#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 |

#BookReview: Slash by Hunter Shea @flametreepress #Slash #damppebbles

9781787581791.jpg“Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains.

What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims.

The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.”

Hello bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Slash by Hunter Shea with you today. Slash was published by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Slash but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, this is a cracker of a book! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that I love the horror genre as much as I love crime fiction! I’m particularly fond of the ’80s slasher movie’ novels and tend to turn to horror when my reading mojo ups and leaves. I asked for recommendations a few months back and the lovely Sharron at booksbehindthetitle suggested I gave Slash a go as she’d recently read it and thought it would appeal. She was 100% right. I devoured this book. Slash has everything I look for in a horror novel but with so much more dolloped on top (in a steaming, festering, bloody pile).

Ashley King was the sole survivor of the Hayden Resort Massacre five years ago. Yup, she’s a Final Girl. Todd Matthews, her fiancé, returns home one day to find her lifeless body hanging in the basement. Heartbroken and grieving for his lost love, he returns to the site of the massacre to find out what really happened that fateful night. A serial killer named ‘The Wraith’ has always been held responsible for the murders and Todd, and his totally unprepared band of friends, want answers. But what they find living in the ruins of the Resort is a whole lot more than they ever expected….

This is Shea’s homage to slasher movies and I really enjoyed the high-stakes terror and the unashamed gore fest of Slash. But all is not what it first appears. This is the second book I’ve read by Hunter Shea – the first being Creature which is also well worth a look – but I get the feeling that Shea (and this really is just a feeling having read only two of this author’s books – don’t hate me if I’m wrong) has a very distinct style, which Slash benefits from. The story really ramped up a number of notches and was given an almighty gut pulverising twist.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. This is a blood soaked, rip roaring ride of a book and I loved every minute of it. If you’re not a fan of gore in your novels then perhaps this isn’t for you. But if you’ve got the stomach, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. It ticked so many boxes for me and I’m adding Shea’s previous books to the TBR.

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

Slash by Hunter Shea was published in the UK by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstones | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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hunter sheaHunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author photo and bio © https://huntershea.com/

#BookReview: The Curator by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #TheCurator #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

the curator“It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, The Curator by M.W. Craven. The Curator is the third book in Craven’s superbly good Washington Poe series (or, as everyone seems to refer to the series, Tilly and Poe) and is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (4th June 2020) by Constable. I received a free eARC of The Curator but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been waiting a whole year (and a bit) for The Curator to arrive on my kindle. And what’s the first thing I do when it does? I simper a little because I finally have a copy – the wait is over! – and then I try to pretend it’s not there. Crazy, right? I was so keen to read this book but at the same time, I was really, really nervous. What if I didn’t enjoy it? What if I rushed in and didn’t savour it (it’s a flipping long wait ’til the next one, that’s for sure!)? And that, I think, is the sign of an incredibly talented author who has built the beginnings of a series into something that, for the reader, is extra special. Reading The Curator, for me, was an event. Something to look forward to. Something to anticipate and savour every minute of. Something to remember. And I loved it. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes.

DS Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw and a heavily pregnant DI Stephanie Flynn of the National Crime Agency are called back to Cumbria to investigate a perplexing case. Severed fingers. What appears to be three pairs from three individuals, left over the Christmas period in the most surprising of places. On further investigation it’s confirmed that one finger in the pair was removed antemortem, the other finger was removed postmortem. But that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle. The female victims were drugged, the male victim wasn’t. And a note was left with each set of fingers with the hashtag #BSC6. The team – even with Tilly’s immense intelligence and analytical brain – are initially baffled. But then through a little supposition and a lot of analysis, a suspect emerges. But what the suspect tells them turns everything upside down. This isn’t any run of the mill serial killer, this is the Curator…

Another absolutely cracking novel from the crime fiction mastermind that is M.W. Craven. I loved this book and savoured every darn second I had with it. I could have easily read this book in a couple of sittings but I slowed down to ensure I enjoyed every twist and turn. Craven appears to be one of those crime writers who doesn’t shy away from digging the depths of the internet to find strange and unusual ideas for his novels, which he then twists and shapes into crime fiction gold. The Curator is solid proof of that. An intriguing and intricate setup, followed by an edge of your seat hunt for the bad guy, culminating in a devilishly dark twist that you won’t see coming.

Even when I had my suspicions about who the killer was, there was another unexpected gut punch just waiting around the corner. Such a clever well-written book that hooks you in from the get-go and doesn’t let go until the shocking finale.

Tilly and Poe are wonderful creations who have been firm favourites of mine since the very first book. I’ve loved watching their friendship and working relationship grow over the last couple of years. The chemistry and the bond they have, makes for compelling reading. The humour and the wit the author includes in the story adds a few lighter moments to what is a brilliantly dark and twisty story. Expertly paced, skilfully written and all in a setting to die for (literally!).

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, categorically, YES! If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet, then that has to change. The Curator can easily be read as a standalone but if you’ve not read any of the books before, why not treat yourself to the entire series?! Be whisked away to deepest, darkest Cumbria and meet two totally unforgettable characters who you will grow to love and admire. I loved this book and I’m counting down the days until Dead Ground is published next year. Another stunning novel from an accomplished writer and I’m really excited to see what the future holds (let’s hope it’s a lot more Tilly and Poe!).

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

The Curator by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 4th June 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

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

#BookReview: The House Guest by Mark Edwards @AmazonPub #TheHouseGuest #damppebbles

the house guest“A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The House Guest by Mark Edwards. The House Guest is published today (Wednesday 3rd June) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC of The House Guest via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

Mark Edwards is probably the author whose books I have read the most (I think this is number eight). He’s a talented writer who likes to put his very normal characters into very unusual and challenging (often terrifying!) situations and I flipping love what he does! When I know there’s a new Mark Edwards book on the brink of publication, everything else gets pushed to one side so I can read it. I was really excited to read The House Guest and I’m delighted to say, I was not disappointed.

Brits Adam and Ruth have had a stroke of luck and are house-sitting for an American couple they met on a cruise. Ruth is an aspiring actress and has been given the lead role in a Broadway play. Adam is a struggling writer who hasn’t quite made his mark yet, but he’ll keep trying. One stormy Summers day there’s a knock at the door. Standing before the couple, drenched from head to toe, is Eden, a friend of the Cunningham’s who own the luxurious house in Williamsburg. Adam and Ruth don’t feel they can turn the Cunningham’s friend away when the weather is so atrocious. She’s travelled so far and has nowhere else to go. So they invite her in to dry off and to share a glass of wine. But Eden is a stranger. They don’t know what secrets she’s hiding…

It’s very easy to get pulled into a Mark Edwards book from the get-go. He sets up the scene for his reader with such skill that you just have to keep reading to find out where events are going to take you. There’s such a wonderful sense of unease from start to finish in The House Guest which I really enjoyed. However, I think this is the first one of Edwards’ books where I can’t really talk about the plot. There’s a pretty hefty twist in there which, unless you’ve read reviews with spoilers, I don’t think you will see coming. It turns the whole book on its head – but it didn’t really blow me away. For me, there is another twist further on, which I found so exciting. So much so, I think I used four exclamation marks to emphasise my surprise in my notes!!!!

The House Guest is very entertaining but I have to be honest and say it was a little far fetched for me, which left me shaking my head at certain points. But hey, it’s fiction and if you can’t be a little creative when writing a novel then when can you be? I had to choose between going with the flow and enjoying the ride, or…not. And knowing Edwards has never let me down before, I chose to go with the flow.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved the unease, the sense of impending doom the author makes you feel. I loved the setting (it’s New York, I adore New York!) and could picture with ease the characters making their way through the city. I loved that the twists never really stopped coming which adds to the excitement. It’s a book about needing to belong and I think we all feel that need at times. Another great book from Mark Edwards and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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

The House Guest by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 3rd June 2020 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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EDWARDS 7 TS 28

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For (2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home(2015).

He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death(2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle (2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.

When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

20 Books of Summer Challenge #20booksofsummer20 #amreading #amreviewing #damppebbles #bookblogger

“Call me a glutton for punishment but after my complete failure to get anywhere near completing Cathy’s #20BooksofSummer challenge (check out her BRILLIANT blog at 746 Books) last year I’m going to take the plunge and try again this Summer.”

That’s how I started my last #20BooksofSummer post in May 2019. Seems only fitting that I start this year with the same bewildered, naive, unjustified belief in myself 😂. In 2018 I failed to read twenty books so I sensibly cut it down to fifteen for the following year. I failed that too. So, continuing the sensible approach I took last year, I should cut it down further to ten for 2020, right? Heck no. Where’s the fun in that?! This year, the year of the quarantine, I’m going for the big one again – twenty books in three months. Twenty books in THREE months. I’m hoping the more I say it, the less scary it will sound. TWENTY books in three months. Nope, still scary. 🤣

Our lovely host as always is the fabulous Cathy. If you would like to take part yourself then you’re very welcome to join in – the more, the merrier. More information about #20BooksofSummer can be found HERE and if you decide to take the plunge, add your sign up list to this post.

This year my list is basically 75% of my NetGalley shelf plus two other books I need to read for July and August. One is a blog tour read, the other was sent to me by the publisher. In theory, if I read the eighteen books on my NetGalley shelf, then I only have six NG books left to read – hurrah! It’s taken me so, so, SO long to reduce my shelf that I feel a lot more determined than I normally do. I’m ready to kick NG butt! Here are my beautiful books…

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Halfway by B.E. Jones
The Proposal by S.E. Lynes
The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill
Written in Bones by James Oswald
The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser
Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch
Tattletale by Sarah Naughton

Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski
Blood Lines by Angela Marsons
Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan
Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham
The Secret by Katerina Diamond

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia
The Guest House by Abbie Frost
The Home by Mats Strandberg
The Search Party by Simon Lelic
The Shadow Friend by Alex North

Gorgeous aren’t they? Have you read any of them? Which ones did you love? Are you taking part in the challenge this year? I’d love to see your books so please feel free to leave a link to your challenge post in the comments!

Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it. I’m going to try and write a #20booksofsummer20 update post at the end of each month to keep track of how I’m doing. Wish me luck for that too, I’m not the best at monthly posts. If you would like evidence, please search for #CaseClosed on the blog 😬

If you would like to join in with the challenge too then there’s still plenty of time as we don’t kick off until 1st June. Go on, give it a try. How hard can it be, right…? 😉

Wish me luck (really, I’m begging you!) and I’ll see you on the other side!

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#BookReview: The Guest List by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheGuestList #damppebbles

the guest list“On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body.

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the astonishingly good The Guest List with you today. The Guest List was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats with the paperback to follow in September. I received a free eARC of The Guest List but that has in no way influenced my review.

I was a huge fan of Foley’s The Hunting Party when it was released last year. So much so, it made it onto my top ten (ish) books of 2019! So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this latest release. It did not disappoint one jot! I loved The Guest List. Before I started reading, I was struggling with my reading mojo. Its bags were packed and were sat by the front door. It was determined to leave. Then I picked up this book, absolutely fell in love with it and my reading mojo has been content ever since. The magical healing power of Lucy Foley’s words and characters!

I was a little surprised to find that The Guest List is in a very similar format to The Hunting Party. A group of people gather in a remote location. All of the characters have secrets of their own and a motive for committing a murder. You know someone is going to die — but you don’t know who the victim is until near the end of the book, nor whodunit! Honestly though, who cares?! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – I was always told.

Jules Keegan and Will Slater are getting married, and it’s going to be the showbiz wedding of the year. The venue is a crumbling Folly on a remote island off the Irish coast, but wedding planner, Aoife, has everything under control. This is her first big gig and she’s hoping the glitz and the glam of the occasion will bring in lots of future business. But despite the smiling faces on the outside, bitter rivalries and jealous feuds burn deep within the hearts of the guests. This will be the wedding of the year, but for all of the wrong reasons. Spirits are high, the alcohol flows and murderous revenge is planned…

This is a wonderfully entertaining book which I absolutely devoured. I loved it and it got a special mention on my top ten (ish) books of 2019 for being so utterly brilliant. I love a good mystery and this is a truly excellent one. The story is told from several points of view. Each chapter revealing a little more of why it’s narrator could indeed be a murderer. Once again, the identity of the victim is not revealed until the end of the book and it worked so well, keeping me on the edge of my seat! Between you and I, there were a number of dastardly characters I was hoping it would be!

Foley really uses her setting to optimum effect creating an eerie and atmospheric stage for her characters. The setting is as much a part of the story as the characters are, with the swirling winds, the desolate beaches, the raging storms and the cries of the cormorants circling overhead. It’s not hard to imagine the isolation and the solitude the characters on the island feel. Particularly when things start to go badly wrong.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s wonderful and such an entertaining read. The ending is very satisfying (much like the entire book really) and if it hadn’t already featured on my top books of 2019 list then it would be a strong contender for this year’s selection (maybe it still will feature – it was published this year, after all!). Foley is a very talented writer, this is such a brilliant book and I highly recommend you check this one out.

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

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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lucy folyLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#BookReview: Witness by Caroline Mitchell @AmazonPub #Witness #damppebbles

witness“To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It’s been ten years since Rebecca’s testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day a phone rings in her bedroom—but it’s not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to the police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide…

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Witness by Caroline Mitchell with you today. Witness was published by Thomas & Mercer on 20th December 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC copy of Witness from NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved this book and I’m kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to read it! If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer then give this book a read as it’s a wonderful example of how to write a truly despicable villain. Solomon Kemp made my blood boil and wormed his horrible, manipulative way under my skin. Absolutely brilliant stuff! I’m a fan of Mitchell’s writing and I’ve read a number of her novels (The Silent Twin | Death Note | Sleep Tight | Murder Game | Silent Victim) so I know a Caroline Mitchell novel will always be hugely entertaining with well-written characters and twists and turns galore. Witness was no exception.

Finally escaping her abusive relationship and leaving her ex-fiance to rot in prison, Rebecca is starting to put her life back together. She’s moved to a sleepy town in Wales, changed her appearance and has apprehensively started a new relationship. But her ex, Solomon, is not the kind of man to forget and spends his time locked up plotting and planning his revenge following Rebecca’s testimony. On his release ten years later, Solomon starts to play a game with Rebecca, who is now happily married with a four-year-old daughter. Rebecca is a silent witness to ten terrible crimes – one for each year Solomon spent in prison. She must nominate the victim and then stand and watch as the crime happens before her very eyes. Call the police and she will die. Solomon is in control, just as he likes it! As the crimes increase in seriousness and get closer to home, Rebecca has to confront her past and the secrets she holds, before it’s too late…

I absolutely loved the concept of this book; ten crimes of different severity, the victim decided by our likeable protagonist, a dastardly manipulator pulling all the strings. Wonderful stuff! Mitchell’s writing hooked me in from the get-go and I savoured every minute of this book. When I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be back in the story.

The story is told from three perspectives; Rebecca in the present, Solomon in the present, and Rebecca’s diary entries before Solomon’s arrest ten years ago. The diary entries are tense reading and certain scenes made me shudder with repulsion. The lengths Solomon goes to to get what he wants is a real eye-opener and Rebecca’s slow demise is heart-breaking. She loses everything, including her freedom and the reader can’t help but feel for this poor woman who is completely trapped within a real-life nightmare.

I really liked Rebecca but I did struggle a little with how easily she accepted the situation and Solomon’s game. She also felt a little naive to me at times but perhaps she had to be for the story to flow as well as it did. I did work out which direction the story was heading from the end of the prologue but I wasn’t 100% sure and the book was so darn entertaining, that I didn’t really care if I was right! Solomon is the stuff nightmares are made of. Controlling, manipulative, deluded and a total bully. I thought he was a perfect creation and so incredibly well-written. I could feel Rebecca’s fear of him, along with Solomon’s hatred and his palpable anger. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Mitchell has done it again with another chilling page-turner of a book and I can’t wait to read more from this wonderful author. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers then make sure this one goes on the TBR. Thoroughly entertaining, edge of your seat stuff and I loved it! Highly recommended.

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

Witness by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 20th December 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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caroline mitchellUSA Today and Global #1 Bestselling Thriller Author.

Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a pretty village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Set in Shoreditch, London, her DS Ruby Preston trilogy is described as terrifying, addictive serial killer thrillers.

Caroline also writes psychological thrillers. The most recent, Silent Victim, has been described as ‘brilliantly gripping and deliciously creepy’. Her new DI Amy Winter series is published by Thomas & Mercer.

 

Calling all crime, thriller and dystopian fiction writers – PM Books want to hear from YOU #SubmissionCall @PMBooksHHB @HhouseBooks #PMBooks #WritingCommunity #amwriting #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to the blog on this sunny Thursday. I have something a little different to share with you today, which I’m really excited about. One of my favourite publishers – Holland House Books – are starting a Kindle-first crime, thriller and dystopian imprint called PM BOOKS and they are looking for established and aspiring writers to submit their work. Is that you? If so, read on….

PM Books are a Kindle-First imprint of Holland House Books that specialises in crime, thriller and dystopian fiction. Phaidra Robinson and Mia Skevington set up PM Books in April 2020 in order to pursue their respective loves of true crime and detective fiction. Our background of Literary Fiction at Holland House Books means that we bring an expectation of and experience in producing high quality books to these genres. An inaugural imprint, this is the time for authors to submit their work for the chance to be one of our founding book releases.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? Do you have a manuscript languishing unloved in a drawer? Have you recently written the two most exciting words in the world…THE END? Are you ready to get your writing into readers’ hands? Then here’s everything you need to know to submit your book to PM Books:

We are looking for most types of crime and thriller fiction, from the classic English whodunit through to police procedurals, or classic noir through to mind-bending psychological thrillers. Maybe you want to introduce us to a dystopian future. We want well-written, satisfying work – a good twist and convincing characters are the ways to our hearts. It may be cosy and comfortable or dark and disturbing… or something completely different.

If you have a completed novel or novella which you believe may fit, then send us:

1) The first fifty pages of your work.
2) A synopsis of your work (maximum two pages).
3) A covering letter with a brief overview – we do NOT need you to do a brilliant ‘pitch’ or the kind of blurb which would go on the back of the book. The basic story, main character(s) and the general themes is all we need.

These documents should be Word Documents, size 12 in a standard font, with a line spacing of 1.5.

Please email us at pmbooks@hhousebooks.com and address them to the Editor Phaidra Robinson.

The road to publication beckons and I really hope you’re as excited as I am about this brilliant opportunity.

You can contact PM Books by email on pmbooks@hhousebooks.com, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram and via their website: https://pmbooks0.wixsite.com/pmbooks/. Good luck and I hope to be reading your book very soon!

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#BookReview: Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi (translated by Sam Taylor) @wnbooks #DontLetGo #damppebbles

don't let go

“Picture the scene – an idyllic resort on the island of Réunion. Martial and Liane Bellion are enjoying the perfect moment with their six-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, clear water, palm trees, a warm breeze…

Then Liane Bellion disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. When the room is opened, it is empty, but there is blood everywhere. An employee of the hotel claims to have seen Martial in the corridor during that crucial hour.

Then Martial also disappears, along with his daughter. An all-out manhunt is declared across the island. But is Martial really his wife’s killer? And if he isn’t, why does he appear to be so guilty?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Michel Bussi’s Don’t Let Go with you today. This holiday-themed thriller seems very apt at the moment as I was due to be jetting off to foreign shores myself soon. Instead, I’m settling for the gentle lapping of the children’s paddling pool and the soothing caw of a Red Kite as it circles overhead (do Red Kites caw? I don’t think they do! More of a shriek? Soothing shriek….?!). Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi (and translated by Sam Taylor) was published in the UK by W&N Books on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I received a free eARC of Don’t Let Go but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a fan of translated crime fiction and have read several novels which have been translated from their original French, just like Don’t Let Go. The book has a wonderful French feel to it but it isn’t strictly set in mainland France; all of the action happens on the French island of Réunion. Réunion is where Martial and Liane Bellion have chosen to take a holiday with their six-year-old daughter, Sopha. They’re lounging by the pool, enjoying the luxury of their hotel when Liane decides to return to their room. From there the nightmare begins because Liane disappears. The room is in disarray, the smears of what looks like blood are impossible to ignore. The evidence is staring everyone in the face. Liane has vanished, but no one saw her leave. When Martial is brought in for routine questioning, his story begins to fall apart. So he runs, taking Sopha with him. All fingers point to Martial killing his wife. Why else would he run…?

I really enjoyed this book and I loved being immersed in the culture of this vibrant island which, until now, I knew very little about. The characters are strong and I particularly loved Captain Aja Purvi who is a kick-ass ‘get the job’ done kind of woman. I also, reluctantly, liked Second Lieutenant Christos Konstantinov who is a highly sexed, leering lothario easily distracted by drugs and women. He’s not the sort of character I normally warm to at all (in fact, he’s the type of character who would normally make me DNF a book), but in the end, he showed bucketfuls of heart when it was needed the most. The reader never really knows where they stand with Martial Bellion, who I thought was well-written. Is he a killer? Does he have another motive for stealing his daughter away and going on the run from the police? I was constantly doubting what I thought and couldn’t call it at all.

The plot was engaging and I was intrigued about where the story was going to go. The setting was gorgeous in parts and I could imagine lounging by the lagoon. You do get to see the less-touristy parts of the island, away from the exotic resorts and stunning beaches (it is a crime fiction novel, after all!). I was left with a few unanswered questions though, which I’m putting down to reader error (something I perhaps missed). The other thing I would mention is that this book uses a lot of footnotes to describe and explain unfamiliar words and phrases. On my Kindle copy, the footnotes were hard to use and ended up in all sorts of odd places. If I were to read this book again in future I would want to read a paperback copy, rather than a digital copy.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Don’t Let Go despite the points raised above. It’s a great character-driven mystery which in these times of lockdown and cancelled holidays was a welcome distraction. I have two other Bussi novels on my bookshelf and I’m looking forward to reading them. Engaging, interesting and quite the page-turner! Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Don’t Let Go. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi was published in the UK by W&N Books on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Michel Bussi
Michel Bussi is one of France’s most celebrated crime authors. The winner of more than 15 major literary awards, he is a professor of geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. After the Crash, his first book to appear in English, will be translated into over twenty languages.