#BookReview: All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford #AllThesePerfectStrangers #damppebbles

“You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you. You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty….

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

For Penelope Sheppard, university offers an escape from her troubled past. Running from a life weighed down with scandal and tragedy, Pen sees this as the ideal place to reinvent herself among perfect strangers. Life in her new halls of residence feels like a wonderland of sex, drugs, and maybe even love. But all too soon Pen realises you never can run far or fast enough. And when Pen’s secrets are revealed, the consequences are deadly….

Little by little, through Pen’s flawed narration and tantalising diary entries, secrets, truths and lies come to light, and a dangerous dilemma unfolds, twisting and turning until the very last page.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford. All These Perfect Strangers was published by Simon & Schuster in paperback, audio and digital formats on 25th August 2016.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time and you have a very VERY good memory you may remember my husband’s brilliant Christmas gift to me several years ago. All These Perfect Strangers was one of the books Ryan chose and I’ve been keen to make a start on it.

Penelope Sheppard has secured a bursary at Scullin College against the odds. Several years earlier she was present when a police officer was shot and killed. The small town she lives in hates her and has never forgiven the crime, particularly the family of the accused – Pen’s best friend Tracey. But Scullin is a fresh start with new people. Pen can blend in and only reveal what she chooses to her new friends. But the past has a habit of catching up with you and before long, someone else is aware of what happened to Pen all those years ago…

I never used to be a fan of the unreliable narrator but that’s changed over the years and oh my gosh, All These Perfect Strangers does it so well. From the start, you can’t be sure what Pen is telling you is true or a twisted version of the truth. Parts of the story are told via diary entries which Pen is instructed to keep by her psychiatrist, Frank. But Pen wants to keep the truth close to her chest so ‘edits’ events accordingly in their reading. Due to the structure of the book I was never sure if I was reading fact or Pen’s fiction which really helped add to the suspense.

All These Perfect Strangers is a tale of secrets and lies, of guilt and blame. It’s structure was a little confusing at times as there are three distinct periods of time covered by the author and I found myself unsure which time period I was in . As I began each chapter, I was on the lookout for a character or a location to confirm where in Pen’s history I was, which I found a little distracting. The flashbacks to the shooting and preceding events are clear but the other two time slots; Pen at university and Pen at home following the events at Scullin, weren’t as obvious.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. All These Perfect Strangers is a compelling book which I really enjoyed. A twisty tale chock full of secrets, lies and deceit and a very well-written unreliable narrator. The more I got to know Pen, the more I liked her. By the end of the book, I was 100% on her side. I loved the Australian setting, I really enjoyed that the book was set in the late 80s. All in all, a great debut which I recommend.

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 25th August 2016 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Aoife Clifford is the author of the novel All These Perfect Strangers, published in Australia and the United Kingdom by Simon & Schuster and by Penguin Random House in the United States.

Born in London of Irish parents, she grew up in New South Wales, studied Arts/Law at the Australian National University, Canberra and now lives in Melbourne.

Aoife has won two premier short story prizes for crime fiction in Australia – the Scarlet Stiletto (2007) and the S.D. Harvey Ned Kelly Award in 2012, among other prizes. She has also been short listed for the UK Crime Association’s Debut Dagger. In 2014 she was awarded an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her novel, All These Perfect Strangers.

#BookReview: Falling by T.J. Newman @simonschusterUK #Falling #damppebbles

“You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Falling by T.J. Newman. Falling is published by Simon & Schuster today (that’s Thursday 10th June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Falling but that has in no way influenced my review.

Woah! I mean, WOAH! What a book! I’ve discovered in recent years that I’m a huge fan of novels which feature a disaster at their heart. I have a particular love of plane-based hostage situations. Stranded at 30,000 feet, there’s no escape and someone else is pulling the very delicate strings. One wrong move and….BOOM! So much so, Falling is the first of three flight-based thrillers I’m featuring on damppebbles this month. And it’s by far the best. I didn’t want to be separated from this book for a single second.

Captain Bill Hoffman boards flight CA416 to New York with a heavy heart. He knows he’s in trouble with his wife, when he left the house things were strained between them but for Bill, it’s impossible to say no to the Chief Pilot. Missing his son’s Little League opener is something he’ll have to come to terms with. Despite the tension at home, it’s another normal day for Bill. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until he receives a devastating message. His family have been taken hostage. In order for them to live, Bill must crash the plane killing everyone on board. Bill has an impossible decision to make and the clock is ticking…

Falling is a superb debut. Tense, scarily real and absolutely relentless. The book starts with a bang. The author throws the reader straight into the deep end. You have no idea what came before but you have a fair idea of what’s coming next. By far, the best opener to a book I’ve read in a long, long time. Although the action does grind down a gear or two after our initial introduction to Bill, the tension remains ever present. As the situation the crew are in becomes clear, as the pressure mounts, the book builds to a heart-stopping climax. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I was living and breathing this book alongside the characters. Totally believable, completely engrossing and the ultimate thrill-ride.

As an ex-flight attendant the author has used her extensive knowledge (and a little artistic flair!) to create a pulse-pounding reading experience which I loved. I felt fully invested in the characters. Strong, capable Bill who everyone believes will do the right thing (whatever that is!), the fearless cabin crew who not only have a flight full of anxious, scared passengers to deal with but also the promise of the hijackers ‘back-up plan’. And not forgetting Bill’s family, his wife, Carrie, who has a suicide vest strapped to her but still manages to remain outwardly calm and in control for the sake of her two children – 10 year old Scott and baby, Elise. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and I loved every heart in my mouth second.

Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would, yes. If you’re looking for a thrilling, high concept, intense and all-consuming read then make sure you get yourself a copy of Falling. It’s true, I won’t be stepping foot on a plane anytime soon but don’t let that stop you 😂! Highly, highly entertaining. I was completely captivated from that blisteringly good start to the heart-stopping, ‘read behind your hands’ end. A definite contender for my ‘books of the year’ list without a doubt. Shedloads of suspense, a fast and pacey plot and a cast of characters I felt fully invested in. Sublime! Highly recommended.

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

Falling by T.J. Newman was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 10th June 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 |

T.J. NewmanT. J. Newman, a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. FALLING is her first novel.

#BookReview: The Lying Room by Nicci French @simonschusterUK @1stMondayCrime #TheLyingRoom #FirstMondayCrime #damppebbles

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Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn’t call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.’

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.
She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?

A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my review of The Lying Room by hugely popular author, Nicci French. The Lying Room will be published in hardcover and ebook format on Thursday 3rd October 2019 by Simon & Schuster, with the paperback to follow next year. And to celebrate, Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) will be appearing at October’s First Monday Crime night in London on 7th October. The event is completely free to attend but you do need to reserve your spot. More information about how to do that shortly.

I received a free ARC of The Lying Room but that has in no way influenced my review.

I need to confess something to you, dear reader. We’ve known each other a while now. I feel I can open up to you and share a deep, dark secret. As you know, I am a huge (HUGE!) crime and psychological thriller fan. *In a tiny, squeaky voice* this is the first book I’ve read by Nicci French. I can actually hear your disappointment. I have to say I’m disappointed in myself too. However, let’s look on the bright side here – what an absolutely corking read to start with! Oooooh, I love a good character and Neve Connolly is so beautifully complex that I was smitten. I had to find out more.

On discovering her lover dead in his apartment Neve does the opposite of what most people would do. She cleans the flat from top to bottom eradicating every trace of her from Saul’s life, rather than calling the police and reporting what she immediately knows to be a terrible crime. She needs to keep their affair a secret; not only would it destroy her marriage but it would cause irreparable damage to her children, particularly fragile teenage daughter, Mabel. In doing so Neve sets herself on a path of constantly looking over her shoulder, fretting that she left a trace of evidence behind and becoming highly suspicious of the people she loves the most. That moment of madness, that split-second decision could destroy everything she cares about…

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive. (I was obviously a very deceitful child as I was reminded of this fairly often!) Poor Neve. You can’t help but feel some sympathy for her. The result of one very poor decision spirals and spirals until she doesn’t know who to trust or which path to take. A lot of extra pressure is piled on by the brilliantly written DCI Alistair Hitching who was by far my favourite character in the book. His interactions with Neve made me smile at times and his sleuthing reminded me a little of Columbo (the way he just knows the truth, and now all he has to do is find the proof). His slow, methodical picking apart of everything Neve says is just brilliant. Always trying to trip her up, always trying to find fault. Whilst Hitching was my favourite character, I struggled to understand Neve and Mabel’s relationship and found Mabel intensely irritating and by far the most difficult character to connect with or understand.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. It’s an engaging slow burn of a domestic suspense novel which I think will appeal to many readers. I couldn’t work out for the life of me how the book was going to end but it was a fitting conclusion. It’s easy to see why this accomplished writing partnership have the fan base they do. I would certainly read more from Nicci French without a moment’s hesitation.

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

The Lying Room by Nicci French was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on 3rd October 2019 and is available in hardcover and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

First Monday Crime:
Nicci French will be joining the panel for October’s First Monday Crime event on Monday 7th October 2019. Nicci and Sean will be appearing alongside Peter Robinson, Marnie Riches and Claire McGowan. The event is FREE of charge and will be held at 6.30pm on Monday 7th October at City University, College Building, Room A130. Click HERE to book your FREE ticket or hop over to the First Monday Crime website for more information.

about-the-author3

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Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The couple are married and live in Suffolk. There are twenty bestselling novels by Nicci French, published in thirty-one languages. Blue Monday was the first thrilling story in the Frieda Klein series, which concluded with Day of the Dead. The Lying Room is their latest novel.

facebook.com/NicciFrenchOfficialPage