#BookReview: The Drift by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #TheDrift #damppebbles

Survival can be murder . . .

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside each group, a killer lurks.

But who?

And will anyone make it out alive? . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Drift by C.J. Tudor. The Drift was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 19th January 2023) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free eARC of The Drift but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am such a HUGE fan of C.J. Tudor’s books. I have read and loved every single one since the author’s phenomenal debut, The Chalk Man, hit bookshelves in 2018. C.J. can do no wrong in my eyes with every thrilling new book going beyond my *ahem* very high expectations (eek, the pressure!). You just cannot go wrong with a book by this author and this latest release proves that, in abundance! The Drift is thoroughly captivating with clever storytelling and intricate plotting. Another tense and addictive addition to Tudor’s catalogue of work!

Normally at this point I would give you my take on the blurb. But this is a very difficult book to summarise due to just how darn clever it is. So I’ll just refer you to the publisher’s blurb which is waaaaay better than anything I could write and tells you a lot of what you need to know. The Drift is an apocalyptic/dystopian horror thriller set in the not so distant future following the outbreak of a virus which has killed billions. In this hell-like new world the reader is introduced to three main characters, each in a unique, snow-bound setting. Hannah is one of the survivors of a coach crash. The coach was heading to The Retreat. Then there’s Meg who is stranded in a cable car, on its way to The Retreat. And finally Carter, who is a resident at The Retreat. The reader visits each setting and gets to know what makes the three main characters tick. There’s plenty of backstory, plenty of insight into their current predicaments and plenty of interesting developments along the way. Meaning all three leads felt fully fleshed out and totally believable. Their situations also felt scarily plausible, which is a very frightening thing to say! Is that due to living in a post-pandemic world ourselves? I do wonder. Whilst not all of the main characters were particularly likeable I did find myself gradually warming to the two women. But there was a feeling that I couldn’t shake that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Drift and know it is going to be one of my top books of the year come December. It’s a chilling, atmospheric read where the author has once again excelled at drawing the reader in and immersing them in a thoroughly riveting, nigh impossible-to-put-down thriller. With well placed touches of horror throughout, sky high tension and thrills aplenty, The Drift will no doubt become a bestseller. And deservedly so! It’s one of those ‘one more chapter’ books where you can’t and don’t want to stop reading but promise yourself ‘just one more chapter’ before realising it’s 3am and you need to go to work in a few hours! Chock-full of perfectly written suspense and with a killer twist in the tale, it was everything I was hoping for and so much more. C.J. Tudor knocks it out of the park every time. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Tudor can do no wrong in my eyes. A perfectly plotted tale of survival against the odds with a beautifully written overarching sense of dread and impending doom which I couldn’t get enough of. I loved every single second of The Drift. Highly recommended.

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

The Drift by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 19th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BookReview: How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix @TitanBooks #HowtoSellaHauntedHouse #damppebbles

Your past and your family can haunt you like nothing else… A hilarious and terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group.

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Mostly, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. But she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

Some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix. How to Sell a Haunted House is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 17th January 2023) and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of How to Sell a Haunted House but that has in no way influenced my review.

This time last year I was aware of horror author Grady Hendrix but I hadn’t read any of their books. And then I picked up a copy of The Final Girl Support Group and, oh boy, I was officially smitten. Now I have a collection of Grady Hendrix books on the bookshelf that I’m merrily working my way through (look out for my review of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires coming to the blog soon!). It’s safe to say the publication of a new GH book has quickly become one of my yearly reading highlights. All in the space of a few months! So it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to read How to Sell a Haunted House. And I loved every creepy, phobia inducing minute of it!

Single parent, Louise, receives a call from her brother, Mark, informing her that their parents have died in a tragic accident. Louise is devastated but reluctantly packs a bag, leaves her five year old daughter, Poppy, with her ex and heads to Charleston to take control of matters. But on arrival it becomes clear to Louise that Mark is planning on doing things his own way. Including sidelining his sister at every turn. He’s planned the funeral and now all that’s left to do is clear out the family home so it can be sold to the highest bidder. Mark wants no fuss or sentimentality. But Louise feels differently. She wants to honour the memory of her parents, taking time to sort and clear their possessions. The house contains a lifetime of memories. And dolls. Dolls that seem to turn up in the most unlikely of places. As do her mother’s homemade puppets. Louise and Mark may be hoping for a quick sale but the house has a different idea altogether…

How to Sell a Haunted House is an utterly compelling, thoroughly creepy read with exquisite characterisation which I found nigh impossible to be parted from for any length of time. I was so drawn into Louise and Mark’s story. I felt desperately sorry for Louise who seemed to be overlooked in favour of her younger sibling throughout their childhood, only for adult Mark to throw his toys out of the pram at the most inappropriate moment. My blood pressure rose as Mark did everything in his power to usurp his big sister. Removing any and all power she held at a time when emotions were raw and relationships were incredibly fragile. But, of course, it’s only as the reader progresses through the book that we get to really understand these beautifully crafted siblings and see what lurks beneath the surface.

Out of all of the horror tropes one of the scariest, for me, is the creepy ass doll. Only mildly creepier is the haunted puppet. There’s not much in it really but the puppet is definitely the more sinister of the two. And How to Sell a Haunted House proves my point in abundance. Hendrix has literally created a monster. Part of me wanted to hide in the wardrobe from the malevolence of nasty little Pupkin. But I couldn’t put the book down! I was completely immersed in the horror that was happening before me and I loved every chilling moment.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. How to Sell a Haunted House is my favourite Grady Hendrix novel so far, but I don’t think you can go wrong in picking up one of this author’s books. Everything I have read to date has been thoroughly entertaining, a whole lot of fun, perfectly pitched and pretty darn memorable. I do think, at times, the pace moved a little slower than in previous books but that’s never a problem, providing the characters speak to me. And they certainly did! I was swept away by the author’s clever storytelling to a world of stuffed squirrels and invisible dogs and weirdly, I didn’t want to leave. All in all, How to Sell a Haunted House is a winner for me. I loved the characters, I loved what the author put the characters through and I loved that it was all just a little bit bonkers, in the best way possible. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of How to Sell a Haunted House. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix was published in the UK by Titan Books on 17th January 2023 and is available in hardcover and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Grady HendrixGrady Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which is like Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it’s set in the Eighties. He’s also the author of We Sold Our SoulsThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and Final Girl Support Group!

He’s also the jerk behind the Stoker award-winning Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the 70’s and 80’s horror paperback boom, which contains more information about Nazi leprechauns, killer babies, and evil cats than you probably need.

And he’s the screenwriter behind Mohawk, which is probably the only horror movie about the War of 1812 and Satanic Panic.

#BookReview: Dead Man’s Creek by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #DeadMansCreek #damppebbles

“Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her hometown, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, her arrival provoking an unwelcome and threatening response from the small-town community. As more bodies are discovered, and she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her, Nell realises that finding the truth could prove more difficult – and dangerous – than she’d ever expected.

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more treacherous her path becomes. Can she survive to root out the truth, and what price will she have to pay for it?

Gripping and atmospheric, Dead Man’s Creek is a stunning multi-layered thriller from Chris Hammer, the award-winning author of Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year Scrublands (2019) and Times Crime Book of the Month Opal Country (January 2022).”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dead Man’s Creek by Chris Hammer. Dead Man’s Creek is published by Wildfire Books today (that’s Thursday 5th January 2023) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in the Summer. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Dead Man’s Creek but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Caitlin at Wildfire Books for sending me a finished copy.

I am a huge fan of Australian crime fiction and Chris Hammer has rapidly become a favourite author of mine. So when I heard a new book was on the horizon I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. Something you can always guarantee with a book by this author is that the story will be intelligent, beautifully plotted and gripping to the end, the setting will be vivid and by the conclusion you will believe the characters are living, breathing people. What more could a reader ask for?

Newly promoted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns with senior Detective Ivan Lucic to her hometown to investigate what appears to be a cold case. Nell finds it difficult to understand the rationale for their involvement in Tulong. They are homicide detectives after all and the bones that have been unearthed appear to be decades old. It’s hardly the exciting first case she was hoping for! However, Nell’s connection to the area and her knowledge of those that live there means she’s able to access information that otherwise wouldn’t be so forthcoming. As Nell digs into what happened to the body buried under the dam in the Murray River, startling new information comes to light about the past and present, putting Nell in increasing danger. Because for Nell Buchanan, this investigation is very close to home…

Dead Man’s Creek is a riveting and intricate crime novel that’s both beautifully plotted and totally immersive. The reader can’t help but be pulled into the book by the author’s skilful storytelling and once you’re in, there’s no way you’re going to want to leave. Everything about Dead Man’s Creek is pitched perfectly. The characters are multi-layered and fascinating from start to finish. Over the course of the two books featuring Nell Buchanan I have really warmed to her character. As said in my opening paragraph, these characters – and Nell in particular – feel very real to me. The reader really gets to know the bones of her in this novel as the story is set both in the past and the present, revolving to a large degree around the Waters/Buchanan family. Because of this there are a quite a few supporting characters to get your head around and relationships to remember. But I found I was soon able to bring to mind the relationship between characters and a brief backstory. But Nell ultimately shines through with her dogged determination to get the case solved and uncover any previous wrongdoing. No matter what the cost…

The story is set in both the past and the present and I really appreciated the information the author provides about Australia’s part in the Second World War. It was fascinating to read about the impact of conflict on the country, something I’m ashamed to say I know nothing about. The book is well paced and draws the reader in, keeping you glued to the pages (all 469 of them!). If the thought of a longer novel is something you find daunting then believe me when I say it’s well worth investing in Dead Man’s Creek. It’s a compelling, tense and immersive read which flew by in the blink of eye.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dead Man’s Creek is a superb follow up to Opal County, Nell and Ivan Lucic’s first adventure. Dead Man’s Creek stands perfectly well on its own so there’s no need to read Opal Country first but I heartily recommend both books. Why not pick up both and really get to know Ivan and Nell? Add in the Martin Scarsden series too which starts with Scrublands. I am always impressed with how incredibly vivid the author’s settings are. They’re a living, breathing part of the storyline alongside the very lifelike characters.  Chris Hammer is a favourite author of mine for good reason. A superb sense of place, totally believable characters and a plot that won’t let you go until you’ve read the final word. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Dead Man’s Creek. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dead Man’s Creek by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 5th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Chris 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.

#BookReview: Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough @HarperCollinsUK #Insomnia #damppebbles

In the dead of night, madness lies…

Emma can’t sleep.

CHECK THE WINDOWS

It’s been like this since her big 4-0 started getting closer.

LOCK THE DOORS

Her mother stopped sleeping just before her 40th birthday too. She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.

LOOK IN ON THE CHILDREN

Is that what’s happening to Emma?

WHY CAN’T SHE SLEEP?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough. Insomnia was published by HarperCollins on 31st March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Insomnia but that has in no way influenced my review.

Sarah Pinborough, over the years, has become a bit of a go-to author for me. Her latest release, Insomnia, is the third of this author’s books I have read. Although I must admit (I am ashamed to admit!) that I haven’t as yet read Behind Her Eyes which is very well known for its WTF ending and has recently been made into a Netflix series (I haven’t watched the series either as I want to read the book first). However, I WILL be able to watch Insomnia when it hits our screens (which I understand it will be doing in the future) because oh boy, I HAVE read this incredibly compelling story.

Emma Averell is a successful divorce lawyer, has a devoted husband, two beautiful children, a luxurious house and a top of the range car. She’s also only a few days away from turning 40 which strikes fear into the hearts of many people but for Emma that fear is tenfold. Because Emma’s mother, Patricia, had a catastrophic breakdown on her 40th birthday almost killing Emma’s older sister. Patricia told Emma she has ‘bad blood’ too so she’s terrified history will repeat itself. When Emma starts suffering from insomnia she knows what’s happening. The same happened to her mother before that devastating night. All Emma needs to do is sleep and then everything will be fine. But no matter how hard she tries, no matter what remedies she takes, she just can’t sleep…

Insomnia is a tense and gripping tale which I read in two sittings. I found Emma an intriguing lead character. I was keen for everything to work out for her in the long run but the impending sense of doom the author conveys tells you that the Averell’s are in for a rough ride. A bone-shatteringly rough, incredibly bumpy ride indeed! I didn’t necessarily like Emma but I felt for her. I wanted her to find answers, I wanted her story to be different from her mother’s. Emma’s descent happens quickly over the course of 11 days, going from a switched on wife, mother and lawyer to someone who doubts themselves constantly, questioning her own actions and thoughts. She zones out for long periods of time making Emma the perfect unreliable narrator. Pinborough is an absolute master at writing an unreliable narrator as she skilfully proves within the pages of this book.

I absolutely fell in love with Emma and Robert’s youngest child, Will, who at the tender age of five is morphing from a fun-filled, bouncy kid to a quiet, nervous child. I thought making their older child, Chloe, a teenager on the cusp of being an adult herself was a really interesting move by the author as that meant there were three adults all repeatedly telling Emma she was losing her mind – Robert, Chloe and Emma’s older sister, Phoebe. When those that love you the most keep telling you you’re unstable, that something is wrong, surely they must be right?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Insomnia is a dark tale which I devoured over the course of a day featuring a cast of fascinating characters. If you’ve read any Sarah Pinborough novels in the past then you’ll know to expect the unexpected. My advice, expect the unexpected 😂 The ending is both shocking and surprising. Aspects of it, I loved. The torrential rain beating down set the scene perfectly, the tension was so sharp and the fear I felt in my gut was 100% real. But there were things about the ending which I wasn’t so keen on. I don’t want to say too much for fear of putting my foot in it and saying something I shouldn’t but I will say the ending was very different, unique and not at all what I expected. Lots to love, a couple of teeny, tiny things…not so much. But all in all, a gripping tension filled read which I heartily recommend to fans of psychological thrillers, particularly those who are looking for something a little different.

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

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 31st March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sarah PinboroughSarah Pinborough is a New York Times bestselling and Sunday Times Number one and Internationally bestselling author who is published in over 30 territories worldwide. Having published more than 25 novels across various genres, her recent books include Behind Her Eyes, now a smash hit Netflix limited series, Dead To Her, now in development with Amazon Studios, and 13 Minutes and The Death House in development with Compelling Pictures. Sarah lives in the historic town of Stony Stratford, the home of the Cock and Bull story, with her dog Ted. Her next novel, Insomnia, is out in 2022.

#BookReview: The Buried by Sharon Bolton @orionbooks #TheBuried #damppebbles

“AN OLD ENEMY IS LAID TO REST . . . AND A NEW CRIME IS DISCOVERED

Florence Lovelady, the most senior serving policewoman in Britain, visits convicted serial killer Larry Glassbrook in prison. Larry is coming to the end of his life but has one last task for Florence: to learn the identity of the remains discovered at children’s home Black Moss Manor. The town Florence escaped narrowly with her life still holds many secrets. Will she finally learn the truth? Or will time run out for her first?

The latest Florence Lovelady thriller, set shortly after the bestselling first novel The Craftsman in the chilling, new series from Richard and Judy bestseller Sharon Bolton”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Buried by Sharon Bolton. The Buried is the second book in The Craftsman Series and was published by Orion Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats last week (that’s Thursday 10th November 2022). I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Buried but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Buried is the much-anticipated sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, The Craftsman. I say sequel but it’s more of a prequel combined with a sequel. Which is a very impressive achievement! As soon as this book landed on my radar, I knew I had to read it. One of the things I loved most about the first book was the character of Police Constable Florence Lovelady. So the chance to be reacquainted with her and to return to creepy Sabden at the foot of the Pendle Hills, where witchy goings on were regularly reported, was an opportunity I could NOT miss!

Serial killer, Larry Glassbrook, has been in prison for thirty years for murdering three teenagers. The police officer responsible for his capture, Florence Lovelady, was a lowly probationary WPC and the first and only female officer working out of Sabden at the time. Now she’s the most senior serving female officer in the Met and despite their history, Florence has been keeping in regular contact with Larry. But Larry is ill and is nearing the end of his life. With the discovery of children’s remains near Black Moss Manor, a children’s home that was closed in 1969, Larry has one last task for Florence. To discover the identity of the victims. Because according to Larry, the children buried near Black Moss died more recently than official channels are claiming. But to carry out Larry’s final request, Florence must return to Sabden. The town that almost destroyed her…

A cleverly written police procedural told in the past and the present with a witchy twist. The Buried is everything I hoped it would be. It was a joy to be reunited with Florence Lovelady again – older, wiser and forever tied to Sabden, no matter what she does to sever that tie. Something I do need to say before I go any further though is that I strongly recommend you read The Craftsman before picking up The Buried. A lot happened in the first book and. whilst the author ensures the reader is briefed enough to follow the flow of the story, there were moments where I, as someone who read The Craftsman four years ago, found myself getting muddled. With hindsight, I wish I had re-read The Craftsman first before making a start on the prequel/sequel. Looking at other reviews, it seems other readers feel the same. But that does not take away from the fact that this is a cracking second book in the series and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But please make sure you’re familiar with the storyline of The Craftsman before making a start on The Buried. I enjoyed the dual timeline and hopping from the late 60s to the late 90s. The characters were once again expertly drawn, as I have come to expect from this author. The plot was well paced with an overarching feeling of dread permeating the pages of the book from the very start, all the way to the tense conclusion. The author excels at writing suspenseful plots which pull the reader into the narrative and keep them hooked, wanting to discover how the story will end. I truly hope this isn’t the last we see of Florence and Sabden. I’m such a fan of this unique series and I find myself preferring the author’s setting, plot and characters to more traditional police procedurals. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to crime fiction fans who are looking for something a little different. But make sure you read The Craftsman first! Recommended.

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

The Buried by Sharon Bolton was published in the UK by Orion Books on 10th November 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 shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

#BookReview: Outback by Patricia Wolf @emblabooks @bonnierbooks_uk #Outback #damppebbles

“Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.

DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown of Caloodie, taking care of his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers, Berndt and Rita, vanish from the area, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?

As the number of days since the couple’s disappearance climbs, DS Walker is joined by Rita’s older sister. A detective herself with Berlin CID, she has flown to Australia – desperate to find her sister before it’s too late.

Working in the organised crime unit has opened Walker’s eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia’s remote interior, and he remains convinced there is more at play.

As temperatures soar, the search for Berndt and Rita becomes ever more urgent. Even if Walker does find the young couple, will it be too late?
This deeply atmospheric thriller is the gripping opening of a new crime series for fans of The Dry by Jane Harper, Cara Hunter and Chris Whitaker.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outback by Patricia Wolf. Outback is published by Embla Books today (that’s Tuesday 8th November 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Outback but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that my favourite obsession at the moment is Australian crime fiction. I will drop everything else to read a well-written piece of Aussie crime fiction. Which is exactly what Outback is. From the glorious atmospheric cover to the gripping plot to the eminently likeable lead in DS Lucas Walker, I loved everything about this book!

Rita and Berndt, backpackers originally from Germany, go missing in the vast Australian outback on their way to a job at Glen Ines Station. They were seen by locals in Caloodie before embarking on the long, hot journey. But they never arrived at their destination. On compassionate leave in Caloodie, caring for his gravely ill grandmother, DS Lucas Walker of the Australian Federal Police is tasked with finding the two backpackers. Suspicious as to why the AFP are getting involved in a simple missing person’s case, and sure the backpackers have changed their minds and headed for the cool of the coast, Walker begins to investigate only to fall at every hurdle. When Rita’s police detective sister arrives from Germany to help with the search, an unlikely partnership is formed. Will Walker and Barbara Guerra be able to find the missing backpackers before it’s too late…?

I loved this deeply atmospheric, skilfully written debut which takes a long hard look at the escalating drug trade in Outback Australia. Everything about Outback worked for me. From the superb characterisation to the vividly drawn, heat-drenched setting, from the compelling plot which builds over the course of the book to the thrilling, ‘hold your breath’ conclusion. I savoured every moment I spent with this book and I am already looking forward to the second book in the series which publishes in May 2023.

I really liked DS Lucas Walker and quickly became invested in the character. He’s returned to the small town his grandmother raised him in until he was 11 years old and to a house full of happy memories, love and familiarity. Now his grandmother is nearing the end of her life, and Walker has been granted leave to spend time with the woman he feels raised him. The interactions between Lucas and his grandmother were full of warmth and compassion. I appreciated these thoughtfully written softer moments in amongst the darker themes of the novel. Walker’s sadness as his grandmother nears the end along with his clear love and fondness for his younger sister, Grace, show the reader that DS Walker is a cop with a heart.

But this is a crime thriller after all and it’s certainly not all hearts and flowers. The plot is gripping and dark, told from several different points of view. Each of which kept me turning the pages and fully immersed in the story. The opening prologue immediately puts the reader on edge. The impending sense of doom is palpable, and I loved it. From there the story unfolds gradually, drawing the reader further and further into the dark world these characters inhabit. As Walker’s investigation stalls he’s joined by Rita’s older sister, Barbara Guerra who is a police detective herself. I loved the relationship between these two characters. Barbara is well aware that she is not a police officer in Australia. That she is very limited in what she can and can’t do, but will Walker be able to crack the case without her help? Well, you’ll just have to read the book yourself to find that out!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Outback. It’s such an accomplished, compelling debut which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. I loved the characters. In particular the working relationship between DS Walker and Barbara Guerra. It was a real highlight for me as not only am I fan of Australian crime fiction I also love German crime fiction too, so Outback really was a joy for me to read with influences from both. The plot was fascinating and drew me into the story. I was keen to discover what had happened to Rita and Berndt, which kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting with its wide horizons and emptiness which despite being vast still felt oddly claustrophobic. The author paints a beautifully vivid, atmospheric picture for the reader which I can’t help but applaud. All in all, I loved Outback and would recommend it not only to fans of Australian crime fiction but to anyone who enjoys a well written mystery full of suspense. Highly recommended.

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

Outback by Patricia Wolf was published in the UK by Embla Books on 8th November 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Patricia WolfPatricia Wolf has been a journalist for more than 15 years, a regular contributor to titles including The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Independent and The Telegraph, among others. She grew up in outback Australia, in a mining town called Mount Isa in far north-west Queensland – eagle eyed readers will have spotted a small reference to it in her first book, OUTBACK. Patricia loves the rugged beauty, indigo sky and wide horizons of the outback, but left Australia after university to travel the world and became a journalist. She lives in Berlin, Germany, but the outback always calls her home. In 2019, just before the covid pandemic locked us all in, Patricia spent two months in northwest Queensland, taking a four-week road trip. As she drove and spent nights and days surrounded by the beauty and rugged harshness of the outback, DS Lucas Walker and his stories came to be.

#BookReview: Silent Victim by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #SilentVictim #damppebbles

“He took her voice
She took it back

A CENSURED DETECTIVE WITH NO LEADS

DCI Matilda Darke and her team have been restricted under special measures after a series of calamitous scandals nearly brought down the South Yorkshire police force.

A BRUTAL ATTACK WITH NO WITNESSES

Now Matilda is on the trail of another murderer, an expert in avoiding detection with no obvious motive but one obvious method.

A DEPRAVED KILLER WHO LEAVES NO TRACES

When his latest victim survives the attack despite her vocal cords being severed, Matilda is more convinced than ever of the guilt of her key suspect. If only she had a way to prove it…

Silent Victim is an unputdownable crime thriller with twists that will make your jaw drop – perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Ann Cleeves.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Silent Victim by Michael Wood. Silent Victim is the tenth book in the DCI Matilda Darke series and is published by One More Chapter in digital format today (that’s Friday 28th October 2022) with the paperback and audiobook to follow in November. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Silent Victim but that has in no way influenced my review.

Regular visitors to the blog will know that crime fiction is by far my favourite genre. I love me a police procedural series with relatable characters, gripping investigations and a few unexpected twists and turns thrown in along the way. Plus, of course, those perfectly placed red herrings to keep the reader guessing. One of the best series out there for fans of detective fiction at the moment is the DCI Matilda Darke series. Darke and her team have been through a hell of a lot in recent years. More than most, I think it would be fair to say. But still, they press on with an unfaltering determination to protect Sheffield, no matter what it takes and no matter what hurdles are put in their way. I am a HUGE fan of this series and I count down the days until the latest instalment hits the shelves. Silent Victim is the tenth book and a cracking addition to a superb, eminently readable series.

What I will say is that this is a series best read in order as so much has happened to the team in the last three or four books that to appreciate the long-running storylines (and there are several) it is best to start with an earlier book. Perhaps book six, or why not go the whole hog and start with the first book. By starting with an earlier book, it gives the reader a chance to fully understand and witness the growth of these characters. There’s a familiarity and closeness between certain members of the cast and it’s a joy to experience their quiet moments. There’s also a lot of humour and warmth, which by starting the series with a later book, I think the reader can easily miss or gloss over. Anyway, enough of the light and fluffy. This is not a light and fluffy book, but I do think it’s important to appreciate the long journey these characters have been on together.

A serial killer and rapist is targeting women in Sheffield. His latest victim is 14-year-old Tilly Hall who miraculously survives the attack, although not in one piece. The killer cuts her throat (no light and fluffy here, no siree!) severing her vocal cords. Tilly wakes in hospital with no voice and hazy memories of what happened to her. DCI Matilda Darke is called back to work following the events of the last book to hunt down the sadistic killer and make sure his reign of terror comes to an abrupt end. With no clues, no discernible motive and very little support from the top, Matilda and her diminished team are in a race against time to find a killer who is escalating with each new attack. Silent Victim is a gripping, compelling read full of everything I love about Michael Wood’s books and I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of it. The plot is well paced, the characters are perfection, there are lighter moments to counteract the darkness and I was on the edge of my seat as the unnerving finale played out before my eyes.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Silent Victim is a thrilling addition to a superb series and I cannot wait to return to Sheffield next year when the 11th book, Below Ground, is published. The author is never afraid to put his characters through the wringer and from the way Silent Victim ended, there may be trouble ahead for Matilda and the team. I will reiterate though that this is a series best read and enjoyed in order. Get to know the characters, the relationships and what motivates them as individuals as well as a team. It’s a series very much worth investing in. There are always unexpected twists and turns along the way and as a crime fiction fan, these books tick all the boxes for me. Read them. You won’t regret it. Highly recommended.

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

Silent Victim by Michael Wood was published by One More Chapter in the UK on 28th October 2022 and is available in digital format with the paperback and audio to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

#BookReview: The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme @CoronetBooks #TheThirtyOneDoors #damppebbles

“If these walls could talk . . .

Scarpside House is famed for its beauty, its isolation, and its legendary parties.

Tonight, it hosts the Penny Club soiree. An annual gathering of lucky men and women from all walks of life, coming together to celebrate their survival against the odds.

But this year their luck is running thin.

Accidents do happen, after all . .

And some are long overdue . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme. The Thirty-One Doors was published by Coronet Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats on 20th October 2022. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Thirty-One Doors but that has in no way influenced my review.

When Detective Sergeant Frank Glover receives a strange call for help from Scarpside House just as he’s clocking off for the night, he feels it’s his duty to check it out. Bidding a goodnight to his colleague, he grabs his bike and starts a slow trek to the secluded manor house on the edge of a cliff. As the snowstorm worsens, Frank begins to doubt how sensible his decision was. Even more so when he realises the house cannot be reached without the use of a funicular, delaying his journey even more. On arrival Frank is greeted by Dottie, the Lady’s Maid, who informs him a party was in full swing but all of the guests, along with the butler, have vanished. Searching the house for answers, Frank and Dottie make some unnerving discoveries, including what looks like a large puddle of blood. Something is amiss at Scarpside House and it’s down to Frank to discover what…

The Thirty-One Doors is an interesting historical murder mystery novel with well-drawn gothic aspects and a beautifully written sense of claustrophobia which pulls the reader into the story. As the snowstorm worsens and all methods of communication, along with any chance of escape from the house are removed, Frank and Dottie begin to realise that they’re trapped with a killer. Someone who seems intent on picking off the members of the Penny Club one by one. There is a large cast of characters in the novel. Many are unlikeable, oozing privilege and power. Disrespecting one another and making the reader question exactly who could be behind the dastardly dealings at Scarpside House. Well, let’s face it, any of them could be the killer! They’re all pretty loathsome people, all hiding secrets they’d do anything to keep. But to counteract the nastiness of the family and the guests, the author has created two great characters in the form of DS Glover and Dottie. I found myself cheering them on. I wanted them to succeed in their quest. They both really made the story for me. However, I did feel that there were unanswered questions about Frank’s past which were referred to often but not really explained. Perhaps DS Frank Glover is set to make a return in the future and the gaps will be plugged then.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re looking for a slow burn mystery and you’re a fan of the golden age of crime fiction then yes, I feel you will enjoy The Thirty-One Doors. The characters are interesting and the setting is vividly drawn. I found the plot a little too predictable at points and was able to spot one aspect from very early on. But I try to not let things like that pull me out of the story, so I was pleased when my suspicions were confirmed. I also found the plot a little too slow at times and I would have liked those gaps I mentioned above covered in a little more detail but otherwise, I did enjoy The Thirty-One Doors and will be on the lookout for more from this author in the future. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Thirty-One Doors. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme was published in the UK by Coronet Books on 20th October 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 shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Kate Hulme studied history and history of art at university and works as a cultural consultant for museums and heritage organisations. The bizarre stories, strange objects, hidden passages and secret doors in Britain’s historic buildings proved rich pickings for fiction ideas and prompted her to try her hand at writing a book. She lives in rural Suffolk with her eight-year-old son and her elderly spaniel. The Thirty-One Doors is her first novel.

#BookReview: Family Business by Jonathan Sims @gollancz @orionbooks #FamilyBusiness #damppebbles

“JUST ANOTHER DEAD-END JOB.
DEATH. IT’S A DIRTY BUSINESS.

When Diya Burman’s best friend Angie dies, it feels like her own life is falling apart. Wanting a fresh start, she joins Slough & Sons – a family firm that cleans up after the recently deceased.

Old love letters. Porcelain dolls. Broken trinkets. Clearing away the remnants of other people’s lives, Diya begins to see things. Horrible things. Things that get harder and harder to write off as merely her grieving imagination. All is not as it seems with the Slough family. Why won’t they speak about their own recent loss? And who is the strange man that keeps turning up at their jobs?

If Diya’s not careful, she might just end up getting buried under the family tree. . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Family Business by Jonathan Sims. Family Business is published by Gollancz today (that’s Thursday 13th October 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Family Business but that has in no way influenced my review.

After reading Sims’s debut, Thirteen Storeys, a couple of years ago I’ve been keeping an eye out for more from this fantastic writer. There was something about Thirteen Storeys which grabbed my attention immediately, a feeling in my gut that this was most definitely an author to watch. So, when Family Business landed on my radar, I jumped at the chance to read it. Pushing my current read aside and not really bothering to read the blurb before getting stuck in. It’s a Jonathan Sims novel after all! And I’m so glad I did. Addictive, dark and unsettling, I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in Sims’s world once again.

Diya Burman’s world has fallen apart following the death of her best friend and flatmate, Angie. Diya no longer knows who she is, nor how to live her life, quitting her job and spending her days depressed and alone. When she is offered a job with Slough and Sons she reluctantly accepts, knowing that at some point she’ll need to start paying the bills. But Diya has no experience in the Slough family business, which is cleaning up after someone has died. As Diya learns the ropes, she begins to notice that some jobs are a lot more intense and upsetting than others. She notices a strange man hanging around outside where they are working, and Diya herself starts to have strange, unexplained visions. Determined to find out what’s going on she starts to dig a little deeper into the Slough family history. But the past is best left alone, and Diya had better be careful otherwise this job will be the death of her…

Family Business is a very well-written supernatural horror with bucketloads of suspense to keep the reader on their toes and turning the pages. This book felt quite different to the author’s debut in that we really get to see the bones of his characters in this latest release. Whereas the format of Thirteen Storeys only allowed for a tantalising glimpse into the characters’ lives. And oh boy, I loved the author’s characterisation. Diya Burman, in particular, felt a fully fleshed out, living, breathing person and I was fully immersed in her journey. I was willing her on, perched on the edge of my seat wondering where the author was going to take the story. I hadn’t a clue what was going to happen to Diya and the Slough family. But I was gripped and there was no way I was going to put the book down until I knew the truth!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Family Business is a well-written, compelling novel with themes of grief, the sanctity of memory and a hard look at social inequality. The book moves at a steady pace drawing the reader into the plot and enabling them to get to know the characters well before the explosive ending. There is a deeply unsettling sense throughout the book of something unstoppable heading your way. Something that can’t be explained, something you don’t really want to think about until you inevitably come face to face with it. And I loved how the author was able to achieve that palpable menace throughout, that incoming malevolence. Marvellous stuff! Family Business is a very readable, very powerful novel which drew me in and didn’t let go until the terrifying end. Dark, suspenseful and will leave the reader with lots to think about. Recommended.

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

Family Business by Jonathan Sims was published in the UK by Gollancz on 13th October 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 | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Jonathan Sims is a writer, performer and games designer whose work primarily focuses on the macabre, the grotesque, and the gentle touch of creeping dread. He is the mind and the voice behind acclaimed horror podcast The Magnus Archives, as well as story-game design duo MacGuffin & Co., and some of your favourite nightmares. He lives in Walthamstow with the two best cats and an overwhelming backlog of books that he really should get round to.

#BookReview: The Fervor by Alma Katsu @TitanBooks #TheFervor #damppebbles

Chilling supernatural horror combining Japanese folklore with WW2 historical fiction from a multiple award-winning author.

As World War II rages on, the threat has come to the home front. In a remote corner of Idaho, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, are desperate to return home. Following Meiko’s husband’s enlistment as an air force pilot in the Pacific months prior, Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and sent to one of the internment camps in the Midwest. It didn’t matter that Aiko was American-born: They were Japanese, and therefore considered a threat by the American government.

Mother and daughter attempt to hold on to elements of their old life in the camp when a mysterious disease begins to spread among those interned. What starts as a minor cold quickly becomes spontaneous fits of violence and aggression, even death. And when a disconcerting team of doctors arrive, nearly more threatening than the illness itself, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and it becomes clear to them that something more sinister is afoot: a demon from the stories of Meiko’s childhood, hell-bent on infiltrating their already strange world.

Inspired by the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon, THE FERVOR explores a supernatural threat beyond what anyone saw coming: the danger of demonization, a mysterious contagion, and the search to stop its spread before it’s too late.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Fervor by Alma Katsu. The Fervor is published by Titan Books today (that’s Friday 7th October 2022) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Fervor but that has in no way influenced my review.

Alma Katsu is the author behind one of my favourite reads of 2021. The incredibly dark and atmospheric The Hunger which reimagines the journey the Donner Party took from Illinois to California in 1846. The author takes historical events, gives them a supernatural twist and presents them in a highly compelling way. I loved what Katsu did with The Hunger. So much so that I immediately purchased the author’s next book, The Deep (which I plan to read very, very soon). So when the opportunity to read The Fervor presented itself I, of course, leapt at the chance to immerse myself in this author’s world once again.

Meiko Briggs was sent by her parents from Japan to America as a young woman where she met her husband, pilot Jamie Briggs. Now America is at war with Japan and life for those with Japanese heritage, which includes Meiko and Jamie’s young daughter, Aido, has changed significantly. Whilst Jamie is off overseas fighting for his country, his wife and daughter have been moved to an internment camp where everyday life is tough. When a mystery illness starts to spread throughout the camp and internees become violent before some die a painful death, Meiko knows there is something sinister going on. Particularly when victims report seeing entities that remind her of Japanese folklore tales from her childhood. Meiko knows she and Aiko are in danger but exactly who (or what) poses the biggest threat to their lives…?

The Fervor is a well-written tale full of intrigue and suspense which I enjoyed. There is a lot for the reader to get their teeth into as the story is told from four different points of view; Meiko, her daughter Aiko, preacher Archie Mitchell, and Fran Gurstwold, a news reporter who is out to make her name with a big story. There is an ever-present sense of threat throughout the book which I thought was handled incredibly well by the author. It doesn’t really matter where the reader looks, there’s danger at every turn! But who or what poses the biggest threat? I have my theory and it doesn’t bode well for humankind. It was shocking to read how Japanese people were treated at the internment camps of the 1940s. How misinformation and fear drove people to act in the most despicable of ways. How the white supremacy groups preyed on the insecurities of average people to amass armies ready to hurt, maim and kill without a moment’s thought. The author builds an uncomfortable picture for her readers and rightly so. It should be uncomfortable; it should make us think. But most of it, we must learn from the atrocities of the past and make sure they never happen again.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Fervor is a well-written, unsettling novel full of suspense which I found uncomfortable reading at times but hard to put down. Despite being set in the 1940s during WWII it felt a very current story with overarching themes of racism and an unknown prevalent virus with no cure, at the heart of the novel. There’s no shying away from the cold, hard truth here. Katsu is a skilled writer who brings her characters and their stories to life. The lead characters were interesting and engaging throughout. I enjoyed the way in which the author tied everything together in the end, bringing the separate strands of the plot to a believable and tense conclusion. All in all, I found The Fervor to be a compelling novel with a beautifully crafted sense of threat running throughout the pages. Recommended.

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

The Fervor by Alma Katsu was published in the UK by Titan Books on 7th October 2002 and is available in paperback and audio 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.orgdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Alma KatsuAuthor of THE DEEP, a reimagining of the sinking of the Titanic, and THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the Donner Party’s tragic journey (Putnam);
THE TAKER, THE RECKONING and THE DESCENT (Gallery Books). The Taker was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011.