#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger (@m_pettinger) @cobaltdinosaur #PaperSoldiers #damppebbles

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“The streets of Greater Manchester are awash with drugs and weapons, and the gangs that control this multi-million pound business will stop at nothing to protect and grow their business. The Dolsen family are one such gang.

When the head of a rival Yardie gang is found brutally murdered, revenge attacks were always likely to follow, and gang members were unlikely to be the only ones hurt.

DCI Priest teams up with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA); but they soon admit to conflicting objectives which may unravel their alliance, and prove to it be more of a hindrance than a help.

Was DCI Priest was about to undertake his most challenging investigation to date?”

Hello and welcome to another damppebbles takeover by me, Ryan. I’m back (but not in a ‘The Shining’ type way!). Every now and again Emma talks about a book that she is organising a tour for and I’m intrigued! It sounds interesting and that is exactly what happened with Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger! Something about the blurb said ‘read me!’ so I asked very nicely and here I am! I received a free digital copy of Paper Soldiers but that has in no way influenced my review.

So after an all-action blurb featuring guns, drugs, murder and gangs, did the book live up its summary? Absolutely! DCI Priest is a fantastic curmudgeonly, dry humoured and intelligent lead detective consumed in a tough investigation. The team around him form a strong cast. Stephens and Simkins have fantastic interplay, with the right level of support and point-scoring off each other that you would expect from a team that has bonded together over a period of time. The added realism of junior officers trying to impress, or displaying incompetence, really added to the atmosphere that Pettinger develops. I should say I have not read the first two books in the series – The Decalogue or Tick Tock Time’s up – but that didn’t stop me loving this novel, and left me wanting to read more!

When a gang leader is discovered murdered, the police quickly come to realise this isn’t going to be a stand-alone killing. They are sure the murder will lead to revenge killings and they expect there will be in-fighting as the gang finds its new leader. Calling in experts to bring the team (and reader) up to speed on drug gangs in the Manchester area, the team soon realise that this could go on a lot longer than anyone wants. A couple getting gunned down on the streets of their city is just part of the growing body count, and no-one wants to talk to the Police. So it’s uphill all the way for Priest and his team!

I mentioned that Priest is a curmudgeon but he is also sarcastic and not afraid to get into peoples faces and push his team hard to solve the cases and end the bloodshed. I would love to go back and read more about Priest so expect to visit books 1 and 2 soon, especially to find out if Priest has always been this sarcastic and cynical! The interplay between SOCA and Priest’s team adds a definite friction to the proceedings as both teams are keen to gain the results they want and neither wants the other to interfere too much! I liked this aspect of the book as it gave an added tension to a number of scenes and leads to some well-placed twists.

If you put together well-written characters, an excellent storyline, enough blood to keep even damppebbles happy – you get Paper Soldiers. I give this cracking novel an easy 5 stars and look forward to reading more about DCI Priest’s adventures soon.

Paper Soldiers by Mark Pettinger was published in the UK on 16th March 2020 and is available in digital format (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.com | Goodreads |

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Mark Pettinger

Mark Pettinger is a crime fiction writer of the DCI Priest novels. His debut The Decalogue entered the Amazon Bestseller Top 100 list in December 2015, and the Top 10 on the sub-genre of ‘police procedurals’.

Mark was born in a maternity ward attached to RAF Manston in Kent. His father was in the Royal Air Force, and for the first few years of his life, he lived on a number of RAF bases on the east coast of the UK with his parents and sister. Skip forward a few years; now married and with children he lives in a small village in East Yorkshire.

Fitting his writing around his ‘day job’; Mark’s writing pattern is somewhat sporadic, and he writes when he can, which currently is in hotel rooms / foyer, or in an airport lounge trying to keep one eye on the departure board to ensure he doesn’t miss his flight!

Mark’s interest in the murky world of crime started a number of years ago when he was attracted to reading true crime. He became fascinated with the exploits of the Yorkshire Ripper, Dennis Nilsen, John Wayne Gacy, Andrei Chikatilo etc. An avid reader of many genre’s, but his attention turned to favouring crime fiction; and his reading list includes Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, Lynda La Plante, Jo Nesbo, and latterly CJ Tudor (for something just that little bit special).

Mark has openly credited Ian Rankin as the primary inspiration for not only stirring his interest in reading crime fiction, but also ‘picking up the pen’.

Mark has published two hugely successful crime fiction novels: The Decalogue in 2012, and Tick Tock, Time’s Up in 2015. Long overdue, critics have noted, Mark published the third instalment in the DCI Priest series Paper Soldiers in March 2020.

Next on his list is a standalone crime thriller, due for publication in summer 2021.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Broken Steel by Stuart Field (@StuartField14) @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #BrokenSteel #NextChapterPub #damppebbles

Broken-Steel-2-Main-File“After ten years in prison for his wife’s murder, Brian Armstrong is free.

When a freak accident with the prison transport gives him and two others an opportunity to escape, they seize it. With revenge in his heart, Brian disappears into the storm-filled city. After an ex-schoolteacher is found dead, Detective John Steel is brought in to investigate.

The circumstances are mysterious – just the way Steel likes it. His partner Samantha McCall is convinced the timing between the escape and the death of the teacher are more than coincidence. As they start to investigate, the case becomes more complex than they could have ever imagined. With time running out, can they find the killer and bring him to justice?”

Hello! Emma has kindly passed the reviewing baton over to me today so that I can share my thoughts on Broken Steel by Stuart Field with you. I received a free eARC of this book but that has in no way influenced my review.

When a bus carrying convicted criminals crashes on it’s way to court, it is not surprising that some make the break for freedom. But they then have a choice, lie low to avoid being caught or settle some old scores. So when people associated with the cases of the escapees start turning up dead, there is a big puzzle for Steel and McCall to solve.

This is my first book in the Steel series. There is clearly a fascinating backstory to this character but the book can still happily be read as a standalone. Steel is the classic ‘riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and served with a side of mystery’ for us to have so little insight into the thinking of one of the main characters is a fascinating read. His partner, Samantha McCall, is much more transparent giving this partnership of contrasts an easy to understand character and a conundrum! Steel is impressive in that he contains many of the generalisations for lead characters but feels head and shoulders above many of his peers as a well formed character. Whether he is looking for answers in traditional ways or serving up his own form of justice, he comes across as consistent and focussed on solving the crimes. McCall brings her own perspective and insight into the investigation and takes decisive actions in the investigation rather than being dismissed to the role of trusty sidekick.

The story was strong and well written and Stuart Field avoids the temptation of making it all action. The scenes around the desk at the station, as the police search for clues, were as intriguing as the action scenes were immersive. The balance of action and mystery was so well made with the book feeling at home in both the ‘action thriller’ and ‘crime’ genre.

There are certainly twists in the book, red herrings and well drawn characters on both sides of the law. Who can be trusted, and who will betray Steel and McCall, keeps the reader on their toes throughout this novel.

Will I be reading more Steel? I hope so! I would happily recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining, well written and intriguing crime action thriller, and will be keeping my eye out to read more in the future.

Broken Steel by Stuart Field was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 26th February 2020 and is available in 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.comGoodreads |

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Stuart FieldStuart Field was born in the UK, in the West Midlands. He spent his early years in the army, seeing service in all the known (and some unknown) hotspots around the world. He now lives in Germany with his wife Ani. When not engaged in highly confidential security work, he writes thrillers which perhaps mimic his life-experience more than the reader would like to believe.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham (@MitchamJoseph) #TheWatchList @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles

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“Sixty-eight dead and nearly 300 injured in a hostile vehicle and bomb attack on a community festival in Birmingham, the country is in shock.

Battling the mental turmoil of the aftermath, Alex, a former Army communications specialist, stumbles across the UK Terror Watch List – he cannot resist the challenge of stealing the list from under the nose of his contract supervisor, Lucy Butler, a razor sharp and headstrong Intelligence Corps corporal with big ambitions.

Wrestling with his conscience and the ethics of tackling unconvicted suspects, Alex enlists the help of famed former UK Special Forces Warrant Officer, Craig Medhurst. Alex struggles to win the respect of Craig’s core team, but together they hatch a daring plan to act on their selected targets.

Can Alex use his charm to persuade Corporal Butler to join them?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am handing the keys over to my trusty sidekick and guest reviewer, Ryan, who is sharing his review of The Watch List on the final day of the blog tour. The Watch List was self-published by the author, Joseph Mitcham, on 2nd December 2019 and Ryan received a free review copy of the book which hasn’t influenced his review. Let’s see what he thought…

The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham is a fascinating book about temptation and ethics. It put me in mind of the “Choose your own adventure books” of my youth, but this time the lead character had already taken the decisions and the reader is watching events play out.

Alex, as the main character, is a confident and high skilled IT specialist with a background in the army. Called in to fix an inter-service IT system he finds he has a dilemma. The UK Terror Watch List is on the system and Alex knows he has the skills to take it without anyone knowing. The author does a great job of communicating the mix of guilt, fear and excitement swirling through Alex as he reaches his decision. But then we see more choices; decision 2, what to do with the list? Decision 3, share his secret with Lucy Butler or not? Each decision has consequences, and when he takes them, the circumstances and subsequent decisions seem to flow out of Alex’s control.

I really enjoyed this book. The author has started with an interesting premise and built it into a strong story where good and bad can sometimes appear similar, and is very dependent on perspective. Mitcham doesn’t shy away from making his characters have difficult ethical discussions. Wrestling with their conscience on whether to take action against those who have, as yet, done nothing wrong except believe something different from Alex’s growing band of vigilantes.

The characters in this story are well written and all come to the mission with different approaches. Alex, as an information specialist, starts off by being fascinated with the challenge of gaining the list. But then he becomes involved in ensuring that the communications are right. Now I never thought I would find the planning and methods of communications for a mission interesting, but the methods used here are fascinating and the author brings an educated perspective to this often overlooked area of a story. Lucy Butler is an enigma, strong and forthright but never clearly on anyone’s side. What is she planning and will she stop Alex’s plans in their track? Finally Craig, ex-special forces, quick with decisions and deadly in his execution of them, can he be trusted not to go too far?

So, going back to the ‘choose your own adventure’ books. Should you read this book – choose ‘yes’ and you will have chosen well. You’ll find an interesting book with a great story and strong characters.

Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of The Watch List. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham was published in the UK on 2nd December2019 and is available in 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.com | Goodreads |

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Joseph Mitcham served with the British military in elite and technical units for over 16 years. His service not only gave him a thorough tactical and technical understanding of some of techniques and processes employed in his first novel, it also provided him with the opportunity to develop himself, earning a first class honours degree in business leadership by the end of his service.

The inspiration for writing ‘The Watch List’ was taken from personal experiences from the roles that he has served in and characteristics from some of the people that he has served with. Joseph has written an incredible, yet compellingly credible story that plays out in our world as he sees it today.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan (@OMJRYAN1) #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #DeadlyWaters #damppebbles

2019-1396 OMJ Ryan b03“Several young women have recently drowned in Manchester’s vast network of canals. A coincidence? Or something more sinister?

When star detective DCI Jane Phillips begins to investigate, her finely tuned instinct tells her these are no accidents. And when she discovers that each of the drowned women has a mysterious circular bruise on the back of her neck, Phillips is sure of it — she’s up against a very clever serial killer.

But how are the victims being chosen? And who will be next?

With the body count rising, Phillips and her team find themselves in a fight to the death with a shadowy figure who always seems to be one step ahead.

Can Phillips stop the killer before the next victim dies? Or will she herself become an offering to Manchester’s deadly waters?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I’m handing the keys over to my trusty guest reviewer, Ryan, today and he’s going to share his thoughts on Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan as part of the blog tour. Ryan received a free eARC of Deadly Waters but that has in no way influenced his review.

Drowning in an ice cold canal is not how many would choose to end their lives and DCI Jane Phillips has that gut feeling that there is more to this than it may seem.  This is despite the view of her superior officer and others on the force wanting to dismiss the crimes, and DCI Phillips soon realises she has a race against time before the next victim is found or her supervisor stops the investigation.

This was my first OMJ Ryan read and I really enjoyed it. The lead characters and the team (Jones, Bovalino and Entwistle) are well drawn. Small mention is made of the team’s background but their interactions and easy to recognise traits make it easy to get to know them. DCI Jane Phillips, however, is much more nuanced. Mentions are made of an event in her personal history and a more conflicted character with nerves, determination and a host of personal dilemmas appears as the book progresses. The tension with her superior officer made an intriguing side plot, presenting the team with a ticking time bomb of whether they would be allowed to continue the investigation.

The plot is interesting. When one body is found in the canal with a circular bruise on the back of her neck, no-one is sure what to think. But when a second appears suspicions are raised, and it soon becomes clear the body count is only going to increase. At this stage we get to meet the murderer. Not in name, but taking the role of narrator for the murders. We get to hear more about their motive and method before flicking back to see an investigation struggling to find a connection, let alone a solid lead. With both sides trying to work out who is next – for very different reasons!

Deadly Waters is well paced, mixing the drama of the murder and fast police responses with the growing frustration of an investigation going nowhere. Some promising avenues soon become dead ends and the truth that they are uncovering may not be one they want to hear.

This is book two in the series and whilst references were made to book one, there is nothing to stop you reading this as a standalone. In fact, I am now very tempted to go back and find out more about that adventure!

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a UK based crime thriller, and even without reading it, I would suggest adding the first book, Deadly Silence, to your TBR too! DCI Phillips is a character that many will love and the book feels ripe for screen adaption. Excellent police characters mixed with a dark and self-righteous murderer who is in a hurry to take more lives. A great read.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Deadly Waters. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Deadly Waters by OMJ Ryan was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 15th March 2020 and is available in 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.ukamazon.com |  Goodreads |

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OMJ RyanHailing from Yorkshire, OMJ Ryan worked in radio and entertainment for over twenty years, collaborating with household names and accumulating a host of international writing and radio awards.

In 2018 he followed his passion to become a full-time novelist, writing stories for people who devour exciting, fast-paced thrillers by the pool, on their commute – or those rare moments of downtime before bed. Owen’s mission is to entertain from the first page to the last. DEADLY WATERS will be his third novel published with Inkubator Books.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: San Diego Dead (Jake Wolfe #4) by Mark Nolan (@marknolan) @cobaltdinosaur #SanDiegoDead #JakeWolfe #damppebbles

San-Diego-Dead-Kindle.jpg“Danger awaits Marine-turned-lawyer Jake Wolfe on his vacation to sunny San Diego and Cabo San Lucas. There he finds sugary white sand beaches, warm turquoise water, boat trips among gray whales, and … cold blooded murder.

It was meant to be a relaxing holiday for Jake and his adopted war dog, Cody, but violence erupts when he crosses paths with a criminal cartel urgently seeking to reclaim a deadly package.

Jake learns the missing item is a threat to US citizens and vows to stop the cartel from possessing it, no matter what vigilante justice actions he might have to take.

Time is running out and thousands of innocent lives are at risk. Will the two combat veterans be able to retrieve the dangerous item before the killers do? The clock is ticking, but Jake hopes that if anybody can help find the package, it has to be his highly-trained and ultra-intelligent dog, Cody.

Find out what happens next. Start reading the latest Jake and Cody thriller right now and enjoy another fast-paced stand-alone story by author Mark Nolan.”

Happy Monday bookish friends. I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to Ryan’s guest review of San Diego Dead by Mark Nolan. I think I need to pull my reviewer socks up because Ryan has featured his thoughts on damppebbles more than I have so far this year. 😂

Let’s find out what Ryan thought of book four in the Jake Wolfe series…

San Diego Dead is the fourth book in the Jake Wolfe series, but can easily be read as a standalone.  The author has done a good job of hinting at previous adventures without making the reader feel that they are missing a lot of important information.  The reader is very aware early in the story that Jake is capable of taking care of himself and turning bad guys into cadavers at an alarming rate. That Cody, his loyal war dog, is something different from your run-of-the-mill pooch and Jake’s relationship with Sarah isn’t going as well as it should.

What I loved about this book was that the characters are well formed and easy to get to know. We have a set of ‘good guys and gals’ and set of ‘bad guys and gals’ the lines are clear and you know where you stand with everyone pretty darn quickly. But….the action and the story line, WOW! It comes thick and fast with suspense, action, and twists galore.

Now reader, I must confess….I made a mistake with this book and I am still kicking myself.  In one scene the action came thick and fast, and I could see the twist coming so clearly.  It was too obvious that something heinous was about to happen and being able to see it coming from so far away frustrated me.  Mark Nolan’s clever writing had me convinced and I was frustrated because up until that scene I was really enjoying the book. But this was too obvious and too predictable so I put the Kindle down in a huff.  I didn’t pick it up again for 3 hours as I was so disheartened! But I just had to know if I was right, whether my mystic reader powers had forseen the future. Guess what? I was wrong. Very, very wrong!  With deft like skill and a subtle twist the author managed to totally flumox me (I quietly cursed the author for writing so well and for misleading me, sorry Mark!) and I got back on with reading this excellent book.

If you like action books then this is a series to definitely look in to.  Jake Wolfe is an all-action hero with a side kick in Cody worthy of being up there with Robin (Batman), Luigi (Mario) and the Brain (Pinky)!  Jake and Cody’s relationship is never in question and the theme of loyalty runs throughout the book in multiple story lines.  Whether Jake is after a friend, comforter, weapon or tracker then Cody is his answer.

I would happily recommend this San Diego Dead to anyone craving an action fix and I look forward to having time to dive into the previous books.  Mark Nolan’s writing carries enough twists, turns and action to keep everyone happy.

Ryan chose to read a free digital copy of San Diego Dead. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

San Diego Dead by Mark Nolan was published in the UK on 28th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital 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 |

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Mark NolanMark Nolan has spent much of his life near the seashore. He loves dogs and has often been called a “dog whisperer.” These interests are reflected in his novels where the main character lives on a boat with his highly intelligent former war dog.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | GoodreadsWebsite |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart #OperationLargeScotch #OLS @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles #bookreview

OLS“Fearing the Good Friday Agreement will effectively end the lifestyle his IRA terrorist cell has enjoyed for years, Michael Caldwell the leader of the 1972 Club (named after the Bloody Sunday Massacre) decides to turn his attention to targeting the UK Government economically. He launches an attack threatening to bomb the Scotch whisky industry unless the British Government pay the terrorists a £20m ransom.

Armitage Brown, Assistant Controller of MI5 is given the task of stopping the terrorist attack but is unable to get any information on the assailants as to how, where and when they are going to deploy their explosives if their demands are not met. He co-ordinates a strategy, using all the emergency services, to thwart the terrorists under the code name ‘Operation Large Scotch.’

Both the military and the intelligence services have been guilty of murderous acts going back over the previous eighteen years. John Johnston, a young Ulsterman, living thousands of miles away in South Africa, is determined to get revenge for the killing of his father in Belfast. With the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service he releases information that will haunt both the British Military establishment and the terrorists.

Will MI5 succeed in preventing mayhem in various towns around Scotland?”

Hello! Long time, no see. Officially I’m not here. If you saw my end of year post which featured my top 10-ish books of 2019 you may remember me mentioning the fourteen reviews I had yet to write. I have good news – those fourteen reviews are now SIXTEEN reviews (which means I’ve read another two books since that post was published – good news, right?!). Yes, despite my best-laid plans I have failed. But the good news is Ryan, my guest reviewer (and husband), is keeping the damppebbles ship afloat and today he’s reviewing Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart for the blog tour. Let’s find out what he thought…

Let’s start with the big news, Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. is an easy to read thriller that pulls you in from the early chapters and flies along at a great pace. The author has been very clever in limiting the number of characters to avoid confusing side plots and making it very clear from the start who the bad guys are. I love the books where the reader gets to see what both sides are doing and how far away the police/MI5 are from solving the mystery.

You follow the story wondering how anyone on the MI5 side is going to move from being in the dark to figuring out how to progress, and you watch the dissident IRA cell plot atrocities in cunning ways. Set in Antrim, Scotland and South Africa the story moves across multiple years and locations and manages to carry real peril throughout the story.  I can do it no higher praise than say that it would not have surprised me to see “elements of this book were based on real events” in the epilogue.

Michael Caldwell, the leader of the dissident IRA cell is a main character in the book and is clearly drawn by the author. Bill Flockhart has a knack of drawing characters in just the right level of detail. He shows the human side of characters on both sides of the story, combined with a strong storyline which has led to a great book with action, emotion and suspense.

If you are looking for a book to fly through with strong characters then this is a must-consider.  I can’t wait to see if Bill Flockhart writes a second.

Ryan received a free digital copy of Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart was published in paperback and ebook formats on 11th December 2017 (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.com |

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bill-flockhart‘Operation Large Scotch’ is my first book and at my age (71) possibly my last. it reflects on my life in many respects having worked in a distillery in my early working life before digressing into financial services.

My interests are sport (especially golf, swimming and basketball, (the latter through my two sons who played at international level) and current affairs in our ever changing world.

I have always enjoyed a challenge, which producing a book has certainly proved to be, but I would recommend writing to the retired population as it certainly keeps your brain active.

Two years after publishing ‘operation large scotch’ I am delighted to release my second novel ‘She’s Not a Lovely Girl’ which is a sequel to my first book. I only hope it gives everyone the pleasure ‘O.L.S.’ did judging by the favourable reviews it received.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. @Nichola14282741 @cobaltdinosaur #JusticeGone #damppebbles

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WINNER OF THREE AWARDS

2019 AMERICAN FICTION AWARD
NATIONAL INDIE EXCELLENCY AWARD – Best Legal Thriller OF 2019
SILVER MEDAL WINNER 2019 READERS’ FAVORITES AWARDS

Chosen by Wiki.ezvid.com among their list of 10 Gripping and Intelligent Legal Thrillers

The courtroom scenes are wonderfully written…the characters are well described and the author paints a picture of each in the mind of the reader…Strong plot, strong characters and a strong writing style that I really enjoyed. This one is a definite “thumbs-up.” Strongly recommend! I look forward to reading additional works by N. Lombardi, Jr.
Kim M Aalaie, Author’s Den

One of my favorite suspense novels of the year. It will make you question the legal system.
The Eclectic Review

The courtroom action is excellent, trimmed to the most gripping parts of the trial, with plenty of emotional impact…a fairly realistic portrayal of the way small-town US society works…a fast-moving story with plenty of dramatic moments, and a big twist in the final pages.
Crime Review

“When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.

A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase.

Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture.

Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?”

Today I am delighted to hand the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan the husband, who is going to share his thoughts on Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr. So without further ado, let’s find out what Ryan thought…

N. Lombardi Jr took on a tough task with Justice Gone, writing a legal thriller around veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) without trivialising the huge impact this condition can have on their lives. Dr Tessa Thorpe is the central character in this novel and works at the New Hope Trauma Recovery Clinic in Lower Manhattan. The Clinic’s work has bought her into contact with many veterans including Donald Darfield and Jay Felson. The book opens with the traumatic beating of Jay Felson and builds a strong story in five sections through protests, a man hunt, court case and the outcome.

This book seems to capture something that is “very now” with media focus on police brutality in the US. Protesters taking to the streets and the public’s need for a conviction. So it is no surprise that the book has won awards. There is a strong cast of characters in the book from the driven Tessa Thorpe who finds an unlikely ally in Police Chief Garson. Casey Hull, another counsellor at the New Hope Clinic and a veteran himself and Felson’s father a retired Marine with an unhealthy disrespect for almost everything. Small scenes showing the Police talking informally in their favourite bar ensure that room is given for all viewpoints and build suspicion well.

Lombardi Jr does a great job of planting doubt in the reader’s mind about a number of the characters’ motives. I think I suspected at least four characters of various acts they turned out to be innocent of, as I progressed through the book (lucky I am not a police officer I guess!). I also can’t believe I have got this far through my review without mentioning Nathaniel Bodine; a blind lawyer with a showman’s panache, cynicism that could sink a battleship and unique legal style. I still don’t know whether I liked or loathed Bodine but for the middle section of the book he became the main character and he controlled the courtroom scenes in a unique and memorable way.

But what of Darfield himself? Darfield provided a fascinating case study of PTSD. Bravery in a warzone leading to PTSD which could make him violent…but a killer? You’ll have to read it to find out. The sensitivity with which the book addressed PTSD whilst emphasising its seriousness was impressive and added to the reading experience.

Would I read more by N. Lombardi Jr? I would, and it will be interesting to see if he takes any of these characters forward or leaves this as a stand alone. A highly recommended legal thriller.

I chose to read and review a free digital copy of Justice Gone. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr was published in the UK by Roundfire Books on 22nd February 2019 and is available in paperback 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 | Foyles | Goodreads | Book Depository |

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N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).

In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.

Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net

His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.

His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.

Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Visit his goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6982373.N_Lombardi_Jr_

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Lagotti Family Series by Leopold Borstinski (@borstinski) @cobaltdinosaur #TheLagottiFamily #damppebbles

Boxset 3D.jpgTwo generations and four decades in the lives of Frank, Mary Lou and the rest of the gang

The Heist: After leaving Baltimore Penitentiary, Frank’s get rich quick scheme to rob a bank requires his girlfriend, Mary Lou to sleep with an inside guy and for his gang to stay together long enough to take down the vault. Meanwhile Mary Lou falls for the inside man and can’t decide whether to go with him or Frank. If she chooses the wrong fella she’ll be penniless and wind up dead. How would you choose between a fool and a dreamer?

The Getaway: After ex-con Frank and his girlfriend Mary Lou rob a Baltimore Bank, they must flee across country before the Feds find them and the mob ices them for stealing from an organized crime boss. As they dash to California, trust becomes the most important currency as Frank and Mary Lou grapple to decide whether love is enough to keep them together. And by the time they reach their goal, they must fight to the death to survive hired guns and trained police shooters. If they don’t kill everyone in their way then they will die themselves. Would you risk everything for a sack of greenbacks?

Powder: When Mary Lou takes the proceeds from a bank robbery to start up her heroin dealing business, old enemies circle overhead and threaten the lives of her twins. How will she keep them safe in such a dangerous place and what is she prepared to do to secure her new venture?

Mama’s Gone: When Mary Lou makes some bad decisions, her twins and her husband must decide whether she’s losing her mind. If they can get that cleared up then all they have to worry about is their feud with the Russian mob. And then someone goes and ices the old lady. Who would have the cajones to murder the head of the Lagotti family?”

Happy Friday and welcome to damppebbles. Ryan the guest reviewer here. Emma has let me take over with a review of Leopold Bortstinki’s book as she is looking through all of your lovely R3COMM3N3D2019 suggestions after her post yesterday (she’s also spent a lot of time adding books to her ‘Terrifying TBR’).  So whilst I am here, I thought I would share my review of The Heist. Without further ado, here’s what I thought…..

The Heist by Leopold Borstinski is the first book in The Lagotti Family Series Box Set. Now those of you with a keen memory will remember that earlier this year I reviewed Mama’s Gone, the fourth and final book in the series.  This blog tour offered me the chance for some reader ‘time travel’ and an opportunity to learn more about Frank and Mary Lou’s back story.

It is almost unfair to call Frank and Mary Lou the main characters as this book revolves around a small number of characters who are working to make Frank’s bank robbery a success.  Andrew and Brian represent the hired muscle and Pete, the getaway driver, completes the gang.  The story follows the planning of the job and the reader watches as tensions develop, scores are settled and each character works out how to get the best deal for themselves.  The deceit, plotting and characterisation in this novel are great as you soon realise that not everyone is going to get their way. And some characters are willing to spill a lot of blood to get a few extra dollars.

Outside the plotting is Mary Lou’s growing relationship with the inside man she is seducing to get information on the bank.   As time moves on you start to wonder who’s side she is on; is it Frank’s, Carter’s – the inside man, or just her own!  It has to be said there is a lot of carnal activity in this book and if that is something that you don’t enjoy then I would suggest you read something else.

My favourite aspect of this book was the slow burn. The planning isn’t over in a few days, it takes a lot longer.  Time for emotions to surface, characters to get hurt, plan their revenge and make whatever alliances are required.   In the background is the insidious Frank Snr, a character straight out of the grittiest noir novel, and a gritty noir novel is really what Borstinski has created here.  A novel which sets the platform for the rest of the box set.

So if you want strong characters, gritty noir and a sense of foreboding this is a good place to start. The Lagotti Family Series Box Set is going to show you a lot of twists and turns and probably a lot of blood before you put it down.  But beware, if you enjoyed this you will be straight into The Getaway – book two of this box set, as some plot lines are deliberately left dangling to entice you onwards. Follow them and watch a mob start from a bank job and develop through to an empire.  What are you waiting for?

I chose to read and review a free digital copy of The Heist. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Lagotti Family Series box set was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 30th June 2019 and is available in paperback 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

#BookReview | #GuestReview: Hire Idiots by Prof. I.M. Nemo @FoxSpiritBooks @cobaltdinosaur #HireIdiots #damppebbles

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“‘This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or the dead is purely coincidental and ought to make you ashamed at the comparison.’

PROMINENT PROFESSOR STABBED TO DEATH AT KINGSLEY COLLEGE

Unfortunately, the murder may get lost in the confusion of new vice presidents, marketers, focus groups, assessors and protestors as the administration tries to make education profitable. There’s no time for mystery!

Professor Clarence Van Dyke finds himself bewildered by the changes, but determined to get to the bottom of the killing. He wants his friend to rest in peace – or perhaps he just wants to spend more time with the attractive Detective Riordan. But isn’t he the primary suspect?”

Hello and welcome to another day where I get to take over damppebbles. I’ve got the chair and keyboard set up how I like them, the radio is on and there is a book to tell you about. So grab a cuppa, get yourself settled and let’s find out what I thought of today’s book. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin….

Hire Idiots is the first book I have read by Prof I.M. Nemo (if that is their real name 😉). The title comes from a William Blake poem where Blake talks about the degradation of the Arts, and this is what our protagonist is fighting. There are two crimes as he and his colleagues see it. The first the rather premature demise of his colleague Ned Sparks, and the threatened destruction of Kingsley College by those our protagonist will kindly think of as ‘idiots’. The story progresses quickly through three main storylines and allows the reader to relax into an entertaining and often humorous read.

The corpse of Dr Edward Sparks, Distinguished Professor of English at the College is discovered within the first chapter. Dr Sparks is not exactly a popular figure within the college but he is a drinking companion to our protagonist Professor Clarence Van Dyke, an Englishman living in America and teaching Poetry and English Literature. Professor Van Dyke is suddenly not only a drinking companion but a suspect. The case is being investigated by Detective Siobhan Riordan. For the first few chapters the murder suspects and motives begin to be fleshed out, but then something surprising happens. The murder plot begins to take a bit of a back seat to the second aspect of the story; Kingsley College has been taken over by a company seemingly intent of ridding the college of its Arts Department and solely focussing only on areas where they can smell profit. Then there is the third plot arm of the unnamed character locking themselves in the theatre in protest at something.

I enjoyed our main character’s journey through this book; from a quiet sedate existence in a sleepy American college to an existence surrounded by murder and sedition. His growing infatuation with Detective Riordan keeps threatening to drop him deeper into the investigation but can he stay on the right side of the law and his firebrand colleagues. It was interesting to read the character’s views on the changes in the American education system, but as they were played against such a nefarious villain as the new Chief of Operations, Georgia Moxley, this allowed them licence to be wild in their accusations.

I will also mention that Prof I.M. Nemo has created the first fictional “Wasps Rugby” fan that I am aware of – please let me know if you know of more!

Will I be reading more by Prof I.M. Nemo? I have to say “yes”. I enjoyed the book, the story, and characters coming together to try and keep their college as a sleepy haven for the arts. Plus the book was laugh out loud funny on occasions. Would I read more Blake? Unlikely, but in the spirit of fairness I will leave you with this;

“Degrade first the Arts if you would mankind degrade;
Hire idiots to paint with cold light and hot shade;
Give high price for the worst, leave the best in disgrace,
And with labour of idleness fill every place.”
William Blake

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Hire Idiots. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Hire Idiots by Prof. I.M. Nemo was published in the UK by Fox Spirit Books on 25th August 2019 and is available in paperback 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 | Fox Spirit Books |

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#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Cause and Effect: Vice Plagues the City by Pete Adams (@Peteadams8) #CauseandEffect #KindHeartsandMartinets @cobaltdinosaur @NextChapterPB #damppebbles

Cause and Effect cover“A self-labelled enigma, Detective Inspector Jack Austin is at once miserable and amusing, melancholy and motivated. Running the Community Police Unit from his deck chair, D.I. Austin is known for his ability to solve crimes out of the blue.

Trying to work cases while struggling with his mental issues, Austin deals with a variety of major crimes, including bicycle theft. But when the case of an executed police officer lands on his desk, he accidentally uncovers a malevolent scheme.

Can he discover who is behind it all – and keep what’s left of his sanity?”

It’s the weekend! Happy Saturday and welcome to damppebbles. I’m only popping in briefly to hand over to my trusty sidekick (he’s going to kill me for saying that 😂), my husband and guest reviewer, Ryan.  Ryan is reviewing the first book in Pete Adams’ Kind Hearts and Martinets series, Cause and EffectCause and Effect was published in paperback and ebook formats by Next Chapter Publishing on 28th June 2019 and Ryan received an eARC which has not influenced his review.

Over to Ryan…

How do you describe Detective Inspector Jack Austin?  Well, I should certainly start by calling him ‘Jane’ as everyone else at his station does.  To use his own words, which he muddles often, he’s a “riddle wrapped up in an enema”.  An aging detective who seems to attract the odd crisis whilst nicknaming almost everyone he meets, solving crimes and getting his words wrong as frequently as possible.

If you don’t like word play, (or sometimes just the wrong darn word!) then I will suggest now that you may not get on with this book. Jane’s use of language is somewhat unique but as the book progresses you soon become used to his turns of phrase.  Stick with it, it’s worth it.  The story from Pete Adams is well put together with multiple strands, criminal and personal playing out at a good pace throughout the book.  Supported by Mands (a.k.a. Mandy Pumps, Mandy Lifeboats, Amanda) , Jo-Jums, Nobby and KFC (no, not the chicken place – don’t ask – you’ll find out when you read it!) DI Jane sets out to solve a case that keeps growing. From stolen bicycles and assault, the story grows and ends up with major criminal rings.  All whilst Jane fights with the English Language and top brass.

The story is strong and I kept picking up my kindle to sneak another chapter in whenever I could.  I have already moved onto book two, Irony in the Soul: Nobody Listens Like the Dying, to find out where the story leads.  The ending is clever revealing threads that had been hinted at.  I must admit in the first chapter I was a little confused by the fact everyone had at least two names (real name and ‘Jane given name’) but this added to the human side of the story and gave insight into the way Jack felt about his team.  Jack is liked by most of the characters in the book, leading the reader to warm to him.  Although there are times when his maverick approach does seem out of kilter with the sleepy suburbs of Portsmouth.

Would I recommend the book?  I would. I can imagine some readers will find the first couple of chapters tricky but the team which emerges as the book progresses makes it worthwhile.  Pete Adams has introduced me to characters I like and I enjoyed spending time with them. Book two, which as I mentioned I’m currently reading, is also getting interesting but more about that next month…

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Cause and Effect. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Cause and Effect: Vice Plagues the City by Pete Adams was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 28th June 2019 and is available in paperback 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.comBook DepositoryGoodreads |

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pete adams.jpgPete Adams is an architect with a practice in Portsmouth, UK, and from there he has, over forty years, designed and built buildings across England and Wales. Pete took up writing after listening to a radio interview of the writer Michael Connolly whilst driving home from Leeds. A passionate reader, the notion of writing his own novel was compelling, but he had always been told you must have a mind map for the book; Jeez, he could never get that.

Et Voila, Connolly responding to a question, said he never can plan a book, and starts with an idea for chapter one and looks forward to seeing where it would lead. Job done, and that evening Pete started writing and the series, Kind Hearts and Martinets, was on the starting blocks. That was some eight years ago, and hardly a day has passed where Pete has not worked on his writing, and currently, is halfway through his tenth book, has a growing number of short stories, one, critically acclaimed and published by Bloodhound, and has written and illustrated a series of historical nonsense stories called, Whopping Tales.

Pete describes himself as an inveterate daydreamer, and escapes into those dreams by writing crime thrillers with a thoughtful dash of social commentary. He has a writing style shaped by his formative years on an estate that re-housed London families after WWII, and his books have been likened to the writing of Tom Sharpe; his most cherished review, “made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think”.

Pete lives in Southsea with his partner, and Charlie the star-struck Border terrier, the children having flown the coop, and has 3 beautiful granddaughters who will play with him so long as he promises not to be silly.

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