#BookReview: Black Summer by M.W. Craven @TheCrimeVault @LittleBrownUK #damppebbles #BlackSummer

black summer.jpg“After The Puppet Show, a new storm is coming . . .

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.”

So weirdly, I don’t actually want to write this review.  I don’t want to write this review because once I do, that’s it.  My time with Black Summer has come to an end and I have to live with the fact that it’s going to be another year (I mean, c’mon!  A year??) before I can get my mitts on book 3 in the series, The Curator.  A whole YEAR without Tilly and Poe.

Anyway, I digress.  Black Summer is the second book in M.W. Craven’s Washington Poe series and it’s published in hardcover and eBook today.  Wishing the author and Constable, the publisher, a very happy publication day!  I received a free eARC of Black Summer but this has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Goodness.  I have been waiting some time (…a year, maybe?) for this second Washington Poe novel and it was absolutely outstanding!  I would even go as far as saying it’s better than the brilliant The Puppet Show, which is no mean feat!  I couldn’t put it down, nor did I want to.  Every spare moment, no matter how small, was dedicated to reading this utterly marvellous book.  I am addicted to Tilly and Poe.  You’d be crazy to not get yourself a copy of this book, which can be read as a standalone, but why would you buy just one when you can also immerse yourself in the superb The Puppet Show as well!

The first standout thing about Black Summer is that it’s set within the culinary world and features a notorious three-Michelin starred celebrity chef, Jared Keaton.  I could be completely wrong but this felt like a fresh, new approach to me.  Something a bit different from the norm, which I loved. Keaton was found guilty of murdering his 18-year-old daughter, Elizabeth after Poe took the original investigation in a different direction.  With no body, very little evidence and a hastily washed away puddle of blood which was deemed ‘incompatible with life’ in the Bullace & Sloe kitchens, it came down to Poe’s testimony to put Keaton away for the murder.  But now Keaton’s ‘dead’ daughter has walked into Cumbria’s Alston library and sought out the local police officer.  With the evidence confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that the woman is Elizabeth and an irrefutable chain of evidence, it’s down to Poe to prove against all odds that his gut was right all those years ago. Jared Keaton is a psychopath.

I love, love, loved Black Summer!  Can’t fault it.  This is exactly the type of crime fiction I want to read; clever, addictive and completely memorable.  Something that sucks you in from start to finish and then leaves you in mourning because it’s over and you want more!  I savoured every single word of this book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  So much so that it is destined to be part of my ‘top books of 2019’ list and certainly a strong contender for the top spot!

Tilly and Poe go from strength to strength and their relationship (in the platonic sense – thank goodness!) has moved on since The Puppet Show.  They’re getting comfortable in each others company and it shows.  Tilly is less socially awkward but still a bright shining star in these wonderful books.  Poe is still, well…Poe – which I’m very glad about!  There are lots of brilliantly funny moments in Black Summer which I relished.  Little unexpected comments here and there which really added to my enjoyment of the novel.  Personally, I couldn’t see how Tilly and Poe were going to dig themselves out of this one (and I’m not saying they do, by the way) but it helps to have an uber-intelligent geek at the helm, right?

Would I recommend this book? Ha! You have to ask? Absolutely.  This and The Puppet Show.  Both are absolutely brilliant pieces of crime fiction which readers of the genre cannot afford to miss!  Thrilling from start to finish, I am still suffering from a book hangover a couple of weeks after finishing this one.  Believe the hype, people.  It really is THAT good.  Impossible to put down, totally unmissable and head and shoulders above nearly everything else in the same genre.  Craven has created something incredibly special here and I cannot wait for more from Tilly and Poe.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Black Summer.  The above review is my own, very enthusiastic, unbiased opinion.

Black Summer by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable (Little, Brown) on 20th June 2019 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although Mike Craven was born in Cumbria in 1968, he grew up in the North East, going to the same school as Newcastle and England centre-forward, Alan Shearer, before running away to join the army. He believes, but has no proof, that his little sister moved into his bedroom before the train had even left the station. He trained for two years as an armourer (that’s gunsmith to you and I) before spending the next ten being paid to travel the world and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol.

In 1995, sick of writing postcards and having fun, he decided it might be time to do something a bit more sensible. And it doesn’t get more sensible than doing a law degree. So he did Social Work instead. Two years later, as pimply-faced, naive social worker he started working in Cumbria as a probation officer. Sixteen years, and a few promotions, later he is still there, although as a crime writer, he now has different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Mike’s first DI Avison Fluke novel, Born in a Burial Gown, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award and will be out on 11th June, published by Caffeine Nights. His collection of short stories featuring Fluke and his colleagues from the Cumbrian Force Major Incident Team, Assume Nothing, Believe Nobody, Challenge Everything, is out now.

In March 2017 Mike signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown for his new Washington Poe series. The first book, The Puppet Show, was released under his new name, M .W. Craven, in June 2018.

In between joining the army and securing a publishing deal, Mike found time to have a pet crocodile, survive cancer, get married, and buy a springer spaniel named Bracken. He wanted to call him Gimli but was told to grow up. He lives in Carlisle where he tries to leave the house as little as possible and gets annoyed by people who say “it’s too cold to snow” and “watch that swan, its wings can break your arm”.

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

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards (@mredwards) @AmazonPub @midaspr #InHerShadow

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“Isabel’s life seemed perfect. Successful business, beautiful house, adoring husband. And then she was dead.

For four years Jessica has never doubted that her sister Isabel’s death was an accident. But when Jessica’s young daughter seems to know long-forgotten details about her aunt’s past, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that there’s a more sinister truth behind the tragedy.

As Jessica unearths disturbing revelations about her sister, and about the people she loved and trusted most, it becomes clear Isabel’s life was less than perfect and that Jessica’s might also be at risk.

Did someone murder Isabel? Are they now after Jessica and her family? The key seems to lie in the hands of a child. Can Isabel reveal the truth from beyond the grave, or is the answer closer to home?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the In Her Shadow blog tour. In Her Shadow is the latest release from bestselling author, Mark Edwards, and is set to be published by Thomas & Mercer later this week on 4th October 2018.

When Mark Edwards publishes a book, I read it. It’s that simple really. He’s an author whose writing I am happy to return to again and again. To prove my point, here are my reviews of Mark’s previous books; Follow You Home, The Devil’s Work, The Lucky Ones and The Retreat. I’ve also read ‘The Magpies’ which started it all for me a few years back. All wonderful, immersive pieces of fiction and highly recommended.

Making a start on Mark Edwards’s latest book is a strangely nerve-wracking experience for me. I have loved everything I have read by this author so far. Will this be the first book to disappoint? Will I love it as much as the others? Well, the answer to those two questions is that it did NOT disappoint but I maybe didn’t love it as much as his previous releases. Let me explain. Once again, Edwards has penned a highly readable, family focussed psychological thriller. What he does best in my opinion. However, this book has an overarching paranormal element to it, and the inclusion of any kind of paranormal ‘activity’ in a novel tends to leave this reader feeling cold. But that’s me. Your feelings on the matter may be completely different to mine and that, I find, is one of the joys of reading, and books in general. Saying that, the paranormal elements to the story were extremely well done and at points I felt shivers run down my spine – particularly in the first half of the book. Little Olivia really did freak me out.

Edwards really knows how to write a fully formed, living, breathing character. I was drawn to Jessica and her deceased sister, Isabel. In fact, I would go as far as saying Isabel was my favourite character in the book. There are wonderful flashback sections throughout so what I’m saying isn’t completely crazy (read the blurb if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). I loved her feistiness, her boundless self-confidence and her ambition. Also her strong sense of right and wrong. Jessica very much pales in her sister’s shadow. Olivia was also a firm favourite, despite the fact she did send shivers down my spine at points. I couldn’t get over how authentic Edwards made her voice.

Would I recommend this book? I would but why recommend one when you can recommend them all! I felt there was a stronger lean towards the ‘women’s fiction’ genre in In Her Shadow which I have nothing against but it’s really NOT my thing. It’s also a little sexy which again, I could have done without. However, Mark Edwards is a supremely talented writer and if you haven’t read any of his books yet then we need to have serious words. A strong family driven thriller which I enjoyed. Recommended.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In Her Shadow. The above review is my own honest unbiased opinion.

In Her Shadow by Mark Edwards was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 4th October 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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EDWARDS 7 TS 28

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

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

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

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

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

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#damppebblestakeover with S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) | #GuestPost: In Praise of Insecurity #TheProposal @bookouture

the proposal.jpg“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man. 

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello bookish friends.  I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah!  I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes.  Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina.  It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes.  The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina.  But things haven’t stopped there.  On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal.  I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later.  But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself.  Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…

The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?

Why don’t you write?

Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’

Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?

Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.

I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.

I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.

In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.

I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.

So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.

But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.

Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie.  Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note.  And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

My reviews of S.E. Lynes’s books: | Mother | The Pact | Valentina |

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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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 |

#BookReview: Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar (@ameranwar) @dialoguebooks #BrothersinBlood #ZaqKhan #ZaqandJags

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“A Sikh girl on the run. A Muslim ex-con who has to find her. A whole heap of trouble.

Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.

But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.

With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?”

Well, this review has been a long time coming! Last year I was drawn to a book called Western Fringes thanks to a number of fantastic reviews. There was so much love for it, it had won the CWA Debut Dagger and oh boy, did I want to read it. My TBR was terrifying though (still is if I’m honest) so I was strong. It resulted in unnecessary twitching but I WAS STRONG! Then I met the author of Western Fringes at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate and he is the nicest bloke you could wish to meet. I told him how much I wanted to read his book (I missed out the part about the twitching) but sobbed into my white wine about my terrifying TBR. So imagine my surprise a year later when a copy of Brothers in Blood lands on my doormat (I adore unexpected #bookpost!). It’s by Amer Anwar, author of the aforementioned, much sought after book, Western Fringes. Hold on, it IS Western Fringes with a new title and a cracking new cover. The brilliant new imprint from Little, Brown – Dialogue Books – have snapped up Western Fringes and made something great, even greater!

So dear reader, after a long build-up, after waiting for such a long time to read a copy, what did I think of Brothers in Blood (previously titled Western Fringes)? I absolutely flipping loved it! I found it utterly compelling and wonderfully refreshing compared to many of the other books I read. There’s a lot of heart but a heck of a lot of guts between the pages too.

Zaq Khan, our lead protagonist, is a convicted killer. He’s a good bloke but he thinks with his fists and then lives to regret it. Zaq has a big heart and a smart head on his shoulders, and that was one of the things I liked most about him. He’s a very intelligent man who got into a bad situation and has had to carry the burden of it for a long time. Time well spent under the watch of Her Majesty’s prison service. But that’s all in the past now and Zaq is trying to put his life back together, to move on. He’s got a job working as a delivery driver for Mr Brar and he’s getting back on his feet. That is until Mr Brar asks him to carry out a special task; find his missing daughter, Rita, and return her to her family. But Zaq has no idea what he’s getting himself into. What initially seems like an easy assignment suddenly turns into something much more sinister…

Brothers in Blood will stay with me for a long time to come. I became quite consumed with the story and the characters. Whilst doing every day things like sorting the laundry or cooking the dinner, I began to ponder on Zaq’s situation. I found myself quietly chuckling to myself as I relived the banter and camaraderie between Zaq and best mate, Jags. Anwar has created some very memorable characters and I relished every moment I spent with them.

I loved how our amateur sleuths, Zaq and Jags, approached solving the mystery (and the humorous references to deerstalkers made me chuckle!). Zaq is very much the brains of the outfit and Jags, the wheels (and the cash!). At times I was longing for a bit more violence (I’m an odd creature) but when that violence came it made my stomach turn a little and I had to take a short break (yay!).

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. With its wonderful British Asian flavour, it’s cast of fully-formed, standout characters and the intriguing mystery behind it all, it’s an absolute must-read for crime fiction fans. I just hope that we get to see Zaq and Jags again in the future. Wonderfully intense, raw and gutsy – I thoroughly recommend Brothers in Blood. No wonder this book won the CWA Debut Dagger. Absolutely outstanding!

Five out of five stars.

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

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar was published in the UK by Dialogue Books on 6th September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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The dodgy looking geezer in the photo is me. I grew up in West London. After leaving college I had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. I eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. I have an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and am a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. For everything else, I’ve got an alibi. It wasn’t me. I was never there.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward (@sarahrward1) @FaberBooks #DCConnieChilds #TheShroudedPath #MustRead

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“The past won’t stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Shrouded Path blog tour. The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward is the fourth book in the excellent DC Connie Childs series and continues to remain a very firm damppebbles.com favourite. A series I return to time and time again. And it’s the eBook publication day today for this latest instalment so a very happy release day to Sarah and the folk at Faber Books. The hardback will follow later this week on Thursday 6th September.

One of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year is always the next DC Connie Childs book from Sarah Ward. And do you know what? I am NEVER disappointed. Never. It’s that simple really. If you’re a fan of crime fiction and you haven’t read one of Ward’s books, then you’re doing something wrong. Her characters are fully formed, living beings who leap off the page at the reader. You’re drawn into the misty fictional town of Bampton and it’s surrounding Peak District towns, a landscape which feels as much a part of the book as the characters. And then you’re handed a complex, enthralling mystery to get your teeth into. It’s fictional bliss and I can’t get enough of Ward’s masterful writing.

I adore Ward’s lead protagonist, Connie Childs, but I also have a rather large soft spot for her DI, Francis Sadler, who, unlike many senior officers you find in crime fiction, is supportive of his DC. Sadler offers an encouraging word and a gentle shove in the right direction whilst also providing the authority which spontaneous and impulsive Connie needs at times. They’re a wonderful match and such a refreshing change to many other DI/DC relationships I read about. I must also mention the new boy, DC Peter Dahl. He’s not as fiery as some of Connie’s previous colleagues but he felt a good fit for the team. I look forward to finding out more about him in future novels.

I very much enjoyed the leaps from the late-1950s to the present day. The author has built a wonderfully enjoyable mystery around a small group of school friends, both in the past and in the present. The secrets, the lies and the half-truths made for compelling reading. And yes, I tried from the very start to figure out where the story was headed and who was responsible but I would never have reached the correct conclusion. I was bowled over by how simple parts of the story were, how Ward manages to keep her big reveal, her ‘taddah’ moment away from the reader’s mind. Absolutely brilliant.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. And it’s predecessors too. This is one of the very best crime fiction series out there at the moment and Ward’s books are a must read for every crime thriller fan. A dark and brooding mystery which I couldn’t put down. The eerie atmosphere of ‘the Cutting’ sent chills down my spine. I absolutely loved it!

Five out of five stars.

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

The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th September and is available in hardcover and eBook formats, with the paperback to follow in 2019 (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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sarah ward

Sarah Ward is the author of four DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw, A Patient Fury and The Shrouded Path set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.

Author Links: | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Valentina by S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) @bookouture #Valentina #mustread

valentina.jpg“When city girl Shona moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, she believes that all that lies ahead for her family is happiness.

But with Mikey working long hours away from home, the frightening isolation of the Scottish countryside begins to get to Shona. She feels lonely and trapped.

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. Valentina enters Shona’s life like a whirlwind, bringing excitement and spontaneity to replace boredom and fear.

Now Shona has the perfect home, the perfect man, and the perfect new best friend – or does she?

As Shona’s fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood outside becomes the least of her fears…”

I’ve recently returned home from my holiday in North Wales.  We had a wonderful time but oh boy, there was ZERO wifi.  I spent just over a week completely offline (it was tough!).  When I returned I discovered that one of my all-time favourite books had been republished by the mighty Bookouture, yay!  The incredible Valentina by S.E. Lynes has been given a fabulous make-over.  So what better opportunity to repost my review and make sure YOU get yourself a copy of this incredible book.  Here’s my review from June 2016…

This is an exceptional novel.  There is something truly wonderful and special about it.  It’s fair to say I loved this book.  It sent chills down my spine and I couldn’t put it down.  This is S E Lynes debut and I am so excited to see what else she has in store for us.

Shona and Mikey are madly in love and expecting their first little bundle of joy. Being a responsible father-to-be Mikey finds himself a job working on the oil rigs off the coast of Scotland.  Shona begrudgingly packs up her old life and her job, says goodbye to her friends and family and follows Mikey to deepest, darkest Aberdeenshire.  It’s OK though, she has the most beautiful house to spend her days in.  Mikey’s work rota means that he’s away two weeks out of four so it’s not long before loneliness starts to creep in.  She has Isla, her baby daughter, but babies aren’t all that good at conversation!

Thankfully she meets spirited Valentina.  She’s full of life, charismatic and Shona’s saviour.  But how well does Shona really know Valentina?  Is she the answer to her prayers, or the epitome of her nightmares….?

I love how Shona is written.  A few chapters into the book and I felt I was sat in the pub chatting to a friend.  That’s how well S E Lynes has written her, she became real to me.  As I progressed through the book I wanted everything to turn out well for Shona.  Does it? Well, you’ll have to read Valentina and find out for yourself.

The plot is so very clever and quite intricate.  It was a joy to read this book and I struggled to focus on anything else as it had my full attention.  When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the characters and wondering what was going to happen next.  I even explained the plot to my husband (I don’t think he could work out why I was explaining it to him) but it was because I wanted to talk about the book with someone!  It really gets under your skin.

This is a dark story about loneliness and what we accept to be the truth.  The one thing I will say, I was a touch disappointed by the closing chapters. I wanted a little more ‘omph’ but I still loved the story and the authors style.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  A very deserving five out of five stars from me.  It’s dark, totally compelling and full of shady characters.  There’s a sense of foreboding you get from the very beginning which stays with you until the very end. Completely enticing, once you start reading you will struggle to stop.  I loved it!  As I said earlier, if this is the first offering from S E Lynes, I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next.

In answer to my pondering, S.E. Lynes had two other stonking novels up her sleeve (Mother and The Pact) with a fourth (The Proposal) due to be published in September!  I am delighted to have an eARC of The Proposal on my Kindle so look out for a review (plus a fantastic #damppebblestakeover post from the author herself!) coming your way soon.

Valentina by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 13th August 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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 |

#BookReview: Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson (@Author_Dave) @BonnierZaffre #DSNathanCody #20BooksofSummer #DontMakeaSound

don't make a sound

“You can’t choose your family. Or can you?

Meet the Bensons. They’re an ordinary couple. They wash their car, mow their lawn and pass the time of day with their neighbours. And they have a beautiful little girl called Daisy.

There’s just one problem.

SHE’S NOT THEIRS.

D. S. Nathan Cody is about to face his darkest and most terrifying case yet . . .”

When I was compiling my list for #20BooksofSummer there was one read I knew I HAD to include. If you haven’t had the pleasure of discovering the DS Nathan Cody series yet then I urge you to go and purchase the epic A Tapping At My Door (book #1). Followed by the equally epic Hope to Die (book #2) and then finish your spending spree off with this deliciously dark and terrifying little beauty, the third book in the series, Don’t Make a Sound. I can promise that you won’t regret it!

Now you may have already gathered that I’m quite a fan of David Jackson’s DS Cody series. I’d even go as far as saying it’s my joint-favourite crime series (not telling you who it shares the top spot with but if you follow damppebbles.com regularly then you may be able to guess…). Jackson has created an engaging cast of memorable characters and I, for one, can’t get enough of them!

If like me you’re a regular reader of the crime genre then chances are you’ve read a few missing child storylines in your time. And, if you’re anything like me, chances are you’re ‘kinda’ getting bored with this particular trope (no? just me then…?). The main storyline of Don’t Make a Sound is exactly that, about a missing child. But this is something entirely different to everything else. Don’t Make a Sound takes the somewhat overly familiar missing child plotline and turns it upside down.

DS Cody and the Major Incident Team are well and truly flummoxed after a young girl is snatched in the middle of the night from her home, while her parents sleep in the next room. There is zero evidence, the team struggle to comprehend the type of criminal who would target a young girl in this way and time is running out. When a second girl is taken but this time with deadly consequences, the stakes are raised tenfold. No one knows why the girls are being taken but it’s not going to be for anything good. Can Cody and his DC, the wonderfully spirited Megan Webley find the missing girls before it’s too late….?

If you’re new to Jackson’s novels then there is only one really important thing to know. The plots are great, the writing is incredible but the characters are utterly sublime. I’m a little bit in love with DS Nathan Cody (and a little bit in love with DC Megan Webley too, if truth be told!). But it’s not just our two main characters who leap off the page at the reader. The whole Major Incident Team are head and shoulders above many other ‘lead’ characters from other well-established crime writers. DCI Stella Blunt with her ‘verging on the unprofessional’ soft spot for Cody (no, not like that!) and computer nerd/all round geek, Grace Meade, are two prime examples of standout supporting characters. This time though, we get to hear from DC Jason Oxburgh, the FLO who has a good cry on his wife’s shoulder at the end of a tough day. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!

It’s not just the good guys in Don’t Make a Sound who deserve a mention though. Malcolm and Harriet Benson make a ‘good’ story ‘great’. I don’t feel I can say too much as I don’t want to give lots away but the Bensons are something else altogether! I loved them for being so utterly loopy but oh my gosh, they made me so angry. I’ve been struggling with my reading mojo recently. Not any more; thanks in part to David Jackson but the main share of the credit goes to Malcolm and Harriet Benson. Before I summarise, I must mention Daisy. If the Bensons make a good story great, Daisy makes a great story something completely memorable and heartwrenching. Something that will stay with me for a long time to come. WOW!

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. This AND the other two books in the DS Nathan Cody series. Make sure you read them in order though as Cody has a traumatic past which is revealed fairly early on in the series (if you suffer from coulrophobia like I do, then be warned!). You also don’t want to miss out on the banter and the undeniable chemistry between Cody and DS Webley (the two do have a romantic history but I love the ‘will they/won’t they’ feel Jackson gives his books!). Dark, utterly compelling and head and shoulders above others in the same genre. The DS Nathan Cody series just keeps getting better and better. I absolutely loved this book and I cannot wait to read book four.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Don’t Make a Sound. My thanks to Joanne at Brew and Books Review for sending me her ARC after she had finished with it. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

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Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 3rd May 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats with the paperback to follow on 1st November 2018 (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about the author3

david jackson

David Jackson is the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring New York Detective Callum Doyle. His debut novel, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards. When not writing fiction, David spends his time as a lecturer in a university science department. He also gives occasional workshops on creative writing. He lives on the Wirral peninsula with his wife and two daughters.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website |

#CoverReveal: Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) @OrendaBooks #LoriAnderson #DeepDirtyTruth

I’m a little bit giddy today. Actually, I’ve been a little bit giddy for the last week or so as I’ve had to keep a secret I have been BURSTING to share with you…

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that one of my very favourite series out there at the moment is the Lori Anderson series written by the incredibly talented Steph Broadribb. I have read (devoured) both of the previous books in the series starting with Deep Down Dead and then followed a year later by Deep Blue Trouble. I LOVE these books and I LOVE Broadribb’s lead, kick-ass bounty hunter Lori Anderson. I may have said in a past review “forget your Wonder Woman. forget your SuperGirl. I want to be Lori Anderson”. Yup, smitten.

Anyway, I am beyond excited to tell you that the third book in the series is due to be released on 5th January 2019, that it’s called DEEP DIRTY TRUTH and I’m (yup, little ole me) going to share the cover and blurb with you today!

We’ll start with the blurb and then have a look at that gorgeous cover:

A price on her head. A secret worth dying for.

Just 48 hours to expose the truth…

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With North due in court in forty-eight hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family. Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

In this race only the winner gets out alive…

Brimming with tension, high-stakes jeopardy and high-voltage action, and a deep, emotional core, Deep Dirty Truth is an unmissable thriller by one of the freshest and most exciting voices in crime fiction.

Oh.My.Word! How good does that sound?! I’ve started my countdown to publication day; only 182 days to go.

So, without further ado, let’s feast our eyes on that fabulous cover…

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What a stunner! I have so much love for this cover and it ties in beautifully with the others in the series.

WOW! The Lori Anderson series is unmissable; high action thrills but shedloads of heart too. I love it and can’t recommend it highly enough. And don’t forget, you’ve got 182 days to read Deep Down Dead and Deep Blue Trouble before Deep Dirty Truth is released to the world, so no excuses 😉

It’s been such a huge honour to reveal this cover to you today so my thanks to Steph Broadribb and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for asking me to be involved. My pal The Beardy Book Blogger is also taking part in the reveal so pop across and say hello and give him a follow if you’re not already doing so – you’ll thank me for it, I promise!

Deep Dirty Truth will be available to purchase on 5th January 2019 but you can pre-order a copy here from amazon.co.uk.

about the author3

Steph Broadribb

As Steph Broadribb I write the Lori Anderson action thriller series for Orenda Books. When researching the books I trained as a Bounty Hunter in California and travelled around the US scouting locations. My debut thriller DEEP DOWN DEAD (2017) was shortlisted for the eDunnit eBook of the Year award, the Dead Good Reader Award for Fearless Female Character, and Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. The second book in the Lori Anderson series – DEEP BLUE TROUBLE – is out in eBook October 2017 and paperback January 2018.

As Stephanie Marland I write the Starke/Bell psychological police procedural series for Trapeze (Orion). This series draws on my own experience as a blogger and the research I did (when working at a university for my day job) into human behaviour in online groups. The first book – MY LITTLE EYE – comes out in eBook November 2017 and paperback April 2018.

I’m repped by Oli Munson at AM Heath.

I was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire, and most of my working life has been spent between the UK and USA. I’m an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sisters In Crime organisations. I currently live in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses and trying to wrangle an unruly but adorable puppy!

Author Links: | CTG Blog | Twitter | Facebook |

Author biog © https://crimethrillergirl.com/

#BookReview: The Caller by Chris Carter @simonschusterUK #TheCaller #DetectiveRobertHunter #20BooksofSummer

the caller

“After a tough week, Tanya Kaitlin is looking forward to a relaxing night in, but as she steps out of her shower, she hears her phone ring. The video call request comes from her best friend, Karen Ward. Tanya takes the call and the nightmare begins.

Karen is gagged and bound to a chair in her own living room. If Tanya disconnects from the call, if she looks away from the camera, he will come after her next, the deep, raspy, demonic voice at the other end of the line promises her.

As Detectives Robert Hunter and Carlos Garcia investigate the threats, they are thrown into a rollercoaster of evil, chasing a predator who scouts the streets and social media networks for victims, taunting them with secret messages and feeding on their fear.”

I recently mentioned in another review that I was using the #20BooksofSummer challenge to catch up with a few series which I have fallen behind on. I am utterly ashamed to admit that I am behind in this particular series because of all the books in all the world, this one should have been at the very top of my TBR. I LOVE Chris Carter’s Robert Hunter series with a passion. Whenever anyone asks me for a crime thriller recommendation Chris Carter’s Detective Robert Hunter series is ALWAYS at the top of the list. No matter what, this is the series you must read…but make sure you haven’t eaten beforehand!

I was lucky enough to interview Chris Carter when The Caller was first published last year. Click HERE to witness my fangirling in all its glory!

The Caller is the eighth book in the series and I was thrilled to be reunited with Detective Robert Hunter once again. Things you should know about Hunter….he has an exceptionally high IQ, he has a Ph.D. in Criminal Behaviour Analysis and Biopsychology and he works for the LAPD’s Ultra Violent Crimes (UVC) Unit. Yup, you read that right, the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit (if you read my reviews often then you may be getting some idea why I love this series as I do!). Hunter works alongside Detective Carlos Garcia, the only other member of the UVC, and what a team they are! There is such a strong dynamic between the two characters, they complement each other perfectly.

Hunter and Garcia are only ever called in for the most violent and bizarre murders so when Tanya Kaitlin receives a shocking video call from her best friend, Karen, you know things aren’t going to end well for either of them! When a second victim is discovered following another terrifying video call it blows all of Hunter’s theories out of the water and the UVC are back to square one, struggling to discover the killer’s motivation before they strike again. One thing is for sure and that’s Carter knows how to write a depraved mind. His books tend to be gorier than many of his peers but I just flipping love that! I visibly winced at points in the book and I am always in awe of the new and inventive ways the author comes up with killing his characters off. This book and the others in the series are not for the faint-hearted, you have been warned.

I wasn’t able to spot whodunit but this is a tricky one to do that with (I won’t say any more about that for fear of spoilers). Carter’s books are always page-turners and this one is no different. I found that as I know the lead characters so well, it made The Caller all the more compelling. Is this the best book in the series? I wouldn’t necessarily say it is (that crown belongs to One by One in my opinion) but it’s another stonking addition to a thoroughly magnificent series.

Would I recommend this book? 100%, always. And every other book in the Detective Hunter series too. If you haven’t read any of these books yet then you are truly missing out. They’re edgy, thrilling and utterly compulsive reading. I love them. Chris Carter is my absolute favourite author and having read The Caller I now can’t wait to make a start on book nine, The Gallery of the Dead. I need more Detective Robert Hunter in my life. End of.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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The Caller by Chris Carter was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster UK on 27th July 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about the author3

Author photo

Biographies can be an absolute drag, so I won’t bore anyone with a long life story.

I was born in Brasilia, Brazil where I spent my childhood and teenage years. After graduating from high school, I moved to the USA where I studied psychology with specialization in criminal behaviour. During my University years I held a variety of odd jobs, ranging from flipping burgers to being part of an all male exotic dancing group.

I worked as a criminal psychologist for several years before moving to Los Angeles, where I swapped the suits and briefcases for ripped jeans, bandanas and an electric guitar. After a spell playing for several well-known glam rock bands, I decided to try my luck in London, where I was fortunate enough to have played for a number of famous artists. I toured the world several times as a professional musician.

A few years ago I gave it all up to become a full-time writer.

Author Links: | Website | 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 |

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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 |