#BookReview: The Lost Children by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheLostChildren #damppebbles

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

DI Brady has been tracing victims of systemic abuse at a local children’s home after a high-profile accusation pitched it into the spotlight – a case that couldn’t be more personal.

As Matilda and her team piece together the disturbing picture of the history of the home, it soon becomes clear that this is much bigger than they ever suspected.

But nothing prepares them for what they uncover next…
The Lost Children is an utterly gripping crime thriller weaving a breakneck tale of a vast network of secrets and lies, a relentless detective determined to sabotage it, and a murder that shatters two decades of silence.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood. The Lost Children is published by One More Chapter today (that’s Thursday 30th June 2022) in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow next month. I chose to read a free eARC of The Lost Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series is one of the most exciting, most edgy police procedural series out there and I flipping love it! The arrival of the latest book, in this case book nine (!), is something I always look forward to with baited breath. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Lost Children, I, of course, grabbed at it with both hands. What I love about this series is that the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – either on subject matter or character development. Wood really likes to put his characters, including lead protagonist Darke, through the wringer which is something I appreciate. As a reader, I never know what to expect! The Lost Children takes the battered and bruised team, still hurting from their last few cases, deep into the heart of an upsetting and distressing historical child abuse case.

DCI Matilda Darke is called to the scene of a vicious murder. Local businessman and philanthropist, Richard Ashton OBE, has been slain in his bed in the most stomach churning of ways. Upon closer inspection into Ashton’s life it becomes clear to Darke and her team that perhaps Ashton wasn’t the figure of virtue he first appeared to be. It doesn’t surprise DI Christian Brady who has been investigating historical claims of child abuse behind Matilda’s back. Matilda can’t ignore the connection between Ashton and events at Magnolia House, a home for young boys which closed many years ago. So she sets out to discover the truth. But at every turn, Darke is shut down. Extreme measures are put in place to prevent Matilda and her team from discovering the secrets of Magnolia House. But Matilda won’t be stopped…

The Lost Children is an incredibly gripping addition to a superb series featuring some of my all-time favourite characters. I love the South Yorkshire Homicide and Major Crimes Unit but they’ve really had a tough time of it recently, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better for them anytime soon! This latest investigation is already personal for DI Brady and the devastating secrets the team reveal affect them all in some way. The subject matter is tough but the author has done a great job of writing a very difficult, very emotional story. There were times when I had to take a break from reading because I was so affected by the characters and their stories. It’s heart breaking stuff but handled very well.

I found it fascinating how Matilda’s investigation was shut down from every direction. I could really feel her frustration and her determination to keep digging, despite no longer having the resources. Her drive is one of the reasons I love the character as much as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Wood takes the team next as there are clearly changes afoot, one of which I hope is reversed. But knowing how this author operates, I can’t be sure it will be!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Lost Children is a highly emotional, edgy read which I enjoyed. The subject matter is upsetting and I don’t think this book will suit everyone but the care the author has taken with the story really shows. I liked the way the author didn’t shy away from setting this book in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think, surprisingly, it’s the first book I’ve read that’s been set during the pandemic. Perhaps other authors are shying away from mentioning COVID for the moment. Perhaps it’s too fresh. I thought it added a really interesting facet to the investigation though and applaud Wood for doing something many other authors are not. The DCI Darke series remains one of my favourites and I wait with baited breath for the tenth (!) book to be published later this year. Particularly after the incredibly tense and unnerving cliff hanger at the end. Wow, what an ending! I’m not sure I can wait until October to find out what happens next. Recommended.

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

#BookReview: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #TheHouseAcrosstheLake #damppebbles

“Be careful what you watch for . . .

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

Packed with sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy plot twists, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake is the ultimate escapist read . . . no lake house required.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The House Across the Lake by the master, Riley Sager. The House Across the Lake will be published by Dutton Books next week (that’s Tuesday 21st June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read a free eARC of The House Across the Lake but that has in no way influenced my review.

Riley Sager is without doubt one of my favourite authors. Time and time again Sager delivers hit after hit, starting with the superb Final Girls in 2017. Every single book has been brilliantly entertaining and utterly compelling. I know because I’ve read them all! Getting hold of the latest Riley Sager novel is the absolute highlight of my year. So when the opportunity presented itself to read The House Across the Lake, I, of course, jumped at the chance!

Grief stricken actor Casey Fletcher needs time away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the intrusion of the paparazzi, to mourn the death of her husband. Her mother suggests time at the family lake house in Vermont, which Casey reluctantly agrees to. Whilst enjoying a drink on the porch she notices her new neighbours, Tom and Katherine Royce, across the lake in their glass fronted house. Aided by a pair of high-spec binoculars Casey is able to get up close and personal in the Royce’s lives, watching from afar, becoming more and more obsessed with the couple. Then Katherine disappears without a trace, and things just don’t add up for Casey. She suspects Tom has something to do with the ex-supermodel’s disappearance – she just can’t prove it. What Casey doesn’t realise is that there is more to Katherine’s disappearance than meets the eye…

The House Across the Lake is another superb novel from the great Riley Sager. Utterly compelling from the moment the reader meets Casey, totally absorbing from start to finish and near impossible to put down (I grrr in your face adulting!). I tore through this book in a couple of short sittings keen to know where Sager was going to take this twisty tale. And oh my goodness, the twists the author throws at the reader are beautifully executed, they took my breath away at times! Perfectly placed, taking the reader by the hand, then BOOM! Delivered with Sager’s trademark finesse.

