#BookReview: Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims @gollancz #ThirteenStoreys #damppebbles

thirteen storeys

“You’re cordially invited to dinner. Penthouse access is available via the broken freight elevator. Black tie optional.

A dinner party is held in the penthouse of a multimillion-pound development. All the guests are strangers – even to their host, the billionaire owner of the building.

None of them know why they were selected to receive his invitation. Whether privileged or deprived, besides a postcode, they share only one thing in common – they’ve all experienced a shocking disturbance within the building’s walls.

By the end of the night, their host is dead, and none of the guests ever said what happened.
His death remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries – until now.

But are you ready for their stories?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the excellent Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims. Thirteen Storeys is published by Gollancz today (that’s 26th November 2020) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Thirteen Storeys but that has in no way influenced my review.

Some books pass you by. They’re instantly forgettable and not your thing at all. Other books – like Thirteen Storeys – have the ability to stop you dead in your tracks and make you feel like you’re missing out on something incredibly special if you don’t read them. I saw this book reviewed on another blog and it absolutely sang to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t get the cover out of my head. I feel like I’m being very melodramatic but oh well, it felt like there was an actual real life connection between me and Thirteen Storeys. And what a corker of a read it was!

Normally at this point in one of my reviews I would recap the blurb for you. I’ve decided to not do that when it comes to Thirteen Storeys as the publisher’s blurb tells you everything you need to know and I think my ‘take’ on it wouldn’t add anything. In fact, I’m concerned I may say something I shouldn’t so, to save my blushes, please refer to the blurb if you haven’t done so already 😂

This cracking book opens with a newspaper report on the anniversary of the death of multi-billionaire, Tobias Fell. Fell’s many achievements – including the commission of a high rise tower block in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets called Banyan Court which, incidentally, is the home of many of the guests – is noted. But what the reporter really draws attention to is Fell’s very unusual and highly suspicious death. Witnessed by thirteen guests at a very exclusive dinner party, no one is really sure how he died (quite so horrifically) and one thing is for sure, they are certainly not going to talk about it. Each chapter tells the story of one of those thirteen guests in the lead-up to that notorious dinner party. Giving the reader a tantalising and intriguing glimpse into thirteen very different lives and what ultimately connects them. There are strange and creepy goings-on at Banyan Court and the author has done a masterful job of creating an outstanding cast of characters, all of whom pull the reader into their world.

Each story is individual and stands tall, but the tendrils of Banyan Court run through them all with familiar characters appearing all over the place and memorable events being seen from different view points. I loved this book and found the author’s approach very refreshing. It’s a short story collection, but not. All of the events and characters in Thirteen Storeys are under one big horror laden umbrella. It’s a very clever and well-written novel.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Thirteen Storeys is a beautifully written contemporary horror novel that I know for sure will leave its mark on me. I don’t remember reading anything like this before and it was an absolute delight. The excitement I felt as I approached the end of the book, having lived through the characters’ trauma with them, was palpable. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Fell. It was a thrilling ride and I was deeply satisfied with the stomach-churning conclusion. I loved this book and would happily read more by this author. Highly recommended.

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

Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims was published in the UK by Gollancz on 26th 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3
Jonathan Sims is a writer, performer and games designer whose work primarily focuses on the macabre, the grotesque, and the gentle touch of creeping dread. He is the mind and the voice behind acclaimed horror podcast The Magnus Archives, as well as story-game design duo MacGuffin & Co., and some of your favourite nightmares. He lives in Walthamstow with the two best cats and an overwhelming backlog of books that he really should get round to.

#BookReview: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #HomeBeforeDark #damppebbles

home before dark“Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2020 with you – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. Home Before Dark was published by Dutton Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I was far too impatient for Home Before Dark to make an appearance in the UK so my wonderful children bought me a US hardcover copy for my birthday 🥰.

I absolutely adore Final Girls by Riley Sager. It’s one of my favourite books EVER and I always make a point of recommending it to everyone (my family are understandably quite fed up with my obsession!). So I make a point of reading everything this author publishes, as a matter of urgency. Sager is a great writer but so far nothing has quite come close to the feeling reading Final Girls gave me. Until I picked up my copy of Home Before Dark, that is!

Maggie Holt is a household name for all the wrong reasons. Escaping, as a child, from a haunted house in the dead of night with her family can do that. Not helped by her writer-father turning their terrifying ordeal into a bestseller. Except Maggie remembers next to nothing of what happened at Baneberry Hall, Bartleby, Vermont. And surely something like that would be hard to forget. Following her father’s death, Maggie discovers the family still owns Baneberry Hall, and the crumbling estate has been left to her in her father’s will. Determined to put the past to rest, prove ‘House of Horrors’ was all lies and rid herself of the feeling of uncertainty, Maggie returns to renovate the house with a view to selling it. But what she discovers on her return is more shocking and more terrifying than she ever imagined…

I am completely smitten with Maggie Holt and I loved Home Before Dark. It’s a wonderfully eerie read which held my attention from beginning to end and one I really looked forward to returning to on the odd occasion I had to put the book to one side. The story is told in the present from Maggie’s point of view as we see her experience Baneberry Hall as an adult, only having knowledge of the place garnered from her father’s book. And also from the past via chapters from Ewan Holt’s bestseller ‘House of Horrors’. I particularly loved the way the two different view points were presented in the hardcover copy I read with different fonts and formatting. It really added to the reading experience for me and I found it easy to flit between the then and the now.  I found myself looking forward to each new chapter and the palpable rising tension as this wonderfully creepy story progressed.

I never really knew what was going to happen next in Home Before Dark. Each new twist and turn, each new ghostly happening took me completely by surprise and I savoured every moment. I became so invested in Maggie’s pursuit of what she felt was the truth that I would have loved this book no matter what the conclusion was. The finale, however, is perfect and I found it very satisfying. There was only one point where I could see what was going to happen from a mile off but I certainly hadn’t worked everything out and there were plenty more surprises to come!

Baneberry Hall was the perfect setting for this spooky novel and the author has done a superb job of painting a very clear picture of the house with his words. The neighbouring town, full of angry and hurt locals who had to live with the negativity surrounding the Hall, was also very well drawn and really added to the atmosphere of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Home Before Dark and I think it will stay with me for some time to come. I’ve come to expect a lot from Sager’s novels (thanks to the magnificent brilliance that is Final Girls) and although I doubt any book (by any author) will ever come close to Final Girls in my eyes, Home Before Dark gets a lot closer than most. It’s absolutely marvellous and I expect it will feature on my ‘top reads of 2020’ list. I loved Home Before Dark and highly recommend you give it a go if you’re not afraid of things that go bump (or in this case THUD – tap, tap, tap…) in the night. Chilling, engaging and deliciously tense. Highly recommended.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 30th June 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.com | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

pseudonymRiley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones @headlinepg #TheDisciple #damppebbles

the discipleThey are coming…

On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil’s Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived.

The child’s protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn – a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe – and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain.

She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure.

For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones with you. The Disciple was published by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Disciple but that has in no way influenced my review.

I want to start this review by asking, what the heck have I just read? Someone? Anyone?! I’ve read all 544 pages and I’m still not sure myself but I do know one thing. I absolutely bloody LOVED it!

Edward Schwinn is a loner. Haunted by his tragic past he hides himself away in the Welsh countryside, avoiding human contact at any cost. Until one day he comes across the scene of a horrific accident. Bodies surround him, bent at strange and unusual angles. Death wasn’t kind to these people and what he witnesses will remain scored in his memory forever. He’s drawn to one of the vehicles, opens the door to discover someone he never expected to see. And she’s heavily pregnant. Fleeing the scene and helping the woman to his rundown home, they spend the night hiding from whoever is looking for her. Until she goes into labour. Unknowingly Schwinn has changed his destiny.  He must protect the child from the forces that wish to destroy her. For the sake of all humanity…

The Disciple doesn’t really fit neatly into any one box. As I read this book I felt I was crossing a number of genre lines. There are definitely some wonderful horror aspects to this story. It’s an edgy thriller which had me on the edge of my seat enjoying the delicious sense of foreboding the author gives his reader. Then there were the other ‘less familiar to me’ genres. In places it felt a little bit fantasy (cards on the table: I know nothing about fantasy so perhaps I’m mistaken) and it was hard to miss the sci-fi aspect of the novel. But no matter what The Disciple is, when it comes to labelling, it was a fantastic book and I savoured every second I had with it.

I’m a little bit in love with the main character, Edward Schwinn. Having faced tragedy he has turned his back on the world. But when his moment comes, he steps up to the plate and takes the responsibility laid before him without question or doubt. I think if you look beyond everything else this book, at its heart, has a strong message. You don’t need the same blood running through your veins to be a good parent. I loved Edward’s relationship with the child, Piper. The reader watches it grow over the course of 16 years and it was a truly beautiful thing to witness. I also adored Piper who I think will stay with me for some time to come. There are a number of other fascinating and brilliant characters who leap off the page at the reader (Jolyon in particular). It’s really quite something!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I thoroughly enjoyed The Disciple and having checked my bookshelf, I was delighted to find I have The Silenced by the same author on my TBR. This felt a different read for me and it just goes to show that you should step out of your comfort zone every now and then (although I wasn’t aware I would be doing that when I started it, so…..🤷). I wrote six pages of notes whilst reading The Disciple. There’s a lot to take in but I was totally immersed in the story from beginning to end. The Disciple is something very special which had me crying big ugly tears at points. Days later I sit here typing this review and I’m missing the characters. I want to return to the story. I loved it and I think you should read it. Highly recommended.

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

The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones was published in the UK by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 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 |

about-the-author3

Stephen Lloyd JonesStephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons, a mad cockapoo and far too many books. He’s the author of The String Diaries, Written in the Blood, The Disciple and The Silenced.

#BookReview: The Mayfly by James Hazel @ZaffreBooks #CharliePriest #TheMayfly #damppebbles

9781785763007“A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

When lawyer Charlie Priest is attacked in his own home by a man searching for information he claims Priest has, he is drawn into a web of corruption that has its roots in the last desperate days of World War Two.

When his attacker is found murdered the next day, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly – a secret society that people will kill for.

As Priest races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself”

Welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Mayfly with you. The Mayfly is the first book in the Charlie Priest series, is written by James Hazel and was published by Zaffre Books on 15th June 2017. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Mayfly but that has in no way influenced my review.

Charlie Priest, where have you been all my life? I’m also absolutely kicking myself as this book has been sat on my NetGalley shelf for *ahem* a wee while. Best not to dwell on past mistakes and let’s instead look at the (sort of) here and now. I read The Mayfly. I LOVED The Mayfly.

Ex-detective turned lawyer, Charlie Priest, is unwittingly drawn into a macabre plan, seventy years in the making, when a man in uniform tricks his way into his house. He’s looking for a memory stick. A memory stick Priest has never laid eyes on. The following day the intruder is found grotesquely murdered – Priest’s business card found amongst his clothes, which leads the police straight to his door. It doesn’t help that the detective in charge, McEwen, has it in for him after working together years before. Time is running out for Charlie and the only way to clear his name is to find the mysterious memory stick, and discover what terrible secrets it holds…

The Mayfly is such a brilliant book. I bloody loved it! Charlie Priest is a very likeable character and I was very happy to be swept along into this story with him and his wonderful team. The opening chapters set the tone of this gripping, grisly story perfectly and I was loathe to put the book down for any length of time. Charlie’s career, for a start, makes him an interesting character, but then you discover he suffers from dissociative disorder which is a condition I’ve not really heard about before. It added an extra layer to his personality and I was keen to know more about how it impacted his interactions and day to day life. What absolutely, categorically cemented my love of this book though is that Charlie’s brother is a convicted serial killer. It’s almost like this book was written especially for me!

The supporting cast of characters are all very well written. I was rooting for Georgie, in particular. She reminded of Tilly Bradshaw from MW Craven’s Washington Poe series on several occasions. Vincent Okoro is another character I would like to see more of as the series progresses. And, as you may have gathered, I may be a little in love with Charlie Priest. Moving swiftly on…

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. The Mayfly is brilliant and I’ve already downloaded the second book in the series. I loved the chapters set at the end of the Second World War. The unease the author creates is palpable. I didn’t see the big reveal coming but it was perfect and done very well. The entire plot had me hook, line and sinker. If you love tense, gutsy crime novels with just about the right amount of ‘grisly’, you will love The Mayfly. Crime fiction at its finest. Highly recommended.

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

The Mayfly by James Hazel was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 15th June 2017 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 |

about-the-author3

James HazelBefore turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.

He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.

He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.

James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.

#BookReview: Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer @bookouture #LittleGirlLost #damppebbles

little girl lost.jpg“Her breath rose and fell in fearful gasps but it was too late. She could already see what she dreaded most. The back seat was empty.

Her little girl was gone.

Abigail lives the perfect life with her doting husband and adorable baby Izzy. But someone knows a secret about Abigail and they want the truth to be told.

When Izzy is snatched from a carpark, it becomes a case for Detective Robyn Carter. Someone has been sending threatening messages to Abigail from an anonymous number. What is Abigail hiding? 

Robyn’s instincts tell her there’s a connection between Izzy’s abduction and two murders she is investigating. But the last time she acted on impulse her fiancé was killed. To break this case and earn her place back on the force, she must learn to trust herself again – and fast. Robyn is on the hunt for a ruthless serial killer. And unless she gets to the twisted individual in time a little girl will die …”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer with you today. Little Girl Lost is the first book in the DI Robyn Carter series, was published by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC of Little Girl Lost via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this is Wyer’s first crime novel. Before turning to the ‘dark side’ Wyer was well known for her romantic comedies, so I was intrigued to see what she would deliver. I was blown away! This book is so beautifully dark and twisted. I had to stop and ask myself ‘where did THAT come from??!’. I have read several other books by other writers where the author has turned from the light and fluffy to the dark and devilish, but I’ve always been left feeling a little ‘meh’ afterwards. Not with Little Girl Lost. No siree. This book packs one heck of a punch!

DI Robyn Carter has taken a break from the force to heal after personal tragedy. During her leave she does some work on the side for her cousin, Ross, who is a private investigator. When a Lucas Matthews is reported missing by his wife, Robyn begins to dig into Matthews’ past. What she discovers makes her return to work and puts her at the forefront of the case. But what starts as a missing person escalates at a terrifying pace…

The book opens with a devastating prologue which was hard to read in one sitting. From there we’re introduced to the brilliant Robyn Carter who I instantly liked. She felt damaged from what life had thrown at her, but determined to not let it beat her. I feel as though she has quite a way to go yet though, so I’m delighted that there are another four books featuring Robyn after Little Girl Lost. I’m looking forward to investing time in watching this particular character grow.

The plot is twisty and gripping from start to finish and once I had made it through the heartbreaking prologue, I struggled to put the book down. The story is told from three different perspectives; that of Robyn, Abigail – a young mother to Izzy who is receiving threatening calls and messages from an unknown number, and Alice – a young girl who suffers the most horrific abuse. We watch as life for Abigail deteriorates and no one, not even her husband, believes what she is going through. Then, in one of the most brilliantly written scenes I’ve read, Abigail’s daughter is snatched from the back of her car. It’s so tense, so nerve-wracking and I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Little Girl Lost gave me so much more than I expected. So much darker and ten times more sinister, and I loved it. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the DI Robyn Carter series, and then making a start on the Detective Natalie Ward series by the same author. Dark and twisty fiction, just how I like it! Highly recommended.

Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer was published in the UK by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 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 |

about-the-author3

Carol-Wyer-500-2Carol Wyer garnered a loyal following as an author of romantic comedies, and won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015). In 2017 she stepped from comedy to the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, featuring the popular DI Robyn Carter, which earned her recognition as a crime writer. The Staffordshire-based writer now has more crime novels in the pipeline, although she can still sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

#BookReview: Stolen Children (DCI Matilda Darke #6) by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #StolenChildren #DCIMatildaDarke #damppebbles

stolen children“Some cases won’t die.
A young boy walks into a police station in France. He claims to be Carl Meagan – a missing child from Sheffield whose name is still whispered as a warning to kids who stay out after dark.

Some children won’t be found.
On her way home from the supermarket, nine-year-old Keeley Armitage vanishes without trace. Her family is overcome with shock and DCI Matilda Darke can’t help but focus on memories of the Carl Meagan case that almost ruined her career.

Some killers won’t be stopped.
As Matilda investigates, she peels back the layers of grief and sadness that surround Keeley’s family. Until she is left with an unimaginable choice: betray those closest to her or let a violent killer walk free…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles on this fabulous Friday! Today I am delighted to share my review of the latest DCI Matilda Darke novel with you — Stolen Children. Stolen Children by Michael Wood is published by One More Chapter in digital format today (that’s 2nd October 2020) with the paperback to follow in December. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Stolen Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Stolen Children is the sixth book in the DCI Matilda Darke series and it’s an absolute cracker! I love this series and always look forward to the next book (although, confession time, I haven’t read the first book yet! 🤦). Wood is an accomplished writer, his stories are always gripping and engaging and I’m a little bit in love with Matilda.

DCI Matilda Darke and her team are called to investigate the case of a missing child. Nine-year-old Keeley Armitage vanished from outside the local shop and hasn’t been seen since. Her mother is frantic with worry. Then the call comes demanding £50,000 for Keeley’s safe return. The thought of another missing child case sends chills down Matilda’s spine, following the Carl Meagan case several years before, which nearly destroyed Matilda and her career. Keeley even looks a little like Carl with her blonde hair and blue eyes. Can the two kidnappings be connected? The more the team dig, the more secrets they discover. Can Matilda keep a clear head and find Keeley before it’s too late…?

If you’re already a fan of this series the prologue will have your jaw hitting the floor. I won’t go into detail – it’s already in the blurb – but what a great way to start the book. The thread of that particular storyline has been running through all of the books in this series and it just goes to show how fallible Darke is. Will she ever escape the hold that particular case has over her?

There are two storylines running through Stolen Children. The one I was trying to be vague about up there ⬆️ and the investigation into Keeley Armitage’s disappearance, which creates the bones of the book. It’s another thrilling, shock-filled investigation which kept me turning the pages from start to finish. I adore these characters and feel as though I could meet them all down the pub for an orange juice and a catch-up. They’re all so brilliantly human and stand tall from the page. Even the lesser characters are well written and wonderful examples of how to create engaging, believable characters. I feel very invested in them and their futures. And I love the way the author isn’t scared to put them through the wringer. More than other authors, I believe. He pushes them further and harder, sometimes with no return…

This is a terrific book and I will be awarding it five stars but I do want to add that I struggled a little with the storyline at times. This is the first book in a long time that really got to me. It affected me quite deeply and some of the scenes and descriptions made me feel uncomfortable (as scenes and descriptions of that nature should). I think I’m just feeling a little oversensitive at the moment because I love my fiction dark and I feel really strange adding this to the review, but I wanted to share my honest thoughts with you. You may not feel the same, of course. Any book involving bad things happening to kids (particularly kids the same age as mine) has always been and will always be an uncomfortable read for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend the entire series. I think it’s worth starting at the beginning though with book one as you’ll get the whole picture and see the team develop and grow. As I mentioned, I haven’t read the first book which I believe laid the building blocks for the rest of the series but I’ve been able to piece together what I think I need to know from that first investigation. I hope there are many, many more Matilda Darke books to come.

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

Stolen Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 2nd October 2020 and is available in digital format (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 |

about-the-author3

michael woodMichael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen @HQstories #TheStolenSisters #damppebbles

the stolen sisters“Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of the brilliant The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen with you, and help kick off the amazing blog tour alongside the fabulous Emma Mitchell. My thanks to HQ for the blog tour invitation and eARC of the book. The Stolen Sisters will be published on 1st October 2020 and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Stolen Sisters but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE Louise Jensen fan. I have read every single psychological thriller she has written, and will continue to do so because she is a master storyteller. I was really, REALLY looking forward to reading The Stolen Sisters and I was not disappointed. I loved this book. It gave me everything I was hoping for and so much more.

Carly, Marie and Leah Sinclair. Three sisters who went through hell twenty years ago when they were snatched from outside their home by two men and locked up in a dank and dilapidated room for days on end. Miraculously, the girls managed to escape, but that was only the beginning. Hell left their prison with them and followed them all the way home. Now, twenty years older, each of the sisters is bearing the brunt of those traumatic days as captives. Leah’s compulsions threaten to destroy her marriage and take her young son from her. Marie’s drinking problem has spiralled out of control, and Carly has never forgiven herself for not protecting her younger twin sisters enough and won’t let anyone get close to her. And let’s not forget the secrets. How much longer can the truth be kept hidden…?

The Stolen Sisters is an astonishingly good book and I savoured every moment I had with it. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. Pondering on the girls’ situation, trying to work out where the author was going to take the story (I failed at that, by the way) and generally relishing the author’s ability to tell a blimmin’ good story. It’s an absolutely cracking novel and if you love a family-driven psychological thriller, make sure you grab a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

The story is told from the past – we watch as the girls are taken from near their house at the tender ages of 13 and 8 – and the present day – where the reader witnesses the devastating long-term effects of the trauma suffered by the girls all those years ago. Leah’s compulsions, and how they impinge on her life, are eye-opening. The reader gets to see the gradual increase and deterioration of her condition as the anniversary looms. I found her anxiety and fear palpable. So cleverly written by the author. Out of all the characters in the book, we most closely follow Leah so I found myself warming to her more than the other two sisters. The majority of the chapters from the past are told from Carly’s point of view and my heart absolutely ached for her. Her disappointment in herself for not protecting her sisters enough and the mother role she took on whilst the girls were trapped, it almost broke me.

If you’ve read books by this author before you will be aware that she is a master at deceiving her reader (in the very best way possible). This is another wonderful example of why Jensen’s books are so incredibly popular. I had no idea where the story was going but when we got there, WOW! Dark and twisted – just how I like my books. I certainly didn’t see that one coming! I was gripped from start to finish. Even though it’s clear from the outset that the girls escape, the chapters set in the past still had me on the edge of my seat.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Stolen Sisters. It’s the most enjoyable, absorbing and exciting psychological thriller I have read in a long time. I was 100% in the pages of this book living the story alongside the characters. A highly emotive read that is incredibly tense and the ultimate page-turner. Did I mention that I loved The Stolen Sisters? Oh well, worth mentioning again. I loved The Stolen Sisters! Louise Jensen is a superb writer. It was an absolute joy to read this book and I will savour the memory of it for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

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

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by HQ on 1st October 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 |

The Stolen Sisters

about-the-author3

louise jensenLouise Jensen has sold over a million English language copies of her International No. 1 psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift, The Surrogate and The Date. Her novels have also been translated into twenty-five languages, as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise’s sixth thriller, Stolen Sisters, will be published in Autumn 2020 by Harper Collins.

The Sister was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award. The Date was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize 2018. The Surrogate has been nominated for the best Polish thriller of 2018. The Gift has been optioned for a TV film.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: Shed No Tears by Caz Frear @ZaffreBooks #ShedNoTears #damppebbles

shed no tears

“Four victims.
Killer caught.
Case closed . . . Or is it?

Christopher Masters, known as ‘The Roommate Killer’, strangled three women over a two-week period in a London house in November 2012. Holly Kemp, his fourth victim, was never found.

Until now.

Her remains have been unearthed in a field in Cambridgeshire and DC Cat Kinsella and the Major Investigation Team are called in. But immediately there are questions surrounding the manner of her death. And with Masters now dead, no one to answer them.

Did someone get it wrong all those years ago? And if so, who killed Holly Kemp”

Welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Shed No Tears by Caz Frear. Shed No Tears is the third book in Frear’s absolutely outstanding DC Cat Kinsella series and was published by Zaffre Books on 23rd July 2020 in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Shed No Tears but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVE this series. The DC Cat Kinsella Series is one of the most interesting, compelling, readable new crime series out there at the moment and I get very excited when I know there’s a new book coming out. There’s something about Cat Kinsella that is just ‘right’. She’s down to earth and very likeable, she’s hard-working and a first class copper (we won’t mention the, erm, skeletons in the closet). If you’ve not picked up one of this author’s books before, then now, this very moment, is your chance to rectify that.

DC Cat Kinsella and her DS, Luigi (Lu) Parnell have left the bright lights of London for Cambridge. A body, or what remains of it, has been discovered. The remains of the final victim of the ‘Roommate Killer’, Holly Kemp, have been found dumped in a field up the M11. Case finally closed after 6 long years. But on closer inspection, there are differences between the victims. It looks as though Holly was dressed, the other victims weren’t. There are differences to the wounds Holly suffered too. Nothing really matches. But the ‘Roommate Killer’ confessed to her murder….sort of. And there was an eye witness account which placed Holly at the killer’s house. Was the right person accused of Holly’s murder? And if not, who killed Holly Kemp…?

Everything about Shed No Tears clicked for me. The author can do no wrong in my eyes. This is one of two new crime series that every crime fiction fan should read, without doubt! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that characters maketh the book for me and the author has created the most wonderful cast. I’ve already mentioned how much I love Kinsella but I have just as much love for her senior officers (who are more like parents than superiors at times!), DS Lu Parnell and DCI Kate Steele. These two supporting characters add as much to the story as Kinsella does. Reigning her in when necessary, encouraging her to make random, off-the-wall connections at other times which move the investigation forward. Plus you have wonderful dollops of menace which Kinsella’s real-life father brings to the story. A devoted father, yes, but also a criminal with a dangerous boss who knows too much and won’t think twice about taking Kinsella down.

To fully appreciate the DC Cat Kinsella series I would recommend that you start with the first book – Sweet Little Lies – as the author builds the story and the relationships over time and Sweet Little Lies is the cornerstone of the entire series. Coming straight into Shed No Tears may raise a couple of questions about the previous books so you may as well purchase them all and start at the beginning. They’re all cracking novels and you won’t regret it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, yes! I would recommend all three books in this brilliant series. Shed No Tears is a slower paced investigation but it will hook you in from the start. I had my suspicions about where the story was going to go but that didn’t take anything away from the reading experience. I’m very intrigued to see where the author is going to take the next book as Shed No Tears ends on a bit of a revelation. Change may be afoot! I love the characterisation, I love the compelling plots and I absolutely adore the sprinkles of humour which had me laughing out loud at points. A marvellous addition to what is becoming a very strong series. More please! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Shed No Tears. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 23rd July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository |

about-the-author3

caz frear

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.

She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.

When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheHunted #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the hunted“Where does the adventure end . . .
and the nightmare begin?

Frank owns a service station on a little-used highway. His granddaughter, Allie, is sent to stay with him for the summer, but they don’t talk a lot.

Simon is a dreamer and an idealist, in thrall to the romance of the open road and desperately in search of something.

Maggie is the woman who will bring them together, someone whose own personal journey will visit unimaginable terror on them all. . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fourteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Hunted is published in the UK by Faber Books today (that’s 6th August 2020) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free ARC of The Hunted but that has in no way influenced my review.

From the moment I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. From the brilliantly intriguing blurb, to the cover that’s dripping blood to the PR that told me ‘It’s Jane Harper’s The Dry meets Deliverance, a terrifying piece of horror that also hits every note in terms of character and family drama’. I’ll be honest, I was a little bit giddy to make a start on this one. And I loved it. Every terrifying, intense, blood-splattered moment of it.

Frank is hiding from his problems in a rundown Outback shack he refers to as home. He owns the only roadhouse (service station) for miles. And when in the Outback, the miles go on forever. But he’s got company for a couple of weeks. His teenage granddaughter, Allie, has come to stay. They don’t know each other so they don’t really talk. What is there to say? One day, a car pulls up outside the roadhouse with a woman slumped at the wheel. She’s bloodied, battered and in a really bad way. The woman is Maggie and with her she brings untold horror…

I bloody loved it and I couldn’t put this book down! The Hunted is a terror filled, edge of your seat whirlwind and I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you may know that characters are key for me. The characters in The Hunted are absolutely spot-on! I loved Frank who, until recently, hasn’t really been there for Allie but when the chips were down and the angry gun-wielding maniacs were at the door, he really stepped up to the plate. I won’t name my favourite character in the book in this review but it’s safe to say, I think I’m a little bit in love! Other characters were all brilliantly drawn, stood tall and had their place in this wonderful story.

I seem to be having a spell of reading books where I can’t discuss the plot for fear of giving something I shouldn’t away. If you know too much about The Hunted then I wonder if it’s as shocking and surprising. I need to tread carefully. After a fairly gentle introduction to some of the characters at the start of the book (ignoring the prologue of course!), the pace rachets up and doesn’t stop until you’ve closed the back cover. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I really felt for the characters, I wanted to see what terrifying move would be made next and I felt invested in their plight. The constant threat hanging over them was delicious and the tension palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Hunted and can see it making an appearance in my top 10 books of 2020. I know some readers baulk at the idea of reading a horror novel but I urge you to give this one a try. Yes, it’s bloody and a little gruesome but it’s such an enthralling, gripping, unsettling story that will worm it’s way under your skin. You don’t want to miss out on this book. An outstanding horror novel that I heartily recommend.

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

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th August 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 |

20-books

about-the-author3

PictureGabriel Bergmoser is a Melbourne based author and playwright. After starting out in the youth theatre scene with his early plays Windmills, Life Without Me and Hometown, Gabriel completed his Masters of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts. He co-founded the independent production company Bitten By Productions, entering the Melbourne theatre scene with the one-act comedy Reunion and the futuristic Babylon Trilogy of noir thrillers. Gabriel’s 2015 Beatles comedy We Can Work It Out opened to sell out shows and rave reviews – it has also been performed in Queensland and returned to Melbourne stages for the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In 2015 he won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award for his pilot screenplay based on Windmills and was flown to the International Emmys in New York to accept. The same pilot was later nominated for the Monte Miller Award. In 2016 his first young adult novelBoone Shepard, was published by Bell Frog Books; it was later shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize the day after the sequelBoone Shepard’s American Adventure was released. The third book, Boone Shepard: The Silhouette and the Sacrifice, was released in 2018 and a television adaptation is currently in development with Pirate Size Productions.

His 2016 plays The Lucas ConundrumRegression and The Critic opened to excellent reviews while his early 2017 play Springsteen sold out its entire season. His play Heroes was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards, including five for Best Production and three for best script, on the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. His first musical, Moonlite (featuring original songs by Dan Nixon) was performed as part of the 2018 Midsumma Festival; it received rave reviews, sold out its entire season, and was later selected for the highly sought after Home Grown Grassroots development initiative. His 2019 play, The Trial of Dorian Graysold out its entire season, was extended, then sold out again. Several of his plays have been published by Australian Plays. 

In 2019 Gabriel signed a two book deal with Harper Collins, with the first, The Hunted, scheduled for publication in July 2020. The Hunted will be published in the UK by Faber. The film adaptation is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles, with Gabriel writing the screenplay. He has since signed a second two book deal with Harper for his YA coming of age novel The True Colour of a Little White Lie and a follow up.

Author photo and bio © https://www.gabrielbergmoser.com/

#BookReview: The Resident by David Jackson @ViperBooks #TheResident #FeartheResident #damppebbles

the resident.jpg“THERE’S A SERIAL KILLER ON THE RUN
AND HE’S HIDING IN YOUR HOUSE

Thomas Brogan is a serial killer. Having left a trail of bodies in his wake, and with the police hot on his heels, it seems like Thomas has nowhere left to hide. That is until he breaks into an abandoned house at the end of a terrace on a quiet street. And when he climbs up into the loft, he realises that the can drop down into all the other houses on the street through the shared attic space.

That’s when the real fun begins. Because the one thing that Thomas enjoys even more than killing, is playing games with his victims. And his new neighbours have more than enough dark secrets to make this game his best one yet…

Do you fear The Resident? Soon you’ll be dying to meet him.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you today — The Resident by David Jackson. I am a huge fan of Jackson’s writing, particularly his DS Cody series which you JUST HAVE TO READ! When I heard Jackson was due to release a standalone novel with Viper Books, I knew I had to get my mitts on a copy – by fair means or foul. Thankfully desperate measures were not called for as the lovely folk at Viper Books sent me an early copy. Huge thanks to the publisher for sending me a free ARC of The Resident which has in no way influenced my review.

Your home is your castle. Your safe sanctuary from the rest of the world. But what if it wasn’t? What if someone was living in your loft. And not just anyone, a deranged serial killer. If that’s not got your attention then we need to have words! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that I’m a die-hard crime fiction fan. I read a lot of crime and that’s just fine because that’s the way I like it. However, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read from the killer’s point of view. And that’s exactly what makes The Resident a darn special read. This is Thomas’s story.

There are several other elements which make The Resident stand out from other books in the same genre. A large proportion of the dialogue is between Thomas…..and Thomas. Yup, you read that correctly. Thomas is a very damaged soul and we get to see the inner workings of his strained mind. It’s fascinating stuff. I wouldn’t say he has a good side and a bad side (he’s a serial killer for flips sake, it’s ALL bad!) but there’s a definite divide in his thought processes. Evil Thomas….and eviler Thomas perhaps. One side of his personality definitely leads the other into some pretty tricky situations. The other thing I loved about this book is that the setting is quite compact. Thomas manages to find his way into an abandoned house, and from there he heads to the loft space for a bit of nose around. Once he’s in the loft, he realises he can access the other three houses in the row as none of the loft spaces are fully bricked up. From here we’re introduced to the neighbours; elderly Elsie, husband and wife Martyn and Colette Fairbright, and to a lesser extent, Janice and Brian. As you can see, the cast of characters is also quite compact but by gosh, it works a treat! Thomas spies on the neighbours, works out their schedules and invades their homes. He likes to taunt and play with them, make them think they’re losing their minds. Martyn and Colette become the main objects of his attention, partly due to a fascination (obsession?) he develops over Colette. It’s nail-biting stuff as the reader knows that Thomas is just playing with his latest ‘toys’ and a terrifying, blood drenched end at the hands of a serial killer is nigh for the couple.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. This is a fascinating and original take on a serial killer thriller and I loved it! I found myself strangely warming a little to what is a very dark and twisted character. I loved that Thomas was able to form a somewhat odd relationship with one of the other characters in the book and it seemed to be something which, until that point, had been missing in his life. And the ending was superb! The author has absolutely nailed it with that brilliant ending. I love Jackson’s books and this is another brilliant addition to his catalogue. Highly recommended.

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

The Resident by David Jackson was published by Viper Books on 16th July 2020 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstones | FoylesBook Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

david jacksonI was a latecomer to fiction writing, having spent most of my adult life producing academic papers and reports. After some limited success entering short story competitions, I submitted the first few chapters of a novel to the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. To my great surprise, the book was not only short-listed but given the Highly Commended accolade, which stimulated the interest of agents and publishers and eventually led to the publication of PARIAH. Since then, I have written several more crime thrillers, the most recent of which are set in my birth city of Liverpool. I still have a day job in Liverpool as a university academic, but now live on the Wirral with my wife, two daughters and a British Shorthair cat called Mr Tumnus.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |