#BookReview: The Invitation by A.M. Castle #TheInvitation #damppebbles

Thirteen guests. One killer. No escape.

On an island on the coast of Cornwall, cut off from the mainland by the tides for most of the day, thirteen old friends meet at Tregowan Castle for a weekend of revelry.

By the next evening only twelve are still alive.

Amongst them is a killer – but who? As a storm traps them on the island and past betrayals and grievances are revealed, nerves fray and friendships begin to fracture.

But with no escape and no way of calling for help it’s only a matter of time before the killer strikes again. And when everyone is keeping secrets, anybody could be the next victim…

Perfect for fans of Lucy Foley’s The Guest List and Agatha Christie.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Invitation by A.M. Castle. The Invitation is published today (that’s Thursday 27th May 2021) by HQ Digital in paperback format. I couldn’t resist this book when it popped up on my social media feed so I treated myself and purchased a copy straight away!

It’s the wedding of the century! Socialite and all-round media star, Rachel Cadogan, has married her beau, the young at heart Lord of the Manor, Ross Tregowan. To celebrate their nuptials and introduce Ross to Rachel’s oldest friends, the new Lady of the Manor invites Gita, Jane and Vicky (plus their children and spouses) to a lavish, no expense spared weekend at her brand new abode, Tregowan castle. The castle, situated on the Cornish coast and only accessible by a causeway twice a day, is the perfect opportunity for the friends to reconnect and unwind. But on arrival, tensions are high. Rachel seems to be going out of her way to cause upset and reveal long held secrets with no consideration of anyone else’s feelings. On the night of Rachel’s Halloween party, the lights go out suddenly. What greets the group when power is restored is both gruesome and shocking. One of the party has been murdered. Which can mean only one thing. Someone on the island is a murderer, and the fun has only just begun…

The Invitation is a very entertaining, thoroughly enjoyable book. I really enjoyed the set-up in the first half of the story. With Rachel’s well aimed little jabs here and there adding an unpredictability to proceedings. Watching as Rachel toyed with her guests. And toy she did! Only for her friends to roll their eyes on occasion and mutter ‘oh Rachel’ under their breath. It was eye-opening how far she was able to push them, all because of money and a dash of celebrity status. Out of the characters, Rachel was probably my favourite. Of course, with someone openly speaking long-hidden truths, it’s not long before the tension mounts and anger builds for the characters.  They discover secrets about friends they’ve known for years, people they trusted have deceived them. Which puts everyone in line to be the murderer. Who can they trust?

The isolation and seclusion the setting gives the book really ramps up the tension. The characters watch as the waves reach new breath-taking heights, whilst keeping a suspicious eye on those around them. I had a fair idea of whodunit but the author was able to make me doubt my choice throughout the second half of the book.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for a tense, closed room murder mystery with a great setting then The Invitation is the perfect fit. I loved the atmosphere the author portrays, the simmering undercurrent between the friends and the sense that nothing is quite as it first appears. A.M. Castle is a new author to me but I would gladly read more. Recommended.

The Invitation by A.M. Castle was published in the UK by HQ Digital on 27th May 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

A.M. CastleA. M. Castle’s latest twisty thriller, The Invitation, is already being compared to Agatha Christie and Lucy Foley: ‘Very cleverly written… genuinely jaw-dropping twists.’ ‘I loved it and look forward to A.M. Castle’s next work. This deserves to be on the bestseller list this year.’ ‘Very Agatha Christie.’ ‘One for fans of Lucy Foley.’

#BookReview: Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada #MurderInTheCrookedHouse #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (4/15)

murder in the crooked house“By the author of The Tokyo Zodiac Murders – a fiendish Japanese locked room mystery

The Crooked House sits on a snowbound cliff at the remote northern tip of Japan. A curious place to build a house, but even more curious is the house itself – a maze of sloping floors and strange staircases, full of bloodcurdling masks and uncanny dolls. When a guest is found murdered in seemingly impossible circumstances, the police are called. But they are unable to solve the puzzle, and more bizarre deaths follow.

Enter Kiyoshi Mitarai, the renowned sleuth. Surely if anyone can crack these cryptic murders it is him. But you have all the clues too – can you solve the mystery of the murders in The Crooked House first?”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada.  Murder in the Crooked House was written by Soji Shimada and published in Japanese in 1982.  It has since been updated and this translation by Louise Heal Kawai into English was published earlier this year by Pushkin Vertigo.  I received a free eARC of Murder in the Crooked House but this has in no way influenced my review.

I have a bit of a thing for Japanese crime fiction.  There are two standout novels which I always recommend to people.  One of these is The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which is also by Soji Shimada (and also published in English by Pushkin Vertigo).  I LOVED The Tokyo Zodiac Murders which was also Shimada’s debut.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw Murder in the Crooked House, another locked room mystery, was available on NetGalley.  This was a must-read for me.  So much so, I added it to my #15BooksofSummer list to make sure I got it read sooner rather than later.

I wanted so desperately to love this novel as much as The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.  I certainly enjoyed parts of it and it bears a number of similarities to Shimada’s debut.  But it didn’t captivate me like the first book did.  Once again, you, the reader, are invited to solve the crime.  The clues are all there.  But can you solve the mystery and most importantly HOW the crimes were committed before the somewhat inefficient local detectives do.

I have to confess that towards the last half to a third, I started to lose interest a little and began skim reading sections.  These sections mostly seemed to be the local detectives discussing ANOTHER way the murders ‘could’ have been committed or ANOTHER possible MO they had dreamt up for the house-bound group of suspects.  The story then switches when a familiar detective is brought in to stop the dilly-dallying and make some arrests, Kiyoshi Mitarai from The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.  What I found surprisingly hard at this point was switching from third person to first person.  The entire book is told in third person up until this point.  I struggled to get my head around the change.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of a complex mystery and like to play the part of the detective and you have time on your hands then yes, absolutely, I recommend this book to you.  I’m putting a lot of how I feel about this book down to bad timing.  I should have put it to one side and come back to it at another time when there was less going on in my life.  My love for The Tokyo Zodiac Murders remains strong.  If you are looking for a Japanese mystery to read then I completely and utterly recommend you read The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Murder in the Crooked House.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada (trans. Louise Heal Kawai) was published in the UK by Pushkin Vertigo on 31st January 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.comWaterstonesGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

soji shimadaBorn in 1948 in Hiroshima prefecture, Soji Shimada has been dubbed the ‘God of Mystery’ by international audiences. A novelist, essayist and short-story writer, he made his literary debut in 1981 with The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which was shortlisted for the Edogawa Rampo Prize. Blending classical detective fiction with grisly violence and elements of the occult, he has gone on to publish several highly acclaimed series of mystery fiction. He is the author of 100+ works in total. In 2009 Shimada received the prestigious Japan Mystery Literature Award in recognition of his life’s work.