#BlogTour #GuestPost #TheManWhoDied by @antti_tuomainen @OrendaBooks #TeamOrenda @annecater

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen
translated by David Hackston
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, markinng a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.


Where Do You Get Your Ideas, or, The Anatomy of The Man Who Died

Two things have happened: I have worked very hard for a number of years and I have been, at times, very lucky. Both have been elemental in my becoming a fulltime writer and having written seven novels to date. Of those seven novels, five have been translated from the original Finnish to other languages. One book has been translated into 28 languages with the other four getting anything between 12 and 2 foreign editions per book.

I think no one is more surprised by this than I am. I never expected this. It nevertheless happened and it’s been wonderful. In the beginning, almost surreal. But – and I will eventually get to the point, I promise – what it has also done is getting me invited to other countries. This is where it gets even more surprising. Somebody somewhere is willing to pay for a writer to visit her/his country and talk about – and this is where it gets just downright unbelievable – her/his books. And I have been invited. All over the world. From Mexico to Hong Kong. From Stockholm to San Francisco.

On these numerous trips both home and abroad, I’ve done what has been asked of me and I have indeed talked about my books. Hundreds of times to what must be by now thousands of people. What most often happens after I’ve talked or been interviewed for the allotted time is that there are audience questions. And no matter where I find myself, a few of these questions seem indeed universal: Why do you think Scandinavian crime novels are so successful? Is Finland really that cold? What do you think of (insert here the name of the country you’re just then visiting)? And, of course: Where do you get your ideas?

Now this is where it becomes slightly difficult – never mind the questions about family (I’m married to Anu who is both beautiful and funny), my sobriety (14 years and counting, one day at a time) or money (no, I’m not rich). It gets more complicated because I feel there really isn’t a simple, ready answer. So I usually reply with what feels like the most honest and thought-through statement: I really don’t know. After all, it is to a large extent true. But that of course makes no one any wiser, myself included. So I thought I’d try to answer that question a little more thoroughly here and thought it would be easiest through a case study of sorts: by seeing how my new book The Man Who Died came to be.

My new book The Man Who Died marks a great change of direction for me. After writing five very dark novels ranging from the icy North of The Mine to the dystopia of The Healer I felt I had given all I had in that direction, at least for the time being. I tried to write a few things in the same vein but they felt forced and wrong. I had to do something different, something new. This was the first lightbulb moment. I had to take a step back and do a little inventory.

Two of my great loves, artistically, have been with me ever since I made up my mind about becoming a writer at 18. Noir and comedies. I dearly love them both. And I realized I had been curiously restricting myself. I had held back on the comedy aspect. I don’t know why the realization hit me so hard just then and there but it did. It was quite obvious I needed to combine the two. I needed to write a noir comedy. I was through with restricting myself. You have to write what you have to write. First hurdle cleared.

This led directly to the main character and his dilemma. Every story I’ve ever worked on, I always start with a character/characters. I don’t worry about the plot. Well, not anymore. I used to, but I’ve gotten over it. I trust the characters will show me where to go. I needed a person with the biggest problem and suddenly had him: a man is sitting in a doctor’s office and hears he is dying. That’s a problem, I thought. He’s been poisoned over a long period of time. That’s an even bigger problem. For a good reason, he doesn’t want to go to the police. Perfect, I thought.

I still had a number of problems. One of them was setting. My first idea for the setting of the story was an advertising agency in Helsinki. I was already on page 45 or something like that when I was about to fall asleep. The setting was so boring. I’ve worked altogether 12 years as an advertising copywriter in various advertising agencies and I can assure you that it is nothing like what you see on movies, TV and books. It is not sexy, flashy, dangerous, slick or even very cool. It is work. You enter the agency in the morning, work, leave in the evening. In between, you think, write and speak with people. I would think that applies to quite a few jobs nowadays. Anyway, that setting had to go.

One morning I was walking to my office on the other side of downtown Helsinki. I remembered an article I read a while back. It was the kind of article you see haphazardly, glance your eyes over it and forget it. And I had forgotten it, until just now. The article was a speculation about a certain type of mushroom you can (potentially) find in the Finnish forests that is (presumably) in high demand in the culinary circles in Japan. The article further speculated that if someone in Finland were to pick them and export them that might be a good business.

I called my agent immediately. Not because I wanted to start a mushroom exporting business but because after weeks of desperation I had a suitable setting for the kind of story I was telling. There was something wonderfully absurd about this. In a short time, I built a successful mushroom business – on paper, I mean. I invented a whole operation to make it possible for someone to succeed as a premium mushroom entrepreneur and exporter.

In hindsight, I must have done it quite convincingly because I was later interviewed for the Finnish Mushroom Magazine and many people who were into mushrooms told me that they never would have guessed that I know so much about mushrooms and both the international and the domestic mushroom industry. Truth is, I don’t know anything. There is neither an international nor domestic mushroom industry. I made it up. But, to get back to the original task, this was one more hurdle cleared.

The mushrooms were beneficial in another way as well. In my previous five novels, Helsinki, my home city where I’ve lived all my life apart from a year in the US and a shorter period in Berlin, had been one of the main characters. I had loved writing about Helsinki, showing its many sides, but now that had to go as well. There are no mushrooms on the streets of Helsinki. Well, there are, but they are of the illegal kind.

So the location presented another challenge. But I didn’t have to look far. I found what I was looking for in less than two hours’ drive from Helsinki. I spent my boyhood summers in Hamina, a small town on the Baltic shore, east from Helsinki. To a boy, it was a magical place in the summer months. The sea was everywhere as the town was built on peninsulas and islands. And I knew the town. I knew how it feels, how it is, I knew the streets and the environments. There were the dense forests around it, perfect for mushrooms. And somehow the small town atmosphere was, again, perfect for the kind of story I wanted to tell.

The rest of the answer, I think, lies in the writing, the physical act of sitting down and writing the book. Because that is actually where the ideas really happen. You write to see what you have to write. It might sound a bit simplistic, but it is true. For me, at least. By writing I find what I need to write next. I can think about things no end, but I won’t know if it works unless I write it. The proof is in the pudding, as I’ve heard said.

To conclude: I seem to get my most of my ideas one at a time, gradually. Both by being honest about what I want to do and by seeing what needs to be done in order to achieve that. Secondly, I need to write to see if it can be written at all. And what still remains a mystery is the part that really can’t be explained: Where did this strong urge to change directions come from? Why did I suddenly think about that article? To properly answer the original question seems impossible. But hopefully my little case study has provided some answers. I know I’m a little more aware of the anatomy – both of the novel and my own.

Antti Tuomainen
Antti Tuomainen
Author bio:
Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his literary best.
Authors links:
Twitter: @antti_tuomainen
Website: http://anttituomainen.com/
via publisher: http://orendabooks.co.uk/antti-tuomainen/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5142432.Antti_Tuomainen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnttiTuomainenOfficial/



#BlogTour Q&A with @detectivekubu Michael Stanley @OrendaBooks #TeamOrenda

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Dying To Live by Michael Stanley


The sixth mystery in the beloved and critically acclaimed Detective Kubu series. Kubu and his colleague Samantha Khama track a killer through the wilds of Botswana on their most dangerous case yet.

When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles… but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who’d befriended the old Bushman? As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane heroes.


Q) Michael Stanley is the pen name for a writing partnership of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. For the readers can you give us a brief summary of yourselves and your latest release Dying To Live?

A) Michael is a professor of computer science at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Stanley worked in academics and industry in the US. We’ve been friends for nearly forty years, and we had a concept for a crime novel set in Botswana which became our first book – A Carrion Death – first published ten years ago.

Our protagonist is David “Kubu” Bengu – a detective in the Botswana CID in Gaborone, whose nickname Kubu means hippopotamus in the Setswana language and that says it all. He’s very large, likes his food, but don’t get between him and his objective or you’re in trouble.

The books all have backstories of issues important in modern day southern Africa – blood diamonds, the legacy of the war in Zimbabwe, the plight of the Bushman peoples of the Kalahari, murders for body parts for black magic, and the growing Chinese influence. In the latest book – Dying to Live – the backstory is the idea of a plant in the Kalahari that prolongs life, and the greed of all the people who would like to get their hands on it. Does it really exist? Well, it might. And it really doesn’t matter because once people believe it does, their greed will stop at nothing to get it. Nothing at all.

Q) I have many writing partnerships I admire, one of my favourites is Lars Kepler. How does this work in terms of planning a novel and the creation of a plot?

A) We’ve developed a strategy which we think works well for us. Upfront, we work out a map of the plot, a synopsis, and the timelines. We try to get together to do that, and it takes a considerable amount of time. After that, it seems there are usually areas where one of us has a particular interest or a mental picture of what’s going to happen. He’ll write a first draft, and that is the starting point for multiple iterations. Often we will each be working on a different section of the book. This phase we can do by email interspersed with long internet telephone conversations. Eventually we go through each section independently to make sure it’s smooth, stylistically coherent, and that the characters’ behaviours are consistent from one place to another. Perhaps surprisingly, it seems to work. Most people can’t discern any changes of style as they read.

Overall, we think that writing together is slower than writing alone, but the benefits of having an immediate, interested reader and someone with whom to brainstorm far outweighs the drawbacks. And we have a great deal of fun!

Q) The series of novels is based in Botswana and has been described as sunshine noir. What was the inspiration behind the location?

A) Our first book required that a body be completely destroyed without trace—partly to hide the identity of the murderer and partly because it was crucial that no one ever found out who the victim was. In Botswana, it’s possible to drive out into the bush, throw out a corpse, and have the hyenas completely consume it, leaving no evidence behind. That would be much harder to do in South Africa. And we’re very pleased about our choice, because while there are many great South African mystery writers, we have a chance to explore the sorts of issues we mentioned above without the aftermath of apartheid colouring the whole story.

Q) One thing I absolutely love in literature is the ability to go globe-trotting from the comfort of my arm chair. One of my recent purchases includes the first in the series by Deon Meyer, set in Cape Town. I am also currently reading the Varg Veum series by Gunnar Staalesen set in Norway. Where are your favourite locations, in what you read?

Michael: I read a lot of African mysteries partly because I like their difference and the Sunshine Noir genre as a whole, and partly because I write a monthly column for the ITW magazine The Big Thrill called Africa Scene which explores recent mysteries and thrillers set in Africa. Other than that, I don’t think I have a geographic preference. If it’s good, I’ll read it!

Stanley: I like to read mysteries that give me both a strong sense of place and a memorable protagonist. A good test for these mysteries is that one cannot transplant them elsewhere; that the place has a profound impact on the story. A good protagonist is like a good friend–you develop an emotional attachment and want to get to know them better, warts and all.

Q) The location of the central Kalahari game reserve, instantly sounds atmospheric. How do you fully transport that onto the pages of a novel?

A) It’s a good question. One way is that we always visit everywhere in Botswana that we write about. We spend time there, try to get a feel for the place and the lifestyle of the people. We’ll probably write a few pages about it too. Very little of that actually gets into the final book, but we think that having that background makes our writing more genuine and gives a more authentic feel to the reader. Beside which we love exploring Botswana!

Q) The novel has themes of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, wrapped around a very cleverly thought out plot. How is this constructed within the writing, do you develop a plot/crime first and themes secondary? Or do you get a sense of the emotions of the theme and the crime grows from there?

A) We think it’s both. Basically we are ‘pantsers’. We like to have a basic structure—a theme, if you like—and then let the characters explore if for us. We often don’t know who the bad guy (or gal) is going to be until well into the book. That often only emerges once we know the characters much better. Eventually one emerges as the villain, trapped by his or her lies. Sometimes Kubu detects these before we do!

Q) What’s next for Detective Kubu Bengu? Is there a next novel planned?

A) One of the pleasures of a series—both for readers and for the writers—is to explore the development of the main characters who appear in your novels. In a way, Kubu appears fully formed in A Carrion Death with his wife and respected status in the CID. We think it would be fascinating to understand just how he got there from rather inauspicious beginnings. So the new book is a prequel and starts with Kubu’s first day at the CID. He is overweight, teased, and a complete novice. What’s more he arrives in the middle of a high profile diamond-heist case. No one has much time for him, but Assistant Superintendent Mabaku takes him under his wing. By the end of the story, he’s very glad he did.

*Huge thank you to writers Michael Sears and Stanley Trollop for taking part a Q&A on my blog. I wish you all the best with the release of your novel.

Thanks very much for the opportunity, Anne!

Michael Stanley photo
Michael Sears & Stanley Trollop aka Michael Stanley 🙂
Authors links:
Web: http://detectivekubu.com/
Twitter: @detectivekubu
*The novel is released on 12th July in paperback but is available via #Ebook now!



#BlogTour #Review #Exquisite by @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #TeamOrenda

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell


Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

My review:

Wow, well where to begin with this one! It is without a doubt the strangest novel I have read so far this year and that’s out of 90 novels! But I totally mean strange in a good way. The novel centres around the relationship between two women. It is one of the finest psychological based novels I have ever read, the whole ‘what is real?’ feeling, coupled with the relationships decent into toxicity! One thing is for certain it makes for gripping reading!

The novel focuses on two characters, Bo Luxton writer, bestseller, mother, wife and all round perfect woman. Bo lives in a beautiful mountainside home on the Lak District. However, it is when Bo organises a writers retreat in Northumberland, that we first meet Alice. Alice is an aspiring writer, living with a dead end boyfriend and struggling a dead end, kind of life. Her mother issues form the basis of her inspiration for her writing. The depth and pain of the rejection causes her to immediately latch onto the glamourous Bo. Alice isn’t just jealous of Bo’s life; she wants Bo’s life……….

The background of both women, is slowly explained throughout the novel. With both women, having known emotional pain and childhood abuse. Their points of view are so uniquely different though, it’s almost as if two writers wrote the different chapters. There are chapters with one of the women talking from a women’s prison, but which woman is speaking?
The relationship between the women begins as one of love and admiration for someone from a similar walk of life and quickly develops into one of a creepy infatuation! I spent the entire time reading, trying to figure out the truth from the two women’s story’s. It is exceptionally difficult as their stories are riddled with trickery, but who are they tricking, themselves or each other? I found this novel very reminiscent of the movie Single White Female, accept you never know who to trust, right up until the very last page!

In this novel, one of the women is a violent, narcissistic pathological liar. You just have to figure out which one………….

Sarah Stovell

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Via Orenda: http://orendabooks.co.uk/sarah-stovell/
Twitter: @sarahlovescrime


#BlogTour: Debut novel, Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson -Review

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Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson
The synopsis:

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

My review:

This is such an intriguing novel. It has an awesome plot description, that instantly draws you in. Set between two timelines, the modern day investigation of the murdered children on Hampstead Heath and a woman in Sweden. With a haunting backdrop from WW2. How are these two era’s linked? What message is the killer trying to convey?

Emily Roy is a Quantico trained, member of the Canadian royal mounted police, thrown together with Alexia Castells a French true-crime writer. To solve the case. When the case in Sweden of the dumped corpse is not only identified as Alexis’s friend Linnea in Falkenberg Sweden, but linked to the deaths of the murdered boys on the London Heath via their unique injuries. The case gets much more complex. Is this the work of one killer or two? How is the killer moving around undetected?

The details of the injuries make for dark graphic reading and are not for the faint hearted. But it adds to the unique story and in a dark twist works well with the events of the past.
Erich is a German prisoner is Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The chapters from his perspective are some of the darkest, most evocative passages, I have ever read regarding the holocaust. I read lots of WW2 fiction and non-fiction, which obviously included details of the Holocaust. What Scared me, was the way Johana has brought it alive. You almost feel as though you are a witness to Erich’s degradation and de-humanisation. It is brutal reading but also factual accurate and in-fitting with the reality of what the Camps were really like.

The modern day investigation continues to build, I found parts of this slower in pace but it could be because the chapters from the Camp and killers POV, were so utterly harrowing!
There’s so many characters to become accustomed to but the writer does a fantastic job of making the core ones the most present in the story. There are some references to real people of WW2 and I admire the author for keeping it facts and accuracy. The twists and turns are really ramped up at the end and it really is a cracking read. Highly recommend!

The question remains now…………….Do you dare discover, what takes place in Block 46?

Johana Photo

Authors Links:
Web page at Orenda: http://orendabooks.co.uk/johanna-gustawsson/
Twitter: @JoGustawsson