#BookReview: The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser (translated by Sarah Death) @MantleBooks #TheAxeWoman #damppebbles

“Sweden 2012. When Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti returns to work after a terrible personal tragedy his boss asks him to investigate a cold case, hoping to ease him back gently into his police duties.

Five years previously a shy electrician, Arnold Morinder, disappeared from the face of the earth, the only clue his blue moped abandoned in a nearby swamp. At the time his partner, Ellen Bjarnebo, claimed that Arnold had probably travelled to Norway never to return. But Ellen is one of Sweden’s most notorious killers, having served eleven years in prison after killing her abusive first husband and dismembering his body with an axe. And when Barbarotti seeks to interview Ellen in relation to Arnold’s disappearance she is nowhere to be found . . .

But without a body and no chance of interviewing his prime suspect Barbarotti must use all the ingenuity at his disposal to make headway in the case. Still struggling with his personal demons, Barbarotti seeks solace from God, and the support of his colleague, Eva Backman. And as he finally begins to track down his suspect and the cold case begins to thaw, Barbarotti realizes that nothing about Ellen Bjarnebo can be taken for granted . . .

The Axe Woman is the fifth and final Inspector Barbarotti novel from bestselling author Håkan Nesser.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser (translated by Sarah Death). The Axe Woman was published by Mantle Books on 1st September 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Axe Woman but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Chloe at Mantle Books for sending me a finished copy.

As a fairly avid reader of crime fiction I have a number of rules when choosing a book. The biggest one being (and this is a lesson learnt through time and experience) when reading serialised detective fiction always, ALWAYS start at the beginning with the first book. Never, NEVER go into a series part-way through. But there are occasions when the look and the sound of the book are just too tempting, and it becomes almost impossible to resist. Which is what happened when The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser landed on my radar. Despite being the fifth (and final!) book in the series, I couldn’t let this one pass me by, so I shoved the rules to one side and got stuck into this excellent novel as soon as it arrived at damppebbles HQ.

Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti returns to work following a personal tragedy only for his senior officer to ask him to investigate a five-year-old cold case. It feels to Barbarotti as though he’s been given ‘busy work’. Something to test whether he’s fit to return to the force, a task to gently ease him back in before being given a more challenging case. But he can’t be sure of Asunander’s motives so decides to investigate the disappearance of Arnold Morinder to the best of his ability. Morinder disappeared from the town of Kymlinge, Sweden without a trace in August 2007. Reported missing three days later by his partner Ellen Bjarnebo, no trace of Morinder (apart from his discarded blue moped) was ever found. But the name Ellen Bjarnebo is well known to the local police. Ellen Bjarnebo, or Helgesson as she was previously known, is the notorious Axe Woman of Little Burma. A woman who twenty years ago killed her husband and took an axe to his body to hide the evidence. Barbarotti is determined to track the elusive Axe Woman of Little Burma down and get to the bottom of what happened to Morinder. Who really is Ellen Bjarnebo, why did she kill her first husband in such a brutal manner and what does she know about the disappearance of Arnold Morinder…?

The Axe Woman is a masterfully written and very compelling piece of crime fiction which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was initially a little concerned about reading the fifth book in a series, despite being strongly drawn to this one, but at the very start of the novel a tragedy befalls Barbarotti and, despite having never read any of the previous books, I could feel the character had been signigicantly altered. This isn’t perhaps the version of Barbarotti those more familiar with the series know. I must say I absolutely adored the characters in this book. For me, the characters can make or break a novel, but in this instance they only added to the overall appeal of the book. They felt real and believable, I became invested in them. So much so that I will be going back to the first book in the series so I can get to know the regulars better.

Told in the past and present, and from a number of different points of view, this beautifully written slow-burn mystery delivers on every count. The suspense is handled extremely well keeping the reader immersed in the story. On the odd occasion when I did have to put the book down, I was always excited to return to the novel and be reunited with Barbarotti and DI Eva Backman. At times I thought I knew where the storyline was heading, but I was wrong. The reveal is delivered in such a way that it’s really quite shocking, which I appreciated.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Axe Woman is an expertly written mystery which had me glued to the pages and immersed in a world I didn’t want to leave. It’s very clear to me why Håkan Nesser is so well thought of in the crime fiction world; his writing, his characters and his settings are superbly constructed, and I cannot wait to read more by this author. The Axe Woman is an intelligent, heartfelt, somewhat emotional novel which can easily be read as a standalone, despite being the fifth and final book in the series. Yes, you do miss out on some of the history between the characters, the odd reference to an earlier case, but The Axe Woman is written in such a way that as you progress through the book, you learn everything you need to know. If I didn’t know better and I just picked this book up off the shelf, I would have assumed it was a standalone mystery. I’m certainly not qualified to say this having only read one book but this felt a fitting end to the series. Everything is tied off neatly and with understated style. No big, showy fireworks but with a decision that could lead to something…or nothing at all. A superb character-driven novel which I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in. Recommended.

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

The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser (translated by Sarah Death) was published in the UK by Mantle Books on 1st September 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 |

Håkan Nesser

Håkan Nesser is a Swedish author and teacher who has written a number of successful crime fiction novels. He has won Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times, and his novel Carambole won the Glass Key award in 2000. His books have been translated from Swedish into numerous languages.

Håkan Nesser was born and grew up in Kumla, and has lived most of his adult life in Uppsala. His first novel was published in 1988, but he worked as a teacher until 1998 when he became a full-time author. In August, 2006, Håkan Nesser and his wife Elke moved to Greenwich Village in New York.

Sarah DeathSarah Death is a translator, literary scholar, and editor of the UK-based journal Swedish Book Review. Her translations from the Swedish include Ellen Mattson’s Snow, for which she won the Bernard Shaw Translation Prize. She lives and works in Kent, England.

#BookReview: The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher @ViperBooks #TheWayItIsNow #damppebbles

WHO SHALL INHERIT THE SINS OF THE FATHER?

Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin’s mother went missing, believed murdered. Her body has never been found, and his father has lived under a cloud of suspicion ever since.

Now Charlie has returned to the coastal town where his mother vanished, on disciplinary leave from his job with the police sex-crimes unit, and permanent leave from his marriage. After two decades worrying away at the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, he’s run out of leads.

Then the skeletal remains of two people are found in the excavation of a new building site… and the past comes crashing in on Charlie.
From the multiple Ned Kelly Award-winning author of Consolation comes a stunning new standalone thriller, for readers of Jane Harper, Ian Rankin and Chris Hammer.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher. The Way It Is Now was published by Viper Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Way It Is Now but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Regular visitors to the blog may be aware that I’m what you could call ‘a little bit obsessed with Australian crime fiction’. Only a little, mind you 😜. One of the big names in Aussie crime fiction that I have been desperate to read for some time now is Garry Disher. I’ve been accumulating his Paul Hirschhausen books over time but gaps in my reading schedule have been few and far between, meaning I haven’t had a chance to pick one of Disher’s titles up as yet. Until now, that is. I jumped at the chance to read The Way It Is Now, a standalone novel by this much revered and respected author of Australian crime fiction. And what a treat it was!

Charlie Deravin’s mother disappeared without a trace twenty years ago. Now Charlie, a police officer on enforced leave following an altercation with his boss, is determined to find out what happened to her. However, Charlie cannot catch a break and comes up against dead end after dead end following years of searching for the truth. Speculation within the town where the Deravins lived has always been rife with Charlie’s father, Rhys, an ex-detective himself, firmly in the spotlight. Then one day the remains of two bodies are found in the grounds of a derelict property and life for the Deravin family will never be the same again…

The Way It Is Now is a very compelling and hugely absorbing mystery featuring an extremely well-written and multi-layered lead character in Charlie Deravin. This is Charlie’s story, documented across many years detailing his grief at the loss of this mother and his obsession with finding out what happened to her. Her car was abandoned one day with her possessions strewn across the road. To the casual observer it looked as though Rose Deravin had been abducted. But the police investigation failed to get off of the ground, particularly as the police already had their prime suspect in their sights. Now all they had to do was prove Rhys Deravin guilty, one way or another. Did Rhys kill Rose twenty years ago to prevent their divorce and the sale of their family home? What I loved about The Way It Is Now is that you can never really be sure of Rhys Deravin. Whether he’s guilty or innocent. There were always questions in my mind. Things which didn’t quite add up. I felt he was untrustworthy, part of the old boy’s network of cops back in the day, ‘turn a blind eye because he’s one of us’ and all of that. It made for gripping reading and kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed The Way It Is Now and I am even more excited to get started on Disher’s Paul Hirschhausen series now. The Way It Is Now is a tense, unsettling, slow burn mystery with strong characterisation, a vivid setting and a highly intriguing storyline which I couldn’t get enough of. I really liked how Disher developed Charlie over the course of the book. There were softer, more emotional moments which were unexpected but endeared me to Charlie’s character even more. All in all, I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to experiencing the author’s writing again very soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Way It Is Now. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher was published in the UK by Viper Books on 4th August 2022 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Garry DisherGarry Disher lives in Australia and is the author of over 40 books: novels, short story collections, writers’ handbooks, history textbooks and children’s fiction. His Challis and Destry police procedurals, and his Wyatt crime from the inside thrillers, are gaining international recognition, winning best crime novel of the year awards in Australia and Germany and appearing on best books of the year lists in the USA. Garry has toured Germany twice and the States once, and counts a scholarship year spent in the Stanford University creative writing school, early in his career, as one of his most important formative experiences.

#BookReview: The Watchers by A.M. Shine @AriesFiction @HoZ_Books #TheWatchers #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“You can’t see them. But they can see you.

This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.

Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Watchers by A.M. Shine. The Watchers was published by Aries Fiction on 12th May 2022 and is available in all formats. I was very keen to read this book. So much so that I made it part of two different reading challenges to ensure I got to it – 12 Books in 12 Months and 20 Books of Summer 2022. The Watchers is the fifth book I’ve read as part of 12 books and the eighth book I’ve read as part of 20 books of Summer 2022 (yes, I am very behind with 20 books this year! 😬).

When Mina is promised a couple of hundred euro by a bloke in the pub for delivering a Golden Conure to a collector in Connemara, she finds it hard to refuse. But the promised easy drive, along with the draw of easy money starts to look a lot like hard work when her car breaks down at the edge of a forest. Armed with the bird and little else, Mina sets out to find a mechanic to get her back on the road. The first person she sees however is a woman who screams at her to take shelter. Because this forest isn’t on any map and all cars that approach the area break down at the treeline. The woods and the night belong to the watchers. And now so does Mina….

The Watchers is a beautifully written horror novel which will send shivers down your spine and make you think twice before turning the light out. With shades of the epic Bird Box, this creepy and claustrophobic story gets under the readers skin. Mina and her fellow captives are watched like animals in a zoo on a nightly basis. They’re starved of sleep by the ever present light which remains on during the hours of darkness, whilst being subjected to the most terrifying screams as the creatures try to scratch and claw their way through the glass wall. Escape from the creatures is impossible. The trek out of the forest too vast to conquer within the hours of daylight. The risk of failure too terrifying to contemplate. The tension is perfectly pitched, the eeriness is sublimely written and the sense of desperation from the characters was palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Watchers is a beautifully written classic horror novel with a gothic feel and poetic prose which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the tension, the suspense and how utterly unnerving I found the story. I was drawn to this book thanks to several factors. Two of the main reasons being the gorgeous cover and the incredible reviews from fellow bloggers and reviewers. The hype is real. A stunning, creepy setting, eerie creatures to make your skin crawl, superb characters who the reader really gets the measure of. And a shocking, well-penned twist which left me reeling. It’s a stunning debut from an author to watch and I cannot wait to get my mitts on a copy of the author’s next book, The Creeper, when it publishes in September.

The Watchers by A.M. Shine was published in the UK by Aries Fiction on 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |


A.M. ShineA. M. Shine is an author of Literary Horror from the west of Ireland. It was there that at a young age he discovered a passion for classic horror stories, and where he received his Masters in history, before ultimately sharpening his quill to pursue a life devoted to all things literary and macabre. His writing is inspired by the trinity of horror, history, and superstition, and he has tormented, toyed with, and tortured more characters than he will ever confess to.

Owing to a fascination with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and his ilk, A. M. Shine’s earlier writings were Gothic in their style and imagination. When his focus turned to novels he refined his craft as an author of Irish horror – stories influenced by his country’s culture, landscape, and language, but which draw their dark atmosphere and eloquence from the Gothic canon of his past.

#BookReview: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson @MichaelJBooks #EveryoneInMyFamilyHasKilledSomeone #damppebbles

Everyone in my family is a killer. Everyone in my family is a suspect. But which of them is a murderer?
_________

I was dreading the Cunningham family reunion even before the first murder.

You see, us Cunnighams don’t really get along.

We’ve only got one thing in common: we’ve all killed someone.

So when they find the first body, it’s clear that only a Cunningham could have committed the crime – and it’s up to me to prove it.

There are plenty of killers in my family. But only one murderer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 18th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Ellie and Jen at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

The Cunningham family have one thing in common, other than a bloodline, and that’s that they have all killed someone. So when Ernest Cunningham receives an invitation to a family reunion, he knows it isn’t going to be a pleasant few nights away reminiscing about days gone by, immersed in nostalgia. Truth be told, he’s not all that keen on anyone in his family, other than his step-sister, so the thought of spending time with them fills him with anxiety. His worst fears are confirmed when a body is discovered at the ski resort the family are staying at. Surrounded by killers, knowing he can’t trust anyone, particularly those he’s related to, it’s down to Ernest to try and work out who amongst his family is a murderer…

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a very engaging nod to classic crime with an expertly executed contemporary twist. It’s highly readable, difficult to put down and laugh out loud funny. I adored the lead character, Ernest, and felt in capable hands as he led me through the intricacies of his somewhat suspicious family. Ernest is a writer of ‘how to’ guides for those wanting to pen detective fiction. He’s not written his own novel but provides help and assistance to other budding novelists. As a result, Ernest abides by the rules of Ronald Knox’s 10 commandments of Detective Fiction, 1929. Helpfully there is a list of the rules at the start of the book, just in case you’re not familiar with them (but I’m sure we all are 😜). But any regular reader of detective fiction can probably come up with a few rules off the top of their head (the criminal must be someone mentioned in the story and not suddenly appear as if by magic, that sort of thing!). Because of Ernest’s penchant for following the rules he is very open and honest with the reader, declaring that everything he tells you is the truth. He goes on to inform the reader which pages feature gory deaths, just in case you’re only in it for grisly bits, which I thought was wonderful. I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with Ernest and I don’t think I’ll be the only one to feel affection for this superbly written character.

The mystery aspect of the novel is clever, highly intriguing and full of red herrings. I appreciated every perfectly placed twist and turn. Was I able to work out whodunit? No, I wasn’t. I was just enjoying the ride! There are a lot of characters in the story – quite a few members of the Cunningham clan, several resort staff, other guests and police officers. Normally with such a large cast I would be concerned about becoming muddled but that is not the case in Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. All of the characters are defined well and play their part beautifully, helping to move the story along.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a wonderfully written mystery which I enjoyed every single moment of. I loved the setting which despite being large in scale, felt quite claustrophobic due to the weather cutting the resort off from the rest of the world. Oh, and it’s Australian so that’s extra points from me as I’m quite obsessed with Aussie crime fiction, as regular readers of the blog will know! I thought the plot was masterfully written, something Dame Christie would herself be proud of. With superb characters and an intriguing mystery at its heart, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a brilliantly written ode to the golden age of crime which this reader very much appreciated. Very funny, smart and cleverly done. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 18th August 2022 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 shop |

Photo of author Benjamin Stevenson.Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. His first novel, Greenlight, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction, and published in the USA and UK. His second novel, Either Side of Midnight, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Original Paperback. His novella, Find Us, was an internationally bestselling audiobook. He has sold out live shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10 and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. He loves hearing from readers on Instagram (@stevensonexperience) and Facebook (The Stevenson Experience). Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is his third novel.

© https://benjaminstevensonauthor.com

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas @FaberBooks #TheFamilyRetreat #damppebbles

“When Rob decides the family needs to get away for the summer Jess is not convinced – won’t all the things they’re escaping be waiting for them on their return? But the kids are thrilled, and before long their idyllic little cottage, the sea air, and the feel of skin sticky from sun-cream, lollies and sand, begins to work its magic. Jess allows herself to sink into the holiday vibes – the family even make holiday friends.

The summer heat intensifies Jess – ever vigilant – unearths a secret, a problem she’s sure she can help solve. But things are not always as they seem. The water may look inviting but even the gentlest looking waves can hide the deadliest undercurrents.

As autumn approaches, Jess – and the reader – will come to realise this is going to end in a way no-one could have imagined…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Family Retreat blog tour. The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas will be published in hardcover and audio next week (that’s Thursday 25th August 2022) with the digital format already available and the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of The Family Retreat but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sophie at Faber & Faber for sending me a proof copy.

I am addicted to summer thrillers this year. Last year I had a thing for flight-based thrillers. This year it’s definitely the ‘summer holiday gone horribly wrong’ vibe I am loving! So when The Family Retreat landed on my radar I was, of course, drawn to it. I love the cover. It screams ‘PERIL’ at me, with the child in the ocean, and I found the blurb to be very intriguing. Plus a lot of the summer thrillers I’ve read recently have been set overseas but The Family Retreat is based in beautiful Dorset, which was also a pull. It’s an extremely well-written, suspenseful, dark tale which I devoured.

General Practitioner, Jess and her screen-writer husband, Rob are having extensive work done on their London home. In a bid to avoid the dust and the noise they pack up their young family and head to the Dorset coast for several weeks. Although initially unsure, Jess soon realises that the move could be a blessing as she’s already taking a hiatus away from her patients and the practice. The Gibson family soon become friendly with the small, local community, including the annoyingly perfect Helen and her more likable husband, James, who are also temporary residents of the community and have children of a similar age. Jess’s strong desire to know her new neighbours better reveals a secret which she is sure, with her experience and contacts, she can help with. But Jess’s interfering in other people lives, her meddling in things which don’t concern her, could have deadly consequences for her new community…

The Family Retreat is a suspenseful family-based thriller which I found very compelling with strong characterisation. Jess is an intriguing woman who to me felt overworked and repeatedly overlooked, both at work and at home. Yet the need to prove herself, go above and beyond, pushes her forward. This is very much her story, told from her point of view. When she meets Helen, Jess is drawn to her. She finds her guarded and intriguing, she wants to become friends, but Helen holds back. I found the relationship between the two women absolutely fascinating. I could feel Jess’s need to connect more with Helen but Helen was very closed off. I became very invested in the characters’ lives, I was keen to find out how things were going to end for these people. And what a jaw-dropping ending it is.

This is a well-paced tale where tension builds slowly over the course of the book. I adored the sweeping, dramatic setting which could be picture perfect one minute and a brooding, angry, dangerous threat the next. There’s a sub-plot featuring Jess’s parents which I thought really added to the story. Making characters that already felt real to me even more believable. With the extended absence of husband Rob (away on a business trip in the US), with the strange behaviour of her father, with the pressure to return to work, with two young children to look after and the need to fit into a new community, it’s no wonder that Jess has the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, The Family Retreat is the perfect summer thriller if you’re looking for a smart, sophisticated read with superb characterisation and well-written suspense.  It’s a very human story with an unexpected twist in the tale which I thoroughly appreciated. I enjoyed the time I spent with the characters. Some are definitely more likable than others but I really warmed to Jess, despite her meddling, and grew to like her more and more as the story progressed. The Family Retreat is a slow-build, suspense filled tale of closely guarded secrets which I very much enjoyed. Recommended.

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

The Family Retreat by Bev Thomas was published by Faber & Faber on 25th August 2022 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 shop |

persona imageBev was a clinical psychologist in the NHS for many years. She currently works as an organizational consultant in mental health and other services. She lives in London with her family.

#BookReview: Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard @CorvusBooks @theotherkirsty #RunTime #RunTimeBook #damppebbles

Movie-making can be murder.

The project
Final Draft, a psychological horror, being filmed at a house deep in a forest, miles from anywhere in the wintry wilds of West Cork.

The lead
Former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actor at the very last minute. She can’t help but hope that this opportunity will be her big break – and she knows she was lucky to get it, after what happened the last time she was on a set.

The problem
Something isn’t quite right about Final Draft. When the strange goings-on in the script start to happen on set too, Adele begins to fear that the real horror lies off the page…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard. Run Time will be published by Corvus Books later this week (that’s Thursday 18th August 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital format with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of Run Time but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kirsty at Corvus Books for sending me a proof copy.

I recently had the pleasure of reading The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard and absolutely loved it (my review of The Nothing Man will be published on the blog in the coming weeks so keep an eye out for that!). When I saw that the author’s latest book revolves around the set of a horror film, I knew I had to read it. There were several reasons for this: 1) the author is a superb writer 2) I loved the concept of the book and 3) as well as being a crime fiction fan I’m a huge fan of horror fiction so Run Time really grabbed my attention. There was no way I was going to let this one pass me by!

Adele Rafferty is a struggling actor who despite becoming a household name due to appearing in an Irish soap opera, now makes beds at a dingy Hollywood motel. Believing her own hype, Adele made a few bad career choices which ended up with her not being able to work in Ireland anymore. So she headed to LA where dreams rarely come true. Struggling and destitute in Hollywood, and trying to reclaim her past glory via a string of failed auditions, she’s on the brink of giving up. That is until she receives a call. Cross Cut Productions led by Steve Dade and Daniel O’Leary are making a horror movie and they want Adele as the lead. It would mean returning to Ireland but the intense night time filming schedule means she won’t need to see anyone from her past. It’s an opportunity she can’t miss and if the movie is a success then it’ll right all the horrible wrongs, Adele will be a star again! But at what cost? As the odd goings-on in the script start to happen in real life, Adele realises that she’s in terrible, terrible danger…

Run Time is a thoroughly engrossing thriller which I found both gripping and hugely entertaining. Adele has her secrets which the reader is not made party to until much later but you know something pretty catastrophic has happened to stop her returning to Ireland, particularly when she’s struggling in LA as much as she is. When she receives the call at the last minute to star in Final Draft, a psychological horror movie based on the novel First Draft, it seems to be the answer to her prayers. The filming schedule is intense, over the course of two weeks, and at night, which means she won’t have to see anyone outside of the cast and crew as they’ll all be resting during the day. But as she approaches the set, down a long winding road, bumping over the potholes, in a taxi driven by a peculiar woman, you know things aren’t going to turn out well for Adele. The author masterfully sets the scene, sending chills down the readers spine and ratcheting the tension up beautifully.

The author has created such a well-plotted, clever story with very lifelike characters. I really felt for Adele. I had no idea what had happened to her in the past to make her run away from all she knew but whatever it was, I don’t think it really mattered to me. She’s not perfect (far from it!) and I don’t know if everyone will warm to her but I was certainly rooting for the character. Things start off fairly benign, early occurrences can be easily explained away but as the frequency and intensity increase, Adele’s situation and it’s terrifying implications are impossible to ignore.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Run Time is a well paced, creepy novel which builds beautifully over the course of the book to a thrilling, shocking conclusion. I did not see that coming, let me tell you! Interspersed amongst the live-action chapters which follow Adele on her journey through the creepy old house and into the surrounding woods, are chapters from the movie’s script. I really enjoyed these sections as they included the stage directions. I was a little apprehensive at first that they would interrupt the flow of the story but that was not the case at all. I quickly became accustomed to the presentation and found the script really added something to an already well-written story. Very inventive, highly original and superbly entertaining. Recommended.

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

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard was published in the UK by Corvus Books on 11th August 2022 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Catherine Ryan HowardCATHERINE RYAN HOWARD is an internationally bestselling author from Cork, Ireland. Her work has been shortlisted for the CWA’s John Creasey New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Dagger awards, and in 2019 her novel THE LIAR’S GIRL was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. THE NOTHING MAN was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. She currently lives in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the sofa.

#BookReview: Summer Fever by Kate Riordan @MichaelJBooks #SummerFever #damppebbles

“A HOT ITALIAN SUMMER. TWO COUPLES. ONE DARK SECRET THAT COULD RUIN EVERYTHING. . .

Nick and Laura are the hosts: pretending their marriage isn’t on the rocks.

Madison and Bastian are the guests: neither is remotely who they claim to be.

Under the scorching Mediterranean sun, no secret is safe.
No betrayal goes unnoticed.
Two couples. But will either survive the summer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Summer Fever by Kate Riordan. Summer Fever was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Summer Fever but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I was immediately drawn to this book thanks to that striking cover. Add to that the fact that I’m addicted to summer thrillers at the moment which meant Summer Fever was a ‘must read’ for me. I think despite having a week in sunnier climes earlier this year I’m still yearning for hot, tropical summer days somewhere that isn’t, well, here. Perhaps after losing two years of travel to COVID my need to escape my quiet, dare I say ‘boring’ small town is still very present. Hence my addiction to summer thrillers. Summer Fever transported me to the Marche region of Italy and I loved the time I spent in the author’s world. It was sexy, sultry and chock full of suspense.

Laura and Nick have finally taken the plunge and purchased a villa in the Marche region of Italy leaving behind their troubles, the drudgery of the UK and sticking a plaster firmly over the cracks in their marriage. They plan to open the villa to guests, offering a tailor made service of fine dining, rural living and local tours. When their first guests arrive, a couple from the US called Madison and Bastian, Laura realises that they still have a lot of issues to iron out. Gradually Laura is drawn into Madison’s spontaneous, confident and carefree orbit and the two women become friends. But all is not as it seems. Both couples have secrets. Both couples are hiding something from the other. And it could be the death of them…

I really enjoyed Summer Fever with its beautifully drawn setting, pressing summer heat and intriguing characters. It’s clear to the reader from the outset that there is tension between Laura and Nick. Something has driven a wedge between the couple and as a result Nick has blithely gone along with the idea of moving to Italy, if only to placate Laura. There is an ever present tension between the two of them which I found thoroughly intriguing. I wanted to know what the story was. The reader gets a glimpse into Laura’s past and her time spent at university prior to meeting Nick. These flashbacks expose several of Laura’s character flaws which only made her all the more interesting to me. She’s not a particularly likeable character but because of that, I personally was drawn to her.

The arrival of their American guests ramps the tension up ten-fold. There was a new air to proceedings which pulled me into the story further. The chemistry between Laura and Bastian is undeniable, almost palpable, but with their partners looking on, with nowhere to hide, they must play by the rules. The author handles the suspense incredibly well and I was hooked, unsure how things were going to turn out for these two couples. There are several twists and turns along the way. One of which I was able to spot from fairly early on. Others left me with my jaw on the floor. The ending was completely unexpected, very satisfying and cleverly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Summer Fever is a sophisticated, sexy thriller which I found utterly absorbing and hard to put down. The slow build storyline is beautifully crafted and drew me into the world occupied by Riordan’s fascinating characters. I found the plot both tense and gripping with lots of delicious suspense which I, of course, adore! I could picture Villa Luna Rossa and the area surrounding it with ease and loved how it played such a pivotal role in the story. Shocking but absolutely perfect. All in all this is a superb summer thriller, perfect for reading by the pool or lounging in the garden dreaming of Italy. Recommended.

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

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 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 |

Kate RiordanKate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom have influenced her writing. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time.

#BookReview: The It Girl by Ruth Ware @simonschusterUK #TheItGirl #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Everyone wanted her life
Someone wanted her dead

It was Hannah who found April’s body ten years ago.
It was Hannah who didn’t question what she saw that day.
Did her testimony put an innocent man in prison?

She needs to know the truth.

Even if it means questioning her own friends.
Even if it means putting her own life at risk.

Because if the killer wasn’t a stranger, it’s someone she knows…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The It Girl by Ruth Ware. The It Girl will be published by Scout Press later this week (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of The It Girl but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sabah at Scout Press for sending me a proof copy.

Confession time! Despite being a crime reader and despite many (MANY!) people telling me how much I would enjoy Ruth Ware’s books, The It Girl is in fact the first book I’ve read by this author. I know. I’m ashamed of myself. But I have righted the wrong and all is good with the damppebbles world once more. And what a fantastic experience it was (I know, I know – you told me so 😂).

Tragedy struck the Pelham College community ten years ago when It Girl, April Clarke-Cliveden was discovered dead in her room by roommate and best friend, Hannah. Hannah still mourns the loss of April to this day and is shocked when the death of April’s killer, John Neville, is reported. Neville’s death brings the story back into the spotlight and a dogged journalist to Hannah’s door. The journalist believes that Neville was innocent, turning Hannah’s world upside down as her evidence and her evidence alone sent Neville to prison. Hannah reaches out to her college friends for comfort but they reveal some startling truths which send Hannah in a spin. Because if Neville didn’t kill April, someone else did…

The first thing I need to say about The It Girl is that I adored the setting. Pelham College is a fictional Oxford college but it could be based on any number of real life colleges. It felt so authentic, so true to life. I can say that because I worked at an Oxford college for many years and everything the author included about college life, the set-up and the workings was spot-on! All the terminology came flooding back and it was lovely to step back in time and experience it all over again in fictional form (of course, ignoring the creepy porter and the tragic death which are both present in the book!).

The story is told in the past and the present. In the past the reader gets to meet April and experience the events which led to her death. And in the present we watch as Hannah slowly realises that she may have sent an innocent man to prison and if that’s true, the biggest shocker of all, that April’s killer is still out there. Ware’s characters were very well-written and I really enjoyed the group dynamic between the friends during their time at Pelham. But the more I got to know them in the present-day setting, the less I trusted them. I was determined to solve the mystery before the reveal but I failed miserably. My jaw hit the floor, my gob was well and truly smacked! What a fantastic ending, high tension and completely unexpected. I loved it.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The It Girl is a gripping, hugely engaging and eminently readable mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved spending time in the company of Hannah who grew on me more and more as the story progressed. I enjoyed the journey Hannah took from being certain about Neville’s guilt to realising that perhaps things weren’t quite as she remembered to obsessively following leads which eventually lead her somewhere she never expected to be. A setting I’m incredibly fond of which brought back happy memories, well-defined and interesting characters who all played their part perfectly and a gripping storyline which had me glued to the pages. As I mentioned, this is the first book I have read by Ruth Ware but it certainly won’t be the last. Recommended.

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

The It Girl by Ruth Ware was published in the UK by Scout Press on 4th August 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 |

Ruth WareRuth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.

#BookReview: Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani @AmazonPub @CapitalCrime1 @FMcMAssociates #FollowMeToTheEdge #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Rookie detective Joe Finch knows better than most what tragedy looks like. But trying to solve the brutal murder of an entire family? Just another day in Cooper.

Even for the sleazy backwater of Cooper, Nebraska, the multiple murder of an entire family, brutally bludgeoned to death in their beds, is big news.

Detective Joe Finch, raw with guilt over his partner’s traumatic shooting during a routine traffic stop, hopes the case will at least focus his mind. But then he discovers that the crime scene is the house he grew up in, and the ghosts of his own tragic childhood come rushing back to confront him.

As Finch dredges the corrupt and criminal mires of Cooper in a desperate search for the truth, the only certainty is that everyone there is lying. Caught between greedy politicians, a violent cartel boss, an ambitious reporter and a sinister cult lurking in the cornfields on the outskirts of town, Finch is soon out of his depth.

In a town where the law exists only to be bent or broken, can Finch steel himself against entrenched evil and the haunting spectre of his past—and live to serve justice in Cooper?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani. Follow Me to the Edge was published by Thomas & Mercer on 8th March 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. My copy of Follow Me to the Edge arrived at damppebbles HQ as part of my Capital Crime Book subscription which I fervently recommend to all crime fiction fans. And make sure you don’t miss the Capital Crime Festival in London in late September (scroll down for more information).

Follow Me to the Edge is the second book in Ashkanani’s ‘Cooper series’. The first being the excellent Welcome to Cooper which, once again, I can thank the marvels at Capital Crime for putting on my radar towards the end of last year. But this is not a follow on from the previous book, oh no! This is more of an origins story where the reader meets a younger, inexperienced Detective Joe Finch – a character who played in a key role in the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed Ashkanani’s first Cooper book so was excitedly champing at the bit to make a start on this latest instalment.

It’s 1993 and newly qualified Cooper detective, Joe Finch, is called to the scene of a brutal murder. Three members of the Richardson family are dead in their beds, bludgeoned to death. David, the father, is found on the banks of the reservoir, stabbed through the heart. The initial cause of death mooted by many is murder-suicide. But Joe, who is overly familiar with the Richardson family home, makes a shocking discovery. A piece of evidence which raises many more questions than it answers. With police corruption rife within the upper echelons of Cooper PD, and fuelled by guilt and regret over the shooting of his partner, and the inescapable memories of his troubled past, it’s down to Joe to unpick what little evidence he has and find out who killed the Richardson family…

Follow Me to the Edge is a fantastic follow up to the first book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a younger, less experienced, quite different version of Joe Finch. To the point where I actually warmed to Joe’s character despite him having very few redeeming qualities in the first book! Follow Me to the Edge can certainly be read without reading Welcome to Cooper but I think you would miss out on experiencing the contrast between now and then. Joe is a fascinating, multi-layered character – the more I discover about him, the more I can understand him. Sort of. I loved how this book provided the background to two key relationships in Joe’s life. The reader has now seen the bones of these connections, ready for the author to build upon (I hope) in the future.

It was a joy to return to Cooper, Nebraska after my first visit in Welcome to Cooper. Despite going back in time (this book is set in 1993, before the events in the first book) the place didn’t really feel as though it had changed much. Still a dead-end town where the rules don’t always apply. Still not a lot of hope amongst those who call it home. Alongside Joe’s investigation into the murder of the Richardson’s is a subplot featuring what is clearly a cult. These chapters were incredibly intriguing and I was keen to see in what direction the author was going to take this storyline. I have to say, it all fits in perfectly, I couldn’t have guessed how it was going to conclude but the author ties everything up in such a clever and satisfying way. It was a bit of a gasp out loud moment for me. Expertly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But I would encourage you to read Welcome to Cooper first so you can become familiar with some of the characters beforehand. Follow Me to the Edge is a very assured, very readable follow up which drew me in and didn’t let go. Ashkanani has a talent for writing interesting, believable characters which I really appreciate. I particularly liked Ackerman. The plot was well paced with lots of surprises along the way and the setting felt like a character in its own right. Nebraskan noir at its finest! I hope there is more to come from Cooper but if there’s not (and I have no idea either way!) then I will happily read whatever the author delivers next. I really enjoy the way Ashkanani tells a story. Recommended.

Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 8th 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 |

Tariq Ashkanani

Tariq Ashkanani is a solicitor based in Edinburgh, where he also helps run Write Gear, a company that sells high-quality notebooks for writers, and co-hosts Write Gear’s podcast Page One. His follow-up thriller, Follow Me to the Edge, is out now.

CAPITAL CRIME RETURNS IN SEPTEMBER WITH RICHARD OSMAN, ANTHONY HOROWITZ, DOROTHY KOOMSON AND PAULA HAWKINS TO HEADLINE

Richard Osman, Rev. Richard Coles, Kate Mosse, Robert Harris, Dorothy Koomson, Bella Mackie and Paula Hawkins are amongst the authors confirmed for Capital Crime, London’s only crime and thriller festival, which returns 29th September-1st October after its hugely successful inaugural event in 2019.

Taking place in London’s stunning Battersea Park, Capital Crime will be hosting over 164 panellists, bringing together readers, authors, industry figures and the local community for the first major literary festival held on the site. With a Goldsboro Books pop-up bookshop in the iconic Pump House Gallery, the first ever Fingerprint Awards ceremony, alongside an array of London’s tastiest local street food vendors and bar area, it promises to be a weekend of fun, innovation and celebration of crime fiction.

On the opening night (Thursday 29th September), Anthony Horowitz, Kim Sherwood and Charlie Higson will be discussing all things Bond, and the role the capital city has played in the fictional spy’s life, and the 007 car from Sherwood’s incredible new novel, ‘DOUBLE OR NOTHING’ will be on display at the heart of the festival, in association with Alpine and Ian Fleming Publications.

Thursday’s programming will comprise of a series of events dedicated to Capital Crime’s social outreach programme, in which two sixth form students and their teachers from schools in and around the capital will be invited to meet with authors and publishing professionals to demystify the industry and attract new and diverse young voices into publishing.

Robert Harris will be in conversation with comedian and podcaster Andrew Hunter Murray, discussing dystopian fiction, and there will also be a very special opportunity for aspiring authors to pitch their novel idea to agents David Headley (DHH), Emily Glenister (DHH), Camilla Bolton (Darley Anderson) or Phillip Patterson (Marjacq). The first evening will close with the very first Fingerprint Award Ceremony. The winners, selected by readers across five categories Crime Novel of the Year; Thriller Novel of the Year; Historical Crime Novel of the Year; Debut Novel of the Year and Genre-Busting Novel of the Year, will be announced alongside a very special Lifetime Achievement Award and Industry Award of the Year.

Friday’s events include Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham interviewed on the theme of ‘Crime Across Continents’ by Victoria Selman, and Mark Edwards, Will Dean, Erin Young and Chris Whitaker speaking to Tariq Ashkanani about setting their thrillers in the US. In addition, Abir Mukherjee, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Anna Mazzola and Jessica Fellowes will be speaking to Suzy Edge about historical crime writing, and Dorothy Koomson and Kate Mosse will be in conversation about their work with the Women’s Prize and the versatility of crime fiction. Claire McGowan, David Beckler, Catriona Ward, Chris Carter, Nicci French, W.C. Ryan, Stuart Neville and Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir will also be taking part in panels on the themes of courtroom dramas, ghost stories, crime set in Brighton and medicine in crime fiction, amongst other topics, throughout the day, and the first two rounds of Capital Crime’s quiz ‘Whose Crime Is It Anyway?’ will take place, featuring teams of debut authors.

Saturday will see Peter James interviewed on his writing career by clinical psychologist Chris Merritt; bestsellers Jeffrey Archer, Lucy Foley and Clare Mackintosh in conversation with Barry Forshaw and a Polari Panel hosted by Paul Burston. Other events include former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Lady Hale in conversation with Harriet Tyce; bestselling Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson in conversation with the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir; Sarah Vaughan, Louise Candlish and Paula Hawkins discussing the experience of screen adaptations, before rounding off the festival with Richard Osman in conversation with Bella Mackie.

The final round of ‘Whose Crime is it Anyway?’ will also take place, as well as panels on the topics of spies, Grand Dames, detectives and comedy crime featuring Vaseem Khan, Robert Thorogood, Antti Tuomainen, Steve Cavanagh, Jane Casey, Catherine Ryan Howard and Steph Broadribb.

As well as panels and events, there will be exciting public events throughout the weekend, including launch events for Elly Griffiths’ breath-taking new thriller Bleeding Heart Yard, The Perfect Crime anthology, which brings twenty-two bestselling crime writers from across the world together in a razor sharp and deliciously sinister collection of crime stories, and an interactive treasure hunt inspired by Peter James’s latest blockbuster, Picture You Dead (publisher). There will also be entertainment, including a crime-themed comedy performance from The Noise Next Door on Thursday.

The full programme can be found here.

Book your tickets here. I hope to see you there!

#BookReview: The Game by Scott Kershaw @HQstories #TheGame #damppebbles

To save their life, you have to play.

Across the globe, five strangers receive a horrifying message from an unknown number.

THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST IS IN DANGER.

To save them, each must play The Game – a sinister unknown entity that has a single rule: there can only be one winner.

IF YOU LOSE, YOUR LOVED ONE WILL DIE.

But what is The Game – and why have they been chosen?

There’s only one thing each of them knows for sure: they’ll do anything to win…

WELCOME TO THE GAME. YOU’VE JUST STARTED PLAYING.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Game by Scott Kershaw. The Game was published by HQ on Thursday 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Game but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have to admit that when I saw the tagline of this book, before I’d even read the blurb, I knew it was a book I needed in my life. And when I say ‘needed’ what I actually meant was NEEDED in big, shouty capitals. There was not a squeak of a chance that I would let this novel pass me by. And I’m so glad I became hooked so early on because it’s an absolute corker of a novel, a non-stop thrill ride for the reader.

Five strangers across the globe receive a text message from an unknown number. Play the game or your loved one dies. There can only be one winner. The rules are simple. Five lives are immediately turned upside down. They know in their heart of hearts that they will do whatever it takes to win. The clock is ticking. The game has begun…

The Game is a gripping, propulsive thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the concept from the get-go. I loved the way the story is set out so you meet each ‘player’ one by one, get to know what makes them tick, before they’re thrust into the worst situation of their life. And I loved how engrossingly urgent the novel is. It’s such an accomplished, high concept story that I was able to lose myself within the pages of the book with ease. It was a thrill to read.

The author gives enough of each character’s backstory to get a good feel for them and their motivations but not too much to slow the story down. All five characters are clearly defined and very different, which I appreciated. Once we’ve met the ‘players’ we get to hear from each of them, sharing in their terror at the situation they’ve found themselves in. There are also sections in the book labelled ‘Pre Game’ which I found very intriguing. I couldn’t work out how the ‘Pre Game’ sections linked to the main story. But it all becomes crystal clear in the end, uncomfortably so. The reveal towards the end of the book, for me, was completely unexpected. I was both shocked and stunned to discover what had been going on all this time. It’s incredibly well written.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Game is a high energy, non-stop, modern day thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed. The concept, coupled with the engrossing writing, made for a compelling read. I had to find out who was pulling the strings here. I had to discover if there was something which linked these five complete strangers to each other. Full of menace, overflowing with tension and a growing sense of unease throughout. A very readable, very rewarding thrill ride which I recommend.

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

The Game by Scott Kershaw was published in the UK by HQ on 12th May 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Scott KershawScott Kershaw has co-written a thriller that was published by Bloomsbury in 2019 and has been optioned for a TV drama series by the BBC. His own high-concept thriller THE GAME will be published by HQ in Spring 2022. He has a first-class honours degree in Professional Writing, has written another novel (Animus), and formerly travelled Europe as a music journalist. He lives in the cloudy north of England with his hooligan of a beagle, Darwin.