Jul 242017
 

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Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A girl and her books and is now hosted on its own blog.

According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

Friday: THE CHURCH OF THE HOLD CHILD by Patricia Hale ARC from Author/PICT
Friday: THE GOOD DAUGHTER by Karin Slaughter HC from Harper Collins
Friday: THE EMBALMER by Vincent Zandri Kindle Personal Purchase

Jul 232017
 

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder

by Connie di Marco

on Tour July 23 – August 23, 2017

Synopsis:

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

Rob Ramer was the perfect husband until he committed the ultimate family faux pas — he shot his sister-in-law to death. Believing himself under attack by an intruder in his home, he fired back. But when evidence is discovered that Rob’s wife, Brooke, was plotting his murder, Brooke is charged with conspiracy in her sister’s death. Geneva, a third sister, is desperate for answers and seeks the help of her friend, San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Geneva’s lost one sister and now it seems she’ll lose the other. Was this a murder plot or just a terrible accident? Julia vows to find the answer in the stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Paranormal
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: August 2017
Number of Pages:336
ISBN: 0738751073 (ISBN13: 9780738751078)
Series: A Zodiac Mystery, 2 | Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | IndieBound 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

The building on Guerrero was a once proud Victorian with bow front windows. It had since been broken up into six small units and fallen into disrepair. I drove around the block several times before I managed to find a parking spot a few doors down. The shops on the main street were long closed and the streets deserted. I shivered and let the car heater run another minute to warm up before I left the comfort of my little metal box. There was something about this chore that made my stomach go into knots. Rummaging through a dead woman’s possessions was bad enough, but what if I found something that implicated Moira in a crime? Should I remove it and risk the police finding out?

I climbed out of the car, careful to lock it and approached the long stairway leading to the front door. The wind had died down and now fog danced around the streetlights. It was eerily quiet. No lights shone from any of the windows. I hoped all the residents were safely tucked up in their beds by now. I climbed the cracked granite stairs to the entrance. The weathered door stood ajar, listing slightly on its hinges. I grasped the handle and twisted it, but the lock mechanism was out of commission. Inside, a bare overhead light bulb hung from a chain. It cast a meager glow down the long corridor, cannibalized from a once grand entryway. The hallway smelled of dirty cat litter, moldy vegetables and cigarette smoke. I followed the corridor to the end, and stopped at the last door on the right.

I slipped the key into the lock. It offered no resistance. The door opened immediately. Had it not been locked? I caught a slight scuffling sound and cringed. I hoped no furry long-tailed creatures were waiting inside for me. I reached around the doorway and felt along the wall. My fingers hit the switch. A rusting chandelier with two bulbs missing illuminated the one large room that was both Moira’s living room and bedroom. I tested the key with the door open, locking and then unlocking it. Now I felt the resistance. The door had definitely been unlocked. I stepped inside and shut it behind me, making sure the lock was secure. Was it possible someone had been here before me and left without locking the door? Or had Moira simply been careless?

I had to make sure I was alone in the apartment. There were no hiding places in this sparsely furnished room. I checked under the bed just to be sure and opened the closet, terrified that someone or something might jump out at me. The closet was narrow, filled with a jumble of clothing, half on the floor. I walked into the kitchenette and spotted a doorway that led to the back stairs and the yard. I tested the handle on the door. Locked. I checked the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and then the shower stall in the bathroom. I was alone. I had been holding my breath and finally let it out in a great sigh.

I started with the drawers in the kitchen and checked the counter, looking for any notes with names or phone numbers. There was nothing. The kitchen was surprisingly clean, as if Moira had never used the room. Inside the refrigerator were a few condiments, a half-eaten unwrapped apple and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I quickly rummaged through the drawers and the freezer to make sure there were no bundles of cash disguised as frozen meat.

The main room housed a collection of hand-me-downs and broken furniture, ripped curtains and piles of clothing in various spots around the floor. Had she really lived like this? I heaved up the mattress, first on one side and then the other, making sure nothing was hidden between it and the box spring. Under the bed, I spotted only dust bunnies. I pulled open each of the bureau drawers, checked their contents and pulled them all the way out to make sure nothing was behind them. I opened a small drawer in the bedside stand. Amid a loose pile of clutter was a dark blue velvet box embossed with the letter “R” in cursive gold script. Could this be from Rochecault? I was fairly certain it was. Rochecault is an infamously expensive jeweler on Maiden Lane downtown. How could Moira have shopped there? Was this what Geneva had meant when she said her sister seemed to have a lot of money to spend?

I opened the box and gasped. An amazing bracelet heavy with blue stones in varying colors rested inside. The setting had the slightly matte industrial sheen of platinum. Moira couldn’t possibly have afforded this. Shoving the box into a side pocket of my purse, I decided I was definitely not leaving this for the police to find, and slid the drawer shut.

I scanned the room. Moira hadn’t been much of a housekeeper and it didn’t appear as if there were many hiding spots. I headed for the desk, a rickety affair with two drawers and a monitor on top. I clicked on the hard drive and waited a moment. The monitor came to life and asked for a password. It would take someone much more talented than I to unearth its secrets. Under a jumble of papers and unopened bills, my eye caught a small black notebook. This looked promising. Perhaps it was an address book that would give us all of Moira’s contacts. I dropped my purse on the floor and reached for the book. A searing pain shot through my skull. Blinded, I fell to the floor.

***

Excerpt from All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2017 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

GUEST POST

Julia Bonatti, my protagonist in the Zodiac Mysteries solves crimes using astrology. And I hear from readers all the time – some love the subject of astrology and want to know more, while others aren’t particularly interested and are happy to skip those parts. That’s fine with me. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Julia just happens to have an unusual occupation. Hopefully, there are enough thrills and chills in her investigations that will keep readers turning the pages.

Mostly, people want to know how Julia figures things out and what she sees in a chart that alerts her to possible danger. She can tell an awful lot about an individual from a chart and can make an educated guess about how that person approaches life. Here’s an example that might help explain a few things:

This is a chart of a man born on July 26 at 7:29 p.m. in Kesswil, Switzerland. I won’t mention the year, not yet. What can we tell from the chart, without knowing the man’s name or his profession?

  • He’s a Leo with a Moon in Taurus and Aquarius rising. All fixed signs – he’s proud, stubborn and not easily swayed. There’s a heavy emphasis in his 6th house. Mercury and Venus are conjunct on the cusp. And the Sun and Uranus are also in the 6th. The focus of his life will be his work (6th house). He’s possibly involved in medicine. But since Mercury and Venus are in Cancer, a sign ruled by the Moon, there’s an element of “feeling” and “emotion.” The Moon/Pluto conjunction tells us he’s an intensely emotional individual. In the 3rd house he’d probably be a writer of some sort.
  • Aquarius rising — he’s eccentric and marches to the beat of his own drum. With Saturn on the Ascendant he would appear cold or clinical, but Uranus (the ruler of his Ascendant) is very close to his 7th house cusp. He’d be radical and eccentric in his relationships.
  • Sagittarius is on the cusp of his 10th house (Midheaven), along with Mars in Sagittarius. In his career, he would pay absolutely no attention to what his mentors or colleagues thought. He’d be fearless and innovative.
  • Neptune is in square (90 degree) aspect to his Sun sign. This would give him a mystical bent, but he could possibly misuse the Neptune energies and be vulnerable to addiction. He might avoid that escape as long as he is dedicated to his work.

Can you guess whose chart this is? I’ll give you a hint. He was born in 1875. He died in 1961 at the age of 86, a nice long life which he dedicated to developing analytical psychiatry (medicine and emotions). The chart belongs to Carl Jung. He was a prolific writer and a protégé of Sigmund Freud until he broke from his mentor to pursue his own path. He was married with five children and maintained an open extra-marital relationship for many years, heedless of what society at the time thought.

He was also an astrologer! (Uranus) He worked with dream states (Neptune) and observed recurring archetypes in his patients’ dreams. He came to believe that the archetypal images in astrology represented experiences and emotions common to all people and theorized that humans share a collective unconscious. He said, “Whatever is born or done at a particular moment of time, has the quality of this moment of time,” i.e., an astrological chart.

CARL G. JUNG
So that’s how Julia does it. How I do it is struggling to find a believable chart for my murderer or his victim. Just in case any astrologers out there are paying attention!

Connie di Marco

Author Bio:

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, available for pre-order now, will be released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Connie di Marco On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Tour Participants:



Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Connie di Marco. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card AND 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of All Signs Point to Murder. The giveaway begins on July 21 and runs through August 24, 2017.

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Jul 222017
 

66 Metres by J F Kirwan tour Banner

66 Metres

by J F Kirwan

on Tour July 17-31, 2017

Synopsis:

66 Metres by J F Kirwan

A chilling and utterly compelling thriller that you won’t be able to put down!

The only thing worth killing for is family.

Everyone said she had her father’s eyes. A killer’s eyes. Nadia knew that on the bitterly cold streets of Moscow, she could never escape her past – but in just a few days, she would finally be free.

Bound to work for Kadinsky for five years, she has just one last mission to complete. Yet when she is instructed to capture The Rose, a military weapon shrouded in secrecy, Nadia finds herself trapped in a deadly game of global espionage.

And the only man she can trust is the one sent to spy on her…

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Carina
Publication Date: August 25th 2016
Number of Pages: 232
ISBN: 9780008207748
Series: Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

‘Let’s see if you can really shoot. Give her your pistol,’ Kadinsky said to one of the henchmen, the one with a pockmarked face – Pox, Nadia named him – who immediately lost his sense of humour.

She took the weapon from his outstretched hand, weighed it in her palm. An old-style Smith & Wesson. God knows why the guy had it. Most blatnye preferred semi-autos, Makarovs or the older but higher-velocity Tokarevs. She checked that it was loaded, all six bullets nestling in their chambers. She glanced at Kadinsky, thought about killing him. But the other henchman, the fat one with slicked black hair – hence, Slick – had his Glock trained on her, his lopsided leer daring her.

Kadinsky waved a hand towards Katya, five metres away. He tilted his head left and right, then settled back against the soft leather, took a gulp of whiskey, and smacked his lips. ‘The red rose in the bowl of flowers behind her left ear. Shoot it. From where you stand.’

Slick’s eyes flicked toward Katya, gauging the angles. His leer faded.

Nadia stared at her sister and the rose. Most of it was behind her head. Only one leaf of the scarlet blossom was exposed. She swallowed, then lifted the revolver, and took up a shooting stance like her father had taught her. Right arm firm, elbow not fully locked, left hand under the fist, prepared for the recoil. She had to do it before anger built and disrupted her concentration. She cocked the hammer, lined up the shot, then spoke to Katya’s serene, trusting face: ‘Love you,’ she said. Then she breathed out slowly, as if through a straw, and squeezed the trigger.

Masonry exploded behind Katya. The crack was so loud that three other men burst into the room, weapons drawn. Kadinsky waved them back as Pox peeled the revolver from Nadia’s stiff fingers. Petals fluttered to the floor amidst a plume of white powder from the impact crater in the wall. Katya sat immobile, pale, the hair on the left side of her head ruffled as if by a gust of wind. A trickle of blood oozed from her left temple, and ran down her cheek.

Katya, lips trembling, beamed at Nadia. ‘Still alive,’ she said, her voice hoarse. She touched the graze with an unsteady forefinger.

Nadia began to shake. She folded her arms, refusing to give Kadinsky the satisfaction.

Excerpt from 66 Metres by J F Kirwan. Copyright © 2017 by J F Kirwan. Reproduced with permission from J F Kirwan. All rights reserved.

J F Kirwan

Author Bio:

Barry (JF) works by day in aviation safety, and writes at night. He is also a diving instructor and has dived all over the world. He got hooked on writing when people started arguing about his characters as if they were real people. He is married and lives in Paris, because the coffee is better there, and he needs coffee to write.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website 🔗
Goodreads 🔗
Twitter 🔗
Facebook 🔗

Tour Participants:

Visit our amazing hosts throughout the tour for great reviews, excerpts, & giveaways!

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for J F Kirwan. There will be 4 winners of one (1) $10 Amazon.com Gift Card! The giveaway begins on June 16 and runs through August 2, 2017.

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Jul 202017
 

Duplicity

by Jane Haseldine

on Tour July 1-31, 2017

Synopsis:

Duplicity by Jane Haseldine

In Jane Haseldine’s new novel of riveting suspense, Detroit newspaper reporter Julia Gooden is up against the city’s most devious criminal—and her own painful past.
Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished façade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.

Julia’s marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims—including the prosecution’s key witness—and leaves David critically injured.

Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives—including her children’s—hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters…

MY REVIEW

5 stars

Julia Gooden, a journalist, and her husband David Tanner, an attorney, are trying to reconcile their marriage after a separation. David is trying a case for the state against an organized crime figure, Nick Rossi, who is charged with dealing in drugs, gambling, and bribery. Jane is attending the trial as the reporter. Then when a protected witness, for the prosecution, enters the courthouse, a massive bomb is detonated killing innocent people and injures her husband. Who was the intended target? Julia is going to find out one way or another even if it means her life may be in jeopardy.

This book was captivating with thrilling suspense throughout. The characters so well developed that they jumped off the pages! So many twists and turns that I could not put it down, wanting to know how it was all going to end. The writing was fluid with such detailed descriptions that I felt as if I was watching a movie in my mind. Totally engrossing with an ending that was shocking!!

This was the first book I read by this author but won’t be the last. I look forward to more titles by this author. Highly recommend!

What Reviewers are Saying about Duplicity:

“Haseldine has a gift for atmosphere, setting, and suspense, and the many twists and turns will keep readers guessing.”—Library Journal

“Julia, introduced in The Last Time She Saw Him (2016), is ferociously bold and persistent as she deals with professional and personal adversity laced with duplicity in this action-packed, plot-driven mystery. This is hard-bitten crime fiction with changes ahead for its unrelenting series protagonist.”—Booklist

“Haseldine (The Last Time She Saw Him, 2016) uses her experience as a crime reporter to bring authenticity to this exciting and gritty tale.”—Kirkus Reviews

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Kensington Publishing
Publication Date: April 2017
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 149670407X (ISBN13: 9781496704078)
Series: Julia Gooden Mystery #2 | Duplicity can be read as a stand alone novel
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Glenlivet, light on the rocks. A cocktail waitress with bright fuchsia lipstick delivers the drink and motions her head in the direction of the aged fifty-something women two tables down. The recipient of the cocktail turns his head toward the hoots and low whistles from the likely recent divorcees who are ogling him like a lusty spectator sport.

“Want to join us, hon?” the ringleader asks and adjusts her leopard print halter-top to reveal an extra inch of orange, tanned cleavage. In case her intent wasn’t clear enough, the woman scoops a sugar cube from her champagne cocktail, places it between her teeth and starts sucking.

“No thank you,” the businessman answers coolly and places the unwanted drink back on the cocktail waitress’ tray.

He turns his back on the spurned women and locks in on a tall, willowy blond in a white dress that clings to her slender curves as she moves fluidly across the casino floor in his direction.

She pauses at his table, slides into the empty seat across from him and carefully tucks a leather briefcase between her legs.

The rowdy commotion from the neighboring table of women abruptly stops as they wordlessly concede, they’ve been bested by a thoroughbred.

The businessman slips an Italian charcoal grey suit coat over his tall and tightly muscled frame. He tips back the last few sips of the drink he ordered for himself ten minutes earlier and heads toward the lobby, not bothering to look back. He knows the blond will follow.

In the elevator, the mouth of a camera lens captures its occupants’ activities. The pair stand close, but just far enough apart so it doesn’t look obvious they are together, just two attractive strangers in an elevator heading up to their respected rooms. The blond stunner holds the briefcase in her left hand and takes a risk. She lifts her pinky finger up and brushes the back of the businessman’s hand for less than a second.

The elevator arrives on the VIP floor, the best the MGM Grand has to offer.

The blond bends down, slides a key out of the front pocket of the briefcase and opens the hotel room door. Inside, the man stands in front of the floor to ceiling windows. He takes a quick pan of downtown Detroit and then snaps the curtains shut. When it is safe, when they are alone, the blond, now anxious and wanting, drops the briefcase and goes directly for his zipper.

“Wait.” He takes the briefcase over to the bed, opens it, and fans the stack of bills across the mattress like a seasoned blackjack dealer some thirty stories below.

“Two million. You don’t trust me now?” the woman asks with a contrived pout.

He ignores the question until the cash has been fully accounted for.

“Come here,” he commands.

He starts to remove his coat, but she is already there.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispers and cups her long, delicate fingers around his crotch.

He reciprocates by running his hand across the thin silk of her dress directly over her breast, and then squeezes until the blond lets out a gasp.

The blond easily submits when the man pushes her down hard on the bed, letting him believe he still has the upper hand, that he is the aggressor. She stares up at his beautiful face, his breath coming faster now as his body starts to move in a rapid, steady rhythm above her. She doesn’t mind when he closes his eyes. He wants her again, reestablishing her position of control, at least for now. That’s all that matters.

When they are finished, the businessman turns toward the wall in disgust.

“I knew you weren’t through with me yet,” she says. “You take all your hostility out on me in bed. You’re a rough boy, but I like it.”

He ignores her, gets up from the bed, still naked, and heads to the bathroom. The blond is useless to him now. She knows it but still holds on.

“The birthmark on your ass is so sweet. It looks like a crescent moon with a shooting star underneath,” she remarks. “Come back to bed and let me take a closer look.”

The man spins around, anger flashing in his eyes as if the blonde’s comment violated something personal.

“Shut up,” he says.

“No need to talk dirty to me. You know I’ll give you what you want, as long as you give me my share of the money.”

“When it’s over, you’ll get it. That’s the agreement.”

“How do I know you won’t screw me?”

“Because I’m not that guy. The money will be in a safe place.”

“I want access to it.”

“I don’t think so.”

The door to the bathroom slams shut and she is dismissed. Inside the shower, he scrubs every trace of the woman off his body, hoping she will be gone when he comes out. But the blond is still in bed. At least she is sleeping.

The businessman climbs back into his suit, grabs the briefcase and closes the hotel room door quietly behind him. The second elevator in the hallway opens and he disappears inside just as elevator one chimes its arrival to the VIP floor. Its single occupant emerges, a man, squat and thick but moving swiftly like a gymnast. He wears all black, a bulky windbreaker, sweatpants and a baseball cap as if he’s just come from the hotel gym. He lets himself into a room with a key he extracts from a bulky fanny pack that flanks his waist. Inside, he quickly assesses the scene, pulls a tiny camera out from its hiding place inside a fake antique clock on the dresser and tucks it into his coat pocket.

He then retrieves a razor blade and scarf from the pack and heads toward the bed where the blond is still sleeping.

The man moves silently as he eases his body onto the bed. He inches forward across the mattress and then straddles the blond with his hips, locking her in place until she is prone and pinned to the bed. Without opening her eyes, she smiles, thinking her lover has returned. She flicks her tongue across her lips and then opens her mouth expectantly.

“Shhh,” he whispers. “You pay now. We know what you did.”

The woman’s eyes fly open, and she tries to scream out her assailant’s name, but he cuffs one stubby hand across her mouth before she can utter a word. He lifts the razor from his pocket and begins to gently slide the unsharpened side of the blade down her stomach until it reaches the top of her public bone.

“Please!” she begs. “I’ll give you what you want.”

The razor stops short before it makes its final descent.

His breath is warm and steady against her ear. “How do you know what I want?”

“Money. I’ll give it to you.”

He pauses as though considering the request and flicks the dull side of the blade back and forth across her skin.

“God, please. You don’t want money then. Okay. Just tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you.”

He shakes his head and teases the sharp edge of the razor blade against her leg.

“Who is it?” he whispers as the razor makes a tiny, precise knick on the inside of her thigh, drawing a single drop of blood that trickles down her ivory skin like a crimson teardrop.

“The name. I’ll give you the name!” she pleads. “Sammy Biggs, the Butcher. He’s the one. I just found out, I swear. I didn’t betray you. He did. Now please! Let me go.”

The hired hand sighs deeply, as if savoring an indulgent pleasure, now finally satisfied. But not quite. Lessons must be learned and never forgotten. The man stuffs the scarf down the woman’s mouth to muffle the pain of her penance. It is engrained in his soul those who sin must atone. He clasps the razor blade between his thumb and middle finger and cuts the blonde’s left earlobe off in one clean slice.

“Hail Mary, full of grace,” he prays as he pulls out a locket from underneath his black T-shirt. He kisses a likeness of the face of the blessed Virgin Mary etched into the front of the gold necklace charm and stuffs his newly won keepsake from the blond into his pocket.

Chapter 2

Concrete, grey, cold, and quickly passing is the only thing Julia sees. The running started the previous summer when she was at the lake house, the place she mistakenly thought would be a sanctuary for her boys after the separation from her husband David.

The runs started as just one lap around the rocky coastal loop along Lake Huron. But when Julia migrated back to the Detroit suburbs for a second shot at her marriage, her runs progressed and three times a week turned into seven and the start times became earlier and earlier.

Five a.m. Julia conquers the stretch of her Rochester Hills comfortable suburban neighborhood within five minutes. She expands her perimeter to downtown and then all the way to the Auburn Hills border. Ten miles today. No negotiation.

Julia races through the darkness just starting to break and ignores everything she passes, the funky downtown stores, the tidy homes with daily papers waiting on the icy driveway blacktops and the Assembly of God church with its bulletin board warning “Sin: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time.”

None of the scenery matters. The steady rhythm of her sneakers pounding against the concrete pushes Julia forward, getting her closer to some invisible finish line as she race her one constant opponent: herself.

Spring officially arrived in Michigan a week prior, but the depressing mounds of frozen grey snow from another cruel Midwestern winter obviously didn’t get the memo. Julia pushes herself harder and starts to sprint as she passes her oldest son Logan’s middle school, her half-mile mark to home, and breathes in deeply. The cold air stings as it goes down, but it’s worth it. Julia is certain she can smell the beginnings of the ground starting its impatient thaw and the bulbs, in a deep slumber since October, beginning to stir. Change is coming and she is ready for it.

A car drives by slowly, reaches the corner and then turns back around in her direction. Julia instinctively moves away from the curb and reaches down toward her waist pack. Instead of a water bottle, Julia packs protection, pepper spray and a folding knife with a three-inch blade. Paranoia always ran hard and deep after what happened to her brother when Julia was a little girl, compounded by twelve years covering the crime beat, not to mention a deranged religious fanatic who kidnapped her youngest son. For Julia, it all adds up to one thing: Trust no one.

The car slows to a crawl as it approaches a second time. A dark sedan, nondescript, probably a Ford model about five-years-old with tinted windows, Julia calculates as her hand sweeps inside her pack. She runs her fingers across the flat side of the knife’s blade as the car’s driver side window opens.

“Hey, Gooden, I thought that was you. If you’re going to jog in the dark, you better wear brighter colors or you’re going to get mowed down out here,” Detroit Police Detective Leroy Russell says. Julia recalls Russell lives somewhere in the Rochester Hills community, where his ex-wife is an assistant professor of journalism at Oakland University.

Julia finally exhales, her breath turning into a puff of white that disappears into the frigid late March morning. Now knowing she won’t have to engage in hand-to-hand combat, Julia fixes her gaze back on Russell whose trademark Mr. Clean buzz cut looks freshly-shaven. She feels the sting of adrenaline coursing through her body as the fear leaves her.

She begins to respond to Russell when the smell hits from the open car window. Julia makes out the distinct aroma of almost metabolized late-night, heavy drinking and Old Spice, the latter applied so liberally, it makes her eyes sting.

“How are you doing, Russell?” Julia asks. “Are you on the early shift?”

Russell reaches toward his glove compartment and extracts a green bottle of Excedrin which he pops open and then crushes four white tablets under his tongue.

“Retirement party last night for Sergeant Walter Shaw,” Russell explains. “I’m meeting Navarro for breakfast, so hopefully an order of scrambled eggs and home fries will soak it all up before a hangover hits.”

“You and Navarro are meeting up to discuss the Rossi trial,” Julia states, no question necessary. “I caught both your names on the prosecution’s witness list.”

“That’s right.”

Julia jogs in place without realizing it and strategizes how she can pump Russell for information for her story. The court part of the crime beat is her least favorite, despite the fact Julia is married to a lawyer. To her, courtrooms feel like tight little boxes where various versions of the truth run fast and loose amidst the big show, and the winner is often selected not by the culmination of the presented facts, but by which side puts on a better performance.

“I heard there’s going to be a surprise witness the prosecution is going to pull out at the last minute. Do you know anything about that? We can go off the record. You know I won’t burn you. I just need a name,” Julia pushes.

Russell reaches up and massages his right temple with his index finger.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Even if there is some last-minute witness, Judge Palmer probably won’t allow it if they aren’t on the list. Why are you asking anyway? You’ve got a much better source at home. You and David are back together, right?”

“We’re working on it. I can’t ask David though. It would be a conflict of interest. The D.A.’s office doesn’t want to get sued for leaking information to the press. Plus, David and I are pros. Neither of us would cross that line.”

“Come on. You can’t tell me you don’t pull some favors in the bedroom to get your husband to talk. Sex is a woman’s secret weapon. It always has been since the dawn of time. A sweet, firm ass has toppled many a mighty man. I’m more of a leg man, myself though,” Russell says as he gives Julia’s well-toned runner’s legs a nod of silent approval.

At thirty-seven, Julia has long mastered the fine art of the dodge and weave around unwanted advances. Unless the guy is completely out of line, Julia ignores the come-on like it never happened. The talent serves her well covering the cop beat, where egos and virility are often intertwined, enormous, and surprisingly fragile.

“Where are you and Navarro having breakfast?” she asks.

“Chanel’s in Greektown. You want to join us?”

Julia gives just a hint of a smile. Dodge and weave successful.

“Thanks for the invite. I’ll try.”

“All right, Gooden. Tell the assistant D.A. we’ll see him later. And be careful out here in the dark,” Russell answers and raps a red-chafed hand outside his driver side window before he disappears behind the tinted-glass.

Julia watches Russell’s car pull away and a small shiver runs down her back.

(Don’t ever take a ride from a stranger, Julia, or I swear, I’ll kick your butt).

The sudden childhood memory jolts her, and Julia starts to sprint as if she could race fast enough to outrun the passage of time and warn her younger self to lock the door the night her older brother Ben was taken.

Julia finally reaches home, nowhere left to run. She drops onto the front step, looks up at the first soft lights of dawn finally penetrating through night’s heavy cloak of darkness and chokes back a sob. She knows how to get through the pain. She always has. Julia pushes her emotions down deep and focuses on what she can control.

Her mind clicks off the pieces of the Rossi story she will have to assemble and file into some kind of compelling piece to run in the paper’s online edition before opening arguments. The facts will be the bones of her story: Nick Rossi’s illegal Detroit empire is believed to encompass hijacking and shipping stolen goods, mainly computers and electronics, illegal gambling and drug trafficking. Both the feds and the Detroit PD had been trying to nail him for years. Rossi finally got busted in a city police sting courtesy of hidden cameras placed in the VIP suites of the MGM Grand Hotel. Images on the tapes showed payoffs to the former Detroit mayor and a city councilman, in addition to drug trafficking and cash exchanges for high-stakes gambling bets.

Julia kicks at the frozen ground with the toe of her sneaker and assembles the color elements she will add as sidebars to the main article, the ones that will make the story real to the readers and ultimately make them care: the seventeen-year-old West Bloomfield high school track star who overdosed and died at a party after he graduated that night from ecstasy to heroin for the first and final time, courtesy of Rossi’s stash. Then there is the story of Rossi himself, only nine years old when he witnessed the rape and murder of his mother during a home invasion while the young Rossi bore silent witness as he hid inside a closet and watched the horror unfold through a crack in the door. Since Rossi’s dad had taken off before his son was born, the young Rossi moved in with his uncle, Salvatore Gallo, who ran a moderately successful dry cleaning business with a small bookie operation on the side. Julia and Salvatore Gallo have history, and Julia makes a mental note to herself to call Gallo before she gets to the courthouse to see if he’ll talk.

Julia’s cell phone buzzes inside her waist pack. She looks suspiciously at the phone. 6:15 a.m. Even as a reporter, no one calls that early unless it’s an emergency, and she knows David is still at the house with their boys, Logan and Will, who are sound asleep. She is about to hit the ignore button but stops at the last second when she recognizes the number. Gavin Boyles, the acting mayor’s chief of staff. The other piece of color she needs for the story.

“Gooden here. You’re lucky I’m up.”

“You told me you ran at dawn, so I figured I’d catch you before you got into the newsroom,” Boyles answers. “I checked online a few minutes ago, and I didn’t see your story posted yet.”

“It’ll be up later today. Do you have something for me?”

Boyles, a former TV news anchor before he became a flack, still has the oozing, ultra-smooth voice of a game show host. Julia met him ten years earlier at the scene of a major fire that obliterated a Detroit high-rise and eighteen of its residents who were trapped inside. Boyles showed up late and asked Julia if he could take a look at her notes and she could debrief him on the situation.

“Always working the story, that’s why you’re so good,” Boyles says.

“You’re too kind,” Julia answers and plays the pleasantry game while she waits for Boyles to cut through the bullshit.

“Are you including Mayor Anderson in the story?

“Acting Mayor Anderson?” Julia asks.

“Semantics. We’d prefer not to have Mayor Anderson’s name mentioned unless it pertains to how he is working tirelessly to turn the city around since former mayor Slidell’s indictment for his involvement in the Rossi case. If you write another story about how Slidell took bribes from Rossi to shut him up, you’re doing a disservice to the people of the city. Detroit has suffered enough, don’t you think? You could turn this into a positive story.”

“And how has Anderson turned the city around exactly?”

“Public perception. I want to share something with you. This is off the record for now, all right?”

“Of course,” Julia answers and wonders whether the call might not be a complete waste of her time after all.

“Mayor Anderson will be holding a press conference today announcing a strategic task force dedicated solely to promoting all things positive in Detroit, including a volunteer-driven beautification project to help improve blight. It was my idea. Detroit is trying to make its way back. The residents don’t need a rehashing of another corrupt city official story.”

“Politics isn’t my beat.”

“Neither is business, but your articles are hurting the casinos. Detroit got gutted after the auto industry crashed, and God knows we can’t afford to take any more hits. There’s a responsibility, a fine line, we journalists need to ethically tow.”

“I’m still a journalist. Last I checked, you weren’t.”

On the other end of the phone, Boyles blasts an obnoxious guffaw.

“Always blunt, aren’t you? The press conference is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on the steps of city hall. I assume you’ll be available since the trial will break for lunch. Mayor Anderson specifically asked for you to be there.”

“Thank you for the invitation. I’ll run this by my managing editor and let her decide who to send. You know how this works. It’s not my call.”

“Got it. I’ll call Margie myself and put in the request. I’m surprised the paper is letting you cover the story when your husband is prosecuting it. Good for you though. You won’t have to work as hard this time.”

Julia grits her teeth and forces herself to still play nice. She may need Boyles in the future.

“I always work hard.”

“I just meant…”

Julia cuts off Boyles before he can finish. “Thanks for the call and the heads up on the press conference.”

Julia gives her phone the finger, the sentiment she’d really like to give Boyles directly. Instead, she shuts her phone off and heads into the warmth of her house that hits her like a blowtorch. She strips off her North Face jacket and then peels off her running pants and nylon shirt that stick to her clammy skin. She frees her curly, dark brown hair from its ponytail and pads softly down the hall as not to wake the boys. Inside the office, she leans over the desk and begins to search for her competitor’s coverage of the Rossi trial. She pulls up the Detroit News website and feels a tug in her stomach. In addition to a big picture preview story on the case, Julia knows the Detroit News reporter is writing a sidebar profile on David as first chair for the prosecution and his likely run for D.A. next year, a promise David made to himself after he gave up a lucrative private practice partnership six months earlier to become a public servant. Still standing, Julia bends down closer to the desk and begins to search whether the Detroit News found out about the surprise witness, or worse, if they got the name before she did.

***

Excerpt from Duplicity by Jane Haseldine. Copyright © 2017 by Jane Haseldine. Reproduced with permission from Jane Haseldine. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

author

Jane Haseldine is a journalist, former crime reporter, columnist, newspaper editor, magazine writer, and deputy director of communications for a governor. Jane writes the Julia Gooden mystery series for Kensington Publishing.

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Jul 172017
 

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A girl and her books and is now hosted on its own blog.

According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

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Monday: FIVE WAYS TO KILL A MAN by Alex Gray ~ eBook from Harper Collins/PICT