by Chris Patchell
on Tour August 1-31, 2017
Becky Kincaid ventures out in the middle of a snowstorm to buy a car seat for her unborn baby and never makes it home. When a second pregnant woman disappears, Marissa Rooney and the team at the Holt Foundation fear a sinister motive lurks behind the crimes.
Lead investigator, Seth Crawford, desperately searches for the thread that binds the two cases together, knowing that if he fails, another woman will soon be gone. While Seth hunts for clues, a madman has Marissa in his sights and she carries a secret that could tear her whole world apart.
Can Seth stop the killer before he reaps his dark harvest.
Read my review here
Published by: Kindle Press
Publication Date: May 30th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
Series: A Holt Foundation Story, Book 2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Kindle Unlimited 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗
Q&A with Chris Patchell
Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Absolutely! Writing creepy thrillers, there are always true crime stories that intrigue me and trigger a story ideas. Though it was years ago, I still remember hearing the news story about a pregnant woman who went missing on Christmas Eve. The photograph they showed of Laci Peterson was heartbreaking—eight months pregnant, the picture of health, Laci beamed into the camera. While I was researching my second book, In the Dark, I was talking with a seasoned police detective who told me something chilling that stuck with me years later. “As soon as I saw the news about Laci Peterson’s disappearance, I knew the husband did it,” he said. When I started mulling over story ideas, I knew Dark Harvest began with the disappearance of a young, pregnant woman. While the setup for the story was inspired by the true crime case, that’s where the similarities end. The actual unraveling of the case in my book arrives at a motive that will catch readers by surprise.
All authors put a little something of themselves into their work. When I was a kid, we lived way out in the country. On those long summer days, my brother and I would explore the fields behind our farmhouse that seemed endless. One day when we had wandered much farther than we had before, we discovered a house. It was in the middle of a field of long, swaying glass. Blackened with age, seeing it was like stumbling on a real-life mystery. Who built it? Where had they gone? Why had they abandoned the property? It was like one of those ghost towns where you walk through the fence and into other people’s lives. The image stayed with me and many years later, the memory surfaced while I was writing Dark Harvest.
We all see things, feel things, and writers find ways to channeling those experiences into their work, imbuing them with a sense of realism that draws readers in. I love it when I hear from a reader how a scene that I wrote impacted them. It’s the best feeling in the world!
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
OMG, it would be awesome to start with the conclusion and work my way backward, but most of the time, when I start working out a story idea, I’m not sure how it ends. My characters are very real to me and often have secrets they don’t reveal all at once. I like to think of it like a relationship—you don’t find everything out about a person in a few short days.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
All the heroes are based on me! HA! I wish. Some of the people I’ve known over the years have inspired characters in my books though it’s never a whole-sale transplant. When I wrote Deadly Lies, I set it in a company similar to where I worked. A parade of co-workers stopped by to tell me they had read my book and tried to guess the identity of the characters. “Is it…” They’d blurt out a name. Thank god, they always got it wrong. Dark Harvest features single mother, Marissa Rooney, who is struggling to help her daughter overcome her traumatic experiences while trying to keep the rest of her life from blowing up. Marissa bears some similarities to my mother—both were young when they had children, both underestimated themselves, and both had the kind of grit that allowed them to face and overcome their obstacles, sometimes in painful ways. It can be as small as a verbal tic or as big as the way loyalty blinds them to what is staring them in the face and ultimately proves their undoing.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
On a good day, I fall into the creative flow and time disappears as I hang out with my characters. Then there are the other days when I sit down to work and the dogs go racing out the door to bark at the neighbors. My jaw clenches and I think kill the dogs, kill the dogs. Of course, I don’t. I call them back into the house and close the door and they nap at my feet as I limp toward my daily word count goal. Because I always have a goal. Whether it’s how many words I want to write that day, or how many chapters I want to edit. Distractions are like ravenous little monsters desperate to eat up all my time. Facebook. Political news. Yeah. Sometimes I think I should disable the Internet for most of the day, but I’m not that hard core yet.
Tell us why we should read this book.
Dark Harvest combines a great cast of characters who are desperately trying to solve a disturbing abduction. The pace is fast. The stakes are high. And the fascinating motive behind the crime will surprise you.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have a long list of authors I admire, but here are a few of my favorites. I love Stephen King. I started reading his horror stuff in the 90’s. The thing I loved best about his writing back then was that his books were really long. Fast forward fifteen years though, and King has become a master. The way he breathes life into his characters is amazing, like Junior Rennie from Under the Dome. His imagery when unfolding a scene is intricate, beautiful, and at times, horrifying. Lisa Gardner writes well-executed thrillers with good characters and tight plots. Pat Conroy is also a master of characters whose flaws threaten to destroy them. Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pine series is a great example of compelling fiction. Great action scenes. Great emotion. Exceptional world building.
What are you reading now?
This summer I’m on a steady diet of psychological thrillers. Big Little Lies. I loved the HBO series and now am reading the book. Liane Moriarty has a unique, compelling, and funny voice. I just finished re-reading Duma Key, by Stephen King, and have Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter queued up on Audible. I listen to Audible in the car, because for some strange reason, it’s illegal to read and drive at the same time. At least that’s what the cops who pull me over keep telling me. I’m finishing Simon Sinek’s inspirational book, Start With Why. Being an avid learner, I always have a non-fiction book on the go.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
You bet! During my career in hi-tech, we were always struggling to define the next product while we were working on the current release, so when we finally shipped the current version, we could roll off to the next project without wasting time. Rarely did we manage to do this. When Dark Harvest released, I was already editing the next book. Vow of Silence is also a book #2 and picks up a few years after Deadly Lies ends. The life Jill Shannon wants is within her grasp. Engaged to prosecuting attorney, Conner Manning, she is about to give her daughter the family she has always wanted. But the secrets from Jill’s dark past come back to haunt her and threaten to destroy her dreams. It’s an entertaining story that explores the lengths to which someone will go to keep their past hidden with an undercurrent of politics that has been fun to research and write.
I’ve also been developing pitches for a few more story ideas that I have in my pipeline. Next month I plan to invite a group of friends over for a pitch-fest. I’ll have my friends read over three or four pitches and vote on which one is their favorite and why. Liberal amounts of wine may be served to help lubricate the conversation.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
From your lips to Hollywood’s ears! Usually this question leaves me scratching my head and staring at my feet, but not with Dark Harvest. This time if I had my magic casting wand, I actually know who I would want to play the book’s main characters. Kate Hudson would be a good fit for Marissa. She’s beautiful, vulnerable, and smart. Mark Ruffalo has the right blend of cynicism, fallibility, and intelligence to play the Holt Foundation’s lead investigator, Seth Crawford. Xander Wilcox would be played by one of my all-time favorite actors, Edward Norton, who excels at playing brilliantly flawed characters.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Writing! Crap, no. That’s my day job. I enjoy playing the piano even though I’m only a few steps up from just plain awful. And while I love the sound of the instrument, I love the way playing music exercises my brain even more. There is nothing else like it. I approach playing the piano the same way I approach writing. I set goals. Focus on technique. Strive for continual improvement. While practice doesn’t always make perfect, I keep going, even when it is frustrating, because I love it.
Red meat! I know how this sounds, but I could never be vegetarian or vegan. A grilled steak with mushrooms, grilled asparagus and salad is about the best thing in the world. Pairing it with a deep red wine makes it even better.
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.
Thank you so much for hosting me! It’s been fun.
Chris Patchell is the bestselling author of In the Dark and the Indie Reader Discovery Award winning novel Deadly Lies. Having recently left her long-time career in tech to pursue her passion for writing full-time, Chris pens gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her family and two neurotic dogs.
Read an excerpt:
A sharp pain jabbed Rebecca Kincaid’s side, and she sucked in a breath. Her hand fell to the hard swell of her belly, rubbing gently. Round ligament pain, she figured, just one of the many joys of being pregnant.
“Chillax, kiddo,” she said to the baby dancing inside her as the pain subsided.
Smiling to herself, she glanced around to see if anyone else was close enough to hear. Some people called you crazy for talking to yourself in public. She caught the eye of a redhead standing beside a stack of Diaper Genies. Dressed in blue jeans and a red flannel coat, the woman smiled. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, older than Becky, but not as old as some of the women in her prenatal classes. The woman’s gaze strayed to the strained buttons around Becky’s baby bump.
“When are you due?”
“Two more weeks and counting.” She grimaced. Being this big, nothing was comfortable. Her back ached, her hips hurt, and even sleeping was hard.
The woman smiled sympathetically. “I know, right? I felt the same way when I was pregnant, like I was Sigourney Weaver in that Alien movie with a little monster just dying to get out.”
“I know what you mean,” Becky said, breaking eye contact.
Truthfully, she hated that movie. Violent and gory. Comparing a baby to a bloodthirsty alien tearing its way out of its mother’s womb, well, that was kind of sick. She was much more of a romantic-comedy kind of girl.
“I have a toddler at home,” the woman said. “Seems like just yesterday I was in maternity clothes, though.”
Becky faked a laugh and turned down an aisle, away from the stranger.
She parked the cart and ran her hand over the Chicco car seat sitting center shelf. She didn’t need her mother to tell her it cost too much. Most of her baby stuff she’d picked up at the Salvation Army store or had gotten handed down from the women at work, but Becky knew that car seats were one of those things you had to buy new. On her waitressing salary, the best she could afford was the cheapest one on the rack. And even that was pricey.
The doctor said that most first babies came late, but in the last day or two, she’d had a few contractions. Fake contractions, the nurse said. Whatever they were, they freaked her out. She knew she wouldn’t be able to bring the baby home from the hospital without a car seat, so here she was, shopping in the middle of a freak snowstorm. If her mother knew that she was out on a night like tonight, she’d have a fit.
Becky fingered her necklace, grabbed the white-gold heart, and ran it along the chain as she searched the shelves for something more affordable. Of course, the one she wanted was up on the top shelf, well out of reach. She scanned the area looking for a box stowed a bit lower. There were none.
Becky sighed and glanced down the aisle. Didn’t anyone work in this store?
Where was Nathan when she needed him? All six foot three of him could have reached up and grabbed the box off the shelf with no problem at all, but at five foot two, almost as wide as she was tall these days, it was hopeless.
Frowning, she stepped on the bottom shelf and stretched high, wiggling her fingertips in a desperate bid to tip the box toward her. The metal shelf groaned under her weight. It shifted suddenly, and Becky’s stomach lurched. Thrown off balance, she careened backward, hands flailing wildly as she grasped for something—anything to stop her fall. Nothing but air.
Oh God. The baby.
Strong hands gripped her coat, catching her inches from the floor. Heart racing, Becky closed her eyes and regained her footing. Her hands flew to her belly. The baby kicked her hard, as if chastising her for being so careless.
“Careful, honey. You don’t want to fall in your condition,” a woman said. It was the redhead again. “Let me get that.”
Becky bit her lip and stared at the damned box. Why didn’t they put the boxes lower where pregnant moms could reach? It was probably some stupid marketing trick to get you to buy the most expensive ones. They were at eye level.
“Maybe we should find a clerk,” Becky said. “I’m not sure you should be climbing up there either.”
“If we wait for someone else to come along, we’ll both die of old age. Besides, we gals have got to help each other out.”
The redhead winked. Stepping onto the warped bottom shelf, she reached high overhead and slid the baby seat from its perch. Climbing back down, she turned and dropped the box safely into Becky’s cart.
“There,” she said, clapping the dust from her hands with a satisfied smile.
“Thanks,” Becky said. “If my boyfriend were here . . .” She trailed off, irritation rippling through her. Why was it that she was the only one responsible for all of this baby stuff? She hadn’t gotten pregnant by herself.
The redhead’s eyes narrowed.
“Where is the baby daddy? Shouldn’t he be helping you with this?”
“He’s out with his friends. He’ll be home soon, though.”
Becky blushed and turned away. Why was she lying to a perfect stranger? Nathan wouldn’t be home soon. In fact, she didn’t know when she would see him again. For her, home was a dreary little basement apartment that she could barely afford, while he lived in a sprawling frat house minutes away from the University of Washington campus. She had only been there once. The night she had gotten pregnant.
The last three dozen texts she sent him went unanswered. He ignored her baby updates. She’d even sent him images from the ultrasound.
But he’d never responded. He didn’t answer her calls. She might as well not exist. Pregnant and alone, she was an eighteen-year-old walking cliché. And what was worse, her mother had been totally right about Nathan, not that Becky had any intention of admitting it.
Becky’s shoulders slumped. A painful lump formed in her throat, and she rubbed her belly.
“Men are pigs, honey,” the redhead said, patting Becky’s shoulder. “The sooner you learn that lesson, the easier your life is going to be.”
Even though Nathan was ignoring her, Becky still held a sliver of hope deep in her heart that once the baby was born, he’d come around. Once he held his son, looked down into his beautiful face, everything would change.
Becky sniffed and dabbed her nose on her sleeve. She could hope.
“Do you have someone who can help you carry the baby seat to your car? It’s slippery out there. You almost fell once today; you don’t want to risk that baby again.”
The woman reached out and patted her baby bump. Becky recoiled, startled by the presumption of the stranger’s touch.
“Sorry,” the woman said, curling her fingers into a fist. “Force of habit.”
Becky grasped the handle of the shopping cart and steered it down the narrow aisle.
“Thanks for your help but I can manage,” she called over her shoulder. In her haste to escape the awkward situation, the front wheels slammed into a shelf. The cart shuddered, and Becky’s belly ran up against the handle. She gasped, pain shooting through her.
The bright flash of pain subsided. Cheeks burning, Becky waved her hand and kept going, wanting to distance herself from the woman. She’d already embarrassed herself enough for one night. Besides, it was late, and her back was killing her. All she wanted to do was go home and stretch out on the couch, maybe catch an episode of The New Girl before she fell asleep.
Waiting at the register, she looked at all the baby things crammed on the shelves. They were so sweet. Stuffed bunnies with long, floppy ears; burp cloths; and pacifiers.
Her belly tensed. The baby kicked like he knew he was going to be born into a life of hand-me-downs. A fake contraction rippled through her, and she released a short breath. At least she thought it was fake. She wasn’t ready for the real kind yet.
Unable to stop herself, Becky picked a stuffed bunny off the shelf. Raising it to her face, she ran its baby-soft fur across the bridge of her nose. It smelled powdery fresh and reminded her of her favorite stuffed animal from when she was a kid. A potbellied bear with a matted brown coat and a large blue nose. She’d loved that bear. Took it with her on every trip. Slept with it every night for far longer than she cared to admit. Her mom had restuffed that bear at least three times that she could recall.
She felt a pang thinking about her mom. They hadn’t spoken for five months now, ever since that terrible fight they’d had about Nathan. And the abortion her mother thought Becky should have.
She couldn’t kill her baby.
“Ma’am?” the clerk called to her. She looked up. The couple in front of her was gone, and the line had cleared. She was next.
“The bunny?” The clerk held out her hand for the stuffed animal. Becky shook her head and forced a smile. The bunny was a luxury she couldn’t afford. Squeezing the downy soft tummy one last time, she set the stuffed animal back on the shelf.
“Just the car seat,” she said, digging for her wallet. Paying cash for her purchase, she left the store.
Thick flakes of snow shone under the streetlights and swirled around her in the frigid wind. A blanket of white covered the icy parking lot.
Becky pressed the trunk button on the remote. Some asshole had parked his black van right next to her. With the whole empty parking lot to choose from, why would he park so close?
Shit luck, she supposed, the only kind she seemed to have these days.
The wheels on Becky’s cart rattled on the chunky snow and ice. She slipped. Catching herself, she kept going. On a grim night like this, most smart people stayed home.
Snowflakes caught in her eyelashes, and others brushed her cheeks like icy angel kisses. Becky stowed the car seat in the trunk. The nearest cart caddy was a football field away. Okay. She probably shouldn’t abandon the cart, but screw it. She was tired, pregnant, and it was damned cold out here. No one would blame her. She launched her cart through the empty parking lot. It ground to a halt the next row over.
Shivering as the damp night air wrapped around her and the snowflakes melted in her hair, Becky rounded the side of the car and glared at the van. He’d left her eighteen inches of space. How the hell was she supposed to open her door wide enough to crawl into the driver’s seat? It would have been difficult even if she had been her normal size, but in her current condition, it was impossible.
But what choice did she have? Wait out here until the asshole showed up and moved his ratty van? With the way her luck was going, it probably belonged to some kid who worked in the store and wouldn’t be off for hours yet. She could try the passenger’s side, but crawling over the gearshift and the console between the seats in her condition . . .
Becky sighed. Feeling dumb and desperate, she dialed Nathan’s number. His picture flashed on her phone. He had a handsome face with blue eyes and a smattering of light-brown freckles. She waited. One ring. Two. Five. The call went through to voicemail the way it always did. Becky’s stomach heaved, and she pocketed the phone.
Glancing up, she eyed the van and set her jaw.
She could do this.
Easing her way between the two vehicles, her swollen belly smearing the dirty side of the van, she waddled toward the driver’s door. The side mirrors of the vehicles almost touched.
Behind her, she heard the crunch of shoes on snow. Becky’s breath caught.
She spun, her belly scraping the passenger’s door as she looked behind her.
The redhead from the store smiled.
“God, you scared me.” Becky slapped a hand over her racing heart as adrenaline shot through her system at warp speed. The baby must have felt it too. He twisted and squirmed inside her.
“Sorry. I would have called out, but I didn’t know your name.”
“Becky,” she said, still gripping the keys tight in her hand. She drew in a couple of cleansing breaths.
“I think you dropped this.”
The woman held something out in front of her. It was the stuffed animal from the store—the snow-white bunny with floppy ears. Becky frowned and shook her head.
“It’s not mine. I . . .”
She was so focused on the rabbit that she didn’t hear the grinding sound of the van’s door open until it was too late. Large gloved hands clamped onto her shoulders and heaved her inside. She landed on her belly. A bright bolt of pain ripped through her. The air rushed from her lungs.
The front door slammed closed. The engine roared to life. Becky screamed. A stabbing pain, like the sharp pinch of broken glass, burned at the base of her neck. She tried to push the man away, but he pinned her hands.
“Let’s go,” he said.
The van rumbled out of the parking lot. A right turn, then a left.
Becky screamed again. Her vision narrowed, a black tunnel growing wide around the edges. Her eyelids drooped, heavy as lead, until they fluttered closed.
Excerpt from Dark Harvest by Chris Patchell. Copyright © 2017 by Chris Patchell. Reproduced with permission from Chris Patchell. All rights reserved.
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