Solaris (Rebellion Publishing)
23 June 2020/ 17 September 2020/ 27 May 2021
Available as e, HB, 500pp, PB, 464pp
Source e: Advance e-copy via NetGalley/ audiobook
ISBN: 9781786183224 (e), 9781781088500 (HB),
The Final Twist is... exactly what it says. Very much of a piece with The Never Game and The Goodbye Man, the events of all three books taking place over two or three weeks, it is the culmination of Colter Shaw's attempts to avenge his father and complete the latter's quest to expose corporate chicanery (the reason the Shaw family took to a survivalist lifestyle in their remote mountain compound).
To give any more than that risks being spoilery, so while I'll try to minimise that, you have been warned!
I have loved these books and especially Shaw's - he's described here as 'The Restless Man' - nomadic lifestyle, travelling in his recreational vehicle the length and breadth of the US for posted rewards. I like his modesty, his self-sufficiency, above all his competence and planning. While Shaw may get into some desperate scrapes, he never does so without thought and care and he generally has a few cards up his sleeve.
Inevitably there is less of that lifestyle here. Really Shaw has been hunting down the truth behind his father's obsession and death, and now he's close to the deadly secret behind both. Back in San Francisco, where he made enemies in The Never Game, he's located a safe house of his father's where he may find some answers. Perhaps even answers to questions he hasn't thought of... But of course this means he's also closer to the shadowy BlackBridge corporation which seems to be at the heart of the mystery - and closer to the danger it poses.
This book was really fun to read. To tell you how much fun, I was reading a pdf copy on my iPad which I don't find the easiest on the eyes (no, bloggers don't get sent special vellum copies inscribed by the publicists in gold ink, I wish...) but still I simply CONSUMED this book, racing through it in pretty much one session and ending at some unhallowed time early in the morning. Deaver simply leads the field in page-turning, thrill-packed thrillers full of jeopardy and sky high stakes - and The Final Twist proves that.
We were led to expect corporate chicanery, BlackBridge flooding districts with cheap drugs to ease the way for clearance and redevelopment. If that seemed a slightly underwhelming reason for the persecution of Shaw's father, well, it does come emerge that there was more to it than that. But to get to that truth Shaw needs to solve one last riddle - and he's then faced with an unexpected moral dilemma. That aspect is, though, only part of what's in this book. Shaw (and BlackBridge) aren't the only players on the field, and some of them seem to have reach, and resources, that go beyond his means to oppose. It's one of those puzzles he might be able to work out if only people would stop trying to kill him and he could think for a while. Family is also involved, and we learn a lot more about Shaw's earlier life and the tensions and disputes that led up to his father's death. It is a satisfying ending.
I had been a bit worried that the focus on the wider mystery, rather than a missing person reward case, would take the edge off The Final Twist compared with the earlier books. I needn't have been concerned. It is a slightly different sort of story, but The Final Twist is as addictively readable as them, with a little extra edge all of its own.
In short, it's as perfect as one could wish - definitely not a place to come into this series, you do need to read them in order - but a fine completion to a trilogy. Is it a completion? Is this really the FINAL twist? Please Mr Deaver, I'd like to read more about Shaw's eccentric career and he seems to have blazed a trail for the peripatetic lifestyle (viz Nomadland), which, as I have said, I find fascinating.
For more information about The Final Twist, see the other stops on the tour, and the publisher's website here.
|Cover by Thea Dumitriu|
I'm SO grateful to Orbit for an advance copy of one of my most anticipated books of 2021.
The Broken God follows from The Gutter Prayer and The Shadow Saint, chronicling the prosperous manufacturing and trading city of Guerdon - a place where commerce, magic and industry mingle easily. The Godswar has finally come to Guerdon, but in contrast to the apocalyptic impact visited on other battlefields, an uneasy truce has been brokered with different areas of the city occupied by forces from Haith (a Northen power based on necromancy), Ishmere (home to mad gods) and Lyrix (a nation of pirates and dragons).
Action in The Broken God is chiefly focussed on Cari (Carillon Thay, who featured in Book 1, with less of a part in Book 2) and on Rasce, the human amanuensis of one of those dragons, who has been planted in Guerdon to reap the profits of the occupation ('The dragon takes what he wants'). Cari has left Guerdon carrying an ancient tome of magic (AKA 'the f****ng book') to trade her way into the wizard city of Khebesh where she hopes to find a cure for her friend Spar, who was turned into a new part of the city at the end of Book 1 (keep up!)
Cari's journey spirals into disaster, with an ally of the dragons chasing her for vengeance, power-hungry alchemists chasing her to find out what she's made of (literally) and exploit her connection to Spar, and... well, another old enemy also chasing her for vengeance (she killed a goddess). Rasce's story is like a supernatural twist on The Godfather - the dragons very much run their own organisation within the Lyrixian forces. It's all very family, with Rasce serving the dragon called Great-Uncle, who sets clear expectations of profit (the dragon takes what he wants). Soon, Rasce is allying with elements in Guerdon's restless underclasses of thieves and ghouls to seek power and wealth.
Hanrahan uses these two very different strands adroitly to keep the reader guessing, and the story flowing, both echoing and undercutting the style and themes of the first two books. The goings-on in Guerdon, featuring Rasce but also an espionage sub-plot as the authorities of the city try to tame him, reminded me more of the first book (which introduced Cari, Spar and their ghoul friend, Rat, in a doomed heist attempt) than the second (which largely followed the Haithi in their power plays). Again, there's more behind what happens than is apparent at first. Cari's adventures are rather different again - away from Guerdon and facing new threats from ragged gods, there is a real sense of her diminishment. Cari's lost the power that her bond with Spar gave her, and she's vulnerable again. In that vulnerability we discover a lot about Cari's history, her time as a sailor and why she fled Guerdon that first time. The world has changed since then, and a lot of what she remembers is now lost - when she discovers fragments of that early life, will they help her, or lead her into sentimentality and danger?
It's hard to convey the sense in this book of hard, or no, choices, of taint, a kind of moral culpability which infects everyone, Cari included, to some degree. There are really no heroes, only opponents. And there are no villains (one or two fairly minor characters excepted, perhaps) - only more opponents. Artolo, for example, wants revenge on Cari. He behaves in a pretty unpleasant way, but then Cari did cut off his fingers. Cari, equally, is ready to bargain with unspeakable horrors and to aid them, if it will get her into Khebesh. Rasce isn't all bad: the Guerdon thief Baston, who allies with him, tells himself that Rasce might be persuaded to serve a noble purpose - and justifies compromise in pursuit of that. The book conveys a unique atmosphere of shiftiness, compromise, failure, and decay.
Behind all this - somewhere - are the dreadful Black Iron Gods, and the tyrannical gods of Ishmere, but this is a world where people think they know how to deal with gods. Gods, here, are a kind of technology and none are so wild or so dangerous that somebody won't try to make use of them. The profusion of divinity emphasises, rather than overshadowing, human motivations, plots and struggles - while raising the stakes, the consequences of success or failure. If the gods are a technology, it's a deadly technology, a sort of nuclear-level dangerous technology which can leave whole lands haunted by monstrosities and fragments of jostling realities, a landscape worse than if it were simply made sterile. That's the world that Cari's struggling to travel through, subject to one horror after another, and it is a bad place to be, but the really scary truth she has to face is the ruin she seems to bring and the guilt that comes from that when the consequences come home to those she thinks of as friends.
The law of the Black Iron Gods seems to be the law of unintended consequences, of good intentions gone sour, of enmeshed and conflicting interests, of chains of events that nobody can foresee or control. It makes reading The Broken God into a fascinating, addictive and haunting experience where a distaste for what almost everyone is doing is finely balanced with a sneaking desire for them to push on further. To betray. To devastate.
The reader becomes complicit with what's happening, awful though it is.
It's the sort of book which, after you've finished it, doesn't so much make you feel unclean, as in need of an exorcism. In short, then, wonderful stuff, and a series that shows so signs of flagging, rather of really getting going. I can't recommend it too strongly.
For more information about The Broken God, see the publisher's website here.
I'm grateful to Jamie and Stephen at Black Crow PR for an advance copy of this book.
Priya has worked hard to get into the pre-med course at Stanford, but it looks as though all her dreams will turn to dust. Infected by Lyme disease, she's forced to return home as she struggles to cope with chronic symptoms which make the simplest tasks into major challenges. While her parents are loving and sympathetic, and her younger brother and sister put yup with her, she doesn't want sympathy, she wants her life back.
The only thing that makes things tolerable is the online support forum she joins ("off ouch my bones") and in particular, Brigid ("bigforkhands") who shares about the monthly affliction from which she suffers. Then one night Brigid stops answering the chats...
This is a warm, life affirming book in which Kristen O'Neal brings together (virtually, of course - they're spread round the globe) a disparate but welcoming group of mostly young (one is 26, is that young any more?) people. Their chats are rendered visually, creating a fast moving story that allows each to explain their challenges, share their high moments and receive support in their low points.
But you can only do so much online and when Brigid enters her crisis, Priya decides rot test just what she can do, pinches her mum's car, and heads over to help out...
There are then two main threads of story. the evolving relationship between the two young women which is great to follow. Their experiences have left both of them vulnerable and simply "having been in a bad place" isn't, it really isn't, enough for them to get everything about each other. "I understand", one may say, to someone else, but can you, can you really? O'Neal's too wise to simply say "these two people help each other and everything is fine from then on". It isn't. it can't be. But you do sense that they are trying.
The other thread - and the two cross of course - is the Thing that is Brigid's problem. What can I say here? I don't want to spoil anyone, but the book's title... and that cover... may be pretty big clues. Let's just say, Brigid has problems with a part of herself that she doesn't welcome. That's also true for the other members of the group, of course, but there are... aspects... of Brigid's situation that mark her as different. Dangers that her situation poses, to others. And risks she runs, if the truth becomes known. So the story follows a roller coaster of peril, rescue and risk, comedic at times (once Spencer comes on the scene, he, Brigid and Priya make a fun triple act), scary at others and always, always, providing a thoughtful commentary on difference, acceptance and growth.
It's often not easy. There are some furious flare-ups and some hard truths to face.
But it's, in the best sense, a story of change and discovery.
Overall a really fun book, one with real heart. I'd recommend. (In a time when many are enduring and coping with the still poorly understood long covid, I think a bit of representation of those living with chronic illness may be rather timely).
|Design by Jo Thomson|
For more information about Hummingbird Salamander, see the publisher's website here.
|Cover design |
by Lauren Panepinto
I'm grateful to Corylus Books for providing me with a free advance copy of Silenced to consider for review - and for inviting me to join the book's blogtour.
Silenced follows The Fox, in which we met Guðgeir Fransson, a detective with the Reykjavík police who was under a cloud and waiting for a decision on the future of his career (and also, his marriage). Now Guðgeir is back in Reykjavík and while he's not got his old job back (that role is held by his former protégé Særós) he is playing a useful part in investigations, at the same time as he and his wife move from a house that clearly holds painful memories.
That move brings Guðgeir across the path of Andrea Eythórsdóttir, a young social media influencer (I really enjoyed seeing Guðgeir grapple with that idea!) whose brother vanished twenty years before. Andrea is pretty traumatised by the whole thing and taking to the bottle, and Guðgeir begins to look into the case. He has barely got started however when he's called away to investigate the apparent suicide, in prison, of another young woman - swiftly followed by the first in a series of particularly brutal rapes.
Silenced has, as you'll have gathered, some dark themes. Like The Fox, it exposes patriarchal violence against, and control of, women and a content warning would be in order for the book since there are some frank (though not gratuitous) accounts of what happens. Pálsdóttir expertly weaves together a number of strands: Andrea, who as I have said, is herself troubled; her somewhat haughty family; Kristín, the young woman who died in prison and whose earlier life is seen both in flashbacks and in the words of a friend; and Guðgeir's own life, back on track but about to be upset when his student daughter announces that she is pregnant. I liked the way that Pálsdóttir then has Guðgeir reflect on that - on the extent to which the boyfriend may or may not become involved in parenting, on the childhoods and life chances of the people he meets as part of the investigation, especially the Eythórsdóttir children, and on his own earlier life. There's a sense of Iceland being a small place where paths cross often with different characters having attended the same college at different times, for example, as well as that closeness still allowing goodness knows what to happen in some families, unsuspected by those outside.
In contrast to all this exploration of human nature, I also enjoyed the sense of Guðgeir settling back into a familiar place, in contrast to his life as seen in The Fox where he was out of his element.
Which only makes it all the more disturbing, of course, when the attacks on women begin to mount and the team need to react and track down the perpetrator. That procedural aspect of the story makes this also an excellent book if seen primarily as a mystery (I did work out what was happening before the end) and I like the fact that, while dealing with very serious crimes, neither this book nor its predecessor give the centrality to murder that one so often finds in crime.
The translation by Quentin Bates is clear and strikes a good balance between keeping the setting and atmosphere clear - this is obviously Iceland! - and leaving the reader to puzzle over details or references with which they may be unfamiliar.
An excellent addition to a series that I am looking forward to following.
About the Author
Sólveig Pálsdóttir trained as an actor and has a background in the theatre, television and radio. In a second career she studied for degrees in literature and education, and has taught literature and linguistics, drama and public speaking, and has produced both radio programming and managed cultural events.
Her first novel appeared in Iceland in 2012 and went straight to the country’s bestseller list. She has written five novels featuring Reykjavík detective Guðgeir Fransson and a memoir, Klettaborgin, which was a 2020 hit in Iceland.
Silenced (Fjötrar) received the 2020 Drop of Blood award for the best Icelandic novel of the year and is Iceland’s nomination for the 2021 Glass key award for the best Nordic crime novel of the year.
Sólveig lives in Reykjavík.
For more information about Silenced, see the publisher's website here (including buy links) and the stops on the blogtour, listed on the poster below.