Casey is the most perfect unreliable narrator I have met in a LONG time. She likes a drink (she’s definitely an alcoholic!) but she firmly believes she is NOT an alcoholic (she’s an alcoholic!) and is always looking for her next tipple. I did find the numerous references to needing a drink a little wearing at times but I completely understand why the author mentioned her craving so often. It makes her believable. Casey would never call herself an addict but the reader knows the cold hard truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The House Across the Lake is a delicious slow burn mystery with a glorious unreliable narrator which I found thoroughly entertaining. The characters are all very well-written and helped move the story along nicely. Despite its beauty in the Summer months, the setting has an eeriness to it, a creepy edge, which gave me the shivers. The plot, as I’ve come to expect from this author, is very compelling and hooks the reader in from early on. I really enjoyed how Sager has used the movie Rear Window as his inspiration for this book but given it a modern twist and dialled up the tension ten-fold! All in all another superb book from a must read author. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The House Across the Lake. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 21st June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. The UK version of The House Across the Lake will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th July 2022. I have included purchase links for both here but 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.com | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently SURVIVE THE NIGHT and HOME BEFORE DARK. His first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel and has been published in more than thirty countries. His latest novel, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, will be published in June.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favourite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

#BookReview: The Botanist by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #TheBotanist #TeamPoe #TeamTilly #damppebbles

“This is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe’s life…

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. Insanely brilliant, she’s a bit of a social hand grenade. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there’s Estelle Doyle. Dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street, but has she gone too far this time? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’

Meanwhile, a poisoner called the Botanist is sending the nation’s most reviled people poems and pressed flowers. Twisted and ingenious, he seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice given to his victims, and regardless of the security measures taken, he is able to kill with impunity.

Poe hates locked room mysteries and now he has two to solve. To unravel them he’s going to have to draw on every resource he has: Tilly Bradshaw, an organised crime boss, even an alcoholic ex-journalist. Because if he doesn’t, the bodies are going to keep piling up . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Botanist by M.W. Craven. The Botanist is the fifth book in the excellent Washington Poe series and was published by Constable last week (on Thursday 2nd June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Botanist but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh my goodness, it’s my absolute favourite time of the year! You may think that’s because it’s FINALLY summer (although there’s been little evidence of that so far!) but it’s not that. You may think it’s because I’m a secret royalist, patiently counting down the days to Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee (yes, I know it was last week 😜). It’s not that either. You may think I’m champing at the bit, waiting for Wimbledon to start. As if 😂 It’s my favourite time of the year because of one thing and one thing alone. Historically, June is when the latest Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw adventure by master crime writer M.W. Craven is published! It’s THE highlight of my reading year, without question. If you’re a fan of intelligently written, utterly compelling detective fiction and you haven’t discovered this series yet, then we need to have serious words! The Botanist has arrived people. What are you waiting for? You need this book in your life!

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is having one helluva week, juggling two highly sensitive, intricate cases. His pathologist friend, Estelle Doyle, has been arrested for the brutal murder of her father which Poe firmly believes she did not commit. Poe is also hunting a highly organised serial killer the press has dubbed the Botanist, who is causing chaos by taking out the country’s most hated individuals with flair, a poem, a pressed flower and an almighty pat on the back from the British public. The notice the killer gives his victims should be more than enough warning for the intended target to lock themselves away in a reinforced room, surrounded by the most elite of security forces. But no, absolutely nothing will stop the Botanist from dispatching their target. Usually in the most painful and horrific way possible. Can Poe and super intelligent analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, manage to solve the two most taxing cases of their careers before it’s too late…?

As I mentioned before, this is the fifth book in the series and WHAT a series it is! Time and time again the author delivers, raising the bar with each new book. Every single release has been a hit for me. Every single new book is something new, something different, something that grabs my attention from the start and doesn’t let go until I’ve turned the final page. The ideas are fresh, the characters are evolving magnificently, the plots are fascinating. I am officially hooked and M.W. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes!

But enough of the series, what about this latest instalment? The Botanist is an utterly absorbing, highly addictive read which I ADORED. Every single book has been superb but this latest addition, and Black Summer (book #2), are my two favourites so far. You can absolutely read The Botanist as a standalone but it’s worth picking up all of the previous books as well. Otherwise you miss out on the early awkward days of Poe and Tilly’s friendship (actually, it has a few awkward moments now but they’ve become more attuned to each other…sort of!) and a plethora of absolutely fascinating, gripping cases. I love the pairing of Poe and socially awkward but highly intelligent civilian analyst, Tilly. They make a formidable team, ably encouraged and supported, no matter what crazy idea they come up with, by DI Stephanie Flynn. Craven’s trademark humour is pinpoint sharp, perfectly pitched and made me laugh out loud at several points. I SO enjoy the relationship between Poe and Tilly (and of course DI Stephanie Flynn). Their interactions, their friendship makes me smile. It’s a joy to read!

I liked the push and pull of this story with Poe and Tilly dashing off up north to look into things in more detail for Estelle. Only to have the boss call them back to London after the Botanist strikes again. Unlike Poe I am a huge fan of locked room mysteries which is perhaps why The Botanist appealed to me so much. Not one mystery for my favourite crime fighting duo to solve, but two!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Botanist is a superb addition to an outstanding series which I believe every crime fiction fan needs on their bookshelf. Tense, gripping, clever, hugely compelling, truly divine characterisation, beautifully paced and darn well perfect in every respect. What more could you want? Tilly and Poe are the ultimate crime fighting duo, you won’t find another pairing like these two and I love that! The Botanist is without a doubt a sure-fire five-star winner for me and will definitely be featuring in my favourite books of the year list. Quite near the top, I think 😉. The Botanist, along with the other books in the series, is a must read. Incredibly well-written and head and shoulders above others in the same genre. Highly, highly recommended.

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

The Botanist by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 2nd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .

M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can usually be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

#BookReview: One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke @HarperCollinsUK #OneoftheGirls #damppebbles

“ONE IS A LIAR.
ONE IS A STRANGER.
ONE IS A CHEATER.
WHO IS A KILLER?
We were dying for a holiday . . .

The six of us arrived on that beautiful Greek island dreaming of sun-drenched beaches and blood orange sunsets, ready to lose ourselves in the wild freedom of a weekend away with friends.
On the first night we swam under a blanket of stars.
On the second night the games began on our clifftop terrace.
On the third night the idyll cracked, secrets and lies whispering on the breeze.
And by the final night there was a body on the rocks below . . .
Who would kill for it?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke. One of the Girls is published by HarperCollins today (that’s Thursday 26th May 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of One of the Girls but that has in no way influenced my review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Clarke’s previous thriller, The Castaways, last year. I found it very compelling with great characters and I loved the ending. So much so, I can still remember it clearly now. So when I saw the author was about to publish a new book I leapt at the chance to read it. And it’s now safe to say Clarke is firmly on my ‘must read author list’ because I LOVED One of the Girls.

Lexi is getting married! And to celebrate, her best friend, Bella, has convinced her a hen party would be brilliant idea. They and four of Lexi’s friends are heading to the Greek island of Aegos for four nights and some much needed time away from ‘real life’. But when the women arrive, it’s clear the cracks are already starting to show. Everyone has secrets. This group of six woman have more than most. And by the end of their exotic getaway, someone will be dead and someone will be a killer…

I flew through this book, completely absorbed and soaking up the Greek sun with this disparate group of women. I can’t express how much I loved everything about it. The characters are all so different but they work so well together. An odd group of women brought together to celebrate Lexi, but you can feel the tensions simmering under the surface and you can’t help but ask yourself ‘what is actually going on here?’. That intrigue, that sense that there was so much more to come, really hooked me into the story.

Lexi is a sweetheart and it’s clear to the reader why these women have travelled for hours to celebrate her forthcoming nuptials. Bella, her maid of honour and self-appointed best friend, is such a character! Obnoxious and brassy, I really liked her but I think I’ll be in the minority on that one. She’s spoilt and demanding, utterly frustrating at times. But I thought she was written so well. She elicits an emotional response from the reader and I appreciated that. The other women, who I won’t go into detail about here otherwise this review will be as long as the book (!), are fantastic creations. All individual personalities, all with their own totally believable backstory, all with their own heartaches and simmering resentments.

The plot is paced beautifully and I was in the story from the moment I picked the book up to the moment I put the book down. This is one of those novels I enjoyed so much that I was sad when it was over (although, in truth, I did race to the conclusion keen to find out how things would end so it was my own darn fault really!). There are many twists and turns along the way, some I was able to see coming, others knocked me for six and I loved that moment of shock the author delivered.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved One of the Girls and I’ll probably re-read it in the future as I’m keen to return to Aegos and be reunited with this fascinating, eclectic group of women and their complicated friendships. The setting was exquisite (yes, I’m desperate for a holiday!), the plot was so well drawn and thought out but the characters absolutely did it for me. They felt like real people and I was watching an edge-of-your seat TV drama play out before me. Clarke is such a talented writer and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next. A hugely compulsive read featuring divine characters and their bubbling resentments which I couldn’t get enough of. Totally addictive. I loved it! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of One of the Girls. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 26th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lucy Clarke

Lucy Clarke is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers – THE SEA SISTERS, A SINGLE BREATH, THE BLUE/NO ESCAPE, LAST SEEN, YOU LET ME IN and THE CASTAWAYS. Her debut novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and her books have been sold in over 20 territories.

Lucy is a passionate traveller, beach hut dweller, and fresh air enthusiast. She’s married to a professional windsurfer and, together with their two young children, they spend their winters travelling and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut, using the inspiration from the wild south coast to craft her stories.

#BookReview: The Beach House by Beverley Jones (@bevjoneswriting) @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #TheBeachHouse #damppebbles

The beach house was the perfect place to hide. Or so she thought . . .

When Grace Jensen returns to her home one day, she finds a body in a pool of blood and a menacing gift left for her.

The community of Lookout Beach is shocked by such a brutal intrusion in their close-knit neighbourhood – particularly to a family as successful and well-liked as the Jensens – and a police investigation to find the trespasser begins.

But Grace knows who’s after her. She might have changed her name and moved across the world, deciding to hide on the Oregon coast, but she’s been waiting seventeen years for what happened in the small Welsh town where she grew up to catch-up with her.

Grace might seem like the model neighbour and mother, but nobody in Lookout Beach – not even her devoted husband Elias – knows the real her. Or how much blood is on her hands.

The hottest, edge-of-your-seat summer thriller, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The Holiday by T. M. Logan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. It’s a very exciting day today because one of my top reads of last year is published in paperback format. Gripping from start to finish and utterly engrossing, The Beach House by Beverley Jones is a must read for all thriller fans. To help celebrate publication day I am delighted to share my review of this cracking FIVE STAR book with you again. Wishing Beverley and the team at Constable the happiest of publication days 🥳

I am a HUGE fan of Beverley Jones’s writing. Her previous two books, written as B.E. Jones, Halfway and Wilderness (as a side note, Wilderness has since had a bit of a make-over and is now called The Perfect Break) have both featured on my top books of the year list. They’re intelligently written psychological thrillers with a strong sense of place, and characters who stand tall from the page. I am delighted to confirm that The Beach House is no exception. Jones has produced another dark and engrossing thriller which I devoured with glee.

Grace Jensen has worked hard to create the perfect life for her and her family. Returning to her gorgeous beach front house on Lookout Beach one day, she makes a shocking discovery. A body on her kitchen floor, covered in blood. The body is distressing enough, but the objects carefully placed on her kitchen worksurface send a very clear message. Grace knows it’s time. After seventeen years of being careful, of building a new life, her past is finally catching up with her. No one knows what Grace did all those years ago, not even her devoted husband, Elias. And Grace will do anything to keep it that way…

Jones has excelled herself once again in creating an intriguing psychological thriller where character and setting have equal batting. I loved Grace. I was instantly attracted to the dark edge the character exudes. There’s just something about her which appealed to me (not sure what that says about me!) and if memory serves, something similar happened with the main character in The Perfect Break. Jones is able to create characters who worm their way under your skin. Whether you like them or loathe them doesn’t really matter, you certainly won’t be able to forget them! I thoroughly enjoyed discovering Grace’s secrets, which are intriguingly drip-fed to the reader over the course of the book. The need to find out what catastrophic event had led Grace halfway around the world had me turning the pages faster than most other books I’ve read recently. I couldn’t put The Beach House down, nor did I want to!

The author has set the story on the coast of Oregon and it’s clear Jones is both familiar and fond of her chosen backdrop. Despite never having visited myself, I was able to picture the dramatic landscape easily. Regular readers of damppebbles may be aware that I’m very much a character focussed reader but when an author completely captures the feel and the atmosphere of their setting, particularly one as dramatic and striking as this, it deserves to be mentioned. The author transported me to a different location and in our recent COVID-restricted times, I was very grateful for that.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Beach House is a gripping tale of secrets, lies and obsession and I devoured it in a couple of short sittings. I found Grace, as the book’s lead character, to be intriguing and utterly captivating. I think I’m a little bit in love 😳. As the story unfolds, the tension ramps up with a dramatic and thrilling denouement which I thought was a perfect conclusion to Grace’s story. I loved The Beach House and I know that it will be the third book by this author, in as many years, to make an appearance on my top books of the year list. Compelling, addictive and hugely entertaining. Highly recommended.

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

The Beach House by Beverley Jones was published in the UK by Constable on 21st April 2022 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Beverley Jones, also known as B E Jones, is a former journalist and police press officer, now a novelist and general book obsessive. Bev was born in a small village in the South Wales valleys, north of Cardiff. She started her journalism career with Trinity Mirror newspapers, writing stories for The Rhondda Leader and The Western Mail, before becoming a broadcast journalist with BBC Wales Today TV news, based in Cardiff. She has worked on all aspects of crime reporting (as well as community news and features) producing stories and content for newspapers and live TV.

Most recently Bev worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, dealing with the media and participating in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and her insight into the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Her latest novels, Where She Went, Halfway and Wilderness, are published by Little Brown under the name BE Jones. Wilderness has recently been optioned for a six part TV adaptation by Firebird Pictures. Her seventh novel, The Beach House, is due for release in June 2021 under the name Beverley Jones. Chat with her on Goodreads.co.uk under B E Jones or Beverley Jones and on Twitter and Instagram @bevjoneswriting Bev is represented by The Ampersand Agency.

#GuestPost: The Beach House by Beverley Jones (@bevjoneswriting) @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #TheBeachHouse #damppebbles

The beach house was the perfect place to hide. Or so she thought . . .

When Grace Jensen returns to her home one day, she finds a body in a pool of blood and a menacing gift left for her.

The community of Lookout Beach is shocked by such a brutal intrusion in their close-knit neighbourhood – particularly to a family as successful and well-liked as the Jensens – and a police investigation to find the trespasser begins.

But Grace knows who’s after her. She might have changed her name and moved across the world, deciding to hide on the Oregon coast, but she’s been waiting seventeen years for what happened in the small Welsh town where she grew up to catch-up with her.

Grace might seem like the model neighbour and mother, but nobody in Lookout Beach – not even her devoted husband Elias – knows the real her. Or how much blood is on her hands.

The hottest, edge-of-your-seat summer thriller, perfect for fans of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and The Holiday by T. M. Logan.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Later this week, on Thursday 21st April, one of my favourite books from 2021 will be published in paperback. The hugely compelling The Beach House by Beverley Jones is coming to a bookshop near you from Thursday and I wholeheartedly recommend you do everything in your power to pick up a copy. In order to celebrate this stunning books release I am delighted to welcome Beverley to the blog today to talk about her trip to Oregon, the Goonies and the inspiration behind this cracking book.

What I Did on My Summer Holiday

 Beverley Jones talks about her new novel The Beach House, and how a childhood obsession, and a trip to Oregon, inspired her latest psychological thriller.

A long time ago… (in the 1980s), in a land, far, far away, (well, Wales) there was a little girl who loved adventure stories. She was taken to the cinema for a birthday treat, her favourite escape from the post-industrial landscape of the South Wales valleys. Once she was seated in the old-fashioned theatre, the lights dimmed and she was transported to a wild American seashore through a tale of pirates and buried treasure, villainous escaped convicts and a deformed but good-hearted anti-hero called Sloth.

That film was Steven Spielberg’s The Goonies, set in Astoria, in Oregon, and over the years, the VHS copy, later recorded from the TV, was played endlessly on wet Sunday afternoons as the girl, me obviously, escaped to a land where a geeky, asthmatic kid called Mikey (who I definitely identified with) saves his family home on the Goon docks by using his brain power and determination.

‘Goonies’ rock in the distance

Holiday Hi Jinks

This childhood love for the movie eventually provided the spark for my dark, psychological thriller The Beach House, in a very roundabout way. My husband also turned out to be a Goonies fan, and he was delighted when, decades later, I suggested we actually go to Astoria on holiday and make like Mikey and the gang. In 2019, just in time to beat the unforeseen holiday spoilsport that was the global Covid pandemic, we rocked up at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River on the Pacific Northwest Coast of the USA. Soon we were binging on seafood and artisanal local beers, exploring the county jail where the villainous Fratelli brothers made their escape, getting our mugshots done and taking selfies in front of the famous sea stacks at Cannon Beach.

Beverley and the Fratellis’ getaway car

Dangerous Ground

But, because I’m a crime writer, and see murder and secrets around every scenic corner, nostalgic wish fulfilment soon morphed into something else. There was something hard-fought and hard-won about the communities clinging to that coast, a beautiful yet brutal forested landscape that dips down to the boiling surf of the Pacific. As my protagonist Grace, originally from Wales, observes, there’s something about that serrated tree and cliff-twisted landscape that has teeth, ready to be bared on the unsuspecting traveller.

Passing the white clapboard enclaves of the wealthy, alongside the rusted fishing towns industry has deserted, that reminded me a little of my valley’s childhood, a story took hold. It struck me that the Oregon coast was exactly the sort of place someone might end up, if they were trying to hide and had the money to do it. My protagonist, Grace, a woman who’s fled the Welsh coastal community of her own childhood, has reinvented herself there as an up-and-coming architect, building the beach house she calls her ‘clean slate’ and raising a young daughter. But then she comes home one day to discover an unexpected visitor has left her a strange set of gifts – a knife, a rope bound in a red ribbon and a pair of handcuffs – and there’s a body on her kitchen floor!

Everyone in Lookout Beach, the elegant fictional town inspired by the smart villages we stayed in, like Cannon Beach and Manzanita, assumes it’s a pervert, a ‘home invasion’ interrupted. But Grace suspects otherwise, because she left her life in South Wales for a very good reason. Maybe that reason has finally caught up with her and the holiday is over.

The famous Astoria-Megler Bridge

Scenery to Die For!

The Beach House isn’t my first novel inspired by a holiday. Some years ago, I took a dream road trip across the Grand Canyon and the deserts and mountains of the USA. That journey, one I’d fantasied about since childhood, reading stories like Call of the Wild by Jack London, and watching film depictions of the frontier, became the basis for another tortuous holiday, shared by an unhappy couple. Standing on top of Glacier Point in Yosemite national park, surrounded by soaring limestone domes and peaks, rather than just taking holiday snaps I was envisaging a woman standing on a precipice, wondering if there was an alternative to divorcing her cheating husband.  That Will-she? Won’t-she? journey of hundreds of miles, and into the depths and darkness of Olivia’s heart, became the novel Wilderness (The Perfect Break) optioned for TV, by Firebird Pictures, in 2019. Finally, (after the long Covid hiatus) it is now in production as a six-part series with Amazon Prime, due to start filming in Canada this summer.

I suppose there’s just something about holidays that brings out the worst in me – on paper at least, where childhood wish-fulfilment takes on the very adult aspects of betrayal, resentment and sometimes, revenge. So, when it comes around to explaining What I Did on My Summer Holiday, my answer is always a strange one – I plotted to kill a whole load of people!

The Beach House by Beverley Jones was published in the UK by Constable on 21st April 2022 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Beverley Jones, also known as B E Jones, is a former journalist and police press officer, now a novelist and general book obsessive. Bev was born in a small village in the South Wales valleys, north of Cardiff. She started her journalism career with Trinity Mirror newspapers, writing stories for The Rhondda Leader and The Western Mail, before becoming a broadcast journalist with BBC Wales Today TV news, based in Cardiff. She has worked on all aspects of crime reporting (as well as community news and features) producing stories and content for newspapers and live TV.

Most recently Bev worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, dealing with the media and participating in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and her insight into the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Her latest novels, Where She Went, Halfway and Wilderness, are published by Little Brown under the name BE Jones. Wilderness has recently been optioned for a six part TV adaptation by Firebird Pictures. Her seventh novel, The Beach House, is due for release in June 2021 under the name Beverley Jones. Chat with her on Goodreads.co.uk under B E Jones or Beverley Jones and on Twitter and Instagram @bevjoneswriting Bev is represented by The Ampersand Agency.

#BookReview: Nine Lives by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #NineLives #damppebbles

“If you’re on the list you’re marked for death.

The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper.

The envelope drops through the mail slot like any other piece of post. But for the nine complete strangers who receive it – each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list – it will be the most life altering letter they ever receive. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end.

But why?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Nine Lives by Peter Swanson. Nine Lives is published by Faber Books today (that’s Thursday 3rd March 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Nine Lives but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again, and again I expect), I am officially Peter Swanson’s biggest fan. I ADORE his books. It started when I read A Kind Worth Killing many moons ago (pre-blog) and my love for his work has grown with each new release. Rules for Perfect Murders shot straight to the top of ‘my favourite books ever list’ in 2020 and every new book is the highlight of my reading year. Nine Lives has been on my radar for a while now, and based purely on the synopsis, I knew I was going to enjoy every second of it. And oh boy, I really did!

An envelope drops through the door and lands on the mat. Upon opening it you see a list of names, including yours. You think nothing of it and toss the letter in the bin. But then you hear of an unfortunate death and the name rings a bell. It’s a name from the list. A coincidence, you think to yourself. That is until the same thing happens to another name on the list. Nine complete strangers, all marked for death. Can the authorities connect the dots and discover who is killing the nine seemingly random people and why, before they all perish…

Absolutely flipping marvellous! It’s so easy to lose yourself within the pages of a Swanson novel and Nine Lives is no exception. I read this book over the course of 24 hours, taking only necessary breaks and ignoring pretty much everything else that was happening around me. I love the premise of the book. With an enthusiastic nod to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (which is my favourite of her novels) Nine Lives effortlessly hooked me and kept me rapt until the very last word.

The book is told from multiple points of view which could have been confusing but the author has skilfully managed to keep the characters from overlapping and blending into each other. Hearing from nine different characters, getting nine different points of view would, in some other books, mean only skimming the surface and not really getting any real depth of character. But the author gives the nine enough backstory along with an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about their situation, to create a connection with the reader. You know deep down that they’re most likely doomed but I found myself hoping that perhaps one or two, five or six might make it to the end.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved the concept of Nine Lives before I’d even cracked the cover and it did not disappoint one jot! Twisty, unexpectedly emotional, chock full of delicious suspense and very entertaining. Add to that Swanson’s unmistakable suspense-laden style, glimpses of the author’s passion for classic crime, a cast of fascinating characters and a compelling whodunit, all of which make Nine Lives a must read for all crime fiction fans. I remain Swanson’s number one fan and I will fight* anyone who says otherwise, lol! Highly recommended.

*Obviously I won’t. I’m against all forms of violence. But I will ‘grrrrrr’ in your general direction if you disagree 😂

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

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter Swanson Peter Swanson is the Sunday Times and New York Times best selling author of eight novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Nine Lives. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

#BookReview: The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley @fictionpubteam @harpercollinsuk #TheParisApartment #damppebbles

“Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants

A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

There was a murder here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.

Who holds the key?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley. The Paris Apartment will be published later this week on Thursday 3rd March by HarperCollins in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Paris Apartment but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of Lucy Foley’s mystery novels. Her previous two books (The Hunting Party and The Guest List) both managed, on two completely separate occasions, to pull me out of a reading slump with their clever plotting, atmospheric settings and intriguing cast of characters. The publication of Foley’s latest novel has quickly become one of the most anticipated highlights of my reading year. So I couldn’t wait to get stuck into The Paris Apartment.

Jess arrives in Paris looking forward to escaping her life back home whilst spending some quality time with half-brother, Ben. Ben isn’t so keen however, having built himself a new life as a journalist in Paris and now living in an exclusive apartment block. When Jess arrives at No.12 rue des Amants though, something is amiss. Ben, who promised to be there, is nowhere to be seen and something just isn’t quite right. Jess’s concern for Ben grows as days pass without word from her brother. She begins to search for clues as to his whereabouts, reaching out to the other residents, seeking help and information. The other residents of the apartment block are reluctant to get involved though leaving Jess facing dead-end after dead-end. Can Jess discover the fate of her brother and unearth the secrets of the Paris apartment….?

Twisty, chock full of suspense and with shedloads of intrigue. The reader gets to meet Ben as he prepares for his half-sister’s arrival, only for him to suddenly vanish. From that moment on the reader is drawn into this compelling mystery and watches as Jess tries to make sense of Ben’s disappearance and the scarce clues left behind. Foley once again manages to lull her readers into a false sense of security, pulling the wool masterfully over our eyes only to whip the carpet out from beneath our feet at the most surprising moment. I loved the twists and turns throughout the book. Foley’s books always provide an exquisite moment when you realise all is not as it seems. It’s shocking, it’s heart stuttering and I love the thrill of the reveal.

The Paris Apartment bears many hallmarks of Foley’s previous mysteries but this one did feel different to me. In previous books the setting has been isolated and enclosed. The characters are left to deal with what’s happening to them very much alone and miles from help. The main setting in The Paris Apartment does provide a similar sense of isolation with the heavy, locked gates and the ever-watchful, ever-present concierge. However, the author also has the thriving metropolis of Paris to play with providing Jess with a myriad of new opportunities to investigate and new characters to introduce throughout the story. Definitely a Lucy Foley book but…different. ‘Good’ different.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Paris Apartment is an intriguing mystery novel which I enjoyed reading. I warmed to Jess over the course of the book and I loved discovering more about the peculiar residents of No.12 rue des Amants, along with their deep, dark secrets. Well-paced with a somewhat eerie setting and plenty of fascinating characters, I found The Paris Apartment to be a very readable novel with tons of suspense and twists galore. Recommended.

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

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lucy Foley is the No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party and The Guest List, with two and a half million copies sold worldwide. Lucy’s thrillers have also hit the New York Times and the Irish Times bestseller lists, been shortlisted for the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year Award at the British Book Awards, selected as one of The Times and Sunday Times Crime Books of the Year, and The Guest List was a Reese’s Book Club choice. Lucy’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and her journalism has appeared in publications such as Sunday Times Style, Grazia, ES Magazine, Vogue US, Elle, Tatler, Marie Claire and more.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: All For You by Louise Jensen @HQstories #AllForYou #damppebbles

“MEET THE WALSH FAMILY

Lucy: Loving mother. Devoted wife. And falling to pieces.
Aidan: Dedicated father. Faithful husband. And in too deep.
Connor: Hardworking son. Loyal friend. But can never tell the truth.

Everyone in this family is hiding something, but one secret will turn out to be the deadliest of all . . .

Can this family ever recover when the truth finally comes out?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the All For You blog tour. All For You by Louise Jensen is published by HQ today (that’s Thursday 20th January 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of All For You but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Louise for sending me a proof copy.

Louise Jensen is one of my very favourite authors. I adore her psychological thrillers because you’re always guaranteed to be hit by a big twist you didn’t see coming. The kind of jaw dropping surprise that makes an already great story, unforgettable. Jensen really knows how to get under the skin of her characters making them totally believable and fully formed, ensuring each and every time you pick up a book by this author, you’ll have the best kind of reading experience.

The Walsh family are doing their best but the cracks are beginning to show. Mum, Lucy, is at her wits end having given up a successful career to look after poorly son, Kieron. Older son, Connor, is trying to get on with his life despite being gradually eaten away by guilt. Dad, Aiden, has his own secrets which his family must never discover or the repercussions could be devastating. But there’s no hiding from the truth. All secrets end up being revealed in the end. And for the Walsh family, it could tear them apart…

Absolutely bloody marvellous! The author has done it again and written a completely gripping, thoroughly engaging family based thriller with one heck of a killer twist. Jensen is such a clever writer, not giving the slightest hint as to where she’s going to take the story and then BAM! The reader is knocked for six and I loved it. I mentioned above that Jensen’s thrillers are memorable and I doubt I’ll forget this one in a hurry.

