#BookReview: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #InTheAbsenceofMiracles #damppebbles

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“John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of one of the most powerful and emotive books I have read – In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. Back in 2016, my book of the year was Malone’s first Orenda release, the simply sublime A Suitable Lie. It blew my mind on so many levels and still, to this day, I recommend it to everyone. If you’re a fan of domestic noir novels then you need to add Malone to your list of must-read authors. I received a free eARC of In the Absence of Miracles but that has in no way influenced my review.

I didn’t think it would be possible for someone (anyone!) to write a book which affected me the way A Suitable Lie did. That was until I read In the Absence of Miracles. Malone puts his heart and soul into his writing and you, as the reader, get to experience every heart-stopping emotion and every breath-taking twist and turn. I love that Malone isn’t scared to tackle the more difficult and unsettling subject matters, the things we as a society tend to turn and shy away from. In the Absence of Miracles is another brave, unflinching, unapologetic look at the secrets a family hides within its heart, and it left me broken.

I liked John Docherty. He doesn’t make it easy at times and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a likeable character but this is his story. His discovery, his unravelling, his trauma. I liked how Malone has written John as a pretty typical bloke (if there is such a thing!). It was interesting to watch how John dealt with situations early on in the book, giving us the measure of the character, before plunging him into an unimaginable, heart-breaking situation as the reality hits home. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I cried for John Docherty.

The author does an incredible job of misleading his reader. You think you know where the story is going, only for Malone to step in and completely change everything you thought you knew. I had an inkling about where the plot was headed but I was by no means convinced. When the book took me to that dark and scary place, I was devastated for the characters. I was living that moment, that sudden realisation as the horror hits home. No one writes like Malone does. No one can conjure these emotions in this hardened reader like he does.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Malone has done it again and written a book which will stay with me for a long, long time to come. I’ve not found another writer who can produce stories with the pure power and emotion to rival Malone. Unforgettable and haunting. Dark and utterly immersive. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In the Absence of Miracles. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Never Look Back by A.L. Gaylin (@orionbooks) @Tr4cyF3nt0n #NeverLookBack #damppebbles

never look backShe was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother…

When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. Robin knows her mother better than anyone.

But then her parents are brutally attacked, and Robin realises she doesn’t know the truth at all…”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop on the Never Look Back blog tour. Never Look Back is the latest release from the brilliant A.L. Gaylin and it will be available to purchase in paperback later this week (on the 6th February – mark it in your diaries!). If you can’t wait that long – and who could blame you, because it’s brilliant – then it’s currently available in all other formats.

It won’t surprise you to hear that I am a huge fan of A.L. Gaylin’s books. If Alison has written it, then I’ve probably purchased a copy without even reading the blurb. Yup – her books are THAT good. I’m not sure there are many other authors I could say that about. Never Look Back is a stellar addition to Gaylin’s catalogue and I savoured each and every moment of it.

Podcast creator Quentin Garrison is investigating a cold case. A mass killing spree carried out by two teenage lovers known as the Inland Empire Killers, in the late 70s. The terrifying spree finally halted by the death of killers April Cooper and her boyfriend, Gabriel LeRoy, in a fire. But Quentin has his own connection to the tragic events of all those years ago and he needs closure. When a brand new lead is handed to the podcast team, Quentin contacts website columnist Robin Diamond and puts a startling suggestion to her. Robin dismisses the claim as preposterous, but what follows will change their lives forever. How well do we really know those closest to us…?

This is another brilliant character-driven thriller from Gaylin. I was totally immersed in the story from the first page and I struggled to put the book down for any length of time. The first half to two-thirds of the book, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Then the story beds itself in and the pace slows a little but it was just as captivating, just as chilling and just as mesmerising as the beginning.

Told in dual timelines, we see how the accusations affect those involved in the present day. I often found myself asking, ‘how well do we really know the people we’re closest to?’. We also get to see life thorough April’s eyes via letters to her future daughter, Aurora Grace. After all, all April wants from life is to be a mother. Young April Cooper is by far the most fascinating character and despite reading this book a couple of weeks ago, I still think about her often. I really liked her (I am strange and it’s quite normal for me to like the villain in a book) but I also felt sorry for her.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes and yes again. I LOVED this book. A.L. Gaylin can do no wrong in my eyes. This is another stunning character-driven thriller which I flew through and have been recommending to everyone since. If you’re looking for a family-focussed suspense novel with secrets and lies galore then you should definitely give Never Look Back a go. After all, how can you resist that tagline…

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AL Gaylin

USA Today and International Best-selling author Alison Gaylin has been nominated for the Edgar four times. Most recently, her thriller IF I DIE TONIGHT, won the award in the category Best Paperback Original.

Her critically acclaimed suspense novels have been published in such countries as the U.K., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Japan and Romania.

She has won the Shamus and RT Reviewers Choice Awards for her books, and has been nominated for the ITW Thriller, Anthony and Strand Book Awards. Her books have been on the bestseller lists in the US, Germany and Belgium.  NEVER LOOK BACK (March, 2018 from William Morrow) is her eleventh book.

NORMANDY GOLD, the graphic novel she wrote with Megan Abbott, is out from Titan/Hard Case Crime in April, 2018.

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

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Family by Louise Jensen @HQstories #TheFamily #damppebbles

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ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.

But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.

Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Family blog tour. The Family is the latest release from one of my very favourite authors, Louise Jensen and was published by HQ in paperback on Thursday 3rd October. I received an ARC copy of The Family but that has in no way influenced my review.

Louise Jensen is an incredible writer. If you haven’t discovered her books yet then you and I need to have serious words. They’re perfectly plotted family-driven psychological thrillers that leave you on the absolute edge of your seat. Only for Jensen to throw something completely unexpected and deliciously twisty your way, leaving the reader gasping and wanting more. They’re insanely good and the release of a new Louise Jensen book is a highlight of my year. So you can imagine how much I was looking forward to reading The Family. And oh boy, it didn’t disappoint.

The Family does have a slightly different feel to Jensen’s other books. There are twists and turns galore and a family is at the forefront of the action, as I have come to expect from this author. I found the pace to be quite different though. This is a slow and intoxicating unravelling of a clever and well-plotted story which held my attention from start to finish. I really felt for our main protagonist, Laura. Recently bereaved and on the brink of losing her livelihood, she is barely holding things together. Wanting to make sure she and 17-year-old daughter, Tilly, still had somewhere to call home she reaches out to her deceased husband’s family – only for them to shun her. Rapidly running out of ideas, Laura turns to charismatic Alex, asking for help. Alex has the legal know-how she needs and he and the Oak Leaf Organics community welcome Laura and Tilly with open arms. But not everything at Oak Leaf Organics is as perfect as it first appears. How does Alex know everything about Laura’s life? And exactly how close are Tilly and Alex becoming?

There are so many secrets for the reader to get their teeth into in this book. And secrets are what Jensen is the master of. Laura’s story is beautifully presented to the reader. You feel you have a fairly good idea of who is who and what is going on. Only for Jensen to pull one of her brilliant sleight of hand moves on you. Actually, in reality, you know nothing. And that is why Louise Jensen’s books are a joy to read. The Family is another example of how adept Jensen is at what I would assume is a difficult skill to master. You think you’ve got the measure of these characters, but you haven’t.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about The Family is the way Jensen puts a mother/daughter relationship under the microscope. This book was all about Laura and Tilly for me. I had several moments of ‘what if this was MY 17-year-old daughter? What would I do in Laura’s situation?’. There are some really powerful emotive parts to the story. Some I can understand because I’m a mum too. Some I thankfully will never understand. And there’s one twist, towards the end of the book, which very nearly broke me. That’s going to stay with me for a while to come.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. In fact, I suggest you just go and purchase every book Louise Jensen has written because they are all outstanding. Jensen remains one of my absolute favourite authors and I am now counting down the days until her next book is released. The Family is a very compelling, very real read that draws you in until the very final page. Highly emotive, chock full of delicious secrets and another incredibly readable book from the pen of Ms Jensen.

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

The Family by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by HQ on 3rd October 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Louise Jensen has sold over a million English language copies of her International No. 1 psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift, The Surrogate and The Date. Her novels have also been translated into twenty-five languages, as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise’s fifth thriller, The Family, will be published in Autumn 2019 by Harper Collins.

The Sister was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award. The Date was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize 2018. The Surrogate has been nominated for the best Polish thriller of 2018. The Gift has been optioned for a TV film.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: The Lying Room by Nicci French @simonschusterUK @1stMondayCrime #TheLyingRoom #FirstMondayCrime #damppebbles

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Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.
She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of The Lying Room by hugely popular author, Nicci French. The Lying Room will be published in hardcover and ebook format on Thursday 3rd October 2019 by Simon & Schuster, with the paperback to follow next year. And to celebrate, Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) will be appearing at October’s First Monday Crime night in London on 7th October. The event is completely free to attend but you do need to reserve your spot. More information about how to do that shortly.

I received a free ARC of The Lying Room but that has in no way influenced my review.

I need to confess something to you, dear reader. We’ve known each other a while now. I feel I can open up to you and share a deep, dark secret. As you know, I am a huge (HUGE!) crime and psychological thriller fan. *In a tiny, squeaky voice* this is the first book I’ve read by Nicci French. I can actually hear your disappointment. I have to say I’m disappointed in myself too. However, let’s look on the bright side here – what an absolutely corking read to start with! Oooooh, I love a good character and Neve Connolly is so beautifully complex that I was smitten. I had to find out more.

On discovering her lover dead in his apartment Neve does the opposite of what most people would do. She cleans the flat from top to bottom eradicating every trace of her from Saul’s life, rather than calling the police and reporting what she immediately knows to be a terrible crime. She needs to keep their affair a secret; not only would it destroy her marriage but it would cause irreparable damage to her children, particularly fragile teenage daughter, Mabel. In doing so Neve sets herself on a path of constantly looking over her shoulder, fretting that she left a trace of evidence behind and becoming highly suspicious of the people she loves the most. That moment of madness, that split-second decision could destroy everything she cares about…

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive. (I was obviously a very deceitful child as I was reminded of this fairly often!) Poor Neve. You can’t help but feel some sympathy for her. The result of one very poor decision spirals and spirals until she doesn’t know who to trust or which path to take. A lot of extra pressure is piled on by the brilliantly written DCI Alistair Hitching who was by far my favourite character in the book. His interactions with Neve made me smile at times and his sleuthing reminded me a little of Columbo (the way he just knows the truth, and now all he has to do is find the proof). His slow, methodical picking apart of everything Neve says is just brilliant. Always trying to trip her up, always trying to find fault. Whilst Hitching was my favourite character, I struggled to understand Neve and Mabel’s relationship and found Mabel intensely irritating and by far the most difficult character to connect with or understand.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. It’s an engaging slow burn of a domestic suspense novel which I think will appeal to many readers. I couldn’t work out for the life of me how the book was going to end but it was a fitting conclusion. It’s easy to see why this accomplished writing partnership have the fan base they do. I would certainly read more from Nicci French without a moment’s hesitation.

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

The Lying Room by Nicci French was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 3rd October 2019 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

First Monday Crime:
Nicci French will be joining the panel for October’s First Monday Crime event on Monday 7th October 2019. Nicci and Sean will be appearing alongside Peter Robinson, Marnie Riches and Claire McGowan. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on Monday 7th October at City University, College Building, Room A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.

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Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The couple are married and live in Suffolk. There are twenty bestselling novels by Nicci French, published in thirty-one languages. Blue Monday was the first thrilling story in the Frieda Klein series, which concluded with Day of the Dead. The Lying Room is their latest novel.

facebook.com/NicciFrenchOfficialPage

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Here To Stay by Mark Edwards @AmazonPub @midaspr #HereToStay #damppebbles

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“A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for.

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are the scars on his wife’s body that she won’t talk about . . .

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in his home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear that they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

From the two million copy bestselling author comes a tale about the chilling consequences of welcoming strangers into your home.”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop on the Here To Stay blog tour. I am delighted to be one of two blogs kicking off the tour for this brilliant psychological thriller. Here To Stay is the latest standalone release from one of my ‘must read’ authors, Mark Edwards, and will be published in all formats by Thomas & Mercer on 1st September. I received a free ARC of the book but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of Mark Edwards’ books. He’s a favourite author of mine and someone I always mention when asked for reading recommendations. You can’t really go wrong with his novels – they’re all rather brilliant (In Her Shadow, The Retreat, The Lucky Ones, The Devil’s Work, Follow You Home). And this latest release is another stonking addition to this author’s body of work. I would even go as far as saying it’s bordering on my favourite!

I loved the main character, Elliot. He’s a really decent bloke who enjoys his quiet, ordered life. He has a beautiful home which, after years of gruelling refurbishment, is exactly how he wants it. But there’s no escaping the fact that he’s lonely. A chance encounter one day leads him to meet Gemma. There’s no denying the chemistry that’s bubbling away between them. And when Gemma saves his life Elliot decides it’s time to be spontaneous and ask Gemma out. The couple become inseparable and in a second attempt to keep the spontaneity flowing, Elliot proposes to Gemma after a couple of months. Before long they’re married and life couldn’t be better. That is until one day when Gemma receives word from her parents that they’re leaving France and returning to the UK with nowhere to stay. Gemma asks her new husband if her parents can move in briefly whilst they look for somewhere new to live. Elliot instantly agrees, wanting to keep his new wife and in-laws happy. But he has no idea who he is welcoming into his home and the devastating secrets they’re hiding…

What a page-turner! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Edwards’ brilliant characters really leap off the page at the reader and oh my gosh, some of them made my blood boil. The frustration I felt at their behaviour and the empathy I felt for Elliot was palpable at times. I was completely in the story with Elliot and the Robinsons, living each and every moment with them. Watching Elliot attempt to regain control of the situation only for his plans to be dashed by the dastardly in-laws. If you’re looking for a book to get under your skin then you must grab a copy of Here To Stay and meet the Robinsons.

I spent a fair amount of time wondering where Edwards would take the story. The in-laws from hell made great reading but I couldn’t foresee how the story would end and every option I came up with was completely unsatisfying to me. But that’s why Mark Edwards is a bestselling author and I’m not! Oh, the ending of this book is GLORIOUS! It takes the kind of turn which I love in my fiction. It’s a great book but as you approach the end it becomes something SUPERB. I loved it.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all of Mark Edwards’ books but this one is something quite special. I did manage to guess one of the whodunnits along the way but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all because the author made me doubt myself often. Another great read from Mark Edwards which I recommend. I lived the rage, the frustration and the fear with Elliot and I loved it!

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

Here To Stay by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st September 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people and is inspired by writers such as Stephen King, Ira Levin, Ruth Rendell and Linwood Barclay.

His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK and has sold 300,000 copies to date. This was followed by What You Wish For (2014), Because She Loves Me (2014; also a No.1 bestseller in the UK) and Follow You Home(2015).

He also co-writes with Louise Voss. Their novels are: Killing Cupid (2011); Catch Your Death(2011); All Fall Down (2012); Forward Slash and a series featuring Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon, starting with From the Cradle (2014) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). Read more about Voss & Edwards.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and starting writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing. He now writes full-time and lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat, Billie, who was named after an actress from Doctor Who.

When he’s not writing or looking after children, Mark reads a lot, devours TV box sets and spends far too much time on Twitter and Facebook, where he loves chatting with readers. He also wishes he had more time to do the activity he loves most: karaoke.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing #MyLovelyWife #damppebbles

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The twist at the end of the first chapter made me read through the nightJane Corry

Introducing the next generation of domestic thriller…

“Every marriage has secrets. Everyone has flaws. Your wife isn’t perfect – you know that – but then again nor are you.

But now a serial killer is on the loose in your small town, preying on young women. Fear is driving your well-behaved young daughter off the rails, and you find yourself in bed late at night, looking at the woman who lies asleep beside you.

Because you thought you knew the worst about her. The truth is you know nothing at all.

This is a thriller like nothing you’ve read before…”

A very warm welcome to damppebbles today and to my review of an incredibly popular debut, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing. My Lovely Wife was published by Michael Joseph on 2nd May 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and eBook formats with the paperback to follow in October. I received a free ARC of My Lovely Wife but that has in no way influenced my review.

When you’re talking psychological thrillers, I think there’s something about the seemingly mundane and ordinary that sparks an interest in me. I like secrets. I like to try and work out what is going to happen before the first clue is even laid before the reader. Yes, I am a wannabe detective but then I guess many of us crime fiction fans are, right? And that’s why I had to read this book. The blurb grabbed my attention immediately. I wanted to know more. My interest was well and truly piqued. I HAD to know what deep, dark secrets the pages of My Lovely Wife held.

This is an enjoyable read. It’s not long into the book before the first curveball is flung at the unsuspecting reader. I found myself to be quite thrown, taken aback even, but in an ‘oooooh, what’s going on here?’ – interest well and truly piqued – kind of way. From that moment forward I felt a wonderful sense of impending doom as the wannabe detective side of me kicked in and was drawing all sorts of conclusions…

It’s very difficult to say anything about the plot of this book without giving away a shed load of spoilers so I’m going to avoid that by telling you as little as possible about it and stick to my observations and how I felt about it. What I can tell you is that book is told from the point of view of the nameless husband (that’s right, we never actually discover his name, which was interesting because I picked up on this fairly early on and was on tenterhooks throughout looking for it!). He and his wife, Millicent, plus their two children who are in their early teens live, what on the surface, appears to be a fairly quiet life in Florida. She’s a real estate agent and he’s a tennis coach. But they have secrets! Oh boy, do they have secrets! I enjoyed this book but there were several aspects of this ‘secret’ which I struggled with. I couldn’t quite get my head around how it was so normal for them. How two random people who met on an aeroplane 15 years ago could haphazardly fall into the life they led and be completely OK with it. There were no discussions on the ethics of the situation between the two of them, no attacks of conscience and not once did they seen to doubt their situation (nothing significant anyway). Everything felt far too normal for me. I wanted peaks and troughs, I wanted questions and insecurities, moments of pure panic when the realisation hit home, but they just weren’t there. In truth, Millicent and the unnamed husband fit too nicely into the ‘normal’ box and it felt a little odd to me. Maybe I need my psychopaths a little crazier! There was one other twist which I could see coming but I’m putting that down to reading a shedload of psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators.

My heart ached for the couple’s young daughter who slowly starts to fall apart as the situation begins to worsen. Jenna goes from being a high achieving 13-year-old to an unstable child who unwittingly takes extreme measures to cope with how she’s feeling. She ends up meeting with a psychologist several times a week whilst her parents make excuses to not take her to the doctor’s office. Her parents watch as their bright young over-achiever starts to slowly deteriorate, but it changes nothing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s an interesting read and one which, despite my reservations, I powered through. I found the ending a little obvious but I was on the lookout from the first word for that big twist. The final scenes in this book are superb and the book finished on a real high for me because of the wonderful way the author ended her story. I’m amazed this is a debut and I will pick up Samantha Downing’s next book without a moment’s hesitation. Recommended.

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

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 2nd May 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and eBook formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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photo by Jacqueline Dallimore

Born in the Bay Area and now living in the Big Easy, I consider both to be home. Along the way I went to school, worked a few jobs and learned a thing or two. Throughout it all, I wrote. Never studied writing, it’s just a hobby that grew into a passion. A dozen books later, my first novel will be published in 2019. My Lovely Wife is not the first one I wrote, it’s the first one I submitted (trust me, the other eleven are terrible).

When I was a kid, my mom brought me to the library every two weeks. I checked out a stack of new books and new worlds. The best thing was becoming so absorbed in a book I couldn’t put it down. I walked around with it in front of my face, I took it to the bathroom, the kitchen, the book came with me wherever I went. I tripped, ran into walls and stubbed my toes because I never watched where I was going.

This is why I write. I want to tell stories that make people walk into walls.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor @ZaffreBooks #TheDangerousKind #damppebbles #1in100People @Tr4cyF3nt0n

the dangerous kind

“Perfect for fans of Anatomy of A Scandal, He Said/She Said, and Belinda Bauer,The Dangerous Kind is at once a gripping thriller and a stunning portrayal of the monsters that live among us.

One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.”

Woah, that was one hell of a ride!

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Dangerous Kind blog tour. The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor and was published in hardback on 16th May 2019 by Zaffre Books. I received a free ARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

I need to rewind a little here first. Back in June 2016, a mere six months into my ‘career’ (if I can call it that!) as a book blogger, I was invited to join a blog tour for a debut Bonnier Zaffre author and her book, My Husband’s Son. I wasn’t able to review at the time (although I did at a later date) so offered to host a guest post instead. And what a guest post it was. It nearly broke my poor little WordPress blog. It still, to this day, gets regular hits. Here’s the link if you haven’t seen it before: The Bugaboo in the hall: Does having kids make it harder to be a writer? It’s so heartfelt, so wonderfully honest and I fell a little bit in love with it.

But what a gigantic leap Deborah O’Connor has made from her terrific debut to this, her latest book which is being billed as the thriller of the year. Uncomfortable, unsettling and so incredibly different to what came before. It’s a dark tale and, I’ll be perfectly honest, I found it hard to read at times due to the distressing subject matter but blimey – what a book! The Dangerous Kind is a multi-layered story of modern times and the terrible, destructive things adults can do. A highly emotional read but one which will stay with me for time to come.

Jessamine Gooch is a radio broadcaster who hosts a late night crime show. Potentially Dangerous People takes a retrospective look at past crimes and asks if it was possible to stop the act from being committed. Were there warning signs in the perpetrator’s behaviour? Could measures have been taken to intervene and stop the violence before the atrocity took place? Jessamine is a well-known broadcaster so she isn’t surprised when she is cornered outside Broadcasting House by a fan. Except the fan wants more than an autograph. Her friend, Cassie Scolari, has gone missing. Cassie’s husband has a history of abuse and Marnie is convinced he has something to do with Cassie’s sudden disappearance. Jessamine knows not to get involved, although her curiosity is piqued. She can’t help but wonder what happened to Cassie when life changes dramatically for her. With time on her hands, Jessamine starts to dig into Cassie’s past only to make some startling discoveries. Focussing on her investigation, Jessamine neglects to notice that her own daughter, Sarah, is starting a dangerous relationship of her own…

Chapters are told either in the modern day, in a specific character’s voice, or are flashback chapters set in the early 00s. The flashback chapters, which are mostly narrated by Rowena, are harrowing and the ones I found the most difficult to read. Although my heart broke on several occasions, O’Connor has pitched it just right. I was disgusted by the goings-on, yet I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. However, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The subject matter is distressing but the author has masterfully told her story in a compelling, sympathetic and non-gratuitous way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, O’Connor has made such a massive leap from her debut to The Dangerous Kind. This book gave me shivers and has left its mark on me for a long time to come. Oh, how I wept at one particular scene (I can feel myself welling up just typing this). The Dangerous Kind is an incredibly brave piece of fiction and absolutely devastating. Superb!

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 16th May 2019 and is available in hardback, audio and ebook format (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

Deborah O Connor Blogtour FINAL

about-the-author3

deborah o'connor.jpg

Deborah O’Connor read English at Newnham College, Cambridge before going on to become a television producer. Having worked on everything from The Big Breakfast to Big Brother she produced the BAFTA award-winning poetry documentary Off By Heart and is currently the head of factual development at TV production company, CPL.

Born and bred in the North-East of England, she now lives in East London with her husband and three-year-old daughter.

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

#BookReview: The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor @ZaffreBooks @1stMondayCrime #TheDangerousKind #damppebbles

the dangerous kind.jpg

“Perfect for fans of Anatomy of A Scandal, He Said/She Said, and Belinda Bauer,The Dangerous Kind is at once a gripping thriller and a stunning portrayal of the monsters that live among us.

One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.”

Woah, that was one hell of a ride!

Welcome my bookish friends to damppebbles. What are your plans for Tuesday? Nothing exciting? Then why don’t you head on over to First Monday Crime (on a Tuesday!) in London and hang out with some fabulous crime authors and brilliant book lovers? Appearing this month for your delectation are Chris Carter, Deborah O’Connor, Mark Billingham, Vanda Symon and Laura Wilson. It’s every crime fiction fans dream come true (well, it’s mine anyway 😍). More details to follow on the event after I’ve tried to put into words how I felt about Deborah O’Connor’s brilliant new thriller, The Dangerous Kind (or click here).

I need to rewind a little here first. Back in June 2016, a mere six months into my ‘career’ (if I can call it that!) as a book blogger, I was invited to join a blog tour for a debut Bonnier Zaffre author called Deborah O’Connor and her book, My Husband’s Son. I wasn’t able to review at the time (although I did at a later date) so offered to host a guest post instead. And what a guest post it was. It nearly broke my poor little WordPress blog. It still, to this day, gets regular hits. Here’s the link if you haven’t seen it before: The Bugaboo in the hall: Does having kids make it harder to be a writer? It’s so heartfelt, so wonderfully honest and I fell a little bit in love with it.

But what a gigantic leap O’Connor has made from her terrific debut to this, her latest book which is being billed as the thriller of the year. Uncomfortable, unsettling and so incredibly different to what came before. It’s a dark tale and, I’ll be perfectly honest, I found it hard to read at times due to the distressing subject matter but blimey – what a book! The Dangerous Kind is a multi-layered story of modern times and the terrible, destructive things adults can do. A highly emotional read but one which will stay with me for time to come.

