woman badly injured in a medical misadventure.  And of course, there’s the other wife with secrets in her past.  And even his own mother cannot account for why she was in London and not at the family home in Wales at the time of the attack.

There are financial irregularities which the retired police Detective Vincent Ruiz, now a corporate fraud investigator finds.  I enjoy the interaction between these two very different men who have formed a strong friendship. 

The unravelling of Joe’s father’s hidden life is twisting and turning and each new revelation leads to more questions.  Mainly, who is William O’Loughlin? Lies intermingled with truth kept me on my toes and I have to say, I had no idea what was truth or lie.  And the other wife Olivia?  Everything she says is hard to believe. Is she truly a devoted ‘wife’ or does she have another agenda?. There are many possible outcomes to this tale and it’s not until the final pages that the whodunit is revealed.

A great read.  Unputdownable (that word again).  Absorbing story, great characters and an unpredictable outcome.  I didn’t want this one to end.  It’s the ninth in this series and I really hope there will be more.

 And I am left asking the question How well do we know our parents?   

The Diamond Eye

“Now I am looked upon a little as a curiosity,”
she said,“a subject for newspaper headlines,
for anecdotes.
In the Soviet Union, I am looked upon
as a citizen, as a fighter,
as a soldier for my country.”

How often do you come across a book that you can really say is ‘unputdownable’? OK, so that’s not a word, but you know what I mean. I was stopped in my tracks by Diamond Eye. I read for eight hours with only occasional bathroom and coffee/tea breaks.

Mila Pavlichenko AKA Lady Death was married at fifteen to a talented but much older surgeon, who verbally abused her and belittled her at every opportunity. But she did have a beautiful son from the marriage. She worked in the Odessa library while working on her dissertation for her PhD in History. During this time, Mila enrolled in a course for marksmanship instruction and was able to secure a certificate for her undeniable skills as an accomplished marksman and sniper.

In this book, we follow her through her life, first as a trainee sniper, through the horrors of war and eventually to becoming a national hero. Her official tally was 309 but who knows how many Germans she actually killed.

I had not read in such detail about the battles and hardships the Nazis made the Soviets endure during WWII. In other books I have read, the Russians were usually mentioned only in conjunction with the Americans’ entry into the war. But here we read about individual Russians and their absolute determination to keep the Nazis out of the Soviet Union at any cost.
Some of the details about the actual battles were horrendous but made me feel as if I were in the middle of it. And we learn of all the obstacles a female soldier, in a male-dominated army, had to endure.

In 1942 she arrived in the United States as part of a goodwill mission to encourage the US to get into the war and support the Russians. She met and started a lifelong friendship with The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. On the tour through the country with The First Lady at a rally in Chicago, she said –

Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have killed 309
fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen,
that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?

Kate Quinn uses the official journal for the story and also Mila’s unofficial one, cleverly mixing them to write this fascinating tale,

The characters in The Diamond Eye were well developed and vivid. And once again, Kate Quinn excels in her research and writing skills. My advice to you? If historical novels and great female characters are your thing, drop everything and get a copy of this book.

View all my reviews

The Thursday Murder Club

I heard about the Thursday Murder Club from several people and was keen to get my hands on it.  I read it on Kindle and wished that I had bought a hard copy.

            The story centres around four retirees living in Cooper’s Chase, an upmarket retirement community on the south coast of England.  The four main characters form The Thursday Murder Club.  Thursday because that’s when the jigsaw room is free. The Club gives them an opportunity to still exercise the grey matter while they can, and perhaps in the process, clear up some cold cases. 

            Elizabeth the leader is, we think an ex-spy chief. This is never really confirmed.  Joyce is a former nurse who lives in the complex courtesy of her very clever daughter.  Ibrahim is a retired psychiatrist and Ron is an ex-trade union boss.  So, all very English.

            There is also Penny, who is on life support in the total care part of the complex. And her husband John who sits with her all day and every day, holding her hand and talking to her.
            The four are all keen amateur sleuths and until a murder occurs, they use Penny’s saved files from her days as a Detective Chief Inspector, to attempt to solve unsolved/cold case murders.

            They have limited success, until a murder, or two happens almost in front of them.

Old age is often a burden bringing differences to people’s lives, but the four main characters together form a force to be reckoned with. Over the years of solving or attempting to solve the earlier unsolved murders, they have developed some somewhat unorthodox methods to use in crime solving.

            The owner of the development, Ian Ventham wants to expand it by building additional apartments.  He also plans to move an ex-convent graveyard to build even more apartments. 

            This causes anger among the inhabitants but his decision is made and he has the necessary approvals. Tony Curran, Ventham’s builder who has a 25% stake in the business is murdered. Ventham brings in the diggers to attack the graveyard early the next morning. Only to find the graveyard picketed by retirees. There is a bit of a scuffle and Ventham drops down dead. Also murdered! 

            Not too much later another body is discovered although this one is much older and it takes a while before its relevance to the plot becomes apparent.

            The four amateur detectives go straight to work on these murders. Elizabeth has her varied and very secret sources that cough up much useful information. They also need some pliable police officers whom they can pump for information. DCI Chris Hudson with PC Donna De Freitas is in charge of the investigations and  Elizabeth sets out to organise their involvement.  She promises to share all the four turn up in exchange for being kept in the loop of the police enquiries. These two police officers are utterly helpless to resist the wiles and the offered cakes of the retirees. However, they soon realise that the oldies mean business and can provide many clues to solving the cases.

            There are twists and turns aplenty in this book, and although the theme is murder it is a gentle read.  It is in turn, clever, sad, moving in places and funny throughout.  I quickly warmed to the main characters, felt antagonistic toward others, and wondered about some of the others.

            I understand this is the first in a new series from Richard Osman and I look forward to reading more.

The Word is Murder

The blub, the premie of the book was what called me to read it.  And I am glad I did.

Anthony Horowitz CBE Is an author of renown.  He has written several series including the Alex Ryder series.  He has written for television, including the ever-popular Foyle’s War and now takes himself off in a different direction.  He appears in his own novel.

A woman goes to a funeral home and arranges her own funeral. A few hours later she is murdered. Ex-Detective Inspector Hawthorne, since being fired from the police force,  has been successful in solving crimes before the police force and he becomes involved in this case.

Because of his success in the past, he wants someone to write about the crimes he solves, so he contacts Horowitz to be his scribe; to follow and report on his actions and findings. And so Horowitz gets tangled up in solving the crime.

Horowitz is not at all sure that this is a good idea and in fact, doesn’t know enough about Hawthorne and more to the point, doesn’t really like the man. 

The mystery has all the elements of a clever whodunnit, with a shortlist of suspects, lots of secrets slowly uncovered, and plenty of red herrings. It’s interesting to read a story that includes the author and his take on things.  And because of this, we see the clues through his eyes.  Along with Horowitz, I was totally amazed when the culprit was revealed.

The solution ends up being satisfying and looking back, there were plenty of clues I should’ve picked up on but totally missed.

I wondered about Horowitz writing himself into the book. He includes lots of details about himself and his life. and it blends in seamlessly with the fiction. 

Horowitz has signed a 3 book deal with his agent and sometimes, it seems that he regrets agreeing to be Hawthorne’s scribe and this commitment.  And also it seems, as he sits and listens to Hawthorne interviewing suspects and other people of interest he is uncomfortable/hating the manner in which these people are treated.

The story is interesting but for me, Horowitz’s part, his thoughts and his comments on how he writes are what made this book 5 stars in my estimation.   

I came across the third book in the series and read it first.  i will write the review shortly.

It is interesting to note that Anthony Horowitz was chosen by the Conan Doyle Estate to write a new full-length Sherlock Holmes novel which was published in 2011.  I missed that and will now rectify that.  Watch for the review.