#BookReview: The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @HodderBooks #TheLastThingtoBurn #damppebbles

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. The Last Thing to Burn was first published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th January 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

The Last Thing to Burn is one of the biggest books of the last year, without a doubt. I see it discussed on social media a lot, I see it recommended even more. So much so that I made it one of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge picks as it was suggested by three (count ’em, three!) fabulous reviewers (I’m looking at you @Zoebeesbooks@Littlemissbook6 and @DelishBooks). And if you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may remember that it was joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021 which immediately makes it a must read for me. Having read the book, experienced its darkness and come out the other side sobbing big, fat, ugly tears I can say I wholeheartedly agree with the exceptional praise this novel has received. The Last Thing to Burn is a truly unsettling, uncomfortable read but it’s essential reading. Devastating, heart breaking but an absolute must read.

Jane and Leonard live together at Fen Farm surrounded by nothing but vast fenland. Leonard is content with his life. He works the land, tends the pigs and comes home to his dinner on the table every night. Jane, his wife, is a prisoner. Very few people know of Jane’s existence and that’s the way it will remain. She cooks, cleans and performs other duties Leonard expects of a wife. She has no choice, otherwise she is punished. She’s watched by cameras 24/7. There is no escape. And definitely no hope. Until something changes. Until a fire is lit within Jane’s being. Now it’s her turn to watch Leonard, and wait…

The first thing to say about The Last Thing to Burn is that it’s not an easy read and if you’re looking for something light then this book is not it. Far from it. It’s dark, it’s horrifying, and it’s harrowing from start to finish. It’s also hugely compelling, utterly absorbing and the tension is pinpoint sharp. My heart broke multiple times. I felt I needed to take a break on several occasions but I just could not tear myself away from Dean’s writing and characterisation.

The characters are frighteningly believable. To me they were real and I lived the horrors of life at Fen Farm alongside them. ‘Jane’ is perfection on a page. I adored her and was hoping, even when it seemed as though all hope had been extinguished, that there would be some small sliver, some ray of light that meant she would come out of this on top. Leonard is utterly despicable, a loathsome brute of a man, but I thought the way the author wrote him was an absolute masterclass in writing a villain. He made my blood boil. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that angry or furious towards one character before. Superbly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Thing to Burn is deeply unsettling and utterly unnerving. The most uncomfortable book I’ve read this year and rightly so. The subject matter should make us feel uncomfortable. I think something has gone horribly wrong if it doesn’t. The writing is stunning, the characterisation is superb and the setting is perfectly claustrophobic and horribly visual. I could picture the scenes in my mind perfectly. That dank and depressing kitchen with the Rayburn *shudder*. This is an unforgettable novel and I now fully understand why so many reviewers recommend it. Allow me to add my voice to the masses. If you’re a reader of dark fiction and you haven’t picked up The Last Thing to Burn yet then what are you waiting for? You need this book in your life. Highly recommended.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 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.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book Depositorybookshop.org | Goodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: First Born by Will Dean @HodderBooks #FirstBorn #damppebbles

“THE LAST THING A TWIN EXPECTS IS TO BE ALONE …

Molly
 lives a quiet, contained life in London. Naturally risk averse, she gains comfort from security and structure. Every day the same.

Her identical twin Katie is her exact opposite: gregarious and spontaneous. They used to be inseparable, until Katie moved to New York a year ago. Molly still speaks to her daily without fail.

But when Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in New York, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. Katie is part of her DNA. As terrifying as it is, she must go there and find out what happened. As she tracks her twin’s last movements, cracks begin to emerge. Nothing is what it seems. And a web of deceit is closing around her.

Delivering the same intensity of pace and storytelling that made THE LAST THING TO BURN a word-of-mouth sensation, FIRST BORN will surprise, shock and enthral.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the First Born blog tour. First Born by Will Dean was published last week (that’s Thursday 14th April 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of First Born but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a proof copy.

When asked if I would like to read the latest Will Dean novel, I obviously jumped at the chance (you’d be bonkers not to!). Over the course of a few short years this author’s work has become hugely popular with a loyal fanbase. Which is why it’s very embarrassing to admit that until I picked up my copy of First Born, I hadn’t read any of Dean’s previous books. To further confirm what a wally I am, the author’s previous release with Hodder – The Last Thing to Burn – was the joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. I know, I’m hanging my head in shame. But I have corrected my horrible oversight now. I have read First Born and I can confirm it’s an absolute corker of a novel!

Molly and Katie Raven are identical twins, but they couldn’t be more different if they tried. Katie is the life and soul of the party. Outgoing, unafraid, she lives in the here and now, grabbing every opportunity that comes her way. Molly is introverted, risk adverse to the point it’s become a problem, planning her outings to the nth degree and ensuring she’s ready and equipped for any event. When Molly learns that Katie has died suddenly in her New York apartment, Molly’s world turns upside down. Despite her fears, she knows she must go to New York and discover what happened to her sister. But on arrival it’s clear to Molly that things aren’t quite what they seem and Katie has been murdered…

What a compelling, twisty read First Born is! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the moment I met Molly to the jaw dropping final chapter. Intricately plotted and utterly gripping, I was completely absorbed by Dean’s writing and I savoured every moment of it. Molly is an unusual character and for that, I really liked her. I found her fascinating – her plotting and planning, her forward thinking and the ingenious solutions she found to get herself out of a tricky spot, *should* one arise.

The book is expertly paced and the mystery behind what happened to Katie made for an intriguing read, so much so that I was trying hard to spot where the story was headed. One of the big twists I was able to guess from fairly early on. The other blew my mind. Clever, very clever. I will say that although I was able to guess one aspect of the story it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all. Even though I was pretty sure I knew what was coming, I still let out a little gasp of shock which I think is testament to the author’s skill.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. First Born is a well-written, unique and clever tale featuring an unforgettable character who really left her mark on me.  I really enjoyed this book and finished it in a few short sittings, keen to return to New York, and to unconventional Molly, time and time again. It goes without saying that I will, of course, be reading more of this author’s books as soon as time allows, starting with The Last Thing to Burn. An excellent thriller chock full of suspense and tension. Recommended.

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

First Born by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 14th April 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BookReview: Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Moshe Gilula) @HodderBooks #Echo #damppebbles

“It’s One Thing to Lose Your Life
It’s Another to Lose Your Soul

When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned: those that treat his disfigured face begin experiencing extraordinary and disturbing psychic events that suggest that Nick has unleashed some ancient and primal menace on his ill-fated expedition.

Nick’s partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nick’s youth, vitality and beauty. Now these are gone and all that is left is a haunted mummy-worse, a glimpse beneath the bandages can literally send a person insane.

Sam must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse, the little Alpine Village of Grimnetz, its soul-possesed Birds of Death and it legends of human sacrifice and, ultimately, its haunted mountain, the Maudit.

Dutch writer Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a Hugo Award Winner and has been hailed as the future of speculative fiction in Europe. His work combines a unique blend of popular culture and fairy-tale myth that is utterly unique. Echo follows his sensational debut English language novel, HEX.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Echo is published by Hodder & Stoughton today (that’s Thursday 3rd February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Echo but that has in no way influenced my review.

One of the most memorable books I have ever read is HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvert. I remember the storyline and the characters so clearly, despite reading it six years ago, and I recommend it to everyone and anyone who is looking for a creepy, unsettling horror novel. So you can imagine my delight when I received an advanced copy of Echo, the latest book by Olde Heuvelt to be translated into English. So much so, my planned Christmas reading was pushed aside to make room for this superbly written chilling tale.

Nick Grevers, an experienced mountaineer, is lucky to be alive following an accident which saw the death of his climbing buddy, Augustin. Nick is in a bad way, wrapped in bandages, unable to communicate verbally and horribly disfigured. Nick’s boyfriend, Sam, is horrified by the news and despite his love for Nick, feels unsure about their future together. But when a terrorist attack is carried out on the hospital Nick is in, Sam realises that his life is with Nick. But Nick’s experience on the mountain went beyond the horror to his face, near death and losing his climbing partner…

I am a huge fan of books set in an inhospitable environment, particularly those set in a mountain range. I also love books where we humans have to fight for survival against nature and everything it throws at us. Which made Echo a perfect choice for me. Echo is a rich and vivid tale of love, loss and supernatural horror which I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in. Chilling, creepy and everything you want in a spooky read, this emotional tale drew this reader in from the incredibly eerie start to the devastating finale. Reading Echo truly was an experience and one I will remember for some time to come.

It took me a while to warm to Sam. His dialogue is written very much as he would speak –  ‘coulda’, ‘hadda’ – which took a little getting used to but before long, Sam’s dialogue felt very normal and very natural and I began to feel great affection for him. To the point where, by the end of the novel, I was sad to say goodbye. Nick intrigued me no end. I wanted to know what happened to him and Augustin on Maudit, and why. Nick’s take on things is provided via his manuscript which he sends to Sam whilst he’s away in the US. Throughout the novel sections of the manuscript are provided to the reader so the gaps can be filled. The truth is slowly, gradually revealed and it made for gripping reading. The love between Nick and Sam, despite the devastation caused by the accident, is what shone through the strongest for me. It almost broke me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Echo is a beautifully written, eerie tale of all-consuming love and heart wrenching loss. It is a slow burn of a novel which I savoured over the course of several sittings. It’s not a quick read but worth every single moment you spend within its pages. I loved the way the author builds up the suspense, increasing the tension as the story moves to its climax. Olde Heuvelt has once again crafted a novel that has wormed its way under my skin. One that will stay with me for some time to come. Recommended.

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

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (translated by Moshe Gilula) was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Thomas Olde HeuveltDutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt (1983) is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. He won a 2015 Hugo Award for his novelette The Day the World Turned Upside Down. He has also been awarded the Harland Award for best Dutch fantasty on multiple occasions, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award.

Olde Heuvelt wrote his debut novel at the age of sixteen. He studied English language and American literature in his hometown of Nijmegen and at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Since, he has become a bestselling author in The Netherlands and Belgium. He calls Roald Dahl and Stephen King the literary heroes of his childhood, creating a love for grim and dark fiction.

HEX is Olde Heuvelt’s world wide debut. Warner Bros is currently developing a TV series based on the book.

#BookReview: The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by C.S. Robertson @HodderBooks #TheUndiscoveredDeathsofGraceMcGill #damppebbles

“DEATH IS NOT THE END. FOR GRACE McGILL IT IS ONLY THE BEGINNING.

When people die alone and undiscovered, it’s her job to clean up what’s left behind – whether it’s clutter, bodily remains or dark secrets.

When an old man lies undetected in his flat for months, it seems an unremarkable life and an unnoticed death. But Grace knows that everyone has a story and that all deaths mean something more.

A STAND-OUT NOVEL WITH A UNIQUE NARRATIVE VOICE AND AN UNGUESSABLE MYSTERY, YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO REMEMBER GRACE McGILL.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by C.S. Robertson. The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 20th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Steven at Hodder Books for sending me a proof copy.

When I first saw The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill on social media, I knew I wanted to read it. You don’t meet many death cleaners in crime fiction and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become acquainted with Grace McGill. Particularly as I’ve read and enjoyed this author’s work in the past. I was excited to make a start on this one so got stuck in as soon as my copy arrived at damppebbles HQ.

Grace McGill is a death cleaner. When people die and lay undiscovered for weeks, even months, Grace steps in once the body has been removed and completely disinfects the scene. Which we should all be thankful for seeing as what’s left behind can be pretty nasty! Grace is a lot more thorough than her colleagues, making sure mementoes are kept for family members (if and when they’re found!) and taking photos so she can pay her own tribute. Discovering a hidden photo and piles of newspapers in one such ‘client’s’ flat sparks the need to know more. But as Grace digs into Tommy Agnew’s past, long held secrets and terrible deeds come to light putting Grace in terrifying danger…

The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill is a well-written mystery with lots of suspense and a twist in the tale. Grace is a very interesting character. You think you’ve got the measure of her but you probably haven’t. She’s the sort of character I love. Grace’s job makes her immediately intriguing – I mean, would you be a death cleaner? Do you know anyone who is a death cleaner? – but as the author peels away the layers, revealing the person behind the façade, you get to see what makes this woman tick and it’s quite a surprise!

The mystery at the heart of the novel is well-plotted and takes the reader back to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute in the 1960s. I loved the vivid descriptions the author uses to paint the seaside town in the reader’s mind, as it was then and how it is now. This is clearly an area Robertson knows well and is fond of. I enjoyed the time I spent in both Grace’s hometown of Glasgow and on Bute.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill is a compelling mystery novel which I enjoyed. It’s quite a dark read in places but hugely atmospheric and will appeal to crime fiction fans across the board. If you’re looking for a book with a slightly different spin on things then make sure you add this one to your shelf. I loved the setting, I loved Grace (in a strange way!) and I loved how gripping the book was, keeping me glued to the pages until the final word. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by C.S. Robertson was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 20th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

A former journalist, Craig Robertson had a 20-year career with a Scottish Sunday newspaper before becoming a full-time author. He interviewed three Prime Ministers, reported on major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. He was pilloried on breakfast television, beat Oprah Winfrey to a major scoop, spent time on Death Row in the USA and dispensed polio drops in the backstreets of India. His first novel, Random, was shortlisted for the 2010 CWA New Blood Dagger, longlisted for the 2011 Crime Novel of the Year and was a Sunday Times bestseller. He has been both longlisted and shortlisted for writing prizes. He now shares his time between Scotland and California and can usually be found on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Dark by Emma Haughton @HodderBooks @JennyPlatt90 #TheDark #damppebbles

ONE DEAD BODY. TWELVE SUSPECTS. TWENTY-FOUR-HOUR DARKNESS.

In the most inhospitable environment – cut off from the rest of the world – there’s a killer on the loose.

A&E doctor Kate North has been knocked out of her orbit by a personal tragedy. So when she’s offered the opportunity to be an emergency replacement at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. The previous doctor, Jean-Luc, died in a tragic accident while out on the ice.

The move seems an ideal solution for Kate: no one knows about her past; no one is checking up on her. But as total darkness descends for the winter, she begins to suspect that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t accidental at all.

And the more questions she asks, the more dangerous it becomes . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Dark by Emma Haughton. The Dark is published today (that’s Thursday 19th August 2021) by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Dark but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a finished copy.

Regular visitors to damppebbles may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for novels set in a cold climate. Throw in the fact that The Dark is set in Antarctica, which spends some of the year in complete, all encompassing darkness and is considered one of the most inhospitable environments on earth, and there was no way I was going to let this book pass me by! I had to read The Dark. And I’m so very glad I did.

Kate North can’t escape the memories of her past. Everywhere she goes are constant reminders of what she had, and what she lost. The past controls her every waking moment. So she decides to take drastic action and applies to be the doctor at a UN research station in Antarctica. Conditions at the station will be bleak with total darkness 24 hours a day and temperatures that will kill, so it’s of the utmost importance that the team at the station are physically and emotionally prepared. Kate questions her own suitability repeatedly due to her overuse of prescription medication and a long held fear of the dark. But the need to escape is greater. On arrival it becomes clear to Kate that there are several unanswered questions about her predecessor’s sudden death. As Kate digs deeper into what happened to Jean-Luc, she begins to doubt her colleagues. Who can she trust? Who is keeping secrets? And what really happened to Jean-Luc….?

I really enjoyed The Dark. I’m sure we’ve all read novels set in a snowy landscape where help isn’t necessarily immediately available, but it is there. The Dark had a very different feel to it as there is no rescue team flying in to transport everyone to safety. Conditions are harsh. Flying to Antarctica isn’t something you do on a whim, help is anything from 6 to 12 months away! No matter what happens. No matter what the threat. No matter how many bodies are piled up. You wait it out, which really added to the tension of this novel. I loved how the author conveyed the feeling of utter helplessness and total isolation to the reader. Kate was well and truly stuck at the station with nowhere to run.

There are quite a few characters to become acquainted with but the author does a brilliant job of making sure the reader is never confused. Doctor Kate is our lead. I liked that Kate, no matter how many people told her to leave Jean-Luc’s death alone – that it was just an unfortunate accident – kept pushing for answers. She was definitely like a dog with a bone and I admired that in her. Particularly as she was the new girl in a remote and hostile environment with everything to prove. Sandrine, the station leader, was the perfect nemesis to Kate. The friction between the two characters was very well written. Sandrine made my blood boil at times and I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Dark is a fantastic debut thriller novel which handles its setting superbly. I thoroughly enjoyed this compulsive mystery which sent chills down my spine. I was very intrigued about life on a UN research station – the more the author told me, the more I wanted to know, the faster I turned the pages. That, coupled with the fascinating mystery at the heart of The Dark, made for a very compelling, very claustrophobic read. Recommended.

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

The Dark by Emma Haughton was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 19th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Emma Haughton

The Dark, Emma Haughton’s chilling new thriller for adults, will be published by Hodder in August 2021.

Emma grew up in Sussex; after a stint au pairing in Paris and a couple of half-hearted attempts to backpack across Europe, she studied English at Oxford University then trained in journalism. During her career as a journalist, she wrote many articles for national newspapers, including regular pieces for the Times Travel section.

Following publication of her picture book, Rainy Day, Emma wrote three YA novels. Her first, Now You See Me, was an Amazon bestseller and nominated for the Carnegie and Amazing Book Awards. Better Left Buried, her second, was one of the best YA reads for 2015 in the Sunday Express. Her third YA novel, Cruel Heart Broken, was picked by The Bookseller as a top YA read for July 2016.

#BookReview: Survive the Night by Riley Sager @HodderBooks @HodderPublicity #SurvivetheNight #damppebbles

“Charlie Jordan is being driven across the country by a serial killer. Maybe.

Behind the wheel is Josh Baxter, a stranger Charlie met by the college ride share board, who also has a good reason for leaving university in the middle of term. On the road they share their stories, carefully avoiding the subject dominating the news – the Campus Killer, who’s tied up and stabbed three students in the span of a year, has just struck again.

Travelling the lengthy journey between university and their final destination, Charlie begins to notice discrepancies in Josh’s story.

As she begins to plan her escape from the man she is becoming certain is the killer, she starts to suspect that Josh knows exactly what she’s thinking.

Meaning that she could very well end up as his next victim.

A game of cat and mouse is about to play out. In order to win, Charlie must do only one thing . . . survive the night.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Survive the Night by Riley Sager. Survive the Night is published by Hodder & Stoughton today (that’s Thursday 29th July 2021) and is available in audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Survive the Night but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am currently suffering the biggest book hangover thanks to the divine Survive the Night. Regular readers of damppebbles may be aware that I am a huge Riley Sager fan. Sager’s debut, Final Girls, is one of my very favourite books (I have a Final Girls wallet!). Home Before Dark, which was published last year, was one of my favourite books of 2020. If Riley Sager writes it, I want to read it. Getting my mitts on a copy of Survive the Night sent me a little giddy with joy. I devoured this book. I feel bereft now that it’s over. But one thing’s for sure, I know nothing else I read for a while is going to come anywhere close to topping Survive the Night.

Charlie has had enough of College and wants to return to the comfort of her home and Nana Norma. Her boyfriend, Robbie, isn’t able to drive her to Youngstown for a few more days but Charlie can’t wait any longer. Putting her trust in a stranger, she advertises on the ‘ride board’ for a lift. Which is where she meets Josh Baxter. He seems nice enough. She’s cautious, of course. As a movie buff and a Film Theory student, she knows what can happen when you climb into a car with a stranger! She’s desperate to return home though. The need to escape Olyphant University and everything that happened there is great. So she reluctantly accepts the risk. Telling herself over and over again to be smart, be brave and be careful. But as the journey progresses, Charlie starts to think she’s made a terrible mistake. Could Josh be a serial killer after all…?

The first thing I need to say about Survive the Night is that it felt quite different to the author’s previous books. I would classify Sager’s books as predominantly mysteries, but mysteries which err on the side of horror. Survive the Night felt more crime noir than any of his previous novels. Movies play a big part of the plot, which may have given the book a different feel. Or it may be the overall vibe of the story (the long drive into the night with a complete stranger). Or perhaps it’s because it’s set in 1991 and the author has excelled at putting an aged/retro feel into his text (no matter what you say, 1991 wasn’t THAT long ago! Thirty years is nothing, right…? 😬). I can’t put my finger on exactly what gives Survive the Night its utterly hypnotic and immersive appeal, but I loved it. If this is the direction the author has chosen to go in, then I’m all for it!

I adored Charlie. If you’re a fan of the unreliable narrator then oh boy, you need to get yourself a copy of this book! Charlie, having lost both parents in a car accident when she was younger, and having to deal with the trauma of a double funeral, now experiences ‘movies in her mind’. Hallucinations to the rest of us. These vivid scenes play out in front of her and only afterwards, when she has ‘come to’ does she realise they weren’t real. Unfortunately for Charlie, the occurrence and the clarity of these ‘movies’ is on the increase. Which Josh uses to his advantage…

I was a little concerned, before starting the book, that a tale about a six hour long road trip could end up being a little dry. I needn’t have worried. It’s anything but! As realisation dawns on Charlie, an intricate game of cat and mouse begins in the confines of Josh’s Grand Am. The tension builds beautifully, unease and suspicion mount and it’s a glorious, hypnotic thing!

Would I recommend this book? 100%, YES! I loved Survive the Night. Everything about it was perfection on a page. The twists are weaved into the story masterfully. One in particular I was able to guess but as you can see, it certainly didn’t spoil my reading experience at all. Plus there are lots of other really clever little details thrown into the story to keep you gripped and turning the pages. Sager has excelled himself. I feel as though I lived this book alongside the characters. Absolutely bloody marvellous! Tense, all absorbing and utterly captivating. Highly recommended.

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

Survive the Night by Riley Sager was published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton on 29th July 2021 and is available in 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 | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries.

Riley’s next three books, THE LAST TIME I LIED, LOCK EVERY DOOR and HOME BEFORE DARK, were instant New York Times bestsellers. His upcoming thriller SURVIVE THE NIGHT will be published this summer.

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