The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor #BookReview

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In 1986, Eddie and his friends are on the verge of adolescence, spending their days biking in search of adventure. The chalk men are their secret code, stick figures they draw for one another as hidden messages. But one morning the friends find a chalk man leading them to the woods. They follow the message, only to find the dead body of a teenage girl.

In 2016, Eddie is nursing a drinking problem and trying to forget his past, until one day he gets a letter containing a chalk man—the same one he and his friends saw when they found the body. Soon he learns that all his old friends received the same note. When one of them is killed, Eddie realizes that saving himself means figuring out what happened all those years ago. But digging into the past proves more dangerous than he could have known. Because in this town, everyone has secrets, no one is innocent, and some will do anything to bury the truth.

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There’s no denying that C.J. Tudor is one of the authors who really came out of nowhere and simply skyrocketed when her debut novel The Chalk Man was published. It’s not only in the UK, she’s really hot and happening with the translation of this novel in Belgium and The Netherlands right now too (called De Krijtman) and I can’t turn anywhere without seeing her name or this book. She’s a name that easily comes to mind when people are discussing what they’ve read recently or still want to read.

With her third novel The Other People now underway, it was finally my signal to pick up the first one. This novel sat on my shelf for so long *hangs head* and I wish I could read faster. I admit I was a little afraid to start this hyped novel too and in all honesty, I couldn’t even remember what it was about (I read a proof copy and there was no synopsis btw), I didn’t mind going in blind though. The Chalk Man and Tudor’s other books can all be read as a standalone so I’m already planning to read the third novel next and then go back later for the second so I can at least feel as if I’ve got it all under control.

I really really enjoyed reading this novel and the author did a magnificent job both on creating the characters and the plotting of the story. In the end I might have felt that the figure of The Chalk Man wasn’t really so scary (rather tragic and sad) nor that there was constant tension in the air, but really, what’s not to like about this novel? I didn’t get bored at all and if I have time to waste, I’m quite happy to spend it reading a novel if it’s anything like The Chalk Man.

The writing was steady and both the past and present had interesting plotlines that made me want to keep on reading and stay right there for a little longer. The lives of Eddie and his friends, Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, Hoppo and Nicky made me long for years I can never have back. I might be guilty of having a really small preference for the past plotline after all. The ’80s was a time where friendships and bonds were made, of riding your bike, seeing things, doing things without realising the consequences or what they meant because they were just too young.

The past isn’t left to rest though, it is brought back to life 30 years later but it is a big mystery who doesn’t want to leave the past to rest. The author kept me at more than an arm’s length of finding out but I enjoyed the journey to the conclusion as much as the reveal itself and it wasn’t what (or who) I expected at all. She didn’t shun away from including a taboo into this novel as well and the author wrote without it being too graphic or disturbing, I even felt sympathy towards a character who was basically in the wrong. It is one of the things which made the story turn out to be a shade darker than I thought it would be, so I can’t wait to find out what else C.J. Tudor has in store.

I received a free copy of this novel from a lovely blogfriend. This is my honest opinion. 

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Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #BookReview #Orentober

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Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

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I know a lot of fans of this author and they grab each and every opportunity to shout (quite loudly I might add) how amazing Louise Beech’s novels are so I was a bit nervous to start Call Me Star Girl. Would I like it as much as the rest? I could have saved myself from stressing about it because she’s a sensational author. The way she wrote this emotional story, I have no words for it! It’s not a Jojo Moyes or Amanda Prowse type of novel though, she has her own tense style, delivering a stellar story that is as much a thriller and murder mystery as it is heart-breaking. 

If you ask me to recap Call Me Star Girl in only a few words I’d say it’s a story about love. I mean the dark side of love, not the sweet sugarcoated love, no the big, obsessive, messy love. I’m talking love where you do things for people that you don’t want to do, a love that goes so deep it means giving up your child for it, an overpowering feeling that you can’t do anything against. Elizabeth, Stella’s mother followed her heart and Stella still bears the consequences. The sad thing is that Stella has more of her mother in her then she realises.

The story itself is as dark as the radio studio at nighttime where most of Stella’s story is taking place. The setting had a serious nightclub feel, one where Stella was on the stage with the spotlight on her. It was intimate and with even the timings mentioned between the different songs, I felt I was actually listening in. I was part of the audience, hanging onto her lips to hear about her listeners secrets but mostly because I wanted to hear hers. What was she going to say, what was her big secret? I never stopped liking Stella though, not even when I found out what it was. She had already wormed her way into my heart and I only felt for her. For being so scared of being boring, for her fears of people leaving her because, after all, her own mother left her, for doing things for Tom that weren’t ok.

There’s a murder reported in the story, someone who might or might not know something about it, and some surprising ties to the victim that makes you wonder who exactly is keeping secrets. On top of all of this intrigue there were also telling paragraphs in the past about Stella and her mother that kept me gripped and were deeply touching. The perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper means so much in the story, it’s incredible how loaded this object became throughout, how important it felt even to me.

I never saw the end to the story coming and it just hurt me so much. There are twists and then there are twists and this one totally hit me. My heart is full and yet it’s been squeezed unapologetically. It’s been a long time since a book did this to me. I’m pretty sure this is going to stay my favorite novel by Louise Beech for a good while. It might be my first novel but certainly not my last.  

I received a free ecopy of this novel in a giveaway organised by Mac Reviews Books. This is my honest opinion. 

Daddy’s Girls by Sarah Flint #BlogTour #Extract @SarahFlint19 @aria_fiction

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Welcome to my stop for Daddy’s Girls by Sarah Flint. Thanks so much to Aria Fiction for the invitation to join this blog tour! I have an extract to share with you today but first check out how wonderful this novel sounds.

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He wasn’t always a killer. At first, he just wanted to talk.

D.C. Charlie Stafford has an odd case on her hands. And it may be her toughest one yet.

A burglar who isn’t interested in valuables, the subject of Operation Greystream is a strange but smooth operator. In the dead of the night, gloved and masked, he visits the elderly. He doesn’t hurt them and, if they beg, he won’t take anything of real value. All he wants is conversation… and they’re powerless to refuse him.

But then 87-year-old Florence Briarly is found by her friend, cold to the touch and neatly, too neatly, tucked into bed. And Charlie realises this case has taken a sinister, urgent turn. Now this stealthy burglar has had a taste of murder, it’s only a matter of time until he craves it again…

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Author

With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.

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Extract

It was dark when the man returned.

The man liked darkness. He liked the anonymity it provided. He had worked in darkness many times in the early years of his career and was at home in its obscurity. On one occasion, many years before, he had heard a politician being described on the TV as ‘having something of the night’ about him and the phrase had stuck in his head. It fitted him. It was him. There had always been something dark inside him that he had never been able to truly control. At times it had emerged, unbidden, but he had never been able to allow it free rein… until more recently.

He slipped into the bushes, retracing his previous route along the footpaths of the common until he came to a small, cramped spot of flattened foliage, right opposite the old woman’s house. It was perfect. In fact, the whole area was perfect. Streatham Common was a well-known location for the anonymous liaisons of gay men, so it was criss-crossed by walkways, some wide, some only lightly trodden, with small, circular patches where the shrubs had been compressed flat by the weekends’ illicit activities. Tonight, however, being a Monday, the common was quiet, as were the residential streets that bordered it, few cars other than those belonging to residents requiring access.

With gloved hands, the man carefully unfolded a square of waterproof sheeting, spread it out on top of the trodden leaves and crouched down on it, watching and listening at all times – but nothing stirred. Idly, he ran his fingers through his rucksack, double-checking that all his tools were in their correct places, cleaned and sharpened, ready to cut wires, score through putty, slip locks; if necessary keep control. He couldn’t risk making any mistakes. He was too good for that.

The old woman’s details were already seared into his memory. She was called Florence Briarly; he’d seen it on discarded correspondence. She was eighty-two years of age, subscribed to several charities and on the whole wasn’t taken in by junk mail, most being thrown away unopened. He knew all of this because he’d been there before, during daylight hours, as well as under cover of darkness, scoping out her house, checking the bins and memorising her night-time rituals.

She was a typical pensioner: she entertained only a handful of daytime visitors and spent evenings alone with just her TV for company. She got up at the same time every morning and she went to bed at the same time every night. She tended to shop and complete her chores in the mornings, took a short nap after lunch and entertained most visitors in the afternoon, before having tea at around 6 p.m. She chose not to drive, so if not being picked up would usually catch a bus. She did not appear to have a mobile phone and had little use for technology. A landline and TV were clearly all she needed, and that was all she had.

He allowed himself a smile of anticipation. She was perfect for what he wanted – and what he really wanted was conversation, a chance to get to know the real Florence Briarly. He loved the elderly. They held memories he loved to hear.

A light still shone from the downstairs window but soon it would begin its movement upwards, the meagre glow lighting her way up the stairs, onto the landing and into her bedroom. Old people were slaves to routine and Florence Briarly was no exception.

He checked his watch and made himself more comfortable, lying on the waterproof sheet and pulling the hood of his jacket tighter around his head, leaving only a small hole through which to peer. Even though the sun had been warm, now it was night, the chill dampness of the woodland seeped into his bones – but he didn’t care. He had spent many an hour rooted unmoving to a single spot in his youth. Doing so again only served to heighten the experience.

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney #BookReview

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My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me.

1. I’m in a coma

2. My husband doesn’t love me any more

3. Sometimes I lie

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

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I purchased an ecopy of this novel at the release because many blogfriends recommended it to me. Of course I needed the publication (and purchase) of the second novel by Alice Feeney to finally bump it up my readlist. I’m happy I finally got round to reading this because I really enjoyed it.

There are no less than 3 plotlines in this novel but this was never confusing and I actually like it when there’s a lot going on as was the case here, it keeps me turning those pages. One of the plotlines follows Amber when she’s 11 years old, another one follows her in the present a few days before she finds herself in the hospital and the last one is the one with Amber in a coma. Well she isn’t actually in a coma, she can hear perfectly fine what is going on around her, she just can’t react in any way. As if that’s not enough, she also can’t remember what happened to her. It’s all rather terrifying and her paranoia towards her husband and sister really rubbed off on me :-). It’s not easy to figure out who to trust when you can’t ask any questions. Someone did this to her and I was ready to crucify them myself!

It made sense that there’s a plotline leading up to ‘the event’ but it was puzzling what the plot about her younger self had to do with the story and how she ended up there. It focused largely on her family situation and her friendship with a girl named Taylor when she was a young girl and I had no doubt there was a meaningfulness that totally escaped me; Taylor wasn’t mentioned in the present at all.

The author built up the tension in the days and hours towards her hospital admission and surprised me with a major twist of category 5 (I know, I just decided to have my own rating for twists and this one is of the same order as being told the earth is flat). So many things are actually connected but invisible to see at first sight. The past did have an effect on the present and to understand the present you have to know about the past. I might sound as if I’m talking in riddles but you just have to read it for yourselves if you want the full detail! I’m impressed with this author’s clever writing and I seriously had to wrap my head around that twist.

In conclusion: a wonderful debut that will keep you guessing for a very long time. Read it, it’ll keep you very entertained! 

I purchased an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Bad Place by M.K. Hill #BlogTour #Extract #Giveaway @markhillwriter @HoZ_Books

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Hi booklovers! Welcome to my stop for Bad Place by M.K. Hill. Thanks so much to Vicky of Head of Zeus for the invitation to join this blog tour! Scroll down for book + author info, an exclusive excerpt and the chance to win a ecopy of this book for yourselves!

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The newspapers called it The Bad Place. A remote farm out on the Thames estuary, where six children were held captive for two weeks. Five of them got out alive.

That was twenty years ago. Now adults, they meet up annually to hold a candlelit vigil for their friend who died. The only rule is that no-one can talk about what happened the night they escaped. But at this year’s event, one of them witnesses a kidnapping. A young girl, Sammi, is bundled into a van in front of their eyes.

Is history repeating itself? Is one of them responsible? Or is someone sending them a twisted message?

DI Sasha Dawson, of Essex Police, is certain that the key to finding Sammi lies in finding out the truth about The Bad Place. But she also knows that with every second she spends trying to unlock the past, the clock ticks down for the missing girl…

Purchase

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Author

Hill, M.K

I’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR. But I write the Drake and Crowley thriller series now, which is just as well, because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

If you enjoyed His First Lie or It Was Her, do get in touch. There are plenty of ways to do it!

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Extract

The bell rang – ‘All change!’ – and Ajay stood. ‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘Have a nice evening.’

When he walked to the next table, she picked up the pencil to give him a score, but thought better of it.

Then the man in the Hawaiian shirt dropped into the chair, swinging one tattooed arm over the back, opening his legs wide – manspreading, she believed was the term – and favouring Sasha with an excellent view of his groin. Middle-aged, thickset, hair slicked back by lots of product.

‘Now you look interesting.’ Sasha leaned forward. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Darren.’ The man’s legs opened and closed like a pair of elevator doors. ‘Call me         Daz.’

‘Hello, Daz, I’m Sasha. Tell me about yourself.’

He grinned. ‘I’d rather we talked about us.’

Sasha gasped. It was an audacious start.

‘I’ll be honest with you, Sasha.’ His knees snapped together so that he could swing closer to the table. ‘You’re not my usual type, you’re probably a decade older than I’m used to.’

Sasha smiled sadly. ‘Devastated.’

‘But when I saw you earlier, I knew immediately, I said to myself, Daz, there’s something about that woman. She’s got a…’ He wiggled fingers heavy with jewellery in front of his face, trying to conjure the exact word. ‘A twinkle.’

Sasha listened gravely. ‘Do I really?’

‘You got a way about you. A mystery. Despite the…’ He grimaced at her unexpected shock of long white hair.

‘Go on,’ she said.

‘Wanna know what I’m thinking?’ Darren gestured around the pub. ‘This whole event is a big fat waste of time. It’s a charade.’
Sasha blinked. ‘Is it?’

He jerked his head, come closer, and Sasha leaned in. Darren picked up the sheet of paper and tossed it over his shoulder.

‘You don’t need to mark a stupid scorecard, because our attraction is obvious. We’re like the two ends of a magnet, me and you, compelled to attract. I see the desire in your eyes.’ His hands framed her face in the air. ‘Your beautiful eyes, which are like two hazel windows to your soul.’

‘Oh, Daz.’ Sasha swallowed. ‘And what do you see in my windows?’

‘I see a sensitive, sophisticated woman with womanly needs and appetites. You’ve got a thing for me.’ His eyes fastened on hers, his tongue slid slowly along the length of his top teeth. ‘And, no bullshit, I’ve a serious thing for you. So let’s get out of here, go somewhere more… intimate.’

‘I’d love to talk to you more. I know just the place we can go.’

Darren gave a satisfied grunt. ‘Now we’re talking.’ His hand crept across the table, but she coyly moved hers into her lap.

‘Let’s go to the station,’ she said.

‘The Station.’ Darren narrowed his eyes. ‘That a trendy new bar, is it?’

‘Oh, Daz, you’ve been to the police station many times.’ The bell dinged and Sasha made a sad face. ‘Time’s up, I’m afraid.’

Giveaway

If you want to read this novel, here’s your chance! I’m going to make it really easy this time, all you have to do is comment below that you want to win an ecopy of this novel (if you read the reviews of Shalini and Grace J Reviewerlady already you’ll know that they rate this one highly).

I will give each entry a consecutive number and will use a number generator to pick one lucky winner!

This giveaway is open for everyone and will close next Monday, which gives you plenty of time to enter :-). I’ll contact and announce the winner on Tuesday :-).

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The Bad Place Blog 1                The Bad Place Blog 2    The Bad Place Blog 3

 

Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler #BlogTour #BookReview @HSCinkpen @Tr4cyF3nt0n @OrionBooks

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Welcome to my stop for Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler. Thanks so much to tour organiser Tracy Fenton and publisher Orion Books for the invitation to join this blog tour! I already published my review in May on the blog but in case you missed it I’m posting it again today. This novel is so amazing, I can’t recommend it enough and I will tell everybody again and again!

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When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.

She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.

She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.

You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.

amazon uk amazon com

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I enjoy stories that involve morals and put you on the spot. I adore novels that provoke a reader and make you question the side you’re on. I love novels that secretly make you want to cheer the bad guy on..  it’s wrong to do so and you feel guilty but ok not all that much because sometimes, you know, it just can’t be helped. Degrees of Guilt is exactly this kind of brilliant novel, it hits all the high notes. In hindsight, I have to admit the title kind of gives it away but I was still very much unaware of it when I started reading this novel. I was ready to judge and condemn but I’ve never felt so torn.

The novel did start chillingly, with a woman, cold and rational, standing beside her dead husband. She also admits to the crime right away. How could this court case go then, it’s all rather clear cut, right? Awful crime, no remorse, big sentence to be expected. Well you might be mistaken there. There was a lot of background story that explains her current predicament. The novel massively challenged me to take mitigating circumstances into consideration. How much can be excused and can you ever understand why someone would murder someone else? I don’t know if I could say it out loud but eh deep down I understood why she did it for one hundred percent. What the outcome, the verdict would be was a big mystery though, and what I wanted it to be and how the jury saw it and if we were on the same page at all, I can’t say.

At first there wasn’t a bone in my body that made me consider her innocent but as the days progressed it was obvious that she was a victim too, trapped in a loveless marriage. I have read plenty novels with disturbing content and domestic abuse before but the author detailed her daily horrors so perfectly, it was such a quiet venom that poured from the pages, it would melt the coldest of hearts. A big tipping point and a scene that had a big impact on me was when I read about the tampons. I don’t know why that stood out but I think it’s something that is just completely our (a woman’s) business and everyone else should keep out of it.

Even though I knew what she had done and saw the damage together with the jury, I couldn’t help sympathise with Maria almost from the beginning. I believed her, I wanted to believe her, although I didn’t really know why she felt the need to lie about parts of her story. Why would she do that? A tiny part of me did feel a moment’s hesitation there about her. I didn’t know what to think.

Degrees of guilt is a domestic drama mixed with fantastic scenes in the courtroom and let’s not forget the sizzles between Lottie and hottie Cameron. Gawd there’s electricity crackling in the air! Their game was tantalising to watch unfold and he was sooo hot I could feel my own cheeks burn ;-). I found it a bit odd to insert this into such a novel but then it did help to lighten up the story a little and in the end it just worked out brilliantly.

Degrees of Guilt is definitely one of the best releases of the year for me. The novel demands to take a stance about the justice in this case and what you think is fair, it is so heartfelt, you just can’t not think about it when you’re not reading it. What would you do if you were on the jury? I can tell you it’s a difficult one because our heart and our head speak a different language when reading this novel! I can’t believe this is the first novel by HS Chandler / Helen Fields I read but it most definitely won’t be the last.

I received a free ecopy via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (Roy & Castells Book 3) #BlogTour #BookReview @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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Welcome to my stop for Blood Song by Johana Gustawson. Thanks so much to Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join this blog tour! Before you read my review, check out how wonderful this novel sounds first:

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The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

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Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.

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I’ve been putting off writing this review… dear god no, not because I didn’t like this novel, it’s more because this one’s making it hard to find the right words without sounding like a crazy fan. You see I’ve been with this series since the first novel and each one is so special. I’m not an historical reader but this author really made me one. Gustawsson entangles crime and historical facts like none other and creates a unique reading experience. If you ask me this is a collector’s item you want to have in your library.

Block 46 took me to WW2 and the author won me over with that one easily. Book 2, Keeper, took me to the era of Jack The Ripper, and I knew then that I’d follow her writing wherever she took me. Blood Song sent me to new territory. I’m almost ashamed to say that I knew little to nothing about the dictatorship under Franco in Spain. The descriptions – based on what was really happening at that time – in prison and the orphanage were harsh and brutal but lent itself well to tell this murder mystery.

Johana Gustawsson plays with time and my mind, and those pages just wouldn’t stop turning themselves. She let me visit Spain in 1937 as well as Sweden in 2016. How both timelines could ever be aligned is something that seemed impossible but she manages to accomplish just that. I’m not getting into the plotlines this time at all, it’s too big and deep to cover, but I can tell you that there were staggering twists in this novel that are sure to startle everyone and it is all tied up brilliantly. Teresa, Gordi, Lados… their story will stay with me for a long time.

I can 100% recommend this novel to every crime loving reader who isn’t afraid of a dark but fascinating read.

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