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


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: The Beresford by Will Carver #TheBeresford @OrendaBooks #damppebbles

“Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.

There’s a routine at The Beresford.

For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building.

Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe just killed him.

In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers.

And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door.

Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…

Eerie, dark, superbly twisted and majestically plotted, The Beresford is the stunning standalone thriller from one of crime fiction’s most exciting names.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Beresford by Will Carver. The Beresford was published by Orenda Books on 22nd July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I’ve been a fan of Will Carver’s books for a while now so when The Beresford was suggested as one of my ’12 books in 12 months’ reads, I immediately added it to the list. Huge thanks to @NickiRICHARDS7 and @the_sara_post for their recommendations. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and twisted tale!

Looking for a room on the outskirts of the city? Then look no further! The Beresford is the answer to all your problems. The deposit required to secure your room is so small it’s laughable and the monthly rent certainly won’t be a stretch. You CAN have it all. What’s that…? It sounds too good to be true? That’s because it is! Move into The Beresford and there’s a good chance you won’t be moving out again…

Dark and twisted decadence from the absolute master of all things dark and twisted. The Beresford ensnares the reader from the moment they crack the spine and what a devilishly good read it is! This is not a book for the faint hearted by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it a book to read over a long period of time as once you pick it up, you ain’t putting it down again. I flew through this book in one day unable to resist the pull it had over me. Glorious!

The characters the reader is introduced to at the start all have a great amount of depth to them and I was really warming to new resident, Blair Conroy, and her blossoming romance with long standing Beresford tenant, Abe Schwartz when the author twisted the tale in the most exquisite way and left me open mouthed (but with the biggest grin on my face). From that point I was officially smitten with this book. I cannot not mention the mysterious yet venerable Mrs May who oversees everything that happens at The Beresford. The all-knowing, all seeing eye of this eerie abode. The other characters in the book are as equally strong as those we first meet and all have a very definite part to play. I felt I really got to know many of them, even if their appearance was only brief.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of dark and twisted (and twisty!) fiction then you need to get hold of a copy of The Beresford. It’s wicked and disturbing and gloriously dark and everything I want in the books I read. Carver is a master storyteller. One who is not afraid to take his tales places other writers wouldn’t dare and I applaud that. I loved the time I spent at The Beresford. Shocking, darkly humorous and so very compelling from the get-go. I feel bereft now that it’s over. Highly recommended.

The Beresford by Will Carver was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 21st July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will CarverWill Carver is the bestselling author of the January Series – Girl 4 (2011), The Two (2012), The Killer Inside (2013), Dead Set (2013) – and the critically acclaimed Detective Pace series, which includes Good Samaritans (2018), Nothing Important Happened Today (2019) and Hinton Hollow Death Trip (2020), all of which were selected as books of the year in mainstream international press. The books in this series have also been longlisted/shortlisted for the Amazon Readers Independent Voice Award, Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award, Not The Booker Prize and the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award. Will spent his early years living in Germany, but returned at age eleven. He studied theatre and television at King Alfred’s Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition business and lives in Reading with his children.

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

“He took her voice
She took it back


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.


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


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: True Crime Story by Joseph Knox #TrueCrimeStory #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Zoe Nolan may be missing presumed dead, but her story is only just beginning”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of True Crime Story by Joseph Knox. True Crime Story was published by Penguin on 17th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read a book by Joseph Knox for a number of years now. I’ve heard only good things about his Aidan Waits novels, a gritty Manchester based thriller series which sounds just my cup of tea! But then True Crime Story hit the shelves and the book world (the book world I inhabit anyway!) went bonkers for it. So, to celebrate the opening of a brand-new shiny Waterstones near where I live, I decided to treat myself to a new book – I picked True Crime Story. Well, that was over a year ago now, but I finally managed to find a gap in my reading schedule to squeeze it in. And what a treat it was!

Zoe Nolan, new to Manchester University alongside her twin sister Kim, disappears one December evening in 2011 without a trace. Seven years later aspiring author Evelyn Mitchell decides to write a book about Zoe’s disappearance, turning to bestselling author Joseph Knox (yes, THAT Joseph Knox – the guy with his name on the cover!) for help and advice. Evelyn manages to interview most of Zoe’s friends and family, slowly piecing together the mystery surrounding Zoe’s disappearance. What she is told from those who knew Zoe best rings true. Their stories, their points of view are the same. But Evelyn can’t ignore the startling differences she also discovers. Will Evelyn, with the help of Joseph, be able to solve the mystery of Zoe’s disappearance before it’s too late…

In True Crime Story the author strives to give the reader the feeling that this is an actual true crime story. And he does. In spades. I finished reading this book several weeks ago and despite knowing this is 100% fiction, I still can’t shake the belief that it’s not in some way real. When I was a few chapters into the novel, I found myself googling Zoe Nolan, just in case someone by that name had ever gone missing. I’ve read other novels with a fictional true crime angle before but in my mind they’ve been just that, fictional. There was something about the way the author has written this story, perhaps immersing himself in the narrative in such a strong way, that totally worked for me. I know it’s not real but oh my gosh, it felt so true to life. The way the characters behave and act, their flaws and their idiosyncrasies, their relationships. I believed every single word.

The story is told using written and verbal transcripts collected by Evelyn Mitchell and sent to Joseph Knox for his thoughts, feelings and input. There are quite a few characters involved in the story – Zoe’s sister, her parents, her university friends, teaching staff and those investigating what happened in an official capacity. They all get to share their observations of Zoe (and each other!) in the lead up to the night of her disappearance. The book is presented in quite a different way that I can’t recall seeing before. There’s very little spoken dialogue as each character’s account is delivered to the reader as it was put to Evelyn. There’s no discussion, no sharing of ideas. She doesn’t ask questions or interrupt their memories. I know many readers don’t like a lot of dialogue between characters in their novels, that there can be a point where there’s too much and it detracts from the story, but I think I need that interaction. So much so that I did on occasion find myself drifting away from the story a little.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you enjoy well-written mysteries and you’re looking for something very different to the norm then True Crime Story is a must read. It’s a highly original, intelligent story delivered in such a way that it’s hard to forget. I would LOVE to listen to the audiobook version as I think that could be a slightly different experience, in a strange, inexplicable way. The author has done a masterful job in making his plot, his characters and the Manchester of the book totally believable, which I take my hat off to. I can only imagine the amount of work which went into plotting and planning Zoe’s story. What I do know for sure is that I am excited to read more by Knox and my copy of ‘Sirens’ will be moving to the top of the terrifying TBR as soon as possible. Recommended.

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 17th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Joseph Knox

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke-On-Trent and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively.

Sirens, his debut novel, was a Sunday Times bestseller, and his work has now been translated into 18 languages.

The Sleepwalker, his third novel, was released in July, 2019.

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


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 Island by C.L. Taylor @HQstories #TheIsland #damppebbles

Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Island by C.L. Taylor. The Island was published by HQ Young Adult on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I had a bit of a break in my planned reading so I turned to my own groaning bookshelves for inspiration. It’s true, there are a LOT of books all vying for attention on my shelves but The Island by C.L. Taylor easily won out. I’m really enjoying YA fiction at the moment (in the form of thrillers, mysteries and horror) and I’ve read a number of this author’s adult books so I was very keen to get stuck into The Island, the author’s second YA thriller.

Six teens are heading out on the holiday of a lifetime to Thailand. Their parents, who met at an antenatal class seventeen years ago and have always stayed in touch, get together once a year for a holiday. This year they’re upping the ante thanks to Jefferson’s dad who is hiring an isolated island and guide to celebrate his son’s 17th birthday. Whilst the parents relax in the lap of luxury, their kids will be skinning rabbits and building shelters. But once they arrive on the island things start to go wrong. Their guide dies suddenly and the boat is rendered useless when they discover the starter cord has been cut. And then their worst nightmares really start coming true. Long held phobias start manifesting themselves. Someone on the island knows what terrifies the teens the most and they’re going to do everything they can to make their lives a living hell…

The Island is a very engaging, very readable novel which I enjoyed. The story is told from two points of view – Jessie’s and Danny’s. I really liked Jessie from the moment I met her. Recent events hang heavy over her head and she’s clearly still grieving following the horrific death of her older brother. Since her last holiday with the group she’s changed and feels more on the periphery. She refuses to discuss what happened to her sibling and the others don’t ask or offer support so a lot is left to bubble beneath the surface. She’s unpredictable and perhaps a little reckless at times, changed by events but more than anything, she needs someone to talk to. Jessie’s character is very well written as I felt her pain and her angst. The other characters in the book – Jefferson, Milo, Meg, Honor (and of course, Danny who I’ve already mentioned) – are interesting and well-drawn. They play their parts well and help move the story along.

The plot is fast paced and gripping, with something always happening to hold the reader’s attention. I enjoyed the isolation the author creates and the way tension builds throughout the story. I did feel the numerous mentions of help only being one week away (when their parents realise their children haven’t returned to the hotel) did dampen the tension a little bit, but only a smidge. After all, there’s still the risk that not all six teens will make it out alive (no spoilers here). I’m afraid I was able to guess whodunit fairly early on and each new clue only cemented my suspicions further. However, I will say I am NOT the target audience for this book, I DO read a lot of thrillers AND I’m always on the lookout for whodunit, no matter what book I’m reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a well-written, engaging YA thriller then The Island is it. The author is skilled at writing interesting, complex characters which this book once again proves. I didn’t like all of them. At times one in particular made my blood boil, but they were my camp mates for the two days it took me to read The Island and I did (mostly) enjoy spending time with them. Well-paced, well written and a book I’m keen for my kids to read when they’re old enough to. A gripping and emotional YA thriller which I recommend.

The Island by C.L. Taylor was published in the UK by HQ Young Adult on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

C.L. TaylorC.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of nine gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019. Her books are not a series and can be read in any order:

2014 – THE ACCIDENT / Before I Wake (U.S.)
2015 – THE LIE
2018 – THE FEAR
2019 – SLEEP

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT and THE ISLAND.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

#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.

#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…


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