#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Reunion by Samantha Hayes (@samhayes) @bookouture #TheReunion

the reunion cover.jpg“They were all there the day your sister went missing. 

Who is lying? Who is next?

THEN – In charge of her little sister at the beach, Claire allowed Eleanor to walk to the shop alone to buy an ice cream. Placing a coin into her hand, Claire told her to be quick, knowing how much she wanted the freedom.

Eleanor never came back.

NOW – The time has finally come to sell the family farm and Claire is organising a reunion of her dearest friends, the same friends who were present the day her sister went missing.

When another girl disappears, long-buried secrets begin to surface. One of the group hides the darkest secret of them all…

If you loved Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, this gripping psychological thriller packed full of twists and turns will be impossible to put down.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Reunion blog tour which I share with the fabulous Meggy over at Chocolate’n’Waffles.  The Reunion is written by Samantha Hayes and was published by Bookouture on 9th February 2018.

Tragedy struck Claire and her family one sunny day at the beach when her thirteen-year-old sister, Lenni went missing.  The family has suffered on a daily basis since that traumatic day, always hoping Lenni will find her way home, but secretly knowing that it is more likely Lenni died all those years ago.  Despite the heartbreak of the past, Claire still remembers her childhood fondly.  She is particularly fond of recounting how involved in her childhood her father was, how he was almost a surrogate father to many of her friends.  But Patrick, her father, is ill.  Having being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s all Claire and her family can do is watch their father fade away.  But Claire has an idea.  She plans to organise a reunion, an opportunity to talk, reminisce and remember the good times and hopefully help Patrick feel a little better, particularly as Patrick’s wife plans to sell the farm as soon as possible.  So Claire contacts her group of friends; Maggie her best friend, Jason her younger brother who has been estranged from the family for a number of years and Nick, her first love and the one who got away.  With the best intentions, she hopes to have a fun-filled week at the family’s idyllic Cornish farm remembering happy times.  But how long can the secrets remain hidden?  After all, the group of friends were all present that fateful day Lenni went missing.  And someone knows something…

I found The Reunion to be an interesting and enjoyable read.  It’s a slow burn of a tale and I enjoyed meeting Hayes’s strong cast of characters, soaking up the dramatic and dreamy setting and searching for the elusive clues as to what happened to Lenni on that heartbreaking day.  I must say, however, and I’m sure I will be in the minority on this one but Claire, our main protagonist, got on my nerves.  She came across to me as too eager, too darn subservient, and a little too naive for my tastes.  I also hated her husband, Callum, and was desperate for her to stand up to this misogynistic @rs3 of a man.  Grr.  But I always think that’s the sign of a good writer, someone who can make you feel real emotion whether it be positive or negative for their characters.  Other characters I absolutely loved.

The tagline of this book is ‘an utterly gripping thriller with a jaw-dropping twist’.  And oh my gosh, it is rather spectacular.  I didn’t see that coming at all and despite finishing reading The Reunion last week I am still living that twist on a fairly regular basis.  It’s the kind of shock to the system that I LOVE in my thrillers, plus it adds an extra dollop of darkness to the story.  Absolutely flipping brilliant!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a strong psychological thriller with a killer twist.  Great characters, a breathtaking setting and if you like a slow build to a staggering conclusion then you will absolutely love it.  I would happily pick up another book written by Samantha Hayes and get lost in her words.

Four out of five stars.

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

The Reunion by Samantha Hayes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 9th February 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author3

samantha hayes.jpgSamantha Hayes grew up in a creative family where her love of writing began as a child. Samantha has written eight thrillers in total, including the bestselling Until You’re Mine. The Independent said “fantastically written and very tense” while Good Housekeeping said “Her believable psychological thrillers are completely gripping.” Samantha’s books are published in 22 languages at the last count.

When not writing, Samantha loves to cook, go to the gym, see friends and drink nice wine. She is also studying for a degree in psychotherapy. She has three grown-up children and lives in Warwickshire.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: Force of Nature by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) @LittleBrownUK @kimberleynyam #ForceOfNature

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“FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Force of Nature blog tour. Author Jane Harper’s debut, The Dry, was such a hit among readers last year that many of us have been eagerly anticipating this second book in the Aaron Falk series. In fact, The Dry was a favourite on many ‘books of 2017’ lists and was mentioned several times as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature. I read and reviewed The Dry towards the end of 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the desolate small-town feeling Harper conveys in her writing, along with the struggle to cope during a long and exhaustive drought.

I guess the question is, was Force of Nature worth the wait? Oh yes. It was definitely worth the wait. I would go as far as saying I preferred Force of Nature to The Dry marginally. But then, I’m a sucker for survival stories. I devour books where we humans are pushed to our limits in the most extreme of circumstances.

Having read both of Jane Harper’s novels what stands out the most is how she excels at writing the landscape and setting of her tales. In The Dry we had drought-struck Kiewarra. In Force of Nature we have the Giralang Ranges with lots of wild, overgrown bushland ready and waiting to show you your worst nightmare!

