#BookReview: The Women by S.E. Lynes @bookouture #TheWomen #damppebbles

the women

The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…

Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls.

Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication.

But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her.

And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger?

You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.”

Oh I love S.E. Lynes’ writing. Bit of a fangirl moment for you! I’ve read nearly every book she’s written (bar one which is on my #15BooksofSummer list) and you can always guarantee it’s going to be brilliant and hard to put down. The Women is Susie’s latest book and was published by Bookouture on 22nd May. I received a free eARC of The Women but that has in no way influenced my review.

First thing I want to say about this book is I love the cover! If I weren’t already a huge S.E. Lynes fan then there’s a good chance I would be picking up The Women based purely on that brilliant blurb and the stunning cover. The book opens with Samantha and Peter (plus their baby, Emily) on their honeymoon in Rome. The opening is wonderfully tense and sets the scene perfectly. I was intrigued by what had gone before and I couldn’t wait to discover this couple’s story. And what a story it is.

The reader is then flung back in time to when Peter and Samantha first met. Professor Peter Bridges makes Samantha feel as though she’s the only woman in the world at a boring University party. He treats her with respect, listens intently to every word she says and makes her the centre of his universe. Samantha rapidly falls head over heels in love with Peter. He’s a class above the men (boys!) she usually meets with his expensive red wine, limitless supplies of cash, his elegant and sophisticated home and his sporty vintage midnight-blue Porsche. Before long Peter has suggested Samantha moves in with him, which she does leaving BBF and housemate, Marcia, on her own. Life is good for Samantha. Or is it?

What a great story this is with possibly one of the most unpleasant characters I have ever met in a novel. Peter is such a cliche and so utterly repulsive. Lynes has done an excellent job in making him so abhorrent – gah! He made my skin crawl, I was frequently cringing with how revolting he was. I was so desperate for sweet, trusting Samantha to see the light. To realise she was better than the life she was settling for, that not everything was how it seemed – not even to her – and for her to remove baby Emily from her obnoxious father’s influence.

It’s very difficult to say anything about this book without spoiling it for new readers. I will say, however, that the ending of this book was perfect. Had it ended any differently then I think I would have been disappointed. But Lynes has told her story with sensitivity (maybe not when it comes to Peter) and with wonderful little surprises along the way which made me despise ‘Peter the idiot’ even more.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. S.E. Lynes is a great writer and I urge you to read absolutely everything she has written (particularly Valentina). This is a beautifully written book with bucketloads of emotion. S.E. Lynes is a skilled and accomplished writer whose books I will return to again and again and again. Recommended.

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

The Women by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 22nd May 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

S E Lynes Author Photo

S E Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT and THE PROPOSAL.

After graduating from Leeds University, Susie lived in London before moving to Aberdeen where she worked as a producer at the BBC before moving with her husband, Paul, and two young children to Rome.

In Rome, she began to write, snatching time where she could. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.

She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing. She has also published two children’s books in Italy.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

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#BookReview: The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd @PenguinUKBooks #TheInnocentWife #damppebbles

the innocent wife.jpg“You’re in love with a man on Death Row in Florida, convicted of a brutal murder twenty years ago.

You’re convinced he didn’t do it, and you’re determined to prove it. You’re part of a mass online campaign that picks holes in the case, uncovers evidence of police incompetence, and agitates for this miscarriage of justice to be overturned.

Now you’re married to him, and he’s a free man, his conviction thrown out. You have the rest of your lives to spend together.

You’re overjoyed. After all, he’s innocent.

Isn’t he?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd.  This book had a real buzz about it when it was first published in December 2017 (yes it has been on my NetGalley shelf for a while, yes I am a terrible book blogger who reads at a snail’s pace!).  I received a free eARC copy of The Innocent Wife which has in no way influenced my review.

I keep seeing mixed reviews for this book and I just don’t get it.  I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me – reading is subjective.  I totally get that.  I’ll say this though, if you’re anything like me you will love this book.  It has everything I want in a novel.  I loved the small town American feel of it, I loved how the author has used the nation’s love of true crime to give it a more authentic edge, I loved the plot and I loved the characters.  This is turning into an epic year of reading for me; nearly every book I pick up just blows me away!  And that includes The Innocent Wife.

Notorious convicted killer, Dennis Danson, comes to Sam’s attention when questions begin to be raised over the evidence and trial used to convict him and send him to death row.  An online group start petitioning for his release claiming the Red River Police got the wrong man.  Sam does what any normal (!) 30-something would do in this situation and starts corresponding with Dennis.  Before long a strong bond is formed between them and Dennis sends a visiting order.  Sam drops everything, packs her bags and flies off to Altoona Prison to meet Dennis in person, hoping he’s everything his letters lead her to believe he is.  After an awkward start, the couple relax into each others company and before long Sam has extended her visa to allow her to visit Dennis on a regular basis.  Then he’s released and everything changes.  Sam is married to a man she hardly knows.  And what’s more, what she was once certain of, she’s not anymore…

Character, character, character.  I flipping love a bunch of fascinating people!  I really felt for Sam.  I could feel her loneliness, her need to be loved and adored which emanated from the page.  I also found her a little frustrating at times because I wanted her to stop being so drippy and ‘woman-up’ a bit.  That didn’t stop me from wanting to read Sam’s story though.  She intrigued me.  I also loved the mysterious Dennis, although I doubt very much I was supposed to!  There was something quite dark and dangerous about him and that appealed. Other characters were great too such as the true crime documentary filmmaker, Carrie, who welcomes Sam to the US with open arms and then becomes her guardian angel.  She just knows Dennis is innocent and will do everything in her power to prove it.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, yes.  It’s a delicious slow burn of a read and I loved it!  I was absolutely fascinated to see where the story was going to go and I wasn’t at all disappointed.  Gripping, unnerving and it ticked so many boxes for me.  I would not hesitate to pick up another book by Amy Lloyd.  In fact, I can’t wait to read more from this author! Highly recommended.

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

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd was published in the UK by Arrow Publishing on 4th October 2018 in paperback, hardcover, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

amy lloyd.jpgAmy Lloyd studied English and Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University. In 2016 she won the Daily Mail Bestseller Competition for her debut novel The Innocent Wife which, when it was published, became a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Amy lives in Cardiff with her partner, who is also a published novelist.

Author Links:TwitterFacebook |

 

#BookReview: The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore @orionbooks #TheDarkRoom #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (5/15)

the dark room.jpgThey thought they’d buried their secrets 
Homicide inspector Gavin Cain is standing by a grave when he gets the call. Cain knows there’s something terrible in the coffin they’re about to exhume. He and his team have received a dying man’s confession and it has led them here.

But death doesn’t guarantee silence
Cain is summoned by Mayor Castelli, who has been sent sinister photographs of a woman that he claims he doesn’t know and a note threatening that worse are on their way.

And now light will be shone on a very dark place…
As Cain tries to identify the woman in the pictures, and looks into the mayor’s past, he finds himself being drawn towards a situation as horrifying and as full of secrets as the grave itself.”

Welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted today to be sharing my review of The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore which I have selected as one of my #15BooksofSummer challenge reads.  The Dark Room was published by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats. I received an eARC of The Dark Room but this has in no way influenced my review.

I read Jonathan Moore’s The Poison Artist back in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was whilst sharing that review that a fellow book blogger, someone whose opinion I really respect, suggested I give The Dark Room a go.  Unfortunately, due to being the slowest of readers and having a burgeoning NetGalley TBR, I have only recently gotten around to it.  The Dark Room felt a little different to The Poison Artist in tone but is still a very enjoyable read.

Inspector Gavin Cain of the San Francisco Police Department is about to get some answers as he stands by the recently exhumed grave of a thirty-year-old corpse.  That is until his Lieutenant calls and orders him to the Mayor’s Office – she’s sending a chopper and there’s no time to waste.  Cain arrives, is introduced to Mayor Castelli and takes what seems like an instant dislike to the man.  The Mayor confides that he has received a number of potentially incriminating photographs in the post along with a threatening note.  These are the first four snaps.  There are another eight to come.  The note suggests that maybe the Mayor would like to commit suicide before the photographs fall into the wrong hands and he is exposed.  Castelli claims to not know who the woman is and wants Cain to discover her identity.  But the Mayor is hiding something and the further back into the Mayor’s past Cain digs, the more secrets he uncovers…

This is a slow burn, noirish thriller set in San Francisco.  The slow drip of information as you watch the case unfold and as Cain joins the dots makes it an enjoyable read.  Helped along by the wonderful setting and the fascinating characters.  And, having read this author before, I can safely say he likes to throw the odd shock twist into the story to give his readers a bit of a start.  Cain is an interesting chap and one I would happily read more of if this were a series (it’s not, it’s a standalone).  He’s a very experienced SFPD Inspector and takes no bull (not even from the Mayor or his Lieutenant).  I don’t feel the reader really gets to know him though.  You learn so much more about his partner, piano teacher Lucy, than you do about him.  Maybe he’s meant to be more of an enigma – after all, there’s only so far you can go with a character when they feature in only one book.  Other characters in the book are well drawn, particularly the Mayor’s daughter, Alexa, who drove me crazy.

The ending absolutely fitted the story and it was the right way for the author to go but I was left feeling a little disappointed.  I think that says more about me than the writing though.  I wanted something a little more showy, more of a BANG than what we’re given.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  It’s an absorbing police procedural which pulls you in from start to finish – you just HAVE to know how this one is going to end.  If you’re a fan of a slower paced crime read with a cast of intriguing characters then absolutely, you will enjoy this book.  Recommended.

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

The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore was published in the UK by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepository | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

jonathan-moore.jpgJonathan Moore is a Bram Stoker Award nominated author of five novels. His third novel, THE POISON ARTIST, was a selection of the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. His novels have been translated into seven languages.

Before graduating from law school in New Orleans, he lived in Taiwan for three years, guided whitewater raft trips on the Rio Grande, and worked as an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. He has also been an English teacher, a bar owner, a counsellor at a wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents, and a textbook writer.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |

 

 

#BookReview: Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada #MurderInTheCrookedHouse #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (4/15)

murder in the crooked house“By the author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders – a fiendish Japanese locked room mystery

The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff at the remote northern tip of Japan. A curious place to build a house, but even more curious is the house itself – a maze of sloping floors and strange staircases, full of bloodcurdling masks and uncanny dolls. When a guest is found murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances, the police are called. But they are unable to solve the puzzle, and more bizarre deaths follow.

Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai, the renowned sleuth. Surely if anyone can crack these cryptic murders it is him. But you have all the clues too – can you solve the mystery of the murders in The Crooked House first?”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada.  Murder in the Crooked House was written by Soji Shimada and published in Japanese in 1982.  It has since been updated and this translation by Louise Heal Kawai into English was published earlier this year by Pushkin Vertigo.  I received a free eARC of Murder in the Crooked House but this has in no way influenced my review.

I have a bit of a thing for Japanese crime fiction.  There are two standout novels which I always recommend to people.  One of these is The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which is also by Soji Shimada (and also published in English by Pushkin Vertigo).  I LOVED The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which was also Shimada’s debut.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw Murder in the Crooked House, another locked room mystery, was available on NetGalley.  This was a must-read for me.  So much so, I added it to my #15BooksofSummer list to make sure I got it read sooner rather than later.

I wanted so desperately to love this novel as much as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.  I certainly enjoyed parts of it and it bears a number of similarities to Shimada’s debut.  But it didn’t captivate me like the first book did.  Once again, you, the reader, are invited to solve the crime.  The clues are all there.  But can you solve the mystery and most importantly HOW the crimes were committed before the somewhat inefficient local detectives do.

I have to confess that towards the last half to a third, I started to lose interest a little and began skim reading sections.  These sections mostly seemed to be the local detectives discussing ANOTHER way the murders ‘could’ have been committed or ANOTHER possible MO they had dreamt up for the house-bound group of suspects.  The story then switches when a familiar detective is brought in to stop the dilly-dallying and make some arrests, Kiyoshi Mitarai from The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.  What I found surprisingly hard at this point was switching from third person to first person.  The entire book is told in third person up until this point.  I struggled to get my head around the change.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of a complex mystery and like to play the part of the detective and you have time on your hands then yes, absolutely, I recommend this book to you.  I’m putting a lot of how I feel about this book down to bad timing.  I should have put it to one side and come back to it at another time when there was less going on in my life.  My love for The Tokyo Zodiac Murders remains strong.  If you are looking for a Japanese mystery to read then I completely and utterly recommend you read The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Murder in the Crooked House.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada (trans. Louise Heal Kawai) was published in the UK by Pushkin Vertigo on 31st January 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

soji shimadaBorn in 1948 in Hiroshima prefecture, Soji Shimada has been dubbed the ‘God of Mystery’ by international audiences. A novelist, essayist and short-story writer, he made his literary debut in 1981 with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which was shortlisted for the Edogawa Rampo Prize. Blending classical detective fiction with grisly violence and elements of the occult, he has gone on to publish several highly acclaimed series of mystery fiction. He is the author of 100+ works in total. In 2009 Shimada received the prestigious Japan Mystery Literature Award in recognition of his life’s work.

 

 

#BookReview: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #TheGoodDaughter #damppebbles

the good daughter.jpg“The Good Daughter will have you hooked from the first page to the last, and will stay with you long after you have finished reading!

One ran. One stayed. But who is…the good daughter?

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s childhoods were destroyed by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – a notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family consumed by secrets from that shocking night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. But when violence comes to their home town again, the case triggers memories she’s desperately tried to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family won’t stay buried for ever…”

Welcome bookish friends to damppebbles and to my review of The Good Daughter by hugely popular author, Karin Slaughter.  The Good Daughter was published on 3rd May 2018 and has been lingering on my NetGalley shelf for far too long.  I received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

Yes, yes, yes, I’m absolutely kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to read this book.  I used to read everything by Karin Slaughter like my life depended on it but I have to confess I haven’t picked up one of her books for a little while now.  I still remember parts of her book Blindsighted, the first book in the Grant County series, so vividly.  I think I was expecting something similar when I made a start on The Good Daughter but how wrong could I have been?! This felt like it was written by a completely different author to the Grant County or Will Trent novels.  I’ve always enjoyed Slaughter’s work.  The Good Daughter I absolutely loved.

Charlotte and Samantha Quinn are used to trouble.  Their father, Rusty, is the local defence lawyer and his reputation proceeds him.  But not in a good way.  Rusty is the reason some of the worst lowlifes in Pikeville, Georgia walk free.  So the family are often on the receiving end of angry, bitter abuse.  One day their lives turn upside down when two masked gunmen enter their home.  Rusty is at the office so the girl’s mother, Harriet, tries to calm the situation down and protect her daughters.  But the unthinkable happens and Harriet is killed in cold blood.  Her young daughters bearing witness to the tragedy.  The gunmen are forced to rethink their plans.  After all, there can be no witnesses – and now the girls must die too.  But Charlotte manages to escape.  Samantha, unfortunately, isn’t so lucky.  Now, 28 years later, Charlotte is a lawyer just like her father with problems of her own.  She unwittingly becomes involved in a terrifying school shooting which leaves the head teacher and a young girl dead.  The incident brings horrific memories of her own flooding back because the truth can’t be buried forever…

This book really is something quite special.  I was completely emotionally involved with it from start to finish and savoured every single word of The Good Daughter.  I didn’t want it to end and could have happily read another 500 pages or so.  There are so many brilliant moments within the story; young Charlotte’s palpable fear and indecision when the moment to escape comes – leaving her older sister to certain death, the wonderful twist fairly early on in the book that you just don’t see coming, the relationship between Charlotte and her father, when Lenore, Rusty’s secretary’s, story is revealed to the reader.  So many fantastic little touches that when added together make something truly magnificent.  It’s also very dark with a number of terrifying and upsetting scenes.

Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would.  It does include some very harrowing and disturbing scenes which involve a young Charlotte and her attackers.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away but it’s important you know that these scenes are distressing.  I fell in love with so many of the characters in The Good Daughter and I still, after having read this book a few months ago now, remember them vividly.  A book which will stay with me for a long time to come and will most likely feature in my top ten books of the year list.  Highly recommended.

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

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter was published in the UK by Harper Collins and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

karin slaughter.jpgKarin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 37 languages, with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter. A native of Georgia, Karin currently lives in Atlanta. Her novels Cop TownThe Good Daughterand Pieces of Her are all in development for film and television.

Author Links:FacebookInstagramTwitterWebsite |

Author photo and bio © https://www.karinslaughter.com/

#BookReview: Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear @ZaffreBooks #StoneColdHeart #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (3/15)

stone cold heart.jpg“A fractured marriage. A silent family. A secret worth killing for.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel, and Joseph is arrested for the murder.

Joseph says his wife is setting him up.
His wife says he didn’t do it.
The trail of evidence leads to even more questions . . .

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim. Who would you believe?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear – my third #15BooksofSummer review.  Stone Cold Heart is the second book in the Detective Cat Kinsella series (the first being the brilliant Sweet Little Lies) and it’s published in paperback today! Wishing the author and Zaffre, the publisher, the happiest of publication days.  I received a free eARC of Stone Cold Heart but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved Sweet Little Lies so I have been eagerly waiting for this follow up novel to appear on my bookshelf. And oh boy, it did not disappoint! Caz Frear’s characters are utterly brilliant.  I fell a little bit in love with Cat Kinsella after reading the first book in the series but now, after book two, I’m totally smitten.  The way Frear writes her characters is so charming and with shedloads of warmth and humour that you can’t help but fall in love.

The team are called in to investigate the murder of 22-year-old, Naomi Lockhart.  Naomi hasn’t been seen since attending a fireworks party held by her boss at her home on Saturday night.  The team struggle to come up with any concrete links.  That is until Cat recognises a familiar face.  Joseph Madden, coffee shop owner and all-round creep.  Madden had cornered Cat earlier in the Summer and after his failed attempts at flirting with her, he confided that his wife was out to get him.  Cat, feeling it was no more than a lover’s tiff, advised Madden to report the incident to his local police station before making her excuses and NEVER volunteering to do the coffee run again!  But now Madden is their only suspect in the murder of Naomi Lockhart despite his repeated claims of innocence.  Will Cat be able to tie together all of the loose ends and make sure a killer is brought to justice…?

I love Cat Kinsella, I think I’ve already made that clear.  But I also love her supporting cast – particularly her DS, Luigi Parnell and her DCI, Kate Steele.  They are a brilliant team and one I want to return to again and again.  Parnell and Steele have a lot of history between them and it shows.  The way they both keep an eye out for newcomer, Cat, is just wonderful to witness.  Frear’s books have so far had brilliant plots to keep the reader gripped but oh boy, her characters are a delight.  It’s not just these three though.  Joseph Madden and his sliminess ooze from the page.  Cat’s father and her ‘uncle’ Frank both play a pivotal role in the book and you’re never really sure how much to trust either of them (definitely don’t trust Frank!).  And Cat’s gorgeous yet exasperated boyfriend, Aiden Doyle, who shows us Cat’s softer, more vulnerable side.  What a superb cast of characters!

This book can be read as a standalone.  However, there are several mentions made of Maryanne Doyle and the focus of the first book in the series, Sweet Little Lies.  The reader isn’t really given any details about this case but those involved are highlighted.  It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story and if anything it will make you want to read Sweet Little Lies if you haven’t already done so!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Stone Cold Heart and Sweet Little Lies are both strongly recommended by me.  Frear has a way of writing believable characters, people you would want to hang out with at the pub after work (well, some of them anyway!).  I had a great time playing amateur detective with this one and, in the end, got it completely wrong…sort of.  I thoroughly enjoyed this compelling, character-driven police procedural and, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, I suggest you get yourself a copy and meet the brilliant DC Cat Kinsella for yourself.

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

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 27th June 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

caz frear.jpgCaz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

 

#BookReview: Black Summer by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #damppebbles #BlackSummer

black summer.jpg“After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.”

So weirdly, I don’t actually want to write this review.  I don’t want to write this review because once I do, that’s it.  My time with Black Summer has come to an end and I have to live with the fact that it’s going to be another year (I mean, c’mon!  A year??) before I can get my mitts on book 3 in the series, The Curator.  A whole YEAR without Tilly and Poe.

Anyway, I digress.  Black Summer is the second book in M.W. Craven’s Washington Poe series and it’s published in hardcover and eBook today.  Wishing the author and Constable, the publisher, a very happy publication day!  I received a free eARC of Black Summer but this has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Goodness.  I have been waiting some time (…a year, maybe?) for this second Washington Poe novel and it was absolutely outstanding!  I would even go as far as saying it’s better than the brilliant The Puppet Show, which is no mean feat!  I couldn’t put it down, nor did I want to.  Every spare moment, no matter how small, was dedicated to reading this utterly marvellous book.  I am addicted to Tilly and Poe.  You’d be crazy to not get yourself a copy of this book, which can be read as a standalone, but why would you buy just one when you can also immerse yourself in the superb The Puppet Show as well!

The first standout thing about Black Summer is that it’s set within the culinary world and features a notorious three-Michelin starred celebrity chef, Jared Keaton.  I could be completely wrong but this felt like a fresh, new approach to me.  Something a bit different from the norm, which I loved. Keaton was found guilty of murdering his 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth after Poe took the original investigation in a different direction.  With no body, very little evidence and a hastily washed away puddle of blood which was deemed ‘incompatible with life’ in the Bullace & Sloe kitchens, it came down to Poe’s testimony to put Keaton away for the murder.  But now Keaton’s ‘dead’ daughter has walked into Cumbria’s Alston library and sought out the local police officer.  With the evidence confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that the woman is Elizabeth and an irrefutable chain of evidence, it’s down to Poe to prove against all odds that his gut was right all those years ago. Jared Keaton is a psychopath.

I love, love, loved Black Summer!  Can’t fault it.  This is exactly the type of crime fiction I want to read; clever, addictive and completely memorable.  Something that sucks you in from start to finish and then leaves you in mourning because it’s over and you want more!  I savoured every single word of this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  So much so that it is destined to be part of my ‘top books of 2019’ list and certainly a strong contender for the top spot!

Tilly and Poe go from strength to strength and their relationship (in the platonic sense – thank goodness!) has moved on since The Puppet Show.  They’re getting comfortable in each others company and it shows.  Tilly is less socially awkward but still a bright shining star in these wonderful books.  Poe is still, well…Poe – which I’m very glad about!  There are lots of brilliantly funny moments in Black Summer which I relished.  Little unexpected comments here and there which really added to my enjoyment of the novel.  Personally, I couldn’t see how Tilly and Poe were going to dig themselves out of this one (and I’m not saying they do, by the way) but it helps to have an uber-intelligent geek at the helm, right?

Would I recommend this book? Ha! You have to ask? Absolutely.  This and The Puppet Show.  Both are absolutely brilliant pieces of crime fiction which readers of the genre cannot afford to miss!  Thrilling from start to finish, I am still suffering from a book hangover a couple of weeks after finishing this one.  Believe the hype, people.  It really is THAT good.  Impossible to put down, totally unmissable and head and shoulders above nearly everything else in the same genre.  Craven has created something incredibly special here and I cannot wait for more from Tilly and Poe.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Black Summer.  The above review is my own, very enthusiastic, unbiased opinion.

Black Summer by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable (Little, Brown) on 20th June 2019 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although Mike Craven was born in Cumbria in 1968, he grew up in the North East, going to the same school as Newcastle and England centre-forward, Alan Shearer, before running away to join the army. He believes, but has no proof, that his little sister moved into his bedroom before the train had even left the station. He trained for two years as an armourer (that’s gunsmith to you and I) before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and will be out on 11th June, published by Caffeine Nights. His collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything, is out now.

In March 2017 Mike signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown for his new Washington Poe series. The first book, The Puppet Show, was released under his new name, M .W. Craven, in June 2018.

In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He wanted to call him Gimli but was told to grow up. He lives in Carlisle where he tries to leave the house as little as possible and gets annoyed by people who say “it’s too cold to snow” and “watch that swan, its wings can break your arm”.

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

#BookReview: Wilderness by B.E. Jones @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #Wilderness #damppebbles

Wilderness_25.jpegIt’s easy to die out there. It’s easy to kill too.

Two weeks, 1,500 miles, three opportunities for her husband to save his own life.

It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers.

Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try to save their marriage. Maybe the roadtrip that they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks, just the two of them, would help heal the wounds.

But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges. Three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness.

If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s easy to kill too.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my review of a book which grabbed my attention the moment I set eyes on it.  Wilderness is the latest release from B.E. Jones and was published by Constable (Little, Brown) in ebook format on 4th April 2019.  The paperback is to follow next April.  I received a free eARC of Wilderness but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved this book.  It’s the first book I’ve read by B.E. Jones but I can safely say that it won’t be the last.  Boy, can this author write a dark and dangerous character!  If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that I am a sucker for characters.  The plot and the setting (which are both brilliant in this novel, by the way)  can be ‘okay’ providing the characters stand tall and leap from the page.  I want living breathing people who make me feel something – that’s not asking too much, is it?  Wilderness is a cracking example of exactly how to write incredible, believable characters and also tick the all-important plot and setting boxes with confidence and flair!  I absolutely loved Liv.  I’m still not entirely sure I was supposed to love her as she’s very much a character on the edge.  But hey, I do like a dark undertone and it’s often the more complex creations who appeal to me more!

Liv and her husband, Will, are living the dream.  Following Will’s promotion, they up-sticks from picturesque Wales and move to the hustle and bustle of New York City.  Everything is perfect…until Liv discovers that her husband has been unfaithful with a colleague.  Will apologies for his error of judgement and promises it will never happen again.  And then it does.  Liv is utterly heartbroken and enraged by the deceit and immediately starts to plan her revenge.  One ‘dream’ holiday to America’s national parks and three chances for Will to prove he’s sorry.  If he fails, well…..sometimes terrible accidents happen in the wilderness, don’t they?

The plot, the characters, the setting, the cover, the blurb – I loved absolutely everything about this book.  It’s very likely it will feature in my top 10 books of the year list in December.  Liv is pushed to her absolute limit  – the repercussions of which were fascinating to watch.  I couldn’t look away as she slowly unravelled before my eyes and I HAD to find out how the story would end.  It’s not often I wish for a happy ending in my books but I was desperate for life to turn out OK for Liv.  Does it? Well, you’ll have to get hold of a copy of Wilderness and find out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely.  It’s one that shouldn’t be missed and the perfect Summer holiday read partly due to the fabulous setting (maybe not the murders!).  Speaking of the setting, I loved how the author conveyed the stark contrast between the two locations in the US.  You have the wide open space of the national parks versus the built up and somewhat claustrophobic feeling of New York City.  It’s all so beautifully written that you can’t help but ‘live’ the locations with the characters.  An absolute joy to read! Highly recommended.

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

Wilderness by B.E. Jones was published by in the UK by Constable on 4th April and is available in eBook format (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

photo of BevBeverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today.

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e books.

Author Links: TwitterFacebookInstagramWebsite |

 

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dead Inside by Noelle Holten @KillerReads #DeadInside #damppebbles

46902123_2290495507850861_1185184031919046656_nThe killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Dead Inside blog tour.  Dead Inside is one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2019.  Partly due to the fact the blurb sounds brilliant and partly due to the fact that the author is the fabulous Noelle Holten of CrimeBookJunkie.  I received a free eARC of Dead Inside via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

Dead Inside is the first book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series set in Staffordshire, and Noelle Holten’s debut.  From the harrowing prologue to the books big reveal, I was on the edge of my seat.  What shines from the pages is the author’s knowledge of her subject matter having worked as a senior probation officer for many years.  I’m guessing that Noelle has probably seen it all!  I also found the probation aspects of the storyline absolutely fascinating as I can’t bring to mind another crime novel that focusses so strongly on this particular part of the criminal justice system.

Following a particularly difficult case involving the apprehension of a serial killer, DC Maggie Jamieson is temporarily transferred to the new Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit (DAHU).  Not long into her first shift she and her colleagues are called to investigate a murder.  The victim is a known offender with a history of violence towards his partners.  The attack seems personal and all avenues need to be investigated so PC Mark Fielding gets in touch with probation officer, Lucy Sherwood.  As the story progressed I found myself focussing less on the police team and more on Lucy.  Lucy lives a double life.  By day she’s a kick-ass probation officer staring down the most hardened criminals.  By night she returns home to her vile, abusive husband who torments her physically and emotionally.  My heart broke for the character.  Trapped because she had convinced herself that staying in the relationship would be the best thing for her husband’s young daughter.  This may be the first book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series but Maggie isn’t in the spotlight here.  It’s all about Lucy, just as it should be.

The other characters in the book are a good mix of people you warm to and people you instantly loathe (it’s really not hard to loathe the abusers in this book!).  I did struggle a little at times with the characters names as the author has used the names of several book bloggers, people I know in ‘real life’.  I found it difficult to picture the character without seeing the ‘real life’ person.  Holten isn’t the first person to do this – it happens a lot – but the number of names used is far greater in Dead Inside.  I felt I had to try a little harder to visualise someone different in my mind.

The big reveal was a complete shock and one I really didn’t expect.  But I loved it!  It felt so satisfying.  The way the situation was also dealt with by the characters involved was also brilliant.  I loved the total lack of shame or reproach – wonderful stuff!  I was able to guess where another of the big storylines was going but I thoroughly enjoyed the way it played out and knowing what was coming didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, yes.  It’s a great start to what promises to be an exciting new series written by an exciting new talent in crime fiction.  The ending of Dead Inside is set up beautifully for book two in the series and I’m already very intrigued.  I can’t wait to get my mitts on a copy.  A compelling read with some fascinating characters at its heart.  Emotional, raw and a complete page-turner.  Recommended.

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

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 31st May 2019 and is available in eBook and audio formats with the paperback to follow in August (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

#DeadInside B L O G T O U R

about-the-author3

screenshot-2018-12-03-at-13-14-311Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Author Links: FacebookTwitterBlogInstagram |

 

 

20 Books of Summer Challenge 2019 #20BooksofSummer2019 #amreading #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer2019

Call me a glutton for punishment but after my complete failure to get anywhere near completing Cathy’s #20BooksofSummer challenge (check out her BRILLIANT blog at 746 Books) last year I’m going to take the plunge and try again this Summer. But, having realised that compared to many bloggers I am a slow reader, and having realised that for 6 of the 13 weeks I have two small people running about the house screaming for my undivided attention, maybe 20 books in 13 weeks was a bit of a big ask. Fifteen books, however, feels a little more manageable. So this year I will be aiming to read 15 glorious books over the Summer months.

If you have a superbly good memory then you may recognise some of the following titles from my 2018 challenge (still not read a year on *book blogger guilt!*). It was a joy to choose my 15 books and I could have easily picked more but rules is rules! I’ve chosen 5 physical books and the rest have been sitting on my NetGalley for aeons gathering dust. I have a plan though. Read the physical copies first as they will be easier when the kids aren’t at home all the time and then move onto the ebook copies for the Summer Holidays. I have put some thought into this despite how it looks, lol!

Halcyon by Rio Youners
Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan
Scrublands by Chris Hammer
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Yesterday by Felicia Yap
Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear
Halfway by B.E. Jones

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes
The Mayfly by James Hazel
The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore

So there we have it! My fifteen beautiful books in all of their shimmery, shining glory. Have you read any of them? Which ones did you love? Are you taking part in the challenge this year? I’d love to see your books so please feel free to leave a link to your challenge post in the comments!

I think they’re a good mix of dark, dark and a bit more dark which should suit me down to the ground, lol! At the time of writing this post, I have absolutely no reading commitments whatsoever for the remainder of the year so I ‘should’ in theory be able to do this (in theory…..).

If you would like to join in with the challenge too then there’s still plenty of time as we don’t kick off until 3rd June. Go on, give it a try. How hard can it be, right…? 😉

Wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side!

15 books of summer