#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas @FaberBooks #TheFamilyRetreat #damppebbles

“When Rob decides the family needs to get away for the summer Jess is not convinced – won’t all the things they’re escaping be waiting for them on their return? But the kids are thrilled, and before long their idyllic little cottage, the sea air, and the feel of skin sticky from sun-cream, lollies and sand, begins to work its magic. Jess allows herself to sink into the holiday vibes – the family even make holiday friends.

The summer heat intensifies Jess – ever vigilant – unearths a secret, a problem she’s sure she can help solve. But things are not always as they seem. The water may look inviting but even the gentlest looking waves can hide the deadliest undercurrents.

As autumn approaches, Jess – and the reader – will come to realise this is going to end in a way no-one could have imagined…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Family Retreat blog tour. The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas will be published in hardcover and audio next week (that’s Thursday 25th August 2022) with the digital format already available and the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of The Family Retreat but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sophie at Faber & Faber for sending me a proof copy.

I am addicted to summer thrillers this year. Last year I had a thing for flight-based thrillers. This year it’s definitely the ‘summer holiday gone horribly wrong’ vibe I am loving! So when The Family Retreat landed on my radar I was, of course, drawn to it. I love the cover. It screams ‘PERIL’ at me, with the child in the ocean, and I found the blurb to be very intriguing. Plus a lot of the summer thrillers I’ve read recently have been set overseas but The Family Retreat is based in beautiful Dorset, which was also a pull. It’s an extremely well-written, suspenseful, dark tale which I devoured.

General Practitioner, Jess and her screen-writer husband, Rob are having extensive work done on their London home. In a bid to avoid the dust and the noise they pack up their young family and head to the Dorset coast for several weeks. Although initially unsure, Jess soon realises that the move could be a blessing as she’s already taking a hiatus away from her patients and the practice. The Gibson family soon become friendly with the small, local community, including the annoyingly perfect Helen and her more likable husband, James, who are also temporary residents of the community and have children of a similar age. Jess’s strong desire to know her new neighbours better reveals a secret which she is sure, with her experience and contacts, she can help with. But Jess’s interfering in other people lives, her meddling in things which don’t concern her, could have deadly consequences for her new community…

The Family Retreat is a suspenseful family-based thriller which I found very compelling with strong characterisation. Jess is an intriguing woman who to me felt overworked and repeatedly overlooked, both at work and at home. Yet the need to prove herself, go above and beyond, pushes her forward. This is very much her story, told from her point of view. When she meets Helen, Jess is drawn to her. She finds her guarded and intriguing, she wants to become friends, but Helen holds back. I found the relationship between the two women absolutely fascinating. I could feel Jess’s need to connect more with Helen but Helen was very closed off. I became very invested in the characters’ lives, I was keen to find out how things were going to end for these people. And what a jaw-dropping ending it is.

This is a well-paced tale where tension builds slowly over the course of the book. I adored the sweeping, dramatic setting which could be picture perfect one minute and a brooding, angry, dangerous threat the next. There’s a sub-plot featuring Jess’s parents which I thought really added to the story. Making characters that already felt real to me even more believable. With the extended absence of husband Rob (away on a business trip in the US), with the strange behaviour of her father, with the pressure to return to work, with two young children to look after and the need to fit into a new community, it’s no wonder that Jess has the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, The Family Retreat is the perfect summer thriller if you’re looking for a smart, sophisticated read with superb characterisation and well-written suspense.  It’s a very human story with an unexpected twist in the tale which I thoroughly appreciated. I enjoyed the time I spent with the characters. Some are definitely more likable than others but I really warmed to Jess, despite her meddling, and grew to like her more and more as the story progressed. The Family Retreat is a slow-build, suspense filled tale of closely guarded secrets which I very much enjoyed. Recommended.

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

The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas was published by Faber & Faber on 25th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

persona imageBev was a clinical psychologist in the NHS for many years. She currently works as an organizational consultant in mental health and other services. She lives in London with her family.

WWW Wednesday | 17th August 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #booktwt #damppebbles

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

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

What are you currently reading?

The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher
WHO SHALL INHERIT THE SINS OF THE FATHER?

Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin’s mother went missing, believed murdered. Her body has never been found, and his father has lived under a cloud of suspicion ever since.

Now Charlie has returned to the coastal town where his mother vanished, on disciplinary leave from his job with the police sex-crimes unit, and permanent leave from his marriage. After two decades worrying away at the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, he’s run out of leads.

Then the skeletal remains of two people are found in the excavation of a new building site… and the past comes crashing in on Charlie.

From the multiple Ned Kelly Award-winning author of Consolation comes a stunning new standalone thriller, for readers of Jane Harper, Ian Rankin and Chris Hammer.


What did you recently finish reading?

Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss
A locked room. A brutal murder. And a killer who can unwind time…

In the former mining town of Black Lake, there is an old story about a shipwreck with only one survivor. His descendants have a unique ability: once in their lives – and only once – they can unwind the events of the previous six hours.

More than two hundred years later, part-time police constable Ella Manning is attending a party at Black Lake Manor, the cliff-top mansion belonging to the local billionaire. When a raging storm sweeps in from the Pacific, she and several other guests find themselves trapped.

And when their host is discovered brutally murdered in his study the next morning, the door locked from the inside, they turn to her to solve the crime.

Pushing her detective skills to the limit, against the odds Ella is sure she has identified the killer… but then someone undoes time. With no memory of what she discovered before, her investigation begins again, with very different results. Which of her suspects is guilty? And is there something even more sinister she is yet to uncover?

Can she solve the mystery before time runs out… again?

A must-read for fans of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe Sanatorium and And Then There Were None, Black Lake Manor will keep you feverishly turning the pages all night long!


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser
Sweden 2012. When Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti returns to work after a terrible personal tragedy his boss asks him to investigate a cold case, hoping to ease him back gently into his police duties.

Five years previously a shy electrician, Arnold Morinder, disappeared from the face of the earth, the only clue his blue moped abandoned in a nearby swamp. At the time his partner, Ellen Bjarnebo, claimed that Arnold had probably travelled to Norway never to return. But Ellen is one of Sweden’s most notorious killers, having served eleven years in prison after killing her abusive first husband and dismembering his body with an axe. And when Barbarotti seeks to interview Ellen in relation to Arnold’s disappearance she is nowhere to be found . . .

But without a body and no chance of interviewing his prime suspect Barbarotti must use all the ingenuity at his disposal to make headway in the case. Still struggling with his personal demons, Barbarotti seeks solace from God, and the support of his colleague, Eva Backman. And as he finally begins to track down his suspect and the cold case begins to thaw, Barbarotti realizes that nothing about Ellen Bjarnebo can be taken for granted . . .

The Axe Woman is the fifth and final Inspector Barbarotti novel from bestselling author Håkan Nesser.

#BookReview: Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard @CorvusBooks @theotherkirsty #RunTime #RunTimeBook #damppebbles

Movie-making can be murder.
The project
Final Draft, a psychological horror, being filmed at a house deep in a forest, miles from anywhere in the wintry wilds of West Cork.
The lead
Former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actor at the very last minute. She can’t help but hope that this opportunity will be her big break – and she knows she was lucky to get it, after what happened the last time she was on a set.
The problem
Something isn’t quite right about Final Draft. When the strange goings-on in the script start to happen on set too, Adele begins to fear that the real horror lies off the page…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard. Run Time will be published by Corvus Books later this week (that’s Thursday 18th August 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital format with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of Run Time but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kirsty at Corvus Books for sending me a proof copy.

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard and absolutely loved it (my review of The Nothing Man will be published on the blog in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that!). When I saw that the author’s latest book revolves around the set of a horror film, I knew I had to read it. There were several reasons for this: 1) the author is a superb writer 2) I loved the concept of the book and 3) as well as being a crime fiction fan I’m a huge fan of horror fiction so Run Time really grabbed my attention. There was no way I was going to let this one pass me by!

Adele Rafferty is a struggling actor who despite becoming a household name due to appearing in an Irish soap opera, now makes beds at a dingy Hollywood motel. Believing her own hype, Adele made a few bad career choices which ended up with her not being able to work in Ireland anymore. So she headed to LA where dreams rarely come true. Struggling and destitute in Hollywood, and trying to reclaim her past glory via a string of failed auditions, she’s on the brink of giving up. That is until she receives a call. Cross Cut Productions led by Steve Dade and Daniel O’Leary are making a horror movie and they want Adele as the lead. It would mean returning to Ireland but the intense night time filming schedule means she won’t need to see anyone from her past. It’s an opportunity she can’t miss and if the movie is a success then it’ll right all the horrible wrongs, Adele will be a star again! But at what cost? As the odd goings-on in the script start to happen in real life, Adele realises that she’s in terrible, terrible danger…

Run Time is a thoroughly engrossing thriller which I found both gripping and hugely entertaining. Adele has her secrets which the reader is not made party to until much later but you know something pretty catastrophic has happened to stop her returning to Ireland, particularly when she’s struggling in LA as much as she is. When she receives the call at the last minute to star in Final Draft, a psychological horror movie based on the novel First Draft, it seems to be the answer to her prayers. The filming schedule is intense, over the course of two weeks, and at night, which means she won’t have to see anyone outside of the cast and crew as they’ll all be resting during the day. But as she approaches the set, down a long winding road, bumping over the potholes, in a taxi driven by a peculiar woman, you know things aren’t going to turn out well for Adele. The author masterfully sets the scene, sending chills down the readers spine and ratcheting the tension up beautifully.

The author has created such a well-plotted, clever story with very lifelike characters. I really felt for Adele. I had no idea what had happened to her in the past to make her run away from all she knew but whatever it was, I don’t think it really mattered to me. She’s not perfect (far from it!) and I don’t know if everyone will warm to her but I was certainly rooting for the character. Things start off fairly benign, early occurrences can be easily explained away but as the frequency and intensity increase, Adele’s situation and it’s terrifying implications are impossible to ignore.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Run Time is a well paced, creepy novel which builds beautifully over the course of the book to a thrilling, shocking conclusion. I did not see that coming, let me tell you! Interspersed amongst the live-action chapters which follow Adele on her journey through the creepy old house and into the surrounding woods, are chapters from the movie’s script. I really enjoyed these sections as they included the stage directions. I was a little apprehensive at first that they would interrupt the flow of the story but that was not the case at all. I quickly became accustomed to the presentation and found the script really added something to an already well-written story. Very inventive, highly original and superbly entertaining. Recommended.

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

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard was published in the UK by Corvus Books on 11th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Catherine Ryan HowardCATHERINE RYAN HOWARD is an internationally bestselling author from Cork, Ireland. Her work has been shortlisted for the CWA’s John Creasey New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Dagger awards, and in 2019 her novel THE LIAR’S GIRL was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. THE NOTHING MAN was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. She currently lives in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the sofa.

#BookReview: The Collective by Alison Gaylin @orionbooks #TheCollective #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

How far would a mother go to right a wrong?

Camille Gardener is a grieving and angry mother who, fives years after her daughter’s death, is obsessed with the man she believes to be responsible.

Because Camille wants revenge.
Enter: the Collective.

A group of women who desire justice above all else.

A group of women who enact revenge on the men who have wronged them.

But as Camille gets more involved in the group she must decide whether these women are the heroes or the villains.

And if she chooses wrong, will she ever get out alive?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Collective by Alison Gaylin. The Collective is published by Orion Books in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 11th August 2022) and is also available in audio and digital formats.

I am a huge fan of Alison Gaylin’s books (also written under A.L. Gaylin), The Collective being the fourth of her standalone thrillers which I’ve read. And in all honesty, if I wasn’t already a fan, there would be no way on this earth that I would be able to resist the pull of this book! That striking red cover with the silhouettes, that utterly intriguing tagline on the US version (it’s ‘no killer goes unpunished’ if you haven’t already seen it) and that ‘grab you by the throat’ blurb. Getting hold of a copy of this book became a priority!

Camille Gardener is a woman consumed by grief following the death of her 15-year-old daughter, Emily, five years earlier. She blames high achieving college student Harris Blanchard for Emily’s death but Harris is the college’s golden boy and has never been held to account. When Camille is approached by a stranger and given information about a Facebook group called Niobe for grieving mothers, she signs up. But the group is different to others she’s joined in the past. Their anger matches her own, the women openly discuss the most horrific deaths they can imagine for those they feel are responsible for their child’s death. But Niobe is only the start. Before long Camille is introduced to the Collective and things start to spiral out of control. Camille has been accepted into the Collective, but there’s a good chance she won’t make it out alive…

The Collective is so GOOD! Gaylin has once again produced an absolute page turner of a novel which I found near impossible to put down. Camille is a fascinating character and I watched, open mouthed, as she dug herself deeper and deeper into what felt like an inescapable hole. My heart was in my mouth and I was on the edge of my seat wondering how far things were going to go for the character. The more I read, the more I liked her. The more I read, the more I needed to know about the Collective. Gaylin has written such a brilliantly addictive thriller and I flew through the pages, desperate to find out where the author was going to take this misguided, grief-stricken woman. And oh my gosh, what a perfect ending.

The book is set around the Hudson Valley and I really enjoyed Gaylin’s vivid descriptions of the area. The setting felt like a complete contrast to the dark events unfolding before me on the page. Proof that terrible things can happen to nice, normal people. And terrible is a pretty massive understatement when it comes to some of the grisly ways the members of the group fantasise about killing off those responsible for their children’s deaths. Oh my goodness, you wouldn’t want to cross any of those moms!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Collective is an utterly captivating, highly addictive read which hooked me in from the opening pages and didn’t let go until the shocking end. Such a thrilling plot, skilfully executed, featuring terrific characters and jaw-dropping twists. The Collective demonstrates how raw, how powerful, how completely destructive one woman’s grief can be when fed. It’s certainly a dark read but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride! Full of suspense, secrets and overflowing with revenge. Gaylin has done it again and I remain a huge fan. Highly recommended.

The Collective by Alison Gaylin was published in the UK by Orion Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Alison Gaylin is the Edgar and Shamus award-winning author of 12 books and many short stories. A USA Today and international bestseller, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

WWW Wednesday | 10th August 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #booktwt #damppebbles

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

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

What are you currently reading?

Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss
A locked room. A brutal murder. And a killer who can unwind time…

In the former mining town of Black Lake, there is an old story about a shipwreck with only one survivor. His descendants have a unique ability: once in their lives – and only once – they can unwind the events of the previous six hours.

More than two hundred years later, part-time police constable Ella Manning is attending a party at Black Lake Manor, the cliff-top mansion belonging to the local billionaire. When a raging storm sweeps in from the Pacific, she and several other guests find themselves trapped.

And when their host is discovered brutally murdered in his study the next morning, the door locked from the inside, they turn to her to solve the crime.

Pushing her detective skills to the limit, against the odds Ella is sure she has identified the killer… but then someone undoes time. With no memory of what she discovered before, her investigation begins again, with very different results. Which of her suspects is guilty? And is there something even more sinister she is yet to uncover?

Can she solve the mystery before time runs out… again?

A must-read for fans of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe Sanatorium and And Then There Were None, Black Lake Manor will keep you feverishly turning the pages all night long!


What did you recently finish reading?

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou
Burnt-out from policework, Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies from Australia to Greece for a holiday. Recently divorced and mourning the death of his father, who emigrated from the turbulent Prespes region which straddles the borders of Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, Manolis hopes to reconnect with his roots and heritage.

On arrival, Manolis learns of the disappearance of an ‘invisible’ – a local man who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and some locals believe the man’s disappearance was pre-planned, while others suspect foul play. Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find the invisible, and must navigate the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep.

It soon becomes clear to Manolis that he may never locate a man who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. And with the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the events of today as Manolis’s investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten practice.


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher
WHO SHALL INHERIT THE SINS OF THE FATHER?

Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin’s mother went missing, believed murdered. Her body has never been found, and his father has lived under a cloud of suspicion ever since.

Now Charlie has returned to the coastal town where his mother vanished, on disciplinary leave from his job with the police sex-crimes unit, and permanent leave from his marriage. After two decades worrying away at the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, he’s run out of leads.

Then the skeletal remains of two people are found in the excavation of a new building site… and the past comes crashing in on Charlie.

From the multiple Ned Kelly Award-winning author of Consolation comes a stunning new standalone thriller, for readers of Jane Harper, Ian Rankin and Chris Hammer.

#BookReview: Summer Fever by Kate Riordan @MichaelJBooks #SummerFever #damppebbles

“A HOT ITALIAN SUMMER. TWO COUPLES. ONE DARK SECRET THAT COULD RUIN EVERYTHING. . .

Nick and Laura are the hosts: pretending their marriage isn’t on the rocks.

Madison and Bastian are the guests: neither is remotely who they claim to be.

Under the scorching Mediterranean sun, no secret is safe.
No betrayal goes unnoticed.
Two couples. But will either survive the summer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Summer Fever by Kate Riordan. Summer Fever was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Summer Fever but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I was immediately drawn to this book thanks to that striking cover. Add to that the fact that I’m addicted to summer thrillers at the moment which meant Summer Fever was a ‘must read’ for me. I think despite having a week in sunnier climes earlier this year I’m still yearning for hot, tropical summer days somewhere that isn’t, well, here. Perhaps after losing two years of travel to COVID my need to escape my quiet, dare I say ‘boring’ small town is still very present. Hence my addiction to summer thrillers. Summer Fever transported me to the Marche region of Italy and I loved the time I spent in the author’s world. It was sexy, sultry and chock full of suspense.

Laura and Nick have finally taken the plunge and purchased a villa in the Marche region of Italy leaving behind their troubles, the drudgery of the UK and sticking a plaster firmly over the cracks in their marriage. They plan to open the villa to guests, offering a tailor made service of fine dining, rural living and local tours. When their first guests arrive, a couple from the US called Madison and Bastian, Laura realises that they still have a lot of issues to iron out. Gradually Laura is drawn into Madison’s spontaneous, confident and carefree orbit and the two women become friends. But all is not as it seems. Both couples have secrets. Both couples are hiding something from the other. And it could be the death of them…

I really enjoyed Summer Fever with its beautifully drawn setting, pressing summer heat and intriguing characters. It’s clear to the reader from the outset that there is tension between Laura and Nick. Something has driven a wedge between the couple and as a result Nick has blithely gone along with the idea of moving to Italy, if only to placate Laura. There is an ever present tension between the two of them which I found thoroughly intriguing. I wanted to know what the story was. The reader gets a glimpse into Laura’s past and her time spent at university prior to meeting Nick. These flashbacks expose several of Laura’s character flaws which only made her all the more interesting to me. She’s not a particularly likeable character but because of that, I personally was drawn to her.

The arrival of their American guests ramps the tension up ten-fold. There was a new air to proceedings which pulled me into the story further. The chemistry between Laura and Bastian is undeniable, almost palpable, but with their partners looking on, with nowhere to hide, they must play by the rules. The author handles the suspense incredibly well and I was hooked, unsure how things were going to turn out for these two couples. There are several twists and turns along the way. One of which I was able to spot from fairly early on. Others left me with my jaw on the floor. The ending was completely unexpected, very satisfying and cleverly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Summer Fever is a sophisticated, sexy thriller which I found utterly absorbing and hard to put down. The slow build storyline is beautifully crafted and drew me into the world occupied by Riordan’s fascinating characters. I found the plot both tense and gripping with lots of delicious suspense which I, of course, adore! I could picture Villa Luna Rossa and the area surrounding it with ease and loved how it played such a pivotal role in the story. Shocking but absolutely perfect. All in all this is a superb summer thriller, perfect for reading by the pool or lounging in the garden dreaming of Italy. Recommended.

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

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kate RiordanKate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom have influenced her writing. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time.

#BookReview: The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere @EmmaFinnigan #TheLastParty #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.
In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh. The Last Party is published today (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Last Party but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a proof copy.

I read my first Clare Mackintosh novel, the superb Hostage, last year which, incidentally, was published in paperback in June and is well worth picking up if you get the chance…providing you’re not planning on flying anywhere soon! I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, her characterisation and I was keen to read more. So when I was offered a copy of the first book in Mackintosh’s brand new police procedural series, I of course jumped at the chance to read it. Police procedurals are a passion of mine and out of everything, the style of book I return to the most. And I’m so glad I did because The Last Party is a cracking read!

It’s New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing at The Shore, an exclusive, high-end, lakeside development in Cwm Coed, North Wales. The guests include the wealthy new residents along with several of the less enthusiastic, put-upon locals. The following morning the body of the resort owner, Rhys Lloyd, is found floating in the lake. It’s DC Ffion Morgan’s patch so she takes the case. Ffion has lived in Cwm Coed all her life, it’s her home. She’s aware how much the village resents the development, she’s aware that local boy Rhys has ruffled many feathers over the years. And now he’s dead it’s down to Ffion to dig into her friends and neighbours darkest secrets and discover who killed Rhys Lloyd…

I loved The Last Party! The characters are superb, the plot is well-written and completely absorbing, the setting is beautifully atmospheric. Tick, tick and tick again. I adored DC Ffion Morgan. What an outstanding lead character she is. Gutsy, ballsy and strong. I loved her attitude, her approach to the job, as well as her approach to life in general. I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead character and Mackintosh has well and truly delivered with DC Morgan. As the body was discovered in Mirror Lake, which is right on the border of England and Wales, an English detective is assigned to work with Morgan, something Ffion is quite put out by. When DC Leo Brady of the Cheshire Major Crimes Unit is introduced to DC Morgan you know things aren’t going to be easy for these two. But as time progresses and they learn to work with each other, a rather formidable team is formed. I loved Brady just as much as I loved Morgan. The humour, the chemistry, it was wonderful to watch. Mackintosh’s characters are sublime and I’m a little bit in love.

The plot is well paced and thoroughly gripping. I found myself opting to read The Last Party when there were other things I probably should have been doing (parenting, housework, y’know the sort of thing…). There are lots of clever twists and turns along the way which keep the reader fully immersed in the story. The setting of Cwm Coed with Mirror Lake at its heart and surrounded by mountains is glorious. I could picture the area in my mind’s eye and feel the chill of the mist rolling off the water. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Last Party and I hope this is only the start of DC Ffion Morgan’s adventures. Everything about this book worked for me. The plot is incredibly gripping and hugely compelling – I had to know what had happened to Rhys Lloyd and why, the setting is beautifully drawn by the author, and the characters are some of the most memorable I’ve met this year. In fact, I would go as far as saying that something about this book reminded me a little of when I first met M.W. Craven’s Tilly and Poe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think this series could be something quite special. The first book has certainly left its mark on me and I am excited to read more, that’s for sure! Masterful storytelling, jaw-dropping twists and turns and a cast that I pretty much fell in love with. Highly recommended.

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

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of New York Times bestseller I LET YOU GO, and Sunday Times bestsellers I SEE YOU, LET ME LIE and AFTER THE END. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, and have spent a combined total of 50 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart.

Her new thriller, HOSTAGE, comes out in June 2021.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

WWW Wednesday | 3rd August 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #booktwt #damppebbles

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

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

What are you currently reading?

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou
Burnt-out from policework, Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies from Australia to Greece for a holiday. Recently divorced and mourning the death of his father, who emigrated from the turbulent Prespes region which straddles the borders of Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, Manolis hopes to reconnect with his roots and heritage.

On arrival, Manolis learns of the disappearance of an ‘invisible’ – a local man who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and some locals believe the man’s disappearance was pre-planned, while others suspect foul play. Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find the invisible, and must navigate the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep.

It soon becomes clear to Manolis that he may never locate a man who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. And with the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the events of today as Manolis’s investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten practice.


What did you recently finish reading?

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs
Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning


What do you think you’ll read next?

Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss
A locked room. A brutal murder. And a killer who can unwind time…

In the former mining town of Black Lake, there is an old story about a shipwreck with only one survivor. His descendants have a unique ability: once in their lives – and only once – they can unwind the events of the previous six hours.

More than two hundred years later, part-time police constable Ella Manning is attending a party at Black Lake Manor, the cliff-top mansion belonging to the local billionaire. When a raging storm sweeps in from the Pacific, she and several other guests find themselves trapped.

And when their host is discovered brutally murdered in his study the next morning, the door locked from the inside, they turn to her to solve the crime.

Pushing her detective skills to the limit, against the odds Ella is sure she has identified the killer… but then someone undoes time. With no memory of what she discovered before, her investigation begins again, with very different results. Which of her suspects is guilty? And is there something even more sinister she is yet to uncover?

Can she solve the mystery before time runs out… again?

A must-read for fans of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe Sanatorium and And Then There Were None, Black Lake Manor will keep you feverishly turning the pages all night long!

#BookReview: The It Girl by Ruth Ware @simonschusterUK #TheItGirl #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Everyone wanted her life
Someone wanted her dead

It was Hannah who found April’s body ten years ago.
It was Hannah who didn’t question what she saw that day.
Did her testimony put an innocent man in prison?

She needs to know the truth.

Even if it means questioning her own friends.
Even if it means putting her own life at risk.

Because if the killer wasn’t a stranger, it’s someone she knows…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The It Girl by Ruth Ware. The It Girl will be published by Scout Press later this week (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of The It Girl but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sabah at Scout Press for sending me a proof copy.

Confession time! Despite being a crime reader and despite many (MANY!) people telling me how much I would enjoy Ruth Ware’s books, The It Girl is in fact the first book I’ve read by this author. I know. I’m ashamed of myself. But I have righted the wrong and all is good with the damppebbles world once more. And what a fantastic experience it was (I know, I know – you told me so 😂).

Tragedy struck the Pelham College community ten years ago when It Girl, April Clarke-Cliveden was discovered dead in her room by roommate and best friend, Hannah. Hannah still mourns the loss of April to this day and is shocked when the death of April’s killer, John Neville, is reported. Neville’s death brings the story back into the spotlight and a dogged journalist to Hannah’s door. The journalist believes that Neville was innocent, turning Hannah’s world upside down as her evidence and her evidence alone sent Neville to prison. Hannah reaches out to her college friends for comfort but they reveal some startling truths which send Hannah in a spin. Because if Neville didn’t kill April, someone else did…

The first thing I need to say about The It Girl is that I adored the setting. Pelham College is a fictional Oxford college but it could be based on any number of real life colleges. It felt so authentic, so true to life. I can say that because I worked at an Oxford college for many years and everything the author included about college life, the set-up and the workings was spot-on! All the terminology came flooding back and it was lovely to step back in time and experience it all over again in fictional form (of course, ignoring the creepy porter and the tragic death which are both present in the book!).

The story is told in the past and the present. In the past the reader gets to meet April and experience the events which led to her death. And in the present we watch as Hannah slowly realises that she may have sent an innocent man to prison and if that’s true, the biggest shocker of all, that April’s killer is still out there. Ware’s characters were very well-written and I really enjoyed the group dynamic between the friends during their time at Pelham. But the more I got to know them in the present-day setting, the less I trusted them. I was determined to solve the mystery before the reveal but I failed miserably. My jaw hit the floor, my gob was well and truly smacked! What a fantastic ending, high tension and completely unexpected. I loved it.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The It Girl is a gripping, hugely engaging and eminently readable mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved spending time in the company of Hannah who grew on me more and more as the story progressed. I enjoyed the journey Hannah took from being certain about Neville’s guilt to realising that perhaps things weren’t quite as she remembered to obsessively following leads which eventually lead her somewhere she never expected to be. A setting I’m incredibly fond of which brought back happy memories, well-defined and interesting characters who all played their part perfectly and a gripping storyline which had me glued to the pages. As I mentioned, this is the first book I have read by Ruth Ware but it certainly won’t be the last. Recommended.

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

The It Girl by Ruth Ware was published in the UK by Scout Press on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ruth WareRuth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.

#BookReview: Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani @AmazonPub @CapitalCrime1 @FMcMAssociates #FollowMeToTheEdge #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Rookie detective Joe Finch knows better than most what tragedy looks like. But trying to solve the brutal murder of an entire family? Just another day in Cooper.

Even for the sleazy backwater of Cooper, Nebraska, the multiple murder of an entire family, brutally bludgeoned to death in their beds, is big news.

Detective Joe Finch, raw with guilt over his partner’s traumatic shooting during a routine traffic stop, hopes the case will at least focus his mind. But then he discovers that the crime scene is the house he grew up in, and the ghosts of his own tragic childhood come rushing back to confront him.

As Finch dredges the corrupt and criminal mires of Cooper in a desperate search for the truth, the only certainty is that everyone there is lying. Caught between greedy politicians, a violent cartel boss, an ambitious reporter and a sinister cult lurking in the cornfields on the outskirts of town, Finch is soon out of his depth.

In a town where the law exists only to be bent or broken, can Finch steel himself against entrenched evil and the haunting spectre of his past—and live to serve justice in Cooper?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani. Follow Me to the Edge was published by Thomas & Mercer on 8th March 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. My copy of Follow Me to the Edge arrived at damppebbles HQ as part of my Capital Crime Book subscription which I fervently recommend to all crime fiction fans. And make sure you don’t miss the Capital Crime Festival in London in late September (scroll down for more information).

Follow Me to the Edge is the second book in Ashkanani’s ‘Cooper series’. The first being the excellent Welcome to Cooper which, once again, I can thank the marvels at Capital Crime for putting on my radar towards the end of last year. But this is not a follow on from the previous book, oh no! This is more of an origins story where the reader meets a younger, inexperienced Detective Joe Finch – a character who played in a key role in the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed Ashkanani’s first Cooper book so was excitedly champing at the bit to make a start on this latest instalment.

It’s 1993 and newly qualified Cooper detective, Joe Finch, is called to the scene of a brutal murder. Three members of the Richardson family are dead in their beds, bludgeoned to death. David, the father, is found on the banks of the reservoir, stabbed through the heart. The initial cause of death mooted by many is murder-suicide. But Joe, who is overly familiar with the Richardson family home, makes a shocking discovery. A piece of evidence which raises many more questions than it answers. With police corruption rife within the upper echelons of Cooper PD, and fuelled by guilt and regret over the shooting of his partner, and the inescapable memories of his troubled past, it’s down to Joe to unpick what little evidence he has and find out who killed the Richardson family…

Follow Me to the Edge is a fantastic follow up to the first book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a younger, less experienced, quite different version of Joe Finch. To the point where I actually warmed to Joe’s character despite him having very few redeeming qualities in the first book! Follow Me to the Edge can certainly be read without reading Welcome to Cooper but I think you would miss out on experiencing the contrast between now and then. Joe is a fascinating, multi-layered character – the more I discover about him, the more I can understand him. Sort of. I loved how this book provided the background to two key relationships in Joe’s life. The reader has now seen the bones of these connections, ready for the author to build upon (I hope) in the future.

It was a joy to return to Cooper, Nebraska after my first visit in Welcome to Cooper. Despite going back in time (this book is set in 1993, before the events in the first book) the place didn’t really feel as though it had changed much. Still a dead-end town where the rules don’t always apply. Still not a lot of hope amongst those who call it home. Alongside Joe’s investigation into the murder of the Richardson’s is a subplot featuring what is clearly a cult. These chapters were incredibly intriguing and I was keen to see in what direction the author was going to take this storyline. I have to say, it all fits in perfectly, I couldn’t have guessed how it was going to conclude but the author ties everything up in such a clever and satisfying way. It was a bit of a gasp out loud moment for me. Expertly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But I would encourage you to read Welcome to Cooper first so you can become familiar with some of the characters beforehand. Follow Me to the Edge is a very assured, very readable follow up which drew me in and didn’t let go. Ashkanani has a talent for writing interesting, believable characters which I really appreciate. I particularly liked Ackerman. The plot was well paced with lots of surprises along the way and the setting felt like a character in its own right. Nebraskan noir at its finest! I hope there is more to come from Cooper but if there’s not (and I have no idea either way!) then I will happily read whatever the author delivers next. I really enjoy the way Ashkanani tells a story. Recommended.

Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 8th March 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tariq Ashkanani

Tariq Ashkanani is a solicitor based in Edinburgh, where he also helps run Write Gear, a company that sells high-quality notebooks for writers, and co-hosts Write Gear’s podcast Page One. His follow-up thriller, Follow Me to the Edge, is out now.

CAPITAL CRIME RETURNS IN SEPTEMBER WITH RICHARD OSMAN, ANTHONY HOROWITZ, DOROTHY KOOMSON AND PAULA HAWKINS TO HEADLINE

Richard Osman, Rev. Richard Coles, Kate Mosse, Robert Harris, Dorothy Koomson, Bella Mackie and Paula Hawkins are amongst the authors confirmed for Capital Crime, London’s only crime and thriller festival, which returns 29th September-1st October after its hugely successful inaugural event in 2019.

Taking place in London’s stunning Battersea Park, Capital Crime will be hosting over 164 panellists, bringing together readers, authors, industry figures and the local community for the first major literary festival held on the site. With a Goldsboro Books pop-up bookshop in the iconic Pump House Gallery, the first ever Fingerprint Awards ceremony, alongside an array of London’s tastiest local street food vendors and bar area, it promises to be a weekend of fun, innovation and celebration of crime fiction.

On the opening night (Thursday 29th September), Anthony Horowitz, Kim Sherwood and Charlie Higson will be discussing all things Bond, and the role the capital city has played in the fictional spy’s life, and the 007 car from Sherwood’s incredible new novel, ‘DOUBLE OR NOTHING’ will be on display at the heart of the festival, in association with Alpine and Ian Fleming Publications.

Thursday’s programming will comprise of a series of events dedicated to Capital Crime’s social outreach programme, in which two sixth form students and their teachers from schools in and around the capital will be invited to meet with authors and publishing professionals to demystify the industry and attract new and diverse young voices into publishing.

Robert Harris will be in conversation with comedian and podcaster Andrew Hunter Murray, discussing dystopian fiction, and there will also be a very special opportunity for aspiring authors to pitch their novel idea to agents David Headley (DHH), Emily Glenister (DHH), Camilla Bolton (Darley Anderson) or Phillip Patterson (Marjacq). The first evening will close with the very first Fingerprint Award Ceremony. The winners, selected by readers across five categories Crime Novel of the Year; Thriller Novel of the Year; Historical Crime Novel of the Year; Debut Novel of the Year and Genre-Busting Novel of the Year, will be announced alongside a very special Lifetime Achievement Award and Industry Award of the Year.

Friday’s events include Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham interviewed on the theme of ‘Crime Across Continents’ by Victoria Selman, and Mark Edwards, Will Dean, Erin Young and Chris Whitaker speaking to Tariq Ashkanani about setting their thrillers in the US. In addition, Abir Mukherjee, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Anna Mazzola and Jessica Fellowes will be speaking to Suzy Edge about historical crime writing, and Dorothy Koomson and Kate Mosse will be in conversation about their work with the Women’s Prize and the versatility of crime fiction. Claire McGowan, David Beckler, Catriona Ward, Chris Carter, Nicci French, W.C. Ryan, Stuart Neville and Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir will also be taking part in panels on the themes of courtroom dramas, ghost stories, crime set in Brighton and medicine in crime fiction, amongst other topics, throughout the day, and the first two rounds of Capital Crime’s quiz ‘Whose Crime Is It Anyway?’ will take place, featuring teams of debut authors.

Saturday will see Peter James interviewed on his writing career by clinical psychologist Chris Merritt; bestsellers Jeffrey Archer, Lucy Foley and Clare Mackintosh in conversation with Barry Forshaw and a Polari Panel hosted by Paul Burston. Other events include former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Lady Hale in conversation with Harriet Tyce; bestselling Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson in conversation with the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir; Sarah Vaughan, Louise Candlish and Paula Hawkins discussing the experience of screen adaptations, before rounding off the festival with Richard Osman in conversation with Bella Mackie.

The final round of ‘Whose Crime is it Anyway?’ will also take place, as well as panels on the topics of spies, Grand Dames, detectives and comedy crime featuring Vaseem Khan, Robert Thorogood, Antti Tuomainen, Steve Cavanagh, Jane Casey, Catherine Ryan Howard and Steph Broadribb.

As well as panels and events, there will be exciting public events throughout the weekend, including launch events for Elly Griffiths’ breath-taking new thriller Bleeding Heart Yard, The Perfect Crime anthology, which brings twenty-two bestselling crime writers from across the world together in a razor sharp and deliciously sinister collection of crime stories, and an interactive treasure hunt inspired by Peter James’s latest blockbuster, Picture You Dead (publisher). There will also be entertainment, including a crime-themed comedy performance from The Noise Next Door on Thursday.

The full programme can be found here.

Book your tickets here. I hope to see you there!