#BookReview: Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza #FatalWitness #damppebbles

How do you find a killer who has destroyed all the evidence?

Detective Erika Foster is on a late-night walk near her new house in Blackheath when she stumbles upon the brutal murder of Vicky Clarke, a true-crime podcaster.

Erika is assigned to the case and discovers that Vicky had been working on a new podcast episode about a sexual predator who preys on young female students around South London, staking out his victims in their halls of residence before breaking in at the dead of night.

When Erika discovers that Vicky’s notes and sound recordings were stolen from her flat at the time of her murder, it leads her to believe that Vicky was close to unmasking the attacker, and she was killed to guarantee her silence.

The case takes on a disturbing twist when the body of a young Bulgarian student doctor is discovered in the same building, and this makes Erika question everything she thought she knew about Vicky. With very little evidence, the clock is ticking to find the killer before he strikes again.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza. Fatal Witness is the seventh book in the hugely popular Detective Erika Foster series and will be published in all formats by Raven Street Publishing later this week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fatal Witness but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Robert for sending me a finished copy.

Erika Foster is back, baby! I have been a HUGE fan of Bryndza’s kick-ass detective since she first arrived on bookshelves back in 2016. In fact, The Girl in the Ice, book one in the series, was one of the first books I reviewed on damppebbles! So I feel Erika and I have some history. And since that first introduction, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed every single new title. So imagine my excitement when I heard the seventh book was set to be published 🤩. I could not WAIT to get my mitts on a copy of Fatal Witness!

DCI Erika Foster stumbles upon a grisly crime scene in her new neighbourhood, making her question her decision to move to Blackheath. The victim is true crime podcaster Vicky Clarke, whose body was discovered by her sister, Tess, only seconds before Erika’s arrival. Erika and her team are assigned the case, digging into Vicky’s life in an attempt to discover who wanted her dead. But the more they search, the more confusing the case becomes. There’s no motive, no evidence, and impossible as it seems, there are no records of what Vicky was working on. Could the murder be linked to one of her podcasts? Was Vicky getting close to revealing the identity of a serial sexual predator? And can Erika catch the killer before they strike again…?

The DCI Erika Foster series is by far one of my favourite police procedural series and I am so glad that the author has decided to write a seventh instalment. I’m keeping everything crossed that this is only the beginning and there are many more adventures to come for my favourite Slovakian DCI. I adore Erika. She’s a little bit of a b!tch (she’d be the first to admit that herself – in fact, I think she does in Fatal Witness!), she’s a little bit bossy, she’s a whole lot of kick-ass but oh my gosh, she gets the job done. To be reunited with her and the team felt like meeting up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while and I loved every single second. Erika is a strong, independent, determined woman but I felt the author added a level of vulnerability to her character in this book that we perhaps haven’t seen before. Still coming to terms with the events of the previous book, still grief stricken by the sudden and violent death of her husband before her transfer to London and having recently moved house, it’s clear to the reader that Erika Foster is a lonely woman. I really felt for her. That vulnerability made me like her even more (if that’s possible!). And fingers crossed, the future may be a smidge brighter. Possibly. Maybe. Who knows…?

The plot is compelling and draws the reader into the story from the prologue. There are, as I’ve come to expect from a Robert Bryndza novel, several fantastically placed and beautifully penned twists and turns along the way which keep the reader on their toes. I really enjoyed how flummoxed the team were at points in the story. With very few leads, a small number of possible culprits but no evidence to confirm their suspicions, they quickly run out of plausible, workable options. I was, of course, trying my darnedest to work out whodunit. (I’m a crime fiction fan, I’m sure we all do it!) However, as I approached the end of the book I could not for the life of me work out the who nor the why!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-written, cleverly plotted police procedurals then you need Fatal Witness, along with the first six books in the series, in your life. The entire series is an absolute ‘must read’ for crime fiction fans. All in all, a compelling, incredibly readable addition to a standout series which I hope continues for many more books to come. I’m still a little bit in love with Erika and I can’t see that changing any time soon. Great plot, fantastic characters, intensely atmospheric and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fatal Witness. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Raven Street Publishing on 7th July 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Robert BryndzaRobert Bryndza is an international bestselling author, best known for his page-turning crime and thriller novels, which have sold over five million copies.

His crime debut, The Girl in the Ice was released in February 2016, introducing Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. Within five months it sold one million copies, reaching number one in the Amazon UK, USA and Australian charts. To date, The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1.5 million copies in the English language and has been sold into translation in 29 countries. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2016), the Grand prix des lectrices de Elle in France (2018), and it won two reader voted awards, The Thrillzone Awards best debut thriller in The Netherlands (2018) and The Dead Good Papercut Award for best page turner at the Harrogate Crime Festival (2016).

Robert has released a further five novels in the Erika Foster series, The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets, all of which have been global bestsellers, and in 2017 Last Breath was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Mystery and Thriller. Fatal Witness, the seventh Erika Foster novel, is now available to pre-order and will be published 7th July 2022.

Most recently, Robert created a new crime thriller series based around the central character Kate Marshall, a police officer turned private detective. The first book, Nine Elms, was an Amazon USA #1 bestseller and an Amazon UK top five bestseller, and the series has been sold into translation in 18 countries. The second book in the series is the global bestselling, Shadow Sands and the third book, Darkness Falls, has just been published.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

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

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: Dead Ground by M.W. Craven @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault #DeadGround #WashingtonPoe #damppebbles

“Detective Sergeant Washington Poe is in court, fighting eviction from his beloved and isolated croft, when he is summoned to a backstreet brothel in Carlisle where a man has been beaten to death with a baseball bat. Poe is confused – he hunts serial killers and this appears to be a straightforward murder-by-pimp – but his attendance was requested personally, by the kind of people who prefer to remain in the shadows.

As Poe and the socially awkward programmer Tilly Bradshaw delve deeper into the case, they are faced with seemingly unanswerable questions: despite being heavily vetted for a high-profile job, why does nothing in the victim’s background check out? Why was a small ornament left at the murder scene – and why did someone on the investigation team steal it? And what is the connection to a flawlessly executed bank heist three years earlier, a heist where nothing was taken . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Dead Ground by M.W. Craven. Dead Ground is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series, it’s published today (that’s Thursday 3rd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dead Ground but that has in no way influenced my review.

Flipping heck, another absolutely stonking book from the pen of M.W. Craven. He can do no wrong in my eyes! Dead Ground is the fourth book in the Washington Poe series (although we all know the series is unofficially called ‘Tilly and Poe’, right?) and it’s an intense and gripping page turner of a read. I devoured it’s 448 pages in a little over 24 hours because it was impossible to put down. If you’re a crime fiction fan and you haven’t picked this series up yet, then you need to correct that ASAP!

In the middle of fighting for his beloved shepherd’s croft, moments before the magistrate delivers his final decision, two mysterious men enter the court room and summon Tilly and Poe to their vehicle. Poe is reluctant to leave but powers far superior to those he normally answers to have made the call. It doesn’t take Poe long to work out who the men are and where they are taking them. But the ‘why’ remains unclear. Until they’re shown grisly crime scene photos of a man beaten to death inside a brothel. As Tilly and Poe begin to scratch the surface, nothing seems to make sense. Who was the victim and why are MI5 so interested in him? As they dig deeper, it’s clear the pair are uncovering something with far reaching and dangerous implications…

Dead Ground was an absolute joy to read! It’s twisty and thrilling and all the things I want in my crime fiction. I adore both Tilly and Poe. The dynamic between the two characters is just perfect. Craven has created two very different people who bring out the best in each other, and spending time with them is like being reunited with old friends. I loved the banter, the sense of friendship and loyalty, and how the author evokes such strong feelings of fondness for them in his readers. By far the best crime fighting duo out there (and I will fight you if you disagree 😂).

