Review: The White City by Karolina Ramqvist

9781611855197.jpgThe White City is a resonant book, each sentence handcrafted with precision, its themes enchantingly explored. While its setup might sound like it has the makings of a crime thriller, Karolina Ramqvist’s English debut is instead an unflinchingly honest examination of a woman’s isolation, and her determination to survive with her daughter in their new reality, stripped of the riches Karin’s boyfriend, John, provided through his criminal activities, and removed from the support network of his acquaintances friends.

Set in the middle of a freezing Scandinavian winter, Karin’s struggles as a single parent are exacerbated by the looming threat of the Swedish Economic Crime Authority who are threatening to take her home, and all of her possessions. Her daughter, Dream, is a typical newborn, simultaneously awed and terrified by the world around her. Ramqvist details every tantrum, spit-up, pooping episode, and every other milestone mothers will have experienced, including cooing and the cuddling. A standard crime thriller would relegate Dream to being merely baggage for Karin; in Ramqvist’s hands, she is a living, breathing child, a genuine physical, oftentimes exhausting presence. Indeed, much of The White City consists of Karin managing her newborn.

Against a backdrop of violence and deceit, Karin’s quest to claim what she feels is rightfully hers — a chunk of John’s kingdom, which would therefore secure Dream’s future — is lytically elucidated. Ramqvist makes us feel for these characters, and even though much of the early tension dissipates, it’s a remarkably enthralling tale.

ISBN: 9781611855197
Format: Paperback (194mm x 128mm x 13mm)
Pages: 176
Imprint: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press
Publish Date: 3-Aug-2017
Country of Publication: United States

Review: Kill the Next One by Federico Axat

9781925355871.jpgWith more twists than a double helix, Kill the Next One is a relentlessly-paced, unputdownable psychological thriller. It zigs one way, then zags another, providing the kind of stomach-clenching, unsettling suspense readers associate with Lauren Beukes and Stephen King. Nothing should be taken at face value, but rest assured, Federico Axat is a brilliant guide.

Just like Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines series, Kill the Next One needs to be read unspoiled. This is a book that relies on the potency of its labyrinthine twists, and prior exposure has the potential to ruin the whole experience. The set-up barely scratches the novel’s surface: family man Ted McKay is moments away from pulling the trigger on the Browning pressed against his head. Then the doorbell rings, and Ted is presented with the notion of becoming part of a suicidal daisy chain: in exchange for killing someone who deserves to die, he will be killed, making his passing easier for his family. Easier to live knowing your husband / father was the victim of a random act of violence than by self-inflicted means … right? Things spiral wildly from there, quite brilliantly, and nothing is what it seems.

There’s a delightful boldness – – an incredible audaciousness — to Kill the Next One. Expertly paced and plotted, and extremely visceral, with bucket-loads of surprises and genuine chills, it’s sure to be one of the most-talked about thrillers of the year. Let’s hope Kill the Next One isn’t Axat’s only book to receive an English translation. He’s a writer to watch, and this book is one to savour.

ISBN: 9781925355871
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 432
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publish Date: 28-Nov-2016
Country of Publication: Australia