#BookReview | #Giveaway: All The Wicked Girls by @WhittyAuthor @BonnierZaffre @1stMondayCrime

all the wicked girls“Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.

Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .”

Wowsers!  If you’re looking for a deeply emotive, delightfully intense and deliciously dark thriller then congratulations good reader, you have just found it.  There are many books which create a buzz.  Some deserve that hype, others…..don’t so much.  What works for Ant* doesn’t necessarily work for Dec*, you get my point I’m sure.  So I was looking forward to reading All The Wicked Girls but I felt strangely nervous too.  Would I ‘get’ this book like other readers have?  Would I fall under its spell when many popular books leave me feeling cold?  Well, yes, of course I would because this book is pure literary magic.

And to kick December off with a bang, I am giving away a copy of All The Wicked Girls to one lucky UK winner.  But more about that later…

Grace, Alabama is a small God-fearing town where teenage twin sisters Summer and Raine Ryan live.  As sisters go, the two girls couldn’t be more different.  Summer is popular and studious, whereas Raine….isn’t.  The town of Grace borders Briar County which is suffering its own living nightmare.  Young, church-going girls are being snatched by ‘The Bird’.  Town legend claims ‘The Bird’ isn’t entirely human.  All that is known for sure is that the police have so far failed to capture the creature.  Then Summer Ryan goes missing leaving only a note behind, which raises even more questions.  Is Summer ‘The Bird’s latest victim?  And what shocking secrets will Raine unearth as she starts her own investigation into Summer’s disappearance? And most importantly, will she ever find her sister alive?

If you’re a fan of the character-driven novel (like me!) then you must get yourself a copy of All The Wicked Girls.  Whitaker’s characters are exquisite, beautiful things full of heart and soul.  The reader is pulled into their world where fear reigns; fear of God, fear of the church, fear of ‘The Bird’ and fear of themselves.  I fell a little bit in love with two of the characters, Noah and Purv, who battle alongside Raine in the search for the truth.  Raine was also a very intriguing character but she’s a little overshadowed by Noah and Purv, her two sidekicks, who shine from the page.  Supporting these three is a cast of incredibly well-written, fully formed and perfectly individual characters.  Chief Black who struggles with a drug and alcohol problem (as well as his past failures), Samson with his unusual looks and peculiar behaviour, the Ryan brothers who stake out Chief Black’s HQ putting on the pressure with the imminent threat of violence, Pastor Bobby and his wife, Savannah – their marriage falling apart while both drown in their own private grief following the tragic loss of their young son.  Such a strong, wonderfully crafted collection of interesting people that I struggled to put this book down.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  This is an emotionally intense thriller which will appeal to so many readers.  Whitaker’s writing is a beautiful thing and I couldn’t get enough of his strong, striking imagery and his captivating prose.  I want more, please.  And soon.  Dark, emotional, unnerving and engrossing.  Superb stuff!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of All The Wicked Girls.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Chris Whitaker will be appearing at December’s First Monday Crime event alongside Louise Jensen, Susi Holliday and Mel McGrath.  All expertly moderated by Claire McGowan.  The event takes place on Monday 4th December, 6.30pm at City University, College Building, A130.  Click HERE to book your FREE ticket.  Plus, because it’s December and we’re all starting to feel jolly festive, there will be extra fun and frivolities in store!  Check out the First Monday Crime website for more information.

Giveaway:
To be in with a chance of winning a BRAND NEW, unread ARC of All The Wicked Girls click on the following Rafflecopter link and follow the instructions.  Open to UK and ROI residents only due to postage costs.  Only one winner will be selected.  They will need to provide their postal address to enable me to send their book.  There are no cash alternatives and the giveaway ends at midnight on Tuesday 5th December (GMT).  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre on 24th August 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

*Ant & Dec
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about the author3

chris whitaker.jpgChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links:Twitter |

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#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne @Abigail_Author @BloodhoundBook

Abigail Osborne - The Puppet Master_cover_high res.jpg“Billie is hiding from the world in fear of a man who nearly destroyed her. But a chance meeting with budding journalist, Adam, sparks a relationship that could free her from her life of isolation and fear.

Unbeknown to Billie, Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives he believes she has ruined.

But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him. As an unwanted attraction blossoms between them, Adam comes to realise that all is not as it seems.

Who is really pulling the strings? And are Adam and Billie both being played?