The characters, as I have come to expect from a Louise Jensen novel, stand tall from the page. I found Lucy difficult to like to start with. She’s very preoccupied (as I expect you would be with a critically ill child) with Kieron’s health and well-being. She’s pushy and a little overbearing at times. Often neglecting seventeen year old Connor who, following a recent traumatic event in his own life, still needs his mum. I should add that I warmed to Connor upon meeting him so that most likely influenced my feelings towards Lucy too. Husband Aiden has his own problems and I thoroughly enjoyed the way his story is written, with unexpected twists and turns. How can one family hold so many devastating secrets?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You can’t go wrong with a Louise Jensen thriller and All For You is no different. A fantastically paced, tense and twisty tale which had me gripped from page one to the final word. The characters and dialogue are superbly written, the plot was completely addictive — I had to find out where the author was going to take the story, and the twists left me giddy with joy! I certainly will not be able to get over that big ol’ juicy twist for a while. Wow! Louise Jensen continues to be one of my very favourite authors. She can do no wrong, a master storyteller. Highly recommended.

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

All For You by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by HQ on 20th January 2021 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Louise Jensen has sold over a million English language copies of her International No. 1 psychological thrillers ‘The Sister’, ‘The Gift’, ‘The Surrogate’, ‘The Date’, ‘The Family’ & ‘The Stolen Sisters’. 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 seventh thriller, ‘All For You’, will be published in 2022 by Harper Collins.

Louise has been nominated for multiple awards including Goodreads Debut Author Of The Year, The Guardians ‘Not The Booker Prize’, best polish thriller of 2018 and she has also been listed for two CWA Dagger awards. All of Louise’s thrillers are currently under option for TV & film.

Louise also has a penchant for exploring the intricacies of relationships through writing heart-breaking, high-concept love stories under the pen name Amelia Henley. ‘The Life We Almost Had’ was an international best seller. her latest release ‘The Art of Loving You’ is out now.

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

#BookReview: The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett @ViperBooks #TheTwyfordCode #damppebbles

“It’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to solving a puzzle, and that a message in secret code ran through all Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Iles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Iles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today?

Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Iles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

Perfect for fans of Richard Osman, Alex Pavesi and S.J. Bennett, The Twyford Code will keep you up puzzling late into the night.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett. The Twyford Code is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 13th January 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Twyford Code but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me an early proof copy.

When making a list of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year, it was no secret that The Twyford Code was at the very top, the very pinnacle, of that list. Hallett’s debut, The Appeal, completely blew me away with its clever plotting, completely original format and captivating mystery when I read it twelve or so months ago. I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on more of this talented authors work. Would the story and characters be as absorbing? Would the format be as interesting and unique? Would the mystery be as satisfying? Yes, yes and yes! The Twyford Code was an absolute ‘must-read’ for me and what a complete and utter joy it was from start to finish.

Schoolboy Steven Smith finds a battered copy of an old book on the bus one day which he takes into his remedial English class only for it to be confiscated by his teacher, Miss Isles. Despite it being outdated and officially banned, Miss Isles begins to read aloud the story written by disgraced children’s author Edith Twyford. The class are enraptured by the tale. But then Miss Isles notices annotations and strange markings in the margins, which she believes is secret code. It becomes somewhat of an obsession for the group, ending in an ill-fated trip to the coast and Twyford’s old stomping ground. Fast forward many years and Steven is fresh out of prison. Having recently met his son for the first time and armed with his son’s old mobile phone, Steven sets out to solve the mystery of the Twyford Code and finish what Miss Isles started all those years ago…

There is so much I want to say about this book, so much TO say about The Twyford Code. The author has absolutely gone and done it again with another beautifully crafted and intricate mystery which I fell head over heels in love with. First of all, the characters are sublime. Hallett is an expert at getting under the skin of people and making her creations feel incredibly lifelike. They have flaws, they have weaknesses but you can’t help but feel fondness towards them. This was my experience of Steven Smith. He’s not a bad bloke but he made a few dodgy decisions along the way, probably not helped by a tough upbringing. But my heart went out to him. A thoroughly intriguing character with hidden depths. I was glad he was my guide throughout the twists and the turns of the Twyford Code.

If you’ve read The Appeal then you will be aware that this author likes to spice things up for her readers by throwing away tradition and taking a completely different approach to her storytelling. In The Appeal the story was told through emails, texts and WhatsApp messages. In The Twyford Code we have audio files which have been converted to text via transcription software. Sometimes it’s spot on. Other times…it’s not. Which makes for thoroughly entertaining reading. I was a little worried initially that I would be slow to make the connections needed, work out what was being said. But I shouldn’t have worried as I was in very safe hands. Before long the words were flowing and the misinterpretations and notations in the text were as normal as normal can be. What a skill to come up with something so clever and then make sure it works across the board. Absolutely marvellous!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Janice Hallett has once again engaged, amazed and enthralled this reader and I cannot (CANNOT) wait to see what she comes up with next. Beautifully complex, utterly absorbing and an experience from start to finish. I loved the mystery, I loved the characters and I loved the way the book swept me away to another world. There is something very special about this author’s books and I urge you, if you’re a fan of a well-written mystery, to do everything you can to get hold of copies. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett was published in the UK by Viper Books on 13th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat, a psychological thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Thandiwe Newton and Jamie Bell. The Appeal is her first novel.