#BookReview: The Embalmer by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #TheEmbalmer #damppebbles

the embalmer“Has the ancient Egyptian cult of immortality resurfaced in Brighton?

When a freshly-mummified body is discovered at the Brighton Museum of Natural History, Detective Francis Sullivan is at a loss to identify the desiccated woman. But as Egyptian burial jars of body parts with cryptic messages attached start appearing, he realises he has a serial killer on his hands. Revenge, obsession and an ancient religion form a potent mix, unleashing a wave of terror throughout the city. Caught in a race against time while battling his own demons, Francis must fight to uncover the true identity of the Embalmer before it’s too late…”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Embalmer by Alison Belsham. The Embalmer is the third book in the Mullins and Sullivan Series and is published today (that’s 12th November 2020) by Trapeze Books in hardcover, digital and audio formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of The Embalmer but that has in no way influenced my review.

I really enjoy this brilliant detective series with a twist, and I look forward to each new book being published. I was excited to get my mitts on a copy of book three, The Embalmer, which I started as soon as it arrived on my Kindle (having recently read and reviewed the second book in the series, Her Last Breath, which was still very fresh in my mind).

DI Francis Sullivan is on the hunt for a psychopathic serial killer on the streets of Brighton. Discovering a mummified body and canopic jars containing human organs in the local Natural History Museum, DI Sullivan and his team have their work cut out to try and find their killer. But as the body count rises, it becomes clear that the killers motives are very personal indeed…

The Embalmer is another great addition to this wonderful series which not only features a young Detective Inspector out to prove himself but also a headstrong and fiery tattoo artist who can’t seem to avoid trouble, Marni Mullins. I love how this series is a little different to everything else available out there. All of the cases investigated so far by DI Sullivan have involved tattoos, to some degree or another (including this latest instalment). Personally, for me, that gives the series a bit of an edge. I will say however, that this is a series best read from the start. Previous cases are mentioned which could give a little too much away if you’re reading them out of order, and by starting with the first book you can see for yourself how the relationships develop between Belsham’s characters.

Sullivan’s frustration at not making progress in the case and watching the body count rise keeps the reader turning the pages from start to finish. I have a rather large soft spot for Sullivan and I really wanted him to succeed (whilst hoping there would be a few more grisly deaths on the cards – go figure!). Whilst Sullivan has problems of his own, Marni Mullins is also up to her neck in it. I really enjoyed how the two stories ran alongside each other. Marni Mullins was less involved in the investigation this time but that’s only because she has her hands full with her own disastrous life and those in it. I’ll be interested to see what the future holds for Marni.

The team around DI Sullivan continues to be a strong one. Which makes this the perfect time to mention new character, DC Gavin Albright, who is a very welcome addition. Sullivan’s Detective Sergeant, Rory Mackay, is still biting at his heels after he was looked over for promotion and Sullivan was appointed DI. There is a lot of tension there which I hope continues to bubble under the surface. And I won’t even bother mentioning one of the most loathsome characters I have met in a fictional setting (DCI Martin Bradshaw, if you’re wondering) Such a brilliantly written, despicable character. Grr!

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I would happily recommend The Embalmer along with the first two books in this series (starting with The Tattoo Thief if you can). I really enjoyed being back in Brighton with the team again. Belsham isn’t afraid to put her characters through the wringer and I flipping love that. With a tense and gripping finale this is another brilliant page turner from an author I will always read. Recommended.

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

The Embalmer by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 12th November 2020 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.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton @TrapezeBooks #Tattletale #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

tattletale“One day changes Jody’s life forever. She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags’s life forever. After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit…

Packed with twists and turns, this gripping psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.

Hello and welcome bookish friend to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventeenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton. Tattletale was published by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Tattletale but that has in no way influenced my review.

So this book was a whole lot darker than I ever expected it to be! I like to read fiction that errs on the dark side but with this book, I had to put it down and take a break a couple of times. It’s a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but it got under my skin. The way the best fiction does.

