#BookReview: The Echo Man by Sam Holland @HarperCollinsUK #TheEchoMan #damppebbles

“The murders have begun…
Across England, a string of murders is taking place. Each different in method, but each horrifying and brutal.

But the killer is just getting started…
Jess Ambrose is plunged into the investigation when her house is set ablaze. With her husband dead and the police pointing at her, she runs. Her only hope is disgraced detective Nate Griffin, who is convinced Jess is innocent.

And he’s going to shock the world…
Soon, Jess and Griffin discover the unthinkable; this murderer is copying the world’s most notorious serial killers. And now, imitation isn’t enough. The killer dubbed The Echo Man is ready to create his own masterpiece, and it will be more terrifying than anything that has come before…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Echo Man by Sam Holland. The Echo Man is published by HarperCollins next week (that’s Thursday 14th April 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Echo Man but that has in no way influenced my review.

There was no way on earth I was going to be able to resist this book! Serial killer thrillers are my absolute go-to sub genre and I would happily read nothing but serial killer thrillers all year long if I had the chance. The Echo Man absolutely screamed my name so as soon as I got hold of a copy, I got stuck in. I couldn’t resist!

Jess Ambrose is thrown from her seemingly perfect yet boring life into a terrifying situation when her house burns down. Her husband was trapped in the blaze and didn’t survive but thankfully, Jess was able to rescue her young daughter. With her daughter in intensive care, Jess immediately realises that she is the prime suspect for setting the fire so she makes a run for it. What Jess doesn’t realise is that the fire was set by a serial killer who is carrying out multiple murders, all inspired by some of the worst killers of our time. With the help of disgraced ex-police detective, Nate Griffin, can they work out the twisted killers next move? And stop him before he creates his own deadly masterpiece…?

The Echo Man is one helluva debut which serial killer thriller fans will devour with glee. It’s dark, it’s definitely disturbing and it’s going to fly off the shelves, without a doubt. The concept of this book ticks so many boxes for me. As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the serial killer thriller but bringing real life cases into the story really escalates the plot into something I don’t think I’ve experienced before. I was turning the pages at a rate of knots, keen to discover what dastardly deed would befall the helpless victim next. Which real life case would inspire our killer and would I manage to keep my lunch down for a bit longer! And I don’t jest there, there are some pretty tummy turning scenes in this book so if you’re not of a strong disposition, this may not be the book for you.

The characters are well written and kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t particularly warm to any of them but being a dark and edgy crime thriller, I don’t believe relatable characters are always a necessary requirement. I want my crime fiction characters to shock and surprise me with their actions, be unpredictable yet driven – be it catching a killer or fulfilling their dastardly MO. After all, they’re treading a dangerous line which I, in real life, don’t want to be a part of. Warm and fluffy is NOT an option in crime fiction. I found Nate Griffin the most interesting and compelling of the cast. Following a frenzied attack the previous year which left his wife dead and him badly injured, Nate is now addicted to painkillers and his supply steadily runs out over the course of the book. But that doesn’t stop Nate from wanting to catch the killer, alongside his former colleagues in the force – DCI Cara Elliot and DS Noah Deakin. All of the characters play their part well and make this debut quite the page turner!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Echo Man is a very readable novel which I enjoyed immersing myself in. The writing is excellent, the storyline is well plotted and very compelling. However, I did have a couple of tiny bug bears which interrupted the flow for me a little. The female characters in the book are referred to by their first names. The male characters tend to be referred to by their surnames. It was most noticeable with DCI Cara Elliot, compared with DS Nate Griffin and DS Noah Deakin. She was Cara, they were Griffin and Deakin. The ending also felt a little sudden, almost as though the story wasn’t quite done. It may be there is more to come and if that is the case, that makes sense. But for me, as it stands, I was a little disappointed by the ending. But they are teeny tiny personal quibbles and don’t take away from the fact this is a cracking debut which crime thriller fans should make a point of reading. I truly believe this book is going to be HUGE. Recommended.

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

The Echo Man by Sam Holland was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 14th March 2022 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sam HollandHaving always been fascinated with the dark and macabre, Sam Holland’s love of reading was forged in the library through Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert. A self-confessed serial killer nerd, Holland studied psychology at university then spent the next few years working in HR, before quitting for a full-time career in writing. The Echo Man is the result.

#BookReview: A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall #ASpoonfulofMurder #damppebbles

“Introducing the three unlikeliest sleuths you’ll ever meet…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.

The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.

But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

Sit down with a cup of tea and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel. Fans of Agatha Christie, Death in Paradise and Midsomer Murders will be hooked from the very first page.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall. A Spoonful of Murder was published by Avon Books last week (that’s Thursday 17th March 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of A Spoonful of Murder but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Avon for sending me a proof copy.

Thelma, Pat and Liz are three retired primary school teachers who meet weekly for coffee and cake at their local garden centre. On one of their Thursday catch-ups they bump into ex-colleague, Topsy Joy, and her daughter, KellyAnne. It’s immediately clear to the trio that Topsy is no longer the formidable nursery nurse she once was, showing early signs of dementia. A week later and Topsy is found dead in front of the telly. The three women are shocked by the news, particularly as they feel something is amiss. Who were those strange men hanging around Topsy’s house? And why has Topsy’s bank account been cleared out? It doesn’t take long for the three intrepid investigators to start digging into what happened to their friend. Someone killed Topsy Joy and it’s down to three retired schoolteachers to prove it…

I have to be completely honest here and say I don’t read a lot of cosy crime. I prefer my crime fiction with a darker edge, a dash more menace and a chill in the air. Saying that, I did enjoy the warmth and cosiness of A Spoonful of Murder, with it’s gentle pace and trio of unwitting sleuths. Warm and witty throughout, I enjoyed getting to know Pat, Thelma and Liz and watching as they put their community under the microscope. Trying to work out if Topsy’s sad demise was helped along by a nefarious hand. Heart breaking in parts, this well-written debut will be a sure fire winner with fans of the genre.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. A Spoonful of Murder is a gently paced, slow burn mystery with a cast of interesting amateur sleuths and lots of charm. I did find the multiple characters a little confusing at times, even with regards to the three leads, and was able to spot whodunit from very early on but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this entertaining novel. I’m afraid I couldn’t help but draw similarities between this book and another book published a couple of years ago. I wonder if that’s because that particular book was the last cosy crime I read so, in a way, it’s still quite fresh in my mind. At times, I found I was constantly on the lookout for the similarities rather than just going with the flow and submersing myself in the story. All in all I enjoyed this novel, found it be an easy read and would recommend it to fans of the genre who enjoy a gentler pace.

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

A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall was published in the UK by Avon Books on 17th March 2022 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

J.M. Hall is an author, playwright and deputy head of a primary school. His plays have been produced in theatres across the UK as well as for radio, the most recent being Trust, starring Julie Hesmondhalgh on BBC Radio 4. His first novel, A Spoonful of Murder, is about retired primary school teachers who turn to sleuthing.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: To the Lake by Yana Vagner (translated by Maria Wiltshire) @_SwiftPress #ToTheLake #ToTheLakeBlogTour #damppebbles

Are you ready for the journey to the edge?

A deadly flu epidemic sweeps through Moscow, killing hundreds of thousands. Anya and her husband Sergey decide they have no choice but to flee to a lake in the far north of Russia.

Joining them on their journey are her son and father-in-law; Sergey’s ex-wife and son; and their garish neighbours. But then some friends of Sergey show up to complete Anya’s list of people she’d least like to be left with at the end of the civilised world.

As the wave of infection expands from the capital, their food and fuel start to run low. Menaced both by the harsh Russian winter and by the desperate people they encounter, they must put their hatreds behind them if they’re to have a chance of reaching safety…

Inspired by a real-life flu epidemic in Moscow, To the Lake was a number one bestseller in Russia, and has now appeared in a dozen languages and been adapted into a Netflix TV series.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for To The Lake by Yana Vagner (translated from it’s original Russian by Maria Wiltshire). To the Lake was published in hardcover by Swift Press on 4th November 2021 and is also available in digital format. I chose to read and review a free ARC of To The Lake but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rachel at Swift Press for sending me a proof copy.

A viral pandemic isn’t so much fiction these days as cold, hard fact. And as a result, my interest in books featuring a pandemic has somewhat waned recently. Until I saw To The Lake mentioned on social media. I am a huge fan of translated fiction but for some reason, I’m not reading as much as I used to. So this book, originally written in Russian, with it’s unforgiving, icy setting and end of the world feel, really appealed.

Anya and Sergey, along with Anya’s teenage son Mishka, live a quiet life in their nice, modern house on the outskirts of Moscow. Until the news breaks that a new virus is slowly shutting down the city. Before long, Moscow is closed. The virus is spreading and there’s no cure. Friends, family and neighbours are dying all around them so they decide, following a particularly nasty incident with a group of vigilantes and encouragement from Sergey’s father, to flee to a lake house miles away from civilisation and start a new life. Joining them are their neighbours, Sergey’s ex-wife and young son. But the road ahead is fraught with danger. Will they make it to the lake alive and well, or will the journey be the death of them…?

To The Lake is a very vivid, atmospheric read full of tension. I loved the Russian setting with it’s sub-zero temperatures, frozen landscape and ice crusted roads. The extreme weather added another threat to the travellers’ already dangerous journey and I really enjoyed how the descriptions of the landscape made me feel as though I was squashed into one of the cars alongside the characters, gazing out of the window at the passing scene, not knowing what was on the horizon.

The impending sense of doom throughout the novel is handled brilliantly. I was on the edge of my seat as the group heard the rumble of tyres approach in the distance. Would the new arrivals be friend or foe? Would they have succumbed to the virus and be unconcerned about infecting others? Was this the end for the group? I enjoyed the initial apprehension and build-up sometimes more than discovering who was actually approaching. Sometimes, and this is probably just me and my dark heart, I wanted a little more from the meetings. I felt the tension build, only to discover that the threat wasn’t really a threat at all. Or, in situations where there was a real weapon-wielding threat, the action was over very quickly and the group were moving on. I would have liked a little more.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. To The Lake is a well-written novel which transported me to the harsh frozen lands of Russia. The plot is all too plausible in this day and age but written years before the COVID pandemic hit, this bleak, character-driven race-to-survive novel will add an extra chill to those winter nights. I will admit that I found the book a touch hard going at times but perhaps that is due to it all being a little too close to home. Obviously, it is different. Very different. But still… All in all, a very interesting, frightening tale which I enjoyed. Recommended.

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

To The Lake by Yana Vagner (translated by Maria Wiltshire) was published in the UK by Swift Press on 4th November 2021 and is available in hardcover and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Яна ВагнерYana Vagner was born in Moscow in 1973 into a bilingual family. Her Czech mother came to Moscow in the 60s to study Russian language and literature. Yana graduated from Russian State Humanitarian University with a major in management and has worked as an interpreter, an anchorperson on radio, and a logistics manager, which allowed her to travel to Africa, Europe and Latin America. Yana Vagner lives with her husband and two dogs in their country house on the outskirts of Moscow.

#BookReview: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @TransworldBooks #TheSanatorium #damppebbles

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. The Sanatorium is published in the UK today (that’s Thursday 18th February 2021) by Bantam Press and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Sanatorium but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Sanatorium was impossible to resist! That intriguing title, the striking, atmospheric cover, the enticing blurb. It screamed my name so I had to read it. This is the second book I’ve read set in the Alps in the space of a month but it gave me a whole different set of chills.

Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend are staying at an isolated boutique hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel itself has an unnerving history, having started its life as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Her estranged brother has surprisingly invited Elin to his engagement party. He’s marrying a childhood friend of hers, the glamorous Laure. Elin is happy to leave the UK for a while as, following her last case, something happened which made her doubt her future in the police force. But on arrival, nervous Elin is instantly put on edge even more by the imposing setting. The pressing snow storm doesn’t help her feel any safer. The relationship between Elin and her brother, Isaac, is tense and a missed dinner invitation causes more upset. But the following morning, Isaac reports Laure missing. The snow storm and the risk of avalanches cuts off all access to the hotel as the search for Laure continues. They’re on their own. Elin needs to step up and take control of the situation. Which, despite feeling hesitant, she feels ready to do. Until they discover the body…

Poor Elin. From the start of The Sanatorium she’s on the edge and that doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses. She’s a troubled woman who carries the tragic death of her brother at the age of 8 in her heart and her mind. The real reason for her decision to reconnect with her estranged other brother becomes very clear to the reader. She wants the truth and the only person who can give it to her is Isaac. Her grief has moulded and shaped her into the woman she is today. Elin is an interesting character who at times I really liked and admired, at other times I wanted to sit her down and ask her what the fluff she was doing!

The mystery aspect of The Sanatorium was interesting and it kept me turning the pages. I think the time has come to admit that perhaps I’ve read too many crime books as I could guess a couple of plot points which, disappointingly, turned out to be accurate. There weren’t any big surprises for me in this novel but that’s my own personal experience and I wouldn’t let that put you off.

I adored the setting. I love isolated, claustrophobic settings in novels and this one is done particularly well. The snowy mountains feel as though they’re pressing in on the hotel and the unpredictability of the avalanches was really wonderful. Picturing the icy scenes in my mind gave me goosebumps! Marvellous stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Sanatorium to anyone who enjoys a locked-room mystery with a bit of an icy twist. The plot moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader turning the pages. There was something about the ending which didn’t quite work for me. I can’t really go into any detail as I would be revealing too much and that wouldn’t be fair but I did enjoy reading The Sanatorium and I would gladly read more from this author. It’s a chilling, atmospheric mystery which I was happy to lose myself in. Recommended.

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

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 2021 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

#BookReview: The Last by Hanna Jameson #TheLast #damppebbles

the last“THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT HAS ENDED

You and nineteen other survivors hole up in an isolated Swiss hotel.

You wait, you survive.

Then you find the body.

One of your number has blood on their hands.

The race is on to find the killer…BEFORE THE KILLER FINDS YOU.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last by Hanna Jameson with you. The Last was published by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of The Last but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do love me a post-apocalyptic thriller! But I know what I like and conversely, what I don’t like. I read a book earlier this year which claimed to be a dystopian thriller. It was a whole lot of thriller and not a lot of dystopian. I wanted to find out how the characters coped with their ‘new normal’. I wanted to see conflict, fear and adjustment to the setting and the new ways of life. So I was a little apprehensive starting The Last. Would this book be much of the same? I’m delighted to confirm that The Last is far superior to the book I read earlier this year as Jameson puts her characters, their experience and their adjustment to the new ways, front and centre.

Historian Jon Keller is at a conference in a Swiss hotel when the bombs hit. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare come terrifyingly true. The nuclear bombs wipe out large proportions of the US, where Jon calls home, along with a large proportion of Europe. Thankfully Switzerland seems largely unaffected but who knows what kind of state the world is outside the hotel doors. The original number staying at the hotel has dwindled leaving twenty guests to come to terms with what has happened to them and forge a new life within the walls of L’Hotel Sixième. Roles have been redefined, the work is tough and everyone has to adjust to the new way of living. While investigating a problem with the water supply, Jon discovers a body in the water tank. The stark truth of the matter becomes worryingly clear. Within this small community, where they’ve come to depend on each other so much, one of them is a killer….

Now I know I referred to The Last as a post-apocalyptic thriller earlier in this review but it’s not really a thriller. It’s a well-written, slow build character study of people put in the worst scenario imaginable. The reader gets to watch as they struggle to survive, let alone cope with their new world from the comfort of their armchair. But, it’s a little too close to the knuckle in some respects and feels plausibly real. The mystery aspect of the story isn’t really the main crux of the book either but it’s an interesting storyline which gives Jon something to obsess over. And obsess over it he does. The mystery into who killed the girl almost completely consumes him.

I found Jameson’s characters really interesting to read about. Although I struggled to like any of them. But I’m not sure that’s necessarily what the author wants her readers to feel anyway. They’re all individuals coping the best way they can. Yes, they’re selfish, suspicious and on edge but that just added to my enjoyment of the book. The claustrophobic feel of the situation was absolutely marvellous and I thoroughly enjoyed the group’s plight (turns out I’m a horrible person taking enjoyment in others misfortune, good job they’re fictional characters really!).

The ending of this book threw me a little. I was expecting something big and bold but I didn’t get it. I felt the ending let the book down a little. The reader travels so far with these characters, you get to know them even if you don’t like them, and then…well – I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the book for other readers but I was a little disappointed.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you like your novels character-driven then absolutely, The Last is a book you should read. I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic elements. I wanted them to go out exploring what was left of Switzerland and they did exactly that, with trepidation and caution. Some of their encounters were nail-biting and I loved the unease and tension in these sections away from the hotel. As I said previously, there was just enough of this strange new world to satisfy me. All in all, an intriguing premise that hooked me from the start. Recommended.

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

The Last by Hanna Jameson was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 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 |

Hanna Jameson’s fourth novel, part murder mystery and part post-apocalyptic thriller – THE LAST – is out now with Viking in the UK and Simon & Schuster-Atria Books in the US. The Last is the story of an American academic searching for the truth about a girl who has been murdered in his Swiss hotel in the aftermath of a nuclear war that has destroyed most of the Western world.

Jameson had written the first draft of her debut, award-nominated novel – SOMETHING YOU ARE – at just seventeen. Something You Are and two further novels in the series – GIRL SEVEN and ROAD KILL – are available now in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.

She lives in London currently, working on screenwriting projects. She likes whiskey, history, and emotionally taxing TV shows.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten @0neMoreChapter_ @BOTBSPublicity #DeadPerfect #damppebbles

51usteb-7l._sy346_“A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Dead Perfect, which is the third book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series written by Noelle Holten. Dead Perfect was published in digital format on 16th October 2020 with the paperback to follow in December. I received a free eARC of Dead Perfect but that has in no way influenced my review.

After being left dangling on a pulse-pounding cliffhanger at the end of Dead Wrong, the second book in this series, I couldn’t wait to make a start on this third instalment. DC Maggie Jamieson is back with a bang and hunting down another deranged killer who, best not to mention this to anyone, I actually ended up feeling a little sorry for in the end. I’m sure that’s just me though. A brilliantly written, despicable character who normal readers will despise.

A murdered woman is found in a local park, her eyes and mouth sewn shut. DC Maggie Jamieson and Acting DS Nathan Wright are called to the scene to investigate.  Maggie is nervous though. Reports of the deceased sound just like her friend (and secret crush) Dr Kate Moloney. Kate has been receiving odd gifts and messages from an unknown source. Has her stalker taken the next terrifying step? There’s no denying the dead woman looks a lot like Kate. Her face, her hair, her clothes…it’s like a mirror image. Maggie instinctively knows that Dr Moloney is in grave danger. Can she find the killer before it’s too late…?

Dead Perfect is another great addition to the DC Maggie Jamieson series. What puts this book head and shoulders above other police procedurals is the author’s knowledge of the probation service. Holten’s experience shines through and, as a regular reader of crime fiction, it’s really interesting and enjoyable to have a different perspective on things. I’m hoping these insights will continue as there was a great sub-plot with probation officer, Lucy Sherwood, who featured heavily in the first book, Dead Inside, setting up a refuge for domestic abuse survivors.

What I really enjoyed (yes, I’m strange) is the widening gap between Acting DS Nathan Wright and Maggie. At the start of the series they were equals. Now, Nathan is the boss and he’s putting Maggie firmly in her place. There’s palpable tension there, things are changing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops. I really missed DI Abigail Rutherford who I had a bit of a soft spot for in the last book. Although she was there, she wasn’t very involved in the storyline but I expect that’s because DS Wright has stepped up to the mark and taken lead of the team (which I assume is how real life policing works).

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dead Perfect is a pacey story with a cast of great characters who I’m really warming to. I was able to spot ‘whodunnit’ from fairly early on but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. I’m looking forward to seeing how several of the relationships develop in the next book, particularly between Maggie and reporter Julie Noble. I think reading this book as a standalone wouldn’t cause too many issues but why not treat yourself and pick up all three! Recommended.

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

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 16th October 2020 and is available in digital format – with the paperback to follow in December (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.ukWaterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads |

dead-perfect

about-the-author3

noelle holtenNoelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

#BookReview: The Domino Killer by Neil White @BooksSphere #TheDominoKiller #damppebbles

the domino killer“When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Domino Killer by Neil White. The Domino Killer is the third book in the Joe & Sam Parker Series and was published on 1st December 2016 by Sphere Books. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Domino Killer but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have read a number of books by this author but this is the first one in his Joe & Sam Parker series. I didn’t struggle at all coming into the series at book three as the main plotline revolves around events in the brother’s past so it worked really well as a recap. And yes, I probably should have mentioned before, Joe and Sam (I’m so sorry, I really want to call them Sam and Mark for no other reason than perhaps I watch too much children’s TV!) are brothers. Joe is a defence lawyer and Sam is a detective constable.

When a man is savagely attacked in a Manchester park, DC Sam Parker is part of the team investigating the victim’s death. The attack was frenzied and bloody and the police have a race against time to find the killer. But then the victim’s fingerprint is found in the most unexpected place and it throws the team a pretty big curveball. Joe meanwhile has been called to the police station as he has been requested by a new client on a burglary charge. What awaits him is the shock of his life. A face he never expected to see again, but the reason he became a defence lawyer in the first place. Before long the brothers are hunting down a psychopathic serial killer who will stop at nothing to see his plan come to fruition, no matter what (or who) the cost…

I enjoyed this gritty police/legal thriller set in Manchester. The plot was detailed and intricate, and because of the two lead characters and two perspectives, I felt as though I was getting two stories for the price of one. It’s a really interesting concept to have two brothers in opposing careers and it really added something to the book for me. I expect I will pick up the first two books in this series in the not too distant future.

The chapters focussing on the police investigation with Sam Parker were definitely my favourite parts of the book. I think I preferred Sam’s character to Joe’s who seemed a little self-centred at times. The supporting cast were also very strong and I particularly liked Sam’s police partner, Charlotte Turner, and Joe’s paralegal and an ex-detective herself, Gina.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found The Domino Killer a slower paced read but it’s certainly compelling and I was keen to find out where the killer was heading with his master plan. There’s a wonderful twist towards the end of the story which I really enjoyed and didn’t see coming at all. I did get a little confused at times with the number of character names and how they related to other characters in the book, but that’s probably just me. A really interesting crime novel with two intriguing characters. Recommended.

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

The Domino Killer by Neil White was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 1st December 2016 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 | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

neil whiteNeil White was born and brought up around South Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but studied for a law degree in his twenties, then started writing in 1994. He is now a lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night. He lives with his wife and three children in Preston.

#BookReview: The Search Party by Simon Lelic @VikingBooksUK #TheSearchParty #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the search party

“Sixteen-year-old Sadie Saunders is missing.

Five friends set out into the woods to find her.

But they’re not just friends…

THEY’RE SUSPECTS.

You see, this was never a search party.

It’s a witch hunt.

And not everyone will make it home alive…

THE CHALK MAN meets THE HUNTING PARTY in this gripping story; witness four suspects as, alongside DI Fleet, you attempt to discover the truth about what happened to Sadie…

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my nineteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Search Party by Simon Lelic. The Search Party is published by Viking Books today (that’s 20th August 2020) and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Search Party but that has in no way influenced my review.

So I admit it, ‘The Chalk Man meets The Hunting Party…’ line sold this book to me before I had fully taken on what the book was about. Two of my very favourite books, the publisher was telling me, had conceived a book baby and it was The Search Party with its fantastically striking cover. I was sold and oh boy, I was excited to make a start.

Sadie Saunders is missing. Her friends, keen to be involved in the search for Sadie, want to help. But they’re told they’re too young. They’re told to stay at home and wait for news. So they decide to pack a few non-essential items (phone chargers for example 🤦) and head out to the woods for a few nights to look for Sadie. But they all have secrets. Things they’re keeping from one another. And one of the teenagers, Mason, is a little hot-headed. He’s Sadie’s boyfriend and he suspects one of the friends has something to do with Sadie going missing…

The book opens with a bang which immediately grabs your attention, puts you on the wrong foot and makes you start to ask questions. We’re then introduced to the absolutely brilliant DI Robin Fleet who was one of my very favourite things about this book. Fleet is in charge of putting the pieces together and working out not only what has happened to Sadie Saunders, but who is responsible for this latest tragedy. I loved Fleet. He’s flawed but not too flawed. Just a good, honest copper who struggles with the politics of policing and the restrictions put upon him by his current superior officer. I hope to see more of him in future books.

What’s interesting about this book is the way the author has presented the viewpoints of the teenagers who went into the woods that fateful day. It’s clear from the get-go that they’re recounting what happened to a police officer, but you only ever hear from the teenagers. The accounts are presented as monologues allowing each character to have their say and their moment in the spotlight. There’s every chance this approach is used in most of the books I read but this time, it felt different and new.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Search Party is an intricate, slow-burn mystery full of suspense which I found entertaining from start to finish. I should say that before reading this book, I had very recently finished another novel featuring a cast of moody teenagers which perhaps took the edge off of the book for me a little. However, the chapters focusing on the investigation with DI Fleet as their star, I really enjoyed. More Fleet please! Recommended.

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

The Search Party by Simon Lelic was published by Viking Books on 20th August 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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about-the-author3
Simon Lelic credit Justine StoddartSimon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

#BookReview: The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters @BooksSphere #TheKillerYouKnow #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the killer you know“I’ll murder three people. And you’ll know it was me . . .

Summer 1997. When Will jokes about becoming a serial killer, his friends just laugh it off. But Adeline can’t help but feel there’s something darker lurking behind his words.

Winter 2015: Years later, Adeline returns to Blythe for a reunion of the old gang – except Will doesn’t show up. Reminiscing about old times, they look up the details of his supposed murder spree. But the mood soon changes when they discover two recent deaths that match.

As the group attempts to track Will down, they realise that he is playing a sinister game that harks back to one they used to play as kids. Only this time there are lives at stake . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eighteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters. The Killer You Know was published by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Killer You Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. A group of teenage friends gather one night as the end of Summer approaches. One of them, Will, is considered to be the odd kid in the group. So when he makes an off-the-cuff comment about being a serial killer when he’s older, the others are shocked and a little unnerved by his bold statement. When Will fails to turn up to a group reunion many years later, it leaves his friends wondering, could he have carried out the unthinkable? When the friends check the very precise details he gave about the killings, they find reports of a suicide that matches…and then a second death. One report could be classed as a coincidence, but two deaths…? No, there’s no question about it, there’s something suspicious going on. Now all they have to do is find Will, and see for themselves. Particularly as Will threatened a third death, much closer to home…

Set in the late 90s and the present day, this book delivered shedloads of fantastic nostalgia. Now, I admit, I’m a little older than the characters in this book but the 90s were my decade. I loved the trips back in time where the bands of the day were discussed alongside the group’s obsession with movies. Wonderful stuff!

The characters all stood tall each adding something to the story. Their personalities were all very different but when you live in a small village, you’re thrown together with people you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends yourself. That added a very interesting group dynamic to the book. They all had their own very defined roles which weren’t necessarily accepted by some members but rather pushed upon them – expected maybe. Leading to tension, rivalry and an undercurrent of bad feeling. It was interesting to watch a group of teenagers who, like many teenagers, think they’re wise beyond their years, deal with some very adult emotions.

Despite my appreciation of the 90s vibe in The Killer You Know, I did prefer the sections set in the present day when the group are trying to track Will down. The mystery of Will’s disappearance, the bubbling undercurrent of not really knowing who to trust anymore and the sense of foreboding made parts of the book a fairly tense read. The author takes time to set the scene, taking the reader back to 1997 and painting a very vivid, thorough picture.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of slow-burn, suspenseful mysteries then you may enjoy The Killer You Know. I felt it could have been a little shorter as I found my attention drifting at times and I wanted something to hook me back in. I was able to guess where the story was going to go, which may not have helped my meandering attention. I also struggled a little with the writing style and had to re-read large sections to grasp what was happening and check I hadn’t missed a key plot point – but that could have just been me having a bad day. A really interesting concept and I would happily read more by this author.

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

The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 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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about-the-author3

S R Masters studied Philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge. He is a regular contributor to UK short fiction anthology series The Fiction Desk, having won their Writer’s Award for his short story Just Kids. His story Desert Walk was included in Penguin Random House USA’s Press Start to Play collection, published last year, and he continues to have short fiction published in a variety of magazines.

When not writing, Simon works in public health in Oxford, where he lives with his wife, Helen.

The Killer You Know is his first novel.

#BookReview: Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough @HarperCollinsUK #DeadToHer #damppebbles

dead to her“Something old

Marcie’s affair with Jason Maddox catapulted her into the world of the elite. Old money, old ties, old secrets. Marcie may have married into this world – but she’ll never be part of it.

Something new

Then Jason’s boss brings back a new wife from his trip to London. Young, attractive, reckless – nobody can take their eyes off Keisha. Including Marcie’s husband.

Something you can never, ever undo…

Some people would kill for the life Marcie has – what will she do to keep it?”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough. Dead To Her is due to be published in hardcover a week from today (that’s 6th August 2020) with the paperback set to follow next year (the digital version has been available since June). I received a free ARC of Dead To Her but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a slow reader. I tend to read advance review copies a month at the most before the book is published. And in all honesty, thinking that far ahead can be a struggle at times! In reality, it’s maybe a week or two before the book is published. With Dead To Her, however, I read it at the end of July last year. There were two reasons for this. 1) It’s a Sarah Pinborough novel and 2) I promised my copy to a fabulous friend after I’d finished it (long story, best I don’t bore you). Anyhoo, I digress. I was keen to read this book anyway, but having spent some time last July with one of Sarah Pinborough’s biggest fans, her enthusiasm completely rubbed off on me and I was even more desperate to read Dead To Her. And what a memorable book!

After a rocky start in life, Marcie has managed to leave her past behind and move into the Savannah elite. Granted, she had to have an affair with successful businessman Jason Maddox and usurp his ex-wife to do it, but it was a price she was prepared to pay. After all, she adores her husband (and the life that comes with his success). They’re rich, popular in the set and going places but she’ll never truly ‘belong’. When Jason’s boss brings a new wife home from England, all eyes – including Jason’s – turn to Keisha. She’s younger, more beautiful, spontaneous and fun – everything Marcie used to be before age played its hand. It’s hard not to notice the chemistry between Keisha and Jason. Is Marcie about to lose everything she has worked so hard for? How far will she, and others, go to keep their secrets…

I’ve read Sarah Pinborough’s Cross Her Heart which absolutely broke me. But this…! This is something completely different. Very, very, ‘totally unexpected’ different. This is sexy, this is scary and this is 100% full on. It made me blush at points but I was delighted to see that the author had given things a bit of a shake-up and made her story instantly memorable. I can’t really say too much about the characters as I’m concerned that because of the way the story is set out, I’ll stupidly give something away I shouldn’t. So all I’ll say is that Marcie is a great character and one I really liked. Other characters were pretty repulsive including William Radford IV whose treatment of his new wife, Keisha reminded me of how others would treat a worthless possession. I really felt for Keisha throughout the book as she’s such a fragile soul.

This is a slow burn psychological suspense novel with an intriguing and beguiling plot. It’s so different to everything else I’ve read, that I perhaps struggled with it a little more than other readers will. The steaminess of the novel didn’t help in that respect but I can see many readers absolutely loving the different angle Pinborough has taken with Dead To Her. I’m afraid I could see the ending coming from a mile off which meant I finished the book on a ‘hmmm’ instead of a ‘wow’. But I enjoyed the story the author told me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re into character-driven suspense novels but with a full-on, sexy plot to back it all up, then you should enjoy Dead To Her. It’s a little bit crazy but entertaining. A very memorable read and I can’t wait to see what Pinborough has in store for us next. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dead To Her. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 6th August 2020 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of 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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sarah pinborough

Sarah Pinborough is the number one Sunday Times Bestselling and New York Times Bestselling author of the psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes (Jan, 2017). During her career she has published more than 20 novels and several novellas, and has written for the BBC. Her recent novels include the dystopian love story, The Death House, and a teenage thriller, 13 Minutes which has been bought by Netflix with Josh Schwartz adapting.

Behind Her Eyes has sold to nearly twenty territories so far and was sold at auction to the US in a significant deal to Flatiron, Macmillan. There are discussions on going with several movies studios about the film adaptation.

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