#BookReview: Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani @AmazonPub @CapitalCrime1 @FMcMAssociates #FollowMeToTheEdge #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Rookie detective Joe Finch knows better than most what tragedy looks like. But trying to solve the brutal murder of an entire family? Just another day in Cooper.

Even for the sleazy backwater of Cooper, Nebraska, the multiple murder of an entire family, brutally bludgeoned to death in their beds, is big news.

Detective Joe Finch, raw with guilt over his partner’s traumatic shooting during a routine traffic stop, hopes the case will at least focus his mind. But then he discovers that the crime scene is the house he grew up in, and the ghosts of his own tragic childhood come rushing back to confront him.

As Finch dredges the corrupt and criminal mires of Cooper in a desperate search for the truth, the only certainty is that everyone there is lying. Caught between greedy politicians, a violent cartel boss, an ambitious reporter and a sinister cult lurking in the cornfields on the outskirts of town, Finch is soon out of his depth.

In a town where the law exists only to be bent or broken, can Finch steel himself against entrenched evil and the haunting spectre of his past—and live to serve justice in Cooper?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani. Follow Me to the Edge was published by Thomas & Mercer on 8th March 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. My copy of Follow Me to the Edge arrived at damppebbles HQ as part of my Capital Crime Book subscription which I fervently recommend to all crime fiction fans. And make sure you don’t miss the Capital Crime Festival in London in late September (scroll down for more information).

Follow Me to the Edge is the second book in Ashkanani’s ‘Cooper series’. The first being the excellent Welcome to Cooper which, once again, I can thank the marvels at Capital Crime for putting on my radar towards the end of last year. But this is not a follow on from the previous book, oh no! This is more of an origins story where the reader meets a younger, inexperienced Detective Joe Finch – a character who played in a key role in the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed Ashkanani’s first Cooper book so was excitedly champing at the bit to make a start on this latest instalment.

It’s 1993 and newly qualified Cooper detective, Joe Finch, is called to the scene of a brutal murder. Three members of the Richardson family are dead in their beds, bludgeoned to death. David, the father, is found on the banks of the reservoir, stabbed through the heart. The initial cause of death mooted by many is murder-suicide. But Joe, who is overly familiar with the Richardson family home, makes a shocking discovery. A piece of evidence which raises many more questions than it answers. With police corruption rife within the upper echelons of Cooper PD, and fuelled by guilt and regret over the shooting of his partner, and the inescapable memories of his troubled past, it’s down to Joe to unpick what little evidence he has and find out who killed the Richardson family…

Follow Me to the Edge is a fantastic follow up to the first book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a younger, less experienced, quite different version of Joe Finch. To the point where I actually warmed to Joe’s character despite him having very few redeeming qualities in the first book! Follow Me to the Edge can certainly be read without reading Welcome to Cooper but I think you would miss out on experiencing the contrast between now and then. Joe is a fascinating, multi-layered character – the more I discover about him, the more I can understand him. Sort of. I loved how this book provided the background to two key relationships in Joe’s life. The reader has now seen the bones of these connections, ready for the author to build upon (I hope) in the future.

It was a joy to return to Cooper, Nebraska after my first visit in Welcome to Cooper. Despite going back in time (this book is set in 1993, before the events in the first book) the place didn’t really feel as though it had changed much. Still a dead-end town where the rules don’t always apply. Still not a lot of hope amongst those who call it home. Alongside Joe’s investigation into the murder of the Richardson’s is a subplot featuring what is clearly a cult. These chapters were incredibly intriguing and I was keen to see in what direction the author was going to take this storyline. I have to say, it all fits in perfectly, I couldn’t have guessed how it was going to conclude but the author ties everything up in such a clever and satisfying way. It was a bit of a gasp out loud moment for me. Expertly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. But I would encourage you to read Welcome to Cooper first so you can become familiar with some of the characters beforehand. Follow Me to the Edge is a very assured, very readable follow up which drew me in and didn’t let go. Ashkanani has a talent for writing interesting, believable characters which I really appreciate. I particularly liked Ackerman. The plot was well paced with lots of surprises along the way and the setting felt like a character in its own right. Nebraskan noir at its finest! I hope there is more to come from Cooper but if there’s not (and I have no idea either way!) then I will happily read whatever the author delivers next. I really enjoy the way Ashkanani tells a story. Recommended.

Follow Me to the Edge by Tariq Ashkanani was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 8th March 2022 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tariq Ashkanani

Tariq Ashkanani is a solicitor based in Edinburgh, where he also helps run Write Gear, a company that sells high-quality notebooks for writers, and co-hosts Write Gear’s podcast Page One. His follow-up thriller, Follow Me to the Edge, is out now.

CAPITAL CRIME RETURNS IN SEPTEMBER WITH RICHARD OSMAN, ANTHONY HOROWITZ, DOROTHY KOOMSON AND PAULA HAWKINS TO HEADLINE

Richard Osman, Rev. Richard Coles, Kate Mosse, Robert Harris, Dorothy Koomson, Bella Mackie and Paula Hawkins are amongst the authors confirmed for Capital Crime, London’s only crime and thriller festival, which returns 29th September-1st October after its hugely successful inaugural event in 2019.

Taking place in London’s stunning Battersea Park, Capital Crime will be hosting over 164 panellists, bringing together readers, authors, industry figures and the local community for the first major literary festival held on the site. With a Goldsboro Books pop-up bookshop in the iconic Pump House Gallery, the first ever Fingerprint Awards ceremony, alongside an array of London’s tastiest local street food vendors and bar area, it promises to be a weekend of fun, innovation and celebration of crime fiction.

On the opening night (Thursday 29th September), Anthony Horowitz, Kim Sherwood and Charlie Higson will be discussing all things Bond, and the role the capital city has played in the fictional spy’s life, and the 007 car from Sherwood’s incredible new novel, ‘DOUBLE OR NOTHING’ will be on display at the heart of the festival, in association with Alpine and Ian Fleming Publications.

Thursday’s programming will comprise of a series of events dedicated to Capital Crime’s social outreach programme, in which two sixth form students and their teachers from schools in and around the capital will be invited to meet with authors and publishing professionals to demystify the industry and attract new and diverse young voices into publishing.

Robert Harris will be in conversation with comedian and podcaster Andrew Hunter Murray, discussing dystopian fiction, and there will also be a very special opportunity for aspiring authors to pitch their novel idea to agents David Headley (DHH), Emily Glenister (DHH), Camilla Bolton (Darley Anderson) or Phillip Patterson (Marjacq). The first evening will close with the very first Fingerprint Award Ceremony. The winners, selected by readers across five categories Crime Novel of the Year; Thriller Novel of the Year; Historical Crime Novel of the Year; Debut Novel of the Year and Genre-Busting Novel of the Year, will be announced alongside a very special Lifetime Achievement Award and Industry Award of the Year.

Friday’s events include Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Robotham and Mark Billingham interviewed on the theme of ‘Crime Across Continents’ by Victoria Selman, and Mark Edwards, Will Dean, Erin Young and Chris Whitaker speaking to Tariq Ashkanani about setting their thrillers in the US. In addition, Abir Mukherjee, Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Anna Mazzola and Jessica Fellowes will be speaking to Suzy Edge about historical crime writing, and Dorothy Koomson and Kate Mosse will be in conversation about their work with the Women’s Prize and the versatility of crime fiction. Claire McGowan, David Beckler, Catriona Ward, Chris Carter, Nicci French, W.C. Ryan, Stuart Neville and Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir will also be taking part in panels on the themes of courtroom dramas, ghost stories, crime set in Brighton and medicine in crime fiction, amongst other topics, throughout the day, and the first two rounds of Capital Crime’s quiz ‘Whose Crime Is It Anyway?’ will take place, featuring teams of debut authors.

Saturday will see Peter James interviewed on his writing career by clinical psychologist Chris Merritt; bestsellers Jeffrey Archer, Lucy Foley and Clare Mackintosh in conversation with Barry Forshaw and a Polari Panel hosted by Paul Burston. Other events include former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Lady Hale in conversation with Harriet Tyce; bestselling Icelandic author Ragnar Jonasson in conversation with the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir; Sarah Vaughan, Louise Candlish and Paula Hawkins discussing the experience of screen adaptations, before rounding off the festival with Richard Osman in conversation with Bella Mackie.

The final round of ‘Whose Crime is it Anyway?’ will also take place, as well as panels on the topics of spies, Grand Dames, detectives and comedy crime featuring Vaseem Khan, Robert Thorogood, Antti Tuomainen, Steve Cavanagh, Jane Casey, Catherine Ryan Howard and Steph Broadribb.

As well as panels and events, there will be exciting public events throughout the weekend, including launch events for Elly Griffiths’ breath-taking new thriller Bleeding Heart Yard, The Perfect Crime anthology, which brings twenty-two bestselling crime writers from across the world together in a razor sharp and deliciously sinister collection of crime stories, and an interactive treasure hunt inspired by Peter James’s latest blockbuster, Picture You Dead (publisher). There will also be entertainment, including a crime-themed comedy performance from The Noise Next Door on Thursday.

The full programme can be found here.

Book your tickets here. I hope to see you there!

#BlogBlast | #BookReview: Those Who Return by Kassandra Montag @QuercusBooks #ThoseWhoReturn #damppebbles

“Amid the desolate wilderness of the Great Plains of Nebraska, a region so isolated you could drive for hours without seeing another human being, sits Hatchery House. Having served as a church, an asylum and an orphanage, Hatchery is now a treatment facility for orphaned or abandoned children with psychiatric disorders. Haunted by patients past and present, only the most vulnerable find a home within its walls.

Dr. Lorelei ‘Lore’ Webber, a former FBI psychiatrist, has almost grown used to the unorthodox methods used at Hatchery House. But when one of her patients is murdered, Lore finds herself dragged into the centre of an investigation that unearths startling truths, shocking discoveries, and untold cruelty. And as the investigation unravels, Lore is forced to confront the past she’s spent her whole life running from – a secret that threatens to undo her entirely.

Darkly riveting and explosive, and with an unforgettable cast of deeply human characters, Those Who Return is a searing psychological thriller of guilt and redemption, set against a landscape as awe-inspiring as it is unforgiving.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the blog blast for Those Who Return. Those Who Return by Kassandra Montag is published by Quercus Books today (that’s Thursday 14th April 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 Those Who Return but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Milly at Quercus Books for sending me a finished copy and asking me to join the blog blast.

I have a confession to make. I’m a little obsessed with books set in Nebraska at the moment. So when this book landed on my radar I jumped at the chance to read it. The cover is stunning and the blurb is so intriguing, it was impossible to refuse. So much so that I got stuck in as soon as my copy arrived at damppebbles HQ.

Ex-FBI psychiatrist Dr Lore Webber is still finding her feet at Hatchery House – a treatment facility for orphaned and abandoned children with psychiatric disorders – when the unthinkable happens. She discovers one of her young patients dead in an outlying field. With contacts still within the FBI, she makes the call and brings childhood friend and former lover, Cedar, in to investigate. Before long, Lore’s expertise is needed to help move the case along and she’s reluctantly dragged into proceedings. As Lore digs into the history of Hatchery House, it becomes clear the former church turned asylum turned orphanage has a dark and troubled history. Can Lore and Cedar discover what happened to young Luis before the killer strikes again…?

Those Who Return is a very readable, very engaging novel which I enjoyed losing myself in. The remoteness and the isolation of the unforgiving Nebraskan plains was the perfect setting for the novel, adding an air of loneliness, miles from help, to the story which I really enjoyed. Add to that the midwestern gothic feel of Hatchery House with its dark past and locked rooms, whispered tales of ghosts roaming the halls, its mysterious bell tower and the unpredictable nature of some of its residents and you have a very compelling tale indeed.

I enjoyed spending time with Lore and Cedar and really getting to know these two fascinating, yet complicated characters. I also enjoyed the glimpses the reader gets into some of the residents at the House. I felt the children were all believable characters, each with their own fully formed backstory. Particularly Ezra who broke my heart a little. His interactions with Lore were written incredibly well. As I mentioned, Lore and Cedar ARE both complicated characters with different yet troubled childhoods. Neglected by her mother, Lore is haunted by a death she feels she could have prevented. The grief and the guilt still weigh heavy on her shoulders. Cedar’s path to adulthood was never smooth, but the vicious attack of his older brother is something he and his family still deal with on a daily basis. However, Lore and Cedar have always had each other; whether friends, lovers or FBI colleagues. Less so recently following an FBI raid gone wrong and Lore’s detachment from the bureau. But it’s clear to the reader that these two people have a strong bond distance and time cannot break. I thought the relationship between the two characters was fascinating.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Those Who Return is a wonderfully atmospheric novel which I enjoyed reading. The characters were all well-drawn and interesting. The plot moved at a steady pace to its thrilling conclusion which I admit, I did see coming but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all. I enjoyed the time I spent with Those Who Return and would pick up another psychological suspense novel by this author without a second thought. Recommended.

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

Those Who Return by Kassandra Montag was published in the UK by Quercus Books on 14th April 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kassandra MontagKassandra Montag grew up in rural Nebraska and now lives in Omaha with her husband and two sons. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature and her award-winning poetry and short fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies, including Midwestern Gothic, Nebraska Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Mystery Weekly Magazine. After the Flood, her debut novel, will be published in over a dozen languages and has been optioned for a television series.

#BookReview: Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani @AmazonPub #WelcomeToCooper #damppebbles

In this explosive thriller of bad choices and dark crimes, Detective Levine knew his transfer was a punishment—but he had no idea just how bad it would get.

Cooper, Nebraska, is forgettable and forgotten, a town you’d only stumble into if you’d taken a seriously wrong turn. Like Detective Thomas Levine’s career has. But when a young woman is found lying in the snow, choked to death, her eyes gouged out, the disgraced detective is Cooper’s only hope for restoring peace and justice.

For Levine, still grieving and guilt-ridden over the death of his girlfriend, his so-called “transfer” from the big city to this grubby backwater has always felt like a punishment. And when his irascible new partner shoots their prime suspect using Levine’s gun, all hope of redemption is shattered. With the case in chaos, and both blackmail and a violent drug cartel to contend with, he finds himself in a world of trouble.

It gets worse. The real killer is still out there, and he’s got plans for Detective Levine. And Cooper may just be the perfect place to get away with murder.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani. Welcome to Cooper was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st October 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

As soon as I laid eyes on this book I knew I had to read it. Small town American crime thrillers are 100% my thing and this one I was drawn to more than most! It was also recommended by BrendaP as part of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge (scroll down to see the other books on my list). I’ve had this book on my shelf since the end of last year and I’ve been champing at the bit to read it. So as soon as a break in my reading schedule arose it was a very easy, very clear choice for me.

Detective Thomas Levine has had to make a hasty retreat from his old posting in DC to the forgotten town of Cooper, Nebraska. His first case is a grisly one, a young woman strangled to death with her eyes gouged out and left to rot in the snow. Law enforcement in the town isn’t always by the book so it’s down to Levine to find the killer and put them away before another of his colleagues metes out their own special kind of justice to any suspicious locals. It’s a race against the clock before the killer strikes again. But Levine has his own issues to deal with as well. He’s still grieving the death of his girlfriend, he feels his relocation to Cooper is the worst kind of punishment and before long, his partner has double crossed him and holds Levine’s smoking gun in his hand. When one of the lead detectives is distracted, and no one else really cares, what’s to stop a deranged killer from striking again….?

Welcome to Cooper is an eminently readable, hugely compelling novel featuring a detective who is teetering on the edge. Surrounded by colleagues who don’t know right from wrong and hounded into carrying out less than legal endeavours, this fresh and original noir thriller ticked so many boxes for me. An unsettling somewhat bleak novel that was a dream to read. I tore through the pages at a rate of knots, eager to know how things would turn out for these deeply flawed characters. And because I was completely captivated by the story, I reached the shocking end of the book within 24 hours of starting. I could not put it down! And oh, that ending. An ending I certainly did not see coming and applaud whole heartedly. Wow!

Beautifully written, utterly absorbing and deftly plotted, this accomplished debut is a must read for crime fiction fans who like a darker edge to their reads. I thoroughly enjoyed the sub-plots which ran alongside the main murder mystery. Bad decision after bad decision led to a slippery slope from which there was no going back and it was tense and uncomfortable to watch things play out for Levine. Unflinching and dark, disturbing and desolate. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Welcome to Cooper took me on a dark and gritty ride to the heart of a small Nebraskan town and I loved it! What I enjoyed the most was the completely unexpected, almost earth shattering conclusion. I feel the author took a brave step and in my opinion, it fully paid off. Yes, he’s not the first to take this story down this avenue (and he won’t be the last) but the twist in Welcome to Cooper is done so well it will be impossible to forget. And I’ve read a lot of twists over the years! Great characters with few redeemable qualities, a setting which will easily send chills down your spine and plot to get really caught up in. Highly recommended.

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st October 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.ukWaterstones | FoylesBook Depository | bookshop.orgGoodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tariq AshkananiTariq Ashkanani is a solicitor based in Edinburgh, where he also helps run Write Gear, a company that sells high-quality notebooks for writers, and co-hosts Write Gear’s podcast Page One. His follow-up thriller, Follow Me to the Edge, is out soon.