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review 2018-03-21 20:08
A Nordic noir thriller with two fascinating protagonists, D.I. Hulda Hermannsdóttir and Iceland.
The Darkness - Ragnar Jónasson

Thanks to NetGalley and to Michael Joseph for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve followed with interest the rise in popularity of the Nordic/ Scandinavian Thrillers in recent years, although I have read random titles rather than becoming a dedicated fan of any single writer. (I’ve also watched quite a few of the crime TV series produced in those countries and I’ve particularly enjoyed Wallander, The Bridge, and The Killing). This is the first novel I read by Ragnar Jónasson, although I suspect it won’t be the last.

The novel contains some familiar elements, although with interesting variations. The main character, Hulda, a Detective Inspector, that works in Reykjavík, is 64 and on her way to retirement. She is surprised by the news that this retirement has been brought forward, and, as an afterthought to keep her quiet, her boss tells her she can work on a cold case of her choice. She chooses the apparent suicide of a Russian girl, an asylum seeker because she mistrusts the lead investigator. The novel, written in the third person, mostly from Hulda’s point of view, follows her last three days in the force. I say mostly because there are other fragments that are told from other characters’ points of view, although at first, it is not that clear who they are. We come to understand how they relate to the main story later, but I must clarify that they are clearly distinct, easy to follow, and do not cause any confusion. They do provide additional information, a different perspective, and they help us understand the story and the characters more fully (and yes, they might also mislead us a tiny bit), although I suspect some readers might catch on faster than others as to their true relevance.

Hulda is a known standard of the genre: the old detective forced to leave the job that is determined to solve one last case before retirement. Only, in this case, she is a woman, and she does reflect on how difficult things have been for her because she is a woman, glass ceiling and all. She does share some of the other attributes sometimes typical of these characters: she is very good but not that very well liked; she has to work alone because she is not a favourite among the other detectives; she resents her younger boss and many of her teammates; she is effective but might bend the rules slightly; she is reserved and has suffered tragedies in her life… The author is very good at creating a very compelling character and then making us question our judgment. At least in my case, I really liked Hulda to begin with, but after a while, I realised that she might be one of those favourites of mine, an unreliable narrator (or, although not directly a narrator, her point of view is unreliable). She makes decisions that are morally questionable; she drinks a bit too much; and well… I am keeping my mouth shut. My feelings for this character went from really liking her, to not being so sure, to not liking her very much, and then… This change in opinion and perception is cleverly achieved and extremely well done, and it reminded me of books like We Need to Talk about Kevin (not the story itself, but the way the writer slowly makes us empathise with a character to later pull the rug from under our feet).

The story is dark in more ways than one. As I said, there are morally grey areas (or even quite dark): the subject matter and the fact that a young asylum seeker and her death are not considered important and have been all but forgotten a year down the line (unfortunately that rings true), Hulda’s own life and the secrets she keeps, and Iceland. Although there is not a great deal of violence (and definitely not explicit), there is a certain unsettling air and a cold and menacing atmosphere, that comes in part from Hulda’s paranoia and her personality (suspicious and mistrustful), but goes beyond it. The setting is very important and it contributes to the story and its effect on the reader. Iceland is a character in its own right. The descriptions of the many locations in the book create a picture in the reader’s mind and help understand how important the place is to the mood, the characters, and their way of life. A place where light and darkness rule people’s lives, and where the inhabitants have adapted to conditions many of us would find difficult and hostile. The title is apt for many reasons (as we learn as we read on). It is a noir novel, where nobody is exactly as they appear at first, and where red herrings, false clues, and side-stories muddy the storyline, adding layers of complexity to what appears straightforward, at first.

The writing is fluid, and versatile, providing different registers and clearly distinct voices for the different aspects of the story and the varied points of view, and although it is a translation, it is well-written and the style fits in perfectly the content. It is not the usual fast-paced thriller, but one that builds up tension and organically incorporates the psychology of the characters and the setting into the story.

A couple of examples:

Time was like a concertina: one minute compressed, the next stretching out interminably.

‘She’s being deported. It happens. You know, it’s a bit like those games of musical chairs you play as a kid. The music starts, everyone gets up and walks in a circle and when the music stops, one of the chairs is taken away and someone’s unlucky.’

The ending… I will not talk in detail about it but although perhaps not unexpected, is a bit of a shocker.

A great (and not long) novel for lovers of Nordic thrillers, or anybody who enjoys thrillers that deviate from the norm. I’d also recommend it to anybody intrigued by Iceland and unreliable narrators. And I’d also recommend it to authors always intrigued by other authors’ technique and voice. I intend to keep reading the series. And enjoying it.

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review 2018-03-06 15:50
It's mystery time...
Bone to Pick - Alan Moore,Michael Fell

"Bone To Pick' is my first time with a story by author T.A. Moore and seriously you can just color me impressed. I have to admit that being new to this author I had no idea what to expect so while I like the familiar as much as the next person...which, I did get that because hey, Nick J. Russo narrated this one and as a lot of my friends already know he's a fav of mine when it comes to audio book narrators and never fails to deliver me a solid, well narrated story.


But as much as I like the familiar I also welcome the chance to discover something new and what I found here was an author that can deliver a solid mystery/thriller story with a touch of romance? mmm...maybe, not so much romance but definitely a relationship going on here between a couple of the MCs.


Cloister Witte works for the San Diego County Sheriff's Departments K-9 Unit. He's a man who's past haunts him...dad's a deadbeat, stepdad's a criminal and his brother disappeared and was never found and this is the demon that drives Cloister to do for others what no one did for his brother. Cloister and his K-9 partner, Bourneville bring the missing home.


When Drew Hartley goes missing Cloister and Bourneville are brought in to aid in the search and as much as he wants to help being brought in to help F.B.I. agent Javi Merlo is not high on Cloister's list of things he wants to do...but with a child missing both men try to put aside their animosity towards each other...notice I said try...yeah, some things are harder to do than others. While it's readily apparent that the animosity between Cloister and Javi is fueled as much by their attraction as it is by their past encounter.  For me the relationship here is far more physical attraction than any kind of emotional connection. I'm not saying that it doesn't have to potential to become more...just that throughout the course of this story while the physical attraction was definitely there if readers are looking for some kind of grand romance than they're going to be disappointed.


It's definitely the mystery/thriller part of this story that has prominence and takes center stage for most of this story. While I liked Cloister from the word go and of course I liked Bourneville...I mean really how can anyone not like a service dog. These dogs are the heroes of the dog world. Don't get me wrong they're not the only heroes when it comes to our canine companions but you have to admit service dogs are pretty damned amazing and this is also part of the reason why I just couldn't warm up to Javi with his less than informed attitude towards service dogs and what they are capable of...yeah, Javi was often times a self-righteous, condescending, jerk and truthfully my feelings towards him didn't really change but that didn't really seem to impact how much I enjoyed this story. 


Like many others I loved Bourne. For the most part I really liked Cloister. He was awesome with Bourne and fairly good with people in general...was he perfect...no, but really who is and for me this just added to making Cloister feel like a real person someone that I could actually meet one day. 


As for Javi...well sad to say I can imagine meeting him one day too...oh, wait I think I've already met him a time or two at least and I think this is part of why even though I wasn't a fan of Javi, he didn't spoil the story for me. Along with the good and the bad that was Javi and Cloister there were secondary characters who helped to fill out this story adding to the tension and realism of events. 


I admit it I loved this story not because of the 'romance' but more in spite of it. The mystery for me was enjoyable, the character interaction intriguing and the potential for more solid and I'm definitely on board to check out more by this author and last but not least...the narrator...Nick J. Russo.


I'm not sure what more there is that I can say here about Nick J. Russo...I can add a whole lot of flowery, gushy words and go on and on about the fact that he's definitely in my top 5 list when it comes to audio book narrators and when I'm looking for an audio book to listen to if he's the narrator it's not even a consideration that I'll enjoy the audio...so, like I said I'm not sure what more I can so except maybe if you enjoy audio books and you haven't listened to anything by Nick Russo...what the hell? How have you managed that and you need to fix it ASAP! and this is as good a book as any to start with if you enjoy a good mystery.



An audio book of 'Bone to Pick' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-03-04 19:50
See those two stars...
I Heart Boston Terriers - Rick R. Reed

They're for Mavis...yeah, Mavis was the only redemptive part of this story for me, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one but as briefly as possible...I didn't like anyone...except Mavis and really sweet little dog what's not to love?


As far as Aaron and Christian go...I got nothin' folks I just didn't care one way or the other with these two. I didn't feel the connection and truthfully just didn't care of one was made. Now as for Aaron's sister...ironically I had feelz where she was concerned and none of them were good...first of b*tch, if you're going to own $1200 Jimmy Choo's than treat them like they're worth something and put store them properly otherwise you deserve to have a dog chew on them or even have your cat use them for a potty and if you can't do that than don't  badger your brother into buying a dog he neither needs nor really wanted but you badgered him into it and then he fell in love with sweet little Mavis so...suck it up buttercup and next time be careful what you wish for...see me...see me rage at Becca the biotch.


Ok, last but not least we have the narration...again, it just didn't work. Tom Askin is a new to me narrator and unfortunately I found the narration at times to be stilted as if the narrator was concentrating to much on pronouncing every word clearly and concisely at the sacrifice of the narrator's voice sounding smooth and fluid...like he was comfortable reading the story.


So at the end of it all...I liked Mavis and hopefully she got a good home...otherwise...it matters not.



An audio book of 'I Heart Boston Terriers' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-02-28 19:14
More 'Enhanced' more Nick J. Russo...
Who We Truly Are - Victoria Sue,Nick J. Russo

and Karen's a happy girl...again!


Ok, I'm not sure how much more I can rave about the talents of Nick J. Russo so I'm probably going to keep it short and sweet when I say "I love Nick J. Russo. He's totally one of my favorite narrators' and for me he's totally rocked this series and as long as he's the narrator this series for me without a doubt is an auto-buy."


I thoroughly enjoyed the first book so needless to say when "Who We Truly Are" came out on audio needless to say I was on board for this and I really enjoyed this one as well. While there was a sameness at the heart of the story...which, good thing because it's a series and for me part of what I enjoy about a series is that underlying note of sameness that I get from book to book but I also like it when there's something unique about each book, a slightly different touch to the story and with "Who We Truly Are" I got that little bit of difference from the stories focus. 


I the first book things seemed a bit more centered around the overall story and characters, building the world of the 'Enhanced'. So while we did get the beginnings of Talon and Finn's relationship, we also got to meet the rest of their team and there was a mission to be accomplished. Don't get me wrong I loved that first book or I wouldn't be here now. But I was more than happy when i realized that while there is yet another mission to be accomplished here there is also a stronger focus on building Talon and Finn's relationship and on Talon and Finn as individuals and I really, really loved this. 


Finn's starting to come into his own as an agent. He's becoming more confident and others are beginning to realize that while he may not be an enhanced he still has something to bring to the team and he's proving himself to be a valuable asset. Meanwhile Talon's struggling with things, he wants to be supportive but his desires to be supportive are also battling with his instincts to be protective and keep Finn safe even a the price of his self-esteem. He loves Finn but can he reconcile what Finn needs from him with what his instincts are telling him to do before he totally looses him and just to complicate things Talon's struggling with changes that are happening to his enhanced powers...changes that no really seems to understand.


While both men are struggling with their own inner turmoil they've still go a job to do as young enhanced boys are disappearing and Finn begins to realize that he may well be the solution to this particular mystery. 


I really like Talon and Finn for me they seem to bring out the best in each other. Each of them making the other look at who they are and who they could be.  I loved that both Talon and Finn had to look at their role in their relationship and it wasn't a case of 'it's his fault'. For Talon and Finn it's not just a matter of making their relationship work on a personal level because they work together on the same team they need to work on a professional level as well because when you work with the person you love how good your relationship is or isn't affects people on a more direct level and it added another level to things when other team members weighed in on things between Talon and Finn. 


At the end of it all I think we're left with Talon and Finn in a better place as a couple but I'm hoping that future stories will let us touch base with this pair while giving stories about the other members of Talon's Enhanced team as they continue to make their world a better place for both enhanced and regular people. 


I'm really enjoying the unique flavor that this series has while it's in the same genre as some of my favorite series it's still got a unique flavor that's all it's own and I'm looking forward to enjoying more of it with 'Beneath This Mask' the third book in Victoria Sue's 'Enhanced' series.



An audiobook of 'Who We Truly Are' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-01-18 16:41
Scrupulous title
Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King
  • 1922: Three quotes to define it:


"And is there Hell, or do we make our own on earth?"

"The dead don't stop"

“Poison spreads like ink in water.”


  • Big Driver: The post reaction was full truth, from the confusion, pain, wound-licking, hiding, weighting paths, shying from the future shame to rage and wanting to get back, all the steps. The gun-totting revenge a real pipe-dream.


  • Fair Extension:

"This isn’t some half-assed morality tale."

Said the devil.


  • Good Marriage: Holy Molly, this one was disturbing and twisted and awesome. My favorite of the collection.
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