#BookReview: On the Edge by Jane Jesmond @Verve_Books #OnTheEdge #damppebbles

A FAST-PACED, TWISTY THRILLER WITH ECHOES OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER

Jen Shaw has climbed all her life: daring ascents of sheer rock faces, crumbling buildings, cranes – the riskier the better. Both her work and personal life revolved around climbing, and the adrenaline high it gave her. Until she went too far and hurt the people she cares about. So she’s given it all up now. Honestly, she has. And she’s checked herself into a rehab centre to prove it.

Yet, when Jen awakens to find herself drugged and dangling off the local lighthouse during a wild storm less than twenty-four hours after a ‘family emergency’ takes her home to Cornwall, she needs all her skill to battle her way to safety.

Has Jen fallen back into her old risky ways, or is there a more sinister explanation hidden in her hometown? Only when she has navigated her fragmented memories and faced her troubled past will she be able to piece together what happened – and trust herself to fix it.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of On the Edge by Jane Jesmond. On the Edge is published by Verve Books next week (on Tuesday 26th October 2021) and will be available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of On the Edge which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Hollie at Verve Books for sending me a proof copy.

Jenifry Shaw lives for climbing. It’s in her blood and something she’s been doing for as long as she can remember. There were no limits in Jen’s mind, often undertaking dangerous climbs just for the buzz it gave her. Until the accident. The accident changed everything and instead of climbing, Jen turned to recreational drugs for the same high. But the drugs are behind her now. She’s checked out of rehab and is on her way home to a small Cornish village to answer her brother’s call for help. But on her first night in Craighston, she regains consciousness, precariously hanging from the edge of the lighthouse with no memory of what happened to get her there. Jen has to face facts. She’s either back to her old habits, or someone from her past has just tried to kill her…

On the Edge is the most beautifully atmospheric novel I have read in a long time. I was swept away by the author’s vivid descriptions of the dark and stormy Cornish landscape, as tension built and Jen stumbled her way to the truth. Jen is a terrific character and I was pleased to see that this is the first book in a series. If you’re a fan of the unreliable narrator then Jen is your woman! Parts of her past are patchy due to her drug use, she’s never sure if she can trust herself and she questions everything. Her unreliability made for a suspenseful read which this reader thoroughly enjoyed.

The mystery at the heart of the book is an intriguing one and I was with Jen every step of the way as she considered the options and questioned her friends and family’s motives. The enigmatic new arrival in town, who Jen unquestionably has chemistry with, adds another thread for her to unpick as she tries to discover what happened to her that dark and stormy night. Can Jen trust him? Can Jen trust anyone? I found myself suspicious of most of the characters at one time or another, which is testament to the author’s wonderful, suspense-laden writing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. On the Edge is a very impressive debut and I’m looking forward to picking up Jen Shaw’s next literary adventure as soon as it’s available. The attention to detail and the research that has gone into this book is clear to the reader from the outset. From what I can gather, the author isn’t a climber but you would never guess that from the precise knowledge she displays of the sport (I should add that I’m also NOT a climber and get a little dizzy on the upper deck of a double decker bus!). It’s not just the technical stuff though. It’s the way the feel of the rock is described, along with the smell and a myriad of other sensations which cumulate to give Jen the high she so desperately craves.  A very well thought out tale with an unexpected darker edge which I appreciated. All in all, a thoroughly tense and enjoyable book which transported me to the atmospheric Cornish moors. Recommended.

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

On the Edge by Jane Jesmond was published in the UK by Verve Books on 26th October 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Jane JesmondOn The Edge is Jane Jesmond’s debut novel and the first in a series featuring dynamic, daredevil protagonist Jen Shaw. Although she was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, raised in Liverpool and considers herself northern through and through, Jane’s family comes from Cornwall. Her lifelong love of the Cornish landscape and culture inspired the setting of On The Edge. Jane has spent the last thirty years living and working in France. She began writing steadily six or seven years ago and writes every morning in between staring out at the sea and making cups of tea. She also enjoys reading, walking and amateur dramatics and, unlike her daredevil protagonist, is terrified of heights! You can subscribe to her newsletter at https://jane-jesmond.com/contact/

#BookReview: Reprieve by James Han Mattson @BloomsburyBooks #Reprieve #damppebbles

“Most people didn’t make it to Cell Six, he said. Most called out the safe word – reprieve – after the first Cell. It was that intense.

When Bryan, Jaidee, Victor and Jane team up to compete at a full-contact escape room, it seems simple. Hold your nerve through six terrifying challenges; collect all the red envelopes; win a huge cash prize.

But the real horror is unfolding outside of the game, in a series of deceits and misunderstandings fuelled by obsession and prejudice. And by the end of the night, one of the contestants will be dead.

A startlingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism, and seamlessly threads together trial transcripts, evidence descriptions, and deeply layered individual narratives to present a chilling portrait of American life.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Reprieve by James Han Mattson. Reprieve was published by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read a free eARC of Reprieve but that has in no way influenced my review.

Woah! This book. I tried so hard to resist Reprieve. I’ve fallen behind a little in my planned reading and my poor attention-hungry TBR is suffering. However, certain books, as soon as you see them, have an inexplicable hold over you. Which is exactly what happened with Reprieve. With its eye-catching cover and intriguing plot, I was hooked before I even cracked open the first page! Sadly for the rest of  my TBR, Reprieve was moved straight to the top of the pile.

John Forrester is a legend within horror circles. He is the owner of Quigley House. A full contact, ultra terrifying haunt/escape room which features six cells and a prize of $60,000 for making it to the end. The latest team to the take on the challenge have an edge though. They’re determined to claim the prize and go down in history as only the second group to win. But Quigley House has other plans…

An unsettling, unforgettable read where horrors creep around every corner. Reprieve is a book which shines a powerful light on social inequalities across modern day America. Hugely topical and quite the eye-opener, the author has created a novel which delights in making its readers feel uncomfortable, and rightly so! I couldn’t put this book down. A chilling exploration of manipulation and greed, I was drawn into the story from the outset and now feel quite bereft that it’s over. Reprieve will stay with me for some time to come though, I can tell you!

The concept the plot is built around is just my cup of tea. A horror themed escape room in an old converted house. Complete the timed challenge in each room and collect the required number of red envelopes as you go. The only thing in your way: crazed, mutilated characters – the stuff your worst nightmares are made of, gallons of fake blood and actual, real-life pain as you’re zapped by a shock wand or beaten up a bit (all within reason, of course!). If it all gets too much (and for most contestants, it does!) then call out the safe word, ‘reprieve’. But you can wave goodbye to a share of the $60,000.

The story is told from several points of view including a court transcript. The characters in the book are all well written and elicited some sort of emotion within me. I liked to see the different sides of the story, how the author used those different POVs to build up to the finale of the book. And what a tense and unnerving denouement it was!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reprieve is a compelling, shocking story which I strongly recommend to those who don’t mind a drop of blood in their fiction. Whilst the escape room concept is a flipping marvellous one, it’s really only the device the author uses to bring everything together. Reprieve is so, so much more than its blurb. Strong characters, an atmospheric, somewhat unnerving setting and a very important take-home message. Recommended.

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

Reprieve by James Han Mattson was published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 5th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022 (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 |

James Han MattsonJames Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has received grants from the Michener-Copernicus Society of America and Humanities North Dakota. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth, and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University, Murray State University, and the University of California – Berkeley. In 2009, he moved to Korea and reunited with his birth family after 30 years of separation.

He is the author of two novels: The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves and Reprieve. He is currently the fiction editor of Hyphen Magazine.

#BookReview: The Coven by Lizzie Fry @BooksSphere #TheCoven #damppebbles

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Coven by Lizzie Fry. The Coven was published by Sphere Books in paperback on 2nd September 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free copy of The Coven which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Lizzie for sending me a finished copy.

As Halloween approaches many readers change their reading habits to include the witchy, the ghostly and the ghoulish. Not me. Halloween is great but the supernatural and the scary work all year long, right? Summer, bring it on. Christmas, the perfect time to scare yourself witless. I’ve realised though that I haven’t read many books featuring witches. So when I received a gifted copy of The Coven by Lizzie Fry, I moved it straight to the top of the TBR. And I’m so glad I did. The Coven is a superbly crafted, high-energy, international thriller that starts at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up until the final word.

After many years of living relatively peacefully side by side, the President of the US declares all witches should be voluntarily imprisoned for their safety and for others. The Sentinel are charged with rounding up those who don’t present themselves and they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. But a good few thousand miles away, in the city of Exeter, nineteen year old Chloe Su is about to come into her powers. With the help of her father, a newly escaped crystal witch, and the Sentinel Agent who broke the witch free, Chloe takes the first step on a journey which will take her across international borders and into more danger than she ever thought possible…

Powerful, gutsy women lead the cast in a thrilling, non-stop race against time. Bloody marvellous! Fry has created a dark, edgy thriller in an alternative world where some of the female population are considered by non-magical folk as the scourge of the earth. All because the big guy in the White House says so! The men reign supreme. The divide between the genders – which includes the non-magical women who are labelled by the menfolk as ‘Goody’s’ – is vast. Fry has created such a strong divide between the genders that it made my blood boil at points. But in the best way possible. I have read other dystopian novels where the storyline centres around a similar male/female divide but Fry outshines them all with The Coven. I was angry for the women, I wanted justice and recognition for them. I wanted them to escape from the oppressive misogynistic regime they were forced under thanks to the Sentinel. It’s safe to say I was rooting for them 100%.

The Coven is a fast paced, thrill-ride of a story which doesn’t let up until the nail biting conclusion. Along the way we meet several interesting, well-written characters. Some I warmed to, others not so much (they’re kind of despicable, horrible human beings – but again, very well-written). My favourite character was Daniel, Chloe’s father, who is thrown into a world he knows nothing about with a ferocity that would leave others running for the hills. (I should mention at this point that not all male characters in the book are crazed zealots out to destroy womankind – only some of them!!) I also really liked Ethan who, despite being on the wrong side for so long, realises his mistake and does absolutely everything he can to make amends. My heart went out to Chloe who, at the age of nineteen, suddenly has the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a pretty hefty cross to bear when you’re only just starting to learn who, or what, you are yourself.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Fry’s feminist debut is a thrilling, beautifully intense tale which I struggled to tear myself away from. I was drawn into this alternate world from the get-go and what a ride it was! I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with these intelligent, fearless, fiery women and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next. Fans of dystopian thrillers featuring strong female characters will adore this gripping read. Recommended.

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

The Coven by Lizzie Fry was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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Lizzie is the author of The Coven, a dystopian thriller for Sphere Books which asks readers to imagine a world in which witchcraft is real, passed down mother to daughter … and men will do absolutely everything they can to stop them.

A fan of such books as The Handmaid’s Tale and A Discovery of Witches, the idea came to Lizzie because she lives in Devon. It was one of the hardest hit areas in England during the witch hunts of the middle ages. There are many monuments to these murdered women in and around the South West. Exeter is officially the first and last place in the UK to hang a witch, which is why Lizzie chooses to kick off the story there.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou @maclehosepress @katyaellis_ #TheStoning #damppebbles

“A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. The Stoning is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by MacLehose Press today (that’s Thursday 7th October 2021). I chose to read a free ARC of The Stoning which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Katya at MacLehose Press for sending me a finished copy.

Australian crime fiction. I bloody love it! It’s my new favourite obsession and I’m slowly filling my already very full bookshelves with some fantastic Australian writers. Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and Garry Disher are a few who immediately spring to mind. And now Peter Papathanasiou, who has produced an assured debut featuring a lead character I need more of in my life.

A small Australian town wakes to the horrifying news that a local teacher has been killed in the most brutal and shocking way, she was stoned to death. Local law enforcement is predominantly inept and botches the initial crime scene. Before long DS George Manolis is sent from the city to take control and push the investigation forward. After all, he knows the town like the back of his hand having spent his formative years in the community. But things have changed and it’s not the place he fondly remembers. Racial tensions run high, fingers are pointed and rumours are rife. Manolis needs to see beyond the residents relentless prejudices and find Molly’s killer before it’s too late…

The Stoning is an intriguing page-turner from the first word to the very last. Immersive, atmospheric and quite an eye-opener at times, this tense and unsettling read is an accomplished start to a series I am VERY excited about. DS George Manolis is a strong, likeable lead character who immediately comes up against a town falling apart at the seams. The divisions between the different groups – the indigenous people who have been pushed aside, the predominantly white townsfolk and the much hated immigration detention centre – create a simmering storyline which, at times, is a hard read, but is unapologetically gripping throughout.

Manolis is assisted by a stellar supporting cast. The much maligned Constable Sparrow, the only indigenous member of the police force, was a joy. Angry and unforgiving, yet he was the source of several more light hearted moments throughout the book which I really appreciated. Alongside Sparrow is Constable Kerr, the only female member of the team, who has her own cross to bear. I wanted to know more about Kerr and hope she, and Sparrow, feature in future books.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-plotted, intelligent small town mysteries then make sure you add The Stoning to your must read list. Tough going in places due to the subject matter and prejudices of the characters at times but 100% worth it. An accomplished and astute read which will leave you thinking long after the last page has turned. I’m looking forward to seeing where the author takes Manolis next. Recommended.

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

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press on 7th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter PapathanasiouPeter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.

#BookReview: She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge @PenguinUKBooks #SheLiesInWait #damppebbles

“Seven teenagers went down to the woods. Only six came back . . .

30 years later, a body is discovered.

DCI Sheens already knows what’s waiting for him – Aurora Jackson, found at last.

What he doesn’t already know is that it’s murder.

All six witnesses insist on their innocence, but DCI Sheens is sure one of them is lying.

But who?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge. She Lies in Wait was published by Penguin Books in all formats on 12th December 2019. I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait which has in no way influenced my review.

She Lies in Wait is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. When it was first published, it was HUGE and I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the brilliant reviews from fellow readers and bloggers. This is the author’s debut novel but it feels so accomplished, it’s hard to believe that’s the case! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting DCI Sheens and I’ve already added the next book in the series, Watching from the Dark, to my terrifying TBR.

When the remains of a body are found in Brinken Wood, DCI Jonah Sheens knows exactly who they belong to. It’s no surprise when his suspicions are confirmed and a thirty-year-old cold case comes bursting into the present day. Sheens was a junior officer when fourteen-year-old Aurora Jackson disappeared whilst on a camping trip with her older sister and her sister’s friends. Despite searching, Aurora was never found. Now it’s down to Sheens and his team to unearth more skeletons, pick apart a close group of friends and find out exactly what happened to Aurora that night in the woods thirty years ago…

Told in the past and the present, this beautifully written literary crime novel was an absolute joy to lose myself in. I adored Sheens and found him very intriguing. I think that’s the reason, along with the author’s accomplished storytelling, that I’m so keen to read the second book in this series. Sheens is of course supported by a group of well-defined supporting characters who all add something to the story.

As the eye of the investigation is turned once again on the group of friends, they close ranks. A great deal of time has passed since Aurora’s disappearance. Memories have faded, truths have been rewritten. Instead of being the self-obsessed teenagers they once were, they’re now self-obsessed and influential adults. Sheens and the team have their work cut out trying to solve the mystery and finally give closure to Aurora’s grieving family.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. She Lies in Wait is a well-written and well-executed slow-burn mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to being reunited with Sheens and the team again soon. A great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.

She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens.

#BookReview: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian @HarvillSecker #NeverSawMeComing #damppebbles

“Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door…and highly intelligent diagnosed psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.

Chloe is part of a secret clinical study of young psychopaths run by the university’s Psychology Department. Most psychopaths aren’t criminals, but when a string of murders on campus causes upheaval, Chloe’s private vendetta is sidelined. Partnered with fellow study participants she can’t trust – and distracted by typical university life – Chloe has to walk the line between hunter and prey.

Never Saw Me coming is a sharp, electrifying and hugely entertaining thriller with an antiheroine who will work her manipulative magic on you.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian. Never Saw Me Coming was published by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Never Saw Me Coming but that has in no way influenced my review.

A college with a secret group of psychopaths stalking the grounds. Yes please! I couldn’t resist the pull of this book. I tried for the sake of my TBR. The shelves are bowing under the weight of my physical copies and the Kindle screams at me every time I switch it on. But realistically, what harm could one more book do? Hmmm? Particularly as Never Saw Me Coming sounded SO GOOD!

Chloe Sevre is a first year student at John Adams University and a diagnosed psychopath. That’s OK though, she’s not the only one. In fact, she’s part of a secret study which counsels psychopaths and teaches them how to integrate seamlessly into society. After all, not all psychopaths are crazed killers! Chloe, however, has a personal vendetta which she must settle and the only way to do that is to destroy the person who wronged her. Everything was going to plan until a murder is reported on campus. Followed by a second. Someone is killing students. Putting her own plans to one side, Chloe joins forces with other students in the psychopath programme to find the killer. But is the killer a lot closer than they think…

Huge amounts of fun and highly entertaining. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed Never Saw Me Coming. Chloe is a bad-ass, kick-ass antihero and I became fully invested in her quickly. When someone starts killing off students, who do you blame? The psychopaths. But what if the psychopaths are the ones hunting the killer instead? And exactly how far can Chloe trust the other members of the study? They’re adept at cheating, they know how to lie. They have no empathy, no conscience. It could be any of them really! I loved the concept of the book and I loved how well it’s all put together. Alongside Chloe are Charles and Andre, who are also part of the study. Charles is more practiced at hiding his true self, whilst Andre isn’t who he says he is. I really liked both of these characters. Together with Chloe they’re a force to be reckoned with! Although the reader can never truly trust them…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Never Saw Me Coming is a highly readable, very enjoyable novel which left me with a big ol’ smile on my face. It’s exactly the kind of book I love to read – a different and imaginative spin on the norm – and I loved the time I spent with Chloe & Co. This campus based, character-driven mystery was a pleasure to read and I heartily recommend it to those looking for something original and refreshing. Recommended

I chose to read and review Never Saw Me Coming. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Vera KurianVera Kurian is a writer and psychologist living in Washington, DC. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Pinch, and Southern California Review. You can find her online at verakurian.com or @vera_kurian on Twitter.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Final Child by Fran Dorricott @TitanBooks @lydiagittins #TheFinalChild #damppebbles

“A stunning psychological thriller from the author of After the Eclipse, for readers of Ruth Ware and S.K. Tremeyne.

He won’t forget her…

Erin and her brother Alex were the last children abducted by ‘the Father’, a serial killer who only ever took pairs of siblings. She escaped, but her brother was never seen again. Traumatised, Erin couldn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the Father was never caught.

Eighteen years later, Erin has done her best to put the past behind her. But then she meets Harriet. Harriet’s young cousins were the Father’s first victims and, haunted by their deaths, she is writing a book about the disappearances and is desperate for an interview with the only survivor. At first, Erin wants nothing to do with her. But then she starts receiving sinister gifts, her house is broken into, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After all these years, Erin believed that the Father was gone, but now she begins to wonder if he was only waiting…

A tense and emotive thriller, The Final Child is a powerful tale of a survivor being forced to confront her painful past.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Final Child blog tour and sharing my review. The Final Child was published earlier this week on Tuesday 7th September by Titan Books and is available in paperback and digital format. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Final Child but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for sending me a proof copy.

I admit it, I’m a HUGE fan of the serial killer thriller. Although that may not come as the biggest surprise if you’re a regular visitor to the blog! I tend to gravitate towards books featuring a serial killer, which meant there was no way I was going to be able to resist The Final Child by Fran Dorricott, with its incredibly intriguing blurb and striking cover.

Erin and her brother, Alex, were the last siblings taken by serial killer, the Father, after his reign of terror over families in the mid to late 90s. Sneaking into their rooms at night, the Father would snatch the children whilst their parents slept soundly in the next room. Some of the children’s bodies were found, others were not, leaving grief stricken parents all over the land. Until Erin escaped the clutches of her captor and the Father was not heard from again. With little to no memory of what happened during the time she was held by a killer, Erin has moved on with her life. Choosing to ignore what happened and hiding from the press. But when Erin returns home and discovers an eerie gift waiting for her, she realises that the Father may only have been biding his time…

The Final Child is a gripping, emotive read chock-full of delicious suspense and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Erin is a little stand-offish, a little brusque but I loved her. I think if the same had happened to me, I would also be a little cold. Particularly to the press! Erin is reluctant to talk to anyone about her experience (partly because she remembers so little!) but when writer Harriet, turns up at her mother’s house, with her own personal experience of the Father (her cousins were the first victims) she manages to convince Erin that revisiting the events of 18 years ago may be therapeutic. Fed-up of hiding and avoiding the past, Erin decides to trust Harriet and together, the two of them begin to dig into what really happened the night Erin escaped…

The relationship between Erin and Harriet is very well-written with Erin’s gradual thawing towards Harriet and Harriet’s slow dawning realisation that her feelings towards Erin might be more than just friendship. I loved the whole serial killer aspect of the novel but watching Erin and Harriet’s relationship develop over the course of the book was an unexpected bonus.

The plot is paced perfectly and I was turning the pages late into the night. The majority of the book is told from either Erin or Harriet’s point of view with occasional chapters from other, undefined voices. These chapters give the reader a wonderful sense of unease. Who are these characters and how do they relate to Erin’s story? They really help add to the all-round tension of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Final Child is a gripping, chilling, psychological crime thriller which I very much enjoyed. The characters are well-written and stand tall from the page. The author does a great job of throwing in a number of clever red herrings along the way to make you think one thing whilst taking you off in a different direction. I really enjoyed the way Dorricott made me doubt myself several times along the way! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but based on my experience of The Final Child, it won’t be the last. All in all, a terrific read. Gripping, emotional and packed full of tension. Recommended.

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

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott was published in the UK by Titan Books on 7th September 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Fran Dorricott

Fran Dorricott is an author based in Derby, where she lives with her family, two cats, and three dogs (one of whom weighs more than she does). She loves to tell gothic, inclusive stories and drink copious amounts of tea.

Fran is also a bookseller working in the Derby branch of Waterstones, which is secretly just a way for her to fuel her ridiculous book-buying addiction. Her first novel, After the Eclipse, was released in March 2019. The Final Child (Sept 2021) is her second novel.

#BookReview: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin @PenguinUKBooks #WeAreAlltheSameintheDark #damppebbles

“Back then, the police cleared her brother Wyatt of any crime. But now a TV documentary has judged otherwise. And old suspicions are reignited.

Yet when Wyatt finds a lost girl wandering a lonely highway, he convinces himself she’s a sign. Someone to lead him to his sister. To clear his name.

Watching him is police officer Odette Tucker. She’s got history with the Branson family. And she knows they must tread carefully.

Odette is determined to solve both cases, but will digging into this town’s deeply buried secrets do more harm than good?

And what will happen when the shocking truth is finally exposed?

We Are All the Same in the Dark is the nail-biting thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author, perfect for anyone obsessed with HBO’s Mare of Easttown.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin. We Are All the Same in the Dark was published by Penguin Books in paperback format on Thursday 2nd September 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of We Are All the Same in the Dark but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Gaby at Penguin Books for sending me a proof copy.

I read and reviewed Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin shortly after starting damppebbles back in 2016. It was one of my early reviews but I remember the book quite clearly, because it absolutely blew me away! Despite there being over five years between then and now, Black-eyed Susans has stayed with me to this day. So my heart soared when a copy of We Are All the Same in the Dark arrived. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Trumanell Branson, the town’s sweetheart, disappeared with her father one night ten years ago leaving behind a bloody handprint on the door. To this day, no one knows what happened to Trumanell (nor Frank). But Odette Tucker, girlfriend of Trumanell’s brother at the time, and now local police officer, has never forgotten that night and is determined to discover the truth. She’s certain Wyatt, Trumanell’s brother, had nothing to do with the disappearance despite the rest of the town, her police colleagues and a true crime documentary all believing otherwise. When Wyatt discovers a lost girl in a field, he feels it’s a sign but Odette isn’t so sure. Now with two tricky mysteries to solve, Odette starts to dig into the town’s past and discovers a lot more than she ever bargained for….

We Are All the Same in the Dark is a beautifully written, slow-burn mystery which I found truly captivating. For me this book was all about the characters and in particular Odette, who I adored. Her tenacity and commitment to Trumanell’s disappearance was very engaging and I was with her every step of the way. With the introduction of a second more current mystery, ensuring Wyatt wasn’t ruffling feathers, her failing marriage and her own family history hanging over her, Odette has a heck of a lot on her plate. There’s one scene in particular where she goes above and beyond for another character and it was not only fascinating but it pulled on this dark-hearted reader’s heartstrings. I loved Odette Tucker!

The plot is well paced with some surprising twists along the way to throw the reader off kilter, many of which I didn’t see coming, which is always a joy. One in particular was a bit of a sucker punch which left me reeling in its wake. Marvellous stuff! Although the pace of the novel is on the slow side, the tension is still very much present from start to finish. I felt I had to know what had happened to Trumanell. I had to know where the young girl had come from and what had caused her trauma.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. We Are All the Same in the Dark is an intelligently written psychological crime novel which I was more than happy to lose myself in. I really enjoyed spending time with the characters, I loved the small town feel, the pressing claustrophobia the book emanates and I was swept away by the cleverly constructed mystery. Heaberlin is a very talented writer and remains high on my ‘must read’ list.  Immersive, compelling and heart-breaking in parts. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of We Are All the Same in the Dark. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin was published by Penguin Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | FoylesBook Depository | bookshop.orgGoodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Julia HeaberlinJulia Heaberlin is the internationally bestselling writer of BLACK-EYED SUSANS and PAPER GHOSTS, a finalist for Best Hardcover Novel by the International Thriller Writers Awards. Her latest psychological thriller, WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which described her work as “exceptional.”

All of her books, including PLAYING DEAD and LIE STILL, are set in the moody, diverse landscape of Texas and together they have been published in more than twenty countries.

Before writing novels, Heaberlin was an award-winning editor at newspapers that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. BLACK-EYED SUSANS, a USA TODAY and a top-of-the-charts Times of London bestseller, has been optioned for television by Sony Pictures. Currently at work on her sixth thriller, Heaberlin lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She is published by Penguin Random House and represented by Kimberly Witherspoon at Inkwell Management.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Dark by Emma Haughton @HodderBooks @JennyPlatt90 #TheDark #damppebbles

ONE DEAD BODY. TWELVE SUSPECTS. TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DARKNESS.

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all.

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Dark by Emma Haughton. The Dark is published today (that’s Thursday 19th August 2021) by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Dark but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a finished copy.

Regular visitors to damppebbles may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for novels set in a cold climate. Throw in the fact that The Dark is set in Antarctica, which spends some of the year in complete, all encompassing darkness and is considered one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, and there was no way I was going to let this book pass me by! I had to read The Dark. And I’m so very glad I did.

Kate North can’t escape the memories of her past. Everywhere she goes are constant reminders of what she had, and what she lost. The past controls her every waking moment. So she decides to take drastic action and applies to be the doctor at a UN research station in Antarctica. Conditions at the station will be bleak with total darkness 24 hours a day and temperatures that will kill, so it’s of the utmost importance that the team at the station are physically and emotionally prepared. Kate questions her own suitability repeatedly due to her overuse of prescription medication and a long held fear of the dark. But the need to escape is greater. On arrival it becomes clear to Kate that there are several unanswered questions about her predecessor’s sudden death. As Kate digs deeper into what happened to Jean-Luc, she begins to doubt her colleagues. Who can she trust? Who is keeping secrets? And what really happened to Jean-Luc….?

I really enjoyed The Dark. I’m sure we’ve all read novels set in a snowy landscape where help isn’t necessarily immediately available, but it is there. The Dark had a very different feel to it as there is no rescue team flying in to transport everyone to safety. Conditions are harsh. Flying to Antarctica isn’t something you do on a whim, help is anything from 6 to 12 months away! No matter what happens. No matter what the threat. No matter how many bodies are piled up. You wait it out, which really added to the tension of this novel. I loved how the author conveyed the feeling of utter helplessness and total isolation to the reader. Kate was well and truly stuck at the station with nowhere to run.

There are quite a few characters to become acquainted with but the author does a brilliant job of making sure the reader is never confused. Doctor Kate is our lead. I liked that Kate, no matter how many people told her to leave Jean-Luc’s death alone – that it was just an unfortunate accident – kept pushing for answers. She was definitely like a dog with a bone and I admired that in her. Particularly as she was the new girl in a remote and hostile environment with everything to prove. Sandrine, the station leader, was the perfect nemesis to Kate. The friction between the two characters was very well written. Sandrine made my blood boil at times and I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Dark is a fantastic debut thriller novel which handles its setting superbly. I thoroughly enjoyed this compulsive mystery which sent chills down my spine. I was very intrigued about life on a UN research station – the more the author told me, the more I wanted to know, the faster I turned the pages. That, coupled with the fascinating mystery at the heart of The Dark, made for a very compelling, very claustrophobic read. Recommended.

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

The Dark by Emma Haughton was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 19th August 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 |

Emma Haughton

The Dark, Emma Haughton’s chilling new thriller for adults, will be published by Hodder in August 2021.

Emma grew up in Sussex; after a stint au pairing in Paris and a couple of half-hearted attempts to backpack across Europe, she studied English at Oxford University then trained in journalism. During her career as a journalist, she wrote many articles for national newspapers, including regular pieces for the Times Travel section.

Following publication of her picture book, Rainy Day, Emma wrote three YA novels. Her first, Now You See Me, was an Amazon bestseller and nominated for the Carnegie and Amazing Book Awards. Better Left Buried, her second, was one of the best YA reads for 2015 in the Sunday Express. Her third YA novel, Cruel Heart Broken, was picked by The Bookseller as a top YA read for July 2016.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney @HQstories #RockPaperScissors #damppebbles

“Ten years of marriage.
Ten years of secrets.
An anniversary they’ll never forget.

Adam and Amelia are spending the weekend in the Scottish Highlands. The remote location is perfect for what they have planned.

But when their romantic trip takes a dark turn, they both start to wonder – can they trust the one they’re with?

Because every couple tells little white lies. Only for Adam and Amelia, the truth is far more dangerous.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Rock Paper Scissors blog tour and sharing my review. Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney will be published on Thursday (that’s 19th August 2021) by HQ and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Rock Paper Scissors but that has in no way influenced my review.

I just couldn’t resist. If you’ve read a novel by Alice Feeney before then you’ll just know. If you haven’t read anything by her yet then you’ve gotta get that sorted. Alice Feeney is an utter genius when it comes to the killer twist and every book I’ve read by this author, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. A beautiful blend of domestic drama and psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Amelia and Adam Wright are heading north to the Scottish Highlands for a romantic weekend away with their aging pup, Bob. There’s a lot riding on the weekend. Both sides have their secrets. Both sides have a hidden agenda. On arrival at their destination, a converted and isolated chapel, the place is eerily quiet. Something about the building doesn’t feel right. Before long, strange things start to happen. Tension between the couple increases, what little trust they have between them crumbles. Because the truth is out to make them pay…

Rock Paper Scissors is an eminently readable and highly absorbing book which I thoroughly enjoyed. I do love a secluded, snowy setting and the author gave me chills with her spooky isolated chapel on the banks of a loch. The characters’ desperate and rapidly increasing need to escape the chapel was marvellous and really added to the fear factor. Amelia and Adam are brilliantly written. Adam is instantly unlikable as he has a bit of a superiority complex believing himself to be cleverer of the couple. I couldn’t make my mind up about Amelia. I felt sorry for her at times for having to put up with her obnoxious and self-important husband, but my feelings towards her seemed to change quite dramatically as I progressed through the story.

The reader gets to hear from both Adam and Amelia as their situation spirals out of control. We also get a glimpse into the past in the form of private letters written to Adam every anniversary along with their gifts to each other (using the traditional markers for wedding anniversaries: paper, cotton, leather etc). Initially rosy, things start to decline as the years progress. Taking us up to the present day in all its shocking glory!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Rock Paper Scissors is a twisty, thrilling read which had me gripped from the start. Feeney has done it again and produced another very compulsive novel where she successfully pulls the wool over her reader’s eyes. And damn, she does it with such style! If you’re a fan of the psychological thriller you need to add Alice Feeney to your ‘must read’ list. You won’t regret it! Deliciously devious and a proper page-turner. Recommended.

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

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney was published in the UK by HQ on 19th August 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 |

Alice Feeney is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was an international bestseller, has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. His & Hers is also being adapted for screen by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films. Alice was a BBC Journalist for fifteen years, and now lives in the British countryside with her family. Rock Paper Scissors is her fourth novel and is being made into a TV series for Netflix by the producer of The Crown. It will be published around the world in 2021.