#BookReview: The Curator by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #TheCurator #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

the curator“It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, The Curator by M.W. Craven. The Curator is the third book in Craven’s superbly good Washington Poe series (or, as everyone seems to refer to the series, Tilly and Poe) and is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (4th June 2020) by Constable. I received a free eARC of The Curator but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been waiting a whole year (and a bit) for The Curator to arrive on my kindle. And what’s the first thing I do when it does? I simper a little because I finally have a copy – the wait is over! – and then I try to pretend it’s not there. Crazy, right? I was so keen to read this book but at the same time, I was really, really nervous. What if I didn’t enjoy it? What if I rushed in and didn’t savour it (it’s a flipping long wait ’til the next one, that’s for sure!)? And that, I think, is the sign of an incredibly talented author who has built the beginnings of a series into something that, for the reader, is extra special. Reading The Curator, for me, was an event. Something to look forward to. Something to anticipate and savour every minute of. Something to remember. And I loved it. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes.

DS Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw and a heavily pregnant DI Stephanie Flynn of the National Crime Agency are called back to Cumbria to investigate a perplexing case. Severed fingers. What appears to be three pairs from three individuals, left over the Christmas period in the most surprising of places. On further investigation it’s confirmed that one finger in the pair was removed antemortem, the other finger was removed postmortem. But that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle. The female victims were drugged, the male victim wasn’t. And a note was left with each set of fingers with the hashtag #BSC6. The team – even with Tilly’s immense intelligence and analytical brain – are initially baffled. But then through a little supposition and a lot of analysis, a suspect emerges. But what the suspect tells them turns everything upside down. This isn’t any run of the mill serial killer, this is the Curator…

Another absolutely cracking novel from the crime fiction mastermind that is M.W. Craven. I loved this book and savoured every darn second I had with it. I could have easily read this book in a couple of sittings but I slowed down to ensure I enjoyed every twist and turn. Craven appears to be one of those crime writers who doesn’t shy away from digging the depths of the internet to find strange and unusual ideas for his novels, which he then twists and shapes into crime fiction gold. The Curator is solid proof of that. An intriguing and intricate setup, followed by an edge of your seat hunt for the bad guy, culminating in a devilishly dark twist that you won’t see coming.

Even when I had my suspicions about who the killer was, there was another unexpected gut punch just waiting around the corner. Such a clever well-written book that hooks you in from the get-go and doesn’t let go until the shocking finale.

Tilly and Poe are wonderful creations who have been firm favourites of mine since the very first book. I’ve loved watching their friendship and working relationship grow over the last couple of years. The chemistry and the bond they have, makes for compelling reading. The humour and the wit the author includes in the story adds a few lighter moments to what is a brilliantly dark and twisty story. Expertly paced, skilfully written and all in a setting to die for (literally!).

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, categorically, YES! If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet, then that has to change. The Curator can easily be read as a standalone but if you’ve not read any of the books before, why not treat yourself to the entire series?! Be whisked away to deepest, darkest Cumbria and meet two totally unforgettable characters who you will grow to love and admire. I loved this book and I’m counting down the days until Dead Ground is published next year. Another stunning novel from an accomplished writer and I’m really excited to see what the future holds (let’s hope it’s a lot more Tilly and Poe!).

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

The Curator by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 4th 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.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

#BookReview: The Guest List by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheGuestList #damppebbles

the guest list“On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body.

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the astonishingly good The Guest List with you today. The Guest List was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats with the paperback to follow in September. I received a free eARC of The Guest List but that has in no way influenced my review.

I was a huge fan of Foley’s The Hunting Party when it was released last year. So much so, it made it onto my top ten (ish) books of 2019! So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this latest release. It did not disappoint one jot! I loved The Guest List. Before I started reading, I was struggling with my reading mojo. Its bags were packed and were sat by the front door. It was determined to leave. Then I picked up this book, absolutely fell in love with it and my reading mojo has been content ever since. The magical healing power of Lucy Foley’s words and characters!

I was a little surprised to find that The Guest List is in a very similar format to The Hunting Party. A group of people gather in a remote location. All of the characters have secrets of their own and a motive for committing a murder. You know someone is going to die — but you don’t know who the victim is until near the end of the book, nor whodunit! Honestly though, who cares?! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – I was always told.

Jules Keegan and Will Slater are getting married, and it’s going to be the showbiz wedding of the year. The venue is a crumbling Folly on a remote island off the Irish coast, but wedding planner, Aoife, has everything under control. This is her first big gig and she’s hoping the glitz and the glam of the occasion will bring in lots of future business. But despite the smiling faces on the outside, bitter rivalries and jealous feuds burn deep within the hearts of the guests. This will be the wedding of the year, but for all of the wrong reasons. Spirits are high, the alcohol flows and murderous revenge is planned…

This is a wonderfully entertaining book which I absolutely devoured. I loved it and it got a special mention on my top ten (ish) books of 2019 for being so utterly brilliant. I love a good mystery and this is a truly excellent one. The story is told from several points of view. Each chapter revealing a little more of why it’s narrator could indeed be a murderer. Once again, the identity of the victim is not revealed until the end of the book and it worked so well, keeping me on the edge of my seat! Between you and I, there were a number of dastardly characters I was hoping it would be!

Foley really uses her setting to optimum effect creating an eerie and atmospheric stage for her characters. The setting is as much a part of the story as the characters are, with the swirling winds, the desolate beaches, the raging storms and the cries of the cormorants circling overhead. It’s not hard to imagine the isolation and the solitude the characters on the island feel. Particularly when things start to go badly wrong.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s wonderful and such an entertaining read. The ending is very satisfying (much like the entire book really) and if it hadn’t already featured on my top books of 2019 list then it would be a strong contender for this year’s selection (maybe it still will feature – it was published this year, after all!). Foley is a very talented writer, this is such a brilliant book and I highly recommend you check this one out.

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

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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lucy folyLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger (@m_pettinger) @cobaltdinosaur #PaperSoldiers #damppebbles

Paper Soldiers ebook complete

“The streets of Greater Manchester are awash with drugs and weapons, and the gangs that control this multi-million pound business will stop at nothing to protect and grow their business. The Dolsen family are one such gang.

When the head of a rival Yardie gang is found brutally murdered, revenge attacks were always likely to follow, and gang members were unlikely to be the only ones hurt.

DCI Priest teams up with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA); but they soon admit to conflicting objectives which may unravel their alliance, and prove to it be more of a hindrance than a help.

Was DCI Priest was about to undertake his most challenging investigation to date?”

Hello and welcome to another damppebbles takeover by me, Ryan. I’m back (but not in a ‘The Shining’ type way!). Every now and again Emma talks about a book that she is organising a tour for and I’m intrigued! It sounds interesting and that is exactly what happened with Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger! Something about the blurb said ‘read me!’ so I asked very nicely and here I am! I received a free digital copy of Paper Soldiers but that has in no way influenced my review.

So after an all-action blurb featuring guns, drugs, murder and gangs, did the book live up its summary? Absolutely! DCI Priest is a fantastic curmudgeonly, dry humoured and intelligent lead detective consumed in a tough investigation. The team around him form a strong cast. Stephens and Simkins have fantastic interplay, with the right level of support and point-scoring off each other that you would expect from a team that has bonded together over a period of time. The added realism of junior officers trying to impress, or displaying incompetence, really added to the atmosphere that Pettinger develops. I should say I have not read the first two books in the series – The Decalogue or Tick Tock Time’s up – but that didn’t stop me loving this novel, and left me wanting to read more!

When a gang leader is discovered murdered, the police quickly come to realise this isn’t going to be a stand-alone killing. They are sure the murder will lead to revenge killings and they expect there will be in-fighting as the gang finds its new leader. Calling in experts to bring the team (and reader) up to speed on drug gangs in the Manchester area, the team soon realise that this could go on a lot longer than anyone wants. A couple getting gunned down on the streets of their city is just part of the growing body count, and no-one wants to talk to the Police. So it’s uphill all the way for Priest and his team!

I mentioned that Priest is a curmudgeon but he is also sarcastic and not afraid to get into peoples faces and push his team hard to solve the cases and end the bloodshed. I would love to go back and read more about Priest so expect to visit books 1 and 2 soon, especially to find out if Priest has always been this sarcastic and cynical! The interplay between SOCA and Priest’s team adds a definite friction to the proceedings as both teams are keen to gain the results they want and neither wants the other to interfere too much! I liked this aspect of the book as it gave an added tension to a number of scenes and leads to some well-placed twists.

If you put together well-written characters, an excellent storyline, enough blood to keep even damppebbles happy – you get Paper Soldiers. I give this cracking novel an easy 5 stars and look forward to reading more about DCI Priest’s adventures soon.

Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger was published in the UK on 16th March 2020 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Mark Pettinger

Mark Pettinger is a crime fiction writer of the DCI Priest novels. His debut The Decalogue entered the Amazon Bestseller Top 100 list in December 2015, and the Top 10 on the sub-genre of ‘police procedurals’.

Mark was born in a maternity ward attached to RAF Manston in Kent. His father was in the Royal Air Force, and for the first few years of his life, he lived on a number of RAF bases on the east coast of the UK with his parents and sister. Skip forward a few years; now married and with children he lives in a small village in East Yorkshire.

Fitting his writing around his ‘day job’; Mark’s writing pattern is somewhat sporadic, and he writes when he can, which currently is in hotel rooms / foyer, or in an airport lounge trying to keep one eye on the departure board to ensure he doesn’t miss his flight!

Mark’s interest in the murky world of crime started a number of years ago when he was attracted to reading true crime. He became fascinated with the exploits of the Yorkshire Ripper, Dennis Nilsen, John Wayne Gacy, Andrei Chikatilo etc. An avid reader of many genre’s, but his attention turned to favouring crime fiction; and his reading list includes Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Lynda La Plante, Jo Nesbo, and latterly CJ Tudor (for something just that little bit special).

Mark has openly credited Ian Rankin as the primary inspiration for not only stirring his interest in reading crime fiction, but also ‘picking up the pen’.

Mark has published two hugely successful crime fiction novels: The Decalogue in 2012, and Tick Tock, Time’s Up in 2015. Long overdue, critics have noted, Mark published the third instalment in the DCI Priest series Paper Soldiers in March 2020.

Next on his list is a standalone crime thriller, due for publication in summer 2021.

#BookReview: Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (translated by Sarah Moses) @PushkinPress #TenderIsTheFlesh #damppebbles

tender is the flesh.jpg“It all happened so quickly. First, animals became infected with the virus and their meat became poisonous. Then, governments initiated the Transition. Now, ‘special meat’ – human meat – is legal.

Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans only no one calls them that. He works with numbers, consignments, processing. One day, he’s given a gift to seal a deal: a specimen of the finest quality. He leaves her in his barn, tied up, a problem to be disposed of later.

But the specimen haunts Marcos. Her trembling body, her eyes that watch him, that seem to understand. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost – and what might still be saved…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of one of the most hypnotic books I have read in a long, long time with you. I saw Tender is the Flesh mentioned a couple of times on Twitter and it instantly got it’s (meat) hooks into me. I couldn’t help myself and pre-ordered the book immediately. This is the type of fiction I love; brutal, powerful and thought-provoking.

I should probably mention at this point that I read this book as soon as it was published (a few months ago) and the fact that a virus infects the World’s animals seemed, at the time, to be nothing more than fiction. Anything involving a virus these days has a slightly different…perspective (?) to it, but I know I would still have read this book and still loved it as much as I do. Because it’s a bloody awesome book and if you’ve got a strong stomach and like the darker side of fiction then this is a must read!

So the big question here is…would you? Would you eat human flesh if that was the only available meat for you to consume? It’s unthinkable, right? Tender is the Flesh makes the reader ask themselves some pretty hefty questions and looks at the situation from some very interesting angles. To put things into context, the humans on the menu aren’t like you or I. They’re bred, farmed and processed the same way livestock is. They’re nameless, they’re nothing but protein. But….but…but…they’re still people, right? And that’s the brilliant hook which this stonking piece of fiction rests on. It’s absolutely impossible to comprehend. But that’s exactly what pulled me into the pages of this incredible book.

Marcos works at the local processing plant. The reader discovers that after so many years of watching and partaking in horrifically violent acts that Marcos has become somewhat desensitised to the brutality of it all. He’s a heavily flawed character, having recently separated from his wife, but I found myself warming to him as the story progressed. When an illegal gift on a Female FGP (First General Pure) is delivered to his house, he doesn’t know what to do with it (her!).

This really is an eye opener of a book and I devoured it (pun intended). I was nearing the end of the novel and I couldn’t for the life of me work out where the author was going to take things, how it was all going to be wrapped up. But it’s absolutely perfect and as a result, this book will stay with me for a long time to come. I expect it will feature in my top books of the year list.

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely, but it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s savage, brave, unsettling and utterly unflinching fiction at it’s very best. The way the ‘special meat’ is treated is inhumane and stomach churning and makes me question the way livestock is treated. Vegetarianism could be the way forward for me following this novel! If you’re looking for a book which is dark, disturbing and wholly involving then this is it. Bazterrica does not spare her reader and I absolutely loved it! Highly recommended. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica was published in the UK by Pushkin Press on 6th February 2020 and is available in digital format. Paperback copies are available via Waterstones, Foyles and Book Depository (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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Agustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian novelist and short-story writer. She is a central figure in the Buenos Aires literary scene, co-curating the event series ‘Siga al Conejo Blanco’ and coordinating reading workshops. She has received several awards for her writing, most notably the prestigious Premio Clarín Novela for her second novel, Tender is the Flesh, which has sold in eight languages.

#BookReview: Afraid Of The Light – Crime Fiction Anthology in aid of the Samaritans | #AfraidOfTheLight #Samaritans #damppebbles @NolanDom

afriad of the light.jpg“Some people are scared of the dark. But it’s the light that exposes the secrets.

A young boy with nightmares faces up to his demons. A deathbed confession turns the world on its axis. A five-year-old watches his parents bury a body in the garden. A soldier returns from the war to find the horror isn’t yet over.

Afraid Of The Light brings the imagination of fourteen bestselling crime writers together in a collection that will keep you up all night. From a deadly campfire game to a holiday gone wrong, to an AI assistant with a motive and a love affair that can only end in murder, this is a gripping, twisty set of stories to send a shiver down your spine.

“The stories are wildly entertaining in their own right, but they also address the concerns and fears we all feel: isolation and loneliness; guilt and grief; justice and punishment. And perhaps most importantly of all: redemption and hope.” — Alex North”

Hello my bookish friends and welcome to Friday on damppebbles. I am absolutely delighted to be sharing my review of a very special book with you today. It’s no secret that I spend my life on Twitter. I think I may have mentioned that before. So when I saw a tweet from brilliant author, Clare Empson, asking for crime fiction bloggers (that’s me!) to read a hot new crime anthology – featuring 14 bestselling authors and with a foreword by Alex North – all in aid of the Samaritans, I couldn’t resist the call! I wanted ‘in’. And oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did! This is a gripping collection of shorts from some of the best writers out there and I couldn’t put it down. I received a free eARC of Afraid Of The Light but that has in no way influenced my review. (But I’ve since purchased a copy because it’s only 99p at the moment and all proceeds go to the Samaritans.)

I do enjoy a short story collection. They’re easy to read alongside a full length novel, and rarely do I finish one in one sitting. That was my plan when reading Afraid Of The Light. To dip in and out of the book over the course of a week or so. That was the plan. The plan was deeply flawed. Little did I know, when I picked this book up on a lazy Saturday afternoon during lockdown, that it was absolutely impossible to put down and I’d have it read in a few hours. This is an absolutely brilliant and engaging collection of devilish stories from some of the best crime writers out there. Some I’ve read before, some whose books are on my TBR and some I’ve wanted to read for a while.

I won’t pick a favourite as that’s actually really hard to do (because they’re all excellent) but standout reads for me were Adam Southward’s ARE YOU LISTENING?, which is the first story in the book and sets a high benchmark along with the tone for the rest of the collection. Dominic Nolan’s DADDY DEAREST, which had me wondering where the story was going only to drop a pretty hefty bombshell. And Heather Critchlow’s DROWNING IN DEBT,  which has the most wonderfully satisfying ending. Other firm favourites include; SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Robert Scragg, which leads the reader down one path only to provide the most beautiful and well written twist. This one left me reeling a little! Jo Furniss’s TO EVIL OR NOT TO EVIL shows us a futuristic world where your thoughts and feelings are on display to all and it’s not only the people in your life you need to watch.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed Afraid Of The Light and will be recommending it to everyone. There’s not a single dud in the collection and I couldn’t help but lose myself in this wonderful book. All of the stories offer something new and if you haven’t read any of the contributing authors work before, then here’s a perfect opportunity to get a sampler AND make a small donation to a wonderful charity which does so much for so many. Highly recommended.

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

Afraid Of The Light was published in the UK on 21st April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats: | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comGoodreads |

CONTRIBUTORS
Are you Listening? – Adam Southward
Daddy Dearest – Dominic Nolan
Deathbed, Beth Dead – Elle Croft
Loveable Alan Atcliffe – S R Masters
Sleep Time – Phoebe Morgan
Coming Home – N J Mackay
Sausage Fingers – Victoria Selman
Just a Game – Rachael Blok
Drowning in Debt – Heather Critchlow
To Evil or Not to Evil – Jo Furniss
Sheep’s Clothing – Robert Scragg
Frantic – Clare Empson
Planting Nan – James Delargy
Shadow – Kate Simants

All author royalties from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Samaritans.

Samaritans is a charity working across the UK and Ireland to reduce the number of people who take their own lives and help people who are struggling to cope with how they’re feeling or with life’s challenges. When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year.

You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit http://www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

Twitter-Out-Now

#BookReview: The White Road by Sarah Lotz @HodderBooks #TheWhiteRoad #damppebbles

the white road.jpg“Adrenaline-junkie Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he’s met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he’s had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he’s faced with an impossible task: he’s got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There’s only on place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.

And Simon’s luck is about to run out.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of my latest #bookhangover and the reason that I’m currently ‘book-less’ (because nothing else at the moment could possibly be as good as this book!), the incredible The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I am a huge fan of Lotz’s writing and have loved both The Three and Day Four. I’m not very good when it comes to Goodreads but both of these books sit proudly on a very exclusive shelf called ‘favourites’. The White Road will definitely be joining them there. I received a free ARC of The White Road but that has in no way influenced my review.

The White Road is sublime. Atmospheric, creepy and I was living the story from the opening paragraphs alongside our protagonist, Simon Newman. Simon and his mate, Thierry have started a website. In probably not the smartest of moves, they decide that filming the scene of a horrific caving accident, where three young lads died, could create the buzz they’re after, show their audience exactly what they’re about and get the site a few extra hits. The Cwm Pot caves are closed off to the general public because of the danger, but that’s OK because Simon has found an odd bloke called Ed on the internet who has offered to take him into the caves for a small fee. Once underground, things start going horribly wrong for the pair and Simon starts to wonder exactly what type of person he has stranded himself hundreds of feet underground with. Simon manages to escape the icy depths of Cwm Pot, frozen and traumatised by the whole experience. And with the camera footage which, of course, goes viral. The thrill of his new found fame and the adoration of the masses pushes Simon and Thierry on further, looking for the next big high and viral video. When Thierry suggests filming the dead on Everest, Simon doesn’t immediately jump at the idea – but he doesn’t refuse either and sets Thierry a challenge to raise the funds for the trip. Before long Simon is heading for base camp on Mount Everest. But this time, he may not be so lucky…

This book is so, so good and I relished every moment I had with it. Simon is a chancer, a bit of a lad and his morals are a little on the dubious side but I really liked him. As the book progressed I started to feel sorry for him and wished he had a little more backbone to stand up to Thierry and his astonishingly bad ideas. But Thierry had made his own, somewhat incomparable, sacrifices and Simon was committed. Taking on Mt. Everest without some form of knowledge or training seems like the most barmy of ideas but off the reader heads with Simon to Base Camp. I felt nervous for him, apprehensive, and the sense of impending doom gave me palpitations. The White Road really gets under your skin and it’s going to be impossible to forget this one!

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, without a moment’s hesitation. I loved this book because the characters felt so very real to me. I loved this book because it’s like nothing I’ve read before. I loved this book because I think this is my first (literary) trip to Mt. Everest and I find it fascinating the need some people have to conquer the mountain, to risk life and limb, to push your body to it’s absolute limits. It’s chilling, it’s atmospheric and it’s totally involving. Impossible to put down, impossible to forget. An outstanding piece of fiction.

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

The White Road by Sarah Lotz was published in the UK by Hodder Books on 18th October 2018 and is available in hardcover, audio, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstonesFoyles | BookDepositoryGoodreads |

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sarah lotz.jpgSarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist with a fondness for the macabre and fake names. Incapable of holding down a ‘proper’ job, over the years she’s painted outrageous frescos for dubious casinos, written scripts for South Africa’s first full-length sci-fi cartoon show and lived homeless on the streets of Paris as a teenage runaway.

Among other things, she writes horror/thriller novels under the name S.L. Grey with author Louis Greenberg, a YA pulp-fiction zombie series with her daughter, Savannah, under the pseudonym Lily Herne, and quirky erotica novels with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick under the name Helena S. Paige.

Stephen King said her solo novel The Three was ‘really wonderful’ (which made her cry in a very very good way) and Day Four was published in the U.K by Hodder & Stoughton in May, 2015.

She likes cake, scruffy dogs, fast cars and sitting in her attic making stuff up.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #WeBeginattheEnd #damppebbles

We Begin at the End.jpg“‘YOU CAN’T SAVE SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T WANT TO BE SAVED . . .’

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?”

The warmest of welcomes to the blog today and to my stop on the We Begin at the End blog tour. We Begin at the End is the highly anticipated new release from Chris Whitaker and was published by Zaffre Books in hardcover on 2nd April. The paperback is set to follow in October. I received a free eARC of We Begin at the End but that has in no way influenced my review.

We Begin at the End is the most beautiful, captivating and exquisite book I have ever read. My heart broke. I cried big, ugly, snotty tears and I was left wanting to relive the whole experience, from beginning to end, again. This is a stunning piece of fiction and if you don’t read it for yourself then you’ll never know exactly how astonishing it is. Hell, if this book doesn’t make it to the top of my best books of 2020 then we have been blessed with some truly incredible books this year.

The outlaw, Duchess Day Radley. The most perfect character to grace crime fiction. At only 13 years of age she has the guts and the intelligence to do things most adults wouldn’t dream of. But she’s also a 13 year old hot-headed kid who makes some pretty catastrophic mistakes. I adored her. I finished We Begin at the End a few weeks ago now but Duchess remains with me still. Her mother, Star, repeatedly tries and fails to be a good mom to her two kids. Which means Duchess has to step up and take charge. It’s heart-breaking stuff, hence the big, fat, ugly tears. Duchess’s relationship with her younger brother, Robin, was so touching, so beautiful. She’s his protector, she looks out for him because their mother can’t and does such an admirable job that every scene involving the pair of them tugged at my heart strings. When a caring, responsible adult eventually enters their lives in the form of their grandfather, it’s an absolute joy to watch six-year-old Robin blossom. Duchess’s wariness and her slow thaw towards grandfather Hal just made me admire her even more. But some people just aren’t destined to find happiness and history has an unfortunate knack of repeating itself…

Before I go any further with this review I must mention Chief Walker, or Walk as he’s known to the locals. Tragedy struck Cape Haven 30 years ago when Sissy Radley, sister to Star, was killed. Walk, who even then had aspirations to become the local police chief, was part of the search party. Walk’s best friend, Vincent King, was accused of Sissy’s murder. But Walk never gave up on Vincent and now, thirty years later, Vincent is due to be released from jail. And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Walk. Another beautifully drawn character who leaps from the pages of the book and into the reader’s mind. When tragedy hits Cape Haven for a second time, Walk is pushed to the sidelines of the investigation. Before long, he decides that if the truth is to be found, then he’s the man to uncover it. Such compelling reading and I lived every. single. moment.

Would I recommend this book? This book is perfection. I will be driving people crazy recommending We Begin at the End to them. It ticks so many boxes for me; set in small town America – tick, full of the most enchanting and interesting characters – tick, a devilish mystery at it’s heart – tick, leaves me with the biggest emotional bookish hangover – tick. This book is a masterpiece and if you only buy one book this year based on my reviews then please, PLEASE make it this one. I really wish I had the words to convey what a stunning book this is. Absolutely outstanding.

I chose to read and review an eARC of We Begin at the End. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 2nd April 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |

Chris Whitaker

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chris whitakerChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd @TransworldBooks @1stMondayCrime #TheMemoryWood #damppebbles

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Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my review of The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd. Now, had life been relatively normal (normalish) then tonight would have seen the first First Monday Crime Night of the year. But we’re all on lock down so it’s obviously not happening (#StayHomeSaveLives #StayHomeStaySafe). That doesn’t mean we can’t shout about the brilliant authors who were due to appear though, no siree! Sam Lloyd, author of the haunting The Memory Wood, was due to be taking part this evening so I, of course, leapt at the chance to read this INCREDIBLE book. I have to be completely honest with you here. As soon as I saw this book, before I’d even read the blurb, I knew I had to read it. The cover gave me chills. I received a free ARC of The Memory Wood but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Memory Wood had my attention as soon as I set eyes on it; that stunning cover, the intriguing blurb. You know when you get ‘that’ feeling about a book…? You just know that it’s going to be something special? You don’t know how you know, you just do? That’s the feeling I had about The Memory Wood. Expectations were high. Oh, the pressure! And I wasn’t disappointed one jot. What a mesmerising, creepy crime thriller. Full of tension and dread. I absolutely loved this book!

Elijah lives with his family at the Game Keeper’s Cottage in the grounds of Rufus Hall, near the Memory Wood. Elijah’s life is quiet and sedate. He doesn’t attend school but he has a love of words and likes to think that makes him cleverer than the average 12-year-old. One day, while exploring a crumbling cottage in the wood, Elijah makes a discovery. Thirteen year old, Elissa. Chained to the floor and desperate to escape, Elissa pleads with Elijah to help her. But Elijah knows he can’t help and he can’t really understand why she is so desperate to leave. After all, they’ve only just met! In Elissa he sees a friend, a confidant and someone to spend his time with. He’s enchanted by her. But Elissa isn’t the first girl Elijah has discovered chained up beneath the cottage. And Elijah knows what happened to the other children when they refused to play by their captor’s rules…

I thoroughly enjoyed The Memory Wood. It was everything I hoped it would be and maybe even a little bit more on top! The author has done a wonderful job of making his reader feel they are there, living in the wood with these strange characters. The story is told from three perspectives; Elijah, Elissa and the detective in charge of finding Elissa, Detective Superintendent Mairead MacCullagh. I loved DS MacCullagh and thought the author made her even more interesting with the addition of an issue you don’t see every day. I hope this isn’t the last we see of MacCullagh as I would gladly read an entire series with her as the lead character. Elissa, the kidnapped 13-year-old, is an incredible character. Wise beyond her years with an intelligence to match. I loved how emotionally strong she was in the face of adversity. How every action was considered in detail and how determined she was to escape the clutches of her captor. Astute and spirited, she’ll be difficult to forget – that’s for sure! And poor, troubled Elijah. My heart broke for him.

The plot moves along at a steady pace and I was keen to find out how Elijah and Elissa’s story was going to end. There are a couple of ‘gasp-out-loud’ moments which turn the book on its head for the reader and I loved them! Cat and mouse game? Yes, definitely. But it’s more intricate, more detailed, more involving than that. Game of chess anyone? (Chess features quite heavily in the story so it only seemed fair….)

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a beautifully written, unsettling and atmospheric novel and I devoured it. With characters that will leave their mark on you, whether in a good way….or a not so good way, this book will be hard to forget. And if anyone ever utters the words ‘say you understand’ to me ever again then I may have a heart attack right there and then. Those three words will forever send chills down my spine. Highly recommended.

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

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd was published in the UK by Bantam Press on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, making up stories and building secret hideaways in his local woods. These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. The Memory Wood is his debut thriller.

#BookReview: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #InTheAbsenceofMiracles #damppebbles

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“John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of one of the most powerful and emotive books I have read – In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. Back in 2016, my book of the year was Malone’s first Orenda release, the simply sublime A Suitable Lie. It blew my mind on so many levels and still, to this day, I recommend it to everyone. If you’re a fan of domestic noir novels then you need to add Malone to your list of must-read authors. I received a free eARC of In the Absence of Miracles but that has in no way influenced my review.

I didn’t think it would be possible for someone (anyone!) to write a book which affected me the way A Suitable Lie did. That was until I read In the Absence of Miracles. Malone puts his heart and soul into his writing and you, as the reader, get to experience every heart-stopping emotion and every breath-taking twist and turn. I love that Malone isn’t scared to tackle the more difficult and unsettling subject matters, the things we as a society tend to turn and shy away from. In the Absence of Miracles is another brave, unflinching, unapologetic look at the secrets a family hides within its heart, and it left me broken.

I liked John Docherty. He doesn’t make it easy at times and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a likeable character but this is his story. His discovery, his unravelling, his trauma. I liked how Malone has written John as a pretty typical bloke (if there is such a thing!). It was interesting to watch how John dealt with situations early on in the book, giving us the measure of the character, before plunging him into an unimaginable, heart-breaking situation as the reality hits home. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I cried for John Docherty.

The author does an incredible job of misleading his reader. You think you know where the story is going, only for Malone to step in and completely change everything you thought you knew. I had an inkling about where the plot was headed but I was by no means convinced. When the book took me to that dark and scary place, I was devastated for the characters. I was living that moment, that sudden realisation as the horror hits home. No one writes like Malone does. No one can conjure these emotions in this hardened reader like he does.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Malone has done it again and written a book which will stay with me for a long, long time to come. I’ve not found another writer who can produce stories with the pure power and emotion to rival Malone. Unforgettable and haunting. Dark and utterly immersive. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In the Absence of Miracles. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #RulesForPerfectMurders #damppebbles

rules for perfect murders.jpgIf you want to get away with murder, play by the rules

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to my stop on the Rules for Perfect Murders blog tour. Rules for Perfect Murders is the latest release from one of my very favourite authors and it’s available to purchase in hardcover, digital and audio formats from TODAY! Happy publication day to Peter Swanson and the team at Faber Books. I received a free ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders but that has in no way influenced my review. Huge thanks to Josh at Faber Books for asking me to join the tour.

If you haven’t picked up a Peter Swanson novel yet then that has to change. Sharpish! I’m a huge fan of this author and I look forward to every new book hitting the shelves. I can’t let a Swanson review grace the blog though without mentioning the incredible The Kind Worth Killing which is one of the best books I have ever read. But I think The Kind Worth Killing has a new buddy at the top of my favourite ever books list, and it’s Rules for Perfect Murders.

Having read Rules for Perfect Murders, I should probably reconsider having a list of any kind, ever, on my blog (top ten books of the year, the top five best detectives, eight perfect murders…). After all, a list of eight perfect murders in mystery novels is exactly what leads FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to Malcolm Kershaw’s door. But let’s be specific about this door. It’s the door to Old Devils Bookstore in Boston. A bookshop which specialises in mystery fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be starting to see why I have fallen head over heels in love with this book. There are many, many reasons to love Rules for Perfect Murders but the plainly obvious one (apart from the fact it’s expertly written) is that it’s a book about books. And not any old books but classic mystery and crime novels. I devoured this book. Swanson has created something incredibly special in Rules for Perfect Murders and I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m not a re-reader of books (unlike our lead character, Malcolm) but I would happily while away a day reading this book again…and again…and again.

Social media is starting to get its groove on and blogs are becoming a ‘thing’. Their creators are becoming rich and famous so Old Devils Bookstore wants in. Malcolm Kershaw is tasked with writing a list of eight perfect murders for the store’s brand new blog. He spends hours agonising over his choices, getting the wording ‘just right’ and hits the publish button. But fame and fortune ignore the post and life for Malcolm carries on without glitz and glitter, only tragedy. He takes over ownership of the shop, along with author Brian Murray, and business is good with a number of regular customers. Until one day, in the midst of a snowstorm, Agent Mulvey arrives on his doorstep to discuss his blog post from years ago. She’s the only person who has noticed a connection between unsolved murders and Mal’s list of eight perfect murders. It seems highly unlikely there’s a connection and it’s just a crazy coincidence. That is until Malcolm recognises one of the names on the list…

I absolutely adored this book and I was completely smitten from the very first pages. Malcolm fascinated me. He’s one of those characters where you scratch the surface and discover more than you bargained for. Definitely a character I will remember for a long time to come. I loved how the murders were linked to the eight books (**cough** seven books, and one play!) on the list and found the ways they were adapted to be very clever. I waited with bated breath to discover what the next murder/book was going to be! Swanson has created layer upon layer of suspense and tension and I was hooked.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. This one is going on the list (whoops, there’s that list again!) of favourite books of all time. You don’t have to be a crime fiction aficionado to enjoy this tense and intoxicating read (I’m certainly not). I will say though, that if you’re planning on reading any of the books which feature on Malcolm’s list, then you might want to do that first as there are a few spoilers and an outline of each is given by the author for those who haven’t read them. This book is so much more than you expect and I savoured every moment of it. I urge you to pick up a copy of Rules for Perfect Murders, whether you consider yourself to be bookish or not. It’s a wonderful, thoroughly entertaining homage to the crime and mystery genre and I couldn’t put it down. Nor did I want to. Tightly plotted and packed full of delicious suspense with a character I fell head over heels in love with. Highly, highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio 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.ukWaterstonesFoyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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peter-swansonPeter Swanson is the author of six novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Eight Perfect Murders (Rules For Perfect Murders in the UK). His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |