#BookReview: Outside by Ragnar Jónasson @MichaelJBooks #Outside #damppebbles

“In a deadly Icelandic snowstorm, four friends seek shelter in an abandoned hunting lodge.

But nothing can prepare them for what’s inside.

Forced to spend a long and terrifying night in the cabin, they watch intently and silently.

Just as they themselves are being watched.

As the night darkens, and old secrets spill into the light, it’s soon clear that what they’ve discovered in the cabin is far from the only mystery lurking there.

Nor the only thing to be afraid of . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Outside by Ragnar Jónasson. Outside was published last week (on Thursday 28th April 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 ARC of Outside but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

Four friends – Daníel, Ármann, Helena and Gunnlaugur – who due to the demands of life haven’t seen each other for a while, plan a hunting trip to the Icelandic highlands. After a difficult boozy first night at base camp they head, armed with a couple of shotguns, into the Icelandic wilderness. Only for a deadly snowstorm to hit part way through their trek scuppering their plans. The group believe their luck is in when they stumble upon a cabin. But once inside, they realise their haven is far from safe. The dangers lurking in the cabin are just as deadly as the storm raging outside…

Outside is a well-written, short and punchy suspense thriller which gave me chills. I found myself flying through this novel thanks to the intriguing story and the short chapters, each told from one of the four friends point of view. They’re an odd mix of people. I didn’t really feel I had the measure of any of them, apart from Gunnlaugur. It was clear from the outset that he’s a very sad, lonely man with an addiction to alcohol (but that certainly doesn’t excuse his terrible behaviour in any way, shape or form!). But you don’t need to have the measure of these characters to be swept along in their gripping story.

As soon as the storm worsens, the tension mounts and they begin to turn on each other. When they finally make it inside the cabin and they realise exactly how dire their situation is, it becomes almost unbearable. The author is clearly a master of suspense because there was no way on this earth I was going to walk away from this novel once I had made a start. I HAD to know what was going to happen to these people and most importantly of all, WHY was it happening?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Outside is a ‘read in one sitting’ suspense thriller which sent shivers down my spine thanks to the exquisite tension created by the author and his stunning use of imagery. Despite being lost in the wild and unforgiving highlands of Iceland, the setting, thanks to the relentless snow storm, was beautifully claustrophobic. This is the second book I’ve read by this author and it won’t be the last. A well-written, hold your breath thriller which I couldn’t put down. Recommended.

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

Outside by Ragnar Jónasson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this 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 |

Ragnar Jónasson

Ragnar Jonasson is author of the award winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

His debut Snowblind, first in the Dark Iceland series, went to number one in the Amazon Kindle charts shortly after publication. The book was also a no. 1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in Australia. Snowblind has been a paperback bestseller in France.

Nightblind won the Dead Good Reader Award 2016 for Most Captivating Crime in Translation.

Snowblind was called a “classically crafted whodunit” by THE NEW YORK TIMES, and it was selected by The Independent as one of the best crime novels of 2015 in the UK.

Rights to the Dark Iceland series have been sold to UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, Poland, Turkey, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Portugal, Croatia, Armenia and Iceland.

Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a writer and a lawyer. He also teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV-news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

He is also the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir.

From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.

Ragnar has also had short stories published internationally, including in the distinguished Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the US, the first stories by an Icelandic author in that magazine.

He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik.

#BookReview: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks #ThisMightHurt #damppebbles

“Natalie Collins always has a plan.
Her troubled younger sister Kit rarely does.

Until Kit finds Wisewood, a secretive self-help retreat on a secluded Maine island. It promises you’ll leave a better, braver version of yourself.

But why does it forbid contact with the outside world? Why are there no testimonies from previous guests? Natalie fears it is some kind of cult.

Then, after six months of silence, she receives an email from Wisewood:

Would you like to come tell your sister what you did – or should we?

Who is digging into the sisters’ past? How did they discover Natalie’s secret? A secret that will destroy Kit.

She has no choice but to go to Wisewood, to find out if this place of healing has more sinister motives.

But as she’s about to discover, Wisewood is far easier to enter than to leave . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel. This Might Hurt was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (Thursday 3rd March 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 ARC of This Might Hurt but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Gaby at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Wrobel’s debut, The Recovery of Rose Gold, when I picked it up towards the end of 2021. The twisted mother/daughter story really wormed its way under my skin and I loved Wrobel’s deeply flawed characters. I was excited to read more by the author so was beyond delighted to receive an ARC of This Might Hurt, which I made a start on as soon as humanly possible!

Natalie Collins is a confident and assured businesswoman. She strives for the best and does everything she can to make it happen. Unlike her sister, Kit, who is emotional and a little bit needy. When Natalie receives an email from Wisewood Wellness and Therapy Centre concerning her sister, she’s immediately alarmed. The tone of the email is threatening, suggesting Natalie should tell Kit her secret before someone else does. In an attempt to control the situation and save Kit’s fragile feelings, Natalie drops everything and goes to Wisewood, despite knowing that visitors are most definitely NOT welcome nor permitted. On arrival it’s clear that not everything is as it seems. The set-up appears…cultish. The retreat members seem….brainwashed. What has Kit got herself into and will the sisters ever get themselves out…?

This Might Hurt is a suspense-laden story with themes of sisterhood, grief and vulnerability featuring two very different women, going about their lives and dealing with a recent trauma in very different ways. The reader gets to hear from a third, unknown younger voice as well and whilst I was keen to find out more about Natalie and Kit, the younger voice, for me, absolutely stole my attention. The unknown child is subjected to mental and physical cruelties by her heinous father who she and her sister, Jack, refer to as Sir. He pushes the child to be the best she can be and punishes her greatly for any failings (and there are many). As a result, the child turns to magic and begins to idolise Houdini. After all, Houdini managed to escape which is exactly what she hopes to do! I enjoyed Natalie’s chapters as she made her way to Wisewood but I REALLY looked forward to hearing from the unknown narrator. She had a new and unique voice which hooked me in and held my attention.

As a fairly avid reader of crime fiction and psychological thrillers I’m always thinking ahead when I read. Trying to work out how certain aspects of the plot will eventually fit together. I couldn’t for the life of me work out what part the unknown narrator would play but Wrobel brings everything together beautifully, ensuring all loose ends are expertly tied off.

There were many things I loved about This Might Hurt. The contrast between the two sisters, the isolation of the Wisewood island just off the coast of Maine, seeing exactly how far a manipulative and highly convincing person can push a bunch of intelligent but insecure individuals, and of course the cult/commune aspect (I do love fiction based around cults!). The setting really was very atmospheric and I could feel the chill air on my skin as things took a downturn for Natalie. The sense of being watched and constantly monitored was ever present. Wonderful stuff!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I enjoyed This Might Hurt with it’s fascinating characters, intricate plot and different setting. Wrobel writes the uncomfortable family dynamic very well and This Might Hurt, alongside The Recovery of Rose Gold, prove her talent beyond doubt.  A compelling read where the manipulation and control being dished out will send shivers down your spine and make you squirm. Very entertaining, highly original and full of tension. I look forward with baited breath to the authors next book. Recommended.

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

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 3rd March 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 |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel is the author of Darling Rose Gold, a USA Today and international bestseller that has sold in twenty-one countries and was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Wrobel grew up in Chicago and now lives in London. This Might Hurt is her second novel.

#BookReview: The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #TheRecoveryofRoseGold #damppebbles

“Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.

Turned out her mother was a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with the daughter who testified against her – and care for her new infant grandson.

When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. And she has waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

But has Patty truly forgotten their past?

And is Rose Gold really able to forgive?

A gripping and electrifying tale that will make you question your allegiances until the very end . . .”

Hello and a very Happy New Year! Goodbye 2021, you were a bit pants. Hello 2022, you’d better have some good books in store for us! No pressure but the brilliant books published last year were pretty much the only highlight in a damp squib of a year. Am I right? Anyhow, I digress… I hope the year ahead holds good things for you and yours, plus a myriad of cracking reads 🥂

Today I am delighted to share my review of The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. The Recovery of Rose Gold was published by Penguin Books on 18th February 2021 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Recovery of Rose Gold but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Michael Joseph for sending me a proof.

Dang, this book was blimmin’ good! I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. I remember it being very popular with fellow bloggers and reviewers when it was first published in hardcover, but for some strange reason, it’s taken me until now to pick it up. Which was a huge mistake on my part. HUGE. I loved it and I only wish I’d read it sooner.

Patty has served her time and is being released from prison. She has high hopes for the future as her daughter, Rose Gold Watts, has willingly agreed to collect her from the gates. She always knew Rose Gold didn’t mean what she said in court. Patty was only trying to look after her, like any mother would! Patty’s plan is to convince Rose Gold to allow her move in so she can get acquainted with her brand new grandson, make sure Rose Gold is looking after him properly and become an integral part of their little family. Rose Gold needs her mama, she always has. And what the courts accused Patty of, Rose Gold has forgiven her for all of that. Hasn’t she….?

The Recovery of Rose Gold is an astonishing debut. I never really felt as though I could trust any of the characters: their recollections of the past, nor what the future held. There are things bubbling beneath the surface here and the author’s ability to keep the reader constantly wondering, asking questions, shows what a superb writer Wrobel is. Has Rose Gold forgiven Patty for the years of abuse? Does Patty still truly believe everything she did for her daughter was for Rose Gold’s own good?

The story is told in two parts. Patty narrates the present day chapters and the more I read of her perspective, the more I despised her. Rose Gold narrates the ‘past’ sections which, throughout the book, work their way to the present day. The reader gets to see what Patty put Rose Gold through, the abuse disguised as love. It’s a difficult read, there’s no doubt about that. Dark themes, flawed characters, obsession by the bucket load, twisty and twisted. Bloody marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Recovery of Rose Gold is a tense, twisted read, and pretty much everything I love in a novel. The characters felt believably real, scarily so, and the story will stay with me for a long time to come. Very compelling and near impossible to put down. Addictive is an understatement for this one. Highly recommended.

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

The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 18th February 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has been living in the UK for the last four years with her husband and her dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. The Recovery of Rose Gold is her first novel.

#BookReview: She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge @PenguinUKBooks #SheLiesInWait #damppebbles

“Seven teenagers went down to the woods. Only six came back . . .

30 years later, a body is discovered.

DCI Sheens already knows what’s waiting for him – Aurora Jackson, found at last.

What he doesn’t already know is that it’s murder.

All six witnesses insist on their innocence, but DCI Sheens is sure one of them is lying.

But who?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge. She Lies in Wait was published by Penguin Books in all formats on 12th December 2019. I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait which has in no way influenced my review.

She Lies in Wait is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. When it was first published, it was HUGE and I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the brilliant reviews from fellow readers and bloggers. This is the author’s debut novel but it feels so accomplished, it’s hard to believe that’s the case! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting DCI Sheens and I’ve already added the next book in the series, Watching from the Dark, to my terrifying TBR.

When the remains of a body are found in Brinken Wood, DCI Jonah Sheens knows exactly who they belong to. It’s no surprise when his suspicions are confirmed and a thirty-year-old cold case comes bursting into the present day. Sheens was a junior officer when fourteen-year-old Aurora Jackson disappeared whilst on a camping trip with her older sister and her sister’s friends. Despite searching, Aurora was never found. Now it’s down to Sheens and his team to unearth more skeletons, pick apart a close group of friends and find out exactly what happened to Aurora that night in the woods thirty years ago…

Told in the past and the present, this beautifully written literary crime novel was an absolute joy to lose myself in. I adored Sheens and found him very intriguing. I think that’s the reason, along with the author’s accomplished storytelling, that I’m so keen to read the second book in this series. Sheens is of course supported by a group of well-defined supporting characters who all add something to the story.

As the eye of the investigation is turned once again on the group of friends, they close ranks. A great deal of time has passed since Aurora’s disappearance. Memories have faded, truths have been rewritten. Instead of being the self-obsessed teenagers they once were, they’re now self-obsessed and influential adults. Sheens and the team have their work cut out trying to solve the mystery and finally give closure to Aurora’s grieving family.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. She Lies in Wait is a well-written and well-executed slow-burn mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m looking forward to being reunited with Sheens and the team again soon. A great start to what promises to be a fantastic series. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of She Lies in Wait. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Gytha Lodge is a multi-award-winning playwright, novelist and writer for video games and screen. She is also a single parent who blogs about the ridiculousness of bringing up a mega-nerd small boy.

She has a profound addiction to tea, crosswords and awful puns. When not writing, she heads up a copywriting team at a global translation firm, where she generally tries to keep all the video-game writing to herself.

She studied English at Cambridge, where she became known quite quickly for her brand of twisty, dark yet entertaining drama. She later took the Creative Writing MA at UEA.

She has signed with Penguin Random House worldwide for the first three books in her crime series featuring DCI Jonah Sheens.

#BookReview: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin @PenguinUKBooks #WeAreAlltheSameintheDark #damppebbles

“Back then, the police cleared her brother Wyatt of any crime. But now a TV documentary has judged otherwise. And old suspicions are reignited.

Yet when Wyatt finds a lost girl wandering a lonely highway, he convinces himself she’s a sign. Someone to lead him to his sister. To clear his name.

Watching him is police officer Odette Tucker. She’s got history with the Branson family. And she knows they must tread carefully.

Odette is determined to solve both cases, but will digging into this town’s deeply buried secrets do more harm than good?

And what will happen when the shocking truth is finally exposed?

We Are All the Same in the Dark is the nail-biting thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author, perfect for anyone obsessed with HBO’s Mare of Easttown.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin. We Are All the Same in the Dark was published by Penguin Books in paperback format on Thursday 2nd September 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of We Are All the Same in the Dark but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Gaby at Penguin Books for sending me a proof copy.

I read and reviewed Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin shortly after starting damppebbles back in 2016. It was one of my early reviews but I remember the book quite clearly, because it absolutely blew me away! Despite there being over five years between then and now, Black-eyed Susans has stayed with me to this day. So my heart soared when a copy of We Are All the Same in the Dark arrived. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Trumanell Branson, the town’s sweetheart, disappeared with her father one night ten years ago leaving behind a bloody handprint on the door. To this day, no one knows what happened to Trumanell (nor Frank). But Odette Tucker, girlfriend of Trumanell’s brother at the time, and now local police officer, has never forgotten that night and is determined to discover the truth. She’s certain Wyatt, Trumanell’s brother, had nothing to do with the disappearance despite the rest of the town, her police colleagues and a true crime documentary all believing otherwise. When Wyatt discovers a lost girl in a field, he feels it’s a sign but Odette isn’t so sure. Now with two tricky mysteries to solve, Odette starts to dig into the town’s past and discovers a lot more than she ever bargained for….

We Are All the Same in the Dark is a beautifully written, slow-burn mystery which I found truly captivating. For me this book was all about the characters and in particular Odette, who I adored. Her tenacity and commitment to Trumanell’s disappearance was very engaging and I was with her every step of the way. With the introduction of a second more current mystery, ensuring Wyatt wasn’t ruffling feathers, her failing marriage and her own family history hanging over her, Odette has a heck of a lot on her plate. There’s one scene in particular where she goes above and beyond for another character and it was not only fascinating but it pulled on this dark-hearted reader’s heartstrings. I loved Odette Tucker!

The plot is well paced with some surprising twists along the way to throw the reader off kilter, many of which I didn’t see coming, which is always a joy. One in particular was a bit of a sucker punch which left me reeling in its wake. Marvellous stuff! Although the pace of the novel is on the slow side, the tension is still very much present from start to finish. I felt I had to know what had happened to Trumanell. I had to know where the young girl had come from and what had caused her trauma.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. We Are All the Same in the Dark is an intelligently written psychological crime novel which I was more than happy to lose myself in. I really enjoyed spending time with the characters, I loved the small town feel, the pressing claustrophobia the book emanates and I was swept away by the cleverly constructed mystery. Heaberlin is a very talented writer and remains high on my ‘must read’ list.  Immersive, compelling and heart-breaking in parts. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of We Are All the Same in the Dark. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin was published by Penguin Books on 2nd September 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.uk | Waterstones | FoylesBook Depository | bookshop.orgGoodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Julia HeaberlinJulia Heaberlin is the internationally bestselling writer of BLACK-EYED SUSANS and PAPER GHOSTS, a finalist for Best Hardcover Novel by the International Thriller Writers Awards. Her latest psychological thriller, WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE DARK, has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which described her work as “exceptional.”

All of her books, including PLAYING DEAD and LIE STILL, are set in the moody, diverse landscape of Texas and together they have been published in more than twenty countries.

Before writing novels, Heaberlin was an award-winning editor at newspapers that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Detroit News and The Dallas Morning News. BLACK-EYED SUSANS, a USA TODAY and a top-of-the-charts Times of London bestseller, has been optioned for television by Sony Pictures. Currently at work on her sixth thriller, Heaberlin lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She is published by Penguin Random House and represented by Kimberly Witherspoon at Inkwell Management.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Whisper Man by Alex North @MichaelJBooks @JennyPlatt90 #TheWhisperMan #damppebbles

the whisper man.jpg“If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home. Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window…”

Hello bookish friends – welcome to the blog and to my stop on The Whisper Man blog tour.  The Whisper Man by Alex North is set to be published by Michael Joseph in hardcover, audio and eBook formats on 13th June, with the paperback to follow later in the Summer.  Let me tell you now, this is a book you need to get a copy of!  I received a free ARC copy of The Whisper Man but this has in no way influenced my review.

Well, this is an absolutely cracking read and a strong contender for my book of the year!  You know when you see a book and you just know, without any shadow of a doubt, that you’re going to LOVE it.  That happened to me at a crime fiction festival last year when I won a book.  I could choose between this and another title.  A very naughty publicist (who shall remain nameless) talked me into taking a different book against my better judgement and since then I have been hankering after a copy of The Whisper Man.  I haven’t read the other book yet, by the way, and it’s got some awesome reviews.  I was drawn to this one though and should have gone with my gut!

This a wonderfully creepy and dark read which I powered through – probably quicker than anything else I’ve read this year.  There’s a definite horror vibe about it which just added to my overall enjoyment of the book.  But what I loved most were our lead characters, Tom and Jake, who absolutely shone from the pages.  Tom and his 7-year-old son, Jake, don’t have the easiest of relationships.  Rebecca; wife, mother and the glue which held the family together, died suddenly leaving the pair of them to fend for themselves.  Jake discovered his mum’s body slumped at the bottom of the stairs.  Something that would traumatise most adults. He misses his mum terribly and has a new found fear of the stairs.  Which is why Tom decides a fresh start is what they need.  They leave the painful memories and the frightening stairs behind and move to the sleepy village of Featherbank.  But Featherbank has a dark past of its own.  The Whisper Man killed a number of young boys fifteen years ago.  And now another boy has gone missing.  Bewildered by Jake’s behaviour normally, Tom is even more confused when Jake starts acting even stranger…

I absolutely loved this book and will be sending people barmy by recommending it all of the time!  The characters are just superb.  I loved Tom and my heart ached for little Jake (I have kids around the same age) but there are other equally as brilliant characters in this book.  I have to mention DI Pete Willis who I adored.  A man with many regrets and forever searching for the one boy he couldn’t find.  He has a troubled past which he tortures himself with on a daily basis and deals with an addiction which he takes one step at a time.  Then there’s Frank Carter, an evil psychopath who revels in his past as The Whisper Man and who longs to be remembered for what damage he did.  Brilliant, just brilliant!

You need this book in your life.  It’s brilliantly creepy, edgy and chock full of surprises.  I was totally smitten from the moment I read the first page.  The characters are outstanding, the plot hooks you in in a matter of minutes and the writing is just sublime.  Not forgetting the seemingly-quaint yet overwhelmingly sinister setting of Featherbank.  This book has definitely left its mark on me.  I loved it and it’s going to take something extra special to knock it off the top spot.

Would I recommend this book? You have to ask…?!  Most definitely.  It gave me chills and made my heart ache for Tom, Jake and their struggling relationship.  Full of some of the most memorable characters I have ever met in a book – I loved it (do say if I’m repeating myself!).  Completely unforgettable, impossible to put down and absolutely everything I want from a book.  I am in love.

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

The Whisper Man by Alex North was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 13th June 2019 and is available in hardcover, audio and ebook formats with the paperback to follow in August (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 |

Whisper Man Blog Tour Banner


Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department.

Author Links:Twitter |

#BookReview: Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge @MichaelJBooks #DIHelenGrace #HideandSeek #20BooksofSummer

hide and seek.jpg

“Prison is no place for a detective
Helen Grace was one of the country’s best police investigators.
Now she’s behind bars with the killers she caught.

Framed for murder
She knows there is only way out:
stay alive until her trial and somehow prove her innocence.

Locked up with a killer
But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door,
Helen fears her days are numbered.

A murderer is on the loose.  And she must find them.  Before she’s next . . .”

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog you may be aware that I am a MASSIVE fan of a strong, kick-ass female lead character. Particularly police officers; senior female coppers are one of my favourite hooks when it comes to crime fiction. So when I decided to take on the 20 Books of Summer challenge it seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up with a few of my favourite detectives and with a number of series that I have unfortunately unwittingly fallen behind on.

DI Helen Grace has always been a firm favourite of mine. Hide and Seek is the sixth book in the DI Helen Grace series and my new favourite. Despite reading book five in the series, Little Boy Blue over two years ago, the plot and that breathtaking ending have been playing on my mind. Yes, it’s true, I have spent the last two years wondering about the general health and well-being of a fictional character! Book blogger problems taken to a whole new level, maybe?!

If you’re new to this series let me tell you, it is incredibly difficult to start this review as anything I say, anything I hint at could be (is) a massive spoiler regarding a previous book (the massive spoiler is also mentioned in the blurb so don’t look 🙈)! I will be as vague as possible and hope you don’t mind. Helen Grace finds herself somewhere no copper wants to be, in an environment as hostile as they come. I could make a couple of witty puns about a fall from ‘Grace’ but I won’t torture you, dear reader. I have been champing at the bit to find out what was going to happen to our battered and bruised hero and all I can say is wow, just WOW! I loved the environment Arlidge has immersed his lead character in, I really enjoyed the motley cast of characters she met on her journey into the pits of Hell and I’m sorry, I’m going to say it, I loved Helen’s fall from ‘Grace’, dangit!

Whilst Helen is otherwise engaged, her right-hand woman the tenacious DS Charlie Brooks, is out trying to right a few wrongs. The two plots run seamlessly alongside one another and I was compelled to keep turning the pages, flitting between the two investigations at breakneck speed. I had a fair idea of whodunit from early on in the book but I was completely wrong. The author has added some very believable red herrings which I fell for; hook, line and sinker.

Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s true – this is my favourite DI Helen Grace adventure so far. However, I’m not sure this book will work all that well as a standalone. There is a heck of a lot of history that won’t necessarily make sense to readers starting with Hide and Seek. My advice would be to start at the beginning and get to know Helen Grace from book one. I guarantee you will fall head over heels in love with her, just like I did. Oh, and don’t read the blurb. It gives far too much away in my opinion 😉

Four and a half stars out of five.


Hide and Seek by M.J. Arlidge was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 29th December 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

m j arlidge.jpg

M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including the prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge also pilots original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audio exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a Number One bestseller.

His first thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek, and Love Me Not.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

Author image and bio © https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/m-j-arlidge/96806/

#BookReview: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #20BooksofSummer #TheMarriagePact #Giveaway

the marriage pact.jpg

“First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes your first big mistake.

How far are you willing to go for the perfect relationship?

Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered a mysterious wedding gift – membership of a club which promises its couples will never divorce.

Signing The Pact seems the start to a perfect marriage.

Until one of them breaks the rules.

The marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Because The Pact is for life.

And its members will do anything to make sure no one leaves . . .”

Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact has been on my bookish radar for some time now. It was mentioned as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature where I immediately added it to the TBR. I was then lucky enough to receive a paperback copy from the lovely Dead Good team as a Valentine’s Day treat (more about that later!). And then, of course, I kept seeing some really good reviews. Bearing all of this in mind, it was a natural addition to my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. I love it when weird, life-altering, mostly catastrophic things happen to normal, run-of-the-mill people. Just me then? Oh… Anyway, the thought of a newlywed couple suddenly being trapped in a pact with a group of controlling strangers, having to live by the rules of the group (no matter how humiliating or demeaning) and managing to break the rules without even trying was something I had to read about. I’ll admit, the plot is a little far-fetched but d’you know what? I was just after an entertaining read, something a little different to my much-loved detective fiction and that’s exactly what I got with The Marriage Pact. A highly entertaining read.

When I was able to find time to sit down and read The Marriage Pact I found it an incredibly easy read, flying through the pages in great chunks and not realising that hours had passed. I was desperate to see what awful predicament Jake and Alice were going to find themselves in and what terrifying punishment they were to be subjected to. At times I found myself feeling really quite uncomfortable; as though I was intruding on a young couple’s most personal moments. I was also irked that many of the odd punishments were meted out to Alice, the wife, where little seemed to happen in the beginning to Jake, the husband, (he doesn’t get away scot-free but I do believe Alice suffers a lot more than her husband). I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead in my novels and Alice had so much potential with her punky, free-spirited background but she never really got going in my eyes. Was she diluted because of her marriage to Jake or was the pact to blame? I guess we’ll never know

I’m afraid I really struggled with the ending of The Marriage Pact. Things were going great guns and I was engrossed in the terrible punishments The Pact were dishing out to our beleaguered couple, but then the ending happened and I had a bit of a ‘huh?’ moment. For a thriller, the ending is quite sedate and I will be totally honest here and say I was a little disappointed. I had an inkling that the story was building up to ‘that ending’ but had hoped the author would pull something utterly mesmerising and unexpected out of the bag. It’s a well-written book with a nice ending. My black heart, unfortunately, wasn’t quite satisfied with a nice ending.

Would I recommend this book? I enjoyed 90% of The Marriage Pact and it’s only because I’m a fan of the darker side of fiction that I think I was a little disappointed with the ending. I would recommend this book but to readers who maybe err towards the gentler side of thriller fiction. It’s well written with a really interesting concept (although a little far-fetched at times) but most of all, I found this book entertaining and that’s exactly what I was after. I liked it!

Three out of five stars.

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


The lovely folk at Dead Good sent me a paperback copy of The Marriage Pact but I decided to read my eARC (it’s a long story which involves adjusting (or not!) to new varifocal glasses which I won’t bore you with!). So I have an unread paperback copy of The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond which I am going to give away to one lucky UK winner!

To be in with a chance all you have to do is leave a comment below. It’s that simple. The winner will be selected at random and will need to provide their postal address so I can send them their prize. The competition will close at midday on Monday 25th June 2018 and the winner will be notified shortly afterwards. There is no cash alternative. Good luck everyone!

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 14th December 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBooks formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

about the author3

michelle richmond.jpg

Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two award-winning story collections. Her books include the 2017 psychological thriller THE MARRIAGE PACT, which has been sold in 30 languages and was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK; GOLDEN STATE, the critically acclaimed novel that imagines modern-day California on the brink of secession from the United States; the international bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG; and the story collection HUM, winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her novels are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives, and in the South, where she grew up. Michelle was born and raised in Alabama and has made her home for eighteen years in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram |

Author Image and Bio © http://michellerichmond.com/

#Review: Zodiac by Sam Wilson

51Gx7RftG4L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_“EVERY MURDER IS A SIGN.

In a society divided along Zodiac lines, status is cast at birth – and binding for life. Who you are can be determined by a matter of days, hours, even minutes.

Even for the most experienced detectives, every once in a while a murder can shake them to the core. Like when the Chief of Police is killed in his own home.

For Detective Jerome Burton, catching the case will change his life forever.

Because this murder is only the first piece of a vast and twisted puzzle made of secrets, lies and tragedy.

The signs are everywhere. But is the truth written in the stars or hiding in the shadows?

You know that feeling when you’re really looking forward to reading a book but it doesn’t quite hit the mark?  Yeah, that feeling.  That’s the feeling I’m feeling as I sit here typing this review.  I so desperately wanted to love this book.  It’s the kind of premise that gets my attention immediately.  A twisted serial killer choosing his victims based purely on one factor that only he knows about.  While the investigating officer fumbles blindly, searching for that elusive break in the case.  However, for me, I’m afraid Zodiac fell flat.

Following on from his recent starring role in the apprehension of a Senator’s murderer, Detective Burton is allocated another high profile case.  The Chief of Police has been brutally murdered and it’s down to Jerome Burton to find the culprit.  Disappointingly (for him) he is partnered with Lindiwe Childs, an astrologer.  Lindi is keen to participate in the investigation, Burton is not so keen on having Lindi aboard.  Nor is he keen on her ideas.  But together they must work to solve the case and save another victim from ’embracing their element’.

Let’s get this out in the open straight away: I don’t really believe in astrology.  But I do love a book with a killer hook and this book, I thought, had a killer hook!  However, what I didn’t expect was the set up of the story and the general cross-genre feel of it.  To me it felt parts fantasy, parts dystopian, parts crime and quite mixed up.  The blurb clearly says the book is based on a society where your star sign determines who you are, how you speak, how you dress, how others see you and the job you have.  I just didn’t realise the extent of this.  In this book it’s everything; the MOST important thing.  It defines you above all else.  Others will love this book and I expect it to get rave reviews, it just didn’t sit well with me.

The story did take me by surprise thanks to a twist I was not expecting.  As I neared the end of the book I did start to feel more connected with the story, more involved.  It is a good book but it just felt a little too astrology heavy for me and that must have taken a lot of research by the author.  I’ve learnt things I didn’t know about star signs!  I would like to read another book by Sam Wilson (one that doesn’t have an astrological thread to it) just to see how it compares.  Oh, and I do love that cover!

Three out of five stars.

Many thanks to Penguin  UK – Michael Joseph, the author and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Zodiac in exchange for an honest review.

Zodiac by Sam Wilson is published in the UK by Penguin UK Michael Joseph on 3rd November 2016 in eBook format.  Other formats to follow at a later date. | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)


Sam Wilson is a writer and TV director working in Cape Town.  Connect with Sam via Twitter @WombatSam.