#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen @HQstories #TheStolenSisters #damppebbles

the stolen sisters“Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of the brilliant The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen with you, and help kick off the amazing blog tour alongside the fabulous Emma Mitchell. My thanks to HQ for the blog tour invitation and eARC of the book. The Stolen Sisters will be published on 1st October 2020 and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Stolen Sisters but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE Louise Jensen fan. I have read every single psychological thriller she has written, and will continue to do so because she is a master storyteller. I was really, REALLY looking forward to reading The Stolen Sisters and I was not disappointed. I loved this book. It gave me everything I was hoping for and so much more.

Carly, Marie and Leah Sinclair. Three sisters who went through hell twenty years ago when they were snatched from outside their home by two men and locked up in a dank and dilapidated room for days on end. Miraculously, the girls managed to escape, but that was only the beginning. Hell left their prison with them and followed them all the way home. Now, twenty years older, each of the sisters is bearing the brunt of those traumatic days as captives. Leah’s compulsions threaten to destroy her marriage and take her young son from her. Marie’s drinking problem has spiralled out of control, and Carly has never forgiven herself for not protecting her younger twin sisters enough and won’t let anyone get close to her. And let’s not forget the secrets. How much longer can the truth be kept hidden…?

The Stolen Sisters is an astonishingly good book and I savoured every moment I had with it. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. Pondering on the girls’ situation, trying to work out where the author was going to take the story (I failed at that, by the way) and generally relishing the author’s ability to tell a blimmin’ good story. It’s an absolutely cracking novel and if you love a family-driven psychological thriller, make sure you grab a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

The story is told from the past – we watch as the girls are taken from near their house at the tender ages of 13 and 8 – and the present day – where the reader witnesses the devastating long-term effects of the trauma suffered by the girls all those years ago. Leah’s compulsions, and how they impinge on her life, are eye-opening. The reader gets to see the gradual increase and deterioration of her condition as the anniversary looms. I found her anxiety and fear palpable. So cleverly written by the author. Out of all the characters in the book, we most closely follow Leah so I found myself warming to her more than the other two sisters. The majority of the chapters from the past are told from Carly’s point of view and my heart absolutely ached for her. Her disappointment in herself for not protecting her sisters enough and the mother role she took on whilst the girls were trapped, it almost broke me.

If you’ve read books by this author before you will be aware that she is a master at deceiving her reader (in the very best way possible). This is another wonderful example of why Jensen’s books are so incredibly popular. I had no idea where the story was going but when we got there, WOW! Dark and twisted – just how I like my books. I certainly didn’t see that one coming! I was gripped from start to finish. Even though it’s clear from the outset that the girls escape, the chapters set in the past still had me on the edge of my seat.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Stolen Sisters. It’s the most enjoyable, absorbing and exciting psychological thriller I have read in a long time. I was 100% in the pages of this book living the story alongside the characters. A highly emotive read that is incredibly tense and the ultimate page-turner. Did I mention that I loved The Stolen Sisters? Oh well, worth mentioning again. I loved The Stolen Sisters! Louise Jensen is a superb writer. It was an absolute joy to read this book and I will savour the memory of it for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

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

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by HQ on 1st October 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

The Stolen Sisters

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louise jensenLouise Jensen has sold over a million English language copies of her International No. 1 psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift, The Surrogate and The Date. Her novels have also been translated into twenty-five languages, as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise’s sixth thriller, Stolen Sisters, will be published in Autumn 2020 by Harper Collins.

The Sister was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award. The Date was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize 2018. The Surrogate has been nominated for the best Polish thriller of 2018. The Gift has been optioned for a TV film.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar @dialoguebooks #StoneColdTrouble #damppebbles

stone cold trouble“Trying – and failing – to keep his head down and to stay out of trouble, ex-con Zaq Khan agrees to help his best friend, Jags, recover a family heirloom, currently in the possession of a wealthy businessman. But when Zaq’s brother is viciously assaulted, Zaq is left wondering whether someone from his own past is out to get revenge.

Wanting answers and retribution, Zaq and Jags set out to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, their dealings with the businessman take a turn for the worse and Zaq and Jags find themselves suspected of murder.

It’ll take both brains and brawn to get themselves out of trouble and, no matter what happens, the results will likely be deadly. The only question is, whether it will prove deadly for them, or for someone else . . . ?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of a highly anticipated new release – Stone Cold Trouble. Stone Cold Trouble is the second book in Amer Anwar’s Zaq and Jags series and is published by Dialogue Books today (that’s 24th September 2020). I chose to read and review a free eARC of Stone Cold Trouble but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved (LOVED!) Brothers in Blood, the first book in this series. It was really gritty but wonderfully refreshing and original too, with tons of heart. I felt a little apprehensive about starting Stone Cold Trouble based purely on how much I loved book one (Stone Cold Trouble is one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, no doubt about that!). But could the author do it again? You betcha. Anwar’s follow-up is another brilliantly written piece of page-turning fiction and I loved it.

Zaq Khan, despite his best efforts, can’t seem to avoid trouble. When his best mate’s uncle, Lucky, asks for his help in returning a family heirloom, Zaq and Jags find themselves dealing with a powerful businessman whose bodyguards are always spoiling for a fight. When Zaq’s brother, Tariq, is viciously attacked, all attention is moved to his own family and to Tariq’s ICU bedside. Zaq can’t help feeling though that someone from his own troubled past is trying to send him a clear message. Zaq is determined to make those responsible for his brother’s critical condition pay, no matter what it takes. Will Zaq and Jags be able to find the person responsible and wreak revenge, before it’s too late….

I am 100% invested in these characters and their very eventful lives. I love Zaq and Jags and will happily read this series for as long as the author writes it. There is so much crammed into this story that there’s never a dull moment. Even when Jags is, once again, making something for Zaq to eat (it happens a fair bit) the banter between the two characters is so entertaining and the imagery is so clear, you’re swept up into the story and enjoying every single moment. Although I will say this book did, at points, make me feel quite hungry!

The streets of Southall, West London, live and breathe on the pages of this book. The author whisks you away to his version of an area he obviously loves and it was an absolute joy to read. The inclusion of Punjabi words and phrases really added to the reading experience for me. I loved how the plot unfolded and how once again, Zaq and Jags find themselves knee-deep in a compelling mystery. I felt I was tagging along with the lads every step of the way as they unpicked what had happened and why. There’s a wonderful sense of unease and tension throughout which kept me on the edge of my seat. Culminating in a brilliant nerve-wracking finale.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend Stone Cold Trouble and Brothers in Blood. Brilliantly written Asian noir with great, satisfying dollops of grit and a big ol’ heart to boot. Refreshing, original, gutsy fiction and I bloody love it! Highly recommended.

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

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar was published in the UK by Dialogue Books on 24th September 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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amer anwarAmer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually settled into a career as a designer/creative artworker producing artwork mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers” Association Debut Dagger Award. Brothers in Blood is his first novel. Stone Cold Trouble is his second.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Bluebird, Bluebird (Highway 59 #1) by Attica Locke @serpentstail #BluebirdBluebird #damppebbles

bluebird, bluebird“When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply conflicted about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him back.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders – a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman – have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the beautifully written Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke with you. Bluebird, Bluebird is the first book in the Highway 59 series, was published by Serpent’s Tail on 29th March 2018 and is available in all formats. I received a free eARC of Bluebird, Bluebird via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a LONG time but you know how it goes (#bookwormproblems). I’m kicking myself that it’s taken as long as it has as I really enjoyed the time I spent with Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews. So much so, the next thing I did, after taking a calming breath and closing the cover of my Kindle, was to purchase the next book in the series — just so I could look forward to spending more time with Locke’s creation. This is such a strong, emotional novel and I savoured every moment of it.

Black Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews, has been suspended from active duty whilst he waits for the outcome of an investigation into his conduct. Being a Texas Ranger is all Darren knows though, it’s in his blood and the prospect of losing everything he has worked so hard for weighs heavy. An FBI colleague sees an opportunity so suggests he heads over to a small East Texas town called Lark to investigate two murders, seeing as he has so much time on his hands. The murders appear to be unconnected; one of the victims is a local white woman, the other victim is a black lawyer from out of town – both bodies were pulled out of the bayou. Darren knows he’s risking everything by going, but the pull to investigate these crimes is just too strong. His arrival in Lark is an unwelcome one. Lark is a town where the colour of your skin determines how you’re treated and when Darren begins to dig into Lark’s murky history, the town’s long-hidden dark secrets are revealed…

This is a very emotive and compelling novel. I’m a huge fan of small-town American mystery books and this one is very well done. I was a little bit besotted with Darren who is not your typical protagonist. I loved that although he’s a man of the law, there is a slightly darker edge to him. I loved his determination to find the truth – no matter what the cost, whether that was losing his job or his wife. Other characters in the book were also well-written but Darren was head and shoulders above everyone else in my eyes.

The plot is a little complicated at times and I did lose the thread on a couple of occasions. As a Brit, I don’t know how the Texas Rangers fit into the judicial system and why they’re held in such high regard. I did a little extra background reading (Google is my friend…) as I thought it would help.

Bluebird, Bluebird is a wonderful slow-burn mystery packed to the absolute brim with tension. The reader is on the edge of their seat from start to finish, wondering how Darren is going to investigate these crimes when many of the local residents don’t respect his authority and would happily kill him, soon as look at him. It’s not an easy read at times but it’s an essential one.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Bluebird, Bluebird and I’m looking forward to making a start on book two, Heaven, My Home soon. This is a beautifully written, timely, thought-provoking and engaging novel and I’m really glad I picked it up. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Bluebird, Bluebird. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke was published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail on 29th March 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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attica lockeAttica Locke is a writer whose first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for an Orange Prize in the UK.

Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was also a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

#BookReview: Shed No Tears by Caz Frear @ZaffreBooks #ShedNoTears #damppebbles

shed no tears

“Four victims.
Killer caught.
Case closed . . . Or is it?

Christopher Masters, known as ‘The Roommate Killer’, strangled three women over a two-week period in a London house in November 2012. Holly Kemp, his fourth victim, was never found.

Until now.

Her remains have been unearthed in a field in Cambridgeshire and DC Cat Kinsella and the Major Investigation Team are called in. But immediately there are questions surrounding the manner of her death. And with Masters now dead, no one to answer them.

Did someone get it wrong all those years ago? And if so, who killed Holly Kemp”

Welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Shed No Tears by Caz Frear. Shed No Tears is the third book in Frear’s absolutely outstanding DC Cat Kinsella series and was published by Zaffre Books on 23rd July 2020 in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Shed No Tears but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVE this series. The DC Cat Kinsella Series is one of the most interesting, compelling, readable new crime series out there at the moment and I get very excited when I know there’s a new book coming out. There’s something about Cat Kinsella that is just ‘right’. She’s down to earth and very likeable, she’s hard-working and a first class copper (we won’t mention the, erm, skeletons in the closet). If you’ve not picked up one of this author’s books before, then now, this very moment, is your chance to rectify that.

DC Cat Kinsella and her DS, Luigi (Lu) Parnell have left the bright lights of London for Cambridge. A body, or what remains of it, has been discovered. The remains of the final victim of the ‘Roommate Killer’, Holly Kemp, have been found dumped in a field up the M11. Case finally closed after 6 long years. But on closer inspection, there are differences between the victims. It looks as though Holly was dressed, the other victims weren’t. There are differences to the wounds Holly suffered too. Nothing really matches. But the ‘Roommate Killer’ confessed to her murder….sort of. And there was an eye witness account which placed Holly at the killer’s house. Was the right person accused of Holly’s murder? And if not, who killed Holly Kemp…?

Everything about Shed No Tears clicked for me. The author can do no wrong in my eyes. This is one of two new crime series that every crime fiction fan should read, without doubt! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that characters maketh the book for me and the author has created the most wonderful cast. I’ve already mentioned how much I love Kinsella but I have just as much love for her senior officers (who are more like parents than superiors at times!), DS Lu Parnell and DCI Kate Steele. These two supporting characters add as much to the story as Kinsella does. Reigning her in when necessary, encouraging her to make random, off-the-wall connections at other times which move the investigation forward. Plus you have wonderful dollops of menace which Kinsella’s real-life father brings to the story. A devoted father, yes, but also a criminal with a dangerous boss who knows too much and won’t think twice about taking Kinsella down.

To fully appreciate the DC Cat Kinsella series I would recommend that you start with the first book – Sweet Little Lies – as the author builds the story and the relationships over time and Sweet Little Lies is the cornerstone of the entire series. Coming straight into Shed No Tears may raise a couple of questions about the previous books so you may as well purchase them all and start at the beginning. They’re all cracking novels and you won’t regret it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, yes! I would recommend all three books in this brilliant series. Shed No Tears is a slower paced investigation but it will hook you in from the start. I had my suspicions about where the story was going to go but that didn’t take anything away from the reading experience. I’m very intrigued to see where the author is going to take the next book as Shed No Tears ends on a bit of a revelation. Change may be afoot! I love the characterisation, I love the compelling plots and I absolutely adore the sprinkles of humour which had me laughing out loud at points. A marvellous addition to what is becoming a very strong series. More please! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Shed No Tears. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 23rd July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository |

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caz frear

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.

She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.

When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BookReview: Malorie by Josh Malerman @orionbooks #Malorie #damppebbles

malorieIn the old world there were many rules.
In the new world there is only one: don’t open your eyes.

In the seventeen years since the ‘creatures’ appeared, many people have broken that rule. Many have looked. Many have lost their minds, their lives, their loved ones.

In that time, Malorie has raised her two children – Olympia and Tom – on the run or in hiding. Now nearly teenagers, survival is no longer enough. They want freedom.

When a census-taker stops by their refuge, he is not welcome. But he leaves a list of names – of survivors building a future beyond the darkness – and on that list are two names Malorie knows.

Two names for whom she’ll break every rule, and take her children across the wilderness, in the hope of becoming a family again…”

Hello and a very warm bookish welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, Malorie by Josh Malerman. Malorie was published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by Orion Books on 21st July 2020. I received a free eARC of Malorie but that has in no way influenced my review.

Malorie is the sequel to the astonishingly good Bird Box which I read last year. I loved Bird Box. Actually, I more than loved it and it’s the proud holder of the title ‘Emma’s biggest book hangover’. Nothing else on my TBR could even begin to compete with Bird Box for weeks and weeks after. If you haven’t read it, that REALLY needs to change. Which is why I was so excited about reading Malorie.

Having survived the creatures terrifying arrival, and the dawning of a brand new, frightening world, Malorie is still doing everything in her power to make sure she and her two children – Tom and Olympia – remain safe, sane and alive. They’ve followed the rules for 17 long, arduous years and survived when many others haven’t. All because of Malorie; her fear and her paranoia. But the children are teenagers now and Tom, in particular, wants to spread his wings. No teenager, no matter what terrifying world they live in, wants to listen to their mother! So when a stranger turns up at their door with news of the creatures and tales of other people’s experiences, people who lived to tell someone else their story, Tom is all ears. Malorie’s fear drives the stranger away but he leaves behind some papers. Papers which will change everything for Malorie and her children…

Before I go any further, I need to stick my neck out and say I don’t think this book will work as a standalone. I think you need to have read Bird Box, or at least watched the Netflix series (which I admit, I haven’t seen myself), before reading Malorie. Both books are set in a very different world and Bird Box gives you the base you need to enjoy and fully understand the reasons and actions of Malorie in this latest instalment. The reader really needs to understand the character and her motivations to grasp the full impact of this novel.

Before picking up this book and reading the blurb, I was nervous to find out where the author was going to take the story. Malorie and her young children were put through hell on earth in Bird Box, and then some! So I was quite relieved to find out the story had moved on a number of years and both children are now in their mid-teens with their own thoughts, feelings and fears. And although I don’t expect life in the ‘new world’ will ever be the norm (for those who were born before the creatures arrival, anyway), there is more of an understanding and acceptance of the situation. People are still opening their eyes and looking at the creatures. People are still going mad. People are still violently destroying their friends and family as a result. The creatures cannot be beaten. They are not going away. They have to be lived with, like it or not. But the characters have adjusted and I found that fascinating.

I’ve mentioned about ten times already in this review how much I love Bird Box. But Malorie felt a very different book. Did I enjoy Malorie as much as Bird Box? No, but I think that can be said for the large majority of books out there. The pace felt slower, the shocks and surprises fewer, the threat felt reduced from the first book. But what ties the books together so well (apart from the phenomenal Malorie) is the journey. I was completely immersed in the trio’s trek across Michigan. It had me on the edge of my seat waiting for something terrible to happen. And then it does…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes but I really believe you will get so much more out of it if you’re familiar with Bird Box. Malorie is a good sequel to a book I adore and I’m glad I read it. I’m glad I got to spend a little more time with an unforgettable character. But I have a feeling this may be the last we see of Malorie Walsh. The ending felt a little too neat and tidy for a continuation but we will see. Recommended.

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

Malorie by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Orion Books on 21st July 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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josh malermanJosh Malerman is the acclaimed author of Bird Box, as well as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band The High Strung. He lives in Michigan.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi (@MaliaZaidi) #TheQualityOfMercy #LadyEvelynMysteries #damppebbles

The Quality of Mercy cover“After years spent away, Lady Evelyn is at long last back in her home city of London and she has returned with a rather controversial plan. The Carlisle Detective Agency is born, and it does not take long for the bodies… ahem, cases, to start piling up. With her friend and assistant Hugh, Evelyn embarks on the quest to solve the crimes. Yet the London she encounters is not the London of her coddled youth, and she is forced to learn that there is more to discover than the identity of a murderer. It isn’t only her city which reveals it is not what she always believed it to be, but the people she encounters as well. Secrets are revealed that have her thinking twice about everything she thought she knew about the society in which she grew up.

Evelyn’s love for her hard-won independence confronts her with yet another mystery, whether she is ready or willing to give up any of it for marriage. And then there is the arrival of rather a familiar face in London, one Daniel is none to pleased to see. Evelyn must find not one but two murderers, as well as make a decision that could determine her future. From the mansions of Mayfair to the dark alleys of Whitechapel, can Evelyn catch the killers before another life is taken?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing a guest post from Malia Zaidi, author of the Lady Evelyn Mystery Series, as part of the blog tour for book five – The Quality of Mercy. The Quality of Mercy was published on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. This is a series I’m keen to get stuck into so I’m delighted to be able to share this fascinating post on the life of a character.

Over to Malia…

The Life of a Character

I consider myself a character driven reader, by which I mean, if the characters are intriguing, well developed, rounded enough, I can forgive a weak plot and still love the book. In some ways, this character focus accompanies me on my writing journey as well. Don’t get me wrong, I aim to create a gripping and well plotted story, but those stories are, in a sense, crafted by the characters and not the other way around. Their decisions, actions, thoughts and desires dictate how the story moves along instead of them bending towards the plot. This process works for me and it may not for other writers, there is no right or wrong. Here I’d like to discuss a little how certain characters take on a life of their own and in that way influence or even change how I go about writing my books.

A character who has been present in The Lady Evelyn Mysteries from the second book (A Darker Shore) onward is Hugh Lawrence. He appears when Evelyn and Daniel are in Amiens, France on a quest to find Daniel’s long lost brother. I had intended Hugh to play a small role, to be a side character in only one book, but as the story unfolded, throughout the long editing process, I came to grow quite fond of him. He seemed to me a figure I should not let go of so easily. As he became more fleshed out on the page, he took on real dimensions in my mind as well. I thought about his past and how his time serving as a somewhat unwilling soldier in the First World War shaped him; how so many men of his generation gave their lives but also so much of themselves to a bloody and miserable effort they often hardly understood. It opened up a door to exploring the world soldiers faced when they came home, the walking wounded, to a society that just wanted to forget and move on. Hugh seemed relevant to me even today, in a world in which those who suffer from trauma or mental illness are often misunderstood or even relegated to the background. I felt an affinity with him, though he and I are so different and I am really much more like Lady Evelyn (though I daresay she is a little more adventurous…;-) Hugh took on mannerisms in my mind, a specific way of walking, a little slouch, because he wants to go unnoticed, an unwillingness to meet one’s eye. In some ways, I feel as though he has yet to reveal certain parts to me, even as his inventor, just as he has kept much of himself private from the people he is beginning to trust. He needs time to let his story unfold, and I think, for this reason, I could not let him go and have included him in every subsequent Lady Evelyn novel.

I suspect many authors feel the same as I do when crafting characters. They come up with a name, a vague idea about who the person is or will be and then, as they begin to write, he or she becomes someone different, someone better or worse or far more complicated that first expected. We want our characters to feel real and believable and real people are complicated, real people do not fit into a box or an outline one can create. Developing characters is one of my greatest pleasures as a writer, and I hope you enjoy them all and the story presented in The Quality of Mercy!

A wonderful guest post – thank you, Malia. I am most certainly a character-driven reader myself. A good (or bad!) character can make or break a book for me!

The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi was published in the UK by BookBaby on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads |

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Version 2Malia Zaidi is the author of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford.

Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman @VikingBooksUK #TheThursdayMurderClub #damppebbles

the thursday murder club“In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?”

A very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Thursday Murder Club today and sharing my review of this wonderful debut. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was published on 3rd September 2020 by Viking Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. My thanks to the publisher for the blog tour invitation and for sending me a copy of the book. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Thursday Murder Club but that has in no way influenced my review.

I was a little concerned before making a start on this book. A small group of near-octogenarians meet on Thursdays to solve cold cases to wile away their twilight years. My reading preferences tend to err on the violent, the macabre and the blood splattered. But I was intrigued by this book. Really intrigued. And I’m so very glad I gave it a shot because I got a lot more than I expected!

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron are part of a very exclusive club. The Thursday Murder Club. Originally set up by the very mysterious Elizabeth and her ex-DCI friend, Penny, to look into unsolved cold cases from Penny’s career, the club meets once a week and looks for missed links in an attempt to finally set the record straight (although it’s only for their benefit, so what good it really does is anyone’s guess…). After the decline of Penny’s health and her move to the adjacent care home, newbie Joyce has stepped in to fill the gap. As an ex-nurse she brings a myriad of useful knowledge. But when a real life case lands at the group’s door, they can’t help but muscle their way on to the investigation. Can the investigative powers of a group of 70-year-olds track down the killer before the professionals do? Who would you put your money on? They may not be an elite team of investigators but one thing’s for sure, they’re going to give it a damn good go…

I was worried this book would be a little too light-hearted and gentle for me but I was wrong. I don’t mind admitting that at all. It’s a wonderful story of some beautifully drawn characters who I really hope we haven’t seen the last of (I think I saw somewhere that it’s the first of a new series). The setting, the plot, the characters – everything works so well together and I was swept away to Coopers Chase retirement village and thrown into a taxing mystery.

The four main characters in The Thursday Murder Club are an absolute delight! Particularly Joyce who we hear from in the form of diary entries throughout the book. And because the reader gets to share in Joyce’s inner ponderings, I found myself warming to her more. Although, it’s not just the club’s progress in the investigation that makes it to the pages of Joyce’s diary. Some of the sections about her daughter and their dwindling relationship, a divide between them which seems to be ever growing, broke my heart. I also adored Elizabeth who is an international woman of mystery, it seems! She’s very intriguing and I’m keen to find out more. The other members of the club – Ibrahim and Ron – were equally as well-written and I loved spending time with them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a wonderfully funny mystery with a cast of unforgettable characters. Very British in its approach but that adds to the warm fuzzy glow it gives the reader. I struggled to put the book down and I read it in two sittings which is unheard of for me these days. A very entertaining novel and I hope we get to see more of the Thursday Murder Club soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Thursday Murder Club. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was published in the UK by Viking Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): |  amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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richard osmanRichard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

#BookReview: Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh @orionbooks @orion_crime #FiftyFifty #damppebbles

fifty fiftyTwo sisters on trial for murder. They accuse each other.
Who do YOU believe?

‘911 what’s your emergency?’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

One of them is a liar and a killer.

But which one?

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh with you. Fifty-Fifty is the fifth book in the Eddie Flynn series and was published by Orion Books on 3rd September 2020. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Fifty-Fifty but that has in no way influenced my review.

Coming to a series part-way through can be tricky. I’ve only read Fifty-Fifty and the previous book, Thirteen, in the Eddie Flynn series. Not once while reading these books have I ever felt lost, or that everyone else (everyone who has read the series from the start) knows something I don’t. That’s a tricky thing to accomplish when you’re five books into a series so kudos to the author. I absolutely loved Thirteen which is a very clever, well-plotted novel. So I was keen to find out if the author could follow it up with something equally as impressive. He has.

Two sisters on trial for the brutal murder of their father. Both women claim their innocence and accuse the other of the barbaric crime. Both called 911 within minutes of each other claiming to be terrified of the other and fearful for her own life. One is telling the truth. The other is a cold blooded killer and manipulator with a hidden dark side. It’s down to Flynn and his team to tear the sister’s lives apart and find the killer…

What a page-turner! This is an assured, clever legal thriller that ticks all the boxes. I don’t tend to read many legal thrillers (although there has been a bit of a spike recently) but when they’re this good, I ask myself why! The author is a master story-teller and this is one series crime fans cannot ignore.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Fifty-Fifty as there’s a good chance I’ll say something I shouldn’t and give the game away. So I won’t. Except to say it’s gripping, thrilling and full of doubt. I decided who the guilty party was quite early on, only to change my mind, again and again and again. Cavanagh is very adept at the art of misdirection and red herrings, and I loved it!

The returning characters are all great (I do have a soft spot for Judge Harry Ford, and now Clarence) but special mention to Kate Brooks who is the new kid on the block and out to make her name. Whilst Eddie represents Sofia, Kate represents the other sister, Alexandra. You can’t help but feel for Kate who throws herself in at the deep end making a stand against her misogynistic, sexist, truly revolting senior partner. And she really has thrown herself in deep. First solo case and you’re against Eddie Flynn. Ouch.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. This and the brilliant Thirteen (which still remains my favourite Cavanagh book but only because of the unforgettable bad guy!). I love Flynn’s character and I will happily, gladly read this series for as long as it continues. I will also be going back to the beginning to check out where it all began. How could I not? Fifty Fifty is a terrific book. Highly readable, totally engrossing and I want more Flynn! Recommended.

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

Fifty-Fifty by Steven Cavanagh was published in the UK by Orion Books on 3rd September 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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What's Your First Draft Like? – Steve CavanaghSteve Cavanagh is the bestselling author of the Eddie Flynn novels and standalone thrillers. In 2018 he won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for crime novel of the year. All of his novels have either been nominated for awards, or have won awards internationally.

He is a practicing lawyer, and was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he still lives.  Together with Luca Veste, Steve hosts the popular comedy lit podcast Two Crime Writers And A Microphone.

Author Links:TwitterWebsiteFacebook  | Instagram |

Author bio © https://www.stevecavanaghauthor.com/

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Road to Mercy by T.J. Brearton @cobaltdinosaur #RoadToMercy #InkubatorBooks #damppebbles

Road to Mercy

A brutal abduction. Two scared kids. One desperate fugitive.

Struggling with the guilt she feels for shooting and killing a drug dealer during her freshman case, Special Agent Shannon Ames is thrown back in the deep end when former federal prosecutor Lucy Donato goes missing.

The case takes a surprising turn when Lucy’s bookish husband Bob is caught on camera fleeing the state with his two small children. Has he done something to his wife? Is he a danger to the kids?

There’s definitely something off about Bob, because it soon becomes clear he isn’t stopping for anyone. He’s smart, he’s ruthless, and he steamrolls over anyone who gets in his way.

Desperate to protect the kids, Shannon pursues Bob cross-country, following a trail of stolen cars, brutal bar fights, and dangerous drug dealers. But something isn’t sitting right with her – why would a meek office worker suddenly blaze a trail of chaos across several states? What does he want? Where is he going?

The answer to those questions is truly shocking and puts Shannon at the heart of a case she’ll never forget…

Road to Mercy is a gripping mystery thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat as it races towards its electrifying finish. Perfect for fans of David Baldacci, Robert Dugoni and Lisa Regan.

Hello and welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be handing the damppebbles keys over for the third and final time (for now!) to my guest reviewer, Ryan. Today Ryan is sharing his thoughts on the second book in T.J. Brearton’s Shannon Ames series, Road to Mercy. Road to Mercy will be published by Inkubator Books on 6th September 2020. Ryan chose to read and review a free eARC of Road to Mercy but that has in no way influenced his review.

When a former Federal Prosecutor is kidnapped with her son, it leads to murder. When the prosecutor’s husband also disappears taking the couple’s young children with him, the police have a target to find and a chase across the USA against the clock ensues.

This is my first Shannon Ames book, and it was easily read as a standalone. Shannon Ames is unexpectedly dropped into the investigation of the kidnapping of Lucy Donato, the Federal Prosecutor. She arrives on the scene to find local cops friendly with the local business owners, who seem keen to avoid disruption rather than understand what’s happened.

Whilst this is happening we find Bob Donato pressing his way across country, avoiding police detection and getting involved in behaviour which puts him squarely on the wrong side of the law. The parts of the story involving Bob are told from the perspective of Lily, the couple’s eldest child, who is watching her father behave in more outlandish ways and putting her and her brother, Silas, at risk. Even from a child’s way of thinking, Bob’s behaviour seems odd.

Shannon doesn’t lack support throughout the investigation but there is certainly a healthy dose of scepticism from the various local police forces. They don’t feel the FBI knows what they are doing, believing Ames unlikely to make a breakthrough. Her support in the FBI comes from Bufort, a relaxed and thoughtful partner who contrasts nicely with Shannon’s wired style. Ames is a well written character and whilst the first novel is referenced in Road to Mercy, I still felt she was introduced well to new readers. One of the aspects I really liked in this story is that there were no bolts from the blue. No massive Eureka moments. Rather we saw well drawn characters struggle with a lack of evidence and make slow progress in finding Bob, the children, and Lucy’s kidnappers. This did not mean a slow story though. Brearton has laced Road to Mercy with misdirection, red herrings and subplots that keep you racing through this book.

I can see Ames being a fan favourite for many readers. The hard working, dogged detective who won’t back down until she has cracked the case is brilliantly written. Road to Mercy has a cracking atmosphere which carries the reader swiftly through a fast-paced and well-plotted story.

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

Road to Mercy by T.J. Brearton was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 6th September 2020 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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T.J. Brearton’s books have reached half a million readers around the world and have topped the Amazon charts in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. A graduate of the New York Film Academy in Manhattan, Brearton first worked in film before focusing on novels. His books are visually descriptive with sharp dialog and underdog heroes. When not writing, Brearton does whatever his wife and three children tell him to do. They live happily in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate, New York. Yes, there are bears in the Adirondacks. But it’s really quite beautiful when you’re not running for your life.

TJ is the author of Into Darkness, book 1 in the Shannon Ames series. ROAD TO MERCY will be his second novel published with Inkubator Books.