A Presence of Absence by Sarah Surgey and Emma Vestrheim

Hi everyone,

Today is Ellen’s stop on the blog tour for A Presence of Absence by Sarah Surgey and Emma Vestrheim. Ellen’s review is further down the post, but have a look at all of the bookish info first!

About the book:

A Presence of Absence High Res

A Presence of Absence is the first book in The Odense Series. Although this is a solid crime novel, it also begins and ends with grief for many of the characters, personal demons and life decisions.

A gritty murder case gets in the way of the characters’ everyday lives and sends the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish city of Odense, into a panic.

British detective Simon Weller escapes the fallout from the recent suicide of his Danish wife, Vibeke and heads out to her home city of Odense. But once there he is paired up with a local detective, Jonas, who is also about to his rock bottom in his home life, and they must overcome their differences and personal problems to try and catch one of the worst serial killers Odense has ever seen. The case takes them back into past decades as history starts catching up with some of the local inhabitants. When Simon realises that his wife’s suicide may not be all it seems and her name appears in the cas, his integrity within the case is compromised, how far will he go to find out the truth of Vibeke’s past and hide it from his already troubled police partner?

Back home in London Simon’s family are struggling with their own web of lies and deceit and the family is falling apart.

With one family hiding a dark secret, the whole case is just about to reach breaking point.

Amazon USA:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XFS75LT
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XFS75LT

About the authors:

Sarah Surgey


Sarah Surgey is a 36 year old British feature writer for various magazines. She lives in the UK with her husband and 4 daughters.

She has had an interest in all things Nordic for many years and has written about many genres within this subject for publication. Although British, she has Danish family and enjoys exploring Denmark and its culture whenever the opportunity arrives.

Sarah was brought up with crime books and inevitably has always had crime story scenarios going around inside her head. After interviewing many famous authors for different magazines within the Nordic literary circle and always knowing the answer to her question of “why did you start writing?” she felt now was her time to get her stories out there, for people to read!

Emma Vestrheim


Emma Vestrheim is the owner and editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia, a Nordic film and television journal that analyses popular Nordic titles. Part of her work includes working with directors, actors and filmmakers, and her numerous interviews with the biggest names in Nordic film and television have given her a privileged access to what makes Nordic narratives so successful. Cinema Scandinavia publishes bimonthly and is available in major Nordic film libraries.

Author links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheOdenseSeries
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OdenseSeries
Instagram: Sarah: https://www.instagram.com/the_wormcatcher/ Emma: https://www.instagram.com/emmavestrheim169/

Website: www.theodenseseries.com

Ellen’s review:

I haven’t read much Nordic Noir so jumped at the opportunity to read and review A Presence of Absence which jumps between London and the Danish city of Odense. Odense is the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson and a series of horrific murders in this quiet city sends the locals into a panic. The murders appear to be random attacks; people are being strung up and hay is left stuffed in their mouths.

Simon Weller (who is recovering from his wife Vibeke’s suicide) is appointed the investigating officer and teamed with local detective Jonas. Both men are battling their own personal demons and in danger of damaging their careers. I enjoyed seeing these mismatched characters attempting to pull together to resolve the mystery rather than tear each other down.


Meanwhile, back in London, Simon’s daughter Sanne has issues of her own. As well as dealing with the her mother’s suicide, her husband is acting strangely and is not happy that Simon is investigating the Odense case.  I really felt sorry for Sanne, at the one time when she needed her husband’s support he wasn’t interested.


This isn’t just a book about crime and retribution, it is one of grief and the ripple effect it can have on everyone. An amalgamation of Nordic Noir and Brit Crime equals a winning combination! Four stars from me and I look forward to reading more in the series.

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Jeopardy Surface by Sheri Leigh Horn

About the book:


It’s the witching hour and Special Agent Regan Ross is having a WTF kind of night. Morning? How the hell did she get from her bed to her front yard? And why is she holding a loaded firearm? Sleepwalking doesn’t bode well for the rising star in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, but whatever is causing her recent weight loss and bizarre nocturnal activities will have to wait. The phone is ringing. It’s probably her sister Erin, the surgeon who knows best, demanding to know her plans for the holidays. Why would this year be any different? They’ll spend the somber anniversary and Christmas like always—drinking too much, watching Turner Classic Movies, and not talking about their dead parents. Caller ID provides yet another surprise.

Hearing Special Agent Robert Haskins’ voice for the first time in six months has Regan reeling. The mention of Maryland’s Eastern Shore conjures images of Jennifer Abbott, the student-athlete whose disappearance from a small campus is national news. There are complications. For starters, her areas of expertise—geographic profiling and predictive analysis—require a lot of information from a series of crimes. Single murders typically aren’t her purview and involving herself in an investigation to which she has not been officially assigned would cause her supervisor’s head to spin off. She should say no, but there’s too much residual guilt where Rob Haskins is concerned.

Regan Ross knows bad, and this one is BAD. The killer has left the mutilated body and a cache of troubling clues at a remote farm and posted the coordinates of the cache on a popular geocaching website. Is he taunting investigators? Expediting the discovery of his work? Both? The calculated modus operandi and uniquely sadistic signatures are not the work of a novice, and Regan is sure of one thing: he will kill again.

When visiting forensic psychologist Dr. Sheridan Rourke present a lecture at Quantico featuring closed cases from Northern Ireland, Regan makes a shocking connection between an older series of murders and the Maryland case. Despite the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s insistence to the contrary, Regan and Rourke are convinced the killer of five women in Belfast two years ago is hunting women on the Chesapeake Bay. As the two become unlikely partners, Regan learns the psychologist’s past may be as haunted as her own.

Buy the book:

Jeopardy Surface by Sheri Leigh Horn

About the author:


SHERI LEIGH HORN, a Texas native, spent two decades in the military, instructional design, and private investigation fields before pursuing her true passion: cultivating stories. She lives in Northern Virginia with her sons, Australian Cattle Dogs, and Truman Capote the cat, dreaming of a quiet lakeside writing life.

My thoughts:

By definition, jeopardy surface is geographic profiling. Geographic profiling is an investigative support technique for serial violent crime investigations. The process analyzes locations connected to a series of crimes to determine the most probable area in which the offender lives.

Sheri Leigh Horn’s book follows Reagan Ross, a geographic profiler who is called out to a body discovered in Maryland. By examining statistical locational data along with a geocache found with the body, theoretically it’s a way to narrow down the field in which the suspect operates.

Jeopardy Surface surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but once I got into the story I couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed this book. The characters were great, human, flawed, honest. The plot was immersive and the murders graphic and gruesome. My kinda read for certain.

Reagan Ross is an interesting character. Sister to Erin, aunt to Lanie, we know she’s had a tough start in life. Emotionally closed off, and very focused on her job, Ross is quite a deep character. I loved her job, the whole idea of geographical profiling and its radical methods of gathering data is a highly unusual and excellent addition to the crime fiction field. It’s not something I’ve ever seen in books, but it definitely got my attention.

The pace of Jeopardy Surface is excellent. Once I was hooked I couldn’t stop turning the pages. There was so much more going on than the murders and it was gripping. I genuinely can’t wait to read more from Sheri Leigh Horn!

Highly recommended!

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Dead Gone by Luca Veste 

About the book:

The young girl you have found isn’t the first experiment I’ve carried out. She won’t be the last.

A tense, unpredictable crime debut that will not only have you gripped, but will chill you to the bone. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham.

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Liverpool, gruesomely murdering victims as part of a series of infamous, unethical and deadly psychological experiments.

When it becomes apparent that each victim has ties to the City of Liverpool University, DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi realise they’re chasing a killer unlike any they’ve hunted before – one who doesn’t just want his victims’ bodies, but wants their minds too.

Buy the book: 

Dead Gone by Luca Veste

About the author:

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Liverpudlian heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He studied psychology and criminology at university in Liverpool. He is the author of the Murphy and Rossi series, which includes DEAD GONE, THE DYING PLACE, BLOODSTREAM, and THEN SHE WAS GONE.

Part psychological thriller, part police procedural, his books follow the detective pairing of DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi. The novels are set in Liverpool, bringing the city to life in a dark and terrifying manner…with just a splash of Scouse humour.



My thoughts:

Ok. So, in doing up this post, I’ve learned two things. A) I’ve had Dead Gone on my kindle since 2014!!!!!! and b) I have been seriously missing out on what looks to be a really solid crime series!

Dead Gone is the first in the Liverpool-based Murphy and Rossi series. It follows their investigation into a psychopathic serial killer who seems to be targeting people who have ties to the City of Liverpool University.

I have to say, I was gripped early on thanks to Luca Veste’s writing style. There’s something there that just hooks the reader and keeps them turning the pages and I was no exception.

I loved the characterisation too. Murphy sounds like an absolute giant of a man, but he’s been through a lot, so there a level of vulnerability there that makes him very endearing. He’s not your typical male lead that you read so often in books, and I really likes him as a character. Rossi also seems like the perfect equaliser for him. A strong woman and capable of picking up even the subtlest of nuances in her partners demeanour. 

I’m not going to go into the plot. As per. I thought I had it all figured out, more than once. And I was wrong. Prove me wrong and you have a reader for life! The serial-killer/ antagonist in Dead Gone is twisted. The experiments they carry out are dark, and creepy and oddly compelling in their reasoning. 

All in all, a belter of a start with Dead Gone. This one was on my personal TBR hence it took me so long to read it. I have the others though, and I won’t be waiting years to get to them, that’s for certain!

Safe to say you have a new fan Mr. Veste. 

Highly recommended! 

*Blog Tour* Dead Embers by Matt Brolly

Hi everyone,

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Dead Embers, the latest DCI Lambert book from Matt Brolly. I haven’t had the time to read this one yet, but I get to share the opening with you all today! Here’s the important bookish information first though!

About the author:


Following his law degree where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He reads widely across all genres, and is currently working on the third in his Michael Lambert thriller series. Matt lives in London with his wife and their two young children.

Website: http://mattbrolly.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewBrolly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mattbrollyauthor/

About the book:

Dead Embers

An explosive fire. A double murder. And that’s just the start…

When DCI Michael Lambert is called out to an apparent house fire, he knows it can’t be routine. Instead he finds the remains of a burnt house, a traumatised child and two corpses – one of whom is a senior police officer.

Lambert’s got other problems. Anti-corruption are onto his boss. His relationships is on the rocks. He can’t get over his ex-wife and he keeps blacking out.

But when a detective has been murdered the stakes are too high to get distracted. All is not as it seems. As the investigation continues Lambert realises he is getting drawn into something altogether bigger and more terrifying than he could ever have imagined…

Buy the book:

Dead Embers by Matt Brolly


Chapter One


The girl pulled the duvet over her head and tried to return to sleep.

Her skin bristled with heat beneath the cover and she stuck her head back out. ‘Mummy?’ she whispered, her words lost in the darkness.

Her toys acted as if nothing was happening. She grabbed Laney and studied her face, the glass eyes and stitched smile revealing no sense of fear. A crashing noise came from downstairs and she retreated back further beneath the covers with her doll.

It was hot, and not just because she was wrapped in the duvet. She wanted to leave the room, to make the small journey to Mummy and Daddy’s room, but they didn’t like her leaving her bed in the middle of the night and she wanted to be a good girl. Mummy would come to her if anything was wrong, she was sure. She listened, but all she could hear was the rapid thumping of her heart.

‘What do you think?’ she asked Laney, as more noises rose from the depths of the house. The sounds were familiar but she couldn’t recall from where. She closed her eyes and pictured the dragon from the book Mummy read to her at bedtime.

She poked Laney’s head out of the duvet and turned the doll’s face in a circle so she could check nothing was in the room with them. Laney didn’t say anything so she stuck her head back out.

The room had changed. She rubbed her eyes. She must be tired. Mummy and Daddy always said she was tired when things were going wrong. Her eyes watered, and the room faded. She glanced down at the nightlight, peering closer at the air which danced around the orange glow, when the door blew open.

She grabbed Janey closer and started to cough. A strange figure stood in her doorway. He wore a helmet and a funny mask. Behind him, something glowed like her nightlight but much brighter. It had changed the house. The man mumbled something and she struggled to keep her eyes open as he grabbed her from her bed and placed something over her mouth.

Follow the blog tour:

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Previous Matt Brolly posts:

Dead Eyed by Matt Brolly

Dead Lucky by Matt Brolly

Zero by Matt Brolly

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

About the book:


On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

This isn’t out until June, but you can pre-order your copy by clicking HERE!

My thoughts:

So regulars readers of my blog will know I’m not a huge reader of YA (young adult) fiction. I don’t know why, it’s just not something that was on my radar until maybe the middle of last year. Well books like One Of Us Is Lying make me want to read it a hell of a lot more to be honest.

I had seen this book mentioned by one of my fave bloggers, Liz from Liz Loves Books, and we have pretty similar taste so I figured I’d give it a go. It helps that she described it in terms of The Breakfast Club movie, which is one of my all time favourite movies. I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d cave and break my Netgalley ban.

It was SO WORTH IT!!!

One Of Us Is Lying hooked me completely from the outset. I loved the premise. Five teenagers in detention and only 4 of them make it out alive. I mean, terrible yes, but how could you not want to find out why?! And the comparisons to the seminal John Hughes classic are not unwarranted. The characters are pretty much all present; the jock, the criminal, the athlete, the social outcast, the homecoming queen.

The chapters are told by the four different kids who get out of that classroom. Each one has their own voice, and by the end it was easier to distinguish one from the other. While they experienced a terrible situation, I found the destruction to their lives after the incident to be the most compelling to read. High school is a huge transformation period for these kids, and they have a massive shadow hanging over them, as they all get questioned in relation to what turns out to be murder.

Simon, the kid that was murdered, ran a gossip site, About That. Coincidentally, the day after his death, there were posts scheduled for the four others that were in detention with him, so it seems they all had something to lose. And motive.

What follows is utterly absorbing. Every chapter there is new information coming to light from somewhere. Every one of these teens is a suspect, every one of them had something to hide. One Of Us Is Lying shows the effects that secrets and lies can have on the lives of others, as well as the teenage psyche.

Loved this book, definitely one to watch out for in 2017. I don’t want to say any more for fear of spoiling anything!

Highly recommended!

*Blog Tour* The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Meija


Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia. I finally get to share my review with you all after reading this in early February. Totally worth it though! Here’s the usual bookish info first though!

About the book:

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life.

Click HERE to get your copy!


My thoughts:

Ahhhh Hattie, how you broke my heart….

I had seen The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman on social media late last year maybe. I’m almost certain it was a quote from the book, and I knew instantly I had to read it. Something as innocuous as a twitpic was enough to make me covet this book, and I am so so glad I got to read it. So glad.

I tend not to read the blurbs on books when I’m starting them, purely so I go in relatively blind with regard to what I’m going to be reading so Hattie was a real surprise to me if I’m honest. It wasn’t what I remembered, and it was definitely an unexpected book in so many ways.

I hate going into detail with plots. Especially with books like this one, because there is a dual timeline and more than one character narrating the (alternating) chapters. Do not let this bother you though. It is so well told, and so exceptionally compelling that it will keep you turning those pages.

Hattie is found stabbed to death on the opening night of her schools production of Macbeth. This stuns the tight-knit community where she lives. What follows is a haunting and very evocative investigation with so many subtle nuances that leave the reader questioning everyone and everything in this book. The alternating timelines really add to this as we hear from Hattie, the local Sherriff (Del Goodman), and Hattie’s English teacher, and they all give their own versions of the different events leading up to the murder.

I’m not going to say anymore. There’s nothing I’ve said that you won’t have seen in the book’s descriptions. I will say that this book is a real treat. Terrible subject matter for certain, but it’s absolutely gripping. Small town claustrophobia coupled with secrets and lies make for a devastatingly haunting book.

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a traumatic, emotional, chilling and hugely addictive book. The kind that you will want to keep going back to so you can read just another little bit. The kind that will stay with you after reading it.

Highly recommended!

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Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch 

img_4729*Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy*

About the book:

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.
Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.
Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her to death if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.
But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.
And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.
Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

Buy the book:

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch

About the author:


Julia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.

Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year’s editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.

Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013, followed by Every Vow You Break in 2014 and Her Husband’s Lover in 2017. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China.

Unable to find a sub-genre of crime writing that neatly described her work, she came up with the term Domestic Noir, which is now widely accepted as the label for one of the most popular crime genres today. She has even written a foreword to a book of academic essays on the subject.

She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch, their three children, two cats called Keith and Sandra, and about twelve guitars (you can find #Keith, who has his own hashtag, on twitter). She is a self-confessed geek and fights a daily battle to resist tinkering with the code on her website, which can be found at http://www.juliacrouch.co.uk.

My thoughts:

In a bid to work through my TBR, I picked this up at the end of February as I had seen lots of brilliant early reviews for it. I haven’t actually read any of Julia Crouch’s books so this was all new to me. That being said, I do have Cuckoo on my personal TBR, but let’s face it, that’s a black hole of books at the moment so who knows when I’ll actually get to read anything from those shelves!

Her Husband’s Lover is an intriguing read. Very much character-driven more so than anything else. Julia Crouch has written some very complex characters in this book. It’s very hard to review this without giving anything away if I’m honest though!

The book follows Louisa, who is running away from her abusive husband. Fleeing with her two kids, they end up in a crash which kills her husband and children. Upon her recovery, Louisa finds out her husband had a mistress, who is pregnant with his child. What follows is a tense and twisty read, full of red herrings!

A psychological thriller, with elements of domestic noir, Her Husband’s Lover is quite a clever book. I think if you enjoy BA Paris and Lisa Hall’s books, you will love this one.

As I said, I can’t review it properly without possibly giving away anything. I did figure out some stuff early on but Julia Crouch has done a good job with this one! Definitely an interesting read for sure.