Saturday, 30 April 2022

Book Review: THE RABBIT FACTOR by Antti Tuomainen



Author:  Antti Tuomainen

Publisher:  Orenda Books

Read: April 2022

Expected publication: 1 May 2022



Book Description:


What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri's relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.


My musings:


If I’d had any concerns that a book about an adventure park starring a giant plastic rabbit would not be my thing, then these were rapidly dispelled as Antti Tuomainen’s quirky protagonist and black humour soon drew me into the story and kept me enthralled. THE RABBIT FACTOR reads like a mix between Nordic noir and dark comedy, and I really enjoyed the unusual blend of genres.

Mathematician Henri Koskinen seems like an unlikely character to inherit an adventure park, but this is by far not the most absurd situation he is about to encounter, nor the last. Despite his best intentions and careful planning, he soon finds himself on the wrong side of a group of criminals who intend on collecting a debt and will stop at nothing to get what is owed to them. With an atmospheric setting in a Finnish adventure park, there is nothing ordinary or predictable about this novel, and it was like a breath of fresh air in the sea of same-old murder mysteries that are flooding the market. 


Tuomainen has mastered the art of transcending the dark and gloomy atmosphere Nordic thrillers are renowned for, whilst keeping up an air of intrigue and suspense. It even got my heart rate up a few times as Henri stumbled headlong into disaster! Supported by a rich cast of characters as unusual and quirky as Henri himself, THE RABBIT FACTOR both surprised and delighted me with its originality. I loved the way Henri tried to apply logic to even the most absurd situations, which made for some interesting encounters.




All in all ,THE RABBIT FACTOR was a delightful mix of nordic noir and dark comedy which will appeal to readers who are looking for mysteries that stand out from the rest. Quirky and original, it is difficult to pigeonhole it in any particular genre, though the mystery element definitely lies at its core. For those readers who like a bit of action or a hint of romance, it caters for all of you as well. I am surprised that I haven't read any other novels by this author before, but will certainly look up all his backlist now.



Thank you to Orenda Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Books from my TBR pile - mini reviews #2




For me, the strength of a domestic thriller lies in the ordinariness of its characters. The more these people resemble the humdrum existence of the ordinary citizen – in this case the stay at home mum who is satisfied with cleaning the house, look after her children and put dinner on the table for her husband – the more sinister the plot appears. If this can happen to any boring, ordinary, tax-paying citizen, this could happen to any of us! Let’s also make it clear that James’ novel is set in the 90’s, a time before you could jump on social media and the internet and find out everything about everyone else, and the premise will appear a lot more believable.


In 1975, Susan’s sister Karen sets out for her high school formal and never comes home. Now, twenty years later, Susan is married to her high school sweetheart and has two children of her own. Her mother has recently died after a long illness, never fully recovering from her elder daughter’s disappearance. In her will, she leaves the family home to both her daughters, and the family solicitor informs Susan that every effort must be made to locate her missing sister. In the 90’s, this involved placing an advertisement in several prominent papers and weeding out the frauds (remember these ads?). To Susan’s surprise, a woman comes forward claiming to be Karen. Now living under the name Carly, she has knowledge of family matters that convince the family solicitor that she must indeed be Karen, despite an inconclusive DNA test.


Initially resistant, Susan eventually welcomes Carly into her home, thrilled to have found her long lost sister. Soon Carly skilfully inserts herself into the family, winning over even Susan’s sceptical husband Ed and the trust of their two children, and moving into the family home.


With themes of sisterhood, family and belonging, James presents a tale that is heavy with foreboding and peppered with the seeds of mistrust as the reader follows the family’s journey from here forward. I know that I certainly had my own thoughts about Carly, and witnessing the ensuing chaos was like watching an impending train wreck. Like in her novel THE ACCUSATION (which I loved), James always leaves an element of doubt in all possible scenarios. What if Carly is the real deal? What actually did happen to Karen on that fateful night?


Personally, I found parts of the story a little bit lacking or perhaps just too ambiguous to make this premise work to its best effect. Susan was merely an ordinary, nice, trusting person who longed for family (aka her lost sister), and I generally just felt sad for her as she generously let Carly into their fold. As a “thriller” I was missing elements of suspense or the social critique that would make me either resent Susan or Ed for being greedy or middle class snobs (i.e. be on team Carly), or feel a burning hatred for the obvious impostor Carly (i.e. be on team Susan). As it was, I only felt somewhat deflated and was left with more questions than answers (which may have been the author’s intent). That said, I am still thinking about these characters long after I have moved on to another book, so there is definitely something in James writing that always gets under my skin, and I am eagerly awaiting her future novels.




Ever since reading Walters’ novels about the black death, I have been hooked on her historical fiction books.  In THE SWIFT AND THE HARRIER, Walters once again brings one of England’s past eras to life – this time the 1700s, a time of civil war. As with her previous HF novels, Walters has created an interesting, strong female character to lead the story, young physician Jayne Swift, the daughter of a local squire who is defying all of the rules applied to women at the time. Not only is she intelligent and quick-witted (and not too afraid to show it), but she has also defied convention by teaching herself medicine and choosing the path of physician rather than wife. Whilst this alienates her from most of her peers, she meets her match in William Harrier, who has many guises of his own (from footman to knight and many alter egos in between).


Whilst I mostly enjoyed the book, it did stall a few times in overly descriptive and repetitive scenes that could have been edited slightly to move the story along. There were a few times when I desperately longed for something to happen as I trudged through a myriad of characters or battle scenes. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the history lessons at school, and some of the political details would have fallen into place a bit easier for me.

In summary, set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, THE SWIFT AND THE HARRIER takes us on a delightful journey into the history books, led by an interesting female protagonist. Even though I wasn’t totally convinced that a woman like Jayne truly existed in that male dominated era, I enjoyed the history lesson and the very understated romance that slowly unfolded between herself and one of the male leads. THE SWIFT AND THE HARRIER will appeal to readers who enjoy a character driven, slower paced novel that covers a period in history not often found in other fiction books.





THE GLASS HOUSE is my third book by Eve Chase, all read in quick succession because I just can't get enough of her stories of dark family secrets and sibling relationships. As with some of her previous books, Chase lets her story play out in two separate storylines running parallel to one another, until they seamlessly come together to reveal the answers we have been seeking. 


In the summer of 1971, Jeannie Harrington escapes her controlling husband and her grief by moving her two children and their nanny, "Big Rita", to their country house Foxcote Manor. There, in the depths of the forest, a baby girl is found abandoned and is taken in by the family, despite Rita's misgivings that all is not well in the Harrington household. Fast forward to the present, and we hear about Sylvie, whose mother is in ICU after an accident at home and whose daughter just had some life changing news. I loved the gradual unravelling of threads and exposing of secrets that ultimately brought these different timelines and characters together for a satisfying finale.


All in all, THE GLASS HOUSE was a deliciously mysterious story of family secrets against an atmospheric backdrop of the Forest of Dean, which leant the novel an almost fairytale like quality, especially the scenes at Foxcote Manor. Chase is a master at portraying family relationships, especially those between siblings, and once more her book ticked all the boxes for me.



THE COUPLE AT NO 9 by Claire Douglas


THE COUPLE AT NO 9 was my first book by Claire Douglas, but it certainly won't be my last! If you are looking for dark family secrets and a delightful twist, then look no further.


Young couple Tom and Saffron have their dreams of converting Saffron's grandmother's old cottage into their dream home shattered when earthworks uncover two skeletons in the garden. Forensics soon identify one of the bodies as that of a man who disappeared thirty years ago. But how was Saffron's grandmother Rose connected to him? Rose has recently moved into a care home and is suffering from Alzheimer's, so her recall of the past is confused and patchy. The more Saffron and her mother Lorna dig into the past, the more convinced they are that events may be connected to one of Rose's lodgers, a mysterious woman called Daphne, who was living in the cottage when Lorna was a baby. There is only one problem: Daphne has also disappeared, and noone remembers what happened to her. Is Daphne the other woman in the grave? And if so, could Rose have killed her?


I loved the way Douglas explores the story from the POV of three different generations of women, who are all complex, well rounded characters who intrigued me. As the story unfolded and some of the threads came together, there was drama and tragedy and a mighty twist that completely took me by surprise. With its slow, almost languid start and an explosive finale, THE COUPLE AT NO 9 ticked all the boxes for me and I can't wait to read more from this author in future.



Monday, 4 April 2022

Book Review: THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan



Author:  Dervla McTiernan

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Read: February 2022

Expected publication: 4 May 2022

My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ


Book Description:


First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They're wrong. I’m going to bury him.

What attracted me to this book:


Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly books are one of my favourite crime series, so I was excited to hear that the author had a new stand-alone book coming out this year. I love a good legal thriller, too, so this sounded like the perfect story for me.

My musings:


Hannah Rokeby is a law student with her own agenda – to avenge a great injustice done to her mother before Hannah was born. Ever since she discovered her mother’s diary, Hannah has been determined to bring the perpetrator to justice. The opportunity presents itself when the Innocent Project at the University of Virginia takes on the case of Michael Dandridge, who is in prison for allegedly raping and murdering a young woman. Wrongfully incarcerated, according to the project’s founder, Professor Rob Parekh and Michael himself, who keeps proclaiming his innocence.  With ingenuity and some cunning, Hannah makes certain that she is included in the team investigating the case – but she is following her own agenda.


With Hannah’s thirst for revenge disclosed early in the story, I soon became invested to find out more: what, why and how? I’m usually not a great fan of diary entries as POV, but in this case they worked well to give motive to Hannah’s quest. With her background as a lawyer, the author presents us with an intriguing premise that worked well for me for the first ¾ of the book. Sadly, the last ¼ lost a lot of credibility, with many unanswered questions remaining in the end. Whilst I could understand Hannah’s motives (despite the troubled relationship she had with her mother), some of the other characters seemed to be driven by agendas that were never fully explained, and I was left feeling like I had overlooked some crucial bit of information that tied it all together. Whilst the action ramped up nicely in the final chapters, it did so at the expense of believability, both regarding the last courtroom scenes as well as character development of some of the secondary players. This may have all been excused if I had understood the prime motivations, but as I came to the end, I was scratching my head in puzzlement and flicking back to earlier chapters to see what I had missed.





It’s difficult to rate a book that initially had me glued to the pages, but left me feeling disappointed with the final reveal. I still love McTiernan’s writing style but feel that the character development here was nowhere as convincing as in her Cormac Reilly series and in some parts appeared stereotypical to me (which Cormac Reilly definitely was not). One of the things I always loved about McTiernan’s previous novels was that they offered something unique in terms of characters and setting, whilst this one seemed a bit like your run of the mill American law enforcement novel. Whilst the concept of THE MURDER RULE was intriguing and it was entertaining enough, it didn’t have the same impact on me as the Cormac Reilly series and I would love to see the author return to her Irish settings or perhaps an Australian one in future.




Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.