#BookReview - A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downton Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady's maid in a small aristocratic household.
Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.
Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital... and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society's most dangerous secrets...

The years leading up to the Second World War are one of my favourite periods to read about so I was delighted when Annabel Fielding contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing A Pearl for My Mistress. Many thanks to …

#BlogTour #BookReview - The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen



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, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

I'm absolutely delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Man Who Died today, my heartfelt thanks to Orenda Books, Antti Tuomainen and Anne Cater for inviting me to take part and for my review copy. I read a sample a few months ago and couldn't get it out of my head, this was a book I HAD to read. Usually when I write reviews I'm able able to remain objective even when it's a book I've loved but occasionally I risk going into gush mode and this could be one of those occasions. I am head over heels in love with this book, the sheer enjoyment of reading such a wonderful novel left me grinning for hours after I'd finished it.
The Man Who Died has a really quite dark premise, Jaakko Kaunismaa is dying, and his premature death is because he has been (almost) murdered. His doctor breaks the news bluntly,
"What's more, in your case every organ appears to be in an equally advanced state of degeneration. On the plus side, that might be the secret of your relative state of wellbeing - a balance of horror, if you will."
Jaakko decides to investigate his own murder, meanwhile his business is being threatened by a rival company and so he also needs to protect what will be his legacy. What follows is an intriguing tale that may be about death but is also about love, honesty and trust - ultimately it's about living. Jaakko finds himself in some extraordinary situations as his life spirals out of control. The deaths may be gruesome but the delicious black humour had me laughing out loud and though Jaakko's predicament may verge on the ridiculous, it is also frequently touching; his observations about his imminent death - so often a taboo subject - are, by turns, droll, beautiful and poignant,
'It's strange to think I've lived so long as if I'd never die; as if, as one summer came to an end, the next was always a given, and for some reason it always promised to be better than the last. And yet all we have is a blink of the eye, a glimpse of the sunlight, a brightness we cannot understand, time that gets shorter by the minute.'
 I loved Jaakko, he is insecure and self deprecating but has a sharp observational wit and turns out to be surprisingly cunning. Jaakko's investigation of his suspects is just so enjoyable, from his rather skillful manipulation of his young employee, Petri, to his more risky dealings with his rivals. There is also a brief but still magnificent moment of bonding he has with a hotel worker over printer frustrations. His interactions with George Clooney lookalike Olli are often a complete delight as Olli passes on his somewhat suspect wisdom about women,
"I lower my standards," Olli explains. "I don't expect as much from the next one as I did from the last. If the last one was just about house-trained, I'll settle for one a bit rougher round the edges next time."
"You just told me each of your marriages was shorter than the last, so I don't think you're onto a winning strategy."
"No plan is a hundred percent foolproof."
Beyond the perceptive wit and the grisly, almost farcical situations Jaakko finds himself in, The Man Who Died is also a superb thriller. Jaakko's life really is at risk and not just from the toxins in his body. This is a compelling mystery with some genuinely tense moments. I adore quirky, dark books and that alone would make me love The Man Who Died but this is far more than a black comedy thriller, it's also one of those books I reread passages of to make sure I truly appreciated them. I loved Antti Tuomainen's writing style in his previous book, The Mine and this again is a beautifully written book, with vivid and atmospheric descriptions bringing both people and surroundings to glorious life. The seamless translation from Finnish to English means David Hackston also deserves high praise.
Obviously this is one of my books of this year but more than that, I'm going to be singing its praises for years to come. If there was ever such a thing as an app to match readers to books then The Man Who Died would be chosen for me. I'll probably never look at mushrooms, saunas or hedgehogs in quite the same way again and it left me with a terrible craving for ice cream but if I haven't already made it clear enough, I really loved this captivating book, I'm smiling again just thinking of it now. An unforgettable and life affirming book about death, I highly recommend it!

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.



The Man Who Died is published in the UK by Orenda Books, You can follow Antti Tuomainen on Twitter as @antti_tuomainen and David Hackston as @countertenorist.


About the Author

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 labeled 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. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

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