Jessamine Gooch is a radio broadcaster who hosts a late night crime show. Potentially Dangerous People takes a retrospective look at past crimes and asks if it was possible to stop the act from being committed. Were there warning signs in the perpetrator’s behaviour? Could measures have been taken to intervene and stop the violence before the atrocity took place? Jessamine is a well-known broadcaster so she isn’t surprised when she is cornered outside Broadcasting House by a fan. Except the fan wants more than an autograph. Her friend, Cassie Scolari, has gone missing. Cassie’s husband has a history of abuse and Marnie is convinced he has something to do with Cassie’s sudden disappearance. Jessamine knows not to get involved, although her curiosity is piqued. She can’t help but wonder what happened to Cassie when life changes dramatically for her. With time on her hands, Jessamine starts to dig into Cassie’s past only to make some startling discoveries. Focussing on her investigation, Jessamine neglects to notice that her own daughter, Sarah, is starting a dangerous relationship of her own…

Chapters are told either in the modern day, in a specific character’s voice, or are flashback chapters set in the early 00s. The flashback chapters, which are mostly narrated by Rowena, are harrowing and the ones I found the most difficult to read. Although my heart broke on several occasions, O’Connor has pitched it just right. I was disgusted by the goings-on, yet I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. However, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The subject matter is distressing but the author has masterfully told her story in a compelling, sympathetic and non-gratuitous way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, O’Connor has made such a massive leap from her debut to The Dangerous Kind. This book gave me shivers and has left its mark on me for a long time to come. Oh, how I wept at one particular scene (I can feel myself welling up just typing this). The Dangerous Kind is an incredibly brave piece of fiction and absolutely devastating. Superb!

I received a free ARC of The Dangerous Kind but this has not influenced my review in any way.

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 16th May 2019 and is available in hardback, audio and ebook format (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

First Monday Crime:
Deborah O’Connor will be joining the panel for May’s First Monday Crime event on TUESDAY 7th May 2019. Deborah will be appearing alongside Chris Carter, Mark Billingham, Vanda Symon and Laura Wilson. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on TUESDAY 7th May at City University, College Building, Room A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.

about-the-author3

deborah o'connor.jpg

Deborah O’Connor read English at Newnham College, Cambridge before going on to become a television producer. Having worked on everything from The Big Breakfast to Big Brother she produced the BAFTA award-winning poetry documentary Off By Heart and is currently the head of factual development at TV production company, CPL.

Born and bred in the North-East of England, she now lives in East London with her husband and three-year-old daughter.

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

#BookReview: Purged by Peter Laws @AllisonandBusby #Purged

purged“Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, he’s now a professor of sociology writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes.

On holiday in an idyllic part of Oxfordshire where wooden crosses hang at every turn, Matt’s stay becomes sinister when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances. Caught up in an investigation that brings disturbing memories to the surface, Matt is on the trail of a killer who is determined to save us all.”

There are several people in the book world whose opinions I completely trust.  If they say ‘read this book’ then that is exactly what I will do.  The fabulous Liz of Liz Loves Books recommended this one to me so I treated myself and purchased a copy.  Purged is the first book in the Matt Hunter series written by Peter Laws and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Matt Hunter is a very interesting character.  He trained as a minister, initially choosing to dedicate his life to God and his beliefs.  Only for those beliefs to vanish.  Now a professor of sociology and slogging his guts out on a book which won’t write itself, he heads with his family to a quaint Oxfordshire village for a break.  The destination isn’t chosen at random though and whilst there Matt’s wife, Wren (an architect), is to come up with plans to renovate the Hobbs Hill church.  What the couple don’t realise initially is exactly how important the church is to the Hobbs Hill locals.  Arriving at their picturesque cottage they notice a number of wooden crosses dotted about the place.  The biggest surprise is yet to come though in the form of local Pastor, Chris Kelly.  A face Matt recognises all too well.  When local women start to disappear Matt unwittingly becomes involved in the investigation.  Will he be able to work out what’s happening to the women before the killer strikes too close to home…?

This is a wonderful slow-burn of a novel that I kept wanting to return to.  It opens with a terrifying scene that sets the tone for the book from start to finish.  The reader discovers that Matt has experienced horrors in his own past and these are skillfully drip-fed to the reader as the book progresses, making sure you keep turning those pages.  As much as I loved Matt I felt the total opposite about Pastor Chris, who came across as self-absorbed, frustratingly ignorant and quite creepy.  The other thing I absolutely loved was the small, isolated (slightly creepy) community feel of the setting.  The fact that the fictional village is set in Oxfordshire just added to the enjoyment for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would and I will be making a point of downloading the second and third books in the series as well.  I need me more Matt!  The author’s love of the horror genre shines through and although I would label Purged as a crime thriller it does have a nod or two to the horror genre as well.  You can’t go wrong with a horror-esque crime thriller in my book!  As debuts go, it’s a cracker of a book.  A well-written, creepy page-turner that I heartily recommend.  Thanks Liz for putting Purged on my radar!

Purged by Peter Laws was published in the UK by Allison & Busby on 16th February 2017 and is available in paperback, ebook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

peter laws.jpgPeter Laws is an author, journalist, film critic and YouTube horror host. He’s also a church minister with a taste for the macabre. He’s the creator of the acclaimed Matt Hunter series of horror tinged crime thrillers. Hunter is an ex-vicar turned atheist academic, who helps the police solve religiously motivated crimes. The first in the series, ‘Purged’, had Matt on the trail of a Christian serial killer, who fast tracks his victims to heaven by baptising them, then killing straight after. The sequel, ‘Unleashed’, pulls Matt into a world of poltergeists and the supernatural, though he insists a flesh and blood killer is at work. Unleashed won ‘Thriller of the Year’ in the Fully Booked awards for 2017. In the third Matt Hunter novel, ‘Severed’, Matt has to contend with a bizarre pseudo Christian cult.

He’s also the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book The Frighteners: Why We Love Monsters Ghosts Death and Gore. It’s available from Icon Books in the UK and Skyhorse in the US.

He writes a monthly column in the print magazine The Fortean Times and hosts the popular podcast and YouTube show The Flicks That Church Forgot which reviews scary films from a theological perspective. He also does quirky cover versions of obscure horror songs on there, so why not drop by. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgZZklJNcUEZplFDboNho6g

Author Links:FacebookTwitterInstagram |

#BlogTour┃#BookReview: The Lost Man by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) #TheLostManIsComing

the lost man.jpg“‘He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.’

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…”

Happy Monday! I am delighted to welcome you to my first ‘actual’ book review of the year and my first blog tour post of 2019 which is for The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.  I am a huge fan of Harper’s writing having loved her previous novels, the epic The Dry and the superb Force of Nature.  This latest book, however, is a standalone and not part of the brilliant Aaron Falk series so if you’ve not picked up one of Jane Harper’s books before now is the time to start!

When Jane Harper has a new book coming out you can guarantee it will be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year.  Full stop.  If Jane Harper writes something then oh boy, do I want to read it!  The Lost Man is a brilliant addition to her repertoire but one I found quite different from her previous works.  One thing I will say is that in every Harper novel I have read you can guarantee that the landscape; that desolate isolation, the unpredictability of the Australian Outback plays as much a part of the story as the lead characters do.  I think it’s something us Brits tend to struggle to get our heads around.  Exactly how much open space there is, how far you have to travel to see another human being and how totally alone you can feel.  Harper writes these scenarios with such aplomb and so vividly that I found myself totally immersed in the picture she was painting for us readers.

The Lost Man is about the Bright family, an isolated family of cattle farmers.  You can’t help but like Nathan, the eldest of the three Bright brothers.  Early on you discover that he has done something so catastrophic that the entire town has turned their backs on him.  What exactly that is you don’t discover until later in the story but for a community so dependent on each other and so isolated you can guarantee it’s no small thing.  Despite discovering what terrible thing Nathan did, my like of the character did not waiver.  He comes across as a struggling, part-time, single parent who regrets past decisions he made but most of all he comes across as very lonely.  Tidbits of information fall into the reader’s lap as the story progresses and things gradually start to crystalise.  Before long Nathan realises that not everything is as it seems…

Would I recommend this book? I would. This was a slow burn of a read for me that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written story.  The setting and the characters combine to make a suspenseful tale about the Bright family and the secrets they hide within their familial bubble.  I had my suspicions about what had happened to Cameron, the deceased middle brother, but it was interesting to watch the story unfold and have my suspicions confirmed.  Harper throws in some wonderful red herrings to keep her readers on their toes and I had several moments of doubt before the perpetrator was uncovered.  You can’t go wrong with a Jane Harper novel and if you haven’t read one of her books before then please do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

I read and reviewed an eARC of The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  The above is my own unbiased opinion.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper was published by Little,Brown on 7th February and is available in hardback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): ┃amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads

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about-the-author3

jane harperJane Harper is the internationally bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, was released in October 2018.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

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

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com