A Gift for Dying by M J Arlidge | Blog Tour Review |#AGiftForDying

Published by Penguin
Available in ebook, hardback & paperback (7 March 2019)
480 pages
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Book

The gripping new thriller from M. J. Arlidge, Sunday Times bestselling author of the Helen Grace series.

Adam Brandt is a forensic psychologist, well used to dealing with the most damaged members of society.

But he’s never met anyone like Kassie.

The teenager claims to have a terrible gift – with one look into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.

Obviously, Adam knows Kassie must be insane. But then a serial killer hits the city. And only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn’t realise how deadly his faith might prove…

My Thoughts

This is my first read of a book by this author, despite collecting some of the Helen Grace series and what a fantastic book to start with and even better, it’s a standalone.

Kassie Wojcek is a teenager with a gift – or a curse, whichever way you want to look at it.  She can look into someone’s eyes and see their death – how and when.  These premonitions bring her into contact with psychologist Adam Brandt when she is held by detectives after an encounter with someone in the street.  Kassie is no stranger to the police having a string of offences to her name including theft, assault and drug use but Adam feels a connection to the troubled girl and decides to try and help her. He is not really convinced by her claims but he wants to find out more and in trying to counsel her, he finds himself caught up in events of which he could never have imagined. 

Meanwhile a serial killer is stalking and picking his victims from the streets of Chicago, torturing and killing them in the most terrifying and gruesome of ways.

A Gift for Dying was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down.  My proof copy was 470 pages but it has short snappy chapters which just beg you to read on for just a bit longer …..and despite the graphic detail of some of the murders (which did make me wince a bit) I was addicted to it and desperate to find out what happened next.

Of Polish origin, Kassie lived with her mother, in a run-down part of town. She skipped school, took drugs and had an attitude but nevertheless there was something vulnerable and engaging about her and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her, even if at times my cynical head wondered if she was actually involved in the crimes somehow. I think it was her loneliness that affected me the most, she had had no one to turn to, her mother didn’t really care and had washed her hands of her because of her truancy and drug taking. She struggled to cope with the burden of the visions and wanted to help although quite often that help was misinterpreted as something else.

The story is told from various points of view including Kassie, Adam, the detective and the killer, to give a complete picture and character insight. The detective in charge, Gabrielle Grey seemed to be rather out of her depth here and was facing an uphill battle to find the killer before another victim was claimed. I did think she was too blinkered at times however this all adds to the cat and mouse suspense of the story. When I got to the last 30 pages or so, there was absolutely no way I was going to put this book down – and that ending was just incredible – a real fingernail biter of a climax.

If you like your crime dark, then this fast paced, graphic killer thriller should hit the spot.  I thought it was great and certainly want to read more by M J Arlidge.  I suppose I should start by hunting out those Helen Grace novels…..

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy and to Tracy Fenton for the invitation to take part in the tour.

About the Author

M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including the prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge also pilots original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audio exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a Number One bestseller.

His first thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek, Love Me Not, and Down to the Woods.

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The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl |Blog Tour International #Giveaway|#TheCourier #TheIceSwimmer #Faithless #NordicNoir @OrendaBooks

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (Author), Don Bartlett (Translator)
Published by Orenda Books
Available in ebook and paperback (21 March 2019)
276 pages

My thanks to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan of Orenda for the blog tour invitation to celebrate the paperback publication of The Courier. For my turn today I have a fabulous giveaway – which is open to International entrants. Orenda are very generously giving away a paperback copy of three books by Kjell Ola Dahl. Faithless, The Ice Swimmer and The Courier. Entry details are via the Rafflecopter box below but first – the books.

About the Books

The international bestselling godfather of Nordic Noir takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in a stunning standalone thriller.

In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.

And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in an exceptional, shocking thriller.

When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.

With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.

Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmer is the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir.

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal…

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to learn more about the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda deals with a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway. An unsettling number of coincidences emerge, and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and to catch the killer before he strikes again.

About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in fourteen countries, and he lives in Oslo.

*** GIVEAWAY ***


On behalf of the publisher, I’m delighted to offer one paperback copy of each of The Courier, The Ice Swimmer and Faithless to one winner. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to entrants aged 18 or over worldwide. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winner’s information. This will passed to the publisher for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data I hold. My Reading Corner is not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor | Blog Tour Review | #TheTakingofAnnieThorne

Published by Michael Joseph/Penguin
Ebook & Hardback (21 February 2019) | Paperback (25 July 2019)
352 pages
Source: Copy for review provided by publisher

My thanks to Jenny Platt of Penguin for the invitation to take part in what must be one of the biggest and most popular blog tours – I was unable to get a space the first time round because it filled up so quickly – and for providing the review copy.

About the Book

Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .

My Thoughts

From the very beginning and especially that horrific discovery in the cottage, this book had me hooked.

Joe Thorne never wanted to return to his childhood home of Arnhill. A former pit village, it was a grim desolate place that held no pleasant memories for him.  The only reason that he is back is because of his sister Annie.

Annie Thorne disappeared when she was 8 years old.  She returned two days later, a silent and moody little girl, refusing to say where she had been. Joe had lost his happy and adorable little sister.

Joe can’t forget what happened to Annie and can’t let it go. He forges his CV and lies his way to a teaching job at his old school and goes back to the source of so much unhappiness. What becomes clear is that life in the intervening years hasn’t been good to Joe.  Addicted to gambling and also a heavy drinker, he has incurred some big debts which need repaying and people want their money.   

Joe was a typically flawed protagonist that I couldn’t help liking, although I wasn’t always sure if I could trust him or how exactly he fitted in to the overall story.  As a young boy he was a loner and an outsider and to fit in, found himself involved with a gang of bullies and nasties – some of those same people still live in Arnhill and they haven’t forgotten Joe!   As an adult however, he was quick to identify bullies at the school and did what he could to help.   Unfortunately for reasons beyond his control, the extent of this help was rather limited.  He may not have been an ideal role model, but his dry humour and witty sarcasm put me firmly on his side, even when I wasn’t sure of what role he had played in past events.  He certainly earned respect from me by renting ‘that cottage’.  I wouldn’t have gone near it with a barge pole – and especially after what he found in the bathroom!

There is a bit of a crossover with genres with this one.  It’s a thriller, no doubt about that, but also with a supernatural and a horror element.  When you see other reviews, there are many references to Stephen King. I’ve never read any SK and whilst I can’t comment on those comparisons there were certain parts of this story that had me thinking ‘what the hell…..’.  If anyone is wondering just how much horror is involved, I’m not a horror reader at all but there was nothing here that really bothered me. A lot is left to your own imagination.

Set against the atmospheric backdrop of a grim and run-down former mining village is the old mine itself. It becomes a character in its right, hiding its secrets beneath underground tunnels which it won’t give up easily.

Tudor has drawn her characters superbly. Some you can feel empathy for and others just utter dislike and distrust.  Whilst it’s not an action packed thrills a minute story, I thought the pacing was spot on and my interest was held all the way through.

I was desperate to know exactly what happened all those years ago and why people were still determined to stop Joe finding out the truth. From the prologue,  I was expecting more of a crime thriller and what I received seemed to be something a little different; whilst I very much enjoyed it, I was left with questions that I had to answer myself and I’m still not quite sure whether I reached the right answer but that’s more than likely more down to me than the book.

The Taking of Annie Thorne was a deliciously gripping and addictive read. Bring on the next book by C J Tudor!   


About the Author

C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

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The Bridal Party by J G Murray | Blog Tour Guest Post | #TheBridalParty

Published by Corvus
Available in ebook (7 March 2019)
194 pages

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour. I really wanted to read this but just couldn’t fit in a review in time so for my turn, I have a guest post from the author.

About the Book

Sometimes friendship can be murder…

It’s the weekend of Clarisse’s bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to. Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in.

But, there is a surprise in store – Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won’t stay buried…


Guest Post

Blood and Thunder Tales: The Power of Psychological Thrillers

I have a confession: I don’t like Little Women.

I realise how sacrilegious this is. I also realise that so little classic literature explores the experience of girlhood, while there are many coming-of-age tales for boys. I am also aware that some chapters carry an emotional power that few books that can match.

But the fact of the matter is that I prefer Alcott when she’s not trying so hard.

For the past year, I’ve become more and more fascinated with what Alcott dismissively called her ‘blood and thunder tales’. For those of you who aren’t in the know, Louisa May Alcott spent a long time publishing horror stories and psychological thrillers under the pseudonym of A.M Bernard. Just like Jo publishing ‘sensation’ stories in Little Women, Alcott went to genre to compliment her literary output. She wrote tales of murder, deception…even mummies. And I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I would take many of them over Little Women.

My favourite is called Under the Mask: A Woman’s Power, and it explores some of the themes of Little Women without any of the didactic moralism or bizarre about-turns in tone and message. It explores the place of women in family units and class structures, but does so in a deliciously perverse narrative where a governess seduces and manipulates all the members of a family in order to climb the social ladder.

When I read this novella, I realised that I was not only enjoying the narrative more than Little Women— after all, it has the kind of propulsive, mysterious plot which is to my taste. I was also engaging with the themes in a more meaningful way. I found myself thinking about the main character weeks after I’d finished the book: I wondered long and hard about how gender affects social mobility, and how that served as her motivation in the novel. What was on the surface a pretty ludicrous story had succeeded in doing what the ‘literary’ genre was supposed to do— making me contemplate certain realities about the world we live in.

Some see this as just a sweetening-of-the-deal kind of scenario: that you’re more receptive to explore subtext when you’ve opened itself up to the delights of an engaging plots and characters. This is akin to what the film industry does with message-smuggling, whereby a blockbuster like Avatar is supposedly a vehicle to put forward a pro-eco message.

But while I feel that this idea holds true for many pieces, it can also be a misleading way to think about genre. Behind a Mask isn’t a thriller which disguises its thematic content about femininity. It is a thriller about femininity. It’s not subtext; it’s text. And Alcott writes powerfully about the subject because of the genre underpinnings rather than in spite of it.

What I love about psychological thrillers is that, at the core, they simple exaggerate hidden truths. They look at our world, our relationships, our emotions, and examine what’s broken. Books like Gone Girl and Rebecca start with the anxieties we have about our relationships and push them to the point where bodies start to hit the floor. In this way, these genre tales are not merely smuggling truths into genre thrills: the thrills are entirely reliant on the truths to actually function. It is their starting point, rather than an added extra.

When writing my own thriller, I started with a premise, a hook. But I also knew that I had to take something familiar to give the premise some meat, and decided to focus at friendships, and how toxic they can become. I didn’t regard it as a theme or subtext; very few writers are that pretentious, in my experience! I just saw it as a crucial part of the genre in which I was writing.

It’s what I love about the psychological thriller: that no matter how overblown or bloody it becomes…it’s still close to home. Alcott may have called them ‘blood and thunder tales’, but they can be as intimate as anything on the ‘Literary Fiction’ shelf.

About the Author

J G Murray is the winner of the 2018 Deviant Minds Prize and the author of the upcoming psychological thriller The Bridal Party.

He studied Creative Writing at Warwick University and has lived in Brussels, Bangkok and London. He has won numerous prizes for his short fiction and published stories in a number of publications. Most recently, Julian contributed to the 24 Stories Anthology, a book raising money for the victims of Grenfell featuring authors such as Irvine Welsh, Chris Brookmyre and AL Kennedy.

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Your Guilty Secret by Rebecca Thornton | Blog Tour Guest Post |5 Writing Tips|#YourGuiltySecret

Published by Zaffre
Available in ebook and paperback (7 March 2019)
384 pages

About the Book

An intense thriller that explores the dark side of fame and family. Perfect for fans of Laura Marshall, Lisa Jewell and Louise Jensen.

You know Lara King.

The top billing of the showbiz pages, you’ve seen her every morning; over your breakfast, on your commute to work. You know everything about her; you’ve dissected her life.

Her perfect relationship with film-star Matthew Raine. Her beautiful six-year old daughter Ava.

And so when a terrible incident shatters the family’s carefully constructed facade, a media frenzy ensues.

What happens when the perfect woman begins to unravel? When her whole life is really just a lie? One she will do anything she can to stop you from finding out?

This story is . . .


5 Writing Tips
by Rebecca Thornton

1) When I first started writing Your Guilty Secret – a novel about Lara King – an A list celebrity whose life unravels in the public eye –  I had a vague plot but absolutely no idea of who my character was. It meant I had no clue about how I was getting from A to B, because I had no character to lead me there. As soon as I understood what my character’s motives were (it took me a long time), the story became easier to write. So whenever you are stuck, keep going back to this question: What is my character’s motive?

2) Write for yourself. Don’t write what you think other people want to read.

3) Ask yourself: Does this serve the purpose of my story? If it doesn’t, cut it.

4) Always trust your gut. It will tell you if something is wrong.

5) If you are stuck and need some input, get someone you trust to critique your work. Someone who is going to be totally honest with you, but also kind and encouraging. It can be scary to be on the receiving end of that – so top tip – be specific and ask the person for three to five things that can be improved.

About the Author

Rebecca Thornton is an alumna of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course, where she was tutored by Esther Freud and Tim Lott. Her writing has been published in Prospect MagazineThe GuardianYou MagazineDaily Mail and The Sunday PeopleThe Jewish News, amongst others. She has reported from the Middle East, Kosovo and the UK. She now lives in West London with her husband and two sons.

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