#BookReview: Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor @panmacmillan #DirtTown #damppebbles

Durton. Dirt town. Dirt and hurt – that’s what others would remember about our town . . .

When twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi disappears on her way home from school in the small town of Durton in rural Australia, the local community is thrown into a state of grief and suspicion.

THE DETECTIVE

As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation, she questions those who knew the girl, attempting to unpick the secrets which bind them together.

THE MOTHER

The girl’s mother, Constance, believes that her daughter going missing is the worst thing that can happen to her. But as the search for Esther develops, she learns that things can always get worse.

THE FRIENDS

Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and is determined to bring her home. So when her classmate Lewis tells her that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police?

And who else is keeping quiet about what happened to Esther?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is an atmospheric crime novel set in rural Australia, for fans of Jane Harper’s The Dry and Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor. Dirt Town is published by Macmillan later this week (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dirt Town but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE fan of Australian crime fiction. I want to read it all, and there are lots of really exciting, interesting writers making their mark on the genre at the moment. So when I saw Scrivenor’s debut was being published, I jumped at the chance to read it. And oh my goodness, what a riveting, emotional ride it was. Definitely an author to watch!

Twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi and Ronnie Thompson are best friends. They live in Durton – or Dirt Town or Dirt and Hurt to the locals – which is a bit boring but OK. One day after school Esther goes missing. The whole town turns out to look for her but they’re all aware that their neighbour, their friend could have been the one to abduct the girl. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels is tasked with finding Esther but the investigation falters at every turn. Someone in Durton knows what’s happened to Esther. Someone in the small, close-knit community knows the truth…

Gorgeously dark, evocative and utterly compelling, I thoroughly enjoyed this superb slow burn mystery with its true to life characters, bleak setting and intriguing plot. I adored the voices the author gave the younger characters. They felt so true and real to me that my heart broke for these poor kids whose friend was missing. The emotion, the naivety was all conveyed so beautifully. The other character I adored was Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels who is guilt-ridden following the end of her recent relationship. Her actions play on her mind constantly and I loved how that made the character more human. Sarah is very well-written and I do secretly hope that this is only the start for her and we get to see her feature in future books.

The plot is an intriguing slow burn of a read which I savoured every moment of. I didn’t feel the need to sprint my way through Dirt Town at all. I wanted to enjoy every word, every description of this dead end rural Australian town and savour the interactions between the characters as the mystery slowly but steadily unfurled. I wasn’t able to predict whodunit but it was a very satisfying, very surprising reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dirt Town is a very atmospheric, incredibly readable tale which I enjoyed every dark and desolate moment of. The setting is exactly the kind of setting I want in my crime fiction novels – a small town on its last legs. I loved the vivid descriptions the author uses to set the scene, putting the reader right there in the middle of things. But the characters were EVERYTHING. Multi-layered, completely believable and totally unforgettable. It’s hard to believe Dirt Town is a debut and I’m excited to see what Scrivenor delivers next. Highly recommended.

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

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor was published in the UK by Macmillan on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Hayley ScrivenorHayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. DIRT CREEK is her first novel (published as DIRT TOWN in Europe and Australia). An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won The Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of Australia.

#BookReview: The Botanist by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #TheBotanist #TeamPoe #TeamTilly #damppebbles

“This is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe’s life…

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. Insanely brilliant, she’s a bit of a social hand grenade. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there’s Estelle Doyle. Dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street, but has she gone too far this time? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’

Meanwhile, a poisoner called the Botanist is sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers. Twisted and ingenious, he seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice given to his victims, and regardless of the security measures taken, he is able to kill with impunity.

Poe hates locked room mysteries and now he has two to solve. To unravel them he’s going to have to draw on every resource he has: Tilly Bradshaw, an organised crime boss, even an alcoholic ex-journalist. Because if he doesn’t, the bodies are going to keep piling up . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Botanist by M.W. Craven. The Botanist is the fifth book in the excellent Washington Poe series and was published by Constable last week (on Thursday 2nd June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Botanist but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh my goodness, it’s my absolute favourite time of the year! You may think that’s because it’s FINALLY summer (although there’s been little evidence of that so far!) but it’s not that. You may think it’s because I’m a secret royalist, patiently counting down the days to Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee (yes, I know it was last week 😜). It’s not that either. You may think I’m champing at the bit, waiting for Wimbledon to start. As if 😂 It’s my favourite time of the year because of one thing and one thing alone. Historically, June is when the latest Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw adventure by master crime writer M.W. Craven is published! It’s THE highlight of my reading year, without question. If you’re a fan of intelligently written, utterly compelling detective fiction and you haven’t discovered this series yet, then we need to have serious words! The Botanist has arrived people. What are you waiting for? You need this book in your life!

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is having one helluva week, juggling two highly sensitive, intricate cases. His pathologist friend, Estelle Doyle, has been arrested for the brutal murder of her father which Poe firmly believes she did not commit. Poe is also hunting a highly organised serial killer the press has dubbed the Botanist, who is causing chaos by taking out the country’s most hated individuals with flair, a poem, a pressed flower and an almighty pat on the back from the British public. The notice the killer gives his victims should be more than enough warning for the intended target to lock themselves away in a reinforced room, surrounded by the most elite of security forces. But no, absolutely nothing will stop the Botanist from dispatching their target. Usually in the most painful and horrific way possible. Can Poe and super intelligent analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, manage to solve the two most taxing cases of their careers before it’s too late…?

As I mentioned before, this is the fifth book in the series and WHAT a series it is! Time and time again the author delivers, raising the bar with each new book. Every single release has been a hit for me. Every single new book is something new, something different, something that grabs my attention from the start and doesn’t let go until I’ve turned the final page. The ideas are fresh, the characters are evolving magnificently, the plots are fascinating. I am officially hooked and M.W. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes!

But enough of the series, what about this latest instalment? The Botanist is an utterly absorbing, highly addictive read which I ADORED. Every single book has been superb but this latest addition, and Black Summer (book #2), are my two favourites so far. You can absolutely read The Botanist as a standalone but it’s worth picking up all of the previous books as well. Otherwise you miss out on the early awkward days of Poe and Tilly’s friendship (actually, it has a few awkward moments now but they’ve become more attuned to each other…sort of!) and a plethora of absolutely fascinating, gripping cases. I love the pairing of Poe and socially awkward but highly intelligent civilian analyst, Tilly. They make a formidable team, ably encouraged and supported, no matter what crazy idea they come up with, by DI Stephanie Flynn. Craven’s trademark humour is pinpoint sharp, perfectly pitched and made me laugh out loud at several points. I SO enjoy the relationship between Poe and Tilly (and of course DI Stephanie Flynn). Their interactions, their friendship makes me smile. It’s a joy to read!

I liked the push and pull of this story with Poe and Tilly dashing off up north to look into things in more detail for Estelle. Only to have the boss call them back to London after the Botanist strikes again. Unlike Poe I am a huge fan of locked room mysteries which is perhaps why The Botanist appealed to me so much. Not one mystery for my favourite crime fighting duo to solve, but two!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Botanist is a superb addition to an outstanding series which I believe every crime fiction fan needs on their bookshelf. Tense, gripping, clever, hugely compelling, truly divine characterisation, beautifully paced and darn well perfect in every respect. What more could you want? Tilly and Poe are the ultimate crime fighting duo, you won’t find another pairing like these two and I love that! The Botanist is without a doubt a sure-fire five-star winner for me and will definitely be featuring in my favourite books of the year list. Quite near the top, I think 😉. The Botanist, along with the other books in the series, is a must read. Incredibly well-written and head and shoulders above others in the same genre. Highly, highly recommended.

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

The Botanist by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 2nd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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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: WAKE by Shelley Burr @HodderBooks #WAKEBook #damppebbles

EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of WAKE by Shelley Burr. WAKE is published today (that’s Thursday 9th June 2022) by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free eARC of WAKE but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am the biggest fan of Australian crime fiction and prioritise Aussie writers before everything else on my TBR at the moment. So it goes without saying that I was immediately drawn to WAKE when it first landed on my radar. It has the CWA’s seal of approval winning the debut dagger back in 2019 and rightly so. I adored this book. So much so that I’m going to put my neck on the line here and say, as things stand (at the time of writing this review we’re halfway through May), this is my book of the year.

Nineteen years ago Mina McCreery’s sister, Evelyn, was taken from the family home never to be seen again. Australia’s most famous abduction case remains unsolved to this day but, of course, everyone has an opinion about Evelyn’s fate. Which is why Mina prefers to live a secluded life, away from prying eyes and the opinions of others. Following the success of a previous case private investigator Lane Holland turns up in the small town of Nannine offering to look into Evelyn’s disappearance. But Mina isn’t interested, not initially anyway. The hunt for her sister only caused her family more pain and sadness. But Lane gradually manages to convince Mina to accept his help. But what Mina doesn’t know is that Lane has his own reasons for wanting to know what happened to Evie McCreery that fateful night nineteen years ago…

Oh. My. Word! I loved this book. Atmospheric, packed full of mystery and brimming with suspense. It’s an absolutely glorious debut which consumed my days and had me blurry eyed in the morning after staying up far too late to finish it! I was well and truly gripped by this compelling piece of well-written crime fiction and I savoured every single second I spent in Mina McCreery’s company. What a character! I was highly suspicious of her but I loved her standoffishness. As with all newsworthy unsolved crimes, everyone has an opinion. And many are not afraid to voice it! Particularly if that’s with the safety of anonymity, hidden behind a keyboard. Mina is suspect number one according to many true crime fanatics and her aloofness only goes to prove their point. The investigation into Evelyn’s disappearance damaged the McCreery family beyond repair, forcing them into the spotlight. Something the girls’ mother blatantly used to keep Evie at the forefront of Australia’s minds. But Mina’s reluctance to participate in her mother’s media sideshow only fanned the flames. Does Mina know more than she’s letting on? And what exactly is Private Investigator Lane Holland’s interest in the family? Why, following countless rebukes from Mina, won’t he pack up and leave town?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. WAKE is an absolute corker of a novel which I immersed myself in completely. It consumed my thoughts whilst reading it and I still, weeks later, think about it more than any other book I’ve read recently. Absolutely, categorically, my favourite book of the year so far. This is the type of crime fiction I want to read. WAKE is such a compelling, intriguing mystery with superb characters and a vividly drawn, remote setting. I lived and breathed this book alongside Mina and Lane, gripped by the mystery of what happened to Evie McCreery. Every single little thing worked. Beautifully tense, truly unforgettable and the ultimate page turner. A magnificent debut and I’m excited to see what the author has in store for us next. Gosh, I really loved this book! Highly recommended.

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

WAKE by Shelley Burr was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 9th June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Shelly Outdoor Shots_JUL2021 (2 of 42)_edited.jpgWAKE won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019 and was previously shortlisted for both the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award and the Bath Novel Award.

Shelley works in environment policy in Canberra and is studying agriculture at the University of New England. She is an alumni of ACT Writers Hardcopy program and a Varuna fellow.

#BookReview: One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke @HarperCollinsUK #OneoftheGirls #damppebbles

“ONE IS A LIAR.
ONE IS A STRANGER.
ONE IS A CHEATER.
WHO IS A KILLER?
We were dying for a holiday . . .

The six of us arrived on that beautiful Greek island dreaming of sun-drenched beaches and blood orange sunsets, ready to lose ourselves in the wild freedom of a weekend away with friends.
On the first night we swam under a blanket of stars.
On the second night the games began on our clifftop terrace.
On the third night the idyll cracked, secrets and lies whispering on the breeze.
And by the final night there was a body on the rocks below . . .
Who would kill for it?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke. One of the Girls is published by HarperCollins today (that’s Thursday 26th May 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of One of the Girls but that has in no way influenced my review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Clarke’s previous thriller, The Castaways, last year. I found it very compelling with great characters and I loved the ending. So much so, I can still remember it clearly now. So when I saw the author was about to publish a new book I leapt at the chance to read it. And it’s now safe to say Clarke is firmly on my ‘must read author list’ because I LOVED One of the Girls.

Lexi is getting married! And to celebrate, her best friend, Bella, has convinced her a hen party would be brilliant idea. They and four of Lexi’s friends are heading to the Greek island of Aegos for four nights and some much needed time away from ‘real life’. But when the women arrive, it’s clear the cracks are already starting to show. Everyone has secrets. This group of six woman have more than most. And by the end of their exotic getaway, someone will be dead and someone will be a killer…

I flew through this book, completely absorbed and soaking up the Greek sun with this disparate group of women. I can’t express how much I loved everything about it. The characters are all so different but they work so well together. An odd group of women brought together to celebrate Lexi, but you can feel the tensions simmering under the surface and you can’t help but ask yourself ‘what is actually going on here?’. That intrigue, that sense that there was so much more to come, really hooked me into the story.

Lexi is a sweetheart and it’s clear to the reader why these women have travelled for hours to celebrate her forthcoming nuptials. Bella, her maid of honour and self-appointed best friend, is such a character! Obnoxious and brassy, I really liked her but I think I’ll be in the minority on that one. She’s spoilt and demanding, utterly frustrating at times. But I thought she was written so well. She elicits an emotional response from the reader and I appreciated that. The other women, who I won’t go into detail about here otherwise this review will be as long as the book (!), are fantastic creations. All individual personalities, all with their own totally believable backstory, all with their own heartaches and simmering resentments.

The plot is paced beautifully and I was in the story from the moment I picked the book up to the moment I put the book down. This is one of those novels I enjoyed so much that I was sad when it was over (although, in truth, I did race to the conclusion keen to find out how things would end so it was my own darn fault really!). There are many twists and turns along the way, some I was able to see coming, others knocked me for six and I loved that moment of shock the author delivered.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved One of the Girls and I’ll probably re-read it in the future as I’m keen to return to Aegos and be reunited with this fascinating, eclectic group of women and their complicated friendships. The setting was exquisite (yes, I’m desperate for a holiday!), the plot was so well drawn and thought out but the characters absolutely did it for me. They felt like real people and I was watching an edge-of-your seat TV drama play out before me. Clarke is such a talented writer and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next. A hugely compulsive read featuring divine characters and their bubbling resentments which I couldn’t get enough of. Totally addictive. I loved it! Highly recommended.

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

One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 26th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lucy Clarke

Lucy Clarke is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers – THE SEA SISTERS, A SINGLE BREATH, THE BLUE/NO ESCAPE, LAST SEEN, YOU LET ME IN and THE CASTAWAYS. Her debut novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and her books have been sold in over 20 territories.

Lucy is a passionate traveller, beach hut dweller, and fresh air enthusiast. She’s married to a professional windsurfer and, together with their two young children, they spend their winters travelling and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut, using the inspiration from the wild south coast to craft her stories.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Homes by J.B. Mylet @ViperBooks #TheHomes #damppebbles

“There were good people in The Homes. But there were also some very, very bad ones…

A thousand unwanted children live in The Homes, a village of orphans in the Scottish Lowlands on the outskirts of Glasgow. Lesley was six before she learned that most children live with their parents. Now Lesley is twelve, and she and her best friend Jonesy live in Cottage 5, Jonesy the irrepressible spirit to Lesley’s quiet thoughtfulness.

Life is often cruel at The Homes, and suddenly it becomes much crueller. A child is found murdered. Then another. With the police unable to catch the killer, Lesley and Jonesy decide to take the matter into their own hands. But unwanted children are easy victims, and they are both in terrible danger…
Inspired by a true story, and introducing readers to the unforgettable voice of young orphan Lesley, The Homes is a moving and lyrical thriller, perfect for readers of Val McDermid, Chris Whitaker, Jane Casey and Denise Mina.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Homes blog tour. The Homes by J.B. Mylet will be published by Viper Books later this week (that’s Thursday 26th May 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Homes but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Lesley and Jonesy are twelve-year-old best friends who have been abandoned by their parents. They’re unloved. They live in the Homes, a purpose built village in Scotland, alongside nearly 800 other orphaned and abandoned children. Life is tough. Beatings are common. But it’s the only life they know. When one of the older teenage girls is found dead, it’s the most exciting and interesting thing to have ever happened at the Homes. But when a second girl is killed, realisation dawns on the children. There’s a killer loose targeting the young female population of the Homes and any of the girls could be next. Lesley and Jonesy don’t want to die so they take it upon themselves to try and solve the murders. But the more they dig and poke around, pointing fingers at the staff, the closer to danger they get…

Oh my word, this book! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from The Homes but what I got was a brilliantly written mystery featuring some of the most memorable characters I’ve met, alongside a bit of an education about the Quarriers Homes and how life was for the children who lived there.

Lesley is such a wonderful character. We meet her as she’s just about to face up to bully Glenda McAdam and it’s immediately clear to the reader that Lesley is very much out of her depth. She’s a clever girl and brawling, particularly with the powerhouse that is Glenda, is not something she wants to do. Egged on by best pal Jonesy, she knows the only way to get Glenda off her back is to stand up to her. And that’s exactly what she does. This opening chapter provides the reader with everything they need to know about Lesley. It’s a beautiful introduction to a character who will stay in your heart long after you’ve finished reading.

The Homes is very much Lesley’s story. Her life, her friends, how she copes with being one of only four children from the Homes who attends the grammar school, the relentless teasing and bullying she gets for being smart, her weekly meetings with Eadie, the on-call psychologist, her interactions with her strict houseparents – Mr & Mrs Paterson – and the other girls who share a room with her, and it’s an absolutely fascinating, highly compelling tale. I was completely smitten with Lesley’s story. Her life isn’t perfect but she has routine and stability, and it’s all she knows.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Homes is a well-written and compelling tale which I was drawn into from the moment I met Lesley. I adored spending time in her world and I now feel a little bereft having finished the book. I couldn’t for the life of me work out whodunit so when the reveal did happen, I was shocked. I also really, really enjoyed that the author has used local dialect throughout the book to tell the story – lots of deids and heids and cannaes – which really added to the authenticity of the story. I read the entire book with a Scottish accent! Emotional, devastating at times, and with a well-plotted mystery at its heart, The Homes is a must read for readers who like strong character-driven tales. Highly recommended.

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

The Homes by J.B. Mylet was published in the UK by Viper Books on 26th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

J.B. MyletJ.B. Mylet was inspired to write The Homes based on the stories his mother told him about her childhood. She grew up in the infamous Quarrier’s Homes in Scotland in the 1960s, along with a thousand other orphaned or unwanted children, and did not realise that children were supposed to live with their parents until she was seven. He felt this was a story that needed to be told. He lives in London.

#GuestReview: Don’t Play Dead with Vultures by Jack Leavers (@jackleavers) #TheBookGuild @cobaltdinosaur #DontPlayDeadWithVultures #damppebbles

“Summer 2008 sees former Royal Marine John Pierce lured from running convoys in Iraq to a lucrative contract in the steamy jungles of French West Africa. He soon discovers this new theatre is even more dangerous than the war zone he left behind. Corrupt officials, drug cartels, and competing military factions rub shoulder-to-shoulder in a melting pot of greed and intrigue… And a sadistic foe lurks in the shadows.

When old intelligence contacts take an interest, the situation gets complicated fast. Dark forces emerge and events spiral out of control. Pitched into a desperate race against time, can Pierce’s makeshift team of soldiers and civilians fight fire with fire and outwit vicious enemies?

One thing’s for sure, Pierce won’t leave anyone to the mercy of a brutal adversary he knows only too well no matter what it takes.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am handing the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who is going to share his thoughts on Don’t Play Dead with Vultures by Jack Leavers. Don’t Play Dead with Vultures was published by The Book Guild on 28th April 2022 and is available in paperback and digital formats. Ryan chose to read and review a free ARC of Don’t Play Dead with Vultures but that has in no way influenced his review. Grateful thanks to the author for sending Ryan a finished copy.

John Pierce is back and I’m beginning to think that Jack Leavers likes to make him suffer! Appetite For Risk – the debut from Jack Leavers – saw Pierce in difficult circumstances across Iraq, and Don’t Play Dead with Vultures, set a few years later, sees John move on from Iraq to help scope potential new business ventures in Guinea. But luck, fate and the occasional rash decision see John making enemies of powerful foes.

Jack Leavers is a master of this style of thriller. You aren’t many pages into the story before you can feel his experience and knowledge of military and corporate private security flowing from the pages. I enjoyed the last book but in this book Jack’s characters have developed even further. We get to see the character’s motives and their mixture of guilt and pleasure as they put themselves through treacherous circumstances. Putting themselves at risk and worrying their families with their recklessness, whilst loving the buzz. John’s relationship with his team is wonderful in Don’t Play Dead with Vultures. Whether it is the relaxed military banter flowing between his long term colleagues like Ryan and Hutch, or the trust building with the new team in Guinea. Leading teams in this environment means it is inevitable that people will get put in the line of fire and hurt, and Leavers does a great job of showing Pierce wrestle with the balance of protecting his people whilst trying to get the job done.

One particular aspect of Jack’s writing I love is the use of radio dialogue to build the situation. Heard exclusively from Pierce’s perspective the radio chatter builds the picture of what is happening across the team as they engage with the enemy. The radio messages work brilliantly to build the tension for the reader, allowing them to develop their knowledge of the situation alongside Pierce and see him respond (which often means throwing himself, or the team, into even greater peril!).

Leavers builds the environment for the story incredibly well, whether it is the heat and dust of Iraq or the hot and humid forests of Guinea. Jack has clearly operated in all of the environments he describes and even after you’ve put your copy of the book down, you will still be checking for those darned Mozzies!

Would I recommend this book? If you are a fan of military and spy thrillers with a realistic edge then Jack Leavers is a must read author for you. Great characters involved in exciting adventures and dangerous situations. A five star read!

Don’t Play Dead with Vultures by Jack Leavers was published in the UK by The Book Guild on 28th April 2022 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Jack Leavers is a former Royal Marine with over thirty-years’ experience spread across the military, private security, corporate investigations, maritime counter-piracy, and risk management. His varied career has included numerous deployments to conflict zones around the world such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, trouble spots in Africa, and the Somali pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean.

Jack continues to work in challenging environments and has now begun to pen novels inspired by some of the more enterprising projects that got the green light, and other audacious plans that didn’t.

Jack is normally based in London, UK, but finds he’s at his most productive writing-wise when deployed overseas. Trips to Iraq and Africa beckon and a third book is in the works.

#BookReview: When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins @panmacmillan #WhenIWasTen #damppebbles

“Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins. When I Was Ten was published by Pan Macmillan in paperback format on 30th December 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read When I Was Ten since it first landed on my radar last year. Having finished one book, I was in a strange ‘nothing really appeals…’ mood and was looking for something a little dark and a little uncomfortable to get my teeth into. Which is when this book suddenly sprang to mind! Without a second thought, I downloaded a copy and made a start straight away. And what a devastating and utterly compelling story When I Was Ten is. I absolutely loved it!

Twenty-one years ago Richard and Pamela Carter were viciously murdered in their beds. The case became infamous, partly due to the respect held by the local community for Dr Carter – the local GP – but mainly because the killer was their youngest daughter. After spending time in a secure unit for children, the daughter assumed a new identity and started a new life. But now a documentary crew have found the older of the two sisters and questions are being asked. The Angel of Death is back in the spotlight, the last place she ever wanted to be, and her new life is about to come crashing down around her…

Oh my goodness, When I Was Ten is SO GOOD! This is, I’m ashamed to admit, the first book I’ve read by this author despite being told repeatedly by fellow readers for years that I would love her books. They were right.  I loved the story, the characters and Cummins’ writing. So much so, I plan to download the author’s entire back catalogue as soon as I’m physically able to.

When I Was Ten centres around the Carter sisters and their friend and neighbour from 21 years ago, Brinley Booth. Told in the past and the present, we get to hear from journalist Brinley as she decides whether to reveal her connection to the biggest story of the year to her boss. In doing so, she knows it’ll give her failing career a real boost. But does she really want to dredge up difficult memories from that time again? Particularly as Brinley knows more than she’s letting on. We also get to hear from Catherine as her carefully created life crumbles around her. As her daughter and husband realise who has actually been head of their family for the last twelve years. How well do we really know those we’re closest to? There are also deeply unsettling flashbacks to the past which show the reader how the Carter sisters were treated by their supposedly perfect parents in their nice big house. It makes for difficult reading at times but I couldn’t tear myself away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. When I Was Ten is dark and twisty and absolutely everything I love about crime fiction. There were a number of brilliantly written surprises along the way, some which left me with my jaw on the floor. I thought the characters were very well-written and really pulled the reader into the story. The book is paced beautifully, encouraging ‘just one more chapter’ before turning out the light. But before you know it, half of the night has passed and you know you’ll be living on coffee and fumes come the morning *true story* (it was so worth it though 😉)! When I Was Ten is undoubtedly one of my favourite reads of 2022 and fans of family centred crime thrillers should put this one top of their wish list. You’ll be missing out on something quite special if you don’t! Hugely compelling, immensely readable, heart breaking and unexpectedly emotional, and impossible to put down. Loved it. Highly recommended.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on 30th December 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Fiona CumminsFiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy, where she now teaches her own Writing Crime course. She is the bestselling author of five crime thriller novels, all of which have received widespread critical acclaim from household names including Val McDermid, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin. Three of her novels have been optioned for television.

Rattle, her debut, has been translated into several languages and Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’ Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’.

Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin called it ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten, an Irish Times bestseller, was published in April 2021. Into The Dark, Fiona’s fifth novel, will be published in April 2022 and was described by Sarah Vaughan, author of Netflix smash-hit Anatomy of A Scandal, as ‘Complex. Inventive. Twisty. Unsettling.’

When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.

#BookReview: Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew @BloomsburyRaven #LittleNothings #damppebbles

“With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Liv Travers never knew real friendship until she met fellow mums Beth and Binnie. The three women become inseparable as they muddle through early parenthood together.

Then along comes Ange. Ambitious, wealthy and somehow able to do it all.

Under Ange’s guiding presence, the group finds new vigour and fresh aspirations – bigger houses, better schools, dinners at exclusive restaurants. But Liv can’t keep up and is increasingly edged out.

When the four families take a three-week trip to a luxurious holiday resort, Liv seizes the opportunity to reclaim her place at the heart of the group, only to discover the true, devastating cost of a friendship with Ange.

Set over the course of a single, life-changing trip to a Greek island paradise, Little Nothings is a sly, suspenseful novel about female bonds turned toxic, and the desperate ends one woman will go to keep her friends close – and her enemy closer.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew. Little Nothings is published by Raven Books today (that’s Thursday 12th May 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Little Nothings but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Raven Books for sending me a proof copy.

Let’s face it, with us all being stuck at home for the past two years the thought of going overseas for a few days, soaking up the sun and drinking cocktails by the pool probably appeals a lot more than it has before. It certainly does to me anyway! So when I first laid eyes on this book, the cover alone called my name. Look how glorious it is! I then checked out the blurb and knew I HAD to read this book. A toxic friendship set against the stunning backdrop of Corfu? Yes please!

Liv Travers has always struggled to make friends. Even at school she was often the one left out. Going into adulthood, nothing changed. The concept of making friends just alluded Liv. That was until she met Binnie and Beth at a baby group. Suddenly something clicked and the three women became as thick as thieves. And Liv finally understood what she had been missing all these years. And then along came Ange. Confident, more than competent, excelling at everything and the new focal point of the group. And for Liv, something changed. So when Ange suggests the four families head to an exclusive resort in Corfu for three weeks, they can’t say no. But the trip is far from paradise for Liv, and the true cost of being friends with Ange soon becomes devastatingly clear…

Little Nothings is a divine tale of female friendships gone horribly wrong and oh my gosh, it blew me away. I loved every single second, every single word of this book from its agonising start to its jaw-dropping conclusion. Although her neediness did often make me cringe a little, I adored Liv. There was just something about her that I, and perhaps I shouldn’t admit to this, understood? She’s such a well-written character. So much so she felt very real to me. The other characters in the book are also excellent. The mere mention of Ange’s name made my blood pressure rise. There was a wonderful sense of uncomfortable apprehension as I waited to see what awful slight, what dastardly lengths she had gone to to put Liv well and truly in her place. Stunning!

I was fully immersed in the story from the moment I picked up the book and met Liv. As the story progresses the reader gets to discover more about Liv and Pete’s history and what they’ve both had to face over the preceding months. Why this holiday has become such a big event for them, why they’ve pushed so hard to get to Corfu when really they should be over a thousand miles away at home, and how what they were expecting, what was promised, was a big, fat, ugly lie. All of those little nothings, all of those hurtful comments which were covered up and brushed aside with a smile, all of the times things have gone wrong. Well, they all add up.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I ADORED Little Nothings and I know it will feature in my top books of the year list in December. Everything worked for me. The characters stood tall from the page and I don’t think I’ll forget any of them in a hurry. The pace of the book made sure that I was turning the pages late into the night – way past my bedtime. The setting was perfect and the descriptions were beautifully vivid enabling me to picture the scene with ease. I loved everything about this book. Every last little detail. Highly recommended.

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

Little Nothings by Julie Mayhew was published in the UK by Raven Books on 12th May 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ImageJulie Mayhew is a journalist who became an actress (because she wanted more creative ways to tell stories), who became a scriptwriter (because she couldn’t find enough brilliant roles for women).

She is an award-winning novelist, an award-nominated radio dramatist and has written short stories and stage plays to critical acclaim. As a participant in the BFI Network x BAFTA Crew programme, Julie now also writes and directs for the screen.

Born and raised in Peterborough, home is now Hertfordshire. She is mum to two boys. Her best friend is a border terrier called Connie.

#BookReview: The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @HodderBooks #TheLastThingtoBurn #damppebbles

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. The Last Thing to Burn was first published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th January 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

The Last Thing to Burn is one of the biggest books of the last year, without a doubt. I see it discussed on social media a lot, I see it recommended even more. So much so that I made it one of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge picks as it was suggested by three (count ’em, three!) fabulous reviewers (I’m looking at you @Zoebeesbooks@Littlemissbook6 and @DelishBooks). And if you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may remember that it was joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021 which immediately makes it a must read for me. Having read the book, experienced its darkness and come out the other side sobbing big, fat, ugly tears I can say I wholeheartedly agree with the exceptional praise this novel has received. The Last Thing to Burn is a truly unsettling, uncomfortable read but it’s essential reading. Devastating, heart breaking but an absolute must read.

Jane and Leonard live together at Fen Farm surrounded by nothing but vast fenland. Leonard is content with his life. He works the land, tends the pigs and comes home to his dinner on the table every night. Jane, his wife, is a prisoner. Very few people know of Jane’s existence and that’s the way it will remain. She cooks, cleans and performs other duties Leonard expects of a wife. She has no choice, otherwise she is punished. She’s watched by cameras 24/7. There is no escape. And definitely no hope. Until something changes. Until a fire is lit within Jane’s being. Now it’s her turn to watch Leonard, and wait…

The first thing to say about The Last Thing to Burn is that it’s not an easy read and if you’re looking for something light then this book is not it. Far from it. It’s dark, it’s horrifying, and it’s harrowing from start to finish. It’s also hugely compelling, utterly absorbing and the tension is pinpoint sharp. My heart broke multiple times. I felt I needed to take a break on several occasions but I just could not tear myself away from Dean’s writing and characterisation.

The characters are frighteningly believable. To me they were real and I lived the horrors of life at Fen Farm alongside them. ‘Jane’ is perfection on a page. I adored her and was hoping, even when it seemed as though all hope had been extinguished, that there would be some small sliver, some ray of light that meant she would come out of this on top. Leonard is utterly despicable, a loathsome brute of a man, but I thought the way the author wrote him was an absolute masterclass in writing a villain. He made my blood boil. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that angry or furious towards one character before. Superbly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Thing to Burn is deeply unsettling and utterly unnerving. The most uncomfortable book I’ve read this year and rightly so. The subject matter should make us feel uncomfortable. I think something has gone horribly wrong if it doesn’t. The writing is stunning, the characterisation is superb and the setting is perfectly claustrophobic and horribly visual. I could picture the scenes in my mind perfectly. That dank and depressing kitchen with the Rayburn *shudder*. This is an unforgettable novel and I now fully understand why so many reviewers recommend it. Allow me to add my voice to the masses. If you’re a reader of dark fiction and you haven’t picked up The Last Thing to Burn yet then what are you waiting for? You need this book in your life. Highly recommended.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book Depositorybookshop.org | Goodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BookReview: Sundial by Catriona Ward @ViperBooks @ThePigeonholeHQ #Sundial #damppebbles

You can’t escape the desert. You can’t escape Sundial.

Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because of what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to Sundial, her childhood home deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

A gripping gothic masterpiece from the bestselling and award-winning author of THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET, SUNDIAL is a must-read for fans of GIRL A and SHARP OBJECTS.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Sundial by Catriona Ward. Sundial was published by Viper Books on 10th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Sundial but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to The Pigeonhole for providing me with a copy.

The Last House on Needless Street was, without a doubt, one of the biggest books of 2021. It’s been shortlisted for awards, the rights have been sold all over the world, it topped the charts, it featured on several TV book clubs, the film rights have been optioned and most importantly of all (in my opinion, anyway) it was the joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. It’s HUGE and rightly so. So it goes without saying that the latest release from Ward and Viper Books was going to be a must read for many. Myself included. I could not wait to read this book!

Rob and Irving have two beautiful daughters, rewarding teaching careers, they live in a good neighbourhood and take the utmost care of their house. Life, on the outside, looks perfect for the Cussens family. But Rob knows the truth. There’s something about her eldest daughter, Callie, which puts her on edge. To the point where she feels her other daughter, Annie, isn’t safe. When the proof arrives, Rob makes the decision to move Callie as far away from her sibling as possible for a few days and drives to her family home of Sundial in the Mojave Desert. In the isolation of the desert, surrounded by painful, difficult memories and the ghosts of her family, Rob will have to make the hardest decision she’s ever made….

Dark and disturbing, Sundial was an absolute dream to read. I adored every unsettling moment I spent amongst the pages of this exquisite novel. The author is a master at writing highly complex, utterly intriguing, yet deeply flawed characters who, over time, reveal their true selves, and it makes for compulsive reading. I adored Rob. It’s clear from the moment she and Callie arrive at Sundial that her past, and her family, were very different to the norm. Dysfunctional is an understatement! The more the reader discovers, the more shocking things become. I’m loathe to say too much in fear of giving something away that I shouldn’t. There are so many well-plotted layers to this novel that each chapter brings a new revelation. Something to twist and shape what you thought into something new and different which makes for a thrilling, unpredictable reading experience.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Sundial is highly original, darkly compelling and totally twisted (in the best way possible). The pressure really was on for the author following the huge success of The Last House on Needless Street but by George, she’s gone and done it again! Sundial is a very different beast to its predecessor but I think I preferred it ever so slightly. Both books are superb but I think this one, for me, takes the edge. The setting is very well drawn, I could feel the heat of the Mojave Desert blistering my skin. The characters have real depth and I felt as though they were living and breathing in front of me. The plot flowed beautifully, keeping me within the pages and occupying my thoughts when I wasn’t reading. Addictive, uncomfortable at times but truly stunning in concept and delivery. Psychological horror at its absolute finest and this book firmly puts Ward on my ‘must read’ author list. I’m excited to see what Catriona Ward delivers next! Highly recommended.

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

Sundial by Catriona Ward was published in the UK by Viper Books on 10th March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Catriona WardCATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

Stephen King praised her latest gothic thriller, saying: ‘The buzz building around Catriona Ward’s THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end. Haven’t read anything this exciting since GONE GIRL.’ THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is published 2021 by Viper (UK) and Tor Nightfire (USA).

Her next book, SUNDIAL will be published by Nightfire (US) and Viper (UK) in March 2022.

Ward’s second novel LITTLE EVE won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award, as well as the August Derleth Prize at the British Fantasy Awards, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. LITTLE EVE will be published in the US by Tor Nightfire in October 2022.

Ward’s debut RAWBLOOD also won the 2016 August Derleth, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. ‘The Pier at Ardentinny’ was shortlisted for the ALCS Tom Gallon Trust Award organised by the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London and Devon.