#BookReview: The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara @TransworldBooks #TheApartmentUpstairs #damppebbles

Scarlett‘s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara. The Apartment Upstairs is published by Bantam Press today (that’s Thursday 23rd June 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 The Apartment Upstairs but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Alison at Bantam Press for sending me a proof copy.

Scarlett Quilter lives in a beautifully converted, fully modernised ground floor apartment which suits her needs perfectly. That is until one day when the occupant of the apartment upstairs is brutally murdered. The victim isn’t just anyone though, the victim is her Aunt Rebecca and suddenly Scarlett’s apartment doesn’t quite hold the same appeal it did. Scarlett begins to organise her aunt’s funeral but strange things start happening. She notices someone sneaking around her garden at 4am, people are behaving oddly and when a connection to a local missing woman comes to light, Scarlett can’t help but ask some difficult questions. The more she digs, the closer she gets to uncovering devastating long held secrets. And someone will do anything to stop the truth from being discovered…

The Apartment Upstairs is a very compelling mystery featuring some truly wonderful characters. The story is told from two main points of view – Scarlett, the bereaved niece trying to organise her aunt’s funeral, and Dee, the funeral director and joint-owner of Fond Farewells, the company Scarlett has tasked with organising her aunt’s send off. I have to say from the get-go that I found seeing things from Dee’s point of view, the ins and outs of arranging a funeral, absolutely fascinating! It was very interesting, something a bit different. Dee’s side of the story is mostly focussed on the disappearance of her friend, Gina, and the forthcoming 10 year anniversary. Alongside running a small, independent business and dealing with her wayward business partner (who also happens to be her best friend). Both Scarlett and Dee came across as fully formed, believable characters and I enjoyed spending time in their company.

The plot is expertly written and ebbs and flows beautifully, engaging the reader in the story from the moment they pick the book up. I enjoyed the way the author has used the two different points of view to build the tale for the reader. I found it incredibly intriguing and I was keen to discover how things would end for these two women. An intricately plotted tale which I was more than happy to lose myself in over two sittings.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Apartment Upstairs is a tense, skilfully written mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I flew through this book not wanting to put it down for any length of time. I was so intrigued by how things were going to play out for these characters that I kept promising myself ‘just one more chapter’ and before I knew it, I was reading the final sentence! It’s also worth mentioning that Scarlett has a chronic illness which is something we don’t see enough of in fiction but I felt it was done with sensitivity and understanding. I’m ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve read by Kara but it certainly won’t be the last. Highly compelling, superb characterisation and beautifully plotted. Quite the page-turner! Recommended.

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

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara was published by Bantam Press on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lesley KaraLesley Kara’s debut ‘The Rumour’ was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in 18 countries and optioned for TV. ‘The Rumour’ was the highest selling crime fiction debut of 2019 in the UK and a Kindle No. 1 bestseller. Her second novel, ‘Who Did You Tell?’ was also a Sunday Times bestseller. Her third novel, ‘The Dare’ is out now and her fourth, ‘The Apartment Upstairs’ will be published in June 2022.

Lesley worked for many years as a lecturer and manager in a large college of further education in London. She now lives in Suffolk and writes full-time.

#BookReview: The Hunger by Alma Katsu @TransworldBooks #TheHunger #damppebbles

“After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Hunger by Alma Katsu. The Hunger was published by Bantam Press on 21st February 2019 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Hunger but that has in no way influenced my review.

This book has been sat on my shelf for far too long. I’ve been wanting to read it for such a long time so when a break in my planned reading came up, I grabbed the chance. And I loved it. The author’s compelling twist on a documented historical event was both intriguing and chilling.

It’s 1846  and a group of pioneers, many who are strangers, make the gruelling trek from Springfield, Illinois to California. Loaded with only the possessions they could carry, they start their brave trek across America. Tensions are high, rivalries are ever present and the fight for supremacy within the group is constant. George Donner, the group’s reigning leader, is given a choice. A crossroads. He’s warned against taking the less well-known route and told, for the sake of his party, to keep to the well-travelled path. Seasoned travellers repeatedly advise against it and warn of the dangers. But Donner decides to stick to his plan, sealing the fate of those he’s travelling with. What Donner doesn’t realise is that it’s not just the rapidly changing elements that pose a risk. There’s something else out there. Something deadly, and it has it’s sights set on the Donner Party…

I loved The Hunger. So much so, that approximately a quarter of the way through the book, bewitched by the author’s writing and completely absorbed by the story, I ordered myself a copy of Katsu’s latest book, The Deep. I loved that The Hunger is partly based on a true story but given an extra creepy twist. The story of the Donner Party is, in itself, quite harrowing but the author’s spine-tingling addition to the tale creates a piece of fiction which is both deeply unsettling and beautifully dark. I devoured it and days later, I’m still thinking about the book.

As a Brit living in the modern age (trains, planes and automobiles!), I personally struggle to get my head around the massive undertaking the Donner Party took when they left Springfield in April 1846. But thanks to Katsu’s exquisite writing, vibrant imagery and her ability to put her reader in the scene with the characters, I closed the back cover of this novel a little awestruck and feeling as though I had learnt something. Tensions run high, trust between the party is at an all-time low and the threat of the unknown was impossible to escape. As the weather closes in, as the snow drifts begin to build, I could see no escape for the party.  The claustrophobia and the periI were palpable. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Hunger is like nothing else I have read before and I can’t wait to make a start on The Deep (if it’s anything like The Hunger I know I’m going to be in for a huge treat!). I found The Hunger to be a completely engrossing and spell-binding read which I heartily recommend to horror fans. The ending was perfect and took my breath away. I adored this book and I’m kicking myself because it’s taken far too long for me to get around to reading it. Something truly special which has left its mark on me. Highly recommended.

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

The Hunger by Alma Katsu was published in the UK by Bantam Books on 21st February 2019 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 |

Alma KatsuAuthor of THE DEEP, a reimagining of the sinking of the Titanic, and THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the Donner Party’s tragic journey (Putnam);
THE TAKER, THE RECKONING and THE DESCENT (Gallery Books). The Taker was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011.

#BookReview: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @1stMondayCrime #TheSanatorium #damppebbles #FirstMondayCrime

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse again in conjunction with the lovely folk at First Monday Crime. The fabulous Sarah Pearse will be appearing alongside a host of other brilliant authors this coming Monday, 12th April 2021 at 7.30pm over on the FM Facebook page. More information further down this post!

The Sanatorium was impossible to resist! That intriguing title, the striking, atmospheric cover, the enticing blurb. It screamed my name so I had to read it. This is the second book I’ve read set in the Alps in the space of a month but it gave me a whole different set of chills.

Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend are staying at an isolated boutique hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel itself has an unnerving history, having started its life as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Her estranged brother has surprisingly invited Elin to his engagement party. He’s marrying a childhood friend of hers, the glamorous Laure. Elin is happy to leave the UK for a while as, following her last case, something happened which made her doubt her future in the police force. But on arrival, nervous Elin is instantly put on edge even more by the imposing setting. The pressing snow storm doesn’t help her feel any safer. The relationship between Elin and her brother, Isaac, is tense and a missed dinner invitation causes more upset. But the following morning, Isaac reports Laure missing. The snow storm and the risk of avalanches cuts off all access to the hotel as the search for Laure continues. They’re on their own. Elin needs to step up and take control of the situation. Which, despite feeling hesitant, she feels ready to do. Until they discover the body…

Poor Elin. From the start of The Sanatorium she’s on the edge and that doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses. She’s a troubled woman who carries the tragic death of her brother at the age of 8 in her heart and her mind. The real reason for her decision to reconnect with her estranged other brother becomes very clear to the reader. She wants the truth and the only person who can give it to her is Isaac. Her grief has moulded and shaped her into the woman she is today. Elin is an interesting character who at times I really liked and admired.

The mystery aspect of The Sanatorium was interesting and it kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting. I love isolated, claustrophobic settings in novels and this one is done particularly well. The snowy mountains feel as though they’re pressing in on the hotel and the unpredictability of the avalanches was really wonderful. Picturing the icy scenes in my mind gave me goosebumps! Marvellous stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Sanatorium to anyone who enjoys a locked-room mystery with a bit of an icy twist. The plot moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed reading The Sanatorium and I would gladly read more from this author. It’s a chilling, atmospheric mystery which I was happy to lose myself in. Recommended.

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

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 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 |

First Monday Crime
Sarah Pearse will be joining the panel for April’s First Monday Facebook event on Monday 12th April 2021. Sarah will be appearing alongside David Fennell (author of The Art of Death), Matt Wesolowski (author of Deity), David Baldacci (author of A Gambling Man) and asking the questions will be Dr Noir – Jacky Collins. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 12th April via the First Monday Facebook page.

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

#BookReview: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @TransworldBooks #TheSanatorium #damppebbles

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse. The Sanatorium is published in the UK today (that’s Thursday 18th February 2021) by Bantam Press and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Sanatorium but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Sanatorium was impossible to resist! That intriguing title, the striking, atmospheric cover, the enticing blurb. It screamed my name so I had to read it. This is the second book I’ve read set in the Alps in the space of a month but it gave me a whole different set of chills.

Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend are staying at an isolated boutique hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel itself has an unnerving history, having started its life as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Her estranged brother has surprisingly invited Elin to his engagement party. He’s marrying a childhood friend of hers, the glamorous Laure. Elin is happy to leave the UK for a while as, following her last case, something happened which made her doubt her future in the police force. But on arrival, nervous Elin is instantly put on edge even more by the imposing setting. The pressing snow storm doesn’t help her feel any safer. The relationship between Elin and her brother, Isaac, is tense and a missed dinner invitation causes more upset. But the following morning, Isaac reports Laure missing. The snow storm and the risk of avalanches cuts off all access to the hotel as the search for Laure continues. They’re on their own. Elin needs to step up and take control of the situation. Which, despite feeling hesitant, she feels ready to do. Until they discover the body…

Poor Elin. From the start of The Sanatorium she’s on the edge and that doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses. She’s a troubled woman who carries the tragic death of her brother at the age of 8 in her heart and her mind. The real reason for her decision to reconnect with her estranged other brother becomes very clear to the reader. She wants the truth and the only person who can give it to her is Isaac. Her grief has moulded and shaped her into the woman she is today. Elin is an interesting character who at times I really liked and admired, at other times I wanted to sit her down and ask her what the fluff she was doing!

The mystery aspect of The Sanatorium was interesting and it kept me turning the pages. I think the time has come to admit that perhaps I’ve read too many crime books as I could guess a couple of plot points which, disappointingly, turned out to be accurate. There weren’t any big surprises for me in this novel but that’s my own personal experience and I wouldn’t let that put you off.

I adored the setting. I love isolated, claustrophobic settings in novels and this one is done particularly well. The snowy mountains feel as though they’re pressing in on the hotel and the unpredictability of the avalanches was really wonderful. Picturing the icy scenes in my mind gave me goosebumps! Marvellous stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Sanatorium to anyone who enjoys a locked-room mystery with a bit of an icy twist. The plot moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader turning the pages. There was something about the ending which didn’t quite work for me. I can’t really go into any detail as I would be revealing too much and that wouldn’t be fair but I did enjoy reading The Sanatorium and I would gladly read more from this author. It’s a chilling, atmospheric mystery which I was happy to lose myself in. Recommended.

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

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 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 | the damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

#BookReview: The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd @TransworldBooks @1stMondayCrime #TheMemoryWood #damppebbles

the memory wood.jpg

Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .”

A very warm welcome to the blog today and to my review of The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd. Now, had life been relatively normal (normalish) then tonight would have seen the first First Monday Crime Night of the year. But we’re all on lock down so it’s obviously not happening (#StayHomeSaveLives #StayHomeStaySafe). That doesn’t mean we can’t shout about the brilliant authors who were due to appear though, no siree! Sam Lloyd, author of the haunting The Memory Wood, was due to be taking part this evening so I, of course, leapt at the chance to read this INCREDIBLE book. I have to be completely honest with you here. As soon as I saw this book, before I’d even read the blurb, I knew I had to read it. The cover gave me chills. I received a free ARC of The Memory Wood but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Memory Wood had my attention as soon as I set eyes on it; that stunning cover, the intriguing blurb. You know when you get ‘that’ feeling about a book…? You just know that it’s going to be something special? You don’t know how you know, you just do? That’s the feeling I had about The Memory Wood. Expectations were high. Oh, the pressure! And I wasn’t disappointed one jot. What a mesmerising, creepy crime thriller. Full of tension and dread. I absolutely loved this book!

Elijah lives with his family at the Game Keeper’s Cottage in the grounds of Rufus Hall, near the Memory Wood. Elijah’s life is quiet and sedate. He doesn’t attend school but he has a love of words and likes to think that makes him cleverer than the average 12-year-old. One day, while exploring a crumbling cottage in the wood, Elijah makes a discovery. Thirteen year old, Elissa. Chained to the floor and desperate to escape, Elissa pleads with Elijah to help her. But Elijah knows he can’t help and he can’t really understand why she is so desperate to leave. After all, they’ve only just met! In Elissa he sees a friend, a confidant and someone to spend his time with. He’s enchanted by her. But Elissa isn’t the first girl Elijah has discovered chained up beneath the cottage. And Elijah knows what happened to the other children when they refused to play by their captor’s rules…

I thoroughly enjoyed The Memory Wood. It was everything I hoped it would be and maybe even a little bit more on top! The author has done a wonderful job of making his reader feel they are there, living in the wood with these strange characters. The story is told from three perspectives; Elijah, Elissa and the detective in charge of finding Elissa, Detective Superintendent Mairead MacCullagh. I loved DS MacCullagh and thought the author made her even more interesting with the addition of an issue you don’t see every day. I hope this isn’t the last we see of MacCullagh as I would gladly read an entire series with her as the lead character. Elissa, the kidnapped 13-year-old, is an incredible character. Wise beyond her years with an intelligence to match. I loved how emotionally strong she was in the face of adversity. How every action was considered in detail and how determined she was to escape the clutches of her captor. Astute and spirited, she’ll be difficult to forget – that’s for sure! And poor, troubled Elijah. My heart broke for him.

The plot moves along at a steady pace and I was keen to find out how Elijah and Elissa’s story was going to end. There are a couple of ‘gasp-out-loud’ moments which turn the book on its head for the reader and I loved them! Cat and mouse game? Yes, definitely. But it’s more intricate, more detailed, more involving than that. Game of chess anyone? (Chess features quite heavily in the story so it only seemed fair….)

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s a beautifully written, unsettling and atmospheric novel and I devoured it. With characters that will leave their mark on you, whether in a good way….or a not so good way, this book will be hard to forget. And if anyone ever utters the words ‘say you understand’ to me ever again then I may have a heart attack right there and then. Those three words will forever send chills down my spine. Highly recommended.

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

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd was published in the UK by Bantam Press on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

Sam Lloyd grew up in Hampshire, making up stories and building secret hideaways in his local woods. These days he lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and a dog that likes to howl. The Memory Wood is his debut thriller.