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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

about-the-author3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilderness_25.jpegIt’s easy to die out there. It’s easy to kill too.

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

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

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

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

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

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my review of a book which grabbed my attention the moment I set eyes on it.  Wilderness is the latest release from B.E. Jones and was published by Constable (Little, Brown) in ebook format on 4th April 2019.  The paperback is to follow next April.  I received a free eARC of Wilderness but that has in no way influenced my review.

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

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

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

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

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

Wilderness by B.E. Jones was published by in the UK by Constable on 4th April and is available in eBook format (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

about-the-author3

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

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

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

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

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

Author Links: TwitterFacebookInstagramWebsite |

 

 

#BlogTour┃#BookReview: The Lost Man by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) #TheLostManIsComing

the lost man.jpg“‘He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.’

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…”

Happy Monday! I am delighted to welcome you to my first ‘actual’ book review of the year and my first blog tour post of 2019 which is for The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but that has in no way influenced my review.  I am a huge fan of Harper’s writing having loved her previous novels, the epic The Dry and the superb Force of Nature.  This latest book, however, is a standalone and not part of the brilliant Aaron Falk series so if you’ve not picked up one of Jane Harper’s books before now is the time to start!

When Jane Harper has a new book coming out you can guarantee it will be one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year.  Full stop.  If Jane Harper writes something then oh boy, do I want to read it!  The Lost Man is a brilliant addition to her repertoire but one I found quite different from her previous works.  One thing I will say is that in every Harper novel I have read you can guarantee that the landscape; that desolate isolation, the unpredictability of the Australian Outback plays as much a part of the story as the lead characters do.  I think it’s something us Brits tend to struggle to get our heads around.  Exactly how much open space there is, how far you have to travel to see another human being and how totally alone you can feel.  Harper writes these scenarios with such aplomb and so vividly that I found myself totally immersed in the picture she was painting for us readers.

The Lost Man is about the Bright family, an isolated family of cattle farmers.  You can’t help but like Nathan, the eldest of the three Bright brothers.  Early on you discover that he has done something so catastrophic that the entire town has turned their backs on him.  What exactly that is you don’t discover until later in the story but for a community so dependent on each other and so isolated you can guarantee it’s no small thing.  Despite discovering what terrible thing Nathan did, my like of the character did not waiver.  He comes across as a struggling, part-time, single parent who regrets past decisions he made but most of all he comes across as very lonely.  Tidbits of information fall into the reader’s lap as the story progresses and things gradually start to crystalise.  Before long Nathan realises that not everything is as it seems…

Would I recommend this book? I would. This was a slow burn of a read for me that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a well-written story.  The setting and the characters combine to make a suspenseful tale about the Bright family and the secrets they hide within their familial bubble.  I had my suspicions about what had happened to Cameron, the deceased middle brother, but it was interesting to watch the story unfold and have my suspicions confirmed.  Harper throws in some wonderful red herrings to keep her readers on their toes and I had several moments of doubt before the perpetrator was uncovered.  You can’t go wrong with a Jane Harper novel and if you haven’t read one of her books before then please do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

I read and reviewed an eARC of The Lost Man by Jane Harper.  The above is my own unbiased opinion.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper was published by Little,Brown on 7th February and is available in hardback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): ┃amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads

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about-the-author3

jane harperJane Harper is the internationally bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, was released in October 2018.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

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

Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

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

brothers in blood cover.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five out of five stars.

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

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

about-the-author3

amer anwar.jpg

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

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Force of Nature by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) @LittleBrownUK @kimberleynyam #ForceOfNature

force of nature.jpg

“FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Force of Nature blog tour. Author Jane Harper’s debut, The Dry, was such a hit among readers last year that many of us have been eagerly anticipating this second book in the Aaron Falk series. In fact, The Dry was a favourite on many ‘books of 2017’ lists and was mentioned several times as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature. I read and reviewed The Dry towards the end of 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the desolate small-town feeling Harper conveys in her writing, along with the struggle to cope during a long and exhaustive drought.

I guess the question is, was Force of Nature worth the wait? Oh yes. It was definitely worth the wait. I would go as far as saying I preferred Force of Nature to The Dry marginally. But then, I’m a sucker for survival stories. I devour books where we humans are pushed to our limits in the most extreme of circumstances.

Having read both of Jane Harper’s novels what stands out the most is how she excels at writing the landscape and setting of her tales. In The Dry we had drought-struck Kiewarra. In Force of Nature we have the Giralang Ranges with lots of wild, overgrown bushland ready and waiting to show you your worst nightmare!

Ten colleagues at BaileyTennants are pushed out of the comfort of the office and into the inhospitable and unforgiving wilderness. Two teams up against each other; five men and five women. The retreat, organised by professional outfit Executive Adventures is totally safe – after all, they’ve been doing this for years and haven’t had any problems (well, no major problems anyway). But when the group of women veer from the correct trail, they blunder further away from civilisation and closer to the hidden dangers of the bush. Tensions fray, accidents happen and food and water supplies rapidly dwindle. Then Alice goes missing. What happened to Alice? Has she made it back to base? Is she safe?

I loved the suspense of this novel. One of the best whodunnits I’ve read in a while. I was highly suspicious of all the characters from start to finish and oh my gosh, I couldn’t stop turning the pages! Federal Agent Aaron Falk and colleague Carmen are aware of Alice before she becomes a missing person. Without her employer’s knowledge, Alice has been assisting Falk in investigating BaileyTennants by providing the much-needed hard evidence. At least, as far as Falk was concerned business owners Daniel and Jill Bailey weren’t aware of their employees double-cross. But now with Alice missing, questions need to be asked. The author has created so many red herrings and double bluffs that the outcome could be any one of several different options. An incredibly well-written and dramatic piece of crime fiction.

Despite this book being part of the Aaron Falk series I personally felt the story wasn’t really about Falk. Yes, we do discover more about this intriguing character, more about his upbringing and his strained relationship with his father. But for me, my focus whilst reading was entirely on this disparate group of five women. They held my attention 100%. I adored the flashback sequences where the reader gets to see the uncomfortable friction between the colleagues. In fact, I think I preferred these sections to the chapters set during the search for Alice. I didn’t particularly like any of the women but I felt as though I was there, with them, tramping through the Australian bush.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Force of Nature can easily be read as a standalone but why would you bother when you can also read the excellent The Dry. I loved the desolation, the gradual loss of hope emanating from Harper’s characters as they plunged deeper and deeper into unknown territory and the masterful way the suspense builds throughout the story. Atmospheric, unsettling and gripping from start to finish.

Five out of five stars.

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

Force of Nature by Jane Harper was published in the UK by Little, Brown on 8th February 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links)
| amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

Thursday 8th February

about the author3

jane harper.jpg

Jane Harper was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight.

She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Timesin County Durham.

Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition.

That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, and that year she applied for an online 12-week novel writing course.

She was accepted with a submission for the book that would become The Dry.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

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

Author image and bio © http://janeharper.com.au/
Review © Emma Welton | damppebbles.com

#BookReview: The Dry by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) @LittleBrownUK

the dry.jpg“WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.”

Who really killed the Hadler family?  I’ve been wanting to know that since this fabulous hardback ARC came into my possession earlier this year.  Regular visitors to the blog will know what I’m going to say now because I’ve said it time and time again!  Because of my blog tour commitments, I haven’t really been able to ‘choose’ a book for a while now.  From 1st October however that has not been the case!  The number of tours I have committed to has significantly reduced and the one thing I was missing (actually being able to choose my next read) has made a triumphant return to my bookish life.  It’s such a joy for me to select a book, pure and simple.

So I’m picking the books I have wanted to read for some time.  Along with books which have been on my TBR for…..well, too long.  My lovely blogger friend, Jo, over at My Chestnut Reading Tree recommend The Dry to me.  She absolutely loved it so my curiosity was well and truly piqued.  This is one of the books championed by Jo (and several other bloggers) and I can see exactly why it’s loved by so many.

I’m a big (BIG!) fan of crime novels set in small-town America.  It’s one of my go-to settings; I love the secrets, the desperation, the suspicion.  The bumbling local Sheriff, out to either prove his worth or destroy those who have invested their trust in him.  Although The Dry isn’t set in in America it had the same claustrophobic feel to it which I gladly immersed myself in.  Maybe I need to broaden my horizons a little and investigate some Australian crime fiction. Imagine what I’ve been missing!

The town of Kiewarra felt a pretty desolate place, not helped by the local drought causing catastrophic problems to the locals and their livelihoods; mainly farming.  Kiewarra boy made good, Aaron Falk returns to his hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler.  Luke is mourned yet despised by his smalltown acquaintances for viciously killing his wife and young son with a shotgun, then turning the weapon on himself.  Luke’s parents think differently though and suspect someone else is to blame for the horrific loss of their family.  Luke’s parents know Aaron can clear their son’s name and find the real killer, after all, Aaron is a Federal Agent now.  Reluctantly Aaron agrees to work with local Sergeant, Greg Raco.  He feels he has no choice in the matter when Jerry, Luke’s father, tells Aaron that he knows the truth.  He knows that Luke and Aaron lied…..

There are two separate but beautifully melded storylines to this book; the past where the reader discovers a childhood friend of Luke and Aaron was drowned in the river and the present, the investigation into who actually killed the Hadler family.  Both plots rub alongside each other in a rather mesmerising way.  There are snippets of what happened way back when but with a present narrative alongside.  I was stunned to discover this is Harper’s debut as the story is so intricate and handled expertly.  I was hooked.  Did Luke and Aaron have anything to do with the death of their friend?  Well…

I may have fallen a little bit in love with Aaron Falk.  I don’t think I’ll be the only one.  There are several interesting and well-written characters for the reader to enjoy.  All contributing to a shocking and heartbreaking conclusion which I wasn’t expecting.  All in all this is a stonking debut and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, Force of Nature.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a very enjoyable read which stands head and shoulders above others in the genre.  At times I struggled to put it down and look forward to reading more in the future.  Harper writes crime fiction like a pro.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

The Dry by Jane Harper was published in the UK by Little, Brown on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

jane harper.jpgJane Harper was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight.

She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Times in County Durham.

Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue‘s annual Fiction Edition.

That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, and that year she applied for the Curtis Brown Creative online 12-week novel writing course.

She was accepted with a submission for the book that would become The Dry.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author image and bio © http://janeharper.com.au/About-Jane

 

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie @TheCrimeVault

51xwtl1oqxl-_sx312_bo1204203200_“A vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

The charred body of a policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out-shell of his car on the Southend seafront.

To DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell of the Essex Police Major Investigation Team, the two events seem unconnected. But as they dig deeper into their colleague’s murder, dark secrets begin to emerge.

Can Pearson and Russell solve both cases, before more lives are destroyed?”

I am delighted to be today’s stop on the Burned and Broken blog tour.  Burned and Broken is author Mark Hardie’s debut novel and introduces us to the formidable crime fighting team of DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell.  The second book in the series titled Truly Evil will be published later this year.

A burnt out car containing the body of DI Sean Carragher is found on the Southend seafront.  His burns are so bad his colleagues can’t even recognise him.  What’s more, DI Carragher was the subject of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, which leads the team to many more questions than it answers.  DS Pearson and DI Carragher’s ex-partner, DC Catherine (Cat) Russell are tasked with leading the investigation.  But the more they dig, the more they realise that they didn’t really know their colleague at all.  And what about young Donna?  In a care home until it was forced to close, now living in her on flat and spending her days obsessing over the death of her friend.  Donna knows who killed Alicia, now all she has to do is prove it to the right people.  She knows it wasn’t an accident, no matter what the police reports said.  It’s down to DS Pearson and DC Russell to discover who murdered their colleague before the body count rises…

I loved DC Cat Russell.  I felt incredibly sorry for her as the realisation dawned that she didn’t really know Sean Carragher at all.  This person who she felt was a friend (and someone to look up to) had let her down repeatedly.  Her regular interviews with internal affairs and DS Pearson’s discovery that Sean and Cat couldn’t have been together when Cat claimed they were, made for uncomfortable reading.  I wanted to love Frank Pearson but there was something….missing for me.  He’s the type of character that I normally, immediately like but it just didn’t happen this time.  Donna made me feel incredibly sad. This is obviously a character with deep psychological issues and I really wanted to warm to her but I’m afraid all I could feel was sadness.  I wanted someone to spot that she was on the edge of a precipice and help the poor girl.

I struggled with the author’s style, having to re-read many sentences several times over to try and understand what was going on.  As I neared the conclusion I found myself enjoying the story more than I had previously.  So much so that when I came to one of those ‘read on for a sneak peek at the author’s next book’ sections that I did actually read on.  Mainly to check that the next book also featured DC Cat Russell (and DS Pearson).

Would I recommend this book?  This is a difficult one.  I did enjoy it and I know that others will absolutely love this book and see things which I have missed.  But on the whole, I’m not sure.  It’s a good police procedural but there are so many GREAT police procedurals out there that it’s a hard one to call.

Three stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Burned and Broken.  Many thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown for providing me with a copy. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie is published by Sphere | Little, Brown on the UK and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (with the paperback being published in May 2017) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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vcq9gqmt_400x400Mark Hardie began writing full time after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

#BookReview: His First Lie by Mark Hill (@markhillwriter) @TheCrimeVault #HisFirstLie

his first lie.jpg“One night changed their lives

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.”

When I first heard about this book, I knew that I had to read it.  Not only is the author, Mark Hill, a brilliant book blogger (well, once upon a time before he wrote a cracking novel!) but oh my gosh, THAT blurb!  That blurb feels like it was written for me.  There was also a fabulous .gif doing the rounds, which caught my eye too (I do love a .gif).  I felt this book was destined for my TBR.

DI Ray Drake’s past is coming back to haunt him.  People he knew as a child are being horrifically killed along with their partners and children.  It can’t be something to do with Ray though, can it?  Whilst investigating the murder of ex-associate, Kenny, it comes to light that he was in the process of writing his memoirs, an exposé of his time at the ill fated Longacre children’s home.  DI Drake is only supervising the case though, newly promoted DS Flick Crowley is in charge and Ray is determined that his secret will never see the light of day.  And he’s prepared to do whatever it takes…

From the opening chapters you feel that there is something….amiss about DI Ray Drake. There is no reason to dislike this man but you can feel he has deeply buried secrets and boy, you want to know what they are!  He gets under your skin.  Then he starts to behave inappropriately for a DI and your brain goes into overdrive; ‘what is going on with this fella?’ you find yourself asking.  He is a brilliantly written character and I take my hat off to Mark Hill.  I became quite obsessed with trying to work out what was going on with Ray, what his thing was and maybe even a little obsessed with Ray, himself!

DS Flick Crowley didn’t have the same draw as DI Drake did for me.  I liked her, and I can see her being a favourite of many other readers, but I think I was so totally smitten with DI Drake that Flick wasn’t really on my radar.  I hope there is a second book as she may be one of those characters that, for me, needs time to grow and develop.  There were two other characters in His First Lie who won my heart; Elliot and Connor.  Connor is a complete enigma, the cool kid at the home who beats up the bullies but stands up and says I was wrong when the moment requires.  And the bully turned family man, Elliot.  How I absolutely loved Elliot.

The plot is very clever.  This book felt fresh to me; something different that I haven’t encountered before.  There’s not a lot else I can say about the plot without giving away spoilers but just let me say that it’s quite an intricate storyline.  I’m afraid I managed to work out who the killer was but it’s a habit of mine now to look for the killer (I really need to stop doing this and just enjoy the book!).  It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the rest of the book and to be honest, there are much bigger twists than the reveal of the killer for the reader to concentrate on.

Would I recommend this book?  I most definitely would.  In fact, this is a book that all crime fiction fans should read as it’s quite different to other detective novels.  Not only do you have a cracking whodunit story but you also have a cast of brilliantly written characters that make reading this book a joy.  I was so captivated with what Ray’s secret could be and oh my, it’s a corker!  And to think this a debut – I can’t wait to see what else Mark Hill has in store for us.

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of His First Lie.

His First Lie by Mark Hill was published in the UK by Sphere on 22nd September 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Sphere Books |

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Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |