The Whisper Man by Alex North

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town: Featherbank.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five children. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed ‘The Whisper Man’ for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumours that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window.

My Review

This was recommended to me by a work colleague. She said it was spooky and creepy. Boy was she right, particularly the first half. Tom is trying to find rational explanations for the things that seven-year-old son Jake says he sees and hears. The little girl in the blue dress, the grazes on her knee never healing and her dark hair swept to one side. The boy in the floor. The strange rhyme ‘If you leave the door wide open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken’ and the whispers themselves. But I found it much scarier to think he was like the boy in The Sixth Sense, ‘I see dead people, walking around like regular people’.

Tom’s wife Rebecca died and Tom is struggling to cope. Jake found her at the bottom of the stairs. It’s a terrible time for both of them, so they decide that a move would be a good idea. New house with no memories, new town and new school. Jake is drawn to an old cottage, known locally as the ‘scary house’. He won’t look at any other house.

But that’s when their problems begin to escalate. Creaking noises upstairs. A run down garage with a padlock on the door. A strange man saying he used to live here and wants to see inside. And Jake’s voices and imaginary friends.

At the same time DI Pete Willis, a recovering alcoholic, and ambitious DS Amanda Beck are looking for a missing boy, six-year-old Neil Spencer. Frank Carter, known by the media as The Whisper Man, is safely locked away in prison for the abduction and murder of five young boys, but there are similarities and why is it that he knows so much about it? And where is the body of Tony Smith, disappeared 20 years ago, Carter’s fifth victim, his body never found? Everything about it is so chilling.

I only have a couple of reservations. Why didn’t Tom get some kind of bereavement counselling, if not for himself then at least for Jake? The boy needs expert help, but no-one seems to suggest it. And then there’s the school. They have this dreadful traffic light system for good behaviour. Green for good, amber for a bit naughty and red for ‘needs to see the head teacher’. They are six and seven for goodness sake! Jake is new, knows no-one and was bullied on his first day (that’s Neil’s seat says a horrid kid so you’ll be the next one to die). Jake has recently lost his mother yet by the end of day one he’s on amber. By day two he’s on red for hitting said kid. It made me furious! Poor Jake. What a stupid school.

This is one of the best crime novels I have read this year – and probably last year as well, if not ever. There are quite a few surprises which I never guessed, but then I wasn’t looking for them. I can’t even hint, but they were not the kind of twists I expected. Brilliant.

About the Author

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. The Whisper Man was inspired by North’s own little boy, who mentioned one day that he was playing with ‘the boy in the floor’. Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name.

Seven Days (DI Jack MacIntosh, #2) by Michelle Kidd

One killer. One city. One week.

July 2012 and a serial killer is terrorising the streets of London. With the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in just seven days time, Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh and his team at the Metropolitan Police have one week to find him. With the killer’s motives unknown, and a mysterious clue being left at each scene, the case takes on a menacing and personal twist. Distracted by his own demons, will DI Jack MacIntosh solve the case before it is too late?

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The clock is ticking. Tick. Tock...

My Review

Jack is back! I really enjoyed this book. Once again we have more adventures with DI Jack MacIntosh and his team, plus his brother Stuart (Mac) and the new DS Carmichael, who’s not exactly making himself very popular. A lot less complicated than the first book in the series – The Phoenix Project – there is a cross-over and while it helps to have read the first book, it isn’t totally necessary.

Isabel Faraday was the subject of the first novel, but we see her now, some four years later, owning a coffee shop in the Kings Road (the rent and rates must be ridiculously expensive – she’ll need to sell a lot of cappuccinos) with an art studio at the back which she rents out. Now as a bit of a budding artist I’m up for renting an easel in her studio. She even provides the paint (oil and cold wax for me please) and brushes. I could just paint while she keeps me in coffee and pain au raisins. Luxury!

The new book opens with a grisly murder – a body found in the park – and then another one. Both strangled with a ligature. One victim is in her forties, the other just twenty-one. The first victim is wearing only one shoe, but another shoe – a totally different one – lies close by. It’s a clue. If the second victim is wearing the matching shoe and another mismatched shoe lies close by, then there will be a third victim and we have a serial killer on the loose. And only seven days before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

The clock is ticking and there appears to be no connection between the victims. Jack and the team are on to it, but can they catch the killer in time? And how many more will die before they do?

There are other characters involved as well, each with their own story, and look out for Dominic, a young man who helps out in the coffee shop. He is ‘on the spectrum’ and keeps a diarised record of everything that happens in detail, every day. Excessive? OCD? But so useful!

I love that this book is part of a series and I am look forward to reading the next in the series. Book three is called The Fifteen and I shall no doubt be reviewing it later in the year.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Michelle Kidd is a self-published author known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels.

Michelle qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

But the dream to write books was never far from her mind and in 2008 she began writing the manuscript that would become the first DI Jack MacIntosh novel – The Phoenix Project. The book took eighteen months to write, but spent the next eight years gathering dust underneath the bed.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and has not looked back since. There are currently three DI Jack MacIntosh novels, with a fourth in progress.

Michelle works full time for the NHS and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She enjoys reading, wine and cats – not necessarily in that order.


The Phoenix Project (DI Jack MacIntosh book 1)

Seven Days (DI Jack MacIntosh book 2)

The Fifteen (DI Jack MacIntosh book 3)

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If She Dies by Erik Therme

Nine months ago, Tess’s five-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. The driver, Brady Becker, was sentenced to two years in prison. It didn’t make Tess’s pain go away.

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Brady also has a daughter: A twelve-year-old named Eve who walks to Chandler Elementary School every day. Tess knows this because she’s been watching Eve for the last three weeks. It isn’t fair that Brady’s daughter gets to live, while Tess’s daughter does not.

When Eve goes missing, all eyes turn to Tess, who doesn’t have an alibi. But Tess isn’t guilty.

Or so she believes.

My Review

I literally sat down and read this straight through over two days. And even though I was so frustrated at time by Tess’s choices, I just couldn’t stop reading. The writing is amazing.

Tess’s grief is insurmountable. I cannot imagine how I would feel in her place – I am sure I would be exactly the same. I would want to sit and die. It’s nine months since Lily was killed by a drunk driver – Brady Becker. A very short time to try and get her life back to normal. Her husband Josh has gone back to work and wants Tess to get counselling, look for a job. But she has other ideas. Every day she sits in the JoKat cafe opposite the apartment where Brady’s wife Meg and daughter Eve live and watches Eve walk to school.

But this is not a story just about Tess’s grief or about the problems in her marriage. It is not unusual for couples to separate after a tragic event such as this and you can see why. Tess and Josh appear to have no common ground when it comes to dealing with their loss. Josh decided they should sell their beloved home in Newton with all its memories and move just down the road to Harlow (where he was born), but Tess hates the mouldy, ramshackle house. He just doesn’t get it. He wants the Old Tess back, but it’s not going to happen if he doesn’t understand.

When Lily died they received a massive insurance payout. To Tess it’s dirty money. Josh even bought a new Jeep which she refuses to ride in. Being in the UK I don’t even understand why they took out insurance on their child’s life but I guess it’s all part of private health insurance, which very few people have here.

But in spite of my total sympathy for Tess, I struggled with her constant lies to her husband about everything she does. He doesn’t even know that she visits the cemetery almost every day. I understand that she cannot open up because her grief is too raw, but she makes some very strange choices right through the book.

Then her brother Colin turns up out of the blue. He hasn’t been in contact since before Lily’s death and Josh is furious. Colin had his reasons, but in this case I’m with Josh. I can’t really say any more.

But as I said before, this is not just about grief and marital problems. A huge twist turns everything on its head when Eve goes missing and Tess is the obvious suspect. If She Dies is now a thriller and a race against time. Where is Eve and who has her? You’ll have to read the book to find out and I challenge you to guess. I certainly didn’t.

Beautifully written and full of emotion.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harboured runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he’s not at his computer, he can be found cheering on his youngest daughter’s volleyball team, or watching horror movies with his oldest. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa—one of only twenty-eight places in the world that UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature. Join Erik’s mailing list to be notified of new releases and author giveaways:

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Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker


Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want… except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But little foul-mouthed Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

Meanwhile Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserved to lose Tonya and ought to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, she begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…


My Review

Young children, a new born baby, kittens, puppies – all the things that make me stressed when reading. And two main protagonists who are both spiralling out of control and you have a tale of two women descending into madness, which is all very Shakespearean and definitely tragic.

This is a book like no other. We read about the kidnap from the point of view of the kidnapper, only ever referred to as ‘Mummy’ as she tries to justify her behaviour. But then no-one else could justify it like she does. She had a terrible childhood, full of hatred, child abuse, fanatical religion and cows (no nor me – at least not yet). A dangerous combination, but one that does not excuse her maniacal behaviour. And if you think her treatment of the child Tonya is bad, just wait till the story progresses – or is it regresses?

Kim is Tonya’s grieving mother. She has a toddler Darryl and is also heavily pregnant with Nate. We are sympathetic – nothing could be worse than losing a child – but it’s not easy. She doesn’t endear herself to anyone. She screams and swears at the police and the press, pushes her husband to the limit and becomes aggressive towards anyone who speaks to her. Social media call her ‘scummy mummy’. KIm too has had a difficult childhood. She just doesn’t know how to cope.

Kim’s best friend Ayesha is a godsend and her rock. She sticks by her through all the anguish and rejection, even though she has her own children to look after including a severely disabled son called Mo, Tonya’s best friend.

When Kim is at her lowest, husband Steve brings home a Dachshund puppy which they call Sausage. The last thing that Kim wants or needs is another mouth to feed, but Sausage becomes a glimmer of hope. Tonya would love him.

I don’t think the police or social workers do much to help. There seem to be no clues to the kidnapper and no-one seems to pick up on Kim’s mental state.

I loved this book. It goes where others fear to tread. It’s only the brilliance of Tina’s writing that allows humour to creep into something so dark and disturbing.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable – if somewhat stressful – read. We were so involved in the story that we planned our own rescue!

About the Author

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

The Kindness of Psychopaths by Alan Gorevan

How far would you go for those you love?

When Valentina López Vázquez vanishes from her home one morning, it’s obvious that she was taken by force. What happened to her next is not so obvious.

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The disappearance forces two men on a gruelling search for the truth: Barry Wall, Valentina’s frantic husband, and Joe Byrne, the nihilistic detective in charge of the investigation.

They are locked on a devastating course that will take them to places darker than they ever dreamt – places without limits…

My Review

I don’t think I have ever read a psychological thriller with so many twists and turns. It made my head spin. Just when you think you know what happened, there is another twist and then another and another. I never guessed who took Valentina or why.

There are also a number of other stories going on and the loose ends are all tied up very nicely thank you. Then there was a final twist which told me that we are going to see Joe Byrne again in another story. At least I hope we are.

The characters are all richly drawn. Everyone has a plausible back story. Joe has returned to work as a detective in Dublin, unwillingly, as that is where his ex-girlfriend Lisa from 17 years ago lives and she has a son, Christopher. Joe’s son. Except he didn’t know at the time and Lisa never wanted to see him again. Christopher plays the violin and is a good, quiet boy – a target for the school bully John Kavanagh.

Joe is a maverick cop who does things his way. Most people like him, but not so detective Kevin Boyle with whom he has already fallen out. But then we can see straight away that Kevin is a bit of a twat. His only redeeming feature is that he has an ageing Golden Retriever called Babe. I’m sure the name Babe is an homage to someone or somedog – I must try and find out.

Having read other books by Alan Gorevan, I was sure there would be a tiny bit of dark humour in there somewhere. Maybe I found it where it shouldn’t exist or maybe it’s just my dark imagination. I think I may have upset another author last year by suggesting the same thing and I don’t think he was amused. The horror was deadly serious.

The title of the book The Kindness of Psychopaths seems like a strange choice at first, especially as there are quite a few psychopaths in this story, but none of them are very kind. It will all become clear though by the end.

The Kindness of Psychopaths is fantastic. I enjoyed every gruesome, violent, grisly moment. From the fingers planted like mushrooms in the garden to…….that’s all I’m going to reveal. You’ll have to read it yourself. Just make sure you lock the doors and windows and keep the light on.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About The Author

Alan Gorevan is an award-winning thriller writer and intellectual property attorney. He lives in Dublin.

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The Last Snow by Stina Jackson translated by Susan Beard

What secrets are hidden within the walls of a desolate farmhouse in a forgotten corner of Lapland?

Early spring has its icy grip on Ödesmark, a small village in northernmost Sweden, abandoned by many of its inhabitants. But Liv Björnlund never left. She lives in a derelict house together with her teenage son, Simon, and her ageing father, Vidar. They make for a peculiar family, and Liv knows that they are cause for gossip among their few remaining neighbours.

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Just why has Liv stayed by her domineering father’s side all these years? And is it true that Vidar is sitting on a small fortune? His questionable business decisions have made him many enemies over the years, and in Ödesmark everyone knows everyone, and no one ever forgets.

Now someone wants back what is rightfully theirs. And they will stop at nothing to get it, not matter who stands in their way…

My Review

Bleak. Atmospheric. Chilling. A description that fits both the story and the setting. If you follow my blog you will know that I love Scandi Noir. It’s a genre that uses the setting in ways that our own fiction doesn’t always do. Authors like Charlotte Bronte and Daphne du Maurier used to do it brilliantly, but often now we only get a brief idea of a dilapidated house for instance or the small town where the murder takes place.

The scruffy house and the small village of Ödesmark in the north of Sweden are characters in themselves. Cold and claustrophobic, there is no escape, just like Liv can’t escape her father Vidar. Everywhere she goes, he follows, waits in the car, warns her that you can’t trust anyone outside their family. It’s a terrible life. Vidar is very rich after conning local people to sell him their land for a pittance, but he won’t spend any of it. The house is falling apart and the car is an old banger.

When Liv has a baby (we don’t know who the father is though – villagers suggest it’s Vidar himself) things are no better. The baby is a boy named Simon. A loner, a bit of an oddball, bullied at school, Liv loves him and wants to protect him.

Brothers Liam and Gabriel are small time drug dealers and into petty crime. But Liam wants to turn over a new leaf so he can buy a house for himself and his four year old daughter Vanja. Gabriel however, drug-riddled and evil-tempered, has other plans and will never allow Liam to go straight if he can help it. Gabriel is truly ghastly, he’s The Devil as reclusive forest dweller Juha calls him.

But no one is more ghastly than Vidar and you will wonder over and over why Liv stays with him. He threatens at one point to kill himself is she leaves and says he can’t manage without her. She can’t even have a normal relationship.

It was a brilliant read with some excellent twists. And though the ending was not unexpected, I didn’t expect it. It was quite a shock. I read and loved Stina’s first novel The Silver Road, but I think this was even better.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

Stina Jackson was born in 1983 and raised in Skellefteå, northern Sweden. In 2006 she moved to Denver, Colorado, where she lives with her husband and small dog. Her debut novel, The Silver Road, was an international bestseller and won The Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2018. The Last Snow is her second novel.

Birthday Surprise by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

‘Birthday Surprise’
The best laid plans…

“You don’t like quiet do you Rob.”

Boyfriend Rob and best friend Olivia are waiting to surprise Ellen on her birthday. Rob is both nervous and excited. Then the phone rings. And the plan goes horribly wrong.

“I named a star after her for her birthday,” sobs poor Rob. I felt really sorry for him.

But that’s not the only surprise in store. Hilarious and very clever with a sting in the tail.

Written and directed by Danielle Lade @ladeington

Starring Jeremy Barlow @theinfamousjeremyb 
and Emmeline Braefield @ebraefield

Produced by @coapiano

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

And if you really enjoyed Birthday Surprise, listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey

When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi’s disappearance cracks open the façade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones…

My Review

If I didn’t know that Samuel Blake is in his late fifties and was 18 during the Vietnam war, I would have thought this was set in the 1950s. Whistling Ridge is the kind of place everyone young wants to escape from. The fire and brimstone Pastor Lewis runs the town with a rod of iron. Foreigners are not tolerated, but homosexuality is the worst sin. Yet most of the youngsters seem to be out of control. Drinking and drugs are rife.

The story revolves mainly around two families. Emma Alvarez lives with her mother Melissa. Mexican father Miguel has left them but Melissa will never talk about it. Samuel Blake is married to Dolly and they have three children – Noah, Abigail and Jude. We know there were a number of traumatic incidences in Samuel’s life – his treatment by his mother and his time in Vietnam. He drinks and quotes the Bible, beats his wife and punishes the boys. When Dolly goes to see the pastor, he asks her what she did to encourage the beatings.

But Samuel never touches Abi. They believe that Abi will not return until their son repents his sins. It reminds me of a Louis Theroux documentary called the Most Hated Family in America, aired in 2007. The Westboro Baptist Church members believe that the United States government is immoral due to its tolerance of homosexuality. The founder Fred Phelps believed himself to be a prophet chosen by God “to preach his message of hate”.

Rat Lacusta is a twenty-something Romanian boy who lives alone in an RV in the trailer park. Both Emma and Noah are fascinated by him. The park is owned by Jerry Maddox whose son Hunter was last seen with Abi the night she disappeared. And so their lives become intertwined and the town descends into a kind of frenzy of hate and blame.

It’s wonderfully written so why four stars and not five? It’s all rather bleak. I just wish there had been some lighter moments to contrast with the darkness. It’s also slow to start and it took a while to get into it. Sometimes the plot becomes a bit over-complicated but it all makes sense in the end. This is an excellent book, but many of the characters are really horrible and you will hope they get their comeuppance.

Many thanks to #NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author from Anna herself

‘Hello and welcome! I’m the author of Tall Bones, published in the US as Where The Truth Lies.

Tall Bones is a literary crime thriller and my debut novel, inspired by the years I spent living in small-town America, particularly in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where this book is set. I also drew a lot of influence from TV shows such as Twin Peaks and True Detective, a childhood’s worth of creepy films, and the brooding Americana music of Johnny Cash and Colter Wall. I am extremely fortunate that the good folks at Goldsboro Books also enjoyed these things and have selected Tall Bones as their Book of the Month for April.

‘Raised in Gloucestershire, I’m a West Country girl at heart, but I now live in France, where I’m currently working on my second novel, and I still can’t believe that’s a sentence I actually get to say.’

‘Please do come say hello over on Twitter @annafbailey or Instagram @annabaileywrites and I’ll recommend you some more music your dad might like.’

To buy on Amazon click here.

Orca by Mariëtte Whitcomb

If you prey on the innocent, I’m coming for you.

War didn’t change me… Four months as the enemy’s captive did. I returned home broken, scarred, the call to combat echoing in my soul. Haunted by the deaths of my squad, a darkness festers inside me, set on vengeance.

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Seven little girls died at the hands of the Angel Taker. He thinks himself invincible, taunting the police and the families of his victims with letters. If the police can’t stop him, I will. I’m not bound by man-made laws. Starting with the Angel Taker, I will hunt him and every other vile predator down. The dark web won’t keep them safe; I’m not afraid of the abyss.

I don’t care if this path destroys me, or the police realise a woman is responsible for the bodies found hanging across the city. The victims deserve freedom, and their deaths avenged.

Soon I find myself in the crosshairs of the Marcel Sniper. The worst he does – kiss me. As sure as my name is Finley D. Williams, that kiss is the best I’ve ever had. Perhaps I’m not alone in this fight after all…

My Review

This was a hard read but I mean that in a good way. Finley wants to avenge the torture and killings of children and innocent victims. But she isn’t driven just by justice – she’s driven by revenge and her own anger. It makes for an interesting dichotomy. The predators deserve everything they get even if she gets caught and punished but does she really need to torture them? She thinks so, but for the reader it’s a hard pill to swallow. It reminded me of the TV series Dexter, the ultimate anti-hero.

Along the way, Finley meets two men, both of whom she has a relationship with (I know who I prefer) but is love strong enough to make her stop? Maybe it would have but neither men are living ordinary lives either.

Finley has a sister Lizzie who is her polar opposite. She is beautiful and good and strong but in a totally different way to Finley. Finley is ex-forces but she was captured, tortured, raped and held captive for four months and it’s this experience together with the death of her comrades that drives her every move. Lizzie has had a very different life. Academic success and running part of the family business.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but it raises so many moral questions. Is she right in what she does? Is it justified? You see I don’t think so. It can never be right to take the law into your own hands and yet we understand why she does it. You may have a few sleepless nights after reading Orca, not just because of the violence, but because of the tendency to sympathise even though you know you shouldn’t. Happy reading!

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Mariëtte Whitcomb studied Criminology and Psychology at the University of Pretoria. An avid reader of psychological thrillers and romantic suspense novels, writing allows her to pursue her childhood dream to hunt criminals, albeit fictional and born in the darkest corners of her imagination.

When Mariëtte isn’t writing, she reads or spends time with her family and friends.

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Lost Property by Helen Paris

Dot Watson has lost her way.

Twelve years ago her life veered off course, and the guilt over what happened still haunts her. Before then she was living in Paris, forging an exciting career; now her time is spent visiting her mother’s care home, fielding interfering calls from her sister and working at the London Transport Lost Property office, diligently cataloguing items as misplaced as herself.

But when elderly Mr Appleby arrives in search of his late wife’s purse, his grief stirs something in Dot. Determined to help, she sets off on a mission – one that could start to heal Dot’s own loss and let her find where she belongs once more…

My Review

Each year I wait for that one book that grabs me by the heart and won’t let go. It’s only just February and I have already found it. That book is Lost Property. Every phrase, every sentence, in this wonderful story needs to be savoured. You can’t read this beautiful book too quickly or you will miss something worthwhile.

There is a very poignant moment where Dot remembers her father’s death and how her mother was washing and ironing his clothes to give them away to the charity shop. Dot is furious and can’t understand her mum’s behaviour. I remember a friend whose mum had taken her own life and how cross she was that her sister had started to clear her their mum’s house a few days later. She thought it was disrespectful. We have to remember that everyone handles grief in their own way. For some that clearance is cathartic, while for others it’s too painful. My mum died in hospital in 1992 but had been living in a nursing home and my brother and I had four days to clear her belongings from her room. They already had a new patient, but at the time it was terrible. In hindsight I can understand.

I was at times reminded of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (one of my favourite books of all time) just because each lost item has its own ‘identity’. Like in Keeper, Dot gives some items their own back story. Dot also collects lost travel guides which have not been collected, taking them home and arranging them by country or other criteria. Occasionally she finds a duplicate which she then pops into the pocket of a lost coat or bag, very carefully matching the guide to the owner.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. How much I laughed and how much I cried. The saddest parts of the story are when Dot visits her mum in The Pines care home, where she is suffering from dementia. I cried while reading – it was so beautifully written – Dot so desperate for her mum to remember something, anything. Just for a glimpse of the woman who sang like an angel.

I know one criticism is that Dot seems much older than she is, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? She is old before her time. I think she is only about late thirties – maybe 40 – but she dresses and behaves like someone’s maiden aunt. Until she finds herself again.

Her journey of rediscovery begins when Dot goes looking for an elderly gentleman named Mr Appleby, to reunite him with his leather holdall and his late wife’s purse. The only clues that Dot has to go on are a receipt from a coffee shop called Judges, that the town has a funicular railway and fisherman’s huts and that it overlooks the channel. I guessed immediately!!

But her greatest grief is over the death of her father and the guilt she feels. ‘Loss is the price we pay for love,’ says Mr Appleby. How true.

Many thanks to #NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Helen Paris started her career as an artist creating award-winning shows that have toured internationally from the Sydney Opera House to PS122 in New York and the Edinburgh Festival. As artistic director of London-based theatre company Curious, produced by Artsadmin, she has created over 50 live art, film and performance works, supported by organizations including Arts Council England, the Wellcome Trust and the Woods Institute for the Environment. After nearly a decade living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she has returned to the UK and lives in St Leonard’s-on-Sea with her partner Leslie Hill.

Lost Property is her first novel and will be published by Transworld UK in May 2021.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Once a sanatorium treating tuberculosis patients, it was abandoned years ago and had fallen into disrepair. Long plagued by troubling rumours, it has recently been renovated into a lavish hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place detective Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s on a career break, scarred by a particularly brutal case she just can’t shake. So when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancee, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

But when Elin wakes the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. And she soon realises that Laure is not the first person to have vanished mysteriously from the old sanatorium.

As one of the worst snowstorms in thirty years descends, Elin starts to connect the dots between Laure’s disappearance and the hotel’s troubling history. Just when she thinks she’s making progress, a body is found, staged to send a terrifying message. With avalanches closing off all access to the hotel, Elin is under pressure to uncover the sanatorium’s secrets and find her brother’s fiancee before the killer strikes again. 

My Review

To start with I absolutely loved this book. It was creepy and atmospheric and the method of killing was horrific and unique. So far so good. But I did have a couple of issues, though reading in staves – one every two days with The Pigeonhole – didn’t help with the suspense or the continuity.

Issue number one was that the main protagonist police detective Elin was suffering from PTSD following a particularly difficult and horrific case, but seemed to suddenly forget all that and jump into police mode a bit too quickly. My second issue was the ending but I can’t say any more because of spoilers so you will have to make up your own mind.

Basically the plot revolves around an old TB sanatorium which has been turned into a very expensive, luxury ski resort called Le Sommet, in a remote part of the Swiss Alps. Elin’s brother Isaac has invited her and boyfriend Will to celebrate his engagement to Laure at the resort. But Le Sommet had always been plagued by controversy. There was huge objection locally to its renovation and one of the architects disappeared before it opened. Now I could have warned them this would happen. There was an old sanatorium near Cheltenham (where I live) that was turned into flats some years ago and many people believed it was haunted. I wouldn’t want to live there but the flats sold well so maybe it’s just me!

Elin and Will finally arrive via a treacherous, snow-covered, mountainous road (my worst nightmare), but the next day Laure has disappeared. She is not the only one and the mayhem and murders begin. Then the weather turns and they are all trapped. Like Agatha Christie with snow. The killings are too terrifying and horrific to describe this book as a good romp, but at times the pace could have taken on Usain Bolt for speed and there were enough red herrings for a smorgasbord (if we were in Sweden not Switzerland).

The atmosphere and setting alone were worth five stars but I’ve dropped it to four as I found the ending too convoluted and slightly unconvincing. A good exciting read though.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel.

Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor 

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

This is a story about taking a leap of faith
And believing the unbelievable

They say those we love never truly leave us, and I’ve found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you’d expect.

I’ve been visiting my mother who died when I was eight.
And I’m talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here.

Right now, you probably think I’m going mad.
Let me explain…

Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother?

Space Hopper is an original and poignant story about mothers, memories and moments that shape life.

#SpaceHopper @HFisherAuthor @simonschusterUK

My Review

This is one of those books where I am so conflicted. The writing is beautiful but at times I almost gave up with frustration. If I was reading a physical book I would have thrown it across the room screaming Faye Noooo! Please don’t go back! You are risking everything. But I’m so glad I persevered.

I cried at the end. I didn’t really expect to. While I know it’s about time travel I still think it’s allegorical, testing the concept of faith. After all if you believe in a God you cannot see or prove exists, then why not believe in time travel. Or ghosts. Or anything else metaphysical. Nowadays it’s all about science. Everything requires proof. Which is quite sad in a way. If it can’t be explained rationally, then it can’t happen.

So why only four stars on Goodreads? For me it is only because the questions and Faye’s internal conflict are a bit overlong and I think this may be off-putting for readers who want a straightforward storyline. Space Hopper is a slow burn, intelligent and immersive, but ultimately I loved it.

The writing is flawless and more often than not there are some real gems.

‘He’s like a hairy dog and his wife looks like a mouse. It’s sweet. It’s like you invited pets to the party.’ This could be one of my favourite lines from a book ever.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Helen Fisher spent her early life in America but grew up mainly in Suffolk, England, where she now lives with her two children. She studied psychology at Westminster University and ergonomics at University College London, and worked as a senior evaluator in research at the Royal National Institute of Blind People. She is now a full-time author. Space Hopper is her first novel. She is currently working on her second.