#BookReview: Outback by Patricia Wolf @emblabooks @bonnierbooks_uk #Outback #damppebbles

“Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.

DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown of Caloodie, taking care of his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers, Berndt and Rita, vanish from the area, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?

As the number of days since the couple’s disappearance climbs, DS Walker is joined by Rita’s older sister. A detective herself with Berlin CID, she has flown to Australia – desperate to find her sister before it’s too late.

Working in the organised crime unit has opened Walker’s eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia’s remote interior, and he remains convinced there is more at play.

As temperatures soar, the search for Berndt and Rita becomes ever more urgent. Even if Walker does find the young couple, will it be too late?
This deeply atmospheric thriller is the gripping opening of a new crime series for fans of The Dry by Jane Harper, Cara Hunter and Chris Whitaker.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outback by Patricia Wolf. Outback is published by Embla Books today (that’s Tuesday 8th November 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Outback but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that my favourite obsession at the moment is Australian crime fiction. I will drop everything else to read a well-written piece of Aussie crime fiction. Which is exactly what Outback is. From the glorious atmospheric cover to the gripping plot to the eminently likeable lead in DS Lucas Walker, I loved everything about this book!

Rita and Berndt, backpackers originally from Germany, go missing in the vast Australian outback on their way to a job at Glen Ines Station. They were seen by locals in Caloodie before embarking on the long, hot journey. But they never arrived at their destination. On compassionate leave in Caloodie, caring for his gravely ill grandmother, DS Lucas Walker of the Australian Federal Police is tasked with finding the two backpackers. Suspicious as to why the AFP are getting involved in a simple missing person’s case, and sure the backpackers have changed their minds and headed for the cool of the coast, Walker begins to investigate only to fall at every hurdle. When Rita’s police detective sister arrives from Germany to help with the search, an unlikely partnership is formed. Will Walker and Barbara Guerra be able to find the missing backpackers before it’s too late…?

I loved this deeply atmospheric, skilfully written debut which takes a long hard look at the escalating drug trade in Outback Australia. Everything about Outback worked for me. From the superb characterisation to the vividly drawn, heat-drenched setting, from the compelling plot which builds over the course of the book to the thrilling, ‘hold your breath’ conclusion. I savoured every moment I spent with this book and I am already looking forward to the second book in the series which publishes in May 2023.

I really liked DS Lucas Walker and quickly became invested in the character. He’s returned to the small town his grandmother raised him in until he was 11 years old and to a house full of happy memories, love and familiarity. Now his grandmother is nearing the end of her life, and Walker has been granted leave to spend time with the woman he feels raised him. The interactions between Lucas and his grandmother were full of warmth and compassion. I appreciated these thoughtfully written softer moments in amongst the darker themes of the novel. Walker’s sadness as his grandmother nears the end along with his clear love and fondness for his younger sister, Grace, show the reader that DS Walker is a cop with a heart.

But this is a crime thriller after all and it’s certainly not all hearts and flowers. The plot is gripping and dark, told from several different points of view. Each of which kept me turning the pages and fully immersed in the story. The opening prologue immediately puts the reader on edge. The impending sense of doom is palpable, and I loved it. From there the story unfolds gradually, drawing the reader further and further into the dark world these characters inhabit. As Walker’s investigation stalls he’s joined by Rita’s older sister, Barbara Guerra who is a police detective herself. I loved the relationship between these two characters. Barbara is well aware that she is not a police officer in Australia. That she is very limited in what she can and can’t do, but will Walker be able to crack the case without her help? Well, you’ll just have to read the book yourself to find that out!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Outback. It’s such an accomplished, compelling debut which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. I loved the characters. In particular the working relationship between DS Walker and Barbara Guerra. It was a real highlight for me as not only am I fan of Australian crime fiction I also love German crime fiction too, so Outback really was a joy for me to read with influences from both. The plot was fascinating and drew me into the story. I was keen to discover what had happened to Rita and Berndt, which kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting with its wide horizons and emptiness which despite being vast still felt oddly claustrophobic. The author paints a beautifully vivid, atmospheric picture for the reader which I can’t help but applaud. All in all, I loved Outback and would recommend it not only to fans of Australian crime fiction but to anyone who enjoys a well written mystery full of suspense. Highly recommended.

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

Outback by Patricia Wolf was published in the UK by Embla Books on 8th November 2022 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 | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Patricia WolfPatricia Wolf has been a journalist for more than 15 years, a regular contributor to titles including The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Independent and The Telegraph, among others. She grew up in outback Australia, in a mining town called Mount Isa in far north-west Queensland – eagle eyed readers will have spotted a small reference to it in her first book, OUTBACK. Patricia loves the rugged beauty, indigo sky and wide horizons of the outback, but left Australia after university to travel the world and became a journalist. She lives in Berlin, Germany, but the outback always calls her home. In 2019, just before the covid pandemic locked us all in, Patricia spent two months in northwest Queensland, taking a four-week road trip. As she drove and spent nights and days surrounded by the beauty and rugged harshness of the outback, DS Lucas Walker and his stories came to be.

#BookReview: The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher @ViperBooks #TheWayItIsNow #damppebbles

WHO SHALL INHERIT THE SINS OF THE FATHER?

Twenty years ago, Charlie Deravin’s mother went missing, believed murdered. Her body has never been found, and his father has lived under a cloud of suspicion ever since.

Now Charlie has returned to the coastal town where his mother vanished, on disciplinary leave from his job with the police sex-crimes unit, and permanent leave from his marriage. After two decades worrying away at the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, he’s run out of leads.

Then the skeletal remains of two people are found in the excavation of a new building site… and the past comes crashing in on Charlie.
From the multiple Ned Kelly Award-winning author of Consolation comes a stunning new standalone thriller, for readers of Jane Harper, Ian Rankin and Chris Hammer.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher. The Way It Is Now was published by Viper Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Way It Is Now but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Regular visitors to the blog may be aware that I’m what you could call ‘a little bit obsessed with Australian crime fiction’. Only a little, mind you 😜. One of the big names in Aussie crime fiction that I have been desperate to read for some time now is Garry Disher. I’ve been accumulating his Paul Hirschhausen books over time but gaps in my reading schedule have been few and far between, meaning I haven’t had a chance to pick one of Disher’s titles up as yet. Until now, that is. I jumped at the chance to read The Way It Is Now, a standalone novel by this much revered and respected author of Australian crime fiction. And what a treat it was!

Charlie Deravin’s mother disappeared without a trace twenty years ago. Now Charlie, a police officer on enforced leave following an altercation with his boss, is determined to find out what happened to her. However, Charlie cannot catch a break and comes up against dead end after dead end following years of searching for the truth. Speculation within the town where the Deravins lived has always been rife with Charlie’s father, Rhys, an ex-detective himself, firmly in the spotlight. Then one day the remains of two bodies are found in the grounds of a derelict property and life for the Deravin family will never be the same again…

The Way It Is Now is a very compelling and hugely absorbing mystery featuring an extremely well-written and multi-layered lead character in Charlie Deravin. This is Charlie’s story, documented across many years detailing his grief at the loss of this mother and his obsession with finding out what happened to her. Her car was abandoned one day with her possessions strewn across the road. To the casual observer it looked as though Rose Deravin had been abducted. But the police investigation failed to get off of the ground, particularly as the police already had their prime suspect in their sights. Now all they had to do was prove Rhys Deravin guilty, one way or another. Did Rhys kill Rose twenty years ago to prevent their divorce and the sale of their family home? What I loved about The Way It Is Now is that you can never really be sure of Rhys Deravin. Whether he’s guilty or innocent. There were always questions in my mind. Things which didn’t quite add up. I felt he was untrustworthy, part of the old boy’s network of cops back in the day, ‘turn a blind eye because he’s one of us’ and all of that. It made for gripping reading and kept me turning the pages late into the night.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed The Way It Is Now and I am even more excited to get started on Disher’s Paul Hirschhausen series now. The Way It Is Now is a tense, unsettling, slow burn mystery with strong characterisation, a vivid setting and a highly intriguing storyline which I couldn’t get enough of. I really liked how Disher developed Charlie over the course of the book. There were softer, more emotional moments which were unexpected but endeared me to Charlie’s character even more. All in all, I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to experiencing the author’s writing again very soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Way It Is Now. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher was published in the UK by Viper Books on 4th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Garry DisherGarry Disher lives in Australia and is the author of over 40 books: novels, short story collections, writers’ handbooks, history textbooks and children’s fiction. His Challis and Destry police procedurals, and his Wyatt crime from the inside thrillers, are gaining international recognition, winning best crime novel of the year awards in Australia and Germany and appearing on best books of the year lists in the USA. Garry has toured Germany twice and the States once, and counts a scholarship year spent in the Stanford University creative writing school, early in his career, as one of his most important formative experiences.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou @maclehosepress #TheInvisible #damppebbles

“Burnt-out from policework, Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies from Australia to Greece for a holiday. Recently divorced and mourning the death of his father, who emigrated from the turbulent Prespes region which straddles the borders of Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, Manolis hopes to reconnect with his roots and heritage.

On arrival, Manolis learns of the disappearance of an ‘invisible’ – a local man who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and some locals believe the man’s disappearance was pre-planned, while others suspect foul play. Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find the invisible, and must navigate the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep.

It soon becomes clear to Manolis that he may never locate a man who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. And with the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the events of today as Manolis’s investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten practice.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the social media splash for The Invisible, the second book in the Detective George Manolis series by Peter Papathanasiou. The Invisible was published by MacLehose Press last Thursday (that’s 1st September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Invisible but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Corinna at MacLehose Press for sending me a proof copy.

I am a huge fan of Australian crime fiction, it’s become a bit of a passion of mine. This may come as no surprise to regular readers of the blog as I do tend to mention it fairly often 😂. The Stoning, the first book in this series, was a highlight of my reading year in 2021 so I was very much looking forward to being reunited with Detective Manolis once again for his second outing. The Invisible is a very different book to the first in that Manolis goes back to his Greek roots, his parents having emigrated from Greece to Australia prior to George’s birth. The book had a very different flavour, a different feel which I appreciated.

Following a traumatic event at work and suffering from PTSD, DS Manolis is ordered to take leave for a few weeks and give himself time to start healing. He decides the best thing to do is to leave Australia altogether and books a flight to his parent’s homeland, Greece. Upon arrival he discovers one of the locals, a man he was familiar with from previous visits, has gone missing. The only problem is Lefty is an invisible. He has no paperwork, no passport, no bank account. The local police force have been made aware of Lefty’s disappearance but what can they do? According to their records, Lefty never existed. Working undercover, Manolis immerses himself in the Greek lifestyle and begins to ask questions of the locals. But how do you find a man who doesn’t exist…?

The Invisible is a well-written slow burn mystery which I enjoyed reading. The first chapter is fraught with danger and tension as Manolis and a favourite character of mine, Constable ‘Sparrow’ Smith, chase down a drug dealer. Their pursuit ends in tragedy with Manolis holding a smoking gun and reliving his ordeal time and time again. When his boss, Paul Bloody Porter, insists he take some vacation Manolis reluctantly agrees and boards a flight to a country which will forever be in his blood, Greece. From here things take a more sedate pace. Manolis is introduced to old friends and new. Fellow Greek-Aussie, Stavros, asks Manolis to investigate Lefty’s disappearance believing his friend to be more efficient than the local police. Working undercover Manolis begins to investigate but soon realises he’s been set an impossible task.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a fascinating slow burn mystery featuring some outstanding characters and a dramatic, vivid setting then you will enjoy The Invisible. I learnt so much about the Greek way of life; culture, food and drink, religion, history and practices. The mystery aspect of the story is present throughout the book. The reader is initially introduced to Lefty in the prologue and he is referred to throughout the text by the other characters, which helps build a picture of the character in your mind. But how do you go about finding someone who doesn’t exist? This is exactly Manolis’s problem. Every direction he takes, every new lead fizzles out and becomes a disappointing dead end. I was very intrigued about what had happened to Lefty so the denouement came as a surprise. I’m a fan of the Detective George Manolis series so I hope there are more books to come in this fantastic series. No matter what, I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press in 1st September 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 |

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.


📢 Calling all book bloggers, bookstagrammers and authors 📢

#R3COMM3ND3D returns on 1st November 2022 and YOU’RE invited to take part!

The closing date for submissions this year is WEDNESDAY 10TH NOVEMBER so if you would like to take part, please submit your three books via the form below before the 10th.

If you’re not sure what #R3COMM3ND3D is or if you would just like to see a few examples from past years, then please click THIS LINK.

I can’t wait to find out what three 2022 publications you #R3COMM3ND!

#BookReview: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson @MichaelJBooks #EveryoneInMyFamilyHasKilledSomeone #damppebbles

Everyone in my family is a killer. Everyone in my family is a suspect. But which of them is a murderer?
_________

I was dreading the Cunningham family reunion even before the first murder.

You see, us Cunnighams don’t really get along.

We’ve only got one thing in common: we’ve all killed someone.

So when they find the first body, it’s clear that only a Cunningham could have committed the crime – and it’s up to me to prove it.

There are plenty of killers in my family. But only one murderer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 18th August 2022) 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 ARC of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Ellie and Jen at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

The Cunningham family have one thing in common, other than a bloodline, and that’s that they have all killed someone. So when Ernest Cunningham receives an invitation to a family reunion, he knows it isn’t going to be a pleasant few nights away reminiscing about days gone by, immersed in nostalgia. Truth be told, he’s not all that keen on anyone in his family, other than his step-sister, so the thought of spending time with them fills him with anxiety. His worst fears are confirmed when a body is discovered at the ski resort the family are staying at. Surrounded by killers, knowing he can’t trust anyone, particularly those he’s related to, it’s down to Ernest to try and work out who amongst his family is a murderer…

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a very engaging nod to classic crime with an expertly executed contemporary twist. It’s highly readable, difficult to put down and laugh out loud funny. I adored the lead character, Ernest, and felt in capable hands as he led me through the intricacies of his somewhat suspicious family. Ernest is a writer of ‘how to’ guides for those wanting to pen detective fiction. He’s not written his own novel but provides help and assistance to other budding novelists. As a result, Ernest abides by the rules of Ronald Knox’s 10 commandments of Detective Fiction, 1929. Helpfully there is a list of the rules at the start of the book, just in case you’re not familiar with them (but I’m sure we all are 😜). But any regular reader of detective fiction can probably come up with a few rules off the top of their head (the criminal must be someone mentioned in the story and not suddenly appear as if by magic, that sort of thing!). Because of Ernest’s penchant for following the rules he is very open and honest with the reader, declaring that everything he tells you is the truth. He goes on to inform the reader which pages feature gory deaths, just in case you’re only in it for grisly bits, which I thought was wonderful. I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with Ernest and I don’t think I’ll be the only one to feel affection for this superbly written character.

The mystery aspect of the novel is clever, highly intriguing and full of red herrings. I appreciated every perfectly placed twist and turn. Was I able to work out whodunit? No, I wasn’t. I was just enjoying the ride! There are a lot of characters in the story – quite a few members of the Cunningham clan, several resort staff, other guests and police officers. Normally with such a large cast I would be concerned about becoming muddled but that is not the case in Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. All of the characters are defined well and play their part beautifully, helping to move the story along.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a wonderfully written mystery which I enjoyed every single moment of. I loved the setting which despite being large in scale, felt quite claustrophobic due to the weather cutting the resort off from the rest of the world. Oh, and it’s Australian so that’s extra points from me as I’m quite obsessed with Aussie crime fiction, as regular readers of the blog will know! I thought the plot was masterfully written, something Dame Christie would herself be proud of. With superb characters and an intriguing mystery at its heart, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a brilliantly written ode to the golden age of crime which this reader very much appreciated. Very funny, smart and cleverly done. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 18th August 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Photo of author Benjamin Stevenson.Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. His first novel, Greenlight, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction, and published in the USA and UK. His second novel, Either Side of Midnight, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Original Paperback. His novella, Find Us, was an internationally bestselling audiobook. He has sold out live shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10 and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. He loves hearing from readers on Instagram (@stevensonexperience) and Facebook (The Stevenson Experience). Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is his third novel.

© https://benjaminstevensonauthor.com

#BookReview: No Country for Girls by Emma Styles @BooksSphere #NoCountryForGirls #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

GOLD. THEFT. MURDER.
A ROAD TRIP TO DIE FOR.

Charlie and Nao are strangers from different sides of the tracks. They should never have met, but one devastating incident binds them together forever.

A man is dead and now they are unwilling accomplices in his murder there’s only one thing to do: hit the road in the victim’s twin cab ute, with a bag of stolen gold stashed under the passenger seat.

Suddenly outlaws, Nao and Charlie must make their way across Australia’s remote outback using only their wits to survive. They’ll do whatever it takes to evade capture and escape with their lives . . .

Thelma & Louise for a new generation, No Country for Girls is a gritty, twisty road-trip thriller that follows two young women on the run across the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Australia.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of No Country for Girls by Emma Styles. No Country for Girls is published by Sphere Books today (that’s Thursday 21st July 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of No Country for Girls but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sphere Books for sending me a proof copy.

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be aware that Australian crime fiction is very much a passion of mine and it’s my mission to read it all! So when I saw No Country for Girls mentioned on the socials, I jumped at the chance to read it. It felt a little different to my usual go-to Aussie reads, more of a modern day Thelma and Louise than the police procedurals set in a dusty town I tend to pick up. And what a joy it was!

Charlie and Nao, two teenagers living very different lives, are forced on the run after things go horribly wrong and one of them accidentally kills a man. With a bag full of gold and driving the victim’s stolen ute, they hit the road knowing that if they don’t, there’s a chance they won’t be alive for much longer. But the road ahead is tough. The outback is a very lonely place and it’s clear they’re being tailed. Someone wants the gold, they’ll go to any length to get it and the girls must do whatever it takes to survive…

No Country for Girls is a tense, thrilling read which I very much enjoyed. Charlie and Nao are both likeable characters and I found myself warming to them as the book progressed. However, as much as I liked them, they really weren’t keen on each other! Coming from very different backgrounds, having very different approaches to life and at times a different understanding of their situation, really added to the tension of the story and kept me turning the pages, desperate to find out how things would end for them both. I really enjoyed watching their initial frostiness towards each other thaw a little as the story neared its climax.

The plot moves at a great pace with many ‘hold your breath’ moments along the way and lots of well-written, thrilling action. The locations the girls stopped at along the way were all vividly drawn and I could picture the scenes unfolding in my mind with ease. But the absolute highlight for me was the drama the author captured in one of the final scenes which felt a little Bond-esque to me. OK, it was perhaps a little far-fetched (maybe it wasn’t – I live in a small rural town in the south of England – what do I know about the Australian Outback?!), but I didn’t give a damn! It was exciting, it was something I don’t think I’ve encountered in a novel before and I loved how theatrical it was!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. No Country for Girls is an action packed, high-octane read featuring two great characters you can’t help but like. I loved the setting, it felt authentic and very vivid. I loved the urgency of the writing and the way the tension built almost from the opening chapter. You could feel the characters were in a race against time with the ever-present threat right at their heels. This is an accomplished debut and I look forward to reading more from Styles in the future. All in all, a gripping road trip thriller overflowing with well-written tension which I very much enjoyed. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of No Country for Girls. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

No Country for Girls by Emma Styles was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 21st July 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Emma StylesEmma Styles writes contemporary Australian noir about young women taking on the patriarchy. She grew up on Whadjuk Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia and now lives in London where she was born. Emma loves a road trip and once sat out a cyclone on the north west coast of WA in a LandCruiser Troop Carrier. She is less afraid of great white sharks than she should be, and hopeless at surfing.

Emma has an MA in crime fiction from the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel, No Country for Girls, won the Little, Brown UEA Crime Fiction Award in 2020 and will be published by Sphere in the UK in July 2022, and by Hachette in Australia and New Zealand in September.

#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.