#BookReview: The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore @orionbooks #TheDarkRoom #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (5/15)

the dark room.jpgThey thought they’d buried their secrets 
Homicide inspector Gavin Cain is standing by a grave when he gets the call. Cain knows there’s something terrible in the coffin they’re about to exhume. He and his team have received a dying man’s confession and it has led them here.

But death doesn’t guarantee silence
Cain is summoned by Mayor Castelli, who has been sent sinister photographs of a woman that he claims he doesn’t know and a note threatening that worse are on their way.

And now light will be shone on a very dark place…
As Cain tries to identify the woman in the pictures, and looks into the mayor’s past, he finds himself being drawn towards a situation as horrifying and as full of secrets as the grave itself.”

Welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted today to be sharing my review of The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore which I have selected as one of my #15BooksofSummer challenge reads.  The Dark Room was published by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats. I received an eARC of The Dark Room but this has in no way influenced my review.

I read Jonathan Moore’s The Poison Artist back in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was whilst sharing that review that a fellow book blogger, someone whose opinion I really respect, suggested I give The Dark Room a go.  Unfortunately, due to being the slowest of readers and having a burgeoning NetGalley TBR, I have only recently gotten around to it.  The Dark Room felt a little different to The Poison Artist in tone but is still a very enjoyable read.

Inspector Gavin Cain of the San Francisco Police Department is about to get some answers as he stands by the recently exhumed grave of a thirty-year-old corpse.  That is until his Lieutenant calls and orders him to the Mayor’s Office – she’s sending a chopper and there’s no time to waste.  Cain arrives, is introduced to Mayor Castelli and takes what seems like an instant dislike to the man.  The Mayor confides that he has received a number of potentially incriminating photographs in the post along with a threatening note.  These are the first four snaps.  There are another eight to come.  The note suggests that maybe the Mayor would like to commit suicide before the photographs fall into the wrong hands and he is exposed.  Castelli claims to not know who the woman is and wants Cain to discover her identity.  But the Mayor is hiding something and the further back into the Mayor’s past Cain digs, the more secrets he uncovers…

This is a slow burn, noirish thriller set in San Francisco.  The slow drip of information as you watch the case unfold and as Cain joins the dots makes it an enjoyable read.  Helped along by the wonderful setting and the fascinating characters.  And, having read this author before, I can safely say he likes to throw the odd shock twist into the story to give his readers a bit of a start.  Cain is an interesting chap and one I would happily read more of if this were a series (it’s not, it’s a standalone).  He’s a very experienced SFPD Inspector and takes no bull (not even from the Mayor or his Lieutenant).  I don’t feel the reader really gets to know him though.  You learn so much more about his partner, piano teacher Lucy, than you do about him.  Maybe he’s meant to be more of an enigma – after all, there’s only so far you can go with a character when they feature in only one book.  Other characters in the book are well drawn, particularly the Mayor’s daughter, Alexa, who drove me crazy.

The ending absolutely fitted the story and it was the right way for the author to go but I was left feeling a little disappointed.  I think that says more about me than the writing though.  I wanted something a little more showy, more of a BANG than what we’re given.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  It’s an absorbing police procedural which pulls you in from start to finish – you just HAVE to know how this one is going to end.  If you’re a fan of a slower paced crime read with a cast of intriguing characters then absolutely, you will enjoy this book.  Recommended.

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

The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore was published in the UK by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepository | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

jonathan-moore.jpgJonathan Moore is a Bram Stoker Award nominated author of five novels. His third novel, THE POISON ARTIST, was a selection of the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. His novels have been translated into seven languages.

Before graduating from law school in New Orleans, he lived in Taiwan for three years, guided whitewater raft trips on the Rio Grande, and worked as an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. He has also been an English teacher, a bar owner, a counsellor at a wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents, and a textbook writer.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |

 

 

Advertisements

#BookReview: Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada #MurderInTheCrookedHouse #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (4/15)

murder in the crooked house“By the author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders – a fiendish Japanese locked room mystery

The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff at the remote northern tip of Japan. A curious place to build a house, but even more curious is the house itself – a maze of sloping floors and strange staircases, full of bloodcurdling masks and uncanny dolls. When a guest is found murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances, the police are called. But they are unable to solve the puzzle, and more bizarre deaths follow.

Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai, the renowned sleuth. Surely if anyone can crack these cryptic murders it is him. But you have all the clues too – can you solve the mystery of the murders in The Crooked House first?”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada.  Murder in the Crooked House was written by Soji Shimada and published in Japanese in 1982.  It has since been updated and this translation by Louise Heal Kawai into English was published earlier this year by Pushkin Vertigo.  I received a free eARC of Murder in the Crooked House but this has in no way influenced my review.

I have a bit of a thing for Japanese crime fiction.  There are two standout novels which I always recommend to people.  One of these is The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which is also by Soji Shimada (and also published in English by Pushkin Vertigo).  I LOVED The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which was also Shimada’s debut.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw Murder in the Crooked House, another locked room mystery, was available on NetGalley.  This was a must-read for me.  So much so, I added it to my #15BooksofSummer list to make sure I got it read sooner rather than later.

I wanted so desperately to love this novel as much as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.  I certainly enjoyed parts of it and it bears a number of similarities to Shimada’s debut.  But it didn’t captivate me like the first book did.  Once again, you, the reader, are invited to solve the crime.  The clues are all there.  But can you solve the mystery and most importantly HOW the crimes were committed before the somewhat inefficient local detectives do.

I have to confess that towards the last half to a third, I started to lose interest a little and began skim reading sections.  These sections mostly seemed to be the local detectives discussing ANOTHER way the murders ‘could’ have been committed or ANOTHER possible MO they had dreamt up for the house-bound group of suspects.  The story then switches when a familiar detective is brought in to stop the dilly-dallying and make some arrests, Kiyoshi Mitarai from The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.  What I found surprisingly hard at this point was switching from third person to first person.  The entire book is told in third person up until this point.  I struggled to get my head around the change.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of a complex mystery and like to play the part of the detective and you have time on your hands then yes, absolutely, I recommend this book to you.  I’m putting a lot of how I feel about this book down to bad timing.  I should have put it to one side and come back to it at another time when there was less going on in my life.  My love for The Tokyo Zodiac Murders remains strong.  If you are looking for a Japanese mystery to read then I completely and utterly recommend you read The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Murder in the Crooked House.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada (trans. Louise Heal Kawai) was published in the UK by Pushkin Vertigo on 31st January 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

soji shimadaBorn in 1948 in Hiroshima prefecture, Soji Shimada has been dubbed the ‘God of Mystery’ by international audiences. A novelist, essayist and short-story writer, he made his literary debut in 1981 with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which was shortlisted for the Edogawa Rampo Prize. Blending classical detective fiction with grisly violence and elements of the occult, he has gone on to publish several highly acclaimed series of mystery fiction. He is the author of 100+ works in total. In 2009 Shimada received the prestigious Japan Mystery Literature Award in recognition of his life’s work.

 

 

#BookReview: Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear @ZaffreBooks #StoneColdHeart #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (3/15)

stone cold heart.jpg“A fractured marriage. A silent family. A secret worth killing for.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel, and Joseph is arrested for the murder.

Joseph says his wife is setting him up.
His wife says he didn’t do it.
The trail of evidence leads to even more questions . . .

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim. Who would you believe?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear – my third #15BooksofSummer review.  Stone Cold Heart is the second book in the Detective Cat Kinsella series (the first being the brilliant Sweet Little Lies) and it’s published in paperback today! Wishing the author and Zaffre, the publisher, the happiest of publication days.  I received a free eARC of Stone Cold Heart but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved Sweet Little Lies so I have been eagerly waiting for this follow up novel to appear on my bookshelf. And oh boy, it did not disappoint! Caz Frear’s characters are utterly brilliant.  I fell a little bit in love with Cat Kinsella after reading the first book in the series but now, after book two, I’m totally smitten.  The way Frear writes her characters is so charming and with shedloads of warmth and humour that you can’t help but fall in love.

The team are called in to investigate the murder of 22-year-old, Naomi Lockhart.  Naomi hasn’t been seen since attending a fireworks party held by her boss at her home on Saturday night.  The team struggle to come up with any concrete links.  That is until Cat recognises a familiar face.  Joseph Madden, coffee shop owner and all-round creep.  Madden had cornered Cat earlier in the Summer and after his failed attempts at flirting with her, he confided that his wife was out to get him.  Cat, feeling it was no more than a lover’s tiff, advised Madden to report the incident to his local police station before making her excuses and NEVER volunteering to do the coffee run again!  But now Madden is their only suspect in the murder of Naomi Lockhart despite his repeated claims of innocence.  Will Cat be able to tie together all of the loose ends and make sure a killer is brought to justice…?

I love Cat Kinsella, I think I’ve already made that clear.  But I also love her supporting cast – particularly her DS, Luigi Parnell and her DCI, Kate Steele.  They are a brilliant team and one I want to return to again and again.  Parnell and Steele have a lot of history between them and it shows.  The way they both keep an eye out for newcomer, Cat, is just wonderful to witness.  Frear’s books have so far had brilliant plots to keep the reader gripped but oh boy, her characters are a delight.  It’s not just these three though.  Joseph Madden and his sliminess ooze from the page.  Cat’s father and her ‘uncle’ Frank both play a pivotal role in the book and you’re never really sure how much to trust either of them (definitely don’t trust Frank!).  And Cat’s gorgeous yet exasperated boyfriend, Aiden Doyle, who shows us Cat’s softer, more vulnerable side.  What a superb cast of characters!

This book can be read as a standalone.  However, there are several mentions made of Maryanne Doyle and the focus of the first book in the series, Sweet Little Lies.  The reader isn’t really given any details about this case but those involved are highlighted.  It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story and if anything it will make you want to read Sweet Little Lies if you haven’t already done so!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Stone Cold Heart and Sweet Little Lies are both strongly recommended by me.  Frear has a way of writing believable characters, people you would want to hang out with at the pub after work (well, some of them anyway!).  I had a great time playing amateur detective with this one and, in the end, got it completely wrong…sort of.  I thoroughly enjoyed this compelling, character-driven police procedural and, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, I suggest you get yourself a copy and meet the brilliant DC Cat Kinsella for yourself.

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

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 27th June 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

caz frear.jpgCaz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, 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 second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

 

#BookReview: Bird Box by Josh Malerman @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #BirdBox #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (2/15)

image (2)

IF YOU’VE SEEN WHAT’S OUT THERE…IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE

Malorie raises the children the only way she can: indoors, with the doors locked, the curtains closed, and mattresses nailed over the windows.

The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall, but soon she will have to wake them and blindfold them.

Today they will risk everything. Today they will leave the house.

Josh Malerman’s New York Times bestselling Bird Box is a terrifying psychological thriller that will haunt you long after reading.”

We’ve all heard of Bird Box, right? The book was made into a Netflix film and it was massive, everyone was talking about it. Now I haven’t watched the film (too much blood, guts and gore for me – I get all of that from my books and not film or television!) so I can’t comment on that but this book, this incredible book with such a stunning concept is exceptional.

I devoured this book in a few short hours. I very occasionally say it doesn’t take me long to read a book (more often than not it takes me AGES as I’m a slow reader for a book blogger) but this is by far my quickest read in a long time. I could not put this book down and I flew through the pages like my life depended on it. I was mesmerised by Malorie’s incredible story and wanted to see what was going to happen but also savour my time with this courageous woman struggling through an unimaginable scenario. The publishers say this book will haunt you long after reading and they are so right. I’m traumatised by Bird Box and I love it! If you haven’t watched the film but you have a vague idea of the concept then you must read this book. I don’t think you truly ‘get it’ until you’re living it with Malorie and the children. Oh my gosh, it’s buried deep down in my soul. Absolutely superb!

Malorie discovers she’s pregnant. It’s not what she planned, the father of the baby isn’t one for a committed relationship but she knows she’s going to have the baby and do the best she can for her child. But then life takes a completely unexpected swerve. The news starts to report normal, everyday people committing unprovoked acts of extreme violence and then killing themselves. The killings start in Russia but before long there have been a number of attacks closer to home in America. No one knows for sure what provokes these normal people to carry out such horrific acts but it is believed they all ‘saw’ something. Something beyond what the human brain can comprehend. Something so unimaginable that it drives people violently mad. The solution? Don’t look. Windows are covered. Doors are locked tight. Blindfolds become the norm. Whatever you do, no matter how tempting, don’t look…

Don’t look. It sounds so simple. How many times has someone said ‘don’t look behind you, but….’ which of course makes you want to look even more. Malerman’s terrifying world full of unknown ‘creatures’ puts you on edge from the start. The book is told in the past and the present. The past shows us Malorie’s journey to the safe house where we meet a cast of fascinating characters, all thrown together with the same threat hanging over them and having to cope as best they can. In the present we are with Malorie and the children as she courageously takes them blindly up the river. To where we don’t actually find out until much later in the book but this just adds to the books tension and ratches the drama up tenfold.

This is a truly wonderful piece of fiction. It’s the kind of book you want your friend to read just so you can talk to someone about it. Malorie is a stand-out character and you see her change and adapt to her situation as you move through the story. She becomes hardened and it was fascinating to watch. Cope or die. Malorie isn’t the only fascinating character in this novel though. The residents of the safe house all add something and the children broke my heart.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. I loved this book and it will stay with me for some time to come. The only downside is the rather sudden and abrupt ending. I thought I had just under 100 pages left with Malorie which I planned to savour, only to find those pages were a short story. That, however, will not deter me from giving this atmospheric, creepy, mesmerising book five fabulous stars and a place on my top books of the year list, no siree! Bird Box is magnificent. Unsettling, terrifying, thought-provoking and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Harper Collins on 29th January 2015 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

josh malerman.jpg

Josh 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 |

#BookReview: Scrublands by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #Scrublands #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (1/15)

scrublands“In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself.

A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers – missing since the time of the massacre – are found in the scrublands. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.”

Welcome to the blog today and to my review of my first #15BooksofSummer read for 2019 – Scrublands by Chris Hammer.  Scrublands was published by Wildfire Books in January 2019 and is the author’s debut.

As soon as I saw this book I knew I had to read it.  Scrublands called out to me.  Probably because the blurb and the cover ooze that small town isolation I love so much in my novels.  What I didn’t consider was the setting and I should have (particularly with a book called Scrublands).  I’ve read a number of Australian crime fiction novels in the past and the vast, unrelenting Australian landscape always plays a part.  How can it not? It’s something us Brits just can’t comprehend in some respects.  It’s a character in its own right.  The scrublands surrounding the small town of Riversend are as much a part of this story as Martin, our main character, is.

Journalist, Martin Scarsden, is sent by his editor to Riversend.  A dying Australian country town suffering from a prolonged drought whilst trying to recover after a devastating shooting a year ago.  The perpetrator of the attack was the local priest who, without explanation, callously took the lives of a number of local men.  No one claims to know why the priest opened fire.  Martin has been tasked with getting to know the townsfolk and find out how Riversend is coping one year on from the tragedy.  What becomes perfectly clear to Martin is that some of the residents may know more than they’re letting on.  When a second tragedy strikes and the bodies of two backpackers are found, fingers start pointing back to the priest and his unexplained act of violence one year ago.  Once again Riversend and Martin are thrown into the media spotlight.  But someone is determined to keep the town’s secrets.  No matter what…

This is a slow burn of a novel and I have to be completely honest and confess that at times I was desperate for the story to move on a little faster.  Saying that the slow pace did feel appropriate to the setting.  I don’t think I could move particularly fast in scorching heat without a drop of water either!  This is a complex story with many threads running off in different directions but I found it fairly easy to follow what was going on.

Martin Scarsden is an interesting character and one I didn’t warm to (I’m not sure the reader is supposed to like him though).  His suffering of PTSD which is discussed at several points throughout the book made him a lot more ‘human’ in my eyes.  He suffers from a recurring nightmare where he relives a traumatic incident which spanned a number of days.  Yet beats himself up emotionally for being so ‘weak’ when others have suffered a great deal more.  At other times his desire for a story overrode every interaction and relationship, so I appreciated these more introspective moments.

The writing is beautiful and I was able to picture the scenes Hammer describes quite clearly in my mind.  There is one scene in particular where a fire starts in the scrubland near a small number of houses, destroying everything in its path.  The claustrophobic and disorientating black smoke, the fierce heat of the flames and the terror described by the author are of a cinematic quality.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  A close-knit community with secrets they want to keep hidden.  A prying journalist in their midst ready to expose the truth no matter what the ramifications and an unsolved mystery at the very heart of it all.  Recommended.

Scrublands by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 11th July 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

chris hammer.jpgChris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

Author Links:Facebook |