Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin.

On the Swedish island of Öland, a little boy has gone missing.

It happened twenty years ago, and although his mother, Julia, and her family searched everywhere, no trace of him was ever found.

Until today, when his shoe arrives in the post. It has been sent to Julia’s father, a retired sea-captain still living on the island.

Soon, he and Julia are piecing together fragments of the past: fragments that point inexorably to Nils Kant, known to delight in the pain of others. But Nils Kant died during the 1960s. So who is the stranger seen wandering across the fields as darkness falls?

It soon becomes clear that someone wants to stop Julia’s search for the truth. And that he is much, much closer than she thinks. . .

I read Echoes from the Dead as my third book for The Great Transworld Crime Caper. I hadn’t heard of Johan Theorin before seeing the book on the list for the challenge, but the synopsis sounded intriguing and the fact that it won the CWA Best First Crime Novel in 2009 encouraged me to make it one of my picks.

The book is set on the Swedish island of Öland, Julia left after the disappearance of Jens, her son, twenty years ago but Gerlof, her father, has remained on the island. When he receives what he thinks is Jens’ shoe Julia returns and the two of them get involved in trying to solve the case. Whilst this is going on there is a secondary plot featuring Nils Kant, Gerlof’s main suspect. This tells the story of how a young boy grows up to become a man feared by the island, capable of murder.

I have to admit I didn’t really like many of the characters in the book. I found them hard to identify with and as a result didn’t really feel invested in their stories. Gerlof in particular infuriated me, his habit of keeping secrets made me want to shake him on a number of occasions. I did find Julia to be a well created character, and maybe if I was a parent I would have been able to identify with her more – I certainly saw similarities between her and a family member who lost a child.

I did really like the way the two story lines wove around one another. Nils’ storyline was probably more interesting, but I did find that I’d predicted virtually the whole last section of his story, along with the main story. As I’ve already said I didn’t find the characters easy to engage with and so I did at times find it hard to keep going with the book.

I’m really sad to have ended my challenge with a book I didn’t enjoy very much. I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that I wasn’t the right audience for the book than anything else.

Echoes of the Dead is published in paperback by Black Swan in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Past Caring by Robert Goddard.

1910: Distinguished MP Edwin Strafford resigns at the pinnacle of his career, removing himself from the public eye. The woman he loves, and for whom he was willing to sacrifice everything, suddenly and coldly rejects him. All the reasons for his fall from grace are shrouded in darkness.

Seventy years later, historian Martin Radford is down on his luck when a mysterious benefactor offers him the opportunity of a lifetime: to uncover what exactly happened to Edwin Strafford. But this apparent good fortune swiftly turns into a nightmare. Radford’s investigations trigger a violent series of events, which throw him straight into the path of those who believed they had escaped punishment for crimes long past but never paid for…

This is the second book I’ve read for the Great Transworld Crime Caper. As soon as I read the synopsis of the book I thought it sounded like my sort of book, within a few pages I knew I’d made a good choice.

The plot is split between the present (though that’s in the 1980s, back when the book was written) and the past, as historian Martin Radford tries to investigate what happened to Edwin Strafford back in the 1910s. Edwin’s story is told through his memoir, both plots are gripping and once they started to overlap I found it increasingly hard to put the book down.

I didn’t find the characters in the book particularly easy to like, the majority of them are working to their own personal agenda and seem to have little trouble with doing whatever it takes to get to their goal. Many of the characters are however interesting, I enjoyed reading about Elizabeth, Edwin’s fiancée.

Edwin’s memoir covers his time as a politician and his experiences of the women’s suffrage movement. I found this to be very interesting reading, though as it’s a time of history I don’t know much about I couldn’t comment on it’s historical accuracy.

The book is very readable, and the jumps between the present set narration and the past account provided by the memoir were very smooth. I have previously read books that use diaries and memoirs for flashbacks that have failed in what they were trying to do – Goddard pulls it off very well. I’ll certainly be recommending this book in the future.

Past Caring is published in paperback by Corgi in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton.

Moving to remote Shetland has been unsettling enough for consultant surgeon Tora Hamilton; even before the gruesome discovery she makes one rain-drenched afternoon . . . Deep in the peat soil of her field she is shocked to find the perfectly preserved body of a young woman, a gaping hole where her heart has been brutally removed and three rune marks etched into her skin.

The marks bear an eerie resemblance to carvings Tora has seen all over the islands, and she quickly uncovers disturbing links to an ancient legend. But as Tora investigates she is warned by the local police, her boss, and even her husband, to leave well alone.

And even though it chills her to the bone to admit it . . . something tells her their concern isn’t genuine.

This is the first book I’ve read for The Great Transworld Crime Caper. I’m a big fan of crime fiction so I thought I would take the opportunity to try out some new authors, the synopsis for Sacrifice left me looking forward to it arriving in the post.

The action kicks off within the first chapter of the book as Tora discovers the mutilated corpse buried on her land. From that point on I felt completely drawn in to the plot, and found it really hard to put the book down. There is no let up from the plot, even the quieter sections are all plot building, there is certainly no filler to be found. About halfway through I had a eureka moment and was sure I knew how the plot was going to end, whilst my thoughts were not wrong they definitely fell far short of the brilliant conclusion to the book. Bolton managed to fit so much into the plot yet it never felt unrealistic.

I found the characters easy to engage with, Tora particularly. I found myself getting really invested in her story, when she dug further and further into what was going on I felt anxious about what might happen to her. At the various points when her attempts were thwarted I found myself getting frustrated on her behalf. I also really liked the character of Dana, I found that I could identify pretty well with her.

The way the book is written worked really well for me. I’ve never travelled to the Shetland Isles but Bolton describes the area in such a way that I could picture it really clearly. I loved the way that folklore and legend was woven into the plot, I think the combination of this and the setting worked to make the book a really interesting read.

Sacrifice is published in paperback by Corgi in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Reading Challenges

I’m an accessory in The Great Transworld Crime Caper!


Following the success of last year’s Summer Reading Challenge Transworld publishers are having another brilliant reading challenge, this one has a crime theme. Taking part is simple, just pop along to the launch post here and sign up. They’ll email you the banner and ask for your choice of three books from the list of 12 titles on offer and you’re away.

I’ve chosen:

  • Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton
  • Past Caring by Robert Goddard
  • Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin

I’m really excited about this challenge, I love a good crime book so this is right up my street. I can’t wait for my first book to arrive so that I can get reading!