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African Vengeance by Steve Braker | #Giveaway #BookBlast #AfricanOceanAdventures

African Vengeance Banner by Steve Braker

African Vengeance

by Steve Braker

December 14, 2021 Virtual Book Blast

Synopsis:

African Vengeance by Steve Braker

He didn’t go looking for trouble. It found him anyway…

Kenyan coast. William Brody longs for a quiet life. Although he’s still recovering from a recent bout of malaria, the former Special Forces major agrees to help some locals retrieve cargo lost in the ocean depths. But when he dives and discovers ten million dollars of drug money on a sunken plane, the simple favor turns into deadly stakes as vicious thugs hijack his vessel.

Trapped and fearing for his friends, Brody botches his escape attempt and accidentally destroys every cent of the dirty cash. And with the entire crew imprisoned, the grizzled ex-soldier is handed a sinister ultimatum: replace the illicit fortune or watch everyone he’s sworn to protect die.

Will Brody find a bounty big enough to save all their lives?

African Vengeance is the fast-paced fifth book in the William Brody African Ocean Adventure Series. If you like intriguing plots, vividly detailed settings, and nail-biting suspense, then you’ll love Steve Braker’s edge-of-your-seat thriller.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 275
Series:William Brody African Ocean Adventure Series, #5
Purchase Links: Amazon

Read an excerpt:

Mtwappa, Kenya, East Africa

The insane rattle on the corrugated roof sounded like machine gun fire. It was hopeless. All the patrons of the bar could do was wait for the onslaught to end.

It was the Kusi, or the Southern Monsoon, when storms crashed in off the Indian Ocean like tsunamis hitting a beach. Full of force and violence, nothing could stand in their way. The squalls came in gangs, sitting off in the ocean malevolently waiting until their numbers grew, then marching towards the enemy relentlessly, striking with impunity. Roads flooded, roofs leaked, people went home hungry and wet. Unable to dry their clothes, they worked the next day and got even wetter.

The monsoon killed the weak and the old. If you could not get warm or dry, then the coughs and colds crept into your bones. Pneumonia took many. With no dry kindling, and rivers running in the streets. Life became even tougher.

When the rain stopped, like a relay team passing the baton, the sun would break through. Another wave of purgatory would follow. Swarms of sand flies and rain ants emerged from the bush, flowing like the rivers below them into homes and the mouths of babes. The climate created a heaven for mosquitoes of all shapes and sizes. The death-giving female anopheles mosquito lived in the houses and streets. All she needed was a drop of sitting water. No more than a spoonful would be ample to give her larvae life. She waited for her prey to sit, just for a moment, long enough to push the needle-sharp proboscis into an uncovered arm or leg and suck some blood, at the same time passing a microscopic parasite into the unsuspecting host. After two weeks, the chills would arrive, then the sweating and headaches. Soon the poor unsuspecting victim would be bed-ridden, delirious one minute and hot to the touch, the next freezing and shivering in misery. The local mganga, or witch doctor, would pass by, leaving leaves and bark from the neem tree, or Arobaini as it was locally named. Arobaini means forty in Kiswahili. The tree was known to cure forty different diseases from diarrhea to malaria or even the dreaded dengue fever.

Grandmothers boiled the bark with water to make a tea that tasted almost too bad to drink. The old lady held her child’s nose and poured the foul liquid down the screaming infant’s throat. The child would gag and vomit as the brew burned its way down. Village life was hard on everyone during the rains, and only the fittest survived.

The Full Moon Bar sat on the edge of Mtwappa Creek, its few stalwart residents finding a haven from the torrential rain. Everyone watched each batch march in from the ocean, day after day. Brody had decided to sit out the Kusi with his old friend Barry, the manager of the bar. Barry was a cheery Kiwi who had washed up on the shores of East Africa many years ago and decided to stay.

He was a larger-than-life chap in every way at 6’6’’ tall and roughly the same around the waist. A happier, drunker, friendlier man was hard to find in Mtwappa. He had a mop of dark thinning hair showing his obvious Italian roots, and normally, two or three days’ growth of pepper and salt whiskers. His piercing blue eyes always held a faraway gaze as if he was looking at the horizon, planning a day’s sailing. In the monsoon, clothes were difficult. One minute it was blowing a gale, the next one hundred percent humidity. Barry went for what used to be a pale blue button-down shirt that had been washed and ironed so many times it was just off-white, black board shorts, and a pair of ever-faithful leather deck shoes that were so old they fit like gloves.

Barry shouted to Brody over the machine gun fire. “Mate, how do ya feel? You look like shit.”

Brody had succumbed to malaria. Being a white guy, or Muzungu as they were known in East Africa, he had no resistance to the parasite. “My God, Barry, that malaria really hits you, like a sledgehammer in the chest. I didn’t know what the hell happened. One minute I just had a bad headache like the flu back home, the next I was in a hospital bed thinking I was going to die.”

Barry lifted his tumbler full of dark sugarcane rum off the table. “Mate, you need to take a few snifters of this every day. Keeps the buggers away. Or when she sticks that thing in you, she just gets pissed and buggers off.” His deep baritone laugh filled the room.

Brody took a long pull from his cold Tusker lager, locally made and about the only lager you could buy in this part of Kenya. “That sounds like a bloody good idea. I think I’ll start that habit.” He looked across at the head waiter polishing the wide driftwood bar. “Joshua, can you get Barry a refill, and bring me a double, no ice. I’m still recovering from this bloody malaria.”

Brody had arrived a month ago at the small inlet on the East African coast known as Mtwappa Creek. After tying up Shukran, his forty-foot wooden dhow, to the reclaimed stone wharf jutting out from the bar, he had quickly settled into a quiet life of drinking, fishing, and diving.

His first week had been full of great sun, sea, and sand, but during the second week, the dreaded bug had caught him. He found himself in hospital for ten days, one minute hot to the touch, the next freezing, tossing and turning in the sweat-filled bed. The parasite had infected his blood system, giving him terrible nightmares. Suddenly, he was back to his army days fighting in the fetid jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rain pouring twenty-four hours a day, trails flowing like rivers. In his dreams he could feel the red welts from the deadly insect bites. As the malaria parasite infected his brain, the dreams became so real. His team came across a band of drug smugglers moving contraband into Kenya and Tanzania through the porous borders. He jolted awake as the bullets flew through the air, splintering tree bark, sending deadly six-inch-long, razor-sharp slivers of wood in all directions. Night turned to day as flares went up and grenades were thrown.

Next, after falling back into a restless sleep. He found himself back in the remote deserts of Somalia facing child soldiers with Coke bottles full of glue seemingly attached to their noses. The children’s pupils were constantly dilated, looking like saucers in his dreams. They were kids, dressed in ragged T-shirts, torn jeans shorts, no shoes, and red bandanas on their bristly heads. Most were no older than twelve or thirteen years. They should have been kicking a ball around. In his delirious state, they raised their AK-47s and pulled the triggers. Sometimes he saw the bullets coming at him, watching the hollow points of lead rip open his chest and tear his stomach open. Other times he was the one to shoot the youngsters. There seemed to be more and more of them. He kept firing. They kept coming, hundreds of them, then thousands. He was killing children. The H.K. just kept shaking in his hands, like the movies. Endless bullets for endless children. As the battle-hardened kids charged, he would kill them, tearing each child’s body to pieces. Blood spurted in all directions. He could taste it in his mouth. He slipped on the thick red liquid and fell into a long tunnel with all the faces of the children he had shot, like a house of horrors at the fairgrounds, only to be brought back to reality with a jolt.

He had opened his eyes and seen Wanjiku staring at him. “Man, what the hell was that all about!”

Brody had looked at her frightened face. “It was a bad dream, that’s all.”

“I don’t want any of your dreams. I can tell you that. You were thrashing about shouting for the kids to stop.”

Brody had laid quietly on the ruined soaking-wet bedsheets, the haunting memories still flooding through his brain.

Wanjiku was a good friend. He had met her the last time he was in Mtwappa. Her family owned a bar-restaurant and hair salon in the town. He had instantly enjoyed the company of her family, especially Wanjiku’s father. Mwangi was a wheeler-dealer-cum-bar owner and knew everyone and everything that went on. If you wanted something, he was the man to ask. Wanjiku was eagerly following in his footsteps.

She had sat by his bedside for what seemed like the whole ten days. When the release day came, Wanjiku was on hand with a local taxi driver to take them the twenty miles back to the Full Moon Bar. On his arrival, Barry had insisted he take one of the rooms available on the waterfront.

Since then, Brody had been concentrating on getting his strength back, like Popeye Doyle in The French Connection where Gene Hackman fights to recover from an enforced heroin addiction. Brody struggled each day, putting on his running shorts and shoes then half-walking, half-jogging along the beach. A little further each day.

It had been a week since his return from Mombasa Hospital, and he was beginning to feel like his old self again. The jog was turning into a run, and the sit-ups and push-ups done at each end of the journey were getting easier. Life was coming back, flowing through his veins.

Wanjiku was a constant visitor. He could tell she wanted more than just a friendship, but Brody wanted his freedom right now. And he knew she would want more than he could offer. Sometimes he felt stupid, as she was probably the most beautiful girl he had ever met. In her mid-twenties, she stood 5’6” in her pretty bare feet. She had long, firm, shapely legs, ending in a round solid butt, a thin muscular waist and an ample bust. Her skin was golden-brown and blemish-free. To top it off, her dazzling smile just took his breath away. In London or New York, he was sure she would be a catwalk model. But here in Mtwappa, she was just another African girl scraping a living buying and selling clothes or serving in her father’s bar.

Brody took a sip of his sugarcane rum and looked out through the fringe of raindrops pouring off the metal roof. Fifty feet away, but hardly visible, sat Shukran, looking miserable and forgotten, her bilge pump valiantly pumping gallons of water flowing from the deck. Barry saw his gaze and said, “Mate, you must be missing the life of the ocean waves stuck here in this place.”

Brody nodded his agreement. He longed to be back aboard Shukran with his crew, heading out to fish or dive, or maybe just to sail for a week and see where the wind took them.

Shukran was a forty-foot, fat-bellied dhow and was home for Brody since he had arrived in East Africa, after leaving the Special Boat Service several years ago. She was his pride and joy. Over the last few years, the dhow had been lovingly restored. Shukran, which means “‘thank you” in Kiswahili, was normally polished to a shine and could moor up proudly in any marina in the world. The deck planks shone in the sun, along with the stainless-steel and brass fittings. She was fitted with a 120hp Yanmar inboard engine for when the wind didn’t blow. Otherwise, they used the triangular lateen sail to get around. Over the last few years, he had become an expert sailor, but even with his skills, he needed his crew of Hassan and Gumbao to sail her safely.

Brody asked Barry, “You’ve been here for a while. How long does this rain last?”

“Well, mate, it kind of comes and goes. We can have this for a week or so, then the sun comes out for a while. It’s nature, mate. You just can’t tell.”

They sat in the early afternoon gloom with nothing better to do than have another rum and wait for the better weather.

The following day, Brody woke as the dawn light hit the fast-running water of the tidal creek, no more than ten feet from the end of his bed. After jumping in the shower to get rid of the nighttime sweat, he headed over to the bar for breakfast. The apartments were designed to enhance the bar’s turnover. To say they were basic was stretching it. You got a living room, bedroom, shower, and balcony to sit on and drink while the creek wandered past.

If Brody was on Shukran, he would get fresh coffee from Hassan as he waited for his Mahamry—small, deep-fried cake the Swahilis loved to eat for breakfast. Currently, Joshua, who Brody was sure slept at the bar, managed to at least get the coffee sorted out.

Brody gave the bar man the traditional Swahili greeting for the morning: “Habari asubuhi, Joshua.”

Joshua looked like he had just stepped out of an African fashion show. He was wearing a bright yellow collarless shirt called a dashiki, with elephants marching around his ample stomach. “Habari asubuhi, Mr. Brody. Coffee as usual?”

“Great, Joshua. I need it before my run.”

“I hope you are recovering, Mr. Brody. That malaria is bad for you Muzungus.”

“Tell me about it, friend. I thought my days were up in the hospital I can tell you.”

He gulped down a mug of strong black Arabic coffee with two sugars, then stretched for a couple of minutes before setting off on his morning routine.

Each day felt better. The soft golden sand of the beach felt like it was pulling him towards the ocean. Every pace felt easier. The energy came flooding back into the wasted muscles of his arms and legs.

The run was two and a half miles out and the same back. As he ran, the early morning sun burned his scalp through the baseball cap. Moisture from the downpour of the previous day was being sucked back up into the atmosphere. It was like running through an invisible cloud which clung to your skin and slowed you like moving through thick maple syrup.

He reached the gnarled old mangrove tree at the halfway mark and started the thirty press-ups followed by fifty sit-ups. The blood was pumping, and his lungs heaving, chasing the oxygen, but it all felt good. For the first time in a while, the exercise was enjoyable. He was on the mend.

The torture was changing to pleasure again. The last ten sit-ups passed in an instant, then he charged off down the beach. A full breakfast would be waiting for him and some more of that thick, sweet aromatic coffee.

On his third cup of coffee, Brody sat watching the morning start. The creek was busy as the fishermen took advantage of the sunshine heading out in “Ingalawas,” short canoes carved from tree trunks. The pied kingfishers flitted above the water, hovering then suddenly diving to pluck an unsuspecting fry from the water. Yellow-billed storks lined the riverbank wading in the shallows on the lookout for anything tasty. Their smart black and white plumage made them look like traffic cops directing the rush hour. But their nine-inch-long, razor-sharp, bright yellow beaks, which hovered just above the water, meant business. It was odd as they also had a ludicrous orange feathery crest which shaded their eyes from the sun. All in all, it made for a very strange ensemble. The birds stood statue-like still with large black eyes studying the depths. Then they moved faster than the eye could follow—master fishermen snapping up young red snappers or skipjack tuna from the mangroves.

Brody was enjoying the view, relaxing in the warmth of the sun when he heard a familiar voice. “Hey, boss. You back from the dead?”

His good friend and crew member Hassan came walking from the restaurant kitchen. “Hi, Hassan. Habari asubuhi. Where have you been for the last seven days? I’ve been looking after Shukran all alone.”

Hassan was in his late twenties and had been with Brody since he arrived in East Africa. He was a typical Swahili from Pemba Island off Tanzania. As a Swahili, he was devoutly Muslim, but he had dealt with Muzungu tourists over the years so had become lenient about being around bars and alcohol. He wore his usual bright-white kanzu, a full-length robe traditionally worn on the coast. On his head was a kofir, a brimless cylindrical cap with a flat crown covered in bright embroidery. His nut-brown face creased into a broad mischievous smile. “But boss, I left you with that Kikuyu girl. She seemed to be doing a good job, and you weren’t complaining.”

Brody laughed. “Ah, but Wanjiku can’t make coffee like you, my friend. So where did you go?”

“Boss, I headed off to Pemba to see my mum and dad. Everyone sends their salaams back to you. My sister is so happy to be on the mainland in uni. My dad wants her to be an engineer, but Mum says no. She wants her to be a doctor. There is none on the island right now.”

Hassan made himself comfortable at the table and told the story of his journey some one hundred miles to the south. When he had finished his story and drunk a soda, Brody asked, “What do you think of this weather? The sky is clear today. Maybe we have a break and could do some free diving or fishing. I’m much better and would love to get wet.”

“Boss, you never know with the monsoon. Especially the Kusi. She comes and goes. But it looks good.

Perhaps we wait a couple more days and then pop out and have a look. Where is Gumbao? Have you seen him?”

“I haven’t seen him for days. We’ll have to ask around town and the jail.”

Brody said, “O.K., you go look for him. I’ll check over Shukran to see if we have any maintenance to do before setting out.

***

Excerpt from African Vengeance by Steve Braker. Copyright 2021 by Steve Braker. Reproduced with permission from Steve Braker. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Steve Braker

In 2000 Steve Braker moved his young family from his native UK to Mtwapa, Kilifi in Kenya within the coast of East Africa. He has sailed the coast in a multitude of different sailing boats, working as a captain and taking diving clients to out of the way places along the coast and to the Tanzanian islands of Pemba, Mafia, and Jewe and up to the borders of Somalia. As an avid diver, Steve trained to become a P.A.D.I. open water dive instructor and has taught many students over the years. He has over 1,000 dives under his belt.

Steve loves to pull on his experiences and develop them into fast-paced action thrillers. He speaks several of the languages spoken along the coast of East Africa and loves to barter in the markets in Swahili. He lives to explore areas he has never been and to bring the adventures to life through the characters in his books. Steve currently reside in Mombasa, Kenya.

Catch Up With Steve Braker:
SteveBrakerBooks.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @steve1697
Instagram – @africanoceanadventures
Twitter – @steve_braker (#AfricanOceanAdventures)
Facebook – @AfricanOceanAdventures

 

 

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Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot Banner

Death Rang The Bell

by Carol Pouliot

October 1-31, 2021 Book Tour

Synopsis:

Death Rang The Bell by Carol Pouliot

21st-century journalist Olivia Watson thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is…until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.

The smart move is to return to the safety of the present, but Olivia possesses a secret and is about to defy the unwritten rules of time-travel. She convinces Steven to let her stay in his time and help unravel the motives behind the murder, even if it means risking her own life to save another.

When Steven delves into the investigation, he discovers how a bitter relationship, a chance encounter, and a fateful decision converged to set the stage for murder. In a maze full of unreliable clues and misdirection, dark secrets refuse to stay buried and forgotten ghosts won’t fade away. Steven is reminded that old sins cast long shadows.

Can Steven catch the killer before time runs out for Olivia?

Praise for Death Rang the Bell:

“This highly inventive series serves up a real treat–a perfect combination of mystery, time travel, and romance.”
~~ Deborah Crombie, New York Times Bestselling author of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels

“Pouliot has the period details mastered, adding realism and depth to this wholly satisfying read.”
~~ Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries

“With engaging characters, a murder mystery, and a trip back in time, Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell will keep you turning the pages all night!”
~~ Nancy Allen, New York Times Bestselling Author

“A Halloween setting, a house where time folds back on itself, and a crime with deep roots in the past make Carol Pouliot’s Death Rang the Bell a joy for fans of crisp writing and twisty, character-driven plots.”
~~ Connie Berry, Agatha-nominated author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries

“A delightfully immersive story, filled with surprising twists and turns, a touch of romance — plus a heroine you will happily follow as she jumps between decades, Death Rang the Bell is a truly great escape.”
~~ Alison Gaylin, USA Today and international bestselling author

“This intriguing and beautifully written series will draw you in and make you feel right at home in a time period you’ll wish you could visit.”
~~ Grace Topping, USA Today bestselling author of the Laura Bishop Mystery Series.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery (Traditional Police Procedural with a Time-Travel Twist)
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Number of Pages: 311
ISBN: 978-1-68512-000-9
Series: The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, #3 || Each is a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

NOVEMBER 1916 − SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

Chapter 1

Hot coffee spilled over the rim and burned her hand. Lillian wanted to cry. At nine in the morning, she’d been on her feet since six and had seven long hours to go. She didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to keep it up. She was constantly exhausted and the struggle to breathe was worsening; some days it was nearly unbearable. She knew the disease was going to overpower her, and that moment was coming soon.

Lillian slid around some tables and set a heaping plate of eggs and bacon, potatoes, and toast in front of Arnie McCormack, then topped off his cup from the pot in her other hand. McCormack lowered his newspaper and leered, pinching her behind as she stepped away. Rude bastard. She’d like to pour the scalding coffee over his head and dump his breakfast right in his lap.

The only thing that kept her going every day was the thought of her beautiful little boy. Well, not so little anymore. He was growing up fast, nine years old in January. She managed a smile and wiped away a tear before it became a flood. Best not to think too much about things. Especially money. Lillian knew if she didn’t get the money somehow, she’d never see her son grow into a man.

And what about her letter? It had been four weeks since she’d mailed it. Surely he should have written back by now. She hadn’t been unreasonable, hadn’t asked for much, only enough to pay for treatment at the Little Red Cottage in Saranac Lake.

Dr. Trudeau’s Little Red Cottage. It sounded like heaven. Lillian had heard wonderful things about people being cured there. Imagine, cured! The thought made her dizzy.

Lillian returned to the lunch counter, using the backs of chairs for support. When she arrived at the griddle, she was breathing hard.

Tomorrow, she thought, if I don’t get an answer tomorrow, I’ll send another letter.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1934

Chapter 2

The Three Witches of Macbeth were doing a swell job. Annie, Molly, and Lilly led the parade of pirates, sailors, and fairy princesses through Knightsbridge, picking up ghosts, goblins, and a mummy along the way. Crowds of families followed the costumed children down Victoria Avenue to the entrance of The Elks Club, where, from the top of the staircase, The Three Witches hissed, “Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble.”

Molly cried out, “Beware, all ye who enter here.” Then she thumped a tall gnarled staff on the stone step, and Annie and Lilly grasped the thick iron rings with both hands and heaved. As the massive oak doors creaked open, the masquerading children flew up the stairs and into the community room, awash with the scents of apples and cinnamon.

Carved pumpkins flickered in the semi-darkened room, revealing white cobweb-filled corners and big black spiders and bats hanging so low that adults had to duck. Seeing colorful bags piled on black-draped tables, one little boy jumped up and down, clapping his hands in glee. A girl grabbed her friend’s hand, and they did a little dance, and three teenagers slapped each other on the back. A Halloween treat awaited each of them. Eager to explore, the kids fanned out.

“Ooh! I feel like I’m ten again,” said Olivia, shaking the black-and-orange tin noise maker. “Why didn’t we wear costumes?”

Steven gave her a look. “What if I had to rush out for an emergency?” he asked.

“You could’ve dressed like a cop.” She smirked.

“Hi, Steven.” Decked out in an eye patch and pirate gear, Jimmy Bourgogne appeared from behind Olivia, swept off his hat, and gave a courtly bow, bending low to the floor. “Miss Watson.”

“Jimmy, you look fantastic,” exclaimed Olivia. “I didn’t recognize you with that mustache and goatee.”

“Congratulations, Jimmy. You fellas did a swell job,” Steven said.

“Thanks, but the credit really goes to Leon here.”

A slender young man with light brown hair joined them. He sported a plaid shirt with a tin sheriff’s badge pinned over his heart, red kerchief around his neck, and holster holding a toy gun attached to a leather belt.

“Hi, Leon.” Steven extended his hand. “This is my friend Olivia Watson. Olivia, Leon Quigg is my mailman.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Watson.” Leon said, nodding as he doffed his cowboy hat.

“I’m glad to meet you, too. This is a wonderful party.”

Jean Bigelow sidled up to Olivia, yelling amidst the racket. “You made it!”

“Jean! Isn’t this swell?” Olivia chuckled to herself. Liz and Sophie would crack up hearing her talk like a real 1934 person.

After several months, acting like she belonged here had become second nature, but Olivia Watson didn’t belong here. She lived in 2014 and only visited 1934 from time to time.

This week Olivia was spending several days in Steven’s time. No passport, no suitcase, no plane ticket required. All it took was a simple step across the threshold of her bedroom door into Steven’s Depression-era house−simple but the key to her recently discovered ability to time travel.

“What are you reading tonight?” Olivia asked the librarian.

“Edgar Allan Poe. ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’”

“That’s the one where the guy gets walled up, isn’t it?”

Jean nodded. “I’ve been practicing creepy voices for days.”

“Well, you look the part. I love your cape, very 19th-century.” Olivia touched a fold of Jean’s costume. “Ooh, velvet. I wish I’d worn that.”

The organizers had packed the evening full of entertainment. Steven and Olivia watched a magician pull pennies out of children’s ears and a rabbit out of his top hat, and wondered how he made the mayor’s watch disappear. The kids bobbed for apples, the water sloshing out of the metal washtub soaking the floor. The younger children played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey and Drop-the-Handkerchief, while the older ones played charades and told ghost stories.

At seven thirty, the kids crowded along the row of tables where members of the Elks handed out treats. Noses in their black-and-orange bags exploring the treasures within, they moved to the far end to select their favorite soda, handing the tall glass bottles of Hires Root Beer, Orange Crush, and Coca-Cola to Jimmy Bou and Leon Quigg, who were armed with metal bottle openers.

The evening culminated with story telling. The village librarian led the young children into a side room, spooky picture books in hand. The older ones gathered behind the curtain on the shadow-filled stage where Jean Bigelow waited in flickering candlelight. When they’d settled in a circle on the floor, Olivia among them, the librarian cleared her throat and began.

“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge….”

***

Excerpt from Death Rang the Bell by Carol Pouliot. Copyright 2021 by Carol Pouliot. Reproduced with permission from Carol Pouliot. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Carol Pouliot

Carol Pouliot holds a BA in French and Spanish and an MA in French. She has taught French, Spanish, German, and English. She owned and operated a translating agency for 20 years. Her work has been published in Victoria magazine.

Carol is the author of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, which includes Doorway to Murder (book 1), Threshold of Deceit (book 2), and Death Rang the Bell (book 3).

Carol is passionate about the world and other cultures. She has visited 5 continents thus far and always has her passport and suitcase at the ready.

Q&A with Carol Pouliot

What was the inspiration for this book?

I went to London with one of my friends to celebrate our 65th birthdays. After a fantastic visit in the Churchill War Rooms, I bought a book in the gift shop. As I was paging through, a photograph of someone stopped me cold. That face absolutely spoke to me−I couldn’t look away. In a flash, I knew the person’s background, personality, and motive for murder. I built Death Rang the Bell around that picture.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

I didn’t start writing until after I had retired from teaching. I wish I’d started decades earlier. Because of some orthopedic problems, I can only sit at the computer for an hour at a time. When the ideas are flowing, this can be hard because I want to keep going.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

I wish I were like Agatha Christie who could write anywhere under any conditions. But I’m not. I need my desk to be organized, with all my special inspirational stuff around me. I bought a new L-shaped set-up during the pandemic. It looks like something Dashiell Hammett would have written at and that thrills me. I love it! I also need total quiet.

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

I work my writing in and around my exercise routines. Monday, Wednesday, Friday I do an hour of exercises at home then write for my first hour of the day. Tuesday and Thursday, I write an hour then go to the gym, work out in the pool, and swim laps. I try to get at least 3 hours of writing in every day and take the weekends off. If I have a lot of appointments during the week and don’t get enough writing in, I’ll work on the weekend.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My protagonists Steven, a Depression-era cop, and Olivia, a 21st-century researcher and writer, are equally my favorites. Steven, a dedicated policeman, is open-minded, non-judgmental, and curious about the world. He inherited those qualities from his Bohemian artist mother. He got an appreciation and love of routine and organization from his military father. The combination of these characteristics makes him an excellent detective. Olivia is a free spirit with a thirst for knowledge and intense curiosity about the world. She wants to travel everywhere, see everything, and try everything, While Steven is calculated in his actions and what he says, Olivia often speaks and acts without thinking. They balance each other and have built an amazing friendship. I admire both of them−they’re good people.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Each book in my series is packed with multiple plot lines and twists and turns to keep the reader
interested−and guessing−from the first page to the last. There’s always at least one murder and ensuing investigation, the developing−and challenging−relationship between Steven and Olivia, the time-travel storyline, and histories of all the new characters. Since the crimes happen in 1934, the reader gets a glimpse of what police work was like before DNA testing, GPS, cell phones, and advanced forensics. Like Hercule Poirot, Steven relies on his analytical skills, knowledge of people, and powers of observation to solve the case. Olivia is his partner in crime, although he refuses to let her Google anything on her laptop! The books in my series transport the reader into a magical world where anything seems possible.

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

Chapter 1 of Doorway to Murder actually happened to me. When I was in my late 20s and living alone in an apartment, I woke up from of a deep sleep in the middle of the night. Before I even opened my eyes, I knew someone was in the apartment. A strange man was standing at my bedroom door. He peered in at me then stood up, shook his head as if confused, and walked through the wall. This happened 4 nights in a row. I was absolutely paralyzed with fear. Years later, I learned that Einstein believed there is no past, present or future, all time happens simultaneously, and time can fold over. When I decided to write mysteries, I took this personal and terrifying experience, reinterpreted it, and used it as the basis of my series. This is how my protagonists Steven and Olivia meet each other: they come face to face when time folds over in house where they live−he in 1934, she in 2014.

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

If you haven’t read my books yet, I hope you’ll give them a go. They’re engaging stories that will take you out of your life and away from your troubles for a few hours. I think you’ll fall in love with Steven and Olivia like so many of my readers have. If you’re not a fan of science fiction, neither am I. My books are traditional police procedurals with a time-travel twist and a seemingly impossible relationship. If you’ve read and enjoyed the books, thank you! I’m so glad you did. I hope you’ll tell your friends.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My first teaching job was in the South of France. After returning home, I taught French and Spanish for 34 years, ran an agency that provided translations in over 24 languages, and volunteered with USAID. I’ve traveled to 5 continents but still have a long list of places I want to visit. I’ve always felt at home everywhere in the world. I love experiencing new sights, tastes, and cultures. I always try to learn a few words of the language where I’m going because it enriches the experience so much. Having said that, if I were to time-travel into the past like Olivia, I’d stay in New York and go back to the 1930s to talk with my grandfather when he was a young man.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I set myself a big challenge for RSVP to Murder, book 4 in the series. I love 1930s English country house murder mysteries. I’m going to write one set in the Adirondack Mountains, which are near my fictional town of Knightsbridge. I plan to use one of the Great Camps as my country estate. You’ll find all the usual 1930s suspects in my cast of intriguing characters. I plan to write it this winter after I finish developing the characters and plotting.

The 5th book, working title Murder at the Stage Door, is a Toulouse-Lautrec mystery. Steven’s mother, a French artist and friend of Toulouse-Lautrec, asks him to travel to Paris to solve the murder of one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s models, a prostitute in whom the Paris police have no interest. Steven and Olivia travel back in time to the Moulin Rouge and Paris of la Belle Epoque.

I have a lot of research in my future!!!

Catch Up With Carol Pouliot:
www.CarolPouliot.com
SleuthsAndSidekicks.com
BookBub – @cpouliot13
Goodreads
Instagram – @carolpouliotmysterywriter
Facebook – @WriterCarolPouliot

 

 

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The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power Banner

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place

by Helen Power

October 1-31, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power
Trust No One. Especially your neighbors.

Rachel Drake is on the run from the man who killed her husband. She never leaves her safe haven in an anonymous doorman building, until one night a phone call sends her running. On her way to the garage, she is murdered in the elevator. But her story doesn’t end there.

She finds herself in the afterlife, tethered to her death spot, her reach tied to the adjacent apartments. As she rides the elevator up and down, the lives of the residents intertwine. Every one of them has a dark secret. An aging trophy wife whose husband strays. A surgeon guarding a locked room. A TV medium who may be a fraud. An ordinary man with a mysterious hobby.

Compelled to spend eternity observing her neighbors, she realizes that any one of them could be her killer.

And then, her best friend shows up to investigate her murder.

Praise for The Ghosts of Thorwald Place:

“[An] enticing debut . . . Distinctive characters complement the original plot. Power is off to a promising start.” —Publishers Weekly

“A creative, compulsively readable mystery—haunted by strange entities and told from the unique perspective of a ghost. I couldn’t put it down.” —Jo Kaplan, author of It Will Just Be Us

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller/Supernatural
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: October 5th 2021
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 0744301432 (ISBN13: 9780744301434)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 3

It takes forever for someone to find my body. At six, the elevator is called to the fourth floor, and an early riser greets the sight of my body with a shrill scream. He stumbles backward, clutching his briefcase to his chest. I get the impression that he’s never discovered a grisly crime scene before. I, on the other hand, am enveloped in the cool indifference that seems to accompany death.

He staggers back to his apartment, shrieking hysterically all the way. Several of his neighbors rush out into the hall. Each person is in various stages of undress. A pregnant woman wearing a silk bathrobe and only one slipper. A man whose face is coated in shaving cream, save for a single bare strip down his left cheek. The look of horror on their faces would have been amusing if I were in the mood for dark humor. The elevator doors slide shut, and I am launched to another floor, where I startle another early commuter. The elevator doors close on the stunned woman’s face, lurching toward its next stop. I’m destined for repetition. Perhaps this is hell.

The police finally arrive, call the elevator to the ground floor, and put it out of service. I have now informally met a quarter of the building’s occupants, which is more than I met in the two years I lived here. A handful of police officers form a perimeter, trying to block the sight of my corpse from the prying eyes of my nosey neighbors. I hover by the elevator door as forensic investigators get to work examining my corpse. I try not to watch—disgusted by the sight of my limp body, which is coated in blood that has begun to cake—but the process is mesmerizing. The flash of cameras, the murmur of voices, and the hypnotic movement of pencils as they scribble in pristine, white notebooks. The forensic experts step gingerly around the scene, careful not to disturb anything, as they scrutinize my body from all angles. As they work, I can’t stop staring at my face. My eyes are still open and glazed over with a milky white sheen. My skin is nearly white, a shocking contrast to the deep crimson gash across my neck. My lips are parted in a soundless scream. A forensic investigator in a white bodysuit steps in front of me, cutting off my view. Relief floods through me, and I turn away before the sight of my own corpse enthralls me once again. I know I gained consciousness only minutes after my death, because blood was still dripping where the arterial spray arched across the walls, looking as if an artist had decided to add a splash of color to the monochromatic gray. I was reluctant to leave my body, but I had no idea what else to do. I had no moment of shock, no moment of revelation where I realized I was dead. I knew it from the instant I opened my eyes and saw the world from the other side. A world which looks different in death. Everything is a little grayer, a little faded. Voices and sounds have a slight echo. It’s as though I’m experiencing everything through a thin film—some indescribable substance that separates the world of the living from mine.

But why am I still here? My body has been found; the police are clearly investigating. It won’t take long for them to figure out it was he who killed me. I leave the elevator and glance around the lobby. I don’t see any obvious doorways or bright lights to follow. How will I know where to go? I bite back the pang of disappointment when I realize that none of my lost loved ones are here to welcome me. No husband. No parents. No Grumpelstiltskin, my childhood dog. Where are they, and how do I find my way to them?

I’m self-aware enough to know that I’ve always feared the unknown, and it’s obvious that this hasn’t changed in death. Instead of searching for my escape, I stay locked in place, eyes glued to the crime scene investigators. After what feels like an eternity, the medical examiner deposits my body into a black bag and wheels it out of the building. I begin to follow. Maybe if I slip back into my body, I’ll awaken, and everyone will laugh, like this was all just one big misunderstanding.

I’ll spend the rest of my days wearing a scarf, elegantly positioned to hide my gaping neck wound, like the girl in that urban legend.

I slam into an invisible wall about a dozen feet from the elevator. Slightly disoriented, I shake my head. I press forward.

Again, I’m stopped by an imperceptible force. I reach out, and my hand flattens midair. I run my hand along this invisible barrier, but it seems to run as high as I can reach and down to the marble floor.

I follow the barrier, tracing my hand along it. It cuts across the entire lobby, but not in a straight line. It’s slightly curved. Beyond the wall, I can see the medical examiner exit the building with my body, leaving my soul behind. I slam a hand against the invisible wall once again, but there’s no give.

My attention is drawn by the sound of a familiar grating voice. Elias Strickland, the concierge, is speaking with a police officer who looks like he’s desperate to leave. The invisible wall can wait. I approach the pair to eavesdrop.

“We have excellent security here,” Elias says. His perpetually nasal voice is exacerbated by the tears that stream down his face. “How could this have happened? My residents will want an explanation immediately.”

“We have someone reviewing the security footage of the exits. If the killer left the building, we’ll have them on film,” the police officer says.

If they left the building? Are you saying they might still be here?” Elias tugs at his cheap tie.

The killer might still be in the building. I look around and notice for the first time that the residents aren’t allowed to simply leave. Police officers guard the front door, questioning each individual before they allow them to go to work or to the spa or to do whatever they think is more important than mourning my death.

“What can you tell me about the victim? Ms. Rachel Anne Drake?” the police officer asks.

“Well . . .” Elias runs a hand through his thinning, brown hair. “She is—was—an odd one. She rarely spoke to anyone. She kept to herself. I think I was her only friend in the building.”

I stare at him, just now realizing that the tears streaming down his face are for me. I feel a pang of guilt. I’ve never considered us “friends.” I interact with him once every few weeks—only when I have mail to pick up or complaints about the security guards.

Elias continues, “She even had her groceries delivered. I haven’t seen her leave the building in months.”

The police officer suddenly looks interested. He pulls a small, wire-bound notebook from his pocket and uncaps his pen.

“Do you think it’s possible that she may have been hiding from someone?”

“Possibly . . . She was always really interested in the security in the building. Like that was the main reason why she moved here, not the fabulous party room or the services I provide as concierge.” I wince in pity as he says the word with a dreadful French accent. He should have picked a line of work that he could pronounce.

“Did she have any visitors?”

“There was a man who used to come around, but I haven’t seen him in a few months,” Elias says. At the police officer’s prompting, he continues on to describe him. I realize he’s talking about Luke.

The police officer asks a few follow-up questions, and I’m surprised by just how much Elias knows. He knows the date and time of my weekly grocery deliveries, that once every couple of weeks I’ll treat myself to pizza delivered from the greasy place down the street, and that I get a haul of books delivered every time BMV Books has a sale.

“Well, if you think of anything else, please contact us immediately.” I peer over the police officer’s shoulder to look at the scribbles in his notebook, but he’s used a shorthand that I can’t decipher.

A nearly identical police officer emerges from the security office holding a flash drive. He glances at the concierge, then turns to his partner and begins speaking rapid French.

“The video doesn’t show anybody leaving the building between one and two this morning. But apparently, there was a power outage for about five minutes, and the killer could have left during that window.”

“No! That power outage happened before I died. The power came back, and then he killed me.” I blink and glance around. I hadn’t thought I’d be able to speak.

It makes no difference. Neither police officer reacts to the sound of my voice. I look at Elias, but he’s watching the officers intently. I turn my attention to the rest of the people milling about, but none of them seem to have heard me either. But I’m not yet discouraged.

I approach the pot-bellied man standing the closest to the crime scene tape. He cranes his neck to see into the elevator.

“THERE’S NOTHING TO SEE HERE!” I shout into his face. He doesn’t react. I try to shake him, but my hands fall through his fleshy body. I feel nothing—no chill, no warmth—as I slide my hands through him. I examine his face, but it’s clear that he doesn’t sense me in the slightest.

I strategically progress through the lobby, shouting at each bystander, attempting to reach them through any means.

I try everything I can remember having seen in movies about ghosts—from waving my hands through their heads to shouting obscenities in their ears. No one reacts. No one so much as shivers.

I’m angry, disappointed, and beginning to feel helpless. I brace myself, preparing to do my calming breathing technique, but there are no symptoms of a panic attack. My body is overcome by the numbness of being incorporeal. I could get used to this. I suppose I’ll have to.

I glance around, noticing that the police officers have long gone, and they’ve been replaced by a cleaning crew of four burly men who are crammed into the elevator. They’ve already bleached the walls in an attempt to remove all trace of my messy execution. The lobby is nearly empty now. Only Elias stands at his station, compulsively wringing his hands in between fielding calls from curious residents and the media.

I survey the expansive, high-ceilinged lobby. Unlike the rest of the building, it was designed with the sole purpose of impressing visitors. The floors are marble, polished to near perfection. The wallpaper is a pale blue with gold foil accents in the shape of falling leaves. A hefty, ornate clock is the only decoration on the stretch of the wall across from the front desk. There are two wing chairs and a sofa positioned underneath it. It serves as a sort of waiting area, though in my two years living in this building, I’ve never seen a single person sitting out here.

I can only access half of the lobby, so I need to find a way around this invisible barrier. I approach the elevator and look down the hall to the right. I tentatively step through the wall. I’m in the guest suite that’s reserved for visitors of building residents. The bed is neatly made, with the corners of the bedspread tucked tightly. There’s a lounge area sparsely decorated with cool tones. A gray, leather couch is angled toward an impressively-sized TV.

The room is windowless, but a single painting of a blue sky over a grassy field hangs on the wall opposite the door, creating the illusion of something beyond.

I stride across the plain gray rug and easily pass through this wall as well. I’m in the ground-level parking garage, which is located below the building. I continue to walk until I slam against the barrier. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s disorienting.

I place my hand on the barrier and follow it around until I reach the wall twenty feet from where I entered. The barrier is clearly circular. Is it meant to keep me contained? I shake my head at that thought, then I continue to follow the barrier through the wall, out of the garage, and into the library.

With gorgeous oak-paneled walls and towering bookshelves, the building’s library is quite a sight to behold. The leather couches look comfortable, with antique copper lamps strategically positioned between them. I’ve been down here several times over the last two years, but I never dawdle. I usually grab a handful of books and hurry back upstairs to the safety of my apartment, where I can actually relax and enjoy my reading.

I walk through the room divider into the “party” area. The dim overhead lights reveal a bar in the corner, which is framed by tall mirrors, making the room seem larger than it actually is. I scan the rest of the room. Circular tables are set up around a polished dance floor. I quickly hit another barrier only a few feet into the room.

I follow this barrier, clockwise, until I’ve made an entire lap of the enclosure. I was right. It is a circle. There are no breaks or gaps in the wall; nothing I can slip through to escape. What is this barrier? Who put it here? I have so many questions and no one to answer them.

Back in the lobby, the cleaning crew has finished their sterilization of the elevator. A starchy-looking woman stands in Elias’ face, complaining loudly about the inconvenience of having only one operating elevator. I’m glad that my death is nothing more than a disruption to her “busy” life. Shouldn’t she be disturbed that a brutal murder occurred hours ago in that very elevator? That the killer hasn’t even been caught? Hell, she should be worried that it’s haunted.

She spins on her heel and leaves a bedraggled Elias in her wake. She scowls at the cleaners, who are gathering their supplies and politely averting their eyes from her shrewd gaze. She presses the elevator button and boards the other one, which was already idling on this floor. She didn’t even have to wait five seconds. I’d love to see what a convenient elevator experience is like for her.

After she’s left, Elias tips the cleaners and reactivates the elevator. The doors slide shut, as if sealing my fate.

A man in snug jogging shorts strolls into the building, salutes Elias, and heads to the elevators. Elias nods and returns to his station. I decide to head over toward him to see what exactly he keeps behind the desk. It lies just beyond the invisible wall, so I might be able to see what he always stares at so intently on his computer.

Just as I reach the edge of the invisible barrier, a powerful sensation of vertigo overcomes me. My skin begins to crawl. I stare down at my arms in astonishment. My entire body is vaporizing, shredding into a million pieces, wisps of flesh fading into the world around me. I squeeze my eyes shut tightly, willing the end to come quickly.

***

Excerpt from The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power. Copyright 2021 by Helen Power. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Helen Power

Helen Power is obsessed with ghosts. She spends her free time watching paranormal investigation TV shows, hanging out in cemeteries, and telling anyone who’ll listen about her paranormal experiences. She is a librarian living in Saskatoon, Canada, and has several short story publications, including ones in Suspense Magazine and Dark Helix Press’s Canada 150 anthology, “Futuristic Canada”. The Ghosts of Thorwald Place is her first novel.

Q&A with Helen Power

What was the inspiration for this book?

The initial idea for this plot came to me in a dream. When I was a kid, I had night terrors, and now that I’m older, I still have vivid dreams and nightmares. In my dream, I was a ghost attached to an elevator. I would try to escape the elevator and visit the adjacent apartments, but then the elevator would move, pulling me back before I could escape. When I awoke, I jotted this idea down along with a working title: Ghost Storey (Cheesy, I know!). While there’s a common trope of ghosts being attached to the place where they died, the possibility of a ghost being attached to a place that isn’t stationary hadn’t really been explored. I took this idea and experimented with it, and it eventually led to The Ghosts of Thorwald Place.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Navigating the world of publishing is honestly the trickiest part. Writing isn’t without its own challenges, but it’s generally a solitary activity. It’s fun. Exciting. Creating characters out of thin air and confronting them with obstacles and villains and seeing where the story leads is an exhilarating feeling. But the publishing part?
Crunching down your 90,000-word novel into a single-page query letter and sending it to complete strangers who determine your publishing fate is incredibly time consuming, terrifying, and at times disheartening.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

I need access to the internet. So often I read author blog posts where they rave about the benefits of disconnecting, going to stay at a quaint cottage by a lake with absolutely no wifi, and how nature inspires them to write like the wind. I would probably only last one page before I started to get the shakes. I need the internet like most writers need coffee. (I’m strangely not a caffeine addict.) I’m constantly Googling answers to questions, opening the online thesaurus when my brain just won’t come up with the right word, and whenever I feel stuck in my writing, sometimes I find that shutting off my brain and scrolling through Instagram or news articles can give me the distance I need to figure out a problem in the back of my mind.

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

I wrote the first 50,000 words of this novel during National Novel Writing Month 6 years ago. (For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a challenge where participants write 50,000 words in 30 days.) Even though the purpose of NaNoWriMo is to help you to get into the habit of writing every day, I still can’t do that. I’m very much a mood writer. Some days I’ll write 60 words, and other days I’ll write 6,000. That said, if I need to meet my word count goals, or if I have a looming deadline, I have a few hacks that trick me into being productive. One is to set a timer for a half hour – the Pomodoro technique – and force myself to write for that amount of time. If, once the timer is up, I’m still not in the mood to write, I let myself quit. At least I got some work done. But usually after the half hour passes, I’m already entrenched in the world I’ve created, and I’m inspired to continue plugging away at the keyboard.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

This is such a tricky question! My book is full of morally gray characters, and I love each of them for different reasons. While I do love my protagonist, I think my favourite character is someone that nobody would guess – Alexei Utkov. He’s a TV personality, a medium who may or may not be a complete fake. My protagonist, Rachel, is a ghost, and his authenticity means the world to her. Alexei is enigmatic and mysterious, but he’s also incredibly ambitious and self-centered. What will he do when confronted with the fact that there might be a killer in Thorwald Place? Will he try to do something to help? What will he do if he finds out that interfering can have a catastrophic impact on his career goals? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Tell us why we should read your book.

The Ghosts of Thorwald Place is the ultimate genre-blender. My protagonist is a ghost. There’s no escaping the paranormal elements, but at its heart, the book is a mystery. There are multiple subplots, all following the different types of characters you’d expect to meet in an affluent apartment building. Their stories intersect in surprising ways, and there are many twists that drive the plot forward. There’s something for everyone in this book, whether you’re a fan of domestic suspense novels or ghost stories.

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

The brutal murder of my protagonist occurs in Thorwald Place, which is a highly secure apartment building with wealthy inhabitants. Part of the inspiration for the setting – including the layout of the building and its security feature – is the building where my uncle lives, where there was a triple homicide a few years back. You wouldn’t expect something like that to happen in a place like this, but it does. Even in Canada.

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

Write a review! Even if it’s only a sentence long, this can do wonders for promoting a debut author.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m an academic librarian living in Saskatoon, Canada. I did my undergraduate degree in Forensic Science, and while there are very few murders in the library where I work, I get to use this knowledge a lot in my writing.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I’m currently working on my next novel, another supernatural thriller, but this one has a science fiction bent.

Catch Up With Our Author:
HelenPower.ca
Goodreads
BookBub – @helen_power
Instagram – @powerlibrarian
Twitter – @helenpowerbooks
Facebook – @helenpowerauthor

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Helen Power & CatCam Publishing. There will be Five (6) winners for this tour. Each of the winners will each receive 1 print ARC edition of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place by Helen Power (US, Canada, and UK shipping addresses Only). The giveaway begins on October 1 and ends on November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Trace Of Doubt by DiAnn Mills | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

Trace of Doubt

by DiAnn Mills

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Trace of Doubt by DiAnn Mills

Bestselling and award-winning author DiAnn Mills delivers a heart-stopping story of dark secrets, desperate enemies, and dangerous lies.

Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Praise for Trace of Doubt:

“Well-researched… with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart… Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – JLYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREATand ONE FINAL BREATH

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date: September 7th 2021
Number of Pages: 432
ISBN: 1496451856 (ISBN13: 9781496451859)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook.com | Tyndale | Books-A-Million | Murder By The Book | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

SHELBY

Would I ever learn? I’d spent too many years looking out for someone else, and here I was doing the same thing again. Holly had disappeared after I sent her to the rear pantry for potatoes. She’d been gone long enough to plant and dig them up. I needed to get those potatoes boiling to feed hungry stomachs.

I left the kitchen to find her. The hallway to the pantry needed better lighting or maybe fewer corners. In any event, uneasiness swirled around me like a dust storm.

A plea to stop met my ears. I raced to the rear pantry fearing what I’d find.

Four women circled Holly. One held her arms behind her back, and the other three took turns punching her small body. My stomach tightened. I’d been in her shoes, and I’d do anything to stop the women from beating her.

“Please, stop,” Holly said through a raspy breath. For one who was eighteen years old, she looked fifteen.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I forced my voice to rise above my fear of them.

“Stay out of it, freak.”

I’d run into this woman before, and she had a mean streak. “What’s she done to you?” I eyed the woman.

“None of your business unless you want the same.”

“It’s okay, Shelby. I can handle this.” Holly’s courageous words would only earn her another fist to her battered face.

And it did.

“Enough!” I drew my fists and stepped nose to nose with the leader.

The four turned on me. I’d lived through their beatings before, and I would again. I fell and the kicks to my ribs told me a few would be broken.

A whistle blew, and prison guards stopped the gang from delivering any more blows to Holly or me. They clamped cuffs on the four and left Holly and me on the floor with reassurance help was on its way.

I’d been her age once and forced to grow up fast. No one had counseled me but hard knocks, securing an education, and letting Jesus pave the way. I’d vowed to keep my eyes and ears open for others less fortunate.

Holly’s lip dripped blood and a huge lump formed on the side of her head. I crawled to her. “Are you okay?”

“Not sure. Thank you for standing up for me. I thought they would kill me. Why do they do this? I’ve never done a thing to them.”

“Because they can. They want to exert power, control. Stick by me, and I’ll do my best to keep you safe.”

CHAPTER 1

I tightened my grip on the black trash bag slung over my shoulder containing my personal belongings—parole papers, a denim shoulder bag from high school, a ragged backpack, fifty dollars gate money, my driver’s license at age sixteen, and the clothes I’d worn to prison fifteen years ago.

The bus slowed to pick me up outside the prison gates, its windshield wipers keeping pace with the downpour. The rain splattered the flat ground in a steady cadence like a drum leading a prisoner to execution. I stepped back to avoid the splash of muddy water from the front tires dipping into a pothole. Air brakes breathed in and out, a massive beast taking respite from its life labors.

The door hissed open. At the top of the steps, a balding driver took my ticket, no doubt recognizing the prison’s release of a for- mer inmate. He must have been accustomed to weary souls who’d paid their debts to society. The coldness glaring from his graphite eyes told me he wagered I’d be locked up again within a year. Maybe less. I couldn’t blame him. The reoffend stats for female convicts like me soared high.

For too many years, I imagined the day I left prison would be bathed in sunlight. I’d be enveloped in welcoming arms and hear encouraging words from my family.

Reality hosted neither.

I moved to the rear of the bus, past a handful of people, and found a seat by myself. All around me were those engrossed in their devices. My life had been frozen in time, and now that I had permission to thaw, the world had changed. Was I ready for the fear digging its claws into my heart?

The cloudy view through the water-streaked window added to my doubts about the future. I’d memorized the prison rules, even prayed through them, and now I feared breaking one unknowingly.

The last time I’d breathed free air, riding the bus was a social gathering—in my case, a school bus. Kids chatted and laughter rose above the hum of tires. Now an eerie silence had descended.

I hadn’t been alone then.

My mind drifted back to high school days, when the future rested on maintaining a 4.0 average and planning the next party. Maintaining my grades took a fraction of time, while my mind schemed forbidden fun. I’d dreamed of attending college and exploring the world on my terms.

Rebellion held bold colors, like a kaleidoscope shrouded in black light. The more I shocked others, the more I plotted something darker. My choices often seemed a means of expressing my creativity. While in my youth I viewed life as a cynic. By the time I was able to see a reflection of my brokenness and vowed to change, no one trusted me.

All that happened . . .

Before I took the blame for murdering my brother-in-law. Before I traded my high school diploma and a career in interior design for a locked cell.

Before I spent years searching for answers.

Before I found new meaning and purpose.

How easy it would be to give in to a dismal, gray future when I longed for blue skies. I had to prove the odds against me were wrong.

***

Excerpt from Trace of Doubt by DiAnn Mills. Copyright 2021 by DiAnn Mills. Reproduced with permission from DiAnn Mills. All rights reserved.

 

Check Out This Fab Trailer for Trace of Doubt:

 

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
Reading and Writing:

What inspired you to write this book?

My goal was to show how a young girl’s love for her older sister could be manipulated into sacrifice.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

I used first person POV for the heroine and hero. I really liked the result, but it had its challenges.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

1. Interview with an FBI Special Agent friend who specializes in media-assistance.
2. Hours reading about the penal system for women incarcerated in Texas. How rehabilitation is conducted, the gangs and bullies, what probation means, and the psychological effects in and out of prison.
3. The psychological effects of allowing a situation or circumstance define a person.
4. Small town living.
5. Texas laws and guidelines for operating a café or bakery.
6. The process of fashioning jewelry.

How did you come up with the title?

I didn’t! This was a result of my publisher and the creativity team. Love their choice

Your routine in writing?

Any idiosyncrasies? I’m a morning writer who needs lots of dark roasted coffee. I tune out everything around me and find it easy to focus.

Tell us why we should read your book?

For the action-packed story of a young woman who spent 15 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Once released, her probation states she cannot contact her family. Yet danger lurks and the source wants her dead.

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

I just finished a romantic suspense, and I’m thrilled with the story!

A young woman’s love for her grandfather is tainted when she fears he killed a man. But running from the truth doesn’t solve a thing. In fact, someone wants her dead.

Fun Questions:

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

I answered this on a previous interview, but I’m adding a few new characters.

Emma Watson – Shelby Pierce
Hugh Jackman – FBI Special Agent Denton McClure (would need to have white hair).
Amanda Seyfried – Marissa Stover, Shelby’s Sister
Kiernan Shipka – Aria Stover, Marissa’s daughter
Kevin Costner – Clay Pierce, Shelby and Marissa’s father
Edie Campbell – Jennifer Garner
Sheriff Wendall – Mark Wahlburg
Amy-Jo – Judy Dench

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Cooking and Baking
Gardening
Reading
Spending time with the grandkids

Favorite foods?

Vegetables
Blueberries, strawberries, bananas, blackberries, raspberries, and apples.
Whole grains

Catch Up With Our Author, DiAnn Mills:
DiAnnMills.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @DiAnnMills
Instagram – @DiAnnMillsAuthor
Twitter – @DiAnnMills
Facebook – @DiAnnMills

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for DiAnn Mills. There will be 2 winners who will each receive one gift card. Winners may select either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

The Memory Bell

by Kat Flannery

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery

Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

Praise for The Memory Bell:

“A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 1684337089 (ISBN-13:978-1684337088)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find the deepest heartache.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Bennet James stood over the remains of a hand dug grave. The morning air was brisk for July, and a foggy cloud permeated the air as he exhaled. He’d woken as the first rays of dawn crept through his hotel window casting sundogs along the planked floor.

Bones were found by the grain elevators at the mill in Oakville. The sleepy town was an hour’s drive from Chicago and where he’d been stationed for the last two weeks. It was hell, but anything was better than sitting at home waiting to hear his fate. He flexed his shoulders. The muscles ached from the mounting pressure.

He took a sip of the coffee he’d bought at the local gas station. The bitter blend was cold and old. Probably made the night before and just waiting for some poor soul to drain the last of the dregs from the decanter.

With no details other than the presence of human remains to work with, Ben made quick work of taping off the area and closing all access in and out of the mill. The trains were halted and all productivity near the tracks was at a standstill. He surveyed the grounds. Three metal silos stood in a row to his left with tracks laid in front of them. Directly behind were wooden buildings with peaked roofs, and a single track led to a dead end.

He gathered the mill was over fifty years old by the way the boards heaved and sagged. Out of commission for some time, he wondered why no one had torn the dilapidated buildings down. Being that the place was pretty much deserted it’d make things difficult in the investigation. He snorted. It wasn’t his investigation, and if things didn’t work out for him with the state, he’d never see another one again.

He rubbed his hand across his face. His heart quickened with the familiar feeling of piecing together a puzzle. It was the same feeling he got every time he was dealt a new case. Except this one was different. It wasn’t his, and even though the thought of having something to occupy his mind was appealing, he doubted Sheriff Rhoads would let him take the lead on it, much less be a part of it.

Ben glanced down at the body. Nothing left but bones and a few fragments of hair which signified the death happened years before. The grave was not shallow, but not deep either. Ben guessed it was four feet into the ground. A blue blanket caught his eye. He fingered the soft cotton with a gloved hand, a crocheted throw that was now pulled from the knots someone delicately placed there. Whoever had wrapped the victim in it did so with pristine care.

“Where is the witness?” he asked the young deputy standing to his left. He couldn’t remember the boy’s name, or was it he didn’t care? It didn’t really matter. He’d stopped caring about those around him a long time ago.

The deputy looked a bit flushed, and Ben figured the kid living in the small town had never seen anything like this before. Regret settled in his stomach at making the boy stay with him while he looked over the body and its surroundings. Ben remembered seeing his first body, a young girl, no more than six. Her image still haunted him on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

He blinked, collected his thoughts, and faced the young man.

“You’re no longer needed here,” he said.

“The men who found the body are over there,” the kid stammered. His hand shook as he pointed to the two silhouettes standing twenty yards away.

“Thanks.” Ben dismissed him and walked toward the two men sipping coffee from their mugs. A part of him wanted to turn back to his car and leave now that Rhoads was here, but his pride and his duty wouldn’t allow it. He pulled out the small note pad and pen he kept in his pocket.

“Morning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Ain’t you the new fella?” one of the men asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re that swanky detective from the city.”

Ben didn’t answer.

“Why in hell would you want to come out here?”

He remained silent. It was none of the old man’s business why he’d been placed in this shithole town.

“Talk is you got into hot water up there.”

“I need to ask you some questions,” Ben repeated, an edge creeping into his voice. He wasn’t about to discuss his shit with these guys. He shifted from one foot to the other, took a deep calming breath, cleared his throat, and waited.

“Not much to tell,” the man said. His thick white moustache spanned the whole of his upper lip and the bottoms of his cheeks.

“Your name?” he asked.

“Walter Smythe.” The man leaned in to read what Ben wrote and tapped his index finger onto the paper. “That’s Smythe with a Y not an I.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you tell me how you came upon the body?”

“Ol’ Russ was the one who found it.”

He turned to the other man.

“I ain’t Russ,” the farmer said.

“Who is—”

“That’s my dog.” Walter whistled. A large St. Bernard came loping up from the field behind the buildings.

“The dog found the body?”

“That’s right.”

“What were you doing out here?”

“I come out from time to time.”

“Why if the place is closed down?”

The man shrugged.

“Have you brought Russ out here before?” Ben asked, still trying to piece together how the remains were found.

“Sure. I bring him everywhere.”

“Why was he in the elevators?”

Walter’s wide shoulders lifted underneath the plaid jacket.

“Did the dog take anything from the grave, or disturb it in anyway?”

“Once I seen him diggin’, I called him over.” Walter guffawed. “But the damn mutt just kept on going back. So, I went over to see what the hell he was after.”

“At what point did you figure out it was a body?”

“Right away when I saw the bones.”

“Russ dug up most of the grave?”

“Nah, maybe a foot of it.” Walter nudged the farmer beside him. “I called Bill and we determined it was best to call the sheriff.”

“Why didn’t you call the sheriff first?”

Walter didn’t answer.

“Did you remove or touch anything?” Ben asked.

“Nope.”

As much as the farmer was rough around the edges, he could tell Walter Smythe spoke the truth.

“One more question. Has anyone gone missing in the last ten years?”

“Not around these parts. Most people who go missing leave for the city.”

“Why is that?”

“Small towns ain’t for everybody.” Walter’s eyes narrowed. “Stuff like this don’t happen around here.”

Ben nodded before he walked away and headed back to his car. He opened the door but didn’t get in. Tall silos, train cars and tracks were surrounded by a field. Waist-high stalks of yellow waved in the breeze and from what he knew of farming, it looked to be canola. Why wasn’t the body buried in the field? There must be over a hundred acres of land. Until he received the coroner’s report, he couldn’t begin to guess at anything yet. Before he left, he’d need to talk to Sheriff Rhoads and see about any missing persons reports in the area.

“Well, that is odd.” Rhoads sauntered toward him, brows furrowed.

“What is?” Ben asked.

“A body, here, at the elevators, in Oakville.” His forehead wrinkled, and a perplexed look crossed his face. “Nobody has been here in years.”

“These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death.”

Rhoads focused on him, but remained quiet for some time before he said, “Not here.”

“I’d like to take the lead on this,” Ben said. The words surprised him, but he couldn’t take them back now. Besides, he needed something to keep him busy. The minor misdemeanors at the old folk’s home, break-ins, and an occasional kid in trouble wasn’t enough to keep him from going crazy with boredom.

“Not sure that’s wise, with your probation and all.”

Ben nodded, figuring that would be the answer.

“But I don’t see it as more than an unfortunate accident, so go ahead.”

Ben wasn’t so sure.

***

Excerpt from The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery. Copyright 2021 by Kat Flannery. Reproduced with permission from Kat Flannery. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kat Flannery

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.

Q&A with Kat Flannery

What was the inspiration for this book?

Family. We all have family skeletons and it’s when they come to light what you do with them.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Coming up with different plots. I like to give my readers a story they can relate to in some way.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

A candle burning, quiet room and on occasion whiskey. 

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

I always adhere to a strict routine once the story has come to me and it’s time to write. If I don’t it’d never get done…there are way too many distractions out there.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

In The Memory Bell I have a few but my favorite is Jules, Grace’s uncle because he is the steady voice of calm and reason when she needs it and he is level headed. He’s the kind of guy you could have a beer with and just hang out.

Tell us why we should read your book.

If you love a good mystery but also the tangled web of family relationships, then this is the book for you.

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

I never thought I’d write a contemporary book let alone a crime novel. My previous books are all historical western suspense. I love the history and that is why I wrote them, but to delve into the here and now was something I didn’t foresee in my writing career.

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

Thank you! If I didn’t have readers, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love. I am honored to have each one read my books, and I am humbled that they do.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am Italian an American and Canadian citizen and I’ve always loved a good story. I knew at a young age I’d write and to be truthful I wanted to be a journalist. I have three grown sons and have been married to my best friend for 22 years.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

Another contemporary mystery and a historical western series.

Thank you for having me on your blog and featuring The Memory Bell.

Catch Up With Kat Flannery:
www.KatFlannery.com/Books-1
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5

 

 

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ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Murder Worth The Weight by D.M. Barr | #Showcase #Giveaway

Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr Banner

Murder Worth the Weight

by D.M. Barr

September 13 – October 8, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr

Whenever Terry Mangel’s body acceptance revival meeting rolls into town, local diet execs and “fat shamers” turn up dead, often in grotesque, ironic ways. All single murders in small suburbs, no one’s noticed a pattern, until rookie investigative reporter Camarin Torres takes a closer look.

Torres is a crusader against discrimination. She reluctantly accepts a job offered by handsome publisher Lyle Fletcher, a man with a vendetta, who sees the recent college grad as salvation for Trend, his fledgling fashion magazine. Torres, however, detests everything the publication stands for, and joins solely to transform its judgmental, objectifying content.

As an unexpected romance blossoms, the overconfident, justice-hungry reporter defies orders and infiltrates Mangel’s world, only to find herself in the crosshairs of a vigilante group targeting the $60 billion diet industry. To this vindictive mob, murder is definitely worth the weight. But as Torres soon learns, unmasking the killer may save her life but shatter her heart: every clue seems to implicate Fletcher, her mercurial mentor and lover, as the group’s mastermind.

Previously published as Slashing Mona Lisa

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Psychological Suspense, Women’s Fiction
Published by: Punctuated Publishing
Publication Date: 08/09/2021
Number of Pages: 340
ISBN: 978-0-9977118-6-8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

CAMARIN TORRES PEERED down the tracks again, as if repeated checking would cause her delayed train to magically appear. It was a warm April afternoon, but the unexpected heat did little to lift her spirits. She was heading back to her apartment after yet another unsuccessful interview. If this kept up, she’d be the only one of her NYU friends graduating next month without a job lined up. How ironic not to be able to afford the food she wouldn’t allow herself to eat anyway. She checked her watch a third time. The 5:03 from White Plains to Grand Central was already ten minutes late.

Camarin heard a voice a few feet behind her softly exclaim, “Dammit!” Curiosity aroused, she spied a girl in her late teens standing by the vending machine, fervently searching through her handbag.

Camarin stared, mesmerized by what could have been a mirror image of her late twin sister Monaeka. Long, dark hair partially obscured her tanned, pretty face, and despite the temperature, she’d draped her two-hundred-plus pound body in an oversized raincoat. But as Camarin well knew, yards of fabric didn’t really fool anyone. The girl hunched over slightly, a stance her sister Monaeka had perfected, a sign of deference to a world demanding an apology for violating their arbitrary standards.

Camarin felt a familiar tug of compassion as the girl plunked a few coins into the machine and then searched for more. Looking on, she debated the merits of acquiescing to her own desire for a late-afternoon sweet. What’s really the harm? Cam reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out three quarters, which she held out toward the stranger as she walked toward her.

“Want to share something?”

The girl tensed and gave her a quizzical look, but after a moment her shoulders relaxed. “That’s so nice of you. Thanks.”

Camarin winked and pushed the quarters into the machine. One click and clunk later, she retrieved their prize—a Kit Kat bar. One of Monaeka’s favorites. As she held it out to the girl, a slim, stylish woman clad in black came out of nowhere and snatched the chocolate bar right out of her hand.

“You don’t need it,” she said. “You’ll thank me later.”

The girl’s face turned bright red, but she said nothing, just watched in shock as the thief continued down the platform.

Camarin felt the blood rush to her temples. No matter how many years and miles she’d put between herself and her past, the critical voices kept seeking her out, today in the form of this interloper. Enough, she decided. She set down the briefcase containing her resume and clips and tore after the woman, grabbing her arm and pulling her around so they stood face-to-face.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Camarin yelled.

Heads turned. Conversations ceased.

“What’s it to you?” the offender shot back.

Camarin pointed at the girl, whose eyes were wide in disbelief. “That girl happens to be a friend of mine, so I’m asking a second time… what are you doing?”

“Saving her from herself, that’s what. Your friend is huge, and it’s unhealthy. If she can’t control herself, she needs others to do it for her.”

“Well, Miss High-and-Mighty, since you know everything about everyone, did you ever consider that my friend…Sabrina’s…size might have nothing to do with self-control? Could it be the result of…the lithium she takes to control her bipolar disorder? Are you a psychiatrist who has a better suggestion for more appropriate meds that don’t put on weight?”

“Well, no… no,” the woman stammered, as if the rush of passion suddenly drained from her, leaving her feeling exposed.

“You know what I think?”

The fat shamer glared back but remained silent, so Camarin summoned her courage and repeated herself, a few decibels louder. “I said, do you know what I think?”

“No. What?” The woman sneered.

“I think you should go over to Sabrina and apologize.”

“Apologize for helping her get thin?” Her voice dripped with indignation.

“No, apologize for sticking your big nose where it doesn’t belong,” interjected a young, beer-bellied man in overalls a few feet away. A Joe’s Plumbing patch was embroidered on his chest pocket.

“What exactly do we have to do to be accepted by you people? Why can’t you just leave us alone?” screamed a plump, older woman with perfectly coiffed hair and a fitted suit.

“Give her back the Kit Kat bar,” hollered a man clad in military garb, who then started chanting, “Kit Kat, Kit Kat, Kit Kat…” Others joined in, and the cacophony grew stronger.

“You may have grabbed a Kit Kat, but you ended up with Snickers,” said Cam with a smirk. “Maybe you want to just hand over the candy, so we can forget this whole ugly incident?”

The woman spat at the ground in front of Camarin and defiantly threw the chocolate bar on the tracks, eliciting loud boos from the small but agitated crowd. Then she ran down the platform, heading for the stairs that led to the parking lot.

“Good riddance,” the plumber called after her.

Camarin stood for a moment, shaking from the encounter. Then she returned to the now teary-eyed girl. “Sorry I made you bipolar,” she whispered. “I needed to make a point, and it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Hi, I’m Camarin.”

“I’m Lexie,” the girl said. “No one has ever stood up for me before. Thank you.”

“Hey, I know what it’s like. I used to deal with jerks like that all the time.”

The plumber pushed a run of quarters into the vending machine and took out two Kit Kat bars, handing one to each of the women. Others on the platform clapped and cheered. The sound was slowly drowned out by the roar of the oncoming 5:03 PM train.

As the doors opened, Camarin noticed Lexie and the plumber now chatting animatedly. Not wishing to intrude, she entered the next car over. It was practically empty, not unusual considering most people were traveling in the opposite direction at this hour. A perfect opportunity to relax after an upsetting confrontation. Perhaps savor that chocolate bar. She could always purge later.

Given the plethora of unoccupied seats, she was surprised when a handsome man in an expensive-looking suit asked if the spot beside her was taken. She guessed he was in his early forties, since his face was too young for the silver in his hair and beard. He spoke with a confidence so lacking in her gawky college-boy contemporaries. She felt a shiver as the silk of his sleeve touched her bare arm as he settled in.

She wondered what clever icebreaker she could use to engage her attractive new neighbor in conversation. Nice weather, huh? would be too lame. Seconds passed. Other passengers shuffled by. Soon, the moment would be lost.

Then, to her delight, he leaned in covertly, as if sharing a private confidence. “Nice going. You’d never seen that girl before in your life, had you?”

She pulled back and studied his expression. Affable or accusatory? His smile assured her of his friendly intentions.

“What gave me away?”

“Nothing. Just a hunch. One you just confirmed.”

Camarin twisted her mouth, irked at having been so easily played.

“Do you always go around tricking strangers into confessing their secrets?” she asked.

“Probably as often as you go around defending the underdog.” The man winked. “Nothing to be ashamed of though. Quite the opposite. As I think you’ve already figured out, life is just a series of bluffs.”

Camarin considered the comment as the train rumbled along the tracks toward Scarsdale.

“And do you bluff much?”

“Funny you should ask. These days, it’s all I do.”

Grateful for such a provocative opening, she pressed forward. “That sounds intriguing. Care to elaborate?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” he said with a smile. “Up until a few years ago, I’d spent my entire career practicing law. Then my circumstances and interests changed, and I decided to become a redeemer of lost causes. I just purchased a failing magazine, which I intend to make profitable again. If that’s not the bluff of the century, I don’t know what is.”

Elegant and he owns a magazine? Camarin’s heart skipped a beat.

“That’s such a coincidence. I’m just coming from an interview with a magazine.”

“Some might call it a coincidence. I call it kismet,” the man said as he held out his hand. “Lyle Fletcher, fledgling publisher.”

Chapter 2

AS THE TRAIN rolled down the tracks toward Manhattan, Camarin sensed her future suddenly lurching ahead as well. “Camarin Torres, journalism and prelaw major. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

She reached out to shake his hand, eager to see if his grip would be as firm as she imagined, but the conductor interrupted, asking to punch their tickets. There was no way to try again without looking awkward, so she swallowed her disappointment and returned her hand to her side.

Fletcher broke the pregnant pause. “So, there must be many professions out there for someone as bold and beautiful as you. Why journalism and law?”

Camarin’s face grew warm. Had anyone else handed her that line, she would have regarded it as a come-on. But he seemed sincere, so she felt comfortable opening up. “All my life I’ve seen bullying and discrimination. As a child, I felt helpless to stop it. But as an adult, I can make a difference.”

“Bullying because of your ethnicity? You’re… ”

“My mother’s side of the family comes from Guam. But no, fortunately, I’ve encountered very little bias because of my roots. Maybe it’s because we live just outside Los Angeles, where I’m part of a large Chamorro community who share an intense sense of cultural pride. In fact, I think my background may have worked in my favor, that push for diversity in colleges and all.”

“So, discriminated against as a woman?”

“No again,” she said, reluctant to share too much of her past with a stranger, no matter how charming. “Let’s just say I’ve seen how cruel people can be to those who don’t quite fit in, no matter how hard they try. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.”

“You’re going to personally end intolerance?” Fletcher seemed both dubious and amused.

“Well, at least make a sizeable dent in it,” she said with a smile. It wasn’t the first time that people had appeared incredulous at her idealism. “You’re speaking to the world’s first female Chamorro anti-discrimination crusader. After graduation anyway. And eventually law school, when I can afford it.”

“Lofty ambitions. You’ll need them in a world that doesn’t always cooperate with people’s dreams. Again, I’m impressed.”

“Thank you,” she said, her face growing even hotter. A charismatic publisher thought she was impressive. A once-disappointing day was rapidly metamorphosing into something magical, like a child’s giant, colorful carnival balloon.

“Have you interviewed at my magazine, Trend?”

Pop! Camarin did her best not to cringe with contempt. Trend represented everything in the world she’d come to hate: the brainwashing of women to fit into narrow, permissible roles dictated by fashion designers and greedy advertisers. And this man, appealing or not, was one of their leaders. Camarin paused, trying to formulate a polite and diplomatic response.

“You have heard of it, right?”

“Yes, of course. But no, I didn’t interview there. No offense, but as you said, it’s failing. As a matter of fact, I turned down an unsolicited offer from one of your competitors, Drift. I’m just interested in more…serious publications.”

“No offense taken,” he said with a grin. “I realize that up to now Trend has just covered style and gossip—total fluff. That’s what I’m planning to change. In your words, go in a more serious direction.”

She wondered if the comment was authentic or if he was just another jerk and this was an excuse that allowed him to live with himself. They remained quiet for a bit, and then curiosity got the better of her.

“I didn’t realize Trend is based in Westchester.”

Fletcher’s face clouded over. “No, it’s in Manhattan. I was out here today because…my late wife owned a condo in White Plains that we’d been renting out. I was just meeting with the real estate agent I might hire to sell it for me.”

Cam looked down at her pumps, annoyed at herself for bringing up such a sensitive subject. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Of my wife or the condo?”

She glanced back, astonished. He started to laugh, and she felt the earlier harshness of her judgment soften by a smidgen. He really was quite charming—for a body shamer.

“Are you ever serious?” she asked.

“Oh, when I am, you’ll definitely know it. Like now. How many years of college do you have left?”

His tone switched from whimsical to all business, and something about the way he commanded control sent a shiver up her spine. Hot as hell. Dammit. “About a month. Then I’m done.”

The conductor announced that they would soon be arriving at Grand Central Station, their final destination, and the windows grew dark as they entered the tunnel.

He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card. It read Trend Magazine, with a fashionable NoHo address, close to her own apartment.

She held up her hand. “That’s kind of you, but I really don’t think—”

“Hey, I can see you’re not enamored with our current format. Nevertheless, I’d still like you to come in, show us your work. Allow us to describe the magazine’s revamped editorial direction. I think it may surprise you. I can use someone with your guts and ambition to develop our investigative-reporting beat. That is, if you have any interest.”

She took the card, slipping it into her jacket pocket. “If you’re really serious about moving away from your current focus, I’ll try to keep an open mind.” After all, a job was a job, and up to now, no one else but Drift had made an offer.

“Call tomorrow and speak to Rachel. She’ll set everything up. You’re going to be a superstar. Of that, I’m already certain.” He reached out to shake her hand. It felt as forceful as Camarin had imagined earlier. She didn’t try to read anything into the almost imperceptible squeeze he added at the end. Until proven otherwise, he was still the enemy.

As he rose and headed for the exit, she waited a few beats longer before also joining the crowd jostling toward the platform. By the stairs a newsstand featured the latest issue of Trend. Hating herself, she slapped down her $3.50 for a copy. Magazines like this were part of what had driven her sister over the edge, but she needed to see if there was anything redeemable within its pages. The jury was still out until Lyle Fletcher had proven himself a reformer, and not an enabler.

***

Excerpt from Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2021 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

D.M. Barr

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire. My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy. The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, unlike as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings. As a yo-yo dieter, I’ve never offed anyone at my local diet clinic. While I’m a bit paranoid, I’ve never suspected my husband of wanting to murder me for my inheritance. Well, that’s not entirely true, but let’s go with that for now. And while I’ve volunteered at senior centers, I’ve never mastered the hula hoop. But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to…

Catch Up With D.M. Barr:
DMBarr.com
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BookBub – @DMBarr
Instagram – @authordmbarr
Twitter – @authordmbarr
Facebook – @authordmbarr

 

 

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A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

A Plague Among Us

A Chautauqua Murder Mystery

by Deb Pines

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

When Al Martin, the editor of a satiric newspaper in Chautauqua, N.Y., reportedly dies of COVID-19, the local consensus is: good riddance.

A sister suspects foul play. She wonders why Al was cremated in a hurry.

The police stay out of it.

So it takes reporter and relentless snoop Mimi Goldman to try to find which of Al’s haters— including an estranged wife, three bitter siblings, a secretive caregiver, old enemies and the many targets of Al’s poison-pen sarcasm—might be a ruthless killer.

The novel, No. 8 in a series called “an Agatha Christie for the text-message age,” once again offers page-turning suspense. Wit. And the unforgettable setting of Chautauqua, a quirky, churchy, lakeside, Victorian cottage-filled summer arts community that launched an adult-education movement Teddy Roosevelt called “the most American thing in America.”

Kirkus Reviews calls A Plague Among Us “an intriguing and engaging crime tale” and “enjoyable novel” with “captivating characters.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: KDP
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 979-8525017368
Series: Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Mysteries, Book 8 | Each book can be read as a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Mimi and Sylvia were on the road again, heading to the Tissue Donor Center in Jamestown to chase Winston Suarez.

The center wasn’t far from the Loves’ funeral home. But this time Google Maps was directing them to take the highway, not back roads.

They started out the same way, heading west on 394, passing the same early landmarks: the Institution’s empty parking lots, busy golf course and We Wan Chu Cottages.

“So what’s new?” Sylvia asked.

“Too much,” Mimi said. “It’s crazy how I keep learning stuff without seeing how any of it means anything.”

“Because the medical examiner still hasn’t called?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sylvia sighed heavily. “Maybe he’s just as difficult as his dad.”

Tom Love Sr., in Mimi’s opinion, wasn’t difficult. All he had done was stand up for his son before Sylvia picked a fight with him. But Mimi let it go.

“Well, one thing I’ll grant the older one,” Sylvia said.

“What?”

“He’s above average in the looks department.”

Mimi chuckled.

“What?”

“I thought you’re done with all of that nonsense.”

“I am.”

Sylvia moved to the left lane to take the ramp onto Route 17/Interstate-86 East and floored it.

“Whoa, hey,” Mimi said. “Mario Andretti, slow down.”

Okay, okay,” Sylvia said. “Just had to get us on the highway.”

Sylvia slowed down to fit into the slow lane, sticking behind a FedEx truck going a steady 70 miles an hour.

Mimi filled Sylvia in on what she had heard from Shannon about Liam and Patrick. Their denials of knowing anything about the pranks. Their claims the decisions to have no autopsy and a quick cremation were just expedient—so Patrick could get home.

“So what time does Winston Suarez get off work?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s 5.”

Mimi had reached Winston once, described why she was calling. He got quiet, then hung up. After that, she called Winston and never reached him—leaving something like five or six messages.

They stayed on the highway about ten miles before taking the Jamestown airport exit, then winding around a maze of city streets until signs with a big “H” led them to the UPMC Hospital campus.

“Hopefully,” Sylvia said, “we’re more irresistible in person.”

The Tissue Donor Center was one of many outbuildings with medical-sounding names surrounding the redbrick main hospital.

Some were done in their own architectural style. Most, like the Tissue Donor Center, imitated the low-slung, redbrick design of the hospital, down to having a white number (for their address) and a primary-colored letter on their sides.

The letters were explained on campus signs. Building A was the main hospital. Building B, the signs said, was Outpatient Svcs. C was the Sherman Medical Bldg. D was Imaging & Medical Bldg. E was Physical Therapy, Pharmacies. F was the Tissue Donor Cntr.

Sylvia zipped past the early letters of the alphabet, slowing at F, the Tissue Donor Cntr. The main door had its name above it, an intercom to the right. Near the curb, another sign said, “No Standing any time. Ambulance Lane.”

They didn’t see any ambulances, but Sylvia decided to wait for Mimi anyway in a parking lot across the street.

“Break a leg,” Sylvia yelled as Mimi got out.

Mimi laughed.

If she did break a leg, no question, this was the place to do it. Her limb could be X-rayed at the Imaging Bldg.(D) and then set at Outpatient Svcs. (B).

At the door of the Tissue Donor Center, Mimi knocked.

“Who is it?”

The woman’s voice, through the intercom, was familiar.

“My name is Mimi Goldman,” Mimi said. “And—”

“Let me guess? You’re looking for Winston?”

Mimi laughed. “I guess I’m pretty predictable. Is he here?”

“He is. This is Hannah, by the way. We keep speaking on the phone. Why don’t I see if he’ll come out?”

Mimi had high hopes. How hard would it be for Winston to take a few steps to walk outside and see her?

On the other hand, blowing her off might be easier.

When she heard a ping, Mimi examined her phone. Sylvia, after coaching from her grandkids, texted like a teenager.

Wassup?

I asked for WS and someone said they’d get him. Just waiting.

kk

Standing there, Mimi went through her email. Then she switched to her latest word game addiction: Spelling Bee in The New York Times.

Players have to make the most words, four letters or longer, from seven given letters, including one letter that had to be used in every word. The words that day had to be made from BLWCHAE, with all using an E.

Mimi started with the obvious ones: BLEACH, BLECH, BEACH, EACH, LEACH, LECH. She was moving on to trickier words when the center’s door swung open.

Out stepped a tall, handsome, dark-featured young man in a white surgical mask and blue scrubs with the name SUAREZ above his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t know why you keep asking me about this case, but . . . I’m pleading with you to drop it and just go.”

Mimi had expected an asshole, too lazy or too self-important to talk. Not a frightened young man.

“Can you say why?” she asked. “I have no idea why this case is at all sensitive.”

Winston shook his head.

“How about off the record? You have my word that I’d never tell anyone you ever spoke to me.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t risk losing my job.”

***

Excerpt from A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines. Copyright 2021 by Deb Pines. Reproduced with permission from Deb Pines. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Deb Pines

Deb Pines, an award-winning headline writer for the New York Post, is the author of seven Mimi Goldman novels and one novelette all set in the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York where they are top sellers.
A former reporter, Deb is also a lover of puns, show tunes and indoor cycling. She lives in New York City with her husband Dave.

 

 

 

Q&A with Deb Pines

What was the inspiration for this book?

A tabloid news story at my “day job” as a New York Post copy editor. A son of a very minor celeb, Niels Lauersen, once dubbed “The Fertility Doctor to the Stars” or “Dyno Gyno,” asked a court to determine if Lauersen really died of COVID – or murder. Lauersen, it turns out, really died of COVID. But I thought: Hmm, what if a death blamed on COVD was really due to foul play.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Deciding to self-publish. After writing mysteries for at least ten years without getting published traditionally (but getting very close with a big-shot agent), I was discouraged. I quit. Then in 2013 I decided to tweak and self-publish IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH, a murder mystery I wrote on a typewriter in 1997 that had gotten zero interest. The book, set in Chautauqua, an historic, Victorian cottage-filled, lakeside summer arts community in far western New York state (left) where my in-laws own a house, sold a few copies. So I wrote another. Then another. Now, up to Book #8 with a growing following, I’m writing a mystery a year.

 

What do you absolutely need while writing?
☕️ ☕️ ☕️☕️ ☕️ ☕️

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

I have to write around my 4 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. Post shift that I now do three days a week. So that means mostly writing mornings and on my days off. Confession: I’m way more diligent (i.e. frenzied) in March, April and May, racing to finish a book before Chautauqua’s nine-week summer season begins in late June.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My hero Mimi Goldman. We share a journalism background, both being reporters and New York Post copy editors. We’re both grandmothers. We’re both New York Jews. But Mimi, throughout the series, is much braver, brainier and relentless in pursuing justice and the truth.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Pure escapist fun. In real life, justice often feels elusive. But in a quick 250 pages, Mimi and her elderly sidekick Sylvia Pritchard, always solve the mystery, right the world’s — and make us laugh a little along the way. The pair, underestimated and often in over their heads, are easy to root for.

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

This book includes a few history lessons in a made-up lecture series on “Pandemics That Changed History” and a snapshot of life with masks, social distancing and Zoom meetings in the summer of 2020.

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

I hope you enjoy this book and stay in touch with me at chautauquamystery@gmail.com

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

York Law Journal and other newspapers. I love word games, hiking, indoor cycling, classic rock and show tunes and I live with my husband Dave in New York City. Some of my Post headlines have enjoyed their own celebrity. BEZOS EXPOSES PECKER (about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ feud over lurid sexts with the National Enquirer’s Andrew Pecker) appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN FREAKING (about a JetBlue Pilot’s mid-flight mental breakdown) was a “Jeopardy!” clue.
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What’s next that we can look forward to?

Another Chautauqua mystery in 2022 and some short essays, reflecting on my New York Post years.

 

 

 

 

Catch Up With Deb Pines:
DebPines.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @debpines
Instagram – @pinesdebbie
Twitter – @pinesdeb
Facebook – @deborah.pines.9

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Deb Pines. There will be 2 winners who will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Parker Wasserman | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman Banner

The Murderess Must Die

by Marlie Parker Wasserman

August 16 – September 10, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman

On a winter day in 1898, hundreds of spectators gather at a Brooklyn courthouse, scrambling for a view of the woman they label a murderess. Martha Place has been charged with throwing acid in her stepdaughter’s face, hitting her with an axe, suffocating her with a pillow, then trying to kill her husband with the same axe. The crowd will not know for another year that the alleged murderess becomes the first woman in the world to be executed in the electric chair. None of her eight lawyers can save her from a guilty verdict and the governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, refuses to grant her clemency.

Was Martha Place a wicked stepmother, an abused wife, or an insane killer? Was her stepdaughter a tragic victim? Why would a well-dressed woman, living with an upstanding husband, in a respectable neighborhood, turn violent? Since the crime made the headlines, we have heard only from those who abused and condemned Martha Place.

Speaking from the grave she tells her own story, in her own words. Her memory of the crime is incomplete, but one of her lawyers fills in the gaps. At the juncture of true crime and fiction, The Murderess Must Die is based on an actual crime. What was reported, though, was only half the story.

Praise for The Murderess Must Die:

A true crime story. But in this case, the crime resides in the punishment. Martha Place was the first woman to die in the electric chair: Sing Sing, March 20, 1899. In this gorgeously written narrative, told in the first-person by Martha and by those who played a part in her life, Marlie Parker Wasserman shows us the (appalling) facts of fin-de-siècle justice. More, she lets us into the mind of Martha Place, and finally, into the heart. Beautifully observed period detail and astute psychological acuity combine to tell us Martha’s story, at once dark and illuminating. The Murderess Must Die accomplishes that rare feat: it entertains, even as it haunts.
Howard A. Rodman, author of The Great Eastern

The first woman to be executed by electric chair in 1899, Martha Place, speaks to us in Wasserman’s poignant debut novel. The narrative travels the course of Place’s life describing her desperation in a time when there were few opportunities for women to make a living. Tracing events before and after the murder of her step-daughter Ida, in lean, straightforward prose, it delivers a compelling feminist message: could an entirely male justice system possibly realize the frightful trauma of this woman’s life? This true-crime novel does more–it transcends the painful retelling of Place’s life to expand our conception of the death penalty. Although convicted of a heinous crime, Place’s personal tragedies and pitiful end are inextricably intertwined.
Nev March, author of Edgar-nominated Murder in Old Bombay

The Murderess Must Die would be a fascinating read even without its central elements of crime and punishment. Marlie Parker Wasserman gets inside the heads of a wide cast of late nineteenth century Americans and lets them tell their stories in their own words. It’s another world, both alien and similar to ours. You can almost hear the bells of the streetcars.
Edward Zuckerman, author of Small Fortunes and The Day After World War Three, Emmy-winning writer-producer of Law & Order

This is by far the best book I have read in 2021! Based on a true story, I had never heard of Mattie Place prior to reading this book. I loved all of the varying voices telling in the exact same story. It was unique and fresh and so wonderfully deep. I had a very hard time putting the book down until I was finished!
It isn’t often that an author makes me feel for the murderess but I did. I connected deeply with all of the people in this book, and I do believe it will stay with me for a very long time.
This is a fictionalized version of the murder of Ida Place but it read as if the author Marlie Parker Wasserman was a bystander to the actual events. I very highly recommend this book.
Jill, InkyReviews

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN: 978-1953789877
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Mattie

Martha Garretson, that’s the name I was born with, but the district attorney called me Martha Place in the murder charge. I was foolish enough to marry Mr. William Place. And before that I was dumb enough to marry another man, Wesley Savacool. So, my name is Martha Garretson Savacool Place. Friends call me Mattie. No, I guess that’s not right. I don’t have many friends, but my family, the ones I have left, they call me Mattie. I’ll tell you more before we go on. The charge was not just murder. That D.A. charged me with murder in the first degree, and he threw in assault, and a third crime, a ridiculous one, attempted suicide. In the end he decided to aim at just murder in the first. That was enough for him.

I had no plans to tell you my story. I wasn’t one of those story tellers. That changed in February 1898, soon after my alleged crimes, when I met Miss Emilie Meury. The guards called her the prison angel. She’s a missionary from the Brooklyn Auxiliary Mission Society. Spends her days at the jail where the police locked me up for five months before Sing Sing. I never thought I’d talk to a missionary lady. I didn’t take kindly to religion. But Miss Meury, she turned into a good friend and a good listener. She never snickered at me. Just nodded or asked a question or two, not like those doctors I talked to later. They asked a hundred questions. No, Miss Meury just let me go wherever I wanted, with my recollections. Because of Miss Meury, now I know how to tell my story. I talked to her for thirteen months, until the day the state of New York set to electrocute me.

We talked about the farm, that damn farm. Don’t fret, I knew enough not to say damn to Emilie Meury. She never saw a farm. She didn’t know much about New Jersey, and nothing about my village, East Millstone. I told her how Pa ruined the farm. Sixty acres, only thirty in crop, one ramshackle house with two rooms down and two rooms up. And a smokehouse, a springhouse, a root cellar, a chicken coop, and a corn crib, all run down, falling down. The barn was the best of the lot, but it leaned over to the west.

They tell me I had three baby brothers who died before I was born, two on the same day. Ma and Pa hardly talked about that, but the neighbors remembered, and they talked. For years that left just my brother Garret, well, that left Garret for a while anyway, and my sister Ellen. Then I was born, then Matilda—family called her Tillie—then Peter, then Eliza, then Garret died in the

war, then Eliza died. By the time I moved to Brooklyn, only my brother Peter and my sister Ellen were alive. Peter is the only one the police talk to these days.

The farmers nearby and some of our kin reckoned that my Ma and Pa, Isaac and Penelope Garretson were their names, they bore the blame for my three little brothers dying in just two years. Isaac and Penelope were so mean, that’s what they deserved. I don’t reckon their meanness caused the little ones to die. I was a middle child with five before me and three after, and I saw meanness all around, every day. I never blamed anything on meanness. Not even what happened to me.

On the farm there was always work to be done, a lot of it by me. Maybe Ma and Pa spread out the work even, but I never thought so. By the time I was nine, that was in 1858, I knew what I had to do. In the spring I hiked up my skirt to plow. In the fall I sharpened the knives for butchering. In the winter I chopped firewood after Pa or Garret, he was the oldest, sawed the heaviest logs. Every morning I milked and hauled water from the well. On Thursdays I churned. On Mondays I scrubbed. Pa, and Ma too, they were busy with work, but they always had time to yell when I messed up. I was two years younger than Ellen, she’s my sister, still alive, I think. I was taller and stronger. Ellen had a bent for sewing and darning, so lots of time she sat in the parlor with handiwork. I didn’t think the parlor looked shabby. Now that I’ve seen fancy houses, I remember the scratched and frayed chairs in the farmhouse and the rough plank floor, no carpets. While Ellen sewed in the parlor, I plowed the fields, sweating behind the horses. I sewed too, but everyone knew Ellen was better. I took care with all my chores. Had to sew a straight seam. Had to plow a straight line. If I messed up, Pa’s wrath came down on me, or sometimes Ma’s. Fists or worse.

When I told that story for the first time to Miss Emilie Meury, she lowered her head, looked at the Bible she always held. And when I told it to others, they looked away too.

On the farm Ma needed me and Ellen to watch over our sisters, Tillie and Eliza, and over our brother Peter. They were born after me. Just another chore, that’s what Ellen thought about watching the young ones. For me, I liked watching them, and not just because I needed a rest from farm work. I loved Peter. He was four years younger. He’s not that sharp but he’s a good-natured, kind. I loved the girls too. Tillie, the level-headed and sweet one, and Eliza, the restless one, maybe wild even. The four of us played house. I was the ma and Peter, he stretched his

back and neck to be pa. I laughed at him, in a kindly way. He and me, we ordered Tillie and Eliza around. We played school and I pranced around as schoolmarm.

But Ma and Pa judged, they judged every move. They left the younger ones alone and paid no heed to Ellen. She looked so sour. We called her sourpuss. Garret and me, we made enough mistakes to keep Ma and Pa busy all year. I remember what I said once to Ma, when she saw the messy kitchen and started in on me.

“Why don’t you whup Ellen? She didn’t wash up either.”

“Don’t need to give a reason.”

“Why don’t you whup Garret. He made the mess.”

“You heard me. Don’t need to give a reason.”

Then she threw a dish. Hit my head. I had a bump, and more to clean.

With Pa the hurt lasted longer. Here’s what I remember. “Over there.” That’s what he said, pointing. He saw the uneven lines my plow made. When I told this story to Miss Meury, I pointed, with a mean finger, to give her the idea.

I spent that night locked in the smelly chicken coop.

When I tell about the coop, I usually tell about the cemetery next, because that’s a different kind of hurt. Every December, from the time I was little to the time I left the farm, us Garretsons took the wagon or the sleigh for our yearly visit to the cemetery, first to visit Stephen, Cornelius, and Abraham. They died long before. They were ghosts to me. I remembered the gloom of the cemetery, and the silence. The whole family stood around those graves, but I never heard a cry. Even Ma stayed quiet. I told the story, just like this, to Miss Meury. But I told it again, later, to those men who came to the prison to check my sanity.

Penelope Wykoff Garretson

I was born a Wyckoff, Penelope Wyckoff, and I felt that in my bones, even when the other farm folks called me Ma Garretson. As a Wyckoff, one of the prettiest of the Wyckoffs I’m not shy to say, I lived better than lots of the villagers in central New Jersey, certainly better than the Garretsons. I had five years of schooling and new dresses for the dances each year. I can’t remember what I saw in Isaac Garretson when we married on February 5, 1841. We slept together that night. I birthed Stephen nine months later. Then comes the sing-song litany. When I was still nursing Stephen, Garret was born. And while I was still nursing Garret, the twins were born. Then the twins died and I had only Stephen and Garret. Then Stephen died and I had no one but Garret until Ellen was born. Then Martha. Some call her Mattie. Then Peter. Then Matilda. Some call her Tillie. Then Eliza. Then Garret died. Then Eliza died. Were there more births than deaths or deaths than births?

During the worst of the birthing and the burying, Isaac got real bad. He always had a temper, I knew that, but it got worse. Maybe because the farm was failing, or almost failing. The banks in New Brunswick—that was the nearby town—wouldn’t lend him money. Those bankers knew him, knew he was a risk. Then the gambling started. Horse racing. It’s a miracle he didn’t lose the farm at the track. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my sisters, about the gambling, and I certainly didn’t tell them that the bed didn’t help any. No time for shagging. Isaac pulled me to him at the end of a day. The bed was always cold because he never cut enough firewood. I rolled away most days, not all. Knew it couldn’t be all. So tired. There were no strapping boys to

help with the farm, no girls either for a while.

As Garret grew tall and Ellen and Mattie grew some, I sent the children to the schoolhouse. It wasn’t much of a school, just a one-room unpainted cottage shared with the post office, with that awful Mr. Washburn in charge. It was what we had. Isaac thought school was no use and kept Garret and the girls back as much as he could, especially in the spring. He needed them for the farm and the truth was I could use them for housework and milking and such too. Garret didn’t mind skipping school. He was fine with farm work, but Ellen and Mattie fussed and attended more days than Garret did. I worried that Garret struggled to read and write, while the girls managed pretty well. Ellen and Mattie read when there was a need and Mattie was good with her numbers. At age nine she was already helping Isaac with his messy ledgers.

I was no fool—I knew what went on in that school. The few times I went to pull out Garret midday for plowing, that teacher, that Mr. Washburn, looked uneasy when I entered the room. He stood straight as a ramrod, looking at me, grimacing. His fingernails were clean and his collar was starched. I reckon he saw that my fingernails were filthy and my muslin dress was soiled. Washburn didn’t remember that my children, the Garretson children, were Wyckoffs just as much as they were Garretsons. He saw their threadbare clothes and treated them like dirt. Had Garret chop wood and the girls haul water, while those stuck-up Neilson girls, always with those silly smiles on their faces, sat around in their pretty dresses, snickering at the others. First, I didn’t think the snickering bothered anyone except me. Then I saw Ellen and Mattie fussing with their clothes before school, pulling the fabric around their frayed elbows to the inside, and I knew they felt bad.

I wanted to raise my children, at least my daughters, like Wyckoffs. With Isaac thinking he was in charge, that wasn’t going to happen. At least the girls knew the difference, knew there was something better than this miserable farm. But me, Ma Garretson they called me, I was stuck.

***

Excerpt from The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman. Copyright 2021 by Marlie Wasserman. Reproduced with permission from Marlie Wasserman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Marlie Wasserman

Marlie Parker Wasserman writes historical crime fiction, after a career on the other side of the desk in publishing. The Murderess Must Die is her debut novel. She reviews regularly for The Historical Novel Review and is at work on a new novel about a mysterious and deadly 1899 fire in a luxury hotel in Manhattan.

Q&A with Marlie Parker Wasserman

What was the inspiration for this book?

As I wrote a different novel, about Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to the Panama Canal, I did a lot of reading about that president. He had many public service jobs before becoming president, and one of those was governor of NY. I came across a newspaper story on how as governor he denied clemency to a woman named Martha Place, so she became the first woman to die in the electric chair. She had been convicted of murdering her stepdaughter in Brooklyn in 1898. That story piqued my interest, and the rest is history, my history and hers. I decided to imagine her life, and her death.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

As many debut authors will tell you, the first challenge is writing a novel, but in some ways the biggest challenge is finding a literary agent and/or a publisher. Entire handbooks and hundreds of articles can guide you on the path, but even with such help the process is daunting. I was fortunate. A wonderful, insightful editor at Level Best Books, a publisher with a superb track record fostering mysteries, saw the value in my work.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Many people would list the skills a writer needs, and of course that is the case, but above all writers need persistence. Writing is not like junior high, where the teacher gives a pop quiz every now and then so you and she can assess your progress. Until you get to the point where you have friends, or better yet experts, read drafts and offer suggestions, you are pretty much on your own, self-judging your work, revising, and trying not to get down in the dumps on a bad writing day.

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

I thrive on routine. Every morning, after breakfast, I go to my laptop and begin writing, even if no muse hovers over me. If nothing seems to work, I reread the previous day’s writing, looking for threads to follow through on. Or I research some small point like, in my case, the historic role of a coroner.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

I have three or four favorite characters but let me single out one—Aunt Evelyn. Most of my characters were actual historical figures, but Aunt Evelyn is a product of my imagination. She is a wealthy woman, trying to help her poor niece, the murderess of my story. A charitable woman, Aunt Evelyn encourages her niece to begin a dressmaking business. But even Aunt Evelyn reaches her limit at one point, over a relatively minor matter, and refuses to offer help when it is most needed. So, like everyone, she combines the good with the bad, and offers assistance that is sometimes perceived as patronizing.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Have you ever wondered how a murderer could kill an innocent human being? Have you felt it impossible to put yourself in his shoes, or maybe I should type her shoes? For me, trying to imagine someone else’s motivations is a way to greater understanding of human nature. Martha Place was silenced in her era. No one cared about her, no one wrote about her except as a cold-blooded murderess. Read my book and think about whether you too could be driven to evil.

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

A story about a woman who allegedly murdered her stepdaughter is unlikely to be full of laughs, but I do have a bit of gallows humor every now and then. Have you ever thought about the concept of the last meal—the public seems oddly fascinated by what the convict eats as he—usually he—faces death. I play with that a bit.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Although this book is set in a particular past time—1898-1899—it is very much crime fiction. We have a murder, along with an assault, a trial, a conviction, and a year in prison. We have mysterious elements as well. Why did Martha Place kill, and did she really kill, and who will help her and who won’t? In short, I write for readers who appreciate crime fiction, not just those who appreciate historical fiction.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

For many decades I managed a university press that specialized in scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences. Now I focus on my second career—writing. In addition, I love to travel. For my bucket list, I want to visit every one of the nation’s 63 national parks. I’m up to 38. When I’m not traveling, I live in Chapel Hill, NC, with my historian husband, and spend time with my son, daughter, and grandson.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I am hard at work on another book—a look at the Windsor Hotel fire in Manhattan in 1899. The hotel burned to the ground. About 50 hotel guests lost their lives, including many women who jumped from upper floors. The NY coroner ruled the fire accidental. Those are the historic facts. But I write to imagine the related crimes that the official accounts never covered.

Catch Up With Marlie Wasserman:
www.MarlieWasserman.com
Instagram – @marliepwasserman
Twitter – @MarlieWasserman
Facebook – @marlie.wasserman

 

 

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