Ten colleagues at BaileyTennants are pushed out of the comfort of the office and into the inhospitable and unforgiving wilderness. Two teams up against each other; five men and five women. The retreat, organised by professional outfit Executive Adventures is totally safe – after all, they’ve been doing this for years and haven’t had any problems (well, no major problems anyway). But when the group of women veer from the correct trail, they blunder further away from civilisation and closer to the hidden dangers of the bush. Tensions fray, accidents happen and food and water supplies rapidly dwindle. Then Alice goes missing. What happened to Alice? Has she made it back to base? Is she safe?

I loved the suspense of this novel. One of the best whodunnits I’ve read in a while. I was highly suspicious of all the characters from start to finish and oh my gosh, I couldn’t stop turning the pages! Federal Agent Aaron Falk and colleague Carmen are aware of Alice before she becomes a missing person. Without her employer’s knowledge, Alice has been assisting Falk in investigating BaileyTennants by providing the much-needed hard evidence. At least, as far as Falk was concerned business owners Daniel and Jill Bailey weren’t aware of their employees double-cross. But now with Alice missing, questions need to be asked. The author has created so many red herrings and double bluffs that the outcome could be any one of several different options. An incredibly well-written and dramatic piece of crime fiction.

Despite this book being part of the Aaron Falk series I personally felt the story wasn’t really about Falk. Yes, we do discover more about this intriguing character, more about his upbringing and his strained relationship with his father. But for me, my focus whilst reading was entirely on this disparate group of five women. They held my attention 100%. I adored the flashback sequences where the reader gets to see the uncomfortable friction between the colleagues. In fact, I think I preferred these sections to the chapters set during the search for Alice. I didn’t particularly like any of the women but I felt as though I was there, with them, tramping through the Australian bush.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Force of Nature can easily be read as a standalone but why would you bother when you can also read the excellent The Dry. I loved the desolation, the gradual loss of hope emanating from Harper’s characters as they plunged deeper and deeper into unknown territory and the masterful way the suspense builds throughout the story. Atmospheric, unsettling and gripping from start to finish.

Five out of five stars.

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

Force of Nature by Jane Harper was published in the UK by Little, Brown on 8th February 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links)
| amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Thursday 8th February

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Jane Harper was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight.

She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Timesin County Durham.

Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition.

That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, and that year she applied for an online 12-week novel writing course.

She was accepted with a submission for the book that would become The Dry.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads |

Author image and bio © http://janeharper.com.au/
Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Past Echoes by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @Bloodhoundbook #PastEchoes

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“Jake Boulder is back and he’s tasked with tracking down a man due to inherit a small fortune. Not only that, he must also reveal the secret which forced a young woman to flee New York some forty years ago. The evidence he needs is hidden in a safety deposit box and while Boulder has the key, the only clue he has for box’s location is a series of numbers etched onto the key and a mysterious list of names.

Boulder has his work cut out since he must also locate his estranged father, Cameron MacDonald, so that Cameron can donate bone marrow to Boulder’s half-brother John.

In a game of cat and mouse, he must solve the case and find the two men without alerting those who control New York’s underworld.

Can Boulder survive against both the mafia and a professional hitman, in what is his toughest case yet?”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Past Echoes blog blitz. Past Echoes is the third book in the Jake Boulder series, is written by Graham Smith and was published by Bloodhound Books on 1st February 2018. I am such a fan of this series. If you want an entertaining, action-packed read then pick up a Jake Boulder thriller. Just to prove my point, here are my reviews of book one Watching the Bodies and book two The Kindred Killers.

I was eagerly anticipating book three in the series, particularly as The Kindred Killers finished on such an explosive note. And oh boy, I was not disappointed. In my opinion, this is by far the best Jake Boulder book in the series so far. I was completely entranced from start to finish. The main plot point in Past Echoes reveals a more emotional side to this lean, mean, fighting machine. And, in a strange way, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Boulder’s softer side. Although it didn’t last very long and he was back to planning revenge missions and beating the ‘you know what’ out of people in no time!

Past Echoes starts by referring back to the events of The Kindred Killers. I asked myself whether this would hinder a new reader to the series, diving straight in with book three. It always helps when you start at the beginning of a series but I am well known for accidentally (sometimes on purpose *snigger*) starting part way through. My advice is, and will always be, start at the beginning. Watch the characters grow, find out their backstory. Don’t MISS anything. But, saying that, Past Echoes ‘could’ be read as a standalone but only because Smith does an excellent job of filling in the gaps for new readers. Although I can guarantee, if this is the first Jake Boulder book you pick up, you WILL want to read the first two in the series as well. Guaranteed!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the way the author sets up the story so you think it’s going to go in one particular direction. He then completely wrong-foots you so you’re suddenly on this unexpected, intense and utterly thrilling rollercoaster ride of terror and reading delight. I loved it.

Before I sign off I would like to mention one more thing. The inclusion of Cameron MacDonald, Boulder’s estranged father. A stroke of genius on the author’s part because if you didn’t love Boulder before, once you’ve met his @r5e of a father, you won’t be able to stop yourself from feeling a little for him. Cameron is the lowest of the low. He plays a key role in Past Echoes but I hope this is the last we see of him for some time. I always enjoy it when an author includes a character for us readers to hate. In this case, Cameron fits the bill perfectly. The tension, the unpleasantness MacDonald brings. Oooh, he’s a nasty piece of work…

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. Plus book one, plus book two. Buy the set, they’re superbly gripping with a lead character you can’t help but love. Easily Smith’s best Jake Boulder novel! I couldn’t tell whether Boulder was going to live, or die in a blaze of burning bullets and that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Raw, evocative and deliciously intense. I loved it!

Five out of five stars.

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

Past Echoes by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 1st February 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and two novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

2018 will be a busy year for Graham as he has the third Jake Boulder being published and a Harry Evans novel and novella.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009.

Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan (@eva_dolan) @BloomsburyRaven @BloomsburyBooks #ThisIsHowItEnds

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“There’s plenty of intrigue, sex, and drugs in this fast-paced mystery, set against a backdrop of gentrifying London.

Ella Riordan is a community activist who became famous when she was beaten by police during a social protest. Now Ella is a squatter in a building where the owners are evicting tenants so they can convert it into luxury condos, and she’s determined to stay and defend the few holdout tenants, despite death threats.

One night after a rooftop party with her fellow holdouts, Ella finds a horrible scene awaiting her in her apartment. In a panic, she calls her neighbor Molly, who convinces her that the police won’t believe she’s innocent. Together the two women concoct a gruesome plan to hide the body down the building’s elevator shaft.

But the secret won’t stay buried for long. As truth hangs in the balance, a neighbor tells Molly he had heard Ella arguing with a man in the hallway and mistrust grows between Ella and Molly, as repercussions of that night threaten to change both women’s lives forever.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the This Is How It Ends blog tour. This Is How It Ends is a standalone thriller written by established crime fiction author, Eva Dolan. I have to hang my head in shame and admit I am yet to read any of Dolan’s DI Zigic & DS Ferreira series but I have only ever heard positive things. And I was thrilled to host a guest review of Watch Her Disappear, the fourth book in the Zigic & Ferreira series last year (my thanks to Tracie Delaney for reading and reviewing).

This Is How It Ends is such a clever, well-constructed piece of fiction. I found myself completely absorbed in Ella and Molly’s dilemma. For me, my reading experience tends to be 80 to 90 percent about the people involved. The characters are what appeal to me and oh boy, Eva Dolan sure shows the rest of the literary world how to write real, believable people! Bit by bit, as the story progressed, Molly broke my heart. I felt an odd connection to this 60-year-old woman, a former Greenham Common activist, now a photographer, with her lashings of kohl and her Sex Pistols t-shirts. She’s probably about as far away from me as a person can get. But I got her. And I loved her.

Ella didn’t have the same beguiling effect on me. I felt throughout the book that the reader wasn’t being given enough information about Ella to make a decision. She was aloof, elusive and darn right mysterious. Not helped by the fact that the reader sees very little of the present day Ella in the story. Chapters alternate between Molly and Ella. Molly’s chapters are set in the present, after the discovery of a dead body and after our fearless females have flung him down the lift shaft. Ella’s chapters move backwards through time, showing the reader what happened in the lead up to the party. How Ella and Molly reached this significant point in their lives.

The story is strong, captivating and unexpected. I absolutely loved the setting, the dilapidated high rise block of flats due for demolition so something bigger, shinier and with lots more glass can be put in its place. Dolan paints a very vivid picture of the desolate, decaying surroundings Molly and the dwindling number of other residents find themselves in. The desire to stay and slow the progress of gentrification down, the need to remain in a home they’ve occupied since it was first built or the knowledge they have nowhere else to go, I found very moving. The rats, however, would have put me off years ago!

Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s going to be huge. There is something about This Is How It Ends, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, which will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.  I’ll give it a go though! It’s clever, the relationship between Molly and Ella is something quite spectacular and I loved how the story is pretty much all about the women with the few men playing a less significant role.  A great book and definitely recommended.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of This Is How It Ends. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan was published in the UK by Raven Books on 25th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (with the paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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eva dolan

Eva Dolan was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger for unpublished authors when only a teenager. The four novels in her Zigic and Ferreira series have been published to widespread critical acclaim: Tell No Tales and After You Die were shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award and After You Die was also longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. She lives in Cambridge.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) @OrendaBooks

DEEP BUE TROUBLE final cover.jpg“Single-mother Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson’s got an ocean of trouble on her hands. Her daughter Dakota is safe, but her cancer is threatening a comeback, and Lori needs JT – Dakota’s daddy and the man who taught Lori everything – alive and kicking.

Problem is, he’s behind bars, and heading for death row. Desperate to save him, Lori does a deal, taking on off-the-books job from shady FBI agent Alex Monroe. Bring back on-the-run felon, Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher, and JT walks free.

Following Fletcher from Florida to California, Lori teams up with local bounty hunter Dez McGregor and his team. But Dez works very differently to Lori, and the tension between them threatens to put the whole job in danger. With Monroe pressuring Lori for results, the clock ticking on JT’s life, and nothing about the Fletcher case adding up, Lori’s hitting walls at every turn. But this is one job she’s got to get right, or she’ll lose everything…

Breathlessly paced, and bursting with high-voltage action and edge-of-your-seat jeopardy, Deep Blue Trouble is the unmissable next instalment featuring one of the most memorable and fearless female characters in crime fiction.”

It is my GREAT pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the Deep Blue Trouble blog tour which I share with the fabulous Helen Giles over at Life of a Nerdish Mum.  Please make sure you drop by Helen’s fabulous blog and say ‘hello’ after you’re done here.

Deep Blue Trouble is the second book in the Lori Anderson series written by one of my favourite authors, Steph Broadribb.  The first book in the series, Deep Down Dead made a BIG impression on me last year and you can read my review by clicking HERE.  Deep Down Dead also featured highly on my top ten books of 2017 post.  It’s true, I flipping love Lori Anderson.  This is one of those reviews where you hope everything you say does the book justice.  Fingers crossed…

Of all the books to be published in 2018, Deep Blue Trouble was the one I was really excited about.  Deep Down Dead (Lori Anderson book #1) left such a lasting impression on me that I could not wait to be reacquainted with Lori, her daughter Dakota and her brooding, ‘slightly’ gorgeous mentor/lover, JT.  For those new to this series, Lori Anderson is a kick-ass bounty hunter based in Florida.  She’s tough, she had to be.  Life has thrown a lot of sh!t Lori’s way (excuse the expletive but there’s no other way of putting it!).  Her young daughter is in remission, but there’s always a chance the cancer could return. And, to top off her run of bad luck, JT has been arrested following their last action-packed adventure together.  Lori is under an extreme amount of pressure and boy, does she know it!  When FBI agent Alex Monroe offers Lori a way to free JT from prison (and certain death, one way or another) she begrudgingly takes it.  Having put her daughter in imminent danger previously, Lori leaves Dakota at camp and heads to California in search of Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher.  What she doesn’t expect is a myriad of dead ends, confusing leads and false sightings in ‘bounty hunter hostile’ Mexico.  Can Lori discover where Fletcher is hiding, what he is hiding and with the help of whom before it’s too late…?

Fabulous!  As crime fiction goes this is another wonderfully engaging, thrilling, action-packed read from the pen of Steph Broadribb.  I was hooked from page one and unable to put this book down.  I love everything about Lori, she’s kick-ass through and through. She has a relatable, softer side when it comes to all matters concerning her young daughter, and she carries a flipping TASER!  What more could you want?  What I thoroughly enjoyed this time around was the chemistry and the friction brought about by the inclusion of Californian bounty hunter, Dex McGregor.  Lori has to work with Dex on the instruction of Alex Monroe.  But Dex works very differently to Lori – Dex is a team player but Lori is her own, one woman team.  The tension was palpable, the suspicion high.  Brilliantly constructed by Broadribb.

One of my very favourite things about this series is how deliciously American the narrative is.  I am such a big fan of American crime fiction but Broadribb manages to make me believe more than many other home-grown American writers (Broadribb is British by the way, but has worked in the US).

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  And whilst you’re there make sure you pick up a copy of Deep Down Dead too.  Deep Blue Trouble will work as a standalone but why not read the first book in the series whilst you’re at it.  I promise you won’t regret it.  I said this time last year that, “For me, this is the book that every other book has to beat this year to become my favourite read of 2017.  It’s early days but Deep Down Dead is a long way in the lead at the moment (and we’re not even done with January yet!)”.  Well, the same applies this year.  As things stand at present, Deep Blue Trouble is the book every other book has to beat to be my ‘book of 2018’.  As crime writers go, you can’t get better than Steph Broadribb.  Perfect!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Deep Blue Trouble.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Deep Blue Trouble by Steph Broadribb was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 5th January 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (the following Amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Steph Broadribb.jpegSteph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases.

Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.

Author Links: Crime Thriller Girl | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer (@kate_hamer) @FaberBooks

the doll funeral.jpg“My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say. I’m supposed to say that the bruises on my arms and the black eye came from falling down the stairs.

But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw on the way to bed.

I did tell Mick that I saw the woman in the buttercup dress, hanging upside down from her seat belt deep in the forest at the back of our house. I told him I saw death crawl out of her. He said he’d give me a medal for lying.

I wasn’t lying. I’m a hunter for lost souls and I’m going to be with my real family. And I’m not going to let Mick stop me.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today as it’s my stop on The Doll Funeral blog tour.  The Doll Funeral is the second book written by Kate Hamer.  Her first, The Girl in the Red Coat, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize in 2015.  I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Hamer at the 2017 Wantage (Not Just!) Betjemen Literary Festival in October.  Hearing Hamer talk about her characters, her thought processes and how Ruby blossomed into life made me keen to read this beautifully haunting tale.

Ruby is different.  Ruby is able to see and communicate with the dead.  She has also had a harrowing upbringing.  A number of unsightly bruises and marks which need to be hidden away; she has time off school when the bruises get really bad but it’s OK, Barbara and Mick tell her what to say.  It’s never the truth.  The truth would cause too many questions, too many problems.  On her thirteenth birthday, Barbara and Mick share some news.  Ruby is adopted, she’s not their ‘real’ daughter.  The confirmation that she doesn’t belong fills Ruby with joy and she runs into the garden singing.  But this is just the beginning for Ruby.  She needs to find out where she belongs.  She must find her birth parents as she’s sure they want her back.

Ruby’s tale is a very emotional one.  So many issues that an adult would find it hard to cope with, dropped onto the shoulders of a thirteen-year-old child.  I personally struggled at times to see Ruby as a child in my mind’s eye.  Her wisdom, actions and attitude were more suited to a person in their late teens, a young adult, maybe? Perhaps Ruby is just one of those characters who are old before their time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the flashback sequences where we meet Ruby’s parents before her birth.  Seeing how her young mother, Anna, coped with the unplanned pregnancy.  The decisions that had to be made and the undoing of all of those decisions once the precious bundle of a newborn baby was placed in Anna’s arms.  Anna’s story broke my heart and I will remember it for some time to come.  Along with the names of Ruby’s adoptive parents, Mick and Barbara, but for completely different reasons.

The author has a knack of writing such beautifully descriptive and atmospheric prose that I was able to forgive some of the more far-fetched supernatural aspects of the story.  I want to put this out there so we’re all clear; I am a non-believer of ghosts and ghoulies.  Always have been and always will be unless someone can show me hard evidence of the spirit world existing.  I often struggle with a supernatural element in a book.  Sometimes it works for me, other times it doesn’t.

Would I recommend this book?  I would but it’s best to approach this novel thinking of it as a gothic ghost story (it crosses many genres but gothic ghost story prepares you for what lays ahead).  It’s enchanting, dark and multi-layered.  I would very much like to read Hamer’s debut now and compare the two works.

Four out of five stars.

The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer was published in the UK by Faber & Faber on 4th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (the following amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

kate hamer.jpgKate Hamer grew up in the West Country and Wales. She studied art and worked for a number of years in television. In 2011 she won the Rhys Davies short-story prize and her short stories have appeared in various collections. Her debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat was published in 2015. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into sixteen different languages. Kate now lives with her husband in Cardiff.

Author Links:Goodreads | Website | Twitter |

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker (@Bookwalter) @bookouture

Keep-Her-Safe-Kindle.jpg“How far would you go to protect your child?

Maggie’s daughter Penny is her whole world… and she’d do anything to protect her. So when Maggie wakes one night to find a strange woman in her home, she runs to lock herself in her bedroom with her child. But Maggie knows why she’s come… 

Someone has been targeting mothers and offering them a choice: do as he says or their child disappears. This stranger in her home has until dawn to follow his orders… but Maggie too has the ‘choice’ to make. Can she put the pieces together to stop the cycle before her time is up?

An edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep you guessing until the last page. Perfect for fans of Adam Croft and Tess Gerritsen.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my stop on the Keep Her Safe blog tour.  Keep Her Safe is written by Richard Parker and is the third of Parker’s books published by the mighty Bookouture.  I am a great fan of Richard Parker’s writing having previously read and reviewed his other two Bookouture releases, HIDE AND SEEK and FOLLOW YOU.  I loved Follow You so much, it made it onto my Top Ten Books of 2017.

So, with this in mind, I was excited to make a start on Keep Her Safe.  Really, REALLY flipping excited.  And what a book!  What an absolutely brilliant hook!  Richard Parker has done it again, he’s created the stuff nightmares are made of.

Having sat here for 10 minutes staring at a fairly empty screen I have realised that this is going to be a hard review to write.  Not because I didn’t enjoy the book (I loved the book!) but because I don’t want to be the one dishing out spoilers left, right and centre.  There are things not mentioned in the blurb above which are key to the storyline.  Now I could bring them into my review but that seems totally unfair to you, the reader.  So I’m going to be as vague as possible and say that the impossible situation Parker’s characters get themselves into was the killer hook for me, it was everything and made me fall head over heels in love with this book!  Where Parker’s ideas come from, I would LOVE to know.  It really is the stuff of nightmares.

The beginning is shocking, dark and quite disturbing.  It made me think, ‘what if…?’.  The end took me to places I never expected it to.  It comes like a bolt out of the blue and knocks you sideways.  I promise you won’t see it coming.  I have to be 100% honest at this point and confess that at times, during the middle section, I did find my attention drifting a little.  There was lots of action but the initial hook had been blunted a little and the focus of the story had shifted elsewhere.  Still a terrific piece of writing but after the intense, high drama of the opening chapters, I guess I wanted more of that and less of the ‘comrades joining together against a common enemy’ (all very cloak and dagger but I’m trying to be vague, hahaha).  The spikiness of the story was suddenly less…spiky.  I liked the spikiness, I would have liked a little more spike in the main body of the story.  I’ll shut up now….

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!  It’s brilliant and the slightly slower middle section doesn’t change my opinion of that.  If you want a book that will, in parts, leave you breathless with shock then this is the one.  Totally gripping, very unexpected and leaves you asking yourself, ‘what would I do?’.  Another BRILLIANT thriller from the pen of Richard Parker.  I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next!

Five stars out of five.

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

Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker was published in the UK by Bookouture on 11th January 2018 and is available in eBook format (the following amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author3

RichardParkerPicRichard Parker was formerly a TV script writer, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning twisted standalone thrillers.

KEEP HER SAFE is the latest book to be published by Bookouture on January 11th 2018.

HIDE AND SEEK was his fifth book published in August 2017.

FOLLOW YOU was his fourth psychological thriller. Reviewers are saying it’s Bookouture’s darkest crime novel to date.

STALK ME was his third and rode high in the UK and US charts.

SCARE ME was his second. Hollywood movie rights have been acquired by major US studio, Relativity Media. Star of PRISON BREAK and screenwriter of dark horror thriller STOKER, Wentworth Miller, has written the big screen adaptation.

STOP ME, Richard’s darkly fiendish debut, was shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Mother by S.E.Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) @bookouture

Mother-Kindle.jpeg“How far would you go for the perfect family?

When Christopher Harris climbs into his family’s dusty attic, he finds a battered old suitcase containing a letter. Inside the letter is a secret; a secret about his mother that changes everything. 

Every mother loves their child. Every child deserves to be loved. But Christopher has grown up so lonely it hurts. 

Finally, Christopher thinks he has a chance at happiness. A happiness he will do anything to protect, whatever the cost…

An unputdownable thriller about the lies we tell and the secrets we keep, Mother will hold you breathless until the very last page and leave you reeling. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister and Apple Tree Yard.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my turn, and the final stop, on the Mother blog tour.  Mother is the brand new psychological thriller from one of my favourite authors, S.E. Lynes.  I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Susie’s debut, Valentina.  So much so, I encouraged my own mum who is brand new to the psychological thriller genre to read it.  Needless to say, she loved it!  It also featured highly on my ‘top books of the year’ list in 2016.  If you would like a recap or if you missed it the first time, check out my review of Valentina HERE.

This is S.E. Lynes first release with Bookouture.  It is also one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year.  No pressure, huh?!  I can’t deny, my expectations were high.  I felt nervous, excited and a little apprehensive as I started to read the first page on my Kindle.  The prologue is wonderfully violent and immediately appealed to my darker side.  However, from there the story takes a more sedate turn.  The writing, as I would expect from S.E. Lynes, is excellent.  I just wanted something more to happen.  I’ll lay my cards on the table as I’m one for 100% honesty in reviews, I really struggled with the first half of this book.  Not all psychological thrillers are a thrill-a-minute joyride, I understand that.  I have enjoyed the slow build to a shocking conclusion.  I have enjoyed a particular character’s torment as their impending comeuppance looms with sharp fangs in the shadows.  I just didn’t get that with the first half of Mother.  Something, for me, was missing in that first half.  However, the second half was a different story altogether, I absolutely loved the second half of this book.

The reader is introduced to a young man by the name of Christopher Harris.  Christopher finds out by chance that he is adopted.  Something he has secretly known for many years.  After all, he doesn’t ‘fit’ with his family.  The discovery is made just as departs his Morecambe home for Leeds University.  Turning his back on his parents, Margaret and Jack, and their reserved way of life, he heads out into the big wide world with one mission; to find his birth mother.  Christopher is a restrained chap so follows the correct procedures in his search, an emotionally charged search which leads him to Liverpool and to the arms of Phyllis, the mother he’s always wanted.  Christopher is a new man.  He dresses differently, he behaves differently, his life is finally what he has always wanted it to be.  But when someone threatens his perfect life, Christopher needs to act.  How far will he go to make sure his life remains perfect…?

Christopher doesn’t tell his own story which I thought was an interesting way for the author to tell his tale.  The detective in me spent most of the first half trying to work out who the narrator was and I’m pleased to say I got it right fairly early on (but then convinced myself otherwise as the story progressed!).  I found the relationship between Christopher and his birth mother, Phyllis, a little odd.  Actually, scrap that, it was uncomfortably intense which is why I think I struggled to connect with any of the characters in Mother.  I desperately want to talk about the second half of the book but fear in doing so I’ll be dropping spoilers left, right and centre.  So I’ll just say the last half of the book is deliciously dark and quite surprising.

Would I recommend this book?  I love Lynes’s writing and I would pick up another book by the author in less than a heartbeat.  However, I did find the first half quite slow but I’m so glad I persevered as the last half is really rather wonderful.  Christopher’s story took a little too long to get going for me.  But that’s just me, you may have a totally different experience.  I would recommend this book but with a caveat, that being the first half may not grab you as would hope.  Stick with it, it’s worth it.

Four stars out of five.

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

Mother by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 22nd November 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

S E Lynes Author Photo.pngAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington. Her first novel, Valentina, published by Blackbird Digital Books, came out in July 2016. Her follow up novel, Mother, is published by Bookouture.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour: We Have Lost The Chihuahuas by @QuiteFunnyGuy @WeHaveLostBooks | @emmamitchellfpr

WHLTChihuahuas_cover_small (2).jpg“London, 2046. The British Republic has a new First Lady. She’s Californian, ‘in-your-face, for sure’ and she’s got big plans for a Buckingham Palace refurb. When her three Chihuahuas go missing, one man is determined to avoid getting dragged into it all. His name is Pond. Howie Pond – presidential spokesperson, retired secret agent and cat lover.

Meanwhile, Howie’s wife Britt is handed her first assignment as a National Security and Intelligence Service rookie – to solve the mystery of the missing canine trio.

Will Howie manage to slope off to the pub before he can be roped into help? Will Britt unmask the dognapper and grab the glory? Find out, in the latest, crazy comedy-thriller from dog-loving British author Paul Mathews.”

I am delighted to be kicking off the We Have Lost the Chihuahuas blog tour alongside the fabulous Rae Reads and Bits About Books.  We Have Lost the Chihuahuas is book four in author Paul Mathew’s comedy thriller series ‘We Have Lost..’ and is published on 28th November 2017.

Today, I have an extract from the book to whet your appetite. So without further ado, grab a cuppa and have a read…

When it came to household pets, Howie had always been more of a cat-type of guy than a dog lover. And, as he stood shivering in the cold January air of London’s St James’ Park, watching a Chihuahua sinking his teeth into his chief press officer’s right ankle, he was pretty sure his views on the subject wouldn’t be changing any time soon.

‘Argh! Get off me, you four-legged eejit!’ screamed Conor O’Brean, yanking the dog’s lead so hard, it lifted off the ground and flew a metre in the air before rejoining terra firma.

Rather than risk his own ankles, Howie decided to beat a strategic retreat in the way that battlefield generals often did when things weren’t quite going to plan. He had full confidence in the Irishman under his command. Howie would allow Conor to regain control of the situation without a superior officer such as himself – who had no experience of hand-to-hand Chihuahua combat – getting in the way of the human-canine skirmish.

Once Howie was safely out of the line of fire, he noticed the other two dogs had also retreated. This clearly wasn’t the first time they’d seen their pack mate in full battle-mode.

‘Behave yourself, Donnie!’ yelled Conor, as he started to become entangled in the dogs’ leads.

The angry animal snarled with a ferocity that sent every bird within a fifty-metre radius fleeing for the treetops.

Conor upped the volume. ‘I mean it! Stop this nonsense or I’ll tell your mammy you’ve been a bad boy.’

Donnie stopped snarling and cocked an ear, as if daring Conor to repeat the threat.

‘I’m serious! I’ll tell your mammy and your pappy, too. And he’s the president, remember. You don’t want to get the wrong side of him, do you now? Or he’ll have you sent back to America.’

Donnie lowered his head slowly, flopped his tail between his legs in apparent surrender, and slunk up to Conor.

‘There’s a good little fella.’ Conor glanced at Howie. ‘I knew a bit of old-fashioned Irish diplomacy would make him see sense.’

Howie noticed the other two Chihuahuas were still keeping their distance, so he followed their example.

Conor reached down and patted the defeated dog on the head. ‘Peace has been restored to the fair land of Westminster. Hostilities have officially ceased. The battle of St James’ Park has been fought – and won – and shall never be forgotten by those who risked their lives so that three dogs could stretch their legs and empty their tanks.’

Howie made a mock salute. ‘We will never forget your sacrifice, Private O’Brean. I’ll be recommending you for a President’s gallantry award.’

Conor stared into Donnie’s chocolate-brown eyes. ‘We, who were once enemies … are now brothers in arms.’

Without warning, Donnie launched a counter attack and bit Conor’s right thumb, making him scream so loudly Howie had to pretend for half a minute they didn’t know each other.

The angry mutt then charged towards Conor’s left ankle. But the Irishman managed to block the advance with the sole of his boot. Amid all the conflict, the other two Chihuahuas sat shivering on the edge of the path watching their canine comrade – possibly also trying to pretend they didn’t know him.

‘Donnie, sit!’ shouted Howie from the safety of the grass verge – which was now doubling as an impromptu war room.

The dog froze – as if stunned that another human would be stupid enough to enter the fray. Once it got over the shock, it locked a wide-eyed stare onto Howie and raised its top lip to display an impressive arsenal of jagged yellow teeth. This dog was clearly a combat veteran.

We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews will be published in the UK on Tuesday 28th November 2017 and will be available in eBook format.  If you would like to pre-order this fun-filled furry caper then please click HERE (amazon.co.uk link).

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about the author3

41lkaQvyNGL._SY200_.jpgPaul Mathews is a quite funny British guy who’s managed to escape his day job and is currently on the run as a comedy novelist. His sharp, satirical – often surreal – sense of humour draws on 20 years as a British Government press officer, during which time he encountered politicians, senior civil servants, HR managers, and lots of other people who really sucked at their jobs.

His popular ‘We Have Lost’ comedy-thriller series set in 2040s London, starring beleaguered presidential spokesman and wannabe secret agent Howie Pond, currently comprises four titles with more on the way. Paul has read all the books at least ten times and highly recommends them.

Make him happy by signing up for his ‘Very Funny Newsletter’ here: www.quitefunnyguy.com/newsletter. If you don’t want to sign up for it, stay calm and do nothing.

Paul also owns a cat, Lulu, who works as his assistant. All fan mail to her, please.

Author Links:Twitter |Facebook | Website |

#BlogTour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by @medwardsbooks @the_cwa @OrendaBooks

CWA_Cover_Image.jpg“Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour blog tour.  When an email arrived in my inbox headed ‘CWA Anthology blog tour’, well, my heart skipped a beat.  It’s the kind of invitation that this little crime blogger was made for.  I didn’t hesitate in replying with a big, fat ‘YES PLEASE’.  I just had to be a part of this tour.

I am a fan of short story collections and anthologies.  I enjoy the variety, the way the author has to make their point in a significantly reduced number of words and still make it interesting and believable.  I love that anthologies give the reader the opportunity to dip in and out as they choose.  In particular, I love THIS collection of worldly crime stories.  So much so that I would go as far as saying this is the best collection I have read for some time.

When it comes to reviewing an anthology I’m always in two minds.  Do I review each story individually or the book as a whole?  I normally end up reviewing the book rather than the individual works, after all, who wants to read a 2500 word book review?!  I’m going to stick to form and review the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour as a whole.  However, I would like to say that it would be very easy to review each story individually.  In other collections, I have tended to find one or two stories where I wouldn’t know what to say.  That would not be the case with the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour, which is truly a magnificent collection of crime fiction.

Editor and contributor, Martin Edwards, introduces the book to the reader explaining how the participating writers were given the Mystery Tour theme with many interesting and different interpretations.  Then we are thrown head first into the first offering, written by Ann Cleeves and titled ‘The Queen of Mystery’.  I loved this story and thought it was a chilling yet elegant way to start the collection.  It made me want to read more, I wanted to know whether the high standard shown by Cleeves could be backed up by her fellow contributing writers.  And it could, it was.

If I listed every story I enjoyed then I would be basically giving you the contents page!  And I’m sure you don’t need me to do that.  ‘Accounting for Murder’ by Christine Poulson demonstrated a very different way of telling a crime story which I found incredibly interesting.  At points, I wondered how the tale was going to be tied up but it was done well and felt strangely satisfying.  My absolute favourite story in the entire book was written by William Ryan and is titled ‘The Spoils‘.  The tale of a woman wronged and how deadly that can be – absolutely marvellous!

One of the other benefits of reading an anthology, and I find this quite often in the crime genre, is that writers who produce a series tend to include a short story featuring their main character.  I was delighted to meet Ed James’s Detective Scott Cullen for the first time in ‘Travel is Dangerous’, having wanted to read James’s work for some time now.  The same with Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra in ‘Bombay Brigadoon’.  Not only are these short stories very satisfying for existing fans but they work as excellent taster pieces for new readers.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  I could go on for hours telling you about the cleverly crafted tales, about the obvious love and devotion the writers have for their craft.  I could include how much I, personally, appreciate crime writers and want to thank each and every one of them for the hours of enjoyment they give us readers (me!).  I could, but I won’t today because I’ve gone on long enough already!  Maybe I’ll save that for another time.

I love international crime so this was pretty much the perfect read for me.  Chock-full of GREAT stories, written by some remarkably talented people and the perfect Christmas gift for the crime fiction fan in your life.  This is a must-read book.  Don’t miss out!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for asking me to join the tour and providing me with a review copy.

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th November 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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