Friday, February 2, 2024

The Lover of No Fixed Abode by Carlo Fruttero & Franco Lucentini

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for The Lover of No Fixed Abode by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, translated by Gregory Dowling.

A nameless narrator who works as a scout for auction houses and what seems at first to be a simple instance of paths crossing begins this cozy-ish mystery set in 80s Italy. 

A tour guide. A quiet, unassuming man who might be much more than he seems piques the interest of the narrator. Her thoughts gravitate towards him even when they have separated. But soon they are reunited. And thus kicks off a three-day affair as well as a mystery surrounding the man, our narrator, art, and Venice itself. 

This is really kind of a hard book to sum up. It's very character and setting driven, rather than plot driven. Though there is a plot. And, as the translator notes, the authors are well-known for their mysteries. But this one, apparently their most successful, is quieter than the others. 

And a quiet read it is indeed. 

Lover of No Fixed Abode is perfect for fans of quieter mysteries. It's also perfect for armchair travelers, and fans of period stories (though I am loathe to include the 80s in "period" considering I was born in that decade!). 

It's also a study, I think, in what a great translator can do. And I know that's not the point of a review, but the translator is so key to opening up works to audiences. They can either pull us in, or turn us off. And a great translator always strives to stay true to the author's original story, voice, tone...everything. 

Which seems to be something Dowling has taken great pains to do, especially considering the authors have both passed away.

I have never been to Venice. So I certainly never experienced it at the time the story is set, but the authors have truly created a stunning portrayal of the setting that will stick with readers and potentially leave them yearning for a vacation of a sort that they will soon realize is only possible in the pages of a book!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Spy Coast by Tess Gerritsen

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Tess Gerritsen's latest, The Spy Coast

For Maggie Bird, retired life is about keeping her chickens safe. A far cry from what she used to do for a living. 

See Maggie is one of a handful of retired CIA agents who now call the small town of Purity, Maine home. But her quiet retirement is about to come falling down around her. 

A woman has shown up telling Maggie that a fellow operative has gone missing. What's more, details of an op they worked together have been leaked. Which means Maggie's cover has been leaked. Later that same day, the woman is found murdered in Maggie's drive. 

Now Maggie will have to try and figure out who's behind it all, with the help of her fellow retirees. But as they run their own internal investigation, the local sheriff's department is also on the case. And sitting Sheriff Jo Thibodeau is starting to think there's something fishy about her town's newest residents. 

This first in a new series from Gerritsen is a bit of a change from her longtime Rizzoli and Isles series. And it is exceptional!

The Spy Coast introduces readers to Maggie Bird. And boy has she led a fascinating life!

While on vacation in Bangkok, decades ago, Maggie met and fell in love with Danny. A doctor traveling overseas, he's doing one last grand tour before returning to the UK where a steady job will offer him a chance to help his mother. 

But what begins as a benign, everyday life experience—meeting and falling in love—kicks a series of events into motion that has repercussions way down the line. 

A retired spy offers, I think, so many story possibilities! Not only do I hope we'll get more adventures from Maggie and her cohorts, but I absolutely love the idea of main characters outside the "normal" range we see. I was immediately drawn to this story simply because of the premise of following a former spy in their sixties! (And of course because it was Tess Gerritsen.)

The Spy Coast is a new favorite for me! I hope we get more of The Martini Club and would LOVE to see this get picked up for adaptation as well! Give me more!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Search Party by Hannah Richell

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Hannah Richell's latest, The Search Party

Annie and Max, Suze and Jim, Dominic and Tanya, Kira and Fred: Five college friends and their families checking out Annie and Max's new glamping endeavor for the weekend. It should be a great get together. A reunion of sorts, considering their last get together (for Kira's 40th) ended somewhat badly. 

And yet, nothing goes to plan. 

The country site offers wide open spaces for the kids to play and no wifi means no distractions. But tension sets in after just the first night. And as gray clouds roll in, threatening an unexpectedly bad storm, one of the group goes missing. 

By the Sunday, someone is dead. Someone is unconscious in the hospital. At least one partner is no longer speaking to the other. 

So first of all, I love a great thriller about old friends and juicy secrets and drama and tension! And that is exactly what you get with The Search Party. With the added bonus of knowing some of the aftermath from the start and getting pieces of it throughout. It's the kind of book that I like to guess along the way (and then get proven WRONG!). 

What's really fun about this one is that we get alternating POVs, giving readers a chance to see the different sides of the story as it progresses. But it also alternates timelines, which is how we get those pieces of what's happened. 

And Richell spreads them out in such a way that the tension builds and builds and builds until everything boils over!

The Search Party is a great thriller! Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood, Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party, (obviously), and authors like Alice Feeney and Lisa Jewell, to name a few! It also makes for a great book club read, in my opinion, because there are so many complex characters (and their actions) to discuss!

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

One of the Good Guys by Araminta Hall

Good morning, everyone! Are we all snowed in? I know I am!

Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Araminta Hall's One of the Good Guys

Cole is looking for a new start. Something uncomplicated after the fallout with his wife, Mel. He'd always imagined a quiet life in the country, living off the land as much as he can, would be just the change they needed from the stress of Mel's job and their busy life in the city. But Mel stayed and Cole is living the country life on his own. 

When he meets Lennie, an artist renting a weather-beaten cottage nearby, he thinks he may have met a likeminded friend who could potentially become more. But then Lennie finds an abandoned tent thought to belong to two women trying to raise awareness of violence against women. 

As it happens, Cole had a run in with the women in question. And they filmed the encounter. And while he's not responsible for whatever their fate has become, he's afraid the run in alone will point the finger in his direction. 

Wow. I did not really know what I was in for with this one! And I will do my absolute best not to give anything away!

So the book begins from Cole's perspective. And the reader really does get a glimpse inside the mind of an ordinary guy. He's mourning the breakup with his wife, but still hopes they can reconcile. Other than that, he wakes early for a cold swim, he walks a lot, and he takes his job as a wildlife ranger seriously. 

The book then switches to Mel's and Lennie's POVs, interspersed with Twitter convos, Instagram posts, news pieces, and other commentary along the way. 

Thought provoking doesn't begin to describe this one. In fact, I found it turned my head into a whirlwind of thoughts! 

While this is published by Macmillan in the UK, US audiences will see that it's one of Gillian Flynn's imprint's titles, which should tell you something!

If you're a fan of twisted reads that will really make you think—and then reevaluate what you thought, and then do that again—One of the Good Guys is the read for you! I thought it was fabulous and would love to be a fly on the wall as other people read it as well!

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Guests by Agnes Ravatn

Good morning and Happy New Year! I've been sick, but I've been reading, and my first post of the new year is a stop on the Random Things tour for Agnes Raven's The Guests!

Karin and Kai are due for a holiday. She's got the week off. Her in laws are watching the kids. But the plan is to spend the week working on renovations to their home. That is until a run-in with and favor for a childhood frenemie results in an invite to stay in a swanky water-front cottage. 

The "friend" in question is Ivy Vilden. A mean girl Karin finally broke away from in her school days. Today, Karin is an actress of some regard with a wealthy husband. And Karin is certain that the invite to use the "cottage" is just to make it clear how much farther Ivy has come in the world than Karin. 

But a cottage is a cottage and Karin and Kai deserve something nice. 

Then Karin meets the neighbors. And begins to create a tangle of lies about her and Kai's lives that threatens to overwhelm them. 

Woohoo! This was a rollercoaster of a read. A tense character study of insecurity and jealousy!

Karin is not at all likable. Probably because she serves as something of a mirror to every possibly insecurity a person can have these days. 

Her history with Ivy is fraught. But she overcame it. Something she'd always been proud of. And yet, it becomes clear from the start just how much influence Ivy still has over Karin. 

It's quite sad to watch Karin devolve into the the person she creates as the story continues. She perfectly illustrates how constant comparison, keeping up with the Joneses, can ruin even what should be a vacation in paradise. 

What's more, the neighbors in question and the train wreck Karin creates there is almost painful for various reasons. 

All of that might make this sound pretty negative. I get it! And yet, I read the whole thing in one sitting and came away with the unfortunate realization that I not only suffer some of the same insecurities, but can see just how easily a person dig such a hole!

Like I said, Karin is unlikable. But it's because Ravatn so cleverly illustrates just how bad envy can be if we allow it to overwhelm us!

Huge props to translator Rosie Hedger for bringing Karin and Kai and all of their faults to life for English audiences.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Yule Island by Johana Gustawsson

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Johana Gustawsson's latest, Yule Island

Emma Lindahl is a young and ambitious art expert recently hired on at Von Dardel's, a small but prestigious auction and appraisal house. Through this new position, she's been assigned a fabulous opportunity: cataloging and assessing the Gussman collection at their remote home on Storholmen island. 

But the Gussmans are strange. Her hours are severely limited, her access is confined to specific rooms, and her interaction with the family is all but nonexistent. 

Then there's the island history itself and the fact that a girl was found murdered on the grounds less than a decade before.

Emma tries not to let all of this get to her, but when another body is found nearby, it becomes clear there's something very wrong on Storholmen.

Yule Island is so much creepy fun!

A manor house with dark secrets, a remote island with very small community, and the most fabulous dark Scandinavian lore! Plus, Gustawsson pulls off some truly amazing twists!

The story alternates POVs between Emma; Karl, a local cop; and Viktoria, an employee at the manor. 

Emma is hesitant about her job. And with good reason. The Gussmans are an off-putting family who almost seem to resent her for being there to do the job they hired her for. It's a strange environment, to say the least. 

Karl worked the still open nine-year-old murder case and it haunts him to this day. When another body is found, he's called in even though his own wife has recently gone missing. And yet, the work keeps him busy, keeps him away from their home and their memories, and maybe even gives him a chance at the personal redemption he needs in the wake of the earlier unsolved crime. 

Viktoria has always worked in high-end resort hotels, but the opportunity for a live-in position with the Gussmans offers both her and her daughter a chance to escape her overbearing and emotionally abusive husband. But that doesn't keep him from turning up asking for money occasionally. She gives us a fly-on-the-wall view of the residents of the manor, which becomes increasingly strange and fascinating for the reader!

As I mentioned, Gustawsson has some excellent twists in this book. Some are the kind a savvy reader may see coming while others are a complete surprise. Either way, they make for an intense read. 

And then there's the lore I mentioned. As a whole the book is a wonderful read, but this piece makes it such a stand out. I know next to nothing about Yule lore (the celebration that predates Christmas) and honestly just eat up things like this, begging for more!

Gustawsson hooked me with her previous release, The Bleeding, and as a result Yule Island was already in my must read list and I have to say it did not disappoint!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Dead Sweet by Katrín Júlíusdóttir

It's December, readers! And today I'm kicking off the Random Things blog tour for Katrín Júlíusdóttir's Dead Sweet!

Óttar Karlsson's girlfriend is thrilled to throw him a surprise party for his 50th birthday. She's hired out caterers to make an American barbecue feast, in honor of Óttar's having earned his degree in the States. She's even gone to the trouble to track down old friends from school. And no on is more shocked than her when the guest of honor fails to show up. 

Then Óttar's body is found on the beach. After making quite a name for himself in Icelandic politics, the police are sure someone must have wanted revenge for one of his policies. And yet his coworkers all sing his praises and the polls showed support from many of voting citizens. In short, the police are a bit stumped. 

Sigurdís has been working the beat for a while and is eager to prove herself and move up in the rankings at the department. But she's sidelined early on in the investigation. That is until she discovers a hidden safe in the victim's condo with some very interesting evidence. Soon the police have a number of motives that could have prompted the killing. But which one will pan out?

This is the first in a brand new Icelandic crime series! Interestingly, the author has a background in politics, making her well informed for the kind of plot she's built in Dead Sweet. Or at least part of it!

Because politics isn't the only thing driving this mystery. As Sigurdís ensures she's heavily involved in the case, she uncovers more and more secrets about the acclaimed politician. As the reader would expect, the man is anything but squeaky clean. But it's well hidden. And in some cases, deeply hidden!

And yet part of Sigurdís's strength as an investigator is the fact that she has a keen intuition when it comes to investigations. It's earned her the respect of her colleagues, even after an incident that lands her in very hot water with the department. 

All of that said, she can't understand why her boss keeps relegating her to the sidelines. 

But Sigurdís and her boss have a history that soon comes to light as well, making it clear that he feels an obligation to the young officer. 

As Sigurdís's personal story unfolds, so does the victim's. And the author does a very good job building parallels between multiple characters and their varying stories. To say more would, I fear, give too much away, but after the final page I couldn't help but reflect on each parallel that led up to that point. And it makes Sigurdís a very interesting character indeed!

I look forward to seeing what will happen next and how the events of this book will affect the determined young officer down the line!

Shout out to translator Quentin Bates! He's done another excellent job bringing the author's words to us English readers.