#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi (@MaliaZaidi) #TheQualityOfMercy #LadyEvelynMysteries #damppebbles

The Quality of Mercy cover“After years spent away, Lady Evelyn is at long last back in her home city of London and she has returned with a rather controversial plan. The Carlisle Detective Agency is born, and it does not take long for the bodies… ahem, cases, to start piling up. With her friend and assistant Hugh, Evelyn embarks on the quest to solve the crimes. Yet the London she encounters is not the London of her coddled youth, and she is forced to learn that there is more to discover than the identity of a murderer. It isn’t only her city which reveals it is not what she always believed it to be, but the people she encounters as well. Secrets are revealed that have her thinking twice about everything she thought she knew about the society in which she grew up.

Evelyn’s love for her hard-won independence confronts her with yet another mystery, whether she is ready or willing to give up any of it for marriage. And then there is the arrival of rather a familiar face in London, one Daniel is none to pleased to see. Evelyn must find not one but two murderers, as well as make a decision that could determine her future. From the mansions of Mayfair to the dark alleys of Whitechapel, can Evelyn catch the killers before another life is taken?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing a guest post from Malia Zaidi, author of the Lady Evelyn Mystery Series, as part of the blog tour for book five – The Quality of Mercy. The Quality of Mercy was published on 25th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. This is a series I’m keen to get stuck into so I’m delighted to be able to share this fascinating post on the life of a character.

Over to Malia…

The Life of a Character

I consider myself a character driven reader, by which I mean, if the characters are intriguing, well developed, rounded enough, I can forgive a weak plot and still love the book. In some ways, this character focus accompanies me on my writing journey as well. Don’t get me wrong, I aim to create a gripping and well plotted story, but those stories are, in a sense, crafted by the characters and not the other way around. Their decisions, actions, thoughts and desires dictate how the story moves along instead of them bending towards the plot. This process works for me and it may not for other writers, there is no right or wrong. Here I’d like to discuss a little how certain characters take on a life of their own and in that way influence or even change how I go about writing my books.

A character who has been present in The Lady Evelyn Mysteries from the second book (A Darker Shore) onward is Hugh Lawrence. He appears when Evelyn and Daniel are in Amiens, France on a quest to find Daniel’s long lost brother. I had intended Hugh to play a small role, to be a side character in only one book, but as the story unfolded, throughout the long editing process, I came to grow quite fond of him. He seemed to me a figure I should not let go of so easily. As he became more fleshed out on the page, he took on real dimensions in my mind as well. I thought about his past and how his time serving as a somewhat unwilling soldier in the First World War shaped him; how so many men of his generation gave their lives but also so much of themselves to a bloody and miserable effort they often hardly understood. It opened up a door to exploring the world soldiers faced when they came home, the walking wounded, to a society that just wanted to forget and move on. Hugh seemed relevant to me even today, in a world in which those who suffer from trauma or mental illness are often misunderstood or even relegated to the background. I felt an affinity with him, though he and I are so different and I am really much more like Lady Evelyn (though I daresay she is a little more adventurous…;-) Hugh took on mannerisms in my mind, a specific way of walking, a little slouch, because he wants to go unnoticed, an unwillingness to meet one’s eye. In some ways, I feel as though he has yet to reveal certain parts to me, even as his inventor, just as he has kept much of himself private from the people he is beginning to trust. He needs time to let his story unfold, and I think, for this reason, I could not let him go and have included him in every subsequent Lady Evelyn novel.

I suspect many authors feel the same as I do when crafting characters. They come up with a name, a vague idea about who the person is or will be and then, as they begin to write, he or she becomes someone different, someone better or worse or far more complicated that first expected. We want our characters to feel real and believable and real people are complicated, real people do not fit into a box or an outline one can create. Developing characters is one of my greatest pleasures as a writer, and I hope you enjoy them all and the story presented in The Quality of Mercy!

A wonderful guest post – thank you, Malia. I am most certainly a character-driven reader myself. A good (or bad!) character can make or break a book for me!

The Quality of Mercy by Malia Zaidi was published in the UK by BookBaby on 25th August 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 | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads |

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Version 2Malia Zaidi is the author of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford.

Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.

#BookReview: Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh @orionbooks @orion_crime #FiftyFifty #damppebbles

fifty fiftyTwo sisters on trial for murder. They accuse each other.
Who do YOU believe?

‘911 what’s your emergency?’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

One of them is a liar and a killer.

But which one?

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh with you. Fifty-Fifty is the fifth book in the Eddie Flynn series and was published by Orion Books on 3rd September 2020. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Fifty-Fifty but that has in no way influenced my review.

Coming to a series part-way through can be tricky. I’ve only read Fifty-Fifty and the previous book, Thirteen, in the Eddie Flynn series. Not once while reading these books have I ever felt lost, or that everyone else (everyone who has read the series from the start) knows something I don’t. That’s a tricky thing to accomplish when you’re five books into a series so kudos to the author. I absolutely loved Thirteen which is a very clever, well-plotted novel. So I was keen to find out if the author could follow it up with something equally as impressive. He has.

Two sisters on trial for the brutal murder of their father. Both women claim their innocence and accuse the other of the barbaric crime. Both called 911 within minutes of each other claiming to be terrified of the other and fearful for her own life. One is telling the truth. The other is a cold blooded killer and manipulator with a hidden dark side. It’s down to Flynn and his team to tear the sister’s lives apart and find the killer…

What a page-turner! This is an assured, clever legal thriller that ticks all the boxes. I don’t tend to read many legal thrillers (although there has been a bit of a spike recently) but when they’re this good, I ask myself why! The author is a master story-teller and this is one series crime fans cannot ignore.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Fifty-Fifty as there’s a good chance I’ll say something I shouldn’t and give the game away. So I won’t. Except to say it’s gripping, thrilling and full of doubt. I decided who the guilty party was quite early on, only to change my mind, again and again and again. Cavanagh is very adept at the art of misdirection and red herrings, and I loved it!

The returning characters are all great (I do have a soft spot for Judge Harry Ford, and now Clarence) but special mention to Kate Brooks who is the new kid on the block and out to make her name. Whilst Eddie represents Sofia, Kate represents the other sister, Alexandra. You can’t help but feel for Kate who throws herself in at the deep end making a stand against her misogynistic, sexist, truly revolting senior partner. And she really has thrown herself in deep. First solo case and you’re against Eddie Flynn. Ouch.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. This and the brilliant Thirteen (which still remains my favourite Cavanagh book but only because of the unforgettable bad guy!). I love Flynn’s character and I will happily, gladly read this series for as long as it continues. I will also be going back to the beginning to check out where it all began. How could I not? Fifty Fifty is a terrific book. Highly readable, totally engrossing and I want more Flynn! Recommended.

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

Fifty-Fifty by Steven Cavanagh was published in the UK by Orion Books on 3rd September 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 | Goodreads |

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What's Your First Draft Like? – Steve CavanaghSteve Cavanagh is the bestselling author of the Eddie Flynn novels and standalone thrillers. In 2018 he won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for crime novel of the year. All of his novels have either been nominated for awards, or have won awards internationally.

He is a practicing lawyer, and was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he still lives.  Together with Luca Veste, Steve hosts the popular comedy lit podcast Two Crime Writers And A Microphone.

Author Links:TwitterWebsiteFacebook  | Instagram |

Author bio © https://www.stevecavanaghauthor.com/

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams (@Peteadams8) @NextChapterPB @cobaltdinosaur #RoadKill #DaDaDetectiveAgency #damppebbles

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“Cataclysmic events have occurred in the decorous upper middle class enclave within Southsea, Portsmouth, on the south coast of England.

But what were the circumstances that contributed to this violent clash involving a Sherman tank and a bazooka? The strange occurrence is Investigated by Lord Everard Pimple, a naive, upper class twit who not only inadvertently opens a can of worms, but has an introduction into the world of womanly wiles.

Everard’s life is about to blow up like an atom bomb… he just doesn’t know it yet. But after the dust settles, will he still be standing?”

Hello and a very warm weekend welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be handing the keys over to my guest reviewer, Ryan, who will be sharing his thoughts on Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams. Road Kill was published in paperback and digital formats by Gumshoe – A Next Chapter Imprint on 19th August 2020. Ryan recieved a free eARC of Road Kill but that has no influenced his review.

Road Kill marks the first book as we step away from Pete Adams’ ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series. In some ways it is a big step, in other ways small. Imagine a person with long legs taking small steps – that’s the kind of thing!

The first thing you note is a gentle shift in the characters. No longer are we are in the orbit of Jack/Jane/Dick Austin and the Community Policing department in Portsmouth. We are certainly in the same universe, the same city in fact but our points of reference for the majority of this book are new characters. Pimple is as inadvertent a main character as you will ever meet, a court reporter for the local Portsmouth newspaper, given a tip-off about a big story and following it in the hope of his big break.

The one thing that you will not get in this book is travel. The author cleverly sets almost three-quarters of the book in a single house in Frisian Tun; the road Jack and Amanda Austin reside in and which saw so much military firepower in the previous series! The story unfolds as the occupants of the house try to explain to Pimple and his glamorous colleague, Cecilia Crumpet, what has happened and their part in it. This approach to storytelling is great fun, with the personalities of the different storytellers becoming more pronounced throughout the story.

Everyone will have their own favourite. Whether it’s Aedd, the geography teacher with the wandering accent, the wandering hands of Georgiana Lovebody – the synchronised swimming teacher, the Professor daydreaming about goatherds, or Dame Pimple herself! In truth, the bickering, the personal relationships and slow destruction of the room add a huge amount to the story and make it a fun read.

One other change I would comment on is that Pete Adams has utilised a different writing style for this book compared to the previous books in the ‘Kind Hearts and Martinets’ series. Throughout the book the author makes asides to the reader directly. Whilst this starts as a surprise, it almost becomes its own subplot allowing the author to ponder on characters and their behaviour without interfering with the story’s narrative.

This is the first book of Pete Adams’ DaDa Detective Agency (Jack/Jane/Dick and Amanda/Duck’s) retirement venture, and it feels like we are in for another fun ride. If you enjoyed the first series then DaDa should be savoured.

Ryan chose to read and review an eARC of Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Road Kill: The Duchess of Frisian Tun by Pete Adams was published in the UK by Next Chapter Publishing on 19th August 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 |

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pete adams

Pete Adams is an architect with a practice in Portsmouth, UK, and from there he has, over forty years, designed and built buildings across England and Wales. Pete took up writing after listening to a radio interview of the writer Michael Connolly whilst driving home from Leeds. A passionate reader, the notion of writing his own novel was compelling, but he had always been told you must have a mind map for the book; Jeez, he could never get that.

Et Voila, Connolly responding to a question, said he never can plan a book, and starts with an idea for chapter one and looks forward to seeing where it would lead. Job done, and that evening Pete started writing and the series, Kind Hearts and Martinets, was on the starting blocks. That was some eight years ago, and hardly a day has passed where Pete has not worked on his writing, and currently, is halfway through his tenth book, has a growing number of short stories, one, critically acclaimed and published by Bloodhound, and has written and illustrated a series of historical nonsense stories called, Whopping Tales.

Pete describes himself as an inveterate daydreamer, and escapes into those dreams by writing crime thrillers with a thoughtful dash of social commentary. He has a writing style shaped by his formative years on an estate that re-housed London families after WWII, and his books have been likened to the writing of Tom Sharpe; his most cherished review, “made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think”.

Pete lives in Southsea with his partner, and Charlie the star-struck Border terrier, the children having flown the coop, and has 3 beautiful granddaughters who will play with him so long as he promises not to be silly.

#BookReview: The Search Party by Simon Lelic @VikingBooksUK #TheSearchParty #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

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“Sixteen-year-old Sadie Saunders is missing.

Five friends set out into the woods to find her.

But they’re not just friends…

THEY’RE SUSPECTS.

You see, this was never a search party.

It’s a witch hunt.

And not everyone will make it home alive…

THE CHALK MAN meets THE HUNTING PARTY in this gripping story; witness four suspects as, alongside DI Fleet, you attempt to discover the truth about what happened to Sadie…

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my nineteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Search Party by Simon Lelic. The Search Party is published by Viking Books today (that’s 20th August 2020) and is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Search Party but that has in no way influenced my review.

So I admit it, ‘The Chalk Man meets The Hunting Party…’ line sold this book to me before I had fully taken on what the book was about. Two of my very favourite books, the publisher was telling me, had conceived a book baby and it was The Search Party with its fantastically striking cover. I was sold and oh boy, I was excited to make a start.

Sadie Saunders is missing. Her friends, keen to be involved in the search for Sadie, want to help. But they’re told they’re too young. They’re told to stay at home and wait for news. So they decide to pack a few non-essential items (phone chargers for example 🤦) and head out to the woods for a few nights to look for Sadie. But they all have secrets. Things they’re keeping from one another. And one of the teenagers, Mason, is a little hot-headed. He’s Sadie’s boyfriend and he suspects one of the friends has something to do with Sadie going missing…

The book opens with a bang which immediately grabs your attention, puts you on the wrong foot and makes you start to ask questions. We’re then introduced to the absolutely brilliant DI Robin Fleet who was one of my very favourite things about this book. Fleet is in charge of putting the pieces together and working out not only what has happened to Sadie Saunders, but who is responsible for this latest tragedy. I loved Fleet. He’s flawed but not too flawed. Just a good, honest copper who struggles with the politics of policing and the restrictions put upon him by his current superior officer. I hope to see more of him in future books.

What’s interesting about this book is the way the author has presented the viewpoints of the teenagers who went into the woods that fateful day. It’s clear from the get-go that they’re recounting what happened to a police officer, but you only ever hear from the teenagers. The accounts are presented as monologues allowing each character to have their say and their moment in the spotlight. There’s every chance this approach is used in most of the books I read but this time, it felt different and new.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Search Party is an intricate, slow-burn mystery full of suspense which I found entertaining from start to finish. I should say that before reading this book, I had very recently finished another novel featuring a cast of moody teenagers which perhaps took the edge off of the book for me a little. However, the chapters focusing on the investigation with DI Fleet as their star, I really enjoyed. More Fleet please! Recommended.

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

The Search Party by Simon Lelic was published by Viking Books on 20th August 2020 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Simon Lelic credit Justine StoddartSimon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

#BookReview: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser @FaberBooks #TheHunted #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the hunted“Where does the adventure end . . .
and the nightmare begin?

Frank owns a service station on a little-used highway. His granddaughter, Allie, is sent to stay with him for the summer, but they don’t talk a lot.

Simon is a dreamer and an idealist, in thrall to the romance of the open road and desperately in search of something.

Maggie is the woman who will bring them together, someone whose own personal journey will visit unimaginable terror on them all. . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fourteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser. The Hunted is published in the UK by Faber Books today (that’s 6th August 2020) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I received a free ARC of The Hunted but that has in no way influenced my review.

From the moment I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. From the brilliantly intriguing blurb, to the cover that’s dripping blood to the PR that told me ‘It’s Jane Harper’s The Dry meets Deliverance, a terrifying piece of horror that also hits every note in terms of character and family drama’. I’ll be honest, I was a little bit giddy to make a start on this one. And I loved it. Every terrifying, intense, blood-splattered moment of it.

Frank is hiding from his problems in a rundown Outback shack he refers to as home. He owns the only roadhouse (service station) for miles. And when in the Outback, the miles go on forever. But he’s got company for a couple of weeks. His teenage granddaughter, Allie, has come to stay. They don’t know each other so they don’t really talk. What is there to say? One day, a car pulls up outside the roadhouse with a woman slumped at the wheel. She’s bloodied, battered and in a really bad way. The woman is Maggie and with her she brings untold horror…

I bloody loved it and I couldn’t put this book down! The Hunted is a terror filled, edge of your seat whirlwind and I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end. If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you may know that characters are key for me. The characters in The Hunted are absolutely spot-on! I loved Frank who, until recently, hasn’t really been there for Allie but when the chips were down and the angry gun-wielding maniacs were at the door, he really stepped up to the plate. I won’t name my favourite character in the book in this review but it’s safe to say, I think I’m a little bit in love! Other characters were all brilliantly drawn, stood tall and had their place in this wonderful story.

I seem to be having a spell of reading books where I can’t discuss the plot for fear of giving something I shouldn’t away. If you know too much about The Hunted then I wonder if it’s as shocking and surprising. I need to tread carefully. After a fairly gentle introduction to some of the characters at the start of the book (ignoring the prologue of course!), the pace rachets up and doesn’t stop until you’ve closed the back cover. When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I really felt for the characters, I wanted to see what terrifying move would be made next and I felt invested in their plight. The constant threat hanging over them was delicious and the tension palpable.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. I loved The Hunted and can see it making an appearance in my top 10 books of 2020. I know some readers baulk at the idea of reading a horror novel but I urge you to give this one a try. Yes, it’s bloody and a little gruesome but it’s such an enthralling, gripping, unsettling story that will worm it’s way under your skin. You don’t want to miss out on this book. An outstanding horror novel that I heartily recommend.

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

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was published in the UK by Faber Books on 6th August 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 | Goodreads |

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PictureGabriel Bergmoser is a Melbourne based author and playwright. After starting out in the youth theatre scene with his early plays Windmills, Life Without Me and Hometown, Gabriel completed his Masters of Screenwriting at the Victorian College of the Arts. He co-founded the independent production company Bitten By Productions, entering the Melbourne theatre scene with the one-act comedy Reunion and the futuristic Babylon Trilogy of noir thrillers. Gabriel’s 2015 Beatles comedy We Can Work It Out opened to sell out shows and rave reviews – it has also been performed in Queensland and returned to Melbourne stages for the 2018 Fringe Festival.

In 2015 he won the prestigious Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award for his pilot screenplay based on Windmills and was flown to the International Emmys in New York to accept. The same pilot was later nominated for the Monte Miller Award. In 2016 his first young adult novelBoone Shepard, was published by Bell Frog Books; it was later shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Prize the day after the sequelBoone Shepard’s American Adventure was released. The third book, Boone Shepard: The Silhouette and the Sacrifice, was released in 2018 and a television adaptation is currently in development with Pirate Size Productions.

His 2016 plays The Lucas ConundrumRegression and The Critic opened to excellent reviews while his early 2017 play Springsteen sold out its entire season. His play Heroes was nominated for the 2017 Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing and went on to win several awards, including five for Best Production and three for best script, on the 2017 VDL One Act Play Festival circuit. His first musical, Moonlite (featuring original songs by Dan Nixon) was performed as part of the 2018 Midsumma Festival; it received rave reviews, sold out its entire season, and was later selected for the highly sought after Home Grown Grassroots development initiative. His 2019 play, The Trial of Dorian Graysold out its entire season, was extended, then sold out again. Several of his plays have been published by Australian Plays. 

In 2019 Gabriel signed a two book deal with Harper Collins, with the first, The Hunted, scheduled for publication in July 2020. The Hunted will be published in the UK by Faber. The film adaptation is currently being developed in a joint production between Stampede Ventures and Vertigo entertainment in Los Angeles, with Gabriel writing the screenplay. He has since signed a second two book deal with Harper for his YA coming of age novel The True Colour of a Little White Lie and a follow up.

Author photo and bio © https://www.gabrielbergmoser.com/

#BookReview: The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #TheHome #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the home“Once inseparable, Joel and Nina haven’t spoken in twenty years.

When Joel’s mother Monika develops dementia, he has no choice but to return to his home town. Monika needs specialist care, and that means Pineshade – which also means Joel is going to have to deal with his one-time best friend, for Nina works there.

It’s not long before Monika’s health deteriorates – she starts having violent, terrifying outbursts, and worse, she appears to know things she couldn’t possibly know. It’s almost as if she isn’t herself any more . . . but of course, that’s true of most of the residents at Pineshade.

Only Nina and Joel know Monika well enough to see the signs; only by working together can they try to find answers to the inexplicable . . .

The Home is an eerie story about love, friendship and the greatest fear of all: losing control of ourselves . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my fifteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome). The Home is published by Jo Fletcher Books later this week on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of The Home but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Home is a compelling, immersive piece of quality fiction and it absolutely broke my heart. As a contemporary horror novel it also made me very uneasy and gave me chills. It ticks all the boxes in that respect. But this isn’t a fast-paced thrill ride featuring the same old, same old we’ve all seen time and time again. Oh no. It’s a beautifully written tale featuring some of the most exquisitely drawn characters I’ve had the pleasure to meet in fiction. A very memorable read and one I relished spending time with.

Joel Edlund has made the very difficult decision to put his mother, Monika, in a nursing home specifically for people suffering from dementia. His mother, who lived on her own until a heart attack, has become a danger to herself after the onset of dementia. Joel has his own poor excuse of a life back in Stockholm and he wants to return, leaving his mother in the capable hands of the staff at Pineshade nursing home. But before he leaves he needs to pack up his mother’s house and instruct estate agents to put it on the market. He can’t escape the past as he clears out trinkets and mementoes his mother has kept over the years. Nor when he goes to visit his mother, as his ex-best friend from his teenage years, Nina, works at the home. He hoped he’d never see her again after their friendship broke down so irreparably. But during his strained visits, Joel starts to notice a distinct change in his mother. Her health is worsening, strange things are happening and she’s not the same woman who arrived at the home only a short time ago. Joel isn’t the only one to notice how strangely Monika is behaving. Nina, who used to see Monika as a second mother, is just as concerned. What has happened to make her act in such an odd way? And how does she know the deepest, darkest secrets of the staff at the home…

I always get excited about a book when the characters stand out from the page for me, and this is a wonderful example of some truly beautiful creations. The characters in The Home are everything. They broke my heart, they made me smile and they scared the bejesus out of me. I became completely involved in their day to day lives. So much so, I think I may have fallen a little bit in love with some of the residents of Pineshade. But please don’t get me wrong. This is a dark and frightening tale of losing ourselves and of losing control. Our main characters, Joel and Nina, were also very well-written and I enjoyed seeing them begin to relate to one another again after so much time apart.

This isn’t a thrilling, high-octane read but a slow meander through the very different, but fascinating, lives of a group of interesting people who all end up, for one reason or another, under the same roof. The pace suited the book perfectly and I was more than happy to lose myself for a few hours in Pineshade and Skredsby. The Swedish setting was something a little different and I lapped it up. I’m a fan of translated fiction which meant The Home gained another big tick from me!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re considering reading horror fiction for the first time I think The Home would be an excellent place to start. It’s creepy and unsettling, with bucketloads of eerie and I loved it. When I knew where the story was heading (this was quite near the end) I could tell what the final twist was going to be but that didn’t take anything away. I really enjoyed reading The Home and it’s going to stay with me for some time to come. I think I’m still a little bit in love.

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

The Home by Mats Strandberg (translated by Agnes Broome) was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 6th August 2020 and is available in paperback and digital format (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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I have always loved horror. As a kid, I preferred the Grimm fairytales over the Disney versions, and when I was ten years old I discovered Stephen King. I devoured his terrifying stories with much gusto (even while breaking out in stress-related hives).

The love of horror has stayed with me. Also my love of books. I write for children, teens and adults.  To me, it isn’t really that different. It’s all about characters, and what happens when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations.

Author image and bio © http://matsstrandberg.com/

#BookReview: Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough @HarperCollinsUK #DeadToHer #damppebbles

dead to her“Something old

Marcie’s affair with Jason Maddox catapulted her into the world of the elite. Old money, old ties, old secrets. Marcie may have married into this world – but she’ll never be part of it.

Something new

Then Jason’s boss brings back a new wife from his trip to London. Young, attractive, reckless – nobody can take their eyes off Keisha. Including Marcie’s husband.

Something you can never, ever undo…

Some people would kill for the life Marcie has – what will she do to keep it?”

Welcome to damppebbles and to my review of Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough. Dead To Her is due to be published in hardcover a week from today (that’s 6th August 2020) with the paperback set to follow next year (the digital version has been available since June). I received a free ARC of Dead To Her but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’m a slow reader. I tend to read advance review copies a month at the most before the book is published. And in all honesty, thinking that far ahead can be a struggle at times! In reality, it’s maybe a week or two before the book is published. With Dead To Her, however, I read it at the end of July last year. There were two reasons for this. 1) It’s a Sarah Pinborough novel and 2) I promised my copy to a fabulous friend after I’d finished it (long story, best I don’t bore you). Anyhoo, I digress. I was keen to read this book anyway, but having spent some time last July with one of Sarah Pinborough’s biggest fans, her enthusiasm completely rubbed off on me and I was even more desperate to read Dead To Her. And what a memorable book!

After a rocky start in life, Marcie has managed to leave her past behind and move into the Savannah elite. Granted, she had to have an affair with successful businessman Jason Maddox and usurp his ex-wife to do it, but it was a price she was prepared to pay. After all, she adores her husband (and the life that comes with his success). They’re rich, popular in the set and going places but she’ll never truly ‘belong’. When Jason’s boss brings a new wife home from England, all eyes – including Jason’s – turn to Keisha. She’s younger, more beautiful, spontaneous and fun – everything Marcie used to be before age played its hand. It’s hard not to notice the chemistry between Keisha and Jason. Is Marcie about to lose everything she has worked so hard for? How far will she, and others, go to keep their secrets…

I’ve read Sarah Pinborough’s Cross Her Heart which absolutely broke me. But this…! This is something completely different. Very, very, ‘totally unexpected’ different. This is sexy, this is scary and this is 100% full on. It made me blush at points but I was delighted to see that the author had given things a bit of a shake-up and made her story instantly memorable. I can’t really say too much about the characters as I’m concerned that because of the way the story is set out, I’ll stupidly give something away I shouldn’t. So all I’ll say is that Marcie is a great character and one I really liked. Other characters were pretty repulsive including William Radford IV whose treatment of his new wife, Keisha reminded me of how others would treat a worthless possession. I really felt for Keisha throughout the book as she’s such a fragile soul.

This is a slow burn psychological suspense novel with an intriguing and beguiling plot. It’s so different to everything else I’ve read, that I perhaps struggled with it a little more than other readers will. The steaminess of the novel didn’t help in that respect but I can see many readers absolutely loving the different angle Pinborough has taken with Dead To Her. I’m afraid I could see the ending coming from a mile off which meant I finished the book on a ‘hmmm’ instead of a ‘wow’. But I enjoyed the story the author told me.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re into character-driven suspense novels but with a full-on, sexy plot to back it all up, then you should enjoy Dead To Her. It’s a little bit crazy but entertaining. A very memorable read and I can’t wait to see what Pinborough has in store for us next. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dead To Her. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dead To Her by Sarah Pinborough was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 6th August 2020 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links* are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk*| Waterstones* | Book Depository* | Goodreads |

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sarah pinborough

Sarah Pinborough is the number one Sunday Times Bestselling and New York Times Bestselling author of the psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes (Jan, 2017). During her career she has published more than 20 novels and several novellas, and has written for the BBC. Her recent novels include the dystopian love story, The Death House, and a teenage thriller, 13 Minutes which has been bought by Netflix with Josh Schwartz adapting.

Behind Her Eyes has sold to nearly twenty territories so far and was sold at auction to the US in a significant deal to Flatiron, Macmillan. There are discussions on going with several movies studios about the film adaptation.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook |

#BookReview: Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski @borstinski #MidtownHuckster #AlexCohenSeries #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

3 Midtown Huckster High Res 1930“Can you keep your gelt and freedom when the cops have enough evidence to take you down?

1930s Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen runs Murder Inc for Lucky Luciano. After the death of Prohibition he must find a new way to make money, just as the cops are baying at his heels. When Luciano goes down for racketeering, Alex loses his protection and is arrested for tax evasion-he must decide between saving his skin and ratting out his friends.

If he chooses prison time then his gang will fall apart and he will end up with nothing. If he squeals then he will have to flee the city he loves and the family he once adored. What would you do in a world where nobody can be trusted and you have everything to lose?

The third book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical noir novel, which plunges you deep into the early days of narcotics trafficking and the Jewish New York mob. Leopold Borstinski’s piercing crime fiction delivers a fix to every reader like heroin from a needle.”

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eleventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski. Midtown Huckster is the third book in the Alex Cohen Series and was published in paperback and digital formats on 16th July 2020. I received a free eARC of Midtown Huckster but that has in no way influenced my review.

Jewish gangster and thug, Alex Cohen, is back! And he’s bigger and badder than ever. He’s a killing machine and the reader really shouldn’t like him….but it’s hard not to. I thoroughly enjoyed Midtown Huckster which focuses on Cohen’s life in 1930s New York. The end of prohibition, the end of his marriage to Sarah and the end of….well, I won’t spoil it for you. I think this is my favourite book in the series so far!

The end of prohibition is nigh and Alex and his men need to find a new way to make sure they continue to live in the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to. No one will be looking for watered down, bootlegged hooch when the real thing will be readily available again. A new money-spinning idea is needed to keep them rolling in gelt. But that’s not all Alex should be worrying about. There’s a new Special Prosecutor in town – Thomas Dewey – and he’s out to clean up the mean streets of New York and has Alex and his colleagues in his sights. Will Alex manage to see out the 1930s a free man or is this the end of Slugger…?

Eminently readable, utterly compelling and as I think I said, my favourite book of the series so far. I absolutely devoured Midtown Huckster. This series is something very special with its mix of fact and fiction. Notorious names from history you’ll definitely recognise rubbing shoulders alongside wonderfully written, standout creations. I adore Alex Cohen and his dark edge. But he has a conscience, which the reader gets to see him battling with as the prospect of dealing heroin is put upon the table.

The plot moves quickly as it does in all three of these books. Each novel tends to cover a decade so the author has a lot to fit in. Scenes do jump quickly but I really enjoy that as it keeps the pace fresh – never a dull moment with Cohen around. Being a gangster novel, there is violence but it fits with the period and the setting. It’s all in keeping with what you would expect.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all three novels in the Alex Cohen series. They can be read as standalone novels but why would you when you can start at the very beginning and follow Alex on his journey as he steps off the boat from the Ukraine. They’re gritty, compelling books which deserve a wider readership. Hard-hitting crime noir with a likeable lead, this entire series is something quite special.

| The Bowery Slugger | East Side Hustler |

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

Midtown Huckster by Leopold Borstinski was published in the UK by Sobriety Press on 16th 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.uk | amazon.com | Google Books | Goodreads |

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FullSizeRenderLeopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Website |

#BookReview: Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #HerLastBreath #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her last breath“A gripping new detective series set in Brighton for readers who enjoy Peter James’ Roy Grace series.

When a young woman is attacked and left fighting to survive in hospital, the police are pulled into a race against time to save her life. But just 24 hours later, she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body.

And when another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.

His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of Francis’s lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my twelfth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham. Her Last Breath is the second book in the Detective Sullivan Thriller Series, was published by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 and is available in most formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Her Last Breath but that has in no way influenced my review.

I read The Tattoo Thief, the author’s debut, back in 2018 and really enjoyed it. It was a dark read with a really interesting, different lead detective. So I was keen to get stuck into Her Last Breath and oh boy, I loved it. The Tattoo Thief was good but Her Last Breath is an absolute corker!

A young woman is savagely attacked and left with horrific wounds on a beach in Brighton. The woman, Tash Brady, is the girlfriend of Alex Mullins – son of local tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who is still recovering from her recent run-in with the Tattoo Thief. Marni does the only thing she can think of to help Tash and that’s call a man she hoped to never see again, DI Francis Sullivan. Sullivan and the team are put on the case but days later, Tash tragically dies. Shortly after Tash’s death, another young woman is attacked. Her wounds match those of the first victim and Sullivan fears the worst. They have a serial killer on their hands. And one clear suspect – Marni’s son, Alex…

What a page-turner! I enjoyed the first book but found it hard to warm to the characters. That was not the case in Her Last Breath. I adored Marni’s complete faith in her son’s innocence and her dogged determination to prove it. Sullivan has matured and grown into his role and even though he has moments of doubt, he stands tall and leads the team from the front. DS Rory Mackay is still biting at his heels and wants Sullivan’s job, which he feels should be his anyway, but Sullivan’s increased confidence and leadership keeps him at bay. Other members of the team are equally as strong as Sullivan and Mackay, and add to the gripping storyline.

Killer tattoos. I mean, how fantastic is that?! This is the type of plot I devour. Something a little different, something that I haven’t seen before, something to keep me on the edge of my seat – which is exactly what Her Last Breath did. With many of the team focussing all of their resources on one suspect, looking to pin something – anything (!) – on Alex, they’re not looking at the bigger picture, which results in a second woman being attacked. Sullivan senses that Alex isn’t their man, but he’s got to prove it and find out who is. I loved the intense race against time to find the killer. The way the author makes you question Alex’s innocence. The heart-stopping, claustrophobic ending set in one of the most revolting locations I’ve ever read in a book was so brilliantly written – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Her Last Breath and I’m eagerly waiting for book three so I can be reunited with Sullivan and Marni again. And, of course, find out how tattoos will feature in the plot! I would strongly recommend that you read The Tattoo Thief first before Her Last Breath, as the case in the first book is mentioned and referred to often with lots of spoilers. Going in with some knowledge of past happenings will help. Her Last Breath is a gritty, captivating police procedural with a difference and I loved every minute I spent in Brighton with the team. Gripping, engaging and absolutely riveting. Highly recommended.

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

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 6th February 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 | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost @fictionpubteam #TheGuesthouse #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the guest house“Seven guests. One Killer. A holiday to remember…

A dark and addictive psychological thriller about seven strangers who find themselves cut off from civilization in a remote guesthouse in Ireland…

Not all the guests will survive their stay…

You use an app, called Cloud BNB, to book a room online. And on a cold and windy afternoon, you arrive at The Guesthouse, a dramatic old building on a remote stretch of hillside in Ireland. 

You are expecting a relaxing break, but you find something very different. Something unimaginable. Because a killer has lured you and six other guests here and now you can’t escape. 

One thing’s for certain: not all of you will come back from this holiday alive…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my tenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost. The Guesthouse was published by HarperCollins in January 2020 and is available to purchase in all formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Guesthouse but that has in no way influenced my review.

When I first saw the cover of this book and read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I was keen before, but then I discovered that it’s actually written by an already established crime author but because it’s a little different to her other books, it’s been written under a pen name. Everything about this book sang to me. I’m a real sucker for the secluded, eerie setting, a group of people who know very little about one another, only for them to start dying in suspicious circumstances – one by one. Who is the killer? How much do you trust these strangers? Does one of them hold your life in their hands…?

Hannah is in mourning after the sudden death of her partner, Ben. The fact he discovered, shortly before he died, that Hannah had cheated on him, led friends and family to blame Hannah for his death. She needs to get away from Ben’s friends and have some time to grieve, so she decides to go ahead with a week-long trip to The Guesthouse in Fallon, Ireland, she had booked with Ben a few weeks before his accident. Not only does she feel she deserves a break but she has her own personal reasons for visiting the area. On arrival in Ireland, her relaxing holiday doesn’t get off to the best start. She meets the other guests staying in the house. Some she warms to, others she doesn’t. Hannah can’t fully relax though. She hears a child crying in the night and there are other strange things about the house. Dated rooms with holes in the floor and peeling wallpaper, a creepy gardener who refuses to talk to the guests, areas of the house are completely closed off behind padlocked doors. Nothing really seems to fit with the exclusive holiday destination she read about online. Plus the other guests, aren’t all they first appear to be…

The Guesthouse is a well-written psychological suspense novel which opens with a bang. The prologue throws the reader straight in to the (near) end of the story and I was immediately intrigued to know what had gone before. How had Hannah ended up in this terrifying situation? Who – or what – was chasing her? I was gripped and on the edge of my seat. The reader is then whisked back in time to 6 days before the events of that fateful night to watch from afar as Hannah makes her way to Fallon. She drinks too much, has little regard for her own personal safety and seems to have pretty much given up on life. I should have sympathised with her, but I didn’t. I couldn’t warm to Hannah at all, I’m sorry to say.

The other guests staying at the accommodation were all well-written characters. I was curious to find out what their stories were and how everything was going to tie together. Rosa, the mother of the small family staying at The Guesthouse, made my blood boil. She was so utterly frustrating, totally infuriating and I loved her! Her husband, Liam, made my skin crawl. I do love it when a character provokes a strong reaction in me!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Guesthouse is a creepy psychological suspense novel which was very entertaining. It’s a smidge far-fetched, a couple of the plot points felt a little *too* convenient but hey, it’s fiction and if you can’t be a little creative in fiction, when can you be? Normally not warming to a lead character isn’t an issue for me but this time, I felt it hampered things a little. I really wanted to feel more for Hannah, but I couldn’t. I still enjoyed the book though and would pick up another by this author (under either name 😂) in a heartbeat.

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

The Guesthouse by Abbie Frost was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 9th January 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 | Goodreads |

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abbie frostAbbie Frost (the pen name of author Chris Curran) was born in London but now lives in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books.

She left school at 16 to work in the local library – her dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading her way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education, she gained her degree from Sussex University.

Since then, she has worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when she would see her own books gracing those library shelves.