#BlogTour | #BookReview: Past Echoes by Graham Smith (@GrahamSmith1972) @Bloodhoundbook #PastEchoes

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“Jake Boulder is back and he’s tasked with tracking down a man due to inherit a small fortune. Not only that, he must also reveal the secret which forced a young woman to flee New York some forty years ago. The evidence he needs is hidden in a safety deposit box and while Boulder has the key, the only clue he has for box’s location is a series of numbers etched onto the key and a mysterious list of names.

Boulder has his work cut out since he must also locate his estranged father, Cameron MacDonald, so that Cameron can donate bone marrow to Boulder’s half-brother John.

In a game of cat and mouse, he must solve the case and find the two men without alerting those who control New York’s underworld.

Can Boulder survive against both the mafia and a professional hitman, in what is his toughest case yet?”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the Past Echoes blog blitz. Past Echoes is the third book in the Jake Boulder series, is written by Graham Smith and was published by Bloodhound Books on 1st February 2018. I am such a fan of this series. If you want an entertaining, action-packed read then pick up a Jake Boulder thriller. Just to prove my point, here are my reviews of book one Watching the Bodies and book two The Kindred Killers.

I was eagerly anticipating book three in the series, particularly as The Kindred Killers finished on such an explosive note. And oh boy, I was not disappointed. In my opinion, this is by far the best Jake Boulder book in the series so far. I was completely entranced from start to finish. The main plot point in Past Echoes reveals a more emotional side to this lean, mean, fighting machine. And, in a strange way, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Boulder’s softer side. Although it didn’t last very long and he was back to planning revenge missions and beating the ‘you know what’ out of people in no time!

Past Echoes starts by referring back to the events of The Kindred Killers. I asked myself whether this would hinder a new reader to the series, diving straight in with book three. It always helps when you start at the beginning of a series but I am well known for accidentally (sometimes on purpose *snigger*) starting part way through. My advice is, and will always be, start at the beginning. Watch the characters grow, find out their backstory. Don’t MISS anything. But, saying that, Past Echoes ‘could’ be read as a standalone but only because Smith does an excellent job of filling in the gaps for new readers. Although I can guarantee, if this is the first Jake Boulder book you pick up, you WILL want to read the first two in the series as well. Guaranteed!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the way the author sets up the story so you think it’s going to go in one particular direction. He then completely wrong-foots you so you’re suddenly on this unexpected, intense and utterly thrilling rollercoaster ride of terror and reading delight. I loved it.

Before I sign off I would like to mention one more thing. The inclusion of Cameron MacDonald, Boulder’s estranged father. A stroke of genius on the author’s part because if you didn’t love Boulder before, once you’ve met his @r5e of a father, you won’t be able to stop yourself from feeling a little for him. Cameron is the lowest of the low. He plays a key role in Past Echoes but I hope this is the last we see of him for some time. I always enjoy it when an author includes a character for us readers to hate. In this case, Cameron fits the bill perfectly. The tension, the unpleasantness MacDonald brings. Oooh, he’s a nasty piece of work…

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. Plus book one, plus book two. Buy the set, they’re superbly gripping with a lead character you can’t help but love. Easily Smith’s best Jake Boulder novel! I couldn’t tell whether Boulder was going to live, or die in a blaze of burning bullets and that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Raw, evocative and deliciously intense. I loved it!

Five out of five stars.

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

Past Echoes by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 1st February 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Graham Smith Author Pic

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and two novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.

2018 will be a busy year for Graham as he has the third Jake Boulder being published and a Harry Evans novel and novella.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009.

Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview | #Giveaway: If I Die Before I Wake by @EmilyKoch | @HarvillSecker @vintagebooks

if I die before i wake.jpg“HOW DO YOU SOLVE YOUR OWN MURDER?

Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen.

But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger. 

As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.

A stunning edge-of-your-seat debut novel with an unforgettable narrator.”

I finished reading If I Die Before I Wake a few days ago and I’m still bereft, still heartbroken.  This haunting debut thriller will stay with me for some time, but do you know what? I nearly gave up on it! I’m not really one for discarding books part way through.  Actually, I can probably count the number of books I have ‘DNF’d’ on one hand.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I am a) a crime fiction fan, b) I like character driven fiction and c) I like excitement and action, thrills and spills.  When I started reading If I Die Before I Wake I suddenly started to question how the author was going to keep the story going for 320 pages.  Alex, our main character, is in a coma and has been for a significant amount of time (18 months-ish).  He has spells of being alert, able to see a little, able to smell, able to hear, able to taste the rubber of a gloved hand sponging out his mouth and able to feel.  But he can’t move, can’t communicate.  I didn’t instantly warm to Alex, or his girlfriend, Bea.  As you would expect, the first few chapters of this book paint Alex’s rather dire situation for the reader.  Alex is in a coma.  His girlfriend visits, his family visits, his best mate visits.  I was questioning whether it was worth continuing with Alex’s tale.  He’d been in a coma for so long I couldn’t see him waking up anytime soon.  What was going to happen?  WELL!  Let me tell you something.  I persevered and oh my gosh, I am so glad I did.

You see, I fell a little bit in love with Alex.  Koch has created some astonishingly good characters in If I Die Before I Wake.  I’m not an emotional reader normally. I want blood, guts and gore, shedloads of action and a killer hook (not much to ask for, is it?).  Since I started damppebbles I have cried twice whilst reading.  It was twice, make that three times now.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it was ugly crying.  Snotty, sobby, traumatised, hiccuppy, heartbroken crying.  Wow!  Just WOW!!  And to think I nearly put this book down.  By the time I turned the last page there was so much I loved about this novel.  It wasn’t just Alex I had fallen in love with.  His poor dad made my heart melt, and despite being a bit of a nightmare, I also warmed to his sister, Philippa.

I’m excited to see what author Emily Koch gives us readers next.  If this is the quality of her writing then us bookish types are in for a real treat!

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely! Yes, it’s a thrilling read which is incredibly clever as the main character never leaves his hospital bed (!) but it’s also a highly emotional tale which broke my heart.  The author has excelled at making her reader feel the frustration Alex suffers on a daily basis.  Absolutely flipping brilliant and a contender for my ‘books of 2018’ list!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of If I Die Before I Wake.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

I was very lucky to receive two copies of If I Die Before I Wake from the publisher.  Rather than have the spare sat on my bookshelf unread and unloved let’s have a giveaway!  To be in with a chance to win one hardback copy of If I Die Before I Wake all you have to do is retweet the pinned tweet on my twitter profile and tag a friend you think would like to read this book.  Retweet and tag, it’s that easy.  UK/IRE only I’m afraid as it’s a hardback copy and will cost too much to send overseas.  Giveaway closes on Saturday 20th January 2018 at midday (GMT).  The winner will need to provide me with their address and there is no cash or eBook alternative.  Good luck!

If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 11th January 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (the following Amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.comWaterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

Emily Koch - pic by Barbara Evripidou

I am an author and journalist living in Bristol, UK, and am represented by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge and White. My debut novel If I Die Before I Wake is out now, published by Harvill Secker, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Working with writer Alison Powell I am also a founding member of WriteClub – which runs regular creative writing events in Bristol. Check us out – whether you’re a published author or the last thing you wrote was a shopping list.

Email me at mail@emilykoch.co.uk with any queries.

You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Author image and bio © https://emilykoch.co.uk/

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker (@Bookwalter) @bookouture

Keep-Her-Safe-Kindle.jpg“How far would you go to protect your child?

Maggie’s daughter Penny is her whole world… and she’d do anything to protect her. So when Maggie wakes one night to find a strange woman in her home, she runs to lock herself in her bedroom with her child. But Maggie knows why she’s come… 

Someone has been targeting mothers and offering them a choice: do as he says or their child disappears. This stranger in her home has until dawn to follow his orders… but Maggie too has the ‘choice’ to make. Can she put the pieces together to stop the cycle before her time is up?

An edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep you guessing until the last page. Perfect for fans of Adam Croft and Tess Gerritsen.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my stop on the Keep Her Safe blog tour.  Keep Her Safe is written by Richard Parker and is the third of Parker’s books published by the mighty Bookouture.  I am a great fan of Richard Parker’s writing having previously read and reviewed his other two Bookouture releases, HIDE AND SEEK and FOLLOW YOU.  I loved Follow You so much, it made it onto my Top Ten Books of 2017.

So, with this in mind, I was excited to make a start on Keep Her Safe.  Really, REALLY flipping excited.  And what a book!  What an absolutely brilliant hook!  Richard Parker has done it again, he’s created the stuff nightmares are made of.

Having sat here for 10 minutes staring at a fairly empty screen I have realised that this is going to be a hard review to write.  Not because I didn’t enjoy the book (I loved the book!) but because I don’t want to be the one dishing out spoilers left, right and centre.  There are things not mentioned in the blurb above which are key to the storyline.  Now I could bring them into my review but that seems totally unfair to you, the reader.  So I’m going to be as vague as possible and say that the impossible situation Parker’s characters get themselves into was the killer hook for me, it was everything and made me fall head over heels in love with this book!  Where Parker’s ideas come from, I would LOVE to know.  It really is the stuff of nightmares.

The beginning is shocking, dark and quite disturbing.  It made me think, ‘what if…?’.  The end took me to places I never expected it to.  It comes like a bolt out of the blue and knocks you sideways.  I promise you won’t see it coming.  I have to be 100% honest at this point and confess that at times, during the middle section, I did find my attention drifting a little.  There was lots of action but the initial hook had been blunted a little and the focus of the story had shifted elsewhere.  Still a terrific piece of writing but after the intense, high drama of the opening chapters, I guess I wanted more of that and less of the ‘comrades joining together against a common enemy’ (all very cloak and dagger but I’m trying to be vague, hahaha).  The spikiness of the story was suddenly less…spiky.  I liked the spikiness, I would have liked a little more spike in the main body of the story.  I’ll shut up now….

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!  It’s brilliant and the slightly slower middle section doesn’t change my opinion of that.  If you want a book that will, in parts, leave you breathless with shock then this is the one.  Totally gripping, very unexpected and leaves you asking yourself, ‘what would I do?’.  Another BRILLIANT thriller from the pen of Richard Parker.  I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next!

Five stars out of five.

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

Keep Her Safe by Richard Parker was published in the UK by Bookouture on 11th January 2018 and is available in eBook format (the following amazon links are affiliate links) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author3

RichardParkerPicRichard Parker was formerly a TV script writer, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning twisted standalone thrillers.

KEEP HER SAFE is the latest book to be published by Bookouture on January 11th 2018.

HIDE AND SEEK was his fifth book published in August 2017.

FOLLOW YOU was his fourth psychological thriller. Reviewers are saying it’s Bookouture’s darkest crime novel to date.

STALK ME was his third and rode high in the UK and US charts.

SCARE ME was his second. Hollywood movie rights have been acquired by major US studio, Relativity Media. Star of PRISON BREAK and screenwriter of dark horror thriller STOKER, Wentworth Miller, has written the big screen adaptation.

STOP ME, Richard’s darkly fiendish debut, was shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Hydra by Matt Wesolowski (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks

Hydra LATEST COVER .jpg“One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess… Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.”

It is my pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the Hydra blog tour which I share with one of my very favourite bookish people, the incredible Liz over at Liz Loves Books.  If you haven’t discovered Liz’s blog yet then you must!  Hydra is the second book from the pen of author Matt Wesolowski to be published by Orenda Books.  Wesolowski’s Orenda debut, Six Stories, absolutely blew my mind last year and took it’s place proudly on my top ten (*mumble, mumble* may have been twelve) books of the year.  If you need a reminder, or if you missed my review the first time then please click HERE.  I think it’s fair to say I LOVED Six Stories.

So I was strangely apprehensive (and of course, excited!) starting Hydra.  I knew before turning the first page that the story was in a similar vein to Six Stories.  If you haven’t experienced the incredible Six Stories (you really should get yourself a copy) then let me explain.  Six Stories is a series of podcasts hosted by Scott King.  King rakes over cold cases – not to necessarily solve the mystery but to encourage new discussion and debate.  King provides his listeners with the details of a particular case but from six different standpoints.  Six different viewpoints all bringing that little bit of extra information to the front, fleshing it out for his listeners.

The focus of King’s latest investigation is the Macleod Massacre of 2014.  If there’s one way for a book to get its hook into me then that is to mention a blood-soaked spree.  I know, I’m strange.  But I’ve never shied away from the fact that I like blood, guts and gore in my books.  The reader gets so much more than that though (and it really isn’t all that gory, I promise).  This is not a book about solving a murder case – we know ‘whodunnit’ and it was Arla Macleod – it’s all about the WHY.  Why did Arla kill her family that day?  Why did she change so dramatically?  What was the cause?  And if like me, you don’t see the incredibly clever twist coming then I can guarantee it will be a revelation.  Wow!

If there is one thing Wesolowski excels at, it’s giving his reader chills.  Hydra, like its predecessor, did an excellent job of making me feel nervous and apprehensive.  The author is a master at creating a scene and dropping you slap, bang right in the action.  You live the moment with the characters which for me added extra eerieness and I was completely absorbed in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.  Incredibly atmospheric, perfectly eerie, I absolutely loved Hydra.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely, without a doubt.  Wesolowski is one of my very favourite authors.  He writes in a totally different, exciting and original way and I love to read his books.  I will say this though, Hydra is absolutely brilliant but I did prefer Six Stories.  There are many reviewers out there saying that this book is Wesolowski’s best yet, but I have to disagree.  It’s still better than MANY other books I have read in the past 12 months but Six Stories will always have a special place in my heart.  In fact, if you’re picking up a copy of Hydra then add a copy of Six Stories whilst you’re at it.  You won’t regret it.

An easy five out of five stars.

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

Hydra by Matt Wesolowski was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th January 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Matt W Picture 1 (1).jpgMatt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

Author Links:Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Ragdoll by Daniel Cole (@Daniel_P_Cole) @TrapezeBooks

ragdoll.jpg“A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes & Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?”

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole is a book which has been sat on my bookshelf for some time now giving me the eye.  I have been desperate to read this intriguing tale for such a long time, and I have finally managed to do so!  Let’s face it, regular readers of the blog will know that I like my crime fiction with lots of bodies and blood.  In fact, the gorier, the better.  So on hearing that the killer creates a ragdoll made of severed limbs and various other body parts….well, there was no way I could pass this one by!

Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes is a rather notorious figure in the MET.  His career hit an all-time low during the trial of London’s most feared serial killer, The Cremation Killer.  After taking several years to himself Wolf is back in the midst of the action and facing down a new killer.  Except this one has provided a list of the intended victims and the dates they will die, alongside a macabre ragdoll which, coincidentally, points with a long-dead finger to Wolf’s newly leased apartment.  Wolf and his former partner, Detective Emily Baxter are on the case but will they be able to save the victims before it’s too late…?

I really wanted to like both Wolf and Emily Baxter but I’m afraid neither managed to provoke much of a reaction in me, I neither liked them or loathed them.  Out of the two characters, Emily Baxter was the harder to like as she came across as quite needy at times and her desire to be more than colleagues with Wolf was quite stomach churning.  But that’s me, I would happily go without a romantic interest in the books I read for, well, all eternity if I could.  Fawning over a bloke, particularly a bloke like Wolf, made her feel quite cringe-worthy to me.  This may be due to Ragdoll being the first book in the series.  There have been several occasions before where I haven’t like the lead characters in book one, only to warm to them as the series progresses.  I’m excited to see what Cole is planning next, and the good news is we don’t have to wait long.  Hangman, the second Ragdoll book, will be published in March 2018!

What I absolutely loved and what I have to commend the author on, is the fabulously inventive and original ways in which he killed off a number of the characters.  Reading this book and discovering how the next murder was carried out was like catnip to me.  I had to carry on reading, I became quite feverous wanting to know what ingenious way the killer was going to strike next.  Absolutely blinking brilliant from start to finish and I couldn’t stop reading.  I also enjoyed how Cole linked the past and the present, making sure Wolf was fully aware that he was involved in this process, whether he liked it or not!

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, I would.  This is a must read if you’re a fan of grisly crime fiction (a bit like me really!).  I can’t wait to see where Cole will take his characters next, particularly with that chilling last line of Ragdoll.  Incredibly compelling, highly inventive and full of surprises.  I very much enjoyed Ragdoll.

Four out of five stars.

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 19th October 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (the following Amazon links are affiliate links)
| amazon.co.ukamazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

daniel cole

Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer, and most recently for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Ragdoll is his first novel. He lives in Bournemouth, England.

Author Links: Twitter |

#BookReview | #Giveaway: All The Wicked Girls by @WhittyAuthor @BonnierZaffre @1stMondayCrime

all the wicked girls“Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.

Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .”

Wowsers!  If you’re looking for a deeply emotive, delightfully intense and deliciously dark thriller then congratulations good reader, you have just found it.  There are many books which create a buzz.  Some deserve that hype, others…..don’t so much.  What works for Ant* doesn’t necessarily work for Dec*, you get my point I’m sure.  So I was looking forward to reading All The Wicked Girls but I felt strangely nervous too.  Would I ‘get’ this book like other readers have?  Would I fall under its spell when many popular books leave me feeling cold?  Well, yes, of course I would because this book is pure literary magic.

And to kick December off with a bang, I am giving away a copy of All The Wicked Girls to one lucky UK winner.  But more about that later…

Grace, Alabama is a small God-fearing town where teenage twin sisters Summer and Raine Ryan live.  As sisters go, the two girls couldn’t be more different.  Summer is popular and studious, whereas Raine….isn’t.  The town of Grace borders Briar County which is suffering its own living nightmare.  Young, church-going girls are being snatched by ‘The Bird’.  Town legend claims ‘The Bird’ isn’t entirely human.  All that is known for sure is that the police have so far failed to capture the creature.  Then Summer Ryan goes missing leaving only a note behind, which raises even more questions.  Is Summer ‘The Bird’s latest victim?  And what shocking secrets will Raine unearth as she starts her own investigation into Summer’s disappearance? And most importantly, will she ever find her sister alive?

If you’re a fan of the character-driven novel (like me!) then you must get yourself a copy of All The Wicked Girls.  Whitaker’s characters are exquisite, beautiful things full of heart and soul.  The reader is pulled into their world where fear reigns; fear of God, fear of the church, fear of ‘The Bird’ and fear of themselves.  I fell a little bit in love with two of the characters, Noah and Purv, who battle alongside Raine in the search for the truth.  Raine was also a very intriguing character but she’s a little overshadowed by Noah and Purv, her two sidekicks, who shine from the page.  Supporting these three is a cast of incredibly well-written, fully formed and perfectly individual characters.  Chief Black who struggles with a drug and alcohol problem (as well as his past failures), Samson with his unusual looks and peculiar behaviour, the Ryan brothers who stake out Chief Black’s HQ putting on the pressure with the imminent threat of violence, Pastor Bobby and his wife, Savannah – their marriage falling apart while both drown in their own private grief following the tragic loss of their young son.  Such a strong, wonderfully crafted collection of interesting people that I struggled to put this book down.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  This is an emotionally intense thriller which will appeal to so many readers.  Whitaker’s writing is a beautiful thing and I couldn’t get enough of his strong, striking imagery and his captivating prose.  I want more, please.  And soon.  Dark, emotional, unnerving and engrossing.  Superb stuff!

Five out of five stars.

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

Chris Whitaker will be appearing at December’s First Monday Crime event alongside Louise Jensen, Susi Holliday and Mel McGrath.  All expertly moderated by Claire McGowan.  The event takes place on Monday 4th December, 6.30pm at City University, College Building, A130.  Click HERE to book your FREE ticket.  Plus, because it’s December and we’re all starting to feel jolly festive, there will be extra fun and frivolities in store!  Check out the First Monday Crime website for more information.

Giveaway:
To be in with a chance of winning a BRAND NEW, unread ARC of All The Wicked Girls click on the following Rafflecopter link and follow the instructions.  Open to UK and ROI residents only due to postage costs.  Only one winner will be selected.  They will need to provide their postal address to enable me to send their book.  There are no cash alternatives and the giveaway ends at midnight on Tuesday 5th December (GMT).  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker was published in the UK by Zaffre on 24th August 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

*Ant & Dec
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about the author3

chris whitaker.jpgChris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger. Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, was published in August 2017. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Author Links:Twitter |

#BookReview: Final Girls by Riley Sager (@riley_sager) @EburyPublishing

final girls.jpg“FIRST THERE WERE THREE

The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.

THEN THERE WERE TWO

But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or…

CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?

All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.”

I am feeling quite giddy today.  Giddy because it’s been a long time since a book has resonated with me quite like the mighty Final Girls did.  Having recently turned the last page I feel drained, I feel bereft, I feel strangely empowered, I want to shout from the rooftops exactly how much I enjoyed reading this incredible piece of fiction.  I think it’s fair to say I LOVED Final Girls by Riley Sager!

From the moment I saw that cover, read the blurb and read a couple of early reviews I knew this was going to be a new favourite read.  In a very egotistical way, it feels as though it was written just for me.  I say that because it’s everything I WANT in a book.  You know that age-old advice to wannabe authors?  They say write the book YOU would want to read?  Well, I’m afraid that won’t be happening for me because this is the book I want to read and it’s been written!  I actually feel envious of those that haven’t  read Final Girls yet – I would give almost anything to be able to read this book for the first time again!

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl.  Not by choice, no one chooses to be a Final Girl.  There are two other women who lay claim to the title, thanks to two separate massacres several years apart.  Quincy is the newest addition to the exclusive little group and the most reluctant to adopt the title.  She would rather forget everything that happened to her and her friends that fateful night in the woods.  She barely remembers what happened anyway thanks to selective memory loss, and that’s just fine by her!  When the original Final Girl, Lisa Milner, turns up dead in an apparent suicide bid, Quincy is stunned.  She cannot understand why Lisa would take her own life after everything she survived at her sorority house in Indiana.  She’s even more shocked when elusive, mysterious Samantha Boyd – the only other remaining Final Girl shows up at her apartment.  Having hidden from her family and, well, life for years now Quincy cannot understand why Samantha all of a sudden wants to get to know her.  Has Lisa’s suicide brought the two survivors together? Or is it something else completely….?

Where to start..?!  I’m normally a fan of the characters in a book but this time it was more about the situation, for me.  Ninety percent of the time I really liked Quincy, but she also irritated me with her refusal to accept or even acknowledge her past.  For this reason I despised her attorney boyfriend, Jefferson, and Quincy’s negligent mother for encouraging her to look to the future, not the past and suggesting she try her best to be ‘normal’.  Samantha was mysterious from the moment she arrived in the story and I couldn’t for the life of me work out what she was up to.

I absolutely loved the flashback sections where the reader is transported to that night in the woods ten years ago.  There is the most wonderful horror movie vibe about the events of that night which made me feel nervous and apprehensive, despite having a fair idea of what was going to happen.  The pressure mounts as Quincy begins to slowly recall her memories, filling in some pretty frightening gaps and realising what secrets she has kept since that blood filled night.  It’s fantastically written and so very well done.  I loved it!

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  It’s a new favourite and one I will be driving everyone around me crazy with!  I’m so excited that this book exists – it’s perfect and I want everyone to read it so you can all see how awesome it is as well.  Brilliantly addictive, deliciously dark and everything I want in a book! Superb.

Five out of five stars.

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

Final Girls by Riley Sager was published in the UK by Ebury Press on 13th July 2017 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (with the paperback to follow in January 2018) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

Riley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS (called “The first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King), was published in 2017 in the United States, the United Kingdom and more than twenty countries around the world.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

 

#BlogTour #BookReview: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley (@detectivekubu) @OrendaBooks

51rRel5hflL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

“Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the A Death in the Family blog tour.  A Death in the Family is book 5 in the Detective Kubu series written by brilliant writing team, Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip).

It’s so good to have Kubu back!  At the start of August I had my first introduction to the very likeable Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu when I reviewed the wonderful Deadly Harvest.  If you missed that review, you can check it out by clicking here.  I was so looking forward to catching up with the man affectionately named ‘hippo’ once again and I was not disappointed!  It was a joy to read this book so soon after Deadly Harvest as the characters and the stunning setting of Botswana, were still fresh in my mind.

Assistant Superintendent Bengu receives a call in the middle of the night telling him that his father is dead.  A parent passing is bad enough but Kubu’s world crumbles when he discovers his father has been murdered.  He’s keen to start working on the case but Director Mabaku puts a halt on any involvement immediately.  Instead Kubu is tasked with investigating the apparent suicide of a government official.  Elsewhere the people of Shoshong are on the brink of catastrophe.  Having been offered jobs, the young men are keen to encourage the expansion of the local Chinese-run mine, but the Chief and Elders are more concerned about upholding tradition.  Anger starts to build and is set to erupt with explosive consequences.  Chock full of suspense, intrigue and corruption; will Kubu manage to find the cause of the official’s death, and more importantly, can he discover who killed his elderly father…?

I was surprisingly saddened by Kubu’s father’s death, having only met him once before in Deadly Harvest.  He seemed like such a kind gentle man that I found his murder quite unsettling (I’d read the back of the book and was fully expecting it – maybe I’m just a softie!).  I fell a little more in love with Kubu this time around, despite him being a relatively normal kind of guy and not my usual dark and dangerous detective.  You find out a lot more about him and what makes him tick in this book.  My feelings towards Samantha Khama haven’t changed one iota, I still dislike the woman!  She really doesn’t do herself any favours in my eyes. So I was rather pleased that Kubu was a touch colder towards her.

The plot was clever, intricate and interesting throughout.  My husband studied geology at university so we had a lovely chat about mining for minerals and rare earth elements (he chatted, I listened…I’m still none the wiser!).

I’m still amazed that two people can write so well together yet make it sound like one voice. Just goes to show what fantastic writer’s Mr Sears and Mr Trollip are!

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I think it works well as a standalone.  I, however, enjoyed it more because the characters and the landscapes were familiar to me.  A cleverly written police procedural which is full of mystery and suspense featuring some wonderful characters – what’s not to love?

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of A Death in the Family in exchange for an honest review.

A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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A1tzuKdGl0L._UX250_Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. The next in the Detective Kubu series is A Death in the Family, also published by Orenda Books.  Connect with Michael Stanley via Twitter @detectivekubu.

 

*Blog Tour: Guest Post* Ghost Target by Will Jordan (@WillJordan83)

Ghost Target crop small“From Marseille to Islamabad at breakneck pace… it’s kill or be killed for Ryan Drake and his team

Ryan Drake, once a decorated field operative, is now wanted for treason. On the run from the CIA’s corrupt Deputy Director Marcus Cain, he has spent the past six months in a remote French safehouse. Drake’s former life seems to be behind him, but the uneasy peace is shattered when Cain moves against him with startling force.

Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan is faltering in the wake of a devastating suicide attack. Cain though has a plan to find and destroy al-Qaeda’s top commanders. And nobody will stand in his way.

Backed into a corner, Drake turns to the deadly but unpredictable Anya – once Cain’s most promising agent, now his most bitter enemy. With tensions running high and their uneasy alliance threatening to tear itself apart, Drake’s hastily assembled team travels to Pakistan to intercept Cain.

With the fate of the War on Terror hanging in the balance, loyalties are tested and scores settled, as Drake embarks on the fight of his life. Only one side will survive…

From the bestselling author of Black List and Deception Game, Ghost Target is the sixth Ryan Drake thriller, and an incredible tale of deception, desperation, and ultimate betrayal.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Ghost Target blog tour.  Ghost Target, written by Will Jordan, is book six in the Ryan Drake series of novels and was published by Canelo last month (July 2016).  I haven’t come across Will’s main protagonist, Ryan Drake, before but I’m thrilled to have a copy of Ghost Target on my mountainous TBR so look out for a review in the near future.

Will has very kindly written a guest post for us today.  So, without further ado, I will hand you to over to Will:

Writing an ‘Espionage Epic’

I was on my Goodreads author page a couple of months ago, answering a reader’s question about my Ryan Drake series, when something rather interesting happened. He made an astute and, to me, quite startling observation:

“It helps that you’ve constructed what could be called an “espionage epic” of sorts, only instead of Gods and legendary warriors, you’ve got spies, killers and large intelligence services “

I’d never quite thought about it in those terms before, but the more I mulled over that comment the more sense it made. I had, in effect, taken an epic fantasy series structure and transported it into the present day thriller genre.

So how (and why) on earth did I end up doing such a thing? Well, even though I’d committed to writing a series of thrillers about covert operations, conspiracies and hidden conflicts, there were certain things that had come to bug me about this genre – the biggest of which was the reset button effect, where characters basically don’t change from book to book. Their experiences – good and bad – don’t affect them in a meaningful way. They just continue as they always have, bounding from one adventure to another.

This wasn’t for me at all, because it’s not how real people act. Real people are constantly changing and developing, growing and learning from the things they’ve seen and done. Traumatic experiences often leave deep marks that go far deeper than physical scars, while important lessons can inform the way they respond to future situations.

In short, I wanted a series based around real people.

A human hero
One of the things many reviewers have picked up about my main character Ryan Drake is that he’s surprisingly human and vulnerable compared to many heroes in the genre. He doesn’t have the brute strength and unflinching machismo of Jack Reacher, the fearless bravado of Dirk Pitt, the deadly skills of Jason Bourne. He can make mistakes, he can be misled, he doesn’t always have all the answers or know how to prevail in every situation.

Why did I make him this way? Because I knew his development as a character was going to unfold gradually over a series of many books. If I made him near perfect right from the start, where did I have left to take him? How could he change and grow and improve?

No, I wanted to take a different approach with my protagonist. In fact, I wanted to do the same with all of my recurring characters. Why? Because for me, that’s the joy of writing a series – depicting not just the action, but the effects of that action on those involved.

A tiny example is that during my first novel Redemption, Drake is disarmed and threatened by another series regular Anya (an older and more experienced operative). On the face of it, this seems to be nothing more than a brief, violent encounter between these two characters. However, two books later Drake is able to use exactly the same technique to overpower an opponent who’s got the drop on him. He’s learned from his experience, and is able to put those lessons to good use, gradually becoming stronger and more capable as a result.

By the time of Ghost Target, my sixth book, Drake has become tougher, more jaded and cynical than ever before. He’s more of a threat to his enemies than he’s ever been, but his experiences have left him questioning what he’s actually fighting for, what he and his companions have risked and sacrificed so much to achieve. It isn’t until the war comes very suddenly and violently back into his life that he realises there can be no walking away from the life he’s chosen.

Getting the balance right
“As someone who despairs at the fact the complex ‘serialized arc’ format is under attack by readers, I commend you for being an author not afraid to have a grander vision than just making stand-alone closed loop plots for your novels, and instead, make a sweeping tale with a unifying arc.”

The quote above pretty much sums up my entire thoughts on the Ryan Drake series.

For me, any story has to constantly feel like it’s building towards something. This applies both to individual novels, and also to the series they’re part of. Every book is a stepping stone on the path to the ultimate end of the series, the pieces of a larger puzzle coming together. Not only is there an overarching storyline to my books, but a complex backstory involving most of the major characters whose details are gradually expanded and fleshed out. Again, it’s important for me to show that every character isn’t just influenced by events in the present, but also that they have a life and a history all of their own.

Of course these books need to be able to stand on their own merits, to tell their own stories, and I always try to include enough background to put their events into context for first-time readers, but I believe the Ryan Drake series is a far more rewarding experience for those able to enjoy it in its entirety.

And when it’s finally over, well, I hope I can look back on it as something truly unique.

***

Thank you, Will. You’ve made me look forward to reading Ghost Target even more thanks to this fascinating post.  I may also need to add the first five Ryan Drake books to my wish list (just don’t tell my other half!).

Ghost Target by Will Jordan was published in the UK by Canelo on 4th July 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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unnamedWill Jordan is a British thriller writer, born in Fife, Scotland in 1983. His works to date include:

Redemption (Ryan Drake 1) – 2012
Sacrifice (Ryan Drake 2) – 2013
Betrayal (Ryan Drake 3) – 2014
Black List (Ryan Drake 4) – 2015
Deception Game (Ryan Drake 5) – 2015

After graduating high school he moved on to university, gaining an Honors Degree in Information Technology. To support himself during his degree he worked a number of part time jobs, one of which was as an extra in television and feature films. Cast in several action/war movies, he was put through military boot camp and weapons training in preparation.

Having always enjoyed writing, he used this experience as the basis for his first thriller, REDEMPTION. He was able to supplement this with visits to weapon ranges in America and Eastern Europe, as well as research trips to Washington DC, London and New York.

For his second thriller SACRIFICE, he was able to interview members of the British armed forces who had served tours in Afghanistan. His fifth novel in the Ryan Drake series, DECEPTION GAME, was released in November 2015.

He lives in Fife with his wife and two sons.

For more information on Will and the Ryan Drake series, go to www.willjordanbooks.com or follow him on Twitter at @WillJordan83

Will Jordan Tour.jpg

*Blog Tour: Extract* Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley

51eyx2Lz7mL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_“A young girl goes missing after getting into a car with a mysterious man. Soon after, a second girl disappears, and her devastated father, Witness, sets out to seek revenge.

As the trail goes cold, Samantha Khama – new recruit to the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department – suspects that the girl was killed for muti; traditional African medicine.

She enlists opera-loving wine connoisseur Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Benga to help her dig into the past. But as they begin to find a pattern, Kubu and Samantha suddenly find they are in a race against time…”

I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the Deadly Harvest blog tour.  Deadly Harvest, penned by writing team Michael Stanley (aka Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) is book four in the Detective Kubu series. If you are a regular visitor to damppebbles then you will know that I adore books with an international flavour. I don’t think I have visited Botswana before (in a literary sense, of course!) so I am incredibly excited to read Deadly Harvest in the not too distant future.  Here’s an extract to whet our appetites:

Chapter 1
As she walked home, Lesego’s head was full of Christmas. She knew her sister would save some of her tips and buy her a small present. Lesego had no money, so she was making Dikeledi a doily from scraps of red material left over from her needlework class. She was trying to embroider ‘Dikeledi’ across it in blue, but she’d made the first letters too big, and the whole word wouldn’t fit neatly. She frowned. She was going to have to start it again.

Lesego was carrying a cloth bag heavy with shopping and another with her schoolbooks and, even though it was a threadbare hand-medown, her school uniform was hot. She was already tired when she came to the steep hill leading to her aunt’s house in the upper section of Mochudi. She sighed, and her eyes followed the road upwards causing her to miss her footing. She stumbled, nearly dropping her shopping. The two potatoes she’d bought rolled from the top of the bag towards the road, and her shopping list, which had been shoved between them, fluttered into the weeds on the verge. She gave a small cry and scurried after the potatoes; her aunt would be furious if she lost anything. Just as she retrieved the fugitive vegetables, a red Volkswagen pulled over and stopped next to her. The driver leant across and opened the passenger door.

‘Hello, Lesego,’ he said. ‘Jump in. I’ll give you a lift up the hill.’
She gave a grateful smile and wrestled her shopping and school books into the car. ‘Hello, rra. It’s very kind of you. It’s a long hill.’
He smiled back, put the car into gear, and started on the road up. There was a click as he engaged the door locks.
Lesego took no notice. She looked around. ‘This isn’t your usual car.’
‘You’re very observant, Lesego. My car is at the garage. They loaned me this one while they service mine.’
She nodded, wondering about people who were so rich that they could just lend you a new car with no trouble. But she thought it would be rude to say that, so instead she pointed at her supplies.
‘I got everything my aunt wanted except the two sweet potatoes. They were too expensive – and old as well – so I bought two ordinary potatoes instead, which were cheap. Do you think she’ll be cross?’
‘I’m sure she won’t be. It was a sensible decision.’
She nodded, relieved.
When they reached the top of the hill, she turned to the driver.
‘You can drop me here if you like, rra. I can walk home now. Thank you.’
But the car started to move faster now that it was on the level.
‘Let’s go for a short drive first,’ he said.

So what do you think?  I’m hooked and that’s only the first paragraph or two of the first chapter!  I think it’s time for me to move Deadly Harvest to the top of my TBR.  Review to follow soon…

Many thanks to Christine at #northern #crime who helped me select such a fantastic extract to share with you all.

Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

Smith & Sons (11)unspecifiedMichael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.  Connect with Michael Stanley on Twitter @detectivekubu.

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