#BookReview: Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza #FatalWitness #damppebbles

How do you find a killer who has destroyed all the evidence?

Detective Erika Foster is on a late-night walk near her new house in Blackheath when she stumbles upon the brutal murder of Vicky Clarke, a true-crime podcaster.

Erika is assigned to the case and discovers that Vicky had been working on a new podcast episode about a sexual predator who preys on young female students around South London, staking out his victims in their halls of residence before breaking in at the dead of night.

When Erika discovers that Vicky’s notes and sound recordings were stolen from her flat at the time of her murder, it leads her to believe that Vicky was close to unmasking the attacker, and she was killed to guarantee her silence.

The case takes on a disturbing twist when the body of a young Bulgarian student doctor is discovered in the same building, and this makes Erika question everything she thought she knew about Vicky. With very little evidence, the clock is ticking to find the killer before he strikes again.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza. Fatal Witness is the seventh book in the hugely popular Detective Erika Foster series and will be published in all formats by Raven Street Publishing later this week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fatal Witness but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Robert for sending me a finished copy.

Erika Foster is back, baby! I have been a HUGE fan of Bryndza’s kick-ass detective since she first arrived on bookshelves back in 2016. In fact, The Girl in the Ice, book one in the series, was one of the first books I reviewed on damppebbles! So I feel Erika and I have some history. And since that first introduction, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed every single new title. So imagine my excitement when I heard the seventh book was set to be published 🤩. I could not WAIT to get my mitts on a copy of Fatal Witness!

DCI Erika Foster stumbles upon a grisly crime scene in her new neighbourhood, making her question her decision to move to Blackheath. The victim is true crime podcaster Vicky Clarke, whose body was discovered by her sister, Tess, only seconds before Erika’s arrival. Erika and her team are assigned the case, digging into Vicky’s life in an attempt to discover who wanted her dead. But the more they search, the more confusing the case becomes. There’s no motive, no evidence, and impossible as it seems, there are no records of what Vicky was working on. Could the murder be linked to one of her podcasts? Was Vicky getting close to revealing the identity of a serial sexual predator? And can Erika catch the killer before they strike again…?

The DCI Erika Foster series is by far one of my favourite police procedural series and I am so glad that the author has decided to write a seventh instalment. I’m keeping everything crossed that this is only the beginning and there are many more adventures to come for my favourite Slovakian DCI. I adore Erika. She’s a little bit of a b!tch (she’d be the first to admit that herself – in fact, I think she does in Fatal Witness!), she’s a little bit bossy, she’s a whole lot of kick-ass but oh my gosh, she gets the job done. To be reunited with her and the team felt like meeting up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while and I loved every single second. Erika is a strong, independent, determined woman but I felt the author added a level of vulnerability to her character in this book that we perhaps haven’t seen before. Still coming to terms with the events of the previous book, still grief stricken by the sudden and violent death of her husband before her transfer to London and having recently moved house, it’s clear to the reader that Erika Foster is a lonely woman. I really felt for her. That vulnerability made me like her even more (if that’s possible!). And fingers crossed, the future may be a smidge brighter. Possibly. Maybe. Who knows…?

The plot is compelling and draws the reader into the story from the prologue. There are, as I’ve come to expect from a Robert Bryndza novel, several fantastically placed and beautifully penned twists and turns along the way which keep the reader on their toes. I really enjoyed how flummoxed the team were at points in the story. With very few leads, a small number of possible culprits but no evidence to confirm their suspicions, they quickly run out of plausible, workable options. I was, of course, trying my darnedest to work out whodunit. (I’m a crime fiction fan, I’m sure we all do it!) However, as I approached the end of the book I could not for the life of me work out the who nor the why!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-written, cleverly plotted police procedurals then you need Fatal Witness, along with the first six books in the series, in your life. The entire series is an absolute ‘must read’ for crime fiction fans. All in all, a compelling, incredibly readable addition to a standout series which I hope continues for many more books to come. I’m still a little bit in love with Erika and I can’t see that changing any time soon. Great plot, fantastic characters, intensely atmospheric and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

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

Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Raven Street Publishing on 7th July 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Robert BryndzaRobert Bryndza is an international bestselling author, best known for his page-turning crime and thriller novels, which have sold over five million copies.

His crime debut, The Girl in the Ice was released in February 2016, introducing Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. Within five months it sold one million copies, reaching number one in the Amazon UK, USA and Australian charts. To date, The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1.5 million copies in the English language and has been sold into translation in 29 countries. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2016), the Grand prix des lectrices de Elle in France (2018), and it won two reader voted awards, The Thrillzone Awards best debut thriller in The Netherlands (2018) and The Dead Good Papercut Award for best page turner at the Harrogate Crime Festival (2016).

Robert has released a further five novels in the Erika Foster series, The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets, all of which have been global bestsellers, and in 2017 Last Breath was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Mystery and Thriller. Fatal Witness, the seventh Erika Foster novel, is now available to pre-order and will be published 7th July 2022.

Most recently, Robert created a new crime thriller series based around the central character Kate Marshall, a police officer turned private detective. The first book, Nine Elms, was an Amazon USA #1 bestseller and an Amazon UK top five bestseller, and the series has been sold into translation in 18 countries. The second book in the series is the global bestselling, Shadow Sands and the third book, Darkness Falls, has just been published.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

#BookReview: Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant @HodderBooks #SunDamage #damppebbles

The heat is intense.

The secrets are stifling.

She just needs to escape . . .

Nine guests arrive at a remote villa in the south of France.
They know each other well. Or think they do.

But at least one of them has plenty to hide – and nowhere to run.

Under the relentless sun, loyalties will be tested, secrets revealed, and tensions pushed to the point of no return.”

Ali is a woman hiding many secrets. This summer, in the heat of the south of France, they are all about to rise to the surface … SUN DAMAGE is the sensational new thriller from the universally acclaimed Sabine Durrant and is destined to be the thriller of summer.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant. Sun Damage was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 2nd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Sun Damage but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a finished copy.

I’m a little obsessed with summer thrillers at the moment. I’ve also been wanting to read a Sabine Durrant thriller for a while now so when Sun Damage landed on my radar, I knew I had to read it! Everything about this book appealed to me. The sun drenched setting, the gorgeous cover and that intriguing blurb which only tells you a fraction of what the book is about. It was a no brainer for me and I enjoyed every single second.

Ali and Sean are experienced con artists who double team their unsuspecting marks, lull them into a web of lies and falsehoods, and then take what they want. When one of their scams goes horribly wrong, Ali makes a break from Sean and ends up hiding at a remote villa in the south of France pretending to be someone else, an experienced chef. As guests arrive, Ali is determined to remain under the radar and do whatever she can to forget the past. But she’s not the only one keeping secrets…

Sun Damage is a beautifully drawn, character-driven, slow burn thriller which I found very compelling. Ali is such an interesting character with her troubled upbringing, being passed from foster home to foster home and the breaking down of the relationship between her and her sister in the process, that falling into a life of deception and con artistry felt almost inevitable. It was the path she believes life chose for her and it’s all she knows. There’s something about a con artist, the way they read and manipulate people, that makes them incredibly intriguing in my eyes.

The other guests at the villa are all very well written and add to the story. I loved the way the author puts the reader on edge about the other characters. I felt suspicious of many of them and that only built as the novel progressed. The setting is absolutely stunning giving the story an atmospheric isolated feel with the summer heat pressing down on proceedings only adding to the claustrophobia. The plot moves at a steady but riveting pace keeping the reader turning the pages and invested in the story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Sun Damage is chock full of beautiful, well-crafted suspense, intriguing characters and I enjoyed every moment I spent with the book. I actually read Sun Damage by the pool in Gran Canaria so can confirm it makes a cracking beach/pool read for those jetting off to sunnier climes in the near future. All in all this is a superbly written story with a vivid sun soaked setting, featuring a cast of interesting and intriguing characters. I thoroughly enjoyed Sun Damage and now look forward to reading more from Durrant in the future. Recommended.

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

Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 2nd June 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 |

Sabine DurrantSabine Durrant is a British author of mystery, YA, and women’s fiction novels. She is also a journalist, who is best known for writing “The Sabine Durrant Interview” for The Guardian. She has also been the deputy features editor for the publication, and has been deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times. Sabine lives in London, England with her three children.

#BookReview: The Lost Children by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheLostChildren #damppebbles

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

DI Brady has been tracing victims of systemic abuse at a local children’s home after a high-profile accusation pitched it into the spotlight – a case that couldn’t be more personal.

As Matilda and her team piece together the disturbing picture of the history of the home, it soon becomes clear that this is much bigger than they ever suspected.

But nothing prepares them for what they uncover next…
The Lost Children is an utterly gripping crime thriller weaving a breakneck tale of a vast network of secrets and lies, a relentless detective determined to sabotage it, and a murder that shatters two decades of silence.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood. The Lost Children is published by One More Chapter today (that’s Thursday 30th June 2022) in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow next month. I chose to read a free eARC of The Lost Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series is one of the most exciting, most edgy police procedural series out there and I flipping love it! The arrival of the latest book, in this case book nine (!), is something I always look forward to with baited breath. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Lost Children, I, of course, grabbed at it with both hands. What I love about this series is that the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – either on subject matter or character development. Wood really likes to put his characters, including lead protagonist Darke, through the wringer which is something I appreciate. As a reader, I never know what to expect! The Lost Children takes the battered and bruised team, still hurting from their last few cases, deep into the heart of an upsetting and distressing historical child abuse case.

DCI Matilda Darke is called to the scene of a vicious murder. Local businessman and philanthropist, Richard Ashton OBE, has been slain in his bed in the most stomach churning of ways. Upon closer inspection into Ashton’s life it becomes clear to Darke and her team that perhaps Ashton wasn’t the figure of virtue he first appeared to be. It doesn’t surprise DI Christian Brady who has been investigating historical claims of child abuse behind Matilda’s back. Matilda can’t ignore the connection between Ashton and events at Magnolia House, a home for young boys which closed many years ago. So she sets out to discover the truth. But at every turn, Darke is shut down. Extreme measures are put in place to prevent Matilda and her team from discovering the secrets of Magnolia House. But Matilda won’t be stopped…

The Lost Children is an incredibly gripping addition to a superb series featuring some of my all-time favourite characters. I love the South Yorkshire Homicide and Major Crimes Unit but they’ve really had a tough time of it recently, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better for them anytime soon! This latest investigation is already personal for DI Brady and the devastating secrets the team reveal affect them all in some way. The subject matter is tough but the author has done a great job of writing a very difficult, very emotional story. There were times when I had to take a break from reading because I was so affected by the characters and their stories. It’s heart breaking stuff but handled very well.

I found it fascinating how Matilda’s investigation was shut down from every direction. I could really feel her frustration and her determination to keep digging, despite no longer having the resources. Her drive is one of the reasons I love the character as much as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Wood takes the team next as there are clearly changes afoot, one of which I hope is reversed. But knowing how this author operates, I can’t be sure it will be!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Lost Children is a highly emotional, edgy read which I enjoyed. The subject matter is upsetting and I don’t think this book will suit everyone but the care the author has taken with the story really shows. I liked the way the author didn’t shy away from setting this book in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think, surprisingly, it’s the first book I’ve read that’s been set during the pandemic. Perhaps other authors are shying away from mentioning COVID for the moment. Perhaps it’s too fresh. I thought it added a really interesting facet to the investigation though and applaud Wood for doing something many other authors are not. The DCI Darke series remains one of my favourites and I wait with baited breath for the tenth (!) book to be published later this year. Particularly after the incredibly tense and unnerving cliff hanger at the end. Wow, what an ending! I’m not sure I can wait until October to find out what happens next. Recommended.

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (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 |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

WWW Wednesday | 29th June 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?

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard
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 actress 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…


What did you recently finish reading?

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh
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.

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan
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 . . .


What do you think you’ll read next?

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
I was dreading the Cunningham family reunion even before the first murder. Before the storm stranded us at the mountain resort.

The thing is, us Cunninghams don’t really get along.

We’ve only got one thing in common: we’ve all killed someone.

My brother, my step-sister, my wife, my father, my mother, my sister-in-law, my uncle, my step-father, my aunt. Even me.

When they find the first body in the snow, it’s clear that only a Cunningham could have committed the crime – and it’s up to me to prove it.

There are plenty of killers in my family. But only one murderer . . .

#BookReview: The Bay by Allie Reynolds @headlinepg #TheBay #damppebbles

“The waves are to die for. It’s a paradise they’d kill to keep.

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

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

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

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

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Bay by Allie Reynolds. The Bay was published by Headline last week (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read a free eARC of The Bay but that has in no way influenced my review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Allie Reynolds’s debut when it was published in 2021. So much so that Shiver was one of my top ten(ish) books of the year! So it goes without saying that I was very excited to get hold of a copy of The Bay, also known as The Swell in other parts of the world, and made a start on this one as soon as it landed on my Kindle.

London-based sports therapist Kenna hasn’t seen her childhood best friend Mikki for a while but they speak regularly. When Mikki announces her sudden engagement to fellow surfer, Jack, Kenna is delighted for her. But soon Kenna starts to believe Jack isn’t quite as perfect as Mikki makes out and may be more interested in Mikki’s bank account than the woman herself. So Kenna jumps on a plane to Australia to check the situation out for herself. Arriving unannounced, Mikki is shocked to see Kenna and informs her that she and Jack are planning some time away from their Sydney apartment and heading to a secluded bay with a group of friends. Kenna tags along but upon meeting the group, starts to feel something isn’t quite right about them. Kenna is an outcast. It soon becomes clear that the group all have secrets, they’re all hiding something, and they’ll do anything to protect their secrets and Sorrow Bay…

The Bay is a wonderfully written character-driven mystery which I savoured. I was always keen to return to the secrets of Sorrow Bay and its inhabitants, always feeling as though I was teetering on the edge of making a shocking discovery. Reynolds has created a cast of thoroughly intriguing characters who rub alongside each other, with an ever present feeling of threat never far away. On arrival at the camp it is clear that this close knit group of not friends, more accomplices, are hiding something and poor Kenna, having travelled thousands and thousands of miles, is really not welcome! What I found interesting was I felt instead of trying to integrate herself into the group, Kenna went in with question after question which ensured the barriers went up and the original group grew tighter, leaving her alone, trying to figure out exactly what is going on between this odd bunch of people. Tensions rise, insecurities mount and Kenna is stranded far from home.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Bay is a twisty, compelling read which I really enjoyed. I’m a huge fan of Australian mysteries and a lot of the books I read by Aussie-based authors are set in small, dusty towns (not complaining, absolutely love that type of setting!) but The Bay with its vast coastline felt refreshingly different. I don’t know how the author has made such a vast open space feel so confined and claustrophobic but she has and it’s superb. I do love me a claustrophobic setting! As with Shiver which was based around a group of snowboarders, The Bay with its band of surfers has actually taught me a lot about a sport I have no experience of, which I enjoyed (me in a wetsuit? No chance!). I did have a tiny inkling about where the story was going to go which was eventually proved right but Reynolds does a marvellous job of making you doubt every single member of the group. All in all, The Bay is a gripping mystery with some of the most secretive, intriguing characters I have met in a long time. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Bay by Allie Reynolds was published in the UK by Headline on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date (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 |

Allie Reynolds’ debut thriller SHIVER is out now! SHIVER has sold in 24 territories and will be translated into 23 languages. Her second thriller, THE BAY (UK, ANZ)/THE SWELL (North America) is out in mid-2022.

Born and raised in the UK, Allie moved to Queensland Australia in 2004. She lives by the beach with her two young boys.

Many years ago she competed at snowboard halfpipe. These days she sticks to surfing – water doesn’t hurt as much as ice when you fall on it.

She’s a massive reader. Her first ever job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, at age 14. She’s read and enjoyed pretty much every genre there is, but these days she mostly prefers thrillers, especially psychological thrillers with interesting settings. She also loves romance, crime, sports fiction, high concept stories with interesting premises, and non-fiction including sports biographies and self-help.

#BookReview: The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara @TransworldBooks #TheApartmentUpstairs #damppebbles

Scarlett‘s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara. The Apartment Upstairs is published by Bantam Press today (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Apartment Upstairs but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Alison at Bantam Press for sending me a proof copy.

Scarlett Quilter lives in a beautifully converted, fully modernised ground floor apartment which suits her needs perfectly. That is until one day when the occupant of the apartment upstairs is brutally murdered. The victim isn’t just anyone though, the victim is her Aunt Rebecca and suddenly Scarlett’s apartment doesn’t quite hold the same appeal it did. Scarlett begins to organise her aunt’s funeral but strange things start happening. She notices someone sneaking around her garden at 4am, people are behaving oddly and when a connection to a local missing woman comes to light, Scarlett can’t help but ask some difficult questions. The more she digs, the closer she gets to uncovering devastating long held secrets. And someone will do anything to stop the truth from being discovered…

The Apartment Upstairs is a very compelling mystery featuring some truly wonderful characters. The story is told from two main points of view – Scarlett, the bereaved niece trying to organise her aunt’s funeral, and Dee, the funeral director and joint-owner of Fond Farewells, the company Scarlett has tasked with organising her aunt’s send off. I have to say from the get-go that I found seeing things from Dee’s point of view, the ins and outs of arranging a funeral, absolutely fascinating! It was very interesting, something a bit different. Dee’s side of the story is mostly focussed on the disappearance of her friend, Gina, and the forthcoming 10 year anniversary. Alongside running a small, independent business and dealing with her wayward business partner (who also happens to be her best friend). Both Scarlett and Dee came across as fully formed, believable characters and I enjoyed spending time in their company.

The plot is expertly written and ebbs and flows beautifully, engaging the reader in the story from the moment they pick the book up. I enjoyed the way the author has used the two different points of view to build the tale for the reader. I found it incredibly intriguing and I was keen to discover how things would end for these two women. An intricately plotted tale which I was more than happy to lose myself in over two sittings.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Apartment Upstairs is a tense, skilfully written mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I flew through this book not wanting to put it down for any length of time. I was so intrigued by how things were going to play out for these characters that I kept promising myself ‘just one more chapter’ and before I knew it, I was reading the final sentence! It’s also worth mentioning that Scarlett has a chronic illness which is something we don’t see enough of in fiction but I felt it was done with sensitivity and understanding. I’m ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve read by Kara but it certainly won’t be the last. Highly compelling, superb characterisation and beautifully plotted. Quite the page-turner! Recommended.

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

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara was published by Bantam Press on 23rd June 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 |

Lesley KaraLesley Kara’s debut ‘The Rumour’ was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in 18 countries and optioned for TV. ‘The Rumour’ was the highest selling crime fiction debut of 2019 in the UK and a Kindle No. 1 bestseller. Her second novel, ‘Who Did You Tell?’ was also a Sunday Times bestseller. Her third novel, ‘The Dare’ is out now and her fourth, ‘The Apartment Upstairs’ will be published in June 2022.

Lesley worked for many years as a lecturer and manager in a large college of further education in London. She now lives in Suffolk and writes full-time.

WWW Wednesday | 22nd June 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 Last Party by Clare Mackintosh
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.


What did you recently finish reading?

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
Lore Rivera was married to two men at once, until on a baking hot day in 1986, one of them found out and shot the other.

That’s the story the world knows.

It’s not the story that fascinates Cassie Bowman.

Determined to know more about the mysterious Lore, true-crime writer Cassie is surprised to find Lore is willing to talk.

But as the two women get closer, Cassie finds herself confessing her own darkest secrets.

And the shocking truth behind the murder all those years ago . . .

No Country for Girls by Emma Styles
Charlie and Nao are strangers from different sides of the tracks. They should never have met, but one devastating incident binds them together forever.

A man is dead and now they are unwilling accomplices in his murder there’s only one thing to do: hit the road in the victim’s twin cab ute, with a bag of stolen gold stashed under the passenger seat.

Suddenly outlaws, Nao and Charlie must make their way across Australia’s remote outback using only their wits to survive. They’ll do whatever it takes to evade capture and escape with their lives . . .

Thelma & Louise for a new generation, No Country for Girls is a gritty, twisty road-trip thriller that follows two young women on the run across the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Australia.

The It Girl by Ruth Ware
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…


What do you think you’ll read next?

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan
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 . . .

#BookReview: Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor @panmacmillan #DirtTown #damppebbles

Durton. Dirt town. Dirt and hurt – that’s what others would remember about our town . . .

When twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi disappears on her way home from school in the small town of Durton in rural Australia, the local community is thrown into a state of grief and suspicion.

THE DETECTIVE

As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation, she questions those who knew the girl, attempting to unpick the secrets which bind them together.

THE MOTHER

The girl’s mother, Constance, believes that her daughter going missing is the worst thing that can happen to her. But as the search for Esther develops, she learns that things can always get worse.

THE FRIENDS

Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and is determined to bring her home. So when her classmate Lewis tells her that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police?

And who else is keeping quiet about what happened to Esther?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is an atmospheric crime novel set in rural Australia, for fans of Jane Harper’s The Dry and Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor. Dirt Town is published by Macmillan later this week (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dirt Town but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE fan of Australian crime fiction. I want to read it all, and there are lots of really exciting, interesting writers making their mark on the genre at the moment. So when I saw Scrivenor’s debut was being published, I jumped at the chance to read it. And oh my goodness, what a riveting, emotional ride it was. Definitely an author to watch!

Twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi and Ronnie Thompson are best friends. They live in Durton – or Dirt Town or Dirt and Hurt to the locals – which is a bit boring but OK. One day after school Esther goes missing. The whole town turns out to look for her but they’re all aware that their neighbour, their friend could have been the one to abduct the girl. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels is tasked with finding Esther but the investigation falters at every turn. Someone in Durton knows what’s happened to Esther. Someone in the small, close-knit community knows the truth…

Gorgeously dark, evocative and utterly compelling, I thoroughly enjoyed this superb slow burn mystery with its true to life characters, bleak setting and intriguing plot. I adored the voices the author gave the younger characters. They felt so true and real to me that my heart broke for these poor kids whose friend was missing. The emotion, the naivety was all conveyed so beautifully. The other character I adored was Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels who is guilt-ridden following the end of her recent relationship. Her actions play on her mind constantly and I loved how that made the character more human. Sarah is very well-written and I do secretly hope that this is only the start for her and we get to see her feature in future books.

The plot is an intriguing slow burn of a read which I savoured every moment of. I didn’t feel the need to sprint my way through Dirt Town at all. I wanted to enjoy every word, every description of this dead end rural Australian town and savour the interactions between the characters as the mystery slowly but steadily unfurled. I wasn’t able to predict whodunit but it was a very satisfying, very surprising reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dirt Town is a very atmospheric, incredibly readable tale which I enjoyed every dark and desolate moment of. The setting is exactly the kind of setting I want in my crime fiction novels – a small town on its last legs. I loved the vivid descriptions the author uses to set the scene, putting the reader right there in the middle of things. But the characters were EVERYTHING. Multi-layered, completely believable and totally unforgettable. It’s hard to believe Dirt Town is a debut and I’m excited to see what Scrivenor delivers next. Highly recommended.

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

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor was published in the UK by Macmillan on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Hayley ScrivenorHayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. DIRT CREEK is her first novel (published as DIRT TOWN in Europe and Australia). An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won The Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of Australia.

#BookReview: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #TheHouseAcrosstheLake #damppebbles

“Be careful what you watch for . . .

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

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

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

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The House Across the Lake by the master, Riley Sager. The House Across the Lake will be published by Dutton Books next week (that’s Tuesday 21st June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read a free eARC of The House Across the Lake but that has in no way influenced my review.

Riley Sager is without doubt one of my favourite authors. Time and time again Sager delivers hit after hit, starting with the superb Final Girls in 2017. Every single book has been brilliantly entertaining and utterly compelling. I know because I’ve read them all! Getting hold of the latest Riley Sager novel is the absolute highlight of my year. So when the opportunity presented itself to read The House Across the Lake, I, of course, jumped at the chance!

Grief stricken actor Casey Fletcher needs time away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the intrusion of the paparazzi, to mourn the death of her husband. Her mother suggests time at the family lake house in Vermont, which Casey reluctantly agrees to. Whilst enjoying a drink on the porch she notices her new neighbours, Tom and Katherine Royce, across the lake in their glass fronted house. Aided by a pair of high-spec binoculars Casey is able to get up close and personal in the Royce’s lives, watching from afar, becoming more and more obsessed with the couple. Then Katherine disappears without a trace, and things just don’t add up for Casey. She suspects Tom has something to do with the ex-supermodel’s disappearance – she just can’t prove it. What Casey doesn’t realise is that there is more to Katherine’s disappearance than meets the eye…

The House Across the Lake is another superb novel from the great Riley Sager. Utterly compelling from the moment the reader meets Casey, totally absorbing from start to finish and near impossible to put down (I grrr in your face adulting!). I tore through this book in a couple of short sittings keen to know where Sager was going to take this twisty tale. And oh my goodness, the twists the author throws at the reader are beautifully executed, they took my breath away at times! Perfectly placed, taking the reader by the hand, then BOOM! Delivered with Sager’s trademark finesse.

Casey is the most perfect unreliable narrator I have met in a LONG time. She likes a drink (she’s definitely an alcoholic!) but she firmly believes she is NOT an alcoholic (she’s an alcoholic!) and is always looking for her next tipple. I did find the numerous references to needing a drink a little wearing at times but I completely understand why the author mentioned her craving so often. It makes her believable. Casey would never call herself an addict but the reader knows the cold hard truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The House Across the Lake is a delicious slow burn mystery with a glorious unreliable narrator which I found thoroughly entertaining. The characters are all very well-written and helped move the story along nicely. Despite its beauty in the Summer months, the setting has an eeriness to it, a creepy edge, which gave me the shivers. The plot, as I’ve come to expect from this author, is very compelling and hooks the reader in from early on. I really enjoyed how Sager has used the movie Rear Window as his inspiration for this book but given it a modern twist and dialled up the tension ten-fold! All in all another superb book from a must read author. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The House Across the Lake. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 21st June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. The UK version of The House Across the Lake will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th July 2022. I have included purchase links for both here but 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.com | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently SURVIVE THE NIGHT and HOME BEFORE DARK. His first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel and has been published in more than thirty countries. His latest novel, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, will be published in June.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favourite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

WWW Wednesday | 15th June 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?

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
Lore Rivera was married to two men at once, until on a baking hot day in 1986, one of them found out and shot the other.

That’s the story the world knows.

It’s not the story that fascinates Cassie Bowman.

Determined to know more about the mysterious Lore, true-crime writer Cassie is surprised to find Lore is willing to talk.

But as the two women get closer, Cassie finds herself confessing her own darkest secrets.

And the shocking truth behind the murder all those years ago . . .


What did you recently finish reading?

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi
A group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerising odyssey of terror.

An atmospheric, haunting page-turner from the bestselling author of Come with Me

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.

Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza
Detective Erika Foster is on a late-night walk near her new house in Blackheath when she stumbles upon the brutal murder of Vicky Clarke, a true-crime podcaster.

Erika is assigned to the case and discovers that Vicky had been working on a new podcast episode about a sexual predator who preys on young female students around South London, staking out his victims in their halls of residence before breaking in at the dead of night. When Erika discovers that Vicky’s notes and sound recordings were stolen from her flat at the time of her murder, it leads her to believe that Vicky was close to unmasking the attacker, and she was killed to guarantee her silence.

The case takes on a disturbing twist when the body of a young Bulgarian student doctor is discovered in the same building, and this makes Erika question everything she thought she knew about Vicky. With very little evidence, the clock is ticking to find the killer before he strikes again.


What do you think you’ll read next?

No Country for Girls by Emma Styles
Charlie and Nao are strangers from different sides of the tracks. They should never have met, but one devastating incident binds them together forever.

A man is dead and now they are unwilling accomplices in his murder there’s only one thing to do: hit the road in the victim’s twin cab ute, with a bag of stolen gold stashed under the passenger seat.

Suddenly outlaws, Nao and Charlie must make their way across Australia’s remote outback using only their wits to survive. They’ll do whatever it takes to evade capture and escape with their lives . . .

Thelma & Louise for a new generation, No Country for Girls is a gritty, twisty road-trip thriller that follows two young women on the run across the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Australia.