#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Collector by John Maher #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #TheCollector #damppebbles

The Collector John Maher“They say human life is the most precious thing. The Collector doesn’t agree.

When world renowned archaeologist Philip Carlton suddenly and unexpectedly commits suicide, the police are called to investigate. Heading up the investigation is Detective Lucy O’Hara, a Forensic Linguist – and she immediately sees something is wrong with the suicide note. In her gut, she knows this was cold-blooded murder.

Battling sceptical superiors and the Irish establishment, Lucy digs for the truth and begins to uncover a shadowy trade in ancient artifacts led by a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Collector’.

As Lucy works to uncover his identity, she soon realises she is up against a ruthless mastermind who is systematically eliminating anyone who might lead her to him. But Lucy won’t give up and soon The Collector turns his attention to her…

The Collector – the first in a gripping new series featuring Detective Lucy O’Hara.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Emma has given me the keys to the blog today so I can share my guest review of The Collector by John Maher with you. I received a free eARC of The Collector but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Collector is the first book in the Lucy O’Hara series and I really enjoyed it. I don’t remember reading a book about a forensic linguist before, and I was intrigued to see what was involved. Lucy O’ Hara is a detective determined to get her career back on track, and when her linguistic skills sense that a suicide note may hold some clues that hint at foul play, she is thrown into a deadly game.

The joy of this book is that against the background of murder and traded ancient artifacts, the characters were the stars.  Whether this was the excellent Lucy O’ Hara, the mysterious Sullivan parachuted into the investigation for unclear reasons, the deeply malevolent Collector, the cold hitman, or multiple suspects, each had a distinctive and well-defined character and often a hidden motive…

Lucy O’Hara stands out though (as you would imagine in Lucy O’ Hara book one!). A detective in need of rehabilitation with a strong sense of justice. She has a need to prove herself and overcome demons in the past, which must be done whilst leading her team through parts of the investigation with a determination that belies her shattered confidence. Her team blends colleagues from different parts of Ireland and you can sense the unity and belief growing, as the story unfolds. The author uses location well to denote changes in the pace of the story, whether the focus is on Lucy’s personal challenges or the investigation.

As I mentioned earlier the blurb mentions Forensic Linguists and some may be put off by this, worrying about a potentially complex read. I can reassure you that it wasn’t. Maher leads the reader through each of the deductions in such a simple way that you don’t feel intimidated. In fact, I thought the author could have made more of this unusual skill and I’m looking forward to finding out how more breakthroughs will come from this skillset in book two!

I would happily recommend The Collector to anyone looking for a strong story, with well-written characters and a different approach from the main detective. John Maher’s writing pulls you into an Ireland populated with strong characters, malevolent villains from across Europe and intelligent and complex police officers. A strong starting novel in what could become a fan favourite series.

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

The Collector by John Maher was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 5th July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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John MaherJohn Maher has published five novels and a collection of short stories. He has won national awards for radio play and short story with RTE in Ireland. His novel, The Luck Penny, was shortlisted for debut novel on BBC Radio 5.

A former teacher and lecturer, he holds a Phd from the School of Oriental and African Studies (London).

He lives in a small Irish village, between the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, from which he steals away, from time to time, to visit the world outside the island.

THE COLLECTOR will be his first novel published with Inkubator Books.

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

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

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

Three missing women running out of time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 14th May 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger was published in the UK on 16th March 2020 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Mark Pettinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broken Steel by Stuart Field was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 26th February 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comGoodreads |

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

#BookReview: Afraid Of The Light – Crime Fiction Anthology in aid of the Samaritans | #AfraidOfTheLight #Samaritans #damppebbles @NolanDom

afriad of the light.jpg“Some people are scared of the dark. But it’s the light that exposes the secrets.

A young boy with nightmares faces up to his demons. A deathbed confession turns the world on its axis. A five-year-old watches his parents bury a body in the garden. A soldier returns from the war to find the horror isn’t yet over.

Afraid Of The Light brings the imagination of fourteen bestselling crime writers together in a collection that will keep you up all night. From a deadly campfire game to a holiday gone wrong, to an AI assistant with a motive and a love affair that can only end in murder, this is a gripping, twisty set of stories to send a shiver down your spine.

“The stories are wildly entertaining in their own right, but they also address the concerns and fears we all feel: isolation and loneliness; guilt and grief; justice and punishment. And perhaps most importantly of all: redemption and hope.” — Alex North”

Hello my bookish friends and welcome to Friday on damppebbles. I am absolutely delighted to be sharing my review of a very special book with you today. It’s no secret that I spend my life on Twitter. I think I may have mentioned that before. So when I saw a tweet from brilliant author, Clare Empson, asking for crime fiction bloggers (that’s me!) to read a hot new crime anthology – featuring 14 bestselling authors and with a foreword by Alex North – all in aid of the Samaritans, I couldn’t resist the call! I wanted ‘in’. And oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did! This is a gripping collection of shorts from some of the best writers out there and I couldn’t put it down. I received a free eARC of Afraid Of The Light but that has in no way influenced my review. (But I’ve since purchased a copy because it’s only 99p at the moment and all proceeds go to the Samaritans.)

I do enjoy a short story collection. They’re easy to read alongside a full length novel, and rarely do I finish one in one sitting. That was my plan when reading Afraid Of The Light. To dip in and out of the book over the course of a week or so. That was the plan. The plan was deeply flawed. Little did I know, when I picked this book up on a lazy Saturday afternoon during lockdown, that it was absolutely impossible to put down and I’d have it read in a few hours. This is an absolutely brilliant and engaging collection of devilish stories from some of the best crime writers out there. Some I’ve read before, some whose books are on my TBR and some I’ve wanted to read for a while.

I won’t pick a favourite as that’s actually really hard to do (because they’re all excellent) but standout reads for me were Adam Southward’s ARE YOU LISTENING?, which is the first story in the book and sets a high benchmark along with the tone for the rest of the collection. Dominic Nolan’s DADDY DEAREST, which had me wondering where the story was going only to drop a pretty hefty bombshell. And Heather Critchlow’s DROWNING IN DEBT,  which has the most wonderfully satisfying ending. Other firm favourites include; SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Robert Scragg, which leads the reader down one path only to provide the most beautiful and well written twist. This one left me reeling a little! Jo Furniss’s TO EVIL OR NOT TO EVIL shows us a futuristic world where your thoughts and feelings are on display to all and it’s not only the people in your life you need to watch.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed Afraid Of The Light and will be recommending it to everyone. There’s not a single dud in the collection and I couldn’t help but lose myself in this wonderful book. All of the stories offer something new and if you haven’t read any of the contributing authors work before, then here’s a perfect opportunity to get a sampler AND make a small donation to a wonderful charity which does so much for so many. Highly recommended.

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

Afraid Of The Light was published in the UK on 21st April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats: | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comGoodreads |

CONTRIBUTORS
Are you Listening? – Adam Southward
Daddy Dearest – Dominic Nolan
Deathbed, Beth Dead – Elle Croft
Loveable Alan Atcliffe – S R Masters
Sleep Time – Phoebe Morgan
Coming Home – N J Mackay
Sausage Fingers – Victoria Selman
Just a Game – Rachael Blok
Drowning in Debt – Heather Critchlow
To Evil or Not to Evil – Jo Furniss
Sheep’s Clothing – Robert Scragg
Frantic – Clare Empson
Planting Nan – James Delargy
Shadow – Kate Simants

All author royalties from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Samaritans.

Samaritans is a charity working across the UK and Ireland to reduce the number of people who take their own lives and help people who are struggling to cope with how they’re feeling or with life’s challenges. When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year.

You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit http://www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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#BlogTour | #BookSpotlight: Art and Soul by Claire Huston (@ClaraVal) @rararesources #ArtandSoul #damppebbles

Hello bookish friends and welcome to a brand new week on damppebbles. Today I am delighted to have something a little different for you. Here at damppebbles HQ we like to focus our attention on the darker side of fiction. You may have noticed! However, I am thrilled to be taking part in the Art and Soul blog tour today. Art and Soul is a heart-warming and uplifting romance novel written by the fabulous Claire Huston. Claire is not only a brilliant debut author, she’s also a fantastic blogger who shares her bookish thoughts and mouth watering bakes on her blog. If you don’t already follow Claire then that needs to change!

As part of the blog tour celebrations I am delighted to be sharing a book spotlight with you today. Let’s find out more about Art and Soul…

Layout 1A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake. Perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Katie Fforde and Cathy Kelly.

There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.

Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?

What do you think? Sounds good, doesn’t it? Art and Soul by Claire Huston was published by Goldcrest Books on 23rd April 2020. At the time of publishing this post, it’s only 99p to download on Amazon so don’t miss out!

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Claire Huston author photo 2020My name’s Claire Huston (pronounced as in “Houston, we have a problem”).

My debut novel – an uplifting contemporary romance – is out now in ebook and paperback. You can read more about that in Art and Soul (or head straight over to Amazon to buy it now!)

I live in the Midlands, UK, with my husband and two children. I work as a Spanish-English translator and when I’m not struggling to write, I try to read, bake, and generally keep chaos at bay.

I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

If you’d like to get in touch, please use the contact form below or leave a message down in the comments. You can also find me on TwitterGoodreadsFacebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen @canelo_co #TheCloserYouGet #damppebbles

the closer you get“Is a marriage worth saving – whatever the cost?

Ruby didn’t plan to have an affair. She doesn’t love her husband, but wouldn’t set out to steal someone else’s. Yet when she met Harry they simply couldn’t keep apart. Now, she’s brave enough to leave her marital home and start again, and so is Harry. Or so she thinks.

Waiting at a hotel for her lover to arrive, Ruby realises she has made a mistake. Harry won’t come. He will never leave his wife.

What Ruby hasn’t worked out is that someone else knows all about the affair. They have been watching Ruby’s every move. They are determined to punish her. And they are even closer than she thinks…

Don’t miss this taut and gripping novel packed with edge-of-your-seat tension and a tale of love that goes badly wrong, perfect for fans of Shalini Boland and Lisa Hall.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen as part of the blog tour. The Closer You Get was published in digital format on 21st April 2020 by Canelo. I received a free digital eARC which has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re looking for a character-driven domestic suspense novel to get your teeth into, then look no further, dear reader. You have found it. What a cracking book this is! I have to be honest and confess to not reading many domestic thrillers of late. I seem to be leaning back towards my first love, crime and serial killer fiction, so reading The Closer You Get reminded me exactly how good the genre is, how devilish and despicable the characters can be and how I should really be reading A LOT more.

Ruby is a very relatable character and I warmed to her almost immediately. Despite the fact she’s out the door, with her bags packed, when we first meet her. Leaving her husband of ten-plus years for another man. It’s quite clear to the reader though that there’s something else going on here. Something which we haven’t yet been made party to. After, very decently I think, waiting for Tom to return home, explaining that she’s been unhappy for a while now, and departing the marital home, she heads to a local hotel to wait for her new love, Harry, to join her. But he doesn’t show. So she waits some more. And he still doesn’t show. Your heart sinks for Ruby. You can imagine the anguish she’s going through, the realisation as it dawns on her that something isn’t right. Ruby is alone, heart-broken and homeless. But then strange things start happening to her. It seems someone else knows her secret and is going to make her pay…

It’s not often I write an expletive in my notes whilst reading a book. But I did as I read The Closer You Get. I’m not going to reveal the word but looking back at my notes now, I wouldn’t change a thing! There are some characters in this book who will really get under your skin and make you want to scream. Manipulative, controlling and detestable people who the author has written so very well. You can’t help but hate them! They made the book for me. I  couldn’t wait to see what terrible event was going to befall poor Ruby next.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a gripping domestic suspense thriller and I was hooked from the first page. The ending is very satisfying and exactly what I hoped for. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book and I will definitely be reading more from Mary Torjussen in the future.

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

The Closer You Get by Mary Torjussen was published in the UK by Canelo on 21st April 2020 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Goodreads |

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Mary_Torjussen_Author_PhotoMary Torjussen has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University and worked for several years as a teacher. She is the author of two novels, Gone Without a Trace and The Girl I Used to Be, and her new novel will be published in 2020. She writes dark, gripping thrillers and her debut novel, published in several international territories, has been optioned for television by Ecosse Productions.

 

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham (@MitchamJoseph) #TheWatchList @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles

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“Sixty-eight dead and nearly 300 injured in a hostile vehicle and bomb attack on a community festival in Birmingham, the country is in shock.

Battling the mental turmoil of the aftermath, Alex, a former Army communications specialist, stumbles across the UK Terror Watch List – he cannot resist the challenge of stealing the list from under the nose of his contract supervisor, Lucy Butler, a razor sharp and headstrong Intelligence Corps corporal with big ambitions.

Wrestling with his conscience and the ethics of tackling unconvicted suspects, Alex enlists the help of famed former UK Special Forces Warrant Officer, Craig Medhurst. Alex struggles to win the respect of Craig’s core team, but together they hatch a daring plan to act on their selected targets.

Can Alex use his charm to persuade Corporal Butler to join them?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am handing the keys over to my trusty sidekick and guest reviewer, Ryan, who is sharing his review of The Watch List on the final day of the blog tour. The Watch List was self-published by the author, Joseph Mitcham, on 2nd December 2019 and Ryan received a free review copy of the book which hasn’t influenced his review. Let’s see what he thought…

The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham is a fascinating book about temptation and ethics. It put me in mind of the “Choose your own adventure books” of my youth, but this time the lead character had already taken the decisions and the reader is watching events play out.

Alex, as the main character, is a confident and high skilled IT specialist with a background in the army. Called in to fix an inter-service IT system he finds he has a dilemma. The UK Terror Watch List is on the system and Alex knows he has the skills to take it without anyone knowing. The author does a great job of communicating the mix of guilt, fear and excitement swirling through Alex as he reaches his decision. But then we see more choices; decision 2, what to do with the list? Decision 3, share his secret with Lucy Butler or not? Each decision has consequences, and when he takes them, the circumstances and subsequent decisions seem to flow out of Alex’s control.

I really enjoyed this book. The author has started with an interesting premise and built it into a strong story where good and bad can sometimes appear similar, and is very dependent on perspective. Mitcham doesn’t shy away from making his characters have difficult ethical discussions. Wrestling with their conscience on whether to take action against those who have, as yet, done nothing wrong except believe something different from Alex’s growing band of vigilantes.

The characters in this story are well written and all come to the mission with different approaches. Alex, as an information specialist, starts off by being fascinated with the challenge of gaining the list. But then he becomes involved in ensuring that the communications are right. Now I never thought I would find the planning and methods of communications for a mission interesting, but the methods used here are fascinating and the author brings an educated perspective to this often overlooked area of a story. Lucy Butler is an enigma, strong and forthright but never clearly on anyone’s side. What is she planning and will she stop Alex’s plans in their track? Finally Craig, ex-special forces, quick with decisions and deadly in his execution of them, can he be trusted not to go too far?

So, going back to the ‘choose your own adventure’ books. Should you read this book – choose ‘yes’ and you will have chosen well. You’ll find an interesting book with a great story and strong characters.

Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of The Watch List. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham was published in the UK on 2nd December2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Joseph Mitcham - reduced

Joseph Mitcham served with the British military in elite and technical units for over 16 years. His service not only gave him a thorough tactical and technical understanding of some of techniques and processes employed in his first novel, it also provided him with the opportunity to develop himself, earning a first class honours degree in business leadership by the end of his service.

The inspiration for writing ‘The Watch List’ was taken from personal experiences from the roles that he has served in and characteristics from some of the people that he has served with. Joseph has written an incredible, yet compellingly credible story that plays out in our world as he sees it today.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #WeBeginattheEnd #damppebbles

We Begin at the End.jpg“‘YOU CAN’T SAVE SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T WANT TO BE SAVED . . .’

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?”

The warmest of welcomes to the blog today and to my stop on the We Begin at the End blog tour. We Begin at the End is the highly anticipated new release from Chris Whitaker and was published by Zaffre Books in hardcover on 2nd April. The paperback is set to follow in October. I received a free eARC of We Begin at the End but that has in no way influenced my review.

We Begin at the End is the most beautiful, captivating and exquisite book I have ever read. My heart broke. I cried big, ugly, snotty tears and I was left wanting to relive the whole experience, from beginning to end, again. This is a stunning piece of fiction and if you don’t read it for yourself then you’ll never know exactly how astonishing it is. Hell, if this book doesn’t make it to the top of my best books of 2020 then we have been blessed with some truly incredible books this year.

The outlaw, Duchess Day Radley. The most perfect character to grace crime fiction. At only 13 years of age she has the guts and the intelligence to do things most adults wouldn’t dream of. But she’s also a 13 year old hot-headed kid who makes some pretty catastrophic mistakes. I adored her. I finished We Begin at the End a few weeks ago now but Duchess remains with me still. Her mother, Star, repeatedly tries and fails to be a good mom to her two kids. Which means Duchess has to step up and take charge. It’s heart-breaking stuff, hence the big, fat, ugly tears. Duchess’s relationship with her younger brother, Robin, was so touching, so beautiful. She’s his protector, she looks out for him because their mother can’t and does such an admirable job that every scene involving the pair of them tugged at my heart strings. When a caring, responsible adult eventually enters their lives in the form of their grandfather, it’s an absolute joy to watch six-year-old Robin blossom. Duchess’s wariness and her slow thaw towards grandfather Hal just made me admire her even more. But some people just aren’t destined to find happiness and history has an unfortunate knack of repeating itself…

Before I go any further with this review I must mention Chief Walker, or Walk as he’s known to the locals. Tragedy struck Cape Haven 30 years ago when Sissy Radley, sister to Star, was killed. Walk, who even then had aspirations to become the local police chief, was part of the search party. Walk’s best friend, Vincent King, was accused of Sissy’s murder. But Walk never gave up on Vincent and now, thirty years later, Vincent is due to be released from jail. And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Walk. Another beautifully drawn character who leaps from the pages of the book and into the reader’s mind. When tragedy hits Cape Haven for a second time, Walk is pushed to the sidelines of the investigation. Before long, he decides that if the truth is to be found, then he’s the man to uncover it. Such compelling reading and I lived every. single. moment.

Would I recommend this book? This book is perfection. I will be driving people crazy recommending We Begin at the End to them. It ticks so many boxes for me; set in small town America – tick, full of the most enchanting and interesting characters – tick, a devilish mystery at it’s heart – tick, leaves me with the biggest emotional bookish hangover – tick. This book is a masterpiece and if you only buy one book this year based on my reviews then please, PLEASE make it this one. I really wish I had the words to convey what a stunning book this is. Absolutely outstanding.

I chose to read and review an eARC of We Begin at the End. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 2nd April 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |

Chris Whitaker

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chris whitakerChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: East Side Hustler by Leopold Borstinski (@borstinski) #EastSideHustler #AlexCohenSeries #damppebbles

Image“Alex lived through the war, but will he survive the peace?

Jewish gang member, Alex comes back from the Great War almost destroyed by the horrors he has seen. When he is plucked from certain death by an old friend, he commits to making so much money he’ll never know that agony again.

But the route to the top is fraught with danger and every time he helps one of his powerful friends like Al Capone, he acquires more enemies who want to see him dead. When organised crime financier, Arnold Rothstein dies, the turmoil caused by his loss sets in train a chain of events which means Alex must once more fight for his life. How far would you go to attain your American dream?

The second book in the Alex Cohen series is a violent historical novel, which tears through the Prohibition years of the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s gripping crime noir pierces the heart of every reader like a bullet from Alex’s sniper rifle.”

Hello and welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of East Side Hustler as part of the blog tour today. East Side Hustler is the second book in the Alex Cohen Series written by Leopold Borstinski. I read and reviewed the first book, The Bowery Slugger, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was really looking forward to this one. I received a free eARC of East Side Hustler but that has in no way influenced my review.

We were last with Alex Cohen as he leapt onto a train destined for the trenches of the Great War. East Side Hustler begins in 1919 with Alex’s return to New York but he’s a shadow of the man he was. Traumatised by the sights and smells of war, he finds himself desolate and alone. Having once run the streets which he now sleeps on, it’s a dramatic fall from grace for the man they used to refer to as ‘Slugger’. His family believe him to be dead. He has no one. That is until a familiar face finds him and offers shelter. A warm bed, food on the table and the warm embrace of Sarah, a friend and lover from the past. Alex’s strength builds, he discovers his reputation is unblemished and his determination to live the American dream reignites. And Alex will do that anyway he can, no matter who stands in his way…

East Side Hustler spans the years from 1919 to 1929 and Alex’s return to the mean streets of New York. It’s difficult to not like Alex. He’s ruthless, menacing and a pretty terrible human being but there’s also something about him that appeals to the reader. In The Bowery Slugger Alex was a teenager on the up. You couldn’t help but admire his gumption and his desire to make something of himself. He’s older now and affected by war, but the character readers fell in love with is still very much present.

So much happens in East Side Hustler that it’s hard to summarise the book for this review. After all, East Side Hustler spans a ten-year period in Alex’s life. There’s a lot going on so the reader is quickly absorbed into the story and into the dark underbelly of New York in the 1920s. The main point to mention is the introduction of prohibition which saw the manufacture and sale of alcohol stopped by law. Alex and his ‘colleagues’ quickly discover a way of smuggling alcohol into New York from Canada via Chicago. Risking life and limb in the process, it makes for gripping reading and provides a fair amount of spilt blood. The inclusion of some familiar names, such as Al Capone and Bugs Moran, bring a dash of realism to the story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. East Side Hustler can be read as a standalone but it’s worth picking up a copy of The Bowery Slugger too, as you get to discover where Alex Cohen has come from and what drives him. This series is a gritty look at life on the streets of New York. A no-holds-barred historical noir novel with a lead character that you shouldn’t like, but you won’t be able to help yourself. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing what Bostinski has in store for Alex next.

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

East Side Hustler by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 22nd March 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comGoogle BooksKoboGoodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |