#BlogTour | #Extract: Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill (@SophieJonasHill) @urbanebooks @LoveBooksGroup #BrokenPonies #CrookedLittleSisters

9781911583707“THE PREY WILL BECOME THE HUNTER

‘Are you scared of him, Rita? Scared he might find you?’
‘No. I’m scared because I want him to find me.’

Ex-soldier Red and the mysterious Rita have been thrown together by a series of deadly events, each relying on the other not simply to survive, but to challenge the hand fate has dealt them. 

Having survived a night under siege in a crumbling house in the steamy bayou, Red and Rita go on the run, desperate to evade
their unknown pursuers. Details of Red’s past and Rita’s childhood are gradually revealed but can they really trust each other?

But the hunters have not given up the chase, and Rita unknowingly becomes the bait in a trap set for Red in a terrifying, storm-damaged fairground….

The second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series, Broken Ponies will thrill fans of dark gothic thrillers and readers of John Connolly, Joe Hill and Holly Seddon.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Broken Ponies blog tour.  Broken Ponies is the second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series written by Sophie Jonas-Hill and was published on 27th September 2018 by Urbane Publications.  I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Nemesister, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I can’t wait to make a start on this latest instalment!

Today though, I have an extract from the book to share with you.

THE SAVANNAH HEIGHTS CASINO did its best. Above the two gaming levels, there were six floors of reasonably priced hotel rooms, which were reasonably clean and reasonably anonymous, a woefully under-used pool deck and a ‘skyline’ bar. This translated to a room that ran the whole length of the building, offering a panoramic sweep of the city, though the view was mostly the back of everything else, as if The Savannah Heights was a short kid come late to the school photograph.

At 3.30 a.m. above the background hum and trill of slots, the click of chips and the dull, subterranean thump of the generators, an angry noise began to rise from table four. I’d seen the guy playing there when I’d come onto the floor after my break and was pretty sure he’d been there long before that, though guys like him were pretty hard to distinguish from one another, or indeed the fixtures and fittings. This one had the same hard, chiseled expression as the faux, carved wooden Tiki heads dotted about the place, until of course he lost, which he just had – big time.

Like Mormons us security operatives are supposed to travel in pairs, but Olaf was still in the bathroom, which meant I alone was the sole representative of Savannah Heights law. With no time to wait for Olaf to wash up, I strode toward table four, nodding to its operative Barbara to let her know I’d seen what was happening.

‘You goddamn’ bitch–’ Tiki man, pot-bellied and crackling with anger, jabbed his finger at her face. ‘I said stick, and you goddamn went an’ hit me. What the hell you go and do a thing like that for? You deaf, well as stupid?’

Somewhere off to his right one of the slots chose that moment to pay out and play the opening chords of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. It didn’t improve anyone’s mood.

‘Sir –’ I began, ‘Sir, is there a problem?’

Tiki man struck the table top, sending cards, chips, beer an’ all skittering to the floor as Barbara, trapped in the table’s central well, arms jammed across her chest, let out a yelp of protest.

‘You heard that then, you stupid bitch!’

The lucky few still awake at this hour turned to get a good look, necks craning out of plaid shirts and sports collars.

‘Sir!’ I tried again. My hand on his shoulder, I was dimly aware of Olaf hurrying through the archipelago of tables while doing up his flies. Then Tiki man swung round to face me. He was wearing a blue shirt crowded with images of pigs dressed in grass skirts and flower garlands – really, I thought, hula pigs? Now, did you buy that, or was it a gift? I mean, seriously, did you actually look at that and think – hey, now that’s the one for me?

‘Sir, you’re gonna have to calm down here …’

One of our boss Jose’s theories was that you need women on staff because men are more reluctant to hit them. As Tiki man threw a punch at me, I made a mental note to question this at our next team meeting.

‘Oh no you didn’t,’ I heard myself say. His blow connected with my left arm; I deflected it but was hit instead by a waft of aftershave and stale sweat. Tiki man didn’t get the hint. Backed into a chair he rounded on me quicker than I’d expected. He didn’t swear either; most start calling you names and threatening legal action, proving they’re more bark than bite. Tiki man said nothing, just went for me, hard and mean.

Time snagged on the bright lights and chatter of voices. The world stuttered to a halt, that god-awful shirt traced blue and pink on the back of my eyes, spreading out like an ink blot. I saw things both as if I were him and as if I watched him; Tiki man, still angry, still in that shirt, but in another place, his knuckles bloodied and broken, standing over someone else, someone smaller, someone weaker – someone Tiki man thought don’t got no right to sass mouth him that way. I was somewhere else for a moment, looking through Tikki Man’s haunted, piggy eyes.

Oh no, I thought, oh no you didn’t!

‘Oh yes he did,’ Margarita said.

Reality snapped back fast enough to flinch me away from Tiki man’s fist. I caught his punch with both hands letting the force of his blow carry him off balance. He was face down on the table before he’d time to catch his breath, arm all twisted up behind his back. That should have been it; I should have been calling him ‘Sir’ and warning him that the authorities had been called, only the hot-black, heartbeat moment twisted inside me and wouldn’t let him go.

There was the dull thud of impact, then the ricochet as its force crunched back through me. I lost Tiki man and the casino and everything as memory swelled up, molasses dark and rich, bringing the taste of river water, blood and the itch of fire. When Olaf ’s arms closed around me, it took everything I had not to slam my fist into his face.

‘Rita!’ he yelled from the edge of the void. ‘Rita, what the fuck?’ I made myself go limp, gasping for air as if I were breaking the surface again. Around me the casino hissed with exclamations, all those yellow white faces tutting and sniggering at the show. Barbara was jabbering that Tiki man ‘…deserved everything he got comin’ to him. Hell, I’d have slapped him myself, if I hadn’t been stuck inside this goddamn doughnut!’

‘Rita?’ Olaf, hands on my shoulders, steered me away as two other security guys darted in behind us, one to pick up Tiki man, now mewling like a stuck kitten, and one to try and calm Barbara.

‘It’s always me what gets shit like this, all the goddamn time. Hell, only the other week some bitch sprayed me with her Christian Dior. I hate that crap too, had to get my wig dry cleaned and who’s gonna pay for that?’

‘Rita?’ I slid my gaze back to Olaf. Margarita jubilant, her smile on my lips. I pulled from his grasp. ‘What the hell was that?’ he demanded, but I was already walking away.

I strode into the locker room and kicked door number seven. The boom it made did nothing to stop the roar echoing around my head. I threw myself down onto the bench and jammed my head into my hands.

‘Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it,’ Margarita said. ‘You were lovin’ it, just the same as me.’

‘Shut up,’ I told her. ‘You’re gonna get us both fired.’

‘Oh hush now,’ she laughed. ‘You think they’d can your ass over a piece of shit like that? I know what he did, I could smell it on him and so could you.’

‘No I couldn’t,’ I said, but I was lying.

‘Oh really?’ she said. ‘You keep on tellin’ yourself that.’

‘Rita?’ It was Jose, who really didn’t seem to have a home to go to. I glanced sideways at him and saw he’d crossed his arms across his chest in the same way Barbara had at Tiki man. Which probably meant he wanted to give me a goddamn slap as well.

‘Aren’t you supposed to provide single sex locker rooms?’ I said.

‘What the fuck?’ he replied, his forehead creased in furious lines.

‘I know,’ I said, sitting back, hands held out in front of me. ‘I crossed the line.’

‘Crossed it?’ Jose’s eyebrows pitched a tent. ‘You gone an’ pissed all over the fuckin’ line, that’s what you done.’

‘He went for me,’ I said. ‘Check the tape.’ I got up and opened my locker, already knowing my shift was over.

‘Tape?’ Jose sniffed. ‘What tape would that be?’ Half way through yanking my rucksack out I stopped to look at him. He shrugged. ‘We don’t got no camera covering that table tonight, and you don’t know any different.’ He pointed at me. ‘Never again, you understand? Whatever shit you got going on here–’ he tapped the side of his head, ‘don’t bring it to work, alright?’

‘He means me,’ Margarita sniggered.

‘You want this job, you don’t want this job, all the same to me,’ he said. I got my bag free and pulled off my uniform jacket to hang in its place. ‘But you don’t go making work for me. That piece of shit you put down’s not gonna make no trouble, but the next time?’

‘There won’t be one,’ I lied.

‘Smart,’ he said, flicking his hand toward my locker. ‘You’re done. Go home, don’t come in tomorrow–’ he raised his finger before I could protest. ‘Don’t come in tomorrow, don’t come in till Thursday. Go sleep, go get fucked, whatever, but don’t bring your shit again. Jesus, what? You get your hair done and it rots your brain or something?’

‘I thought you liked me blonde,’ I said and yanked my sweat top free of my bag. He watched me pull it on, the hand that had been pointing at me now gripping the back of his neck, where the hair was longer and bushier than it had any right to be.

‘Where the hell you learn shit like that anyway?’ he asked. I shouldered my bag.

‘I was home schooled,’ I said.

I can’t wait to get reacquainted with Rita and Red once again.  Look out for a review coming to the blog soon.

Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 27th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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I’ve always written and told stories, for as long as I can remember. My first self published work at the age of seven, fully illustrated in felt pen and crayon. I continued with a series of insightful ‘When I grow up I want to be an author’, essays, and an attempt at a ‘Bonk-buster’ series of supernatural thrillers written from a position of utter ignorance on all topics, until I was distracted by Art college. A never ending, or never finished, fantasy epic kept me going through my twenties, but it was motherhood in my thirties which concentrated my mind enough to actually finish a novel. It’s amazing what a bit of life experience and the sudden curtailing of your free time can do to concentrate the mind.

After that I began giving myself permission to take my writing seriously enough to spend time on it and actually listen to critiques. The writing festival in York proved invaluable, and time and disappointment got me to the point of producing something readable, which I was lucky enough to have read by Urbane publications.

If you make or write anything, the number one question you get asked is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ In answer to that question, it’s an easy process which combines working on your craft every hour you can for as long as possible – hard graft – reading as much as you can of everyone else’s work – stealing – and inspiration, which is just one of those things that just happens. The inspiration for ‘Nemesister’ comes from a dark episode of family history, and a moment from a dream; an image of a man standing in the doorway of what I knew was an abandoned shack, which was gone as soon as it came and yet lingered, the way some dreams do.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

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#damppebblestakeover with S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) | #GuestPost: In Praise of Insecurity #TheProposal @bookouture

the proposal.jpg“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man. 

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello bookish friends.  I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah!  I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes.  Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina.  It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes.  The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina.  But things haven’t stopped there.  On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal.  I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later.  But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself.  Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…

The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?

Why don’t you write?

Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’

Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?

Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.

I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.

I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.

In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.

I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.

So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.

But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.

Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie.  Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note.  And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

My reviews of S.E. Lynes’s books: | Mother | The Pact | Valentina |

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood (@MichaelHWood) @KillerReads @HarperCollinsUK #TheHangmansHold #DCIMatildaDarke

hangman's hold.jpgYour life is in his hands.

In the gripping new serial killer thriller from Michael Wood, Matilda Darke faces a vicious killer pursuing his own brand of lethal justice. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons and Helen Fields.

“There’s a killer in your house.
The Hangman waits in the darkness.

He knows your darkest secrets.
He’ll make you pay for all the crimes you have tried desperately to forget.

And he is closer than you think.
DCI Matilda Darke is running out of time. Fear is spreading throughout the city. As the body count rises, Matilda is targeted and her most trusted colleagues fall under suspicion. But can she keep those closest to her from harm? Or is it already too late?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Hangman’s Hold blog tour.  The Hangman’s Hold is the fourth book in the superb DCI Matilda Darke series written by author Michael Wood.  I am such a huge fan of DCI Darke and this is a series I will return to again and again without a moment’s hesitation.  And to prove it, here are my reviews of the second and third books; Outside Looking In and A Room Full of Killers.  When I heard rumours of a fourth book being released, I jumped at the chance to read it!

I have several favourite fictional characters.  I’m a crime blogger so surprise surprise, they’re all pretty much (give or take a few)….detectives!  A large number of those detectives are female as well (which makes me happy for some odd reason).  DCI Matilda Darke is very high on my list of favourites.  I’ve said this before in my reviews of Michael Wood’s books but she’s so flipping wonderfully normal.  If she were real, I could see us being friends (or I would be stalking her from afar wishing she were my bestie and plotting to get rid of Adele.  Perfectly normal, right?!).  I love how committed to the cause she is, how she frequently berates herself for her past failings, how completely and utterly in love she still is with her deceased husband, James.  She is one of those characters who evokes a fondness in me, I’m 100% on Team Matilda and I hope it stays that way for a very long time to come.

DCI Darke and her team are called to investigate a hanging.  The victim, having returned home from a delightful first date with a new lady friend, has been strung up and left to slowly die, in agonising amounts of pain.  When Matilda arrives at the scene it becomes clear to hear that this murder is closer to home than she first thought.  She also discovers the victim is a confirmed paedophile from the south-east; having rellocated to Sheffield with a new name and leaving his past behind.  Then, another body is discovered.  This time a family man whose wrongdoings from the past have caught up with him.  With the Press breathing down her neck and accusations flying, can Matilda and her team stop the Hangman before he kills again…

This is the type of storyline I love to read.  Seemingly ordinary people with dark secrets to hide being picked off one by one by a callous, vengeful killer.  I was excited to find out what was going to happen next; who was going to fall victim to the Hangman and his deadly form of justice.  Reading about Matilda and her team made me feel in the midst of friends (I love Sian too!) and their failed attempts to make any progress in the case left me feeling frustrated for them.  I could feel my blood pressure rising as the killer taunted them with text messages and calls to the press.  Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I would recommend this entire series.  Michael Wood sure knows how to write a compelling, utterly absorbing crime series and create some of the most memorable characters out there.  Personally, I *maybe* need to take a small step back from this series and remind myself that it is indeed fiction, it’s not real life and Matilda isn’t a real person but hey, that’s enough about my issues!  Crime fans, this series is a must read and you’re letting the side down if you haven’t read it.  Take my advice, download all four books now ;).

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Hangman’s Hold.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Hangman’s Hold by Michael Wood was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 20th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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michael woodMichael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Death Dolls by Simon Farrant (@asfarrant) #DeathDolls

Death Dolls Cover .jpg“Benjamin McGuinness fulfils his dream of establishing successful businesses and gives jobs with a new home to some of life’s misfits, deep in the English countryside on a farm. Everything seems perfect and his workers are as close as family.

A fire strikes close to home, a disaster that changes his perception of life and one of his loyal workers takes the chance to propose a life-changing venture.

This new business drags Lisa, his sister, into the deadly web of deception.

When exiled Russian twins join the family a symbolic tattoo is created that drives Benjamin’s money into a new league.

Benjamin knows that his future is defined by ‘the family’.

Will greed cause everything to crumble before his eyes, or will there be brutal consequences to their actions?”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my stop on the Death Dolls blog tour.  Look at that cover, isn’t it fantastic? Regular visitors to damppebbles will know that I like my fiction dark and dangerous and oh boy, that cover SCREAMS dark and dangerous at me!  And then you read the blurb…. Well, dear reader, I can confirm Death Dolls is riding high on my wishlist!

I am delighted to welcome the author of Death Dolls, Simon Farrant, to damppebbles today as part of the blog tour celebrations.  Simon is going to share some deep, dark secrets with us….

Hello, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog Emma! When I read what you wanted me to talk about, I did wonder if I could think of ten things… But we all have things about us that we forget that not everyone knows!

1 – I have a reptile pet! Before we got Skeddie I never thought that I’d have a reptile in a month of Sunday’s. We visited Bugtopia ‘zoo’ at Rutland Water, and I was mega impressed with the skinks. To the person who has never seen one before, imagine a snake with legs.

Of course, me being me, I didn’t go for a Blue Tongued Skink as they are the more common skink pets. Skeddie is a Pink Tongued Skink. All she eats is snails! She is an ideal pet for me, as a chronic illness sufferer. She needs no walks or high maintenance, just a small amount of husbandry such as picking snail shells out of her home and love.

2 – I was born with 2 extra fingers! Well, not properly formed ones but little stubs off the side of each little finger. Gross! I’m told that when I was born the hospital tied cotton round each one and they died and fell off… yuk!

3 – The doctors told me that I couldn’t father any children. Now we have three! Reuben, 10, Gabriella, 8, Tobias, 3.

4 – In the 1980s, as a child, my Dad tried to get me to take up football. I took up bellringing, aka campanology, at a local church. That didn’t last long…

5 – My last job before I lost it due to the chronic illnesses was a HGV C+E driver. An articulated truck driver, which I did for Morrisons for over 10 years. In addition to the car and truck licences I also hold a full motorbike licence too!

6 – This is getting tricky now… My books are not the first time that I have had the written word published. Back in the 1990s I did work experience for university at the Sunday Express newspaper in London. I had a short article about fire safety in the home published.

7 – I once did a bungee jump and a static line parachute jump for charity.

8 – Last year I summoned up the courage to go for my first tattoo. I wanted a lion. The artist said that everyone has a lion or a pocket watch. I left with a lion and a tiger half-sleeve! I have said that if I get to 2000 copies sold of Death Dolls then I shall get the featured tattoo…

9 – I have written two books of a trilogy that I shall release a week apart from each other. These are completely different from the books that I have already written. (Does this one count?)

10 – I am the eldest of 6 cousins. Maybe not the most grown up though.

I feel we know so much more about you now, Simon. And no, number 9 does not count *sigh*.  I must say, I am suddenly very keen for you to sell at least 2000 copies of Death Dolls (so you have to get the featured tattoo!).  I’m off to buy my copy now….

Death Dolls by Simon Farrant was published in the UK on 22nd August 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Simon Farrant Author Picture.jpgI am an emerging author, a submission to a short story anthology kicked it all off.

Black Cat is my first short story, and the hero isn’t maybe who you would assume.

Originally from Doncaster, South Yorkshire and now Corby in Northants. I’m in my forties, married with three children. We share our home with a Bengal cat and a Pink Tongued Skink.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had an interesting (well to me!) life. I have been a truck driver, university graduate and motorbike salesman amongst other things.

My two novellas, Newdon Killers series, The Crucifix and Famously Ordinary are out now! The third book, Death Dolls is coming soon estimated launch date 22 August.
Later this year a new series in a different genre Mystery / contemporary fantasy will be published.

I have a Facebook page, Simon Farrant Official, I’d be pleased to see you there.

Twitter @asfarrant

I also have a newsletter. Sign up to receive the latest news first 🙂
https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/b2t0m0

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Author Newsletter Sign-up |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: After He Died by Michael J. Malone (@michaelJmalone1) @OrendaBooks #AfterHeDied

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“You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…

When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.

Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the After He Died blog tour. After He Died is the latest release from one of my favourite authors, Michael J. Malone and is currently available in eBook format with the Orenda Books paperback publishing later this week on Thursday 20th September 2018.

As soon as I hear Michael J. Malone has a new book coming out, I want a copy! For those of you who are new to damppebbles, Malone’s first Orenda release, A Suitable Lie absolutely blew my socks off (and then some!) back in 2016. It was my book of the year and I still, to this day, recommend it to EVERYONE! Here’s my review if you missed it the first time, and if you haven’t purchased a copy yet, then you MUST! I’m also a massive fan of Malone’s self-published gritty Scottish crime series featuring the ‘rough-around-the-edges’ DI, Ray McBain. Another must read if you haven’t already discovered this series yet. So new Michael J. Malone titles immediately kick the book craving into gear, particularly those published by Orenda Books. I love a gritty police procedural like the McBain series, they’re my bread and butter and Malone excels at writing them. But his novels published via Orenda Books are very different; they’re domestic noir thrillers that set a benchmark so high, others can only dream of achieving what he does. They’re chock full of heart, with real living, breathing characters. And more often than not, they take my breath away. They have so much soul, there’s so much emotion between the pages and the unease the reader feels is really quite glorious.

After He Died is another top-notch domestic thriller from the twisted mind and pen of Michael J. Malone. Another page-turner full of secrets and lies; you never know what to believe! The unease I felt whilst reading was palpable and I very much enjoyed every moment I spent in Paula and Cara’s company. Did I like them? Well…I didn’t hate them. I found myself strongly disliking Thomas from quite early on which was rather unfair of me as he is the ‘he’ who has died. I can’t say I liked Paula or Cara but I was definitely on their side, wanting to solve the mystery, urging them on to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would. If you want a surefire, guaranteed good read then Michael J. Malone’s After He Died is the book for you. Or any other of Malone’s books actually, they’re all wonderful compulsive reads that I’ve struggled to put down. Malone knows how to write a character; whether it’s someone to love or someone to hate, eliciting that emotion is what is all about and Malone does that with ease and lashings of style. After He Died is bulging with secrets, it has a wonderfully Scottish edge that will appeal to many readers – you feel as though you’re reading something very special. Recommended.

Four stars out of five.

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

After He Died by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 20th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #Extract: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia @QuercusBooks #LeaveNoTrace

leave no trace cover.jpg“Ten years after a boy and his father went missing in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the boy – who is no longer a boy – walks back out of the forest. He is violent and uncommunicative. The authorities take him to Congdon Mental Institution in Duluth, on the edge of mighty Lake Superior.

There, language therapist Maya Stark is given the task of making a connection with this boy/man who came back from the dead. But their celebrity patient tries to escape and refuses to answer any questions about his father or the last ten years of his life. In many ways he is old far beyond his years; in others, still a child.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world – but at what cost to herself?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Leave No Trace blog tour.  Leave No Trace is the latest release from author Mindy Mejia and was published by Quercus Books on 4th September 2018.  I read and reviewed Mejia’s fantastic The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman last March and thoroughly enjoyed it, so Leave No Trace sits high on the wishlist.

I am thrilled to have an extract from the book to share with you today.  So without further ado, grab yourself a cuppa and dive straight in…

The patient faced the back of the room with his hands on the cement block wall in a push-up position. From the way he stoodwith h is shoulders tensed and legs braced it looked like he was trying to move the entire wall. I took a step closer and noticed his hospital shirt was torn at the bottom and he’d used the missing strip to tie his hair back.

‘Hello, Lucas.’

He remained still for a second, but then surprised me by turning his head. I saw his face in person for the first time.

He wasn’t a boy.

My brain stuttered on that one thought for what felt like a stupidly long time as our eyes met and held. Why did all the media keep calling him a boy? Lucas Blackthorn looked at least as old as me and stood a foot taller. His cheeks were hollow and shaded with the beginning of a beard. His skin was a deep reddish tan, not the pasty white of most of our long-term patients, and his eyes conveyed things that no first session speech therapy could have drawn out: intelligence and caution mixed with undisguised curiosity.

Moving slowly and deliberately, I walked to the bare mattress between us. There was no table, so we’d have to start the flashcards on the bed. He watched my progress, studying my hair. The short, pixie-cut combined with its dyed color grabbed a lot of patients’ attention. One of the men in ward two, a lifer named Big George with a traumatic brain injury, even liked to touch the ends of it that swished in front of my ears. I made sure he stuck to the left side so he didn’t get distracted by the tiny silver hoop earrings along my right ear. Lucas noticed those, too. I watched him catalog every part of me, absorbing the appearance of this outsider to his room, like someone would analyze a newly discovered insect. His gaze paused on the blue fabric bag I carried, his expression unreadable now.

I put a hand on my chest and waited until his attention snapped back to my face.

‘I’m Maya.’ Three syllables. Slow rate, distinct pronunciation. I didn’t smile. I’d never trusted strangers who smiled at me – they always wanted something.   Patting the place where my pulse beat too fast, I nodded and said it again. ‘Maya.’

He swiveled back toward the wall, dismissing the insect. I glanced behind me where Stan was shaking his head through the lead glass. Shrugging, I started to pull out the flashcards when suddenly Stan’s face changed. His eyes widened and his mouth opened in a warning I couldn’t hear.

I hesitated and before I could turn around, a giant force threw me into the wall and something was being looped around my neck. The metal door shrieked as Stan wrenched it open and I was pulled back, my body turned into a human shield. The thing around my neck tightened and I panicked, unable to breathe. Lucas had my arms locked behind me in an impossibly strong grip. I fought against it, desperate to free myself.

‘Keys,’ he said in a hoarse voice. I bowed my body against his, trying to find some slack in the cord around my throat, but met only a column of unyielding muscle. If anything, the cord grew tighter.

My vision started to contract, black creeping in at the edges. I kicked viciously, striking his shins so hard they should have snapped in half, and used the rest of my oxygen in the process. The last thing I saw before everything went dark was Stan’s hand, holding out his ring of keys.

Doesn’t that sound good?!  I’m really looking forward to reading Leave No Trace.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia was published in the UK by Quercus Books on 4th September 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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mindy mejia.jpgMy name is Mindy Mejia and I’m a writer. I write because, ever since I was six years old, my favorite game has been pretend. My life doesn’t have symmetry, theme, symbolism, or meditated beauty and I gravitate toward these things like a houseplant to the sun. I love the perfect words; I love how “fierce” and “confounded” and “swagger” look on the page and how my chest expands when I read them. I write because I believe in the reality of my fantasies, the truth in my fabrications. I’ve always had stories sneaking around my head, thrillers like THE DRAGON KEEPER and EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, and sometimes I inhabit those stories more than my own life. (Best not to mention that last part to my husband, kids, or boss.)

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Overkill by Vanda Symon (@vandasymon) @OrendaBooks #Overkill #NewZealandNoir #SamShephard

Overkill Cover  (1).jpegWhen the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.

Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.

To find the murderer … and clear her name.

A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Overkill blog tour.  Overkill by Vanda Symon was published by Orenda Books on 6th September 2018 and is the first in a new crime series featuring PC Sam Shephard.

I have travelled the world thanks to my literary choices over the years; it’s something I love to do.  Reading about a place far from home is always interesting and exciting – a different way of living, different cultures.  Until recently I had not managed to make my bookish way to New Zealand.  Australia, yes.  New Zealand, no.  However, thanks to Overkill I can now add a New Zealand stamp to my literary passport as this delightful piece of crime fiction is set in Mataura.

I am a huge fan of books set in small, close-knit towns.  The claustrophobia, the suspicion, the uncomfortable feeling you get as the characters start to realise that you can’t trust anyone.  The small town feeling Vanda Symon conveys in Overkill is wonderful.  The residents of Mataura have all been mucking along quite nicely together for years.  Then the body of a young mother is discovered in the river; the suicide note left behind confirms she couldn’t face life any more.  But PC Sam Shephard’s gut is telling her differently, something is wrong.  Before long Sam is investigating a murder.  What she doesn’t realise is that she’s the main suspect in her detective colleague’s eyes.  Can Sam solve the murder and clear her name…?

I loved Sam.  She’s so wonderfully human, so normal.  She has a chequered history with the victim’s husband which hangs precariously over her head throughout the entire investigation.  Her conflicted emotions and her self-deprecating manner made her all the more likeable.  I was also very fond of her flatmate and best friend, Maggie who stands by Sam when others don’t.  The writing and the narrative had a wonderful Kiwi flavour to it; it felt very real and I was pleased to see Sam wasn’t dressed up to be something she wasn’t.  She’s tough, resilient and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.  She certainly needs to be tough as the only police officer stationed in Mataura!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  Sam is a very likeable character who will appeal to many readers and Symon’s honest, no-nonsense writing brings her gloriously to life.  If you’re looking for thrills and spills a minute then maybe Overkill isn’t the book for you.  But if you’re wanting a cleverly woven mystery with characters who shine through then it’s well worth a read.  Claustrophobic, delightfully mysterious and a with a fierce female lead you can’t help but like.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the Sam Shephard series!

Four out of five stars.

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

Overkill by Vanda Symon was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 6th September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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vanda symonVanda’s first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. She suspects the prologue to Overkill was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.

A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller The Faceless.

As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town.

And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.

Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years, having been chair of the Otago Southland Branch. She is currently the Otago Southland regional delegate on the NZSA Board. Vanda was also the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.

When she isn’t writing, Vanda can be found digging around in her garden in Dunedin, or on the business end of a fencing foil. She has fenced since high school and still competes in national and international competitions. As well as competing she coaches, and because she likes to get involved, boots and all, is the president of Fencing South and on the board of Fencing New Zealand.

Vanda is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.

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

Biography © http://vandasymon.com/

 

 

#BookReview: Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar (@ameranwar) @dialoguebooks #BrothersinBlood #ZaqKhan #ZaqandJags

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“A Sikh girl on the run. A Muslim ex-con who has to find her. A whole heap of trouble.

Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.

But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?”

Well, this review has been a long time coming! Last year I was drawn to a book called Western Fringes thanks to a number of fantastic reviews. There was so much love for it, it had won the CWA Debut Dagger and oh boy, did I want to read it. My TBR was terrifying though (still is if I’m honest) so I was strong. It resulted in unnecessary twitching but I WAS STRONG! Then I met the author of Western Fringes at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate and he is the nicest bloke you could wish to meet. I told him how much I wanted to read his book (I missed out the part about the twitching) but sobbed into my white wine about my terrifying TBR. So imagine my surprise a year later when a copy of Brothers in Blood lands on my doormat (I adore unexpected #bookpost!). It’s by Amer Anwar, author of the aforementioned, much sought after book, Western Fringes. Hold on, it IS Western Fringes with a new title and a cracking new cover. The brilliant new imprint from Little, Brown – Dialogue Books – have snapped up Western Fringes and made something great, even greater!

So dear reader, after a long build-up, after waiting for such a long time to read a copy, what did I think of Brothers in Blood (previously titled Western Fringes)? I absolutely flipping loved it! I found it utterly compelling and wonderfully refreshing compared to many of the other books I read. There’s a lot of heart but a heck of a lot of guts between the pages too.

Zaq Khan, our lead protagonist, is a convicted killer. He’s a good bloke but he thinks with his fists and then lives to regret it. Zaq has a big heart and a smart head on his shoulders, and that was one of the things I liked most about him. He’s a very intelligent man who got into a bad situation and has had to carry the burden of it for a long time. Time well spent under the watch of Her Majesty’s prison service. But that’s all in the past now and Zaq is trying to put his life back together, to move on. He’s got a job working as a delivery driver for Mr Brar and he’s getting back on his feet. That is until Mr Brar asks him to carry out a special task; find his missing daughter, Rita, and return her to her family. But Zaq has no idea what he’s getting himself into. What initially seems like an easy assignment suddenly turns into something much more sinister…

Brothers in Blood will stay with me for a long time to come. I became quite consumed with the story and the characters. Whilst doing every day things like sorting the laundry or cooking the dinner, I began to ponder on Zaq’s situation. I found myself quietly chuckling to myself as I relived the banter and camaraderie between Zaq and best mate, Jags. Anwar has created some very memorable characters and I relished every moment I spent with them.

I loved how our amateur sleuths, Zaq and Jags, approached solving the mystery (and the humorous references to deerstalkers made me chuckle!). Zaq is very much the brains of the outfit and Jags, the wheels (and the cash!). At times I was longing for a bit more violence (I’m an odd creature) but when that violence came it made my stomach turn a little and I had to take a short break (yay!).

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. With its wonderful British Asian flavour, it’s cast of fully-formed, standout characters and the intriguing mystery behind it all, it’s an absolute must-read for crime fiction fans. I just hope that we get to see Zaq and Jags again in the future. Wonderfully intense, raw and gutsy – I thoroughly recommend Brothers in Blood. No wonder this book won the CWA Debut Dagger. Absolutely outstanding!

Five out of five stars.

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

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar was published in the UK by Dialogue Books on 6th September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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The dodgy looking geezer in the photo is me. I grew up in West London. After leaving college I had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. I eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. I have an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and am a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. For everything else, I’ve got an alibi. It wasn’t me. I was never there.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward (@sarahrward1) @FaberBooks #DCConnieChilds #TheShroudedPath #MustRead

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“The past won’t stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Shrouded Path blog tour. The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward is the fourth book in the excellent DC Connie Childs series and continues to remain a very firm damppebbles.com favourite. A series I return to time and time again. And it’s the eBook publication day today for this latest instalment so a very happy release day to Sarah and the folk at Faber Books. The hardback will follow later this week on Thursday 6th September.

One of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year is always the next DC Connie Childs book from Sarah Ward. And do you know what? I am NEVER disappointed. Never. It’s that simple really. If you’re a fan of crime fiction and you haven’t read one of Ward’s books, then you’re doing something wrong. Her characters are fully formed, living beings who leap off the page at the reader. You’re drawn into the misty fictional town of Bampton and it’s surrounding Peak District towns, a landscape which feels as much a part of the book as the characters. And then you’re handed a complex, enthralling mystery to get your teeth into. It’s fictional bliss and I can’t get enough of Ward’s masterful writing.

I adore Ward’s lead protagonist, Connie Childs, but I also have a rather large soft spot for her DI, Francis Sadler, who, unlike many senior officers you find in crime fiction, is supportive of his DC. Sadler offers an encouraging word and a gentle shove in the right direction whilst also providing the authority which spontaneous and impulsive Connie needs at times. They’re a wonderful match and such a refreshing change to many other DI/DC relationships I read about. I must also mention the new boy, DC Peter Dahl. He’s not as fiery as some of Connie’s previous colleagues but he felt a good fit for the team. I look forward to finding out more about him in future novels.

I very much enjoyed the leaps from the late-1950s to the present day. The author has built a wonderfully enjoyable mystery around a small group of school friends, both in the past and in the present. The secrets, the lies and the half-truths made for compelling reading. And yes, I tried from the very start to figure out where the story was headed and who was responsible but I would never have reached the correct conclusion. I was bowled over by how simple parts of the story were, how Ward manages to keep her big reveal, her ‘taddah’ moment away from the reader’s mind. Absolutely brilliant.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. And it’s predecessors too. This is one of the very best crime fiction series out there at the moment and Ward’s books are a must read for every crime thriller fan. A dark and brooding mystery which I couldn’t put down. The eerie atmosphere of ‘the Cutting’ sent chills down my spine. I absolutely loved it!

Five out of five stars.

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

The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th September and is available in hardcover and eBook formats, with the paperback to follow in 2019 (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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sarah ward

Sarah Ward is the author of four DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw, A Patient Fury and The Shrouded Path set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.

Author Links: | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |