PositiveNB MagazineAn elegant and captivating fable. It explores our hunger for answers to the nutty issues in our life, things just beyond our grasp ... The Weak Spot is about human frailty and the exploitation that comes with ambition, power and patriarchy. [A] claustrophobic, slightly
RaveCrime Fiction LoverThere are a couple of familiar Rankin traits in this novel and his style works well for the modern audience. Crucially, this is achieved without losing the essence of McIlvanney’s character or the philosophical musing, the hard edged look at Glasgow in tough times that underpinned the original trilogy. This is set in the 1970s so there’s more social commentary than in recent Rebus novels, these are times heavy with working class angst, misogyny, corruption and bigotry. Rankin is as strong on the compassion for the characters and their plights as McIlvanney was and there are plenty of keen observations on Glasgow people. Neither Rankin nor McIlvanney has ever been short on wit and that comes across in the sharp dialogue ... What happens in The Dark Remains, fits so well with the existing novels this can now legitimately be called a quartet ... a really satisfying crime novel, intelligent and gripping and very much in keeping with the spirit of the original, a superb read.
Yaniv Iczkovits, trans. by Orr Schar
RaveNB (UK)... a rich and enchanting adventure novel, the kind of story telling that we all crave from time to time and that you so rarely see in a serious novel these days. Iczkovits has written a grand sweeping epic, a tale you can get lost in, even enraptured by, it has charm and wit and heft. For me The Slaughterman’s Daughter was an antidote to the blues inducing effect of a couple of cold dark rainy winter nights. This leviathan of a book is a tale that mixes folklore and imaginative flights of fancy with a insightful glimpse of the history of czarist Russia ... It is both flamboyant and exuberant, compassionate and emotionally complex, heart warming and poignant ... a story that refuses to adhere to natural boundaries, that bifurcates, meanders and merges at a confluence as the mood takes it. This is a matryoshka doll of a story, tales within tales within tales. An historical romp that plays fast and loose with fact but not with that essential emotional truth, a beguiling distortion of the past that brings the Jewish experience of the Russian empire into focus. Surprises abound, hardships are endured ... Big, brash and beautiful. A bravura translation from the Hebrew by Orr Scharf.
RaveNB MagazineCarey’s version of Pinocchio has all the strangeness and pathos of the original tale with none of the Hollywood fluff ... original, inventive and compelling ... a richly textured experience ... Although it was written before the effects of Covid-19 became known it’s an apt novel for lockdown, dealing as it does with isolation and what keeps us human when we are isolated. Readers will feel for Guiseppe, recognise the emptiness of his experience as the man in the belly of the large fish, cut off from the world and most importantly from his beloved little wooden boy, Pinocchio ... Just magical.
RaveNB MagazineBoyd is a hugely entertaining writer, his literary novels are always seductively accessible and Trio has a page turning quality that is a delight to read ... this is Boyd’s wittiest tale for some time, he pin points life’s absurdity with a clear perception, even in the descriptions of blackly tragic moments in the characters experience readers will recognise humour ... Boyd is usually a master at recreating randomness in life but, in truth, the situations that arise in Trio seem a little more contrived than usual, it’s not a major flaw. There are enough red herrings to throw the reader off the scent of which characters will react in which way and a surprise or two to finish the novel. These people feel authentic to their time and place, their stories are interesting and over time more and more of the zeitgeist of the age and the clash with traditional fifties values emerges.
RaveNB MagazineThere’s no fear of ‘second album syndrome’ with this novel. Turton continues to prove that he is a fabulous storyteller with a genuine imaginative flair ... a delightful read, retaining the magical genre bending thrills that made The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so entertaining but this story is set half a world and several centuries away from his much lauded debut. This is an epic, a chunky escapist adventure set on the high seas with a wonderful cast of characters and a plot that captivates and beguiles ... a rambunctious affair that involves the occult, superstition, a ship wreck, revenge served as a cold dish, mutiny, an atrocity, the possibility of atonement, convenient alliances and a revisiting of the sins of the past. All imagined from the true story of a ship wreck given a fantastical rebirth. Arent and Pipps are forerunners of Watson and Holmes; there’s plenty of clever detective work, sleight of hand, clues and red herrings – you may think you know what is going on but…
PositiveNB Magazine... intriguing and satisfyingly complex ... A literary mystery that takes the country house murder trope but reveals a darker truth about a closed off society than readers are used to ... Traditionalists won’t like the description of this novel as a country house mystery because it doesn’t play by the rules, this is nasty murder, sensitively portrayed, but very real world, (caveat emptor delivered). The frozen landscape of winter in the novel is a metaphor for the static and stale society of the country manor admits surrounding community ... entertaining, a lot like the Quirke novels in its insightful dissection of Irish society and the picture it builds of place and time. The novel is not so much about unmasking the murderer as understanding the motivations and psychology of the crime, there’s a rottenness and decay to this society. No one wants to acknowledge a truth behind a terrible crime. Fans of Quirke will find much to enjoy is this novel.
Zülfü Livaneli, Trans. by Brendan Freely
RaveNBThis unashamedly romantic and poignant historical novel is one to get lost in. The joy and pain of a brief tragic love affair reverberate across borders and decades, it’s quite the emotional rollercoaster. Ultimately the love story says much about the beauty and perseverance of the human spirit; loyalty, love and facing up to loss ... has a lot to say about the modern Turkish nation, it’s brutal birth and it’s relationship to its peoples, ramifications of which we can see enacted right now ... There are red herrings, intriguing asides and a full and colourful Turkish background. This story packs a punch, it’s heart rending and heart warming, insightful and questioning of Western assumptions of moral superiority, bias and condemnation ... At times beautiful, almost elegiac, Serenade for Nadia is sentimental, but not cloying, intelligent with enough insight to match it’s heart, it’s an engrossing read ... Very well translated by Brendan Freely.
Henning Mankell, Trans. by George Goulding
PositiveNB (UK)The Rock Blaster...is a touching portrait of an everyman, warts and all, a life lived with dreams, hopes, stoicism and perseverance ... For an early novel this is a perceptive work, one that reflects Mankell’s personal beliefs and left-wing values. There are elements of the social critique here that can also be found in the Wallander books, but have no fear The Rock Blaster is not a polemic, although, the narrative is at times barbed. Importantly as a fictional biography, even for a brief work, The Rock Blaster holds the readers interest from start to finish, it’s hard to imagine people not taking to Oskar ... The prose is pared down, stark, and episodic, this is not a panorama of a life, but the cherry picking works, excerpts add up to a full picture. The overall effect is a biography of an ordinary man, living a hard life, an honest life, a working-class life. It’s always interesting to see where writers come from. The energy that drove Mankell’s detective novels is here. This is not published as a means of completing the catalogue, this story has merit in its own right but perhaps less public appeal than the Wallander series.
RaveNB (UK)I was instantly into this faux-biographical novel, carried away by its sweeping epic tale and Altschul’s stylish narrative ... The question the novel appears to address is what turns an ordinary, kind hearted, responsible college girl into a terrorist? But that isn’t what is going on here at all. We never quite get to that, not fully, not convincingly, that would matter if this was a thriller, but it’s not what Altschul wants to get to in my opinion. The inner truth we find is more likely to be our own than Leo’s. The Gringa is more about the author’s reinvention of character and presentation of history as a reflection of his values, his schooling, his thinking, it’s the reinvention of a person, which, once in print, is as indelible as the reality whether it matches or not. The meaning of words such as terrorist, or partisan, activist or even democracy shift through time and from place to place, they can’t be pinned down ... The novel has an epic quality, the style is fragmentary ... This is a very readable book despite the complex ambition of the author, it’s fun, exhilarating, provoking. The tour de force is the psychological portrait of the biographer, Andres, still it’s only one version of Andres.
RaveNB (UK)It’s a triumph of the novel that it gives us a story imbued with psychological depth and emotional intensity and yet distanced enough to be balanced. This is a measured interpretation of what might have happened in real life and the most logical way the story could have been told as an espionage novel ... If there’s a better spy novel this year espionage fiction fans will be able to count themselves very lucky indeed. The Coldest Warrior rings true, it’s not about the game it’s about exposing the raw emotional core of the story, the wounds opened up by living with deceit and lies. It’s not just that this is a mesmerising story drawn from life, it’s also an insightful dissection of the psychopathy of the Cold War ... this novel has heart, a profound understanding of the human consequences of the secret war ... The emotional intensity and fierce intelligence of this tale make it a tense read, it is a thought provoking drama.
Gunnar Staalesen, Trans. by Don Bartlett
RaveNB... an accomplished piece of storytelling. A deftly plotted and perfectly paced mystery, it’s a tale that smoulders rather than explodes, but that allows the emotional impact of the topic to hit home even harder. The writing is taut and the dialogue sharp as befits a genuine classically styled hardboiled detective novel ... The quality of Staalesen’s writing shows in the way he makes it clear how devastating child abuse is without revelling in nastiness. Still, it’s heart-breaking and scary ... I savoured the novel’s smooth, easy style ... Clearly translator Don Bartlett has an excellent understanding of Staalesen’s writing ... Haunting, dark and totally noir, a great read.
Daniel Kehlmann, Trans. by Ross Benjamin
RaveNB... a wonderful blend of light and dark historical storytelling. Some passages are lyrical and jaunty, not unlike the stage performances of the picaresque hero, Tyll; singer, player, clown, jester, juggler and tightrope walker. Other segments of the book reflect the harsh and brutal reality of the Thirty Years War and the uncertainty of life at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Tyll is a surreal adventure that really captures the times, the shifting political and religious map that tore through the continent, country by country, city by city, village by village. Intelligent and thought provoking, this is a novel that wears its erudition lightly. Tyll is such an enjoyable rambunctious adventure story that it’s easy to get carried away by the spellbinding storytelling, absorbing the deeper meaning more by osmosis than conscious thought ... This novel is often funny, a very enjoyable musing on the nature of history and meaning, myth and memory ... Kehlmann is a creator of powerful darkly disturbing images that will stay with the reader a long time ... This is a tale of harsh times, a compassionate and empathetic portrait of a chancer, a man of his times who seized the nettle. The tale of the girl who rejects his offer is one short passage in the book but it speaks so poignantly of the lot of peasants, the masses at the time, of what might have been by did not come to pass. The multiple voices add balance and perspective to the story as folklore blends with real history. Tyll is superbly translated by Ross Benjamin, the humour and vibrancy of the story sing out from the pages.
RaveNB MagazineThis is a study in cultural difference, in perceptions of race and racism, both overt and unconscious. Padura has a way of presenting a stereotype and making you think he is operating on a shallow level before exploding the tropes to great effect ... Padura’s view of Havana/Cuba is born of love for the people and the country but it’s brutal, realist, unromantic and all the more human for it ... Grab a Snake by the Tail is pitted with black humour, noir as the gods intended it to be. This intelligent and insightful crime novel is thoroughly intriguing. It will have you examining your own prejudices and assumptions. Conde is a compelling character and ultimately this is a very satisfying read.
RaveNB (UK)This is a thought-provoking and moving personal account of ‘What It Is’ to be black in Trump’s America that will resonate with many people. Clifford’s experience is all the more poignant for the context provided by interviews with Trump supporters ... Clifford is a powerful essayist and a good interviewer ... there’s plenty to learn from his talks. The result of his labours is a powerful and engaging book. I can only admire his reason in an age of unreason.
Soji Shimada, trans. by Louise Heal Kawai
RaveNB Magazine... a sort of high def \'who done it?\'. Shimada has absorbed the ethos and structure of the format and used it to great effect in this charming and engaging novel ... Shimada also has a deep understanding of the Golden Age of crime fiction, and an eye for the things that made the best writing of the period so good ... an intriguing mix of Western and the Japanese culture ... An awful lot of fun, a joy for fans of crime fiction history, and a book to curl up with on a cold night.
Martin Solares, Trans. by Heather Cleary
RaveNudge\"Any noir fan will feel at home with this novel immediately; gritty and vicious but so real it’s scary. Mexico has a reputation for fine crime writing and this is due in no small part to Martin Solares. If you want to understand the Mexican tragedy, sure, read a newspaper, but also read Don’t Send Flowers ... Don’t Send Flowers is a labyrinthine tale of corruption, gang wars, revenge and murder in which the citizens of La Eternidad are just pawns in the game. A no-nonsense full-on thriller that leaves you breathless ... Solares doesn’t pull his punches, these are the meanest of streets. A pacy sharp witted thriller that will stay with you for a long time.\
Maurizio de Giovanni, Trans. by Antony Shugaar
RaveNudgeNameless Serenade is elegantly structured and the subtle interactions with the fascist authorities means that life in Naples during Mussolini’s dictatorship is vividly realized. De Giovanni is a creative crime writer but there is more than a murder mystery here ... his relationships are always front and centre and riveting, I would admire these books if they were simply love stories about Ricciardi and his personal life ... You can read Nameless Serenade as a standalone, no problem ... A lot of credit has to go to Anthony Shugaar for a translation that retains both the thriller and the romance of the original. The relationships between Ricciardi and the women in his life, Maione and Bambinella, Dr. Modo the brilliant pathologist and anti-fascist and Falco the fascist compl[e]ment a thriller that builds in intensity towards a satisfying denouement.
C. J. Box
PositiveBook Nudge\"Box writes more in the territory of Daniel Woodrell or Urban Waite, although with a more easy going style. I have to say I really love this book, it’s a classy thriller. A polished telling of a simple story that is really entertaining. The Disappeared keeps you guessing, as there is more to the story than the initial set up leads you to think ... This is a classic American rural thriller. The Disappeared takes full advantage of the weather and the wide open spaces to build an atmosphere, there’s a nice eco angle to the story. The pace is good and there are enough twists to engage the brain ... Box is a consummate story teller. I would happily read some of his other novels off the back of The Disappeared.\