#BookReview: The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #TheHome #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the home“Once inseparable, Joel and Nina haven’t spoken in twenty years.

When Joel’s mother Monika develops dementia, he has no choice but to return to his home town. Monika needs specialist care, and that means Pineshade – which also means Joel is going to have to deal with his one-time best friend, for Nina works there.

It’s not long before Monika’s health deteriorates – she starts having violent, terrifying outbursts, and worse, she appears to know things she couldn’t possibly know. It’s almost as if she isn’t herself any more . . . but of course, that’s true of most of the residents at Pineshade.

Only Nina and Joel know Monika well enough to see the signs; only by working together can they try to find answers to the inexplicable . . .

The Home is an eerie story about love, friendship and the greatest fear of all: losing control of ourselves . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome). The Home is published by Jo Fletcher Books later this week on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Home but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Home is a compelling, immersive piece of quality fiction and it absolutely broke my heart. As a contemporary horror novel it also made me very uneasy and gave me chills. It ticks all the boxes in that respect. But this isn’t a fast-paced thrill ride featuring the same old, same old we’ve all seen time and time again. Oh no. It’s a beautifully written tale featuring some of the most exquisitely drawn characters I’ve had the pleasure to meet in fiction. A very memorable read and one I relished spending time with.

Joel Edlund has made the very difficult decision to put his mother, Monika, in a nursing home specifically for people suffering from dementia. His mother, who lived on her own until a heart attack, has become a danger to herself after the onset of dementia. Joel has his own poor excuse of a life back in Stockholm and he wants to return, leaving his mother in the capable hands of the staff at Pineshade nursing home. But before he leaves he needs to pack up his mother’s house and instruct estate agents to put it on the market. He can’t escape the past as he clears out trinkets and mementoes his mother has kept over the years. Nor when he goes to visit his mother, as his ex-best friend from his teenage years, Nina, works at the home. He hoped he’d never see her again after their friendship broke down so irreparably. But during his strained visits, Joel starts to notice a distinct change in his mother. Her health is worsening, strange things are happening and she’s not the same woman who arrived at the home only a short time ago. Joel isn’t the only one to notice how strangely Monika is behaving. Nina, who used to see Monika as a second mother, is just as concerned. What has happened to make her act in such an odd way? And how does she know the deepest, darkest secrets of the staff at the home…

I always get excited about a book when the characters stand out from the page for me, and this is a wonderful example of some truly beautiful creations. The characters in The Home are everything. They broke my heart, they made me smile and they scared the bejesus out of me. I became completely involved in their day to day lives. So much so, I think I may have fallen a little bit in love with some of the residents of Pineshade. But please don’t get me wrong. This is a dark and frightening tale of losing ourselves and of losing control. Our main characters, Joel and Nina, were also very well-written and I enjoyed seeing them begin to relate to one another again after so much time apart.

This isn’t a thrilling, high-octane read but a slow meander through the very different, but fascinating, lives of a group of interesting people who all end up, for one reason or another, under the same roof. The pace suited the book perfectly and I was more than happy to lose myself for a few hours in Pineshade and Skredsby. The Swedish setting was something a little different and I lapped it up. I’m a fan of translated fiction which meant The Home gained another big tick from me!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re considering reading horror fiction for the first time I think The Home would be an excellent place to start. It’s creepy and unsettling, with bucketloads of eerie and I loved it. When I knew where the story was heading (this was quite near the end) I could tell what the final twist was going to be but that didn’t take anything away. I really enjoyed reading The Home and it’s going to stay with me for some time to come. I think I’m still a little bit in love.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Home. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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I have always loved horror. As a kid, I preferred the Grimm fairytales over the Disney versions, and when I was ten years old I discovered Stephen King. I devoured his terrifying stories with much gusto (even while breaking out in stress-related hives).

The love of horror has stayed with me. Also my love of books. I write for children, teens and adults.  To me, it isn’t really that different. It’s all about characters, and what happens when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Author image and bio © http://matsstrandberg.com/

#BookReview: Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (translated by David Warriner) @OrendaBooks #BloodSong #damppebbles

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“The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning installment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson. Blood Song is the third book in Gustawsson’s Roy and Castells series and is published by the mighty Orenda Books today! Wishing Johana and all the team at Orenda a very happy publication day. I received a free eARC of Blood Song but that has in no way influenced my review.

I want to put my cards on the table here and say I loved (LOVED!!) the second book in Gustawsson’s Roy and Castells series, Keeper. It was my book of 2018 and I still recommend to everyone. The first book in the series, Block 46, is also rather spectacular and well worth a read. Saying that, Blood Song does work perfectly well as a standalone so if you wanted to dive straight in, you could (but why would you do that when you have two utterly captivating novels to read first?!).

I can’t quite put into words how special these books are and how talented Johana Gustawsson, and the translators (in this case David Warriner), are. Some writers tell you a story, while others take you on a journey and that’s exactly what Gustawsson does in her novels. There is always a historical element to her stories and it’s always something that will make you stop and think. In Blood Song the story jumps from Franco’s Spain in the 1930s to the present day with spine chilling effect. At times, I was wondering what the connection would be. How the past and the present would collide. Then all the perfectly placed pieces fall into place and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

The current day investigation into the massacre of the Lindberg family in Falkenberg, Sweden, led by the brilliant Profiler Emily Roy and ably assisted by true-crime writer Alexis Castells, is compelling reading. I love Emily. I love that she doesn’t bow to social norms and is just herself – whether YOU like it or not. The unstoppable investigative duo are joined by Aliénor Lindberg, new recruit to Scotland Yard and recently orphaned daughter to the aforementioned Lindberg’s. It may seem unusual to include the recently bereaved daughter in the investigation of her parents and sister’s grisly death but Aliénor and Emily have a bond. Emily knows the only way Aliénor will heal is by being at the forefront of things.

The chapters set in Spain under Franco’s rule broke my heart. The book tackles a highly emotive subject and I take my hat off to Johana Gustawsson. There were points where, because of the heart-breaking scene I was reading (and so clearly picturing because there’s no avoiding it when reading a Johana Gustawsson novel) I had to take a step back and take a breather. I couldn’t stay away for long though. I was totally captivated by Gustawsson’s words. The terror and fear were palpable. The torture brought me to tears.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I most definitely would. Blood Song AND the first two books in the series. I cannot wait for book four. CANNOT. WAIT! Roll on whenever that will be. I am a massive fan of Johana Gustawsson’s books and I urge you to pick this one because you won’t regret it. If you’re looking for an intelligent thriller that will bury itself deep within your soul then this is it. Beautiful, traumatic and totally addictive. Hard to read at times but impossible to put down for long. I loved Blood Song.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Blood Song. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (translated by David Warriner) was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

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David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

Translator Links: | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Keeper by Johana Gustawsson (@JoGustawsson) trans. Maxim Jakubowski @OrendaBooks #Keeper #FrenchNoir #RoyandCastells

KEEPER COVER COVER AW.jpeg“Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror. 

London, 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before. 

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose? 

Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down.

Following the highly acclaimed Block 46 and guaranteed to disturb and enthral, Keeper is a breathless thriller from the new queen of French Noir.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Keeper blog tour which I share with the wonderful The Book Review Cafe.  Keeper is the second book in the Roy & Castells series written by Johana Gustawsson and is published in paperback by Orenda Books later this month (nothing to stop you from grabbing a copy of the eBook now though!).

I read the first book in the series, Block 46 last year.  I really liked it, many others absolutely loved it and it made regular appearances on the ‘top books of 2017’ lists.  Rightly so.  Knowing this added to the pre-read build up for me.  I was excited, expectant and a little apprehensive.

For those new to Gustawsson’s books, they are set in the present day (if you can call 2015 present!) but with a historical twist to them.  The story’s tentacles reach back in time to real-life crimes.  The reader gets to see how the evil of the past affects and manipulates the evil of the present.  It’s a highly original concept, one that I haven’t found elsewhere and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I bow down to those that are able to write convincing fiction, but I grovel on the floor before those that include a fair amount of accurate historical fact (I assume it’s accurate by the way, I am certainly no historian!).  In Block 46 we had the despicable and abhorrent treatment prisoners of war were subjected to by the detestable Nazi’s.  In Keeper, we are plunged into the world of the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper.  Now I’m no Ripperologist but Jack the Ripper has always fascinated me.  I’ve read a few books on the subject, some fact and some fiction.  As far as the fictional ones go, this is by far the best.

I adored this book.  Plain and simple.  If Keeper doesn’t make it to my top three books of the year then there is something seriously wrong with me.  Regular visitors to the blog will be fully aware that I like my crime thrillers a little more on the dark side.  Keeper is one heck of a dark read.  Picture the scene, there I was merrily reading away thinking to myself, ‘yup, it’s another good one – probably four stars at the moment but we’ll see how things go’.  Then all of a sudden Gustawsson stepped things up a notch (or two).  My jaw hit the table and I was utterly smitten with the author’s story.  One of those, ‘WOAH’ moments that I absolutely live for.

Keeper will take you places you never expected.  It’s exactly the kind of novel I want to read and it’s going to stay with me for a very, very long time.  My love for Emily Roy has grown.  She’s such a likeable oddball character.  She does have competition for my affections though as I also really liked intern, Aliénor Lindbergh.  Such an interesting character and I hope we see more of her in the future.  The dynamic between the two characters really worked for me.

I also love the international flavour of Gustawsson’s books.  The reader gets taken on a whirlwind journey from London to Falkenberg in Sweden, and back again.  The characters also bring a welcome international flair to proceedings.  For example, at one point Alexis Castells is having a dreaded ‘meet the parents’ moment (her parents are meeting her partner).  They don’t all speak the same language so some are conversing in English, others in Swedish, her parents are chatting in French and there’s a bit of Spanish thrown in for good measure too.  One of my favourite scenes in the book.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  Strong characters, astonishing twists and really quite perfect.  There’s not a single thing I can think of that I didn’t like, and that’s saying something!  Totally gratifying, deliciously dark and WHAT a thrill-ride.  Yeah, I loved this one.  You really should read Keeper.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Keeper.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson (trans. Maxim Jakubowski) was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 28th April 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please be aware the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Johana PhotoBorn in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Cursed by Thomas Enger (@EngerThomas) @OrendaBooks

9781910633649.jpg“What secret would you kill to protect? When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Today I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Cursed blog tour.  Cursed is written by Thomas Enger and is the fourth book in the Henning Juul series (but the first one I have read which should come as no surprise to regular visitors!).  I do love nordic noir and have previously indulged in the literary delights of Gunnar Staalesen, Agnes Ravatn and other talented Scandinavian authors.  So with this in mind, I was excited to read Cursed.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Thomas Enger has created a mesmerising tale which draws you in from the opening pages and keeps you glued to the story throughout; all the way to the thrilling conclusion. And what a way to end a novel!  I’m already champing at the bit for book five in the series.

My heart really went out to Henning Juul who I immediately liked.  Henning isn’t your usual crime thriller hero as he’s an investigative crime journalist and not a harried detective.  It was a refreshing change for me to be reading a novel which wasn’t set in the midst of a major police investigation.  The relationship between Henning and his ex-wife, Nora Klemetsen broke my heart at times.  And the tragedy suffered by the estranged couple I found a hard read.  Henning’s all-consuming desire to discover who was responsible for his young son’s death had me riveted and cheering him on from the comfort of my sofa.  Particularly with the introduction of Nora’s new partner, Iver and their earth shattering news.

There are many different threads to the story and it’s hard at times to see how they will all come together.  But come together they do in an explosive finale.  The pictures painted by the author are so clear that you can’t but help feel you’re there, living the action with them.

I loved the different characters of the Hellberg family.  Each one individual and each with their own secrets.  But how far are they prepared to go to keep those secrets?  Well, you’ll have to read Cursed for yourself and find out!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  If you’re anything like me and love to read books where at the centre of the crime you find a wealthy, secretive and controlling family then you will love Cursed.  Fantastic, believable characters…some you will love, some you will loathe.  Beautifully atmospheric, completely gripping and full of intrigue. Orenda Books, you have another gem of a novel on your shelf and I can’t wait for book five.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Cursed.  My thanks to Orenda Books for providing me with a copy.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Cursed by Thomas Enger (translated by Kari Dickson) was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th February 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook editions | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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(c) Ingrid Basso

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2009, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called THE EVIL LEGACY, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |