#BookReview: Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan @ZaffreBooks #CutToTheBone #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

cut to the bone“One Missing Girl. Two Million Suspects.

Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls.

And she’s missing . . .

But she’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely?

Until the video’s uploaded . . .

Ruby, in the dirt, pleading for her life.

Enter Detective Inspector Kate Riley; the Met’s rising star and the head of a new team of investigators with the best resources money can buy. Among them, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris, the poster boy for multiracial policing. But can Kate wholly trust him – and more importantly, can she trust herself around him?

As hysteria builds amongst the press and Ruby’s millions of fans, Kate and her team are under pressure to get results, and fast, but as they soon discover, the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much darker than anyone could have imagined.

And the videos keep coming . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my ninth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan. Cut to the Bone was published by Twenty7 on 14th July 2016 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cut to the Bone but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh my goodness, there is so much going on in this book which makes it a wild ride for the reader! And this is a debut, which is quite mind-blowing. Cut to the Bone didn’t have that tentative, first steps feel about it at all. Caan has obviously been perfecting his craft for some time and it really shows in this, his first novel.

Detective Inspector Kate Riley is called in the middle of the night to attend to a missing persons case. The young woman, a popular vlogger called Ruby Day, has only been missing a few hours but her parents are distraught. The call comes from Justin Hope, the Police Crime Commissioner for Westminster, and Kate can’t understand why her team who normally deal with the most heinous of crimes in London, are being involved. Then a video arrives which shows Ruby running for her life. Ruby is in terrible danger and it’s down to DI Riley and her elite team of investigators to find out where the vlogger is, before it’s too late…

The investigation into Ruby’s disappearance is great but what really made this a riveting read for me were the characters and the team dynamics. There are a number of rather repugnant, self-important people in this book who are rubbing alongside the determined, gutsy investigators. Special Operations Executive Unit Three is a no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object elite unit of investigators, headed up by slimy, career-driven, wannabe politician, Justin Hope. He made my skin crawl and I loved it! Reporting directly to Hope is Detective Inspector Kate Riley who, after leaving the US in a bid to escape a very personal threat, has her own problems at home. Initially, the reader isn’t told exactly what happened to Riley in her past to make her move to the UK, nor what her home situation is, but we’re given short, sharp glimpses which made me question what the heck was going on with her.

And then there’s DS Zain Harris who is cocky and arrogant but I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for him. Again, Harris has a traumatic past which is referred to often and given to the reader in dribs and drabs until you have the whole shocking picture. His loyalties don’t necessarily lie with DI Riley, he knowingly steps on the toes of his colleagues proving his tech far outshines theirs, but he proves himself to have a heart and will stop at nothing to solve the case. I wasn’t sure of him to start with but by the end of the book, I was a Harris fan!

The other members of the team felt a more cohesive unit but that’s not surprising because Harris is the new boy, out to prove himself. They’re a solid bunch of well fleshed out characters who each bring something interesting to the table. The plot is well thought out and takes you down numerous avenues of investigation before the team finally start to get somewhere. But that’s police work, right? Always searching for the means, motive and opportunity which will stick!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I really enjoyed Cut to the Bone and the time I spent with Riley and Harris. It’s a dark and edgy police procedural which shows the devastating effects of social media and obsession. Taking you places you won’t initially expect, this hard-hitting debut is one to add to the TBR if you’re a fan of crime fiction. Recommended.

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

Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan was published in the UK by Twenty7 on 14th July 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Alex Caan was born in Manchester, has spent over a decade working in information systems security for a number of government organisations, and is currently specialising in Terrorism Studies. A lifetime passion for writing was sparked by the encouraging words of an English teacher in school, and eventually led to Alex successfully completing an MA in Creative Writing and completing his first novel Cut to the Bone. The sequel, First to Die was published on 14th June 2018.

#BookReview: The Secret by Katerina Diamond @AvonBooksUK #TheSecret #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the secret“Can you keep a secret? Your life depends on it…

When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back – of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets?

As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter.

And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Secret by Katerina Diamond. The Secret is the second book in Diamond’s DS Imogen Grey series and was published in all formats by Avon Books on 20th October 2016. I received a free eARC of The Secret but that has in no way influenced my review.

I confess, I’m a terrible book blogger. I read The Teacher (the first book in the DS Grey series) in 2017 and despite really enjoying it, I completely failed to review it. I read it shortly before my first massive reading slump (I can assure you, it was NOT the cause) and then never went back to write down my thoughts. I do regret that, as this series feels elevated from many of the run of the mill police procedurals out there. Diamond has no fear. She’s quite happy to shock and stun her audience with her graphic descriptions and the acts of violence her characters carry out. Which, of course, I absolutely love. I’m a reader who doesn’t shy away from a more brutal crime fiction novel. In fact, I wish more authors were as fearless as Diamond is, and were prepared to push the situations their characters find themselves in a little more.

Having recently returned to work, DS Imogen Grey and her partner, DS Adrian Miles, are tasked with finding a missing woman, Bridget Reid. Bridget was last seen by a hapless bystander half-conscious on the bank of a river after being pursued by two men. Both Grey and Miles know that they’re against the clock and they need to find Bridget soon, before the unthinkable happens. But their investigation grinds to a halt and they struggle to find a direction. As they dig deeper, more and more horrifying secrets are unearthed. Can they find Bridget alive, before it’s too late…?

This book is so much darker than the cover leads you to believe, and I kinda like that. With its grisly opening and it’s fast-paced story, led by a strong and gutsy female lead, it’s hard to not get sucked into this book from the get-go. Whether you’ll end up liking Detective Grey is another matter altogether but I think I’m certainly warming to her. One of the things I remember from reading the first book – The Teacher – was that I liked DS Adrian Miles more than Grey. But the more I get to know this character, the more I like what she’s about.

The story is multi-layered with lots going on to keep your interest. Everybody has a secret to some degree in this novel. There are chapters set in the present which follow the current investigation in Exeter with DS Grey and DS Miles. Then there are chapters set in the past – two years previous – which follow DS Grey and another officer, DS Sam Brown, on a different investigation in Plymouth. The reader discovers so much about Imogen and her past in this book, which I really enjoyed. Then there are some quite harrowing chapters from a young boy throughout the years who is unnamed but we get to follow him as his domineering and violent father carries out his despicable plans.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would but it’s not for the squeamish. There are some pretty grisly scenes in The Secret which I loved! The constant shift from the past to the present was a little disorientating at times, particularly if I had put the book down for a few hours before returning to it. But sitting here cogitating on the novel as a whole, I really enjoyed it and have since been able to piece the different aspects together. All in all, a very entertaining read and I really look forward to catching up with Grey and Miles again soon. Recommended.

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

The Secret by Katerina Diamond was published in the UK by Avon Books on 20th October 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads | Book Depository |

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Katerina DiamondKaterina is the author of the Sunday Times Best Selling Exeter based crime thriller series – starting with ‘The Teacher’ and followed by The Secret, The Angel, The Promise and Truth or Die. Katerina is currently working on her seventh novel which is a standalone.

Katerina also runs the facebook book group CRIME SUSPECT with several other crime authors.

Katerina currently lives in East Kent. Katerina was born in Weston-super-Mare and has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Katerina watches way too much TV.

#BookReview: Written in Bones by James Oswald @PenguinUKBooks #WritteninBones #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

written in bonesInspector McLean returns in the seventh instalment of James Oswald’s gritty, compelling crime series, for his most mysterious murder investigation yet . . .

The roots of murder run deep . . .

When a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my third 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Written in Bones by James Oswald. Written in Bones was published by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Written in Bones but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh the perils of NetGalley. Imagine the scene. Wherever you look, crime fiction readers are raving about an author and your FOMO seriously kicks in. Everywhere I looked on social media, the name James Oswald was being mentioned. The need to read a book by Oswald went from being ‘vaguely intrigued’ to ‘epically strong’, so I toddled off to NG and requested Written in Bones. Only to discover that it’s the seventh book in the DI Tony McLean series 🤦. Book seven. Now, I don’t mind going into a series partway through, but knowing I had missed out on six earlier books had me worried. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with DI McLean and team, but I did feel a little lost at times. If you’re coming to this series for the first time, then I would strongly suggest that you start at the beginning as I felt I struggled a little not knowing the history of these characters.

McLean is called to a crime scene in The Meadows and what he finds is like nothing he’s seen before. An ex-police officer with a notorious past is found dead in a tree. By the looks of things, Bill Chalmers was dropped from a great height. The 10-year-old boy who discovered the body tells of hearing a dragon whilst out walking his dog. But surely that can’t be the case, can it…? McLean is at a loss. Taking a microscope to Chalmers’ colourful life, they struggle to find why anyone would want him dead and in such an elaborate fashion to boot! Staff shortages, the sudden retreat of many of the senior officers and an eye witness account of a mythical beast, all muddy the waters. How far does McLean have to dig into the past to discover what really happened to Bill Chalmers and more importantly, why…?

I really liked DI Tony McLean. I read a lot of crime fiction, particularly police procedurals, and I enjoy it when an author gives their lead detective a different spin. McLean’s wealth and his determination to get the job done at any cost made him a memorable character. He doesn’t need to keep the bosses onside, and does whatever it takes and upsets whoever he needs to, to get the job done. I can see why this is such a popular series and why Oswald is a much-admired writer. I absolutely loved the cold, snowy setting of Edinburgh and could easily picture the scene as McLean drove through the streets in his vintage Alfa. I liked the way the treacherous weather hampered the investigation. It was almost a character in itself!

I found the plot a little confusing but I think that’s because there are quite a few key characters at play and I was meeting them for the first time. Had I had some experience or knowledge of the cast, then perhaps I would have been able to get to grips with the plot a little quicker. Rather than having to refer to my notes a lot of the time to remind myself who was who and what I knew about them up until that point.

Would I recommend this book? Sort of. I would recommend that you start at the beginning of the series with Natural Causes and work your way up to Written in Bones. There’s a lot of pressure on authors to make sure each of their books ‘stand alone’ but I feel there’s been too much water under the bridge for that to be the case with this book. I came into Written in Bones expecting to not fully understand all of the references to previous cases and to not be familiar with the characters. That’s what you get when you start a series partway through. But I felt I had been left out of the cool group at school, a little on the periphery and watching the action from afar. Not really understanding exactly what was going on. I loved Oswald’s writing, his characters and his bitterly cold Edinburgh, and would happily (gladly!) read more. Just in the right order this time.

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

Written in Bones by James Oswald was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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James OswaldJames Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries. The first two of these, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. Set in an Edinburgh not so different to the one we all know, Detective Inspector Tony McLean is the unlucky policeman who can see beneath the surface of ordinary criminal life to the dark, menacing evil that lurks beneath.

He has also introduced the world to Detective Constable Constance ‘Con’ Fairchild, whose first outing was in the acclaimed No Time To Cry.

As J D Oswald, James has also written a classic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, it follows the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. The whole series is now available in print, ebook and audio formats.

James has pursued a varied career – from Wine Merchant to International Carriage Driving Course Builder via Call Centre Operative and professional Sheep Shit Sampler (true). He moved out of the caravan when Storm Gertrude blew the Dutch barn down on top of it, and now lives in a proper house with three dogs, two cats and a long-suffering partner. He farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, writes disturbing fiction by night.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan (@OMJRYAN1) #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #DeadlyWaters #damppebbles

2019-1396 OMJ Ryan b03“Several young women have recently drowned in Manchester’s vast network of canals. A coincidence? Or something more sinister?

When star detective DCI Jane Phillips begins to investigate, her finely tuned instinct tells her these are no accidents. And when she discovers that each of the drowned women has a mysterious circular bruise on the back of her neck, Phillips is sure of it — she’s up against a very clever serial killer.

But how are the victims being chosen? And who will be next?

With the body count rising, Phillips and her team find themselves in a fight to the death with a shadowy figure who always seems to be one step ahead.

Can Phillips stop the killer before the next victim dies? Or will she herself become an offering to Manchester’s deadly waters?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I’m handing the keys over to my trusty guest reviewer, Ryan, today and he’s going to share his thoughts on Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan as part of the blog tour. Ryan received a free eARC of Deadly Waters but that has in no way influenced his review.

Drowning in an ice cold canal is not how many would choose to end their lives and DCI Jane Phillips has that gut feeling that there is more to this than it may seem.  This is despite the view of her superior officer and others on the force wanting to dismiss the crimes, and DCI Phillips soon realises she has a race against time before the next victim is found or her supervisor stops the investigation.

This was my first OMJ Ryan read and I really enjoyed it. The lead characters and the team (Jones, Bovalino and Entwistle) are well drawn. Small mention is made of the team’s background but their interactions and easy to recognise traits make it easy to get to know them. DCI Jane Phillips, however, is much more nuanced. Mentions are made of an event in her personal history and a more conflicted character with nerves, determination and a host of personal dilemmas appears as the book progresses. The tension with her superior officer made an intriguing side plot, presenting the team with a ticking time bomb of whether they would be allowed to continue the investigation.

The plot is interesting. When one body is found in the canal with a circular bruise on the back of her neck, no-one is sure what to think. But when a second appears suspicions are raised, and it soon becomes clear the body count is only going to increase. At this stage we get to meet the murderer. Not in name, but taking the role of narrator for the murders. We get to hear more about their motive and method before flicking back to see an investigation struggling to find a connection, let alone a solid lead. With both sides trying to work out who is next – for very different reasons!

Deadly Waters is well paced, mixing the drama of the murder and fast police responses with the growing frustration of an investigation going nowhere. Some promising avenues soon become dead ends and the truth that they are uncovering may not be one they want to hear.

This is book two in the series and whilst references were made to book one, there is nothing to stop you reading this as a standalone. In fact, I am now very tempted to go back and find out more about that adventure!

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a UK based crime thriller, and even without reading it, I would suggest adding the first book, Deadly Silence, to your TBR too! DCI Phillips is a character that many will love and the book feels ripe for screen adaption. Excellent police characters mixed with a dark and self-righteous murderer who is in a hurry to take more lives. A great read.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Deadly Waters. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 15th March 2020 and is available in paperback 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.ukamazon.com |  Goodreads |

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OMJ RyanHailing from Yorkshire, OMJ Ryan worked in radio and entertainment for over twenty years, collaborating with household names and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards.

In 2018 he followed his passion to become a full-time novelist, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced thrillers by the pool, on their commute – or those rare moments of downtime before bed. Owen’s mission is to entertain from the first page to the last. DEADLY WATERS will be his third novel published with Inkubator Books.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham (@AlisonBelsham) @TrapezeBooks #TheTattooThief

the tattoo thief cover.jpg“A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…

When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Tattoo Thief blog tour.  The Tattoo Thief is the debut novel from Alison Belsham and was published in paperback by Trapeze Books on 20th September 2018.  It is also one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year after I heard about it from fellow bloggers and bookish folk at Harrogate Crime Festival last year.  No pressure, eh?

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you will know that I like my reads to err on the darker side of fiction.  In fact, I would go as far as saying, the darker – the better, for me!  So I was immediately drawn to this book following the mention of ‘flaying’ in the blurb.  But there was more to it than that.  Yes, it sounded a little on the gruesome side but it is also about something that I find utterly fascinating.  Tattoos.  Now, I don’t have any tattoos, nor am I brave enough to go out and get one.  But I can’t help but be intrigued and find myself casually gazing at tattooed folk from afar, trying to work out what designs they’ve had permanently inked onto their bodies.  So in other words, this book absolutely sang out to me.

The Tattoo Thief is an unexpected, somewhat surprising mix.  Some parts were dripping in beautifully vivid descriptions of blood-soaked gore, the pain the victim suffers, the process the killer goes through flaying their victim and what happens next (read the book to find out what this is).  And then you have DI Francis Sullivan, a young DI in his late twenties who is purer than the driven snow.  A devout Catholic, a stickler for the rules and a complete goody-two-shoes who is tasked with investigating the terrifying spate of horrific murders to hit Brighton.  Out of his depth, much?  You bet he is.  Especially as his more senior and experienced DS is nipping at his heels.  Looking for the moment when he can knock DI Francis Sullivan from his wobbly perch and take his DI crown.  But I kind of liked that; a bit of ying and yang, a touch of light and dark.  It worked for me.

This was an enjoyable read but I found the characters hard to like (particularly DCI Bradshaw who is an @rse and unbelievably reckless!).  Even the unlucky Marni Mullins was difficult to warm to, although I really wanted to like her.  It’s not often that I come across a fellow diabetic in the novels I read so that did help…sort of.  Maybe I read too much crime fiction but on a number of occasions I wanted to shake Marni hard and scream ‘you’re going to do WHAT??’ in her face.  Crime fiction 101, lady!

Please don’t get me wrong.  This is a wonderful debut and a very gratifying read.  I’m also very much looking forward to Belsham’s next release which is published in 2019!  I absolutely love the idea behind this book.  This is the type of storyline I adore and Belsham has done a great job of bringing it to fruition.  I just found the twists a little obvious (but then I was looking for them because that’s the kind of annoying thing I do, grrrr!).

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, absolutely.  I am so pleased I read The Tattoo Thief.  It’s a wonderful debut, and I really enjoyed the light vs dark aspect (but I will always want it to be darker. It’s fine, I know I’m weird).  If you’re a little squeamish or nervous about graphic crime novels then this may not be the book for you (although I dare you to give it a go!).  An absolutely fascinating read.  Recommended.

Four out of five stars.

The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 20th September 2018 and is available on 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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alison belsham.jpgAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author image and biog © http://www.alisonbelsham.com/

 

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac (@JaneIsaacAuthor) #AfterHesGone #DCBethChamberlain

afterhesgone-isaac-ebookweb.jpg“The safety catch on the Glock snapped as it was released. Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve. Listened to the words drip from his mouth, ‘Right. Let’s begin, shall we?’

When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them.

As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets.

Even the dead…”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and my stop on the After He’s Gone blog tour.  After He’s Gone is the first book in a new series written by established crime writer, Jane Isaac.  I am such a fan of Jane Isaac’s books and have featured the last two novels in the DI Will Jackman series on the blog; Beneath the Ashes and The Lies Within.  When I heard Jane was due to release the first book in a brand new, self-published series featuring a new detective, in the form of DC Beth Chamberlain, I couldn’t wait to read it!

After He’s Gone opens with a terrifying prologue, shortly followed by a shocking first chapter guaranteed to get the heart rate up!  From that point forward I was hooked and wanted to know absolutely everything that was happening to these normal sounding people and of course, why it was happening.  Luckily we readers have the wonderful DC Beth Chamberlain on our side, persistently poking at the mysterious half-truths and secrets in an attempt to solve a somewhat bewildering case for Northampton Police Force.  But the more she pokes, the more confusing things become.  Can Beth manage to piece together the evidence before it’s too late and the killer strikes again…

I really liked Beth.  She’s probably less angst-ridden than many of the detectives I normally read about but it’s nice to have a break from my usual damaged souls, in a literary sense.  Her secret ‘friends with benefits’ agreement with a senior officer gave her a bit of an edge, particularly as he’s keen for more but Beth won’t admit to how she feels.  I’m not one for love’n’stuff in my crime novels but I can see this relationship bringing friction to a normally harmonious working relationship.  I look forward to seeing where Isaac takes this storyline in future novels.

Would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  It’s a great start to what promises to be a brilliant new crime series featuring Family Liaison Officer DC Beth Chamberlain.  I found myself drawn into the story from the get-go, brilliantly written and skillfully plotted by a talented author.  I managed to read After He’s Gone in just over a day which is very quick for me.  Testament to the fact that I struggled to put it down.  I’m excited about the future, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next Beth Chamberlain novel.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of After He’s Gone.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac was published in the UK on 15th June 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links (except the Universal Link) are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Universal Link |

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jane-isaac-photoJane Isaac lives with her detective husband (very helpful for research!) and her daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.

After He’s Gone is Jane’s sixth novel and the first in a new series featuring Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain. The second DC Beth Chamberlain novel will be released later in 2018.

Author LinksWebsite | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge @MichaelJBooks #DIHelenGrace #HideandSeek #20BooksofSummer

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“Prison is no place for a detective
Helen Grace was one of the country’s best police investigators.
Now she’s behind bars with the killers she caught.

Framed for murder
She knows there is only way out:
stay alive until her trial and somehow prove her innocence.

Locked up with a killer
But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door,
Helen fears her days are numbered.

A murderer is on the loose.  And she must find them.  Before she’s next . . .”

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog you may be aware that I am a MASSIVE fan of a strong, kick-ass female lead character. Particularly police officers; senior female coppers are one of my favourite hooks when it comes to crime fiction. So when I decided to take on the 20 Books of Summer challenge it seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up with a few of my favourite detectives and with a number of series that I have unfortunately unwittingly fallen behind on.

DI Helen Grace has always been a firm favourite of mine. Hide and Seek is the sixth book in the DI Helen Grace series and my new favourite. Despite reading book five in the series, Little Boy Blue over two years ago, the plot and that breathtaking ending have been playing on my mind. Yes, it’s true, I have spent the last two years wondering about the general health and well-being of a fictional character! Book blogger problems taken to a whole new level, maybe?!

If you’re new to this series let me tell you, it is incredibly difficult to start this review as anything I say, anything I hint at could be (is) a massive spoiler regarding a previous book (the massive spoiler is also mentioned in the blurb so don’t look 🙈)! I will be as vague as possible and hope you don’t mind. Helen Grace finds herself somewhere no copper wants to be, in an environment as hostile as they come. I could make a couple of witty puns about a fall from ‘Grace’ but I won’t torture you, dear reader. I have been champing at the bit to find out what was going to happen to our battered and bruised hero and all I can say is wow, just WOW! I loved the environment Arlidge has immersed his lead character in, I really enjoyed the motley cast of characters she met on her journey into the pits of Hell and I’m sorry, I’m going to say it, I loved Helen’s fall from ‘Grace’, dangit!

Whilst Helen is otherwise engaged, her right-hand woman the tenacious DS Charlie Brooks, is out trying to right a few wrongs. The two plots run seamlessly alongside one another and I was compelled to keep turning the pages, flitting between the two investigations at breakneck speed. I had a fair idea of whodunit from early on in the book but I was completely wrong. The author has added some very believable red herrings which I fell for; hook, line and sinker.

Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s true – this is my favourite DI Helen Grace adventure so far. However, I’m not sure this book will work all that well as a standalone. There is a heck of a lot of history that won’t necessarily make sense to readers starting with Hide and Seek. My advice would be to start at the beginning and get to know Helen Grace from book one. I guarantee you will fall head over heels in love with her, just like I did. Oh, and don’t read the blurb. It gives far too much away in my opinion 😉

Four and a half stars out of five.

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Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 29th December 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

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M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including the prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge also pilots original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audio exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a Number One bestseller.

His first thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek, and Love Me Not.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

Author image and bio © https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/m-j-arlidge/96806/

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin (@JackieMBaldwin1) @KillerReads @LoveBooksGroup #PerfectDead

Perfect Dead - high-res - Copy (1).jpg“Each murder brings him one step closer to the perfect death.

Ex-priest, DI Farrell is called on to investigate a gruesome death in rural Scotland. All evidence points to suicide, except for one loose end: every light in the cottage was switched off. Why would he kill himself in the dark?

The question sparks a murder investigation that leads to the mysterious Ivy House, home of ‘The Collective,’ a sinister commune of artists who will do anything to keep their twisted secrets hidden.

And when the remains of a young girl are uncovered on a barren stretch of coastline, Farrell realises that there is something rotten in this tight-knit community. Now he must track down a ruthless killer before another person dies, this time much closer to home…”

I am thrilled to be one of two blogs kicking off the Perfect Dead blog tour today.  Perfect Dead is the second book in the DI Frank Farrell series written by Jackie Baldwin and it’s published by Killer Reads in eBook TODAY!  A very happy publication day to Jackie and the Killer Reads team.

I was a huge fan of Baldwin’s first DI Farrell book, Dead Man’s Prayer.  So much so, that it featured on my books of 2016 list.  Which means that I’ve been waiting for the release of Perfect Dead and Frank’s second outing with bated breath.  For those new to this series our protagonist is DI Frank Farrell, an ex-priest turned Detective Inspector in the Dumfries and Galloway area of Scotland.  Frank is conflicted as he doesn’t really know where his heart truly lies; is he destined to hunt the seedy criminals and lowlifes of the lowland or does he have a much higher, spiritual calling?  What I love most about Frank Farrell is that he is unlike any of the other detectives I tend to read about.  They are more often than not addiction driven, tortured souls but Frank, with his past in the Church, isn’t.  He fascinates me.

I was also delighted to see DC Mhairi McLeod make a welcome return to proceedings.  Her intelligent insight and her wonderfully feisty attitude really added to the story for me this time around.  I liked her character in the first book but I felt she really came to life in Perfect Dead, often leaving DI Farrell in the shadows.

When Frank and Mhairi are called to a suicide in Kirkcudbright something just doesn’t feel right.  Gut instinct and a good investigative brain mean that before long they are treating the artist’s death as suspicious.  The investigation leads to ‘The Collective’s door, a group of uninhibited ‘invite only’ artists who keep themselves to themselves and their secrets well and truly hidden.  Frank’s suspicious suicide was once part of ‘The Collective’ flock, so it’s only natural that he starts asking questions.  But that’s only the beginning.  When the remains of a young woman, missing for several years is discovered nearby, all roads lead to ‘The Collective’.

I really enjoyed how there were several plot threads intricately woven throughout the story and the way the author managed to keep the investigations separate, to a point.  Parts of the story I found a little predictable but then I just can’t help playing amateur detective whilst reading detective fiction (any fiction!).  I was looking for clues from the moment I started to read which is very normal for me.  It certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.  Although I had guessed ‘whodunit’ I really did love the conclusion of Perfect Dead.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I love how Jackie Baldwin writes and her characters are wonderfully unique.  I just can’t help myself when it comes to DI Frank Farrell, there’s something so appealing about him that I will read this series until the author decides she has had enough!  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the team in action again and I can’t wait to see what Baldwin has in store for us next.  A delightfully intricate and enjoyable novel.

Four out of five stars.

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

Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 15th June 2018 and is available in eBook format, with the paperback to follow in August (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

Perfect Dead Blog Tour graphic final

 

about the author3

Jackie_02_by_Kim_AyresJackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September 2016. The second in the series, Perfect Dead was published on 15th June 2018. For most of her working life, she has been a solicitor specialising in Family and Criminal Law. However, she now practices in Dumfries as a hypnotherapist which is where her novels are set. Married, with two grown-up children, she has filled her empty nest with Golden Retrievers. She can often be found in a forest walking the dogs, covered in mud and with twigs in her hair.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven (@MWCravenUK) @LittleBrownUK #ThePuppetShow #WashingtonPoe

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“Welcome to the Puppet Show . . .

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …”

A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book called Body Breaker written by Mike Craven (that’s Mike Craven as in M.W. Craven, if you were wondering what odd tangent I was meandering off at!), and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. I pretty much fell in love with Craven’s protagonist, DI Avison Fluke. Then I heard Mike was about to release a new book called The Puppet Show, featuring a brand new detective with a brand new publisher (to Craven, that is). Now I openly admit, I was intrigued. After all, what crime fiction fan wouldn’t be? Particularly when I heard the main character of The Puppet Show is called Washington Poe (what a name! Where does this author get inspiration from for his character’s names? He appears to err on the unusual which is a rather splendid thing IMHO). Then, as if by magic (I pressed a button on NetGalley) a copy of The Puppet Show arrived on my Kindle and the deal was sealed. Washington Poe and I were destined to meet…

And truth be told, I flipping love him as much as I love DI Fluke. Craven certainly knows how to write and develop a character to the point where they jump off the page at the reader. I was smitten from early on; particularly as we meet Poe after he has shunned modern life and is living with his loyal pet dog, Edgar, in a semi-converted shepherd’s croft in the middle of nowhere (for ‘nowhere’ read Cumbria or the Lake District! Please don’t hurt me Cumbrians, it does sound pretty vast, lonely and desolate from Craven’s illustrative descriptions and I’ve never visited 😉). Suspended from work following his last (bodged) case and awaiting the result of an internal investigation and an IPCC inquiry, Poe has pretty much decided that his past is very much behind him and that his future lies in Herdwick Croft with Edgar, and the sheep. But that was before Cumbria’s latest serial killer, The Immolation Man made matters personal. Whether he wants to or not, Poe must return to the Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) and to a case that could easily be the death of him.

I have a bit of a thing for serial killer novels. They’re my favourite, particularly if they are a smidge on the gory side as well (which this book is). I also thoroughly enjoy books which make you think the plot is heading one way and then totally flips things over and makes you gasp in surprise when you end up somewhere you didn’t expect (which again, this book did). Another thing I love is a cast of well-written, individual, stand out characters who all add something to the story (yup, that’s The Puppet Show). I loved this book.

As I’ve mentioned Washington Poe’s supporting cast it would be rude to ignore them. First and foremost, Tilly Bradshaw is a shining star and will appeal to nerds far and wide. Her intelligence and her awkwardness are a delight to read and I hope she makes future appearances with Poe as her sidekick! Beleaguered DI Stephanie Flynn is now her ex-bosses boss (!) which makes things somewhat tricky between her and Poe at times. He’s a little reckless and likes to follow the evidence anywhere, whereas Flynn likes to play by the book. I would LOVE to read a prequel to The Puppet Show and see the dynamic between the two of them before Poe was demoted from DI to DS and Flynn was promoted. Not dropping any hints here, Mike…

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, if you can stomach a drop of blood or a pool of melted human fat (OK, it is a little grisly in places and you may need a slightly stronger stomach than I’ve alluded to in this paragraph, but for me I loved the gruesome touches to this book. Plus the author provides a wealth of information about burns and the effect of fire on a human body) then you will enjoy this well-written, engrossing crime thriller. I struggled to put it down and I’m left wanting more Washington Poe and more Tilly Bradshaw. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 7th June 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

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Although Mike Craven was born in Cumbria in 1968, he grew up in the North East, going to the same school as Newcastle and England centre-forward, Alan Shearer, before running away to join the army. He believes, but has no proof, that his little sister moved into his bedroom before the train had even left the station. He trained for two years as an armourer (that’s gunsmith to you and I) before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and will be out on 11th June, published by Caffeine Nights. His collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything, is out now.

In March 2017 Mike signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown for his new Washington Poe series. The first book, The Puppet Show, will be released in hardback under his new name, M .W. Craven, in June 2018.

In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He wanted to call him Gimli but was told to grow up. He lives in Carlisle where he tries to leave the house as little as possible and gets annoyed by people who say “it’s too cold to snow” and “watch that swan, its wings can break your arm”.

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

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

I am so excited, bookish friends!  Today I have a treat in store for you.  If you’re a regular damppebbles visitor then you will know how much I love the Detective Kay Hunter series written by the immensely talented Rachel Amphlett.  Well, today the cover and blurb of book six in the series is being released to the world.  It’s called Gone to Ground and will be published worldwide on Sunday 8th July, eek!

So without further ado, here is the blurb:

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.

Oh, I do love a dismembered body (in a fictional sense of course, otherwise that would be just plain weird!).  I cannot wait to read this book and other more urgent reads may be put aside in the favour of it, but don’t tell anyone!  Shhhhh…

Here are my reviews of the first five books in the series (in order):
Scared to Death | Will to Live | One to Watch | Hell to Pay | Call to Arms |

If you haven’t had the pleasure of discovering this series yet then I urge you to get a wriggle on!

I won’t make you wait any longer.  Here is the cover for Gone to Ground, book 6 in the Kay Hunter series:

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Taddah! Isn’t it gorgeous?!  I love it and think it’s my favourite so far.  Particularly as there’s this nifty GIF too which I can’t stop watching.  I do love a book cover GIF.

Rachel Amphlett Gone to Ground Cover Teaser

Gone to Ground by Rachel Amphlett will be published in the UK on 8th July and will available in paperback, eBook and audio formats so get your pre-order in now! (Please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

AuthorRachel Amphlett is the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the new Detective Kay Hunter crime thriller series, as well as a number of standalone crime thrillers.

Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel’s novels appeal to a worldwide audience, and have been compared to Robert Ludlum, Lee Child and Michael Crichton.

She is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold, being sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint in 2014.

An advocate for knowledge within the publishing industry, Rachel is always happy to share her experiences to a wider audience through her blogging and speaking engagements.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |