#BookReview: Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza #FatalWitness #damppebbles

How do you find a killer who has destroyed all the evidence?

Detective Erika Foster is on a late-night walk near her new house in Blackheath when she stumbles upon the brutal murder of Vicky Clarke, a true-crime podcaster.

Erika is assigned to the case and discovers that Vicky had been working on a new podcast episode about a sexual predator who preys on young female students around South London, staking out his victims in their halls of residence before breaking in at the dead of night.

When Erika discovers that Vicky’s notes and sound recordings were stolen from her flat at the time of her murder, it leads her to believe that Vicky was close to unmasking the attacker, and she was killed to guarantee her silence.

The case takes on a disturbing twist when the body of a young Bulgarian student doctor is discovered in the same building, and this makes Erika question everything she thought she knew about Vicky. With very little evidence, the clock is ticking to find the killer before he strikes again.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza. Fatal Witness is the seventh book in the hugely popular Detective Erika Foster series and will be published in all formats by Raven Street Publishing later this week (that’s Thursday 7th July 2022). I chose to read and review a free ARC of Fatal Witness but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Robert for sending me a finished copy.

Erika Foster is back, baby! I have been a HUGE fan of Bryndza’s kick-ass detective since she first arrived on bookshelves back in 2016. In fact, The Girl in the Ice, book one in the series, was one of the first books I reviewed on damppebbles! So I feel Erika and I have some history. And since that first introduction, I have read and thoroughly enjoyed every single new title. So imagine my excitement when I heard the seventh book was set to be published 🤩. I could not WAIT to get my mitts on a copy of Fatal Witness!

DCI Erika Foster stumbles upon a grisly crime scene in her new neighbourhood, making her question her decision to move to Blackheath. The victim is true crime podcaster Vicky Clarke, whose body was discovered by her sister, Tess, only seconds before Erika’s arrival. Erika and her team are assigned the case, digging into Vicky’s life in an attempt to discover who wanted her dead. But the more they search, the more confusing the case becomes. There’s no motive, no evidence, and impossible as it seems, there are no records of what Vicky was working on. Could the murder be linked to one of her podcasts? Was Vicky getting close to revealing the identity of a serial sexual predator? And can Erika catch the killer before they strike again…?

The DCI Erika Foster series is by far one of my favourite police procedural series and I am so glad that the author has decided to write a seventh instalment. I’m keeping everything crossed that this is only the beginning and there are many more adventures to come for my favourite Slovakian DCI. I adore Erika. She’s a little bit of a b!tch (she’d be the first to admit that herself – in fact, I think she does in Fatal Witness!), she’s a little bit bossy, she’s a whole lot of kick-ass but oh my gosh, she gets the job done. To be reunited with her and the team felt like meeting up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while and I loved every single second. Erika is a strong, independent, determined woman but I felt the author added a level of vulnerability to her character in this book that we perhaps haven’t seen before. Still coming to terms with the events of the previous book, still grief stricken by the sudden and violent death of her husband before her transfer to London and having recently moved house, it’s clear to the reader that Erika Foster is a lonely woman. I really felt for her. That vulnerability made me like her even more (if that’s possible!). And fingers crossed, the future may be a smidge brighter. Possibly. Maybe. Who knows…?

The plot is compelling and draws the reader into the story from the prologue. There are, as I’ve come to expect from a Robert Bryndza novel, several fantastically placed and beautifully penned twists and turns along the way which keep the reader on their toes. I really enjoyed how flummoxed the team were at points in the story. With very few leads, a small number of possible culprits but no evidence to confirm their suspicions, they quickly run out of plausible, workable options. I was, of course, trying my darnedest to work out whodunit. (I’m a crime fiction fan, I’m sure we all do it!) However, as I approached the end of the book I could not for the life of me work out the who nor the why!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of well-written, cleverly plotted police procedurals then you need Fatal Witness, along with the first six books in the series, in your life. The entire series is an absolute ‘must read’ for crime fiction fans. All in all, a compelling, incredibly readable addition to a standout series which I hope continues for many more books to come. I’m still a little bit in love with Erika and I can’t see that changing any time soon. Great plot, fantastic characters, intensely atmospheric and impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

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

Fatal Witness by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Raven Street Publishing on 7th July 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 DepositoryGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Robert BryndzaRobert Bryndza is an international bestselling author, best known for his page-turning crime and thriller novels, which have sold over five million copies.

His crime debut, The Girl in the Ice was released in February 2016, introducing Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster. Within five months it sold one million copies, reaching number one in the Amazon UK, USA and Australian charts. To date, The Girl in the Ice has sold over 1.5 million copies in the English language and has been sold into translation in 29 countries. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Mystery & Thriller (2016), the Grand prix des lectrices de Elle in France (2018), and it won two reader voted awards, The Thrillzone Awards best debut thriller in The Netherlands (2018) and The Dead Good Papercut Award for best page turner at the Harrogate Crime Festival (2016).

Robert has released a further five novels in the Erika Foster series, The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath, Cold Blood and Deadly Secrets, all of which have been global bestsellers, and in 2017 Last Breath was a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Mystery and Thriller. Fatal Witness, the seventh Erika Foster novel, is now available to pre-order and will be published 7th July 2022.

Most recently, Robert created a new crime thriller series based around the central character Kate Marshall, a police officer turned private detective. The first book, Nine Elms, was an Amazon USA #1 bestseller and an Amazon UK top five bestseller, and the series has been sold into translation in 18 countries. The second book in the series is the global bestselling, Shadow Sands and the third book, Darkness Falls, has just been published.

Robert was born in Lowestoft, on the east coast of England. He studied at Aberystwyth University, and the Guildford School of Acting, and was an actor for several years, but didn’t find success until he took a play he’d written to the Edinburgh Festival. This led to the decision to change career and start writing. He self-published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels, before switching to writing crime. Robert lives with his husband in Slovakia, and is lucky enough to write full-time.

#BookReview: Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant @HodderBooks #SunDamage #damppebbles

The heat is intense.

The secrets are stifling.

She just needs to escape . . .

Nine guests arrive at a remote villa in the south of France.
They know each other well. Or think they do.

But at least one of them has plenty to hide – and nowhere to run.

Under the relentless sun, loyalties will be tested, secrets revealed, and tensions pushed to the point of no return.”

Ali is a woman hiding many secrets. This summer, in the heat of the south of France, they are all about to rise to the surface … SUN DAMAGE is the sensational new thriller from the universally acclaimed Sabine Durrant and is destined to be the thriller of summer.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant. Sun Damage was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 2nd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Sun Damage but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Jenny at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a finished copy.

I’m a little obsessed with summer thrillers at the moment. I’ve also been wanting to read a Sabine Durrant thriller for a while now so when Sun Damage landed on my radar, I knew I had to read it! Everything about this book appealed to me. The sun drenched setting, the gorgeous cover and that intriguing blurb which only tells you a fraction of what the book is about. It was a no brainer for me and I enjoyed every single second.

Ali and Sean are experienced con artists who double team their unsuspecting marks, lull them into a web of lies and falsehoods, and then take what they want. When one of their scams goes horribly wrong, Ali makes a break from Sean and ends up hiding at a remote villa in the south of France pretending to be someone else, an experienced chef. As guests arrive, Ali is determined to remain under the radar and do whatever she can to forget the past. But she’s not the only one keeping secrets…

Sun Damage is a beautifully drawn, character-driven, slow burn thriller which I found very compelling. Ali is such an interesting character with her troubled upbringing, being passed from foster home to foster home and the breaking down of the relationship between her and her sister in the process, that falling into a life of deception and con artistry felt almost inevitable. It was the path she believes life chose for her and it’s all she knows. There’s something about a con artist, the way they read and manipulate people, that makes them incredibly intriguing in my eyes.

The other guests at the villa are all very well written and add to the story. I loved the way the author puts the reader on edge about the other characters. I felt suspicious of many of them and that only built as the novel progressed. The setting is absolutely stunning giving the story an atmospheric isolated feel with the summer heat pressing down on proceedings only adding to the claustrophobia. The plot moves at a steady but riveting pace keeping the reader turning the pages and invested in the story.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Sun Damage is chock full of beautiful, well-crafted suspense, intriguing characters and I enjoyed every moment I spent with the book. I actually read Sun Damage by the pool in Gran Canaria so can confirm it makes a cracking beach/pool read for those jetting off to sunnier climes in the near future. All in all this is a superbly written story with a vivid sun soaked setting, featuring a cast of interesting and intriguing characters. I thoroughly enjoyed Sun Damage and now look forward to reading more from Durrant in the future. Recommended.

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

Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 2nd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (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 |

Sabine DurrantSabine Durrant is a British author of mystery, YA, and women’s fiction novels. She is also a journalist, who is best known for writing “The Sabine Durrant Interview” for The Guardian. She has also been the deputy features editor for the publication, and has been deputy literary editor for The Sunday Times. Sabine lives in London, England with her three children.

#BookReview: The Lost Children by Michael Wood @0neMoreChapter_ #TheLostChildren #damppebbles

Matilda Darke is back…

APRIL 2020: LOCKDOWN

DI Brady has been tracing victims of systemic abuse at a local children’s home after a high-profile accusation pitched it into the spotlight – a case that couldn’t be more personal.

As Matilda and her team piece together the disturbing picture of the history of the home, it soon becomes clear that this is much bigger than they ever suspected.

But nothing prepares them for what they uncover next…
The Lost Children is an utterly gripping crime thriller weaving a breakneck tale of a vast network of secrets and lies, a relentless detective determined to sabotage it, and a murder that shatters two decades of silence.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Lost Children (DCI Matilda Darke #9) by Michael Wood. The Lost Children is published by One More Chapter today (that’s Thursday 30th June 2022) in digital format with the audiobook and paperback to follow next month. I chose to read a free eARC of The Lost Children but that has in no way influenced my review.

Michael Wood’s DCI Matilda Darke series is one of the most exciting, most edgy police procedural series out there and I flipping love it! The arrival of the latest book, in this case book nine (!), is something I always look forward to with baited breath. So when I was offered the opportunity to read The Lost Children, I, of course, grabbed at it with both hands. What I love about this series is that the author isn’t afraid to push the boundaries – either on subject matter or character development. Wood really likes to put his characters, including lead protagonist Darke, through the wringer which is something I appreciate. As a reader, I never know what to expect! The Lost Children takes the battered and bruised team, still hurting from their last few cases, deep into the heart of an upsetting and distressing historical child abuse case.

DCI Matilda Darke is called to the scene of a vicious murder. Local businessman and philanthropist, Richard Ashton OBE, has been slain in his bed in the most stomach churning of ways. Upon closer inspection into Ashton’s life it becomes clear to Darke and her team that perhaps Ashton wasn’t the figure of virtue he first appeared to be. It doesn’t surprise DI Christian Brady who has been investigating historical claims of child abuse behind Matilda’s back. Matilda can’t ignore the connection between Ashton and events at Magnolia House, a home for young boys which closed many years ago. So she sets out to discover the truth. But at every turn, Darke is shut down. Extreme measures are put in place to prevent Matilda and her team from discovering the secrets of Magnolia House. But Matilda won’t be stopped…

The Lost Children is an incredibly gripping addition to a superb series featuring some of my all-time favourite characters. I love the South Yorkshire Homicide and Major Crimes Unit but they’ve really had a tough time of it recently, and I’m not sure it’s going to get any better for them anytime soon! This latest investigation is already personal for DI Brady and the devastating secrets the team reveal affect them all in some way. The subject matter is tough but the author has done a great job of writing a very difficult, very emotional story. There were times when I had to take a break from reading because I was so affected by the characters and their stories. It’s heart breaking stuff but handled very well.

I found it fascinating how Matilda’s investigation was shut down from every direction. I could really feel her frustration and her determination to keep digging, despite no longer having the resources. Her drive is one of the reasons I love the character as much as I do. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Wood takes the team next as there are clearly changes afoot, one of which I hope is reversed. But knowing how this author operates, I can’t be sure it will be!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Lost Children is a highly emotional, edgy read which I enjoyed. The subject matter is upsetting and I don’t think this book will suit everyone but the care the author has taken with the story really shows. I liked the way the author didn’t shy away from setting this book in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I think, surprisingly, it’s the first book I’ve read that’s been set during the pandemic. Perhaps other authors are shying away from mentioning COVID for the moment. Perhaps it’s too fresh. I thought it added a really interesting facet to the investigation though and applaud Wood for doing something many other authors are not. The DCI Darke series remains one of my favourites and I wait with baited breath for the tenth (!) book to be published later this year. Particularly after the incredibly tense and unnerving cliff hanger at the end. Wow, what an ending! I’m not sure I can wait until October to find out what happens next. Recommended.

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

The Lost Children by Michael Wood was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 30th June 2022 and is available in audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next month (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 |

Michael Wood is a crime writer based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which is the setting for his thriller series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. He spends his days writing and researching new and inventive ways of killing people off for future DCI Darke novels as well as other projects he has up his sleeve.

When he’s not writing, Michael is usually moaning about having little sleep and talking about his favourite biscuit on social media. He’s a massive fan of reading crime fiction as he likes to keep an eye on the competition and wondering if he can steal any of their ideas, give the characters a Sheffield accent, and pass them off as his own original creation.
You can find Michael on Facebook and Twitter should you wish to follow his ramblings.

#BookReview: The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara @TransworldBooks #TheApartmentUpstairs #damppebbles

Scarlett‘s aunt lived – and was brutally murdered – in the apartment upstairs. But Scarlett is determined that life should return to some kind of normal, even if that means living with just a ceiling between her and the scene of such a devastating crime. After all, this is her home. She’s safe here. Isn’t she?

Dee is busy balancing her job as a funeral director with organizing an event to mark the disappearance of her best friend, ten years ago. So she’s got enough on her plate without worrying about the threatening messages that are appearing on her company’s Facebook page.

When Scarlett approaches Dee about planning her aunt’s funeral, an unexpected link between them emerges. Together, the two women could uncover secrets that have long been buried. Even while someone wants to stop them digging . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara. The Apartment Upstairs is published by Bantam Press today (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow next year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Apartment Upstairs but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Alison at Bantam Press for sending me a proof copy.

Scarlett Quilter lives in a beautifully converted, fully modernised ground floor apartment which suits her needs perfectly. That is until one day when the occupant of the apartment upstairs is brutally murdered. The victim isn’t just anyone though, the victim is her Aunt Rebecca and suddenly Scarlett’s apartment doesn’t quite hold the same appeal it did. Scarlett begins to organise her aunt’s funeral but strange things start happening. She notices someone sneaking around her garden at 4am, people are behaving oddly and when a connection to a local missing woman comes to light, Scarlett can’t help but ask some difficult questions. The more she digs, the closer she gets to uncovering devastating long held secrets. And someone will do anything to stop the truth from being discovered…

The Apartment Upstairs is a very compelling mystery featuring some truly wonderful characters. The story is told from two main points of view – Scarlett, the bereaved niece trying to organise her aunt’s funeral, and Dee, the funeral director and joint-owner of Fond Farewells, the company Scarlett has tasked with organising her aunt’s send off. I have to say from the get-go that I found seeing things from Dee’s point of view, the ins and outs of arranging a funeral, absolutely fascinating! It was very interesting, something a bit different. Dee’s side of the story is mostly focussed on the disappearance of her friend, Gina, and the forthcoming 10 year anniversary. Alongside running a small, independent business and dealing with her wayward business partner (who also happens to be her best friend). Both Scarlett and Dee came across as fully formed, believable characters and I enjoyed spending time in their company.

The plot is expertly written and ebbs and flows beautifully, engaging the reader in the story from the moment they pick the book up. I enjoyed the way the author has used the two different points of view to build the tale for the reader. I found it incredibly intriguing and I was keen to discover how things would end for these two women. An intricately plotted tale which I was more than happy to lose myself in over two sittings.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Apartment Upstairs is a tense, skilfully written mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed. I flew through this book not wanting to put it down for any length of time. I was so intrigued by how things were going to play out for these characters that I kept promising myself ‘just one more chapter’ and before I knew it, I was reading the final sentence! It’s also worth mentioning that Scarlett has a chronic illness which is something we don’t see enough of in fiction but I felt it was done with sensitivity and understanding. I’m ashamed to admit this is the first book I’ve read by Kara but it certainly won’t be the last. Highly compelling, superb characterisation and beautifully plotted. Quite the page-turner! Recommended.

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

The Apartment Upstairs by Lesley Kara was published by Bantam Press on 23rd June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (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 |

Lesley KaraLesley Kara’s debut ‘The Rumour’ was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in 18 countries and optioned for TV. ‘The Rumour’ was the highest selling crime fiction debut of 2019 in the UK and a Kindle No. 1 bestseller. Her second novel, ‘Who Did You Tell?’ was also a Sunday Times bestseller. Her third novel, ‘The Dare’ is out now and her fourth, ‘The Apartment Upstairs’ will be published in June 2022.

Lesley worked for many years as a lecturer and manager in a large college of further education in London. She now lives in Suffolk and writes full-time.

#BookReview: Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor @panmacmillan #DirtTown #damppebbles

Durton. Dirt town. Dirt and hurt – that’s what others would remember about our town . . .

When twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi disappears on her way home from school in the small town of Durton in rural Australia, the local community is thrown into a state of grief and suspicion.

THE DETECTIVE

As Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels begins her investigation, she questions those who knew the girl, attempting to unpick the secrets which bind them together.

THE MOTHER

The girl’s mother, Constance, believes that her daughter going missing is the worst thing that can happen to her. But as the search for Esther develops, she learns that things can always get worse.

THE FRIENDS

Ronnie is Esther’s best friend and is determined to bring her home. So when her classmate Lewis tells her that he saw Esther with a strange man at the creek the afternoon she went missing, Ronnie feels she is one step closer to finding her. But why is Lewis refusing to speak to the police?

And who else is keeping quiet about what happened to Esther?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor is an atmospheric crime novel set in rural Australia, for fans of Jane Harper’s The Dry and Chris Whitaker’s We Begin at the End.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor. Dirt Town is published by Macmillan later this week (that’s Thursday 23rd June 2022) and will be available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Dirt Town but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a HUGE fan of Australian crime fiction. I want to read it all, and there are lots of really exciting, interesting writers making their mark on the genre at the moment. So when I saw Scrivenor’s debut was being published, I jumped at the chance to read it. And oh my goodness, what a riveting, emotional ride it was. Definitely an author to watch!

Twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi and Ronnie Thompson are best friends. They live in Durton – or Dirt Town or Dirt and Hurt to the locals – which is a bit boring but OK. One day after school Esther goes missing. The whole town turns out to look for her but they’re all aware that their neighbour, their friend could have been the one to abduct the girl. Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels is tasked with finding Esther but the investigation falters at every turn. Someone in Durton knows what’s happened to Esther. Someone in the small, close-knit community knows the truth…

Gorgeously dark, evocative and utterly compelling, I thoroughly enjoyed this superb slow burn mystery with its true to life characters, bleak setting and intriguing plot. I adored the voices the author gave the younger characters. They felt so true and real to me that my heart broke for these poor kids whose friend was missing. The emotion, the naivety was all conveyed so beautifully. The other character I adored was Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels who is guilt-ridden following the end of her recent relationship. Her actions play on her mind constantly and I loved how that made the character more human. Sarah is very well-written and I do secretly hope that this is only the start for her and we get to see her feature in future books.

The plot is an intriguing slow burn of a read which I savoured every moment of. I didn’t feel the need to sprint my way through Dirt Town at all. I wanted to enjoy every word, every description of this dead end rural Australian town and savour the interactions between the characters as the mystery slowly but steadily unfurled. I wasn’t able to predict whodunit but it was a very satisfying, very surprising reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Dirt Town is a very atmospheric, incredibly readable tale which I enjoyed every dark and desolate moment of. The setting is exactly the kind of setting I want in my crime fiction novels – a small town on its last legs. I loved the vivid descriptions the author uses to set the scene, putting the reader right there in the middle of things. But the characters were EVERYTHING. Multi-layered, completely believable and totally unforgettable. It’s hard to believe Dirt Town is a debut and I’m excited to see what Scrivenor delivers next. Highly recommended.

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

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor was published in the UK by Macmillan on 23rd June 2022 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 |

Hayley ScrivenorHayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. DIRT CREEK is her first novel (published as DIRT TOWN in Europe and Australia). An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won The Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of Australia.

#BookReview: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager @DuttonBooks #TheHouseAcrosstheLake #damppebbles

“Be careful what you watch for . . .

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

Packed with sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy plot twists, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake is the ultimate escapist read . . . no lake house required.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The House Across the Lake by the master, Riley Sager. The House Across the Lake will be published by Dutton Books next week (that’s Tuesday 21st June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read a free eARC of The House Across the Lake but that has in no way influenced my review.

Riley Sager is without doubt one of my favourite authors. Time and time again Sager delivers hit after hit, starting with the superb Final Girls in 2017. Every single book has been brilliantly entertaining and utterly compelling. I know because I’ve read them all! Getting hold of the latest Riley Sager novel is the absolute highlight of my year. So when the opportunity presented itself to read The House Across the Lake, I, of course, jumped at the chance!

Grief stricken actor Casey Fletcher needs time away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the intrusion of the paparazzi, to mourn the death of her husband. Her mother suggests time at the family lake house in Vermont, which Casey reluctantly agrees to. Whilst enjoying a drink on the porch she notices her new neighbours, Tom and Katherine Royce, across the lake in their glass fronted house. Aided by a pair of high-spec binoculars Casey is able to get up close and personal in the Royce’s lives, watching from afar, becoming more and more obsessed with the couple. Then Katherine disappears without a trace, and things just don’t add up for Casey. She suspects Tom has something to do with the ex-supermodel’s disappearance – she just can’t prove it. What Casey doesn’t realise is that there is more to Katherine’s disappearance than meets the eye…

The House Across the Lake is another superb novel from the great Riley Sager. Utterly compelling from the moment the reader meets Casey, totally absorbing from start to finish and near impossible to put down (I grrr in your face adulting!). I tore through this book in a couple of short sittings keen to know where Sager was going to take this twisty tale. And oh my goodness, the twists the author throws at the reader are beautifully executed, they took my breath away at times! Perfectly placed, taking the reader by the hand, then BOOM! Delivered with Sager’s trademark finesse.

Casey is the most perfect unreliable narrator I have met in a LONG time. She likes a drink (she’s definitely an alcoholic!) but she firmly believes she is NOT an alcoholic (she’s an alcoholic!) and is always looking for her next tipple. I did find the numerous references to needing a drink a little wearing at times but I completely understand why the author mentioned her craving so often. It makes her believable. Casey would never call herself an addict but the reader knows the cold hard truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The House Across the Lake is a delicious slow burn mystery with a glorious unreliable narrator which I found thoroughly entertaining. The characters are all very well-written and helped move the story along nicely. Despite its beauty in the Summer months, the setting has an eeriness to it, a creepy edge, which gave me the shivers. The plot, as I’ve come to expect from this author, is very compelling and hooks the reader in from early on. I really enjoyed how Sager has used the movie Rear Window as his inspiration for this book but given it a modern twist and dialled up the tension ten-fold! All in all another superb book from a must read author. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free eARC of The House Across the Lake. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager was published by Dutton Books on 21st June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. The UK version of The House Across the Lake will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 7th July 2022. I have included purchase links for both here but 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.com | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, most recently SURVIVE THE NIGHT and HOME BEFORE DARK. His first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Hardcover Novel and has been published in more than thirty countries. His latest novel, THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE, will be published in June.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favourite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

#BookReview: The Box by Dan Malakin @ViperBooks #TheBox #damppebbles

“To save your child you must open The Box…

Ed Truman’s family is falling apart. His daughter Ally is being targeted by an alt-right incel organisation, Men Together. His house is being picketed, former clients are accusing him of sexual assault, his son won’t speak to him. And then Ally disappears.

Frantic, Ed suspects that Men Together have abducted her. But before he can go to the police, his DNA is found on the body of a young woman. Suddenly he’s the subject of a nationwide manhunt, led by the tenacious DCI Jackie Rose. Ed finds himself on the run with Ally’s friend, Phoenix, who claims to know where Ally is. But what is the truth? Is Ed a violent sexual predator? Or is he the victim of a ruthless conspiracy? The answers are in The Box. But not everyone who goes in, comes out alive…

From the bestselling author of The Regret, this heart-pounding thriller is perfect for readers of Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham and M.W. Craven.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Box by Dan Malakin. The Box will be published by Viper Books later this week (on Thursday 16th June 2022) in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Box but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Ed Truman’s family is falling apart and his life is unravelling.  His sixteen year old daughter, Ally, publicly provoked the leader of a powerful alt-right misogynistic men’s group, Men Together, and in retaliation all of Ally’s personal details, including her bank account and passwords, have been published on their website. Ed, a successful lawyer, fights back the only way he knows how – by requesting an injunction to have the website taken down. Now a group of protestors are picketing outside Ed’s house in an attempt to sully the lawyer’s good name. But their tactics go way beyond a few leaflets to the neighbours. Before long Ally is missing and Ed knows in his gut that Men Together are responsible. When Ed’s DNA is found on the body of a murdered woman he takes flight. Hunted by both the police and Men Together, can Ed find Ally in time and save her from The Box…?

This high octane thriller is a thoroughly gripping read which held my attention from the first word to the final page. This is the first book I’ve read by this author but I can absolutely guarantee it won’t be the last.

Malakin really knows how to write excellent characters who evoke a reaction in the reader. There are three absolutely standout characters for me in this book. The first being Ed Truman who is a pretty normal guy. A family man but in all honesty does he really devote enough of his time and attention to his wife, daughter and son? No, not really. He’s made mistakes and he continues to make them. At times I liked Ed, at others I wanted to shake my head at him and give him my disappointed look! The next character that definitely deserves a mention is DCI Jackie Rose who is the kick-ass, ‘don’t care much for the rules’ detective tasked with hunting Ed down for the murder of the young woman. Oh my gosh! I loved her. She’s a bit obnoxious, totally driven and very hot headed. Sure, there are rules but they can be broken as and when needed! Alongside her new ‘by the book’ DS, clashing heads along the way, they lead the search for Ed. The final character I need to mention, who made me so cross I nearly threw the book across the room, is Benedict Silver. Right-hand man to the head honcho of Men Together, this arrogant, chauvinistic, misogynistic psychopath made my blood boil at frequent points throughout the book and I loved it! I’m a strong believer that books should make you feel ‘something’, evoke an emotion of some sort and Silver did just that. I loved the scenes featuring both DCI Rose and Silver. Both strong characters, staring each other down, waiting to see which of the two would break eye contact first. Marvellous!

The plot is paced well with lots of thrills and spills along the way. Before picking this book up I expected the titular ‘Box’ to drive the characters forward towards an end goal but no one other than Phoenix, a girl Ed goes on the run with, knows anything about it! She has the footage to prove what’s been going on. Now all she needs is for the nation to believe her. ‘The Box’ is key to the storyline and plays a pivotal part but I was surprised to discover it wasn’t the driving force. Ed’s sole motivation is evading the police long enough to rescue his daughter. No matter how you look at it though, what ‘the box’ definitely is, without a shadow of a doubt, is darn right horrific. The stuff nightmares are made of. But gosh, it felt uncomfortably believable. What a terrifying thought!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Box is a chilling, edge of your seat modern day thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The writing is punchy with short chapters which pull the reader into the story, keeping them hooked until the final heart breaking reveal. There are some big surprises along the way but I had my suspicions as to how things were going to pan out, which were confirmed. However, what I didn’t see coming was the events of the epilogue which felt right and just to me and, following everything that had come before, a perfect way to end this thrilling novel. Malakin has delivered a powerful, high concept thriller which deserves to fly off the shelves and I look forward to reading more of his work soon. Recommended.

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

The Box by Dan Malakin was published in the UK by Viper Books on 16th June 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date (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 |

Dan MalakinDan Malakin has twice been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and his debut novel, The Regret, was a Kindle bestseller. When not writing thrillers, Dan works as a data security consultant, teaching corporations how to protect themselves from hackers. He lives in North London with his wife and daughter.

His new novel, an action thriller called The Box, will be released by Viper Books in June 2022.

#BookReview: WAKE by Shelley Burr @HodderBooks #WAKEBook #damppebbles

EVERYBODY THINKS THEY KNOW MINA McCREERY.
EVERYONE HAS A THEORY ON WHAT HAPPENED TO HER SISTER.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FIND OUT THE TRUTH…

Mina McCreery’s sister Evelyn disappeared nineteen years ago. Her life has been defined by the intense public interest in the case. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, she lives alone on her family’s destocked sheep farm.

When Lane, a private investigator, approaches her with an offer to reinvestigate the case, she rejects him. The attention has had nothing but negative consequences for her and her family, and never brought them closer to an answer.

Lane wins her trust when his unconventional methods show promise, but he has his own motivations for wanting to solve the case, and his obsession with the answer will ultimately risk both their lives.

Superbly written, taut and compassionate, Wake looks at what can happen when people’s private tragedies become public property, and the ripples of trauma that follow violent crimes. Wake won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of WAKE by Shelley Burr. WAKE is published today (that’s Thursday 9th June 2022) by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow at a later date. I chose to read and review a free eARC of WAKE but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am the biggest fan of Australian crime fiction and prioritise Aussie writers before everything else on my TBR at the moment. So it goes without saying that I was immediately drawn to WAKE when it first landed on my radar. It has the CWA’s seal of approval winning the debut dagger back in 2019 and rightly so. I adored this book. So much so that I’m going to put my neck on the line here and say, as things stand (at the time of writing this review we’re halfway through May), this is my book of the year.

Nineteen years ago Mina McCreery’s sister, Evelyn, was taken from the family home never to be seen again. Australia’s most famous abduction case remains unsolved to this day but, of course, everyone has an opinion about Evelyn’s fate. Which is why Mina prefers to live a secluded life, away from prying eyes and the opinions of others. Following the success of a previous case private investigator Lane Holland turns up in the small town of Nannine offering to look into Evelyn’s disappearance. But Mina isn’t interested, not initially anyway. The hunt for her sister only caused her family more pain and sadness. But Lane gradually manages to convince Mina to accept his help. But what Mina doesn’t know is that Lane has his own reasons for wanting to know what happened to Evie McCreery that fateful night nineteen years ago…

Oh. My. Word! I loved this book. Atmospheric, packed full of mystery and brimming with suspense. It’s an absolutely glorious debut which consumed my days and had me blurry eyed in the morning after staying up far too late to finish it! I was well and truly gripped by this compelling piece of well-written crime fiction and I savoured every single second I spent in Mina McCreery’s company. What a character! I was highly suspicious of her but I loved her standoffishness. As with all newsworthy unsolved crimes, everyone has an opinion. And many are not afraid to voice it! Particularly if that’s with the safety of anonymity, hidden behind a keyboard. Mina is suspect number one according to many true crime fanatics and her aloofness only goes to prove their point. The investigation into Evelyn’s disappearance damaged the McCreery family beyond repair, forcing them into the spotlight. Something the girls’ mother blatantly used to keep Evie at the forefront of Australia’s minds. But Mina’s reluctance to participate in her mother’s media sideshow only fanned the flames. Does Mina know more than she’s letting on? And what exactly is Private Investigator Lane Holland’s interest in the family? Why, following countless rebukes from Mina, won’t he pack up and leave town?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. WAKE is an absolute corker of a novel which I immersed myself in completely. It consumed my thoughts whilst reading it and I still, weeks later, think about it more than any other book I’ve read recently. Absolutely, categorically, my favourite book of the year so far. This is the type of crime fiction I want to read. WAKE is such a compelling, intriguing mystery with superb characters and a vividly drawn, remote setting. I lived and breathed this book alongside Mina and Lane, gripped by the mystery of what happened to Evie McCreery. Every single little thing worked. Beautifully tense, truly unforgettable and the ultimate page turner. A magnificent debut and I’m excited to see what the author has in store for us next. Gosh, I really loved this book! Highly recommended.

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

WAKE by Shelley Burr was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 9th June 2022 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 |

Shelly Outdoor Shots_JUL2021 (2 of 42)_edited.jpgWAKE won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2019 and was previously shortlisted for both the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award and the Bath Novel Award.

Shelley works in environment policy in Canberra and is studying agriculture at the University of New England. She is an alumni of ACT Writers Hardcopy program and a Varuna fellow.

#BookReview: One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke @HarperCollinsUK #OneoftheGirls #damppebbles

“ONE IS A LIAR.
ONE IS A STRANGER.
ONE IS A CHEATER.
WHO IS A KILLER?
We were dying for a holiday . . .

The six of us arrived on that beautiful Greek island dreaming of sun-drenched beaches and blood orange sunsets, ready to lose ourselves in the wild freedom of a weekend away with friends.
On the first night we swam under a blanket of stars.
On the second night the games began on our clifftop terrace.
On the third night the idyll cracked, secrets and lies whispering on the breeze.
And by the final night there was a body on the rocks below . . .
Who would kill for it?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke. One of the Girls is published by HarperCollins today (that’s Thursday 26th May 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read and review a free eARC of One of the Girls but that has in no way influenced my review.

I thoroughly enjoyed Clarke’s previous thriller, The Castaways, last year. I found it very compelling with great characters and I loved the ending. So much so, I can still remember it clearly now. So when I saw the author was about to publish a new book I leapt at the chance to read it. And it’s now safe to say Clarke is firmly on my ‘must read author list’ because I LOVED One of the Girls.

Lexi is getting married! And to celebrate, her best friend, Bella, has convinced her a hen party would be brilliant idea. They and four of Lexi’s friends are heading to the Greek island of Aegos for four nights and some much needed time away from ‘real life’. But when the women arrive, it’s clear the cracks are already starting to show. Everyone has secrets. This group of six woman have more than most. And by the end of their exotic getaway, someone will be dead and someone will be a killer…

I flew through this book, completely absorbed and soaking up the Greek sun with this disparate group of women. I can’t express how much I loved everything about it. The characters are all so different but they work so well together. An odd group of women brought together to celebrate Lexi, but you can feel the tensions simmering under the surface and you can’t help but ask yourself ‘what is actually going on here?’. That intrigue, that sense that there was so much more to come, really hooked me into the story.

Lexi is a sweetheart and it’s clear to the reader why these women have travelled for hours to celebrate her forthcoming nuptials. Bella, her maid of honour and self-appointed best friend, is such a character! Obnoxious and brassy, I really liked her but I think I’ll be in the minority on that one. She’s spoilt and demanding, utterly frustrating at times. But I thought she was written so well. She elicits an emotional response from the reader and I appreciated that. The other women, who I won’t go into detail about here otherwise this review will be as long as the book (!), are fantastic creations. All individual personalities, all with their own totally believable backstory, all with their own heartaches and simmering resentments.

The plot is paced beautifully and I was in the story from the moment I picked the book up to the moment I put the book down. This is one of those novels I enjoyed so much that I was sad when it was over (although, in truth, I did race to the conclusion keen to find out how things would end so it was my own darn fault really!). There are many twists and turns along the way, some I was able to see coming, others knocked me for six and I loved that moment of shock the author delivered.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved One of the Girls and I’ll probably re-read it in the future as I’m keen to return to Aegos and be reunited with this fascinating, eclectic group of women and their complicated friendships. The setting was exquisite (yes, I’m desperate for a holiday!), the plot was so well drawn and thought out but the characters absolutely did it for me. They felt like real people and I was watching an edge-of-your seat TV drama play out before me. Clarke is such a talented writer and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next. A hugely compulsive read featuring divine characters and their bubbling resentments which I couldn’t get enough of. Totally addictive. I loved it! Highly recommended.

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

One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke was published in the UK by HarperCollins on 26th May 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (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 |

Lucy Clarke

Lucy Clarke is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers – THE SEA SISTERS, A SINGLE BREATH, THE BLUE/NO ESCAPE, LAST SEEN, YOU LET ME IN and THE CASTAWAYS. Her debut novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and her books have been sold in over 20 territories.

Lucy is a passionate traveller, beach hut dweller, and fresh air enthusiast. She’s married to a professional windsurfer and, together with their two young children, they spend their winters travelling and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut, using the inspiration from the wild south coast to craft her stories.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Homes by J.B. Mylet @ViperBooks #TheHomes #damppebbles

“There were good people in The Homes. But there were also some very, very bad ones…

A thousand unwanted children live in The Homes, a village of orphans in the Scottish Lowlands on the outskirts of Glasgow. Lesley was six before she learned that most children live with their parents. Now Lesley is twelve, and she and her best friend Jonesy live in Cottage 5, Jonesy the irrepressible spirit to Lesley’s quiet thoughtfulness.

Life is often cruel at The Homes, and suddenly it becomes much crueller. A child is found murdered. Then another. With the police unable to catch the killer, Lesley and Jonesy decide to take the matter into their own hands. But unwanted children are easy victims, and they are both in terrible danger…
Inspired by a true story, and introducing readers to the unforgettable voice of young orphan Lesley, The Homes is a moving and lyrical thriller, perfect for readers of Val McDermid, Chris Whitaker, Jane Casey and Denise Mina.

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining The Homes blog tour. The Homes by J.B. Mylet will be published by Viper Books later this week (that’s Thursday 26th May 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of The Homes but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Rosie at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Lesley and Jonesy are twelve-year-old best friends who have been abandoned by their parents. They’re unloved. They live in the Homes, a purpose built village in Scotland, alongside nearly 800 other orphaned and abandoned children. Life is tough. Beatings are common. But it’s the only life they know. When one of the older teenage girls is found dead, it’s the most exciting and interesting thing to have ever happened at the Homes. But when a second girl is killed, realisation dawns on the children. There’s a killer loose targeting the young female population of the Homes and any of the girls could be next. Lesley and Jonesy don’t want to die so they take it upon themselves to try and solve the murders. But the more they dig and poke around, pointing fingers at the staff, the closer to danger they get…

Oh my word, this book! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from The Homes but what I got was a brilliantly written mystery featuring some of the most memorable characters I’ve met, alongside a bit of an education about the Quarriers Homes and how life was for the children who lived there.

Lesley is such a wonderful character. We meet her as she’s just about to face up to bully Glenda McAdam and it’s immediately clear to the reader that Lesley is very much out of her depth. She’s a clever girl and brawling, particularly with the powerhouse that is Glenda, is not something she wants to do. Egged on by best pal Jonesy, she knows the only way to get Glenda off her back is to stand up to her. And that’s exactly what she does. This opening chapter provides the reader with everything they need to know about Lesley. It’s a beautiful introduction to a character who will stay in your heart long after you’ve finished reading.

The Homes is very much Lesley’s story. Her life, her friends, how she copes with being one of only four children from the Homes who attends the grammar school, the relentless teasing and bullying she gets for being smart, her weekly meetings with Eadie, the on-call psychologist, her interactions with her strict houseparents – Mr & Mrs Paterson – and the other girls who share a room with her, and it’s an absolutely fascinating, highly compelling tale. I was completely smitten with Lesley’s story. Her life isn’t perfect but she has routine and stability, and it’s all she knows.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. The Homes is a well-written and compelling tale which I was drawn into from the moment I met Lesley. I adored spending time in her world and I now feel a little bereft having finished the book. I couldn’t for the life of me work out whodunit so when the reveal did happen, I was shocked. I also really, really enjoyed that the author has used local dialect throughout the book to tell the story – lots of deids and heids and cannaes – which really added to the authenticity of the story. I read the entire book with a Scottish accent! Emotional, devastating at times, and with a well-plotted mystery at its heart, The Homes is a must read for readers who like strong character-driven tales. Highly recommended.

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

The Homes by J.B. Mylet was published in the UK by Viper Books on 26th May 2022 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 |

J.B. MyletJ.B. Mylet was inspired to write The Homes based on the stories his mother told him about her childhood. She grew up in the infamous Quarrier’s Homes in Scotland in the 1960s, along with a thousand other orphaned or unwanted children, and did not realise that children were supposed to live with their parents until she was seven. He felt this was a story that needed to be told. He lives in London.