#BookReview: The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell @emblabooks #TheMidnightMan #damppebbles

“If you open your door to the Midnight Man
Hide with a candle wherever you can
Try not to scream as he draws near
Because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell. The Midnight Man was published by Embla Books yesterday (that’s Wednesday 13th October 2021) and is available in digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Midnight Man but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a huge fan of Caroline Mitchell’s books and have read a fair few over the years. When I heard she was returning to her spooky roots with a creepy pre-Halloween offering, I jumped at the chance to read it. The first book in the Slayton Thriller series, The Midnight Man, is a perfectly pitched police procedural which worms its way under the reader’s skin.

After a traumatic and devastating year, DC Sarah Noble has decided to return to the force and get on with her life. Things will never be the same again but Sarah knows she can’t mope at home with her cat forever. The welcome the team offer her is less than enthusiastic and she’s handed only menial tasks, such as statement taking, to keep her busy. But when a big case hits Slayton, the disappearance of a teenage girl, Sarah unwittingly becomes embroiled in a case that brings back terrifying memories she’d rather forget. A decaying, spooky manor house, a local legend and the utterly terrifying Midnight Man…

The Midnight Man is a great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. A smart, well-written police procedural with a spooky edge, which this author does so well. Using local legends, a perfect eerie setting in a dilapidated old house and the unrelenting fear of your average fourteen year old, the author creates a chilling backdrop on which to set her haunting tale. Things certainly do go bump in the night at Blackhall Manor! Add to this a Detective Constable who, through no fault of her own, has suffered from crippling humiliation and heartbreak over the last year, only to return to her police colleagues for them to belittle and taunt her, and you have an intriguing page-turner.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Halloween on the horizon or not, The Midnight Man is the perfect pick if you’re looking for a story to give you chills. At the time of picking this book up I was looking for a police procedural that offered something a bit different. And The Midnight Man did exactly that. It gave me a different take, which I really appreciated and it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Mitchell is a superb writer who time and time again entertains her readers with excellent stories and fascinating characters. I look forward to finding out where the author will take the Slayton Thriller series next! Recommended.

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

The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Embla Books on 13th October 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post and International #1 Bestselling Author. Shortlisted by the International Thriller Awards for best ebook 2017 and the Killer Nashville Best Police Procedural 2018. Over 1.3 million books sold.

Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, she has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time.

Caroline writes psychological and crime thrillers. Her stand alone thriller Silent Victim reached No.1 in the Amazon charts in the UK, USA and Australia and was the winner of the Reader’s Favourite Awards in the psychological thriller category. It has been described as ‘brilliantly gripping and deliciously creepy’.

The first in her Amy Winter series, Truth And Lies, has been optioned for TV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou was published in the UK by MacLehose Press on 7th October 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

#BookReview: She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge @PenguinUKBooks #SheLiesInWait #damppebbles

“Seven teenagers went down to the woods. Only six came back . . .

30 years later, a body is discovered.

DCI Sheens already knows what’s waiting for him – Aurora Jackson, found at last.

What he doesn’t already know is that it’s murder.

All six witnesses insist on their innocence, but DCI Sheens is sure one of them is lying.

But who?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge. She Lies in Wait was published by Penguin Books in all formats on 12th December 2019. I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait which has in no way influenced my review.

She Lies in Wait is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. When it was first published, it was HUGE and I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the brilliant reviews from fellow readers and bloggers. This is the author’s debut novel but it feels so accomplished, it’s hard to believe that’s the case! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting DCI Sheens and I’ve already added the next book in the series, Watching from the Dark, to my terrifying TBR.

When the remains of a body are found in Brinken Wood, DCI Jonah Sheens knows exactly who they belong to. It’s no surprise when his suspicions are confirmed and a thirty-year-old cold case comes bursting into the present day. Sheens was a junior officer when fourteen-year-old Aurora Jackson disappeared whilst on a camping trip with her older sister and her sister’s friends. Despite searching, Aurora was never found. Now it’s down to Sheens and his team to unearth more skeletons, pick apart a close group of friends and find out exactly what happened to Aurora that night in the woods thirty years ago…

Told in the past and the present, this beautifully written literary crime novel was an absolute joy to lose myself in. I adored Sheens and found him very intriguing. I think that’s the reason, along with the author’s accomplished storytelling, that I’m so keen to read the second book in this series. Sheens is of course supported by a group of well-defined supporting characters who all add something to the story.

As the eye of the investigation is turned once again on the group of friends, they close ranks. A great deal of time has passed since Aurora’s disappearance. Memories have faded, truths have been rewritten. Instead of being the self-obsessed teenagers they once were, they’re now self-obsessed and influential adults. Sheens and the team have their work cut out trying to solve the mystery and finally give closure to Aurora’s grieving family.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. She Lies in Wait is a well-written and well-executed slow-burn mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to being reunited with Sheens and the team again soon. A great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.

She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens.

#BookReview: The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler @CaneloCrime #TheLuckyEight #damppebbles

“When the plane crashed, 160 people perished. Now someone is killing off the survivors.

Five years ago, a horrific airline disaster made headlines around the world. On the anniversary of the fatal crash, a number of those who were spared gather to mark the occasion. By morning, Nick Gilbert, a celebrity chef and one of the party, lies dead. Detective Rachel Lewis leads the investigation and within days another survivor is stabbed to death. It seems certain that a killer is targeting the lucky eight.

Clodagh Kinsella recovered from the injuries she sustained in the crash, but lost her sister that day. The bereavement shared by Clodagh and her sister’s husband led them to a romance of their own. Yet lately, Clodagh knows something isn’t right. As the noose tightens on the group and Rachel comes across more questions than answers, it’s only a matter of time before Clodagh will have to face the consequences of a mistake she made before the plane went down…

A tense and gripping crime thriller, perfect for fans of Lesley Kara and Mari Hannah.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler. The Lucky Eight will be published in paperback and digital format by Canelo Crime on Thursday (that’s 22nd July 2021). I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Lucky Eight but that has in no way influenced my review.

I love disaster thrillers and mysteries, particularly those featuring a plane crash/disappearance/hijack. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles you may have noticed a teeny tiny increase in the number of books I’ve read recently featuring aircraft. I can’t help it, I love them! But what I’ve really enjoyed about all of these books is that they all take a slightly different approach. And that’s certainly the case with The Lucky Eight. Because, at heart, I’m a crime fiction nut and I adore police procedurals and mysteries. And that’s where The Lucky Eight absolutely shines.

Five years ago Air Euro Flight 975 crashed on landing at Gatwick airport killing all onboard except for eight ‘lucky’ survivors. Every year, on the anniversary of the crash, the survivors meet in remembrance of those they lost. But by the following morning, one of the group, a notorious celebrity chef, is dead. Detective Inspector Rachel Lewis of the Surrey and Suffolk Major Crime Team is tasked with investigating what happened to Nick Gilbert. Tensions run high amongst the group and Rachel has her work cut out. Before long, another of the survivors is found stabbed to death. The pressure is on. Can Rachel and her team discover who wants the lucky eight dead before it’s too late…

The Lucky Eight is a well-written crime thriller with an intriguing mystery at its heart. DI Rachel Lewis and DC Ade Benjamin are thrown into the deep end and have to pick apart a group which, although not the best of friends, have a strong bond and secrets they would prefer to keep. I found the character of Clodagh absolutely fascinating. Her sister, actress Vivienne Kinsella, died when the plane crashed. Clodagh, also on the plane at the time of the incident, has had memory problems ever since. She knows deep down that something happened, something she did contributed to the accident but her memory refuses to recall what it was.

I really liked DI Rachel Lewis but I loved her colleague, DC Ade Benjamin, who I felt had a bit more grit to her. Rachel, being the boss, does everything by the book. Whereas Ade felt a little less formal in her approach. I do hope this isn’t the last we see of these two characters as they make quite a formidable team and I would really like to spend some more time with them, Ade in particular. There were also plenty of characters to dislike including career obsessed Adam and creepy Simon.

Speaking of the characters, I felt a smidge confused at times because there are quite a few characters and they are all connected in different ways (lovers, ex-lovers, siblings). But as soon as I got into the rhythm of the book it all clicked into place, so I put full blame for the confusion on my own shoulders. I would also say it’s a little slow at the start as it felt like it took a while for the chef’s death to be confirmed as murder. But as soon as Rachel is made SIO, the investigation really picks up the pace.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I enjoyed The Lucky Eight and would happily read more by this author. It’s an intriguing mystery which had me glued to my Kindle. I did have an inkling as to who was behind the murders but the reasons why came as a complete surprise, and I loved that.  All in all, an entertaining read which I recommend.

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

The Lucky Eight by Sheila Bugler was published in the UK by Canelo Crime on 22nd July 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sheila BuglerI’m the author of the Ellen Kelly and Dee Doran crime novels. My first stand alone novel, The Lucky Eight, is published in July 2021.

I grew up in a small town in the west of Ireland. After studying Psychology at University College Galway, I left Ireland and worked in Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, Argentina and London before finally settling in Eastbourne, where I now live with my husband, Sean, and our two children.

Crime Time FM: On the Sofa with Victoria @VictoriaSelman #OnTheSofaWithVictoria #CrimeTimeFM #damppebbles #Podcast

Hello bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. Today I have something a little different to share with you which I am VERY excited about. As an avid podcast subscriber and a lover of all things crime fiction, I was delighted to hear that the fantastic Crime Time FM are adding another brilliant string to their bow in the form of a new panel show hosted by the fabulous, bestselling author Victoria Selman. Every fortnight, starting TODAY, Victoria will be chatting to household names in crime fiction, as well as rising stars in the genre. Joining Victoria today are two of my favourite authors, Alex North and Sarah Pinborough, so make sure you don’t miss it! Read on for more information…

This June, bestselling thriller author, Victoria Selman will be joining Crime Time FM to host, On the Sofa with Victoria – a new arrow in the quiver of the popular podcast currently presented by Barry Forshaw and Paul Burke.

Victoria’s show will bring audiences panel-style discussions between some of the most exciting names in contemporary crime fiction including Mark Billingham, Sarah Pinborough, CJ Tudor and Chris Whitaker- as well as emerging voices and rising stars such as Abigail Dean, Will Carver and Dominic Nolan.

Each fortnight, she’ll be chatting to authors and industry insiders about everything from serial killers to series fiction kicking off with an examination of supernatural crime crossovers with Sarah Pinborough and Alex North entitled, Anything Can Happen.

Victoria says: ‘I’m thrilled to be joining Barry and Paul on Crime Time FM and can’t wait to explore the huge breadth of themes within crime fiction alongside such an exciting array of guests.’

On the Sofa with Victoria will launch on 15th June. Crime Time FM currently features one on one author interviews with Paul Burke (In Person with Paul) and film and TV reviews with Barry Forshaw (Barry’s Blu-rays).

The trio of hosts will also be getting together on a regular basis for chats about book news, discussions of upcoming events and reviews.

Fancy a sneak peak of today’s episode, Anything Can Happen (Supernatural Crime Crossovers)? Of course you do…

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN- Sarah Pinborough (BEHIND HER EYES) & Alex North (THE WHISPER MAN) discuss supernatural crime crossovers, Scooby Doo and ‘that’ ending.

On the Easy Fix Charge
Sarah Pinborough: Supernatural crime crossovers have to have the rules and beats of a crime novel. You have to have the clues. You can’t just pull it out of the bag.

Sarah Pinborough: If you’re going to blend your genres, you have to decide which is the dominant genre.

Alex North: Just because a book has supernatural elements, that doesn’t mean anything goes. It just means it has a slightly different set of rules.

On the Evolution of the Crossover
Alex North: Serial killers are a stand-in for vampires.

Alex North: Scooby Doo was about unmasking the monster but there was always something rational going on.

On Alex’s Books
Sarah Pinborough: The supernatural in Alex’s books is like a splash of Tabasco in a Bloody Mary. It’s there to add a little bit of ‘extra’ but it’s not the vodka.

I cannot wait to listen to this new series on Crime Time FM and I hope you feel the same. Head on over to your favourite podcast outlet to download!

#BookReview: Dead Ground by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #DeadGround #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

“Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Dead Ground by M.W. Craven. Dead Ground is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series, it’s published today (that’s Thursday 3rd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dead Ground but that has in no way influenced my review.

Flipping heck, another absolutely stonking book from the pen of M.W. Craven. He can do no wrong in my eyes! Dead Ground is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series (although we all know the series is unofficially called ‘Tilly and Poe’, right?) and it’s an intense and gripping page turner of a read. I devoured it’s 448 pages in a little over 24 hours because it was impossible to put down. If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t picked this series up yet, then you need to correct that ASAP!

In the middle of fighting for his beloved shepherd’s croft, moments before the magistrate delivers his final decision, two mysterious men enter the court room and summon Tilly and Poe to their vehicle. Poe is reluctant to leave but powers far superior to those he normally answers to have made the call. It doesn’t take Poe long to work out who the men are and where they are taking them. But the ‘why’ remains unclear. Until they’re shown grisly crime scene photos of a man beaten to death inside a brothel. As Tilly and Poe begin to scratch the surface, nothing seems to make sense. Who was the victim and why are MI5 so interested in him? As they dig deeper, it’s clear the pair are uncovering something with far reaching and dangerous implications…

Dead Ground was an absolute joy to read! It’s twisty and thrilling and all the things I want in my crime fiction. I adore both Tilly and Poe. The dynamic between the two characters is just perfect. Craven has created two very different people who bring out the best in each other, and spending time with them is like being reunited with old friends. I loved the banter, the sense of friendship and loyalty, and how the author evokes such strong feelings of fondness for them in his readers. By far the best crime fighting duo out there (and I will fight you if you disagree 😂).

Tilly and Poe are once again in deep. Nothing is ever simple, nor easy for these two. But if you’ve got a complicated case which needs solving, I can’t think of two people I’d rather have working it!  The author has written an exciting and intense story with several seemingly unconnected threads which had me on the edge of my seat. The investigation is on an epic scale and I couldn’t help but wonder how the author was going to tie everything together at the conclusion of the book. But oh boy, does it all come together. And when you think it’s all solved, there might just be another fantastic, unexpected twist to add to the mix!

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. The entire series is magnificent and I heartily recommend you get your mitts on all four books. Dead Ground is a compulsive and irresistible addition to an outstanding series. I fall a little more in love with these characters with each book so I’m counting down the days until book five is released next year (fingers crossed!). Poe stands head and shoulders above his counterparts in the same genre, and with the help of the incredible Tilly, they are a force to be reckoned with. A must read for all crime fiction fans, do whatever it takes (within legal boundaries and reason, of course!) to get hold of a copy. I promise, you’ll be hooked before you know it! Highly recommended.

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

Dead Ground by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 3rd June 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in November (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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 Islanders by S.V. Leonard @CaneloCrime #TheIslanders #damppebbles

The Islanders coverHer dream escape is about to become a nightmare…

Kimberley King has spent the last five years trying to outrun the reason she left the police force. Her life is a mess and she’s desperate for change. So when she is randomly selected for the new series of the hit show LoveWrecked, she can’t pass up the chance to win the £100,000 prize. All Kimberley needs to do is couple up with one of her fellow contestants, win the infamous LoveWrecked challenges, and she will have enough cash for a fresh start.

But the island isn’t the paradise she was promised and within hours, one of the contestants is dead. Then the announcement comes: one of the islanders is a murderer and Kimberley must find out who, live on television. For every hour it takes her, one more person will die.

The game is rigged, everyone is hiding secrets, and time is running out…

An addictive and unputdownable crime thriller, perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and T.M. Logan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of a cracking debut – The Islanders by S.V. Leonard. The Islanders was published by Canelo Crime in paperback and digital formats on 11th March 2021. I chose to read a free eARC of The Islanders but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Gosh! This book 😍. As soon as I laid eyes on The Islanders I knew I was going to read it, and read it soon. Sometimes, as a reader, you pick up a book and you feel it was written for you. That’s how I felt about this particular novel. I LOVE the premise. I’m a huge fan of a certain book by a certain legendary author and there are fabulous little nods here and there to that great piece of crime fiction. I’ve never watched Love Island though, which I believe is the other influence. Other lust infused dating shows, perhaps 😳. But not Love Island.

Kimberley King’s life has taken a downturn. Following an incident which continues to haunt her, she waved goodbye to the police force, her friends and colleagues, and started a new life as a barmaid. And now she’s been sacked for turning up late repeatedly. Everything is wrong, nothing is right. Until a talent scout from the hugely popular dating show LoveWrecked turns up out of the blue and asks her to take part in the latest series. It’s going to be LoveWrecked‘s greatest ever season after being absent for five long years. And the contestants will all be chosen at random to mix things up a little! Kimberley really needs the £100,000 prize so reluctantly agrees. Following the contestants’ arrival on the island paradise, after a night of heavy drinking, they awaken to find one of their number dead. It’s Kimberley’s job, as an ex-police officer, to find out who the killer is. But the clock is ticking. Failure to find the murderer will result in another islander being killed, every hour, on the hour, until Kimberley makes her denouement. It’s a race against time and the World is watching…

Marvellous stuff! This book didn’t need to try very hard to get me hooked. It was eminently readable, pulling me along for a rip roaring ride full of delightful reveals and cleverly placed shockers. OK, it may be a little far-fetched, but who the flip actually cares?! It was 100% entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kimberley King is a desperate women, yes, but the thought of spending the Summer on a secluded Greek island, sunning yourself, eating delicious food and drinking copious amounts of wine would certainly appeal to me at the moment as well. Not too sure about the ‘famous LoveWrecked challenges’ or the TV cameras following you everywhere you go though! Kim isn’t the most likeable character, and I wanted to give her a good shake at one point, but I did find myself rooting for her. The other characters are an interesting bunch. I got really excited at the start of the book as the reader is told there are twenty LoveWrecked contestants being lined up. Knowing what was to come, I was in my element – looking forward to what initially promised to be a bit of a blood bath (yes, I’m quite peculiar it seems!). But only five contestants actually make it to the island (and a couple of crew) before things start to go very, very wrong. Still, that probably makes the book more palatable for more normal readers and a lot more manageable.

I was completely smitten with the plot of The Islanders. Hook, line and sinker. It’s paced beautifully with something always going on to keep the intrigue levels high. I was also keen to see who would get the chop (quite literally) from the show next. Interestingly, my guess as to whodunit always seemed to be the next person to die! By the time I approached the end of the book, I was completely clueless. So when the reveal came, their identity was a surprise. However, the killer’s motivation was not.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Islanders is a fantastically written, very readable, totally engrossing debut which I devoured with glee. This book made my dark heart happy and that’s all you can ask really. It’s a compelling page-turner which hooks the reader in with ease and keeps you transfixed from start to finish. Recommended.

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

The Islanders by S.V. Leonard was published in the UK by Canelo Crime on 11th March 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesFoylesGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

about-the-author3

SV LeonardS.V. Leonard grew up in the little coastal town of Formby, a suburb of Liverpool. She studied Classics at Oxford University and has been lucky enough to live in Australia, Poland, and Malaysia. She is now based in London. When not writing, she can be found breaking out of escape rooms; doing historical walking tours of London; or drinking wine.

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

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

#BookReview: Tall Bones by Anna Bailey @DoubledayUK #TallBones #damppebbles

tall bones“When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Tall Bones by Anna Bailey. Tall Bones is published today (that’s Thursday 1st April) by Doubleday Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Tall Bones but that has in no way influenced my review.

Gosh, I loved this book. I’m currently suffering a bit of a book hangover and I can’t stop thinking about it. I was instantly drawn to the stunning cover and the promise of small town secrets. It delivered ten-fold. You’ve got to read it!

Seventeen year old Abi Blake waves goodbye to her best friend, Emma Alvarez, and assures her she’ll be able to get home safely. Emma, fearful for her friend’s safety, reluctantly leaves. The following morning there’s no sign of Abi. Everyone in the small town of Whistling Ridge has a secret. Everyone has their own version of events from the night Abi disappeared but no one is willing to talk. What happened to Abi Blake that fateful night out at the Tall Bones…?

Absolutely gorgeous and utterly glorious. From the opening chapters this book had a hold over me and I savoured every moment I spent with it. It’s such a beautifully written piece of fiction which managed to completely entrance me. I loved it and I can easily see this book featuring in my top reads of the year, if not my absolute top pick for 2021.

My heart broke for Emma who is consumed with guilt after leaving Abi at the Tall Bones. She turns to drink to try and numb the hurt and the humiliation but no matter how much she drinks, it doesn’t stop the pain. And that’s how she meets Rat Lăcustă who she helplessly falls in love with. Rat is young, spirited and exotic. And not the slightest bit interested romantically in Emma which only brings her more heartache. In Emma, the author has created a young woman at her most vulnerable, and she touched my heart.

But Emma and Rat are only the beginning of a cast of characters who all stand tall from the page. The Blake family made me feel such a strong mix of emotions. I adored Jude, Abi’s younger brother, broken by those who should love him the most but still loyal to a fault. Abi’s mother, Dolly, made me furious in one breath for not acknowledging or stopping what was going on right in front of her eyes. In the next breath I couldn’t help but feel for her. Stuck in a loveless marriage and feeling completely trapped. Yes, her actions were unforgiveable but I wouldn’t wish her life on anyone. Noah, Abi’s older brother, was beautifully drawn. As he begins to realise who he is and what is important to him, he is shunned by the small town community he calls home and gossiped about at every opportunity. His blossoming relationship with Rat was both tentative and intense and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author wrote their interactions. A true love story. And finally we have Samuel Blake, Abi’s father. A cruel and aggressive man who made my blood boil with his  hatred and discrimination. He uses the bible and the church’s teachings to justify his atrocious treatment of his wife and sons without remorse.

The plot pulls the reader into the story to the point where it’s hard to put the book down for any length of time. When I wasn’t reading Tall Bones, I was thinking about it. It consumed me totally and I’m so glad it did. When I say ‘I will remember this book for some time to come’ that feels like a massive understatement. This is one of those books which has left its permanent mark on me.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. Tall Bones is a haunting, beautiful but ultimately dark read that I devoured with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Its themes can be quite unsettling and upsetting at times, particularly later in the book, but it’s an astonishing debut. I’m so happy I took a chance on this one but I also feel bereft that it’s over. I miss Whistling Ridge (although once you’ve read the book you’ll wonder why). I’m a sucker for a small town American crime novel and this is an absolutely superb one. Shame, secrets, love and lies as the tagline says. What more could you want? Highly recommended.

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

Tall Bones (also known as Where The Truth Lies in the US) by Anna Bailey was published in the UK by Doubleday on 1st April 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Anna Bailey grew up in Gloucestershire and studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, before moving to Texas and later Colorado. In 2018, she returned to the UK where she enrolled in the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She currently works as a freelance journalist in Cheltenham, where she lives with her three cats.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Last Seen by Joy Kluver @bookouture #BooksonTour #LastSeen #damppebbles

Last-Seen-KindleA little girl is missing from under her mother’s nose. She’ll be scared and vulnerable – if she’s still alive. But no one is helping us search. No one wants to give us information. No one even seems surprised. What’s going on?

Detective Bernadette Noel came to this quiet rural corner of south-west England from London to lie low after a high-profile prosecution led to death threats against her family. But she has barely settled in when the call comes. A woman’s voice, shrill with terror and thick with tears: ‘Help – it’s my daughter, Molly – I only had my back turned for a minute… She’s gone!’

A child abduction is about as far from lying low as it gets, and her boss wants to assign a different detective. But there’s no way Bernie’s not taking the case – she can’t miss this chance to prove herself.

Five-year-old Molly Reynolds has been snatched from the playground in the village where she lives. Normally in cases like this the community is an asset – eager to help search and full of local knowledge. But although Molly’s mother Jessica is in anguish, the other villagers don’t seem to want to know.

As details emerge, Bernie discovers a possible link to a shocking crime that has never been solved, and which the locals have never forgotten. But what exactly is the connection to Molly’s abduction? Cracking a cold case is the only way to find out – and meanwhile time is running out for Molly.

A dark and compelling crime thriller that will have you reading late into the night. If you like Val McDermid, D.S. Butler or Angela Marsons, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year with you – Last Seen by Joy Kluver. Last Seen was published on 26th March 2021 by Bookouture and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Last Seen but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Bookouture for an early copy and asking me to be part of the blog tour.

Last Seen is Kluver’s debut novel and what a cracking start it is! It was a joy to meet DI Bernadette (Bernie) Noel – new to the area and newly promoted – as she took on her first case with Wiltshire Police, the desperate search for a missing five-year-old child. This is a very assured debut from an author to watch!

Shy and sensitive Molly Reynolds has been warned about stranger danger by the adults in her life. But that doesn’t stop her from being snatched from the local park, mere feet from her mother’s turned back. New to Wiltshire Police, DI Bernie Noel, is tasked with finding the girl and reuniting her with her family. But Bernie’s search is hampered at every turn by the folk of Ottersfield who seem uncaring, uninterested and reluctant to take time out of their busy schedules to help find the child. Why would a village react like that? Bernie and the team are at a loss. Every lead turns out to be a dead end. Until Bernie discovers the disappearance of another child twenty-five years earlier. Are the two cases connected and will Bernie find Molly in time…?

I really liked DI Noel who came across as a very relatable, very real character. Not only has Bernie got a challenging case on her hands but the author hints throughout the book of a troubled past which intrigued me. There are references to Bernie’s life in London and a case which still visibly haunts her. And all of this on top of the search for little Molly! The reader also gets to discover more about Bernie’s family which isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (pretty normal then!). These well-plotted layers add up to a very likeable new detective who I’m looking forward to spending more time with in the future.

The characters who form Bernie’s team are also well-written and I felt they all contributed to the story. DS Kerry Allen has a heart of gold but won’t take cr@p from anyone. Matt Taylor is a young, ambitious detective constable who personally, I liked the most. I hope he features in future books. Although he’s not officially part of the team (he should be!), Sergeant Alan Turner was just wonderful! And lastly, we have DS Dougie Anderson who I couldn’t work out (I don’t think I was the only one!). He seemed totally obnoxious one minute, only to turn sweetness and light the next! I think DI Noel and DS Anderson have a very interesting future ahead of them, although fingers crossed it’s not a romantic one! 

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Last Seen is a compelling read featuring an intriguing new detective. I loved the secrets, the deceit and the small town apathy Bernie finds in Otterfield. Normally, when a child goes missing it’s all hands to the pumps, but not in this case and the reasons behind the residents complete lack of interest kept me turning the pages. It’s a great start to a new series and I’m excited to see what is in store next for DI Noel and the team. Recommended.

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

Last Seen by Joy Kluver was published on 26th March 2021 and is available in paperback, digital and audio 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.ukamazon.comApple BooksKoboGoogle BooksGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Last Seen - BT Poster

about-the-author3

joy kluverJoy Kluver has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. More recently she’s been escaping the madness of motherhood by turning her hand to crime novels. A book blogger, she’s also part of the First Monday Crime team and if you’ve been to any of their events it’s likely you’ve eaten one of her cookies. She also organises author talks for her local library. Joy lives in SW London with her husband and three children. ‘Last Seen’ is her debut novel and the first book in the DI Bernadette Noel series.

Joy is represented by Anne Williams at the Kate Horden Literary Agency.