#CaseClosed: #February2018 #BookOfTheMonth #amreading #amreviewing #bookblogger #damppebbles

Hello! Remember me? I’m the book blogger who hasn’t really posted very much this month (but has been reading like a machine, for some reason!). The one that likes crime fiction but gets irked when people get the name of her blog wrong (damppebbles, one word – no capitals)? Anything? No, well, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if you have forgotten me. I haven’t been very ‘present’ this month for which I apologise.

It’s been a bit of a funny one, truth be told. The half term holiday always slows my reading down but this half term I had to organise a rather last minute birthday party for my four-year-old on Valentine’s day because he was suddenly having grommets and a tonsillectomy on the Friday of half term week. Then, of course, we had a very sad little man for the following week which was complicated when hubby came home from work on the Monday with this darned ‘flu that’s going around at the moment. Grumpy man child plus grumpy man – not easy. Then as the husband is getting (gradually, slowly) better I come down with a vicious case of tonsillitis myself. Gah! That’s all I could say, by the way. GAH! So to cut this incredibly long and boring story short, I have been reading but finding the time (or, whilst ill myself) the inclination to sit down at the laptop and write a few reviews was near impossible. A grumpy Emma is probably ten times worse than a grumpy man child and a grumpy man put together, after all.  My apologies dear reader. I hope March will prove to be a jam-packed bookish month on the blog.

So, what did happen? I took part in FIVE blog tours during February:

All five stops were review stops:

Past Echoes by Graham Smith | Force of Nature by Jane Harper | The Reunion by Samantha Hayes | Kiss Me, Kill Me by J.S. Carol | The Pact by S.E. Lynes |

I managed one review for around publication day and that was for The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave.

the memory chamber

I still absolutely flipping love that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?! And what a very different subject for a book. Worth checking out if you’re looking for something a bit different.

So now I hope you see why I am so disappointed with the number of blog posts I have published this month. A measly six, I mean….SIX!!

Two very gorgeous things did happen though. I was sent a fabulous Valentine’s Day gift from the lovely folk at Dead Good Books. Look at how magnificent it is – but I totally failed to acknowledge the delivery or share it on social media, harumph.  Thank you Dead Good Books, I absolutely love my gift! So many beautiful things 😍😍.  Dead Good are focussing on helping us all find a little more time for ourselves this year and see reading as the perfect way to do that.  I have to say, I couldn’t agree more!  Reading IS the perfect hobby to help us all relax a little more.

I also won the fabulous Bibliobeth‘s fifth blogiversary giveaway.  My prize was to pick any five books and Beth would get them sent to me!  Yup, you heard that right – ANY FIVE BOOKS!!  I spent A LOT of time deciding on the five and here they are in all their glory.  What do you think?  Have you read any of them?  My thanks again to Beth for her super giveaway.  Still thrilled to have won and it was a few weeks ago now!


In other news, I have been accepting books and blog tours like nobodies business so have made the decision to reset my year of tackling the TBR starting tomorrow – 1st March 2018.  If you missed my original post (aka failed plan) then click HERE.  No new books and limited blog tours allowed from now on until 1st March 2019!  Eek!

I think that’s about it for February.  All that’s left to do is name my book of the month…


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I had four five star reads this month so it was a tough choice but I have picked….

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Kiss Me, Kill Me by J.S. Carol is my book of the month for February!  I love James Carol’s books, they always have a great hook which keeps me glued to the pages from start to finish.  And oh, the emotions I felt reading this one.  Talk about a mixed bag!

“It’s superb, incredibly entertaining and really quite disturbing in places. I was completely smitten with Carol’s characters in this novel but in quite different ways…I loved this book. Love, love, loved it!”

That’s it from me for February.  Make sure you pop back tomorrow when I will be joining the blog tour for Blue Night by Simone Buchholz.  Then on Friday I will be sharing my review of Stav Sherez’s The Intrusions as Stav and a bevvy of other fabulous authors will be appearing at First Monday Crime on Monday 5th March in London.  Make sure you grab a ticket now so you don’t miss out!

Wrap up warm lovely people, it’s a bit chilly here at the moment but with only a sprinkling of snow, and I will see you on the other side (or maybe I should just say ‘March’).


#BlogTour | #BookReview: Force of Nature by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) @LittleBrownUK @kimberleynyam #ForceOfNature

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Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Force of Nature blog tour. Author Jane Harper’s debut, The Dry, was such a hit among readers last year that many of us have been eagerly anticipating this second book in the Aaron Falk series. In fact, The Dry was a favourite on many ‘books of 2017’ lists and was mentioned several times as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature. I read and reviewed The Dry towards the end of 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the desolate small-town feeling Harper conveys in her writing, along with the struggle to cope during a long and exhaustive drought.

I guess the question is, was Force of Nature worth the wait? Oh yes. It was definitely worth the wait. I would go as far as saying I preferred Force of Nature to The Dry marginally. But then, I’m a sucker for survival stories. I devour books where we humans are pushed to our limits in the most extreme of circumstances.

Having read both of Jane Harper’s novels what stands out the most is how she excels at writing the landscape and setting of her tales. In The Dry we had drought-struck Kiewarra. In Force of Nature we have the Giralang Ranges with lots of wild, overgrown bushland ready and waiting to show you your worst nightmare!

Ten colleagues at BaileyTennants are pushed out of the comfort of the office and into the inhospitable and unforgiving wilderness. Two teams up against each other; five men and five women. The retreat, organised by professional outfit Executive Adventures is totally safe – after all, they’ve been doing this for years and haven’t had any problems (well, no major problems anyway). But when the group of women veer from the correct trail, they blunder further away from civilisation and closer to the hidden dangers of the bush. Tensions fray, accidents happen and food and water supplies rapidly dwindle. Then Alice goes missing. What happened to Alice? Has she made it back to base? Is she safe?

I loved the suspense of this novel. One of the best whodunnits I’ve read in a while. I was highly suspicious of all the characters from start to finish and oh my gosh, I couldn’t stop turning the pages! Federal Agent Aaron Falk and colleague Carmen are aware of Alice before she becomes a missing person. Without her employer’s knowledge, Alice has been assisting Falk in investigating BaileyTennants by providing the much-needed hard evidence. At least, as far as Falk was concerned business owners Daniel and Jill Bailey weren’t aware of their employees double-cross. But now with Alice missing, questions need to be asked. The author has created so many red herrings and double bluffs that the outcome could be any one of several different options. An incredibly well-written and dramatic piece of crime fiction.

Despite this book being part of the Aaron Falk series I personally felt the story wasn’t really about Falk. Yes, we do discover more about this intriguing character, more about his upbringing and his strained relationship with his father. But for me, my focus whilst reading was entirely on this disparate group of five women. They held my attention 100%. I adored the flashback sequences where the reader gets to see the uncomfortable friction between the colleagues. In fact, I think I preferred these sections to the chapters set during the search for Alice. I didn’t particularly like any of the women but I felt as though I was there, with them, tramping through the Australian bush.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Force of Nature can easily be read as a standalone but why would you bother when you can also read the excellent The Dry. I loved the desolation, the gradual loss of hope emanating from Harper’s characters as they plunged deeper and deeper into unknown territory and the masterful way the suspense builds throughout the story. Atmospheric, unsettling and gripping from start to finish.

Five out of five stars.

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

Force of Nature by Jane Harper was published in the UK by Little, Brown on 8th February 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links)
| amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Thursday 8th February

about the author3

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Jane Harper was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight.

She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Timesin County Durham.

Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition.

That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, and that year she applied for an online 12-week novel writing course.

She was accepted with a submission for the book that would become The Dry.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads |

Author image and bio © http://janeharper.com.au/
Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#BlogTour | #BookReview: This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan (@eva_dolan) @BloomsburyRaven @BloomsburyBooks #ThisIsHowItEnds

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“There’s plenty of intrigue, sex, and drugs in this fast-paced mystery, set against a backdrop of gentrifying London.

Ella Riordan is a community activist who became famous when she was beaten by police during a social protest. Now Ella is a squatter in a building where the owners are evicting tenants so they can convert it into luxury condos, and she’s determined to stay and defend the few holdout tenants, despite death threats.

One night after a rooftop party with her fellow holdouts, Ella finds a horrible scene awaiting her in her apartment. In a panic, she calls her neighbor Molly, who convinces her that the police won’t believe she’s innocent. Together the two women concoct a gruesome plan to hide the body down the building’s elevator shaft.

But the secret won’t stay buried for long. As truth hangs in the balance, a neighbor tells Molly he had heard Ella arguing with a man in the hallway and mistrust grows between Ella and Molly, as repercussions of that night threaten to change both women’s lives forever.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the This Is How It Ends blog tour. This Is How It Ends is a standalone thriller written by established crime fiction author, Eva Dolan. I have to hang my head in shame and admit I am yet to read any of Dolan’s DI Zigic & DS Ferreira series but I have only ever heard positive things. And I was thrilled to host a guest review of Watch Her Disappear, the fourth book in the Zigic & Ferreira series last year (my thanks to Tracie Delaney for reading and reviewing).

This Is How It Ends is such a clever, well-constructed piece of fiction. I found myself completely absorbed in Ella and Molly’s dilemma. For me, my reading experience tends to be 80 to 90 percent about the people involved. The characters are what appeal to me and oh boy, Eva Dolan sure shows the rest of the literary world how to write real, believable people! Bit by bit, as the story progressed, Molly broke my heart. I felt an odd connection to this 60-year-old woman, a former Greenham Common activist, now a photographer, with her lashings of kohl and her Sex Pistols t-shirts. She’s probably about as far away from me as a person can get. But I got her. And I loved her.

Ella didn’t have the same beguiling effect on me. I felt throughout the book that the reader wasn’t being given enough information about Ella to make a decision. She was aloof, elusive and darn right mysterious. Not helped by the fact that the reader sees very little of the present day Ella in the story. Chapters alternate between Molly and Ella. Molly’s chapters are set in the present, after the discovery of a dead body and after our fearless females have flung him down the lift shaft. Ella’s chapters move backwards through time, showing the reader what happened in the lead up to the party. How Ella and Molly reached this significant point in their lives.

The story is strong, captivating and unexpected. I absolutely loved the setting, the dilapidated high rise block of flats due for demolition so something bigger, shinier and with lots more glass can be put in its place. Dolan paints a very vivid picture of the desolate, decaying surroundings Molly and the dwindling number of other residents find themselves in. The desire to stay and slow the progress of gentrification down, the need to remain in a home they’ve occupied since it was first built or the knowledge they have nowhere else to go, I found very moving. The rats, however, would have put me off years ago!

Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s going to be huge. There is something about This Is How It Ends, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, which will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.  I’ll give it a go though! It’s clever, the relationship between Molly and Ella is something quite spectacular and I loved how the story is pretty much all about the women with the few men playing a less significant role.  A great book and definitely recommended.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of This Is How It Ends. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan was published in the UK by Raven Books on 25th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (with the paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |


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eva dolan

Eva Dolan was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger for unpublished authors when only a teenager. The four novels in her Zigic and Ferreira series have been published to widespread critical acclaim: Tell No Tales and After You Die were shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award and After You Die was also longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. She lives in Cambridge.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer (@kate_hamer) @FaberBooks

the doll funeral.jpg“My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say. I’m supposed to say that the bruises on my arms and the black eye came from falling down the stairs.

But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw on the way to bed.

I did tell Mick that I saw the woman in the buttercup dress, hanging upside down from her seat belt deep in the forest at the back of our house. I told him I saw death crawl out of her. He said he’d give me a medal for lying.

I wasn’t lying. I’m a hunter for lost souls and I’m going to be with my real family. And I’m not going to let Mick stop me.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today as it’s my stop on The Doll Funeral blog tour.  The Doll Funeral is the second book written by Kate Hamer.  Her first, The Girl in the Red Coat, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize in 2015.  I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Hamer at the 2017 Wantage (Not Just!) Betjemen Literary Festival in October.  Hearing Hamer talk about her characters, her thought processes and how Ruby blossomed into life made me keen to read this beautifully haunting tale.

Ruby is different.  Ruby is able to see and communicate with the dead.  She has also had a harrowing upbringing.  A number of unsightly bruises and marks which need to be hidden away; she has time off school when the bruises get really bad but it’s OK, Barbara and Mick tell her what to say.  It’s never the truth.  The truth would cause too many questions, too many problems.  On her thirteenth birthday, Barbara and Mick share some news.  Ruby is adopted, she’s not their ‘real’ daughter.  The confirmation that she doesn’t belong fills Ruby with joy and she runs into the garden singing.  But this is just the beginning for Ruby.  She needs to find out where she belongs.  She must find her birth parents as she’s sure they want her back.

Ruby’s tale is a very emotional one.  So many issues that an adult would find it hard to cope with, dropped onto the shoulders of a thirteen-year-old child.  I personally struggled at times to see Ruby as a child in my mind’s eye.  Her wisdom, actions and attitude were more suited to a person in their late teens, a young adult, maybe? Perhaps Ruby is just one of those characters who are old before their time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the flashback sequences where we meet Ruby’s parents before her birth.  Seeing how her young mother, Anna, coped with the unplanned pregnancy.  The decisions that had to be made and the undoing of all of those decisions once the precious bundle of a newborn baby was placed in Anna’s arms.  Anna’s story broke my heart and I will remember it for some time to come.  Along with the names of Ruby’s adoptive parents, Mick and Barbara, but for completely different reasons.

The author has a knack of writing such beautifully descriptive and atmospheric prose that I was able to forgive some of the more far-fetched supernatural aspects of the story.  I want to put this out there so we’re all clear; I am a non-believer of ghosts and ghoulies.  Always have been and always will be unless someone can show me hard evidence of the spirit world existing.  I often struggle with a supernatural element in a book.  Sometimes it works for me, other times it doesn’t.

Would I recommend this book?  I would but it’s best to approach this novel thinking of it as a gothic ghost story (it crosses many genres but gothic ghost story prepares you for what lays ahead).  It’s enchanting, dark and multi-layered.  I would very much like to read Hamer’s debut now and compare the two works.

Four out of five stars.

The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer was published in the UK by Faber & Faber on 4th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (the following amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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kate hamer.jpgKate Hamer grew up in the West Country and Wales. She studied art and worked for a number of years in television. In 2011 she won the Rhys Davies short-story prize and her short stories have appeared in various collections. Her debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat was published in 2015. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been translated into sixteen different languages. Kate now lives with her husband in Cardiff.

Author Links:Goodreads | Website | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Hydra by Matt Wesolowski (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks

Hydra LATEST COVER .jpg“One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess… Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the Hydra blog tour which I share with one of my very favourite bookish people, the incredible Liz over at Liz Loves Books.  If you haven’t discovered Liz’s blog yet then you must!  Hydra is the second book from the pen of author Matt Wesolowski to be published by Orenda Books.  Wesolowski’s Orenda debut, Six Stories, absolutely blew my mind last year and took it’s place proudly on my top ten (*mumble, mumble* may have been twelve) books of the year.  If you need a reminder, or if you missed my review the first time then please click HERE.  I think it’s fair to say I LOVED Six Stories.

So I was strangely apprehensive (and of course, excited!) starting Hydra.  I knew before turning the first page that the story was in a similar vein to Six Stories.  If you haven’t experienced the incredible Six Stories (you really should get yourself a copy) then let me explain.  Six Stories is a series of podcasts hosted by Scott King.  King rakes over cold cases – not to necessarily solve the mystery but to encourage new discussion and debate.  King provides his listeners with the details of a particular case but from six different standpoints.  Six different viewpoints all bringing that little bit of extra information to the front, fleshing it out for his listeners.

The focus of King’s latest investigation is the Macleod Massacre of 2014.  If there’s one way for a book to get its hook into me then that is to mention a blood-soaked spree.  I know, I’m strange.  But I’ve never shied away from the fact that I like blood, guts and gore in my books.  The reader gets so much more than that though (and it really isn’t all that gory, I promise).  This is not a book about solving a murder case – we know ‘whodunnit’ and it was Arla Macleod – it’s all about the WHY.  Why did Arla kill her family that day?  Why did she change so dramatically?  What was the cause?  And if like me, you don’t see the incredibly clever twist coming then I can guarantee it will be a revelation.  Wow!

If there is one thing Wesolowski excels at, it’s giving his reader chills.  Hydra, like its predecessor, did an excellent job of making me feel nervous and apprehensive.  The author is a master at creating a scene and dropping you slap, bang right in the action.  You live the moment with the characters which for me added extra eerieness and I was completely absorbed in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.  Incredibly atmospheric, perfectly eerie, I absolutely loved Hydra.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely, without a doubt.  Wesolowski is one of my very favourite authors.  He writes in a totally different, exciting and original way and I love to read his books.  I will say this though, Hydra is absolutely brilliant but I did prefer Six Stories.  There are many reviewers out there saying that this book is Wesolowski’s best yet, but I have to disagree.  It’s still better than MANY other books I have read in the past 12 months but Six Stories will always have a special place in my heart.  In fact, if you’re picking up a copy of Hydra then add a copy of Six Stories whilst you’re at it.  You won’t regret it.

An easy five out of five stars.

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

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th January 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Matt W Picture 1 (1).jpgMatt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by @medwardsbooks @the_cwa @OrendaBooks

CWA_Cover_Image.jpg“Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour blog tour.  When an email arrived in my inbox headed ‘CWA Anthology blog tour’, well, my heart skipped a beat.  It’s the kind of invitation that this little crime blogger was made for.  I didn’t hesitate in replying with a big, fat ‘YES PLEASE’.  I just had to be a part of this tour.

I am a fan of short story collections and anthologies.  I enjoy the variety, the way the author has to make their point in a significantly reduced number of words and still make it interesting and believable.  I love that anthologies give the reader the opportunity to dip in and out as they choose.  In particular, I love THIS collection of worldly crime stories.  So much so that I would go as far as saying this is the best collection I have read for some time.

When it comes to reviewing an anthology I’m always in two minds.  Do I review each story individually or the book as a whole?  I normally end up reviewing the book rather than the individual works, after all, who wants to read a 2500 word book review?!  I’m going to stick to form and review the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour as a whole.  However, I would like to say that it would be very easy to review each story individually.  In other collections, I have tended to find one or two stories where I wouldn’t know what to say.  That would not be the case with the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour, which is truly a magnificent collection of crime fiction.

Editor and contributor, Martin Edwards, introduces the book to the reader explaining how the participating writers were given the Mystery Tour theme with many interesting and different interpretations.  Then we are thrown head first into the first offering, written by Ann Cleeves and titled ‘The Queen of Mystery’.  I loved this story and thought it was a chilling yet elegant way to start the collection.  It made me want to read more, I wanted to know whether the high standard shown by Cleeves could be backed up by her fellow contributing writers.  And it could, it was.

If I listed every story I enjoyed then I would be basically giving you the contents page!  And I’m sure you don’t need me to do that.  ‘Accounting for Murder’ by Christine Poulson demonstrated a very different way of telling a crime story which I found incredibly interesting.  At points, I wondered how the tale was going to be tied up but it was done well and felt strangely satisfying.  My absolute favourite story in the entire book was written by William Ryan and is titled ‘The Spoils‘.  The tale of a woman wronged and how deadly that can be – absolutely marvellous!

One of the other benefits of reading an anthology, and I find this quite often in the crime genre, is that writers who produce a series tend to include a short story featuring their main character.  I was delighted to meet Ed James’s Detective Scott Cullen for the first time in ‘Travel is Dangerous’, having wanted to read James’s work for some time now.  The same with Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra in ‘Bombay Brigadoon’.  Not only are these short stories very satisfying for existing fans but they work as excellent taster pieces for new readers.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  I could go on for hours telling you about the cleverly crafted tales, about the obvious love and devotion the writers have for their craft.  I could include how much I, personally, appreciate crime writers and want to thank each and every one of them for the hours of enjoyment they give us readers (me!).  I could, but I won’t today because I’ve gone on long enough already!  Maybe I’ll save that for another time.

I love international crime so this was pretty much the perfect read for me.  Chock-full of GREAT stories, written by some remarkably talented people and the perfect Christmas gift for the crime fiction fan in your life.  This is a must-read book.  Don’t miss out!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for asking me to join the tour and providing me with a review copy.

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th November 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |


#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Girls in the Woods by Helen Phifer (@helenphifer1) @UKCarina


28217989“Don’t go into the woods. Because you’re in for a big surprise…

In an old album there is a beautiful Victorian photo that captures three young sisters, staring silently at one another. Only the trained eye can see the truth hiding in plain view. One of the sisters is already dead.

Annie Ashworth is currently off duty. With her baby bump growing fast, she is under strict instructions to stay away from police work and look after herself, especially as she has a history of leading danger right to her door. So when her police officer husband, Will, is called to the discovery of a skeleton buried out in the local woods, Annie tries to keep out of the investigation. But as another body is discovered and her own niece suddenly goes missing, staying away just isn’t an option.

As Annie is soon to discover, a picture really does tell a thousand stories. But which one leads to a killer?

The gripping new detective thriller that will haunt you”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Girls in the Woods blog tour.  The Girls in the Woods is written by Helen Phifer and is book five in the Annie Graham series of paranormal crime thrillers.  I’ve only recently started to read and enjoy books with a paranormal twist to them (ghosts…pah!) and this was an enjoyable addition to my slowly growing list of spooky stories.

Annie Ashworth is on sick leave, which is a good thing seeing as she’s 6 months pregnant and seems to have a penchant for attracting the worst kind of trouble wherever she goes.  Being safely stowed away at home means she can’t get into any more trouble, can it?  Bored and looking for company Annie meets Jo, a woman she has things in common with such as an abusive husband (ex-husband in Annie’s case).  They form a bond but Annie is desperate to find out more about Jo and exactly how abusive her husband is.  Then a skeleton is discovered in the woods behind Jo’s house and the local community is put under scrutiny.  Heath, Jo’s agressive husband, is acting stranger than usual and is even more explosive towards her.  It’s not long before a second skeleton is found and things start spiral out of control.  Annie’s young niece goes missing, Annie is brutally attacked and hospitalised by a colleague only for that same colleague to step in front of a speeding car, almost killing himself.  Can Annie discover what’s going on before another body is found?  Any why does Heath have those large freezers in his photography studio…?

This was my first introduction to Annie Ashworth (nee Graham) and I’ve managed, once again, to start with book five in the series.  Book five!  I would however love to read the first four books in the series as I have one or two questions that I couldn’t find an answer to in The Girls in the Woods.  Of course, that raises the question, can this book be read as a standalone?  I think it can but my preference will always be to start with book one in a series (despite regularly ignoring my own advice!).

Annie can see and talk to ghosts following a blow to the head courtesy of her ex-husband.  So she’s not your usual paranormal lead who has had ‘the gift’ since birth. She’s a likeable character; gutsy, strong-willed and fairly independent and I would happily spend more time reading about her.

The plot has some great twists.  There were moments where I started to suspect one character of wrongdoing only to be thrown off the scent and my suspicions diverted elsewhere.  I do enjoy books that can make you think one thing and then immediately make you question your own conclusions.  The pace was good and I managed to read this book in one day (very quick for me!).

Would I recommend this book?  I would, particularly if you were looking for a spooky read to while away a couple of hours on an Autumnal evening.  I enjoyed it.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Neverland Blog Tours, Carina, the author and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Girls in the Woods in exchange for an honest review.

The Girls in the Woods by Helen Phifer is published in the UK by Carina and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | Goodreads | Carina |


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7106247Helen lives in a small town called Barrow-in-Furness with her husband and five children and has done since she was born. It gets some bad press, but really is a lovely place to live. Surrounded by coastline and not far from the beautiful Lake District. She has always loved writing and reading, she loves reading books which make the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Unable to find enough scary stories to read she decided to write her own.

Her debut novel ‘The Ghost House’ was published by Carina UK in October 2013 and went on to become a best seller along with the rest of the Annie Graham series. The Secrets of the Shadows, The Forgotten Cottage, The Lake House and The Girls in the Woods. Her next book The Good Sisters which is a stand alone, ghost story is released on the 13th October 2016.


Author links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |


#BlogTour #BookReview: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley (@detectivekubu) @OrendaBooks

51rRel5hflL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

“Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the A Death in the Family blog tour.  A Death in the Family is book 5 in the Detective Kubu series written by brilliant writing team, Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip).

It’s so good to have Kubu back!  At the start of August I had my first introduction to the very likeable Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu when I reviewed the wonderful Deadly Harvest.  If you missed that review, you can check it out by clicking here.  I was so looking forward to catching up with the man affectionately named ‘hippo’ once again and I was not disappointed!  It was a joy to read this book so soon after Deadly Harvest as the characters and the stunning setting of Botswana, were still fresh in my mind.

Assistant Superintendent Bengu receives a call in the middle of the night telling him that his father is dead.  A parent passing is bad enough but Kubu’s world crumbles when he discovers his father has been murdered.  He’s keen to start working on the case but Director Mabaku puts a halt on any involvement immediately.  Instead Kubu is tasked with investigating the apparent suicide of a government official.  Elsewhere the people of Shoshong are on the brink of catastrophe.  Having been offered jobs, the young men are keen to encourage the expansion of the local Chinese-run mine, but the Chief and Elders are more concerned about upholding tradition.  Anger starts to build and is set to erupt with explosive consequences.  Chock full of suspense, intrigue and corruption; will Kubu manage to find the cause of the official’s death, and more importantly, can he discover who killed his elderly father…?

I was surprisingly saddened by Kubu’s father’s death, having only met him once before in Deadly Harvest.  He seemed like such a kind gentle man that I found his murder quite unsettling (I’d read the back of the book and was fully expecting it – maybe I’m just a softie!).  I fell a little more in love with Kubu this time around, despite him being a relatively normal kind of guy and not my usual dark and dangerous detective.  You find out a lot more about him and what makes him tick in this book.  My feelings towards Samantha Khama haven’t changed one iota, I still dislike the woman!  She really doesn’t do herself any favours in my eyes. So I was rather pleased that Kubu was a touch colder towards her.

The plot was clever, intricate and interesting throughout.  My husband studied geology at university so we had a lovely chat about mining for minerals and rare earth elements (he chatted, I listened…I’m still none the wiser!).

I’m still amazed that two people can write so well together yet make it sound like one voice. Just goes to show what fantastic writer’s Mr Sears and Mr Trollip are!

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I think it works well as a standalone.  I, however, enjoyed it more because the characters and the landscapes were familiar to me.  A cleverly written police procedural which is full of mystery and suspense featuring some wonderful characters – what’s not to love?

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of A Death in the Family in exchange for an honest review.

A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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A1tzuKdGl0L._UX250_Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. The next in the Detective Kubu series is A Death in the Family, also published by Orenda Books.  Connect with Michael Stanley via Twitter @detectivekubu.


#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Devil’s Daughters by Diana Bretherick (@DianaBretherick)

TDD - paperback jacket.jpg“1888. When young Scottish scientist James Murray receives a letter from Sofia Esposito, a woman he once loved and lost, he cannot refuse her cry for help. Sofia’s fifteen-year-old cousin has vanished but, because of her lower-class status, the police are unwilling to investigate.

Accompanied by his younger sister Lucy, Murray returns to the city of Turin where he was once apprenticed to the world-famous criminologist, Cesare Lombroso. As he embarks on his search for the missing girl, Murray uncovers a series of mysterious disappearances of young women and rumours of a haunted abbey on the outskirts of the city.

When the body of one of the girls turns up bearing evidence of a satanic ritual, Murray begins to slot together the pieces of the puzzle. But as two more bodies are discovered, fear grips the city and a desperate hunt begins to find a truly terrifying killer before he claims his next victim.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to my stop on The Devil’s Daughters blog tour. The Devil’s Daughters is the second book featuring Cesare Lombroso and his trainee criminal anthropologist, James Murray.  Those criminologists among you may recognise Lombroso’s name (well, you should do, anyway!) as Lombroso (1835-1909) was one of the founding fathers in the study of criminology.

Today I am delighted to share a guest post with you, written by the very talented author of The Devil’s Daughters, Diana Bretherick.  And to round things off, I have my review of this wonderful book.  So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Diana…

Writing Crime Fiction.

Let me begin by telling you about my own ‘criminal past’. It began when I was about 11 and ‘stole’ my mother’s library books. Technically I suppose I borrowed them but as she didn’t know what I was doing and probably would have stopped me if she had, I was forced to go under cover – literally – with a torch under my bed sheets which made it all the more thrilling. She was an avid fan of crime writing, both fiction and true crime and I was immediately drawn into a dark world of murder, complicated puzzles and deception –a world that I have never really left.

I was particularly fascinated by old mysteries firmly rooted in a dark past where there was a doubt over the guilt of the accused, usually a woman – Florence Maybrick who was almost certainly wrongly convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic and served many years in prison before her release, Edith Thompson hanged for the murder of her husband even though it was her young lover who wielded the knife, Alma Rattenbury who was acquitted of a similar spousal murder but committed suicide anyway – distraught at her lover being sentenced to death. Injustice, passion and misogyny lay at the heart of all of these cases and fired up my adolescent self, making me want to stand up for those falsely accused. Eventually I became a criminal barrister but reality never quite measured up to the drama of the past and the motivation behind a crime often took a back seat.

I wanted to know more. I took a sabbatical and trained as a counsellor, working with serious sexual offenders at Brixton prison as a volunteer. That was a fascinating though occasionally disturbing experience. It did answer some of my questions but not all, so I studied criminology. Here I found a whole host of theories none of which were completely satisfactory. As with all theories about anything they were always flawed in one way or another. I began to look at how crime was represented through media of various kinds. This led me to wonder if I could write my own crime fiction. I decided to study for a Masters in creative writing.

Thinking back to those stories from the past I focused on historical crime fiction. How did our ideas about criminals and their motivation begin? It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that crime was studied at all as a separate phenomenon. Then an Italian doctor called Cesare Lombroso discovered an anomaly in the skull of a criminal. Could it be, he wondered, that all offenders had similar characteristics? Lombroso was the world’s first criminologist and he suggested that some criminals were born with a propensity to offend, that they were throwbacks from a more primitive past and their physical characteristics would help us to identify them. He had his critics but many supported his ideas. He was the first to write about female criminals as a separate entity, something that didn’t happen again until the mid twentieth century.

I decided to make Lombroso my detective drawing on my fascination with both criminology and crime fiction. So far I have written two novels about him, giving him fictitious cases to solve assisted by a fictitious young Scottish doctor James Murray.

I am not sure that I have ever really found an answer to my question of what motivates someone to commit a violent crime. It is true that recent developments in the field of neuro-criminology suggest that some may have a propensity to violence identifiable from their genes although their criminality is almost certainly triggered by environmental factors.

Why then do people commit crimes, particularly of a violent kind? I doubt that we will ever find a conclusive answer. The thing about all of us, including criminals, is that we are all different as are the situations we find ourselves in. That is why both the study of crime and its fictional counterpart are so endlessly fascinating and why my ‘life of crime’ goes on.

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Who doesn’t love a bit of historical crime every now and then!  And if you don’t, can I suggest that you read this book?  It will totally change your mind!

James Murray receives a letter from his Italian love, asking for help but saying little else.  He’s a dashing and chivalrous kind of chap so he runs to her aide with his teenage sister, Lucy, in tow.  Upon arrival in Turin he discovers that Sofia is not keen to rekindle their love affair as hoped; all she wants is James’ help in finding her missing cousin, Chiara.  Broken-hearted, James sets out on the hunt for Chiara, only to discover the disfigured body of a girl.  Before long he and his mentor Lombroso, are on the hunt for a savage killer.  It doesn’t help that someone is out to discredit James and have him returned to Scotland.  It also doesn’t help that someone has their eye on his sister…

This is a fantastic book which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I try and avoid reading historical crime on a regular basis as it’s a special treat to myself, and this book goes to prove my theory about it being a treat.  What a treat The Devil’s Daughters is!  I loved the plot of this enchanting novel (enchanting makes it sound all light and fluffy – it’s not, it’s got just the right amount of blood, guts and a little bit of gore!).  I was drawn in from very early on and completely mesmerised by some wonderful characters who felt very real to me (yes, I know Lombroso was a real person!).  I adored James, what a kind hearted and chivalrous young man.  He, to me, felt like the main protagonist with Lombroso taking a back seat.  Lucy’s desire to become an accomplished writer of detective novels was so very charming, along with her desire to do what the blinking heck she wants to do, gender aside!  I even liked Miss Trott (what am I saying, I loved Miss Trott!).

Although I found the reveal of the murderer a little obvious, there were plenty of other surprises along the way to keep my interest.  Red herrings galore to keep you guessing, just the way I like my crime novels. It’s a brilliant book and, I’ll say it again, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m off to add the first book, City of Devils, to my wishlist!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a wonderfully written historical crime novel, with an endearing cast of believable characters.  I hope there is more to come from James Murray and Lombroso, but we’ll have to see.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Emma Dowson, Orion Books and Diana Bretherick for providing me with a copy of The Devil’s Daughters in exchange for an honest review.

The Devil’s Daughters by Diana Bretherick will be published in the UK by Orion Books on 25th August 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orion Crime |

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Diana Bretherick

Diana Bretherick was a criminal barrister for ten years and is a former lecturer in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth.

Her first novel, City of Devils (Orion, 2013) was selected for the 2013 Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club. Her latest novel The Devil’s Daughters is recently published by Orion in paperback.  Connect with Diana via Twitter @DianaBretherick or Orion Crime @orion_crime.

*Blog Tour: Review* Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

51-x44K35eL“When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead.

The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again.”

I’m thrilled to be today’s stop on the Outside Looking In blog tour.  In true damppebbles style, this is the first DCI Matilda Darke book I have read despite it being the second book in the series (at least I’m not too late to the party with this one!).  And oh my gosh, I love Matilda Darke.  And I love Michael Wood’s style.  Totally readable and very engrossing.

The bodies of a couple are discovered in their car following what looks like a massacre.  He is dead, beyond resuscitating and she is barely hanging onto life.  DCI Matilda Darke is put on the case and soon discovers the victims are Kevin Hardaker and Lois Craven who were having a secret affair for over a year.  But why would someone kill these two fairly normal people, and why with such vengeance and hatred?  Suffering from negative publicity and her own demons, can Matilda discover who killed the couple and why, before anyone else is hurt…?

I should start by saying that DCI Darke has made it onto the illustrious damppebbles #girlcrush list.  I LOVE her.  She’s so wonderfully normal, the kind of person I’d like to pop down to Costa with for a coffee (I would say ‘pub’ and ‘white wine’ but she’s on the wagon!).  Thankfully I have the first book in the series, ‘For Reasons Unknown’ on my TBR so I can get my second fix of DCI Darke, ha ha!  Anyway, enough of my new womance…

The pacing of the plot is spot on with the story unfolding at a thoroughly enjoyable rate.  I wanted to keep turning the pages, I wanted to find out what was going to happen.  There was a moment where I felt pure dread for one character.  I won’t say anymore as I don’t do spoilers but oh my!

The conclusion is gripping and kept me on the edge of my seat.  There is encounter at the end of the book which I hope Michael Wood will be building on in the third book.  I’m looking forward to seeing where that particular story line goes.

This book does work as a standalone but I think it helps (no matter what the series or who the author) to read books in their correct order.  I wasn’t sure whether the missing child case that is mentioned often is something that was covered in book one or if it happened in the distant past.  I think going into a series partway through does leaving you feeling like you’ve missed a couple of important days at school!

I loved the nod to other great crime writers (being a crime fiction fanatic!).  I was hugely jealous of Matilda’s book inheritance and could immediately picture the bookcase she would need (boy, would it be big!).  If anyone would like to donate their crime fiction collection to me, the address is Emma @damppebbles….heh heh.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would but I think starting at book one is the best way forward.  Outside Looking In is totally compelling, thoroughly engaging and you’ll really like DCI Matilda Darke.

Four and a half out of five stars.

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 26th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)71KOZKetCmL._UX250_

Michael Wood is a proofreader and former journalist in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His first novel featuring DCI Matilda Darke, FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, was released in the autumn of 2015. The follow-up, OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, is released in May 2016 in ebook format by Killer Reads at HarperCollins.