Killed by Thomas Enger

Killed by Thomas Enger

Henning Juul sits in a boat on a dark lake. A man with a gun sits opposite him. At the man’s feet is a body that will be soon be dumped into the water. Henning knows that the same fate awaits him. And he knows that it’s his own fault. Who started the fire that killed Henning’s young son? How is his sister, Trine, involved? Most importantly, who can be trusted? Packed with tension and unexpected twists, Killed is the long-waited finale of the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned but always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and one of the most chilling, dark and moving crime thrillers you may ever read.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Here on Books and Beyond Reviews, I’ve read and reviewed a lot of crime thrillers. So you might think by now that perhaps I have tired of this genre by now. That’s not the case, though I do feel like my expectations for a thriller have risen. So when I was offered the opportunity to join a blog tour for Norwegian crime thriller, Killed, I was thrilled to give it a shot.

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Killed follows Henning Juul, a man seeking answers as to who caused the death of his son, bringing more trouble upon himself as he goes. The story starts with Henning staring down the final moments of his life, accepting the inevitable. The opening casts a dark cloud over the book, that only deepens as the story unfolds.

Many of the thrillers I have read recently tend to be fast-paced, high-octane books with a lot of action. Killed follows what appears to be the basis for many Scandinavian noir books and films. Though I must confess this is a judgement made without any personal experience until now. It is slow, methodical and dark. The story progresses, but rather than with a frenetic pace, it does so with a steady flow from one theory, one lead, to the next.

I really enjoyed the Killed. It moved at a more sedate pace than I have become accustomed to but Enger still manages to ratchet up the tension, building a sense of impending tragedy. The threat throughout feels real and the book moves along towards a well-crafted ending. I will be looking out for further Scandinavian noir to add to my growing list of books to read.

My rating:
goodread

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Kill Your Darlings by A.K. Alliss

Kill Your Darlings by A.K. Alliss

Some doors should remain closed.

Some questions should remain unanswered.

When Carla meets Eddie Jacobs, the bestselling author of Sunset Over Dreams, her life is rapidly changed. Drawn from her reclusive existence into the cult of his celebrity, she is ill-prepared for the attention. But there are things about Carla that Eddie doesn’t know. Things that that he really should.

When Eddie goes missing, shortly before the release date of his second novel, doors become opened that Carla would much prefer remained closed.

Who is Carla, really? And why would she not want Eddie found?

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

On completing Kill Your Darlings, I have now read the majority of A.K. Alliss’ books and had the pleasure of bouncing ideas and working with him on features on my blog, and on my own book. In that time, I feel like I have seen his work evolve and change throughout his books. I have thoroughly enjoyed his Ouroboros Trilogy of Frame, Future’s Orphans and Gravity’s Truth. Kill Your Darlings takes place in the same universe as the Ouroboros Trilogy and even sees the return of a few familiar faces. But this is as far as the similarities go.

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One significant difference I felt is the feeling I got from the book. Throughout the Ouroboros Trilogy I always felt there was an underlying sense of hope and optimism, that things might get better for the characters. Kill Your Darlings feels somewhat darker in my opinion-a definite sense of something bad lurking just around the corner.

Alliss has definitely slowed down the tempo of the story this time around, and this really complements the feel of the book. I found that also added to the ever-increasing tension that built throughout the story. Kill Your Darlings keeps twists coming, as the mysteries within are uncovered. Character backstories develop and revelations that come up change the complexion of the narrative, leaving me feeling like it was hard to root-for or despise any given character.

With this offering, it is clear that the author is developing and trying different styles of writing with great effect. The hopelessness and darker vibe makes for an interesting departure from what I have grown accustomed with the Ouroboros trilogy.

My rating:
goodread

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

Gravity’s Truth by A.K. Alliss

A perfect world, at any price.

Miller Frank’s Utopian ideal is not such a good thing for Jimmy Renfro. Charged with fraud, he now works the tube, an atmosphere breaking conduit for the wealthy to travel to the Ouroboros space station, Imago. Within the mysterious station, their personalities are uploaded to robotic shells known as Zeroes.

When Jimmy comes into possession of a briefcase full of data tabs containing the profiles of several influential personalities, it begins a deadly game that may result in his end. Pursued by government and corporate assassins, with not just his own life at stake, but that of humanity, can Jimmy discover the truth about the tabs before he is caught?

Gravity’s Truth is a fast-paced Cyberpunk thriller by the author of Frame and Future’s Orphans.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been lucky enough to read through the first draft for the third books set in A.K. Alliss’ Ouroboros world hot off of the press. It follows along from the world created in Frame and Future’s Orphans, following the collapse of social structure around the world. The book starts with Miller Frank, a man with an ideal. That ideal is to create a Utopia from Dystopia.
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Unfortunately for some, Jimmy Renfro included, Utopia doesn’t look all too different to the hard slog the world is trying to break free of. A chance encounter gives Jimmy an opportunity to turn his fortunes around, returning himself to a position in life that he once held. Things never are quite so easy though, as apparently unknown forces seem to stop at nothing to regain possession of the briefcase Jimmy finds himself carrying. The case that could be a return to fortunes, could also see the end of his life.

Once again, Alliss has cleverly and expertly crafted a vivid world. The characters are also well defined so the reader feels a connection to them. As I read through the book, I found myself flip-flopping the way I felt about characters with each new revelation as to their back stories and future intentions. The story is well paced and at no point feels laboured or dull.

When thinking back about the preceding pair of books, Gravity’s Truth is a very different vibe to it. Firstly, this time around Alliss really goes to town playing with the science-fiction elements. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Frame and Future’s Orphans always flirted with science-fiction but it definitely plays a much bigger role this time out. This time around, the book feels different as well. The predecessors had a big feeling of loss. There was nothing to fight for, to strive for and aim at. The world was irrevocably changed for the worse, and there is nothing that can be done. But with Gravity’s Truth there is a sense of hope. Frank has hope to make a better world. Renfro also felt hopeful of turning his fortunes around, and building a better life for himself.

Once again, it is clear A.K. Alliss has pushed his writing on another step. He has taken what he has learned from the first two books and used these as his foundation for Gravity’s Truth. It is a fantastic way to expand on the world created, bringing about a new feel to the series. You can find Gravity’s Truth in paperback on Amazon now, and on Kindle from 6th December 2017.

My rating:
goodread

Future’s Orphans by A.K. Alliss

Future’s Orphans by A.K. Alliss

Cassidy Nolan is a drug addicted journalist responsible for one of the most iconic photographs of the new millennium. Fourteen years on from capturing the image, it has become a significant part of the documented experiences of an event that has tipped the world towards the precipice of an uncertain future.

A chance encounter with Paco, a street kid who deals only in absolutes, will see both of their paths converge on the discovery of a sinister truth about the world in which they inhabit. Even if they survive long enough to reveal what they have uncovered,there are no certainties that it will change anything in an uncaring world that is long past its expiry date.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Following on from Alliss’ high octane and action-packed sci-fi thriller Frame, he told me about book two in this series, Future’s Orphans. He also told me that Future’s Orphans was written before Frame even though the story follows on from it. Colour me intrigued, I was looking forward to finding out if this second book in the series still worked well with Frame knowing it was written first. I won’t deny I was also interested to see if there was any significant disconnect as a result.
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I will save you the waiting; I was immensely and happily surprised. The story feels like it flows nicely, following some 14 years after the events of Frame. I found the 14-year gap was well thought out, rather than a device to make the writing of Frame easier. Given the catastrophic climax to Frame the decade and a half that pass between that and Future’s Orphans allow the reader to imagine the steady decline of society and humanity as order begins to fail.

The story picks up with a journalist, Cass Nolan, who captured an image of the events seen 14 years prior – probably the most iconic photograph of the new millennium. The was just the beginning of humanity moving towards a precipice, where everything would be changed. Two less-than-clean organisations, the ONI and Ouroboros have control as the ruling power, bringing a vague semblance of order and law to the a world staring at disaster.

They rule by fear and intimidation within their small “city” where a threat of being cast out into the wastelands beyond the city walls is thought to be enough to keep the dwindling masses in check. Alliss has crafted a dark, sorry world for his characters to make sense of and find their place in. He doesn’t try to soften the blow with a sense of hope like a light at the end of the tunnel, but rather maintains a sense of hopelessness.

People survive, modulating their emotions with chemical-infused patches, and the ONI stamp out any sniff of rebellion, casting out anyone who dares to go against their carefully-crafted societal order. Cass and a young street urchin named Paco among those cast out. The world beyond is an unforgiving place, and Alliss has painted a stark, bleak image of a cruel world so well, and only enhances this with his characters. There are a number of twists in the story, and brilliant character development lead the reader to constantly change their opinion of the leading players in this story.

So well written is Future’s Orphans, that if I wasn’t already told that it was created before Frame, I think I would struggle to tell. The only give away perhaps, aided by my prior knowledge, is that you can see Alliss’ writing style and storytelling improving, something I can only imagine will continue when he releases the third book in this series, Gravity’s Truth, in 2018.

My rating:
goodread

Guest Post – A.K. Alliss

Guest Post – A.K. Alliss

In a new feature to my blog, I am pleased to welcome A.K. Alliss, author of Frame, to Books and Beyond Reviews as my first ever guest post. I had the pleasure of reading Frame, which I reviewed here. In this post, he discusses the period of time running up to the launch of a new book. So without further ado, welcome A.K. Alliss!

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Releasing a book traditionally, in a lot of ways, is a game. It’s a game of patience, of nail-biting worry and sleepless nights. To the new author, the world and characters that they have created are everything, but to everyone else, they are undiscovered, unknown and largely, unimportant. While that might sound pessimistic, the author will reach a point where they’ll have to posses a fairly pragmatic attitude when considering expectations of success.

Transitioning from an independent to traditionally published author is an exciting, yet daunting and lengthy process. It’s quite humbling to be confronted with the staggering amount of effort that actually goes into a title’s release when done the old fashioned way. Instead of relying on your own humble experiences to guide you, you are now being led by the practiced eye of those that have been there and done that, perhaps long before you had ever considered writing a book.

I was fortunate in the fact that I had a very collaborative publisher in Atlas Productions for my first published novel, Frame.  Today’s authors have to be marketing savvy, this was something that I thought I knew about only to receive schooling to the contrary. Genre, demographics and the most effective conduits to promote your work are all things that have to be considered. This is where the value of having a publisher was, I found, invaluable. It is no longer enough for an author to rely on the vagaries of social media to promote their work successfully. That avenue, while sometimes beneficial, does not present a lot of follow through traffic to your product.

That’s right. I said product. Because, while your lovingly crafted story containing plot A and protagonist B might mean the world to you, this is an age of consumerism and your work has now become a part of that. You have to step away from your passion and your creativity and start thinking about the best way to reach customers. The love and celebration of your literary brilliance can come later, but right now, you have to get people fired up about what you’ve written without sounding as if you are.

Ever tried to write a blurb? It’s actually harder than writing the book to be honest. Condensing a solid plot into a paragraph will have you breaking into a cold sweat when you’re used to having no limit to word count. The first couple of attempts ended in what resembled an essay, but slowly and surely (with guidance from my publisher) I was able to do it. Reviewing the blurb, you wonder if you have missed something crucial that will relay what the story is about, but you have to let that go. Hopefully, that one short description of your months of work will have to suffice.

Finally, if you haven’t stressed yourself to an early grave by the time it happens, you hit release day and this is where you really have to brace yourself. Yes, it’s a time filled with a mixture of pride and cautious optimism, of relief that you have made it there. But. Once you’ve had a moment to congratulate yourself, don’t even think about resting on those laurels. Get up soldier, there is still work to be done. If you want your novel, your baby, your love to go the distance you have to keep marching beside it, supporting it in any new and creative ways that you can conjure.

The finish line is not distinct. In my opinion, there is no finish line. For me, release day marked another part of a journey that has no end. I can’t ever forget about my novels. I can’t ever release the memory of everything that I’ve accomplished by creating and displaying my dreams. Even when I start writing something new, I still have to hold onto the feelings surrounding what it meant to write what has gone before. I feel that every part of anything that you have ever written should remain important forever. To you, but more importantly, to your readers. Because that’s where the real value of a book lies.

Frame by A.K. Alliss

Frame by A.K. Alliss

How far would you go to save someone who was already dead?

Hidden in the frame of a single photo, a content producer for social media sensation, Mathew Albrecht, discovers his possible ties to a global terrorist organisation. Could her client’s involvement also be linked to the death of her husband years earlier or is it something entirely more sinister in nature?

What is revealed may eclipse everything that she thought she knew, forcing her to confront the ghosts of her past in her pursuit of the truth.

Frame is a genre-bending thriller, set in a world poised on the brink of insanity.

I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

When I received a message through this blog from the author, asking if I would be interested in reviewing his new book, as ever I looked straight at the synopsis he included. Often I find myself thinking “that sounds interesting/fun/different, I’ll give that book a try”. This time, I was really hooked by the description. Frame struck me as being a timely and relevant book given the current world climate, so couldn’t wait to get on to reading this book.
frame-front-cover-med-resAnd I can firmly say I was not disappointed. Set in Alliss’ homeland of Australia, the events within Frame could easily happen anywhere in the world. The country, and the world beyond it, sits on the brink of utter turmoil thanks to disease and terrorist threat. Where civilisation lives on, so too does the vanity of the rich and famous. Here, we meet Hannah, a content producer, working on the social media portfolio of internet starlet, Mathew Albrecht.

In the midst of all the typically-vacuous self-centred content she is used to seeing, one image shakes her to her core. In one of the image frames she works on, a logo catches her eye – the logo of a terrorist organisation that her husband gave his life fighting against in the army. With just one image, Hannah’s life turns upside down as this chance encounter sends her on a journey; a journey to uncover the truth about the death of her husband, to uncover Albrecht’s involvement with the shady organisation and what exactly this global terrorist threat has in store for the world.

As per the description, Frame really is a genre-bending story. The book spans crime, thriller, action with elements of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. It may well be set in a version of the future, but a lot of the themes could quite plausibly occur. All around the story builds tension towards the end game. This, however, was my one and only niggle with the story – the ending. It did feel a little abrupt, not entirely ending the main character’s stories. Not that the main storyline needed that, but it might have been nice after getting into their backstories. Alliss has produced a tense, fantastic read in Frame, with a number of nods to the world we live in now and a possible destination that we might be heading towards.

My rating:
goodread