Sep 242020
 

All We Buried by Elena Taylor Banner

 

 

All We Buried

by Elena Taylor

on Tour September 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

All We Buried by Elena Taylor

For fans of Julia Keller and Sheena Kamal, All We Buried disturbs the long-sleeping secrets of a small Washington State mountain town.

Interim sheriff Elizabeth “Bet” Rivers has always had one repeat nightmare: a shadowy figure throwing a suspicious object into her hometown lake in Collier, Washington. For the longest time, she chalked it up to an overactive imagination as a kid. Then the report arrives. In the woods of the Cascade mountain range, right in her jurisdiction, a body floats to the surface of Lake Collier. When the body is extricated and revealed, no one can identify Jane Doe. But someone must know the woman, so why aren’t they coming forward?

Bet has been sitting as the interim sheriff of this tiny town in the ill-fitting shoes of her late father and predecessor. With the nightmare on her heels, Bet decided to build a life for herself in Los Angeles, but now it’s time to confront the tragic history of Collier. The more she learns, the more Bet realizes she doesn’t know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 1643852914 (ISBN13: 9781643852911)
Series: Sheriff Bet Rivers #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Elena Taylor

Elena Taylor lives on the banks of the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in a town made famous by Twin Peaks. When she’s not writing or working one-on-one with writers as a developmental editor, she can be found hanging out with her husband, dog, and two cats. Her favorite place to be (besides home) is the stables down the road, with her two horses Radar and Jasper.

Q&A with Elena Taylor

What was the inspiration for this book?

I used to live in a community with a dark, mysterious lake. Every day I drove by and thought about what might be hidden under the water. I heard a story once, that a train engine rested at the bottom. I found the idea fascinating.
The community was also built on coal mining. Several coal mining towns around Washington State went boom, then bust. The one I lived in was much closer to Bellevue than the high ridges of the Cascade Mountain Range. It not only survived, but it turned into a bedroom community a short hop from Bellevue and Seattle.

That got me thinking about what it meant for the towns that didn’t survive and became ghost towns. How the people just vanished.

There are also some small mining towns in the state that did make it, despite their original booms and busts. I liked the idea of creating a town that had that mining background and wasn’t attached to Seattle or Bellevue but managed to survive on its own. That brought me to the creation of Collier, Washington.

Then Bet Rivers arrived fairly fully formed. I just had to figure out what made her tick.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Letting other things get in the way. I had an entire career in theater rather than a 100% focus on my writing. But I choose to see those years as helping me develop my writing style and voice. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything, but sometimes I wonder what might have been if I’d fully committed to writing much earlier in life.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Coffee and my laptop. Almonds are a close second.

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

I try to write daily. Typically, I get up and write first thing in the morning. I vary depending on where I am in the process. First draft? Word count goal, usually one to two thousand words a day depending on how well the writing is going. Subsequent drafts? Either a number of pages or specific issues to address. I spend a lot of time in my head with my characters and the plot. This helps me never get “stuck” in the sense of staring at a blank page. I like to mull over what my characters are after and how their wants intersect and crash into each other. I believe that writer’s block is actually just a writer who hasn’t spent enough time thinking about their project. A friend of mine and I came up with the saying “honor the mull” and I try to do that every single day.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Schweitzer! I always love the dog best.

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

I love all my children equally—ha ha ha. I don’t have any characters I don’t like. The ones who behave badly are what makes it a mystery, so they serve an important purpose. Now, if you asked me if there are any characters that I’d rather not meet in the real world . . . Definitely! But I can’t tell you who or it will give too much away.

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

This book went through a LOT of possible titles and names for the town. When it first landed with my editor at Crooked Lane it was called Resurrection Lake. There’s nothing wrong with the title, but it didn’t capture the tone of the novel quite right. We tossed around a lot of different ideas, list after list of possibilities. I thought about calling the town and its lake Iron Horse (which is a name used in my area, but not a real town or a lake), and a few others.

Then I came up with Collier. A Collier is a term for a coal miner, which has a lot of meaning in the novel. It fit perfectly, so Robert Hatley became Robert Collier and the town changed its name from Resurrection to Collier. I realized it made a lot more sense that the town carried the name of the founder anyway, so that was a happy insight.

Then Peter Malone, my geomorphologist, was originally an ichthyologist. But my conversation with a scientist at the University of Washington showed me I’d picked the wrong type of expert. It’s always interesting to me how often we get close in a draft, but not quite on the money. Changing him to a geomorphologist fit much better with the story.

Then my editor came up with the title All We Buried. My agent and I loved it! We were all amazed it had never been used for a novel before.

I love how things change through rewrites. My editor brought out the best of this book and came up with the title, so I’m very grateful to Jenny Chen. When I go back and look at the first draft that I sent her, I realize how much we improved the overall story. Writers work alone most of the time, but when we do get the opportunity to work with great beta readers and agents and editors, our work can really rise to the next level.

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

Thank you for taking chances with new books and new-to-you authors! Whether it’s my book or another writer’s, it’s great that you are interested in the behind-the-scenes of a writer’s life. We work hard on our novels and it’s lovely to have readers interested in the full process. Thank you for being readers, without you our work would languish in various desk drawers around the world. And stay safe! Protect yourself and your loved ones. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in person soon.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I started out in the theater as a playwright, director, and designer/technician. I’ve worn almost every hat in theatre production. I’ve also done a lot of teaching, mostly on the college/university level. My favorite thing to do is hang out with my horses, whether riding or groundwork or just spending time listening to them graze (one of the greatest sounds in the world). I love to travel, which has been the hardest part about lockdown, as I had to cancel a lot of in-person events. But I’m a realist and am confident about a return to travel and hanging out in coffee shops with the perfect cappuccino in 2021.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

Fingers crossed it will be book two of the Sheriff Bet Rivers Mysteries! I’d love to have you follow me on social media for updates. I also do a newsletter that goes out once a month. If you would like to sign up, visit me at www.elenataylorauthor.com and scroll down to the bottom. Or shoot me an email at elenataylorauthor@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to add you. I write about what I’m reading, writing tips, book giveaways, and often post photos of my various animals. That will be the first place to learn about my next publication and get an early glimpse of the opening chapter.

Catch Up With Elena Taylor On:
ElenaTaylorAuthor.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

PHOTO CREDIT MARK PERLSTEIN

Read an excerpt:

ONE

Sheriff Bet Rivers leaned back in her chair and gazed out the office window at the shifting light on Lake Collier. Bright sun- light cast up sparkling diamonds as a late-summer breeze chopped the surface—turquoise-blue and silver. The fragment of a song from her childhood teased her mind—silver, blue, and gold. She hummed the tune under her breath.

Red and yellow leaves turned the maple trees in the park across the street into Jackson Pollock paintings. Hard to believe Labor Day weekend ended tonight. Somehow summer had slipped by and fall had snuck up on her as she tended to her new position.

If she had still been in Los Angeles, she’d have been a detective by now. Instead, she was back in her tiny hometown with a job her father had tricked her into taking.

“I need you to cover for me while I get chemo,” he said. “It’s just for a few months. I’m going to be fine.”

With the detective exam available only once every two years, it meant putting her career on hold. But her father had never asked her for anything; how could she say no?

He never said he would die, turning her “interim sheriff” position into something more permanent.

Her father always knew what cards to play. Competition. Family. Responsibility. Loyalty. Collier. A perfect straight. He’d used them all this time, as if he’d known it would be his last hand. No easy way to extricate herself now, short of gnawing off her own foot.

The sound of instruments tuning up pulled her attention to a trio set up at a bench outside the market across the street. The raised sidewalk and false front of the old building made the perfect backdrop for their performance. Collier relied on tourism for much of its income, and the local musicians encouraged visitors to stay longer and spend more.

A beat of silence followed by a quick intake of breath, the unspoken communication of musicians well attuned to one another, and the trio launched into song.

Church of a different sort. Bet could hear her father’s words. I don’t know if there’s a God, Bet, but I do believe in bluegrass.

The music produced a soundtrack to her grief. The banjo player favored the fingerpicking style of the great Earl Scruggs. Loss etched in the sound of three-part harmony, Earle Rivers’s death still a wound that wouldn’t close.

She recognized the fiddle player. She’d babysat him years ago. It made her feel old. Not yet thirty, she wasn’t, but as the last generation of Lake Collier Riverses, the weight of history fell heavy on her shoulders. In a line of sheriffs stretching back to the town’s founding, she was the bitter end.

Looking down at her desk, Bet eyed the new fly she’d tied. The small, barbless hook would work well for the catch-and-release fishing she did, and the bright yellow and green feathers pleased her. The only thing she’d missed while living in California. Surf fishing wasn’t the same.

I should name it in your memory, Dad. The Earle fly. Her grand- father had named him after Scruggs, but her grandmother added the e because she liked how it looked.

Bet imagined her father’s critical response to her work, the size of the hook too dainty for his memorial.

Bet “spoke” with her father more now, four months after his death, than she’d ever done when he lived. Another burden she carried. The conversations they’d never had. Things she should have asked but didn’t.

She took a deep breath of the dry, pine scent that drifted in through the open windows, filling the room with a heady summer perfume. She should get up and walk around, let the com- munity see she was on the job, but her body felt leaden. And it wasn’t like anyone would notice. She could vanish for hours and it wouldn’t matter to Collier; no one required her attention. Not like they had depended on her father. His death still hung over town like a malaise, her presence an insufficient cure no matter what Earle might have believed when he called her home.

Before her father’s illness, she’d had a plan. First the police academy, then patrol officer, proving she could make it in Los Angeles as a cop. She’d envisioned at least twenty years in LA, moving up the ranks—something with Chief in the title— returning home with a long, impressive career before stepping into Earle’s shoes.

Too late, she’d realized he wouldn’t get better. He’d brought her home for good.

Stretching her arms above her head, she walked her fingers up the wall behind her, tapping to the beat of the music. Anything to shake off the drowsiness brought on by the hot, quiet day and long nights of uneasy sleep.

The coffee stand beckoned from across the street, but the sound of the front door opening and the low, throaty voice of the department’s secretary, Alma, stopped her from voyaging out. A two-pack-a-day smoker for almost forty years, Alma sounded a lot like Lauren Bacall after a night of heavy drinking. She’d given up smoking more than twenty years ago, but even now, as she edged into her seventies, Alma’s voice clung to the roughness like a dying man to a life preserver. Bet hoped the visitor only wanted information about the community and Alma could answer.

No such luck. The efficient clop of Alma’s square-heeled shoes clumped down the scarred floors of the hallway, a counterpoint to another set of feet. Bet brought her hands down off the wall and automatically tucked a wayward curl of her auburn hair back up under her hat before Alma arrived, poking her birdlike head around the wooden frame of the door. Gray hair teased tall, as if that would give her five-foot frame a couple extra inches.

“Bet?” Alma always said her name as though it might not be Bet Rivers sitting behind the enormous sheriff’s desk. Bet assumed Alma wished to find Earle Rivers there. She wondered how long that would last. If Bet threw the upcoming election and fled back to Southern California, leaving her deputy to pick up the reins, maybe everyone would be better off, no matter what her father wanted.

“Yes, Alma?” “I think you’d better listen to what this young man has to say.” The “young man” in question could be anywhere under the age of sixty in Alma’s book, and as he stood out of sight down the hallway, Bet had little to go on.

“Okay,” Bet said.

“I think it’s important.” Alma waited for Bet to show appropriate attention. “Okay.”

“Seems he found a dead body floating in the lake.”

***

Excerpt from All We Buried by Elena Taylor. Copyright 2020 by Elena Taylor. Reproduced with permission from Elena Taylor. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Enter To Win!!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Elena Taylor. There will be 2 winner2 of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on September 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Sep 182020
 


Hosted by Four-Legged Furballs and 15 and Meowing

This week’s Fill-Ins:

  1. If you are looking for _____________________, try __________________________.
  2. _____________________________ fills me with hope.
  3. It’s only a matter of time before _________.
  4. _________ is my favorite conversation topic.

My answers:

  1. If you are looking for books that need to be read, try looking in my office/reading room.

  2. My faith fills me with hope.

  3. It’s only a matter of time before , in my opinion, that there will be a surge in COVID-19 the next few months.

  4. Reading is my favorite conversation topic.

Sep 172020
 

A Circle Of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns Banner

 

 

A Circle Of Dead Girls

by Eleanor Kuhns

on Tour September 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

A Circle Of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns

In the spring of 1800, a traveling circus arrives in town. Rees is about to attend, but sees his nemesis, Magistrate Hanson in the crowd, and leaves. On the way home he meets a party of Shaker brothers searching for a missing girl. They quickly come across her lifeless body thrown into a farmer’s field.

Rees begins investigating and quickly becomes entranced by the exotic circus performers, especially the beautiful young tightrope walker.

Other murders follow. Who is the killer? One of the circus performers? One of the townspeople? Or One of the Shakers?

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Murder Mystery
Published by: Severn House
Publication Date: March 3rd 2020
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 0727890085 (ISBN13: 9780727890085)
Series: Will Rees Mysteries #8 (Each book “Stands Alone”)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Eleanor Kuhns

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur First Crime novel competition for A Simple Murder. She lives in upstate New York. A Circle of Death Girls is Will Rees Mystery # 8.

Q&A with Eleanor Kuhns

What was the inspiration for this book?

When I was researching Death in Salem, my fourth Will Rees, I came upon a note that said elephants were first brought to this country in 1794. In the same paragraph there was a reference to John Bill Ricketts, who brought the circus to Philadelphia in 1793. Once I knew that, I knew I had to set one of my mysteries set against the circus.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

I have had few challenges writing mysteries. Most of them came when I wrote SciFi. (I had a male editor tell me women couldn’t write good science fiction.) When I changed genres, I almost immediately achieved some success.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Coffee. Far more important than quiet.

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

I rise early and write every day without fail.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Lydia. She is a good counterweight to Rees. I also feel she is smarter than he is. She usually says or does something that inspires him and leads to the solution.

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

I don’t really have one. And I try, even with the less admirable characters, to give them a good quality or two. Take Brother Aaron from the current book. He is difficult and a misogynist. But he is warm and protective to the disabled Calvin. When the chips are down, he is on the side of the angels.

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

Although the rebirth of the circus began in Great Britain, it quickly expanded to France. But with the French Revolution in 1789, and the increasing hostilities between England and France, the performers decamped for the new United States. What I did not realize until I was in the midst of my research was how soon after the French Revolution Napoleon began his rise.
Italy had a long tradition of performance art with the commedia del arte, and the stock characters who morphed into clowns. They also already had families of tightrope walkers and other performers. Quite a few were Jewish. When Napoleon invaded Italy, many of these artists fled, coming to the United States.

A clear case of how interconnected everything is.

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

They can reach me at Eleanor.kuhns@gmail.com or www.eleanor-kuhns.com

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am a lifelong librarian. I wrote my first novelette when I was ten and have really never stopped since. After I won the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur First Novel competition in 2011, I began the long process of transitioning to full time writing.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

The next book after ‘A Circle of Dead Girls’ sends Rees and Lydia to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia. The book is titled ‘Death in the Great Dismal.’

Before the Civil War, hundreds, maybe thousands, of fugitive slaves took refuge in the swamp. They were nicknamed maroons. (The theory is that the word is from the French ‘marronage’; to flee.) Some did not leave the swamp until after the Civil War. Children who were born in the swamp had never seen a white person.

In the book, Tobias, a free man who was caught in the north by slave catchers and sold south, but escapes, enlists Rees and Lydia to help him rescue his enslaved wife. They make their way to Virginia, and the swamp. Shortly after their arrival in the tiny village, one of the maroons is found murdered.

There are only a handful of people living in the village. Who among them could be the murderer?

By the way, the swamp still exists although much smaller than it was. It is buggy, hot and overgrown. Since it is a peat swamp, there is little standing water. But it is still dangerous. The peat goes down ten feet or more.

The swamp is still full of bears and bobcats as well as snakes (poisonous as well as non-poisonous.). It is not a welcoming environment.

Catch Up With Eleanor Kuhns:
www.Eleanor-Kuhns.com, Goodreads, Instagram, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

As if God Himself had taken a hand, winter abruptly changed to spring. The six inches of snow that had fallen just last week – the third week of April – was melting in the suddenly balmy air. Instead of hard packed snow, the roads were surfaced in slush and mud. Only on the north sides of the slopes and under the trees did snow remain and even there green spears poked through the white.

Rees had already planted peas and in a few weeks he would begin plowing the rocky fields. He sighed. Although glad to see the spring, he did not like to think about the coming backbreaking toil. He would turn forty this year and his dislike of farm work had, if anything, intensified. His father had died at the age of forty-six, while Rees was away serving with General Washington in the War for Independence, and sometimes he wondered if six years was all he had left. Six years with his arms up to their elbows in mud and manure. Just the thought of it pressed down like a heavy weight. He didn’t think he could bear it.

At least, with the coming warmer weather, he could look forward to a few weeks of freedom as he traveled these roads weaving for the farm wives. Besides the cash he would earn, he looked forward to what he imagined as sunlit days of freedom from the farm.

With a shake of his head, he pushed the gloomy thoughts from his mind. Now he was on his way into town. For the past several days men had been shouting up and down the lanes and byways: Asher’s Circus was coming to town. Rees had brought his children to the Surry road yesterday to watch the circus arrive. First came a man in a scarlet coat and top hat riding a bay. Bells jingled on his harness and feathers danced upon his head. Two carriages followed, the beautiful women seated inside leaning through the curtained windows to wave and blow kisses. At least five wagons followed, wagons that were unlike any that Rees had ever seen. These vehicles looked like the carriages but were bigger and taller and the curtains at their small windows were shut. On every wagon door a bright gold rearing horse glittered in the sunlight. Finally, clowns with colored patches painted over their eyes and vivid clothing walked alongside. One was a dwarf with a pig and a dog and the other a giant of a man. While the little man turned cartwheels, the big fellow walked straight ahead barely acknowledging the crowds lining the street.

Rees’s children were beyond excited, jumping and shouting beside the road. Even Rees, a cosmopolitan traveler who’d visited several large cities, had been enchanted. After a long winter kept mostly inside and occupied solely with mending tack and other chores he was ready for some entertainment.

Now he was on his way into town to see a performance. A sudden wash of muddy water splattered, not only the wagon, but him as well. He swore at the young sprig galloping by, so intent on reaching Durham that he paid no attention to those he passed. But Rees was not really angry. A circus was a grand event and he guessed he could extend a little charity to the eager farmer’s boy. Rees knew Lydia would have liked to join him, and probably the children as well, but no lady would be seen at such rude entertainment, so she must rely on his descriptions.

The streets of Durham were thronged with traffic. Wagons jostled for space next to horses and mules. Pedestrians were forced to cling to the side of the buildings lest they be trampled underfoot. Rees shook his head in amazement; he had never seen the streets so crowded.

And Rouge’s inn! The yard swarmed with horses and shouting men. Rees’s hope – that he could leave his horse and wagon there – died. When he turned down an alley that went to the jail, he found this narrow lane almost as impassible. But he could already see a tall structure in the field that the Durham farmers usually used for Saturday market. It was so early in the season that market was just beginning. Later in the spring the grounds would be in use every Saturday.

Finally, Rees parked his wagon and horse at the jail. He watered Hannibal from a nearby trough and joined the mob streaming toward the large field. Affluent townsmen rubbed shoulders with sunburned farmers in straw hats and dirty clogs. At first, except for the arena built in the center, the fairgrounds looked exactly as normal: an occasional ramshackle hut interspersed with large areas of open ground. The farmers usually set up their wares in one of those small squares; this was how Lydia sold her butter and cheese. Rees lifted his eyes to the tall wooden structure, dazzling with colorful flags flying around the roof, that dominated the field. At first, he did not notice how peculiar the building looked. But as he approached the flimsy construction, the lack of any windows, and the slapdash roof became apparent. An arc of roofed wooden vehicles – the circus wagons – curved around the back.

At several yards distant he could see gaps between the splintered boards that made up the walls. Posters, all designed with a crude woodcut of a horse, papered over the widest of cracks. Rees directed his steps to a bill posted on the wall and paused in front of it. “Asher’s Circus”, he read. “Mr. Joseph Asher, trained by Mr. Phillip Astley and Mr. John B. Ricketts, and just arrived from tours of London, Philadelphia, Boston, and Albany, is pleased to present daring feats of horsemanship, the world -famous rope dancer Bambola, clowns after the Italian fashion and many more acts to amaze and delight.”

Rees grunted, his eyes moving to the bottom. Names and dates scribbled in by different hands, and then crossed off, filled all the white space with the last being Durham, show time five o’clock. Since he didn’t recognize most of the names, he suspected they were for very small villages, not the cities mentioned above. Mr. Asher clearly had grandiose aspirations.

Rees walked around to the front. An opening was screened by a shabby blue curtain, dyed in streaks and with the same look as the boards- used over and over for a long time. Now more curious than ever, he bent down and peered through the gap at the bottom. He could hear the sound of hooves and as he peeked under the curtain he saw the skinny brown legs of a galloping horse thud past.

‘I really must begin my journey.’ Piggy Hanson’s whiny drawl sent Rees’s head whipping around. What the Hell was Piggy doing here? Rees had not seen Hanson, or anyone else from his hometown of Dugard, Maine, for almost two years, not since the magistrate had written an arrest warrants for Lydia – witchcraft – and for Rees – murder. His family had had to flee for their lives. He did not think he would ever forgive the people involved, especially the magistrate who had enabled the persecution. Rage swept over Rees and he turned to look around for the other man.

He saw his nemesis – they’d been enemies since boyhood – standing in a cluster of gentlemen, their cigar smoke forming a cloud around them. With every intention of punching the other man, Rees took a few steps in his direction, but then his anger succumbed to his more rational mind. He did not want Piggy Hanson to know he lived here now and anyway there were far too many men for him to take on by himself.

‘I must leave for the next town on my circuit, you know,’ Hanson continued. A magistrate for a large district, he regularly traveled from town to town ruling on judicial issues. He knew Rees was innocent of murder, Rees was certain of it, but he suspected he would still be treated as though he was guilty. And he doubted he could behave with any civility at all, not with this man. He cast around for a hiding place and, quicker than thought, he dashed behind the blue curtain.

He swiftly moved away from the portal, pressing himself against the wooden wall so that no one who came through the curtain could immediately see him. Then he inhaled a deep breath and looked around.

Stones carried in from the field outside marked off a roughly circular ring. The galloping horse thundered past, a woman in a short red frock standing on the saddle. At first scandalized to see the woman’s legs knee to ankle, Rees’s shock quickly turned to admiration. She stood on the saddle in comfort, her red dress and white petticoats fluttering in the breeze. Puffs of dust from the horse’s hooves sifted into the air.

‘Pip,’ said a voice from above. Rees looked up. A rope had been stretched tautly across the width of the enclosure and a woman in a white dress and stockings stood upon it. She wore white gloves but no hat and her wavy dark hair curled around her face. Rees stared in amazement as her white feet slid across the line. She was totally focused upon her task and did not give any indication she saw him. ‘Pip,’ she said again, and went into a flood of French mixed with some other language. Rees understood enough to know she was complaining about the rope.

This, he thought, must be Bambola, the ropewalker, crossing the sky above his head. She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. As her white dress fluttered around her, all he could think of was angels.

‘Bon.’ A man Rees had not noticed detached himself from the wall and moved forward. He was easily as tall as Rees, if not taller, and lanky. His hair was a peculiar reddish black color. In French he assured the rope dancer that he would fix the rope in a minute.

Holding up his hand, he moved toward the ring. The equestrienne dropped down to the saddle, first riding astride and then moving one leg across so she rode sidesaddle. She pulled the horse to a stop and jumped down with none of the hesitation of a lady. She conferred with Pip for a few moments in tones too low for Rees to hear and then she went out the opening at the back. The man leaped easily into the saddle and urged the horse again into a gallop. He stood in the saddle, balancing even more easily than his female partner, and then, in one fluid motion, dropped to the saddle to stand on his hands. His lean body formed a long streak toward the sky. Rees gasped in amazement. Then the performer began jumping from one face of the saddle to the other, riding diagonally on each side with his feet pointing at the horse’s hindquarters. He was even more skilled than the woman and Rees was so enthralled he forgot why he was there and lost all track of time.

Finally, Pip moved his long body into the saddle and slowed the horse to a walk. He dismounted and, taking hold of the bridle, began to walk the animal around the ring. ‘You,’ he shouted at Rees in a heavy French accent, ‘get out. You must pay.’

Rees half-nodded, listening to the chatter floating over the wall; he could still hear Piggy talking outside, his high-pitched voice carrying over the lower tones of the other men. ‘I didn’t sneak in to see the show,’ Rees told the circus performer in a near-whisper. ‘There’s someone outside I don’t want to meet.’ With a grin – he could also hear Piggy – the other man turned and pointed to the curtain at the back. Rees struck across the ring for the screen. Disappointment – for now he would not be able to stay and enjoy the show – fell heavy upon his shoulders. Another crime to put at Piggy’s door.

Before he dropped the cloth over the opening Rees turned to look back over his shoulder. Now the tall man was scrambling up the pole to the small landing above. Rees wondered if the talented rider was a rope dancer as well as an equestrian but he did not go all the way up. Instead, as the girl withdrew to the landing on the other side, Pip began working with fittings. The rope vibrated.

Rees dropped the curtain and looked around. He found himself in the cluster of the circus carriages, horses, and hurrying people. A dwarf wearing a clown’s short ruffled red pants and with red triangles drawn in around his eyes hurried past, quickly followed by a slender fellow with oiled black hair and an aggressive black mustache streaked with gray. The performance would begin soon. No one took the slightest notice of Rees as he threaded his way through the circus performers.

Close to, the wagons looked beat up, scarred with use. Most of the gold horses on the wagon doors were simply paint and the few that were carved wood or sculpted metal were losing their gilding. Rees distinctly saw the tell- tale red of rust fringing the head of one rearing stallion.

He broke into a run. He would never have expected to meet the Magistrate here in this tiny Maine town. And he prayed Hanson would leave soon. Rees would not dare to return until he could be sure that Piggy Hanson was gone.

Leaving Durham proved just as challenging as entering town in the first place. The streets seemed even more congested now than they had been earlier. Abandoning the main road once again, Rees turned down a side street on the southern side of town. There was a narrow lane, little more than a footpath, that went east, from Durham to the Surry Road. He could follow Surry Road north past the Shaker community and then to his own farm. If he could just reach the lane. The side street was packed with wagons coming from the farms on the southern side of town. It took Rees much longer than it should have to drive the few blocks before he was finally able to turn.

But from what he could see of this winding track, there was little traffic here. Because of the narrow and twisty nature of this lane most of the traffic was on foot. Only a few vehicles were heading into town. Congratulating himself on his foresight, Rees settled himself more comfortably on the hard wooden seat. If one were not in a hurry, this was a pleasant ride through the stands of budding trees and lichen spotted boulders. He glanced at the sky; he’d reach home before it was entirely dark. And, although he had not been able to attend the circus, at least he’d seen enough to make a good story to tell Lydia and the children.

The wagon trundled around the last steep sharp curve. From here the road straightened out, cutting through farmland until it reached Surry Road.

And ahead was a group of Shaker Brothers, walking towards him. Rees was surprised to see them. A devout group that rarely left their well-ordered community, they surely could not be walking into Durham for the circus. He slowed to a stop and jumped to the ground.

Chapter 2

The group of men resolved into individual faces. One man, Brother Daniel, Rees knew well. Daniel had been the caretaker of the boys when Rees and his family had sought refuge here two years ago. Promoted to Elder since then, Daniel was beginning to look much older than his almost thirty years. He’d lost the roundness to his cheeks, his face now appearing almost gaunt, and the gray appearing in his hair made him look as though he were fading like a piece of old cloth. Rees, who’d recently discovered white hairs on his chin and chest, felt a spasm of sympathy.

Now worried lines furrowed Daniel’s forehead. ‘Rees,’ he said. ‘If I may request your assistance?’

‘Of course,’ he said immediately. ‘What do you need?’ Not only was his wife a former Shaker but the members of Zion had helped him more times than he could count.

‘When you came through town did you see a Shaker lass?’ Daniel’s normally quiet voice trembled with fear and desperation. Rees shook his head. He had seen few women or children and none clothed in the sober Shaker garb.

‘What happened? Did she run off to see the circus?’

‘Yes,’ Daniel said with a nod. ‘With one of the boys.’

‘Shem,’ said Brother Aaron. Rees knew the cantankerous old man well. and was surprised to see him here, searching for the girl. Although a Shaker, Aaron was not always kind or compassionate. ‘I fear he was easily led by that girl,’ he added, confirming Rees’s judgement.

‘Apparently they took off right after our noon dinner,’ Daniel continued, ignoring the other man. ‘We wouldn’t know that much but for the fact Shem was almost late for supper.’

‘Well, have you asked him where she is?’

‘Shem had nothing to do with it,’ Aaron said sharply at the same instant Daniel spoke.

‘Of course we did. We aren’t fools.’

Rees held up his hands in contrition. The Shakers were usually the most even-tempered of people. He knew Daniel’s testiness was a measure of his worry. ‘What did he say?’

‘That they were separated.’

‘Shem wanted to see the circus horses,’ Aaron said.

‘Leah wanted to come home,’ Daniel explained, throwing an irritated glance at his fellow Shaker. ‘Well, they wouldn’t allow a woman to enter such a rude entertainment, would they? She was probably bored-.’

‘He is horse mad,’ Aaron interjected.

‘Please Aaron,’ Daniel said in a sharp voice, staring at his fellow in exasperation. Aaron

acknowledged the rebuke with a nod and Daniel continued. ‘How could Leah have been so lost to all propriety as to imagine she would be allowed entry, I don’t know.’ For a moment his frustration with the girl overshadowed his fear. ‘What was she thinking? I’m not surprised that rapscallion Shem would behave so carelessly but Leah is soon to sign the Covenant and join us as a fully adult member. The amusements of the World should hold no attraction for her.’

Rees shook his head in disagreement. He didn’t blame the girl. He thought that this was exactly the time when she would want to see something outside the kitchen. After all, he was a man, well used to traveling, and seeing the circus had made him long to pack his loom in his wagon and go.

‘Like all women, she is flighty,’ Aaron said, frowning in condemnation. ‘Attracted to sins of -.’

‘Did you search Zion?’ Rees interrupted.

‘No,’ Daniel said. ‘When we couldn’t find the children, we suspected they’d left . . .’ His voice trailed away and he looked from side to side as though expecting the girl to spring up beside him.

‘Perhaps she just wanted to go home to her family,’ Rees suggested.

‘She has no family,’ Daniel said curtly. ‘Neither of those children do. Shem is an orphan and Leah has lived with us since she was a baby. Her mother brought her to us and died soon after. Leah knows no other family but us. She would not leave our community.’

All the more reason for her to want to experience something of the world, Rees thought but he kept his opinion to himself. ‘I drove to town on the main road,’ he said aloud. ‘I did not see any children at all.’

‘When was that?”

“About four,’ Rees replied.

Daniel nodded and rubbed a shaking hand over his jaw. ‘You were on the road too late, I think. The children left the village right after noon dinner.’

‘That means they would have been on the main road between one and two,’ Rees said. ‘Depending on their speed.’ And if Leah had parted from Shem and started home by two-thirty or three, walking either road, she would have reached Zion by four. Four-thirty at the latest. Anxiety for the girl tingled through him. He thought of his own children and the kidnapping of his daughter last winter with a shudder of remembered terror. ‘I’ll help you search,’ he said. ‘The more of us the better.’ He already feared this search would not have a good outcome.

Daniel turned to two of the younger Brothers. ‘Search along the road,’ he said. ‘And

hurry. We have less than an hour of daylight left.’ They started down the lane, moving toward town at a run.

Rees looked up at the sky. The fiery ball was almost at the horizon, and long low rays streamed across the earth in ribbons of gold. In thirty – maybe forty minutes the sun would drop below the western hill and the pink and purple streamers across the sky would fade into black. ‘I’ll park the wagon,’ he said, jumping into the seat.

He pulled it to the ditch on the left side and jumped down, looking around him as he did so. Farmer Reynard had planted the sloping fields on Rees’s right; buckwheat probably given the sloping and rocky nature of the ground. But on the left the buckwheat straw from last year stood almost four feet high, waiting to be cut down and then turned over into the soil. Rees inspected that field thoughtfully. Tall thick stems such as that could hide a girl who did not want to be found. ‘We should check the fields,’ he said as he rejoined the Shakers. ‘And the pastures.’ When Daniel looked at him in surprise, he added, ‘She might have started back to Zion and when she saw us coming gone to ground. She might not want to be dragged back to Zion in disgrace.’ Daniel nodded, pleased by the suggestion and quickly asked the other Brothers to spread out across the fields. Rees and Daniel started walking down the lane.

But before they had gone very far, one of the other Shakers called out.

‘Hey, over here.’ A young fellow whose yellow hair stuck out around his straw hat like straw itself, began retching. ‘Oh, dear God.’

Daniel did not pause to remonstrate with the boy for his language but vaulted the fence into the field and ran. Rees struggled to keep up. Was it Leah? Was she hurt? His stomach clenched; he was so afraid the situation was far worse than that.

They arrived at the body lying sprawled in its buckwheat nest at the same time. She lay partly on her right side, partly on her back, her left arm crooked at her waist at an odd angle. Her plain gray skirt was rucked up to her thighs and blood spattered the white flesh. Daniel turned around, his face white, and shouted at the Brothers approaching him, ‘Stay back. Stay back. Don’t come any closer.’

‘Oh no,’ Rees said, dropping to one knee. ‘Oh no.’ Although he’d been told Leah was fourteen, she looked much younger. Under the severe Shaker cap, her skin had the translucent quality of the child. Her eyes were open, the cloudy irises staring at the darkening sky. Rees bent over her. Although it was hard to tell in the fading light he thought he saw marks around her throat. ‘She may have been strangled,’ he said, his eyes rising to the worm fence that separated this field from the road that led into Durham. Leah’s body had been dropped only a few yards from the fence but in the high straw it would have been almost invisible, even in daylight. Rees began walking slowly toward the main road, his eyes fixed upon the ground. There did not seem to be any path from the fence to the body; none of the buckwheat stalks were bent or broken in any way. He did not see any footprints in the soft April soil either. But in the setting sun detail was difficult to see and he made a mental note to examine this section of the field more closely tomorrow.

‘The farmer, did he do this terrible thing?’ Daniel cried, glancing from side to side.

‘Perhaps, but I doubt it,’ Rees said. He touched the girl’s upraised arm to see if he could move it. As he suspected, the body was growing stiff. ‘He would be a fool to leave her in his own field.’

‘It was not Shem,’ Aaron said loudly. Rees glanced up at the man. Why was Aaron so protective of that boy?

‘She’s been dead for about some hours,’ Rees said, returning to his examination. Then he thought about the warmth of the day. Leah would have been lying here, in the sun. ‘Maybe since mid-afternoon.’ And that time would be consistent with the time she’d left town.

‘How do you know?’ Daniel stared at Rees in shock, mixed with dawning suspicion.

‘You told me she was seen at noon dinner,’ Rees replied, ‘so we know she was alive then.’ He rose to his feet and looked at Daniel ‘It must be almost six o’clock now.’

‘Probably after,’ Daniel said, looking around at the fading light.

‘A body begins to stiffen a few hours after death and then, maybe half a day later, the rigidity passes off. I saw this frequently during the War for Independence but any good butcher will tell you the same.’ Rees kept his eyes upon the other man who finally nodded with some reluctance. ‘I would guess that Leah was accosted by someone on her way home.’ He paused. The poor child had probably been lying here when he rode past, thinking of the circus. He closed his eyes as a spasm of shame went through him.

‘She knew she was not to leave Zion,’ Daniel said with a hint of wrath in his voice.

Rees sighed. This was not the first time he had seen the victim blamed. And perhaps, for a celibate such as Daniel, anger was an easier emotion right now than horror and disgust and grief as well. ‘Perhaps she behaved foolishly, but she did not deserve this end to her life.’

‘We will take her home -,’ Daniel began. But Rees interrupted.

‘We must send someone for the constable.’

‘No. No. She is one of ours.’

‘This is murder,’ Rees said, staring fixedly at Daniel. Although shocked and horrified, he had witnessed too many violent deaths to be paralyzed by such evil any longer. His calm voice and stern regard had the desired effect. Daniel sucked in a deep breath. After he had mastered himself, he left Rees’s side and joined the group of Shakers.

‘Run back to the village and get a horse,’ he told one of the youngest Brothers. ‘Ride into Durham and fetch Constable Rouge.’ His voice trembled on the final word. Rees looked at Daniel. He was swaying on his feet, his eyes were glassy and his skin pale and slick with perspiration. He looked as though he might faint. Rees drew him away from Leah’s body and pressed him down into a sitting position. Daniel was little more than a boy himself and had lived in the serene Shaker community most of his life. It was no surprise he was ill-equipped to handle such a terrible occurrence. ‘Put your head between your knees,’ Rees said. ‘I’m going to walk to the farmhouse and talk to the farmer. Maybe he saw something.’

‘I’ll go with you.’ Daniel stood up; so unsteady Rees grabbed him to keep him from falling.

‘No,’ he said with a shake of his head.

‘I need to go with you,’ the Brother said fiercely. ‘I need to do something. That poor child!’ Rees stared at the other man. Although Daniel’s face was still white, and he was trembling he had set his mouth in a determined line. ‘I must do this, Rees.’

‘Very well.’ Rees glanced over his shoulder at the body. From here, it appeared to be a bundle of rags dropped among the stalks. ‘Poor chick won’t be going anywhere.’

Daniel looked at Brother Aaron. ‘You were once a soldier,’ he said. ‘You’ve seen violence and death. Please stay with our Sister.’ Aaron nodded and, withdrawing a few steps, sat down in the row between the stalks. In the encroaching shadows he instantly faded from view. Only his pale straw hat remained, shining in the last of the light like a beacon.

Rees and Daniel set off across the fields for the distant farmhouse.

***

Excerpt from A Circle Of Dead Girls by Eleanor Kuhns. Copyright 2020 by Eleanor Kuhns. Reproduced with permission from Eleanor Kuhns. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Eleanor Kuhns. There will be 5 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on September 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Sep 162020
 

Airborne by DiAnn Mills Banner

 

 

Airborne

by DiAnn Mills

on Tour September 1-30, 2020

Synopsis:

Airborne by DiAnn Mills

Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living—but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field . . . and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.

Book Details:

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date: September 8th 2020
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 1496427173 (ISBN13: 9781496427175)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Airborne Trailer:

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Houston
Early July
Monday, 6 p.m.

Vacations offered a distraction for those who longed to relax and rejuvenate, but FBI Special Agent Heather Lawrence wrestled with the decision to take an overseas trip alone. Normally she arrived for a flight at IAH eager to embark upon a new adventure. Not this time. Her vacation expectations had bottomed out over four weeks ago after Chad had slammed the door on reconciliation. Was she working through her grief or avoiding the reality of a husband who no longer wanted her?

She waited to board the flight in a designated line at the gate. The hum of voices blended with airport beeps, and announcements swirled around her as though enticing her to join the enthusiasm. In the line beside her, passengers shifted their carry-ons and positioned their mobile devices or paper boarding passes. Ready. Alert. People eager to be on their way.

Heather offered a smile to those nearest her. An adorable little blond boy with an older woman found it hard to stand still. A middle-aged couple held hands. The bald head and pasty skin of the man indicated a medical condition. He stumbled, and the woman reached for him. A robust man held a violin case next to his heart. A twentysomething woman with pink hair and a man behind her with a scruffy beard exchanged a kiss.

Chad used to steal kisses.

If she pinpointed the exact moment when he chose to separate himself from her, she’d say when he returned from a third trip for Doctors Without Borders late last fall. He’d witnessed suffering and cruel deaths that had scarred him. She’d encouraged his desire to help others, not realizing their future would take a backseat. While he drove toward success, their marriage drifted across the lanes and stalled in a rut.

The boarding line moved toward the Jetway. Each step shook her to the core as though she should turn and try to reverse the past seven months. She’d ignored her and Chad’s deteriorating relationship in an effort to make him happy. A huge mistake. But she didn’t intend to add the labels beaten or weak to her dossier.

A cell phone sounded, and a man boarding in front of her stopped to answer it. His shoulders stiffened under a tan sports coat, and he talked in hushed tones. Heather dug her fingers into her palms and forced one foot in front of the other while the man pocketed his cell phone and proceeded into business class.

A flight attendant greeted her, a dark-haired young man wearing a wide smile, relaxed and genuine, an obvious sign he enjoyed his job. She returned the gesture. His black jacket with two rows of silver braid on the sleeves and black trousers were magazine perfect.

Heather walked to a rear aisle seat in business class and hoisted her tote bag into the overhead compartment. Although it held essentials for every emergency in case her luggage was delayed, the bulging piece weighed less than the burden on her heart.

Easing onto her seat, Heather pulled the brochure from her shoulder bag describing Salzburg’s music festival, a celebration of musicians past and present. First a layover in Frankfurt and then on to her destination. She’d rented an apartment for ten days within walking distance of the historical center. The flexibility allowed her to choose her itinerary and cook or dine out. From the online photos, the centuries-old building had just enough updates to be comfortable without damaging its historic charm. She’d have hours to explore Mozart’s roots, museums, the many churches, immerse herself in the culture, and think.

A female passenger, sporting red spiked hair and chin-length hooped earrings, stopped beside her. The woman carried a Venti Starbucks. “Excuse me.” Her German accent a reminder of the destination. “Would you mind holding my coffee while I store my carry-on?”

“Of course.” Heather held the cup while the woman shoved her small suitcase into the overhead bin.

“Sorry for the inconvenience. I wasn’t thinking when I bought the coffee.”

“It smells heavenly.” Heather stood to let the woman pass and then handed her the cup.

“Thank you.” The woman blew on the lid and took a sip. “I’m Mia.”

“I’m Heather.”

“Long flight ahead but soon I’ll be home.” She pointed to Heather’s brochure. “Salzburg?”

“Yes. For a much-needed vacation.”

“I’m from Frankfurt. Really missing my daughter and husband.”

“You’ll see them soon.”

Mia broke into a wide smile. “We’ve done FaceTime and texted, but I want to touch their faces and hug them.”

Heather continued to read the Salzburg brochure to avoid any personal comments from Mia, like whether she was taking a vacation solo. An elderly man wearing a straw fedora and a white mustache sat in the aisle seat across from Heather. He pulled his phone from his pant pocket and used his thumbs on the keyboard like a kid.

Mia placed her coffee on the tray and made a phone call. “Wie geht es meinem kleinen Mädchen?”

Heather translated the German. How is my little girl? The woman’s excitement resonated through every word. Love. Laughter. Priceless commodities that Heather didn’t possess. Yet this trip offered an opportunity to rekindle her faith in God and chart a course for the future.

While the attendants made their way through business class with drink orders, Heather longed to have confirmation she’d made the right decision to take this trip. No one knew of her vacation plans except her parents and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Wade Mitchell in Houston. No one needed to know the why of her trip until she made a few decisions.

Stuffing the Salzburg brochure into her bag, she snatched the aircraft’s information and confirmed the layout for 267 passengers, restrooms, exit doors, in-seat power, on-demand entertainment, and three galleys. She always noted the details of her surroundings, another habit of working so many FBI cases. Always be prepared for the unexpected.

If the trip had been FBI sanctioned, her present circumstances might not hurt so much. How ironic she worked the critical incident response group as a behavior analyst, and she wrestled to understand her own life.

Right on time, the flight attendants took their assigned posts while miniature screens throughout the plane shared the aircraft’s amenities and explained the passenger safety instructions. The captain welcomed them moments before the plane lifted into the clouds.

On her way. No turning back. She prayed for a safe journey and much-needed answers.

Food smells from business class caught her attention, a mix of roasted chicken and beef. Too often of late, she forgot to eat or nothing appealed to her. To shake off the growing negativity, she paid for Wi-Fi and grabbed her phone from her bag. Time to concentrate on something other than herself.

She glanced at the incoming notifications. No texts. Her emails were an anticipated list of senders when she longed for a change of heart from Chad. Sighing, she closed her eyes. Between her job, Chad, and stress, too often she fought for enough pillow time.

Two hours later, she woke from a deep sleep to the sound of a woman’s scream.

Chapter 2

Heather whirled toward the ear-piercing cry behind her. She released her seat belt and rushed back to the economy section. The overhead lights snapped on to reveal the middle-aged couple whom she’d seen at the gate. The panic-stricken woman beside him held a tissue to his nose. Blood dripped beneath her fingers and down her wrist.

Not a muscle moved on the man’s face, and his eyes rolled back into their sockets. Heather approached him in the aisle seat. Before she could speak, the woman gasped, a mix of sobs and a struggle for composure. “Help me. I can’t stop the bleeding.”

Heather used tissues from the woman’s lap to help block the blood flow. “Try to stay calm.”

The woman nodded. “I shouldn’t have let him talk me into this trip. He’s been so weak.”

From the front of the plane, the male flight attendant who’d greeted passengers earlier rushed their way. He carried two kits, one labeled first aid and the other biohazard. A female attendant trailed after him.

“Help is here,” Heather said to the woman. She moved aside for the attendant to administer aid. She prayed the ill man was undergoing a minor problem—an easily resolved issue—and for the woman’s comfort. But his lifeless face showed a grim reality.

“Sir, how do you feel?” Not a sound or movement came from the man. Blood flowed from Heather’s mass of tissues.

The male attendant twisted off the seal of the biohazard kit and searched inside. He drew out a pair of nitrile gloves and wiggled them on. The female attendant opened the first aid kit, ripped into a gauze package, and handed it to the male attendant, who applied it to the man’s nose. She opened the biohazard waste bag to dispose of the soiled materials.

The male attendant captured the woman’s attention. “Ma’am, I’m Nathan. Is this your husband?”

“Yes. He’s very hot.”

Nathan touched the man’s forehead. “How long has he been feverish?”

“He was fine when we boarded. Perhaps over an hour into the flight?” Her sobs subsided to soft cries. “Do something. Blood’s coming from his mouth.”

Heather touched her shoulder with a clean hand. “Take a deep breath.”

“How can I? Roy’s not breathing.”

“That’s his name?” His gentle voice ushered in compassion.

“Yes. I’m Catherine.”

He bent to speak to Roy. “I’m Nathan. Give me a few minutes to administer first aid.” He replaced the gauze on Roy’s nose for the second time and turned to the female flight attendant, who’d paled but didn’t tremble. “Leave the kits. Call the flight deck and tell them what’s happening.”

She rushed to the front of the cabin.

“This is my fault.” Catherine held Roy’s hand. “He finished chemo and radiation for lung cancer, but his doctor hadn’t cleared him for the trip.”

“Catherine,” Nathan said, “I know you’re worried, but try to stay calm. Has he experienced these symptoms before?”

“No.”

A voice spoke over the interphone. “If a licensed medical professional is on board, we have a medical issue. All other passengers, please remain in your seats.”

Within moments, a lean man arrived from the right side of business class carrying a leather case. “I’m a doctor.” Heather stepped back while he examined Roy and spoke to Nathan.

While the doctor stood over Roy with his back to Heather, Nathan turned to her. “We’ve got this handled. Please return—”

“No, please. Let her stay,” Catherine said. “If she doesn’t mind.”

Nathan frowned. “Okay, for the moment. Our manual states we have to keep the aisle clear around the patient.”

“I understand,” Heather said. “I’d be happy to sit with her, and I’m Heather.”

“Miss, if the pilots call our med service on the ground, I’ll need you out of way so we can relay instructions.”

The doctor and Nathan lowered Roy to the aisle and treated him. They blocked Heather’s view of the procedure, but the doctor rummaged for something inside the leather case. For the next ten minutes, she waited for the doctor to reassure passengers of the man’s recovery.

Catherine’s hysteria spun in a cloud of uncertainty that left unchecked often spread panic. She unfastened her seat belt and rose on unstable legs. “Please, tell me my husband is all right.” The female attendant gently urged her back onto the seat.

The doctor eased up from Roy and spoke reassuring words to Catherine. He peeled off his blood-covered gloves and tossed them into the bag. Had Roy succumbed to the lung cancer or a complication?

Nathan walked to a galley area. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am Nathan Howard, your lead flight attendant on board your flight today. We appreciate your concern for the man receiving medical attention. We will transport him to the rear of the cabin, where he’ll be comfortable. A doctor is tending to him, and the medical concern is under control. Thank you.”

Heather supported the airline’s protocol designed to keep everyone from alarm and terror while the crew addressed issues. Yet a few people craned their necks to watch the scene as though it was a morbid form of entertainment more interesting than the recycled movies on the screens in front of them.

Nathan returned to Catherine. “I know you’d like for the young woman to sit with you, but it would be easier for the flight crew and safer for her if we placed an attendant here. Can we do that?”

“I guess.” Catherine’s lips quivered.

Heather bent to speak. “I’m not far.” She understood how Catherine had latched on to her, a stranger, for moral support.

Nathan and the doctor picked Roy up and carried him to the rear. Roy was either unconscious or dead.

The female flight attendant sat in Roy’s seat and held Catherine’s hand. “I’ll stay with you for as long as you like.”

“Can I join my husband?”

“When the doctor is finished, I’ll escort you back.”

Heather returned to her seat—her mind weighed with concern.

“Gott hab Erbarmen,” Mia said.

“Yes, God have mercy.”

“You speak German?”

“A little. Spent a year in Frankfurt when I was in college.”

“The sound of it makes me long for home.” She hesitated. “What’s wrong with the man?”

“His wife said he’d recently completed chemo treatments for lung cancer. I’m sure the doctor is doing all he can. The airline has doctors on the ground, and they’ll consult with the doctor on board. Between them, they’ll figure out what’s best.”

“Do you work for the airlines?”

“No.” Heather smiled. “I’m with the Department of Justice.”

Mia rubbed her palms together. She’d already stated her desire to see her family. “Will the flight be diverted?”

“It depends on lots of factors. The man may just require rest.” Heather wasn’t going to state the excessive blood from Roy’s mouth and nose pointed to his death. By now the doctors at Medi-Pro-Aire, an advisory service for airlines, had been contacted and put in communication with the pilot.

“I read the airline’s cost to emergency divert range from $10,000 to upwards of $200,000,” Mia said.

“I don’t doubt the cost, but with this airline, the safety and welfare of the passengers always come first. They don’t blink at the cost of diversion. It’s on management’s mind post-action.”

“Can the pilots be called to the carpet for making a safety decision?”

“I’m sure their procedure is in place to protect the passengers.” Heather forced comfort into her voice. “We’ll be okay.”

Muffled voices around her prompted alarm.

A man shouted for help. “My wife has a terrible headache.”

A man in business class vomited.

“My son has a fever,” a woman said.

“Please, the man beside me has a nosebleed, and he can’t stop it.”

“What is going on?” Mia whispered. “All these people are suddenly sick. Frighteningly sick.”

Heather wished she had answers while horror played out around her.

“I’m afraid.” Mia’s face turned ashen.

“We have to stay calm.” Heather craved to heed her own advice.

Throughout the plane, people complained of flu-like symptoms. Another person vomited. Heather touched her stomach. A twinge of apprehension crept through her.

Nathan spoke over the interphone. “If you are experiencing physical distress, press your call button. Flight attendants will be in your area soon with damp paper towels. Use these to cover your mouth and the tops of beverages. As always, remain in your seats.”

Heather messaged ASAC Mitchell in Houston with the medical emergency report, including the symptoms.

He responded. The FBI, TSA, CDC, and Medi-Pro-Aire are on it. Are you okay?

Yes. People’s symptoms indicate a serious virus.

The doctor on board has given a similar conclusion.

She trembled as she typed. Looks similar to what Chad described in Africa.

The doctor said the same. Is the man dead?

I think so.

How many others are sick?

Heather surveyed the passengers within her sight and typed. From my seat, I see around ten in business class, and I hear the sick in economy. Will the plane divert?

No decision yet. Keep me posted. You are our eyes.

Beyond what the doctor on board relayed to those on the ground, ASAC Mitchell must believe she held the voice of reason and objectivity. The irony of their interpretation. The viruses were usually zoonotic or caused by insects, and the symptoms created intense suffering. She blinked to clear her head and not ponder the worst.

With panic gripping her in a stranglehold, she imagined what others were feeling. A man questioned why the plane hadn’t landed. A woman bolted to the galley and held her mouth. The man who held the violin marched to the business class restroom but fell face-first and vomited.

The elderly man across the aisle from her coughed. His nose trickled blood.

Heather grabbed tissues from her bag and handed them to him. “Will this help?”

“Tell me this is a nightmare.” He gripped her arm—fiery hot.

***

Excerpt from Airborne by DiAnn Mills. Copyright 2020 by DiAnn Mills. Reproduced with permission from DiAnn Mills. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction, and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Q&A with DiAnn Mills

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads.
On Writing and Reading:

What was the inspiration for this book?

The story line for Airborne came to me three and a half years ago. All I had was a what-if: a virus unleashed on an international flight. While I have an ongoing relationship with the FBI to ensure my facts are straight, this idea went beyond my normal romantic suspense. The search to find experts who were willing to give me accurate information took another year. Along the way, the right people entered my path:
1. A woman and new friend whose doctorate is in microbiology and immunology.
2. A man who trains flight attendants for the airline that I envisioned in my story. I learned guidelines and procedure.
3. A pilot who not only flies for my designated airline but is also a suspense and thriller writer.
4. The amazing people and resources of the CDC. They offered insight and protocol for those in quarantine.
5. The wisdom and guidance of the FBI to locate the right people with solid answers.

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Usually current events. Regarding Airborne: the idea came to me as a what-if, and I had no idea what to do with it. While the idea simmered and throughout the research process, I read recommended articles, and watched documentaries and movies about virus outbreaks.
I have a vivid imagination. Some of the steps taken seemed logical to keep people safe from contagion. Later I learned I was right—a weird realization.

Broad research was needed to include exploration of worldwide viruses, quarantine restrictions, the work of the CDC, the involvement of government agencies during times of health crisis, testing requirements, and the courageous work of first responders and medical personnel,

After my book was edited and a cover designed, the coronavirus broke out. One of the results of my research is that I’m not afraid during the current COVID19 crisis. The precautions were expected as though I’d been there before. Eerie at times, yet other times comforting to draw upon insights I’d learned. I have confidence in the guidelines to keep the US as contagion free as possible.

Are any of your characters based on people that you know?

No. I have a lengthy process for characterizing a hero or heroine based on two criteria:
1. Who has the most to lose if the situation is not brought under control.
2. Who has the most to gain if the situation is brought under control.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

Besides being a bit quirky and needing lots of strong, black coffee? 
I’m an organic writer, which means I’m a character-driven panster. I spend hours getting to know a character so I can create authenticity in his/her physical, mental, and spiritual behavior. I may have an idea for a few of the scenes, but mostly the process is discovery.

My best writing is early in the morning … sometimes I prop my laptop on the treadmill. Other times I edit, take notes, or research while exercising.

Tell us why we should read your book?

Airborne is for the reader who enjoys suspense with a thread of romance. The unexpected happens when a deadly virus is unleashed onboard an international flight. Readers will identify with the characters’ fears and emotions. Who is infected? Was it deliberate? What will happen to the people who hope to survive the painful death?

My mission then and now is to show a story that weaves hope, reality, and the sacrificial work of first responders when a deadly virus spreads through innocent people. I want readers to experience God’s presence and peac during our current global crisis.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes! I’m finished with the first draft of Shadows of the Past – a working title. A woman spends fifteen years in a Texas prison for a murder she didn’t commit to protect her sister. Now someone wants the ex-con dead.

This sounds like a book for me.
Can’t wait!!!!

What are you reading now?

Great Stories Don’t Write Themselves – Larry Brooks
Darkest Fear – Harlan Coben
Prayer – Timothy Keller

Fun Questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

FBI Agent Heather Lawrence – Emma Stone
Dr. Chad Lawrence – Chris Pine
Thomas Powell – Daniel Craig

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Cooking
Roasting my own coffee beans
Hiking
Gardening

Favorite meal?

Salmon
Salad with lots of veggies
Hot apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream

What a great meal!! Now I’m craving it!!!

Connect with DiAnn On:
DiAnnMills.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Enter The Giveaway!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for DiAnn Mills. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Gift Card each (winner’s choice of Amazon or B&N). The giveaway begins on September 1, 2020 and runs through October 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Sep 152020
 

Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker
Genre: Domestic Thriller
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
ASIN : B08472L3TM
Pages: 345
Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5+

Synopsis (via GR)

“In Wendy Walker’s thrilling novel Don’t Look for Me, the greatest risk isn’t running away. It’s running out of time.

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life.

She doesn’t want to be found.

Or at least, that’s the story.

The car abandoned miles from home.

The note found at a nearby hotel.

The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together.

They called it a “walk away.”

It happens all the time.

Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over.

But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

My Thoughts

When it comes to Wendy Walker’s books, one word comes to mind both as a positive and a negative and that is the word huge.

First the positive, I am a huge fan of her books!!!

Five years ago, the Clarke family endured a horrific tragedy when the mother, Molly accidentally ran over their youngest child Annie. Since then, John, her husband, their daughter Nicole and son Evan have grown apart and tried dealing with their grief in different ways. Sometimes even it being destructive.

Molly knows and feels that her family blames her and wonders if it would be better if she wasn’t present in their lives. But this particular morning, as she is leaving to drive to her son’s school to watch his game, Nicole spews hurtful words in an argument and storms off. After watching him play, she tries to get his attention and he walks right by her not even acknowledging her. On the ride home, her thoughts turn to what the past 5 years have been and she is not paying attention that she is running low on gas and a hurricane is to hit the area. Parking on the side of the road hoping for some help might be her best or worst decision.

How does Ms. Walker do it?

This story did not let up in the suspense! The writing was so descriptive that I felt that I was transported into the story and unaware of my surroundings. The characters were so believable, almost to a fault because I couldn’t figure out who I should be trusting. The twists and turns gave me whiplash. I found myself holding my breath and at other times scaring myself with my audible gasps. And the ending was explosive!

This was truly a white-knuckle, hold onto your seat read!!! Another 5+ star novel!

Now for the huge negative. And that’s having to wait to get my hands on her next book!!

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