#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen @HQstories #TheStolenSisters #damppebbles

the stolen sisters“Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of the brilliant The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen with you, and help kick off the amazing blog tour alongside the fabulous Emma Mitchell. My thanks to HQ for the blog tour invitation and eARC of the book. The Stolen Sisters will be published on 1st October 2020 and will be available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Stolen Sisters but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE Louise Jensen fan. I have read every single psychological thriller she has written, and will continue to do so because she is a master storyteller. I was really, REALLY looking forward to reading The Stolen Sisters and I was not disappointed. I loved this book. It gave me everything I was hoping for and so much more.

Carly, Marie and Leah Sinclair. Three sisters who went through hell twenty years ago when they were snatched from outside their home by two men and locked up in a dank and dilapidated room for days on end. Miraculously, the girls managed to escape, but that was only the beginning. Hell left their prison with them and followed them all the way home. Now, twenty years older, each of the sisters is bearing the brunt of those traumatic days as captives. Leah’s compulsions threaten to destroy her marriage and take her young son from her. Marie’s drinking problem has spiralled out of control, and Carly has never forgiven herself for not protecting her younger twin sisters enough and won’t let anyone get close to her. And let’s not forget the secrets. How much longer can the truth be kept hidden…?

The Stolen Sisters is an astonishingly good book and I savoured every moment I had with it. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. Pondering on the girls’ situation, trying to work out where the author was going to take the story (I failed at that, by the way) and generally relishing the author’s ability to tell a blimmin’ good story. It’s an absolutely cracking novel and if you love a family-driven psychological thriller, make sure you grab a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

The story is told from the past – we watch as the girls are taken from near their house at the tender ages of 13 and 8 – and the present day – where the reader witnesses the devastating long-term effects of the trauma suffered by the girls all those years ago. Leah’s compulsions, and how they impinge on her life, are eye-opening. The reader gets to see the gradual increase and deterioration of her condition as the anniversary looms. I found her anxiety and fear palpable. So cleverly written by the author. Out of all the characters in the book, we most closely follow Leah so I found myself warming to her more than the other two sisters. The majority of the chapters from the past are told from Carly’s point of view and my heart absolutely ached for her. Her disappointment in herself for not protecting her sisters enough and the mother role she took on whilst the girls were trapped, it almost broke me.

If you’ve read books by this author before you will be aware that she is a master at deceiving her reader (in the very best way possible). This is another wonderful example of why Jensen’s books are so incredibly popular. I had no idea where the story was going but when we got there, WOW! Dark and twisted – just how I like my books. I certainly didn’t see that one coming! I was gripped from start to finish. Even though it’s clear from the outset that the girls escape, the chapters set in the past still had me on the edge of my seat.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Stolen Sisters. It’s the most enjoyable, absorbing and exciting psychological thriller I have read in a long time. I was 100% in the pages of this book living the story alongside the characters. A highly emotive read that is incredibly tense and the ultimate page-turner. Did I mention that I loved The Stolen Sisters? Oh well, worth mentioning again. I loved The Stolen Sisters! Louise Jensen is a superb writer. It was an absolute joy to read this book and I will savour the memory of it for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

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

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by HQ on 1st October 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

The Stolen Sisters

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louise jensenLouise 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 sixth thriller, Stolen Sisters, will be published in Autumn 2020 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: Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar @dialoguebooks #StoneColdTrouble #damppebbles

stone cold trouble“Trying – and failing – to keep his head down and to stay out of trouble, ex-con Zaq Khan agrees to help his best friend, Jags, recover a family heirloom, currently in the possession of a wealthy businessman. But when Zaq’s brother is viciously assaulted, Zaq is left wondering whether someone from his own past is out to get revenge.

Wanting answers and retribution, Zaq and Jags set out to track down those responsible. Meanwhile, their dealings with the businessman take a turn for the worse and Zaq and Jags find themselves suspected of murder.

It’ll take both brains and brawn to get themselves out of trouble and, no matter what happens, the results will likely be deadly. The only question is, whether it will prove deadly for them, or for someone else . . . ?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of a highly anticipated new release – Stone Cold Trouble. Stone Cold Trouble is the second book in Amer Anwar’s Zaq and Jags series and is published by Dialogue Books today (that’s 24th September 2020). I chose to read and review a free eARC of Stone Cold Trouble but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved (LOVED!) Brothers in Blood, the first book in this series. It was really gritty but wonderfully refreshing and original too, with tons of heart. I felt a little apprehensive about starting Stone Cold Trouble based purely on how much I loved book one (Stone Cold Trouble is one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, no doubt about that!). But could the author do it again? You betcha. Anwar’s follow-up is another brilliantly written piece of page-turning fiction and I loved it.

Zaq Khan, despite his best efforts, can’t seem to avoid trouble. When his best mate’s uncle, Lucky, asks for his help in returning a family heirloom, Zaq and Jags find themselves dealing with a powerful businessman whose bodyguards are always spoiling for a fight. When Zaq’s brother, Tariq, is viciously attacked, all attention is moved to his own family and to Tariq’s ICU bedside. Zaq can’t help feeling though that someone from his own troubled past is trying to send him a clear message. Zaq is determined to make those responsible for his brother’s critical condition pay, no matter what it takes. Will Zaq and Jags be able to find the person responsible and wreak revenge, before it’s too late….

I am 100% invested in these characters and their very eventful lives. I love Zaq and Jags and will happily read this series for as long as the author writes it. There is so much crammed into this story that there’s never a dull moment. Even when Jags is, once again, making something for Zaq to eat (it happens a fair bit) the banter between the two characters is so entertaining and the imagery is so clear, you’re swept up into the story and enjoying every single moment. Although I will say this book did, at points, make me feel quite hungry!

The streets of Southall, West London, live and breathe on the pages of this book. The author whisks you away to his version of an area he obviously loves and it was an absolute joy to read. The inclusion of Punjabi words and phrases really added to the reading experience for me. I loved how the plot unfolded and how once again, Zaq and Jags find themselves knee-deep in a compelling mystery. I felt I was tagging along with the lads every step of the way as they unpicked what had happened and why. There’s a wonderful sense of unease and tension throughout which kept me on the edge of my seat. Culminating in a brilliant nerve-wracking finale.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend Stone Cold Trouble and Brothers in Blood. Brilliantly written Asian noir with great, satisfying dollops of grit and a big ol’ heart to boot. Refreshing, original, gutsy fiction and I bloody love it! Highly recommended.

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

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar was published in the UK by Dialogue Books on 24th September 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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amer anwarAmer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually settled into a career as a designer/creative artworker producing artwork mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers” Association Debut Dagger Award. Brothers in Blood is his first novel. Stone Cold Trouble is his second.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton @TrapezeBooks #Tattletale #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

tattletale“One day changes Jody’s life forever. She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags’s life forever. After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…

Packed with twists and turns, this gripping psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventeenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton. Tattletale was published by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Tattletale but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this book was a whole lot darker than I ever expected it to be! I like to read fiction that errs on the dark side but with this book, I had to put it down and take a break a couple of times. It’s a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but it got under my skin. The way the best fiction does.

Mags returns to the UK following her brother’s horrific accident. He’s on life support and she’s been told to prepare for the worst. She goes to the hospital, meets her brother’s devastated fiancee for the first time and tries to come to terms with what has happened. Mags and Abe were never close as children. More like rivals really, out to get the other in trouble as much as possible with their controlling and aggressive father. The divide between the siblings seems too wide now though, and Mags wants to change that before it’s too late. So she moves into Abe’s flat, spends time with Jody, his fiancee, and starts to discover things she never knew about her brother. But not everything fits. Not everyone is telling Mags the truth. Then she discovers something which makes no sense at all. Who is lying to Mags and why…?

The chapters are broken down into sections and told from one of four perspectives; Jody – Abe’s fiancee, Mags, Mira – a neighbour, and an unknown young female narrator whose chapters are harrowing and difficult at times to read. This is probably the most appropriate point in my review to do something I don’t normally do, and that’s issue a warning. This book contains some very distressing scenes of sexual abuse and rape against children. For that reason, it’s not going to be for everyone.

The plot doesn’t stop moving from the moment you open the book and I was immediately sucked into the story. The opening packs a punch with its vivid imagery and intriguing characters. There’s a feeling though that you, as the reader, aren’t party to everything that’s going on, or gone on before. You’re missing…..’something’, but what is it? It’s a very intriguing start and the book had its hooks in me from then on. The wonderful sense of impending doom helped as well. I do love a sense of foreboding!

There isn’t a lot I can say about the characters without putting my foot in it so I won’t go into detail. But I will say, I couldn’t decide if I liked or loathed Mags. Mags is the character we spend the most time with and at times I think it may have been a bit of both. She was quite judgmental and superior for a large proportion of the book, which riled me. She rubbed me up the wrong way and I don’t think there was any going back from that point.

Would I recommend this book? I would yes, But please heed my warning about the abuse if that’s something you like to avoid in your fiction. It has its place in this novel but it’s a tough read. Tattletale is a multi-layered, intense read for fans of the psychological suspense genre and one I enjoyed. I did find the ending a smidge far-fetched but as I always say, if you can’t stretch the limits a little in fiction, when can you? I also saw one of the twists coming but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this book as there were plenty more twists and turns coming my way that did surprise me. Recommended.

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

Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Sarah J. Naughton

Sarah Naughton’s debut novel, The Hanged Man Rises, was shortlisted for the Costa children’s award. It was followed by a second young adult thriller, The Blood List. Her thrillers for adults, Tattletale and The Other Couple (Orion) are Amazon bestsellers. Sarah lives in London with her husband and sons.

#BookReview: The Betrayals by Fiona Neill @PenguinUKBooks #TheBetrayals #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the betrayals“None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast.

Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable.

But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick.

And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets.

Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel.

Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer.

And Nick must confront his own version of events.

There are four sides to this story. Who will you believe?”

Hello and welcome to a new day on damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my second 20 Books of Summer review with you today and it’s for The Betrayals by Fiona Neill. The Betrayals was published by Penguin on 10th August 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Betrayals but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with The Betrayals on my NetGalley shelf. It’s so different to what I normally read. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that crime fiction is my ‘thing’, liberally sprinkled with lots of death and destruction. The Betrayals I would describe more as a family drama….and I LOVED IT! Honestly, I think I may be mellowing in my old age because I couldn’t put this book down and it really wormed its way under my skin.

Lisa committed one of the worst crimes a best friend could, when she had an affair with Rosie’s husband, Nick. The affair ended what Rosie thought was a strong and stable marriage, leaving her and her two children, Daisy and Max, alone. Now, after eight years of silence, Lisa wants to talk. She has something she has to share with Rosie and time is running out. But the threat of Lisa being back in their lives puts untold pressure on an already fragile Daisy whose compulsive behaviour is spiralling out of control. Will Rosie confront the past, come face to face with her ex-best friend and discover what Lisa wants to share? Four points of view, four very different memories of a week on the Norfolk coast which changed the lives of the Rankin family forever…

This is a wonderful, character-driven, slow burn of a novel and I devoured it. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. When I was doing other things (cooking, watching TV) I wanted to get back to the book. There’s nothing I love more than a character-driven novel and that’s what The Betrayals delivers in spades. The Rankin family, made up of mum – breast cancer consultant – Rosie, estranged Dad, Nick – who works in the study of memory – student daughter, Daisy, and medical student son, Max, were such a fascinating bunch of characters that I was pulled into their world from the very start of the book to the very end. Four different points of view, but for me, it was all about Max and Daisy. The Betrayals is their story.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the four family members in the present day. The reader is then whisked to the blowy Norfolk coast and back to that fateful week eight years ago, and that’s when things start slotting into place for the reader. Divided loyalties, teenage insecurities and the beginning of the end for not one, but two marriages. The start of something unwelcome – or perhaps the catalyst for it to begin to dig its spiky nails in further. There was no turning back after the holiday in Norfolk where lives changed forever. I must mention how utterly adorable Max is at the age of 10 years old. He’s so very wise beyond his years, so observant and astute.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes but be prepared for a wonderful slow burn of a novel with very few twists and turns and a somewhat over-egged big reveal courtesy of Lisa. This is the story of the Rankins and I savoured every moment I spent with them. I would normally shy away from a book like this as it’s not my usual choice of genre but I’m so glad I read it. The Betrayals puts family dynamics under the microscope and I heartily recommend it.

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

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill was published in the UK by Penguin on 10th August 2017 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Fiona Neill_c_Guy Hills USEFiona Neill is a novelist and journalist. She was born in 1966. Her first novel The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy, based on her column in The Times Magazine every Saturday, was published in 2007. It was widely acclaimed and went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller that sold in twenty-five countries.

Brought up in Norfolk, she now lives in London with her husband and three children.

#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 Malone Photo

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…

Never Look Back MMP Blog Tour

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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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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 |