#BookReview: The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker @HutchinsonBooks @najmafinlay #TheFirstDayofSpring #damppebbles

‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’

Chrissie knows how to steal sweets from the shop without getting caught, the best hiding place for hide-and-seek, the perfect wall for handstands.

Now she has a new secret. It gives her a fizzing, sherbet feeling in her belly. She doesn’t get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.

Fifteen years later, Julia is trying to mother her five-year-old daughter, Molly. She is always worried – about affording food and school shoes, about what the other mothers think of her. Most of all she worries that the social services are about to take Molly away.

That’s when the phone calls begin, which Julia is too afraid to answer, because it’s clear the caller knows the truth about what happened all those years ago.

And it’s time to face the truth: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker. The First Day of Spring is published by Hutchinson today (that’s Thursday 24th June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The First Day of Spring which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Najma at Hutchinson for sending me an early copy of the book.

Oh. My. Gosh! The First Day of Spring is completely mesmerising and utterly devastating. I was smitten early on and I couldn’t bear to be parted from the book until I closed the last page. This is an exquisite fiction debut from an author to watch. A beautifully written tale featuring unforgettable characters but with a darkness at its heart. I flipping loved it!

Chrissie is eight years old. Chrissie has a big secret – she killed a boy. But she can’t tell anyone what she did. Otherwise she won’t be able to do it again and have the fizzy feeling it gave her in her tummy. Fifteen years later, Julia is doing the best she can for her five year old daughter, Molly. She worries constantly that she’s not doing enough. Every scratch, every bump could result in social services taking Molly away. So the last thing Julia needs is for Molly to break her arm and end up in hospital under the watchful eye of a doctor. Shortly after Molly’s accident the phone calls start. Someone knows the truth. Someone knows what happened fifteen years ago. It’s finally time for Julia to face her past…

The First Day of Spring is a stunning piece of fiction which is heightened to a new level thanks to the voice of eight- year-old Chrissie. The author has managed to create an unforgettable character who, despite being a killer, worked her way into my heart. The neglect Chrissie suffers thanks to her distant and damaged mother, Eleanor, is devastating. The simple things a child needs to grow and flourish are not provided. Chrissie is unloved and unwanted, and boy, does she know it. Eleanor makes this plainly clear to everyone, including her own long-suffering daughter. One scene in particular, where Eleanor decides she’s had enough, is absolutely heart-breaking. Everyone in the small community could do more to help the child. Her clothes are tatty, she never wants to go home and she eats her friend’s parents out of house and home. But is the abuse and neglect suffered by Chrissie reason enough to kill? Can a child be held 100% accountable for their actions when they don’t fully understand what they’ve done?

Julia is desperate to make sure Molly experiences a very different childhood to her own. The desire to be different, to make a change, to break the cycle and provide everything her daughter needs motivates her to keep going. But she also sees Molly as punishment for the past. She’s reminded constantly of what she did. I so desperately wanted things to work out for Julia and Molly. With social services peering over their shoulders and the threat of losing Molly ever present, I was captivated by their journey from the moment I met them.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely, yes. I devoured The First Day of Spring. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the characters. It’s a dark and unsettling read which I don’t think will be a good fit for everyone due to the difficult subject matter but this reader absolutely loved it. Chrissie broke my heart time and time again. The author’s writing is immersive and totally believable which made Chrissie, Julia and Molly come to life before my very eyes. I don’t think I’ll be able or willing to forget The First Day of Spring. Haunting, compelling and utterly devastating. Highly recommended.

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

The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker was published in the UK by Hutchinson on 24th June 2021 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 |

Nancy Tucker was born and raised in West London. She spent most of her adolescence in and out of hospital suffering from anorexia nervosa. On leaving school, she wrote her first book, THE TIME IN BETWEEN (Icon, 2015) which explored her experience of eating disorders and recovery. Her second book, THAT WAS WHEN PEOPLE STARTED TO WORRY (Icon, 2018), looked more broadly at mental illness in young women.

Nancy recently graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Experimental Psychology. Since then she has worked in an inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents and in adult mental health services. She now works as an assistant psychologist in an adult eating disorders service. The First Day of Spring is her first work of fiction.

#BookReview: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere #HostageBook #damppebbles

“You can save hundreds of lives.
Or the one that matters most . . .

The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.

Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home – or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.

But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They’re demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.

It’s twenty hours to landing.
A lot can happen in twenty hours . . “

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. Hostage is published by Sphere today (that’s Tuesday 22nd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Hostage but that has in no way influenced my review.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of books with a disaster theme to them. I LOVE them. The complete lack of control the characters have. The gut wrenching knowledge of the situation they’re in. And in the case of Hostage, the intense claustrophobia pressing down on the characters heightening every situation, every twist and turn. There was no way on this earth I was going to be able to resist Hostage, and I loved every second I spent with this immersive thriller.

Mina Holbrook is part of the cabin crew for the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney since 1989. It’s a momentous occasion and one she had to fight for, if only to avoid an uncomfortable lead up to Christmas with her estranged husband, playing happy families. Flight 79 will be remembered forever…but not for the reasons everyone is expecting. A couple of hours into the twenty hour flight, Mina receives a note which changes everything. She must help a hijacker access the flight deck. It goes against everything she believes in, everything she trained for. But the hijacker knows exactly how to get Mina’s co-operation. She has a choice to make; save many lives or just the one…

What a page-turner! I was completely engrossed in Hostage from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride (although I won’t be getting on a plane anytime soon!). It’s a gripping, heart-stopping thriller and I devoured it quicker than anything else I’ve read recently. I struggled with how I felt about Mina. Ultimately she’s put in a very difficult position and makes a choice that I could completely understand. Was it the right decision? Who knows! But I disliked her for it despite it being the decision many of us would also make. Thank goodness this is fiction and not real life. However, after that first event, I started to warm to her again and I think that’s a mark of the author’s excellent writing.  She’s a villain, yes, but she’s not the biggest one by far!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book when I wasn’t reading it. The pull it had over me was great and I was desperate to find out what terrible event was going to happen next. The reader gets a few short insights into the other passengers lives before the flight and this really helped build their characters for me. There are shocks and surprises galore but I had my suspicions about one aspect of the book which proved to be correct. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story at all though. If anything, it added an extra thrill to the big reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Hostage is a gripping thrill-ride of a read which I devoured with glee. There were certain points in the book where I had to suspend my disbelief a little but again, it’s a cracking story so does it really matter. I was entertained. I will admit to shedding a tear at one point but I can’t tell you where or why. You’ll just have to read this cracking novel for yourself! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it won’t be my last. An edge of your seat thriller which I highly recommend.

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

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 22nd June 2021 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 |

With more than two million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club. Clare’s latest novel, After the End, was published in June 2019 and spent seven weeks in the Sunday Times hardback bestseller chart.

Clare’s latest thriller, Hostage, will be published in June 2021.

Together, Clare’s books have been published in more than forty countries. Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#BookReview: Passenger List by J.S. Dryden @TrapezeBooks #PassengerList #damppebbles

“A missing plane.
A cabin full of suspects.
One woman’s quest for the truth.

When Atlantic Airlines Flight 702 disappears mid-flight between London and New York, the world is stunned. With the public clamouring for answers, authorities seem at a loss as to how to explain the plane’s disappearance.

There were 256 passengers on Flight 702, with many carrying dark secrets on board with them. Could one of them hold the truth behind the plane’s disappearance?

College student Kaitlin Le’s beloved twin brother Conor was on that plane. She refuses to believe the official statements, or to join her parents in their blind acceptance of Conor’s death.

But as she journeys deeper into the murky heart of what really happened on board that plane, it becomes clear she’s drawing attention to herself. And there are some people who would rather the truth behind the fate of Flight 702 stayed buried…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Passenger List by J.S. Dryden. Passenger List will be published by Trapeze Books next week (that’s Thursday 24th June 2021) and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Passenger List but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of disaster based thrillers and mysteries, particularly those featuring a hijacked or missing plane. So when I saw this book, it absolutely screamed my name. This is the third plane-based thriller I have read this month (but only the second I’ve reviewed so far on the blog) but it’s slightly different in its approach to the first two, both of which involved a hijacking. Passenger List is more of a fast-paced mystery. I was swept up into Kaitlin Le’s story and oh boy, it was one heck of a ride!

Kaitlin Le refuses to acknowledge the presumed death of her twin brother, Conor. Conor was a passenger on Atlantic Airlines Flight 702 which disappeared during a scheduled flight from London to New York. She’s his twin, surely she would know if he had perished. But with the authorities sticking to one story, Kaitlin has a battle on her hands. Turning her back on her education and her place at Vassar, partly funded by her roommate, Amelia, Kaitlin heads to New York to dig deeper into what happened to flight 702 and ultimately, to find Conor. No matter what it takes…

Kaitlin Le is one tenacious and persistent woman! Where others would have walked away for fear of their life, Kaitlin refuses to give up. I loved her drive. It made for an exciting and thrilling read. She’s pretty reckless at times and gets herself into some terrifying scrapes but she keeps going. Ably assisted by a small group of fascinating characters (an investigative journalist, an ex-FBI agent, an ambulance-chasing lawyer) all of whom help move the story along and add something interesting to the tale.

On analysing the passenger list and digging a little deeper, Kaitlin is able to come up with several possible reasons as to why the flight changed course and vanished. I liked the variety this gave the story. Leads had to be investigated, the truth uncovered (as much as possible) before Kaitlin could decide whether it was worth taking her idea forward. There were a couple of points in the book where I felt things got a little far-fetched but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story at all.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. After reading several plane-based thrillers of late Passenger List‘s different approach made a thoroughly enjoyable change. I found the book easy to read and hard to put down, so much so that I sped through it in a little over 24 hours. A gripping, thrilling read which I heartily recommend to fans of plot-driven mysteries. Just don’t blame me if you never step foot on a plane again! Recommended. (And if you’re a fan of podcasts I believe there’s an accompanying series which you can listen to via the author’s website or your favourite podcast outlet.)

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Passenger List. The above review is my ow unbiased opinion.

Passenger List by J.S. Dryden was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 24th June 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 |

Thumanbay_by The Masons-57.jpegJohn Dryden is a writer, director and executive producer. He created the fiction podcast PASSENGER LIST, a mystery thriller about a plane that disappears mid-flight between London and New York, and the historical fantasy series TUMANBAY which has run for four series. He has written and directed many audio drama series for the BBC including the thrillers SEVERED THREADS, A KIDNAPPING, PANDEMIC and THE RELUCTANT SPY. He has also dramatised and directed for BBC Radio 4 a Sony Award winning dramatization of Charles Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE, Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE and Vikram Seth’s A SUITABLE BOY.

#BookReview: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford #AllThesePerfectStrangers #damppebbles

“You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you. You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty….

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

For Penelope Sheppard, university offers an escape from her troubled past. Running from a life weighed down with scandal and tragedy, Pen sees this as the ideal place to reinvent herself among perfect strangers. Life in her new halls of residence feels like a wonderland of sex, drugs, and maybe even love. But all too soon Pen realises you never can run far or fast enough. And when Pen’s secrets are revealed, the consequences are deadly….

Little by little, through Pen’s flawed narration and tantalising diary entries, secrets, truths and lies come to light, and a dangerous dilemma unfolds, twisting and turning until the very last page.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford. All These Perfect Strangers was published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, audio and digital formats on 25th August 2016.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time and you have a very VERY good memory you may remember my husband’s brilliant Christmas gift to me several years ago. All These Perfect Strangers was one of the books Ryan chose and I’ve been keen to make a start on it.

Penelope Sheppard has secured a bursary at Scullin College against the odds. Several years earlier she was present when a police officer was shot and killed. The small town she lives in hates her and has never forgiven the crime, particularly the family of the accused – Pen’s best friend Tracey. But Scullin is a fresh start with new people. Pen can blend in and only reveal what she chooses to her new friends. But the past has a habit of catching up with you and before long, someone else is aware of what happened to Pen all those years ago…

I never used to be a fan of the unreliable narrator but that’s changed over the years and oh my gosh, All These Perfect Strangers does it so well. From the start, you can’t be sure what Pen is telling you is true or a twisted version of the truth. Parts of the story are told via diary entries which Pen is instructed to keep by her psychiatrist, Frank. But Pen wants to keep the truth close to her chest so ‘edits’ events accordingly in their reading. Due to the structure of the book I was never sure if I was reading fact or Pen’s fiction which really helped add to the suspense.

All These Perfect Strangers is a tale of secrets and lies, of guilt and blame. It’s structure was a little confusing at times as there are three distinct periods of time covered by the author and I found myself unsure which time period I was in . As I began each chapter, I was on the lookout for a character or a location to confirm where in Pen’s history I was, which I found a little distracting. The flashbacks to the shooting and preceding events are clear but the other two time slots; Pen at university and Pen at home following the events at Scullin, weren’t as obvious.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. All These Perfect Strangers is a compelling book which I really enjoyed. A twisty tale chock full of secrets, lies and deceit and a very well-written unreliable narrator. The more I got to know Pen, the more I liked her. By the end of the book, I was 100% on her side. I loved the Australian setting, I really enjoyed that the book was set in the late 80s. All in all, a great debut which I recommend.

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 25th August 2016 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 |

Aoife Clifford is the author of the novel All These Perfect Strangers, published in Australia and the United Kingdom by Simon & Schuster and by Penguin Random House in the United States.

Born in London of Irish parents, she grew up in New South Wales, studied Arts/Law at the Australian National University, Canberra and now lives in Melbourne.

Aoife has won two premier short story prizes for crime fiction in Australia – the Scarlet Stiletto (2007) and the S.D. Harvey Ned Kelly Award in 2012, among other prizes. She has also been short listed for the UK Crime Association’s Debut Dagger. In 2014 she was awarded an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her novel, All These Perfect Strangers.

#BookReview: Falling by T.J. Newman @simonschusterUK #Falling #damppebbles

“You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Falling by T.J. Newman. Falling is published by Simon & Schuster today (that’s Thursday 10th June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Falling but that has in no way influenced my review.

Woah! I mean, WOAH! What a book! I’ve discovered in recent years that I’m a huge fan of novels which feature a disaster at their heart. I have a particular love of plane-based hostage situations. Stranded at 30,000 feet, there’s no escape and someone else is pulling the very delicate strings. One wrong move and….BOOM! So much so, Falling is the first of three flight-based thrillers I’m featuring on damppebbles this month. And it’s by far the best. I didn’t want to be separated from this book for a single second.

Captain Bill Hoffman boards flight CA416 to New York with a heavy heart. He knows he’s in trouble with his wife, when he left the house things were strained between them but for Bill, it’s impossible to say no to the Chief Pilot. Missing his son’s Little League opener is something he’ll have to come to terms with. Despite the tension at home, it’s another normal day for Bill. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until he receives a devastating message. His family have been taken hostage. In order for them to live, Bill must crash the plane killing everyone on board. Bill has an impossible decision to make and the clock is ticking…

Falling is a superb debut. Tense, scarily real and absolutely relentless. The book starts with a bang. The author throws the reader straight into the deep end. You have no idea what came before but you have a fair idea of what’s coming next. By far, the best opener to a book I’ve read in a long, long time. Although the action does grind down a gear or two after our initial introduction to Bill, the tension remains ever present. As the situation the crew are in becomes clear, as the pressure mounts, the book builds to a heart-stopping climax. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I was living and breathing this book alongside the characters. Totally believable, completely engrossing and the ultimate thrill-ride.

As an ex-flight attendant the author has used her extensive knowledge (and a little artistic flair!) to create a pulse-pounding reading experience which I loved. I felt fully invested in the characters. Strong, capable Bill who everyone believes will do the right thing (whatever that is!), the fearless cabin crew who not only have a flight full of anxious, scared passengers to deal with but also the promise of the hijackers ‘back-up plan’. And not forgetting Bill’s family, his wife, Carrie, who has a suicide vest strapped to her but still manages to remain outwardly calm and in control for the sake of her two children – 10 year old Scott and baby, Elise. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and I loved every heart in my mouth second.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. If you’re looking for a thrilling, high concept, intense and all-consuming read then make sure you get yourself a copy of Falling. It’s true, I won’t be stepping foot on a plane anytime soon but don’t let that stop you 😂! Highly, highly entertaining. I was completely captivated from that blisteringly good start to the heart-stopping, ‘read behind your hands’ end. A definite contender for my ‘books of the year’ list without a doubt. Shedloads of suspense, a fast and pacey plot and a cast of characters I felt fully invested in. Sublime! Highly recommended.

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

Falling by T.J. Newman was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 10th June 2021 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 |

T.J. NewmanT. J. Newman, a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. FALLING is her first novel.

#BookReview: Dead Ground by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #DeadGround #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

“Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Dead Ground by M.W. Craven. Dead Ground is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series, it’s published today (that’s Thursday 3rd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dead Ground but that has in no way influenced my review.

Flipping heck, another absolutely stonking book from the pen of M.W. Craven. He can do no wrong in my eyes! Dead Ground is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series (although we all know the series is unofficially called ‘Tilly and Poe’, right?) and it’s an intense and gripping page turner of a read. I devoured it’s 448 pages in a little over 24 hours because it was impossible to put down. If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t picked this series up yet, then you need to correct that ASAP!

In the middle of fighting for his beloved shepherd’s croft, moments before the magistrate delivers his final decision, two mysterious men enter the court room and summon Tilly and Poe to their vehicle. Poe is reluctant to leave but powers far superior to those he normally answers to have made the call. It doesn’t take Poe long to work out who the men are and where they are taking them. But the ‘why’ remains unclear. Until they’re shown grisly crime scene photos of a man beaten to death inside a brothel. As Tilly and Poe begin to scratch the surface, nothing seems to make sense. Who was the victim and why are MI5 so interested in him? As they dig deeper, it’s clear the pair are uncovering something with far reaching and dangerous implications…

Dead Ground was an absolute joy to read! It’s twisty and thrilling and all the things I want in my crime fiction. I adore both Tilly and Poe. The dynamic between the two characters is just perfect. Craven has created two very different people who bring out the best in each other, and spending time with them is like being reunited with old friends. I loved the banter, the sense of friendship and loyalty, and how the author evokes such strong feelings of fondness for them in his readers. By far the best crime fighting duo out there (and I will fight you if you disagree 😂).

Tilly and Poe are once again in deep. Nothing is ever simple, nor easy for these two. But if you’ve got a complicated case which needs solving, I can’t think of two people I’d rather have working it!  The author has written an exciting and intense story with several seemingly unconnected threads which had me on the edge of my seat. The investigation is on an epic scale and I couldn’t help but wonder how the author was going to tie everything together at the conclusion of the book. But oh boy, does it all come together. And when you think it’s all solved, there might just be another fantastic, unexpected twist to add to the mix!

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. The entire series is magnificent and I heartily recommend you get your mitts on all four books. Dead Ground is a compulsive and irresistible addition to an outstanding series. I fall a little more in love with these characters with each book so I’m counting down the days until book five is released next year (fingers crossed!). Poe stands head and shoulders above his counterparts in the same genre, and with the help of the incredible Tilly, they are a force to be reckoned with. A must read for all crime fiction fans, do whatever it takes (within legal boundaries and reason, of course!) to get hold of a copy. I promise, you’ll be hooked before you know it! Highly recommended.

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

Dead Ground by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 3rd June 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in November (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 |

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

#BookReview: Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez #CampSlaughter #damppebbles

“It’s a local legend.

No one is sure if this “Camp Slaughter” place is real or not.

But a group of college kids renting out a cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania will soon realize the truth.

They’ll realize the danger, too.

Or rather, the cannibal out in the woods will bring the danger to them…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez. Camp Slaughter was published on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital format. It’s also available as a Kindle Unlimited download.

Camp Slaughter is so much fun. I raced through this book desperate to find out if any of the characters would make it to the end. I love sleep so it’s not often I stay up late reading (shock!) but Camp Slaughter has the ‘one more chapter’ pull which I know you, dear reader, will be familiar with. I couldn’t put it down, I just had to read one more chapter, again and again, until it was WAY past my bedtime!

Fred and his best friend, Gavin, are planning a last hurrah before they officially become adults. Gavin has organised a remote cabin in the Pennsylvanian woods for the weekend so they contact a group of friends (their local drug dealer, the girls the boys are interested in, and, unfortunately, Gavin’s fourteen year old brother, Wayne) and hit the road. Fred has a few concerns as he happened across a news article about a couple going missing from the same spot but the allure of Noelle and the opportunity to make things ‘official’ between them, along with the promise of a booze and drug-filled weekend, pushes any concerns to the back of his mind. But the group have every right to be worried. They’re not alone in the woods. There’s something else out there and it wants to join the party…

If you’re a fan of 80s slasher movies then this book is a must read. I tend to prefer slasher novels to other horror sub-genres and this is one of the best I’ve read. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end. We’re introduced to married couple, Nadine and Stephen Lang, who have booked Lakewood Cabin to get Stephen away from work for a much needed break and to spice up their dwindling marriage. On their first night they hear a strange noise which marks the start of this fast-paced and gloriously gory thrill-ride of a story. The story then fast forwards one year to our main protagonists planning their last minute getaway. All the while knowing things aren’t going to go quite to plan.

The pace doesn’t let up from start to finish, which is why I struggled to put this one down. I had to keep reading. I had to find out what was going to happen next and to whom. The setting is haunting and atmospheric allowing me to picture the deserted campsite and feel the fear the characters were experiencing. I felt oddly sympathetic at times which was peculiar, to say the least, as the characters igniting these feelings deserved no sympathy whatsoever! *shudder*

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Camp Slaughter is one of the best slasher novels I’ve read and I savoured every minute of it. The author has done a terrific job of keeping his reader on their toes by doing things you wouldn’t expect throughout the story. There are touches of the paranormal, a well-defined backstory of another of the main characters and multiple ways of killing the characters which all added up to a very well-written, very enjoyable tale of blood, guts and gore. It’s a little cheesy, yes, but that just made me love it even more! I did find the ending a little disappointing as I like a nice big ‘THE END’ which you don’t get in this book (second time that’s happened recently) but I look forward to reading more from Gomez very soon. Recommended to those with a strong stomach.

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez was published in the UK on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback 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 | amazon.com | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sergio GomezBorn in Mexico. Raised in the ‘States. I live in Philadelphia with my family, which includes 3 cats. I enjoy writing novels that evoke thrills, fears, and any strong emotions out of my readers. I’m an avid reader, a martial artist, and a Nintendo fanboy.

#BookReview: The Invitation by A.M. Castle #TheInvitation #damppebbles

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Perfect for fans of Lucy Foley’s The Guest List and Agatha Christie.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Invitation by A.M. Castle. The Invitation is published today (that’s Thursday 27th May 2021) by HQ Digital in paperback format. I couldn’t resist this book when it popped up on my social media feed so I treated myself and purchased a copy straight away!

It’s the wedding of the century! Socialite and all-round media star, Rachel Cadogan, has married her beau, the young at heart Lord of the Manor, Ross Tregowan. To celebrate their nuptials and introduce Ross to Rachel’s oldest friends, the new Lady of the Manor invites Gita, Jane and Vicky (plus their children and spouses) to a lavish, no expense spared weekend at her brand new abode, Tregowan castle. The castle, situated on the Cornish coast and only accessible by a causeway twice a day, is the perfect opportunity for the friends to reconnect and unwind. But on arrival, tensions are high. Rachel seems to be going out of her way to cause upset and reveal long held secrets with no consideration of anyone else’s feelings. On the night of Rachel’s Halloween party, the lights go out suddenly. What greets the group when power is restored is both gruesome and shocking. One of the party has been murdered. Which can mean only one thing. Someone on the island is a murderer, and the fun has only just begun…

The Invitation is a very entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable book. I really enjoyed the set-up in the first half of the story. With Rachel’s well aimed little jabs here and there adding an unpredictability to proceedings. Watching as Rachel toyed with her guests. And toy she did! Only for her friends to roll their eyes on occasion and mutter ‘oh Rachel’ under their breath. It was eye-opening how far she was able to push them, all because of money and a dash of celebrity status. Out of the characters, Rachel was probably my favourite. Of course, with someone openly speaking long-hidden truths, it’s not long before the tension mounts and anger builds for the characters.  They discover secrets about friends they’ve known for years, people they trusted have deceived them. Which puts everyone in line to be the murderer. Who can they trust?

The isolation and seclusion the setting gives the book really ramps up the tension. The characters watch as the waves reach new breath-taking heights, whilst keeping a suspicious eye on those around them. I had a fair idea of whodunit but the author was able to make me doubt my choice throughout the second half of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a tense, closed room murder mystery with a great setting then The Invitation is the perfect fit. I loved the atmosphere the author portrays, the simmering undercurrent between the friends and the sense that nothing is quite as it first appears. A.M. Castle is a new author to me but I would gladly read more. Recommended.

The Invitation by A.M. Castle was published in the UK by HQ Digital on 27th May 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 |

A.M. CastleA. M. Castle’s latest twisty thriller, The Invitation, is already being compared to Agatha Christie and Lucy Foley: ‘Very cleverly written… genuinely jaw-dropping twists.’ ‘I loved it and look forward to A.M. Castle’s next work. This deserves to be on the bestseller list this year.’ ‘Very Agatha Christie.’ ‘One for fans of Lucy Foley.’

#BookReview: Hermit by S.R. White #Hermit #damppebbles

“HE DISAPPEARED FOR 15 YEARS…UNTIL THE DAY OF THE MURDER.

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper’s THE DRY and Chris Hammer’s SCRUBLANDS.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hermit by S.R. White. Hermit was published by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in all formats.

I couldn’t resist this book. I’m a sucker for Australian crime fiction and Hermit seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. This is S.R. White’s debut with the follow-up – Prisoner – being released later in 2021 (and I can’t wait to read it!).

Detective Dana Russo is called on her day off to the scene of a murder. They have a suspect in custody but something just doesn’t feel right. Dana is tasked with interrogating the suspect, Nathan Whittler, discovering if he’s guilty and securing a confession. But despite the police department’s best efforts, they can find no up-to-date record of Nathan. It’s almost like he hasn’t existed for the last 15 years. Who killed the shopkeeper? Where has Nathan been for 15 years? And most importantly of all, what is he hiding….?

I enjoyed this book but the first thing I feel compelled to say about it is that I did have a couple of teeny tiny issues with it. However, the compelling character-driven plot and the intriguing way the author sets out his story completely won me over. I won’t go into any real detail as to what those niggles were, as I think that will spoil the book for new readers, but I will say I have a pet peeve when it comes to crime fiction and unfortunately the author based some of this story around that pet peeve. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last but safe to say, it’s something I find quite frustrating and therefore felt the need to mention it.

Hermit is a very intriguing character driven mystery which I enjoyed. Detective Dana Russo is a woman with a dark past. The author does a terrific job of teasing his readers with glimpses into Dana’s mind and showing us her internal fragility throughout the story. Towards the end of the book you do discover a little more about Dana’s past but I don’t think we know the whole story yet. I think there’s more to come, and I am keen to learn what it is.

When Bill Meeks, Dana’s boss, calls her into work on a day off – a day she takes as paid leave every year – Dana is thrown. But it might just have saved her life. Pitting her against silent Nathan is a work of genius as the two seem to have some sort of odd connection. To get Nathan to talk, Dana has to share some of her personal thoughts and experiences, whilst remaining professional and distant at all times. A large proportion of this novel is the police interview between Dana and Nathan which won’t be to everyone’s taste but I found it fascinating and was keen to read on. It’s a gradual, intricate unravelling of a life and I was completely absorbed.

The other members of the small team all add to the story. I particularly liked feisty administrator, Lucy. Her quick witted banter with colleague, Mike, added a lighter note to proceedings, which I enjoyed. I’m keen to read more about these characters, I think the author has created something quite special and I already feel invested. Perhaps a strange thing to say after one book but true, nonetheless.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Despite a couple of tiny niggles, I found Hermit to be a compulsive read. It’s a slow-burn mystery perfect for fans of character driven novels. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s ‘something’ about these characters and I want to know more. A well-written and bravely different mystery which I really enjoyed. Recommended.

Hermit by S.R. White was published in the UK by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. He now lives in Queensland, Australia.

#BookReview: Sleep by C.L. Taylor @AvonBooksUK #Sleep #damppebbles

“All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

The million-copy bestseller is back in her darkest, twistiest book to date. Read it if you dare! Perfect for fans of Lesley Kara’s The Rumour and Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley Thrillers.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Sleep by C.L. Taylor. Sleep was published by Avon Books on 24th September 2019 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC copy of Sleep but that has in no way influenced my review.

Anna’s world is shattered when on the way home from a team building exercise, the car she’s driving is involved in a major collision. Two of her colleagues die. One is paralysed. Anna walks away with a few cuts and bruises and a whole lot of guilt. Her relationship with her boyfriend was flagging anyway but the trauma, regret and guilt she suffers pushes them over the edge. Newly single and with nowhere to live, Anna makes the decision to change her life completely – moving to the small Scottish island of Rum and starting work in a hotel. But the latest cohort of guests have their own secrets. Trapped by a storm, the hotel is cut-off. And there’s a killer in their midst…

I really felt for Anna who, despite not being responsible for the accident, was living with so much sadness, grief and guilt. The reader watches as it eats away at her, impinging on her life and in particular her sleep. When she starts to feel as though she’s being watched, her boyfriend puts it down to exhaustion and the effects of the accident. I could feel the condescending ‘pat on the head’, the ‘there, there…’ at his empty, meaningless words. The author sets up her introduction to Anna and her life very well. I felt as though, by the time she gets to Rum and starts her new life, that I had the measure of the character. Which meant that when the pace really picked up and the threat is closing in, you couldn’t help but feel invested.

When a catastrophic event happens, it really ramps the tension up. I tried to guess who was responsible but I couldn’t. The author is very adept at throwing lots of red herrings into the story so you end up questioning everything and everyone. On the rare occasion when the characters did venture out of the hotel, the blustery winds and hammering rain were easy to picture thanks to the author’s great descriptions. It’s a very atmospheric read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Sleep is a very compelling psychological suspense novel which had me turning the pages faster than most other books I’ve read recently. I liked that the person ‘whodunit’ wasn’t obvious. I thought their reasons behind their actions were utterly chilling. Anna was a terrific protagonist who I was behind all the way. I thought the other characters in the book were all fully formed characters and had their part to play in the story. This is my second book by this author and I would happily read more in the future. Recommended.

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

Sleep by C.L Taylor was published in the UK by Avon Books on 24th September 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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 started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. HEAVEN CAN WAIT was a bestseller in Hungary and China and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.