#BookReview: When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins @panmacmillan #WhenIWasTen #damppebbles

“Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins. When I Was Ten was published by Pan Macmillan in paperback format on 30th December 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read When I Was Ten since it first landed on my radar last year. Having finished one book, I was in a strange ‘nothing really appeals…’ mood and was looking for something a little dark and a little uncomfortable to get my teeth into. Which is when this book suddenly sprang to mind! Without a second thought, I downloaded a copy and made a start straight away. And what a devastating and utterly compelling story When I Was Ten is. I absolutely loved it!

Twenty-one years ago Richard and Pamela Carter were viciously murdered in their beds. The case became infamous, partly due to the respect held by the local community for Dr Carter – the local GP – but mainly because the killer was their youngest daughter. After spending time in a secure unit for children, the daughter assumed a new identity and started a new life. But now a documentary crew have found the older of the two sisters and questions are being asked. The Angel of Death is back in the spotlight, the last place she ever wanted to be, and her new life is about to come crashing down around her…

Oh my goodness, When I Was Ten is SO GOOD! This is, I’m ashamed to admit, the first book I’ve read by this author despite being told repeatedly by fellow readers for years that I would love her books. They were right.  I loved the story, the characters and Cummins’ writing. So much so, I plan to download the author’s entire back catalogue as soon as I’m physically able to.

When I Was Ten centres around the Carter sisters and their friend and neighbour from 21 years ago, Brinley Booth. Told in the past and the present, we get to hear from journalist Brinley as she decides whether to reveal her connection to the biggest story of the year to her boss. In doing so, she knows it’ll give her failing career a real boost. But does she really want to dredge up difficult memories from that time again? Particularly as Brinley knows more than she’s letting on. We also get to hear from Catherine as her carefully created life crumbles around her. As her daughter and husband realise who has actually been head of their family for the last twelve years. How well do we really know those we’re closest to? There are also deeply unsettling flashbacks to the past which show the reader how the Carter sisters were treated by their supposedly perfect parents in their nice big house. It makes for difficult reading at times but I couldn’t tear myself away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. When I Was Ten is dark and twisty and absolutely everything I love about crime fiction. There were a number of brilliantly written surprises along the way, some which left me with my jaw on the floor. I thought the characters were very well-written and really pulled the reader into the story. The book is paced beautifully, encouraging ‘just one more chapter’ before turning out the light. But before you know it, half of the night has passed and you know you’ll be living on coffee and fumes come the morning *true story* (it was so worth it though 😉)! When I Was Ten is undoubtedly one of my favourite reads of 2022 and fans of family centred crime thrillers should put this one top of their wish list. You’ll be missing out on something quite special if you don’t! Hugely compelling, immensely readable, heart breaking and unexpectedly emotional, and impossible to put down. Loved it. Highly recommended.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on 30th December 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Fiona CumminsFiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy, where she now teaches her own Writing Crime course. She is the bestselling author of five crime thriller novels, all of which have received widespread critical acclaim from household names including Val McDermid, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin. Three of her novels have been optioned for television.

Rattle, her debut, has been translated into several languages and Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’ Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’.

Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin called it ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten, an Irish Times bestseller, was published in April 2021. Into The Dark, Fiona’s fifth novel, will be published in April 2022 and was described by Sarah Vaughan, author of Netflix smash-hit Anatomy of A Scandal, as ‘Complex. Inventive. Twisty. Unsettling.’

When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.

#BookReview: Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew @BloomsburyRaven #LittleNothings #damppebbles

“With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Liv Travers never knew real friendship until she met fellow mums Beth and Binnie. The three women become inseparable as they muddle through early parenthood together.

Then along comes Ange. Ambitious, wealthy and somehow able to do it all.

Under Ange’s guiding presence, the group finds new vigour and fresh aspirations – bigger houses, better schools, dinners at exclusive restaurants. But Liv can’t keep up and is increasingly edged out.

When the four families take a three-week trip to a luxurious holiday resort, Liv seizes the opportunity to reclaim her place at the heart of the group, only to discover the true, devastating cost of a friendship with Ange.

Set over the course of a single, life-changing trip to a Greek island paradise, Little Nothings is a sly, suspenseful novel about female bonds turned toxic, and the desperate ends one woman will go to keep her friends close – and her enemy closer.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew. Little Nothings is published by Raven Books today (that’s Thursday 12th May 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Little Nothings but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Raven Books for sending me a proof copy.

