Wednesday 30 August 2023



It’s New Year and Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.

The police are certain they have the killer – or do they? Determined to get to the truth, maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure.

A stripper disappears from one of city's seediest nightspots, and nobody but Stella seems interested in finding her. A drug mule cooling his heels in a prison cell refuses to speak to anyone but Stella – although she’s never heard of him. An old man makes a deathbed confession and request for Stella to find the family he lost long ago.

With a sharp tongue and a moral compass all of her own, Stella Blómkvist has a talent for attracting trouble and she’s as at home in the corridors of power as in the dark corners of Reykjavík’s underworld.

Stella Blómkvist delivers an explosive mix of murder, intrigue and surprise, and is one of Iceland's best-loved crime series.

Murder at the Residence was a really enjoyable murder mystery, set in Iceland at the time of their financial crisis. There's an intriguing blend of cases for maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist (our protagonist shares the same name as the author, though our author's true identity is a literary secret).

A missing woman; a murder of a high profile banker with a convenient patsy for the police; an incarcerated drug smuggler; a teenage rebel with authority issues and a decades old family secret which has been buried. Stella has her hands full picking through this little lot.   

Murder, drugs, pimps, politics, social unrest, police corruption, bankers, politicians, a priest, violence on the streets, the Reykjavik criminal underworld, friendships, alliances, secrets, media pressure, and amongst the busy case load a bit of time for some sex and possibly something more.

Great setting, an intriguing main character who I would like to read more about. She's gutsy, determined and capable, I like how she isn't intimidated by powerful forces. 

The writing was smooth and an easy read, which is testament to the translator's skill (hats off to Quentin Bates). The different strands of the plot were easy to follow and I enjoyed how they all came together, with only a smidgeon of coincidence to bind a couple of the elements. It's a busy book for 270-odd pages and there's a decent pace to the story without anything ever seeming rushed.

Overall - very satisfying and one I'd recommend to fans of Icelandic crime fiction.

One minor gripe, Stella's car - a Merc - is constantly referred to as a silver steed. I was irritated by the repetition of the phrase by the third occurrence. Another ten or so occasions just managed to properly annoy me. Why not call a car a car sometimes?

4 stars from 5

Read - August, 2023

Published - 2023

Source - review ARC from publisher Corylus Books

Page count - 270

Format - paperback

Monday 28 August 2023



Translator, Quentin Bates ruminates on the mystery of this Icelandic author's identity....

The 25-year mystery of Stella Blómkvist

 How do you keep a secret like this for twenty-five years in a country where one of the national pastimes is making sure that closely-guarded secrets are blown wide open in record time?

But the writer (or writers) behind the mysterious Stella Blómkvist have managed to keep themselves out of the limelight since the first in the series appeared way back in the nineties. It’s a hell of an achievement. Even Stella’s editor claims to not know the identity of the writer they’re dealing with.

It goes without saying that there’s been plenty of speculation about who writes these sharp, compact crime stories featuring the tough, smart lawyer with her frequently morally flexible approach to life and work.

At one time there was a rumour going around that the then-Prime Minister could be the power behind the Stella Blómkvist tales, but that one doesn’t add up. The names of one or two other public figures have been mentioned as potential candidates – possibly because people assume that politicians have all the free time needed to write novels when they should be working.

It doesn’t help that Iceland is a remarkably literate country. There’s no shortage of possibilities. So let’s narrow it down… The books have been appearing since the late nineties. In fact, the first Stella story appeared in the same year that Arnaldur Indriðason’s first novel was published, that’s back when there was nothing cool in Iceland about crime fiction. How times have changed. These days you can hardly throw a brick in Reykjavík without hitting a crime writer.

Before you ask, no, I don’t believe it’s likely that Arnaldur is Stella...

But whoever’s behind Stella has been doing this for 25 years, so it’s likely to be someone in their fifties or older. This is a person who knows their history and literature – and who also knows their onions when it comes to hard-boiled crime fiction.

There’s hardly a writer in Icelandic who hasn’t at some point or other been suspected of being Stella Blómkvist – and this little country has a lot of writers, so there’s a big field to choose from. The suspects have ranged from literary heavyweights – such as Guðbergur Bergsson and Auður Haralds – to those at the crime fiction end of the spectrum.

It’s something that pops up every time a new Stella novel is published. The speculation gets into gear on social media and then spills over into the mainstream media for a while – sometimes with a few new names floated – and then it all dies away again.

To start with, I was curious. I wondered who Stella Blómkvist’s creator could be. But now, a couple of books in (now that the next in the series has also been translated ready for next year) I’ve changed my mind.
Right now, I’d prefer to Stella to stay mysterious.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.


Murder at the Residence

Stella Blomkvist

28th August 2023 | Paperback/ eBook | Corylus Books | £9.99/£3.49

Available for the first time in English, Quentin Bates has translated the first book in the second wave of Stella Blómkvist novels, Murder at the Residence.

Perfect for readers of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Gunnar Staalesen and Jussi


Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.

The police are certain it’s an open and shut case and that they have the man responsible – maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure…

The more she investigates, the murkier it all becomes. Secrets are uncovered that powerful people want to keep hidden, and a seedy trail of sex, murder, and blackmail leads Stella into a twisted maze of ruthless corruption at the very heart of government itself.

Stella Blómkvist is a hard-nosed, quick-witted lawyer with a dark past and a taste for whiskey and easy money. She will be plunged her into a violent political conspiracy which threatens Iceland’s very future…


It has been twenty-five years since the first Stella Blómkvist story was published and this long-running series continues to be a consistent bestseller in Iceland. What’s remarkable is that in a tiny community such as Iceland, the identity of the Stella Blómkvist (the author) who writes these sharp, sassy tales of the exploits of Stella Blómkvist (the lawyer) has remained under wraps.

The first book appeared in 1997 and the series continued for six books up to 2006, when Stella Blómkvist seemed to have retired. Then in 2012, Stella was back, angrier, more mature and better formed as a character in a continuation of the series. The latest appeared in 2022, bringing the total to thirteen to date.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.

There has been endless speculation, and longstanding rumours that Stella is a leading politician, a well-known public figure, a much-loved children’s author. There’s hardly a writer in Iceland who hasn’t at some time or other been suspected of being Stella.


Quentin Bates (or Gráskeggur ‘grey beard’ as he’s affectionately known in Iceland) is one of a handful of British authors writing Scandi Noir set in Iceland, and who has a deep understanding of the country and its people. Having lived there for long periods and being married to a local for forty years has given him a deep insight into and affection for Iceland, all of which makes him more qualified than most to write about Iceland.

He’s one of the founders, with Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson, of the Iceland Noir crime fiction festival. As well as his own fiction, he has become increasingly busy in the last few years as the translator of Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Sólveig Pálsdóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Óskar Guðmundsson – and now the mysterious Stella Blómkvist.

For further information, please contact Emily Burns | PR Director | 078709787611

Tuesday 30 May 2023



Synopsis/blurb ....

A gritty, fast-paced neo-noir that explores the consumptive nature of fame, celebrity, and motherhood through the lens of a driver lost in the gig economy.

A struggling songwriter and Lyft driver, Adam Zantz’s life changes when he accepts a ride request in Malibu and 1970s music icon Annie Linden enters his dented VW Jetta. Bonding during that initial ride, the two quickly go off app— over the next three years, Adam becomes her exclusive driver and Annie listens to his music, encouraging Adam even as he finds himself driving more often than songwriting.

Then, Annie disappears, and her body washes up under a pier. Left with a final, cryptic text— ‘come to my arms’— a grieving Adam plays amateur detective, only to be charged as accomplice-after-the-fact. Desperate to clear his name and discover who killed the one person who believed in his music when no one else in his life did, Adam digs deep into Annie’s past, turning up an old guitar teacher, sworn enemies and lovers, and a long-held secret that spills into the dark world of a shocking underground Men’s Rights movement. As he drives the outskirts of Los Angeles in California, Adam comes to question how well he, or anyone else, knew Annie— if at all. 

The Last Songbird is a poignant novel about love, obsession, the price of fame and the burden of broken dreams, with a shifting, twisting plot that's full of unexpected turns.

Intriguing, engrossing and entertaining. My reading mojo has vanished of late, but this one from Daniel Weizmann has gotten me back on the right path.

We have a captivating murder mystery in which the main character, a washed up, failed musician, Adam Zante investigates the death of his employer-cum-'friend', the 70s musical icon, Annie Linden. Zante spends as much time discovering who Linden was, as he does trying to unravel the circumstances of her death.

While he digs, Weizmann had this reader musing on the meaning of family, from both the perspective of our victim and the investigator, and by extension what it means to myself. The whole gamut of emotions are explored.... love, pain, regret, mistakes, callousness, indifference, anger, secrets, power dynamics, pettiness, punishment, connectivity and ties and bonds or the lack thereof and memories.

As well as an opportunity to indulge in some reflective naval gazing, Weizmann had me invested in discovering who did what and why. Zante's drip-fed discoveries, the little information nuggets were exposed credibly and had me believing in his abilities as a decent sleuth. I have my fingers crossed that Weizmann may have more Adam Zante books in the pipeline.

There's jeopardy in  our main player's his quest. He is attacked and threatened several times, as are some of the other parties, who are privy to some of Linden's confidences. So there is some violence, another fatality and a level of danger and action which ramps up the stakes a little bit more, before a fitting concusion.

Overall I really enjoyed this one. It had all the ingredients I like in a book. Pace, plot, a sympathetic main character, a decent setting and a believable outcome.

4.5 stars from 5

Read - May, 2023

Published - 2023

Page count - 336

Source - review copy from publisher, Melville House

Format - paperback ARC  

Thursday 2 February 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...


Who – or what – is killing members of the Navajo tribe? RESERVATIONS, the first book of the Jack Del Rio political mystery/thriller series, is set near Gallup, New Mexico, where the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni reservations lie adjacent. Three tribal leaders have been murdered - murdered in a fashion that suggests the deeds were carried out by COYOTE, a legendary supernatural evil trickster feared by many Native Americans.

The tribal president contacts an old friend in the FBI for assistance in solving the crimes and preventing more murders. Star agent, Jack Del Rio, is dispatched to New Mexico where he finds a situation tangled in political intrigue. Jack must work his way through those issues on his way to solving the mystery. Sparks fly as Navajo police officer Lucy Chee is assigned to assist him in his quest.

Question is can Del Rio and Chee solve the mystery and find the killer before he strikes again? Because the killer is on the hunt and he has his sights on Del Rio himself.

Enjoyable enough, but not amazing.

Interesting setting, informative backdrop with Navajo characters, customs, history and culture at the heart of the mystery. Decent main character, an outsider who operates in the environment sensitively. 

I enjoyed the story, it's quite pacey without feeling rushed. There is more than one murder to be solved and time is crucial before too many more victims are created. The ending was credible and satisfied me, answering all the questions previously posed. The motive for the murders held up.

I did have some minor gripes. I found the raison d'etre for the main tribal leader withholding information from the investigator initially unconvincing. And I found the main character's back story involving events occurring previously in London and involving the Queen, eye-rolling and near vomit inducing. I think the author went a bit OTT regarding his credibility. He could easily have been shown to be a capable and competent agent without resorting to a gimmick.

Otherwise lots to like about it, including a well sketched support cast of characters, a touch of romance and overall a satisfying multiple murder mystery. This one is the first in Paolinelli's Jack Del Rio series and I wouldn't be averse to trying another one in the series when time allows.

I liked the narration from Theo Holland - one of the best in the business in my opinion.

3.5 stars from 5

Richard Paolinelli's work has been enjoyed before - The Last Lonely Trail, co-authored with Jim Christina.

Read - (listened to) January, 2023

Published - 2015

Page count - 350 (6 hrs 46 mins)

Source - Audible purchase

Format - Audible

Monday 23 January 2023



Synopsis/blurb ...

Meet Sam Applewhite, security consultant for DefCon4’s east coast office. .

She’s clever, inventive and adaptable. In her job she has to be.

Now, she’s facing an impossible mystery.

A client has gone missing and no one else seems to care.

Who would want to kill an old and lonely woman whose only sins are having a sharp tongue and a belief in ghosts? Could her death be linked to the new building project out on the dunes?

Can Sam find out the truth, even if it puts her friends’ and family’s lives at risk?

A bit of quirky comedy crime fiction which there was more to enjoy than not. That said, some of the humour was a bit hit and miss and there were no outright belly laughs.

A seal, an alligator, a property deal in jeopardy, an elderly parent, a cactus for a work companion, an old flame reappearing, a new friend, a useless cop, a missing woman, a couple of crims - one dim, one not so. An amateur investigation.

The book grew on me as the story progressed, as early stages it was a bit like swimming through treacle. I wasn''t really vibing the story. 

By the end I was enjoying things. Decent storyline, eccentric cast of characters, multiple character POVs as the reader was privy to events the main character Sam wasn't. Interesting setting of Skegness and the surrounding area. Satisfying pay off. 

3 stars from 5.

Sealfinger is the first in the co-authors' Sam Applewhite series. I think there are three more in the series. Not rushing to any more of them if I'm honest. Too many other books are demanding my attention. 

Read - January, 2023

Published - 2021

Page count - 412

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle

Friday 20 January 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...

At the heart of the book is George Gattling of Gainesville, Florida, fighting the boredom, the excruciating unimportance, of his existence.

He has a successful custom-seatcover business, a family of sorts – his sister Precious, who lies in bed reading aloud the “Ask Them Yourselves” questions in Family Weekly; her son Fred, who every now and then utters one word like “cork” or “toe” and is definitely either retarded or a genius; and Betty, a psychology major whose actual study is copulation.

And he has his hawk.

The hawk is the mirror for all of George’s held-in passions. It goes with him everywhere – to breakfast, to Betty’s bed, to a funeral home at four in the morning. When the hawk at last springs from his arm, prompted by the thought of freedom, swooping for its prey, life will become exciting, animated, tumultuous.

In a story filled with scenes that are funny and touching and wonderfully bawdy Harry Crews has superbly described the search of a man for release into a world where the senses are quickly awakened and emotions are unrestrained.

Enjoyable, interesting, informative on the art of trying to train a hawk, funny and sad.

The main character is eccentric, obsessional and unwilling to live according to other people's expectations. He cares deeply for his nephew and values the times they spend together. He probably cares more for his hawk though. There's a real battle of wills as he seeks to dominate it. I enjoyed the history lesson Crews serves up in respect of the history of falconry through the years.

Our main character, George suffers a grievous loss in the book, an incident that is by turn funny, horrific and absurd. Ditto the follow up scene when he visits the funeral parlour. 

I've not read any Harry Crews for a fair few years. I'm minded to dig out some of the other treasures in the collection.

4 stars from 5

Read - December, 2022

Published - 1973

Page count - 244 

Source - owned copy

Format - Hardback (Secker & Warburg)

Thursday 19 January 2023


Synopsis/blurb ...

In this first Inspector Banks novel, a peeping tom is frightening the women of Eastvale; two young thugs are breaking into homes; and an old woman may or may not have been murdered. Inspector Banks investigates these cases, which weave together as the story reaches a tense climax.

Judging by the fact that I could find books numbered 2 to 18 from this series in my collection, it's probably a safe bet to assume I've read this one before. Long enough ago that I couldn't remember anything about it.

Enjoyable, interesting, multiple cases going on, hence quite a busy book. I quite liked the main character. I was curious to see if he would succumb to temptation with the attractive profiler he is working with, in respect of the peeping tom situation. Banks is married with two children, but inevitably the job gets in the way of family life.

Enjoyable setting of Yorkshire, albeit a fictional town and a decent cast of supporting police characters, both underlings and an understanding boss.

All three cases get solved. Solid detective work closes one, a rash act solves another and a bit of luck combined with a hunch from Banks completes the set.

I've been enjoying the TV adaptations of the books recently which inspired me to pick this one up. I must have fancied reading them at one time, otherwise why hoover up so many. Hopefully I'll read the next one at some point this year.

4 stars from 5

Author Peter Robinson sadly passed in 2022. His shortish offering Seven Years was enjoyed back in 2021.   

Read - January, 2023

Published - 1987

Page count - 321

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle