#BookReview: Bone White by Ronald Malfi @KensingtonBooks #BoneWhite #damppebbles

“A landscape of frozen darkness punctuated by grim, gray days.
The feeling like a buzz in your teeth.

The scrape of bone on bone. . .

Paul Gallo saw the report on the news: a mass murderer leading police to his victims graves, in remote Dread s Hand, Alaska.

It’s not even a town; more like the bad memory of a town. The same bit of wilderness where his twin brother went missing a year ago. As the bodies are exhumed, Paul travels to Alaska to get closure and put his grief to rest.

But the mystery is only beginning. What Paul finds are superstitious locals who talk of the devil stealing souls, and a line of wooden crosses to keep what s in the woods from coming out. He finds no closure because no one can explain exactly what happened to Danny.

And the more he searches for answers, the more he finds himself becoming part of the mystery. . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Bone White by Ronald Malfi. Bone White was published by Kensington Publishing on 25th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

In the last couple of years I have become a huge fan of Ronald Malfi’s writing. So much so, the author’s latest book – Black Mouth – was one of the three books I chose for my #R3COMM3ND3D2022 post yesterday. Both Come With Me and Black Mouth are exceptional, unforgettable horror reads which I strongly recommend you pick up if you’re a fan of the genre. And if you’re a lover of short stories you won’t go wrong with Ghostwritten which is also excellent. So of course I was going to delve into this author’s back catalogue and visit a few of their earlier books. Bone White is the first of Malfi’s earlier books I have managed to get a copy of. But based on my enjoyment of this, and the author’s more recent works, it certainly won’t be the last!

When a bedraggled yet vaguely familiar face makes an unexpected appearance in the local diner one night muttering and covered in blood, the locals of Dread’s Hand are shocked. When he speaks of killing people and willingly leads detectives to the burial site, the spotlight falls on the small Alaskan town. Paul Gallo is desperate to find his twin brother Danny whose last known location was on the outskirts of Dread’s Hand. Seeing the news reports of the serial killer and watching the footage of the forensic teams excavating the burial site is too much for Paul. He packs a bag and heads straight to Alaska. But on arrival Paul discovers Dread’s Hand is like no other town. The locals are hostile and secretive, no one speaks of the horrors uncovered in the woods and he can’t help but notice the lines of crosses placed near the edge of the woodland. To find closure Paul needs to discover if his brother was one of the serial killer’s victims. But Dread’s Hand and its strange residents aren’t going to make life easy for him…

Bone White once again proves to the reader what an exceptionally talented writer Ronald Malfi is. The setting, the characters and the plot couldn’t have been any better. They were moulded and sculpted into the best versions of themselves giving the reader an unforgettable reading experience. It seems to be something this author achieves time and time again. I saw some similarities between the town in Black Mouth and Dread’s Hand. The thing that stood out the most though was how Dread’s Hand is as much a character in the story as Paul, or Detective Jill Ryerson are. It felt as though it was a living, breathing, terrifying thing which I, of course, LOVED!

The plot is well paced keeping the reader within the story and turning the pages late into the night. Although, the more I progressed into the book, the more unsure I became about reading just before bed. Paul’s story is a chilling, creepy one with a well-written sense of impending doom which had me imagining all sorts of nasties before I turned out the light!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a horror reader and you haven’t experienced Bone White then that needs to change. Paul is a such a well-crafted character that he felt real to me. I could feel his grief, his desire for answers no matter what that meant, for closure of any description. And despite the last turbulent years of their relationship, the strong brotherly bond between the twins. I loved the small town feel of the novel, the way the community turned their back on Paul and the isolation he experienced. This is another cracking novel from a favourite author of mine who excels at writing the three key elements of a novel: place, character and plot. The author really knows how to tell a riveting and compulsive story. Reading a Ronald Malfi novel is always an experience, a memorable one at that, and I don’t think as readers we can ask for anything more! Highly recommended.

Bone White by Ronald Malfi was published by Kensington Publishing on 25th July 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: Outback by Patricia Wolf @emblabooks @bonnierbooks_uk #Outback #damppebbles

“Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.

DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown of Caloodie, taking care of his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers, Berndt and Rita, vanish from the area, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?

As the number of days since the couple’s disappearance climbs, DS Walker is joined by Rita’s older sister. A detective herself with Berlin CID, she has flown to Australia – desperate to find her sister before it’s too late.

Working in the organised crime unit has opened Walker’s eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia’s remote interior, and he remains convinced there is more at play.

As temperatures soar, the search for Berndt and Rita becomes ever more urgent. Even if Walker does find the young couple, will it be too late?
This deeply atmospheric thriller is the gripping opening of a new crime series for fans of The Dry by Jane Harper, Cara Hunter and Chris Whitaker.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outback by Patricia Wolf. Outback is published by Embla Books today (that’s Tuesday 8th November 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Outback but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that my favourite obsession at the moment is Australian crime fiction. I will drop everything else to read a well-written piece of Aussie crime fiction. Which is exactly what Outback is. From the glorious atmospheric cover to the gripping plot to the eminently likeable lead in DS Lucas Walker, I loved everything about this book!

Rita and Berndt, backpackers originally from Germany, go missing in the vast Australian outback on their way to a job at Glen Ines Station. They were seen by locals in Caloodie before embarking on the long, hot journey. But they never arrived at their destination. On compassionate leave in Caloodie, caring for his gravely ill grandmother, DS Lucas Walker of the Australian Federal Police is tasked with finding the two backpackers. Suspicious as to why the AFP are getting involved in a simple missing person’s case, and sure the backpackers have changed their minds and headed for the cool of the coast, Walker begins to investigate only to fall at every hurdle. When Rita’s police detective sister arrives from Germany to help with the search, an unlikely partnership is formed. Will Walker and Barbara Guerra be able to find the missing backpackers before it’s too late…?

I loved this deeply atmospheric, skilfully written debut which takes a long hard look at the escalating drug trade in Outback Australia. Everything about Outback worked for me. From the superb characterisation to the vividly drawn, heat-drenched setting, from the compelling plot which builds over the course of the book to the thrilling, ‘hold your breath’ conclusion. I savoured every moment I spent with this book and I am already looking forward to the second book in the series which publishes in May 2023.

I really liked DS Lucas Walker and quickly became invested in the character. He’s returned to the small town his grandmother raised him in until he was 11 years old and to a house full of happy memories, love and familiarity. Now his grandmother is nearing the end of her life, and Walker has been granted leave to spend time with the woman he feels raised him. The interactions between Lucas and his grandmother were full of warmth and compassion. I appreciated these thoughtfully written softer moments in amongst the darker themes of the novel. Walker’s sadness as his grandmother nears the end along with his clear love and fondness for his younger sister, Grace, show the reader that DS Walker is a cop with a heart.

But this is a crime thriller after all and it’s certainly not all hearts and flowers. The plot is gripping and dark, told from several different points of view. Each of which kept me turning the pages and fully immersed in the story. The opening prologue immediately puts the reader on edge. The impending sense of doom is palpable, and I loved it. From there the story unfolds gradually, drawing the reader further and further into the dark world these characters inhabit. As Walker’s investigation stalls he’s joined by Rita’s older sister, Barbara Guerra who is a police detective herself. I loved the relationship between these two characters. Barbara is well aware that she is not a police officer in Australia. That she is very limited in what she can and can’t do, but will Walker be able to crack the case without her help? Well, you’ll just have to read the book yourself to find that out!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Outback. It’s such an accomplished, compelling debut which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. I loved the characters. In particular the working relationship between DS Walker and Barbara Guerra. It was a real highlight for me as not only am I fan of Australian crime fiction I also love German crime fiction too, so Outback really was a joy for me to read with influences from both. The plot was fascinating and drew me into the story. I was keen to discover what had happened to Rita and Berndt, which kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting with its wide horizons and emptiness which despite being vast still felt oddly claustrophobic. The author paints a beautifully vivid, atmospheric picture for the reader which I can’t help but applaud. All in all, I loved Outback and would recommend it not only to fans of Australian crime fiction but to anyone who enjoys a well written mystery full of suspense. Highly recommended.

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

Outback by Patricia Wolf was published in the UK by Embla Books on 8th November 2022 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 | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Patricia WolfPatricia Wolf has been a journalist for more than 15 years, a regular contributor to titles including The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Independent and The Telegraph, among others. She grew up in outback Australia, in a mining town called Mount Isa in far north-west Queensland – eagle eyed readers will have spotted a small reference to it in her first book, OUTBACK. Patricia loves the rugged beauty, indigo sky and wide horizons of the outback, but left Australia after university to travel the world and became a journalist. She lives in Berlin, Germany, but the outback always calls her home. In 2019, just before the covid pandemic locked us all in, Patricia spent two months in northwest Queensland, taking a four-week road trip. As she drove and spent nights and days surrounded by the beauty and rugged harshness of the outback, DS Lucas Walker and his stories came to be.

#BookReview: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks #Ghostwritten #damppebbles

Four brand-new horror novellas from “a modern-day Algernon Blackwood” all about books, stories, manuscripts – the written word has never had sharper teeth…

BOOKS CAN BE DEADLY

From the bestselling author of Come with Me, Four standalone horror novellas set in a shared universe!

In The Skin of Her Teeth, a cursed novel drives people to their deaths.

A delivery job turns deadly in The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride.

In This Book Belongs to Olo, a lonely child has dangerous control over an usual pop-up book.

A choose-your-own adventure game spirals into an uncanny reality in The Story.

Full of creepy, page-turning suspense, these collected novellas are perfect for fans of Paul Tremblay, Stephen King and Joe Hill.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi. Ghostwritten is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 4th October 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Ghostwritten but that has in no way influenced my review.

Ronald Malfi has quickly become an author whose books I pick up without a moment’s hesitation. I don’t always bother to read the blurb, Malfi’s name alone is enough to convince me I have to read the book. In the past I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the nightmarish worlds he creates and the poor souls he subjects to endless, unimaginable terrors within those worlds. And on that note, it would be a travesty for me to continue without mentioning the exquisite Come With Me and the sublime Black Mouth.

Ghostwritten is the latest chilling publication from this very talented author but it’s a little different to the previous full-length novels. Ghostwritten is a collection of four novellas, all based within the same world with clever links between them, all about writing and the written word. Now anyone who knows me knows I love books about books (show me an avid reader who doesn’t!) so I was seriously excited about making a start on this collection. My expectations were high, and I can tell you now that Ghostwritten delivered on every single count!

The four novellas within this collection are The Skin of Her Teeth, The Dark Brother’s Last Ride, This Book Belongs to Olo and The Story. It’s virtually impossible to select a favourite as all four stories are very different. Alone they all stand tall but together, side by side, with the clever connections the author has threaded through each novella, they form a highly compelling reading experience which I savoured every dark and disturbing moment of. I’ve found with this author’s books in the past that I come to care for the main character over time. I was a little concerned that I would feel that aspect was missing in the shortened novella form and in all honesty, it was. But that was because there are very few characters with any redeeming features in the four stories. However, in what I’m coming to see as ‘trademark Malfi style’, they’re all solid, believable, very well-written creations put in terrifying and often unnatural situations. I was engrossed, I was agog, and I was lost in the storytelling.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Ghostwritten is a thoroughly gripping, highly unsettling read packed full of suspense and tension. The take home message for me was that books are powerful and in the wrong hands, or with a sprinkle of the supernatural, can cause death, destruction and untold devastation. The pen most certainly is mightier than the sword. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! There is a lot going on in Ghostwritten with every novella feeling deserving of its place in the collection. I loved the cursed novels, the creepy kids, the brotherly bond and how fiction becomes a dark and twisted reality. And as a side note, the choose-your-own-adventure style structure featured in the last story is something I strongly believe we need back in our lives! All in all, this is a well-plotted, beautifully written collection of disturbing stories which, like several of its predecessors, has left its mark on me (nothing to do with Tommy Drake, that would be a terrifying thing!). I’m a little obsessed with Malfi’s novels and I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for his readers next. I’m sure it will be creepy as hell and impossible to put down! Highly recommended.

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

Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 4th October 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #ASliverofDarkness #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A creak of the floorboard, a shiver down your spine, the feeling that you’re not alone . . .
_________

Join a group of survivors who wash up on a deserted island only to make a horrifying discovery.

Meet a cold-hearted killer who befriends a strange young girl at a motorway service station.

Travel along eerie country lanes in a world gone dark, enter a block of flats with the most monstrous of occupants and accompany a ruthless estate agent on a house sale that goes apocalyptically wrong.
These eleven twisted tales of the macabre from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls are your perfect companions as the nights draw in . . .
If you’re brave enough.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor. A Sliver of Darkness is published by Penguin Michael Joseph today (that’s Thursday 29th September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of A Sliver of Darkness but that has in no way influenced my review.

C.J. Tudor has fast become one of my ‘must read, everything stops for them’ authors. Her blend of crime and creepy is a wonderful thing which I can guarantee I will always enjoy. When I discovered that Tudor was about to publish a collection of spine-tingling short stories I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. I thoroughly enjoy the short, sharp, intensity of a crime or horror short story collection but find I only read one or two collections a year, making them a real treat! A Sliver of Darkness delivered on every count. Not only did I get to indulge my love of short stories, but I got to read a collection penned by one of my favourite authors, one of THE most exciting writers out there at the moment.

But C.J. Tudor, like the rest of us, is only human, so A Sliver of Darkness starts with a very honest, very heartfelt explanation as to why the author and her publisher are opting to release a short story collection in 2022 rather than a full-length novel. My heart really went out to Tudor and I appreciated the honesty in her opening introduction.

A Sliver of Darkness is a collection of eleven twisted, chilling and twisty stories, each one worthy of its place in the novel. It’s all killer and no filler, that’s for sure. Each story is preceded with a short introduction from the author giving a little background or a fascinating insight into the inspiration behind the piece. One of the things I enjoy the most about Tudor’s writing is that there is always a completely unexpected, jaw dropping twist to the tale. I was a little concerned that that wouldn’t be achievable in short story form, but my concerns weren’t necessary. Each and every story delivers. Each and every story sings with Tudor’s trademark thrilling style and I loved how dark and addictive it was.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You can’t go wrong with a C.J. Tudor novel or short story collection, and I cannot wait to read The Drift when it is published in the New Year. My favourite stories were End of the Liner which is set on a cruise ship. Leila, a woman approaching her 75th birthday, reflects on times gone by and those she has lost. When a close friend opens Leila’s eyes to the reality of their situation, Leila isn’t sure she’s ready to face it head on. But is the alternative really any better? I loved how sinister this story was. The presence of the cruise ship’s ‘always happy, always smiling’ characters throughout, there to keep a watchful eye on the kids….and the adults…gave the story a chilling, creepy edge. The utter hopelessness the author conveys to the reader is palpable. I felt my heart sink to the floor for the characters. I also really enjoyed The Completion which stars Dan Ransom, a brash and egotistical estate agent who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and selling houses. He’s on the brink on completing the biggest sale of his career but his client has a bit of a reputation. Only Dan doesn’t know the half of it… This story was so dark and twisted, it took me places I never expected to go and probably never want to go again! Brilliant storytelling as usual from the author. But my favourite of the entire collection was Final Course. A group of old college friends gather in a manor house following the apocalypse. Harry, the privileged host, has invited ‘the Infamous Five’ back together one last time before the end of the world comes a-knocking. Tom and his young daughter, Millie, join Alex, Michael and Josh at Berskow Manor for one last terrifying, unforgettable night. This story gave me goosebumps and since reading it (a few weeks ago) I’ve been unable to get it out of my head. Eerie, unsettling and seriously dark, it was the cherry on top of a fantastic collection of well-penned stories. All in all, I loved A Sliver of Darkness. I hope Tudor publishes more short story collections in-between her full-length novels in the future because this is the best, most exciting collection I have read to date. If you’re a fan of the dark and dastardly, if you’re a fan of the author then please make sure you pick up a copy of this unsettling but utterly compelling book. You won’t regret it! Highly recommended.

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

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 29th September 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BookReview: Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss @ViperBooks #BlackLakeManor #damppebbles

A locked room. A brutal murder. And a killer who can unwind time…

In the former mining town of Black Lake, there is an old story about a shipwreck with only one survivor. His descendants have a unique ability: once in their lives – and only once – they can unwind the events of the previous six hours.

More than two hundred years later, part-time police constable Ella Manning is attending a party at Black Lake Manor, the cliff-top mansion belonging to the local billionaire. When a raging storm sweeps in from the Pacific, she and several other guests find themselves trapped.

And when their host is discovered brutally murdered in his study the next morning, the door locked from the inside, they turn to her to solve the crime.

Pushing her detective skills to the limit, against the odds Ella is sure she has identified the killer… but then someone undoes time. With no memory of what she discovered before, her investigation begins again, with very different results. Which of her suspects is guilty? And is there something even more sinister she is yet to uncover?

Can she solve the mystery before time runs out… again?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss. Black Lake Manor is published today (that’s Thursday 8th September 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Black Lake Manor but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

One of the most memorable books I read last year was the absolutely bonkers Five Minds. Speculative crime fiction at its absolute finest. I was blown away by the detail, planning and thought that had gone into the book to create a future version of our world which perhaps we should do everything to avoid… But I was left pondering on what the focus of the author’s next book could be. How do you top Five Minds? Well dear reader, the answer to your question is you write Black Lake Manor!

It’s a momentous night for Orcus Technologies. Founder and billionaire Lincoln Shan is about to unveil his ground-breaking technology to the world’s press. But mid-demonstration a storm hits Black Lake Manor, Shan’s luxurious home, cutting those at the party off from the rest of the world. By morning Shan has been viciously murdered in his office. The door is locked from the inside and nothing about the scene really makes sense. It’s down to part time special constable and Shan’s ex-fiancée, Ella Manning, to solve the case. But time is against Ella because a number of her suspects have a secret skill and can unwind time. As Ella gets closer to the truth, the killer resets the clock and Ella must start from scratch again with no memory of what came before. Can Ella discover who killed Lincoln Shan before time runs out…again?

It’s true, I did – more or less – steal that last sentence from the blurb but I don’t care because I bloody love it! Black Lake Manor is an inventive, brilliantly mind-bending novel which hooked me in from the opening scenes and didn’t let go. It’s propulsive, highly intelligent and superbly written with fascinating characters and a stunning setting. We first meet Lincoln in 2025 at the tender age of twenty and on the cusp of selling his remarkable power (that of being able to unwind time by six hours) to the highest bidder, who happens to be the 8th Duke of Ombersley. I should mention at this point that the ability to unwind time is a once in a lifetime event. So once it’s done, that’s it – it can’t be done again. This shocking and unsettling exchange immediately sets the scene for the reader.  We then skip forward another twenty years to 2045 where Lincoln has made his billions and will stop at nothing to break new ground in the field of technology. Until he’s killed in a horrific manner and it’s down to Ella, a woman with more empathy for animals than her fellow humans, to solve his grisly murder…again and again and again.

I thoroughly enjoyed how vividly the author painted the Akaht backstory with the flashbacks to the early 1800s. They provided a level of authenticity which I very much appreciated. There is a lot going on in this book with chapters moving from the past to the present day story, and then time hopping backwards by six hours as the wolf eats time (read the book, it’ll make perfect sense 🐺) so the characters have to relive the same day again, most of them without any memory of what happened the first (or second) time around. It could have been confusing but it’s done so well that it’s very easy to follow and understand. All of the threads are expertly interwoven and tied off by the end of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’ve never read a speculative fiction novel before and would like to indulge then please, please, please pick up Black Lake Manor (or Five Minds). You’re in safe, competent hands with Mr Morpuss at the helm. I loved the characters, Ella in particular who is a little bit prickly and not really a people-person but she does what she has to do. I loved the setting with its sweeping Vancouver Island coastline looking out onto the Pacific, and the intricate, crumbling cave network beneath the community’s feet from Black Lake’s days as a mining town. And I loved how involved I became in the story. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the wolf to eat time, waiting to see how that would affect proceedings and what different angle Ella would approach the investigation from afresh. Black Lake Manor is a very clever, hugely entertaining, totally immersive read which I devoured with wolf-like glee! If you’re looking for a mystery with a bit of a different spin to it, or you’re just a fan of superbly written characters, vivid, beautifully drawn settings and plots to grab and hold your attention, then this is definitely the book for you. Highly recommended.

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

Black Lake Manor by Guy Morpuss was published in the UK by Viper Books on 8th September 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book Depositorybookshop.org | Goodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Guy MorpussGuy is a London-based barrister whose cases have featured drug-taking cyclists, dead Formula 1 champions and aspiring cemetery owners.

His favourite books involve taking a twist on reality, and playing with the consequences. Which led to his debut novel, FIVE MINDS, about five people sharing one body – possibly with a murderer.

His second novel, BLACK LAKE MANOR, will be published in 2022.

He is currently working on his third novel, HIGHLIGHTS.

Guy lives near Farnham, England, with his wife and two sons. When not writing he can usually be found walking or running in the Surrey Hills.

#BookReview: The Collective by Alison Gaylin @orionbooks #TheCollective #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

How far would a mother go to right a wrong?

Camille Gardener is a grieving and angry mother who, fives years after her daughter’s death, is obsessed with the man she believes to be responsible.

Because Camille wants revenge.
Enter: the Collective.

A group of women who desire justice above all else.

A group of women who enact revenge on the men who have wronged them.

But as Camille gets more involved in the group she must decide whether these women are the heroes or the villains.

And if she chooses wrong, will she ever get out alive?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Collective by Alison Gaylin. The Collective is published by Orion Books in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 11th August 2022) and is also available in audio and digital formats.

I am a huge fan of Alison Gaylin’s books (also written under A.L. Gaylin), The Collective being the fourth of her standalone thrillers which I’ve read. And in all honesty, if I wasn’t already a fan, there would be no way on this earth that I would be able to resist the pull of this book! That striking red cover with the silhouettes, that utterly intriguing tagline on the US version (it’s ‘no killer goes unpunished’ if you haven’t already seen it) and that ‘grab you by the throat’ blurb. Getting hold of a copy of this book became a priority!

Camille Gardener is a woman consumed by grief following the death of her 15-year-old daughter, Emily, five years earlier. She blames high achieving college student Harris Blanchard for Emily’s death but Harris is the college’s golden boy and has never been held to account. When Camille is approached by a stranger and given information about a Facebook group called Niobe for grieving mothers, she signs up. But the group is different to others she’s joined in the past. Their anger matches her own, the women openly discuss the most horrific deaths they can imagine for those they feel are responsible for their child’s death. But Niobe is only the start. Before long Camille is introduced to the Collective and things start to spiral out of control. Camille has been accepted into the Collective, but there’s a good chance she won’t make it out alive…

The Collective is so GOOD! Gaylin has once again produced an absolute page turner of a novel which I found near impossible to put down. Camille is a fascinating character and I watched, open mouthed, as she dug herself deeper and deeper into what felt like an inescapable hole. My heart was in my mouth and I was on the edge of my seat wondering how far things were going to go for the character. The more I read, the more I liked her. The more I read, the more I needed to know about the Collective. Gaylin has written such a brilliantly addictive thriller and I flew through the pages, desperate to find out where the author was going to take this misguided, grief-stricken woman. And oh my gosh, what a perfect ending.

The book is set around the Hudson Valley and I really enjoyed Gaylin’s vivid descriptions of the area. The setting felt like a complete contrast to the dark events unfolding before me on the page. Proof that terrible things can happen to nice, normal people. And terrible is a pretty massive understatement when it comes to some of the grisly ways the members of the group fantasise about killing off those responsible for their children’s deaths. Oh my goodness, you wouldn’t want to cross any of those moms!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Collective is an utterly captivating, highly addictive read which hooked me in from the opening pages and didn’t let go until the shocking end. Such a thrilling plot, skilfully executed, featuring terrific characters and jaw-dropping twists. The Collective demonstrates how raw, how powerful, how completely destructive one woman’s grief can be when fed. It’s certainly a dark read but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride! Full of suspense, secrets and overflowing with revenge. Gaylin has done it again and I remain a huge fan. Highly recommended.

The Collective by Alison Gaylin was published in the UK by Orion Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Alison Gaylin is the Edgar and Shamus award-winning author of 12 books and many short stories. A USA Today and international bestseller, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

#BookReview: The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere @EmmaFinnigan #TheLastParty #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.
In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh. The Last Party is published today (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Last Party but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a proof copy.

I read my first Clare Mackintosh novel, the superb Hostage, last year which, incidentally, was published in paperback in June and is well worth picking up if you get the chance…providing you’re not planning on flying anywhere soon! I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, her characterisation and I was keen to read more. So when I was offered a copy of the first book in Mackintosh’s brand new police procedural series, I of course jumped at the chance to read it. Police procedurals are a passion of mine and out of everything, the style of book I return to the most. And I’m so glad I did because The Last Party is a cracking read!

It’s New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing at The Shore, an exclusive, high-end, lakeside development in Cwm Coed, North Wales. The guests include the wealthy new residents along with several of the less enthusiastic, put-upon locals. The following morning the body of the resort owner, Rhys Lloyd, is found floating in the lake. It’s DC Ffion Morgan’s patch so she takes the case. Ffion has lived in Cwm Coed all her life, it’s her home. She’s aware how much the village resents the development, she’s aware that local boy Rhys has ruffled many feathers over the years. And now he’s dead it’s down to Ffion to dig into her friends and neighbours darkest secrets and discover who killed Rhys Lloyd…

I loved The Last Party! The characters are superb, the plot is well-written and completely absorbing, the setting is beautifully atmospheric. Tick, tick and tick again. I adored DC Ffion Morgan. What an outstanding lead character she is. Gutsy, ballsy and strong. I loved her attitude, her approach to the job, as well as her approach to life in general. I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead character and Mackintosh has well and truly delivered with DC Morgan. As the body was discovered in Mirror Lake, which is right on the border of England and Wales, an English detective is assigned to work with Morgan, something Ffion is quite put out by. When DC Leo Brady of the Cheshire Major Crimes Unit is introduced to DC Morgan you know things aren’t going to be easy for these two. But as time progresses and they learn to work with each other, a rather formidable team is formed. I loved Brady just as much as I loved Morgan. The humour, the chemistry, it was wonderful to watch. Mackintosh’s characters are sublime and I’m a little bit in love.

The plot is well paced and thoroughly gripping. I found myself opting to read The Last Party when there were other things I probably should have been doing (parenting, housework, y’know the sort of thing…). There are lots of clever twists and turns along the way which keep the reader fully immersed in the story. The setting of Cwm Coed with Mirror Lake at its heart and surrounded by mountains is glorious. I could picture the area in my mind’s eye and feel the chill of the mist rolling off the water. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Last Party and I hope this is only the start of DC Ffion Morgan’s adventures. Everything about this book worked for me. The plot is incredibly gripping and hugely compelling – I had to know what had happened to Rhys Lloyd and why, the setting is beautifully drawn by the author, and the characters are some of the most memorable I’ve met this year. In fact, I would go as far as saying that something about this book reminded me a little of when I first met M.W. Craven’s Tilly and Poe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think this series could be something quite special. The first book has certainly left its mark on me and I am excited to read more, that’s for sure! Masterful storytelling, jaw-dropping twists and turns and a cast that I pretty much fell in love with. Highly recommended.

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

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of New York Times bestseller I LET YOU GO, and Sunday Times bestsellers I SEE YOU, LET ME LIE and AFTER THE END. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, and have spent a combined total of 50 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart.

Her new thriller, HOSTAGE, comes out in June 2021.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#BookReview: Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi @TitanBooks #BlackMouth #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerising odyssey of terror.
An atmospheric, haunting page-turner from the bestselling author of Come with Me

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi. Black Mouth is published by Titan Books today (that’s Tuesday 19th July 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Black Mouth but that has in no way influenced my review.

One of my standout books from 2021 was Malfi’s beautifully haunting Come With Me which to this day, nearly a year later, I can bring to mind with ease. I remember accurately how the book made me feel, I remember how fond I was of the lead character and how I lived the journey with him. So it goes without saying that Malfi was put straight on my ‘must read’ author list and I made a start on Black Mouth as soon as it landed with me.

Jamie Warren is a haunted man who tries to find solace at the bottom of a bottle. When he receives a call to return to his childhood home he knows there’s no way he can refuse, no matter how much he wants to. His brother needs him and Jamie is the only person Dennis has left to turn to. But the Warren’s childhood home is on the edge of a notorious area of Sutton’s Quay, dubbed by the locals as Black Mouth. The last thing anyone wanted to be was a Black Mouth kid, and Jamie and his friends paid the price on a daily basis. Rumours of hauntings and strange goings-on were rife in the area. He knows returning to his childhood home will stir up feelings he’s been trying to mask for nearly twenty years. Because something terrible happened to Jamie and his friends in the eerie Black Mouth woods, and it looks as though there’s no escape from the terror of the past…

Absolutely stunning! Once again Malfi has delivered a tale which draws the reader into the story, getting under their skin, and which features the most exquisitely written, nuanced characters. I fell head over heels in love with the author’s writing and his wholly believable creations. When I think about Jamie, Dennis, Mia and Clay I am very much reminded of the way Chris Whitaker’s characters in We Begin at the End made me feel (and WBatE is my all-time favourite book!). Which makes Black Mouth something very special indeed (and, with hindsight, I would include its predecessor, Come With Me, in the same category – they’re both exceptional books). Told in the past and the present this absorbing story of childhood trauma and the scars it leaves behind was totally unforgettable. Beautifully written, extremely unnerving and impossible to put down.

Malfi has created a perfectly unpalatable setting in the form of Black Mouth with its dark past. A prosperous mining town until the day the mine collapsed, burying the coalminers alive and taking out acres of woodland and several houses in the process. The area, little more than a crater in the earth, was renamed Black Mouth by the locals as it looked, from above, like a gaping mouth with sharp, pointy fangs. Add the mysterious ‘Magician’ whom Jamie, Mia and Clay meet when they’re eleven years old and the creep factor is ramped up tenfold! Personally magicians leave me cold (along with clowns) so I found myself even more on edge than the author probably hoped for by the situation the characters found themselves in.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Black Mouth is a captivating, emotional, yet creepy story of childhood trauma and how, as we get older, the nightmares we faced as children can still be just as frightening, the memories just as destructive. The characters are sublime, the setting was perfect and the writing is divine. Completely absorbing, totally immersive, I was addicted to this book from the moment I cracked the spine and I now feel bereft that my time with Jamie, Mia and Clay, and of course the pure delight that is Dennis, is over. I’m so excited to see what’s next for the author. You can be sure of one thing, I’ll be at the front of the queue! Highly recommended.

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

Black Mouth by Ronald Malfi was published in the UK by Titan Books on 19th July 2022 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Ronald Damien MalfiRonald Malfi is the award-winning author of several horror novels, mysteries, and thrillers. He is the recipient of two Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award, the Vincent Preis Horror Award, the Benjamin Franklin Award, and his novel Floating Staircase was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Maryland and tweets at @RonaldMalfi

#BookReview: More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez @MichaelJBooks #MoreThanYoullEverKnow #damppebbles

“Lore Rivera was married to two men at once, until on a baking hot day in 1986, one of them found out and shot the other.

That’s the story the world knows.

It’s not the story that fascinates Cassie Bowman.

Determined to know more about the mysterious Lore, true-crime writer Cassie is surprised to find Lore is willing to talk.

But as the two women get closer, Cassie finds herself confessing her own darkest secrets.

And the shocking truth behind the murder all those years ago . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez. More Than You’ll Ever Know was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free eARC of More Than You’ll Ever Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

My reading schedule for July and August was overflowing a few weeks ago. To the point where I was reading all day, every day in an attempt to catch up. And then More Than You’ll Ever Know landed on my radar, helped by a blogger friend whose opinion I really trust. She said it was a masterpiece of literary fiction and compared the writing to one of my all time favourite authors. Resistance was indeed futile. So this beauty was added to the TBR and prayers were whispered to an almighty deity that I would be able to get everything I needed to read, read in time. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful piece of true crime-esque fiction, but my TBR is still utterly terrifying and there’s doubt I’ll make it out the other end alive 😂

True crime blogger Cassie Bowman is on the hunt for her next story. The pressure is on to find something that will grab her mainly female audience’s attention and get her visitor numbers up. That’s when she stumbles upon a piece about a woman who wanted it all. Lore Rivera was married to two men. One man in Texas with whom she had two sons, and one ready made family in Mexico City. Lore was living two lives until the day her Mexican husband, Andres, turned up unexpectedly in Texas. The devastation of Lore’s lie, her deceit, sent her Texan husband to Andres’s hotel room where he shot him in cold blood. But Cassie feels there’s more to the story than meets the eye. She wants to tell the story from a different perspective so reaches out to Lore for her side of things. The two women become closer, sharing secrets they’ve both held close for years. But the more Cassie discovers, the more confident and excited she becomes about the success of the project. She’s on to something with Lore’s story, she just knows it! What really happened that fateful summers day in 1986…

More Than You’ll Ever Know is an engrossing book with beautifully written characters and an utterly riveting plot which takes the reader to the heart of one woman’s devastating deceit. You would think it was hard to feel any compassion towards Lore but she’s so perfectly human that the reader actually ends up being quite fond of her, or I did anyway! Gutierrez scrapes away the outer layers of Lore’s character – the successful businesswoman, the mother of twins, the wife of a local tradesman – and presents the reader with her inner most thoughts, feelings and desires in the most exquisite and captivating way.

When Lore is approached by Cassie to tell her side of the story, she feels drawn to the younger woman. The chemistry these two characters have is magnetic and I was drawn into their story – and it is their story. A deal is struck and in return for sharing the past, Cassie begins to share her own closely guarded secrets. I loved the character of Cassie just as much as I loved Lore. These two women with their complicated lives and troubled pasts made for the most sublime reading experience and it will be impossible for me to forget either of them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a superbly written debut which ticked all of the boxes for me. The unravelling of the mystery drew me into the story, the true crime element worked beautifully, the settings – both Mexico City and Loredo, Texas – were vividly drawn by the author and I could picture the scenes unfolding clearly in my mind. I loved the dual timeline where the reader gets to meet Lore and Cassie in the present day but we also get to sneak a look behind the curtain with flashbacks to Lore’s life in 1985/6 and the path she took to the ultimate deception. Plus, of course, the night of the shooting. The entire book worked for me. But the characters, they were EVERYTHING. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a sublime novel which, if you’re a fan of beautifully written literary mysteries you will devour. I was completely entranced and captivated by this stunning novel. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of More Than You’ll Ever Know, The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 7th July 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Katie GutierrezKatie Gutierrez is the author of the debut novel MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW, which will be published by William Morrow in the U.S. and Penguin Michael Joseph in the U.K. on June 7, 2022. She has an MFA from Texas State University, and her writing has appeared in TIME, Harper’s Bazaar, the Washington Post, Longreads, and more. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their two kids.

#BookReview: No Secrets by David Jackson @ViperBooks #NoSecrets #damppebbles

THEY BELIEVE HIS LIES. SHE KNOWS THE TRUTH.

You can’t lie to Izzy Lambert. Her highly developed empathic abilities allow her to read people’s emotions with terrifying accuracy – and consequences. As a child her insights sparked her parents’ divorce. As an adult she avoids getting too close to people for fear of what she might learn.

But now young girls are going missing in her town. The police have no suspects but, seeing her old school caretaker interviewed on the news about the story, Izzy comes to a chilling realisation: he knows where the missing girls are. When the police won’t take her seriously despite the lives at stake, she will risk everything to uncover the truth.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of No Secrets by David Jackson. No Secrets is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of No Secrets but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

I am a huge fan of David Jackson’s books. My obsession started with his DS Nathan Cody series and has continued with his more recent standalone thrillers. Jackson is an exceptional writer and getting my mitts on his latest release is both a priority and a highlight of my reading year. So I was over the moon to receive a copy of Jackson’s latest novel, the brilliant No Secrets.

Izzy Lambert has a gift. Or, as Izzy sees it, a curse. She’s been highly empathic since birth. Able to tell when those she is familiar with are lying. Knowing secret things about family, friends and work colleagues she just shouldn’t know. But when she sees someone she used to spend time with at school on the news, talking about the disappearance of a young woman, she immediately knows he isn’t telling the truth. He knows a lot more than he’s letting on. Pushed by her partner Andy, Izzy turns to the police and to DS Josh Frendy to report her suspicions. But Frendy doesn’t believe her and there’s no evidence to prove what Izzy is saying is true. Determined to save the missing girl Izzy makes it her mission to prove she’s right. She’ll stop at nothing, particularly when it becomes personal. The deeper Izzy digs, the more convinced she becomes. But at what cost…?

No Secrets is a brilliantly written thriller with a fascinating protagonist which gave it a bit of an edge over other books in the same genre. I really liked Izzy. It can’t be easy being her, that’s for sure. I loved her tenacity, her determination to get to the truth no matter what. I sympathised with her as she came up against brick wall after brick wall, dead end after dead end. I was as frustrated as Izzy was, which I think is the mark of a very talented writer. Writing likable, believable lead characters who feel real to the reader is something Jackson does time and time again. Many of the other characters in the book were quite horrible, very unlikable. They really wound me up at times and I absolutely loved it. Although I did find myself unexpectedly sympathising with one particular character when perhaps I really shouldn’t have!

The plot is well paced and grips the reader from the get-go. It’s a truly chilling read at times but Jackson’s trademark humour is ever present, adding a number of lighter moments to proceedings. But the darkness prevails and I enjoyed exactly how twisted things become for Izzy on her hunt for the truth. The ending, after a major revelation which left me reeling, was incredibly tense and I was completely absorbed in this clever story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. No Secrets is a gripping, thrilling, twisty read which I really enjoyed losing myself in. The characters are all very well-written, you’ll love some and loathe others. The plot is perfectly paced with lots of tension and suspense, keeping the reader turning the pages late into the night, desperate to find out if anyone will ever believe poor Izzy! All in all, this is a standout story from a hugely talented author. I love what Jackson has done with this book. I desperately want to say more but run the risk of sharing something I shouldn’t so I won’t elaborate further, but trust me on this one, you need to read No Secrets. Compelling, creepy and oh so good! You really can’t go wrong with a David Jackson thriller. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of No Secrets. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

No Secrets by David Jackson was published in the UK by Viper Books on 7th July 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

David Jackson is the author of nine crime novels, including the bestseller Cry Baby and the standalone The Resident. When not murdering fictional people, David spends his days as a university academic in his home city of Liverpool. He lives on the Wirral with his wife and two daughters. Find him @Author_Dave.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |