#BookReview: How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix @TitanBooks #HowtoSellaHauntedHouse #damppebbles

Your past and your family can haunt you like nothing else… A hilarious and terrifying new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Final Girl Support Group.

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

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

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

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix. How to Sell a Haunted House is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 17th January 2023) and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of How to Sell a Haunted House but that has in no way influenced my review.

This time last year I was aware of horror author Grady Hendrix but I hadn’t read any of their books. And then I picked up a copy of The Final Girl Support Group and, oh boy, I was officially smitten. Now I have a collection of Grady Hendrix books on the bookshelf that I’m merrily working my way through (look out for my review of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires coming to the blog soon!). It’s safe to say the publication of a new GH book has quickly become one of my yearly reading highlights. All in the space of a few months! So it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to read How to Sell a Haunted House. And I loved every creepy, phobia inducing minute of it!

Single parent, Louise, receives a call from her brother, Mark, informing her that their parents have died in a tragic accident. Louise is devastated but reluctantly packs a bag, leaves her five year old daughter, Poppy, with her ex and heads to Charleston to take control of matters. But on arrival it becomes clear to Louise that Mark is planning on doing things his own way. Including sidelining his sister at every turn. He’s planned the funeral and now all that’s left to do is clear out the family home so it can be sold to the highest bidder. Mark wants no fuss or sentimentality. But Louise feels differently. She wants to honour the memory of her parents, taking time to sort and clear their possessions. The house contains a lifetime of memories. And dolls. Dolls that seem to turn up in the most unlikely of places. As do her mother’s homemade puppets. Louise and Mark may be hoping for a quick sale but the house has a different idea altogether…

How to Sell a Haunted House is an utterly compelling, thoroughly creepy read with exquisite characterisation which I found nigh impossible to be parted from for any length of time. I was so drawn into Louise and Mark’s story. I felt desperately sorry for Louise who seemed to be overlooked in favour of her younger sibling throughout their childhood, only for adult Mark to throw his toys out of the pram at the most inappropriate moment. My blood pressure rose as Mark did everything in his power to usurp his big sister. Removing any and all power she held at a time when emotions were raw and relationships were incredibly fragile. But, of course, it’s only as the reader progresses through the book that we get to really understand these beautifully crafted siblings and see what lurks beneath the surface.

Out of all of the horror tropes one of the scariest, for me, is the creepy ass doll. Only mildly creepier is the haunted puppet. There’s not much in it really but the puppet is definitely the more sinister of the two. And How to Sell a Haunted House proves my point in abundance. Hendrix has literally created a monster. Part of me wanted to hide in the wardrobe from the malevolence of nasty little Pupkin. But I couldn’t put the book down! I was completely immersed in the horror that was happening before me and I loved every chilling moment.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. How to Sell a Haunted House is my favourite Grady Hendrix novel so far, but I don’t think you can go wrong in picking up one of this author’s books. Everything I have read to date has been thoroughly entertaining, a whole lot of fun, perfectly pitched and pretty darn memorable. I do think, at times, the pace moved a little slower than in previous books but that’s never a problem, providing the characters speak to me. And they certainly did! I was swept away by the author’s clever storytelling to a world of stuffed squirrels and invisible dogs and weirdly, I didn’t want to leave. All in all, How to Sell a Haunted House is a winner for me. I loved the characters, I loved what the author put the characters through and I loved that it was all just a little bit bonkers, in the best way possible. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of How to Sell a Haunted House. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix was published in the UK by Titan Books on 17th January 2023 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Grady HendrixGrady Hendrix is the author of the novels Horrorstör, about a haunted IKEA, and My Best Friend’s Exorcism, which is like Beaches meets The Exorcist, only it’s set in the Eighties. He’s also the author of We Sold Our SoulsThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, and Final Girl Support Group!

He’s also the jerk behind the Stoker award-winning Paperbacks from Hell, a history of the 70’s and 80’s horror paperback boom, which contains more information about Nazi leprechauns, killer babies, and evil cats than you probably need.

And he’s the screenwriter behind Mohawk, which is probably the only horror movie about the War of 1812 and Satanic Panic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Beresford by Will Carver #TheBeresford @OrendaBooks #damppebbles

“Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.

There’s a routine at The Beresford.

For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building.

Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe just killed him.

In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers.

And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door.

Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…

Eerie, dark, superbly twisted and majestically plotted, The Beresford is the stunning standalone thriller from one of crime fiction’s most exciting names.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Beresford by Will Carver. The Beresford was published by Orenda Books on 22nd July 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I’ve been a fan of Will Carver’s books for a while now so when The Beresford was suggested as one of my ’12 books in 12 months’ reads, I immediately added it to the list. Huge thanks to @NickiRICHARDS7 and @the_sara_post for their recommendations. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and twisted tale!

Looking for a room on the outskirts of the city? Then look no further! The Beresford is the answer to all your problems. The deposit required to secure your room is so small it’s laughable and the monthly rent certainly won’t be a stretch. You CAN have it all. What’s that…? It sounds too good to be true? That’s because it is! Move into The Beresford and there’s a good chance you won’t be moving out again…

Dark and twisted decadence from the absolute master of all things dark and twisted. The Beresford ensnares the reader from the moment they crack the spine and what a devilishly good read it is! This is not a book for the faint hearted by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it a book to read over a long period of time as once you pick it up, you ain’t putting it down again. I flew through this book in one day unable to resist the pull it had over me. Glorious!

The characters the reader is introduced to at the start all have a great amount of depth to them and I was really warming to new resident, Blair Conroy, and her blossoming romance with long standing Beresford tenant, Abe Schwartz when the author twisted the tale in the most exquisite way and left me open mouthed (but with the biggest grin on my face). From that point I was officially smitten with this book. I cannot not mention the mysterious yet venerable Mrs May who oversees everything that happens at The Beresford. The all-knowing, all seeing eye of this eerie abode. The other characters in the book are as equally strong as those we first meet and all have a very definite part to play. I felt I really got to know many of them, even if their appearance was only brief.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of dark and twisted (and twisty!) fiction then you need to get hold of a copy of The Beresford. It’s wicked and disturbing and gloriously dark and everything I want in the books I read. Carver is a master storyteller. One who is not afraid to take his tales places other writers wouldn’t dare and I applaud that. I loved the time I spent at The Beresford. Shocking, darkly humorous and so very compelling from the get-go. I feel bereft now that it’s over. Highly recommended.

The Beresford by Will Carver was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 21st July 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will CarverWill Carver is the bestselling author of the January Series – Girl 4 (2011), The Two (2012), The Killer Inside (2013), Dead Set (2013) – and the critically acclaimed Detective Pace series, which includes Good Samaritans (2018), Nothing Important Happened Today (2019) and Hinton Hollow Death Trip (2020), all of which were selected as books of the year in mainstream international press. The books in this series have also been longlisted/shortlisted for the Amazon Readers Independent Voice Award, Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award, Not The Booker Prize and the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award. Will spent his early years living in Germany, but returned at age eleven. He studied theatre and television at King Alfred’s Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition business and lives in Reading with his children.

#BookReview: Silent Victim by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #SilentVictim #damppebbles

“He took her voice
She took it back

A CENSURED DETECTIVE WITH NO LEADS

DCI Matilda Darke and her team have been restricted under special measures after a series of calamitous scandals nearly brought down the South Yorkshire police force.

A BRUTAL ATTACK WITH NO WITNESSES

Now Matilda is on the trail of another murderer, an expert in avoiding detection with no obvious motive but one obvious method.

A DEPRAVED KILLER WHO LEAVES NO TRACES

When his latest victim survives the attack despite her vocal cords being severed, Matilda is more convinced than ever of the guilt of her key suspect. If only she had a way to prove it…

Silent Victim is an unputdownable crime thriller with twists that will make your jaw drop – perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Ann Cleeves.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Silent Victim by Michael Wood. Silent Victim is the tenth book in the DCI Matilda Darke series and is published by One More Chapter in digital format today (that’s Friday 28th October 2022) with the paperback and audiobook to follow in November. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Silent Victim but that has in no way influenced my review.

Regular visitors to the blog will know that crime fiction is by far my favourite genre. I love me a police procedural series with relatable characters, gripping investigations and a few unexpected twists and turns thrown in along the way. Plus, of course, those perfectly placed red herrings to keep the reader guessing. One of the best series out there for fans of detective fiction at the moment is the DCI Matilda Darke series. Darke and her team have been through a hell of a lot in recent years. More than most, I think it would be fair to say. But still, they press on with an unfaltering determination to protect Sheffield, no matter what it takes and no matter what hurdles are put in their way. I am a HUGE fan of this series and I count down the days until the latest instalment hits the shelves. Silent Victim is the tenth book and a cracking addition to a superb, eminently readable series.

What I will say is that this is a series best read in order as so much has happened to the team in the last three or four books that to appreciate the long-running storylines (and there are several) it is best to start with an earlier book. Perhaps book six, or why not go the whole hog and start with the first book. By starting with an earlier book, it gives the reader a chance to fully understand and witness the growth of these characters. There’s a familiarity and closeness between certain members of the cast and it’s a joy to experience their quiet moments. There’s also a lot of humour and warmth, which by starting the series with a later book, I think the reader can easily miss or gloss over. Anyway, enough of the light and fluffy. This is not a light and fluffy book, but I do think it’s important to appreciate the long journey these characters have been on together.

A serial killer and rapist is targeting women in Sheffield. His latest victim is 14-year-old Tilly Hall who miraculously survives the attack, although not in one piece. The killer cuts her throat (no light and fluffy here, no siree!) severing her vocal cords. Tilly wakes in hospital with no voice and hazy memories of what happened to her. DCI Matilda Darke is called back to work following the events of the last book to hunt down the sadistic killer and make sure his reign of terror comes to an abrupt end. With no clues, no discernible motive and very little support from the top, Matilda and her diminished team are in a race against time to find a killer who is escalating with each new attack. Silent Victim is a gripping, compelling read full of everything I love about Michael Wood’s books and I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of it. The plot is well paced, the characters are perfection, there are lighter moments to counteract the darkness and I was on the edge of my seat as the unnerving finale played out before my eyes.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Silent Victim is a thrilling addition to a superb series and I cannot wait to return to Sheffield next year when the 11th book, Below Ground, is published. The author is never afraid to put his characters through the wringer and from the way Silent Victim ended, there may be trouble ahead for Matilda and the team. I will reiterate though that this is a series best read and enjoyed in order. Get to know the characters, the relationships and what motivates them as individuals as well as a team. It’s a series very much worth investing in. There are always unexpected twists and turns along the way and as a crime fiction fan, these books tick all the boxes for me. Read them. You won’t regret it. Highly recommended.

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

Silent Victim by Michael Wood was published by One More Chapter in the UK on 28th October 2022 and is available in digital format with the paperback and audio to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

#BookReview: Family Business by Jonathan Sims @gollancz @orionbooks #FamilyBusiness #damppebbles

“JUST ANOTHER DEAD-END JOB.
DEATH. IT’S A DIRTY BUSINESS.

When Diya Burman’s best friend Angie dies, it feels like her own life is falling apart. Wanting a fresh start, she joins Slough & Sons – a family firm that cleans up after the recently deceased.

Old love letters. Porcelain dolls. Broken trinkets. Clearing away the remnants of other people’s lives, Diya begins to see things. Horrible things. Things that get harder and harder to write off as merely her grieving imagination. All is not as it seems with the Slough family. Why won’t they speak about their own recent loss? And who is the strange man that keeps turning up at their jobs?

If Diya’s not careful, she might just end up getting buried under the family tree. . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Family Business by Jonathan Sims. Family Business is published by Gollancz today (that’s Thursday 13th October 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Family Business but that has in no way influenced my review.

After reading Sims’s debut, Thirteen Storeys, a couple of years ago I’ve been keeping an eye out for more from this fantastic writer. There was something about Thirteen Storeys which grabbed my attention immediately, a feeling in my gut that this was most definitely an author to watch. So, when Family Business landed on my radar, I jumped at the chance to read it. Pushing my current read aside and not really bothering to read the blurb before getting stuck in. It’s a Jonathan Sims novel after all! And I’m so glad I did. Addictive, dark and unsettling, I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in Sims’s world once again.

Diya Burman’s world has fallen apart following the death of her best friend and flatmate, Angie. Diya no longer knows who she is, nor how to live her life, quitting her job and spending her days depressed and alone. When she is offered a job with Slough and Sons she reluctantly accepts, knowing that at some point she’ll need to start paying the bills. But Diya has no experience in the Slough family business, which is cleaning up after someone has died. As Diya learns the ropes, she begins to notice that some jobs are a lot more intense and upsetting than others. She notices a strange man hanging around outside where they are working, and Diya herself starts to have strange, unexplained visions. Determined to find out what’s going on she starts to dig a little deeper into the Slough family history. But the past is best left alone, and Diya had better be careful otherwise this job will be the death of her…

Family Business is a very well-written supernatural horror with bucketloads of suspense to keep the reader on their toes and turning the pages. This book felt quite different to the author’s debut in that we really get to see the bones of his characters in this latest release. Whereas the format of Thirteen Storeys only allowed for a tantalising glimpse into the characters’ lives. And oh boy, I loved the author’s characterisation. Diya Burman, in particular, felt a fully fleshed out, living, breathing person and I was fully immersed in her journey. I was willing her on, perched on the edge of my seat wondering where the author was going to take the story. I hadn’t a clue what was going to happen to Diya and the Slough family. But I was gripped and there was no way I was going to put the book down until I knew the truth!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Family Business is a well-written, compelling novel with themes of grief, the sanctity of memory and a hard look at social inequality. The book moves at a steady pace drawing the reader into the plot and enabling them to get to know the characters well before the explosive ending. There is a deeply unsettling sense throughout the book of something unstoppable heading your way. Something that can’t be explained, something you don’t really want to think about until you inevitably come face to face with it. And I loved how the author was able to achieve that palpable menace throughout, that incoming malevolence. Marvellous stuff! Family Business is a very readable, very powerful novel which drew me in and didn’t let go until the terrifying end. Dark, suspenseful and will leave the reader with lots to think about. Recommended.

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

Family Business by Jonathan Sims was published in the UK by Gollancz on 13th October 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 | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Jonathan Sims is a writer, performer and games designer whose work primarily focuses on the macabre, the grotesque, and the gentle touch of creeping dread. He is the mind and the voice behind acclaimed horror podcast The Magnus Archives, as well as story-game design duo MacGuffin & Co., and some of your favourite nightmares. He lives in Walthamstow with the two best cats and an overwhelming backlog of books that he really should get round to.

#BookReview: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs @AmazonPub #WhatLiesBetweenUs #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of What Lies Between Us by John Marrs. What Lies Between Us was published by Thomas & Mercer on 15th May 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. What Lies Between Us was part of two challenges for me this year – ’12 books in 12 months’ and ’20 books of summer 2022′. Officially I should have reviewed this book before the 20 books deadline which was 1st September 2022 but that was never going to happen. I’ve completely run out of time this year in regards to both reading and reviewing. Rather than not review it on the blog (which would be a huge shame as it’s an absolute corker of a read) I’ve decided to be a rebel and share my 20 books reviews beyond the 1st September deadline 🤫

Maggie and Nina live in the same house together and have done for many years. Nina gets the run of the house, goes out to work at the library, does the weekly shop and the cooking. Whilst Maggie is chained up in the soundproofed attic and only allowed out a couple of times a week for a shared meal together. Because Maggie has done terrible things and Nina wants her to be punished. But truth be told, Nina doesn’t know the half of it. There are a lot more secrets she’s not aware of. Secrets Maggie will do anything to protect…

What Lies Between Us is a seriously twisted and unsettling read which I devoured with utter glee. I had been having a bit of a rough time with my book choices. I struggled with a couple of my previous reads in different ways, but then this absolute beauty made it to the top of the TBR and I was reminded why I love books, why I love to read. I was transported to a house in the suburbs of Northampton where the two residents live a very different life to their neighbours. One chained up in the attic. The other pretending everything is very normal but living on the edge all the time, monitoring her prisoner, making sure she can’t escape and raise the alarm. Ensuring Maggie has nothing to hand which can be fashioned into a weapon or a lockpick. The tension was palpable and I was swept away into the lives of these two women. Both characters are so beautifully drawn that they and their situation felt real to me. I loved the ever-present threat hanging over the entire book. The tension the author has created is done so very well.

The story is told from both Maggie and Nina’s points of view. We hear from the women in the present day and with flashbacks to twenty-five years earlier. These flashbacks slowly build up a shocking picture for the reader. As each layer was stripped away I found myself completely captivated by the story, desperate to know what was going to happen next, biting my nails down to the quick. It was uncomfortable but I just couldn’t look away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. What Lies Between Us is such a captivating read full to the brim with brilliantly written suspense. I was completely absorbed in the story, I went through a myriad of feelings towards the characters at different stages of the novel and I didn’t want to be separated from this book for a single second. I’ve read a few of this author’s books now and they’ve all been fantastic but this one is my favourite, without a doubt. The twists don’t really stop coming at any point, there’s always more to discover about these women and I was completely bewitched by the characters and how utterly flawed they are. I thoroughly enjoyed What Lies Between Us and would recommend to all psychological thriller/suspense fans. Highly recommended.

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 15th May 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 | Book Depository | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

John Marrs is the author of #1 Best Sellers The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, The Vacation, Her Last Move, The Passengers, The Minders and What Lies Between Us. Keep It In The Family and The Marriage Act are released soon.
What Lies won the International Thriller Writers’ Best Paperback of 2021 award.
The One has been translated into 30 different languages and is to be turned into an eight-part Netflix series starting in autumn 2020.

After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time writer.

#BookReview: The Lost Children by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheLostChildren #damppebbles

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

DI Brady has been tracing victims of systemic abuse at a local children’s home after a high-profile accusation pitched it into the spotlight – a case that couldn’t be more personal.

As Matilda and her team piece together the disturbing picture of the history of the home, it soon becomes clear that this is much bigger than they ever suspected.

But nothing prepares them for what they uncover next…
The Lost Children is an utterly gripping crime thriller weaving a breakneck tale of a vast network of secrets and lies, a relentless detective determined to sabotage it, and a murder that shatters two decades of silence.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood. The Lost Children is published by One More Chapter today (that’s Thursday 30th June 2022) in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow next month. I chose to read a free eARC of The Lost Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series is one of the most exciting, most edgy police procedural series out there and I flipping love it! The arrival of the latest book, in this case book nine (!), is something I always look forward to with baited breath. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Lost Children, I, of course, grabbed at it with both hands. What I love about this series is that the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – either on subject matter or character development. Wood really likes to put his characters, including lead protagonist Darke, through the wringer which is something I appreciate. As a reader, I never know what to expect! The Lost Children takes the battered and bruised team, still hurting from their last few cases, deep into the heart of an upsetting and distressing historical child abuse case.

DCI Matilda Darke is called to the scene of a vicious murder. Local businessman and philanthropist, Richard Ashton OBE, has been slain in his bed in the most stomach churning of ways. Upon closer inspection into Ashton’s life it becomes clear to Darke and her team that perhaps Ashton wasn’t the figure of virtue he first appeared to be. It doesn’t surprise DI Christian Brady who has been investigating historical claims of child abuse behind Matilda’s back. Matilda can’t ignore the connection between Ashton and events at Magnolia House, a home for young boys which closed many years ago. So she sets out to discover the truth. But at every turn, Darke is shut down. Extreme measures are put in place to prevent Matilda and her team from discovering the secrets of Magnolia House. But Matilda won’t be stopped…

The Lost Children is an incredibly gripping addition to a superb series featuring some of my all-time favourite characters. I love the South Yorkshire Homicide and Major Crimes Unit but they’ve really had a tough time of it recently, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better for them anytime soon! This latest investigation is already personal for DI Brady and the devastating secrets the team reveal affect them all in some way. The subject matter is tough but the author has done a great job of writing a very difficult, very emotional story. There were times when I had to take a break from reading because I was so affected by the characters and their stories. It’s heart breaking stuff but handled very well.

I found it fascinating how Matilda’s investigation was shut down from every direction. I could really feel her frustration and her determination to keep digging, despite no longer having the resources. Her drive is one of the reasons I love the character as much as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Wood takes the team next as there are clearly changes afoot, one of which I hope is reversed. But knowing how this author operates, I can’t be sure it will be!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Lost Children is a highly emotional, edgy read which I enjoyed. The subject matter is upsetting and I don’t think this book will suit everyone but the care the author has taken with the story really shows. I liked the way the author didn’t shy away from setting this book in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think, surprisingly, it’s the first book I’ve read that’s been set during the pandemic. Perhaps other authors are shying away from mentioning COVID for the moment. Perhaps it’s too fresh. I thought it added a really interesting facet to the investigation though and applaud Wood for doing something many other authors are not. The DCI Darke series remains one of my favourites and I wait with baited breath for the tenth (!) book to be published later this year. Particularly after the incredibly tense and unnerving cliff hanger at the end. Wow, what an ending! I’m not sure I can wait until October to find out what happens next. Recommended.

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (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 |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

#BookReview: Five Minds by Guy Morpuss @ViperBooks #FiveMinds #damppebbles

“SHARING A BODY CAN BE MURDER

The Earth’s spiralling population has finally been controlled. Lifespans are limited to eighty years, except for those who make an extreme choice: to become a commune. Five minds sharing one body, each living for four hours at a time. But with a combined lifespan of nearly 150 years.

Alex, Kate, Mike, Sierra and Ben have already spent twenty-five years together in what was once Mike’s body, their frequent personality clashes leading to endless bickering, countless arguments, and getting themselves stranded on a Russian Artic freighter. Wanting to buy upgrades for their next host body, they decide to travel to a Death Park where time can be gambled like money. But things go very wrong when Kate accepts a dangerous offer, and one of them disappears.

Someone is trying to kill off members of the commune. But why? Is one of them responsible? Or is an outsider playing a deadly game? It’s hard enough to catch a murderer. It’s almost impossible when you might be sharing a body with them…

This brilliant murder mystery blends classic crime with speculative fiction in a stunning debut.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Five Minds by Guy Morpuss. Five Minds was published by Viper Books yesterday (that’s Thursday 2nd September 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Five Minds but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Speculative fiction with a cracking, cleverly woven mystery to boot! Who could resist? Not me, that’s for sure. I haven’t dabbled in a lot of speculative fiction in the past but what I had read has been delightfully mind-bending and from the masters of the genre. Five Minds is no exception. Five Minds proves that Morpuss is up there with the greats. As my daughter would say…Mind. Blown 🤯

In a bid to reduce the ever-growing population of the earth, measures are put in place where at 17 years old you need to decide how you’re going to live the rest of your life. But also, when you’re going to die. The choices are simple: become a hedonist, play hard and die young at 41-42. Become a worker, work all of your life and drop down dead of exhaustion…at some point. Become an android, have your mind moved to an artificial body and die around 79-80. Or, the least popular option of all, become part of a commune. Five minds in one body, each taking 4 hours of the day as their own. Choose a host and then, 25 years later, choose another. But live for 141-142 years. That’s the decision Kate, Alex, Sierra, Mike and Ben make. From the moment they meet, it’s clear there are tensions amongst the group. When Kate makes a risky decision without consulting the others, strange things start to happen and one of the five disappears. Is someone out to kill the commune, or is the threat much closer to home…?

There are so many things to love about Five Minds. The author has set the action in a ‘death park’. The dark and dingy death parks are where the desperate gather to earn a few more years by eliminating (permanently) their competitor/s in a game of skill, strength or smarts. I loved the setting. It felt grubby and somewhere only those at the end of their tether go in a last ditch attempt to survive just a little bit longer (only to be killed in their first game!).

The characters, despite sharing the one body, all stand tall from the page. I was concerned, at points, that it may get a little confusing but that’s not the case at all. Kate was my favourite of the ‘minds’. She seemed to have her head screwed on (😂) and be the driving force, which I liked. I also really liked Sierra for her dark and dangerous edge. I shouldn’t. She’s a terrible person who does some pretty heinous, unforgivable things but I liked the juxtaposition between her and Kate. I felt they were opposite ends of the spectrum. Five Minds is very easy to read, either in one sitting or over the course of several. All I know is that I was always keen to return to this strange and inventive world.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Five Minds is like nothing I have read before and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with it. Cleverly plotted and beautifully thought out. The author’s imagination is clearly off the scale and I loved being part of this strange, new world. A pacey, intelligent story with a clever, twisty mystery at its heart. Effortlessly crossing genres, this speculative fiction murder mystery is a must read! I look forward to reading more genre-bending fiction from Mr Morpuss in the future. Recommended.

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

Five Minds by Guy Morpuss was published in the UK by Viper Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year (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 |

Guy Morpuss

Guy is a London-based barrister whose cases have featured drug-taking cyclists, dead Formula 1 champions and aspiring cemetery owners.

His favourite books involve taking a twist on reality, and playing with the consequences. Which led to his debut novel, FIVE MINDS, about five people sharing one body – possibly with a murderer.

His second novel, BLACK LAKE, will be published in 2022.

He is currently working on his third novel, HIGHLIGHTS.

Guy lives near Farnham, England, with his wife and two sons. When not writing he can usually be found walking or running in the Surrey Hills.

#BookReview: The Chateau by Catherine Cooper @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #TheChateau #damppebbles

“They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

The Sunday Times bestseller is back with a rollercoaster read, perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Chateau by Catherine Cooper. The Chateau is published in digital format by HarperCollins today (that’s Tuesday 31st August 2021) and will be available in audio and paperback from Thursday 2nd September. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Chateau but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, The Chateau packed a bigger punch than I expected! I have Cooper’s debut crime thriller, The Chalet, on my TBR thanks to a number of very positive reviews from fellow bloggers. So when I saw the author’s latest book, The Chateau, available to request on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it! And I’m so glad I did. The Chateau is a wonderfully tense and compelling book which I struggled to put down.

Aura and Nick’s marriage is struggling. Following an incident in London, they’ve decided to start afresh and move to the French countryside with the aim of renovating a crumbling chateau and turning it into a chambre d’hôtes. It’s Aura’s dream come true and she’s keen to raise their two young sons in such an idyllic setting. But when one of their neighbours is murdered, uncomfortable questions need to be asked. The local ex-pat community is put under a spotlight and the newcomers don’t feel safe anymore. After all, they’ve got lots to hide from their new friends. Several devastating secrets which could change everything. But someone knows. And it’s time to make Aura and Nick pay…

The Chateau is a deliciously dark read which I thoroughly enjoyed. With lots of well-drawn characters to loathe and lots of beautifully uncomfortable situations, it was an absolute delight to lose myself in! I never knew what was round the corner for Aura and Nick and was on the edge of my seat waiting for the next well-timed, dark revelation to be dropped.

Aura and Nick aren’t the most likable of lead characters but oh boy, they’re very well-written, eliciting from me all of the emotions I hope the author wanted me to feel. Both characters made my blood boil for different reasons, both were horribly flawed and I absolutely delighted in disliking them! As the story progresses and as the reader discovers more about this couple, you can’t help but want them to fall from grace. Get their comeuppance and suffer, just a tiny bit. But what I’ve discovered from reading my first Catherine Cooper novel is that this author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries and take things a step further than some other writers would. And I loved that. I really, really loved that!

Written in three parts, the reader gets to discover exactly what the ‘incident’ in London was and it’s a shocker. The build up to and the devastating aftereffects of one stupid mistake are covered in page-turning detail. My heart broke for one of the characters, and I despised another with all my being! I couldn’t stop reading, I had to know how things were going to end.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Chateau is a hugely addictive and compulsive read which hooked me in. I couldn’t tear myself away from this one and I’ll be thinking about it for a while to come. I ADORED the ending. Perfection. I love it when an author is able to completely surprise me and Cooper did just that. The Chateau delivered in spades from start to finish. I revelled in my dislike of Aura and Nick, more so as the book progressed. A fantastically dark page-turner which I highly recommend.

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

The Chateau by Catherine Copper was published by HarperCollins on 2nd September 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Catherine CooperI am a freelance journalist living in the South of France with my husband and two teenage children. We moved from London in 2009 so that the children could grow up bilingual and we could all ski more, and to enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

I learned to ski on a school trip when I was 14 and have loved it ever since.

I’m an avid thriller reader and have been since I discovered Agatha Christie as a child.

The Chalet is my first published full-length novel, though I have also written several (unpublished) thrillers for teens and a (what used to be called) chick lit novel set in TV production.

Other than skiing and reading I love travel, theme parks (the pic on this page was taken on a rollercoaster in Spain) and I spend far too much time on social media. Some of my other favourite things include Alan Partridge, sparkly flip flops and salt and vinegar crisps.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton @Wildfirebks @RosieMargesson #TheExHusband #damppebbles

“Charlotte and Sam were partners. In life, and in crime. They never stole from anyone who couldn’t afford it. Wealthy clients, luxury cruise ships. It was easy money, and harmless. At least, that’s what Charlotte told herself, until the world caved in on her.

But now, years after she tried to put that past life behind her, it comes rushing back when her estranged ex-husband Sam suddenly goes missing – and someone threatens to expose what they did.

Desperate to escape whoever is tormenting her, Charlotte takes a job as events planner for an engagement party onboard a superyacht in the Caribbean. For a while, her plan seems to have worked, nothing but open ocean and clear skies ahead. Until it becomes clear that she’s no longer a thousand miles away from harm.

Because whoever is behind it all is onboard too. And now there’s nowhere left to run.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton. The Ex-Husband was published by Wildfire Books yesterday (that’s Thursday 19th August 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Ex-Husband but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Wildfire Books for sending me a proof copy.

It’s no secret that I’m a little obsessed with flight-based thrillers at the moment. I think I’ve read most of the new releases (that I’m aware of!). But I was thinking, perhaps I should take a mini-break from planes for a while. And then I saw this beauty – The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton – being discussed on the socials. I couldn’t help myself! A thriller based around cruise liners and an exclusive superyacht. I had to read The Ex-Husband. It called to me. And I loved every second of it.

Charlotte and Sam are a couple…and a couple of con-artists! They work the cruise liners, selecting wealthy targets, convincing them to part with large sums of their cash. Sam is a master of the con. Charlotte is learning the ropes but she’s a natural. She’s happy to do whatever it takes (within reason, of course) to achieve the lifestyle she believes they deserve. Plus, they’re not actually hurting anyone. Not really. Their targets are extremely wealthy so what does it matter if Charlotte and Sam siphon off a little for themselves. But not everything is perfect in paradise and tensions build between the couple, to the point where their marriage dissolves and they lose touch. Charlotte is trying to rebuild her life – on the straight and narrow – as an events planner when she discovers Sam has gone missing. Threatening anonymous messages begin to arrive. Could it be Sam trying to frighten her? Or one of their marks perhaps? She desperately tries to contact her ex-husband but to no avail. Someone knows what they did and they’re going to make Charlotte pay…

Absolutely flipping marvellous! I loved The Ex-Husband. With its pacey storyline, luxurious Caribbean setting and well-drawn characters, I became instantly hooked. It was the perfect escapist read for me. Whisking me off to the beauty and elegance of a superyacht on a tour of the islands. Granted, I’m not sure I would swap places with Charlotte as the situation she found herself in was quite hairy but I thoroughly enjoyed watching from afar and soaking up the opulence.

Charlotte is a great lead character and I enjoyed spending time in her company. She was perhaps a little naïve (they did nothing wrong, honest guv!) and her obsession with Sam was quite intense, despite their break-up, but I was rooting for her all the way. The other secondary characters all add to the story, leaving the reader constantly guessing who is behind the mysterious threats. There are plenty of possibilities, let me tell you! Who can Charlotte trust? Where exactly is Sam and how much danger is Charlotte in? Time is most definitely running out…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Caribbean with Charlotte and the crew of the Cleobella. The Ex-Husband is a twisty read which I was more than happy to lose myself in over a couple of sittings. I loved the impending sense of doom, the threat on the horizon the author conveyed and the way in which the tension builds as the clock ticks down. This is the first book I have read by this author but I can guarantee it won’t be the last. A well-written psychological thriller with a beautifully exotic feel which I adored. Fabulous escapism fiction, exactly what I needed. Highly recommended.

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

The Ex-Husband by Karen Hamilton was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (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 |

Karen Hamilton caught the travel bug after an early childhood spent abroad (Angola, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy) and having worked as cabin crew for a major airline.

In 2006, she and her husband put down roots in Hampshire UK and four years ago, she later gave up flying to raise their three sons and concentrate on her writing.
In 2009, she decided to ‘become a writer.’

The Perfect Girlfriend is her first novel (released March 2018).