#BookReview: Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan @ZaffreBooks #CutToTheBone #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

cut to the bone“One Missing Girl. Two Million Suspects.

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls.

And she’s missing . . .

But she’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely?

Until the video’s uploaded . . .

Ruby, in the dirt, pleading for her life.

Enter Detective Inspector Kate Riley; the Met’s rising star and the head of a new team of investigators with the best resources money can buy. Among them, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, the poster boy for multiracial policing. But can Kate wholly trust him – and more importantly, can she trust herself around him?

As hysteria builds amongst the press and Ruby’s millions of fans, Kate and her team are under pressure to get results, and fast, but as they soon discover, the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much darker than anyone could have imagined.

And the videos keep coming . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my ninth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan. Cut to the Bone was published by Twenty7 on 14th July 2016 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cut to the Bone but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh my goodness, there is so much going on in this book which makes it a wild ride for the reader! And this is a debut, which is quite mind-blowing. Cut to the Bone didn’t have that tentative, first steps feel about it at all. Caan has obviously been perfecting his craft for some time and it really shows in this, his first novel.

Detective Inspector Kate Riley is called in the middle of the night to attend to a missing persons case. The young woman, a popular vlogger called Ruby Day, has only been missing a few hours but her parents are distraught. The call comes from Justin Hope, the Police Crime Commissioner for Westminster, and Kate can’t understand why her team who normally deal with the most heinous of crimes in London, are being involved. Then a video arrives which shows Ruby running for her life. Ruby is in terrible danger and it’s down to DI Riley and her elite team of investigators to find out where the vlogger is, before it’s too late…

The investigation into Ruby’s disappearance is great but what really made this a riveting read for me were the characters and the team dynamics. There are a number of rather repugnant, self-important people in this book who are rubbing alongside the determined, gutsy investigators. Special Operations Executive Unit Three is a no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object elite unit of investigators, headed up by slimy, career-driven, wannabe politician, Justin Hope. He made my skin crawl and I loved it! Reporting directly to Hope is Detective Inspector Kate Riley who, after leaving the US in a bid to escape a very personal threat, has her own problems at home. Initially, the reader isn’t told exactly what happened to Riley in her past to make her move to the UK, nor what her home situation is, but we’re given short, sharp glimpses which made me question what the heck was going on with her.

And then there’s DS Zain Harris who is cocky and arrogant but I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for him. Again, Harris has a traumatic past which is referred to often and given to the reader in dribs and drabs until you have the whole shocking picture. His loyalties don’t necessarily lie with DI Riley, he knowingly steps on the toes of his colleagues proving his tech far outshines theirs, but he proves himself to have a heart and will stop at nothing to solve the case. I wasn’t sure of him to start with but by the end of the book, I was a Harris fan!

The other members of the team felt a more cohesive unit but that’s not surprising because Harris is the new boy, out to prove himself. They’re a solid bunch of well fleshed out characters who each bring something interesting to the table. The plot is well thought out and takes you down numerous avenues of investigation before the team finally start to get somewhere. But that’s police work, right? Always searching for the means, motive and opportunity which will stick!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Cut to the Bone and the time I spent with Riley and Harris. It’s a dark and edgy police procedural which shows the devastating effects of social media and obsession. Taking you places you won’t initially expect, this hard-hitting debut is one to add to the TBR if you’re a fan of crime fiction. Recommended.

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

Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan was published in the UK by Twenty7 on 14th July 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Alex Caan was born in Manchester, has spent over a decade working in information systems security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing and completing his first novel Cut to the Bone. The sequel, First to Die was published on 14th June 2018.

#BookReview: The Shadow Friend by Alex North @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #TheShadowFriend #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the shadow friend“The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.

For Paul Adams, it’s a day he’ll never forget. He’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He’s never gone back home.

But when his elderly mother has a fall, it’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul’s mother insists there’s something in the house.

And someone is following him.

Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eighth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Shadow Friend by Alex North. The Shadow Friend is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by Michael Joseph books today (9th July 2020). Wishing a very happy, if somewhat slightly different, publication day to the author and the publisher. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Shadow Friend but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Shadow Friend is one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2020, without a shadow (see what I did there!) of a doubt. I loved (LOVED!) The Whisper Man so much. Expectations were high. But, as is normally the case (with me, anyway) because I was so looking forward to reading The Shadow Friend, I kept putting it off. Would it be as good? What if I was left feeling disappointed? Would life ever be the same again?! Oh, the pressure! I needn’t have worried. I thoroughly enjoyed North’s latest book.

Paul Adams had a traumatic childhood when his friend was savagely murdered by two other teenagers. The murder went down in the annals of history, as the killers were convinced that by doing what they did, they would be rewarded by being whisked away from this life to a fantasy dream world. Crazy, right? But immediately after the murder one of the teenage killers, troubled Charlie Crabtree, vanished without a trace and hasn’t been seen since. Now, 25 years later, history is repeating itself and more teenagers are copying the murder in an attempt to disappear just like Charlie. Paul can no longer hide from the past and has to confront the guilt he carries for what happened that fateful day twenty-five years ago. But someone doesn’t want Paul back in Gritten Wood…

Creepy, chilling, twisty and everything I had hoped for. North has done it again and given readers a compelling, character-driven mystery which I was more than happy to lose myself in for a number of hours. I really liked Paul from the get-go. Putting likeable, normal people in the most ominous of situations is something this author absolutely excels at. I also really liked Detective Amanda Beck but I was a little confused as to why she didn’t search for similar murders pre-dating the Featherbank killing (the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Featherbank is the town the Whisper Man tormented all those years ago!), and had to rely on Paul to drop that particular bombshell. But what do I know about modern-day policing?! (Only what I read in crime novels, dear reader 😂.)

There was one particular twist in this book which took my breath away and I loved it. I really took to the plot as the science behind why and how we dream is something I find really interesting. I remember keeping a dream diary at the same age as the teenagers in this book. Not to the same end, thankfully, but I felt I related to some aspects (for the record, it wasn’t so I would disappear and there was absolutely, definitely, categorically no murder involved).

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Shadow Friend and The Whisper Man are both cracking reads. There’s such a chilling edge to both books and for that, they get top marks from me. I’m excited to see what this author comes up with next. Creepy, compelling and so very entertaining from start to finish. Highly recommended.

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

The Shadow Friend by Alex North was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 9th July 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 | Foyles | Waterstones | Book Depository | Add to your Goodreads Shelf |

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Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department.

Author Links:Twitter |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Collector by John Maher #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #TheCollector #damppebbles

The Collector John Maher“They say human life is the most precious thing. The Collector doesn’t agree.

When world renowned archaeologist Philip Carlton suddenly and unexpectedly commits suicide, the police are called to investigate. Heading up the investigation is Detective Lucy O’Hara, a Forensic Linguist – and she immediately sees something is wrong with the suicide note. In her gut, she knows this was cold-blooded murder.

Battling sceptical superiors and the Irish establishment, Lucy digs for the truth and begins to uncover a shadowy trade in ancient artifacts led by a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Collector’.

As Lucy works to uncover his identity, she soon realises she is up against a ruthless mastermind who is systematically eliminating anyone who might lead her to him. But Lucy won’t give up and soon The Collector turns his attention to her…

The Collector – the first in a gripping new series featuring Detective Lucy O’Hara.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Emma has given me the keys to the blog today so I can share my guest review of The Collector by John Maher with you. I received a free eARC of The Collector but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Collector is the first book in the Lucy O’Hara series and I really enjoyed it. I don’t remember reading a book about a forensic linguist before, and I was intrigued to see what was involved. Lucy O’ Hara is a detective determined to get her career back on track, and when her linguistic skills sense that a suicide note may hold some clues that hint at foul play, she is thrown into a deadly game.

The joy of this book is that against the background of murder and traded ancient artifacts, the characters were the stars.  Whether this was the excellent Lucy O’ Hara, the mysterious Sullivan parachuted into the investigation for unclear reasons, the deeply malevolent Collector, the cold hitman, or multiple suspects, each had a distinctive and well-defined character and often a hidden motive…

Lucy O’Hara stands out though (as you would imagine in Lucy O’ Hara book one!). A detective in need of rehabilitation with a strong sense of justice. She has a need to prove herself and overcome demons in the past, which must be done whilst leading her team through parts of the investigation with a determination that belies her shattered confidence. Her team blends colleagues from different parts of Ireland and you can sense the unity and belief growing, as the story unfolds. The author uses location well to denote changes in the pace of the story, whether the focus is on Lucy’s personal challenges or the investigation.

As I mentioned earlier the blurb mentions Forensic Linguists and some may be put off by this, worrying about a potentially complex read. I can reassure you that it wasn’t. Maher leads the reader through each of the deductions in such a simple way that you don’t feel intimidated. In fact, I thought the author could have made more of this unusual skill and I’m looking forward to finding out how more breakthroughs will come from this skillset in book two!

I would happily recommend The Collector to anyone looking for a strong story, with well-written characters and a different approach from the main detective. John Maher’s writing pulls you into an Ireland populated with strong characters, malevolent villains from across Europe and intelligent and complex police officers. A strong starting novel in what could become a fan favourite series.

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

The Collector by John Maher was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 5th July 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 | Goodreads |

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John MaherJohn Maher has published five novels and a collection of short stories. He has won national awards for radio play and short story with RTE in Ireland. His novel, The Luck Penny, was shortlisted for debut novel on BBC Radio 5.

A former teacher and lecturer, he holds a Phd from the School of Oriental and African Studies (London).

He lives in a small Irish village, between the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, from which he steals away, from time to time, to visit the world outside the island.

THE COLLECTOR will be his first novel published with Inkubator Books.

#BookReview: Halfway by B.E. Jones @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #Halfway #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

halfway

“Three women. One killer. No turning back.

The Halfway Inn is closed to customers, side-lined by a bypass and hidden deep in inhospitable countryside. One winter’s night, two women end up knocking on the door, seeking refuge as a blizzard takes hold.

But why is the landlord less than pleased to see them? And what is his elderly father trying so hard to tell them?

At the local police station PC Lissa Lloyd is holding the fort while the rest of her team share in the rare excitement of a brutal murder at an isolated farmhouse. A dangerous fugitive is on the run – but how can Lissa make a name for herself if she’s stuck at her desk? When a call comes in saying the local district nurse is missing, she jumps at the chance to investigate her disappearance.

The strangers at Halfway wait out the storm, but soon realise they might have been safer on the road. It seems not all the travellers will make it home for Christmas . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my sixth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Halfway by B.E. Jones. Halfway was published by Constable in November 2018 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Halfway but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog you may be aware that one of my favourite books from last year was the absolutely outstanding Wilderness by B.E. Jones (it’s amazing, you need to get hold of a copy!). Jones has written a number of other books though, all of which look very intriguing, but there was something about Halfway which sang to me. The blurb, the cover, and the idea really appealed. And now, of course, I’m kicking myself that I haven’t read Halfway sooner because once again, it’s another absolutely outstanding novel. I LOVED it!

On a snowy December day near the isolated Welsh town of Pont, hitchhiker Lee is trying to find her way out. She’s cold, the weather is getting worse and she just wants to get as far away from Pont as possible. Desperate times call for desperate measures so she steps out in front of a car, the driver slams on the brakes and Lee invites herself into the warmth of local nurse, Becca’s, vehicle. But the car won’t start and both women know they need to find shelter from the snowstorm. So they head back the way Becca had come from, to a dilapidated pub further down the road. The landlord greets them less than enthusiastically, there’s a strange air about him. And why is his hand bleeding? As the day progresses, it becomes clear to Lee and Becca that not everything is as it seems at The Halfway…

In a similar vein to Wilderness, Halfway is as much about the setting as it is about the characters. The atmospheric descriptions of the vast Welsh countryside, with the added smothering effect of the snowstorm, the knowledge that one wrong turn could have you lost forever, made me feel quite claustrophobic, and I loved it. It’s really beautifully done and Jones is a master of making you feel as though you’re living the story along with the characters.

The characters are well-drawn and I made my mind up about them pretty quickly. But this is a crime thriller and nothing is ever as straight forward as it initially seems. The book has a wonderful darkness to it and I absolutely lapped it up. From start to finish, you know there’s something very wrong here and I found myself on the edge of my seat, loving the ominous feeling Jones’ writing gave me. I did have a few suspicions about where the story was going and despite being able to spot one big twist (because I’m Mrs Super Suspicious!) it didn’t detract from the story at all.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, yes! Without a moment’s hesitation. I loved Halfway and I’m so glad I read it. I loved the entire book but I really enjoyed the ending, which was blood-soaked and so very satisfying. I think one of the most impressive things for me though was how the author managed to completely change my opinion of two of the main characters as the end of the book approached. Beautifully written, utterly compelling and really quite addictive. Highly recommended, one for my top books of the year list and an author to watch.

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

Halfway by B.E. Jones was published in the UK by Constable on 1st November 2018 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 | hive.co.uk | Goodreads |

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photo of Bev

Beverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today.

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e books.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website |

#BookReview: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #MexicanGothic #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

mexican gothic“The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her.

Noemí’s chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.

Tough and smart, she possesses an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .”

Hello and welcome, bookish friends, to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia. Now the observant amongst you may be wondering where review number six has gone. Well, I’ll be sharing that on Thursday but seeing as it’s publication day for Mexican Gothic today (which is 30th June 2020 – happy publication day!), it seemed more fitting to share review seven before review six (that, or I’m just trying very hard to confuse myself!). I chose to read and review an eARC of Mexican Gothic but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ll be completely honest and say that I didn’t know what to expect from Mexican Gothic. I’ve read plenty of gothic novels over the years. They fit quite nicely into my love of dark fiction. But this book is billed as a historical gothic fantasy/romance and, as a reader of predominantly crime with a splash of horror on the side, this book felt a little like an unknown entity to me. I needn’t have worried. Mexican Gothic is a haunting gothic tale which played straight into my love of the horror genre, taking me on a terrifying journey into the very heart of a creepy old mansion and the sinister family who inhabit its walls.

Party girl and socialite Noemí Taboada is reluctant to follow her father’s wishes and visit her recently married cousin, Catalina, at High Place – a decrepit old mansion on the outskirts of a small Mexican village. But Catalina has written such a strange letter, leaving her family in Mexico City concerned for her mental health and well being, that Noemí feels she has no choice but to go — the promise of a place at University to study anthropology made by her father also helps! When Noemí arrives, she meets Catalina’s strange extended family. They’re guarded. She’s an unwelcome guest in their home but she feels something is definitely wrong at High Place. The more time she spends in the house, the more concerned she grows for Catalina and the more desperate she is to leave. But the more Noemí digs into the history of High Place and the Doyle family, the more frightening secrets she discovers…

I loved tenacious, fiery Noemí. She’s one gutsy woman who won’t be put in a box and behave as the era expects of her. She’s forthright, outspoken and determined to discover what is happening to her cousin and why Catalina reports of seeing ghosts. But getting to Catalina for any length of time is a problem as she’s closely guarded by the family and their staff. Other characters in the book (virtually all of the Doyle family actually) made me feel really uncomfortable, which I loved. I felt particular disgust for creepy old Howard Doyle, the family patriarch, his handsome yet utterly repulsive son, Virgil, and Howard’s niece, the detestable Florence. The scenes in the book between Noemí and Virgil are so brilliantly written, they physically made my skin crawl. Florence’s son, Francis, faired a little better. I wanted to know what his secret was though. What was he hiding from Noemí.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Mexican Gothic without revealing a few spoilers so I’m going to say as little as possible about it. The first half of the book, I found a touch slow. But I think that’s quite true of many gothic novels. You need time to get to know the characters and the setting and make that connection. The second half I loved and sped through the story. When the family secret is discovered, the pace really picks up and I struggled to put this book down. It’s so compelling and I was lost in the world of High Place alongside Noemí.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mexican Gothic is a chilling read and one I heartily recommend. With that stunning cover, a fierce female lead and a story that takes you places you don’t expect, this is a book not to be missed. Despite my initial reservations, I’m glad I read Mexican Gothic and lost myself for a few hours in the dark and dank corridors of High Place. As settings go, it’s going to be one I remember for some time to come. Recommended.

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

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover 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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silvia moreno-garciaSilvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

 

 

#BookReview: The Secret by Katerina Diamond @AvonBooksUK #TheSecret #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the secret“Can you keep a secret? Your life depends on it…

When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back – of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets?

As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter.

And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Secret by Katerina Diamond. The Secret is the second book in Diamond’s DS Imogen Grey series and was published in all formats by Avon Books on 20th October 2016. I received a free eARC of The Secret but that has in no way influenced my review.

I confess, I’m a terrible book blogger. I read The Teacher (the first book in the DS Grey series) in 2017 and despite really enjoying it, I completely failed to review it. I read it shortly before my first massive reading slump (I can assure you, it was NOT the cause) and then never went back to write down my thoughts. I do regret that, as this series feels elevated from many of the run of the mill police procedurals out there. Diamond has no fear. She’s quite happy to shock and stun her audience with her graphic descriptions and the acts of violence her characters carry out. Which, of course, I absolutely love. I’m a reader who doesn’t shy away from a more brutal crime fiction novel. In fact, I wish more authors were as fearless as Diamond is, and were prepared to push the situations their characters find themselves in a little more.

Having recently returned to work, DS Imogen Grey and her partner, DS Adrian Miles, are tasked with finding a missing woman, Bridget Reid. Bridget was last seen by a hapless bystander half-conscious on the bank of a river after being pursued by two men. Both Grey and Miles know that they’re against the clock and they need to find Bridget soon, before the unthinkable happens. But their investigation grinds to a halt and they struggle to find a direction. As they dig deeper, more and more horrifying secrets are unearthed. Can they find Bridget alive, before it’s too late…?

This book is so much darker than the cover leads you to believe, and I kinda like that. With its grisly opening and it’s fast-paced story, led by a strong and gutsy female lead, it’s hard to not get sucked into this book from the get-go. Whether you’ll end up liking Detective Grey is another matter altogether but I think I’m certainly warming to her. One of the things I remember from reading the first book – The Teacher – was that I liked DS Adrian Miles more than Grey. But the more I get to know this character, the more I like what she’s about.

The story is multi-layered with lots going on to keep your interest. Everybody has a secret to some degree in this novel. There are chapters set in the present which follow the current investigation in Exeter with DS Grey and DS Miles. Then there are chapters set in the past – two years previous – which follow DS Grey and another officer, DS Sam Brown, on a different investigation in Plymouth. The reader discovers so much about Imogen and her past in this book, which I really enjoyed. Then there are some quite harrowing chapters from a young boy throughout the years who is unnamed but we get to follow him as his domineering and violent father carries out his despicable plans.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would but it’s not for the squeamish. There are some pretty grisly scenes in The Secret which I loved! The constant shift from the past to the present was a little disorientating at times, particularly if I had put the book down for a few hours before returning to it. But sitting here cogitating on the novel as a whole, I really enjoyed it and have since been able to piece the different aspects together. All in all, a very entertaining read and I really look forward to catching up with Grey and Miles again soon. Recommended.

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

The Secret by Katerina Diamond was published in the UK by Avon Books on 20th October 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads | Book Depository |

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Katerina DiamondKaterina is the author of the Sunday Times Best Selling Exeter based crime thriller series – starting with ‘The Teacher’ and followed by The Secret, The Angel, The Promise and Truth or Die. Katerina is currently working on her seventh novel which is a standalone.

Katerina also runs the facebook book group CRIME SUSPECT with several other crime authors.

Katerina currently lives in East Kent. Katerina was born in Weston-super-Mare and has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Katerina watches way too much TV.

#BookReview: Blood Lines by Angela Marsons @bookouture #BloodLines #DetectiveKimStone #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

blood lines

“How do you catch a killer who leaves no trace?

A victim killed with a single, precise stab to the heart appears at first glance to be a robbery gone wrong. A caring, upstanding social worker lost to a senseless act of violence. But for Detective Kim Stone, something doesn’t add up.

When a local drug addict is found murdered with an identical wound, Kim knows instinctively that she is dealing with the same killer. But with nothing to link the two victims except the cold, calculated nature of their death, this could be her most difficult case yet.

Desperate to catch the twisted individual, Kim’s focus on the case is threatened when she receives a chilling letter from Dr Alex Thorne, the sociopath who Kim put behind bars. And this time, Alex is determined to hit where it hurts most, bringing Kim face-to-face with the woman responsible for the death of Kim’s little brother – her own mother.

As the body count increases, Kim and her team unravel a web of dark secrets, bringing them closer to the killer. But one of their own could be in mortal danger. Only this time, Kim might not be strong enough to save them…

A totally gripping thriller that will have you hooked from the very first page to the final, dramatic twist.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. It’s good to see you! Today I am delighted to be sharing my fourth 20 Books of Summer review with you and it’s for Blood Lines by Angela Marsons. Blood Lines is the fifth book in the absolutely excellent Detective Kim Stone series, it was published by Bookouture on 4th November 2016 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Blood Lines but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m ashamed to admit that the Detective Kim Stone series by the incredibly talented Angela Marsons is another crime fiction series I’ve fallen behind with. (I’ve also discovered, which has thrown a rather massive spanner in the works, that I’ve managed to miss a book out 😲. Not a problem, it can be rectified, but…doh! I have an awful lot of catching up to do anyway as currently, there are 12 books in the series!) It’s been a while since I last spent time with Kim and the team but reading Blood Lines was like catching up with old friends you haven’t seen for years. It felt as though no time had passed and I was straight back into the heart of the investigation with this small but elite team.

Kim and her team are called to investigate a brutal murder carried out by a cold-blooded, professional killer. The body of a highly considered social worker is found in her car with a single, precise stab wound to the chest. Why someone would kill Deanna Brightman is anyone’s guess. But then a second body is discovered and despite the same kill method, the victims are polar opposites. This time the victim is a young drug addict. What connects these two women? Kim and the team are baffled and desperately search for a sliver of a clue to help piece together who would commit such an atrocious crime on two such different individuals. But Kim is distracted. Having received a letter from her nemesis, the despicable Dr Alexandra Thorne, Kim’s attention isn’t 100% on the investigation. Will the team discover what connects the victims, before it’s too late…?

Holy moly, there’s a lot going on in this book! Not only does Detective Kim Stone have to deal with a tricky murder investigation, there’s the very dark and ominous threat of Kim’s arch-enemy, the absolutely brilliant and dastardly Alex Thorne, to contend with as well. Thorne is locked up tight in Drake Hall Prison but that doesn’t stop her evil, meddling ways – no siree! She’s such a brilliantly written character who not only gets under Kim’s skin, but the reader’s skin as well. I loved the chapters where Kim visits Thorne in prison. There’s so much power play and manipulation between the two women and I found myself getting totally lost in Marsons’ words and characters.

The investigation in Blood Lines is really interesting and I struggled, along with the team, to see what the connection between the victims was. I was, of course, playing amateur sleuth but I’m delighted to say I failed miserably and the big reveal was a complete surprise. I felt the reader discovered a lot more about Kim in this book, which I personally, really enjoyed. Reference has been made to her traumatic childhood in previous novels and her intense hatred of her mother, but the reader finds out so much more in Blood Lines than we’ve been party to in past novels. I’ve always been fond of Detective Kim Stone but I really respect and admire the character more having read this book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Even though I’ve only read up to book five (minus one in the middle somewhere….😬) I would heartily recommend this entire series. Marsons is an incredibly talented writer and this is such a clever and accomplished series. There’s always a twist in the tale, an extra surprise thrown in to take your breath away and I love that about Marsons’s books. Edgy, compelling reading which is 100% entertaining from start to finish. Highly recommended.

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

Blood Lines by Angela Marsons was published in the UK by Bookouture on 4th November 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Angela Marsons

Angela Marsons is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of the DI Kim Stone series and her books have sold more than 4 million in 5 years.

She lives in Worcestershire with her partner and their 2 cheeky Golden Retrievers.

#BookReview: Written in Bones by James Oswald @PenguinUKBooks #WritteninBones #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

written in bonesInspector McLean returns in the seventh instalment of James Oswald’s gritty, compelling crime series, for his most mysterious murder investigation yet . . .

The roots of murder run deep . . .

When a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my third 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Written in Bones by James Oswald. Written in Bones was published by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Written in Bones but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh the perils of NetGalley. Imagine the scene. Wherever you look, crime fiction readers are raving about an author and your FOMO seriously kicks in. Everywhere I looked on social media, the name James Oswald was being mentioned. The need to read a book by Oswald went from being ‘vaguely intrigued’ to ‘epically strong’, so I toddled off to NG and requested Written in Bones. Only to discover that it’s the seventh book in the DI Tony McLean series 🤦. Book seven. Now, I don’t mind going into a series partway through, but knowing I had missed out on six earlier books had me worried. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with DI McLean and team, but I did feel a little lost at times. If you’re coming to this series for the first time, then I would strongly suggest that you start at the beginning as I felt I struggled a little not knowing the history of these characters.

McLean is called to a crime scene in The Meadows and what he finds is like nothing he’s seen before. An ex-police officer with a notorious past is found dead in a tree. By the looks of things, Bill Chalmers was dropped from a great height. The 10-year-old boy who discovered the body tells of hearing a dragon whilst out walking his dog. But surely that can’t be the case, can it…? McLean is at a loss. Taking a microscope to Chalmers’ colourful life, they struggle to find why anyone would want him dead and in such an elaborate fashion to boot! Staff shortages, the sudden retreat of many of the senior officers and an eye witness account of a mythical beast, all muddy the waters. How far does McLean have to dig into the past to discover what really happened to Bill Chalmers and more importantly, why…?

I really liked DI Tony McLean. I read a lot of crime fiction, particularly police procedurals, and I enjoy it when an author gives their lead detective a different spin. McLean’s wealth and his determination to get the job done at any cost made him a memorable character. He doesn’t need to keep the bosses onside, and does whatever it takes and upsets whoever he needs to, to get the job done. I can see why this is such a popular series and why Oswald is a much-admired writer. I absolutely loved the cold, snowy setting of Edinburgh and could easily picture the scene as McLean drove through the streets in his vintage Alfa. I liked the way the treacherous weather hampered the investigation. It was almost a character in itself!

I found the plot a little confusing but I think that’s because there are quite a few key characters at play and I was meeting them for the first time. Had I had some experience or knowledge of the cast, then perhaps I would have been able to get to grips with the plot a little quicker. Rather than having to refer to my notes a lot of the time to remind myself who was who and what I knew about them up until that point.

Would I recommend this book? Sort of. I would recommend that you start at the beginning of the series with Natural Causes and work your way up to Written in Bones. There’s a lot of pressure on authors to make sure each of their books ‘stand alone’ but I feel there’s been too much water under the bridge for that to be the case with this book. I came into Written in Bones expecting to not fully understand all of the references to previous cases and to not be familiar with the characters. That’s what you get when you start a series partway through. But I felt I had been left out of the cool group at school, a little on the periphery and watching the action from afar. Not really understanding exactly what was going on. I loved Oswald’s writing, his characters and his bitterly cold Edinburgh, and would happily (gladly!) read more. Just in the right order this time.

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

Written in Bones by James Oswald was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 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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James OswaldJames Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries. The first two of these, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. Set in an Edinburgh not so different to the one we all know, Detective Inspector Tony McLean is the unlucky policeman who can see beneath the surface of ordinary criminal life to the dark, menacing evil that lurks beneath.

He has also introduced the world to Detective Constable Constance ‘Con’ Fairchild, whose first outing was in the acclaimed No Time To Cry.

As J D Oswald, James has also written a classic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, it follows the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. The whole series is now available in print, ebook and audio formats.

James has pursued a varied career – from Wine Merchant to International Carriage Driving Course Builder via Call Centre Operative and professional Sheep Shit Sampler (true). He moved out of the caravan when Storm Gertrude blew the Dutch barn down on top of it, and now lives in a proper house with three dogs, two cats and a long-suffering partner. He farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, writes disturbing fiction by night.

#BookReview: The Betrayals by Fiona Neill @PenguinUKBooks #TheBetrayals #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the betrayals“None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast.

Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable.

But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick.

And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets.

Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel.

Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer.

And Nick must confront his own version of events.

There are four sides to this story. Who will you believe?”

Hello and welcome to a new day on damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my second 20 Books of Summer review with you today and it’s for The Betrayals by Fiona Neill. The Betrayals was published by Penguin on 10th August 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Betrayals but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with The Betrayals on my NetGalley shelf. It’s so different to what I normally read. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that crime fiction is my ‘thing’, liberally sprinkled with lots of death and destruction. The Betrayals I would describe more as a family drama….and I LOVED IT! Honestly, I think I may be mellowing in my old age because I couldn’t put this book down and it really wormed its way under my skin.

Lisa committed one of the worst crimes a best friend could, when she had an affair with Rosie’s husband, Nick. The affair ended what Rosie thought was a strong and stable marriage, leaving her and her two children, Daisy and Max, alone. Now, after eight years of silence, Lisa wants to talk. She has something she has to share with Rosie and time is running out. But the threat of Lisa being back in their lives puts untold pressure on an already fragile Daisy whose compulsive behaviour is spiralling out of control. Will Rosie confront the past, come face to face with her ex-best friend and discover what Lisa wants to share? Four points of view, four very different memories of a week on the Norfolk coast which changed the lives of the Rankin family forever…

This is a wonderful, character-driven, slow burn of a novel and I devoured it. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. When I was doing other things (cooking, watching TV) I wanted to get back to the book. There’s nothing I love more than a character-driven novel and that’s what The Betrayals delivers in spades. The Rankin family, made up of mum – breast cancer consultant – Rosie, estranged Dad, Nick – who works in the study of memory – student daughter, Daisy, and medical student son, Max, were such a fascinating bunch of characters that I was pulled into their world from the very start of the book to the very end. Four different points of view, but for me, it was all about Max and Daisy. The Betrayals is their story.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the four family members in the present day. The reader is then whisked to the blowy Norfolk coast and back to that fateful week eight years ago, and that’s when things start slotting into place for the reader. Divided loyalties, teenage insecurities and the beginning of the end for not one, but two marriages. The start of something unwelcome – or perhaps the catalyst for it to begin to dig its spiky nails in further. There was no turning back after the holiday in Norfolk where lives changed forever. I must mention how utterly adorable Max is at the age of 10 years old. He’s so very wise beyond his years, so observant and astute.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes but be prepared for a wonderful slow burn of a novel with very few twists and turns and a somewhat over-egged big reveal courtesy of Lisa. This is the story of the Rankins and I savoured every moment I spent with them. I would normally shy away from a book like this as it’s not my usual choice of genre but I’m so glad I read it. The Betrayals puts family dynamics under the microscope and I heartily recommend it.

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

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill was published in the UK by Penguin on 10th August 2017 and is available in digital format (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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Fiona Neill_c_Guy Hills USEFiona Neill is a novelist and journalist. She was born in 1966. Her first novel The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy, based on her column in The Times Magazine every Saturday, was published in 2007. It was widely acclaimed and went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller that sold in twenty-five countries.

Brought up in Norfolk, she now lives in London with her husband and three children.

#BookReview: The Proposal by S.E. Lynes @bookouture #TheProposal #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the proposal“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man.

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my first 20 Books of Summer review with you and it’s for a corker of a book – The Proposal by S.E. Lynes. The Proposal was published by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Proposal but that has in no way influenced my review.

Well, this book is a bit bonkers! And by ‘a bit’ I actually mean ‘totally and completely’ — and I loved it! What an intoxicating and unexpected ride the author took me on. I’ll be completely honest, from the design of the cover, I was expecting a fairly run of the mill psychological thriller. But I should have known better! S.E. Lynes is always pushing the boundaries and The Proposal is proof of that. I have loved this author’s work ever since I read her outstanding debut, Valentina, and I continue to do so (although I have fallen a little behind with her books I’m ashamed to say). If you haven’t read an S.E. Lynes book before, then I heartily recommend you remedy that as soon as possible.

Teacher and romance author, Pippa Gates, is uninspired with life. She’s recently divorced, has had a string of depressing Tinder hookups and is facing a deadline from her editor. The clock is ticking and she doesn’t have the foggiest idea of even the basic storyline for her next book, let alone any of the details her editor wants to hear. That’s when the doorbell rings. She’s not expecting company, but reluctantly opens the door and comes face to face with door-to-door salesman, Ryan Marks. Ryan has had a tough life but is trying to find his way back into society. It’s hard to describe, but Pippa feels an odd connection to this man. She wants to hear his story, it could help inspire her writing – the bestseller she’s dreamt of for so long could be stood in front of her – so she makes a proposal. She’s a street-smart and intelligent woman who knows exactly what she’s doing, doesn’t she…?

Oh my flipping goodness! What a compelling novel The Proposal is. There’s such a delicious sense of foreboding from the start and I was hooked instantly. I’m not sure I liked Pippa Gates, Novelist but I was more than happy to spend time with her. There’s ‘something’ about this character that made me want to follow her, I was drawn to her. The story is told in the main by Pippa in the form of diary entries. She speaks directly to the reader, which is only one aspect of the many in this book which I loved. She almost has a conversation with her reader, making judgements about you, your thoughts and your feelings. I loved it. And if you’re not a little intrigued by that first line: The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead… then WTF? There are also blog posts, references to Instagram posts and audio recordings which all put you thoroughly on edge and wanting to know more.

The first half of the book I devoured as I felt nervous as hell for a very reckless woman who seemed intent on putting herself in the most dangerous of situations. Lynes’s writing carried me along and I was lost in Pippa’s world. The second half of the book (it could have been the last third – I’m afraid I was so caught up in the action, I didn’t take note) slowed down a little for me as what I had feared, happened in full technicolour glory. The anticipation dropped a little, although my concern for Pippa certainly didn’t. This is one dark and devilish tale and I still stand by what I said earlier in this review – it’s a little bit bonkers. I was able to guess what one of the big twists was going to be but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. In fact, it made me read faster as I was desperate to have my suspicions confirmed or proven incorrect.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I would, yes. The Proposal is an edgy, no holds barred psychological thriller. There are times when the characters (or Pippa) do some pretty daft things, but just go with it. It’s such an intriguing, captivating, well-written book and goes to prove that Lynes is a ‘must read’ author (but I knew that already). Twisted, twisty and impossible to put down. Recommended.

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

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 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 | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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S E Lynes Author PhotoS E Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT and THE PROPOSAL.

After graduating from Leeds University, Susie lived in London before moving to Aberdeen where she worked as a producer at the BBC before moving with her husband, Paul, and two young children to Rome.

In Rome, she began to write, snatching time where she could. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.

She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing. She has also published two children’s books in Italy.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |