#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.

#BlogTour | #Extract: Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian @DoubledayUK @midaspr #WhereBloodRunsCold #damppebbles

“Erik Amdahl and his spirited daughter, Sofia, have embarked on a long-promised cross-country ski trip deep into Norway’s arctic circle. For Erik, it’s the chance to bond properly with his remaining daughter following a tragic accident. For Sofia, it’s the proof she needs that her father does care.

Then, far from home in this snowbound wilderness, with night falling and the mercury plummeting, an accident sends them in search of help – and shelter. Nearby is the home of a couple – members of Norway’s indigenous Sami people – who they’ve met before, and who welcome them in. Erik is relieved. He believes the worst is over. He thinks that Sofia is now safe. He could not be more wrong. He and Sofia are not the old couple’s only visitors that night – and soon he and Sofia will be running for their lives . . .
…and beneath the swirling light show of the Northern Lights, a desperate fight ensues – of man against man, of man against nature – a fight for survival that plays out across the snow and ice.

A story of endurance and of the desperate, instinctive will to survive, of a father’s love for his child, of knowing when to let go – and of a daughter’s determination to prove herself worthy of that love, Where Blood Runs Cold is a pulse-racing thriller from a master storyteller.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be joining the Where Blood Runs Cold blog tour. Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian is published by Doubleday Books today (that’s Thursday 24th February 2022) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. To celebrate publication of Where Blood Runs Cold I have a fantastic extract to share with you today so pull up a comfy chair, grab a coffee and enjoy…

Chapter 2

He’s having the dream again. He knows he’s dreaming and still he cannot steer its course. He never can. The figure is more shadow than man. More dark presence than human form. More of a sensation, like the heaviness in your gut when you’ve lashed out and hurt the feelings of someone you love. Or the clenching tightness in your chest when something is broken that you know can’t be fixed.

He feels all this even in the dream. Knowing he’s in the dream. But this time it’s different, and despite the dread, he moves closer.

What are you? he asks.

He sees in the dark form the outline of a face. An eye. And Sofia is here too. Here I am! he shouts to her but she can’t hear him. The terror is on him now. In him. Its claws sinking into the soft meat of his heart. Sofia!

She’s moving towards the figure. No– stay away! Sofia, stay with me!

He hears his daughter scream.

‘Erik!’ He woke with a start, Elise’s voice bringing him back. The fuzzy blue display of the alarm clock sharpened as he swung himself out of bed, heart racing, knowing that the scream had been real. Three twenty-two a.m.

‘She’s having a nightmare,’ Elise said, already on the landing. Erik stumbled after her and through the doorway. Elise pushed open the door of their daughter’s bedroom.

‘Shh, darling. It’s just a dream,’ she soothed, as she sat on the bed beside Sofia and took the girl’s hands in her own.

‘Just a dream.’

Erik exhaled sharply, still trying to blink away his own dream, which clung to his mind and body, heavy as wet clothing.

‘Pappa,’ Sofia said, half awake, half dreaming still.

Erik sat on Sofia’s other side, gently running a hand through her sweat-and sleep-tangled hair, pushing it back from her face. ‘It’s OK, Lillemor, Pappa’s here.’

‘I’ll bring her some water,’ Elise said, leaving Erik with Sofia.

‘It’s OK. You go back to sleep now. I’m here.’ He leant and kissed her on the forehead, holding his lips there a moment. ‘We love you so much.’

She smiled and squashed her head back into the pillow as he stood.

‘Love you,’ she said, her words slurred as if she was already drifting off.

══════════════════

The next morning, he got up early and set to work clearing the rest of the roof. When it was done, he found Elise at the dining table, laptop open, coffee beside her, those two vertical furrows between her eyebrows and nose as subtle as a do not disturb hanger on a hotel room door.

She didn’t need to look up to know what he was thinking.

‘I just need an hour or two,’ she said, frowning at the laptop screen as her fingers danced across the keyboard. How she could type and speak different words at the same time was a mystery to him.

He couldn’t help himself. ‘I thought you weren’t starting for a week?’ he said.

Her right hand left the keys, index finger pointing up.

‘You were on the roof.’

‘You were still in bed,’ he said.

She took a weary breath and looked up at him now, the creases of her concentration frown melting away. ‘It’s my first job back with them. I want to be prepared.’ She gestured at her laptop. ‘And it’s important.’

So he and Sofia drove into town to the Vinmonopolet to buy wine. Once back in the car, he turned, taking a moment to look at her.

‘I can’t believe you’re going to be a teenager,’ he said.

She raised her eyebrows, no doubt recalling all the times they had called her a sulky teenager long before the eve of her thirteenth birthday.

‘I mean it.’ He shook his head. ‘Where has the time gone?’

‘Pappa,’ she said, staring ahead through the windscreen, ‘you promised to take me on the Long Ski when I was thirteen. Remember? A proper trip. Sleeping in snow shelters and everything.’

He kept his eyes on the road. A knot tying in his stomach.

‘You promised, Pappa,’ Sofia pushed.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘But that was a couple of years ago.’

Before Emilie died, he left unsaid, though it was loud enough in the silence.

‘I’m thirteen tomorrow. I’m old enough.’

‘I don’t think we can do it this time,’ he said.

‘But you promised,’ she protested. ‘Emilie asked you, the Easter before last, and you told her to wait until I was thirteen and then the three of us would go together.’

‘I know what I said.’ His words were sharper than he’d intended. Just the mention of her name. ‘But so much has happened since then. It’s different now.’

He glanced at her and she shook her head and turned her face to stare out of the side window.

He remembered that day in crisp detail. Emilie had borrowed her grandfather’s well-thumbed maps, still marked with pen from his own trips, and plotted a five-day, four-night ski tour through woods and across frozen lakes. She had been so excited. But Sofia had been too young to go.

And so Erik had told Emilie that they would wait until Sofia was thirteen and they could all go together. He had known how disappointed Emilie was. And yet she had explained the route plan to Sofia, who had listened wide-eyed and announced to the whole family that she would remind Erik of his promise the day she turned thirteen. He had known she wouldn’t forget.

But it wasn’t Easter now, with its fourteen hours of daylight, when the crisp sunlight offered warmth for the climb and gently melted the snow’s surface, creating perfect conditions for the descent. It was only just February, and the days were short and cold.

‘Let’s give it another year, Lillemor,’ he said. ‘Just one more year and then we’ll go on the Long Ski. A real adventure, I promise.’

Silence. Another promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.

══════════════════

‘Thank God for the directions you emailed me,’ Elise told Karine as they’d stood in the Helgelands’ front porch, stamping snow off their boots and hanging up coats and hats. Turning on the happy family show like throwing the light switch at a winter fair.

‘We’re expecting more snow,’ Lars said, leaning out to look up at the grey cloud blanketing the sky. ‘In a few days you won’t be able to get up here in that.’ He was pointing at the Mitsubishi. ‘Snowmobiles are the only way when we get a heavy fall.’

Karin and Lars were perfect hosts, generous and welcoming, and Lars clearly enjoyed a beer, which gave him enough in common with Erik to see the evening off to a better start than he had expected.

Elise asked if it ever worried them, being so remote, but Lars just chuckled.

‘We love living out here,’ he said, gesturing towards the window. The curtains were open and the snow beyond the glass glowed gently in the black night. ‘We’re not city people, as you can tell.’ He looked over at Karine, who was in the kitchen showing Elise her recipe for fiskeboller, the delicate fish balls in a creamy sauce whose fragrant scent filled the air. ‘If we wanted visitors all the time, we’d live in Tromsø,’ Lars said, a mischievous smile on his face.

Lars must have been in his early sixties, Erik guessed, but he was still broad-shouldered and solid, his hands tanned from so many summers of outside work, even now after the long winter.

‘Ah, there are cabins being built all the time,’ Lars added.

‘Beautiful things of cedar wood. Even the roofs are cedar. Inside, everything cladded in oak. Huge windows with views of the mountains and the sea. Built to follow the contours of the landscape and laid out . . . just so,’ he said, waving a broad hand. He rubbed the bristles on his cheek. ‘Well, you know all this. Karine tells me you’re a carpenter? You must be a busy man with all the houses springing up these days.’

‘Actually, I’m taking some time out,’ Erik replied, feeling Elise’s eyes on him from the kitchen doorway. Time out.

When was the last time he fitted a staircase, window frame, or skirting board? Or looked at a set of blueprints? Ten months ago he had hung a digital Sorry . . . Temporarily Closed sign on his website, and there it hung still. Amdahl Carpentry shut down for business until further notice.

Once dinner was underway, the conversation inevitably turned towards Novotroitsk Nickel, and how the locals felt about the Russian-owned company buying the mineral rights to the old Koppangen copper mine west of town. Lars, Karine and Elise shared their fears about waste being dumped in the fjord. About how the Sami Council was ignored, and how the government was willing to destroy the indigenous land in the north of Norway.

On and on it went, and he listened. Barely. Swirling the wine round his glass as Karine retrieved a letter from her cork board beside the fridge.

‘This came yesterday,’ Karine said, handing it to Elise.

He saw the logo of Novotroitsk Nickel on the letterhead, two blue Ns interlinked like a pair of mountain peaks. ‘They said it was just an exploration project at first,’ Karine said, ‘to see if the old mine had industrial potential. This was about a year ago.’ She gestured at the letter in Elise’s hands.

‘That outlines their intention to explore the abandoned tunnels further and dig three new test pits, pending the results of a feasibility study.’ She pushed her plate away as though talk of the mine’s reopening had soured the food.

Truth was, he was bored of the conversation. Angry too, because he knew this was what Elise cared about. Her obsession. And he’d been wrong to think they could find each other again here in the mountains. Plus, the wine had gone to his head in all its euphoric fuck-it brilliance, and so he told them that the world needed copper if it wanted electricity.

That it was how electricity worked.

‘We’re all for electric cars, right?’ he said. ‘If we’re going to electrify the world to save it, then maybe we have to be prepared to lose some of the old ways.’

‘Are you joking?’ Karine Helgeland asked him, her aspect hardening, suddenly expressing all the cheer of a granite rock face.

‘It’s just the wine talking,’ Elise said, a smile on her lips but anger in her eyes.

Karine suggested they talk about something else, and Lars stood, telling Sofia he had something to show her.

Elise left the table too, carrying dishes to the kitchen. And so he sat alone, watching as Lars showed Sofia the contents of a beautifully carved wooden box that sat on the windowsill. Beyond it, the night loomed, filling the world with black nothingness. Sofia seemed genuinely interested in the old photos of the Helgelands’ ancestors. In the other treasures too: a comb made of reindeer antler which Sofia said looked just like the ones she’d seen in The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. A horn needle case engraved with little reindeer. A leather purse with tin thread embroidery which had belonged to Karine’s great-grandmother. And most exciting, judging from Sofia’s wide eyes, a huge knife which Lars took down from the stone mantlepiece over the stove.

‘We call this a stuorraniibi,’ Lars told her. He smiled at her frown. ‘It just means big knife.’ He shrugged for comic effect, before drawing the blade from the reindeer leather sheath and making a chopping motion with it. It was nearly twenty-five centimetres long. ‘Long and wide enough to cut firewood or small trees to make shelter poles. Strong enough to split reindeer bones.’ He turned it around to hold it by the spine of the blade. ‘Feel the handle.’ He offered it to Sofia. She touched the wood. ‘Birch,’ he said, ‘for a better grip in cold and snow.’

‘I have a Swiss Army knife,’ Sofia said, and no sooner had she spoken the words than the knife was in her hand and she was easing the little blades and tools out one by one, and now Lars was shaking his head as if he had never seen anything so wonderful, much to Sofia’s delight.

Sofia looked more engaged, more interested than she had about anything he’d done with her for a long while. What exactly had he done with her in the last year? They’d gone hiking a few times, picking late summer berries along the trail. He’d taken her to the Alfheim Stadium to watch Tromsø IL lose to Rosenborg in the fourth round of the Norwegian Cup. Oh, and there was the funeral of her sister. That had been a family day together.

He got up, grabbed hold of the three empty wine bottles and carried them to the kitchen counter.

‘Will you have coffee?’ Karine asked them, fetching mugs down from the cupboard.

Elise glanced at him and he knew the answer. At least they could still communicate without words.

‘No, thank you,’ Elise replied. ‘Our little girl turns thirteen tomorrow. We have a big birthday breakfast to get up for.’ She smiled.

Erik looked over at Sofia. She stood at the window, looking west into the night as Lars told her about Karine’s brother, Hánas, who was a reindeer herder.

‘Right now, while we are cosy and warm,’ Lars said, ‘Hánas is somewhere up there on the plateau with his herd.’ He pointed out at the night and the dark shape of the mountain.

‘Sometimes, we see a light in the dark and we know it is Hánas in his tent,’ Karine said, coming over to join her husband and Sofia at the window.

‘It must be beautiful up there,’ Sofia said.

‘But so cold,’ Elise said, miming a shiver as she put a hand on Sofia’s shoulder.

Sofia didn’t seem to notice. She was still looking up at the mountain. Elise and Karine shared a smile, acknowledging the girl’s preoccupation.

‘So have a very happy birthday tomorrow, Sofia,’ Karine said, ‘and make sure your mor and far spoil you all day, starting with a special breakfast.’ She looked out of the window and nodded to the dark distant peaks. ‘Did you know, on my thirteenth birthday, my father took me up there and taught me how to lasso a fully grown reindeer? A big bull, he was. I can still see him in my mind. Antlers like this.’ She threw her hands up. ‘One and a half metres.’

‘Ha!’ Lars exclaimed, wafting her words away with a hand.

‘Were you there, husband?’ she asked, lifting her chin in challenge, so that Erik could see the stubborn young girl she once was. ‘Whose story is this anyway?’

Again, Lars batted the air with a big hand.

‘So after many attempts I lassoed the bull over his great big antlers, and my father had to help me hold the rope – like this,’ she said, miming the action, ‘or that bull would have carried me off and I would probably still be hanging on now. But then we had to get home before dark because we didn’t want to meet a stallo up there.’

Sofia screwed up her face. ‘What’s a stallo ?’

‘Sofia is too old now for stories of stupid great stallos and trolls,’ Lars said. He was standing by an antique cocktail cabinet, pouring himself a brandy in the soft light from the interior.

‘I was just telling Sofia what I did on my thirteenth birthday,’ Karine said. ‘You have to have adventures when you’re young.’

Erik was watching Sofia as she turned to look at him. He knew what she wanted to tell the Helgelands – that he had promised to take her on the Long Ski when she turned thirteen.

Her silence knotted him up inside.

After declining Lars’s offer of brandy, he and Elise thanked their hosts for a lovely evening, said their goodbyes and crowded into the porch with Sofia to put on their coats, boots and hats.

‘Sofia,’ Lars said, coming out after them, ‘I have something for you.’ They turned and waited as he tramped through the snow after them, their warm breath pluming around their faces. ‘Here, Sofia, for your birthday,’ Lars said.

Sofia held out her hands and took the stuorraniibi he offered her, looking at her mother and father for reassurance.

‘Of course, you must only use it with your parents’ permission,’ Lars said, nodding at Elise, then Erik. ‘But I thought . . . well . . . you have your modern pocket knife which can do everything you can possibly think of, but you should also have something from the past, to remember those who came before us.’

Sofia stared at the gift in her hands, open-mouthed. Not knowing what to say.

Erik looked at Elise. Surely she knew what to say. Like, what the hell’s wrong with you, Lars, giving a bloody great Sami knife to a thirteen-year-old-girl? Who does that?

‘You lucky girl,’ Elise said, putting her arm around Sofia’s shoulder. Subtly trying to squeeze a thank you out of her.

‘Thank you, Mr Helgeland,’ Sofia managed, tearing her eyes away from the knife to look Lars in the face.

‘Take care of a good knife and it will take care of you,’ Lars said. Then he raised his hand. ‘So, see you all again.’ He turned and walked back to the house. ‘And happy birthday, Sofia,’ he called, his breath fogging in the glow of his porch light.

I’m a huge fan of survival thrillers so Where Blood Runs Cold sounds just my thing and I CANNOT WAIT to read it! If you’re anything like me you can grab your copy from your favourite bookseller today. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian was published in the UK by Doubleday Books on 24th February 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 |

Giles KristianGiles Kristian’s first historical novels were the acclaimed and bestselling RAVEN Viking trilogy – Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odin’s Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War to chart the fortunes of a family divided by this brutal conflict in The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury. Giles also co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion. In God of Vengeance (a TIMES Book of the Year), Winter’s Fire, and the Historical Writers’ Association Gold Crown shortlisted Wings of the Storm, he returned to the world of the Vikings to tell the story of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship. Lancelot was published to great acclaim and hit The Times bestseller charts at No. 3. It was also a Sunday Times bestseller. He followed Lancelot with Camelot, and his new novel, a thriller called Where Blood Runs Cold, will be published February 2022. To find out more about Giles: www.gileskristian.com
Follow Giles on Facebook and Twitter: @GilesKristian

#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 |

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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.

#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: Halcyon by Rio Youers @TitanBooks #Halcyon #damppebbles

Nightmarishly compelling and flawlessly told horror for fans of Paul Tremblay and Joe Hill.

Halcyon is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems. A beautiful self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed, Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth, however terrible it might be, behind the island and its mysterious founder.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of Halcyon by Rio Youers. Halcyon was published by Titan Books in paperback, digital and audio formats on 23rd October 2018. I received a free ARC of Halcyon but that has in no way influenced my review.

Oh wow, this book! I admit it, I’m bookish (shocker, I know!) but rarely do I take to the socials to talk about a book I’m reading (yes, I’m a terrible book blogger). Halcyon hooked me in so quickly and made me fall head over heels in love with the lead characters – a *fairly* average all-American family – that I had to share my concerns, that impending sense of doom, with other book nerds on Twitter. My anxiety was through the roof and by taking regular breaks, putting the book down and taking deep breaths, I had somehow convinced myself (in a completely ridiculous and deluded way) that I could delay whatever horrible things were coming their way. I couldn’t, of course, but I HAD to share how I felt. And if that isn’t the mark of a great book, I don’t know what is!

Martin Lovegrove has had enough. He watches as shocking events are reported almost daily on the news – plane hijackings, mass shootings, multiple car pile-ups, bombings, the list feels endless. Horror after blood-soaked horror. He finally reaches breaking point when tragedy comes knocking at his own door and so vows to do everything he can to protect his two daughters, ten year old Edith and fifteen year old Shirley, and prevent any further trauma. When a stranger in a bar suggests a haven away from the aggression of every day life, Martin is dubious but wants to find out more. How could he not after everything his family have been through? Martin decides to move the family to Halcyon for a few weeks, no more. Unless they really feel at home in their new safe haven. It’ll give them the break they need and hopefully give his eldest daughter, Shirley, something other than darkness to focus on. When they arrive on the island they meet the hypnotic Mother Moon, founder and leader of Halcyon (although no one would be so vulgar as to call her that). After a few days in paradise, Martin realises that not everything is as perfect as it first appears. To help settle his mind and clear up any doubts, he decides to address a few concerns he has with a spot of breaking and entering. The cause of his concern is a small locked box Mother Moon keeps in her cabin. What secrets does it hold? And can Martin handle the truth? Instead of being a haven, it looks like Halcyon could actually be hell on earth…

Halcyon is incredibly well-written and I would pick up another book by this author in a nano-second. What I found particularly enjoyable is how Youers has been extremely clever and gets his reader to fully invest in the Lovegrove family before he starts to tear their lives apart. I found myself enjoying spending time with them and I looked forward to picking up my copy of the book. I mentioned above that they are a *fairly* average family. Well, that’s not entirely true. This is a horror/thriller novel so it has a delightful drizzle of darkness from the opening chapters which comes courtesy of a gift (/curse) one of the Lovegrove clan have. Visions, premonitions, prophesies of great pain, terror and anguish. Horrific night terrors which consume their holder. This darker edge made me love the Lovegroves just that little bit more.

I adored the first third of this book. The pace changes a little for the second third and I found it’s grip loosening a little on me. I was still intrigued as to where the author was going to take the story but watching the happy and contented residents live their happy and contented lives on Halcyon didn’t have the same pull as meeting the Lovegroves (in the first section). Mother Moon is such a brilliantly written character and I found myself surprisingly sympathetic towards her at times. Her story is one of pure darkness and it pulsates with evil. A very memorable character who, despite trying, I probably won’t be able to get out of my head!

The last third is ohmhgoodness, edge-of-your-seat thrilling and I was glued to the book. I was completely in the story with the characters; watching the snow fall and feeling the terror build. It was magnificent.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Halcyon is not a short novel (528 pages) but it’s well worth investing the time in this excellent piece of storytelling. I loved the characters, the setting was beautifully presented, so much so that I can picture Halcyon clearly in my mind’s eye, and the plot took me on one hell of a ride. A thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable reading experience that I would recommend to all. And if the word ‘horror’ puts you off, don’t let it stop you from reading this fantastic book. I promise, you’ll be fine. Recommended.

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

Halcyon by Rio Youers was published in the UK by Titan Books on 23rd October 2018 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 DepositoryGoodreadsBookshop.orgthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Rio Youers is the British Fantasy and Sunburst Award–nominated author of Westlake Soul and Halcyon. His 2017 thriller, The Forgotten Girl, was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel. He is the writer of Sleeping Beauties, a comic book series based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King and Owen King. Rio’s new novel, Lola on Fire, will be published by William Morrow in February 2021.

#BookReview: The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones @headlinepg #TheDisciple #damppebbles

the discipleThey are coming…

On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil’s Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived.

The child’s protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn – a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe – and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain.

She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure.

For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones with you. The Disciple was published by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 and is available in paperback and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Disciple but that has in no way influenced my review.

I want to start this review by asking, what the heck have I just read? Someone? Anyone?! I’ve read all 544 pages and I’m still not sure myself but I do know one thing. I absolutely bloody LOVED it!

Edward Schwinn is a loner. Haunted by his tragic past he hides himself away in the Welsh countryside, avoiding human contact at any cost. Until one day he comes across the scene of a horrific accident. Bodies surround him, bent at strange and unusual angles. Death wasn’t kind to these people and what he witnesses will remain scored in his memory forever. He’s drawn to one of the vehicles, opens the door to discover someone he never expected to see. And she’s heavily pregnant. Fleeing the scene and helping the woman to his rundown home, they spend the night hiding from whoever is looking for her. Until she goes into labour. Unknowingly Schwinn has changed his destiny.  He must protect the child from the forces that wish to destroy her. For the sake of all humanity…

The Disciple doesn’t really fit neatly into any one box. As I read this book I felt I was crossing a number of genre lines. There are definitely some wonderful horror aspects to this story. It’s an edgy thriller which had me on the edge of my seat enjoying the delicious sense of foreboding the author gives his reader. Then there were the other ‘less familiar to me’ genres. In places it felt a little bit fantasy (cards on the table: I know nothing about fantasy so perhaps I’m mistaken) and it was hard to miss the sci-fi aspect of the novel. But no matter what The Disciple is, when it comes to labelling, it was a fantastic book and I savoured every second I had with it.

I’m a little bit in love with the main character, Edward Schwinn. Having faced tragedy he has turned his back on the world. But when his moment comes, he steps up to the plate and takes the responsibility laid before him without question or doubt. I think if you look beyond everything else this book, at its heart, has a strong message. You don’t need the same blood running through your veins to be a good parent. I loved Edward’s relationship with the child, Piper. The reader watches it grow over the course of 16 years and it was a truly beautiful thing to witness. I also adored Piper who I think will stay with me for some time to come. There are a number of other fascinating and brilliant characters who leap off the page at the reader (Jolyon in particular). It’s really quite something!

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. I thoroughly enjoyed The Disciple and having checked my bookshelf, I was delighted to find I have The Silenced by the same author on my TBR. This felt a different read for me and it just goes to show that you should step out of your comfort zone every now and then (although I wasn’t aware I would be doing that when I started it, so…..🤷). I wrote six pages of notes whilst reading The Disciple. There’s a lot to take in but I was totally immersed in the story from beginning to end. The Disciple is something very special which had me crying big ugly tears at points. Days later I sit here typing this review and I’m missing the characters. I want to return to the story. I loved it and I think you should read it. Highly recommended.

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

The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones was published in the UK by Headline Books on 6th October 2016 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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Stephen Lloyd JonesStephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons, a mad cockapoo and far too many books. He’s the author of The String Diaries, Written in the Blood, The Disciple and The Silenced.

Calling all crime, thriller and dystopian fiction writers – PM Books want to hear from YOU #SubmissionCall @PMBooksHHB @HhouseBooks #PMBooks #WritingCommunity #amwriting #damppebbles

Hello and welcome to the blog on this sunny Thursday. I have something a little different to share with you today, which I’m really excited about. One of my favourite publishers – Holland House Books – are starting a Kindle-first crime, thriller and dystopian imprint called PM BOOKS and they are looking for established and aspiring writers to submit their work. Is that you? If so, read on….

PM Books are a Kindle-First imprint of Holland House Books that specialises in crime, thriller and dystopian fiction. Phaidra Robinson and Mia Skevington set up PM Books in April 2020 in order to pursue their respective loves of true crime and detective fiction. Our background of Literary Fiction at Holland House Books means that we bring an expectation of and experience in producing high quality books to these genres. An inaugural imprint, this is the time for authors to submit their work for the chance to be one of our founding book releases.

Doesn’t that sound exciting? Do you have a manuscript languishing unloved in a drawer? Have you recently written the two most exciting words in the world…THE END? Are you ready to get your writing into readers’ hands? Then here’s everything you need to know to submit your book to PM Books:

We are looking for most types of crime and thriller fiction, from the classic English whodunit through to police procedurals, or classic noir through to mind-bending psychological thrillers. Maybe you want to introduce us to a dystopian future. We want well-written, satisfying work – a good twist and convincing characters are the ways to our hearts. It may be cosy and comfortable or dark and disturbing… or something completely different.

If you have a completed novel or novella which you believe may fit, then send us:

1) The first fifty pages of your work.
2) A synopsis of your work (maximum two pages).
3) A covering letter with a brief overview – we do NOT need you to do a brilliant ‘pitch’ or the kind of blurb which would go on the back of the book. The basic story, main character(s) and the general themes is all we need.

These documents should be Word Documents, size 12 in a standard font, with a line spacing of 1.5.

Please email us at pmbooks@hhousebooks.com and address them to the Editor Phaidra Robinson.

The road to publication beckons and I really hope you’re as excited as I am about this brilliant opportunity.

You can contact PM Books by email on pmbooks@hhousebooks.com, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram and via their website: https://pmbooks0.wixsite.com/pmbooks/. Good luck and I hope to be reading your book very soon!

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#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart #OperationLargeScotch #OLS @cobaltdinosaur #damppebbles #bookreview

OLS“Fearing the Good Friday Agreement will effectively end the lifestyle his IRA terrorist cell has enjoyed for years, Michael Caldwell the leader of the 1972 Club (named after the Bloody Sunday Massacre) decides to turn his attention to targeting the UK Government economically. He launches an attack threatening to bomb the Scotch whisky industry unless the British Government pay the terrorists a £20m ransom.

Armitage Brown, Assistant Controller of MI5 is given the task of stopping the terrorist attack but is unable to get any information on the assailants as to how, where and when they are going to deploy their explosives if their demands are not met. He co-ordinates a strategy, using all the emergency services, to thwart the terrorists under the code name ‘Operation Large Scotch.’

Both the military and the intelligence services have been guilty of murderous acts going back over the previous eighteen years. John Johnston, a young Ulsterman, living thousands of miles away in South Africa, is determined to get revenge for the killing of his father in Belfast. With the assistance of Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service he releases information that will haunt both the British Military establishment and the terrorists.

Will MI5 succeed in preventing mayhem in various towns around Scotland?”

Hello! Long time, no see. Officially I’m not here. If you saw my end of year post which featured my top 10-ish books of 2019 you may remember me mentioning the fourteen reviews I had yet to write. I have good news – those fourteen reviews are now SIXTEEN reviews (which means I’ve read another two books since that post was published – good news, right?!). Yes, despite my best-laid plans I have failed. But the good news is Ryan, my guest reviewer (and husband), is keeping the damppebbles ship afloat and today he’s reviewing Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart for the blog tour. Let’s find out what he thought…

Let’s start with the big news, Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. is an easy to read thriller that pulls you in from the early chapters and flies along at a great pace. The author has been very clever in limiting the number of characters to avoid confusing side plots and making it very clear from the start who the bad guys are. I love the books where the reader gets to see what both sides are doing and how far away the police/MI5 are from solving the mystery.

You follow the story wondering how anyone on the MI5 side is going to move from being in the dark to figuring out how to progress, and you watch the dissident IRA cell plot atrocities in cunning ways. Set in Antrim, Scotland and South Africa the story moves across multiple years and locations and manages to carry real peril throughout the story.  I can do it no higher praise than say that it would not have surprised me to see “elements of this book were based on real events” in the epilogue.

Michael Caldwell, the leader of the dissident IRA cell is a main character in the book and is clearly drawn by the author. Bill Flockhart has a knack of drawing characters in just the right level of detail. He shows the human side of characters on both sides of the story, combined with a strong storyline which has led to a great book with action, emotion and suspense.

If you are looking for a book to fly through with strong characters then this is a must-consider.  I can’t wait to see if Bill Flockhart writes a second.

Ryan received a free digital copy of Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. The above review is his own unbiased opinion.

Operation Large Scotch: O.L.S. by Bill Flockhart was published in paperback and ebook formats on 11th December 2017 (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.com |

about-the-author3

bill-flockhart‘Operation Large Scotch’ is my first book and at my age (71) possibly my last. it reflects on my life in many respects having worked in a distillery in my early working life before digressing into financial services.

My interests are sport (especially golf, swimming and basketball, (the latter through my two sons who played at international level) and current affairs in our ever changing world.

I have always enjoyed a challenge, which producing a book has certainly proved to be, but I would recommend writing to the retired population as it certainly keeps your brain active.

Two years after publishing ‘operation large scotch’ I am delighted to release my second novel ‘She’s Not a Lovely Girl’ which is a sequel to my first book. I only hope it gives everyone the pleasure ‘O.L.S.’ did judging by the favourable reviews it received.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: 17 Church Row by James Carol @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #17ChurchRow #damppebbles

17 Church Row: We all have darker instincts . . . (Paperback)

“Three years ago, Nikki and Ethan Rhodes suffered a devastating loss when their four-year-old daughter Grace was tragically killed in a road accident. Ethan, a radio personality, escapes into work, leaving Nikki to care for their remaining child, Bella, who hasn’t spoken since that day.

Seeking a fresh start, the family moves into a revolutionary new house designed by renowned architect, Catriona Fisher. The house features a state-of-the-art security system, along with every amenity you could dream of.

For the Rhodes’ this is a chance to finally pick up the pieces and get on with their lives in a place where they feel totally safe.

But what if 17 Church Row isn’t the safe haven that they think it is?”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop (one of the first two stops!) on the 17 Church Row blog tour. 17 Church Row is the latest release from the brilliant James Carol and it will be published in paperback later this week. I received a free eARC of 17 Church Row but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of James Carol’s writing. If Mr Carol writes it, you can guarantee I’ll be reading it as soon as humanly possible. His Jefferson Winter series is absolutely sublime and his standalone novels (of which 17 Church Row is one) are all thrilling, captivating reads. If you’ve never picked up a James Carol novel then you’re really, REALLY missing out.

Nikki Rhodes took her eyes off her twin daughters for only a split second, and that was all it took for tragedy to strike. Nikki knows their lives have changed forever when she hears the screeching of tyres and sees the front door swinging wide open. Learning to rebuild their lives after the loss of Grace is the toughest thing they’ve had to face, but particularly for Bella – Grace’s twin sister – who hasn’t spoken since the accident. When Ethan suggests they move house, leaving behind the painful memories, Nikki doesn’t know what to do for the best. But radio DJ, Ethan has found the perfect house for them – 17 Church Row in Kensington. It’s the house of the future and architect, Catriona is looking to build many, many more. Having a media star like Ethan Rhodes move into her project is a gold mine. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity! 17 Church Row is a futuristic abode decked out with the latest in AI technology. The house is run by ‘Alice’ who can answer to your every whim and is always one step ahead of you. The pain of losing Grace will be with the family forever. Bella is their number one priority now and they have to do everything they can to make her life as happy and as fulfilled as possible. And there’s always the chance that this change of scene could be the catalyst to get Bella to talk again. But what if their new safe haven isn’t as safe and secure as they believe…?

If memory serves I’ve said this before: Woah! If this is the future then I’m locking myself in a library and NEVER, EVER leaving! The last time I said that it was about self-driving cars. I think it’s fair to say I feel the same about self-driving houses! Oh.My.Goodness. This futuristic thriller is one scary read and I’m quite happy in my very normal, very non-AI house – thank you very much! If you had presented 17 Church Row to be me before I read this book I would have bitten your hand off. Modern, sleek, visually stunning. Carol paints a beautiful aesthetic with his words. But I’ve read the book. You can keep your all-singing, all-dancing house!

This is an entertaining thriller and with some interesting characters. I really felt for Nikki who was punishing herself on a daily basis over her daughter’s death. To want to escape the memories but at the same time not feel able to leave them behind, what a tough decision to make. And poor little Bella broke my heart on a number of occasions. I did feel one of the characters was only part of the story to move the plot along – a bit like being a red jerseyed ensign about to embark on your first mission with Captain James T. Kirk to an alien planet. You’ve had a few lines, played a small part and now we all know you’re going to get in in the neck! It wasn’t a huge surprise for me when something questionable happened to them. The architect, Catriona, is also super creepy…yuck!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would recommend all of James Carol’s books as they are all brilliant. If you’re in the mood for something a little bit different then this is the book for you. It’s quite terrifying to think this is how we could be living in the future. Quite an eye-opener. And yes, my Alexa is now in the bin….

I chose to read and review an eARC of 17 Church Row. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

17 Church Row by James Carol was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 14th November and is available in 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.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

James Carol.png

about-the-author3

James+Carol+(head+and+shoulders)

James Carol was born in Scotland, where he spent his early years. He moved to England in the eighties and has lived there ever since. At various times he has worked as a guitarist, sound engineer, guitar tutor, journalist, and a horse riding instructor.

Broken Dolls, the first Jefferson Winter thriller, was published in 2014 and has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into twelve languages. This was followed by three other Jefferson Winter thrillers and a trilogy of novellas set during Winter’s FBI days.

James has also written three standalone thrillers. The first of these, The Killing Game was shortlisted for a CWA Ian Fleming Dagger award.

When he’s not writing, James can usually be found in his recording studio where he is currently writing and recording the first Dream Nation album.

James lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, two children, a dog and a horse.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #GuestReview: Without Rules by Andrew Field (@AFwithoutrules) @cobaltdinosaur #WithoutRules

Without Rules cover.jpg“When a professional hitman turns up at Candy’s World to hide, China Mackie discovers her plan to flee from her abusive father has tragically backfired.

A gruesome bloodbath has left four people dead on the streets of a northern city centre on a cold wet Sunday morning.

China knows she’s next to die.

Unless she is more ruthless than everyone else.

She must improvise fast. Seduce her father’s assassin. Plead her case so he helps her escape in a fight to the death where rules don’t matter but the consequences do.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and my guest reviewer’s stop on the Without Rules blog blitz.  My guest reviewer, should you not be familiar with him, is my dear husband Ryan.  Having been a passionate reader when we first met, Ryan is a reluctant reader these days.  So I try and reignite his love of literature by encouraging him to occasionally guest review on the blog.  What sickens me is that he’s actually better at review writing than me! (Not reading, mind.  I am the MASTER of the house at reading!) I’m not here really, a mere figment of your imagination.  It’s all about Ryan and what he thought of Without Rules by Andrew Field…

Sometimes I don’t want to read….Now I admit that is not a usual way to start a book review and Mr Field is probably slightly worried!  But after a day of work, playing with the kids and sorting out a few things in the house I don’t really want to sit down and concentrate on a book.  Without Rules by Andrew Field is probably exactly what I have been needing on evenings like this.  A fast-paced story which sharply cuts between scenes and a story being told from multiple character viewpoints.  This is a story that sucks you in and washes over you without any undue effort from the reader.

Without Rules is unusual for me in that I didn’t really like any of the characters, there was little of your classic all good all action hero, rather we had characters with back stories which became clear throughout the story moving between hero, anti-hero and anti-anti-hero (is that a thing?).  The books main characters Jak and China are thrown together through circumstance at the start of the book, both have motives that are unclear at that stage but as the book develops we see the story unfold for both of them.  Scenes through their own eyes, as well as those of the police and others around them bring multiple story lines together as the story moves along and both have to make decisions that will yield consequences for many.

I would love to read short stories by Andrew Field as he is not afraid to take a character in an unexpected direction at a paragraphs notice. He cleverly moves your feelings towards the characters through the situations they find themselves in and your evolving understanding of their history.  Is it realistic?  Not overly but it has that Jack Reacher style adventure and exuberance to it that makes you go with it and enjoy the ride.   As the blurb says this storle y is not about rules, only consequences!

Would I recommend this book?  I would, this was everything it should be fun, absorbing with an interesting cast of characters who will continually surprise you!

4 stars

Told you. Better at writing reviews than me.  This review really makes me want to read Without Rules!

Without Rules by Andrew Field was published in the UK by Boomslang on 15th October 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook 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 | BookDepository | Goodreads |

without rules

about-the-author3

Andrew Field new photo.jpgAndrew Field has spent most of his working life as a PR and marketing consultant helping raise the profiles of others. Now the roles are reversed as he steps into the spotlight as the author of Without Rules, a crime thriller about vulnerable people forced to do bad things to escape evil people. “Authors, by the nature of what they do, are relatively introverted. They work in isolation. Inhabit imaginary worlds of their own creation. They can spend ages staring at a computer screen bringing their characters to life. Then they have to become a different person to promote their work and market themselves. Writing is the easy part compared to the marketing, especially when crime fiction has become a very crowded marketplace.”

“From my point of view, professional PR people operate best from behind the scenes. They should never become the story otherwise you’re deflecting attention away from the messages you’re trying to communicate,” says Andrew. “The New Labour experiment, for example, was doomed the minute Tony Blair’s media guru Alistair Campbell generated his own headlines. Bragged about ‘spin’.  Believed his own hype. Ditto Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure as the shortest-serving White House communications director in history – and his “off the record” expletive-ridden rant about his colleagues in Donald Trump’s White House.”

As a PR, Andrew memorably handled Boddingtons Bitter during its “Cream of Manchester” heyday, developing innovative sports and cultural media partnerships with newspapers and TV stations for the beer brand – but also PR’d a fashion entrepreneur who was a convicted armed bank robber and a property developer who did eighteen months prison time for blackmail. “Having a diverse range of clients keeps it interesting. They are all different but the core requirement is to be seen as a believable and trusted information source ready to take advantage of PR opportunities as and when they arise. As a novelist, you look to do exactly the same with your work and yourself.”

“The catalyst for Without Rules was a friend testifying against her father in an abuse case. Although the prosecution was successful, she can never really escape the consequences of what happened to her. She has to find a way of coping for the rest of her life while he was sentenced to two and half years.”

Andrew says crime fiction has a duty to try and educate and as well as entertain. “The memorable books are the ones you’re still thinking about 48-hours after you finished reading.”

Andrew lives, works and plays in Manchester, England, Europe, with his partner, Catherine. He has been a trade journalist in Southampton in his youth. He owned a PR agency in the nineties and early noughties and is now an independent PR, marketing and publishing consultant looking forward to the challenge of becoming the story with the publication of Without Rules.

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