#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.

#BookReview: Slash by Hunter Shea @flametreepress #Slash #damppebbles

9781787581791.jpg“Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith. With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains.

What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims.

The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.”

Hello bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be sharing my review of Slash by Hunter Shea with you today. Slash was published by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Slash but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, this is a cracker of a book! If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may know that I love the horror genre as much as I love crime fiction! I’m particularly fond of the ’80s slasher movie’ novels and tend to turn to horror when my reading mojo ups and leaves. I asked for recommendations a few months back and the lovely Sharron at booksbehindthetitle suggested I gave Slash a go as she’d recently read it and thought it would appeal. She was 100% right. I devoured this book. Slash has everything I look for in a horror novel but with so much more dolloped on top (in a steaming, festering, bloody pile).

Ashley King was the sole survivor of the Hayden Resort Massacre five years ago. Yup, she’s a Final Girl. Todd Matthews, her fiancé, returns home one day to find her lifeless body hanging in the basement. Heartbroken and grieving for his lost love, he returns to the site of the massacre to find out what really happened that fateful night. A serial killer named ‘The Wraith’ has always been held responsible for the murders and Todd, and his totally unprepared band of friends, want answers. But what they find living in the ruins of the Resort is a whole lot more than they ever expected….

This is Shea’s homage to slasher movies and I really enjoyed the high-stakes terror and the unashamed gore fest of Slash. But all is not what it first appears. This is the second book I’ve read by Hunter Shea – the first being Creature which is also well worth a look – but I get the feeling that Shea (and this really is just a feeling having read only two of this author’s books – don’t hate me if I’m wrong) has a very distinct style, which Slash benefits from. The story really ramped up a number of notches and was given an almighty gut pulverising twist.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. This is a blood soaked, rip roaring ride of a book and I loved every minute of it. If you’re not a fan of gore in your novels then perhaps this isn’t for you. But if you’ve got the stomach, this is one that shouldn’t be missed. It ticked so many boxes for me and I’m adding Shea’s previous books to the TBR.

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

Slash by Hunter Shea was published in the UK by Flame Tree Press on 24th October 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback and digital formats (please note, 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.uk | amazon.comWaterstones | Book DepositoryGoodreads |

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hunter sheaHunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. He’s a bestselling author of over 13 (lucky number!) books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author photo and bio © https://huntershea.com/

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham (@MitchamJoseph) #TheWatchList @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles

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“Sixty-eight dead and nearly 300 injured in a hostile vehicle and bomb attack on a community festival in Birmingham, the country is in shock.

Battling the mental turmoil of the aftermath, Alex, a former Army communications specialist, stumbles across the UK Terror Watch List – he cannot resist the challenge of stealing the list from under the nose of his contract supervisor, Lucy Butler, a razor sharp and headstrong Intelligence Corps corporal with big ambitions.

Wrestling with his conscience and the ethics of tackling unconvicted suspects, Alex enlists the help of famed former UK Special Forces Warrant Officer, Craig Medhurst. Alex struggles to win the respect of Craig’s core team, but together they hatch a daring plan to act on their selected targets.

Can Alex use his charm to persuade Corporal Butler to join them?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am handing the keys over to my trusty sidekick and guest reviewer, Ryan, who is sharing his review of The Watch List on the final day of the blog tour. The Watch List was self-published by the author, Joseph Mitcham, on 2nd December 2019 and Ryan received a free review copy of the book which hasn’t influenced his review. Let’s see what he thought…

The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham is a fascinating book about temptation and ethics. It put me in mind of the “Choose your own adventure books” of my youth, but this time the lead character had already taken the decisions and the reader is watching events play out.

Alex, as the main character, is a confident and high skilled IT specialist with a background in the army. Called in to fix an inter-service IT system he finds he has a dilemma. The UK Terror Watch List is on the system and Alex knows he has the skills to take it without anyone knowing. The author does a great job of communicating the mix of guilt, fear and excitement swirling through Alex as he reaches his decision. But then we see more choices; decision 2, what to do with the list? Decision 3, share his secret with Lucy Butler or not? Each decision has consequences, and when he takes them, the circumstances and subsequent decisions seem to flow out of Alex’s control.

I really enjoyed this book. The author has started with an interesting premise and built it into a strong story where good and bad can sometimes appear similar, and is very dependent on perspective. Mitcham doesn’t shy away from making his characters have difficult ethical discussions. Wrestling with their conscience on whether to take action against those who have, as yet, done nothing wrong except believe something different from Alex’s growing band of vigilantes.

The characters in this story are well written and all come to the mission with different approaches. Alex, as an information specialist, starts off by being fascinated with the challenge of gaining the list. But then he becomes involved in ensuring that the communications are right. Now I never thought I would find the planning and methods of communications for a mission interesting, but the methods used here are fascinating and the author brings an educated perspective to this often overlooked area of a story. Lucy Butler is an enigma, strong and forthright but never clearly on anyone’s side. What is she planning and will she stop Alex’s plans in their track? Finally Craig, ex-special forces, quick with decisions and deadly in his execution of them, can he be trusted not to go too far?

So, going back to the ‘choose your own adventure’ books. Should you read this book – choose ‘yes’ and you will have chosen well. You’ll find an interesting book with a great story and strong characters.

Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of The Watch List. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

The Watch List by Joseph Mitcham was published in the UK on 2nd December2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, 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.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Joseph Mitcham served with the British military in elite and technical units for over 16 years. His service not only gave him a thorough tactical and technical understanding of some of techniques and processes employed in his first novel, it also provided him with the opportunity to develop himself, earning a first class honours degree in business leadership by the end of his service.

The inspiration for writing ‘The Watch List’ was taken from personal experiences from the roles that he has served in and characteristics from some of the people that he has served with. Joseph has written an incredible, yet compellingly credible story that plays out in our world as he sees it today.

#BookReview: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #InTheAbsenceofMiracles #damppebbles

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“John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of one of the most powerful and emotive books I have read – In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. Back in 2016, my book of the year was Malone’s first Orenda release, the simply sublime A Suitable Lie. It blew my mind on so many levels and still, to this day, I recommend it to everyone. If you’re a fan of domestic noir novels then you need to add Malone to your list of must-read authors. I received a free eARC of In the Absence of Miracles but that has in no way influenced my review.

I didn’t think it would be possible for someone (anyone!) to write a book which affected me the way A Suitable Lie did. That was until I read In the Absence of Miracles. Malone puts his heart and soul into his writing and you, as the reader, get to experience every heart-stopping emotion and every breath-taking twist and turn. I love that Malone isn’t scared to tackle the more difficult and unsettling subject matters, the things we as a society tend to turn and shy away from. In the Absence of Miracles is another brave, unflinching, unapologetic look at the secrets a family hides within its heart, and it left me broken.

I liked John Docherty. He doesn’t make it easy at times and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a likeable character but this is his story. His discovery, his unravelling, his trauma. I liked how Malone has written John as a pretty typical bloke (if there is such a thing!). It was interesting to watch how John dealt with situations early on in the book, giving us the measure of the character, before plunging him into an unimaginable, heart-breaking situation as the reality hits home. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I cried for John Docherty.

The author does an incredible job of misleading his reader. You think you know where the story is going, only for Malone to step in and completely change everything you thought you knew. I had an inkling about where the plot was headed but I was by no means convinced. When the book took me to that dark and scary place, I was devastated for the characters. I was living that moment, that sudden realisation as the horror hits home. No one writes like Malone does. No one can conjure these emotions in this hardened reader like he does.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Malone has done it again and written a book which will stay with me for a long, long time to come. I’ve not found another writer who can produce stories with the pure power and emotion to rival Malone. Unforgettable and haunting. Dark and utterly immersive. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In the Absence of Miracles. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: San Diego Dead (Jake Wolfe #4) by Mark Nolan (@marknolan) @cobaltdinosaur #SanDiegoDead #JakeWolfe #damppebbles

San-Diego-Dead-Kindle.jpg“Danger awaits Marine-turned-lawyer Jake Wolfe on his vacation to sunny San Diego and Cabo San Lucas. There he finds sugary white sand beaches, warm turquoise water, boat trips among gray whales, and … cold blooded murder.

It was meant to be a relaxing holiday for Jake and his adopted war dog, Cody, but violence erupts when he crosses paths with a criminal cartel urgently seeking to reclaim a deadly package.

Jake learns the missing item is a threat to US citizens and vows to stop the cartel from possessing it, no matter what vigilante justice actions he might have to take.

Time is running out and thousands of innocent lives are at risk. Will the two combat veterans be able to retrieve the dangerous item before the killers do? The clock is ticking, but Jake hopes that if anybody can help find the package, it has to be his highly-trained and ultra-intelligent dog, Cody.

Find out what happens next. Start reading the latest Jake and Cody thriller right now and enjoy another fast-paced stand-alone story by author Mark Nolan.”

Happy Monday bookish friends. I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to Ryan’s guest review of San Diego Dead by Mark Nolan. I think I need to pull my reviewer socks up because Ryan has featured his thoughts on damppebbles more than I have so far this year. 😂

Let’s find out what Ryan thought of book four in the Jake Wolfe series…

San Diego Dead is the fourth book in the Jake Wolfe series, but can easily be read as a standalone.  The author has done a good job of hinting at previous adventures without making the reader feel that they are missing a lot of important information.  The reader is very aware early in the story that Jake is capable of taking care of himself and turning bad guys into cadavers at an alarming rate. That Cody, his loyal war dog, is something different from your run-of-the-mill pooch and Jake’s relationship with Sarah isn’t going as well as it should.

What I loved about this book was that the characters are well formed and easy to get to know. We have a set of ‘good guys and gals’ and set of ‘bad guys and gals’ the lines are clear and you know where you stand with everyone pretty darn quickly. But….the action and the story line, WOW! It comes thick and fast with suspense, action, and twists galore.

Now reader, I must confess….I made a mistake with this book and I am still kicking myself.  In one scene the action came thick and fast, and I could see the twist coming so clearly.  It was too obvious that something heinous was about to happen and being able to see it coming from so far away frustrated me.  Mark Nolan’s clever writing had me convinced and I was frustrated because up until that scene I was really enjoying the book. But this was too obvious and too predictable so I put the Kindle down in a huff.  I didn’t pick it up again for 3 hours as I was so disheartened! But I just had to know if I was right, whether my mystic reader powers had forseen the future. Guess what? I was wrong. Very, very wrong!  With deft like skill and a subtle twist the author managed to totally flumox me (I quietly cursed the author for writing so well and for misleading me, sorry Mark!) and I got back on with reading this excellent book.

If you like action books then this is a series to definitely look in to.  Jake Wolfe is an all-action hero with a side kick in Cody worthy of being up there with Robin (Batman), Luigi (Mario) and the Brain (Pinky)!  Jake and Cody’s relationship is never in question and the theme of loyalty runs throughout the book in multiple story lines.  Whether Jake is after a friend, comforter, weapon or tracker then Cody is his answer.

I would happily recommend this San Diego Dead to anyone craving an action fix and I look forward to having time to dive into the previous books.  Mark Nolan’s writing carries enough twists, turns and action to keep everyone happy.

Ryan chose to read a free digital copy of San Diego Dead. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

San Diego Dead by Mark Nolan was published in the UK on 28th August 2019 and is available in paperback and digital 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.uk* | amazon.com |

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Mark NolanMark Nolan has spent much of his life near the seashore. He loves dogs and has often been called a “dog whisperer.” These interests are reflected in his novels where the main character lives on a boat with his highly intelligent former war dog.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | GoodreadsWebsite |