#BookReview: The Survivors by Jane Harper @LittleBrownUK #TheSurvivors #damppebbles

“Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on a single day when a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences. The guilt that haunts him still resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal town he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a community which is bound, for better or worse, to the sea that is both a lifeline and a threat. Between them all is his absent brother Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge in the murder investigation that follows. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Yesterday was a very good day for book lovers. There were some absolutely cracking books published on Thursday 21st January 2021. So today I am delighted to be sharing my review of another eagerly anticipated release of 2021 with you, which is The Survivors by Jane Harper. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Survivors but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely adore Jane Harper’s books. Reading The Dry a few years ago, which was Harper’s debut, ignited a love of Australian crime fiction in me which burns bright to this day. The publication of a new Jane Harper novel is a big thing for me and something I always look forward to. Harper is a master of her craft and The Survivors is another intoxicating and beautifully intense mystery to add to her superb back catalogue. If you love crime fiction, you MUST read Harper’s novels.

Kieran Elliot has returned to Evelyn Bay with his young family to help his mother pack up the family home. His father’s illness is worsening – he’s become a danger to himself – so he’s being moved into residential care. Kieran’s mother needs to downsize and move closer to her husband. But returning to the small town he grew up stirs up old memories. He’s never really escaped the guilt and the regret but it’s a lot more difficult to avoid when everyone you meet knows what happened all those years ago. When a body is discovered on the beach the police are called to investigate. But the town of Evelyn Bay is full of secrets and tragedy is never far away….

Once again the author has excelled at making the three main elements of a novel the very best they can be. The plot is intriguing and keeps you turning the pages. The characters are all very normal people who, despite living a world away, you feel you can relate to in some way. And the setting is always as much a part of the story as the characters. I tend to favour characters in the books I read. I like character-driven stories with people who stand tall from the page. But there’s such a strong sense of place in Harper’s novels that you can’t help but fall in love with the drama and the danger of her settings. The crashing waves and the surging tides in The Survivors give a claustrophobic feel to proceedings which I couldn’t get enough of. It’s a thing of beauty and one of the many reasons Harper is one of my favourite authors.

This isn’t a ten thrills-a-minute novel but a confidently written slow unravelling of an older unsolved disappearance and a much more recent tragedy. Add to the mix the affection the reader feels for Kieran as we watch him struggle with his grief and all in all, this is one cracking read. The author takes her reader’s hand and leads them through the lives of her very real feeling characters until you’re part of their day to day lives – watching the drama play out from afar.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you love crime fiction then I heartily recommend The Survivors (alongside all of Harper’s other novels). I wasn’t able to work out the big reveal but I’m glad that was the case. It was shocking and saddening in equal measure. I think having an inkling of where the story was going would have spoilt that a little bit for me. Another masterclass from Jane Harper on how to write an all-round stunning novel. I couldn’t fault The Survivors and I’m now hoping I won’t have to wait too long until Harper publishes her next book. Whenever that happens, consider me first in line! Highly recommended.

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

The Survivors by Jane Harper was published in the UK by Little, Brown on 21st January 2021 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats with the paperback to follow in September (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.orgGoodreads |

Jane Harper is the internationally bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, was released in October 2018.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

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

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#GuestReview: Deadline by Geoff Major (@GradusPrimus) @cobaltdinosaur #Deadline #damppebbles

“Adam Ferranti was a talented American journalist, who moved to England to escape the issues surrounding his fall from glory at the Washington Post; only to be thrust back in it when a mysterious serial killer makes him his confidante.

DS Stephanie Walker is a member of the West Yorkshire Police. Whilst tough and results-driven at work, she hides the abuse she suffers at home. She finds Ferranti annoying but he’s her only chance to stay close to what the killer is planning next.

Ferranti reluctantly complies with the Police, but when the killer reveals himself it suddenly gets personal.”

I have to start this review with an apology. An apology to Emma (@damppebbles). The twist at the end of this book was so surprising that I just blurted out what had happened. For the first time in 13 years of knowing her, I ruined a book that she was quite desperate to read. So sorry again, Emma!

From that apology you can tell you can tell that I enjoyed and was shocked by the end of this book. Geoff Major has created monsters in Deadline.  Almost every character that you meet in this book has a reason for instant suspicion. The plot slowly takes shape with multiple threads coming together in a tight knot around both the doomed and the unsuspecting. I found this book impossible to put down, impossible to second guess and very twisty.

Adam Ferranti is exactly the character that you expect from the blurb. An American journalist who ends up in the UK working for the Yorkshire Post whilst reeking of alcohol. An employee so untrusted the paper send a taxi to collect (or wake!) him every morning. Through his friendship with the taxi driver, Khatri, we get to know Adam as well informed, intellectual and occasionally empathic individual but not one who is delighted to be social.  As we get to hear more about his history we find out the “one that got away” the Pulitzer Prize that never was and Adam’s continual quest to get a big story. That is until the phone rings at his office desk and an anonymous voice tips him off about murder scenes which the police have attended and also have yet to attend. Major grips you as a reader and doesn’t let go as you follow this dramatic story with the clock ticking down to the deadline.

The police characters in this book are an interesting bunch. The lead investigator, the hard nosed DS Walker, takes centre stage to begin with but gradually we meet the team around her. The promotion focussed boss, Hobbs, the surprise new sidekick for Walker and the other investigators from around the country facing their linked murder scenes.  Major does a brilliant job of showing the raw competition between these colleagues who are also desperate to stop the body count, but also get some personal kudos out of the investigation. I loved the hunt and the way in which seemingly unconnected characters seamlessly fitted together into a bigger picture.

At the same time as we follow the police investigation we start to see glimpses of activity in the USA, and then the tenuous links begin to appear…..

I’m not going to say anymore as I don’t want to give away the ending (again! ☹) but this is a book full of twists, turns, intrigue and murder that will satisfy even the most cynical reader. This is an easy five-star read and one that I heartily recommend.

Deadline by Geoff Major was published in the UK by Grosvenor House Books on 1st September 2020 and is available in hardcover, 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 DepositoryGoodreads |

JM3A1139 (2)A long time ago, Geoff Major had an idea for a story, whilst walking his girls to primary school. Two years ago, he decided he had the time and patience to try to write the story down. His wife was wholly supportive, so he turned from full-time to part-time for four months and now – 23 years after that idea first popped into his head – it has been published.

As a self-employed business consultant for 18 years and a fundraising adventurer for 10 years (including ski-trekking 50 miles, over 6 days and 6 nights, to the geographic North Pole), he now works for a debt charity whilst plotting his next three books.

#BlogBlitz | #AuthorInterview: All Down the Line by Andrew Field @BoomslangBooks #AllDownTheLine #damppebbles

“MANCHESTER: Cain Bell thought he had closure over the hit and run death of his daughter. Ted Blake had confessed he was the behind the wheel just before he died.

Twenty years on and Cain’s world is thrown upside down when his fiancé claims the driver was lying. Before she says more, a savage attack leaves her in a coma fighting for her life.

To find out why Cain must uncover why four friends swore blind to never tell the truth about his daughter’s death.

Now, he must persuade Manchester’s most terrifying gangster to reveal the secrets that kept hidden for two decades.

And Billy McGinty is in no mood to break his own wall of silence.
Unless Cain can persuade him to talk, even if it means putting his own life on the line.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be taking part in the All Down the Line blog blitz. All Down the Line is a gripping crime thriller set in Manchester from the pen of Andrew Field, and will be published by Boomslang Books on Monday 7th December 2020.

I’m putting Andrew Field under the spotlight today and asking some (hopefully!) tricky questions…

Q: First of all, can you please tell us about All Down The Line?

 All Down The Line is an interrupted love story set in Manchester. A bereaved father must convince Manchester’s nastiest and most ruthless gangster to spill the beans about the death of his daughter and an attack on his fiancée that has left her fighting for her life?  If he succeeds, his dilemma is to decide what his revenge looks like?

Q: What three words would you use to describe your novel?

Mancunian, intimidating, stark …

Q: Where do you find inspiration for your books?

I think good crime fiction always needs a moral dilemma. If you were Jak why wouldn’t you help China in Without Rules? If you were Cain in All Down The Line what would revenge look like once you knew the truth behind the crimes? 

Q: Do you have any rules for writing you would like to share with us?

Screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee once told me that if he wanted to learn to play golf, he’d find a golf coach with the exact same build, height and weight and ask him to teach him to copy his swing. Great advice — until you decide you want to be the next James Ellroy. The self-confessed demon dog of American crime fiction and author of the brilliant American Tabloid, bragged about how, as a young man, he broke into the houses of girls he admired so he could sniff their knickers. Great for generating column inches, but a conversation killer when you’re introduced to the in-laws!

Q: What characteristics/personality traits do you and your lead character in All Down The Line have in common?

When I was much younger everything was black and white. Nuance and context interrupted my worldview. As you get older, you realise it is never white hat versus black hat.

Q: If your All Down The Line was made into a movie, which famous actor/s would play the lead characters?

As All Down The Line is set in Manchester, they would have to be Mancunians or Salfordians. No cultural appropriation allowed in my books. Christopher Eccleston is a born natural for Cain Bell. Bernard Hill (Yosser in Boys in the Black Stuff ) or Ben Kingsley would fight it out to play Bob Ord. Lesley Sharp, Anna Friel or Maxine Peake would box each other in the ring for the role of Violet McGinty. My money would be on Anna. Suranne Jones would be equally brilliant as April Sands. Nigel Pivaro would be a threatening Two Smiles.  Ryan and Summer would have to be young unknowns. And Nick would be Nick!

Q: Who is your writing hero?

Elmore Leonard for the sheer skill of his apparently effortless writing … and he appeared to be a good egg! 

Q: Which book do you wish you had written?

At thirty it would have been James Ellroy’s American Tabloid. Now it is Jonathan Ames’ You Were Never Really Here (as long as film rights were attached) or Cormac’s No Country For Old Men.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering taking the plunge and attempting to write their first novel?

Write it for the right reasons and enjoy yourself. Treat the process like a job with a finish date clearly identified. Only day dream about getting rich quick if you enjoy dreaming about making lots of money and being adored and taking your personal assistant to court for credit card theft. 

Q: If you could have a dinner party and invite three other writers (living or dead), who would you invite?

Elmore Leonard, James Cain and Jim Thompson … 

Q: Whats the one question you wish I had asked and whats the answer?

How should Covid 19 influence authors producing contemporary crime fiction today?

The answer is it’s impossible to ignore and certainly makes crime a lot harder to commit in lock down and with social distancing restrictions.

I got around it in All Down The Line by clear the novel takes place in 2017. Before Covid, I’d have not mentioned the year. I am drafting a novella called American Conscience and Covid is central to the way characters interact.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Andrew.

All Down the Line by Andrew Field was published in the UK on 7th December 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.com | Goodreads |

Andrew Field has spent most of his working life as a PR consultant raising the profiles of others. Now the roles are reversed as he steps into the spotlight with All Down The Line (published in 2020).

He handled Boddingtons Bitter during its “Cream of Manchester” heyday, developing innovative sports and cultural partnerships with TV and media platforms. Clients have also included a convicted armed bank robber and another who did eighteen months prison time for blackmail, although he didn’t know about their colourful backstories at the time. “I’d quizzed them more about their experiences. After all, hard-boiled grimness all adds to the mix, even if it is anecdotal.”

“Authors are by definition are relatively introverted. They work in isolation and inhabit imaginary world of their own creation. They can spend years staring at a computer screen bringing their characters to life. Then they have to become a different person to promote their work and market themselves.”

“Fiction is a great way to write about how you feel personally about this great thing we do called living. We disguise it by calling it crime fiction, but behind the genre there is a world view being expressed. In my eyes, the memorable books, films and music, good or bad, are the ones you’re still thinking about 24 or 48 hours after you finished reading, watching or listening.”

What can readers expect from Andrew’s work? “If you’re into noir from the likes of James Lee Burke, James Cain, James Ellroy, Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, Ted Lewis, Ed McBain and Jim Thompson, you’ll see where I am coming from.”

Andrew lives, works and plays in Northumberland, England, Europe, with his wife Catherine. A novella, Wicked Games was published in 2014. Without Rules in 2018 by Boomslang. All Down The Line will be published in December 2020.

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre translated by Frank Wynne @maclehosepress #ThreeDaysandaLife #damppebbles

three days and a life“Antoine is twelve years old. His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother in Beauval, a small, backwater town surrounded by forests, where everyone knows everyone’s business, and nothing much ever happens. But in the last days of 1999, a series of events unfolds, culminating in the shocking vanishing without trace of a young child. The adults of the town are at a loss to explain the disappearance, but for Antoine, it all begins with the violent death of his neighbour’s dog. From that one brutal act, his fate and the fate of his neighbour’s six year old son are bound forever.

In the years following Rémi’s disappearance, Antoine wrestles with the role his actions played. As a seemingly inescapable net begins to tighten, breaking free from the suffocating environs of Beauval becomes a gnawing obsession. But how far does he have to run, and how long will it take before his past catches up with him again?

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) with you today. Three Days and a Life was published in the UK by Maclehose Press in May 2018 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of Three Days and a Life but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have read several of Pierre Lemaitre’s earlier novels and loved them. Alex and Blood Wedding come to mind in particular. But I have also read Irène and Camille which are part of The Paris Crime Files trilogy along with Alex, featuring Commandant Camille Verhœven. They are excellent books and I heartily recommend them all. I’m a huge fan of translated crime fiction so this author and his books tend to be on my go-to list of authors. Saying that, I’ve had Three Days and a Life sat on my shelf for a little while which is strange as it was one of the books I was most excited about when I received it in a goodie bag.

Antoine is a fairly ordinary 12-year-old boy living a fairly ordinary life in a small French town. One fateful day his life takes a dramatic turn and he ends up as part of the most interesting event to have happened in Beauval, the disappearance of 6-year-old Rémi Desmedt. Crowds of people converge to find the boy, teams go out searching day and night but no trace of Rémi is found. Speculation is rife, rumours spread but no one seems to know where Rémi is. No one apart from Antoine…

Three Days and a Life is a slow and intricate unravelling of a well-drawn individual which I found to be highly compelling reading. This is not a novel full of twists and turns and that made me love it just that little bit more. Three Days and a Life shines a spotlight on a character I started out feeling a great deal of sympathy for. Then gradually through the years, the pressure of past events, of secrets hidden, begin to mould and shape the young boy into a rather frustrating young man.

The majority of this book is set over the three days of Rémi’s disappearance. But the tendrils – the secrets and lies – of those fateful days reach far into the future and that’s what I found so appealing about this novel. Antoine is forever looking over his shoulder, waiting for news, waiting to be discovered. The unease and the dread the character feels is palpable. As he matures, his need to escape the small town of Beauval becomes almost obsessive but those tendrils keep digging in, pulling him back.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Three Days and a Life is a compelling character study which I absolutely flew through. A suffocating and claustrophobic piece of well-written fiction. I found Antoine to be such an interesting character and felt I was there with him every step of the way. Elegantly written and beautifully subtle in its tone, you’ll struggle to put this one down once you pick it up. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Three Days and a Life. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne) was published in the UK by Maclehose Press on 3rd May 2018 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 | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

pierre lemaitrePierre Lemaitre is a French novelist and screenwriter.

Awards: Prix du premier roman du Festival de Cognac 2006 pour Travail soigné – Prix Le Point du polar européen pour Cadres Noirs – Meilleur polar francophone 2009 au Salon de Montigny pour Robe de marié

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Frank Wynne was born in 1962 and grew up in Strandhill, Co. Sligo. His father – with T R Henn and others – was among the founding members of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo in 1959, and was President of the school until his death. Through the Summer School, Wynne was introduced to literary figures (whose lectures he recorded with a tape recorder), among them Richard Ellmann and Seamus Heaney

In 1984 he moved to Paris, where he stayed for three years. He moved to London in 1987, at first managing a small French bookshop in Kensington, which sold, among other things, graphic novels. Wynne became involved in the bandes dessinées movement in London and was hired to work on Revolver. From there he moved to Crisis before becoming managing editor of Deadline magazine, home of Tank Girl.

After the demise of Deadline in 1994-5, in part through the badly received film version of Tank Girl, he worked for a time as editorial director of AOL UK.
“I was employee number seven in AOL UK. I went from being the youngest person in every company I had worked for to being the second-oldest person in AOL.”
After he left AOL, he began translating the works of Michel Houellebecq. He now dedicates his time fully to writing and translations.

He describes himself as being of “no fixed abode”, having lived and travelled widely in Central and South America, the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkey, Ireland and the UK.
He has worked as a literary translator for many years translating the novels of Michel Houellebecq. He jointly won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with Houellebecq for Atomised, his translation of Les Particules élémentaires. He has subsequently translated Houellebecq’s novels Platform and Lanzarote, together with novels by Pierre Mérot, Frédéric Beigbeder and the late Ivoirian novelist Ahmadou Kourouma.

His translation of Frédéric Beigbeder’s Windows on the World, a novel set in the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks, won the 2005 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He also won the 2008 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for his translations of Beigbeder’s Holiday in a Coma and Love Lasts Three Years.

Wynne also translated a number of French bandes dessinées, including graphic novels by Enki Bilal, Lorenzo Mattotti, Max Cabanes and Édika. His first non-fiction book, I Was Vermeer, a biography of Han van Meegeren was published by Bloomsbury in August 2006. Between 1938 and 1944 van Meegeren forged seven paintings, passing them off as lost masterpieces by Vermeer. The works were authenticated by some of the finest art critics in Europe, among them Abraham Bredius, who acclaimed Van Meegeren’s forgery The Supper at Emmaus as “one of – I would go so far as to say * the* masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer of Delft”. Wynne’s biography, I was Vermeer has been serialised as the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week” (read by Anton Lesser) for August 7–12, 2006.

#BookReview: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza @bookouture #ColdBlood #damppebbles

cold bloodThe suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. But it’s not the first time she’s seen such a brutal murder…

Two weeks earlier, the body of a young woman was found dumped in an identical suitcase. What connects the two victims? As Erika and her team set to work, they quickly realise they are on the trail of a serial killer who has already made their next move.

Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the target of a violent attack. Forced to recover at home, and with her personal life falling apart, everything is stacked against her, but nothing will stop Erika.

As the body count rises, the case takes an even more twisted turn when the twin daughters of Erika’s colleague, Commander Marsh, are suddenly put in terrible jeopardy. The stakes are higher than ever before, but can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the fifth book in Robert Bryndza’s Detective Erika Foster Series with you today – Cold Blood. Cold Blood was published by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cold Blood but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love this series and I’m a little bit gutted that I only have one book left to read now, following my completion of Cold Blood. As police procedurals go, this series is one of the best out there and it’s always a joy to catch up with Detective Erika Foster and the team, and find out what dark and dangerous mind they’re hunting down.

A large suitcase washes up on the muddy banks of the Thames. DCI Erika Foster and DI Kate Moss are called to investigate. Inside they find the dismembered remains of a man. Sliced and diced in all the right places to make him fit neatly inside. The way the body has been treated and disposed of brings a colleague’s mind to a similar case a couple of weeks before. This time a woman had been dismembered, put into a suitcase and thrown in the river. Erika knows the two bodies are connected in some way but she struggles to work out how. And can she find the killer before it’s too late…

This is another great addition to the DCI Foster series which I powered my way through. Despite having an ever changing team around her, the key characters are all present and correct. I really enjoyed the change of direction one of the relationships between MCs took in this book. Probably a little more than I should have to be honest. Which is a little odd as I was surprisingly pleased to see how things were progressing in the last book, Last Breath.

I enjoyed the investigation and the team’s struggle to connect the dots. I have to be honest though and say this is probably my least favourite of all the books in this series. Cold Blood felt a little different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I did note that there were a couple of occasions when I felt events were a little too convenient – which of course they need to be to move the story along – but perhaps they felt a little more forced than usual? Perhaps I was just in more of a grump reading this book than usual, lol! Please don’t get me wrong. This is a minor quibble and doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a cracking read in a magnificent series.

Would I recommend this book? But of course! I love this series so I heartily recommend you read and enjoy them all. Just because I didn’t enjoy Cold Blood as much as the others doesn’t change the fact that this is a superb series which I hope the author returns to writing in the future. I adored the ending which was beautifully visual, smacked you in the face and was exactly the right way to end the story. I enjoyed the sub-plots featuring the relationships of the characters, particularly the complete in-your-face, jaw-dropping betrayal by one of the characters. All in all, another great piece of crime fiction from a must-read author. Recommended.

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

Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digitial 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 | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

robert bryndzaRobert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice, which is the first in his Detective Erika Foster series.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath and Cold Blood are the second, third, fourth and fifth books in the series. The sixth book, Deadly Secrets is now available to purchase.

Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s mailing list here.

Author Links:Instagram | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten @0neMoreChapter_ @BOTBSPublicity #DeadPerfect #damppebbles

51usteb-7l._sy346_“A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Dead Perfect, which is the third book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series written by Noelle Holten. Dead Perfect was published in digital format on 16th October 2020 with the paperback to follow in December. I received a free eARC of Dead Perfect but that has in no way influenced my review.

After being left dangling on a pulse-pounding cliffhanger at the end of Dead Wrong, the second book in this series, I couldn’t wait to make a start on this third instalment. DC Maggie Jamieson is back with a bang and hunting down another deranged killer who, best not to mention this to anyone, I actually ended up feeling a little sorry for in the end. I’m sure that’s just me though. A brilliantly written, despicable character who normal readers will despise.

A murdered woman is found in a local park, her eyes and mouth sewn shut. DC Maggie Jamieson and Acting DS Nathan Wright are called to the scene to investigate.  Maggie is nervous though. Reports of the deceased sound just like her friend (and secret crush) Dr Kate Moloney. Kate has been receiving odd gifts and messages from an unknown source. Has her stalker taken the next terrifying step? There’s no denying the dead woman looks a lot like Kate. Her face, her hair, her clothes…it’s like a mirror image. Maggie instinctively knows that Dr Moloney is in grave danger. Can she find the killer before it’s too late…?

Dead Perfect is another great addition to the DC Maggie Jamieson series. What puts this book head and shoulders above other police procedurals is the author’s knowledge of the probation service. Holten’s experience shines through and, as a regular reader of crime fiction, it’s really interesting and enjoyable to have a different perspective on things. I’m hoping these insights will continue as there was a great sub-plot with probation officer, Lucy Sherwood, who featured heavily in the first book, Dead Inside, setting up a refuge for domestic abuse survivors.

What I really enjoyed (yes, I’m strange) is the widening gap between Acting DS Nathan Wright and Maggie. At the start of the series they were equals. Now, Nathan is the boss and he’s putting Maggie firmly in her place. There’s palpable tension there, things are changing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops. I really missed DI Abigail Rutherford who I had a bit of a soft spot for in the last book. Although she was there, she wasn’t very involved in the storyline but I expect that’s because DS Wright has stepped up to the mark and taken lead of the team (which I assume is how real life policing works).

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dead Perfect is a pacey story with a cast of great characters who I’m really warming to. I was able to spot ‘whodunnit’ from fairly early on but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. I’m looking forward to seeing how several of the relationships develop in the next book, particularly between Maggie and reporter Julie Noble. I think reading this book as a standalone wouldn’t cause too many issues but why not treat yourself and pick up all three! Recommended.

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

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 16th October 2020 and is available in digital format – with the paperback to follow in December (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.ukWaterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads |

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noelle holtenNoelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

#BookReview: Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer @bookouture #LittleGirlLost #damppebbles

little girl lost.jpg“Her breath rose and fell in fearful gasps but it was too late. She could already see what she dreaded most. The back seat was empty.

Her little girl was gone.

Abigail lives the perfect life with her doting husband and adorable baby Izzy. But someone knows a secret about Abigail and they want the truth to be told.

When Izzy is snatched from a carpark, it becomes a case for Detective Robyn Carter. Someone has been sending threatening messages to Abigail from an anonymous number. What is Abigail hiding? 

Robyn’s instincts tell her there’s a connection between Izzy’s abduction and two murders she is investigating. But the last time she acted on impulse her fiancé was killed. To break this case and earn her place back on the force, she must learn to trust herself again – and fast. Robyn is on the hunt for a ruthless serial killer. And unless she gets to the twisted individual in time a little girl will die …”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer with you today. Little Girl Lost is the first book in the DI Robyn Carter series, was published by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC of Little Girl Lost via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this is Wyer’s first crime novel. Before turning to the ‘dark side’ Wyer was well known for her romantic comedies, so I was intrigued to see what she would deliver. I was blown away! This book is so beautifully dark and twisted. I had to stop and ask myself ‘where did THAT come from??!’. I have read several other books by other writers where the author has turned from the light and fluffy to the dark and devilish, but I’ve always been left feeling a little ‘meh’ afterwards. Not with Little Girl Lost. No siree. This book packs one heck of a punch!

DI Robyn Carter has taken a break from the force to heal after personal tragedy. During her leave she does some work on the side for her cousin, Ross, who is a private investigator. When a Lucas Matthews is reported missing by his wife, Robyn begins to dig into Matthews’ past. What she discovers makes her return to work and puts her at the forefront of the case. But what starts as a missing person escalates at a terrifying pace…

The book opens with a devastating prologue which was hard to read in one sitting. From there we’re introduced to the brilliant Robyn Carter who I instantly liked. She felt damaged from what life had thrown at her, but determined to not let it beat her. I feel as though she has quite a way to go yet though, so I’m delighted that there are another four books featuring Robyn after Little Girl Lost. I’m looking forward to investing time in watching this particular character grow.

The plot is twisty and gripping from start to finish and once I had made it through the heartbreaking prologue, I struggled to put the book down. The story is told from three different perspectives; that of Robyn, Abigail – a young mother to Izzy who is receiving threatening calls and messages from an unknown number, and Alice – a young girl who suffers the most horrific abuse. We watch as life for Abigail deteriorates and no one, not even her husband, believes what she is going through. Then, in one of the most brilliantly written scenes I’ve read, Abigail’s daughter is snatched from the back of her car. It’s so tense, so nerve-wracking and I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Little Girl Lost gave me so much more than I expected. So much darker and ten times more sinister, and I loved it. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the DI Robyn Carter series, and then making a start on the Detective Natalie Ward series by the same author. Dark and twisty fiction, just how I like it! Highly recommended.

Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer was published in the UK by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Carol-Wyer-500-2Carol Wyer garnered a loyal following as an author of romantic comedies, and won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015). In 2017 she stepped from comedy to the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, featuring the popular DI Robyn Carter, which earned her recognition as a crime writer. The Staffordshire-based writer now has more crime novels in the pipeline, although she can still sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

#BookReview: Bluebird, Bluebird (Highway 59 #1) by Attica Locke @serpentstail #BluebirdBluebird #damppebbles

bluebird, bluebird“When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply conflicted about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him back.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders – a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman – have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the beautifully written Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke with you. Bluebird, Bluebird is the first book in the Highway 59 series, was published by Serpent’s Tail on 29th March 2018 and is available in all formats. I received a free eARC of Bluebird, Bluebird via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a LONG time but you know how it goes (#bookwormproblems). I’m kicking myself that it’s taken as long as it has as I really enjoyed the time I spent with Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews. So much so, the next thing I did, after taking a calming breath and closing the cover of my Kindle, was to purchase the next book in the series — just so I could look forward to spending more time with Locke’s creation. This is such a strong, emotional novel and I savoured every moment of it.

Black Texas Ranger, Darren Mathews, has been suspended from active duty whilst he waits for the outcome of an investigation into his conduct. Being a Texas Ranger is all Darren knows though, it’s in his blood and the prospect of losing everything he has worked so hard for weighs heavy. An FBI colleague sees an opportunity so suggests he heads over to a small East Texas town called Lark to investigate two murders, seeing as he has so much time on his hands. The murders appear to be unconnected; one of the victims is a local white woman, the other victim is a black lawyer from out of town – both bodies were pulled out of the bayou. Darren knows he’s risking everything by going, but the pull to investigate these crimes is just too strong. His arrival in Lark is an unwelcome one. Lark is a town where the colour of your skin determines how you’re treated and when Darren begins to dig into Lark’s murky history, the town’s long-hidden dark secrets are revealed…

This is a very emotive and compelling novel. I’m a huge fan of small-town American mystery books and this one is very well done. I was a little bit besotted with Darren who is not your typical protagonist. I loved that although he’s a man of the law, there is a slightly darker edge to him. I loved his determination to find the truth – no matter what the cost, whether that was losing his job or his wife. Other characters in the book were also well-written but Darren was head and shoulders above everyone else in my eyes.

The plot is a little complicated at times and I did lose the thread on a couple of occasions. As a Brit, I don’t know how the Texas Rangers fit into the judicial system and why they’re held in such high regard. I did a little extra background reading (Google is my friend…) as I thought it would help.

Bluebird, Bluebird is a wonderful slow-burn mystery packed to the absolute brim with tension. The reader is on the edge of their seat from start to finish, wondering how Darren is going to investigate these crimes when many of the local residents don’t respect his authority and would happily kill him, soon as look at him. It’s not an easy read at times but it’s an essential one.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Bluebird, Bluebird and I’m looking forward to making a start on book two, Heaven, My Home soon. This is a beautifully written, timely, thought-provoking and engaging novel and I’m really glad I picked it up. Recommended.

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

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke was published in the UK by Serpent’s Tail on 29th March 2018 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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attica lockeAttica Locke is a writer whose first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for a 2010 Edgar Award, a 2010 NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was shortlisted for an Orange Prize in the UK.

Attica is also a screenwriter who has written movie and television scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was also a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmakers Lab and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams (@Peteadams8) @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #RoadKill #DaDaDetectiveAgency #damppebbles

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“Cataclysmic events have occurred in the decorous upper middle class enclave within Southsea, Portsmouth, on the south coast of England.

But what were the circumstances that contributed to this violent clash involving a Sherman tank and a bazooka? The strange occurrence is Investigated by Lord Everard Pimple, a naive, upper class twit who not only inadvertently opens a can of worms, but has an introduction into the world of womanly wiles.

Everard’s life is about to blow up like an atom bomb… he just doesn’t know it yet. But after the dust settles, will he still be standing?”

Hello and a very warm weekend welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be handing the keys over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who will be sharing his thoughts on Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams. Road Kill was published in paperback and digital formats by Gumshoe – A Next Chapter Imprint on 19th August 2020. Ryan recieved a free eARC of Road Kill but that has no influenced his review.

Road Kill marks the first book as we step away from Pete Adams’ ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series. In some ways it is a big step, in other ways small. Imagine a person with long legs taking small steps – that’s the kind of thing!

The first thing you note is a gentle shift in the characters. No longer are we are in the orbit of Jack/Jane/Dick Austin and the Community Policing department in Portsmouth. We are certainly in the same universe, the same city in fact but our points of reference for the majority of this book are new characters. Pimple is as inadvertent a main character as you will ever meet, a court reporter for the local Portsmouth newspaper, given a tip-off about a big story and following it in the hope of his big break.

The one thing that you will not get in this book is travel. The author cleverly sets almost three-quarters of the book in a single house in Frisian Tun; the road Jack and Amanda Austin reside in and which saw so much military firepower in the previous series! The story unfolds as the occupants of the house try to explain to Pimple and his glamorous colleague, Cecilia Crumpet, what has happened and their part in it. This approach to storytelling is great fun, with the personalities of the different storytellers becoming more pronounced throughout the story.

Everyone will have their own favourite. Whether it’s Aedd, the geography teacher with the wandering accent, the wandering hands of Georgiana Lovebody – the synchronised swimming teacher, the Professor daydreaming about goatherds, or Dame Pimple herself! In truth, the bickering, the personal relationships and slow destruction of the room add a huge amount to the story and make it a fun read.

One other change I would comment on is that Pete Adams has utilised a different writing style for this book compared to the previous books in the ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series. Throughout the book the author makes asides to the reader directly. Whilst this starts as a surprise, it almost becomes its own subplot allowing the author to ponder on characters and their behaviour without interfering with the story’s narrative.

This is the first book of Pete Adams’ DaDa Detective Agency (Jack/Jane/Dick and Amanda/Duck’s) retirement venture, and it feels like we are in for another fun ride. If you enjoyed the first series then DaDa should be savoured.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 19th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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pete adams

Pete Adams is an architect with a practice in Portsmouth, UK, and from there he has, over forty years, designed and built buildings across England and Wales. Pete took up writing after listening to a radio interview of the writer Michael Connolly whilst driving home from Leeds. A passionate reader, the notion of writing his own novel was compelling, but he had always been told you must have a mind map for the book; Jeez, he could never get that.

Et Voila, Connolly responding to a question, said he never can plan a book, and starts with an idea for chapter one and looks forward to seeing where it would lead. Job done, and that evening Pete started writing and the series, Kind Hearts and Martinets, was on the starting blocks. That was some eight years ago, and hardly a day has passed where Pete has not worked on his writing, and currently, is halfway through his tenth book, has a growing number of short stories, one, critically acclaimed and published by Bloodhound, and has written and illustrated a series of historical nonsense stories called, Whopping Tales.

Pete describes himself as an inveterate daydreamer, and escapes into those dreams by writing crime thrillers with a thoughtful dash of social commentary. He has a writing style shaped by his formative years on an estate that re-housed London families after WWII, and his books have been likened to the writing of Tom Sharpe; his most cherished review, “made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think”.

Pete lives in Southsea with his partner, and Charlie the star-struck Border terrier, the children having flown the coop, and has 3 beautiful granddaughters who will play with him so long as he promises not to be silly.

#BookReview: Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #HerLastBreath #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her last breath“A gripping new detective series set in Brighton for readers who enjoy Peter James’ Roy Grace series.

When a young woman is attacked and left fighting to survive in hospital, the police are pulled into a race against time to save her life. But just 24 hours later, she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body.

And when another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.

His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of Francis’s lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my twelfth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham. Her Last Breath is the second book in the Detective Sullivan Thriller Series, was published by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 and is available in most formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Her Last Breath but that has in no way influenced my review.

I read The Tattoo Thief, the author’s debut, back in 2018 and really enjoyed it. It was a dark read with a really interesting, different lead detective. So I was keen to get stuck into Her Last Breath and oh boy, I loved it. The Tattoo Thief was good but Her Last Breath is an absolute corker!

A young woman is savagely attacked and left with horrific wounds on a beach in Brighton. The woman, Tash Brady, is the girlfriend of Alex Mullins – son of local tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who is still recovering from her recent run-in with the Tattoo Thief. Marni does the only thing she can think of to help Tash and that’s call a man she hoped to never see again, DI Francis Sullivan. Sullivan and the team are put on the case but days later, Tash tragically dies. Shortly after Tash’s death, another young woman is attacked. Her wounds match those of the first victim and Sullivan fears the worst. They have a serial killer on their hands. And one clear suspect – Marni’s son, Alex…

What a page-turner! I enjoyed the first book but found it hard to warm to the characters. That was not the case in Her Last Breath. I adored Marni’s complete faith in her son’s innocence and her dogged determination to prove it. Sullivan has matured and grown into his role and even though he has moments of doubt, he stands tall and leads the team from the front. DS Rory Mackay is still biting at his heels and wants Sullivan’s job, which he feels should be his anyway, but Sullivan’s increased confidence and leadership keeps him at bay. Other members of the team are equally as strong as Sullivan and Mackay, and add to the gripping storyline.

Killer tattoos. I mean, how fantastic is that?! This is the type of plot I devour. Something a little different, something that I haven’t seen before, something to keep me on the edge of my seat – which is exactly what Her Last Breath did. With many of the team focussing all of their resources on one suspect, looking to pin something – anything (!) – on Alex, they’re not looking at the bigger picture, which results in a second woman being attacked. Sullivan senses that Alex isn’t their man, but he’s got to prove it and find out who is. I loved the intense race against time to find the killer. The way the author makes you question Alex’s innocence. The heart-stopping, claustrophobic ending set in one of the most revolting locations I’ve ever read in a book was so brilliantly written – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Her Last Breath and I’m eagerly waiting for book three so I can be reunited with Sullivan and Marni again. And, of course, find out how tattoos will feature in the plot! I would strongly recommend that you read The Tattoo Thief first before Her Last Breath, as the case in the first book is mentioned and referred to often with lots of spoilers. Going in with some knowledge of past happenings will help. Her Last Breath is a gritty, captivating police procedural with a difference and I loved every minute I spent in Brighton with the team. Gripping, engaging and absolutely riveting. Highly recommended.

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

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |