#BookReview: Black Summer by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #damppebbles #BlackSummer

black summer.jpg“After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.”

So weirdly, I don’t actually want to write this review.  I don’t want to write this review because once I do, that’s it.  My time with Black Summer has come to an end and I have to live with the fact that it’s going to be another year (I mean, c’mon!  A year??) before I can get my mitts on book 3 in the series, The Curator.  A whole YEAR without Tilly and Poe.

Anyway, I digress.  Black Summer is the second book in M.W. Craven’s Washington Poe series and it’s published in hardcover and eBook today.  Wishing the author and Constable, the publisher, a very happy publication day!  I received a free eARC of Black Summer but this has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Goodness.  I have been waiting some time (…a year, maybe?) for this second Washington Poe novel and it was absolutely outstanding!  I would even go as far as saying it’s better than the brilliant The Puppet Show, which is no mean feat!  I couldn’t put it down, nor did I want to.  Every spare moment, no matter how small, was dedicated to reading this utterly marvellous book.  I am addicted to Tilly and Poe.  You’d be crazy to not get yourself a copy of this book, which can be read as a standalone, but why would you buy just one when you can also immerse yourself in the superb The Puppet Show as well!

The first standout thing about Black Summer is that it’s set within the culinary world and features a notorious three-Michelin starred celebrity chef, Jared Keaton.  I could be completely wrong but this felt like a fresh, new approach to me.  Something a bit different from the norm, which I loved. Keaton was found guilty of murdering his 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth after Poe took the original investigation in a different direction.  With no body, very little evidence and a hastily washed away puddle of blood which was deemed ‘incompatible with life’ in the Bullace & Sloe kitchens, it came down to Poe’s testimony to put Keaton away for the murder.  But now Keaton’s ‘dead’ daughter has walked into Cumbria’s Alston library and sought out the local police officer.  With the evidence confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that the woman is Elizabeth and an irrefutable chain of evidence, it’s down to Poe to prove against all odds that his gut was right all those years ago. Jared Keaton is a psychopath.

I love, love, loved Black Summer!  Can’t fault it.  This is exactly the type of crime fiction I want to read; clever, addictive and completely memorable.  Something that sucks you in from start to finish and then leaves you in mourning because it’s over and you want more!  I savoured every single word of this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  So much so that it is destined to be part of my ‘top books of 2019’ list and certainly a strong contender for the top spot!

Tilly and Poe go from strength to strength and their relationship (in the platonic sense – thank goodness!) has moved on since The Puppet Show.  They’re getting comfortable in each others company and it shows.  Tilly is less socially awkward but still a bright shining star in these wonderful books.  Poe is still, well…Poe – which I’m very glad about!  There are lots of brilliantly funny moments in Black Summer which I relished.  Little unexpected comments here and there which really added to my enjoyment of the novel.  Personally, I couldn’t see how Tilly and Poe were going to dig themselves out of this one (and I’m not saying they do, by the way) but it helps to have an uber-intelligent geek at the helm, right?

Would I recommend this book? Ha! You have to ask? Absolutely.  This and The Puppet Show.  Both are absolutely brilliant pieces of crime fiction which readers of the genre cannot afford to miss!  Thrilling from start to finish, I am still suffering from a book hangover a couple of weeks after finishing this one.  Believe the hype, people.  It really is THAT good.  Impossible to put down, totally unmissable and head and shoulders above nearly everything else in the same genre.  Craven has created something incredibly special here and I cannot wait for more from Tilly and Poe.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Black Summer.  The above review is my own, very enthusiastic, unbiased opinion.

Black Summer by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable (Little, Brown) on 20th June 2019 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although Mike Craven was born in Cumbria in 1968, he grew up in the North East, going to the same school as Newcastle and England centre-forward, Alan Shearer, before running away to join the army. He believes, but has no proof, that his little sister moved into his bedroom before the train had even left the station. He trained for two years as an armourer (that’s gunsmith to you and I) before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and will be out on 11th June, published by Caffeine Nights. His collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything, is out now.

In March 2017 Mike signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown for his new Washington Poe series. The first book, The Puppet Show, was released under his new name, M .W. Craven, in June 2018.

In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He wanted to call him Gimli but was told to grow up. He lives in Carlisle where he tries to leave the house as little as possible and gets annoyed by people who say “it’s too cold to snow” and “watch that swan, its wings can break your arm”.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter |

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#BookReview: Wilderness by B.E. Jones @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #Wilderness #damppebbles

Wilderness_25.jpegIt’s easy to die out there. It’s easy to kill too.

Two weeks, 1,500 miles, three opportunities for her husband to save his own life.

It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers.

Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try to save their marriage. Maybe the roadtrip that they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks, just the two of them, would help heal the wounds.

But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges. Three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness.

If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s easy to kill too.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my review of a book which grabbed my attention the moment I set eyes on it.  Wilderness is the latest release from B.E. Jones and was published by Constable (Little, Brown) in ebook format on 4th April 2019.  The paperback is to follow next April.  I received a free eARC of Wilderness but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved this book.  It’s the first book I’ve read by B.E. Jones but I can safely say that it won’t be the last.  Boy, can this author write a dark and dangerous character!  If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that I am a sucker for characters.  The plot and the setting (which are both brilliant in this novel, by the way)  can be ‘okay’ providing the characters stand tall and leap from the page.  I want living breathing people who make me feel something – that’s not asking too much, is it?  Wilderness is a cracking example of exactly how to write incredible, believable characters and also tick the all-important plot and setting boxes with confidence and flair!  I absolutely loved Liv.  I’m still not entirely sure I was supposed to love her as she’s very much a character on the edge.  But hey, I do like a dark undertone and it’s often the more complex creations who appeal to me more!

Liv and her husband, Will, are living the dream.  Following Will’s promotion, they up-sticks from picturesque Wales and move to the hustle and bustle of New York City.  Everything is perfect…until Liv discovers that her husband has been unfaithful with a colleague.  Will apologies for his error of judgement and promises it will never happen again.  And then it does.  Liv is utterly heartbroken and enraged by the deceit and immediately starts to plan her revenge.  One ‘dream’ holiday to America’s national parks and three chances for Will to prove he’s sorry.  If he fails, well…..sometimes terrible accidents happen in the wilderness, don’t they?

The plot, the characters, the setting, the cover, the blurb – I loved absolutely everything about this book.  It’s very likely it will feature in my top 10 books of the year list in December.  Liv is pushed to her absolute limit  – the repercussions of which were fascinating to watch.  I couldn’t look away as she slowly unravelled before my eyes and I HAD to find out how the story would end.  It’s not often I wish for a happy ending in my books but I was desperate for life to turn out OK for Liv.  Does it? Well, you’ll have to get hold of a copy of Wilderness and find out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely.  It’s one that shouldn’t be missed and the perfect Summer holiday read partly due to the fabulous setting (maybe not the murders!).  Speaking of the setting, I loved how the author conveyed the stark contrast between the two locations in the US.  You have the wide open space of the national parks versus the built up and somewhat claustrophobic feeling of New York City.  It’s all so beautifully written that you can’t help but ‘live’ the locations with the characters.  An absolute joy to read! Highly recommended.

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

Wilderness by B.E. Jones was published by in the UK by Constable on 4th April and is available in eBook format (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

photo of BevBeverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today.

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e books.

Author Links: TwitterFacebookInstagramWebsite |

 

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Whisper Man by Alex North @MichaelJBooks @JennyPlatt90 #TheWhisperMan #damppebbles

the whisper man.jpg“If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home. Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window…”

Hello bookish friends – welcome to the blog and to my stop on The Whisper Man blog tour.  The Whisper Man by Alex North is set to be published by Michael Joseph in hardcover, audio and eBook formats on 13th June, with the paperback to follow later in the Summer.  Let me tell you now, this is a book you need to get a copy of!  I received a free ARC copy of The Whisper Man but this has in no way influenced my review.

Well, this is an absolutely cracking read and a strong contender for my book of the year!  You know when you see a book and you just know, without any shadow of a doubt, that you’re going to LOVE it.  That happened to me at a crime fiction festival last year when I won a book.  I could choose between this and another title.  A very naughty publicist (who shall remain nameless) talked me into taking a different book against my better judgement and since then I have been hankering after a copy of The Whisper Man.  I haven’t read the other book yet, by the way, and it’s got some awesome reviews.  I was drawn to this one though and should have gone with my gut!

This a wonderfully creepy and dark read which I powered through – probably quicker than anything else I’ve read this year.  There’s a definite horror vibe about it which just added to my overall enjoyment of the book.  But what I loved most were our lead characters, Tom and Jake, who absolutely shone from the pages.  Tom and his 7-year-old son, Jake, don’t have the easiest of relationships.  Rebecca; wife, mother and the glue which held the family together, died suddenly leaving the pair of them to fend for themselves.  Jake discovered his mum’s body slumped at the bottom of the stairs.  Something that would traumatise most adults. He misses his mum terribly and has a new found fear of the stairs.  Which is why Tom decides a fresh start is what they need.  They leave the painful memories and the frightening stairs behind and move to the sleepy village of Featherbank.  But Featherbank has a dark past of its own.  The Whisper Man killed a number of young boys fifteen years ago.  And now another boy has gone missing.  Bewildered by Jake’s behaviour normally, Tom is even more confused when Jake starts acting even stranger…

I absolutely loved this book and will be sending people barmy by recommending it all of the time!  The characters are just superb.  I loved Tom and my heart ached for little Jake (I have kids around the same age) but there are other equally as brilliant characters in this book.  I have to mention DI Pete Willis who I adored.  A man with many regrets and forever searching for the one boy he couldn’t find.  He has a troubled past which he tortures himself with on a daily basis and deals with an addiction which he takes one step at a time.  Then there’s Frank Carter, an evil psychopath who revels in his past as The Whisper Man and who longs to be remembered for what damage he did.  Brilliant, just brilliant!

You need this book in your life.  It’s brilliantly creepy, edgy and chock full of surprises.  I was totally smitten from the moment I read the first page.  The characters are outstanding, the plot hooks you in in a matter of minutes and the writing is just sublime.  Not forgetting the seemingly-quaint yet overwhelmingly sinister setting of Featherbank.  This book has definitely left its mark on me.  I loved it and it’s going to take something extra special to knock it off the top spot.

Would I recommend this book? You have to ask…?!  Most definitely.  It gave me chills and made my heart ache for Tom, Jake and their struggling relationship.  Full of some of the most memorable characters I have ever met in a book – I loved it (do say if I’m repeating myself!).  Completely unforgettable, impossible to put down and absolutely everything I want from a book.  I am in love.

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

The Whisper Man by Alex North was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 13th June 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats with the paperback to follow in August (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

Whisper Man Blog Tour Banner

about-the-author3

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department.

Author Links:Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Your Deepest Fear by David Jackson @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #YourDeepestFear #damppebbles

Your Deepest Fear

“‘Sara! Remember! Victoria and Albert. All I can say. They’re here. They’re-‘

These are the last words Sara Prior will ever hear from her husband.

As DS Nathan Cody struggles to make sense of the enigmatic message and solve the brutal murder, it soon becomes clear that Sara is no ordinary bereaved wife. Taking the investigation into her own hands, Sara is drawn into a world of violence that will lead her in a direction she would never have suspected.

For Cody, meanwhile, things are about to get personal in the darkest and most twisted ways imaginable . . .”

The warmest of welcomes to the blog today and to my stop on the Your Deepest Fear blog tour which is also publication day! Wishing David Jackson and the Zaffre team the happiest of publication days. Your Deepest Fear is available to purchase in hardcover and eBook today! I received a free eARC of the book but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re new to damppebbles then there is one thing you should know. I LOVE (LOVE, LOVE!) the DS Nathan Cody series from David Jackson. It’s one of my two absolute favourite, must read, OMG there’s a new book coming out – put life on hold, series. I have been a huge fan of Cody and Jackson’s brilliant writing, since the first book. You can check out my reviews of the first three here: A Tapping at My Door, Hope to Die and Don’t Make a Sound.

I’ve given every single book in this series five out of five stars so far, so that’s a lot of pressure on Your Deepest Fear. I won’t keep you in suspense; this is another blinder of a novel which I devoured. And, of course, another cracking five-star read. You just can’t go wrong with the DS Cody series.

I love the relationship between DS Cody and his DC, Megan Webley. The plots Jackson selects for his books are always exciting and total page-turners, but his characters (and I’m including the supporting characters here too) are absolutely outstanding. They live and breathe in my head as Jackson paints the scene for me. Cody and Webley are my absolute favourite fictional crime-fighting duo – without a doubt.

The pair have been through a lot together (including being a couple at one point) and the chemistry between them really adds to the books. I did miss Megan a little in Your Deepest Fear. She was very much present and part of the main storyline but the focus of the novel meant that the interaction between the two wasn’t at the forefront of the story. Flipping heck, this one was Cody’s battle and oh boy, he fought it alone.

And what a battle it was! If you’re new to this series then Your Deepest Fear can be read as a standalone as Jackson provides enough background that new readers should have a good idea of what has gone before. But by coming straight in at book four you will be missing out. Do yourself a favour and just purchase all four books in the series in one hit (it must be payday soon, right?). You can thank me later 😉.  Anyway, I digress.  Cody has a battalion of evil little demons which have been gnawing away at his mental health and hanging over him like a rather unwelcome storm cloud since book one.  I feel Your Deepest Fear is the book readers of this series have been waiting for a while now as Cody is put into some pretty frightening situations and has to face up to the fact that his life will never be the same again.  He also to make some pretty horrific decisions so we get to see the kind of man he really is. I was on the edge of my seat throughout and read with trepidation.  I had everything crossed that Cody would come out of the end of this book in one piece.  Does he? Well, you’ll have to find that out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, and all of the other books in the series as well.  If you’re a crime fiction fan then you need these books in your life.  This is another gripping addition to a thoroughly enjoyable, top-notch series.  I would even go as far as saying this is the best book in the series (despite the lack of Megan Webley).  Highly, highly recommended.

I chose to read and review Your Deepest Fear.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Your Deepest Fear by David Jackson was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 16th May 2019 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comBookDepositoryWaterstonesGoodreads |

David Jackson Blogtour Poster 2

about-the-author3

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

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks @DeadGoodBooks #TheTakingofAnnieThorne

the taking of annie thorne.jpg“Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .”

The tricky second book.  I was a huge fan of C.J. Tudor’s debut, the totally unmissable The Chalk Man which blew my socks off and left me a little bit in love with Ed, the main character.  I often still think about him and that brilliant ending (book hangover, much?).  So there was nothing on earth that was going to stop me from reading Tudor’s second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved it.  The Taking of Annie Thorne is just as dark, just as creepy and just as brilliant as The Chalk Man (although I will put my hand up here and confess that I loved The Chalk Man just a teeny tiny smidge more).  There are definite similarities between the two books; a small claustrophobic town, our main protagonist is a teacher (there are other similarities between Ed and Joe which I won’t go into detail about here), strange creepy inexplicable things happening to normal everyday people.  But I enjoyed that, it added to the story for me.

I found our main protagonist to be instantly likeable.  He has a troubled past after discovering his sister, that’s Annie, has changed beyond recognition after she went missing one night.  He’s flawed (definitely flawed) with an addiction to gambling and a penchant for stretching the truth but when he receives an email telling him that ‘it’s happening again’ he feels he must return to the town of his youth and see for himself.  There are elements of the supernatural at play in this novel which would normally turn me right off but the way Tudor has written her story had me engrossed.  I didn’t care that I didn’t really believe in certain aspects of the story.  What is reading if not escapism?  I was captivated from the first page to the last and felt fully invested in Joe’s plight to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely and I suggest if you haven’t read The Chalk Man you download that too.  I’m a huge fan of horror/crime crossover novels and this one is another to add to the favourites list.  Tudor’s writing is sublime and before you know it hours have passed and you’ve forgotten to pick the kids up from school (that didn’t happen…honest!).  Deliciously creepy, totally addictive and the type of book I want to read over and over again.  Don’t miss out on this exceptional book!

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

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 21st February 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow in July (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): ⋆ amazon.co.uk ⋆ amazon.com ⋆ Waterstones ⋆ BookDepository ⋆ Goodreads

about-the-author3

cj tudorC. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler #MaskBeneathHerFace

mask beneath her face.jpg“During the 1980s, slashers terrorized America. With machetes and masks, these unstoppable killers stalked college campuses, quiet suburbs, and lakeside cabins.

Thirty years ago, Bobbi Metzger survived a massacre at her 16th birthday party. She spent decades putting her life back together.

Tonight, Bobbi will face a new killer: a high-tech slasher hell-bent on opening the doorway to an abyss of unimaginable horror.

How long can Bobbi survive this nightmare? What will she do to protect the people she loves? How much blood is she willing to spill?”

Woah!  Talk about the right book at the right time!  I have been suffering from a rather major reading/blogging slump recently.  I don’t know about you but when that happens I tend to move to another genre for a while.  I read a lot of crime and even though I love it with a passion it’s sometimes nice to have a break.  My chosen ‘pick-me-up’ genre is horror.  The darker, the better.  I tweeted asking for good slasher-type horror recommendations and the lovely Noelle at Banshee Irish Horror Blog suggested I try Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler.  Which was lucky as I had won a copy of the book and it was sitting gathering dust on my Kindle.

Why oh why did I leave reading Mask Beneath Her Face for so long?  I have to say it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you’ve got an iron stomach and can handle a little (small under-exaggeration there) violence and gore then this is the book for you.  It opens with a teenage Bobbi fleeing terrified from a slasher who has interrupted her birthday party having slaughtered her friends in the most macabre ways possible.  Bobbi is a final girl.  Something that she has to live with for the rest of her life (however long that may be). We skip forward 30 years and discover how badly the attack affected Bobbi.  She has turned to alcohol and pills to take the edge off and is living in constant fear, waiting for her slasher to return and finish her off.  I should say at this point that the blurb of this book tells you very little and the story is so much more than what it first appears to be.  Bobbi has befriended a group of other ‘final girls’ (who are actually guys), all of whom live a life of fear, waiting for the day their slasher strikes.  Jesse won’t look in the mirror.  Sam is hiding a dark secret.  And then there’s Cris, a teenage loner who works for Jesse.  It’s not just Bobbi who shines from the pages.  The entire cast of characters make this book something very special.

The pace doesn’t let up for a moment.  From start to finish one of the characters is running terrified from a crazed killer, being hacked to death or seeking revenge of some sorts.  Which for the reader means that it’s a very difficult book to put down.  I felt I had to read ‘just one more chapter’ and find out whether X was going to survive…or not.  One more chapter was never enough though.

Would I recommend this book? Hell, yes!  But it’s not going to appeal to everyone.  If however, you’re a fan of slasher horror movies or if you like your fiction erring on the darker side then I strongly recommend this book to you.  If I hadn’t read this book last year then it would be a strong contender for my top 10 of 2019.  If you’re feeling brave then don’t let this one pass you by…

I chose to read and review a copy of Mask Beneath Her Face.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Mask Beneath Her Face by Rafael Chandler was published in the UK on 14th October 2017 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comGoodreads |

about-the-author3

rafael chandler.jpgBy day, I write screenplays for video games. I wrote the stories and dialogue for Dark District, Final Eden, Gangstar Rio: City of Saints, MAG, Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, Rainbow Six: Lockdown, and SOCOM 4. Thus far, I’ve worked as a scriptwriter and/or story designer for Gameloft, Kabam, Sony, and Ubisoft.

By night, I’m a novelist. I wrote The Astounding Antagonists, Dracula: The Modern Prometheus (written with Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker), Hexcommunicated, and Mask Beneath Her Face. I’m hard at work on my fifth novel.

In my spare time, I design tabletop role-playing games and sourcebooks, including Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium, Lusus Naturae, Night of the Slashers, No Salvation for Witches, Obscene Serpent Religion, Pandemonio, Spite: The Second Book of Pandemonium, The Starship from Hell, Teratic Tome, ViewScream, and World of the Lost.

I’ve also written nonfiction, including Fundamentals of Game Development (written with Heather Chandler), The Game Writing Handbook (which was a finalist for the 2007 Game Developer Front Line Awards), and various articles for Gamasutra.com and Writers Digest.

I’m a gamer, a gorehound, a kaijuphile, and a metalhead.

Author Links:WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Good Samaritans by Will Carver (@will_carver) @OrendaBooks #GoodSamaritans

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“One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.

But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…

And someone is watching…

Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Good Samaritans blog tour. Good Samaritans is written by Will Carver and was published by Orenda Books in paperback yesterday.

I’m pretty much a single genre reader. I don’t mind that, it’s my personal choice. I love crime fiction and I’m more than happy to spend my days immersing myself in some brilliant dark stories. But I find that, as time progresses, it takes a really unexpected twist or a different slant to grab my attention and keep it. I often find, whilst reading a book, that I can pretty much guess which direction the plot will go in. That’s why Good Samaritans was such a breath of fresh air. What a book! If the eye-catching cover doesn’t grab you (that gorgeous yellow and blue!), if the tagline doesn’t pique your interest; ‘One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach’. C’mon, you’re intrigued, right? Then let me assure you, the author’s words will certainly demand your attention 100%. The story Carver shares with us is something else, something fresh, something exciting and I loved it!

Shortly after starting this book I realised I had already become heavily invested in the characters’ lives. They’re all a little peculiar but that just made them more appealing to me. They’re human, they’re flawed, they are perfect. I couldn’t stop myself from reading. This was one of those ‘just another chapter’ books and when I was carrying out mundane ‘life stuff’, I was thinking about Seth, Hadley and Maeve. So involved was I in their lives that I had almost forgotten I was reading a suspense novel. That’s when the first shock twist hit. I remember the sharp intake of breath I took, the dizzying realisation of what was happening and the heart-stopping ‘nooooooooooo’ which rang through my mind. From that point on I could predict which direction the story was headed but oh my gosh, I loved it! It really didn’t matter one jot.

The plot is seamless, I was so absorbed in the story I didn’t feel as though I was reading a book (hopefully I’m not the only person this happens to, where you’re so involved you forget what you’re actually doing!). This is a book which will stay with me for a long time to come and I expect it will get a mention on my top 10 of the year. It was so exquisitely different, so utterly refreshing and so dark – I flipping loved it!

I will say one more thing before I sign off. I’m not a lover of sexy scenes in the books I read. Often they seem unnecessary, like the author wants to add an extra *shock* factor by including a few saucy bits here and there. Good Samaritans is quite naughty (it’s doing quite well in the ‘erotica’ section on Amazon as I type). However, I didn’t feel the author was trying to pad the story out, the scenes felt a necessary part of the story and to be honest, I wasn’t the slightest bit offended by them. Saying that, if sexual content is not your thing you may want to give this book a swerve.

Would I recommend this book? Oh yes! I love this book and I want you to read it and love it too. It’s brilliantly done and something quite special. A book which will stay with me. I loved all of the characters and their devious, dark little ways. Will Carver has become an author to watch out for in the future because if this is the quality of work he is producing then oh boy, I want more! Memorable, dark, highly readable and something completely different! Loved it. Want more. Now please….

Five out of five stars.

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

Good Samaritans by Will Carver was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th November 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series (Arrow). He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off.

He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (@AuthorSJBolton) @TrapezeBooks #TheCraftsman

the craftsman.jpg“Devoted father or merciless killer?
His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago? 
Or is there something much darker at play?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Craftsman blog tour.  Now some of you may be experiencing a spot of deja vu here but fret not, you’re not seeing double.  Yes, I have published my review for the EPIC The Craftsman before but that was to celebrate the release of the book in hardcover.  Now we’re back, still celebrating, but this time it’s for the paperback release.  New cover, same book, still an absolute MUST READ.

So without further ado, here (for the second time) is my review of one of my favourite reads of 2018 (it’s long, so make yourself comfy)…

Regular visitors to the blog will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for crime/horror crossover novels, which this most definitely is.  Thanks to social media I saw this book sent to a few lucky early readers at the start of the year and I kid you not, it arrived in its own flipping grave!  How incredible is that?!  I knew there and then that I had to read The Craftsman.  I was pretty much prepared to do ANYTHING to get my hands on a copy (including waiting very calmly and patiently for it to be published!).  So when I was asked to feature on the blog tour, there was no way on this earth that I could say no.

Strangely, and I still can’t quite believe it myself, this is the first book I have read by Sharon Bolton.  I have a copy of Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking on my TBR which I really must get around to.  I loved The Craftsman.  I was immediately drawn into a story that I could not pull myself away from.  Our main character, WPC Florence Lovelady, had my full attention from start to finish and I’m left wanting more.  What an intriguing, fascinating story and one that will stay with me for some time to come.

The book opens with a funeral.  A funeral with a difference as the mourners aren’t there to mourn, they want to prove to themselves that it’s true; Larry Glassbrook is finally dead.  Florence Lovelady, who was heavily involved in the hunt for Glassbrook after he murdered three local teenagers by burying them alive and was key to discovering Glassbrook’s identity, has returned to Sabden in Lancashire to attend the funeral.  Lovelady has been in regular communication with the convicted killer since he was imprisoned.  Glassbrook’s final message, delivered via a short cryptic message, makes Florence wonder whether the arrest, the horrors she experienced all those years ago back in the late sixties, were the doing of Larry Glassbrook or someone much more sinister…

I enjoyed many of the characters in The Craftsman.  But for me, it was ALL about the tough, plucky WPC Florence Lovelady.  It’s the late 1960s and Florence is the first woman to work for the Sabden Police Force.  She’s ‘just a young girl’ in their eyes so is consigned to tea making and typing duties, but she outshines every single other character in the book!  Florence is smart, gutsy and tenacious and tends to run rings around her male colleagues, even when she’s trying not to!  While the men are busy being misogynists, Florence is suggesting filming a re-enactment of the latest victim’s last movements.  While the men are twiddling their thumbs, Florence is creating charts and looking for patterns, searching for the elusive clue to break the case.  Unfortunately, her intelligence, her keen eye and her repeated bouts of good luck put her somewhere she doesn’t want to be.  In the spotlight as one of the main suspects.

Now, this isn’t your everyday serial killer novel.  Nor is it your traditional police procedural.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea because, at the heart of this story, there be witches.  Sabden, where the story is set, is at the foot of Pendle Hill which has a long history of witches and witch trials.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author has taken this long, dark history and used it to grow her character’s experience.  In essence, Florence becomes the focus of a cruel local witch hunt just because she’s more intelligent than her colleagues, more determined, more proactive,…and not a man.

There is so much more I want to tell you about this book.  I could go on for hours telling you about another favourite couple of characters; Daphne and Avril, and the wonderful sparkle they exude.  Oh, and I could tell you how much I enjoyed the main body of the story where the reader is transported to the late sixties (and how I couldn’t help but picture the odd scene from ‘Life on Mars’, the television programme).  This is where you get to meet some of the most misogynistic characters I have ever had the displeasure of encountering in a book.  I wanted to thump most of them.  Thank goodness times have changed!  But if I do continue telling you everything I loved then this will be the longest review I have ever written.  So instead, buy the book and find out the wonders of The Craftsman for yourself.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  It’s creepy, it’s tense and it’s full of witches!  Plus, I don’t know about you, but death by suffocation has always terrified me and I’m a terrible sufferer of claustrophobia.  Which made this book all the more frightening for me.  I loved it.  I love what the author has done with her story and her characters are an absolute delight.  Highly recommended.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 18th October 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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sharon boltonSharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

#BookReview: Inside the Whispers by A.J. Waines (@AJWaines) @Bloodhoundbook #InsideTheWhispers

A.J. Waines - Inside the Whispers_cover_high res.jpg“The most dangerous place is inside your own head…

Dr Samantha Willerby, a specialist in Post Traumatic Stress, has never seen anything like this before. Following a fire on the London Underground, three survivors seek her help but although unmistakably traumatised, their stories don’t match the facts. Are they ‘faking it’? Sam’s confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they are driven to suicide.

When her lover, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what’s causing them. As a mysterious and chilling conspiracy begins to unravel the nightmares begin for Sam…”

Happy Monday book lovers!  I am delighted to be able to reshare my review of the outstanding Inside The Whispers, book one in the Samantha Willerby Mystery series, by A.J. Waines with you today.  Inside The Whispers has been republished by Bloodhound Books today so it had to be done – particularly as this book was one of my favourite reads of 2016.

Now for a short disclaimer; you may or not be aware that I recently started working for the brilliant Bloodhound Books as their Publicity and Social Media Manager.  I read and reviewed Inside The Whispers back in 2016 and nothing about my review (apart from the cover and the first couple of lines) has changed.  You can see the original by clicking HERE.  

Here are my thoughts from October 2016…

Hospital based clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willberby is starting to feel alarmed.  Sam helps patients after they suffer trauma, talking through their experiences and helping them learn to cope with what has happened to them.  Three of her patients suddenly recall a traumatic  escape from an underground fire, but that was not the reason they were initially referred to Sam.  Being the consummate professional she does all she can to help them come to terms with the harrowing events, but things aren’t adding up.  Samantha takes it upon herself to do a little investigating in her spare time, only to confirm her suspicions.  No matter what her patients say, they couldn’t have been in the tube fire.  Then, one by one, her three tube patients commit suicide.  What could Sam have done differently?  Full of remorse, she starts to notice similar signs in her boyfriend.  Then he starts to recount memories from a tube station fire which Sam knows he didn’t experience. Can Dr Willberby work out what is going on before her boyfriend becomes the next victim…?

Before I say anything else, I have to shout from the rooftops that I loved this book! Now, I’m no expert in clinical psychology (or any psychology for that matter!) but if the theories in this book are real then crikey, that’s seriously scary stuff.  If they are not real, then I am more than happy to suspend my belief and you should do the same.  An absolutely brilliant read!

Dr Samantha Willerby is now one of my favourite fictional characters.  And how refreshing to have a clinical psychologist as the lead character.  The budding new relationship between Samantha and her sister, Miranda was wonderful to read. Although having not seen each other for many years things start out quite strained and I did feel a little uncomfortable at times.  Miranda is also a brilliant, well written character who I hope will make a return in any Dr Willerby sequels.  There were several other brilliant characters featured who I either loved, or loved to hate!

The plot was twisty and it grabbed my attention with both hands.  When I was busy doing other things (like feeding my children) I was thinking about this book.  I didn’t want to put it down, it was so good.  I’m fascinated by psychology so this book was a real treat for me.  It was my first A.J. Waines read but it certainly won’t be my last.

Five out of five stars.

Many thanks to A.J. Waines for providing me with a copy of Inside the Whispers in exchange for an honest review.

Inside the Whispers by A.J. Waines was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 15th October 2018 and is available to purchase for a mere 99p/99¢ for a very limited time from Amazon.

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WainesAJ6 (1)AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and has been ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Find her books here and visit her website and blog, or join her on Twitter, Facebook or on her Newsletter.

Her next thriller, Lost in the Lake, will be re-released by Bloodhound Books on 24 October 2018.

Authors Links: | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BookReview: Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar (@ameranwar) @dialoguebooks #BrothersinBlood #ZaqKhan #ZaqandJags

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“A Sikh girl on the run. A Muslim ex-con who has to find her. A whole heap of trouble.

Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.

But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?”

Well, this review has been a long time coming! Last year I was drawn to a book called Western Fringes thanks to a number of fantastic reviews. There was so much love for it, it had won the CWA Debut Dagger and oh boy, did I want to read it. My TBR was terrifying though (still is if I’m honest) so I was strong. It resulted in unnecessary twitching but I WAS STRONG! Then I met the author of Western Fringes at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate and he is the nicest bloke you could wish to meet. I told him how much I wanted to read his book (I missed out the part about the twitching) but sobbed into my white wine about my terrifying TBR. So imagine my surprise a year later when a copy of Brothers in Blood lands on my doormat (I adore unexpected #bookpost!). It’s by Amer Anwar, author of the aforementioned, much sought after book, Western Fringes. Hold on, it IS Western Fringes with a new title and a cracking new cover. The brilliant new imprint from Little, Brown – Dialogue Books – have snapped up Western Fringes and made something great, even greater!

So dear reader, after a long build-up, after waiting for such a long time to read a copy, what did I think of Brothers in Blood (previously titled Western Fringes)? I absolutely flipping loved it! I found it utterly compelling and wonderfully refreshing compared to many of the other books I read. There’s a lot of heart but a heck of a lot of guts between the pages too.

Zaq Khan, our lead protagonist, is a convicted killer. He’s a good bloke but he thinks with his fists and then lives to regret it. Zaq has a big heart and a smart head on his shoulders, and that was one of the things I liked most about him. He’s a very intelligent man who got into a bad situation and has had to carry the burden of it for a long time. Time well spent under the watch of Her Majesty’s prison service. But that’s all in the past now and Zaq is trying to put his life back together, to move on. He’s got a job working as a delivery driver for Mr Brar and he’s getting back on his feet. That is until Mr Brar asks him to carry out a special task; find his missing daughter, Rita, and return her to her family. But Zaq has no idea what he’s getting himself into. What initially seems like an easy assignment suddenly turns into something much more sinister…

Brothers in Blood will stay with me for a long time to come. I became quite consumed with the story and the characters. Whilst doing every day things like sorting the laundry or cooking the dinner, I began to ponder on Zaq’s situation. I found myself quietly chuckling to myself as I relived the banter and camaraderie between Zaq and best mate, Jags. Anwar has created some very memorable characters and I relished every moment I spent with them.

I loved how our amateur sleuths, Zaq and Jags, approached solving the mystery (and the humorous references to deerstalkers made me chuckle!). Zaq is very much the brains of the outfit and Jags, the wheels (and the cash!). At times I was longing for a bit more violence (I’m an odd creature) but when that violence came it made my stomach turn a little and I had to take a short break (yay!).

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. With its wonderful British Asian flavour, it’s cast of fully-formed, standout characters and the intriguing mystery behind it all, it’s an absolute must-read for crime fiction fans. I just hope that we get to see Zaq and Jags again in the future. Wonderfully intense, raw and gutsy – I thoroughly recommend Brothers in Blood. No wonder this book won the CWA Debut Dagger. Absolutely outstanding!

Five out of five stars.

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

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar was published in the UK by Dialogue Books on 6th September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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The dodgy looking geezer in the photo is me. I grew up in West London. After leaving college I had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. I eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. I have an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and am a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. For everything else, I’ve got an alibi. It wasn’t me. I was never there.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |