#BookReview: Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski @borstinski #MidtownHuckster #AlexCohenSeries #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

3 Midtown Huckster High Res 1930“Can you keep your gelt and freedom when the cops have enough evidence to take you down?

1930s Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends.

If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?

The third book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical noir novel, which plunges you deep into the early days of narcotics trafficking and the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s piercing crime fiction delivers a fix to every reader like heroin from a needle.”

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eleventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski. Midtown Huckster is the third book in the Alex Cohen Series and was published in paperback and digital formats on 16th July 2020. I received a free eARC of Midtown Huckster but that has in no way influenced my review.

Jewish gangster and thug, Alex Cohen, is back! And he’s bigger and badder than ever. He’s a killing machine and the reader really shouldn’t like him….but it’s hard not to. I thoroughly enjoyed Midtown Huckster which focuses on Cohen’s life in 1930s New York. The end of prohibition, the end of his marriage to Sarah and the end of….well, I won’t spoil it for you. I think this is my favourite book in the series so far!

The end of prohibition is nigh and Alex and his men need to find a new way to make sure they continue to live in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. No one will be looking for watered down, bootlegged hooch when the real thing will be readily available again. A new money-spinning idea is needed to keep them rolling in gelt. But that’s not all Alex should be worrying about. There’s a new Special Prosecutor in town – Thomas Dewey – and he’s out to clean up the mean streets of New York and has Alex and his colleagues in his sights. Will Alex manage to see out the 1930s a free man or is this the end of Slugger…?

Eminently readable, utterly compelling and as I think I said, my favourite book of the series so far. I absolutely devoured Midtown Huckster. This series is something very special with its mix of fact and fiction. Notorious names from history you’ll definitely recognise rubbing shoulders alongside wonderfully written, standout creations. I adore Alex Cohen and his dark edge. But he has a conscience, which the reader gets to see him battling with as the prospect of dealing heroin is put upon the table.

The plot moves quickly as it does in all three of these books. Each novel tends to cover a decade so the author has a lot to fit in. Scenes do jump quickly but I really enjoy that as it keeps the pace fresh – never a dull moment with Cohen around. Being a gangster novel, there is violence but it fits with the period and the setting. It’s all in keeping with what you would expect.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all three novels in the Alex Cohen series. They can be read as standalone novels but why would you when you can start at the very beginning and follow Alex on his journey as he steps off the boat from the Ukraine. They’re gritty, compelling books which deserve a wider readership. Hard-hitting crime noir with a likeable lead, this entire series is something quite special.

| The Bowery Slugger | East Side Hustler |

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

Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 16th July 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 | Google Books | Goodreads |

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about-the-author3

FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#CaseClosed: #June2020 #amreading #amreviewing #bookblogger #damppebbles #booklove #20booksofsummer20 #R3COMM3ND3D2020

Ah, it’s been a long time since I last wrote an end of the month #CaseClosed post. Will I remember how to do it? Will this post be a lot of bumbling around and unnecessary waffle? Most likely. But that’s nothing new 😂

At the end of May when I posted my 20 Books of Summer sign up post, I mentioned doing a monthly wrap up so….TA-DAH! This is my progress check. My attempt to keep me on track with the challenge (you can find out exactly what it’s about HERE). I have completely failed the 20 Books of Summer challenge two years on the trot now but that will NOT be the case in 2020, no siree!

So, one month in, how’s it all going? Well….

I’M ONLY FLIPPING READING MY TENTH BOOK OF THE CHALLENGE AND THERE ARE STILL TWO WHOLE MONTHS TO GO 🎉🎉

I’m a little bit happy.

But I know what you’re thinking. It probably involves the words: chickens, counting, hatched and don’t. Right? Hmm, you’re probably right but….YAY!!!

I have read nine books in June which, for many of my fellow bloggers, isn’t a lot, but it’s shedloads for me! Here’s how my 20 Books of Summer list currently looks (not all reviews are live at the moment but most are written):

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia
The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost (currently reading)
The Home by Mats Strandberg
The Search Party by Simon Lelic
The Shadow Friend by Alex North (review will be published on 9th July)
Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski
Blood Lines by Angela Marsons
Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan (review will be published on 14th July)
Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham
The Secret by Katerina Diamond
The Betrayals by Fiona Neill
Written in Bones by James Oswald
The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser
Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch
Tattletale by Sarah Naughton
Last Breath by Robert Bryndza
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Halfway by B.E. Jones
The Proposal by S.E. Lynes
The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters

I feel as though I’ve made a really positive start to the challenge. I’m trying to read at least 25% of a book every day to keep me on top of things. So far, so good (but please keep everything crossed for me!)

So here’s to month two and lots more absolutely cracking books!

Are you taking part in 20 Books of Summer? How are you getting on?

On a slightly different note, we’re in July now so it’s time to start thinking about #R3COMM3ND3D2020 (stop it, I can hear some of you groaning 😂….)

If you’re new to the blog you may be wondering what #R3COMM3ND3D is, so allow me to explain. It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors and book bloggers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published this year in 2020.

I realise there’s still a lot of 2020 left but for the early birds, here’s the sign-up form:

I’ll do an official post at the start of September but if you want to get in quick, here’s your chance. Places are limited to 57 so please don’t miss out!

That’s all from me. Have a marvellous July, stay safe and keep sharing the book love 🖤

#BookReview: The Curator by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #TheCurator #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

the curator“It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, The Curator by M.W. Craven. The Curator is the third book in Craven’s superbly good Washington Poe series (or, as everyone seems to refer to the series, Tilly and Poe) and is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (4th June 2020) by Constable. I received a free eARC of The Curator but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been waiting a whole year (and a bit) for The Curator to arrive on my kindle. And what’s the first thing I do when it does? I simper a little because I finally have a copy – the wait is over! – and then I try to pretend it’s not there. Crazy, right? I was so keen to read this book but at the same time, I was really, really nervous. What if I didn’t enjoy it? What if I rushed in and didn’t savour it (it’s a flipping long wait ’til the next one, that’s for sure!)? And that, I think, is the sign of an incredibly talented author who has built the beginnings of a series into something that, for the reader, is extra special. Reading The Curator, for me, was an event. Something to look forward to. Something to anticipate and savour every minute of. Something to remember. And I loved it. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes.

DS Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw and a heavily pregnant DI Stephanie Flynn of the National Crime Agency are called back to Cumbria to investigate a perplexing case. Severed fingers. What appears to be three pairs from three individuals, left over the Christmas period in the most surprising of places. On further investigation it’s confirmed that one finger in the pair was removed antemortem, the other finger was removed postmortem. But that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle. The female victims were drugged, the male victim wasn’t. And a note was left with each set of fingers with the hashtag #BSC6. The team – even with Tilly’s immense intelligence and analytical brain – are initially baffled. But then through a little supposition and a lot of analysis, a suspect emerges. But what the suspect tells them turns everything upside down. This isn’t any run of the mill serial killer, this is the Curator…

Another absolutely cracking novel from the crime fiction mastermind that is M.W. Craven. I loved this book and savoured every darn second I had with it. I could have easily read this book in a couple of sittings but I slowed down to ensure I enjoyed every twist and turn. Craven appears to be one of those crime writers who doesn’t shy away from digging the depths of the internet to find strange and unusual ideas for his novels, which he then twists and shapes into crime fiction gold. The Curator is solid proof of that. An intriguing and intricate setup, followed by an edge of your seat hunt for the bad guy, culminating in a devilishly dark twist that you won’t see coming.

Even when I had my suspicions about who the killer was, there was another unexpected gut punch just waiting around the corner. Such a clever well-written book that hooks you in from the get-go and doesn’t let go until the shocking finale.

Tilly and Poe are wonderful creations who have been firm favourites of mine since the very first book. I’ve loved watching their friendship and working relationship grow over the last couple of years. The chemistry and the bond they have, makes for compelling reading. The humour and the wit the author includes in the story adds a few lighter moments to what is a brilliantly dark and twisty story. Expertly paced, skilfully written and all in a setting to die for (literally!).

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, categorically, YES! If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet, then that has to change. The Curator can easily be read as a standalone but if you’ve not read any of the books before, why not treat yourself to the entire series?! Be whisked away to deepest, darkest Cumbria and meet two totally unforgettable characters who you will grow to love and admire. I loved this book and I’m counting down the days until Dead Ground is published next year. Another stunning novel from an accomplished writer and I’m really excited to see what the future holds (let’s hope it’s a lot more Tilly and Poe!).

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

The Curator by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 4th June 2020 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 | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

#BookReview: The Guest List by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheGuestList #damppebbles

the guest list“On an island off the windswept Irish coast, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body.

The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.

All have a secret. All have a motive.
One guest won’t leave this wedding alive . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the astonishingly good The Guest List with you today. The Guest List was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats with the paperback to follow in September. I received a free eARC of The Guest List but that has in no way influenced my review.

I was a huge fan of Foley’s The Hunting Party when it was released last year. So much so, it made it onto my top ten (ish) books of 2019! So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this latest release. It did not disappoint one jot! I loved The Guest List. Before I started reading, I was struggling with my reading mojo. Its bags were packed and were sat by the front door. It was determined to leave. Then I picked up this book, absolutely fell in love with it and my reading mojo has been content ever since. The magical healing power of Lucy Foley’s words and characters!

I was a little surprised to find that The Guest List is in a very similar format to The Hunting Party. A group of people gather in a remote location. All of the characters have secrets of their own and a motive for committing a murder. You know someone is going to die — but you don’t know who the victim is until near the end of the book, nor whodunit! Honestly though, who cares?! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – I was always told.

Jules Keegan and Will Slater are getting married, and it’s going to be the showbiz wedding of the year. The venue is a crumbling Folly on a remote island off the Irish coast, but wedding planner, Aoife, has everything under control. This is her first big gig and she’s hoping the glitz and the glam of the occasion will bring in lots of future business. But despite the smiling faces on the outside, bitter rivalries and jealous feuds burn deep within the hearts of the guests. This will be the wedding of the year, but for all of the wrong reasons. Spirits are high, the alcohol flows and murderous revenge is planned…

This is a wonderfully entertaining book which I absolutely devoured. I loved it and it got a special mention on my top ten (ish) books of 2019 for being so utterly brilliant. I love a good mystery and this is a truly excellent one. The story is told from several points of view. Each chapter revealing a little more of why it’s narrator could indeed be a murderer. Once again, the identity of the victim is not revealed until the end of the book and it worked so well, keeping me on the edge of my seat! Between you and I, there were a number of dastardly characters I was hoping it would be!

Foley really uses her setting to optimum effect creating an eerie and atmospheric stage for her characters. The setting is as much a part of the story as the characters are, with the swirling winds, the desolate beaches, the raging storms and the cries of the cormorants circling overhead. It’s not hard to imagine the isolation and the solitude the characters on the island feel. Particularly when things start to go badly wrong.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s wonderful and such an entertaining read. The ending is very satisfying (much like the entire book really) and if it hadn’t already featured on my top books of 2019 list then it would be a strong contender for this year’s selection (maybe it still will feature – it was published this year, after all!). Foley is a very talented writer, this is such a brilliant book and I highly recommend you check this one out.

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

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins 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

lucy folyLucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#BookReview: Afraid Of The Light – Crime Fiction Anthology in aid of the Samaritans | #AfraidOfTheLight #Samaritans #damppebbles @NolanDom

afriad of the light.jpg“Some people are scared of the dark. But it’s the light that exposes the secrets.

A young boy with nightmares faces up to his demons. A deathbed confession turns the world on its axis. A five-year-old watches his parents bury a body in the garden. A soldier returns from the war to find the horror isn’t yet over.

Afraid Of The Light brings the imagination of fourteen bestselling crime writers together in a collection that will keep you up all night. From a deadly campfire game to a holiday gone wrong, to an AI assistant with a motive and a love affair that can only end in murder, this is a gripping, twisty set of stories to send a shiver down your spine.

“The stories are wildly entertaining in their own right, but they also address the concerns and fears we all feel: isolation and loneliness; guilt and grief; justice and punishment. And perhaps most importantly of all: redemption and hope.” — Alex North”

Hello my bookish friends and welcome to Friday on damppebbles. I am absolutely delighted to be sharing my review of a very special book with you today. It’s no secret that I spend my life on Twitter. I think I may have mentioned that before. So when I saw a tweet from brilliant author, Clare Empson, asking for crime fiction bloggers (that’s me!) to read a hot new crime anthology – featuring 14 bestselling authors and with a foreword by Alex North – all in aid of the Samaritans, I couldn’t resist the call! I wanted ‘in’. And oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did! This is a gripping collection of shorts from some of the best writers out there and I couldn’t put it down. I received a free eARC of Afraid Of The Light but that has in no way influenced my review. (But I’ve since purchased a copy because it’s only 99p at the moment and all proceeds go to the Samaritans.)

I do enjoy a short story collection. They’re easy to read alongside a full length novel, and rarely do I finish one in one sitting. That was my plan when reading Afraid Of The Light. To dip in and out of the book over the course of a week or so. That was the plan. The plan was deeply flawed. Little did I know, when I picked this book up on a lazy Saturday afternoon during lockdown, that it was absolutely impossible to put down and I’d have it read in a few hours. This is an absolutely brilliant and engaging collection of devilish stories from some of the best crime writers out there. Some I’ve read before, some whose books are on my TBR and some I’ve wanted to read for a while.

I won’t pick a favourite as that’s actually really hard to do (because they’re all excellent) but standout reads for me were Adam Southward’s ARE YOU LISTENING?, which is the first story in the book and sets a high benchmark along with the tone for the rest of the collection. Dominic Nolan’s DADDY DEAREST, which had me wondering where the story was going only to drop a pretty hefty bombshell. And Heather Critchlow’s DROWNING IN DEBT,  which has the most wonderfully satisfying ending. Other firm favourites include; SHEEP’S CLOTHING by Robert Scragg, which leads the reader down one path only to provide the most beautiful and well written twist. This one left me reeling a little! Jo Furniss’s TO EVIL OR NOT TO EVIL shows us a futuristic world where your thoughts and feelings are on display to all and it’s not only the people in your life you need to watch.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed Afraid Of The Light and will be recommending it to everyone. There’s not a single dud in the collection and I couldn’t help but lose myself in this wonderful book. All of the stories offer something new and if you haven’t read any of the contributing authors work before, then here’s a perfect opportunity to get a sampler AND make a small donation to a wonderful charity which does so much for so many. Highly recommended.

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

Afraid Of The Light was published in the UK on 21st April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats: | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comGoodreads |

CONTRIBUTORS
Are you Listening? – Adam Southward
Daddy Dearest – Dominic Nolan
Deathbed, Beth Dead – Elle Croft
Loveable Alan Atcliffe – S R Masters
Sleep Time – Phoebe Morgan
Coming Home – N J Mackay
Sausage Fingers – Victoria Selman
Just a Game – Rachael Blok
Drowning in Debt – Heather Critchlow
To Evil or Not to Evil – Jo Furniss
Sheep’s Clothing – Robert Scragg
Frantic – Clare Empson
Planting Nan – James Delargy
Shadow – Kate Simants

All author royalties from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Samaritans.

Samaritans is a charity working across the UK and Ireland to reduce the number of people who take their own lives and help people who are struggling to cope with how they’re feeling or with life’s challenges. When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year.

You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit http://www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #WeBeginattheEnd #damppebbles

We Begin at the End.jpg“‘YOU CAN’T SAVE SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T WANT TO BE SAVED . . .’

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?”

The warmest of welcomes to the blog today and to my stop on the We Begin at the End blog tour. We Begin at the End is the highly anticipated new release from Chris Whitaker and was published by Zaffre Books in hardcover on 2nd April. The paperback is set to follow in October. I received a free eARC of We Begin at the End but that has in no way influenced my review.

We Begin at the End is the most beautiful, captivating and exquisite book I have ever read. My heart broke. I cried big, ugly, snotty tears and I was left wanting to relive the whole experience, from beginning to end, again. This is a stunning piece of fiction and if you don’t read it for yourself then you’ll never know exactly how astonishing it is. Hell, if this book doesn’t make it to the top of my best books of 2020 then we have been blessed with some truly incredible books this year.

The outlaw, Duchess Day Radley. The most perfect character to grace crime fiction. At only 13 years of age she has the guts and the intelligence to do things most adults wouldn’t dream of. But she’s also a 13 year old hot-headed kid who makes some pretty catastrophic mistakes. I adored her. I finished We Begin at the End a few weeks ago now but Duchess remains with me still. Her mother, Star, repeatedly tries and fails to be a good mom to her two kids. Which means Duchess has to step up and take charge. It’s heart-breaking stuff, hence the big, fat, ugly tears. Duchess’s relationship with her younger brother, Robin, was so touching, so beautiful. She’s his protector, she looks out for him because their mother can’t and does such an admirable job that every scene involving the pair of them tugged at my heart strings. When a caring, responsible adult eventually enters their lives in the form of their grandfather, it’s an absolute joy to watch six-year-old Robin blossom. Duchess’s wariness and her slow thaw towards grandfather Hal just made me admire her even more. But some people just aren’t destined to find happiness and history has an unfortunate knack of repeating itself…

Before I go any further with this review I must mention Chief Walker, or Walk as he’s known to the locals. Tragedy struck Cape Haven 30 years ago when Sissy Radley, sister to Star, was killed. Walk, who even then had aspirations to become the local police chief, was part of the search party. Walk’s best friend, Vincent King, was accused of Sissy’s murder. But Walk never gave up on Vincent and now, thirty years later, Vincent is due to be released from jail. And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Walk. Another beautifully drawn character who leaps from the pages of the book and into the reader’s mind. When tragedy hits Cape Haven for a second time, Walk is pushed to the sidelines of the investigation. Before long, he decides that if the truth is to be found, then he’s the man to uncover it. Such compelling reading and I lived every. single. moment.

Would I recommend this book? This book is perfection. I will be driving people crazy recommending We Begin at the End to them. It ticks so many boxes for me; set in small town America – tick, full of the most enchanting and interesting characters – tick, a devilish mystery at it’s heart – tick, leaves me with the biggest emotional bookish hangover – tick. This book is a masterpiece and if you only buy one book this year based on my reviews then please, PLEASE make it this one. I really wish I had the words to convey what a stunning book this is. Absolutely outstanding.

I chose to read and review an eARC of We Begin at the End. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 2nd April 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio 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 | WaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |

Chris Whitaker

about-the-author3

chris whitakerChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BookReview: Wilderness by B.E. Jones (@bevjoneswriting) @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #Wilderness #damppebbles

Wilderness_25

It’s easy to die out there. It’s easy to kill too.

Two weeks, 1,500 miles, three opportunities for her husband to save his own life.

It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers.

Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try to save their marriage. Maybe the roadtrip that they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks, just the two of them, would help heal the wounds.

But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges. Three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness.

If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s easy to kill too.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my very favourite reads from 2019 with you today – the absolutely brilliant WILDERNESS by B.E. Jones. Wilderness sailed into my top ten(ish) books of the year with ease, and I still can’t stop talking to people about it (when I get to see them that is, which isn’t often at the moment!). Wilderness is on the brink of being published in paperback so I’m shouting louder than ever! It really gets under your skin and I LOVE it! We may not be able to leave the house at the moment but that doesn’t mean we can’t travel to the National Parks in the US with Liv and Will, and see if Will manages to save his marriage…..and his life!

Here’s my review:

I received a free eARC of Wilderness but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved this book. It’s the first book I’ve read by B.E. Jones but I can safely say that it won’t be the last. Boy, can this author write a dark and dangerous character! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that I am a sucker for characters. The plot and the setting (which are both brilliant in this novel, by the way) can be ‘okay’ providing the characters stand tall and leap from the page. I want living breathing people who make me feel something – that’s not asking too much, is it? Wilderness is a cracking example of exactly how to write incredible, believable characters and also tick the all-important plot and setting boxes with confidence and flair! I absolutely loved Liv. I’m still not entirely sure I was supposed to love her as she’s very much a character on the edge. But hey, I do like a dark undertone and it’s often the more complex creations who appeal to me more!

Liv and her husband, Will, are living the dream. Following Will’s promotion, they up-sticks from picturesque Wales and move to the hustle and bustle of New York City. Everything is perfect…until Liv discovers that her husband has been unfaithful with a colleague. Will apologies for his error of judgement and promises it will never happen again. And then it does. Liv is utterly heartbroken and enraged by the deceit and immediately starts to plan her revenge. One ‘dream’ holiday to America’s national parks and three chances for Will to prove he’s sorry. If he fails, well…..sometimes terrible accidents happen in the wilderness, don’t they?

The plot, the characters, the setting, the cover, the blurb – I loved absolutely everything about this book. It’s very likely it will feature in my top 10 books of the year list in December. Liv is pushed to her absolute limit – the repercussions of which were fascinating to watch. I couldn’t look away as she slowly unravelled before my eyes and I HAD to find out how the story would end. It’s not often I wish for a happy ending in my books but I was desperate for life to turn out OK for Liv. Does it? Well, you’ll have to get hold of a copy of Wilderness and find out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s one that shouldn’t be missed and the perfect Summer holiday read partly due to the fabulous setting (maybe not the murders!). Speaking of the setting, I loved how the author conveyed the stark contrast between the two locations in the US. You have the wide open space of the national parks versus the built up and somewhat claustrophobic feeling of New York City. It’s all so beautifully written that you can’t help but ‘live’ the locations with the characters. An absolute joy to read! Highly recommended.

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

Wilderness by B.E. Jones was published by in the UK by Constable on 4th April and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

photo of Bev

Beverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today.

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e books.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website |

#BookReview: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #InTheAbsenceofMiracles #damppebbles

in the absence of miracles.jpg

“John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of one of the most powerful and emotive books I have read – In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. Back in 2016, my book of the year was Malone’s first Orenda release, the simply sublime A Suitable Lie. It blew my mind on so many levels and still, to this day, I recommend it to everyone. If you’re a fan of domestic noir novels then you need to add Malone to your list of must-read authors. I received a free eARC of In the Absence of Miracles but that has in no way influenced my review.

I didn’t think it would be possible for someone (anyone!) to write a book which affected me the way A Suitable Lie did. That was until I read In the Absence of Miracles. Malone puts his heart and soul into his writing and you, as the reader, get to experience every heart-stopping emotion and every breath-taking twist and turn. I love that Malone isn’t scared to tackle the more difficult and unsettling subject matters, the things we as a society tend to turn and shy away from. In the Absence of Miracles is another brave, unflinching, unapologetic look at the secrets a family hides within its heart, and it left me broken.

I liked John Docherty. He doesn’t make it easy at times and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a likeable character but this is his story. His discovery, his unravelling, his trauma. I liked how Malone has written John as a pretty typical bloke (if there is such a thing!). It was interesting to watch how John dealt with situations early on in the book, giving us the measure of the character, before plunging him into an unimaginable, heart-breaking situation as the reality hits home. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I cried for John Docherty.

The author does an incredible job of misleading his reader. You think you know where the story is going, only for Malone to step in and completely change everything you thought you knew. I had an inkling about where the plot was headed but I was by no means convinced. When the book took me to that dark and scary place, I was devastated for the characters. I was living that moment, that sudden realisation as the horror hits home. No one writes like Malone does. No one can conjure these emotions in this hardened reader like he does.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Malone has done it again and written a book which will stay with me for a long, long time to come. I’ve not found another writer who can produce stories with the pure power and emotion to rival Malone. Unforgettable and haunting. Dark and utterly immersive. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In the Absence of Miracles. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, 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

Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#R3COMM3ND3D2019 The After Show Party #BookBlogger #Author #Publishedin2019 #MustReadBooks #damppebbles #BookRecommendations #amreading #amreviewing

Slightly later than planned but here it is….

The #R3COMM3ND3D2019 After Show Party

If you’re new to the blog you may be wondering what #R3COMM3ND3D is, so allow me to explain. It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors and book bloggers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published in 2019.

#R3COMM3ND3D2019 started with a bang on 1st November and 56 posts later, finished on 30th December. And I loved every minute of it. A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who took part, shared the #R3COMM3ND3D2019 book love, commented on the posts, retweeted or liked all things #R3COMM3ND3D2019 over on Facebook or Twitter. The 2019 edition was bigger than ever with more individual picks than in 2018 where SIX books came top with four votes each. This year there was one clear winner which received four votes making it the #R3COMM3ND3D2019 book of the year! But I won’t reveal which book that is just yet…

First, let’s gaze upon the beautiful #R3COMM3ND3D2019 covers in all their splendiferous glory. Aren’t they beautiful?! 😍🥰

A thing of beauty, I’m sure you will agree. If you took part in #R3COMM3ND3D2019 and the book(s) you chose aren’t here then please get in touch.

But let’s talk winners. There were NINE books with two votes each. They were…

There were two books with three votes each…

I am delighted to reveal the most recommended #R3COMM3ND3D2019 book with four votes is….

my lovely wife

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Congratulations to Samantha and the team at Penguin Books!

Have YOU read My Lovely Wife? What about the other top books of the year? How many do you have on your TBR?

We shouldn’t be wishing the year away but I cannot wait for #R3COMM3ND3D2020 to start on 1st November! The sign-up form will be available from June onwards so start making a note of those 2020 releases now 😉.

Once again. the biggest of thanks to all of the book bloggers and authors who took part in #R3COMM3ND3D2019 and whittled their favourite reads down to three (an impossible task, I know!). You make #R3COMM3ND3D such a fun feature to run ❤️.

#R3COMM3ND3D2019 with #BookBlogger Eva (@noveldeelights) #NovelDeelights #damppebbles #BookRecommendations #Publishedin2019

Happy Monday! I think it’s Monday anyway. I’m going to run with it until told otherwise, lol! In truth, it could be ANY day of the week post-Christmas. I hope you had a good weekend and that you have exciting plans in store for the week ahead. Today is a little special for me. Today is the last #R3COMM3ND3D post of 2019. It’s been an absolute joy to share the top book picks of 56 book bloggers and authors with you every day since 1st November. A joy and utterly exhausting. But worth it. Well worth it. Today’s #R3COMM3ND3D2019 is the fifty-seventh post and I’ve saved one of the best until last…

I’ve also saved her until last because a) she told me back in November that it was too early to be thinking about top reads of the year and b) because once this blogger submits her #R3COMM3ND3D three to me she has been known to change her mind. More than once…. Joining me on the final #R3COMM3ND3D is the fabulous Eva of Novel Deelights. Eva is a brilliant blogger and if you don’t already follow her blog then that must change. You won’t regret it!

So, what is #R3COMM3ND3D2019? It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors and book bloggers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published in 2019. To make things interesting I have added a couple of teeny, tiny rules this year which are; 1) the book must have first been published in 2019 and 2) special editions and reissues do not count. I like to keep you lovely people on your toes. 😉

Here are the three books Eva recommends…

the whisper man

The Whisper Man by Alex North
The Whisper Man is the kind of book any crime thriller fan dreams of. It made my skin crawl, it’s sometimes heartbreaking, it’s dark and twisty and just mind-blowingly fabulous!
Eva’s Review of The Whisper Man

the taking of annie thorne

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor
Whatever “it” is, C.J. Tudor has it in abundance and then some. There’s something about the way she writes that has me captivated from the very first word. It almost feels like being under a spell and I’ll gladly let her guide me wherever it is she wants to take me. I’m a fan, what more can I say?
Eva’s Review of The Taking of Annie Thorne

the sleepwalker.jpg

The Sleepwalker (Aiden Watts #3) by Joseph Knox
This series is one I’ve been with from the beginning. In fact, Sirens was the book that first made me start thinking about blogging because I needed a place to shout about its awesomeness. Since then, Joseph Knox has been raising the bar, with each book being even stronger than the previous one. Like its predecessors, The Sleepwalker is masterfully plotted, immensely dark, extremely gritty and completely engrossing from start to finish. This series quite frankly NEEDS to be on any crime fiction fan’s bookshelf.
Eva’s Review of The Sleepwalker

Thanks so much, Eva. Brilliant choices and two of my favourite books published this year. The other one, I am ashamed to admit, I haven’t gotten around to reading yet *hangs head in shame*.

If Eva has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books she recommends, please see the following links:

The Whisper Man by Alex North
The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor
The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox

About Eva:
My name is Eva and I’m a bookaholic. I also really like white wine and boots. Not necessarily in that order.

Eva’s Blog and Social Media Links:
Novel Deelights | Twitter @noveldeelights | Facebook | Instagram @noveldeelights |

So that’s it for another year! Thank you so much for either taking part or for your support in a myriad of other ways. Thanks for the comments, the shares, the likes and the retweets. YOU make #R3COMM3ND3D special ❤️. I hope you’ve found a book (or five!) to add to your TBR.

#R3COMM3ND3D will return next year in the form of #R3COMM3ND3D2020 so start making a note of any cracking 2020 releases now and keep an eye out for the sign-up form from June onwards.

I’m off for a loooooooooong lie down now but I’ll be back tomorrow with my top ten(ish) books of the year. I’ll also be posting a #R3COMM3ND3D2019 After-Show Party post in early January where I will reveal the one (SINGLE, UNO, SOLITARY, SOLE) winner. If you were around for 2018s reveal you may remember that we had SIX winners but only one book has taken the crown this year! What will it be….? I can’t wait to share the result with you (along with all of those beautiful covers!).