One thing is for sure, The Master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on The Puppet Master blog blitz which I share with six other awesome bloggers.  The Puppet Master is author Abigail Osborne’s debut novel and was published in eBook by Bloodhound Books on 13th November 2017, having previously been self-published last year.

The Puppet Master is a rather twisted love story which I enjoyed but found hard going at times due to the disturbing themes within.  Billie’s tormentor is by far the nastiest piece of work in this book.  I was, however, flooded with emotion at points thanks to Billie’s hideous mother and her negligent treatment of her tween-age daughter.  Regular readers of the blog will know that deeply flawed and negligent parents really get my goat and Billie’s mother is a prime example of the type of character who makes my blood boil.

We first meet grown-up Billie as she lives out her isolated existence in Worcester.  Billie hides.  That’s it.  She hides from everyone, from everything, she hides from life which happens around her and to other people.  A chance encounter in the local bookshop cafe sends her spinning when she unwittingly meets journalist Adam.  Adam shows a keen interest in Billie when others easily ignore her.  Billie struggles to understand why he would want to talk her so she does the only thing she knows how to do in that situation and that’s run.  But Adam appears to be her knight in shining armour.  When she is set upon by a group of teenagers, Adam strides to the rescue (minus one shoe!).  From there, their relationship slowly blossoms.  But both Billie and Adam have secrets.  Billie has a traumatic past which she wants to keep hidden, but Adam has the biggest secret of all….

I was both fascinated and appalled watching Billie and Adam’s relationship grow.  The levels of manipulation within this book are something else altogether!  I wanted desperately to like Billie but found it really hard to do so.  I felt sympathy for her, I wanted her to be safe and free from fear but I couldn’t warm to her in the way I wanted to.  Adam was probably my preferred character in the novel but it is quite normal for me to like the darker characters, the more mysterious personalities, often the bad guys.

The story starts in the present, moves back in time to the late ’90s/early ’00s for part two and returns to the present day for the final section.  Part two, which features the flashback scenes, was hard to read with some disturbing scenes and acts alluded to.  I loved the menace in part three; the simmering danger imposed by one particular character.  I enjoyed the third section purely because the threat was more violent than anything else and that (weirdly) sits better with me than any other threat.  Part three (the conclusion, the reveal) was my favourite part of the book.

Would I recommend this book?  I would and I take my hat off to Abigail Osborne as this must have been a really tough book to write.  Plus, it’s her debut which makes it even more astounding as it’s a subject many would steer clear of, even after writing for many, many years.  Osborne is an intriguing new voice in the psychological thriller world and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read an eARC of The Puppet Master.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bloodhound Books for asking me to join the tour and for providing me with a review copy.

The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 13th November 2017 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

BLOG BLITZ (3)

about the author3

downloadAbigail is originally from the Lake District but moved to the West Midlands for University where she completed an English Literature & History degree and also met her husband. She is a passionate reader and has an unsustainable collection of books. This obsession with books has led to her creating her own Dewey decimal system and she has been known to issue fines to family and friends if her book is not returned on time. ‘The Puppet Master’ is Abigail’s debut novel and has unleashed a passion for writing. When not writing or reading Abigail is usually playing her violin or hiding from her much too energetic cats. She also works as a Needs Assessor for disabled university students in the West Midlands.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis (@tinaseskis) @PenguinUKBooks @MichaelJBooks

the honeymoon.jpg“There’s trouble in paradise . . .

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight’s retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy.

It should be paradise. But it’s turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes.

After everything they’ve been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all – where has her husband gone?”

I consider myself to be a very lucky blogger at the moment.  I have read some BRILLIANT novels over the last couple of weeks, this one included.  The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis has been eyeing me up from the bookcase for a little while now.  Occasionally it gave me the odd wink and come-hither look but I had to be strong and stick to my blog tour reads.  Not the case now, of course!  Now I can pick and choose what I read and when I read it.  And oh my gosh, I’m so glad I picked The Honeymoon.

Jemma and her husband have finally made it down the aisle and have jetted off to the exotic Maldives for their once in a lifetime honeymoon.  Except there’s a problem.  Jemma’s brand new husband has gone missing.  The blushing bride has somewhat vague memories of the last time she saw her beloved thanks to the delicious and abundant cocktails available on demand.  And oh boy, she certainly demanded!  Paradise starts to look a little more sinister, particularly when Jemma’s mother-in-law arrives to stick her venomous claws in.  What happened to her husband?  Was Jemma anything to do with his disappearance?  If only she could remember….

I loved this book.  It was so easy to read and incredibly hard to put down.  I loved the flashback sequences where the reader is given an insight into Jemma’s relationship with her then fiance.  I have to say, what a weird relationship it is!  At points I wanted Jemma to throw her hands in the air and walk away from it all.  I loved Jemma you see.  Although her neediness to get married did irk me somewhat at times.  But a lot of us have been there, eh girls and boys?  Just waiting for the other half to propose…😉

There are so many suspects, so many possibilities on the table that you can’t help but turn amateur detective.  I had a number of suspects in mind along with the thought that he may have just decided to do a runner!  What I didn’t expect was that ending.  What a shock, I had never considered THAT as an ending.  OK, maybe it’s a smidge far fetched but who cares – it was AWESOME and completely appealed to my darker side!

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely.  It’s got bucketloads of lovely suspense, a couple of rather large twists which will knock you for six and a leading lady I couldn’t help but love (I’m not sure you’re supposed to by the way but I like to break the rules!).  Seskis’s writing is very compelling and I will be making a point of reading more from this author in the future.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read an ARC of The Honeymoon.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books – Penguin UK on 1st June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

tina seskis.jpgI grew up in Hampshire, England, where my father worked at Heathrow for British Airways and my mother was in sales. My parents bestowed upon me a certain degree of eccentricity: my dad amongst other things built a boat in the front garden on our commuter belt housing estate, moved us into a touring caravan when our new house wasn’t built, and took us all over the world with his free air travel and limited budget.  I think part of my story-telling is shaped by those experiences.

I studied business at the University of Bath and then worked for over twenty years in marketing, advertising and online sales, with varying degrees of success, before starting to write.

I originally wrote One Step Too Far for my mum, whilst attending a local writing class on a Thursday afternoon. I completed my second novel When We Were Friends (formerly called A Serpentine Affair) in 2011.  It took me way longer to finally get the books published, and One Step Too Far is now available in over 60 countries.

I live in North London with my husband and son, and currently write full-time(ish).

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook |

Author image and bio © http://tinaseskis.com/about-tina-seskis/

 

 

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite (@BCopperthwait) @Bookouture

Her-Last-Secret-Kindle.jpg“There are some secrets you can never tell.

The last thing to go through Dominique Thomas’s head was the image of her teenage daughter’s face and her heart lifted. Then the shot rang out.

They were the perfect family. Successful businessman Ben Thomas and his wife Dominique live an enviable life, along with their beautiful children; teenager Ruby and quirky younger daughter, Mouse. 

But on Christmas Day the police are called to their London home, only to discover a horrific scene; the entire family lying lifeless, victims of an unknown assailant. 

But when Ruby’s diary is discovered, revealing her rage at the world around her, police are forced to look closer to home for the key to this tragedy.

Each family member harboured their own dark truths – but has keeping their secrets pushed Ruby to the edge of sanity? Or are there darker forces at work?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Sometimes I Lie, and The Girl on the Train will be captivated.”

A very warm welcome to the first day of the Her Last Secret blog blitz which I share with, well, some pretty awesome bloggers.  If you haven’t checked out any of the following then I heartily recommend you do so as they are all absolutely brilliant at this blogging lark; Compulsive ReadersChelle’s Book ReviewsBibliophile Book ClubMy Chestnut Reading Tree and CrimeBookJunkie.  The rest of the blitz also looks to be shaping up nicely with some of my very favourite book blogs taking part, so make sure you catch as many stops as possible!

I was thrilled to hear Barbara Copperthwaite was on the verge of releasing her second book with the mighty Bookouture.  I’m not shy in admitting that I am a huge fan of Copperthwaite’s work; check out my review of Flowers for the Dead and The Darkest Lies if proof is needed!  The bar was set, the standard required was pretty darn high and, Copperthwaite smashed it.

I’m not an overly emotional reader.  I don’t cry at books.  In fact, the last book to make me cry was….let’s see…..oh yes!  The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite.  What I didn’t expect was for the same thing to happen again.  I like my books full of blood, guts and as much gore as you can cram in.  People die in the books I read, bad things happen to good people and it rarely (read: never) sets me off in floods of tears.  But Copperthwaite’s writing somehow manages to do something to me that others fail to do.  Once again, I was reduced to a pile of mush as I turned the final page, blubbering my eyes out for one character in particular (OK, maybe two).  Which is strange, seeing as the reader starts at the end of the story.  What Copperthwaite manages to do through the pages of her book is make you fall in love with her characters just a little bit.  I felt completely invested in the Thomas family.  Then the ending happened and WOW!  Just…..WOW!

As a fan of the character-driven novel, I was in my element reading Her Last Secret.  I felt disgust and loathing for husband Benjamin who needs to remove his head from his own bottom and start focussing on his family.  My heart ached for teenager Ruby who was crying (nay, screaming!) for attention from her parents but was sinking further and further away from them.  Young Amber (or Mouse as she’s nicknamed) was beautiful from start to finish and really shone from the pages.  It takes real talent to write a convincing eight-year-old voice but the author has excelled.  And then there’s Dominque; totally flawed, damaged by her past and failing her teenage daughter but oh my gosh, I loved her.

The opening chapter throws the reader straight into the action.  The police are called to a residential street in the early hours of Christmas morning.  Chief Inspector Ogundele doesn’t know what awaits him inside the house, all he knows is that gunshots have been fired.  From there the chapters countdown to Christmas day, giving the reader an insight into the ‘not so perfect’ Thomas family and how they have arrived at such a horrific predicament on what should be one of the happiest days of the year.  Brilliantly executed by the author.  In my view, Copperthwaite’s best novel yet!

Would I recommend this book?  Of course, without a shadow of a doubt!  You’d be a fool to miss out on this one.  Thrilling and heartbreaking in equal measure.  Superb storytelling, compulsive and impossible to put down.  I was hooked and you will be too!

(A very easy) Five out of five stars.

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

Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite was published in the UK by Bookouture on 13th October 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author3

barbara copperthwaiteWhat people say about Barbara’s books:
“Will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed… Original, gripping, with a deep psychological impact,” Sunday Mirror
“Enthralling, tense and moving,” Real People magazine
“Totally gripping, and scarily believable,” Bella magazine

Barbara is the author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD. Both have been Amazon best sellers. She is also the author of THE DARKEST LIES, and her latest book HER LAST SECRET is out on 13 October.

Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-odd years’ experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She’s interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That’s why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

#BookReview: The Visitors by Catherine Burns (@C_Burnzi) @Legend_Press

the visitors.jpg“Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.”

This is one of those books where I saw the cover, read the blurb and knew I HAD to read it.  Everything about Catherine Burns’s debut novel appealed to me.  And who doesn’t like the odd dark read now and again…?  Well me, actually.  I like to read dark fiction ALL OF THE TIME.  But maybe that’s just me!  Before I mosey on with my review I would like to wish Catherine Burns and the team at Legend Press a very happy publication day.  You can purchase a copy of The Visitors by clicking HERE.

We meet middle-aged Marion and John Zetland, brother and sister who live together in their family home.  The best word to describe the siblings is probably ‘odd’, or ‘strange’.  Maybe even ‘peculiar’ (maybe all three!).  The reader is made immediately aware that there is something not quite ‘normal’ going on here.  We see life from Marion’s perspective and if I’m honest, I really began to feel for her.  She has no real friends, she is dominated by her older brother, painfully naive in her approach to life and the product of a formal and loveless upbringing.

I did grow to feel a strange fondness for Marion.  I guess, most of all, I felt sorry for her.  She really is quite pathetic.  And as for John, well!  He’s a controlling, domineering bully towards his sister and she just takes it.  It’s all she knows.  That’s how their relationship has been since the loss of their parents.

You discover early on who The Visitors are.  Although it is not spelt out in big bold letters for the reader and it did take a little while for the penny to drop with me (doh!).  I found parts of the story wonderfully shocking and really quite disturbing and I loved it!  The way I felt about Marion changed as the story progressed.  To say anymore may result in this review wandering into spoiler territory so I will just say that I found the ending very satisfying and leave it at that!

Would I recommend this book?  I definitely would.  I’ve seen a mix of reviews so far; some absolutely love it, others not so much.  It’s going to appeal to readers who don’t shy away from the twisted, readers who want to spend time with characters who live on the darker side of life.  As a small side note:  I’ve seen this book listed on amazon as horror.  In my opinion, The Visitors is not a horror novel.  It’s a wonderfully dark and suspenseful read from a talented debut author and I am excited to see what Burns has to offer us in the future.

Four out of five stars.

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

The Visitors by Catherine Burns was published in the UK by Legend Press on 3rd October 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats (with the paperback to follow next year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

catherine burns.jpg

Author Photo and Bio (c) http://www.legendtimesgroup.co.uk/legend-press/authors/1299-catherine-burns

Born in Manchester, Catherine Burns is a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge. She worked as a bond trader in London before studying at the Moscow Institute of Film, and teaching film theory at Salford University. The Visitors is her debut novel.

 

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The House by Simon Lelic (@Simon_Lelic) @VikingBooksUK

The House.jpg“Whose story do YOU believe?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

 

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my turn to host The House blog tour.  The House is written by Simon Lelic and will be published by Viking Books in paperback on 3rd November 2017.  If you can’t wait until then, the eBook version is available now so make sure you grab yourself a copy.

That gorgeously eerie cover set a pretty high standard with regards to my expectations of this book.  I was hoping for something creepy, something chilling and I certainly got it. For me, however, a lot of the chill left the story as I began to learn more about the central characters.  I was smitten with the first part.  Strange events have happened and you’re never really sure what the cause was, who was affected and what exactly is going on.  I found myself feeling a little disappointed when the reason for the odd goings on was revealed.

However, it was at this point that The House took an about-turn for me.  I cast aside my need for a creepy story and instead focused on the book I held in my hands.  This was a brilliantly written, intricate and twisty tale of families gone wrong, seriously flipping wrong.  Here was one of the most sinister, devious and generally most horrible characters I have ever met (in a literary sense) screaming at me from the pages for my attention.  Now I like my characters dark.  That’s no secret.  Only yesterday, in another review, I confessed to liking the bad guy in the book more than any of the other ‘relatable’ lead characters.  But this character….WOAH!  If you like your reads dark then The House should be top of your wish list.

This book ticked so many boxes for me.  I managed to get a good dose of creepiness, I loved the way Jack and Syd, a couple very much in love at the start and our lead characters, began drifting apart as their lives were put under unexplainable pressure. The bad guy was so brilliantly horrible that I’ll remember him for a long time to come.  I absolutely loved the twist, so clever!  As soon as I start reading a book I attempt to try and work out where the story is heading, what the twist will be…I can’t help it, it’s a compulsion!  But this, this I NEVER saw coming and I absolutely loved it.  Have I mentioned that it’s very clever…?? lol.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s deliciously dark, imposing and totally engrossing.  Simon Lelic was a new author to me until I picked up my copy of The House.  I will be making a point of searching out his future thriller releases.  I really enjoyed The House but suggest you don’t just think of it as a creepy read as that is only a fraction of what this book is about.  It has a lot more to offer readers.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

The House by Simon Lelic was published in the UK by Viking Books on 17th August 2017 in eBook format and will be available in paperback format on 3rd November 2017 | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

I was born in Brighton in 1976 and, after a decade or so living in London and trying to convince myself that the tube was fine, really, because it gave me a chance to read, my wife and I moved back to Brighton with our three young children. That Barnaby, Joseph and Anja’s grandparents happened to live close enough by to be able to offer their babysitting services was, of course, entirely coincidental.

As well as writing, I run an import/export business. I say this, when people ask, with a wink but I fool no one: I am more Del Trotter than Howard Marks. My hobbies (when I have time for them) include reading (for which I make time, because I can just about get away with claiming this is also work), golf, tennis, snowboarding and karate. My weekends belong to my family (or so my wife tells me), as does my heart.

I studied history at the University of Exeter. After graduating I was qualified, I discovered . . . to do an MA. After that I figured I had better learn something useful, so took a post-grad course in journalism. I know, I know: so much for learning something useful. After working freelance and then in business-to-business publishing, I now write novels. Not useful either, necessarily, but fun and, in its own way, important.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Hide and Seek by Richard Parker (@Bookwalter) @bookouture

Hide-and-Seek-Kindle.jpg“The sun is out. Your little boy is smiling. The next time you look… he’s gone. 

When Lana and Todd win a trip to Blue Crest Adventure Park, their four-year-old Cooper is ecstatic, but when Lana goes to meet them, Todd is out cold, and Cooper is missing.

No one stopped the man carrying the sleeping boy. The cameras don’t show where he went. Then Lana receives an anonymous message, telling her to visit a local school with a horrifying history… 

This is no random attack. Whoever took Cooper is playing a twisted game, and if Lana wants to find him, she must participate. 

What is the link between the school and her missing son? Can Lana uncover the kidnapper’s identity and save Cooper before it’s too late?

A dark, heart-in-mouth thriller that will keep you reading long into the night. Fans of James Patterson, Karin Slaughter, and Tess Gerritsen will be absolutely hooked.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Hide and Seek blog tour.  Hide and Seek is the latest release from author, Richard Parker and was published by Bookouture on 31st August 2017.  Make sure you pop over to Jen Med’s Book Reviews as the lovely Jen is my blog tour buddy today.

Despite not actually reading it, I fell a little bit in love with Richard Parker’s previous Bookouture release, Follow You.  I have been desperate to read it since it’s release but in usual damppebbles style, I haven’t managed to fit it in between my blog tour reads.  So what better way to make sure his latest book was read than to feature on the blog tour (sometimes it’s the only way!).

So having (weirdly) fallen for Parker’s previous release (I promise to read and review it soon!) I was excited and a little apprehensive to make a start on Hide and Seek.  And I can confirm, it is a thoroughly enjoyable thriller.  Parts of it I absolutely loved.  Other parts I enjoyed but I wanted to get to the real ‘nitty gritty’ of the story.

The prologue had me on the edge of my seat.  I find books about bad things happening to children hard going at times and the opening of Hide and Seek reminded me of my very worst nightmare. My heart was pounding, helped by the incredibly well-written prologue.  I was there, in the moment, with Lana the boy’s mother as she fought for her young son.  It was very gripping as an introduction and I don’t doubt that it will pull at every parent’s heart; it was both harrowing and heartbreaking.  I was a little surprised by the outcome of that first initial scenario. My curiosity was well and truly piqued and I wanted to know where Parker would take the story next.

And it was not what I expected.  The main body of the story ticked along nicely.  Lana has an unhealthy obsession with visiting past murder sites and with local serial killers in general.  I absolutely loved this part of her.  It gave a rather, I’m sorry to say dull and wholesome character a darker, more sinister edge. The search for the missing child is interesting and I enjoyed reading about Lana and Todd’s journey but it was the end of this book which made it for me!  It’s never a good thing to admit to liking the bad guy but Richard Parker may have created one of my all time favourite baddies!  And the twist, WOW.  It was so wonderfully, deceptively delicious – I didn’t see it coming at all.

Would I recommend this book?  I would. All in all, this is a great read which I recommend to fans of the family based crime thriller.  Fans of the serial killer thriller may also find something to love within the pages as well.  The start is brilliant, the middle is good, helped by the main character’s fascination with local murder sites and the ending is superb.  I cannot wait to read Follow Me now.  Roll on October when I will have more time to concentrate on non-blog tour books.

Four out of five stars.

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

Hide and Seek by Richard Parker was published in the UK by Bookouture on 31st  August 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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RichardParkerPic.jpgRichard Parker was formerly a TV script writer, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning twisted stand alone thrillers.

HIDE AND SEEK is his fifth book and is published August 2017.

FOLLOW YOU was his fourth psychological thriller. Reviewers are saying it’s Bookouture’s darkest crime novel to date.

STALK ME was his third and rode high in the UK and US charts.

SCARE ME was his second. Hollywood movie rights have been acquired by major US studio, Relativity Media. Star of PRISON BREAK and screenwriter of dark horror thriller STOKER, Wentworth Miller, has written the big screen adaptation.

STOP ME, Richard’s darkly fiendish debut, was shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

#BookReview: Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown (@IsabelAshdown) @TrapezeBooks

little sister.jpg“After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home.

Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?”

I’ve been wanting to read Little Sister since its release in eBook earlier this year.  Those clever PR types did a stonking job of ramping up my FOMO* by handing out sampler copies over on NetGalley.  Not the full book, you understand, just a short taster of what you could get if you were lucky enough to receive a copy.  And readers were buzzing!  A large proportion of the bloggers who I completely adore and (obviously) whose opinions I 100% trust, loved this book.  So I was rather pleased to get my mitts on a full, start to finish, prologue to epilogue copy.  Unfortunately, my blog tour reads have taken all of my spare time since then so I haven’t been able to make a start on this highly anticipated novel….until now!  Thankfully, due to the August holiday lull, I have managed to read Little Sister, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I always become a little more excited about a book if, after reading the prologue, I have a case of the chills.  The prologue of Little Sister gave me goosebumps and nearly broke my heart, all in one.

We are introduced to estranged sisters, Emily and Jessica, who meet for the first time in years at their mother’s funeral.  Jessica is the younger sister, sent away several years ago by her family for an unforgivable incident which brought shame upon her strict Catholic family.  Emily has since carved a wonderful home life for herself with a new baby, Daisy, a loving partner, James and a teenage stepdaughter, Chloe on the peaceful Isle of Wight. The reunion between the sisters is a positive one and before long Jess has moved in with Emily’s family as Daisy’s nanny, enabling Emily to return to work.  But on New Year’s Eve, whilst Emily and James are out enjoying themselves, Daisy is taken right from underneath Jess’s nose.  Slowly and surely the family begin to unravel, suspicions run high and secrets are the mainstay of this once-loving family.  Was Emily right to trust Jess?  And will Daisy be found before it’s too late…?

This is one of those novels where you can never be sure who to trust, who is keeping a monumental secret hidden within and exactly where the story will take you.  Pure fictional bliss, in other words!  I immediately disliked Jess and was incredibly wary of her.  I couldn’t understand why this sensible, practical new mum had decided her estranged sister was the right person to be in charge of her young baby.  Purely convinced of the fact by a simple, quick lie from Jessica about being a nanny in Canada whilst  travelling!  But as this twisty story progressed, my allegiance changed.  I began to dislike Emily and warm a lot more to Jessica.  Strange things were happening.  As the author laid out her character’s lives, new ‘clues’ became unearthed, points I hadn’t taken into consideration before suddenly became…well, significant.

The story is told from three POVs; Emily, Jess and a third narrator who shall remain nameless for the sake of this review (and to avoid spoilers).  There are glimpses into the past and the terrible incident which drove Jess away from her family, told from Jessica’s side and also from Emily’s.  These flashbacks give the reader a much clearer understanding of the shaky foundation this sisterly bond was built upon and provides the reader with a greater insight into these two women.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s twisty, emotional and a darn good tale of sisterly love gone ‘off track’.  I loved the uncovering of the secrets, the clues left along the way and the gradual unravelling of one of the key characters.  I enjoyed Ashdown’s writing style but at times was longing for a little more dialogue (but that’s just me!). Intricate, seamless and wonderfully intense.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Four out of five stars.

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

*FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Author image and bio (c) isabelashdown.com

Isabel’s writing career was first launched when she won the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition in 2008, with judges Fay Weldon, Michael Ridpath and the late Sir John Mortimer describing her work as ‘magnificent.’  The completed novel, Glasshopper (Myriad Editions), went on to be named among the Best Books of 2009 by both the Observer and the London Evening Standard.  Her latest novel, Little Sister, is out with Trapeze (Orion Publishing) in 2017.

In 2017/18 she will be a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Chichester, where she previously studied as a mature student, gaining a first class BA in English and a masters in Creative Writing with distinction.  Her essay on the subject of voice features in Writing a First Novel by Karen Stevens (Palgrave MacMillan 2014).

Isabel grew up on the south coast and now lives in West Sussex with her carpenter husband, their two children and their dogs Charlie and Leonard.  Together with Leonard the dachshund, she is a proud volunteer for the Pets as Therapy Read2Dogs scheme, an initiative aimed at nurturing confidence in young readers and promoting a lifelong love of books.

Isabel is a member of the Society of Authors.

Author Links: | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (@trisha460) @bookouture

the missing ones cover.jpg“The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror. 

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? 

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. 

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? 

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice. 

Fans of Rachel Abbott, Karin Slaughter and Robert Dugoni will be gripped by this page-turning serial killer thriller, guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Missing Ones blog tour.  The Missing Ones is the debut novel from Patricia Gibney and features kick-ass Detective Inspector Lottie Parker.  The lovely Susan over at Books From Dusk till Dawn is also featuring on the blog tour today, so make sure you pop over and give her a follow (if you don’t already that is!).

DI Lottie Parker is thrown into the middle of an investigation and begins to flounder from the very start.  Her two victims are very obviously connected somehow, but what that connection is is beyond Lottie and her team.  Lottie is struggling with her own life having recently lost her husband and being the sole carer to her three teenage children.  Regular disagreements with her interfering, overbearing mother don’t help the situation.  But Lottie knows she needs to find justice for the victims and throws herself head first into the investigation.  Before long her attention is drawn to St Angela’s children’s home where, in the 70’s and 80’s evil roamed the corridors.  Run by the Catholic Church, St Angela’s holds terrifying secrets that someone doesn’t want shared.  How far are they, and most importantly, how far is Lottie prepared to go?  Far enough to put her own children into mortal danger…?

This is a chilling read.  The subject matter is hard going at times but handled incredibly well by the author.  The sections where you’re reading about the children of St Angela’s are pretty intense but well written, creating an air of unease and uncomfortable expectation.

I loved the setting.  I have read a number of outstanding Irish crime thrillers this year and this one stands strong alongside them.  It’s an incredibly atmospheric read and you feel as though you are there, traipsing through the snow with Lottie and her team.

DI Lottie Parker is in an intriguing character and one I would like to read more of.  I felt I could sympathise with her situation but her parenting skills really irked me at times. She’s doing the best she can with the situation she’s in but I felt she neglected her children a lot of the time in favour of the job.  Now, I don’t claim to be super-mum but c’mon Lottie…they’re your kids!  Saying that, the story-line would have faltered quite early on without her questionable parenting, so I can understand why it was necessary for her to be so work focused.

Lottie’s relationship with DS Boyd is an interesting one.  They’re colleagues and sparring partners, yes.  But there’s something else there too.  They do have a brief personal past together and I wonder if this is something we will see built upon in future books.  There’s definitely friction there along with a rather large dollop of chemistry.

I found the plot compelling and whenever I had to put the book down, I wanted to get straight back to the story.  There is a lot of action (which can only be a good thing), with twists and turns along the way to wrong foot you.  I’m afraid I was able to tell ‘whodunit’ quite early on in the story but this didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the book.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, particularly if you’re a fan of dark crime fiction or have a penchant (like me!) for Irish crime.  It’s a good solid start to what promises to be a cracking new series and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Missing Ones.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney was published in the UK by Bookouture on 16th March 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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patricia gibney photo

Patricia yearned to be a writer after reading Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene and even wanted to be Nancy Drew when grew up. She has now grown up (she thinks) but the closest she’s come to Nancy Drew is writing crime!

In 2009, after her husband died, she retired from her job and started writing seriously. Fascinated by people and their quirky characteristics, she always carries a notebook to scribble down observations.

Patricia also loves to paint in watercolour and lives in the Irish midlands with her children.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Cursed by Thomas Enger (@EngerThomas) @OrendaBooks

9781910633649.jpg“What secret would you kill to protect? When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Today I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Cursed blog tour.  Cursed is written by Thomas Enger and is the fourth book in the Henning Juul series (but the first one I have read which should come as no surprise to regular visitors!).  I do love nordic noir and have previously indulged in the literary delights of Gunnar Staalesen, Agnes Ravatn and other talented Scandinavian authors.  So with this in mind, I was excited to read Cursed.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Thomas Enger has created a mesmerising tale which draws you in from the opening pages and keeps you glued to the story throughout; all the way to the thrilling conclusion. And what a way to end a novel!  I’m already champing at the bit for book five in the series.

My heart really went out to Henning Juul who I immediately liked.  Henning isn’t your usual crime thriller hero as he’s an investigative crime journalist and not a harried detective.  It was a refreshing change for me to be reading a novel which wasn’t set in the midst of a major police investigation.  The relationship between Henning and his ex-wife, Nora Klemetsen broke my heart at times.  And the tragedy suffered by the estranged couple I found a hard read.  Henning’s all-consuming desire to discover who was responsible for his young son’s death had me riveted and cheering him on from the comfort of my sofa.  Particularly with the introduction of Nora’s new partner, Iver and their earth shattering news.

There are many different threads to the story and it’s hard at times to see how they will all come together.  But come together they do in an explosive finale.  The pictures painted by the author are so clear that you can’t but help feel you’re there, living the action with them.

I loved the different characters of the Hellberg family.  Each one individual and each with their own secrets.  But how far are they prepared to go to keep those secrets?  Well, you’ll have to read Cursed for yourself and find out!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  If you’re anything like me and love to read books where at the centre of the crime you find a wealthy, secretive and controlling family then you will love Cursed.  Fantastic, believable characters…some you will love, some you will loathe.  Beautifully atmospheric, completely gripping and full of intrigue. Orenda Books, you have another gem of a novel on your shelf and I can’t wait for book five.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Cursed.  My thanks to Orenda Books for providing me with a copy.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Cursed by Thomas Enger (translated by Kari Dickson) was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th February 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook editions | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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(c) Ingrid Basso

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2009, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called THE EVIL LEGACY, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |