#BlogTour #BookReview After She’d Gone by Alex Dahl

After She'd gone blog tour bannerWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for After She’d Gone by Alex Dahl. My thanks to Sophie at Ransom PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Head of Zeus for my review copy. Do pop over to Instagram and check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Charli at bookishcharli.

After She'd GoneAbout the Book

Liv loves her son, Adrian. That’s why she keeps a low profile in Sandefjord, Norway: just another tired single mother, trying to make ends meet. She has never told her son about the secrets she carries or the life she lived before he was born. She will do anything to keep him safe.

Anastasia’s life is transformed when she moves from Russia to Milan and starts modelling. Suddenly, she’s rich. She’s desired. But then she begins to see the dark side of her new life: the high-pressure catwalk shows; the glamorous, drink-fuelled after-parties; the sun-baked Italian palazzos owned by powerful men. She will do anything to escape.

Selma is an investigative journalist in Oslo. She’s been looking into the dangerous underworld of the modelling industry, but can’t seem to get her article published. Then, a woman goes missing in Sandefjord and Selma’s about to uncover the biggest story of her life…

Format: Hardback (416 pages)         Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 18th August 2022 Genre: Thriller

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My Review

This unsettling and at times dark thriller immerses the reader in the sinister side of the fashion world in which young women, often from Eastern Europe, attracted by the prospect of travelling the world and striding the catwalks for big fashion houses discover the reality is quite, quite different. They find themselves drawn into a murky world of drugs and sexual exploitation in which men hold the power and aren’t afraid to use it. For the women, staying is risky, but leaving is even more so.

Investigative journalist Selma’s involvement comes about because of her role in investigating the  previous disappearance of a young girl from the very same place as the missing woman – Sandefjord. (The case was the focus of the author’s previous book, Playdate.) Selma’s investigation takes her into a very murky world populated by extremely ruthless and, in some cases, very damaged individuals. I loved her strength, her fearlessness and her determination to get answers.

I confess I guessed some key aspects of the plot pretty early on but with this type of thriller you can never be sure the author’s not going to spring a surprise until you reach the final page, can you?

The standout element of the book for me was the wonderfully tender portrait of Adrian, a young boy who is different from other children. ‘Adrian craves freedom. He feels trapped in his own mind; he’s not like anyone else and he wishes he could fly away.’ He is obsessed with airplanes, loves watching them take off and land at the nearby airport, can spend hours absorbed in creating origami models of planes and knows the codes for every international airport. Contrary to what many think, he’s intelligent but often finds it difficult to communicate or express his feelings except through the ‘secret’ language his mother Liv has taught him. What he does know is there are things he must keep secret at all costs and, that if he’s to save his mother, he will have to be very brave. Spoiler: he is.

After She’d Gone is a taut, skilfully-crafted thriller that demonstrates all that glitters is not gold. It would make the perfect beach read.

In three words: Compelling, pacy, dark

Try something similar: Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

Alex DahlAbout the Author

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo. She studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University.

A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. She is the author of four other thrillers including The Boy at the Door, which was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger.

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#BookReview The Bone Road by N.E. Solomons

The Bone RoadAbout the Book

On the road to discovery, even the dead have secrets.

High up on a mountain road in the Balkans, former Olympic cyclist Heather Bishop races her journalist boyfriend Ryan. But when he suddenly disappears during the ride, suspicion falls on her.

Local police inspector, Simo Subotić, already has his hands full investigating two mutilated bodies that have washed up on the banks of the River Drina. Something is telling him that these two cases are connected but nothing could prepare him for what is to come.

Only together can Simo and Heather hope to uncover the truth in time. Their search not only exposes the darkness of Ryan’s past but exhumes dangerous secrets of a region still reeling from the trauma of war. Are some secrets so devastating that they should remain buried?

Format: Paperback (304 pages)       Publisher: Polygon
Publication date: 4th August 2022  Genre: Crime, Thriller

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My Review

The Bone Road is the debut thriller by bestselling author Natasha Solomons, writing here under the pen-name N.E. Solomons. All I can say is keep going with the thrillers because I thought this was fantastic.

What was brilliant about the book was the rich back stories the author creates for the two main characters – Heather Bishop and Simo Subotić – so much so that you could be forgiven thinking the book was part of an existing series.

Heather is a former Olympic cyclist whose career was ended by a dreadful accident. It has left her with both physical and psychological scars so that everyday is a struggle, ‘a performance of coping’. A further blow is the discovery that Ryan, the man who had supported her through her recovery, is not the man she thought he was.

Simo Subotić’s disregard for authority and determination to bring closure for families whose loved ones went missing during the Bosnian War regardless of the waves it makes has resulted in ‘a helter-skelter career slide’ and posting to a small border town.  His strong sense of justice, determination to find answers and, as the book progresses, willingness to take personal risks make him an immensely likeable main character.

As well as being a cracking crime thriller, I learned a lot about the turbulent history of this part of the world and how events during the war, during which the most horrific war crimes took place, reverberate to the present day. One of the standout elements of the book for me was the way the author wove the legacy of the Bosnian War and the divisions that still exist between those who regard themselves as Serbians and ethnic Bosniaks into the plot. The worldly, cynical and rather foul-mouthed Petra acts as a vehicle for educating both Heather and the reader about this. For instance, when Heather refers to the country as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Petra responds, ‘This isn’t f***ing Bosnia. It’s Republika Srpska. The Serb federation. No-one in this god-forsaken s***hole of a place is Bosniak. Not anymore.’ I confess that, like Heather, it’s a distinction I hadn’t been aware of before reading the book.  As it turns out Petra also proves herself to be an incredibly useful and resourceful ally whose own family history reflects the tragic events of the war.

There are wonderful descriptions of the mountainous landscape of Republika Srpska, with its ‘wild and ancient beauty’. But it’s a landscape still marked by war: the ruins of military outposts, uncleared minefields and buildings that conceal dark secrets. Even architectural gems, such as the Sokolović bridge in Višegrad, have a sinister history. As Simo says to Heather at one point, ‘That’s this place. Terrible and beautiful. Some of our loveliest sites hide our ugliest secrets’. And ugly they are, along with some of the people involved.

The pace increases and moves into true thriller territory in the final third of the book as Simo and Heather discover just what they are up against. Ruthless doesn’t begin to describe it. Heather’s view of herself as relentless, possessing remarkable stamina and mental tenacity, as well as being stubborn beyond reason will be tested to the limit. There are breathless, heart-pounding scenes towards the end of the book in which Simo has to go out on a limb and Heather has to summon up all her strength and experience in what is literally the race of her life.

I thought The Bone Road was brilliant. Its combination of gripping plot, fascinating setting, strong characters and chilling undertones kept me enthralled until the very last page.

My thanks to Kathryn at Polygon for my proof copy.

In three words: Compelling, pacy, intense

Try something similar: The Good Father by S.R. Wilsher

About the Author

N.E. Solomons is a screenwriter and novelist. She lives in the countryside with her husband, also a writer. She is the internationally best-selling author of six previous novels. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages. This is her first thriller.

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The Bone Road Graphic