#BookReview: The Curator by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #TheCurator #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

the curator“It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated books of the year with you, The Curator by M.W. Craven. The Curator is the third book in Craven’s superbly good Washington Poe series (or, as everyone seems to refer to the series, Tilly and Poe) and is published in hardcover, audio and digital formats today (4th June 2020) by Constable. I received a free eARC of The Curator but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve been waiting a whole year (and a bit) for The Curator to arrive on my kindle. And what’s the first thing I do when it does? I simper a little because I finally have a copy – the wait is over! – and then I try to pretend it’s not there. Crazy, right? I was so keen to read this book but at the same time, I was really, really nervous. What if I didn’t enjoy it? What if I rushed in and didn’t savour it (it’s a flipping long wait ’til the next one, that’s for sure!)? And that, I think, is the sign of an incredibly talented author who has built the beginnings of a series into something that, for the reader, is extra special. Reading The Curator, for me, was an event. Something to look forward to. Something to anticipate and savour every minute of. Something to remember. And I loved it. Craven can do no wrong in my eyes.

DS Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw and a heavily pregnant DI Stephanie Flynn of the National Crime Agency are called back to Cumbria to investigate a perplexing case. Severed fingers. What appears to be three pairs from three individuals, left over the Christmas period in the most surprising of places. On further investigation it’s confirmed that one finger in the pair was removed antemortem, the other finger was removed postmortem. But that’s only a tiny piece of the puzzle. The female victims were drugged, the male victim wasn’t. And a note was left with each set of fingers with the hashtag #BSC6. The team – even with Tilly’s immense intelligence and analytical brain – are initially baffled. But then through a little supposition and a lot of analysis, a suspect emerges. But what the suspect tells them turns everything upside down. This isn’t any run of the mill serial killer, this is the Curator…

Another absolutely cracking novel from the crime fiction mastermind that is M.W. Craven. I loved this book and savoured every darn second I had with it. I could have easily read this book in a couple of sittings but I slowed down to ensure I enjoyed every twist and turn. Craven appears to be one of those crime writers who doesn’t shy away from digging the depths of the internet to find strange and unusual ideas for his novels, which he then twists and shapes into crime fiction gold. The Curator is solid proof of that. An intriguing and intricate setup, followed by an edge of your seat hunt for the bad guy, culminating in a devilishly dark twist that you won’t see coming.

Even when I had my suspicions about who the killer was, there was another unexpected gut punch just waiting around the corner. Such a clever well-written book that hooks you in from the get-go and doesn’t let go until the shocking finale.

Tilly and Poe are wonderful creations who have been firm favourites of mine since the very first book. I’ve loved watching their friendship and working relationship grow over the last couple of years. The chemistry and the bond they have, makes for compelling reading. The humour and the wit the author includes in the story adds a few lighter moments to what is a brilliantly dark and twisty story. Expertly paced, skilfully written and all in a setting to die for (literally!).

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, categorically, YES! If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t met Tilly and Poe yet, then that has to change. The Curator can easily be read as a standalone but if you’ve not read any of the books before, why not treat yourself to the entire series?! Be whisked away to deepest, darkest Cumbria and meet two totally unforgettable characters who you will grow to love and admire. I loved this book and I’m counting down the days until Dead Ground is published next year. Another stunning novel from an accomplished writer and I’m really excited to see what the future holds (let’s hope it’s a lot more Tilly and Poe!).

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

The Curator by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 4th June 2020 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.uk | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)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: Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (translated by Sarah Moses) @PushkinPress #TenderIsTheFlesh #damppebbles

tender is the flesh.jpg“It all happened so quickly. First, animals became infected with the virus and their meat became poisonous. Then, governments initiated the Transition. Now, ‘special meat’ – human meat – is legal.

Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans only no one calls them that. He works with numbers, consignments, processing. One day, he’s given a gift to seal a deal: a specimen of the finest quality. He leaves her in his barn, tied up, a problem to be disposed of later.

But the specimen haunts Marcos. Her trembling body, her eyes that watch him, that seem to understand. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost – and what might still be saved…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of one of the most hypnotic books I have read in a long, long time with you. I saw Tender is the Flesh mentioned a couple of times on Twitter and it instantly got it’s (meat) hooks into me. I couldn’t help myself and pre-ordered the book immediately. This is the type of fiction I love; brutal, powerful and thought-provoking.

I should probably mention at this point that I read this book as soon as it was published (a few months ago) and the fact that a virus infects the World’s animals seemed, at the time, to be nothing more than fiction. Anything involving a virus these days has a slightly different…perspective (?) to it, but I know I would still have read this book and still loved it as much as I do. Because it’s a bloody awesome book and if you’ve got a strong stomach and like the darker side of fiction then this is a must read!

So the big question here is…would you? Would you eat human flesh if that was the only available meat for you to consume? It’s unthinkable, right? Tender is the Flesh makes the reader ask themselves some pretty hefty questions and looks at the situation from some very interesting angles. To put things into context, the humans on the menu aren’t like you or I. They’re bred, farmed and processed the same way livestock is. They’re nameless, they’re nothing but protein. But….but…but…they’re still people, right? And that’s the brilliant hook which this stonking piece of fiction rests on. It’s absolutely impossible to comprehend. But that’s exactly what pulled me into the pages of this incredible book.

Marcos works at the local processing plant. The reader discovers that after so many years of watching and partaking in horrifically violent acts that Marcos has become somewhat desensitised to the brutality of it all. He’s a heavily flawed character, having recently separated from his wife, but I found myself warming to him as the story progressed. When an illegal gift on a Female FGP (First General Pure) is delivered to his house, he doesn’t know what to do with it (her!).

This really is an eye opener of a book and I devoured it (pun intended). I was nearing the end of the novel and I couldn’t for the life of me work out where the author was going to take things, how it was all going to be wrapped up. But it’s absolutely perfect and as a result, this book will stay with me for a long time to come. I expect it will feature in my top books of the year list.

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely, but it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s savage, brave, unsettling and utterly unflinching fiction at it’s very best. The way the ‘special meat’ is treated is inhumane and stomach churning and makes me question the way livestock is treated. Vegetarianism could be the way forward for me following this novel! If you’re looking for a book which is dark, disturbing and wholly involving then this is it. Bazterrica does not spare her reader and I absolutely loved it! Highly recommended. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica was published in the UK by Pushkin Press on 6th February 2020 and is available in digital format. Paperback copies are available via Waterstones, Foyles and Book Depository (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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Agustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian novelist and short-story writer. She is a central figure in the Buenos Aires literary scene, co-curating the event series ‘Siga al Conejo Blanco’ and coordinating reading workshops. She has received several awards for her writing, most notably the prestigious Premio Clarín Novela for her second novel, Tender is the Flesh, which has sold in eight languages.

#BookReview: The White Road by Sarah Lotz @HodderBooks #TheWhiteRoad #damppebbles

the white road.jpg“Adrenaline-junkie Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he’s met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he’s had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he’s faced with an impossible task: he’s got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There’s only on place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.

And Simon’s luck is about to run out.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of my latest #bookhangover and the reason that I’m currently ‘book-less’ (because nothing else at the moment could possibly be as good as this book!), the incredible The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I am a huge fan of Lotz’s writing and have loved both The Three and Day Four. I’m not very good when it comes to Goodreads but both of these books sit proudly on a very exclusive shelf called ‘favourites’. The White Road will definitely be joining them there. I received a free ARC of The White Road but that has in no way influenced my review.

The White Road is sublime. Atmospheric, creepy and I was living the story from the opening paragraphs alongside our protagonist, Simon Newman. Simon and his mate, Thierry have started a website. In probably not the smartest of moves, they decide that filming the scene of a horrific caving accident, where three young lads died, could create the buzz they’re after, show their audience exactly what they’re about and get the site a few extra hits. The Cwm Pot caves are closed off to the general public because of the danger, but that’s OK because Simon has found an odd bloke called Ed on the internet who has offered to take him into the caves for a small fee. Once underground, things start going horribly wrong for the pair and Simon starts to wonder exactly what type of person he has stranded himself hundreds of feet underground with. Simon manages to escape the icy depths of Cwm Pot, frozen and traumatised by the whole experience. And with the camera footage which, of course, goes viral. The thrill of his new found fame and the adoration of the masses pushes Simon and Thierry on further, looking for the next big high and viral video. When Thierry suggests filming the dead on Everest, Simon doesn’t immediately jump at the idea – but he doesn’t refuse either and sets Thierry a challenge to raise the funds for the trip. Before long Simon is heading for base camp on Mount Everest. But this time, he may not be so lucky…

This book is so, so good and I relished every moment I had with it. Simon is a chancer, a bit of a lad and his morals are a little on the dubious side but I really liked him. As the book progressed I started to feel sorry for him and wished he had a little more backbone to stand up to Thierry and his astonishingly bad ideas. But Thierry had made his own, somewhat incomparable, sacrifices and Simon was committed. Taking on Mt. Everest without some form of knowledge or training seems like the most barmy of ideas but off the reader heads with Simon to Base Camp. I felt nervous for him, apprehensive, and the sense of impending doom gave me palpitations. The White Road really gets under your skin and it’s going to be impossible to forget this one!

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, without a moment’s hesitation. I loved this book because the characters felt so very real to me. I loved this book because it’s like nothing I’ve read before. I loved this book because I think this is my first (literary) trip to Mt. Everest and I find it fascinating the need some people have to conquer the mountain, to risk life and limb, to push your body to it’s absolute limits. It’s chilling, it’s atmospheric and it’s totally involving. Impossible to put down, impossible to forget. An outstanding piece of fiction.

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

The White Road by Sarah Lotz was published in the UK by Hodder Books on 18th October 2018 and is available in hardcover, audio, paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstonesFoyles | BookDepositoryGoodreads |

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sarah lotz.jpgSarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist with a fondness for the macabre and fake names. Incapable of holding down a ‘proper’ job, over the years she’s painted outrageous frescos for dubious casinos, written scripts for South Africa’s first full-length sci-fi cartoon show and lived homeless on the streets of Paris as a teenage runaway.

Among other things, she writes horror/thriller novels under the name S.L. Grey with author Louis Greenberg, a YA pulp-fiction zombie series with her daughter, Savannah, under the pseudonym Lily Herne, and quirky erotica novels with authors Helen Moffett and Paige Nick under the name Helena S. Paige.

Stephen King said her solo novel The Three was ‘really wonderful’ (which made her cry in a very very good way) and Day Four was published in the U.K by Hodder & Stoughton in May, 2015.

She likes cake, scruffy dogs, fast cars and sitting in her attic making stuff up.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #WeBeginattheEnd #damppebbles

We Begin at the End.jpg“‘YOU CAN’T SAVE SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T WANT TO BE SAVED . . .’

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?”

The warmest of welcomes to the blog today and to my stop on the We Begin at the End blog tour. We Begin at the End is the highly anticipated new release from Chris Whitaker and was published by Zaffre Books in hardcover on 2nd April. The paperback is set to follow in October. I received a free eARC of We Begin at the End but that has in no way influenced my review.

We Begin at the End is the most beautiful, captivating and exquisite book I have ever read. My heart broke. I cried big, ugly, snotty tears and I was left wanting to relive the whole experience, from beginning to end, again. This is a stunning piece of fiction and if you don’t read it for yourself then you’ll never know exactly how astonishing it is. Hell, if this book doesn’t make it to the top of my best books of 2020 then we have been blessed with some truly incredible books this year.

The outlaw, Duchess Day Radley. The most perfect character to grace crime fiction. At only 13 years of age she has the guts and the intelligence to do things most adults wouldn’t dream of. But she’s also a 13 year old hot-headed kid who makes some pretty catastrophic mistakes. I adored her. I finished We Begin at the End a few weeks ago now but Duchess remains with me still. Her mother, Star, repeatedly tries and fails to be a good mom to her two kids. Which means Duchess has to step up and take charge. It’s heart-breaking stuff, hence the big, fat, ugly tears. Duchess’s relationship with her younger brother, Robin, was so touching, so beautiful. She’s his protector, she looks out for him because their mother can’t and does such an admirable job that every scene involving the pair of them tugged at my heart strings. When a caring, responsible adult eventually enters their lives in the form of their grandfather, it’s an absolute joy to watch six-year-old Robin blossom. Duchess’s wariness and her slow thaw towards grandfather Hal just made me admire her even more. But some people just aren’t destined to find happiness and history has an unfortunate knack of repeating itself…

Before I go any further with this review I must mention Chief Walker, or Walk as he’s known to the locals. Tragedy struck Cape Haven 30 years ago when Sissy Radley, sister to Star, was killed. Walk, who even then had aspirations to become the local police chief, was part of the search party. Walk’s best friend, Vincent King, was accused of Sissy’s murder. But Walk never gave up on Vincent and now, thirty years later, Vincent is due to be released from jail. And I think that tells you everything you need to know about Walk. Another beautifully drawn character who leaps from the pages of the book and into the reader’s mind. When tragedy hits Cape Haven for a second time, Walk is pushed to the sidelines of the investigation. Before long, he decides that if the truth is to be found, then he’s the man to uncover it. Such compelling reading and I lived every. single. moment.

Would I recommend this book? This book is perfection. I will be driving people crazy recommending We Begin at the End to them. It ticks so many boxes for me; set in small town America – tick, full of the most enchanting and interesting characters – tick, a devilish mystery at it’s heart – tick, leaves me with the biggest emotional bookish hangover – tick. This book is a masterpiece and if you only buy one book this year based on my reviews then please, PLEASE make it this one. I really wish I had the words to convey what a stunning book this is. Absolutely outstanding.

I chose to read and review an eARC of We Begin at the End. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 2nd April 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |

Chris Whitaker

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chris whitakerChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BookReview: Wilderness by B.E. Jones (@bevjoneswriting) @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #Wilderness #damppebbles

Wilderness_25

It’s easy to die out there. It’s easy to kill too.

Two weeks, 1,500 miles, three opportunities for her husband to save his own life.

It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers.

Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try to save their marriage. Maybe the roadtrip that they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks, just the two of them, would help heal the wounds.

But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges. Three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness.

If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s easy to kill too.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my very favourite reads from 2019 with you today – the absolutely brilliant WILDERNESS by B.E. Jones. Wilderness sailed into my top ten(ish) books of the year with ease, and I still can’t stop talking to people about it (when I get to see them that is, which isn’t often at the moment!). Wilderness is on the brink of being published in paperback so I’m shouting louder than ever! It really gets under your skin and I LOVE it! We may not be able to leave the house at the moment but that doesn’t mean we can’t travel to the National Parks in the US with Liv and Will, and see if Will manages to save his marriage…..and his life!

Here’s my review:

I received a free eARC of Wilderness but that has in no way influenced my review.

I loved this book. It’s the first book I’ve read by B.E. Jones but I can safely say that it won’t be the last. Boy, can this author write a dark and dangerous character! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that I am a sucker for characters. The plot and the setting (which are both brilliant in this novel, by the way) can be ‘okay’ providing the characters stand tall and leap from the page. I want living breathing people who make me feel something – that’s not asking too much, is it? Wilderness is a cracking example of exactly how to write incredible, believable characters and also tick the all-important plot and setting boxes with confidence and flair! I absolutely loved Liv. I’m still not entirely sure I was supposed to love her as she’s very much a character on the edge. But hey, I do like a dark undertone and it’s often the more complex creations who appeal to me more!

Liv and her husband, Will, are living the dream. Following Will’s promotion, they up-sticks from picturesque Wales and move to the hustle and bustle of New York City. Everything is perfect…until Liv discovers that her husband has been unfaithful with a colleague. Will apologies for his error of judgement and promises it will never happen again. And then it does. Liv is utterly heartbroken and enraged by the deceit and immediately starts to plan her revenge. One ‘dream’ holiday to America’s national parks and three chances for Will to prove he’s sorry. If he fails, well…..sometimes terrible accidents happen in the wilderness, don’t they?

The plot, the characters, the setting, the cover, the blurb – I loved absolutely everything about this book. It’s very likely it will feature in my top 10 books of the year list in December. Liv is pushed to her absolute limit – the repercussions of which were fascinating to watch. I couldn’t look away as she slowly unravelled before my eyes and I HAD to find out how the story would end. It’s not often I wish for a happy ending in my books but I was desperate for life to turn out OK for Liv. Does it? Well, you’ll have to get hold of a copy of Wilderness and find out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. It’s one that shouldn’t be missed and the perfect Summer holiday read partly due to the fabulous setting (maybe not the murders!). Speaking of the setting, I loved how the author conveyed the stark contrast between the two locations in the US. You have the wide open space of the national parks versus the built up and somewhat claustrophobic feeling of New York City. It’s all so beautifully written that you can’t help but ‘live’ the locations with the characters. An absolute joy to read! Highly recommended.

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

Wilderness by B.E. Jones was published by in the UK by Constable on 4th April and is available in paperback, audio and digital 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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photo of Bev

Beverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today.

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales.

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e books.

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

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #RulesForPerfectMurders #damppebbles

rules for perfect murders.jpgIf you want to get away with murder, play by the rules

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?”

Hello and a very warm welcome to my stop on the Rules for Perfect Murders blog tour. Rules for Perfect Murders is the latest release from one of my very favourite authors and it’s available to purchase in hardcover, digital and audio formats from TODAY! Happy publication day to Peter Swanson and the team at Faber Books. I received a free ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders but that has in no way influenced my review. Huge thanks to Josh at Faber Books for asking me to join the tour.

If you haven’t picked up a Peter Swanson novel yet then that has to change. Sharpish! I’m a huge fan of this author and I look forward to every new book hitting the shelves. I can’t let a Swanson review grace the blog though without mentioning the incredible The Kind Worth Killing which is one of the best books I have ever read. But I think The Kind Worth Killing has a new buddy at the top of my favourite ever books list, and it’s Rules for Perfect Murders.

Having read Rules for Perfect Murders, I should probably reconsider having a list of any kind, ever, on my blog (top ten books of the year, the top five best detectives, eight perfect murders…). After all, a list of eight perfect murders in mystery novels is exactly what leads FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to Malcolm Kershaw’s door. But let’s be specific about this door. It’s the door to Old Devils Bookstore in Boston. A bookshop which specialises in mystery fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be starting to see why I have fallen head over heels in love with this book. There are many, many reasons to love Rules for Perfect Murders but the plainly obvious one (apart from the fact it’s expertly written) is that it’s a book about books. And not any old books but classic mystery and crime novels. I devoured this book. Swanson has created something incredibly special in Rules for Perfect Murders and I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m not a re-reader of books (unlike our lead character, Malcolm) but I would happily while away a day reading this book again…and again…and again.

Social media is starting to get its groove on and blogs are becoming a ‘thing’. Their creators are becoming rich and famous so Old Devils Bookstore wants in. Malcolm Kershaw is tasked with writing a list of eight perfect murders for the store’s brand new blog. He spends hours agonising over his choices, getting the wording ‘just right’ and hits the publish button. But fame and fortune ignore the post and life for Malcolm carries on without glitz and glitter, only tragedy. He takes over ownership of the shop, along with author Brian Murray, and business is good with a number of regular customers. Until one day, in the midst of a snowstorm, Agent Mulvey arrives on his doorstep to discuss his blog post from years ago. She’s the only person who has noticed a connection between unsolved murders and Mal’s list of eight perfect murders. It seems highly unlikely there’s a connection and it’s just a crazy coincidence. That is until Malcolm recognises one of the names on the list…

I absolutely adored this book and I was completely smitten from the very first pages. Malcolm fascinated me. He’s one of those characters where you scratch the surface and discover more than you bargained for. Definitely a character I will remember for a long time to come. I loved how the murders were linked to the eight books (**cough** seven books, and one play!) on the list and found the ways they were adapted to be very clever. I waited with bated breath to discover what the next murder/book was going to be! Swanson has created layer upon layer of suspense and tension and I was hooked.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. This one is going on the list (whoops, there’s that list again!) of favourite books of all time. You don’t have to be a crime fiction aficionado to enjoy this tense and intoxicating read (I’m certainly not). I will say though, that if you’re planning on reading any of the books which feature on Malcolm’s list, then you might want to do that first as there are a few spoilers and an outline of each is given by the author for those who haven’t read them. This book is so much more than you expect and I savoured every moment of it. I urge you to pick up a copy of Rules for Perfect Murders, whether you consider yourself to be bookish or not. It’s a wonderful, thoroughly entertaining homage to the crime and mystery genre and I couldn’t put it down. Nor did I want to. Tightly plotted and packed full of delicious suspense with a character I fell head over heels in love with. Highly, highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Rules for Perfect Murders. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 5th March 2020 and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about-the-author3

peter-swansonPeter Swanson is the author of six 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, Eight Perfect Murders (Rules For Perfect Murders in the UK). 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 in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Bird Box by Josh Malerman @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #BirdBox #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (2/15)

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IF YOU’VE SEEN WHAT’S OUT THERE…IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE

Malorie raises the children the only way she can: indoors, with the doors locked, the curtains closed, and mattresses nailed over the windows.

The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall, but soon she will have to wake them and blindfold them.

Today they will risk everything. Today they will leave the house.

Josh Malerman’s New York Times bestselling Bird Box is a terrifying psychological thriller that will haunt you long after reading.”

We’ve all heard of Bird Box, right? The book was made into a Netflix film and it was massive, everyone was talking about it. Now I haven’t watched the film (too much blood, guts and gore for me – I get all of that from my books and not film or television!) so I can’t comment on that but this book, this incredible book with such a stunning concept is exceptional.

I devoured this book in a few short hours. I very occasionally say it doesn’t take me long to read a book (more often than not it takes me AGES as I’m a slow reader for a book blogger) but this is by far my quickest read in a long time. I could not put this book down and I flew through the pages like my life depended on it. I was mesmerised by Malorie’s incredible story and wanted to see what was going to happen but also savour my time with this courageous woman struggling through an unimaginable scenario. The publishers say this book will haunt you long after reading and they are so right. I’m traumatised by Bird Box and I love it! If you haven’t watched the film but you have a vague idea of the concept then you must read this book. I don’t think you truly ‘get it’ until you’re living it with Malorie and the children. Oh my gosh, it’s buried deep down in my soul. Absolutely superb!

Malorie discovers she’s pregnant. It’s not what she planned, the father of the baby isn’t one for a committed relationship but she knows she’s going to have the baby and do the best she can for her child. But then life takes a completely unexpected swerve. The news starts to report normal, everyday people committing unprovoked acts of extreme violence and then killing themselves. The killings start in Russia but before long there have been a number of attacks closer to home in America. No one knows for sure what provokes these normal people to carry out such horrific acts but it is believed they all ‘saw’ something. Something beyond what the human brain can comprehend. Something so unimaginable that it drives people violently mad. The solution? Don’t look. Windows are covered. Doors are locked tight. Blindfolds become the norm. Whatever you do, no matter how tempting, don’t look…

Don’t look. It sounds so simple. How many times has someone said ‘don’t look behind you, but….’ which of course makes you want to look even more. Malerman’s terrifying world full of unknown ‘creatures’ puts you on edge from the start. The book is told in the past and the present. The past shows us Malorie’s journey to the safe house where we meet a cast of fascinating characters, all thrown together with the same threat hanging over them and having to cope as best they can. In the present we are with Malorie and the children as she courageously takes them blindly up the river. To where we don’t actually find out until much later in the book but this just adds to the books tension and ratches the drama up tenfold.

This is a truly wonderful piece of fiction. It’s the kind of book you want your friend to read just so you can talk to someone about it. Malorie is a stand-out character and you see her change and adapt to her situation as you move through the story. She becomes hardened and it was fascinating to watch. Cope or die. Malorie isn’t the only fascinating character in this novel though. The residents of the safe house all add something and the children broke my heart.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. I loved this book and it will stay with me for some time to come. The only downside is the rather sudden and abrupt ending. I thought I had just under 100 pages left with Malorie which I planned to savour, only to find those pages were a short story. That, however, will not deter me from giving this atmospheric, creepy, mesmerising book five fabulous stars and a place on my top books of the year list, no siree! Bird Box is magnificent. Unsettling, terrifying, thought-provoking and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman was published in the UK by Harper Collins on 29th January 2015 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

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Josh Malerman is the acclaimed author of Bird Box, as well as the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band The High Strung. He lives in Michigan.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram |

#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 |

#BookReview: The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven (@MWCravenUK) @LittleBrownUK #ThePuppetShow #WashingtonPoe

the puppet show“A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …”

Hello you! It’s me. I’m alive! I know you haven’t heard from me in a while but I’m back… Well, ‘sort of’ back. I ‘intend’ to be back providing I can find the right words as I have to confess that I have been struggling to write reviews of late.  I’m still reading, still enjoying books but putting my thoughts together into a coherent post has been…difficult.

Anyway, I digress.  The absolutely phenomenal The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven was released in paperback yesterday and I couldn’t let the moment pass without posting my review once more (the words came easily for this one, believe me!).  So, without further ado, here is my review of The Puppet Show from June last year.

A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a book called Body Breaker written by Mike Craven (that’s Mike Craven as in M.W. Craven, if you were wondering what odd tangent I was meandering off at!), and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish. I pretty much fell in love with Craven’s protagonist, DI Avison Fluke. Then I heard Mike was about to release a new book called The Puppet Show, featuring a brand new detective with a brand new publisher. Now I openly admit, I was intrigued. After all, what crime fiction fan wouldn’t be? Particularly when I heard the main character of The Puppet Show is called Washington Poe (what a name! Where does this author get inspiration from for his character’s names? He appears to err on the unusual which is a rather splendid thing IMHO). Then, as if by magic (I pressed a button on NetGalley) a copy of The Puppet Show arrived on my Kindle and the deal was sealed. Washington Poe and I were destined to meet…

And truth be told, I flipping love him as much as I love DI Fluke. Craven certainly knows how to write and develop a character to the point where they jump off the page at the reader. I was smitten from early on; particularly as we meet Poe after he has shunned modern life and is living with his loyal pet dog, Edgar, in a semi-converted shepherd’s croft in the middle of nowhere (for ‘nowhere’ read Cumbria or the Lake District! Please don’t hurt me Cumbrians, it does sound pretty vast, lonely and desolate from Craven’s illustrative descriptions and I’ve never visited 😉). Suspended from work following his last (bodged) case and awaiting the result of an internal investigation and an IPCC inquiry, Poe has pretty much decided that his past is very much behind him and that his future lies in Herdwick Croft with Edgar, and the sheep. But that was before Cumbria’s latest serial killer, The Immolation Man made matters personal. Whether he wants to or not, Poe must return to the Serious Crime Analysis Section (SCAS) and to a case that could easily be the death of him.

I have a bit of a thing for serial killer novels. They’re my favourite, particularly if they are a smidge on the gory side as well (which this book is). I also thoroughly enjoy books which make you think the plot is heading one way and then totally flips things over and makes you gasp in surprise when you end up somewhere you didn’t expect (which again, this book did). Another thing I love is a cast of well-written, individual, stand out characters who all add something to the story (yup, that’s The Puppet Show). I loved this book.

As I’ve mentioned Washington Poe’s supporting cast it would be rude to ignore them. First and foremost, Tilly Bradshaw is a shining star and will appeal to nerds far and wide. Her intelligence and her awkwardness are a delight to read and I hope she makes future appearances with Poe as her sidekick! Beleaguered DI Stephanie Flynn is now her ex-bosses boss (!) which makes things somewhat tricky between her and Poe at times. He’s a little reckless and likes to follow the evidence anywhere, whereas Flynn likes to play by the book. I would LOVE to read a prequel to The Puppet Show and see the dynamic between the two of them before Poe was demoted from DI to DS and Flynn was promoted. Not dropping any hints here, Mike…

Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, if you can stomach a drop of blood or a pool of melted human fat (OK, it is a little grisly in places and you may need a slightly stronger stomach than I’ve alluded to in this paragraph, but for me I loved the gruesome touches to this book. Plus the author provides a wealth of information about burns and the effect of fire on a human body) then you will enjoy this well-written, engrossing crime thriller. I struggled to put it down and I’m left wanting more Washington Poe and more Tilly Bradshaw. I can’t wait for the next instalment.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 24th January 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

16473225_743395339158440_999373164873613480_n (1)Although M.W. 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, will be released in hardback 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 |

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 with #BookBlogger H.C. Newton (@HCNewton) #TheIrresponsibleReader

Happy Friday everyone. I hope those of you who were celebrating Thanksgiving yesterday had a wonderful day and you’re all keeping your eyes peeled for those Black Friday bargains today! Personally, I’m checking out the Kindle accessories……

I am delighted to welcome a blogger to damppebbles who I suggest you follow RIGHT NOW, HC Newton of The Irresponsible Reader. I discovered HC’s blog earlier this year and I absolutely love it. Honestly, give him a follow. You won’t regret it.

#R3COMM3ND3D2018 is a chance for bookish folk to share the book love and shout about three books they think the rest of us should read. Any three books, any three genres but there’s a catch! All three books must have been published in 2018.

Here are HC’s choices…

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Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek & Dave Philpott
It’s funny, great concept, erudite and silly in the same breath — completely unique.
https://wp.me/p3z9AH-3xP

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Everything is Normal by Sergey Grechishkin
This memoir isn’t perfect — but it’s a surprisingly fun look at life in Soviet Russian in the 80s. Even in the dystopia it was — his childhood had fun and wonder, but Grechishkin is honest about the struggles and pain.
https://wp.me/p3z9AH-3hy

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Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
It’s an entertaining spoof of fantasy tropes and cliches while telling a pretty solid fantasy story as well.
https://wp.me/p3z9AH-3pZ

Thanks for your choices, HC. I’ve only heard of one of them and that’s Dear Mr Pop Star which was all over the blogosphere for a time. I’m really intrigued by it and will be adding it to my wishlist.

If HC has managed to tempt you, or if you would like to find out more about the books he recommends then please see the following links:

| Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek & Dave Philpott | Everything Is Normal by Sergey Grechishkin | Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne |

About HC:
Just some guy who reads a lot.

HC’s Social Media Links:
| The Irresponsible Reader | Twitter @HCNewton | Facebook |

#R3COMM3ND3D is full for this year but make sure you check back tomorrow when I will be welcoming another awesome blogger to share their #R3COMM3ND3D2018!