Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tour and Review - Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for
Kjell Ola Dahl's, Nordic Noir, Faithless
With thanks to Karen and Anne at Orenda Books
for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.


Published by Orenda Books
15 May 2017
Copy - Received from publisher as part of Blog Tour

The Blurb

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again. 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Although the blurb notes that the characters are 'back' and this novel is one in a series, it is perfectly readable as a stand-alone book.  I have been lucky enough to read quite a lot of Nordic Noir this year so when Faithless came onto the radar I was looking forward to reading it.

I have to say, I did struggle a little bit to actually get into it initially.  I found there were a lot of characters and story-lines and it all seemed a little disjointed to me.  I did find I had to go back and re-read parts on several occasions, but this is a slow burn book and gradually things did come together and I realised just what a complex plot the author has written.

The tone of the book - as you can gather from the synopsis - is very dark, however, Dahl has written in some absolute gems of cutting humour via the characters interaction and dialogue when in the police station / work environment setting.  For me, it made the characters very real and relatable.  Everyone knows the sort of characters you get at work and how annoying some of their habits can be and the author has tapped these into the story really well, lightening up what could be a rather grim read.

As I said, I did have to re-read a few sections and for me the writing didn't flow quite as easily as I like, but still it is confident and powerful writing with particularly nice use of imagery of Norway and
use of the weather to really add to the atmosphere building within the plot.  This book gives a very good lesson in showing and not telling.

If you like a gritty, complicated, police procedural novel to sink your teeth into then Faithless is a must read for you.

Faithless (Oslo Detectives) by Kjell Ola Dahl receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :

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Image result for faithless kjell ola dahl
About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjovik, Norway.  He made his debut in 1993 and has since published fifteen novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frolich.  In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he has also been awarded both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015.  His work has been published in fourteen countries.  He lives in Oslo.

About the Translator

Don Barlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk.  He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbo and Karl Ove Knausgard.  He has previously translated The Consorts of Death, Cold Hearts, We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die in Gunner Staalesen's Varg Veum series.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Review : Amnesia by Michael Ridpath


Published by Corvus (Atlantic Books)
04 May 2017
Copy - Paperback from Readers First

The Blurb

Alastair Cunningham wakes up in hospital with almost total amnesia. But he knows that something terrible happened in his past, something that haunts him still. A young family friend, Clémence is called in to help rekindle his memory. Retreating with Alastair to his remote cottage, Clémence finds a peculiar manuscript hidden away from prying eyes. Reading the prologue, she discovers a murder by someone very much like a young Alastair. The victim? Clémence’s grandmother, Sophie. Could this kindly old man truly be a killer? Clémence becomes determined to find out what happened all those years ago, even if she must risk everything to do so…

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This book starts in the thick of the action, immediately drawing you in and encouraging you to read on. Within the first few chapters the author establishes, very confidently and clearly, the two main characters, Clemence and Alastair who develop a clever and sometimes amusing, relationship.

Trying to regain his memory and piece together his life becomes a novel within a novel as the two read a seemingly autobiographic manuscript they find back at the cottage.  The reader is taken back to Alastair's life as a young man at University and the relationships he develops there which result in long reaching consequences.  A truly tangled web of deceit is woven involving love lost, money and murder.

At first it seems clear, the reader is being told the true story via the novel, but several elements do not quite make sense and Clemence is not convinced things are as straightforward as the book suggests, and indeed they aren't, thus you are then taken on a blind excursion of discovery to find out just what piece of vital evidence has been taken away and why and by whom...

The use of the environmental setting, dark and brooding Scotland in winter, seems to be the perfect backdrop for the tone of the novel, as in looks can be deceiving. The beauty of Scotland can draw you in but be lethal if not handled correctly. Well written and paced this novel is gripping and enticing.  I had my suspicions about half way through of what may happen at the end and although it did there was also so much I did not see coming!  I have to say, the final two pages of the novel were brilliant and I loved what the author has done - it certainly made me smile. 

I will most certainly be reading more from Michael Ridpath.

Amnesia receives a must read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :

Monday, 24 April 2017

Review : Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister


Published by : Penguin Random House
09 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Reviewer Purchase

The Blurb

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

My purchase of this book followed lots of hype and rave reviews on Twitter and I do love a debut novel, especially in the domestic noir / psychological thriller genre. 

Everything but the Truth isn't a read with one eye story, but it is an intriguing insight into how quickly people can jump into a life with someone they barely know and the subsequent consequences.  Protagonist Rachel finds this out after falling pregnant by relatively new boyfriend Jack and as it comes to light that Jack may not be quite who he seems, Rachel has to question - is anyone perfect?  And along comes the debate about how much of someone's past should and can be brushed over.

Rachel wrestles with many issues over the course of this book, but essentially they all boil down to 'relationships'.  The relationship between herself and her mother.  The relationship she has as a doctor with patients.  Her own romantic relationships.  They are cleverly woven in and out of the main plot of discovering Jack's past.  Told from only the viewpoint of Rachel we learn about her own chequered history, which certainly muddies the waters about her reliability about what she is perceiving and although this isn't a book that goes at staggering speed or has big epic scenes, it is a real page turner.  The issues it deals with are very possible and does make you question - what if?  It is confidently written and the characters are well rounded and developed, all of them with their own flaws, they could easily be people you could know in your own life.

Everything but the Truth is a well plotted and enjoyable debut novel.

The Very Pink Notebook therefore gives this book :


Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Review : A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys


Published by : Doubleday
23 March 2017
Copy : Paperback received from Alison Barrow

The Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel is a drama suspense of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  With beautiful, languid story-telling, I was completely absorbed into the world of Lily Shepherd, on passage aboard the liner, Orontes, to a new adventure to Australia.  Lily, herself 'tourist class', is somewhat caught in the middle of a class war on board.  She is given a glimpse into the world of First Class by the scandalous and morally outcast socialites, The Campbells, whilst also learning passengers may sit on the same class level aboard the great ship are not all seen as equals.  Add to this the tumulus background rumbling of a World War on the brink of an imminent break out, the ground on which these characters find themselves are truly unsteady waters.

Lily is somewhat naïve to the world and you find yourself loving her for it, it makes her an honest narrator, if not always reliable given her limited knowledge of the world.  This novel is about so many things but what stood out for me was the personal journey of Lily who grows and has her eyes opened to the harsh realities of the world more in three weeks than she has her entire life.

Lily is more than a likable character, she is lovable.  I found myself wanting to protect her from the harsh reality of life.  She is still so childish in many ways which only goes to highlight the complex lives of the other people on board.  If only they had lived such a sheltered life as Lily, maybe they would be better for it.  Although we learn Lily is running and mourning her own drama, compared to the others it seems so innocent. 

Lily is truly like a central orb in this novel from which everyone rotates, all wanting and needing her for their own selfish gain.  However, Lily is not as weak as she may exude, after all she has chosen and made happen this adventure many would only dream about.

At the end of the book the author notes mention the novel is inspired by the real life diary of a young female passenger who really did embark on a personal journey to Australia and the novel is richer for it.  Beautiful vivid imagery combined with a powerful plot and complex yet likeable characters make this book a compelling read. 

And by the way, you may think you see that twist coming, but you really haven't...

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys gets a Very Pink Notebook Review of :

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tour and Review : Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for Sherri Smith's psychological thriller Follow Me Down.  With thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.


Published by : Titan Books
21 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher as part of blog tour

The Blurb


Mia never intended to go home again, but has no choice when her twin brother goes missing.  Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she'd buried. 

Her brother Lucas, a popular teacher, has disappeared on the same day as the murdered body of one of his students was pulled from the river.  Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas's affair with the teenager, and unable to reconcile the media's vicious portrayal of Lucas with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he's innocent, why did he run?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

If you like gritty psychological thrillers combined with the dynamics of messed up families then this is a book for you.  Follow Me Down is a very dark and twisted tale and when I say twisted I mean it, in every possible sense.

The reader is thrown right into the story from the first page, when protagonist Mia, a Chicago based pharmacist, receives a call from the police alerting her to the fact her twin brother Lucas, popular school teacher who still lives in the small minded town they grew up in, is missing.  However, not only is he missing, he is wanted.

Smith has cleverly filtered the story through the mind of Mia, you are in her head and go on the journey of discovery as solely seen through her eyes.  The problem with her eyes is they are often tainted by abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol - unreliable narrator alert.  Obviously Mia is convinced of her brother's innocence, or is she?  Even as an unreliable narrator, the author manages to pass every conceivable idea through Mia's mind, who tries to weigh up the probability of these things happening.  She then starts piecing together parts of the puzzle that is the situation and finds things and people in the small town are not always what they seem.  Slowly, and a little crazily, she starts to form a picture of what was going on right up to the day the body was discovered and her brother went missing. 

As I said, there are so many twists and turns in this book you can get quite dizzy, but that is brilliant because every possibility is really quite feasible and I had absolutely no clue as to where this ride was going to end, and what a well executed ending it was, with all ends tied up, some of them somewhat messily for the characters.

This novel has a host of unlikeable characters and this may be a little controversial, having seen some other reviews, but I actually didn't dislike Mia at all.  I also loved their narcissistic mother Mimi as well.  In fact, in the end I really felt quite sorry for her.

This book has a complex plot that Sherri Smith has managed to deconstruct and deliver in an easy, fast paced and exciting novel.  I would highly recommend it to psychological thriller lovers that like their work on the dark side.

Follow Me Down receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :

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About The Author

Sherri Smith spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump.  She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.  Follow Me Down is her first thriller.