#BookReview: The Echo Man by Sam Holland @HarperCollinsUK #TheEchoMan #damppebbles

“The murders have begun…
Across England, a string of murders is taking place. Each different in method, but each horrifying and brutal.

But the killer is just getting started…
Jess Ambrose is plunged into the investigation when her house is set ablaze. With her husband dead and the police pointing at her, she runs. Her only hope is disgraced detective Nate Griffin, who is convinced Jess is innocent.

And he’s going to shock the world…
Soon, Jess and Griffin discover the unthinkable; this murderer is copying the world’s most notorious serial killers. And now, imitation isn’t enough. The killer dubbed The Echo Man is ready to create his own masterpiece, and it will be more terrifying than anything that has come before…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Echo Man by Sam Holland. The Echo Man is published by HarperCollins next week (that’s Thursday 14th April 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Echo Man but that has in no way influenced my review.

There was no way on earth I was going to be able to resist this book! Serial killer thrillers are my absolute go-to sub genre and I would happily read nothing but serial killer thrillers all year long if I had the chance. The Echo Man absolutely screamed my name so as soon as I got hold of a copy, I got stuck in. I couldn’t resist!

Jess Ambrose is thrown from her seemingly perfect yet boring life into a terrifying situation when her house burns down. Her husband was trapped in the blaze and didn’t survive but thankfully, Jess was able to rescue her young daughter. With her daughter in intensive care, Jess immediately realises that she is the prime suspect for setting the fire so she makes a run for it. What Jess doesn’t realise is that the fire was set by a serial killer who is carrying out multiple murders, all inspired by some of the worst killers of our time. With the help of disgraced ex-police detective, Nate Griffin, can they work out the twisted killers next move? And stop him before he creates his own deadly masterpiece…?

The Echo Man is one helluva debut which serial killer thriller fans will devour with glee. It’s dark, it’s definitely disturbing and it’s going to fly off the shelves, without a doubt. The concept of this book ticks so many boxes for me. As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the serial killer thriller but bringing real life cases into the story really escalates the plot into something I don’t think I’ve experienced before. I was turning the pages at a rate of knots, keen to discover what dastardly deed would befall the helpless victim next. Which real life case would inspire our killer and would I manage to keep my lunch down for a bit longer! And I don’t jest there, there are some pretty tummy turning scenes in this book so if you’re not of a strong disposition, this may not be the book for you.

The characters are well written and kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t particularly warm to any of them but being a dark and edgy crime thriller, I don’t believe relatable characters are always a necessary requirement. I want my crime fiction characters to shock and surprise me with their actions, be unpredictable yet driven – be it catching a killer or fulfilling their dastardly MO. After all, they’re treading a dangerous line which I, in real life, don’t want to be a part of. Warm and fluffy is NOT an option in crime fiction. I found Nate Griffin the most interesting and compelling of the cast. Following a frenzied attack the previous year which left his wife dead and him badly injured, Nate is now addicted to painkillers and his supply steadily runs out over the course of the book. But that doesn’t stop Nate from wanting to catch the killer, alongside his former colleagues in the force – DCI Cara Elliot and DS Noah Deakin. All of the characters play their part well and make this debut quite the page turner!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Echo Man is a very readable novel which I enjoyed immersing myself in. The writing is excellent, the storyline is well plotted and very compelling. However, I did have a couple of tiny bug bears which interrupted the flow for me a little. The female characters in the book are referred to by their first names. The male characters tend to be referred to by their surnames. It was most noticeable with DCI Cara Elliot, compared with DS Nate Griffin and DS Noah Deakin. She was Cara, they were Griffin and Deakin. The ending also felt a little sudden, almost as though the story wasn’t quite done. It may be there is more to come and if that is the case, that makes sense. But for me, as it stands, I was a little disappointed by the ending. But they are teeny tiny personal quibbles and don’t take away from the fact this is a cracking debut which crime thriller fans should make a point of reading. I truly believe this book is going to be HUGE. Recommended.

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

The Echo Man by Sam Holland was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 14th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sam HollandHaving always been fascinated with the dark and macabre, Sam Holland’s love of reading was forged in the library through Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. A self-confessed serial killer nerd, Holland studied psychology at university then spent the next few years working in HR, before quitting for a full-time career in writing. The Echo Man is the result.

#BookReview: Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa @vintagebooks #BulletTrain #damppebbles

Five killers. One train journey. But who will survive? The original and propulsive thriller from a massive Japanese bestseller.

Satoshi looks like an innocent schoolboy but he is really a viciously cunning psychopath. Kimura’s young son is in a coma thanks to him, and Kimura has tracked him onto the bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka to exact his revenge. But Kimura soon discovers that they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard.

Nanao, the self-proclaimed ‘unluckiest assassin in the world’, and the deadly partnership of Tangerine and Lemon are also travelling to Morioka. A suitcase full of money leads others to show their hands. Why are they all on the same train, and who will get off alive at the last station?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (translated by Sam Malissa). Bullet Train is published in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 17th March 2022) and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Bullet Train but that has in no way influenced my review.

First of all I have to say that I adore Japanese crime fiction and this book came onto my radar last year when it was first published but I was so over subscribed that I couldn’t squeeze it in. I was gutted as it sounded just my cup of kombucha. At the start of 2022 I signed up to the ‘12 books in 12 months’ challenge where 12 friends recommend a book to be read by the end of the year – Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka was suggested by the fabulous Raven Crime Reads. So of course, it went on the list. You can see the other eleven books that were recommended if you scroll down to the end of this post. I couldn’t wait to get to this one and what a ride it was!

Boarding a train has never been so deadly! When the bullet train leaves Tokyo heading for Morioka little do the passengers know that in their midst are five highly skilled killers. Satoshi is a schoolboy, all sweetness and light to his superiors but really a psychopath in a school uniform. His use of control and coercion and his complete lack of remorse make him a deadly adversary. Kimura is on a mission to track Satoshi down and make him pay for what he did to his young son, no matter what the cost. But they are not the only two killers on board this high-speed train. As the train hurtles towards Morioka the clock ticks down. Time is running out for these trained assassins as not everyone will make it to Morioka alive…

Oh my goodness, Bullet Train was so much fun! What an immersive, high-speed thrill ride the author has created for his readers, featuring five thoroughly engaging characters. All of them, apart from Satoshi, are likeable – although you know you shouldn’t warm to them really. They are trained killers after all! There is much comic relief provided by the brilliant Tangerine and Lemon. Lemon’s obsession with trains, in particular Thomas and Friends, had me giggling to myself at frequent intervals. Bullet Train felt vey different to all of the other ‘locked room’ mysteries I’ve read in the past (even the Japanese ones!) and I really appreciated it.

The plot moves along swiftly, very much like the bullet train itself, with lots of interesting plot points and changes of direction. I wanted to steam through this novel to find out who survived but instead I took my time to enjoy and savour the interactions, the building tension and twists and turns. There is very little let up. There is always something happening and it’s always attention grabbing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Bullet Train is a unique and clever thriller which is perhaps a little bonkers at times, a little hard to believe maybe, but I didn’t care one jot. I was entertained from start to finish and I know I will never read another book like this again. It’s definitely quirky in the best way possible. I want to say to all crime fiction fans, you must read this book but I’m aware that it probably won’t be for everyone. If you’re a fan of translated fiction however, make sure you get yourself a copy and make sure you read it before the movie is released this summer. I, for one, will be first in the queue with my popcorn and slushie as I CANNOT WAIT to relive the Bullet Train experience once more. I thoroughly enjoyed Bullet Train and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author soon. Recommended.

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

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa was published in the UK on 17th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kōtarō IsakaKōtarō Isaka (伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.

In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

Image of Sam MalissaSam Malissa holds a PhD in Japanese Literature from Yale University. He has translated fiction by Toshiki Okada, Shun Medoruma, and Hideo Furukawa, among others.

 

#BookReview: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks #ThisMightHurt #damppebbles

“Natalie Collins always has a plan.
Her troubled younger sister Kit rarely does.

Until Kit finds Wisewood, a secretive self-help retreat on a secluded Maine island. It promises you’ll leave a better, braver version of yourself.

But why does it forbid contact with the outside world? Why are there no testimonies from previous guests? Natalie fears it is some kind of cult.

Then, after six months of silence, she receives an email from Wisewood:

Would you like to come tell your sister what you did – or should we?

Who is digging into the sisters’ past? How did they discover Natalie’s secret? A secret that will destroy Kit.

She has no choice but to go to Wisewood, to find out if this place of healing has more sinister motives.

But as she’s about to discover, Wisewood is far easier to enter than to leave . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel. This Might Hurt was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (Thursday 3rd March 2022) 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 This Might Hurt but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Gaby at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Wrobel’s debut, The Recovery of Rose Gold, when I picked it up towards the end of 2021. The twisted mother/daughter story really wormed its way under my skin and I loved Wrobel’s deeply flawed characters. I was excited to read more by the author so was beyond delighted to receive an ARC of This Might Hurt, which I made a start on as soon as humanly possible!

Natalie Collins is a confident and assured businesswoman. She strives for the best and does everything she can to make it happen. Unlike her sister, Kit, who is emotional and a little bit needy. When Natalie receives an email from Wisewood Wellness and Therapy Centre concerning her sister, she’s immediately alarmed. The tone of the email is threatening, suggesting Natalie should tell Kit her secret before someone else does. In an attempt to control the situation and save Kit’s fragile feelings, Natalie drops everything and goes to Wisewood, despite knowing that visitors are most definitely NOT welcome nor permitted. On arrival it’s clear that not everything is as it seems. The set-up appears…cultish. The retreat members seem….brainwashed. What has Kit got herself into and will the sisters ever get themselves out…?

This Might Hurt is a suspense-laden story with themes of sisterhood, grief and vulnerability featuring two very different women, going about their lives and dealing with a recent trauma in very different ways. The reader gets to hear from a third, unknown younger voice as well and whilst I was keen to find out more about Natalie and Kit, the younger voice, for me, absolutely stole my attention. The unknown child is subjected to mental and physical cruelties by her heinous father who she and her sister, Jack, refer to as Sir. He pushes the child to be the best she can be and punishes her greatly for any failings (and there are many). As a result, the child turns to magic and begins to idolise Houdini. After all, Houdini managed to escape which is exactly what she hopes to do! I enjoyed Natalie’s chapters as she made her way to Wisewood but I REALLY looked forward to hearing from the unknown narrator. She had a new and unique voice which hooked me in and held my attention.

As a fairly avid reader of crime fiction and psychological thrillers I’m always thinking ahead when I read. Trying to work out how certain aspects of the plot will eventually fit together. I couldn’t for the life of me work out what part the unknown narrator would play but Wrobel brings everything together beautifully, ensuring all loose ends are expertly tied off.

There were many things I loved about This Might Hurt. The contrast between the two sisters, the isolation of the Wisewood island just off the coast of Maine, seeing exactly how far a manipulative and highly convincing person can push a bunch of intelligent but insecure individuals, and of course the cult/commune aspect (I do love fiction based around cults!). The setting really was very atmospheric and I could feel the chill air on my skin as things took a downturn for Natalie. The sense of being watched and constantly monitored was ever present. Wonderful stuff!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I enjoyed This Might Hurt with it’s fascinating characters, intricate plot and different setting. Wrobel writes the uncomfortable family dynamic very well and This Might Hurt, alongside The Recovery of Rose Gold, prove her talent beyond doubt.  A compelling read where the manipulation and control being dished out will send shivers down your spine and make you squirm. Very entertaining, highly original and full of tension. I look forward with baited breath to the authors next book. Recommended.

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

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel is the author of Darling Rose Gold, a USA Today and international bestseller that has sold in twenty-one countries and was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Wrobel grew up in Chicago and now lives in London. This Might Hurt is her second novel.

#BookReview: Nine Lives by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #NineLives #damppebbles

“If you’re on the list you’re marked for death.

The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper.

The envelope drops through the mail slot like any other piece of post. But for the nine complete strangers who receive it – each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list – it will be the most life altering letter they ever receive. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end.

But why?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Nine Lives by Peter Swanson. Nine Lives is published by Faber Books today (that’s Thursday 3rd March 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Nine Lives but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again, and again I expect), I am officially Peter Swanson’s biggest fan. I ADORE his books. It started when I read A Kind Worth Killing many moons ago (pre-blog) and my love for his work has grown with each new release. Rules for Perfect Murders shot straight to the top of ‘my favourite books ever list’ in 2020 and every new book is the highlight of my reading year. Nine Lives has been on my radar for a while now, and based purely on the synopsis, I knew I was going to enjoy every second of it. And oh boy, I really did!

An envelope drops through the door and lands on the mat. Upon opening it you see a list of names, including yours. You think nothing of it and toss the letter in the bin. But then you hear of an unfortunate death and the name rings a bell. It’s a name from the list. A coincidence, you think to yourself. That is until the same thing happens to another name on the list. Nine complete strangers, all marked for death. Can the authorities connect the dots and discover who is killing the nine seemingly random people and why, before they all perish…

Absolutely flipping marvellous! It’s so easy to lose yourself within the pages of a Swanson novel and Nine Lives is no exception. I read this book over the course of 24 hours, taking only necessary breaks and ignoring pretty much everything else that was happening around me. I love the premise of the book. With an enthusiastic nod to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (which is my favourite of her novels) Nine Lives effortlessly hooked me and kept me rapt until the very last word.

The book is told from multiple points of view which could have been confusing but the author has skilfully managed to keep the characters from overlapping and blending into each other. Hearing from nine different characters, getting nine different points of view would, in some other books, mean only skimming the surface and not really getting any real depth of character. But the author gives the nine enough backstory along with an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about their situation, to create a connection with the reader. You know deep down that they’re most likely doomed but I found myself hoping that perhaps one or two, five or six might make it to the end.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved the concept of Nine Lives before I’d even cracked the cover and it did not disappoint one jot! Twisty, unexpectedly emotional, chock full of delicious suspense and very entertaining. Add to that Swanson’s unmistakable suspense-laden style, glimpses of the author’s passion for classic crime, a cast of fascinating characters and a compelling whodunit, all of which make Nine Lives a must read for all crime fiction fans. I remain Swanson’s number one fan and I will fight* anyone who says otherwise, lol! Highly recommended.

*Obviously I won’t. I’m against all forms of violence. But I will ‘grrrrrr’ in your general direction if you disagree 😂

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

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter Swanson Peter Swanson is the Sunday Times and New York Times best selling author of eight novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Nine Lives. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

#BookReview: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheParisApartment #damppebbles

“Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants

A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

There was a murder here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.

Who holds the key?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. The Paris Apartment will be published later this week on Thursday 3rd March by HarperCollins in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Paris Apartment but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of Lucy Foley’s mystery novels. Her previous two books (The Hunting Party and The Guest List) both managed, on two completely separate occasions, to pull me out of a reading slump with their clever plotting, atmospheric settings and intriguing cast of characters. The publication of Foley’s latest novel has quickly become one of the most anticipated highlights of my reading year. So I couldn’t wait to get stuck into The Paris Apartment.

Jess arrives in Paris looking forward to escaping her life back home whilst spending some quality time with half-brother, Ben. Ben isn’t so keen however, having built himself a new life as a journalist in Paris and now living in an exclusive apartment block. When Jess arrives at No.12 rue des Amants though, something is amiss. Ben, who promised to be there, is nowhere to be seen and something just isn’t quite right. Jess’s concern for Ben grows as days pass without word from her brother. She begins to search for clues as to his whereabouts, reaching out to the other residents, seeking help and information. The other residents of the apartment block are reluctant to get involved though leaving Jess facing dead-end after dead-end. Can Jess discover the fate of her brother and unearth the secrets of the Paris apartment….?

Twisty, chock full of suspense and with shedloads of intrigue. The reader gets to meet Ben as he prepares for his half-sister’s arrival, only for him to suddenly vanish. From that moment on the reader is drawn into this compelling mystery and watches as Jess tries to make sense of Ben’s disappearance and the scarce clues left behind. Foley once again manages to lull her readers into a false sense of security, pulling the wool masterfully over our eyes only to whip the carpet out from beneath our feet at the most surprising moment. I loved the twists and turns throughout the book. Foley’s books always provide an exquisite moment when you realise all is not as it seems. It’s shocking, it’s heart stuttering and I love the thrill of the reveal.

The Paris Apartment bears many hallmarks of Foley’s previous mysteries but this one did feel different to me. In previous books the setting has been isolated and enclosed. The characters are left to deal with what’s happening to them very much alone and miles from help. The main setting in The Paris Apartment does provide a similar sense of isolation with the heavy, locked gates and the ever-watchful, ever-present concierge. However, the author also has the thriving metropolis of Paris to play with providing Jess with a myriad of new opportunities to investigate and new characters to introduce throughout the story. Definitely a Lucy Foley book but…different. ‘Good’ different.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Paris Apartment is an intriguing mystery novel which I enjoyed reading. I warmed to Jess over the course of the book and I loved discovering more about the peculiar residents of No.12 rue des Amants, along with their deep, dark secrets. Well-paced with a somewhat eerie setting and plenty of fascinating characters, I found The Paris Apartment to be a very readable novel with tons of suspense and twists galore. Recommended.

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

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lucy Foley is the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party and The Guest List, with two and a half million copies sold worldwide. Lucy’s thrillers have also hit the New York Times and the Irish Times bestseller lists, been shortlisted for the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, selected as one of The Times and Sunday Times Crime Books of the Year, and The Guest List was a Reese’s Book Club choice. Lucy’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and her journalism has appeared in publications such as Sunday Times Style, Grazia, ES Magazine, Vogue US, Elle, Tatler, Marie Claire and more.

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

WHO WILL SURVIVE THE NIGHT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: Breathless by Amy McCulloch @MichaelJBooks #Breathless #damppebbles

“When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Breathless by Amy McCulloch. Breathless is published today (that’s Thursday 17th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Breathless but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for books set in unpredictable, inhospitable, snow covered environments (normally the Alps or the Himalayas). Where the cold, the altitude or a sudden avalanche could kill you in the blink of an eye. I find the drive mountaineers have to conquer the next peak utterly fascinating. Throw in a murderer and you’ve got a book I HAD to read!

Adventure journalist Cecily Wong is shocked when renowned mountaineer, Charles McVeigh, invites her to join his team as they climb Mt. Manaslu. On summiting Mt. Manaslu McVeigh will achieve the impossible and enter the record books – climbing all 8,000 metre mountains, ‘the Death Zone’ peaks, in twelve months. An elusive interview with the poster-boy of the climbing world has been promised to Cecily as soon as they summit. It’s the kind of opportunity she can’t miss and could resuscitate her failing career. But after months of careful preparation and planning, things immediately start to go wrong and a fellow mountaineer dies before reaching base camp. Cecily and her team are in grave danger. If the mountain doesn’t destroy them, the killer will…

Breathless is a thoroughly enjoyable psychological murder mystery set at high altitude. I loved how in-depth this novel was with lots of fascinating detail about mountaineering and the processes involved. The author’s knowledge absolutely shines through giving the story a level of realism that other novels set in similar environments don’t always have. I really enjoyed how realistic the story felt and I’ve come away from Breathless feeling as though I’ve learnt more about mountaineering than I knew before (not that I claim to know much, of course!). It was also very easy to feel I was there on the mountain with Cecily thanks to McCulloch’s vivid imagery.

I warmed to Cecily over the course of the book. Being a fairly new mountaineer, and one yet to reach the summit of any mountain, she is the least experienced of the group which brings its own challenges. But she’s determined to prove herself. Cecily also harbours a traumatic secret which she will do everything she can to protect. The guilt she carries and the memories she holds just won’t let her be. She’s a fantastic lead protagonist – flawed, inexperienced and on edge. Not the cool, calm, confidence you want 7,000 metres above sea level! The other characters in the book are all well-written and each play their part in the story. I enjoyed the way not everyone in the team got on, the underlying ever present tension was wonderful, with the friction really adding to the unease.

The suspense builds at a great pace getting under the skin of the reader ensuring you keep turning those pages. As the book raced towards its heart-pounding climax I found myself holding my breath (pun intended! 😉), completely absorbed by McCulloch’s writing. And what an ending it is! I had my suspicions as to whodunit which were correct but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying Breathless. The characters, the setting, the complete isolation miles away from help, this book ticked so many boxes for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Breathless with its compelling story, fascinating look into mountaineering life, interesting characters and stunning setting. The author’s descriptions of mountain life and the processes the climbers need to complete made the story feel authentic without being overly complicated or turning the novel into a convoluted ‘how to’ guide. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I am fascinated by the drive and fearlessness mountaineers possess. Pushing their bodies to the limits in the most inhospitable circumstances, all for that momentary high of reaching the summit. If you’re anything like me with the same fascination, or if you just enjoy a well-written psychological murder mystery, then make sure you add Breathless to your shelf. All in all, a great read set in one of the deadliest places in the world. Recommended.

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

Breathless by Amy McCulloch was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 17th February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

(c) Charlotte Knee Photography

Amy McCulloch is a Chinese-White author, born in the UK, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. She is the co-author of the #1 YA bestselling novel THE MAGPIE SOCIETY: One for Sorrow, and has written seven solo novels for children and young adults. She has hit the bestseller lists in several countries around the world, and been published in fifteen different languages.

Before becoming a full-time writer, she was editorial director for Penguin Random House Children’s Books. In 2013, she was named one of The Bookseller‘s Rising Stars of publishing.

When not writing, she loves travelling, hiking and mountaineering. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mt Manaslu in Nepal – the world’s eighth highest mountain at 8,163m (26,781ft). Other addictions include coffee, ramen and really great books.

#BookReview: Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Moshe Gilula) @HodderBooks #Echo #damppebbles

“It’s One Thing to Lose Your Life
It’s Another to Lose Your Soul

When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned: those that treat his disfigured face begin experiencing extraordinary and disturbing psychic events that suggest that Nick has unleashed some ancient and primal menace on his ill-fated expedition.

Nick’s partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nick’s youth, vitality and beauty. Now these are gone and all that is left is a haunted mummy-worse, a glimpse beneath the bandages can literally send a person insane.

Sam must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse, the little Alpine Village of Grimnetz, its soul-possesed Birds of Death and it legends of human sacrifice and, ultimately, its haunted mountain, the Maudit.

Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a Hugo Award Winner and has been hailed as the future of speculative fiction in Europe. His work combines a unique blend of popular culture and fairy-tale myth that is utterly unique. Echo follows his sensational debut English language novel, HEX.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Echo is published by Hodder & Stoughton today (that’s Thursday 3rd February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Echo but that has in no way influenced my review.

One of the most memorable books I have ever read is HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvert. I remember the storyline and the characters so clearly, despite reading it six years ago, and I recommend it to everyone and anyone who is looking for a creepy, unsettling horror novel. So you can imagine my delight when I received an advanced copy of Echo, the latest book by Olde Heuvelt to be translated into English. So much so, my planned Christmas reading was pushed aside to make room for this superbly written chilling tale.

Nick Grevers, an experienced mountaineer, is lucky to be alive following an accident which saw the death of his climbing buddy, Augustin. Nick is in a bad way, wrapped in bandages, unable to communicate verbally and horribly disfigured. Nick’s boyfriend, Sam, is horrified by the news and despite his love for Nick, feels unsure about their future together. But when a terrorist attack is carried out on the hospital Nick is in, Sam realises that his life is with Nick. But Nick’s experience on the mountain went beyond the horror to his face, near death and losing his climbing partner…

I am a huge fan of books set in an inhospitable environment, particularly those set in a mountain range. I also love books where we humans have to fight for survival against nature and everything it throws at us. Which made Echo a perfect choice for me. Echo is a rich and vivid tale of love, loss and supernatural horror which I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in. Chilling, creepy and everything you want in a spooky read, this emotional tale drew this reader in from the incredibly eerie start to the devastating finale. Reading Echo truly was an experience and one I will remember for some time to come.

It took me a while to warm to Sam. His dialogue is written very much as he would speak –  ‘coulda’, ‘hadda’ – which took a little getting used to but before long, Sam’s dialogue felt very normal and very natural and I began to feel great affection for him. To the point where, by the end of the novel, I was sad to say goodbye. Nick intrigued me no end. I wanted to know what happened to him and Augustin on Maudit, and why. Nick’s take on things is provided via his manuscript which he sends to Sam whilst he’s away in the US. Throughout the novel sections of the manuscript are provided to the reader so the gaps can be filled. The truth is slowly, gradually revealed and it made for gripping reading. The love between Nick and Sam, despite the devastation caused by the accident, is what shone through the strongest for me. It almost broke me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Echo is a beautifully written, eerie tale of all-consuming love and heart wrenching loss. It is a slow burn of a novel which I savoured over the course of several sittings. It’s not a quick read but worth every single moment you spend within its pages. I loved the way the author builds up the suspense, increasing the tension as the story moves to its climax. Olde Heuvelt has once again crafted a novel that has wormed its way under my skin. One that will stay with me for some time to come. Recommended.

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

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Moshe Gilula) was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Thomas Olde HeuveltDutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt (1983) is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. He won a 2015 Hugo Award for his novelette The Day the World Turned Upside Down. He has also been awarded the Harland Award for best Dutch fantasty on multiple occasions, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.

Olde Heuvelt wrote his debut novel at the age of sixteen. He studied English language and American literature in his hometown of Nijmegen and at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Since, he has become a bestselling author in The Netherlands and Belgium. He calls Roald Dahl and Stephen King the literary heroes of his childhood, creating a love for grim and dark fiction.

HEX is Olde Heuvelt’s world wide debut. Warner Bros is currently developing a TV series based on the book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That it’s time for a reckoning.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gilly Macmillan

©Céline Nieszawer/Leextra

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: Opal Country by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #OpalCountry #damppebbles

“Opals…

In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please.

Bodies…

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom?

Secrets…

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight.

Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Opal Country by Chris Hammer. Opal Country is published by Wildfire Books today (that’s Thursday 6th January 2022) 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 eARC of Opal Country but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely adore Australian crime fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles that previous statement probably comes as no surprise to you because Australian crime fiction gets priority above everything else for me at the moment. So when I saw Chris Hammer was due to publish a standalone mystery, I knew I had to read it. I’m a huge fan of the author’s Martin Scarsden thriller series so I knew Opal Country would be good. And I wasn’t wrong!

Finnigans Gap doesn’t have a lot going for it. Desolate and decaying, it’s a town kept alive thanks only to the opal mines which rumble away underground. When ratters, out to make a quick buck, discover the crucified body of Jonas McGee, the close knit community closes ranks. Sydney-based Detective, Ivan Lucic is called in to investigate the grisly death assisted by local police officer, Detective Constable Nell Buchanan. Together they come up against dead end after dead end. Time is running out for Nell and Ivan, internal affairs are breathing down their necks and they both realise this could be the end of their careers. Can they discover who killed McGee, and why, before it’s too late…?

Opal Country is a gripping slow burn of a novel with truly compelling characterisation and an intriguing mystery at its heart. The author has created an intricate tale with many threads, all expertly linked and concluded by the final paragraph leaving the reader with the knowledge that they’ve read a very clever, very satisfying work of fiction. I really warmed to both Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan who make a great team, despite initial differences, and hope this isn’t the last we see of them. The more dead ends they came up against, the more I rallied for them.

Like many of Hammer’s earlier books, Opal Country is not a short novel and takes it’s time to build the story, set the scene and introduce you to the key players. At no point during the 504 pages did my interest or attention wane.  I was completely absorbed by the plot and the characters, and of course, the atmospheric setting. With the burning sun beating down on the rain starved ground, and the dust swirling in the air, I could feel the blistering intensity of the heat. Particularly as Nell laughed, once again, at Ivan for deciding to walk around Finnigans Gap, risking third degree burns from the unrelenting fireball in the sky. So wonderfully vivid, I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Opal Country to be a very compelling, very informative read which taught me a few things about mining I never knew. The story is quite complex at times but I never felt lost or confused, and everything is tied up masterfully by the author by the end. A very enjoyable crime thriller which drew me in from early on and didn’t let me go until I closed the final page. Hammer is a fantastic storyteller and I can’t wait to see what he has for us readers next. Crime fiction fans, you need Opal Country on your shelf! Recommended.

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

Opal Country by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 6th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Chris HammerChris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.