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

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

Old friends.
Past grudges.

Happy families.
Hidden jealousies.

Thirteen guests.
One body.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Guest List by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 20th February 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

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

Author Links:FacebookTwitter | Instagram |

#BookReview: Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi (translated by Sam Taylor) @wnbooks #DontLetGo #damppebbles

don't let go

“Picture the scene – an idyllic resort on the island of Réunion. Martial and Liane Bellion are enjoying the perfect moment with their six-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, clear water, palm trees, a warm breeze…

Then Liane Bellion disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. When the room is opened, it is empty, but there is blood everywhere. An employee of the hotel claims to have seen Martial in the corridor during that crucial hour.

Then Martial also disappears, along with his daughter. An all-out manhunt is declared across the island. But is Martial really his wife’s killer? And if he isn’t, why does he appear to be so guilty?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Michel Bussi’s Don’t Let Go with you today. This holiday-themed thriller seems very apt at the moment as I was due to be jetting off to foreign shores myself soon. Instead, I’m settling for the gentle lapping of the children’s paddling pool and the soothing caw of a Red Kite as it circles overhead (do Red Kites caw? I don’t think they do! More of a shriek? Soothing shriek….?!). Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi (and translated by Sam Taylor) was published in the UK by W&N Books on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I received a free eARC of Don’t Let Go but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a fan of translated crime fiction and have read several novels which have been translated from their original French, just like Don’t Let Go. The book has a wonderful French feel to it but it isn’t strictly set in mainland France; all of the action happens on the French island of Réunion. Réunion is where Martial and Liane Bellion have chosen to take a holiday with their six-year-old daughter, Sopha. They’re lounging by the pool, enjoying the luxury of their hotel when Liane decides to return to their room. From there the nightmare begins because Liane disappears. The room is in disarray, the smears of what looks like blood are impossible to ignore. The evidence is staring everyone in the face. Liane has vanished, but no one saw her leave. When Martial is brought in for routine questioning, his story begins to fall apart. So he runs, taking Sopha with him. All fingers point to Martial killing his wife. Why else would he run…?

I really enjoyed this book and I loved being immersed in the culture of this vibrant island which, until now, I knew very little about. The characters are strong and I particularly loved Captain Aja Purvi who is a kick-ass ‘get the job’ done kind of woman. I also, reluctantly, liked Second Lieutenant Christos Konstantinov who is a highly sexed, leering lothario easily distracted by drugs and women. He’s not the sort of character I normally warm to at all (in fact, he’s the type of character who would normally make me DNF a book), but in the end, he showed bucketfuls of heart when it was needed the most. The reader never really knows where they stand with Martial Bellion, who I thought was well-written. Is he a killer? Does he have another motive for stealing his daughter away and going on the run from the police? I was constantly doubting what I thought and couldn’t call it at all.

The plot was engaging and I was intrigued about where the story was going to go. The setting was gorgeous in parts and I could imagine lounging by the lagoon. You do get to see the less-touristy parts of the island, away from the exotic resorts and stunning beaches (it is a crime fiction novel, after all!). I was left with a few unanswered questions though, which I’m putting down to reader error (something I perhaps missed). The other thing I would mention is that this book uses a lot of footnotes to describe and explain unfamiliar words and phrases. On my Kindle copy, the footnotes were hard to use and ended up in all sorts of odd places. If I were to read this book again in future I would want to read a paperback copy, rather than a digital copy.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Don’t Let Go despite the points raised above. It’s a great character-driven mystery which in these times of lockdown and cancelled holidays was a welcome distraction. I have two other Bussi novels on my bookshelf and I’m looking forward to reading them. Engaging, interesting and quite the page-turner! Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Don’t Let Go. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi was published in the UK by W&N Books on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Michel Bussi
Michel Bussi is one of France’s most celebrated crime authors. The winner of more than 15 major literary awards, he is a professor of geography at the University of Rouen and a political commentator. After the Crash, his first book to appear in English, will be translated into over twenty languages.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #RulesForPerfectMurders #damppebbles

rules for perfect murders.jpgIf you want to get away with murder, play by the rules

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to my stop on the Rules for Perfect Murders blog tour. Rules for Perfect Murders is the latest release from one of my very favourite authors and it’s available to purchase in hardcover, digital and audio formats from TODAY! Happy publication day to Peter Swanson and the team at Faber Books. I received a free ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders but that has in no way influenced my review. Huge thanks to Josh at Faber Books for asking me to join the tour.

If you haven’t picked up a Peter Swanson novel yet then that has to change. Sharpish! I’m a huge fan of this author and I look forward to every new book hitting the shelves. I can’t let a Swanson review grace the blog though without mentioning the incredible The Kind Worth Killing which is one of the best books I have ever read. But I think The Kind Worth Killing has a new buddy at the top of my favourite ever books list, and it’s Rules for Perfect Murders.

Having read Rules for Perfect Murders, I should probably reconsider having a list of any kind, ever, on my blog (top ten books of the year, the top five best detectives, eight perfect murders…). After all, a list of eight perfect murders in mystery novels is exactly what leads FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to Malcolm Kershaw’s door. But let’s be specific about this door. It’s the door to Old Devils Bookstore in Boston. A bookshop which specialises in mystery fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be starting to see why I have fallen head over heels in love with this book. There are many, many reasons to love Rules for Perfect Murders but the plainly obvious one (apart from the fact it’s expertly written) is that it’s a book about books. And not any old books but classic mystery and crime novels. I devoured this book. Swanson has created something incredibly special in Rules for Perfect Murders and I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m not a re-reader of books (unlike our lead character, Malcolm) but I would happily while away a day reading this book again…and again…and again.

Social media is starting to get its groove on and blogs are becoming a ‘thing’. Their creators are becoming rich and famous so Old Devils Bookstore wants in. Malcolm Kershaw is tasked with writing a list of eight perfect murders for the store’s brand new blog. He spends hours agonising over his choices, getting the wording ‘just right’ and hits the publish button. But fame and fortune ignore the post and life for Malcolm carries on without glitz and glitter, only tragedy. He takes over ownership of the shop, along with author Brian Murray, and business is good with a number of regular customers. Until one day, in the midst of a snowstorm, Agent Mulvey arrives on his doorstep to discuss his blog post from years ago. She’s the only person who has noticed a connection between unsolved murders and Mal’s list of eight perfect murders. It seems highly unlikely there’s a connection and it’s just a crazy coincidence. That is until Malcolm recognises one of the names on the list…

I absolutely adored this book and I was completely smitten from the very first pages. Malcolm fascinated me. He’s one of those characters where you scratch the surface and discover more than you bargained for. Definitely a character I will remember for a long time to come. I loved how the murders were linked to the eight books (**cough** seven books, and one play!) on the list and found the ways they were adapted to be very clever. I waited with bated breath to discover what the next murder/book was going to be! Swanson has created layer upon layer of suspense and tension and I was hooked.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. This one is going on the list (whoops, there’s that list again!) of favourite books of all time. You don’t have to be a crime fiction aficionado to enjoy this tense and intoxicating read (I’m certainly not). I will say though, that if you’re planning on reading any of the books which feature on Malcolm’s list, then you might want to do that first as there are a few spoilers and an outline of each is given by the author for those who haven’t read them. This book is so much more than you expect and I savoured every moment of it. I urge you to pick up a copy of Rules for Perfect Murders, whether you consider yourself to be bookish or not. It’s a wonderful, thoroughly entertaining homage to the crime and mystery genre and I couldn’t put it down. Nor did I want to. Tightly plotted and packed full of delicious suspense with a character I fell head over heels in love with. Highly, highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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peter-swansonPeter Swanson is the author of six novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Eight Perfect Murders (Rules For Perfect Murders in the UK). His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Murder House (DCI Matilda Darke #5) by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheMurderHouse #DCIMatildaDarke #damppebbles

the murder house“They were the perfect family. It was the perfect crime.

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog today. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the latest book in one of my must-read crime series, The Murder House by Michael Wood. The Murder House is the fifth book in Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series and was published in digital format by One More Chapter on 31st January. The paperback will be available to purchase in the Spring on 19th March. I received a free eARC copy of The Murder House which has in no way influenced my review.

There is nothing I love more than a bloody good police procedural. And The Murder House was exactly that. Bloody and good! I have been eagerly waiting for Darke’s return as I have enjoyed all of her previous investigations (although I must confess I am still to read For Reasons Unknown – the first book in the series – which sits patiently on my Kindle waiting for me). If you’re a fan of detective fiction then I highly recommend you check out the whole series as every book Wood writes tops the last. AND you’ll need to read them quickly as book six in the series – Stolen Children – will be published later this year!

The Murder House is a brilliant addition to the series and one that, on those occasions when I did have to put the book down and do ‘life’, I was really keen to return to. I’ll tell you a little secret but you have to keep it to yourself. When I started reading The Murder House I was really struggling with a bit of a reading slump. By the end, my love, passion and enthusiasm for reading and for books had returned. So thank you Michael Wood and Matilda for reminding me how utterly engrossing a book can be.

This is Matilda and the team’s most disturbing crime scene to date which I know will raise a flag for some readers. I am aware many people don’t enjoy blood, guts and gore in their fiction (not me, I should add). If you are a little squeamish then please don’t worry. There are a couple of references to the scene and the damage done but it’s not over the top. If anything, I actually expected there to be more blood spilt and more gore after reading the blurb!

This book can be read as a standalone despite being the fifth book in the series. The author expertly fills in many of the gaps for new readers and explains the significance of sub-plots along the way. However, there are mentions of past characters which will pique your curiosity so it may be better to start at the beginning of the series, rather than with book five. The team have been through an AWFUL LOT together (five books worth now!) and not everything can be recapped along the way. If you want to see the whole picture then start at the beginning. If you’re happy to be left wondering on a couple of teeny tiny points then dive straight in with The Murder House.

Sometimes when you read a book the characters are great but the plot isn’t so much. Or vice versa, the plot is brilliant but the characters… Wood has produced a series where both character and plot are outstanding. I adore the characters in this series and have a bit of a girl crush on DCI Matilda Darke. The other supporting characters are all well written, particularly Sian and Christian. The sub-plots involving Scott’s inner struggle to be accepted and the continuation of the Carl Meagan storyline added to the primary investigation.

Would I recommend this book? I would, absolutely. I would recommend the entire series. If you’re a fan of crime fiction and you haven’t met DCI Darke and her team yet then that needs to change. You can thank me later! The ending of this book was hold-your-breath tense and I loved it. The twists and turns keep coming right up to the very end. I thoroughly enjoyed The Murder House and I’m counting down the days until the next book in the series is released.

I received a free eARC of The Murder House. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

My reviews of the other books in the series: | Outside Looking InA Room Full of KillersThe Hangman’s Hold |

The Murder House by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 31st January 2020 and is available in digital format with the paperback to follow in March (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depository |

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71KOZKetCmL._UX250_Michael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Irony In The Soul: Nobody Listens Like The Dying by Pete Adams (@Peteadams8) #IronyInTheSoul #KindHeartsandMartinets @cobaltdinosaur @NextChapterPB #damppebbles

Irony in the Soul.jpeg“Recuperating from his past mission, disturbed but driven D.I. Jack Austin returns to work amid a personality clash with a retired colonel – who happens to be his new Chief Constable.

When the Constable is kidnapped – and returned in pieces – DI Austin’s hapless hunt for the culprit begins. He investigates a string of cryptic murders including a beheaded minister, a drowned woman in a Hijab, and a band of terrorists with explosives.

Meanwhile, Austin battles a grievous inner conflict. Will he thwart the perpetrator, or become a conspirator himself?”

Hello again. Emma has allowed me to return to share my thoughts on the second book in Pete Adams’ Kind Hearts and Martinets series, Irony In The Soul.  If you missed my review of book one, Cause and Effect, then you missed an introduction to our main character DI Jack Austin (a.k.a Jane), Amanda (a.k.a Mandy) and the motley crew of Plymouth Community Policing.

To say that Jack is more than meets the eye is an understatement, whether you are after empathy, violence, insight or intuition then Jack is your contradiction of a hero. Irony In The Soul can be picked up without having first read Cause and Effect but I would suggest starting at the beginning and taking the time to get to know Jane and the crew as things are about to get a lot bigger!

The second book in the series starts with religious hatred being stirred up in Plymouth’s tolerant and law-abiding suburbs.  Within a few chapters, the feeling that malevolent forces are at work is growing and you wonder if Jane is looking at a personal vendetta or events larger than anyone at Community Policing can foresee.

Beyond the investigation is the author’s development of the personal relationships within the team, and the blossoming relationship between Jane and Amanda which started in book one, Cause and Effect.  The author spends a lot of time building this relationship, providing a more rounded picture of Jack and giving the reader more of an insight into his back story.

The rest of the Community Policing group are also becoming fuller characters. Be it the ‘mumsy’ Jo-Jums or even bit-part players like Spotty the Media Officer. Even the disliked senior officer is growing in character before he is kidnapped and partially returned (don’t worry – this is not as gruesome as it sounds!)  The team work quickly, with help from everyone from the local gangsters to the secret service, to understand the scale of threat they are looking at and avert disasters whilst trying to find their boss.

The villain of the piece ‘Moriaty/Norafarty or any other such sound-alike that pleases you’ is an intriguing character.  Whether they are in for idealism, money or personal gain is not fully understood in this book and you can feel that the next book will bring further developments.

The ending of the book comes quickly if you read it as avidly as I did – easy to pick up – hard to put down!  But I warn you, there are strings left deliberately and tantalisingly hanging for book three, A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza: In Dead Flat Major.  Pete Adams has created a brilliant cast of characters whose personalities and beliefs are coming to the fore in this book.  His plotting is strong and the storyline is worrying believable bringing in media, technology and larger powers.  Another worthwhile and enjoyable read from this author. Just don’t blame me if you have to invest in book three too!

Ryan received a free eARC of Irony In The Soul.  The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Irony In The Soul by Pete Adams was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 14th July 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comBook DepositoryGoodreads |

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pete adamsPete 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.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Perfect Bones by A.J. Waines #PerfectBones #SamanthaWillerby

perfect bones.jpg“Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.”

I am a huge fan of A.J. Waines’ writing and her Dr Samantha Willerby series is one I return to again and again.  When I heard book three, Perfect Bones, was on it’s way to us readers I knew I had to read it.  I received a free eARC copy of this book from the publisher which has in no way influenced my review.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Waines’ Samantha Willerby series then you need to change that and soon.  Perfect Bones is the third book in the series and you can read my reviews of book one, Inside the Whispers, and book two, Lost in the Lake, by clicking the links.  I couldn’t wait to be reacquainted with Clinical Psychologist, Samantha, and her sister, Miranda.

Samantha and Miranda are due to leave for the airport for a much-needed holiday and some much-needed sisterly bonding when Samantha is contacted by the Met to help on an unusual case.  A young woman cycling along a towpath has been very nearly decapitated and is fighting for her life.  There was one witness to the attack, a young artist named Aiden Blake.  Aiden is so traumatised by what he saw he has become mute.  Can Samantha use her knowledge and therapies to help Aiden converse with the police and find the cold-hearted killer? Or is Samantha putting herself at risk and living with a killer….?

I love Samantha.  She’s such a well-rounded character and she absolutely shines from the page. Waines’ own experience as a psychotherapist adds another layer of interest to her Willerby books and Perfect Bones is a great example of this.  And what a subject she has chosen for Perfect Bones!  How can Aiden help the investigation when he is unable to talk? Samantha’s struggles and frustration in trying to understand what Aiden is telling her (through his art) was a total page-turner for me.  The added pressure from her police colleagues to get an answer before the end of the week makes Perfect Bones a tense read.

Perfect Bones is another meticulously planned slow-burn of a book and it’s a great addition to this wonderful series.  The fast-paced ending and final reveal were brilliant (particularly as this was a book where I wasn’t able to guess ‘whodunit’).

Would I recommend this book? I would but I suggest you read the first two books in the series first.  Samantha has a rather complicated relationship with her sister, Miranda, and I think going straight into book three means you miss out on much of their backstory.  The author does give new readers a good idea of what’s gone before but they are great books and worth the investment.  A fascinating book with lots of lovely suspense and a mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed trying to solve.  I can’t wait for book 4!

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

Perfect Bones by A.J. Waines was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 8th November 2018 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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WainesAJ6 (1)AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train.

Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author now writes psychological thrillers and murder mysteries full-time, with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books). In January 2019, she signed a new UK two-book deal with Bloodhound Books.

AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and been ranked a Top 10 UK Author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

The author lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. More on AJ’s psychology background here.

Author Links:WebsiteFacebookTwitter |

Author bio © https://sites.google.com/a/awaines.co.uk/aj-waines-crime-fiction-writer/

#BlogTour┃#BookReview: The Lost Man by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) #TheLostManIsComing

the lost man.jpg“‘He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.’

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…”

Happy Monday! I am delighted to welcome you to my first ‘actual’ book review of the year and my first blog tour post of 2019 which is for The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.  I am a huge fan of Harper’s writing having loved her previous novels, the epic The Dry and the superb Force of Nature.  This latest book, however, is a standalone and not part of the brilliant Aaron Falk series so if you’ve not picked up one of Jane Harper’s books before now is the time to start!

When Jane Harper has a new book coming out you can guarantee it will be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year.  Full stop.  If Jane Harper writes something then oh boy, do I want to read it!  The Lost Man is a brilliant addition to her repertoire but one I found quite different from her previous works.  One thing I will say is that in every Harper novel I have read you can guarantee that the landscape; that desolate isolation, the unpredictability of the Australian Outback plays as much a part of the story as the lead characters do.  I think it’s something us Brits tend to struggle to get our heads around.  Exactly how much open space there is, how far you have to travel to see another human being and how totally alone you can feel.  Harper writes these scenarios with such aplomb and so vividly that I found myself totally immersed in the picture she was painting for us readers.

The Lost Man is about the Bright family, an isolated family of cattle farmers.  You can’t help but like Nathan, the eldest of the three Bright brothers.  Early on you discover that he has done something so catastrophic that the entire town has turned their backs on him.  What exactly that is you don’t discover until later in the story but for a community so dependent on each other and so isolated you can guarantee it’s no small thing.  Despite discovering what terrible thing Nathan did, my like of the character did not waiver.  He comes across as a struggling, part-time, single parent who regrets past decisions he made but most of all he comes across as very lonely.  Tidbits of information fall into the reader’s lap as the story progresses and things gradually start to crystalise.  Before long Nathan realises that not everything is as it seems…

Would I recommend this book? I would. This was a slow burn of a read for me that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written story.  The setting and the characters combine to make a suspenseful tale about the Bright family and the secrets they hide within their familial bubble.  I had my suspicions about what had happened to Cameron, the deceased middle brother, but it was interesting to watch the story unfold and have my suspicions confirmed.  Harper throws in some wonderful red herrings to keep her readers on their toes and I had several moments of doubt before the perpetrator was uncovered.  You can’t go wrong with a Jane Harper novel and if you haven’t read one of her books before then please do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

I read and reviewed an eARC of The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  The above is my own unbiased opinion.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper was published by Little,Brown on 7th February and is available in hardback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): ┃amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads

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jane harperJane 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

#BookReview: The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds (@Rod_WR) @FaberBooks @1stMondayCrime #CharlieYates #TheDarkInside #20BooksofSummer

the dark inside

“1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close.

But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job…

Loosely based on true events, The Dark Inside is a compelling and pacy thriller that heralds a new voice in the genre.”

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together!? There I was, merrily reading my way through Rod Reynolds’s brilliant debut The Dark Inside, one of my #20BooksofSummer, when I received an email from the fabulous First Monday team. Turns out Rod Reynolds is moderating the September panel after it’s Summer break. How perfect is that?! It was meant to be. Not only do you get my review of this wonderful book, I can also tell you all about September’s First Monday panel as well, AND I’m another book down in my #20BooksofSummer challenge. Result!

It’s 1946 and journalist Charlie Yates is on a slippery slope to losing his job. His boss doesn’t like him and wants rid. So he sends him to Texarkana on a hopeless mission to investigate and report on a number of murders. Charlie’s not happy, he knows he’s on a fool’s errand. Who in New York, where he’s based, is going to care about a couple of murders in Texarkana? But as he starts to dig deeper into the lives of Texarkana’s hostile residents Charlie realises that, actually, he cares – particularly as the number of victims mounts and someone he knows is suffering. But Charlie is no detective, and he’s hated by his Texarkana colleagues and the local law enforcement departments. With everything against him, will Charlie succeed where others are failing time and time again…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don’t read a lot of historical crime but this is by far the best I have read for some time. I have a love of Americana in general but particularly crime fiction set in small-town America, so I found The Dark Inside a compelling and engrossing read. Although I should say that I am conflicted here because although the setting had a wonderful, ominous, claustrophobic, small-town feel to it I don’t actually know if Texarkana is small (having never been to that part of the US). With it’s crossing of state lines – partly in Texas, partly in Arkansas – it certainly feels, now that I’m away from the book, a vast and foreboding area.

Charlie Yates is a very appealing character. Despite his flaws, his dogged determination to stop the murders and find out what secrets Texarkana and its tight-lipped community held, put me firmly in his corner. Although he’s not entirely spurred on by a desperate need to fight crime; his motivations come in a more womanly form. Yates manages to surround himself with some dark and devious characters, many of whom I had at some point pinned down as the murderer. However, there was one character I would have put money on being involved. Whether they are or not is for me to know and for you to find out!

Would I recommend this book? I would. This is the first book in the Charlie Yates series and the author’s debut. Which makes this assured mystery with its wonderful setting and cast of despicable characters all the more impressive. I cannot wait to read Black Night Falling now, the next in the series. Devilishly clever, utterly consuming and wonderfully dark. A really terrific piece of historical crime fiction.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Rod Reynolds will be moderating the September First Monday Crime panel on Monday 3rd September 2018. Rod will be appearing alongside Clare Mackintosh, Beth Lewis Lucy Atkins and Vicky Newham. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on Monday 3rd September at City University, College Building, A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.

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The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds was published in the UK by Faber Books on 7th April 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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After a successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, Rod Reynolds took City University’s two-year MA in crime writing, where he started The Dark Inside, his first Charlie Yates mystery. This was followed by the second book in the series, Black Night Falling, in 2016. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#damppebblestakeover with Alice Castle (@DDsDiary) | #GuestPost: Why read cozy crime? #LondonMurderMysteries @crookedcatbooks

calamity in camberwell.jpg“Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, worries she is losing a kindred spirit when her friend Jen, the only other single mum in the playground, suddenly remarries and moves to Camberwell. 

Soon Beth has to face much more pressing fears. Has something gone horribly wrong with Jen’s marriage? What is her new husband really up to? Why is her daughter leading Beth’s son astray? And where on earth is Jen anyway? 

As Beth’s friends push her to start dating again, Beth turns to Metropolitan Police DI Harry York for help. But will they solve the mystery in time, or will it turn out that in south east London, not everyone gets to live happily ever after?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the second post in the resuscitated and reinvigorated #damppebblestakeover series.  Today I am thrilled to welcome the author of the London Murder Mysteries, Alice Castle, to damppebbles.  Alice is on the precipice of releasing the third book in her Beth Haldane and DI Harry York series so get those pre-orders in now (hitting eReaders on Monday 13th August)!

Without further ado, I will hand the reins of damppebbles over to Alice…

Why read cozy crime? By Alice Castle

We’re living at an extraordinary time for crime fiction. It’s officially now the most popular genre in the UK and, with steamroller successes like The Girl On The Train, crime is dominating not only bookshops but also TV, theatre and cinema screens too.

It might seem like an odd time to resuscitate the gentle tropes of cozy mystery, when the psychological thriller seems to be pushing new boundaries. But I believe that, in difficult times, people are drawn to Golden Age-type stories and find them just as satisfying, if not more so, than violent or shocking fare like twisty thrillers and grisly serial killers.

There’s still huge affection for Agatha Christie’s works, over forty years after her death, as evidenced by the success of recent TV remakes of Witness for the Prosecution, And Then There Were None and Ordeal by Innocence. These have led to the reissuing of many of the original novels in brand new tie-in covers. And who doesn’t love a good old murder amongst well-heeled folk in a country house, or feel a little thrill of satisfaction when the detective calls the suspects into the library for the final denouement?

I chose to write my series in the cozy crime genre, but have updated the formula by setting the stories firmly in contemporary south east London, with all the gritty urban problems that city life brings. I believe this gives my readers the best of both worlds – a secure moral universe, where evil-doers are always punished, a closed circle of suspects based in a beautiful area (lovely Dulwich!) and the real stresses and strains of modern life. Add a dash of satire on the frankly funny ways of the very privileged folk of SE21, and you have a series which I’m loving writing and which I hope will keep going far beyond the five stories which are either currently published or in the pipeline.

My single mum amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane, stumbles into her first investigation and is a hesitant but reckless detective. Her counterpoint is the Met’s DI Harry York, a pragmatist about crime but with a soft spot for Golden Age crime fiction – and for Beth.

If you’d like to read the stories, I suggest starting with Death in Dulwich (http://MyBook.to/1DeathinDulwich) and moving on to The Girl in the Gallery (http://MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery), then Calamity in Camberwell (http://MyBook.to/CiC, coming out on 13th August 2018) and Homicide in Herne Hill (3rd October 2018) with Revenge on the Rye following in 2019. They can all be read as stand alone stories as well. And do pop in to my blog, http://www.alicecastleauthor.com, for more news on the series and events I’m taking part in.

Thank you for joining me today, Alice.  Regular visitors to the blog will know that I love a grisly, gory serial killer – the more blood splatter, the better!  But I do have a rather large soft spot for cozy crime.  As for Christie, show me a crime reader who doesn’t love her books!  How do you feel about cozy crime? Let me know in the comments.

Calamity in Camberwell by Alice Castle was published in the UK on 13th August 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

If you’re a crime author and you would like to take part in #damppebblestakeover then please contact me via damppebbles@gmail.com.  Having originally planned to run the feature over the Summer, I have now decided to make it a regular weekly blog post on a Friday but I need YOU to write something.  No #damppebblestakeover next week though as I’ll be on holiday and it’s my birthday (a rather significant one, at that!).

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acb.jpegBefore turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com

She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter |

#GuestPost: Gone to Ground by Rachel Amphlett (@RachelAmphlett) #KayHunter6 #GonetoGround

Gone to Ground Cover MEDIUM WEB“While attending a crime scene on the outskirts of Maidstone, DI Kay Hunter makes a shocking discovery.

The victim has been brutally cut to pieces, his identity unknown.

When more body parts start turning up in the Kentish countryside, Kay realises the disturbing truth – a serial killer is at large and must be stopped at all costs.

With no motive for the murders and a killer who has gone undetected until now, Kay and her team of detectives must work fast to calm a terrified local population.

When a third victim is found, her investigation grows even more complicated.

As she begins to expose a dark underbelly to the county town, Kay and her team are pulled into a web of jealousy and intrigue that, if left unchecked, will soon claim another life.”

It is my absolute pleasure to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog today to celebrate the publication of Gone to Ground; the sixth novel in her well respected and much-loved detective series.  I am, of course, talking about the wonderful Rachel Amphlett and her utterly compelling Kay Hunter series.  I love this series and will move mountains to make sure I read the latest release as soon as it’s available.  There aren’t many other series I can say that about!  I was thrilled to be able to share my review of Gone to Ground with you all on Sunday but if you missed it, here’s the link again (along with it’s five predecessors):  1. Scared to Death2. Will to Live3. One to Watch4. Hell to Pay5. Call to Arms and 6. Gone to Ground.

To celebrate the release of Gone to Ground I am delighted to welcome Rachel to damppebbles to talk to us about a killer’s motivations:

What might motivate a killer?

As I was writing book six in the Detective Kay Hunter series, Gone to Ground I realised halfway through that the person I thought was the murderer wasn’t, and another character came to light who had a lot more motivation to do the evil deeds I was uncovering.

Motivation is essential to a good police procedural. It doesn’t matter if they’re one of the good guys, or one of the bad guys. Everybody has motive for what they do.

It sounds so simple, but as people we’re a complicated mix of emotions and traits and it’s really important to me as a writer and reader that motives are believable.

Even characters who some might describe as “minor characters” have a motivation that drives them. That person who tells Kay a white lie to protect themselves or casts doubt on another aspect of the investigation to prevent a sordid part of their past being exposed – it’s all motivation.

My antagonist in Gone to Ground is motivated by revenge.

However, although I might start with revenge as a motive, I then delve into that a little further in order to develop the character and make that motivation believable.

Why does our killer seek revenge? What has been done to that character that someone has to die?

Meanwhile, my protagonist, Kay Hunter, is obviously motivated to catch the killer, but she’s also driven by the need to prove herself to her colleagues and to her superiors. She’s in a new role and juggling a lot of other tasks on top of her day-to-day duties and we see her motivations shift as the story unfolds.

I can’t wait to share Gone to Ground with you to see if you can spot the killer – these motivations paint some dark and twisted reasons why someone would be a murderer, and all of them are valid!

Excellent post, thanks so much Rachel.  I have to confess that I wasn’t able to spot the killer, despite having my eagle ‘crime fiction reader’ eyes on the hunt for the culprit from the opening pages!

Gone to Ground by Rachel Amphlett was published in the UK on 8th July 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook versions (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Rachel’s online bookstore | Goodreads |

about the author3

rachel-2016-2141Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Angela Marsons, Robert Bryndza, Ken Follett, and Stuart MacBride.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

Her novels are available in eBook, paperback and audiobook formats from worldwide retailers including Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play.

A keen traveller, Rachel holds both EU and Australian passports and can usually be found plotting her next trip two years in advance!

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Amazon Author Page |