In The Heat Of The Moment by Viveca Sten


In The Heat Of The Moment by Viveca Sten
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

What’s a lie among friends? It’s murder—in this riveting thriller by Viveca Sten, bestselling author of Tonight You’re Dead…

It’s Midsummer’s Eve, the celebration of the longest day of the year, and on Sandhamn it’s the longest party of the year. But the fun comes to a dead halt when a young reveler is murdered, a teenage girl is found drugged and dazed on the beach, and other young women vanish. So far, what links the victims is a mystery. For Nora Linde and her new boyfriend, Jonas Sköld, the crimes are personal: one of the missing girls is Wilma, Jonas’s daughter. And her disappearance could test Nora and Jonas’s relationship in ways they never expected.

Thrust into the investigation, they soon discover that it’s more than a case of bad blood between friends. But the truth, which has receded into a haze of carousing, drugs, and liquor, is getting harder to see. If Nora and Jonas are going to find out what happened to Wilma, they’d better do it fast—before the ebbing tides sweep away all the terrible secrets of that night on Sandhamn Island.

Midsummer’s Eve on Sandhamn and the revelry is at it’s very peak. Tourists have flocked to the small island and the harbours are filled with boats and wall to wall parties – both adults and children alike. The small police force are doing their best, but the swell of people have them overwhelmed. Then early the following morning a teenage boy is found dead, his body half-heartedly hidden under a shrub. His girlfriend was found a few hours earlier, drugged and barely conscious. Another teenage girl has gone missing. Can they piece together what happened during the longest night of the year?

This is the fifth book in the Sandhamn mystery series, and I feel the author is really hitting their stride. I felt the murder plot was very skillfully woven in and around the personal lives of both Nora and Thomas, their friendship remaining strong but each happily going about their daily lives. Thomas and his wife have welcomed their newborn daughter, and Nora is growing more comfortable with Jonas, her boyfriend as they blend their family with Jonas’ teenage daughter and Nora’s two nearly teenage boys.

I definitely feel readers can pick this book up by itself and thoroughly enjoy it. The mystery plot is very well defined and settled within this story. The pace of the plot might be a little slow for some readers more used to a fast or action orientated plot. While I personally found it light and fun – there is a fair balance of focus both on Thomas’ personal life, Nora’s family life and the murder plot. This makes the plot feel a little less action orientated and more mystery – not thriller or suspense.

I strongly feel this would be an excellent beach read or lazy weekend read – with a glass of wine or a tall cold drink. With interesting characters, a well plotted murder mystery and a lovely beachy atmosphere this was a good story and an author I plan to enjoy many more books from.

Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten


Tonight You’re Dead by Viveca Sten
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Soon to be divorced, attorney Nora Linde is finding her way as a single mother, and even falling in love again, when she’s asked by her childhood friend Detective Thomas Andreasson to help in a disturbing investigation. Marcus Nielsen, a university student, has apparently committed suicide, but it’s what he’s left behind that’s so suspicious and damning: his research into the Coastal Rangers, an elite military group where, in 1976, a young cadet died under questionable circumstances, a sadistic sergeant went free, and a case went cold.

When two of Nielsen’s contacts are also found dead—and diaries of their tortuous training turn up missing—Thomas and Nora are certain that whatever happened three decades ago is unforgivable. And for someone who wants to keep those secrets buried—unforgettable. Now they must fight against time to expose a cover-up that hasn’t yet claimed its last victim.

Detective Thomas Andreasson is still recovering physically and emotionally from injuries that nearly killed him in his previous case. As he eases himself back into his police work, he finds himself unusually drawn to what at first glance appears to be a clear case of suicide with a young university student. It’s only as Thomas traces the young man’s interviews for a school project that Thomas finds not only long-buried secrets, but also what appears to be a second murder. Thomas calls for some research assistance from his childhood friend, lawyer Nora and together they try to understand what’s happening before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed this full length novel. While the mystery is somewhat slower paced than many modern stories, I didn’t feel like this affected the pace too much as there was a lot happening in both Nora and Thomas’s private lives that helped keep this side to the story moving at a good rate. Readers who pick this book up expecting a fast or action-orientated mystery might find that aspect to the story lacking – especially in the first third or so. But since I’ve read the previous three books in this series I greatly enjoy both Thomas and Nora’s characters and was very happy to be updated on how Thomas is recovering from his injuries and reconnecting with his ex-wife. I also was very interested to see the fall-out to Nora and her separation from her almost ex-husband. In this sense I didn’t need a break-neck paced action mystery adventure story, I was quite happy to see more character and emotional growth with the two main characters. Other readers – especially if they pick this up as a standalone – might not find this as satisfying as I did.

That said, once the murder mystery really began to pick up speed this was an exceptional police procedural style of mystery novel. There had been snippets every few chapters showing scenes from the past which helped the reader understand some of the motivation behind the killings and helping to set the scene without being too spoilerish and giving the entirety of the plot (or the identity of the victim/murderer) away, so I really thought the author did an excellent job of balancing giving enough away without ruining the surprise.

Readers who enjoy previous books in this series should definitely give this one a try. I can also happily recommend this entire series so I can recommend readers going back to the start of this series. A good, solid book with lots of character growth and an interesting mystery plot.

Closed Circles by Viveca Sten


Closed Circles by Viveca Sten
(Sandhamn Murders Book 2)
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

It’s a beautiful day for a regatta—until one of Sandhamn Island’s most prestigious residents is killed aboard his sailing yacht.

Oscar Juliander was a rich lawyer and deputy chairman of the prestigious Royal Swedish Yacht Club. While at first his death seems like a tragic accident, there is evidence of foul play. Police detective Thomas Andreasson teams up with local lawyer Nora Linde to investigate. As they work to uncover clues, they face resistance from an elite world where nothing but appearance matters.

When the rich and powerful inhabitants of Sweden’s idyllic island getaway come under scrutiny, Thomas and Nora must work closely and secretively to seek justice.

When the Vice Chairman of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club is shot on his boat in time with the starting gun of one of the biggest regattas in the height of summer, Police detective Thomas Andreasson and his colleagues have their work cut out for them. An important man and seriously well-connected the victim is also a lawyer and so the list of people who could have born a grudge is daunting. Added in the many rich and powerful inhabitants of Sandhamn Island and the RSYC and even though there are smiles and offers to help abounding it seems as if everyone has secrets to hide. Can Thomas and Nora once again work together and bring justice to bear?

I was eager to read this second book in Viveca Sten’s mystery series. I greatly enjoyed the first (Still Waters) and was pleased to find this story stood excellently alone but retained many of the strong aspects that had me enjoying the first. This is a slower-paced mystery but has a large and very well written set of characters which really had me able to enjoy and picture everything going on. While I admit this large cast of characters slows the pace of the plot and murder investigation – and therefore slows the pace of the book as well – I truly can’t fault the author for this, mainly because it’s the different perspectives and interweaving of the plot and characters that made this book in large part so enjoyable for me.

A lot of the book is split well, I feel, between Nora and Thomas. Nora is unhappily married with two children and Thomas is healing emotionally from his divorce and the devastation resulting from his infant daughter dying from SIDS some time ago. Nora and Thomas are friends, but work well together and have a strong, platonic relationship that I thoroughly enjoy. These two characters are both relatable and believable and I feel are both strong enough to steer the book very well.

What I enjoyed about this book is that while Nora and Thomas’ relationship is mostly straightforward, all the other secondary characters are a nest of interweaving messy emotions which was delightfully complicated. There’s illicit affairs, jostling for position and power – both political and no – within the Royal Yacht Club and assorted business dealings. Keeping all the various connections, friendships, affairs and relations in mind was complicated in an intriguing way and trying to sort out motive verses normal human emotions and reactions kept my attention riveted on the pages as I worked my way through the book.

In some respects this book is deceptively simple – a very believable and realistic mess of human interactions pushed to the limit and so resulting in murder. But as so often in real life, the simple emotions are layered and woven in with others and so it’s a mess trying to sort everything out which is why it’s so interesting to see Thomas and Nora, along with the rest of the police team, try to untangle everything.

Readers looking for a thriller type of story or a fast-paced, action driven mystery probably won’t enjoy this as much as I did, but readers who enjoy complicated and very realistic, emotional and tangled stories should find this delightful Swedish story a great read. I’m eagerly looking forward to more in this series.

Still Waters by Viveca Sten


Still Waters by Viveca Sten
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense /Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

On a hot July morning on Sweden’s idyllic vacation island of Sandhamn, a man takes his dog for a walk and makes a gruesome discovery: a body, tangled in fishing net, has washed ashore.

Police detective Thomas Andreasson is the first to arrive on the scene. Before long, he has identified the deceased as Krister Berggren, a bachelor from the mainland who has been missing for months. All signs point to an accident—until another brutalized corpse is found at the local bed-and-breakfast. But this time it is Berggren’s cousin, whom Thomas interviewed in Stockholm just days before.

As the island’s residents reel from the news, Thomas turns to his childhood friend, local lawyer Nora Linde. Together, they attempt to unravel the riddles left behind by these two mysterious outsiders—while trying to make sense of the difficult twists their own lives have taken since the shared summer days of their youth.

Police detective Thomas Andreasson is readying himself to start his summer holidays at his small summer house in the Sandhamn islands off the Swedish coastline where he grew up. What at first looks like a drowning accident – or possible suicide, though there’s no evidence to support that – quickly drags Thomas deeper when the victim’s only living relative, a cousin he was particularly close to, also is found dead shortly afterwards under mysterious circumstances. Thomas seeks help from his childhood friend and local lawyer Nora Linde and together the two of them try to uncover what turns into a convoluted and difficult mystery.

I often enjoy Scandinavian based crime stories and this one in particular really appealed to me. While much of the Scandi-crime I have previously read is slightly darker in tone and setting than other British or American based crime fiction, this book was delightfully more verbally colourful and lighter. Set at the height of summer I found it a refreshing and totally different landscape even though the murder mystery was a stark contrast to the lighter tone of the beach-going summer holiday makers.

I found the mystery in particular a little slow to begin moving. Readers who prefer a faster paced – or action-driven – style of novel might find this a little slow or plodding for their tastes, but personally I really appreciated the time to get to know Thomas and Nora’s characters a bit better and really enjoy the local island/beach going setting which was completely different from what I was expecting. I found being eased into this and also having a slower introduction to Thomas and Nora, their childhood connections and friendship as well as the different twists and turns each of their lives had taken as they had grown up and both married and started their own families – a slightly slower pace for the mystery plotline really appealed to me and made a lot more sense, rather than some bang-bang-bang hard driving murder mystery action pace.

I was also really impressed that the author didn’t hint or indicate in any manner that Nora and Thomas were anything other than long-standing and completely platonic friends. This is the first book in a series though and I completely accept this might change down the track, but for now I found it really refreshing and quite wonderful that Nora and Thomas are simply friends who share a long-standing history and they’re each perfectly content to keep it like that. I found this lovely and noteworthy.

The murder mystery, once it gets cracking, was really well written and I feel those who like police-procedural style of crime novels should find this fits the bill really well. I am really glad I gave this Swedish crime novel a chance and am eager to read the next in the series. Recommended.

Mama Hissa’s Mice by Saud Alsanousi


Mama Hissa’s Mice by Saud Alsanousi
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: Full length (373 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Growing up together in the Surra section of central Kuwait, Katkout, Fahd, and Sadiq share neither ethnic origin nor religious denomination—only friendship and a rage against the unconscionable sectarian divide turning their lives into war-zone rubble. To lay bare the ugly truths, they form the protest group Fuada’s Kids. Their righteous transgressions have made them targets of both Sunni and Shi’a extremists. They’ve also elicited the concern of Fahd’s grandmother, Mama Hissa, a story-spinning font of piety, wisdom, superstition, and dire warnings, who cautions them that should they anger God, the sky will surely fall.

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Snaking through decades of Kuwaiti history well into a cataclysmic twenty-first century, Mama Hissa’s Mice is a harrowing, emotional, and caustic novel of rebellion. It also speaks to the universal struggle of finding one’s identity and a reason to go on, even after the sky has fallen.

Three long-time friends with different backgrounds have to find a way to survive in a war-torn world. Kuwait is filled with risk, everywhere one looks, and people must either choose sides or bravely face the consequences. Katkouk, Sadiq, and Fahd—the three friends in the story—dare to protest. Readers will follow them along their journey, seeing their courage, and facing the all-too-human decisions they will make. Everyone around them will try to pull them in different directions.

Mama Hissa offers her grandmotherly wisdom, and the brave characters will recall happier times as well as more troubled ones, and the advice she had for them.

The story presents a first-hand account of what it was like to live in Kuwait during the time Iraq came over to make this land one of their provinces. We get the fascinating peek into not only the thoughts and feelings of Kuwaitis on the matter, but also those of a woman who was Iraqi-born and living there now. Loyalties, admirations, and resentments seem to change with lightning speed (except for religious loyalties), depending on the hero or the villain of the hour. Foreign neighbors will either be liked or despised, depending on what their home nations are doing at the moment. Readers are granted side-by-side comparisons of different Middle-Eastern cultures and passionate emotions.

The suspense runs high, the characterization is realistic and fitting to the cultures represented, and important questions are presented. Prejudices are shown as they are. Readers will become immersed in the tale as it unfolds. For those interested in the Middle East, this would be a good book to check out.

A Fist or a Heart by Kristin Eiriksdottir


A Fist or a Heart by Kristin Eiriksdottir
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (188 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Elín Jónsdóttir lives an isolated existence in Reykjavík, Iceland, making props and prosthetics for theatrical productions and Nordic crime flicks. In her early seventies, she has recently become fascinated with another loner, Ellen Álfsdóttir, a sensitive young playwright and illegitimate daughter of a famous writer. The girl has aroused maternal feelings in Elín, but she has also stirred discomfiting memories long packed away. Because their paths have crossed before. One doesn’t remember. The other is about to forget.

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This story brings things down to a nitty-gritty level, with a stream-of-consciousness quality about it. It allows a reader to experience the unfolding of an entertaining story up close, providing a more acute feeling than one might have in a more distant recalling of events.

It is also fun to see into the life of a woman with an unusual career. Readers go along on her journey, watching the protagonist do her creative work and reflect upon her life and interactions with other unique characters. She is an older lady who creates props for the theater and is slowly losing her cognitive abilities. Watching as her world grows increasingly confusing is sad. One must really pay attention to follow what’s going on, but it’s worth it.

The other protagonist is a young woman in her late teens who writes a play and has it performed at the local theater. She has a rough life. We get to experience her pain through her eyes and through the perspective of the prop-developer.

Sometimes their lives link, and it’s not always pleasant. This is an intelligent story not really meant as escapist reading, but rather to give readers an experience. The writing style is unique and quite apt for its purposes. It’s enjoyable to read about an exotic locale as well.

If you’re in the mood for a different type of story with interesting characters, why not give this one a try?

PS From Paris by Marc Levy


PS From Paris by Marc Levy
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (270 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

On the big screen, Mia plays a woman in love. But in real life, she’s an actress in need of a break from her real-life philandering husband—the megastar who plays her romantic interest in the movies. So she heads across the English Channel to hide in Paris behind a new haircut, fake eyeglasses, and a waitressing job at her best friend’s restaurant.

Paul is an American author hoping to recapture the fame of his first novel. When his best friend surreptitiously sets him up with Mia through a dating website, Paul and Mia’s relationship status is “complicated.”

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Boy meets girl, boy gets girl…life happens.

I’m all for a sappy story. I’m all for a book that pulls me out of my life and gets me into someone else’s for a few hours. Marc Levy’s PS From Paris, was certainly a ride.

Mia is a famous actress with problems in her marriage. She’s in Paris and trying to forget her husband’s cheated on her. She meets Paul. He’s got a snoot-load of problems, too. He’s a struggling writer. They’re not really good for each other, but they are.

I’m not going to lie. I went into this book with high hopes. She’s an actress and he’s essentially no one. Could they make it? How will they? It’s intriguing. I had to keep reading to know what would happen.

But there were multiple bumps along the road. I put this book down many times. I kept wanting to shout at Mia. I get she’s lonely and her marriage is a mess, but why would her cheating be okay/therapeutic, but his isn’t? And some of the ways she got around being noticed, even though she’s famous…I really had to suspend my disbelief and it didn’t work a few times. I struggled with what felt like cliched situations, too. I won’t get into details, but I would’ve liked more characterization, too.

That said, this book was still enjoyable. Mia deserved a happy ending and Paul deserved one, too. I didn’t see the ending coming, that’s for sure. Check this book out. It might be the beach read you’ll love.