20 Books of Summer Challenge #20booksofsummer20 #amreading #amreviewing #damppebbles #bookblogger

“Call me a glutton for punishment but after my complete failure to get anywhere near completing Cathy’s #20BooksofSummer challenge (check out her BRILLIANT blog at 746 Books) last year I’m going to take the plunge and try again this Summer.”

That’s how I started my last #20BooksofSummer post in May 2019. Seems only fitting that I start this year with the same bewildered, naive, unjustified belief in myself 😂. In 2018 I failed to read twenty books so I sensibly cut it down to fifteen for the following year. I failed that too. So, continuing the sensible approach I took last year, I should cut it down further to ten for 2020, right? Heck no. Where’s the fun in that?! This year, the year of the quarantine, I’m going for the big one again – twenty books in three months. Twenty books in THREE months. I’m hoping the more I say it, the less scary it will sound. TWENTY books in three months. Nope, still scary. 🤣

Our lovely host as always is the fabulous Cathy. If you would like to take part yourself then you’re very welcome to join in – the more, the merrier. More information about #20BooksofSummer can be found HERE and if you decide to take the plunge, add your sign up list to this post.

This year my list is basically 75% of my NetGalley shelf plus two other books I need to read for July and August. One is a blog tour read, the other was sent to me by the publisher. In theory, if I read the eighteen books on my NetGalley shelf, then I only have six NG books left to read – hurrah! It’s taken me so, so, SO long to reduce my shelf that I feel a lot more determined than I normally do. I’m ready to kick NG butt! Here are my beautiful books…

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Halfway by B.E. Jones
The Proposal by S.E. Lynes
The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill
Written in Bones by James Oswald
The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser
Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch
Tattletale by Sarah Naughton

Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski
Blood Lines by Angela Marsons
Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan
Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham
The Secret by Katerina Diamond

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia
The Guest House by Abbie Frost
The Home by Mats Strandberg
The Search Party by Simon Lelic
The Shadow Friend by Alex North

Gorgeous aren’t they? Have you read any of them? Which ones did you love? Are you taking part in the challenge this year? I’d love to see your books so please feel free to leave a link to your challenge post in the comments!

Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it. I’m going to try and write a #20booksofsummer20 update post at the end of each month to keep track of how I’m doing. Wish me luck for that too, I’m not the best at monthly posts. If you would like evidence, please search for #CaseClosed on the blog 😬

If you would like to join in with the challenge too then there’s still plenty of time as we don’t kick off until 1st June. Go on, give it a try. How hard can it be, right…? 😉

Wish me luck (really, I’m begging you!) and I’ll see you on the other side!

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#BookReview: The Guest List by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheGuestList #damppebbles

the guest list“On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body.

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the astonishingly good The Guest List with you today. The Guest List was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats with the paperback to follow in September. I received a free eARC of The Guest List but that has in no way influenced my review.

I was a huge fan of Foley’s The Hunting Party when it was released last year. So much so, it made it onto my top ten (ish) books of 2019! So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this latest release. It did not disappoint one jot! I loved The Guest List. Before I started reading, I was struggling with my reading mojo. Its bags were packed and were sat by the front door. It was determined to leave. Then I picked up this book, absolutely fell in love with it and my reading mojo has been content ever since. The magical healing power of Lucy Foley’s words and characters!

I was a little surprised to find that The Guest List is in a very similar format to The Hunting Party. A group of people gather in a remote location. All of the characters have secrets of their own and a motive for committing a murder. You know someone is going to die — but you don’t know who the victim is until near the end of the book, nor whodunit! Honestly though, who cares?! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – I was always told.

Jules Keegan and Will Slater are getting married, and it’s going to be the showbiz wedding of the year. The venue is a crumbling Folly on a remote island off the Irish coast, but wedding planner, Aoife, has everything under control. This is her first big gig and she’s hoping the glitz and the glam of the occasion will bring in lots of future business. But despite the smiling faces on the outside, bitter rivalries and jealous feuds burn deep within the hearts of the guests. This will be the wedding of the year, but for all of the wrong reasons. Spirits are high, the alcohol flows and murderous revenge is planned…

This is a wonderfully entertaining book which I absolutely devoured. I loved it and it got a special mention on my top ten (ish) books of 2019 for being so utterly brilliant. I love a good mystery and this is a truly excellent one. The story is told from several points of view. Each chapter revealing a little more of why it’s narrator could indeed be a murderer. Once again, the identity of the victim is not revealed until the end of the book and it worked so well, keeping me on the edge of my seat! Between you and I, there were a number of dastardly characters I was hoping it would be!

Foley really uses her setting to optimum effect creating an eerie and atmospheric stage for her characters. The setting is as much a part of the story as the characters are, with the swirling winds, the desolate beaches, the raging storms and the cries of the cormorants circling overhead. It’s not hard to imagine the isolation and the solitude the characters on the island feel. Particularly when things start to go badly wrong.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s wonderful and such an entertaining read. The ending is very satisfying (much like the entire book really) and if it hadn’t already featured on my top books of 2019 list then it would be a strong contender for this year’s selection (maybe it still will feature – it was published this year, after all!). Foley is a very talented writer, this is such a brilliant book and I highly recommend you check this one out.

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

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 |

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lucy folyLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#BookReview: Witness by Caroline Mitchell @AmazonPub #Witness #damppebbles

witness“To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It’s been ten years since Rebecca’s testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day a phone rings in her bedroom—but it’s not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to the police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide…

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Witness by Caroline Mitchell with you today. Witness was published by Thomas & Mercer on 20th December 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC copy of Witness from NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved this book and I’m kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to read it! If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer then give this book a read as it’s a wonderful example of how to write a truly despicable villain. Solomon Kemp made my blood boil and wormed his horrible, manipulative way under my skin. Absolutely brilliant stuff! I’m a fan of Mitchell’s writing and I’ve read a number of her novels (The Silent Twin | Death Note | Sleep Tight | Murder Game | Silent Victim) so I know a Caroline Mitchell novel will always be hugely entertaining with well-written characters and twists and turns galore. Witness was no exception.

Finally escaping her abusive relationship and leaving her ex-fiance to rot in prison, Rebecca is starting to put her life back together. She’s moved to a sleepy town in Wales, changed her appearance and has apprehensively started a new relationship. But her ex, Solomon, is not the kind of man to forget and spends his time locked up plotting and planning his revenge following Rebecca’s testimony. On his release ten years later, Solomon starts to play a game with Rebecca, who is now happily married with a four-year-old daughter. Rebecca is a silent witness to ten terrible crimes – one for each year Solomon spent in prison. She must nominate the victim and then stand and watch as the crime happens before her very eyes. Call the police and she will die. Solomon is in control, just as he likes it! As the crimes increase in seriousness and get closer to home, Rebecca has to confront her past and the secrets she holds, before it’s too late…

I absolutely loved the concept of this book; ten crimes of different severity, the victim decided by our likeable protagonist, a dastardly manipulator pulling all the strings. Wonderful stuff! Mitchell’s writing hooked me in from the get-go and I savoured every minute of this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be back in the story.

The story is told from three perspectives; Rebecca in the present, Solomon in the present, and Rebecca’s diary entries before Solomon’s arrest ten years ago. The diary entries are tense reading and certain scenes made me shudder with repulsion. The lengths Solomon goes to to get what he wants is a real eye-opener and Rebecca’s slow demise is heart-breaking. She loses everything, including her freedom and the reader can’t help but feel for this poor woman who is completely trapped within a real-life nightmare.

I really liked Rebecca but I did struggle a little with how easily she accepted the situation and Solomon’s game. She also felt a little naive to me at times but perhaps she had to be for the story to flow as well as it did. I did work out which direction the story was heading from the end of the prologue but I wasn’t 100% sure and the book was so darn entertaining, that I didn’t really care if I was right! Solomon is the stuff nightmares are made of. Controlling, manipulative, deluded and a total bully. I thought he was a perfect creation and so incredibly well-written. I could feel Rebecca’s fear of him, along with Solomon’s hatred and his palpable anger. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Mitchell has done it again with another chilling page-turner of a book and I can’t wait to read more from this wonderful author. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers then make sure this one goes on the TBR. Thoroughly entertaining, edge of your seat stuff and I loved it! Highly recommended.

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

Witness by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 20th December 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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caroline mitchellUSA Today and Global #1 Bestselling Thriller Author.

Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Set in Shoreditch, London, her DS Ruby Preston trilogy is described as terrifying, addictive serial killer thrillers.

Caroline also writes psychological thrillers. The most recent, Silent Victim, has been described as ‘brilliantly gripping and deliciously creepy’. Her new DI Amy Winter series is published by Thomas & Mercer.

 

Calling all crime, thriller and dystopian fiction writers – PM Books want to hear from YOU #SubmissionCall @PMBooksHHB @HhouseBooks #PMBooks #WritingCommunity #amwriting #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to the blog on this sunny Thursday. I have something a little different to share with you today, which I’m really excited about. One of my favourite publishers – Holland House Books – are starting a Kindle-first crime, thriller and dystopian imprint called PM BOOKS and they are looking for established and aspiring writers to submit their work. Is that you? If so, read on….

PM Books are a Kindle-First imprint of Holland House Books that specialises in crime, thriller and dystopian fiction. Phaidra Robinson and Mia Skevington set up PM Books in April 2020 in order to pursue their respective loves of true crime and detective fiction. Our background of Literary Fiction at Holland House Books means that we bring an expectation of and experience in producing high quality books to these genres. An inaugural imprint, this is the time for authors to submit their work for the chance to be one of our founding book releases.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? Do you have a manuscript languishing unloved in a drawer? Have you recently written the two most exciting words in the world…THE END? Are you ready to get your writing into readers’ hands? Then here’s everything you need to know to submit your book to PM Books:

We are looking for most types of crime and thriller fiction, from the classic English whodunit through to police procedurals, or classic noir through to mind-bending psychological thrillers. Maybe you want to introduce us to a dystopian future. We want well-written, satisfying work – a good twist and convincing characters are the ways to our hearts. It may be cosy and comfortable or dark and disturbing… or something completely different.

If you have a completed novel or novella which you believe may fit, then send us:

1) The first fifty pages of your work.
2) A synopsis of your work (maximum two pages).
3) A covering letter with a brief overview – we do NOT need you to do a brilliant ‘pitch’ or the kind of blurb which would go on the back of the book. The basic story, main character(s) and the general themes is all we need.

These documents should be Word Documents, size 12 in a standard font, with a line spacing of 1.5.

Please email us at pmbooks@hhousebooks.com and address them to the Editor Phaidra Robinson.

The road to publication beckons and I really hope you’re as excited as I am about this brilliant opportunity.

You can contact PM Books by email on pmbooks@hhousebooks.com, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram and via their website: https://pmbooks0.wixsite.com/pmbooks/. Good luck and I hope to be reading your book very soon!

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#BookReview: Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi (translated by Sam Taylor) @wnbooks #DontLetGo #damppebbles

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“Picture the scene – an idyllic resort on the island of Réunion. Martial and Liane Bellion are enjoying the perfect moment with their six-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, clear water, palm trees, a warm breeze…

Then Liane Bellion disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. When the room is opened, it is empty, but there is blood everywhere. An employee of the hotel claims to have seen Martial in the corridor during that crucial hour.

Then Martial also disappears, along with his daughter. An all-out manhunt is declared across the island. But is Martial really his wife’s killer? And if he isn’t, why does he appear to be so guilty?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Michel Bussi’s Don’t Let Go with you today. This holiday-themed thriller seems very apt at the moment as I was due to be jetting off to foreign shores myself soon. Instead, I’m settling for the gentle lapping of the children’s paddling pool and the soothing caw of a Red Kite as it circles overhead (do Red Kites caw? I don’t think they do! More of a shriek? Soothing shriek….?!). Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi (and translated by Sam Taylor) was published in the UK by W&N Books on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I received a free eARC of Don’t Let Go but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a fan of translated crime fiction and have read several novels which have been translated from their original French, just like Don’t Let Go. The book has a wonderful French feel to it but it isn’t strictly set in mainland France; all of the action happens on the French island of Réunion. Réunion is where Martial and Liane Bellion have chosen to take a holiday with their six-year-old daughter, Sopha. They’re lounging by the pool, enjoying the luxury of their hotel when Liane decides to return to their room. From there the nightmare begins because Liane disappears. The room is in disarray, the smears of what looks like blood are impossible to ignore. The evidence is staring everyone in the face. Liane has vanished, but no one saw her leave. When Martial is brought in for routine questioning, his story begins to fall apart. So he runs, taking Sopha with him. All fingers point to Martial killing his wife. Why else would he run…?

I really enjoyed this book and I loved being immersed in the culture of this vibrant island which, until now, I knew very little about. The characters are strong and I particularly loved Captain Aja Purvi who is a kick-ass ‘get the job’ done kind of woman. I also, reluctantly, liked Second Lieutenant Christos Konstantinov who is a highly sexed, leering lothario easily distracted by drugs and women. He’s not the sort of character I normally warm to at all (in fact, he’s the type of character who would normally make me DNF a book), but in the end, he showed bucketfuls of heart when it was needed the most. The reader never really knows where they stand with Martial Bellion, who I thought was well-written. Is he a killer? Does he have another motive for stealing his daughter away and going on the run from the police? I was constantly doubting what I thought and couldn’t call it at all.

The plot was engaging and I was intrigued about where the story was going to go. The setting was gorgeous in parts and I could imagine lounging by the lagoon. You do get to see the less-touristy parts of the island, away from the exotic resorts and stunning beaches (it is a crime fiction novel, after all!). I was left with a few unanswered questions though, which I’m putting down to reader error (something I perhaps missed). The other thing I would mention is that this book uses a lot of footnotes to describe and explain unfamiliar words and phrases. On my Kindle copy, the footnotes were hard to use and ended up in all sorts of odd places. If I were to read this book again in future I would want to read a paperback copy, rather than a digital copy.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Don’t Let Go despite the points raised above. It’s a great character-driven mystery which in these times of lockdown and cancelled holidays was a welcome distraction. I have two other Bussi novels on my bookshelf and I’m looking forward to reading them. Engaging, interesting and quite the page-turner! Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Don’t Let Go. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi was published in the UK by W&N Books on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Michel Bussi
Michel Bussi is one of France’s most celebrated crime authors. The winner of more than 15 major literary awards, he is a professor of geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. After the Crash, his first book to appear in English, will be translated into over twenty languages.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten @0neMoreChapter_ @BOTBSPublicity #DeadWrong #damppebbles

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“The serial killer is behind bars. But the murders are just beginning…

DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…”

Hello bookish friends and welcome to a brand new week on damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of the second book in Noelle Holten’s DC Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong. Dead Wrong was published by One More Chapter in paperback format on Thursday 14th May 2020 (it’s also available in digital format and audiobook, if that’s more your thing). I received a free digital copy of the book via NetGalley which has in no way influenced my review.

I read Holten’s debut – Dead Inside – last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I was excited to get my mitts on the second book in the series and catch up with the tenacious DC Jamieson once again. This time she’s back on home soil and reunited with her Major and Organised Crime Department colleagues at Stafford Police Station. Leaving behind the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Team she was seconded to in Dead Inside, Maggie is thrown straight in the deep end when the severed remains of a woman are discovered. But these remains instantly throw the biggest case and arrest in Maggie’s career into question. For these are the remains of Lorraine Rugman, one of the three victims notorious serial killer, Bill Raven, confessed to killing several years ago. Forensics confirm that Lorraine’s murder was recent — so why did Raven confess to the killings in the first place when it’s clear he wasn’t responsible? Who killed Lorraine, and can they be stopped before they kill again…?

Dead Wrong is a twisty cat and mouse police procedural and I was hooked from start to finish. The story revolves around whether convicted serial killer, Bill Raven, is actually a serial killer and whether he should have been convicted (by our dogged and determined detective constable, of course!) of the crimes he confessed to. Maggie knows the truth and there’s no way she’s going to let Raven walk free. But the rest of the team are looking at things from a different angle and analysing the little evidence they have, which frustrates Maggie no end. The plot is so well thought out and once again Holten totally flummoxed me as I didn’t have a clue where the story was going.

The team spend a large proportion of time chasing their tails, pondering the very little evidence they have and telling Maggie to stop being so obsessed with Raven and his mind games. I loved this as it allowed more of the characters’ personalities to shine through. We get to see a lot more of Maggie in this second book but one character does not a police procedural make. The other characters are just as important and they all add something to the story, no matter how fleeting their appearance. I really warmed to DI Abigail Rutherford and found her a strong and formidable personality (if a little tetchy at times, but I love tetchy!). I hope we see a lot more of her in future.

I think the standout character for me in the novel though is Bill Raven who likes nothing more than playing clever mind games and tormenting poor Maggie at every given opportunity. Winding her up and watching her burn whilst her colleagues shake their heads in dismay at her ever-so-slightly obsessive behaviour. As a reader you know he’s bad news, but you can’t help but doubt whether he’s part of the killings. After all, he’s been locked up in prison for a couple of years now. It doesn’t make any sense!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a well-written, tense and gritty crime novel. I’m particularly looking forward to reading the third book in the series following the brilliantly shocking twist at the end of Dead Wrong. I certainly didn’t see that one coming!! If you haven’t read the first book in the series then fret not, Dead Wrong can easily be read as a standalone. Holten is definitely one to watch. Recommended.

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

Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 14th May 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 |

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside is her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger (@m_pettinger) @cobaltdinosaur #PaperSoldiers #damppebbles

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“The streets of Greater Manchester are awash with drugs and weapons, and the gangs that control this multi-million pound business will stop at nothing to protect and grow their business. The Dolsen family are one such gang.

When the head of a rival Yardie gang is found brutally murdered, revenge attacks were always likely to follow, and gang members were unlikely to be the only ones hurt.

DCI Priest teams up with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA); but they soon admit to conflicting objectives which may unravel their alliance, and prove to it be more of a hindrance than a help.

Was DCI Priest was about to undertake his most challenging investigation to date?”

Hello and welcome to another damppebbles takeover by me, Ryan. I’m back (but not in a ‘The Shining’ type way!). Every now and again Emma talks about a book that she is organising a tour for and I’m intrigued! It sounds interesting and that is exactly what happened with Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger! Something about the blurb said ‘read me!’ so I asked very nicely and here I am! I received a free digital copy of Paper Soldiers but that has in no way influenced my review.

So after an all-action blurb featuring guns, drugs, murder and gangs, did the book live up its summary? Absolutely! DCI Priest is a fantastic curmudgeonly, dry humoured and intelligent lead detective consumed in a tough investigation. The team around him form a strong cast. Stephens and Simkins have fantastic interplay, with the right level of support and point-scoring off each other that you would expect from a team that has bonded together over a period of time. The added realism of junior officers trying to impress, or displaying incompetence, really added to the atmosphere that Pettinger develops. I should say I have not read the first two books in the series – The Decalogue or Tick Tock Time’s up – but that didn’t stop me loving this novel, and left me wanting to read more!

When a gang leader is discovered murdered, the police quickly come to realise this isn’t going to be a stand-alone killing. They are sure the murder will lead to revenge killings and they expect there will be in-fighting as the gang finds its new leader. Calling in experts to bring the team (and reader) up to speed on drug gangs in the Manchester area, the team soon realise that this could go on a lot longer than anyone wants. A couple getting gunned down on the streets of their city is just part of the growing body count, and no-one wants to talk to the Police. So it’s uphill all the way for Priest and his team!

I mentioned that Priest is a curmudgeon but he is also sarcastic and not afraid to get into peoples faces and push his team hard to solve the cases and end the bloodshed. I would love to go back and read more about Priest so expect to visit books 1 and 2 soon, especially to find out if Priest has always been this sarcastic and cynical! The interplay between SOCA and Priest’s team adds a definite friction to the proceedings as both teams are keen to gain the results they want and neither wants the other to interfere too much! I liked this aspect of the book as it gave an added tension to a number of scenes and leads to some well-placed twists.

If you put together well-written characters, an excellent storyline, enough blood to keep even damppebbles happy – you get Paper Soldiers. I give this cracking novel an easy 5 stars and look forward to reading more about DCI Priest’s adventures soon.

Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger was published in the UK on 16th March 2020 and is available in digital format (please note, 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 | Goodreads |

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Mark Pettinger

Mark Pettinger is a crime fiction writer of the DCI Priest novels. His debut The Decalogue entered the Amazon Bestseller Top 100 list in December 2015, and the Top 10 on the sub-genre of ‘police procedurals’.

Mark was born in a maternity ward attached to RAF Manston in Kent. His father was in the Royal Air Force, and for the first few years of his life, he lived on a number of RAF bases on the east coast of the UK with his parents and sister. Skip forward a few years; now married and with children he lives in a small village in East Yorkshire.

Fitting his writing around his ‘day job’; Mark’s writing pattern is somewhat sporadic, and he writes when he can, which currently is in hotel rooms / foyer, or in an airport lounge trying to keep one eye on the departure board to ensure he doesn’t miss his flight!

Mark’s interest in the murky world of crime started a number of years ago when he was attracted to reading true crime. He became fascinated with the exploits of the Yorkshire Ripper, Dennis Nilsen, John Wayne Gacy, Andrei Chikatilo etc. An avid reader of many genre’s, but his attention turned to favouring crime fiction; and his reading list includes Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Lynda La Plante, Jo Nesbo, and latterly CJ Tudor (for something just that little bit special).

Mark has openly credited Ian Rankin as the primary inspiration for not only stirring his interest in reading crime fiction, but also ‘picking up the pen’.

Mark has published two hugely successful crime fiction novels: The Decalogue in 2012, and Tick Tock, Time’s Up in 2015. Long overdue, critics have noted, Mark published the third instalment in the DCI Priest series Paper Soldiers in March 2020.

Next on his list is a standalone crime thriller, due for publication in summer 2021.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Broken Steel by Stuart Field (@StuartField14) @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #BrokenSteel #NextChapterPub #damppebbles

Broken-Steel-2-Main-File“After ten years in prison for his wife’s murder, Brian Armstrong is free.

When a freak accident with the prison transport gives him and two others an opportunity to escape, they seize it. With revenge in his heart, Brian disappears into the storm-filled city. After an ex-schoolteacher is found dead, Detective John Steel is brought in to investigate.

The circumstances are mysterious – just the way Steel likes it. His partner Samantha McCall is convinced the timing between the escape and the death of the teacher are more than coincidence. As they start to investigate, the case becomes more complex than they could have ever imagined. With time running out, can they find the killer and bring him to justice?”

Hello! Emma has kindly passed the reviewing baton over to me today so that I can share my thoughts on Broken Steel by Stuart Field with you. I received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

When a bus carrying convicted criminals crashes on it’s way to court, it is not surprising that some make the break for freedom. But they then have a choice, lie low to avoid being caught or settle some old scores. So when people associated with the cases of the escapees start turning up dead, there is a big puzzle for Steel and McCall to solve.

This is my first book in the Steel series. There is clearly a fascinating backstory to this character but the book can still happily be read as a standalone. Steel is the classic ‘riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and served with a side of mystery’ for us to have so little insight into the thinking of one of the main characters is a fascinating read. His partner, Samantha McCall, is much more transparent giving this partnership of contrasts an easy to understand character and a conundrum! Steel is impressive in that he contains many of the generalisations for lead characters but feels head and shoulders above many of his peers as a well formed character. Whether he is looking for answers in traditional ways or serving up his own form of justice, he comes across as consistent and focussed on solving the crimes. McCall brings her own perspective and insight into the investigation and takes decisive actions in the investigation rather than being dismissed to the role of trusty sidekick.

The story was strong and well written and Stuart Field avoids the temptation of making it all action. The scenes around the desk at the station, as the police search for clues, were as intriguing as the action scenes were immersive. The balance of action and mystery was so well made with the book feeling at home in both the ‘action thriller’ and ‘crime’ genre.

There are certainly twists in the book, red herrings and well drawn characters on both sides of the law. Who can be trusted, and who will betray Steel and McCall, keeps the reader on their toes throughout this novel.

Will I be reading more Steel? I hope so! I would happily recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining, well written and intriguing crime action thriller, and will be keeping my eye out to read more in the future.

Broken Steel by Stuart Field was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 26th February 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, 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.comGoodreads |

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Stuart FieldStuart Field was born in the UK, in the West Midlands. He spent his early years in the army, seeing service in all the known (and some unknown) hotspots around the world. He now lives in Germany with his wife Ani. When not engaged in highly confidential security work, he writes thrillers which perhaps mimic his life-experience more than the reader would like to believe.

#BookReview: Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (translated by Sarah Moses) @PushkinPress #TenderIsTheFlesh #damppebbles

tender is the flesh.jpg“It all happened so quickly. First, animals became infected with the virus and their meat became poisonous. Then, governments initiated the Transition. Now, ‘special meat’ – human meat – is legal.

Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans only no one calls them that. He works with numbers, consignments, processing. One day, he’s given a gift to seal a deal: a specimen of the finest quality. He leaves her in his barn, tied up, a problem to be disposed of later.

But the specimen haunts Marcos. Her trembling body, her eyes that watch him, that seem to understand. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost – and what might still be saved…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of one of the most hypnotic books I have read in a long, long time with you. I saw Tender is the Flesh mentioned a couple of times on Twitter and it instantly got it’s (meat) hooks into me. I couldn’t help myself and pre-ordered the book immediately. This is the type of fiction I love; brutal, powerful and thought-provoking.

I should probably mention at this point that I read this book as soon as it was published (a few months ago) and the fact that a virus infects the World’s animals seemed, at the time, to be nothing more than fiction. Anything involving a virus these days has a slightly different…perspective (?) to it, but I know I would still have read this book and still loved it as much as I do. Because it’s a bloody awesome book and if you’ve got a strong stomach and like the darker side of fiction then this is a must read!

So the big question here is…would you? Would you eat human flesh if that was the only available meat for you to consume? It’s unthinkable, right? Tender is the Flesh makes the reader ask themselves some pretty hefty questions and looks at the situation from some very interesting angles. To put things into context, the humans on the menu aren’t like you or I. They’re bred, farmed and processed the same way livestock is. They’re nameless, they’re nothing but protein. But….but…but…they’re still people, right? And that’s the brilliant hook which this stonking piece of fiction rests on. It’s absolutely impossible to comprehend. But that’s exactly what pulled me into the pages of this incredible book.

Marcos works at the local processing plant. The reader discovers that after so many years of watching and partaking in horrifically violent acts that Marcos has become somewhat desensitised to the brutality of it all. He’s a heavily flawed character, having recently separated from his wife, but I found myself warming to him as the story progressed. When an illegal gift on a Female FGP (First General Pure) is delivered to his house, he doesn’t know what to do with it (her!).

This really is an eye opener of a book and I devoured it (pun intended). I was nearing the end of the novel and I couldn’t for the life of me work out where the author was going to take things, how it was all going to be wrapped up. But it’s absolutely perfect and as a result, this book will stay with me for a long time to come. I expect it will feature in my top books of the year list.

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely, but it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s savage, brave, unsettling and utterly unflinching fiction at it’s very best. The way the ‘special meat’ is treated is inhumane and stomach churning and makes me question the way livestock is treated. Vegetarianism could be the way forward for me following this novel! If you’re looking for a book which is dark, disturbing and wholly involving then this is it. Bazterrica does not spare her reader and I absolutely loved it! Highly recommended. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica was published in the UK by Pushkin Press on 6th February 2020 and is available in digital format. Paperback copies are available via Waterstones, Foyles and Book Depository (please note, 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 | WaterstonesFoyles | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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Agustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian novelist and short-story writer. She is a central figure in the Buenos Aires literary scene, co-curating the event series ‘Siga al Conejo Blanco’ and coordinating reading workshops. She has received several awards for her writing, most notably the prestigious Premio Clarín Novela for her second novel, Tender is the Flesh, which has sold in eight languages.

#BookReview: After Dark by Dominic Nolan @headlinepg @RosieMargesson @1stMondayCrime #AfterDark #damppebbles

After Dark.jpg“PEOPLE ARE BORN. MONSTERS ARE MADE.

A girl held captive her entire life

After a shocking discovery, the police must unravel a mystery that horrifies the nation.

A detective condemned as a criminal

Violently abducted while searching for a missing woman, D.S. Abigail Boone suffered retrograde amnesia – remembering nothing of her previous life. Defying the law to hunt those responsible, she now languishes behind bars.

A monster hiding in the shadows

In desperation, police turn to Boone – who fears a connection to the disappearance of a child three decades earlier…and a mysterious underworld figure whose name is spoken only in whispers. Freed from prison, what will Boone sacrifice – and who must she become – to uncover the terrifying truth?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of After Dark, the second book in Dominic Nolan’s Abigail Boone series. Had life been ‘normal’ then today would have been May’s First Monday get-together in London, which Dom was due to appear at. But life is a little upside down at the moment so instead you’ll have to make do with my ramblings about Dom’s latest book instead (it’s brilliant!). I received a free copy of After Dark but that has in no way influenced my review.

Wow, this is some book! Gritty and unflinching, I was drawn into Boone’s world from the get-go. With a brilliantly brutal prologue, if, like me, you go into After Dark wondering what to expect from former-Detective Abigail Boone, then the scene is swiftly set. I was instantly hooked and I wanted to find out more. Now I should probably mention at this point that I haven’t read the first book in the series, Past Life but I really want to. I wanted to read it before a copy of After Dark landed in my mitts, as I had heard good things (really, really good things!) from fellow crime readers. After Dark can be read as a standalone but I think it would be beneficial to start at the beginning and follow Boone’s story from the beginning. Boone’s situation is laid clearly before the reader by the very talented Nolan but I felt as though I was missing out, like I’d arrived a little late to the party. Could just be my overexuberant sense of FOMO though!

Former Detective Abigail Boone is a masterpiece, a stand-out character among her crime-fighting peers. If you’re a regular reader of crime fiction then I can assure you that you’ve not met anyone like Boone before. Boone suffers from retrograde amnesia following an accident which could have killed her. The first chunk of her life not even a distant memory. Just a big fat blank. The accident, the consequences and everything Boone lost (and in some strange ways, gained) is touched upon in the novel. Turning her back on the Force, Boone opts to dish out her own brand of justice and it’s compelling reading. Gung-ho, violent, reckless and not for the faint hearted, Boone takes the reader on an intense and thrilling ride, and I loved it!

The story is split between the past (four or five years ago) and the present. It’s a beautifully detailed and intricate tale, but I found I had to concentrate a little more to keep tabs on where in time we were. The reason for that could be something to do with not reading Past Life first, meaning I wasn’t familiar enough with the characters and what had gone before (as previously mentioned – this will be rectified, I will be reading Past Life).

I haven’t even begun to tell you about the plot yet. There really is so much to say about this brilliant book but I’ll try and keep it brief. When a young girl is found wandering the back lanes  of Kent on her own, looking malnourished and abused, DI Barbara Bowen (who is glorious!) is called in. This is the main storyline which runs through the book. The abuse the girl has been subjected to is horrific, inhuman and the stuff the very worst nightmares are made of. The author doesn’t go into detail but the abuse is discussed among the characters, conclusions are drawn and the over-riding subject matter of the book is what happened to the poor girl and the search for the monster who destroyed her. Boone is ‘sprung’ from prison early (it’s all very legal and above board) by DI Bowen in an attempt to help catch the predator, evil incarnate.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But I think it’s worth getting a copy of Past Life and starting there so you can appreciate every brilliant moment of After Dark to it’s fullest. I need more Boone in my life. Gritty, dark, intelligent crime fiction at it’s best. Something a bit different and I flipping loved it! Nolan is definitely an author to watch out for. I’m really, really excited to see what the future holds.

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

After Dark by Dominic Nolan was published in the UK by Headline Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in July (please note, 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 | WaterstonesFoyles | BookDepositoryGoodreads |

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dominic-nolan.jpgDominic Nolan is a British author, known for the Abigail Boone series of crime novels.