#BookReview: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza @bookouture #ColdBlood #damppebbles

cold bloodThe suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. But it’s not the first time she’s seen such a brutal murder…

Two weeks earlier, the body of a young woman was found dumped in an identical suitcase. What connects the two victims? As Erika and her team set to work, they quickly realise they are on the trail of a serial killer who has already made their next move.

Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the target of a violent attack. Forced to recover at home, and with her personal life falling apart, everything is stacked against her, but nothing will stop Erika.

As the body count rises, the case takes an even more twisted turn when the twin daughters of Erika’s colleague, Commander Marsh, are suddenly put in terrible jeopardy. The stakes are higher than ever before, but can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. I am delighted to be sharing my review of the fifth book in Robert Bryndza’s Detective Erika Foster Series with you today – Cold Blood. Cold Blood was published by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Cold Blood but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love this series and I’m a little bit gutted that I only have one book left to read now, following my completion of Cold Blood. As police procedurals go, this series is one of the best out there and it’s always a joy to catch up with Detective Erika Foster and the team, and find out what dark and dangerous mind they’re hunting down.

A large suitcase washes up on the muddy banks of the Thames. DCI Erika Foster and DI Kate Moss are called to investigate. Inside they find the dismembered remains of a man. Sliced and diced in all the right places to make him fit neatly inside. The way the body has been treated and disposed of brings a colleague’s mind to a similar case a couple of weeks before. This time a woman had been dismembered, put into a suitcase and thrown in the river. Erika knows the two bodies are connected in some way but she struggles to work out how. And can she find the killer before it’s too late…

This is another great addition to the DCI Foster series which I powered my way through. Despite having an ever changing team around her, the key characters are all present and correct. I really enjoyed the change of direction one of the relationships between MCs took in this book. Probably a little more than I should have to be honest. Which is a little odd as I was surprisingly pleased to see how things were progressing in the last book, Last Breath.

I enjoyed the investigation and the team’s struggle to connect the dots. I have to be honest though and say this is probably my least favourite of all the books in this series. Cold Blood felt a little different and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. I did note that there were a couple of occasions when I felt events were a little too convenient – which of course they need to be to move the story along – but perhaps they felt a little more forced than usual? Perhaps I was just in more of a grump reading this book than usual, lol! Please don’t get me wrong. This is a minor quibble and doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a cracking read in a magnificent series.

Would I recommend this book? But of course! I love this series so I heartily recommend you read and enjoy them all. Just because I didn’t enjoy Cold Blood as much as the others doesn’t change the fact that this is a superb series which I hope the author returns to writing in the future. I adored the ending which was beautifully visual, smacked you in the face and was exactly the right way to end the story. I enjoyed the sub-plots featuring the relationships of the characters, particularly the complete in-your-face, jaw-dropping betrayal by one of the characters. All in all, another great piece of crime fiction from a must-read author. Recommended.

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

Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Bookouture on 20th September 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digitial 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 | Goodreads |

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robert bryndzaRobert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice, which is the first in his Detective Erika Foster series.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath and Cold Blood are the second, third, fourth and fifth books in the series. The sixth book, Deadly Secrets is now available to purchase.

Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s mailing list here.

Author Links:Instagram | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Mayfly by James Hazel @ZaffreBooks #CharliePriest #TheMayfly #damppebbles

9781785763007“A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

When lawyer Charlie Priest is attacked in his own home by a man searching for information he claims Priest has, he is drawn into a web of corruption that has its roots in the last desperate days of World War Two.

When his attacker is found murdered the next day, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly – a secret society that people will kill for.

As Priest races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself”

Welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Mayfly with you. The Mayfly is the first book in the Charlie Priest series, is written by James Hazel and was published by Zaffre Books on 15th June 2017. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Mayfly but that has in no way influenced my review.

Charlie Priest, where have you been all my life? I’m also absolutely kicking myself as this book has been sat on my NetGalley shelf for *ahem* a wee while. Best not to dwell on past mistakes and let’s instead look at the (sort of) here and now. I read The Mayfly. I LOVED The Mayfly.

Ex-detective turned lawyer, Charlie Priest, is unwittingly drawn into a macabre plan, seventy years in the making, when a man in uniform tricks his way into his house. He’s looking for a memory stick. A memory stick Priest has never laid eyes on. The following day the intruder is found grotesquely murdered – Priest’s business card found amongst his clothes, which leads the police straight to his door. It doesn’t help that the detective in charge, McEwen, has it in for him after working together years before. Time is running out for Charlie and the only way to clear his name is to find the mysterious memory stick, and discover what terrible secrets it holds…

The Mayfly is such a brilliant book. I bloody loved it! Charlie Priest is a very likeable character and I was very happy to be swept along into this story with him and his wonderful team. The opening chapters set the tone of this gripping, grisly story perfectly and I was loathe to put the book down for any length of time. Charlie’s career, for a start, makes him an interesting character, but then you discover he suffers from dissociative disorder which is a condition I’ve not really heard about before. It added an extra layer to his personality and I was keen to know more about how it impacted his interactions and day to day life. What absolutely, categorically cemented my love of this book though is that Charlie’s brother is a convicted serial killer. It’s almost like this book was written especially for me!

The supporting cast of characters are all very well written. I was rooting for Georgie, in particular. She reminded of Tilly Bradshaw from MW Craven’s Washington Poe series on several occasions. Vincent Okoro is another character I would like to see more of as the series progresses. And, as you may have gathered, I may be a little in love with Charlie Priest. Moving swiftly on…

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. The Mayfly is brilliant and I’ve already downloaded the second book in the series. I loved the chapters set at the end of the Second World War. The unease the author creates is palpable. I didn’t see the big reveal coming but it was perfect and done very well. The entire plot had me hook, line and sinker. If you love tense, gutsy crime novels with just about the right amount of ‘grisly’, you will love The Mayfly. Crime fiction at its finest. Highly recommended.

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

The Mayfly by James Hazel was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 15th June 2017 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 | Goodreads |

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James HazelBefore turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.

He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.

He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.

James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.

#BookReview: Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer @bookouture #LittleGirlLost #damppebbles

little girl lost.jpg“Her breath rose and fell in fearful gasps but it was too late. She could already see what she dreaded most. The back seat was empty.

Her little girl was gone.

Abigail lives the perfect life with her doting husband and adorable baby Izzy. But someone knows a secret about Abigail and they want the truth to be told.

When Izzy is snatched from a carpark, it becomes a case for Detective Robyn Carter. Someone has been sending threatening messages to Abigail from an anonymous number. What is Abigail hiding? 

Robyn’s instincts tell her there’s a connection between Izzy’s abduction and two murders she is investigating. But the last time she acted on impulse her fiancé was killed. To break this case and earn her place back on the force, she must learn to trust herself again – and fast. Robyn is on the hunt for a ruthless serial killer. And unless she gets to the twisted individual in time a little girl will die …”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer with you today. Little Girl Lost is the first book in the DI Robyn Carter series, was published by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free eARC of Little Girl Lost via NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this is Wyer’s first crime novel. Before turning to the ‘dark side’ Wyer was well known for her romantic comedies, so I was intrigued to see what she would deliver. I was blown away! This book is so beautifully dark and twisted. I had to stop and ask myself ‘where did THAT come from??!’. I have read several other books by other writers where the author has turned from the light and fluffy to the dark and devilish, but I’ve always been left feeling a little ‘meh’ afterwards. Not with Little Girl Lost. No siree. This book packs one heck of a punch!

DI Robyn Carter has taken a break from the force to heal after personal tragedy. During her leave she does some work on the side for her cousin, Ross, who is a private investigator. When a Lucas Matthews is reported missing by his wife, Robyn begins to dig into Matthews’ past. What she discovers makes her return to work and puts her at the forefront of the case. But what starts as a missing person escalates at a terrifying pace…

The book opens with a devastating prologue which was hard to read in one sitting. From there we’re introduced to the brilliant Robyn Carter who I instantly liked. She felt damaged from what life had thrown at her, but determined to not let it beat her. I feel as though she has quite a way to go yet though, so I’m delighted that there are another four books featuring Robyn after Little Girl Lost. I’m looking forward to investing time in watching this particular character grow.

