#BookReview: What Lies Between Us by John Marrs @AmazonPub #WhatLiesBetweenUs #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of What Lies Between Us by John Marrs. What Lies Between Us was published by Thomas & Mercer on 15th May 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. What Lies Between Us was part of two challenges for me this year – ’12 books in 12 months’ and ’20 books of summer 2022′. Officially I should have reviewed this book before the 20 books deadline which was 1st September 2022 but that was never going to happen. I’ve completely run out of time this year in regards to both reading and reviewing. Rather than not review it on the blog (which would be a huge shame as it’s an absolute corker of a read) I’ve decided to be a rebel and share my 20 books reviews beyond the 1st September deadline 🤫

Maggie and Nina live in the same house together and have done for many years. Nina gets the run of the house, goes out to work at the library, does the weekly shop and the cooking. Whilst Maggie is chained up in the soundproofed attic and only allowed out a couple of times a week for a shared meal together. Because Maggie has done terrible things and Nina wants her to be punished. But truth be told, Nina doesn’t know the half of it. There are a lot more secrets she’s not aware of. Secrets Maggie will do anything to protect…

What Lies Between Us is a seriously twisted and unsettling read which I devoured with utter glee. I had been having a bit of a rough time with my book choices. I struggled with a couple of my previous reads in different ways, but then this absolute beauty made it to the top of the TBR and I was reminded why I love books, why I love to read. I was transported to a house in the suburbs of Northampton where the two residents live a very different life to their neighbours. One chained up in the attic. The other pretending everything is very normal but living on the edge all the time, monitoring her prisoner, making sure she can’t escape and raise the alarm. Ensuring Maggie has nothing to hand which can be fashioned into a weapon or a lockpick. The tension was palpable and I was swept away into the lives of these two women. Both characters are so beautifully drawn that they and their situation felt real to me. I loved the ever-present threat hanging over the entire book. The tension the author has created is done so very well.

The story is told from both Maggie and Nina’s points of view. We hear from the women in the present day and with flashbacks to twenty-five years earlier. These flashbacks slowly build up a shocking picture for the reader. As each layer was stripped away I found myself completely captivated by the story, desperate to know what was going to happen next, biting my nails down to the quick. It was uncomfortable but I just couldn’t look away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. What Lies Between Us is such a captivating read full to the brim with brilliantly written suspense. I was completely absorbed in the story, I went through a myriad of feelings towards the characters at different stages of the novel and I didn’t want to be separated from this book for a single second. I’ve read a few of this author’s books now and they’ve all been fantastic but this one is my favourite, without a doubt. The twists don’t really stop coming at any point, there’s always more to discover about these women and I was completely bewitched by the characters and how utterly flawed they are. I thoroughly enjoyed What Lies Between Us and would recommend to all psychological thriller/suspense fans. Highly recommended.

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 15th May 2020 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 | Book Depository | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

John Marrs is the author of #1 Best Sellers The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, The Vacation, Her Last Move, The Passengers, The Minders and What Lies Between Us. Keep It In The Family and The Marriage Act are released soon.
What Lies won the International Thriller Writers’ Best Paperback of 2021 award.
The One has been translated into 30 different languages and is to be turned into an eight-part Netflix series starting in autumn 2020.

After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time writer.

#BookReview: The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @HodderBooks #TheLastThingtoBurn #damppebbles

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean. The Last Thing to Burn was first published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th January 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.

The Last Thing to Burn is one of the biggest books of the last year, without a doubt. I see it discussed on social media a lot, I see it recommended even more. So much so that I made it one of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge picks as it was suggested by three (count ’em, three!) fabulous reviewers (I’m looking at you @Zoebeesbooks@Littlemissbook6 and @DelishBooks). And if you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles then you may remember that it was joint winner of #R3COMM3ND3D2021 which immediately makes it a must read for me. Having read the book, experienced its darkness and come out the other side sobbing big, fat, ugly tears I can say I wholeheartedly agree with the exceptional praise this novel has received. The Last Thing to Burn is a truly unsettling, uncomfortable read but it’s essential reading. Devastating, heart breaking but an absolute must read.

Jane and Leonard live together at Fen Farm surrounded by nothing but vast fenland. Leonard is content with his life. He works the land, tends the pigs and comes home to his dinner on the table every night. Jane, his wife, is a prisoner. Very few people know of Jane’s existence and that’s the way it will remain. She cooks, cleans and performs other duties Leonard expects of a wife. She has no choice, otherwise she is punished. She’s watched by cameras 24/7. There is no escape. And definitely no hope. Until something changes. Until a fire is lit within Jane’s being. Now it’s her turn to watch Leonard, and wait…

The first thing to say about The Last Thing to Burn is that it’s not an easy read and if you’re looking for something light then this book is not it. Far from it. It’s dark, it’s horrifying, and it’s harrowing from start to finish. It’s also hugely compelling, utterly absorbing and the tension is pinpoint sharp. My heart broke multiple times. I felt I needed to take a break on several occasions but I just could not tear myself away from Dean’s writing and characterisation.

The characters are frighteningly believable. To me they were real and I lived the horrors of life at Fen Farm alongside them. ‘Jane’ is perfection on a page. I adored her and was hoping, even when it seemed as though all hope had been extinguished, that there would be some small sliver, some ray of light that meant she would come out of this on top. Leonard is utterly despicable, a loathsome brute of a man, but I thought the way the author wrote him was an absolute masterclass in writing a villain. He made my blood boil. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that angry or furious towards one character before. Superbly done.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Thing to Burn is deeply unsettling and utterly unnerving. The most uncomfortable book I’ve read this year and rightly so. The subject matter should make us feel uncomfortable. I think something has gone horribly wrong if it doesn’t. The writing is stunning, the characterisation is superb and the setting is perfectly claustrophobic and horribly visual. I could picture the scenes in my mind perfectly. That dank and depressing kitchen with the Rayburn *shudder*. This is an unforgettable novel and I now fully understand why so many reviewers recommend it. Allow me to add my voice to the masses. If you’re a reader of dark fiction and you haven’t picked up The Last Thing to Burn yet then what are you waiting for? You need this book in your life. Highly recommended.

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 3rd February 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | WaterstonesFoyles | Book Depositorybookshop.org | Goodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Will DeanWill Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of Dark Pines.

#BookReview: Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield @scholasticuk #GoodGirlsDieFirst #damppebbles

“Mind games. Murder. Mayhem. How far would you go to survive the night?

Blackmail lures sixteen-year-old Ava to the derelict carnival on Portgrave Pier.

She is one of ten teenagers, all with secrets they intend to protect whatever the cost.

When fog and magic swallow the pier, the group find themselves cut off from the real world and from their morals.

As the teenagers turn on each other, Ava will have to face up to the secret that brought her to the pier and decide how far she’s willing to go to survive.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield. Good Girls Die First was published by Scholastic on 2nd July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats.

I do love me a spot of YA horror! And this book grabbed my attention thanks to a fellow blogger’s post on Instagram (#instagrammademebuyit). As soon as I saw this book and read the blurb, I knew I had to purchase a copy. I HAD to own this book!

When Ava receives an anonymous invitation alluding to know her darkest secret and inviting her to a derelict carnival, she reluctantly heads out to discover who sent the invite and what they want. After all, Ava will do anything to protect her secret. On arrival, she is surprised to find nine other teens, all familiar faces, have received a similar invite. As the night presses in, it becomes clear that something else is at play here. The teens are in terrible danger, particularly from each other. Can Ava protect her secret or will it be the death of her…?

Good Girls Die First is a gripping, heart pounding read which I really enjoyed. I will say at this point that I am not the target audience for this book, being a YA novel, but it can be enjoyed by adults and older teens alike. I certainly appreciated the author’s writing and the way the suspense built as the situation the teens find themselves in spirals out of control. I found the first half of the book to be a slow burn of a read, where we get to meet and know the characters in more depth (there are 10 of them so it’s worth noting their names and back stories as they’re introduced – or perhaps that only applies to my fellow older readers 😂). Once the action kicks in, it doesn’t really slow down until the final word on the final page.

I absolutely loved the concept of Good Girls Die First. Books where characters are picked off one by one according to a dark, dastardly secret no one else knows, gets my vote. I enjoyed trying to work out what the secret would be and how the characters would meet their end (that sounds a bit weird but I hope you know what I mean!). Very few of the characters are likable (exactly as it should be, I feel) but you get a good feel for what makes them tick in most cases. The setting was perfectly creepy and I could picture the decaying carnival perfectly.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Good Girls Die First was a fun read, something a little different to everything else I’ve read recently, and I enjoyed it. I am keen to read more by this author. So much so, I have added their second book to my wish list and shall look forward to reading that in the future. An enjoyable supernatural thriller packed full of devastating secrets, a delicious sense of impending doom and bucket loads of tension. Recommended.

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield was published in the UK by Scholastic on 2nd July 2020 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kathryn FoxfieldKathryn Foxfield writes dark books about strange things. She blames her love of the creepy and weird on a childhood diet of Point Horror, Agatha Christie and Dr Who. She writes about characters who aren’t afraid to fight back, but wouldn’t last 5 minutes in one of her own stories. Her first book GOOD GIRLS DIE FIRST was published by Scholastic UK in 2020.

Kathryn is a reformed microbiologist, one-time popular science author, cat-servant and parent of two. She lives in rural Oxfordshire but her heart belongs to London. You can follow her on Twitter @iloveweirdbooks or visit her website kfoxfield.com

#BookReview: The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane @AmazonPub #TheBoneJar #damppebbles

Two murders. An abandoned asylum. Will a mysterious former patient help untangle the dark truth?

The body of an elderly woman has been found in the bowels of a derelict asylum on the banks of the Thames. As Detective Lew Kirby and his partner begin their investigation, another body is discovered in the river nearby. How are the two murders connected?

Before long, the secrets of Blackwater Asylum begin to reveal themselves. There are rumours about underground bunkers and secret rooms, unspeakable psychological experimentation, and a dark force that haunts the ruins, trying to pull back in all those who attempt to escape. Urban explorer Connie Darke, whose sister died in a freak accident at the asylum, is determined to help Lew expose its grisly past. Meanwhile Lew discovers a devastating family secret that threatens to turn his life upside down.

As his world crumbles around him, Lew must put the pieces of the puzzle together to keep the killer from striking again. Only an eccentric former patient really knows the truth—but will he reveal it to Lew before it’s too late?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane. The Bone Jar was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st July 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

It’s been such a long time since I last read a police procedural (at one time, they were all I read!) so I made the decision to take a break from my planned reading and get stuck into a detective story, something from my own bookshelf. I chose The Bone Jar because it’s the first in a series (I hope it’ll become a series anyway!) and I love the creepy cover. I’m really glad I chose it as it was just the right book at just the right time.

The body of an elderly woman is discovered at an old, abandoned asylum on the banks of the Thames. DI Lew Kirby and partner, DI Pete Anderson, are tasked with discovering what happened to the woman and why someone would beat her so viciously. And why was she left on a rusty old bed in the bowels of the asylum? The location, Blackwater Asylum, later renamed Blackwater Psychiatric Hospital, has its own chequered past of which no one speaks. Can Kirby and Anderson, with the help of urban explorer, Connie Darke, discover what happened to the woman? Or will Blackwater continue to keep it’s very dark secrets hidden…?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Bone Jar with it’s very likeable lead, hugely atmospheric landscape and well-written mystery. The author has done a superb job of sending chills down the readers spine with her descriptions of the creepy, derelict building and the relentless frosty, chill in the air. Set in South London on the banks of the Thames in the heart of winter, this novel would could give you the shivers even on a summers day! I’m always a fan of the setting being so well-written, such an integral part of the story that it feels like a character in itself and that’s exactly what Kane has achieved here. It’s a beautiful, eerie thing!

I loved DI Lew Kirby. Often the lead detective in the novels I read is highly flawed – drink, drugs, adultery etc. But Lew, apart from living on a narrowboat which isn’t all that odd really, is a very likeable, very competent detective. I loved the sub-plot where Lew makes a shocking discovery about his past (and as a result, his future). It was a fascinating revelation and I immediately went to my old friend Google to find out more.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found The Bone Jar to be well paced and thoroughly engaging. The subject matter is quite shocking and the things the reader discovers about psychiatric treatments in the past, and the indignities they suffered, made me feel uncomfortable. But I’m so glad I read this book and I hope this is the start of a long and bright future for DI Kirby. I really enjoyed how atmospheric the book was, the characters were clearly defined and very well-written. All in all, a terrific debut which I heartily recommend to all crime fiction fans.

The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st July 2020 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

S.W. KaneS W Kane has a degree in History of Design and worked at the Royal Institute of British Architects before taking on a series of totally unrelated jobs in radio and the music industry. She has an MA in Creative (Crime) Writing from City University. She began reading crime fiction at an early age and developed an obsession with crime set in cold places. A chance encounter with a derelict fort in rural Pembrokeshire led to a fascination with urban exploration, which in turn became the inspiration for her crime novels. She lives in London.

#BookReview: Scream Ride by D.I. Russell #ScreamRide #damppebbles

“Hold tight.

Debuting at Adventure Point this Halloween! From the mind of Carl Campbell, master of terror. See the dead walk the streets! Come face to face with madman Luger on Mutilation Street: The Ride! And step into our state-of-the-art ghost house…if you dare…

Comic book writer Carl Campbell is riding high. Fans can’t get enough of his books and movies featuring twisted creatures and undead killers. Adventure Point Theme Park aims to capitalize on his popularity with several rides. Carl moves his family into a nearby beach house on the West Australian coast, to oversee development and design a brand new creation for the almost completed ghost house.

But the scares appear to be sneaking out from Carl’s pages. A familiar figure watches the beach house. Grisly murders surround the family. Park workers report strange noises and bizarre accidents.

As darkness falls on the stunning beaches, and the lights of Adventure Point blink into life, it won’t just be the riders screaming in terror.

Scream Ride: A white-knuckle horror novel.

Lower your lap bars with Scream Ride, a horror novel by Shadows Award finalist D. I. Russell.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Scream Ride by D.I. Russell. Scream Ride was published on 15th April 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats.

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles you may be aware that I’m a horror fan as well as a crime fan. However, I tend to stick to slasher/serial killer books rather than venture into zombies, demons and the like. I don’t know why, just personal preference I guess (doesn’t mean I don’t read them, just that I prefer them). When I saw Scream Ride pop up on Amazon for a bargain price though, I knew I had to read it. I love the cover, the blurb pulled me in and to be honest, I read a series of horror books years ago, one of which was set at a theme park, so that also made me want to read this book.

The new owner of Adventure Point theme park is looking for something to pull in the crowds. It’s approaching Halloween so he asks event manager, David Napier, to liaise with legendary horror comic book writer and illustrator, Carl Campbell, and come up with something which will blow the Australian public away. A sure fire money-spinner, something no one has ever seen before, something unforgettable. But strange things begin to happen to Carl’s associates. As launch night approaches for the new Mutilation Street ride, the project Carl was initially brought in to oversee, things start going wrong for the park and it’s employees. Napier is attacked. He knows there is evil lurking within the grounds. But will he be able to convince his boss and Carl before it’s too late…

The first thing to say about Scream Ride is that it’s the first book in a long time which has made me squirm in disgust. I was absolutely fine throughout, except for one scene. If you’ve read the book, you may be able to guess what I’m talking about. If you don’t have a strong stomach or you’re not a regular horror reader, this may not be the book for you. Apart from that little blip (which completely grossed me out) I really enjoyed this blood-soaked, gore-drenched tale.

I found Carl Campbell oddly likeable. He’s a little bit smug about his talent, a little bit arrogant perhaps but he’s good at what he does, so why not? He certainly has a solid, devoted fan-base. I liked his back story. Carl is a widower who has remarried after the brutal death of his first wife, Chrissy. His second wife, Hannah, is only after his money and nothing else. Her relationship with Carl’s twelve year old daughter, Bethany, is strained to say the least.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes, but only if you have an iron stomach. Scream Ride is quite the page-turner. I enjoyed how the story played out. I was hoping for a lot of spilt blood and oh boy, did I get it! The ending was a big surprise – I certainly didn’t see the twist coming – but I thought it was a perfect way to end the book. It was a nice surprise to discover the book is Australian, based on my current obsession with Australian crime fiction. I’m very glad I picked this one up and will be looking out for more books by this author. Recommended.

Scream Ride by D.I. Russell was published in the UK on 15 April 2020 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 |

Australian Shadows Award finalist D.I. Russell has been featured publications such as The Zombie Feed from Apex, Pseudopod and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #43. Author of Samhane, Come Into Darkness, Critique, Mother’s Boys, The Collector and Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem, D.I. Russell is also the former vice-president of the Australian Horror Writers’ Association and was a special guest editor of Midnight Echo.

#BookReview: Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay #SevenLies #damppebbles

“It all started with one little lie . . .

Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they both fell in love and married handsome young men.

But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.

Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t lied – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .

This is Jane’s opportunity to tell the truth, the question is:
Do you believe her?

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay. Seven Lies was published by Sphere Books on 1st October 2020 and is available in all formats.

Seven Lies first came onto my radar thanks to a crime fiction festival in 2019. I was given a pamphlet which contained the first chapter. I have to admit, I didn’t read it. I’m peculiar in that way – it’s the whole book or nothing at all (surely I can’t be the only one!?). But the cover artwork, the enthusiasm of the publicist and the synopsis of the story stayed with me. So I downloaded a copy as soon as it was published digitally.

Marnie and Jane have been friends forever. Well, since they met at school at the age of 11 but it feels like forever. The bond the girls have is strong, unbreakable, and throughout their teens and into their twenties, they stay firm friends. Both marrying the men of their dreams, the future looks bright. Until it isn’t. Jane has never really liked Marnie’s husband, Charlie. He’s overbearing and unpleasant and a terrible match for Marnie in Jane’s eyes. So when an opportunity arises to change the women’s future, to reignite the close bond they had in school, Jane takes it….

Seven Lies is the slow unravelling of a deeply flawed character which I found compulsive reading. Jane, as we know before we’ve even cracked the cover of this book, is a terrible liar so the reader is immediately on their guard. However, many of the lies, we discover, as they’re drip-fed to us, are so small, so inconsequential that you wonder what harm they could really do? Some are told to save from hurt feelings, some are more targeted. The book is narrated by Jane in a confessional style which hooked me in from the start. I wanted to know who she was speaking to. Who was hearing this outpouring of deceit and what was Jane hoping to achieve by sharing? The reader doesn’t discover who is on the other side of the confessional screen until towards the end of the book but for me, it was quite a shocker. In both choice of character and the intent *shudder*.

I found myself flipping between feeling sorry for Jane, at the tragedy of her own life, and being repulsed by her unhealthy obsession with Marnie, which at times made my skin crawl. She was mesmerising in her madness and I couldn’t tear myself away from her story. I couldn’t decide if the obsessive side of her personality was always present or if grief had driven her to look at things in a different light. There are moments throughout Jane’s story where she doesn’t seem all that concerned about Marnie, but these moments tended to involve her own husband, Jonathan, so my feeling is that grief was the catalyst to her unravelling.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Seven Lies is a beautifully written debut with a destructive friendship at its heart. I was pulled into the life of Jane and Marnie and watched as things went from bad to worse for the pair. If you’re looking for a compulsive character driven tale of obsession and control then you’ll want to give Seven Lies a read. Recommended.

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay was published in the UK by Sphere on 1st October 2020 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 |

Elizabeth Kay

Elizabeth Kay started her career as an assistant at Penguin Random House. She is now a senior commissioning editor there and is simultaneously pursuing her passion for writing.

She won first prize – in a short story competition judged by Jacqueline Wilson – aged eight, and has been writing ever since. She lives in London and has a first-class degree in English literature.

#BookReview: Hermit by S.R. White #Hermit #damppebbles


After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper’s THE DRY and Chris Hammer’s SCRUBLANDS.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hermit by S.R. White. Hermit was published by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in all formats.

I couldn’t resist this book. I’m a sucker for Australian crime fiction and Hermit seemed to fit the bill quite nicely. This is S.R. White’s debut with the follow-up – Prisoner – being released later in 2021 (and I can’t wait to read it!).

Detective Dana Russo is called on her day off to the scene of a murder. They have a suspect in custody but something just doesn’t feel right. Dana is tasked with interrogating the suspect, Nathan Whittler, discovering if he’s guilty and securing a confession. But despite the police department’s best efforts, they can find no up-to-date record of Nathan. It’s almost like he hasn’t existed for the last 15 years. Who killed the shopkeeper? Where has Nathan been for 15 years? And most importantly of all, what is he hiding….?

I enjoyed this book but the first thing I feel compelled to say about it is that I did have a couple of teeny tiny issues with it. However, the compelling character-driven plot and the intriguing way the author sets out his story completely won me over. I won’t go into any real detail as to what those niggles were, as I think that will spoil the book for new readers, but I will say I have a pet peeve when it comes to crime fiction and unfortunately the author based some of this story around that pet peeve. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last but safe to say, it’s something I find quite frustrating and therefore felt the need to mention it.

Hermit is a very intriguing character driven mystery which I enjoyed. Detective Dana Russo is a woman with a dark past. The author does a terrific job of teasing his readers with glimpses into Dana’s mind and showing us her internal fragility throughout the story. Towards the end of the book you do discover a little more about Dana’s past but I don’t think we know the whole story yet. I think there’s more to come, and I am keen to learn what it is.

When Bill Meeks, Dana’s boss, calls her into work on a day off – a day she takes as paid leave every year – Dana is thrown. But it might just have saved her life. Pitting her against silent Nathan is a work of genius as the two seem to have some sort of odd connection. To get Nathan to talk, Dana has to share some of her personal thoughts and experiences, whilst remaining professional and distant at all times. A large proportion of this novel is the police interview between Dana and Nathan which won’t be to everyone’s taste but I found it fascinating and was keen to read on. It’s a gradual, intricate unravelling of a life and I was completely absorbed.

The other members of the small team all add to the story. I particularly liked feisty administrator, Lucy. Her quick witted banter with colleague, Mike, added a lighter note to proceedings, which I enjoyed. I’m keen to read more about these characters, I think the author has created something quite special and I already feel invested. Perhaps a strange thing to say after one book but true, nonetheless.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Despite a couple of tiny niggles, I found Hermit to be a compulsive read. It’s a slow-burn mystery perfect for fans of character driven novels. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s ‘something’ about these characters and I want to know more. A well-written and bravely different mystery which I really enjoyed. Recommended.

Hermit by S.R. White was published in the UK by Headline on 15th April 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. He now lives in Queensland, Australia.

#BookReview: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton #ThreeHours #damppebbles


In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.

Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.

In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton. Three Hours was published by Penguin Books on 29th October 2020 and is available in all formats. I couldn’t resist this book after seeing so many wonderful reviews.

However, I have been umming and ahhring about writing my review. Why? Because Three Hours absolutely broke me. Never has a book had such a powerful effect on me. It’s a sublime read but utterly devastating. I loved it but it ended up changing my mood.  It made me terribly sad and I hugged my kids just that little bit tighter because of it. Three Hours will stay with me forever.

On a snowy December day, oblivious to what is about to happen, the parents of Cliff Heights School drop their children off believing it to be just like any other school day. Only an hour later, the children start texting and tweeting their parents. There’s a gunman in the school. They’re terrified and hiding for their lives. The parents rush to the school but they’re turned away by the police, they feel helpless and can only watch from afar. The clock is ticking…

I’ve never read such a tense, compelling novel before. My heart was in my mouth from the very start and it stayed there throughout. I was living and breathing the story alongside the characters, like a movie playing in my mind. And the terror felt real. It was insane how deeply this book burrowed its way into my being. It was such an intense, emotional experience reading Three Hours.

I felt there were two sides to this story. You have the human side; the kids and teachers trapped in the school in fear for their lives, the parents being kept at a distance whilst being utterly helpless. And then you have the technical side; the police analysing every move the gunman makes, trying to pre-empt any demands and the reasons for carrying out such a horrific act. I loved the juxtaposition of these two faces – emotional versus technical and scientific. It’s a true race against time and I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

I had a feeling I knew where one of the plotlines in the book was heading but it still broke my heart into a million pieces when the truth was revealed. The author has written such an immersive, current and hypnotic novel. The bravery shown by the kids, the resilience and determination shown by the teachers, and the heartbreak shown by the parents makes for absorbing reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Reading Three Hours was such an experience for me that it will be impossible to forget. Beautifully written, full of drama and shedloads of terror-filled suspense. I devoured the book. It affected me greatly. Recommended.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton was published by Penguin Books on 29th October 2020 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 | WaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Rosamund Lupton is the author of four novels.

Rosamund Lupton graduated from Cambridge University in 1986. After reviewing books for the Literary Review and being invited to join the Royal Court Theatre, she won a television play competition and subsequently worked as a screen writer. Her debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, has been translated into over thirty languages and has international sales of over 1.5 million copies. It was the fastest-selling debut of 2010 by a British author, and was winner of the Richard and Judy Best Debut Novel of 2011 Award and the Strand Magazine Critics First Novel Award. Film rights of Sister are currently under option.

Lupton’s critically acclaimed second novel Afterwards also went straight into the Sunday Times bestseller lists and was the No. 2 Sunday Times fiction bestseller of 2011. The Quality of Silence her third novel was a Sunday Times best seller and a Richard & Judy bookclub pick

Her new novel Three Hours is a Sunday Times top ten best seller and a best book of 2020 in the Sunday Times, the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Stylist, Red & Good Housekeeping. It’s a Times and Sunday Times thriller of the month.

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Yearn To Fear by Chas Murrell (@MurrellChas) @cobaltdinosaur #YearnToFear #damppebbles

“The greatest scientific invention of modern times…
Capable of curing humanity…
But more adept at controlling it…

Sydney scientist, Marcus Hall, is developing a radical 5G Wi-Fi receiver for CSIRO. With access to secretive Lamarr computer chips – this technology promises billions to repair Australia’s ravaged economy. On a caffeine boosted whim, he inadvertently discovers a therapeutic breakthrough in neuroscience. Or so he thinks…

His seemingly trustworthy lab partner, Henry, is an unlikely Australian spy. His official duty is keeping tabs on the project and their Lamarr chips. But the whole project is now classified top-secret.
Marcus remains blissfully unaware of the many secrets surrounding him, until he witnesses the graphic murder of a colleague. Could this event reveal Henry as a master deceiver and ruthless double agent? Will the scientific discovery be fatal for Marcus, those he loves, and the one he yearns for? Marcus faces a soul tearing dilemma: is the only means of stopping the carnage to weaponise his prototype?

Foreign intelligence agencies realise the top-secret breakthrough is priceless. One particular spy leads the race to seize the invention. A psychological master of the long game, espionage, and extortion, his only rule according to Kung Fu: Win.

Friend and foe alike confront this psychotic mastermind. All will FEAR him, but is their FEAR real? Only the next six minutes will tell…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I’m handing the blog over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who is going to share his review of Yearn to Fear by Chas Murrell as part of the blog tour. Yearn to Fear was published on 18th November 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. Ryan chose to read and review a free digital copy of Yearn to Fear but that has in no way influenced his review.

Yearn to Fear is the debut novel from Chas Murrell and what is very impressive about this book is that Chas has his own distinct style already. Yearn to Fear is not a formulaic spy thriller, nor is it a dry police procedural. Rather it is a character driven espionage, spy thriller with weapons! It’s intriguing, it’s different and it’s well worth a read!

Yearn to Fear follows Marcus and Henry as they work at CSIRO on a new telecommunication chip. The work isn’t showing promising results but after one experiment they discover the unexpected power of the Lamarr chip. The chip can bring benefits to the users and the potential market is suddenly much bigger than the 5G companies. This is something that everyone wants to get their hands on and they will stop at nothing to get it!

Once we realise the power of the chip, the reader is plunged headlong into an exciting adventure where everyone we met in the first half of the book suddenly starts to show their true colours. When you have something every government would kill for, who can you trust? Each character starts to evolve; we see what drives them, we see more of their true purpose and that means things will get messy. Throw in a handful of heavies, some special ops and of the course the local police and you get a story you will not want to put down. I felt intrigued as to where this was going to go, who was really out to get who, and who may not be who they seem. There were definitely twists and surprises in this one that left me shocked.

I must say I found the first half of the story a little slow. The character building and the scientific explanation of what the Lamarr chip may or may not be doing felt carefully paced. However Murrell is teeing up the story for an explosive second half and what promises to be an interesting sequel. Not once as a reader did I feel overawed by the science, or the implications. The author moved the plot along at a rapid pace without befuddling the reader.

The interesting benefit of setting a story around a massive research institute like CSIRO is that you are allowed very intelligent characters.  Leaps of logic that in other books would seem out of place, were cleverly explained by the author. The ‘good guys’ didn’t just have to rely on serendipity and bullets in this novel. Brains were allowed and the mental chess game with the enemy spy made for entertaining reading.

I would recommend Yearn to Fear to anyone looking for a different take on the spy thriller and looking to find a new go-to author.

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

Yearn to Fear by Chas Murrell was published in the UK on 18th November 2020 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesdamppebbles bookshop.org shopGoodreads |

Chas Murrell has been a Police Officer, Senior Fire Commander, Customs Coastwatch surveillance mission co-ordinator, heavy machinery mechanic, emergency medical technician/ instructor, film extra, and General Manager of an event company. He has published academic papers on liquid hydrogen and held a worldwide provisional patent for a nonlinear mathematical calculation. He survived Australia’s largest gas BLEVE in 1987, and has provided operational support to some of Australia’s largest natural disasters in North Queensland.

On a personal level he has suffered from relentless and debilitating migraines all his life, is father to four and pop to two. He and his artistically entrepreneurial wife live in Tasmania, which looks very much like Scotland and they wouldn’t have it any other way. A direct descendant of Robert the Bruce (King of Scots), history runs deep in Chas’s veins, along with a profound knowledge of both World Wars. You may even come across him online playing World of Tanks.

In his Australian spy thriller books you will get to know Chas’s knowledge of technology, intrigue, crime, espionage, weaponry, banter, romance and even whisky… yet above all, there is believability and no loose ends.

#BookReview: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis @PenguinUKBooks #HarrowLake #damppebbles

“Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker – she thinks nothing can scare her. But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she’s swiftly packed off to live with a grandmother she’s never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father’s most iconic horror movie was shot.

The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map – and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there’s someone – or something – stalking Lola’s every move.

The more she discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola’s got secrets of her own. And if she can’t find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her…”

Hello and welcome to a brand new day on damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of the creepy Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis. Harrow Lake was published by Penguin in paperback, audio and digital formats on 9th July 2020. This book was impossible to resist so I treated myself to a copy and I’m so glad I did (check out the glorious yellow sprayed edges!).

Lola Nox lives in the shadow of her famous horror filmmaker father, Nolan, and her absent movie star mother, Lorelei. After a devastating event at home she’s sent to Harrow Lake, the small town her mother grew up in, to stay with her grandmother. A grandmother she’s never met before. In a town which featured in her father’s most famous film, Nightjar, the film which made Lorelei a star. On arrival she discovers everyone in Harrow Lake is obsessed with her mother and Nightjar. To the point where they hold a regular festival and parade for the tourists. There’s literally no escape! But Harrow Lake has its own secrets and as Lola starts to dig deeper, she find out about the missing girls. Who – or what – is responsible for their disappearance? And will Lola be next…?

Harrow Lake is a compulsive and chilling YA horror novel which sent shivers down my spine. It’s a modern-day take on an 80s horror movie and I enjoyed every single moment of it. Not only is Harrow Lake a creep-fest but to ratchet things up a notch it has its own town legend – Mister Jitters. The residents live in fear and carry out macabre practices such as leaving their teeth tied to the bone tree to stop Mister Jitters from wanting to get a taste of their bones (😱). It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and Ellis has told such a vivid tale that you feel at times like you’re actually living the horror alongside Lola.

I couldn’t get enough of the setting nor the characters who all stand tall. Lola was difficult to like initially but you grow to like and admire her. I was with her every step of the way (despite wishing I wasn’t at times). Lola’s grandmother made me feel uncomfortable from the first meet. She’s a closed-off, odd woman who has plenty of devastating secrets of her own. There are some pretty unlikeable, well-written characters in Harrow Lake and their strange behaviour and peculiar ways really kept me on my toes.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Harrow Lake is a very immersive, vivid tale and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the small town feel of the story, the claustrophobia and the heaps of unease the author has woven into the book. It’s a compelling YA novel which I heartily recommend to young and *erm* slightly older horror fans. I would make sure you pick up a copy soon otherwise Mister Jitters may come-a-knocking… Recommended.

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis was published in the UK by Penguin on 9th July 2020 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): | bookshop.orgamazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kat EllisKat Ellis is the author of YA novels HARROW LAKE, PURGE, BLACKFIN SKY, and BREAKER, and the novella THE TWINS OF BLACKFIN in the THREE STRIKES collection. Her next book, BURDEN FALLS, will be published in the summer of 2021.

You’ll usually find Kat up to no good on Twitter, trekking through ruins and cemeteries with her camera, or watching scary films with her husband.