#BookReview: Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor @0neMoreChapter_ #InnocentOrGuilty #damppebbles

innocent or guilty“Is the right person behind bars?

One morning ten years ago, the town of Twin Rivers changed forever when the body of Tyler Washington was found in the woods. Son of the mayor, star of the high school basketball team – his death struck right at the heart of this tight-knit community.

For Olivia Hall, Tyler’s death heralded the start of her own personal nightmare – her twin brother, Ethan, was arrested for Tyler’s murder. Ten years later, Ethan is still in jail. Olivia is convinced he is innocent, and now, a true crime podcast has taken up his case.

As the podcast digs deeper, secrets, lies and shocking revelations are all uncovered. For the first time, Olivia dares to hope that Ethan may be set free. But if he didn’t kill Tyler, who did? And how far will they go to keep their secrets safe?

Perfect for fans of podcasts Serial, Happy Face and The Teacher’s Pet, and TV shows Making a Murderer, Staircase and Dirty John”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor. Innocent or Guilty? was published by One More Chapter on 12th December 2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I received a free eARC of Innocent or Guilty? but that has in no way influenced my review.

I do not listen to podcasts (I also don’t listen to audiobooks – I’ve never really managed to get to grips with them). But I love books which feature a true crime podcast at their heart. Sitting here, thinking about the concept, a few favourites immediately spring to mind. Well budge over, favourites, and make some room for Innocent or Guilty? by A.M. Taylor. There’s something very memorable about this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Olivia and Ethan Hall are twins on the brink of starting their college careers when tragedy strikes, rocking the small town of Twin Rivers. A local teenager, Tyler Washington, is murdered. The sudden death of the town’s golden boy hits everyone hard. But when Ethan Hall, Olivia’s unpopular brother, is arrested for the murder, it turns Olivia’s world completely on its head. Ten years later Olivia is a lawyer and Ethan is still in jail. But she’s determined to prove her brother’s innocence, one way or another. So when the producers of a true-crime podcast come knocking, despite her reservations, Olivia decides to take part and revisit the past. But if Ethan is innocent, the question remains, who REALLY killed Tyler Washington…?

Innocent or Guilty? is told in the past, the present and with brilliant snippets of the podcast, which felt so real to me. With the chapters set 10 years ago, the author beautifully builds the characters’ stories, layer by layer, adding more depth as the story progresses. Giving the reader a clear view of the politics and pressures of life in Twin Rivers in the run-up to Tyler’s murder. I really enjoyed the flashback chapters and getting a glimpse into Olivia and Ethan’s past. The present-day chapters are told mainly from Olivia’s perspective and focus on digging for clues to help free her brother. Working with Kat and Ray, the podcast producers, they come up against many brick walls as the residents of Twin Rivers fight to keep the past buried in the past.

Packed to the brim with secrets and deceit, this is one edge of your seat read which I found hard to put down. The author has created a number of well-written peaks and troughs throughout the book, which kept me turning the pages at a steady pace. After finishing Innocent or Guilty?, I immediately purchased Taylor’s debut, Forget Me Not, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Innocent or Guilty? is a compelling mystery set in small-town America with a modern twist, and I devoured it. Being Mrs Suspicious, I was able to guess what the big twist was going to be from fairly early on in the book, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment one jot! There were plenty of other surprises along the way to keep me on my toes. I am looking forward to reading more from A.M. Taylor. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Innocent or Guilty? The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Innocent or Guilty? was published in the UK by One More Chapter on 12th December 2019 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Headshot3

Annie May Taylor lives and writes in London. When not making up stories, she writes copy for a living and can most often be found drinking coffee, watching Netflix, and trying to keep up with a never ending TBR pile. She’s been obsessed with mysteries ever since Nancy Drew first walked into her life and would probably have attempted to become a private detective at some point, if only it didn’t involve actually having to talk to people. She has a cat called Domino, ambitions of owning a dog one day, and is as obsessed with My Favorite Murder as you probably are. Writing as A.M. Taylor, her debut psychological thriller Forget Me Not was released by Killer Reads/Harper Collins in October 2018.

#BookReview: Scrublands by Chris Hammer @Wildfirebks #Scrublands #damppebbles #15BooksofSummer (1/15)

scrublands“In an isolated country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on his congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself.

A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The bodies of two backpackers – missing since the time of the massacre – are found in the scrublands. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.”

Welcome to the blog today and to my review of my first #15BooksofSummer read for 2019 – Scrublands by Chris Hammer.  Scrublands was published by Wildfire Books in January 2019 and is the author’s debut.

As soon as I saw this book I knew I had to read it.  Scrublands called out to me.  Probably because the blurb and the cover ooze that small town isolation I love so much in my novels.  What I didn’t consider was the setting and I should have (particularly with a book called Scrublands).  I’ve read a number of Australian crime fiction novels in the past and the vast, unrelenting Australian landscape always plays a part.  How can it not? It’s something us Brits just can’t comprehend in some respects.  It’s a character in its own right.  The scrublands surrounding the small town of Riversend are as much a part of this story as Martin, our main character, is.

Journalist, Martin Scarsden, is sent by his editor to Riversend.  A dying Australian country town suffering from a prolonged drought whilst trying to recover after a devastating shooting a year ago.  The perpetrator of the attack was the local priest who, without explanation, callously took the lives of a number of local men.  No one claims to know why the priest opened fire.  Martin has been tasked with getting to know the townsfolk and find out how Riversend is coping one year on from the tragedy.  What becomes perfectly clear to Martin is that some of the residents may know more than they’re letting on.  When a second tragedy strikes and the bodies of two backpackers are found, fingers start pointing back to the priest and his unexplained act of violence one year ago.  Once again Riversend and Martin are thrown into the media spotlight.  But someone is determined to keep the town’s secrets.  No matter what…

This is a slow burn of a novel and I have to be completely honest and confess that at times I was desperate for the story to move on a little faster.  Saying that the slow pace did feel appropriate to the setting.  I don’t think I could move particularly fast in scorching heat without a drop of water either!  This is a complex story with many threads running off in different directions but I found it fairly easy to follow what was going on.

Martin Scarsden is an interesting character and one I didn’t warm to (I’m not sure the reader is supposed to like him though).  His suffering of PTSD which is discussed at several points throughout the book made him a lot more ‘human’ in my eyes.  He suffers from a recurring nightmare where he relives a traumatic incident which spanned a number of days.  Yet beats himself up emotionally for being so ‘weak’ when others have suffered a great deal more.  At other times his desire for a story overrode every interaction and relationship, so I appreciated these more introspective moments.

The writing is beautiful and I was able to picture the scenes Hammer describes quite clearly in my mind.  There is one scene in particular where a fire starts in the scrubland near a small number of houses, destroying everything in its path.  The claustrophobic and disorientating black smoke, the fierce heat of the flames and the terror described by the author are of a cinematic quality.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes.  A close-knit community with secrets they want to keep hidden.  A prying journalist in their midst ready to expose the truth no matter what the ramifications and an unsolved mystery at the very heart of it all.  Recommended.

Scrublands by Chris Hammer was published in the UK by Wildfire Books on 11th July 2019 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio 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.ukamazon.comWaterstonesBookDepositoryGoodreads |

15 books of summer

about-the-author3

chris hammer.jpgChris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than 30 countries on six continents. In Canberra, roles included chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, current affairs correspondent for SBS TV and a senior political journalist for The Age.

His first book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.

Author Links:Facebook |

 

#BookReview: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor @MichaelJBooks @DeadGoodBooks #TheTakingofAnnieThorne

the taking of annie thorne.jpg“Then . . .

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Now. . .

The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:

I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . . .”

The tricky second book.  I was a huge fan of C.J. Tudor’s debut, the totally unmissable The Chalk Man which blew my socks off and left me a little bit in love with Ed, the main character.  I often still think about him and that brilliant ending (book hangover, much?).  So there was nothing on earth that was going to stop me from reading Tudor’s second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne.  I received a free eARC of this book from the publisher but this has in no way influenced my review.

I loved it.  The Taking of Annie Thorne is just as dark, just as creepy and just as brilliant as The Chalk Man (although I will put my hand up here and confess that I loved The Chalk Man just a teeny tiny smidge more).  There are definite similarities between the two books; a small claustrophobic town, our main protagonist is a teacher (there are other similarities between Ed and Joe which I won’t go into detail about here), strange creepy inexplicable things happening to normal everyday people.  But I enjoyed that, it added to the story for me.

I found our main protagonist to be instantly likeable.  He has a troubled past after discovering his sister, that’s Annie, has changed beyond recognition after she went missing one night.  He’s flawed (definitely flawed) with an addiction to gambling and a penchant for stretching the truth but when he receives an email telling him that ‘it’s happening again’ he feels he must return to the town of his youth and see for himself.  There are elements of the supernatural at play in this novel which would normally turn me right off but the way Tudor has written her story had me engrossed.  I didn’t care that I didn’t really believe in certain aspects of the story.  What is reading if not escapism?  I was captivated from the first page to the last and felt fully invested in Joe’s plight to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely and I suggest if you haven’t read The Chalk Man you download that too.  I’m a huge fan of horror/crime crossover novels and this one is another to add to the favourites list.  Tudor’s writing is sublime and before you know it hours have passed and you’ve forgotten to pick the kids up from school (that didn’t happen…honest!).  Deliciously creepy, totally addictive and the type of book I want to read over and over again.  Don’t miss out on this exceptional book!

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

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 21st February 2019 and is available in hardback, ebook and audio formats with the paperback to follow in July (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): ⋆ amazon.co.uk ⋆ amazon.com ⋆ Waterstones ⋆ BookDepository ⋆ Goodreads

about-the-author3

cj tudorC. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.

Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.

Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Overkill by Vanda Symon (@vandasymon) @OrendaBooks #Overkill #NewZealandNoir #SamShephard

Overkill Cover  (1).jpegWhen the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.

Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.

To find the murderer … and clear her name.

A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Overkill blog tour.  Overkill by Vanda Symon was published by Orenda Books on 6th September 2018 and is the first in a new crime series featuring PC Sam Shephard.

I have travelled the world thanks to my literary choices over the years; it’s something I love to do.  Reading about a place far from home is always interesting and exciting – a different way of living, different cultures.  Until recently I had not managed to make my bookish way to New Zealand.  Australia, yes.  New Zealand, no.  However, thanks to Overkill I can now add a New Zealand stamp to my literary passport as this delightful piece of crime fiction is set in Mataura.

I am a huge fan of books set in small, close-knit towns.  The claustrophobia, the suspicion, the uncomfortable feeling you get as the characters start to realise that you can’t trust anyone.  The small town feeling Vanda Symon conveys in Overkill is wonderful.  The residents of Mataura have all been mucking along quite nicely together for years.  Then the body of a young mother is discovered in the river; the suicide note left behind confirms she couldn’t face life any more.  But PC Sam Shephard’s gut is telling her differently, something is wrong.  Before long Sam is investigating a murder.  What she doesn’t realise is that she’s the main suspect in her detective colleague’s eyes.  Can Sam solve the murder and clear her name…?

I loved Sam.  She’s so wonderfully human, so normal.  She has a chequered history with the victim’s husband which hangs precariously over her head throughout the entire investigation.  Her conflicted emotions and her self-deprecating manner made her all the more likeable.  I was also very fond of her flatmate and best friend, Maggie who stands by Sam when others don’t.  The writing and the narrative had a wonderful Kiwi flavour to it; it felt very real and I was pleased to see Sam wasn’t dressed up to be something she wasn’t.  She’s tough, resilient and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.  She certainly needs to be tough as the only police officer stationed in Mataura!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  Sam is a very likeable character who will appeal to many readers and Symon’s honest, no-nonsense writing brings her gloriously to life.  If you’re looking for thrills and spills a minute then maybe Overkill isn’t the book for you.  But if you’re wanting a cleverly woven mystery with characters who shine through then it’s well worth a read.  Claustrophobic, delightfully mysterious and a with a fierce female lead you can’t help but like.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the Sam Shephard series!

Four out of five stars.

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

Overkill by Vanda Symon was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 6th September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

Overkill Blog Tour Poster (1).jpg

about-the-author3

vanda symonVanda’s first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. She suspects the prologue to Overkill was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.

A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller The Faceless.

As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town.

And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.

Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years, having been chair of the Otago Southland Branch. She is currently the Otago Southland regional delegate on the NZSA Board. Vanda was also the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.

When she isn’t writing, Vanda can be found digging around in her garden in Dunedin, or on the business end of a fencing foil. She has fenced since high school and still competes in national and international competitions. As well as competing she coaches, and because she likes to get involved, boots and all, is the president of Fencing South and on the board of Fencing New Zealand.

Vanda is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.

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

Biography © http://vandasymon.com/