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

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

The roots of murder run deep . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The 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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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 |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: East Side Hustler by Leopold Borstinski (@borstinski) #EastSideHustler #AlexCohenSeries #damppebbles

Image“Alex lived through the war, but will he survive the peace?

Jewish gang member, Alex comes back from the Great War almost destroyed by the horrors he has seen. When he is plucked from certain death by an old friend, he commits to making so much money he’ll never know that agony again.

But the route to the top is fraught with danger and every time he helps one of his powerful friends like Al Capone, he acquires more enemies who want to see him dead. When organised crime financier, Arnold Rothstein dies, the turmoil caused by his loss sets in train a chain of events which means Alex must once more fight for his life. How far would you go to attain your American dream?

The second book in the Alex Cohen series is a violent historical novel, which tears through the Prohibition years of the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s gripping crime noir pierces the heart of every reader like a bullet from Alex’s sniper rifle.”

Hello and welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of East Side Hustler as part of the blog tour today. East Side Hustler is the second book in the Alex Cohen Series written by Leopold Borstinski. I read and reviewed the first book, The Bowery Slugger, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was really looking forward to this one. I received a free eARC of East Side Hustler but that has in no way influenced my review.

We were last with Alex Cohen as he leapt onto a train destined for the trenches of the Great War. East Side Hustler begins in 1919 with Alex’s return to New York but he’s a shadow of the man he was. Traumatised by the sights and smells of war, he finds himself desolate and alone. Having once run the streets which he now sleeps on, it’s a dramatic fall from grace for the man they used to refer to as ‘Slugger’. His family believe him to be dead. He has no one. That is until a familiar face finds him and offers shelter. A warm bed, food on the table and the warm embrace of Sarah, a friend and lover from the past. Alex’s strength builds, he discovers his reputation is unblemished and his determination to live the American dream reignites. And Alex will do that anyway he can, no matter who stands in his way…

East Side Hustler spans the years from 1919 to 1929 and Alex’s return to the mean streets of New York. It’s difficult to not like Alex. He’s ruthless, menacing and a pretty terrible human being but there’s also something about him that appeals to the reader. In The Bowery Slugger Alex was a teenager on the up. You couldn’t help but admire his gumption and his desire to make something of himself. He’s older now and affected by war, but the character readers fell in love with is still very much present.

So much happens in East Side Hustler that it’s hard to summarise the book for this review. After all, East Side Hustler spans a ten-year period in Alex’s life. There’s a lot going on so the reader is quickly absorbed into the story and into the dark underbelly of New York in the 1920s. The main point to mention is the introduction of prohibition which saw the manufacture and sale of alcohol stopped by law. Alex and his ‘colleagues’ quickly discover a way of smuggling alcohol into New York from Canada via Chicago. Risking life and limb in the process, it makes for gripping reading and provides a fair amount of spilt blood. The inclusion of some familiar names, such as Al Capone and Bugs Moran, bring a dash of realism to the story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. East Side Hustler can be read as a standalone but it’s worth picking up a copy of The Bowery Slugger too, as you get to discover where Alex Cohen has come from and what drives him. This series is a gritty look at life on the streets of New York. A no-holds-barred historical noir novel with a lead character that you shouldn’t like, but you won’t be able to help yourself. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series and seeing what Bostinski has in store for Alex next.

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

East Side Hustler by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 22nd March 2020 and is available in 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.ukamazon.comGoogle BooksKoboGoodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: 17 Church Row by James Carol @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #17ChurchRow #damppebbles

17 Church Row: We all have darker instincts . . . (Paperback)

“Three years ago, Nikki and Ethan Rhodes suffered a devastating loss when their four-year-old daughter Grace was tragically killed in a road accident. Ethan, a radio personality, escapes into work, leaving Nikki to care for their remaining child, Bella, who hasn’t spoken since that day.

Seeking a fresh start, the family moves into a revolutionary new house designed by renowned architect, Catriona Fisher. The house features a state-of-the-art security system, along with every amenity you could dream of.

For the Rhodes’ this is a chance to finally pick up the pieces and get on with their lives in a place where they feel totally safe.

But what if 17 Church Row isn’t the safe haven that they think it is?”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop (one of the first two stops!) on the 17 Church Row blog tour. 17 Church Row is the latest release from the brilliant James Carol and it will be published in paperback later this week. I received a free eARC of 17 Church Row but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of James Carol’s writing. If Mr Carol writes it, you can guarantee I’ll be reading it as soon as humanly possible. His Jefferson Winter series is absolutely sublime and his standalone novels (of which 17 Church Row is one) are all thrilling, captivating reads. If you’ve never picked up a James Carol novel then you’re really, REALLY missing out.

Nikki Rhodes took her eyes off her twin daughters for only a split second, and that was all it took for tragedy to strike. Nikki knows their lives have changed forever when she hears the screeching of tyres and sees the front door swinging wide open. Learning to rebuild their lives after the loss of Grace is the toughest thing they’ve had to face, but particularly for Bella – Grace’s twin sister – who hasn’t spoken since the accident. When Ethan suggests they move house, leaving behind the painful memories, Nikki doesn’t know what to do for the best. But radio DJ, Ethan has found the perfect house for them – 17 Church Row in Kensington. It’s the house of the future and architect, Catriona is looking to build many, many more. Having a media star like Ethan Rhodes move into her project is a gold mine. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity! 17 Church Row is a futuristic abode decked out with the latest in AI technology. The house is run by ‘Alice’ who can answer to your every whim and is always one step ahead of you. The pain of losing Grace will be with the family forever. Bella is their number one priority now and they have to do everything they can to make her life as happy and as fulfilled as possible. And there’s always the chance that this change of scene could be the catalyst to get Bella to talk again. But what if their new safe haven isn’t as safe and secure as they believe…?

If memory serves I’ve said this before: Woah! If this is the future then I’m locking myself in a library and NEVER, EVER leaving! The last time I said that it was about self-driving cars. I think it’s fair to say I feel the same about self-driving houses! Oh.My.Goodness. This futuristic thriller is one scary read and I’m quite happy in my very normal, very non-AI house – thank you very much! If you had presented 17 Church Row to be me before I read this book I would have bitten your hand off. Modern, sleek, visually stunning. Carol paints a beautiful aesthetic with his words. But I’ve read the book. You can keep your all-singing, all-dancing house!

This is an entertaining thriller and with some interesting characters. I really felt for Nikki who was punishing herself on a daily basis over her daughter’s death. To want to escape the memories but at the same time not feel able to leave them behind, what a tough decision to make. And poor little Bella broke my heart on a number of occasions. I did feel one of the characters was only part of the story to move the plot along – a bit like being a red jerseyed ensign about to embark on your first mission with Captain James T. Kirk to an alien planet. You’ve had a few lines, played a small part and now we all know you’re going to get in in the neck! It wasn’t a huge surprise for me when something questionable happened to them. The architect, Catriona, is also super creepy…yuck!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all of James Carol’s books as they are all brilliant. If you’re in the mood for something a little bit different then this is the book for you. It’s quite terrifying to think this is how we could be living in the future. Quite an eye-opener. And yes, my Alexa is now in the bin….

I chose to read and review an eARC of 17 Church Row. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

17 Church Row by James Carol was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 14th November and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of 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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James Carol was born in Scotland, where he spent his early years. He moved to England in the eighties and has lived there ever since. At various times he has worked as a guitarist, sound engineer, guitar tutor, journalist, and a horse riding instructor.

Broken Dolls, the first Jefferson Winter thriller, was published in 2014 and has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into twelve languages. This was followed by three other Jefferson Winter thrillers and a trilogy of novellas set during Winter’s FBI days.

James has also written three standalone thrillers. The first of these, The Killing Game was shortlisted for a CWA Ian Fleming Dagger award.

When he’s not writing, James can usually be found in his recording studio where he is currently writing and recording the first Dream Nation album.

James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, two children, a dog and a horse.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore @orionbooks #TheDarkRoom #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (5/15)

the dark room.jpgThey thought they’d buried their secrets 
Homicide inspector Gavin Cain is standing by a grave when he gets the call. Cain knows there’s something terrible in the coffin they’re about to exhume. He and his team have received a dying man’s confession and it has led them here.

But death doesn’t guarantee silence
Cain is summoned by Mayor Castelli, who has been sent sinister photographs of a woman that he claims he doesn’t know and a note threatening that worse are on their way.

And now light will be shone on a very dark place…
As Cain tries to identify the woman in the pictures, and looks into the mayor’s past, he finds himself being drawn towards a situation as horrifying and as full of secrets as the grave itself.”

Welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted today to be sharing my review of The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore which I have selected as one of my #15BooksofSummer challenge reads.  The Dark Room was published by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats. I received an eARC of The Dark Room but this has in no way influenced my review.

I read Jonathan Moore’s The Poison Artist back in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was whilst sharing that review that a fellow book blogger, someone whose opinion I really respect, suggested I give The Dark Room a go.  Unfortunately, due to being the slowest of readers and having a burgeoning NetGalley TBR, I have only recently gotten around to it.  The Dark Room felt a little different to The Poison Artist in tone but is still a very enjoyable read.

Inspector Gavin Cain of the San Francisco Police Department is about to get some answers as he stands by the recently exhumed grave of a thirty-year-old corpse.  That is until his Lieutenant calls and orders him to the Mayor’s Office – she’s sending a chopper and there’s no time to waste.  Cain arrives, is introduced to Mayor Castelli and takes what seems like an instant dislike to the man.  The Mayor confides that he has received a number of potentially incriminating photographs in the post along with a threatening note.  These are the first four snaps.  There are another eight to come.  The note suggests that maybe the Mayor would like to commit suicide before the photographs fall into the wrong hands and he is exposed.  Castelli claims to not know who the woman is and wants Cain to discover her identity.  But the Mayor is hiding something and the further back into the Mayor’s past Cain digs, the more secrets he uncovers…

This is a slow burn, noirish thriller set in San Francisco.  The slow drip of information as you watch the case unfold and as Cain joins the dots makes it an enjoyable read.  Helped along by the wonderful setting and the fascinating characters.  And, having read this author before, I can safely say he likes to throw the odd shock twist into the story to give his readers a bit of a start.  Cain is an interesting chap and one I would happily read more of if this were a series (it’s not, it’s a standalone).  He’s a very experienced SFPD Inspector and takes no bull (not even from the Mayor or his Lieutenant).  I don’t feel the reader really gets to know him though.  You learn so much more about his partner, piano teacher Lucy, than you do about him.  Maybe he’s meant to be more of an enigma – after all, there’s only so far you can go with a character when they feature in only one book.  Other characters in the book are well drawn, particularly the Mayor’s daughter, Alexa, who drove me crazy.

The ending absolutely fitted the story and it was the right way for the author to go but I was left feeling a little disappointed.  I think that says more about me than the writing though.  I wanted something a little more showy, more of a BANG than what we’re given.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  It’s an absorbing police procedural which pulls you in from start to finish – you just HAVE to know how this one is going to end.  If you’re a fan of a slower paced crime read with a cast of intriguing characters then absolutely, you will enjoy this book.  Recommended.

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

The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore was published in the UK by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepository | Goodreads |

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jonathan-moore.jpgJonathan Moore is a Bram Stoker Award nominated author of five novels. His third novel, THE POISON ARTIST, was a selection of the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. His novels have been translated into seven languages.

Before graduating from law school in New Orleans, he lived in Taiwan for three years, guided whitewater raft trips on the Rio Grande, and worked as an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. He has also been an English teacher, a bar owner, a counsellor at a wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents, and a textbook writer.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |