#BookReview: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks @DeadGoodBooks #TheTakingofAnnieThorne

the taking of annie thorne.jpg“Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .”

The tricky second book.  I was a huge fan of C.J. Tudor’s debut, the totally unmissable The Chalk Man which blew my socks off and left me a little bit in love with Ed, the main character.  I often still think about him and that brilliant ending (book hangover, much?).  So there was nothing on earth that was going to stop me from reading Tudor’s second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved it.  The Taking of Annie Thorne is just as dark, just as creepy and just as brilliant as The Chalk Man (although I will put my hand up here and confess that I loved The Chalk Man just a teeny tiny smidge more).  There are definite similarities between the two books; a small claustrophobic town, our main protagonist is a teacher (there are other similarities between Ed and Joe which I won’t go into detail about here), strange creepy inexplicable things happening to normal everyday people.  But I enjoyed that, it added to the story for me.

I found our main protagonist to be instantly likeable.  He has a troubled past after discovering his sister, that’s Annie, has changed beyond recognition after she went missing one night.  He’s flawed (definitely flawed) with an addiction to gambling and a penchant for stretching the truth but when he receives an email telling him that ‘it’s happening again’ he feels he must return to the town of his youth and see for himself.  There are elements of the supernatural at play in this novel which would normally turn me right off but the way Tudor has written her story had me engrossed.  I didn’t care that I didn’t really believe in certain aspects of the story.  What is reading if not escapism?  I was captivated from the first page to the last and felt fully invested in Joe’s plight to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely and I suggest if you haven’t read The Chalk Man you download that too.  I’m a huge fan of horror/crime crossover novels and this one is another to add to the favourites list.  Tudor’s writing is sublime and before you know it hours have passed and you’ve forgotten to pick the kids up from school (that didn’t happen…honest!).  Deliciously creepy, totally addictive and the type of book I want to read over and over again.  Don’t miss out on this exceptional book!

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Taking of Annie Thorne.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 21st February 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow in July (please note, some of 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 ⋆ amazon.com ⋆ Waterstones ⋆ BookDepository ⋆ Goodreads

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cj tudorC. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

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#BookReview: Creature by Hunter Shea @flametreepress #Creature

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“The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal.

But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead.

Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.”

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time you will know that primarily I am a crime fiction blogger. However, when my reading mojo deserts me I turn to the horror genre to kickstart it. Creature by Hunter Shea was one of the first books I turned to when that happened at the end of last year. I had seen some cracking reviews and I wanted to see for myself what the book was all about. I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.

Creature was like nothing else I’ve read in the horror genre before. Yes, this is horror fiction but in a different unexpected way. It’s also a very important love story which ultimately broke my heart. Packed with raw emotion and bucketloads of feeling this book is one we should all read – whether you regularly read horror novels or not. Having finished the book it also became blatantly clear what a personal book this is to the author.

Kate and Andrew are very much in love but Kate is terribly ill suffering from a number of chronic debilitating autoimmune diseases. Knowing that the future isn’t looking too bright Andrew books a three-month break taking Kate from the four walls which imprison her on a daily basis to the peace and tranquillity of a lake-side cabin in Maine’s vast woodlands. What starts out as a dream come true for the couple soon turns into a nightmare. The four walls of their home are quickly replaced by another prison, but this one is altogether more terrifying than they could have ever imagined.

I instantly liked both Kate and Andrew. I admired Kate’s determination to do as much as she could for herself but really felt for Andrew when that determination manifested itself in Kate damaging herself even more. This a slow burn of a read and Shea spends significant time at the start of the book ensuring the reader knows what a struggle life is for this couple. I appreciated that as when the horrors start you feel totally invested in Kate and Andrew. The only other character I should mention at this point is Kate’s dog, Buttons, who is just gorgeous! His dedication to Kate shines through, no matter what.

This is a horror novel though and a horror novel wouldn’t be so without something scary. And oh boy, this is a BIG scary. The writing is tense, taut and descriptive and I found myself holding my breath at certain parts. It’s a little on the gory and gruesome side but you’d be surprised if it wasn’t, right? What I love about Creature is what exactly Shea has achieved here. This is a carefully thought out and well-planned plot and one which I admire greatly. I can’t really say any more without giving away a few spoilers but this book made me want to punch the air with my fist and shout ‘YES!’.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s something completely different to everything else I’ve read in the horror genre, and I expect if I were to read another of Mr Shea’s books that would still be the case. Deeply emotional, totally unexpected and honest. If you don’t tend to read books in the horror genre but have always been intrigued then I suggest you start with this one. A heartbreaking love story and a tale of how chronic illness can tear peoples lives apart.

I chose to read and review Creature. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Creature by Hunter Shea was published in the UK by Flame Tree Press on 6th September 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audio formats (please note, some of 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 | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author photo and bio © https://huntershea.com/

#BookReview: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #TheHuntingParty

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“In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.”

There are some books you see and you know you HAVE to read them. It may be a striking cover, it may be an intriguing blurb or it may just be a feeling in your gut that you’re going to miss out on something GREAT if you don’t read a particular book. I can safely say it was all of the above for me when it came to The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a massive fan of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and I had everything crossed that this book was going to have echoes of Christie’s brilliant novel about it. It certainly does but with a wonderfully modern twist to the tale and it stands, two feet firmly on the ground, on its own merit. I love the idea of a group of people completely stranded in a vast inhospitable landscape. People you *think* you know but one of them is a murderer. Who is it? How well do you really know these people? And could you be their next victim…?

University friends Miranda, Katie, Julien, Nick, Giles, Samira and Mark plus the addition of a couple of partners, Bo and Emma, head north from London to the Scottish Highlands for New Year. It’s going to be the holiday of a lifetime, all meticulously planned by prim and proper Emma. However, over the years those strong bonds formed at Oxford have started to break a little. Everyone is busy with their careers or children so it’s tough to find the time to spend together. There’s no escape this New Year though as they’ll be living in each other pockets, miles from anywhere. Just how long will the friends be able to stand each other. How long can they keep the secrets they hide?

The characters and the setting absolutely make this book. The isolation of the Scottish Highlands, teamed with Foley’s very intriguing cast of characters kept me turning the pages at a rate of knots. I can’t say I particularly liked any of them but that never really matters to me. In fact, the more secretive and the more despicable a character is the more I enjoy the book! I wanted to know more, so much so that I read this book in a matter of days rather than the two weeks it’s been taking to finish a novel of late.

The story is told from several viewpoints; those of Miranda the beautiful ‘it’ girl who craves the attention of everyone around her.  Emma, Mark’s girlfriend who is chief organiser of the holiday and a late addition to the group.  Katie, Miranda’s not-quite-so-glamorous BFF.  Heather, the host at the house who has secrets of her own and Doug, the aloof gamekeeper.  Despite using several different voices to tell the story I didn’t find it confusing as all of the narrators stand apart from one another.  They are all very different distinct characters.

What I loved was that the reader discovers there has been a murder fairly early on. Foley, however, manages to keep who the victim is a secret until very near the end of the story. You can’t help speculating though. I make a couple of guesses as I progressed through the book. I won’t mention that there were times when I really hoped it was a certain dastardly character though 😉.  I can’t really put into words how compelling The Hunting Party is so I suggest you get a copy yourself and experience this brilliant book first-hand.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  Without a moment’s hesitation.  It’s creepy and claustrophobic with a brilliant ending.  It’s a perfect example of the books I love to read.  A great page-turner of a book with intriguing characters, a fabulous remote setting and shedloads of suspicion and suspense.  More please! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review The Hunting Party.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 24th January 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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lucy foly.jpgLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#Giveaway! It’s damppebbles 3rd blogiversary (sort of…) #win #BookBlogger #damppebbles #amreviewing #booklove

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Hello my bookish friends! A very warm and squishy welcome to damppebbles. Mondays, huh? They tend to be quite rubbish, let’s face it, but I’m hoping to make this Monday HEAPS better for you.

Back in January when I was having a bit of a bookish, bloggish break my little piece of the internet turned three years old…YAY! I’m not normally one to let things like this pass but I was a little grumpy so I did. Shame on me. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t do something to celebrate nearly a month later. Now I have to say it feels as though I’ve been part of the bookish community for a lot longer than 3 years…but in a good way. There have been some incredible highs (and a couple of lows which are now water under the bridge). What I love most about book blogging (apart from the books) are the incredible friends I have made.

Giveaway Now Closed!

So to celebrate three years of damppebbles I am offering YOU the chance to win three Kindle ebooks of your choice (one for each year I have been blogging). I’m afraid the giveaway is UK only as you can only gift ebooks on Amazon to people in the same country as you – grrrrrr. They can be absolutely anything at all (within reason). To enter all you have to do is tell me the three books you would choose in the comments below. That’s it! Easy, right? Although if I had to pick three books it would take me weeks to narrow it down 😉.  Unfortunately, you don’t have weeks (so here’s hoping you’re a little more decisive than I am!).  You have until midday (GMT) on Friday 15th February to comment with your three choices.  There’s nothing like putting the pressure on, lol!

One entry will be selected at random at midday on Friday so please make sure I have a way of contacting you if you are the lucky winner.  The winner will then need to provide me with their Amazon email address so I can ping the books over to them.  Job done!  Good luck everyone and thanks for all of your support over the last three years ❤️.

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#BookReview: Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler #MaskBeneathHerFace

mask beneath her face.jpg“During the 1980s, slashers terrorized America. With machetes and masks, these unstoppable killers stalked college campuses, quiet suburbs, and lakeside cabins.

Thirty years ago, Bobbi Metzger survived a massacre at her 16th birthday party. She spent decades putting her life back together.

Tonight, Bobbi will face a new killer: a high-tech slasher hell-bent on opening the doorway to an abyss of unimaginable horror.

How long can Bobbi survive this nightmare? What will she do to protect the people she loves? How much blood is she willing to spill?”

Woah!  Talk about the right book at the right time!  I have been suffering from a rather major reading/blogging slump recently.  I don’t know about you but when that happens I tend to move to another genre for a while.  I read a lot of crime and even though I love it with a passion it’s sometimes nice to have a break.  My chosen ‘pick-me-up’ genre is horror.  The darker, the better.  I tweeted asking for good slasher-type horror recommendations and the lovely Noelle at Banshee Irish Horror Blog suggested I try Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler.  Which was lucky as I had won a copy of the book and it was sitting gathering dust on my Kindle.

Why oh why did I leave reading Mask Beneath Her Face for so long?  I have to say it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you’ve got an iron stomach and can handle a little (small under-exaggeration there) violence and gore then this is the book for you.  It opens with a teenage Bobbi fleeing terrified from a slasher who has interrupted her birthday party having slaughtered her friends in the most macabre ways possible.  Bobbi is a final girl.  Something that she has to live with for the rest of her life (however long that may be). We skip forward 30 years and discover how badly the attack affected Bobbi.  She has turned to alcohol and pills to take the edge off and is living in constant fear, waiting for her slasher to return and finish her off.  I should say at this point that the blurb of this book tells you very little and the story is so much more than what it first appears to be.  Bobbi has befriended a group of other ‘final girls’ (who are actually guys), all of whom live a life of fear, waiting for the day their slasher strikes.  Jesse won’t look in the mirror.  Sam is hiding a dark secret.  And then there’s Cris, a teenage loner who works for Jesse.  It’s not just Bobbi who shines from the pages.  The entire cast of characters make this book something very special.

The pace doesn’t let up for a moment.  From start to finish one of the characters is running terrified from a crazed killer, being hacked to death or seeking revenge of some sorts.  Which for the reader means that it’s a very difficult book to put down.  I felt I had to read ‘just one more chapter’ and find out whether X was going to survive…or not.  One more chapter was never enough though.

Would I recommend this book? Hell, yes!  But it’s not going to appeal to everyone.  If however, you’re a fan of slasher horror movies or if you like your fiction erring on the darker side then I strongly recommend this book to you.  If I hadn’t read this book last year then it would be a strong contender for my top 10 of 2019.  If you’re feeling brave then don’t let this one pass you by…

I chose to read and review a copy of Mask Beneath Her Face.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler was published in the UK on 14th October 2017 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comGoodreads |

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rafael chandler.jpgBy day, I write screenplays for video games. I wrote the stories and dialogue for Dark District, Final Eden, Gangstar Rio: City of Saints, MAG, Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, and SOCOM 4. Thus far, I’ve worked as a scriptwriter and/or story designer for Gameloft, Kabam, Sony, and Ubisoft.

By night, I’m a novelist. I wrote The Astounding Antagonists, Dracula: The Modern Prometheus (written with Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker), Hexcommunicated, and Mask Beneath Her Face. I’m hard at work on my fifth novel.

In my spare time, I design tabletop role-playing games and sourcebooks, including Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium, Lusus Naturae, Night of the Slashers, No Salvation for Witches, Obscene Serpent Religion, Pandemonio, Spite: The Second Book of Pandemonium, The Starship from Hell, Teratic Tome, ViewScream, and World of the Lost.

I’ve also written nonfiction, including Fundamentals of Game Development (written with Heather Chandler), The Game Writing Handbook (which was a finalist for the 2007 Game Developer Front Line Awards), and various articles for Gamasutra.com and Writers Digest.

I’m a gamer, a gorehound, a kaijuphile, and a metalhead.

Author Links:WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram |

#BlogTour┃#BookReview: The Lost Man by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) #TheLostManIsComing

the lost man.jpg“‘He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.’

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…”

Happy Monday! I am delighted to welcome you to my first ‘actual’ book review of the year and my first blog tour post of 2019 which is for The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.  I am a huge fan of Harper’s writing having loved her previous novels, the epic The Dry and the superb Force of Nature.  This latest book, however, is a standalone and not part of the brilliant Aaron Falk series so if you’ve not picked up one of Jane Harper’s books before now is the time to start!

When Jane Harper has a new book coming out you can guarantee it will be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year.  Full stop.  If Jane Harper writes something then oh boy, do I want to read it!  The Lost Man is a brilliant addition to her repertoire but one I found quite different from her previous works.  One thing I will say is that in every Harper novel I have read you can guarantee that the landscape; that desolate isolation, the unpredictability of the Australian Outback plays as much a part of the story as the lead characters do.  I think it’s something us Brits tend to struggle to get our heads around.  Exactly how much open space there is, how far you have to travel to see another human being and how totally alone you can feel.  Harper writes these scenarios with such aplomb and so vividly that I found myself totally immersed in the picture she was painting for us readers.

The Lost Man is about the Bright family, an isolated family of cattle farmers.  You can’t help but like Nathan, the eldest of the three Bright brothers.  Early on you discover that he has done something so catastrophic that the entire town has turned their backs on him.  What exactly that is you don’t discover until later in the story but for a community so dependent on each other and so isolated you can guarantee it’s no small thing.  Despite discovering what terrible thing Nathan did, my like of the character did not waiver.  He comes across as a struggling, part-time, single parent who regrets past decisions he made but most of all he comes across as very lonely.  Tidbits of information fall into the reader’s lap as the story progresses and things gradually start to crystalise.  Before long Nathan realises that not everything is as it seems…

Would I recommend this book? I would. This was a slow burn of a read for me that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written story.  The setting and the characters combine to make a suspenseful tale about the Bright family and the secrets they hide within their familial bubble.  I had my suspicions about what had happened to Cameron, the deceased middle brother, but it was interesting to watch the story unfold and have my suspicions confirmed.  Harper throws in some wonderful red herrings to keep her readers on their toes and I had several moments of doubt before the perpetrator was uncovered.  You can’t go wrong with a Jane Harper novel and if you haven’t read one of her books before then please do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

I read and reviewed an eARC of The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  The above is my own unbiased opinion.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper was published by Little,Brown on 7th February and is available in hardback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads

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jane harperJane Harper is the internationally bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, was released in October 2018.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads |

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#BookReview: The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven (@MWCravenUK) @LittleBrownUK #ThePuppetShow #WashingtonPoe

the puppet show“A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …”

Hello you! It’s me. I’m alive! I know you haven’t heard from me in a while but I’m back… Well, ‘sort of’ back. I ‘intend’ to be back providing I can find the right words as I have to confess that I have been struggling to write reviews of late.  I’m still reading, still enjoying books but putting my thoughts together into a coherent post has been…difficult.

Anyway, I digress.  The absolutely phenomenal The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven was released in paperback yesterday and I couldn’t let the moment pass without posting my review once more (the words came easily for this one, believe me!).  So, without further ado, here is my review of The Puppet Show from June last year.

A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book called Body Breaker written by Mike Craven (that’s Mike Craven as in M.W. Craven, if you were wondering what odd tangent I was meandering off at!), and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. I pretty much fell in love with Craven’s protagonist, DI Avison Fluke. Then I heard Mike was about to release a new book called The Puppet Show, featuring a brand new detective with a brand new publisher. Now I openly admit, I was intrigued. After all, what crime fiction fan wouldn’t be? Particularly when I heard the main character of The Puppet Show is called Washington Poe (what a name! Where does this author get inspiration from for his character’s names? He appears to err on the unusual which is a rather splendid thing IMHO). Then, as if by magic (I pressed a button on NetGalley) a copy of The Puppet Show arrived on my Kindle and the deal was sealed. Washington Poe and I were destined to meet…

And truth be told, I flipping love him as much as I love DI Fluke. Craven certainly knows how to write and develop a character to the point where they jump off the page at the reader. I was smitten from early on; particularly as we meet Poe after he has shunned modern life and is living with his loyal pet dog, Edgar, in a semi-converted shepherd’s croft in the middle of nowhere (for ‘nowhere’ read Cumbria or the Lake District! Please don’t hurt me Cumbrians, it does sound pretty vast, lonely and desolate from Craven’s illustrative descriptions and I’ve never visited 😉). Suspended from work following his last (bodged) case and awaiting the result of an internal investigation and an IPCC inquiry, Poe has pretty much decided that his past is very much behind him and that his future lies in Herdwick Croft with Edgar, and the sheep. But that was before Cumbria’s latest serial killer, The Immolation Man made matters personal. Whether he wants to or not, Poe must return to the Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) and to a case that could easily be the death of him.

I have a bit of a thing for serial killer novels. They’re my favourite, particularly if they are a smidge on the gory side as well (which this book is). I also thoroughly enjoy books which make you think the plot is heading one way and then totally flips things over and makes you gasp in surprise when you end up somewhere you didn’t expect (which again, this book did). Another thing I love is a cast of well-written, individual, stand out characters who all add something to the story (yup, that’s The Puppet Show). I loved this book.

As I’ve mentioned Washington Poe’s supporting cast it would be rude to ignore them. First and foremost, Tilly Bradshaw is a shining star and will appeal to nerds far and wide. Her intelligence and her awkwardness are a delight to read and I hope she makes future appearances with Poe as her sidekick! Beleaguered DI Stephanie Flynn is now her ex-bosses boss (!) which makes things somewhat tricky between her and Poe at times. He’s a little reckless and likes to follow the evidence anywhere, whereas Flynn likes to play by the book. I would LOVE to read a prequel to The Puppet Show and see the dynamic between the two of them before Poe was demoted from DI to DS and Flynn was promoted. Not dropping any hints here, Mike…

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, if you can stomach a drop of blood or a pool of melted human fat (OK, it is a little grisly in places and you may need a slightly stronger stomach than I’ve alluded to in this paragraph, but for me I loved the gruesome touches to this book. Plus the author provides a wealth of information about burns and the effect of fire on a human body) then you will enjoy this well-written, engrossing crime thriller. I struggled to put it down and I’m left wanting more Washington Poe and more Tilly Bradshaw. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Puppet Show. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 24th January 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although M.W. Craven was born in Cumbria in 1968, he grew up in the North East, going to the same school as Newcastle and England centre-forward, Alan Shearer, before running away to join the army. He believes, but has no proof, that his little sister moved into his bedroom before the train had even left the station. He trained for two years as an armourer (that’s gunsmith to you and I) before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and will be out on 11th June, published by Caffeine Nights. His collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything, is out now.

In March 2017 Mike signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown for his new Washington Poe series. The first book, The Puppet Show, will be released in hardback under his new name, M .W. Craven, in June 2018.

In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He wanted to call him Gimli but was told to grow up. He lives in Carlisle where he tries to leave the house as little as possible and gets annoyed by people who say “it’s too cold to snow” and “watch that swan, its wings can break your arm”.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Dead in the Water by Simon Bower (@SimonBowerBooks) @cobaltdinosaur #DeadInTheWaterBook

dead-in-the-water-cover“Was it murder, suicide or an accident? Who will be next to die?

Six international friends all appear to be successful, albeit to different levels. A human rights’ lawyer, an IT geek, a businessman, a waitress, a phone guy and a physiotherapist. None of them are known to the police.

One of them must know what happened that fateful night on the catamaran.

Agent Georges Fournier is assigned the case in the French resort town near Antibes. He’s short on time, with a growing health problem and a District Attorney who just wants the case closed as accidental. But he’s not letting go.

Chrissie is a single mother and respected flight attendant in New York. When she finds out who her father is, she’s ecstatic and wants to meet him. 

But within a week she’d wish she’d never known.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my guest reviewer’s stop on the Dead In The Water blog tour.  My guest reviewer, for those of you who don’t know, is my wonderful husband who is learning to love fiction once again after many years of not wanting to pick a book up (having my old Kindle helps I think…!).

Let’s find out what he thought about Simon Bower’s Dead In The Water

Thanks to Emma for letting me into damppebbles again. I am really excited to bring you my latest review of Simon Bower’s Dead In The Water.  I always get nervous writing reviews of crime books as I want to avoid giving away spoilers – but here goes….

Dead in the Water is a well constructed crime thriller, with a timeline that flits between the past and the present.  The author cleverly sets up teaser shots from the present day, without giving us too much information.  Someone is dead – but who, someone is in a hospital bed – but who and why?

The constant tease and reveal structure worked well to keep me speeding through this read and the author manages the pace nicely.  All of the 7 core characters are well formed – the 6 protagonists and Agent Fournier, the dogged detective tasked with understanding whether there was foul play in the death of ….(did you think I was silly enough to tell you who died!).  Simon Bower has carefully constructed his characters to show likeable elements and their not-so-nice side!  Characters and their story evolve through the book and I found myself re-assessing my liking for characters as I moved through, which is a good sign that I was engaged with the story.

Dead in the Water takes us on a pan-European adventure and the author has worked hard on his research – dropping in little facts as we move across the continent to give more depth and atmosphere to the locations.  Coupling this with the story’s narration switching between the main characters and you get an immersive and enjoyable read which will keep you guessing till the very end.

Would I read more Simon Bower – almost certainly.  Would I recommend this book to someone looking for an easy reading and enjoyable book that will immerse them in a fantastic story – yes.  Would I go on a boat with Simon – no….bad things seem to happen!

So hopefully I haven’t given too much away, death, hospitals, characters, Europe…you need to read it to find out the rest!  Thanks again to Emma for letting me takeover today!

4 stars out of 5.

Dead In The Water by Simon Bower was published in the UK by Middle Farm Press in May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats [only 99p to download on Kindle this week!] (please note, some of 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 | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles |

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SIMONBOWERSimon Bower is a British and Canadian author born in Berkshire in 1973. Since 1998, he’s adopted a global lifestyle, setting up home at times in Europe, Africa and North America.  In 2016 Simon turned to writing full time, which led to his first published work, Dead in the Water, being released in paperback and eBook by Middle Farm Press in 2018. Simon currently lives in France, near the Swiss border, where his young family, mountains, acrylic paint and sharpened skis keep him in regular mischief.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Goodreads |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Silent Dead by Graham Smith @bookouture #TheSilentDead #DCBethYoung

The-Silent-Dead-Kindle.jpg“He’d found an angel for his collection. But one angel at a time was never enough…

Detective Beth Young has just joined the Cumbrian major crimes team when a body is found posed in a ritualistic manner – arms spread and graceful wings attached – at a crumbling castle in the hills of the Lake District. 

The entire police force are on red alert. But Beth begins to feel she’s the only one who can follow the disturbing clues left by the twisted killer. Because she doesn’t think like everyone else. To Beth, crimes are puzzles she can solve. Even if real life is a little harder.

As more bodies are discovered in derelict stately homes across the Lake District, she knows she’s in a race against time.

But the killer is looking for another victim to add to his collection… Will Beth be able to save her? Or will he get there first?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Silent Dead blog tour.  The Silent Dead is the start of a gripping new crime series from one of my go-to authors, Graham Smith, and was published by Bookouture on 30th November 2018.

To celebrate the book’s release I am delighted to have a brilliant guest post from Graham Smith to share with you today…

New Faces and Old Friends

As a reader I love the familiarity of reoccurring and series characters whose exploits I’ve followed over a number of years / novels. However, I also take great interest in broadening my horizons and meeting characters and authors who are new to me. After all, every great series / character has to start somewhere.

One day while scaling the lower slopes of Mount-To-Be-Read for my next read, I happened to start thinking about my own writing and how it’s a mixture of old faces and new friends. As soon as the thought entered my head I went all introspective and started comparing the different characters, from their personality traits to their methodology and how they engaged not just me, but also my readers.

A quick recap for those unfamiliar with my writing

My debut novel, Snatched from Home featured a grizzled DI, Harry Evans, who is facing enforced retirement as well as an immense personal trauma.

The next series I wrote was about a Utah doorman, Jake Boulder, who found himself on the trail of serial killers.

Now we come to my latest series which features a newly promoted DC Beth Young whose first case in FMIT sees her investigating bodies which have been left in the cellars of derelict country houses.

All three characters have their own individual traits which neither of the others share, yet they all have a strong desire to bring about justice for the victims, a keen investigative mind and a determination to get results regardless of what it may cost them on a personal level.

Individually they have their failings and baggage, DI Harry Evans is bereaved and is trying to dodge a retirement which is largely being enforced due to his renegade ways. He’s politically incorrect in a VERY type way and while he has the hardened carapace of an embittered man, he has a good heart and will always find a way to do the right thing. His stamping ground is Cumbria and he thinks of it as a personal fiefdom.

Jake Boulder is a different kettle of fish altogether. Glaswegian by birth he enjoys the rough and tumble of tossing drunks and the girls who’re attracted to his quick fists and ready wit. Coupled with his PI friend Alfonse Devereaux he gets himself embroiled in all manner of escapades as they take on cases with ever more complexity. He’s resolute, brave and smarter than you’d expect for a doorman, but the only person who can control him with any measure of success is his narcissistic, grandchild-wanting mother.

Beth Young is something of a step into the unknown for me. As a somewhat cynical man in my forties, I gave myself a challenge when choosing to have a mid-twenties female lead. DC Beth Young is on an upward trajectory in the police although it’s results that drive her rather than opportunities for promotion. A puzzle-solver by nature she has a quirky mind that works best when allowed to think on a lateral level. She’s loyal, determined and resourceful, and when she’s put under the most extreme pressure she can always find a way to triumph regardless of the odds against her. Like Evans she’s based in Cumbria although she’s in Penrith to Evans’ Carlisle. A constant driver for Beth is the search for the man who thrust a broken bottle into her cheek.

If anyone would like to jump in on the first of any of these series, they are as listed below.

DI Harry Evans – Snatched from Home
Jake Boulder – Watching the Bodies
DC Beth Young – The Silent Dead

Thanks ever so much, Graham.  It always amazes me how authors manage to create totally different characters with each new series they start.

The Silent Dead by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Bookouture on 30th November 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of 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 | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Graham Smith Author PicGraham Smith is the bestselling author of four explosive crime thrillers in the Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, The Kindred Killers, Past Echoes and Die Cold. Watching the Bodies spent over two weeks at number one in the Amazon UK chart and Amazon CA charts. Graham is also the author of the popular DI Harry Evans series and has collections of short stories and novellas. His latest novel – The Silent Dead is published by Bookouture and set in Cumbria / the Lake District, featuring DC Beth Young.

He is the proud father of a young son. As a time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since 2000 he has been the manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well-respected review site Crimesquad.com since 2010.

When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Her Last Move by John Marrs

Her Last Move cover.jpg“He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.

Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career – and she knows that it will make or break her. But how can she identify one face in a sea of thousands? With the help of Police Super Recogniser Joe Russell, she strives to catch a glimpse of the elusive murderer, but he’s watching her every move.

Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?

From the bestselling author of When You Disappeared and The Good Samaritan comes his most thrilling novel yet.”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to ‘not my stop’ on the Her Last Move blog tour.  When I was asked to organise a blog tour for Her Last Move by John Marrs earlier this year I was put in touch with a number of keen bloggers and reviewers.  One of which was a movie reviewer, Steve Silver of Silver Screen Videos.com.  Steve runs a highly successful movie review site but doesn’t tend to include book reviews (despite being an avid reader).  That’s when it dawned on me that he could use my book review blog with an established audience to share his thoughts.

So without further ado, here’s Steve’s review: http://www.silverscreenvideos.com/herlastmovereview.html

Thanks Steve 🙂