#BookReview: Silent Victim by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #SilentVictim #damppebbles

“He took her voice
She took it back

A CENSURED DETECTIVE WITH NO LEADS

DCI Matilda Darke and her team have been restricted under special measures after a series of calamitous scandals nearly brought down the South Yorkshire police force.

A BRUTAL ATTACK WITH NO WITNESSES

Now Matilda is on the trail of another murderer, an expert in avoiding detection with no obvious motive but one obvious method.

A DEPRAVED KILLER WHO LEAVES NO TRACES

When his latest victim survives the attack despite her vocal cords being severed, Matilda is more convinced than ever of the guilt of her key suspect. If only she had a way to prove it…

Silent Victim is an unputdownable crime thriller with twists that will make your jaw drop – perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Ann Cleeves.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Silent Victim by Michael Wood. Silent Victim is the tenth book in the DCI Matilda Darke series and is published by One More Chapter in digital format today (that’s Friday 28th October 2022) with the paperback and audiobook to follow in November. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Silent Victim but that has in no way influenced my review.

Regular visitors to the blog will know that crime fiction is by far my favourite genre. I love me a police procedural series with relatable characters, gripping investigations and a few unexpected twists and turns thrown in along the way. Plus, of course, those perfectly placed red herrings to keep the reader guessing. One of the best series out there for fans of detective fiction at the moment is the DCI Matilda Darke series. Darke and her team have been through a hell of a lot in recent years. More than most, I think it would be fair to say. But still, they press on with an unfaltering determination to protect Sheffield, no matter what it takes and no matter what hurdles are put in their way. I am a HUGE fan of this series and I count down the days until the latest instalment hits the shelves. Silent Victim is the tenth book and a cracking addition to a superb, eminently readable series.

What I will say is that this is a series best read in order as so much has happened to the team in the last three or four books that to appreciate the long-running storylines (and there are several) it is best to start with an earlier book. Perhaps book six, or why not go the whole hog and start with the first book. By starting with an earlier book, it gives the reader a chance to fully understand and witness the growth of these characters. There’s a familiarity and closeness between certain members of the cast and it’s a joy to experience their quiet moments. There’s also a lot of humour and warmth, which by starting the series with a later book, I think the reader can easily miss or gloss over. Anyway, enough of the light and fluffy. This is not a light and fluffy book, but I do think it’s important to appreciate the long journey these characters have been on together.

A serial killer and rapist is targeting women in Sheffield. His latest victim is 14-year-old Tilly Hall who miraculously survives the attack, although not in one piece. The killer cuts her throat (no light and fluffy here, no siree!) severing her vocal cords. Tilly wakes in hospital with no voice and hazy memories of what happened to her. DCI Matilda Darke is called back to work following the events of the last book to hunt down the sadistic killer and make sure his reign of terror comes to an abrupt end. With no clues, no discernible motive and very little support from the top, Matilda and her diminished team are in a race against time to find a killer who is escalating with each new attack. Silent Victim is a gripping, compelling read full of everything I love about Michael Wood’s books and I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of it. The plot is well paced, the characters are perfection, there are lighter moments to counteract the darkness and I was on the edge of my seat as the unnerving finale played out before my eyes.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Silent Victim is a thrilling addition to a superb series and I cannot wait to return to Sheffield next year when the 11th book, Below Ground, is published. The author is never afraid to put his characters through the wringer and from the way Silent Victim ended, there may be trouble ahead for Matilda and the team. I will reiterate though that this is a series best read and enjoyed in order. Get to know the characters, the relationships and what motivates them as individuals as well as a team. It’s a series very much worth investing in. There are always unexpected twists and turns along the way and as a crime fiction fan, these books tick all the boxes for me. Read them. You won’t regret it. Highly recommended.

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

Silent Victim by Michael Wood was published by One More Chapter in the UK on 28th October 2022 and is available in digital format with the paperback and audio to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

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

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

#BookReview: The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser (translated by Sarah Death) @MantleBooks #TheAxeWoman #damppebbles

“Sweden 2012. When Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti returns to work after a terrible personal tragedy his boss asks him to investigate a cold case, hoping to ease him back gently into his police duties.

Five years previously a shy electrician, Arnold Morinder, disappeared from the face of the earth, the only clue his blue moped abandoned in a nearby swamp. At the time his partner, Ellen Bjarnebo, claimed that Arnold had probably travelled to Norway never to return. But Ellen is one of Sweden’s most notorious killers, having served eleven years in prison after killing her abusive first husband and dismembering his body with an axe. And when Barbarotti seeks to interview Ellen in relation to Arnold’s disappearance she is nowhere to be found . . .

But without a body and no chance of interviewing his prime suspect Barbarotti must use all the ingenuity at his disposal to make headway in the case. Still struggling with his personal demons, Barbarotti seeks solace from God, and the support of his colleague, Eva Backman. And as he finally begins to track down his suspect and the cold case begins to thaw, Barbarotti realizes that nothing about Ellen Bjarnebo can be taken for granted . . .

The Axe Woman is the fifth and final Inspector Barbarotti novel from bestselling author Håkan Nesser.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser (translated by Sarah Death). The Axe Woman was published by Mantle Books on 1st September 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Axe Woman but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Chloe at Mantle Books for sending me a finished copy.

As a fairly avid reader of crime fiction I have a number of rules when choosing a book. The biggest one being (and this is a lesson learnt through time and experience) when reading serialised detective fiction always, ALWAYS start at the beginning with the first book. Never, NEVER go into a series part-way through. But there are occasions when the look and the sound of the book are just too tempting, and it becomes almost impossible to resist. Which is what happened when The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser landed on my radar. Despite being the fifth (and final!) book in the series, I couldn’t let this one pass me by, so I shoved the rules to one side and got stuck into this excellent novel as soon as it arrived at damppebbles HQ.

Inspector Gunnar Barbarotti returns to work following a personal tragedy only for his senior officer to ask him to investigate a five-year-old cold case. It feels to Barbarotti as though he’s been given ‘busy work’. Something to test whether he’s fit to return to the force, a task to gently ease him back in before being given a more challenging case. But he can’t be sure of Asunander’s motives so decides to investigate the disappearance of Arnold Morinder to the best of his ability. Morinder disappeared from the town of Kymlinge, Sweden without a trace in August 2007. Reported missing three days later by his partner Ellen Bjarnebo, no trace of Morinder (apart from his discarded blue moped) was ever found. But the name Ellen Bjarnebo is well known to the local police. Ellen Bjarnebo, or Helgesson as she was previously known, is the notorious Axe Woman of Little Burma. A woman who twenty years ago killed her husband and took an axe to his body to hide the evidence. Barbarotti is determined to track the elusive Axe Woman of Little Burma down and get to the bottom of what happened to Morinder. Who really is Ellen Bjarnebo, why did she kill her first husband in such a brutal manner and what does she know about the disappearance of Arnold Morinder…?

The Axe Woman is a masterfully written and very compelling piece of crime fiction which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was initially a little concerned about reading the fifth book in a series, despite being strongly drawn to this one, but at the very start of the novel a tragedy befalls Barbarotti and, despite having never read any of the previous books, I could feel the character had been signigicantly altered. This isn’t perhaps the version of Barbarotti those more familiar with the series know. I must say I absolutely adored the characters in this book. For me, the characters can make or break a novel, but in this instance they only added to the overall appeal of the book. They felt real and believable, I became invested in them. So much so that I will be going back to the first book in the series so I can get to know the regulars better.

Told in the past and present, and from a number of different points of view, this beautifully written slow-burn mystery delivers on every count. The suspense is handled extremely well keeping the reader immersed in the story. On the odd occasion when I did have to put the book down, I was always excited to return to the novel and be reunited with Barbarotti and DI Eva Backman. At times I thought I knew where the storyline was heading, but I was wrong. The reveal is delivered in such a way that it’s really quite shocking, which I appreciated.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Axe Woman is an expertly written mystery which had me glued to the pages and immersed in a world I didn’t want to leave. It’s very clear to me why Håkan Nesser is so well thought of in the crime fiction world; his writing, his characters and his settings are superbly constructed, and I cannot wait to read more by this author. The Axe Woman is an intelligent, heartfelt, somewhat emotional novel which can easily be read as a standalone, despite being the fifth and final book in the series. Yes, you do miss out on some of the history between the characters, the odd reference to an earlier case, but The Axe Woman is written in such a way that as you progress through the book, you learn everything you need to know. If I didn’t know better and I just picked this book up off the shelf, I would have assumed it was a standalone mystery. I’m certainly not qualified to say this having only read one book but this felt a fitting end to the series. Everything is tied off neatly and with understated style. No big, showy fireworks but with a decision that could lead to something…or nothing at all. A superb character-driven novel which I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in. Recommended.

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

The Axe Woman by Håkan Nesser (translated by Sarah Death) was published in the UK by Mantle Books on 1st September 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Håkan Nesser

Håkan Nesser is a Swedish author and teacher who has written a number of successful crime fiction novels. He has won Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times, and his novel Carambole won the Glass Key award in 2000. His books have been translated from Swedish into numerous languages.

Håkan Nesser was born and grew up in Kumla, and has lived most of his adult life in Uppsala. His first novel was published in 1988, but he worked as a teacher until 1998 when he became a full-time author. In August, 2006, Håkan Nesser and his wife Elke moved to Greenwich Village in New York.

Sarah DeathSarah Death is a translator, literary scholar, and editor of the UK-based journal Swedish Book Review. Her translations from the Swedish include Ellen Mattson’s Snow, for which she won the Bernard Shaw Translation Prize. She lives and works in Kent, England.

#BookReview: The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere @EmmaFinnigan #TheLastParty #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.
In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh. The Last Party is published today (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Last Party but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a proof copy.

I read my first Clare Mackintosh novel, the superb Hostage, last year which, incidentally, was published in paperback in June and is well worth picking up if you get the chance…providing you’re not planning on flying anywhere soon! I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, her characterisation and I was keen to read more. So when I was offered a copy of the first book in Mackintosh’s brand new police procedural series, I of course jumped at the chance to read it. Police procedurals are a passion of mine and out of everything, the style of book I return to the most. And I’m so glad I did because The Last Party is a cracking read!

It’s New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing at The Shore, an exclusive, high-end, lakeside development in Cwm Coed, North Wales. The guests include the wealthy new residents along with several of the less enthusiastic, put-upon locals. The following morning the body of the resort owner, Rhys Lloyd, is found floating in the lake. It’s DC Ffion Morgan’s patch so she takes the case. Ffion has lived in Cwm Coed all her life, it’s her home. She’s aware how much the village resents the development, she’s aware that local boy Rhys has ruffled many feathers over the years. And now he’s dead it’s down to Ffion to dig into her friends and neighbours darkest secrets and discover who killed Rhys Lloyd…

I loved The Last Party! The characters are superb, the plot is well-written and completely absorbing, the setting is beautifully atmospheric. Tick, tick and tick again. I adored DC Ffion Morgan. What an outstanding lead character she is. Gutsy, ballsy and strong. I loved her attitude, her approach to the job, as well as her approach to life in general. I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead character and Mackintosh has well and truly delivered with DC Morgan. As the body was discovered in Mirror Lake, which is right on the border of England and Wales, an English detective is assigned to work with Morgan, something Ffion is quite put out by. When DC Leo Brady of the Cheshire Major Crimes Unit is introduced to DC Morgan you know things aren’t going to be easy for these two. But as time progresses and they learn to work with each other, a rather formidable team is formed. I loved Brady just as much as I loved Morgan. The humour, the chemistry, it was wonderful to watch. Mackintosh’s characters are sublime and I’m a little bit in love.

The plot is well paced and thoroughly gripping. I found myself opting to read The Last Party when there were other things I probably should have been doing (parenting, housework, y’know the sort of thing…). There are lots of clever twists and turns along the way which keep the reader fully immersed in the story. The setting of Cwm Coed with Mirror Lake at its heart and surrounded by mountains is glorious. I could picture the area in my mind’s eye and feel the chill of the mist rolling off the water. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Last Party and I hope this is only the start of DC Ffion Morgan’s adventures. Everything about this book worked for me. The plot is incredibly gripping and hugely compelling – I had to know what had happened to Rhys Lloyd and why, the setting is beautifully drawn by the author, and the characters are some of the most memorable I’ve met this year. In fact, I would go as far as saying that something about this book reminded me a little of when I first met M.W. Craven’s Tilly and Poe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think this series could be something quite special. The first book has certainly left its mark on me and I am excited to read more, that’s for sure! Masterful storytelling, jaw-dropping twists and turns and a cast that I pretty much fell in love with. Highly recommended.

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

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

Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of New York Times bestseller I LET YOU GO, and Sunday Times bestsellers I SEE YOU, LET ME LIE and AFTER THE END. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, and have spent a combined total of 50 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart.

Her new thriller, HOSTAGE, comes out in June 2021.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

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

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

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

51usteb-7l._sy346_“A murdered woman…

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

A determined detective…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 16th October 2020 and is available in digital format – with the paperback to follow in December (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads |

dead-perfect

about-the-author3

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

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

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

Her little girl was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer was published in the UK by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#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.