#BookReview: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #InTheAbsenceofMiracles #damppebbles

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“John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of one of the most powerful and emotive books I have read – In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. Back in 2016, my book of the year was Malone’s first Orenda release, the simply sublime A Suitable Lie. It blew my mind on so many levels and still, to this day, I recommend it to everyone. If you’re a fan of domestic noir novels then you need to add Malone to your list of must-read authors. I received a free eARC of In the Absence of Miracles but that has in no way influenced my review.

I didn’t think it would be possible for someone (anyone!) to write a book which affected me the way A Suitable Lie did. That was until I read In the Absence of Miracles. Malone puts his heart and soul into his writing and you, as the reader, get to experience every heart-stopping emotion and every breath-taking twist and turn. I love that Malone isn’t scared to tackle the more difficult and unsettling subject matters, the things we as a society tend to turn and shy away from. In the Absence of Miracles is another brave, unflinching, unapologetic look at the secrets a family hides within its heart, and it left me broken.

I liked John Docherty. He doesn’t make it easy at times and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a likeable character but this is his story. His discovery, his unravelling, his trauma. I liked how Malone has written John as a pretty typical bloke (if there is such a thing!). It was interesting to watch how John dealt with situations early on in the book, giving us the measure of the character, before plunging him into an unimaginable, heart-breaking situation as the reality hits home. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I cried for John Docherty.

The author does an incredible job of misleading his reader. You think you know where the story is going, only for Malone to step in and completely change everything you thought you knew. I had an inkling about where the plot was headed but I was by no means convinced. When the book took me to that dark and scary place, I was devastated for the characters. I was living that moment, that sudden realisation as the horror hits home. No one writes like Malone does. No one can conjure these emotions in this hardened reader like he does.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Malone has done it again and written a book which will stay with me for a long, long time to come. I’ve not found another writer who can produce stories with the pure power and emotion to rival Malone. Unforgettable and haunting. Dark and utterly immersive. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In the Absence of Miracles. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: East Side Hustler by Leopold Borstinski (@borstinski) #EastSideHustler #AlexCohenSeries #damppebbles

Image“Alex lived through the war, but will he survive the peace?

Jewish gang member, Alex comes back from the Great War almost destroyed by the horrors he has seen. When he is plucked from certain death by an old friend, he commits to making so much money he’ll never know that agony again.

But the route to the top is fraught with danger and every time he helps one of his powerful friends like Al Capone, he acquires more enemies who want to see him dead. When organised crime financier, Arnold Rothstein dies, the turmoil caused by his loss sets in train a chain of events which means Alex must once more fight for his life. How far would you go to attain your American dream?

The second book in the Alex Cohen series is a violent historical novel, which tears through the Prohibition years of the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s gripping crime noir pierces the heart of every reader like a bullet from Alex’s sniper rifle.”

Hello and welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of East Side Hustler as part of the blog tour today. East Side Hustler is the second book in the Alex Cohen Series written by Leopold Borstinski. I read and reviewed the first book, The Bowery Slugger, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was really looking forward to this one. I received a free eARC of East Side Hustler but that has in no way influenced my review.

We were last with Alex Cohen as he leapt onto a train destined for the trenches of the Great War. East Side Hustler begins in 1919 with Alex’s return to New York but he’s a shadow of the man he was. Traumatised by the sights and smells of war, he finds himself desolate and alone. Having once run the streets which he now sleeps on, it’s a dramatic fall from grace for the man they used to refer to as ‘Slugger’. His family believe him to be dead. He has no one. That is until a familiar face finds him and offers shelter. A warm bed, food on the table and the warm embrace of Sarah, a friend and lover from the past. Alex’s strength builds, he discovers his reputation is unblemished and his determination to live the American dream reignites. And Alex will do that anyway he can, no matter who stands in his way…

East Side Hustler spans the years from 1919 to 1929 and Alex’s return to the mean streets of New York. It’s difficult to not like Alex. He’s ruthless, menacing and a pretty terrible human being but there’s also something about him that appeals to the reader. In The Bowery Slugger Alex was a teenager on the up. You couldn’t help but admire his gumption and his desire to make something of himself. He’s older now and affected by war, but the character readers fell in love with is still very much present.

So much happens in East Side Hustler that it’s hard to summarise the book for this review. After all, East Side Hustler spans a ten-year period in Alex’s life. There’s a lot going on so the reader is quickly absorbed into the story and into the dark underbelly of New York in the 1920s. The main point to mention is the introduction of prohibition which saw the manufacture and sale of alcohol stopped by law. Alex and his ‘colleagues’ quickly discover a way of smuggling alcohol into New York from Canada via Chicago. Risking life and limb in the process, it makes for gripping reading and provides a fair amount of spilt blood. The inclusion of some familiar names, such as Al Capone and Bugs Moran, bring a dash of realism to the story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. East Side Hustler can be read as a standalone but it’s worth picking up a copy of The Bowery Slugger too, as you get to discover where Alex Cohen has come from and what drives him. This series is a gritty look at life on the streets of New York. A no-holds-barred historical noir novel with a lead character that you shouldn’t like, but you won’t be able to help yourself. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing what Bostinski has in store for Alex next.

I chose to read and review an eARC of East Side Hustler. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

East Side Hustler by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 22nd March 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comGoogle BooksKoboGoodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: Duplicity by Sibel Hodge @AmazonPub #Duplicity #damppebbles

duplicity.jpg“There are three sides to every story: Yours. Mine. And the truth…

Max and Alissa have a fairy tale life—newlywed, madly in love and enviously rich. Then Max is brutally stabbed to death at their home and Alissa, miraculously, escapes with her life. But why was she spared?

The hunt for the killer begins, uncovering a number of leads—was Max’s incredible wealth the motive? Had his shady business practices finally caught up with him? Or was it a stalker with a dangerous obsession?

Devoted friends rally around gentle, sweet Alissa as she is left to mourn the loss of her husband and pick up her life. But not everyone is who they seem…Deep-rooted jealousies, secrets and twisted love lie just beneath the surface, and not all fairy tales have a happy ending.

Duplicity is a suspenseful thriller from the bestselling author of Look Behind You and Where the Memories Lie.”

Welcome to the blog today and to my review of Duplicity by Sibel Hodge. I’ve decided, seeing as we’re all going to be housebound before long, that I’m going to make a concerted effort to reduce the number of books on my NetGalley shelf. Now, I will be the first to admit that I’m a terrible blogger. I have a NetGalley shelf which is at breaking point because I request too many books and then don’t read them fast enough. Duplicity is one of many books which have been sitting waiting patiently for me. Having read it, I’m now asking why it took me so darn long! I received a free eARC of Duplicity but that has in no way influenced my review.

At its core, Duplicity has a very interesting plot twist which is quite different to everything else I have read over the years. Hodge has put a fresh and different spin on what could be classed, by some people (not saying I’m one of them), as a genre that’s starting to tire a little, maybe become a little samey…? (Not me though, I wouldn’t say that.) I was merrily making my way through this book then BAM! I was knocked sideways and had to pick myself up off the floor. WTF!? There’s not a lot more that I can say on that really. I would hate to ruin this story for other readers as it’s so shocking, so…’WOAH!’… that if you have any kind of inkling as to what’s coming then it could lessen the impact of what I promise will be one of the most memorable twists you’ve read.

So we’ve ascertained that I can’t talk about the plot. So let’s move onto the charact…..oh. Wait. I can’t really say anything about them either. The story is told from two points of view; The Detective, who in this case is DS Carter and The Other One. There’s not a lot I can say about The Other One. This is going to turn into the shortest review I’ve ever written for the blog as there’s so much you need to discover for yourself and I hate spoilers. So here’s what I can tell you….

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Duplicity is a must-read for all psychological thriller fans, particularly if you are looking for something a little bit different. With bucketloads of suspense, it will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Despite being an unreviewable book! This is the first book I’ve read by Hodge but I can guarantee it won’t be the last! It’s easy to see why she has so many dedicated fans who will happily bite your hand off for a copy of one of her books. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Duplicity. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Duplicity by Sibel Hodge was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 27th December 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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sibel hodge.jpgSibel Hodge is the author of the #1 Bestsellers Look Behind You, Untouchable, Duplicity, Into the Darkness, and Their Last Breath. Her books have sold over one million copies and are international bestsellers in the UK, USA, Australia, France, Canada and Germany. She writes in an eclectic mix of genres, and is a passionate human and animal rights advocate.

Her work has been nominated and shortlisted for numerous prizes, including the Harry Bowling Prize, the Yeovil Literary Prize, the Chapter One Promotions Novel Competition, The Romance Reviews’ prize for Best Novel with Romantic Elements and Indie Book Bargains’ Best Indie Book of 2012 in two categories. She was the winner of Best Children’s Book in the 2013 eFestival of Words; nominated for the 2015 BigAl’s Books and Pals Young Adult Readers’ Choice Award; winner of the Crime, Thrillers & Mystery Book from a Series Award in the SpaSpa Book Awards 2013; winner of the Readers’ Favorite Young Adult (Coming of Age) Honorable award in 2015; a New Adult finalist in the Oklahoma Romance Writers of America’s International Digital Awards 2015, 2017 International Thriller Writers Award finalist for Best E-book Original Novel, Honorable Mention Award Winner in the USA 2018 Reader’s Choice Awards, winner of the No 1 Best Thriller in the Top Shelf Magazine Indie Book Awards 2018, and Silver Medal Award Winner in the 2019 Readers’ Favorite Thriller – Conspiracy genre! Her novella Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave has been listed as one of the top forty books about human rights by Accredited Online Colleges.

For Sibel’s latest book releases, giveaways and gossip, sign up to her newsletter at http://www.sibelhodge.com/contact-followme.php.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan (@OMJRYAN1) #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #DeadlyWaters #damppebbles

2019-1396 OMJ Ryan b03“Several young women have recently drowned in Manchester’s vast network of canals. A coincidence? Or something more sinister?

When star detective DCI Jane Phillips begins to investigate, her finely tuned instinct tells her these are no accidents. And when she discovers that each of the drowned women has a mysterious circular bruise on the back of her neck, Phillips is sure of it — she’s up against a very clever serial killer.

But how are the victims being chosen? And who will be next?

With the body count rising, Phillips and her team find themselves in a fight to the death with a shadowy figure who always seems to be one step ahead.

Can Phillips stop the killer before the next victim dies? Or will she herself become an offering to Manchester’s deadly waters?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I’m handing the keys over to my trusty guest reviewer, Ryan, today and he’s going to share his thoughts on Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan as part of the blog tour. Ryan received a free eARC of Deadly Waters but that has in no way influenced his review.

Drowning in an ice cold canal is not how many would choose to end their lives and DCI Jane Phillips has that gut feeling that there is more to this than it may seem.  This is despite the view of her superior officer and others on the force wanting to dismiss the crimes, and DCI Phillips soon realises she has a race against time before the next victim is found or her supervisor stops the investigation.

This was my first OMJ Ryan read and I really enjoyed it. The lead characters and the team (Jones, Bovalino and Entwistle) are well drawn. Small mention is made of the team’s background but their interactions and easy to recognise traits make it easy to get to know them. DCI Jane Phillips, however, is much more nuanced. Mentions are made of an event in her personal history and a more conflicted character with nerves, determination and a host of personal dilemmas appears as the book progresses. The tension with her superior officer made an intriguing side plot, presenting the team with a ticking time bomb of whether they would be allowed to continue the investigation.

The plot is interesting. When one body is found in the canal with a circular bruise on the back of her neck, no-one is sure what to think. But when a second appears suspicions are raised, and it soon becomes clear the body count is only going to increase. At this stage we get to meet the murderer. Not in name, but taking the role of narrator for the murders. We get to hear more about their motive and method before flicking back to see an investigation struggling to find a connection, let alone a solid lead. With both sides trying to work out who is next – for very different reasons!

Deadly Waters is well paced, mixing the drama of the murder and fast police responses with the growing frustration of an investigation going nowhere. Some promising avenues soon become dead ends and the truth that they are uncovering may not be one they want to hear.

This is book two in the series and whilst references were made to book one, there is nothing to stop you reading this as a standalone. In fact, I am now very tempted to go back and find out more about that adventure!

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a UK based crime thriller, and even without reading it, I would suggest adding the first book, Deadly Silence, to your TBR too! DCI Phillips is a character that many will love and the book feels ripe for screen adaption. Excellent police characters mixed with a dark and self-righteous murderer who is in a hurry to take more lives. A great read.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Deadly Waters. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 15th March 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.com |  Goodreads |

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OMJ RyanHailing from Yorkshire, OMJ Ryan worked in radio and entertainment for over twenty years, collaborating with household names and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards.

In 2018 he followed his passion to become a full-time novelist, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced thrillers by the pool, on their commute – or those rare moments of downtime before bed. Owen’s mission is to entertain from the first page to the last. DEADLY WATERS will be his third novel published with Inkubator Books.

#BookReview: Avenge the Dead by Jackie Baldwin @0neMoreChapter_ @KillerReads #AvengetheDead #DIFrankFarrell #damppebbles

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“Sometimes murder is the only way to get even…

Four friends with dark secrets. One killer out for revenge.

DI Frank Farrell and DS McLeod are tasked with investigating the brutal murder of a defence solicitor’s wife in Dumfries.

It’s been over a year since they left the town after an investigation robbed them of a dear friend. But now they’re back and must find a way to move on.

When the son of another defence solicitor is murdered, a strange tattoo etched on his body, the case takes them into darker, more disturbing territory.

It leads them back into the past – to a horrific fire in a cottage that took a woman’s life, to four friends harbouring dark secrets – and finally to a killer waiting patiently for revenge.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the third book in one of my favourite must-read crime series with you today, Avenge the Dead by Jackie Baldwin. Jackie’s series features ex-priest turned troubled detective, Frank Farrell and the entire series is brilliant! I received a free eARC of Avenge the Dead but that has in no way influenced my review.

Following the traumatic events of book two, Perfect Dead, DI Farrell and DS McLeod (along with DC Thomson) have relocated to Glasgow. Farrell is a mess, with a capital M. Having lost his faith (he’s an ex-priest so that’s kinda major!) and keeping a constant vigil at the bedside of his friend and DCI, John Lind, he turns to alcohol and prescription drugs to get through the day. When a violent murder calls the team back to Dumfries, Farrell is loathed to go. Not only because of the memories but because he doesn’t want to leave Lind’s side. Begrudgingly the team pack up and head back to their own stomping ground to try and solve one of the most frustrating cases they’ve ever had to deal with. Struggling to come up with any suspects or motives for the murder, they’re shocked when a second body is found. The victims are both relatives of a group of defence solicitors, a tight-knit group of friends who go way back. Can Farrell and McLeod discover who the killer is before another life is snuffed out…?

I’ve mentioned it before but it’s worth mentioning it again, I LOVE this series. I was so excited to hear a third book was being released. Avenge the Dead can easily be read as a standalone but if you want the full impact of these brilliant books then it’s worth going back to the beginning and starting from book one. I love the way the characters have really grown into themselves over the three books; particularly the wonderful Mhairi McLeod who is always as important to the story as DI Farrell. The way these two characters bounce off each other, their undeniable chemistry, brings a lighter note to an intense and involving case and I can’t get enough of them. In Avenge the Dead, in particular, McLeod often steps up to the plate in Frank’s absence and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her take more of a leading role. Frank, on the other hand, is on a slippery slope having lost his faith and turned to drink and drugs to cope with the events of the last couple of years. He’s lost his way and although I’m normally the first person to cheer when a troubled detective makes an appearance, I feel really sorry for Frank. The departure of his faith has left such a large, gaping hole in his life that he’s just not the man he was. It was fascinating to see this side of him. To see Frank Farrell so dejected and lost was tough. So much so that I hope he finds what is missing in future books in the series.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes and yes again. Without a moment’s hesitation, I would. I would recommend the entire series as they’re all great books and if you love detective fiction then Baldwin’s DI Farrell series is a must-read. From the very first page I was hooked, and my curiosity was well and truly piqued! I was there with the team as another possible link crumbled to nothing resulting in another dead-end. I was there with the team at the thrilling conclusion, holding my breath, shaking my head and muttering ‘nooooooooo’ under my breath. I loved this book and I lived this book. I cannot wait for book four in the series. Here’s hoping there are many, many more DI Farrell novels to come in the not too distant future.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Avenge the Dead. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Avenge the Dead by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by One More Chapter on Friday 28th February 2020 and is available in digital format with the paperback to follow in April (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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© Kim Ayres

Jackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads on 2nd September 2016. The second in the series, Perfect Dead was published on 15th June 2018. For most of her working life, she has been a solicitor specialising in Family and Criminal Law. She later retrained as a hypnotherapist. Married with a grown family, she recently moved from Dumfries to East Lothian.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #RulesForPerfectMurders #damppebbles

rules for perfect murders.jpgIf you want to get away with murder, play by the rules

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to my stop on the Rules for Perfect Murders blog tour. Rules for Perfect Murders is the latest release from one of my very favourite authors and it’s available to purchase in hardcover, digital and audio formats from TODAY! Happy publication day to Peter Swanson and the team at Faber Books. I received a free ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders but that has in no way influenced my review. Huge thanks to Josh at Faber Books for asking me to join the tour.

If you haven’t picked up a Peter Swanson novel yet then that has to change. Sharpish! I’m a huge fan of this author and I look forward to every new book hitting the shelves. I can’t let a Swanson review grace the blog though without mentioning the incredible The Kind Worth Killing which is one of the best books I have ever read. But I think The Kind Worth Killing has a new buddy at the top of my favourite ever books list, and it’s Rules for Perfect Murders.

Having read Rules for Perfect Murders, I should probably reconsider having a list of any kind, ever, on my blog (top ten books of the year, the top five best detectives, eight perfect murders…). After all, a list of eight perfect murders in mystery novels is exactly what leads FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to Malcolm Kershaw’s door. But let’s be specific about this door. It’s the door to Old Devils Bookstore in Boston. A bookshop which specialises in mystery fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be starting to see why I have fallen head over heels in love with this book. There are many, many reasons to love Rules for Perfect Murders but the plainly obvious one (apart from the fact it’s expertly written) is that it’s a book about books. And not any old books but classic mystery and crime novels. I devoured this book. Swanson has created something incredibly special in Rules for Perfect Murders and I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m not a re-reader of books (unlike our lead character, Malcolm) but I would happily while away a day reading this book again…and again…and again.

Social media is starting to get its groove on and blogs are becoming a ‘thing’. Their creators are becoming rich and famous so Old Devils Bookstore wants in. Malcolm Kershaw is tasked with writing a list of eight perfect murders for the store’s brand new blog. He spends hours agonising over his choices, getting the wording ‘just right’ and hits the publish button. But fame and fortune ignore the post and life for Malcolm carries on without glitz and glitter, only tragedy. He takes over ownership of the shop, along with author Brian Murray, and business is good with a number of regular customers. Until one day, in the midst of a snowstorm, Agent Mulvey arrives on his doorstep to discuss his blog post from years ago. She’s the only person who has noticed a connection between unsolved murders and Mal’s list of eight perfect murders. It seems highly unlikely there’s a connection and it’s just a crazy coincidence. That is until Malcolm recognises one of the names on the list…

I absolutely adored this book and I was completely smitten from the very first pages. Malcolm fascinated me. He’s one of those characters where you scratch the surface and discover more than you bargained for. Definitely a character I will remember for a long time to come. I loved how the murders were linked to the eight books (**cough** seven books, and one play!) on the list and found the ways they were adapted to be very clever. I waited with bated breath to discover what the next murder/book was going to be! Swanson has created layer upon layer of suspense and tension and I was hooked.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. This one is going on the list (whoops, there’s that list again!) of favourite books of all time. You don’t have to be a crime fiction aficionado to enjoy this tense and intoxicating read (I’m certainly not). I will say though, that if you’re planning on reading any of the books which feature on Malcolm’s list, then you might want to do that first as there are a few spoilers and an outline of each is given by the author for those who haven’t read them. This book is so much more than you expect and I savoured every moment of it. I urge you to pick up a copy of Rules for Perfect Murders, whether you consider yourself to be bookish or not. It’s a wonderful, thoroughly entertaining homage to the crime and mystery genre and I couldn’t put it down. Nor did I want to. Tightly plotted and packed full of delicious suspense with a character I fell head over heels in love with. Highly, highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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peter-swansonPeter Swanson is the author of six novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Eight Perfect Murders (Rules For Perfect Murders in the UK). His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Possessed (Matt Hunter #4) by Peter Laws @AllisonandBusby #Possessed #MattHunter #damppebbles

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“When a blood-soaked man is discovered with the word Baal-Berith scored into his flesh, the bewildered police call on expert Professor Matt Hunter to assist.

Before long, a gruesome discovery is made and Hunter is drawn into a frenzied murder investigation.

With a fury of media interest in the case, and the emerging link to a documentary on demonic possession, Hunter is unable to escape a dark world of exorcism and violence. Even when events spiral frighteningly out of control.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing my review of Possessed by Peter Laws with you today. Possessed is the fourth book in the stonking Matt Hunter series and was published in digital format by Allison and Busby on 20th February. Look out for the audiobook version which is heading your way soon (this will make an awesome audiobook, if you’re feeling brave….?) and the paperback later in the Summer. I chose to read and review an eARC copy of Possessed but that has in no way influenced my review.

It was around this time last year that I first discovered how utterly brilliant Laws’ writing is. I picked up a copy of Purged, the first book in the Matt Hunter series, and devoured it in a few short sittings. I have a bit of a thing for crime/horror crossover novels so the books Laws writes really appeal to me. My plan, as bookish plans normally go, was to read books two and three in the series next but what is it they say about best-laid plans….? Well, exactly. I was offered the opportunity to read the brand new fourth book in the series, Possessed, so of course I jumped at the chance. Just call me ‘rebel’! 😉

Matt Hunter is an instantly likeable character who trained as a Baptist Minister but lost his faith and turned his back on the church. Now a professor of sociology and a consultant to the police when things turn a little…’weird’, his life doesn’t contain a dull moment. If Matt’s on the case then things are gonna get interesting! Normally the kind of interesting that sends shivers down the reader’s spine and has you wondering exactly what that strange scratching noise at the window is.

Matt is called to assist with a suspect the police believe to be possessed. Nice, normal, boring Tom has changed beyond recognition, has carved ‘Baal-Berith’ into his abdomen and is showing all the signs of demonic possession. Tom’s peculiar mutterings lead the police straight to his home and his poor wife’s mutilated remains. As the news of a man possessed by a demon committing tortuous murder breaks, Matt is reluctantly drawn into a world where he’s put under a constant spotlight and pushed in front of the TV cameras to provide a balanced, scientific point of view. But this is TV and that’s just no fun at all. Who wants boring old balanced and stuffy scientific? Not when you can showcase a live exorcism! But when you’re playing with forces you can never understand, it’s no surprise when things go horribly, horribly wrong…

Laws’ use of language is fantastic and it makes his novels so easy to read. I was particularly pleased to find the word ‘crud’ used in one section of dialogue which made my heart sing, as I thought I was one of the last few remaining people uttering this wonderful word under my breath (ah crud – we’re all so old and unfashionable that we’ve all pretty much died out!). This is only one small example though of how the author draws the reader in, making you feel a connection to his stories. Another way is by creating one of the most likeable, humorous and utterly brilliant lead characters to grace fiction – Professor Matt Hunter. There is a hilarious section near the beginning of the book where Matt is meeting his new therapist for the first time which had me crying with laughter. The warmth and wit Laws puts into the character of Matt Hunter makes him a joy to read.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. One hundred percent, yes. If you haven’t read the first three books in the series then there’s no need to worry. Possessed works just as well as a standalone but I can guarantee you will want to read Purged, Unleashed and Severed immediately afterwards so you can lose yourself in Hunter’s world once more (I’m off to pick up my copy of Unleashed now!) . It’s a devilishly (!) good read, with lots of thrills and chills to keep those pages turning. A true fictional delight and one that I heartily recommend to all.

Possessed by Peter Laws was published in the UK by Allison and Busby on 20th February 2020 and is available in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow later in the year (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about-the-author3

peter laws

Peter Laws is an author, journalist, film critic and YouTube horror host. He’s also a church minister with a taste for the macabre. He’s the creator of the acclaimed Matt Hunter series of horror tinged crime thrillers. Hunter is an ex-vicar turned atheist academic, who helps the police solve religiously motivated crimes. The first in the series, ‘Purged’, had Matt on the trail of a Christian serial killer, who fast tracks his victims to heaven by baptising them, then killing straight after. The sequel, ‘Unleashed’, pulls Matt into a world of poltergeists and the supernatural, though he insists a flesh and blood killer is at work. Unleashed won ‘Thriller of the Year’ in the Fully Booked awards for 2017. In the third Matt Hunter novel, ‘Severed’, Matt has to contend with a bizarre pseudo Christian cult.

He’s also the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book The Frighteners: Why We Love Monsters Ghosts Death and Gore. It’s available from Icon Books in the UK and Skyhorse in the US.

He writes a monthly column in the print magazine The Fortean Times and hosts the popular podcast and YouTube show The Flicks That Church Forgot which reviews scary films from a theological perspective. He also does quirky cover versions of obscure horror songs on there, so why not drop by. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgZZklJNcUEZplFDboNho6g

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

#BookReview: The Murder House (DCI Matilda Darke #5) by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheMurderHouse #DCIMatildaDarke #damppebbles

the murder house“They were the perfect family. It was the perfect crime.

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog today. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the latest book in one of my must-read crime series, The Murder House by Michael Wood. The Murder House is the fifth book in Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series and was published in digital format by One More Chapter on 31st January. The paperback will be available to purchase in the Spring on 19th March. I received a free eARC copy of The Murder House which has in no way influenced my review.

There is nothing I love more than a bloody good police procedural. And The Murder House was exactly that. Bloody and good! I have been eagerly waiting for Darke’s return as I have enjoyed all of her previous investigations (although I must confess I am still to read For Reasons Unknown – the first book in the series – which sits patiently on my Kindle waiting for me). If you’re a fan of detective fiction then I highly recommend you check out the whole series as every book Wood writes tops the last. AND you’ll need to read them quickly as book six in the series – Stolen Children – will be published later this year!

The Murder House is a brilliant addition to the series and one that, on those occasions when I did have to put the book down and do ‘life’, I was really keen to return to. I’ll tell you a little secret but you have to keep it to yourself. When I started reading The Murder House I was really struggling with a bit of a reading slump. By the end, my love, passion and enthusiasm for reading and for books had returned. So thank you Michael Wood and Matilda for reminding me how utterly engrossing a book can be.

This is Matilda and the team’s most disturbing crime scene to date which I know will raise a flag for some readers. I am aware many people don’t enjoy blood, guts and gore in their fiction (not me, I should add). If you are a little squeamish then please don’t worry. There are a couple of references to the scene and the damage done but it’s not over the top. If anything, I actually expected there to be more blood spilt and more gore after reading the blurb!

This book can be read as a standalone despite being the fifth book in the series. The author expertly fills in many of the gaps for new readers and explains the significance of sub-plots along the way. However, there are mentions of past characters which will pique your curiosity so it may be better to start at the beginning of the series, rather than with book five. The team have been through an AWFUL LOT together (five books worth now!) and not everything can be recapped along the way. If you want to see the whole picture then start at the beginning. If you’re happy to be left wondering on a couple of teeny tiny points then dive straight in with The Murder House.

Sometimes when you read a book the characters are great but the plot isn’t so much. Or vice versa, the plot is brilliant but the characters… Wood has produced a series where both character and plot are outstanding. I adore the characters in this series and have a bit of a girl crush on DCI Matilda Darke. The other supporting characters are all well written, particularly Sian and Christian. The sub-plots involving Scott’s inner struggle to be accepted and the continuation of the Carl Meagan storyline added to the primary investigation.

Would I recommend this book? I would, absolutely. I would recommend the entire series. If you’re a fan of crime fiction and you haven’t met DCI Darke and her team yet then that needs to change. You can thank me later! The ending of this book was hold-your-breath tense and I loved it. The twists and turns keep coming right up to the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed The Murder House and I’m counting down the days until the next book in the series is released.

I received a free eARC of The Murder House. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

My reviews of the other books in the series: | Outside Looking InA Room Full of KillersThe Hangman’s Hold |

The Murder House by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 31st January 2020 and is available in digital format with the paperback to follow in March (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depository |

about-the-author3

71KOZKetCmL._UX250_Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Never Look Back by A.L. Gaylin (@orionbooks) @Tr4cyF3nt0n #NeverLookBack #damppebbles

never look backShe was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother…

When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. Robin knows her mother better than anyone.

But then her parents are brutally attacked, and Robin realises she doesn’t know the truth at all…”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop on the Never Look Back blog tour. Never Look Back is the latest release from the brilliant A.L. Gaylin and it will be available to purchase in paperback later this week (on the 6th February – mark it in your diaries!). If you can’t wait that long – and who could blame you, because it’s brilliant – then it’s currently available in all other formats.

It won’t surprise you to hear that I am a huge fan of A.L. Gaylin’s books. If Alison has written it, then I’ve probably purchased a copy without even reading the blurb. Yup – her books are THAT good. I’m not sure there are many other authors I could say that about. Never Look Back is a stellar addition to Gaylin’s catalogue and I savoured each and every moment of it.

Podcast creator Quentin Garrison is investigating a cold case. A mass killing spree carried out by two teenage lovers known as the Inland Empire Killers, in the late 70s. The terrifying spree finally halted by the death of killers April Cooper and her boyfriend, Gabriel LeRoy, in a fire. But Quentin has his own connection to the tragic events of all those years ago and he needs closure. When a brand new lead is handed to the podcast team, Quentin contacts website columnist Robin Diamond and puts a startling suggestion to her. Robin dismisses the claim as preposterous, but what follows will change their lives forever. How well do we really know those closest to us…?

This is another brilliant character-driven thriller from Gaylin. I was totally immersed in the story from the first page and I struggled to put the book down for any length of time. The first half to two-thirds of the book, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Then the story beds itself in and the pace slows a little but it was just as captivating, just as chilling and just as mesmerising as the beginning.

Told in dual timelines, we see how the accusations affect those involved in the present day. I often found myself asking, ‘how well do we really know the people we’re closest to?’. We also get to see life thorough April’s eyes via letters to her future daughter, Aurora Grace. After all, all April wants from life is to be a mother. Young April Cooper is by far the most fascinating character and despite reading this book a couple of weeks ago, I still think about her often. I really liked her (I am strange and it’s quite normal for me to like the villain in a book) but I also felt sorry for her.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes and yes again. I LOVED this book. A.L. Gaylin can do no wrong in my eyes. This is another stunning character-driven thriller which I flew through and have been recommending to everyone since. If you’re looking for a family-focussed suspense novel with secrets and lies galore then you should definitely give Never Look Back a go. After all, how can you resist that tagline…

Never Look Back MMP Blog Tour

about-the-author3

AL Gaylin

USA Today and International Best-selling author Alison Gaylin has been nominated for the Edgar four times. Most recently, her thriller IF I DIE TONIGHT, won the award in the category Best Paperback Original.

Her critically acclaimed suspense novels have been published in such countries as the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan and Romania.

She has won the Shamus and RT Reviewers Choice Awards for her books, and has been nominated for the ITW Thriller, Anthony and Strand Book Awards. Her books have been on the bestseller lists in the US, Germany and Belgium.  NEVER LOOK BACK (March, 2018 from William Morrow) is her eleventh book.

NORMANDY GOLD, the graphic novel she wrote with Megan Abbott, is out from Titan/Hard Case Crime in April, 2018.

Author Links: | Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Other People by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #TheOtherPeople #damppebbles

the other people

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice . . .”

As far as most anticipated books go, The Other People is right up there teetering at the top of a fairly exclusive list. Newsflash people, I LOVE CJ TUDOR’S BOOKS. If you’re a regular reader of the blog then this may come as no surprise. Her first two releases – the blisteringly superb The Chalk Man, and the deliciously sublime The Taking of Annie Thorne both made my top books on the year list. No one writes like Caz Tudor – she’s in a league of her own. And if I haven’t convinced you to purchase The Other People (plus her back catalogue) in one short paragraph then I’m doing something wrong here. I might as well quit now 😂 (I’m not going to do that – just so you know.)

As soon as you start reading The Other People you know you’re in for one hell of a ride – quite literally! Up and down the M1 motorway. Gabe is a character that you can’t help but like. Tudor manages to make him thoroughly likeable despite his mounting flaws – something she has managed to achieve with all three of the male lead characters across her novels. Driving home one evening he spots a face he recognises in the car in front. It’s his young daughter, Izzy. He doesn’t recognise the car and Izzy should be at home with her mum. When the child mouthes the word ‘daddy’ Gabe is 100% sure it’s his daughter in the strange car. After that short fleeting glance, Gabe never sees his daughter again…

It’s not often you find a creepy, totally engrossing psychological suspense thriller set partly in a motorway service station. Necessary as they are, they’re not the most glamorous of locations but that was part of the appeal of this book for me. The setting and the set-up of the story was quite different to everything else I’ve read (please see previous comment about Caz Tudor being in a league of her own!). Tudor draws you into the story and makes you care about her characters with seemingly little effort. You also end up feeling that you don’t know half of what’s gone before, what’s happening behind the scenes, nor where you’ll end up heading as Gabe continues his search for Izzy. Other fascinating characters are brought into the mix; Fran and Alice who are running from something, Katie – the exhausted single mum of two who works every shift she can get at the service station. There’s the mysterious ‘Samaritan’ who ratches up the spooky factor ten-fold. Not forgetting the pale girl in the white room – what’s her role in all of this?

I spent a lot of time, whilst reading The Other People, trying to figure out how the different threads were connected. I was miles off. There was one aspect of the book I was able to guess in advance but I don’t think Ms Tudor will mind too much. Everything else came as a complete shock and left me reeling. And I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? One hundred per cent, yes! I can see it making an appearance on my top books of the year list (which will be the third year running for this author). If you haven’t experienced a CJ Tudor novel then that needs to change. The Other People is a stunning addition to this author’s body of work and I really can’t say it often enough, you need to read this book! Nerve-janglingly good, I was completely immersed in the story from start to finish. You’ll be reading through the night with this one.

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

The Other People by CJ Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 23rd January 2020 and is available in hardcover, ebook and audio formats (with the paperback to follow in Summer 2020): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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cj tudor

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

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