Bad Day in Minsk by Jonathan Pinnock

From the PR: “Tom Winscombe is having a bad day. Trapped at the top of the tallest building in Minsk while a lethal battle between several mafia factions plays out beneath him, he contemplates the sequence of events that brought him here, starting with the botched raid on a secretive think tank and ending up in the middle of the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

More importantly, he wonders how he’s going to get out of this alive when the oneperson who can help is currently not speaking to him. Join Tom and a cast of disreputable and downright dangerous characters in this witty
thriller set in a murky world of murder, mystery and complex equations.”

I’ll be honest, reading that description alone felt like a case of ‘this book is bang up your alley’ so it was an immediate ‘yes please.’

Turns out that Bad Day In Minsk is in fact the fourth of Jonathan Pinnock’s ‘mathematical mystery’ series featuring Tom Winscombe but, as the author points out – ‘being a reasonably conscientious sort of person, Tom does his best to paraphrase what has happened in the previous books.’ While I do now want to go back and read the previous three books that’s not down to needing details filling in more down to the fact it more than works as a stand alone novel and that I enjoyed Bad Day in Minsk so much.

That’s because Bad Day in Minsk is indeed right up my alley – a ridiculously madcap and superbly plotted story that zips along at a cracking pace, taking in an escape from a prison camp in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, kidnapping, murder, home-made vodka, a massive battle between Belarus’ mafia factions, an escape from the top of a burning building, plenty of twists, turns and – fittingly – chaos theory.

There are some brilliantly surreal and, frankly, hilarious moments throughout Bad Day In Minsk as Tom tries to make sense of it all and stumbles into increasingly bizarre and perilous situations. The pairing of such outlandish circumstance with the Tom’s character – the absurdity of a PR exec tearing through Belarus in a violent pursuit of dangerous mathematical papers is never lost on our protagonist – make for a hugely compelling romp.

An engaging and addictive read full of great characters and wit, I barrelled through Bad Day in Minsk and enjoyed every moment.

My thanks to Farrago / Duckworth Books for my copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to review and take part in this blog tour.

Facets of Death by Michael Stanley

From the PR: “Recruited straight from university to Botswana’s CID, David ‘Kubu’
Bengu has raised his colleagues’ suspicions with his meteoric rise within the department, and he has a lot to prove.

When the richest diamond mine in the world is robbed of 100,000 carats worth of gems, and the thieves are found, executed, Kubu leaps at the chance to prove himself. First he must find the diamonds – and it seems that a witch doctor and his son have a part to play.

Does this young detective have the skill and integrity to engineer an international trap? Or could it cost him everything?”

It feels like it’s been way too long since a new Detective Kubu novel arrived on my shelves. Whenever one does I know for a fact that I’m going to love every second of it and Facets of Death delighted on every page.

Reading the work of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip (writing as Michael Stanley) is always a genuine delight and, as much as I enjoyed Dead of the Night, Detective Kubu is one of my favourite characters – I’m sure I’ve said it before but in David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Sears and Trollip have created a character I could read all day every day and never get bored.

Facets of Death takes us back in time to 1998 and Kubu’s first week on the job, it’s a strange sensation – seeing our old friend starting out, finding his way and putting his foot in it. We know where Kubu will end up down the road but it’s great fun watching him get started – whether it’s learning the kind of questions to ask, the importance of biting your tongue or forming new relationships.

Thankfully there’s none of that dreaded false jeopardy that often plague ‘prequel’ novels as, for one thing, this seems more about showing the experiences that informed the detective Kubu would become rather than using a younger model to punch in a more lively manner and, for another, Messrs Sears and Trollip are too busy laying out a ridiculously good plot and mystery.

Facets of Death kicks off with a taught and gripping heist then gradually unfolds into a brilliantly crafted and complex mystery that left me guessing to the end. From the initial heist, violent murders, setups and, of course, the influence of witch doctors, there are so many facets to the story that it’s a real joy as all the elements are expertly lined up and pieced together.

Once again populated with convincing characters, evocatively detailed and deliciously rooted in Botswana and its traditions, Facets of Death is a joyously rewarding read and another rich addition to Detective Kubu series.

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my copy of Facets of Death and to Anne Cater for inviting me to join the blog tour.