Let’s face it, with us all being stuck at home for the past two years the thought of going overseas for a few days, soaking up the sun and drinking cocktails by the pool probably appeals a lot more than it has before. It certainly does to me anyway! So when I first laid eyes on this book, the cover alone called my name. Look how glorious it is! I then checked out the blurb and knew I HAD to read this book. A toxic friendship set against the stunning backdrop of Corfu? Yes please!

Liv Travers has always struggled to make friends. Even at school she was often the one left out. Going into adulthood, nothing changed. The concept of making friends just alluded Liv. That was until she met Binnie and Beth at a baby group. Suddenly something clicked and the three women became as thick as thieves. And Liv finally understood what she had been missing all these years. And then along came Ange. Confident, more than competent, excelling at everything and the new focal point of the group. And for Liv, something changed. So when Ange suggests the four families head to an exclusive resort in Corfu for three weeks, they can’t say no. But the trip is far from paradise for Liv, and the true cost of being friends with Ange soon becomes devastatingly clear…

Little Nothings is a divine tale of female friendships gone horribly wrong and oh my gosh, it blew me away. I loved every single second, every single word of this book from its agonising start to its jaw-dropping conclusion. Although her neediness did often make me cringe a little, I adored Liv. There was just something about her that I, and perhaps I shouldn’t admit to this, understood? She’s such a well-written character. So much so she felt very real to me. The other characters in the book are also excellent. The mere mention of Ange’s name made my blood pressure rise. There was a wonderful sense of uncomfortable apprehension as I waited to see what awful slight, what dastardly lengths she had gone to to put Liv well and truly in her place. Stunning!

I was fully immersed in the story from the moment I picked up the book and met Liv. As the story progresses the reader gets to discover more about Liv and Pete’s history and what they’ve both had to face over the preceding months. Why this holiday has become such a big event for them, why they’ve pushed so hard to get to Corfu when really they should be over a thousand miles away at home, and how what they were expecting, what was promised, was a big, fat, ugly lie. All of those little nothings, all of those hurtful comments which were covered up and brushed aside with a smile, all of the times things have gone wrong. Well, they all add up.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I ADORED Little Nothings and I know it will feature in my top books of the year list in December. Everything worked for me. The characters stood tall from the page and I don’t think I’ll forget any of them in a hurry. The pace of the book made sure that I was turning the pages late into the night – way past my bedtime. The setting was perfect and the descriptions were beautifully vivid enabling me to picture the scene with ease. I loved everything about this book. Every last little detail. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Little Nothings. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew was published in the UK by Raven Books on 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ImageJulie Mayhew is a journalist who became an actress (because she wanted more creative ways to tell stories), who became a scriptwriter (because she couldn’t find enough brilliant roles for women).

She is an award-winning novelist, an award-nominated radio dramatist and has written short stories and stage plays to critical acclaim. As a participant in the BFI Network x BAFTA Crew programme, Julie now also writes and directs for the screen.

Born and raised in Peterborough, home is now Hertfordshire. She is mum to two boys. Her best friend is a border terrier called Connie.

WWW Wednesday | 11th May 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

No Secrets by David Jackson
THEY BELIEVE HIS LIES. SHE KNOWS THE TRUTH.

You can’t lie to Izzy Lambert. Her highly developed empathic abilities allow her to read people’s emotions with terrifying accuracy – and consequences. As a child her insights sparked her parents’ divorce. As an adult she avoids getting too close to people for fear of what she might learn.

But now young girls are going missing in her town. The police have no suspects but, seeing her old school caretaker interviewed on the news about the story, Izzy comes to a chilling realisation: he knows where the missing girls are. When the police won’t take her seriously despite the lives at stake, she will risk everything to uncover the truth.


What did you recently finish reading?

WAKE by Shelley Burr
EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019.


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Box by Dan Malakin
To save your child you must open The Box…

Ed Truman’s family is falling apart. His daughter Ally is being targeted by an alt-right incel organisation, Men Together. His house is being picketed, former clients are accusing him of sexual assault, his son won’t speak to him. And then Ally disappears.

Frantic, Ed suspects that Men Together have abducted her. But before he can go to the police, his DNA is found on the body of a young woman. Suddenly he’s the subject of a nationwide manhunt, led by the tenacious DCI Jackie Rose. Ed finds himself on the run with Ally’s friend, Phoenix, who claims to know where Ally is. But what is the truth? Is Ed a violent sexual predator? Or is he the victim of a ruthless conspiracy? The answers are in The Box. But not everyone who goes in, comes out alive…

From the bestselling author of The Regret, this heart-pounding thriller is perfect for readers of Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham and M.W. Craven.

#BookReview: The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @HodderBooks #TheLastThingtoBurn #damppebbles

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. The Last Thing to Burn was first published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th January 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

The Last Thing to Burn is one of the biggest books of the last year, without a doubt. I see it discussed on social media a lot, I see it recommended even more. So much so that I made it one of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge picks as it was suggested by three (count ’em, three!) fabulous reviewers (I’m looking at you @Zoebeesbooks@Littlemissbook6 and @DelishBooks). And if you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may remember that it was joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021 which immediately makes it a must read for me. Having read the book, experienced its darkness and come out the other side sobbing big, fat, ugly tears I can say I wholeheartedly agree with the exceptional praise this novel has received. The Last Thing to Burn is a truly unsettling, uncomfortable read but it’s essential reading. Devastating, heart breaking but an absolute must read.

Jane and Leonard live together at Fen Farm surrounded by nothing but vast fenland. Leonard is content with his life. He works the land, tends the pigs and comes home to his dinner on the table every night. Jane, his wife, is a prisoner. Very few people know of Jane’s existence and that’s the way it will remain. She cooks, cleans and performs other duties Leonard expects of a wife. She has no choice, otherwise she is punished. She’s watched by cameras 24/7. There is no escape. And definitely no hope. Until something changes. Until a fire is lit within Jane’s being. Now it’s her turn to watch Leonard, and wait…

The first thing to say about The Last Thing to Burn is that it’s not an easy read and if you’re looking for something light then this book is not it. Far from it. It’s dark, it’s horrifying, and it’s harrowing from start to finish. It’s also hugely compelling, utterly absorbing and the tension is pinpoint sharp. My heart broke multiple times. I felt I needed to take a break on several occasions but I just could not tear myself away from Dean’s writing and characterisation.

The characters are frighteningly believable. To me they were real and I lived the horrors of life at Fen Farm alongside them. ‘Jane’ is perfection on a page. I adored her and was hoping, even when it seemed as though all hope had been extinguished, that there would be some small sliver, some ray of light that meant she would come out of this on top. Leonard is utterly despicable, a loathsome brute of a man, but I thought the way the author wrote him was an absolute masterclass in writing a villain. He made my blood boil. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that angry or furious towards one character before. Superbly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Thing to Burn is deeply unsettling and utterly unnerving. The most uncomfortable book I’ve read this year and rightly so. The subject matter should make us feel uncomfortable. I think something has gone horribly wrong if it doesn’t. The writing is stunning, the characterisation is superb and the setting is perfectly claustrophobic and horribly visual. I could picture the scenes in my mind perfectly. That dank and depressing kitchen with the Rayburn *shudder*. This is an unforgettable novel and I now fully understand why so many reviewers recommend it. Allow me to add my voice to the masses. If you’re a reader of dark fiction and you haven’t picked up The Last Thing to Burn yet then what are you waiting for? You need this book in your life. Highly recommended.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book Depositorybookshop.org | Goodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BookReview: Sundial by Catriona Ward @ViperBooks @ThePigeonholeHQ #Sundial #damppebbles

You can’t escape the desert. You can’t escape Sundial.

Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because of what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to Sundial, her childhood home deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

A gripping gothic masterpiece from the bestselling and award-winning author of THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET, SUNDIAL is a must-read for fans of GIRL A and SHARP OBJECTS.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Sundial by Catriona Ward. Sundial was published by Viper Books on 10th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Sundial but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to The Pigeonhole for providing me with a copy.

The Last House on Needless Street was, without a doubt, one of the biggest books of 2021. It’s been shortlisted for awards, the rights have been sold all over the world, it topped the charts, it featured on several TV book clubs, the film rights have been optioned and most importantly of all (in my opinion, anyway) it was the joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. It’s HUGE and rightly so. So it goes without saying that the latest release from Ward and Viper Books was going to be a must read for many. Myself included. I could not wait to read this book!

Rob and Irving have two beautiful daughters, rewarding teaching careers, they live in a good neighbourhood and take the utmost care of their house. Life, on the outside, looks perfect for the Cussens family. But Rob knows the truth. There’s something about her eldest daughter, Callie, which puts her on edge. To the point where she feels her other daughter, Annie, isn’t safe. When the proof arrives, Rob makes the decision to move Callie as far away from her sibling as possible for a few days and drives to her family home of Sundial in the Mojave Desert. In the isolation of the desert, surrounded by painful, difficult memories and the ghosts of her family, Rob will have to make the hardest decision she’s ever made….

Dark and disturbing, Sundial was an absolute dream to read. I adored every unsettling moment I spent amongst the pages of this exquisite novel. The author is a master at writing highly complex, utterly intriguing, yet deeply flawed characters who, over time, reveal their true selves, and it makes for compulsive reading. I adored Rob. It’s clear from the moment she and Callie arrive at Sundial that her past, and her family, were very different to the norm. Dysfunctional is an understatement! The more the reader discovers, the more shocking things become. I’m loathe to say too much in fear of giving something away that I shouldn’t. There are so many well-plotted layers to this novel that each chapter brings a new revelation. Something to twist and shape what you thought into something new and different which makes for a thrilling, unpredictable reading experience.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Sundial is highly original, darkly compelling and totally twisted (in the best way possible). The pressure really was on for the author following the huge success of The Last House on Needless Street but by George, she’s gone and done it again! Sundial is a very different beast to its predecessor but I think I preferred it ever so slightly. Both books are superb but I think this one, for me, takes the edge. The setting is very well drawn, I could feel the heat of the Mojave Desert blistering my skin. The characters have real depth and I felt as though they were living and breathing in front of me. The plot flowed beautifully, keeping me within the pages and occupying my thoughts when I wasn’t reading. Addictive, uncomfortable at times but truly stunning in concept and delivery. Psychological horror at its absolute finest and this book firmly puts Ward on my ‘must read’ author list. I’m excited to see what Catriona Ward delivers next! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Sundial. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Sundial by Catriona Ward was published in the UK by Viper Books on 10th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Catriona WardCATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

Stephen King praised her latest gothic thriller, saying: ‘The buzz building around Catriona Ward’s THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end. Haven’t read anything this exciting since GONE GIRL.’ THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is published 2021 by Viper (UK) and Tor Nightfire (USA).

Her next book, SUNDIAL will be published by Nightfire (US) and Viper (UK) in March 2022.

Ward’s second novel LITTLE EVE won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award, as well as the August Derleth Prize at the British Fantasy Awards, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. LITTLE EVE will be published in the US by Tor Nightfire in October 2022.

Ward’s debut RAWBLOOD also won the 2016 August Derleth, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. ‘The Pier at Ardentinny’ was shortlisted for the ALCS Tom Gallon Trust Award organised by the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London and Devon.

WWW Wednesday | 4th May 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

WAKE by Shelley Burr
EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019.


What did you recently finish reading?

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
Be careful what you watch for . . .

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

Packed with sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy plot twists, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake is the ultimate escapist read . . . no lake house required.

The Bay by Allie Reynolds
There’s a darkness inside all of us and The Bay has a way of bringing it out. Everyone here has their secrets but we don’t go looking for them. Because sometimes it’s better not to know.

Kenna arrives in Sydney to surprise her best friend, shocked to hear she’s going to marry a guy she’s only just met. But Mikki and her fiancé Jack are about to head away on a trip, so Kenna finds herself tagging along for the ride.

Sorrow Bay is beautiful, wild and dangerous. A remote surfing spot with waves to die for, cut off from the rest of the world. Here Kenna meets the mysterious group of people who will do anything to keep their paradise a secret. Sky, Ryan, Clemente and Victor have come to ride the waves and disappear from life. How will they feel about Kenna turning up unannounced?

As Kenna gets drawn into their world, she sees the extremes they are prepared to go to for the next thrill. And everyone seems to be hiding something. What has her best friend got involved in and how can she get her away? But one thing is rapidly becoming clear about The Bay: nobody ever leaves.


What do you think you’ll read next?

No Secrets by David Jackson
THEY BELIEVE HIS LIES. SHE KNOWS THE TRUTH.

You can’t lie to Izzy Lambert. Her highly developed empathic abilities allow her to read people’s emotions with terrifying accuracy – and consequences. As a child her insights sparked her parents’ divorce. As an adult she avoids getting too close to people for fear of what she might learn.

But now young girls are going missing in her town. The police have no suspects but, seeing her old school caretaker interviewed on the news about the story, Izzy comes to a chilling realisation: he knows where the missing girls are. When the police won’t take her seriously despite the lives at stake, she will risk everything to uncover the truth.

#BookReview: Outside by Ragnar Jónasson @MichaelJBooks #Outside #damppebbles

“In a deadly Icelandic snowstorm, four friends seek shelter in an abandoned hunting lodge.

But nothing can prepare them for what’s inside.

Forced to spend a long and terrifying night in the cabin, they watch intently and silently.

Just as they themselves are being watched.

As the night darkens, and old secrets spill into the light, it’s soon clear that what they’ve discovered in the cabin is far from the only mystery lurking there.

Nor the only thing to be afraid of . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outside by Ragnar Jónasson. Outside was published last week (on Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Outside but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

Four friends – Daníel, Ármann, Helena and Gunnlaugur – who due to the demands of life haven’t seen each other for a while, plan a hunting trip to the Icelandic highlands. After a difficult boozy first night at base camp they head, armed with a couple of shotguns, into the Icelandic wilderness. Only for a deadly snowstorm to hit part way through their trek scuppering their plans. The group believe their luck is in when they stumble upon a cabin. But once inside, they realise their haven is far from safe. The dangers lurking in the cabin are just as deadly as the storm raging outside…

Outside is a well-written, short and punchy suspense thriller which gave me chills. I found myself flying through this novel thanks to the intriguing story and the short chapters, each told from one of the four friends point of view. They’re an odd mix of people. I didn’t really feel I had the measure of any of them, apart from Gunnlaugur. It was clear from the outset that he’s a very sad, lonely man with an addiction to alcohol (but that certainly doesn’t excuse his terrible behaviour in any way, shape or form!). But you don’t need to have the measure of these characters to be swept along in their gripping story.

As soon as the storm worsens, the tension mounts and they begin to turn on each other. When they finally make it inside the cabin and they realise exactly how dire their situation is, it becomes almost unbearable. The author is clearly a master of suspense because there was no way on this earth I was going to walk away from this novel once I had made a start. I HAD to know what was going to happen to these people and most importantly of all, WHY was it happening?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Outside is a ‘read in one sitting’ suspense thriller which sent shivers down my spine thanks to the exquisite tension created by the author and his stunning use of imagery. Despite being lost in the wild and unforgiving highlands of Iceland, the setting, thanks to the relentless snow storm, was beautifully claustrophobic. This is the second book I’ve read by this author and it won’t be the last. A well-written, hold your breath thriller which I couldn’t put down. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Outside. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Outside by Ragnar Jónasson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ragnar Jónasson

Ragnar Jonasson is author of the award winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Snowblind has been a paperback bestseller in France.

Nightblind won the Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Most Captivating Crime in Translation.

Snowblind was called a “classically crafted whodunit” by THE NEW YORK TIMES, and it was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015 in the UK.

Rights to the Dark Iceland series have been sold to UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, Poland, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia, Armenia and Iceland.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.

Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine.

He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik.

#BookReview: Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine @ViperBooks #BegarsAbbey #damppebbles

“A dark house filled with darker secrets…

Winter 1954, and in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, Sam Cooper realises that she has nothing left. Her mother is dead, she has no prospects, and she cannot afford the rent. But as she goes through her mother’s things, Sam finds a stack of hidden letters that reveal a family and an inheritance that she never knew she had, three thousand miles away in Yorkshire.

Begars Abbey is a crumbling pile, inhabited only by Lady Cooper, Sam’s ailing grandmother, and a handful of servants. Sam cannot understand why her mother kept its very existence a secret, but her newly discovered diaries offer a glimpse of a young girl growing increasingly terrified. As is Sam herself.

Built on the foundations of an old convent, Begars moves and sings with the biting wind. Her grandmother cannot speak, and a shadowy woman moves along the corridors at night. There are dark places in the hidden tunnels beneath Begars. And they will not give up their secrets easily…

A chilling read that will keep you turning the pages late into the night, Begars Abbey is a must-read for fans of Laura Purcell and W.C. Ryan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine. Begars Abbey is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Begars Abbey but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Therese at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Following the death of her mother, Vera, Sam Cooper comes to realise that she has nothing left. She’s barely existing, she has no money and her Brooklyn apartment is crumbling around her. Whilst clearing out her mother’s belongings, Sam discovers a stack of telegrams her mother failed to mention. The telegrams reveal a family and a substantial inheritance several thousand miles away in Yorkshire. Sam is desperate to connect and find out why her mother would rather live in squalor, struggling to put food on the table each day, than ask her family for help. But on arrival in Yorkshire, Sam’s expectations are dashed. Begars Abbey is a crumbling ruin of a house, run by a strange housekeeper and a number of incompetent staff. Sam’s grandmother, Lady Cooper, is wheelchair bound and unable to utter a word after several strokes. There’s something not quite right about the house. So when Sam discovers her mother’s teenage diaries, she’s determined to discover what secrets Begars Abbey holds…

Begars Abbey is a thoroughly enjoyable, dark, chilling gothic mystery. I’ve been living on the edge recently and not reading the blurb of a book before I make a start on it so I went into Begars Abbey almost blind. Yes, it is clear from the cover that it’s a gothic tale but that’s as much as I knew. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that our story starts in Brooklyn in the 1950s! Sam is a fantastic character – well rounded, likeable and quite ballsy, which I really appreciated. I warmed to her instantly, despite the chill of the New York air already giving me goosebumps! I really enjoyed meeting Sam and finding more out about her relationship with her mother.

After a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean Sam’s arrival in England falls flat, with her pre-arranged escort nowhere in sight and the icy bitterness of the Liverpool docks providing the reader with even more chills. But with the help of the family’s solicitor, Alec Bell, Sam is whisked to her ancestral home. The supporting characters in the novel are all well-written and absolutely fascinating. I found Alec to be wonderfully frustrating whilst the eccentric but endlessly loyal Mrs Pritchett was unpredictable and unnerving – superb characterisation.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of gothic mysteries, or just well-written mysteries full stop, then I heartily recommend Begars Abbey. Dark, creepy and compelling, I flew through this book in a few short sittings and would gladly read more by this author. Wonderful imagery, marvellous characters and lots of surprises in store for the reader. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Begars Abbey. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine was published in the UK by Viper Books on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

V.L. ValentineV.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she has led award-winning coverage of global disease outbreaks including Ebola and the Zika virus. She has a master’s in the history of medicine from University College London and her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine. The Plague Letters is her first novel.

WWW Wednesday | 27th April 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
Be careful what you watch for . . .

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

Packed with sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy plot twists, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake is the ultimate escapist read . . . no lake house required.


What did you recently finish reading?

The Night Shift by Alex Finlay
What connects a massacre at a Blockbuster video store in 1999 with the murder of four teenagers fifteen years later?

It’s New Year’s Eve of 1999 when four teenagers working late are attacked at a Blockbuster video store in New Jersey. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, four more teenagers are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive.

In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre, who is forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who is convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller, who must delve into the secrets of both nights to uncover the truth about the Night Shift Murders…


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Bay by Allie Reynolds
There’s a darkness inside all of us and The Bay has a way of bringing it out. Everyone here has their secrets but we don’t go looking for them. Because sometimes it’s better not to know.

Kenna arrives in Sydney to surprise her best friend, shocked to hear she’s going to marry a guy she’s only just met. But Mikki and her fiancé Jack are about to head away on a trip, so Kenna finds herself tagging along for the ride.

Sorrow Bay is beautiful, wild and dangerous. A remote surfing spot with waves to die for, cut off from the rest of the world. Here Kenna meets the mysterious group of people who will do anything to keep their paradise a secret. Sky, Ryan, Clemente and Victor have come to ride the waves and disappear from life. How will they feel about Kenna turning up unannounced?

As Kenna gets drawn into their world, she sees the extremes they are prepared to go to for the next thrill. And everyone seems to be hiding something. What has her best friend got involved in and how can she get her away? But one thing is rapidly becoming clear about The Bay: nobody ever leaves.

No Secrets by David Jackson
THEY BELIEVE HIS LIES. SHE KNOWS THE TRUTH.

You can’t lie to Izzy Lambert. Her highly developed empathic abilities allow her to read people’s emotions with terrifying accuracy – and consequences. As a child her insights sparked her parents’ divorce. As an adult she avoids getting too close to people for fear of what she might learn.

But now young girls are going missing in her town. The police have no suspects but, seeing her old school caretaker interviewed on the news about the story, Izzy comes to a chilling realisation: he knows where the missing girls are. When the police won’t take her seriously despite the lives at stake, she will risk everything to uncover the truth.

#BookReview: Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber @panmacmillan @ed_pr #OutofHerDepth #damppebbles

There are summers that could change your life.
There are summers that could end it.

Meet Rachel.
An unassuming young woman from a quiet London suburb.

Picture the scene:
A summer job at the beautiful Villa Medici in the Tuscan hills.
A group of glamorous teenagers, used to a life of privilege.
Lavish parties, heady sun-soaked days, backstabbing and bedhopping.

Until someone goes too far.
And nothing will ever be the same.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber. Out of Her Depth will be published by Pan later this week (Thursday 28th April 2022) and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Out of Her Depth but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Emma at EDPR for sending me a proof copy.

Rachel is a gifted student who has earned a spot at Cambridge to study languages. Her Italian is a little rusty though so her tutor encourages her to take a Summer placement working in an exclusive Villa for wealthy guests at the foot of the Tuscan Hills. It’s a dream come true for Rachel; the luxury, the extravagance is unlike anything she’s experienced before. And then she meets Diana. Beautiful, charming and entitled, Rachel is immediately swept up in the magnificence of her new friend. Rachel is living a life so far removed from her own, basking in Diana’s glow. Drink, drugs and sex aplenty, the girls have it all. Until someone goes too far. Until the night when everything changes…

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Love, love, loved it! Completely absorbing, utterly addictive and truly sublime in every sense. The characters felt real, the setting was vividly drawn, hypnotising in its beauty and decadence, and the plot had me turning the pages at a rate of knots, keen to find out how things were going to end. And oh my gosh, what a perfect ending the author has created. Absolutely gripping and deliciously uncomfortable. Marvellous!

Told in the past and the present, the reader meets Rachel twenty-one years after her fateful Summer in Florence. She’s a changed woman having failed to reach the heady heights she set her sights on in her teenage years. Rachel is a university dropout, working as a language teacher in an exclusive girls school. Her life is mundane, her desire to live a more perfect life eats away at her and the past is impossible to forget. And that’s when a face from Villa Medici, a face she’s tried so hard to forget, makes a shocking reappearance. Old feelings surface, resentment builds and fear drives her forward. I sympathised so much with the present day Rachel and adored the way the author has written her. She’s frustrating, she’s obsessive and she’s haunted by a past she can’t escape. I found I was hanging on Rachel’s every word, her every action. Compelled to see what she would do next and how far things would go. I loved it.

The author builds the suspense incredibly well putting the reader on edge from the moment Rachel and Diana meet in the Villa. I enjoyed the fact that the author brings wealthy, entitled Diana down to the same level as Rachel by making her a maid/waitress at the Villa. And that’s where the similarities end between the two characters. Their friendship starts out as you would expect, two young women left to their own devices in stunning surroundings having the time of their lives. One a leader – used to being the centre of attention. One a smitten follower. But as the Summer months progress, facades slip. The author writes her characters so subtly that it still comes as a huge shock to the reader with one act in particular making me gasp out loud.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Out of Her Depth and can see it featuring on my top books of the year list. It’s a highly addictive, sophisticated and atmospheric thriller that has left its mark on me. Everything worked. The characters felt real, their interactions were very convincing, the setting – well, I’m booking my holiday to Florence this year! – and the plot drew me into the story, and kept me within the pages even when I should have probably been cooking dinner for the kids (don’t worry, they were fed 😂). I loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone, starting with YOU! If you enjoy psychological thrillers featuring toxic friendships then you need this book in your life. It was a thrilling, uncomfortable, unnerving, tense joy to read and I highly recommend it.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Out of Her Depth. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber was published in the UK by Pan on 28th April 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lizzy BarberLizzy Barber studied English at Corpus Christ College, Cambridge University. After ‘previous lives’ acting and working in film development, she is now the Head of Brand and Marketing for a restaurant group, working with her brother, a restaurateur.

Her debut novel, MY NAME IS ANNA / A GIRL NAMED ANNA (US), is the winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Competition, and was published by Penguin Random House in 2019. OUT OF HER DEPTH will be published in April 2022.

Lizzy lives in London with her husband, George, food writer and strategy consultant, and their son, Marlowe, born January 2019.