#BookReview: Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay #SevenLies #damppebbles

“It all started with one little lie . . .

Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they both fell in love and married handsome young men.

But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.

Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t lied – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .

This is Jane’s opportunity to tell the truth, the question is:
Do you believe her?

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay. Seven Lies was published by Sphere Books on 1st October 2020 and is available in all formats.

Seven Lies first came onto my radar thanks to a crime fiction festival in 2019. I was given a pamphlet which contained the first chapter. I have to admit, I didn’t read it. I’m peculiar in that way – it’s the whole book or nothing at all (surely I can’t be the only one!?). But the cover artwork, the enthusiasm of the publicist and the synopsis of the story stayed with me. So I downloaded a copy as soon as it was published digitally.

Marnie and Jane have been friends forever. Well, since they met at school at the age of 11 but it feels like forever. The bond the girls have is strong, unbreakable, and throughout their teens and into their twenties, they stay firm friends. Both marrying the men of their dreams, the future looks bright. Until it isn’t. Jane has never really liked Marnie’s husband, Charlie. He’s overbearing and unpleasant and a terrible match for Marnie in Jane’s eyes. So when an opportunity arises to change the women’s future, to reignite the close bond they had in school, Jane takes it….

Seven Lies is the slow unravelling of a deeply flawed character which I found compulsive reading. Jane, as we know before we’ve even cracked the cover of this book, is a terrible liar so the reader is immediately on their guard. However, many of the lies, we discover, as they’re drip-fed to us, are so small, so inconsequential that you wonder what harm they could really do? Some are told to save from hurt feelings, some are more targeted. The book is narrated by Jane in a confessional style which hooked me in from the start. I wanted to know who she was speaking to. Who was hearing this outpouring of deceit and what was Jane hoping to achieve by sharing? The reader doesn’t discover who is on the other side of the confessional screen until towards the end of the book but for me, it was quite a shocker. In both choice of character and the intent *shudder*.

I found myself flipping between feeling sorry for Jane, at the tragedy of her own life, and being repulsed by her unhealthy obsession with Marnie, which at times made my skin crawl. She was mesmerising in her madness and I couldn’t tear myself away from her story. I couldn’t decide if the obsessive side of her personality was always present or if grief had driven her to look at things in a different light. There are moments throughout Jane’s story where she doesn’t seem all that concerned about Marnie, but these moments tended to involve her own husband, Jonathan, so my feeling is that grief was the catalyst to her unravelling.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Seven Lies is a beautifully written debut with a destructive friendship at its heart. I was pulled into the life of Jane and Marnie and watched as things went from bad to worse for the pair. If you’re looking for a compulsive character driven tale of obsession and control then you’ll want to give Seven Lies a read. Recommended.

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay was published in the UK by Sphere on 1st October 2020 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Elizabeth Kay

Elizabeth Kay started her career as an assistant at Penguin Random House. She is now a senior commissioning editor there and is simultaneously pursuing her passion for writing.

She won first prize – in a short story competition judged by Jacqueline Wilson – aged eight, and has been writing ever since. She lives in London and has a first-class degree in English literature.

#BookReview: The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell @emblabooks #TheMidnightMan #damppebbles

“If you open your door to the Midnight Man
Hide with a candle wherever you can
Try not to scream as he draws near
Because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell. The Midnight Man was published by Embla Books yesterday (that’s Wednesday 13th October 2021) and is available in digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Midnight Man but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a huge fan of Caroline Mitchell’s books and have read a fair few over the years. When I heard she was returning to her spooky roots with a creepy pre-Halloween offering, I jumped at the chance to read it. The first book in the Slayton Thriller series, The Midnight Man, is a perfectly pitched police procedural which worms its way under the reader’s skin.

After a traumatic and devastating year, DC Sarah Noble has decided to return to the force and get on with her life. Things will never be the same again but Sarah knows she can’t mope at home with her cat forever. The welcome the team offer her is less than enthusiastic and she’s handed only menial tasks, such as statement taking, to keep her busy. But when a big case hits Slayton, the disappearance of a teenage girl, Sarah unwittingly becomes embroiled in a case that brings back terrifying memories she’d rather forget. A decaying, spooky manor house, a local legend and the utterly terrifying Midnight Man…

The Midnight Man is a great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. A smart, well-written police procedural with a spooky edge, which this author does so well. Using local legends, a perfect eerie setting in a dilapidated old house and the unrelenting fear of your average fourteen year old, the author creates a chilling backdrop on which to set her haunting tale. Things certainly do go bump in the night at Blackhall Manor! Add to this a Detective Constable who, through no fault of her own, has suffered from crippling humiliation and heartbreak over the last year, only to return to her police colleagues for them to belittle and taunt her, and you have an intriguing page-turner.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Halloween on the horizon or not, The Midnight Man is the perfect pick if you’re looking for a story to give you chills. At the time of picking this book up I was looking for a police procedural that offered something a bit different. And The Midnight Man did exactly that. It gave me a different take, which I really appreciated and it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Mitchell is a superb writer who time and time again entertains her readers with excellent stories and fascinating characters. I look forward to finding out where the author will take the Slayton Thriller series next! Recommended.

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

The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Embla Books on 13th October 2021 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 | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and International #1 Bestselling Author. Shortlisted by the International Thriller Awards for best ebook 2017 and the Killer Nashville Best Police Procedural 2018. Over 1.3 million books sold.

Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, she 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.

Caroline writes psychological and crime thrillers. Her stand alone thriller Silent Victim reached No.1 in the Amazon charts in the UK, USA and Australia and was the winner of the Reader’s Favourite Awards in the psychological thriller category. It has been described as ‘brilliantly gripping and deliciously creepy’.

The first in her Amy Winter series, Truth And Lies, has been optioned for TV.

#BookReview: The Therapist by B.A. Paris @HQstories #TheTherapist #damppebbles

“TELL ME YOUR SECRETS…

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, an exclusive gated community, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened. But no one wants to talk about it. And her neighbours are hiding something…

The million-copy Sunday Times bestselling author B A Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in this powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Therapist by B.A. Paris. The Therapist was published by HQ in paperback format on 22nd July 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Therapist which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sian at HQ for sending me a finished copy.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this is only the second book I’ve read by B.A. Paris. The first being the stunning Behind Closed Doors which I adored. However, after reading The Therapist, I am now more determined than ever to catch up on the author’s backlist because I’ve obviously been missing out on some really cracking reads! Reading The Therapist has confirmed what I already knew. B.A. Paris is a skilled writer and should be on everyone’s ‘must read’ list.

Alice has reluctantly moved out of the cottage she’s lived in all her life to The Circle, a secure gated community in the heart of London. It was a tough decision but the desire to move in with boyfriend, Leo, was the driving force. Plus, thanks to Leo’s careful negotiations and the sale of his own house, there’s no need for Alice to sell the cottage immediately. Alice doesn’t love the house in the Circle but she’s prepared to give it a go for the sake of their relationship. That is until she makes a devastating discovery. Alice becomes obsessed with finding out the details. She feels something is amiss with the house and the original investigation. Her neighbours refuse to discuss what happened. Why are they being so secretive? What horrors is The Circle hiding…?

The Therapist is a cleverly written tale of obsession and dark secrets. It’s packed full of tension and a delicious sense of impending doom, which I lapped up. Alice is a fascinating character who evoked many emotions within me throughout the course of the book. I will say that I found her to be quite frustrating at points and it was only towards the end of the book that I found myself rooting for her. But, and I’ve said this time and time again, I don’t have to like a character to enjoy the book. I want a character to evoke some sort of emotion within me (positive OR negative) and Alice did just that. The best characters are the ones who make you feel strongly in some way about them. I felt strongly about Alice and as a result I very much appreciated the author’s skilled writing.

The plot is well paced throughout and I was always intrigued about where the author was going to take Alice’s story next. B.A. Paris is well known for her killer twists and The Therapist has a cracking ending which escalates beautifully, becoming very dark very quickly which I, of course, appreciated.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Therapist is a well-written novel, full of delicious suspense which I enjoyed. Great characters as I’ve now come to expect from this author. The house in The Circle was, in parts, almost a character in itself which made a nice change as the creepy old house is usually exactly that. Old. And gothic. But this modern, refurbished abode made for an interesting setting. All in all, an enjoyable read which I recommend.

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

The Therapist by B.A. Paris was published in the UK by HQ on 22nd July 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

B. A. ParisB.A. Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, Bring Me Back, The Dilemma and The Therapist. Having sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide, she is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller as well as a number one bestseller on Amazon and iBooks. Her novels have been translated into 40 languages, and Film and TV rights to Behind Closed Doors have been optioned. She is currently based in the UK.

#BookReview: Seat 7a by Sebastian Fitzek (trans. Steve Anderson) #Seat7a #damppebbles

“You know your fear is irrational, you’ve checked the statistics. Flying is safer than driving – nineteen times safer. Irrational, perhaps. But you’re not wrong.

Mats Krüger is terrified of flying. But his daughter, Nele, is about to give birth to his first grandchild, so, for once, he’s taking the risk and making the thirteen-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Berlin.

Of course, he’s taken precautions. He’s bought the five statistically safest seats on the plane, as well as seat 7A – the spot where you are most likely to die in a plane accident – so no one can sit there. Just in case.

But Mats has to give up seat 7A to another passenger. Moments later, he receives a phone call. Nele has been kidnapped. The caller has a single demand.

Convince the pilot to crash the plane. Or Nele dies.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Seat 7a by Sebastian Fitzek (translated by Steve Anderson). Seat 7a was published in paperback format last Thursday (that’s 5th August 2021) by Head of Zeus and is also available in hardcover and digital formats.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for plane/flight based thrillers at the moment. I think this is the sixth book (possibly seventh…) I’ve read in recent months where the action is based around a plane being hijacked, crashing or going missing. I love them. I’m also a fan of Fitzek’s thrillers so Seat 7a was a must read for me.

Psychiatrist, Mats Krüger, is able to cure many of his patients ailments but what he’s never been able to do is rid his own intense fear of flying. When his estranged pregnant daughter, Nele, is scheduled to give birth Nele requests Mats’ presence at her side. His flight is booked. The date has arrived. Now all he has to do is get on the thirteen hour flight from Buenos Aires to Berlin. But what Mats doesn’t know is that his daughter has been kidnapped. Partway through the flight he receives a call telling him that for his daughter and grandchild to live, Mats must make the plane crash before it reaches its destination…

What I’ve loved about my recent plane thriller readathon is that despite having a plane as one of the main plot points of the story, they’ve all been quite different reads. At no point have I felt that I’ve read the story before, under a different title with a different author. That’s certainly the case with Seat 7A. Fitzek has taken the plane thriller and done something really quite different with it. I will say that if you’re looking for a story based in reality then there are certain aspects of this story which you may find hard to believe. But if you’re looking for something that’s thoroughly entertaining then oh boy, you’ve found it!

The opening prologue immediately pulls the reader into the story. You want to know what’s happened and who is being spoken about. The pace doesn’t really let-up from that point forward. I was intrigued and I wanted to know more. As Mats boards the plane the reader discovers the extent of his phobia. He’s purchased several seats as at different points during the flight, were it to crash, there is a specific seat which is deemed to be the safest. Mats plans to move to each seat to ensure he survives, not realising at this point that he will be responsible for any forthcoming disaster. But that doesn’t include seat 7a. Seat 7a is the most dangerous seat on the plane, which he gives to another passenger following a mix up with her booking. On boarding however, Mats’ carefully planned coping mechanism fails, when he discovers another passenger asleep in one of his seats…

I really enjoyed the ‘weapon’ the author gives Mats in order to crash the plane. It was completely different to everything else I’ve read out there and provided a very juicy psychological aspect to proceedings.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Seat 7a is a gripping psychological thriller which I enjoyed from start to finish. If you haven’t read a Fitzek novel before I would advise you to go in with an open mind and just go with the flow. There were a couple of phrases used which perhaps worked better in their original German. I found them a little jarring at points but overall the translation was great. I have several more Fitzek novels on my TBR including Passenger 23 which is set on a cruise ship. I think that will make a nice change from the plane thrillers 😂. Lots of fun, highly entertaining and quite a ride! Recommended.

Seat 7a by Sebastian Fitzek (translated by Steve Anderson was published in the UK by Head of Zeus on 5th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ImageSebastian Fitzek was born in Berlin in 1971. After going to law school and being promoted to LL.D., he decided against a juridical profession for a creative occupation in the media. After the traineeship at a private radio station he switched to the competition as head of entertainment and became chief editor later on, thereafter becoming an independent executive consultant and format developer for numerous media companies in Europe. He lives in Berlin and is currently working in the programme management of a major capital radio station.

#BookReview: Perfect Strangers by Araminta Hall @orionbooks #PerfectStrangers #damppebbles

“FRIENDS TELL EACH OTHER EVERYTHING. DON’T THEY?

Everyone wants perfection.
But there is no such thing.

Nancy has the perfect life. She is bright, beautiful and rich with an adoring husband and daughter.

At least that’s what it seems on the outside to her two best friends.

But then Nancy is murdered.

And as the lies start to unravel, they realise they never knew their perfect friend at all.

She clearly had as many secrets as they do…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Perfect Strangers by Araminta Hall. Perfect Strangers was published by Orion Books on 8th July 2021 and is available in hardcover (under a different title: Imperfect Women), paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free copy of Perfect Strangers but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Yadira at Orion Books.

Eleanor, Nancy and Mary met at university and became best friends. Now in their forties, the bond between the women is still strong but life has taken them in different directions. Eleanor is a committed career woman, Nancy is wealthy and lives a perfect life with her perfect husband, Robert. Mary is a downtrodden wife who lives only for her three children. When Nancy is murdered, the lid is lifted from her perfect life and her friends discover that they may not have known her quite as well as they believed…

I’ve been wanting to read an Araminta Hall novel for a while now so I jumped at the chance to read Perfect Strangers. And I’m so glad I did. Perfect Strangers is a beautifully written, intelligent unravelling of three complex lives which I found to be an immersive read. Hall dissects the intricacies of being a woman with a deft hand and I was drawn into the lives of these three fascinating women.

This is very much an introspective novel where we see into the characters’ lives, experience their thoughts and feelings at first hand and watch as long held secrets are discovered. How well do you really know those closest to you? I think I’ve asked this question many times on the blog before and the answer remains the same. Probably not as well as you think! As the years pass by, the friendship held by the three women deteriorates. Bonds not quite as strong as they once were. They put themselves first and don’t always care about the implications of their actions on the others. They’re selfish, manipulative and deceitful. But aren’t we all, to a degree?

The author has written the story around the murder of Nancy, but the reader hears from all three women in glorious detail. Interestingly, the focus of the book isn’t really on solving Nancy’s murder but analysing the past and present, the implications of certain events and about coming to terms with not really knowing the people you care about the most. Perfect Strangers has a deliciously slow build to it with an intimate feel, and it’s a book I enjoyed.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Perfect Strangers is a cleverly written examination of the lives of three very different women and what makes them tick. If you’re looking for an intricate novel which explores the lives of its main characters in beautiful detail, this is definitely the book for you. There are characters within the pages you will warm to (I loved Mary for many different reasons) but there are also characters to loathe. I loved the visceral reaction a couple of the male characters evoked within me. Wonderful stuff! I would read another book by this author without a moments hesitation. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free copy of Perfect Strangers. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Perfect Strangers by Araminta Hall was published in the UK by Orion Books on 8th July 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads |

Araminta HallAraminta Hall began her career in journalism as a staff writer on teen magazine Bliss, becoming Health and Beauty editor of New Woman. On her way, she wrote regular features for the Mirror’s Saturday supplement and ghost-wrote the super-model Caprice’s column.

#BookReview: The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler @CaneloCrime #TheLuckyEight #damppebbles

“When the plane crashed, 160 people perished. Now someone is killing off the survivors.

Five years ago, a horrific airline disaster made headlines around the world. On the anniversary of the fatal crash, a number of those who were spared gather to mark the occasion. By morning, Nick Gilbert, a celebrity chef and one of the party, lies dead. Detective Rachel Lewis leads the investigation and within days another survivor is stabbed to death. It seems certain that a killer is targeting the lucky eight.

Clodagh Kinsella recovered from the injuries she sustained in the crash, but lost her sister that day. The bereavement shared by Clodagh and her sister’s husband led them to a romance of their own. Yet lately, Clodagh knows something isn’t right. As the noose tightens on the group and Rachel comes across more questions than answers, it’s only a matter of time before Clodagh will have to face the consequences of a mistake she made before the plane went down…

A tense and gripping crime thriller, perfect for fans of Lesley Kara and Mari Hannah.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler. The Lucky Eight will be published in paperback and digital format by Canelo Crime on Thursday (that’s 22nd July 2021). I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Lucky Eight but that has in no way influenced my review.

I love disaster thrillers and mysteries, particularly those featuring a plane crash/disappearance/hijack. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles you may have noticed a teeny tiny increase in the number of books I’ve read recently featuring aircraft. I can’t help it, I love them! But what I’ve really enjoyed about all of these books is that they all take a slightly different approach. And that’s certainly the case with The Lucky Eight. Because, at heart, I’m a crime fiction nut and I adore police procedurals and mysteries. And that’s where The Lucky Eight absolutely shines.

Five years ago Air Euro Flight 975 crashed on landing at Gatwick airport killing all onboard except for eight ‘lucky’ survivors. Every year, on the anniversary of the crash, the survivors meet in remembrance of those they lost. But by the following morning, one of the group, a notorious celebrity chef, is dead. Detective Inspector Rachel Lewis of the Surrey and Suffolk Major Crime Team is tasked with investigating what happened to Nick Gilbert. Tensions run high amongst the group and Rachel has her work cut out. Before long, another of the survivors is found stabbed to death. The pressure is on. Can Rachel and her team discover who wants the lucky eight dead before it’s too late…

The Lucky Eight is a well-written crime thriller with an intriguing mystery at its heart. DI Rachel Lewis and DC Ade Benjamin are thrown into the deep end and have to pick apart a group which, although not the best of friends, have a strong bond and secrets they would prefer to keep. I found the character of Clodagh absolutely fascinating. Her sister, actress Vivienne Kinsella, died when the plane crashed. Clodagh, also on the plane at the time of the incident, has had memory problems ever since. She knows deep down that something happened, something she did contributed to the accident but her memory refuses to recall what it was.

I really liked DI Rachel Lewis but I loved her colleague, DC Ade Benjamin, who I felt had a bit more grit to her. Rachel, being the boss, does everything by the book. Whereas Ade felt a little less formal in her approach. I do hope this isn’t the last we see of these two characters as they make quite a formidable team and I would really like to spend some more time with them, Ade in particular. There were also plenty of characters to dislike including career obsessed Adam and creepy Simon.

Speaking of the characters, I felt a smidge confused at times because there are quite a few characters and they are all connected in different ways (lovers, ex-lovers, siblings). But as soon as I got into the rhythm of the book it all clicked into place, so I put full blame for the confusion on my own shoulders. I would also say it’s a little slow at the start as it felt like it took a while for the chef’s death to be confirmed as murder. But as soon as Rachel is made SIO, the investigation really picks up the pace.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I enjoyed The Lucky Eight and would happily read more by this author. It’s an intriguing mystery which had me glued to my Kindle. I did have an inkling as to who was behind the murders but the reasons why came as a complete surprise, and I loved that.  All in all, an entertaining read which I recommend.

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

The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler was published in the UK by Canelo Crime on 22nd July 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sheila BuglerI’m the author of the Ellen Kelly and Dee Doran crime novels. My first stand alone novel, The Lucky Eight, is published in July 2021.

I grew up in a small town in the west of Ireland. After studying Psychology at University College Galway, I left Ireland and worked in Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, Argentina and London before finally settling in Eastbourne, where I now live with my husband, Sean, and our two children.

#BookReview: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford #AllThesePerfectStrangers #damppebbles

“You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you. You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty….

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

For Penelope Sheppard, university offers an escape from her troubled past. Running from a life weighed down with scandal and tragedy, Pen sees this as the ideal place to reinvent herself among perfect strangers. Life in her new halls of residence feels like a wonderland of sex, drugs, and maybe even love. But all too soon Pen realises you never can run far or fast enough. And when Pen’s secrets are revealed, the consequences are deadly….

Little by little, through Pen’s flawed narration and tantalising diary entries, secrets, truths and lies come to light, and a dangerous dilemma unfolds, twisting and turning until the very last page.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford. All These Perfect Strangers was published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, audio and digital formats on 25th August 2016.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time and you have a very VERY good memory you may remember my husband’s brilliant Christmas gift to me several years ago. All These Perfect Strangers was one of the books Ryan chose and I’ve been keen to make a start on it.

Penelope Sheppard has secured a bursary at Scullin College against the odds. Several years earlier she was present when a police officer was shot and killed. The small town she lives in hates her and has never forgiven the crime, particularly the family of the accused – Pen’s best friend Tracey. But Scullin is a fresh start with new people. Pen can blend in and only reveal what she chooses to her new friends. But the past has a habit of catching up with you and before long, someone else is aware of what happened to Pen all those years ago…

I never used to be a fan of the unreliable narrator but that’s changed over the years and oh my gosh, All These Perfect Strangers does it so well. From the start, you can’t be sure what Pen is telling you is true or a twisted version of the truth. Parts of the story are told via diary entries which Pen is instructed to keep by her psychiatrist, Frank. But Pen wants to keep the truth close to her chest so ‘edits’ events accordingly in their reading. Due to the structure of the book I was never sure if I was reading fact or Pen’s fiction which really helped add to the suspense.

All These Perfect Strangers is a tale of secrets and lies, of guilt and blame. It’s structure was a little confusing at times as there are three distinct periods of time covered by the author and I found myself unsure which time period I was in . As I began each chapter, I was on the lookout for a character or a location to confirm where in Pen’s history I was, which I found a little distracting. The flashbacks to the shooting and preceding events are clear but the other two time slots; Pen at university and Pen at home following the events at Scullin, weren’t as obvious.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. All These Perfect Strangers is a compelling book which I really enjoyed. A twisty tale chock full of secrets, lies and deceit and a very well-written unreliable narrator. The more I got to know Pen, the more I liked her. By the end of the book, I was 100% on her side. I loved the Australian setting, I really enjoyed that the book was set in the late 80s. All in all, a great debut which I recommend.

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 25th August 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Aoife Clifford is the author of the novel All These Perfect Strangers, published in Australia and the United Kingdom by Simon & Schuster and by Penguin Random House in the United States.

Born in London of Irish parents, she grew up in New South Wales, studied Arts/Law at the Australian National University, Canberra and now lives in Melbourne.

Aoife has won two premier short story prizes for crime fiction in Australia – the Scarlet Stiletto (2007) and the S.D. Harvey Ned Kelly Award in 2012, among other prizes. She has also been short listed for the UK Crime Association’s Debut Dagger. In 2014 she was awarded an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her novel, All These Perfect Strangers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s mailing list here.

Author Links:Instagram | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Malorie by Josh Malerman @orionbooks #Malorie #damppebbles

malorieIn the old world there were many rules.
In the new world there is only one: don’t open your eyes.

