Rounding off the Urbane Book Blast with a Giveaway

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I hope that you have enjoyed reading the reviews, interviews and guest posts from Urbane Publications and their authors over the past couple of weeks. You now have a chance to win one of the books featured, and you may choose which one you would like to receive. If you would like a reminder about my thoughts on each, click on the titles below.

Once you have decided on your choice of book, this is what you have to do to enter the giveaway:

  1. Follow me on Twitter: Jackie Law (@followthehens)
  2. Tweet me the title of the Urbane book you would most like to receive from those reviewed this month (pictured above) using the hashtag #UrbaneBlast
  3. Do this before 8am GMT on Wednesday 21st December 2016, after which I will randomly draw a winner.

The giveaway is open internationally.

Thank you to Matthew at Urbane for providing the prize.

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You may wish to consider joining the Urbane Book Club. For £99.99 you’ll receive a print and ebook edition of every new Urbane title published from the date you join for an entire year – Urbane currently publishes around 5 books a month. You’ll receive a 75% discount on any further purchases of Urbane titles through the Urbane website, including the entire backlist – all with free p&p in the UK. There are other benefits to joining, including opportunities to meet the authors. Check out the details by clicking here.

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Ordinary words made extraordinary

Book Review and Giveaway for the publication of Blackout

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Today I am delighted to be the bringing the Black Out Blog Tour to a close. I hope that you have been enjoying reading the other stops on this tour, details of which are provided above. The lovely Karen at Orenda Books, who publishes the Dark Iceland series, has generously offered a fabulous giveaway which I will detail later. First though, my thoughts on the book.

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Blackout, by Ragnar Jónasson (translated by Quentin Bates), is the third book in the author’s Dark Iceland series. It is set in the time period between the previous two – Snowblind (which I review here) and Nightblind (which I review here). In this instalment it is summer in Iceland, although the south of the island is suffering the effects of a volcanic eruption which has blanketed the area in an ash cloud.

The story opens with the discovery of a mutilated body outside a partially built house near the northern town of Skagafjörður. The victim’s legal residence is listed as Siglufjörður so this town’s police officers, Ari Thór and Tomás, are asked to assist in the suspected murder investigations. The third officer on their team, Hlynur, feels overlooked when his younger and less experienced colleague is given precedence by their boss. Hlyner’s increasing absent mindedness, due to persistent and threatening emails, has been affecting the quality of his work.

Ari Thór and Tomás travel around Iceland interviewing the dead man’s acquaintances. They are not the only ones doing so. A television news reporter, Isrun, is also taking a close interest in the case. She travels north in the hope of uncovering secrets that will enable her to regain the respect of her colleagues in the newsroom. All three soon discover that the man had been involved in shady dealings, the details of which are being kept secret by his acquaintances for a shocking reason.

Ari Thór is often abrupt and bad tempered. He is missing his former girlfriend, Kristen. Tomás is also lonely and contemplating moving south to rejoin his wife. Leaving Siglufjörður, where he has lived for so long, would be a wrench. The officers personal preoccupations distract them from reaching out to help Hlyner as he sinks deeper into a mire of his own making.

The writing jumps around in time and place offering many threads which coalesce as the denouement approaches. There are significant events from dark pasts to recount, the isolation and austerity of the land seeming to seep into its resident’s psyches. The style of the prose reflects this. It is succinct and spartan, atmospheric with elements of stark beauty.

This is another enjoyable instalment in an excellent crime fiction series which is gripping but never formulaic. The reader is transported to Iceland where they become caught up in the twisty tale. Ari Thór is on form as the prickly yet likeable young protagonist. I am already looking forward to reading his next adventure when Rupture is released early next year.

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If you would like to experience this book for yourself then read on.

Orenda Books are offering one of my readers the chance to win a free Blackout audiobook. Two other lucky readers could win a set of all three books in the Dark Iceland series (Snowblind, Nightblind and Blackout). If you would like to enter this giveaway then this is what you have to do: 

  1. Follow me on Twitter:  Jackie Law (@followthehens)
  2. Retweet the relevant tweet ensuring that you select the prize you prefer – audiobook or set of paperbacks

I will randomly draw the three winners from all those who have retweeted before 8am in the UK on Wednesday 21st September. This giveaway is open internationally.

A huge thank you to Orenda Books for supplying this magnificent prize, and for providing me with my copy of the book to review. 

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BritCrime Festival: Win a gift bundle of 10 books!

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To celebrate the launch of BritCrime’s first free online crime fiction festival, 11-13 July, I have teamed up with BritCrime authors to give away one fabulous prize.

You could win a gift bundle of ten print books, including new releases by Colette McBeth and Sarah Hilary, and MJ McGrath’s Gold Dagger longlisted White Heat. This giveaway is open internationally. One lucky winner will win all ten books.

Please complete the entries in the Rafflecopter before midnight 10th July for a chance to win.

To learn more about the BritCrime festival, please visit www.BritCrime.com and sign up to the newsletter. There will be giveaways and live Q&As with bestselling British crime fiction authors hosted on BritCrime’s Facebook page 11 & 12 July.

The Magpies + What You Wish For by Mark Edwards

No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

The Life I Left Behind + Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

White Heat by M J McGrath

Beyond the Rage by Michael J Malone

Follow the Leader + Watching Over You by Mel Sherratt

The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey

Good luck!

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Book Review: Into the Fire

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Into the Fire, by Manda Scott, retells the story of Joan of Arc from an original and compelling perspective. Two stories are told in parallel, one contemporary and one set in the time of The Maid’s most famous battles in the fifteenth century. Using this device the author is able to show how and why legends are created and, perhaps of even more interest, why they are protected so fiercely by those who benefit from them. As ever with half truths that morph into ‘accepted fact’, religion, politics and business interests play key roles.

The opening chapter is set in present day Orléans where Capitaine Ines Picault has been called to investigate the fourth in a series of arson attacks which have blighted the city over the previous three weeks. This conflagration represents an escalation in hostilities as the burning building contains the remains of a body.

A cursory study of the charred corpse indicates that the unknown male was dead before the fire started. A memory card is later found lodged in the victim’s oesophagus suggesting that the assault was not unexpected and that he had information which he wished to pass on. As the police struggle to recover the encrypted digital data, and to assemble the victim’s last known movements, the arsonists strike again. This time CCTV footage is captured which had previously been so carefully avoided. Picault suspects a false trail.

Interspersed with the chapters which progress this contemporary tale are those which detail the rise and exploits of Jehanne d’Arc, nicknamed The Maid of Orléans. Although her story is familiar and has been appropriated by many; from the suffragettes through LGBT Christians, the Traditionalist Youth Network in the USA (her virginity is a big selling point here) to opposing French political parties; this is a fictionalised, personal account by a fighter sent by the enemy English to destroy her. The author has studied letters and transcripts from the time to provide accuracy but, for me, the most interesting facts were these:

  • In 2003, a Ukranian orthopaedic surgeon found within the tomb of a fifteenth century French king, the bones of a woman whom he said had died in her late 50s or early 60s and had been trained to ride a war horse from a very early age: a woman knight. He said, ‘This is Marguerite de Valois. And this was Joan of Arc.’ The French closed the tomb and threw him out of France.
  • During the trial of Joan of Arc, which lasted for many months, nobody asked how a nineteen year old peasant girl gained her strategic and tactical skills, how she learned to ride, to wield weapons, to couch a lance. That any girl should be capable of such skills was unthinkable at the time. Those in power preferred to promote her much vaunted purity and to claim that she was a gift from God. It is this story which has been perpetuated.

As the parallel tales unfold the similarities between rulers, nearly 600 years apart, become clear. The public can be swayed by a pretty story which strokes existing prejudices. They appear to find it easier to support perceived beauty, purity and righteousness than to challenge societal structures with which they are comfortable. Then as now those in power will ensure, by whatever means necessary, that inconvenient truths are ridiculed or censored.

The author is a fine storyteller and her writing flows beautifully, maintaining interest and building tension towards the meshing of the two endings. As Jehanne d’Arc faces the deadly wrath of her enemies, Ines Picault discovers that she has been played in a callous and potentially fatal game. As with any good thriller there are twists and turns aplenty.

I enjoyed reading this book. The suggestion of a modern day conspiracy to protect a myth convenient to church and state is all too believable. Taught history is only ever as accurate as the scribes of the day allow.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bantam Press.

I will be giving away a signed copy of this book to one lucky reader. For details check out my tweets: Jackie Law (@followthehens) | Twitter.

This review is part of a blog tour. Below are the details of all those taking part, do please go and check them out.

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