#BlogTour | #Extract: Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian @DoubledayUK @midaspr #WhereBloodRunsCold #damppebbles

“Erik Amdahl and his spirited daughter, Sofia, have embarked on a long-promised cross-country ski trip deep into Norway’s arctic circle. For Erik, it’s the chance to bond properly with his remaining daughter following a tragic accident. For Sofia, it’s the proof she needs that her father does care.

Then, far from home in this snowbound wilderness, with night falling and the mercury plummeting, an accident sends them in search of help – and shelter. Nearby is the home of a couple – members of Norway’s indigenous Sami people – who they’ve met before, and who welcome them in. Erik is relieved. He believes the worst is over. He thinks that Sofia is now safe. He could not be more wrong. He and Sofia are not the old couple’s only visitors that night – and soon he and Sofia will be running for their lives . . .
…and beneath the swirling light show of the Northern Lights, a desperate fight ensues – of man against man, of man against nature – a fight for survival that plays out across the snow and ice.

A story of endurance and of the desperate, instinctive will to survive, of a father’s love for his child, of knowing when to let go – and of a daughter’s determination to prove herself worthy of that love, Where Blood Runs Cold is a pulse-racing thriller from a master storyteller.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Where Blood Runs Cold blog tour. Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian is published by Doubleday Books today (that’s Thursday 24th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. To celebrate publication of Where Blood Runs Cold I have a fantastic extract to share with you today so pull up a comfy chair, grab a coffee and enjoy…

Chapter 2

He’s having the dream again. He knows he’s dreaming and still he cannot steer its course. He never can. The figure is more shadow than man. More dark presence than human form. More of a sensation, like the heaviness in your gut when you’ve lashed out and hurt the feelings of someone you love. Or the clenching tightness in your chest when something is broken that you know can’t be fixed.

He feels all this even in the dream. Knowing he’s in the dream. But this time it’s different, and despite the dread, he moves closer.

What are you? he asks.

He sees in the dark form the outline of a face. An eye. And Sofia is here too. Here I am! he shouts to her but she can’t hear him. The terror is on him now. In him. Its claws sinking into the soft meat of his heart. Sofia!

She’s moving towards the figure. No– stay away! Sofia, stay with me!

He hears his daughter scream.

‘Erik!’ He woke with a start, Elise’s voice bringing him back. The fuzzy blue display of the alarm clock sharpened as he swung himself out of bed, heart racing, knowing that the scream had been real. Three twenty-two a.m.

‘She’s having a nightmare,’ Elise said, already on the landing. Erik stumbled after her and through the doorway. Elise pushed open the door of their daughter’s bedroom.

‘Shh, darling. It’s just a dream,’ she soothed, as she sat on the bed beside Sofia and took the girl’s hands in her own.

‘Just a dream.’

Erik exhaled sharply, still trying to blink away his own dream, which clung to his mind and body, heavy as wet clothing.

‘Pappa,’ Sofia said, half awake, half dreaming still.

Erik sat on Sofia’s other side, gently running a hand through her sweat-and sleep-tangled hair, pushing it back from her face. ‘It’s OK, Lillemor, Pappa’s here.’

‘I’ll bring her some water,’ Elise said, leaving Erik with Sofia.

‘It’s OK. You go back to sleep now. I’m here.’ He leant and kissed her on the forehead, holding his lips there a moment. ‘We love you so much.’

She smiled and squashed her head back into the pillow as he stood.

‘Love you,’ she said, her words slurred as if she was already drifting off.

══════════════════

The next morning, he got up early and set to work clearing the rest of the roof. When it was done, he found Elise at the dining table, laptop open, coffee beside her, those two vertical furrows between her eyebrows and nose as subtle as a do not disturb hanger on a hotel room door.

She didn’t need to look up to know what he was thinking.

‘I just need an hour or two,’ she said, frowning at the laptop screen as her fingers danced across the keyboard. How she could type and speak different words at the same time was a mystery to him.

He couldn’t help himself. ‘I thought you weren’t starting for a week?’ he said.

Her right hand left the keys, index finger pointing up.

‘You were on the roof.’

‘You were still in bed,’ he said.

She took a weary breath and looked up at him now, the creases of her concentration frown melting away. ‘It’s my first job back with them. I want to be prepared.’ She gestured at her laptop. ‘And it’s important.’

So he and Sofia drove into town to the Vinmonopolet to buy wine. Once back in the car, he turned, taking a moment to look at her.

‘I can’t believe you’re going to be a teenager,’ he said.

She raised her eyebrows, no doubt recalling all the times they had called her a sulky teenager long before the eve of her thirteenth birthday.

‘I mean it.’ He shook his head. ‘Where has the time gone?’

‘Pappa,’ she said, staring ahead through the windscreen, ‘you promised to take me on the Long Ski when I was thirteen. Remember? A proper trip. Sleeping in snow shelters and everything.’

He kept his eyes on the road. A knot tying in his stomach.

‘You promised, Pappa,’ Sofia pushed.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘But that was a couple of years ago.’

Before Emilie died, he left unsaid, though it was loud enough in the silence.

‘I’m thirteen tomorrow. I’m old enough.’

‘I don’t think we can do it this time,’ he said.

‘But you promised,’ she protested. ‘Emilie asked you, the Easter before last, and you told her to wait until I was thirteen and then the three of us would go together.’

‘I know what I said.’ His words were sharper than he’d intended. Just the mention of her name. ‘But so much has happened since then. It’s different now.’

He glanced at her and she shook her head and turned her face to stare out of the side window.

He remembered that day in crisp detail. Emilie had borrowed her grandfather’s well-thumbed maps, still marked with pen from his own trips, and plotted a five-day, four-night ski tour through woods and across frozen lakes. She had been so excited. But Sofia had been too young to go.

And so Erik had told Emilie that they would wait until Sofia was thirteen and they could all go together. He had known how disappointed Emilie was. And yet she had explained the route plan to Sofia, who had listened wide-eyed and announced to the whole family that she would remind Erik of his promise the day she turned thirteen. He had known she wouldn’t forget.

But it wasn’t Easter now, with its fourteen hours of daylight, when the crisp sunlight offered warmth for the climb and gently melted the snow’s surface, creating perfect conditions for the descent. It was only just February, and the days were short and cold.

‘Let’s give it another year, Lillemor,’ he said. ‘Just one more year and then we’ll go on the Long Ski. A real adventure, I promise.’

Silence. Another promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.

══════════════════

‘Thank God for the directions you emailed me,’ Elise told Karine as they’d stood in the Helgelands’ front porch, stamping snow off their boots and hanging up coats and hats. Turning on the happy family show like throwing the light switch at a winter fair.

‘We’re expecting more snow,’ Lars said, leaning out to look up at the grey cloud blanketing the sky. ‘In a few days you won’t be able to get up here in that.’ He was pointing at the Mitsubishi. ‘Snowmobiles are the only way when we get a heavy fall.’

Karin and Lars were perfect hosts, generous and welcoming, and Lars clearly enjoyed a beer, which gave him enough in common with Erik to see the evening off to a better start than he had expected.

Elise asked if it ever worried them, being so remote, but Lars just chuckled.

‘We love living out here,’ he said, gesturing towards the window. The curtains were open and the snow beyond the glass glowed gently in the black night. ‘We’re not city people, as you can tell.’ He looked over at Karine, who was in the kitchen showing Elise her recipe for fiskeboller, the delicate fish balls in a creamy sauce whose fragrant scent filled the air. ‘If we wanted visitors all the time, we’d live in Tromsø,’ Lars said, a mischievous smile on his face.

Lars must have been in his early sixties, Erik guessed, but he was still broad-shouldered and solid, his hands tanned from so many summers of outside work, even now after the long winter.

‘Ah, there are cabins being built all the time,’ Lars added.

‘Beautiful things of cedar wood. Even the roofs are cedar. Inside, everything cladded in oak. Huge windows with views of the mountains and the sea. Built to follow the contours of the landscape and laid out . . . just so,’ he said, waving a broad hand. He rubbed the bristles on his cheek. ‘Well, you know all this. Karine tells me you’re a carpenter? You must be a busy man with all the houses springing up these days.’

‘Actually, I’m taking some time out,’ Erik replied, feeling Elise’s eyes on him from the kitchen doorway. Time out.

When was the last time he fitted a staircase, window frame, or skirting board? Or looked at a set of blueprints? Ten months ago he had hung a digital Sorry . . . Temporarily Closed sign on his website, and there it hung still. Amdahl Carpentry shut down for business until further notice.

Once dinner was underway, the conversation inevitably turned towards Novotroitsk Nickel, and how the locals felt about the Russian-owned company buying the mineral rights to the old Koppangen copper mine west of town. Lars, Karine and Elise shared their fears about waste being dumped in the fjord. About how the Sami Council was ignored, and how the government was willing to destroy the indigenous land in the north of Norway.

On and on it went, and he listened. Barely. Swirling the wine round his glass as Karine retrieved a letter from her cork board beside the fridge.

‘This came yesterday,’ Karine said, handing it to Elise.

He saw the logo of Novotroitsk Nickel on the letterhead, two blue Ns interlinked like a pair of mountain peaks. ‘They said it was just an exploration project at first,’ Karine said, ‘to see if the old mine had industrial potential. This was about a year ago.’ She gestured at the letter in Elise’s hands.

‘That outlines their intention to explore the abandoned tunnels further and dig three new test pits, pending the results of a feasibility study.’ She pushed her plate away as though talk of the mine’s reopening had soured the food.

Truth was, he was bored of the conversation. Angry too, because he knew this was what Elise cared about. Her obsession. And he’d been wrong to think they could find each other again here in the mountains. Plus, the wine had gone to his head in all its euphoric fuck-it brilliance, and so he told them that the world needed copper if it wanted electricity.

That it was how electricity worked.

‘We’re all for electric cars, right?’ he said. ‘If we’re going to electrify the world to save it, then maybe we have to be prepared to lose some of the old ways.’

‘Are you joking?’ Karine Helgeland asked him, her aspect hardening, suddenly expressing all the cheer of a granite rock face.

‘It’s just the wine talking,’ Elise said, a smile on her lips but anger in her eyes.

Karine suggested they talk about something else, and Lars stood, telling Sofia he had something to show her.

Elise left the table too, carrying dishes to the kitchen. And so he sat alone, watching as Lars showed Sofia the contents of a beautifully carved wooden box that sat on the windowsill. Beyond it, the night loomed, filling the world with black nothingness. Sofia seemed genuinely interested in the old photos of the Helgelands’ ancestors. In the other treasures too: a comb made of reindeer antler which Sofia said looked just like the ones she’d seen in The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. A horn needle case engraved with little reindeer. A leather purse with tin thread embroidery which had belonged to Karine’s great-grandmother. And most exciting, judging from Sofia’s wide eyes, a huge knife which Lars took down from the stone mantlepiece over the stove.

‘We call this a stuorraniibi,’ Lars told her. He smiled at her frown. ‘It just means big knife.’ He shrugged for comic effect, before drawing the blade from the reindeer leather sheath and making a chopping motion with it. It was nearly twenty-five centimetres long. ‘Long and wide enough to cut firewood or small trees to make shelter poles. Strong enough to split reindeer bones.’ He turned it around to hold it by the spine of the blade. ‘Feel the handle.’ He offered it to Sofia. She touched the wood. ‘Birch,’ he said, ‘for a better grip in cold and snow.’

‘I have a Swiss Army knife,’ Sofia said, and no sooner had she spoken the words than the knife was in her hand and she was easing the little blades and tools out one by one, and now Lars was shaking his head as if he had never seen anything so wonderful, much to Sofia’s delight.

Sofia looked more engaged, more interested than she had about anything he’d done with her for a long while. What exactly had he done with her in the last year? They’d gone hiking a few times, picking late summer berries along the trail. He’d taken her to the Alfheim Stadium to watch Tromsø IL lose to Rosenborg in the fourth round of the Norwegian Cup. Oh, and there was the funeral of her sister. That had been a family day together.

He got up, grabbed hold of the three empty wine bottles and carried them to the kitchen counter.

‘Will you have coffee?’ Karine asked them, fetching mugs down from the cupboard.

Elise glanced at him and he knew the answer. At least they could still communicate without words.

‘No, thank you,’ Elise replied. ‘Our little girl turns thirteen tomorrow. We have a big birthday breakfast to get up for.’ She smiled.

Erik looked over at Sofia. She stood at the window, looking west into the night as Lars told her about Karine’s brother, Hánas, who was a reindeer herder.

‘Right now, while we are cosy and warm,’ Lars said, ‘Hánas is somewhere up there on the plateau with his herd.’ He pointed out at the night and the dark shape of the mountain.

‘Sometimes, we see a light in the dark and we know it is Hánas in his tent,’ Karine said, coming over to join her husband and Sofia at the window.

‘It must be beautiful up there,’ Sofia said.

‘But so cold,’ Elise said, miming a shiver as she put a hand on Sofia’s shoulder.

Sofia didn’t seem to notice. She was still looking up at the mountain. Elise and Karine shared a smile, acknowledging the girl’s preoccupation.

‘So have a very happy birthday tomorrow, Sofia,’ Karine said, ‘and make sure your mor and far spoil you all day, starting with a special breakfast.’ She looked out of the window and nodded to the dark distant peaks. ‘Did you know, on my thirteenth birthday, my father took me up there and taught me how to lasso a fully grown reindeer? A big bull, he was. I can still see him in my mind. Antlers like this.’ She threw her hands up. ‘One and a half metres.’

‘Ha!’ Lars exclaimed, wafting her words away with a hand.

‘Were you there, husband?’ she asked, lifting her chin in challenge, so that Erik could see the stubborn young girl she once was. ‘Whose story is this anyway?’

Again, Lars batted the air with a big hand.

‘So after many attempts I lassoed the bull over his great big antlers, and my father had to help me hold the rope – like this,’ she said, miming the action, ‘or that bull would have carried me off and I would probably still be hanging on now. But then we had to get home before dark because we didn’t want to meet a stallo up there.’

Sofia screwed up her face. ‘What’s a stallo ?’

‘Sofia is too old now for stories of stupid great stallos and trolls,’ Lars said. He was standing by an antique cocktail cabinet, pouring himself a brandy in the soft light from the interior.

‘I was just telling Sofia what I did on my thirteenth birthday,’ Karine said. ‘You have to have adventures when you’re young.’

Erik was watching Sofia as she turned to look at him. He knew what she wanted to tell the Helgelands – that he had promised to take her on the Long Ski when she turned thirteen.

Her silence knotted him up inside.

After declining Lars’s offer of brandy, he and Elise thanked their hosts for a lovely evening, said their goodbyes and crowded into the porch with Sofia to put on their coats, boots and hats.

‘Sofia,’ Lars said, coming out after them, ‘I have something for you.’ They turned and waited as he tramped through the snow after them, their warm breath pluming around their faces. ‘Here, Sofia, for your birthday,’ Lars said.

Sofia held out her hands and took the stuorraniibi he offered her, looking at her mother and father for reassurance.

‘Of course, you must only use it with your parents’ permission,’ Lars said, nodding at Elise, then Erik. ‘But I thought . . . well . . . you have your modern pocket knife which can do everything you can possibly think of, but you should also have something from the past, to remember those who came before us.’

Sofia stared at the gift in her hands, open-mouthed. Not knowing what to say.

Erik looked at Elise. Surely she knew what to say. Like, what the hell’s wrong with you, Lars, giving a bloody great Sami knife to a thirteen-year-old-girl? Who does that?

‘You lucky girl,’ Elise said, putting her arm around Sofia’s shoulder. Subtly trying to squeeze a thank you out of her.

‘Thank you, Mr Helgeland,’ Sofia managed, tearing her eyes away from the knife to look Lars in the face.

‘Take care of a good knife and it will take care of you,’ Lars said. Then he raised his hand. ‘So, see you all again.’ He turned and walked back to the house. ‘And happy birthday, Sofia,’ he called, his breath fogging in the glow of his porch light.

I’m a huge fan of survival thrillers so Where Blood Runs Cold sounds just my thing and I CANNOT WAIT to read it! If you’re anything like me you can grab your copy from your favourite bookseller today. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian was published in the UK by Doubleday Books on 24th February 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 |

Giles KristianGiles Kristian’s first historical novels were the acclaimed and bestselling RAVEN Viking trilogy – Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odin’s Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War to chart the fortunes of a family divided by this brutal conflict in The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury. Giles also co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion. In God of Vengeance (a TIMES Book of the Year), Winter’s Fire, and the Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown shortlisted Wings of the Storm, he returned to the world of the Vikings to tell the story of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship. Lancelot was published to great acclaim and hit The Times bestseller charts at No. 3. It was also a Sunday Times bestseller. He followed Lancelot with Camelot, and his new novel, a thriller called Where Blood Runs Cold, will be published February 2022. To find out more about Giles: www.gileskristian.com
Follow Giles on Facebook and Twitter: @GilesKristian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: Pine by Francine Toon @DoubledayUK #Pine #damppebbles

“They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.”

Welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Pine by Francine Toon. Pine was published by Doubleday in all formats on 1st October 2020. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Pine but that has in no way influenced my review.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year (and let’s face it, for many of us that would probably have been preferable!) then chances are you’ve seen Pine mentioned before. It’s a huge book. A prize-winning novel, shortlisted for many prestigious crime fiction awards. And rightly so. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like Pine before.

Lauren and her father are driving home one night when a mysterious, unresponsive figure steps out into the road. They bundle her into their truck, take her home to safety and give her a good meal. In the morning, the woman has gone. But only Lauren can remember what happened the night before. Odd occurrences like this aren’t all that unusual in the small town on the outskirts of the pine forest in the Scottish highlands though. Strange things sometimes happen, people go missing without a trace…

I really felt for Lauren who is such a beautifully written character. Her innocence and her maturity broke my heart in equal measure. She really got under my skin and I was repeatedly drawn back to the book to see what was going to happen next. I willed for her to have a happy ending. You’ll have to pick up a copy of the book yourself to see if she does.

For a debut, this is quite an astonishing book. The prose is stunning and the setting is creepy and atmospheric, almost haunting. I would go as far as saying it is a character in it’s own right. There’s a supernatural feel to Pine which had me on the edge of my seat. The author sprinkles unease over her story from start to finish and I loved how the building sense of the unknown drew me into the pages. I was hooked and with Lauren every step of the way.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Pine is a beautiful slow-burn gothic mystery. I’m a huge fan of claustrophobic small town settings and Toon has achieved something great here. It’s haunting and suspenseful, eerie and compelling. A tale of fractured relationships, grief and addiction. Of lives destroyed and of lives with just nowhere to go. As I said earlier, I’ve not read anything like this before and I don’t expect to read anything like it again. Recommended.

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

Pine by Francine Toon was published in the UK by Doubleday on 1st October 2020 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryBookshop.orgthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Francine Toon grew up in Sutherland and Fife, Scotland. Her poetry, written as Francine Elena, has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Best British Poetry 2013 and 2015 anthologies (Salt) and Poetry London, among other places. Pine was longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award. She lives in London and works in publishing.