Mags returns to the UK following her brother’s horrific accident. He’s on life support and she’s been told to prepare for the worst. She goes to the hospital, meets her brother’s devastated fiancee for the first time and tries to come to terms with what has happened. Mags and Abe were never close as children. More like rivals really, out to get the other in trouble as much as possible with their controlling and aggressive father. The divide between the siblings seems too wide now though, and Mags wants to change that before it’s too late. So she moves into Abe’s flat, spends time with Jody, his fiancee, and starts to discover things she never knew about her brother. But not everything fits. Not everyone is telling Mags the truth. Then she discovers something which makes no sense at all. Who is lying to Mags and why…?

The chapters are broken down into sections and told from one of four perspectives; Jody – Abe’s fiancee, Mags, Mira – a neighbour, and an unknown young female narrator whose chapters are harrowing and difficult at times to read. This is probably the most appropriate point in my review to do something I don’t normally do, and that’s issue a warning. This book contains some very distressing scenes of sexual abuse and rape against children. For that reason, it’s not going to be for everyone.

The plot doesn’t stop moving from the moment you open the book and I was immediately sucked into the story. The opening packs a punch with its vivid imagery and intriguing characters. There’s a feeling though that you, as the reader, aren’t party to everything that’s going on, or gone on before. You’re missing…..’something’, but what is it? It’s a very intriguing start and the book had its hooks in me from then on. The wonderful sense of impending doom helped as well. I do love a sense of foreboding!

There isn’t a lot I can say about the characters without putting my foot in it so I won’t go into detail. But I will say, I couldn’t decide if I liked or loathed Mags. Mags is the character we spend the most time with and at times I think it may have been a bit of both. She was quite judgmental and superior for a large proportion of the book, which riled me. She rubbed me up the wrong way and I don’t think there was any going back from that point.

Would I recommend this book? I would yes, But please heed my warning about the abuse if that’s something you like to avoid in your fiction. It has its place in this novel but it’s a tough read. Tattletale is a multi-layered, intense read for fans of the psychological suspense genre and one I enjoyed. I did find the ending a smidge far-fetched but as I always say, if you can’t stretch the limits a little in fiction, when can you? I also saw one of the twists coming but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this book as there were plenty more twists and turns coming my way that did surprise me. Recommended.

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

Tattletale by Sarah J. Naughton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 21st September 2017 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 | Goodreads |

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Sarah J. Naughton

Sarah Naughton’s debut novel, The Hanged Man Rises, was shortlisted for the Costa children’s award. It was followed by a second young adult thriller, The Blood List. Her thrillers for adults, Tattletale and The Other Couple (Orion) are Amazon bestsellers. Sarah lives in London with her husband and sons.

#BookReview: Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham @TrapezeBooks #HerLastBreath #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her last breath“A gripping new detective series set in Brighton for readers who enjoy Peter James’ Roy Grace series.

When a young woman is attacked and left fighting to survive in hospital, the police are pulled into a race against time to save her life. But just 24 hours later, she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body.

And when another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.

His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of Francis’s lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my twelfth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham. Her Last Breath is the second book in the Detective Sullivan Thriller Series, was published by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 and is available in most formats. I chose to read and review a free eARC of Her Last Breath but that has in no way influenced my review.

I read The Tattoo Thief, the author’s debut, back in 2018 and really enjoyed it. It was a dark read with a really interesting, different lead detective. So I was keen to get stuck into Her Last Breath and oh boy, I loved it. The Tattoo Thief was good but Her Last Breath is an absolute corker!

A young woman is savagely attacked and left with horrific wounds on a beach in Brighton. The woman, Tash Brady, is the girlfriend of Alex Mullins – son of local tattoo artist Marni Mullins, who is still recovering from her recent run-in with the Tattoo Thief. Marni does the only thing she can think of to help Tash and that’s call a man she hoped to never see again, DI Francis Sullivan. Sullivan and the team are put on the case but days later, Tash tragically dies. Shortly after Tash’s death, another young woman is attacked. Her wounds match those of the first victim and Sullivan fears the worst. They have a serial killer on their hands. And one clear suspect – Marni’s son, Alex…

What a page-turner! I enjoyed the first book but found it hard to warm to the characters. That was not the case in Her Last Breath. I adored Marni’s complete faith in her son’s innocence and her dogged determination to prove it. Sullivan has matured and grown into his role and even though he has moments of doubt, he stands tall and leads the team from the front. DS Rory Mackay is still biting at his heels and wants Sullivan’s job, which he feels should be his anyway, but Sullivan’s increased confidence and leadership keeps him at bay. Other members of the team are equally as strong as Sullivan and Mackay, and add to the gripping storyline.

Killer tattoos. I mean, how fantastic is that?! This is the type of plot I devour. Something a little different, something that I haven’t seen before, something to keep me on the edge of my seat – which is exactly what Her Last Breath did. With many of the team focussing all of their resources on one suspect, looking to pin something – anything (!) – on Alex, they’re not looking at the bigger picture, which results in a second woman being attacked. Sullivan senses that Alex isn’t their man, but he’s got to prove it and find out who is. I loved the intense race against time to find the killer. The way the author makes you question Alex’s innocence. The heart-stopping, claustrophobic ending set in one of the most revolting locations I’ve ever read in a book was so brilliantly written – I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I loved Her Last Breath and I’m eagerly waiting for book three so I can be reunited with Sullivan and Marni again. And, of course, find out how tattoos will feature in the plot! I would strongly recommend that you read The Tattoo Thief first before Her Last Breath, as the case in the first book is mentioned and referred to often with lots of spoilers. Going in with some knowledge of past happenings will help. Her Last Breath is a gritty, captivating police procedural with a difference and I loved every minute I spent in Brighton with the team. Gripping, engaging and absolutely riveting. Highly recommended.

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

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 6th February 2020 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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alison belshamAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Endgame by Daniel Cole @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #Ragdoll #EndgameBook #damppebbles

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A locked room. A dead body. A secret that went to the grave.

When retired police officer Finlay Shaw is found dead in a locked room, everyone thinks it’s suicide. But disgraced detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes isn’t so sure.

Together with his former partner Detective Emily Baxter and private detective Edmunds, Wolf’s team begin to dig into Shaw’s early days on the beat. Was Shaw as innocent as he seemed? Or is there more to his past than he’d ever let on?

But not everyone wants Wolf back – and as his investigation draws him ever deeper into police corruption, it will not only be his career on the line – but the lives of those he holds closest as well…

The explosive new thriller from the Sunday Times and international bestseller, perfect for fans of Fiona Cummins and Helen Fields.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I am absolutely delighted to be one of two blogs kicking off the Endgame blog tour today. Endgame is the third and final book in the Ragdoll Trilogy written by Daniel Cole and will be published by Trapeze Books in hardcover, audio and ebook formats later this week on 5th September (with the paperback to follow in January 2020). I received a free eARC of Endgame from NetGalley but that has in no way influenced my review.

I am a huge fan of this author’s books. I really liked Ragdoll. I LOVED the second book, Hangman. And knowing this was a trilogy I was very keen to read book three. But also a little nervous too. What if it wasn’t as good as the first two books? What if a series I felt quite invested in didn’t deliver? What if it wasn’t all rounded-off perfectly and I was left feeling completely let down and dissatisfied? No pressure there then 😬! Excited but apprehensive. I needn’t have worried, this is an absolute blinder of a book and I loved it.

The first thing I must say is I can’t quite see this book working unless you have read the first and second books in the trilogy. There is a lot going on and an awful lot of history here which the author alludes to but doesn’t really go into any detail about. This is an exceptionally good set of books though so you’d be daft to not want to start at book one and see the journey with Wolf, Emily Baxter, Edmunds and the team through to the very end.

When the team’s loved and respected colleague, DS Finlay Shaw, is found in a locked room having allegedly committed suicide the team are devastated. Despite being one of London’s ‘most wanted’, Wolf makes an emotional return to grieve the loss of his friend and mentor…only to be arrested! But Wolf’s gift of the gab and his promise to dish the dirt on a notorious international criminal means he’s permitted to join the investigation into Shaw’s death, but with certain caveats in place (a curfew for example, which involves spending every night under lock and key at the local police station). Because the people who knew and loved Finlay Shaw the most don’t think he would have killed himself. But will the team’s digging into Shaw’s past lead them to discover something they’d rather not know…

I loved this book, I think I’ve said that before. But it’s true so it bears repeating. It’s a fitting end to a wonderful trilogy of books and I’ll be sad to say goodbye to these characters (but who knows what the future holds). I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t all that sure about Wolf and Emily after reading the first book. But oh my gosh, how my opinion has changed. The banter and familiarity between all the team (including ‘Lab Guy’) is just wonderful and really drew me into the story. The dark humour made me laugh out loud at points and at other points I found myself holding my breath.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would. But as I mentioned, it’s probably better to start with book one and make your way through the series in order. It’s a wonderful conclusion to a brilliant trilogy and no matter what Daniel Cole writes next, I will be making a point of reading it. I probably would have preferred a slightly ‘less perfect’ ending, something to appeal to my darker side, but that’s just me. Other readers will find the ending fitting and it finishes our time with these characters off nicely. A real page-turner of a novel with lots of really clever, laugh out loud moments. Highly recommended.

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

Endgame by Daniel Cole was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 5th September 2019 and is available in hardcover, 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 | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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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 |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (@AuthorSJBolton) @TrapezeBooks #TheCraftsman

the craftsman.jpg“Devoted father or merciless killer?
His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago? 
Or is there something much darker at play?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Craftsman blog tour.  Now some of you may be experiencing a spot of deja vu here but fret not, you’re not seeing double.  Yes, I have published my review for the EPIC The Craftsman before but that was to celebrate the release of the book in hardcover.  Now we’re back, still celebrating, but this time it’s for the paperback release.  New cover, same book, still an absolute MUST READ.

So without further ado, here (for the second time) is my review of one of my favourite reads of 2018 (it’s long, so make yourself comfy)…

Regular visitors to the blog will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for crime/horror crossover novels, which this most definitely is.  Thanks to social media I saw this book sent to a few lucky early readers at the start of the year and I kid you not, it arrived in its own flipping grave!  How incredible is that?!  I knew there and then that I had to read The Craftsman.  I was pretty much prepared to do ANYTHING to get my hands on a copy (including waiting very calmly and patiently for it to be published!).  So when I was asked to feature on the blog tour, there was no way on this earth that I could say no.

Strangely, and I still can’t quite believe it myself, this is the first book I have read by Sharon Bolton.  I have a copy of Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking on my TBR which I really must get around to.  I loved The Craftsman.  I was immediately drawn into a story that I could not pull myself away from.  Our main character, WPC Florence Lovelady, had my full attention from start to finish and I’m left wanting more.  What an intriguing, fascinating story and one that will stay with me for some time to come.

The book opens with a funeral.  A funeral with a difference as the mourners aren’t there to mourn, they want to prove to themselves that it’s true; Larry Glassbrook is finally dead.  Florence Lovelady, who was heavily involved in the hunt for Glassbrook after he murdered three local teenagers by burying them alive and was key to discovering Glassbrook’s identity, has returned to Sabden in Lancashire to attend the funeral.  Lovelady has been in regular communication with the convicted killer since he was imprisoned.  Glassbrook’s final message, delivered via a short cryptic message, makes Florence wonder whether the arrest, the horrors she experienced all those years ago back in the late sixties, were the doing of Larry Glassbrook or someone much more sinister…

I enjoyed many of the characters in The Craftsman.  But for me, it was ALL about the tough, plucky WPC Florence Lovelady.  It’s the late 1960s and Florence is the first woman to work for the Sabden Police Force.  She’s ‘just a young girl’ in their eyes so is consigned to tea making and typing duties, but she outshines every single other character in the book!  Florence is smart, gutsy and tenacious and tends to run rings around her male colleagues, even when she’s trying not to!  While the men are busy being misogynists, Florence is suggesting filming a re-enactment of the latest victim’s last movements.  While the men are twiddling their thumbs, Florence is creating charts and looking for patterns, searching for the elusive clue to break the case.  Unfortunately, her intelligence, her keen eye and her repeated bouts of good luck put her somewhere she doesn’t want to be.  In the spotlight as one of the main suspects.

Now, this isn’t your everyday serial killer novel.  Nor is it your traditional police procedural.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea because, at the heart of this story, there be witches.  Sabden, where the story is set, is at the foot of Pendle Hill which has a long history of witches and witch trials.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author has taken this long, dark history and used it to grow her character’s experience.  In essence, Florence becomes the focus of a cruel local witch hunt just because she’s more intelligent than her colleagues, more determined, more proactive,…and not a man.

There is so much more I want to tell you about this book.  I could go on for hours telling you about another favourite couple of characters; Daphne and Avril, and the wonderful sparkle they exude.  Oh, and I could tell you how much I enjoyed the main body of the story where the reader is transported to the late sixties (and how I couldn’t help but picture the odd scene from ‘Life on Mars’, the television programme).  This is where you get to meet some of the most misogynistic characters I have ever had the displeasure of encountering in a book.  I wanted to thump most of them.  Thank goodness times have changed!  But if I do continue telling you everything I loved then this will be the longest review I have ever written.  So instead, buy the book and find out the wonders of The Craftsman for yourself.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  It’s creepy, it’s tense and it’s full of witches!  Plus, I don’t know about you, but death by suffocation has always terrified me and I’m a terrible sufferer of claustrophobia.  Which made this book all the more frightening for me.  I loved it.  I love what the author has done with her story and her characters are an absolute delight.  Highly recommended.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 18th October 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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sharon boltonSharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

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

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham (@AlisonBelsham) @TrapezeBooks #TheTattooThief

the tattoo thief cover.jpg“A policeman on his first murder case
A tattoo artist with a deadly secret
And a twisted serial killer sharpening his blades to kill again…

When Brighton tattoo artist Marni Mullins discovers a flayed body, newly-promoted DI Francis Sullivan needs her help. There’s a serial killer at large, slicing tattoos from his victims’ bodies while they’re still alive. Marni knows the tattooing world like the back of her hand, but has her own reasons to distrust the police. So when she identifies the killer’s next target, will she tell Sullivan or go after the Tattoo Thief alone?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Tattoo Thief blog tour.  The Tattoo Thief is the debut novel from Alison Belsham and was published in paperback by Trapeze Books on 20th September 2018.  It is also one of my most eagerly anticipated reads of the year after I heard about it from fellow bloggers and bookish folk at Harrogate Crime Festival last year.  No pressure, eh?

If you’re a regular visitor to damppebbles.com then you will know that I like my reads to err on the darker side of fiction.  In fact, I would go as far as saying, the darker – the better, for me!  So I was immediately drawn to this book following the mention of ‘flaying’ in the blurb.  But there was more to it than that.  Yes, it sounded a little on the gruesome side but it is also about something that I find utterly fascinating.  Tattoos.  Now, I don’t have any tattoos, nor am I brave enough to go out and get one.  But I can’t help but be intrigued and find myself casually gazing at tattooed folk from afar, trying to work out what designs they’ve had permanently inked onto their bodies.  So in other words, this book absolutely sang out to me.

The Tattoo Thief is an unexpected, somewhat surprising mix.  Some parts were dripping in beautifully vivid descriptions of blood-soaked gore, the pain the victim suffers, the process the killer goes through flaying their victim and what happens next (read the book to find out what this is).  And then you have DI Francis Sullivan, a young DI in his late twenties who is purer than the driven snow.  A devout Catholic, a stickler for the rules and a complete goody-two-shoes who is tasked with investigating the terrifying spate of horrific murders to hit Brighton.  Out of his depth, much?  You bet he is.  Especially as his more senior and experienced DS is nipping at his heels.  Looking for the moment when he can knock DI Francis Sullivan from his wobbly perch and take his DI crown.  But I kind of liked that; a bit of ying and yang, a touch of light and dark.  It worked for me.

This was an enjoyable read but I found the characters hard to like (particularly DCI Bradshaw who is an @rse and unbelievably reckless!).  Even the unlucky Marni Mullins was difficult to warm to, although I really wanted to like her.  It’s not often that I come across a fellow diabetic in the novels I read so that did help…sort of.  Maybe I read too much crime fiction but on a number of occasions I wanted to shake Marni hard and scream ‘you’re going to do WHAT??’ in her face.  Crime fiction 101, lady!

Please don’t get me wrong.  This is a wonderful debut and a very gratifying read.  I’m also very much looking forward to Belsham’s next release which is published in 2019!  I absolutely love the idea behind this book.  This is the type of storyline I adore and Belsham has done a great job of bringing it to fruition.  I just found the twists a little obvious (but then I was looking for them because that’s the kind of annoying thing I do, grrrr!).

Would I recommend this book?  Yes, absolutely.  I am so pleased I read The Tattoo Thief.  It’s a wonderful debut, and I really enjoyed the light vs dark aspect (but I will always want it to be darker. It’s fine, I know I’m weird).  If you’re a little squeamish or nervous about graphic crime novels then this may not be the book for you (although I dare you to give it a go!).  An absolutely fascinating read.  Recommended.

Four out of five stars.

The Tattoo Thief by Alison Belsham was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 20th September 2018 and is available on paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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alison belsham.jpgAlison Belsham initially started writing with the ambition of becoming a screenwriter-and in 2000 was commended for her visual storytelling in the Orange Prize for Screenwriting. In 2001 she was shortlisted in a BBC Drama Writer competition. Life and children intervened but, switching to fiction, in 2009 her novel Domino was selected for the prestigious Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme. In 2016 she pitched her first crime novel, The Tattoo Thief, at the Pitch Perfect event at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival and was judged the winner. After signing with agent Jenny Brown, The Tattoo Thief was bought by Trapeze books and published in May, 2018.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

Author image and biog © http://www.alisonbelsham.com/

 

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (@AuthorSJBolton) @TrapezeBooks #TheCraftsman #HeWillComeForYou

the craftsman.jpg“Devoted father or merciless killer?

His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago? 
Or is there something much darker at play?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Craftsman blog tour.  The Craftsman is written by Sharon Bolton and was published by Trapeze Books last week, on 3rd May 2018.

Regular visitors to the blog will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for crime/horror crossover novels, which this most definitely is.  Thanks to social media I saw this book sent to a few lucky early readers at the start of the year and I kid you not, it arrived in its own flipping grave!  How incredible is that?!  I knew there and then that I had to read The Craftsman.  I was pretty much prepared to do ANYTHING to get my hands on a copy (including waiting very calmly and patiently for it to be published!).  So when I was asked to feature on the blog tour, there was no way on this earth that I could say no.

Strangely, and I still can’t quite believe it myself, this is the first book I have read by Sharon Bolton.  I have a copy of Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking on my TBR which I really must get around to.  I loved The Craftsman.  I was immediately drawn into a story that I could not pull myself away from.  Our main character, WPC Florence Lovelady, had my full attention from start to finish and I’m left wanting more.  What an intriguing, fascinating story and one that will stay with me for some time to come.

The book opens with a funeral.  A funeral with a difference as the mourners aren’t there to mourn, they want to prove to themselves that it’s true; Larry Glassbrook is finally dead.  Florence Lovelady, who was heavily involved in the hunt for Glassbrook after he murdered three local teenagers by burying them alive and was key to discovering Glassbrook’s identity, has returned to Sabden in Lancashire to attend the funeral.  Lovelady has been in regular communication with the convicted killer since he was imprisoned.  Glassbrook’s final message, delivered via a short cryptic message, makes Florence wonder whether the arrest, the horrors she experienced all those years ago back in the late sixties, were the doing of Larry Glassbrook or someone much more sinister…

I enjoyed many of the characters in The Craftsman.  But for me, it was ALL about the tough, plucky WPC Florence Lovelady.  It’s the late 1960s and Florence is the first woman to work for the Sabden Police Force.  She’s ‘just a young girl’ in their eyes so is consigned to tea making and typing duties, but she outshines every single other character in the book!  Florence is smart, gutsy and tenacious and tends to run rings around her male colleagues, even when she’s trying not to!  While the men are busy being misogynists, Florence is suggesting filming a re-enactment of the latest victim’s last movements.  While the men are twiddling their thumbs, Florence is creating charts and looking for patterns, searching for the elusive clue to break the case.  Unfortunately, her intelligence, her keen eye and her repeated bouts of good luck put her somewhere she doesn’t want to be.  In the spotlight as one of the main suspects.

Now, this isn’t your everyday serial killer novel.  Nor is it your traditional police procedural.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea because, at the heart of this story, there be witches.  Sabden, where the story is set, is at the foot of Pendle Hill which has a long history of witches and witch trials.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author has taken this long, dark history and used it to grow her character’s experience.  In essence, Florence becomes the focus of a cruel local witch hunt just because she’s more intelligent than her colleagues, more determined, more proactive,…and not a man.

There is so much more I want to tell you about this book.  I could go on for hours telling you about another favourite couple of characters; Daphne and Avril, and the wonderful sparkle they exude.  Oh, and I could tell you how much I enjoyed the main body of the story where the reader is transported to the late sixties (and how I couldn’t help but picture the odd scene from ‘Life on Mars’, the television programme).  This is where you get to meet some of the most misogynistic characters I have ever had the displeasure of encountering in a book.  I wanted to thump most of them.  Thank goodness times have changed!  But if I do continue telling you everything I loved then this will be the longest review I have ever written.  So instead, buy the book and find out the wonders of The Craftsman for yourself.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  It’s creepy, it’s tense and it’s full of witches!  Plus, I don’t know about you, but death by suffocation has always terrified me and I’m a terrible sufferer of claustrophobia.  Which made this book all the more frightening for me.  I loved it.  I love what the author has done with her story and her characters are an absolute delight.  Highly recommended.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 3rd May 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about the author3

sharon bolton.jpegSharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

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

Author Image and Bio © https://www.sharonbolton.com/

#Giveaway: Hangman by Daniel Cole | @TrapezeBooks | #5star #crimefiction #BookOfTheMonthMarch2018 #UKOnly #Win

hangman cover“18 months after the ‘Ragdoll’ murders, a body is found hanging from Brooklyn Bridge, the word ‘BAIT’ carved into the chest.

In London a copycat killer strikes, branded with the word ‘PUPPET’, forcing DCI Emily Baxter into an uneasy partnership with the detectives on the case, Special Agents Rouche and Curtis.

Each time they trace a suspect, the killer is one step ahead. With the body count rising on both sides of the Atlantic, can they learn to trust each other and identify who is holding the strings before it is too late?!

*Sigh*, it’s true.  damppebbles.com IS the blog that just keeps on giving (it’s a hard life being this generous, hahaha).  Last week I was offering a paperback copy of Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic (congratulations to the winner, Lorna Cassidy).  Today I have another stonking book on offer to one lucky UK winner.

This time it is the FABULOUS, the deliciously dark and altogether incredible HANGMAN, book two in the Ragdoll series.  I loved this book.  I mean, I really, REALLY loved this book.  To read my full review, click HERE.  Alternatively, here are a few snippets from my review to whet your appetite:

“I love the new ‘slightly more damaged than she was before’ Emily Baxter. Her sarcastic manner, her bossiness, her ‘don’t actually give a damn!’ attitude and her secretiveness.” 

“I described the need to keep turning the pages of Ragdoll as similar to catnip. Well, the author has done it again but this is super strength catnip! A perfect read for me.”

“Would I recommend this book? Totally. I loved it.”

Yup, I think I liked it.  If you would like the chance to win a hardback copy of HANGMAN by Daniel Cole please retweet THIS tweet and tag at least three UK book-loving friends.

Giveaway ends at midday (BST) on Thursday 19th April 2018.  The winner will be selected at random and will be contacted via Twitter.  The winner will need to provide their address so I can send the prize.  There is no cash alternative.  The winner’s address will not be stored.  UK entrants only I’m afraid due to postage costs.  Only retweets of my pinned tweet will count.  Shares of this post to social media won’t, I’m afraid.

Good luck everyone!

about the author3

daniel coleDaniel 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 |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland (@crimethrillgirl) @TrapezeBooks @orion_crime #MyLittleEye

my little eye.jpg“KISS THE GIRLS
A young woman is found dead in her bedroom surrounded by rose petals – the latest victim of ‘The Lover’. Struggling under the weight of an internal investigation, DI Dominic Bell is no closer to discovering the identity of the killer and time is running out.

AND MAKE THEM DIE…
As the murders escalate, Clementine Starke joins an online true crime group determined to take justice in their own hands – to catch the killer before the police. Hiding a dark secret, she takes greater risks to find new evidence and infiltrate the group.

As Starke and Bell get closer to cracking the case neither of them realise they’re being watched. The killer is closer to them than they think, and he has his next victim – Clementine – firmly in his sights.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the My Little Eye blog tour which I share with one of my favourite book blogs, Bibliophile Book Club.  My Little Eye is the first book in the Starke and Bell series written by Stephanie Marland.  Sshhh, don’t tell anyone but Stephanie Marland is actually a pen name for another favourite of mine (that’s author AND blogger), Steph Broadribb!  Steph writes the breathtakingly good Lori Anderson series, published by Orenda Books.  Writing as Stephanie Marland her latest series, featuring Clementine Starke and Dominic Bell, is published by the fabulous folk at Trapeze Books.  Of all the books in all the world, this one was pretty much at the top of my MUST READ list.

I’ve been SO excited about getting around to reading My Little Eye, and I really enjoyed it.  Knowing that this author (in her other guise) writes one of my very favourite crime series, I was looking forward to seeing how she would write these new characters, the more ‘local’ setting (for us Brits!) and exactly how different it would be to her very distinct Lori Anderson series.  And it was just that; very very different.  Great different.  You can’t really compare the two but they’re both as equally marvellous as each other.

We meet Clementine Starke, a PhD student in psychology, specifically human-computer interaction.  Yeah, I scratched my head at that too.  Basically, Clementine likes to study how we present ourselves online; the lies we tell, the *cough* truths we omit.  The reader soon discovers that Clementine Starke has other dark secrets as well which Marland manages to adeptly tease us with as the story progresses.  Starke is part of a London-based forum of true crime addicts.  True crime addicts who believe the police are incompetent, corrupt and generally inept.  True crime addicts who are out to solve a murder, to beat the police in cracking the case.  And oh boy, what a case they have chosen to crack!  The Lover is London’s latest serial killer.  When a second victim is found, Starke’s group closes rank and start their own investigation.  DI Dominic Bell is the lead detective tasked with apprehending The Lover.  Bell is struggling with his own demons though, including an Internal Affairs investigation into his last case.  Can Bell piece the clues together before it’s too late and The Lover takes another victim?  How far will Starke go before she realises she’s in too deep…?

I absolutely loved Starke and I loved Bell.  I’m fascinated to see where Marland is going to take the second book as, although it sounds from the blurb like Bell and Starke are a team, they really aren’t and only come to meet towards the end of the book.  He is a senior police officer, she is a PhD student who prefers to spend time inside her flat in her own company.

I did see where the plot was heading but I didn’t really care as I was enjoying the book so much.  I love a serial killer thriller (more than any other crime thriller, really) and it was great to have what felt like a modern-day amateur sleuth take on the big guys, the serial killers.  The addition of a competent but distracted detective worked an absolute treat for me and I’m really excited to read the next instalment in this series for that reason.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  It’s a twisty, modern day take on a serial killer thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fast-paced and addictive, I’m left wanting more.  They’re an unlikely duo but oh my gosh, they work.  I just hope they don’t do something daft like fall in love…*shudder*

And for the record, Radiohead aren’t ‘old’.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

My Little Eye by Stephanie Marland was published in the UK by Trapeze Books | Orion Publishing on 5th April 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

stephanie marland.jpgStephanie Marland has worked in the University sector for over ten years and published research on how people interact and learn together in virtual environments online. She’s an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and an avid reader of all things crime fiction, blogging about books at http://www.crimethrillergirl.com. Steph also writes the Lori Anderson action thriller series (as Steph Broadribb) for Orenda Books, the first book Deep Down Dead is out now.

Author Links:Crime Thriller Girl | Facebook | Twitter |