#BookReview: Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch @headlinepg #HerHusbandsLover #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her husbands lover“She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.

Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her until she died if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.

And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?”

Hello, a very warm welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my thirteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch. Her Husband’s Lover was published by Headline Books in June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, batten down the hatches and take cover! This is one seriously intense book and I was swept up into its pages almost instantly. I’ve never felt so many emotions in the first 6% of a book before. Six per cent in and I was straight on Twitter to share how utterly compelling this story was and how it already had its hooks in me. Wow!

Louisa is rebuilding her life after the death of her controlling and manipulative husband, Sam. He always told her she would never escape him but she did, as the sole survivor of the car crash which killed Sam and their two children. Bearing the scars and the trauma of the accident, she moves to London to start a new life. But a face from the past won’t let Louisa be. Sophie, Sam’s lover, is out to wreak havoc and get what she’s owed. Sophie won’t give up until she’s taken what she wants from Louisa, no matter what the cost…

Thank you for reading my review. I’m afraid that’s it! There is no more because if I start talking about this book in any detail I’m bound to give something away and no one wants that. I am, of course, joking about the very short review but I am also very aware that I have to tread carefully with this one. It may be a little more vague and succinct then normal!

This is a twisty, twisted story and I savoured every moment I had with it. It took me longer to read Her Husband’s Lover than anything else I’ve read recently because I was eking it out, making sure I was there in every scene with the characters, living and breathing their world. I was fully immersed from the get-go and my emotions were running high. There’s an impending sense of doom throughout the novel, you’re just waiting for something catastrophic to happen and it keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. What’s the next move going to be?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Her Husband’s Lover is like nothing else I’ve read before and I would gladly pick up another book by this author (this is the first book I’ve read by Julia Crouch). I was a smidge disappointed with the ending but that was because I wanted MORE. I wanted to see it through to the bitter end and didn’t want to leave the characters at that particular point. But as Barnum apparently said, “always leave them wanting more”. All in all, an engrossing read which I savoured over the course of several days and will remember for some time to come. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch was published in the UK by Headline Books on 15th 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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julia crouchJulia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.

Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year’s editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.

Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013, followed by Every Vow You Break in 2014 and Her Husband’s Lover in 2017. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China.

Unable to find a sub-genre of crime writing that neatly described her work, she came up with the term Domestic Noir, which is now widely accepted as the label for one of the most popular crime genres today. She has even written a foreword to a book of academic essays on the subject.

She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch, their three children, two cats called Keith and Sandra, and about twelve guitars (you can find #Keith, who has his own hashtag, on twitter). She is a self-confessed geek and fights a daily battle to resist tinkering with the code on her website, which can be found at http://www.juliacrouch.co.uk.

#BookReview: Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski @borstinski #MidtownHuckster #AlexCohenSeries #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

3 Midtown Huckster High Res 1930“Can you keep your gelt and freedom when the cops have enough evidence to take you down?

1930s Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends.

If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?

The third book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical noir novel, which plunges you deep into the early days of narcotics trafficking and the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s piercing crime fiction delivers a fix to every reader like heroin from a needle.”

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eleventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski. Midtown Huckster is the third book in the Alex Cohen Series and was published in paperback and digital formats on 16th July 2020. I received a free eARC of Midtown Huckster but that has in no way influenced my review.

Jewish gangster and thug, Alex Cohen, is back! And he’s bigger and badder than ever. He’s a killing machine and the reader really shouldn’t like him….but it’s hard not to. I thoroughly enjoyed Midtown Huckster which focuses on Cohen’s life in 1930s New York. The end of prohibition, the end of his marriage to Sarah and the end of….well, I won’t spoil it for you. I think this is my favourite book in the series so far!

The end of prohibition is nigh and Alex and his men need to find a new way to make sure they continue to live in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. No one will be looking for watered down, bootlegged hooch when the real thing will be readily available again. A new money-spinning idea is needed to keep them rolling in gelt. But that’s not all Alex should be worrying about. There’s a new Special Prosecutor in town – Thomas Dewey – and he’s out to clean up the mean streets of New York and has Alex and his colleagues in his sights. Will Alex manage to see out the 1930s a free man or is this the end of Slugger…?

Eminently readable, utterly compelling and as I think I said, my favourite book of the series so far. I absolutely devoured Midtown Huckster. This series is something very special with its mix of fact and fiction. Notorious names from history you’ll definitely recognise rubbing shoulders alongside wonderfully written, standout creations. I adore Alex Cohen and his dark edge. But he has a conscience, which the reader gets to see him battling with as the prospect of dealing heroin is put upon the table.

The plot moves quickly as it does in all three of these books. Each novel tends to cover a decade so the author has a lot to fit in. Scenes do jump quickly but I really enjoy that as it keeps the pace fresh – never a dull moment with Cohen around. Being a gangster novel, there is violence but it fits with the period and the setting. It’s all in keeping with what you would expect.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all three novels in the Alex Cohen series. They can be read as standalone novels but why would you when you can start at the very beginning and follow Alex on his journey as he steps off the boat from the Ukraine. They’re gritty, compelling books which deserve a wider readership. Hard-hitting crime noir with a likeable lead, this entire series is something quite special.

| The Bowery Slugger | East Side Hustler |

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

Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 16th July 2020 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 | amazon.com | Google Books | Goodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan @ZaffreBooks #CutToTheBone #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

cut to the bone“One Missing Girl. Two Million Suspects.

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls.

And she’s missing . . .

But she’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely?

Until the video’s uploaded . . .

Ruby, in the dirt, pleading for her life.

Enter Detective Inspector Kate Riley; the Met’s rising star and the head of a new team of investigators with the best resources money can buy. Among them, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, the poster boy for multiracial policing. But can Kate wholly trust him – and more importantly, can she trust herself around him?

As hysteria builds amongst the press and Ruby’s millions of fans, Kate and her team are under pressure to get results, and fast, but as they soon discover, the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much darker than anyone could have imagined.

And the videos keep coming . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my ninth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan. Cut to the Bone was published by Twenty7 on 14th July 2016 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cut to the Bone but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh my goodness, there is so much going on in this book which makes it a wild ride for the reader! And this is a debut, which is quite mind-blowing. Cut to the Bone didn’t have that tentative, first steps feel about it at all. Caan has obviously been perfecting his craft for some time and it really shows in this, his first novel.

Detective Inspector Kate Riley is called in the middle of the night to attend to a missing persons case. The young woman, a popular vlogger called Ruby Day, has only been missing a few hours but her parents are distraught. The call comes from Justin Hope, the Police Crime Commissioner for Westminster, and Kate can’t understand why her team who normally deal with the most heinous of crimes in London, are being involved. Then a video arrives which shows Ruby running for her life. Ruby is in terrible danger and it’s down to DI Riley and her elite team of investigators to find out where the vlogger is, before it’s too late…

The investigation into Ruby’s disappearance is great but what really made this a riveting read for me were the characters and the team dynamics. There are a number of rather repugnant, self-important people in this book who are rubbing alongside the determined, gutsy investigators. Special Operations Executive Unit Three is a no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object elite unit of investigators, headed up by slimy, career-driven, wannabe politician, Justin Hope. He made my skin crawl and I loved it! Reporting directly to Hope is Detective Inspector Kate Riley who, after leaving the US in a bid to escape a very personal threat, has her own problems at home. Initially, the reader isn’t told exactly what happened to Riley in her past to make her move to the UK, nor what her home situation is, but we’re given short, sharp glimpses which made me question what the heck was going on with her.

And then there’s DS Zain Harris who is cocky and arrogant but I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for him. Again, Harris has a traumatic past which is referred to often and given to the reader in dribs and drabs until you have the whole shocking picture. His loyalties don’t necessarily lie with DI Riley, he knowingly steps on the toes of his colleagues proving his tech far outshines theirs, but he proves himself to have a heart and will stop at nothing to solve the case. I wasn’t sure of him to start with but by the end of the book, I was a Harris fan!

The other members of the team felt a more cohesive unit but that’s not surprising because Harris is the new boy, out to prove himself. They’re a solid bunch of well fleshed out characters who each bring something interesting to the table. The plot is well thought out and takes you down numerous avenues of investigation before the team finally start to get somewhere. But that’s police work, right? Always searching for the means, motive and opportunity which will stick!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Cut to the Bone and the time I spent with Riley and Harris. It’s a dark and edgy police procedural which shows the devastating effects of social media and obsession. Taking you places you won’t initially expect, this hard-hitting debut is one to add to the TBR if you’re a fan of crime fiction. Recommended.

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

Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan was published in the UK by Twenty7 on 14th July 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Alex Caan was born in Manchester, has spent over a decade working in information systems security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing and completing his first novel Cut to the Bone. The sequel, First to Die was published on 14th June 2018.

#BookReview: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #MexicanGothic #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

mexican gothic“The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her.

Noemí’s chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.

Tough and smart, she possesses an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .”

Hello and welcome, bookish friends, to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia. Now the observant amongst you may be wondering where review number six has gone. Well, I’ll be sharing that on Thursday but seeing as it’s publication day for Mexican Gothic today (which is 30th June 2020 – happy publication day!), it seemed more fitting to share review seven before review six (that, or I’m just trying very hard to confuse myself!). I chose to read and review an eARC of Mexican Gothic but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ll be completely honest and say that I didn’t know what to expect from Mexican Gothic. I’ve read plenty of gothic novels over the years. They fit quite nicely into my love of dark fiction. But this book is billed as a historical gothic fantasy/romance and, as a reader of predominantly crime with a splash of horror on the side, this book felt a little like an unknown entity to me. I needn’t have worried. Mexican Gothic is a haunting gothic tale which played straight into my love of the horror genre, taking me on a terrifying journey into the very heart of a creepy old mansion and the sinister family who inhabit its walls.

Party girl and socialite Noemí Taboada is reluctant to follow her father’s wishes and visit her recently married cousin, Catalina, at High Place – a decrepit old mansion on the outskirts of a small Mexican village. But Catalina has written such a strange letter, leaving her family in Mexico City concerned for her mental health and well being, that Noemí feels she has no choice but to go — the promise of a place at University to study anthropology made by her father also helps! When Noemí arrives, she meets Catalina’s strange extended family. They’re guarded. She’s an unwelcome guest in their home but she feels something is definitely wrong at High Place. The more time she spends in the house, the more concerned she grows for Catalina and the more desperate she is to leave. But the more Noemí digs into the history of High Place and the Doyle family, the more frightening secrets she discovers…

I loved tenacious, fiery Noemí. She’s one gutsy woman who won’t be put in a box and behave as the era expects of her. She’s forthright, outspoken and determined to discover what is happening to her cousin and why Catalina reports of seeing ghosts. But getting to Catalina for any length of time is a problem as she’s closely guarded by the family and their staff. Other characters in the book (virtually all of the Doyle family actually) made me feel really uncomfortable, which I loved. I felt particular disgust for creepy old Howard Doyle, the family patriarch, his handsome yet utterly repulsive son, Virgil, and Howard’s niece, the detestable Florence. The scenes in the book between Noemí and Virgil are so brilliantly written, they physically made my skin crawl. Florence’s son, Francis, faired a little better. I wanted to know what his secret was though. What was he hiding from Noemí.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Mexican Gothic without revealing a few spoilers so I’m going to say as little as possible about it. The first half of the book, I found a touch slow. But I think that’s quite true of many gothic novels. You need time to get to know the characters and the setting and make that connection. The second half I loved and sped through the story. When the family secret is discovered, the pace really picks up and I struggled to put this book down. It’s so compelling and I was lost in the world of High Place alongside Noemí.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mexican Gothic is a chilling read and one I heartily recommend. With that stunning cover, a fierce female lead and a story that takes you places you don’t expect, this is a book not to be missed. Despite my initial reservations, I’m glad I read Mexican Gothic and lost myself for a few hours in the dark and dank corridors of High Place. As settings go, it’s going to be one I remember for some time to come. Recommended.

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

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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silvia moreno-garciaSilvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

 

 

#BookReview: The Secret by Katerina Diamond @AvonBooksUK #TheSecret #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the secret“Can you keep a secret? Your life depends on it…

When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back – of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets?

As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter.

And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Secret by Katerina Diamond. The Secret is the second book in Diamond’s DS Imogen Grey series and was published in all formats by Avon Books on 20th October 2016. I received a free eARC of The Secret but that has in no way influenced my review.

I confess, I’m a terrible book blogger. I read The Teacher (the first book in the DS Grey series) in 2017 and despite really enjoying it, I completely failed to review it. I read it shortly before my first massive reading slump (I can assure you, it was NOT the cause) and then never went back to write down my thoughts. I do regret that, as this series feels elevated from many of the run of the mill police procedurals out there. Diamond has no fear. She’s quite happy to shock and stun her audience with her graphic descriptions and the acts of violence her characters carry out. Which, of course, I absolutely love. I’m a reader who doesn’t shy away from a more brutal crime fiction novel. In fact, I wish more authors were as fearless as Diamond is, and were prepared to push the situations their characters find themselves in a little more.

Having recently returned to work, DS Imogen Grey and her partner, DS Adrian Miles, are tasked with finding a missing woman, Bridget Reid. Bridget was last seen by a hapless bystander half-conscious on the bank of a river after being pursued by two men. Both Grey and Miles know that they’re against the clock and they need to find Bridget soon, before the unthinkable happens. But their investigation grinds to a halt and they struggle to find a direction. As they dig deeper, more and more horrifying secrets are unearthed. Can they find Bridget alive, before it’s too late…?

This book is so much darker than the cover leads you to believe, and I kinda like that. With its grisly opening and it’s fast-paced story, led by a strong and gutsy female lead, it’s hard to not get sucked into this book from the get-go. Whether you’ll end up liking Detective Grey is another matter altogether but I think I’m certainly warming to her. One of the things I remember from reading the first book – The Teacher – was that I liked DS Adrian Miles more than Grey. But the more I get to know this character, the more I like what she’s about.

The story is multi-layered with lots going on to keep your interest. Everybody has a secret to some degree in this novel. There are chapters set in the present which follow the current investigation in Exeter with DS Grey and DS Miles. Then there are chapters set in the past – two years previous – which follow DS Grey and another officer, DS Sam Brown, on a different investigation in Plymouth. The reader discovers so much about Imogen and her past in this book, which I really enjoyed. Then there are some quite harrowing chapters from a young boy throughout the years who is unnamed but we get to follow him as his domineering and violent father carries out his despicable plans.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would but it’s not for the squeamish. There are some pretty grisly scenes in The Secret which I loved! The constant shift from the past to the present was a little disorientating at times, particularly if I had put the book down for a few hours before returning to it. But sitting here cogitating on the novel as a whole, I really enjoyed it and have since been able to piece the different aspects together. All in all, a very entertaining read and I really look forward to catching up with Grey and Miles again soon. Recommended.

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

The Secret by Katerina Diamond was published in the UK by Avon Books on 20th October 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads | Book Depository |

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Katerina DiamondKaterina is the author of the Sunday Times Best Selling Exeter based crime thriller series – starting with ‘The Teacher’ and followed by The Secret, The Angel, The Promise and Truth or Die. Katerina is currently working on her seventh novel which is a standalone.

Katerina also runs the facebook book group CRIME SUSPECT with several other crime authors.

Katerina currently lives in East Kent. Katerina was born in Weston-super-Mare and has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Katerina watches way too much TV.

#BookReview: The Proposal by S.E. Lynes @bookouture #TheProposal #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the proposal“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man.

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my first 20 Books of Summer review with you and it’s for a corker of a book – The Proposal by S.E. Lynes. The Proposal was published by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Proposal but that has in no way influenced my review.

Well, this book is a bit bonkers! And by ‘a bit’ I actually mean ‘totally and completely’ — and I loved it! What an intoxicating and unexpected ride the author took me on. I’ll be completely honest, from the design of the cover, I was expecting a fairly run of the mill psychological thriller. But I should have known better! S.E. Lynes is always pushing the boundaries and The Proposal is proof of that. I have loved this author’s work ever since I read her outstanding debut, Valentina, and I continue to do so (although I have fallen a little behind with her books I’m ashamed to say). If you haven’t read an S.E. Lynes book before, then I heartily recommend you remedy that as soon as possible.

Teacher and romance author, Pippa Gates, is uninspired with life. She’s recently divorced, has had a string of depressing Tinder hookups and is facing a deadline from her editor. The clock is ticking and she doesn’t have the foggiest idea of even the basic storyline for her next book, let alone any of the details her editor wants to hear. That’s when the doorbell rings. She’s not expecting company, but reluctantly opens the door and comes face to face with door-to-door salesman, Ryan Marks. Ryan has had a tough life but is trying to find his way back into society. It’s hard to describe, but Pippa feels an odd connection to this man. She wants to hear his story, it could help inspire her writing – the bestseller she’s dreamt of for so long could be stood in front of her – so she makes a proposal. She’s a street-smart and intelligent woman who knows exactly what she’s doing, doesn’t she…?

Oh my flipping goodness! What a compelling novel The Proposal is. There’s such a delicious sense of foreboding from the start and I was hooked instantly. I’m not sure I liked Pippa Gates, Novelist but I was more than happy to spend time with her. There’s ‘something’ about this character that made me want to follow her, I was drawn to her. The story is told in the main by Pippa in the form of diary entries. She speaks directly to the reader, which is only one aspect of the many in this book which I loved. She almost has a conversation with her reader, making judgements about you, your thoughts and your feelings. I loved it. And if you’re not a little intrigued by that first line: The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead… then WTF? There are also blog posts, references to Instagram posts and audio recordings which all put you thoroughly on edge and wanting to know more.

The first half of the book I devoured as I felt nervous as hell for a very reckless woman who seemed intent on putting herself in the most dangerous of situations. Lynes’s writing carried me along and I was lost in Pippa’s world. The second half of the book (it could have been the last third – I’m afraid I was so caught up in the action, I didn’t take note) slowed down a little for me as what I had feared, happened in full technicolour glory. The anticipation dropped a little, although my concern for Pippa certainly didn’t. This is one dark and devilish tale and I still stand by what I said earlier in this review – it’s a little bit bonkers. I was able to guess what one of the big twists was going to be but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. In fact, it made me read faster as I was desperate to have my suspicions confirmed or proven incorrect.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I would, yes. The Proposal is an edgy, no holds barred psychological thriller. There are times when the characters (or Pippa) do some pretty daft things, but just go with it. It’s such an intriguing, captivating, well-written book and goes to prove that Lynes is a ‘must read’ author (but I knew that already). Twisted, twisty and impossible to put down. Recommended.

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

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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S E Lynes Author PhotoS E Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT and THE PROPOSAL.

After graduating from Leeds University, Susie lived in London before moving to Aberdeen where she worked as a producer at the BBC before moving with her husband, Paul, and two young children to Rome.

In Rome, she began to write, snatching time where she could. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.

She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing. She has also published two children’s books in Italy.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Slash by Hunter Shea @flametreepress #Slash #damppebbles

9781787581791.jpg“Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains.

What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims.

The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.”

Hello bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Slash by Hunter Shea with you today. Slash was published by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Slash but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, this is a cracker of a book! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that I love the horror genre as much as I love crime fiction! I’m particularly fond of the ’80s slasher movie’ novels and tend to turn to horror when my reading mojo ups and leaves. I asked for recommendations a few months back and the lovely Sharron at booksbehindthetitle suggested I gave Slash a go as she’d recently read it and thought it would appeal. She was 100% right. I devoured this book. Slash has everything I look for in a horror novel but with so much more dolloped on top (in a steaming, festering, bloody pile).

Ashley King was the sole survivor of the Hayden Resort Massacre five years ago. Yup, she’s a Final Girl. Todd Matthews, her fiancé, returns home one day to find her lifeless body hanging in the basement. Heartbroken and grieving for his lost love, he returns to the site of the massacre to find out what really happened that fateful night. A serial killer named ‘The Wraith’ has always been held responsible for the murders and Todd, and his totally unprepared band of friends, want answers. But what they find living in the ruins of the Resort is a whole lot more than they ever expected….

This is Shea’s homage to slasher movies and I really enjoyed the high-stakes terror and the unashamed gore fest of Slash. But all is not what it first appears. This is the second book I’ve read by Hunter Shea – the first being Creature which is also well worth a look – but I get the feeling that Shea (and this really is just a feeling having read only two of this author’s books – don’t hate me if I’m wrong) has a very distinct style, which Slash benefits from. The story really ramped up a number of notches and was given an almighty gut pulverising twist.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. This is a blood soaked, rip roaring ride of a book and I loved every minute of it. If you’re not a fan of gore in your novels then perhaps this isn’t for you. But if you’ve got the stomach, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. It ticked so many boxes for me and I’m adding Shea’s previous books to the TBR.

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

Slash by Hunter Shea was published in the UK by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstones | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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hunter sheaHunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author photo and bio © https://huntershea.com/

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten @0neMoreChapter_ @BOTBSPublicity #DeadWrong #damppebbles

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“The serial killer is behind bars. But the murders are just beginning…

DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…”

Hello bookish friends and welcome to a brand new week on damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of the second book in Noelle Holten’s DC Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong. Dead Wrong was published by One More Chapter in paperback format on Thursday 14th May 2020 (it’s also available in digital format and audiobook, if that’s more your thing). I received a free digital copy of the book via NetGalley which has in no way influenced my review.

I read Holten’s debut – Dead Inside – last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I was excited to get my mitts on the second book in the series and catch up with the tenacious DC Jamieson once again. This time she’s back on home soil and reunited with her Major and Organised Crime Department colleagues at Stafford Police Station. Leaving behind the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Team she was seconded to in Dead Inside, Maggie is thrown straight in the deep end when the severed remains of a woman are discovered. But these remains instantly throw the biggest case and arrest in Maggie’s career into question. For these are the remains of Lorraine Rugman, one of the three victims notorious serial killer, Bill Raven, confessed to killing several years ago. Forensics confirm that Lorraine’s murder was recent — so why did Raven confess to the killings in the first place when it’s clear he wasn’t responsible? Who killed Lorraine, and can they be stopped before they kill again…?

Dead Wrong is a twisty cat and mouse police procedural and I was hooked from start to finish. The story revolves around whether convicted serial killer, Bill Raven, is actually a serial killer and whether he should have been convicted (by our dogged and determined detective constable, of course!) of the crimes he confessed to. Maggie knows the truth and there’s no way she’s going to let Raven walk free. But the rest of the team are looking at things from a different angle and analysing the little evidence they have, which frustrates Maggie no end. The plot is so well thought out and once again Holten totally flummoxed me as I didn’t have a clue where the story was going.

The team spend a large proportion of time chasing their tails, pondering the very little evidence they have and telling Maggie to stop being so obsessed with Raven and his mind games. I loved this as it allowed more of the characters’ personalities to shine through. We get to see a lot more of Maggie in this second book but one character does not a police procedural make. The other characters are just as important and they all add something to the story, no matter how fleeting their appearance. I really warmed to DI Abigail Rutherford and found her a strong and formidable personality (if a little tetchy at times, but I love tetchy!). I hope we see a lot more of her in future.

I think the standout character for me in the novel though is Bill Raven who likes nothing more than playing clever mind games and tormenting poor Maggie at every given opportunity. Winding her up and watching her burn whilst her colleagues shake their heads in dismay at her ever-so-slightly obsessive behaviour. As a reader you know he’s bad news, but you can’t help but doubt whether he’s part of the killings. After all, he’s been locked up in prison for a couple of years now. It doesn’t make any sense!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a well-written, tense and gritty crime novel. I’m particularly looking forward to reading the third book in the series following the brilliantly shocking twist at the end of Dead Wrong. I certainly didn’t see that one coming!! If you haven’t read the first book in the series then fret not, Dead Wrong can easily be read as a standalone. Holten is definitely one to watch. Recommended.

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

Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 14th May 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside is her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Broken Steel by Stuart Field (@StuartField14) @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #BrokenSteel #NextChapterPub #damppebbles

Broken-Steel-2-Main-File“After ten years in prison for his wife’s murder, Brian Armstrong is free.

When a freak accident with the prison transport gives him and two others an opportunity to escape, they seize it. With revenge in his heart, Brian disappears into the storm-filled city. After an ex-schoolteacher is found dead, Detective John Steel is brought in to investigate.

The circumstances are mysterious – just the way Steel likes it. His partner Samantha McCall is convinced the timing between the escape and the death of the teacher are more than coincidence. As they start to investigate, the case becomes more complex than they could have ever imagined. With time running out, can they find the killer and bring him to justice?”

Hello! Emma has kindly passed the reviewing baton over to me today so that I can share my thoughts on Broken Steel by Stuart Field with you. I received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

When a bus carrying convicted criminals crashes on it’s way to court, it is not surprising that some make the break for freedom. But they then have a choice, lie low to avoid being caught or settle some old scores. So when people associated with the cases of the escapees start turning up dead, there is a big puzzle for Steel and McCall to solve.

This is my first book in the Steel series. There is clearly a fascinating backstory to this character but the book can still happily be read as a standalone. Steel is the classic ‘riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and served with a side of mystery’ for us to have so little insight into the thinking of one of the main characters is a fascinating read. His partner, Samantha McCall, is much more transparent giving this partnership of contrasts an easy to understand character and a conundrum! Steel is impressive in that he contains many of the generalisations for lead characters but feels head and shoulders above many of his peers as a well formed character. Whether he is looking for answers in traditional ways or serving up his own form of justice, he comes across as consistent and focussed on solving the crimes. McCall brings her own perspective and insight into the investigation and takes decisive actions in the investigation rather than being dismissed to the role of trusty sidekick.

The story was strong and well written and Stuart Field avoids the temptation of making it all action. The scenes around the desk at the station, as the police search for clues, were as intriguing as the action scenes were immersive. The balance of action and mystery was so well made with the book feeling at home in both the ‘action thriller’ and ‘crime’ genre.

There are certainly twists in the book, red herrings and well drawn characters on both sides of the law. Who can be trusted, and who will betray Steel and McCall, keeps the reader on their toes throughout this novel.

Will I be reading more Steel? I hope so! I would happily recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining, well written and intriguing crime action thriller, and will be keeping my eye out to read more in the future.

Broken Steel by Stuart Field was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 26th February 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comGoodreads |

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Stuart FieldStuart Field was born in the UK, in the West Midlands. He spent his early years in the army, seeing service in all the known (and some unknown) hotspots around the world. He now lives in Germany with his wife Ani. When not engaged in highly confidential security work, he writes thrillers which perhaps mimic his life-experience more than the reader would like to believe.

#BookReview: After Dark by Dominic Nolan @headlinepg @RosieMargesson @1stMondayCrime #AfterDark #damppebbles

After Dark.jpg“PEOPLE ARE BORN. MONSTERS ARE MADE.

A girl held captive her entire life

After a shocking discovery, the police must unravel a mystery that horrifies the nation.

A detective condemned as a criminal

Violently abducted while searching for a missing woman, D.S. Abigail Boone suffered retrograde amnesia – remembering nothing of her previous life. Defying the law to hunt those responsible, she now languishes behind bars.

A monster hiding in the shadows

In desperation, police turn to Boone – who fears a connection to the disappearance of a child three decades earlier…and a mysterious underworld figure whose name is spoken only in whispers. Freed from prison, what will Boone sacrifice – and who must she become – to uncover the terrifying truth?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of After Dark, the second book in Dominic Nolan’s Abigail Boone series. Had life been ‘normal’ then today would have been May’s First Monday get-together in London, which Dom was due to appear at. But life is a little upside down at the moment so instead you’ll have to make do with my ramblings about Dom’s latest book instead (it’s brilliant!). I received a free copy of After Dark but that has in no way influenced my review.

Wow, this is some book! Gritty and unflinching, I was drawn into Boone’s world from the get-go. With a brilliantly brutal prologue, if, like me, you go into After Dark wondering what to expect from former-Detective Abigail Boone, then the scene is swiftly set. I was instantly hooked and I wanted to find out more. Now I should probably mention at this point that I haven’t read the first book in the series, Past Life but I really want to. I wanted to read it before a copy of After Dark landed in my mitts, as I had heard good things (really, really good things!) from fellow crime readers. After Dark can be read as a standalone but I think it would be beneficial to start at the beginning and follow Boone’s story from the beginning. Boone’s situation is laid clearly before the reader by the very talented Nolan but I felt as though I was missing out, like I’d arrived a little late to the party. Could just be my overexuberant sense of FOMO though!

Former Detective Abigail Boone is a masterpiece, a stand-out character among her crime-fighting peers. If you’re a regular reader of crime fiction then I can assure you that you’ve not met anyone like Boone before. Boone suffers from retrograde amnesia following an accident which could have killed her. The first chunk of her life not even a distant memory. Just a big fat blank. The accident, the consequences and everything Boone lost (and in some strange ways, gained) is touched upon in the novel. Turning her back on the Force, Boone opts to dish out her own brand of justice and it’s compelling reading. Gung-ho, violent, reckless and not for the faint hearted, Boone takes the reader on an intense and thrilling ride, and I loved it!

The story is split between the past (four or five years ago) and the present. It’s a beautifully detailed and intricate tale, but I found I had to concentrate a little more to keep tabs on where in time we were. The reason for that could be something to do with not reading Past Life first, meaning I wasn’t familiar enough with the characters and what had gone before (as previously mentioned – this will be rectified, I will be reading Past Life).

I haven’t even begun to tell you about the plot yet. There really is so much to say about this brilliant book but I’ll try and keep it brief. When a young girl is found wandering the back lanes  of Kent on her own, looking malnourished and abused, DI Barbara Bowen (who is glorious!) is called in. This is the main storyline which runs through the book. The abuse the girl has been subjected to is horrific, inhuman and the stuff the very worst nightmares are made of. The author doesn’t go into detail but the abuse is discussed among the characters, conclusions are drawn and the over-riding subject matter of the book is what happened to the poor girl and the search for the monster who destroyed her. Boone is ‘sprung’ from prison early (it’s all very legal and above board) by DI Bowen in an attempt to help catch the predator, evil incarnate.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But I think it’s worth getting a copy of Past Life and starting there so you can appreciate every brilliant moment of After Dark to it’s fullest. I need more Boone in my life. Gritty, dark, intelligent crime fiction at it’s best. Something a bit different and I flipping loved it! Nolan is definitely an author to watch out for. I’m really, really excited to see what the future holds.

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

After Dark by Dominic Nolan was published in the UK by Headline Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in July (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | BookDepositoryGoodreads |

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dominic-nolan.jpgDominic Nolan is a British author, known for the Abigail Boone series of crime novels.