#BookReview: The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis #TheShards #damppebbles

“LA, 1981. Buckley College in heat. 17-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends, even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equalled only by his increasingly unsettling preoccupation with The Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence.

Can he trust his friends – or his own mind – to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, Bret spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between The Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.

Gripping, sly, suspenseful, deeply haunting and often darkly funny, The Shards is a mesmerizing fusing of fact and fiction that brilliantly explores the emotional fabric of Bret’s life at 17 – sex and jealousy, obsession and murderous rage.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis. The Shards is published by Swift Press tomorrow (that’s Tuesday 17th January 2023) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Shards but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rachel at Swift Press for sending me a proof copy.

The Shards is Bret Easton Ellis’s first book in thirteen years, which is something I personally find quite exciting. I must admit that I have read only one of his previous books and that’s the highly controversial American Psycho. Have you read it? What did you think? As a reader of dark fiction and someone who’s read some REALLY unsettling works, American Psycho left me feeling uncomfortable. But isn’t that one of the main points of literature? To make the reader feel something? Following my experience with American Psycho I felt my time with this author wasn’t done. I wanted to read more. Which is why when offered a review copy, I bit the publisher’s hand off.

It’s 1981 and Bret is starting his senior year at exclusive Buckley College, a private school for the children of LA’s elite. Bret knows what he’s going to do with his life when he graduates and that’s become a writer. But until then, he and his friends are going to make the best of their last year under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and quaaludes. When a new kid joins their senior class, he’s welcomed into Bret’s friendship group. But Bret is suspicious. Why would anyone transfer to a different school for their senior year? What is Robert Mallory hiding? As Robert ingratiates himself into the group Bret struggles to convince his friends that they need to be wary of him. Elsewhere in LA a serial killer is at large. Dubbed The Trawler, the killer is targeting young women. But Bret is the only person aware of the horror happening on their doorstep. No one else in his senior class seems to care or even be aware of the danger. As Bret begins to piece together a timeline, a startling coincidence becomes clear. Could Robert Mallory and The Trawler be connected…?

The Shards is an unsettling piece of metafiction presenting itself as a semi-autobiographical novel and it works very well. Throughout the entire book I questioned exactly how much was true and how much was fiction. I even ended up Googling a couple of names because my curiosity became too much to bear! The characters are interesting. Particularly Bret who throughout the book tries to hide his sexuality from his friends whilst having numerous very explicit, secret encounters with a number of men. All while trying to deter his overly needy girlfriend, Debbie, who won’t leave him alone for more than a few hours. The tension between Bret and Robert Mallory builds beautifully over the course of the book to an explosive, unforgettable ending which I loved every moment of. It just takes the reader a long time to get there so this is very much a novel you need to invest in.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But please be aware that this book is not for the faint hearted. It’s explicit in both violence and sexual content (along with drug and alcohol use) and won’t be for everyone. I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the novel. Is Robert Mallory The Trawler? Or has Bret’s over-active writer’s imagination connected dots that aren’t actually there. The ending of the book was sublime. Vivid, expertly written tension that claws you in and refuses to let go. But at over 600 pages I do feel the book was too long and often repetitive. I have since discovered that The Shards was initially released as a podcast which now makes some of the repetitive sections make more sense. One other tiny bugbear I had with the book were the driving scenes. Bret likes to drive a lot and every road he happens down is mentioned. I’m a Brit with no knowledge or emotional connection to LA so these scenes got a little old fairly quickly for me. However, I loved the overall 80s nostalgia along with the references to music and movies of the time. I felt they really rooted the story in it’s historical setting. The mystery was intriguing and kept me turning the pages (all 608 of them to be precise!) and I will definitely be reading more by this author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis was published in the UK by Swift Press on 17th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Bret Easton EllisBret Easton Ellis is an American author. He is considered to be one of the major Generation X authors and was regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney. He has called himself a moralist, although he has often been pegged as a nihilist. His characters are generally young vacuous people, who are aware of their depravity but choose to enjoy it. The novels are also linked by common, recurring characters, and dystopic locales (such as Los Angeles and New York).

#BookReview: Kill For It by Lizzie Fry @BooksSphere #KillForIt #Giveaway #damppebbles

How far would you go for the thing you want most?
Would you… kill for it?

Cat Crawford is not especially good at her job.

Erin Goodman is the woman Cat wants to be when she’s older – smart, successful, and the best part? She’s earned it – nothing was ever handed to Erin on a plate, or to Cat.

But Erin doesn’t notice Cat. Not until something awful happens and Cat, finding herself in the right place at the right time, writes the article that goes viral. Now she’s got Erin’s attention.

The difference is, Cat knows Erin is onto her. And Cat is more than happy to toy with her colleague, especially if it gets her an even bigger story to report on.

In the game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Kill For It by Lizzie Fry. Kill For It was published by Sphere Books on 24th November 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Kill For It but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Beth at Sphere Books for sending me a finished copy.

Before I share my thoughts I have some very special news to share with you. The kind folk at Sphere Books have sent me a second copy of this utterly compelling cat and mouse thriller to giveaway! How brilliant is that?! One lucky UK based reader will receive a brand new, unread copy of the book. For your chance to win, head on over to the damppebbles Twitter and Instagram feeds and follow the instructions. You can enter the giveaway on both platforms doubling your chance of winning, or just the one if you prefer. Giveaway ends on Friday 20th January 2023 at midday (GMT). Good luck and believe me when I say ‘you need this book in your life’!

Journalist Erin Goodman’s home life is complicated to say the least. Her work life though is a different beast altogether. She’s successful, focussed and driven. She’s a woman succeeding in a male dominated environment and she won’t stop until the top job is hers. Cat Crawford has the same ambition but she’s on the lowest rung of the lowest ladder at Carmine Media. She aspires to be like Erin but the thought of putting the effort in just feels a little bit too much like hard work. When Erin shocks her junior colleague by taking her under her wing, Cat is both flattered and surprised. The two women begin to spend more time together until one fateful night when Cat finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wanting to share her experience she writes a piece which instantly goes viral. Suddenly Cat is the centre of attention at work and she likes how it feels. There’s a fast track to the top in sight, and for Cat, it’s within grasping distance. Providing she is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed….

Kill For It is a suspenseful page-turner of a novel which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to jaw-dropping finish. The plot is pacy and taut keeping you fully submerged in the world these characters inhabit. The characters are divine. They’re not particularly likeable but they do have moments where you can sympathise with them, even if they’re only brief. For example, as Erin’s boss says something totally inappropriate and demeaning to her for the third or fourth time that day just because he’s of a generation where that was how women were treated (not acceptable then, not acceptable now). Or when Cat’s awful boyfriend, Lawrence, is treating her badly. Again. I love a book that provokes a reaction in the reader that’s exactly what the author has achieved here with her cast of multi-layered, well-drawn characters. With misogynistic, entitled men throwing their weight around, making the big decisions, saying ‘I’m alright Jack’ and to heck with everyone else. They certainly increased my blood pressure! But the women \re just as bad, biting, scratching and backstabbing their way to the top. Doing whatever is necessary to rise above their counterparts.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Kill For It is a highly readable, twisty thriller packed full of suspense and superb characterisation. I loved the author’s debut, The Coven, and despite Kill For It being quite different in many ways, it was just as addictive and compelling, demonstrating what a talented writer Fry is. I loved how fast paced the plot was and how interesting the author made the Bristol setting despite the majority of the action happening at Carmine Media, so a fairly featureless high-rise building. The tension and overarching sense that something ominous was going to happen was done so well. Many of the characters made my blood boil and I LOVED it. Books should absolutely make you feel something. Am I right? (Special mention to the only character in the book who I fell in love with here and that’s Asif 😍.)  I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Kill For It and I look forward to seeing what the author delivers next. You can be 100% sure I’ll be reading it! Recommended.

If I’ve piqued your interest and you would like your own copy of Kill For It then please head to the damppebbles Twitter and Instagram feeds for your chance to win (UK based readers only unfortunately due to postage costs). Good luck!

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

Kill For It by Lizzie Fry was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 24th November 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Lizzie Fry is a debut author of high-concept thriller The Coven (published by Sphere books), but you might know her better as L.V. Hay.

L.V.’s previous books, The Other Twin, Do No Harm and Never Have I Ever were published by Orenda and Hodder. The Other Twin is currently being adapted for the screen by Agatha Raisin producers Free@Last TV.

#BookReview: Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza #DevilsWay #damppebbles

“THE TRUTH HIDES IN THE DARK

When Private Investigator Kate Marshall is rushed to hospital after being pulled into a riptide current in the sea, the near-death experience leaves her shaken. During her recovery, she befriends Jean, an elderly lady on the same ward. Jean tells the harrowing story of how her three-year-old grandson, Charlie, went missing eleven years ago during a camping trip on Dartmoor.

By the time Kate is well enough to go home, she’s agreed to take on the case, but when Kate and her trusty sidekick Tristan start to look at the events of that fateful night, they discover that Jean has a dark past that could have put Charlie in jeopardy.

Was Charlie abducted? Or did he fall into Devil’s Way? A rushing river that vanishes into a gorge close to where they were camping.

When Kate and Tristan discover that a social worker who flagged concerns about Jean and her daughter was found brutally murdered shortly after Charlie vanished, it makes them question everything they thought they knew about the family…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza. Devil’s Way is the fourth book in the Kate Marshall Thriller Series, is published by Raven Street Publishing today (that’s Thursday 12th January 2023) and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Devil’s Way but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Raven Street Publishing for sending me a finished copy.

I am a HUGE fan of Robert Bryndza’s writing and his Erika Foster series. I have a full-blown girl crush on Erika, and the arrival of the seventh book after a small wait was one of the highlights of my year in 2022. However, and I am hanging my head in utter shame here, until recently I hadn’t had an opportunity to pick up any of Bryndza’s Kate Marshall novels. I know. Fan girl fail of epic proportions, right? But I have now righted that wrong, phew. Devil’s Way was my introduction to Kate and Tristan and I loved every single second of it.

Recovering in hospital from a riptide which nearly killed her, Kate Marshall starts to chat to Jean, the elderly woman in the next bed. Jean shares a heart breaking tale of a family holiday gone horribly wrong. Camping on the moors one evening with her daughter, her daughter’s partner and their young son, Jean, who was sharing a tent with young Charlie, became distracted for a few moments allowing Charlie to disappear. Eleven years later and Charlie is still missing. The devastation caused in that one moment tore the family apart and still consumes Jean’s thoughts. Realising Kate is a private detective Jean asks her to investigate Charlie’s disappearance. Still recovering from nearly drowning, Kate agrees. As Kate and Tristan start to investigate it becomes clear that Jean has a dark past. Could she be the reason Charlie vanished? Or did Devil’s Way, a fast flowing river near to where they were camping, wash Charlie away…?

Devil’s Way is a skilfully written, immersive, slow burn mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was my first introduction to the character of Kate Marshall and it’s safe to say, I cannot wait to be reunited with her. So much so, I now have all three earlier books on the TBR waiting for me. I will be interested to see if Kate’s traumatic past, which is referred to in Devil’s Way a couple of times, is covered in depth in one of the earlier books. I am so intrigued and I want to know everything that’s happened to this woman! What I will say, being a crime fiction reader and having an unspoken rule about not starting a series part-way through (normally!), I found this book so easy and straight forward to dive into, not knowing anything that’s happened to these characters before. Often, when starting a series part-way through, I feel quite lost. Events are referred to that you know nothing about. Relationships are discussed and it can get confusing. Who? What? Where? Huh? That was definitely not the case here. This is the most standalone-part-of-a-series novel I can remember reading. Ever. It’s incredibly well done and I commend the author on making it easy for the reader to pick up and just enjoy. If you haven’t read this series before then please don’t worry. Devil’s Way works incredibly well as a standalone. But I guarantee you’ll be doing the same as me and adding the first three books to your TBR when you reach the end!

Eleven years is a long time. Evidence gets lost. Memories change, sometimes changing altogether and witnesses are no longer around to talk to. Kate and her assistant, Tristan, struggle to make head way on the case. Not helped by Kate’s slow recovery following her near drowning. I was completely immersed in the lives of the characters and the investigation as a whole. As each stone was unturned, I became more gripped. The book is beautifully paced keeping the reader fully within the pages of the story, desperate to discover what happened to Charlie. As it’s a cold case, it does move at a more sedate pace in parts, but for me, I love that gradual unravelling which the author has done so well here. And of course, being a Robert Bryndza novel, there are perfectly placed moments of high tension which had me holding my breath. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Devil’s Way and I cannot wait to read the first three books in the series as soon as humanly possible. This is such a well-written mystery with superb characterisation and the most breath-taking setting which the author brings to life with ease. I loved everything about Devil’s Way and will be recommending it to everyone. Yes, it’s the fourth book in the series but it absolutely DOES work without having read the others. Robert Bryndza remains one of my favourite authors and I’m very excited about the author’s first standalone psychological thriller, Fear the Silence, which is hitting bookshelves this Summer! All in all, an eminently readable, thoroughly enjoyable, completely gripping and atmospheric cold case investigation featuring a new favourite character. Nice to have a private detective at the helm for a refreshing change of scene. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Devil’s Way by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Raven Street Publishing on 12th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Robert Bryndza is best known for his page-turning crime and thriller novels, which have sold over five million copies. His crime debut, The Girl in the Ice was released in February 2016, introducing Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. Within five months it sold one million copies, reaching number one in the Amazon UK, USA and Australian charts. To date, The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1.5 million copies in the English language and has been sold into translation in 29 countries. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2016), the Grand prix des lectrices de Elle in France (2018), and it won two reader voted awards, The Thrillzone Awards best debut thriller in The Netherlands (2018) and The Dead Good Papercut Award for best page turner at the Harrogate Crime Festival (2016).

Robert has released a further five novels in the Erika Foster series, The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets, all of which have been global bestsellers, and in 2017 Last Breath was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Mystery and Thriller. Fatal Witness, the seventh Erika Foster novel, has just been published.

Most recently, Robert created a new crime thriller series based around the central character Kate Marshall, a police officer turned private detective. The first book, Nine Elms, was an Amazon USA #1 bestseller and an Amazon UK top five bestseller, and the series has been sold into translation in 18 countries. The second book in the series is the global bestselling, Shadow Sands and the third book is, Darkness Falls.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

WWW Wednesday | 11th January 2023 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #booktwt #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda
Lydia is hungry.

She’s always wanted to try sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside – the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But Lydia can’t eat any of this. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London – where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time – is much more difficult than she’d anticipated.

Then there are the humans: the people at the gallery she interns at, the strange men who follow her after dark, and Ben, a goofy-grinned artist she is developing feelings for. Lydia knows that they are her natural prey, but she can’t bring herself to feed on them.

If Lydia is to find a way to exist in the world, she must reconcile the conflicts within her – between her demon and human sides, her mixed ethnic heritage, and her relationship with food, and, in turn, humans.

Before any of this, however, she must eat.


What did you recently finish reading?

Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) by Jane Harper
A mother disappears from a busy festival on a warm spring night.

Her baby lies alone in the pram, her mother’s possessions surrounding her, waiting for a return which never comes.

A year later, Kim Gillespie’s absence still casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations on a rare break from work is federal investigator Aaron Falk, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.

As he looks into Kim’s case, long-held secrets and resentments begin to come to the fore, secrets that show that her community is not as close as it appears.

Falk will have to tread carefully if he is to expose the dark fractures at its heart, but sometimes it takes an outsider to get to the truth…

An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The DryForce of NatureThe Lost Man and The Survivors.

What July Knew by Emily Koch
Summer, 1995.

July Hooper knows eighteen things about her mother.

Like number thirteen: she loved dancing on the kitchen table. And number eight: she was covered in freckles.

And then there’s number two: she died after being hit by a car when July was small.

She keeps this list hidden in a drawer away from her father. Because they’re not allowed to talk about her mother. Ever.

But an anonymous note slipped into July’s bag on her tenth birthday is about to change everything she thinks she knows about her mum.

Determined to discover what really happened to her, July begins to investigate, cycling around the neighbourhood where her family used to live. There she meets someone who might finally have the answers.

July wants her family to stop lying to her, but will the truth be harder to face?


What do you think you’ll read next?

Make Me Clean by Tina Baker
She will leave your surfaces sparkling.
But she may well leave you dead…

Maria is a good woman and a good cleaner. She cleans for Elsie, the funny old bird who’s losing her marbles, with the terrible husband. She cleans for Brian, the sweet man with the terrible boss. She cleans for the mysterious Mr Balogan, with the terrible neighbours.

If you’re thinking of hiring her, you should probably know that Maria might have killed the terrible husband, the terrible boss and the terrible neighbours. She may also have murdered the man she loved.

She didn’t set out to kill anyone, of course, but her clients have hired her to clean up their lives, and she takes her job seriously – not to mention how much happier they all are now. The trouble is, murder can’t be washed out. You can only sweep it under the carpet, and pray no one looks too closely…

Darkly funny and completely gripping from the first page to the last, Make Me Clean is one thriller you won’t be able to scrub from your mind. Perfect for fans of Harriet Tyce, Fiona Cummins and My Sister the Serial Killer.

#BookReview: Dead Man’s Creek by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #DeadMansCreek #damppebbles

“Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her hometown, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a ‘file and forget’.

But this is no ordinary cold case, her arrival provoking an unwelcome and threatening response from the small-town community. As more bodies are discovered, and she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her, Nell realises that finding the truth could prove more difficult – and dangerous – than she’d ever expected.

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more treacherous her path becomes. Can she survive to root out the truth, and what price will she have to pay for it?

Gripping and atmospheric, Dead Man’s Creek is a stunning multi-layered thriller from Chris Hammer, the award-winning author of Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year Scrublands (2019) and Times Crime Book of the Month Opal Country (January 2022).”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dead Man’s Creek by Chris Hammer. Dead Man’s Creek is published by Wildfire Books today (that’s Thursday 5th January 2023) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in the Summer. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Dead Man’s Creek but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Caitlin at Wildfire Books for sending me a finished copy.

I am a huge fan of Australian crime fiction and Chris Hammer has rapidly become a favourite author of mine. So when I heard a new book was on the horizon I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. Something you can always guarantee with a book by this author is that the story will be intelligent, beautifully plotted and gripping to the end, the setting will be vivid and by the conclusion you will believe the characters are living, breathing people. What more could a reader ask for?

Newly promoted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns with senior Detective Ivan Lucic to her hometown to investigate what appears to be a cold case. Nell finds it difficult to understand the rationale for their involvement in Tulong. They are homicide detectives after all and the bones that have been unearthed appear to be decades old. It’s hardly the exciting first case she was hoping for! However, Nell’s connection to the area and her knowledge of those that live there means she’s able to access information that otherwise wouldn’t be so forthcoming. As Nell digs into what happened to the body buried under the dam in the Murray River, startling new information comes to light about the past and present, putting Nell in increasing danger. Because for Nell Buchanan, this investigation is very close to home…

Dead Man’s Creek is a riveting and intricate crime novel that’s both beautifully plotted and totally immersive. The reader can’t help but be pulled into the book by the author’s skilful storytelling and once you’re in, there’s no way you’re going to want to leave. Everything about Dead Man’s Creek is pitched perfectly. The characters are multi-layered and fascinating from start to finish. Over the course of the two books featuring Nell Buchanan I have really warmed to her character. As said in my opening paragraph, these characters – and Nell in particular – feel very real to me. The reader really gets to know the bones of her in this novel as the story is set both in the past and the present, revolving to a large degree around the Waters/Buchanan family. Because of this there are a quite a few supporting characters to get your head around and relationships to remember. But I found I was soon able to bring to mind the relationship between characters and a brief backstory. But Nell ultimately shines through with her dogged determination to get the case solved and uncover any previous wrongdoing. No matter what the cost…

The story is set in both the past and the present and I really appreciated the information the author provides about Australia’s part in the Second World War. It was fascinating to read about the impact of conflict on the country, something I’m ashamed to say I know nothing about. The book is well paced and draws the reader in, keeping you glued to the pages (all 469 of them!). If the thought of a longer novel is something you find daunting then believe me when I say it’s well worth investing in Dead Man’s Creek. It’s a compelling, tense and immersive read which flew by in the blink of eye.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dead Man’s Creek is a superb follow up to Opal County, Nell and Ivan Lucic’s first adventure. Dead Man’s Creek stands perfectly well on its own so there’s no need to read Opal Country first but I heartily recommend both books. Why not pick up both and really get to know Ivan and Nell? Add in the Martin Scarsden series too which starts with Scrublands. I am always impressed with how incredibly vivid the author’s settings are. They’re a living, breathing part of the storyline alongside the very lifelike characters.  Chris Hammer is a favourite author of mine for good reason. A superb sense of place, totally believable characters and a plot that won’t let you go until you’ve read the final word. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Dead Man’s Creek. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dead Man’s Creek by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 5th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

WWW Wednesday | 4th January 2023 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #booktwt #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Exiles (Aaron Falk #3) by Jane Harper
A mother disappears from a busy festival on a warm spring night.

Her baby lies alone in the pram, her mother’s possessions surrounding her, waiting for a return which never comes.

A year later, Kim Gillespie’s absence still casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations on a rare break from work is federal investigator Aaron Falk, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.

As he looks into Kim’s case, long-held secrets and resentments begin to come to the fore, secrets that show that her community is not as close as it appears.

Falk will have to tread carefully if he is to expose the dark fractures at its heart, but sometimes it takes an outsider to get to the truth…

An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The DryForce of NatureThe Lost Man and The Survivors.


What did you recently finish reading?

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Mostly, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. But she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

Some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…

Like his novels The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl Support Group, How to Sell a Haunted House is classic Hendrix: equal parts heartfelt and terrifying―a gripping new read from “the horror master” (USA Today).

The Drift by C.J. Tudor
Survival can be murder . . .

During a deadly snowstorm, Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside one group, a killer lurks.

But which one?

And who will make it out alive?


What do you think you’ll read next?

What July Knew by Emily Koch
Summer, 1995.

July Hooper knows eighteen things about her mother.

Like number thirteen: she loved dancing on the kitchen table. And number eight: she was covered in freckles.

And then there’s number two: she died after being hit by a car when July was small.

She keeps this list hidden in a drawer away from her father. Because they’re not allowed to talk about her mother. Ever.

But an anonymous note slipped into July’s bag on her tenth birthday is about to change everything she thinks she knows about her mum.

Determined to discover what really happened to her, July begins to investigate, cycling around the neighbourhood where her family used to live. There she meets someone who might finally have the answers.

July wants her family to stop lying to her, but will the truth be harder to face?

#BookReview: Black Widows by Cate Quinn @orionbooks #BlackWidows #damppebbles

“Aged nineteen, devout Rachel marries fundamentalist Mormon, Blake Nelson, and moves to a remote homestead in rural Utah. Isolated and alone, Rachel obeys her husband’s advice to keep sweet and prepare for End of Days.

Soon after their disappointing wedding night, Blake takes his second wife – emotionally-troubled, jailbait, Emily. Though it’s not until the arrival of third wife Tina, a reformed junkie-stripper from Vegas, that the bitter rivalry sets in.

Out in the desert, the only thing the sister-wives have in common is an obsession with their righteous husband. Until, that is, Blake’s body is found, brutally murdered near his favourite fishing spot, his wedding finger missing.

As police dig deeper, it seems a hot-bed of bitter tensions bubble beneath the pious Mormon exterior. Blake’s sister-wives just couldn’t keep sweet. But which was capable of murder?

Inspired by true events, this gripping tale of religious polygamy peeks under the covers of a real-life Mormon fundamentalist cult.”

Hello, a very happy New Year to you and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Black Widows by Cate Quinn. Black Widows was published by Orion Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

For those of you with an excellent memory you may recall that Black Widows was one of the books I chose for the 20 Books of Summer Challenge last year. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get round to it during the three months of the challenge but I did promise to prioritise the remaining six books. This is the second of those six that I have managed to read and I am so incredibly glad that I did. I loved Black Widows!

Three very different women living in an isolated homestead in the Utah desert; Rachel, Emily and Tina. Cut off from the rest of the world and instructed to keep sweet. Just biding their time and waiting for the End of Days. Bickering, falling out and judging each other. Tensions between the women run deep. Because they’re all married to the same man, Blake Nelson, a fundamentalist Mormon. When Blake’s mutilated body is discovered down by the river, the finger of suspicion points at the wives. Each woman resents her sister-wives, they have their own troubling secrets which they’ll do anything to keep. Including murder…?

Black Widows is a highly compelling, character-driven mystery which drew me in from the first page and didn’t let go until the very last word. I savoured every moment I spent with this book and looked forward to picking it up every evening. The characters are multi-layered and stand tall from the page, each making an individual contribution to the tale. Their past lives are very different but they’ve all suffered trauma of some sorts. Rachel is devout and homely, wholesome and sweet no matter what life throws at her. She’s also the first wife which gives her status over the other two. Emily is young and immature. Very much out of her league. I often felt my heart break for her as she found herself in situations she didn’t know how to handle, often turning to TV crime dramas to help her process events. Tina, the third wife, has street smarts and a whole lot of sass that she’ll use to get what she wants. An ex-Vegas stripper, she’s worldly and will take risks the other wives won’t. The three women are an unlikely team and it’s clear from the outset that they don’t get on. But will being charged of murder change that?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Black Widows and I’m so glad it’s my first review of 2023, kicking the year off in style! I enjoyed spending time with the sister-wives. I thought the three very different characters made for fascinating reading. The reader gets to hear from each wife and see the situation from her point of view. What’s clear is that there is very little trust amongst the wives, all believing the others could have killed Blake. But who did? Well, you’ll just have to pick up a copy of Black Widows and find out for yourself! I will say I wasn’t able to guess whodunit so the reveal was quite a shock! A very well-written, original mystery that I fully appreciated from start to finish. If, like me, you’re a fan of a well-crafted, character-driven tale that draws you in and doesn’t let go, then Black Widows is a must read! I cannot wait to read more by this author and have already downloaded a copy of Blood Sisters. Highly recommended.

Black Widows by Cate Quinn was published in the UK by Orion Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoyles | Book Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Cate QuinnCate Quinn is a travel and lifestyle journalist for The Times, the Guardian and the Mirror, alongside many magazines. Prior to this, Quinn’s background in historic research won prestigious postgraduate funding from the British Art Council. Quinn pooled these resources, combining historical research with first-hand experiences in far-flung places to create critically acclaimed and bestselling historical fiction.

The damppebbles Top Ten(ish!) of 2022 #amreading #amreviewing #amblogging #Bestof2022 #TopReadsof2022 #BookRecommendations #bookblogger #BookTwitter #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to my final post of 2022, my top ten(ish!) books of the year. ‘Ish’ because, as in previous years, I hope you can’t count 😂. It’s been a cracking year for books with record numbers of five star reviews featuring on the blog. The debuts have been killing it once again this year but for me, the established authors have also had an incredible year. Clare Mackintosh’s first police procedural became a firm favourite of mine. M.W. Craven treated fans to another utterly absorbing and cleverly written tale where Poe and Tilly shine (the latest release from this author is THE highlight of my bookish year!). And a new-found favourite author of mine, Ronald Malfi, delivered another creepy, character-driven full-length tale as well as publishing a collection of impossible-to-put-down short stories. What a superb literary year it’s been! I cannot wait to see what 2023 brings.

So without further ado and in no particular order (apart from the last one which is my book of the year), here are my top ten(ish!) books of 2022…

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh
 I loved The Last Party and I hope this is only the start of DC Ffion Morgan’s adventures. Everything about this book worked for me. The plot is incredibly gripping and hugely compelling – I had to know what had happened to Rhys Lloyd and why, the setting is beautifully drawn by the author, and the characters are some of the most memorable I’ve met this year. In fact, I would go as far as saying that something about this book reminded me a little of when I first met M.W. Craven’s Tilly and Poe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think this series could be something quite special. The first book has certainly left its mark on me and I am excited to read more, that’s for sure! Masterful storytelling, jaw-dropping twists and turns and a cast that I pretty much fell in love with.
My Review of The Last Party

The Botanist (Washington Poe #5) by M.W. Craven
The Botanist is a superb addition to an outstanding series which I believe every crime fiction fan needs on their bookshelf. Tense, gripping, clever, hugely compelling, truly divine characterisation, beautifully paced and darn well perfect in every respect. What more could you want? Tilly and Poe are the ultimate crime fighting duo, you won’t find another pairing like these two and I love that! The Botanist is without a doubt a sure-fire five-star winner for me and will definitely be featuring in my favourite books of the year list [taddah, here’s the proof!]The Botanist, along with the other books in the series, are a must read. Incredibly well-written and head and shoulders above others in the same genre.
My Review of The Botanist

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi
Black Mouth is a captivating, emotional, yet creepy story of childhood trauma and how, as we get older, the nightmares we faced as children can still be just as frightening, the memories just as destructive. The characters are sublime, the setting was perfect and the writing is divine. Completely absorbing, totally immersive, I was addicted to this book from the moment I cracked the spine and I now feel bereft that my time with Jamie, Mia and Clay, and of course the pure delight that is Dennis, is over. I’m so excited to see what’s next for the author. You can be sure of one thing, I’ll be at the front of the queue!
My Review of Black Mouth

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor
Dirt Town is a very atmospheric, incredibly readable tale which I enjoyed every dark and desolate moment of. The setting is exactly the kind of setting I want in my crime fiction novels – a small town on its last legs. I loved the vivid descriptions the author uses to set the scene, putting the reader right there in the middle of things. But the characters were EVERYTHING. Multi-layered, completely believable and totally unforgettable. It’s hard to believe Dirt Town is a debut and I’m excited to see what Scrivenor delivers next.
My Review of Dirt Town

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber
I loved Out of Her Depth. It’s a highly addictive, sophisticated and atmospheric thriller that has left its mark on me. The characters felt real, their interactions were very convincing, the setting – well, I’m booking my holiday to Florence this year! – and the plot drew me into the story, and kept me within the pages even when I should have probably been cooking dinner for the kids (don’t worry, they were fed 😂). I loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone, starting with YOU! If you enjoy psychological thrillers featuring toxic friendships then you need this book in your life. It was a thrilling, uncomfortable, unnerving, tense joy to read and I highly recommend it.
My Review of Out of Her Depth

Sundial by Catriona Ward
Sundial is highly original, darkly compelling and totally twisted (in the best way possible). The pressure really was on for the author following the huge success of The Last House on Needless Street but by George, she’s gone and done it again! Sundial is a very different beast to its predecessor but I think I preferred it ever so slightly. Both books are superb but I think this one, for me, takes the edge. The setting is very well drawn, I could feel the heat of the Mojave Desert blistering my skin. The characters have real depth and I felt as though they were living and breathing in front of me. The plot flowed beautifully, keeping me within the pages and occupying my thoughts when I wasn’t reading. Addictive, uncomfortable at times but truly stunning in concept and delivery. Psychological horror at its absolute finest and this book firmly puts Ward on my ‘must read’ author list. I’m excited to see what Catriona Ward delivers next!
My Review of Sundial

One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke
I loved One of the Girls and I’ll probably re-read it in the future as I’m keen to return to Aegos and be reunited with this fascinating, eclectic group of women and their complicated friendships. The setting was exquisite (yes, I’m desperate for a holiday!), the plot was so well drawn and thought out but the characters absolutely did it for me. They felt like real people and I was watching an edge-of-your seat TV drama play out before me. Clarke is such a talented writer and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next. A hugely compulsive read featuring divine characters and their bubbling resentments which I couldn’t get enough of. Totally addictive. I loved it!
My Review of One of the Girls

Outback by Patricia Wolf
Outback is such an accomplished, compelling debut which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. I loved the characters. In particular the working relationship between DS Walker and Barbara Guerra. It was a real highlight for me as not only am I fan of Australian crime fiction I also love German crime fiction too, so Outback really was a joy for me to read with influences from both. The plot was fascinating and drew me into the story. I was keen to discover what had happened to Rita and Berndt, which kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting with its wide horizons and emptiness which despite being vast still felt oddly claustrophobic. The author paints a beautifully vivid, atmospheric picture for the reader which I can’t help but applaud. All in all, I loved Outback and would recommend it not only to fans of Australian crime fiction but to anyone who enjoys a well written mystery full of suspense.
My Review of Outback

Nasty Little Cuts by Tina Baker
Nasty Little Cuts is a hugely compelling unravelling of a marriage gone wrong. It’s pretty bleak and brutal at times. I don’t feel the author has held back at all, which I am grateful for, as it’s a shocking tale told in glorious, unflinching technicolour. A toxic relationship at breaking point, fuelled by the past and heading towards catastrophe. Will it be for everyone? I’m not sure, but if you’re a fan of domestic suspense done INCREDIBLY WELL then yes, you must read this book! A gutsy, brave story from an author who is now on my ‘must read’ list. Deliciously dark, disturbing and oh so good!
My Review of Nasty Little Cuts

Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew
I ADORED Little Nothings. Everything worked for me. The characters stood tall from the page and I don’t think I’ll forget any of them in a hurry. The pace of the book made sure that I was turning the pages late into the night – way past my bedtime. The setting was perfect and the descriptions were beautifully vivid enabling me to picture the scene with ease. I loved everything about this book. Every last little detail.
My Review of Little Nothings

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
More Than You’ll Ever Know is a superbly written debut. The unravelling of the mystery drew me into the story, the true crime element worked beautifully, the settings – both Mexico City and Loredo, Texas – were vividly drawn by the author and I could picture the scenes unfolding clearly in my mind. I loved the dual timeline where the reader gets to meet Lore and Cassie in the present day but we also get to sneak a look behind the curtain with flashbacks to Lore’s life in 1985/6 and the path she took to the ultimate deception. Plus, of course, the night of the shooting. The entire book worked for me. But the characters, they were EVERYTHING. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a sublime novel which, if you’re a fan of beautifully written literary mysteries you will devour. I was completely entranced and captivated by this stunning novel.
My Review of More Than You’ll Ever Know

And my book of the year is….

WAKE by Shelley Burr
WAKE is an absolute corker of a novel which I immersed myself in completely. It consumed my thoughts whilst reading it and I still, weeks later, think about it more than any other book I’ve read recently. Absolutely, categorically, my favourite book of the year so far. This is the type of crime fiction I want to read. WAKE is such a compelling, intriguing mystery with superb characters and a vividly drawn, remote setting. I lived and breathed this book alongside Mina and Lane, gripped by the mystery of what happened to Evie McCreery. Every single little thing worked. Beautifully tense, truly unforgettable and the ultimate page turner. A magnificent debut and I’m excited to see what the author has in store for us next. Gosh, I really loved this book!
My Review of WAKE

So there you have it. Lashings and lashings of gorgeousness in one glorious post (even if I do say so myself 🤣). It’s a darn fine looking bunch of books, I think you’ll agree. Ten (😳) truly amazing books which you should do everything in your power to get hold of.

Have a peaceful and safe New Year, bookish lovelies, and I will see you on the other side. Providing I can remove myself from my post Christmas mince-pie induced haze I will be sharing my first review of the New Year with you on either Monday or Tuesday of next week (giving myself a little leeway, just in case 😜). Thank you for your support over the last year. 2022 is officially damppebbles’ most successful year since the blog started in 2016 and that’s all down to YOU! You are AMAZING! Stay safe, stay bookish and keep reading. Lots of love, Emma @damppebbles x

Fancy purchasing one of the books on my top ten(ish!) of the year? Then please check out my bookshop.org and amazon shops (please note, the following link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | damppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

WWW Wednesday | 28th December 2022 #WWWWednesday #bookblogger #amreading #BookTwitter #booktwt #damppebbles

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading.

The Three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Mostly, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. But she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

Some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…

Like his novels The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires and The Final Girl Support Group, How to Sell a Haunted House is classic Hendrix: equal parts heartfelt and terrifying―a gripping new read from “the horror master” (USA Today).


What did you recently finish reading?

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis
LA, 1981. Buckley College in heat. 17-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends, even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equalled only by his increasingly unsettling preoccupation with The Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence.

Can he trust his friends – or his own mind – to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, Bret spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between The Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.

Gripping, sly, suspenseful, deeply haunting and often darkly funny, The Shards is a mesmerizing fusing of fact and fiction that brilliantly explores the emotional fabric of Bret’s life at 17 – sex and jealousy, obsession and murderous rage.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett
Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over..

After all, the devil is in the detail…


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Drift by C.J. Tudor
Survival can be murder . . .

During a deadly snowstorm, Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside one group, a killer lurks.

But which one?

And who will make it out alive?

#BookReview: Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough @HarperCollinsUK #Insomnia #damppebbles

In the dead of night, madness lies…

Emma can’t sleep.

CHECK THE WINDOWS

It’s been like this since her big 4-0 started getting closer.

LOCK THE DOORS

Her mother stopped sleeping just before her 40th birthday too. She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.

LOOK IN ON THE CHILDREN

Is that what’s happening to Emma?

WHY CAN’T SHE SLEEP?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough. Insomnia was published by HarperCollins on 31st March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Insomnia but that has in no way influenced my review.

Sarah Pinborough, over the years, has become a bit of a go-to author for me. Her latest release, Insomnia, is the third of this author’s books I have read. Although I must admit (I am ashamed to admit!) that I haven’t as yet read Behind Her Eyes which is very well known for its WTF ending and has recently been made into a Netflix series (I haven’t watched the series either as I want to read the book first). However, I WILL be able to watch Insomnia when it hits our screens (which I understand it will be doing in the future) because oh boy, I HAVE read this incredibly compelling story.

Emma Averell is a successful divorce lawyer, has a devoted husband, two beautiful children, a luxurious house and a top of the range car. She’s also only a few days away from turning 40 which strikes fear into the hearts of many people but for Emma that fear is tenfold. Because Emma’s mother, Patricia, had a catastrophic breakdown on her 40th birthday almost killing Emma’s older sister. Patricia told Emma she has ‘bad blood’ too so she’s terrified history will repeat itself. When Emma starts suffering from insomnia she knows what’s happening. The same happened to her mother before that devastating night. All Emma needs to do is sleep and then everything will be fine. But no matter how hard she tries, no matter what remedies she takes, she just can’t sleep…

Insomnia is a tense and gripping tale which I read in two sittings. I found Emma an intriguing lead character. I was keen for everything to work out for her in the long run but the impending sense of doom the author conveys tells you that the Averell’s are in for a rough ride. A bone-shatteringly rough, incredibly bumpy ride indeed! I didn’t necessarily like Emma but I felt for her. I wanted her to find answers, I wanted her story to be different from her mother’s. Emma’s descent happens quickly over the course of 11 days, going from a switched on wife, mother and lawyer to someone who doubts themselves constantly, questioning her own actions and thoughts. She zones out for long periods of time making Emma the perfect unreliable narrator. Pinborough is an absolute master at writing an unreliable narrator as she skilfully proves within the pages of this book.

I absolutely fell in love with Emma and Robert’s youngest child, Will, who at the tender age of five is morphing from a fun-filled, bouncy kid to a quiet, nervous child. I thought making their older child, Chloe, a teenager on the cusp of being an adult herself was a really interesting move by the author as that meant there were three adults all repeatedly telling Emma she was losing her mind – Robert, Chloe and Emma’s older sister, Phoebe. When those that love you the most keep telling you you’re unstable, that something is wrong, surely they must be right?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Insomnia is a dark tale which I devoured over the course of a day featuring a cast of fascinating characters. If you’ve read any Sarah Pinborough novels in the past then you’ll know to expect the unexpected. My advice, expect the unexpected 😂 The ending is both shocking and surprising. Aspects of it, I loved. The torrential rain beating down set the scene perfectly, the tension was so sharp and the fear I felt in my gut was 100% real. But there were things about the ending which I wasn’t so keen on. I don’t want to say too much for fear of putting my foot in it and saying something I shouldn’t but I will say the ending was very different, unique and not at all what I expected. Lots to love, a couple of teeny, tiny things…not so much. But all in all, a gripping tension filled read which I heartily recommend to fans of psychological thrillers, particularly those who are looking for something a little different.

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

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 31st March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sarah PinboroughSarah Pinborough is a New York Times bestselling and Sunday Times Number one and Internationally bestselling author who is published in over 30 territories worldwide. Having published more than 25 novels across various genres, her recent books include Behind Her Eyes, now a smash hit Netflix limited series, Dead To Her, now in development with Amazon Studios, and 13 Minutes and The Death House in development with Compelling Pictures. Sarah lives in the historic town of Stony Stratford, the home of the Cock and Bull story, with her dog Ted. Her next novel, Insomnia, is out in 2022.