#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton @HodderBooks @HodderFiction @HodderPublicity @JennyPlatt90 #TheSanctuary #damppebbles

Very few people get to stay here. And some don’t get to leave …

Zoey doesn’t remember anything about last night. But she knows something went badly wrong. For she is no longer in New York. She’s woken up in the desert, in a white building she doesn’t recognise, and she’s alone.

When she discovers she’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, a discreet, mysterious, isolated refuge from normal life, to avoid jail, she is stunned. She knows she has secrets, troubles, but she thought she had everything under control. But as she spends more time with other residents, she begins to open up about what she’s running from. Until she realises that not everyone in The Sanctuary has her best interests at heart, and someone might even be a killer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton. The Sanctuary will be published by Hodder & Stoughton in hardcover, audio and digital formats later this week (that’s Thursday 24th November 2022) with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read a free ARC of The Sanctuary but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder Books for sending me a finished copy.

I read Emma Haughton’s debut thriller, The Dark, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. What’s really interesting about The Dark is that it’s very much a locked room thriller but the setting is a UN research station in Antartica. The way the author makes the reader feel claustrophobic in such a vast and open setting was done incredibly well. Which is why I jumped at the chance to read Haughton’s second thriller, The Sanctuary. Once again the setting really grabbed my attention. This time it’s a luxurious, isolated retreat in the heart of the Mexican desert. I was keen to see if the author would be able to evoke the same feelings of claustrophobia and of all hope being lost a second time. And oh boy, Haughton absolutely did!

Zoey wakes up alone, in a strange room and with the worst hangover she’s ever experienced. She’s dazed and confused, and her memories of the night before are hazy at best. It soon becomes clear that Zoey is in a bit of a fix. She’s been admitted to The Sanctuary, an isolated retreat for the rich and famous that likes to dabble in unorthodox treatments. And they’re making it impossible for her to leave. Zoey doesn’t understand how she has ended up in the middle of the Mexican desert, miles from home and anything resembling civilisation. The people she’s stuck with all have addictions – which she doesn’t – and they’re incredibly wealthy – which she isn’t. Which raises the question, who is Zoey’s mysterious benefactor? Who are the people she’s stranded in the middle of the desert with? And what is really going on at The Sanctuary…?

The Sanctuary is a well-written slow burn mystery which builds over the course of the book to a gripping, thrilling conclusion. The author has once again used a setting that is, in theory, vast but manages to make it feel very claustrophobic. There is no chance of escape from The Sanctuary. If dehydration or heat stroke doesn’t kill you, the wildlife probably will! I loved how well the author conveys Zoey’s rising hopelessness as her situation slowly dawned on her.

Many of the characters in the book are unlikeable and tend to frustrate and annoy each other, which adds to the overall tension at the retreat. They’re also incredibly shallow and prepared to do whatever it takes to keep a tight hold on their secrets. That’s the case for both the retreat’s affluent guests but the small body of staff present too. Zoey is the only somewhat likeable character in the bunch, but I don’t think she’ll appeal to everyone. She really does need to take a long hard look at her life as she comes across as quite juvenile a lot of the time, but I kind of liked her. The other characters all play their parts very well and help to move the storyline along. I was able to predict whodunit from fairly early on but that didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the book at all.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Sanctuary is a tense, slow burn psychological mystery with interesting characters and a thrilling conclusion. I found the book entertaining from start to finish and I’m excited to read more thrillers from this author in the future. I LOVED the setting. The author paints a very vivid picture of the inhospitable desert in her reader’s minds which I thoroughly enjoyed. The setting was as much a character in the story as Zoey, the other guests and the staff. There’s a lot of well-penned intrigue throughout the story. You can’t help but wonder what secrets these privileged people are hiding and what’s really going on at The Sanctuary. I enjoyed the slow build of the story and the escalating tension as I approached the end of the book. And the denouement was very well done. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Sanctuary and look forward to reading more from the author in the future. Recommended.

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

The Sanctuary by Emma Haughton was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 24th November 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 shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Emma HaughtonEmma 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: The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme @CoronetBooks #TheThirtyOneDoors #damppebbles

“If these walls could talk . . .

Scarpside House is famed for its beauty, its isolation, and its legendary parties.

Tonight, it hosts the Penny Club soiree. An annual gathering of lucky men and women from all walks of life, coming together to celebrate their survival against the odds.

But this year their luck is running thin.

Accidents do happen, after all . .

And some are long overdue . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme. The Thirty-One Doors was published by Coronet Books in hardcover, audio and digital formats on 20th October 2022. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Thirty-One Doors but that has in no way influenced my review.

When Detective Sergeant Frank Glover receives a strange call for help from Scarpside House just as he’s clocking off for the night, he feels it’s his duty to check it out. Bidding a goodnight to his colleague, he grabs his bike and starts a slow trek to the secluded manor house on the edge of a cliff. As the snowstorm worsens, Frank begins to doubt how sensible his decision was. Even more so when he realises the house cannot be reached without the use of a funicular, delaying his journey even more. On arrival Frank is greeted by Dottie, the Lady’s Maid, who informs him a party was in full swing but all of the guests, along with the butler, have vanished. Searching the house for answers, Frank and Dottie make some unnerving discoveries, including what looks like a large puddle of blood. Something is amiss at Scarpside House and it’s down to Frank to discover what…

The Thirty-One Doors is an interesting historical murder mystery novel with well-drawn gothic aspects and a beautifully written sense of claustrophobia which pulls the reader into the story. As the snowstorm worsens and all methods of communication, along with any chance of escape from the house are removed, Frank and Dottie begin to realise that they’re trapped with a killer. Someone who seems intent on picking off the members of the Penny Club one by one. There is a large cast of characters in the novel. Many are unlikeable, oozing privilege and power. Disrespecting one another and making the reader question exactly who could be behind the dastardly dealings at Scarpside House. Well, let’s face it, any of them could be the killer! They’re all pretty loathsome people, all hiding secrets they’d do anything to keep. But to counteract the nastiness of the family and the guests, the author has created two great characters in the form of DS Glover and Dottie. I found myself cheering them on. I wanted them to succeed in their quest. They both really made the story for me. However, I did feel that there were unanswered questions about Frank’s past which were referred to often but not really explained. Perhaps DS Frank Glover is set to make a return in the future and the gaps will be plugged then.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re looking for a slow burn mystery and you’re a fan of the golden age of crime fiction then yes, I feel you will enjoy The Thirty-One Doors. The characters are interesting and the setting is vividly drawn. I found the plot a little too predictable at points and was able to spot one aspect from very early on. But I try to not let things like that pull me out of the story, so I was pleased when my suspicions were confirmed. I also found the plot a little too slow at times and I would have liked those gaps I mentioned above covered in a little more detail but otherwise, I did enjoy The Thirty-One Doors and will be on the lookout for more from this author in the future. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Thirty-One Doors. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Thirty-One Doors by Kate Hulme was published in the UK by Coronet Books on 20th October 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 shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Kate Hulme studied history and history of art at university and works as a cultural consultant for museums and heritage organisations. The bizarre stories, strange objects, hidden passages and secret doors in Britain’s historic buildings proved rich pickings for fiction ideas and prompted her to try her hand at writing a book. She lives in rural Suffolk with her eight-year-old son and her elderly spaniel. The Thirty-One Doors is her first novel.

#BookReview: Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi #EightDetectives #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules.

In the 1930s, Grant McAllister, a mathematics professor turned author, worked them out, hiding their secrets in a book of crime stories.

Then Grant disappeared.

Julia Hart has finally tracked him down. She wants to know what happened to him.

But she’s about to discover that a good mystery can be murder to solve . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi. Eight Detectives was published by Penguin Books on 5th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose Eight Detectives as one of my ‘20 Books of Summer reads as I’ve been keen to make a start on since it arrived at damppebbles HQ last year. It’s also part of my ’12 books in 12 months challenge’.

As a side note to the ’20 Books of Summer Challenge’, today is officially the last day of the challenge and I’ve only managed to read 14 of my selected books. Which is a bit pants, in my opinion. I’ll post an official end of challenge post soon with the very disappointing facts and figures. However, what I will say is that I will be reviewing all of the 14 books I’ve read, I just won’t manage to do so within the challenge window.  So look out for ‘20 Books’ reviews coming your way over the next few months and into 2023 😲 (I know it’s not quite within the rules but hey, what can you do…?? 😂🙈)

Editor Julia Hart has been tasked with tracking down an elusive professor of mathematics turned author to discuss republishing his self-published novel ‘The White Murders’. Grant McAllister wrote a research paper titled ‘The Permutations of Detective Fiction’ which examined the mathematical structure of murder mysteries. From there ‘The White Murders’ was born. But the book, featuring seven short stories, each containing one of McAllister’s rules, was not successful. Which is why Julia has been tasked with locating McAllister on a remote Mediterranean island and convincing him to update and republish the work with her publisher, Blood Type Books. But on arrival at the island, Julia discovers there is more than one mystery to solve…

Eight Detectives is a complex, clever, assuredly written debut perfect for fans of the golden age of crime. The reader is presented with seven short stories, all of which feature one aspect of McAllister’s mathematical observations, the rules he believes are required in a murder mystery. Now, if you’re anything like me and mathematics is not your thing, then please don’t worry. The rules are fairly basic principles, for example, you need at least two suspects otherwise it’s not a murder mystery. Well, yes. How many victims can you have in a murder mystery? As many as you see fit. Following the first short story the reader is introduced to the two main characters in the book, Julia and Grant. This pattern continues for the entire novel; short story followed by analysis/discussion between writer and editor. These conversations were the sections I looked forward to the most, particularly as they tie everything together. They were very intriguing, I wanted to know more about the characters – particularly the elusive and mysterious professor. I think the author deserves an award for the amount of work and planning that’s gone into Eight Detectives. I don’t think this could have been an easy book to write with so many individual, standalone short stories, all within the same 1930s time period but all very different. With the overarching storyline of Julia and Grant keeping everything together.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of the golden age of crime, prefer a slower pace to your books or like a novel which makes you think then yes, I think you will enjoy Eight Detectives. This book received a lot of hype when it was first published but for me it fell a little short. I do feel I’m in the minority though. My favourite story in the book was the clear nod to Agatha Christie. I also enjoyed the first story set in Spain, the other stories I struggle to remember. There are some lovely twists and turns as the reader approaches the end of the book, several surprises which made me smile but I can’t help feeling that it just missed the mark for me. A great concept, cleverly written with interesting characters which I would recommend to fans of the golden age of crime.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 5th August 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

ImageAlex Pavesi lives in London, where he writes full time. He previously worked as a software engineer and before that obtained a PhD in Mathematics. He enjoys puzzles, long walks and recreational lock picking. Eight Detectives is his first book.

#BookReview: The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara @TransworldBooks #TheApartmentUpstairs #damppebbles

Scarlett‘s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara. The Apartment Upstairs is published by Bantam Press today (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Apartment Upstairs but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Alison at Bantam Press for sending me a proof copy.

Scarlett Quilter lives in a beautifully converted, fully modernised ground floor apartment which suits her needs perfectly. That is until one day when the occupant of the apartment upstairs is brutally murdered. The victim isn’t just anyone though, the victim is her Aunt Rebecca and suddenly Scarlett’s apartment doesn’t quite hold the same appeal it did. Scarlett begins to organise her aunt’s funeral but strange things start happening. She notices someone sneaking around her garden at 4am, people are behaving oddly and when a connection to a local missing woman comes to light, Scarlett can’t help but ask some difficult questions. The more she digs, the closer she gets to uncovering devastating long held secrets. And someone will do anything to stop the truth from being discovered…

The Apartment Upstairs is a very compelling mystery featuring some truly wonderful characters. The story is told from two main points of view – Scarlett, the bereaved niece trying to organise her aunt’s funeral, and Dee, the funeral director and joint-owner of Fond Farewells, the company Scarlett has tasked with organising her aunt’s send off. I have to say from the get-go that I found seeing things from Dee’s point of view, the ins and outs of arranging a funeral, absolutely fascinating! It was very interesting, something a bit different. Dee’s side of the story is mostly focussed on the disappearance of her friend, Gina, and the forthcoming 10 year anniversary. Alongside running a small, independent business and dealing with her wayward business partner (who also happens to be her best friend). Both Scarlett and Dee came across as fully formed, believable characters and I enjoyed spending time in their company.

The plot is expertly written and ebbs and flows beautifully, engaging the reader in the story from the moment they pick the book up. I enjoyed the way the author has used the two different points of view to build the tale for the reader. I found it incredibly intriguing and I was keen to discover how things would end for these two women. An intricately plotted tale which I was more than happy to lose myself in over two sittings.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Apartment Upstairs is a tense, skilfully written mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I flew through this book not wanting to put it down for any length of time. I was so intrigued by how things were going to play out for these characters that I kept promising myself ‘just one more chapter’ and before I knew it, I was reading the final sentence! It’s also worth mentioning that Scarlett has a chronic illness which is something we don’t see enough of in fiction but I felt it was done with sensitivity and understanding. I’m ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve read by Kara but it certainly won’t be the last. Highly compelling, superb characterisation and beautifully plotted. Quite the page-turner! Recommended.

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

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara was published by Bantam Press on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Lesley KaraLesley Kara’s debut ‘The Rumour’ was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in 18 countries and optioned for TV. ‘The Rumour’ was the highest selling crime fiction debut of 2019 in the UK and a Kindle No. 1 bestseller. Her second novel, ‘Who Did You Tell?’ was also a Sunday Times bestseller. Her third novel, ‘The Dare’ is out now and her fourth, ‘The Apartment Upstairs’ will be published in June 2022.

Lesley worked for many years as a lecturer and manager in a large college of further education in London. She now lives in Suffolk and writes full-time.

#BookReview: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus @PenguinUKBooks #OneofUsIsLying #damppebbles

Five students walk into detention. Only four come out alive.

Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. One of Us Is Lying was published on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of One of Us Is Lying but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Simon at Penguin Books for sending me a proof copy.

Five teenagers from all walks of high school life end up in detention together. By the time detention is over, one of the teens has died. The circumstances look suspicious, particularly as the victim was about to reveal a devastating secret about each of his fellow students via his hugely popular gossip app. The police have their motive, now all they need to do is find the killer…

This book is HUGE! You’ve probably already heard about it, perhaps you’ve already read it or watched the Netflix series. I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for a short while now so decided to take the plunge and see if it’s as good as everyone says it is, see if the hype is real. Oh boy, the hype IS REAL! One of Us Is Lying is a cleverly written, YA mystery which I devoured in a few short sittings. With a cast of well-drawn characters (albeit a little stereotypical) and an intriguing, very compelling mystery at the heart of the novel, I was drawn into life at Bayview High and the mystery surrounding Simon’s death.

We get to hear from all four of the suspects – Nate, Addy, Bronwyn and Cooper – and see the story evolve from their perspectives. I thought the author did a fantastic job of showing how events affected the teens and how their lives changed, being at the centre of a murder investigation. The characters do all start out a little obvious, a little clichéd (the bad boy, the prom queen, the nerd and the jock) but by the end they’ve all morphed into much more interesting and multi-layered characters.  As I approached the end of the book I was sure I had reached the correct conclusion and worked out ‘whodunit’, only to be proved wrong. I was ‘sort of’ right but also ‘sort of’ wrong too 🤪

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. One of Us Is Lying is a fantastic debut and I’m excited to already have the follow-up, One of Us Is Next, on the shelf ready to be picked up at the earliest opportunity. One of Us Is Lying is a well-written, cleverly plotted YA mystery which I think will appeal to all mystery fans no matter what your age. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it’s easy to read and I found it to be quite the page-turner.  All in all, a very enjoyable debut which deserves the attention it’s received. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of One of Us Is Lying. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Karen M. McManusKaren M. McManus is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of young adult thrillers. Her work includes the One of Us Is Lying series, which has been turned into a television show on Peacock and Netflix, as well as the standalone novels Two Can Keep a Secret, The Cousins, You’ll Be the Death of Me, and Nothing More to Tell. Karen’s critically acclaimed, award-winning books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

#BookReview: Nine Lives by Peter Swanson @FaberBooks #NineLives #damppebbles

“If you’re on the list you’re marked for death.

The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper.

The envelope drops through the mail slot like any other piece of post. But for the nine complete strangers who receive it – each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list – it will be the most life altering letter they ever receive. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end.

But why?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Nine Lives by Peter Swanson. Nine Lives is published by Faber Books today (that’s Thursday 3rd March 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Nine Lives but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again (and again, and again I expect), I am officially Peter Swanson’s biggest fan. I ADORE his books. It started when I read A Kind Worth Killing many moons ago (pre-blog) and my love for his work has grown with each new release. Rules for Perfect Murders shot straight to the top of ‘my favourite books ever list’ in 2020 and every new book is the highlight of my reading year. Nine Lives has been on my radar for a while now, and based purely on the synopsis, I knew I was going to enjoy every second of it. And oh boy, I really did!

An envelope drops through the door and lands on the mat. Upon opening it you see a list of names, including yours. You think nothing of it and toss the letter in the bin. But then you hear of an unfortunate death and the name rings a bell. It’s a name from the list. A coincidence, you think to yourself. That is until the same thing happens to another name on the list. Nine complete strangers, all marked for death. Can the authorities connect the dots and discover who is killing the nine seemingly random people and why, before they all perish…

Absolutely flipping marvellous! It’s so easy to lose yourself within the pages of a Swanson novel and Nine Lives is no exception. I read this book over the course of 24 hours, taking only necessary breaks and ignoring pretty much everything else that was happening around me. I love the premise of the book. With an enthusiastic nod to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (which is my favourite of her novels) Nine Lives effortlessly hooked me and kept me rapt until the very last word.

The book is told from multiple points of view which could have been confusing but the author has skilfully managed to keep the characters from overlapping and blending into each other. Hearing from nine different characters, getting nine different points of view would, in some other books, mean only skimming the surface and not really getting any real depth of character. But the author gives the nine enough backstory along with an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about their situation, to create a connection with the reader. You know deep down that they’re most likely doomed but I found myself hoping that perhaps one or two, five or six might make it to the end.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved the concept of Nine Lives before I’d even cracked the cover and it did not disappoint one jot! Twisty, unexpectedly emotional, chock full of delicious suspense and very entertaining. Add to that Swanson’s unmistakable suspense-laden style, glimpses of the author’s passion for classic crime, a cast of fascinating characters and a compelling whodunit, all of which make Nine Lives a must read for all crime fiction fans. I remain Swanson’s number one fan and I will fight* anyone who says otherwise, lol! Highly recommended.

*Obviously I won’t. I’m against all forms of violence. But I will ‘grrrrrr’ in your general direction if you disagree 😂

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

Nine Lives by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber Books on 3rd March 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 |

Peter Swanson Peter Swanson is the Sunday Times and New York Times best selling author of eight novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Nine Lives. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives on the North Shore of Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

#BookReview: Breathless by Amy McCulloch @MichaelJBooks #Breathless #damppebbles

“When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Breathless by Amy McCulloch. Breathless is published today (that’s Thursday 17th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Breathless but that has in no way influenced my review.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may be aware that I have a bit of a thing for books set in unpredictable, inhospitable, snow covered environments (normally the Alps or the Himalayas). Where the cold, the altitude or a sudden avalanche could kill you in the blink of an eye. I find the drive mountaineers have to conquer the next peak utterly fascinating. Throw in a murderer and you’ve got a book I HAD to read!

Adventure journalist Cecily Wong is shocked when renowned mountaineer, Charles McVeigh, invites her to join his team as they climb Mt. Manaslu. On summiting Mt. Manaslu McVeigh will achieve the impossible and enter the record books – climbing all 8,000 metre mountains, ‘the Death Zone’ peaks, in twelve months. An elusive interview with the poster-boy of the climbing world has been promised to Cecily as soon as they summit. It’s the kind of opportunity she can’t miss and could resuscitate her failing career. But after months of careful preparation and planning, things immediately start to go wrong and a fellow mountaineer dies before reaching base camp. Cecily and her team are in grave danger. If the mountain doesn’t destroy them, the killer will…

Breathless is a thoroughly enjoyable psychological murder mystery set at high altitude. I loved how in-depth this novel was with lots of fascinating detail about mountaineering and the processes involved. The author’s knowledge absolutely shines through giving the story a level of realism that other novels set in similar environments don’t always have. I really enjoyed how realistic the story felt and I’ve come away from Breathless feeling as though I’ve learnt more about mountaineering than I knew before (not that I claim to know much, of course!). It was also very easy to feel I was there on the mountain with Cecily thanks to McCulloch’s vivid imagery.

I warmed to Cecily over the course of the book. Being a fairly new mountaineer, and one yet to reach the summit of any mountain, she is the least experienced of the group which brings its own challenges. But she’s determined to prove herself. Cecily also harbours a traumatic secret which she will do everything she can to protect. The guilt she carries and the memories she holds just won’t let her be. She’s a fantastic lead protagonist – flawed, inexperienced and on edge. Not the cool, calm, confidence you want 7,000 metres above sea level! The other characters in the book are all well-written and each play their part in the story. I enjoyed the way not everyone in the team got on, the underlying ever present tension was wonderful, with the friction really adding to the unease.

The suspense builds at a great pace getting under the skin of the reader ensuring you keep turning those pages. As the book raced towards its heart-pounding climax I found myself holding my breath (pun intended! 😉), completely absorbed by McCulloch’s writing. And what an ending it is! I had my suspicions as to whodunit which were correct but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying Breathless. The characters, the setting, the complete isolation miles away from help, this book ticked so many boxes for me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Breathless with its compelling story, fascinating look into mountaineering life, interesting characters and stunning setting. The author’s descriptions of mountain life and the processes the climbers need to complete made the story feel authentic without being overly complicated or turning the novel into a convoluted ‘how to’ guide. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I am fascinated by the drive and fearlessness mountaineers possess. Pushing their bodies to the limits in the most inhospitable circumstances, all for that momentary high of reaching the summit. If you’re anything like me with the same fascination, or if you just enjoy a well-written psychological murder mystery, then make sure you add Breathless to your shelf. All in all, a great read set in one of the deadliest places in the world. Recommended.

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

Breathless by Amy McCulloch was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 17th 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 |

(c) Charlotte Knee Photography

Amy McCulloch is a Chinese-White author, born in the UK, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. She is the co-author of the #1 YA bestselling novel THE MAGPIE SOCIETY: One for Sorrow, and has written seven solo novels for children and young adults. She has hit the bestseller lists in several countries around the world, and been published in fifteen different languages.

Before becoming a full-time writer, she was editorial director for Penguin Random House Children’s Books. In 2013, she was named one of The Bookseller‘s Rising Stars of publishing.

When not writing, she loves travelling, hiking and mountaineering. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mt Manaslu in Nepal – the world’s eighth highest mountain at 8,163m (26,781ft). Other addictions include coffee, ramen and really great books.

#BookReview: Opal Country by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #OpalCountry #damppebbles

“Opals…

In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please.

Bodies…

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom?

Secrets…

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight.

Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Opal Country by Chris Hammer. Opal Country is published by Wildfire Books today (that’s Thursday 6th January 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Opal Country but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely adore Australian crime fiction. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles that previous statement probably comes as no surprise to you because Australian crime fiction gets priority above everything else for me at the moment. So when I saw Chris Hammer was due to publish a standalone mystery, I knew I had to read it. I’m a huge fan of the author’s Martin Scarsden thriller series so I knew Opal Country would be good. And I wasn’t wrong!

Finnigans Gap doesn’t have a lot going for it. Desolate and decaying, it’s a town kept alive thanks only to the opal mines which rumble away underground. When ratters, out to make a quick buck, discover the crucified body of Jonas McGee, the close knit community closes ranks. Sydney-based Detective, Ivan Lucic is called in to investigate the grisly death assisted by local police officer, Detective Constable Nell Buchanan. Together they come up against dead end after dead end. Time is running out for Nell and Ivan, internal affairs are breathing down their necks and they both realise this could be the end of their careers. Can they discover who killed McGee, and why, before it’s too late…?

Opal Country is a gripping slow burn of a novel with truly compelling characterisation and an intriguing mystery at its heart. The author has created an intricate tale with many threads, all expertly linked and concluded by the final paragraph leaving the reader with the knowledge that they’ve read a very clever, very satisfying work of fiction. I really warmed to both Ivan Lucic and Nell Buchanan who make a great team, despite initial differences, and hope this isn’t the last we see of them. The more dead ends they came up against, the more I rallied for them.

Like many of Hammer’s earlier books, Opal Country is not a short novel and takes it’s time to build the story, set the scene and introduce you to the key players. At no point during the 504 pages did my interest or attention wane.  I was completely absorbed by the plot and the characters, and of course, the atmospheric setting. With the burning sun beating down on the rain starved ground, and the dust swirling in the air, I could feel the blistering intensity of the heat. Particularly as Nell laughed, once again, at Ivan for deciding to walk around Finnigans Gap, risking third degree burns from the unrelenting fireball in the sky. So wonderfully vivid, I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Opal Country to be a very compelling, very informative read which taught me a few things about mining I never knew. The story is quite complex at times but I never felt lost or confused, and everything is tied up masterfully by the author by the end. A very enjoyable crime thriller which drew me in from early on and didn’t let me go until I closed the final page. Hammer is a fantastic storyteller and I can’t wait to see what he has for us readers next. Crime fiction fans, you need Opal Country on your shelf! Recommended.

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

Opal Country by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 6th January 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Chris HammerChris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

#BookReview: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian @HarvillSecker #NeverSawMeComing #damppebbles

“Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door…and highly intelligent diagnosed psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.

Chloe is part of a secret clinical study of young psychopaths run by the university’s Psychology Department. Most psychopaths aren’t criminals, but when a string of murders on campus causes upheaval, Chloe’s private vendetta is sidelined. Partnered with fellow study participants she can’t trust – and distracted by typical university life – Chloe has to walk the line between hunter and prey.

Never Saw Me coming is a sharp, electrifying and hugely entertaining thriller with an antiheroine who will work her manipulative magic on you.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian. Never Saw Me Coming was published by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Never Saw Me Coming but that has in no way influenced my review.

A college with a secret group of psychopaths stalking the grounds. Yes please! I couldn’t resist the pull of this book. I tried for the sake of my TBR. The shelves are bowing under the weight of my physical copies and the Kindle screams at me every time I switch it on. But realistically, what harm could one more book do? Hmmm? Particularly as Never Saw Me Coming sounded SO GOOD!

Chloe Sevre is a first year student at John Adams University and a diagnosed psychopath. That’s OK though, she’s not the only one. In fact, she’s part of a secret study which counsels psychopaths and teaches them how to integrate seamlessly into society. After all, not all psychopaths are crazed killers! Chloe, however, has a personal vendetta which she must settle and the only way to do that is to destroy the person who wronged her. Everything was going to plan until a murder is reported on campus. Followed by a second. Someone is killing students. Putting her own plans to one side, Chloe joins forces with other students in the psychopath programme to find the killer. But is the killer a lot closer than they think…

Huge amounts of fun and highly entertaining. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and thoroughly enjoyed Never Saw Me Coming. Chloe is a bad-ass, kick-ass antihero and I became fully invested in her quickly. When someone starts killing off students, who do you blame? The psychopaths. But what if the psychopaths are the ones hunting the killer instead? And exactly how far can Chloe trust the other members of the study? They’re adept at cheating, they know how to lie. They have no empathy, no conscience. It could be any of them really! I loved the concept of the book and I loved how well it’s all put together. Alongside Chloe are Charles and Andre, who are also part of the study. Charles is more practiced at hiding his true self, whilst Andre isn’t who he says he is. I really liked both of these characters. Together with Chloe they’re a force to be reckoned with! Although the reader can never truly trust them…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Never Saw Me Coming is a highly readable, very enjoyable novel which left me with a big ol’ smile on my face. It’s exactly the kind of book I love to read – a different and imaginative spin on the norm – and I loved the time I spent with Chloe & Co. This campus based, character-driven mystery was a pleasure to read and I heartily recommend it to those looking for something original and refreshing. Recommended

I chose to read and review Never Saw Me Coming. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 9th September 2021 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 |

Vera KurianVera Kurian is a writer and psychologist living in Washington, DC. Her fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, the Pinch, and Southern California Review. You can find her online at verakurian.com or @vera_kurian on Twitter.

#BookReview: Five Minds by Guy Morpuss @ViperBooks #FiveMinds #damppebbles

“SHARING A BODY CAN BE MURDER

The Earth’s spiralling population has finally been controlled. Lifespans are limited to eighty years, except for those who make an extreme choice: to become a commune. Five minds sharing one body, each living for four hours at a time. But with a combined lifespan of nearly 150 years.

Alex, Kate, Mike, Sierra and Ben have already spent twenty-five years together in what was once Mike’s body, their frequent personality clashes leading to endless bickering, countless arguments, and getting themselves stranded on a Russian Artic freighter. Wanting to buy upgrades for their next host body, they decide to travel to a Death Park where time can be gambled like money. But things go very wrong when Kate accepts a dangerous offer, and one of them disappears.

Someone is trying to kill off members of the commune. But why? Is one of them responsible? Or is an outsider playing a deadly game? It’s hard enough to catch a murderer. It’s almost impossible when you might be sharing a body with them…

This brilliant murder mystery blends classic crime with speculative fiction in a stunning debut.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Five Minds by Guy Morpuss. Five Minds was published by Viper Books yesterday (that’s Thursday 2nd September 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Five Minds but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Speculative fiction with a cracking, cleverly woven mystery to boot! Who could resist? Not me, that’s for sure. I haven’t dabbled in a lot of speculative fiction in the past but what I had read has been delightfully mind-bending and from the masters of the genre. Five Minds is no exception. Five Minds proves that Morpuss is up there with the greats. As my daughter would say…Mind. Blown 🤯

In a bid to reduce the ever-growing population of the earth, measures are put in place where at 17 years old you need to decide how you’re going to live the rest of your life. But also, when you’re going to die. The choices are simple: become a hedonist, play hard and die young at 41-42. Become a worker, work all of your life and drop down dead of exhaustion…at some point. Become an android, have your mind moved to an artificial body and die around 79-80. Or, the least popular option of all, become part of a commune. Five minds in one body, each taking 4 hours of the day as their own. Choose a host and then, 25 years later, choose another. But live for 141-142 years. That’s the decision Kate, Alex, Sierra, Mike and Ben make. From the moment they meet, it’s clear there are tensions amongst the group. When Kate makes a risky decision without consulting the others, strange things start to happen and one of the five disappears. Is someone out to kill the commune, or is the threat much closer to home…?

There are so many things to love about Five Minds. The author has set the action in a ‘death park’. The dark and dingy death parks are where the desperate gather to earn a few more years by eliminating (permanently) their competitor/s in a game of skill, strength or smarts. I loved the setting. It felt grubby and somewhere only those at the end of their tether go in a last ditch attempt to survive just a little bit longer (only to be killed in their first game!).

The characters, despite sharing the one body, all stand tall from the page. I was concerned, at points, that it may get a little confusing but that’s not the case at all. Kate was my favourite of the ‘minds’. She seemed to have her head screwed on (😂) and be the driving force, which I liked. I also really liked Sierra for her dark and dangerous edge. I shouldn’t. She’s a terrible person who does some pretty heinous, unforgivable things but I liked the juxtaposition between her and Kate. I felt they were opposite ends of the spectrum. Five Minds is very easy to read, either in one sitting or over the course of several. All I know is that I was always keen to return to this strange and inventive world.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Five Minds is like nothing I have read before and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with it. Cleverly plotted and beautifully thought out. The author’s imagination is clearly off the scale and I loved being part of this strange, new world. A pacey, intelligent story with a clever, twisty mystery at its heart. Effortlessly crossing genres, this speculative fiction murder mystery is a must read! I look forward to reading more genre-bending fiction from Mr Morpuss in the future. Recommended.

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

Five Minds by Guy Morpuss was published in the UK by Viper Books on 2nd September 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 |

Guy Morpuss

Guy is a London-based barrister whose cases have featured drug-taking cyclists, dead Formula 1 champions and aspiring cemetery owners.

His favourite books involve taking a twist on reality, and playing with the consequences. Which led to his debut novel, FIVE MINDS, about five people sharing one body – possibly with a murderer.

His second novel, BLACK LAKE, will be published in 2022.

He is currently working on his third novel, HIGHLIGHTS.

Guy lives near Farnham, England, with his wife and two sons. When not writing he can usually be found walking or running in the Surrey Hills.