#BookReview Forgotten Lives (DCI Doug Stirling 2) by Ray Britain @ray_britain

Forgotten LivesAbout the Book

A man is murdered with quiet efficiency on his doorstep. A strange emblem left behind suggests a gang killing but when more bodies are found with the same emblem, and one of them a cop, DCI Doug Stirling’s investigation takes a sinister turn. But what linked the victims in life, and now in death?

When more deaths are uncovered, miles away and years ago, all with the same emblem left behind, pressure mounts on Stirling. Is it the work of the same person? If so, why are they killing again, and why here? One thing is clear, the killer is highly skilled, ruthless, and always one step ahead of the investigation. Is someone feeding information to them?

Working in a crippling heatwave with too few investigators, too many questions and not enough answers, when wild media speculation of a vigilante at work sparks copycat attacks, demonstrations for justice and with politicians fearing riots, Stirling needs a result – fast!

Meanwhile, Stirling’s private life is falling apart, not helped when Lena Novak of the National Crime Agency is assigned to his team. But is she all that she seems?

Things could not get worse. Stirling takes a call from a retired cop. Things just got worse! When Stirling closes in on the killer he finds the killer’s trademark inside his home – he is being targeted.

Format: ebook (422 pages)                   Publisher:
Publication date: 10th January 2021 Genre: Crime

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My Review

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to read Ray Britain’s first novel, The Last Thread, so was delighted when he contacted me to let me know the next book in the DCI Stirling series was due to be published on 10th January 2021.

Given the author’s background, Forgotten Lives is, like its predecessor, incredibly strong on the detail of police procedure – securing a crime scene, conducting house to house enquiries, logging and cross-referencing information on police databases, and so on. It also vividly conveys the realities of modern day policing – budget cuts, resource constraints, interminable paperwork as well as the constant scrutiny, both internal and external, of investigative decisions. Although modern technology, such as drones equipped with thermal imaging now plays a part in an investigation, it’s clear that when it comes to solving crime there’s still no substitute for attention to detail and experience. Indeed Stirling’s mantra is ABC: accept nothing, believe no-one, check everything.

As in the first book, there are elements of Stirling’s past that remain a mystery, even to his closest friends. What is behind the door of that locked room in his house, for instance? As if the long and unsocial hours that come with his job wasn’t enough, he has a history of failed relationships and a reluctance to enter into long-term commitments. I certainly felt sympathy for Stirling’s current partner, Ayesha, as she wonders if they have a future together or whether she’s about to join the long list of his ex-girlfriends.

The author employs the crime novelist’s weapons of choice – misdirection, red herrings and subtle clues that only the incredibly observant are likely to spot – in an effort to wrong-foot the reader. He certainly succeeded with this one who was convinced she had spotted the perpetrator, erroneously as it turned out. As the scope of the investigation widens, the story ventures beyond the realm of the police procedural and into thriller territory with dramatic scenes as he and the team close in on what turns out to be an extremely formidable individual.

Forgotten Lives is a chunkier read than the stated page count would suggest, requiring a staying power from the reader similar to that demanded of the investigation team. However, I’m sure crime fans who enjoy immersing themselves in the nitty gritty of a complex investigation will find the investment of time amply repaid.

My thanks to the author for my digital review copy of Forgotten Lives.

In three words: Realistic, gritty, immersive

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Ray BritainAbout the Author

As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Ray Britain led many specialist investigations. He was also a Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator, a voluntary role that saw him involved in hostage situations, many firearms operations and numerous suicide interventions, not all of which ended happily. In those specialist roles he supported national counter-terrorism capabilities and travelled to the USA, India, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. He received several commendations for his work. He also worked with the Serious Fraud Office and the Home Office, London, and the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police.

His second novel Forgotten Lives follows publication of The Last Thread in 2017. Ray’s real-world experience gives an authentic edge to his stories, immersing the reader in the grim realities, uncertainties and frustrations of crime investigation, and of human nature. If not writing Ray might be found mountain hiking, watching rugby, skiing, reading, sailing or in the gym.

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#BookReview Winterkill (Dark Iceland #6) by Ragnar Jónasson, trans. by David Warriner @OrendaBooks

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Winterkill by Ragnar Jónasson, the sixth – and sadly, final – book in his bestselling ‘Dark Iceland’ series, featuring Inspector Ari Thór Arason. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda Books for my digital proof copy. Winterkill was published as an ebook and in hardcover on 10th December 2020 and will be available in paperback on 21st January 2021.

WinterkillAbout the Book

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth …one that will leave no one unscathed.

Format: Hardback (240 pages)                Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication date: 10th December 2020 Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

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My Review

Winterkill is only the second book I’ve read in Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series (the other was the previous book in the series, Whiteout) but I’m sure even those who haven’t read any of the previous books will be able to enjoy this skillfully crafted crime thriller. And I can pretty much guarantee you’ll then want to go back and read the series from the beginning.

The book sees Inspector Ari Thór called to investigate the unexplained death of a young girl. Unfortunately, it coincides with the arrival for the Easter holiday of his ex-girlfriend Kristin and his young son, Stefnir. His attempts to balance the demands of the investigation with spending quality time with his son illustrate just one of the reasons for the breakdown of his and Kristin’s relationship.

Away from concerns about his private life, Ari Thór is feeling the pressure of his new rank and the absence of a sounding board in the shape of his former boss, Tomas. Ari Thór is also struggling to replicate that close working relationship with his new junior officer, Ögmundur. One of the many things that make Ari Thór such an engaging character is his strong sense of justice, meaning he feels an acute responsibility to the dead girl’s heartbroken mother to discover how and why she died.

As the investigation progresses, Ari Thór interviews a number of witnesses who knew the dead girl but none seem to fit the bill as suspects although, as he reflects, ‘appearances could be deceptive and nothing was ever completely black or white’.  Most significantly, the motive for her death – whether murder or suicide –  continues to elude him, this in a community where everyone knows everyone else or is related.

As well as constructing intriguing mysteries, the author is adept at creating an atmosphere of unease. Even amidst the beauty of the landscape and the tourists enjoying themselves on the ski slopes or indulging in hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls (mmm!) in one of the town’s cafes, there exists the threat a snowstorm could cut off the town from the outside world at any moment.

The snowstorm, when it arrives, coincides with Ari Thór getting closer to discovering the truth about the girl’s death.  Although the snow may have turned the streets of Siglufjörður white, there are black deeds to be uncovered beneath its snow-covered roofs. It all makes for a tense and dramatic climax to Ari Thór’s investigation.

Naturally, fans of the series will be sad to bid farewell to Ari Thór. However, they do say it’s good to go out on a high and Winterkill certainly delivers in that respect.

In three words: Gripping, dark, atmospheric

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Ragnar JonassonAbout the Author

Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines.

Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015 with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout and Rupture following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.

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About the Translator

David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

Winterkill BT 4