Guest Post: Linda Huber (Psychological Thriller author) #damppebblesTakeOver

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome another fabulous author to damppebbles today.  There are certain names that as soon as you see them on amazon, you sit up and you take notice.  That is definitely the case when it comes to Linda Huber.  Linda is the author of four novels; The Paradise Trees (currently part of the Kindle Summer Sale on Amazon UK and is 99p until the end of August), The Cold Cold Sea, The Attic Room and her latest release, Chosen Child.  Here is the blurb for Chosen Child:

CHOSEN CHILD EBOOK COVER COMPLETE.jpg

“A disappearance. A sudden death. A betrayal of the worst kind.

Ella longs for a child of her own, but a gruesome find during an adoption process deepens the cracks in her marriage. A family visit starts off a horrifying chain of events, and Ella can only hope she won’t lose the person she loves most of all.

Amanda is expecting her second child when her husband vanishes. She is tortured by thoughts of violence and loss, but nothing prepares her for the shocking conclusion to the police investigation.

And in the middle of it all, a little girl is looking for a home of her own with a ‘forever’ mummy and daddy…”

If you would like to view the YouTube trailer for Chosen Child, please click here:  https://youtu.be/vEVbY7H0Cko

Chosen Child is only 99p from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th July on Amazon UK/US/Eurozones.  Make sure you get a copy!

Linda has very kindly offered to share her book memories with us today.  I have to say that I can’t remember what I was reading a couple of months ago, let alone what I read as a child!

(Book) Memories…

What’s the first book you remember reading?

My first book memory is a Noddy book. I must have been three or four, and I was lying on the floor, squeezed into the space between my mum’s chair and the wall, with this Noddy book – and in the picture, Noddy was crying. (Something had happened to his car…) My mum laughed at me – I don’t remember what she said, but the gist was, I was an odd child to enjoy a picture of poor Noddy crying.

Looking back now (hindsight is a wonderful thing), I know why I ‘liked’ this picture. It was the emotion. Noddy’s car was broken and he was crying, and I could empathise with that – most kids my age cried when things got broken. And although I couldn’t read the story, I could ‘read’ the pictures. A picture paints a thousand words, they say. I guess this is why so many people cry over films, too. In a film, the emotion is right in front of you, often with music to strengthen it.

But I think books are even better. If you can lose yourself in a book, you can imagine a whole new world. It’s gobsmacking to think that every single person who reads a book will have their own mental picture of the characters and the setting, and all these pictures will be different. A reader can get right into the soul of well-written characters, feel what they’re feeling, and it doesn’t matter if that reader is four, fourteen or forty-plus.

As an older child, I devoured Noel Streatfield’s books. Her characters jump off the pages. In my head I would wander through London with Polly, Petrova and Posy Fossil (Ballet Shoes), and run along an Irish beach with the children in The Growing Summer.

One book from my teenage years stands out – A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes. It was a school reader one year. A family of children are en route from Jamaica to England when they land in a pirate ship. Most of what happens is seen through the eyes of ten-year-old Emily, and it’s simply amazing writing – you can feel Emily’s wonder at the world, her non-comprehension of the adults’ actions, her growing self-awareness. The ending is one of the most shocking I’ve ever read – and yet it isn’t an ‘unhappy end’.

Nowadays I’m into crime fiction, and there are so many great writers in this genre I wouldn’t know where to start talking about favourites. But we’ll give an honourable mention to the late great Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. She was expert at making her readers feel with the characters, even when her characters weren’t likeable people.

The biggest compliment I’ve ever received for my books was – ‘You made me cry!’ Wow. Someone cared enough about my paper people to cry when it all came right. So then I cried because they’d cried; it was all very emotional… And in the same way, it’s the emotion that makes me remember that picture of poor Noddy crying, even after all these years. Or maybe my mum was right and I was just an odd child…

***

Thank you so much Linda.  I still haven’t managed to remember the first book I read.  There are vague memories of Topsy and  Tim, then the Worst Witch when I was approaching my teens but that’s about all I can remember!  How about you?  Can you remember the first book you read?  Let us know in the comments.

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Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.

Linda’s books are psychological thrillers. The Paradise Trees (2013) was inspired by her father-in-law’s struggle with dementia, and she started writing The Cold Cold Sea (2014) after learning that a child in her extended family drowned in the 1940s, aged eleven. The Attic Room (2015) begins in one of her most-loved places, the Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland, and the idea for her latest book Chosen Child came during a chance conversation at a wedding.

Linda’s amazon.co.uk author page | Linda’s amazon.com author page | Linda’s Facebook author page | Linda’s website | Linda’s blog | Linda on Twitter (@LindaHuber19)

 

Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne)

513JYu379WL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_“Sophie Duguet is losing her grip. Haunted by visions from her past, of her loving husband, who committed suicide after a car accident.

One morning she wakes to find Leo, the child in her care, strangled in his bed by Sophie’s own shoelaces. She can remember nothing of the night before. Could she really have killed him? She flees in panic, but this only cements her guilt in the eyes of the law.

Not long afterwards it happens again – she wakes with blood on her hands, with no memory of the murder committed. Just what is it that comes over Sophie when she sleeps? And what else might she be capable of?

Wanted by the police, and desperate to change her identity, Sophie decides to find a man to marry. To have and to hold. For better or for worse. Till death do them part . . .”

I am a huge fan of Pierre Lemaitre’s Commandant Camille Verhœven trilogy so this standalone book was a ‘must read’ for me.  I was a little apprehensive as I wanted it to be just as good as the trilogy.  I wasn’t disappointed, it was a great read.

Sophie has lost everything; her husband, her job, her chance at motherhood…and now she is losing her mind.  She has black outs; nothing all that unusual there.  But when Sophie wakes up from her black outs, there is always a body nearby and all of the evidence points to Sophie as the killer.  So she comes up with the only plan that makes sense, and that is to run.  Sophie never spends too long in one place, taking cash in hand jobs and doing unthinkable things.  Before long she realises that she needs to kill off Sophie Duguet and start a new life; a new birth certificate and a married name, that’s what she needs.  Or is it…?

This is a complex story with heart stopping twists and turns all over the place.  You think you can see where the plot is going but then it flips itself over, taking you completely by surprise.  It’s brilliantly written (as I have come to expect from this author) with short, punchy sentences and no messing around.  My initial apprehension didn’t last long as I was drawn into the story and the familiar style of Lemaitre.

The characters are brilliantly drawn, full of intensity and paranoia with an extra handful of creepy for your reading pleasure!  I did eventually like Sophie but it was a hard slog.  There are very few characters to like but that is a good thing, as it’s a dark story about being in the worst place possible.  The tale of one woman’s slow destruction and the external influences that conspire to create such a tragic state.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I found it hard to put this book down and I’m still thinking about it several days later.  That, to me, is the sign of a great read.  Very compelling, I defy you to not be drawn in to Sophie’s tale.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to MacLehose Press, the author and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Blood Wedding in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) was published in the UK by MacLehose Press on 7th July 2016 and is currently available in hardback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Pierre Lemaitre is a French novelist and screenwriter.

Awards: Prix du premier roman du Festival de Cognac 2006 pour Travail soigné – Prix Le Point du polar européen pour Cadres Noirs – Meilleur polar francophone 2009 au Salon de Montigny pour Robe de marié

 

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Frank Wynne was born in 1962 and grew up in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. His father – with T R Henn and others – was among the founding members of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo in 1959, and was President of the school until his death. Through the Summer School, Wynne was introduced to literary figures (whose lectures he recorded with a tape recorder), among them Richard Ellmann and Seamus Heaney

In 1984 he moved to Paris, where he stayed for three years. He moved to London in 1987, at first managing a small French bookshop in Kensington, which sold, among other things, graphic novels. Wynne became involved in the bandes dessinées movement in London and was hired to work on Revolver. From there he moved to Crisis before becoming managing editor of Deadline magazine, home of Tank Girl.

After the demise of Deadline in 1994-5, in part through the badly received film version of Tank Girl, he worked for a time as editorial director of AOL UK.
“I was employee number seven in AOL UK. I went from being the youngest person in every company I had worked for to being the second-oldest person in AOL.”
After he left AOL, he began translating the works of Michel Houellebecq. He now dedicates his time fully to writing and translations.

He describes himself as being of “no fixed abode”, having lived and travelled widely in Central and South America, the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkey, Ireland and the UK.
He has worked as a literary translator for many years translating the novels of Michel Houellebecq. He jointly won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with Houellebecq for Atomised, his translation of Les Particules élémentaires. He has subsequently translated Houellebecq’s novels Platform and Lanzarote, together with novels by Pierre Mérot, Frédéric Beigbeder and the late Ivoirian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma.

His translation of Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, a novel set in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks, won the 2005 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He also won the 2008 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for his translations of Beigbeder’s Holiday in a Coma and Love Lasts Three Years.

Wynne also translated a number of French bandes dessinées, including graphic novels by Enki Bilal, Lorenzo Mattotti, Max Cabanes and Édika. His first non-fiction book, I Was Vermeer, a biography of Han van Meegeren was published by Bloomsbury in August 2006. Between 1938 and 1944 van Meegeren forged seven paintings, passing them off as lost masterpieces by Vermeer. The works were authenticated by some of the finest art critics in Europe, among them Abraham Bredius, who acclaimed Van Meegeren’s forgery The Supper at Emmaus as “one of – I would go so far as to say * the* masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer of Delft”. Wynne’s biography, I was Vermeer has been serialised as the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week” (read by Anton Lesser) for August 7–12, 2006.

Guest Post: J A Schneider (author of Fear Dreams) #damppebblesTakeOver

Today I have the very lovely J A Schneider joining me on damppebbles.  J A (Joyce) is hugely supportive of my book reviews so I was thrilled when she wanted to write something for the blog.

J A Schneider is a psychological thriller writer but that’s not how she started out (she will tell you more about that in a moment).  Here is the blurb for her psychological thriller FEAR DREAMS:

unnamed“Liddy Barron, an artist, was injured in a hit-and-run accident that left her with recurring nightmares, partial amnesia, and an increasing obsession in the disappearance of a coed named Sasha Perry. Was Sasha murdered? Insecure and nervous, Liddy’s turmoil grows as she begins seeing ghostly images. Her husband Paul tries to help but suspects it’s just her imagination…while intuitive Detective Kerri Blasco, also obsessed with young Sasha’s disappearance, senses that Liddy may have a key to solving the case, and tries to unravel the shocking truth of what really haunts her.”

 

I can’t wait to read this one and I love that cover.  Feels quite menacing and claustrophobic.  Definitely one for the TBR!

Without further ado, here is J A Schneider’s guest post…

To what extent is writing self-analysis?

It took me a few bleeping years to discover this…and myself. My first six books were medical thrillers in which the female & male protagonist were maybe too perfect (It’s the EMBRYO series, here’s the 3rd: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IGEIAB8/ref=series_rw_dp_sw) They didn’t click, I haven’t promoted them, have left the series….

…but spent 3 1/2 years writing it before something finally clicked but I was unaware I was doing it.  What emerged starting last December was my first psychological thriller, FEAR DREAMS, published last March 28. It features two female protagonists: a nervous, insecure artist (that’s me), & a strong, determined, insightful detective named Kerri Blasco – but she’s me too!! The two parts of me – does that sound crazy? Maybe not.

So again…is writing – after maybe years of doing it wrong – self analysis? Self discovery better than any shrink could discover? Maybe some people find their voice right away. I didn’t.

Kerri Blasco figures strongly in the thriller I’m writing now (will finish in a month). And Kerri, again, is helping a woman both desperate and vulnerable.

***

Thank you Joyce for this insightful post and the interesting question it raises.  Do you have to know yourself before you can truly know your characters? What do you think? Hmm…one for the authors reading this post to ponder on. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek. Once a Liberal Arts major (French Literature), she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and human psychology. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means that there’ll be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

Connect with Joyce:
Website: http://jaschneiderauthor.net
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5832782.J_A_Schneider
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoyceSchneider1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joyce.schneider.142?fref=ts

Guest Post: Mary-Jane Riley (author of the Alex Devlin series) #damppebblesTakeOver

Welcome to another wonderful #damppebblesTakeOver post (I’m rather glad my wrist surgery was cancelled allowing me to host these wonderful posts!).

I am delighted to have Mary-Jane Riley join me today.  Mary-Jane is the very talented writer of the Alex Devlin crime series.  Book one, The Bad Things, was released last year with book two, After She Fell, released in April this year in eBook format.  The paperback will be published tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow!  To whet your appetite here is the blurb:

after she fell new.jpg“A darkly compelling psychological thriller, full of twists and turns, perfect for fans of AFTER ANNA and THE GOOD GIRL.

There are so many ways to fall…

Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.

When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.

Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…”

Wow, another excellent series to add to my wishlist.  If only I could read faster and didn’t need a good 8 hours sleep every night!

So without further ado, here is Mary-Jane’s guest post exclusively for #damppebblesTakeOver:

I had a text from one of my brothers the other day (he’s one of three to whom I dedicated AFTER SHE FELL) asking me what practical steps I take after I get the germ of an idea. Do I use post-it notes, a notebook? Do I write chapter headings, use mind maps, the Snowflake method (eh?). The question made me stop and think. What do I do?

Okay, so let’s look at AFTER SHE FELL. I remember thinking I wanted to write ‘something’ set in a boarding school, and I wanted a pupil to fall over a cliff. (Where’s the body? is my agent’s mantra). I’d recently been to Happisburgh (pronounced Hazeborough if you’re interested) on the North Norfolk coast. Erosion has caused village houses and roads to fall into the sea over the years, and one road certainly comes to an abrupt end. That, I thought at the time, was from where Elena was going to fall.

Elena? The name just popped into my head.

My agent had already suggested I send Alex Devlin (my journalist protagonist from my first novel, THE BAD THINGS) somewhere else so that ‘Sole Bay didn’t get like Midsomer’. Right. Alex would look into Elena’s death.

Naturally I bought a new notebook, a new pen, and lots of different-coloured post-it notes. And index cards. And a pad of ‘To Do’ lists. Oh, and a beautiful cream-with-gold-spots pencil case (complete with ruler and pencil sharpener). And some notecards with envelopes.

I had to answer various questions before I could begin writing. The main one being, why would Alex be going to investigate a death at a school? There had to be a pressing reason. Cue me writing in my notebook over and over and over again: ‘Why is Alex in Hallow’s Edge (my new name for Happisburgh)? I literally filled a page with the question.

Still didn’t know.

So I went for long walks and bored my dog and my husband with the question until I eventually worked it out, and began to write in earnest. First two or three pages in my notebook, before transferring them to computer and carrying on. I wrote some of Alex’s story, and when I got stuck, wrote Elena’s story. (Great tip – have two timelines at the same time… I’m now thinking about having two books on the go at once…hmmm..). About 20,000 words in I had to stop and take stock. Look at the characters, see where they were, how they related to each other. Whether the plot hung together. Whether there was any plot.

No chapter headings, no post-it notes. Did try writing about each character on an index card. Didn’t work. Just more rambling in the notebook. I tried a mind map – you know, writing down a significant word and making connections with others. I ran out of ideas after a dozen. Resolved to look up the Snowflake method.

So I wrote more of Elena’s story and thought I would put it in the present tense to make her sound more immediate (more difficult than you think!). I also decided to head the chapters with a countdown towards her death to add more tension. (Chapter headings, yesss!).

After more ups and downs, writing the same sentence over and over in my notebook again and going on lots of long walks, I finally wrote ‘The End” and took it to my local place to print (have you ever tried to print out a manuscript with the last post looming? Oh man, that was stressful. Thank goodness it’s mostly done by email these days, but I like to edit on a hard copy). And then, POST-IT NOTES!!!! Okay, okay, so not in any deep way, like different colours for characters and emotions and plotlines and scenes and locations, but I did use pink ones to stick at the beginning of the Elena chapters, and yellow for Alex chapters to see if they were at the right points in the book.

So. There we have it. Meanderings in a notebook, chapter headings, a minor mind map and post-it notes. That’s how I rock.

And I still have to look up the Snowflake method.

***

Thank you so much Mary-Jane.  It’s always fascinating to discover how an author discovers their story.  I particularly like your confession of a stationery addiction (and the mention of post it notes gave me small palpitations, I LOVE post it notes!).  Thank you.

Links for the Books:
The Bad Things via amazon.co.uk | The Bad Things via amazon.com
After She Fell via amazon.co.uk | After She Fell via amazon.com

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mary-jane riley

Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. AFTER SHE FELL is her second crime thriller. Her first, THE BAD THINGS, was an Amazon Kindle top 40 seller in the UK and US.

Connect with Mary-Jane via Social Media:
Mary-Jane’s author page on Facebook | connect with Mary-Jane on Twitter | Mary-Jane on Instagram |

Guest Post: J J Marsh (author of the Beatrice Stubbs series) #damppebblesTakeOver

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to another #damppebblesTakeOver post.  Today my guest is J J (Jill) Marsh who writes the Beatrice Stubbs series of European Crime Beatrice Stubbs Box Set One_KINDLE KOBO
Mysteries.  I have to be honest and say that until recently I hadn’t heard of Beatrice Stubbs, nor was I aware that European Crime is a separate sub-genre.  To make up for being so completely clueless I have added Jill’s entire series (that’s very nearly six books) to my wishlist.  I look forward to reading them as (you may know) I have a penchant for crime novels set in exotic locations.

Jill is currently writing her sixth Beatrice Stubbs novel which she will tell you about shortly.  In the meantime, here is the blurb for Human Rites which is book 5 in the series:

Human Rites Cover MEDIUM WEB“Adrian Harvey, London wine merchant, has lost the Christmas spirit. Someone is stalking him, stealing his post and vandalising his shop. When the police question him after an anonymous tip-off, he’s more than anxious. He’s scared. And who is that nun? Long time neighbour and friend DI Beatrice Stubbs is dispatched to Germany to investigate a series of apparently related art thefts, so Adrian seizes the chance to flee the city. He follows her to Hamburg to do some Christmas shopping and visit his ex. Yet the stalker is still on his heels. While Beatrice is on the trail of a violent gang of mercenary thieves, Adrian runs from danger to the remote island of Sylt. But danger follows and Adrian has run too far. From the icy streets of Hamburg, to the canals of Amsterdam, and the snowswept beaches of Sylt, Beatrice and Adrian discover how a virtue taken to extremes can lead to deadly sin.”

Yup, now you can see why I’m adding this series to my wishlist!

As I am sure you are aware on 23rd June 2016 the UK held a referendum to determine whether it would remain a part of the European Union.  Over 30 million people turned out to vote with 52% voting to leave the EU.  To date we don’t know what to expect and how our lives will change.  Some people however, knew immediately.  J J Marsh was one of those people:

J J Marsh and the Brexit Effect

I’m almost 20,000 words into Lone Wolf, the sixth novel in my European crime series.
But on Friday 23 June, everything changed.
In addition to all the other (rather more significant) implications of the Brexit vote, this book is no longer viable.

The Beatrice Stubbs books so far have shared a common element – the setting as a character in its own right. My main character – the eponymous Beatrice Stubbs – has tracked a serial killer in Zurich, Switzerland; caught smugglers off the coast of Wales; uncovered wine fraud in the Rioja country of Spain; investigated murder on a cruise ship in the Greek islands and pursued organised art theft in wintry Germany. The books immerse the reader in the place: the food and drink, scents and scenery, and the essence of ‘otherness’ which makes a location special.

 Lone Wolf was intended to be a tip of the hat to Agatha Christie and the classic murder mystery. A group of people gather in an English country house and someone dies an untimely death. Everyone is under suspicion.

But my twist was that the gathering is a convention of detectives from all over the European Union, aiming to share ideas and practice. So instead of Poirot arriving at a house full of suspects, 27 detectives have to find out which one of them killed the 28th.
After Brexit, the only way that will work is if I go for bitter irony.

In addition, this book was due out in November. No one has any idea where we will be at that time. Will there be a new Prime Minister? Will s/he have triggered Article 50 and begun the divorce process? Whatever the circumstances, it is impossible for a convention of European police officers not to discuss the political events affecting all of them. This becomes even more pertinent if they are in Britain.

There’s one other reason I’m scrapping the Devonshire country house as my setting and relocating the whole story to Portugal. One of the more emotional arguments posed by the Leave campaign was the notion of returning to ‘the good old days’, a rose-tinted 1950s Britain, where old ladies ride bicycles and apple-cheeked children play on the village green.

Whereas the reality of what this referendum has created is a deeply divided society in which the idea of ‘little England’ leaves more of a sour taste than sweet nostalgia.

My books are written to allow the reader to escape reality, to get swept up in a story, in a place, in the characters and forget what’s on the news. In the current climate, my story idea is simply too close to home.

So Beatrice Stubbs of Scotland Yard is packing her plot, characters and premise to get on a flight to Porto. And I have got a lot of work to do. It means publication day will be pushed back to next year, but on the bright side, just think of all that research.

Glass of port, anyone?

***

Thank you so much for this post Jill.  My heart goes out to you, all that hard work and then the outcome of the referendum knocks you sideways.  No matter where it is set or what changes have to be made, it sounds a wonderful plot.

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jjmarsh

As a child, Jill read so obsessively she got kicked out of the school library. But her passion for words continued. She graduated in English Literature and Theatre Studies from the University of Wales and set up a theatre company.

Since then, as an actor, director, teacher, writer and journalist, she’s worked in fifteen countries. She learnt something from each one.

Now, with her husband and three dogs, Jill lives in Switzerland, a country with four languages and mountains of new words.

She works as a language trainer all over Europe, collaborates with Nuance Words and Triskele Books, and contributes regularly to Words with JAM magazine. But most of the time, she writes. And reads.

Connect with Jill via Twitter @JJMarsh1, her website or via Facebook.  To buy Jill’s books check out her Amazon author page.

Beneath The Surface by Heidi Perks

41rHtp6Oe6L._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_“I don’t know where you are…

I don’t know what I’ve done…

Teenager Abigail Ryder is devastated when she gets home from school to find her family gone. Nothing makes sense. Things are missing from the house and her stepsisters’ room is completely empty. But the police think she’s trouble, and when grandmother Eleanor tells her to forget them all and move on, there’s no choice other than face the future – alone.

Fourteen years on, Abi and Adam are a happy couple on the verge of parenthood. But when the past comes back to haunt Abi, the only way forward is to go back and uncover the truth – and reveal the dreadful secrets a mother has been hiding all these years.”

I had heard so many great things about this book that I jumped at the chance to read it.  I can see why people absolutely love it, but I’m afraid I didn’t so much.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great read and I did enjoy it.  It was just missing something for me (when I work out what ‘something’ is I’ll let you know).  I’m still umming and ahhing over my star rating, hopefully I can decide before I reach the end of this review!

Abigail, a sulky teenager, returns home one day after school to find her mother and twin sisters have packed up and left.  Where?  She has no idea.  Luckily her grandmother, Eleanor, is on hand to explain the situation to the police and calm everything down.  She hands Abi a wodge of cash and tells her to get on with her life which Abi does with the aplomb of a teenager; drink, drugs, nightclubs.

Before long Abigail has moved on with her life, but something is missing.  She makes a disastrous decision which leaves her painfully alone.  Deep down she knows what she needs to do, and that’s find her twin sisters.  Fourteen years have passed but she knows it won’t be easy.  Secrets and lies rule her family, they are interwoven into the very heart of it.  She couldn’t find them then, does she have any hope of finding them now…?

The story is told from three perspectives; Abigail, her mother Kathryn and the twins, Hannah and Lauren.  I couldn’t stand Kathryn.  It’s been a while since one character in a book made me feel such repulsion and disgust.  Granted, there were other things going on with her but aaarrggghh…I wanted to shake her.  The obvious villain, Eleanor, didn’t register anywhere near Kathryn on my ‘I don’t like this character’ scale *shudder*.  Abigail’s story is told in the form of letters to her husband, Adam.  I found this a clever way of bringing further layers into this dark story.

Abigail and the girls are well written and I did warm to all three; maybe less towards Lauren but I think that is what Heidi Perks would want.  I loved Abigail’s feistyness, particularly during one scene towards the end of the book (can’t say anymore without spoilers).  I was cheering Abi on and was incredibly pleased when the scene ended the way it did.

I’m afraid to say I did find Beneath The Surface a little obvious in places.  Saying that, I still enjoyed the book – I just gave myself a little pat on the back for spotting what was coming!  The story flows well and I was engaged throughout.  It’s well written and I liked Heidi Perks’ style.  I would definitely read more of Heidi’s work.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, but for me it lacked pizzazz.  I think I wanted a little more oomph but can’t begin to tell you how or where that oomph needed to be!  After some intense pondering I have come to the conclusion that Beneath The Surface and I just weren’t a good match.  It’s a great book, it just wasn’t for me.

Three and a half out of five stars.

Many thanks to Anna at Red Door Publishing for providing me with a copy of Beneath The Surface in exchange for an honest review.

Beneath The Surface by Heidi Perks was published in the UK by Red Door Publishing on 24th March 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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wgf_NGsm_400x400Heidi Perks was born in October 1973 in Bournemouth. She loved writing as a child, and spent many hours making up stories, poems and even magazines that she would sell to her family for 20p.

 She graduated from Bournemouth University in 1997 with a BA (Hons) in Retail Management, and then moved to London to start a career in marketing. But it wouldn’t be long before she moved back to the south coast again, where her career developed further.

 In 2009 her daughter, Bethany, was born, followed two years later by a son, Joseph. Thrown into the new world of motherhood Heidi decided to make some changes to her life. She left her job and in 2012 took pen to paper and starting writing a novel based on an idea she had on holiday six months earlier.

 The following year her application for a place on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative online Novel Writing Course was accepted. Heidi became one of fifteen writers who were all coming together in an online space with the same dream: to improve their writing and their novels. With the benefit of experienced authors and agents to hand Heidi decided to make the most of the opportunity by starting a new book. And so the first chapters of Beneath The Surface were born.

 With the guidance of agent Sheila Crowley, and the help and support of Clare Christian and Heather Boisseau of Red Door publishing, Heidi is finally realising her dream of seeing her first book in print. Beneath The Surface is due out 24 March 2016.

 Heidi is now writing her next novel.

Connect with Heidi on Twitter @heidiperks1 or visit her website.

Guest Post: Tracey Sinclair (author of the Cassandra Bick Chronicles) #damppebblesTakeOver

So here’s the thing, I was due to have wrist surgery at some point during July.  In preparation for my surgery and post-op recovery I had kept most of the month free of blog tours and other promotional bits and bobs; it was going to be quiet month. However, my surgery was cancelled so I’ve been left with a fairly empty blog, which is a very sad thing indeed!

After pondering on it for a few days I decided that I wanted to fill damppebbles during July with author guest posts.  Mainly from crime writers but I’m not scared of stepping out of my comfort zone into other genres every now and then!

With that in mind, I am delighted to welcome Tracey Sinclair to damppebbles today.  Tracey is a fantasy writer and the author of the Cassandra Bick Chronicles.  Book 3 in the series, Angel Falls, was published earlier this year and is available as an eBook.  Here’s the blurb…

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00027]“It isn’t easy to surprise Cassandra Bick. When you run a human-vampire dating agency, your colleague is a witch who is engaged to a shifter and your business partner is one of London’s most powerful (and sexiest) vampires, there’s no such thing as a normal day at the office.

But when a mysterious Dark Dates client brings a dire warning of a new threat to the city’s supernatural community, Cass and her friends realise they are up against their deadliest foe yet – and that this time, the danger is far closer to home than they could ever have imagined.

Sexy, snarky and with more bite than a crypt full of vampires, Angel Falls is the latest in the Dark Dates: Cassandra Bick series.”

Not my usual genre but the Cassandra Bick Chronicles sound fantastic!  Tracey has very kindly provided me with a review copy of  Dark Dates (book one of the series) which I will be reviewing on damppebbles in due course.

Over to you Tracey…

When genres collide… crime meets fantasy fiction by Tracey Sinclair

I’m a huge fan of genre fiction, and it’s always been one of my pet peeves when it’s dismissed as ‘not serious’ or not as high quality as ‘literary’ fiction (this was true even before I wrote genre fiction myself, honest!) I’m also fond of a series, which is something genre fiction specialises in, as they often focus on strong storylines and interesting recurring characters, rather than the ‘one big idea’ of a standalone literary novel. My favourite genres are crime and paranormal/urban fantasy, and I’ve realised they often have more in common than you’d think…

Charlie Huston – Joe Pitt casebooks
Vampire fiction has become synonymous with YA romance thanks to the Twilight phenomena. But Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt has more shared DNA with the hardboiled heroes of Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard than he does with Edward Cullen. Best described as pulp noir, these books are gory, gritty stories set in a New York that is instantly recognisable, despite having a thriving vampire population. Not for the faint-hearted, they don’t shy away from modern realities (Aids, racial divisions, economic inequality) and are utterly compelling and even ultimately romantic (after all, Pitt does it all for the love of a dame).

John Connolly – Charlie Parker series
Although these tend to be categorised as crime, they actually have a strong supernatural element, which only becomes more pronounced as the series goes on. They are on one level just exceptionally well-written (although very dark) thrillers, and much of the ‘otherworldliness’ is open to question: are there eternal evil forces at work, or is that just the delusion of criminals seeking justification for their wrongdoings? But as the books build into a satisfying arc, you realise that there is something bigger at play, even while you can’t quite figure out Parker’s role in it.

Jim Butcher – Harry Dresden files
Yes, the other wizard called Harry. One of the most consistently enjoyable urban fantasy series around, these start off basically as ‘wizard detective’ novels, as Dresden works with the police to solve crimes that may or may not have a supernatural element. In some ways he’s the archetypal PI – smart mouthed, cocky, too stubborn for his own good and with a weakness for a damsel in distress. As the series goes on, the storylines become more fantasy-heavy, as Dresden’s world opens up to everything from reanimated corpses to evil fairies, but by then you’re too hooked to care.

Terry Pratchett – the Men at Arms books (Discworld series)
Lots of people dismiss Pratchett out of hand – he writes about trolls and witches! Lots of people are wrong. Because while the first couple of books in his best-selling Discworld series have dated badly, the collection as a whole offers one of the most complete and coherent fictional universes, and he uses the oft-mocked (sometimes, admittedly, by Pratchett himself) tropes of fantasy to draw parallels to our own world, tackling everything from religious extremism to people trafficking to rampant capitalism. It may be stretching to call them urban fantasy (although they are mostly set in a city, so maybe not), but his books featuring the Night Watch are some of his best, following copper Samuel Vimes’ progress from disillusioned Watch commander with a fondness for the bottle, to (reluctantly) upstanding community leader who only occasionally gets to kick criminals’ doors in. On the way it has an awful lot of fun with all of the clichés of crime and thriller stories, from Columbo-style faux-bumbling questioning (‘Just one more thing…’) to the rebel cop being thrown off a case, all set against the background of an organic, evolving cityscape. Essential reading.

***

Thank you Tracey for this fascinating post.  I have read a number of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series and have always enjoyed them.  As for Terry Pratchett, I devoured his books during my teens and they still have a special place in my heart.  My parents will, to this day, tell you about the holiday we took where I all I did was read Discworld novels (I’m not sure what else there is to do on holiday other than read….).

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Author image.JPGTracey Sinclair is an author, writer and editor who lives in Brighton. She’s a massive geek and lover of all things supernatural (and, indeed, Supernatural) and who probably spends way too much of her time on Netflix. She writes for a range of magazines and websites and her latest books are the Dark Dates series – which do indeed owe quite a lot to crime novels. The most recent of these are Angel Falls and A Vampire in New York and Other Stories.

 Buy Angel Falls via amazon.co.uk

Buy A Vampire in New York and Other Stories from amazon.co.uk

Connect with Tracey on Twitter @Thriftygal

 

*Blog Tour: Review* Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

51-x44K35eL“When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead.

The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again.”

I’m thrilled to be today’s stop on the Outside Looking In blog tour.  In true damppebbles style, this is the first DCI Matilda Darke book I have read despite it being the second book in the series (at least I’m not too late to the party with this one!).  And oh my gosh, I love Matilda Darke.  And I love Michael Wood’s style.  Totally readable and very engrossing.

The bodies of a couple are discovered in their car following what looks like a massacre.  He is dead, beyond resuscitating and she is barely hanging onto life.  DCI Matilda Darke is put on the case and soon discovers the victims are Kevin Hardaker and Lois Craven who were having a secret affair for over a year.  But why would someone kill these two fairly normal people, and why with such vengeance and hatred?  Suffering from negative publicity and her own demons, can Matilda discover who killed the couple and why, before anyone else is hurt…?

I should start by saying that DCI Darke has made it onto the illustrious damppebbles #girlcrush list.  I LOVE her.  She’s so wonderfully normal, the kind of person I’d like to pop down to Costa with for a coffee (I would say ‘pub’ and ‘white wine’ but she’s on the wagon!).  Thankfully I have the first book in the series, ‘For Reasons Unknown’ on my TBR so I can get my second fix of DCI Darke, ha ha!  Anyway, enough of my new womance…

The pacing of the plot is spot on with the story unfolding at a thoroughly enjoyable rate.  I wanted to keep turning the pages, I wanted to find out what was going to happen.  There was a moment where I felt pure dread for one character.  I won’t say anymore as I don’t do spoilers but oh my!

The conclusion is gripping and kept me on the edge of my seat.  There is encounter at the end of the book which I hope Michael Wood will be building on in the third book.  I’m looking forward to seeing where that particular story line goes.

This book does work as a standalone but I think it helps (no matter what the series or who the author) to read books in their correct order.  I wasn’t sure whether the missing child case that is mentioned often is something that was covered in book one or if it happened in the distant past.  I think going into a series partway through does leaving you feeling like you’ve missed a couple of important days at school!

I loved the nod to other great crime writers (being a crime fiction fanatic!).  I was hugely jealous of Matilda’s book inheritance and could immediately picture the bookcase she would need (boy, would it be big!).  If anyone would like to donate their crime fiction collection to me, the address is Emma @damppebbles….heh heh.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would but I think starting at book one is the best way forward.  Outside Looking In is totally compelling, thoroughly engaging and you’ll really like DCI Matilda Darke.

Four and a half out of five stars.

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 26th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Michael Wood is a proofreader and former journalist in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His first novel featuring DCI Matilda Darke, FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, was released in the autumn of 2015. The follow-up, OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, is released in May 2016 in ebook format by Killer Reads at HarperCollins.