#BookReview: The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven (@MWCravenUK) | @GoldsboroBooks #GlassBell Award 2019 Shortlist #damppebbles

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“Welcome to the Puppet Show . . .

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …”

Hello and a warm welcome to damppebbles. I am absolutely delighted to be bringing you my review of the utterly magnificent The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven again today to celebrate this corker of a book being shortlisted for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award. The Puppet Show is up against five other brilliant titles; VOX by Christina Dalcher, Snap by Belinda Bauer, Our House by Louise Candlish, Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg- Jephcott and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. The winner will be announced by Goldboro Books on Monday 16th September.

Launched in 2017, the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award is awarded annually to an outstanding work of contemporary fiction, rewarding quality storytelling in any genre. The winner of the Glass Bell will receive £2,000 in prize money, and a handmade, engraved glass bell. The jury of ten consists of team members from Goldsboro Books, DHH Literary Agency and The Dome Press. There is no fee, nor limit to the number of books that a publisher may submit, allowing both established and debut authors a chance to win. The inaugural winner was Chris Cleave, for his extraordinary Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Sceptre), the moving and unflinching novel about the profound effects that the Second World War had on ordinary citizens back at home in Britain. Last year, the award went to John Boyne for his sweeping, poignant and comedic odyssey of post-war Ireland, The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Transworld).

Without further ado, here’s my review of The Puppet Show:

A little over two years ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book called Body Breaker written by Mike Craven (that’s Mike Craven as in M.W. Craven, if you were wondering what odd tangent I was meandering off at!), and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. I pretty much fell in love with Craven’s protagonist, DI Avison Fluke. Then I heard Mike was about to release a new book called The Puppet Show, featuring a brand new detective with a brand new publisher (to Craven, that is). Now I openly admit, I was intrigued. After all, what crime fiction fan wouldn’t be? Particularly when I heard the main character of The Puppet Show is called Washington Poe (what a name! Where does this author get inspiration from for his character’s names? He appears to err on the unusual which is a rather splendid thing IMHO). Then, as if by magic (I pressed a button on NetGalley) a copy of The Puppet Show arrived on my Kindle and the deal was sealed. Washington Poe and I were destined to meet…

And truth be told, I flipping love him as much as I love DI Fluke. Craven certainly knows how to write and develop a character to the point where they jump off the page at the reader. I was smitten from early on; particularly as we meet Poe after he has shunned modern life and is living with his loyal pet dog, Edgar, in a semi-converted shepherd’s croft in the middle of nowhere (for ‘nowhere’ read Cumbria or the Lake District! Please don’t hurt me Cumbrians, it does sound pretty vast, lonely and desolate from Craven’s illustrative descriptions and I’ve never visited 😉). Suspended from work following his last (bodged) case and awaiting the result of an internal investigation and an IPCC inquiry, Poe has pretty much decided that his past is very much behind him and that his future lies in Herdwick Croft with Edgar, and the sheep. But that was before Cumbria’s latest serial killer, The Immolation Man made matters personal. Whether he wants to or not, Poe must return to the Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) and to a case that could easily be the death of him.

I have a bit of a thing for serial killer novels. They’re my favourite, particularly if they are a smidge on the gory side as well (which this book is). I also thoroughly enjoy books which make you think the plot is heading one way and then totally flips things over and makes you gasp in surprise when you end up somewhere you didn’t expect (which again, this book did). Another thing I love is a cast of well-written, individual, stand out characters who all add something to the story (yup, that’s The Puppet Show). I loved this book.

As I’ve mentioned Washington Poe’s supporting cast it would be rude to ignore them. First and foremost, Tilly Bradshaw is a shining star and will appeal to nerds far and wide. Her intelligence and her awkwardness are a delight to read and I hope she makes future appearances with Poe as her sidekick! Beleaguered DI Stephanie Flynn is now her ex-bosses boss (!) which makes things somewhat tricky between her and Poe at times. He’s a little reckless and likes to follow the evidence anywhere, whereas Flynn likes to play by the book. I would LOVE to read a prequel to The Puppet Show and see the dynamic between the two of them before Poe was demoted from DI to DS and Flynn was promoted. Not dropping any hints here, Mike…

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, if you can stomach a drop of blood or a pool of melted human fat (OK, it is a little grisly in places and you may need a slightly stronger stomach than I’ve alluded to in this paragraph, but for me I loved the gruesome touches to this book. Plus the author provides a wealth of information about burns and the effect of fire on a human body) then you will enjoy this well-written, engrossing crime thriller. I struggled to put it down and I’m left wanting more Washington Poe and more Tilly Bradshaw. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Five out of five stars.

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

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The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 7th June 2018 and is available in hardcover, 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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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 |

#BookReview: The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd @PenguinUKBooks #TheInnocentWife #damppebbles

the innocent wife.jpg“You’re in love with a man on Death Row in Florida, convicted of a brutal murder twenty years ago.

You’re convinced he didn’t do it, and you’re determined to prove it. You’re part of a mass online campaign that picks holes in the case, uncovers evidence of police incompetence, and agitates for this miscarriage of justice to be overturned.

Now you’re married to him, and he’s a free man, his conviction thrown out. You have the rest of your lives to spend together.

You’re overjoyed. After all, he’s innocent.

Isn’t he?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd.  This book had a real buzz about it when it was first published in December 2017 (yes it has been on my NetGalley shelf for a while, yes I am a terrible book blogger who reads at a snail’s pace!).  I received a free eARC copy of The Innocent Wife which has in no way influenced my review.

I keep seeing mixed reviews for this book and I just don’t get it.  I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me – reading is subjective.  I totally get that.  I’ll say this though, if you’re anything like me you will love this book.  It has everything I want in a novel.  I loved the small town American feel of it, I loved how the author has used the nation’s love of true crime to give it a more authentic edge, I loved the plot and I loved the characters.  This is turning into an epic year of reading for me; nearly every book I pick up just blows me away!  And that includes The Innocent Wife.

Notorious convicted killer, Dennis Danson, comes to Sam’s attention when questions begin to be raised over the evidence and trial used to convict him and send him to death row.  An online group start petitioning for his release claiming the Red River Police got the wrong man.  Sam does what any normal (!) 30-something would do in this situation and starts corresponding with Dennis.  Before long a strong bond is formed between them and Dennis sends a visiting order.  Sam drops everything, packs her bags and flies off to Altoona Prison to meet Dennis in person, hoping he’s everything his letters lead her to believe he is.  After an awkward start, the couple relax into each others company and before long Sam has extended her visa to allow her to visit Dennis on a regular basis.  Then he’s released and everything changes.  Sam is married to a man she hardly knows.  And what’s more, what she was once certain of, she’s not anymore…

Character, character, character.  I flipping love a bunch of fascinating people!  I really felt for Sam.  I could feel her loneliness, her need to be loved and adored which emanated from the page.  I also found her a little frustrating at times because I wanted her to stop being so drippy and ‘woman-up’ a bit.  That didn’t stop me from wanting to read Sam’s story though.  She intrigued me.  I also loved the mysterious Dennis, although I doubt very much I was supposed to!  There was something quite dark and dangerous about him and that appealed. Other characters were great too such as the true crime documentary filmmaker, Carrie, who welcomes Sam to the US with open arms and then becomes her guardian angel.  She just knows Dennis is innocent and will do everything in her power to prove it.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, yes.  It’s a delicious slow burn of a read and I loved it!  I was absolutely fascinated to see where the story was going to go and I wasn’t at all disappointed.  Gripping, unnerving and it ticked so many boxes for me.  I would not hesitate to pick up another book by Amy Lloyd.  In fact, I can’t wait to read more from this author! Highly recommended.

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

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd was published in the UK by Arrow Publishing on 4th October 2018 in paperback, hardcover, audio 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.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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amy lloyd.jpgAmy Lloyd studied English and Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University. In 2016 she won the Daily Mail Bestseller Competition for her debut novel The Innocent Wife which, when it was published, became a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Amy lives in Cardiff with her partner, who is also a published novelist.

Author Links:TwitterFacebook |

 

#BookReview: The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #TheGoodDaughter #damppebbles

the good daughter.jpg“The Good Daughter will have you hooked from the first page to the last, and will stay with you long after you have finished reading!

One ran. One stayed. But who is…the good daughter?

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s childhoods were destroyed by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – a notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family consumed by secrets from that shocking night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. But when violence comes to their home town again, the case triggers memories she’s desperately tried to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family won’t stay buried for ever…”

Welcome bookish friends to damppebbles and to my review of The Good Daughter by hugely popular author, Karin Slaughter.  The Good Daughter was published on 3rd May 2018 and has been lingering on my NetGalley shelf for far too long.  I received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

Yes, yes, yes, I’m absolutely kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to read this book.  I used to read everything by Karin Slaughter like my life depended on it but I have to confess I haven’t picked up one of her books for a little while now.  I still remember parts of her book Blindsighted, the first book in the Grant County series, so vividly.  I think I was expecting something similar when I made a start on The Good Daughter but how wrong could I have been?! This felt like it was written by a completely different author to the Grant County or Will Trent novels.  I’ve always enjoyed Slaughter’s work.  The Good Daughter I absolutely loved.

Charlotte and Samantha Quinn are used to trouble.  Their father, Rusty, is the local defence lawyer and his reputation proceeds him.  But not in a good way.  Rusty is the reason some of the worst lowlifes in Pikeville, Georgia walk free.  So the family are often on the receiving end of angry, bitter abuse.  One day their lives turn upside down when two masked gunmen enter their home.  Rusty is at the office so the girl’s mother, Harriet, tries to calm the situation down and protect her daughters.  But the unthinkable happens and Harriet is killed in cold blood.  Her young daughters bearing witness to the tragedy.  The gunmen are forced to rethink their plans.  After all, there can be no witnesses – and now the girls must die too.  But Charlotte manages to escape.  Samantha, unfortunately, isn’t so lucky.  Now, 28 years later, Charlotte is a lawyer just like her father with problems of her own.  She unwittingly becomes involved in a terrifying school shooting which leaves the head teacher and a young girl dead.  The incident brings horrific memories of her own flooding back because the truth can’t be buried forever…

This book really is something quite special.  I was completely emotionally involved with it from start to finish and savoured every single word of The Good Daughter.  I didn’t want it to end and could have happily read another 500 pages or so.  There are so many brilliant moments within the story; young Charlotte’s palpable fear and indecision when the moment to escape comes – leaving her older sister to certain death, the wonderful twist fairly early on in the book that you just don’t see coming, the relationship between Charlotte and her father, when Lenore, Rusty’s secretary’s, story is revealed to the reader.  So many fantastic little touches that when added together make something truly magnificent.  It’s also very dark with a number of terrifying and upsetting scenes.

Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would.  It does include some very harrowing and disturbing scenes which involve a young Charlotte and her attackers.  I don’t want to give any spoilers away but it’s important you know that these scenes are distressing.  I fell in love with so many of the characters in The Good Daughter and I still, after having read this book a few months ago now, remember them vividly.  A book which will stay with me for a long time to come and will most likely feature in my top ten books of the year list.  Highly recommended.

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

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter was published in the UK by Harper Collins and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio 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.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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karin slaughter.jpgKarin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 37 languages, with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her eighteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls and The Good Daughter. A native of Georgia, Karin currently lives in Atlanta. Her novels Cop TownThe Good Daughterand Pieces of Her are all in development for film and television.

Author Links:FacebookInstagramTwitterWebsite |

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

#BookReview: Bird Box by Josh Malerman @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #BirdBox #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (2/15)

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IF YOU’VE SEEN WHAT’S OUT THERE…IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE

Malorie raises the children the only way she can: indoors, with the doors locked, the curtains closed, and mattresses nailed over the windows.

The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall, but soon she will have to wake them and blindfold them.

Today they will risk everything. Today they will leave the house.

Josh Malerman’s New York Times bestselling Bird Box is a terrifying psychological thriller that will haunt you long after reading.”

We’ve all heard of Bird Box, right? The book was made into a Netflix film and it was massive, everyone was talking about it. Now I haven’t watched the film (too much blood, guts and gore for me – I get all of that from my books and not film or television!) so I can’t comment on that but this book, this incredible book with such a stunning concept is exceptional.

I devoured this book in a few short hours. I very occasionally say it doesn’t take me long to read a book (more often than not it takes me AGES as I’m a slow reader for a book blogger) but this is by far my quickest read in a long time. I could not put this book down and I flew through the pages like my life depended on it. I was mesmerised by Malorie’s incredible story and wanted to see what was going to happen but also savour my time with this courageous woman struggling through an unimaginable scenario. The publishers say this book will haunt you long after reading and they are so right. I’m traumatised by Bird Box and I love it! If you haven’t watched the film but you have a vague idea of the concept then you must read this book. I don’t think you truly ‘get it’ until you’re living it with Malorie and the children. Oh my gosh, it’s buried deep down in my soul. Absolutely superb!

Malorie discovers she’s pregnant. It’s not what she planned, the father of the baby isn’t one for a committed relationship but she knows she’s going to have the baby and do the best she can for her child. But then life takes a completely unexpected swerve. The news starts to report normal, everyday people committing unprovoked acts of extreme violence and then killing themselves. The killings start in Russia but before long there have been a number of attacks closer to home in America. No one knows for sure what provokes these normal people to carry out such horrific acts but it is believed they all ‘saw’ something. Something beyond what the human brain can comprehend. Something so unimaginable that it drives people violently mad. The solution? Don’t look. Windows are covered. Doors are locked tight. Blindfolds become the norm. Whatever you do, no matter how tempting, don’t look…

Don’t look. It sounds so simple. How many times has someone said ‘don’t look behind you, but….’ which of course makes you want to look even more. Malerman’s terrifying world full of unknown ‘creatures’ puts you on edge from the start. The book is told in the past and the present. The past shows us Malorie’s journey to the safe house where we meet a cast of fascinating characters, all thrown together with the same threat hanging over them and having to cope as best they can. In the present we are with Malorie and the children as she courageously takes them blindly up the river. To where we don’t actually find out until much later in the book but this just adds to the books tension and ratches the drama up tenfold.

This is a truly wonderful piece of fiction. It’s the kind of book you want your friend to read just so you can talk to someone about it. Malorie is a stand-out character and you see her change and adapt to her situation as you move through the story. She becomes hardened and it was fascinating to watch. Cope or die. Malorie isn’t the only fascinating character in this novel though. The residents of the safe house all add something and the children broke my heart.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. I loved this book and it will stay with me for some time to come. The only downside is the rather sudden and abrupt ending. I thought I had just under 100 pages left with Malorie which I planned to savour, only to find those pages were a short story. That, however, will not deter me from giving this atmospheric, creepy, mesmerising book five fabulous stars and a place on my top books of the year list, no siree! Bird Box is magnificent. Unsettling, terrifying, thought-provoking and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Harper Collins on 29th January 2015 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook 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.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

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Josh Malerman is the acclaimed author of Bird Box, as well as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band The High Strung. He lives in Michigan.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

#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 |

#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 |