Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Wolf by Samuel Bjørk

Good morning, readers! Today I'm super excited to be a stop on the Random Things tour for the latest in Samuel Bjørk's Munch and Krüger series, The Wolf!

As an aside, over a decade since I was introduced to this series with the amazing I'm Traveling Alone and to this day it remains one of my favorites!

The Wolf is actually a prequel to the existing series. It is the story that starts it all: Mia Krüger being recruited to Munch's team at the ripe old age of 21. Her dreams to be the first female Delta sidelined when she's approached with an offer that turns out to be too tantalizing to resist. 

Two boys have been murdered. Their bodies found in a bizarrely laid out scene with a dead fox placed between them. It mirrors a still unsolved case from Sweden with one exception: the animal there was a hare. 

As Munch and his team comb the growing crime scene as well as case files from outside of Norway, the head of the police academy flags Mia Krüger as a potential candidate Munch who might interest Munch. And while he's not looking to expand his team at the moment, Mia's skills of observation prove to be truly unique. After just forty minutes with the crime scene photos, she's made an observation everyone missed. 

Solving the case is anything but easy. No trace evidence at either scene, no connection between the victims in Sweden and Norway, and an eight-year gap between the crimes complicates things, to say the least. And yet, Munch's team is determined.

Bjørk, aka Frode Sander Øein, excels in creating dark and disturbing puzzles of plots for his characters to unravel. And he also excels in building fascinating and well-rounded characters. 

I've noted before that although this is commonly referred to as the Munch and Krüger series, it is in fact a larger cast of characters, all of whom get a careful amount of focus and build. (Though Munch and Krüger do take the spotlight.)

In the case of The Wolf, Bjørk even adds a bit of a forward that sent me on an internet search to see if it was in fact real, which is actually something I love. It means the author has done such a great job at putting together their story that it does feel as though it could be seated in reality!

I will warn you that this series is dark. And by dark I mean it probably needs ALL of the trigger warnings. But if you're a fan of Nordic Noir, this is truly one of the best series I can recommend!

To date there are actually five installments in the series. The fifth has only just released this year and has yet to be translated (so I don't have a title), but the reading order now is:

The Wolf
I'm Traveling Alone
The Owl Always Hunts at Night
The Boy in the Headlights
Book 5 

Friday, November 3, 2023

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok

Happy Friday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things blog tour for Jean Kwok's latest, The Leftover Woman

Jasmine has left her life behind and come to America in hopes of finding her daughter, Fiona. But first, she needs to find a way to pay off the people who got her out of China. And stay out of notice of anyone who can alert her husband, Wen, of her whereabouts. Which is why it's a shock to run into her old friend, Anthony, while job hunting in the city. 

Rebecca is a high-powered editor who wants to have it all: family and a successful career. But after an embarrassing incident with one of her authors, she's finding it more difficult than ever to balance those variables. If she can land a big author at auction, she can get her career back on track. But she can't help feeling like she's losing her grasp on things at home. 

One thing connects Jasmine and Rebecca: Jasmine is the biological mother of Rebecca's adopted daughter. 

The Leftover Woman is a character-driven suspenseful narrative that explores oh so many things! Primarily womanhood, motherhood, and Asian culture. Which is a terrible simplification of the book. 

Jasmine is a daughter from a country that historically does not value its daughters. In spite of this, women are a commodity as wives. And her parents essentially sold her into marriage. And at first things are ok. But when she discovers her husband has betrayed her in the worst way imaginable, it marks the end of their union in her eyes. 

Rebecca is a legacy in the publishing world. And determined to stay that way. But if she can't land a hugely desirable author, she may be in danger of losing her job. It doesn't help that she feels disconnected at home. Jealous of her daughter's affection for her nanny and concerned that she's losing ground in her relationship, she soon finds that juggling all of these pieces is harder than she'd imagined. 

There is a mystery involved here (which I've not gone into). And a definite underlying tension that makes what is sort of a slow burn, utterly gripping. And all of that wrapped in a lovely lyrical package. The Leftover Woman isn't a pretty story, but I have to say that Kwok's writing is. 

The Leftover Woman is one of those magical books that's perfect for a broad range of readers: a cross-genre read with lots of emotion. At times it made me sad and at others it stressed me out. Throughout, I found myself rooting for these two very different women, unsure how things could possibly work out for both of them but very much wanting it to be so. 

The Leftover Woman is out now in the UK from Viper!