#BlogTour | #BookReview: To the Lake by Yana Vagner (translated by Maria Wiltshire) @_SwiftPress #ToTheLake #ToTheLakeBlogTour #damppebbles

Are you ready for the journey to the edge?

A deadly flu epidemic sweeps through Moscow, killing hundreds of thousands. Anya and her husband Sergey decide they have no choice but to flee to a lake in the far north of Russia.

Joining them on their journey are her son and father-in-law; Sergey’s ex-wife and son; and their garish neighbours. But then some friends of Sergey show up to complete Anya’s list of people she’d least like to be left with at the end of the civilised world.

As the wave of infection expands from the capital, their food and fuel start to run low. Menaced both by the harsh Russian winter and by the desperate people they encounter, they must put their hatreds behind them if they’re to have a chance of reaching safety…

Inspired by a real-life flu epidemic in Moscow, To the Lake was a number one bestseller in Russia, and has now appeared in a dozen languages and been adapted into a Netflix TV series.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for To The Lake by Yana Vagner (translated from it’s original Russian by Maria Wiltshire). To the Lake was published in hardcover by Swift Press on 4th November 2021 and is also available in digital format. I chose to read and review a free ARC of To The Lake but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rachel at Swift Press for sending me a proof copy.

A viral pandemic isn’t so much fiction these days as cold, hard fact. And as a result, my interest in books featuring a pandemic has somewhat waned recently. Until I saw To The Lake mentioned on social media. I am a huge fan of translated fiction but for some reason, I’m not reading as much as I used to. So this book, originally written in Russian, with it’s unforgiving, icy setting and end of the world feel, really appealed.

Anya and Sergey, along with Anya’s teenage son Mishka, live a quiet life in their nice, modern house on the outskirts of Moscow. Until the news breaks that a new virus is slowly shutting down the city. Before long, Moscow is closed. The virus is spreading and there’s no cure. Friends, family and neighbours are dying all around them so they decide, following a particularly nasty incident with a group of vigilantes and encouragement from Sergey’s father, to flee to a lake house miles away from civilisation and start a new life. Joining them are their neighbours, Sergey’s ex-wife and young son. But the road ahead is fraught with danger. Will they make it to the lake alive and well, or will the journey be the death of them…?

To The Lake is a very vivid, atmospheric read full of tension. I loved the Russian setting with it’s sub-zero temperatures, frozen landscape and ice crusted roads. The extreme weather added another threat to the travellers’ already dangerous journey and I really enjoyed how the descriptions of the landscape made me feel as though I was squashed into one of the cars alongside the characters, gazing out of the window at the passing scene, not knowing what was on the horizon.

The impending sense of doom throughout the novel is handled brilliantly. I was on the edge of my seat as the group heard the rumble of tyres approach in the distance. Would the new arrivals be friend or foe? Would they have succumbed to the virus and be unconcerned about infecting others? Was this the end for the group? I enjoyed the initial apprehension and build-up sometimes more than discovering who was actually approaching. Sometimes, and this is probably just me and my dark heart, I wanted a little more from the meetings. I felt the tension build, only to discover that the threat wasn’t really a threat at all. Or, in situations where there was a real weapon-wielding threat, the action was over very quickly and the group were moving on. I would have liked a little more.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. To The Lake is a well-written novel which transported me to the harsh frozen lands of Russia. The plot is all too plausible in this day and age but written years before the COVID pandemic hit, this bleak, character-driven race-to-survive novel will add an extra chill to those winter nights. I will admit that I found the book a touch hard going at times but perhaps that is due to it all being a little too close to home. Obviously, it is different. Very different. But still… All in all, a very interesting, frightening tale which I enjoyed. Recommended.

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

To The Lake by Yana Vagner (translated by Maria Wiltshire) was published in the UK by Swift Press on 4th November 2021 and is available in hardcover 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 |

Яна ВагнерYana Vagner was born in Moscow in 1973 into a bilingual family. Her Czech mother came to Moscow in the 60s to study Russian language and literature. Yana graduated from Russian State Humanitarian University with a major in management and has worked as an interpreter, an anchorperson on radio, and a logistics manager, which allowed her to travel to Africa, Europe and Latin America. Yana Vagner lives with her husband and two dogs in their country house on the outskirts of Moscow.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou @maclehosepress @katyaellis_ #TheStoning #damppebbles

“A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. The Stoning is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by MacLehose Press today (that’s Thursday 7th October 2021). I chose to read a free ARC of The Stoning which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Katya at MacLehose Press for sending me a finished copy.

Australian crime fiction. I bloody love it! It’s my new favourite obsession and I’m slowly filling my already very full bookshelves with some fantastic Australian writers. Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and Garry Disher are a few who immediately spring to mind. And now Peter Papathanasiou, who has produced an assured debut featuring a lead character I need more of in my life.

A small Australian town wakes to the horrifying news that a local teacher has been killed in the most brutal and shocking way, she was stoned to death. Local law enforcement is predominantly inept and botches the initial crime scene. Before long DS George Manolis is sent from the city to take control and push the investigation forward. After all, he knows the town like the back of his hand having spent his formative years in the community. But things have changed and it’s not the place he fondly remembers. Racial tensions run high, fingers are pointed and rumours are rife. Manolis needs to see beyond the residents relentless prejudices and find Molly’s killer before it’s too late…

The Stoning is an intriguing page-turner from the first word to the very last. Immersive, atmospheric and quite an eye-opener at times, this tense and unsettling read is an accomplished start to a series I am VERY excited about. DS George Manolis is a strong, likeable lead character who immediately comes up against a town falling apart at the seams. The divisions between the different groups – the indigenous people who have been pushed aside, the predominantly white townsfolk and the much hated immigration detention centre – create a simmering storyline which, at times, is a hard read, but is unapologetically gripping throughout.

Manolis is assisted by a stellar supporting cast. The much maligned Constable Sparrow, the only indigenous member of the police force, was a joy. Angry and unforgiving, yet he was the source of several more light hearted moments throughout the book which I really appreciated. Alongside Sparrow is Constable Kerr, the only female member of the team, who has her own cross to bear. I wanted to know more about Kerr and hope she, and Sparrow, feature in future books.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-plotted, intelligent small town mysteries then make sure you add The Stoning to your must read list. Tough going in places due to the subject matter and prejudices of the characters at times but 100% worth it. An accomplished and astute read which will leave you thinking long after the last page has turned. I’m looking forward to seeing where the author takes Manolis next. Recommended.

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

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press on 7th October 2021 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 |

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.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing @MichaelJBooks @kalliereads #ForYourOwnGood #damppebbles

“Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant.
Only you know the truth.

They all smile when he tells us his wife couldn’t be more proud.
But no-one has seen her in a while.

They’re impressed when he doesn’t let anything distract him – even the tragic death of a school parent.
Even when the whispers start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened that day.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the For Your Own Good blog tour and sharing my review. For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing was published by Michael Joseph Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats on 19th August 2021 with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of For Your Own Good but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kallie at Michael Joseph Books for sending me a finished copy.

Oh. My. Word! I read Downing’s debut, My Lovely Wife, back in 2019 and really enjoyed it. At the time, I made a note to read more of this author’s work as it was published but due to life, the universe and everything my plans didn’t quite come to fruition. However, based on my experience of For Your Own Good I will be making this author’s books a high priority purchase in future. I loved this dark and thrilling novel!

Teacher, Teddy Crutcher, is proud to be part of the prestigious Belmont Academy family. His students are very important to him and he will do everything he can to teach them accordingly, including a few ‘life lessons’ which aren’t on the syllabus. He feels it’s his duty to mould his students into intelligent, personable young adults and he’s prepared to work hard to make that happen. Being Teacher of the Year comes with many responsibilities after all. When one of the parents dies suddenly at a school event, all eyes turn to Belmont. Whispers of murder echo throughout the school halls and the arrival of the police only confirm the faculty’s worse suspicions….

Oh Teddy, how dark and twisted can one character be!? I think the answer to that is ‘very’ and I loved every darn second of it! There was something about For Your Own Good which immediately captured my full attention. I believe it was the hold Teddy immediately has over the reader. You can tell something isn’t ‘quite’ right here but it’s only a teeny tiny glimpse into what is to come! When the reader first meets Teddy he’s meeting with one of his student’s parents. Teddy controls and manipulates the meeting with such a deft hand that I immediately wanted more.  I powered through this book, savouring every twist and turn as the author laid Teddy’s story before me. I was smitten – with the style of writing, with the setting and the plot, but most of all with the fully formed characters and the darkness within.

Teddy isn’t the only star of the show in For Your Own Good. He’s surrounded by a strong supporting cast who all add to the story. Zack Ward, the put-upon high achiever who Crutcher has it in for. Sonia Benjamin, who rightly feels she should have been Teacher of the Year and is highly suspicious of Mr Crutcher for that and other reasons. Fallon Knight, whose academic career was floored after Teddy decided to be truthful in his recommendation and whose life will never reach the heady heights she expected it to. I loved every single one of them but in different ways. Absolutely flipping marvellous!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Without a doubt. I LOVED For Your Own Good and if I’m honest, I may have fallen a little in love with Teddy. Which I’m sure doesn’t paint me in the best light but hey ho! I adored spending time with Downing’s characters, I could happily have read another 500 pages of Teddy’s nefarious goings on (and it’s not a short book at 400 pages for the hardcover!). For Your Own Good was a dark and devious joy to read and I can see it featuring on my top books of the year list in December. Totally absorbing, exactly the type of book I love to lose myself in. I will be shouting about this one for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of For Your Own Good. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next 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 |

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel. Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller.

For Your Own Good was released on July 20, 2021. It has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Greg Berlanti for HBO Max.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Final Child by Fran Dorricott @TitanBooks @lydiagittins #TheFinalChild #damppebbles

“A stunning psychological thriller from the author of After the Eclipse, for readers of Ruth Ware and S.K. Tremeyne.

He won’t forget her…

Erin and her brother Alex were the last children abducted by ‘the Father’, a serial killer who only ever took pairs of siblings. She escaped, but her brother was never seen again. Traumatised, Erin couldn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the Father was never caught.

Eighteen years later, Erin has done her best to put the past behind her. But then she meets Harriet. Harriet’s young cousins were the Father’s first victims and, haunted by their deaths, she is writing a book about the disappearances and is desperate for an interview with the only survivor. At first, Erin wants nothing to do with her. But then she starts receiving sinister gifts, her house is broken into, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After all these years, Erin believed that the Father was gone, but now she begins to wonder if he was only waiting…

A tense and emotive thriller, The Final Child is a powerful tale of a survivor being forced to confront her painful past.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Final Child blog tour and sharing my review. The Final Child was published earlier this week on Tuesday 7th September by Titan Books and is available in paperback and digital format. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Final Child but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for sending me a proof copy.

I admit it, I’m a HUGE fan of the serial killer thriller. Although that may not come as the biggest surprise if you’re a regular visitor to the blog! I tend to gravitate towards books featuring a serial killer, which meant there was no way I was going to be able to resist The Final Child by Fran Dorricott, with its incredibly intriguing blurb and striking cover.

Erin and her brother, Alex, were the last siblings taken by serial killer, the Father, after his reign of terror over families in the mid to late 90s. Sneaking into their rooms at night, the Father would snatch the children whilst their parents slept soundly in the next room. Some of the children’s bodies were found, others were not, leaving grief stricken parents all over the land. Until Erin escaped the clutches of her captor and the Father was not heard from again. With little to no memory of what happened during the time she was held by a killer, Erin has moved on with her life. Choosing to ignore what happened and hiding from the press. But when Erin returns home and discovers an eerie gift waiting for her, she realises that the Father may only have been biding his time…

The Final Child is a gripping, emotive read chock-full of delicious suspense and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Erin is a little stand-offish, a little brusque but I loved her. I think if the same had happened to me, I would also be a little cold. Particularly to the press! Erin is reluctant to talk to anyone about her experience (partly because she remembers so little!) but when writer Harriet, turns up at her mother’s house, with her own personal experience of the Father (her cousins were the first victims) she manages to convince Erin that revisiting the events of 18 years ago may be therapeutic. Fed-up of hiding and avoiding the past, Erin decides to trust Harriet and together, the two of them begin to dig into what really happened the night Erin escaped…

The relationship between Erin and Harriet is very well-written with Erin’s gradual thawing towards Harriet and Harriet’s slow dawning realisation that her feelings towards Erin might be more than just friendship. I loved the whole serial killer aspect of the novel but watching Erin and Harriet’s relationship develop over the course of the book was an unexpected bonus.

The plot is paced perfectly and I was turning the pages late into the night. The majority of the book is told from either Erin or Harriet’s point of view with occasional chapters from other, undefined voices. These chapters give the reader a wonderful sense of unease. Who are these characters and how do they relate to Erin’s story? They really help add to the all-round tension of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Final Child is a gripping, chilling, psychological crime thriller which I very much enjoyed. The characters are well-written and stand tall from the page. The author does a great job of throwing in a number of clever red herrings along the way to make you think one thing whilst taking you off in a different direction. I really enjoyed the way Dorricott made me doubt myself several times along the way! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but based on my experience of The Final Child, it won’t be the last. All in all, a terrific read. Gripping, emotional and packed full of tension. Recommended.

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

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott was published in the UK by Titan Books on 7th September 2021 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Fran Dorricott

Fran Dorricott is an author based in Derby, where she lives with her family, two cats, and three dogs (one of whom weighs more than she does). She loves to tell gothic, inclusive stories and drink copious amounts of tea.

Fran is also a bookseller working in the Derby branch of Waterstones, which is secretly just a way for her to fuel her ridiculous book-buying addiction. Her first novel, After the Eclipse, was released in March 2019. The Final Child (Sept 2021) is her second novel.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Mimic by Daniel Cole @orionbooks @eturns_112 #Mimic #damppebbles

1989
DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are on the trail of a twisted serial killer with a passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – their killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished.

1996
Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Metropolitan Police Service, fuelled by a loss that defined her teenage years. Obsessed, she manages to obtain new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between police officers and vigilantes in their pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Mimic blog tour and sharing my review. Mimic by Daniel Cole was published by Orion Books on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC copy of Mimic but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Ellen at Orion Books for sending me a finished copy.

I am a HUGE fan of this author’s books. His Ragdoll Series featuring Detective ‘Wolf’ Fawkes is superb and I heartily recommend it if you’ve not had the pleasure of reading it yet. Mimic is a brand new standalone novel featuring a new team of detectives but with Cole’s trademark wit, ingenuity and perfect pacing. I absolutely LOVED Mimic.

DS Benjamin Chambers is called to a very unusual scene where the deceased has apparently taken their own life by choosing to freeze to death. On closer inspection, it becomes clear to Chambers that not everything is as it first appeared. This is the first victim of a twisted killer who is using his victims to recreate famous works of art. Partnered with the near-hopeless PC Adam Winter, Chambers sets out to catch the killer before he adds more bodies to his collection. But the investigation falters, Chambers is nearly killed in action and as a result, the case goes cold. Fast forward seven years to 1996 and police trainee, Jordan Marshall, is determined to crack the case. She calls in the help of now ex-detective Adam Winter and eventually persuades DS Chambers to take another look at the evidence. But it’s not long before new ‘masterpieces’ start appearing. The killer has returned to finish off what he started and it’s down to Marshall, Chambers and Winter to stop him in his tracks, before it’s too late….

Absolutely bloody marvellous! By far the best police procedural I have read this year. I loved everything about Mimic from the moment I cracked open the first page to its breath-taking conclusion. I was 100% hooked and completely immersed in the story. Expertly written, featuring some of the most interesting characters I have come across in a long time and I hope this isn’t the last we see of this brilliant crime-fighting trio. There were moments where I laughed out loud, moments where my smart watch was beeping at me because my heartrate was, apparently, too high (pah!) and moments where I just couldn’t tear myself away from the story. I loved this book.

Chambers, Winter and Marshall were the perfect team. Each bringing their own strengths (I’m still trying to work out what Winter’s strengths were but he was my favourite character! 😂) to a tricky investigation which kept me turning the pages late into the night. I know the Ragdoll Series has a lot of fans (me being one of them) but I’m going to be controversial here and say that Mimic is my favourite book by this author. I was completely smitten with DS Chambers. Winters had me chuckling to myself with lots of well-timed hilarity and Marshall’s growth as a detective had me rooting for her.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mimic is a perfectly paced, expertly balanced novel. An absolute joy to read from start to finish. I loved the retro feel the author gave the story by setting it in the 80s and 90s (I’m obviously FAR too young to remember them myself! 🙈). I thought the characters were superb and I would love to see more of them in the future. The investigation was fascinating and I loved the addition of the hand drawn images at the end of each chapter (so even if you’re not an art aficionado, you can see what the killer created!). This is an absolute must-read for crime fiction fans and I will be recommending it to everyone! Highly recommended.

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

Mimic by Daniel Cole was published by Orion Books on 19th August 2021 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 | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Daniel Cole (@DanielColeBooks) is the Sunday Times bestselling author of the Ragdoll trilogy, which has now been published in over thirty countries. A TV adaption is currently in the works and his fourth novel is due to be published late-summer 2021. He has worked as a paramedic, an animal protection officer, and with the beach lifeguards, but for the past five years has been describing himself on paperwork as a ‘full-time writer’.

He lives on the south coast of England and divides his time between the beach and the forest.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton @Wildfirebks @RosieMargesson #TheExHusband #damppebbles

“Charlotte and Sam were partners. In life, and in crime. They never stole from anyone who couldn’t afford it. Wealthy clients, luxury cruise ships. It was easy money, and harmless. At least, that’s what Charlotte told herself, until the world caved in on her.

But now, years after she tried to put that past life behind her, it comes rushing back when her estranged ex-husband Sam suddenly goes missing – and someone threatens to expose what they did.

Desperate to escape whoever is tormenting her, Charlotte takes a job as events planner for an engagement party onboard a superyacht in the Caribbean. For a while, her plan seems to have worked, nothing but open ocean and clear skies ahead. Until it becomes clear that she’s no longer a thousand miles away from harm.

Because whoever is behind it all is onboard too. And now there’s nowhere left to run.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton. The Ex-Husband was published by Wildfire Books yesterday (that’s Thursday 19th August 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Ex-Husband but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Wildfire Books for sending me a proof copy.

It’s no secret that I’m a little obsessed with flight-based thrillers at the moment. I think I’ve read most of the new releases (that I’m aware of!). But I was thinking, perhaps I should take a mini-break from planes for a while. And then I saw this beauty – The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton – being discussed on the socials. I couldn’t help myself! A thriller based around cruise liners and an exclusive superyacht. I had to read The Ex-Husband. It called to me. And I loved every second of it.

Charlotte and Sam are a couple…and a couple of con-artists! They work the cruise liners, selecting wealthy targets, convincing them to part with large sums of their cash. Sam is a master of the con. Charlotte is learning the ropes but she’s a natural. She’s happy to do whatever it takes (within reason, of course) to achieve the lifestyle she believes they deserve. Plus, they’re not actually hurting anyone. Not really. Their targets are extremely wealthy so what does it matter if Charlotte and Sam siphon off a little for themselves. But not everything is perfect in paradise and tensions build between the couple, to the point where their marriage dissolves and they lose touch. Charlotte is trying to rebuild her life – on the straight and narrow – as an events planner when she discovers Sam has gone missing. Threatening anonymous messages begin to arrive. Could it be Sam trying to frighten her? Or one of their marks perhaps? She desperately tries to contact her ex-husband but to no avail. Someone knows what they did and they’re going to make Charlotte pay…

Absolutely flipping marvellous! I loved The Ex-Husband. With its pacey storyline, luxurious Caribbean setting and well-drawn characters, I became instantly hooked. It was the perfect escapist read for me. Whisking me off to the beauty and elegance of a superyacht on a tour of the islands. Granted, I’m not sure I would swap places with Charlotte as the situation she found herself in was quite hairy but I thoroughly enjoyed watching from afar and soaking up the opulence.

Charlotte is a great lead character and I enjoyed spending time in her company. She was perhaps a little naïve (they did nothing wrong, honest guv!) and her obsession with Sam was quite intense, despite their break-up, but I was rooting for her all the way. The other secondary characters all add to the story, leaving the reader constantly guessing who is behind the mysterious threats. There are plenty of possibilities, let me tell you! Who can Charlotte trust? Where exactly is Sam and how much danger is Charlotte in? Time is most definitely running out…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Caribbean with Charlotte and the crew of the Cleobella. The Ex-Husband is a twisty read which I was more than happy to lose myself in over a couple of sittings. I loved the impending sense of doom, the threat on the horizon the author conveyed and the way in which the tension builds as the clock ticks down. This is the first book I have read by this author but I can guarantee it won’t be the last. A well-written psychological thriller with a beautifully exotic feel which I adored. Fabulous escapism fiction, exactly what I needed. Highly recommended.

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

The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this 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 |

Karen Hamilton caught the travel bug after an early childhood spent abroad (Angola, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy) and having worked as cabin crew for a major airline.

In 2006, she and her husband put down roots in Hampshire UK and four years ago, she later gave up flying to raise their three sons and concentrate on her writing.
In 2009, she decided to ‘become a writer.’

The Perfect Girlfriend is her first novel (released March 2018).

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Dark by Emma Haughton @HodderBooks @JennyPlatt90 #TheDark #damppebbles

ONE DEAD BODY. TWELVE SUSPECTS. TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DARKNESS.

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all.

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Dark by Emma Haughton. The Dark is published today (that’s Thursday 19th August 2021) by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Dark but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a finished copy.

Regular visitors to damppebbles may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for novels set in a cold climate. Throw in the fact that The Dark is set in Antarctica, which spends some of the year in complete, all encompassing darkness and is considered one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, and there was no way I was going to let this book pass me by! I had to read The Dark. And I’m so very glad I did.

Kate North can’t escape the memories of her past. Everywhere she goes are constant reminders of what she had, and what she lost. The past controls her every waking moment. So she decides to take drastic action and applies to be the doctor at a UN research station in Antarctica. Conditions at the station will be bleak with total darkness 24 hours a day and temperatures that will kill, so it’s of the utmost importance that the team at the station are physically and emotionally prepared. Kate questions her own suitability repeatedly due to her overuse of prescription medication and a long held fear of the dark. But the need to escape is greater. On arrival it becomes clear to Kate that there are several unanswered questions about her predecessor’s sudden death. As Kate digs deeper into what happened to Jean-Luc, she begins to doubt her colleagues. Who can she trust? Who is keeping secrets? And what really happened to Jean-Luc….?

I really enjoyed The Dark. I’m sure we’ve all read novels set in a snowy landscape where help isn’t necessarily immediately available, but it is there. The Dark had a very different feel to it as there is no rescue team flying in to transport everyone to safety. Conditions are harsh. Flying to Antarctica isn’t something you do on a whim, help is anything from 6 to 12 months away! No matter what happens. No matter what the threat. No matter how many bodies are piled up. You wait it out, which really added to the tension of this novel. I loved how the author conveyed the feeling of utter helplessness and total isolation to the reader. Kate was well and truly stuck at the station with nowhere to run.

There are quite a few characters to become acquainted with but the author does a brilliant job of making sure the reader is never confused. Doctor Kate is our lead. I liked that Kate, no matter how many people told her to leave Jean-Luc’s death alone – that it was just an unfortunate accident – kept pushing for answers. She was definitely like a dog with a bone and I admired that in her. Particularly as she was the new girl in a remote and hostile environment with everything to prove. Sandrine, the station leader, was the perfect nemesis to Kate. The friction between the two characters was very well written. Sandrine made my blood boil at times and I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Dark is a fantastic debut thriller novel which handles its setting superbly. I thoroughly enjoyed this compulsive mystery which sent chills down my spine. I was very intrigued about life on a UN research station – the more the author told me, the more I wanted to know, the faster I turned the pages. That, coupled with the fascinating mystery at the heart of The Dark, made for a very compelling, very claustrophobic read. Recommended.

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

The Dark by Emma Haughton was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Emma Haughton

The Dark, Emma Haughton’s chilling new thriller for adults, will be published by Hodder in August 2021.

Emma 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: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney @HQstories #RockPaperScissors #damppebbles

“Ten years of marriage.
Ten years of secrets.
An anniversary they’ll never forget.

Adam and Amelia are spending the weekend in the Scottish Highlands. The remote location is perfect for what they have planned.

But when their romantic trip takes a dark turn, they both start to wonder – can they trust the one they’re with?

Because every couple tells little white lies. Only for Adam and Amelia, the truth is far more dangerous.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Rock Paper Scissors blog tour and sharing my review. Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney will be published on Thursday (that’s 19th August 2021) by HQ and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Rock Paper Scissors but that has in no way influenced my review.

I just couldn’t resist. If you’ve read a novel by Alice Feeney before then you’ll just know. If you haven’t read anything by her yet then you’ve gotta get that sorted. Alice Feeney is an utter genius when it comes to the killer twist and every book I’ve read by this author, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. A beautiful blend of domestic drama and psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Amelia and Adam Wright are heading north to the Scottish Highlands for a romantic weekend away with their aging pup, Bob. There’s a lot riding on the weekend. Both sides have their secrets. Both sides have a hidden agenda. On arrival at their destination, a converted and isolated chapel, the place is eerily quiet. Something about the building doesn’t feel right. Before long, strange things start to happen. Tension between the couple increases, what little trust they have between them crumbles. Because the truth is out to make them pay…

Rock Paper Scissors is an eminently readable and highly absorbing book which I thoroughly enjoyed. I do love a secluded, snowy setting and the author gave me chills with her spooky isolated chapel on the banks of a loch. The characters’ desperate and rapidly increasing need to escape the chapel was marvellous and really added to the fear factor. Amelia and Adam are brilliantly written. Adam is instantly unlikable as he has a bit of a superiority complex believing himself to be cleverer of the couple. I couldn’t make my mind up about Amelia. I felt sorry for her at times for having to put up with her obnoxious and self-important husband, but my feelings towards her seemed to change quite dramatically as I progressed through the story.

The reader gets to hear from both Adam and Amelia as their situation spirals out of control. We also get a glimpse into the past in the form of private letters written to Adam every anniversary along with their gifts to each other (using the traditional markers for wedding anniversaries: paper, cotton, leather etc). Initially rosy, things start to decline as the years progress. Taking us up to the present day in all its shocking glory!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Rock Paper Scissors is a twisty, thrilling read which had me gripped from the start. Feeney has done it again and produced another very compulsive novel where she successfully pulls the wool over her reader’s eyes. And damn, she does it with such style! If you’re a fan of the psychological thriller you need to add Alice Feeney to your ‘must read’ list. You won’t regret it! Deliciously devious and a proper page-turner. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Rock Paper Scissors. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney was published in the UK by HQ on 19th August 2021 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 |

Alice Feeney is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was an international bestseller, has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. His & Hers is also being adapted for screen by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films. Alice was a BBC Journalist for fifteen years, and now lives in the British countryside with her family. Rock Paper Scissors is her fourth novel and is being made into a TV series for Netflix by the producer of The Crown. It will be published around the world in 2021.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The House of Whispers by Anna Kent @HQstories @midaspr #TheHouseofWhispers #damppebbles

Once you let her in, she’ll never leave…
Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept…

When Grace returns to Abi’s life, years after they fell out at university, Abi can’t help but feel uneasy. Years ago, Grace’s friendship was all-consuming and exhausting.

Now happily married, Abi’s built a new life for herself and put those days behind her. And yet as Grace slips back into her life with all the lethal charm she had before, Abi finds herself falling back under her spell…

Abi’s husband, Rohan, can’t help but be concerned as his wife’s behaviour changes. As their happy home threatens to fall apart, he realises that there’s something deeply unnerving about Grace. Just what influence does this woman have over his wife, and why has she come back now?

A chilling story of guilt and obsession from Anna Kent.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The House of Whispers blog tour and sharing my review. The House of Whispers by Anna Kent was published by HQ on 5th August 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The House of Whispers but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Becky at Midas PR for sending me a proof copy.

The House of Whispers is an exquisitely written tale which I devoured in a few short sittings. I couldn’t get enough of this book for many glorious reasons and I’m so glad I read it. Chilling, emotional and deliciously intense, I loved it!

Abi and Grace met at university several years ago and became friends. Until something happened and the friendship fractured. It’s been years since Abi last heard from Grace but now she’s returning to the UK from Australia and she wants to stay with Abi until she’s back on her feet. But their friendship always felt one-sided to Abi. Grace was controlling and self-centred, the friendship didn’t make Abi feel good about herself at all. When Rohan, Abi’s husband, leaves for New York on a temporary work placement, the prospect of having Grace around feels more appealing than not, so she moves in. Soon Rohan notices a change in Abi. The things which were once important to her, don’t seem to matter anymore. Her artwork takes over her life and everything else comes second. Rohan starts to question the hold Grace has over Abi as he watches his wife change before his very eyes. Who exactly is Grace and will life for Abi ever be the same again…

An utter joy to read. The House of Whispers hooked me in from the start and didn’t let me go until the final thrilling denouement. Poor Abi. Feeling like an outcast the moment she stepped foot on campus and then reluctantly falling in with popular and controlling Grace, led me to feel things were never really going to turn out well for her. I really warmed to Abi. The author has created a perfectly flawed but incredibly human character and I desperately wanted her to escape the clutches of her obnoxious friend.

The story is told beautifully with the slow unravelling of Abi following Grace’s arrival. I was bewitched by the author’s storytelling and completely captivated. The house adds a slightly creepy, sinister feel to proceedings – gothic in feel and tone – and done so well. Other characters in the book bring in a host of emotions which I appreciated. It’s hard to like Rohan at times. I felt he was quite smothering towards Abi, a little patronising perhaps and a little sexist in his approach. I often felt he was more in love with Abi’s art than Abi the person but he was well-written and elicited the emotions in me I think the author intended.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The House of Whispers. It’s a creepy, chilling, intoxicating read which worked its way under my skin. I have to admit to seeing something somewhere (no clues, I don’t want you to do the same!) which made me approach this book slightly differently (I’m saying no more!) and unfortunately I was able to see one of the twists coming because of that. However, this is a beautiful, compelling novel which I savoured every second of. I loved the ending – it was a perfect way to conclude Abi and Grace’s story. In fact, I loved everything about The House of Whispers. Highly recommended.

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

The House of Whispers by Anna Kent was published in the UK by HQ on 5th August 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats
(please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Anna Kent has worked as a journalist, magazine editor and book editor as well as enjoying a stint as a radio producer. She’s written for numerous publications at home and abroad, including the Daily Telegraph, where she was a contributor for six years. Brought up in the South East, she loves to travel while maintaining a base in Gloucestershire. She’s married with two children.

#BlogTour | #Extract: The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman #TheCoverWife @HoZ_Books @SofiaSaghir @midaspr #damppebbles

The latest sophisticated, suspenseful, and intensely human spy thriller from master of the genre Dan Fesperman transports the reader to Paris and Hamburg, and deep into the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks.

Paris, October 1999. CIA agent Claire Saylor’s career has stalled, thanks to unorthodox behaviour in her past. So when she’s told she’ll be going undercover in Hamburg to pose as the wife of an academic who has published a controversial interpretation of the Quran’s promise to martyrs, she assumes the job is a punishment. But when she discovers her team leader is Paul Bridger, another Agency maverick, she realizes there may be more to this mission than meets the eye – and not just for professional reasons.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud, a recent Moroccan émigré in Hamburg, has become involved with a group of radicals at his local mosque. The deeper he’s drawn into the group, the more he is torn between his obligations to them and his feelings toward a beautiful westernized Muslim woman.

As Claire learns the truth about her mission, and Mahmoud grows closer to the radicals, their paths are on a collision course that could have disastrous repercussions far beyond the CIA.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am joining the blog tour for The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman and sharing an extract from the book. The Cover Wife was published by Head of Zeus on 6th July 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. My grateful thanks to Sophie and Sofia at Midas PR for my blog tour invitation.

Put the kettle on, put your feet up and enjoy a snippet from this gripping spy thriller…

As directed, Claire proceeded down a hallway to a room where someone had written “Training Session” in block letters in French on a sheet taped to the door. She knocked twice, already feeling a twinge of guilt. Despite her distaste for these sorts of gatherings, she knew she’d be embarrassed if the door were to open onto a roomful of waiting participants. She had already spent far too much of her professional life seated before men who habitually checked their watches.

A male voice, vaguely familiar, called out from inside.

“Yes?”

“Claire Saylor.”

“Enter.”

She opened the door. The only occupant was seated with his back to her at a small table, next to a single empty chair. He wore chinos and a wrinkled black blazer. Like his voice, something about the shape of his head was familiar. The walls were bare except for a thermostat, a fire safety notice, and a closed door on the far side of the room. As if oblivious to her entry, the man scribbled on a legal pad, his pen making a sound like a mouse gnawing at the baseboard. She waited as he stood and turned to face her.

It had been ten years since she’d last seen Paul Bridger, but she recognized him right away. She immediately felt younger, and a little flushed.

“Paul! What a … pleasant surprise.”

He flicked his eyes toward the opposite wall, as if to signal that they were not alone, or maybe he was just nervous. Just as well either way, because she wasn’t yet sure what sort of greeting to offer. Their last time together had ended in a mix of complicated events and emotions, some of which they had never shared with their superiors. Or she hadn’t, anyway. As for the personal repercussions, even Bridger still had no idea, mostly because he had never asked. Since then, he’d moved up the ranks, and he now managed selected ops across most of Europe. And now here they were, face-to-face in a silent room, alone but probably not alone.

For a moment, neither of them spoke. His eyes shone with eagerness even as he seemed to hold himself in reserve. She wondered who or what might be hiding behind the thermostat, the fire notice, or the closed door. But her earlier annoyance with the idea of becoming part of a team was gone, because now she felt certain her talents would not be wasted. Bridger wasn’t flawless—who was?—but he was known throughout the Agency as a man who knew how to run an op, and who always got the most out of everyone. He could be stingy with information, but that was the nature of their trade. Need to know. Compartmentalize. Tell me, but no one else.

He was also a master of the calculated risk, comfortable out on the crumbling ledge where only the nimble kept their footing and you were never sure when you might have to jump. Not unlike where Claire had been only an hour earlier, although in Bridger’s case it always seemed to count as a plus.

“Shall we get down to business?” he said crisply, gesturing to the nearest chair.

Ten years, and those were the first words out of his mouth. What a careful performer. It was a little disconcerting. Then he smiled warmly and she felt better.

Claire took a seat, certain that life was about to get interesting.

Wow, I cannot wait to read The Cover Wife! This extract has hooked me right in so I’m moving this one up the TBR straight away.

The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman was published in the UK by Head of Zeus on 6th July 2021 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 |


Dan FespermanDan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.