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

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

30 years later, a body is discovered.

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

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

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

But who?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: The Hunger by Alma Katsu @TransworldBooks #TheHunger #damppebbles

“After having travelled west for weeks, the party of pioneers comes to a crossroads. It is time for their leader, George Donner, to make a choice. They face two diverging paths which lead to the same destination. One is well-documented – the other untested, but rumoured to be shorter.

Donner’s decision will shape the lives of everyone travelling with him. The searing heat of the desert gives way to biting winds and a bitter cold that freezes the cattle where they stand. Driven to the brink of madness, the ill-fated group struggles to survive and minor disagreements turn into violent confrontations. Then the children begin to disappear. As the survivors turn against each other, a few begin to realise that the threat they face reaches beyond the fury of the natural elements, to something more primal and far more deadly.

Based on the true story of The Donner Party, The Hunger is an eerie, shiver-inducing exploration of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Hunger by Alma Katsu. The Hunger was published by Bantam Press on 21st February 2019 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Hunger but that has in no way influenced my review.

This book has been sat on my shelf for far too long. I’ve been wanting to read it for such a long time so when a break in my planned reading came up, I grabbed the chance. And I loved it. The author’s compelling twist on a documented historical event was both intriguing and chilling.

It’s 1846  and a group of pioneers, many who are strangers, make the gruelling trek from Springfield, Illinois to California. Loaded with only the possessions they could carry, they start their brave trek across America. Tensions are high, rivalries are ever present and the fight for supremacy within the group is constant. George Donner, the group’s reigning leader, is given a choice. A crossroads. He’s warned against taking the less well-known route and told, for the sake of his party, to keep to the well-travelled path. Seasoned travellers repeatedly advise against it and warn of the dangers. But Donner decides to stick to his plan, sealing the fate of those he’s travelling with. What Donner doesn’t realise is that it’s not just the rapidly changing elements that pose a risk. There’s something else out there. Something deadly, and it has it’s sights set on the Donner Party…

I loved The Hunger. So much so, that approximately a quarter of the way through the book, bewitched by the author’s writing and completely absorbed by the story, I ordered myself a copy of Katsu’s latest book, The Deep. I loved that The Hunger is partly based on a true story but given an extra creepy twist. The story of the Donner Party is, in itself, quite harrowing but the author’s spine-tingling addition to the tale creates a piece of fiction which is both deeply unsettling and beautifully dark. I devoured it and days later, I’m still thinking about the book.

As a Brit living in the modern age (trains, planes and automobiles!), I personally struggle to get my head around the massive undertaking the Donner Party took when they left Springfield in April 1846. But thanks to Katsu’s exquisite writing, vibrant imagery and her ability to put her reader in the scene with the characters, I closed the back cover of this novel a little awestruck and feeling as though I had learnt something. Tensions run high, trust between the party is at an all-time low and the threat of the unknown was impossible to escape. As the weather closes in, as the snow drifts begin to build, I could see no escape for the party.  The claustrophobia and the periI were palpable. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Hunger is like nothing else I have read before and I can’t wait to make a start on The Deep (if it’s anything like The Hunger I know I’m going to be in for a huge treat!). I found The Hunger to be a completely engrossing and spell-binding read which I heartily recommend to horror fans. The ending was perfect and took my breath away. I adored this book and I’m kicking myself because it’s taken far too long for me to get around to reading it. Something truly special which has left its mark on me. Highly recommended.

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

The Hunger by Alma Katsu was published in the UK by Bantam Books on 21st February 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Alma KatsuAuthor of THE DEEP, a reimagining of the sinking of the Titanic, and THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the Donner Party’s tragic journey (Putnam);
THE TAKER, THE RECKONING and THE DESCENT (Gallery Books). The Taker was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011.

#BookReview: Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez #CampSlaughter #damppebbles

“It’s a local legend.

No one is sure if this “Camp Slaughter” place is real or not.

But a group of college kids renting out a cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania will soon realize the truth.

They’ll realize the danger, too.

Or rather, the cannibal out in the woods will bring the danger to them…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez. Camp Slaughter was published on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital format. It’s also available as a Kindle Unlimited download.

Camp Slaughter is so much fun. I raced through this book desperate to find out if any of the characters would make it to the end. I love sleep so it’s not often I stay up late reading (shock!) but Camp Slaughter has the ‘one more chapter’ pull which I know you, dear reader, will be familiar with. I couldn’t put it down, I just had to read one more chapter, again and again, until it was WAY past my bedtime!

Fred and his best friend, Gavin, are planning a last hurrah before they officially become adults. Gavin has organised a remote cabin in the Pennsylvanian woods for the weekend so they contact a group of friends (their local drug dealer, the girls the boys are interested in, and, unfortunately, Gavin’s fourteen year old brother, Wayne) and hit the road. Fred has a few concerns as he happened across a news article about a couple going missing from the same spot but the allure of Noelle and the opportunity to make things ‘official’ between them, along with the promise of a booze and drug-filled weekend, pushes any concerns to the back of his mind. But the group have every right to be worried. They’re not alone in the woods. There’s something else out there and it wants to join the party…

If you’re a fan of 80s slasher movies then this book is a must read. I tend to prefer slasher novels to other horror sub-genres and this is one of the best I’ve read. It starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until the end. We’re introduced to married couple, Nadine and Stephen Lang, who have booked Lakewood Cabin to get Stephen away from work for a much needed break and to spice up their dwindling marriage. On their first night they hear a strange noise which marks the start of this fast-paced and gloriously gory thrill-ride of a story. The story then fast forwards one year to our main protagonists planning their last minute getaway. All the while knowing things aren’t going to go quite to plan.

The pace doesn’t let up from start to finish, which is why I struggled to put this one down. I had to keep reading. I had to find out what was going to happen next and to whom. The setting is haunting and atmospheric allowing me to picture the deserted campsite and feel the fear the characters were experiencing. I felt oddly sympathetic at times which was peculiar, to say the least, as the characters igniting these feelings deserved no sympathy whatsoever! *shudder*

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Camp Slaughter is one of the best slasher novels I’ve read and I savoured every minute of it. The author has done a terrific job of keeping his reader on their toes by doing things you wouldn’t expect throughout the story. There are touches of the paranormal, a well-defined backstory of another of the main characters and multiple ways of killing the characters which all added up to a very well-written, very enjoyable tale of blood, guts and gore. It’s a little cheesy, yes, but that just made me love it even more! I did find the ending a little disappointing as I like a nice big ‘THE END’ which you don’t get in this book (second time that’s happened recently) but I look forward to reading more from Gomez very soon. Recommended to those with a strong stomach.

Camp Slaughter by Sergio Gomez was published in the UK on 27th August 2019 and is available in paperback 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 | amazon.com | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Sergio GomezBorn in Mexico. Raised in the ‘States. I live in Philadelphia with my family, which includes 3 cats. I enjoy writing novels that evoke thrills, fears, and any strong emotions out of my readers. I’m an avid reader, a martial artist, and a Nintendo fanboy.

#BookReview: Sleep by C.L. Taylor @AvonBooksUK #Sleep #damppebbles

“All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

The million-copy bestseller is back in her darkest, twistiest book to date. Read it if you dare! Perfect for fans of Lesley Kara’s The Rumour and Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley Thrillers.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Sleep by C.L. Taylor. Sleep was published by Avon Books on 24th September 2019 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC copy of Sleep but that has in no way influenced my review.

Anna’s world is shattered when on the way home from a team building exercise, the car she’s driving is involved in a major collision. Two of her colleagues die. One is paralysed. Anna walks away with a few cuts and bruises and a whole lot of guilt. Her relationship with her boyfriend was flagging anyway but the trauma, regret and guilt she suffers pushes them over the edge. Newly single and with nowhere to live, Anna makes the decision to change her life completely – moving to the small Scottish island of Rum and starting work in a hotel. But the latest cohort of guests have their own secrets. Trapped by a storm, the hotel is cut-off. And there’s a killer in their midst…

I really felt for Anna who, despite not being responsible for the accident, was living with so much sadness, grief and guilt. The reader watches as it eats away at her, impinging on her life and in particular her sleep. When she starts to feel as though she’s being watched, her boyfriend puts it down to exhaustion and the effects of the accident. I could feel the condescending ‘pat on the head’, the ‘there, there…’ at his empty, meaningless words. The author sets up her introduction to Anna and her life very well. I felt as though, by the time she gets to Rum and starts her new life, that I had the measure of the character. Which meant that when the pace really picked up and the threat is closing in, you couldn’t help but feel invested.

When a catastrophic event happens, it really ramps the tension up. I tried to guess who was responsible but I couldn’t. The author is very adept at throwing lots of red herrings into the story so you end up questioning everything and everyone. On the rare occasion when the characters did venture out of the hotel, the blustery winds and hammering rain were easy to picture thanks to the author’s great descriptions. It’s a very atmospheric read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. Sleep is a very compelling psychological suspense novel which had me turning the pages faster than most other books I’ve read recently. I liked that the person ‘whodunit’ wasn’t obvious. I thought their reasons behind their actions were utterly chilling. Anna was a terrific protagonist who I was behind all the way. I thought the other characters in the book were all fully formed characters and had their part to play in the story. This is my second book by this author and I would happily read more in the future. Recommended.

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

Sleep by C.L Taylor was published in the UK by Avon Books on 24th September 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014.

She started writing short stories in 2005 and was published widely in literary and women’s magazines. She also won several short story competitions. In 2009 and 2011 her romantic comedy novels (as Cally Taylor) were published by Orion and translated into fourteen languages. HEAVEN CAN WAIT was a bestseller in Hungary and China and HOME FOR CHRISTMAS was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. Whilst on maternity leave with her son Cally had an idea for a psychological thriller and turned to crime.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

#BookReview: Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis @BoroughPress #BitterSun #damppebbles

It all started when we found the body.
Then nothing was ever the same.

The Dry meets Stand by Me and True Detective in this stunningly written tale of the darkness at the heart of a small mid-Western town and the four kids who uncover it.

In the heatwave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder. But they dig too deep and ask too many questions.

Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest, and the people teeter on the edge of ruin.

As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex. The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control.

And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered…”

Hello my bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the beautifully written Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis with you. Bitter Sun was published by Borough Press on 7th March 2019 and is available in all formats.

I saw Bitter Sun mentioned on a number of blogs last year and my FOMO well and truly kicked in. I really can’t help myself when it comes to literary crime fiction at the moment and as soon as I clapped eyes on this book, I knew I had to read it. And oh my goodness, I’m so glad I did. Heartbreaking and emotive, this is a wonderfully consuming piece of fiction which I lost myself in.

A group of young teenage friends make a harrowing discovery one day whilst wasting time down by the lake. The body of a young woman. Their discovery is both horrifying and fascinating. They’re repulsed but drawn to the corpse. No one seems to particularly care who the victim is or why she was killed. So the friends take it upon themselves to find out. From the point of their shocking discovery and for the rest of their lives, life will never be the same for John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy…

Set in a small, claustrophobic mid-Western town in the early 1970s, Bitter Sun is an all-consuming novel about family, friendship and the cruel hand fate can deal you, among other things. This is a powerful, character-driven coming-of-age novel which, in parts, broke me. Our lead character is John Royal. At the ripe old age of 13, John holds sole responsibility for the family farm (unless you count the endless ‘pigeon pa’s’ who fly in, sh!t all over the place and then fly out again!) and is determined to return it to its former glory. His mother is a man-hungry drunk who has all the time in the world for her son but a confusing, turbulent, sometimes hateful relationship with John’s younger sister, Jenny. It makes for uncomfortable reading at times but the author shows the reader exactly how things stand between these two characters. Poor John, who adores both his mother and his sister, is very much stuck in the middle of this warzone.

The day the kids discover the body is the day everything changes. John sees a new side to his sister. She reacts strangely to the discovery and he struggles to understand what is going on. The friends, as one would expect from a group of 13-year-olds in this situation, make the wrong decision – making a bad situation ten times worse. From here, the intricate unravelling of these four lives begins. We see life in Larson over several skin-blistering Summers. Each year brings more change, more bad news, more revelations. My heart ached for John. The author has done an exceptional job in writing this character. I wanted to look after him, protect him from more hurt and shield him from more bad news.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Bitter Sun is an engrossing tale which really got under my skin. Heartbreaking at times and chock full of emotion, it was exactly the right book at the right time for me. If you’re a reader who thinks characters are key then get yourself a copy of this beautifully written novel. I can promise you, you won’t regret it. Completely immersive, unforgettable and utterly mesmerising. Recommended.

Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis was published in the UK by The Borough Press on 7th March 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |


Beth Lewis was raised in the wilds of Cornwall and split her childhood between books and the beach. She has travelled extensively and has had close encounters with black bears, killer whales, and Great White sharks. She has been, at turns, a bank cashier, fire performer, juggler, and is currently a Commissioning Editor at a leading London publisher. Her debut novel, The Wolf Road, was shortlisted for the inaugural Glass Bell Award. Bitter Sun is her second novel.

#BookReview: The Last by Hanna Jameson #TheLast #damppebbles

the last“THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT HAS ENDED

You and nineteen other survivors hole up in an isolated Swiss hotel.

You wait, you survive.

Then you find the body.

One of your number has blood on their hands.

The race is on to find the killer…BEFORE THE KILLER FINDS YOU.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last by Hanna Jameson with you. The Last was published by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 and is available in all formats. I received a free ARC of The Last but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do love me a post-apocalyptic thriller! But I know what I like and conversely, what I don’t like. I read a book earlier this year which claimed to be a dystopian thriller. It was a whole lot of thriller and not a lot of dystopian. I wanted to find out how the characters coped with their ‘new normal’. I wanted to see conflict, fear and adjustment to the setting and the new ways of life. So I was a little apprehensive starting The Last. Would this book be much of the same? I’m delighted to confirm that The Last is far superior to the book I read earlier this year as Jameson puts her characters, their experience and their adjustment to the new ways, front and centre.

Historian Jon Keller is at a conference in a Swiss hotel when the bombs hit. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare come terrifyingly true. The nuclear bombs wipe out large proportions of the US, where Jon calls home, along with a large proportion of Europe. Thankfully Switzerland seems largely unaffected but who knows what kind of state the world is outside the hotel doors. The original number staying at the hotel has dwindled leaving twenty guests to come to terms with what has happened to them and forge a new life within the walls of L’Hotel Sixième. Roles have been redefined, the work is tough and everyone has to adjust to the new way of living. While investigating a problem with the water supply, Jon discovers a body in the water tank. The stark truth of the matter becomes worryingly clear. Within this small community, where they’ve come to depend on each other so much, one of them is a killer….

Now I know I referred to The Last as a post-apocalyptic thriller earlier in this review but it’s not really a thriller. It’s a well-written, slow build character study of people put in the worst scenario imaginable. The reader gets to watch as they struggle to survive, let alone cope with their new world from the comfort of their armchair. But, it’s a little too close to the knuckle in some respects and feels plausibly real. The mystery aspect of the story isn’t really the main crux of the book either but it’s an interesting storyline which gives Jon something to obsess over. And obsess over it he does. The mystery into who killed the girl almost completely consumes him.

I found Jameson’s characters really interesting to read about. Although I struggled to like any of them. But I’m not sure that’s necessarily what the author wants her readers to feel anyway. They’re all individuals coping the best way they can. Yes, they’re selfish, suspicious and on edge but that just added to my enjoyment of the book. The claustrophobic feel of the situation was absolutely marvellous and I thoroughly enjoyed the group’s plight (turns out I’m a horrible person taking enjoyment in others misfortune, good job they’re fictional characters really!).

The ending of this book threw me a little. I was expecting something big and bold but I didn’t get it. I felt the ending let the book down a little. The reader travels so far with these characters, you get to know them even if you don’t like them, and then…well – I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the book for other readers but I was a little disappointed.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you like your novels character-driven then absolutely, The Last is a book you should read. I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic elements. I wanted them to go out exploring what was left of Switzerland and they did exactly that, with trepidation and caution. Some of their encounters were nail-biting and I loved the unease and tension in these sections away from the hotel. As I said previously, there was just enough of this strange new world to satisfy me. All in all, an intriguing premise that hooked me from the start. Recommended.

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

The Last by Hanna Jameson was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 1st August 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

Hanna Jameson’s fourth novel, part murder mystery and part post-apocalyptic thriller – THE LAST – is out now with Viking in the UK and Simon & Schuster-Atria Books in the US. The Last is the story of an American academic searching for the truth about a girl who has been murdered in his Swiss hotel in the aftermath of a nuclear war that has destroyed most of the Western world.

Jameson had written the first draft of her debut, award-nominated novel – SOMETHING YOU ARE – at just seventeen. Something You Are and two further novels in the series – GIRL SEVEN and ROAD KILL – are available now in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.

She lives in London currently, working on screenwriting projects. She likes whiskey, history, and emotionally taxing TV shows.

#BookReview: Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor @0neMoreChapter_ #InnocentOrGuilty #damppebbles

innocent or guilty“Is the right person behind bars?

One morning ten years ago, the town of Twin Rivers changed forever when the body of Tyler Washington was found in the woods. Son of the mayor, star of the high school basketball team – his death struck right at the heart of this tight-knit community.

For Olivia Hall, Tyler’s death heralded the start of her own personal nightmare – her twin brother, Ethan, was arrested for Tyler’s murder. Ten years later, Ethan is still in jail. Olivia is convinced he is innocent, and now, a true crime podcast has taken up his case.

As the podcast digs deeper, secrets, lies and shocking revelations are all uncovered. For the first time, Olivia dares to hope that Ethan may be set free. But if he didn’t kill Tyler, who did? And how far will they go to keep their secrets safe?

Perfect for fans of podcasts Serial, Happy Face and The Teacher’s Pet, and TV shows Making a Murderer, Staircase and Dirty John”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor. Innocent or Guilty? was published by One More Chapter on 12th December 2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I received a free eARC of Innocent or Guilty? but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do not listen to podcasts (I also don’t listen to audiobooks – I’ve never really managed to get to grips with them). But I love books which feature a true crime podcast at their heart. Sitting here, thinking about the concept, a few favourites immediately spring to mind. Well budge over, favourites, and make some room for Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor. There’s something very memorable about this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Olivia and Ethan Hall are twins on the brink of starting their college careers when tragedy strikes, rocking the small town of Twin Rivers. A local teenager, Tyler Washington, is murdered. The sudden death of the town’s golden boy hits everyone hard. But when Ethan Hall, Olivia’s unpopular brother, is arrested for the murder, it turns Olivia’s world completely on its head. Ten years later Olivia is a lawyer and Ethan is still in jail. But she’s determined to prove her brother’s innocence, one way or another. So when the producers of a true-crime podcast come knocking, despite her reservations, Olivia decides to take part and revisit the past. But if Ethan is innocent, the question remains, who REALLY killed Tyler Washington…?

Innocent or Guilty? is told in the past, the present and with brilliant snippets of the podcast, which felt so real to me. With the chapters set 10 years ago, the author beautifully builds the characters’ stories, layer by layer, adding more depth as the story progresses. Giving the reader a clear view of the politics and pressures of life in Twin Rivers in the run-up to Tyler’s murder. I really enjoyed the flashback chapters and getting a glimpse into Olivia and Ethan’s past. The present-day chapters are told mainly from Olivia’s perspective and focus on digging for clues to help free her brother. Working with Kat and Ray, the podcast producers, they come up against many brick walls as the residents of Twin Rivers fight to keep the past buried in the past.

Packed to the brim with secrets and deceit, this is one edge of your seat read which I found hard to put down. The author has created a number of well-written peaks and troughs throughout the book, which kept me turning the pages at a steady pace. After finishing Innocent or Guilty?, I immediately purchased Taylor’s debut, Forget Me Not, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Innocent or Guilty? is a compelling mystery set in small-town America with a modern twist, and I devoured it. Being Mrs Suspicious, I was able to guess what the big twist was going to be from fairly early on in the book, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment one jot! There were plenty of other surprises along the way to keep me on my toes. I am looking forward to reading more from A.M. Taylor. Recommended.

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

Innocent or Guilty? was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 12th December 2019 and is available in paperback 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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Annie May Taylor lives and writes in London. When not making up stories, she writes copy for a living and can most often be found drinking coffee, watching Netflix, and trying to keep up with a never ending TBR pile. She’s been obsessed with mysteries ever since Nancy Drew first walked into her life and would probably have attempted to become a private detective at some point, if only it didn’t involve actually having to talk to people. She has a cat called Domino, ambitions of owning a dog one day, and is as obsessed with My Favorite Murder as you probably are. Writing as A.M. Taylor, her debut psychological thriller Forget Me Not was released by Killer Reads/Harper Collins in October 2018.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Saint Justice by Mike Grist (@michaelgrist) @cobaltdinosaur #SaintJustice #AChristopherWrenThriller #damppebbles

W1“Hundreds of human cages hidden in the desert. One man with nothing to lose.

Christopher Wren pulls off I-70 after three weeks on the road and walks into a biker bar in Price, Utah. An arbitrary decision he’s about to regret.

The bikers attack Wren, leave him for dead and steal his truck.

Now he’s going to get it back.

From a secure warehouse in the desert. Ringed with fences. Filled with human cages.

As Wren digs deeper, a dark national conspiracy unravels and the body count mounts, but one thing is for sure.

They picked the wrong guy to teach a lesson.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I’m handing the keys to the blog over to Ryan who is going to share his thoughts on Saint Justice by Mike Grist. ‘Ryan reviews’ are like buses, you wait AGES for one and then three turn up all at once 🤣! Look out for more reviews from my guest reviewer in the coming week. Ryan received a free digital copy of Saint Justice but that in no way influenced his review.

OK, so I think most of us can agree that vigilante books are typically good fun. I think there are a few sub-genres of vigilante fiction; the dark do-gooder, the fallen law enforcer, the twisted and broken genius and of course, the undefeatable action hero. Mike Grist has done something wonderful with Christopher Wren and that is bring all four together into one of the most memorable characters I have met for some time.

Christopher Wren is no longer a CIA operative. He has gone from their thinking – more likely to be arrested than called a hero. His hatred of the downtrodden being treated poorly and taken advantage of drives him to protect others and he picks fights with people, groups and gangs so much bigger than himself. But he is not alone, as throughout his past he has collected a group of people who when he needs it, will come to his aid. But will this be enough against one of his biggest challenges yet? Wren’s backstory is drip fed through flashbacks and plot twists. A complex and sometimes morose character, you would probably not want to sit next to him on a long haul international flight, but you’ll definitely want to read about him!

I know there are some readers who like realism in their books and that’s great, but that’s not what you get with the indestructible but self-destructing hero of Saint Justice. Whether it is fighting brawls against the odds, inspired leaps of logic or driving like it’s Grand Theft Auto,  Saint Justice will have you hanging onto your hat and loving every minute of it.

Mike Grist’s writing was perfectly suited to the cut and thrust of this thriller, taking you to the edge and then leaving you hanging on the precipice for just the right length of time. His style leaves you wanting to read just one chapter more, so be prepared to be glued to your copy!

If you like a survivor, if you like redemption and if you like action then Christopher Wren is the character for you. A fantastic read that I could not put down. If this is book one then sign me up for the next three as this could become one of my favourite series.

Ryan chose to read and review an free digital copy of Saint Justice. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Saint Justice by Mike Grist was published in the UK on 10th June 2019 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 | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Mike GristMike Grist is the British/American author of the Christopher Wren thriller series. For 11 years Mike lived in Tokyo, Japan, exploring and photographing the dark side of the city and the country: gangs, cults and abandonedplaces. Now he writes from London, UK, about rogue DELTA operator Christopher Wren – an anti-hero vigilante who uses his off-book team of ex-cons to bring brutal payback for dark crimes.

#BookReview: The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters @BooksSphere #TheKillerYouKnow #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the killer you know“I’ll murder three people. And you’ll know it was me . . .

Summer 1997. When Will jokes about becoming a serial killer, his friends just laugh it off. But Adeline can’t help but feel there’s something darker lurking behind his words.

Winter 2015: Years later, Adeline returns to Blythe for a reunion of the old gang – except Will doesn’t show up. Reminiscing about old times, they look up the details of his supposed murder spree. But the mood soon changes when they discover two recent deaths that match.

As the group attempts to track Will down, they realise that he is playing a sinister game that harks back to one they used to play as kids. Only this time there are lives at stake . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eighteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters. The Killer You Know was published by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Killer You Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. A group of teenage friends gather one night as the end of Summer approaches. One of them, Will, is considered to be the odd kid in the group. So when he makes an off-the-cuff comment about being a serial killer when he’s older, the others are shocked and a little unnerved by his bold statement. When Will fails to turn up to a group reunion many years later, it leaves his friends wondering, could he have carried out the unthinkable? When the friends check the very precise details he gave about the killings, they find reports of a suicide that matches…and then a second death. One report could be classed as a coincidence, but two deaths…? No, there’s no question about it, there’s something suspicious going on. Now all they have to do is find Will, and see for themselves. Particularly as Will threatened a third death, much closer to home…

Set in the late 90s and the present day, this book delivered shedloads of fantastic nostalgia. Now, I admit, I’m a little older than the characters in this book but the 90s were my decade. I loved the trips back in time where the bands of the day were discussed alongside the group’s obsession with movies. Wonderful stuff!

The characters all stood tall each adding something to the story. Their personalities were all very different but when you live in a small village, you’re thrown together with people you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends yourself. That added a very interesting group dynamic to the book. They all had their own very defined roles which weren’t necessarily accepted by some members but rather pushed upon them – expected maybe. Leading to tension, rivalry and an undercurrent of bad feeling. It was interesting to watch a group of teenagers who, like many teenagers, think they’re wise beyond their years, deal with some very adult emotions.

Despite my appreciation of the 90s vibe in The Killer You Know, I did prefer the sections set in the present day when the group are trying to track Will down. The mystery of Will’s disappearance, the bubbling undercurrent of not really knowing who to trust anymore and the sense of foreboding made parts of the book a fairly tense read. The author takes time to set the scene, taking the reader back to 1997 and painting a very vivid, thorough picture.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of slow-burn, suspenseful mysteries then you may enjoy The Killer You Know. I felt it could have been a little shorter as I found my attention drifting at times and I wanted something to hook me back in. I was able to guess where the story was going to go, which may not have helped my meandering attention. I also struggled a little with the writing style and had to re-read large sections to grasp what was happening and check I hadn’t missed a key plot point – but that could have just been me having a bad day. A really interesting concept and I would happily read more by this author.

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

The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 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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S R Masters studied Philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge. He is a regular contributor to UK short fiction anthology series The Fiction Desk, having won their Writer’s Award for his short story Just Kids. His story Desert Walk was included in Penguin Random House USA’s Press Start to Play collection, published last year, and he continues to have short fiction published in a variety of magazines.

When not writing, Simon works in public health in Oxford, where he lives with his wife, Helen.

The Killer You Know is his first novel.

#BookReview: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides @orionbooks @orion_crime #TheSilentPatient #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the silent patient

“Alicia Berenson lived a seemingly perfect life until one day six years ago.

When she shot her husband in the head five times.

Since then she hasn’t spoken a single word.

It’s time to find out why.

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my sixteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. The Silent Patient was published by Orion Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in all formats.

So this book is huge. And with all hugely hyped, extremely popular novels, I feel like I’m one of the last people to read it. I’m sure that’s not actually the case but, you know how it is sometimes (back to those #bookwormproblems I often mention). I’ll be honest, I was a bit dubious before making a start on this one. Will it live up to what I’ve heard? Will I see the big twist coming and will that dampen the whole reading experience for me? Read on to find out…

Alicia Berenson is a household name for all the wrong reasons. The seemingly happy, contented artist had everything. Then, one day, she waited for her husband to return home where she shot him in the head five times. Stood with a smoking gun and blood on her hands, she was arrested, found guilty and sent to The Grove, a secure psychiatric hospital in London. Never having uttered a single word. Not to the police, not to defend herself in court, nor to her doctors. Alicia remained silent throughout. What happened that night six years ago remains a complete mystery. But psychotherapist, Theo Faber, believes he has the skill, knowledge and patience to get through to Alicia. To break down the barriers and discover the truth about what happened that fateful night…

Told from Theo’s point of view and diary entries written by Alicia in the run up to the murder, the reader is thrown straight into this compelling story from the very start. We watch as Theo takes tentative steps in trying to connect on some level with Alicia. Often with little reaction from her, or the occasional aggressive and violent outburst. I couldn’t work Alicia out at all. Nothing following the murder is given away in regards to her character or her motivation. What is she thinking, what is she feeling? I had no idea and I think the author has done an absolutely cracking job of writing her so that you are left wondering for a large proportion of the book. The diary entries don’t really help as it’s hard to relate the shell of the woman she becomes with the woman she was before the murder. Despite all of this, I wanted to like Alicia.

This is a very easy to read book and I finished it in a couple of sittings. There were certain aspects of the story where I found my attention wavering though, but it all made sense when I reached the end of the book. I can’t say too much more about that as I’m bound to say something I shouldn’t! If you’ve seen any other reviews of The Silent Patient then you may be aware there’s a fairly substantial twist (it’s a psychological thriller – it comes with the territory, no?) but I felt oddly let down by it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that didn’t wow me but I felt a little disappointed. The way the story concluded was very satisfying though.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Silent Patient is a well-written and highly entertaining novel to wile away a few hours and I enjoyed it. With a cast of interesting characters – some you’ll like, others you may loathe – it’s a twisty and compelling book which I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it yet (all three of you, lol!).

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was published in the UK by Orion Books on 12th December 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Foyles | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alex michaelidesBorn in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother, I studied English literature at Cambridge University and got my MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. I wrote the film The Devil You Know (2013) starring Rosamund Pike and co-wrote The Con is On (2018), starring Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Parker Posey and Sofia Vergara. THE SILENT PATIENT is my first novel.