#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton @HodderBooks @HodderFiction @HodderPublicity @JennyPlatt90 #TheSanctuary #damppebbles

Very few people get to stay here. And some don’t get to leave …

Zoey doesn’t remember anything about last night. But she knows something went badly wrong. For she is no longer in New York. She’s woken up in the desert, in a white building she doesn’t recognise, and she’s alone.

When she discovers she’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, a discreet, mysterious, isolated refuge from normal life, to avoid jail, she is stunned. She knows she has secrets, troubles, but she thought she had everything under control. But as she spends more time with other residents, she begins to open up about what she’s running from. Until she realises that not everyone in The Sanctuary has her best interests at heart, and someone might even be a killer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton. The Sanctuary will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardcover, audio and digital formats later this week (that’s Thursday 24th November 2022) with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of The Sanctuary but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder Books for sending me a finished copy.

I read Emma Haughton’s debut thriller, The Dark, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. What’s really interesting about The Dark is that it’s very much a locked room thriller but the setting is a UN research station in Antartica. The way the author makes the reader feel claustrophobic in such a vast and open setting was done incredibly well. Which is why I jumped at the chance to read Haughton’s second thriller, The Sanctuary. Once again the setting really grabbed my attention. This time it’s a luxurious, isolated retreat in the heart of the Mexican desert. I was keen to see if the author would be able to evoke the same feelings of claustrophobia and of all hope being lost a second time. And oh boy, Haughton absolutely did!

Zoey wakes up alone, in a strange room and with the worst hangover she’s ever experienced. She’s dazed and confused, and her memories of the night before are hazy at best. It soon becomes clear that Zoey is in a bit of a fix. She’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, an isolated retreat for the rich and famous that likes to dabble in unorthodox treatments. And they’re making it impossible for her to leave. Zoey doesn’t understand how she has ended up in the middle of the Mexican desert, miles from home and anything resembling civilisation. The people she’s stuck with all have addictions – which she doesn’t – and they’re incredibly wealthy – which she isn’t. Which raises the question, who is Zoey’s mysterious benefactor? Who are the people she’s stranded in the middle of the desert with? And what is really going on at The Sanctuary…?

The Sanctuary is a well-written slow burn mystery which builds over the course of the book to a gripping, thrilling conclusion. The author has once again used a setting that is, in theory, vast but manages to make it feel very claustrophobic. There is no chance of escape from The Sanctuary. If dehydration or heat stroke doesn’t kill you, the wildlife probably will! I loved how well the author conveys Zoey’s rising hopelessness as her situation slowly dawned on her.

Many of the characters in the book are unlikeable and tend to frustrate and annoy each other, which adds to the overall tension at the retreat. They’re also incredibly shallow and prepared to do whatever it takes to keep a tight hold on their secrets. That’s the case for both the retreat’s affluent guests but the small body of staff present too. Zoey is the only somewhat likeable character in the bunch, but I don’t think she’ll appeal to everyone. She really does need to take a long hard look at her life as she comes across as quite juvenile a lot of the time, but I kind of liked her. The other characters all play their parts very well and help to move the storyline along. I was able to predict whodunit from fairly early on but that didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the book at all.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Sanctuary is a tense, slow burn psychological mystery with interesting characters and a thrilling conclusion. I found the book entertaining from start to finish and I’m excited to read more thrillers from this author in the future. I LOVED the setting. The author paints a very vivid picture of the inhospitable desert in her reader’s minds which I thoroughly enjoyed. The setting was as much a character in the story as Zoey, the other guests and the staff. There’s a lot of well-penned intrigue throughout the story. You can’t help but wonder what secrets these privileged people are hiding and what’s really going on at The Sanctuary. I enjoyed the slow build of the story and the escalating tension as I approached the end of the book. And the denouement was very well done. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Sanctuary and look forward to reading more from the author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th November 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Emma HaughtonEmma grew up in Sussex; after a stint au pairing in Paris and a couple of half-hearted attempts to backpack across Europe, she studied English at Oxford University then trained in journalism. During her career as a journalist, she wrote many articles for national newspapers, including regular pieces for the Times Travel section.

Following publication of her picture book, Rainy Day, Emma wrote three YA novels. Her first, Now You See Me, was an Amazon bestseller and nominated for the Carnegie and Amazing Book Awards. Better Left Buried, her second, was one of the best YA reads for 2015 in the Sunday Express. Her third YA novel, Cruel Heart Broken, was picked by The Bookseller as a top YA read for July 2016.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou @maclehosepress #TheInvisible #damppebbles

“Burnt-out from policework, Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies from Australia to Greece for a holiday. Recently divorced and mourning the death of his father, who emigrated from the turbulent Prespes region which straddles the borders of Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, Manolis hopes to reconnect with his roots and heritage.

On arrival, Manolis learns of the disappearance of an ‘invisible’ – a local man who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and some locals believe the man’s disappearance was pre-planned, while others suspect foul play. Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find the invisible, and must navigate the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep.

It soon becomes clear to Manolis that he may never locate a man who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. And with the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the events of today as Manolis’s investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten practice.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the social media splash for The Invisible, the second book in the Detective George Manolis series by Peter Papathanasiou. The Invisible was published by MacLehose Press last Thursday (that’s 1st September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Invisible but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Corinna at MacLehose Press for sending me a proof copy.

I am a huge fan of Australian crime fiction, it’s become a bit of a passion of mine. This may come as no surprise to regular readers of the blog as I do tend to mention it fairly often 😂. The Stoning, the first book in this series, was a highlight of my reading year in 2021 so I was very much looking forward to being reunited with Detective Manolis once again for his second outing. The Invisible is a very different book to the first in that Manolis goes back to his Greek roots, his parents having emigrated from Greece to Australia prior to George’s birth. The book had a very different flavour, a different feel which I appreciated.

Following a traumatic event at work and suffering from PTSD, DS Manolis is ordered to take leave for a few weeks and give himself time to start healing. He decides the best thing to do is to leave Australia altogether and books a flight to his parent’s homeland, Greece. Upon arrival he discovers one of the locals, a man he was familiar with from previous visits, has gone missing. The only problem is Lefty is an invisible. He has no paperwork, no passport, no bank account. The local police force have been made aware of Lefty’s disappearance but what can they do? According to their records, Lefty never existed. Working undercover, Manolis immerses himself in the Greek lifestyle and begins to ask questions of the locals. But how do you find a man who doesn’t exist…?

The Invisible is a well-written slow burn mystery which I enjoyed reading. The first chapter is fraught with danger and tension as Manolis and a favourite character of mine, Constable ‘Sparrow’ Smith, chase down a drug dealer. Their pursuit ends in tragedy with Manolis holding a smoking gun and reliving his ordeal time and time again. When his boss, Paul Bloody Porter, insists he take some vacation Manolis reluctantly agrees and boards a flight to a country which will forever be in his blood, Greece. From here things take a more sedate pace. Manolis is introduced to old friends and new. Fellow Greek-Aussie, Stavros, asks Manolis to investigate Lefty’s disappearance believing his friend to be more efficient than the local police. Working undercover Manolis begins to investigate but soon realises he’s been set an impossible task.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a fascinating slow burn mystery featuring some outstanding characters and a dramatic, vivid setting then you will enjoy The Invisible. I learnt so much about the Greek way of life; culture, food and drink, religion, history and practices. The mystery aspect of the story is present throughout the book. The reader is initially introduced to Lefty in the prologue and he is referred to throughout the text by the other characters, which helps build a picture of the character in your mind. But how do you go about finding someone who doesn’t exist? This is exactly Manolis’s problem. Every direction he takes, every new lead fizzles out and becomes a disappointing dead end. I was very intrigued about what had happened to Lefty so the denouement came as a surprise. I’m a fan of the Detective George Manolis series so I hope there are more books to come in this fantastic series. No matter what, I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press in 1st September and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter PapathanasiouPeter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.


📢 Calling all book bloggers, bookstagrammers and authors 📢

#R3COMM3ND3D returns on 1st November 2022 and YOU’RE invited to take part!

The closing date for submissions this year is WEDNESDAY 10TH NOVEMBER so if you would like to take part, please submit your three books via the form below before the 10th.

If you’re not sure what #R3COMM3ND3D is or if you would just like to see a few examples from past years, then please click THIS LINK.

I can’t wait to find out what three 2022 publications you #R3COMM3ND!

#BlogTour | #BookSpotlight: Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson @BoroughPress @midaspr #SometimesPeopleDie #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Sometimes People Die blog tour. Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson is published later this week (that’s Thursday 1st September 2022) by The Borough Press and will be available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. Today I am thrilled to join the tour with a spotlight post, so without further ado let’s find out what the book is all about…

“The year is 1999. Returning to practice after a suspension for stealing opioids, a young Scottish doctor takes the only job he can find: a post as a senior house officer in the struggling east London hospital of St Luke’s.

Amid the maelstrom of sick patients, over-worked staff and underfunded wards a darker secret soon declares itself: too many patients are dying.

Which of the medical professionals our protagonist has encountered is behind the murders? And can our unnamed narrator’s version of the events be trusted?”

I love the sound of Sometimes People Die and I hope you do too! Make sure you get your pre-order in ready for publication of this gripping medical thriller on Thursday.

Sometimes People Die blew me away and cost me a night’s sleep as I read it on tenterhooks. Both a revelatory glimpse into the rigours and strains of medicine and a thrilling piece of entertainment, this astounding novel announces the arrival of a new Michael Crichton for the zeitgeist’ Ken Bruen, author of The Guards

‘An under-stated serial killer thriller about a junior doctor recovering from opioid addiction who takes a job at a Hackney hospital in 1999 and falls under suspicion when ‘excess’ patients start dying. Stephenson intervweaves first-person narration delineating the daily dramas of life on the wards with real historical cases. Combining the dark humour of Adam Kay with the intrigue of a whodunnit, this cerebral mystery probes the ‘paradox of healthcare murder’ The Bookseller

‘The witty writing, quirky protagonist, and anecdotal descriptions of real-life medical villains combine to make Sometimes People Die a delightful read. The serial killer plotline is an added bonus. I loved it’ Kathy Reichs, the #1 New York Times bestseller

‘Dark and haunting, powerful and propulsive, Sometimes People Die is a smart, cinematic, tour de force written by an exceptional talent. Simon Stephenson’s debut novel is simply unputdownable’ Lara Prescott, New York Times bestselling author of The Secrets We Kept

‘Simon Stephenson gives us a medical thriller that echoes Robin Cook by way of Edgar Allan Poe, with a lying, cowardly, mediocre doctor as our guide to St. Luke’s Hospital, where the staff have lives in their hands and death under their thumbs. As the mystery spirals and the bodies pile, his cynical charm and black humor will draw you in. You’ll trust him to get you through it. But should you?’ Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell, New York Times bestselling authors of Working Stiff and First Cut

Sometimes People Die by Simon Stephenson was published in the UK by Borough Press on 1st September 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

A person standing next to a tree Description automatically generatedSimon Stephenson originally trained as a doctor and worked in Scotland and London. He previously wrote Let Not the Waves of the Sea, a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It won Best First Book at the Scottish Book Awards, was a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4, and a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year.

His first novel, Set My Heart to Five was a Bookseller Book of the Month and was described by the Daily Mail as ‘Funny, original and thought-provoking.’ It has been optioned by Working Title Films to be directed by Edgar Wright from Stephenson’s screenplay.

He currently lives in Los Angeles, in a house where a famous murder took place. As a screenwriter, he originated and wrote the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer The Electrical Life of Louis Wain and wrote the story for Pixar’s Luca. He also contributed to everybody’s favourite film, Paddington 2.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas @FaberBooks #TheFamilyRetreat #damppebbles

“When Rob decides the family needs to get away for the summer Jess is not convinced – won’t all the things they’re escaping be waiting for them on their return? But the kids are thrilled, and before long their idyllic little cottage, the sea air, and the feel of skin sticky from sun-cream, lollies and sand, begins to work its magic. Jess allows herself to sink into the holiday vibes – the family even make holiday friends.

The summer heat intensifies Jess – ever vigilant – unearths a secret, a problem she’s sure she can help solve. But things are not always as they seem. The water may look inviting but even the gentlest looking waves can hide the deadliest undercurrents.

As autumn approaches, Jess – and the reader – will come to realise this is going to end in a way no-one could have imagined…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Family Retreat blog tour. The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas will be published in hardcover and audio next week (that’s Thursday 25th August 2022) with the digital format already available and the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of The Family Retreat but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sophie at Faber & Faber for sending me a proof copy.

I am addicted to summer thrillers this year. Last year I had a thing for flight-based thrillers. This year it’s definitely the ‘summer holiday gone horribly wrong’ vibe I am loving! So when The Family Retreat landed on my radar I was, of course, drawn to it. I love the cover. It screams ‘PERIL’ at me, with the child in the ocean, and I found the blurb to be very intriguing. Plus a lot of the summer thrillers I’ve read recently have been set overseas but The Family Retreat is based in beautiful Dorset, which was also a pull. It’s an extremely well-written, suspenseful, dark tale which I devoured.

General Practitioner, Jess and her screen-writer husband, Rob are having extensive work done on their London home. In a bid to avoid the dust and the noise they pack up their young family and head to the Dorset coast for several weeks. Although initially unsure, Jess soon realises that the move could be a blessing as she’s already taking a hiatus away from her patients and the practice. The Gibson family soon become friendly with the small, local community, including the annoyingly perfect Helen and her more likable husband, James, who are also temporary residents of the community and have children of a similar age. Jess’s strong desire to know her new neighbours better reveals a secret which she is sure, with her experience and contacts, she can help with. But Jess’s interfering in other people lives, her meddling in things which don’t concern her, could have deadly consequences for her new community…

The Family Retreat is a suspenseful family-based thriller which I found very compelling with strong characterisation. Jess is an intriguing woman who to me felt overworked and repeatedly overlooked, both at work and at home. Yet the need to prove herself, go above and beyond, pushes her forward. This is very much her story, told from her point of view. When she meets Helen, Jess is drawn to her. She finds her guarded and intriguing, she wants to become friends, but Helen holds back. I found the relationship between the two women absolutely fascinating. I could feel Jess’s need to connect more with Helen but Helen was very closed off. I became very invested in the characters’ lives, I was keen to find out how things were going to end for these people. And what a jaw-dropping ending it is.

This is a well-paced tale where tension builds slowly over the course of the book. I adored the sweeping, dramatic setting which could be picture perfect one minute and a brooding, angry, dangerous threat the next. There’s a sub-plot featuring Jess’s parents which I thought really added to the story. Making characters that already felt real to me even more believable. With the extended absence of husband Rob (away on a business trip in the US), with the strange behaviour of her father, with the pressure to return to work, with two young children to look after and the need to fit into a new community, it’s no wonder that Jess has the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, The Family Retreat is the perfect summer thriller if you’re looking for a smart, sophisticated read with superb characterisation and well-written suspense.  It’s a very human story with an unexpected twist in the tale which I thoroughly appreciated. I enjoyed the time I spent with the characters. Some are definitely more likable than others but I really warmed to Jess, despite her meddling, and grew to like her more and more as the story progressed. The Family Retreat is a slow-build, suspense filled tale of closely guarded secrets which I very much enjoyed. Recommended.

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

The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas was published by Faber & Faber on 25th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

persona imageBev was a clinical psychologist in the NHS for many years. She currently works as an organizational consultant in mental health and other services. She lives in London with her family.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: First Born by Will Dean @HodderBooks #FirstBorn #damppebbles

“THE LAST THING A TWIN EXPECTS IS TO BE ALONE …

Molly
 lives a quiet, contained life in London. Naturally risk averse, she gains comfort from security and structure. Every day the same.

Her identical twin Katie is her exact opposite: gregarious and spontaneous. They used to be inseparable, until Katie moved to New York a year ago. Molly still speaks to her daily without fail.

But when Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in New York, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. Katie is part of her DNA. As terrifying as it is, she must go there and find out what happened. As she tracks her twin’s last movements, cracks begin to emerge. Nothing is what it seems. And a web of deceit is closing around her.

Delivering the same intensity of pace and storytelling that made THE LAST THING TO BURN a word-of-mouth sensation, FIRST BORN will surprise, shock and enthral.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the First Born blog tour. First Born by Will Dean was published last week (that’s Thursday 14th April 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of First Born but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a proof copy.

When asked if I would like to read the latest Will Dean novel, I obviously jumped at the chance (you’d be bonkers not to!). Over the course of a few short years this author’s work has become hugely popular with a loyal fanbase. Which is why it’s very embarrassing to admit that until I picked up my copy of First Born, I hadn’t read any of Dean’s previous books. To further confirm what a wally I am, the author’s previous release with Hodder – The Last Thing to Burn – was the joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. I know, I’m hanging my head in shame. But I have corrected my horrible oversight now. I have read First Born and I can confirm it’s an absolute corker of a novel!

Molly and Katie Raven are identical twins, but they couldn’t be more different if they tried. Katie is the life and soul of the party. Outgoing, unafraid, she lives in the here and now, grabbing every opportunity that comes her way. Molly is introverted, risk adverse to the point it’s become a problem, planning her outings to the nth degree and ensuring she’s ready and equipped for any event. When Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in her New York apartment, Molly’s world turns upside down. Despite her fears, she knows she must go to New York and discover what happened to her sister. But on arrival it’s clear to Molly that things aren’t quite what they seem and Katie has been murdered…

What a compelling, twisty read First Born is! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the moment I met Molly to the jaw dropping final chapter. Intricately plotted and utterly gripping, I was completely absorbed by Dean’s writing and I savoured every moment of it. Molly is an unusual character and for that, I really liked her. I found her fascinating – her plotting and planning, her forward thinking and the ingenious solutions she found to get herself out of a tricky spot, *should* one arise.

The book is expertly paced and the mystery behind what happened to Katie made for an intriguing read, so much so that I was trying hard to spot where the story was headed. One of the big twists I was able to guess from fairly early on. The other blew my mind. Clever, very clever. I will say that although I was able to guess one aspect of the story it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all. Even though I was pretty sure I knew what was coming, I still let out a little gasp of shock which I think is testament to the author’s skill.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. First Born is a well-written, unique and clever tale featuring an unforgettable character who really left her mark on me.  I really enjoyed this book and finished it in a few short sittings, keen to return to New York, and to unconventional Molly, time and time again. It goes without saying that I will, of course, be reading more of this author’s books as soon as time allows, starting with The Last Thing to Burn. An excellent thriller chock full of suspense and tension. Recommended.

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

First Born by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 14th April 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BlogBlast | #BookReview: Those Who Return by Kassandra Montag @QuercusBooks #ThoseWhoReturn #damppebbles

“Amid the desolate wilderness of the Great Plains of Nebraska, a region so isolated you could drive for hours without seeing another human being, sits Hatchery House. Having served as a church, an asylum and an orphanage, Hatchery is now a treatment facility for orphaned or abandoned children with psychiatric disorders. Haunted by patients past and present, only the most vulnerable find a home within its walls.

Dr. Lorelei ‘Lore’ Webber, a former FBI psychiatrist, has almost grown used to the unorthodox methods used at Hatchery House. But when one of her patients is murdered, Lore finds herself dragged into the centre of an investigation that unearths startling truths, shocking discoveries, and untold cruelty. And as the investigation unravels, Lore is forced to confront the past she’s spent her whole life running from – a secret that threatens to undo her entirely.

Darkly riveting and explosive, and with an unforgettable cast of deeply human characters, Those Who Return is a searing psychological thriller of guilt and redemption, set against a landscape as awe-inspiring as it is unforgiving.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog blast for Those Who Return. Those Who Return by Kassandra Montag is published by Quercus Books today (that’s Thursday 14th April 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Those Who Return but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Milly at Quercus Books for sending me a finished copy and asking me to join the blog blast.

I have a confession to make. I’m a little obsessed with books set in Nebraska at the moment. So when this book landed on my radar I jumped at the chance to read it. The cover is stunning and the blurb is so intriguing, it was impossible to refuse. So much so that I got stuck in as soon as my copy arrived at damppebbles HQ.

Ex-FBI psychiatrist Dr Lore Webber is still finding her feet at Hatchery House – a treatment facility for orphaned and abandoned children with psychiatric disorders – when the unthinkable happens. She discovers one of her young patients dead in an outlying field. With contacts still within the FBI, she makes the call and brings childhood friend and former lover, Cedar, in to investigate. Before long, Lore’s expertise is needed to help move the case along and she’s reluctantly dragged into proceedings. As Lore digs into the history of Hatchery House, it becomes clear the former church turned asylum turned orphanage has a dark and troubled history. Can Lore and Cedar discover what happened to young Luis before the killer strikes again…?

Those Who Return is a very readable, very engaging novel which I enjoyed losing myself in. The remoteness and the isolation of the unforgiving Nebraskan plains was the perfect setting for the novel, adding an air of loneliness, miles from help, to the story which I really enjoyed. Add to that the midwestern gothic feel of Hatchery House with its dark past and locked rooms, whispered tales of ghosts roaming the halls, its mysterious bell tower and the unpredictable nature of some of its residents and you have a very compelling tale indeed.

I enjoyed spending time with Lore and Cedar and really getting to know these two fascinating, yet complicated characters. I also enjoyed the glimpses the reader gets into some of the residents at the House. I felt the children were all believable characters, each with their own fully formed backstory. Particularly Ezra who broke my heart a little. His interactions with Lore were written incredibly well. As I mentioned, Lore and Cedar ARE both complicated characters with different yet troubled childhoods. Neglected by her mother, Lore is haunted by a death she feels she could have prevented. The grief and the guilt still weigh heavy on her shoulders. Cedar’s path to adulthood was never smooth, but the vicious attack of his older brother is something he and his family still deal with on a daily basis. However, Lore and Cedar have always had each other; whether friends, lovers or FBI colleagues. Less so recently following an FBI raid gone wrong and Lore’s detachment from the bureau. But it’s clear to the reader that these two people have a strong bond distance and time cannot break. I thought the relationship between the two characters was fascinating.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Those Who Return is a wonderfully atmospheric novel which I enjoyed reading. The characters were all well-drawn and interesting. The plot moved at a steady pace to its thrilling conclusion which I admit, I did see coming but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. I enjoyed the time I spent with Those Who Return and would pick up another psychological suspense novel by this author without a second thought. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Those Who Return. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Those Who Return by Kassandra Montag was published in the UK by Quercus Books on 14th April 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kassandra MontagKassandra Montag grew up in rural Nebraska and now lives in Omaha with her husband and two sons. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature and her award-winning poetry and short fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies, including Midwestern Gothic, Nebraska Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Mystery Weekly Magazine. After the Flood, her debut novel, will be published in over a dozen languages and has been optioned for a television series.

#BlogTour | #Extract: Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian @DoubledayUK @midaspr #WhereBloodRunsCold #damppebbles

“Erik Amdahl and his spirited daughter, Sofia, have embarked on a long-promised cross-country ski trip deep into Norway’s arctic circle. For Erik, it’s the chance to bond properly with his remaining daughter following a tragic accident. For Sofia, it’s the proof she needs that her father does care.

Then, far from home in this snowbound wilderness, with night falling and the mercury plummeting, an accident sends them in search of help – and shelter. Nearby is the home of a couple – members of Norway’s indigenous Sami people – who they’ve met before, and who welcome them in. Erik is relieved. He believes the worst is over. He thinks that Sofia is now safe. He could not be more wrong. He and Sofia are not the old couple’s only visitors that night – and soon he and Sofia will be running for their lives . . .
…and beneath the swirling light show of the Northern Lights, a desperate fight ensues – of man against man, of man against nature – a fight for survival that plays out across the snow and ice.

A story of endurance and of the desperate, instinctive will to survive, of a father’s love for his child, of knowing when to let go – and of a daughter’s determination to prove herself worthy of that love, Where Blood Runs Cold is a pulse-racing thriller from a master storyteller.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Where Blood Runs Cold blog tour. Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian is published by Doubleday Books today (that’s Thursday 24th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. To celebrate publication of Where Blood Runs Cold I have a fantastic extract to share with you today so pull up a comfy chair, grab a coffee and enjoy…

Chapter 2

He’s having the dream again. He knows he’s dreaming and still he cannot steer its course. He never can. The figure is more shadow than man. More dark presence than human form. More of a sensation, like the heaviness in your gut when you’ve lashed out and hurt the feelings of someone you love. Or the clenching tightness in your chest when something is broken that you know can’t be fixed.

He feels all this even in the dream. Knowing he’s in the dream. But this time it’s different, and despite the dread, he moves closer.

What are you? he asks.

He sees in the dark form the outline of a face. An eye. And Sofia is here too. Here I am! he shouts to her but she can’t hear him. The terror is on him now. In him. Its claws sinking into the soft meat of his heart. Sofia!

She’s moving towards the figure. No– stay away! Sofia, stay with me!

He hears his daughter scream.

‘Erik!’ He woke with a start, Elise’s voice bringing him back. The fuzzy blue display of the alarm clock sharpened as he swung himself out of bed, heart racing, knowing that the scream had been real. Three twenty-two a.m.

‘She’s having a nightmare,’ Elise said, already on the landing. Erik stumbled after her and through the doorway. Elise pushed open the door of their daughter’s bedroom.

‘Shh, darling. It’s just a dream,’ she soothed, as she sat on the bed beside Sofia and took the girl’s hands in her own.

‘Just a dream.’

Erik exhaled sharply, still trying to blink away his own dream, which clung to his mind and body, heavy as wet clothing.

‘Pappa,’ Sofia said, half awake, half dreaming still.

Erik sat on Sofia’s other side, gently running a hand through her sweat-and sleep-tangled hair, pushing it back from her face. ‘It’s OK, Lillemor, Pappa’s here.’

‘I’ll bring her some water,’ Elise said, leaving Erik with Sofia.

‘It’s OK. You go back to sleep now. I’m here.’ He leant and kissed her on the forehead, holding his lips there a moment. ‘We love you so much.’

She smiled and squashed her head back into the pillow as he stood.

‘Love you,’ she said, her words slurred as if she was already drifting off.

══════════════════

The next morning, he got up early and set to work clearing the rest of the roof. When it was done, he found Elise at the dining table, laptop open, coffee beside her, those two vertical furrows between her eyebrows and nose as subtle as a do not disturb hanger on a hotel room door.

She didn’t need to look up to know what he was thinking.

‘I just need an hour or two,’ she said, frowning at the laptop screen as her fingers danced across the keyboard. How she could type and speak different words at the same time was a mystery to him.

He couldn’t help himself. ‘I thought you weren’t starting for a week?’ he said.

Her right hand left the keys, index finger pointing up.

‘You were on the roof.’

‘You were still in bed,’ he said.

She took a weary breath and looked up at him now, the creases of her concentration frown melting away. ‘It’s my first job back with them. I want to be prepared.’ She gestured at her laptop. ‘And it’s important.’

So he and Sofia drove into town to the Vinmonopolet to buy wine. Once back in the car, he turned, taking a moment to look at her.

‘I can’t believe you’re going to be a teenager,’ he said.

She raised her eyebrows, no doubt recalling all the times they had called her a sulky teenager long before the eve of her thirteenth birthday.

‘I mean it.’ He shook his head. ‘Where has the time gone?’

‘Pappa,’ she said, staring ahead through the windscreen, ‘you promised to take me on the Long Ski when I was thirteen. Remember? A proper trip. Sleeping in snow shelters and everything.’

He kept his eyes on the road. A knot tying in his stomach.

‘You promised, Pappa,’ Sofia pushed.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘But that was a couple of years ago.’

Before Emilie died, he left unsaid, though it was loud enough in the silence.

‘I’m thirteen tomorrow. I’m old enough.’

‘I don’t think we can do it this time,’ he said.

‘But you promised,’ she protested. ‘Emilie asked you, the Easter before last, and you told her to wait until I was thirteen and then the three of us would go together.’

‘I know what I said.’ His words were sharper than he’d intended. Just the mention of her name. ‘But so much has happened since then. It’s different now.’

He glanced at her and she shook her head and turned her face to stare out of the side window.

He remembered that day in crisp detail. Emilie had borrowed her grandfather’s well-thumbed maps, still marked with pen from his own trips, and plotted a five-day, four-night ski tour through woods and across frozen lakes. She had been so excited. But Sofia had been too young to go.

And so Erik had told Emilie that they would wait until Sofia was thirteen and they could all go together. He had known how disappointed Emilie was. And yet she had explained the route plan to Sofia, who had listened wide-eyed and announced to the whole family that she would remind Erik of his promise the day she turned thirteen. He had known she wouldn’t forget.

But it wasn’t Easter now, with its fourteen hours of daylight, when the crisp sunlight offered warmth for the climb and gently melted the snow’s surface, creating perfect conditions for the descent. It was only just February, and the days were short and cold.

‘Let’s give it another year, Lillemor,’ he said. ‘Just one more year and then we’ll go on the Long Ski. A real adventure, I promise.’

Silence. Another promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.

══════════════════

‘Thank God for the directions you emailed me,’ Elise told Karine as they’d stood in the Helgelands’ front porch, stamping snow off their boots and hanging up coats and hats. Turning on the happy family show like throwing the light switch at a winter fair.

‘We’re expecting more snow,’ Lars said, leaning out to look up at the grey cloud blanketing the sky. ‘In a few days you won’t be able to get up here in that.’ He was pointing at the Mitsubishi. ‘Snowmobiles are the only way when we get a heavy fall.’

Karin and Lars were perfect hosts, generous and welcoming, and Lars clearly enjoyed a beer, which gave him enough in common with Erik to see the evening off to a better start than he had expected.

Elise asked if it ever worried them, being so remote, but Lars just chuckled.

‘We love living out here,’ he said, gesturing towards the window. The curtains were open and the snow beyond the glass glowed gently in the black night. ‘We’re not city people, as you can tell.’ He looked over at Karine, who was in the kitchen showing Elise her recipe for fiskeboller, the delicate fish balls in a creamy sauce whose fragrant scent filled the air. ‘If we wanted visitors all the time, we’d live in Tromsø,’ Lars said, a mischievous smile on his face.

Lars must have been in his early sixties, Erik guessed, but he was still broad-shouldered and solid, his hands tanned from so many summers of outside work, even now after the long winter.

‘Ah, there are cabins being built all the time,’ Lars added.

‘Beautiful things of cedar wood. Even the roofs are cedar. Inside, everything cladded in oak. Huge windows with views of the mountains and the sea. Built to follow the contours of the landscape and laid out . . . just so,’ he said, waving a broad hand. He rubbed the bristles on his cheek. ‘Well, you know all this. Karine tells me you’re a carpenter? You must be a busy man with all the houses springing up these days.’

‘Actually, I’m taking some time out,’ Erik replied, feeling Elise’s eyes on him from the kitchen doorway. Time out.

When was the last time he fitted a staircase, window frame, or skirting board? Or looked at a set of blueprints? Ten months ago he had hung a digital Sorry . . . Temporarily Closed sign on his website, and there it hung still. Amdahl Carpentry shut down for business until further notice.

Once dinner was underway, the conversation inevitably turned towards Novotroitsk Nickel, and how the locals felt about the Russian-owned company buying the mineral rights to the old Koppangen copper mine west of town. Lars, Karine and Elise shared their fears about waste being dumped in the fjord. About how the Sami Council was ignored, and how the government was willing to destroy the indigenous land in the north of Norway.

On and on it went, and he listened. Barely. Swirling the wine round his glass as Karine retrieved a letter from her cork board beside the fridge.

‘This came yesterday,’ Karine said, handing it to Elise.

He saw the logo of Novotroitsk Nickel on the letterhead, two blue Ns interlinked like a pair of mountain peaks. ‘They said it was just an exploration project at first,’ Karine said, ‘to see if the old mine had industrial potential. This was about a year ago.’ She gestured at the letter in Elise’s hands.

‘That outlines their intention to explore the abandoned tunnels further and dig three new test pits, pending the results of a feasibility study.’ She pushed her plate away as though talk of the mine’s reopening had soured the food.

Truth was, he was bored of the conversation. Angry too, because he knew this was what Elise cared about. Her obsession. And he’d been wrong to think they could find each other again here in the mountains. Plus, the wine had gone to his head in all its euphoric fuck-it brilliance, and so he told them that the world needed copper if it wanted electricity.

That it was how electricity worked.

‘We’re all for electric cars, right?’ he said. ‘If we’re going to electrify the world to save it, then maybe we have to be prepared to lose some of the old ways.’

‘Are you joking?’ Karine Helgeland asked him, her aspect hardening, suddenly expressing all the cheer of a granite rock face.

‘It’s just the wine talking,’ Elise said, a smile on her lips but anger in her eyes.

Karine suggested they talk about something else, and Lars stood, telling Sofia he had something to show her.

Elise left the table too, carrying dishes to the kitchen. And so he sat alone, watching as Lars showed Sofia the contents of a beautifully carved wooden box that sat on the windowsill. Beyond it, the night loomed, filling the world with black nothingness. Sofia seemed genuinely interested in the old photos of the Helgelands’ ancestors. In the other treasures too: a comb made of reindeer antler which Sofia said looked just like the ones she’d seen in The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. A horn needle case engraved with little reindeer. A leather purse with tin thread embroidery which had belonged to Karine’s great-grandmother. And most exciting, judging from Sofia’s wide eyes, a huge knife which Lars took down from the stone mantlepiece over the stove.

‘We call this a stuorraniibi,’ Lars told her. He smiled at her frown. ‘It just means big knife.’ He shrugged for comic effect, before drawing the blade from the reindeer leather sheath and making a chopping motion with it. It was nearly twenty-five centimetres long. ‘Long and wide enough to cut firewood or small trees to make shelter poles. Strong enough to split reindeer bones.’ He turned it around to hold it by the spine of the blade. ‘Feel the handle.’ He offered it to Sofia. She touched the wood. ‘Birch,’ he said, ‘for a better grip in cold and snow.’

‘I have a Swiss Army knife,’ Sofia said, and no sooner had she spoken the words than the knife was in her hand and she was easing the little blades and tools out one by one, and now Lars was shaking his head as if he had never seen anything so wonderful, much to Sofia’s delight.

Sofia looked more engaged, more interested than she had about anything he’d done with her for a long while. What exactly had he done with her in the last year? They’d gone hiking a few times, picking late summer berries along the trail. He’d taken her to the Alfheim Stadium to watch Tromsø IL lose to Rosenborg in the fourth round of the Norwegian Cup. Oh, and there was the funeral of her sister. That had been a family day together.

He got up, grabbed hold of the three empty wine bottles and carried them to the kitchen counter.

‘Will you have coffee?’ Karine asked them, fetching mugs down from the cupboard.

Elise glanced at him and he knew the answer. At least they could still communicate without words.

‘No, thank you,’ Elise replied. ‘Our little girl turns thirteen tomorrow. We have a big birthday breakfast to get up for.’ She smiled.

Erik looked over at Sofia. She stood at the window, looking west into the night as Lars told her about Karine’s brother, Hánas, who was a reindeer herder.

‘Right now, while we are cosy and warm,’ Lars said, ‘Hánas is somewhere up there on the plateau with his herd.’ He pointed out at the night and the dark shape of the mountain.

‘Sometimes, we see a light in the dark and we know it is Hánas in his tent,’ Karine said, coming over to join her husband and Sofia at the window.

‘It must be beautiful up there,’ Sofia said.

‘But so cold,’ Elise said, miming a shiver as she put a hand on Sofia’s shoulder.

Sofia didn’t seem to notice. She was still looking up at the mountain. Elise and Karine shared a smile, acknowledging the girl’s preoccupation.

‘So have a very happy birthday tomorrow, Sofia,’ Karine said, ‘and make sure your mor and far spoil you all day, starting with a special breakfast.’ She looked out of the window and nodded to the dark distant peaks. ‘Did you know, on my thirteenth birthday, my father took me up there and taught me how to lasso a fully grown reindeer? A big bull, he was. I can still see him in my mind. Antlers like this.’ She threw her hands up. ‘One and a half metres.’

‘Ha!’ Lars exclaimed, wafting her words away with a hand.

‘Were you there, husband?’ she asked, lifting her chin in challenge, so that Erik could see the stubborn young girl she once was. ‘Whose story is this anyway?’

Again, Lars batted the air with a big hand.

‘So after many attempts I lassoed the bull over his great big antlers, and my father had to help me hold the rope – like this,’ she said, miming the action, ‘or that bull would have carried me off and I would probably still be hanging on now. But then we had to get home before dark because we didn’t want to meet a stallo up there.’

Sofia screwed up her face. ‘What’s a stallo ?’

‘Sofia is too old now for stories of stupid great stallos and trolls,’ Lars said. He was standing by an antique cocktail cabinet, pouring himself a brandy in the soft light from the interior.

‘I was just telling Sofia what I did on my thirteenth birthday,’ Karine said. ‘You have to have adventures when you’re young.’

Erik was watching Sofia as she turned to look at him. He knew what she wanted to tell the Helgelands – that he had promised to take her on the Long Ski when she turned thirteen.

Her silence knotted him up inside.

After declining Lars’s offer of brandy, he and Elise thanked their hosts for a lovely evening, said their goodbyes and crowded into the porch with Sofia to put on their coats, boots and hats.

‘Sofia,’ Lars said, coming out after them, ‘I have something for you.’ They turned and waited as he tramped through the snow after them, their warm breath pluming around their faces. ‘Here, Sofia, for your birthday,’ Lars said.

Sofia held out her hands and took the stuorraniibi he offered her, looking at her mother and father for reassurance.

‘Of course, you must only use it with your parents’ permission,’ Lars said, nodding at Elise, then Erik. ‘But I thought . . . well . . . you have your modern pocket knife which can do everything you can possibly think of, but you should also have something from the past, to remember those who came before us.’

Sofia stared at the gift in her hands, open-mouthed. Not knowing what to say.

Erik looked at Elise. Surely she knew what to say. Like, what the hell’s wrong with you, Lars, giving a bloody great Sami knife to a thirteen-year-old-girl? Who does that?

‘You lucky girl,’ Elise said, putting her arm around Sofia’s shoulder. Subtly trying to squeeze a thank you out of her.

‘Thank you, Mr Helgeland,’ Sofia managed, tearing her eyes away from the knife to look Lars in the face.

‘Take care of a good knife and it will take care of you,’ Lars said. Then he raised his hand. ‘So, see you all again.’ He turned and walked back to the house. ‘And happy birthday, Sofia,’ he called, his breath fogging in the glow of his porch light.

I’m a huge fan of survival thrillers so Where Blood Runs Cold sounds just my thing and I CANNOT WAIT to read it! If you’re anything like me you can grab your copy from your favourite bookseller today. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian was published in the UK by Doubleday Books on 24th February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Giles KristianGiles Kristian’s first historical novels were the acclaimed and bestselling RAVEN Viking trilogy – Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odin’s Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War to chart the fortunes of a family divided by this brutal conflict in The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury. Giles also co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion. In God of Vengeance (a TIMES Book of the Year), Winter’s Fire, and the Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown shortlisted Wings of the Storm, he returned to the world of the Vikings to tell the story of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship. Lancelot was published to great acclaim and hit The Times bestseller charts at No. 3. It was also a Sunday Times bestseller. He followed Lancelot with Camelot, and his new novel, a thriller called Where Blood Runs Cold, will be published February 2022. To find out more about Giles: www.gileskristian.com
Follow Giles on Facebook and Twitter: @GilesKristian

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Nasty Little Cuts by Tina Baker @ViperBooks #NastyLittleCuts #damppebbles

WHO WILL SURVIVE THE NIGHT?

A nightmare jolts Debs awake. She leaves the kids tucked up in their beds and goes downstairs. There’s a man in her kitchen, holding a knife. But it’s not an intruder. This is her husband Marc, the father of her children. A man she no longer recognises.

Once their differences were what drew them together, what turned them on. Him, the ex-army officer from a good family. Her, the fitness instructor who grew up over a pub. But now these differences grate to the point of drawing blood. Marc screams in his sleep. And Debs hardly knows the person she’s become, or why she lets him hurt her.

Neither of them is completely innocent. Neither is totally guilty. Marc is taller, stronger, and more vicious, haunted by a war he can’t forget. But he has no idea what Debs is capable of when her children’s lives are at stake…

A powerful exploration of a relationship built on passion, poisoned by secrets and violence. Perfect for readers of Blood Orange and Big Little Lies.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Nasty Little Cuts blog tour. Nasty Little Cuts by Tina Baker will be published on 24th February 2022 in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Nasty Little Cuts but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have been waiting with baited breath for the release of Nasty Little Cuts since reading Tina Baker’s debut, Call Me Mummy, last year. Call Me Mummy left its mark on me thanks to the dastardly Mummy and her pursuit of perfection, no matter what the cost. Baker excels at characterisation (which, for me, is as important as plot in a book) so I was excited to get stuck in to Nasty Little Cuts so I could become acquainted with her latest creations, Debs and Marc. Once again the author forensically examines her characters in beautiful, often deeply uncomfortable detail.

Debs awakens with a start knowing immediately that something is terribly wrong. She creeps downstairs to find a man in her kitchen. In his hand he holds a knife. She blinks again and realises it’s not a stranger, it’s her husband, Marc. How have they gone from a happy, passionate marriage to the point where they no longer really know or trust each other? Debs knows one thing for sure. She and the children are in great danger. Who will make it through the night…?

Nasty Little Cuts is a powerful, emotive read which grips from the opening lines and doesn’t let go until you’ve closed the final page. A harrowing, brutal story of a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. I want to say at this point that I don’t think a title has ever fitted a novel as well as this one does. Every time I see the cover I think to myself, ‘that is so clever, so completely spot on!’. A bit of an aside and not something I normally comment on but hey, it’s pretty darn perfect! Because that’s what life with Debs and Marc has become. Over the course of their marriage, things have happened, things have been said, some on purpose, some not so much, which have hurt both parties. But they all add up and the result is catastrophic.

This is not an easy read. It will make you feel uncomfortable but I was completely smitten with the way Baker holds her reader’s attention, pulling you in the depths of the disaster. Bit by bit, piece by piece. The story is told in the present day, as Debs and Marc face up to each other across the kitchen and in the shadow of the big, pink fridge, and in the past. The reader gets a detailed insight in the couple’s past, peeling away the layers and seeing the traumas they’ve faced – pre and post marriage. The timeline isn’t linear and jumps about, going from 15 years ago to 6 months ago to 2 years ago and beyond, which I was concerned would be a smidge confusing but it wasn’t at all. Because the events of the past lead the reader to the here and now. It’s done exceptionally well. Each slight doing more damage than the last.

The characters are exquisite. I love them all a little for being so deeply flawed but I also loathe them all a little too. Apart from the children, Dolly and Pat-Pat. Once again Baker has written the children in such a way that it’s impossible to not feel affection for these helpless, unwilling victims. Dolly, being the older of the two children, steals the show on several occasions (particularly with her RuPaul catchphrases and sassiness) providing a little light in a very dark and disturbing story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Nasty Little Cuts is a hugely compelling unravelling of a marriage gone wrong. It’s pretty bleak and brutal at times. I don’t feel the author has held back at all, which I am grateful for, as it’s a shocking tale told in glorious, unflinching technicolour. A toxic relationship at breaking point, fuelled by the past and heading towards catastrophe. Will it be for everyone? I’m not sure, but if you’re a fan of domestic suspense done INCREDIBLY WELL then yes, you must read this book! A gutsy, brave story from an author who is now on my ‘must read’ list. Deliciously dark, disturbing and oh so good! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Nasty Little Cuts. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Nasty Little Cuts by Tina Baker was published by Viper Books on 24th February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tina BakerTina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen @MichaelJBooks #ThePerfectEscape #damppebbles

“YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO STOP READING.
BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT . . .

When her husband Harry walks out after just six months, a girls’ weekend away with two friends seems like just what Sam needs.

But they aren’t even halfway to their destination when things start to go wrong: car trouble that just happens to leave them stranded in the town where Harry lives.

And that’s only the beginning.

Because there are three things Sam doesn’t yet know:

One of her friends is lying about what happened.
One is lying about who she is.
And one of them will never make it home . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Perfect Escape blog tour. The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 3rd February 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Perfect Escape but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kallie at Michael Joseph Books for sending me a proof copy.

I could not resist The Perfect Escape. Secrets, lies and betrayals aplenty by the sound of the blurb. And I completely fell for the eerie cover as well. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this one and what a fantastic, compelling read it was!

Sam, Margaret and Diana are three friends with something in common. They’ve recently split up, or are in the painful process of splitting up, with their husbands. Sam is heartbroken after the love of her life, Harry, walked out on their marriage after only six months. Margaret is trying to convince husband, Lars, that there really is no going back for them as a couple. And Diana’s husband, Brandon, won’t let her be. Diana just wants to get on with her life but Brandon always finds her, he’s always watching. To cheer themselves up, the women book a girls weekend away. But shortly after setting off they have car trouble leaving them stranded in the town Harry now lives with the woman he left Sam for. At every turn their plan to continue on their journey is thwarted. Who is pulling out all the stops to keep them in Catskill? And does Sam know her friends as well as she thinks…?

The Perfect Escape is an eminently readable novel which I devoured with glee in a few short sittings. I instantly became caught up in the lives of the three female leads, wondering where the author was going to take their story and how things were going to turn out. When one of the women vanishes without trace, all plans to continue to their weekend retreat are put on hold. The investigation into her disappearance is slow, clumsy and not taken seriously. That is, until the body is discovered.

I loved the impending sense of doom the author conveys across the story. You know something terrible is going to happen and I was on the edge of my seat as the story progressed. There are lots of twists and turns along the way which I really enjoyed. One aspect I was able to guess but it certainly didn’t spoil the story for me. I wasn’t able to fathom the intricacies of the reveal so in reality, I don’t think I can claim any victory on that score! The Perfect Escape was so well paced and utterly compelling that I was 100% in the story with the women as they made startling discovery, after startling discovery. I was questioning everyone and everything. Who could be trusted? And who couldn’t…?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed The Perfect Escape. I found it be a very absorbing read and a complete page-turner from start to finish. Packed full of intrigue and suspense, I enjoyed my journey to Catskill with Sam, Margaret and Diana and I would happily read more from this author. A very binge-worthy novel which would make a cracking TV series. Recommended.

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

So, what do you think? Fancy reading The Perfect Escape yourself? Then head on over to my Twitter and instagram feeds for your chance to win one of two paperback copies. Terms & Conditions: UK readers only. Giveaway closes at midday on Saturday 12th February 2022. The two winners will need to provide their postal address which will then be passed onto the team at Michael Joseph books for dispatch. Good luck!

And if you’re not lucky enough to win a paperback copy then The Perfect Escape is available to purchase in ebook format for only 99p throughout February 2022.

The Perfect Escape by Leah Konen was published in the UK on 3rd February 2022 by Penguin Books and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Leah KonenLeah Konen is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and English literature. She lives in Brooklyn and Saugerties, NY, with her husband and their dog, Farley. Find her online at leahkonen.com or on Twitter and Instagram @leahkonen.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan @centurybooksuk #TheLongWeekend #damppebbles

By the time you read this, I’ll have killed one of your husbands.

In an isolated retreat, deep in the Northumbria moors, three women arrive for a weekend getaway.

Their husbands will be joining them in the morning. Or so they think.

But when they get to Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note that claims one of their husbands has been murdered. Their phones are out of range. There’s no internet. They’re stranded. And a storm’s coming in.

Friendships fracture and the situation spins out of control as each wife tries to find out what’s going on, who is responsible and which husband has been targeted.

This was a tight-knit group. They’ve survived a lot. But they won’t weather this. Because someone has decided that enough is enough.

That it’s time for a reckoning.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Long Weekend blog tour. The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan will be published by Century on 3rd February 2022 in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Long Weekend but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Long Weekend is a book that I just could not resist! With that striking cover and that very intriguing blurb, I had to read this one. Plus I’ve been keen to read a Gilly Macmillan novel for a while now – this being my first – so all the stars aligned and I got stuck into this one straight away. And what a ride!

Three couples book a weekend away in Northumbria. They’ve chosen a converted barn, far from civilisation, out of mobile range, on a farm. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all and spend some quality time together. But the men unexpectedly get held up, so the three women – Jayne, Ruth and Emily – head north, with the men joining them the following day. On arrival, they discover a devastating note which sends their weekend into free fall. The note claims that one of their husbands has been killed. Completely isolated, unable to contact their husbands and with a ferocious storm approaching, tempers begin to fray. Uncertainty and fear drive the women to turn on each other. Which husband has been targeted, and why? And will the women ever escape Dark Fell Barn to find out…

The Long Weekend is a gripping psychological suspense novel and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the atmospheric feel the author gives to the Northumbrian setting. I could feel the chill of the wind and the rain, the pressing darkness as tensions mount. It was wonderful. I also really liked the sub-plot featuring Maggie and John, the owners of the farm. John’s health is deteriorating but Maggie can’t stop her strong-willed husband from doing what he’s always done. He knows the landscape like the back of his hand. Or he did, at least… As their story reached its climax, I became quite emotional.

The three main characters – Jayne, Ruth and Emily – have very little in common yet are forced to be friendly because of their husbands friendship and shared history. Jayne is ex-military intelligence – straight down the line, has been a part of traumatic decisions but lacks self-confidence and sees herself as unattractive and plain. Ruth is a GP and a new mum, struggling to cope with the work/life balance, and not helped by Toby, her husband, becoming distant since the baby’s arrival. Emily is young and attractive, a new addition to the group. The trophy wife – or so the others think – but her love for husband Paul is clear. As the situation worsens, as the truth becomes clear, the relationship between the women crumbles further.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed The Long Weekend. I found it to be a twisty, compelling read from start to finish, and I was keen to find out how things would end for the characters. There are quite a few surprises along the way which kept me on my toes and kept me guessing. An intriguing, well-written story by an author I’m keen to read more from. Recommended.

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

The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan was published in the UK by Century Books on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depository | bookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gilly Macmillan

©Céline Nieszawer/Leextra

Gilly Macmillan is the Sunday Times & New York Times bestselling author of THE NANNY (out 2019). Also WHAT SHE KNEW (previously published as BURNT PAPER SKY in some territories), THE PERFECT GIRL, ODD CHILD OUT & I KNOW YOU KNOW.

Gilly is Edgar Award nominated and an ITW award finalist. Her books have been translated into over 20 languages.

She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and also lived in Northern California. She studied History of Art at Bristol University and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

Gilly lives in Bristol, UK with her family and writes full time.