#BookReview: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #20BooksofSummer #TheMarriagePact #Giveaway

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“First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes your first big mistake.

How far are you willing to go for the perfect relationship?

Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered a mysterious wedding gift – membership of a club which promises its couples will never divorce.

Signing The Pact seems the start to a perfect marriage.

Until one of them breaks the rules.

The marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Because The Pact is for life.

And its members will do anything to make sure no one leaves . . .”

Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact has been on my bookish radar for some time now. It was mentioned as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature where I immediately added it to the TBR. I was then lucky enough to receive a paperback copy from the lovely Dead Good team as a Valentine’s Day treat (more about that later!). And then, of course, I kept seeing some really good reviews. Bearing all of this in mind, it was a natural addition to my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. I love it when weird, life-altering, mostly catastrophic things happen to normal, run-of-the-mill people. Just me then? Oh… Anyway, the thought of a newlywed couple suddenly being trapped in a pact with a group of controlling strangers, having to live by the rules of the group (no matter how humiliating or demeaning) and managing to break the rules without even trying was something I had to read about. I’ll admit, the plot is a little far-fetched but d’you know what? I was just after an entertaining read, something a little different to my much-loved detective fiction and that’s exactly what I got with The Marriage Pact. A highly entertaining read.

When I was able to find time to sit down and read The Marriage Pact I found it an incredibly easy read, flying through the pages in great chunks and not realising that hours had passed. I was desperate to see what awful predicament Jake and Alice were going to find themselves in and what terrifying punishment they were to be subjected to. At times I found myself feeling really quite uncomfortable; as though I was intruding on a young couple’s most personal moments. I was also irked that many of the odd punishments were meted out to Alice, the wife, where little seemed to happen in the beginning to Jake, the husband, (he doesn’t get away scot-free but I do believe Alice suffers a lot more than her husband). I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead in my novels and Alice had so much potential with her punky, free-spirited background but she never really got going in my eyes. Was she diluted because of her marriage to Jake or was the pact to blame? I guess we’ll never know

I’m afraid I really struggled with the ending of The Marriage Pact. Things were going great guns and I was engrossed in the terrible punishments The Pact were dishing out to our beleaguered couple, but then the ending happened and I had a bit of a ‘huh?’ moment. For a thriller, the ending is quite sedate and I will be totally honest here and say I was a little disappointed. I had an inkling that the story was building up to ‘that ending’ but had hoped the author would pull something utterly mesmerising and unexpected out of the bag. It’s a well-written book with a nice ending. My black heart, unfortunately, wasn’t quite satisfied with a nice ending.

Would I recommend this book? I enjoyed 90% of The Marriage Pact and it’s only because I’m a fan of the darker side of fiction that I think I was a little disappointed with the ending. I would recommend this book but to readers who maybe err towards the gentler side of thriller fiction. It’s well written with a really interesting concept (although a little far-fetched at times) but most of all, I found this book entertaining and that’s exactly what I was after. I liked it!

Three out of five stars.

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

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GIVEAWAY:
The lovely folk at Dead Good sent me a paperback copy of The Marriage Pact but I decided to read my eARC (it’s a long story which involves adjusting (or not!) to new varifocal glasses which I won’t bore you with!). So I have an unread paperback copy of The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond which I am going to give away to one lucky UK winner!

To be in with a chance all you have to do is leave a comment below. It’s that simple. The winner will be selected at random and will need to provide their postal address so I can send them their prize. The competition will close at midday on Monday 25th June 2018 and the winner will be notified shortly afterwards. There is no cash alternative. Good luck everyone!

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 14th December 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBooks formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

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Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two award-winning story collections. Her books include the 2017 psychological thriller THE MARRIAGE PACT, which has been sold in 30 languages and was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK; GOLDEN STATE, the critically acclaimed novel that imagines modern-day California on the brink of secession from the United States; the international bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG; and the story collection HUM, winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her novels are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives, and in the South, where she grew up. Michelle was born and raised in Alabama and has made her home for eighteen years in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram |

Author Image and Bio © http://michellerichmond.com/

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Date by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture #TheDate #Prosopagnosia

the date“One night can change everything. 

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her. 

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her…

From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister, The Gift and The Surrogate, The Date is a gripping page-turner that will keep you awake until the early hours. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.”

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today because I’m kicking off The Date blog tour, eeek!  The Date is the fourth book written by one of my very favourite authors, Louise Jensen.  And if that wasn’t enough, it’s publication day too so a very happy book birthday to Louise and the folk at Bookouture!  I’ve read and reviewed all of Jensen’s previous books and I can’t recommend them highly enough; The SisterThe Gift & The Surrogate.  If you want a guaranteed emotive, twisty, shocker of a read then look no further than Ms Jensen.

With this in mind, I was really looking forward to making a start on The Date.  Ali is heading out on her first date since reluctantly separating from her husband, Matt.  The following morning she wakes dazed and confused, slowly realising that something terrible has happened, that she’s been subjected to an unknown trauma.  The effects are devastating, the doctors tell Ali that she now suffers from prosopagnosia; face blindness.  Now I have to be honest here.  I have recently read another book where the main character suffered from the same condition.  I have no experience of face blindness myself and struggle to visualise how sufferers live their lives but I think, having that previous experience (albeit reading a book!) did diminish the shock factor.  The news of Ali’s new condition didn’t hit me as hard as it would a reader coming to prosopagnosia for the first time.  However, what really resonated with me was how utterly terrified Ali was.  She has no memory of the date which changed her life forever.  She’s broken and bruised and suddenly, thanks to the face blindness very, very alone and she can’t trust anyone.  Absolutely terrifying.

Jensen is a master at making you think one thing whilst doing some clever sleight of hand under the table so you’re never really sure what to expect.  I don’t think I have ever been as surprised as I was at the end of The Surrogate, Jensen’s previous book.  Which put me on my guard this time around.  I was obsessed with looking for clues and hints.  I’m delighted to confirm that once again the author worked her seemingly effortless magic and I was miles out in my predictions.  I had concocted all manner of possible scenarios, all but the one it actually was!

Ali’s past is a lot more complicated than it first seems and I enjoyed reading the flashbacks to her childhood.  As childhoods go, Ali’s wasn’t the greatest but again, for reasons you do not expect at first.  It was fascinating to see the events which made her the woman she is, the birth of the guilt she carries so heavily as an adult.  I felt enormously sorry for her many times throughout the book but strangely, I struggled to like her.  Ali is a character who will be loved by many readers but for me, she lacked gumption; I wanted her to be a little more kick-ass and a little less whiny and timid.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, but then I would highly recommend ALL of Jensen’s books as she is a step above most other writers in the same genre.  The Date is bursting at the seams with shedloads of delicious intriguing suspense. The ending was an absolutely perfect fit for the story and I can’t stop picturing that final scene in my head and wondering to myself….

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

The Date by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st June 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about the author3

15183346Louise Jensen is the Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate.

To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List.

Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads @LoveBooksGroup #PerfectDead

Perfect Dead - high-res - Copy (1).jpg“Each murder brings him one step closer to the perfect death.

Ex-priest, DI Farrell is called on to investigate a gruesome death in rural Scotland. All evidence points to suicide, except for one loose end: every light in the cottage was switched off. Why would he kill himself in the dark?

The question sparks a murder investigation that leads to the mysterious Ivy House, home of ‘The Collective,’ a sinister commune of artists who will do anything to keep their twisted secrets hidden.

And when the remains of a young girl are uncovered on a barren stretch of coastline, Farrell realises that there is something rotten in this tight-knit community. Now he must track down a ruthless killer before another person dies, this time much closer to home…”

I am thrilled to be one of two blogs kicking off the Perfect Dead blog tour today.  Perfect Dead is the second book in the DI Frank Farrell series written by Jackie Baldwin and it’s published by Killer Reads in eBook TODAY!  A very happy publication day to Jackie and the Killer Reads team.

I was a huge fan of Baldwin’s first DI Farrell book, Dead Man’s Prayer.  So much so, that it featured on my books of 2016 list.  Which means that I’ve been waiting for the release of Perfect Dead and Frank’s second outing with bated breath.  For those new to this series our protagonist is DI Frank Farrell, an ex-priest turned Detective Inspector in the Dumfries and Galloway area of Scotland.  Frank is conflicted as he doesn’t really know where his heart truly lies; is he destined to hunt the seedy criminals and lowlifes of the lowland or does he have a much higher, spiritual calling?  What I love most about Frank Farrell is that he is unlike any of the other detectives I tend to read about.  They are more often than not addiction driven, tortured souls but Frank, with his past in the Church, isn’t.  He fascinates me.

I was also delighted to see DC Mhairi McLeod make a welcome return to proceedings.  Her intelligent insight and her wonderfully feisty attitude really added to the story for me this time around.  I liked her character in the first book but I felt she really came to life in Perfect Dead, often leaving DI Farrell in the shadows.

When Frank and Mhairi are called to a suicide in Kirkcudbright something just doesn’t feel right.  Gut instinct and a good investigative brain mean that before long they are treating the artist’s death as suspicious.  The investigation leads to ‘The Collective’s door, a group of uninhibited ‘invite only’ artists who keep themselves to themselves and their secrets well and truly hidden.  Frank’s suspicious suicide was once part of ‘The Collective’ flock, so it’s only natural that he starts asking questions.  But that’s only the beginning.  When the remains of a young woman, missing for several years is discovered nearby, all roads lead to ‘The Collective’.

I really enjoyed how there were several plot threads intricately woven throughout the story and the way the author managed to keep the investigations separate, to a point.  Parts of the story I found a little predictable but then I just can’t help playing amateur detective whilst reading detective fiction (any fiction!).  I was looking for clues from the moment I started to read which is very normal for me.  It certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.  Although I had guessed ‘whodunit’ I really did love the conclusion of Perfect Dead.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I love how Jackie Baldwin writes and her characters are wonderfully unique.  I just can’t help myself when it comes to DI Frank Farrell, there’s something so appealing about him that I will read this series until the author decides she has had enough!  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the team in action again and I can’t wait to see what Baldwin has in store for us next.  A delightfully intricate and enjoyable novel.

Four out of five stars.

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

Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 15th June 2018 and is available in eBook format, with the paperback to follow in August (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Jackie_02_by_Kim_AyresJackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September 2016. The second in the series, Perfect Dead was published on 15th June 2018. For most of her working life, she has been a solicitor specialising in Family and Criminal Law. However, she now practices in Dumfries as a hypnotherapist which is where her novels are set. Married, with two grown-up children, she has filled her empty nest with Golden Retrievers. She can often be found in a forest walking the dogs, covered in mud and with twigs in her hair.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

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

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“Welcome to 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 …”

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 (to Craven, that is). 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 flip things over and make 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 7th June 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although Mike 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 |

 

#CoverReveal: Gone to Ground by Rachel Amphlett (@RachelAmphlett) #KayHunter6 #DetectiveKayHunter #GonetoGround

I am so excited, bookish friends!  Today I have a treat in store for you.  If you’re a regular damppebbles visitor then you will know how much I love the Detective Kay Hunter series written by the immensely talented Rachel Amphlett.  Well, today the cover and blurb of book six in the series is being released to the world.  It’s called Gone to Ground and will be published worldwide on Sunday 8th July, eek!

So without further ado, here is the blurb:

While attending a crime scene on the outskirts of Maidstone, DI Kay Hunter makes a shocking discovery.

The victim has been brutally cut to pieces, his identity unknown.

When more body parts start turning up in the Kentish countryside, Kay realises the disturbing truth – a serial killer is at large and must be stopped at all costs.

With no motive for the murders and a killer who has gone undetected until now, Kay and her team of detectives must work fast to calm a terrified local population.

When a third victim is found, her investigation grows even more complicated.

As she begins to expose a dark underbelly to the county town, Kay and her team are pulled into a web of jealousy and intrigue that, if left unchecked, will soon claim another life.

Oh, I do love a dismembered body (in a fictional sense of course, otherwise that would be just plain weird!).  I cannot wait to read this book and other more urgent reads may be put aside in the favour of it, but don’t tell anyone!  Shhhhh…

Here are my reviews of the first five books in the series (in order):
Scared to Death | Will to Live | One to Watch | Hell to Pay | Call to Arms |

If you haven’t had the pleasure of discovering this series yet then I urge you to get a wriggle on!

I won’t make you wait any longer.  Here is the cover for Gone to Ground, book 6 in the Kay Hunter series:

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Taddah! Isn’t it gorgeous?!  I love it and think it’s my favourite so far.  Particularly as there’s this nifty GIF too which I can’t stop watching.  I do love a book cover GIF.

Rachel Amphlett Gone to Ground Cover Teaser

Gone to Ground by Rachel Amphlett will be published in the UK on 8th July and will available in paperback, eBook and audio formats so get your pre-order in now! (Please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

AuthorRachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience, and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.

She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014.

An advocate for knowledge within the publishing industry, Rachel is always happy to share her experiences to a wider audience through her blogging and speaking engagements.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Rubicon by Ian Patrick (@IPatrick_Author) @fahrenheitpress #RubiconBook

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“Two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.

Sam Batford is an undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police who will stop at nothing to get his hands on fearsome crime-lord Vincenzo Guardino’s drug supply.

DCI Klara Winter runs a team on the National Crime Agency, she’s also chasing down Guardino, but unlike Sam Batford she’s determined to bring the gangster to justice and get his drugs off the streets.

Set in a time of austerity and police cuts where opportunities for corruption are rife, Rubicon is a tense, dark thriller that is definitely not for the faint hearted.”

You have no idea how long I have wanted to read this book. I saw a couple of stonking reviews for it months ago now (before the recent blog tour) and I knew, as a die-hard fan of the police procedural, as a lover of coppers on the edge, as a book blogger that lives and breathes crime fiction that this book and I were destined to meet. I feel quite sad that it’s taken me this long to read it because it’s an incredible read and I relished every moment of being in Sam Batford’s company.

Rubicon is Ian Patrick’s debut and it’s such an assured read that I had to stop at times and remind myself of that fact. Ian Patrick has experienced life on the beat himself and that experience, that living of ‘the job’ gives the novel a level of authenticity that readers (readers like me, anyway) crave. Rubicon is a fast-paced crime thriller that keeps you turning the pages from start to finish and I was hooked from the explosive opening to the very last word.

Sam Batford is an Undercover Officer walking a very fine line. He’s prepared to do whatever is necessary to get what he wants. But he has a heart too, which I loved. Sam is seconded to work with DCI Klara Winter on the Vincenzo Guardino (or ‘Big H’) case but he has his own ideas and instead of working in harmony with his new DCI, he is determined to do his own thing and leave Winter flailing in his dust. Winter is an unlikable, do-gooder character who seems more out for the glory of arresting notorious local gangster Big H than anything else. She plays by the book though, whereas Sam…..doesn’t so much. The reader is regularly given an insight into Winter’s thought processes thanks to her ‘Sensitive Decision Log’; a clever move on the author’s part as it gives the reader a more candid look into this senior detective’s thoughts and feelings.

Now I’m a fairly slow reader but you can easily lose a day (chances are you read faster than me) to Rubicon. It has a way of completely absorbing you into the story and before you know it, you’ve read half of the book before you’ve even realised. It’s punchy, it’s thrilling and it’s everything I want in a crime thriller. One of the things I liked most about Rubicon is that Sam isn’t your usual copper. I read a lot of detective fiction so it’s good to have a lead who isn’t scared of REALLY breaking the rules (and oh my gosh, those rules get shattered!). Sam Batford is a character I want to see more of, I love the idea of a renegade cop and Sam fits the mould perfectly.

Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s edgy, absorbing and so deliciously different to other books in the genre. An absolute delight to read and I will be recommending this book to everyone. What a debut!

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Rubicon. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rubicon by Ian Patrick was published in the UK bu Fahrenheit Press on 21st August 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Fahrenheit Press | Goodreads |

about the author3

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Educated in Nottingham, Ian left school at sixteen. After three years in the Civil Service he moved to London for a career in the Metropolitan Police.

He spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command. A career in policing is a career in writing. Ian has been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes.

Now retired, the need to write didn’t leave and evolved into fiction.

Author Links: | Twitter | Amazon Author Page |

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: When the Waters Recede by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @caffeinenights @rararesources #WhenTheWatersRecede

When Waters Recede Cover.jpg“When a car is pulled from raging floodwaters with a dead man in the front and the decapitated body of an evil woman in the boot, Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team are handed the investigation.

The woman is soon recognised, but the man cannot be identified and this leads the team and their former leader, Harry Evans, into areas none of them want to visit.

Before they know it, they’re dealing with protection scams and looking for answers to questions they didn’t know needed to be asked.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the When the Waters Recede blog blitz.  When the Waters Recede is the latest release from Graham Smith featuring the Cumbria Major Crimes Team and their dogged ex-guv, DI Harry Evans.  Except he’s Mr Harry Evans now after being retired off some time ago and replaced with the unlikable, self-absorbed DI John Campbell.

This is the second full-length novel featuring Harry Evans which I have read, the first being I Know Your Secret.  And I’ve had the pleasure of reading two of The Major Crimes Team (MCT) novellas; Matching the Evidence and No Comment.  But I came to this series part way through so there are two further books which I haven’t read as yet, Lines of Inquiry (novella) and Snatched From Home (not to mention Smith’s EPIC Jake Boulder series published by Bloodhound Books).

Having read No Comment, the latest MCT novella a couple of months ago my appetite was well and truly whetted and I was looking forward to making a start on When the Waters Recede.  The book opens with a tragic accident due to the unseasonal rains and flooding.  A car is dramatically pulled from the flood water, the driver of the car unfortunately deceased.  DC Lauren Phillips is there to formalise proceedings but, when looking for clues as to the driver’s identity, she makes a horrifying discovery in the boot of the car.  A woman’s naked body minus a head.  Thankfully the victim’s head is stashed with the body which leads to a quick identification and turns out to be a notorious, hated local criminal.  What Lauren and the team don’t realise is that in searching for the identity of the driver and potential murderer, they will end up in the middle of an investigation they never foresaw.

There’s something about Smith’s characters which make the reader feel invested in them.  I, for one, am not particularly fond of DC Lauren Phillips (something I may have mentioned before) and she does play a significant part in this book.  But despite not necessarily liking her, I felt I had to find out what she was up to, what was going to happen to her and to the team.  My favourite characters have always been Harry Evans, DS Neil Chisolm and DC Amir Bhaki.  But without Phillips and DI Campbell, I just don’t think the team dynamics would work as well.

The plot is interesting and keeps you on your toes as it tends to flit from the initial investigation of a decapitated body to a bigger, unexpected case.  A case that leads to one of the team coming face to face with a remorseless killer!  Harry was as gruff as ever and I loved seeing how he was adjusting to life as a police consultant rather than ‘the Guv’ and leading the pack.  I have to say, and this is probably just me, that the reoccurring references to a middle-aged, balding man’s building libido was a little….well, off-putting really.  I can see how this was a major part of the story, why the author has made such a plot point of it but UGH.  Characters may have ‘needs’ but I’d rather that they keep them to themselves, lol!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It can be read as a standalone but the characters have so much history behind them that you may feel you’ve missed something if you don’t start at the beginning.  A great series and one I will return to again and again.  Personally, I cannot wait for the next book as I think Harry’s going to be in for a bit of a rough ride if the final chapter of When the Waters Recedes is anything to go by.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of When the Waters Recede.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

When the Waters Recede by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights on 31st May 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

Giveaway:
To celebrate the release of When the Waters Recede, Graham Smith is offering one lucky reader the chance to win all six books in the Harry Evans series.

To enter, simply sign up for his newsletter via the link provided before the 5th of June 2018 and you’ll be entered into not just this competition, but all competitions that he runs. International entrants are welcome.
http://blogspot.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?

When Waters Recede - 6 Book Giveaway

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about the author3

Graham Smith Author Pic (1)Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and three novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

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 and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#QandA with J. S. Carol (@JamesCarolBooks) author of #KissMeKillMe @BonnierZaffre

kiss me kill me“When Zoe meets Dan, he’s everything she is looking for in a man – intelligent, charming, supportive.

It’s only after they’re married that she realises that he’s controlling, aggressive, paranoid.

And there’s no way out.

Or is there?

Zoe knows she has to escape, but Dan’s found her once before, and she knows he can find her again.

But Dan has plans of his own. Plans that don’t necessarily include Zoe.

Be careful who you trust . . .

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as I have something quite special to share.  I don’t do many interviews or Q&As on the blog but when I do, it’s always with an author whose books mean a lot to me.  Today I have a Q&A with J.S. Carol, who writes the awesome Jefferson Winter books (as James Carol) and today publishes his utterly brilliant standalone psychological thriller Kiss Me Kill Me in paperback.  A very happy publication day to James and the team at Bonnier Zaffre!  If you missed my review of Kiss Me Kill Me when it was released in eBook earlier this year then please click HERE.  I rather liked it!

But let’s not dither about any more than we need to.  Here’s my Q&A with James…

DP: Welcome to damppebbles.com, James and thank you so much for joining me today.

I have read and loved KISS ME KILL ME (along with all of your other books!).  Could you tell us a little about where the inspiration behind the book came from?

JSC: Thank you so much and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Like all my books KISS ME KILL ME started off with a question. I was sitting around one day and an image popped into my head of a woman staring at the pink cross on a pregnancy test and being totally devastated. To start with I thought she didn’t want the baby, but that wasn’t the case. That’s when the questions started. Why had this upset her so much? Why was she hiding away in the bathroom doing the test in secret? What was she worried might happen? The big question though was why didn’t she want her husband to know…?

DP: I am an avid reader of the crime and thriller genre so I’ve learnt over the years to look for clues whilst reading and try and guess where the story is going.  One of the things I love most about your books is how you always manage to surprise me.  How do you ensure you stay one step ahead of other authors in the same genre and keep us readers on our toes?

JSC: That’s a tough one, and it’s getting tougher. Like you pointed out, crime and thriller readers want to solve the crime. What’s more, they’re getting better at doing it too. If you keep them guessing until the end then you win. However, if they work it out then they feel cheated. It’s a real high-wire act. Get it wrong and that’s it, game over.

I think the way I write helps me to stay one step ahead. Rather than plot things out, I get an idea and then run with it. What this means is that my stories often go off in directions that I wasn’t expecting. The theory I subscribe to is that if things are taking me by surprise then hopefully they’ll take the reader by surprise too.

DP: The characters in KISS ME KILL ME are a fascinating bunch.  What do you like most about Zoe? About Daniel?  And what’s your least favourite thing about them?

JSC: What I like most about Zoe is the fact that even though life has dragged her all the way down to rock bottom, she manages to find the strength to try to escape. Daniel might be controlling every aspect of her life, but he hasn’t totally broken her. The thing I don’t like is her lack of confidence. This is a trait that I share with her, and one that I find annoying in myself.

With Daniel there’s not much I like, to be honest. I can see why Zoe fell for him. At the start he was charming and seemed genuine – there was nothing to suggest that he was the monster he turned out to be. The one thing I did like was writing him. The evil characters are always so much more fun to write than the good ones!

DP: If KISS ME KILL ME was made into a movie, who would you want to play Zoe and Daniel? Who would you choose to play Gabriel?

JSC: Jennifer Lawrence would make a great Zoe. She’s the right age and she would be able to project the combination of toughness and vulnerability the role would require. Patrick J Adams from Suits would be great as Gabriel. I could imagine Zoe trusting him. For Daniel I’d go for Daniel Radcliffe. He seems to be trying to shake off the Harry Potter tag so I can imagine him getting his teeth into a bad guy role. [DP: I LOVE the idea of Daniel Radcliffe playing Daniel.  What a perfect choice!]

DP: Do you have any plans to write a sequel to KISS ME KILL ME.  I had the feeling that should you want to, the opportunity was there to continue the story…?

JSC: KISS ME KILL ME was conceived as a standalone so at this stage there are no plans for a follow up.  That said, if a suitable story presented itself then I would definitely consider writing it. One thing I love about writing is the way that the characters take on a life of their own. This was especially true with Zoe. There was a whole bunch of things she did that surprised me, so who knows, maybe her story isn’t quite finished yet.

DP: And finally, what question do you wish I had asked but didn’t (and what’s the answer!)?

JSC: What’s your favourite flavour of muffin? I’ve got to say muffins are a bit of a weakness. Most days I’ll have one while I’m writing. And blueberry is my favourite … except on the days when it’s chocolate chip… then there are these amazing salted caramel ones that you sometimes get … so many to choose from!

Thank you so much for joining me today, James.  

Kiss Me Kill Me by J.S. Carol was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 31st May 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

James+Carol+(head+and+shoulders)J. S. Carol is the author of The Killing Game, which has been shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. As James Carol, he has also written the bestselling Jefferson Winter series. Broken Dolls, the first of these, was published in 2014 to rave reviews and reached #1 on the Amazon fiction and thriller charts. In addition James is writing a series of eBooks set during Winter’s FBI days. Presumed Guilty is the first of these.

James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two children. When he’s not writing he can usually be found in a pair of headphones, recording and producing music.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Sevens Heaven by Ben Ryan (@benjaminryan) @wnbooks @orionbooks @cobaltdinosaur #GuestReview #SevensHeaven #Rugby #Fiji

sevens heaven.jpg

The incredible story of how one man inspired a nation of underdogs to achieve sporting greatness.

It is late summer 2013. Ben Ryan, a red-haired, 40-something, spectacle-wearing Englishman, is given 20 minutes to decide whether he wants to coach Fiji’s rugby sevens team, with the aim of taking them to the nation’s first-ever Olympic medal. He has never been to Fiji. There has been no discussion of contracts or salary. But he knows that no one plays rugby like the men from these isolated Pacific islands, just as no one plays football like the kids from the Brazilian favelas, or no one runs as fast as the boys and girls from Jamaica’s boondocks. He knows too that no other rugby nation has so little – no money and no resources, only basic equipment and a long, sad history of losing its most gifted players to richer, greedier nations.

Ryan says yes. And with that simple word he sets in motion an extraordinary journey that will encompass witchdoctors and rugby-obsessed prime ministers, sun-smeared dawns and devastating cyclones, intense friendships and bitter rows, phone taps and wild nationwide parties. It will end in Rio with a performance that not only wins Olympic gold but reaches fresh heights for rugby union and makes Ben and his 12 players living legends back home.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT for damppebbles! Sport. Rugby to be exact. Not my usual fare. If you’re talking about a maul (it’s a rugby term, honest!), then for me it’s being mauled to a bloody, gruesome death. Not a bit of a scuffle on the rugby pitch…

When I first met my husband (over ten years ago now) he devoured books as quickly as I did. He was also a huge crime fiction fan, like me. But he’s not anymore and he hardly ever reads either which I find quite sad. But, he does LOVE rugby. So when I spotted a rugby book on NetGalley, it seemed like fate. My husband was excited about reading this book and that is a wonderful thing.

So, without further ado I am thrilled to welcome my other half, Ryan, to the blog today with his review of Ben Ryan’s Sevens Heaven

I love watching rugby almost as much as @damppebbles loves books! I watched it with my Dad when I was little, in bars at Uni, and now I try to teach my kids what’s going on for the 10 minutes their attention is held! My experience has taught me that there are 3 almost universal rules to being a rugby fan;

  • The commentators are almost always biased against your team
  • In 15-a-side everyone loves watching the Barbarians (an international charity invitation team who play carefree entertaining rugby) and
  • In 7-a-side rugby everyone’s first or second team is Fiji.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, 7-a-side rugby debuted and in the final Fiji beat Great Britain with a sublime display of entertaining, flowing and ruthless rugby. This book tells the journey of Englishman Ben Ryan who receives an unexpected tweet, goes through an unorthodox interview process and then coaches this wonderful team to 2 World Sevens Series and finally Fiji’s first Olympic medal.

This book is fascinating. Whether you are interested in rugby, the country of Fiji, Ryan’s philosophy of coaching or how a team which everyone loved watching went from mercurial to world-beaters, you will love this book. Even if you don’t like rugby I challenge you not to be inspired by the journey that you read about, the friendships, the highs and lows, and challenges overcome.

We follow Ben Ryan and his squad through personal hardships, injuries, family tragedies. We see trust grow, being repaid by some yet broken by others. We see reflections of the differences in culture, Ben learning what inspires these players from a Fijian culture, initially alien to him, to perform and train while he reflects on the many differences with the England squad he coached previously. We learn how rugby inspires the country of Fiji and how after the awful events of Cyclone Winston, which bought devastation to the Islands, the 7’s team carried a nation’s hopes into the world’s biggest sporting arena.

I have never understood how authors writing about real events can engender so much emotion into what the reader already knows to be true, but reading about the Olympic final is so wonderfully joyful you feel you have to share it.

Am I going to run out and buy a Fijian 7’s jersey – maybe! Am I going to tell everyone I know who likes rugby, or reads leadership books or sports books about THIS book? YES! Am I going to tell anyone who stands next to me at the coffee machine that they should read this book? YES! Do I think you should go on this journey too? I think you know! A remarkable story, wonderfully told and bound to bring a smile to many people.

5 Stars.

OK, I’m impressed – great review. It seems you’ve been taking notes after all 😉 Something a little different for the ‘pebbles today but I’ve rather enjoyed the change. I hope you have too.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Sevens Heaven. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Sevens Heaven by Ben Ryan was published in the UK by W&N Books on 31st May 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

Ben-Ryan-main.jpg

Ben Ryan is the most successful men’s rugby sevens coach in the world, the only coach winning Continental, World and Olympic titles. Ben has been working at the top end of international sport for over a decade. Ben’s achievements are well documented and include many personal and professional accolades.

Ben’s move to Fiji saw him coach the 7s team to Olympic Gold with the team given the prodigious accolade from the IOC as the best male team performance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Ben was named Ratu Peni Raini Latianara in Fiji, became Chief in the province of Serua, and was awarded the Companion of the Order of Fiji, the highest order attainable on the Islands. Ben is the Pacific Person of the Year and was short-listed for World Rugby Coach of the Year.

Ben’s coaching across the years has included England Counties (Head Coach), various invitational 15-a-side teams, South West Schools, England U18s, and coaching all England senior and age-grade scrum-halves in their personal technical and tactical skill sets. Ben has also been a regular guest coach at Premiership clubs and academies.

Ben is an RFU Level 1-4 qualified rugby coach, beginning his coaching career in the 15-a-side game. After playing professionally for Bedford Blues and West Hartlepool in the Premiership, Ben went on to begin a teaching career before being appointed as Director of Rugby at Newbury RFC (see The Guardian write up here). Ben’s forward-thinking approach to coaching soon enabled Newbury’s top team to enjoy promotion into the Championship, becoming one of the top 20 teams in the country.

Ben is an ambassador for HSBC and Fiji Airways, and currently a consultant for many world-class organisations, both within and outside the sporting world. Ben thinks differently, empowering individuals with the tools to make real change in the way they lead their lives.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: It Was Her by Mark Hill (@markhillwriter) @TheCrimeVault @millieseaward #ItWasHer

it was her.jpg“Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.

Did she do it?

Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Poppy. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she sees families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.

Did she kill them?

As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake’s secret past is threatening to destroy everything.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the It Was Her blog tour.  It Was Her is written by ex-blogger and journalist, Mark Hill and was published by Sphere on 17th May 2018.  This is the second book in the DI Ray Drake series.  The first book, His First Lie (originally published as ‘The Two O’Clock Boy’) I thoroughly enjoyed and you can read my review by clicking HERE.

I was really looking forward to being reacquainted with DI Drake and DS Flick Crowley, having enjoyed His First Lie as much as I did.  But before we go any further, a word to the wise.  There’s something really quite special and different about this series and some things, although expertly explained and recapped by the author, work so much better if you read them first hand.  You get that spine-tingling shock factor, that unexpected ‘WOW’ moment that you just can’t get via a recap.  I may get in trouble for saying this but PLEASE read His First Lie first.  It’ll give you goosebumps and you’ll learn exactly who you are dealing with in Ray Drake.  Now don’t get me wrong, Hill has done a terrific job of giving new readers an overview of what happened to Ray as a child but no matter how expert the writing, this is one series that you should experience, from the beginning, yourself.

I’ll climb down off of my soapbox now (more of a biscuit tin really…) and get on with reviewing It Was Her!  DI Ray Drake is a troubled man.  DS Flick Crowley is dealing with her own demons which are all due to Drake, her boss and his troubled past.  I found Flick hard to like in the first book.  It Was Her has completely changed my opinion.  They’re an odd couple, but I really like them.  There’s a wonderful sense of impending doom about the two of them; the knowledge that if either of them says the wrong thing, confides in the wrong person then life could drastically change for both.  They’re bound together by secrets, whether they like it or not.

One of the things I’m growing to love about reading a Mark Hill novel is his flair for writing interesting, well-developed characters.  Although this book is all about DI Drake his supporting cast are solid, believable characters who all contribute to the storyline.  Hill has, however, outdone himself with the toxic Bliss family.  Tatia is the ‘adopted’ (although not through the normal, legal channels) middle sister of the family.  Poppy is the older sister, Joel is the younger brother and Will died at a young age when he fell from a clifftop whilst on holiday with his family.  Tatia was blamed for the ‘accident’ and sent home to an orphanage in Georgia and a life of poverty, abuse and degradation.  The scars run deep and all Tatia wants is a beautiful home of her own and her family reunited.  So much so that breaking and entering doesn’t seem that big-a-deal.  But then the owners of the properties start dying in violent circumstances and Tatia becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.  Did she do it?  Only DI Drake and DS Crowley can discover the truth…

Every so often throughout the story, there are flashbacks to x number of days or weeks after Will fell from the cliff.  These chapters give the reader a great insight into the workings of the Bliss family and how events have turned out the way they have.  I’m afraid I did my usual and tried to work out whodunit before it was revealed.  I did guess the perpetrator but oh my gosh, that ending was NOT expected!

Would I recommend this book?  I would but do start with His First Lie as it gives you the necessary background.  DI Drake is a fascinating and complex character and it helps to understand his experience and his motivations before reading It Was Her.  Deliciously dark characters, a poisonous middle-class family and a detective inspector with more to hide than most!  Another thoroughly enjoyable read from Mark Hill.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of It Was Her.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

It Was Her by Mark Hill was published in the UK by Sphere on 17th May 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

mark-hillI’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR.

But I write now, which is just as well, because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

It’s nice to see you here, thanks for clicking.

If you enjoyed His First Lie or It Was Her, do get in touch. There are oh-so-many ways to do it!

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |