#BookReview: Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton @TrapezeBooks #Tattletale #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

tattletale“One day changes Jody’s life forever. She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags’s life forever. After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…

Packed with twists and turns, this gripping psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventeenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton. Tattletale was published by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Tattletale but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this book was a whole lot darker than I ever expected it to be! I like to read fiction that errs on the dark side but with this book, I had to put it down and take a break a couple of times. It’s a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but it got under my skin. The way the best fiction does.

Mags returns to the UK following her brother’s horrific accident. He’s on life support and she’s been told to prepare for the worst. She goes to the hospital, meets her brother’s devastated fiancee for the first time and tries to come to terms with what has happened. Mags and Abe were never close as children. More like rivals really, out to get the other in trouble as much as possible with their controlling and aggressive father. The divide between the siblings seems too wide now though, and Mags wants to change that before it’s too late. So she moves into Abe’s flat, spends time with Jody, his fiancee, and starts to discover things she never knew about her brother. But not everything fits. Not everyone is telling Mags the truth. Then she discovers something which makes no sense at all. Who is lying to Mags and why…?

The chapters are broken down into sections and told from one of four perspectives; Jody – Abe’s fiancee, Mags, Mira – a neighbour, and an unknown young female narrator whose chapters are harrowing and difficult at times to read. This is probably the most appropriate point in my review to do something I don’t normally do, and that’s issue a warning. This book contains some very distressing scenes of sexual abuse and rape against children. For that reason, it’s not going to be for everyone.

The plot doesn’t stop moving from the moment you open the book and I was immediately sucked into the story. The opening packs a punch with its vivid imagery and intriguing characters. There’s a feeling though that you, as the reader, aren’t party to everything that’s going on, or gone on before. You’re missing…..’something’, but what is it? It’s a very intriguing start and the book had its hooks in me from then on. The wonderful sense of impending doom helped as well. I do love a sense of foreboding!

There isn’t a lot I can say about the characters without putting my foot in it so I won’t go into detail. But I will say, I couldn’t decide if I liked or loathed Mags. Mags is the character we spend the most time with and at times I think it may have been a bit of both. She was quite judgmental and superior for a large proportion of the book, which riled me. She rubbed me up the wrong way and I don’t think there was any going back from that point.

Would I recommend this book? I would yes, But please heed my warning about the abuse if that’s something you like to avoid in your fiction. It has its place in this novel but it’s a tough read. Tattletale is a multi-layered, intense read for fans of the psychological suspense genre and one I enjoyed. I did find the ending a smidge far-fetched but as I always say, if you can’t stretch the limits a little in fiction, when can you? I also saw one of the twists coming but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this book as there were plenty more twists and turns coming my way that did surprise me. Recommended.

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

Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 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 | Goodreads |

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Sarah J. Naughton

Sarah Naughton’s debut novel, The Hanged Man Rises, was shortlisted for the Costa children’s award. It was followed by a second young adult thriller, The Blood List. Her thrillers for adults, Tattletale and The Other Couple (Orion) are Amazon bestsellers. Sarah lives in London with her husband and sons.

#BookReview: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides @orionbooks @orion_crime #TheSilentPatient #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the silent patient

“Alicia Berenson lived a seemingly perfect life until one day six years ago.

When she shot her husband in the head five times.

Since then she hasn’t spoken a single word.

It’s time to find out why.

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my sixteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. The Silent Patient was published by Orion Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in all formats.

So this book is huge. And with all hugely hyped, extremely popular novels, I feel like I’m one of the last people to read it. I’m sure that’s not actually the case but, you know how it is sometimes (back to those #bookwormproblems I often mention). I’ll be honest, I was a bit dubious before making a start on this one. Will it live up to what I’ve heard? Will I see the big twist coming and will that dampen the whole reading experience for me? Read on to find out…

Alicia Berenson is a household name for all the wrong reasons. The seemingly happy, contented artist had everything. Then, one day, she waited for her husband to return home where she shot him in the head five times. Stood with a smoking gun and blood on her hands, she was arrested, found guilty and sent to The Grove, a secure psychiatric hospital in London. Never having uttered a single word. Not to the police, not to defend herself in court, nor to her doctors. Alicia remained silent throughout. What happened that night six years ago remains a complete mystery. But psychotherapist, Theo Faber, believes he has the skill, knowledge and patience to get through to Alicia. To break down the barriers and discover the truth about what happened that fateful night…

Told from Theo’s point of view and diary entries written by Alicia in the run up to the murder, the reader is thrown straight into this compelling story from the very start. We watch as Theo takes tentative steps in trying to connect on some level with Alicia. Often with little reaction from her, or the occasional aggressive and violent outburst. I couldn’t work Alicia out at all. Nothing following the murder is given away in regards to her character or her motivation. What is she thinking, what is she feeling? I had no idea and I think the author has done an absolutely cracking job of writing her so that you are left wondering for a large proportion of the book. The diary entries don’t really help as it’s hard to relate the shell of the woman she becomes with the woman she was before the murder. Despite all of this, I wanted to like Alicia.

This is a very easy to read book and I finished it in a couple of sittings. There were certain aspects of the story where I found my attention wavering though, but it all made sense when I reached the end of the book. I can’t say too much more about that as I’m bound to say something I shouldn’t! If you’ve seen any other reviews of The Silent Patient then you may be aware there’s a fairly substantial twist (it’s a psychological thriller – it comes with the territory, no?) but I felt oddly let down by it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that didn’t wow me but I felt a little disappointed. The way the story concluded was very satisfying though.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Silent Patient is a well-written and highly entertaining novel to wile away a few hours and I enjoyed it. With a cast of interesting characters – some you’ll like, others you may loathe – it’s a twisty and compelling book which I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it yet (all three of you, lol!).

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was published in the UK by Orion Books on 12th December 2019 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 | Foyles | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alex michaelidesBorn in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother, I studied English literature at Cambridge University and got my MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. I wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Con is On (2018), starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara. THE SILENT PATIENT is my first novel.

#BookReview: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheHunted #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the hunted“Where does the adventure end . . .
and the nightmare begin?

Frank owns a service station on a little-used highway. His granddaughter, Allie, is sent to stay with him for the summer, but they don’t talk a lot.

Simon is a dreamer and an idealist, in thrall to the romance of the open road and desperately in search of something.

Maggie is the woman who will bring them together, someone whose own personal journey will visit unimaginable terror on them all. . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fourteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Hunted is published in the UK by Faber Books today (that’s 6th August 2020) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free ARC of The Hunted but that has in no way influenced my review.

From the moment I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. From the brilliantly intriguing blurb, to the cover that’s dripping blood to the PR that told me ‘It’s Jane Harper’s The Dry meets Deliverance, a terrifying piece of horror that also hits every note in terms of character and family drama’. I’ll be honest, I was a little bit giddy to make a start on this one. And I loved it. Every terrifying, intense, blood-splattered moment of it.

Frank is hiding from his problems in a rundown Outback shack he refers to as home. He owns the only roadhouse (service station) for miles. And when in the Outback, the miles go on forever. But he’s got company for a couple of weeks. His teenage granddaughter, Allie, has come to stay. They don’t know each other so they don’t really talk. What is there to say? One day, a car pulls up outside the roadhouse with a woman slumped at the wheel. She’s bloodied, battered and in a really bad way. The woman is Maggie and with her she brings untold horror…

I bloody loved it and I couldn’t put this book down! The Hunted is a terror filled, edge of your seat whirlwind and I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you may know that characters are key for me. The characters in The Hunted are absolutely spot-on! I loved Frank who, until recently, hasn’t really been there for Allie but when the chips were down and the angry gun-wielding maniacs were at the door, he really stepped up to the plate. I won’t name my favourite character in the book in this review but it’s safe to say, I think I’m a little bit in love! Other characters were all brilliantly drawn, stood tall and had their place in this wonderful story.

I seem to be having a spell of reading books where I can’t discuss the plot for fear of giving something I shouldn’t away. If you know too much about The Hunted then I wonder if it’s as shocking and surprising. I need to tread carefully. After a fairly gentle introduction to some of the characters at the start of the book (ignoring the prologue of course!), the pace rachets up and doesn’t stop until you’ve closed the back cover. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I really felt for the characters, I wanted to see what terrifying move would be made next and I felt invested in their plight. The constant threat hanging over them was delicious and the tension palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Hunted and can see it making an appearance in my top 10 books of 2020. I know some readers baulk at the idea of reading a horror novel but I urge you to give this one a try. Yes, it’s bloody and a little gruesome but it’s such an enthralling, gripping, unsettling story that will worm it’s way under your skin. You don’t want to miss out on this book. An outstanding horror novel that I heartily recommend.

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

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th August 2020 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 | Goodreads |

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PictureGabriel Bergmoser is a Melbourne based author and playwright. After starting out in the youth theatre scene with his early plays Windmills, Life Without Me and Hometown, Gabriel completed his Masters of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts. He co-founded the independent production company Bitten By Productions, entering the Melbourne theatre scene with the one-act comedy Reunion and the futuristic Babylon Trilogy of noir thrillers. Gabriel’s 2015 Beatles comedy We Can Work It Out opened to sell out shows and rave reviews – it has also been performed in Queensland and returned to Melbourne stages for the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In 2015 he won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award for his pilot screenplay based on Windmills and was flown to the International Emmys in New York to accept. The same pilot was later nominated for the Monte Miller Award. In 2016 his first young adult novelBoone Shepard, was published by Bell Frog Books; it was later shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize the day after the sequelBoone Shepard’s American Adventure was released. The third book, Boone Shepard: The Silhouette and the Sacrifice, was released in 2018 and a television adaptation is currently in development with Pirate Size Productions.

His 2016 plays The Lucas ConundrumRegression and The Critic opened to excellent reviews while his early 2017 play Springsteen sold out its entire season. His play Heroes was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards, including five for Best Production and three for best script, on the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. His first musical, Moonlite (featuring original songs by Dan Nixon) was performed as part of the 2018 Midsumma Festival; it received rave reviews, sold out its entire season, and was later selected for the highly sought after Home Grown Grassroots development initiative. His 2019 play, The Trial of Dorian Graysold out its entire season, was extended, then sold out again. Several of his plays have been published by Australian Plays. 

In 2019 Gabriel signed a two book deal with Harper Collins, with the first, The Hunted, scheduled for publication in July 2020. The Hunted will be published in the UK by Faber. The film adaptation is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles, with Gabriel writing the screenplay. He has since signed a second two book deal with Harper for his YA coming of age novel The True Colour of a Little White Lie and a follow up.

Author photo and bio © https://www.gabrielbergmoser.com/

#BookReview: The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #TheHome #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the home“Once inseparable, Joel and Nina haven’t spoken in twenty years.

When Joel’s mother Monika develops dementia, he has no choice but to return to his home town. Monika needs specialist care, and that means Pineshade – which also means Joel is going to have to deal with his one-time best friend, for Nina works there.

It’s not long before Monika’s health deteriorates – she starts having violent, terrifying outbursts, and worse, she appears to know things she couldn’t possibly know. It’s almost as if she isn’t herself any more . . . but of course, that’s true of most of the residents at Pineshade.

Only Nina and Joel know Monika well enough to see the signs; only by working together can they try to find answers to the inexplicable . . .

The Home is an eerie story about love, friendship and the greatest fear of all: losing control of ourselves . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome). The Home is published by Jo Fletcher Books later this week on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Home but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Home is a compelling, immersive piece of quality fiction and it absolutely broke my heart. As a contemporary horror novel it also made me very uneasy and gave me chills. It ticks all the boxes in that respect. But this isn’t a fast-paced thrill ride featuring the same old, same old we’ve all seen time and time again. Oh no. It’s a beautifully written tale featuring some of the most exquisitely drawn characters I’ve had the pleasure to meet in fiction. A very memorable read and one I relished spending time with.

Joel Edlund has made the very difficult decision to put his mother, Monika, in a nursing home specifically for people suffering from dementia. His mother, who lived on her own until a heart attack, has become a danger to herself after the onset of dementia. Joel has his own poor excuse of a life back in Stockholm and he wants to return, leaving his mother in the capable hands of the staff at Pineshade nursing home. But before he leaves he needs to pack up his mother’s house and instruct estate agents to put it on the market. He can’t escape the past as he clears out trinkets and mementoes his mother has kept over the years. Nor when he goes to visit his mother, as his ex-best friend from his teenage years, Nina, works at the home. He hoped he’d never see her again after their friendship broke down so irreparably. But during his strained visits, Joel starts to notice a distinct change in his mother. Her health is worsening, strange things are happening and she’s not the same woman who arrived at the home only a short time ago. Joel isn’t the only one to notice how strangely Monika is behaving. Nina, who used to see Monika as a second mother, is just as concerned. What has happened to make her act in such an odd way? And how does she know the deepest, darkest secrets of the staff at the home…

I always get excited about a book when the characters stand out from the page for me, and this is a wonderful example of some truly beautiful creations. The characters in The Home are everything. They broke my heart, they made me smile and they scared the bejesus out of me. I became completely involved in their day to day lives. So much so, I think I may have fallen a little bit in love with some of the residents of Pineshade. But please don’t get me wrong. This is a dark and frightening tale of losing ourselves and of losing control. Our main characters, Joel and Nina, were also very well-written and I enjoyed seeing them begin to relate to one another again after so much time apart.

This isn’t a thrilling, high-octane read but a slow meander through the very different, but fascinating, lives of a group of interesting people who all end up, for one reason or another, under the same roof. The pace suited the book perfectly and I was more than happy to lose myself for a few hours in Pineshade and Skredsby. The Swedish setting was something a little different and I lapped it up. I’m a fan of translated fiction which meant The Home gained another big tick from me!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re considering reading horror fiction for the first time I think The Home would be an excellent place to start. It’s creepy and unsettling, with bucketloads of eerie and I loved it. When I knew where the story was heading (this was quite near the end) I could tell what the final twist was going to be but that didn’t take anything away. I really enjoyed reading The Home and it’s going to stay with me for some time to come. I think I’m still a little bit in love.

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

The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital format (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 | Goodreads |

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I have always loved horror. As a kid, I preferred the Grimm fairytales over the Disney versions, and when I was ten years old I discovered Stephen King. I devoured his terrifying stories with much gusto (even while breaking out in stress-related hives).

The love of horror has stayed with me. Also my love of books. I write for children, teens and adults.  To me, it isn’t really that different. It’s all about characters, and what happens when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Author image and bio © http://matsstrandberg.com/

#BookReview: Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough @HarperCollinsUK #DeadToHer #damppebbles

dead to her“Something old

Marcie’s affair with Jason Maddox catapulted her into the world of the elite. Old money, old ties, old secrets. Marcie may have married into this world – but she’ll never be part of it.

Something new

Then Jason’s boss brings back a new wife from his trip to London. Young, attractive, reckless – nobody can take their eyes off Keisha. Including Marcie’s husband.

Something you can never, ever undo…

Some people would kill for the life Marcie has – what will she do to keep it?”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough. Dead To Her is due to be published in hardcover a week from today (that’s 6th August 2020) with the paperback set to follow next year (the digital version has been available since June). I received a free ARC of Dead To Her but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a slow reader. I tend to read advance review copies a month at the most before the book is published. And in all honesty, thinking that far ahead can be a struggle at times! In reality, it’s maybe a week or two before the book is published. With Dead To Her, however, I read it at the end of July last year. There were two reasons for this. 1) It’s a Sarah Pinborough novel and 2) I promised my copy to a fabulous friend after I’d finished it (long story, best I don’t bore you). Anyhoo, I digress. I was keen to read this book anyway, but having spent some time last July with one of Sarah Pinborough’s biggest fans, her enthusiasm completely rubbed off on me and I was even more desperate to read Dead To Her. And what a memorable book!

After a rocky start in life, Marcie has managed to leave her past behind and move into the Savannah elite. Granted, she had to have an affair with successful businessman Jason Maddox and usurp his ex-wife to do it, but it was a price she was prepared to pay. After all, she adores her husband (and the life that comes with his success). They’re rich, popular in the set and going places but she’ll never truly ‘belong’. When Jason’s boss brings a new wife home from England, all eyes – including Jason’s – turn to Keisha. She’s younger, more beautiful, spontaneous and fun – everything Marcie used to be before age played its hand. It’s hard not to notice the chemistry between Keisha and Jason. Is Marcie about to lose everything she has worked so hard for? How far will she, and others, go to keep their secrets…

I’ve read Sarah Pinborough’s Cross Her Heart which absolutely broke me. But this…! This is something completely different. Very, very, ‘totally unexpected’ different. This is sexy, this is scary and this is 100% full on. It made me blush at points but I was delighted to see that the author had given things a bit of a shake-up and made her story instantly memorable. I can’t really say too much about the characters as I’m concerned that because of the way the story is set out, I’ll stupidly give something away I shouldn’t. So all I’ll say is that Marcie is a great character and one I really liked. Other characters were pretty repulsive including William Radford IV whose treatment of his new wife, Keisha reminded me of how others would treat a worthless possession. I really felt for Keisha throughout the book as she’s such a fragile soul.

This is a slow burn psychological suspense novel with an intriguing and beguiling plot. It’s so different to everything else I’ve read, that I perhaps struggled with it a little more than other readers will. The steaminess of the novel didn’t help in that respect but I can see many readers absolutely loving the different angle Pinborough has taken with Dead To Her. I’m afraid I could see the ending coming from a mile off which meant I finished the book on a ‘hmmm’ instead of a ‘wow’. But I enjoyed the story the author told me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re into character-driven suspense novels but with a full-on, sexy plot to back it all up, then you should enjoy Dead To Her. It’s a little bit crazy but entertaining. A very memorable read and I can’t wait to see what Pinborough has in store for us next. Recommended.

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

Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 6th August 2020 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links* are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk*| Waterstones* | Book Depository* | Goodreads |

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sarah pinborough

Sarah Pinborough is the number one Sunday Times Bestselling and New York Times Bestselling author of the psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes (Jan, 2017). During her career she has published more than 20 novels and several novellas, and has written for the BBC. Her recent novels include the dystopian love story, The Death House, and a teenage thriller, 13 Minutes which has been bought by Netflix with Josh Schwartz adapting.

Behind Her Eyes has sold to nearly twenty territories so far and was sold at auction to the US in a significant deal to Flatiron, Macmillan. There are discussions on going with several movies studios about the film adaptation.

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

#BookReview: Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch @headlinepg #HerHusbandsLover #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her husbands lover“She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.

Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her until she died if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.

And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?”

Hello, a very warm welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my thirteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch. Her Husband’s Lover was published by Headline Books in June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, batten down the hatches and take cover! This is one seriously intense book and I was swept up into its pages almost instantly. I’ve never felt so many emotions in the first 6% of a book before. Six per cent in and I was straight on Twitter to share how utterly compelling this story was and how it already had its hooks in me. Wow!

Louisa is rebuilding her life after the death of her controlling and manipulative husband, Sam. He always told her she would never escape him but she did, as the sole survivor of the car crash which killed Sam and their two children. Bearing the scars and the trauma of the accident, she moves to London to start a new life. But a face from the past won’t let Louisa be. Sophie, Sam’s lover, is out to wreak havoc and get what she’s owed. Sophie won’t give up until she’s taken what she wants from Louisa, no matter what the cost…

Thank you for reading my review. I’m afraid that’s it! There is no more because if I start talking about this book in any detail I’m bound to give something away and no one wants that. I am, of course, joking about the very short review but I am also very aware that I have to tread carefully with this one. It may be a little more vague and succinct then normal!

This is a twisty, twisted story and I savoured every moment I had with it. It took me longer to read Her Husband’s Lover than anything else I’ve read recently because I was eking it out, making sure I was there in every scene with the characters, living and breathing their world. I was fully immersed from the get-go and my emotions were running high. There’s an impending sense of doom throughout the novel, you’re just waiting for something catastrophic to happen and it keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. What’s the next move going to be?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Her Husband’s Lover is like nothing else I’ve read before and I would gladly pick up another book by this author (this is the first book I’ve read by Julia Crouch). I was a smidge disappointed with the ending but that was because I wanted MORE. I wanted to see it through to the bitter end and didn’t want to leave the characters at that particular point. But as Barnum apparently said, “always leave them wanting more”. All in all, an engrossing read which I savoured over the course of several days and will remember for some time to come. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch was published in the UK by Headline Books on 15th June 2017 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 | Goodreads |

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julia crouchJulia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.

Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year’s editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.

Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013, followed by Every Vow You Break in 2014 and Her Husband’s Lover in 2017. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China.

Unable to find a sub-genre of crime writing that neatly described her work, she came up with the term Domestic Noir, which is now widely accepted as the label for one of the most popular crime genres today. She has even written a foreword to a book of academic essays on the subject.

She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch, their three children, two cats called Keith and Sandra, and about twelve guitars (you can find #Keith, who has his own hashtag, on twitter). She is a self-confessed geek and fights a daily battle to resist tinkering with the code on her website, which can be found at http://www.juliacrouch.co.uk.

#BookReview: Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski @borstinski #MidtownHuckster #AlexCohenSeries #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

3 Midtown Huckster High Res 1930“Can you keep your gelt and freedom when the cops have enough evidence to take you down?

1930s Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends.

If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?

The third book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical noir novel, which plunges you deep into the early days of narcotics trafficking and the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s piercing crime fiction delivers a fix to every reader like heroin from a needle.”

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eleventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski. Midtown Huckster is the third book in the Alex Cohen Series and was published in paperback and digital formats on 16th July 2020. I received a free eARC of Midtown Huckster but that has in no way influenced my review.

Jewish gangster and thug, Alex Cohen, is back! And he’s bigger and badder than ever. He’s a killing machine and the reader really shouldn’t like him….but it’s hard not to. I thoroughly enjoyed Midtown Huckster which focuses on Cohen’s life in 1930s New York. The end of prohibition, the end of his marriage to Sarah and the end of….well, I won’t spoil it for you. I think this is my favourite book in the series so far!

The end of prohibition is nigh and Alex and his men need to find a new way to make sure they continue to live in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. No one will be looking for watered down, bootlegged hooch when the real thing will be readily available again. A new money-spinning idea is needed to keep them rolling in gelt. But that’s not all Alex should be worrying about. There’s a new Special Prosecutor in town – Thomas Dewey – and he’s out to clean up the mean streets of New York and has Alex and his colleagues in his sights. Will Alex manage to see out the 1930s a free man or is this the end of Slugger…?

Eminently readable, utterly compelling and as I think I said, my favourite book of the series so far. I absolutely devoured Midtown Huckster. This series is something very special with its mix of fact and fiction. Notorious names from history you’ll definitely recognise rubbing shoulders alongside wonderfully written, standout creations. I adore Alex Cohen and his dark edge. But he has a conscience, which the reader gets to see him battling with as the prospect of dealing heroin is put upon the table.

The plot moves quickly as it does in all three of these books. Each novel tends to cover a decade so the author has a lot to fit in. Scenes do jump quickly but I really enjoy that as it keeps the pace fresh – never a dull moment with Cohen around. Being a gangster novel, there is violence but it fits with the period and the setting. It’s all in keeping with what you would expect.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all three novels in the Alex Cohen series. They can be read as standalone novels but why would you when you can start at the very beginning and follow Alex on his journey as he steps off the boat from the Ukraine. They’re gritty, compelling books which deserve a wider readership. Hard-hitting crime noir with a likeable lead, this entire series is something quite special.

| The Bowery Slugger | East Side Hustler |

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

Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 16th July 2020 and is available in paperback 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 | amazon.com | Google Books | Goodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #HerLastBreath #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her last breath“A gripping new detective series set in Brighton for readers who enjoy Peter James’ Roy Grace series.

When a young woman is attacked and left fighting to survive in hospital, the police are pulled into a race against time to save her life. But just 24 hours later, she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body.

And when another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.

His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of Francis’s lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my twelfth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham. Her Last Breath is the second book in the Detective Sullivan Thriller Series, was published by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 and is available in most formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Her Last Breath but that has in no way influenced my review.

I read The Tattoo Thief, the author’s debut, back in 2018 and really enjoyed it. It was a dark read with a really interesting, different lead detective. So I was keen to get stuck into Her Last Breath and oh boy, I loved it. The Tattoo Thief was good but Her Last Breath is an absolute corker!

A young woman is savagely attacked and left with horrific wounds on a beach in Brighton. The woman, Tash Brady, is the girlfriend of Alex Mullins – son of local tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who is still recovering from her recent run-in with the Tattoo Thief. Marni does the only thing she can think of to help Tash and that’s call a man she hoped to never see again, DI Francis Sullivan. Sullivan and the team are put on the case but days later, Tash tragically dies. Shortly after Tash’s death, another young woman is attacked. Her wounds match those of the first victim and Sullivan fears the worst. They have a serial killer on their hands. And one clear suspect – Marni’s son, Alex…

What a page-turner! I enjoyed the first book but found it hard to warm to the characters. That was not the case in Her Last Breath. I adored Marni’s complete faith in her son’s innocence and her dogged determination to prove it. Sullivan has matured and grown into his role and even though he has moments of doubt, he stands tall and leads the team from the front. DS Rory Mackay is still biting at his heels and wants Sullivan’s job, which he feels should be his anyway, but Sullivan’s increased confidence and leadership keeps him at bay. Other members of the team are equally as strong as Sullivan and Mackay, and add to the gripping storyline.

Killer tattoos. I mean, how fantastic is that?! This is the type of plot I devour. Something a little different, something that I haven’t seen before, something to keep me on the edge of my seat – which is exactly what Her Last Breath did. With many of the team focussing all of their resources on one suspect, looking to pin something – anything (!) – on Alex, they’re not looking at the bigger picture, which results in a second woman being attacked. Sullivan senses that Alex isn’t their man, but he’s got to prove it and find out who is. I loved the intense race against time to find the killer. The way the author makes you question Alex’s innocence. The heart-stopping, claustrophobic ending set in one of the most revolting locations I’ve ever read in a book was so brilliantly written – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Her Last Breath and I’m eagerly waiting for book three so I can be reunited with Sullivan and Marni again. And, of course, find out how tattoos will feature in the plot! I would strongly recommend that you read The Tattoo Thief first before Her Last Breath, as the case in the first book is mentioned and referred to often with lots of spoilers. Going in with some knowledge of past happenings will help. Her Last Breath is a gritty, captivating police procedural with a difference and I loved every minute I spent in Brighton with the team. Gripping, engaging and absolutely riveting. Highly recommended.

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

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 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 | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost @fictionpubteam #TheGuesthouse #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the guest house“Seven guests. One Killer. A holiday to remember…

A dark and addictive psychological thriller about seven strangers who find themselves cut off from civilization in a remote guesthouse in Ireland…

Not all the guests will survive their stay…

You use an app, called Cloud BNB, to book a room online. And on a cold and windy afternoon, you arrive at The Guesthouse, a dramatic old building on a remote stretch of hillside in Ireland. 

You are expecting a relaxing break, but you find something very different. Something unimaginable. Because a killer has lured you and six other guests here and now you can’t escape. 

One thing’s for certain: not all of you will come back from this holiday alive…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my tenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost. The Guesthouse was published by HarperCollins in January 2020 and is available to purchase in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Guesthouse but that has in no way influenced my review.

When I first saw the cover of this book and read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I was keen before, but then I discovered that it’s actually written by an already established crime author but because it’s a little different to her other books, it’s been written under a pen name. Everything about this book sang to me. I’m a real sucker for the secluded, eerie setting, a group of people who know very little about one another, only for them to start dying in suspicious circumstances – one by one. Who is the killer? How much do you trust these strangers? Does one of them hold your life in their hands…?

Hannah is in mourning after the sudden death of her partner, Ben. The fact he discovered, shortly before he died, that Hannah had cheated on him, led friends and family to blame Hannah for his death. She needs to get away from Ben’s friends and have some time to grieve, so she decides to go ahead with a week-long trip to The Guesthouse in Fallon, Ireland, she had booked with Ben a few weeks before his accident. Not only does she feel she deserves a break but she has her own personal reasons for visiting the area. On arrival in Ireland, her relaxing holiday doesn’t get off to the best start. She meets the other guests staying in the house. Some she warms to, others she doesn’t. Hannah can’t fully relax though. She hears a child crying in the night and there are other strange things about the house. Dated rooms with holes in the floor and peeling wallpaper, a creepy gardener who refuses to talk to the guests, areas of the house are completely closed off behind padlocked doors. Nothing really seems to fit with the exclusive holiday destination she read about online. Plus the other guests, aren’t all they first appear to be…

The Guesthouse is a well-written psychological suspense novel which opens with a bang. The prologue throws the reader straight in to the (near) end of the story and I was immediately intrigued to know what had gone before. How had Hannah ended up in this terrifying situation? Who – or what – was chasing her? I was gripped and on the edge of my seat. The reader is then whisked back in time to 6 days before the events of that fateful night to watch from afar as Hannah makes her way to Fallon. She drinks too much, has little regard for her own personal safety and seems to have pretty much given up on life. I should have sympathised with her, but I didn’t. I couldn’t warm to Hannah at all, I’m sorry to say.

The other guests staying at the accommodation were all well-written characters. I was curious to find out what their stories were and how everything was going to tie together. Rosa, the mother of the small family staying at The Guesthouse, made my blood boil. She was so utterly frustrating, totally infuriating and I loved her! Her husband, Liam, made my skin crawl. I do love it when a character provokes a strong reaction in me!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Guesthouse is a creepy psychological suspense novel which was very entertaining. It’s a smidge far-fetched, a couple of the plot points felt a little *too* convenient but hey, it’s fiction and if you can’t be a little creative in fiction, when can you be? Normally not warming to a lead character isn’t an issue for me but this time, I felt it hampered things a little. I really wanted to feel more for Hannah, but I couldn’t. I still enjoyed the book though and would pick up another by this author (under either name 😂) in a heartbeat.

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

The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 9th January 2020 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 | Goodreads |

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abbie frostAbbie Frost (the pen name of author Chris Curran) was born in London but now lives in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books.

She left school at 16 to work in the local library – her dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading her way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education, she gained her degree from Sussex University.

Since then, she has worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when she would see her own books gracing those library shelves.

#BookReview: The Resident by David Jackson @ViperBooks #TheResident #FeartheResident #damppebbles

the resident.jpg“THERE’S A SERIAL KILLER ON THE RUN
AND HE’S HIDING IN YOUR HOUSE

Thomas Brogan is a serial killer. Having left a trail of bodies in his wake, and with the police hot on his heels, it seems like Thomas has nowhere left to hide. That is until he breaks into an abandoned house at the end of a terrace on a quiet street. And when he climbs up into the loft, he realises that the can drop down into all the other houses on the street through the shared attic space.

That’s when the real fun begins. Because the one thing that Thomas enjoys even more than killing, is playing games with his victims. And his new neighbours have more than enough dark secrets to make this game his best one yet…

Do you fear The Resident? Soon you’ll be dying to meet him.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you today — The Resident by David Jackson. I am a huge fan of Jackson’s writing, particularly his DS Cody series which you JUST HAVE TO READ! When I heard Jackson was due to release a standalone novel with Viper Books, I knew I had to get my mitts on a copy – by fair means or foul. Thankfully desperate measures were not called for as the lovely folk at Viper Books sent me an early copy. Huge thanks to the publisher for sending me a free ARC of The Resident which has in no way influenced my review.

Your home is your castle. Your safe sanctuary from the rest of the world. But what if it wasn’t? What if someone was living in your loft. And not just anyone, a deranged serial killer. If that’s not got your attention then we need to have words! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that I’m a die-hard crime fiction fan. I read a lot of crime and that’s just fine because that’s the way I like it. However, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read from the killer’s point of view. And that’s exactly what makes The Resident a darn special read. This is Thomas’s story.

There are several other elements which make The Resident stand out from other books in the same genre. A large proportion of the dialogue is between Thomas…..and Thomas. Yup, you read that correctly. Thomas is a very damaged soul and we get to see the inner workings of his strained mind. It’s fascinating stuff. I wouldn’t say he has a good side and a bad side (he’s a serial killer for flips sake, it’s ALL bad!) but there’s a definite divide in his thought processes. Evil Thomas….and eviler Thomas perhaps. One side of his personality definitely leads the other into some pretty tricky situations. The other thing I loved about this book is that the setting is quite compact. Thomas manages to find his way into an abandoned house, and from there he heads to the loft space for a bit of nose around. Once he’s in the loft, he realises he can access the other three houses in the row as none of the loft spaces are fully bricked up. From here we’re introduced to the neighbours; elderly Elsie, husband and wife Martyn and Colette Fairbright, and to a lesser extent, Janice and Brian. As you can see, the cast of characters is also quite compact but by gosh, it works a treat! Thomas spies on the neighbours, works out their schedules and invades their homes. He likes to taunt and play with them, make them think they’re losing their minds. Martyn and Colette become the main objects of his attention, partly due to a fascination (obsession?) he develops over Colette. It’s nail-biting stuff as the reader knows that Thomas is just playing with his latest ‘toys’ and a terrifying, blood drenched end at the hands of a serial killer is nigh for the couple.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. This is a fascinating and original take on a serial killer thriller and I loved it! I found myself strangely warming a little to what is a very dark and twisted character. I loved that Thomas was able to form a somewhat odd relationship with one of the other characters in the book and it seemed to be something which, until that point, had been missing in his life. And the ending was superb! The author has absolutely nailed it with that brilliant ending. I love Jackson’s books and this is another brilliant addition to his catalogue. Highly recommended.

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

The Resident by David Jackson was published by Viper Books on 16th July 2020 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstones | FoylesBook Depository | Goodreads |

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david jacksonI was a latecomer to fiction writing, having spent most of my adult life producing academic papers and reports. After some limited success entering short story competitions, I submitted the first few chapters of a novel to the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. To my great surprise, the book was not only short-listed but given the Highly Commended accolade, which stimulated the interest of agents and publishers and eventually led to the publication of PARIAH. Since then, I have written several more crime thrillers, the most recent of which are set in my birth city of Liverpool. I still have a day job in Liverpool as a university academic, but now live on the Wirral with my wife, two daughters and a British Shorthair cat called Mr Tumnus.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |