#BookReview: The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere @EmmaFinnigan #TheLastParty #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

“On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.

But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.
In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh. The Last Party is published today (that’s Thursday 4th August 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of The Last Party but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Emma Finnigan for sending me a proof copy.

I read my first Clare Mackintosh novel, the superb Hostage, last year which, incidentally, was published in paperback in June and is well worth picking up if you get the chance…providing you’re not planning on flying anywhere soon! I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, her characterisation and I was keen to read more. So when I was offered a copy of the first book in Mackintosh’s brand new police procedural series, I of course jumped at the chance to read it. Police procedurals are a passion of mine and out of everything, the style of book I return to the most. And I’m so glad I did because The Last Party is a cracking read!

It’s New Year’s Eve and the party is in full swing at The Shore, an exclusive, high-end, lakeside development in Cwm Coed, North Wales. The guests include the wealthy new residents along with several of the less enthusiastic, put-upon locals. The following morning the body of the resort owner, Rhys Lloyd, is found floating in the lake. It’s DC Ffion Morgan’s patch so she takes the case. Ffion has lived in Cwm Coed all her life, it’s her home. She’s aware how much the village resents the development, she’s aware that local boy Rhys has ruffled many feathers over the years. And now he’s dead it’s down to Ffion to dig into her friends and neighbours darkest secrets and discover who killed Rhys Lloyd…

I loved The Last Party! The characters are superb, the plot is well-written and completely absorbing, the setting is beautifully atmospheric. Tick, tick and tick again. I adored DC Ffion Morgan. What an outstanding lead character she is. Gutsy, ballsy and strong. I loved her attitude, her approach to the job, as well as her approach to life in general. I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead character and Mackintosh has well and truly delivered with DC Morgan. As the body was discovered in Mirror Lake, which is right on the border of England and Wales, an English detective is assigned to work with Morgan, something Ffion is quite put out by. When DC Leo Brady of the Cheshire Major Crimes Unit is introduced to DC Morgan you know things aren’t going to be easy for these two. But as time progresses and they learn to work with each other, a rather formidable team is formed. I loved Brady just as much as I loved Morgan. The humour, the chemistry, it was wonderful to watch. Mackintosh’s characters are sublime and I’m a little bit in love.

The plot is well paced and thoroughly gripping. I found myself opting to read The Last Party when there were other things I probably should have been doing (parenting, housework, y’know the sort of thing…). There are lots of clever twists and turns along the way which keep the reader fully immersed in the story. The setting of Cwm Coed with Mirror Lake at its heart and surrounded by mountains is glorious. I could picture the area in my mind’s eye and feel the chill of the mist rolling off the water. Marvellous stuff!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved The Last Party and I hope this is only the start of DC Ffion Morgan’s adventures. Everything about this book worked for me. The plot is incredibly gripping and hugely compelling – I had to know what had happened to Rhys Lloyd and why, the setting is beautifully drawn by the author, and the characters are some of the most memorable I’ve met this year. In fact, I would go as far as saying that something about this book reminded me a little of when I first met M.W. Craven’s Tilly and Poe. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but I think this series could be something quite special. The first book has certainly left its mark on me and I am excited to read more, that’s for sure! Masterful storytelling, jaw-dropping twists and turns and a cast that I pretty much fell in love with. Highly recommended.

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

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 4th August 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 |

Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of New York Times bestseller I LET YOU GO, and Sunday Times bestsellers I SEE YOU, LET ME LIE and AFTER THE END. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, and have spent a combined total of 50 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart.

Her new thriller, HOSTAGE, comes out in June 2021.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#BookReview: No Country for Girls by Emma Styles @BooksSphere #NoCountryForGirls #damppebbles #20booksofsummer22

GOLD. THEFT. MURDER.
A ROAD TRIP TO DIE FOR.

Charlie and Nao are strangers from different sides of the tracks. They should never have met, but one devastating incident binds them together forever.

A man is dead and now they are unwilling accomplices in his murder there’s only one thing to do: hit the road in the victim’s twin cab ute, with a bag of stolen gold stashed under the passenger seat.

Suddenly outlaws, Nao and Charlie must make their way across Australia’s remote outback using only their wits to survive. They’ll do whatever it takes to evade capture and escape with their lives . . .

Thelma & Louise for a new generation, No Country for Girls is a gritty, twisty road-trip thriller that follows two young women on the run across the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Australia.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of No Country for Girls by Emma Styles. No Country for Girls is published by Sphere Books today (that’s Thursday 21st July 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 No Country for Girls but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Sphere Books for sending me a proof copy.

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may be aware that Australian crime fiction is very much a passion of mine and it’s my mission to read it all! So when I saw No Country for Girls mentioned on the socials, I jumped at the chance to read it. It felt a little different to my usual go-to Aussie reads, more of a modern day Thelma and Louise than the police procedurals set in a dusty town I tend to pick up. And what a joy it was!

Charlie and Nao, two teenagers living very different lives, are forced on the run after things go horribly wrong and one of them accidentally kills a man. With a bag full of gold and driving the victim’s stolen ute, they hit the road knowing that if they don’t, there’s a chance they won’t be alive for much longer. But the road ahead is tough. The outback is a very lonely place and it’s clear they’re being tailed. Someone wants the gold, they’ll go to any length to get it and the girls must do whatever it takes to survive…

No Country for Girls is a tense, thrilling read which I very much enjoyed. Charlie and Nao are both likeable characters and I found myself warming to them as the book progressed. However, as much as I liked them, they really weren’t keen on each other! Coming from very different backgrounds, having very different approaches to life and at times a different understanding of their situation, really added to the tension of the story and kept me turning the pages, desperate to find out how things would end for them both. I really enjoyed watching their initial frostiness towards each other thaw a little as the story neared its climax.

The plot moves at a great pace with many ‘hold your breath’ moments along the way and lots of well-written, thrilling action. The locations the girls stopped at along the way were all vividly drawn and I could picture the scenes unfolding in my mind with ease. But the absolute highlight for me was the drama the author captured in one of the final scenes which felt a little Bond-esque to me. OK, it was perhaps a little far-fetched (maybe it wasn’t – I live in a small rural town in the south of England – what do I know about the Australian Outback?!), but I didn’t give a damn! It was exciting, it was something I don’t think I’ve encountered in a novel before and I loved how theatrical it was!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. No Country for Girls is an action packed, high-octane read featuring two great characters you can’t help but like. I loved the setting, it felt authentic and very vivid. I loved the urgency of the writing and the way the tension built almost from the opening chapter. You could feel the characters were in a race against time with the ever-present threat right at their heels. This is an accomplished debut and I look forward to reading more from Styles in the future. All in all, a gripping road trip thriller overflowing with well-written tension which I very much enjoyed. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of No Country for Girls. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

No Country for Girls by Emma Styles was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 21st July 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 |

Emma StylesEmma Styles writes contemporary Australian noir about young women taking on the patriarchy. She grew up on Whadjuk Noongar Country in Perth, Western Australia and now lives in London where she was born. Emma loves a road trip and once sat out a cyclone on the north west coast of WA in a LandCruiser Troop Carrier. She is less afraid of great white sharks than she should be, and hopeless at surfing.

Emma has an MA in crime fiction from the University of East Anglia. Her debut novel, No Country for Girls, won the Little, Brown UEA Crime Fiction Award in 2020 and will be published by Sphere in the UK in July 2022, and by Hachette in Australia and New Zealand in September.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anniversary by Laura Marshall was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

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

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

#BookReview: Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold @BooksSphere @LittleBrownUK #TwelveSecrets #damppebbles

A SMALL TOWN. A SHOCKING CRIME.
YOU’LL SUSPECT EVERY CHARACTER. BUT YOU’LL NEVER GUESS THE ENDING.

Ben Harper’s life changed for ever the day his older brother Nick was murdered by two classmates. It was a crime that shocked the nation and catapulted Ben’s family and their idyllic hometown, Haddley, into the spotlight.

Twenty years on, Ben is one of the best investigative journalists in the country and settled back in Haddley, thanks to the support of its close-knit community. But then a fresh murder case shines new light on his brother’s death and throws suspicion on those closest to him.

Ben is about to discover that in Haddley no one is as they seem. Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will do anything to keep the truth buried . . .”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold. Twelve Secrets was published last week (Thursday 3rd March 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Twelve Secrets but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Millie at Sphere Books for sending me a proof copy.

Ben Harper is a crime journalist but his own traumatic story is the biggest draw in recent history. Because Ben’s brother, at the tender age of 14, was killed alongside his best friend by two classmates. The tragedy shook the small town of Haddley and will never be forgotten. Now, 20 years later, another murder has been committed, miles away from the small town, but with links back to Haddley and the deaths of Nick and Simon. Suddenly Haddley is in the spotlight again and everyone is a suspect. When there’s a killer in your midst who can you trust? And just how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay buried…?

I do love a small town claustrophobic thriller and Twelve Secrets delivers on that front in spades. As the story builds the suspicion and intrigue mount and I found myself questioning every single character. I read a lot of crime fiction so I’m always on the lookout for where the story is heading, how the threads will eventually connect. But I wasn’t able to do that with Twelve Secrets. It’s cleverly and intricately plotted ensuring the reader can’t predict where the story is headed.

Ben is a great lead character, very well-written and multi-layered, and I’m pleased to see this is the first book in a new series featuring him. I enjoyed that in this first outing, we really got to know him well. I also really liked PC Dani Cash who is one of the officers investigating the most recent murder. She has a fascinating backstory and I hope we get to meet her again in future books.

The plot is well paced and intriguing throughout. I will admit that with the various characters (there are quite a few) who are all linked to each other in a variety of different ways, I did get a little confused at times but that might just be me. I took to writing down the names and making brief notes to help connect the dots. It did help. Having a number of characters who ‘couldvedoneit’ helped increase the suspense and intrigue though, widening the pool of suspects, which worked well. I’m just easily confused, lol!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Twelve Secrets is a compelling mystery which I enjoyed reading. There are many twists and turns along the way which kept me on my toes. Very little about the story was obvious, it felt fresh and exciting. I loved the setting, I loved the lead characters (Ben and Dani), I loved the way author throws twist after twist at the reader as the story reaches its climax. An assured solo debut from an author to watch. I’m looking forward to being reacquainted with Ben Harper on his next outing soon. Recommended.

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

Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 3rd March 2022 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later in the year (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Originally from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Robert Gold began his career as an intern at the American broadcaster CNN, based in Washington DC. He returned to Yorkshire to work for the retailer ASDA, becoming the chain’s nationwide book buyer. He now works in sales for a UK publishing company. Robert now lives in Putney and his new hometown served as the inspiration for the fictional town of Haddley in Twelve Secrets. In 2016, he co-authored three titles in James Patterson’s Bookshots series.

#BookReview: Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay #SevenLies #damppebbles

“It all started with one little lie . . .

Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they both fell in love and married handsome young men.

But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.

Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t lied – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .

This is Jane’s opportunity to tell the truth, the question is:
Do you believe her?

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay. Seven Lies was published by Sphere Books on 1st October 2020 and is available in all formats.

Seven Lies first came onto my radar thanks to a crime fiction festival in 2019. I was given a pamphlet which contained the first chapter. I have to admit, I didn’t read it. I’m peculiar in that way – it’s the whole book or nothing at all (surely I can’t be the only one!?). But the cover artwork, the enthusiasm of the publicist and the synopsis of the story stayed with me. So I downloaded a copy as soon as it was published digitally.

Marnie and Jane have been friends forever. Well, since they met at school at the age of 11 but it feels like forever. The bond the girls have is strong, unbreakable, and throughout their teens and into their twenties, they stay firm friends. Both marrying the men of their dreams, the future looks bright. Until it isn’t. Jane has never really liked Marnie’s husband, Charlie. He’s overbearing and unpleasant and a terrible match for Marnie in Jane’s eyes. So when an opportunity arises to change the women’s future, to reignite the close bond they had in school, Jane takes it….

Seven Lies is the slow unravelling of a deeply flawed character which I found compulsive reading. Jane, as we know before we’ve even cracked the cover of this book, is a terrible liar so the reader is immediately on their guard. However, many of the lies, we discover, as they’re drip-fed to us, are so small, so inconsequential that you wonder what harm they could really do? Some are told to save from hurt feelings, some are more targeted. The book is narrated by Jane in a confessional style which hooked me in from the start. I wanted to know who she was speaking to. Who was hearing this outpouring of deceit and what was Jane hoping to achieve by sharing? The reader doesn’t discover who is on the other side of the confessional screen until towards the end of the book but for me, it was quite a shocker. In both choice of character and the intent *shudder*.

I found myself flipping between feeling sorry for Jane, at the tragedy of her own life, and being repulsed by her unhealthy obsession with Marnie, which at times made my skin crawl. She was mesmerising in her madness and I couldn’t tear myself away from her story. I couldn’t decide if the obsessive side of her personality was always present or if grief had driven her to look at things in a different light. There are moments throughout Jane’s story where she doesn’t seem all that concerned about Marnie, but these moments tended to involve her own husband, Jonathan, so my feeling is that grief was the catalyst to her unravelling.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Seven Lies is a beautifully written debut with a destructive friendship at its heart. I was pulled into the life of Jane and Marnie and watched as things went from bad to worse for the pair. If you’re looking for a compulsive character driven tale of obsession and control then you’ll want to give Seven Lies a read. Recommended.

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay was published in the UK by Sphere on 1st October 2020 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Elizabeth Kay

Elizabeth Kay started her career as an assistant at Penguin Random House. She is now a senior commissioning editor there and is simultaneously pursuing her passion for writing.

She won first prize – in a short story competition judged by Jacqueline Wilson – aged eight, and has been writing ever since. She lives in London and has a first-class degree in English literature.

#BookReview: The Coven by Lizzie Fry @BooksSphere #TheCoven #damppebbles

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of The Coven by Lizzie Fry. The Coven was published by Sphere Books in paperback on 2nd September 2021 and is also available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read a free copy of The Coven which has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Lizzie for sending me a finished copy.

As Halloween approaches many readers change their reading habits to include the witchy, the ghostly and the ghoulish. Not me. Halloween is great but the supernatural and the scary work all year long, right? Summer, bring it on. Christmas, the perfect time to scare yourself witless. I’ve realised though that I haven’t read many books featuring witches. So when I received a gifted copy of The Coven by Lizzie Fry, I moved it straight to the top of the TBR. And I’m so glad I did. The Coven is a superbly crafted, high-energy, international thriller that starts at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up until the final word.

After many years of living relatively peacefully side by side, the President of the US declares all witches should be voluntarily imprisoned for their safety and for others. The Sentinel are charged with rounding up those who don’t present themselves and they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done. But a good few thousand miles away, in the city of Exeter, nineteen year old Chloe Su is about to come into her powers. With the help of her father, a newly escaped crystal witch, and the Sentinel Agent who broke the witch free, Chloe takes the first step on a journey which will take her across international borders and into more danger than she ever thought possible…

Powerful, gutsy women lead the cast in a thrilling, non-stop race against time. Bloody marvellous! Fry has created a dark, edgy thriller in an alternative world where some of the female population are considered by non-magical folk as the scourge of the earth. All because the big guy in the White House says so! The men reign supreme. The divide between the genders – which includes the non-magical women who are labelled by the menfolk as ‘Goody’s’ – is vast. Fry has created such a strong divide between the genders that it made my blood boil at points. But in the best way possible. I have read other dystopian novels where the storyline centres around a similar male/female divide but Fry outshines them all with The Coven. I was angry for the women, I wanted justice and recognition for them. I wanted them to escape from the oppressive misogynistic regime they were forced under thanks to the Sentinel. It’s safe to say I was rooting for them 100%.

The Coven is a fast paced, thrill-ride of a story which doesn’t let up until the nail biting conclusion. Along the way we meet several interesting, well-written characters. Some I warmed to, others not so much (they’re kind of despicable, horrible human beings – but again, very well-written). My favourite character was Daniel, Chloe’s father, who is thrown into a world he knows nothing about with a ferocity that would leave others running for the hills. (I should mention at this point that not all male characters in the book are crazed zealots out to destroy womankind – only some of them!!) I also really liked Ethan who, despite being on the wrong side for so long, realises his mistake and does absolutely everything he can to make amends. My heart went out to Chloe who, at the age of nineteen, suddenly has the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a pretty hefty cross to bear when you’re only just starting to learn who, or what, you are yourself.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Fry’s feminist debut is a thrilling, beautifully intense tale which I struggled to tear myself away from. I was drawn into this alternate world from the get-go and what a ride it was! I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with these intelligent, fearless, fiery women and I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for us next. Fans of dystopian thrillers featuring strong female characters will adore this gripping read. Recommended.

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

The Coven by Lizzie Fry was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd September 2021 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Image

Lizzie is the author of The Coven, a dystopian thriller for Sphere Books which asks readers to imagine a world in which witchcraft is real, passed down mother to daughter … and men will do absolutely everything they can to stop them.

A fan of such books as The Handmaid’s Tale and A Discovery of Witches, the idea came to Lizzie because she lives in Devon. It was one of the hardest hit areas in England during the witch hunts of the middle ages. There are many monuments to these murdered women in and around the South West. Exeter is officially the first and last place in the UK to hang a witch, which is why Lizzie chooses to kick off the story there.

#BookGiveaway: The Coven by Lizzie Fry (@LizzieFryAuthor) @BooksSphere #TheCoven #damppebbles #PublicationDay

Let me repeat myself, so we can be very clear. Women are not the enemy. We must protect them from themselves, just as much as we must protect ourselves.

Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.

Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…

As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.

But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.

The Coven is a dazzling global thriller that pays homage to the power and potential of women everywhere.”

**GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED**

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I have such a treat for you today! I’m thrilled to be helping author Lizzie Fry celebrate the paperback release of her debut novel, The Coven, which is published by Sphere Books today (that’s Thursday 2nd September 2021). The Coven is a breath-taking global race-against-the-clock to defeat an imposing organisation dedicated to destroying women’s power and potential. It sounds SO GOOD. Look out for my review on the blog next month!

Lizzie has very kindly offered one UK-based reader the opportunity to WIN a signed paperback copy of The Coven. To be in with a chance of winning all you need to do is…

🧙‍♀️ Head over to Twitter by clicking THIS LINK (or go to my feed where it’s my pinned tweet 📌)
🧙‍♀️ Follow @LizzieFryAuthor and @damppebbles
🧙‍♀️ Like and retweet my pinned tweet
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The T&Cs…
✨ Giveaway is open to readers in the UK
✨ Giveaway is not affiliated with Twitter and there is no cash alternative
✨ Giveaway closes on Saturday 4th September at 2100 (BST)

If you didn’t catch all that then please don’t fret. All the information you need is on my pinned tweet.

The winner will need to send me their name and postal address for me to pass on to Lizzie. The book will be sent direct from the author. GOOD LUCK!

Kimmy Schmidt Good Luck GIF by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

#BookReview: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh @BooksSphere #HostageBook #damppebbles

“You can save hundreds of lives.
Or the one that matters most . . .

The atmosphere on board the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney is electric. Celebrities are rumoured to be among the passengers in business class, and the world is watching the landmark journey.

Flight attendant Mina is trying to focus on the passengers, instead of her troubled five-year-old daughter back at home – or the cataclysmic problems in her marriage.

But soon after the plane takes off, Mina receives a chilling anonymous note. Someone wants to make sure the plane never reaches its destination. They’re demanding her cooperation . . . and they know exactly how to get it.

It’s twenty hours to landing.
A lot can happen in twenty hours . . “

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. Hostage is published by Sphere today (that’s Tuesday 22nd June 2021) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Hostage but that has in no way influenced my review.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a huge fan of books with a disaster theme to them. I LOVE them. The complete lack of control the characters have. The gut wrenching knowledge of the situation they’re in. And in the case of Hostage, the intense claustrophobia pressing down on the characters heightening every situation, every twist and turn. There was no way on this earth I was going to be able to resist Hostage, and I loved every second I spent with this immersive thriller.

Mina Holbrook is part of the cabin crew for the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney since 1989. It’s a momentous occasion and one she had to fight for, if only to avoid an uncomfortable lead up to Christmas with her estranged husband, playing happy families. Flight 79 will be remembered forever…but not for the reasons everyone is expecting. A couple of hours into the twenty hour flight, Mina receives a note which changes everything. She must help a hijacker access the flight deck. It goes against everything she believes in, everything she trained for. But the hijacker knows exactly how to get Mina’s co-operation. She has a choice to make; save many lives or just the one…

What a page-turner! I was completely engrossed in Hostage from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride (although I won’t be getting on a plane anytime soon!). It’s a gripping, heart-stopping thriller and I devoured it quicker than anything else I’ve read recently. I struggled with how I felt about Mina. Ultimately she’s put in a very difficult position and makes a choice that I could completely understand. Was it the right decision? Who knows! But I disliked her for it despite it being the decision many of us would also make. Thank goodness this is fiction and not real life. However, after that first event, I started to warm to her again and I think that’s a mark of the author’s excellent writing.  She’s a villain, yes, but she’s not the biggest one by far!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book when I wasn’t reading it. The pull it had over me was great and I was desperate to find out what terrible event was going to happen next. The reader gets a few short insights into the other passengers lives before the flight and this really helped build their characters for me. There are shocks and surprises galore but I had my suspicions about one aspect of the book which proved to be correct. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the story at all though. If anything, it added an extra thrill to the big reveal.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Hostage is a gripping thrill-ride of a read which I devoured with glee. There were certain points in the book where I had to suspend my disbelief a little but again, it’s a cracking story so does it really matter. I was entertained. I will admit to shedding a tear at one point but I can’t tell you where or why. You’ll just have to read this cracking novel for yourself! This is the first book I’ve read by this author but it won’t be my last. An edge of your seat thriller which I highly recommend.

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

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 22nd 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 |

With more than two million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club. Clare’s latest novel, After the End, was published in June 2019 and spent seven weeks in the Sunday Times hardback bestseller chart.

Clare’s latest thriller, Hostage, will be published in June 2021.

Together, Clare’s books have been published in more than forty countries. Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#BookReview: The Domino Killer by Neil White @BooksSphere #TheDominoKiller #damppebbles

the domino killer“When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever…”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Domino Killer by Neil White. The Domino Killer is the third book in the Joe & Sam Parker Series and was published on 1st December 2016 by Sphere Books. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Domino Killer but that has in no way influenced my review.

I have read a number of books by this author but this is the first one in his Joe & Sam Parker series. I didn’t struggle at all coming into the series at book three as the main plotline revolves around events in the brother’s past so it worked really well as a recap. And yes, I probably should have mentioned before, Joe and Sam (I’m so sorry, I really want to call them Sam and Mark for no other reason than perhaps I watch too much children’s TV!) are brothers. Joe is a defence lawyer and Sam is a detective constable.

When a man is savagely attacked in a Manchester park, DC Sam Parker is part of the team investigating the victim’s death. The attack was frenzied and bloody and the police have a race against time to find the killer. But then the victim’s fingerprint is found in the most unexpected place and it throws the team a pretty big curveball. Joe meanwhile has been called to the police station as he has been requested by a new client on a burglary charge. What awaits him is the shock of his life. A face he never expected to see again, but the reason he became a defence lawyer in the first place. Before long the brothers are hunting down a psychopathic serial killer who will stop at nothing to see his plan come to fruition, no matter what (or who) the cost…

I enjoyed this gritty police/legal thriller set in Manchester. The plot was detailed and intricate, and because of the two lead characters and two perspectives, I felt as though I was getting two stories for the price of one. It’s a really interesting concept to have two brothers in opposing careers and it really added something to the book for me. I expect I will pick up the first two books in this series in the not too distant future.

The chapters focussing on the police investigation with Sam Parker were definitely my favourite parts of the book. I think I preferred Sam’s character to Joe’s who seemed a little self-centred at times. The supporting cast were also very strong and I particularly liked Sam’s police partner, Charlotte Turner, and Joe’s paralegal and an ex-detective herself, Gina.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found The Domino Killer a slower paced read but it’s certainly compelling and I was keen to find out where the killer was heading with his master plan. There’s a wonderful twist towards the end of the story which I really enjoyed and didn’t see coming at all. I did get a little confused at times with the number of character names and how they related to other characters in the book, but that’s probably just me. A really interesting crime novel with two intriguing characters. Recommended.

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

The Domino Killer by Neil White was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 1st December 2016 and is available in hardcover, 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 |

about-the-author3

neil whiteNeil White was born and brought up around South Yorkshire. He left school at sixteen but studied for a law degree in his twenties, then started writing in 1994. He is now a lawyer by day, crime fiction writer by night. He lives with his wife and three children in Preston.

#BookReview: The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters @BooksSphere #TheKillerYouKnow #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

the killer you know“I’ll murder three people. And you’ll know it was me . . .

Summer 1997. When Will jokes about becoming a serial killer, his friends just laugh it off. But Adeline can’t help but feel there’s something darker lurking behind his words.

Winter 2015: Years later, Adeline returns to Blythe for a reunion of the old gang – except Will doesn’t show up. Reminiscing about old times, they look up the details of his supposed murder spree. But the mood soon changes when they discover two recent deaths that match.

As the group attempts to track Will down, they realise that he is playing a sinister game that harks back to one they used to play as kids. Only this time there are lives at stake . . .”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my eighteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters. The Killer You Know was published by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Killer You Know but that has in no way influenced my review.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. A group of teenage friends gather one night as the end of Summer approaches. One of them, Will, is considered to be the odd kid in the group. So when he makes an off-the-cuff comment about being a serial killer when he’s older, the others are shocked and a little unnerved by his bold statement. When Will fails to turn up to a group reunion many years later, it leaves his friends wondering, could he have carried out the unthinkable? When the friends check the very precise details he gave about the killings, they find reports of a suicide that matches…and then a second death. One report could be classed as a coincidence, but two deaths…? No, there’s no question about it, there’s something suspicious going on. Now all they have to do is find Will, and see for themselves. Particularly as Will threatened a third death, much closer to home…

Set in the late 90s and the present day, this book delivered shedloads of fantastic nostalgia. Now, I admit, I’m a little older than the characters in this book but the 90s were my decade. I loved the trips back in time where the bands of the day were discussed alongside the group’s obsession with movies. Wonderful stuff!

The characters all stood tall each adding something to the story. Their personalities were all very different but when you live in a small village, you’re thrown together with people you perhaps wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends yourself. That added a very interesting group dynamic to the book. They all had their own very defined roles which weren’t necessarily accepted by some members but rather pushed upon them – expected maybe. Leading to tension, rivalry and an undercurrent of bad feeling. It was interesting to watch a group of teenagers who, like many teenagers, think they’re wise beyond their years, deal with some very adult emotions.

Despite my appreciation of the 90s vibe in The Killer You Know, I did prefer the sections set in the present day when the group are trying to track Will down. The mystery of Will’s disappearance, the bubbling undercurrent of not really knowing who to trust anymore and the sense of foreboding made parts of the book a fairly tense read. The author takes time to set the scene, taking the reader back to 1997 and painting a very vivid, thorough picture.

Would I recommend this book? If you’re a fan of slow-burn, suspenseful mysteries then you may enjoy The Killer You Know. I felt it could have been a little shorter as I found my attention drifting at times and I wanted something to hook me back in. I was able to guess where the story was going to go, which may not have helped my meandering attention. I also struggled a little with the writing style and had to re-read large sections to grasp what was happening and check I hadn’t missed a key plot point – but that could have just been me having a bad day. A really interesting concept and I would happily read more by this author.

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

The Killer You Know by S.R. Masters was published in the UK by Sphere Books on 2nd May 2019 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

20-books

about-the-author3

S R Masters studied Philosophy at Girton College, Cambridge. He is a regular contributor to UK short fiction anthology series The Fiction Desk, having won their Writer’s Award for his short story Just Kids. His story Desert Walk was included in Penguin Random House USA’s Press Start to Play collection, published last year, and he continues to have short fiction published in a variety of magazines.

When not writing, Simon works in public health in Oxford, where he lives with his wife, Helen.

The Killer You Know is his first novel.