#BookReview: Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine @ViperBooks #BegarsAbbey #damppebbles

“A dark house filled with darker secrets…

Winter 1954, and in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, Sam Cooper realises that she has nothing left. Her mother is dead, she has no prospects, and she cannot afford the rent. But as she goes through her mother’s things, Sam finds a stack of hidden letters that reveal a family and an inheritance that she never knew she had, three thousand miles away in Yorkshire.

Begars Abbey is a crumbling pile, inhabited only by Lady Cooper, Sam’s ailing grandmother, and a handful of servants. Sam cannot understand why her mother kept its very existence a secret, but her newly discovered diaries offer a glimpse of a young girl growing increasingly terrified. As is Sam herself.

Built on the foundations of an old convent, Begars moves and sings with the biting wind. Her grandmother cannot speak, and a shadowy woman moves along the corridors at night. There are dark places in the hidden tunnels beneath Begars. And they will not give up their secrets easily…

A chilling read that will keep you turning the pages late into the night, Begars Abbey is a must-read for fans of Laura Purcell and W.C. Ryan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine. Begars Abbey is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Begars Abbey but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Therese at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Following the death of her mother, Vera, Sam Cooper comes to realise that she has nothing left. She’s barely existing, she has no money and her Brooklyn apartment is crumbling around her. Whilst clearing out her mother’s belongings, Sam discovers a stack of telegrams her mother failed to mention. The telegrams reveal a family and a substantial inheritance several thousand miles away in Yorkshire. Sam is desperate to connect and find out why her mother would rather live in squalor, struggling to put food on the table each day, than ask her family for help. But on arrival in Yorkshire, Sam’s expectations are dashed. Begars Abbey is a crumbling ruin of a house, run by a strange housekeeper and a number of incompetent staff. Sam’s grandmother, Lady Cooper, is wheelchair bound and unable to utter a word after several strokes. There’s something not quite right about the house. So when Sam discovers her mother’s teenage diaries, she’s determined to discover what secrets Begars Abbey holds…

Begars Abbey is a thoroughly enjoyable, dark, chilling gothic mystery. I’ve been living on the edge recently and not reading the blurb of a book before I make a start on it so I went into Begars Abbey almost blind. Yes, it is clear from the cover that it’s a gothic tale but that’s as much as I knew. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that our story starts in Brooklyn in the 1950s! Sam is a fantastic character – well rounded, likeable and quite ballsy, which I really appreciated. I warmed to her instantly, despite the chill of the New York air already giving me goosebumps! I really enjoyed meeting Sam and finding more out about her relationship with her mother.

After a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean Sam’s arrival in England falls flat, with her pre-arranged escort nowhere in sight and the icy bitterness of the Liverpool docks providing the reader with even more chills. But with the help of the family’s solicitor, Alec Bell, Sam is whisked to her ancestral home. The supporting characters in the novel are all well-written and absolutely fascinating. I found Alec to be wonderfully frustrating whilst the eccentric but endlessly loyal Mrs Pritchett was unpredictable and unnerving – superb characterisation.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of gothic mysteries, or just well-written mysteries full stop, then I heartily recommend Begars Abbey. Dark, creepy and compelling, I flew through this book in a few short sittings and would gladly read more by this author. Wonderful imagery, marvellous characters and lots of surprises in store for the reader. Recommended.

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

Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine was published in the UK by Viper Books on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

V.L. ValentineV.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she has led award-winning coverage of global disease outbreaks including Ebola and the Zika virus. She has a master’s in the history of medicine from University College London and her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine. The Plague Letters is her first novel.

#BookReview: A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall #ASpoonfulofMurder #damppebbles

“Introducing the three unlikeliest sleuths you’ll ever meet…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.

The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.

But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

Sit down with a cup of tea and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel. Fans of Agatha Christie, Death in Paradise and Midsomer Murders will be hooked from the very first page.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall. A Spoonful of Murder was published by Avon Books last week (that’s Thursday 17th March 2022) and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I chose to read and review a free ARC of A Spoonful of Murder but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to the team at Avon for sending me a proof copy.

Thelma, Pat and Liz are three retired primary school teachers who meet weekly for coffee and cake at their local garden centre. On one of their Thursday catch-ups they bump into ex-colleague, Topsy Joy, and her daughter, KellyAnne. It’s immediately clear to the trio that Topsy is no longer the formidable nursery nurse she once was, showing early signs of dementia. A week later and Topsy is found dead in front of the telly. The three women are shocked by the news, particularly as they feel something is amiss. Who were those strange men hanging around Topsy’s house? And why has Topsy’s bank account been cleared out? It doesn’t take long for the three intrepid investigators to start digging into what happened to their friend. Someone killed Topsy Joy and it’s down to three retired schoolteachers to prove it…

I have to be completely honest here and say I don’t read a lot of cosy crime. I prefer my crime fiction with a darker edge, a dash more menace and a chill in the air. Saying that, I did enjoy the warmth and cosiness of A Spoonful of Murder, with it’s gentle pace and trio of unwitting sleuths. Warm and witty throughout, I enjoyed getting to know Pat, Thelma and Liz and watching as they put their community under the microscope. Trying to work out if Topsy’s sad demise was helped along by a nefarious hand. Heart breaking in parts, this well-written debut will be a sure fire winner with fans of the genre.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. A Spoonful of Murder is a gently paced, slow burn mystery with a cast of interesting amateur sleuths and lots of charm. I did find the multiple characters a little confusing at times, even with regards to the three leads, and was able to spot whodunit from very early on but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this entertaining novel. I’m afraid I couldn’t help but draw similarities between this book and another book published a couple of years ago. I wonder if that’s because that particular book was the last cosy crime I read so, in a way, it’s still quite fresh in my mind. At times, I found I was constantly on the lookout for the similarities rather than just going with the flow and submersing myself in the story. All in all I enjoyed this novel, found it be an easy read and would recommend it to fans of the genre who enjoy a gentler pace.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of A Spoonful of Murder. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall was published in the UK by Avon Books on 17th March 2022 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 | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

J.M. Hall is an author, playwright and deputy head of a primary school. His plays have been produced in theatres across the UK as well as for radio, the most recent being Trust, starring Julie Hesmondhalgh on BBC Radio 4. His first novel, A Spoonful of Murder, is about retired primary school teachers who turn to sleuthing.

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Innocent Ones by Neil White @HeraBooks #TheInnocentOnes #damppebbles

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“Three lives cut short. Two decades of silence. One evil secret.

By day, the park rings with the sound of children’s excited laughter. But in the early hours of the morning, the isolated playground is cloaked in shadows – the perfect hiding place to conceal a brutal murder.

When London journalist, Mark Roberts, is found battered to death, the police quickly arrest petty thief, Nick Connor. Criminal defence lawyer, Dan Grant, along with investigator Jayne Brett, are called to represent him – but with bloody footprints and a stolen wallet linking him to the scene, this is one case they’re unlikely to win.

Until help comes from an unlikely source…when the murder victim’s mother says that Connor is innocent, begging Dan and Jayne to find the real perpetrator.

Unravelling the complex case means finding the connection between Mark’s death and a series of child murders in Yorkshire over twenty years ago. Father of two, Rodney Walker, has spent years in prison after being convicted of killing of 6-year-old William and 7-year-old Ruby back in 1997.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on The Innocent Ones blog tour. The Innocent Ones was published by Hera Books on 24th April and is the third book in the Dan Grant and Jayne Brett series written by Neil White. This, however, is the first book in this particular series that I have read (not the first book I’ve read by this author, mind you) and it works perfectly well as a standalone. I was given an eARC of The Innocent Ones but this has in no way influenced my review.

When I first agreed to take part in this blog tour there were two things I wasn’t aware of. Number one; it’s the third book in the series but as I mentioned up there ⬆️⬆️, that really wasn’t a problem and I enjoyed it as a standalone.  The second thing; I wasn’t aware it was a legal-esque type thriller. Which is daft really as I know author Neil White is a qualified lawyer and it goes to prove that I don’t always read the blurb too carefully (plus I’ve read other books by White and they’ve been more along the lines of a police procedural).  Again, not a problem for me as I LOVE a legal thriller.

I guess what I’m saying is apart from having read and enjoyed a few other books by White many moons ago, I started The Innocent Ones with no preconceived ideas (just my usual high expectations, lol!).  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s was surprising, gripping and beautifully dark.  According to the author’s notes at the end of the novel this is the third and final book in the series, which is a shame.  At least I can console myself by reading the first two books in the trilogy.

Defence lawyer, Dan Grant, is tasked with defending low-life local scum, Nick Connor.  But instead of Connor’s usual petty misdemeanours, this time the charge is murder.  Journalist Mark Roberts was found bludgeoned to death in the local park and left to die in a congealing pool of blood.  Despite some pretty damning evidence to the contrary, Nick claims he’s innocent.  It’s a big step though, from theft to murder, and Dan is convinced Connor didn’t do it.  Helped by the fact Dan is approached by the mother of the victim who says she believes the wrong man is on trial and she wants Dan and his investigator, Jayne, to find the real killer.  It’s not long before Dan and Jayne are digging up a cold case from 20 years ago, upsetting the residents of a small Yorkshire town and discovering that not everything is as it first seems…

I loved Dan and Jayne.  What a team!  There’s obviously a fair bit of backstory behind Jayne’s past which is one of the reasons I want to read the first two books in this trilogy.  Not knowing the ins and outs didn’t hamper my enjoyment though – the author provides new readers with a good overview.  I loved the setting too.  I love small town American mysteries and sometimes find their British counterparts can’t really compare.  That’s not the case with The Innocent Ones.  I loved the claustrophobia of the two towns, the secrets hidden within the small communities.

Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would.  When I was doing ‘real life’ I was thinking about the plot and characters, wanting to get back to the story and find out what was going to happen next.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dan and Jayne and I look forward to making a start on the first book in the trilogy soon.

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

The Innocent Ones by Neil White was published in the UK by Hera Books on 24th April 2019 and is available in eBook format (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.ukamazon.comGoogleBooksGoodreads |

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

Author Links:TwitterWebsiteFacebookInstagram |

#BookReview: Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (@Elizjhaynes)

510uL5rtumL“Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.

When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.

After Sophie disappears, it’s clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with anyone, including Will, who seems more concerned for Sarah’s safety than anyone else. As the weather closes in, events take a dramatic turn and Kitty too goes missing. Suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can still trust.

But she isn’t facing this alone; she has Aiden, and Aiden offers the protection that Sarah needs. Doesn’t he?”

In case you missed it (YOU MISSED IT? *humph* – only kidding) Elizabeth Haynes appeared on damppebbles last Saturday, 30th July 2016, as part of her Never Alone blog tour.  Elizabeth wrote a fantastic piece about her early days as a writer and learning her craft.  Click here to have a look – trust me, you don’t want to miss it.  Today I am delighted to share my review of this wonderful book with you.

Sarah is lonely.  Her husband died in a tragic accident, her son despises her and her daughter has gone to university.  She has friends in the village and her two dogs but it’s easy to become cutoff from society when you live in a remote farmhouse on the North Yorkshire moors.  Thankfully all that changes when old flame Aiden Beck turns up looking for a room to rent.  Sarah leaps at the chance to have her ex-lover living in the farmhouse’s empty cottage, a stones throw from her.  But what is Aiden not telling Sarah? And exactly how close are Aiden and Sarah’s best friend, Sophie?  And where has Sophie suddenly disappeared to…?

This is a real page turner.  Elizabeth Haynes has once again done exactly what she does best and turned out a cracking psychological thriller that fans, old and new, will adore.  There is something about Elizabeth’s style that immediately draws you in; it feels familiar but with an edge and you know you are in for a twisty ride of a read.

It’s a little bit saucy in places.  Frequent visitors to damppebbles will know that I’m not a fan of bedroom naughtiness in my books.  But saying that, it fitted with the story and wasn’t too over the top so I didn’t find it an issue.  It’s certainly not Fifty Shades of Grey, put it that way!

Sarah was my favourite character in the novel.  Initially she felt quite dowdy but as the story progressed she seemed to shed that dowdiness and become more of a mumsy minx! Maybe that was due to Aiden’s arrival as, the way he’s described, I think most of us ladies would go weak at the knees.  I found Sarah’s relationship with her son, Louis, strangely upsetting and I wanted to know so much more about it (maybe there’s scope there for a novella?!).

The way Elizabeth Haynes describes the locations in the book, and particularly the area around Sarah’s farmhouse, was quite stunning.  Even more so when the snow storm hits. Elizabeth made me switch between wanting to live in Sarah’s beautiful farmhouse, to being absolutely terrified of being cut off from society in the blink of an eye.

Would I recommend this book?  Of course I would!  It’s a great read, very gripping and brilliantly written.  Full of dark suspicious characters and their well (or maybe, not so well) hidden secrets.  A real page turner from start to finish.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to Emma Dowson, Myriad Editions and Elizabeth Haynes for providing me with a copy of Never Alone in exchange for an honest review.

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes was published in the UK by Myriad Editions in eBook format on 28th July 2016.  The paperback version will be published on 6th October 2016 | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Myriad Editions |

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elizabeth haynes mlibElizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst who lives in Norfolk with her husband and son. Her first novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and is a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in thirty-seven countries. Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in 2012 and her third, Human Remains, was published in 2013. She is also the author of two police procedural crime novels, Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).  Connect with Elizabeth Haynes via Twitter @Elizjhaynes.