*Cover Reveal* Sealskin by Su Bristow


Today is a very special day here at damppebbles.  Today I am thrilled (BEYOND thrilled!) to have a stunning cover reveal to share with you.  And I’m honoured to share this cover reveal with the lovely Liz over at Liz Loves Books.

The book in question is the beautiful Sealskin written by debut award-winning author Su Bristow.  Sealskin is an exquisite retelling of the selkie legend, prominent in folklore across the globe and retold with a modern twist.

Karen at Orenda Books is thrilled to have acquired the World English Language Rights for Sealskin and says, ‘I was swept away by this simply beautiful book – a flawless retelling of a legend that features in the folklore of so many nations. Set in a Scottish fishing village, Sealskin is an exquisitely written, subtle story of a small community’s response to difference, studying the nuances of personal relationships and how an outside influence recasts and fortifies social ties. Every character, every relationship, every aspect of the setting and the story is finely drawn, with a compelling timelessness that is at once relevant and able to transport us to a different world. Sujata has an extraordinary talent for exploring social dynamics, tradition and the innate human capacity for forgiveness, acceptance and care, and this is an exceptional book on many, many levels.’

And now for that beautiful cover…


Absolutely breathtaking and one for the TBR.  We do have a tiny wait as Sealskin will be published by Orenda Books in early Spring 2017 (don’t worry, it’ll be Christmas before we know it…).  Until then keep an eye on the Orenda Books website for updates on this beautiful novel.


*Blog Tour: Guest Post* When The Killing Starts by R C Bridgestock

51tfBIhhASL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_“Crime is a way of life for the Devlin brothers. Groomed at an early age and trained as criminals by local gangsters, the Devlin brothers get their thrill out of creating fear amongst their victims. They have a macabre pact; not to be arrested or caged. Brutality hits the town of Harrowfield when the scourge of the community is found dead, his companion slaughtered. The locals react with praise for the killers. The same day firefighters respond to a fire but lose the fight to save Merton Manor.  Amongst the debris two bodies are discovered; executed. As Dylan struggles to cope with the pressure, armed officers await his judgement call. Can he remain professional or will he release his anger?”

It is my pleasure to welcome R C Bridgestock to damppebbles today as part of their blog tour.  I am handing the reigns of my little blog over to the lovely Carol and Bob to celebrate the publication of their seventh DI Jack Dylan novel (which happens to be tomorrow, that’s Thursday 30th June 2016).  Over to you #TeamDylan.

Bob dealt with hundreds of dead bodies in his 30 year detective led police career; he has met cold blooded murderers who show no iota of remorse – and then he retired and became co-author of the Detective Inspector Jack Dylan’ series with his wife Carol.

unnamed (2)Bob had reached the rank of Detective Superintendent, Senior Investigative Officer, in
charge of major incidents for West Yorkshire Police, the fourth largest force in the country. But, at just 51, he knew it was time to stop.
Id see more horrific sights in a couple of weeks than most people see in a lifetime,’ he says. So, with his wife Carol, also in the Force as a support officer, they retired to the Isle of Wight, where the plot of their lives took an unlikely turn. They became authors.

‘Wed watch TV detective dramas/read books and Bob would say: It would never be done like that!, says Carol. ‘Youd never want to live in Midsomer, would you!’ returns Bob. ‘Think how much it would cost to insure your house!

Actually writing their own book seemed as unlikely a turn of events as many in that TV drama. ‘I had a lifetime of cases but I didnt consider myself a writer. I dont even read a lot. In fact I  often wonder whether Tom Sawyer ever finished painting that fence,’ he jokes, recalling the unfinished book he was given for good attendance at Sunday School.

Yet one day he saw an advert for a writing course at the Isle of Wight College, and enrolled himself and Carol. The result was Deadly Focus, a novel which has been well received by public and police alike. The couple have gone on to write six more books, the second, Consequences, third White Lilies, fourth Snow Kills, fifth Reprobates, sixth Killer Smile and the seventh When The Killing Starts publication date 30th June 2016.

Carol describes how two people can work on one book. I say to Bob: How dyou see Vicky, (the main characters sidekick). Bob saysI see her like Joanne Froggatt (Downton).So we can both imagine her, physically, then her character is based on someone we both knew well.’

Plots not a problem: it was Bobs life.

unnamed (8)It’s hard to square the circle between Bobs very talkative avuncular comedian personality and the dogged and hard-faced policeman you see in the newspaper cuttings. For even in the fuzziest little newspaper picture, Bob appears as a human mask, exhausted eyes peering out of fixed pallid face. ‘There were times I was dealing with six murder enquiries at once,’ he says.

Bobs early brushes with the law should have turned him off the idea of policing. ‘When I was five my elder brother picked a fog warning detonator off the railway line and told me hed got me a watch,’ grins Bob. ‘I was given a clip round the ear by the policeman. That didnt seem fair!

Bob, born in 1952, was one of five siblings in the small Yorkshire village of Marsden, on the border with Lancashire. Although his father was working there wasnt much money to feed a large family. ‘We used to hide under the stairs from either the lightening or the rent man,’ he grins. It was a life of hand-me-downs and making do. ‘My dad used to repair all the shoes: for two years I thought I had a club foot, because one foot was higher than the other!’

unnamed (4)He had two paper rounds before walking a mile and a half to school. ‘But,’ he says, ‘you just got on with it. Everyone did.’ He made it to grammar school, but Bob didnt take his GCEs. ‘I was offered a job at the butchers where id worked on a Saturday and decided to take it.’He had two paper rounds before walking a mile and a half to school. ‘But,’ he says, ‘you

You cant avoid assuming the slaughterhouse went some way to preparing him for the blood and gore he was to come across later. It was now that he had a second run-in with the police. ‘I was travelling home by bus, with my blood-stained butchers smock under my arm. Suddenly the bus stopped, I get another clip round the ear for wasting police time and had to walk home. I dont know what they thought Id done.

Bob could have become a cynical decrier of the law. Another time he was thrown into a van with an Alsatian snapping at him, for no good reason. But somewhere in Bobs mind was the idea that policemen should be more like televisions Dixon of Dock Green. ‘I thought somewhere there must be a nice police officer.

Bob qualified as a butcher, but by now he was married and the money was poor. So he left to work at the local dye works, an unforgiving place where he saw colleagues with terrible burns. ‘Id blow my nose and give off blue dye, and thought this cant be healthy.’ He stuck it for two years and then, taking a massive cut in pay, he joined the police force. The training was harsh. ‘In the first fortnight, I had my hair cut six times! We learnt to march, press our own uniform, bull our boots. You used to parade at 2 or 3 oclock in the morning. I used to say to myself ‘what the hell am I doing here?’

unnamed (1)Two years and several exams later Bob was working five weeks of night duty, marching out on the streets of Huddersfield in his too-tight helmet and collar which rubbed. His dogged determination and fearlessness led to promotion, and Bob became a detective. He soon learnt that catching criminals had an element of luck or otherwise. ‘Me and a colleague were watching a timber yard which had had been subject to arson attacks. We were there seven nights. On the eighth, a girl called Helen Rytka was murdered just yards from where wed been sat: a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper.’ He pauses. ‘Just one more night and hed have been well and truly caught.’

The Ripper case, then in its latter stages, was just one of very many high profile murders that Bob would see over the years, and it is a prime example of the way a case takes over the lives of those dealing with it. ‘There was so much criticism over the case that Sutcliffe (eventually convicted) was questioned but let go several times it destroyed the lives of those in charge.’

But being the man in chargewas something he aspired to. As a uniformed sergeant in Calderdale he was told: We dont go into that pub, they dont like police!‘Well, it was like a red rag to a bull! If you dont nip behaviour in the bud it just goes on.’

unnamed (7)Pleased to cast off the uniform again, he became a detective working on the infamous Sarah Harper murder, the little girl who went to buy a loaf of bread and never came back. Equally chilling were the Boarded Barn murders in Cheshire, where an ill-conceived attempt at kidnap and extortion led to the utterly callous murders of two young mothers. The team was commended for solving the crime, and Bob was promoted. As Detective Inspector he was given the Denis Hoban Trophy for outstanding detective work. Bob mentions this and his other commendations not with any arrogance but with an air of gratitude that his efforts have been noted. It is Carol who points out that most officers dont get anything like the 20 certificates of commendation that Bob has accumulated over the years.

Bob became Detective Chief Inspector and held the post for seven years. He spent four years at Wakefield Detective School training future senior detectives; he became a hostage negotiator, and trained others in the art: ‘Fortunately, on incidents I went to I never lost anybody.’

unnamed (3)His biggest fear was, being in the middle of six death-related cases at once, hed
blather out the name of the wrong victim to a relative. ‘One of them was the Huddersfield fire case (where petrol bombs were thrown through the window and petrol poured through the letter box killed seven in an Asian family). ‘Lovely family, but it was easy to pronounce the Asian names wrongly.’ In that case, the survivors wanted the victims flown home to Pakistan, a
nd Bob, arranged all this. ‘I was the man in charge,’ he says, adding: ‘Don
t get me wrong, youve got forensic, youve got pathology but its you that makes the decisions that will make or break the enquiry. So you go to the mortuary, you endure the very terrible sights and smells because you need to understand the nature of the injuries.’

Getting a feel for the atmosphere of a crime scene was important, too. One thing he found frustrating was that, as he rose to be DCI he was no longer allowed to interview suspects because the rank of Det Chief Inspector was deemed to be intimidating to suspects. ‘You learn so much from being face to face with people.’ For the Dylan series he resorted to reducing hisrank, because suspect interviews were an essential tool of the plot.

Bob believes two things are essential in policing. The first is common sense. ‘People say youre breaching criminalshuman rights.Hang on a minute! If you steal youre a thief; you dont swear because its rude. If you cross that line and injure or kill you should forfeit those human rights.’

The second is keeping a sense of humour. He talks about the man in charge of the mortuary who had a pacemaker, who was on the lookout for a free upgrade. Gallows humour maybe, but an essential pressure release.

Despite his relentless exposure to callousness he retained his belief in people. He recalls with pleasure people who went out of their way to thank him: the wife of one victim, have-a-go heroKevin Jackson, bought him a pair of slippers so he wouldnt worry about bringing muddy shoes into peoples homes.

unnamed (5)A sweet thought in a world of cynicism. Bob, when he became Detective Superintendent, had 26 murders in his last three years alone, as well as 50 suspicious deaths and 23 major incidents. In true Detective hero style, he had a maverick approach to the task. ‘We knew who killed Kevin Jackson because wed got a DNA match from under his finger nails. So I got photos of the suspects and did the press conference in front of the photos which Id had blown up into massive posters!’ Legally sensitive, perhaps, but Bobs argument was were looking for murderers here.

As the face of the news conference, wasnt he fearful of backlashes? ‘No, providing youve been right with them theyre right with you. Ive always treated people the way Id want to be treated. I go back to these influences from earlier,’ he says, referring to all those uncalled-for clips round the ear ‘Police shouldnt treat people like that.’ When in the midst of a case, members of the public would come up to him when he and Carol were doing the weekly shop with their own suggestions: ‘Here, Bob, had you thought it might be so-and-so that did it?!’ Carol laughs: ‘We couldnt get round Sainsburys without someone coming up to us!’

unnamed (6)Their lighthearted approach belies the reality that there were no real days off. His catalogue of cases is relentless. He spent days at a time in the mortuary and TV post-mortems go nowhere to prepare for the real thing and there were nights when Carol didnt even know hed come to bed at all. But he couldnt rest until that case was finished because if you relaxed there might just be something, something that you miss.  In the end his body told him to quit. He found, getting out of the car one night, he was frozen to the spot. His doctor suggested it was time to stop. ‘If you dont step away you get sucked into a vacuum of sadness,’ says Bob.

Thirty years seemed a reasonable innings, and the Isle of Wight has had its fabled relaxing affect on this non-stop policeman and his wife. ‘Being in the Force meant I understood the demands of the job,’ says Carol. ‘And I love him, so of course I supported him.Some people say Jen, is too good but we tell it as it is – in a fictional tale.

10572212_724226717696085_6988507816097066973_oNow, as well as the couple getting their DI Dylan books published by Caffeine Nights
Publishers, Kent they have also found a super literary agent in David Headley (DHH Literary Agency, London). They are also active Patrons of three charities and Ambassadors for two others. Why? ‘I thought I worked hard,’ says Bob. ‘But these people, they just give everything.

The DI Jack Dylan series of books is available from all good book shops and online.

Thank you so much R C Bridgestock.  What a fascinating guest post and great to learn about the real experiences of senior detective.

When the Killing Starts by R C Bridgestock was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights Publishing on 30th June 2016 and in available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |


Smith & Sons (11)

RT 4 Bob & Carol 89764 RTThe D.I. Dylan series of books by RC Bridgestock (Husband and wife writing team, Bob and Carol Bridgestock) comes from a unique perspective of a collective real life experience of high level policing of 47 years.

The couple are consultant storyline/police procedure for Sally Waintwright on 2014 police drama series for BBC 1 Happy Valley and are also consultant storyline advisors/police procedural to Red Productions Ltd for ITV 1 Scott & Bailey & general police advice.

Bob and Carol are represented by David Headley, DHH Literary Agency.  Connect with R C Bridgestock via Twitter @RCBridgestock and on Facebook.


*Blog Tour: Review* Valentina: A Hauntingly Intelligent Psychological Thriller by S E Lynes

41l3MU+CJcL“When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. 

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…”

I am excited to welcome you to my stop on the Valentina blog tour.  This is an exceptional novel.  There is something truly wonderful and special about it.  It’s fair to say I loved this book.  It sent chills down my spine and I couldn’t put it down.  This is S E Lynes debut and I am so excited to see what else she has in store for us.

Shona and Mikey are madly in love and expecting their first little bundle of joy.  Being a responsible father-to-be Mikey finds himself a job working on the oil rigs off the coast of Scotland.  Shona begrudgingly packs up her old life and her job, says goodbye to her friends and family and follows Mikey to deepest, darkest Aberdeenshire.  It’s OK though, she has the most beautiful house to spend her days in.  Mikey’s work rota means that he’s away two weeks out of four so it’s not long before loneliness starts to creep in.  She has Isla, her baby daughter, but babies aren’t all that good at conversation!

Thankfully she meets spirited Valentina.  She’s full of life, charismatic and Shona’s saviour.  But how well does Shona really know Valentina?  Is she the answer to her prayers, or the epitome of her nightmares….?

I love how Shona is written.  A few chapters into the book and I felt I was sat in the pub chatting to a friend.  That’s how well S E Lynes has written her, she became real to me.  As I progressed through the book I wanted everything to turn out well for Shona.  Does it? Well, you’ll have to read Valentina and find out for yourself.

The plot is so very clever and quite intricate.  It was a joy to read this book and I struggled to focus on anything else as it had my full attention.  When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the characters and wondering what was going to happen next.  I even explained the plot to my husband (I don’t think he could work out why I was explaining it to him) but it was because I wanted to talk about the book with someone!  It really gets under your skin.

This is a dark story about loneliness and what we accept to be the truth, whether it is or not.  The one thing I will say, I was a touch disappointed by the closing chapters.  I wanted a little more ‘omph’ but I still loved the story and the authors style.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  A very deserving five out of five stars from me.  It’s dark, totally compelling and full of shady characters.  There’s a sense of foreboding you get from the very beginning which stays with you until the very end. Completely enticing, once you start reading you will struggle to stop.  I loved it!  As I said earlier, if this is the first offering from S E Lynes, I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next.

Many thanks to Rosalie Love at Blackbird Digital Books for providing me with a copy of Valentina: A Hauntingly Intelligent Psychological Thriller by S E Lynes in exchange for an honest review.

Valentina: A Hauntingly Intelligent Psychological Thriler by S E Lynes was published in the UK by Blackbird Digital Books on 1st July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)


After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband.  In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK,  she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children.  She lives in Teddington.  Follow S.E Lynes on Facebook or chat with her on Twitter @SELynesAuthor

Valentina by S. E. Lynes – Blog Tour.jpg


Willow Walk (Banktoun Trilogy, book 2) by SJI Holliday

51h-8-rXKHL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_“When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight? When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run – but how can he confront her when she’s pushing him away? As a terrified Marie is pulled back into a violent past she thought she’d escaped, she makes an irrevocable decision. And when events come to a head at a house party on Willow Walk, can Gray piece together the puzzle in time to stop the sleepy town of Banktoun being rocked by tragedy once more?”

Willow Walk is book 2 in the Banktoun Trilogy written by the very talented SJI Holliday.  I read Black Wood, the first in the trilogy last year and enjoyed it.  Willow Walk is however, in my opinion, the superior book.  I’m very much looking forward to the third instalment to discover if ill-fated Banktoun can take much more!

Sergeant Davie Gray is called to the ICU following the brutal attack of an unknown woman. He doesn’t understand why he’s called but he begrudgingly goes.  Only when he arrives at the hospital does he realise that the victim bears a staggering resemblance to his girlfriend, Marie.  He’s not there to assist in the case as he first thought, he’s there for identification purposes. Thankfully it’s not Marie but she is acting strangely; pushing him away and drinking more than usual.  What secrets is Marie hiding and why is she so cagey about the letters hidden in her kitchen cupboard?  Can Davie work out what implications Marie’s past has on their future and the lives of their friends…?

I was drawn in to this book straight away by the incredibly creepy prologue.  I had to find out more!  Who was this woman and how had she ended up here, surrounded by total devastation at a drink and drug fuelled party?  From there the story builds filling in the gaps so that events start to make more sense.  I felt at times that there was a lot going on but it was still easy to follow and everything is beautifully tied up at the end.

Some of the themes are quite upsetting but SJI Holliday has done a terrific job of setting the scene without going too far.  It is quite an uncomfortable and unsettling read in places so be warned. I had a sense of foreboding (introduced by that creepy prologue) from the start, which didn’t leave me until I closed the back cover and took a deep calming breath.

Would I recommend this book?  If you’re looking for a character driven psychological thriller then I most certainly would.  It’s a cracking read, very compelling and cleverly written by Susi Holliday.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to THE Book Club on Facebook (TBC), the author and the publisher for providing me with a copy of Willow Walk in exchange for an honest review.

Willow Walk by SJI Holliday is published by Black & White Publishing and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)


S.J.I. Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian – a small town near Edinburgh, Scotland. She spent many years working in her family’s newsagent and pub before going off to study microbiology and statistics at university. She has worked as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry for over sixteen years, but it was on a six-month round-the-world-trip that she took with her husband ten years ago that she rediscovered her passion for writing. Her first novel, BLACK WOOD was published in 2015, the second, WILLOW WALK is out in June 2016.

You can find out more at www.sjiholliday.com or connect with Susi via Twitter @SJIHolliday


Last To Die by Arlene Hunt (Extract)


He watches. He waits. He kills…

“When Jessie Conway survives a horrific mass high school shooting, in the aftermath she finds herself thrust into the media spotlight, drawing all kinds of attention. But some of it is the wrong kind.

Caleb Switch, a sadistic serial killer, has been watching her every move. A skilled hunter, he likes his victims to be a challenge. Jessie is strong, fearless, a survivor, and now… she is his ultimate prey.

As Caleb picks off his current victims one by one, chasing, killing and butchering them with his crossbow, he’s closing in on Jessie… But will Jessie defy the odds and escape with her life? Or will she be Caleb’s final sacrifice …

A clever, dangerously twisted thriller that will have fans of Tess Gerritsen and Karin Slaughter gripped until the very last page.”

Happy publication day to Arlene Hunt.  Her psychological thriller, Last To Die, is published by the very lovely people at Bookouture TODAY!  What better way to celebrate than to let us have a read of the first chapter…

Chapter 1

Jessie Conway fanned herself ineffectually with her hand and wished for the umpteenth time that the relentless heat would let up a little. She was thirty-eight years old, tall but evenly proportioned, with shoulder-length hair, the shade of which was the envy of every bottle red-headed woman in Rockville.
‘Miss Conway?’
‘What can I do for you, Riley?’
‘It’s really hot. I’m really hot. It’s really hot today.’
‘Would you like me to open the window, Riley?’
He nodded.
‘Use your words please.’
‘Open the window.’
‘What else should you say?’
Riley scrunched his face, thinking. Jessie waited while he figured it out. Riley was fourteen and one of the smarter pupils in her class. Certainly, he had the potential to live some kind of productive life when he left school behind. Manners were crucial in this. Jessie hoped the universe treated him a little better in the future than it had thus far.
‘Very good, Riley.’
Jessie rose from her desk, crossed the room and grappled with the sash window. Despite being pretty strong, she could barely raise it an inch. This section of Rockville High was old and in need of care and attention. Something it rarely received.
‘That child is never happy unless he’s complaining about something,’ Tracy Flowers, her Teaching Assistant muttered, sliding in beside Jessie to help her wrestle with the window.
‘He’s right though, it is hot.’
‘Don’t see how this will help; it’s as hot out there as it is in here.’
Tracy was twenty-four years old. She had joined Rockville High the previous September and was without doubt the best Teaching Assistant Jessie had ever worked with. She liked to grumble, but she was tough, kind and, most importantly, she was scrupulously fair with the children. That day she was wearing a yellow sundress the colour of buttercups. Jessie thought it looked very pretty and would have liked to have said so, but Tracy did not take a compliment well and she did not enjoy people drawing attention to her.
Between them, they managed to force the window up by about a foot. Jessie leaned her hands on the ledge, savouring the slight breeze and the comforting drone of a lawnmower somewhere in the distance. It truly was a beautiful June day.
Only one more week until the holidays, she thought, smiling. She wondered if Mike, her husband, had called the realtor on the rental cabin like he had said he would that morning. Knowing Mike, he had probably forgotten. She decided she’d call him during recess to remind him.
As she turned back towards the class, Jessie caught a glimpse of a dark green Toyota cruising slowly along the ring road that encircled the campus. The windows were tinted and closed tight. Air conditioning, Jessie thought, something else the school board claimed they could not afford to repair. The car slowed, turned into the main parking lot normally reserved for staff and disappeared from view.
Jessie moved away from the window and went to help a sweet-natured girl named Martha Fisk stick glue to the card she was working on. Martha’s tongue jutted out to the side as she concentrated on her task. There was glitter just about everywhere.
‘This is very pretty, Martha.’
‘Who are you making this for, your mom?’
Martha shook her head.
‘Your sister?’
She nodded.
‘Well it’s very—’
Jessie leaned over the child’s shoulder. Martha had glued six tinfoil stars to her card and one to the desk.
‘Uh-oh. Uh-oh.’
‘That’s okay Martha. We can peel it off. It’s okay. Look.’ Jessie lifted the star and wiped the tiny smudge of glue with her thumb. ‘See, all gone.’
Martha offered Jessie a painful, pathetic grin. Her gratitude broke Jessie’s heart. Martha was missing her front teeth. No one had ever received a satisfactory answer from her about what had happened to them, only that they had been gone a long time and she didn’t like talking about it. Questions put to Martha’s mother, the only time she had bothered to show up to a parent teacher meeting, had been met with a bored shrug. ‘Probably she banged ’em. You see how she is, that damn kid’s always fallin’ and floppin’ all over the place.’
‘Miss Conway?’
‘What can I help you with, Austin?’
‘I need to go pee, Miss Conway.’
Jessie pointed to the big plastic clock hanging behind her desk.
‘See the big hand, Austin? Remember we talked about this? When that big hand reaches the number six you can go.’
‘I need to go real bad, Miss Conway.’
‘Tracy, would you show Austin to the bathroom?’
‘Sure. Come on, Austin.’
‘I don’t want her to go,’ Austin said, shrinking back from Tracy. ‘I don’t want her.’
Tracy’s expression remained neutral; she was used to this reaction, but Jessie felt a flash of anger and shame. Austin’s father disliked and mistrusted ‘coloreds’ and was more than happy to say so to anyone who might listen. He spent much of his limited time outside prison terrifying his youngest son with stories about what the ‘coloreds’ might like to do with soft, small-boned boys like Austin, should they get the chance.
‘Austin,’ Jessie said, ‘remember we spoke about this? You do not shout in class – if you shout in class you will lose your yard privileges.’
‘I heard you.’
‘Do you still want to go to the bathroom?’
Austin looked at her sulkily and shook his head. He bent to his work, pink with temper and Tracy went on about her business, stoical.
Jessie glanced at the clock again. She would be glad when this day was over. On paper, Jessie’s pupils were described as ‘marginalised’, which was nothing more than politically correct claptrap for ‘extremely messed up’. Most of the children in Jessie’s class were the product of appalling neglect, both mental and physical, and abuse, also both mental and physical. They were the children of alcoholics and drug-addicted parents, of parents who spent half their lives in jail, the rest of the time trying to spend their welfare on booze, weed and crystal meth. That was if they even had parents to speak of. Many of Jessie’s pupils were being reared by their grandparents; sad, tired, ill-equipped people whose hearts were in the right place, even if they did not have the wherewithal to help their grandchildren in ways other than to feed and house them.
Jessie lifted a pop-up picture book from under a desk and slotted it into what they romantically called ‘the library’, though it was little more than two shelves of tattered books bought and paid for by the profits from fundraisers and raffles. The bell finally rang. Her pupils collected their belongings and hustled their way to the door. Some said goodbye; most did not.
‘What a day,’ Tracy said, when the last child left. ‘I swear, I don’t think I can face another week of this.’
‘Nobody ever said Special Ed was easy,’ Jessie said, tying her dark red hair into a ponytail.
‘No, I guess they didn’t.’
Jessie rested her hand on Tracy’s shoulder. ‘You’re doing great.’
Tracy offered her a wry smile that said she thought differently. ‘I’m going to go get some strong coffee. You coming?’
‘Be with you in a few minutes. Save me a dessert if there is any. I think I heard talk of Key lime pie earlier.’
‘Aw man, how can you eat that stuff and never put on a single pound? If I even look at pie my hips expand.’
‘It’s a secret; if I told you I’d have to kill you.’
Tracy laughed and left.
Jessie wiped the board clean and began to write up the assignments for the next class. When she finished, she picked up her handbag and was about to exit the room when she heard popping sounds. They were loud and they were close.
Jessie opened the door and stepped out. Children milled about the hall, a number of them looked curious.
‘What’s going on?’ Jessie asked a heavily built boy she recognised from eight grade.
The freckle-faced girl with him looked scared. ‘Sounds to me like gunfire.’
‘Nah, no way,’ the boy said. ‘Probably a cherry bomb or some shit.’
Then the fire alarm went off, filling the halls with deafening wails.
‘Okay, okay,’ Jessie clapped her hands to get attention. ‘You know the drill. Everybody make their way outside to the basketball courts. No running, no shoving please. Nice and easy now. Use the nearest exit please.’
Jessie pushed her way through the children and followed the corridor until she reached the main foyer. Rockville High was a single-storey building, built around this double-height space, off which were four ‘wings’. To Jessie’s immediate left was the staff room and to her right the cafeteria. Children spilled into the space from three separate hallways. Some of them laughed and hooted, others seemed more anxious. There were a number of students by the lockers opposite the cafeteria doors, changing books and emptying contents into backpacks as though the alarms were not going off at all.
Jessie caught sight of Adam Edwards, the Vice-Principal, striding to the foyer from the B wing. He was trying to get people to make their way to the A Wing, pleading with them to remain calm and to move quickly but without running. Jessie was puzzled as to why he was not shepherding them towards the main doors. She turned her head and saw that there was a chain strung through both door handles, with a heavy padlock hanging from it. She immediately made her way towards the Vice-Principal.
‘What’s going on?’
‘I don’t know. I was in the science lab. Someone said there was shooting. When I got down here the front doors were chained.’ He leaned in closer and whispered, ‘So is the fire exit by the bike shed.’
‘Do you think this is real?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Are all the doors locked?’
‘I don’t know. Principal Carmichael is checking the C Wing. I think we should get everyone outside.’
‘What can I do?’
‘You can help me get everyone outside and accounted for.’
She could see he was struggling to keep his voice calm. This alarmed her. Edwards was a tall man, good-natured but serious at the best of times and not one for panicking. More children were streaming in to the foyer. Jessie noticed the group she had spoken to outside her classroom.
‘I thought I told you to go outside,’ she said to the girl with the freckles.
‘The doors are locked. Someone locked them with a chain.’
Edwards raised his hands over his head.
‘Everyone, listen to me now. Stop pushing and slow down. Make your way to the rear emergency exit in a calm and orderly fashion. Come on now. I want everybody to move outside please. Everyone make their way to the basketball courts, nice and slowly. Miss Conway, can you make sure the cafeteria is empty?’
‘Sure.’ Jessie began to walk towards the cafeteria, but as she did, one of the swing doors opened and a tall youth she recognised as Kyle Saunders stepped out. He carried a semiautomatic weapon dangling from a long strap across his chest. Adam Edwards saw him; his eyes widened in surprise. He reacted fast. He grabbed the nearest child to him and shoved her towards a hallway.
Kyle Saunders raised the gun. His face was shiny and his lips were peeled back over his teeth. His eyes roamed over the teeming foyer.
‘Hey maggots! Yo! Maggots, remember me?’
‘Kyle—’ Edwards put out his hands out before him, chest high. ‘Put the gun down, Kyle. Put it down now. We can talk about this.’
Kyle stared at Edwards for a moment, smiling a weird smile. Jessie could see some doubt come into Edwards’ eyes.
‘Kyle, listen to me now—’
Kyle opened fire.
The first spray of bullets took out the glass bricks that ran the length of the wall above the lockers. Children ran screaming in every direction. Some fell and were trampled; others flattened themselves against walls, covering their heads with their hands as though this might save them. One or two stood and stared, rooted to the spot in disbelief.
The second burst of gunfire was lower. A piercing scream was cut short. A round hit Edwards directly in the chest, spinning him where he stood. He took a step and dropped to the floor.
Jessie stared at Alan Edwards’ body, her face frozen, unable to comprehend what had happened.
She took a step forward but blood was beginning to pool under him and his fingers were scrabbling for purchase on the tiled floor. Behind him, another boy lay twisted and broken, his backpack still on his shoulders.
Kyle Saunders threw back his head and whooped. He was still howling when Jessie Conway slammed into him at speed. The force of the impact sent Kyle crashing through the swing doors of the cafeteria, with Jessie practically on top of him. They smashed into a table, toppled over it and hit the ground hard.
Jessie recovered first. She slammed her knees into Kyle’s stomach and ripped the strap over his head. Before he knew what had happened, she grabbed the gun. She felt the heat of the muzzle blister the skin on her fingers, smelled cordite and sweat from Kyle’s body. She threw all her weight backwards, bracing hard against his gut, screaming as she leaned away.
Kyle was too strong and managed to reclaim his grip on the gun. He wrenched it free and snapped the stock up towards the side of Jessie’s head. He clouted her with it, but she twisted her body to one side just before he could land a full blow. Kyle scrambled to get his feet under him. Jessie rose first; she shouldered him and wedged her body between him and the gun. Spittle sprayed the side of Jessie’s face as Kyle tried to ram the gun up under her chin. She held on doggedly, keeping the weapon as close to her body as she could, the muzzle pointed up and away from her.
They tussled back and forth. Kyle loosened one hand and punched her in the back, above her kidney. In desperation, Jessie stamped down on Kyle’s foot and tried to get her shoulder into his chest and force his grip to break over her shoulder.
Nothing worked.
She kicked and kicked, aiming her heel for any spot she could reach. She landed a bone-crunching snap on his shin but Kyle punched her again, and this time it hurt, badly. Jessie’s grip began to fail. She tried one last desperate swing. As she twisted, she saw another boy standing on a table at the far side of the cafeteria near the drinks machine. He was slender and young, with a thin wispy moustache he had not yet grown into. He was dressed head to toe in black. All these things Jessie registered in the blink of an eye. There was one more detail.
He had a shotgun trained on them.
‘Shoot her!’ Kyle Saunders screamed. ‘Shoot the fucking bitch!’
There was a deafening blast. Jessie felt pain along the left side of her face seconds before she collapsed under Kyle Saunders’ full weight.
The gun was now in her hands and she blindly raised it and fired towards where she thought the other boy might be. Through the smoke, she saw him fall backwards off the table and drop out of sight.
Jessie lay still, dazed. Kyle Saunders’ lower body was twisted across her hips. She turned her head and saw that he was dead. There was nothing left of his head but a mass of bloody scalp and glistening bone fragments. Jessie’s ears fizzed and rang. She lowered the gun to the floor, crawled out from under Kyle and sat up. Blood spilled onto her chest and lap. She blinked at it uncomprehendingly. By the time she got to her feet and staggered across the floor her shirt was saturated. She fell down and landed close to two terrified girls huddled beneath an overturned table. She recognised their faces but could not remember their names.
‘Get out of here.’
The girls cringed, and huddled against each other. One of them mouthed something but Jessie could not decipher the words.
They fled.
Jessie crawled across the floor to where the boy had fallen.
He lay on his back, panting. The shotgun was off to his right, out of range. One arm rested across his chest, the other curled by his side. The front of his shirt was slick with blood. His eyes were open and as she moved closer they clicked around to her.
‘Oh,’ Jessie whispered when she saw the damage she had inflicted.
He smiled, in reality a terrible grimace. A bubble of frothy blood appeared at the corner of his mouth, popped, and was replaced by another. Jessie leaned all her weight on her right hand and took his left hand in hers.
‘Why did you do this?’
But he did not answer and after a moment his eyes lost focus, his chest stopped moving and he was gone.
Jessie stared at him. She tried to stay upright, but could not summon the strength. She sank to the floor beside the dead boy and wiped the blood from her eyes. She saw Tracy Flowers lying by the drinks machine. She had lost a shoe and the back of her yellow sundress was drenched in blood.
Jessie wanted to go to her but could not. She vomited, closed her eyes and finally darkness took her.

Oh wow!  Doesn’t that sound amazing?!  I must have been having some sort of ‘moment’ when it went up on NetGalley as it sounds like a book I would love!  I definitely NEED to read more of Last To Die so it’s going straight on the TBR.  How about you?  One for your TBR?

Last To Die by Arlene Hunt was published in the UK by Bookouture on 24th June 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

*Blog Tour: Review* The Caller (The Organised Crime Team Series, book 1) by M A Comley & Tara Lyons

512IfbOKPZL“When The Caller rings… what would you do?

The Organised Crime Team is a newly-formed unit with one of the toughest tasks in London. Led by DI Angie North, their first investigation is a cold case that has foxed several officers in the Met for months.
After Angie holds a TV appeal regarding the case, a number of similar aggressive attacks are brought to her attention. The team call on their contacts on the street for help. Their interest is sparked when several local names surface.
To bring the criminals to justice a member of the Organised Crime Team is asked to risk their life in a dangerous covert operation.”

I am delighted to be today’s stop on The Caller blog tour.  The Caller is the first book in a new series, written by established authors M A Comley and Tara Lyons, featuring the Organised Crime team (I love the word ‘series’, implies there will be MORE to come!).

Serious and organised crime is becoming prevalent in London.  In an effort to reduce the hold the criminals have over the City, the Organised Crime Team is formed.  Lead by Detective Inspector Angie North, they are an experienced handpicked squad each with their own skill and area of expertise.
Their first case is a tricky one.  Upon inspection it becomes clear to Angie that the initial investigating team failed to follow basic procedure.  As the Organised Crime Team begin to dig they discover clues that were there all along, leading them straight to the Streetlife gang.  Will Angie be able to find enough evidence to stop the gang’s reign of terror before another innocent woman loses her life…

This is a great start to what promises to be a fantastic series and I’m excited to see what Mel and Tara have in store for us in the future.  I expected high quality writing, characters I could relate to and lots of action and that is exactly what I got.  DI Angie North is instantly likeable, fretting about her first day in the office with her new team.  We are introduced to each team member and given a small snippet about their life pre-OCT.  Each character is likeable in their own special way.  Except Frank, I’m not all that sure about Frank…

Angie and her husband, Warren, do seem to have a pretty perfect marriage which niggled me a little.  How can two people who both work shifts in two very different but demanding careers still have time to be so perfect ?!  Maybe I’ve read too many books where the lead character is damaged beyond hope and I’m not used to things going well for them.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, yes.  It’s a fantastic opening to what promises to be a great series and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the Organised Crime Team.  It’s a very enjoyable read which kept pulling me back for more.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to M A Comley and Tara Lyons for providing me with a copy of The Caller in exchange for an honest review.

The Caller by M A Comley and Tara Lyons was published in the UK on 16th June 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)

melM A Comley: New York Times, USA Today, Amazon Top 20 bestselling author, iBooks top 5 bestselling and #2 bestselling author on Barnes and Noble. Over one million copies sold world wide. I am a British author who moved to France in 2002, and that’s when I turned my hobby into a career. I’m fortunate to be represented by a top New York agent.

I share my home with two crazy dogs that like nothing better than to drag their masterful leader (that’s me) around the village.  Connect with Mel on Twitter: @Melcom1


Tara Lyons

Tara Lyons: At the age of 30, I decided to fulfil my life long dream of becoming a writer. Thanks to some amazing people in my life, I’ve had the chance to make that a reality. And so, my debut novel, In the Shadows, was born.

I am excited to be working with NY Times and USA Today best selling author, Mel Comley. Our novella, Web of Deceit is available now, and we are currently creating a new crime series together.

When I’m not writing you’ll find me in a near-by Wacky Warehouse stuck in the ball-pit with my son. I have a love of chocolate peanuts and reading – and prefer to enjoy them both with a strong cuppa.  Connect with Tara on Twitter: @taralyonsauthor

THE CALLER_Blog tour promo


#Blogival: Devil’s Demise by Lee Cockburn (Extract, Guest Post & Review)

41Xat-MjUgL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_“A cruel and sinister killer is targeting Edinburgh’s most powerful women, his twisted sense of superiority driving him to satisfy his depraved sexual appetite. He revels in the pain and suffering he inflicts on his unsuspecting victims but a twist of fate and an overwhelming will to survive by one victim ruins his plans for a reign of terror. His tormented prey will need all her courage if she is to survive the hunt. DS Taylor Nicks, DC Marcus Black and the team are failing to get a positive lead as this unlikely monster reeks havoc on the city, always managing to keep one step ahead of them. DS Nicks, a strong, intelligent and striking woman, is now under mounting pressure both at work and in her eventful private life. Can she stop the evil beast before he takes his ultimate revenge?”

Welcome to my third and final #blogival post of the month.  Today I am thrilled to have an extract from Devil’s Demise by Lee Cockburn along with a guest post from the author, as well as my review.  Here’s an extract from the book (be warned, it’s a saucy one!):

Marcus turned her on her side and re-entered her from behind, his hands caressing her silky swollen pleasure from the front, his kisses powerful and demanding, Maria turned her head round to allow their mouths to meet, Marcus finally giving in to his physical need and letting go, his hands and thrusts continuing until Maria tensed her body, trapping him in the grip of her orgasm; he took hold of her, kisses still manic and desperate although not with the animal desire previously felt. Maria freed herself from him and turned to face him, her face and neck flushed with the pleasure of their intimate hot sex. She held his face and kissed him, her tongue savouring his kiss, his meeting hers and the tenderness overwhelming.
“I love you, Marcus Black.”
“I love you too, Mrs Black.”
“You do realise that I’m going to be really, really late, young lady and I won’t know what to say.”
Maria smiled at him and whispered to him, “You’re not going anywhere.”
She pushed him over onto his back and used her mouth to arouse him again. She straddled him and demanded more, her body taking him into her, his hands slipping over and over her silky mound, again and again she came hard, her body tensed and needy; Marcus looked at her in disbelief, not unpleasant disbelief as she eventually sighed and slumped against him.
“I’ve really missed you.”
Marcus held her tight and said, “Not half,” and laughed with her, their bodies joined together in their twisted sheets, bodies glistening with beads of sweat and faces flushed with the glow of pent up desire and exhaustion.

After another shower Marcus finally left the house and headed to work. He rang his boss. She answered, “Yes, DS Nicks.” Marcus fibbed as he said, “I’m sorry I’m late, I was caught up.”
“In the sheets,” Taylor cut in. “It’s about time you lived a normal life like me, flying by the seat of your pants and telling lies about being stuck in traffic, cause that’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it?”
Marcus remained silent with a big warm smile spreading over his face; he couldn‘t have wished for a better boss, and hot too.
Taylor informed him, “I’m up at the enquiry office looking into the outstanding missing people files. You could meet me there. That will stop Findlay getting in about your mince. See you soon, you naughty boy.”

The enquiry office was a specialist department in the police that dealt with missing people and all of the sudden deaths in the city. There were 10 dedicated officers who catered to the next of kin; when a death occurred, they produced in-depth death reports for the procurator fiscal. They also collated and recorded all information about every missing person in the city area and any enquiry made relating to each case documented.  They created invaluable databases which officers could refer to and utilize, whenever the need arose.
Taylor looked up from her computer with a great big smile directed at a rather flustered DC Black.
“Glad you could come in, better late than never though, eh!”
Marcus apologised genuinely and pulled up a seat beside Taylor. She was looking as polished as ever, her tight fitting suit and long spiralling hair covering her shoulders, her scent intoxicating – any man’s dream, if you didn’t mind never reaching your goal.
“How long have you been at it?” Marcus, realising what he had just said, was leaving himself wide open for Taylor’s reply, which followed quickly.
“No, how long have you been at it more like?” Her laughter escaped and she patted him on the shoulders, as if to say that’s my boy.
“Let’s get down to business. We are looking for women, I’m not sure that the accused will have a certain age group, as we only have one victim.”
“That we know about!” added Marcus.
“Although I do think it will only be women, the man at the house was not planned, he just got in the way, poor old soul.” “How many do we have?”
“What, in Edinburgh or Scotland? Who knows how far he’s travelled to indulge in his sick fantasies,” Taylor replied with a tone of disgust, as her mind returned to Susan and the way he had sadistically left her.
“I think we have about six or seven that have potential, having looked through the files. There are two in Edinburgh, three in Glasgow and one in the Borders that I think we should look at first.”
Marcus pointed to the picture of one of the outstanding missing women, a young Polish prostitute; her name was Layla Petrovsky and she had been missing since Halloween a year ago.
“How do we even know if she’s still in this country? She might have made her money and gone back to where she came from – maybe just had enough and left, who knows?”
“Well, we’ll just have to work our way through all of them systematically and see if anything has been missed or if there is a lead we can still follow. A lot of enquiry has obviously been done and nothing has come to light so far that has made them suspicious enough to turn them into murder enquiries, not yet anyway.”

Marcus began his enquiry into Mary Dawkins, a 29 year old music teacher from Edinburgh, who had not been seen since December the year previously, and Taylor took the other Edinburgh case, the prostitute Layla Petrovsky missing since November the same year; neither of them looked overly suspicious, just people who had their own reasons for not wanting to be found, or on the other hand, other people who didn’t want them to be found, but it was a start.

What do you think?  Want to read more?  I’ll reveal my thoughts after I have shared a guest post from the author.

Last week I had a post from Adapt author, Edward Freeland, which featured his five favourite books.  I loved it so much that I’m doing it again!  Lee Cockburn shares her four favourite crime/thriller books with us.  Over to you Lee…

9780553817065My favourite crime writer just now is Tess Gerritsen, her books the surgeon and the apprentice were the first of a series, the characters Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles both believable, have real life vulnerabilities, but both very skilled workers in their chosen professions. I like the rest of the books in the series as I have read them all bar one, but my mum bought it for my birthday yesterday, but has told me I’ll get it once she’s read it on holiday! The main perpetrator of the book is Warren Hoyt, a cruel and vile man with surgical skills factually described throughout ithe book, and featuring in all of Gerritson’s books due to her profession, other that being an author. I like how Hoyt features in the second book, continuing his reign of terror and his unhealthy focus on Rizzoli.

269831._UY200_The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, I just loved it, the twists and turns throughout, the short chapters allowing you to race to the next, skilfully tying up all of the loose ends, and leaving me happy I picked it up, although I wasn’t available for a day or two.

375013Schindler’s list, by Thomas Keneally a war crimes thriller, brutally graphic, true account of the horrific atrocities that took place during the Second World War. Brilliant book, well written, provoking novel that leaves you with tears in your eyes at the way humans can behave towards one another.

Tea Planter's WifeThe last book not a crime thriller as such, the Tea Planters Wife by Dinah Jeffries, given to me by my mother in law. I started reading it, initially moaning at some of the over description, but the story soon had me drawn in, the true crimes of life itself out on full display, opinions and beliefs leading to the main character giving up her daughter, lies and deceit throughout left me impatient to get to the end, where I found myself in tears, with the sadness behind the unfortunate chain of events. Not the type of book I read, but really enjoyed it.

Thank you so much Lee.  Some great choices there.  I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Tess Gerritsen books and Schindler’s List is on my wish list.

Smith & Sons (9)

I love a serial killer thriller and I enjoyed this book.  I was a little sceptical to start with as there is a fair amount of quite explicit sexual content which I struggled with.  The violence is also quite brutal and very graphic but that didn’t bother me so much.

You find out who the killer is relatively early on in the book so the plot is built more around the hunt for the murderer, more cat and mouse than ‘whodunnit’.  I did wonder at times how the killer was managing to get away from the police as he seemed quite bumbling!  There were moments where I thought, ‘they’re going to get him now, surely…’.

The characters are well written but I struggled to connect with them.  The killer oozes evil and I wonder if the author intended to write a crime novel that could also border on being a horror novel (the cover certainly gives that impression).

Would I recommend this book? I would but my recommendation comes with a warning; there are quite a few explicit sexual scenes within the pages of this book. It’s certainly not for the fainthearted!

Three and a half stars out of five.

Thanks to Rachel at Authoright for providing me with a copy of Devil’s Demise in exchange for an honest review.

Devil’s Demise by Lee Cockburn was published in the UK by Clink Street Publishing on 10th November 2014 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

Smith & Sons (11)

Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for fourteen years including as a police sergeant in Edinburgh for five years and also as a public order officer. Before joining the force, she played for Scotland Women’s rugby team for fifteen years, earning over eighty caps for the Scottish ladies and British Lionesses teams. She also swam competitively for twelve years, successfully representing Edinburgh at the age of fifteen in the youth Olympics in Denmark in 1984. Lee lives in Edinburgh with her civil partner Emily and their two young sons Jamie and Harry.

Blogival Calendar


The Optician’s Wife: a compelling new psychological thriller by Betsy Reavley


“Can you ever really know someone?

When Deborah, an unpopular seventeen-year-old, meets the charming and handsome Larry, he sweeps her off her feet. The trouble is Larry has a secret.

Then a series of grisly murders cast a shadow over everything.

As Deborah’s world starts to fall apart she begins to suspect the man she loves of a terrible betrayal. And to keep their marriage alive, sacrifices must be made.

A compelling, psychological thriller that unpicks what goes on behind closed doors and reminds us that sometimes the worst crimes can take place closer to home than you think.”

I think this is going to be a very difficult review to write.  And I don’t mean that in a negative way, there are so many amazing things I could say about this book.  It’s more to do with spoilers and wanting YOU to enjoy this book as much as I did.  Why don’t you go and buy a copy and then I don’t have to worry about saying something I shouldn’t! Here’s the link: BUY THIS BOOK!

It’s the early 1980’s.  Deborah considers herself rather insignificant and unimportant.  She lost her mother several years ago and being the eldest daughter ended up taking on her mother’s responsibilities. At the tender age of 17 she is chief cook and bottle washer to her father and younger sister. Not that they show any gratitude.  She has a small part time job in Woolies which she doesn’t necessarily enjoy but it gets her out of the house.

One day, whilst at lunch she meets good-looking, charismatic, trainee optician Larry who shows an immediate interest in her. She can’t understand why, but he seems sincere if not a little…controlling?  Buying new clothes for her and getting her hair cut, just as he wants it.

Cambridge is rocked when a killer starts a murderous spree in the historic city. Random women are the killer’s target; they have nothing in common but are strangled, their eyes are savagely cut out then their bodies are dumped in the river.

Debbie and Larry’s relationship meanwhile blossoms and before long they are engaged. She should be happy, a glowing bride to be, but things just don’t feel right for Debbie. Surely her knight in shining armour couldn’t be responsible for the horrific murders, could he…?

This is the first time I have read a novel by Betsy Reavley but I can guarantee it won’t be the last.  Her style of writing is so absorbing that I was totally entranced by her story and her characters.  There aren’t many of the aforementioned characters to like in this novel as they are all deeply flawed in their own way.  I did however enjoy how Debbie’s confidence grew over time, even if it wasn’t for the best.  I really disliked her at points, particularly when she was interacting with her children.  She’s certainly not going to win parent of the year any time soon!

The story is mainly told from Debbie’s perspective so you don’t always get to find out what Larry is thinking or feeling.  From his very first introduction he felt like pure evil.  Some of the chapters are dedicated to the killer’s thoughts and feelings pre-kill, which I loved. They added to the suspense of the story and are cleverly written by Reavley.

Towards the end of the book I was feeling quite tense.  The build up to the conclusion gave me palpitations, so much so that I needed to sit quietly with a  cuppa!  I adore a book that can do that to you.  What’s the point of reading if you don’t feel something?

Would I recommend this book?  If you’re looking for a psychological thriller to knock your socks off then yes, most definitely.  (I shouldn’t need to recommend it though as you’ve already clicked on the link at the top, right?!)

Five out of five stars.

Many thanks to Betsy Reavley for providing me with a copy of The Optician’s Wife in exchange for an honest review.

The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 18th June 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

Smith & Sons (11)


Betsy Freeman Reavley was born in Hammersmith, London.
As a child she moved around frequently with her family, spending time in London, Provence, Tuscany, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire.

She showed a flair for literature and writing from a young age and had a particular interest in poetry, of which she was a prolific consumer and producer. 

In her early twenties she moved to Oxford, where she would eventually meet her husband. During her time in Oxford her interests turned from poetry to novels and she began to develop her own unique style of psychological thriller.

Reavley says “I think people are at their most fascinating when they are faced with life’s real horrors.” This is what I love to write about.

Betsy Reavley currently lives in North London, with her husband 2 children, dog, cat and chickens. You can follow her on Twitter @BetsyReavley

*Blog Tour: Guest Post* My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor

51bEoktfT3L“Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.

Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.

By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney.

But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.

Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth . . .”


Today it’s my turn on the My Husband’s Son blog tour and I am beyond thrilled to share a superb guest post with you.  Deborah O’Connor had a few ideas for guest posts, things she wanted to write about.  As soon as I saw the title I had to have this post on damppebbles.  It’s amazing and the thing I love the most, it’s completely honest.  Over to you Deborah…


Halfway through my novel-writing course at the Faber Academy I asked our teacher, Louise Doughty, what she thought about Cyril Connolly’s infamous phrase: ‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’.  At the time I had yet to have a baby but I was thinking about it and I was worried that, once it happened, I might struggle to ever find the time to write again.  Louise was her usual brilliant self and told us that she actually felt like she became a better writer after having her children, because her work was no longer just about her anymore.  As she saw it, the stakes were raised.  And the stakes being raised gave her even more impetus.  Now when she set pen to paper she wasn’t just doing it for herself she was doing it for her family, for all of them.

I finished the Faber course and continued with my first draft of My Husband’s Son, then I fell pregnant.  Suddenly I found myself holding down a busy full-time job, delirious with morning sickness and exhaustion, at the same time as trying to finish my book.  I was terrified.  I knew how hard I’d found it to carve out time while working.  How on earth would I manage once my baby arrived?  And so, even though all I wanted to do when I got home from work every night was, eat pasta lie down and go to sleep, I’d get home around 7.30pm, shove some food in my gob, then get out my laptop, arrange myself on the sofa and try to summon the energy to write.  I felt like I was in a race against time with my burgeoning bump.  I was convinced that if I didn’t manage to finish it before my contractions started it would be game over and the manuscript would be forever consigned to a dusty drawer, forgotten about, while I tried to contend with a baby and a job and a life.

Below is a picture of me on one of those nights.  My bump peeking out below my laptop.  At the time my husband posted this on Facebook with the caption #deadlines.

Deborah 3

And this is a picture of me in my actual hall with my actual Bugaboo we’d purchased from Mothercare (and dear reader, if you think my boobs look massive in this photo then you should have seen them when my milk came in.  Each breast was the same size as my head.  My actual head.  Remember that line from the kid in Jerry Maguire about the human head weighing 8 pounds.  I’ll leave that thought with you).

Deborah 2

Anyways, I managed to finish the first draft a week or so before my daughter arrived and then I entered the crazy all-consuming worm-hole that it the lot of any new mother.  We knew it would be hard but we hadn’t accounted for the horror that is colic.  For three months after Every Single Feed our daughter would scream in agony and then every night from about 5pm she would scream continuously for five or six hours, no matter what we tried to do to soothe her.  Nevermind reworking my novel, now I found myself struggling to find the time or energy to have a shower and a sandwich let alone puzzle over the bits of my plot that didn’t quite sing true.

When she reached four months our lives started to stabilise I little and I tried to go back to my writing.  But the baby would only nap for 40 minutes at once and the fact that I was getting only four or so hours sleep every night meant I couldn’t think straight.  Terrified my dream of becoming a writer was slipping away, I had another conversation with Louise.  This time on the phone.  She must have heard the fear and desperation in my voice because unprompted, she offered more sage advice.  ‘Don’t worry, you will get to write again.  It gets easier, the baby will get easier, I promise.’  I wanted to believe her I really did, but at that moment I couldn’t see how I’d ever have enough sleep, energy or time to ever write again.  Cyril Connolly’s words rattled around my brain.  Was he right?  Was it all over?

Then, when my daughter reached six months, everything changed.  Now she was napping for two, continuous gold-dust like hours every day.  Plus, I was getting a little more unbroken sleep at night.  For the first time in half year I read back through my first draft.  The distance had given me a much needed perspective.  Now I could see what was wrong with the manuscript and how to fix it.  My life took on a new rhythm.  Mornings were spent with my daughter, at baby yoga, in the park, at playgroups, then come midday, I’d put her down for her nap and race to my desk.  I guarded this time jealously.  People might suggest coming by for lunch and I’d politely put them off until later in the day.  These hours were everything.  I found I had a new focus, a new determination, a new efficiency that I didn’t have before I became a mother.  Now, whenever Cyril Connolly popped up in my head I gave him the finger.

The rewrite took time.  My maternity leave came to an end and I still had yet to finish redrafting the book.  I went back to work and my nap-writing times were curtailed to weekends.  It took another year but I finished my novel.  And I truly believe it was so much better than it would have been had I not had that forced six month hiatus.

Now my daughter is a little older and these days she prefers her scooter or bike over the Bugaboo, but this stage brings with it a whole new set of challenges on how to combine my job and my family life and my writing.  My husband gives me the time to write every Saturday and Sunday morning from 7am 12.30 but even though he’s busy entertaining her with jigsaws or building a den in the kitchen she knows I’m upstairs and every now and again she decides she wants to be with me and do what I’m doing.  That’s when I end up in a situation like this.  Writing fairly dark prose while a four year old with a purple laptop lies opposite me, also ‘writing’.

Deborah 1

I know now that having kids makes everything harder: being able to go out to a kettle-bell class, sleeping past the hour of 6.30am, hangovers.  But these are practicalities.  If you’re clever you can find ways around them: the soft play is your friend (at least one hour of writing time right there), Netflix is your friend (yeah I let my kid watch a movie sometimes while I knock out another 300 words. Bite me), anyone who offers you free childcare for a few hours is your friend.

Ultimately, Louise was right.  So if you’re currently in the middle of those dark, delirious sleep-deprived days, up to your elbows in sudocrem and shitty nappies then have faith.  You will go back to your writing.  You will write your book.  It is entirely possible.  It does get easier.  The bugaboo in the hall is bullshit.  I promise.


Totally amazing and so honest, I love it.  Thanks Deborah for taking the time to write this piece for me and for including your beautiful photos too.  My review of My Husband’s Son will be up on the blog soon.

My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 16th June 2016 and is available in eBook format (paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

Smith & Sons (11)

deborah-oconnorDeborah O’Connor is a writer and TV producer. Born and bred in the North-East of England.  In 2010 she completed the Faber Academy novel writing course. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.  Connect with Deborah on Twitter via @deboc77


#Blogival: Adapt by Edward Freeland (Guest Post & Extract)


“Daniel O’Neal is a bus driver on a city break in London, enjoying a change  of  scenery  and  a  respite  from  work.  When  he  notices unfamiliar numbers coming up his mobile phone screen, he initially dismisses it as a technological glitch. The stresses of Christmas are on the horizon and the last thing Daniel can be bothered with is the hassle of having to get a new phone. That is, until he notices the blue light of his webcam appearing on his laptop.  On his return to work, Daniel starts seeing peculiar differences in people, and becomes increasingly convinced that his colleagues are whispering  and  laughing  about  him  behind  his  back.  Soon  Daniel’s  suspicions  monopolise  his  every  waking thought, persuading him that he is under attack from an unknown evil and being turned into an unwitting pawn in someone else’s cyber game.

As  Daniel’s  mind  continues  to  fracture  from  reality,  he  makes  an  appointment with  a  psychiatrist, Dr. Cribson. However, Daniel realises too late that he has walked into an even more dangerous trap, as the good doctor starts to manipulate Daniel, trapping his mind in a deadly virtual world. As the sinister plot plays out, Daniel’s family and loved ones become ensnared by his cyber nightmare, which has Dr. Cribson and the media at its heart. Teetering on the precipice of insanity, Daniel must prove the presence of his enemy – unless It really is all in his mind after all?

Adapt is the engrossing debut novel from Edward Freeland which tackles the subject of the media’s overwhelming influence on the individual and on modern day society. Through his unnerving narrative, Freeland asserts the belief that one of mankind’s primal instincts is collectivisation; in this case, that of a group coming together to target one,  weaker,  individual  and  essentially  evolving  into  a  mob  mentality. Adapt explores  the  real  horror  of anonymous’ bullying which has become so prevalent in our digital society, especially that through social media.  Freeland  highlights  the  fragility  of  our  personal  security  online,  revealing  just  how  simple  it  is  to  hack  into  a strangers  private  information  through  any  of  their  personal  electronic  devices.  Chilling  and  thought-provoking,  Adapt will entertain and enlighten, leaving readers guessing at the truth until the very last page.

Welcome to my second #blogival stop of the month.  Today I am thrilled to be hosting an extract from the cyber thriller Adapt, along with a guest post from the author, Edward Freeland.  Here’s the extract:

Ok, I’m going to access your profile. The watcher opened a fourth window, this time signing in to Life’s Journal. The name he used, Daniel O’Neal. At first glance it was like any other profile, videos and photos filled the pages. Scrolling down there were copious amounts of video footage and phone conversations. Stills of text messages and emails. Some videos were double windows, one of Daniel on camera, the other, simultaneously imaging his desktop. You can’t even pick your nose without me uploading it slave. Months of work and your still oblivious. You have a breakdown, I’m here. You have an argument, I’m here. You watch porn, I’m here. You laugh, I’m here. You cry, I’m here.

The watcher glanced at the amount of views his site attracts. It’s not only me here with you slave. Thousands watch you, criticise you, judge you, laugh at you. Many despise you. They are not used to seeing someone all day and night. They have never witnessed someone breaking down. Its ugly, they think you’re ugly. I’ve seen it before with other slave’s but never one that brings my website so much traffic so many views. More and more and you have no idea. I don’t hate you Slave. You bring me traffic, views, friends, comments. Nothing in it for you but there is for me. They love the way I edit your videos, they think you are a joke. Now I edit them in new ways. The watcher laughed to himself. He gulped back his beer. Wiping beer away from his chin, stubble scratching at the back of his hand he thought of how clever he was. Remembering an article in which he read that people who use Remote Administration Tools were not real hackers, Rubbish. I’ve infected many computers with this software unbeknown to the Slave. Dating sites are the best way. Full of desperate, naïve, hopeful, trusting people.Easily fooled by a pretty picture. I use the same software used to spy on a spy, Blackshades. The Syrian regime used the same tool on an informant. The spy’s phone was infected and he had no idea.

So there you have it.  What do you think?  Intrigued enough to want to read the rest of the book?

I always find it fascinating to discover what books other people read, and of course love.  If I asked you to name your top five books now, would you be able to do it?  Maybe you could recall one or two, those that you always turn to when asked the question…but what about the remaining three or four?  Here are some of Edward Freeland’s favourites:

I don’t have a particular favourite book that I have read but five that come to mind are;

34f5a0_b9b1011f8cbb4eb383dd1e0c3012ba35.jpgLord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien:  I read this in the 90’s as I read the Hobbit first and wanted to know more about this extensive universe.  It was a challenge to the imagination trying to picture all that is described but I loved the story and the characters. It’s wonderful fantasy with a focus on friendship.


Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell:  I read this a few years ago as it is a book on many must read lists I thought I would finally read it.  It’s such a fantastic story and even more so when you think of the time it was written.  I think Adapt has an Orwellian outlook of being closely watched whilst having an imposing power taking control.

51iROAKTByLA Storm of Swords by George RR Martin: I loved this.  It’s the third book in the series.  I had it recommended to me but didn’t read it until I had watched up to the second series of the television adaptation, which meant any description of the characters was lost as I could only picture the cast.  With so many characters it may have been an aid.  Dragons, banner men, White walkers and more descriptions of food than you will find in any other book.

51vTKXomEuL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku:  I read a lot of factual books, probably more so than fiction and this was a blend of the two, of how science fiction could and has led to science reality.  It delves in to cosmological ideas and how human kind can progress.  Imagining endless parallel worlds and Type three civilisations stretches the mind.  Kaku takes the maths and puts it in to English. 

71h+o-O8wwL._UX250_Atom by Jim Al-Kalili:  Again this is another factual book, but one of my favourites.  Its historical and paves through the human condition as much as it’s scientific.  It explores the trials and tribulations of the scientists in the race to discover and explain the Atom.  And what a thrilling race as these scientists unravel something proposed by a Greek philosopher two thousand years ago.

Great choices Edward, thank you for sharing them.  I have the feeling that your choice of reading material has influenced your writing.  Particularly, as you say, with the inclusion of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

Adapt by Edward Freeland was published in the UK by Clink Street Publishing on 4th February 2015 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

Smith & Sons (11)

My name is Edward Freeland, I grew up in London, but have lived in Norfolk for the past few years.  I have worked many different jobs.  I have always had a keen interest in history, and the underlying factors in human behavior has always fascinated me, as the same patterns occur through ancient, medieval and modern history. Science also intrigues me, so, in 2009 I completed two introductory, Open University short courses in quantum physics and astronomy.  These fueled my already keen (thanks to a childhood watching the night sky with my family) desire to understand why we are here, and what the purpose of our reality is.  Realising that these answers will most surely never be answered in my lifetime, I now see every individual person’s reality as something miraculous, and that their purpose, is what they make it, and how others enrich it.  I began writing in 2013, with the desire to explore some of these life themes that I find so engaging.  I completed Adapt later that year, the first novel I have attempted, and have a new appreciation for the difficulty of knitting words together to create a piece of literature.  My previous experience of writing, was penning songs in my teenage years.  I find inspiration in different forms and areas of life, but music was certainly a mainstay during the writing process, particularly in breaks from the pen and paper.

Blogival Calendar