Blog Tour: Dead of Night by Michael Stanley

From the PR: “When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, but within a week she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that she doesn’t want, but can’t get rid of…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late, both for the rhinos and for her. She has a powerful story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller from Michael Stanley, author of the award-winning Detective Kubu series, introducing an intriguing new protagonist, while exposing one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…”

This is not the novel I was expecting when I ripped open the padded envelope and found the new Michael Stanley (writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) book inside. For, you see, Michael Stanley are the authors behind Detective Kubu – one of my favourite characters – and I was honestly expecting another in that series.

In a recent guest post on Have Books Will Read as part of this blogtour, the authors explained that the “features that make a series rich – the history and backstory of the main character – also constrain what one can do and where one can go…. We wanted to try something different – a different style of book with a completely different protagonist.”

So, what about Dead of Night? Well, put simply, it’s fucking awesome. It’s a hard-hitting, thoroughly engrossing thriller that rips along at a pace and rhythm completely different to the aforementioned Kubu series and demonstrates just how talented a writing team and adept at different writing styles messers Sears and Trollip are.

The novel’s protagonist, Crystal Nguyen – or Crys – makes for a compelling lead – tough and determined yet vulnerable and relatable. The story is one of my favourite of the year so far – what starts of as a search for a missing journalist and a story on rhino poaching soon becomes a fast paced thriller that delves into political corruption, social issues in South Africa and human morality with a volley of fast-paced and occasionally brutal action scenes.

The levels of complexity and connections in the plot and the fact that such a strong story is rooted in a very real and believable situation make for a real page turner. For me, it’s that combination of fact – rhino hunting and the fight against the poachers is a very violent and deadly fight – and, strong, engrossing fiction that ensures that Dead of Night is compelling and lends it some real clout.

I thoroughly recommend Dead of Night – thanks again to Orenda for my copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blogtour, check out the other stops below.

 

Blog Tour: Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E Hardisty

From the PR: “Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make.

Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.”

Here we are with the third volume in Hardisty’s Straker series and let’s get this out of the way now; they just keep getting better – Reconciliation for the Dead is a massive leap forward and the best of the three and I do hope there’s more to come. Don’t misunderstand; I thoroughly enjoyed both The Abrupt Physics of Dying and The Evolution of Fear but Reconciliation for the Dead is something else both as part of the Clay Straker family and as a novel.

At this point in time we’re a little ahead of the book’s publication date so I’ll be wary of giving away too much in terms of plot or spoiler. Instead I’ll say that Reconciliation for the Dead is a real genre-defier; at times action thriller, at times political intrigue, at others social commentary and at times literary fiction but BRILLIANT throughout. Hugely gripping, deeply moving, highly intelligent, and – as is a real hallmark of Hardisty’s work – a story with heart and conscience.

As detailed in the PR, this novel sees Clay return to his native South Africa to testify in front of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – not so much for personal absolution but to lay out the truth on behalf of those unable to tell their stories. This isn’t one for the faint of heart; there are some intense scenes involved, bold and powerful revelations  from which Hardisty does not flinch. It’s practically impossible to run through just which atrocities we’re talking about here but we’re looking at the real nadir of human behaviour that’s let loose at times of war.  That so much of it is based on real events makes it all the more affecting.

The action scenes – into which you’re thrust pretty much from the get-go – are hugely immediate and crack along at a dizzying pace while retaining an intelligence that’s not all that common in the genre. For those who have read the previous novels Clay and Crowbar are both familiar characters – the events of Reconciliation for the Dead allow a far greater an understanding, filling in the gaps of a troubled and tortured history merely hinted at before.

This is a novel of actions and their consequences, of the past and its long shadow, the importance and cost of conscience and of the weight of regret. It makes for a gripping and compelling read. Hardisty’s writing, already accomplished – in my review of his first book I wondered if he hadn’t secretly been penning thrillers for years under an assumed name – is at it’s finest here; insightful, nuanced and intelligent and courageous; asking us all to examine our humanity and the cost of our actions.

Reconciliation for the Dead is as intense, thought provoking and hugely rewarding a read as it gets. Easily one of the best books of 2017. My thanks, as always, to Karen at Orenda for my copy of this book and do check out the other stops on the blogtour.

 

Blog Tour: Sealskin by Su Bristow

img_1900Sometimes a book will come along that hypnotises you just so and holds you so much under its spell that when it comes time to even attempt to do it justice in a review that it becomes pretty much impossible to put into words just how bloody good it is and those superlatives that are known merely prove inadequate. Su Bristow’s Sealskin is one of those books.

Winner of 2013’s Exeter Novel Prize, Sealskin is based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people. More specifically the legend of a fisherman who, one night at full moon, witnessed nine seals who came to shore, took off their skins and became beautiful young women dancing on the beach. In Su Bristow’s novel that fisherman watches the women dance and, unable to contain himself, makes a terrible mistake. That mistake has ramifications for both him, the young woman and the small fishing community where life is hard, the sea is all powerful and belief is as strong as fact.

So what could I say about this book now that it’s my turn on the blogtour? This book for which superlatives are not enough and others have heaped such well deserved praise on. What could I add?

I could say that it’s haunting, that it’s captivating and mesmerising. I could point out that Sealskin is one of the best things I’ve read and I could go on to say that Su Bristow’s narrative is so delicious that it pulls you slowly and completely into a story so satisfying and equal parts joyous and heartbreaking (utterly so) that it leaves you yearning for more and I could (should) also point out that when you do turn the final page the immersion within its world is so total that you will get withdrawal symptoms and find yourself looking around at your environment as if it were alien with an almighty book hangover.

I could say that I found this beautiful novel completely mesmerising that I barely put it down. I could mention that the characters are all so perfectly nuanced and full as to leave me wondering if this were legend or fact.

I could point out how Su Bristow’s portrayal of this bleak place’s calm, stoic acceptance of hardship and grief (“He could just remember his little sister, stumbling after him down the path, crying when she stung her hand on the nettles, laughing when he tickled her. She had it all to learn, too, when the fever burned her life away.”) is so much more affecting than anything I’ve read in some time.

I could say all of this but what I really want to say is that this Sealskin is such an absolute essential addition to any self-respecting book lovers’ collection that if you don’t love it there’s probably something wrong with you.

Yes, that’s what I’ll say: you need Sealskin by Su Bristow on your bookshelf. But only after you’ve read it and let it possess you.

I’ll also say a huge thanks again to Karen at Orenda for sending me a copy of this to review and for continuing to take chances on and publishing such bloody good literature.

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