#BookReview: Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #DogRoseDirt #damppebbles

“What if your mother had been writing to a serial killer?

A convicted murderer with a story to tell

Serial killer Michael Reave – known as The Red Wolf – has been locked in Belmarsh Prison for over 20 years for the brutal and ritualistic murders of countless women.

A grieving daughter with a secret to unearth

Ex-journalist Heather Evans returns to her childhood home after her mother’s inexplicable suicide and discovers something chilling – hundreds of letters between her mother and Reave, dating back decades.

A hunt for a killer ready to strike again

When the body of a woman is found decorated with flowers, just like his victims, Reave is the only person alive who could help. After years of silence, he will speak to Heather, and only Heather.

If she wants to unearth the truth and stop further bloodshed, she’ll have to confront a monster.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams. Dog Rose Dirt is published today (that’s Thursday 22nd July 2021) by Harper Collins and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dog Rose Dirt but that has in no way influenced my review.

There was no way on this earth I was going to be able to resist this book. The cover is stunning, the title is quite different to everything else out there so it immediately grabbed my attention, and the words ‘serial killer’ had me downloading a copy faster than you could say, well, ‘serial killer’!

Heather Evans receives dreadful news which sends her rushing back to the town, and the house, she grew up in. Her mother, who Heather readily admits she hasn’t really seen or spoken to for a while, has committed suicide. The note she left was confusing. Heather can’t quite believe it’s true but begins the unenviable task of packing up her childhood home. But sifting through the mundane, Heather finds letters going back years between her mild-mannered mother and the notorious serial killer known to all as The Red Wolf, Michael Reave. It makes no sense. But ex-journalist Heather is determined to find out why her mother has been sharing such personal correspondence with a convicted killer for decades. Particularly as the body of a woman has just been found, decorated with flowers, just as Reave used to do with his victims…

Heather’s story and her search for the truth had me glued to the pages throughout this intriguing crime debut. How well do we really know those we’re closest to? Probably not as well as we think! And that’s one of the main hurdles Heather has to cross in the unravelling of her mother’s life. Due to the recent bout of killings, which undeniably have a link to Reave in their similarity, Heather arranges to meet with the Red Wolf. She plans on using her journalistic skills to get the truth about her mother from the killer and discover more about their shared friendship, along with finding out her mother’s state of mind before she took her own life and wrote that strange suicide note. But Michael is intent on only sharing fables and morbid fairy tales which confuse and frustrate Heather, along with the police team investigating the recent murders.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dog Rose Dirt is a well-written slow burn mystery which I found to be a compelling page turner. Some aspects of the story I guessed from fairly early on. Others I didn’t. This is the author’s debut crime novel but she’s an established writer in a different genre, which shows in the construction of the story and the narrative. Heather isn’t the most appealing of central characters but she had a rawness and a realness about her which I really appreciated. I don’t think you have to fall in love with a lead to become part of their story, I’ve said something along these lines many times before, but I was cheering her on. I wanted her to discover the truth, whatever that would be. I enjoyed Dog Rose Dirt and I would happily read more crime fiction written by this author. I hope there’s more to come. Recommended.

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

Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 22nd July 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022 (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their small ridiculous cat. A fan of pirates and dragons from an early age, these days she writes character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of banter and magic, and dark unsettling thrillers with strong female leads. In 2015 she was nominated for Best Newcomer in the British Fantasy Awards. She is represented by Juliet Mushens of Mushens Entertainment.

The Copper Cat trilogy consists of The Copper Promise, The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide – all published by Headline in the UK – and the first two books in the trilogy are available in the US and Canada, published by Angry Robot. Both The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide have also been nominated for British Fantasy Awards, and she is partly responsible for founding the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, a social group that meets in London to celebrate a love of fantasy.

Her second fantasy series, the Winnowing Flame trilogy, kicked off with The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins, and ended with The Poison Song in May 2019. The Ninth Rain and The Bitter Twins both went on to win the British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel in their respective years. When not cursing herself for writing really long books, she can be found writing advertising copy for books, or selling books. It’s all about books, really.

Her latest novel, Dog Rose Dirt, a thriller, will be published in July 2021 in the UK by HarperCollins, and in the US by Crooked Lane under the title A Dark and Secret Place. It has also sold in Germany, Brazil and Spain. Interests outside of reading and writing include drawing witches, playing video games, and watching cartoons. She has a particular passion for animation and history, and will bore you to death about either if she gets half a chance.

#BookReview: The Castaways by Lucy Clarke @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #TheCastaways #damppebbles

“A SECRET BEACH.
A HOLIDAY OF A LIFETIME.
WISH YOU WERE HERE?

THINK AGAIN…

It should be like any other holiday.

Beautiful beaches.
Golden sunsets.
Nothing for miles.

You’ll never want to leave.
Until you can’t…

Gripping, twisty and full of sun-soaked atmosphere, THE CASTAWAYS will whisk you far away to the island – and never let you go.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Castaways by Lucy Clarke. The Castaways will be published in paperback format on Thursday (that’s 8th July 2021) by HarperCollins and is also available in hardcover, audio and ebook. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Castaways but that has in no way influenced my review.

Well, this book delivered a whole lot more than I was expecting! I’m a bit of a weirdo in that I’m fascinated by air disasters and regular readers of damppebbles may have noticed an increase in books with a plane crash, hijack or disappearance as the theme featuring strongly over the last month or so. I think an abundance of Sunday lunchtime ‘reality’ shows in my youth taught me that if you’re a castaway, you probably got to be one following the sinking of your boat (or the producers dropped you and a number of other overly attractive ‘survivors’ off earlier that morning 🤭). That is not the case in this gripping page-turner of a thriller, no siree. One uninhabited island and one small passenger plane en-route to an exclusive Fijian resort make for a compelling tale which hooked me instantly.

The blurb doesn’t give a lot away but this is a book about guilt, about the bond held between two sisters, it’s about perseverance, about obsession and about falling in love. It also has a deliciously dark vein running through its pages. After all, this is not the intended trip to paradise the characters originally set out for. The need to survive against all odds, the threat strangers can bring, the lies we tell and the secrets we keep all contribute to a fascinating and engaging storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed The Castaways and discovering more about sisters, Lori and Erin.

Lori, following her recent separation from her husband, books a holiday for her and Erin at an exclusive island resort in Fiji. The night before their flight from the mainland to the resort, they argue. The following day, Lori goes to board the plane but Erin doesn’t show. A nervous flyer, she boards anyway, casting a wary eye over her fellow travellers. Something doesn’t feel right, one or two of the other passengers are making her nervous, and rightly so. Partway to the island, the flight disappears leaving Erin distraught and full of guilt. It should have been both of them on that plane. Whatever happened to Lori, she went through it alone. Erin, a journalist, becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her sister. Guilt pushes her on. But the trail gradually goes cold. Until two years later, when a survivor is found…

The Castaways has a cast of skilfully written characters and an atmospheric setting which I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t want to say too much about this book as I feel, because of the brief blurb, that anything I do say could unintentionally be a spoiler. So I’ll keep the rest of this review short and sweet because I already feel as though what I’ve said could be bordering on spoiler territory (although the title of the book – The Castaways – does provide a little reassurance).

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Castaways is a compelling story told with confidence. I really loved the ending, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting but it felt strangely right following what had come before. All in all, a very readable, very entertaining tale which I recommend.

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

The Castaways by Lucy Clarke was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 8th July 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lucy ClarkeLucy Clarke is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers – THE SEA SISTERS, A SINGLE BREATH, THE BLUE/NO ESCAPE, LAST SEEN, YOU LET ME IN and THE CASTAWAYS. Her debut novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and her books have been sold in over 20 territories.

Lucy is a passionate traveller, beach hut dweller, and fresh air enthusiast. She’s married to a professional windsurfer and, together with their two young children, they spend their winters travelling and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut, using the inspiration from the wild south coast to craft her stories.

#BookReview: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere #HostageBook #damppebbles

“You can save hundreds of lives.
Or the one that matters most . . .

The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.

Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home – or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.

But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They’re demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.

It’s twenty hours to landing.
A lot can happen in twenty hours . . “

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. Hostage is published by Sphere today (that’s Tuesday 22nd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Hostage but that has in no way influenced my review.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of books with a disaster theme to them. I LOVE them. The complete lack of control the characters have. The gut wrenching knowledge of the situation they’re in. And in the case of Hostage, the intense claustrophobia pressing down on the characters heightening every situation, every twist and turn. There was no way on this earth I was going to be able to resist Hostage, and I loved every second I spent with this immersive thriller.

Mina Holbrook is part of the cabin crew for the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney since 1989. It’s a momentous occasion and one she had to fight for, if only to avoid an uncomfortable lead up to Christmas with her estranged husband, playing happy families. Flight 79 will be remembered forever…but not for the reasons everyone is expecting. A couple of hours into the twenty hour flight, Mina receives a note which changes everything. She must help a hijacker access the flight deck. It goes against everything she believes in, everything she trained for. But the hijacker knows exactly how to get Mina’s co-operation. She has a choice to make; save many lives or just the one…

What a page-turner! I was completely engrossed in Hostage from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride (although I won’t be getting on a plane anytime soon!). It’s a gripping, heart-stopping thriller and I devoured it quicker than anything else I’ve read recently. I struggled with how I felt about Mina. Ultimately she’s put in a very difficult position and makes a choice that I could completely understand. Was it the right decision? Who knows! But I disliked her for it despite it being the decision many of us would also make. Thank goodness this is fiction and not real life. However, after that first event, I started to warm to her again and I think that’s a mark of the author’s excellent writing.  She’s a villain, yes, but she’s not the biggest one by far!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book when I wasn’t reading it. The pull it had over me was great and I was desperate to find out what terrible event was going to happen next. The reader gets a few short insights into the other passengers lives before the flight and this really helped build their characters for me. There are shocks and surprises galore but I had my suspicions about one aspect of the book which proved to be correct. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story at all though. If anything, it added an extra thrill to the big reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Hostage is a gripping thrill-ride of a read which I devoured with glee. There were certain points in the book where I had to suspend my disbelief a little but again, it’s a cracking story so does it really matter. I was entertained. I will admit to shedding a tear at one point but I can’t tell you where or why. You’ll just have to read this cracking novel for yourself! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it won’t be my last. An edge of your seat thriller which I highly recommend.

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

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 22nd June 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

With more than two million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club. Clare’s latest novel, After the End, was published in June 2019 and spent seven weeks in the Sunday Times hardback bestseller chart.

Clare’s latest thriller, Hostage, will be published in June 2021.

Together, Clare’s books have been published in more than forty countries. Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#BookReview: Passenger List by J.S. Dryden @TrapezeBooks #PassengerList #damppebbles

“A missing plane.
A cabin full of suspects.
One woman’s quest for the truth.

When Atlantic Airlines Flight 702 disappears mid-flight between London and New York, the world is stunned. With the public clamouring for answers, authorities seem at a loss as to how to explain the plane’s disappearance.

There were 256 passengers on Flight 702, with many carrying dark secrets on board with them. Could one of them hold the truth behind the plane’s disappearance?

College student Kaitlin Le’s beloved twin brother Conor was on that plane. She refuses to believe the official statements, or to join her parents in their blind acceptance of Conor’s death.

But as she journeys deeper into the murky heart of what really happened on board that plane, it becomes clear she’s drawing attention to herself. And there are some people who would rather the truth behind the fate of Flight 702 stayed buried…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Passenger List by J.S. Dryden. Passenger List will be published by Trapeze Books next week (that’s Thursday 24th June 2021) and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Passenger List but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of disaster based thrillers and mysteries, particularly those featuring a hijacked or missing plane. So when I saw this book, it absolutely screamed my name. This is the third plane-based thriller I have read this month (but only the second I’ve reviewed so far on the blog) but it’s slightly different in its approach to the first two, both of which involved a hijacking. Passenger List is more of a fast-paced mystery. I was swept up into Kaitlin Le’s story and oh boy, it was one heck of a ride!

Kaitlin Le refuses to acknowledge the presumed death of her twin brother, Conor. Conor was a passenger on Atlantic Airlines Flight 702 which disappeared during a scheduled flight from London to New York. She’s his twin, surely she would know if he had perished. But with the authorities sticking to one story, Kaitlin has a battle on her hands. Turning her back on her education and her place at Vassar, partly funded by her roommate, Amelia, Kaitlin heads to New York to dig deeper into what happened to flight 702 and ultimately, to find Conor. No matter what it takes…

Kaitlin Le is one tenacious and persistent woman! Where others would have walked away for fear of their life, Kaitlin refuses to give up. I loved her drive. It made for an exciting and thrilling read. She’s pretty reckless at times and gets herself into some terrifying scrapes but she keeps going. Ably assisted by a small group of fascinating characters (an investigative journalist, an ex-FBI agent, an ambulance-chasing lawyer) all of whom help move the story along and add something interesting to the tale.

On analysing the passenger list and digging a little deeper, Kaitlin is able to come up with several possible reasons as to why the flight changed course and vanished. I liked the variety this gave the story. Leads had to be investigated, the truth uncovered (as much as possible) before Kaitlin could decide whether it was worth taking her idea forward. There were a couple of points in the book where I felt things got a little far-fetched but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story at all.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. After reading several plane-based thrillers of late Passenger List‘s different approach made a thoroughly enjoyable change. I found the book easy to read and hard to put down, so much so that I sped through it in a little over 24 hours. A gripping, thrilling read which I heartily recommend to fans of plot-driven mysteries. Just don’t blame me if you never step foot on a plane again! Recommended. (And if you’re a fan of podcasts I believe there’s an accompanying series which you can listen to via the author’s website or your favourite podcast outlet.)

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Passenger List. The above review is my ow unbiased opinion.

Passenger List by J.S. Dryden was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 24th June 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Thumanbay_by The Masons-57.jpegJohn Dryden is a writer, director and executive producer. He created the fiction podcast PASSENGER LIST, a mystery thriller about a plane that disappears mid-flight between London and New York, and the historical fantasy series TUMANBAY which has run for four series. He has written and directed many audio drama series for the BBC including the thrillers SEVERED THREADS, A KIDNAPPING, PANDEMIC and THE RELUCTANT SPY. He has also dramatised and directed for BBC Radio 4 a Sony Award winning dramatization of Charles Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE, Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE and Vikram Seth’s A SUITABLE BOY.

#GuestReview: Black Rose (Larkin’s Barkin #1) by Pete Adams @Peteadams8 @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #BlackRose #damppebbles

“Existence is about survival.

A continually bullied runt of a youngster, Chas Larkin discovers his chutzpah and decides to take on the London gangs.

In the sleazy and violent East End of 1966 London, he is unwittingly assisted by Scotland Yard and MI5, who use the boy to delay an IRA campaign in the city. Together with the mysterious DCI Casey, an enigma amongst the bomb-damaged slums, they stir the pot of fermenting disquiet.

But can Chas achieve his midsummer night’s dream of total revenge?

Black Rose is a story of matriarchal might, of superstition, of a lucky charm tainted with malevolent juju, and of a young man’s smoldering anger and thirst for retribution.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I’m handing the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who is going to share his thoughts on Black Rose: A Midsummer Night’s Chutzpah (Larkin’s Barkin #1) by Pete Adams. Black Rose was published by Gumshoe on 31st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats. Ryan chose to read and review a free eARC of Black Rose which has in no way influenced his review.

Over to Ryan…

Pete Adams, fresh from the enjoyable Kind Hearts and Martinets and DaDa Detective Agency series, has turned his attention to the London of the mid 60’s. In this new environment, Adams has created two families at war for generations, but who own pubs next to each other and are both nervously watching a new family try to establish dominance on their patch. We meet a new police officer, DCI Casey, who appears in the local nick with his eyes on a potential local tie to the IRA and at the heart of it all is Chas Larkin.  Young, limping, angry and waiting for a chance of vengeance. All the ingredients for a fantastic crime thriller with characters and humour that will keep you smiling long after you’ve finished the story.

Given this synopsis there are two ways in which an author can take this story. Some would create a dark, gritty thriller filled with suspense, double crossing and grim faces. Pete Adams is not that author! Pete creates wild characters filled with eccentricity and life who bounce off the page. He then puts them in situations which can appear gently surreal whilst building a top class plot around the whole package.  If you are after pure escapism of the highest class this is a great book for you.

Black Rose, whilst the start of a new series, delivers as a standalone. The two main protagonists we follow throughout the book are the mysterious DCI Casey from Ireland who is on a zealous mission to stop the IRA carrying out atrocities in the heart of London by stopping the flow of funding and weapons. And Chas Larkin, seen as the local invalid, unloved and unwatched as he plans and schemes with the enigmatic Roisin Dubh – the Black Rose. A blur of energy, which seems to consistently lead to death and explosions, the Black Rose is the Devil on Chas’s shoulder, but what does she really want?

I loved this new novel from Pete Adams. It was the ‘pick me up’ read I needed and demonstrates that it is possible to bring together satirical characters, humorous scenarios and excellent plotting. The whole book will leave you wanting more, whether that is the next book in the Larkin’s Barkin series or one of Adams’s other series then that is up to you and your Kindle!  Highly recommended.

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

Black Rose: A Midsummers Night’s Chutzpah (Larkin’s Barkin #1) by Pete Adams was published in the UK by Gumshoe on 31st January 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Pete Adams is an architect with a practice in Portsmouth, UK, and from there he has, over forty years, designed and built buildings across England and Wales. Pete took up writing after listening to a radio interview of the writer Michael Connolly whilst driving home from Leeds. A passionate reader, the notion of writing his own novel was compelling, but he had always been told you must have a mind map for the book; Jeez, he could never get that.

Et Voila, Connolly responding to a question, said he never can plan a book, and starts with an idea for chapter one and looks forward to seeing where it would lead. Job done, and that evening Pete started writing and the series, Kind Hearts and Martinets, was on the starting blocks. That was some eight years ago, and hardly a day has passed where Pete has not worked on his writing, and currently, is halfway through his tenth book, has a growing number of short stories, one, critically acclaimed and published by Bloodhound, and has written and illustrated a series of historical nonsense stories called, Whopping Tales.

Pete describes himself as an inveterate daydreamer, and escapes into those dreams by writing crime thrillers with a thoughtful dash of social commentary. He has a writing style shaped by his formative years on an estate that re-housed London families after WWII, and his books have been likened to the writing of Tom Sharpe; his most cherished review, “made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think”.

Pete lives in Southsea with his partner, and Charlie the star-struck Border terrier, the children having flown the coop, and has 3 beautiful granddaughters who will play with him so long as he promises not to be silly.

#BookReview: Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez #CampSlaughter #damppebbles

“It’s a local legend.

No one is sure if this “Camp Slaughter” place is real or not.

But a group of college kids renting out a cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania will soon realize the truth.

They’ll realize the danger, too.

Or rather, the cannibal out in the woods will bring the danger to them…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez. Camp Slaughter was published on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital format. It’s also available as a Kindle Unlimited download.

Camp Slaughter is so much fun. I raced through this book desperate to find out if any of the characters would make it to the end. I love sleep so it’s not often I stay up late reading (shock!) but Camp Slaughter has the ‘one more chapter’ pull which I know you, dear reader, will be familiar with. I couldn’t put it down, I just had to read one more chapter, again and again, until it was WAY past my bedtime!

Fred and his best friend, Gavin, are planning a last hurrah before they officially become adults. Gavin has organised a remote cabin in the Pennsylvanian woods for the weekend so they contact a group of friends (their local drug dealer, the girls the boys are interested in, and, unfortunately, Gavin’s fourteen year old brother, Wayne) and hit the road. Fred has a few concerns as he happened across a news article about a couple going missing from the same spot but the allure of Noelle and the opportunity to make things ‘official’ between them, along with the promise of a booze and drug-filled weekend, pushes any concerns to the back of his mind. But the group have every right to be worried. They’re not alone in the woods. There’s something else out there and it wants to join the party…

If you’re a fan of 80s slasher movies then this book is a must read. I tend to prefer slasher novels to other horror sub-genres and this is one of the best I’ve read. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end. We’re introduced to married couple, Nadine and Stephen Lang, who have booked Lakewood Cabin to get Stephen away from work for a much needed break and to spice up their dwindling marriage. On their first night they hear a strange noise which marks the start of this fast-paced and gloriously gory thrill-ride of a story. The story then fast forwards one year to our main protagonists planning their last minute getaway. All the while knowing things aren’t going to go quite to plan.

The pace doesn’t let up from start to finish, which is why I struggled to put this one down. I had to keep reading. I had to find out what was going to happen next and to whom. The setting is haunting and atmospheric allowing me to picture the deserted campsite and feel the fear the characters were experiencing. I felt oddly sympathetic at times which was peculiar, to say the least, as the characters igniting these feelings deserved no sympathy whatsoever! *shudder*

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Camp Slaughter is one of the best slasher novels I’ve read and I savoured every minute of it. The author has done a terrific job of keeping his reader on their toes by doing things you wouldn’t expect throughout the story. There are touches of the paranormal, a well-defined backstory of another of the main characters and multiple ways of killing the characters which all added up to a very well-written, very enjoyable tale of blood, guts and gore. It’s a little cheesy, yes, but that just made me love it even more! I did find the ending a little disappointing as I like a nice big ‘THE END’ which you don’t get in this book (second time that’s happened recently) but I look forward to reading more from Gomez very soon. Recommended to those with a strong stomach.

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez was published in the UK on 27th August 2019 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 | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sergio GomezBorn in Mexico. Raised in the ‘States. I live in Philadelphia with my family, which includes 3 cats. I enjoy writing novels that evoke thrills, fears, and any strong emotions out of my readers. I’m an avid reader, a martial artist, and a Nintendo fanboy.

#BookReview: The Invitation by A.M. Castle #TheInvitation #damppebbles

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Perfect for fans of Lucy Foley’s The Guest List and Agatha Christie.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Invitation by A.M. Castle. The Invitation is published today (that’s Thursday 27th May 2021) by HQ Digital in paperback format. I couldn’t resist this book when it popped up on my social media feed so I treated myself and purchased a copy straight away!

It’s the wedding of the century! Socialite and all-round media star, Rachel Cadogan, has married her beau, the young at heart Lord of the Manor, Ross Tregowan. To celebrate their nuptials and introduce Ross to Rachel’s oldest friends, the new Lady of the Manor invites Gita, Jane and Vicky (plus their children and spouses) to a lavish, no expense spared weekend at her brand new abode, Tregowan castle. The castle, situated on the Cornish coast and only accessible by a causeway twice a day, is the perfect opportunity for the friends to reconnect and unwind. But on arrival, tensions are high. Rachel seems to be going out of her way to cause upset and reveal long held secrets with no consideration of anyone else’s feelings. On the night of Rachel’s Halloween party, the lights go out suddenly. What greets the group when power is restored is both gruesome and shocking. One of the party has been murdered. Which can mean only one thing. Someone on the island is a murderer, and the fun has only just begun…

The Invitation is a very entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable book. I really enjoyed the set-up in the first half of the story. With Rachel’s well aimed little jabs here and there adding an unpredictability to proceedings. Watching as Rachel toyed with her guests. And toy she did! Only for her friends to roll their eyes on occasion and mutter ‘oh Rachel’ under their breath. It was eye-opening how far she was able to push them, all because of money and a dash of celebrity status. Out of the characters, Rachel was probably my favourite. Of course, with someone openly speaking long-hidden truths, it’s not long before the tension mounts and anger builds for the characters.  They discover secrets about friends they’ve known for years, people they trusted have deceived them. Which puts everyone in line to be the murderer. Who can they trust?

The isolation and seclusion the setting gives the book really ramps up the tension. The characters watch as the waves reach new breath-taking heights, whilst keeping a suspicious eye on those around them. I had a fair idea of whodunit but the author was able to make me doubt my choice throughout the second half of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a tense, closed room murder mystery with a great setting then The Invitation is the perfect fit. I loved the atmosphere the author portrays, the simmering undercurrent between the friends and the sense that nothing is quite as it first appears. A.M. Castle is a new author to me but I would gladly read more. Recommended.

The Invitation by A.M. Castle was published in the UK by HQ Digital on 27th May 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

A.M. CastleA. M. Castle’s latest twisty thriller, The Invitation, is already being compared to Agatha Christie and Lucy Foley: ‘Very cleverly written… genuinely jaw-dropping twists.’ ‘I loved it and look forward to A.M. Castle’s next work. This deserves to be on the bestseller list this year.’ ‘Very Agatha Christie.’ ‘One for fans of Lucy Foley.’

#BookReview: Hermit by S.R. White #Hermit #damppebbles

“HE DISAPPEARED FOR 15 YEARS…UNTIL THE DAY OF THE MURDER.

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper’s THE DRY and Chris Hammer’s SCRUBLANDS.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hermit by S.R. White. Hermit was published by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in all formats.

I couldn’t resist this book. I’m a sucker for Australian crime fiction and Hermit seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. This is S.R. White’s debut with the follow-up – Prisoner – being released later in 2021 (and I can’t wait to read it!).

Detective Dana Russo is called on her day off to the scene of a murder. They have a suspect in custody but something just doesn’t feel right. Dana is tasked with interrogating the suspect, Nathan Whittler, discovering if he’s guilty and securing a confession. But despite the police department’s best efforts, they can find no up-to-date record of Nathan. It’s almost like he hasn’t existed for the last 15 years. Who killed the shopkeeper? Where has Nathan been for 15 years? And most importantly of all, what is he hiding….?

I enjoyed this book but the first thing I feel compelled to say about it is that I did have a couple of teeny tiny issues with it. However, the compelling character-driven plot and the intriguing way the author sets out his story completely won me over. I won’t go into any real detail as to what those niggles were, as I think that will spoil the book for new readers, but I will say I have a pet peeve when it comes to crime fiction and unfortunately the author based some of this story around that pet peeve. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last but safe to say, it’s something I find quite frustrating and therefore felt the need to mention it.

Hermit is a very intriguing character driven mystery which I enjoyed. Detective Dana Russo is a woman with a dark past. The author does a terrific job of teasing his readers with glimpses into Dana’s mind and showing us her internal fragility throughout the story. Towards the end of the book you do discover a little more about Dana’s past but I don’t think we know the whole story yet. I think there’s more to come, and I am keen to learn what it is.

When Bill Meeks, Dana’s boss, calls her into work on a day off – a day she takes as paid leave every year – Dana is thrown. But it might just have saved her life. Pitting her against silent Nathan is a work of genius as the two seem to have some sort of odd connection. To get Nathan to talk, Dana has to share some of her personal thoughts and experiences, whilst remaining professional and distant at all times. A large proportion of this novel is the police interview between Dana and Nathan which won’t be to everyone’s taste but I found it fascinating and was keen to read on. It’s a gradual, intricate unravelling of a life and I was completely absorbed.

The other members of the small team all add to the story. I particularly liked feisty administrator, Lucy. Her quick witted banter with colleague, Mike, added a lighter note to proceedings, which I enjoyed. I’m keen to read more about these characters, I think the author has created something quite special and I already feel invested. Perhaps a strange thing to say after one book but true, nonetheless.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Despite a couple of tiny niggles, I found Hermit to be a compulsive read. It’s a slow-burn mystery perfect for fans of character driven novels. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s ‘something’ about these characters and I want to know more. A well-written and bravely different mystery which I really enjoyed. Recommended.

Hermit by S.R. White was published in the UK by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. He now lives in Queensland, Australia.

#BookReview: Sleep by C.L. Taylor @AvonBooksUK #Sleep #damppebbles

“All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

The million-copy bestseller is back in her darkest, twistiest book to date. Read it if you dare! Perfect for fans of Lesley Kara’s The Rumour and Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley Thrillers.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Sleep by C.L. Taylor. Sleep was published by Avon Books on 24th September 2019 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC copy of Sleep but that has in no way influenced my review.

Anna’s world is shattered when on the way home from a team building exercise, the car she’s driving is involved in a major collision. Two of her colleagues die. One is paralysed. Anna walks away with a few cuts and bruises and a whole lot of guilt. Her relationship with her boyfriend was flagging anyway but the trauma, regret and guilt she suffers pushes them over the edge. Newly single and with nowhere to live, Anna makes the decision to change her life completely – moving to the small Scottish island of Rum and starting work in a hotel. But the latest cohort of guests have their own secrets. Trapped by a storm, the hotel is cut-off. And there’s a killer in their midst…

I really felt for Anna who, despite not being responsible for the accident, was living with so much sadness, grief and guilt. The reader watches as it eats away at her, impinging on her life and in particular her sleep. When she starts to feel as though she’s being watched, her boyfriend puts it down to exhaustion and the effects of the accident. I could feel the condescending ‘pat on the head’, the ‘there, there…’ at his empty, meaningless words. The author sets up her introduction to Anna and her life very well. I felt as though, by the time she gets to Rum and starts her new life, that I had the measure of the character. Which meant that when the pace really picked up and the threat is closing in, you couldn’t help but feel invested.

When a catastrophic event happens, it really ramps the tension up. I tried to guess who was responsible but I couldn’t. The author is very adept at throwing lots of red herrings into the story so you end up questioning everything and everyone. On the rare occasion when the characters did venture out of the hotel, the blustery winds and hammering rain were easy to picture thanks to the author’s great descriptions. It’s a very atmospheric read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Sleep is a very compelling psychological suspense novel which had me turning the pages faster than most other books I’ve read recently. I liked that the person ‘whodunit’ wasn’t obvious. I thought their reasons behind their actions were utterly chilling. Anna was a terrific protagonist who I was behind all the way. I thought the other characters in the book were all fully formed characters and had their part to play in the story. This is my second book by this author and I would happily read more in the future. Recommended.

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

Sleep by C.L Taylor was published in the UK by Avon Books on 24th September 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014.

She started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. HEAVEN CAN WAIT was a bestseller in Hungary and China and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

#BookReview: The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn @HQstories #TheGirlsAreAllSoNiceHere #damppebbles

“Nice girls can do bad things…

When Ambrosia first arrives at prestigious college Wesleyan, she’s desperate to fit in. But Amb struggles to navigate the rules of this strange, elite world, filled with privileged ‘nice’ young women – until she meets the charismatic but troubled Sully, with whom she forms an obsessive friendship.

Intoxicated by Sully’s charm and determined to impress her, Amb finds herself drawn deep into her new best friend’s dangerous manipulations. But if she wants to play Sully at her own game, Amb has no idea just how devastating the consequences will be…

Deeply unsettling and compulsive, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a gripping exploration of the brutal lengths girls will go to, to take what they think they are owed.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn. The Girls Are All So Nice Here was published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by HQ on 1st April 2021. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Girls Are All So Nice Here which has in no way influenced my review.

I wanted to read this book because I’m struggling a little with my reading mojo at the moment and I was looking for something different to my usual fayre (of police procedurals and blood soaked horror). I was keen to shake things up a little and oh boy, this book was a perfect pick! The Girls Are All So Nice Here is an intoxicating tale of obsession and manipulation which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Ambrosia ‘Amb’ Wellington is ready to do whatever it takes to fit in at college: the exclusive Wesleyan. Her dream is to become an actor so she knows how to change her personality to fit in. She’s been doing it throughout her high school career so it’s no big deal. When she meets Sloane ‘Sully’ Sullivan, Sully’s charisma pulls Ambrosia into her web. Sully is different to everyone she knew back home and Amb can’t get enough of her magnetism. Ambrosia is desperate to stay in Sully’s orbit, she craves her approval, so transforms herself into Sully’s mirror image. But Sully is a deeply troubled young woman whose constant manipulations push Ambrosia to the limit. Reunited for the 10 year reunion, will Sully’s hold over Ambrosia still be as strong? And what exactly did happen that fateful night…?

Wow! Some of the characters in The Girls Are All So Nice Here are truly horrible people but I couldn’t help but enjoy their darkness (just a little). The author has created some devastatingly cruel and vindictive characters and I lapped it up! I found Ambrosia to be a fascinating character who despite not being solely responsible for her actions, seemed happy enough to accept her new life and just go along with everything Sully suggested. I still haven’t worked out if she’s insanely needy or if she arrived at Wesleyan with a dark streak of her own.

The story is told in the past – leading up to the devastating event which changed the lives of those living in Butts C – and the present – as Ambrosia reluctantly prepares to attend the 10 year reunion with her husband. Amb believes she’s not the same person she was in college, she doesn’t want to return to Wesleyan (she certainly doesn’t want her husband to discover her secret!) and refuses to even consider the reunion. Until an anonymous card arrives telling her she must attend as ‘they’ need to talk about what they did that night. I really enjoyed both the flashbacks and watching as Ambrosia’s present-day, perfect life began to unravel and the realisation of what really happened starts to take hold. I found everything about the book so intriguing and utterly compelling. I was desperate to find out what had happened to leave such a catastrophic mark on these young lives.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a well-written exploration of toxic, poisonous friendships and the lengths some people will go to to belong. The control Sully has over Ambrosia is very unsettling, makes for uncomfortable reading at times and I loved it! I found it interesting to see the same characters 10 years later as, despite Ambrosia’s claims, nothing had really changed. They still went to extreme lengths to cover their own backs. Brilliantly done. Utterly irresistible. Bold and fearless. Shocking, dark and full of menace. I’m still thinking about this one days after finishing it. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Girls Are All So Nice Here. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn was published in the UK by HQ on 1st April 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a former model who lives in London, Ontario with her husband and their three children. She is the author of three young adult novels: Firsts, Last Girl Lied To and All Eyes On Her, under the name L.E. Flynn.

Her debut adult fiction novel, The Girls Are All So Nice Here, will be released in 2021. It has sold in eleven territories worldwide and has been optioned for TV by AMC.