Anne Bonny #BookReview The Winters by @lisagabrieletv 5* #Thriller #Suspense @harvillsecker

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The Winters by Lisa Gabriele
Review Copy
Synopsis:

An addictively suspenseful new novel set in the glamorous world of the New York Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that cannot be escaped.

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter – a wealthy senator and recent widower – and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets – the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

Inspired by the classic novel Rebecca, The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

My Review:

‘Last night Rebekah tried to murder me again’

The opening line of this novel, is enough to give anyone nightmares. But what is revealed inside is a much more complex layered suspenseful mystery.
Just less than a year ago, the now newly engaged protagonist met Senator Max Winter. Having no family herself she was rushed off her feet in what is a typical paperback romance fashion. However, all is not as it seems at the Asherley Estate…

‘Recklessness is a luxury to someone like me’

In the secluded house there are photos of Max’s ex-wife Rebekah everywhere. Not to mention their teenage daughter, whom presents as mood and resentful. But this is more than just ordinary teen angst. Dani appears to have a personality disorder and her feelings have built up, to utter contempt and hatred.

‘There are things you do when you’re desperate, things that would shock you’

Eventually, the would-be step-mum and Dani seem to bond. With Dani confiding and offloading some deeply held secrets. But is Dani just a drama queen intent on causing problems? or is something sinister making her behave this way…

One thing is for certain, Max has clearly underestimated his new ‘bride to be’.
An intense and gripping psychological thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed every single page. 5*

LG
Lisa Gabriele
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract #JoNesboMacbeth #ScandiNoir #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @HarvillSecker @DeadGoodBooks

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Macbeth by Jo Nesbo
Review to follow
Synopsis:

He’s the best cop they’ve got.

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

Extract: From Chapter One

The shiny raindrop fell from the sky, through the darkness, towards the shivering lights of the port below. Cold gusting north-westerlies drove the raindrop over the dried- up riverbed that divided the town lengthwise and the disused railway line that divided it diagonally. The four quadrants of the town were numbered clockwise; beyond that they had no name. No name the inhabitants remembered anyway. And if you met those same inhabitants a long way from home and asked them where they came from they were likely to maintain they couldn’t remember the name of the town either.

The raindrop went from shiny to grey as it penetrated the soot and poison that lay like a constant lid of mist over the town despite the fact that in recent years the factories had closed one after the other. Despite the fact that the unemployed could no longer afford to light their stoves. In spite of the capricious but stormy wind and the incessant rain that some claimed hadn’t started to fall until the Second World War had been ended by two atom bombs a quarter of a century ago. In other words, around the time Kenneth was installed as police commissioner. From his office on the top floor of police HQ 4 Chief Commissioner Kenneth had then misruled the town with an iron fist for twenty-five years, irrespective of who the mayor was and what he was or wasn’t doing, or what the powers-that- be were saying or not saying over in Capitol, as the country’s second-largest and once most important industrial centre sank into a quagmire of corruption, bankruptcies, crime and chaos. Six months ago Chief Commissioner Kenneth had fallen from a chair in his summer house. Three weeks later, he was dead. The funeral had been paid for by the town – a council decision made long ago that Kenneth himself had incidentally engineered. After a funeral worthy of a dictator the council and mayor had brought in Duncan, a broad-browed bishop’s son and the head of Organised Crime in Capitol, as the new chief commissioner. And hope had been kindled amongst the city’s inhabitants. It had been a surprising appointment because Duncan didn’t come from the old school of politically pragmatic officers, but from the new generation of well educated police administrators who supported reforms, transparency, modernisation and the fight against corruption – which the majority of the town’s elected get-rich-quick politicians did not.

And the inhabitants’ hope that they now had an upright, honest and visionary chief commissioner who could drag the town up from the quagmire had been nourished by Duncan’s replacement of the old guard at the top with his own hand-picked officers. Young, untarnished idealists who really wanted the town to become a better place to live.

The wind carried the raindrop over District 4 West and the town’s highest point, the radio tower on top of the studio where the lone, morally indignant voice 5 of Walt Kite expressed the hope, leaving no ‘r’ unrolled, that they finally had a saviour. While Kenneth had been alive Kite had been the sole person with the courage to openly criticise the chief commissioner and accuse him of some of the crimes he had committed. This evening Kite reported that the town council would do what it could to rescind the powers that Kenneth had forced through making the police commissioner the real authority in town. Paradoxically this would mean that his successor, Duncan the good democrat, would struggle to drive through the reforms he, rightly, wanted. Kite also added that in the imminent mayoral elections it was ‘Tourtell, the sitting and therefore fattest mayor in the country, versus no one. Absolutely no one. For who can compete against the turtle, Tourtell, with his shell of folky joviality and unsullied morality, which all criticism bounces off?’

In District 4 East the raindrop passed over the Obelisk, a twenty-storey glass hotel and casino that stood up like an illuminated index finger from the brownish-black four-storey wretchedness that constituted the rest of the town. It was a contradiction to many that the less industry and more unemployment there was, the more popular it had become amongst the inhabitants to gamble away money they didn’t have at the town’s two casinos.

‘The town that stopped giving and started taking,’ Kite trilled over the radio waves. ‘First of all we abandoned industry, then the railway so that no one could get away. Then we started selling drugs to our citizens, supplying them from where they used to buy train tickets, so that we could rob them at our convenience. I would never have believed I would say I missed the profit-sucking masters of industry, but at least they worked in 6 respectable trades. Unlike the three other businesses where people can still get rich: casinos, drugs and politics.’

In District 3 the rain-laden wind swept across police HQ, Inverness Casino and streets where the rain had driven most people indoors, although some still hurried around searching or escaping. Across the central station, where trains no longer arrived and departed but which was populated by ghosts and itinerants. The ghosts of those – and their successors – who had once built this town with self-belief, a work ethic, God and their technology. The itinerants at the twenty-four hour dope market for brew; a ticket to heaven and certain hell. In District 2 the wind whistled in the chimneys of the town’s two biggest, though recently closed, factories: Graven and Estex. They had both manufactured a metal alloy, but what it consisted of not even those who had operated the furnaces could say for sure, only that the Koreans had started making the same alloy cheaper. Perhaps it was the town’s climate that made the decay visible or perhaps it was imagination; perhaps it was just the certainty of bankruptcy and ruin that made the silent, dead factories stand there like what Kite called ‘capitalism’s plundered cathedrals in a town of drop-outs and disbelief’.

The rain drifted to the south-east, across streets of smashed street lamps where jackals on the lookout huddled against walls, sheltering from the sky’s endless precipitation while their prey hurried towards light and greater safety. In a recent interview Kite had asked Chief Commissioner Duncan why the risk of being robbed was six times higher here than in Capitol, and Duncan had answered that he was glad to finally get an easy question: it was because the unemployment rate was six 7 times higher and the number of drug users ten times greater.

At the docks stood graffiti-covered containers and run-down freighters with captains who had met the port’s corrupt representatives in deserted spots and given them brown envelopes to ensure quicker entry permits and mooring slots, sums the shipping companies would log in their miscellaneous-expenses accounts swearing they would never undertake work that would lead them to this town again.

One of these ships was the MS Leningrad, a Soviet vessel losing so much rust from its hull in the rain it looked as if it was bleeding into the harbour. The raindrop fell into a cone of light from a lamp on the roof of one two-storey timber building with a storeroom, an office and a closed boxing club, continued down between the wall and a rusting hulk and landed on a bull’s horn. It followed the horn down to the motorbike helmet it was joined to, ran off the helmet down the back of a leather jacket embroidered with norse riders in Gothic letters. And to the seat of a red Indian Chief motorbike and finally into the hub of its slowly revolving rear wheel where, as it was hurled out again, it ceased to be a drop and became part of the polluted water of the town, of everything.

Behind the red motorbike followed eleven others. They passed under one of the lamps on the wall of an unilluminated two-storey port building.

The light from the lamp fell through the window of a shipping office on the first floor, onto a hand resting on a poster: ms glamis seeks galley hand. The fingers were long and slim like a concert pianist’s and the nails 8 well manicured. Even though the face was in shadow, preventing you from seeing the intense blue eyes, the resolute chin, the thin, miserly lips and nose shaped like an aggressive beak, the scar shone like a white shooting star, running diagonally from the jaw to the forehead.

‘They’re here,’ Inspector Duff said, hoping his men in the Narcotics Unit couldn’t hear the involuntary vibrato in his voice.

JN
Jo Nesbo
Website

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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Death Of Mrs Westaway by @RuthWareWriter 5* #CrimeFiction #Mystery #Thriller #NewRelease @HarvillSecker Every family has its secrets. Some are worth killing for. . .

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The Death Of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware
Review Copy
Synopsis:

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back.
She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

My Review:

The Death Of Mrs Westaway is a cracking mystery novel, that I read in one sitting (laid down!). It has a protagonist Hal (Harriet) that I became quite fond of. Hal hasn’t had the easiest life by any measure and she is alone and facing tough choices in her young adulthood. I may or may not make the same choices she did. But I am guilty of certainly urging her to make them. I most definitely enjoyed watching the decision unfold.

The novel opens with Hal at her bleak attic flat at ‘marine view villas’. She is surrounded by final notices, hassled by loan sharks and contemplating which bill she can go without paying rent, gas or electric? She is being hassled by debt companies at work and at home. You really feel for her dire financial situation.

She receives a solicitor’s letter from a Mr Treswick of Penzance, Cornwall. He informs her due to the death of her grandmother Mrs Hester Mary Westaway, she is due a possible inheritance. He asks her to attend Trepassen House, for the funeral, wake and reading of the will.
The only issue is Hal’s Grandparents died 20yrs ago when she was a baby. Her father remains unknown and her mother has recently died. Hal is unsure who this letter is intended for, but she is sure it is not her.

‘You could claim this money, you know. Not many people could, but if anyone can pull this off it’s you’

We then see Hal in action at Brighton pier as Madame Margarida. She is a cold reader of fortunes, tarot cards and psychic predictions etc. She asks fellow pier worker Reg for advice how tells her in no uncertain terms to ‘take the money and run’. After her mothers accident and death, Hal became detached from her friends and previous social life. She is now a lonely, college dropout with no financial plan. Her loneliness really did resonate off the page. I felt so incredibly sorry for her. I echoed Reg and urged her to take the money.

‘The person she was now was not the girl she would have been’

Hal begins internet research into the mysterious Westaway’s. Looking for clues and insider information. She discovers Hester had three sons Harding, Abel and Ezra. She also uncovers a daughter Maud (feared dead).
She realises they think she is Maud’s long-lost daughter.

‘Whoever Maud Westaway had been, whatever had happened to her, she seemed to have gone without a trace’

Hal takes the train to Penzance and then the games really begin. Hal must utilise all her skill learnt at the pier to outwit the Westaway’s. The mystery of the novel unravels at Trepassen House. I was absolutely glued to the pages.
A fantastic novel and a big fat 5* from me.

RW
Ruth Ware
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Smoke And Ashes by @radiomukhers Abir Mukherjee 5* Genius #NewRelease #Historical #CrimeFiction #Calcutta @HarvillSecker ‘Outstanding historical crime fiction, that I would love to see adapted for the TV screens’

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Smoke And Ashes by Abir Mukherjee 
Review copy
Synopsis:

**From the winner of the 2017 CWA Historical Dagger Award**

India, 1921. Haunted by his memories of the Great War, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.

When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.

With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.

Set against the backdrop of the fervent fight for Indian independence, and rich with the atmosphere of 1920s Calcutta, Smoke and Ashes is the brilliant new historical mystery in this award-winning series.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of this series and If you haven’t read A Rising Man or A Necessary Evil, then you need to add them to your wish list asap. The series is phenomenal and historical crime fiction at its finest. It was my 126th read of the year so far and the 13th edition to the 5* Genius list. The era, characters and location that Abir Mukherjee has created within the series is sheer brilliance.
*I am a shameless fangirl*

The series is set post ww1 in Calcutta, India. The main characters are British Captain Sam Wyndham and Indian Sgt (Surrender-not) Banerjee. The novels are historical fiction, but there is always a grisly crime to be unearthed in the British Raj. I must admit that with this novel, I really felt the historical aspect of the novel had stepped up its game. The depth of historical detail really added to the story. India’s social and political climate is described in a fantastic method, letting the characters lead the scenes.
This is not a history lesson; the author simply invites you into 1921 Calcutta.

The novel opens with Sam fleeing the Imperial police force, blade in hand and covered in blood. He is fleeing a Tangra opium den and is certainly feeling the effects, shall we say. I began to wonder how bad is Sam’s opium addiction?
Is Sam going to be the murderer in this case?

‘Calcutta opium is best smoked ten feet below the corpses of half a dozen dead men’

Despite the police in pursuit, after the raid on the opium den, Sam manages to escape. But he can’t get out of his mind the dead body of the Chinese man he found. Why was the body so disfigured? Was this an opium ‘pipe dream’? Why was Commanding Officer Callaghan of Vice division raiding the den? Sam has so many questions as he falls asleep in a drug induced haze.

‘Calcutta was as flawed and dysfunctional as I was’ – Sam

When he awakes, late, as usual for Sam now. He finds Surrender-not has already left for work. He lights a cigarette and ponders his next course of action, over the body he found.

‘The Chinese were a law unto themselves. What they did to each other was none of my business’

In the background of the novel is the political protests of Mahatma Gandhi. It would appear the natives have tired of British rule and long for independence. Tempers are frayed, and the jails are full. With an impending visit from H.R.H Prince Edward scheduled for Christmas Day. Sam and surrender-not must ensure the streets are free from protestors.
Which will be no easy task, at all.

Lord Taggart, commissioner of the police for Bengal summons Sam to his office. He orders Sam and Surrender-not to deliver a message to Gandhi’s ‘chief rabble rouser’ – C.R Das that the organisation of congress volunteers is now banned. There are clear and spiteful threats issued, the natives must obey their British masters.

The theme of the British Raj and colonisation in general, makes this novel perfect for book groups. There are so many elements to debate. It is also easy to look back with the wisdom of hindsight. I spend many summer days at Osbourne House the summer home of Queen Victoria. It has an Indian room and there is evidence of Indian artefacts throughout. Queen Victoria was clearly impressed and inspired by Indian culture. I find it surprising that a culture for which she found so fascinating, she never visited. . .

Back to the novel and Sam. Not only is Sam battling his emotional past, with the loss of his wife Sarah. Annie makes a reappearance and he has an out of control opiate addiction. He eventually agrees to see a doctor and deal with his opiate addiction once and for all.

‘I preferred not to be reminded of the ghosts of Christmas past’ – Sam

With Das refusing to give in to Taggart’s demands. Sam is placed in the awkward position of delivering messages he no longer believes in or agrees with. . .

‘Tell him that I’ve no issue with arresting him, his family and every one of his supporters’ – Taggart

The British are in the difficult position of wanting to coerce the opposition via threats and intimidation and not wanting to make martyrs of them.
There will be no easy solution in British India.

Sam and Surrender-not are called to a crime scene at Shant-da’s medical clinic. Where they find the body of a young nurse Ruth Fernandez. Ruth’s corpse has the identical injuries as the Chinese victim at the opium den. But what links the murders? Ruth is a native from Goa but holds the role of military nurse. She openly practises her Christian faith. Are these murders political?
Has the non-violent protest suddenly turned to murder?

With the new murder and political tensions at an all time high, the British issue a military enforced curfew of 6pm. At times it felt that they did everything they could, to ignite the flames of riots.
Leaving Sam battling his personal opinions and professional responsibilities.

‘Maybe my penance was a life sentence’ – Sam

When another murder occurs, it is clear Calcutta has a serial killer on its hands and only one man knows the truth. Sam.

As said above the historical aspects are beautifully written and there is so much detail. Each political event, is broken down to be shown from both sides of the governmental powers. I wondered how the author would tackle the character of Gandhi and his political stance. What you discover is that Gandhi was a highly intelligent man, with a strategic mind. He meticulously planned his protests and lived by his convictions.
But I love the way Sam summarises the situation (and some of the finest writing might I add) . . .

‘To see a man as your enemy, you needed to hate him, and while it was easy to hate a man who fought you with bullets and bombs, it was bloody difficult to hate a man who opposed you by appealing to your moral compass’ – Sam

I was sad to see Surrender-not, firmly return to his role of side-kick. In the last novel I really felt his character gain such presence. Despite it being difficult to watch an intelligent man (must) take a back-seat to the British rule. Yet I respect the author for changing the style of each novel, keeping you the reader guessing and avoiding the huge error of repeating the same novel with just a different case.

Outstanding historical crime fiction, that I would love to see adapted for the TV screens. I can even picture the atmospheric opening credits, as we glance around 1920s Calcutta. 5* Genius.

AM
Abir Mukherjee
Twitter
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My review and Q&A for, A Rising Man
My review and Q&A for, A Necessary Evil

Anne Bonny #BookReview Star Of The North by D.B. John 5* #Thriller #NorthKorea #USA #NewRelease @HarvillSecker ‘Powerful writing that is destined for success’ #StarOfTheNorth

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Star Of The North by D.B. John
Review copy
Synopsis:

North Korea and the USA are on the brink of war

A young American woman disappears without trace from a South Korean island.

The CIA recruits her twin sister to uncover the truth.

Now, she must go undercover in the world’s most deadly state.

Only by infiltrating the dark heart of the terrifying regime will she be able to save her sister…and herself.

My Review:

I had previously heard great things about this novel and was very much looking forward to reading it. It is such a unique concept, set in the modern day and surrounding the mysterious country that is North Korea. I didn’t know a lot about NK going into the novel and although it is a fictional story, I felt I learned some of the obscure and frankly quite bizarre history of NK.

The novel opens on Baengnyeong Island in South Korea 1998. Young lovers Soo-Min and Jae-Hoon are enjoying a romantic trip to the beach. When suddenly it becomes clear they have witnessed something they shouldn’t have, and they are apprehended.
By whom, at this point is unclear.

2010 – Georgetown, Washington DC. Jenna is still under-going counselling after the trauma of losing her twin sister. Jenna is an intelligent, driven and ambitious young woman. She lectures at university’s and has not allowed her personal problems to hold her back. At least not academically or in the career sense. She is approached by a man claiming to have know her father and as a matter of national security.

‘We’re the Agency, Jenna. The CIA’ – Charles Fisk

In Baekam county, Ryanggang province North Korea. The novel will tell the story of Mrs Moon, a street vendor. What this character brings to the novel is an insight into the lifestyle in NK. Mrs Moon, lives in abject poverty and her life is far from easy. In NK a citizen’s life is dominated and controlled by the state. Every aspect of your life and you can be tried for even daring to ‘think’ against the regime. Mrs Moon takes hold of an ‘enemy package’ but what is really a package of much needed food and supplies and leaflets showing a way of life outside of NK.

‘Our Lord Jesus Christ a name erased from history’

Back in the US it becomes clear that Jenna (Jee-Min) is Soo-Min’s twin sister and is given an opportunity to hear from other abducted citizens and their families personally. There is a compelling moment between Jenna and Mrs Ishido, a Japanese citizen who had her 14yr old son abducted. It is in this moment you realise the sincere harsh reality of life in NK and it is about to get a whole lot worse. . . . .

Meanwhile, in NK as the citizens gather to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the workers party. Cho Sang-Ho a lieutenant colonel for the ministry of foreign affairs, learns that he is to be promoted. Bringing him ever closer to their supreme leader Kim Jong-Il. Whilst this would fil most citizens with joy and ambition. It fills Cho with dread. For Cho is adopted and doesn’t know the truth about his ancestry. Knowing a promotion will bring his heritage under severe scrutiny he is filled with fear.

‘The crime of having bad blood’

As Jenna continues to travel the globe in working with the CIA. Her backstory is further explored. Her mother Han is of Korean descent, whilst her father Douglas was African American. Douglas drank himself into an early grave after the disappearance of his daughter and his wife and surviving daughter Jenna, remain just clinging to life.

‘Time was simply a sentence she would serve until she died’ – Jenna

Back with Mrs Moon, we see the other side of NK, the side NK doesn’t want you to see. The poverty, vagrant kids and street informers.

‘There are those who starve, those who beg, and those who trade’

‘The Emperor – the soldiers – the citizens – the slaves’

As Jenna learns more and more about NK kidnapping of non-Korean citizens and why they would do this. She becomes a one-woman crusade to get justice for Soo-Min and the other citizens who had their lives stolen away. Jenna is further outraged when she learns of the infamous Camp 22 and the experiments that take place there. . .

‘The experiments require human prisoners’

Lieutenant Colonel Cho faces his greatest test yet, when he is given the assignment of embarking on a mission into the US.

‘He had never in his life imagined that he would enter the belly of the Yankee imperialist beast’ – Cho

The novel rotates around the point of views of Cho, Mrs Moon and Jenna. As we are given a full insight into life in NK and the fragile relationship it holds with the US. We learn what it means to be deemed an ‘unperson’ or have ‘hostile’ blood. There are moments it sounds eerily similar to Nazi Germany.
Yet this isn’t history. This is modern-day!

‘Purity brings reward. Impurity brings death’

I can’t fully cover the various themes within the novel as to do so would ruin the enjoyment of the novel for others. There were multiple times I read, in pure shock and horror. How is this going on in 2018? I found myself trying to fact-check which aspects of the novel were real and based on what testimony etc.
There is a part at the end of the novel which offers a great insight into further reading and resources. By the time you have finished Star Of The North, you NEED to read it.

The novel has powerful and hard-going themes but the quality of writing is astounding. The characterisation of Jenna, Cho and Mrs Moon really adds to the whole feeling of the novel. It doesn’t feel like a sociology lesson, it feels like a complex and well-written story, which it 100% is.
The mass brainwashing sounds like conspiracy theories gone mad.
But is this what it is really like in NK?
The urban myths spread by citizens and demand for complete and utter Kim worship is shocking to read. But not as shocking as the scenes from the gulags, political prisons and concentration camps. Where life is everything we have come to know about the holocaust. It is population control, murder and political genocide.

Even something just as simple as ‘the three generations rule’ sounds like something straight out of Nazi Germany.
This novel will shock you, it is dark, and it is frightening.
I can completely see why it carries the promo banner ‘thriller of the year’ because it is destined for success. 5*

More information about D.B. John