#BookReview: Q by Christina Dalcher #QBook #damppebbles

“It begins as a way to make things fairer. An education system that will benefit everyone. It’s all in the name of progress.

This is what Elena Fairchild believes. As a teacher in one of the government’s elite schools for children with high ‘Q’ scores, she witnesses the advantages first-hand.

But when Elena’s own daughter scores lower than expected, she is taken away. Elena follows her to her new home. A government institute.

What she finds there makes Elena question everything. Because this world is about perfection – and that comes at a terrible price.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my first review of 2021 with you which is for Q by Christina Dalcher. Q is published by HQ in paperback format today (that’s 7th January 2021). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Q but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have mixed feelings about Q. On the one hand the writing is powerful, the story immersive and the subject matter is highly emotive. On the other, I didn’t like any of the characters apart from one (one character in particular made my blood absolutely boil to the point he nearly sent me into a screaming rage) and despite frequently wanting to return to the book, I found myself needing to take regular breaks to calm my blood pressure and just stop thinking! Q is a devastating story which could, in fact, be all too plausible. I have Vox by the same author on my TBR and I now know that it’s going to break me, but I can’t wait to read it!

A new system has been implemented in the US which grades adults and children according to their intelligence, family standing, their income (or the income of their parents) and their attendance rate, among other things. Students and staff in the ‘new and improved’ school system are subjected to monthly high ranking tests to determine their individual ‘Q Score’.  The ‘Q’ is everything and can make or break a family in many ways. But that’s not something teacher Dr Elena Fairchild needs to worry about. Her husband, Malcolm, is the Deputy Education Secretary and her two daughters – teenage Anne and 9-year-old Freddie – are successful. But Elena has always had concerns over Freddie who is struggling with the pressure and suffers regular panic attacks come test day. Having slightly smudged Freddie’s prenatal Q score, Elena is always watchful over her younger, slightly less able daughter. And then Freddie fails the monthly test and is sent from her ‘green’ tiered middle school to a ‘yellow’ state school – the lowest of the low. Completely cut-off from seeing or speaking to her daughter, Elena does the only thing that makes sense. She fails her own test and gets sent to the same isolated school in Kansas. But what if everything you thought you knew wasn’t actually true? What if you’re now part of an evil, despicable plan to change humanity forever…?

Elena is an interesting character and I wanted to like and sympathise with her situation but there were certain things about her which irritated me no end. For example, despite the dawning realisation of the situation she finds herself in, she appeared to be part of the problem, alongside a teenage Malcolm. The flashbacks to ‘then’ detail a time when Elena and Malcolm were friends at school. Bullied and harassed for being nerds, the last in line for the school canteen, missing out on social events – you know how these things go when you’re a kid. The popular kids versus the not so popular kids. So a colour card system is introduced (oh the power these teenagers have in their school!) which soon puts the popular kids at the back of the queue. I guess I felt Elena only stepped up to the mark when her own family were affected, which I think is what the author was going for. A case of everything is hunky dory providing it doesn’t affect me…. But I also think the author wants you to side with this determined female lead, see the wrong she has done, forgive past decisions and cheer her on as she battles onward. But I just couldn’t. Elena Fairchild was past redemption for me. Nothing she said or did would save her.

In Q I met quite possibly the most frustrating, despicable and controlling character I have ever met in fiction – Elena’s husband, Malcolm Fairchild. He made my blood boil. The way he treated his wife and children, particularly Freddie, made me feel deeply uncomfortable and I hated him with every ounce of my being. I don’t think a book has ever affected me the way Q has. I went from being angry to being frustrated to being sad that the book was over and sobbing quietly to myself. I don’t cry often at the end of books and to be honest, I was surprised I did at Q but I think it really got under my skin.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Q to be a difficult read but I became so emotionally involved with the story and, despite not liking the characters, there was an attachment of some sort there which left me feeling a little bereft once I had finished the last page. The subject matter is highly emotive and the story-telling doesn’t pull any punches which I applaud Dalcher for. I found Q to be a very compelling novel despite wanting to throw it through the window several times because it made me angry (I hope that’s what the author wants her readers to feel!). I would have liked Elena to be a little less agreeable and to have a little more sass. She felt almost ‘sheep-like’ at times and that frustrated me no end. But, that aside, this is a very readable book which will be hard to forget. Recommended.

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

Q by Christina Dalcher was published in the UK by HQ on 7th January 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsBookshop.org |

Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction writer living in the American South. She has over 100 publishing credits in the UK, US, and Australia. Recognitions include first prize in the Bath Flash Fiction Award (February 2019), second prize in the 2016 Bartleby Snopes Dialogue-Only Contest, and nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions.

Her flash fiction appears in The Molotov Cocktail Prize Winners’ anthology, Whiskey Paper, Split Lip Magazine, (b)OINK, Five2One Magazine, and several others.

Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Christina’s novels, including the international best seller VOX.

Christina lives with her husband and the ghosts of several dogs and cats.

To read more about her, or see samples of her work, please visit http://www.christinadalcher.com

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre translated by Frank Wynne @maclehosepress #ThreeDaysandaLife #damppebbles

three days and a life“Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour’s six year old son are bound forever.

In the years following Rémi’s disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again?

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) with you today. Three Days and a Life was published in the UK by Maclehose Press in May 2018 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of Three Days and a Life but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have read several of Pierre Lemaitre’s earlier novels and loved them. Alex and Blood Wedding come to mind in particular. But I have also read Irène and Camille which are part of The Paris Crime Files trilogy along with Alex, featuring Commandant Camille Verhœven. They are excellent books and I heartily recommend them all. I’m a huge fan of translated crime fiction so this author and his books tend to be on my go-to list of authors. Saying that, I’ve had Three Days and a Life sat on my shelf for a little while which is strange as it was one of the books I was most excited about when I received it in a goodie bag.

Antoine is a fairly ordinary 12-year-old boy living a fairly ordinary life in a small French town. One fateful day his life takes a dramatic turn and he ends up as part of the most interesting event to have happened in Beauval, the disappearance of 6-year-old Rémi Desmedt. Crowds of people converge to find the boy, teams go out searching day and night but no trace of Rémi is found. Speculation is rife, rumours spread but no one seems to know where Rémi is. No one apart from Antoine…

Three Days and a Life is a slow and intricate unravelling of a well-drawn individual which I found to be highly compelling reading. This is not a novel full of twists and turns and that made me love it just that little bit more. Three Days and a Life shines a spotlight on a character I started out feeling a great deal of sympathy for. Then gradually through the years, the pressure of past events, of secrets hidden, begin to mould and shape the young boy into a rather frustrating young man.

The majority of this book is set over the three days of Rémi’s disappearance. But the tendrils – the secrets and lies – of those fateful days reach far into the future and that’s what I found so appealing about this novel. Antoine is forever looking over his shoulder, waiting for news, waiting to be discovered. The unease and the dread the character feels is palpable. As he matures, his need to escape the small town of Beauval becomes almost obsessive but those tendrils keep digging in, pulling him back.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Three Days and a Life is a compelling character study which I absolutely flew through. A suffocating and claustrophobic piece of well-written fiction. I found Antoine to be such an interesting character and felt I was there with him every step of the way. Elegantly written and beautifully subtle in its tone, you’ll struggle to put this one down once you pick it up. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Three Days and a Life. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) was published in the UK by Maclehose Press on 3rd May 2018 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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pierre lemaitrePierre Lemaitre is a French novelist and screenwriter.

Awards: Prix du premier roman du Festival de Cognac 2006 pour Travail soigné – Prix Le Point du polar européen pour Cadres Noirs – Meilleur polar francophone 2009 au Salon de Montigny pour Robe de marié

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Frank Wynne was born in 1962 and grew up in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. His father – with T R Henn and others – was among the founding members of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo in 1959, and was President of the school until his death. Through the Summer School, Wynne was introduced to literary figures (whose lectures he recorded with a tape recorder), among them Richard Ellmann and Seamus Heaney

In 1984 he moved to Paris, where he stayed for three years. He moved to London in 1987, at first managing a small French bookshop in Kensington, which sold, among other things, graphic novels. Wynne became involved in the bandes dessinées movement in London and was hired to work on Revolver. From there he moved to Crisis before becoming managing editor of Deadline magazine, home of Tank Girl.

After the demise of Deadline in 1994-5, in part through the badly received film version of Tank Girl, he worked for a time as editorial director of AOL UK.
“I was employee number seven in AOL UK. I went from being the youngest person in every company I had worked for to being the second-oldest person in AOL.”
After he left AOL, he began translating the works of Michel Houellebecq. He now dedicates his time fully to writing and translations.

He describes himself as being of “no fixed abode”, having lived and travelled widely in Central and South America, the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkey, Ireland and the UK.
He has worked as a literary translator for many years translating the novels of Michel Houellebecq. He jointly won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with Houellebecq for Atomised, his translation of Les Particules élémentaires. He has subsequently translated Houellebecq’s novels Platform and Lanzarote, together with novels by Pierre Mérot, Frédéric Beigbeder and the late Ivoirian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma.

His translation of Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, a novel set in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks, won the 2005 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He also won the 2008 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for his translations of Beigbeder’s Holiday in a Coma and Love Lasts Three Years.

Wynne also translated a number of French bandes dessinées, including graphic novels by Enki Bilal, Lorenzo Mattotti, Max Cabanes and Édika. His first non-fiction book, I Was Vermeer, a biography of Han van Meegeren was published by Bloomsbury in August 2006. Between 1938 and 1944 van Meegeren forged seven paintings, passing them off as lost masterpieces by Vermeer. The works were authenticated by some of the finest art critics in Europe, among them Abraham Bredius, who acclaimed Van Meegeren’s forgery The Supper at Emmaus as “one of – I would go so far as to say * the* masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer of Delft”. Wynne’s biography, I was Vermeer has been serialised as the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week” (read by Anton Lesser) for August 7–12, 2006.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Where is Tony Blunt? by Joseph Mitcham (@MitchamJoseph) @cobaltdinosaur #WhereIsTonyBlunt #damppebbles

Where is Tony Blunt_ cover Final High resHas the hornets’ nest been kicked too hard? Having taken down some of the most dangerous members of the UK Terror Watch List – Alex is persuaded to return to help track down the unrelenting Islamist terror organisation ‘the Interest Group’ – Tony Blunt is the only lead.

Where is Tony Blunt? The apparently radicalised former Paratrooper has gone to ground without a trace. Alex finds himself at the heart of the effort to find him. Working with a multi-agency force to track him down, can they find Blunt before he executes his masterpiece?”

Hello! Ryan here. Emma has left me in charge of the blog so I can share my review of Joseph Mitcham’s second book in the Atrocities Series – Where is Tony Blunt? – with you.  I enjoyed the first book, and was keen to find out what happened next…

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Where is Tony Blunt? but that has not influenced my review.

Joseph Mitcham has done it again. Another excellent book which builds to a powder-keg conclusion. Mitcham is an author who trusts his readers. He recognises that not many readers want continual action, and is prepared to blend slow build pressure and fast action strands together into his books.  This book bubbles up to perfection as slowly the atrocities planned by Tony Blunt become clear and we realise that the opportunity for Alex, John, Lucy and the team to stop him is held on a knife-edge.

If you enjoyed The Watch List you have to read Where is Tony Blunt?  After a cleverly written prologue to give us more back story on the mysterious Blunt, we are reunited with Alex in the café where The Watch List ended. Alex is an interesting choice as the lead character for these books. Rather than the go-getting, confident and charismatic leader so many authors choose as their main character, he is a techie who is often having to perform at his best to keep up with others when the action starts.

Mitcham creates a strangely forlorn villain in Blunt. From the prologue there is a temptation towards sorrow for this social misfit, but as the book evolves it becomes clearer that his history has led him to a place where he doesn’t want pity. He wants revenge. It was fascinating to see his doubts in his own ability – certainly he was no egotistical supervillain as you see in some stories, but a human plagued by the same self-doubts many feel in their day to day lives. But I assure you by the end of the book, your pity for this evil character will have gone completely!

The characters are once again well written and the team trying to stop Blunt’s attack are well balanced and generally likeable, yet clash against each other as group tensions and individual priorities threaten the operation.

I would happily recommend this book. The ending may leave room for the next instalment so book me in for that as this is a series that is growing in stature and quality and Mitcham must be one to watch for the future.  Is he on your watch list?

I chose to read and review a free eARC of Where is Tony Blunt? The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Where is Tony Blunt? by Joseph Mitcham was published in the UK on 12th November 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 | Goodreads |

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Joseph Mitcham - reducedJoseph Mitcham served with the British military in elite and technical units for over 16 years. His service not only gave him a thorough tactical and technical understanding of some of techniques and processes employed in his first novel, it also provided him with the opportunity to develop himself, earning a first class honours degree in business leadership by the end of his service.

His debut novel, The Watch List, was published in 2019.  The inspiration for writing ‘The Watch List’ was taken from personal experiences from the roles that he has served in and characteristics from some of the people that he has served with. Joseph has written an incredible, yet compellingly credible story that plays out in our world as he sees it today.

#BookReview: The Embalmer by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #TheEmbalmer #damppebbles

the embalmer“Has the ancient Egyptian cult of immortality resurfaced in Brighton?

When a freshly-mummified body is discovered at the Brighton Museum of Natural History, Detective Francis Sullivan is at a loss to identify the desiccated woman. But as Egyptian burial jars of body parts with cryptic messages attached start appearing, he realises he has a serial killer on his hands. Revenge, obsession and an ancient religion form a potent mix, unleashing a wave of terror throughout the city. Caught in a race against time while battling his own demons, Francis must fight to uncover the true identity of the Embalmer before it’s too late…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Embalmer by Alison Belsham. The Embalmer is the third book in the Mullins and Sullivan Series and is published today (that’s 12th November 2020) by Trapeze Books in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Embalmer but that has in no way influenced my review.

I really enjoy this brilliant detective series with a twist, and I look forward to each new book being published. I was excited to get my mitts on a copy of book three, The Embalmer, which I started as soon as it arrived on my Kindle (having recently read and reviewed the second book in the series, Her Last Breath, which was still very fresh in my mind).

DI Francis Sullivan is on the hunt for a psychopathic serial killer on the streets of Brighton. Discovering a mummified body and canopic jars containing human organs in the local Natural History Museum, DI Sullivan and his team have their work cut out to try and find their killer. But as the body count rises, it becomes clear that the killers motives are very personal indeed…

The Embalmer is another great addition to this wonderful series which not only features a young Detective Inspector out to prove himself but also a headstrong and fiery tattoo artist who can’t seem to avoid trouble, Marni Mullins. I love how this series is a little different to everything else available out there. All of the cases investigated so far by DI Sullivan have involved tattoos, to some degree or another (including this latest instalment). Personally, for me, that gives the series a bit of an edge. I will say however, that this is a series best read from the start. Previous cases are mentioned which could give a little too much away if you’re reading them out of order, and by starting with the first book you can see for yourself how the relationships develop between Belsham’s characters.

Sullivan’s frustration at not making progress in the case and watching the body count rise keeps the reader turning the pages from start to finish. I have a rather large soft spot for Sullivan and I really wanted him to succeed (whilst hoping there would be a few more grisly deaths on the cards – go figure!). Whilst Sullivan has problems of his own, Marni Mullins is also up to her neck in it. I really enjoyed how the two stories ran alongside each other. Marni Mullins was less involved in the investigation this time but that’s only because she has her hands full with her own disastrous life and those in it. I’ll be interested to see what the future holds for Marni.

The team around DI Sullivan continues to be a strong one. Which makes this the perfect time to mention new character, DC Gavin Albright, who is a very welcome addition. Sullivan’s Detective Sergeant, Rory Mackay, is still biting at his heels after he was looked over for promotion and Sullivan was appointed DI. There is a lot of tension there which I hope continues to bubble under the surface. And I won’t even bother mentioning one of the most loathsome characters I have met in a fictional setting (DCI Martin Bradshaw, if you’re wondering) Such a brilliantly written, despicable character. Grr!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would happily recommend The Embalmer along with the first two books in this series (starting with The Tattoo Thief if you can). I really enjoyed being back in Brighton with the team again. Belsham isn’t afraid to put her characters through the wringer and I flipping love that. With a tense and gripping finale this is another brilliant page turner from an author I will always read. Recommended.

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

The Embalmer by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 12th November 2020 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 | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Yesterday by Felicia Yap @Wildfirebks #Yesterday #damppebbles

yesterdayToday, the police are at your door.

They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.

You can’t recall what he did that day, because you only remember yesterday.

You rely on your diary to tell you where you’ve been, who you love and what you’ve done.

So, can you trust the police?
Can you trust your husband?
Can you trust yourself?”

Hello and welcome to the blog! I have a brand new review to share with you today and it’s for Yesterday by Felicia Yap. Yesterday was published by Wildfire Books on 12th July 2018 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Yesterday but that has in no way influenced my review.

Well this little beauty gave me a lot more than I was bargaining for! First thing to say is that Yesterday would make a cracking book club read (having absolutely no experience, or real knowledge, of book clubs myself!). It raises so many interesting and thought-provoking questions. A very compelling mystery from start to finish.

Claire Evans is a Mono. She and her husband, Mark, live in a world where memories don’t last. You can either remember just yesterday, like Claire, or if you’re like Mark and a Duo, you can remember two days ago. The rest of society is the same as the Evans’. They’re nothing special. Humankind has no memory. Every day they record that day’s events in their electronic diary. They learn ‘Facts’ to make sure some things are never forgotten. Duos are superior. Monos are treated as inferior. Their brains aren’t as advanced as the Duos. That’s just life.

One day a woman is found drowned in the River Cam. Before long the Police are on the Evans’ doorstep asking Mark questions, as the woman, it turns out, was his lover. Claire is devastated. There has always been a divide between them. Not helped by the fact he’s a Duo and she’s a Mono. Mixed marriages aren’t the norm. The lead Detective, Hans Richardson, has Mark pegged as the prime suspect. Now all he has to do is prove it. But how can Claire help her husband and prove he’s innocent when she really can’t remember…

I thoroughly enjoyed Yesterday. It was a fascinating read which hooked me in from early on and didn’t let go until the final word. I was expecting a novel about a woman who perhaps, because of trauma or a medical condition, had a memory issue. What I got was a gripping mystery set in a different world where discrimination is rife and every character you meet is most definitely an unreliable narrator. I enjoyed the amount of thought and attention to detail Yap has put into her ‘world’. The affect a very short memory has on the characters is utterly fascinating. I enjoyed seeing what they believed life would be like if you *could* remember everything that has happened to you throughout your life. How none of them would wish a full memory on not even their worst enemy. The devastation, destruction and the growth of evil such a thing could create, to them, was unimaginable.

I enjoyed spending time with Hans Richardson as he attempted to solve the case of the woman’s murder in one day. It’s not the most surprising of outcomes but there are a few twists in the tale along the way. The final twist felt a little (a teeny, tiny, smidge-like) too far-fetched for me but if you can’t break the boundaries in fiction, when can you?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Yesterday gave me so much more than I was expecting and I really enjoyed it. The discrimination shown to the Mono race had my blood boiling at times and I wanted to chuck my Kindle across the room. A well-written, imaginative, emotive, character-driven novel which made me think. I would certainly read more by this author. Recommended.

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

Yesterday by Felicia Yap was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 12th July 2018 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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felicia yapFelicia Yap is the author of Future Perfect (published spring 2021) and Yesterday. She has been a cell biologist, a war historian, a university lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader and a catwalk model. Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @FeliciaMYap

#BookReview: The Six by Luca Veste @simonschusterUK #TheSix #damppebbles

1267333739“Six friends have been trapped by one dark secret.

It was supposed to be our last weekend away as friends, before marriage and respectability beckoned. But what happened that Saturday changed everything.

In the middle of the night, someone died. The six of us promised each other we would not tell anyone about the body we buried. But now the pact has been broken. And the killing has started again …

Who knows what we did? And what price will they make us pay?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the rather marvellous The Six by Luca Veste with you. The Six was published by Simon and Schuster in digital and paperback formats on 1st January 2020. I received a free eARC of The Six but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Six sang to me! It called my name and screamed ‘MUST READ’ as soon as I laid eyes on it. What a perfect synopsis and what a glorious cover. Not to mention, of course, that every Luca Veste book I have read in the past has been an absolute winner. I thoroughly enjoyed this tense, unsettling read.

Six friends (three couples to be precise) in their 30s who feel the impending ties of age and responsibility pack up their tents and head to a 90s music festival to relive their youth for a weekend. Turning the clock back to the days when they had no cares, no real responsibility and life was one big endless party. They throw caution to the wind, indulge a little and let their hair down. But then something happens and someone is killed. They panic, everything about the situation makes them look really really bad, so they bury the body and swear to never tell anyone else or talk about it again. They convince themselves that they’ve done the right thing. That in the end, everything will work out for the best. That is, until another body is discovered and they realise someone outside the group knows their devastating secret…

This is a wonderful character-driven book and another cracker from Veste. The Six starts with quite a light-hearted tone, with lots of references to 90s culture which I absolutely lapped up. The group are all a little younger than me so I really related to their memories of the music and culture of the time. Then things take a deadly turn. From there, it’s downhill for the group and life will never be the same again. The reader is whisked from the shocking events of that fateful night to one year later, where things are very different. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to see how one daft decision would impact a group of characters, some I was starting to warm to. The secret they carry weighs heavy, relationships have broken down and guilt is gradually destroying their lives. But that’s all I’m going to say on that because this is a serial killer thriller and I feel that by saying much more, I’ll reveal something I shouldn’t and nobody wants that. 😉

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of slow-burn psychological suspense novels with a cast of intriguing characters then you definitely need to pick The Six up. This book, for me, was all about the characters as I watched them slowly unravel as they realised what a terrifying predicament they had found themselves in. Very well written, clever plotting and tons of wonderful suspense. Recommended.

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

The Six by Luca Veste was published in the UK by Simon and Schuster on 1st January 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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luca veste

Luca Veste is a writer of Italian and Scouse heritage, married with two young daughters, and one of nine children. He is the author of the Murphy and Rossi novels and forthcoming standalone The Bone Keeper. His books have been translated and published in the USA, Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland.

Part psychological thriller, part police procedural, the Murphy and Rossi novels take place in the city of Liverpool. Taking in both sides of a contrasting city, they explore the changing landscape of Liverpool and “bad” things which can happen within it.

His first standalone novel – The Bone Keeper – was published in March 2018 and is a slight departure from the series. Part thriller, part horror, it has been described by as like ‘Silence of the Lambs meets Candyman’.

He was the editor of the Spinetingler Award nominated charity anthology ‘Off The Record’, and co-editor of ‘True Brit Grit’, also an anthology of short stories for charity.

He is a former civil servant, actor, singer and guitarist (although he still picks it up now and again). In his acting days, he appeared as a “background artist” – read: extra – on a number of Brookside and Hollyoaks episodes and also once spent three nights in a black leather mini-skirt and high-heels, in front of an ever-dwindling audience in a Liverpool theatre.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor @0neMoreChapter_ #InnocentOrGuilty #damppebbles

innocent or guilty“Is the right person behind bars?

One morning ten years ago, the town of Twin Rivers changed forever when the body of Tyler Washington was found in the woods. Son of the mayor, star of the high school basketball team – his death struck right at the heart of this tight-knit community.

For Olivia Hall, Tyler’s death heralded the start of her own personal nightmare – her twin brother, Ethan, was arrested for Tyler’s murder. Ten years later, Ethan is still in jail. Olivia is convinced he is innocent, and now, a true crime podcast has taken up his case.

As the podcast digs deeper, secrets, lies and shocking revelations are all uncovered. For the first time, Olivia dares to hope that Ethan may be set free. But if he didn’t kill Tyler, who did? And how far will they go to keep their secrets safe?

Perfect for fans of podcasts Serial, Happy Face and The Teacher’s Pet, and TV shows Making a Murderer, Staircase and Dirty John”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor. Innocent or Guilty? was published by One More Chapter on 12th December 2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I received a free eARC of Innocent or Guilty? but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do not listen to podcasts (I also don’t listen to audiobooks – I’ve never really managed to get to grips with them). But I love books which feature a true crime podcast at their heart. Sitting here, thinking about the concept, a few favourites immediately spring to mind. Well budge over, favourites, and make some room for Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor. There’s something very memorable about this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Olivia and Ethan Hall are twins on the brink of starting their college careers when tragedy strikes, rocking the small town of Twin Rivers. A local teenager, Tyler Washington, is murdered. The sudden death of the town’s golden boy hits everyone hard. But when Ethan Hall, Olivia’s unpopular brother, is arrested for the murder, it turns Olivia’s world completely on its head. Ten years later Olivia is a lawyer and Ethan is still in jail. But she’s determined to prove her brother’s innocence, one way or another. So when the producers of a true-crime podcast come knocking, despite her reservations, Olivia decides to take part and revisit the past. But if Ethan is innocent, the question remains, who REALLY killed Tyler Washington…?

Innocent or Guilty? is told in the past, the present and with brilliant snippets of the podcast, which felt so real to me. With the chapters set 10 years ago, the author beautifully builds the characters’ stories, layer by layer, adding more depth as the story progresses. Giving the reader a clear view of the politics and pressures of life in Twin Rivers in the run-up to Tyler’s murder. I really enjoyed the flashback chapters and getting a glimpse into Olivia and Ethan’s past. The present-day chapters are told mainly from Olivia’s perspective and focus on digging for clues to help free her brother. Working with Kat and Ray, the podcast producers, they come up against many brick walls as the residents of Twin Rivers fight to keep the past buried in the past.

Packed to the brim with secrets and deceit, this is one edge of your seat read which I found hard to put down. The author has created a number of well-written peaks and troughs throughout the book, which kept me turning the pages at a steady pace. After finishing Innocent or Guilty?, I immediately purchased Taylor’s debut, Forget Me Not, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Innocent or Guilty? is a compelling mystery set in small-town America with a modern twist, and I devoured it. Being Mrs Suspicious, I was able to guess what the big twist was going to be from fairly early on in the book, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment one jot! There were plenty of other surprises along the way to keep me on my toes. I am looking forward to reading more from A.M. Taylor. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Innocent or Guilty? The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Innocent or Guilty? was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 12th December 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Annie May Taylor lives and writes in London. When not making up stories, she writes copy for a living and can most often be found drinking coffee, watching Netflix, and trying to keep up with a never ending TBR pile. She’s been obsessed with mysteries ever since Nancy Drew first walked into her life and would probably have attempted to become a private detective at some point, if only it didn’t involve actually having to talk to people. She has a cat called Domino, ambitions of owning a dog one day, and is as obsessed with My Favorite Murder as you probably are. Writing as A.M. Taylor, her debut psychological thriller Forget Me Not was released by Killer Reads/Harper Collins in October 2018.

#BookReview: Bluebird, Bluebird (Highway 59 #1) by Attica Locke @serpentstail #BluebirdBluebird #damppebbles

bluebird, bluebird“When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply conflicted about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him back.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders – a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman – have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the beautifully written Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke with you. Bluebird, Bluebird is the first book in the Highway 59 series, was published by Serpent’s Tail on 29th March 2018 and is available in all formats. I received a free eARC of Bluebird, Bluebird via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a LONG time but you know how it goes (#bookwormproblems). I’m kicking myself that it’s taken as long as it has as I really enjoyed the time I spent with Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews. So much so, the next thing I did, after taking a calming breath and closing the cover of my Kindle, was to purchase the next book in the series — just so I could look forward to spending more time with Locke’s creation. This is such a strong, emotional novel and I savoured every moment of it.

Black Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews, has been suspended from active duty whilst he waits for the outcome of an investigation into his conduct. Being a Texas Ranger is all Darren knows though, it’s in his blood and the prospect of losing everything he has worked so hard for weighs heavy. An FBI colleague sees an opportunity so suggests he heads over to a small East Texas town called Lark to investigate two murders, seeing as he has so much time on his hands. The murders appear to be unconnected; one of the victims is a local white woman, the other victim is a black lawyer from out of town – both bodies were pulled out of the bayou. Darren knows he’s risking everything by going, but the pull to investigate these crimes is just too strong. His arrival in Lark is an unwelcome one. Lark is a town where the colour of your skin determines how you’re treated and when Darren begins to dig into Lark’s murky history, the town’s long-hidden dark secrets are revealed…

This is a very emotive and compelling novel. I’m a huge fan of small-town American mystery books and this one is very well done. I was a little bit besotted with Darren who is not your typical protagonist. I loved that although he’s a man of the law, there is a slightly darker edge to him. I loved his determination to find the truth – no matter what the cost, whether that was losing his job or his wife. Other characters in the book were also well-written but Darren was head and shoulders above everyone else in my eyes.

The plot is a little complicated at times and I did lose the thread on a couple of occasions. As a Brit, I don’t know how the Texas Rangers fit into the judicial system and why they’re held in such high regard. I did a little extra background reading (Google is my friend…) as I thought it would help.

Bluebird, Bluebird is a wonderful slow-burn mystery packed to the absolute brim with tension. The reader is on the edge of their seat from start to finish, wondering how Darren is going to investigate these crimes when many of the local residents don’t respect his authority and would happily kill him, soon as look at him. It’s not an easy read at times but it’s an essential one.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Bluebird, Bluebird and I’m looking forward to making a start on book two, Heaven, My Home soon. This is a beautifully written, timely, thought-provoking and engaging novel and I’m really glad I picked it up. Recommended.

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

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke was published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail on 29th March 2018 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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attica lockeAttica Locke is a writer whose first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for an Orange Prize in the UK.

Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was also a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman @VikingBooksUK #TheThursdayMurderClub #damppebbles

the thursday murder club“In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?”

A very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Thursday Murder Club today and sharing my review of this wonderful debut. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was published on 3rd September 2020 by Viking Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. My thanks to the publisher for the blog tour invitation and for sending me a copy of the book. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Thursday Murder Club but that has in no way influenced my review.

I was a little concerned before making a start on this book. A small group of near-octogenarians meet on Thursdays to solve cold cases to wile away their twilight years. My reading preferences tend to err on the violent, the macabre and the blood splattered. But I was intrigued by this book. Really intrigued. And I’m so very glad I gave it a shot because I got a lot more than I expected!

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron are part of a very exclusive club. The Thursday Murder Club. Originally set up by the very mysterious Elizabeth and her ex-DCI friend, Penny, to look into unsolved cold cases from Penny’s career, the club meets once a week and looks for missed links in an attempt to finally set the record straight (although it’s only for their benefit, so what good it really does is anyone’s guess…). After the decline of Penny’s health and her move to the adjacent care home, newbie Joyce has stepped in to fill the gap. As an ex-nurse she brings a myriad of useful knowledge. But when a real life case lands at the group’s door, they can’t help but muscle their way on to the investigation. Can the investigative powers of a group of 70-year-olds track down the killer before the professionals do? Who would you put your money on? They may not be an elite team of investigators but one thing’s for sure, they’re going to give it a damn good go…

I was worried this book would be a little too light-hearted and gentle for me but I was wrong. I don’t mind admitting that at all. It’s a wonderful story of some beautifully drawn characters who I really hope we haven’t seen the last of (I think I saw somewhere that it’s the first of a new series). The setting, the plot, the characters – everything works so well together and I was swept away to Coopers Chase retirement village and thrown into a taxing mystery.

The four main characters in The Thursday Murder Club are an absolute delight! Particularly Joyce who we hear from in the form of diary entries throughout the book. And because the reader gets to share in Joyce’s inner ponderings, I found myself warming to her more. Although, it’s not just the club’s progress in the investigation that makes it to the pages of Joyce’s diary. Some of the sections about her daughter and their dwindling relationship, a divide between them which seems to be ever growing, broke my heart. I also adored Elizabeth who is an international woman of mystery, it seems! She’s very intriguing and I’m keen to find out more. The other members of the club – Ibrahim and Ron – were equally as well-written and I loved spending time with them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a wonderfully funny mystery with a cast of unforgettable characters. Very British in its approach but that adds to the warm fuzzy glow it gives the reader. I struggled to put the book down and I read it in two sittings which is unheard of for me these days. A very entertaining novel and I hope we get to see more of the Thursday Murder Club soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Thursday Murder Club. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman was published in the UK by Viking Books 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 | Goodreads |

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richard osmanRichard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

#BookReview: Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh @orionbooks @orion_crime #FiftyFifty #damppebbles

fifty fiftyTwo sisters on trial for murder. They accuse each other.
Who do YOU believe?

‘911 what’s your emergency?’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

One of them is a liar and a killer.

But which one?

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh with you. Fifty-Fifty is the fifth book in the Eddie Flynn series and was published by Orion Books on 3rd September 2020. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Fifty-Fifty but that has in no way influenced my review.

Coming to a series part-way through can be tricky. I’ve only read Fifty-Fifty and the previous book, Thirteen, in the Eddie Flynn series. Not once while reading these books have I ever felt lost, or that everyone else (everyone who has read the series from the start) knows something I don’t. That’s a tricky thing to accomplish when you’re five books into a series so kudos to the author. I absolutely loved Thirteen which is a very clever, well-plotted novel. So I was keen to find out if the author could follow it up with something equally as impressive. He has.

Two sisters on trial for the brutal murder of their father. Both women claim their innocence and accuse the other of the barbaric crime. Both called 911 within minutes of each other claiming to be terrified of the other and fearful for her own life. One is telling the truth. The other is a cold blooded killer and manipulator with a hidden dark side. It’s down to Flynn and his team to tear the sister’s lives apart and find the killer…

What a page-turner! This is an assured, clever legal thriller that ticks all the boxes. I don’t tend to read many legal thrillers (although there has been a bit of a spike recently) but when they’re this good, I ask myself why! The author is a master story-teller and this is one series crime fans cannot ignore.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Fifty-Fifty as there’s a good chance I’ll say something I shouldn’t and give the game away. So I won’t. Except to say it’s gripping, thrilling and full of doubt. I decided who the guilty party was quite early on, only to change my mind, again and again and again. Cavanagh is very adept at the art of misdirection and red herrings, and I loved it!

The returning characters are all great (I do have a soft spot for Judge Harry Ford, and now Clarence) but special mention to Kate Brooks who is the new kid on the block and out to make her name. Whilst Eddie represents Sofia, Kate represents the other sister, Alexandra. You can’t help but feel for Kate who throws herself in at the deep end making a stand against her misogynistic, sexist, truly revolting senior partner. And she really has thrown herself in deep. First solo case and you’re against Eddie Flynn. Ouch.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. This and the brilliant Thirteen (which still remains my favourite Cavanagh book but only because of the unforgettable bad guy!). I love Flynn’s character and I will happily, gladly read this series for as long as it continues. I will also be going back to the beginning to check out where it all began. How could I not? Fifty Fifty is a terrific book. Highly readable, totally engrossing and I want more Flynn! Recommended.

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

Fifty-Fifty by Steven Cavanagh was published in the UK by Orion Books on 3rd September 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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What's Your First Draft Like? – Steve CavanaghSteve Cavanagh is the bestselling author of the Eddie Flynn novels and standalone thrillers. In 2018 he won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for crime novel of the year. All of his novels have either been nominated for awards, or have won awards internationally.

He is a practicing lawyer, and was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he still lives.  Together with Luca Veste, Steve hosts the popular comedy lit podcast Two Crime Writers And A Microphone.

Author Links:TwitterWebsiteFacebook  | Instagram |

Author bio © https://www.stevecavanaghauthor.com/