#BookReview: The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave @ViperBooks #TheLastThingHeToldMe #damppebbles

“IT WAS THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME: PROTECT HER

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his new wife, Hannah: protect her. Hannah knows exactly who Owen needs her to protect – his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. And who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As her increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, his boss is arrested for fraud and the police start questioning her, Hannah realises that her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey might hold the key to discovering Owen’s true identity, and why he disappeared. Together they set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realise that their lives will never be the same again…

A beautiful and thrilling mystery, perfect for readers of Lianne Moriarty and Celeste Ng.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. The Last Thing He Told Me will be published by Viper Books tomorrow (that’s Tuesday 4th May 2021) and will be available in hardcover and audio formats, with the ebook publishing next week and the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Last Thing He Told Me. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early copy.

After an unexpected whirlwind romance, Hannah Hall and Owen Michaels have married. Hannah has left her life in New York City and moved into Owen’s house boat in Sausalito, Northern California, to start building a life together. Except there’s one problem. Owen’s sixteen year old daughter, Bailey, is not a fan of her new stepmother and she’s not afraid to make her feelings known. Hannah is desperate for some kind of connection with the teenager but no matter what she does, Bailey shows no sign of softening. And then Owen disappears leaving only a note: ‘PROTECT HER’. His boss is arrested for fraud and fingers are beginning to point in Owen’s direction. Hannah is repeatedly questioned about her husband’s whereabouts, but she knows nothing. Who is Owen really? Does Bailey’s childhood hold the key to figuring out where he’s vanished to? And how well do we really know the people we’re closest to…?

The Last Thing He Told Me is a beautifully written mystery which captivates the reader from the start. Hannah and Owen live an almost idyllic existence and I was enchanted by their lives. I particularly liked Hannah who, despite her own parental traumas, seemed keen to be there for an uncommunicative and stroppy teen no matter what was thrown at  her. There are some wonderful moments of interaction between Hannah and Bailey scattered throughout the book, many of which gave me a warm glow. The return plane journey being one of my favourites.

I loved that the book didn’t go in a direction I was expecting. The unravelling of Owen’s past was very compelling reading and I was always keen to return to the book and find out what juicy titbit Hannah and Bailey had discovered and how it would link to the next reveal. The suspense the author conveys is palpable and I was on the edge of my seat throughout, asking myself ‘who is this man and why would he leave his wife and daughter alone?’. All is revealed to the reader and it is completely unexpected.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re looking for an intriguing mystery laden with bucket loads of suspense and family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me fits the bill perfectly. I was captivated by Hannah and Bailey’s hunt for the truth. It’s an emotional and beautifully written novel about sacrifice and what makes a parent. Recommended.

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

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave was published in the UK by Viper Books 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Laura DaveLaura Dave is the bestselling author of several critically acclaimed novels including Eight Hundred Grapes and The First Husband. Her work has been published in eighteen countries, and five of her novels, including The Last Thing he Told Me, have been optioned for film and television. She resides in Santa Monica, California.

Her new novel, The Last Thing He Told Me, will be released on May 4th, 2021.

#BookReview: The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird @boroughpress #TheEndOfMen #damppebbles

“Glasgow, 2025.  Dr Amanda Maclean is called to treat a young man with a mild fever. Within three hours he dies. The mysterious illness sweeps through the hospital with deadly speed. This is how it begins.

The victims are all men.

Dr Maclean raises the alarm, but the sickness spreads to every corner of the globe. Threatening families. Governments. Countries.

Can they find a cure before it’s too late? Will this be the story of the end of the world – or its salvation?

Compelling, confronting and devastating, The End of Men is the novel that everyone is talking about.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird. The End of Men is published by The Borough Press today (that’s Thursday 29th April 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The End of Men but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Goodness! This book is incredible. After the last year or so, you’ll understand why I have been purposefully avoiding all fiction which involves a virus or a pandemic. Too close to home. Far, far too close to home. But Sweeney-Baird’s debut intrigued me. I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. However, I don’t read anywhere near enough. The End of Men has without doubt reignited my love of this compelling, thought-provoking genre. This book is an absolute must-read!

On a normal shift in A&E, Dr Amanda Maclean makes a shocking discovery. Male patients and staff in the hospital are coming down with a mystery illness which, within a few days, kills them. Dr Maclean recognises the risk and tries to put emergency measures into place to control the spread of the virus. But she’s thwarted at every turn by those higher up the food chain. Before long the virus – named by Dr Maclean as the Plague – is taking over and spreading faster than anyone could imagine. As the World struggles to find a vaccine, the question on everyone’s lips is: could this be the end of men….?

Absolutely superb and frighteningly real. The author has included a note at the start of the novel which explains how the book was written before COVID came into our lives. I wonder how the author felt as she watched the news stories building day by day. The virus in The End of Men is, of course, not the same as COVID but there are similarities which can’t be ignored.

Anyway, enough talk of COVID. I only mentioned it because I think it’s impossible to ignore our own experience of a pandemic when you’re discussing a book about a pandemic! So instead let’s imagine a world where virtually everyone you meet is female. All of the men – the husbands, the sons, the fathers, the brothers, the uncles – have died. A few men are immune but the odds aren’t great, only 1 in 10. Every other male is guaranteed to die because there is no stopping the Plague. Women carry the virus but don’t become ill. There is no vaccine, shielding can help but only for so long. It’s a death sentence and there’s nothing that can be done. Now think of all of the professions where the large majority of people qualified are men (not exclusively men but the majority). Pilots, electricians, refuse workers, the army, the police force, the list goes on. The implications of the author’s scary new world are far reaching and it was a real eye opener for this reader. The slow realisation of what no men would, in reality, actually mean.

The End of Men is 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. We follow the lives of several woman and watch how grief, uncertainty and a complete change in lifestyle affect them. Some, surprisingly, for the better. For a lot of the woman in this novel, the painful loss of some or all of their family, was devastating. My heart broke on several occasions and I particularly felt for Catherine. Catherine is an anthropologist who features throughout the book and decides to record the stories of the Plague for future reference. I loved Catherine who was unapologetic in her grief, devoted to her loving husband and adorable son. I looked forward to hearing from her and I longed for her story to finish on a high note. Whether it does or not, you’ll have to find out for yourself.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The End of Men is a must read for all. Intelligent, poignant, devastating and totally absorbing. This is another stunning debut for 2021 which I heartily recommend. Another strong contender for my ‘books of the year’ list. I struggled to put this one down and on the odd occasion where I did, I was desperate to pick it up again and return to the author’s world. Such an emotional, well thought out and captivating piece of fiction that I hope flies off the shelves. It absolutely deserves to! Highly recommended.

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

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird was published in the UK by The Borough Press on 29th April 2021 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Christina Sweeney-Baird was born in 1993 and grew up in North London and Glasgow. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a First in 2015. She works as a corporate litigation lawyer in London. The End of Men is her first novel.

#BookReview: The Islanders by S.V. Leonard @CaneloCrime #TheIslanders #damppebbles

The Islanders coverHer dream escape is about to become a nightmare…

Kimberley King has spent the last five years trying to outrun the reason she left the police force. Her life is a mess and she’s desperate for change. So when she is randomly selected for the new series of the hit show LoveWrecked, she can’t pass up the chance to win the £100,000 prize. All Kimberley needs to do is couple up with one of her fellow contestants, win the infamous LoveWrecked challenges, and she will have enough cash for a fresh start.

But the island isn’t the paradise she was promised and within hours, one of the contestants is dead. Then the announcement comes: one of the islanders is a murderer and Kimberley must find out who, live on television. For every hour it takes her, one more person will die.

The game is rigged, everyone is hiding secrets, and time is running out…

An addictive and unputdownable crime thriller, perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and T.M. Logan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of a cracking debut – The Islanders by S.V. Leonard. The Islanders was published by Canelo Crime in paperback and digital formats on 11th March 2021. I chose to read a free eARC of The Islanders but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh.My.Gosh! This book 😍. As soon as I laid eyes on The Islanders I knew I was going to read it, and read it soon. Sometimes, as a reader, you pick up a book and you feel it was written for you. That’s how I felt about this particular novel. I LOVE the premise. I’m a huge fan of a certain book by a certain legendary author and there are fabulous little nods here and there to that great piece of crime fiction. I’ve never watched Love Island though, which I believe is the other influence. Other lust infused dating shows, perhaps 😳. But not Love Island.

Kimberley King’s life has taken a downturn. Following an incident which continues to haunt her, she waved goodbye to the police force, her friends and colleagues, and started a new life as a barmaid. And now she’s been sacked for turning up late repeatedly. Everything is wrong, nothing is right. Until a talent scout from the hugely popular dating show LoveWrecked turns up out of the blue and asks her to take part in the latest series. It’s going to be LoveWrecked‘s greatest ever season after being absent for five long years. And the contestants will all be chosen at random to mix things up a little! Kimberley really needs the £100,000 prize so reluctantly agrees. Following the contestants’ arrival on the island paradise, after a night of heavy drinking, they awaken to find one of their number dead. It’s Kimberley’s job, as an ex-police officer, to find out who the killer is. But the clock is ticking. Failure to find the murderer will result in another islander being killed, every hour, on the hour, until Kimberley makes her denouement. It’s a race against time and the World is watching…

Marvellous stuff! This book didn’t need to try very hard to get me hooked. It was eminently readable, pulling me along for a rip roaring ride full of delightful reveals and cleverly placed shockers. OK, it may be a little far-fetched, but who the flip actually cares?! It was 100% entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kimberley King is a desperate women, yes, but the thought of spending the Summer on a secluded Greek island, sunning yourself, eating delicious food and drinking copious amounts of wine would certainly appeal to me at the moment as well. Not too sure about the ‘famous LoveWrecked challenges’ or the TV cameras following you everywhere you go though! Kim isn’t the most likeable character, and I wanted to give her a good shake at one point, but I did find myself rooting for her. The other characters are an interesting bunch. I got really excited at the start of the book as the reader is told there are twenty LoveWrecked contestants being lined up. Knowing what was to come, I was in my element – looking forward to what initially promised to be a bit of a blood bath (yes, I’m quite peculiar it seems!). But only five contestants actually make it to the island (and a couple of crew) before things start to go very, very wrong. Still, that probably makes the book more palatable for more normal readers and a lot more manageable.

I was completely smitten with the plot of The Islanders. Hook, line and sinker. It’s paced beautifully with something always going on to keep the intrigue levels high. I was also keen to see who would get the chop (quite literally) from the show next. Interestingly, my guess as to whodunit always seemed to be the next person to die! By the time I approached the end of the book, I was completely clueless. So when the reveal came, their identity was a surprise. However, the killer’s motivation was not.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Islanders is a fantastically written, very readable, totally engrossing debut which I devoured with glee. This book made my dark heart happy and that’s all you can ask really. It’s a compelling page-turner which hooks the reader in with ease and keeps you transfixed from start to finish. Recommended.

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

The Islanders by S.V. Leonard was published in the UK by Canelo Crime on 11th March 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesFoylesGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

about-the-author3

SV LeonardS.V. Leonard grew up in the little coastal town of Formby, a suburb of Liverpool. She studied Classics at Oxford University and has been lucky enough to live in Australia, Poland, and Malaysia. She is now based in London. When not writing, she can be found breaking out of escape rooms; doing historical walking tours of London; or drinking wine.

#BookReview: The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky @EMTeenFiction #TheLastGirl #damppebbles

“Scream meets Gossip Girl with a dash of One of Us is Lying!

When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:
– Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.
– Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.…
– If there’s a murderer on the loose, do NOT make out with anyone …

New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring them to the bored rich kids of her fancy New York High School. But then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious student club that sets up terrifying Fear Tests; elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and horror movies.

But when a sinister masked figure appears, Rachel realises that her past has caught up with her. It’s time for the ultimate prank to play out …”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky. The Last Girl was published by Electric Monkey yesterday (that’s Thursday 15th April 2021) and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Last Girl but that has in no way influenced my review.

Everything about this book called to me. I’m a huge fan of the Final Girl trope and like to dabble in the odd spot of horror fiction every now and again (OK, it’s fairly often!). So as soon as I saw that fabulous blood splattered, yellow cover and read the blurb, I knew I had to read The Last Girl. Yes, I may be a smidge out of the books YA age range but so flippin’ what! I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining homage to horror movies.

Rachel Chavez has a secret. Something terrifying happened to her and she lives with the trauma and the memories every day. Turning to horror movies for comfort she struggles to come to terms with what she did that fateful night one year ago. Following a move from Long Island to an exclusive private school in Manhattan, Rachel struggles to adjust to her new surroundings. There’s no denying it, she’s the new girl at school and just doesn’t fit in. She is neither privileged nor popular and only there because her mother is on the staff. But she finds a friend in Saundra who is determined to help her get to know a few people and drags Rachel unwittingly along to every party going. At one such party Rachel sees something she perhaps shouldn’t and is introduced to The Mary Shelley Club: a group of ill-fitting teens who like to watch horror movies and test whether the horror tropes they love so much can actually play out in real life by staging dramatic and terrifying pranks they like to call Fear Tests. But it soon becomes clear that Rachel can’t run from her past….

If you’re a horror movie fan this is a must read! You will love the references and the discussions which take place between the characters. I’ve seen the grand total of zero horror movies [I kid you not! I was present once in the room when Scream played out on the TV – there was another teen slasher about Valentine’s Day too but I can’t remember what that was called!] and I absolutely devoured it. I may not have seen the movies but I’m familiar with many of the characters and what happens in the more popular films. For the more obscure references Google was my friend!

The Last Girl is a terrific book. It didn’t take me long to warm to Rachel who I thought, despite what she had gone through (and her rather intense horror movie obsession), was a pretty normal, likeable kid. The other characters in the book are all very well drawn, particularly the members of the Mary Shelley Club – Felicity, Freddie, Bram & Thayer – who all had their own strong, identifiable personalities and idiosyncrasies. Some of the kids were popular, others weren’t. Some were at the school as part of a scholarship, others were there because Mummy and Daddy were part of the New York elite. Despite being quite tightknit during meetings, outside they pretended not to know each other and I really liked that. It added to the whole mystical exclusive club vibe the author does so well. The themes of ‘fitting in’ and feeling the need to belong run strong through this novel. As someone who perhaps didn’t always fit, I felt I could relate to Rachel’s awkwardness at times.

However, I have to say as a responsible, *ahem* mature adult, the idea of the Mary Shelley Club is a terrible one (bloody marvellous as a piece of fiction – truly terrible in real life). But I couldn’t help but enjoy every moment of it which probably makes me an awful human being! I loved seeing how the club re-enacted the popular tropes. The effort they put in to their ‘pranks’ was true dedication to the cause.  I’m a keen amateur sleuth – regular readers of damppebbles may already know this – but this is the first book in a while where I’ve not set out to find out ‘whodunit’. I just went with the flow of the story without trying to second guess what was going to happen next and why. And I loved where this novel took me. Whilst the big reveal didn’t come as a huge surprise there were aspects of it which I found quite shocking. I don’t think I’m quite over it yet!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last Girl was a thoroughly entertaining read. I was expecting a full-on teen slasher but what I got was a clever mystery laden with great horror movie references featuring a group of teens I actually started to care about, despite their obsession with fear and their insatiable need to terrorise people. A well-written page turner. A story that stuck its meat hooks into me from early on and kept me riveted from start to finish. I would happily read more from this author and will be on the look out for future releases. Recommended

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

The Last Girl (aka as The Mary Shelley Club) by Goldy Moldavsky was published in the UK by Electric Monkey on 15th April 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.orgGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, where she still lives. Her novels include the New York Times bestseller, KILL THE BOY BAND, NO GOOD DEED, and the upcoming THE MARY SHELLEY CLUB (Henry Holt Books, 2021); her love of 80s movies, 90s boy bands, and horror flicks hugely influences her work. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram @goldywrites.

#BookReview: Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner @BloomsburyRaven #GreenwichPark #damppebbles

“Helen has it all…

Daniel is the perfect husband.
Rory is the perfect brother.
Serena is the perfect sister-in-law.

And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare.

When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel.

Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen’s friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret.

Masterfully plotted and utterly addictive, Greenwich Park is a dark, compelling look at motherhood, friendships, privilege and the secrets we keep to protect ourselves.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner. Greenwich Park is published today (that’s Thursday 15th April 2021) by Raven Books and is available in hardcover and digital formats. I chose to read a free ARC of Greenwich Park but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Raven Books for sending me a copy of the book.

Greenwich Park is a book which is impossible to resist. I mean, have you SEEN that cover with the stark white and vivid green?! Gorgeous. And then you have the blurb which intrigues the reader, piquing your interest to the point where you have to find out more. I was looking forward to reading this one A LOT, particularly as it’s one of Raven Books lead titles for the year. And oh boy, it’s a creeping, compelling and ultimately satisfying read which I could not put down. The debut authors are absolutely smashing it this year!

Helen has the perfect life. Daniel, her architect husband, adores her, they live in a beautiful house in exclusive Greenwich Park and they’re expecting their first baby after years of tragedy. Life is good and quite literally perfect in every way. So when Helen decides to book herself, Daniel, Helen’s brother, Rory and his pregnant wife, Serena, into an NCT class, Helen is full of hope and excitement. But they all cancel at the last minute leaving poor Helen alone. That is until single mum-to-be Rachel arrives and takes an instant shine to lonely Helen. Rachel is over the top, brash and domineering. She’s the opposite of Helen in every way. But Helen is far too polite, far too British to get rid of Rachel. Before long, Rachel worms her way into Helen’s perfect life and wants to know everything about her marriage to Daniel, her friends and her family. And she will stop at nothing to discover every little secret….

I was completely drawn into this book from the very start. Helen is an interesting character if not a little needy and naïve in her approach to life. She’s also quite frustrating in her pursuit of perfection (a little smug at times perhaps?) and how generally nice she is. But I kind of liked her, in a strange sort of way. She’s certainly not the type of character who normally appeals to me – I like a darker edge – but she’s so well written that I couldn’t help but warm to her. Rachel has something mysterious and dark about her which I really liked. I couldn’t work out her motives for worming her way into Helen’s life which kept me turning the pages, looking for that elusive clue. One aspect of Rachel felt a little obvious but it all added to the big question – WHY was she doing this to sweet, naïve Helen?!

The ending of Greenwich Park is one of the most satisfying, most fitting endings I’ve read for some time in a book, and I loved it. You know those ‘memorable last lines in a book’ lists you sometimes see?  THIS book needs to be on that list. It was perfect and I closed the back cover with a smile on my face. The author does an excellent job of tricking the reader into thinking that’s it, story over. But that’s not the case. There’s a more juicy detail to be told and I thoroughly enjoyed the reveal. Superbly done!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Greenwich Park is a fantastic debut from an author to watch. I was hooked by Helen and Rachel’s story, desperate to find out the reasons behind Rachel’s actions. I found Greenwich Park to be a very addictive and compelling page turner with a deliciously dark edge. A fantastic story full of well-written characters which piqued my interest from the outset and kept me hooked until the hugely satisfying ending. Highly recommended.

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

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner was published in the UK by Raven Books on 15th April 2021 and is available in hardcover 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 |

Katherine is a London-based author and journalist. She studied History at Cambridge University, graduating with a First,  then completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Newspaper Journalism. Since then she has been working as an investigative reporter and latterly an editor. Her work has been published in many national papers, and she most recently worked at The Times, where she was the joint Head of News.

While working as an undercover reporter, Katherine won the Cudlipp Award for public interest journalism and was nominated for a string of others. She was also commended by a committee of MPs for ‘the highest standards of ethical investigative reporting.’

Katherine was inspired to write her debut novel about the complexity of female friendships after attending NCT classes when pregnant, and her experience of sudden intimacy with complete strangers. She spent her maternity leave juggling looking after her newborn daughter with completing the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course, with her final manuscript attracting the interest of sixteen different literary agents.

Katherine lives in Hackney, East London, where she grew up, with her husband and two daughters. Her favourite things (other than books) include tea, the north Cornish coast, France (especially Provence), yoga, the rightmove app, daytime property programmes (especially Love it or List it with Kirsty and Phil), walking, open fires, red wine and ravioli.

#BookReview: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse @1stMondayCrime #TheSanatorium #damppebbles #FirstMondayCrime

EVERYONE’S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse again in conjunction with the lovely folk at First Monday Crime. The fabulous Sarah Pearse will be appearing alongside a host of other brilliant authors this coming Monday, 12th April 2021 at 7.30pm over on the FM Facebook page. More information further down this post!

The Sanatorium was impossible to resist! That intriguing title, the striking, atmospheric cover, the enticing blurb. It screamed my name so I had to read it. This is the second book I’ve read set in the Alps in the space of a month but it gave me a whole different set of chills.

Detective Elin Warner and her boyfriend are staying at an isolated boutique hotel in the Swiss Alps. The hotel itself has an unnerving history, having started its life as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Her estranged brother has surprisingly invited Elin to his engagement party. He’s marrying a childhood friend of hers, the glamorous Laure. Elin is happy to leave the UK for a while as, following her last case, something happened which made her doubt her future in the police force. But on arrival, nervous Elin is instantly put on edge even more by the imposing setting. The pressing snow storm doesn’t help her feel any safer. The relationship between Elin and her brother, Isaac, is tense and a missed dinner invitation causes more upset. But the following morning, Isaac reports Laure missing. The snow storm and the risk of avalanches cuts off all access to the hotel as the search for Laure continues. They’re on their own. Elin needs to step up and take control of the situation. Which, despite feeling hesitant, she feels ready to do. Until they discover the body…

Poor Elin. From the start of The Sanatorium she’s on the edge and that doesn’t really change very much as the story progresses. She’s a troubled woman who carries the tragic death of her brother at the age of 8 in her heart and her mind. The real reason for her decision to reconnect with her estranged other brother becomes very clear to the reader. She wants the truth and the only person who can give it to her is Isaac. Her grief has moulded and shaped her into the woman she is today. Elin is an interesting character who at times I really liked and admired.

The mystery aspect of The Sanatorium was interesting and it kept me turning the pages. I adored the setting. I love isolated, claustrophobic settings in novels and this one is done particularly well. The snowy mountains feel as though they’re pressing in on the hotel and the unpredictability of the avalanches was really wonderful. Picturing the icy scenes in my mind gave me goosebumps! Marvellous stuff.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend The Sanatorium to anyone who enjoys a locked-room mystery with a bit of an icy twist. The plot moves at a steady pace and keeps the reader turning the pages. I enjoyed reading The Sanatorium and I would gladly read more from this author. It’s a chilling, atmospheric mystery which I was happy to lose myself in. Recommended.

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

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was published in the UK by Bantam Press on Thursday 18th February 2021 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

First Monday Crime
Sarah Pearse will be joining the panel for April’s First Monday Facebook event on Monday 12th April 2021. Sarah will be appearing alongside David Fennell (author of The Art of Death), Matt Wesolowski (author of Deity), David Baldacci (author of A Gambling Man) and asking the questions will be Dr Noir – Jacky Collins. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 12th April via the First Monday Facebook page.

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

#BookReview: Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone #Mirrorland #damppebbles

“The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves…

No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.

Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone. Mirrorland was published last week (on Thursday 1st April 2021) by The Borough Press and is available in audio and digital formats with the hardcover to follow later this month and the paperback in October. I chose to read a free eARC of Mirrorland but that has in no way influenced my review.

This book has so much appeal. I couldn’t resist that gorgeous cover and the intriguing blurb. However, once I made a start on Mirrorland, I began to question whether I was the right reader for this book. It’s incredibly rare that I DNF a book once I’ve started, and I really wanted to like Mirrorland, so I persevered. And oh my gosh, I’m so glad I did. Otherwise I would have missed out on one heck of a twisted story!

Identical mirror twins, Ellice and Catriona, have lost touch with each other as the years pass. Catriona lives in the US and doesn’t speak to Ellice, who lives in the family home on the outskirts of Edinburgh. But then Ellice goes missing. She sailed her boat from the harbour on the Firth of Forth and hasn’t been seen since. Which prompts Catriona’s immediate return to her home town. The search for Ellice is in vain. She’s disappeared without trace. That is until Catriona starts to receive strange, anonymous messages. A treasure hunt no less! It’s time for Catriona to confront her past, to recall memories which she had long since buried and find out what has happened to her sister…

So what was it about Mirrorland that made me question whether I was the right reader? A lack of imagination on my part is the most honest answer I think. The book is written in the past – when the twins were young children – and the present. It was the ‘past’ sections I struggled with as the girls have created a magical world within 36 Westeryk Road which, to a child’s mind, makes perfect sense. These scenes are fantastical, abstract, full of the things that add to the wonderment of childhood (pirates, the tooth fairy, witches, clowns *shudder at the clowns*). But I couldn’t understand their placement, to an extent, and why the author was spending so much time building a picture of the twins playing together, as children do. As you progress through the book it all makes perfect sense but at the time, I just wanted to get to the juicy stuff; the lies, betrayal and danger!

There is a good reason for these scenes and I can see that now with hindsight. It’s all part of the author building her characters and their story. I wish I had appreciated it more at the time.

Catriona is a fascinating character who I can’t claim to have liked – she does some pretty awful things – but I could empathise with her to a degree. Other characters in the book are well-written. My favourite character was DI Kate Rafiq who is tasked with discovering what happened to Ellice, alongside DS Logan. What a formidable team they made! I loved that Rafiq was there for Catriona when she was needed the most.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns, many of which I didn’t see coming and was left reeling after their reveal. The more you dig, the darker things become and I adored that. It’s a complex story which you need to dedicate time to – to savour what the author is sharing with the reader. It’s a beautiful piece of fiction and it needs to be appreciated.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mirrorland is a deliciously dark debut. Its gothic tones are done to perfection with the creepy old house on Westeryk Road. I became completely invested in finding out the truth and my heart went out to Catriona as she made shocking discovery after shocking discovery. It’s a devilishly twisted tale and I’m so glad I read it. Recommended.

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

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone was published in the UK by The Borough Press on 1st April 2021 and is available in digital and audio 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 |

Scottish writer Carole Johnstone’s debut novel, Mirrorland, will be published in spring 2021 by Borough Press/HarperCollins in the UK and Commonwealth and by Scribner/Simon & Schuster in North America.

Her award-winning short fiction has been reprinted in many annual ‘Best Of’ anthologies in the UK and the US. She has been published by Titan Books, Tor Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and PS Publishing, and has written Sherlock Holmes stories for Constable & Robinson and Running Press.

Carole is represented by Hellie Ogden at Janklow & Nesbit UK and Allison Hunter at Janklow & Nesbit (US).

More information on the author can be found at carolejohnstone.com

#BookReview: Tall Bones by Anna Bailey @DoubledayUK #TallBones #damppebbles

tall bones“When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Tall Bones by Anna Bailey. Tall Bones is published today (that’s Thursday 1st April) by Doubleday Books and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free eARC of Tall Bones but that has in no way influenced my review.

Gosh, I loved this book. I’m currently suffering a bit of a book hangover and I can’t stop thinking about it. I was instantly drawn to the stunning cover and the promise of small town secrets. It delivered ten-fold. You’ve got to read it!

Seventeen year old Abi Blake waves goodbye to her best friend, Emma Alvarez, and assures her she’ll be able to get home safely. Emma, fearful for her friend’s safety, reluctantly leaves. The following morning there’s no sign of Abi. Everyone in the small town of Whistling Ridge has a secret. Everyone has their own version of events from the night Abi disappeared but no one is willing to talk. What happened to Abi Blake that fateful night out at the Tall Bones…?

Absolutely gorgeous and utterly glorious. 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. I loved it and I can easily see this book featuring in my top reads of the year, if not my absolute top pick for 2021.

My heart broke for Emma who is consumed with guilt after leaving Abi at the Tall Bones. She turns to drink to try and numb the hurt and the humiliation but no matter how much she drinks, it doesn’t stop the pain. And that’s how she meets Rat Lăcustă who she helplessly falls in love with. Rat is young, spirited and exotic. And not the slightest bit interested romantically in Emma which only brings her more heartache. In Emma, the author has created a young woman at her most vulnerable, and she touched my heart.

But Emma and Rat are only the beginning of a cast of characters who all stand tall from the page. The Blake family made me feel such a strong mix of emotions. I adored Jude, Abi’s younger brother, broken by those who should love him the most but still loyal to a fault. Abi’s mother, Dolly, made me furious in one breath for not acknowledging or stopping what was going on right in front of her eyes. In the next breath I couldn’t help but feel for her. Stuck in a loveless marriage and feeling completely trapped. Yes, her actions were unforgiveable but I wouldn’t wish her life on anyone. Noah, Abi’s older brother, was beautifully drawn. As he begins to realise who he is and what is important to him, he is shunned by the small town community he calls home and gossiped about at every opportunity. His blossoming relationship with Rat was both tentative and intense and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author wrote their interactions. A true love story. And finally we have Samuel Blake, Abi’s father. A cruel and aggressive man who made my blood boil with his  hatred and discrimination. He uses the bible and the church’s teachings to justify his atrocious treatment of his wife and sons without remorse.

The plot pulls the reader into the story to the point where it’s hard to put the book down for any length of time. When I wasn’t reading Tall Bones, I was thinking about it. It consumed me totally and I’m so glad it did. When I say ‘I will remember this book for some time to come’ that feels like a massive understatement. This is one of those books which has left its permanent mark on me.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. Tall Bones is a haunting, beautiful but ultimately dark read that I devoured with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Its themes can be quite unsettling and upsetting at times, particularly later in the book, but it’s an astonishing debut. I’m so happy I took a chance on this one but I also feel bereft that it’s over. I miss Whistling Ridge (although once you’ve read the book you’ll wonder why). I’m a sucker for a small town American crime novel and this is an absolutely superb one. Shame, secrets, love and lies as the tagline says. What more could you want? Highly recommended.

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

Tall Bones (also known as Where The Truth Lies in the US) by Anna Bailey was published in the UK by Doubleday on 1st April 2021 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Anna Bailey grew up in Gloucestershire and studied Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, before moving to Texas and later Colorado. In 2018, she returned to the UK where she enrolled in the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. She currently works as a freelance journalist in Cheltenham, where she lives with her three cats.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Last Seen by Joy Kluver @bookouture #BooksonTour #LastSeen #damppebbles

Last-Seen-KindleA little girl is missing from under her mother’s nose. She’ll be scared and vulnerable – if she’s still alive. But no one is helping us search. No one wants to give us information. No one even seems surprised. What’s going on?

Detective Bernadette Noel came to this quiet rural corner of south-west England from London to lie low after a high-profile prosecution led to death threats against her family. But she has barely settled in when the call comes. A woman’s voice, shrill with terror and thick with tears: ‘Help – it’s my daughter, Molly – I only had my back turned for a minute… She’s gone!’

A child abduction is about as far from lying low as it gets, and her boss wants to assign a different detective. But there’s no way Bernie’s not taking the case – she can’t miss this chance to prove herself.

Five-year-old Molly Reynolds has been snatched from the playground in the village where she lives. Normally in cases like this the community is an asset – eager to help search and full of local knowledge. But although Molly’s mother Jessica is in anguish, the other villagers don’t seem to want to know.

As details emerge, Bernie discovers a possible link to a shocking crime that has never been solved, and which the locals have never forgotten. But what exactly is the connection to Molly’s abduction? Cracking a cold case is the only way to find out – and meanwhile time is running out for Molly.

A dark and compelling crime thriller 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.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of one of my most eagerly anticipated releases of the year with you – Last Seen by Joy Kluver. Last Seen was published on 26th March 2021 by Bookouture and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Last Seen but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Bookouture for an early copy and asking me to be part of the blog tour.

Last Seen is Kluver’s debut novel and what a cracking start it is! It was a joy to meet DI Bernadette (Bernie) Noel – new to the area and newly promoted – as she took on her first case with Wiltshire Police, the desperate search for a missing five-year-old child. This is a very assured debut from an author to watch!

Shy and sensitive Molly Reynolds has been warned about stranger danger by the adults in her life. But that doesn’t stop her from being snatched from the local park, mere feet from her mother’s turned back. New to Wiltshire Police, DI Bernie Noel, is tasked with finding the girl and reuniting her with her family. But Bernie’s search is hampered at every turn by the folk of Ottersfield who seem uncaring, uninterested and reluctant to take time out of their busy schedules to help find the child. Why would a village react like that? Bernie and the team are at a loss. Every lead turns out to be a dead end. Until Bernie discovers the disappearance of another child twenty-five years earlier. Are the two cases connected and will Bernie find Molly in time…?

I really liked DI Noel who came across as a very relatable, very real character. Not only has Bernie got a challenging case on her hands but the author hints throughout the book of a troubled past which intrigued me. There are references to Bernie’s life in London and a case which still visibly haunts her. And all of this on top of the search for little Molly! The reader also gets to discover more about Bernie’s family which isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (pretty normal then!). These well-plotted layers add up to a very likeable new detective who I’m looking forward to spending more time with in the future.

The characters who form Bernie’s team are also well-written and I felt they all contributed to the story. DS Kerry Allen has a heart of gold but won’t take cr@p from anyone. Matt Taylor is a young, ambitious detective constable who personally, I liked the most. I hope he features in future books. Although he’s not officially part of the team (he should be!), Sergeant Alan Turner was just wonderful! And lastly, we have DS Dougie Anderson who I couldn’t work out (I don’t think I was the only one!). He seemed totally obnoxious one minute, only to turn sweetness and light the next! I think DI Noel and DS Anderson have a very interesting future ahead of them, although fingers crossed it’s not a romantic one! 

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Last Seen is a compelling read featuring an intriguing new detective. I loved the secrets, the deceit and the small town apathy Bernie finds in Otterfield. Normally, when a child goes missing it’s all hands to the pumps, but not in this case and the reasons behind the residents complete lack of interest kept me turning the pages. It’s a great start to a new series and I’m excited to see what is in store next for DI Noel and the team. Recommended.

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

Last Seen by Joy Kluver was published on 26th March 2021 and is available in paperback, digital and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukamazon.comApple BooksKoboGoogle BooksGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Last Seen - BT Poster

about-the-author3

joy kluverJoy Kluver has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. More recently she’s been escaping the madness of motherhood by turning her hand to crime novels. A book blogger, she’s also part of the First Monday Crime team and if you’ve been to any of their events it’s likely you’ve eaten one of her cookies. She also organises author talks for her local library. Joy lives in SW London with her husband and three children. ‘Last Seen’ is her debut novel and the first book in the DI Bernadette Noel series.

Joy is represented by Anne Williams at the Kate Horden Literary Agency.

#BookReview: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward @ViperBooks #TheLastHouseonNeedlessStreet #damppebbles

“This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review (mini review may be the best description – or perhaps burblings) of The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. The Last House on Needless Street was published by the fabulous Viper Books last week on 18th March 2021. I received a free ARC of The Last House on Needless Street but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Viper Books for sending me an early copy.

I am a keen advocate of book reviews (goes without saying really, running a book blog where 95% of what I publish is reviews). Book reviews help readers find a hidden gem. Book reviews give readers an insight into what to expect before committing to reading. Book reviews are awesome. PLEASE DON’T READ ANY REVIEWS OF THIS BOOK, INCLUDING THIS ONE. There, I’ve said it. I’ve broken the rules 😮. Not sure what to do with myself now…

Oh, you’re still here? Normally at this point in a damppebbles review I give you my take on what the book is about. I can’t do that with The Last House on Needless Street. I really hope I’m piquing your curiosity here because you do NEED to read this book but what I’m aiming for, my hope for you, is that you go into this book without any prior knowledge of the story. PLEASE DON’T READ ANY FURTHER! I read a few reviews before starting the book so I went in suspicious (honestly, stop reading this review NOW!!) and when I say ‘suspicious’, I considered every single possible option as the story played out in front of me. Unfortunately, I was able to work out where the author was going to take certain aspects of the story so they didn’t have the same wow-factor which I know other early readers have experienced (I’m a highly suspicious person, it’s a serious flaw). I still savoured every single second of the book though, it has that effect.

What can tell you about The Last House on Needless Street? This is a beautiful, heart breaking piece of fiction that smashes boundaries. It was captivating and enchanting. Terrifying and horrific. I loved it but felt desperately uncomfortable at times. If I could read it all over again without having read those reviews in the first place, I would pay good money to do so. Of course, you may not be the same as me and you may be able to forget that you ever saw this review (I won’t be offended – in fact I’d even encourage it – or any others that you may happen across). Please, when you crack this book open, go in with a clear, open mind and enjoy every second of Ward’s spellbinding tale. It will be so worth it.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Last House on Needless Street needs to be read by everyone. Please don’t let the mention of gothic or horror put you off. It’s dark and unsettling, worms its way under your skin and stays there malevolently grinning at you. It’s brave and totally addictive. A slow burn story that will be impossible to forget. Despite my few good guesses, by the end of the book I was a completely broken woman. The author’s writing is sublime. The power of her words took my breath away. What the writer exposed me to devastated me. The Last House on Needless Street is something very special and I suggest you do whatever you can to get hold of a copy. Highly recommended.

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

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward was published in the UK by Viper Books on 18th March 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year (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 Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

Stephen King praised her upcoming gothic thriller, saying: ‘The buzz building around Catriona Ward’s THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end. Haven’t read anything this exciting since GONE GIRL.’ THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET is published 2021 by Viper (UK) and Tor Nightfire (USA).

Ward’s preceding novel LITTLE EVE won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award, as well as the August Derleth Prize at the British Fantasy Awards, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut RAWBLOOD also won the 2016 August Derleth, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. ‘The Pier at Ardentinny’ was shortlisted for the ALCS Tom Gallon Trust Award organised by the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in London and Devon.