#BookReview: The Last by Hanna Jameson #TheLast #damppebbles

the last“THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT HAS ENDED

You and nineteen other survivors hole up in an isolated Swiss hotel.

You wait, you survive.

Then you find the body.

One of your number has blood on their hands.

The race is on to find the killer…BEFORE THE KILLER FINDS YOU.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last by Hanna Jameson with you. The Last was published by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of The Last but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do love me a post-apocalyptic thriller! But I know what I like and conversely, what I don’t like. I read a book earlier this year which claimed to be a dystopian thriller. It was a whole lot of thriller and not a lot of dystopian. I wanted to find out how the characters coped with their ‘new normal’. I wanted to see conflict, fear and adjustment to the setting and the new ways of life. So I was a little apprehensive starting The Last. Would this book be much of the same? I’m delighted to confirm that The Last is far superior to the book I read earlier this year as Jameson puts her characters, their experience and their adjustment to the new ways, front and centre.

Historian Jon Keller is at a conference in a Swiss hotel when the bombs hit. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare come terrifyingly true. The nuclear bombs wipe out large proportions of the US, where Jon calls home, along with a large proportion of Europe. Thankfully Switzerland seems largely unaffected but who knows what kind of state the world is outside the hotel doors. The original number staying at the hotel has dwindled leaving twenty guests to come to terms with what has happened to them and forge a new life within the walls of L’Hotel Sixième. Roles have been redefined, the work is tough and everyone has to adjust to the new way of living. While investigating a problem with the water supply, Jon discovers a body in the water tank. The stark truth of the matter becomes worryingly clear. Within this small community, where they’ve come to depend on each other so much, one of them is a killer….

Now I know I referred to The Last as a post-apocalyptic thriller earlier in this review but it’s not really a thriller. It’s a well-written, slow build character study of people put in the worst scenario imaginable. The reader gets to watch as they struggle to survive, let alone cope with their new world from the comfort of their armchair. But, it’s a little too close to the knuckle in some respects and feels plausibly real. The mystery aspect of the story isn’t really the main crux of the book either but it’s an interesting storyline which gives Jon something to obsess over. And obsess over it he does. The mystery into who killed the girl almost completely consumes him.

I found Jameson’s characters really interesting to read about. Although I struggled to like any of them. But I’m not sure that’s necessarily what the author wants her readers to feel anyway. They’re all individuals coping the best way they can. Yes, they’re selfish, suspicious and on edge but that just added to my enjoyment of the book. The claustrophobic feel of the situation was absolutely marvellous and I thoroughly enjoyed the group’s plight (turns out I’m a horrible person taking enjoyment in others misfortune, good job they’re fictional characters really!).

The ending of this book threw me a little. I was expecting something big and bold but I didn’t get it. I felt the ending let the book down a little. The reader travels so far with these characters, you get to know them even if you don’t like them, and then…well – I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the book for other readers but I was a little disappointed.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you like your novels character-driven then absolutely, The Last is a book you should read. I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic elements. I wanted them to go out exploring what was left of Switzerland and they did exactly that, with trepidation and caution. Some of their encounters were nail-biting and I loved the unease and tension in these sections away from the hotel. As I said previously, there was just enough of this strange new world to satisfy me. All in all, an intriguing premise that hooked me from the start. Recommended.

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

The Last by Hanna Jameson was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st August 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

Hanna Jameson’s fourth novel, part murder mystery and part post-apocalyptic thriller – THE LAST – is out now with Viking in the UK and Simon & Schuster-Atria Books in the US. The Last is the story of an American academic searching for the truth about a girl who has been murdered in his Swiss hotel in the aftermath of a nuclear war that has destroyed most of the Western world.

Jameson had written the first draft of her debut, award-nominated novel – SOMETHING YOU ARE – at just seventeen. Something You Are and two further novels in the series – GIRL SEVEN and ROAD KILL – are available now in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.

She lives in London currently, working on screenwriting projects. She likes whiskey, history, and emotionally taxing TV shows.

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre translated by Frank Wynne @maclehosepress #ThreeDaysandaLife #damppebbles

three days and a life“Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour’s six year old son are bound forever.

In the years following Rémi’s disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again?

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) with you today. Three Days and a Life was published in the UK by Maclehose Press in May 2018 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of Three Days and a Life but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have read several of Pierre Lemaitre’s earlier novels and loved them. Alex and Blood Wedding come to mind in particular. But I have also read Irène and Camille which are part of The Paris Crime Files trilogy along with Alex, featuring Commandant Camille Verhœven. They are excellent books and I heartily recommend them all. I’m a huge fan of translated crime fiction so this author and his books tend to be on my go-to list of authors. Saying that, I’ve had Three Days and a Life sat on my shelf for a little while which is strange as it was one of the books I was most excited about when I received it in a goodie bag.

Antoine is a fairly ordinary 12-year-old boy living a fairly ordinary life in a small French town. One fateful day his life takes a dramatic turn and he ends up as part of the most interesting event to have happened in Beauval, the disappearance of 6-year-old Rémi Desmedt. Crowds of people converge to find the boy, teams go out searching day and night but no trace of Rémi is found. Speculation is rife, rumours spread but no one seems to know where Rémi is. No one apart from Antoine…

Three Days and a Life is a slow and intricate unravelling of a well-drawn individual which I found to be highly compelling reading. This is not a novel full of twists and turns and that made me love it just that little bit more. Three Days and a Life shines a spotlight on a character I started out feeling a great deal of sympathy for. Then gradually through the years, the pressure of past events, of secrets hidden, begin to mould and shape the young boy into a rather frustrating young man.

The majority of this book is set over the three days of Rémi’s disappearance. But the tendrils – the secrets and lies – of those fateful days reach far into the future and that’s what I found so appealing about this novel. Antoine is forever looking over his shoulder, waiting for news, waiting to be discovered. The unease and the dread the character feels is palpable. As he matures, his need to escape the small town of Beauval becomes almost obsessive but those tendrils keep digging in, pulling him back.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Three Days and a Life is a compelling character study which I absolutely flew through. A suffocating and claustrophobic piece of well-written fiction. I found Antoine to be such an interesting character and felt I was there with him every step of the way. Elegantly written and beautifully subtle in its tone, you’ll struggle to put this one down once you pick it up. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Three Days and a Life. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) was published in the UK by Maclehose Press on 3rd May 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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pierre lemaitrePierre Lemaitre is a French novelist and screenwriter.

Awards: Prix du premier roman du Festival de Cognac 2006 pour Travail soigné – Prix Le Point du polar européen pour Cadres Noirs – Meilleur polar francophone 2009 au Salon de Montigny pour Robe de marié

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Frank Wynne was born in 1962 and grew up in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. His father – with T R Henn and others – was among the founding members of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo in 1959, and was President of the school until his death. Through the Summer School, Wynne was introduced to literary figures (whose lectures he recorded with a tape recorder), among them Richard Ellmann and Seamus Heaney

In 1984 he moved to Paris, where he stayed for three years. He moved to London in 1987, at first managing a small French bookshop in Kensington, which sold, among other things, graphic novels. Wynne became involved in the bandes dessinées movement in London and was hired to work on Revolver. From there he moved to Crisis before becoming managing editor of Deadline magazine, home of Tank Girl.

After the demise of Deadline in 1994-5, in part through the badly received film version of Tank Girl, he worked for a time as editorial director of AOL UK.
“I was employee number seven in AOL UK. I went from being the youngest person in every company I had worked for to being the second-oldest person in AOL.”
After he left AOL, he began translating the works of Michel Houellebecq. He now dedicates his time fully to writing and translations.

He describes himself as being of “no fixed abode”, having lived and travelled widely in Central and South America, the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkey, Ireland and the UK.
He has worked as a literary translator for many years translating the novels of Michel Houellebecq. He jointly won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with Houellebecq for Atomised, his translation of Les Particules élémentaires. He has subsequently translated Houellebecq’s novels Platform and Lanzarote, together with novels by Pierre Mérot, Frédéric Beigbeder and the late Ivoirian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma.

His translation of Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, a novel set in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks, won the 2005 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He also won the 2008 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for his translations of Beigbeder’s Holiday in a Coma and Love Lasts Three Years.

Wynne also translated a number of French bandes dessinées, including graphic novels by Enki Bilal, Lorenzo Mattotti, Max Cabanes and Édika. His first non-fiction book, I Was Vermeer, a biography of Han van Meegeren was published by Bloomsbury in August 2006. Between 1938 and 1944 van Meegeren forged seven paintings, passing them off as lost masterpieces by Vermeer. The works were authenticated by some of the finest art critics in Europe, among them Abraham Bredius, who acclaimed Van Meegeren’s forgery The Supper at Emmaus as “one of – I would go so far as to say * the* masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer of Delft”. Wynne’s biography, I was Vermeer has been serialised as the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week” (read by Anton Lesser) for August 7–12, 2006.

#BookReview: Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims @gollancz #ThirteenStoreys #damppebbles

thirteen storeys

“You’re cordially invited to dinner. Penthouse access is available via the broken freight elevator. Black tie optional.

A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers – even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building.

None of them know why they were selected to receive his invitation. Whether privileged or deprived, besides a postcode, they share only one thing in common – they’ve all experienced a shocking disturbance within the building’s walls.

By the end of the night, their host is dead, and none of the guests ever said what happened.
His death remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries – until now.

But are you ready for their stories?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the excellent Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims. Thirteen Storeys is published by Gollancz today (that’s 26th November 2020) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Thirteen Storeys but that has in no way influenced my review.

Some books pass you by. They’re instantly forgettable and not your thing at all. Other books – like Thirteen Storeys – have the ability to stop you dead in your tracks and make you feel like you’re missing out on something incredibly special if you don’t read them. I saw this book reviewed on another blog and it absolutely sang to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t get the cover out of my head. I feel like I’m being very melodramatic but oh well, it felt like there was an actual real life connection between me and Thirteen Storeys. And what a corker of a read it was!

Normally at this point in one of my reviews I would recap the blurb for you. I’ve decided to not do that when it comes to Thirteen Storeys as the publisher’s blurb tells you everything you need to know and I think my ‘take’ on it wouldn’t add anything. In fact, I’m concerned I may say something I shouldn’t so, to save my blushes, please refer to the blurb if you haven’t done so already 😂

This cracking book opens with a newspaper report on the anniversary of the death of multi-billionaire, Tobias Fell. Fell’s many achievements – including the commission of a high rise tower block in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets called Banyan Court which, incidentally, is the home of many of the guests – is noted. But what the reporter really draws attention to is Fell’s very unusual and highly suspicious death. Witnessed by thirteen guests at a very exclusive dinner party, no one is really sure how he died (quite so horrifically) and one thing is for sure, they are certainly not going to talk about it. Each chapter tells the story of one of those thirteen guests in the lead-up to that notorious dinner party. Giving the reader a tantalising and intriguing glimpse into thirteen very different lives and what ultimately connects them. There are strange and creepy goings-on at Banyan Court and the author has done a masterful job of creating an outstanding cast of characters, all of whom pull the reader into their world.

Each story is individual and stands tall, but the tendrils of Banyan Court run through them all with familiar characters appearing all over the place and memorable events being seen from different view points. I loved this book and found the author’s approach very refreshing. It’s a short story collection, but not. All of the events and characters in Thirteen Storeys are under one big horror laden umbrella. It’s a very clever and well-written novel.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Thirteen Storeys is a beautifully written contemporary horror novel that I know for sure will leave its mark on me. I don’t remember reading anything like this before and it was an absolute delight. The excitement I felt as I approached the end of the book, having lived through the characters’ trauma with them, was palpable. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Fell. It was a thrilling ride and I was deeply satisfied with the stomach-churning conclusion. I loved this book and would happily read more by this author. Highly recommended.

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

Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims was published in the UK by Gollancz on 26th November 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

#BookReview: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza @bookouture #ColdBlood #damppebbles

cold bloodThe suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. But it’s not the first time she’s seen such a brutal murder…

Two weeks earlier, the body of a young woman was found dumped in an identical suitcase. What connects the two victims? As Erika and her team set to work, they quickly realise they are on the trail of a serial killer who has already made their next move.

Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the target of a violent attack. Forced to recover at home, and with her personal life falling apart, everything is stacked against her, but nothing will stop Erika.

As the body count rises, the case takes an even more twisted turn when the twin daughters of Erika’s colleague, Commander Marsh, are suddenly put in terrible jeopardy. The stakes are higher than ever before, but can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the fifth book in Robert Bryndza’s Detective Erika Foster Series with you today – Cold Blood. Cold Blood was published by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cold Blood but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love this series and I’m a little bit gutted that I only have one book left to read now, following my completion of Cold Blood. As police procedurals go, this series is one of the best out there and it’s always a joy to catch up with Detective Erika Foster and the team, and find out what dark and dangerous mind they’re hunting down.

A large suitcase washes up on the muddy banks of the Thames. DCI Erika Foster and DI Kate Moss are called to investigate. Inside they find the dismembered remains of a man. Sliced and diced in all the right places to make him fit neatly inside. The way the body has been treated and disposed of brings a colleague’s mind to a similar case a couple of weeks before. This time a woman had been dismembered, put into a suitcase and thrown in the river. Erika knows the two bodies are connected in some way but she struggles to work out how. And can she find the killer before it’s too late…

This is another great addition to the DCI Foster series which I powered my way through. Despite having an ever changing team around her, the key characters are all present and correct. I really enjoyed the change of direction one of the relationships between MCs took in this book. Probably a little more than I should have to be honest. Which is a little odd as I was surprisingly pleased to see how things were progressing in the last book, Last Breath.

I enjoyed the investigation and the team’s struggle to connect the dots. I have to be honest though and say this is probably my least favourite of all the books in this series. Cold Blood felt a little different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I did note that there were a couple of occasions when I felt events were a little too convenient – which of course they need to be to move the story along – but perhaps they felt a little more forced than usual? Perhaps I was just in more of a grump reading this book than usual, lol! Please don’t get me wrong. This is a minor quibble and doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a cracking read in a magnificent series.

Would I recommend this book? But of course! I love this series so I heartily recommend you read and enjoy them all. Just because I didn’t enjoy Cold Blood as much as the others doesn’t change the fact that this is a superb series which I hope the author returns to writing in the future. I adored the ending which was beautifully visual, smacked you in the face and was exactly the right way to end the story. I enjoyed the sub-plots featuring the relationships of the characters, particularly the complete in-your-face, jaw-dropping betrayal by one of the characters. All in all, another great piece of crime fiction from a must-read author. Recommended.

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

Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digitial formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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robert bryndzaRobert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice, which is the first in his Detective Erika Foster series.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath and Cold Blood are the second, third, fourth and fifth books in the series. The sixth book, Deadly Secrets is now available to purchase.

Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s mailing list here.

Author Links:Instagram | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Casino Chiseler (Alex Cohen #4) by Leopold Borstinski (@borstinski) #CasinoChiseler #AlexCohenSeries #damppebbles

4 Casino Chiseler High Res 1940“Would you gamble everything you possess to win more than you can imagine?

Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen leaves jail to find salvation from the 1940s mob in the hotels of Las Vegas. When Bugsy Siegel invites him to take over sports betting in Nevada, Alex must figure out how to get back to the top table in New York without attracting the Feds’ attention.

If he succeeds then he will regain his self respect, but if he fails then the last members of the national crime syndicate will cut him dead and he will be left a nobody or wind up a corpse. And after he bumps into his childhood sweetheart, he has a once in a lifetime opportunity to win her heart. But Alex knows the criminal underworld has the habit of spilling over into his personal life and when Meyer Lansky asks him to murder Siegel, Alex must choose what is truly important to him.

The fourth book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical thriller novel, which rips open the Jewish mob’s involvement in the birth of modern Vegas. Leopold Borstinski’s shattering crime fiction deals a royal flush to each reader.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Casino Chiseler which is the fourth book in the Alex Cohen Series by Leopold Borstinski. Casino Chiseler was published on 30th September 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Casino Chiseler but that has in no way influenced my review.

My favourite gangster is back but this time he’s moved halfway across the country to make his fortune in Las Vegas, baby! Having had the syndicate turn their backs on him, it’s time for Alex Cohen to up-sticks and make his name elsewhere. This is another super addition to a very readable series and I really enjoyed it.

Alex Cohen’s connection to the powerful syndicate who always had his back has been severed. Following a short stint in Sing Sing, he leaves jail with only a fraction of his fortune and very few friends. But that’s not going to keep a man like Alex down, no siree! When Benny ‘Bugsy’ Siegel invites Cohen to Las Vegas and offers him the chance to have a hand in a new sports betting wire, Cohen sees it as the perfect opportunity to regain some respect from the syndicate and work his way back to the top. But Cohen is playing a deadly game and you can bet that someone is going to get hurt…

This is the fourth book in the author’s Alex Cohen Series of historical thrillers and it’s wonderful blend of fact and fiction really pulls the reader into the story. I adore Las Vegas, so for me, reading a part-fictional/part-fact account of modern Vegas’ early days was fascinating. I even ended up Googling a couple of things to see how the book compared to what actually happened.

Once again, and as with all previous books in this series, there’s a lot to squeeze in (the reader gets to see Cohen’s life over the course of 10 years) so it’s pretty non-stop action from the start. I think you could read Casino Chiseler as a standalone but it’s worth investing in the series and seeing Cohen grow from the moment he lands on the shores of New York as a teen. Past events are often referred to, so to understand the history between the characters fully, I would suggest starting with The Bowery Slugger. And on that note, it was wonderful to see Rebecca – his teenage crush – return to Cohen’s life. But oh boy, has she changed!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of historical thrillers and you can stomach a little spilt blood (they’re gangsters, it goes with the territory!) then I recommend Casino Chiseler and the other books in the Alex Cohen Series. They’re gritty but full of heart too. Despite being a pretty terrible human being and killing frequently without remorse, you can’t help but like Alex and become invested in his journey. I will say, the ending came a little out of the blue for me. It was a sudden change of direction which threw me a little. I look forward to reading book five – Cuban Heel – soon and seeing where the author takes things. Recommended.

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

Casino Chiseler by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 30th September 2020 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 | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

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: The Embalmer by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #TheEmbalmer #damppebbles

the embalmer“Has the ancient Egyptian cult of immortality resurfaced in Brighton?

When a freshly-mummified body is discovered at the Brighton Museum of Natural History, Detective Francis Sullivan is at a loss to identify the desiccated woman. But as Egyptian burial jars of body parts with cryptic messages attached start appearing, he realises he has a serial killer on his hands. Revenge, obsession and an ancient religion form a potent mix, unleashing a wave of terror throughout the city. Caught in a race against time while battling his own demons, Francis must fight to uncover the true identity of the Embalmer before it’s too late…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Embalmer by Alison Belsham. The Embalmer is the third book in the Mullins and Sullivan Series and is published today (that’s 12th November 2020) by Trapeze Books in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Embalmer but that has in no way influenced my review.

I really enjoy this brilliant detective series with a twist, and I look forward to each new book being published. I was excited to get my mitts on a copy of book three, The Embalmer, which I started as soon as it arrived on my Kindle (having recently read and reviewed the second book in the series, Her Last Breath, which was still very fresh in my mind).

DI Francis Sullivan is on the hunt for a psychopathic serial killer on the streets of Brighton. Discovering a mummified body and canopic jars containing human organs in the local Natural History Museum, DI Sullivan and his team have their work cut out to try and find their killer. But as the body count rises, it becomes clear that the killers motives are very personal indeed…

The Embalmer is another great addition to this wonderful series which not only features a young Detective Inspector out to prove himself but also a headstrong and fiery tattoo artist who can’t seem to avoid trouble, Marni Mullins. I love how this series is a little different to everything else available out there. All of the cases investigated so far by DI Sullivan have involved tattoos, to some degree or another (including this latest instalment). Personally, for me, that gives the series a bit of an edge. I will say however, that this is a series best read from the start. Previous cases are mentioned which could give a little too much away if you’re reading them out of order, and by starting with the first book you can see for yourself how the relationships develop between Belsham’s characters.

Sullivan’s frustration at not making progress in the case and watching the body count rise keeps the reader turning the pages from start to finish. I have a rather large soft spot for Sullivan and I really wanted him to succeed (whilst hoping there would be a few more grisly deaths on the cards – go figure!). Whilst Sullivan has problems of his own, Marni Mullins is also up to her neck in it. I really enjoyed how the two stories ran alongside each other. Marni Mullins was less involved in the investigation this time but that’s only because she has her hands full with her own disastrous life and those in it. I’ll be interested to see what the future holds for Marni.

The team around DI Sullivan continues to be a strong one. Which makes this the perfect time to mention new character, DC Gavin Albright, who is a very welcome addition. Sullivan’s Detective Sergeant, Rory Mackay, is still biting at his heels after he was looked over for promotion and Sullivan was appointed DI. There is a lot of tension there which I hope continues to bubble under the surface. And I won’t even bother mentioning one of the most loathsome characters I have met in a fictional setting (DCI Martin Bradshaw, if you’re wondering) Such a brilliantly written, despicable character. Grr!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would happily recommend The Embalmer along with the first two books in this series (starting with The Tattoo Thief if you can). I really enjoyed being back in Brighton with the team again. Belsham isn’t afraid to put her characters through the wringer and I flipping love that. With a tense and gripping finale this is another brilliant page turner from an author I will always read. Recommended.

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

The Embalmer by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 12th November 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare @harperteen #ClownInACornfield #damppebbles 🤡

clown in a cornfieldIn Adam Cesare’s terrifying young adult debut, Quinn Maybrook finds herself caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress—that just may cost her life.

Quinn Maybrook and her father have moved to tiny, boring Kettle Springs, to find a fresh start. But what they don’t know is that ever since the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory shut down, Kettle Springs has cracked in half. 

On one side are the adults, who are desperate to make Kettle Springs great again, and on the other are the kids, who want to have fun, make prank videos, and get out of Kettle Springs as quick as they can.

Kettle Springs is caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress. It’s a fight that looks like it will destroy the town. Until Frendo, the Baypen mascot, a creepy clown in a pork-pie hat, goes homicidal and decides that the only way for Kettle Springs to grow back is to cull the rotten crop of kids who live there now.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare with you. Clown in a Cornfield was published by HarperTeen on 17th September 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I saw Clown in a Cornfield mentioned in a couple of Facebook Horror groups and it sounded right up my street so I ordered a copy without a moment’s hesitation.

I bloody hate clowns which perhaps explains why my family looked at me strangely when I ordered this book. What I do love though is a blood-soaked horror read which Clown in a Cornfield most definitely is. I was so excited to make a start on this one that I dropped everything to read it.

Quinn Maybrook is the new girl in town. Having recently lost her mother in tragic circumstances, teenager Quinn is determined to help her father settle quickly into Kettle Springs and build up his GP practice. Despite it being very different to her beloved Philadelphia, Kettle Springs looks an ‘interesting’ place to spend a year before heading off to college. Quinn quickly makes new friends but it’s hard to ignore the divide in the town. The adults don’t like the kids. The kids think the adults are trying to spoil their fun. The kids continue to rebel, pushing the limits, pulling reckless stunts and embarrassing the townsfolk every way they can. Until one fateful night when Kettle Springs’ creepy mascot – Frendo – decides to take things into his own hands…

I really liked Quinn. She felt wise beyond her years and despite the terrifying situation she found herself in, she adjusted and did what she had to do. No matter what that was, and I loved that about her. The supporting cast of characters were equally as well-written but I do admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Rust, who in my opinion stole the show on a number of gun-toting occasions.

In the first third to a half of the book the author sets the scene. The reader is given an insight into life in Kettle Springs and the root cause of much of the tension. It’s a slow build which is necessary to the story but I couldn’t help but be a little impatient, waiting for things to kick off. With hindsight, the amount of non-stop action in the second half of the book meant that the book was nicely balanced overall. If events had been full on from the get-go, I think I would have been exhausted 😂! Reading shouldn’t be exhausting, right?! The second half of Clown in a Cornfield is wonderfully intense and nerve-wracking, and I loved it. The fear was palpable and I was on the edge of my seat.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Clown in a Cornfield delivered one hell of a ride and I was with the characters every terrifying step of the way. I loved that the author didn’t really hold back (although, to contradict myself, I wish he had pushed things a smidge further in one respect). There are a number of brilliant shocks and surprises along the way which really added to the reading experience. For me, this is a book for adults and older teens. It’s a little gorier than your average YA novel and because I’m old fashioned, far too many naughty words for younger teens (who probably know more swear words than I do!). But it reminded me in a way of a series of horror novels I read in my early 20s and that made it all the more fantastic. Recommended.

Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare was published in the UK by HarperTeen on 17th September 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. He studied English and film at Boston University.

His work has been featured in numerous publications, including Shroud Magazine. His nonfiction has appeared in Paracinema, Fangoria, The LA Review of Books and other venues. He also writes a monthly column for Cemetery Dance Online.

His novels and novellas are available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all other fine retailers.

You should buy some.

#BookReview: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #HomeBeforeDark #damppebbles

home before dark“Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2020 with you – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Home Before Dark was published by Dutton Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I was far too impatient for Home Before Dark to make an appearance in the UK so my wonderful children bought me a US hardcover copy for my birthday 🥰.

I absolutely adore Final Girls by Riley Sager. It’s one of my favourite books EVER and I always make a point of recommending it to everyone (my family are understandably quite fed up with my obsession!). So I make a point of reading everything this author publishes, as a matter of urgency. Sager is a great writer but so far nothing has quite come close to the feeling reading Final Girls gave me. Until I picked up my copy of Home Before Dark, that is!

Maggie Holt is a household name for all the wrong reasons. Escaping, as a child, from a haunted house in the dead of night with her family can do that. Not helped by her writer-father turning their terrifying ordeal into a bestseller. Except Maggie remembers next to nothing of what happened at Baneberry Hall, Bartleby, Vermont. And surely something like that would be hard to forget. Following her father’s death, Maggie discovers the family still owns Baneberry Hall, and the crumbling estate has been left to her in her father’s will. Determined to put the past to rest, prove ‘House of Horrors’ was all lies and rid herself of the feeling of uncertainty, Maggie returns to renovate the house with a view to selling it. But what she discovers on her return is more shocking and more terrifying than she ever imagined…

I am completely smitten with Maggie Holt and I loved Home Before Dark. It’s a wonderfully eerie read which held my attention from beginning to end and one I really looked forward to returning to on the odd occasion I had to put the book to one side. The story is told in the present from Maggie’s point of view as we see her experience Baneberry Hall as an adult, only having knowledge of the place garnered from her father’s book. And also from the past via chapters from Ewan Holt’s bestseller ‘House of Horrors’. I particularly loved the way the two different view points were presented in the hardcover copy I read with different fonts and formatting. It really added to the reading experience for me and I found it easy to flit between the then and the now.  I found myself looking forward to each new chapter and the palpable rising tension as this wonderfully creepy story progressed.

I never really knew what was going to happen next in Home Before Dark. Each new twist and turn, each new ghostly happening took me completely by surprise and I savoured every moment. I became so invested in Maggie’s pursuit of what she felt was the truth that I would have loved this book no matter what the conclusion was. The finale, however, is perfect and I found it very satisfying. There was only one point where I could see what was going to happen from a mile off but I certainly hadn’t worked everything out and there were plenty more surprises to come!

Baneberry Hall was the perfect setting for this spooky novel and the author has done a superb job of painting a very clear picture of the house with his words. The neighbouring town, full of angry and hurt locals who had to live with the negativity surrounding the Hall, was also very well drawn and really added to the atmosphere of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Home Before Dark and I think it will stay with me for some time to come. I’ve come to expect a lot from Sager’s novels (thanks to the magnificent brilliance that is Final Girls) and although I doubt any book (by any author) will ever come close to Final Girls in my eyes, Home Before Dark gets a lot closer than most. It’s absolutely marvellous and I expect it will feature on my ‘top reads of 2020’ list. I loved Home Before Dark and highly recommend you give it a go if you’re not afraid of things that go bump (or in this case THUD – tap, tap, tap…) in the night. Chilling, engaging and deliciously tense. Highly recommended.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 30th June 2020 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.com | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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pseudonymRiley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones @headlinepg #TheDisciple #damppebbles

the discipleThey are coming…

On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil’s Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived.

The child’s protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn – a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe – and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain.

She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure.

For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones with you. The Disciple was published by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Disciple but that has in no way influenced my review.

I want to start this review by asking, what the heck have I just read? Someone? Anyone?! I’ve read all 544 pages and I’m still not sure myself but I do know one thing. I absolutely bloody LOVED it!

Edward Schwinn is a loner. Haunted by his tragic past he hides himself away in the Welsh countryside, avoiding human contact at any cost. Until one day he comes across the scene of a horrific accident. Bodies surround him, bent at strange and unusual angles. Death wasn’t kind to these people and what he witnesses will remain scored in his memory forever. He’s drawn to one of the vehicles, opens the door to discover someone he never expected to see. And she’s heavily pregnant. Fleeing the scene and helping the woman to his rundown home, they spend the night hiding from whoever is looking for her. Until she goes into labour. Unknowingly Schwinn has changed his destiny.  He must protect the child from the forces that wish to destroy her. For the sake of all humanity…

The Disciple doesn’t really fit neatly into any one box. As I read this book I felt I was crossing a number of genre lines. There are definitely some wonderful horror aspects to this story. It’s an edgy thriller which had me on the edge of my seat enjoying the delicious sense of foreboding the author gives his reader. Then there were the other ‘less familiar to me’ genres. In places it felt a little bit fantasy (cards on the table: I know nothing about fantasy so perhaps I’m mistaken) and it was hard to miss the sci-fi aspect of the novel. But no matter what The Disciple is, when it comes to labelling, it was a fantastic book and I savoured every second I had with it.

I’m a little bit in love with the main character, Edward Schwinn. Having faced tragedy he has turned his back on the world. But when his moment comes, he steps up to the plate and takes the responsibility laid before him without question or doubt. I think if you look beyond everything else this book, at its heart, has a strong message. You don’t need the same blood running through your veins to be a good parent. I loved Edward’s relationship with the child, Piper. The reader watches it grow over the course of 16 years and it was a truly beautiful thing to witness. I also adored Piper who I think will stay with me for some time to come. There are a number of other fascinating and brilliant characters who leap off the page at the reader (Jolyon in particular). It’s really quite something!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I thoroughly enjoyed The Disciple and having checked my bookshelf, I was delighted to find I have The Silenced by the same author on my TBR. This felt a different read for me and it just goes to show that you should step out of your comfort zone every now and then (although I wasn’t aware I would be doing that when I started it, so…..🤷). I wrote six pages of notes whilst reading The Disciple. There’s a lot to take in but I was totally immersed in the story from beginning to end. The Disciple is something very special which had me crying big ugly tears at points. Days later I sit here typing this review and I’m missing the characters. I want to return to the story. I loved it and I think you should read it. Highly recommended.

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

The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones was published in the UK by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Stephen Lloyd JonesStephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons, a mad cockapoo and far too many books. He’s the author of The String Diaries, Written in the Blood, The Disciple and The Silenced.

#BookReview: The Mayfly by James Hazel @ZaffreBooks #CharliePriest #TheMayfly #damppebbles

9781785763007“A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

When lawyer Charlie Priest is attacked in his own home by a man searching for information he claims Priest has, he is drawn into a web of corruption that has its roots in the last desperate days of World War Two.

When his attacker is found murdered the next day, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly – a secret society that people will kill for.

As Priest races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself”

Welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Mayfly with you. The Mayfly is the first book in the Charlie Priest series, is written by James Hazel and was published by Zaffre Books on 15th June 2017. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Mayfly but that has in no way influenced my review.

Charlie Priest, where have you been all my life? I’m also absolutely kicking myself as this book has been sat on my NetGalley shelf for *ahem* a wee while. Best not to dwell on past mistakes and let’s instead look at the (sort of) here and now. I read The Mayfly. I LOVED The Mayfly.

Ex-detective turned lawyer, Charlie Priest, is unwittingly drawn into a macabre plan, seventy years in the making, when a man in uniform tricks his way into his house. He’s looking for a memory stick. A memory stick Priest has never laid eyes on. The following day the intruder is found grotesquely murdered – Priest’s business card found amongst his clothes, which leads the police straight to his door. It doesn’t help that the detective in charge, McEwen, has it in for him after working together years before. Time is running out for Charlie and the only way to clear his name is to find the mysterious memory stick, and discover what terrible secrets it holds…

The Mayfly is such a brilliant book. I bloody loved it! Charlie Priest is a very likeable character and I was very happy to be swept along into this story with him and his wonderful team. The opening chapters set the tone of this gripping, grisly story perfectly and I was loathe to put the book down for any length of time. Charlie’s career, for a start, makes him an interesting character, but then you discover he suffers from dissociative disorder which is a condition I’ve not really heard about before. It added an extra layer to his personality and I was keen to know more about how it impacted his interactions and day to day life. What absolutely, categorically cemented my love of this book though is that Charlie’s brother is a convicted serial killer. It’s almost like this book was written especially for me!

The supporting cast of characters are all very well written. I was rooting for Georgie, in particular. She reminded of Tilly Bradshaw from MW Craven’s Washington Poe series on several occasions. Vincent Okoro is another character I would like to see more of as the series progresses. And, as you may have gathered, I may be a little in love with Charlie Priest. Moving swiftly on…

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. The Mayfly is brilliant and I’ve already downloaded the second book in the series. I loved the chapters set at the end of the Second World War. The unease the author creates is palpable. I didn’t see the big reveal coming but it was perfect and done very well. The entire plot had me hook, line and sinker. If you love tense, gutsy crime novels with just about the right amount of ‘grisly’, you will love The Mayfly. Crime fiction at its finest. Highly recommended.

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

The Mayfly by James Hazel was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 15th June 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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James HazelBefore turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.

He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.

He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.

James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.