Tilly and Poe are once again in deep. Nothing is ever simple, nor easy for these two. But if you’ve got a complicated case which needs solving, I can’t think of two people I’d rather have working it!  The author has written an exciting and intense story with several seemingly unconnected threads which had me on the edge of my seat. The investigation is on an epic scale and I couldn’t help but wonder how the author was going to tie everything together at the conclusion of the book. But oh boy, does it all come together. And when you think it’s all solved, there might just be another fantastic, unexpected twist to add to the mix!

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. The entire series is magnificent and I heartily recommend you get your mitts on all four books. Dead Ground is a compulsive and irresistible addition to an outstanding series. I fall a little more in love with these characters with each book so I’m counting down the days until book five is released next year (fingers crossed!). Poe stands head and shoulders above his counterparts in the same genre, and with the help of the incredible Tilly, they are a force to be reckoned with. A must read for all crime fiction fans, do whatever it takes (within legal boundaries and reason, of course!) to get hold of a copy. I promise, you’ll be hooked before you know it! Highly recommended.

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

Dead Ground by M.W. Craven was published in the UK by Constable on 3rd June 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in November (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza @bookouture #ColdBlood #damppebbles

cold bloodThe suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. But it’s not the first time she’s seen such a brutal murder…

Two weeks earlier, the body of a young woman was found dumped in an identical suitcase. What connects the two victims? As Erika and her team set to work, they quickly realise they are on the trail of a serial killer who has already made their next move.

Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the target of a violent attack. Forced to recover at home, and with her personal life falling apart, everything is stacked against her, but nothing will stop Erika.

As the body count rises, the case takes an even more twisted turn when the twin daughters of Erika’s colleague, Commander Marsh, are suddenly put in terrible jeopardy. The stakes are higher than ever before, but can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the fifth book in Robert Bryndza’s Detective Erika Foster Series with you today – Cold Blood. Cold Blood was published by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cold Blood but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love this series and I’m a little bit gutted that I only have one book left to read now, following my completion of Cold Blood. As police procedurals go, this series is one of the best out there and it’s always a joy to catch up with Detective Erika Foster and the team, and find out what dark and dangerous mind they’re hunting down.

A large suitcase washes up on the muddy banks of the Thames. DCI Erika Foster and DI Kate Moss are called to investigate. Inside they find the dismembered remains of a man. Sliced and diced in all the right places to make him fit neatly inside. The way the body has been treated and disposed of brings a colleague’s mind to a similar case a couple of weeks before. This time a woman had been dismembered, put into a suitcase and thrown in the river. Erika knows the two bodies are connected in some way but she struggles to work out how. And can she find the killer before it’s too late…

This is another great addition to the DCI Foster series which I powered my way through. Despite having an ever changing team around her, the key characters are all present and correct. I really enjoyed the change of direction one of the relationships between MCs took in this book. Probably a little more than I should have to be honest. Which is a little odd as I was surprisingly pleased to see how things were progressing in the last book, Last Breath.

I enjoyed the investigation and the team’s struggle to connect the dots. I have to be honest though and say this is probably my least favourite of all the books in this series. Cold Blood felt a little different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I did note that there were a couple of occasions when I felt events were a little too convenient – which of course they need to be to move the story along – but perhaps they felt a little more forced than usual? Perhaps I was just in more of a grump reading this book than usual, lol! Please don’t get me wrong. This is a minor quibble and doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a cracking read in a magnificent series.

Would I recommend this book? But of course! I love this series so I heartily recommend you read and enjoy them all. Just because I didn’t enjoy Cold Blood as much as the others doesn’t change the fact that this is a superb series which I hope the author returns to writing in the future. I adored the ending which was beautifully visual, smacked you in the face and was exactly the right way to end the story. I enjoyed the sub-plots featuring the relationships of the characters, particularly the complete in-your-face, jaw-dropping betrayal by one of the characters. All in all, another great piece of crime fiction from a must-read author. Recommended.

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

Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digitial formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

robert bryndzaRobert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice, which is the first in his Detective Erika Foster series.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath and Cold Blood are the second, third, fourth and fifth books in the series. The sixth book, Deadly Secrets is now available to purchase.

Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s mailing list here.

Author Links:Instagram | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Stolen Children (DCI Matilda Darke #6) by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #StolenChildren #DCIMatildaDarke #damppebbles

stolen children“Some cases won’t die.
A young boy walks into a police station in France. He claims to be Carl Meagan – a missing child from Sheffield whose name is still whispered as a warning to kids who stay out after dark.

Some children won’t be found.
On her way home from the supermarket, nine-year-old Keeley Armitage vanishes without trace. Her family is overcome with shock and DCI Matilda Darke can’t help but focus on memories of the Carl Meagan case that almost ruined her career.

Some killers won’t be stopped.
As Matilda investigates, she peels back the layers of grief and sadness that surround Keeley’s family. Until she is left with an unimaginable choice: betray those closest to her or let a violent killer walk free…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles on this fabulous Friday! Today I am delighted to share my review of the latest DCI Matilda Darke novel with you — Stolen Children. Stolen Children by Michael Wood is published by One More Chapter in digital format today (that’s 2nd October 2020) with the paperback to follow in December. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Stolen Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Stolen Children is the sixth book in the DCI Matilda Darke series and it’s an absolute cracker! I love this series and always look forward to the next book (although, confession time, I haven’t read the first book yet! 🤦). Wood is an accomplished writer, his stories are always gripping and engaging and I’m a little bit in love with Matilda.

DCI Matilda Darke and her team are called to investigate the case of a missing child. Nine-year-old Keeley Armitage vanished from outside the local shop and hasn’t been seen since. Her mother is frantic with worry. Then the call comes demanding £50,000 for Keeley’s safe return. The thought of another missing child case sends chills down Matilda’s spine, following the Carl Meagan case several years before, which nearly destroyed Matilda and her career. Keeley even looks a little like Carl with her blonde hair and blue eyes. Can the two kidnappings be connected? The more the team dig, the more secrets they discover. Can Matilda keep a clear head and find Keeley before it’s too late…?

If you’re already a fan of this series the prologue will have your jaw hitting the floor. I won’t go into detail – it’s already in the blurb – but what a great way to start the book. The thread of that particular storyline has been running through all of the books in this series and it just goes to show how fallible Darke is. Will she ever escape the hold that particular case has over her?

There are two storylines running through Stolen Children. The one I was trying to be vague about up there ⬆️ and the investigation into Keeley Armitage’s disappearance, which creates the bones of the book. It’s another thrilling, shock-filled investigation which kept me turning the pages from start to finish. I adore these characters and feel as though I could meet them all down the pub for an orange juice and a catch-up. They’re all so brilliantly human and stand tall from the page. Even the lesser characters are well written and wonderful examples of how to create engaging, believable characters. I feel very invested in them and their futures. And I love the way the author isn’t scared to put them through the wringer. More than other authors, I believe. He pushes them further and harder, sometimes with no return…

This is a terrific book and I will be awarding it five stars but I do want to add that I struggled a little with the storyline at times. This is the first book in a long time that really got to me. It affected me quite deeply and some of the scenes and descriptions made me feel uncomfortable (as scenes and descriptions of that nature should). I think I’m just feeling a little oversensitive at the moment because I love my fiction dark and I feel really strange adding this to the review, but I wanted to share my honest thoughts with you. You may not feel the same, of course. Any book involving bad things happening to kids (particularly kids the same age as mine) has always been and will always be an uncomfortable read for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend the entire series. I think it’s worth starting at the beginning though with book one as you’ll get the whole picture and see the team develop and grow. As I mentioned, I haven’t read the first book which I believe laid the building blocks for the rest of the series but I’ve been able to piece together what I think I need to know from that first investigation. I hope there are many, many more Matilda Darke books to come.

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

Stolen Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 2nd October 2020 and is available in digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

michael woodMichael Wood is a freelance journalist and proofreader living in Sheffield. As a journalist he has covered many crime stories throughout Sheffield, gaining first-hand knowledge of police procedure. He also reviews books for CrimeSquad, a website dedicated to crime fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Shed No Tears by Caz Frear @ZaffreBooks #ShedNoTears #damppebbles

shed no tears

“Four victims.
Killer caught.
Case closed . . . Or is it?

Christopher Masters, known as ‘The Roommate Killer’, strangled three women over a two-week period in a London house in November 2012. Holly Kemp, his fourth victim, was never found.

Until now.

Her remains have been unearthed in a field in Cambridgeshire and DC Cat Kinsella and the Major Investigation Team are called in. But immediately there are questions surrounding the manner of her death. And with Masters now dead, no one to answer them.

Did someone get it wrong all those years ago? And if so, who killed Holly Kemp”

Welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Shed No Tears by Caz Frear. Shed No Tears is the third book in Frear’s absolutely outstanding DC Cat Kinsella series and was published by Zaffre Books on 23rd July 2020 in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Shed No Tears but that has in no way influenced my review.

I LOVE this series. The DC Cat Kinsella Series is one of the most interesting, compelling, readable new crime series out there at the moment and I get very excited when I know there’s a new book coming out. There’s something about Cat Kinsella that is just ‘right’. She’s down to earth and very likeable, she’s hard-working and a first class copper (we won’t mention the, erm, skeletons in the closet). If you’ve not picked up one of this author’s books before, then now, this very moment, is your chance to rectify that.

DC Cat Kinsella and her DS, Luigi (Lu) Parnell have left the bright lights of London for Cambridge. A body, or what remains of it, has been discovered. The remains of the final victim of the ‘Roommate Killer’, Holly Kemp, have been found dumped in a field up the M11. Case finally closed after 6 long years. But on closer inspection, there are differences between the victims. It looks as though Holly was dressed, the other victims weren’t. There are differences to the wounds Holly suffered too. Nothing really matches. But the ‘Roommate Killer’ confessed to her murder….sort of. And there was an eye witness account which placed Holly at the killer’s house. Was the right person accused of Holly’s murder? And if not, who killed Holly Kemp…?

Everything about Shed No Tears clicked for me. The author can do no wrong in my eyes. This is one of two new crime series that every crime fiction fan should read, without doubt! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you will know that characters maketh the book for me and the author has created the most wonderful cast. I’ve already mentioned how much I love Kinsella but I have just as much love for her senior officers (who are more like parents than superiors at times!), DS Lu Parnell and DCI Kate Steele. These two supporting characters add as much to the story as Kinsella does. Reigning her in when necessary, encouraging her to make random, off-the-wall connections at other times which move the investigation forward. Plus you have wonderful dollops of menace which Kinsella’s real-life father brings to the story. A devoted father, yes, but also a criminal with a dangerous boss who knows too much and won’t think twice about taking Kinsella down.

To fully appreciate the DC Cat Kinsella series I would recommend that you start with the first book – Sweet Little Lies – as the author builds the story and the relationships over time and Sweet Little Lies is the cornerstone of the entire series. Coming straight into Shed No Tears may raise a couple of questions about the previous books so you may as well purchase them all and start at the beginning. They’re all cracking novels and you won’t regret it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, yes! I would recommend all three books in this brilliant series. Shed No Tears is a slower paced investigation but it will hook you in from the start. I had my suspicions about where the story was going to go but that didn’t take anything away from the reading experience. I’m very intrigued to see where the author is going to take the next book as Shed No Tears ends on a bit of a revelation. Change may be afoot! I love the characterisation, I love the compelling plots and I absolutely adore the sprinkles of humour which had me laughing out loud at points. A marvellous addition to what is becoming a very strong series. More please! Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Shed No Tears. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 23rd July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository |

about-the-author3

caz frear

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.

She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.

When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#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 |

about-the-author3

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: Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear @ZaffreBooks #StoneColdHeart #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (3/15)

stone cold heart.jpg“A fractured marriage. A silent family. A secret worth killing for.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel, and Joseph is arrested for the murder.

Joseph says his wife is setting him up.
His wife says he didn’t do it.
The trail of evidence leads to even more questions . . .

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim. Who would you believe?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear – my third #15BooksofSummer review.  Stone Cold Heart is the second book in the Detective Cat Kinsella series (the first being the brilliant Sweet Little Lies) and it’s published in paperback today! Wishing the author and Zaffre, the publisher, the happiest of publication days.  I received a free eARC of Stone Cold Heart but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved Sweet Little Lies so I have been eagerly waiting for this follow up novel to appear on my bookshelf. And oh boy, it did not disappoint! Caz Frear’s characters are utterly brilliant.  I fell a little bit in love with Cat Kinsella after reading the first book in the series but now, after book two, I’m totally smitten.  The way Frear writes her characters is so charming and with shedloads of warmth and humour that you can’t help but fall in love.

The team are called in to investigate the murder of 22-year-old, Naomi Lockhart.  Naomi hasn’t been seen since attending a fireworks party held by her boss at her home on Saturday night.  The team struggle to come up with any concrete links.  That is until Cat recognises a familiar face.  Joseph Madden, coffee shop owner and all-round creep.  Madden had cornered Cat earlier in the Summer and after his failed attempts at flirting with her, he confided that his wife was out to get him.  Cat, feeling it was no more than a lover’s tiff, advised Madden to report the incident to his local police station before making her excuses and NEVER volunteering to do the coffee run again!  But now Madden is their only suspect in the murder of Naomi Lockhart despite his repeated claims of innocence.  Will Cat be able to tie together all of the loose ends and make sure a killer is brought to justice…?

I love Cat Kinsella, I think I’ve already made that clear.  But I also love her supporting cast – particularly her DS, Luigi Parnell and her DCI, Kate Steele.  They are a brilliant team and one I want to return to again and again.  Parnell and Steele have a lot of history between them and it shows.  The way they both keep an eye out for newcomer, Cat, is just wonderful to witness.  Frear’s books have so far had brilliant plots to keep the reader gripped but oh boy, her characters are a delight.  It’s not just these three though.  Joseph Madden and his sliminess ooze from the page.  Cat’s father and her ‘uncle’ Frank both play a pivotal role in the book and you’re never really sure how much to trust either of them (definitely don’t trust Frank!).  And Cat’s gorgeous yet exasperated boyfriend, Aiden Doyle, who shows us Cat’s softer, more vulnerable side.  What a superb cast of characters!

This book can be read as a standalone.  However, there are several mentions made of Maryanne Doyle and the focus of the first book in the series, Sweet Little Lies.  The reader isn’t really given any details about this case but those involved are highlighted.  It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story and if anything it will make you want to read Sweet Little Lies if you haven’t already done so!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Stone Cold Heart and Sweet Little Lies are both strongly recommended by me.  Frear has a way of writing believable characters, people you would want to hang out with at the pub after work (well, some of them anyway!).  I had a great time playing amateur detective with this one and, in the end, got it completely wrong…sort of.  I thoroughly enjoyed this compelling, character-driven police procedural and, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, I suggest you get yourself a copy and meet the brilliant DC Cat Kinsella for yourself.

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

Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 27th June 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

caz frear.jpgCaz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the second finally came true. She has a degree in History & Politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

 

#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 |