#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Kate (@bantambookworm) #PortableMagic #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I hope you had a brilliant weekend and that you got to spend some of it with a good book! As it’s Monday it’s time for another fabulous #R3COMM3ND3D2018 post with one of my favourite book bloggers – the lovely Kate at Portable Magic. Kate’s blog is all kinds of brilliant so if you haven’t discovered it yet then what are you waiting for?

#R3COMM3ND3D2018? What’s that all about then? It’s about sharing your love of books and naming three books you think the rest of us should make a point of reading. There’s always catch though, right? Any author, any publisher, any genre (so far, so good). Providing the three books were all published in the same year. At the moment we’re sharing the 2018 book love but soon (1st November to be exact) #R3COMM3ND3D will shine the spotlight on this year’s releases. If you’re a book blogger, an author or you work in publishing and you would like to take part, please fill in the form at the bottom of this post with as much detail as possible. But be quick! Places are limited and they’re being snapped up.

Here are Kate’s choices…

three things about elsie

Three Things About Elsie  by Joanna Cannon
It is beautifully written with wonderfully endearing characters. There is also an element of mystery and a twist to finish – both things I love in a good book.

the old you

The Old You by Louise Voss
It is classic domestic noir. There are plenty of twists and tricks and turns which kept me hooked until the end. I also enjoyed learning about the effects of Picks disease.

the lion tamer who lost

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech
It’s beautiful. The descriptions are exquisite, and the story is incredibly well told and made me feel every human emotion.

Great choices, thank you Kate. And they are all old friends of #R3COMM3ND3D2018 too. I think your votes take all three books up to having FOUR votes each. There are three other books also with four votes each at the moment so who knows who will come out on top. Maybe it will be a six-book tie! Wouldn’t that be splendid?

If Kate has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna CannonThe Old You by Louise VossThe Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech |

About Kate:
I’m Kate and I live in Leeds with my other half. I have been blogging for almost 3 years with Portable Magic being my main website since October 2016. When I am not reading, I can be found shedding tears of despair watching Bradford City.

Kate’s Blog and Social Media Links:
Portable MagicTwitter @bantambookwormFacebook |

If you’re a book blogger, author or you work in publishing and have three books published this year that you want to shout about then please complete the following form (or click this link: https://forms.gle/PE483qCyrKEgV5Uq6)


#BookReview | #GuestReview: Hire Idiots by Prof. I.M. Nemo @FoxSpiritBooks @cobaltdinosaur #HireIdiots #damppebbles

HireIdiots-ForWeb Front.png

“‘This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or the dead is purely coincidental and ought to make you ashamed at the comparison.’


Unfortunately, the murder may get lost in the confusion of new vice presidents, marketers, focus groups, assessors and protestors as the administration tries to make education profitable. There’s no time for mystery!

Professor Clarence Van Dyke finds himself bewildered by the changes, but determined to get to the bottom of the killing. He wants his friend to rest in peace – or perhaps he just wants to spend more time with the attractive Detective Riordan. But isn’t he the primary suspect?”

Hello and welcome to another day where I get to take over damppebbles. I’ve got the chair and keyboard set up how I like them, the radio is on and there is a book to tell you about. So grab a cuppa, get yourself settled and let’s find out what I thought of today’s book. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin….

Hire Idiots is the first book I have read by Prof I.M. Nemo (if that is their real name 😉). The title comes from a William Blake poem where Blake talks about the degradation of the Arts, and this is what our protagonist is fighting. There are two crimes as he and his colleagues see it. The first the rather premature demise of his colleague Ned Sparks, and the threatened destruction of Kingsley College by those our protagonist will kindly think of as ‘idiots’. The story progresses quickly through three main storylines and allows the reader to relax into an entertaining and often humorous read.

The corpse of Dr Edward Sparks, Distinguished Professor of English at the College is discovered within the first chapter. Dr Sparks is not exactly a popular figure within the college but he is a drinking companion to our protagonist Professor Clarence Van Dyke, an Englishman living in America and teaching Poetry and English Literature. Professor Van Dyke is suddenly not only a drinking companion but a suspect. The case is being investigated by Detective Siobhan Riordan. For the first few chapters the murder suspects and motives begin to be fleshed out, but then something surprising happens. The murder plot begins to take a bit of a back seat to the second aspect of the story; Kingsley College has been taken over by a company seemingly intent of ridding the college of its Arts Department and solely focussing only on areas where they can smell profit. Then there is the third plot arm of the unnamed character locking themselves in the theatre in protest at something.

I enjoyed our main character’s journey through this book; from a quiet sedate existence in a sleepy American college to an existence surrounded by murder and sedition. His growing infatuation with Detective Riordan keeps threatening to drop him deeper into the investigation but can he stay on the right side of the law and his firebrand colleagues. It was interesting to read the character’s views on the changes in the American education system, but as they were played against such a nefarious villain as the new Chief of Operations, Georgia Moxley, this allowed them licence to be wild in their accusations.

I will also mention that Prof I.M. Nemo has created the first fictional “Wasps Rugby” fan that I am aware of – please let me know if you know of more!

Will I be reading more by Prof I.M. Nemo? I have to say “yes”. I enjoyed the book, the story, and characters coming together to try and keep their college as a sleepy haven for the arts. Plus the book was laugh out loud funny on occasions. Would I read more Blake? Unlikely, but in the spirit of fairness I will leave you with this;

“Degrade first the Arts if you would mankind degrade;
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade;
Give high price for the worst, leave the best in disgrace,
And with labour of idleness fill every place.”
William Blake

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Hire Idiots. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Hire Idiots by Prof. I.M. Nemo was published in the UK by Fox Spirit Books on 25th August 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Fox Spirit Books |


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#BlogTour | #GuestPost & #Excerpt: False Prophet by James Hazel @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #FalseProphet #damppebbles

false prophet.jpg“A secret buried for two thousand years.
The rise of an ancient evil.
An invisible killer who will stop at nothing.

When a brutal serial killer defies all known methods, the police call in prolific lawyer and former homicide detective, Charlie Priest, to assist the hunt.

Working together they soon discover a link to a lost scripture that contains a secret so devastating that its custodians are prepared to die to keep it.

Tangled in a dark world of fanaticism, chaos and deadly secrets, Priest comes up against a nemesis more formidable and deranged than any he has previously encountered.

There is no Judgement Day. There is something far worse.”

Happy Friday. Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop (the final stop) on the False Prophet blog tour. False Prophet is the third book in James Hazel’s Charlie Priest series and was published by Zaffre Books in paperback, audio and ebook formats on 19th September 2019.  Today I am delighted to share both an extract from the book along with a brilliant guest post from author James Hazel.

Let’s get stuck in…

The Snake and the Boy

There was once an angel named Samyaza. He was the leader of a band of angels known as the Watchers; the holy ones who descended from heaven to be with man.

It was propagated that, in the beginning, Samyaza changed his form into that of a snake: a copperhead serpent said to be the most cunning of all of God’s creatures. It is in this form that Samyaza took up his position in the Garden of Eden and enticed Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, telling her that the fruit’s consumption would give her the powers of God.

Like Prometheus stealing fi re to give to man, which angered Zeus because he knew that, with fi re, man would eventually find little need for gods, so the Christian God was enraged by Samyaza’s trickery. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, but man’s ultimate punishment was to live forever under the crushing weight of his own morality.

From high above, Samyaza watched as God punished man, no longer welcome in the celestial outworld of Heaven. Resentment, anger and lust boiled within him. And something else too. Hatred of God, and the burning desire for revenge.

Then one day, Samyaza felt a cold hand on his shoulder. In his rage, he made to throw off the hand, break it, smash it, tear it apart. But when he turned, his eyes flooded with bloodlust, and he met the cool, unrelenting gaze of the only creature who still had any dominion over him. Satan. And into Samyaza’s receptive ears, Satan poured a devilish plan.

Later that day, in accordance with Satan’s plan, Samyaza proposed to his followers, one hundred and ninety-nine other Watchers, that they descend to Earth, permanently, and make wives for themselves of the humans below waiting for them. It was a dangerous enterprise, one that would draw the ultimate wrath of God himself; Samyaza would take personal responsibility if they were uncovered. But the one hundred and ninety-nine drew a pact together – they would not let their leader sacrifice himself alone.

And so a covenant was reached – each Watcher was bound to himself, his kin and to Samyaza. Together, they descended to Earth, and in so doing became the Fallen Ones. Others called them Demons. Each took a human woman as his wife. And they procreated. Their off spring, a hybrid race of demon and human, were known as Giants.

But the Giants were a blasphemy. Nothing has ever existed that was more malevolent. They were a union that was supposed to be forbidden in every sense. Soon, God’s greatest creation had become corrupted, ravaged and ruined. When the Giants began to outnumber the purebloods, they turned upon their cousins – devouring them like the monsters they really were. From his demonic castle in the clouds, Satan observed the chaos below with gleeful eyes, knowing that his tenure became safer with the death of every pureblood. He knew about the prophecy; the Bible told of it. Th e one to overthrow him will be a man. Well that can’t happen if there are no men left, can it . . .

In retaliation, God sent a flood to cover the Earth, and destroy all living things, including the blasphemous demon hybrids. But in order to preserve the purebloods, God saved Noah and his family. Noah, who was perfect in his generations. The purest of pure, whose lineage was untouched by the demons. The Earth’s last hope.

But Satan was not done yet.

Janus was the son of a farmer; honest and hardworking. The kind of man who would have lived and died in total obscurity, ploughing the oil seed fields or tending to cattle in the arid wilderness of southern Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq. That is, were it not for one fateful day.

On that day, Janus was sent by his father to recover a lost sheep, a journey which took him across the unforgiving wastelands for two days. Starving and dying of thirst, Janus was about to give up on his pursuit when he tripped and fell, a sharp pain rippling up his leg. When he looked up, he saw he had been bitten by a snake; a creature with deep crimson scales, the colour of the Arabian sunset. The same copperhead serpent that curled artfully around the Tree of Life, and who lured Eve into sin. This was God’s partisan, the wicked Samyaza.

Afraid, Janus was about to strike out with his crook, when, just as the serpent of the Garden of Eden had, the snake spoke to him, warning Janus of the forthcoming deluge. The snake advised Janus that there was no hope for his father and mother but that he, Janus, might survive if he were to stowaway on the Ark built by Noah, which was then nothing more than a wooden carcass, a giant timber skeleton jutting out of the desert.

Then the snake writhed away, and where it slithered, crops grew and water flowed. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Janus set off to find the Ark. When he did, he disguised himself as one of the labourers, but whereas those men hired by Noah to unwittingly build his vessel of survival went about blindly following Noah’s directions, Janus constructed a small, secret room below deck where he stayed until the Ark was complete.

There he remained, as the rain lashed and the wind hurled the Ark around for forty days and forty nights until the highest mountains were covered with black water and all life on Earth was extinguished, save for Noah, his family, the animals aboard the Ark and their stowaway.

When the clouds parted, and the rain relented, Janus picked his moment and crawled away, the demon bloodline pulsing through his veins.

Above him, Satan smiled. His plan had worked. It would not be long before Janus spread his demonic seed. Soon, the age of the demon would be born again.

Why the biblical story of the flood is weird on a whole other level

When it comes to religion, there’s one thing that we can all agree on, and that’s that no one can agree on anything.

Not even the data. I recently read two articles in a popular mainstream newspaper less than a year apart. The first article declared that “faith is becoming more and more popular”. The second purported to chart religion’s “continued decline”.

Both articles were peppered with carefully selected statistics and bold statements about their meaning.

Atheism may or may not be on the rise, depending on whose survey you read this week, but one thing is for sure: there are some very strange things going on in the Bible. From talking donkeys (Numbers 22:28-30) to bans on people with crushed testicles from being Christian (Deuteronomy 23:1), there is an awful lot to worry about.

It turns out that one of the strangest is also one of the most well-known.

The story of the Flood can be summarised roughly as follows: God looked upon the Earth and decided that it was permeated with evil and vice. Thus, He destroyed all living things with a deluge; all except of course for Noah and his family.

It is an early example of indiscriminate genocide.

There is, however, a part of the Flood narrative that is less well known. This is the story of a band of angels who fell from grace to fornicate with human women thereby producing a race of hybrid offspring known as ‘giants’.

It’s there: written in the Book of Genesis, hiding in plain sight, although, generally, it is omitted from the Sunday School account of Noah and the Ark.


To understand what’s going on here, it’s helpful to bear in mind that the Bible is not a comprehensive, flowing story. It is a collection of vaguely connected material written by multiple authors across a timespan of up to a full millennium. It is therefore not difficult to find inconsistencies in the chronicle.

Moreover, the stories in the Bible, especially those of the Old Testament, may be supplemented by other scriptures that aren’t deemed part of the canon.

In the case of the Flood, the true story cannot reasonably be understood without consideration of the Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish work ascribed to the prophet Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. The Book of Enoch is not considered part of the Christian Bible.

Enoch tells the story of the Watchers, a band of rebellious angels led by Samyaza who decided one day to visit Earth and take female humans as their wives (whether this is a story of divine love or mass rape is open to interpretation).

The union between the Watchers and such women, who were either blessed or the victims of preternatural sexual abuse depending on your viewpoint, produced a race of half-angel / half-human hybrids called the Nephilim.

This story might have been confined to the annals of obscure Jewish history, were it not for the fact that the Nephilim are referred to directly in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 6:4). The King James version of the bible uses the word ‘giants’, which is the Hebrew translation of the word Nephilim.

Enoch then has the giants running riot, ‘devouring mankind’ and sinning ‘against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish’ while ‘devouring flesh’ and ‘drinking blood’ (Enoch Ch VII 1-6). This has led some to speculate that the hybrids might have ultimately become demons.

It begs the question: did God instigate the flood to rid the world of evil created by man, or to destroy the giants?


There may be some clues in the text, such as that describing the basis of God’s decision to burden Noah with the unenviable task of survival after the extinction of ‘every living thing’.

The orthodox explanation is that Noah was about the only decent soul around, the only one trustworthy enough to restart the human race after the deluge. He was a good-egg, immune from the unmitigated evil to which just about everybody else was seemingly predisposed.

That’s not quite accurate though. The actual text puts it slightly differently. Noah was chosen because he was ‘perfect in his generations’ (Genesis 6:9).

Was this a reference to Noah’s flawless character and devotion to God, or to his bloodline? Perhaps the point is that Noah’s ancestry was pure, untainted by demon DNA.


Whatever the truth of God’s intentions, all accounts seem to indicate that the plan (if that was the plan) failed. The giants are still around. The Bible is very clear on this (Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33).

Perhaps even Goliath, the Philistine behemoth slain by David, was a giant (incidentally, David’s slingshot was just about the deadliest weapon available at the time, and Goliath may have suffered from a disorder known as acromegaly, meaning he probably couldn’t see straight. Why David remains the underdog in this tale is beyond me. But I digress).

We must acknowledge that there are competing interpretations of all of this. Perhaps there were two races of giants, one pre-flood and one post-flood. Perhaps the giants were wiped out, but reintroduced by incubuses (demons that have sex with or rape women). Perhaps Noah’s son Ham was wicked, and his wife was a Pagan bearing the giants’ seed.

The latter explanation has some credence to it. Genesis gives an account of a rather strange incident wherein Noah plants a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). Pleased with himself, Noah takes to drinking an awful lot, leading to him falling asleep in a tent in a drunken stupor. During this period of incapacitation, Ham apparently sodomises him.

Even more curiously, Noah decides not to punish Ham for this act of gross indecency directly, but instead punishes (by way of a curse) Ham’s son, Canaan.

Whatever the explanation, the fate of the giants is left distressingly unresolved.


Given how the Bible was put together, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

The Old Testament once existed without a flood story. The account was added later by Jewish priests putting their own spin on the Sumerian / Akkadian / Babylonian cast of the same event. These additions and changes, introduced over centuries, constantly interrupted and disrupted the fluidity of the overall narrative.

Things were lost. The giants may well be part of that residue; their story was suddenly no longer relevant.

The debate about all of these matters rages on. Some people have pointed to a prophecy embroidered into the pages of Genesis: the one to overthrow Satan will be a man (Genesis 3:14-15). Perhaps it was Satan’s plan all along to contaminate the human bloodline with the divine seed of fallen angels so that there can be no pure man to overthrow him.

Perhaps the Biblical tale is just too convoluted, too confusing to make much sense of at all. It is ungraspable, like trying to catch fog in your hands.


None of this necessarily proves or disproves anything. All religions have an array of bewildering backstories. Many have flood narratives. Few have any cogent historical foundation. The lacuna between faith and evidence is staggeringly wide.

It’s easy to dismiss these stories as myth, the antiquated ramblings of an ancient sect. It’s easy to say that they have been misunderstood, misinterpreted by ignorant laymen who fail to grasp their deeper meaning. It’s easy to say that they have been taken out of context, ravished by flawed analysis and glossed over with misinformation. It’s easy to say that they shouldn’t be taken literally.

It’s easy to say that they’re just nonsense.

Perhaps all of these things are true to one degree or another. After all, what is proof, other than what we ourselves define it as? When it comes to matters of religion, just like metaphysics, we set our own bars.

There is a race of human-angels in the Bible; the same book that has codified the beliefs of billions of people throughout history. The same book that promotes misogyny, homophobia and a set of morals that seem utterly disconnected from a modern liberal social contract. The story of the giants isn’t proof of the Bible’s paucity when it comes to questions of credibility, but the lack of explanation does seem like an oversight when set against the vehemence with which certain Christian rhetoric is espoused, such as the insistence that God’s word is truth.

James Hazel is the author of False Prophet, out on the 19th September 2019 and published by Bonnier-Zaffre.

Many thanks to James for such an interesting guest post and allowing me to share an excerpt from False Prophet.

False Prophet by James Hazel was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |



james hazel.jpgBefore turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.

He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.
He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.

James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Sarah Swan (@Sarah_Swan2) #SarahsVignettes #damppebbles

It’s Friday! Hoorah, the weekend is here. I hope you have some exciting plans in store and you get a lot of quality reading time. I am delighted to welcome another fabulous book blogger to damppebbles today – the lovely Sarah from Sarah’s Vignettes. If you haven’t discovered Sarah’s brilliant blog yet then head on over and hit the subscribe button!

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 is a chance for book bloggers, authors and those who work in publishing to shout about three books they LOVE. They can be written by any author, published traditionally, by an indie press or by the author themselves and they can be any genre. There is a catch though. All three books must have been published in the same year. At the moment we’re sharing the 2018 book love but come 1st November it will be all about 2019. If you would like to take part in #R3COMM3ND3D2019 please complete the form at the bottom of this post. Don’t delay though as places are limited and they’re going fast!

Without further ado, here are Sarah’s choices…

One Cornish Summer.jpg

One Cornish Summer by Liz Fenwick
A sublime read which left me with a book hangover back in early March!! One Cornish Summer is a story of love, relationships, and secrets and is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Throw into this mix, Donne’s poetry, a historical mystery thread, an imposing house and the beautiful Cornish countryside and you have yourself the perfect read. It is cleverly crafted, intricately researched and beautifully written.

The Last Day.jpg

The Last Day by Claire Dyer
The Last Day is an intelligent and compelling story about life, love, loss, and relationships. It is also a clever observation of human nature during certain situations. From its sophisticated front cover through to the very last page of exquisite prose, The Last Day is perfection.

how to walk away

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
How to Walk Away is a book that blew me away. Captivating from the first page, it is a wonderful, life-affirming story, which I finished with a heart full of joy and hope, and the biggest smile on my face. The epilogue is one of the best I have ever read. Katherine Center’s way with words is just incredible.

Great choices, thank you Sarah. I think this is possibly the third time we’ve seen How to Walk Away by Katherine Center on #R3COMM3ND3D2018 so there’s a good chance it could come out on top as one of the most recommended books of 2018.

If Sarah has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

One Cornish Summer by Liz FenwickThe Last Day by Claire Dyer |  How to Walk Away by Katherine Center |

About Sarah:
Hello, I’m Sarah. I adore books and I am a keen photographer.

I have been reading books from a very early age and before I could read, I was always flicking through picture books – I’m sure I was born with a book in my hand!

I read a wide range of genres and I am willing to try most genres once, but I do keep going back to both contemporary and historical fiction more than anything else.

Books are a big part of my life and I started my blog, Sarah’s Vignettes, so I could share my love for them.

From an early age, I have loved taking photographs and with the advent of social media, I love sharing them with family and friends. In early 2016, I was having a conversation with a dear friend about a recent day trip and the photographs I had taken, during which she said I should share my photographs wider and write about the stories behind them. So from time to time, I post on my blog about general experiences in my life, which will be based around my own personal photographs. You will also find that some of the pictures of books on my blog are taken by me.

Sarah’s Blog and Social Media Links:
Sarah’s VignettesTwitter @Sarah_Swan2Facebook |

If you’re a book blogger, author or you work in publishing and have three books published this year that you want to shout about then please complete the following form (or click this link: https://forms.gle/PE483qCyrKEgV5Uq6)


#BookReview: The Lying Room by Nicci French @simonschusterUK @1stMondayCrime #TheLyingRoom #FirstMondayCrime #damppebbles

the lying room.jpg

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.
She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of The Lying Room by hugely popular author, Nicci French. The Lying Room will be published in hardcover and ebook format on Thursday 3rd October 2019 by Simon & Schuster, with the paperback to follow next year. And to celebrate, Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) will be appearing at October’s First Monday Crime night in London on 7th October. The event is completely free to attend but you do need to reserve your spot. More information about how to do that shortly.

I received a free ARC of The Lying Room but that has in no way influenced my review.

I need to confess something to you, dear reader. We’ve known each other a while now. I feel I can open up to you and share a deep, dark secret. As you know, I am a huge (HUGE!) crime and psychological thriller fan. *In a tiny, squeaky voice* this is the first book I’ve read by Nicci French. I can actually hear your disappointment. I have to say I’m disappointed in myself too. However, let’s look on the bright side here – what an absolutely corking read to start with! Oooooh, I love a good character and Neve Connolly is so beautifully complex that I was smitten. I had to find out more.

On discovering her lover dead in his apartment Neve does the opposite of what most people would do. She cleans the flat from top to bottom eradicating every trace of her from Saul’s life, rather than calling the police and reporting what she immediately knows to be a terrible crime. She needs to keep their affair a secret; not only would it destroy her marriage but it would cause irreparable damage to her children, particularly fragile teenage daughter, Mabel. In doing so Neve sets herself on a path of constantly looking over her shoulder, fretting that she left a trace of evidence behind and becoming highly suspicious of the people she loves the most. That moment of madness, that split-second decision could destroy everything she cares about…

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive. (I was obviously a very deceitful child as I was reminded of this fairly often!) Poor Neve. You can’t help but feel some sympathy for her. The result of one very poor decision spirals and spirals until she doesn’t know who to trust or which path to take. A lot of extra pressure is piled on by the brilliantly written DCI Alistair Hitching who was by far my favourite character in the book. His interactions with Neve made me smile at times and his sleuthing reminded me a little of Columbo (the way he just knows the truth, and now all he has to do is find the proof). His slow, methodical picking apart of everything Neve says is just brilliant. Always trying to trip her up, always trying to find fault. Whilst Hitching was my favourite character, I struggled to understand Neve and Mabel’s relationship and found Mabel intensely irritating and by far the most difficult character to connect with or understand.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. It’s an engaging slow burn of a domestic suspense novel which I think will appeal to many readers. I couldn’t work out for the life of me how the book was going to end but it was a fitting conclusion. It’s easy to see why this accomplished writing partnership have the fan base they do. I would certainly read more from Nicci French without a moment’s hesitation.

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

The Lying Room by Nicci French was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 3rd October 2019 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

First Monday Crime:
Nicci French will be joining the panel for October’s First Monday Crime event on Monday 7th October 2019. Nicci and Sean will be appearing alongside Peter Robinson, Marnie Riches and Claire McGowan. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on Monday 7th October at City University, College Building, Room A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.



Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The couple are married and live in Suffolk. There are twenty bestselling novels by Nicci French, published in thirty-one languages. Blue Monday was the first thrilling story in the Frieda Klein series, which concluded with Day of the Dead. The Lying Room is their latest novel.


#BookReview: The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #TheLastWidow #damppebbles

the last widow.jpgFrom the No.1 bestselling author comes a gripping new crime thriller featuring Will Trent and Sara Linton

It begins with an abduction. The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but in the end…they find nothing. It’s as if she disappeared into thin air.

A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer’s day is broken by the wail of sirens.

Sara and Will are trained to help in an emergency. Their jobs – their vocations – mean that they run towards a crisis, not away from it. But on this one terrible day that instinct betrays them both. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control; Sara is taken prisoner; Will is forced undercover. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about what really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind…”

Welcome to the blog today and to my review of The Last Widow by the absolutely brilliant Karin Slaughter.  I received a free copy of The Last Widow via The Pigeonhole which I read in short sharp staves over the course of a week.  This is my second experience of reading a book via this particular provider and this time around I absolutely loved it.

It’s been a long time since I last read about regular Slaughter characters Sara Linton and Will Trent.  A loooong time.  I had the pleasure of reading one of Slaughter’s standalone novels earlier this year and it blew my mind.  I mentioned in that review how I used to be quite the Karin Slaughter fan and would ensure I read each and every new release as it hit the shelves.  And then I lost track of where I was.  And I haven’t read any of either series since.  So imagine my surprise when I discovered Sara Linton and Will Trent are now a couple! This is all kinds of marvellous for me, my first big ‘oh wow’ moment in this book (there were many, many more to come!).

This is one of the most gripping books I have read in a long time.  A brilliantly plotted and sublimely tense read! As I neared the end of the novel my heart rate had increased and I was on the very edge of my seat.  The Last Widow is impossible to put down so spare a thought for me as my copy arrived in daily staves from The Pigeonhole…gah!  I was both glad that I wasn’t able to rush this brilliant book and able to savour every word but I also found the waiting (seems I am not a patient person!) quite frustrating.  Nothing else happened in my house until I had sat down each morning with my coffee and read each day’s instalment.

Trouble seems to follow Will Trent and Sara Linton.  When explosions are heard in the direction of the local hospitals, Will and Sara rush to see what has happened and if they can help.  Will is a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Sara is a Paediatrician and Medical Examiner, so they’re exactly the right type of people for such a situation.  Along the way, they come across a road traffic accident.  Sara senses that something isn’t right.  The injuries suffered by some of the victims are more severe than she would expect from a small scale RTA.  Sara’s instinct proves correct and she is kidnapped at gunpoint before Will can stop them.  Will Will be able to save Sara before the unthinkable happens and at what cost?

When you first start this book you have no idea what sort of ride you’re going to be taken on or even what to expect.  All I’ll say is get comfy and buckle your seatbelt as it’s gonna get bumpy! Sara and Will are thrown head first into the darkest reaches of humanity, layer upon layer of the worst humankind has to offer, which can make for uncomfortable reading at times.  The author builds the story in the most marvellous way and I was completely entranced by Slaughter’s writing and her characters, as well as frequently appalled too.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. This is another strong contender for my ‘books of 2019’ list (the way things are going it’s going to be my FIFTY books of the year!).  So brilliantly gripping, so wonderfully visual and I want to read the next Will Trent and Sara Linton novel NOW.  I loved this book.  A must-read for crime thriller fans! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Last Widow via The Pigeonhole.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter was published in the UK by HarperCollins and is available in hardcover, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |


karin slaughterKarin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 37 languages, with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter. A native of Georgia, Karin currently lives in Atlanta. Her novels Cop TownThe Good Daughterand Pieces of Her are all in development for film and television.

Author Links:FacebookInstagramTwitterWebsite |

Author photo and bio © https://www.karinslaughter.com/




#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Steph Warren (@bookshineblog) #BookshineAndReadbows #damppebbles

Hello and a very happy Monday to you! I hope you had a good weekend, full to the brim of bookish delights.  As it’s Monday I am delighted to welcome another brilliant blogger to damppebbles to share the #R3COMM3ND3D2018 book love – the lovely Steph of Bookshine And Readbows. If you love books then Steph’s blog is one not to be missed.  Her thoughtful and considered reviews are a thing of beauty.  If I could write reviews that were even half as good as Steph’s, I would be a very happy bookworm.

What’s this #R3COMM3ND3D2018 you speak of? Well, allow me to explain (although I do want to know where you’ve been for the last few months…lol!).  At the end of every year, I run a feature on damppebbles where I invite bookish types – authors, book bloggers and people who work in publishing – to shout about three books they love. Because of an unexpected spate of poor health towards the end of 2018, I wasn’t able to finish sharing last year’s posts. So I’m making up for lost time now.  After all, do book recommendations age? I don’t think so.  At the start of November the focus will switch to books published this year (any genre, any publisher, any author – but all three picks must have been published in 2019) so if you would like to take part then please complete the form at the end of this post.

Here are Steph’s three #R3COMM3ND3D2018 picks…

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Hero Forged: Volume 1 (Ethereal Earth) by Josh Erikson
Hero Forged combines my two personal favourite genres of urban fantasy and mystery/crime, with a healthy helping of snark as a bonus.

Whilst I am a voracious and eclectic reader, I always have a special place in my heart for characters (and authors) who don’t take themselves too seriously. I feel it makes the touching moments more effective if they are tempered and contrasted with humour.

Hero Forged’s Gabe and Heather are a force to be reckoned with, of the kind I haven’t seen since Dresden and Murphy! And my sneak peek of the second book in this series has cemented Josh Erikson as my new favourite author.

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Fallible Justice (Wilde Investigations) by Laura Laakso
You won’t be surprised to find my second recommendation is also an urban fantasy-mystery mash-up!

Laura Laakso’s worldbuilding in Fallible Justice is just superb. She takes familiar mythical beings like the Fae and hearth spirits and gives them her own fresh twist, plunging them into a social structure and justice system that is unique and intriguing.

The main character has magic, but also a chronic illness that her magic cannot cure. Yann is an empathetic and complex character and Laakso portrays her issues honestly and sensitively, yet remembers to keep the focus on the murder plot.

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The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart
The Eye of the North is a superbly thrilling children’s fantasy adventure that I cannot recommend enough.

Emmeline and Thing are witty, resourceful and deeply touching as main characters and the plot is fast-paced and action-packed.

This is a great book for fans of books like Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and similar, and I have everything crossed that it is the first in a long series!

Thanks so much, Steph. Excellent choices and a few additions to my wishlist too!

If Steph has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

Hero Forged by Josh EriksonFallible Justice by Laura LaaksoThe Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart |

About Steph:
I’m Steph and I’m a bookaholic. I have been reading since a very early age – my mum taught me in self defence as I developed a habit of following her around the house banging her shins with a book, droning ‘Read it. Read it.’ Now I live with my husband, two small children, two large cats and a puppy, so I grab my moments when I can!

Steph’s Blog and Social Media Links:
Bookshine And ReadbowsTwitter @bookshineblogFacebook |

If you’re a book blogger, author or you work in publishing and have three books published this year that you want to shout about then please complete the following form (or click this link: https://forms.gle/PE483qCyrKEgV5Uq6)

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger Jo B (@tiny_ickle_jo) #JosBookBlog #damppebbles

A very warm welcome to damppebbles, dear reader. We’re all about the book love on what promises to be a sunny Autumnal Friday in the UK because I have another brilliant #R3COMM3ND3D2018 to share with you today. (Actually, we’re ALWAYS about the book love here at damppebbles!) I am delighted to welcome another of my favourite bloggers to share their three #R3COMM3ND3D2018 picks – the very lovely Jo of Jo’s Book Blog. If you’re not already following Jo then I absolutely insist you start. I promise you won’t regret it.

#R3COMM3ND3D2018, you say? What’s that about then? Allow me to explain. #R3COMM3ND3D is about sharing the book love. I invite bookish types – book bloggers, authors and people who work in publishing – to shout about three (only three!) books they love. They can be any genre, written by any author and published by any publisher. But of course, there is a catch. The books must have been published in the same year. At the moment we’re all about the 2018 book love but come 1st November, #R3COMM3ND3D2019 will start and we’ll begin sharing our favourite books from this year’s releases. If you would like to take part (and you’re an author, book blogger or you work in publishing) then please add your details to the form below.

Here are Jo’s three 2018 picks…

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The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave
A thought-provoking tale of love, loss, and murder set in a near-future world that has an element of Black Mirror about it. A brilliant sci fi thriller.

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The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
I love the dilemma presented in this novel – if you could find out in advance the date upon which you were going to die, would you? And in finding out, would you then try to avoid that fate? An intriguing question brilliantly brought to life.

the darkness

The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson
The Darkness is intricately plotted and reads like a classic mystery with some darker themes running through it, this is a fantastic start to a new trilogy.

Excellent choices, thanks Jo. I’ve read and enjoyed The Memory Chamber and your other two picks are on my wish list.

If Jo has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

| The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave | The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin | The Darkness by Ragnar Jónasson |

About Jo:
I’ve been blogging for around 3 and a half years now, and I’ve no idea where the time has gone – it seems like only yesterday that I was (nervously) posting my first review! I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child, and have always had an inclination towards darker stories – as a friend once pointed out, if I describe a book as bleak then I probably enjoyed it. This started with a fascination with fairy tales and myths when I was younger, and has developed into a love for post-apocalyptic / dystopian fiction now that I’m older – something that started when I read 1984 and Brave New World at A-level. I also read a lot of crime, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, horror… honestly, I’ll give most things a go!

Jo’s Social Media Links:
| Jo’s Book Blog | Twitter @tiny_ickle_jo |

If you’re a book blogger, author or you work in publishing and have three books published this year that you want to shout about then please complete the following form (or click this link: https://forms.gle/PE483qCyrKEgV5Uq6)

#BookReview: Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (translated by David Warriner) @OrendaBooks #BloodSong #damppebbles

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“The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning installment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson. Blood Song is the third book in Gustawsson’s Roy and Castells series and is published by the mighty Orenda Books today! Wishing Johana and all the team at Orenda a very happy publication day. I received a free eARC of Blood Song but that has in no way influenced my review.

I want to put my cards on the table here and say I loved (LOVED!!) the second book in Gustawsson’s Roy and Castells series, Keeper. It was my book of 2018 and I still recommend to everyone. The first book in the series, Block 46, is also rather spectacular and well worth a read. Saying that, Blood Song does work perfectly well as a standalone so if you wanted to dive straight in, you could (but why would you do that when you have two utterly captivating novels to read first?!).

I can’t quite put into words how special these books are and how talented Johana Gustawsson, and the translators (in this case David Warriner), are. Some writers tell you a story, while others take you on a journey and that’s exactly what Gustawsson does in her novels. There is always a historical element to her stories and it’s always something that will make you stop and think. In Blood Song the story jumps from Franco’s Spain in the 1930s to the present day with spine chilling effect. At times, I was wondering what the connection would be. How the past and the present would collide. Then all the perfectly placed pieces fall into place and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

The current day investigation into the massacre of the Lindberg family in Falkenberg, Sweden, led by the brilliant Profiler Emily Roy and ably assisted by true-crime writer Alexis Castells, is compelling reading. I love Emily. I love that she doesn’t bow to social norms and is just herself – whether YOU like it or not. The unstoppable investigative duo are joined by Aliénor Lindberg, new recruit to Scotland Yard and recently orphaned daughter to the aforementioned Lindberg’s. It may seem unusual to include the recently bereaved daughter in the investigation of her parents and sister’s grisly death but Aliénor and Emily have a bond. Emily knows the only way Aliénor will heal is by being at the forefront of things.

The chapters set in Spain under Franco’s rule broke my heart. The book tackles a highly emotive subject and I take my hat off to Johana Gustawsson. There were points where, because of the heart-breaking scene I was reading (and so clearly picturing because there’s no avoiding it when reading a Johana Gustawsson novel) I had to take a step back and take a breather. I couldn’t stay away for long though. I was totally captivated by Gustawsson’s words. The terror and fear were palpable. The torture brought me to tears.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I most definitely would. Blood Song AND the first two books in the series. I cannot wait for book four. CANNOT. WAIT! Roll on whenever that will be. I am a massive fan of Johana Gustawsson’s books and I urge you to pick this one because you won’t regret it. If you’re looking for an intelligent thriller that will bury itself deep within your soul then this is it. Beautiful, traumatic and totally addictive. Hard to read at times but impossible to put down for long. I loved Blood Song.

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

Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (translated by David Warriner) was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |


Johana Photo

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

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David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

Translator Links: | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager @EburyPublishing #LockEveryDoor #damppebbles

lock every door 2“You’ve been offered a luxury apartment, rent free. The catch: you may not live long enough to enjoy it…

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents. 

These are the only rules for Jules Larson’s new job as apartment sitter for an elusive resident of the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile private buildings and home to the super rich and famous.

Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished.

And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…

Welcome to the Bartholomew…You may never leave.”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my review of Lock Every Door by Riley Sager.  Lock Every Door was published by Ebury Publishing on 25th July 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats.  I received a free eARC via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I felt anxious about reading Lock Every Door.  Let me give you a little of the backstory.  Riley Sager’s Final Girls is one of the most INCREDIBLE books I have EVER read.  Here’s my review of Final Girls so you can see how much I loved it. I still recommend it to everyone today and it’s one of the few books I would pick up and read again (and again!).  So I was excited to read this author’s second novel (under his nom de plume), Last Time I Lied.  With hindsight, I think my expectations were too high when I started LTIL which led me to be a *little* harsh in my critique of it. I’m sorry Mr Sager.  There are so many readers out there who prefer Last Time I Lied to Final Girls but isn’t that the beauty of reading – it’s subjective.  So knowing I was going to be reading the third novel by this author (which I was excited about, by the way, but also a little anxious), I was keen to separate my feelings about the first two novels from Lock Every Door and read it as though it was written by a brand new author to me (does that make sense?).  Anyway, to cut a long, dwindling story short, I really enjoyed Lock Every Door. But I’m not going to compare it to either of this author’s first two books.

Jules Larsen has landed on her feet after splitting up with her boyfriend and losing her job.  She’s going to be an apartment sitter at an exclusive New York apartment building for 3 months, where the rich and famous spend their days.  Not only will she live the life of luxury, but they are also going to pay her four thousand dollars a month!  It’s a win-win situation.  But there are rules she must stick to; no visitors, don’t talk to or discuss the other residents and no nights away from the apartment.  Jules understandably feels the rules are a little strict but this is an opportunity not to be missed.  Particularly as her favourite book, which she often shared with her missing sister, Heart of a Dreamer, was set at the Bartholomew.  But the Bartholomew is rumoured to have many dark secrets and the longer Jules spends living there, the more concerned she becomes.  And when a friend and fellow apartment sitter goes missing, Jules knows that not everything is as it first seemed…

This a wonderful gothic thriller which sends shivers down the reader’s spine.  Poor Jules.  I really felt for her as she seemed to have the worst luck.  First, you’re dumped, then you lose your job and then you move into the apartment from hell thinking it’s the answer to your prayers. Oh, and there’s a strong chance you won’t survive the ordeal.  I was immediately intrigued by the plot and was trying to plan in my own mind where the story was going to go.  The Batholomew is a character all by itself with it’s creaky barred elevator and the demonic-looking gargoyles on every corner.  The eeriness of the setting really added to an already creepy story and I found myself totally immersed in the author’s tale.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  It’s a compelling gothic chiller which I struggled to put down.  I strongly suggest you give this author’s other books a go too (whoops, wasn’t going to mention them!) as they’re worth reading.  I loved the ending which was very satisfying and a lot of fun. I would have been disappointed if this book had finished any other way.  Chilling, dark and hard to put down. Recommended.

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

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager was published in the UK by Ebury Publishing on 25th July 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesBook Depository  | Goodreads |


pseudonymRiley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |