My Top Reads of 2016 #bookblogger #amreading #amreviewing

I’ve been umming and ahhing about this post for sometime.  I was lucky enough to be involved in the #TBConFB 20/20 Blogger event in November which allowed me to share my top 20 all time favourite crime reads with members of THE Book Club on Facebook as well as with you lovely people.  I’ve also been honoured to feature on several other brilliant blogs this year and have been asked on several of these occasions to name five top reads.  Have I already made too many ‘Top Reads’ lists this year?  Well, probably but I’m not going to let that stop me! No siree!  There’s always room for one more, and anyway, this is my list of top reads from 2016 so it’s completely different to the others, honest…!

So, in no particular order here are my books of the year:

I haven’t been shy in telling the blogosphere about my very favourite book this year. I think I decided back in early October that no other book would/could come close to A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone (published by Orenda Books).

If you haven’t read it, you are truly missing out.  Staggeringly good, spine tingling and stomach churning, you’ll fall in love and be repulsed in equal measures.  At times you’ll want to put it down and walk away for a breath of fresh air but find it impossible to do so.  Quite possibly the most perfect piece of writing I have ever read!

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And then we have this incredible selection of fabulous reads.  All with something extra special about them and all highly recommended.

The Killing Game by J.S. Carol (published by Bookouture)
Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin (published by Killer Reads)
What Remains of Me by A.L. Gaylin (published by Arrow Publishing)
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt translated by Nancy Forest-Flier (published by Hodderscape)
Love You to Death by Caroline Mitchell (published by Bookouture)

Inside the Whispers by A.J. Waines
Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates (published by Urbane Publications)
PsychoAnalysis by V.R. Stone
The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards (published by Thomas & Mercer)
Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French (published by Bookouture)

The Sister by Louise Jensen (published by Bookouture)
Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (published by Orenda Books)
Valentina by S.E. Lynes (published by Blackbird Books)
The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley (published by Bloodhound Books)
Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen translated by Don Bartlett (published by Orenda Books)

City of Shadows by M.J. Lee (published by Carina UK)
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin (published by Penguin)
Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite
A Tapping at my Door by David Jackson (published by Bonnier Zaffre)
In The Shadows by Tara Lyons

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada (published by Pushkin Press)
Dust and Desire by Conrad Williams (published by Titan Press)
The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (published by Bookouture)
Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez (published by Penguin Books)

OK, so there are a lot! But I’ve had such a good booky year this year that I just couldn’t whittle it down any further.  Next year I will endeavour to have a smaller list…but that’s a whole year away.

I am extremely grateful for all of the wonderful support I have received this year.  From fellow bloggers (there are some astonishingly good blogs out there with extremely talented bloggers holding the reigns), the brilliant publishers (one in particular springs to mind) and most important of all, the incredibly talented authors who pour their hearts and souls into their latest book so us bibliophiles can get our fix.  Thank you each and every one of you.  Thank you to everyone who has liked my Facebook page, to everyone who has followed me on twitter and to those that have tweeted, retweeted or just mentioned my blog in some way. To those who like and follow my blog, a heartfelt thank you. It’s made my first year as a blogger a humbling and thoroughly enjoyable experience.  THANK YOU!  I celebrate my first blogiversary on 14th January 2017 which I am so excited about.  It feels like I’ve been doing this a lot longer than year but in the best way possible.  I may, in a moment of pure generosity, organise a little giveaway to celebrate…

One last thing before I wish you a very happy New Year: I’ll be on the lookout for a guest reviewer to feature on the blog and help me reduce the #terrifyingTBR in 2017 so if you know someone who may be interested, please ask them to drop me an email at damppebbles@gmail.com.

Once again, wishing you all a sparkly New Year…here’s to making 2017 fantastic and full of books ♥

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#BookReview: A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell (@Caimh) #McForiInk @elaineofori

51wI8sVmPFL._SY346_“Thrilling shouldn’t be this funny, funny shouldn’t be this thrilling.

The first time somebody tried to kill him was an accident.

The second time was deliberate.

Now Paul Mulchrone finds himself on the run with nobody to turn to except a nurse who has read one-too-many crime novels and a renegade copper with a penchant for violence. Together they must solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history . . .

. . . or else they’ll be history.”

Back in September 2016 when my husband was still in his thirties, when Honey G was nobody special (?!), when Ore Oduba was just that guy from BBC Sport and The Great British Bake Off was still on the BBC, I hosted a guest post from debut crime thriller author Caimh McDonnell to celebrate the release of A Man With One of Those Faces.  If you missed that post the first time around, or if you would like a quick recap then please click here.  It’s worth a read as Caimh writes about why he hates comedic crime, despite writing comedic crime (and being a standup comedian…go figure!).

After hosting that post I was very keen to read A Man With One of Those Faces.  It’s been sat on my Kindle for a little while now, trying to tempt me away from my reading schedule.  Then one day I thought to myself, it’s nearly Christmas which means a bookish treat is in order.  So my bookish treat to myself this year was squeezing A Man With One of Those Faces in when I should have been reading future blog tour books (whoops!).  And WHAT a treat it was!

A Man With One of Those Faces centres mainly around three characters.  Professional granny whisperer, Paul Mulchrone earns a measly living by carrying out a set number of hours of charity work as dictated by the will of his very dead, yet completely bonkers great-aunt.  Searching for the path of least resistance and being a man with one of those faces, Paul kicks off a career in granny whispering.  By visiting local hospices and hospitals Paul encounters the heroine of the story, the crime fiction obsessed Nurse Brigit Conroy who through no fault of her own, unwittingly gets Paul stabbed.  Being stabbed is only the start of it and before long Nurse Brigit and Paul are running for their lives.  DS Bunny McGarry runs the local hurling club where all the local lads, including 12 year old Paul Mulchrone played.  That was until a catastrophic falling out between Bunny and Paul, which Paul still holds a fierce grudge about.  But that doesn’t matter to Bunny; Paul is still one of his boys.  With an admirable devotion to his sport, Bunny never leaves the house without his hurley to hand and boy, he is not afraid to use it! *ouch*.

The plot was very good with some great twists but for me, this book was all about it’s enchanting cast of slightly crazy, somewhat violent characters who I ended up adoring.  I WANT to read more about these characters as I feel a real fondness and warmth for them, they’re flawed people but that adds to their crazy appeal.  Don’t get me wrong though, this book is action packed with shootings, crazy serial killers and hitmen.  Blimey, I loved it!

I found the smaller, less significant characters had an endearing pull about them too.  I don’t tend to remember the supporting cast very often but I know this lot are going to stay with me.  Such as creepy balloon man Phil, gun-wielding octogenarian Dorothy and ‘days from retirement’ but married to the job, DI Jimmy Stewart.

I fell completely in love with Paul, Nurse Brigit and Bunny and I am excited that Caimh McDonnell is about to publish book two, The Day That Never Comes. (Psst, I’m on the blog tour for TDTNC on 25th January 2017 with another brilliant guest post from Caimh; one for the diary, perhaps?)

Would I recommend this book?  I most definitely would!  It’s funny, it’s very Irish and my heart hasn’t warmed to such a unlikely bunch of heroes for a long time.  I can’t wait to read The Day That Never Comes and have Paul, Nurse Brigit and Bunny back in my life.  A very well written debut thriller that shows a real understanding of the author’s charming characters.  Superb!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of A Man With One of Those Faces.  My thanks to Elaine Ofori, McFori Ink and NetGalley for the review copy.

A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell was published in the UK by McFori Ink on 5th September 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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caimh_press_pic2Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats.

His writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces, a pacy crime thriller set in Dublin, is out now.

Connect with Caimh via Twitter @Caimh or his Facebook page.

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dark Minds @Bloodhoundbook #charity #crimefiction

51ynfbovm4l-_sx347_bo1204203200_“Bloodhound Books presents Dark Minds – a collection of stories by authors who have come together to produce an anthology that will lure, tantalise and shock its readers.

From master authors such as Lisa Hall, Steven Dunne, Louise Jensen and Anita Waller, as well as less familiar writers, readers can expect a one hell of a ride…

What took place By the Water?

What goes on behind A Stranger’s Eyes?

And what is so special about Slow Roast Pork?

You think you know darkness? Think again.

All net proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal.”

The warmest of welcomes to my stop on the Dark Minds blog tour which I share with my regular blog tour buddy, the gorgeous Emma the Little Book Worm.  Once you’ve finished here at damppebbles, make sure you pop over to Emma’s blog.

Well I take my hat off to the folk at Bloodhound Books.  What an achievement!  For those who haven’t heard of Dark Minds, let me explain.

Bloodhound Books are one of my favourite crime publishers and over the last year they’ve gone from strength to strength.  2016 has seen some fantastic signings and new releases from the Bloodhound kennel (my favourite being The Optician’s Wife which will remain in my ‘favourite books of all time’ list for, well, ever!)  Bloodhound decided they wanted to produce a crime anthology where all net proceeds go to charity.  What they needed though was the input of generous, selfless authors to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys!) and write some blisteringly good dark stories for inclusion in the book.  Surely it would be a struggle to get authors on board, particularly as there was no personal gain to the authors involved.  They needn’t of worried.  Within the covers of this book you will find 41 brilliantly crafted dark stories by 41 talented writers.  Some names you’ll recognise, some not so much (at this point I would like to say to 17 year old Jenna-Leigh Golding who has a story in the anthology; keep on writing, I think you have a bright future ahead of you!).  There really is something for everyone; a short story collection that caters to all crimey tastes. And if that doesn’t get your attention then the eBook is a mere £1.99 in the Kindle store at the moment!  If you love crime, Dark Minds is a must-buy.

I had wanted to review each story individually but it’s nearly Christmas and I’m sure you all have things to do.  So instead I will explain why I loved this book.  First off, this year has been an exceptional booky year for me and other devoted crime readers.  I’ve read some astoundingly good books such as The Sister and The Gift by Louise Jensen, Valentina by S.E. Lynes, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty by Betsy Reavley, In the Shadows by Tara Lyons and Death do us Part by Steven Dunne to name a few.  All of the aforementioned authors have written a story for Dark Minds.  It was such an enjoyable experience to read more from these writers and in this restricted format.  How would they adapt their style to fit, would the characters still have the same believability, would I still enjoy their stories?  The answer to that last question is a big fat YES!

Then we come to the fact that I am a crime fiction blogger who is yet to read some very prominent author’s work.  There were names on the contents page that leapt out at me.  Authors who I have been wanting to read for some time but haven’t managed to squeeze in (as yet!).  Authors such as Lisa Hall, Jim Ody, L.J. Ross, Lucy V. Hay and Paul D. Brazill to name a few (in all honesty, there were quite a few names which I ooh’ed and ahh’ed over!).  It was an exciting prospect which delivered again and again.

And finally we come to the stories where I NEED to read more by these authors.  Their short story has drawn me in and I’m adding them to my ‘authors to watch’ list.  The book opens with a blisteringly good piece from B.A. Morton.  DS Fuller and DC Harte felt like fully established characters to me and I would love to read more.  A Christmas Killing by Richard T Burke is immediately intriguing and very compelling reading.  I thoroughly enjoyed Sticky Fingers by J.T. Lawrence; reading about Nicolette antics and her heartbreaking conclusion.  Pop Dead – The Pension Papers by Pete Adams made me laugh out loud.  And Jane E. James’ take on a writer’s retreat gave me goosebumps.  Thanks to Dark Minds I’ve added so many new authors to my favourites list.

Would I recommend this book?  If you’re a crime fiction fan then you’d be silly not to buy a copy.  Not only do you have 41 brilliant stories to dip into as and when needed but you’re supporting two brilliant charities at the same time.  It’s a win-win situation.  I firmly believe there is something for everyone in this book.  Outstanding reading!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dark Minds but I will be purchasing my own copy.

Dark Minds was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 13th December 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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About the charities…

img_1066Hospice UK are the national charity for hospice care, supporting over 200 hospices in the UK. They believe that everyone matters throughout their life right up until they die, and that no one should die in avoidable pain or suffering.

https://www.hospiceuk.org/

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The aims of Sophie’s Appeal To support the social, emotional and educational welfare of children, their families, nursing and support staff and provide a caring and supporting environment in both local hospitals and in the community. There are so many ways in which the Trust can provide support to parents, carers and schools who find themselves suddenly faced with the reality of cancer.

Treatment to provide additional resources to meet the specific needs of cancer care. The Trust aims to work with two Hampshire hospitals and monies raised can meet their treatment requests. Research Without research…without hope! This is why it is vital to support research and development into treatments and cures for childhood diseases Sophie’s Appeal is funding a research project at the University College London into Wilm’s Disease, a rare childhood cancer.

http://www.sophiesappeal.org/sophie

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Gift by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture

51ssdz2lgl-_sy346_“The perfect daughter. The perfect girlfriend. The perfect murder?

Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. Eternally grateful to Callie and her family, Jenna gets closer to them, but she soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets …

Callie’s parents are grieving, yet Jenna knows they’re only telling her half the story. Where is Callie’s sister Sophie? She’s been ‘abroad’ since her sister’s death but something about her absence doesn’t add up. And when Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.

Jenna knows that Callie didn’t die in an accident. But how did she die? Jenna is determined to discover the truth but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life.

A compelling, gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist from the author of the Number One bestseller The Sister.”

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off The Gift blog tour today alongside Emma the Little Book Worm.  I am such a huge fan of Louise Jensen’s writing after reading her debut novel, The Sister earlier this year.  If you missed that review or would just like a quick recap, please click here.  To say I loved The Sister is a bit of an understatement really!  Which meant I was over the moon to be asked to join Louise’s tour for her second psychological thriller, The Gift published by the wonderful folk at Bookouture today!  A very happy book birthday Louise and Bookouture.

Jenna is critically ill and needs heart replacement surgery.  The worst possible news at a time when donor organs are scarce.  Luckily for Jenna a heart becomes available and the transplant goes well.  But Jenna can’t stop thinking about whose heart now beats inside her chest.  She is desperate to meet with the family and they don’t hesitate to arrange a meeting after she gets in touch.  Against the advice of her therapist, Jenna goes to meet Tom and Amanda.  It’s an uncomfortable start but Jenna feels she owes this couple and refuses to walk away.  Then the dreams start, along with other strange feelings and what appear to be memories…things Jenna herself never experienced.  Jenna knows that something isn’t right.  The way she is told Callie, her donor, died doesn’t tally with what she’s seeing in frightening visions.  Jenna decides that Tom and Amanda need closure to stop the hurt they’re suffering, and Jenna is the right person to deliver that closure.  So she starts to investigate; attempting to tie the feelings, the dreams and what little evidence she has together.  But the deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers.  What really happened to Callie?  And how far is Jenna willing to go to find out…?

First off, I want to say that I find it very hard to believe in some of the theories affecting Jenna in this book.  I seem to have a scientific head on my shoulders and try as I might, sometimes (most times!) I can’t submerge myself in unproven theories.  But I want to put that side of things away for now and comment on other aspects of this novel.  I absolutely ADORE Louise Jensen’s writing.  Jensen has a way of pulling you in, the way her words flow is sublime and that is exactly what she has achieved once again.  She is such a gifted storyteller and one of my very favourite writers.  Full stop.  I had highly anticipated the release of this book after falling head over heels in love with The Sister and I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed, despite the scientific noggin!

I absolutely adored Jenna, the lead protagonist.  That drive and determination for her cause gave me goosebumps at times.  I love a strong, spirited female lead in my books and Jenna fits the bill nicely.  Strangely, that same determination did also annoy me a little.  Particularly when she was pushing away ex-boyfriend, Sam and best mate, Rachel in her bid to give Callie’s parents closure.

As I have come to expect from Louise Jensen’s writing, you never really have a hold on exactly who the bad guy/gal is or his/her reasons for being the bad guy/gal until the reveal.  The Gift is full to the brim of twists and turns.  There was an audible gasp from me at one point; I was so shocked by what I was reading!  Brilliantly crafted twists which send your brain into overdrive as you try and guess what will happen next.  But I bet you can’t..

Would I recommend this book?  I most definitely would (and grab yourself a copy of The Sister whilst you’re at it!).  Sleek, assured writing that pulls the reader into the story from the opening pages until the shocking conclusion.  Superb!

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Gift.

The Gift by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 16th December 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Bookouture |

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Smith & Sons (11)

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Louise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.

Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Blog | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington (@sam_carrington1) @CrimeFix

samc“A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?
Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?
When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.
Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.
Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.
As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Saving Sophie blog tour. You may be feeling a strange sense of deja vu about now, but don’t worry, this is Saving Sophie’s second time on the blog tour circuit and today we celebrate the release of this fabulous book in paperback format!  I was thrilled to be asked to join this tour by Kaisha at The Writing Garnet as I have been rather desperate to read Saving Sophie for some time now.

First up today I have treat for you; an extract from the book for you to read and enjoy. So without further ado…

Extract from SAVING SOPHIE

The picture was of her. Her, wearing the clothes she’d worn last night. And it was no selfie. Sophie threw the phone on her bed, as if it had sent an electric shock through her fingertips. She stared at it, then shook her head a few times, screwing up her eyes, trying to remember. But there was nothing. Who had taken this, and where? What were they intending to do with it, and what ones were to follow?
Standing, feet planted, paralysed in the centre of her messy room, Sophie clenched and unclenched her fists, then clicked her knuckles: pulling down one finger at a time with the thumb of each hand until they cracked.
What should she do? Forcing herself to move forwards, she reached to pick up the phone. Her hands trembled. The picture was still visible. She had to face this, figure it out. Zooming in, she navigated the background in an attempt to see if anything was familiar. It seemed she was in a chair of some sort, legs splayed, slouched back. She guessed from the angle of her body that her head was thrown back; her hair was out of sight. Sophie turned the phone sideways to see it from a different perspective. Apart from the black dress and the blurry dark image on the ankle, which she’d assumed to be her snake tattoo, this photo could be of anyone.
A warm sensation flushed through her. Perhaps it wasn’t her. Any amount of girls had tattoos these days, you couldn’t even see if it was a snake or not. And black dresses weren’t exactly rare. This was someone’s idea of a sick joke. Probably one of the boys taking the piss; could’ve even been Photoshopped. With new-found optimism that it was a prank, Sophie sat down on her rumpled bed and searched the original email for clues as to which of her so-called friends she could thank for frightening her half to death.
It didn’t take long to realise she couldn’t identify the sender. The email address wasn’t a standard one. It looked ridiculously made up, certainly not one she recognised. It’d soon become obvious which of the boys had done it, though, they were incapable of keeping their mouths shut; they must be itching to send a text, Facebook message or tweet so everyone knew about their clever stunt. Oh, how funny they thought they were. Immature arseholes. It wasn’t funny at all, given the fact that Amy still hadn’t rocked up. It was getting worrying now; five thirty and still no sign. Even Amy would’ve slept off a hangover by now.
Sophie reluctantly accessed her Facebook page. Streams of status updates, but none from Amy; none from her friends saying ‘Amy’s back’. For Christ’s sake, Amy, where the hell are you? Sophie got up, her legs leaden with fatigue, and ventured slowly downstairs. Perhaps her mother knew something by now.

‘Have you heard?’ Her mum’s head snapped up the second she entered the room. Sophie’s mouth dried in an instant.
‘No, what?’ Her voice cracked. Something bad has happened. ‘I meant, have you heard anything from Amy yet?’
‘Crikey, Mum.’ Sophie’s hand pressed into her chest as she let out a sharp hiss of air. ‘I thought you meant . . .’
‘Oh, no. Sorry. I spoke to Rachel just now, and she said Erin had been staying at her dad’s a lot at weekends – you didn’t tell me about Erin’s dad moving in with that woman by the way – how come?’
‘Mum. Get to the point.’ Sophie transferred her weight on to one leg and crossed her arms.
‘Right, well, I’m assuming they’re probably together – Erin and Amy – because Rachel said she hadn’t heard from Erin.’
‘Actually, that does make sense. Dan said everyone got to the club except Erin and Amy. Good. That will be it then.’ But saying the words didn’t reassure her. There seemed no logical reason why Amy would bother to walk to Erin’s dad’s when her own house was nearer to town. She wasn’t even convinced they would go home together. They weren’t the best of friends – Amy, being older, had come on to the scene later, after school, and had kind of replaced Erin; becoming Sophie’s new best friend. That had never sat well with Erin. But for now, it was a theory which Sophie was willing to believe.
‘That’s what I’m hoping, Sophie, yes. Although it doesn’t let you off the hook.’
No. She guessed as much. Her mother would be at her every day now, trying to get to the bottom of why she had no memory of the night, why she had ended up wandering the streets alone, what the taxi driver had done to her. It was going to be a nightmare. But, as long as they were all safe – her girls – she could take whatever hassle was headed her way. It could’ve been worse.
Bailey’s deep growl at the window diverted their attention. His ear-grating bark filled the room. Sophie followed her mum to see what had upset him. For the second time in as many nights, there was a police car parked outside the house.
Now what?

Good, huh?  I really hope that’s piqued your interest as it’s a cracking book and definitely worth a read.

Smith & Sons (9)

I’ve been wanting to read Saving Sophie for some time now.  Well, since it appeared on NetGalley earlier this year.  But you know how life goes; sometimes things just don’t happen for one reason or another.  So imagine my joy when I was asked to feature on the blog tour in celebration of the paperback release with Avon Books.  Well, I couldn’t say no!  And I’m very glad I did because this is such an enjoyable read and exactly the book I needed to reignite my dwindling reading mojo.

The Finch family are slowly falling apart.  The relationship between parents Karen and Mike is becoming more strained by the day and 17 year old Sophie would rather keep herself to herself.  But after a night out with friends, Sophie is brought home by the police.  She’s dazed, confused and acting drunk.  But it’s only a couple of hours later, how has Sophie managed to consume that much alcohol in such a short space of time?!  Her parents are unable to make sense out of what she’s saying so she’s bundled off to bed, with her concerned parents planning a confrontation for the following morning.  Sophie wakes feeling worse for wear but is immediately distracted by a news that her friend, Amy is missing.  Then the body of a young woman matching Amy’s description is found.  What really happened on their night out?  And will the inappropriate photographs Sophie receives of herself help her remember?  Exactly what secrets have the Finch family been keeping…?

When I select a book to read, I want to feel ‘something’ and if that feeling is frustration or exasperation, then that’s as good as liking a character in my opinion.  I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to like characters to enjoy a book.  Heck, I read crime and psychological thrillers.  Sometimes I don’t want that warm fuzzy glow!  With that in mind, I instantly disliked husband Mike who came across as a bully and at times, a uninterested negligent father.  Mum Karen was a little whiney and played the part of the victim to perfection.  You find out more about Karen’s back story as you move through the book and I have to say, by the end of the novel, I had really warmed to her.  And as for Sophie, well…she’s 17, more interested in her friends than her family and suffering the hangover from hell.  There’s not a lot to like!

But somehow, somewhere along the line…I started to really like both Sophie and Karen (no change on the Mike front I’m afraid, still don’t like him!).  Karen suffers from agoraphobia which plays a huge part in the storyline.  When her condition was first revealed I thought, ‘how is Sam Carrington going to write this and make it interesting?’.  I’ll tell you, she writes it incredibly well.  At first I was dubious, but the whole story revolves around Karen.  Her dealings with her condition make for interesting reading.  There is a point when Karen’s best friend, Rachel really needs her.  I was in turmoil myself as on one hand I was thinking ‘go to your best friend, she needs you’ but on the other, I was fully understanding of how she was feeling.  Now, if that’s not good writing, I don’t know what is!

There are some rather large twists and turns thrown in to keep you on your toes.  The final showdown was an ‘edge of your seat’ moment for me.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading!  And that epilogue, oh it broke my heart.  I sort of saw it coming but that certainly didn’t lessen the impact.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I loved the twists and turns, the way the characters morph from being really quite irritating to becoming firm favourites of mine and I absolutely loved that this book made me feel something.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Saving Sophie.

Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington was published in the UK by Avon Books on 15th December 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Avon Books |


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Smith & Sons (11)

author-pic-sam-carringtonSam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she worked for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. Before beginning her first novel, Sam wrote a number of short stories, several of which were published in popular women’s magazines. Other short stories were included in two charity anthologies.
Sam moved quickly on to novel writing and completed her first project within six months. Although this novel attracted attention from agents, it was her next that opened up opportunities. She entered this novel, with the working title Portrayal, into the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award in 2015 and was delighted when it was longlisted.
Being placed in such a prestigious competition was instrumental in her success securing a literary agent. When completed, this novel became SAVING SOPHIE, a psychological thriller which was published by Maze, HarperCollins as an ebook in August. The paperback and audio editions are publishing on 15th December.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BlogTour: The Mine by Antti Tuomainen (@antti_tuomainen) @OrendaBooks #TheFinnishInvasion

the-mine-cover“A hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. Can he uncover the truth before it’s too late?

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life.

A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results … The Mine is a gripping, beautifully written, terrifying and explosive thriller by the King of Helsinki Noir.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on The Mine blog tour and day two of my stint on the Finnish Invasion blog tour (if you missed it I featured a brilliant Q&A with Orenda author Kati Hiekkapelto yesterday, which you can read if you click here).

Regular visitors to damppebbles will know how much I love a guest post (I love a guest post!) so today I have a fabulous post from The Mine author Antti Tuomainen to share with you. Without further ado I’ll hand over to Antti…

Family Matters by Antti Tuomainen

I have just published my third novel in the UK called THE MINE. (It is my fifth novel altogether.) THE MINE is a crime novel, of course, but it is also a family story. It tells the story of a father and a son, a journalist and a hitman. In the beginning of the novel, the father returns to Helsinki, his and his son’s hometown, after having been gone for thirty years.

That set up – the father and the son – was really how THE MINE got its start. It is also something that is common in all my novels. Close relationships, I mean. Looking back, I’ve always written about close human interaction in one way or another – husband and wife torn apart in The Healer, brothers on different side of the law, mother and son in Dark As My Heart, and so forth –  and I’ve always began building my novels through characters and their dilemmas. And of course, the secrets they keep from each other.

And this is where family comes in. Who are we closest to? Who do we most remind? Who do we most love or most hate or both? To make a story as dramatic as possible, the stakes have to be high. THE MINE, then, presents two men, sharing the same blood, from different stages of life. One is young, one is older. One is on the side of ‘good’, one on the side of ‘evil’. Of course, the further along we get in the novel, the more the lines blur.

(They are, in a way, brought together by a mine. It should be said that the actual mine in the novel, while fictional, was indeed modeled after a very real and very catastrophic actual mine in northern Finland. There was a sort of a mining boom in Finland a few years ago and at this time a huge nickel mine in the north was opened. It was, and continues to be, an utter disaster from the beginning. When it was revealed how the business got its start, how it involved politicians and business people in a highly questionable manner and how phenomenally huge was, and continues to be, the tax-payers’ bill I felt I had to ask a few questions.)

The son in THE MINE is a journalist. A question I have many times heard is that if I see myself in him since I did some journalism between being a copywriter and a full time writer of novels. (I do see a slight resemblance in some things, yes, at least when relating to the business of writing.) But for some reason I’ve never heard the question: “Do you see yourself in the father, the sixty-year-old lonely hitman?” I find this strange. Because, obviously, I do.

This doesn’t mean that I approve of what the father is doing: going to work means, to him, killing folks. I don’t think that’s an acceptable way to spend your days. But he is in a very recognizable human situation with the people he feels closest to. They both are. And THE MINE shows these men at crossroads. They are more alike than they would like to admit. They are obsessed. They take pride in their work, and how good they are at it. They stop at nothing, and it costs them. They try to do good, but in trying, they hurt other people. They miscalculate, misbehave, misunderstand. They try their best, they really do. Finally, they are willing to do whatever it takes in behalf of each other. They’re family. I can relate to that. I can understand how their family matters to them, as mine matters to me.

***

Thank you very much for such a wonderful guest post, Antti.  I have a copy of The Mine on my TBR and I can’t wait to read it.  I find your description of the father, the sixty year old lonely hitman very intriguing. And, of course, I adore translated crime fiction!  Watch this space for a review coming your way soon.

The Mine by Antti Tuomainen was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 10th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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Smith & Sons (11)

antii-tuomainen-225x300Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula. Antti Tuomainen’s latest novel The Mine will be published by Orenda Books in 2016/17.

Author LinksTwitter |

#BlogTour: The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto (@HiekkapeltoKati) @OrendaBooks #TheFinnishInvasion

41mxo4kt01l-_sx322_bo1204203200_“Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal?

Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?”

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to my weekend long stop on Orenda Books’ Finnish Invasion blog tour.  I am delighted to welcome Kati Hiekkapelto, author of The Exiled to damppebbles today with a fabulous Q&A.  Tomorrow I have fellow Finnish author, Antti Tuomainen joining me on the blog with a brilliant guest post.  So pop back tomorrow for the Finnish Invasion blog tour part two!  Without further ado, on with the questions…

The Exiled sees Anna return home to Serbia, where she finds that the people there aren’t quite as she remembered, and she’s often shocked by the behaviour of the locals to ‘outsiders’. Was that your experience?

Serbia is very multicultural place and they still have their own war times fresh in their memory, so many people are actually very tolerant and open to ‘outsiders’. In fact, Hungary behaved much worse during last year’s refugee crisis than Serbia. Racism and xenophobia are much more deeper in every-day politics in Hungary. But of course there are problems in Serbia, too. There are politicians, parties and also common individuals who don’t accept immigrants or Romanys – the latter in particular are very badly treated. This concerns the whole of Eastern Europe and unfortunately the whole world. My own experiences in Serbia were only good. I come from ‘West’ and therefore I was something rather to admire to than dislike. Of course I hope that everyone would be liked just because he or she is a good person, not because of the origins. I never understood why on earth would it matter where I happened to be born or where my parents were born. Our nationality in birth is something we really cannot change.

And paradoxically, across the first two books (The Hummingbird and The Defenceless), Anna is an outsider in Finland, yet when she returns home to Serbia in this book, she feels somewhat the same – the people and their treatment of others alien to her – and she discovers a shocking secret that makes her question everything. What was your message here?

I don’t want to deliver any messages. I am just a storyteller. Although, in my experience, many immigrants share the feeling of being an outsider in both their old and new homelands. Research into the immigrant experience also confirm this. So, Anna’s feelings have a big basis in reality, however, not every immigrant would feel the same.

How Anna could feel home in Serbia, when she fled there as a small child? How could she feel home in Finland, where she don’t have her roots and family and can’t really use her mother tongue. These are fundamental questions in Anna’s fragile identity and the worst thing is that she is incapable of talking about them. She believes that opening her inner self to someone is worthless mumbo jumbo and psychology is nothing but bullshit, but I think she doesn’t have words for the feelings she experiences and therefore she overlooks (or suppresses) the whole thing. This is one of the tragedies of losing your mother tongue. Describing your emotions is very deeply rooted in your mother tongue and if you don’t have opportunity to use it often or it doesn’t  develop enough (for example, moving to an other country as a child), you can experience such problems and not even be aware of it. I think to understand Anna, we need to try to understand the fundamental, essential combination of language and identity.

Family secrets are a theme that runs throughout the book. What was your inspiration for this thread of the story?

In The Hummingbird I wrote one sentence in which Anna told her new colleagues that her police-officer father died in the line of duty. I did not know then what had happened, to be honest; in fact, I did not think about it at all, but I knew immediately that I want to find it out. The Exiled was kind of born in that moment, years before I actually wrote it.

Can you tell us a secret of your own?

No. It would not be a secret anymore. Ha ha!  (Good answer, Kati!)

You have been shortlisted for or won most of the big Scandinavian fiction awards (The Glass Key, the Petrona Award, the Ice Pick, Finnish Crime Novel of the Year, Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation …). When you started writing, did you ever expect this?

OMG, no! I still don’t believe this! When I wrote The Hummingbird, I had only one goal: to finish a whole novel. When it was done I almost deleted it, because it felt so shit. But fortunately I sent it to couple of publishing houses in Finland and amazingly Otava picked it up very quickly. Everything has been a huge surprise to me. Huge, huge surprise. I still think sometimes that this is just a gigantic joke and one day everybody is going to laugh at me and say: Ha! We got you! Your books are bad as you thought, you fool!

It is crazy how artists can be unsure about their work! I’ve talked with many writers and painters and composers and almost all of them report feeling the same way. It is horrible to struggle with feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. I could never expect anything ‘glorious’ from outside, I could not write thinking: this is so brilliant, it’s going to be a huge success. Of course I have moments when text is rolling and it looks good even to my own eyes. Thank God for those moments, or I could not bear to be in this profession without them. And I am ambitious, too. I want to achieve a lot, not because achieving it would be something interesting or desirable, but because I want to become a bloody good writer. I want to learn and get better all the time.

Your writing is evocative and beautiful – very literary. Did you find it difficult to marry this with a page-turning, gripping plot?

It is my style, and it comes quite naturally to me, without any particular effort. Writing in the whole is difficult, though. Plot, characters, narrative, setting, themes, language, rhythm of words and sentences, it all has to be as perfect as possible. That is the reason I experience so much pain when I write. It is never good enough! It is so hard to make all those elements work together as complete, readable, enjoyable and thought-provoking prose. And yet it is so fun, interesting and exciting. I love writing! (And hate too!)

Equally, Kati, you are a political writer – exposing wrongs in society and pointing the finger at wrongdoers. You root for the little people, the underdogs. And yet, as above, at no point is the tension lost, or is the story compromised. How do you go about writing enthralling books while giving a voice to others?

I think this is another thing that comes naturally. I’ve always been on the side of the poor and discriminated. I come from working-class family where social awareness and equality was always something considered to be self-evident. My parents were not activists or anything like that; they are very ordinary people, but in my home all forms of bullying or underrating others was despised. I became a punk when I was young and I still am. Punk shaped my identity very much. I hope I will never be too old to abandon my ideology, my anger at the establishment and my support for the oppressed. However, in my writing I try to avoid preaching. No one likes to be taught or pushed in a certain direction. I hate preaching! I tell stories that definitely have a certain level of social consciousness. It is my style and I also like to read this type of book myself. But conclusions I leave to the reader.

In your personal life, you’ve been very involved in helping writers and artists in danger. Can you tell us a bit about this?

At the moment the project is ‘in ice’ because we don’t have money nor anyone to do it full time. We got a grant for a year (last year) and we had one ‘customer’ from Iraq on our island Hailuoto. There are so-called Safe Haven cities in every Nordic country except Finland (I think Helsinki is soon going to be one, at least there are active people working towards this) and all over the world, too. They offer a period of asylum for artists in danger. I had a dream of creating such a residency to Hailuoto. With the grant we hired one person to do all the paperwork, etc., for the project, but unfortunately he did not do very good job. But we got great experience, good contacts and lots of knowledge. I really hope one day we can continue the project. There are so many writers and other artists who are persecuted for their work and that is a shame.

Are you affected by the cold, dark winters in your home village? Tell us a little about what it’s like to live in 24-hour darkness, on an island, during a Finnish winter.

I am very affected indeed. I am writing this in Tenerife. I escaped the darkness and love the sunshine here. Darkness can be very depressing. The older I get the harder it feels. Luckily my work allows me to go out during the hours of grey light we have around midday. When I was working in school it was much more difficult during the ‘kaamos’ (the period when the sun doesn’t rise in winter). And luckily I live 230 km south of the Arctic Circle, so it is possible to see a blink of sun sometimes. I would say it is 20-hour darkness and couple of hours of greyness. Beyond the circle you can not see light at all for months. And then in summer we have nothing but light. I can go out and read a book in the middle of a night. It is great!

There is much beauty in darkness ,too. It feels cosy and safe, like a blanket. And it is easier to bear in the countryside, rathe than in cities, I think. You can see the light of stars and snow better without artificial illumination. The Milky Way is fully visible from my yard and Aurora Borealis dance above my house very often. I don’t mind cold. It is only question of dressing properly. Finnish houses are well isolated and warm. Well, my house is almost 200 years old and not perhaps so warm… Winter means wood chopping and heating to me. And cross-country skiing. It is something I’m used to, nothing special or exotic really.  But I think I will come back to Tenerife next winter too…

What’s next for Anna Fekete? 

I’m writing it here. She is back in Finland, that much I can reveal. I don’t feel comfortable speaking about work that is not done yet.

Is this a series that you think you can sustain indefinitely, or will you need to take a break to write a standalone or something different? Do you have any ideas for that ‘something different’?

I could write short stories in the ‘Finnish Weird’ genre. Actually, I already have. I also write lyrics for my band, and columns for a couple of newspapers. I have a forever-project called a theater piece. But as long as I feel that I have something to say through Anna’s character and I don’t get bored with her, this series will be my main work.

You’ve travelled to the UK three or four times a year since the publication of The Hummingbird. Is the culture what you imagined it would be and are you surprised by the huge enthusiasm for your books here and around the world?

Do you mean British culture in general or culture among crime fiction scene? Well, it does not matter, because I did not imagine either of them. And yes, as I mentioned earlier, I am totally surprised. One of the greatest things I’ve discovered is that crime writers in UK are like one big, happy family, a wonderful community of amazing people. I have felt very welcome and part of the gang from the beginning. It is fantastic! This, of course, applies to crime writers from all around the globe, but since I have met most of them in UK, I count them as part of the UK gang. I have travelled to many other countries, too, since The Hummingbird. At the moment I have 12 foreign translations. Unless I wake up tomorrow and get a call from my agent to say: we were all just kidding…

What are you reading now, and what has been your best ‘crime’ read of the year?

Luis Ruffato’s There Were Many Horses. The best crime was re-reading The Red Dragon. It was even better than the first time. I often read two or three books at a time, and my third one is Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain.

***

Thank you so much for answering these questions for us, Kati.  My review of The Exiled will image001be coming to damppebbles soon.

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 10th October
2o16 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Smith & Sons (11)

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Kati Hiekkapelto is a bestselling author, punk singer, performance artist and special-needs teacher. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland with her children and sizable menagerie. Hiekkapelto has taught immigrants and lived in the Hungarian region of Serbia, which inspired her to write her highly regarded debut crime novel, The Hummingbird.

 

 

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett (@RachelAmphlett)

scared-to-death-cover“A serial killer murdering for kicks.

A detective seeking revenge.

When the body of a snatched schoolgirl is found in an abandoned biosciences building, the case is first treated as a kidnapping gone wrong.

But Detective Kay Hunter isn’t convinced, especially when a man is found dead with the ransom money still in his possession.

When a second schoolgirl is taken, Kay’s worst fears are realised.

With her career in jeopardy and desperate to conceal a disturbing secret, Kay’s hunt for the killer becomes a race against time before he claims another life.

For the killer, the game has only just begun…”

I am very excited to welcome you to my stop on Rachel Amphlett’s Scared to Death blog tour.  And what a treat I have in store for you, but more of that in a moment or two!  Rachel Amphlett is the best selling author of the Dan Taylor series of novels and, on 6th December 2016, published the first in a brand new series featuring Detective Kay Hunter.  I can’t wait to read Scared to Death as it sounds like a book I will thoroughly enjoy, so look out for a review heading your way in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I have a cracking guest post from Rachel to share with you today.  As a total bookworm, I am ashamed to say that I know little to nothing about the writing process.  Rachel has kindly filled in some of the blanks for me today with her fascinating post about what she loves the editing process.  Over to you, Rachel…

What I love about the editing process

In mid-September this year, I printed off a stack of typed-up pages and placed them into a folder.

The paper was still warm, the toner cartridge in the printer was on its last legs, and the first of my nerves were starting to kick in.

This was it.

The first time anyone other than me would read Scared to Death.

It’s always a bit nerve-wracking, handing over the manuscript of a new book for the first time, but I’ve got to the point in my writing journey where I actually quite enjoy it, if I’m honest.

The first step for me in my editing process is to hand it over to two trusted beta readers, who then bombard me with questions such as “Why did this happen? How did that get there? What does that mean?” – all of these make me re-read the story with a reader’s eyes, not my writerly ones.

Scenes that made perfect sense to me in my head while I was writing don’t appear that way to my readers at this stage – there is confusion, bewilderment, and occasionally a guffaw as pages are passed back to me.

And so, once I have all their comments back, it’s back to the office and bum in seat while I work through their queries and spend more time unravelling and rewriting the story.

The next phase for me is to pass the manuscript onto some experts in the policing field, and in this area I’ve been truly blown away by the support I’ve received (you know who you are, and I really can’t thank you enough).

Each expert kindly reserved judgement with regard to any bloopers I’d made in translating their expert advice into my story, didn’t laugh at the questions I posed, and gently led me through the myriad of processes and procedures they dealt with on a daily basis.

I learned so much prior to writing Scared to Death, and that learning curve continued during the editing process as I sought clarifications, re-checked my facts, and polished the words some more.

Although I do receive suggestions from beta readers, the responsibility lies with me as to whether those suggestions reach the final story – at the end of the day, I have to live with Kay Hunter for a long time after Scared to Death, and so it’s important to know that I feel like I own the story and haven’t been bent by other people’s wishes.

Eventually, when I’d exhausted everything and ticked every box, it’s time to hand over the manuscript for the professional edit.

I love getting manuscripts back from editors.

Grammar is not my strongest point, and I’ve learned to accept that there are simply some things I don’t understand and so it’s a relief to know I’ve got an expert on hand to sort all of that out for me.

The first edits come back, and those include the grammar fixes, typos etc, but also some technical points that I then have to go away and check. Added to this are a couple of very minor plot issues that require a tweak, and then it’s back to the editor for another read-through before he signs it off.

After I’ve taken in that second lot of edits, I print out a fresh copy and start reading from the beginning again – often the first proper read-through I’ve done in weeks. Of course, I find more things to check and change.

Finally, my proofreader takes the manuscript away for a week or two and performs more miracles. By that stage of the publishing process, I’m completely word-blind, and so my proofreader kindly points out all the errors that still remain in the manuscript and helps me to polish it to within an inch of its life before publication day.

After typesetting the paperback edition, I order a proof copy of that and read through the whole novel again, this time checking for formatting issues as well, before loading everything up ready for its release.

No rest for me at this point though – given that book two in the Kay Hunter series is already well underway, I’ll be doing all of this again in early 2017.

I can’t wait.

***

Thanks for this brilliant insight into the editing process, Rachel.  I’ve certainly learnt a few things today!

Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett was published in the UK by Saxon Publishing on 6th December 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Smith & Sons (11)

rachel-2016-2141Rachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014.

An advocate for knowledge within the publishing industry, Rachel is always happy to share her experiences to a wider audience through her blogging and speaking engagements.

You can keep in touch with Rachel by signing up to her mailing list via her website (), or via Facebook () and Twitter:  (less)

Author Links:Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#TopFiveThursday with #BookBlogger Emma Welton at DampPebbles

I’m honoured to be Lorraine’s #TopFiveThursday guest over at The Book Review Cafe today.

Thanks for having me, Lorraine and for your kind words about my blog and my reviews ❤

The Book Review Café

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Today I am thrilled to have the awesome Emma Welton give me her #TopFiveThursday. Emma’s blog http://damppebbles.com is one of the blogs I follow religiously. Emma reviews mostly crime thrillers, psychological thrillers, police procedurals and I love her reviews. Emma is quick to mention she considers herself to be a “newbie” to blogging but don’t be fooled her blog is fabulous and her reviews are some of my favourites.

Top 5 books you’ve read this year (so far)?

Valentina by S E Lynes (strong contender for my book of the year)

The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley (a brilliant psychological thriller that will knock your socks off with the twist),

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (I have a girl crush on Erika Foster),

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada (Japanese locked room mystery, intelligent and twisty)

Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite (or how to fall in…

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#BookReview: Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads

514ibchgoml-_sx325_bo1204203200_“A dark and gripping crime debut, the first in an exciting new series. Eighteen years ago, DI Frank Farrell turned his back on the church. But when an ex-priest is murdered in his hometown, he has no choice but to delve into his past. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, James Oswald and Val McDermid.

Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.”

Back in September I was thrilled to be part of Jackie Baldwin’s Dead Man’s Prayer blog tour.  Jackie wrote a fantastic piece for damppebbles about what drives her to explore crime in her writing.  If you missed it, click here and have a read.  On 1st December 2016 Dead Man’s Prayer was published in paperback, so to celebrate I thought it was about time I gave this debut crime thriller a read.  And I flipping loved it!

DI Frank Farrell is drawn back to his hometown of Dumfries.  The only difference being that last time he was a resident of Dumfries and Galloway, he was a catholic priest and now he’s a detective inspector.  That’s some career change!  The ghosts of the past never stay buried for long though, and Farrell is thrown into investigating the murder of Father Boyd; once upon a time his mentor, housemate and sworn nemesis.  Forced to confront his own demons, DI Farrell flounders with few clues and little evidence to go on.  But when twin boys are snatched from a local nursery all attention is diverted elsewhere.  But Frank has a feeling.  He believes the murder of the priest and the kidnapping of the boys are linked.  When one of the boys is found alive, hope for the other twin dwindles.  Will DI Farrell be able to convince his team of the connection?  And exactly how close to home will the investigation take him…?

For me, this is a perfect piece of crime fiction.  I’ve always wondered if I’m a little strange as I always enjoy crime books featuring priests, or religious artefacts as murder weapons.  Yup, it’s official, I am most definitely strange!  With Dead Man’s Prayer I was in my element as not only does this story have a priest as the murder victim but also as the crime fighting superhero too.  It was like a dream come true!  As I’m sure you have already guessed, I really liked DI Frank Farrell.  He’s not as damaged as my usual detectives but by no means is he squeaky clean.  The fact that his team, at times, saw him as a priest rather than their DI was brilliant.  I can’t wait to read more about DI Farrell.

DC Mhairi McLeod was also a favourite of mine.  I’m not normally a fan of the ‘something to prove’ female sidekick but Mhairi won me over.  She felt more real, relatable and sincere than other characters in a similar role in other books I’ve read.

I found the plot gripping from start to finish.  Frank shares his suspicions fairly early on but you don’t discover what’s actually happened until much later.  I enjoyed the build up, the ‘is he right, or is he wrong’ along with the ‘but how could that be the case?’.  Brilliant writing from Jackie Baldwin.  When I wasn’t reading this book and real life was happening, I wanted to be reading.

I became very emotional when it came to the young twins being snatached.  And then again when only one of the boys was reunited with his family.  The anguish the nursery staff felt really got to me too.  Really difficult reading at times but superb writing!

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  It’s riding high on my list of top police procedurals for 2016.  I just hope that I don’t have to wait too long before my path crosses with DI Frank Farrell again.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin.

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 1st December 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Killer Reads |

Smith & Sons (11)

Jackie_02_by_Kim_AyresJackie Baldwin was born in Dumfries. She studied law at Edinburgh University returning to Dumfries to practice criminal and family law for the next twenty years. During that time she married and had two children and a variety of pets. She later retrained as a hypnotherapist. Dead Man’s Prayer is her debut crime novel and is set in Dumfries. When not working or writing, Jackie can generally be found in a forest or by the beach on long muddy walks with her two Retrievers.

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