In the seventeen years since the ‘creatures’ appeared, many people have broken that rule. Many have looked. Many have lost their minds, their lives, their loved ones.

In that time, Malorie has raised her two children – Olympia and Tom – on the run or in hiding. Now nearly teenagers, survival is no longer enough. They want freedom.

When a census-taker stops by their refuge, he is not welcome. But he leaves a list of names – of survivors building a future beyond the darkness – and on that list are two names Malorie knows.

Two names for whom she’ll break every rule, and take her children across the wilderness, in the hope of becoming a family again…”

Hello and a very warm bookish welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, Malorie by Josh Malerman. Malorie was published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by Orion Books on 21st July 2020. I received a free eARC of Malorie but that has in no way influenced my review.

Malorie is the sequel to the astonishingly good Bird Box which I read last year. I loved Bird Box. Actually, I more than loved it and it’s the proud holder of the title ‘Emma’s biggest book hangover’. Nothing else on my TBR could even begin to compete with Bird Box for weeks and weeks after. If you haven’t read it, that REALLY needs to change. Which is why I was so excited about reading Malorie.

Having survived the creatures terrifying arrival, and the dawning of a brand new, frightening world, Malorie is still doing everything in her power to make sure she and her two children – Tom and Olympia – remain safe, sane and alive. They’ve followed the rules for 17 long, arduous years and survived when many others haven’t. All because of Malorie; her fear and her paranoia. But the children are teenagers now and Tom, in particular, wants to spread his wings. No teenager, no matter what terrifying world they live in, wants to listen to their mother! So when a stranger turns up at their door with news of the creatures and tales of other people’s experiences, people who lived to tell someone else their story, Tom is all ears. Malorie’s fear drives the stranger away but he leaves behind some papers. Papers which will change everything for Malorie and her children…

Before I go any further, I need to stick my neck out and say I don’t think this book will work as a standalone. I think you need to have read Bird Box, or at least watched the Netflix series (which I admit, I haven’t seen myself), before reading Malorie. Both books are set in a very different world and Bird Box gives you the base you need to enjoy and fully understand the reasons and actions of Malorie in this latest instalment. The reader really needs to understand the character and her motivations to grasp the full impact of this novel.

Before picking up this book and reading the blurb, I was nervous to find out where the author was going to take the story. Malorie and her young children were put through hell on earth in Bird Box, and then some! So I was quite relieved to find out the story had moved on a number of years and both children are now in their mid-teens with their own thoughts, feelings and fears. And although I don’t expect life in the ‘new world’ will ever be the norm (for those who were born before the creatures arrival, anyway), there is more of an understanding and acceptance of the situation. People are still opening their eyes and looking at the creatures. People are still going mad. People are still violently destroying their friends and family as a result. The creatures cannot be beaten. They are not going away. They have to be lived with, like it or not. But the characters have adjusted and I found that fascinating.

I’ve mentioned about ten times already in this review how much I love Bird Box. But Malorie felt a very different book. Did I enjoy Malorie as much as Bird Box? No, but I think that can be said for the large majority of books out there. The pace felt slower, the shocks and surprises fewer, the threat felt reduced from the first book. But what ties the books together so well (apart from the phenomenal Malorie) is the journey. I was completely immersed in the trio’s trek across Michigan. It had me on the edge of my seat waiting for something terrible to happen. And then it does…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes but I really believe you will get so much more out of it if you’re familiar with Bird Box. Malorie is a good sequel to a book I adore and I’m glad I read it. I’m glad I got to spend a little more time with an unforgettable character. But I have a feeling this may be the last we see of Malorie Walsh. The ending felt a little too neat and tidy for a continuation but we will see. Recommended.

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

Malorie by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Orion Books on 21st July 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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josh malermanJosh Malerman is the acclaimed author of Bird Box, as well as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band The High Strung. He lives in Michigan.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

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

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

The roots of murder run deep . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written in Bones by James Oswald was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

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

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

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