#BookReview: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox #TrueCrimeStory #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. True Crime Story was published by Penguin on 17th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read a book by Joseph Knox for a number of years now. I’ve heard only good things about his Aidan Waits novels, a gritty Manchester based thriller series which sounds just my cup of tea! But then True Crime Story hit the shelves and the book world (the book world I inhabit anyway!) went bonkers for it. So, to celebrate the opening of a brand-new shiny Waterstones near where I live, I decided to treat myself to a new book – I picked True Crime Story. Well, that was over a year ago now, but I finally managed to find a gap in my reading schedule to squeeze it in. And what a treat it was!

Zoe Nolan, new to Manchester University alongside her twin sister Kim, disappears one December evening in 2011 without a trace. Seven years later aspiring author Evelyn Mitchell decides to write a book about Zoe’s disappearance, turning to bestselling author Joseph Knox (yes, THAT Joseph Knox – the guy with his name on the cover!) for help and advice. Evelyn manages to interview most of Zoe’s friends and family, slowly piecing together the mystery surrounding Zoe’s disappearance. What she is told from those who knew Zoe best rings true. Their stories, their points of view are the same. But Evelyn can’t ignore the startling differences she also discovers. Will Evelyn, with the help of Joseph, be able to solve the mystery of Zoe’s disappearance before it’s too late…

In True Crime Story the author strives to give the reader the feeling that this is an actual true crime story. And he does. In spades. I finished reading this book several weeks ago and despite knowing this is 100% fiction, I still can’t shake the belief that it’s not in some way real. When I was a few chapters into the novel, I found myself googling Zoe Nolan, just in case someone by that name had ever gone missing. I’ve read other novels with a fictional true crime angle before but in my mind they’ve been just that, fictional. There was something about the way the author has written this story, perhaps immersing himself in the narrative in such a strong way, that totally worked for me. I know it’s not real but oh my gosh, it felt so true to life. The way the characters behave and act, their flaws and their idiosyncrasies, their relationships. I believed every single word.

The story is told using written and verbal transcripts collected by Evelyn Mitchell and sent to Joseph Knox for his thoughts, feelings and input. There are quite a few characters involved in the story – Zoe’s sister, her parents, her university friends, teaching staff and those investigating what happened in an official capacity. They all get to share their observations of Zoe (and each other!) in the lead up to the night of her disappearance. The book is presented in quite a different way that I can’t recall seeing before. There’s very little spoken dialogue as each character’s account is delivered to the reader as it was put to Evelyn. There’s no discussion, no sharing of ideas. She doesn’t ask questions or interrupt their memories. I know many readers don’t like a lot of dialogue between characters in their novels, that there can be a point where there’s too much and it detracts from the story, but I think I need that interaction. So much so that I did on occasion find myself drifting away from the story a little.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you enjoy well-written mysteries and you’re looking for something very different to the norm then True Crime Story is a must read. It’s a highly original, intelligent story delivered in such a way that it’s hard to forget. I would LOVE to listen to the audiobook version as I think that could be a slightly different experience, in a strange, inexplicable way. The author has done a masterful job in making his plot, his characters and the Manchester of the book totally believable, which I take my hat off to. I can only imagine the amount of work which went into plotting and planning Zoe’s story. What I do know for sure is that I am excited to read more by Knox and my copy of ‘Sirens’ will be moving to the top of the terrifying TBR as soon as possible. Recommended.

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 17th March 2022 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 | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Joseph Knox

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke-On-Trent and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively.

Sirens, his debut novel, was a Sunday Times bestseller, and his work has now been translated into 18 languages.

The Sleepwalker, his third novel, was released in July, 2019.

#BookReview: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #ASliverofDarkness #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A creak of the floorboard, a shiver down your spine, the feeling that you’re not alone . . .
_________

Join a group of survivors who wash up on a deserted island only to make a horrifying discovery.

Meet a cold-hearted killer who befriends a strange young girl at a motorway service station.

Travel along eerie country lanes in a world gone dark, enter a block of flats with the most monstrous of occupants and accompany a ruthless estate agent on a house sale that goes apocalyptically wrong.
These eleven twisted tales of the macabre from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls are your perfect companions as the nights draw in . . .
If you’re brave enough.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor. A Sliver of Darkness is published by Penguin Michael Joseph today (that’s Thursday 29th September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of A Sliver of Darkness but that has in no way influenced my review.

C.J. Tudor has fast become one of my ‘must read, everything stops for them’ authors. Her blend of crime and creepy is a wonderful thing which I can guarantee I will always enjoy. When I discovered that Tudor was about to publish a collection of spine-tingling short stories I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. I thoroughly enjoy the short, sharp, intensity of a crime or horror short story collection but find I only read one or two collections a year, making them a real treat! A Sliver of Darkness delivered on every count. Not only did I get to indulge my love of short stories, but I got to read a collection penned by one of my favourite authors, one of THE most exciting writers out there at the moment.

But C.J. Tudor, like the rest of us, is only human, so A Sliver of Darkness starts with a very honest, very heartfelt explanation as to why the author and her publisher are opting to release a short story collection in 2022 rather than a full-length novel. My heart really went out to Tudor and I appreciated the honesty in her opening introduction.

A Sliver of Darkness is a collection of eleven twisted, chilling and twisty stories, each one worthy of its place in the novel. It’s all killer and no filler, that’s for sure. Each story is preceded with a short introduction from the author giving a little background or a fascinating insight into the inspiration behind the piece. One of the things I enjoy the most about Tudor’s writing is that there is always a completely unexpected, jaw dropping twist to the tale. I was a little concerned that that wouldn’t be achievable in short story form, but my concerns weren’t necessary. Each and every story delivers. Each and every story sings with Tudor’s trademark thrilling style and I loved how dark and addictive it was.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You can’t go wrong with a C.J. Tudor novel or short story collection, and I cannot wait to read The Drift when it is published in the New Year. My favourite stories were End of the Liner which is set on a cruise ship. Leila, a woman approaching her 75th birthday, reflects on times gone by and those she has lost. When a close friend opens Leila’s eyes to the reality of their situation, Leila isn’t sure she’s ready to face it head on. But is the alternative really any better? I loved how sinister this story was. The presence of the cruise ship’s ‘always happy, always smiling’ characters throughout, there to keep a watchful eye on the kids….and the adults…gave the story a chilling, creepy edge. The utter hopelessness the author conveys to the reader is palpable. I felt my heart sink to the floor for the characters. I also really enjoyed The Completion which stars Dan Ransom, a brash and egotistical estate agent who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and selling houses. He’s on the brink on completing the biggest sale of his career but his client has a bit of a reputation. Only Dan doesn’t know the half of it… This story was so dark and twisted, it took me places I never expected to go and probably never want to go again! Brilliant storytelling as usual from the author. But my favourite of the entire collection was Final Course. A group of old college friends gather in a manor house following the apocalypse. Harry, the privileged host, has invited ‘the Infamous Five’ back together one last time before the end of the world comes a-knocking. Tom and his young daughter, Millie, join Alex, Michael and Josh at Berskow Manor for one last terrifying, unforgettable night. This story gave me goosebumps and since reading it (a few weeks ago) I’ve been unable to get it out of my head. Eerie, unsettling and seriously dark, it was the cherry on top of a fantastic collection of well-penned stories. All in all, I loved A Sliver of Darkness. I hope Tudor publishes more short story collections in-between her full-length novels in the future because this is the best, most exciting collection I have read to date. If you’re a fan of the dark and dastardly, if you’re a fan of the author then please make sure you pick up a copy of this unsettling but utterly compelling book. You won’t regret it! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of A Sliver of Darkness. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 29th September 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BookReview: Until the Debt Is Paid by Alexander Hartung (translated by Steve Anderson) #UntilTheDebtIsPaid #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“Berlin detective Jan Tommen expected to wake up with a hangover—not a murder charge. But a well-known judge has been brutally killed and hard evidence places Jan at the crime scene. When disturbing gaps in Jan’s memory make finding an alibi impossible, the case against him looks open and shut.

Faced with life on the inside, Jan flees police custody to take refuge with an old friend deeply enmeshed in the capital’s seedy underworld. Hampered by a citywide manhunt, Jan soon finds that investigating leads while eluding capture isn’t easy. Before long, he’s relying on a team of misfits for help, including an icy blonde medical examiner and a brilliant but reclusive computer whiz.

When a lucky break leads Jan to connect the murders to a heinous trafficking ring, the team risks it all to find answers. Meanwhile, the body count continues to rise and the police department starts to close in. Desperate to prove his innocence, Jan must identify the true killer—before his time finally runs out.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Until the Debt Is Paid by Alexander Hartung (translated by Steve Anderson). Until the Debt Is Paid was published on 4th November 2014 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I’m a fan of translated crime fiction and I particularly enjoy German crime fiction (along with Japanese novels) which is how a copy of Until the Debt Is Paid found its way to damppebbles HQ. It’s been sat on my shelf for a wee while now so I decided to include it in my 20 books of summer list. And yes, I should have reviewed this book before the challenge ended on 1st September but there was no way that was going to happen 😂

After a boozy night out, Detective Jan Tommen wakes to find he’s the prime suspect in a grisly murder investigation. The evidence that puts the detective in the frame for the Judge’s murder is pretty conclusive. The only problem is Jan has no memory of what happened the previous night. Sure, he knew the victim, and yes, perhaps he did despise the Judge, but would he commit murder? Realising that he’s about to be arrested for a crime he’s not sure he committed Jan decides to go into hiding, calling on the help of a friend with less than salubrious contacts. Together Jan, Chandu and the small, quirky team at their disposal must discover the killer’s real identity before Jan is imprisoned for life, or the killer strikes again…

Until the Debt Is Paid is a well-written police procedural with a slightly different edge to it in that Detective Jan Tommen is the both the hunter and the hunted. He’s fairly sure he didn’t kill the Judge but due to his loss of memory, he can’t be 100% sure. So whilst he chases down any lead he can find to find what he believes to be the truth, the entire Berlin Criminal Investigations Division are frantically trying to locate him, lead by Jan’s least favourite colleague, Patrick Stein. I like a detective with something to prove and that’s definitely what Tommen is in this book. His colleagues have made their minds up, there’s no other option and Jan is their man. But with the help of a group of acquaintances – a member of the Berlin underworld, the medical examiner and a teenager with all the computer skills they could ever need – they follow the leads ruling out most options until they get lucky. I was a little disappointed with the stereotypes used by the author to create Tommen’s team. They felt a little tired, a little too easy perhaps, but they all played their part and helped move the story along. It was just a little predictable.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Until the Debt Is Paid to be an interesting, entertaining crime novel which held my attention from start to finish. I liked Jan Tommen, and despite the use of clichés throughout, thought the other characters contributed well to the story. I wasn’t able to predict in what direction the author was going to take the story and was very surprised when the denouement was made. Until the Debt Is Paid is a gritty, compelling story which I enjoyed. I would be keen to read the second book in this series but was disappointed to see that’s where the Jan Tommen Investigates series ends for now. Fingers crossed for more in the future. Recommended.

Until the Debt Is Paid by Alexander Hartung (translated by Steve Anderson) was published in the UK by Amazon Crossing on 4th November 2014 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Alexander Hartung

Alexander Hartung lives in his hometown of Mannheim, Germany, with his wife and young son. He discovered his love of thrillers and historical fiction while studying economics. Until the Debt is Paid and Grave Intent follows hard-partying detective Jan Tommen through Berlin, a city the author previously called home.

His second series follows Nik Pohl through the city of Munich. Until today the first two books – Broken glass and Blood ties – are translated into English.

#BookReview: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs @AmazonPub #WhatLiesBetweenUs #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of What Lies Between Us by John Marrs. What Lies Between Us was published by Thomas & Mercer on 15th May 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. What Lies Between Us was part of two challenges for me this year – ’12 books in 12 months’ and ’20 books of summer 2022′. Officially I should have reviewed this book before the 20 books deadline which was 1st September 2022 but that was never going to happen. I’ve completely run out of time this year in regards to both reading and reviewing. Rather than not review it on the blog (which would be a huge shame as it’s an absolute corker of a read) I’ve decided to be a rebel and share my 20 books reviews beyond the 1st September deadline 🤫

Maggie and Nina live in the same house together and have done for many years. Nina gets the run of the house, goes out to work at the library, does the weekly shop and the cooking. Whilst Maggie is chained up in the soundproofed attic and only allowed out a couple of times a week for a shared meal together. Because Maggie has done terrible things and Nina wants her to be punished. But truth be told, Nina doesn’t know the half of it. There are a lot more secrets she’s not aware of. Secrets Maggie will do anything to protect…

What Lies Between Us is a seriously twisted and unsettling read which I devoured with utter glee. I had been having a bit of a rough time with my book choices. I struggled with a couple of my previous reads in different ways, but then this absolute beauty made it to the top of the TBR and I was reminded why I love books, why I love to read. I was transported to a house in the suburbs of Northampton where the two residents live a very different life to their neighbours. One chained up in the attic. The other pretending everything is very normal but living on the edge all the time, monitoring her prisoner, making sure she can’t escape and raise the alarm. Ensuring Maggie has nothing to hand which can be fashioned into a weapon or a lockpick. The tension was palpable and I was swept away into the lives of these two women. Both characters are so beautifully drawn that they and their situation felt real to me. I loved the ever-present threat hanging over the entire book. The tension the author has created is done so very well.

The story is told from both Maggie and Nina’s points of view. We hear from the women in the present day and with flashbacks to twenty-five years earlier. These flashbacks slowly build up a shocking picture for the reader. As each layer was stripped away I found myself completely captivated by the story, desperate to know what was going to happen next, biting my nails down to the quick. It was uncomfortable but I just couldn’t look away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. What Lies Between Us is such a captivating read full to the brim with brilliantly written suspense. I was completely absorbed in the story, I went through a myriad of feelings towards the characters at different stages of the novel and I didn’t want to be separated from this book for a single second. I’ve read a few of this author’s books now and they’ve all been fantastic but this one is my favourite, without a doubt. The twists don’t really stop coming at any point, there’s always more to discover about these women and I was completely bewitched by the characters and how utterly flawed they are. I thoroughly enjoyed What Lies Between Us and would recommend to all psychological thriller/suspense fans. Highly recommended.

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 15th May 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 | Book Depository | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

John Marrs is the author of #1 Best Sellers The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, The Vacation, Her Last Move, The Passengers, The Minders and What Lies Between Us. Keep It In The Family and The Marriage Act are released soon.
What Lies won the International Thriller Writers’ Best Paperback of 2021 award.
The One has been translated into 30 different languages and is to be turned into an eight-part Netflix series starting in autumn 2020.

After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time writer.

20 Books of Summer Challenge – The Results! #20booksofsummer22 #amreading #amreviewing #damppebbles #bookblogger #BookTwitter #booktwt

Happy Friday bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. If you’ve been following the blog over the Summer, you may have noticed that I’ve been participating in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge run and organised by the lovely Cathy at 746 Books. The challenge invites bookish types to select twenty (or fifteen, or ten) books which they plan to read and review within the challenge window, that being between 1st June and 1st September. Well, it was 1st September yesterday, so I wanted to go out with a bang and write a wrap up post because the rest of the challenge has been a bit of a lacklustre fizzle for me this year. Pfffttt 😂 Before I proceed any further though I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that I did complete the challenge back in 2020, in lockdown, when we were more focussed on staying in than going out and I had a lot more time on my hands. I have done it, I can do it again! Was I perhaps a little too ambitious this year? Yes, yes I was 😬

My original list looked like this:

The Trial by S.R. Masters (One More Chapter)
Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi (Titan Books)
A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor (Penguin Michael Joseph)
True Crime Story by Joseph Knox (Penguin Books)
Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani (Thomas & Mercer)
What Lies Between Us by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer)
The Watchers by A.M. Shine (Aries)
Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (Penguin Books)
Black Widows by Cate Quinn (Orion)
Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (Bonnier Zaffre)
No Country for Girls by Emma Styles (Sphere)
The It Girl by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster)
The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas (Penguin Books)
The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Orion)
The Collective by Alison Gaylin (Orion)
Hunting Evil by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster)
The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson (HQ)
Until the Debt is Paid by Alexander Hartung translated by Steve Anderson (Amazon Crossing)
Damage by Caitlin Wahrer (Penguin Books)

Of these I have read FOURTEEN ✅ which is hugely disappointing as I was determined to read all twenty. I feel as though I was so close…..yet so annoyingly far away from hitting my target!

✅ The Trial by S.R. Masters (One More Chapter)
✅ Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi (Titan Books)
✅ A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor (Penguin Michael Joseph)
✅ True Crime Story by Joseph Knox (Penguin Books)
✅ Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani (Thomas & Mercer)
✅ What Lies Between Us by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer)
✅ The Watchers by A.M. Shine (Aries)
✅ Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (Penguin Books)
Black Widows by Cate Quinn (Orion)
Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (Bonnier Zaffre)
✅ No Country for Girls by Emma Styles (Sphere)
✅ The It Girl by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster)
✅ The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas (Penguin Books)
✅ The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Orion)
✅ The Collective by Alison Gaylin (Orion)
Hunting Evil by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster)
The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson (HQ)
✅ Until the Debt is Paid by Alexander Hartung translated by Steve Anderson (Amazon Crossing)
Damage by Caitlin Wahrer (Penguin Books)

And of these fourteen I have reviewed TEN books within the challenge window of 1st June to 1st September.

➡️ The Trial by S.R. Masters (One More Chapter)
➡️ Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi (Titan Books)
A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor (Penguin Michael Joseph)
True Crime Story by Joseph Knox (Penguin Books)
➡️ Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani (Thomas & Mercer)
What Lies Between Us by John Marrs (Thomas & Mercer)
➡️ The Watchers by A.M. Shine (Aries)
➡️ Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (Penguin Books)
Black Widows by Cate Quinn (Orion)
Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (Bonnier Zaffre)
➡️ No Country for Girls by Emma Styles (Sphere)
➡️ The It Girl by Ruth Ware (Simon & Schuster)
➡️ The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere)
Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas (Penguin Books)
➡️ The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Orion)
➡️ The Collective by Alison Gaylin (Orion)
Hunting Evil by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster)
The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson (HQ)
Until the Debt is Paid by Alexander Hartung translated by Steve Anderson (Amazon Crossing)
Damage by Caitlin Wahrer (Penguin Books)

However, being the rebellious rule breaker that I am (😂) I will be reviewing the four books I haven’t yet reviewed on the blog under the #20booksofsummer22 hashtag in the coming months. So please look out for my review of What Lies Between Us by John Marrs on or around 22nd September, my review of Until the Debt is Paid by Alexander Hartung translated by Steve Anderson on or around 26th September, my review of A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor on 29th September and my review of True Crime Story by Joseph Knox on or around 6th October. What a rebel! And should my reading schedule allow me to choose a book from my shelves then I will be selecting from the remaining SIX books on my list because I really, REALLY need to read these beauties:

1⃣ Black Widows by Cate Quinn (Orion)

2⃣ Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (Bonnier Zaffre)
3⃣ Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas (Penguin Books)
4⃣ Hunting Evil by Chris Carter (Simon & Schuster)
5⃣ The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson (HQ)
6⃣ Damage by Caitlin Wahrer (Penguin Books)

So there we have it. I didn’t quite manage to read all of the twenty books I selected for the challenge but I did finish twenty-four books in total and started a twenty-fifth on 30th August so that’s got to count for something…??! Here are the other books I read between 1st June and 1st September which weren’t on my list but perhaps should have been…? 😜

📚 Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza
📚 More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
📚 Summer Fever by Kate Riordan
📚 Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard
📚 The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas
📚 Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
📚 The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou (review will go live on 5th September)
📚 Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss (review will go live on 8th September)
📚 The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher (review will go live on 12th September)
📚 The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser translated by Sarah Death (review will go live on 15th September)

Despite feeling that I was always trying to catch up I have really enjoyed taking part in the challenge this year (although my poor family who had to put up with my constant fretting about not meeting the target would probably disagree with that statement!). Anyhoo, that’s it for another year. Fingers crossed Cathy runs the challenge again in 2023 as I hope to redeem myself and absolutely smash it 💥

And if my future self is reading this, stick to the darned list, Emma! Read the books you choose and don’t accept any new review requests. They may be pretty, and you may be desperate to read them, but they won’t help you complete the challenge. Rant over 🤣

Did you take part in the 20 Books of Summer challenge this year? How did you fare? Let me know in the comments.

#BookReview: Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi #EightDetectives #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules.

In the 1930s, Grant McAllister, a mathematics professor turned author, worked them out, hiding their secrets in a book of crime stories.

Then Grant disappeared.

Julia Hart has finally tracked him down. She wants to know what happened to him.

But she’s about to discover that a good mystery can be murder to solve . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi. Eight Detectives was published by Penguin Books on 5th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose Eight Detectives as one of my ‘20 Books of Summer reads as I’ve been keen to make a start on since it arrived at damppebbles HQ last year. It’s also part of my ’12 books in 12 months challenge’.

As a side note to the ’20 Books of Summer Challenge’, today is officially the last day of the challenge and I’ve only managed to read 14 of my selected books. Which is a bit pants, in my opinion. I’ll post an official end of challenge post soon with the very disappointing facts and figures. However, what I will say is that I will be reviewing all of the 14 books I’ve read, I just won’t manage to do so within the challenge window.  So look out for ‘20 Books’ reviews coming your way over the next few months and into 2023 😲 (I know it’s not quite within the rules but hey, what can you do…?? 😂🙈)

Editor Julia Hart has been tasked with tracking down an elusive professor of mathematics turned author to discuss republishing his self-published novel ‘The White Murders’. Grant McAllister wrote a research paper titled ‘The Permutations of Detective Fiction’ which examined the mathematical structure of murder mysteries. From there ‘The White Murders’ was born. But the book, featuring seven short stories, each containing one of McAllister’s rules, was not successful. Which is why Julia has been tasked with locating McAllister on a remote Mediterranean island and convincing him to update and republish the work with her publisher, Blood Type Books. But on arrival at the island, Julia discovers there is more than one mystery to solve…

Eight Detectives is a complex, clever, assuredly written debut perfect for fans of the golden age of crime. The reader is presented with seven short stories, all of which feature one aspect of McAllister’s mathematical observations, the rules he believes are required in a murder mystery. Now, if you’re anything like me and mathematics is not your thing, then please don’t worry. The rules are fairly basic principles, for example, you need at least two suspects otherwise it’s not a murder mystery. Well, yes. How many victims can you have in a murder mystery? As many as you see fit. Following the first short story the reader is introduced to the two main characters in the book, Julia and Grant. This pattern continues for the entire novel; short story followed by analysis/discussion between writer and editor. These conversations were the sections I looked forward to the most, particularly as they tie everything together. They were very intriguing, I wanted to know more about the characters – particularly the elusive and mysterious professor. I think the author deserves an award for the amount of work and planning that’s gone into Eight Detectives. I don’t think this could have been an easy book to write with so many individual, standalone short stories, all within the same 1930s time period but all very different. With the overarching storyline of Julia and Grant keeping everything together.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of the golden age of crime, prefer a slower pace to your books or like a novel which makes you think then yes, I think you will enjoy Eight Detectives. This book received a lot of hype when it was first published but for me it fell a little short. I do feel I’m in the minority though. My favourite story in the book was the clear nod to Agatha Christie. I also enjoyed the first story set in Spain, the other stories I struggle to remember. There are some lovely twists and turns as the reader approaches the end of the book, several surprises which made me smile but I can’t help feeling that it just missed the mark for me. A great concept, cleverly written with interesting characters which I would recommend to fans of the golden age of crime.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 5th August 2021 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ImageAlex Pavesi lives in London, where he writes full time. He previously worked as a software engineer and before that obtained a PhD in Mathematics. He enjoys puzzles, long walks and recreational lock picking. Eight Detectives is his first book.

#BookReview: The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell @orionbooks #TheSoundofHerVoice #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Detective Buchanan remembers every victim. But this one he can’t forget.

The body of a woman has been found on a pristine New Zealand beach – over a decade after she was murdered.

Detective Matt Buchanan of the Auckland Police is certain it carries all the hallmarks of an unsolved crime he investigated 12 years ago: when Samantha Coates walked out one day and never came home.

Re-opening the case, Buchanan begins to piece the terrible crimes together, setting into motion a chain of events that will force him to the darkest corners of society – and back into his deepest obsession…

Shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Best Crime Novel of the Year award, The Sound of Her Voice is a brilliantly gripping crime thriller for fans of Sirens by Joseph Knox, Streets of Darkness by A.A. Dhand, Stuart Macbride and Ian Rankin.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell. The Sound of Her Voice was published in the UK by Orion Books on 28th November 2019 and is available in paperback format. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Sound of Her Voice but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Sound of Her Voice follows Detective Matt Buchanan over the course of his twenty year (or thereabouts) police career. From his days as a rookie cop being called to a shooting, only to discover the victim is his best friend from police training, bleeding out on the asphalt, to the case which still haunts him to this day – the disappearance of a teenage girl twelve years earlier. Buchanan torments himself with his failure to solve Samantha’s disappearance and reunite her, one way or another, with her grieving family. He remembers every case he’s been involved in, but Samantha’s case is the one that hits the hardest. So when Buchanan spots similarities between a new case and Samantha’s disappearance, it leads him on a path he never expected and fuels an obsession which will consume him…

The Sound of Her Voice is a dark, gritty slice of New Zealand noir which I found both gripping and very unsettling. The book is set out quite differently to other detective novels with the story starting fairly early on in Buchanan’s career. The disappearance of Samantha doesn’t feature strongly until much later in the novel, which made me feel as though I was reading a collection of interconnected short stories featuring the same cast. Matt is assigned a case, he does the leg work and brings the investigation to a close. Then the process starts again. Matt Buchanan is a complex character and the reader gets to see the different facets of his personality throughout the novel. He’s clearly a troubled man with the weight of the world on his shoulders but I loved how edgy, how driven and how reckless he could be at times.

The different format of the book means the pace of the novel doesn’t really let up at any point, keeping the reader fully immersed in Buchanan’s dangerous world. I very much enjoyed the setting, being a fan of Aussie crime fiction (yes, I’m aware they’re quite different countries but they’re neighbours and that counts for something 😂). I’ve read crime novels set in New Zealand before but this felt quite different, in a good way.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Sound of Her Voice is a dark and gritty read which I enjoyed. It felt incredibly authentic and true to life, nothing was sugar coated and I loved the honesty of the author, an ex-detective himself. The themes within the book are dark and won’t be for everyone. There were moments I had to put the book down and take a breather because it was tough going but I did enjoy the book and would read more by this author. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Sound of Her Voice. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell was published in the UK by Orion Books on 28th November 2019 and is available in paperback 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryBook DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Nathan BlackwellNathan Blackwell was raised on Auckland’s North Shore and attended Westlake Boys’ High School before commencing a ten-year career in the New Zealand Police. Seven of those years were spent as a Detective in the Criminal Investigation Branch, where he was exposed to human nature at its strongest and bravest, but also at its most depraved and horrific. He investigated a wide range of cases including drug manufacture, child abuse, corruption, serious violence, rape and murder. Because some of his work was conducted covertly, Nathan chooses to hide his true identity.

#BookReview: The Watchers by A.M. Shine @AriesFiction @HoZ_Books #TheWatchers #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“You can’t see them. But they can see you.

This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.

Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Watchers by A.M. Shine. The Watchers was published by Aries Fiction on 12th May 2022 and is available in all formats. I was very keen to read this book. So much so that I made it part of two different reading challenges to ensure I got to it – 12 Books in 12 Months and 20 Books of Summer 2022. The Watchers is the fifth book I’ve read as part of 12 books and the eighth book I’ve read as part of 20 books of Summer 2022 (yes, I am very behind with 20 books this year! 😬).

When Mina is promised a couple of hundred euro by a bloke in the pub for delivering a Golden Conure to a collector in Connemara, she finds it hard to refuse. But the promised easy drive, along with the draw of easy money starts to look a lot like hard work when her car breaks down at the edge of a forest. Armed with the bird and little else, Mina sets out to find a mechanic to get her back on the road. The first person she sees however is a woman who screams at her to take shelter. Because this forest isn’t on any map and all cars that approach the area break down at the treeline. The woods and the night belong to the watchers. And now so does Mina….

The Watchers is a beautifully written horror novel which will send shivers down your spine and make you think twice before turning the light out. With shades of the epic Bird Box, this creepy and claustrophobic story gets under the readers skin. Mina and her fellow captives are watched like animals in a zoo on a nightly basis. They’re starved of sleep by the ever present light which remains on during the hours of darkness, whilst being subjected to the most terrifying screams as the creatures try to scratch and claw their way through the glass wall. Escape from the creatures is impossible. The trek out of the forest too vast to conquer within the hours of daylight. The risk of failure too terrifying to contemplate. The tension is perfectly pitched, the eeriness is sublimely written and the sense of desperation from the characters was palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Watchers is a beautifully written classic horror novel with a gothic feel and poetic prose which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the tension, the suspense and how utterly unnerving I found the story. I was drawn to this book thanks to several factors. Two of the main reasons being the gorgeous cover and the incredible reviews from fellow bloggers and reviewers. The hype is real. A stunning, creepy setting, eerie creatures to make your skin crawl, superb characters who the reader really gets the measure of. And a shocking, well-penned twist which left me reeling. It’s a stunning debut from an author to watch and I cannot wait to get my mitts on a copy of the author’s next book, The Creeper, when it publishes in September.

The Watchers by A.M. Shine was published in the UK by Aries Fiction on 12th May 2022 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 | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |


A.M. ShineA. M. Shine is an author of Literary Horror from the west of Ireland. It was there that at a young age he discovered a passion for classic horror stories, and where he received his Masters in history, before ultimately sharpening his quill to pursue a life devoted to all things literary and macabre. His writing is inspired by the trinity of horror, history, and superstition, and he has tormented, toyed with, and tortured more characters than he will ever confess to.

Owing to a fascination with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and his ilk, A. M. Shine’s earlier writings were Gothic in their style and imagination. When his focus turned to novels he refined his craft as an author of Irish horror – stories influenced by his country’s culture, landscape, and language, but which draw their dark atmosphere and eloquence from the Gothic canon of his past.

#BookReview: The Collective by Alison Gaylin @orionbooks #TheCollective #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

How far would a mother go to right a wrong?

Camille Gardener is a grieving and angry mother who, fives years after her daughter’s death, is obsessed with the man she believes to be responsible.

Because Camille wants revenge.
Enter: the Collective.

A group of women who desire justice above all else.

A group of women who enact revenge on the men who have wronged them.

But as Camille gets more involved in the group she must decide whether these women are the heroes or the villains.

And if she chooses wrong, will she ever get out alive?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Collective by Alison Gaylin. The Collective is published by Orion Books in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 11th August 2022) and is also available in audio and digital formats.

I am a huge fan of Alison Gaylin’s books (also written under A.L. Gaylin), The Collective being the fourth of her standalone thrillers which I’ve read. And in all honesty, if I wasn’t already a fan, there would be no way on this earth that I would be able to resist the pull of this book! That striking red cover with the silhouettes, that utterly intriguing tagline on the US version (it’s ‘no killer goes unpunished’ if you haven’t already seen it) and that ‘grab you by the throat’ blurb. Getting hold of a copy of this book became a priority!

Camille Gardener is a woman consumed by grief following the death of her 15-year-old daughter, Emily, five years earlier. She blames high achieving college student Harris Blanchard for Emily’s death but Harris is the college’s golden boy and has never been held to account. When Camille is approached by a stranger and given information about a Facebook group called Niobe for grieving mothers, she signs up. But the group is different to others she’s joined in the past. Their anger matches her own, the women openly discuss the most horrific deaths they can imagine for those they feel are responsible for their child’s death. But Niobe is only the start. Before long Camille is introduced to the Collective and things start to spiral out of control. Camille has been accepted into the Collective, but there’s a good chance she won’t make it out alive…

The Collective is so GOOD! Gaylin has once again produced an absolute page turner of a novel which I found near impossible to put down. Camille is a fascinating character and I watched, open mouthed, as she dug herself deeper and deeper into what felt like an inescapable hole. My heart was in my mouth and I was on the edge of my seat wondering how far things were going to go for the character. The more I read, the more I liked her. The more I read, the more I needed to know about the Collective. Gaylin has written such a brilliantly addictive thriller and I flew through the pages, desperate to find out where the author was going to take this misguided, grief-stricken woman. And oh my gosh, what a perfect ending.

The book is set around the Hudson Valley and I really enjoyed Gaylin’s vivid descriptions of the area. The setting felt like a complete contrast to the dark events unfolding before me on the page. Proof that terrible things can happen to nice, normal people. And terrible is a pretty massive understatement when it comes to some of the grisly ways the members of the group fantasise about killing off those responsible for their children’s deaths. Oh my goodness, you wouldn’t want to cross any of those moms!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Collective is an utterly captivating, highly addictive read which hooked me in from the opening pages and didn’t let go until the shocking end. Such a thrilling plot, skilfully executed, featuring terrific characters and jaw-dropping twists. The Collective demonstrates how raw, how powerful, how completely destructive one woman’s grief can be when fed. It’s certainly a dark read but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride! Full of suspense, secrets and overflowing with revenge. Gaylin has done it again and I remain a huge fan. Highly recommended.

The Collective by Alison Gaylin was published in the UK by Orion Books on 4th August 2022 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 | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Alison Gaylin is the Edgar and Shamus award-winning author of 12 books and many short stories. A USA Today and international bestseller, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

#BookReview: The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere @EmmaFinnigan #TheLastParty #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.
In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh. The Last Party is published today (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Last Party but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a proof copy.

I read my first Clare Mackintosh novel, the superb Hostage, last year which, incidentally, was published in paperback in June and is well worth picking up if you get the chance…providing you’re not planning on flying anywhere soon! I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, her characterisation and I was keen to read more. So when I was offered a copy of the first book in Mackintosh’s brand new police procedural series, I of course jumped at the chance to read it. Police procedurals are a passion of mine and out of everything, the style of book I return to the most. And I’m so glad I did because The Last Party is a cracking read!

It’s New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing at The Shore, an exclusive, high-end, lakeside development in Cwm Coed, North Wales. The guests include the wealthy new residents along with several of the less enthusiastic, put-upon locals. The following morning the body of the resort owner, Rhys Lloyd, is found floating in the lake. It’s DC Ffion Morgan’s patch so she takes the case. Ffion has lived in Cwm Coed all her life, it’s her home. She’s aware how much the village resents the development, she’s aware that local boy Rhys has ruffled many feathers over the years. And now he’s dead it’s down to Ffion to dig into her friends and neighbours darkest secrets and discover who killed Rhys Lloyd…

I loved The Last Party! The characters are superb, the plot is well-written and completely absorbing, the setting is beautifully atmospheric. Tick, tick and tick again. I adored DC Ffion Morgan. What an outstanding lead character she is. Gutsy, ballsy and strong. I loved her attitude, her approach to the job, as well as her approach to life in general. I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead character and Mackintosh has well and truly delivered with DC Morgan. As the body was discovered in Mirror Lake, which is right on the border of England and Wales, an English detective is assigned to work with Morgan, something Ffion is quite put out by. When DC Leo Brady of the Cheshire Major Crimes Unit is introduced to DC Morgan you know things aren’t going to be easy for these two. But as time progresses and they learn to work with each other, a rather formidable team is formed. I loved Brady just as much as I loved Morgan. The humour, the chemistry, it was wonderful to watch. Mackintosh’s characters are sublime and I’m a little bit in love.

The plot is well paced and thoroughly gripping. I found myself opting to read The Last Party when there were other things I probably should have been doing (parenting, housework, y’know the sort of thing…). There are lots of clever twists and turns along the way which keep the reader fully immersed in the story. The setting of Cwm Coed with Mirror Lake at its heart and surrounded by mountains is glorious. I could picture the area in my mind’s eye and feel the chill of the mist rolling off the water. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Last Party and I hope this is only the start of DC Ffion Morgan’s adventures. Everything about this book worked for me. The plot is incredibly gripping and hugely compelling – I had to know what had happened to Rhys Lloyd and why, the setting is beautifully drawn by the author, and the characters are some of the most memorable I’ve met this year. In fact, I would go as far as saying that something about this book reminded me a little of when I first met M.W. Craven’s Tilly and Poe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think this series could be something quite special. The first book has certainly left its mark on me and I am excited to read more, that’s for sure! Masterful storytelling, jaw-dropping twists and turns and a cast that I pretty much fell in love with. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Last Party. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of New York Times bestseller I LET YOU GO, and Sunday Times bestsellers I SEE YOU, LET ME LIE and AFTER THE END. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, and have spent a combined total of 50 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart.

Her new thriller, HOSTAGE, comes out in June 2021.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.