Feb 242017
 

End of the Road

by LS Hawker

on Tour January 30th – February 28, 2017

Synopsis:

End of the Road by L.S. Hawker

Great minds can change the world

or leave it in ruins . . .

When tech prodigy Jade Veverka creates a program to communicate with her autistic sister, she’s tapped by a startup to explore the potential applications of her technology. But Jade quickly begins to notice some strange things about the small Kansas town just beyond the company’s campus—why are there no children anywhere to be seen, and for that matter, anyone over the age of forty? Why do all of the people living here act uncomfortable and jumpy?

On the way home one night, Jade and her co-worker are run off the road, and their lab and living spaces are suddenly overrun with armed guards, purportedly for their safety. Confined to the compound and questioning what her employers might be hiding from her, Jade fears she’s losing control not only of her invention, but of her very life. It soon becomes clear that the threat reaches far beyond Jade and her family, and the real danger is much closer than she’d ever imagined.

MY REVIEW

4 stars

Jade Veverka accepts, what in her mind is, the ultimate job to continue the research of her AI program that she developed for her autistic sister Clementine. But soon things aren’t what they appear to be and those close to her are being threatened, or even worse, murdered.

This is the first book I have read by this author and thoroughly enjoyed it. The suspense kept me glued to this book. I am looking forward to reading more titles by this author.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 31st 2017
Number of Pages: 384
ISBN: 006243523X (ISBN13: 9780062435231)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

September 7

Jade Veverka unwrapped the frozen bomb pop she’d bought from the gas station on the corner of Main and 3rd and took a bite. She sat gazing at the pile of magazines on the barbershop coffee table while a rhythmic alarm-clock buzz went off in her head. Not an urgent warning, just buzz buzz buzz.

Her friend and coworker Elias Palomo sat in the barber chair, getting his customary fade crew cut, the same one he’d presumably sported since his plebe days at the Naval Academy. So the background to her mental alarm clock was an actual buzzing from the electric razor punctuated now by a sharp yip of pain from Elias.

“Sorry about that,” the barber said.

Elias rubbed his ear, and Jade attempted to keep her face neutral, looking at his scowl in the mirror.

Buzz buzz buzz.

She leaned forward and fanned the magazines—Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated, ESPN—all this month’s issues. Jade took another bite of bomb pop and grinned.

“What are you smiling at?” Elias grumbled, rubbing his nicked ear.

“I don’t know how to tell you this,” Jade said, “but you are not the center of my universe. I do occasionally react to things outside of you. I know it comes as a shock.”

“Shut up,” he said, his dark eyes flashing.

Jade stared now in fascination as the razor tracked upwards on Elias’s skull, his glossy black hair—or what was left of it—uneven, his scalp an angry pink. This guy was the worst hair dresser Jade had ever seen. And the least talkative. In her experience, growing up in rural Ephesus, Kansas, barbers had always fit the stereotype—gregarious and gossipy.

Elias was the shop’s lone customer, and only a few folks walked by outside the window, through which Jade could see the hardware store and the occasional slow passing car.

Buzz buzz buzz.

It struck Jade now that this was less a barbershop than what amounted to a barbershop museum, complete with an actor playing the part of the barber. She wanted to point this out to Elias, but it would mean nothing to him. He’d grown up in Reno, Nevada, a vast metropolis compared to Jade’s 1200-population hometown an hour southeast of this one, which was called Miranda, Kansas.

Not only was this man not a barber, he wasn’t a Kansan either, Jade would have bet money.

“Hey,” she said to him. “What’s your name?”

The man went on butchering as if she hadn’t spoken. Elias’s eyes met Jade’s in the mirror, and his dark thick brows met on either side of a vertical crease, his WTF? wrinkle. He leaned his head away from the razor, finally making the barber pay attention.

“The lady asked you a question,” Elias said.

Jade had to hold in a guffaw. This never failed to tickle her, him referring to her as a lady. No one other than him had ever done that before. Plus she loved the authoritative rumble of his voice, a trait he’d probably developed at Annapolis.

The barber froze, his eyes locked with Elias’s. Weird.

“Need a prompt?” Elias said. “Your name.”

The man cleared his throat.

“Is it classified?”

Jade did guffaw this time, and she watched the barber’s jaw muscles compress as she clapped a hand over her mouth.

“My name’s Richard.”

“Hello, Richard, I’m Elias. This is Jade. We work out at SiPraTech.”

Jade could see from Richard’s face he knew very well where they worked. He nodded and got back to destroying the remains of Elias’s hair.

“Whereabouts you from, Richard?” Jade said.

He pulled the razor away from Elias’s head and blinked at her.

What in the world was this guy’s problem?

Buzz buzz buzz.

Elias emitted a loud sigh, clearly exasperated by the guy’s reticence, and waved a hand as if to say, “Carry on, barber-not-barber.”

Jade laughed again.

“Here,” Richard mumbled. “I’m from here.”

Like hell. What was he, in the witness protection program or something?

And then it hit her. The magazines, every last one of them, was a current issue. In a barbershop. The place where back issues of magazines go to die.

She’d worked for SiPraTech just over three months now, and Miranda, the closest town, had always given her an itch. Something about it was slightly off, but she couldn’t say what. She’d brought it up to her team members—Elias, Berko Deloatch, and Olivia Harman, and each of them had looked at her like she was schitzy. They all came from big cities, so Miranda struck them as weird in general.

Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz.

As if drawn by static electricity, her eyes tracked to the window where a man in mirrored shades peered into the barbershop. The man had a dark mustache and wore a blue baseball cap pulled low over the sunglasses.

What was he staring at? She glanced behind her, but there was nothing to see but a white wall. When she turned back, the man mouthed something at her, his exaggerated soundless enunciation wringing a sharp intake of breath from her.

“What?” Elias said in response to her gasp.

Was it her imagination, or did this man she’d never seen before say her name?

Jade Veverka.

She looked at Elias, and said, “There’s a man out there—”

Author Bio:

LS HAWKERLS HAWKER grew up in suburban Denver, indulging her worrisome obsession with true-crime books, and writing stories about anthropomorphic fruit and juvenile delinquents. She wrote her first novel at 14.

Armed with a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas, she had a radio show called “People Are So Stupid,” edited a trade magazine and worked as a traveling Kmart portrait photographer, but never lost her passion for fiction writing.

She’s got a hilarious, supportive husband, two brilliant daughters, and a massive music collection. She lives in Colorado but considers Kansas her spiritual homeland. She is the author of The Drowning Game, a USA Today Bestseller, and Body and Bone.

Q&A with LS Hawker

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Yes, and yes. My characters get to experience a lot of the things I’ve experienced (*laughs and rubs hands together evilly*). My second novel, BODY AND BONE, dealt with online trolls and Internet bullying, which is a current phenomenon. My newest release, END OF THE ROAD, is centered around self-propagating computer programs and nerd pop culture.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I usually have a vague idea of how the story is going to end, although with my debut, THE DROWNING GAME, it ended up in a place I never could have foreseen at when I started writing, because things happened that I hadn’t anticipated leading up to it.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Absolutely. In THE DROWNING GAME, Randy, a definite bad guy, is based on a friend’s ex-boyfriend. When she and I would go out, he would hunt us down. One night he drank an entire fifth of Jack Daniel’s and drove around looking for us. When he found us, we tried to get his car keys from him, and he grabbed me by the face and shoved me down into the street. Not a nice guy.

On the other end of the spectrum is my second novel BODY AND BONE’s Isabeau, who’s based on my friend Liz. I really struggled writing my second, because it was the first time I’d written to deadline. So having Liz there in my mind and heart as I wrote was a calming, light influence, just as her character is to my protag in the book.

I’ve had friends actually ask me to put them into my novels.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I write standing a lot, as I have an electric height-adjustable desk. My office ceiling is covered in Christmas lights, I burn scented candles, and I binge write, sometimes for 15+ hours at a time.

Tell us why we should read this book.
If you like twisting, unpredictable narratives, tech, nerd culture references, ethnically diverse characters, and high peril, this is the book for you. If you don’t, you should read it anyway.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many, but here’s a partial list. I love Gregg Hurwitz, Liane Moriarty, Gilly Macmillan, Harlan Coben, Tom Wolfe, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Nick Hornby, Ira Levin, Michael Crichton, John Steinbeck, and Anne Tyler.

What are you reading now?
Just finished FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay. I’ve been binge-reading him over the last month—five of his books. His plots are consistently interesting, his characters real and funny, and his pacing outstanding. Yes, I’m a fan.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m rewriting an old manuscript right now, one that includes a couple of secondary characters from THE DROWNING GAME—Uncle Curt Dekker and Petty’s lawyer, George Engle—as young men in the 1980s. George wakes up behind a burning house with a gun in his hand and no recollection of how he got there. Curt comes to his aid in the most unconventional of ways.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
This is always a hard question for me, because I like to think that my characters would be played by unknown actors. But if pressed, I’d say Hailee Steinfeld would probably do END OF THE ROAD’s Jade proud.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Movies, parties, live music, more parties. Oh, and reading, of course.

Favorite meal?
Whenever we’re celebrating, we go for crab legs with a side of artichokes.

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

Visit Ms. Hawker’s Website 🔗, her Twitter Feed 🔗, & her Facebook Page 🔗.

Tour Participants:

Visit the other tour participants for interviews, guest posts, reviews, & more great giveaways!


Check Out This Awesome Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for LS Hawker and William Morrow. There will be 3 US winners of one (1) eBook Coupon for End of the Road by LS Hawker. The giveaway begins on January 24th and runs through March 2nd, 2017.

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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.
DISCLAIMER

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.
ADDENDUM

I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Feb 232017
 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins
Published by Riverhead Books
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
ISBN-10: 1594634025
ISBN-13: 978-1594634024
Pages: 336
Review Copy From: Personal Purchase
Edition: PB
My Rating: 4

Synopsis via GR:

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My Thoughts and Opinion:

I really liked this book, however………

Rachel is not in the best frame of mind. Still trying to cope with her marriage ending and having a drinking problem, she gets caught up in a missing person case that turns out to be a murder.

The mystery and suspense flowed. It was definitely an interesting read that had this reader guessing as to who the killer was but I had my suspicions and was right.

Like I said, I enjoyed this title, but, I’m not sure if it was due to all the hype and that I recently read 2 other psychological thrillers, that I was expecting a more shocking story. Overall it was an entertaining read.

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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.
DISCLAIMER

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.
ADDENDUM

I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Feb 222017
 

The Piper

by Charles Todd

on Tour February 1-28, 2017

Synopsis:

The Piper by Charles Todd

Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge returns shell shocked from the trenches of World War I, tormented by the spirit of Hamish MacLeod, the young soldier he executed on the battlefield. Now, Charles Todd features Hamish himself in this compelling, stand-alone short story.

Before the Great War, Hamish is farmer in the Scottish Highlands, living in a small house on the hillside and caring for a flock of sheep he inherited from his grandmother. When one spring evening he hears a faint cry ringing across the glen, Hamish sets out in the dark to find the source. Near the edge of the loch he spots a young boy laying wounded, a piper’s bag beside him. Hamish brings the piper to his home to stay the night and tends to his head wound, but by the time Hamish wakes the boy has fled. He tracks the footsteps in pursuit of the injured lad and finds him again collapsed in the grasses—now dead.

Who was the mysterious piper, and who was seeking his death? As Hamish scours the countryside for answers, he finds that few of his neighbors are as honest as he, and that until he uncovers a motive, everyone, including Hamish, is a suspect.

MY REVIEW

4 stars

I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of short stories, however, I have recently changed my mind on this subject.

Reading this novella has introduced me to an author that I have not read before and quite enjoyed. It amazes me how an author can deliver a full suspenseful story within so few pages.

The Piper introduces the reader to Hamish MacLeod, a Scottish shepherd in the year 1914. He comes across a young “lad” who has been beaten, and later dies. Feeling he wants justice for this young Bag Piper, he begins his own investigation and plans to seek out who is responsible. And some of the people he meets aren’t who they say they are.

Amazing…63 pages of an intriguing story that fully had my attention!

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 10th 2017
Number of Pages: 100
ISBN: 0062678094 (ISBN13: 9780062678096)
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge #19.5
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Charles Todd

Author Bio:

Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother-and-son writing team, they live on the East Coast.

INTERVIEW

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads.

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Since we write psychological suspense set in the time of the Great War, we don’t use personal experiences or current events. Still, people today are not very different from our characters in the period we’ve chosen. They still resort to murder to solve their problems, and the police must find killers without the benefit of CSI. But for us that’s the fun of it, setting up a murder and then sending Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard after the person who did it. It’s a cat and mouse game, hunter and hunted, and that’s both exciting and intriguing. Rutledge has only his wits to help him, his knowledge of people, and his experience. And so it’s more personal, more intense, and we want the reader to come along on the chase with us.

When starting to write a story, do you start from the beginning and see where it takes you or do you know what the conclusion will be and plot in reverse?
We start with page one, create the setting and the murder, and then see where the characters take us. It’s always a challenge to find out if we’re actually going to come to the end of the story with the killer caught, because we have no idea who he or she may be or why the murder or murders were done. If your characters come alive, if you let them be human and do what they would have done in real life, they’ll lead you to a satisfying and exciting conclusion. We just follow along and put it all down on paper. So far our characters have never let us down!

Are any of your characters based on people that you know?
We’ve only used a person we knew once, and that was a very dear friend who really loved Rutledge and cared about what was to happen to him. But as a rule, it’s hard to make “real” people fit into a story they aren’t a part of. Our characters come from the time and the setting, and we go to England to find the right place for the right story to begin. As we’re walking around a village, the characters begin to take shape, to belong there, and to have their own stories. That’s probably why the books seem to live for us and for many readers. The setting is always real, and that seems to breathe life into the people too.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
Charles: I write better in the morning, which actually works out quite well. We’ve already discussed the scene we’re working on together, and I will try out some action and dialog. Meanwhile, Caroline is doing the same at her end—only in the evening. So we have time to look over each other’s ideas, figure out what works best for the book, and take it from there. If there’s any problem, we solve it by going with what is true to the characters and the story. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful over twenty books for Rutledge and about half that number for the Bess Crawford mysteries set in the same Great War period. We’ve found a way to collaborate that really works for both of us.
Caroline: We really don’t have any idiosyncrasies, no “method” that helps us prepare for writing. By the time we’ve reached the second or third chapter, we’re so into the story that it’s exciting, and we’re eager to know what happens next. But there are two things that do matter. We can’t work in the same room—we talk too much and get nothing done. So we work in separate rooms even if we’re in the same house. It’s always been a long-distance effort, different towns and even different states, and we’re happy with that. The other thing is, we never like to talk about a story in progress. It seems to take the edge off, and so we just smile and tell our editor, “It’s going well.” And she’s content with that. She trusts us to deliver in the end.

Tell us why we should read your book?
What should we look for any book? We want it to be exciting—believable—fast-paced but well thought out—with characters we care about and want to spend time with. For us, the Great War was dramatic, it changed nations, and it shattered the lives of millions of ordinary people. What more riveting backdrop for murder and mystery? And here’s a man who chose police work because he wanted to give the victim a voice. But the war changed him too, and he came back to Scotland Yard with more in common with the killer. The trenches still haunt him, as they haunted so many, and you find yourself on his side, rooting for him, wanting him to win, and to heal. And that’s where the short story, “The Piper,” comes in. We often use short stories to tell the reader more about Corporal Hamish MacLeod, who served with Rutledge in the trenches until the Battle of the Somme and whose death has left unimaginable scars in Rutledge’s mind. Here for the first time, we let Hamish tell about his life before the Great War, before Rutledge met him. Turned out to be quite an experience!

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
We’ve recently handed in the next Bess Crawford mystery, A CASUALTY OF WAR—she’s a battlefield nurse who is sometimes drawn into situations where she sees, often more clearly than the police, what others are hiding. It’s been interesting to view the Great War through a woman’s eyes, and her training as a wartime nurse and her experiences as the daughter of a regimental colonel give her a wide range of talents to help solve a mystery. She’s really fun to write about, because she’s lively and intriguing, and very much able to take care of herself with wit and a clever mind–and a sense of duty that sometimes leads her into trouble. That’s September, by the way. And with the latest Rutledge, RACING THE DEVIL, just coming out in February, we’ve begun the Rutledge for 2018. This time we want to explore what happens to Rutledge when he is the only witness to a death… Stay tuned, we’ll soon know more.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
We both have a long list of favorites, past and present. We both grew up with Conan Doyle and Poe, then moved on to Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsyth, and Nelson DeMille, to name a few. Currently, we’re great fans of Lee Child and Lori Rader-Day, Anne Cleeland and Deborah Crombie, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Michael Connelly, Michael Stanley and Jeffrey Deaver, Judy Clemens and Laura Lippman. As you can see, we love to read mysteries as well as to write them!

What are you reading now?
Caroline: I just snagged an early copy of Deborah Crombie’s GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS.
Charles: I am in the middle of Lee Child’s latest.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Now that’s a question that comes up in every talk we give—and fans have their own ideas about who should play Rutledge. We’d like to see David Tarrant in the part. He’s actually older than Rutledge, but we think he has the skill to capture the man, heart and soul.

Who would play Bess? That’s harder to decide. Hmmmmm.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby>?
Charles: I find fishing very relaxing.
Caroline: I love to travel. I’ve been to exciting places all over the world, and sometimes they sort of wind up in the books…

Favorite meal?
Caroline: Forget the meal. Chocolate ice cream, pecan or mince pie, and a Cadbury bar will do just fine.
Charles: I love fish or shell fish, with a baked potato, sour cream, and asparagus.

Caroline: Okay, I’d start with shrimp cocktail, then a really good soup, like snapper, move on to a thick filet, and I like a variety of vegetables, so carrots or peas or green beans or asparagus. And sweet ice tea, southern style.
Charles: Ending with coffee, a really good cup of coffee, cream, no sugar.

THANKS, THIS HAS BEEN FUN TO DO!

Catch Up with the latest Charles Todd news on their Website 🔗, Twitter 🔗 & Facebook 🔗

Tour Participants:

Visit the tour stops for great features & reviews!

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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.
DISCLAIMER

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.
ADDENDUM

I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

Feb 212017
 

Revealing Nicola by Sam Cheever Tour Banner

Revealing Nicola

by Sam Cheever

February 21, 2017 Book Blast

Revealing Nicola by Sam Cheever

Synopsis:

She has to overcome a lifetime of secrets…the shock of discovery.

He must protect a treasure that has turned passion to hate… reason to incoherence.

Poisoned by danger, intrigue, lust, and greed…their very survival is in the balance.

Can they endure the conspiracy and find love? And if they do…will it be enough?

Book Details:

Genre:Romantic Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Electric Prose Publications
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 183
ISBN: 978-1-63587-971-1
Series: La Fortuna DeVitis #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | iTunes 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

A coughing sound engaged Franco’s training and he had her on the ground beneath him before the second shot was fired.

The roast chicken exploded, sending shredded meat across the table and raining over them.

Nici’s eyes were wide with fear. “What?”

“Stay down. Don’t move.”

He crawled off her, reaching for his piece as he positioned himself between the car and the table. From the trajectory of the shots, Franco figured the shooter had gone high, probably sitting in a tree to the south of their position. If Nic stayed down on the ground between the table and the Jeep she should be out of his range. But he had no intention of leaving her there.

He needed to get her into the car and out of that park as fast as he could.

Another shot sighed past, hitting the side of the car. Behind him, Nic yelped and he was afraid she’d been hit. “You all right?”

“Other than peeing myself? I’m just dandy. You need to get down, Franco. You’re going to get shot.”

He couldn’t help smiling as his gaze slid slowly along the perimeter. “I’m the bodyguard, remember? I’m the one who’s supposed to get shot.”

“Don’t even joke about that.”

There! A dark form shifted between the branches of a tree, seventy-five yards away. Franco dived to the ground as three rounds peppered the table, spewing food in a messy arc around them. “Damn! This guy’s good.”

“Well yeah, I can see he’s really pissed off at that potato salad.”

Franco barked out a laugh. “Keep it down back there. I’m trying to concentrate.”

“Well can you hurry? I really do have to pee and I’m thinking you don’t want me to squat right here.”

The words were light but her voice quavered with fear. He nodded. “You’re right. Let’s quit screwing around with these jerks. When I say ‘go’, I want you to roll over to the car and slide underneath it. Move as quickly as you can to the other side and climb in. Keep your head down.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll be right behind you.”

“Okay.”

Franco lifted his head so he could see the guy in the tree. He hadn’t moved. He scanned the roads around the park and saw they were empty. Then he checked his magazine and found it half full. Hopefully it would be enough because his spare ammo was in the canvas bag in the back of the Jeep. He’d beat himself up for his carelessness later. At the moment he had bigger problems.

The SUV he’d seen driving past had pulled into position on the opposite side of the park, pinning them in.

“Franco?”

He slid back down, assessing his options. “No good. They’ve got the other side of the car covered now.”

She sighed so long and hard he glanced her way. She was glaring at him. “I told you I needed my gun.”

He shook his head, thinking fast. There had to be some way… Franco shoved at the picnic table but it was bolted down. Too bad, he thought, it would have made a good shield while they climbed into the car. His gaze caught on the trash can beside the table. It was metal, hopefully filled with a nice depth of neutralizing trash. It wasn’t much but it was the best chance they had. “Okay, new plan. I’m going to lay down cover fire while you climb into the Jeep on this side. Lie down on the floor in the back.”

“Then how are you going to get in?”

“I’m going to use that trash can as a shield.”

Silence met his statement. “While shooting, opening the car door, and driving away?”

“I didn’t say it was a good plan.”

“Here’s a better one. Give me the gun. I’ll provide cover while you grab the can and we can both use it to get into the car.”

“Not a chance.”

“Dammit, Franco! What’s the point in my having all this self-defense training if nobody will let me use it?”

“That’s a last ditch plan.”

“This is about as last ditch as it gets, homey.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I just gained new respect for your brother. If I was him I’d have introduced you to the nuclear wedgie at an early age.”

“Give me the gun, Franco.”

He would have liked to blow a hole in her plan. Unfortunately it was better than his. Dammit! “Okay. But try not to shoot me with it.”

She took the gun, ejected the mag like an expert, checked the rounds and slammed it back home. Then she sat up and slid across the grass to the table, peering over it. “That’s the shooter up there?”

“Yeah. You won’t be able to hit him but…”

Nic settled the muzzle of the gun onto the table and closed one eye.

“You shouldn’t close your eye…”

“Shut up, this works for me.”

“Okay, whatever, shoot the bad guy in the tree. Not the good guy sprinting toward the can. Got it?”

“Shoot the mouthy bodynapper with the can and gain myself some peace and quiet. Got it.”

“Lord help me.”

“Just go already, before these guys get restless.”

Right on cue, the Jeep jerked under a fresh round of bullets from the SUV. Franco glanced over the hood and saw that they were on the move. “The SUV’s coming on. We’ve got to do this now.”

“That’s what I said,” Nic murmured. She fired into the tree and Franco took off running.

Several more rounds sizzled through the air as he threw himself to the ground behind the can, some of them heading for him.

The can jerked under a couple of rounds, one of which went in high and passed straight through.
There was a yelp behind him. Panic flared. “Nic?”

“I’m fine. He just stomped on my last nerve.”

Franco grabbed the can and hunkered behind it as a fresh round of bullets slammed through the air toward the shooter in the tree. There was a yelp and a rifle pinwheeled through the air to the ground, followed by the darkly clad shooter.

“Well, damn.”

“Lose the can, Martin. Here come the bad guys.”

She opened the door and threw herself inside as the SUV barreled toward them, a gun sticking out of the front passenger side window. Franco flung himself into the Jeep, trying to keep low as he clambered into the driver’s seat, and turned the key, gunning it forward as soon as the engine caught. Bullets continued to ping off the metal sides and back. A back window shattered and glass sprayed over them.

Franco headed for a copse of massive evergreens, figuring the guys in the SUV would have a harder time hitting them with a bunch of trees around. They slipped under the drooping branches and the shower of bullets stopped as they barreled across a thick carpet of dried needles. The sharp tang of evergreen filled the car as he took a turn on two wheels and headed toward the back of the park, keeping sight of the SUV driving alongside the thicket. The big car was managing to stay even with them and the occasional tree trunk exploded under a wayward bullet.

Nici’s head popped up.

“Stay down.”

“Hit the street, there’s a delivery truck backing out of that driveway there.”

She was right. If they could tuck in behind the truck…

“Hold on!” He jerked the wheel hard right and the passenger side door squealed as it scraped along a row of trunks with prickly branches. They emerged from the evergreen copse and hit a sidewalk, heading straight for a hydrant.

“Franco!”

He jumped as she squealed. “Stop that! You scared the crap out of me.” He jerked the wheel and the car missed the hydrant by inches, heading for a fat gray squirrel holding an acorn, its shiny brown eyes wide.

“Franco!”

“Oh for god sakes!” He jerked the wheel again, barely missing the stupid rodent, and they dropped with a bang of tortured suspension into the street just as the boxy white truck started toward the intersection. Franco tucked the Jeep in on the opposite side of it, blocking them from the SUV’s view, and took the first turn into a large subdivision as the truck lumbered on down the street.

A few quick turns later brought them out of the subdivision and Franco headed for the highway, the SUV nowhere in sight.

Excerpt from Revealing Nicola by Sam Cheever. Copyright © 2017 by Sam Cheever. Reproduced with permission from Sam Cheever. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Sam Cheever

USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes romantic paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense, creating stories that celebrate the joy of love in all its forms. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 50+ books and has been writing for over a decade under several noms de plume.

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Feb 202017
 

CHARLES SALZBERG

CHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a founding member.

Q&A with Charles Salzberg

Henry Swann is a classic amateur detective, but in “Swann’s Way Out,” your fourth book in the series, he’s really starting to get his bearings. How has his detective style changed since the first book, “Swann’s Last Song?”
For one thing, he’s a little more sure of himself now in terms of gathering information and putting that information together so it forms a logical pattern. Swann doesn’t really solve crimes as much as he makes sense of them, while at the same time, he grapples with his personal demons—the untimely death of his wife, his neglect of his son, his inability to set down roots. As someone who has for years lived on the margins of society, he’s trying to carve out a solid life for himself, one with connections to other people. And in an odd way, he makes up for real family by surrounding himself with friends like Goldblatt and Klavan. In short, his work has helped him adjust better to life, not that he still doesn’t feel like a complete fraud and outsider, as do most of us.

The mysteries in this book happen in three different locations. Was it difficult to tie them all together?
Not at all. In fact, it’s fun shifting the action from place to place. It gives the book a sense of movement and working with several plots at the same time I think is an added element that forces the reader (and me) to pay closer attention. It also adds to the sense of disorientation and alienation Swann suffers from. He never really feels “at home” anyplace, and so moving around mirrors his psychological disconnection.

As your fourth book in the Henry Swann series, are there any things that surprised you about Henry as a character in the latest book?
Everything surprises me about Swann. I don’t go into these books with a “plan.” They’re not plotted out and not only don’t I ever know what’s going to happen, I also don’t know what characters are going to appear and when they do what role they’re going to play in the story. Besides, he’s not the kind of character who does much planning about his life. He doesn’t know where he’s going to be or what he’s going to do from one day to the next. That’s what keeps the books fresh and fun to write for me, but also a little scary and challenging. So, when I actually sit down at my desk to write I have two feelings…anticipation as to what’s going to happen next, and fear because what if I don’t know what’s going to happen next? Or what if it’s not very interesting?

Henry Swann’s son is a fascinating development in his character. How does his entrance affect Henry?
Swann has always suffered enormous guilt as a result of sending his son away to live with his maternal grandparents after his mother, Swann’s wife, was killed in a freak accident. The only way he can deal with this “abandonment,” because that’s what it was no matter how often he tells himself it was for his son’s own good, is through denial. This results in him thinking about him as little as he possibly can. But when his son turns up missing he can’t do this anymore, and yet it proves him with an opportunity to use his skill, what he does best, finding things, to reconnect with his son and maybe, just maybe, assuage some of that guilt he’s carried with him all these years. He hopes it might lead him to redemption, something we’re all looking for, by the way, in that he can finally make up for all those lost years when he was out of touch.

For long-time Henry Swann fans, what do they have most to look forward to in the upcoming release?
More Goldblatt, for one thing. Their partnership is now solidified and although Swann is not pleased about working with someone else, especially Goldblatt, he has come to accept it and it’s probably made him better at what he does, and lit something of a fire under him. For the first time in a long time he’s not only responsible for himself for for someone else. He doesn’t like this but still he knows it probably makes him a better person. Readers can also expect to be brought into two worlds that interest me: the fine art scene and Hollywood. They’re very different art forms, but in a way they’re very similar in that they’re based on smoke and mirrors, deception, fantasy and sleight of hand. In both cases, if successful, the viewer is totally conned, but not necessarily duped.

Is it true that you initially intended “Swann’s Way Out” to be the last book in the series?
Well, I thought it would be because I thought I’d taken the character as far as I could, that I had nothing new to say about him or the world that existed around him. And so I started and completed another novel called Second Story Man, with two new protagonists (actually, they weren’t totally new, as they were “borrowed” from an earlier novel, Devil in the Hole), and even started what I think might be another detective series with a very different kind of detective. But just when I thought I was out, he pulled me back in again. In other words, I got a first line for a new Swann and then two ideas for two new cases he could work on, one of them would reveal more about Goldblatt’s background, and the other would have him get involved in a murder trial. And one of the reasons I said I would stop is that I didn’t think I could come up with another title, but I think I have, at least for now, and that’s Swann’s Down, so there you go. There will be a fifth Swann, probably out in the spring of 2018 (and I only say this so that now I actually do have to finish it).

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Detective Henry Swann returns to search for the truth behind a Hollywood hack, fraudulent art and the sudden absence of his son
NEW YORK CITY – Fans of Henry Swann, rejoice! He’s back in the usual cerbral, hard-boiled way that everyone knows and loves in Charles Salzberg’s latest addition to the detective’s adventures, “Swann’s Way Out” (Feb. 20, 2017, Down & Out Books).

In the newest novel in Salzberg’s suspenseful crime fiction series, Swann is on the search for $1 million seemingly embezzled by a shady Hollywood producer, the salesman of a possibly illegal painting, and in an intriguing turn of events, his long-estranged teenage son. With such an unusual personal distraction, a guilt-ridden Swann is forced to step away from his paying cases to chase after his son, who seems to have joined some sort of cult.

With Salzberg’s always-brilliant writing and beautiful plotting, three mysteries intertwine into a brilliant, hold-your-breath story as Swann sleuths his way to the finish in this dazzling follow-up to “Swann’s Lake of Despair” (2014), which was re-released in November 2016 along with the other books in the Henry Swann series, “Swann’s Last Song” and “Swann Dives In.”

READ AN EXCERPT

Chapter 1
Raising the Stakes
“What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I asked no one in particular.
I don’t know why it occurred to me at that very moment to ask directions. It wasn’t as if I expected anyone in the room to answer my question, much less provide me with any kind of useful road map to my future. And looking around, would I actually want any of these assholes to give me life instruction? The obvious, to paraphrase Conan Doyle, need not be stated.
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Goldblatt asked as he glared at the cards in his hand, as if staring at them hard enough would miraculously change the crap he was no doubt holding into a winning hand.
“I thought this was a card game, not group therapy,” growled Klavan as he pushed several multi-colored chips to the center of the table, where the growing pile now represented close to fifty bucks, a large pot for the relative chump change stakes we were playing at. “I’m raising ten bucks. Any of you losers got the cojones to see me?”
“Too rich for my blood,” squeaked Stan Katz, whose voice sounded much like chalk scraping across a blackboard. I’d met him for the first time an hour or so earlier when Goldblatt introduced him to the game as such: “This is Stan. He does my taxes, so he’s good with numbers.” Evidently, that was all the recommendation he needed to join what had been for the last few months a semi-regular, bi-weekly poker game. The idea was Goldblatt’s. He felt it would be a good bonding experience. I like poker, though I am certainly no fan of bonding experiences, so I acquiesced in large part because it passed the time and kept me from feeling too sorry for myself as a result of evenings left with nothing to do. I’d pretty much given up hanging out at dive bars. Goldblatt even begrudgingly agreed to include Klavan, not one of his favorite people in the world.
“I know he’s a friend of yours though I have no idea why, so you can ask him if he wants to play,” Goldblatt had said. “But tell him I’m not putting up with any of his bullshit.”
So I invited Klavan and he jumped at the opportunity to redistribute Goldblatt’s—and everyone else’s—wealth.
“I’m in,” said a much too enthusiastic Doug Garr, a friend from my college days at Columbia. We’d reconnected a year or so earlier when I bumped into him on Broadway just as he was about to disappear into the subway. He was actually a working journalist, which meant he was able to eke out a living by writing for magazines, newspapers and writing or ghostwriting nonfiction books. He was on his way to the gym to play squash. I was now sorry I’d asked.
“What about you, O’Mara?” Klavan asked, peeking over the cards held at eye level. “You in or out?”
T.J. O’Mara, another old acquaintance of mine, was a former cop turned local prosecutor who was now looking to change careers again. I first met him when he was a beat cop and he caught me repoing a car. When I explained what I was doing, he looked the other way and we’ve been friends ever since. The last time we’d had lunch he told me he was considering “the writing game,” as he called it. “I’ve got stories up the wazoo just waiting to be told,” he had said.
“I’m sure you do,” I agreed.
“And how difficult can it be to write them up?” he had asked.
“Not difficult at all,” I’d assured him, trying hard to suppress a smile. “I’m sure any moron can do it.”
“Yeah, and from what I’ve been reading a lot of them are,” he’d said. “I figure I’ll take a few classes, just to get the form and all that shit, then sit down, write up a few stories, get myself an agent. And there you have it.”
If it were that easy we’d all be best-selling authors, but who was I to burst his bubble?
“So, T.J., you in or out?” Klavan persisted.
“I think I’ll sit this one out,” said T.J., tossing his cards face down on the table.
“What was it you said you did for a living?” Kenny Glassman asked me. Glassman was a friend of Klavan’s. He owned a small bookstore in lower Manhattan. The bookstore was this close to going under, but family money was keeping it afloat, Klavan had explained to me earlier. “He’s a good guy in a bad business, but he’ll come out okay. His folks just bought the building, so he’s existing rent-free, which is the only way to make it in the book game, unless you’re buying and selling rare books, like me.”
“He’s a private detective,” Goldblatt piped up. “We’re partners,” he added quickly, puffing up his ample chest, as if no one had slipped him the memo that private detecting was not exactly at the top of anyone’s list of preferred occupations, mine included.
“You in or out?” growled Klavan, peering at the rest of the players over his black-framed eyeglasses, which were balanced precariously near the end of his nose. I thought he was bluffing, but I couldn’t be sure. He was used to bidding on rare books, so he knew how to project a poker face. Still, his being so anxious was probably meant to make us believe he had a winning hand, and was doing the opposite for me. When people try too hard, and when they try not hard enough, they’re lying. The truth, I’ve found, if there is one, lies somewhere in the middle.
“I’m thinking,” said Goldblatt, shuffling his cards back and forth, hoping, I guessed, they’d miraculously morph into the straight I figured he was aiming for.
“I’m not a private detective,” I protested, pushing the appropriate number of chips toward the center of the table. I wasn’t about to let Klavan or anyone else steal that pot without a fight.
“Then what are you?” asked Kenny, whose thick, nasal, heavily-accented voice left little mystery as to which borough he hailed from.
“Not one of those guys who peeps through windows and rummages through garbage, are you?” kidded Garr.
I ignored him, though those were things that were not beneath me, so long as I was being paid for doing them.
“Therein, Kenny, lies the problem,” I said.
“Fucking identity crisis,” said Klavan. “Can we just leave it at that and finish the damn hand before we help Swann figure his way out of the morass that is his sad, pathetic life.”
This insulting commentary was from someone closest to being my best friend, although I would never say that to Goldblatt, whom I was sure believed he held that unenviable position.
“Okay, I’m in,” announced Goldblatt, pushing an indeterminate number of blue chips into the growing pile of reds and whites. “Hey, where’s the dip?”
“There is no dip,” replied an exasperated Klavan, in whose apartment we were playing, his living room, to be precise, which also doubled as his library. It gave the game a comfortable feel, amongst all those books.
“Where there are chips there should be dip,” said Goldblatt. “It’s one of the immutable laws of life.”
Kenny, not knowing any better, had generously brought along a few bags of chips along with the two six-packs of beer he’d offered to provide.
“You want fuckin’ dip go out and get it,” snapped Klavan.
“Easy, Ross,” I said. “Goldblatt, forget the damn dip. We’re here to play cards, not feed our faces.”
“Okay, but I have to tell ya, every game I’ve ever been in there’s been some kind of edibles, usually provided by the host,” he added, never missing an opportunity to needle Klavan.
Klavan shot him a look that was at least as lethal as an AK-47.
“We can call out for pizza,” Kenny offered, obviously trying to bring peace and tranquility to the land. Good luck with that.
“I could go for some pizza,” said Doug. “I know a great place in the neighborhood.” He checked his watch. “And I don’t think it’s too late for them to deliver.”
“Could we please just finish this goddamn hand,” pleaded Klavan, whose face was turning a bright shade of red. Now, I was sure he was bluffing.
“You boys are pretty serious about your poker, aren’t you?” said T.J. who, with a big smirk on his face, was balancing back and forth in his chair. He was out, so what did he care?
Me, I was enjoying myself, too. Maybe because I was having a pretty good night for a change. The buy-in was fifty bucks, the stakes relatively low—two bucks maximum, until the last round, when you could go as high as ten. That’s where we were now. Being ahead for the night, I figured with a high flush in hand it was worth it to see Klavan’s cards.
“I’ll raise it another five,” I said, not wanting to scare him out of the game.
Goldblatt looked me in the eye with an accusing squint. “You’ve got some hand there, don’t you, Swannie?”
“You can pay another five bucks to see it,” I snapped, ignoring the fact that I hated being called Swannie and he knew it. But in poker, anything goes, trash talk, psychological warfare, any kind of distraction, so I let it slide.
He shook his head. “I’ll let you and Klavan duke it out.”
“Kenny?” Klavan said, nodding in his direction.
Kenny shook his head and folded his cards.
“Looks like it’s just you and me, Ross.”
He eyed me, then the pot, then back to me.
“It’s only five bucks,” I taunted.
“I’m hungry,” he said, folding his hand, then laying it on the table. “Garr, call that place you know. But no friggin’ anchovies. They’re an insult to the world of fish.”
*****
The pizza arrived and, as the big winner for the night, I uncharacteristically sprung for it, though Klavan, still grumbling about playing with “amateurs” added a generous tip. We ate in the kitchen, at a large wood top table, because Ross didn’t want any flying cheese or sauce to land on any of his precious books. And with Goldblatt on board, that was a very plausible outcome.
We finished the pizza in record time, washed it down with imported beer, then returned to the table for another hour or so of poker
By the time the evening ended, just short of midnight, I was up about a hundred bucks, well beyond the price of the pizza. This made the third game in a row I’d come up a winner and I was sure Goldblatt, who’d lost every week, was about ready to call for a federal investigation.
As Klavan dutifully emptied the rooms of the detritus of beer bottles, pizza boxes and paper plates, and Goldblatt studied the pizza stains on his shirt as if he was trying to decipher some arcane code, Stan Katz pulled me aside.
“I understand you’re in the business of finding people,” he said, his squeaky voice whispered so low I had a little trouble hearing him.
“I guess.”
“That’s what Goldblatt told me.”
“Then it must be true.”
“I’d like to speak to you about something.”
“Sure thing.”
“Not here, though.” He handed me his card. “Can you call me tomorrow? And if you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to Goldblatt about this.”
I took the card, slipped it into the pocket of my T-shirt. “My lips are sealed.”
“Thank you. And for the record, you’re a pretty good poker player.”
“No offense, Stan, but I’m only as good as my competition is bad. And believe me,” I said, “it doesn’t get much worse.”
He smiled and backed away, his index finger pressed to his lips.
I mimicked his gesture, and backed into the living room, where Goldblatt and Garr were putting on their jackets. It was mid-spring and though the days had warmed up a bit, the nights were still chilly. I had worn a sweater, figuring the brisk walk home would keep me warm enough. Not to mention the wad of ones and fives swelling the size of my wallet.

Praise for the Henry Swann Detective Series

“Swann’s Lake of Despair”
“Smart, satisfying, even profound, this is exactly what every mystery reader is looking for: A terrific story, full of wit and originality, and a master class in voice. Charles Salzberg is a true talent, and his Henry Swann is a classic–complex, hilarious, and completely charming.
“—Hank Phillippi Ryan

“Like a good detective, Swann looks past the obvious and follows the plot twists to their unexpected conclusions. As he clips through his paces, Swann takes the reader on an enjoyable ride sprinkled with plenty of sass and vinegar and illuminated by the bright lights and dark underside of the Big Apple. He’s a hero who grows more endearing with each book and whose capers ultimately beg the question: What’s next for Henry Swann?”—Books in Brief

“Swann’s Lake of Despair feels like three short story concepts that have been merged, shoe-horned as it were, into a single storyline. It’s a little slow going at first, as each subplot requires its own setup and there is nothing to connect them. (Indeed, they turn out to be three completely separate storylines.) Too, Henry Swann is a difficult character to embrace. He’s gruff and aloof, and yet tends to grow on the reader as someone who’s also basically fair and incredibly insightful. But what is most intriguing about the book is how Swann negotiates an end game to each of his cases. For each, there is a simple way out but it clearly isn’t the right way out; what Swann wants to do — indeed, what the reader wants Swann to do — is come up with an exit strategy that may not be easy but one that is mutually acceptable to all parties involved, allowing each to walk away agreeable with the outcome if not necessarily completely satisfied with it. There’s a nuanced complexity here that makes this all very appealing in the end. A solid mystery and one that is recommended.”—Mysterious Reviews

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: Feb. 20, 2017
ISBN13: 9781943402540
Pages: 276

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