#Review | THE BEST OF FRIENDS by Lucinda Berry

The Best Of Friends by Lucinda Berry
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Thriller
Published by Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
ASIN: B07Y82N2M3
Pages: 281
Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5

Synopsis (via GR)

Best friends Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani endure every parent’s nightmare when a tragic accident befalls their teenage boys, leaving one dead, another in a coma, and a third too traumatized to speak. Reeling from the worst night of their lives, the three mothers plunge into a desperate investigation of the bizarre incident. How could something so horrible happen in their wealthy Southern California suburb? They soon discover that the accident was just the beginning, and troubling discoveries lead to chilling questions: Do they really know their children? Do they even know each other? As more secrets surface, a fog of doubt and suspicion threatens to poison their families, their friendships, and the whole community. With the illusion of happiness and safety long gone, these women must now confront the hazards of heartbreak, the consequences of jealousy, and the dangers of living double lives.

My Thoughts

This was the first book that I read by this author but it won’t be the last.

Kendra, Lindsey, and Dani have been friends for 30 years and now living in close proximity of the other. They were thrilled that their 16-year-old sons are also friends and hang out all the time, playing sports, and going to school together. But will their friendship survive after a horrific tragedy that is every mother’s worst fear?

These three families are not only going through every parent’s nightmare but they find during this time that there are many secrets within their own families with themselves and their other children. But can they face those head-on while trying to accept what happened that night?

As a mother of 2, now adult sons, this story was heartbreaking. I tried putting myself in the shoes of each of the women to see if I would react in the same way and I still can’t answer that question. This story is so realistic, and unfortunately, happens every day to families. A tale that will pull on your heartstrings. I suggest having tissue close by since you will feel the emotions of each of the characters in this book. A story that will stay with me for a very long time.

Highly recommend!

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

REVIEW DISCLAIMER

  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
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    UNWITTING ACCOMPLICE by Sid Meltzer | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

    Unwitting Accomplice Banner

    Unwitting Accomplice

    by Sid Meltzer

    March 1-31, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    Unwitting Accomplice by Sid Meltzer

    How can a homicide be prevented when it’s still only in some stranger’s head?

    Kim Barbieri, a tough, street-smart New York City crime reporter unfazed by male egos and mangled bodies, is sent an anonymous note with a sinister message:

    I intend to commit a murder

    She doesn’t know who the killer is.

    She doesn’t know who his victim will be.

    She doesn’t know where, when and how he will strike.

    But there is one thing she does know: If she doesn’t learn to think like a killer, someone’s going to get away with murder.

    Kudos for Unwitting Accomplice:

    “The tension builds page after page, chapter after chapter, between the psycho driven to kill and the reporter determined to stop him—ending with a surprise twist I just didn’t see coming. And I’m a thriller writer!” ~ Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of Gates of Fire and A Man at Arms

    Book Details:

    Genre: Thriller
    Published by: Rogue Phoenix Press
    Publication Date: December 7, 2020
    Number of Pages: 313
    ISBN: 978-1-62420-579-8
    Series: A Kim Barbieri Thriller
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

     

    Author Bio:

    Sid Meltzer

    Sid Meltzer took a couple of worthwhile detours on his way to becoming a crime fiction writer.

    He started out as a NYS Supreme Court Probation Officer, a job that helped him see things from a criminal’s point of view— and let him peer into their minds’ many dark alleys.

    Working with ethically-challenged rascals prepared him well for the caliber of people he met in his next career— advertising. That is where he learned how to craft stories that draw readers in and keep them engaged.

    Unwitting Accomplice is his debut novel.

    Q&A with Sid Meltzer

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    My inspiration was an idea that crept into my brain and wouldn’t leave, which was: what if a business exec applied all his project management skills to commit the perfect crime? As a copywriter I had worked with many suits, and knew how they managed to wrestle with deadlines, understand their challenges, set goals, acquire resources etc. Once I understood my killer, I then went about creating the person who most stood in his way: The female crime reporter, Kim Barbieri.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    Learning on the job. My first drafts, involving only the killer, lacked the narrative structure, or story arc, that is the basis for successful fiction. It took me several false starts, and lots of trial and error, to create this structure, and apply it to both the killer and the reporter.

    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    Quiet-time. I’m easily distracted, and have to work hard at shutting out all the distractions – online, or TV, or text messages, even my dog – that prevent the completion of that day’s chapter, or that day’s editing.

    Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

    A little of both. Writing takes discipline, so I make a point of writing for an hour or so in the morning, uninterrupted. Writing also takes inspiration, and that can come at anytime. While walking, while day-dreaming, while napping even. When it strikes, I jot the idea or thought down immediately so I don’t forget it. I keep a notebook with me at all times for exactly that reason.

    Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

    The Medical Examiner, Dr. Fletcher. She presented the greatest contrast between her personality, which was bright, colorful and lively, and her job, which was dismal and grim– dissecting corpses hour after hour, day after day. She was fun to create.

    Tell us why we should read your book.

    You should read it because you’ll be able to escape for a few days into three different worlds that may be foreign to you. The first is the scary, frightening world inside the mind of the killer, and all the turmoil he wrestles with. The second is the world of a NYC crime reporter, who has to wrestle with obstacles to get her story out day after day. The third world is the scene of the crime — Brooklyn, New York. The book gives you a good feel of what it’s like to live and work in that vibrant, ever-changing metropolis.

    Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

    It takes place in brownstone Brooklyn, the neighborhood I lived in and worked in for many years. As a Probation Officer there, I met quite a few interesting characters living not all that far from my home.

    Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

    Simply that given the right circumstances, anyone can be driven to commit a crime. Even the most normal, upstanding member of the community has the potential to snap. An old radio show once asked, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Indeed, we don’t really know… do we?

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

    I started out as a New York City Probation Officer, a job that let me peer into the many dark alleys inside a criminal’s mind. I always thought I had a novel in me..a.nd here we are.

    What’s next that we can look forward to?

    I’m attempting a sequel set a few years from now, in which Kim Barbieri—a little older, and wiser, and grayer – tackles the Russian mob in New York City.

    Catch Up With Sid Meltzer:
    Goodreads
    Instagram – @sidmeltzer
    Twitter – @sid_meltzer

     

    Read an excerpt:

    Chapter One

    Friday, March 24
    11:15 AM

    One envelope stood out from all the others competing for Kim Barbieri’s attention. All it had was her name and address. The rest was blank. Clearly, it was meant for her eyes only, the note inside demanding to be read.

    Wondering who would write her a personal letter, she put down her cup of coffee, opened the envelope and took out the single sheet of paper inside. Savvy as she was, she was completely unprepared for its stark, ominous message.

    I intend to commit a murder.

    There was no Dear Kim above the line, no Sincerely yours below it. Like the envelope itself, there was nothing to tell her the identity of the writer, or why it was sent specifically to her.

    “Hell’s this?” she whispered to herself.

    After a long, brutal winter, the sun had chosen that morning to come out and give New Yorkers a hint of the warmer weather to come. It was one of those early spring days, a little too chilly in the shade, yet absolutely glorious in the sun. Barbieri welcomed the retreat of winter, lying out on her patio for the first time since before Thanksgiving, enjoying her ritual first cup of morning coffee while listening to Verdi’s Il Trovatore on her ancient record player.

    It was an opera she knew by heart, and as it came to an end, she forced herself to get up off the lounge chair, take the LP off the turntable, and pour a second cup of coffee. Her too-brief escape was over, and it was time to attack the backlog of mail that piled up whenever she was too worn out from chasing cops and robbers all over the city to wade through it. It’s not going to go away by itself.

    She first tossed the 90 percent of it that was junk, then put aside the bills she had to pay. She saved for last the once-in-a-blue moon personal correspondence, like the mystery letter.

    What am I supposed to do with this? What does it mean? Why did I win this particular lottery?

    She put the disturbing note back in the envelope to examine it again with a critical eye, as if opening it for the first time. While she had not been called into work that morning—a slow news day, evidently—she never stopped looking at things from a journalist’s point of view. Sweat the details. Always. They tell a story all by themselves.

    It was a standard, plain vanilla business envelope, white or close to it, with no embossing, watermark, or logo that could have given her the thinnest of threads to pull. Probably from Staples or Walmart. No help at all.

    Printed on the front were her name, street address, apartment number, and zip code—all correct. The writer knew of her by seeing her byline, she assumed, which meant he also knew what she did for a living. Her stories appeared just about every day in the Daily News, the tabloid whose circulation pretty much ended at the city line. She gave her fellow New Yorker a small nod for accuracy. Whoever sent it had chosen a standard business typeface, and the envelope looked like it came out of a cheap home office printer you could get anywhere. Canon perhaps, or HP. They’re all pretty much the same anyway.
    In the upper right corner was a common Forever stamp—Elvis before he became a lounge act—precisely aligned with the envelope’s top and side edges. Its postmark revealed it was mailed two days before, on Wednesday, and meant it was placed in her mailbox by a mail carrier rather than the sender. Had the postmark been completely legible, it could have helped her track down the post office where it originated. Unfortunately, only the last two numbers—0 and 9—were clear. The rest was an unreadable blur. I can’t even tell which city it came from. All in all, the envelope itself is giving me next to nothing to go on.

    She took the letter out again as if she had not done so only a minute before, putting the now empty envelope aside. It was standard letter size and appeared to be the same stock as the envelope. It was folded in thirds, business style, by someone who took care to line up the edges perfectly.

    One neat and orderly fellow. Or should I say lady? Lord knows men have no monopoly on weirdness. The opportunity to judge people was both an occupational hazard and a perk of the job. After so many years of interviewing cops, witnesses, victims, and assorted dirtbags, she could not help herself.

    The sinister warning, I intend to commit a murder, was printed on the top inside third of the letter, flush left, in the same typeface as on the envelope. She noted again how the middle and bottom thirds of the paper were left blank.

    As unsettling as the message was, there was something else creeping her out. This is an unwelcome invasion of my privacy. Somebody out there knows my name, what I do, and where I live. What else does he know about me? My account numbers? My passwords? My family?

    She put the letter back in the envelope, careful not to leave any more of her own fingerprints or ruin any the writer had left. Tempted as she was to toss it out as a waste of time, she chose instead to hold on to it for now. As a reporter, she knew better than to dismiss a promising lead. Besides, she did enjoy a good mystery, and the killer-in-waiting might decide to give her clues actually meaning something later on.

    The mail all taken care of, Barbieri poured herself a fresh cup of coffee, grabbed her copy of the Times, and reclaimed her prime sunbathing location on the lounge chair. She had finished reading the paper earlier in the morning, but was never really done with it until she filled in every last square of the crossword. A few more minutes of warmth provided by Mother Nature herself, rather than the down coat she had worn all winter, sure beat rushing to yet another savage crime scene

    Chapter Two

    Barbieri grabbed her cell off the kitchen counter. She had put the mystery letter aside the day before, but could not put it out of her mind. For twenty-four hours, she had thought about little else except her new anonymous pen pal. Her best course of action was to hash the message out with the one person she could trust to keep his mouth shut.

    “What?” Pete Delaney was not known for idle banter or witty repartee. Social skills were not one of his strengths. Speaking in monosyllables was. With those two, small talk was kept to a minimum by mutual agreement, if not dispensed with altogether.

    “Come over.”

    “Now?”

    “Now.”

    “Twenty.”

    Kim Barbieri was as good as any male with man-talk. She spoke it fluently and was comfortable distilling conversation into its purest form with her partner. When she and Delaney communicated with each other, they competed in waxing ineloquent, and the duels always induced a small smile she found hard to suppress. Reminds me of the stupid secret codes I used to dream up with my girlfriends after school.

    Delaney was a photographer for the same newspaper, a stringer like Barbieri. Stringers were usually assigned to work together at random, based on who was up at the time. Except for homicides. To the metro desk editor, these two were the go-to team where dead bodies were involved. Working stories together sometimes ended with them hanging out together afterwards, which over time morphed into a sort of friendship. Not romance, certainly. There was no chemistry between them, only a high level of mutual comfort, respect, and trust, which was why Barbieri decided to loop him in on the anonymous letter.

    Delaney was strictly a news photographer, and he looked the part. On the short side with long brown hair, a scruffy beard that defied grooming, and what seemed like a permanent cameraman’s squint, he went about his work with a brusque, no-nonsense demeanor he had cultivated on the job. Rain or shine, night or day, his camera vest, bulging with lenses and filters, was his security blanket. No shot was impossible as long as he wore it.

    Growing up in the suburbs, he had imagined himself leading camera safaris in darkest Kenya, where he could apply his photographic skills and critical eye to capture the brutal symbiosis of big cats and their prey. Life had other plans. Until he made it to the Serengeti, the dark urban streets of New York City would have to do.

    While she waited for Delaney, Barbieri checked her mailbox. No second mystery note. Her mind went back to the troubling message. How did the sender, whoever he or she is, know how to pique my interest? Why would the writer send it to me and not some other journalist? New York has plenty to choose from. Hundreds, I bet. She wanted no part of a planned murder. That much she knew. Yet she was not a fan of loose ends. She liked closure. The sinister message left a lingering bad taste she could not get rid of.

    In her decade or so of covering crimes, she had seen only a handful of homicides go unsolved. The open cases still kept her up some nights, long after the white shirts in the NYPD decided to stop working on them. Cold cases seemed like a waste of manpower when there was never a shortage of new homicides needing to be solved. No matter how much she tried to block them out of her memory, Barbieri could never stop thinking about what the investigators might have missed. Was it the follow-up call they didn’t make? Maybe the witness who decided he didn’t recognize the perp after all? The DNA sample disappearing off the face of the Earth?

    Blue lives mattered a great deal to her. When cops and reporters meet day after day, night after night, over stiffs from the seemingly endless supply the city offers up, a bond forms. Maybe a morbid bond, yet a bond nonetheless. When she was with them, she spoke their language, the slang they used only among themselves, not her own. Where else would I get to slip “badge bunny” or “Duracell shampoo” into a conversation? Her empathy for the stiffs and the cops came with the territory.

    “Got something,” Barbieri greeted Delaney at the door. So much for pleasantries. They went right into their shorthand.

    “What?”

    “Patience, young man.”

    Delaney followed his partner to her desk in the study, a literate woman’s version of a tormented writer’s man cave. Books were piled on every shelf not covered by yellow writing pads, each virgin territory after the first few pages, and atop the center of the desk was an old bargain-basement Dell laptop good for word processing and email, and not much else. She and the Dell went way back. Even after she finally succumbed to peer pressure and treated herself to a Macbook, she could not bring herself to toss it. One day I’ll get around to discarding the old apps and files. Then it’ll run faster, won’t it?

    She took out the envelope from the drawer, opened it, gingerly removed and unfolded the one-page letter, and placed both next to each other on top of the desk. Delaney’s eyes went from one to the other until he focused on the message. “I intend to commit a murder. ” He waited a nanosecond before asking her, “Fuck does it mean?”

    “What it says.”

    “When?”

    “When did I get it?”

    “When will he kill?”

    “Could be a she. Not anytime soon. My guess.”

    “Nothing to ID the sender.”

    “Could be anybody.”

    “From anywhere. Professional, maybe.”

    “Educated.”

    “Grammar counts for something.”

    “One perp, acting alone.”

    “One victim, not more. Singular.”

    “Mental case?”

    “Worker going postal?”

    “Computer literate.”

    “Uses Word. Sends file to the printer.”

    “Home office. Not safe for work.”

    “Definitely. Probably online. Maybe leaving a trail.”

    “Leading back to him. Her.”

    “What now? Police?”

    “Not yet.”

    “Nothing they can do.”

    Barbieri folded the letter, put it back in the envelope, and left it on her desk. As she followed Delaney out to his car, she fought the urge to remind him to keep the anonymous threat just between them. There was no need to; she knew he would not say a word to anyone.

    The reporter was not impressed with the brilliant deductions they had made based on some generic stationery and a single sentence. It was simple logic at work, and it did not really bring her any closer to identifying the sender. Regardless, by bringing in her loyal sidekick, she now had a better picture of the person threatening to commit a capital crime. The would-be perpetrator morphed from an abstraction, a cipher, into a human being with a name, a family, an address, and perhaps an online history, waiting to be exposed. She felt they had inched the cryptic note closer to becoming a critical piece of evidence in an out-and-out criminal case.

    On the other hand, their brilliant deductions could all be bullshit, and she knew it. The whole thing could be a hoax some sicko was playing on her. They had been wrong one or two times before, on matters a lot more trivial than murder. They could have been just reinforcing each other’s sloppy thinking. If not, it could turn out to be Barbieri’s first opportunity to cover the premeditated part of premeditated murder. How many reporters get the chance to put a story like this in their scrapbook?

    She was not sure how exactly, but she felt herself being drawn into a game with an element of danger to someone else, not herself or Delaney. This game might or might not have a lethal ending, and she wanted to know how it would turn out if it was just the three of them playing.

    Bringing my playmate into this arena is complicating my own involvement. Her mystery guest was now communicating with two outsiders, not just one, and Barbieri was not sure if he would appreciate Delaney becoming her full partner just yet. While she trusted Delaney more than anyone to keep quiet, the writer himself would have no reason to trust him. Her photographer could go to the cops if he ever got spooked.

    Telling them about her new pen pal was something her inner control freak would not allow just yet.

    Chapter Three

    When did I start thinking it would be a good idea to murder a complete stranger in cold blood?

    Can’t say for certain, but I do know things really started to get ugly for me when I put in my papers, posed for pictures with my new Rolex, and realized I’d made myself useless. If my plan to stick a knife in someone’s chest had a start date, this was it.

    That’s why you drove all the way up here to Almost Canada, isn’t it? To hear my side of the story? Trust me, I’ve wanted to tell it as much as you want to hear it.

    I used to be a real big shot, you know? It took a few years to escape the grunt work, but eventually I turned into a pretty important guy in the office. I was a big swinging dick, and I rather enjoyed it.

    Me, I was old-school. I started at the bottom, sharing a tiny cube with another peon. I watched how my bosses made money, and eventually their bosses let me into their world. I worked alongside them, shadowing them. Then one day, I found myself making money like them. King of the world, I felt like. I became my own little profit center for the firm and took off from there.

    See, as far as the higher-ups were concerned, my job description was very simple—make money. Make sure the company had more in the bank when I clocked out at night than it did when I’d clocked in in the morning. Simple.

    I was what the corporate world called a rainmaker. It’s a horseshit word for someone who knows how to drum up business and rake in the bucks. I don’t want to brag, but I made a ton of money for the company. A ton. They let me keep a big chunk of it to make sure I didn’t jump ship; between salary and bonuses, pretty soon I was taking home more than I knew what to do with, frankly.

    As long as I made it rain buckets, the gods were never angry. In my world, money definitely equaled love. You bring in money for the company, and the company shows you how much they love you by giving some of it back to you. They got rich, and I got raises that meant a lot and fancy new titles that meant nothing.

    Let you in on a secret. All the client wanted from me was to dig him out of the hole he had somehow dug for himself. Help him get home before his kids went to bed once in a while and help him sleep a little more soundly. This was what he was paying me for. You do this for him, you’re golden.

    Guys in the office looked to me to make the big decisions. They had the business degrees and connections, while I had the kind of wisdom you only get from hard times. I had the scars and bruises, they didn’t. I could spot opportunities. I came up with ideas, set goals, planned. I budgeted, motivated, negotiated, and I sold. I assembled teams, assigned tasks, and managed resources. I cut costs, anticipated roadblocks, put out fires, and made gut calls. I made plans, then executed them. To the HR guys who have a box to fill in the org chart, this job description would’ve been all I needed to get me in the door for an interview.

    The upstart MBA types I was forced to work with spoke a language the Navajo Code Talkers couldn’t break. Say one of them needed you to pitch in on a project. He didn’t ask if you had the time. He asked if you had extra bandwidth. Seriously, bandwidth? Whoever made this a word, they should bring back the death penalty just for him. My colleagues used ten-dollar words like resource allocation and immunization strategy to describe our job, bullshit terms created to make their work seem harder than it was, and impress outsiders who didn’t speak the language. Gave even our junior guys instant authority, as if they knew what they were talking about.

    Personally, I never knew what they were fuckin’ talking about half the time, and I was their boss.

    Consulting in retail was never hard as cutthroat businesses go. It was always challenging, sure, and I could always come up with gimmicks to help stores keep customers coming back and keep their doors open. Everybody thought I’d eventually make partner, even me. Especially me.

    Then Amazon came along, followed close behind by Josh Kelleher. There wasn’t much I could do to make my clients competitive with Amazon. You want to see what that monster’s done, just walk up Broadway. About the only thing missing is the tumbleweed. There wasn’t much I could do to keep my company from making this douchebag a partner, either. Kelleher was the CEO’s son-in-law, and all my earnings suddenly meant squat in comparison.

    I worked. Kelleher coasted. He got my partnership. I got a watch. Life’s unfair. I was more than a little pissed, so I walked.

    Of course, I had to remind myself my company didn’t put me out to pasture when I reached mandatory retirement age. I’d stopped working on my own—my decision, not theirs. They didn’t fire me; I fired them. Maybe I was too angry at being passed over to think clearly. Maybe I should’ve eaten crow and stayed. But this didn’t make my new carefree existence any easier. To my mind, it was not so much things weren’t working out the way I’d planned. Like everything else, my retirement was a work in progress. You tried one way of doing things, one new set of routines. If it didn’t work out, you went to plan B. No big deal.

    All I could do was hope it would all be OK in time. I’m sorry, bandwidth. Being home all the time, I spent many hours thinking about where I’d found myself and imagining taking a whole new direction no one could’ve predicted—least of all me.

    ***

    Excerpt from Unwitting Accomplice by Sid Meltzer. Copyright 2021 by Sid Meltzer. Reproduced with permission from Sid Meltzer. All rights reserved.

     

    Tour Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



     

     

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    Mailbox Monday

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    Mailbox Monday

    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.

    Tuesday: (02/23/21)

    Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens~ ARC from St. Martins Press
    The House Guests by Emilie Richards ~ Harlequin via NetGalley

    Friday: (02/26/21)

    The Deadening by Kerry Peresta ~ Kindle from Level Best Books via NetGalley

     

    February Wrap Up

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    February Books Read

    WooHoo!!! I read a total of 3 books this month. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but for the past year, I have not even come close as to how many books I used to read in a month. So this is a great accomplishment for me. I just hope that this continues and that maybe soon, I will get back to my old reading habits! Wish me luck!!!!

    My review for Do No Harm by Christina McDonald was posted on February 16th, which can be seen HERE.
    My review for You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon will be posted on May 21st, which can be seen HERE.

    My review for The Best Of Friends by Lucinda Berry will be posted on March 4th, which can be seen HERE.

     

    SYMPHONY ROAD by Gabriel Valjan || #Showcase

    Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan Banner

    Symphony Road

    by Gabriel Valjan

    February 1-28, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan

    Trouble comes in threes for Shane Cleary, a former police officer and now, a PI.

    Arson. A Missing Person. A cold case.

    Two of his clients whom he shouldn’t trust, he does, and the third, whom he should, he can’t.

    Shane is up against crooked cops, a notorious slumlord and a mafia boss who want what they want, and then there’s the good guys who may or may not be what they seem.

    Praise for Symphony Road:

    “The second installment in this noir series takes us on a gritty journey through mid-seventies Boston, warts and all, and presents Shane Cleary with a complex arson case that proves to be much more than our PI expected. Peppered with the right mix of period detail and sharp, spare prose, Valjan proves he’s the real deal.” – Edwin Hill, Edgar finalist and author of Watch Her

    “Ostracized former cop turned PI Shane Cleary navigates the mean streets of Boston’s seedy underbelly in Symphony Road. A brilliant follow up to Dirty Old Town, Valjan’s literary flair and dark humor are on full display.” – Bruce Robert Coffin, award-winning author of the Detective Byron Mysteries

    “A private eye mystery steeped in atmosphere and attitude.” – Richie Narvaez, author of Noiryorican

    Book Details:

    Genre: Crime fiction, Procedural, Noir, Historical Fiction
    Published by: Level Best Books
    Publication Date: January 15, 2021
    Number of Pages: 232
    ISBN: 978-1-953789-07-5
    Series: Shane Cleary Mystery, #2
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Read an excerpt:

    I went to cross the street when the wheels of a black Cadillac sped up and bristled over tempered glass from a recent smash-and-grab. The brake lights pulsed red, and a thick door opened. A big hulk stepped out, and the car wobbled. The man reached into his pocket. I thought this was it. My obituary was in tomorrow’s paper, written in past tense and in the smallest and dullest typeface, Helvetica, because nothing else said boring better.

    Click. Click. “I can never get this fucking thing to light.”

    It was Tony Two-Times, Mr. B’s no-neck side man. His nickname came from his habit of clicking his lighter twice. “Mr. B wants a word.”

    “Allow me.” I grabbed the Bic. The orange flame jumped on my first try and roasted the end of his Marlboro Red. “You really oughta quit.”

    “Thanks for the health advice. Get in.”

    Tony nudged me into the backseat. I became the meat in the sandwich between him and Mr. B. There was no need for introductions. The chauffeur was nothing more than a back of a head and a pair of hands on the wheel. The car moved and Mr. B contemplated the night life outside the window.

    “I heard you’re on your way to the police station to help your friend.”

    “News travels fast on Thursday night. Did Bill tell you before or after he called me?”

    “I’m here on another matter.”

    The cloud of smoke made me cough. Tony Two-Times was halfway to the filter. The chauffeur cracked the window a smidge for ventilation. As I expected, the radio played Sinatra and there were plans for a detour. A string of red and green lights stared back at us through a clean windshield.

    “A kid I know is missing,” Mr. B said.

    “Kids go missing all the time.”

    “This kid is special.”

    “Has a Missing Persons Report been filed?”

    The look from Mr. B prompted regret. “We do things my way. Understood?”

    We stopped at a light. A long-legged working girl with a chinchilla wrap crossed the street. She approached the car to recite the menu and her prices, but one look at us and she kept walking.

    “Is this kid one of your own?”

    The old man’s hand strummed leather. The missing pinky unnerved me. I’ve seen my share of trauma in Vietnam: shattered bones, intestines hanging out of a man, but missing parts made me queasy. The car moved and Mr. B continued the narrative.

    “Kid’s a real pain in my ass, which is what you’d expect from a teenager, but he’s not in the rackets, if that’s what you’re wondering. This should be easy money for you.”

    Money never came easy. As soon as it was in my hand, it went to the landlady, or the vet, or the utilities, or inside the refrigerator. I’d allow Mr. B his slow revelation of facts. Mr. B mentioned the kid’s gender when he said “he’s not in the rackets.” This detail had already made the case easier for me. A boy was stupider, easier to find and catch. Finding a teenage girl, that took something special, like pulling the wings off of an angel.

    “He’s a good kid. No troubles with the law, good in school, excellent grades and all, but his mother seems to think he needed to work off some of that rebellious energy kids get. You know how it is.”

    I didn’t. The last of my teen years were spent in rice paddies, in a hundred-seventeen-degree weather—and that was before summer—trying to distinguish friendlies from enemies in a jungle on the other side of the planet. And then there were the firefights, screams, and all the dead bodies.

    “Does this kid have a girlfriend?” I asked.

    Mr. B said nothing.

    “A boyfriend then?” That question made Mr. B twist his head and Tony Two-Times elbowed me hard. “I’ve got to ask. Kids these days. You know, drugs, sex, and rock’ n roll.”

    “The kid isn’t like your friend Bill, Mr. Cleary.”

    The mister before Cleary was a first. The ribs ached. I caught a flash of the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Mr. B conveyed specifics such as height and weight, build, the last known place the kid was seen, the usual hangouts and habits. This kid was All-American, too vanilla, and Mr. B had to know it. Still, this kid was vestal purity compared to Mr. B, who had run gin during Prohibition, killed his first man during the Depression, and became a made-man before Leave It to Beaver aired its first episode on television.

    The car came to a stop. The driver put an emphasis on the brakes. We sat in silence. The locks shot up. Not quite the sound of a bolt-action rifle, but close. Mr. B extended his hand for a handshake. I took it. No choice there. This was B’s way of saying his word was his bond and whatever I discovered during the course of my investigation stayed between us, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

    “I’ve got to ask,” I said.

    “I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

    “It’s not that,” I said, feeling Tony Two-Times’ breath on the back of my neck. “Did you hire Jimmy C to do a job lately?”

    “I did not.”

    “And Bill called me, just like that?” I knew better than to snap my fingers. Tony would grab my hand and crush my knuckles like a bag of peanuts. A massive paw on the shoulder told me it was time to vacate the premises, but then Mr. B did the tailor’s touch, a light hand to my elbow. “Jimmy is queer like your friend, right?”

    “What has that got to do with anything?”

    “When it comes to friends, you forgive certain habits, like I allow this idiot over here to smoke those stupid cigarettes. Capisci?”

    “Yeah, I understand.”

    “Good. Now, screw off.”

    I climbed over Tony Two-Times to leave the car. Door handle in my grip, I leaned forward to ask one last thing, “You know about Jimmy’s predicament?”

    “Ironic, isn’t it?” Mr. B said.

    “What is?”

    “I know everything in this town, except where my grandnephew is. Now, shut the door.”

    The door clapped shut. I heard bolts hammer down and lock. There was a brief sight of silhouettes behind glass before the car left the curb. I had two cases before breakfast, one in front of me, and the other one, behind me in the precinct house. There was no need for me to turn around. No need either, to read the sign overhead.

    The limestone building loomed large in my memory. Two lanterns glowed and the entrance, double doors of polished brass, were as tall and heavy as I remembered them. It was late March and I wasn’t Caesar but it sure as hell felt like the Ides of March as I walked up those marble steps.

    ***

    Excerpt from Symphony Road by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2021 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    Gabriel Valjan

    Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End. He is the author of the Roma Series and Company Files (Winter Goose Publishing) and the Shane Cleary series (Level Best Books). His second Company File novel, The Naming Game, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original in 2020. Gabriel is a member of the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writer (ITW), and Sisters in Crime.

    Catch Up With Gabriel Valjan:
    www.GabrielValjan.com
    GabrielsWharf.wordpress.com
    Goodreads
    BookBub – @gvaljan
    Instagram – @gabrielvaljan
    Twitter – @GValjan
    Facebook

     

     

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    Mailbox Monday

    winter_mailbox3

    Mailbox Monday

    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.

    Monday: (02/15/21)

    Aftermath by Terri Blackstock~ Kindle from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley
    Three Missing Days by Colleen Coble ~ Kindle from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley
    The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz~ ARC from Celadon Books

    Wednesday: (02/17/21)

    Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens ~ Kindle from St. Martin’s Press via Edelweiss
    Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams~ Kindle from William Morrow

    Friday: (02/19/21)

    The Family Plot by Megan Collins~ Kindle from Atria Books/S&S via NetGalley

    Saturday: (02/20/21)

    Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry~ HC from Harper Collins

    HER EVERY MOVE by Kelly Irvin || #Showcase #Giveaway

    Her Every Move

    by Kelly Irvin

    February 8 – March 5, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    Her Every Move by Kelly Irvin

    He’s a cop trying to stop a serial bomber. And she’ll stop at nothing to clear her own name.

    When a deadly bomb goes off during a climate change debate, librarian and event coordinator Jackie Santoro becomes the prime suspect. Her motive, according to Detective Avery Wick: to avenge the suicide of her prominent father, who was accused of crimes by a city councilman attending the event.

    Though Avery has doubts about Jackie’s guilt, he can’t exonerate her even after an extremist group takes responsibility for the bombing and continues to attack San Antonio’s treasured public spaces.

    As Jackie tries to hold her shattered family together, she has no choice but to proceed with plans for the Caterina Ball, the library system’s biggest annual fundraiser. But she also fears the event provides the perfect opportunity for the bomber to strike again.

    Despite their mistrust, Jackie and Avery join forces to unmask the truth—before the death toll mounts even higher.

    Book Details:

    Genre: Suspense
    Published by: Thomas Nelson
    Publication Date: February 9, 2021
    Number of Pages: 352
    ISBN: 0785231900 (ISBN13: 9780785231905)
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook | Goodreads

     

    Read an excerpt:

    A steady stream of patrons stood and edged toward the center aisle. A low murmur swelled to the sound of hundreds of people all talking at once. Soon they’d be in front of Jackie, impeding her progress from the parking garage and on the narrow, one-way downtown streets of San Antonio.

    “Great job, Jackie. Looks like your boss was wrong.” Sandoval’s constituent services director, Tony Guerra, sauntered up the aisle toward her. “Climate change opponents can coexist amicably in the same space. And so can city manager and city council staff.”

    “Thanks, but it took a whole host of partners to make this happen. And it’s not over yet.” Jackie stuck her hand on the door lever that would release her to the Tobin’s massive lobby.

    She liked Tony, which was a good thing since he’d asked Estrella to marry him. However, he wore his political ambitions like an obnoxious neon-pink tie.

    “I have to go. I want to make sure there are no last-minute snags with the reception. Then it’s back to fine-tuning the altars for the Catrina Ball. It’s only a week away, and I’m behind because of the debate.”

    “You never let up, do you? Are we still on for the Spurs game tomorrow—”

    A powerful force knocked Jackie from her feet.

    Her skull banged on the hardwood floor.

    Sharp projectiles pelted her face in a painful ping-ping.

    What’s happening?

    Estrella? Tony? Bella?

    Muffled screams and even her own moaning seemed strangely distant. “Estrella? Tony? Bella?”

    If they answered, Jackie couldn’t hear them. She dragged herself onto her hands and knees. Glass and sharp metal pierced both. She forced open burning eyes.

    Heavy black smoke shrouded the hall. Metal and debris like deadly confetti showered her. She raised her arm to her forehead to protect her face from the remnants of folding chairs and electronics.

    Warm blood dripped from her nose. The acrid taste of smoke and fear collected in her mouth. Her stomach heaved. Her pulse pounded so hard dizziness threatened to overcome her.

    No, no, no. Do not pass out. People need help.

    Shrieking alarms bellowed.

    Water, like torrential rain, poured from above. Rain, inside? Her ricocheting thoughts made no sense. Jackie shook her head. Neither the smoke nor the clanging in her brain subsided.

    Sprinkler system.

    The smoke had triggered the sprinklers.

    Where there’s smoke there’s fire. The old cliché ran
    circles in her mind like a children’s nursery rhyme.

    Estrella’s mama and papa would never forgive Jackie if something happened to their sweet daughter. Mercedes and Mateo always saw Jackie as the instigator of trouble. And they were usually right.

    Ignoring pain and panic, she crawled forward. Sharp metal bit into her skin. Where were her shoes?

    Finally she encountered a warm, writhing body. “Tony?”

    “What happened?” He struggled to sit up. Blood poured from an open wound on his scalp, his nose, and a cut on his lip. “I have to get to Estrella and Diego.”

    He might have yelled, but Jackie could barely make out the words. She leaned back on her haunches. “You’re hurt. Does anything feel broken?”

    “No, but I can’t hear anything.” He wiped at his face. Blood streaked his once crisply starched white shirt. “Why can’t I hear?”

    “It’ll pass. We have to get everyone out.”

    With a groan, Tony leaned over and vomited on the floor. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Okay, let’s go.”

    “Everyone out. If you can walk on your own, evacuate.” One of the contract security guards hired for the debate loomed over them. “The bomb squad is on the way. Go, go.”

    “We’re fine. We’ll help get the others out.”

    “Negative. Get out, there could be more bombs.”

    Bombs.

    ***

    Excerpt from Her Every Move by Kelly Irvin. Copyright 2021 by Kelly Irvin. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Author Bio:

    Kelly Irvin

    Bestseller Kelly Irvin is the author of 19 books, including romantic suspense and Amish romance. Publishers Weekly called Closer Than She Knows “a briskly written thriller.” The Library Journal said of her novel Tell Her No Lies, “a complex web with enough twists and turns to keep even the most savvy romantic suspense readers guessing until the end.” The two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist worked as a newspaper reporter for six years on the Texas-Mexico border. Those experiences fuel her romantic suspense novels set in Texas. A retired public relations professional, Kelly now writes fiction full-time. She lives with her husband professional photographer Tim Irvin in San Antonio. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two ornery cats.

    Visit Kelly Irvin Online:
    www.KellyIrvin.com
    Goodreads – kellyirvin
    BookBub – @KellyIrvin
    Instagram – kelly_irvin
    Twitter – @Kelly_S_Irvin
    Facebook – Kelly.Irvin.Author

     

     

    Tour Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

     

     

    Giveaway!:

    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kelly Irvin. There will be 3 winners. Each inner will receive (1) physical copy of Her Every Move by Kelly Irwin (U.S. addresses only). The giveaway begins on February 8, 2021 and runs through March 7, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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    UP THE CREEK by Alissa Grosso | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

    Up the Creek by Alissa Grosso Banner

     

     

    Up the Creek

    by Alissa Grosso

    January 11 – March 12, 2021 Tour

    Synopsis:

    Up the Creek by Alissa Grosso

    An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

    Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

    In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

    How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery Thriller
    Published by: Glitter Pigeon Press
    Publication Date: January 12, 2021
    Number of Pages: 356
    ISBN: 9781949852080
    Series: Culver Creek Series, Book 1
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

     

    Author Bio:

    Alissa Grosso

    Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

    Q&A with Alissa Grosso

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    With every book I set out to write a book that I would enjoy reading. Up the Creek began with the character of Caitlin who had some psychic dreams when she was a kid, and then the rest of the story grew around her.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    I don’t have the luxury to write full time so for me the biggest challenge is balancing writing with all the other things I have to do, and finding the time to work on my books.

    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    I kind of feel like I can and do write all the time. I think I’ve written whole novels in my head while in the shower. So, other than being in the right headspace, I don’t think I need anything to write. But that being in the right headspace things is a biggie.

    Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

    Strict routines are anathema to me. I admire, but don’t envy people who live by schedules. My preferred method is to write when I feel like it. In truth this is basically the “schedule” I follow for all things in my life.

    Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

    Well, though Up the Creek started with Caitlin this series follows Sage Dorian. So, I think I would have to say he’s my favorite. He’s a complicated and haunted man, but he’s out there doing what he can to make the world a better place, and he has a good heart.

    Who is your least favorite character from your book and why?

    Well, I have one, but I can’t tell you who or why because it would reveal a spoiler for a later book in the series.

    Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

    The book was originally titled Every Parent’s Nightmare. It fits, but as my friend and fellow writer Stephen Parrish rightfully pointed out it sounded too dark and scary. The book isn’t that terrifying, and I didn’t want to scare readers away so I opted for the less frightening title Up the Creek.

    Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

    2021 marks my tenth year as a published author, and I am still so thankful to each and every reader who has taken the time to read one of my books. It truly means the world to me. So, thank you!

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

    I’m from New Jersey though these days live just a stone’s throw away (well, maybe if you’re a major league pitcher and can throw a stone across the Delaware River) in Pennsylvania. I’ve been writing stories almost as long as I’ve been reading them. One of my biggest fans (I know this because mine are the only books he reads) is my boyfriend Ron. My other outlet is creating digital artwork for t-shirts, stickers, cards, and other products.

    What’s next that we can look forward to?

    Book Two in the Culver Creek series, Factory Girls, comes out on February 9th. The third book follows in March and the fourth and final book in April.

    Find out more about Alissa Grosso and her books at:
    AlissaGrosso.com
    Goodreads
    BookBub
    Twitter
    Facebook

     

    Read an excerpt:

    Caitlin emerged from a black, dreamless sleep to screams. Adam’s tortured cries sounded almost otherworldly. They turned her blood to ice and made her heart race. She sat straight up, then bolted from bed, blinking sleep from her eyes as she raced toward the door, banging her shin on the dresser as she went. She yanked on the doorknob and almost toppled over when it didn’t yield as she expected. Goddammit. Lance had locked the door again.

    She spared a glance toward the bed, but her husband wasn’t there. Instead he was standing, looking out the window. For a moment she thought she was mistaken. Were the screams coming from outside?

    “Lance?” she asked.

    He turned to her, but his eyes looked past her at some point on the wall.

    “What’s going on?” he mumbled, barely awake.

    “Adam’s having a nightmare,” she said.

    “Again?” he asked. “Maybe we should just let him sleep it off.”

    The screams had subsided now, but she could still hear her son’s whimpers from down the hall. Sleep it off? Could Lance really be that clueless? She unlocked the door and flung it open. It bounced almost silently off the rubber doorstopper, which didn’t really give her the dramatic exit she was hoping for.

    She still couldn’t quite wrap her head around her husband just standing there looking out the window while Adam cried for them. Usually Lance was the one who woke up first. Maybe he had already gone to comfort Adam and came back to their bedroom by the time she awoke. He seemed so out of it, though. Well, that’s what a lack of sleep could do to a person.

    Adam sat on his bed in a nest of tangled sheets. His face was damp with tears and sweat, his dark hair plastered to his forehead. The hippo nightlight cast large, ominous shadows when she stepped into his room. He looked up with a start, then relaxed when he saw it was her.

    She sat down beside him and pulled his small body to her, wrapping her arms around him and rocking him gently back and forth. The tears subsided, but he still felt tense.

    “Mommy, I’m scared of the bad boy,” he said. “The bad boy’s going to hurt me.”

    “Nobody’s going to hurt you,” she assured him. “You’re safe. It was just a dream. Look, you’re safe in your bedroom.”

    At this, Adam pulled away from her a little to study the dimly lit bedroom. Maybe they should get a different nightlight. She had never realized how spooky that hippo light made everything look.

    “There were trees,” Adam said, “and a river. She was playing in the river.”

    Caitlin stiffened. Adam noticed it and looked up at her. She smiled at him.

    “It was just a dream,” she said, as much to reassure herself as him. “It wasn’t real.”

    There were lots of rivers out there, and wasn’t Adam just watching a cartoon show with cute animals that had to get across a river? That was probably where that detail came from. Plus, she reminded herself, it hadn’t been a river. It had been a creek. She wasn’t sure Adam knew the difference between a river and a creek, though. But a little girl playing in a river? No, wait, was that what he had said? He said only “she.” For all Caitlin knew, this she could have been a girl river otter. Maybe he had been having a cute dream about river creatures.

    And a “bad boy,” she reminded herself. She remembered his bloodcurdling screams. There was nothing cute about the dream he had. Still, she clung to the “bad boy” detail. Was he talking about a child? If so, then the river was just a coincidence. She wanted to ask him more about the bad boy, but this was the worst thing she could do. He was already starting to calm down, starting to forget the details of his nightmare. She couldn’t go dredging things back up again.

    “Mommy, can I sleep in your room?” Adam asked.

    #

    Lance was fully awake and in bed when Caitlin returned with Adam in her arms.

    “Hey there, champ,” Lance said. “Have a bad dream?”

    “Daddy, he hurt her,” Adam said. “He hurt her head. She was bleeding.”

    Her son’s tiny body stiffened again in Caitlin’s arms, and she gave Lance an exasperated look as she set Adam down in the middle of the bed.

    “We’d already gotten past that,” she said in a whispered hiss.

    “Obviously,” Lance said with a roll of his eyes, “which is why he’s sleeping in our bed. Again.”

    She slid into the bed beside Adam and adjusted the covers, ignoring her husband. She petted Adam’s head and made soft, soothing noises.

    “Remember, that wasn’t real, just make believe, like a movie.” She didn’t want him to get himself worked up again talking about the dream, but it wasn’t just that. She didn’t want to hear any more details from the nightmare because the bit about the bad boy hurting the girl’s head and the blood felt a touch too familiar.

    She stroked his face, and his eyelids slowly drooped closed. He looked so calm and peaceful when he slept.

    “I thought we said we weren’t going to do this anymore,” Lance said. Even whispering, his voice was too loud. She held her finger to her lips. He continued more quietly, “I’m just saying, I think it would be better for him if he sleeps in his own bed.”

    “It’s already after three,” she said. “It’s only for a few hours.”

    “That’s not the point,” Lance said. “He’s nearly five years old. We can’t keep babying him.”

    It was like the school argument all over again, and Caitlin didn’t want to get into it. Not now. She was still tired and groggy and needed more sleep.

    “I want to get him a new nightlight,” she said to change the subject. “The one he has makes these creepy shadows.”

    “A new nightlight,” Lance repeated in a skeptical voice. “Sure, that will solve everything.”

    “The important thing,” she said, “is that we have to remind him that his dreams are not real. That they’re make believe. We have to be united on this.”

    Lance made a dismissive noise and lay back down on his pillow, turning his body away from her and Adam. He muttered something, but his voice was muffled by the pillow.

    “Lance, this is important,” she said. “We have to make it clear that his dreams are not real. He has to know they aren’t true.”

    He sighed. “What kind of moron do you think I am? Do you really think I’m going to start telling him his dreams about boogeymen are real?” He squirmed around and pulled the covers up in an attempt to get comfortable. She thought he was done, but he stopped shifting around long enough to add, “It’s not exactly like you’re the foremost expert in dreams.”

    ***

    Excerpt from Up the Creek by Alissa Grosso. Copyright 2021 by Alissa Grosso. Reproduced with permission from Alissa Grosso. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Tour Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



     

     

    Giveaway!:

    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Alyssa Grosso. There will be two (2) winners each receiving one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on January 11, 2021 and runs through March 14, 2021. Void where prohibited.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

     

     

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