#BookReview: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks #Ghostwritten #damppebbles

Four brand-new horror novellas from “a modern-day Algernon Blackwood” all about books, stories, manuscripts – the written word has never had sharper teeth…

BOOKS CAN BE DEADLY

From the bestselling author of Come with Me, Four standalone horror novellas set in a shared universe!

In The Skin of Her Teeth, a cursed novel drives people to their deaths.

A delivery job turns deadly in The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride.

In This Book Belongs to Olo, a lonely child has dangerous control over an usual pop-up book.

A choose-your-own adventure game spirals into an uncanny reality in The Story.

Full of creepy, page-turning suspense, these collected novellas are perfect for fans of Paul Tremblay, Stephen King and Joe Hill.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi. Ghostwritten is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 4th October 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Ghostwritten but that has in no way influenced my review.

Ronald Malfi has quickly become an author whose books I pick up without a moment’s hesitation. I don’t always bother to read the blurb, Malfi’s name alone is enough to convince me I have to read the book. In the past I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the nightmarish worlds he creates and the poor souls he subjects to endless, unimaginable terrors within those worlds. And on that note, it would be a travesty for me to continue without mentioning the exquisite Come With Me and the sublime Black Mouth.

Ghostwritten is the latest chilling publication from this very talented author but it’s a little different to the previous full-length novels. Ghostwritten is a collection of four novellas, all based within the same world with clever links between them, all about writing and the written word. Now anyone who knows me knows I love books about books (show me an avid reader who doesn’t!) so I was seriously excited about making a start on this collection. My expectations were high, and I can tell you now that Ghostwritten delivered on every single count!

The four novellas within this collection are The Skin of Her Teeth, The Dark Brother’s Last Ride, This Book Belongs to Olo and The Story. It’s virtually impossible to select a favourite as all four stories are very different. Alone they all stand tall but together, side by side, with the clever connections the author has threaded through each novella, they form a highly compelling reading experience which I savoured every dark and disturbing moment of. I’ve found with this author’s books in the past that I come to care for the main character over time. I was a little concerned that I would feel that aspect was missing in the shortened novella form and in all honesty, it was. But that was because there are very few characters with any redeeming features in the four stories. However, in what I’m coming to see as ‘trademark Malfi style’, they’re all solid, believable, very well-written creations put in terrifying and often unnatural situations. I was engrossed, I was agog, and I was lost in the storytelling.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Ghostwritten is a thoroughly gripping, highly unsettling read packed full of suspense and tension. The take home message for me was that books are powerful and in the wrong hands, or with a sprinkle of the supernatural, can cause death, destruction and untold devastation. The pen most certainly is mightier than the sword. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! There is a lot going on in Ghostwritten with every novella feeling deserving of its place in the collection. I loved the cursed novels, the creepy kids, the brotherly bond and how fiction becomes a dark and twisted reality. And as a side note, the choose-your-own-adventure style structure featured in the last story is something I strongly believe we need back in our lives! All in all, this is a well-plotted, beautifully written collection of disturbing stories which, like several of its predecessors, has left its mark on me (nothing to do with Tommy Drake, that would be a terrifying thing!). I’m a little obsessed with Malfi’s novels and I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for his readers next. I’m sure it will be creepy as hell and impossible to put down! Highly recommended.

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

Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 4th October 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #ASliverofDarkness #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A creak of the floorboard, a shiver down your spine, the feeling that you’re not alone . . .
_________

Join a group of survivors who wash up on a deserted island only to make a horrifying discovery.

Meet a cold-hearted killer who befriends a strange young girl at a motorway service station.

Travel along eerie country lanes in a world gone dark, enter a block of flats with the most monstrous of occupants and accompany a ruthless estate agent on a house sale that goes apocalyptically wrong.
These eleven twisted tales of the macabre from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls are your perfect companions as the nights draw in . . .
If you’re brave enough.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor. A Sliver of Darkness is published by Penguin Michael Joseph today (that’s Thursday 29th September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of A Sliver of Darkness but that has in no way influenced my review.

C.J. Tudor has fast become one of my ‘must read, everything stops for them’ authors. Her blend of crime and creepy is a wonderful thing which I can guarantee I will always enjoy. When I discovered that Tudor was about to publish a collection of spine-tingling short stories I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. I thoroughly enjoy the short, sharp, intensity of a crime or horror short story collection but find I only read one or two collections a year, making them a real treat! A Sliver of Darkness delivered on every count. Not only did I get to indulge my love of short stories, but I got to read a collection penned by one of my favourite authors, one of THE most exciting writers out there at the moment.

But C.J. Tudor, like the rest of us, is only human, so A Sliver of Darkness starts with a very honest, very heartfelt explanation as to why the author and her publisher are opting to release a short story collection in 2022 rather than a full-length novel. My heart really went out to Tudor and I appreciated the honesty in her opening introduction.

A Sliver of Darkness is a collection of eleven twisted, chilling and twisty stories, each one worthy of its place in the novel. It’s all killer and no filler, that’s for sure. Each story is preceded with a short introduction from the author giving a little background or a fascinating insight into the inspiration behind the piece. One of the things I enjoy the most about Tudor’s writing is that there is always a completely unexpected, jaw dropping twist to the tale. I was a little concerned that that wouldn’t be achievable in short story form, but my concerns weren’t necessary. Each and every story delivers. Each and every story sings with Tudor’s trademark thrilling style and I loved how dark and addictive it was.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You can’t go wrong with a C.J. Tudor novel or short story collection, and I cannot wait to read The Drift when it is published in the New Year. My favourite stories were End of the Liner which is set on a cruise ship. Leila, a woman approaching her 75th birthday, reflects on times gone by and those she has lost. When a close friend opens Leila’s eyes to the reality of their situation, Leila isn’t sure she’s ready to face it head on. But is the alternative really any better? I loved how sinister this story was. The presence of the cruise ship’s ‘always happy, always smiling’ characters throughout, there to keep a watchful eye on the kids….and the adults…gave the story a chilling, creepy edge. The utter hopelessness the author conveys to the reader is palpable. I felt my heart sink to the floor for the characters. I also really enjoyed The Completion which stars Dan Ransom, a brash and egotistical estate agent who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and selling houses. He’s on the brink on completing the biggest sale of his career but his client has a bit of a reputation. Only Dan doesn’t know the half of it… This story was so dark and twisted, it took me places I never expected to go and probably never want to go again! Brilliant storytelling as usual from the author. But my favourite of the entire collection was Final Course. A group of old college friends gather in a manor house following the apocalypse. Harry, the privileged host, has invited ‘the Infamous Five’ back together one last time before the end of the world comes a-knocking. Tom and his young daughter, Millie, join Alex, Michael and Josh at Berskow Manor for one last terrifying, unforgettable night. This story gave me goosebumps and since reading it (a few weeks ago) I’ve been unable to get it out of my head. Eerie, unsettling and seriously dark, it was the cherry on top of a fantastic collection of well-penned stories. All in all, I loved A Sliver of Darkness. I hope Tudor publishes more short story collections in-between her full-length novels in the future because this is the best, most exciting collection I have read to date. If you’re a fan of the dark and dastardly, if you’re a fan of the author then please make sure you pick up a copy of this unsettling but utterly compelling book. You won’t regret it! Highly recommended.

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

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 29th September 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 | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


📢 Calling all book bloggers, bookstagrammers and authors 📢

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Game by Scott Kershaw @HQstories #TheGame #damppebbles

To save their life, you have to play.

Across the globe, five strangers receive a horrifying message from an unknown number.

THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST IS IN DANGER.

To save them, each must play The Game – a sinister unknown entity that has a single rule: there can only be one winner.

IF YOU LOSE, YOUR LOVED ONE WILL DIE.

But what is The Game – and why have they been chosen?

There’s only one thing each of them knows for sure: they’ll do anything to win…

WELCOME TO THE GAME. YOU’VE JUST STARTED PLAYING.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Game by Scott Kershaw. The Game was published by HQ on Thursday 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Game but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have to admit that when I saw the tagline of this book, before I’d even read the blurb, I knew it was a book I needed in my life. And when I say ‘needed’ what I actually meant was NEEDED in big, shouty capitals. There was not a squeak of a chance that I would let this novel pass me by. And I’m so glad I became hooked so early on because it’s an absolute corker of a novel, a non-stop thrill ride for the reader.

Five strangers across the globe receive a text message from an unknown number. Play the game or your loved one dies. There can only be one winner. The rules are simple. Five lives are immediately turned upside down. They know in their heart of hearts that they will do whatever it takes to win. The clock is ticking. The game has begun…

The Game is a gripping, propulsive thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the concept from the get-go. I loved the way the story is set out so you meet each ‘player’ one by one, get to know what makes them tick, before they’re thrust into the worst situation of their life. And I loved how engrossingly urgent the novel is. It’s such an accomplished, high concept story that I was able to lose myself within the pages of the book with ease. It was a thrill to read.

The author gives enough of each character’s backstory to get a good feel for them and their motivations but not too much to slow the story down. All five characters are clearly defined and very different, which I appreciated. Once we’ve met the ‘players’ we get to hear from each of them, sharing in their terror at the situation they’ve found themselves in. There are also sections in the book labelled ‘Pre Game’ which I found very intriguing. I couldn’t work out how the ‘Pre Game’ sections linked to the main story. But it all becomes crystal clear in the end, uncomfortably so. The reveal towards the end of the book, for me, was completely unexpected. I was both shocked and stunned to discover what had been going on all this time. It’s incredibly well written.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Game is a high energy, non-stop, modern day thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. The concept, coupled with the engrossing writing, made for a compelling read. I had to find out who was pulling the strings here. I had to discover if there was something which linked these five complete strangers to each other. Full of menace, overflowing with tension and a growing sense of unease throughout. A very readable, very rewarding thrill ride which I recommend.

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

The Game by Scott Kershaw was published in the UK by HQ on 12th May 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 |

Scott KershawScott Kershaw has co-written a thriller that was published by Bloomsbury in 2019 and has been optioned for a TV drama series by the BBC. His own high-concept thriller THE GAME will be published by HQ in Spring 2022. He has a first-class honours degree in Professional Writing, has written another novel (Animus), and formerly travelled Europe as a music journalist. He lives in the cloudy north of England with his hooligan of a beagle, Darwin.

#BookReview: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks #BlackMouth #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerising odyssey of terror.
An atmospheric, haunting page-turner from the bestselling author of Come with Me

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi. Black Mouth is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 19th July 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Black Mouth but that has in no way influenced my review.

One of my standout books from 2021 was Malfi’s beautifully haunting Come With Me which to this day, nearly a year later, I can bring to mind with ease. I remember accurately how the book made me feel, I remember how fond I was of the lead character and how I lived the journey with him. So it goes without saying that Malfi was put straight on my ‘must read’ author list and I made a start on Black Mouth as soon as it landed with me.

Jamie Warren is a haunted man who tries to find solace at the bottom of a bottle. When he receives a call to return to his childhood home he knows there’s no way he can refuse, no matter how much he wants to. His brother needs him and Jamie is the only person Dennis has left to turn to. But the Warren’s childhood home is on the edge of a notorious area of Sutton’s Quay, dubbed by the locals as Black Mouth. The last thing anyone wanted to be was a Black Mouth kid, and Jamie and his friends paid the price on a daily basis. Rumours of hauntings and strange goings-on were rife in the area. He knows returning to his childhood home will stir up feelings he’s been trying to mask for nearly twenty years. Because something terrible happened to Jamie and his friends in the eerie Black Mouth woods, and it looks as though there’s no escape from the terror of the past…

Absolutely stunning! Once again Malfi has delivered a tale which draws the reader into the story, getting under their skin, and which features the most exquisitely written, nuanced characters. I fell head over heels in love with the author’s writing and his wholly believable creations. When I think about Jamie, Dennis, Mia and Clay I am very much reminded of the way Chris Whitaker’s characters in We Begin at the End made me feel (and WBatE is my all-time favourite book!). Which makes Black Mouth something very special indeed (and, with hindsight, I would include its predecessor, Come With Me, in the same category – they’re both exceptional books). Told in the past and the present this absorbing story of childhood trauma and the scars it leaves behind was totally unforgettable. Beautifully written, extremely unnerving and impossible to put down.

Malfi has created a perfectly unpalatable setting in the form of Black Mouth with its dark past. A prosperous mining town until the day the mine collapsed, burying the coalminers alive and taking out acres of woodland and several houses in the process. The area, little more than a crater in the earth, was renamed Black Mouth by the locals as it looked, from above, like a gaping mouth with sharp, pointy fangs. Add the mysterious ‘Magician’ whom Jamie, Mia and Clay meet when they’re eleven years old and the creep factor is ramped up tenfold! Personally magicians leave me cold (along with clowns) so I found myself even more on edge than the author probably hoped for by the situation the characters found themselves in.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Black Mouth is a captivating, emotional, yet creepy story of childhood trauma and how, as we get older, the nightmares we faced as children can still be just as frightening, the memories just as destructive. The characters are sublime, the setting was perfect and the writing is divine. Completely absorbing, totally immersive, I was addicted to this book from the moment I cracked the spine and I now feel bereft that my time with Jamie, Mia and Clay, and of course the pure delight that is Dennis, is over. I’m so excited to see what’s next for the author. You can be sure of one thing, I’ll be at the front of the queue! Highly recommended.

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

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 19th July 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez @MichaelJBooks #MoreThanYoullEverKnow #damppebbles

“Lore Rivera was married to two men at once, until on a baking hot day in 1986, one of them found out and shot the other.

That’s the story the world knows.

It’s not the story that fascinates Cassie Bowman.

Determined to know more about the mysterious Lore, true-crime writer Cassie is surprised to find Lore is willing to talk.

But as the two women get closer, Cassie finds herself confessing her own darkest secrets.

And the shocking truth behind the murder all those years ago . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez. More Than You’ll Ever Know was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free eARC of More Than You’ll Ever Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

My reading schedule for July and August was overflowing a few weeks ago. To the point where I was reading all day, every day in an attempt to catch up. And then More Than You’ll Ever Know landed on my radar, helped by a blogger friend whose opinion I really trust. She said it was a masterpiece of literary fiction and compared the writing to one of my all time favourite authors. Resistance was indeed futile. So this beauty was added to the TBR and prayers were whispered to an almighty deity that I would be able to get everything I needed to read, read in time. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful piece of true crime-esque fiction, but my TBR is still utterly terrifying and there’s doubt I’ll make it out the other end alive 😂

True crime blogger Cassie Bowman is on the hunt for her next story. The pressure is on to find something that will grab her mainly female audience’s attention and get her visitor numbers up. That’s when she stumbles upon a piece about a woman who wanted it all. Lore Rivera was married to two men. One man in Texas with whom she had two sons, and one ready made family in Mexico City. Lore was living two lives until the day her Mexican husband, Andres, turned up unexpectedly in Texas. The devastation of Lore’s lie, her deceit, sent her Texan husband to Andres’s hotel room where he shot him in cold blood. But Cassie feels there’s more to the story than meets the eye. She wants to tell the story from a different perspective so reaches out to Lore for her side of things. The two women become closer, sharing secrets they’ve both held close for years. But the more Cassie discovers, the more confident and excited she becomes about the success of the project. She’s on to something with Lore’s story, she just knows it! What really happened that fateful summers day in 1986…

More Than You’ll Ever Know is an engrossing book with beautifully written characters and an utterly riveting plot which takes the reader to the heart of one woman’s devastating deceit. You would think it was hard to feel any compassion towards Lore but she’s so perfectly human that the reader actually ends up being quite fond of her, or I did anyway! Gutierrez scrapes away the outer layers of Lore’s character – the successful businesswoman, the mother of twins, the wife of a local tradesman – and presents the reader with her inner most thoughts, feelings and desires in the most exquisite and captivating way.

When Lore is approached by Cassie to tell her side of the story, she feels drawn to the younger woman. The chemistry these two characters have is magnetic and I was drawn into their story – and it is their story. A deal is struck and in return for sharing the past, Cassie begins to share her own closely guarded secrets. I loved the character of Cassie just as much as I loved Lore. These two women with their complicated lives and troubled pasts made for the most sublime reading experience and it will be impossible for me to forget either of them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a superbly written debut which ticked all of the boxes for me. The unravelling of the mystery drew me into the story, the true crime element worked beautifully, the settings – both Mexico City and Loredo, Texas – were vividly drawn by the author and I could picture the scenes unfolding clearly in my mind. I loved the dual timeline where the reader gets to meet Lore and Cassie in the present day but we also get to sneak a look behind the curtain with flashbacks to Lore’s life in 1985/6 and the path she took to the ultimate deception. Plus, of course, the night of the shooting. The entire book worked for me. But the characters, they were EVERYTHING. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a sublime novel which, if you’re a fan of beautifully written literary mysteries you will devour. I was completely entranced and captivated by this stunning novel. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of More Than You’ll Ever Know, The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 7th July 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 |

Katie GutierrezKatie Gutierrez is the author of the debut novel MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW, which will be published by William Morrow in the U.S. and Penguin Michael Joseph in the U.K. on June 7, 2022. She has an MFA from Texas State University, and her writing has appeared in TIME, Harper’s Bazaar, the Washington Post, Longreads, and more. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their two kids.

#BookReview: The Trial by S.R. Masters @0neMoreChapter_ #TheTrial #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“Would you sign up to a medical trial if you didn’t know the possible side effects?

18-40? PAID CLINICAL TRIAL IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – UP TO £20,000 TAX FREE

It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. An all-inclusive luxury trip abroad, all you need to do is take a pill every day and keep a diary.

Except you don’t know anything about the drug or what its side effects might be.

The headaches start, a dull ache at first. Every day worse than the last.

Then a body is found.

Everyone is a suspect. Anyone could be a killer. Even you . . .

2022’s biggest summer thriller, for fans of Alex Michaelides, T. M. Logan and JP Delaney”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Trial by S.R. Masters. The Trial was published by One More Chapter last week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Trial but that has in no way influenced my review.

So the question is, would you? Would you sign up for a clinical trial without knowing what the drug you were going to be ingesting was? Or the possible side effects? No, nor me. But oh my goodness, that blurb had my attention immediately! The blurb combined with the striking cover, the fact that I read and enjoyed the author’s debut and once again, THAT BLURB ensured that I couldn’t let The Trial pass me by. I had to read this book and I’m so glad I did!

Elle really needs a holiday! Following a frightening experience at work she decides to book a well-deserved break. But her plans fall through when her holiday money is needed elsewhere. So whilst in a bad mood one evening, most of the way down a bottle of wine, Elle sees a Facebook advert for a clinical trial. The ad promises four relaxing weeks at a luxurious resort in the Canary Islands, plus £20,000 tax free on completion of the trial. Elle can’t see the harm in signing up. She knows they’re bound to be inundated with applications so it’s unlikely she’ll be chosen. So when a confirmation email arrives, Elle can’t believe her luck. As she boards the private plane she begins to wonder what she’s let herself in for. What drug are they being given? What are the side effects? And will all twelve subjects make it out alive…?

The Trial is an intriguing thriller with a different yet highly compelling edge to it which kept me turning the pages late into the night. The author has expertly created a cast of mostly unlikeable characters who the reader can’t help but doubt the integrity of. This is particularly so after the discovery of a body. Elle is clearly out of her depth and the only member of the group who seems to realise that things in paradise aren’t as perfect as they were made out to be. As the situation worsens and things really start to spiral out of control, she and Benji (who is employed by the trial organisers to oversee the health and well-being of the participants 24/7) realise that they very much need to watch their own backs.

The plot is well-written throughout and introduces the reader to the many different personalities on the island. The first two thirds of the book are a slow build setting the scene, allowing the reader to see what makes each trial participant tick, along with finding out a little more about the support staff. The last third of the story is where the author really ramps the tension up and I found myself holding my breath on several occasions. I have to confess that this book was one of my holiday reads – we went to Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands (the location of the book although not the same island!) for a week – and at times I perhaps did regret choosing it. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers but events were maybe a little too close to home.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Trial is a well-written, intriguing story which I enjoyed. I do wish I hadn’t read it on holiday but that’s my fault, no one else’s. I was able to predict what the drug they were testing was for but there were still several twists and turns along the way I didn’t see coming. I would happily read another book by this author and look forward to seeing what Masters delivers next. Recommended.

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

The Trial by S.R. Masters was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 7th July 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

S R Masters grew up around Birmingham in the UK. After studying Philosophy at Cambridge University, he worked in public health. He currently lives in Oxford with his wife and children.

His short fiction and novels have been published internationally. Labelled as “a writer to watch” by Publishers Weekly, his books include THE KILLER YOU KNOW (Sphere) and the forthcoming THE TRIAL (HarperCollins).

#BookReview: The Lost Children by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheLostChildren #damppebbles

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

DI Brady has been tracing victims of systemic abuse at a local children’s home after a high-profile accusation pitched it into the spotlight – a case that couldn’t be more personal.

As Matilda and her team piece together the disturbing picture of the history of the home, it soon becomes clear that this is much bigger than they ever suspected.

But nothing prepares them for what they uncover next…
The Lost Children is an utterly gripping crime thriller weaving a breakneck tale of a vast network of secrets and lies, a relentless detective determined to sabotage it, and a murder that shatters two decades of silence.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood. The Lost Children is published by One More Chapter today (that’s Thursday 30th June 2022) in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow next month. I chose to read a free eARC of The Lost Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series is one of the most exciting, most edgy police procedural series out there and I flipping love it! The arrival of the latest book, in this case book nine (!), is something I always look forward to with baited breath. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Lost Children, I, of course, grabbed at it with both hands. What I love about this series is that the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – either on subject matter or character development. Wood really likes to put his characters, including lead protagonist Darke, through the wringer which is something I appreciate. As a reader, I never know what to expect! The Lost Children takes the battered and bruised team, still hurting from their last few cases, deep into the heart of an upsetting and distressing historical child abuse case.

DCI Matilda Darke is called to the scene of a vicious murder. Local businessman and philanthropist, Richard Ashton OBE, has been slain in his bed in the most stomach churning of ways. Upon closer inspection into Ashton’s life it becomes clear to Darke and her team that perhaps Ashton wasn’t the figure of virtue he first appeared to be. It doesn’t surprise DI Christian Brady who has been investigating historical claims of child abuse behind Matilda’s back. Matilda can’t ignore the connection between Ashton and events at Magnolia House, a home for young boys which closed many years ago. So she sets out to discover the truth. But at every turn, Darke is shut down. Extreme measures are put in place to prevent Matilda and her team from discovering the secrets of Magnolia House. But Matilda won’t be stopped…

The Lost Children is an incredibly gripping addition to a superb series featuring some of my all-time favourite characters. I love the South Yorkshire Homicide and Major Crimes Unit but they’ve really had a tough time of it recently, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better for them anytime soon! This latest investigation is already personal for DI Brady and the devastating secrets the team reveal affect them all in some way. The subject matter is tough but the author has done a great job of writing a very difficult, very emotional story. There were times when I had to take a break from reading because I was so affected by the characters and their stories. It’s heart breaking stuff but handled very well.

I found it fascinating how Matilda’s investigation was shut down from every direction. I could really feel her frustration and her determination to keep digging, despite no longer having the resources. Her drive is one of the reasons I love the character as much as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Wood takes the team next as there are clearly changes afoot, one of which I hope is reversed. But knowing how this author operates, I can’t be sure it will be!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Lost Children is a highly emotional, edgy read which I enjoyed. The subject matter is upsetting and I don’t think this book will suit everyone but the care the author has taken with the story really shows. I liked the way the author didn’t shy away from setting this book in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think, surprisingly, it’s the first book I’ve read that’s been set during the pandemic. Perhaps other authors are shying away from mentioning COVID for the moment. Perhaps it’s too fresh. I thought it added a really interesting facet to the investigation though and applaud Wood for doing something many other authors are not. The DCI Darke series remains one of my favourites and I wait with baited breath for the tenth (!) book to be published later this year. Particularly after the incredibly tense and unnerving cliff hanger at the end. Wow, what an ending! I’m not sure I can wait until October to find out what happens next. Recommended.

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (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 |

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 Bay by Allie Reynolds @headlinepg #TheBay #damppebbles

“The waves are to die for. It’s a paradise they’d kill to keep.

There’s a darkness inside all of us and The Bay has a way of bringing it out. Everyone here has their secrets but we don’t go looking for them. Because sometimes it’s better not to know.

Kenna arrives in Sydney to surprise her best friend, shocked to hear she’s going to marry a guy she’s only just met. But Mikki and her fiancé Jack are about to head away on a trip, so Kenna finds herself tagging along for the ride.

Sorrow Bay is beautiful, wild and dangerous. A remote surfing spot with waves to die for, cut off from the rest of the world. Here Kenna meets the mysterious group of people who will do anything to keep their paradise a secret. Sky, Ryan, Clemente and Victor have come to ride the waves and disappear from life. How will they feel about Kenna turning up unannounced?

As Kenna gets drawn into their world, she sees the extremes they are prepared to go to for the next thrill. And everyone seems to be hiding something. What has her best friend got involved in and how can she get her away? But one thing is rapidly becoming clear about The Bay: nobody ever leaves.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Bay by Allie Reynolds. The Bay was published by Headline last week (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read a free eARC of The Bay but that has in no way influenced my review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Allie Reynolds’s debut when it was published in 2021. So much so that Shiver was one of my top ten(ish) books of the year! So it goes without saying that I was very excited to get hold of a copy of The Bay, also known as The Swell in other parts of the world, and made a start on this one as soon as it landed on my Kindle.

London-based sports therapist Kenna hasn’t seen her childhood best friend Mikki for a while but they speak regularly. When Mikki announces her sudden engagement to fellow surfer, Jack, Kenna is delighted for her. But soon Kenna starts to believe Jack isn’t quite as perfect as Mikki makes out and may be more interested in Mikki’s bank account than the woman herself. So Kenna jumps on a plane to Australia to check the situation out for herself. Arriving unannounced, Mikki is shocked to see Kenna and informs her that she and Jack are planning some time away from their Sydney apartment and heading to a secluded bay with a group of friends. Kenna tags along but upon meeting the group, starts to feel something isn’t quite right about them. Kenna is an outcast. It soon becomes clear that the group all have secrets, they’re all hiding something, and they’ll do anything to protect their secrets and Sorrow Bay…

The Bay is a wonderfully written character-driven mystery which I savoured. I was always keen to return to the secrets of Sorrow Bay and its inhabitants, always feeling as though I was teetering on the edge of making a shocking discovery. Reynolds has created a cast of thoroughly intriguing characters who rub alongside each other, with an ever present feeling of threat never far away. On arrival at the camp it is clear that this close knit group of not friends, more accomplices, are hiding something and poor Kenna, having travelled thousands and thousands of miles, is really not welcome! What I found interesting was I felt instead of trying to integrate herself into the group, Kenna went in with question after question which ensured the barriers went up and the original group grew tighter, leaving her alone, trying to figure out exactly what is going on between this odd bunch of people. Tensions rise, insecurities mount and Kenna is stranded far from home.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Bay is a twisty, compelling read which I really enjoyed. I’m a huge fan of Australian mysteries and a lot of the books I read by Aussie-based authors are set in small, dusty towns (not complaining, absolutely love that type of setting!) but The Bay with its vast coastline felt refreshingly different. I don’t know how the author has made such a vast open space feel so confined and claustrophobic but she has and it’s superb. I do love me a claustrophobic setting! As with Shiver which was based around a group of snowboarders, The Bay with its band of surfers has actually taught me a lot about a sport I have no experience of, which I enjoyed (me in a wetsuit? No chance!). I did have a tiny inkling about where the story was going to go which was eventually proved right but Reynolds does a marvellous job of making you doubt every single member of the group. All in all, The Bay is a gripping mystery with some of the most secretive, intriguing characters I have met in a long time. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Bay by Allie Reynolds was published in the UK by Headline on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date (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 |

Allie Reynolds’ debut thriller SHIVER is out now! SHIVER has sold in 24 territories and will be translated into 23 languages. Her second thriller, THE BAY (UK, ANZ)/THE SWELL (North America) is out in mid-2022.

Born and raised in the UK, Allie moved to Queensland Australia in 2004. She lives by the beach with her two young boys.

Many years ago she competed at snowboard halfpipe. These days she sticks to surfing – water doesn’t hurt as much as ice when you fall on it.

She’s a massive reader. Her first ever job was a Saturday job in a bookstore, at age 14. She’s read and enjoyed pretty much every genre there is, but these days she mostly prefers thrillers, especially psychological thrillers with interesting settings. She also loves romance, crime, sports fiction, high concept stories with interesting premises, and non-fiction including sports biographies and self-help.

#BookReview: Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor @panmacmillan #DirtTown #damppebbles

Durton. Dirt town. Dirt and hurt – that’s what others would remember about our town . . .

When twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi disappears on her way home from school in the small town of Durton in rural Australia, the local community is thrown into a state of grief and suspicion.

THE DETECTIVE

As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation, she questions those who knew the girl, attempting to unpick the secrets which bind them together.

THE MOTHER

The girl’s mother, Constance, believes that her daughter going missing is the worst thing that can happen to her. But as the search for Esther develops, she learns that things can always get worse.

THE FRIENDS

Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and is determined to bring her home. So when her classmate Lewis tells her that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police?

And who else is keeping quiet about what happened to Esther?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is an atmospheric crime novel set in rural Australia, for fans of Jane Harper’s The Dry and Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor. Dirt Town is published by Macmillan later this week (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dirt Town but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE fan of Australian crime fiction. I want to read it all, and there are lots of really exciting, interesting writers making their mark on the genre at the moment. So when I saw Scrivenor’s debut was being published, I jumped at the chance to read it. And oh my goodness, what a riveting, emotional ride it was. Definitely an author to watch!

Twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi and Ronnie Thompson are best friends. They live in Durton – or Dirt Town or Dirt and Hurt to the locals – which is a bit boring but OK. One day after school Esther goes missing. The whole town turns out to look for her but they’re all aware that their neighbour, their friend could have been the one to abduct the girl. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels is tasked with finding Esther but the investigation falters at every turn. Someone in Durton knows what’s happened to Esther. Someone in the small, close-knit community knows the truth…

Gorgeously dark, evocative and utterly compelling, I thoroughly enjoyed this superb slow burn mystery with its true to life characters, bleak setting and intriguing plot. I adored the voices the author gave the younger characters. They felt so true and real to me that my heart broke for these poor kids whose friend was missing. The emotion, the naivety was all conveyed so beautifully. The other character I adored was Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels who is guilt-ridden following the end of her recent relationship. Her actions play on her mind constantly and I loved how that made the character more human. Sarah is very well-written and I do secretly hope that this is only the start for her and we get to see her feature in future books.

The plot is an intriguing slow burn of a read which I savoured every moment of. I didn’t feel the need to sprint my way through Dirt Town at all. I wanted to enjoy every word, every description of this dead end rural Australian town and savour the interactions between the characters as the mystery slowly but steadily unfurled. I wasn’t able to predict whodunit but it was a very satisfying, very surprising reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dirt Town is a very atmospheric, incredibly readable tale which I enjoyed every dark and desolate moment of. The setting is exactly the kind of setting I want in my crime fiction novels – a small town on its last legs. I loved the vivid descriptions the author uses to set the scene, putting the reader right there in the middle of things. But the characters were EVERYTHING. Multi-layered, completely believable and totally unforgettable. It’s hard to believe Dirt Town is a debut and I’m excited to see what Scrivenor delivers next. Highly recommended.

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

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor was published in the UK by Macmillan on 23rd June 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 |

Hayley ScrivenorHayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. DIRT CREEK is her first novel (published as DIRT TOWN in Europe and Australia). An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won The Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of Australia.