#BookReview: WAKE by Shelley Burr @HodderBooks #WAKEBook #damppebbles

EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Invitation by A.M. Castle #TheInvitation #damppebbles

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Perfect for fans of Lucy Foley’s The Guest List and Agatha Christie.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Invitation by A.M. Castle. The Invitation is published today (that’s Thursday 27th May 2021) by HQ Digital in paperback format. I couldn’t resist this book when it popped up on my social media feed so I treated myself and purchased a copy straight away!

It’s the wedding of the century! Socialite and all-round media star, Rachel Cadogan, has married her beau, the young at heart Lord of the Manor, Ross Tregowan. To celebrate their nuptials and introduce Ross to Rachel’s oldest friends, the new Lady of the Manor invites Gita, Jane and Vicky (plus their children and spouses) to a lavish, no expense spared weekend at her brand new abode, Tregowan castle. The castle, situated on the Cornish coast and only accessible by a causeway twice a day, is the perfect opportunity for the friends to reconnect and unwind. But on arrival, tensions are high. Rachel seems to be going out of her way to cause upset and reveal long held secrets with no consideration of anyone else’s feelings. On the night of Rachel’s Halloween party, the lights go out suddenly. What greets the group when power is restored is both gruesome and shocking. One of the party has been murdered. Which can mean only one thing. Someone on the island is a murderer, and the fun has only just begun…

The Invitation is a very entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable book. I really enjoyed the set-up in the first half of the story. With Rachel’s well aimed little jabs here and there adding an unpredictability to proceedings. Watching as Rachel toyed with her guests. And toy she did! Only for her friends to roll their eyes on occasion and mutter ‘oh Rachel’ under their breath. It was eye-opening how far she was able to push them, all because of money and a dash of celebrity status. Out of the characters, Rachel was probably my favourite. Of course, with someone openly speaking long-hidden truths, it’s not long before the tension mounts and anger builds for the characters.  They discover secrets about friends they’ve known for years, people they trusted have deceived them. Which puts everyone in line to be the murderer. Who can they trust?

The isolation and seclusion the setting gives the book really ramps up the tension. The characters watch as the waves reach new breath-taking heights, whilst keeping a suspicious eye on those around them. I had a fair idea of whodunit but the author was able to make me doubt my choice throughout the second half of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a tense, closed room murder mystery with a great setting then The Invitation is the perfect fit. I loved the atmosphere the author portrays, the simmering undercurrent between the friends and the sense that nothing is quite as it first appears. A.M. Castle is a new author to me but I would gladly read more. Recommended.

The Invitation by A.M. Castle was published in the UK by HQ Digital on 27th May 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

A.M. CastleA. M. Castle’s latest twisty thriller, The Invitation, is already being compared to Agatha Christie and Lucy Foley: ‘Very cleverly written… genuinely jaw-dropping twists.’ ‘I loved it and look forward to A.M. Castle’s next work. This deserves to be on the bestseller list this year.’ ‘Very Agatha Christie.’ ‘One for fans of Lucy Foley.’

#BookReview: You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll @ViperBooks #YouHadItComing #damppebbles

“WOULD YOU SAVE THE MAN
WHO DESTROYED YOUR LIFE?

When paramedic Megan Lowe is called to the scene of an attempted murder, all she can do is try to save the victim. But as the man is lifted onto a stretcher, she realises she knows him. She despises him. Why should she save his life when he destroyed hers?

Jess Foster is on her way home when she receives a text from Megan. Once best friends, the two women haven’t been close for years, not since the night when they were just the teenage girls whom no-one believed; whose reputations were ruined. All Jess can think is, you had it coming.

Now Megan and Jess are at the centre of a murder investigation. But what secrets are they hiding? Can they trust one another? And who really is the victim?

Perfect for fans of C.L. Taylor, Lucy Foley and Lisa Hall, You Had It Coming is a thrilling tale of suspense and dark secrets.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll. You Had It Coming is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 13th May 2021) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of You Had It Coming but that has in no way influenced my review.

I couldn’t resist this book when I saw it pop up on NetGalley. That striking cover and the blurb grabbed my attention. I haven’t read any other books by this author before so I was excited to make a start.

Megan Lowe, an experienced paramedic, is called to attend a shooting. On arrival the victim, William Newson, is unconscious and bleeding out quickly. Megan and her partner, Lucas, do everything they can for their patient. It’s only when they’re loading him into the ambulance that Megan gets a really good look at the man whose life is hanging on by a thread. And recognises him as the one who ruined her life. Megan contacts Jess and shares the shocking news. She’s stunned to hear her ex-friend’s bitter, angry words. Surely she couldn’t have anything to do with William’s attack? Before long, both woman are thrown deep into a murder investigation where everyone is a suspect. Everyone had a motive. After all, William had it coming…

I really enjoyed You Had It Coming and devoured it in the space of a few days. The story is told from three view points: Megan, Jess and Detective Sergeant Bridget Kennedy. I particularly enjoyed hearing from Bridget about the ongoing, ever-widening search for the killer. Bridget came across as an intelligent, dedicated officer but she appeared a little out of her depth whilst trying to reduce the very large list of suspects. Only to add a few more names as new characters were introduced and new links were discovered. I thought the author did an excellent job of making Bridget seem very human. Every avenue has to be investigated to find the truth and Bridget did just that. I loved her determination and doggedness.

Megan and Jess were also very well-written characters. I could feel their pain as the past was once again dug up and gone over with a fine tooth comb. I empathised with both woman as they found themselves slap bang in the middle of a murder investigation as prime suspects. I wanted them both to be innocent but the author cleverly makes you doubt everyone. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold. I thought the author dealt sensitively with the subject matter and the far reaching devastation caused that night.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You Had It Coming is an intriguing mystery that hooked me in from the get-go. I loved the Australian setting, the characters were all multi-layered and interesting individuals and the plot kept me turning the pages. I was able to work out whodunit in the first half of the book but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment. The air of suspicion created by the author amongst family and friends is wonderful. Trust no one. I thoroughly enjoyed You Had It Coming and would happily read more. So much so, I’ve downloaded another of Carroll’s novels which I hope to make a start on soon. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of You Had It Coming. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll was published in the UK by Viper Books on 13th May 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

B.M. Carroll (also known as Ber Carroll) was born in Blarney, a small village in Ireland. The third child of six, reading was her favourite pastime (and still is!). Ber moved to Sydney in 1995 and spent her early career working in finance. Her work colleagues were speechless when she revealed that she had written a novel that was soon to be published. Ber now writes full-time and is the author of ten novels. Over the last few years, Ber’s writing has become darker and more suspenseful (probably reflecting her state of mind). Her most recent novels The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy, Who We Were, and You Had It Coming (May/June 2021) are published under B.M. Carroll.

You can find out more about Ber by visiting her website http://www.bercarroll.com
or by checking out her Facebook page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Appeal by Janice Hallett @ViperBooks #TheAppeal #damppebbles

the appeal“IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS
SOMEONE WAS MURDERED.

SOMEONE WENT TO PRISON.

AND EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.

CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists, and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the utterly captivating The Appeal by Janice Hallett. The Appeal is published by Viper Books today (that’s 14th January 2021) and is available in hardcover and digital formats, with the paperback to follow in the Summer. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Appeal but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early proof of the book.

The Appeal is quite a feat! Writing and publishing a book doesn’t strike me as a simple thing to do (more like a mammoth, complicated one) and I give massive kudos to anyone who achieves it. Authors, you have my everlasting respect. But to write THIS book…WOW! The Appeal is like nothing I’ve read before and, if the fascinating yet unusual format catches on, I don’t think another author will be able to achieve the heady heights of sheer brilliance Hallett has reached in this, her debut. It’s very early in the year to be saying this but, if you only listen to one of my book recommendations this year, please, please, please make it this one. Get yourself a copy of The Appeal.

Normally at this point in a damppebbles review I would give my take on the plot. However, The Appeal is a very different reading experience and everything you need to know is written in the blurb. I started this book without a clue what to expect. I hadn’t looked the book up online, I hadn’t read the back or the inside cover. And from the opening introduction, I was intrigued. A murder, you say? Someone possibly wrongly convicted? Sounds pretty ‘normal fare’ for us crime fiction readers so far, right? But then it starts to get really interesting. The book, the story, is told using emails, reports, messenger transcripts and other digital forms of communication. All of it. From start to finish. It’s a brilliant achievement and I take my hat off to the author. To tell such an intricate story with so much detail in this format must have taken one heck of a lot of work and planning. The cherry on the top is that you, the reader, are tasked with solving the case. The evidence is laid before you and you need to read between the lines, spot the hidden truths in amongst the recovered conversations. The Appeal is something very special and I devoured it.

The book is set around an amateur dramatics group called The Fairway Players. Quite early on we’re given a list of those who make up the Players, which made my heart sink a little as there are quite a few names (along with their ages and their relationship to other members of the group). My ageing brain isn’t as quick or as capable as it used to be. So at this point, I did something I don’t normally do. I put a page marker in my copy of the book so I could refer back to the list if I needed to. Including the list so early in the book is a masterstroke. It’s then repeated later on as well which I think really helped cement who everyone is. Before long I was reading the email conversations between Hallett’s wonderfully written characters quickly and with ease.

And what a group of characters they are! The author has created an absorbing character study that shows exactly how ‘human’ humans can be. Flawed, deceitful, selfish and secretive. Unendingly loyal and protective. The email exchanges between these people are both fascinating and uncomfortable at times. You see scenarios from different points of view. Situations are ever so slightly changed in their retelling so the author of the email looks a little bit better than they would have done otherwise. One character’s desperation is utterly cringeworthy and, oh my gosh, the way they speak to each other…. Well, I was astounded! I felt on edge reading these exchanges, I wanted to know more as it was clear we were cleverly being drip-fed information bit by bit. What was going on behind the scenes, what secrets were we not party to? I loved it. Everything about The Appeal worked for me.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I’ve barely scratched the surface of The Appeal in this review. I’ve not mentioned Roderick Tanner QC, Femi or Charlotte. I’ve not mentioned the fundraising drive to raise money for Poppy’s Appeal. I’ve not mentioned that there are no traditional chapters in this book (which I found a little mind bending until I got used to the format). And I’ve also not mentioned that you don’t find out who has been murdered until around two-thirds of the way through the book. Nor who has been put in prison for the crime.

The Appeal is a very clever, all-consuming novel which I struggled to put down. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about the characters. For the duration of my time with this book, I was 100% in its pages and now I’ve finished it, I feel a little bereft. For the record, I failed to work out whodunit. I spent a large proportion of the book hoping the author was actually going to tell us who the culprit was as I was flummoxed and if it was down to me, the appeal wouldn’t have been solved. I may not have solved the case but I had a few suspicions about a few other things and I was right about those so not all is lost. An absolutely outstanding piece of clever, brilliantly written crime fiction that deserves all the awards. I savoured every single moment I had with The Appeal. This is a book you need on your reading list. This is a book everyone is going to be talking about and oh boy, does it deserve it. Compelling and utterly irresistible. Highly recommended.

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

The Appeal by Janice Hallett was published in the UK by Viper Books on 14th January 2021 and is available in hardcover 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

janice hallettJanice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat, a psychological thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell. The Appeal is her first novel.

#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 |

about-the-author3

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: The Search Party by Simon Lelic @VikingBooksUK #TheSearchParty #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

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“Sixteen-year-old Sadie Saunders is missing.

Five friends set out into the woods to find her.

But they’re not just friends…

THEY’RE SUSPECTS.

You see, this was never a search party.

It’s a witch hunt.

And not everyone will make it home alive…

THE CHALK MAN meets THE HUNTING PARTY in this gripping story; witness four suspects as, alongside DI Fleet, you attempt to discover the truth about what happened to Sadie…

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my nineteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Search Party by Simon Lelic. The Search Party is published by Viking Books today (that’s 20th August 2020) and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Search Party but that has in no way influenced my review.

So I admit it, ‘The Chalk Man meets The Hunting Party…’ line sold this book to me before I had fully taken on what the book was about. Two of my very favourite books, the publisher was telling me, had conceived a book baby and it was The Search Party with its fantastically striking cover. I was sold and oh boy, I was excited to make a start.

Sadie Saunders is missing. Her friends, keen to be involved in the search for Sadie, want to help. But they’re told they’re too young. They’re told to stay at home and wait for news. So they decide to pack a few non-essential items (phone chargers for example 🤦) and head out to the woods for a few nights to look for Sadie. But they all have secrets. Things they’re keeping from one another. And one of the teenagers, Mason, is a little hot-headed. He’s Sadie’s boyfriend and he suspects one of the friends has something to do with Sadie going missing…

The book opens with a bang which immediately grabs your attention, puts you on the wrong foot and makes you start to ask questions. We’re then introduced to the absolutely brilliant DI Robin Fleet who was one of my very favourite things about this book. Fleet is in charge of putting the pieces together and working out not only what has happened to Sadie Saunders, but who is responsible for this latest tragedy. I loved Fleet. He’s flawed but not too flawed. Just a good, honest copper who struggles with the politics of policing and the restrictions put upon him by his current superior officer. I hope to see more of him in future books.

What’s interesting about this book is the way the author has presented the viewpoints of the teenagers who went into the woods that fateful day. It’s clear from the get-go that they’re recounting what happened to a police officer, but you only ever hear from the teenagers. The accounts are presented as monologues allowing each character to have their say and their moment in the spotlight. There’s every chance this approach is used in most of the books I read but this time, it felt different and new.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Search Party is an intricate, slow-burn mystery full of suspense which I found entertaining from start to finish. I should say that before reading this book, I had very recently finished another novel featuring a cast of moody teenagers which perhaps took the edge off of the book for me a little. However, the chapters focusing on the investigation with DI Fleet as their star, I really enjoyed. More Fleet please! Recommended.

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

The Search Party by Simon Lelic was published by Viking Books on 20th August 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Simon Lelic credit Justine StoddartSimon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

#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

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“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.