#BookReview: The Drift by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #TheDrift #damppebbles

Survival can be murder . . .

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside each group, a killer lurks.

But who?

And will anyone make it out alive? . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Drift by C.J. Tudor. The Drift was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 19th January 2023) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free eARC of The Drift but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am such a HUGE fan of C.J. Tudor’s books. I have read and loved every single one since the author’s phenomenal debut, The Chalk Man, hit bookshelves in 2018. C.J. can do no wrong in my eyes with every thrilling new book going beyond my *ahem* very high expectations (eek, the pressure!). You just cannot go wrong with a book by this author and this latest release proves that, in abundance! The Drift is thoroughly captivating with clever storytelling and intricate plotting. Another tense and addictive addition to Tudor’s catalogue of work!

Normally at this point I would give you my take on the blurb. But this is a very difficult book to summarise due to just how darn clever it is. So I’ll just refer you to the publisher’s blurb which is waaaaay better than anything I could write and tells you a lot of what you need to know. The Drift is an apocalyptic/dystopian horror thriller set in the not so distant future following the outbreak of a virus which has killed billions. In this hell-like new world the reader is introduced to three main characters, each in a unique, snow-bound setting. Hannah is one of the survivors of a coach crash. The coach was heading to The Retreat. Then there’s Meg who is stranded in a cable car, on its way to The Retreat. And finally Carter, who is a resident at The Retreat. The reader visits each setting and gets to know what makes the three main characters tick. There’s plenty of backstory, plenty of insight into their current predicaments and plenty of interesting developments along the way. Meaning all three leads felt fully fleshed out and totally believable. Their situations also felt scarily plausible, which is a very frightening thing to say! Is that due to living in a post-pandemic world ourselves? I do wonder. Whilst not all of the main characters were particularly likeable I did find myself gradually warming to the two women. But there was a feeling that I couldn’t shake that I wasn’t seeing the whole picture…

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Drift and know it is going to be one of my top books of the year come December. It’s a chilling, atmospheric read where the author has once again excelled at drawing the reader in and immersing them in a thoroughly riveting, nigh impossible-to-put-down thriller. With well placed touches of horror throughout, sky high tension and thrills aplenty, The Drift will no doubt become a bestseller. And deservedly so! It’s one of those ‘one more chapter’ books where you can’t and don’t want to stop reading but promise yourself ‘just one more chapter’ before realising it’s 3am and you need to go to work in a few hours! Chock-full of perfectly written suspense and with a killer twist in the tale, it was everything I was hoping for and so much more. C.J. Tudor knocks it out of the park every time. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Tudor can do no wrong in my eyes. A perfectly plotted tale of survival against the odds with a beautifully written overarching sense of dread and impending doom which I couldn’t get enough of. I loved every single second of The Drift. Highly recommended.

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

The Drift by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 19th January 2023 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 |

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg @MichaelJBooks #NobodyButUs #damppebbles

“He’s a well-respected college professor. She’s a young and eager-to-please student.

He knows she would do anything for him. She knows his certainty is his weakness

He thinks he’ll get what he wants. She thinks he’ll get exactly what he needs.

Two liars.
One twisted path.
A game of cat and mouse.
BUT WHO IS THE HUNTER? AND WHO IS THE PREY?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg. Nobody But Us was published by Penguin Michael Joseph in paperback format on 10th November 2022. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Nobody But Us but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jen and Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

THIS BOOK! As soon as I laid eyes on Laure Van Rensburg’s debut thriller I knew I had to read it. That cover is glorious, the blurb is so utterly intriguing and the tagline was pretty unforgettable – meet 2022’s most f*cked up couple! I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Nobody But Us and oh boy, it delivered on every count and more.

Ellie and Steven have finally managed to find a gap in their busy schedules to get away for a few days and celebrate their six month anniversary. They’re heading to an isolated cabin in the woods, many miles away from the hustle and bustle of New York. It will be the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together and really get to know each other. A perfect weekend for a perfect couple. Except, that’s not quite the truth. Ellie and Steven are far from perfect. They both have secrets. They’re both liars…

Dark and intoxicating, Nobody But Us is an exquisite yet deeply unsettling read which pulled me into its pages instantly and didn’t let go until the brutal end. The tension the author conveys is palpable. I felt as though I was on a precipice and at any moment the ground could fall away beneath my feet. Who would make it out of the cabin alive? Would either of them? Both of them? Neither of them? The drama was pinpoint sharp, the dance of these two adversaries towards the denouement, full of danger and anger, was utterly compelling. I didn’t want to be parted from this story for any amount of time but when I was, it was ALL I could think about.

Told in the present with flashbacks to the past, the author ensures the reader gets the full uncomfortable picture of what led these two characters to this point. And with a small cast of characters we really get to know the bones of Van Rensburg’s creations. The propulsive plot and with suspense building throughout it felt as though I was watching a movie play out before me. Precariously balanced on the edge of my seat and with my heart in my mouth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Nobody But Us is an exceptional debut and I’m excited to see what this author publishes next. Very unsettling, hugely character driven – just how I like my thrillers – and near impossible to be parted from for any length of time. The pace of the novel draws the reader into the story and puts you on edge immediately. You never really know what direction the author is going to take next and as an avid reader of thrillers, that is a wonderful thing! I loved the isolated setting (also a fan of thrillers where help is nowhere near) and the perfectly placed twists and turns. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Nobody But Us. I found it refreshing, sophisticated and utterly captivating. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Nobody But Us. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 10th November 2022 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 | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Laure Van RensburgLaure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

#BookReview: A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks #ASliverofDarkness #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“A creak of the floorboard, a shiver down your spine, the feeling that you’re not alone . . .
_________

Join a group of survivors who wash up on a deserted island only to make a horrifying discovery.

Meet a cold-hearted killer who befriends a strange young girl at a motorway service station.

Travel along eerie country lanes in a world gone dark, enter a block of flats with the most monstrous of occupants and accompany a ruthless estate agent on a house sale that goes apocalyptically wrong.
These eleven twisted tales of the macabre from the bestselling author of The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls are your perfect companions as the nights draw in . . .
If you’re brave enough.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor. A Sliver of Darkness is published by Penguin Michael Joseph today (that’s Thursday 29th September 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of A Sliver of Darkness but that has in no way influenced my review.

C.J. Tudor has fast become one of my ‘must read, everything stops for them’ authors. Her blend of crime and creepy is a wonderful thing which I can guarantee I will always enjoy. When I discovered that Tudor was about to publish a collection of spine-tingling short stories I, of course, jumped at the chance to read it. I thoroughly enjoy the short, sharp, intensity of a crime or horror short story collection but find I only read one or two collections a year, making them a real treat! A Sliver of Darkness delivered on every count. Not only did I get to indulge my love of short stories, but I got to read a collection penned by one of my favourite authors, one of THE most exciting writers out there at the moment.

But C.J. Tudor, like the rest of us, is only human, so A Sliver of Darkness starts with a very honest, very heartfelt explanation as to why the author and her publisher are opting to release a short story collection in 2022 rather than a full-length novel. My heart really went out to Tudor and I appreciated the honesty in her opening introduction.

A Sliver of Darkness is a collection of eleven twisted, chilling and twisty stories, each one worthy of its place in the novel. It’s all killer and no filler, that’s for sure. Each story is preceded with a short introduction from the author giving a little background or a fascinating insight into the inspiration behind the piece. One of the things I enjoy the most about Tudor’s writing is that there is always a completely unexpected, jaw dropping twist to the tale. I was a little concerned that that wouldn’t be achievable in short story form, but my concerns weren’t necessary. Each and every story delivers. Each and every story sings with Tudor’s trademark thrilling style and I loved how dark and addictive it was.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. You can’t go wrong with a C.J. Tudor novel or short story collection, and I cannot wait to read The Drift when it is published in the New Year. My favourite stories were End of the Liner which is set on a cruise ship. Leila, a woman approaching her 75th birthday, reflects on times gone by and those she has lost. When a close friend opens Leila’s eyes to the reality of their situation, Leila isn’t sure she’s ready to face it head on. But is the alternative really any better? I loved how sinister this story was. The presence of the cruise ship’s ‘always happy, always smiling’ characters throughout, there to keep a watchful eye on the kids….and the adults…gave the story a chilling, creepy edge. The utter hopelessness the author conveys to the reader is palpable. I felt my heart sink to the floor for the characters. I also really enjoyed The Completion which stars Dan Ransom, a brash and egotistical estate agent who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and selling houses. He’s on the brink on completing the biggest sale of his career but his client has a bit of a reputation. Only Dan doesn’t know the half of it… This story was so dark and twisted, it took me places I never expected to go and probably never want to go again! Brilliant storytelling as usual from the author. But my favourite of the entire collection was Final Course. A group of old college friends gather in a manor house following the apocalypse. Harry, the privileged host, has invited ‘the Infamous Five’ back together one last time before the end of the world comes a-knocking. Tom and his young daughter, Millie, join Alex, Michael and Josh at Berskow Manor for one last terrifying, unforgettable night. This story gave me goosebumps and since reading it (a few weeks ago) I’ve been unable to get it out of my head. Eerie, unsettling and seriously dark, it was the cherry on top of a fantastic collection of well-penned stories. All in all, I loved A Sliver of Darkness. I hope Tudor publishes more short story collections in-between her full-length novels in the future because this is the best, most exciting collection I have read to date. If you’re a fan of the dark and dastardly, if you’re a fan of the author then please make sure you pick up a copy of this unsettling but utterly compelling book. You won’t regret it! Highly recommended.

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

A Sliver of Darkness by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 29th September 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

C. J. Tudor lives in Sussex, England with her partner and daughter.

Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Butcher and The Wren by Alaina Urquhart @MichaelJBooks #TheButcherandTheWren #damppebbles

“WREN WAS NEVER AFRAID OF THE DARK. UNTIL SHE LEARNED THAT SOME MONSTERS ARE REAL . . .
_________

In deep Louisiana, a serial killer with a taste for medical experimentation is completing his most ambitious project yet. The media call him ‘The Butcher’ – and, so far, he’s proved impossible to catch.

With her encyclopaedic knowledge of humanity’s darkest minds, and years of experience examining their victims, forensic pathologist Dr Wren Muller is the best there is. The longer the Butcher’s killing spree continues, the more determined she is to bring him to justice.

And yet, he continues to elude her.

As body after body piles up on Wren’s examination table, her obsession grows. Pressure to put an end to the slaughter mounts. And her enemy becomes more brazen.

How far is Wren willing to go to draw the Butcher into the light . . .?
An addictive read with straight-from-the-morgue details only an autopsy technician could provide, The Butcher and the Wren promises to ensnare all who enter.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Butcher and The Wren blog tour. The Butcher and The Wren by Alaina Urquhart was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 13th September 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Butcher and The Wren but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sriya at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

Dr Wren Muller is an experienced forensic pathologist used to dealing with the darker, gorier side of life (and death!). When a serial killer with a penchant for experimenting on his victims starts terrorising the streets of Louisiana, Wren is determined to put her vast knowledge of pathology and criminology into catching the killer. A killer the press have dubbed ‘The Butcher’. Working with the New Orleans Police Department, finding ‘The Butcher’ becomes a matter of urgency for Wren and Detective Leroux. Wren’s obsession with catching the killer grows as the body count rises. No one in Louisiana is safe. Each new victim bringing with them a tale of torture and terror. It’s down to Wren to draw the killer out of hiding before another victim meets a horrifying end…

The Butcher and The Wren is a compelling debut thriller which had me turning the pages at a rate of knots keen to discover how things were going to end. I’m a huge fan of the serial killer thriller. It’s one of my ‘must read’ sub-genres under the crime umbrella so I will always jump at the chance to read anything featuring a multiple murderer (yes, I am odd – although with the number of true crime fans these days I am clearly not in the minority anymore!). The Butcher and The Wren promised a great deal, being written by the co-host of a popular true crime podcast who is also a mortuary technician, and I felt it delivered. The author has used her own experiences and knowledge to give the story an authenticity which I very much appreciated.

The plot is well paced and told from both Wren and the killer’s points of view. This dual narrative really drew me into the story and kept me on the edge of my seat, eager to discover what was going to happen next. I really enjoyed the New Orleans setting with the swamplands featuring strongly throughout. I thought the author did an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of the swamps for the reader. There is one scene in particular in the book which gave me chills. It was so atmospheric and dark in tone.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Butcher and The Wren is a wonderfully gory and addictive serial killer thriller which I enjoyed. I found the story compelling and was hooked from start to finish, powering through the book in a couple of sittings. The characters were interesting and I hope, should a sequel be planned, that we get to peel away the layers a little more and dig a little deeper into what makes them tick. Having finished the book, I felt the killer was more defined in their character than Wren, our lead, was. However, I do get the impression there is more to come so there’s plenty of time for that. The Butcher and The Wren is a good, solid, well-written debut thriller and I look forward to reading more from Urquhart in the future. Recommended.

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

The Butcher and The Wren by Alaina Urquhart was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 13th September 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |

Image

Alaina Urquhart is the science-loving co-host of the chart-topping show Morbid: A True Crime Podcast. As an autopsy technician by trade, she offers a unique perspective from deep inside the morgue. Alaina hails from Boston, where she lives with her wonderful husband, John, their three amazing daughters, and a ghost Puggle named Bailey. She is about 75 percent coffee, and truly believes she and Agent Clarice Starling could be friends.

Before writing her first psychological horror novel, she received degrees in criminal justice, psychology, and biology. When she isn’t hosting Morbid, she hosts the Parcast original show Crime Countdown, and a horror movie podcast called Scream!. Her days are usually spent either recording or eviscerating. The way she sees it, when she hangs up her microphone for the day, it’s time to let the dead speak.

#BookReview: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson @MichaelJBooks #EveryoneInMyFamilyHasKilledSomeone #damppebbles

Everyone in my family is a killer. Everyone in my family is a suspect. But which of them is a murderer?
_________

I was dreading the Cunningham family reunion even before the first murder.

You see, us Cunnighams don’t really get along.

We’ve only got one thing in common: we’ve all killed someone.

So when they find the first body, it’s clear that only a Cunningham could have committed the crime – and it’s up to me to prove it.

There are plenty of killers in my family. But only one murderer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone was published by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 18th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Ellie and Jen at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

The Cunningham family have one thing in common, other than a bloodline, and that’s that they have all killed someone. So when Ernest Cunningham receives an invitation to a family reunion, he knows it isn’t going to be a pleasant few nights away reminiscing about days gone by, immersed in nostalgia. Truth be told, he’s not all that keen on anyone in his family, other than his step-sister, so the thought of spending time with them fills him with anxiety. His worst fears are confirmed when a body is discovered at the ski resort the family are staying at. Surrounded by killers, knowing he can’t trust anyone, particularly those he’s related to, it’s down to Ernest to try and work out who amongst his family is a murderer…

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a very engaging nod to classic crime with an expertly executed contemporary twist. It’s highly readable, difficult to put down and laugh out loud funny. I adored the lead character, Ernest, and felt in capable hands as he led me through the intricacies of his somewhat suspicious family. Ernest is a writer of ‘how to’ guides for those wanting to pen detective fiction. He’s not written his own novel but provides help and assistance to other budding novelists. As a result, Ernest abides by the rules of Ronald Knox’s 10 commandments of Detective Fiction, 1929. Helpfully there is a list of the rules at the start of the book, just in case you’re not familiar with them (but I’m sure we all are 😜). But any regular reader of detective fiction can probably come up with a few rules off the top of their head (the criminal must be someone mentioned in the story and not suddenly appear as if by magic, that sort of thing!). Because of Ernest’s penchant for following the rules he is very open and honest with the reader, declaring that everything he tells you is the truth. He goes on to inform the reader which pages feature gory deaths, just in case you’re only in it for grisly bits, which I thought was wonderful. I couldn’t help but fall a little in love with Ernest and I don’t think I’ll be the only one to feel affection for this superbly written character.

The mystery aspect of the novel is clever, highly intriguing and full of red herrings. I appreciated every perfectly placed twist and turn. Was I able to work out whodunit? No, I wasn’t. I was just enjoying the ride! There are a lot of characters in the story – quite a few members of the Cunningham clan, several resort staff, other guests and police officers. Normally with such a large cast I would be concerned about becoming muddled but that is not the case in Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. All of the characters are defined well and play their part beautifully, helping to move the story along.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a wonderfully written mystery which I enjoyed every single moment of. I loved the setting which despite being large in scale, felt quite claustrophobic due to the weather cutting the resort off from the rest of the world. Oh, and it’s Australian so that’s extra points from me as I’m quite obsessed with Aussie crime fiction, as regular readers of the blog will know! I thought the plot was masterfully written, something Dame Christie would herself be proud of. With superb characters and an intriguing mystery at its heart, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is a brilliantly written ode to the golden age of crime which this reader very much appreciated. Very funny, smart and cleverly done. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 18th August 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 |

Photo of author Benjamin Stevenson.Benjamin Stevenson is an award-winning stand-up comedian and author. His first novel, Greenlight, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction, and published in the USA and UK. His second novel, Either Side of Midnight, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Original Paperback. His novella, Find Us, was an internationally bestselling audiobook. He has sold out live shows from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared on ABCTV, Channel 10 and The Comedy Channel. Off-stage, Benjamin has worked for publishing houses and literary agencies in Australia and the USA. He currently works with some of Australia’s best-loved authors at Curtis Brown Australia. He loves hearing from readers on Instagram (@stevensonexperience) and Facebook (The Stevenson Experience). Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is his third novel.

© https://benjaminstevensonauthor.com

#BookReview: Summer Fever by Kate Riordan @MichaelJBooks #SummerFever #damppebbles

“A HOT ITALIAN SUMMER. TWO COUPLES. ONE DARK SECRET THAT COULD RUIN EVERYTHING. . .

Nick and Laura are the hosts: pretending their marriage isn’t on the rocks.

Madison and Bastian are the guests: neither is remotely who they claim to be.

Under the scorching Mediterranean sun, no secret is safe.
No betrayal goes unnoticed.
Two couples. But will either survive the summer . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Summer Fever by Kate Riordan. Summer Fever was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 2022 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Summer Fever but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Penguin Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy.

I was immediately drawn to this book thanks to that striking cover. Add to that the fact that I’m addicted to summer thrillers at the moment which meant Summer Fever was a ‘must read’ for me. I think despite having a week in sunnier climes earlier this year I’m still yearning for hot, tropical summer days somewhere that isn’t, well, here. Perhaps after losing two years of travel to COVID my need to escape my quiet, dare I say ‘boring’ small town is still very present. Hence my addiction to summer thrillers. Summer Fever transported me to the Marche region of Italy and I loved the time I spent in the author’s world. It was sexy, sultry and chock full of suspense.

Laura and Nick have finally taken the plunge and purchased a villa in the Marche region of Italy leaving behind their troubles, the drudgery of the UK and sticking a plaster firmly over the cracks in their marriage. They plan to open the villa to guests, offering a tailor made service of fine dining, rural living and local tours. When their first guests arrive, a couple from the US called Madison and Bastian, Laura realises that they still have a lot of issues to iron out. Gradually Laura is drawn into Madison’s spontaneous, confident and carefree orbit and the two women become friends. But all is not as it seems. Both couples have secrets. Both couples are hiding something from the other. And it could be the death of them…

I really enjoyed Summer Fever with its beautifully drawn setting, pressing summer heat and intriguing characters. It’s clear to the reader from the outset that there is tension between Laura and Nick. Something has driven a wedge between the couple and as a result Nick has blithely gone along with the idea of moving to Italy, if only to placate Laura. There is an ever present tension between the two of them which I found thoroughly intriguing. I wanted to know what the story was. The reader gets a glimpse into Laura’s past and her time spent at university prior to meeting Nick. These flashbacks expose several of Laura’s character flaws which only made her all the more interesting to me. She’s not a particularly likeable character but because of that, I personally was drawn to her.

The arrival of their American guests ramps the tension up ten-fold. There was a new air to proceedings which pulled me into the story further. The chemistry between Laura and Bastian is undeniable, almost palpable, but with their partners looking on, with nowhere to hide, they must play by the rules. The author handles the suspense incredibly well and I was hooked, unsure how things were going to turn out for these two couples. There are several twists and turns along the way. One of which I was able to spot from fairly early on. Others left me with my jaw on the floor. The ending was completely unexpected, very satisfying and cleverly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Summer Fever is a sophisticated, sexy thriller which I found utterly absorbing and hard to put down. The slow build storyline is beautifully crafted and drew me into the world occupied by Riordan’s fascinating characters. I found the plot both tense and gripping with lots of delicious suspense which I, of course, adore! I could picture Villa Luna Rossa and the area surrounding it with ease and loved how it played such a pivotal role in the story. Shocking but absolutely perfect. All in all this is a superb summer thriller, perfect for reading by the pool or lounging in the garden dreaming of Italy. Recommended.

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

Summer Fever by Kate Riordan was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 12th May 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 |

Kate RiordanKate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom have influenced her writing. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time.

#BookReview: More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez @MichaelJBooks #MoreThanYoullEverKnow #damppebbles

“Lore Rivera was married to two men at once, until on a baking hot day in 1986, one of them found out and shot the other.

That’s the story the world knows.

It’s not the story that fascinates Cassie Bowman.

Determined to know more about the mysterious Lore, true-crime writer Cassie is surprised to find Lore is willing to talk.

But as the two women get closer, Cassie finds herself confessing her own darkest secrets.

And the shocking truth behind the murder all those years ago . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez. More Than You’ll Ever Know was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph last week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free eARC of More Than You’ll Ever Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

My reading schedule for July and August was overflowing a few weeks ago. To the point where I was reading all day, every day in an attempt to catch up. And then More Than You’ll Ever Know landed on my radar, helped by a blogger friend whose opinion I really trust. She said it was a masterpiece of literary fiction and compared the writing to one of my all time favourite authors. Resistance was indeed futile. So this beauty was added to the TBR and prayers were whispered to an almighty deity that I would be able to get everything I needed to read, read in time. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful piece of true crime-esque fiction, but my TBR is still utterly terrifying and there’s doubt I’ll make it out the other end alive 😂

True crime blogger Cassie Bowman is on the hunt for her next story. The pressure is on to find something that will grab her mainly female audience’s attention and get her visitor numbers up. That’s when she stumbles upon a piece about a woman who wanted it all. Lore Rivera was married to two men. One man in Texas with whom she had two sons, and one ready made family in Mexico City. Lore was living two lives until the day her Mexican husband, Andres, turned up unexpectedly in Texas. The devastation of Lore’s lie, her deceit, sent her Texan husband to Andres’s hotel room where he shot him in cold blood. But Cassie feels there’s more to the story than meets the eye. She wants to tell the story from a different perspective so reaches out to Lore for her side of things. The two women become closer, sharing secrets they’ve both held close for years. But the more Cassie discovers, the more confident and excited she becomes about the success of the project. She’s on to something with Lore’s story, she just knows it! What really happened that fateful summers day in 1986…

More Than You’ll Ever Know is an engrossing book with beautifully written characters and an utterly riveting plot which takes the reader to the heart of one woman’s devastating deceit. You would think it was hard to feel any compassion towards Lore but she’s so perfectly human that the reader actually ends up being quite fond of her, or I did anyway! Gutierrez scrapes away the outer layers of Lore’s character – the successful businesswoman, the mother of twins, the wife of a local tradesman – and presents the reader with her inner most thoughts, feelings and desires in the most exquisite and captivating way.

When Lore is approached by Cassie to tell her side of the story, she feels drawn to the younger woman. The chemistry these two characters have is magnetic and I was drawn into their story – and it is their story. A deal is struck and in return for sharing the past, Cassie begins to share her own closely guarded secrets. I loved the character of Cassie just as much as I loved Lore. These two women with their complicated lives and troubled pasts made for the most sublime reading experience and it will be impossible for me to forget either of them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a superbly written debut which ticked all of the boxes for me. The unravelling of the mystery drew me into the story, the true crime element worked beautifully, the settings – both Mexico City and Loredo, Texas – were vividly drawn by the author and I could picture the scenes unfolding clearly in my mind. I loved the dual timeline where the reader gets to meet Lore and Cassie in the present day but we also get to sneak a look behind the curtain with flashbacks to Lore’s life in 1985/6 and the path she took to the ultimate deception. Plus, of course, the night of the shooting. The entire book worked for me. But the characters, they were EVERYTHING. More Than You’ll Ever Know is a sublime novel which, if you’re a fan of beautifully written literary mysteries you will devour. I was completely entranced and captivated by this stunning novel. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of More Than You’ll Ever Know, The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez was published in the UK by Penguin Michael Joseph on 7th July 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 |

Katie GutierrezKatie Gutierrez is the author of the debut novel MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW, which will be published by William Morrow in the U.S. and Penguin Michael Joseph in the U.K. on June 7, 2022. She has an MFA from Texas State University, and her writing has appeared in TIME, Harper’s Bazaar, the Washington Post, Longreads, and more. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their two kids.

#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.