My Brother by Karin Smirnoff

My Brother by Karin Smirnoff

Translated by Anna Paterson


Jana is returning to see her twin brother Bror, still living in the family farmhouse in the rural north of Sweden. The house is decrepit and crumbling, and Bror is determindly drinking himself into an early grave. The siblings are both damaged by horrific childhood experiences, buried deep in the past, but Jana cannot keep running.

Alive with the brutality and beauty of the landscape, My Brother is a novel steeped in darkness and violence – about abuse, love, complicity, and coming to terms with the past. It’s the story of a homecoming without a home: a story of forgiveness.

My Review:

I must admit that this could be a difficult read for some readers as there are themes running through this novel that are difficult but also there is hope and that was important. My Brother (Pushkin Press) by Karin Smirnoff deals with family abuse and cruelty and it is challenging but I was determined to finish reading.

Set in the North of Sweden, and Jana Kippo is heading home to the family farmhouse where her brother still lives. The farmhouse is now pretty much run down and that goes for Bror her brother. There are grim memories for both here and that explains why Bror is heading towards an early grave. He is drinking a lot and his health is poor.

As children they were abused in the worst way possible while their mother accepted this and both are struggling in their own to way through life, for Bror drinking, maybe it helps him forget but it is a path of self-destruction and for Jana she likes to clean. The wintery landscape is bleak with the freezing conditions and deep snow. But seasons do change and with that there is hope for the future. The storyline is bleak but there are times when we can have a glimpse of what could be for Jana and Bror.

Karin Smirnoff for her debut novel has created a difficult storyline but also an isolated setting. Smirnoff has also written in a unique style with little punctuation but every now and then the author brings something into the storyline which then hits hard into the plot and the reader, but I liked the authors writing style. A word about the translation. This is by Anna Paterson and she has done an excellent job with the translation.

The rights to My Brother have been sold to nine territories and has been optioned for a major international TV production.

320 Pages.

My thanks to Poppy Stimpson (Pushkin Press) for the review copy of My Brother by Karin Smirnoff  

My Brother by Karin Smirnoff was published by Pushkin Press and was published on 4th March 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK




This week we welcome to the Independent Publishing Showcase Pushkin Press a publisher I have become a big fan of over recent years. Founded in 1997 and publishes novels, non-fiction, and children’s books. Under Pushkin Collection, Pushkin Vertigo, Pushkin Children’s Books and One. You will find unique and award-winning writers from across the world many have gone on to feature on the Booker Prize, the International Booker Prize and even the Nobel Peace Prize.

They have an extremely exciting listing of books in both fiction and poetry, these can be ordered by visiting their website with details below.

Keep an eye on their Twitter feed @pushkinpress or visit their website: Pushkin Press

A selection of the fiction, crime and children’s books currently released:

Little Gods by Meng Jin

Published: 25th February 2021


On the night of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a woman gives birth alone in a Beijing hospital. Years later, her daughter Liya travels from America to China with her mother’s ashes, hoping to unravel the legacy of silences and contradictions that she inherited from that night.

As Liya seeks to untangle the mystery of her family, we travel through Shanghai and Beijing, and deep into the past, uncovering an unexpected love triangle whose repurcussions are felt in the present moment.

Ambitious yet intimate, Little Gods is a gripping story of migrations both literal and emotional, and of the tragic impact of history on personal lives.

Meng Jin’s s narrative prose has appeared in the Pushcart Prize AnthologyThreepenny ReviewPloughshares, the Bare Life ReviewVogue, and Best American Short Stories 2020. A Kundiman Fellow, she has an MFA from Hunter College, and received the David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia. Jin was born in Shanghai and has lived in the UK and the US.

The Captain’s Daughter: Essential Stories by Alexander pushkin

Published: 25th February 2021


A dazzling new collection of Pushkin’s most essential fiction, in definitive translations by the acclaimed Anthony Briggs

Pushkin’s restless creative genius laid the foundations for Russian prose. His stories, among the greatest and most influential ever written, retain stunning directness and precision, more than ever in Anthony Briggs’s finely nuanced translations.

Upending expectations at every turn, Pushkin depicts brutal conflicts and sudden reversals of fortune with disarming lightness and sly humour. These are stories of fateful chances: a stationmaster encourages his young daughter to ride to town with a traveller, only to lose her forever; a man obsessively pursues an elderly woman’s secret for success at cards, with bizarre results; and in The Captain’s Daughter, Pushkin’s great historical novella of love and rebellion in the era of Catherine the Great, a mysterious encounter proves fatally significant during a violent uprising.

The Elephant by Peter Carnavas

Release Date: 28th January 2021


A big grey elephant is following Olive’s father around. It leaves with him for work and trails behind him when he comes home, keeping him heavy and sad. Every day, Olive wishes it would disappear.

When she is asked to bring something old and wonderful to show her class, Olive immediately wants to bring her old bike – but she will need her father s help to fix it. Teaming up with her cheery grandad and best friend Arthur, she sets out to chase the elephant away.

The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji

(Pushkin Vertigo)

Translated by Ho-Ling Wong

Release Date: 3rd December 2020


The lonely, rockbound island of Tsunojima is notorious as the site of a series of bloody unsolved murders. Some even say it’s haunted. One thing s for sure: it’s the perfect destination for the K-University Mystery Club’s annual trip.

But when the first club member turns up dead, the remaining amateur sleuths realise they will need all of their murder-mystery expertise to get off the island alive.

As the party are picked off one by one, the survivors grow desperate and paranoid, turning on each other. Will anyone be able to untangle the murderer’s fiendish plan before it s too late?

A Stranger in My Grave by Margaret Millar

(Pushkin Vertigo)

Release Date: 2020


A nightmare is haunting Daisy Harker. Night after night she walks a strange cemetery in her dreams, until she comes to a grave that stops her in her tracks. It’s Daisy’s own, and according to the dates on the gravestone she’s been dead for four years.

What can this nightmare mean, and why is Daisy’s husband so insistent that she forget it? Driven to desperation, she hires a private investigator to reconstruct the day of her dream death. But as she pieces her past together, her present begins to fall apart…

For further information on the publications from Pushkin Press please visit their website: Pushkin Press

You can also find them on Twitter: @pushkinpress and also their Instagram feed @pushkin_press and Facebook: @pushkinpress

If you have enjoyed this week’s showcase, please look out for my next Independent Publishers Showcase next week. If you are an indie publisher and would like to add your name to the showcase, you can contact me via Twitter: @TheLastWord1962

The Ice by John Kare Raake

The Ice by John Kåre Raake

Translated by Adam King



Anna Aune is on a scientific expedition to the North Pole, when the pitch black of the polar night is lit up by a distress flare.


At a nearby research station Anna discovers a massacre – mutilated bodies strewn about the base. Then, a fierce Arctic storm blows in, cutting off any possibility of escape.

Anna races to find the murderer before they get to her, but she discovers a secret lurks under the ice – one that nations will kill for…

My Review:

If like me you like your thriller as cold as ice then The Ice (Pushkin Vertigo) the debut novel by successful screenwriter John Kåre Raake is perfect as it is set in the North Pole and is the first in a series which stars Special Forces Commando Anna Aune. The good news is that this is being developed into a television series.

The Ice

Imagine being at the North Pole and a killer is on the loose, so where do you run to hide? The vast wide-open expanse is at the heart of this bone chilling thriller that is perfect for a winters evening. Anna Aune volunteers to accompany 73-year-old professor Daniel Zakariassen, not a trip that Anna wanted to go on but as a Special Forces Commando she is trained for conditions such as the North Pole. But she is still suffering from PTSD and has survived war torn regions but also suffered the loss of her lover. Together with the professor Anna is at the North Pole to study the effects of Climate Change but soon things take a very sinister twist.

They are heading towards the Chinese research station when they see a flare go up but when they arrive it is a scene of mass murder. Suddenly for Anna she is at the heart of a major crime and the killer are still out there. What makes it worse is that the weather is now deteriorating rapidly and trying to stay alive and hunt the killer before the killer finds them.

Anna will now need all her special forces training to keep her and Daniel alive. Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing, but who and what is exactly at the heart of the killing spree. There are frozen dead bodies everywhere. But Anna discovers one severely injured man, and he could hold clues to what happened and just what was really going on at the Chinese research station and he could hold a clue as to how many are behind the massacre, but she needs to keep him alive.

At the same time as trying to stay alive in the worsening conditions Anna knows that she needs help and tries to locate a working radio to call for urgent assistance.

The Ice is a fast-paced atmospheric thriller that has a real sense of foreboding and not just the building storm. Raake has combined both the North Pole and a mass killer to build an incredible and compelling read with a new heroine at the heart of the storyline.

400 Pages.

Thank you Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for the review copy of The Ice by John Kåre Raake.

The Ice by John Kåre Raake was published by Pushkin Vertigo and was published on 7th January 2021 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai


In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour – it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions around the village.

Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi household are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music. Death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house.

Soon, amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is on the scene to investigate what will become a legendary murder case, but can this scruffy sleuth solve a seemingly impossible crime?

My Review:

First published in April 1946 The Honjin Murders was the first of a series to feature the amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi who went on to feature in 77 books, with many going on to become film and TV adaptations in Japan. Until now it has never been translated into English.

Set in 1937 and in the village of Okamura as there is going to be a wedding. There is a real buzz and anticipation as this marriage involves Kenzo Ichiyanagi the son of one of the most prominent and wealthiest of families in the region. Kenzo met Katsuko a schoolteacher, there love of books soon turned into romance.

 But death is stalking the newlyweds as that evening there is a terrible scream and followed by what sounds like strange music. Family members rush to see what the scream was about but cannot wake or get access to the home of the newlyweds. It is Katsuko’s uncle that breaks into the property and is faced with a shocking scene, both Kenzo and his bride lay dead covered in blood. Who could do such a thing just hours after the wedding. But that is not all. Outside thrust into the snow is a samurai sword covered with blood. Murder has come to the village.

But something does not fit, there is no sign of a break-in and the house was locked, who could have murdered the bride and groom and leave no trace of entrance or exit.

With the police on the scene looking for clues as to who may have committed the double murder, then a family member believes amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi could be of real help is solving the crime.

Kosuke goes about his work in a somewhat different way to the usual police methods and his demeanour may not appeal to everyone but Kosuke could just be the man to solve the mystery of who killed Kenzo and Katsuko.

I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this Japanese mystery and the translation was superb by Louise Heal Kawai. This reads like a good old fashioned murder mystery. Fans of Agatha Christie will really enjoy The Honjin Murders and how Seisho Yokomizo crafted the storyline keeping the reader guessing with a number of red herrings to throw the reader of course just when you think you have nailed who killed the newlyweds. A short murder mystery under 200 pages but with interesting characters adding to the plot. I can really recommend for a winter read by the fire.

192 Pages.

My thanks to Poppy Stimpson & Pushkin Vertigo for the review copy of The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo was published by Pushkin Vertigo and will be published on 3rd December 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu


In an isolated castle deep in the Styrian forest, Laura leads a solitary life with only her elderly father for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest – the beautiful Carmilla.
So begins a feverish friendship between Laura and her mysterious, entrancing companion. But as Carmilla becomes increasingly strange and volatile, prone to eerie nocturnal wanderings, Laura finds herself tormented by nightmares and growing weaker by the day…
Pre-dating Dracula by twenty-six years, Carmilla is the original vampire story, steeped in sexual tension and gothic romance.

My Review:

Being as today is Halloween, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the day than with a cult classic that went on to inspire such books as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James to The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, not to mention the films under the Hammer House of Horror. I can only be talking about Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) First published in 1872 and what a stunning new edition that has just been released by Pushkin Press not to mention that fantastic cover. (One you have to see).

Acclaimed as the very first vampire novel, the story is set with a backdrop of a castle deep in an Austrian forest were Laura and her poorly father live in an almost solitary life. The days seem to merge into one for Laura. That is until one late one evening with the moon glowing in the night sky a horse-drawn carriage crashes and now the castle has a beautiful guest that is Carmilla.

Carmilla is to unwell to travel after the accident by chance or design and so she now is a guest of Laura and her father, and it does not take Carmilla too long to settle into her new residence and Laura has become intoxicated with the beautiful visitor. It does not take too long for a deep friendship to form, but it is Carmilla who has set her sights on Laura. Now Carmilla’s strange and also not to mention her nocturnal behaviour is having an effect on Laura who now suddenly finds she is having nightmares and is getting weaker as each day goes by and her strength is waning. Carmilla is beginning to prey on Laura.

The story is written eight years after the events at the castle, and just who were travelling with Carmilla and what was their purpose, what really brought Carmilla to the castle and to prey on Laura?

It is Baron Vordenburg who has experience of vampires that arrives to save Laura from Carmilla’s spell. But for Laura years after the experience Carmilla’s presence is still felt as she is haunted by the beautiful temptress and is that Carmilla’s footsteps she can hear in the dead of night?

If you are a fan of gothic vampire stories then I can really recommend Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and read how it all began. Highly Recommended.

Happy Halloween

Thank you to Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for the review copy of Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.

Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu was published by Pushkin Press and was published on 15th October 2020, priced at £9.99 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.