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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell @orionbooks #TheSoundofHerVoice #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Detective Buchanan remembers every victim. But this one he can’t forget.

The body of a woman has been found on a pristine New Zealand beach – over a decade after she was murdered.

Detective Matt Buchanan of the Auckland Police is certain it carries all the hallmarks of an unsolved crime he investigated 12 years ago: when Samantha Coates walked out one day and never came home.

Re-opening the case, Buchanan begins to piece the terrible crimes together, setting into motion a chain of events that will force him to the darkest corners of society – and back into his deepest obsession…

Shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Best Crime Novel of the Year award, The Sound of Her Voice is a brilliantly gripping crime thriller for fans of Sirens by Joseph Knox, Streets of Darkness by A.A. Dhand, Stuart Macbride and Ian Rankin.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell. The Sound of Her Voice was published in the UK by Orion Books on 28th November 2019 and is available in paperback format. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Sound of Her Voice but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Sound of Her Voice follows Detective Matt Buchanan over the course of his twenty year (or thereabouts) police career. From his days as a rookie cop being called to a shooting, only to discover the victim is his best friend from police training, bleeding out on the asphalt, to the case which still haunts him to this day – the disappearance of a teenage girl twelve years earlier. Buchanan torments himself with his failure to solve Samantha’s disappearance and reunite her, one way or another, with her grieving family. He remembers every case he’s been involved in, but Samantha’s case is the one that hits the hardest. So when Buchanan spots similarities between a new case and Samantha’s disappearance, it leads him on a path he never expected and fuels an obsession which will consume him…

The Sound of Her Voice is a dark, gritty slice of New Zealand noir which I found both gripping and very unsettling. The book is set out quite differently to other detective novels with the story starting fairly early on in Buchanan’s career. The disappearance of Samantha doesn’t feature strongly until much later in the novel, which made me feel as though I was reading a collection of interconnected short stories featuring the same cast. Matt is assigned a case, he does the leg work and brings the investigation to a close. Then the process starts again. Matt Buchanan is a complex character and the reader gets to see the different facets of his personality throughout the novel. He’s clearly a troubled man with the weight of the world on his shoulders but I loved how edgy, how driven and how reckless he could be at times.

The different format of the book means the pace of the novel doesn’t really let up at any point, keeping the reader fully immersed in Buchanan’s dangerous world. I very much enjoyed the setting, being a fan of Aussie crime fiction (yes, I’m aware they’re quite different countries but they’re neighbours and that counts for something 😂). I’ve read crime novels set in New Zealand before but this felt quite different, in a good way.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Sound of Her Voice is a dark and gritty read which I enjoyed. It felt incredibly authentic and true to life, nothing was sugar coated and I loved the honesty of the author, an ex-detective himself. The themes within the book are dark and won’t be for everyone. There were moments I had to put the book down and take a breather because it was tough going but I did enjoy the book and would read more by this author. Recommended.

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

The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell was published in the UK by Orion Books on 28th November 2019 and is available in paperback format (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 DepositoryBook DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Nathan BlackwellNathan Blackwell was raised on Auckland’s North Shore and attended Westlake Boys’ High School before commencing a ten-year career in the New Zealand Police. Seven of those years were spent as a Detective in the Criminal Investigation Branch, where he was exposed to human nature at its strongest and bravest, but also at its most depraved and horrific. He investigated a wide range of cases including drug manufacture, child abuse, corruption, serious violence, rape and murder. Because some of his work was conducted covertly, Nathan chooses to hide his true identity.

#BookReview: Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza #FatalWitness #damppebbles

How do you find a killer who has destroyed all the evidence?

Detective Erika Foster is on a late-night walk near her new house in Blackheath when she stumbles upon the brutal murder of Vicky Clarke, a true-crime podcaster.

Erika is assigned to the case and discovers that Vicky had been working on a new podcast episode about a sexual predator who preys on young female students around South London, staking out his victims in their halls of residence before breaking in at the dead of night.

When Erika discovers that Vicky’s notes and sound recordings were stolen from her flat at the time of her murder, it leads her to believe that Vicky was close to unmasking the attacker, and she was killed to guarantee her silence.

The case takes on a disturbing twist when the body of a young Bulgarian student doctor is discovered in the same building, and this makes Erika question everything she thought she knew about Vicky. With very little evidence, the clock is ticking to find the killer before he strikes again.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza. Fatal Witness is the seventh book in the hugely popular Detective Erika Foster series and will be published in all formats by Raven Street Publishing later this week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fatal Witness but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Robert for sending me a finished copy.

Erika Foster is back, baby! I have been a HUGE fan of Bryndza’s kick-ass detective since she first arrived on bookshelves back in 2016. In fact, The Girl in the Ice, book one in the series, was one of the first books I reviewed on damppebbles! So I feel Erika and I have some history. And since that first introduction, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed every single new title. So imagine my excitement when I heard the seventh book was set to be published 🤩. I could not WAIT to get my mitts on a copy of Fatal Witness!

DCI Erika Foster stumbles upon a grisly crime scene in her new neighbourhood, making her question her decision to move to Blackheath. The victim is true crime podcaster Vicky Clarke, whose body was discovered by her sister, Tess, only seconds before Erika’s arrival. Erika and her team are assigned the case, digging into Vicky’s life in an attempt to discover who wanted her dead. But the more they search, the more confusing the case becomes. There’s no motive, no evidence, and impossible as it seems, there are no records of what Vicky was working on. Could the murder be linked to one of her podcasts? Was Vicky getting close to revealing the identity of a serial sexual predator? And can Erika catch the killer before they strike again…?

The DCI Erika Foster series is by far one of my favourite police procedural series and I am so glad that the author has decided to write a seventh instalment. I’m keeping everything crossed that this is only the beginning and there are many more adventures to come for my favourite Slovakian DCI. I adore Erika. She’s a little bit of a b!tch (she’d be the first to admit that herself – in fact, I think she does in Fatal Witness!), she’s a little bit bossy, she’s a whole lot of kick-ass but oh my gosh, she gets the job done. To be reunited with her and the team felt like meeting up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while and I loved every single second. Erika is a strong, independent, determined woman but I felt the author added a level of vulnerability to her character in this book that we perhaps haven’t seen before. Still coming to terms with the events of the previous book, still grief stricken by the sudden and violent death of her husband before her transfer to London and having recently moved house, it’s clear to the reader that Erika Foster is a lonely woman. I really felt for her. That vulnerability made me like her even more (if that’s possible!). And fingers crossed, the future may be a smidge brighter. Possibly. Maybe. Who knows…?

The plot is compelling and draws the reader into the story from the prologue. There are, as I’ve come to expect from a Robert Bryndza novel, several fantastically placed and beautifully penned twists and turns along the way which keep the reader on their toes. I really enjoyed how flummoxed the team were at points in the story. With very few leads, a small number of possible culprits but no evidence to confirm their suspicions, they quickly run out of plausible, workable options. I was, of course, trying my darnedest to work out whodunit. (I’m a crime fiction fan, I’m sure we all do it!) However, as I approached the end of the book I could not for the life of me work out the who nor the why!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-written, cleverly plotted police procedurals then you need Fatal Witness, along with the first six books in the series, in your life. The entire series is an absolute ‘must read’ for crime fiction fans. All in all, a compelling, incredibly readable addition to a standout series which I hope continues for many more books to come. I’m still a little bit in love with Erika and I can’t see that changing any time soon. Great plot, fantastic characters, intensely atmospheric and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

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

Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Raven Street Publishing on 7th July 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Robert BryndzaRobert Bryndza is an international bestselling author, best known for his page-turning crime and thriller novels, which have sold over five million copies.

His crime debut, The Girl in the Ice was released in February 2016, introducing Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. Within five months it sold one million copies, reaching number one in the Amazon UK, USA and Australian charts. To date, The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1.5 million copies in the English language and has been sold into translation in 29 countries. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2016), the Grand prix des lectrices de Elle in France (2018), and it won two reader voted awards, The Thrillzone Awards best debut thriller in The Netherlands (2018) and The Dead Good Papercut Award for best page turner at the Harrogate Crime Festival (2016).

Robert has released a further five novels in the Erika Foster series, The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets, all of which have been global bestsellers, and in 2017 Last Breath was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Mystery and Thriller. Fatal Witness, the seventh Erika Foster novel, is now available to pre-order and will be published 7th July 2022.

Most recently, Robert created a new crime thriller series based around the central character Kate Marshall, a police officer turned private detective. The first book, Nine Elms, was an Amazon USA #1 bestseller and an Amazon UK top five bestseller, and the series has been sold into translation in 18 countries. The second book in the series is the global bestselling, Shadow Sands and the third book, Darkness Falls, has just been published.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

#BookReview: The Lost Children by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheLostChildren #damppebbles

Matilda Darke is back…


DI Brady has been tracing victims of systemic abuse at a local children’s home after a high-profile accusation pitched it into the spotlight – a case that couldn’t be more personal.

As Matilda and her team piece together the disturbing picture of the history of the home, it soon becomes clear that this is much bigger than they ever suspected.

But nothing prepares them for what they uncover next…
The Lost Children is an utterly gripping crime thriller weaving a breakneck tale of a vast network of secrets and lies, a relentless detective determined to sabotage it, and a murder that shatters two decades of silence.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood. The Lost Children is published by One More Chapter today (that’s Thursday 30th June 2022) in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow next month. I chose to read a free eARC of The Lost Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series is one of the most exciting, most edgy police procedural series out there and I flipping love it! The arrival of the latest book, in this case book nine (!), is something I always look forward to with baited breath. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Lost Children, I, of course, grabbed at it with both hands. What I love about this series is that the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – either on subject matter or character development. Wood really likes to put his characters, including lead protagonist Darke, through the wringer which is something I appreciate. As a reader, I never know what to expect! The Lost Children takes the battered and bruised team, still hurting from their last few cases, deep into the heart of an upsetting and distressing historical child abuse case.

DCI Matilda Darke is called to the scene of a vicious murder. Local businessman and philanthropist, Richard Ashton OBE, has been slain in his bed in the most stomach churning of ways. Upon closer inspection into Ashton’s life it becomes clear to Darke and her team that perhaps Ashton wasn’t the figure of virtue he first appeared to be. It doesn’t surprise DI Christian Brady who has been investigating historical claims of child abuse behind Matilda’s back. Matilda can’t ignore the connection between Ashton and events at Magnolia House, a home for young boys which closed many years ago. So she sets out to discover the truth. But at every turn, Darke is shut down. Extreme measures are put in place to prevent Matilda and her team from discovering the secrets of Magnolia House. But Matilda won’t be stopped…

The Lost Children is an incredibly gripping addition to a superb series featuring some of my all-time favourite characters. I love the South Yorkshire Homicide and Major Crimes Unit but they’ve really had a tough time of it recently, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better for them anytime soon! This latest investigation is already personal for DI Brady and the devastating secrets the team reveal affect them all in some way. The subject matter is tough but the author has done a great job of writing a very difficult, very emotional story. There were times when I had to take a break from reading because I was so affected by the characters and their stories. It’s heart breaking stuff but handled very well.

I found it fascinating how Matilda’s investigation was shut down from every direction. I could really feel her frustration and her determination to keep digging, despite no longer having the resources. Her drive is one of the reasons I love the character as much as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Wood takes the team next as there are clearly changes afoot, one of which I hope is reversed. But knowing how this author operates, I can’t be sure it will be!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Lost Children is a highly emotional, edgy read which I enjoyed. The subject matter is upsetting and I don’t think this book will suit everyone but the care the author has taken with the story really shows. I liked the way the author didn’t shy away from setting this book in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think, surprisingly, it’s the first book I’ve read that’s been set during the pandemic. Perhaps other authors are shying away from mentioning COVID for the moment. Perhaps it’s too fresh. I thought it added a really interesting facet to the investigation though and applaud Wood for doing something many other authors are not. The DCI Darke series remains one of my favourites and I wait with baited breath for the tenth (!) book to be published later this year. Particularly after the incredibly tense and unnerving cliff hanger at the end. Wow, what an ending! I’m not sure I can wait until October to find out what happens next. Recommended.

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (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 |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

#BookReview: The Botanist by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #TheBotanist #TeamPoe #TeamTilly #damppebbles

“This is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe’s life…

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. Insanely brilliant, she’s a bit of a social hand grenade. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there’s Estelle Doyle. Dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street, but has she gone too far this time? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’

Meanwhile, a poisoner called the Botanist is sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers. Twisted and ingenious, he seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice given to his victims, and regardless of the security measures taken, he is able to kill with impunity.

Poe hates locked room mysteries and now he has two to solve. To unravel them he’s going to have to draw on every resource he has: Tilly Bradshaw, an organised crime boss, even an alcoholic ex-journalist. Because if he doesn’t, the bodies are going to keep piling up . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Botanist by M.W. Craven. The Botanist is the fifth book in the excellent Washington Poe series and was published by Constable last week (on Thursday 2nd June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Botanist but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh my goodness, it’s my absolute favourite time of the year! You may think that’s because it’s FINALLY summer (although there’s been little evidence of that so far!) but it’s not that. You may think it’s because I’m a secret royalist, patiently counting down the days to Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee (yes, I know it was last week 😜). It’s not that either. You may think I’m champing at the bit, waiting for Wimbledon to start. As if 😂 It’s my favourite time of the year because of one thing and one thing alone. Historically, June is when the latest Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw adventure by master crime writer M.W. Craven is published! It’s THE highlight of my reading year, without question. If you’re a fan of intelligently written, utterly compelling detective fiction and you haven’t discovered this series yet, then we need to have serious words! The Botanist has arrived people. What are you waiting for? You need this book in your life!

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is having one helluva week, juggling two highly sensitive, intricate cases. His pathologist friend, Estelle Doyle, has been arrested for the brutal murder of her father which Poe firmly believes she did not commit. Poe is also hunting a highly organised serial killer the press has dubbed the Botanist, who is causing chaos by taking out the country’s most hated individuals with flair, a poem, a pressed flower and an almighty pat on the back from the British public. The notice the killer gives his victims should be more than enough warning for the intended target to lock themselves away in a reinforced room, surrounded by the most elite of security forces. But no, absolutely nothing will stop the Botanist from dispatching their target. Usually in the most painful and horrific way possible. Can Poe and super intelligent analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, manage to solve the two most taxing cases of their careers before it’s too late…?

As I mentioned before, this is the fifth book in the series and WHAT a series it is! Time and time again the author delivers, raising the bar with each new book. Every single release has been a hit for me. Every single new book is something new, something different, something that grabs my attention from the start and doesn’t let go until I’ve turned the final page. The ideas are fresh, the characters are evolving magnificently, the plots are fascinating. I am officially hooked and M.W. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes!

But enough of the series, what about this latest instalment? The Botanist is an utterly absorbing, highly addictive read which I ADORED. Every single book has been superb but this latest addition, and Black Summer (book #2), are my two favourites so far. You can absolutely read The Botanist as a standalone but it’s worth picking up all of the previous books as well. Otherwise you miss out on the early awkward days of Poe and Tilly’s friendship (actually, it has a few awkward moments now but they’ve become more attuned to each other…sort of!) and a plethora of absolutely fascinating, gripping cases. I love the pairing of Poe and socially awkward but highly intelligent civilian analyst, Tilly. They make a formidable team, ably encouraged and supported, no matter what crazy idea they come up with, by DI Stephanie Flynn. Craven’s trademark humour is pinpoint sharp, perfectly pitched and made me laugh out loud at several points. I SO enjoy the relationship between Poe and Tilly (and of course DI Stephanie Flynn). Their interactions, their friendship makes me smile. It’s a joy to read!

I liked the push and pull of this story with Poe and Tilly dashing off up north to look into things in more detail for Estelle. Only to have the boss call them back to London after the Botanist strikes again. Unlike Poe I am a huge fan of locked room mysteries which is perhaps why The Botanist appealed to me so much. Not one mystery for my favourite crime fighting duo to solve, but two!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Botanist is a superb addition to an outstanding series which I believe every crime fiction fan needs on their bookshelf. Tense, gripping, clever, hugely compelling, truly divine characterisation, beautifully paced and darn well perfect in every respect. What more could you want? Tilly and Poe are the ultimate crime fighting duo, you won’t find another pairing like these two and I love that! The Botanist is without a doubt a sure-fire five-star winner for me and will definitely be featuring in my favourite books of the year list. Quite near the top, I think 😉. The Botanist, along with the other books in the series, is a must read. Incredibly well-written and head and shoulders above others in the same genre. Highly, highly recommended.

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

The Botanist by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 2nd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles 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: WAKE by Shelley Burr @HodderBooks #WAKEBook #damppebbles


Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of WAKE by Shelley Burr. WAKE is published today (that’s Thursday 9th June 2022) by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free eARC of WAKE but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am the biggest fan of Australian crime fiction and prioritise Aussie writers before everything else on my TBR at the moment. So it goes without saying that I was immediately drawn to WAKE when it first landed on my radar. It has the CWA’s seal of approval winning the debut dagger back in 2019 and rightly so. I adored this book. So much so that I’m going to put my neck on the line here and say, as things stand (at the time of writing this review we’re halfway through May), this is my book of the year.

Nineteen years ago Mina McCreery’s sister, Evelyn, was taken from the family home never to be seen again. Australia’s most famous abduction case remains unsolved to this day but, of course, everyone has an opinion about Evelyn’s fate. Which is why Mina prefers to live a secluded life, away from prying eyes and the opinions of others. Following the success of a previous case private investigator Lane Holland turns up in the small town of Nannine offering to look into Evelyn’s disappearance. But Mina isn’t interested, not initially anyway. The hunt for her sister only caused her family more pain and sadness. But Lane gradually manages to convince Mina to accept his help. But what Mina doesn’t know is that Lane has his own reasons for wanting to know what happened to Evie McCreery that fateful night nineteen years ago…

Oh. My. Word! I loved this book. Atmospheric, packed full of mystery and brimming with suspense. It’s an absolutely glorious debut which consumed my days and had me blurry eyed in the morning after staying up far too late to finish it! I was well and truly gripped by this compelling piece of well-written crime fiction and I savoured every single second I spent in Mina McCreery’s company. What a character! I was highly suspicious of her but I loved her standoffishness. As with all newsworthy unsolved crimes, everyone has an opinion. And many are not afraid to voice it! Particularly if that’s with the safety of anonymity, hidden behind a keyboard. Mina is suspect number one according to many true crime fanatics and her aloofness only goes to prove their point. The investigation into Evelyn’s disappearance damaged the McCreery family beyond repair, forcing them into the spotlight. Something the girls’ mother blatantly used to keep Evie at the forefront of Australia’s minds. But Mina’s reluctance to participate in her mother’s media sideshow only fanned the flames. Does Mina know more than she’s letting on? And what exactly is Private Investigator Lane Holland’s interest in the family? Why, following countless rebukes from Mina, won’t he pack up and leave town?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. WAKE is an absolute corker of a novel which I immersed myself in completely. It consumed my thoughts whilst reading it and I still, weeks later, think about it more than any other book I’ve read recently. Absolutely, categorically, my favourite book of the year so far. This is the type of crime fiction I want to read. WAKE is such a compelling, intriguing mystery with superb characters and a vividly drawn, remote setting. I lived and breathed this book alongside Mina and Lane, gripped by the mystery of what happened to Evie McCreery. Every single little thing worked. Beautifully tense, truly unforgettable and the ultimate page turner. A magnificent debut and I’m excited to see what the author has in store for us next. Gosh, I really loved this book! Highly recommended.

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

WAKE by Shelley Burr was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 9th June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Shelly Outdoor Shots_JUL2021 (2 of 42)_edited.jpgWAKE won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019 and was previously shortlisted for both the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award and the Bath Novel Award.

Shelley works in environment policy in Canberra and is studying agriculture at the University of New England. She is an alumni of ACT Writers Hardcopy program and a Varuna fellow.

#BookReview: When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins @panmacmillan #WhenIWasTen #damppebbles

“Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins. When I Was Ten was published by Pan Macmillan in paperback format on 30th December 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read When I Was Ten since it first landed on my radar last year. Having finished one book, I was in a strange ‘nothing really appeals…’ mood and was looking for something a little dark and a little uncomfortable to get my teeth into. Which is when this book suddenly sprang to mind! Without a second thought, I downloaded a copy and made a start straight away. And what a devastating and utterly compelling story When I Was Ten is. I absolutely loved it!

Twenty-one years ago Richard and Pamela Carter were viciously murdered in their beds. The case became infamous, partly due to the respect held by the local community for Dr Carter – the local GP – but mainly because the killer was their youngest daughter. After spending time in a secure unit for children, the daughter assumed a new identity and started a new life. But now a documentary crew have found the older of the two sisters and questions are being asked. The Angel of Death is back in the spotlight, the last place she ever wanted to be, and her new life is about to come crashing down around her…

Oh my goodness, When I Was Ten is SO GOOD! This is, I’m ashamed to admit, the first book I’ve read by this author despite being told repeatedly by fellow readers for years that I would love her books. They were right.  I loved the story, the characters and Cummins’ writing. So much so, I plan to download the author’s entire back catalogue as soon as I’m physically able to.

When I Was Ten centres around the Carter sisters and their friend and neighbour from 21 years ago, Brinley Booth. Told in the past and the present, we get to hear from journalist Brinley as she decides whether to reveal her connection to the biggest story of the year to her boss. In doing so, she knows it’ll give her failing career a real boost. But does she really want to dredge up difficult memories from that time again? Particularly as Brinley knows more than she’s letting on. We also get to hear from Catherine as her carefully created life crumbles around her. As her daughter and husband realise who has actually been head of their family for the last twelve years. How well do we really know those we’re closest to? There are also deeply unsettling flashbacks to the past which show the reader how the Carter sisters were treated by their supposedly perfect parents in their nice big house. It makes for difficult reading at times but I couldn’t tear myself away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. When I Was Ten is dark and twisty and absolutely everything I love about crime fiction. There were a number of brilliantly written surprises along the way, some which left me with my jaw on the floor. I thought the characters were very well-written and really pulled the reader into the story. The book is paced beautifully, encouraging ‘just one more chapter’ before turning out the light. But before you know it, half of the night has passed and you know you’ll be living on coffee and fumes come the morning *true story* (it was so worth it though 😉)! When I Was Ten is undoubtedly one of my favourite reads of 2022 and fans of family centred crime thrillers should put this one top of their wish list. You’ll be missing out on something quite special if you don’t! Hugely compelling, immensely readable, heart breaking and unexpectedly emotional, and impossible to put down. Loved it. Highly recommended.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on 30th December 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Fiona CumminsFiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy, where she now teaches her own Writing Crime course. She is the bestselling author of five crime thriller novels, all of which have received widespread critical acclaim from household names including Val McDermid, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin. Three of her novels have been optioned for television.

Rattle, her debut, has been translated into several languages and Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’ Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’.

Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin called it ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten, an Irish Times bestseller, was published in April 2021. Into The Dark, Fiona’s fifth novel, will be published in April 2022 and was described by Sarah Vaughan, author of Netflix smash-hit Anatomy of A Scandal, as ‘Complex. Inventive. Twisty. Unsettling.’

When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.

#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’ Smith, 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.