#BlogTour | #BookReview: After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac (@JaneIsaacAuthor) #AfterHesGone #DCBethChamberlain

afterhesgone-isaac-ebookweb.jpg“The safety catch on the Glock snapped as it was released. Her stomach curdled as she watched the face of death stretch and curve. Listened to the words drip from his mouth, ‘Right. Let’s begin, shall we?’

When Cameron Swift is gunned down outside his family home, DC Beth Chamberlain is appointed Family Liaison Officer: a dual role that requires her to support the family, and also investigate them.

As the case unfolds and the body count climbs, Beth discovers that nothing is quite as it appears and everyone, it seems, has secrets.

Even the dead…”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and my stop on the After He’s Gone blog tour.  After He’s Gone is the first book in a new series written by established crime writer, Jane Isaac.  I am such a fan of Jane Isaac’s books and have featured the last two novels in the DI Will Jackman series on the blog; Beneath the Ashes and The Lies Within.  When I heard Jane was due to release the first book in a brand new, self-published series featuring a new detective, in the form of DC Beth Chamberlain, I couldn’t wait to read it!

After He’s Gone opens with a terrifying prologue, shortly followed by a shocking first chapter guaranteed to get the heart rate up!  From that point forward I was hooked and wanted to know absolutely everything that was happening to these normal sounding people and of course, why it was happening.  Luckily we readers have the wonderful DC Beth Chamberlain on our side, persistently poking at the mysterious half-truths and secrets in an attempt to solve a somewhat bewildering case for Northampton Police Force.  But the more she pokes, the more confusing things become.  Can Beth manage to piece together the evidence before it’s too late and the killer strikes again…

I really liked Beth.  She’s probably less angst-ridden than many of the detectives I normally read about but it’s nice to have a break from my usual damaged souls, in a literary sense.  Her secret ‘friends with benefits’ agreement with a senior officer gave her a bit of an edge, particularly as he’s keen for more but Beth won’t admit to how she feels.  I’m not one for love’n’stuff in my crime novels but I can see this relationship bringing friction to a normally harmonious working relationship.  I look forward to seeing where Isaac takes this storyline in future novels.

Would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  It’s a great start to what promises to be a brilliant new crime series featuring Family Liaison Officer DC Beth Chamberlain.  I found myself drawn into the story from the get-go, brilliantly written and skillfully plotted by a talented author.  I managed to read After He’s Gone in just over a day which is very quick for me.  Testament to the fact that I struggled to put it down.  I’m excited about the future, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next Beth Chamberlain novel.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of After He’s Gone.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

After He’s Gone by Jane Isaac was published in the UK on 15th June 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links (except the Universal Link) are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Universal Link |

Jane Isaac.jpg

about the author3

jane-isaac-photoJane Isaac lives with her detective husband (very helpful for research!) and her daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-Thriller.com.

After He’s Gone is Jane’s sixth novel and the first in a new series featuring Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain. The second DC Beth Chamberlain novel will be released later in 2018.

Author LinksWebsite | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Date by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture #TheDate #Prosopagnosia

the date“One night can change everything. 

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her. 

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her…

From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister, The Gift and The Surrogate, The Date is a gripping page-turner that will keep you awake until the early hours. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.”

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today because I’m kicking off The Date blog tour, eeek!  The Date is the fourth book written by one of my very favourite authors, Louise Jensen.  And if that wasn’t enough, it’s publication day too so a very happy book birthday to Louise and the folk at Bookouture!  I’ve read and reviewed all of Jensen’s previous books and I can’t recommend them highly enough; The SisterThe Gift & The Surrogate.  If you want a guaranteed emotive, twisty, shocker of a read then look no further than Ms Jensen.

With this in mind, I was really looking forward to making a start on The Date.  Ali is heading out on her first date since reluctantly separating from her husband, Matt.  The following morning she wakes dazed and confused, slowly realising that something terrible has happened, that she’s been subjected to an unknown trauma.  The effects are devastating, the doctors tell Ali that she now suffers from prosopagnosia; face blindness.  Now I have to be honest here.  I have recently read another book where the main character suffered from the same condition.  I have no experience of face blindness myself and struggle to visualise how sufferers live their lives but I think, having that previous experience (albeit reading a book!) did diminish the shock factor.  The news of Ali’s new condition didn’t hit me as hard as it would a reader coming to prosopagnosia for the first time.  However, what really resonated with me was how utterly terrified Ali was.  She has no memory of the date which changed her life forever.  She’s broken and bruised and suddenly, thanks to the face blindness very, very alone and she can’t trust anyone.  Absolutely terrifying.

Jensen is a master at making you think one thing whilst doing some clever sleight of hand under the table so you’re never really sure what to expect.  I don’t think I have ever been as surprised as I was at the end of The Surrogate, Jensen’s previous book.  Which put me on my guard this time around.  I was obsessed with looking for clues and hints.  I’m delighted to confirm that once again the author worked her seemingly effortless magic and I was miles out in my predictions.  I had concocted all manner of possible scenarios, all but the one it actually was!

Ali’s past is a lot more complicated than it first seems and I enjoyed reading the flashbacks to her childhood.  As childhoods go, Ali’s wasn’t the greatest but again, for reasons you do not expect at first.  It was fascinating to see the events which made her the woman she is, the birth of the guilt she carries so heavily as an adult.  I felt enormously sorry for her many times throughout the book but strangely, I struggled to like her.  Ali is a character who will be loved by many readers but for me, she lacked gumption; I wanted her to be a little more kick-ass and a little less whiny and timid.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, but then I would highly recommend ALL of Jensen’s books as she is a step above most other writers in the same genre.  The Date is bursting at the seams with shedloads of delicious intriguing suspense. The ending was an absolutely perfect fit for the story and I can’t stop picturing that final scene in my head and wondering to myself….

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

The Date by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st June 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

the date banner.jpg

about the author3

15183346Louise Jensen is the Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate.

To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List.

Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

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 |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: It Was Her by Mark Hill (@markhillwriter) @TheCrimeVault @millieseaward #ItWasHer

it was her.jpg“Twenty years ago, Tatia was adopted into a well-off home where she seemed happy, settled. Then the youngest boy in the family dies in an accident, and she gets the blame.

Did she do it?

Tatia is cast out, away from her remaining adopted siblings Joel and Poppy. Now she yearns for a home to call her own. So when she sees families going on holiday, leaving their beautiful homes empty, there seems no harm in living their lives while they are gone. But somehow, people keep ending up dead.

Did she kill them?

As bodies start to appear in supposedly safe neighbourhoods, DI Ray Drake and DS Flick Crowley race to find the thinnest of links between the victims. But Drake’s secret past is threatening to destroy everything.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the It Was Her blog tour.  It Was Her is written by ex-blogger and journalist, Mark Hill and was published by Sphere on 17th May 2018.  This is the second book in the DI Ray Drake series.  The first book, His First Lie (originally published as ‘The Two O’Clock Boy’) I thoroughly enjoyed and you can read my review by clicking HERE.

I was really looking forward to being reacquainted with DI Drake and DS Flick Crowley, having enjoyed His First Lie as much as I did.  But before we go any further, a word to the wise.  There’s something really quite special and different about this series and some things, although expertly explained and recapped by the author, work so much better if you read them first hand.  You get that spine-tingling shock factor, that unexpected ‘WOW’ moment that you just can’t get via a recap.  I may get in trouble for saying this but PLEASE read His First Lie first.  It’ll give you goosebumps and you’ll learn exactly who you are dealing with in Ray Drake.  Now don’t get me wrong, Hill has done a terrific job of giving new readers an overview of what happened to Ray as a child but no matter how expert the writing, this is one series that you should experience, from the beginning, yourself.

I’ll climb down off of my soapbox now (more of a biscuit tin really…) and get on with reviewing It Was Her!  DI Ray Drake is a troubled man.  DS Flick Crowley is dealing with her own demons which are all due to Drake, her boss and his troubled past.  I found Flick hard to like in the first book.  It Was Her has completely changed my opinion.  They’re an odd couple, but I really like them.  There’s a wonderful sense of impending doom about the two of them; the knowledge that if either of them says the wrong thing, confides in the wrong person then life could drastically change for both.  They’re bound together by secrets, whether they like it or not.

One of the things I’m growing to love about reading a Mark Hill novel is his flair for writing interesting, well-developed characters.  Although this book is all about DI Drake his supporting cast are solid, believable characters who all contribute to the storyline.  Hill has, however, outdone himself with the toxic Bliss family.  Tatia is the ‘adopted’ (although not through the normal, legal channels) middle sister of the family.  Poppy is the older sister, Joel is the younger brother and Will died at a young age when he fell from a clifftop whilst on holiday with his family.  Tatia was blamed for the ‘accident’ and sent home to an orphanage in Georgia and a life of poverty, abuse and degradation.  The scars run deep and all Tatia wants is a beautiful home of her own and her family reunited.  So much so that breaking and entering doesn’t seem that big-a-deal.  But then the owners of the properties start dying in violent circumstances and Tatia becomes the prime suspect in a murder investigation.  Did she do it?  Only DI Drake and DS Crowley can discover the truth…

Every so often throughout the story, there are flashbacks to x number of days or weeks after Will fell from the cliff.  These chapters give the reader a great insight into the workings of the Bliss family and how events have turned out the way they have.  I’m afraid I did my usual and tried to work out whodunit before it was revealed.  I did guess the perpetrator but oh my gosh, that ending was NOT expected!

Would I recommend this book?  I would but do start with His First Lie as it gives you the necessary background.  DI Drake is a fascinating and complex character and it helps to understand his experience and his motivations before reading It Was Her.  Deliciously dark characters, a poisonous middle-class family and a detective inspector with more to hide than most!  Another thoroughly enjoyable read from Mark Hill.

Four out of five stars.

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

It Was Her by Mark Hill was published in the UK by Sphere on 17th May 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

It Was Her blog tour poster.jpg

about the author3

mark-hillI’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR.

But I write now, which is just as well, because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

It’s nice to see you here, thanks for clicking.

If you enjoyed His First Lie or It Was Her, do get in touch. There are oh-so-many ways to do it!

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

#BookReview: Anything For Her by G.J. Minett (@GJMinett) @BonnierZaffre @1stMondayCrime #AnythingForHer

anything for her.jpg“You’d do anything for the one that got away . . . wouldn’t you?

When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy’s never forgotten her. He’d do anything for her then, and he’d do anything for her now.

When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago? 

Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing – reasons that might be more dangerous than she’s led him to believe . . .

Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.”

G.J. Minett’s books have been on my radar for a while now.  I’ve had Anything For Her‘s predecessor on my TBR since last Summer and it’s been giving me ‘the look’.  You know about ‘the look’, right?  The one that makes you want to forget about any other reading commitments you *may* have and just get stuck into another, taking you totally off-piste!  So I was delighted to see G.J. Minett’s name on the list for the May (..pril) First Monday Crime panel.  Finally, I would get to read one of this author’s books!

And I enjoyed it.  It’s a twisty slow burn of a tale which made me reach for my Sherlock Holmesesque deerstalker and try to figure out what was going on with Minett’s secretive cast of characters.  I failed, by the way – I couldn’t see ‘whodunit’ in Anything For Her.

Billy is an interesting character.  We get to see snippets into his early teenage years; the loving relationship he had with his terminally ill mother, the relationship he believed he had with his father.  What I really liked about Billy was the air of something being a little ‘off’ which he carries.  The reader knows early on that something isn’t quite right with Billy and that feeling built into a wonderful sense of unease for me.  Saying that having finished the book last night, I’m afraid I’m still none the wiser with regards to the true dynamics of Billy’s relationship with his father.  And that not knowing is gnawing away at me a little.

Billy and Aimi are an item.  In the throws of young, teenage love which Billy firmly believes is going to stand the test of time.  Fast forward eleven years and Billy is shocked to bump into Aimi in his sister’s local supermarket.  Billy, on a mercy mission having recently discovered his sister has a terminal illness, is both thrilled and surprised to be reunited with his one true love, despite her now being married to someone else.  As is Aimi, but for different reasons.  During a stroll along Camber Sands, Aimi confesses how bad her marriage is and shows Billy the bruises as proof.  What comes next is a devious plan to deceive her husband and his influential family, and escape to a new life overseas.  Once Aimi’s vanishing act has taken place with the help of the ever devoted Billy, he slowly becomes aware that the Aimi he met in Tesco and the Aimi from eleven years ago are now very different people…

There’s something really quite dark about both Billy and Aimi which appealed to my need for monstrous, manipulative characters in my books.  That was particularly the case with Billy, I never really felt I had a grasp on what he was fully capable of.  That doesn’t mean I necessarily liked him though.  Of all the characters in Anything For Her, the only one I felt any sympathy for or warmth towards was Billy’s sister, Mia.  Her acceptance of her condition and her pragmatic approach to dealing with the uncertainty of when things will end for her was really quite moving at times.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  The plot gradually works its way up to a surprising reveal but it’s the final act, that ending…which did it for me.  This book couldn’t have finished any other way, in my opinion.  A perfect finale.  If you’re looking for a well written, character-driven psychological thriller to submerse yourself in, then you may just have found it!  I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book by G.J. Minett.

Four stars out of five.

G.J. Minnet will be appearing at the Mayril (it’s May’s First Monday panel but because of the Bank Holiday here in the UK it’s happening in April instead!) First Monday Crime on Monday 30th April 2018. Graham (G.J.) will be appearing alongside Robert Goddard, Simone Buchholz, Cathi Unsworth and moderator Joe Haddow. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on Monday 30th April at City University, College Building, A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.

Anything For Her by G.J. Minett was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 22nd March 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

gj minett.jpgGraham was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge.

He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and almost immediately won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’.

Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. He was signed up by Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, who managed to secure a two-book deal with twenty7, the digital-first adult fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing.

“The Hidden Legacy” was published as an eBook in November 2015 and the paperback version was published in August 2016. The second book in the deal, entitled “Lie in Wait”, was published as an eBook in August 2016 and the paperback version in March 2017.

Graham lives with his wife and children in West Sussex but retains close links with the rest of his family in Cheltenham.

Author Links:Twitter | Website | Facebook |

Author image and bio © http://www.grahamminett.com/

 

#BookReview: Our House by Louise Candlish (@louise_candlish) @simonschusterUK #OurHouse #DomesticSuspense

9781471168031 (3)“FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE.
When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER.
Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?

TILL DEATH US DO PART.”

I was kindly invited to take part in the blog tour for Our House by Jess at Simon & Schuster, and if you were around over the weekend you would have seen a brilliant guest post on the blog written by the author, Louise Candlish.  When Jess approached me about the tour, I didn’t think I would be able to fit a review in.  But, in the end, I just couldn’t help myself!  (And I know I promised you that review on Monday but I’m afraid life got in the way a little, as it does to all of us sometimes.)

I did, however, finish reading Our House over the weekend and I’m still feeling a number of the unsettling emotions it has left me with.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is a GREAT book but flipping heck, it made me really quite uncomfortable at times.  It’s a strange one (a good strange one).  I struggled to put it down but at the same time, I didn’t want to pick it again once I had put it down.  Isn’t that a weird thing to say?!  I knew things were only going to get worse for the Lawson family and whilst I was seriously intrigued by their situation, at points, I wasn’t sure I wanted to witness them.  It was like I wanted to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.  Gosh, I hope I’m making some sort of sense here.  It felt a little like slowing down to gawp as you pass a road traffic accident, a little ghoulish…

Fi returns home after a romantic break with her new man to find a young couple moving into their family home.  There is no mistake about it; the funds have been transferred and the names on the deeds have been changed.  Fi’s beloved family home is no longer hers.  But this is the first she’s heard about it.  Fi would never even consider selling their house; it was meant to be passed down to her boys.  It was their inheritance.  To complicate matters Fi’s estranged husband, Bram is missing.  He’s not picking up his phone.  No one has seen hide nor hair of him.  What’s going on?  How could this happen?  Are Fi and Bram the victims of some complex property fraud, or is the source of the crime much closer to home than anyone imagines…

The way Candlish has told the story is exceptional.  We meet Fi as she discovers the horrible truth, her home is no longer her own.  The reader watches from the shadows as she argues and debates with the new owners, urging them to understand what a terrible mistake this must all be.  But it has to be true, the paperwork says so, as does the missing two million pounds.  Which takes us to ‘The Victim‘, a Podcast that “tells the true story of a crime directly in the words of the victim. ‘The Victim’ is not an investigation, but a privileged insight into an innocent person’s suffering.”  [taken from Louise Candlish’s website].  These sections are where we get to see the real Fi; her naivety, her good nature, her gullibility and her strong love and devotion to her two sons.  The reader also gets to hear Bram’s side of the story which doesn’t make for a pleasant read.  Bram is an idiot.  He’s probably King Idiot actually!  I wanted to thump him at times and, truth be told, I also wanted to give him a big cuddle and tell him it would be alright in the end (that really isn’t a spoiler by the way!).  Bram’s devotion to his boys, if nothing else, melted my heart.  The dawning realisation of what was happening to him and what the repercussions of that was tough going at times.

Before I turn this into the longest review I have ever written, I want to talk briefly about the end of this book.  I was warned about a big twist and it really is quite devastating as books go.  It wasn’t a WOW moment for me though, I found myself inhaling sharply and then slumping in a heap.  If at any point in the book, you feel any kind of fondness or warmth for the characters, I expect you may feel the same.  Several days later and I’m still turning over the story of Fi and Bram in my mind.  I wish it had ended differently for them, but the ending was perfect.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s quite different to many other domestic suspense novels I have read over the years.  It’s a triumphant step up for a genre that I often feel can be quite samey.  Full of emotion, probably more than I could handle at times, and totally devastating in places.  With characters that leap off the page at you and with situations you could easily find yourself in, Our House is a must read.

Four out of five stars.

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

Our House by Louise Candlish was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster (UK) on 5th April 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

Louise CandlishLouise Candlish was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband and daughter. She is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Swimming Pool (2016) and The Sudden Departure of the Frasers (2015), Her new novel Our House, will be published in April 2018 by Simon & Schuster in the UK and in August 2018 by Berkley in the US.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers has been optioned for TV by Hartswood Films.

Besides books, the things Louise likes best are: coffee; TV (so much TV, too much, probably); cats and dogs; salted caramel; France (especially the Ile de Re); Italy (especially Sicily); tennis; soup; Vanity Fair magazine; ‘Book at Bedtime’; lasagne; heavy metal; ‘The Archers’; driving towards the sea (but not into it); anything at the Royal Opera House; white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar).

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

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: No Comment by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @caffeinenights @rararesources #NoComment

No Comment.jpg

When a single mother, Julie Simon, is found in her kitchen with a stab wound to her stomach, Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team are handed the case.

Under the supervision of DI Campbell and with advice from his former DI, Harry Evans, DC Amir Bhaki fights to discover who assaulted an innocent woman and left her with life-threatening injuries.

Nothing is as it first appears and when the team looks into Julie’s life they uncover a hidden sex-life that may just hold the key to the identity of her attacker.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the No Comment blog blitz which I share with some pretty fabulous bloggers. No Comment is the latest DI Harry Evans novella, written by Graham Smith and published yesterday (that’s Thursday 22nd March 2018) by Caffeine Nights.

I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a previous DI Harry Evans novella, Matching the Evidence plus the latest full-length novel in the series, I Know Your Secret. More recently Smith has been focussing on his Jake Boulder series (which I also love) so I was delighted to hear Harry and the team were to make a very welcome, long-awaited return.

Smith has managed to pack one heck of an almighty punch into this latest Major Crimes Team novella. It was so good to be reacquainted with the Cumbrian MCT again. The memories of these well developed and fascinating characters came flooding back. And for the record, I still don’t like DC Lauren Phillips! I was, however, feeling slightly more positive towards the dastardly DI Campbell this time around. So who knows, my feelings for Lauren may change with time…ha! (I’m due to read the next full-length novel in the series, titled When the Waters Recede, soon. By the end, I expect I’ll be back to loathing Campbell again. He’s that kind of character!).

One of the things I love about this series is the way that every member of the team is an individual and they have something unique to add to the story. Smith seems to effortlessly spotlight one character in particular per novel/novella giving you an insight into what makes them tick. This time the story focusses on DC Amir Bhaki and his gut feeling about the violent scene he encounters in Julie Simon’s kitchen.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. It’s probably best to read the previous novellas and full-length novels before you get to No Comment though. The MCT carries a lot of history and there are things which may not make immediate sense otherwise. In my usual wannabe amateur detective way, I was trying to work out whodunit and why-they-dunit but I completely failed. The twist is quite unexpected and will leave you with a gaping jaw. It did me, anyway! Smith is such a talented writer and I cannot wait to read more from him. Roll on When the Waters Recede!

Four stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an eARC of No Comment. The above review is my own unbiased opinion. My thanks to Graham Smith for asking me to feature on the blog tour.

No Comment by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Caffeine Nights on 22nd March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook format (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

No Comment Full Banner.jpg

about the author3

Graham Smith Author Pic

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and three novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne | @bookouture #TheBabysitter

the babysitter cover

“You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

If you loved reading The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors and The Sister, you’ll love the suspense of The Babysitter. This unputdownable read will have you turning the pages until way after dark.”

The Babysitter is the first Bookouture release from Sheryl Browne, having previously published her work with ChocLit. Having met Sheryl a couple of years ago (she’s such a darling), I was keen to read her latest book. I also took part in the blog blitz for The Babysitter when it was first released by hosting an extract. You can read that post by clicking HERE.

First up, I can see this book being huge. It’s a well-written psychological thriller with an antagonist you will love to hate. Mark and Melissa Cain are likeable enough characters if maybe a touch too nice (or maybe clueless) at times. Everything that follows all comes down to personal taste. And to prove that point I will link to a number of very positive reviews, written by my blogger peers, at the end of this review. I wanted to love this book. Really, I did. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I struggled to find any love for it either. I feel like I’m heading towards a reading slump at the moment and the only type of fiction that grabs my attention, that gets any kind of real interest from me is on the darker side. For me, The Babysitter is the total opposite of dark fiction (although there was one scene with a pig, which I can safely say was my favourite part!).

I did thoroughly enjoy the prologue which, if you read the extract I featured on publication day, you will see hints at some fairly dark themes. I think I wanted more of that and less of the happy little middle-class family. Aspects of Jade’s character I really liked; her malevolence, her deviousness and her anger. But other characters were just too nice, too naive and too accepting for my tastes. And I certainly wouldn’t want DI Mark Cain involved in any investigation I was part of! This story is not all sweetness and light, by the way. I feel that’s how I’m making it sound but it really isn’t. One of the characters is fairly evil in their intentions and disgustingly manipulative. I’m afraid it just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a lot more.

Would I recommend this book? I’m not sure. If, like me, you prefer to read darker tales then no, this book isn’t for you. But if you enjoy psychological thrillers then don’t let me put you off – I would hate for that to happen. I read the book from start to finish despite not being fully invested. And in all honesty, I would pick up another book written by Sheryl Browne without a moment’s doubt.

What other reviewers are saying about The Babysitter: Jen Med’s Book Reviews | Chelle’s Book Reviews | Novel Gossip | Sweet Little Book Blog |

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne was published in the UK by Bookouture on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

sheryl browne

Sheryl Browne brings you powerful psychological thrillers and contemporary fiction. Sheryl’s latest psychological thriller THE BABYSITTER – the first of a three-book deal – comes to you from fabulous BOOKOUTURE. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and previously writing for award winning Choc Lit, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

So why does Sheryl write in two genres? Quoting E. L. Doctorow, Sheryl says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights…” This she thinks sums up a writer’s journey, you never quite know where you are going until you get there. You might start with an outline, but a strong character will always divert from the plot. If Sheryl’s not sure where a character is going, she simply has to trust him to show her the way. Plus, according to one reviewer, she also has a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell (@Caroline_writes) #ThomasandMercer @midaspr #SilentVictim

silent victim.jpg“Emma’s darkest secrets are buried in the past. But the truth can’t stay hidden for long.

Emma is a loving wife, a devoted mother…and an involuntary killer. For years she’s been hiding the dead body of the teacher who seduced her as a teen.

It’s a secret that might have stayed buried if only her life had been less perfect. A promotion for Emma’s husband, Alex, means they can finally move to a bigger home with their young son. But with a buyer lined up for their old house, Emma can’t leave without destroying every last trace of her final revenge…

Returning to the shallow grave in the garden, she finds it empty. The body is gone.

Panicked, Emma confesses to her husband. But this is only the beginning. Soon, Alex will discover things about her he’ll wish he’d learned sooner. And others he’ll long to forget.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Silent Victim blog tour.  Silent Victim is the latest release from one of my favourite authors, Caroline Mitchell.  I have been a fan of Mitchell’s writing for some time now but this (I’m ashamed to admit) is the first of her standalone psychological thrillers I have read.  I normally go giddy over her superb police procedurals which, being a former police detective, have bucketloads of realism in them.  But this…..this wonderfully addictive piece of fiction blew me away!  There was something so different, so beautifully dark about the writing that I was pretty smitten from the very first page.

We meet Emma (great name, there aren’t enough ‘Emma’s’ in the books I read!), our lead character whilst she is burying a body!  The reader immediately knows that this is not a normal night out for Emma and disposing of bodies in her palatial back garden is not something she does to pass the time.  I could feel the character’s disbelief, the sheer terror of the situation and the realisation of what she had done.  If the prologue of Silent Victim doesn’t draw you head first into this compulsive story then there’s no hope left for you I’m afraid.

Life is….good for Emma, her husband and their young son, Jamie.  Alex, Emma’s husband is desperate to return to the North though, to Leeds where he was born and spent many happy years.  So when a promotion lands in his lap, he grabs it with both hands.  Emma would like to make a clean break of it too, but is fully aware of the secrets buried in her garden.  Going behind Emma’s back Alex manages to find an eager cash buyer for their home and starts the search for a suitable property in Leeds.  The implications of what this could mean hit Emma hard.  What if the new owners discover the shallow grave on their property?  She would certainly go to prison, and who would care for Jamie then?  Moving the remains is the only answer, she needs to hide them somewhere they will never be found.  But when Emma returns to the burial site, there is something missing.  A body.  Where are the remains of the teacher who groomed her when she was 15?

Wowsers!  What a book.  I feel emotionally drained and quite exhausted after reading Emma’s story.  But what an addictive and thrilling story from the pen of Ms Mitchell.  I couldn’t put this one down, nor did I actually want to.  Normal life was officially put on hold!

I was repulsed by smarmy, manipulative Luke and his despicable treatment of teenage Emma.  The way he spun her so many revolting lies until he got what he wanted and then pushed her aside as if she were a mere inconvenience.  My heart broke repeatedly for teenage Emma, I could really feel her hurt.  Saying that, Emma is a very troubled character from start to finish but I very much liked her.  I can’t say the same for her husband, Alex.  I would be fuming if my husband sold our house from underneath us without consulting me first.  Alex made a couple of other decisions without Emma’s involvement at other points throughout the book and boy, did it wind me up!

Would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  It’s brilliantly paced, stuffed full of suspense and you never really know what to expect next.  I loved how utterly horrible Luke Priestwood, Emma’s teacher, was.  A firm favourite for ‘villain of the year’ in my eyes and a character for us readers to despise.  But he wasn’t the only one with a touch of the darkness within and that, for me, added so much to the story.  Mitchell’s writing goes from strength to strength.  I absolutely flipping loved it!

Five out of five stars.

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

Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell was published in the UK by Thomas and Mercer on 1st March 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

Other books by Caroline Mitchell I reviewed on damppebbles: | The Silent Twin | Death Note | Sleep Tight | Murder Game |

Amended Banner 2.png

about the author3

caroline mitchellAn international #1 and USA Today bestselling thriller author, Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family in a village on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time, with over half a million copies of her books sold.

As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. The most recent, Silent Victim reached the Amazon number 1 spot in the UK, US and Australia. Her highly anticipated DI Amy Winter series is published by Thomas & Mercer. The first book in the series, Truth and Lies, launches on 13th September. Her works have been translated into four different languages and one of her books is featured as an interactive app, due for release in 2018.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Pact by S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) @bookouture #ThePact

the pact.jpg“You made a promise to your sister. It could destroy your daughter.

The Daughter 
15-year-old Rosie lies in hospital fighting for her life. She’s trying to tell her mother what happened to her, and how she got there, but she can’t speak the words out loud. 

The Mother
Rosie’s mother Toni has a secret. She had a traumatic childhood, and she and her sister Bridget made each other a promise thirty years ago: that they could never speak the truth about what they went through as children, and that they would protect each other without asking for help from others, no matter what…

Rosie was Toni’s second chance to get things right: a happy, talented girl with her whole life ahead of her. Having lost her husband in a tragic accident, Toni has dedicated her life to keeping Rosie safe from harm. 

But Rosie has plans that her mother doesn’t know about. She has dreams and ambitions – of love, of a career, of a life beyond the sheltered existence that her mother has created for her. But the secrets Rosie has been keeping have now put her life in danger. 

The Pact
In order to save Rosie, Toni may have to break her lifelong promise to her sister… and open doors to her past she hoped would remain closed forever. 

The Pact is a chilling psychological thriller about the lies we will tell to save our children. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Apple Tree Yard and The Sister.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on The Pact blog tour, which I share with two fabulous bloggers; Jen over at Jen Med’s Book Reviews and Kaisha over at The Writing Garnet.  The Pact is written by one of my favourite authors, S.E. Lynes and was published today by Bookouture so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all involved a very happy publication day!  S.E. Lynes wrote one of my very favourite books of 2016, the incredible Valentina which put her well and truly on my radar as an author.  Last year Lynes signed a deal with the mighty Bookouture and published her first book with them, Mother, towards the end of 2017.  For a reminder of my review, please click HERE.

When I heard a second Bookouture release was in the pipeline from Susie Lynes I jumped at the chance to read it.  And flipping heck, I was not disappointed.  One of my favourite things about The Pact is how uneasy the reader feels from pretty much page one.  I felt very apprehensive, I could sense something wasn’t quite right with the picture Lynes was painting for me and I loved it!  If you’re a fan of suspense then this is a must-read.

We meet Toni, widowed mother of one teenage daughter, Rosie.  Rosie is a budding theatre star but lacks the confidence to push herself to the glittering heights others feel she could achieve.  Not helped by Toni, her overprotective mother.  Lending a more pragmatic and considered point of view to proceedings is Toni’s older sister, Bridget. Both Bridget and Toni have been through a lot; a traumatic childhood featuring unimaginable abuse for Toni, for Bridget the need to protect her sister from the horrors but feeling a constant failure.  That’s where the pact came in.  A promise made many years ago that no matter what, the two sisters would look after each other and not rely on the help of others.  But the pact could be the sisters undoing….

I absolutely loved Bridget.  She became a bit of a superhero for me and at times I found myself cheering her on as I read (thankfully this all happened in my head otherwise my family may have been giving me the odd strange look!).  I totally believed in Lynes’s characters; I could picture them, I could hear their dialogue in my head (more strange looks but from everyone reading this, this time haha!) and I truly felt for them.  I didn’t like Toni as much as I liked Bridget but that was due to her overbearing, smothering nature.

Lynes has cleverly used the vocabulary used by the ‘yoof’ of today along with text speak and emojis when writing Rosie’s interactions with friends.  All in all, this added to the believability factor making shy, naive young Rosie all the more real for me.  Throughout the pages of The Pact my heart broke for her in many different ways.

As usual, I was looking out for clues from the very start of the book and was able to see where a couple of storyline threads were heading.  Can I give you some advice?  Don’t do what I did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it superbly gripping from start to finish despite being able to see where things were going.  I wonder how much it would have knocked my socks off if I hadn’t been doing that.  Really, don’t do what I did.  Read it with an open mind and see where Lynes takes you.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, definitely.  Very emotional, incredibly tense and a wonderful, wonderful read focussing on modern day fears and a parent’s worst nightmare.  I wanted to hide behind my hands at points whilst reading, peeking out from behind my splayed fingers.  Lynes is a very talented writer and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Pact by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 27th February 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

the pact.jpg

about the author3

S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Hydra by Matt Wesolowski (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks

Hydra LATEST COVER .jpg“One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess… Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the Hydra blog tour which I share with one of my very favourite bookish people, the incredible Liz over at Liz Loves Books.  If you haven’t discovered Liz’s blog yet then you must!  Hydra is the second book from the pen of author Matt Wesolowski to be published by Orenda Books.  Wesolowski’s Orenda debut, Six Stories, absolutely blew my mind last year and took it’s place proudly on my top ten (*mumble, mumble* may have been twelve) books of the year.  If you need a reminder, or if you missed my review the first time then please click HERE.  I think it’s fair to say I LOVED Six Stories.

So I was strangely apprehensive (and of course, excited!) starting Hydra.  I knew before turning the first page that the story was in a similar vein to Six Stories.  If you haven’t experienced the incredible Six Stories (you really should get yourself a copy) then let me explain.  Six Stories is a series of podcasts hosted by Scott King.  King rakes over cold cases – not to necessarily solve the mystery but to encourage new discussion and debate.  King provides his listeners with the details of a particular case but from six different standpoints.  Six different viewpoints all bringing that little bit of extra information to the front, fleshing it out for his listeners.

The focus of King’s latest investigation is the Macleod Massacre of 2014.  If there’s one way for a book to get its hook into me then that is to mention a blood-soaked spree.  I know, I’m strange.  But I’ve never shied away from the fact that I like blood, guts and gore in my books.  The reader gets so much more than that though (and it really isn’t all that gory, I promise).  This is not a book about solving a murder case – we know ‘whodunnit’ and it was Arla Macleod – it’s all about the WHY.  Why did Arla kill her family that day?  Why did she change so dramatically?  What was the cause?  And if like me, you don’t see the incredibly clever twist coming then I can guarantee it will be a revelation.  Wow!

If there is one thing Wesolowski excels at, it’s giving his reader chills.  Hydra, like its predecessor, did an excellent job of making me feel nervous and apprehensive.  The author is a master at creating a scene and dropping you slap, bang right in the action.  You live the moment with the characters which for me added extra eerieness and I was completely absorbed in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.  Incredibly atmospheric, perfectly eerie, I absolutely loved Hydra.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely, without a doubt.  Wesolowski is one of my very favourite authors.  He writes in a totally different, exciting and original way and I love to read his books.  I will say this though, Hydra is absolutely brilliant but I did prefer Six Stories.  There are many reviewers out there saying that this book is Wesolowski’s best yet, but I have to disagree.  It’s still better than MANY other books I have read in the past 12 months but Six Stories will always have a special place in my heart.  In fact, if you’re picking up a copy of Hydra then add a copy of Six Stories whilst you’re at it.  You won’t regret it.

An easy five out of five stars.

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

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th January 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Hydra blog poster 2018 FINAL.jpg

about the author3

Matt W Picture 1 (1).jpgMatt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |