#BookReview: When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins @panmacmillan #WhenIWasTen #damppebbles

“Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins. When I Was Ten was published by Pan Macmillan in paperback format on 30th December 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats.

I have been wanting to read When I Was Ten since it first landed on my radar last year. Having finished one book, I was in a strange ‘nothing really appeals…’ mood and was looking for something a little dark and a little uncomfortable to get my teeth into. Which is when this book suddenly sprang to mind! Without a second thought, I downloaded a copy and made a start straight away. And what a devastating and utterly compelling story When I Was Ten is. I absolutely loved it!

Twenty-one years ago Richard and Pamela Carter were viciously murdered in their beds. The case became infamous, partly due to the respect held by the local community for Dr Carter – the local GP – but mainly because the killer was their youngest daughter. After spending time in a secure unit for children, the daughter assumed a new identity and started a new life. But now a documentary crew have found the older of the two sisters and questions are being asked. The Angel of Death is back in the spotlight, the last place she ever wanted to be, and her new life is about to come crashing down around her…

Oh my goodness, When I Was Ten is SO GOOD! This is, I’m ashamed to admit, the first book I’ve read by this author despite being told repeatedly by fellow readers for years that I would love her books. They were right.  I loved the story, the characters and Cummins’ writing. So much so, I plan to download the author’s entire back catalogue as soon as I’m physically able to.

When I Was Ten centres around the Carter sisters and their friend and neighbour from 21 years ago, Brinley Booth. Told in the past and the present, we get to hear from journalist Brinley as she decides whether to reveal her connection to the biggest story of the year to her boss. In doing so, she knows it’ll give her failing career a real boost. But does she really want to dredge up difficult memories from that time again? Particularly as Brinley knows more than she’s letting on. We also get to hear from Catherine as her carefully created life crumbles around her. As her daughter and husband realise who has actually been head of their family for the last twelve years. How well do we really know those we’re closest to? There are also deeply unsettling flashbacks to the past which show the reader how the Carter sisters were treated by their supposedly perfect parents in their nice big house. It makes for difficult reading at times but I couldn’t tear myself away!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. When I Was Ten is dark and twisty and absolutely everything I love about crime fiction. There were a number of brilliantly written surprises along the way, some which left me with my jaw on the floor. I thought the characters were very well-written and really pulled the reader into the story. The book is paced beautifully, encouraging ‘just one more chapter’ before turning out the light. But before you know it, half of the night has passed and you know you’ll be living on coffee and fumes come the morning *true story* (it was so worth it though 😉)! When I Was Ten is undoubtedly one of my favourite reads of 2022 and fans of family centred crime thrillers should put this one top of their wish list. You’ll be missing out on something quite special if you don’t! Hugely compelling, immensely readable, heart breaking and unexpectedly emotional, and impossible to put down. Loved it. Highly recommended.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on 30th December 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 |

Fiona CumminsFiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy, where she now teaches her own Writing Crime course. She is the bestselling author of five crime thriller novels, all of which have received widespread critical acclaim from household names including Val McDermid, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin. Three of her novels have been optioned for television.

Rattle, her debut, has been translated into several languages and Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’ Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’.

Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin called it ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten, an Irish Times bestseller, was published in April 2021. Into The Dark, Fiona’s fifth novel, will be published in April 2022 and was described by Sarah Vaughan, author of Netflix smash-hit Anatomy of A Scandal, as ‘Complex. Inventive. Twisty. Unsettling.’

When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.

#BookReview: The Anniversary by Laura Marshall @BooksSphere #TheAnniversary #damppebbles

“They thought the killer had no motive. But these murders are not what they seem . . .

On 15th June 1994, Travis Green – husband, father, upstanding citizen – walked through the streets of Hartstead and killed eleven of his neighbours. The last victim was little Cassie Colman’s father.

As the twenty-five-year anniversary approaches, Cassie tries to forget the past – even as her mother struggles to remember it at all. Then something hidden in her mother’s possessions suggests the murders were not what everyone believes.

Cassie can’t stop herself from digging up the past. But someone will do anything to keep it buried . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Anniversary by Laura Marshall. The Anniversary was published by Sphere Books on 3rd March 2022 in paperback format and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats.

I couldn’t resist this book. With its striking yellow cover and intriguing blurb, it was a book I felt I had to read so downloaded a copy at the first available opportunity. And I’m so glad I did because it’s an absolute corker of a read!

Cassie Colman has reluctantly returned to Hartstead, the town she grew up in, to look after her mother who has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Hartstead is the last place she wants to be because nearly 25 years ago on 15th June a man named Travis Green walked the streets of the small town shooting and killing its residents, eleven in total. The last victim was Cassie’s father, gunned down in his own home in front of his wife and daughter. Cassie was only four-years-old at the time. She has no memory of what happened that day but she has plenty of questions, none of which her mother is able to answer. So when a journalist approaches her wanting to write a piece on the impact of mass trauma on a small town, Cassie sees it as the perfect opportunity to find out what happened that fateful June day. But not everyone is as keen to remember and many will do anything to forget…

Woah, The Anniversary was so good! I *ahem* neglected to re-read the blurb before diving into this one so had no idea what the ‘anniversary’ the story is based around actually was (brain like a sieve!). What I wasn’t expecting was a mass shooting. So that made me immediately sit up and reassess, let me tell you! The author has created such an eminently readable novel, such a compulsive and enthralling page turner that I devoured all 384 pages in under 24 hours (which I think is a record for me!). Life in general was put on hold whilst I immersed myself in Cassie’s quest for the truth.

I thought the way the author has written Cassie’s struggle to balance life as a new mum with a tiny baby alongside caring for her own mother was authentic and heartfelt. Her loneliness at times was clear, along with her distress at being the responsible adult in the house and having to do everything. That coupled with her ‘fame’ as Gary Colman’s daughter and the approaching anniversary really add to the weight pressing down on her shoulders. I liked Cassie a lot. The author has created a very human, very relatable character.

I thoroughly enjoyed the flashbacks to 15th June 1994 where we see what is happening from the eleven victims’ point of view. Are the attacks completely random or do these people have something in common to connect them? As the story progresses the reader is able to draw some conclusions but not everything adds up which really ramps up the intrigue and keeps you turning those pages into the wee small hours.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Anniversary is an absolutely cracking read. I loved the twists and turns, I loved the pace of the book, I loved the premise SO MUCH! The characters were interesting and I was rooting for Cassie from the get-go. This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it won’t be the last as I’m planning on downloading her first two books as soon as possible (and the new one when it’s published later this year!). Hugely compelling and near impossible to put down, this is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read in a while. Loved it! Highly recommended.

The Anniversary by Laura Marshall was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 3rd March 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Laura MarshallLaura Marshall is the bestselling author of three psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, Friend Request, was a Kindle No.1 and Sunday Times bestseller, with over half a million copies sold in the UK. Laura’s books have sold in twenty-four territories around the globe.

She grew up in Wiltshire, studied English at the University of Sussex and currently lives in Kent with her family.

#BookReview: Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani @AmazonPub #WelcomeToCooper #damppebbles

In this explosive thriller of bad choices and dark crimes, Detective Levine knew his transfer was a punishment—but he had no idea just how bad it would get.

Cooper, Nebraska, is forgettable and forgotten, a town you’d only stumble into if you’d taken a seriously wrong turn. Like Detective Thomas Levine’s career has. But when a young woman is found lying in the snow, choked to death, her eyes gouged out, the disgraced detective is Cooper’s only hope for restoring peace and justice.

For Levine, still grieving and guilt-ridden over the death of his girlfriend, his so-called “transfer” from the big city to this grubby backwater has always felt like a punishment. And when his irascible new partner shoots their prime suspect using Levine’s gun, all hope of redemption is shattered. With the case in chaos, and both blackmail and a violent drug cartel to contend with, he finds himself in a world of trouble.

It gets worse. The real killer is still out there, and he’s got plans for Detective Levine. And Cooper may just be the perfect place to get away with murder.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani. Welcome to Cooper was published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st October 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

As soon as I laid eyes on this book I knew I had to read it. Small town American crime thrillers are 100% my thing and this one I was drawn to more than most! It was also recommended by BrendaP as part of my ’12 books in 12 months’ challenge (scroll down to see the other books on my list). I’ve had this book on my shelf since the end of last year and I’ve been champing at the bit to read it. So as soon as a break in my reading schedule arose it was a very easy, very clear choice for me.

Detective Thomas Levine has had to make a hasty retreat from his old posting in DC to the forgotten town of Cooper, Nebraska. His first case is a grisly one, a young woman strangled to death with her eyes gouged out and left to rot in the snow. Law enforcement in the town isn’t always by the book so it’s down to Levine to find the killer and put them away before another of his colleagues metes out their own special kind of justice to any suspicious locals. It’s a race against the clock before the killer strikes again. But Levine has his own issues to deal with as well. He’s still grieving the death of his girlfriend, he feels his relocation to Cooper is the worst kind of punishment and before long, his partner has double crossed him and holds Levine’s smoking gun in his hand. When one of the lead detectives is distracted, and no one else really cares, what’s to stop a deranged killer from striking again….?

Welcome to Cooper is an eminently readable, hugely compelling novel featuring a detective who is teetering on the edge. Surrounded by colleagues who don’t know right from wrong and hounded into carrying out less than legal endeavours, this fresh and original noir thriller ticked so many boxes for me. An unsettling somewhat bleak novel that was a dream to read. I tore through the pages at a rate of knots, eager to know how things would turn out for these deeply flawed characters. And because I was completely captivated by the story, I reached the shocking end of the book within 24 hours of starting. I could not put it down! And oh, that ending. An ending I certainly did not see coming and applaud whole heartedly. Wow!

Beautifully written, utterly absorbing and deftly plotted, this accomplished debut is a must read for crime fiction fans who like a darker edge to their reads. I thoroughly enjoyed the sub-plots which ran alongside the main murder mystery. Bad decision after bad decision led to a slippery slope from which there was no going back and it was tense and uncomfortable to watch things play out for Levine. Unflinching and dark, disturbing and desolate. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Welcome to Cooper took me on a dark and gritty ride to the heart of a small Nebraskan town and I loved it! What I enjoyed the most was the completely unexpected, almost earth shattering conclusion. I feel the author took a brave step and in my opinion, it fully paid off. Yes, he’s not the first to take this story down this avenue (and he won’t be the last) but the twist in Welcome to Cooper is done so well it will be impossible to forget. And I’ve read a lot of twists over the years! Great characters with few redeemable qualities, a setting which will easily send chills down your spine and plot to get really caught up in. Highly recommended.

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani was published in the UK by Thomas & Mercer on 1st October 2021 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.ukWaterstones | FoylesBook Depository | bookshop.orgGoodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Tariq AshkananiTariq Ashkanani is a solicitor based in Edinburgh, where he also helps run Write Gear, a company that sells high-quality notebooks for writers, and co-hosts Write Gear’s podcast Page One. His follow-up thriller, Follow Me to the Edge, is out soon.

#BookReview: Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa @vintagebooks #BulletTrain #damppebbles

Five killers. One train journey. But who will survive? The original and propulsive thriller from a massive Japanese bestseller.

Satoshi looks like an innocent schoolboy but he is really a viciously cunning psychopath. Kimura’s young son is in a coma thanks to him, and Kimura has tracked him onto the bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka to exact his revenge. But Kimura soon discovers that they are not the only dangerous passengers onboard.

Nanao, the self-proclaimed ‘unluckiest assassin in the world’, and the deadly partnership of Tangerine and Lemon are also travelling to Morioka. A suitcase full of money leads others to show their hands. Why are they all on the same train, and who will get off alive at the last station?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka (translated by Sam Malissa). Bullet Train is published in paperback format today (that’s Thursday 17th March 2022) and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Bullet Train but that has in no way influenced my review.

First of all I have to say that I adore Japanese crime fiction and this book came onto my radar last year when it was first published but I was so over subscribed that I couldn’t squeeze it in. I was gutted as it sounded just my cup of kombucha. At the start of 2022 I signed up to the ‘12 books in 12 months’ challenge where 12 friends recommend a book to be read by the end of the year – Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka was suggested by the fabulous Raven Crime Reads. So of course, it went on the list. You can see the other eleven books that were recommended if you scroll down to the end of this post. I couldn’t wait to get to this one and what a ride it was!

Boarding a train has never been so deadly! When the bullet train leaves Tokyo heading for Morioka little do the passengers know that in their midst are five highly skilled killers. Satoshi is a schoolboy, all sweetness and light to his superiors but really a psychopath in a school uniform. His use of control and coercion and his complete lack of remorse make him a deadly adversary. Kimura is on a mission to track Satoshi down and make him pay for what he did to his young son, no matter what the cost. But they are not the only two killers on board this high-speed train. As the train hurtles towards Morioka the clock ticks down. Time is running out for these trained assassins as not everyone will make it to Morioka alive…

Oh my goodness, Bullet Train was so much fun! What an immersive, high-speed thrill ride the author has created for his readers, featuring five thoroughly engaging characters. All of them, apart from Satoshi, are likeable – although you know you shouldn’t warm to them really. They are trained killers after all! There is much comic relief provided by the brilliant Tangerine and Lemon. Lemon’s obsession with trains, in particular Thomas and Friends, had me giggling to myself at frequent intervals. Bullet Train felt vey different to all of the other ‘locked room’ mysteries I’ve read in the past (even the Japanese ones!) and I really appreciated it.

The plot moves along swiftly, very much like the bullet train itself, with lots of interesting plot points and changes of direction. I wanted to steam through this novel to find out who survived but instead I took my time to enjoy and savour the interactions, the building tension and twists and turns. There is very little let up. There is always something happening and it’s always attention grabbing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Bullet Train is a unique and clever thriller which is perhaps a little bonkers at times, a little hard to believe maybe, but I didn’t care one jot. I was entertained from start to finish and I know I will never read another book like this again. It’s definitely quirky in the best way possible. I want to say to all crime fiction fans, you must read this book but I’m aware that it probably won’t be for everyone. If you’re a fan of translated fiction however, make sure you get yourself a copy and make sure you read it before the movie is released this summer. I, for one, will be first in the queue with my popcorn and slushie as I CANNOT WAIT to relive the Bullet Train experience once more. I thoroughly enjoyed Bullet Train and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author soon. Recommended.

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

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka translated by Sam Malissa was published in the UK on 17th March 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Kōtarō IsakaKōtarō Isaka (伊坂幸太郎, Isaka Koutarou) is a Japanese author of mystery fiction.

Isaka was born in Matsudo City, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from the law faculty of Tohoku University, he worked as a system engineer. Isaka quit his company job and focused on writing after hearing Kazuyoshi Saito’s 1997 song “Kōfuku na Chōshoku Taikutsu na Yūshoku”, and the two have collaborated several times. In 2000, Isaka won the Shincho Mystery Club Prize for his debut novel Ōdyubon no Inori, after which he became a full-time writer.

In 2002, Isaka’s novel Lush Life gained much critical acclaim, but it was his Naoki Prize-nominated work Jūryoku Piero (2003) that brought him popular success. His following work Ahiru to Kamo no Koin Rokkā won the 25th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers.
Jūryoku Piero (2003), Children (2004), Grasshopper (2004), Shinigami no Seido (2005) and Sabaku (2006) were all nominated for the Naoki Prize.
Isaka was the only author in Japan to be nominated for the Hon’ya Taishō in each of the award’s first four years, finally winning in 2008 with Golden Slumber. The same work also won the 21st Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize.

Image of Sam MalissaSam Malissa holds a PhD in Japanese Literature from Yale University. He has translated fiction by Toshiki Okada, Shun Medoruma, and Hideo Furukawa, among others.


#BookReview: Keeper by Jessica Moor @PenguinUKBooks #Keeper #damppebbles

“He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, KEEPER will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Keeper by Jessica Moor. Keeper was published by Penguin Books on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats.

I was drawn to Keeper thanks to it’s stunning cover, intriguing blurb and the numerous brilliant reviews it received when it was first published. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while now so when the opportunity arose at the end of 2021, I grabbed it.

When the body of a young woman is pulled from the river, all the signs point to suicide. Katie Straw was fairly new to Widringham but had settled quickly and seemed to enjoy working with the women at the refuge. But in truth, no one really knew her. However, the women at the refuge know one thing for sure. Katie didn’t take her own life. Something terrible happened to Katie but no one will listen…

Keeper is an all-consuming novel about losing control and not being able to do a single thing about it. It broke my heart, it made me angry – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this before. The themes are not new but oh my gosh, the way the author has presented Katie’s story really got under my skin. The reader watches as bit by bit, piece by piece, the situation changes for the worse and it’s devastating. So subtle, so precise, so absolutely terrifyingly real that I feel I lived this book alongside the characters.

Katie’s story is told in the past and following the discovery of her body, the present. Leading the investigation into Katie’s death are DS Whitworth and DC Brookes. Whitworth’s old-fashioned approach to policing, his somewhat outdated views and his penchant for being a little patronising all add to the uncomfortable feel of the book. He’s not an unkind man but he could certainly do with going on a few more cultural diversity training courses! However, saying that, I believe the author wrote Whitworth beautifully and he ended up evoking in me all of the emotions he was supposed to. Sublime writing.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Keeper is a dark, emotional and powerful tale of abuse and control which I struggled to put down. At times, I read from behind the safety of my hands, not wanting to completely see what was coming. At other times, I yelled at the book – anger and frustration bubbling over. I discovered after finishing Keeper that Jessica Moor has worked with female survivors of abuse which didn’t come as a surprise. The author’s compassion and understanding for her characters shone through, making it a book everyone should read. If a book can make you feel something then it’s a winner for me and Keeper made me feel a whole host of emotions. For that reason, it will be hard to forget this one and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next. Recommended.

Keeper by Jessica Moor was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 21st January 2021 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats 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 |

Jessica Moor

Jessica Moor grew up in south-west London and studied English at Cambridge before completing a Creative Writing MA at Manchester University where her dissertation was awarded the Creative Writing Prize for Fiction.

Prior to this she spent a year working in the violence against women and girls sector and this experience inspired her first novel, Keeper.

She was selected as one of the Guardian’s 10 best debut novelists of 2020 and is currently working on her next book.

#BookReview: The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt @noexitpress #TheKillingHills #damppebbles

“A literary master across genres, award-winning author Chris Offutt’s latest novel The Killing Hills is a compelling, propulsive thriller in which a suspicious death exposes the loyalties and rivalries of a deep-rooted and fiercely private community in the Kentucky backwoods.

Mick Hardin, a combat veteran now working as an Army CID agent, is home on a leave that is almost done. His wife is about to give birth, but they aren’t getting along. His sister, newly risen to sheriff, has just landed her first murder case, and local politicians are pushing for city police or the FBI to take the case. Are they convinced she can’t handle it, or is there something else at work? She calls on Mick who, with his homicide investigation experience and familiarity with the terrain, is well-suited to staying under the radar. As he delves into the investigation, he dodges his commanding officer’s increasingly urgent calls while attempting to head off further murders. And he needs to talk to his wife.

The Killing Hills is a novel of betrayal – sexual, personal, within and between the clans that populate the hollers – and the way it so often shades into violence. Chris Offutt has delivered a dark, witty, and absolutely compelling novel of murder and honour, with an investigator-hero unlike any in fiction.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt. The Killing Hills was published by No Exit Press on 23rd November 2021 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Killing Hills but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Hollie at No Exit Press for sending me a finished copy.

Upon seeing The Killing Hills for the first time I knew I had to read it. I am such a huge fan of small town literary crime thrillers and this one looked to tick all of the boxes. That feeling you get in your gut that tells you that you can’t let a particular book pass you by? Yup, that’s what I felt. So as soon as The Killing Hills arrived at damppebbles HQ, I got stuck in. I just couldn’t resist. And I savoured every second I spent with this beautifully written mystery.

Mick Hardin is home from the army to sort out a few personal problems he’s having when his sheriff sister, Linda, ropes him in to help with her first murder investigation. Mick, a combat veteran now working with Army CID, has the hands on experience Linda lacks. As the investigation progresses and his marriage spirals out of control, Mick is drawn deeper and deeper into the closed Kentucky hill community he left behind years ago. Can Mick solve the murder before the killer strikes again…?

This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it certainly won’t be the last. I was transported to another world thanks to Offutt’s vivid imagery, his standout characters and his clear love of the Kentucky hills. I’m very much a ‘character’ reader. I like the characters in the novels I read to stand tall from the page. But I also love a setting that becomes as much a part of the story as the characters themselves. Where the characters and the setting are weighted almost equally. And Offutt does exactly that in The Killing Hills.

With pressure on Linda from outside the community to solve the murder, Mick uses his years of experience to assist her in the investigation. The brother/sister bond these two have makes for a very enjoyable read. The well placed digs, the history held between the two of them, the obvious admiration. The retorts, the hard hitting truths no one else would dare speak, the perfectly placed moments of humour. I really warmed to both characters and I hope this is not the last we see of them.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Killing Hills ticked all the boxes for me and I relished every moment I spent in the Kentucky hills. I loved the community and the constant dead ends Mick faced as the hill folk closed ranks. Only by Mick using his own knowledge of local life was he able to chip away at the truth and make gradual progress. Marvellous stuff! The mystery aspect of the novel was wonderfully intriguing and I was at a loss as to whodunit. I also really enjoyed the sub-plot of Mick’s failing marriage and it’s unexpected spin. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read which I recommend.

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

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt was published in the UK by No Exit Press on 23rd November 2021 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 |

Chris Offutt

© Melissa Ginsburg

Chris Offutt is the author of the short-story collections Kentucky Straight and Out of the Woods, the novels The Good BrotherCountry Dark and The Killing Hills, and three memoirs: The Same River TwiceNo Heroes, and My Father, the Pornographer. His work has appeared in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, among many other places. He has written screenplays for WeedsTrue Blood, and Treme, and has received fellowships from the Lannan and Guggenheim foundations.

#R3COMM3ND3D2021 The After Show Party #BookBlogger #Author #Bookstagram #writingcommunity #bookcommunity #Publishedin2021 #MustReadBooks #booktwt #WhatToRead #damppebbles #BookRecommendations #amreading #amreviewing

Hello bookish friends and welcome to the social highlight of the year (🤔), the #R3COMM3ND3D2021 after show party! The annual-ish recap of everything #R3COMM3ND3D where we get to gaze fondly upon the books that were chosen by forty-eight brilliant bookish types (plus me) and announce the winner or…*audible gasp*…winners!

Of course, if you’re new to the blog you may be wondering what #R3COMM3ND3D is, so allow me to explain. It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors, book bloggers and bookstagrammers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published in 2021.

Waaaaaay back at the start of November book blogger Nicki of Nicki’s Life of Crime kicked things off for us with three cracking recommendations. By the time the feature finished on 23rd December fifty-three days had passed and forty-eight brilliant bookish folk (plus me) had recommended the grand total of 130 books. One hundred and thirty book recommendations is pretty epic, right? And all just in time for Christmas 🎅

So, let’s gaze upon the beautiful #R3COMM3ND3D2021 covers in all their splendiferous glory. Aren’t they gorgeous?!

A thing of beauty, I’m sure you’ll agree! If you took part in #R3COMM3ND3D2021 and the book(s) you chose aren’t here then please get in touch.

But let’s talk winners and find out what the most #R3COMM3ND3D book, or books, of 2021 were. There were seven books with two votes each. They were…

Two books received three votes each…


And two books received four votes each making them joint winners of #R3COMM3ND3D2021…

Huge congratulations to Will Dean (Hodder & Stoughton) and Catriona Ward (Viper Books) for having the most #R3COMM3ND3D books of the year 🎉 One of these beauties I’ve read, the other is going straight to the top of the reading pile. Have you read either of these cracking novels? What about the other top books of the year? How many do you have on your TBR?

The biggest of thanks to all of the book bloggers, bookstagrammers and authors who took part in #R3COMM3ND3D2021 and whittled their favourite reads down to three (an impossible task, I know!). Thank you for all of the likes, retweets, shares and comments – every single one is always appreciated.

#R3COMM3ND3D may be taking a short break next year (I’m undecided at the moment – I honestly can’t imagine not running it and get a little panicky when I think about it!) but hopefully it won’t be for long if it does. Enormous thanks again for the support this year, book community. You absolutely rock!

#BookReview: The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #TheRecoveryofRoseGold #damppebbles

“Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.

Turned out her mother was a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with the daughter who testified against her – and care for her new infant grandson.

When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. And she has waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

But has Patty truly forgotten their past?

And is Rose Gold really able to forgive?

A gripping and electrifying tale that will make you question your allegiances until the very end . . .”

Hello and a very Happy New Year! Goodbye 2021, you were a bit pants. Hello 2022, you’d better have some good books in store for us! No pressure but the brilliant books published last year were pretty much the only highlight in a damp squib of a year. Am I right? Anyhow, I digress… I hope the year ahead holds good things for you and yours, plus a myriad of cracking reads 🥂

Today I am delighted to share my review of The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. The Recovery of Rose Gold was published by Penguin Books on 18th February 2021 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Recovery of Rose Gold but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Michael Joseph for sending me a proof.

Dang, this book was blimmin’ good! I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. I remember it being very popular with fellow bloggers and reviewers when it was first published in hardcover, but for some strange reason, it’s taken me until now to pick it up. Which was a huge mistake on my part. HUGE. I loved it and I only wish I’d read it sooner.

Patty has served her time and is being released from prison. She has high hopes for the future as her daughter, Rose Gold Watts, has willingly agreed to collect her from the gates. She always knew Rose Gold didn’t mean what she said in court. Patty was only trying to look after her, like any mother would! Patty’s plan is to convince Rose Gold to allow her move in so she can get acquainted with her brand new grandson, make sure Rose Gold is looking after him properly and become an integral part of their little family. Rose Gold needs her mama, she always has. And what the courts accused Patty of, Rose Gold has forgiven her for all of that. Hasn’t she….?

The Recovery of Rose Gold is an astonishing debut. I never really felt as though I could trust any of the characters: their recollections of the past, nor what the future held. There are things bubbling beneath the surface here and the author’s ability to keep the reader constantly wondering, asking questions, shows what a superb writer Wrobel is. Has Rose Gold forgiven Patty for the years of abuse? Does Patty still truly believe everything she did for her daughter was for Rose Gold’s own good?

The story is told in two parts. Patty narrates the present day chapters and the more I read of her perspective, the more I despised her. Rose Gold narrates the ‘past’ sections which, throughout the book, work their way to the present day. The reader gets to see what Patty put Rose Gold through, the abuse disguised as love. It’s a difficult read, there’s no doubt about that. Dark themes, flawed characters, obsession by the bucket load, twisty and twisted. Bloody marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Recovery of Rose Gold is a tense, twisted read, and pretty much everything I love in a novel. The characters felt believably real, scarily so, and the story will stay with me for a long time to come. Very compelling and near impossible to put down. Addictive is an understatement for this one. Highly recommended.

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

The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 18th February 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Stephanie WrobelStephanie Wrobel grew up in Chicago but has been living in the UK for the last four years with her husband and her dog, Moose Barkwinkle. She has an MFA from Emerson College and has had short fiction published in Bellevue Literary Review. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a creative copywriter at various advertising agencies. The Recovery of Rose Gold is her first novel.

#R3COMM3ND3D2021 with Me! #BookBlogger Emma @damppebbles 🙃😳 #damppebbles #BookRecommendations #publishedin2021 #booktwt #whattoread

Hello and welcome to the final day of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. Things are a little different today as I’m going to share three of my favourite reads of the year with you, rather than inviting a fellow book lover to share theirs! As it’s the fifth year of #R3COMM3ND3D (and possibly the last for a while 🙈) I thought I would take the plunge. I have also been asked (twice, I think! 🤣) why I don’t take part in #R3C. And I don’t have a good enough answer. There’s space for me to share my three #R3COMM3ND3D2021 picks this year, the three I’ve selected haven’t been chosen by anyone else but they definitely deserve to be at the top of everyone’s reading list. They’re incredible books. You need them in your life, without a doubt!

So, what is #R3COMM3ND3D2021? It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors, book bloggers and bookstagrammers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published in 2021. To make things interesting there are a couple of teeny, tiny rules; 1) the book must have FIRST been published in 2021 and 2) special editions and reissues do not count. I like to keep you lovely people on your toes 😉

Here are the three books I recommend (three cracking 2021 debuts)…

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey
From the opening chapters this book had a hold over me and I savoured every moment I spent with it. It’s such a beautifully written piece of fiction which managed to completely entrance me. Tall Bones is a haunting, beautiful but ultimately dark read which I read with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. An astonishing debut.
My Review of Tall Bones

The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker
I devoured The First Day of Spring. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about the characters. Chrissie broke my heart time and time again. The author’s writing is immersive and totally believable which made Chrissie, Julia and Molly come to life before my very eyes. I don’t think I’ll be able or willing to forget The First Day of Spring. Haunting, compelling and utterly devastating.
My Review of The First Day of Spring

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
Oh.My.Goodness! This book is incredible. Absolutely superb and frighteningly real. The End of Men is a must read for all. Intelligent, poignant, devastating and totally absorbing. The true definition a page turner. I couldn’t put this book down as I was desperate to find out what revelation the author was going to share with me next.
My Review of The End of Men

Well there you have it. Three incredible books I think you really should read. What do you think of my three choices? Have you read any of them? Will you be adding any of them to your TBR?

So that’s it for #R3COMM3ND3D2021. Look out for the after-show party coming to a screen near you in early January (if I can get myself organised, lol!). Please also make sure you look out for my top ten (sort of!) books of the year list on 31st December. If you’ve made it this far, it’s likely you may recognise one (or three!) of the books mentioned!

Whatever your plans are for the next few days, I hope you have a chance to relax and do what makes you happy. Thank you for your support over the last somewhat trying year. It really does mean the world to me. Merry Christmas everyone 💖

#R3COMM3ND3D2021 with #Author Joy Kluver (@JoyKluver) #JoyKluver #DIBernadetteNoel @bookouture #BookRecommendations #publishedin2021 #booktwt #whattoread #damppebbles

Hello bookish friends and welcome to the penultimate day of #R3COMM3ND3D2021. It feels like only yesterday we launched the series with three cracking books. Now, fifty-two days and forty-seven posts later, we’ve amassed 124 individual recommendations across multiple genres, written by a bevy of brilliant authors! What a blast it’s been. But it’s not over just yet! We still have three recommended reads to discover from today’s guest (and three more tomorrow!)…

Joining me today to share their three #R3COMM3ND3D2021 picks is a brilliant book blogger turned awesome author, it’s the very lovely Joy Kluver. Joy writes the fantastic DI Bernadette Noel series published by Bookouture. Currently there are two books available (Last Seen and Broken Girls) with the third book in the series, Left for Dead, set to be published on 10th January 2022. I am a huge fan of Joy’s writing. If you’re a crime fiction fan, this is a series not to be missed!

So, what is #R3COMM3ND3D2021? It’s about sharing the book love. It’s a chance for authors, book bloggers and bookstagrammers to shout about three (yes, *only* three) books they love. They can be written by any author, in any genre and published in any way (traditionally, indie press or self-published). But there is a catch. All three books must have been published in 2021. To make things interesting there are a couple of teeny, tiny rules; 1) the book must have FIRST been published in 2021 and 2) special editions and reissues do not count. I like to keep you lovely people on your toes 😉

Here are the three books Joy recommends…

Black Reed Bay by Rod Reynolds
I’ve loved all of Rod Reynolds books but there’s something particularly special about Black Reed Bay and it’s Detective Casey Wray. After reading only a few chapters, I felt as though I’d known Casey all my life. Tough but empathetic, Reynolds puts her through the wringer in this book but somehow she’s still standing at the end.
Joy’s Review of Black Reed Bay

The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques
This is my favourite debut for 2021. Set in Lisbon, we follow Inspector Isabel Reis as she investigates the death of a high-ranking official. But Isabel is no ordinary detective. She’s Gifted. The Gifted are a group of people who have extraordinary powers – either telepathy or telekinesis. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are viewed with suspicion by Regulars or ordinary people. When I first heard about this aspect of the book, I wasn’t too sure whether it would work. But it does and brilliantly so. By the end of the novel, it felt completely natural to have the Gifted around. It’s a very clever way to look at prejudice and stigma and how fear propels control.
Joy’s Review of The Colours of Death

Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
I loved Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s debut Blood & Sugar and Daughters of Night is even better. Laura’s depth of research comes across well and I felt completely submerged into Georgian London. But if you’re expecting a Jane Austen Georgian view, then think again. Yes, we have the aristocracy and the wealthy but we also have the underbelly of London’s streets. There are three main narrators – Caroline Corsham, wife of Harry Corsham from Blood & Sugar; Peregrine ‘Perry’ Child, former magistrate now turned thieftaker; and Pamela, a young maid who wants more out of life so decides to auction her virtue to the highest bidder. Definitely not Jane Austen!
Joy’s Review of Daughters of Night

All three are going to the top of the wish list! Thanks so much, Joy, for sharing these fabulous books 😍

About the Detective Bernadette Noel Series by Joy Kluver:
Last Seen (book #1)

I can see her, laughing as she swings as high as she can, her beautiful blonde curls flying out behind her. My little girl. If only I’d listened to my gut. Then maybe she’d be safe here with me…

When five-year-old Molly Reynolds is snatched from the park in the small village of Otterfield, Detective Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel throws herself into the search, sick with worry for the quiet, sensitive little girl and her distraught mother.

Wasting no time, Bernie finds a small green cardigan under a bush in the park. It still has the smiley face sticker Molly won that week at school. It’s the first in a chain of clues – and Bernie can’t shake the feeling that it was left deliberately, as a message.

But Bernie encounters a wall of silence. Otterfield is a close-knit community, yet no one in the village has anything to say about the missing child. And Bernie is sure there is something Molly’s mother isn’t telling her either. Why?

And then she makes a chilling discovery: twenty-five years ago, another little girl went missing from the area. Her name was Sophie, and all they ever found of her was her teddy bear, hidden under a bush, just the same as Molly’s cardigan. Now Bernie knows she’s in a race against time to save Molly’s life.

Bernie’s team work round the clock to find a connection between the two girls – but when they find their proof it comes at the price of a shocking tragedy that strikes right at the heart of the case. Molly’s family have been hiding a secret, and now their little girl is in greater danger than ever.

Then Bernie makes one deadly mistake that places her right in the hands of the most dangerous criminal she’s ever faced. She was willing to go to any lengths to solve the case – but will she stay alive long enough to do it?

A completely addictive crime thriller with mind-blowing twists that will have you reading late into the night. If you like Val McDermid, D.S. Butler or Angela Marsons, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

Purchase Links: | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstones |

Broken Girls (book #2)
Brambles catch her dress, scratch her legs, pierce her feet. To escape, she’d had no option but to go barefoot. They’d been laughing together a few minutes before, but things can change in the blink of an eye…

The woman is dark-haired and young, judging by the short red dress. Any other signs of her identity have been erased during her long wait to be found, but it’s clear she was strangled: this was a passionate and personal murder.

D.I. Bernadette Noel knows that every second counts if she is to catch this killer, but she has no leads – until the discovery that the dead woman’s rings match a stolen property report, and the rings’ owner mentions Rosa, her missing nanny.

Just when Bernie and her team think they’re getting somewhere, a shocking discovery about Rosa – and the news that another young girl has been abducted – changes everything the team thought they knew about the case.

Laura is only twelve, and her parents are beside themselves with worry – but Bernie has an additional fear. Laura’s home is right next to the woods where their murder victim was found: are the cases connected?

When Bernie notices similarities between descriptions of the man last seen with Rosa and someone Laura was messaging online, these fears grow stronger. But they still have no clear leads as to the identity of the culprit.

With few options left, and time running out, she makes a desperate plan to trap the predator. But any mistakes will mean another innocent life lost…

A gripping crime thriller with a nail-biting climax. If you like Angela Marsons, Val McDermid or Cara Hunter, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

Purchase Links: | amazon.co.ukamazon.comWaterstones |

Left for Dead (book #3)
The sun is rising over the deserted park. Spring shoots have burst through the frozen ground, framing the woman’s broken body in green and gold. Their surge of relief at finding her alive quickly dissolves into fear: the man who did this is still out there. His next victim might not be so lucky…

The first time Detective Bernadette Noel sees Keira Howard, she is lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life. The police assume that she has become the latest victim in a series of brutal attacks, and after weeks of fruitless searching, they think the evidence found in Keira’s case will finally lead them to their man.

When a suspect is caught the case looks closed, but Bernie isn’t convinced. Keira may have the same markings as the other women, but she doesn’t meet the profile – the random attacker let his victims go. Keira’s attacker had intended to kill. The witnesses – Keira’s closest friends – are all telling different stories, and the discovery that Keira was hiding a secret pregnancy suddenly makes everything a lot more complicated.

When a crucial witness goes missing, Bernie’s gut instinct is proven right – so why won’t her superiors let her investigate? They may have caught a guilty man, but a potential murderer still walks free. Then when their prime suspect is suddenly killed on police watch, Bernie’s situation becomes much more dangerous.

The closer Bernie comes to discovering the truth, the more she is putting her life at risk. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

An utterly compelling crime thriller full of twists and suspense, perfect for fans of Val McDermid, Angela Marsons and Cara Hunter.

Pre-order links: | amazon.co.ukamazon.com |

About Joy Kluver:
Escaping the madness of motherhood through writing crime novels. Author of the DI Bernadette (Bernie) Noel series set in Wiltshire – Last Seen and Broken Girls with book 3 coming January 2022.

Joy’s Blog and Social Media Links:
Joy KluverTwitter @JoyKluverFacebook |

Sadly submissions for #R3COMM3D3D2021 are now closed (posts will be running until just before Christmas so we’re not quite done yet). Shortly after the last post I will be inviting you all to attend the virtual after-show party, which should be a giggle, where we can cast our eyes over the marvellous and majestic beauty of 2021’s books. We will also crown 2021’s winner (or joint winners, if that’s the case). So I expect it to be a jolly good ol’ knees up! Until then stay tuned as we have lots more bookish loveliness heading your way ❤