#BookReview: Outside by Ragnar Jónasson @MichaelJBooks #Outside #damppebbles

“In a deadly Icelandic snowstorm, four friends seek shelter in an abandoned hunting lodge.

But nothing can prepare them for what’s inside.

Forced to spend a long and terrifying night in the cabin, they watch intently and silently.

Just as they themselves are being watched.

As the night darkens, and old secrets spill into the light, it’s soon clear that what they’ve discovered in the cabin is far from the only mystery lurking there.

Nor the only thing to be afraid of . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outside by Ragnar Jónasson. Outside was published last week (on Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Outside but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

Four friends – Daníel, Ármann, Helena and Gunnlaugur – who due to the demands of life haven’t seen each other for a while, plan a hunting trip to the Icelandic highlands. After a difficult boozy first night at base camp they head, armed with a couple of shotguns, into the Icelandic wilderness. Only for a deadly snowstorm to hit part way through their trek scuppering their plans. The group believe their luck is in when they stumble upon a cabin. But once inside, they realise their haven is far from safe. The dangers lurking in the cabin are just as deadly as the storm raging outside…

Outside is a well-written, short and punchy suspense thriller which gave me chills. I found myself flying through this novel thanks to the intriguing story and the short chapters, each told from one of the four friends point of view. They’re an odd mix of people. I didn’t really feel I had the measure of any of them, apart from Gunnlaugur. It was clear from the outset that he’s a very sad, lonely man with an addiction to alcohol (but that certainly doesn’t excuse his terrible behaviour in any way, shape or form!). But you don’t need to have the measure of these characters to be swept along in their gripping story.

As soon as the storm worsens, the tension mounts and they begin to turn on each other. When they finally make it inside the cabin and they realise exactly how dire their situation is, it becomes almost unbearable. The author is clearly a master of suspense because there was no way on this earth I was going to walk away from this novel once I had made a start. I HAD to know what was going to happen to these people and most importantly of all, WHY was it happening?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Outside is a ‘read in one sitting’ suspense thriller which sent shivers down my spine thanks to the exquisite tension created by the author and his stunning use of imagery. Despite being lost in the wild and unforgiving highlands of Iceland, the setting, thanks to the relentless snow storm, was beautifully claustrophobic. This is the second book I’ve read by this author and it won’t be the last. A well-written, hold your breath thriller which I couldn’t put down. Recommended.

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

Outside by Ragnar Jónasson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ragnar Jónasson

Ragnar Jonasson is author of the award winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Snowblind has been a paperback bestseller in France.

Nightblind won the Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Most Captivating Crime in Translation.

Snowblind was called a “classically crafted whodunit” by THE NEW YORK TIMES, and it was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015 in the UK.

Rights to the Dark Iceland series have been sold to UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, Poland, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia, Armenia and Iceland.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.

Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine.

He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik.

#BookReview: Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine @ViperBooks #BegarsAbbey #damppebbles

“A dark house filled with darker secrets…

Winter 1954, and in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, Sam Cooper realises that she has nothing left. Her mother is dead, she has no prospects, and she cannot afford the rent. But as she goes through her mother’s things, Sam finds a stack of hidden letters that reveal a family and an inheritance that she never knew she had, three thousand miles away in Yorkshire.

Begars Abbey is a crumbling pile, inhabited only by Lady Cooper, Sam’s ailing grandmother, and a handful of servants. Sam cannot understand why her mother kept its very existence a secret, but her newly discovered diaries offer a glimpse of a young girl growing increasingly terrified. As is Sam herself.

Built on the foundations of an old convent, Begars moves and sings with the biting wind. Her grandmother cannot speak, and a shadowy woman moves along the corridors at night. There are dark places in the hidden tunnels beneath Begars. And they will not give up their secrets easily…

A chilling read that will keep you turning the pages late into the night, Begars Abbey is a must-read for fans of Laura Purcell and W.C. Ryan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine. Begars Abbey is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Begars Abbey but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Therese at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Following the death of her mother, Vera, Sam Cooper comes to realise that she has nothing left. She’s barely existing, she has no money and her Brooklyn apartment is crumbling around her. Whilst clearing out her mother’s belongings, Sam discovers a stack of telegrams her mother failed to mention. The telegrams reveal a family and a substantial inheritance several thousand miles away in Yorkshire. Sam is desperate to connect and find out why her mother would rather live in squalor, struggling to put food on the table each day, than ask her family for help. But on arrival in Yorkshire, Sam’s expectations are dashed. Begars Abbey is a crumbling ruin of a house, run by a strange housekeeper and a number of incompetent staff. Sam’s grandmother, Lady Cooper, is wheelchair bound and unable to utter a word after several strokes. There’s something not quite right about the house. So when Sam discovers her mother’s teenage diaries, she’s determined to discover what secrets Begars Abbey holds…

Begars Abbey is a thoroughly enjoyable, dark, chilling gothic mystery. I’ve been living on the edge recently and not reading the blurb of a book before I make a start on it so I went into Begars Abbey almost blind. Yes, it is clear from the cover that it’s a gothic tale but that’s as much as I knew. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that our story starts in Brooklyn in the 1950s! Sam is a fantastic character – well rounded, likeable and quite ballsy, which I really appreciated. I warmed to her instantly, despite the chill of the New York air already giving me goosebumps! I really enjoyed meeting Sam and finding more out about her relationship with her mother.

After a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean Sam’s arrival in England falls flat, with her pre-arranged escort nowhere in sight and the icy bitterness of the Liverpool docks providing the reader with even more chills. But with the help of the family’s solicitor, Alec Bell, Sam is whisked to her ancestral home. The supporting characters in the novel are all well-written and absolutely fascinating. I found Alec to be wonderfully frustrating whilst the eccentric but endlessly loyal Mrs Pritchett was unpredictable and unnerving – superb characterisation.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of gothic mysteries, or just well-written mysteries full stop, then I heartily recommend Begars Abbey. Dark, creepy and compelling, I flew through this book in a few short sittings and would gladly read more by this author. Wonderful imagery, marvellous characters and lots of surprises in store for the reader. Recommended.

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

Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine was published in the UK by Viper Books on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover 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 |

V.L. ValentineV.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she has led award-winning coverage of global disease outbreaks including Ebola and the Zika virus. She has a master’s in the history of medicine from University College London and her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine. The Plague Letters is her first novel.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: First Born by Will Dean @HodderBooks #FirstBorn #damppebbles

“THE LAST THING A TWIN EXPECTS IS TO BE ALONE …

Molly
 lives a quiet, contained life in London. Naturally risk averse, she gains comfort from security and structure. Every day the same.

Her identical twin Katie is her exact opposite: gregarious and spontaneous. They used to be inseparable, until Katie moved to New York a year ago. Molly still speaks to her daily without fail.

But when Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in New York, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. Katie is part of her DNA. As terrifying as it is, she must go there and find out what happened. As she tracks her twin’s last movements, cracks begin to emerge. Nothing is what it seems. And a web of deceit is closing around her.

Delivering the same intensity of pace and storytelling that made THE LAST THING TO BURN a word-of-mouth sensation, FIRST BORN will surprise, shock and enthral.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the First Born blog tour. First Born by Will Dean was published last week (that’s Thursday 14th April 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 First Born but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a proof copy.

When asked if I would like to read the latest Will Dean novel, I obviously jumped at the chance (you’d be bonkers not to!). Over the course of a few short years this author’s work has become hugely popular with a loyal fanbase. Which is why it’s very embarrassing to admit that until I picked up my copy of First Born, I hadn’t read any of Dean’s previous books. To further confirm what a wally I am, the author’s previous release with Hodder – The Last Thing to Burn – was the joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. I know, I’m hanging my head in shame. But I have corrected my horrible oversight now. I have read First Born and I can confirm it’s an absolute corker of a novel!

Molly and Katie Raven are identical twins, but they couldn’t be more different if they tried. Katie is the life and soul of the party. Outgoing, unafraid, she lives in the here and now, grabbing every opportunity that comes her way. Molly is introverted, risk adverse to the point it’s become a problem, planning her outings to the nth degree and ensuring she’s ready and equipped for any event. When Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in her New York apartment, Molly’s world turns upside down. Despite her fears, she knows she must go to New York and discover what happened to her sister. But on arrival it’s clear to Molly that things aren’t quite what they seem and Katie has been murdered…

What a compelling, twisty read First Born is! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the moment I met Molly to the jaw dropping final chapter. Intricately plotted and utterly gripping, I was completely absorbed by Dean’s writing and I savoured every moment of it. Molly is an unusual character and for that, I really liked her. I found her fascinating – her plotting and planning, her forward thinking and the ingenious solutions she found to get herself out of a tricky spot, *should* one arise.

The book is expertly paced and the mystery behind what happened to Katie made for an intriguing read, so much so that I was trying hard to spot where the story was headed. One of the big twists I was able to guess from fairly early on. The other blew my mind. Clever, very clever. I will say that although I was able to guess one aspect of the story it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all. Even though I was pretty sure I knew what was coming, I still let out a little gasp of shock which I think is testament to the author’s skill.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. First Born is a well-written, unique and clever tale featuring an unforgettable character who really left her mark on me.  I really enjoyed this book and finished it in a few short sittings, keen to return to New York, and to unconventional Molly, time and time again. It goes without saying that I will, of course, be reading more of this author’s books as soon as time allows, starting with The Last Thing to Burn. An excellent thriller chock full of suspense and tension. Recommended.

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

First Born by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 14th April 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 |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BookReview: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus @PenguinUKBooks #OneofUsIsLying #damppebbles

Five students walk into detention. Only four come out alive.

Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. One of Us Is Lying was published on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of One of Us Is Lying but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Simon at Penguin Books for sending me a proof copy.

Five teenagers from all walks of high school life end up in detention together. By the time detention is over, one of the teens has died. The circumstances look suspicious, particularly as the victim was about to reveal a devastating secret about each of his fellow students via his hugely popular gossip app. The police have their motive, now all they need to do is find the killer…

This book is HUGE! You’ve probably already heard about it, perhaps you’ve already read it or watched the Netflix series. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for a short while now so decided to take the plunge and see if it’s as good as everyone says it is, see if the hype is real. Oh boy, the hype IS REAL! One of Us Is Lying is a cleverly written, YA mystery which I devoured in a few short sittings. With a cast of well-drawn characters (albeit a little stereotypical) and an intriguing, very compelling mystery at the heart of the novel, I was drawn into life at Bayview High and the mystery surrounding Simon’s death.

We get to hear from all four of the suspects – Nate, Addy, Bronwyn and Cooper – and see the story evolve from their perspectives. I thought the author did a fantastic job of showing how events affected the teens and how their lives changed, being at the centre of a murder investigation. The characters do all start out a little obvious, a little clichéd (the bad boy, the prom queen, the nerd and the jock) but by the end they’ve all morphed into much more interesting and multi-layered characters.  As I approached the end of the book I was sure I had reached the correct conclusion and worked out ‘whodunit’, only to be proved wrong. I was ‘sort of’ right but also ‘sort of’ wrong too 🤪

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. One of Us Is Lying is a fantastic debut and I’m excited to already have the follow-up, One of Us Is Next, on the shelf ready to be picked up at the earliest opportunity. One of Us Is Lying is a well-written, cleverly plotted YA mystery which I think will appeal to all mystery fans no matter what your age. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it’s easy to read and I found it to be quite the page-turner.  All in all, a very enjoyable debut which deserves the attention it’s received. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of One of Us Is Lying. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Karen M. McManusKaren M. McManus is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of young adult thrillers. Her work includes the One of Us Is Lying series, which has been turned into a television show on Peacock and Netflix, as well as the standalone novels Two Can Keep a Secret, The Cousins, You’ll Be the Death of Me, and Nothing More to Tell. Karen’s critically acclaimed, award-winning books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

#BookReview: Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani @AmazonPub #WelcomeToCooper #damppebbles

In this explosive thriller of bad choices and dark crimes, Detective Levine knew his transfer was a punishment—but he had no idea just how bad it would get.

Cooper, Nebraska, is forgettable and forgotten, a town you’d only stumble into if you’d taken a seriously wrong turn. Like Detective Thomas Levine’s career has. But when a young woman is found lying in the snow, choked to death, her eyes gouged out, the disgraced detective is Cooper’s only hope for restoring peace and justice.

For Levine, still grieving and guilt-ridden over the death of his girlfriend, his so-called “transfer” from the big city to this grubby backwater has always felt like a punishment. And when his irascible new partner shoots their prime suspect using Levine’s gun, all hope of redemption is shattered. With the case in chaos, and both blackmail and a violent drug cartel to contend with, he finds himself in a world of trouble.

It gets worse. The real killer is still out there, and he’s got plans for Detective Levine. And Cooper may just be the perfect place to get away with murder.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani. Welcome to Cooper was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st October 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

As soon as I laid eyes on this book I knew I had to read it. Small town American crime thrillers are 100% my thing and this one I was drawn to more than most! It was also recommended by BrendaP as part of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge (scroll down to see the other books on my list). I’ve had this book on my shelf since the end of last year and I’ve been champing at the bit to read it. So as soon as a break in my reading schedule arose it was a very easy, very clear choice for me.

Detective Thomas Levine has had to make a hasty retreat from his old posting in DC to the forgotten town of Cooper, Nebraska. His first case is a grisly one, a young woman strangled to death with her eyes gouged out and left to rot in the snow. Law enforcement in the town isn’t always by the book so it’s down to Levine to find the killer and put them away before another of his colleagues metes out their own special kind of justice to any suspicious locals. It’s a race against the clock before the killer strikes again. But Levine has his own issues to deal with as well. He’s still grieving the death of his girlfriend, he feels his relocation to Cooper is the worst kind of punishment and before long, his partner has double crossed him and holds Levine’s smoking gun in his hand. When one of the lead detectives is distracted, and no one else really cares, what’s to stop a deranged killer from striking again….?

Welcome to Cooper is an eminently readable, hugely compelling novel featuring a detective who is teetering on the edge. Surrounded by colleagues who don’t know right from wrong and hounded into carrying out less than legal endeavours, this fresh and original noir thriller ticked so many boxes for me. An unsettling somewhat bleak novel that was a dream to read. I tore through the pages at a rate of knots, eager to know how things would turn out for these deeply flawed characters. And because I was completely captivated by the story, I reached the shocking end of the book within 24 hours of starting. I could not put it down! And oh, that ending. An ending I certainly did not see coming and applaud whole heartedly. Wow!

Beautifully written, utterly absorbing and deftly plotted, this accomplished debut is a must read for crime fiction fans who like a darker edge to their reads. I thoroughly enjoyed the sub-plots which ran alongside the main murder mystery. Bad decision after bad decision led to a slippery slope from which there was no going back and it was tense and uncomfortable to watch things play out for Levine. Unflinching and dark, disturbing and desolate. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Welcome to Cooper took me on a dark and gritty ride to the heart of a small Nebraskan town and I loved it! What I enjoyed the most was the completely unexpected, almost earth shattering conclusion. I feel the author took a brave step and in my opinion, it fully paid off. Yes, he’s not the first to take this story down this avenue (and he won’t be the last) but the twist in Welcome to Cooper is done so well it will be impossible to forget. And I’ve read a lot of twists over the years! Great characters with few redeemable qualities, a setting which will easily send chills down your spine and plot to get really caught up in. Highly recommended.

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st October 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.ukWaterstones | FoylesBook Depository | bookshop.orgGoodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tariq AshkananiTariq 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 soon.

#BookReview: Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa @vintagebooks #BulletTrain #damppebbles

Five killers. One train journey. But who will survive? The original and propulsive thriller from a massive Japanese bestseller.

Satoshi looks like an innocent schoolboy but he is really a viciously cunning psychopath. Kimura’s young son is in a coma thanks to him, and Kimura has tracked him onto the bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka to exact his revenge. But Kimura soon discovers that they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard.

Nanao, the self-proclaimed ‘unluckiest assassin in the world’, and the deadly partnership of Tangerine and Lemon are also travelling to Morioka. A suitcase full of money leads others to show their hands. Why are they all on the same train, and who will get off alive at the last station?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (translated by Sam Malissa). Bullet Train is published in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 17th March 2022) and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Bullet Train but that has in no way influenced my review.

First of all I have to say that I adore Japanese crime fiction and this book came onto my radar last year when it was first published but I was so over subscribed that I couldn’t squeeze it in. I was gutted as it sounded just my cup of kombucha. At the start of 2022 I signed up to the ‘12 books in 12 months’ challenge where 12 friends recommend a book to be read by the end of the year – Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka was suggested by the fabulous Raven Crime Reads. So of course, it went on the list. You can see the other eleven books that were recommended if you scroll down to the end of this post. I couldn’t wait to get to this one and what a ride it was!

Boarding a train has never been so deadly! When the bullet train leaves Tokyo heading for Morioka little do the passengers know that in their midst are five highly skilled killers. Satoshi is a schoolboy, all sweetness and light to his superiors but really a psychopath in a school uniform. His use of control and coercion and his complete lack of remorse make him a deadly adversary. Kimura is on a mission to track Satoshi down and make him pay for what he did to his young son, no matter what the cost. But they are not the only two killers on board this high-speed train. As the train hurtles towards Morioka the clock ticks down. Time is running out for these trained assassins as not everyone will make it to Morioka alive…

Oh my goodness, Bullet Train was so much fun! What an immersive, high-speed thrill ride the author has created for his readers, featuring five thoroughly engaging characters. All of them, apart from Satoshi, are likeable – although you know you shouldn’t warm to them really. They are trained killers after all! There is much comic relief provided by the brilliant Tangerine and Lemon. Lemon’s obsession with trains, in particular Thomas and Friends, had me giggling to myself at frequent intervals. Bullet Train felt vey different to all of the other ‘locked room’ mysteries I’ve read in the past (even the Japanese ones!) and I really appreciated it.

The plot moves along swiftly, very much like the bullet train itself, with lots of interesting plot points and changes of direction. I wanted to steam through this novel to find out who survived but instead I took my time to enjoy and savour the interactions, the building tension and twists and turns. There is very little let up. There is always something happening and it’s always attention grabbing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Bullet Train is a unique and clever thriller which is perhaps a little bonkers at times, a little hard to believe maybe, but I didn’t care one jot. I was entertained from start to finish and I know I will never read another book like this again. It’s definitely quirky in the best way possible. I want to say to all crime fiction fans, you must read this book but I’m aware that it probably won’t be for everyone. If you’re a fan of translated fiction however, make sure you get yourself a copy and make sure you read it before the movie is released this summer. I, for one, will be first in the queue with my popcorn and slushie as I CANNOT WAIT to relive the Bullet Train experience once more. I thoroughly enjoyed Bullet Train and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author soon. Recommended.

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

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa was published in the UK on 17th March 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kōtarō IsakaKōtarō Isaka (伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.

In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

Image of Sam MalissaSam Malissa holds a PhD in Japanese Literature from Yale University. He has translated fiction by Toshiki Okada, Shun Medoruma, and Hideo Furukawa, among others.

 

#BookReview: Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold @BooksSphere @LittleBrownUK #TwelveSecrets #damppebbles

A SMALL TOWN. A SHOCKING CRIME.
YOU’LL SUSPECT EVERY CHARACTER. BUT YOU’LL NEVER GUESS THE ENDING.

Ben Harper’s life changed for ever the day his older brother Nick was murdered by two classmates. It was a crime that shocked the nation and catapulted Ben’s family and their idyllic hometown, Haddley, into the spotlight.

Twenty years on, Ben is one of the best investigative journalists in the country and settled back in Haddley, thanks to the support of its close-knit community. But then a fresh murder case shines new light on his brother’s death and throws suspicion on those closest to him.

Ben is about to discover that in Haddley no one is as they seem. Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will do anything to keep the truth buried . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold. Twelve Secrets was published last week (Thursday 3rd March 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Twelve Secrets but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Millie at Sphere Books for sending me a proof copy.

Ben Harper is a crime journalist but his own traumatic story is the biggest draw in recent history. Because Ben’s brother, at the tender age of 14, was killed alongside his best friend by two classmates. The tragedy shook the small town of Haddley and will never be forgotten. Now, 20 years later, another murder has been committed, miles away from the small town, but with links back to Haddley and the deaths of Nick and Simon. Suddenly Haddley is in the spotlight again and everyone is a suspect. When there’s a killer in your midst who can you trust? And just how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay buried…?

I do love a small town claustrophobic thriller and Twelve Secrets delivers on that front in spades. As the story builds the suspicion and intrigue mount and I found myself questioning every single character. I read a lot of crime fiction so I’m always on the lookout for where the story is heading, how the threads will eventually connect. But I wasn’t able to do that with Twelve Secrets. It’s cleverly and intricately plotted ensuring the reader can’t predict where the story is headed.

Ben is a great lead character, very well-written and multi-layered, and I’m pleased to see this is the first book in a new series featuring him. I enjoyed that in this first outing, we really got to know him well. I also really liked PC Dani Cash who is one of the officers investigating the most recent murder. She has a fascinating backstory and I hope we get to meet her again in future books.

The plot is well paced and intriguing throughout. I will admit that with the various characters (there are quite a few) who are all linked to each other in a variety of different ways, I did get a little confused at times but that might just be me. I took to writing down the names and making brief notes to help connect the dots. It did help. Having a number of characters who ‘couldvedoneit’ helped increase the suspense and intrigue though, widening the pool of suspects, which worked well. I’m just easily confused, lol!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Twelve Secrets is a compelling mystery which I enjoyed reading. There are many twists and turns along the way which kept me on my toes. Very little about the story was obvious, it felt fresh and exciting. I loved the setting, I loved the lead characters (Ben and Dani), I loved the way author throws twist after twist at the reader as the story reaches its climax. An assured solo debut from an author to watch. I’m looking forward to being reacquainted with Ben Harper on his next outing soon. Recommended.

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

Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Originally from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Robert Gold began his career as an intern at the American broadcaster CNN, based in Washington DC. He returned to Yorkshire to work for the retailer ASDA, becoming the chain’s nationwide book buyer. He now works in sales for a UK publishing company. Robert now lives in Putney and his new hometown served as the inspiration for the fictional town of Haddley in Twelve Secrets. In 2016, he co-authored three titles in James Patterson’s Bookshots series.

#BookReview: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheParisApartment #damppebbles

“Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants

A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

There was a murder here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.

Who holds the key?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. The Paris Apartment will be published later this week on Thursday 3rd March by HarperCollins in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Paris Apartment but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of Lucy Foley’s mystery novels. Her previous two books (The Hunting Party and The Guest List) both managed, on two completely separate occasions, to pull me out of a reading slump with their clever plotting, atmospheric settings and intriguing cast of characters. The publication of Foley’s latest novel has quickly become one of the most anticipated highlights of my reading year. So I couldn’t wait to get stuck into The Paris Apartment.

Jess arrives in Paris looking forward to escaping her life back home whilst spending some quality time with half-brother, Ben. Ben isn’t so keen however, having built himself a new life as a journalist in Paris and now living in an exclusive apartment block. When Jess arrives at No.12 rue des Amants though, something is amiss. Ben, who promised to be there, is nowhere to be seen and something just isn’t quite right. Jess’s concern for Ben grows as days pass without word from her brother. She begins to search for clues as to his whereabouts, reaching out to the other residents, seeking help and information. The other residents of the apartment block are reluctant to get involved though leaving Jess facing dead-end after dead-end. Can Jess discover the fate of her brother and unearth the secrets of the Paris apartment….?

Twisty, chock full of suspense and with shedloads of intrigue. The reader gets to meet Ben as he prepares for his half-sister’s arrival, only for him to suddenly vanish. From that moment on the reader is drawn into this compelling mystery and watches as Jess tries to make sense of Ben’s disappearance and the scarce clues left behind. Foley once again manages to lull her readers into a false sense of security, pulling the wool masterfully over our eyes only to whip the carpet out from beneath our feet at the most surprising moment. I loved the twists and turns throughout the book. Foley’s books always provide an exquisite moment when you realise all is not as it seems. It’s shocking, it’s heart stuttering and I love the thrill of the reveal.

The Paris Apartment bears many hallmarks of Foley’s previous mysteries but this one did feel different to me. In previous books the setting has been isolated and enclosed. The characters are left to deal with what’s happening to them very much alone and miles from help. The main setting in The Paris Apartment does provide a similar sense of isolation with the heavy, locked gates and the ever-watchful, ever-present concierge. However, the author also has the thriving metropolis of Paris to play with providing Jess with a myriad of new opportunities to investigate and new characters to introduce throughout the story. Definitely a Lucy Foley book but…different. ‘Good’ different.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Paris Apartment is an intriguing mystery novel which I enjoyed reading. I warmed to Jess over the course of the book and I loved discovering more about the peculiar residents of No.12 rue des Amants, along with their deep, dark secrets. Well-paced with a somewhat eerie setting and plenty of fascinating characters, I found The Paris Apartment to be a very readable novel with tons of suspense and twists galore. Recommended.

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

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 3rd March 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 |

Lucy Foley is the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party and The Guest List, with two and a half million copies sold worldwide. Lucy’s thrillers have also hit the New York Times and the Irish Times bestseller lists, been shortlisted for the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, selected as one of The Times and Sunday Times Crime Books of the Year, and The Guest List was a Reese’s Book Club choice. Lucy’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and her journalism has appeared in publications such as Sunday Times Style, Grazia, ES Magazine, Vogue US, Elle, Tatler, Marie Claire and more.

#BookReview: The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane @AmazonPub #TheBoneJar #damppebbles

Two murders. An abandoned asylum. Will a mysterious former patient help untangle the dark truth?

The body of an elderly woman has been found in the bowels of a derelict asylum on the banks of the Thames. As Detective Lew Kirby and his partner begin their investigation, another body is discovered in the river nearby. How are the two murders connected?

Before long, the secrets of Blackwater Asylum begin to reveal themselves. There are rumours about underground bunkers and secret rooms, unspeakable psychological experimentation, and a dark force that haunts the ruins, trying to pull back in all those who attempt to escape. Urban explorer Connie Darke, whose sister died in a freak accident at the asylum, is determined to help Lew expose its grisly past. Meanwhile Lew discovers a devastating family secret that threatens to turn his life upside down.

As his world crumbles around him, Lew must put the pieces of the puzzle together to keep the killer from striking again. Only an eccentric former patient really knows the truth—but will he reveal it to Lew before it’s too late?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane. The Bone Jar was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st July 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

It’s been such a long time since I last read a police procedural (at one time, they were all I read!) so I made the decision to take a break from my planned reading and get stuck into a detective story, something from my own bookshelf. I chose The Bone Jar because it’s the first in a series (I hope it’ll become a series anyway!) and I love the creepy cover. I’m really glad I chose it as it was just the right book at just the right time.

The body of an elderly woman is discovered at an old, abandoned asylum on the banks of the Thames. DI Lew Kirby and partner, DI Pete Anderson, are tasked with discovering what happened to the woman and why someone would beat her so viciously. And why was she left on a rusty old bed in the bowels of the asylum? The location, Blackwater Asylum, later renamed Blackwater Psychiatric Hospital, has its own chequered past of which no one speaks. Can Kirby and Anderson, with the help of urban explorer, Connie Darke, discover what happened to the woman? Or will Blackwater continue to keep it’s very dark secrets hidden…?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Bone Jar with it’s very likeable lead, hugely atmospheric landscape and well-written mystery. The author has done a superb job of sending chills down the readers spine with her descriptions of the creepy, derelict building and the relentless frosty, chill in the air. Set in South London on the banks of the Thames in the heart of winter, this novel would could give you the shivers even on a summers day! I’m always a fan of the setting being so well-written, such an integral part of the story that it feels like a character in itself and that’s exactly what Kane has achieved here. It’s a beautiful, eerie thing!

I loved DI Lew Kirby. Often the lead detective in the novels I read is highly flawed – drink, drugs, adultery etc. But Lew, apart from living on a narrowboat which isn’t all that odd really, is a very likeable, very competent detective. I loved the sub-plot where Lew makes a shocking discovery about his past (and as a result, his future). It was a fascinating revelation and I immediately went to my old friend Google to find out more.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found The Bone Jar to be well paced and thoroughly engaging. The subject matter is quite shocking and the things the reader discovers about psychiatric treatments in the past, and the indignities they suffered, made me feel uncomfortable. But I’m so glad I read this book and I hope this is the start of a long and bright future for DI Kirby. I really enjoyed how atmospheric the book was, the characters were clearly defined and very well-written. All in all, a terrific debut which I heartily recommend to all crime fiction fans.

The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st July 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

S.W. KaneS W Kane has a degree in History of Design and worked at the Royal Institute of British Architects before taking on a series of totally unrelated jobs in radio and the music industry. She has an MA in Creative (Crime) Writing from City University. She began reading crime fiction at an early age and developed an obsession with crime set in cold places. A chance encounter with a derelict fort in rural Pembrokeshire led to a fascination with urban exploration, which in turn became the inspiration for her crime novels. She lives in London.

#BookReview: Breathless by Amy McCulloch @MichaelJBooks #Breathless #damppebbles

“When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Breathless by Amy McCulloch. Breathless is published today (that’s Thursday 17th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Breathless but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for books set in unpredictable, inhospitable, snow covered environments (normally the Alps or the Himalayas). Where the cold, the altitude or a sudden avalanche could kill you in the blink of an eye. I find the drive mountaineers have to conquer the next peak utterly fascinating. Throw in a murderer and you’ve got a book I HAD to read!

Adventure journalist Cecily Wong is shocked when renowned mountaineer, Charles McVeigh, invites her to join his team as they climb Mt. Manaslu. On summiting Mt. Manaslu McVeigh will achieve the impossible and enter the record books – climbing all 8,000 metre mountains, ‘the Death Zone’ peaks, in twelve months. An elusive interview with the poster-boy of the climbing world has been promised to Cecily as soon as they summit. It’s the kind of opportunity she can’t miss and could resuscitate her failing career. But after months of careful preparation and planning, things immediately start to go wrong and a fellow mountaineer dies before reaching base camp. Cecily and her team are in grave danger. If the mountain doesn’t destroy them, the killer will…

Breathless is a thoroughly enjoyable psychological murder mystery set at high altitude. I loved how in-depth this novel was with lots of fascinating detail about mountaineering and the processes involved. The author’s knowledge absolutely shines through giving the story a level of realism that other novels set in similar environments don’t always have. I really enjoyed how realistic the story felt and I’ve come away from Breathless feeling as though I’ve learnt more about mountaineering than I knew before (not that I claim to know much, of course!). It was also very easy to feel I was there on the mountain with Cecily thanks to McCulloch’s vivid imagery.

I warmed to Cecily over the course of the book. Being a fairly new mountaineer, and one yet to reach the summit of any mountain, she is the least experienced of the group which brings its own challenges. But she’s determined to prove herself. Cecily also harbours a traumatic secret which she will do everything she can to protect. The guilt she carries and the memories she holds just won’t let her be. She’s a fantastic lead protagonist – flawed, inexperienced and on edge. Not the cool, calm, confidence you want 7,000 metres above sea level! The other characters in the book are all well-written and each play their part in the story. I enjoyed the way not everyone in the team got on, the underlying ever present tension was wonderful, with the friction really adding to the unease.

The suspense builds at a great pace getting under the skin of the reader ensuring you keep turning those pages. As the book raced towards its heart-pounding climax I found myself holding my breath (pun intended! 😉), completely absorbed by McCulloch’s writing. And what an ending it is! I had my suspicions as to whodunit which were correct but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying Breathless. The characters, the setting, the complete isolation miles away from help, this book ticked so many boxes for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Breathless with its compelling story, fascinating look into mountaineering life, interesting characters and stunning setting. The author’s descriptions of mountain life and the processes the climbers need to complete made the story feel authentic without being overly complicated or turning the novel into a convoluted ‘how to’ guide. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I am fascinated by the drive and fearlessness mountaineers possess. Pushing their bodies to the limits in the most inhospitable circumstances, all for that momentary high of reaching the summit. If you’re anything like me with the same fascination, or if you just enjoy a well-written psychological murder mystery, then make sure you add Breathless to your shelf. All in all, a great read set in one of the deadliest places in the world. Recommended.

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

Breathless by Amy McCulloch was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 17th February 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 |

(c) Charlotte Knee Photography

Amy McCulloch is a Chinese-White author, born in the UK, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. She is the co-author of the #1 YA bestselling novel THE MAGPIE SOCIETY: One for Sorrow, and has written seven solo novels for children and young adults. She has hit the bestseller lists in several countries around the world, and been published in fifteen different languages.

Before becoming a full-time writer, she was editorial director for Penguin Random House Children’s Books. In 2013, she was named one of The Bookseller‘s Rising Stars of publishing.

When not writing, she loves travelling, hiking and mountaineering. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mt Manaslu in Nepal – the world’s eighth highest mountain at 8,163m (26,781ft). Other addictions include coffee, ramen and really great books.