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The Last To Disappear By Jo Spain

The Last To Disappear‘The Last To Disappear’ is the latest book by Jo Spain.

When young London professional Alex Evans is informed that his sister’s body has been pulled from an icy lake in Northern Lapland, he assumes his irresponsible sister accidentally drowned. He travels to the wealthy winter resort where Vicky worked as a tour-guide and meets Agatha Koskinen, the detective in charge. Agatha is a no-nonsense single mother of three who already thinks there’s more to Vicky’s case than meets the eye. As the two form an unlikely alliance, Alex also begins to suspect the small town where his sister lived and died is harbouring secrets. It’s not long before he learns that three other women have gone missing from the area in the past and that his sister may have left him a message.

The latest book by Jo Spain is a dark and intense story set against the backdrop of the snowy slopes of Koppe, Lapland and this makes for atmospheric and chilling reading.

The story begins with the tragic death of Vicky Evans, a young woman who was found drowned. Detective Agatha Koskinen has been called in to solve the case. When Alex Evans finds out the sudden death of his sister, he lives England and finds himself becoming Agatha’s sidekick as he’s determined to find his sister’s killer. In doing this, Alex has to delve into his sister’s life and learn a side to her that as a brother, he never wanted to know. Whilst Agatha is trying to find Vicky’s killer, there’s still the unsolved disappearances of the three women who disappeared over the years.

The story is written in the past and present tense, the present tense is the investigation of Vicky’s death whilst the past tense is set in 1998, at the time of the first disappearance.

For fans of Nordic-Noir, this book ticks all the boxes. It’s gritty, claustrophobic and filled with suspicious characters. The story is beautifully descriptive from the chilling and eerie landscape that sets the tone perfectly in this thriller. What’s interesting about the story is the location which is Lapland, the homeland connected to Santa Claus and even though it’s described as a winter wonderland, this book is a far from a wonderland!

Agatha is an interesting detective determined to find the killer all whilst dealing with her own personal problems. Alex feels guilty about having an estranged relationship with Vicky and hopes finding the killer and bringing them to justice will ease his conscience.

Intense from the first page and wonderfully atmospheric, Jo has delivered a chilling thriller that made for gripping reading. Packed with drama, twists and turns ‘The Last To Disappear’ made for exciting reading.

You can buy ‘The Last To Disappear’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Fallen Angels By Gunnar Staalesen

Fallen AngelsOn today’s book tour, I’ve an extract from Gunnar Staalesen’s new book called ‘Fallen Angels’.

Sit back and enjoy the first chapter from this Nordic Noir.

We stood outside the chapel. None of us looked at one another directly; no one wanted to take the initiative and leave. By the front door Jan Petter’s widow, eyes red-rimmed, was receiving the last mourner’s condolences with a limp handshake. The sleet landed on our shoulders like colourless confetti.

Even Paul Finckel’s strident sarcasm had dwindled to nothing.

‘Anyone want a lift into town?’

‘I’ve got my car here,’ I said.

‘What about going out for a beer, all three of us? I just have to nip down to the newspaper.’ Finckel looked at Jakob.

‘That’s an idea. I have to go home first and take care of the kids.’

‘Where do you live?’

‘In Nygårdshøyden.’

I looked at Finckel. ‘I’ll drive Jakob down. Where shall we meet?’

‘We might have to drive our youngest daughter to my sister’s,’ Jakob said. ‘She lives in Sandviken.’

‘Call me when you’re ready,’ Finckel said. ‘I’m at the paper. It’s pretty central as far as all the important watering holes are concerned.’

‘That’s why he works there,’ I added.

‘There are worse reasons,’ Finckel grunted, and left.

We followed him down to the car park.

We drove in silence from Møllendal, crossed Gamle Nygård bridge and took the illegal left-turn the new traffic arrangement almost invited you to take, to Marineholmen, on the southern side of Nygård Park.

Jakob explained where he lived. Halfway between St John’s church and Sydnæs Battalion marching band. The decibel level rose considerably in the spring as Easter week approached, with the pealing of bells at all times of the day and the band doing their drills every Tuesday and Saturday.

‘How many children have you got?’ I asked as we passed the football ground in Møhlenpris. ‘Three,’ he answered. ‘Though they’re not all children really … Maria’s sixteen. Then there’s Petter, who’s fourteen, and little Grete, who’s six. She’s the one who’s the problem if Maria can’t look after her for a few hours.’

As we turned up to the top of Olaf Ryes vei, he said: ‘My wife’s … moved out.’

I nodded, but said nothing.

The building where he lived was in the middle of the district. It had a redbrick façade and faced the shadowy side of the street. Jakob lived on the first floor in two flats that had been merged into one.

Midway up the dark stairwell he stopped with one hand on the railing, half turned to me and said pensively: ‘How do you get on with Jesus, Varg?’

The unexpected question made me feel like a turtle that had been whipped onto its back and deprived of any protection. I mumbled: ‘Well, I …Why do you ask? Are you related?’

He scrutinised me. Then he shot me a gentle smile. ‘It’s strange, meeting you again after such a long time. A lot of water’s flowed under the bridge, eh?’

I nodded in agreement. A lot of water indeed.

Then he carried on up. He rang the doorbell as he put the key in the lock and held the door open for me.

We went into a long, dark hallway. On the floor was an open, light-brown leather satchel. Shoes and boots were strewn across the floor and on a chair there were piled four or five jackets of various sizes and styles. On a little chest of drawers I espied an old-fashioned black telephone under a stack of brochures, free newspapers and unopened junk mail. Somewhere nearby I felt the monotonous throb of disco rhythms.

The door to a blue kitchen was open. Plates, cups, glasses and breakfast items were still on the table and a somewhat sickly smell of rancid fat and stale carrots wafted out to us.

Jakob closed the kitchen door and opened another, to the sitting room. ‘Come in, Varg.’ Then he shouted: ‘Maria! Are you at home?’

After an unhurried pause a door opened further down the corridor and the pop music became louder. ‘What’s up?’ a young girl said.

Jakob’s voice was drowned out as he advanced down the corridor.

I looked around the large sitting room, which was L-shaped as two rooms had been merged and the dividing wall replaced with a big, white sliding door.

At the back, on wooden flooring treated with lye, there was a black grand piano surrounded by rag rugs and black-and-white pictures on the walls. One wall was covered with shelves of books and sheet music, and inside a half open cupboard I glimpsed a not inconsiderable collection of records and cassettes.

If that wasn’t enough to quench your thirst, you can pre-order ‘Fallen Angels’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops from 12th November 2020.

Betrayal By Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Betrayal‘Betrayal’ is the latest book by Icelandic author Lilja Sigurdardóttir and is translated by Quentin Bates.

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again. But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again? As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher.

I’ve been fortunate to have read a few Icelandic noirs over the last while and each one has spirited me away to atmospheric place riddled with lies and suspense.

In this one, we meet Ursula who’s just been rushed into the combined role of Minister of Interior which is the Minister of Transport and Justice. She’s far from the stereotypical minister saying no to the use of her driver as well as security. But then she has to call upon the help of Gunnar after a person is found in her boot. Claiming defeat and the loss of her independence, Ursula throw herself wholeheartedly and her first mission is to get the wheels in motion for a rape case of a teenager who is raped by a policeman. But as she delves further into the case, she begins to receive threatening messages and which makes her look into her own childhood.

The story is primarily seen through the eyes of Ursuala and Gunnar, but there is also narrative from Stella, a young woman who is the cleaner in the Minister’s office. She and Ursula become unlikely friends when they become smoking partners. Stella is a party girl who forms another unlikely friendship with news anchor Greta and helps her on her quest for love by setting up her Tinder Profile.

This is a story that fascinated me on many levels. From the corruption in the police force to the wrong doing in the minster’s office, there were plenty of drama and unreliable characters that kept me on my toes with this story. It was also frustrating to read how women were treated in the position and had to prove their worth and actions on a regular basis.

There are many different stories in this story, each character with a story and background and the author has seamlessly weaved them all coming neatly together in the end.

The book is once again translated by translator Quentin Bates and vividly paints a picture of the freezing Iceland weather and the snow driven streets that made for compelling viewing.

A tense crime thriller that is oddly poignant and sad in parts, ‘Betrayal’ is a thrilling and cleverly crafted story of suspense and corruption with an unfortunate female trying to do her job stuck in the middle.

You can buy ‘Betrayal’ from Amazon.

The Creak on the Stairs By Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

The Creak on the Stairs‘The Creak on the Stairs’ is the latest book by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir in the ‘Forbidden Iceland’ series.

When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area. Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day. But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice before it’s too late.

This is the first Icelandic story that I’ve read and I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this atmospheric Nordic noir.

The story is mostly seen through the eyes of Detective Elma who’s returned to the town of Akranes after leaving the bright lights of Reykjavík after her relationship broke up.

Heartbroken, she throws herself into her work, expecting nothing exciting to happen in the sleepy town until the body of a woman is found on the beach and it’s up to Elma and her team to piece together how the woman called Elisabet came to be murdered.

As Elma investigates the case, she finds herself revisiting old neighbourhoods and friends whilst old memories reappear of the her childhood. But as she delves into Elisabet’s past, she finds a much sadder and sinister time for the woman.

The story is seen from multiple perspectives and this makes for interesting and intriguing reading as you wonder what role they have to play in the story. From Elisabet’s childhood friend called Magnea who’s obviously hiding something to her father in law, a successful estate called Hendrick. There’s also a narrative from a younger Elisabet which makes for sad reading as she’s the only child to a mother who neglects her and she’s exposed to abuse.

This story is translated beautifully and inclusion of the correct way to pronounce words and names were helpful whilst reading the book. The story also included local folklores which I found equally interesting.

Elma is a great protagonist, she’s relatable in her heartbreak and her insight and observation to those around her made for great reading.

‘The Creak on the Stairs’ is the first book in a new series and certainly sets a high standard of what’s next to come. With a clever plot line, engaging dialogue as well the vibrant descriptions of the landscape and the town, this book has it all. Beautifully written and chilling to the core, this Nordic noir is a must for all fans of the genre.

You can buy ‘The Creak on the Stairs’ from Amazon.

The Seven Doors By Agnes Ravtn

The Seven Doors‘The Seven Doors’ is the latest book by Agnes Ravtn.

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition. When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit. With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Nordic Noir so I was looking forward to reading ‘The Seven Doors’.

The story is seen through the narrative of Literary professor Nina who believes that English professors should be capable of investigating crimes due to their knowledge of myths and folklores and this sets up the premise of the story. Nina finds herself obsessing over the disappearance of Mari Neilson who was the former tenant in an apartment that she and her husband Mads had. She was unaware of the woman being a tenant in the house until she and her daughter visited it as her daughter Ingeberg was wanting to move in ahead of her second pregnancy.

The story then flows with Nina doing her own investigative work into the disappearance, retracing Mari’s last steps and her relationships with her parents as well as her ex husband Nicolas Bull, who’s returned to the Bergen area after being gone for years. Although we only meet Mari once in a story for a brief introduction, Agnes creates a full image of the woman with stories from her parents and ex husband all giving an insight into the woman.

The story is cleverly crafted with references to Nordic folk lore which is where the title of the book comes from. A captain called Bluebeard’s Castle who had 7 doors in his house and forbid his wife from looking behind them. It’s a tale of revenge, loss and jealousy and it’s essentially what this book is also about.

The story is extremely atmospheric and the author includes vivid descriptions of the town, the food and the festive traditions. The descriptions of the snow covered streets to the unsettling folklores made for fascinating reading. The story is primarily about the complexities of relationships, Nina has a strained relationship with her often outspoken and robust daughter Ingeberg and struggles to connect with her granddaughter who is always pushing her away and Mads is often working and leaving Nina to her own thoughts.

This book was a fascinating to read, but the author does not include speech marks so it takes a while to get used too but after a few pages, you don’t notice it.

Atmospheric and suspenseful with tension simmering throughout, ‘The Seven Doors’ was originally a Nordic book that has been translated by Rosie Hedger and for the English market.

‘The Seven Doors’ is a twisted story with drama and unreliable characters that made for gripping reading.

You can buy ‘The Seven Doors’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.