The plot is twisty and gripping from start to finish and once I had made it through the heartbreaking prologue, I struggled to put the book down. The story is told from three different perspectives; that of Robyn, Abigail – a young mother to Izzy who is receiving threatening calls and messages from an unknown number, and Alice – a young girl who suffers the most horrific abuse. We watch as life for Abigail deteriorates and no one, not even her husband, believes what she is going through. Then, in one of the most brilliantly written scenes I’ve read, Abigail’s daughter is snatched from the back of her car. It’s so tense, so nerve-wracking and I loved it!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Little Girl Lost gave me so much more than I expected. So much darker and ten times more sinister, and I loved it. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the DI Robyn Carter series, and then making a start on the Detective Natalie Ward series by the same author. Dark and twisty fiction, just how I like it! Highly recommended.

Little Girl Lost by Carol Wyer was published in the UK by Bookouture on 19th January 2017 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 | Goodreads |

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Carol-Wyer-500-2Carol Wyer garnered a loyal following as an author of romantic comedies, and won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015). In 2017 she stepped from comedy to the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, featuring the popular DI Robyn Carter, which earned her recognition as a crime writer. The Staffordshire-based writer now has more crime novels in the pipeline, although she can still sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

#BookReview: Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton @TrapezeBooks #Tattletale #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

tattletale“One day changes Jody’s life forever. She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags’s life forever. After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…

Packed with twists and turns, this gripping psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventeenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton. Tattletale was published by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Tattletale but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this book was a whole lot darker than I ever expected it to be! I like to read fiction that errs on the dark side but with this book, I had to put it down and take a break a couple of times. It’s a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but it got under my skin. The way the best fiction does.

Mags returns to the UK following her brother’s horrific accident. He’s on life support and she’s been told to prepare for the worst. She goes to the hospital, meets her brother’s devastated fiancee for the first time and tries to come to terms with what has happened. Mags and Abe were never close as children. More like rivals really, out to get the other in trouble as much as possible with their controlling and aggressive father. The divide between the siblings seems too wide now though, and Mags wants to change that before it’s too late. So she moves into Abe’s flat, spends time with Jody, his fiancee, and starts to discover things she never knew about her brother. But not everything fits. Not everyone is telling Mags the truth. Then she discovers something which makes no sense at all. Who is lying to Mags and why…?

The chapters are broken down into sections and told from one of four perspectives; Jody – Abe’s fiancee, Mags, Mira – a neighbour, and an unknown young female narrator whose chapters are harrowing and difficult at times to read. This is probably the most appropriate point in my review to do something I don’t normally do, and that’s issue a warning. This book contains some very distressing scenes of sexual abuse and rape against children. For that reason, it’s not going to be for everyone.

The plot doesn’t stop moving from the moment you open the book and I was immediately sucked into the story. The opening packs a punch with its vivid imagery and intriguing characters. There’s a feeling though that you, as the reader, aren’t party to everything that’s going on, or gone on before. You’re missing…..’something’, but what is it? It’s a very intriguing start and the book had its hooks in me from then on. The wonderful sense of impending doom helped as well. I do love a sense of foreboding!

There isn’t a lot I can say about the characters without putting my foot in it so I won’t go into detail. But I will say, I couldn’t decide if I liked or loathed Mags. Mags is the character we spend the most time with and at times I think it may have been a bit of both. She was quite judgmental and superior for a large proportion of the book, which riled me. She rubbed me up the wrong way and I don’t think there was any going back from that point.

Would I recommend this book? I would yes, But please heed my warning about the abuse if that’s something you like to avoid in your fiction. It has its place in this novel but it’s a tough read. Tattletale is a multi-layered, intense read for fans of the psychological suspense genre and one I enjoyed. I did find the ending a smidge far-fetched but as I always say, if you can’t stretch the limits a little in fiction, when can you? I also saw one of the twists coming but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this book as there were plenty more twists and turns coming my way that did surprise me. Recommended.

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

Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Sarah J. Naughton

Sarah Naughton’s debut novel, The Hanged Man Rises, was shortlisted for the Costa children’s award. It was followed by a second young adult thriller, The Blood List. Her thrillers for adults, Tattletale and The Other Couple (Orion) are Amazon bestsellers. Sarah lives in London with her husband and sons.

#BookReview: Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch @headlinepg #HerHusbandsLover #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her husbands lover“She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.

Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her until she died if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.

And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?”

Hello, a very warm welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my thirteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch. Her Husband’s Lover was published by Headline Books in June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, batten down the hatches and take cover! This is one seriously intense book and I was swept up into its pages almost instantly. I’ve never felt so many emotions in the first 6% of a book before. Six per cent in and I was straight on Twitter to share how utterly compelling this story was and how it already had its hooks in me. Wow!

Louisa is rebuilding her life after the death of her controlling and manipulative husband, Sam. He always told her she would never escape him but she did, as the sole survivor of the car crash which killed Sam and their two children. Bearing the scars and the trauma of the accident, she moves to London to start a new life. But a face from the past won’t let Louisa be. Sophie, Sam’s lover, is out to wreak havoc and get what she’s owed. Sophie won’t give up until she’s taken what she wants from Louisa, no matter what the cost…

Thank you for reading my review. I’m afraid that’s it! There is no more because if I start talking about this book in any detail I’m bound to give something away and no one wants that. I am, of course, joking about the very short review but I am also very aware that I have to tread carefully with this one. It may be a little more vague and succinct then normal!

This is a twisty, twisted story and I savoured every moment I had with it. It took me longer to read Her Husband’s Lover than anything else I’ve read recently because I was eking it out, making sure I was there in every scene with the characters, living and breathing their world. I was fully immersed from the get-go and my emotions were running high. There’s an impending sense of doom throughout the novel, you’re just waiting for something catastrophic to happen and it keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. What’s the next move going to be?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Her Husband’s Lover is like nothing else I’ve read before and I would gladly pick up another book by this author (this is the first book I’ve read by Julia Crouch). I was a smidge disappointed with the ending but that was because I wanted MORE. I wanted to see it through to the bitter end and didn’t want to leave the characters at that particular point. But as Barnum apparently said, “always leave them wanting more”. All in all, an engrossing read which I savoured over the course of several days and will remember for some time to come. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch was published in the UK by Headline Books on 15th June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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julia crouchJulia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.

Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year’s editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.

Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013, followed by Every Vow You Break in 2014 and Her Husband’s Lover in 2017. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China.

Unable to find a sub-genre of crime writing that neatly described her work, she came up with the term Domestic Noir, which is now widely accepted as the label for one of the most popular crime genres today. She has even written a foreword to a book of academic essays on the subject.

She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch, their three children, two cats called Keith and Sandra, and about twelve guitars (you can find #Keith, who has his own hashtag, on twitter). She is a self-confessed geek and fights a daily battle to resist tinkering with the code on her website, which can be found at http://www.juliacrouch.co.uk.

#BookReview: Written in Bones by James Oswald @PenguinUKBooks #WritteninBones #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

written in bonesInspector McLean returns in the seventh instalment of James Oswald’s gritty, compelling crime series, for his most mysterious murder investigation yet . . .

The roots of murder run deep . . .

When a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my third 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Written in Bones by James Oswald. Written in Bones was published by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Written in Bones but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh the perils of NetGalley. Imagine the scene. Wherever you look, crime fiction readers are raving about an author and your FOMO seriously kicks in. Everywhere I looked on social media, the name James Oswald was being mentioned. The need to read a book by Oswald went from being ‘vaguely intrigued’ to ‘epically strong’, so I toddled off to NG and requested Written in Bones. Only to discover that it’s the seventh book in the DI Tony McLean series 🤦. Book seven. Now, I don’t mind going into a series partway through, but knowing I had missed out on six earlier books had me worried. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with DI McLean and team, but I did feel a little lost at times. If you’re coming to this series for the first time, then I would strongly suggest that you start at the beginning as I felt I struggled a little not knowing the history of these characters.

McLean is called to a crime scene in The Meadows and what he finds is like nothing he’s seen before. An ex-police officer with a notorious past is found dead in a tree. By the looks of things, Bill Chalmers was dropped from a great height. The 10-year-old boy who discovered the body tells of hearing a dragon whilst out walking his dog. But surely that can’t be the case, can it…? McLean is at a loss. Taking a microscope to Chalmers’ colourful life, they struggle to find why anyone would want him dead and in such an elaborate fashion to boot! Staff shortages, the sudden retreat of many of the senior officers and an eye witness account of a mythical beast, all muddy the waters. How far does McLean have to dig into the past to discover what really happened to Bill Chalmers and more importantly, why…?

I really liked DI Tony McLean. I read a lot of crime fiction, particularly police procedurals, and I enjoy it when an author gives their lead detective a different spin. McLean’s wealth and his determination to get the job done at any cost made him a memorable character. He doesn’t need to keep the bosses onside, and does whatever it takes and upsets whoever he needs to, to get the job done. I can see why this is such a popular series and why Oswald is a much-admired writer. I absolutely loved the cold, snowy setting of Edinburgh and could easily picture the scene as McLean drove through the streets in his vintage Alfa. I liked the way the treacherous weather hampered the investigation. It was almost a character in itself!

I found the plot a little confusing but I think that’s because there are quite a few key characters at play and I was meeting them for the first time. Had I had some experience or knowledge of the cast, then perhaps I would have been able to get to grips with the plot a little quicker. Rather than having to refer to my notes a lot of the time to remind myself who was who and what I knew about them up until that point.

Would I recommend this book? Sort of. I would recommend that you start at the beginning of the series with Natural Causes and work your way up to Written in Bones. There’s a lot of pressure on authors to make sure each of their books ‘stand alone’ but I feel there’s been too much water under the bridge for that to be the case with this book. I came into Written in Bones expecting to not fully understand all of the references to previous cases and to not be familiar with the characters. That’s what you get when you start a series partway through. But I felt I had been left out of the cool group at school, a little on the periphery and watching the action from afar. Not really understanding exactly what was going on. I loved Oswald’s writing, his characters and his bitterly cold Edinburgh, and would happily (gladly!) read more. Just in the right order this time.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Written in Bones. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Written in Bones by James Oswald was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 29th June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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James OswaldJames Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries. The first two of these, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. Set in an Edinburgh not so different to the one we all know, Detective Inspector Tony McLean is the unlucky policeman who can see beneath the surface of ordinary criminal life to the dark, menacing evil that lurks beneath.

He has also introduced the world to Detective Constable Constance ‘Con’ Fairchild, whose first outing was in the acclaimed No Time To Cry.

As J D Oswald, James has also written a classic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, it follows the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. The whole series is now available in print, ebook and audio formats.

James has pursued a varied career – from Wine Merchant to International Carriage Driving Course Builder via Call Centre Operative and professional Sheep Shit Sampler (true). He moved out of the caravan when Storm Gertrude blew the Dutch barn down on top of it, and now lives in a proper house with three dogs, two cats and a long-suffering partner. He farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, writes disturbing fiction by night.

#BookReview: The Betrayals by Fiona Neill @PenguinUKBooks #TheBetrayals #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the betrayals“None of them would forget that week on the wild Norfolk coast.

Best friends Rosie and Lisa’s families had always been inseparable.

But that summer, Lisa had an affair with Rosie’s husband Nick.

And now, after years of silence, she sends Rosie a letter begging for help. A letter which exposes dark secrets.

Daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel.

Teenage son Max blames himself for everything that happened that long hot summer.

And Nick must confront his own version of events.

There are four sides to this story. Who will you believe?”

Hello and welcome to a new day on damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my second 20 Books of Summer review with you today and it’s for The Betrayals by Fiona Neill. The Betrayals was published by Penguin on 10th August 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Betrayals but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with The Betrayals on my NetGalley shelf. It’s so different to what I normally read. If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that crime fiction is my ‘thing’, liberally sprinkled with lots of death and destruction. The Betrayals I would describe more as a family drama….and I LOVED IT! Honestly, I think I may be mellowing in my old age because I couldn’t put this book down and it really wormed its way under my skin.

Lisa committed one of the worst crimes a best friend could, when she had an affair with Rosie’s husband, Nick. The affair ended what Rosie thought was a strong and stable marriage, leaving her and her two children, Daisy and Max, alone. Now, after eight years of silence, Lisa wants to talk. She has something she has to share with Rosie and time is running out. But the threat of Lisa being back in their lives puts untold pressure on an already fragile Daisy whose compulsive behaviour is spiralling out of control. Will Rosie confront the past, come face to face with her ex-best friend and discover what Lisa wants to share? Four points of view, four very different memories of a week on the Norfolk coast which changed the lives of the Rankin family forever…

This is a wonderful, character-driven, slow burn of a novel and I devoured it. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. When I was doing other things (cooking, watching TV) I wanted to get back to the book. There’s nothing I love more than a character-driven novel and that’s what The Betrayals delivers in spades. The Rankin family, made up of mum – breast cancer consultant – Rosie, estranged Dad, Nick – who works in the study of memory – student daughter, Daisy, and medical student son, Max, were such a fascinating bunch of characters that I was pulled into their world from the very start of the book to the very end. Four different points of view, but for me, it was all about Max and Daisy. The Betrayals is their story.

Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the four family members in the present day. The reader is then whisked to the blowy Norfolk coast and back to that fateful week eight years ago, and that’s when things start slotting into place for the reader. Divided loyalties, teenage insecurities and the beginning of the end for not one, but two marriages. The start of something unwelcome – or perhaps the catalyst for it to begin to dig its spiky nails in further. There was no turning back after the holiday in Norfolk where lives changed forever. I must mention how utterly adorable Max is at the age of 10 years old. He’s so very wise beyond his years, so observant and astute.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes but be prepared for a wonderful slow burn of a novel with very few twists and turns and a somewhat over-egged big reveal courtesy of Lisa. This is the story of the Rankins and I savoured every moment I spent with them. I would normally shy away from a book like this as it’s not my usual choice of genre but I’m so glad I read it. The Betrayals puts family dynamics under the microscope and I heartily recommend it.

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

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill was published in the UK by Penguin on 10th August 2017 and is available in digital format (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 | Goodreads |

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about-the-author3

Fiona Neill_c_Guy Hills USEFiona Neill is a novelist and journalist. She was born in 1966. Her first novel The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy, based on her column in The Times Magazine every Saturday, was published in 2007. It was widely acclaimed and went on to become a Sunday Times bestseller that sold in twenty-five countries.

Brought up in Norfolk, she now lives in London with her husband and three children.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart #OperationLargeScotch #OLS @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles #bookreview

OLS“Fearing the Good Friday Agreement will effectively end the lifestyle his IRA terrorist cell has enjoyed for years, Michael Caldwell the leader of the 1972 Club (named after the Bloody Sunday Massacre) decides to turn his attention to targeting the UK Government economically. He launches an attack threatening to bomb the Scotch whisky industry unless the British Government pay the terrorists a £20m ransom.

Armitage Brown, Assistant Controller of MI5 is given the task of stopping the terrorist attack but is unable to get any information on the assailants as to how, where and when they are going to deploy their explosives if their demands are not met. He co-ordinates a strategy, using all the emergency services, to thwart the terrorists under the code name ‘Operation Large Scotch.’

Both the military and the intelligence services have been guilty of murderous acts going back over the previous eighteen years. John Johnston, a young Ulsterman, living thousands of miles away in South Africa, is determined to get revenge for the killing of his father in Belfast. With the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service he releases information that will haunt both the British Military establishment and the terrorists.

Will MI5 succeed in preventing mayhem in various towns around Scotland?”

Hello! Long time, no see. Officially I’m not here. If you saw my end of year post which featured my top 10-ish books of 2019 you may remember me mentioning the fourteen reviews I had yet to write. I have good news – those fourteen reviews are now SIXTEEN reviews (which means I’ve read another two books since that post was published – good news, right?!). Yes, despite my best-laid plans I have failed. But the good news is Ryan, my guest reviewer (and husband), is keeping the damppebbles ship afloat and today he’s reviewing Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart for the blog tour. Let’s find out what he thought…

Let’s start with the big news, Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. is an easy to read thriller that pulls you in from the early chapters and flies along at a great pace. The author has been very clever in limiting the number of characters to avoid confusing side plots and making it very clear from the start who the bad guys are. I love the books where the reader gets to see what both sides are doing and how far away the police/MI5 are from solving the mystery.

You follow the story wondering how anyone on the MI5 side is going to move from being in the dark to figuring out how to progress, and you watch the dissident IRA cell plot atrocities in cunning ways. Set in Antrim, Scotland and South Africa the story moves across multiple years and locations and manages to carry real peril throughout the story.  I can do it no higher praise than say that it would not have surprised me to see “elements of this book were based on real events” in the epilogue.

Michael Caldwell, the leader of the dissident IRA cell is a main character in the book and is clearly drawn by the author. Bill Flockhart has a knack of drawing characters in just the right level of detail. He shows the human side of characters on both sides of the story, combined with a strong storyline which has led to a great book with action, emotion and suspense.

If you are looking for a book to fly through with strong characters then this is a must-consider.  I can’t wait to see if Bill Flockhart writes a second.

Ryan received a free digital copy of Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart was published in paperback and ebook formats on 11th December 2017 (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.com |

about-the-author3

bill-flockhart‘Operation Large Scotch’ is my first book and at my age (71) possibly my last. it reflects on my life in many respects having worked in a distillery in my early working life before digressing into financial services.

My interests are sport (especially golf, swimming and basketball, (the latter through my two sons who played at international level) and current affairs in our ever changing world.

I have always enjoyed a challenge, which producing a book has certainly proved to be, but I would recommend writing to the retired population as it certainly keeps your brain active.

Two years after publishing ‘operation large scotch’ I am delighted to release my second novel ‘She’s Not a Lovely Girl’ which is a sequel to my first book. I only hope it gives everyone the pleasure ‘O.L.S.’ did judging by the favourable reviews it received.

#BookReview: The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd @PenguinUKBooks #TheInnocentWife #damppebbles

the innocent wife.jpg“You’re in love with a man on Death Row in Florida, convicted of a brutal murder twenty years ago.

You’re convinced he didn’t do it, and you’re determined to prove it. You’re part of a mass online campaign that picks holes in the case, uncovers evidence of police incompetence, and agitates for this miscarriage of justice to be overturned.

Now you’re married to him, and he’s a free man, his conviction thrown out. You have the rest of your lives to spend together.

You’re overjoyed. After all, he’s innocent.

Isn’t he?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd.  This book had a real buzz about it when it was first published in December 2017 (yes it has been on my NetGalley shelf for a while, yes I am a terrible book blogger who reads at a snail’s pace!).  I received a free eARC copy of The Innocent Wife which has in no way influenced my review.

I keep seeing mixed reviews for this book and I just don’t get it.  I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me – reading is subjective.  I totally get that.  I’ll say this though, if you’re anything like me you will love this book.  It has everything I want in a novel.  I loved the small town American feel of it, I loved how the author has used the nation’s love of true crime to give it a more authentic edge, I loved the plot and I loved the characters.  This is turning into an epic year of reading for me; nearly every book I pick up just blows me away!  And that includes The Innocent Wife.

Notorious convicted killer, Dennis Danson, comes to Sam’s attention when questions begin to be raised over the evidence and trial used to convict him and send him to death row.  An online group start petitioning for his release claiming the Red River Police got the wrong man.  Sam does what any normal (!) 30-something would do in this situation and starts corresponding with Dennis.  Before long a strong bond is formed between them and Dennis sends a visiting order.  Sam drops everything, packs her bags and flies off to Altoona Prison to meet Dennis in person, hoping he’s everything his letters lead her to believe he is.  After an awkward start, the couple relax into each others company and before long Sam has extended her visa to allow her to visit Dennis on a regular basis.  Then he’s released and everything changes.  Sam is married to a man she hardly knows.  And what’s more, what she was once certain of, she’s not anymore…

Character, character, character.  I flipping love a bunch of fascinating people!  I really felt for Sam.  I could feel her loneliness, her need to be loved and adored which emanated from the page.  I also found her a little frustrating at times because I wanted her to stop being so drippy and ‘woman-up’ a bit.  That didn’t stop me from wanting to read Sam’s story though.  She intrigued me.  I also loved the mysterious Dennis, although I doubt very much I was supposed to!  There was something quite dark and dangerous about him and that appealed. Other characters were great too such as the true crime documentary filmmaker, Carrie, who welcomes Sam to the US with open arms and then becomes her guardian angel.  She just knows Dennis is innocent and will do everything in her power to prove it.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, yes.  It’s a delicious slow burn of a read and I loved it!  I was absolutely fascinated to see where the story was going to go and I wasn’t at all disappointed.  Gripping, unnerving and it ticked so many boxes for me.  I would not hesitate to pick up another book by Amy Lloyd.  In fact, I can’t wait to read more from this author! Highly recommended.

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

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd was published in the UK by Arrow Publishing on 4th October 2018 in paperback, hardcover, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

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amy lloyd.jpgAmy Lloyd studied English and Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University. In 2016 she won the Daily Mail Bestseller Competition for her debut novel The Innocent Wife which, when it was published, became a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Amy lives in Cardiff with her partner, who is also a published novelist.

Author Links:TwitterFacebook |

 

#BookReview: The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore @orionbooks #TheDarkRoom #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (5/15)

the dark room.jpgThey thought they’d buried their secrets 
Homicide inspector Gavin Cain is standing by a grave when he gets the call. Cain knows there’s something terrible in the coffin they’re about to exhume. He and his team have received a dying man’s confession and it has led them here.

But death doesn’t guarantee silence
Cain is summoned by Mayor Castelli, who has been sent sinister photographs of a woman that he claims he doesn’t know and a note threatening that worse are on their way.

And now light will be shone on a very dark place…
As Cain tries to identify the woman in the pictures, and looks into the mayor’s past, he finds himself being drawn towards a situation as horrifying and as full of secrets as the grave itself.”

Welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted today to be sharing my review of The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore which I have selected as one of my #15BooksofSummer challenge reads.  The Dark Room was published by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats. I received an eARC of The Dark Room but this has in no way influenced my review.

I read Jonathan Moore’s The Poison Artist back in 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was whilst sharing that review that a fellow book blogger, someone whose opinion I really respect, suggested I give The Dark Room a go.  Unfortunately, due to being the slowest of readers and having a burgeoning NetGalley TBR, I have only recently gotten around to it.  The Dark Room felt a little different to The Poison Artist in tone but is still a very enjoyable read.

Inspector Gavin Cain of the San Francisco Police Department is about to get some answers as he stands by the recently exhumed grave of a thirty-year-old corpse.  That is until his Lieutenant calls and orders him to the Mayor’s Office – she’s sending a chopper and there’s no time to waste.  Cain arrives, is introduced to Mayor Castelli and takes what seems like an instant dislike to the man.  The Mayor confides that he has received a number of potentially incriminating photographs in the post along with a threatening note.  These are the first four snaps.  There are another eight to come.  The note suggests that maybe the Mayor would like to commit suicide before the photographs fall into the wrong hands and he is exposed.  Castelli claims to not know who the woman is and wants Cain to discover her identity.  But the Mayor is hiding something and the further back into the Mayor’s past Cain digs, the more secrets he uncovers…

This is a slow burn, noirish thriller set in San Francisco.  The slow drip of information as you watch the case unfold and as Cain joins the dots makes it an enjoyable read.  Helped along by the wonderful setting and the fascinating characters.  And, having read this author before, I can safely say he likes to throw the odd shock twist into the story to give his readers a bit of a start.  Cain is an interesting chap and one I would happily read more of if this were a series (it’s not, it’s a standalone).  He’s a very experienced SFPD Inspector and takes no bull (not even from the Mayor or his Lieutenant).  I don’t feel the reader really gets to know him though.  You learn so much more about his partner, piano teacher Lucy, than you do about him.  Maybe he’s meant to be more of an enigma – after all, there’s only so far you can go with a character when they feature in only one book.  Other characters in the book are well drawn, particularly the Mayor’s daughter, Alexa, who drove me crazy.

The ending absolutely fitted the story and it was the right way for the author to go but I was left feeling a little disappointed.  I think that says more about me than the writing though.  I wanted something a little more showy, more of a BANG than what we’re given.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  It’s an absorbing police procedural which pulls you in from start to finish – you just HAVE to know how this one is going to end.  If you’re a fan of a slower paced crime read with a cast of intriguing characters then absolutely, you will enjoy this book.  Recommended.

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

The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore was published in the UK by Orion Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepository | Goodreads |

15 books of summer

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jonathan-moore.jpgJonathan Moore is a Bram Stoker Award nominated author of five novels. His third novel, THE POISON ARTIST, was a selection of the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. His novels have been translated into seven languages.

Before graduating from law school in New Orleans, he lived in Taiwan for three years, guided whitewater raft trips on the Rio Grande, and worked as an investigator for a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. He has also been an English teacher, a bar owner, a counsellor at a wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents, and a textbook writer.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |