#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: 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: Scream Ride by D.I. Russell #ScreamRide #damppebbles

“Hold tight.

Debuting at Adventure Point this Halloween! From the mind of Carl Campbell, master of terror. See the dead walk the streets! Come face to face with madman Luger on Mutilation Street: The Ride! And step into our state-of-the-art ghost house…if you dare…

Comic book writer Carl Campbell is riding high. Fans can’t get enough of his books and movies featuring twisted creatures and undead killers. Adventure Point Theme Park aims to capitalize on his popularity with several rides. Carl moves his family into a nearby beach house on the West Australian coast, to oversee development and design a brand new creation for the almost completed ghost house.

But the scares appear to be sneaking out from Carl’s pages. A familiar figure watches the beach house. Grisly murders surround the family. Park workers report strange noises and bizarre accidents.

As darkness falls on the stunning beaches, and the lights of Adventure Point blink into life, it won’t just be the riders screaming in terror.

Scream Ride: A white-knuckle horror novel.

Lower your lap bars with Scream Ride, a horror novel by Shadows Award finalist D. I. Russell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Scream Ride by D.I. Russell. Scream Ride was published on 15th April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles you may be aware that I’m a horror fan as well as a crime fan. However, I tend to stick to slasher/serial killer books rather than venture into zombies, demons and the like. I don’t know why, just personal preference I guess (doesn’t mean I don’t read them, just that I prefer them). When I saw Scream Ride pop up on Amazon for a bargain price though, I knew I had to read it. I love the cover, the blurb pulled me in and to be honest, I read a series of horror books years ago, one of which was set at a theme park, so that also made me want to read this book.

The new owner of Adventure Point theme park is looking for something to pull in the crowds. It’s approaching Halloween so he asks event manager, David Napier, to liaise with legendary horror comic book writer and illustrator, Carl Campbell, and come up with something which will blow the Australian public away. A sure fire money-spinner, something no one has ever seen before, something unforgettable. But strange things begin to happen to Carl’s associates. As launch night approaches for the new Mutilation Street ride, the project Carl was initially brought in to oversee, things start going wrong for the park and it’s employees. Napier is attacked. He knows there is evil lurking within the grounds. But will he be able to convince his boss and Carl before it’s too late…

The first thing to say about Scream Ride is that it’s the first book in a long time which has made me squirm in disgust. I was absolutely fine throughout, except for one scene. If you’ve read the book, you may be able to guess what I’m talking about. If you don’t have a strong stomach or you’re not a regular horror reader, this may not be the book for you. Apart from that little blip (which completely grossed me out) I really enjoyed this blood-soaked, gore-drenched tale.

I found Carl Campbell oddly likeable. He’s a little bit smug about his talent, a little bit arrogant perhaps but he’s good at what he does, so why not? He certainly has a solid, devoted fan-base. I liked his back story. Carl is a widower who has remarried after the brutal death of his first wife, Chrissy. His second wife, Hannah, is only after his money and nothing else. Her relationship with Carl’s twelve year old daughter, Bethany, is strained to say the least.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, but only if you have an iron stomach. Scream Ride is quite the page-turner. I enjoyed how the story played out. I was hoping for a lot of spilt blood and oh boy, did I get it! The ending was a big surprise – I certainly didn’t see the twist coming – but I thought it was a perfect way to end the book. It was a nice surprise to discover the book is Australian, based on my current obsession with Australian crime fiction. I’m very glad I picked this one up and will be looking out for more books by this author. Recommended.

Scream Ride by D.I. Russell was published in the UK on 15 April 2020 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 | amazon.com | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Australian Shadows Award finalist D.I. Russell has been featured publications such as The Zombie Feed from Apex, Pseudopod and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #43. Author of Samhane, Come Into Darkness, Critique, Mother’s Boys, The Collector and Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, D.I. Russell is also the former vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association and was a special guest editor of Midnight Echo.

#BookReview: Opal Country by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #OpalCountry #damppebbles

“Opals…

In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please.

Bodies…

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom?

Secrets…

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight.

Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Opal Country by Chris Hammer. Opal Country is published by Wildfire Books today (that’s Thursday 6th January 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 Opal Country but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely adore Australian crime fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles that previous statement probably comes as no surprise to you because Australian crime fiction gets priority above everything else for me at the moment. So when I saw Chris Hammer was due to publish a standalone mystery, I knew I had to read it. I’m a huge fan of the author’s Martin Scarsden thriller series so I knew Opal Country would be good. And I wasn’t wrong!

Finnigans Gap doesn’t have a lot going for it. Desolate and decaying, it’s a town kept alive thanks only to the opal mines which rumble away underground. When ratters, out to make a quick buck, discover the crucified body of Jonas McGee, the close knit community closes ranks. Sydney-based Detective, Ivan Lucic is called in to investigate the grisly death assisted by local police officer, Detective Constable Nell Buchanan. Together they come up against dead end after dead end. Time is running out for Nell and Ivan, internal affairs are breathing down their necks and they both realise this could be the end of their careers. Can they discover who killed McGee, and why, before it’s too late…?

Opal Country is a gripping slow burn of a novel with truly compelling characterisation and an intriguing mystery at its heart. The author has created an intricate tale with many threads, all expertly linked and concluded by the final paragraph leaving the reader with the knowledge that they’ve read a very clever, very satisfying work of fiction. I really warmed to both Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan who make a great team, despite initial differences, and hope this isn’t the last we see of them. The more dead ends they came up against, the more I rallied for them.

Like many of Hammer’s earlier books, Opal Country is not a short novel and takes it’s time to build the story, set the scene and introduce you to the key players. At no point during the 504 pages did my interest or attention wane.  I was completely absorbed by the plot and the characters, and of course, the atmospheric setting. With the burning sun beating down on the rain starved ground, and the dust swirling in the air, I could feel the blistering intensity of the heat. Particularly as Nell laughed, once again, at Ivan for deciding to walk around Finnigans Gap, risking third degree burns from the unrelenting fireball in the sky. So wonderfully vivid, I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Opal Country to be a very compelling, very informative read which taught me a few things about mining I never knew. The story is quite complex at times but I never felt lost or confused, and everything is tied up masterfully by the author by the end. A very enjoyable crime thriller which drew me in from early on and didn’t let me go until I closed the final page. Hammer is a fantastic storyteller and I can’t wait to see what he has for us readers next. Crime fiction fans, you need Opal Country on your shelf! Recommended.

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

Opal Country by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 6th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Chris HammerChris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

#BookReview: The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheInheritance #BookTwitter #damppebbles

The author of the bestselling The Hunted returns…

A young woman is hiding out in a sleepy North Queensland tourist town, trying to stay under the radar, when she stumbles across a dangerous drug cartel. Anyone else might back away, pretend they haven’t seen anything, keep quiet, but Maggie is no ordinary girl.

She has to get out of town – fast. She heads towards Melbourne, where she just might find the answers she needs: about her mother, her past and the sins of her father. With a dubious cop as her ally, the police tracking her and a dangerous biker gang on their trail, Maggie’s troubles are doubling down fast.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Inheritance is published in paperback format by Faber Books today (that’s Thursday 4th November 2021) and is also available in audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of The Inheritance but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVED The Hunted, the first book in this gripping Australian thriller/horror series. It warmed my dark little heart on so many levels. So, without question, The Inheritance was one of my most anticipated books of the year. And oh boy, it didn’t disappoint. We’re back with kick-ass, bad-ass Maggie who has a personal mission to fulfil. Anyone who gets in her way better watch out because Maggie has been through hell and back to get to this point and she’ll do whatever it takes to discover the truth…

This is a very personal mission for Maggie and I loved finding out more about her history, what shaped her to be the determined, stop-at-nothing woman she’s become. There’s bloodshed galore, some particularly grisly moments but I loved being along for the ride as Maggie dug deeper into her family history. She comes across some particularly violent and unrelenting characters on her quest, does some pretty horrendous things to them but I couldn’t help but like her. She’s a one-woman powerhouse but I could understand where she was trying to get to.

I found it fascinating to watch as she discovered that what she believed to be one of the few good things about her childhood turned out to be not as peachy as she recalled. I was on the edge of my seat as she ran, full pelt, from her enemies (and there are a few!), having to trust people she’s not completely sure she can, leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in her wake. Wonderful stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Inheritance is a gutsy, thrilling read which I devoured with glee. Maggie is a force to be reckoned with and I hope there is more to come. Despite her penchant for violence, you can’t help but warm to this very human character who just wants answers after a lifetime of misery. The Inheritance is a non-stop, adrenaline ride of a book – it would make a GREAT movie – and I hope this isn’t the last we see of this intriguing, well-written character. If you love a thrilling, female-led tale then make sure you pick this one up. I don’t think you need to have read The Hunted first as it works well as a standalone. Although, like its sequel, The Hunted is a fantastic book so why not treat yourself to both! Recommended.

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

The Inheritance by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 4th November 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gabriel BergmoserGabriel Bergmoser is an award-winning Melbourne-based author and playwright. He won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award in 2015, was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards at the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. In 2016 his first young adult novel, Boone Shepard, was shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize. His first novel for adults, The Hunted (HarperCollins, Faber, 2020) is a bestseller and a film adaptation of The Hunted is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou @maclehosepress @katyaellis_ #TheStoning #damppebbles

“A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. The Stoning is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by MacLehose Press today (that’s Thursday 7th October 2021). I chose to read a free ARC of The Stoning which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Katya at MacLehose Press for sending me a finished copy.

Australian crime fiction. I bloody love it! It’s my new favourite obsession and I’m slowly filling my already very full bookshelves with some fantastic Australian writers. Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and Garry Disher are a few who immediately spring to mind. And now Peter Papathanasiou, who has produced an assured debut featuring a lead character I need more of in my life.

A small Australian town wakes to the horrifying news that a local teacher has been killed in the most brutal and shocking way, she was stoned to death. Local law enforcement is predominantly inept and botches the initial crime scene. Before long DS George Manolis is sent from the city to take control and push the investigation forward. After all, he knows the town like the back of his hand having spent his formative years in the community. But things have changed and it’s not the place he fondly remembers. Racial tensions run high, fingers are pointed and rumours are rife. Manolis needs to see beyond the residents relentless prejudices and find Molly’s killer before it’s too late…

The Stoning is an intriguing page-turner from the first word to the very last. Immersive, atmospheric and quite an eye-opener at times, this tense and unsettling read is an accomplished start to a series I am VERY excited about. DS George Manolis is a strong, likeable lead character who immediately comes up against a town falling apart at the seams. The divisions between the different groups – the indigenous people who have been pushed aside, the predominantly white townsfolk and the much hated immigration detention centre – create a simmering storyline which, at times, is a hard read, but is unapologetically gripping throughout.

Manolis is assisted by a stellar supporting cast. The much maligned Constable Sparrow, the only indigenous member of the police force, was a joy. Angry and unforgiving, yet he was the source of several more light hearted moments throughout the book which I really appreciated. Alongside Sparrow is Constable Kerr, the only female member of the team, who has her own cross to bear. I wanted to know more about Kerr and hope she, and Sparrow, feature in future books.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-plotted, intelligent small town mysteries then make sure you add The Stoning to your must read list. Tough going in places due to the subject matter and prejudices of the characters at times but 100% worth it. An accomplished and astute read which will leave you thinking long after the last page has turned. I’m looking forward to seeing where the author takes Manolis next. Recommended.

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

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press on 7th October 2021 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 |

Peter PapathanasiouPeter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.

#BookReview: Hermit by S.R. White #Hermit #damppebbles

“HE DISAPPEARED FOR 15 YEARS…UNTIL THE DAY OF THE MURDER.

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper’s THE DRY and Chris Hammer’s SCRUBLANDS.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hermit by S.R. White. Hermit was published by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in all formats.

I couldn’t resist this book. I’m a sucker for Australian crime fiction and Hermit seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. This is S.R. White’s debut with the follow-up – Prisoner – being released later in 2021 (and I can’t wait to read it!).

Detective Dana Russo is called on her day off to the scene of a murder. They have a suspect in custody but something just doesn’t feel right. Dana is tasked with interrogating the suspect, Nathan Whittler, discovering if he’s guilty and securing a confession. But despite the police department’s best efforts, they can find no up-to-date record of Nathan. It’s almost like he hasn’t existed for the last 15 years. Who killed the shopkeeper? Where has Nathan been for 15 years? And most importantly of all, what is he hiding….?

I enjoyed this book but the first thing I feel compelled to say about it is that I did have a couple of teeny tiny issues with it. However, the compelling character-driven plot and the intriguing way the author sets out his story completely won me over. I won’t go into any real detail as to what those niggles were, as I think that will spoil the book for new readers, but I will say I have a pet peeve when it comes to crime fiction and unfortunately the author based some of this story around that pet peeve. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last but safe to say, it’s something I find quite frustrating and therefore felt the need to mention it.

Hermit is a very intriguing character driven mystery which I enjoyed. Detective Dana Russo is a woman with a dark past. The author does a terrific job of teasing his readers with glimpses into Dana’s mind and showing us her internal fragility throughout the story. Towards the end of the book you do discover a little more about Dana’s past but I don’t think we know the whole story yet. I think there’s more to come, and I am keen to learn what it is.

When Bill Meeks, Dana’s boss, calls her into work on a day off – a day she takes as paid leave every year – Dana is thrown. But it might just have saved her life. Pitting her against silent Nathan is a work of genius as the two seem to have some sort of odd connection. To get Nathan to talk, Dana has to share some of her personal thoughts and experiences, whilst remaining professional and distant at all times. A large proportion of this novel is the police interview between Dana and Nathan which won’t be to everyone’s taste but I found it fascinating and was keen to read on. It’s a gradual, intricate unravelling of a life and I was completely absorbed.

The other members of the small team all add to the story. I particularly liked feisty administrator, Lucy. Her quick witted banter with colleague, Mike, added a lighter note to proceedings, which I enjoyed. I’m keen to read more about these characters, I think the author has created something quite special and I already feel invested. Perhaps a strange thing to say after one book but true, nonetheless.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Despite a couple of tiny niggles, I found Hermit to be a compulsive read. It’s a slow-burn mystery perfect for fans of character driven novels. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s ‘something’ about these characters and I want to know more. A well-written and bravely different mystery which I really enjoyed. Recommended.

Hermit by S.R. White was published in the UK by Headline on 15th April 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 |

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. He now lives in Queensland, Australia.

#BookReview: You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll @ViperBooks #YouHadItComing #damppebbles

“WOULD YOU SAVE THE MAN
WHO DESTROYED YOUR LIFE?

When paramedic Megan Lowe is called to the scene of an attempted murder, all she can do is try to save the victim. But as the man is lifted onto a stretcher, she realises she knows him. She despises him. Why should she save his life when he destroyed hers?

Jess Foster is on her way home when she receives a text from Megan. Once best friends, the two women haven’t been close for years, not since the night when they were just the teenage girls whom no-one believed; whose reputations were ruined. All Jess can think is, you had it coming.

Now Megan and Jess are at the centre of a murder investigation. But what secrets are they hiding? Can they trust one another? And who really is the victim?

Perfect for fans of C.L. Taylor, Lucy Foley and Lisa Hall, You Had It Coming is a thrilling tale of suspense and dark secrets.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll. You Had It Coming is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 13th May 2021) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of You Had It Coming but that has in no way influenced my review.

I couldn’t resist this book when I saw it pop up on NetGalley. That striking cover and the blurb grabbed my attention. I haven’t read any other books by this author before so I was excited to make a start.

Megan Lowe, an experienced paramedic, is called to attend a shooting. On arrival the victim, William Newson, is unconscious and bleeding out quickly. Megan and her partner, Lucas, do everything they can for their patient. It’s only when they’re loading him into the ambulance that Megan gets a really good look at the man whose life is hanging on by a thread. And recognises him as the one who ruined her life. Megan contacts Jess and shares the shocking news. She’s stunned to hear her ex-friend’s bitter, angry words. Surely she couldn’t have anything to do with William’s attack? Before long, both woman are thrown deep into a murder investigation where everyone is a suspect. Everyone had a motive. After all, William had it coming…

I really enjoyed You Had It Coming and devoured it in the space of a few days. The story is told from three view points: Megan, Jess and Detective Sergeant Bridget Kennedy. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Bridget about the ongoing, ever-widening search for the killer. Bridget came across as an intelligent, dedicated officer but she appeared a little out of her depth whilst trying to reduce the very large list of suspects. Only to add a few more names as new characters were introduced and new links were discovered. I thought the author did an excellent job of making Bridget seem very human. Every avenue has to be investigated to find the truth and Bridget did just that. I loved her determination and doggedness.

Megan and Jess were also very well-written characters. I could feel their pain as the past was once again dug up and gone over with a fine tooth comb. I empathised with both woman as they found themselves slap bang in the middle of a murder investigation as prime suspects. I wanted them both to be innocent but the author cleverly makes you doubt everyone. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold. I thought the author dealt sensitively with the subject matter and the far reaching devastation caused that night.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You Had It Coming is an intriguing mystery that hooked me in from the get-go. I loved the Australian setting, the characters were all multi-layered and interesting individuals and the plot kept me turning the pages. I was able to work out whodunit in the first half of the book but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment. The air of suspicion created by the author amongst family and friends is wonderful. Trust no one. I thoroughly enjoyed You Had It Coming and would happily read more. So much so, I’ve downloaded another of Carroll’s novels which I hope to make a start on soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of You Had It Coming. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll was published in the UK by Viper Books on 13th May 2021 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 |

B.M. Carroll (also known as Ber Carroll) was born in Blarney, a small village in Ireland. The third child of six, reading was her favourite pastime (and still is!). Ber moved to Sydney in 1995 and spent her early career working in finance. Her work colleagues were speechless when she revealed that she had written a novel that was soon to be published. Ber now writes full-time and is the author of ten novels. Over the last few years, Ber’s writing has become darker and more suspenseful (probably reflecting her state of mind). Her most recent novels The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy, Who We Were, and You Had It Coming (May/June 2021) are published under B.M. Carroll.

You can find out more about Ber by visiting her website http://www.bercarroll.com
or by checking out her Facebook page

#BookReview: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheHunted #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the hunted“Where does the adventure end . . .
and the nightmare begin?

Frank owns a service station on a little-used highway. His granddaughter, Allie, is sent to stay with him for the summer, but they don’t talk a lot.

Simon is a dreamer and an idealist, in thrall to the romance of the open road and desperately in search of something.

Maggie is the woman who will bring them together, someone whose own personal journey will visit unimaginable terror on them all. . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fourteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Hunted is published in the UK by Faber Books today (that’s 6th August 2020) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free ARC of The Hunted but that has in no way influenced my review.

From the moment I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. From the brilliantly intriguing blurb, to the cover that’s dripping blood to the PR that told me ‘It’s Jane Harper’s The Dry meets Deliverance, a terrifying piece of horror that also hits every note in terms of character and family drama’. I’ll be honest, I was a little bit giddy to make a start on this one. And I loved it. Every terrifying, intense, blood-splattered moment of it.

Frank is hiding from his problems in a rundown Outback shack he refers to as home. He owns the only roadhouse (service station) for miles. And when in the Outback, the miles go on forever. But he’s got company for a couple of weeks. His teenage granddaughter, Allie, has come to stay. They don’t know each other so they don’t really talk. What is there to say? One day, a car pulls up outside the roadhouse with a woman slumped at the wheel. She’s bloodied, battered and in a really bad way. The woman is Maggie and with her she brings untold horror…

I bloody loved it and I couldn’t put this book down! The Hunted is a terror filled, edge of your seat whirlwind and I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you may know that characters are key for me. The characters in The Hunted are absolutely spot-on! I loved Frank who, until recently, hasn’t really been there for Allie but when the chips were down and the angry gun-wielding maniacs were at the door, he really stepped up to the plate. I won’t name my favourite character in the book in this review but it’s safe to say, I think I’m a little bit in love! Other characters were all brilliantly drawn, stood tall and had their place in this wonderful story.

I seem to be having a spell of reading books where I can’t discuss the plot for fear of giving something I shouldn’t away. If you know too much about The Hunted then I wonder if it’s as shocking and surprising. I need to tread carefully. After a fairly gentle introduction to some of the characters at the start of the book (ignoring the prologue of course!), the pace rachets up and doesn’t stop until you’ve closed the back cover. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I really felt for the characters, I wanted to see what terrifying move would be made next and I felt invested in their plight. The constant threat hanging over them was delicious and the tension palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Hunted and can see it making an appearance in my top 10 books of 2020. I know some readers baulk at the idea of reading a horror novel but I urge you to give this one a try. Yes, it’s bloody and a little gruesome but it’s such an enthralling, gripping, unsettling story that will worm it’s way under your skin. You don’t want to miss out on this book. An outstanding horror novel that I heartily recommend.

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

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

20-books

about-the-author3

PictureGabriel Bergmoser is a Melbourne based author and playwright. After starting out in the youth theatre scene with his early plays Windmills, Life Without Me and Hometown, Gabriel completed his Masters of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts. He co-founded the independent production company Bitten By Productions, entering the Melbourne theatre scene with the one-act comedy Reunion and the futuristic Babylon Trilogy of noir thrillers. Gabriel’s 2015 Beatles comedy We Can Work It Out opened to sell out shows and rave reviews – it has also been performed in Queensland and returned to Melbourne stages for the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In 2015 he won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award for his pilot screenplay based on Windmills and was flown to the International Emmys in New York to accept. The same pilot was later nominated for the Monte Miller Award. In 2016 his first young adult novelBoone Shepard, was published by Bell Frog Books; it was later shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize the day after the sequelBoone Shepard’s American Adventure was released. The third book, Boone Shepard: The Silhouette and the Sacrifice, was released in 2018 and a television adaptation is currently in development with Pirate Size Productions.

His 2016 plays The Lucas ConundrumRegression and The Critic opened to excellent reviews while his early 2017 play Springsteen sold out its entire season. His play Heroes was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards, including five for Best Production and three for best script, on the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. His first musical, Moonlite (featuring original songs by Dan Nixon) was performed as part of the 2018 Midsumma Festival; it received rave reviews, sold out its entire season, and was later selected for the highly sought after Home Grown Grassroots development initiative. His 2019 play, The Trial of Dorian Graysold out its entire season, was extended, then sold out again. Several of his plays have been published by Australian Plays. 

In 2019 Gabriel signed a two book deal with Harper Collins, with the first, The Hunted, scheduled for publication in July 2020. The Hunted will be published in the UK by Faber. The film adaptation is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles, with Gabriel writing the screenplay. He has since signed a second two book deal with Harper for his YA coming of age novel The True Colour of a Little White Lie and a follow up.

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

#BookReview: Soon by Lois Murphy @TitanBooks @lydiagittins #Soon #damppebbles

soon.jpgA gripping literary horror novel about the death of a haunted town, for fans of Richard Matheson. Winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Horror, shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award.

On winter solstice, the birds disappeared, and the mist arrived.

The inhabitants of Nebulah quickly learn not to venture out after dark. But it is hard to stay indoors: cabin fever sets in, and the mist can be beguiling, too.

Eventually only six remain. Like the rest of the townspeople, Pete has nowhere else to go. After he rescues a stranded psychic from a terrible fate, he’s given a warning: he will be dead by solstice unless he leaves town – soon.”

Welcome to the blog today and to my review of the fantastic Soon by Lois Murphy.  Soon is published by Titan Books in the UK today.  Wishing the author and the folk at Titan Books a very happy publication day.  I received a free ARC copy of Soon but that has in no way influenced my review.

I love a spot of horror. You can’t beat a gripping horror novel, which is exactly what Soon is. It’s the kind of novel that works its way under your skin. When you’re not reading it, you’re thinking about it. When I had finished this book I felt bereft and I wanted to return to the Australian town of Nebulah and the company of Pete, our main protagonist, immediately. Which is kind of odd because Nebulah is haunted. Big badass haunted. Haunted with a capital H-A-U-N-T-E-D.

The story is set in the late 1990s and virtually all residents of this once thriving town have gone. They’ve either had the peace of mind to grab whatever they can and leave, or they’re dead.  Three residents remain; Pete, who has nowhere else to go, Milly, who won’t leave because it would break her heart, and Li, who is too stubborn and won’t be driven out.  Every day during the daylight hours in Nebulah is pretty much like yours or mine. Every night is a terrifying nightmare which they pray they will survive. Because as the sun falls, the mist arrives. The mist will terrify and taunt you. Close your windows and lock your doors because if it gets in, or you leave the safety of your home, it will tear you to shreds. The residents have to drown out the sound of the mist’s claws scratching at the windows every night. A good night’s sleep is a long-forgotten luxury. It calls their names and pretends to be the people they love the most. The mist will show you what it wants you to see. Beguiling to some, horrifying to others. The only thing it wants to do is destroy you. Ignored and ostracised by the Government, their pleas for help are firmly ignored. Outside of Nebulah, Nebulah no longer exists.

So when Pete ends up helping a visitor to the isolated town get away from the terrors in time, she issues a stark warning. He must leave Nebulah or he will die. And he must leave SOON.

This is a truly captivating novel which drew me in from start to finish. The unease and the uncertainty the author creates is a joy to read and I savoured every single second of this book. I was right there at the heart of Nebulah with the characters as they realised the sun would set soon and they were rapidly running out of time… It’s a beautifully written piece of fiction where everything works perfectly; the place, the characters, the gripping plot and of course, the terrifying mist. I wanted to return to this book again and again to get my next Nebulah fix.

I adored Pete. Far from perfect in many ways, I really felt his connection to the remaining residents. Having been shunned by his own daughter for his past failings, his love and respect for his friends, Milly and Li, really shone through. Despite retiring as the local police officer, the added burden of that responsibility – particularly as the next available officer was several hours drive away – still weighed heavy on his shoulders.

Would I recommend this book? I would. I would also recommend it to non-horror readers too as yes, there are a couple of gory scenes but in comparison to many horror novels there really aren’t that many and it’s more about the isolation, the grief and the regret. This is a totally engrossing piece of literary horror fiction and I adored it. I may become as obsessed with this book as I am with Josh Malerman’s Bird Box – you have been warned. Such an atmospheric, beautiful and beguiling novel. Don’t miss this one.

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

Soon by Lois Murphy was published in the UK by Titan Books on 15th October 2019 and is available in paperback 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesGoodreads |

about-the-author3.jpg

lois-murphy-1Lois Murphy’s first novel, Soon, won an Aurealis Award for Best Horror and was shortlisted for the Colin Roderick Award.

Lois has travelled widely, most recently spending six years exploring Australia in a homemade 4WD truck, working mainly in small or remote towns. Lois currently lives near Melbourne, Victoria.