My reading material recently seems to be full of borrowed crime novels (my latest book reviews of The Darkness, and HeadHunters) and this is another! This is how it ends was really popular around the summer of last year and was The Times Crime Book of the month and Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month and had rave reviews. I saw it in Tesco, quite a few times but didn’t get round to purchasing the book. So when my friend recommended the book, I added it to the pile.

The story starts with a man that has been murdered and is found by Ella Riordan. Ella is a social activist, blogger and PhD student researching social activism from Durham but living in London. The body was found at a party celebrating her Kickstarter project to help her fund a book on giving those residents that have been forced out of their homes a voice. Ella calls on her best friend, social activist Molly Fader as she is in shock and doesn’t know what to do. The story is about who is the murderer and becomes an interesting game as Molly becomes more suspicious as to who Ella Riordan really is and her involvement with the deceased man that night.

The story is told through two narratives, Molly’s and Ella’s. Molly is a seasoned campaigner, she used to be a teacher and still does teach occasionally to keep the money coming in. But she is also a photographer and campaigner and has been campaigning or photographing campaigns for decades. Molly meets Ella after a protest they both attended and Ella broke her arm after being hit with a police baton. Molly provides Ella with the contacts that she needs for her PhD and is Ella gets involved with a protest regarding Molly’s flat being pulled down.

The book honestly explores the negative effects of gentrification. Particularly in London how that property developers are ruthlessly developing London for their own gain. How families are having new flats, that they could never afford replace their homes and the social tension that this creates. For those of you reading that live in the UK. We all know the problems about London and other large parts of the UK being unaffordable for the majority of people that work in those areas, particularly if you are a first time buyer.

A quote which stood out for me regarding this was a family that was moving out the block of flats that Ella is campaigning to save. Molly speaks to the family and the young girl, Beth, is at a Russell group University in London which she will leave when she moves to her new area.

“She can take the points from her first year and transfer them to another college,’ Stacey says with the confidence of someone who doesn’t realise the huge gulf between the educational standards of a Russell Group University and whatever her new city has to offer…”

Molly really feels for Beth and young person growing up in the UK today and feels that she did have it slightly easier than young people today.

“My generation ‘stood on our own two feet’ thanks to generous grants and affordable rents and no security tags hidden in the back of expensive textbooks, jobs you could pick up and leave on a whim, knowing the place across the road would be hiring. It’s easy to forget how wide and well sprung our safety nets were.”

I found the narrative at times hard to follow, it didn’t help that I didn’t like either Ella or Molly. The ending did catch me by surprise and was not what I was expecting as I was constantly second guessing on what really happened. If you like a book that is quite a slow burner and an explosive ending than this book would suit.

Nordic noir books seem to be very popular at the moment (in case you were wondering what Nordic noir is (yes I had to google it too) it is a type of scandinavian crime fiction featuring bleak urban settings and dark storylines). I am a bit late jumping onto the bandwagon having unintentionally got on as my friend gave me a few books to read which happen to be from that genre. One book which landed in my lap and I love is The Darkness.

The Darkness is a story about Detective Inspector Hulda Hermansdottir. Hulda has been working for the Icelandic Police for most of her life. She is due to retire at the end of the year and although often she has been frustrated at work as she felt her talent has been overlooked and that she has never been popular at work. It is better than the alternative which is sitting in her flat alone.

Hulda finds from her boss Magnus (who like every other male has risen through the ranks quickly) that Hulda’s retirement is being brought forward to make way for another male high flyer. Hulda determined to finish the week out and to prove a point (more to herself than her boss) chooses a cold case where a russian refugee, Elena died. It was written down as a suspected suicide but Hulda wasn’t convinced. Especially as the person in charge of the case, Hulda felt was incapable.

Hulda opens the case and on discovering another young woman is missing. The reader finds themselves on a journey through Iceland, seeing how small and isolating it is. But also on a journey through Hulda’s life as we understand why she makes the decisions she makes.

The book has a really good plot and the ending is such a surprise but completely logical. I genuinely did not know who killed Elena until right at the end because there were potential suspects with possible motives.

The geographical descriptions of Iceland with me being a huge Geography geek, I really enjoyed and I felt that it easily transports the reader away from the train/chair/bed location of where they are reading the book to wherever Hulda is or where an unnamed narrator is in every other chapter of the book. Those descriptions are a very important part of the book and really help set the scene.

Ragnar has two more books in his ‘Hidden Iceland’ series both of which I will get round to reading at some point! Have you read any Ragnar Jonasson books?

Image of the book Headhunters by Jo Nesbo.

Me and my friend have a constant book swap going on and one book that landed in my lap was Headhunters by Jo Nesbo. In fact it wasn’t the first time I had come across Jo Nesbo. My Mum gave me a load of his books and I have heard that he is really good before but I stupidly gave them back to her without reading one!

Headhunters is about the story of Roger, the self proclaimed best Headhunter in Norway. We learn he is successful due to him employing FBI interrogation techniques on the people that he interviews. He lives in a large house that he cannot afford with his wife Dana. Their relationship, I found to be a odd one. Although he loves his wife, I felt him to be very controlling. He doesn’t want to have a child and he pressured his wife into having an abortion, which doesn’t sit well with me. To make up for not having children and to make sure Dana stays with him (he is constantly paranoid that Dana will leave him because he won’t give her a child), he had brought Dana an art gallery. This art gallery is losing money. We also learn that he is an art thief on the side, making money from stolen paintings.

One day, he meets his match. At the gallery, Roger is introduced to Clas Greave. An ex CEO of a GPS company that would be perfect for a CEO of a rival GPS company. Clas Greve used to be in the military therefore sees through Rogers interrogation techniques very quickly and throws the questions back at Roger which takes him by surprise. Not only this but Roger learns that Clas has a very rare painting in his house that he is currently renovating.

Roger sets about stealing this painting to get the money to keep him financially afloat, whilst stealing this painting he decides, spontaneously, to ring Dana. That’s when he realises that Dana has been from the outset having an affair with Clas. This is because her phone rings in the house and Roger finds it underneath his bed. He decides there and then that he wants to kill him, ironically Clas has set out to kill Roger. This triggers a weird, and humorous situation where it is a game of cat and mouse to see who kills who first.

You would think, from what I have said above, the book would be really serious. The book is fast paced however it had such an humorous element to it – totally unexpected from a thriller ( I still chuckle at the horror Clas had when the art gallery was exhibiting an artist that wasn’t selling any of the paintings and Dana had gone ahead and brought the best food) . The situations that Roger gets himself into are crazy (and when you think, wow he got out of that one another crazy situation occurs) but not completely unbelievable.

Every loose end of the book is tied up neatly an a surprising twist at the end. It is no surprise that the book was made into a movie, which I will watch at some point. So is it worth a read? Yes! Now I need to go back to my Dad’s house to hunt down the other books…

have you read any Jo Nesbo’s books?

World War Two literature (both fiction and non-fiction) I really enjoy reading. I got Home Front Girls from the free bookshelf at the local gym so was really excited to get stuck in.

Home Front Girls tells the story of three women, all who have lived completely different lives meet after taking roles at OwenOwen a department store in Coventry. Dotty, a woman who has spent all of her life living in an orphanage and at the age of 18 has moved into a flat on her own and is standing on her own two feet for the first time. Lucy who lives in a house with her little sister Mary and her older brother and finally Annabel, a spoilt girl who has always have everything she wanted. She throws tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants and is gutted that her mother forces her to get a job and ‘make do and mend’.

Set in the backdrop of Coventry just before and during World War Two, the story interweaves true events such as the Coventry Cathedral bombing through the story. The story has many twists and turns for all of the women. Poor Dotty doesn’t get a break as she gets bombed out of her house twice and writes stories in her spare time as she used writing as a way to escape when she was at the orphanage. Her talent of writing stories gets discovered and through this she finds love.

Annabel was my least favourite character, she had been spoilt as a child and the way she comes across in the book (and Rosie is persistent at presenting Annabel as a spoilt brat) almost makes you want to chuck the book at the wall. However she does become a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Worker, partly I feel as a repent for being a selfish woman.

Lucy is the most unique character, both her parents have died but she has this dark secret, which almost suffocates her as she keeps herself to herself. We see throughout the book this deep friendly relationship with her next door neighbour Mrs Price (Mrs P). Mrs Price has three kids, two that have been evacuated and one that has gone to war (the banter between her and her husband is quite sweet).

The book does get a bit silly after a while. It feels like every truly awful thing that can ever happen to a person (because being set in WW2 just isn’t enough) happens. If you want a book to kill some time whilst on the holiday or train (like the one I take to work everyday) then you can do much worse than pick this one.

Thespending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.”

On Saturday, I jumped at the chance to see what Britain’s second city has to offer.

Image of the outside of the Boston Tea Party.

Getting off the train at New Street, I wanted some breakfast so wandered over to Boston Tea Party, situated on Corporation Street. Boston Tea Party recently introduced no single use cups in their cafe and use ethically sourced ingredients where ever possible. I was eating in and decided on the Sweetcorn hash, a vegetarian breakfast meal consisting of sweetcorn hashbrowns, avocado sauce, eggs and halloumi cheese washing it down with a hot chocolate. Yes it tasted as amazing as it sounds. Sound good so far, why don’t you check out Hotels in Birmingham, in preparation for your trip?

Image of the Sweetcorn hash, eggs and halloumi to the left. On the top right there was an image of the hot chocolate and the bottom right a variety of cakes.

Afterwards, I moseyed over to Digbeth. Digbeth is a ten minute walk from New Street Station and used to be where the factories were based but has regenerated into a unique, quirky area – home to the creative industries. Cow is a vintage shop in Digbeth that sells amazing, good quality vintage clothes and was my first port of call.

Cow vintage shop front filled with clothes and artwork.

Image of the inside of Cow vintage. Lots of clothes on hangers.
Image of an outdoor fountain with two plastic flamingos in.

Next is the Custard Factory an area in Digbeth, aptly named as it used to be a factory that made Birds Custard! I had a look at the artwork within the Zellig building situated there before going for a another hot chocolate at 7 sins and a mooch in The Clean Kilo – the UK’s largest zero waste supermarket. I had seen these zero waste places on the TV but never been in one myself so was interested in seeing what it was all about.

Image of the inside of 7 sins cafe. There are sofas, tables and a pencil installed on a wall.
Image of seven metal people suspended in the air.
An image with two graffiti images.

Digbeth is world known for graffiti with graffiti artists from all around the world coming to spray on Digbeth’s walls. I took the opportunity to take some snaps of the graffiti. The image on the right was created by Justin Sola.

An image of one building covered with graffiti.

My next location I visited is ThinkTank – Birmingham’s Science Museum, located at Millennium Point next to Birmingham City University. It is a museum for the kids but there are enough exhibitions for the big kids, like me, as well. I had a nice couple of hours browsing the exhibitions. There is a nice medical one, a Spitfire, lots of cars and steam engines. The exhibitions have a Birmingham and Midlands slant with exhibitions marked where ever possible. Heading back into town, I dropped into the Bullring, Birmingham’s largest shopping centre and got a couple of bits and pieces.

Three image montage. The first vertical image of some steam pumps. The top right is of a metal lightbulb and the bottom right is of a car.
Image of the outside of the Second Cup Coffee Company.

Before going home I quickly nipped into Second Cup Coffee Company, a Canadian coffee chain. It has such a cosy atmosphere in there. I often see people working on there laptops. I grabbed a vegan Oreo chocolate brownie for my partner before heading home.

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