Jun 262019
 

A Cloud Of Fraud by Linda Ferreri Banner

 

 

A Cloud of Fraud

by Linda Ferreri

on Tour June 1-30, 2019

Synopsis:

A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri

A man is shot dead in front of City Hall in Philadelphia where his family is tangled in a bitter lawsuit. One brave woman, drawn there by a work of art, finds herself following a twisted trail to the hills of Le Marche in Italy to learn why. All the while, the cloud of fraud grows thicker and darker around her. But, as C. S. Forester said, perhaps the scandal of fraud enhances the flavor.

This thrilling story grabs and holds the reader from the first chapter through unexpected twists all the way to the richly satisfying ending. Art expert Claire Bliss and police Comandante Baldo are joined and antagonized by unforgettable characters in both Philadelphia and Italy. The authenticity of Ferreri’s players and their territories give special vibrance to the novel.

Lovers of the Renaissance will be drawn in immediately by the book’s cover, a painting of Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli (ca. 1480) in the Rijksmuseum. Inside the book, a great art crime story unfolds together with a gem of a murder mystery.

A Cloud of Fraud is colorful, fast-moving entertainment.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Published by: Linda Ferreri Trustee
Publication Date: May 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 315
ISBN: 978-0-578-47624-7
Purchase Links: Amazon | Kindle | Apple Books | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Linda Ferreri

Linda Ferreri is the author of several art crime novels as well as witty illustrated iBooks. She is a highly respected international art law expert who divides her time between the United States and Le Marche in Italy.

Sometimes she says her most amusing book was her first, The King of UNINI, a sophisticated little romance set in Paris.

Q&A with Linda Ferreri

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Thanks very much for having me here!

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

A lawsuit is a nasty thing, I believe, and it changes people. I have been a lawyer for many years and seen some of the problems caused by litigation, which I abhor. Nothing is worse than a family lawsuit. So, it began there. But the painting on the cover of the book…oh I really love it. Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli, the version in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. That, too, because he painted in my territory in Italy…Le Marche.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Not getting stuck in a plot hole. The story is full of twists and turns and red herrings. The author has to follow those closely in a mystery.

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

Years of being an art historian and studying artworks in museums takes the mind to all sorts of “sources” of information. I had to do some serious work on Carlo Crivelli, the painter. I read an excellent catalogue prepared for a recent exhibition of his works at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He was long forgotten but has had his own little renaissance, thank goodness.

How did you come up with the title?

A judge once spoke those words. Truer words were never spoken about the affairs in too many courtrooms.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I like sunny locations and quiet around me. For these mysteries, I cannot focus with music or too much other noise around me.

Tell us why we should read your book?

The characters are, I think, delicious and the settings, also. Anyone who knows Philadelphia politics will have a chuckle and anyone who dreams of the Italian countryside and those beautiful medieval hill towns will have some lovely images. The story is very satisfying. I think bright people like to read mysteries like this that take them on a ride and satisfy in the end because they fully occupy the mind. It’s quite visual and I really do hope someone makes this tale into a film. The scenery alone is worth that.

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

Yes. There is a strong character in Miami Beach, Florida involved. I’d like to tell you all of what happens to her but I can’t without spoiling the story. She’s young, single, poor and has a major adventure. Along the way, she solves a few life problems. But don’t all heroines do that?

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

Oh please, God! And the choice role in this book is Rose. That is the role that all mature actresses should line up to play. Nobody tall or blond. I think that Helen Mirren can play any role, so we’ll put a wig on her and give her the job. Besides, she owns a pomegranate ranch in southern Italy and she knows plenty of Italian.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

I grow roses and make rose water. And I knit all the time. Cant live without roses or knitting. Nope.

Favorite foods?

Italian food, of course, and Vietnamese. I took cooking lessons for a few days in Saigon and learned to make wonderful foods, only to get home to the US to discover that many of the ingredients are impossible to buy. Darn it.

Catch Up With Linda Ferreri On:
acloudoffraud.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Early on in the Hard-heads case, at one of the bar association luncheons, Judge Pirandello had positioned himself next to one of his former clerks who was now a successful litigator in the Probate Court. Biggers, by name. There was the introductory chat about the wellbeing of their family members and the joke about the latest case here or there. The dialogue was familiar to both of them. The Hard-heads plaintiff was a problem person, the judge had learned, and he needed to be squashed to put an end to mostly frivolous claims, driven by greed. Everybody in the family knew it, the judge heard. He knew the type. The Probate Court was littered with greedy relatives, angry children with buxom young stepmothers wearing expensive jewelry their fathers had bought. He knew it all. The judge wanted rid of this case, and so he was pleased to learn that it was not worthy of His Honor’s dignified much less close attention. The Hard-heads case had to go.

It would have gone long before now, the judge was thinking to himself as he growled into the cup of black tea, but these damned people had refused to take the hint, refused to be cowed or put in their places. Here and there at the few hearings he had conducted over this motion or that, he had seen a shrug of the shoulders by one or another lawyer.

“What could we do?” They might as well have said that out loud. The judge understood.

His knee was throbbing, but Judge Pirandello refused to have it replaced. The fact that cold weather was coming on made it worse. The goddamned orthopedic surgeon was another money-grubber. Were there no professionals left in his world who were not money-grubbers? He stretched his corpulence forward over the edge of his chair to reach for his footstool, then winced as he elevated the bad leg. He yelled out for Mary to bring him another cup of tea. Then, he opened the enormous file on the small table beside his chair.

In Re the Estate of Seri. He hated even the name. Italian people should not behave in this fashion, he thought. His own father would have come back from the dead to beat the daylights out of his heirs if they had behaved as these people were behaving. Suing one another. Claiming fraud. All of it. Disgraceful, he thought. They were each poised to receive a generous amount of money but no, that wasn’t good enough. As with errant children, the Judge was both angry with and ashamed of the parties.

***

Excerpt from A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri. Copyright © 2019 by Linda Ferreri. Reproduced with permission from Linda Ferreri. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Ferreri. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2019 and runs through July 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Jun 192019
 

The Wedding Crasher

by Nikki Stern

on Tour June 1-30, 2019

The Wedding Crasher by Nikki Stern

Synopsis:

A brunette in a bridal gown turns up in Pickett County, Tennessee, throat slit and ring finger missing. She’s the latest victim of the Wedding Crasher, a serial killer who murders women just weeks before their weddings.

Samantha Tate is Picket County’s yoga-loving, poker-playing new sheriff, a former Nashville homicide detective who struggles with her inner demons. To catch the meticulous murderer, Sam will have to follow her instincts and ignore her worst impulses. Can she stop the Wedding Crasher before another bride-to-be dies?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Ruthenia Press
Publication Date: May 8, 2019
Number of Pages: 340
ISBN: 978-0-9995487-3-8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Nikki Stern

Nikki Stern is the author of the inspirational HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal finalist, and the thriller THE FORMER ASSASSIN, a 2018 Kindle Book Review category finalist. Her essays are included in three anthologies and she co-authored the interactive Café Noir murder mystery series, published by Samuel French. Eight of her short stories have been published in various online journals and she was a Mark Twain Royal Nonesuch finalist for her short story “Long Away and Far Ago.” Nikki is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Q&A with Nikki Stern

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

I was thinking I’d like to create a character as compelling, maybe as restless, as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. A bit more settled than that but not much. No strong attachments, no commitments, running from a nightmare that would extend through a series, if I were writing one.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

The nature of the lead character changed completely per the advice of a developmental editor I resisted for a LONG time. The character had to change, but that particular rewrite, unlike earlier revisions, was a beast. Forty percent of the book changed. Sam Tate’s essence changed. I didn’t know if it would work; I think it did.

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

I get into the details as to how murders are investigated in an underpopulated rural county like Pickett County. Every state is different, every jurisdiction. The sheriff’s office, the coroners and Medical Examiner, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and any of these departments and agencies might interact with an FBI field agent. I find this kind of crime procedural nitty-gritty fascinating. It has to be accurately portrayed. Fortunately, I was put in touch with some invaluable experts.

How did you come up with the title?

The book takes its title from the name of the serial killer at the center of the investigation

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

When I’m working on a book, I put in four to seven hours a day and that’s not counting my thinking process, which is non-stop. I do take time off between books, sometimes a LOT of time off. But I always end up doing something related to the business end.

Tell us why we should read your book?

The central character, Samantha (Sam) Tate) is a complex, conflicted, utterly likeable character. She’s resourceful, resolute and she’s in danger, which is always appealing. The plot contains plenty of twists and turns; the ending is a surprise; the writing is strong. Readers will have a good time.

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

It’s the second in the Sam Tate series. For reasons I can’t disclose, Sam relocates to the eastern shore of Maryland where she’s joined a local police department and is leading a murder investigation that involves rumors of buried treasure.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

Hmm. I’m not sure these actors are the right age but perhaps Angie Harmon as Sam and Damian Lewis as Terry.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Biking, reading, yoga, playing with my dog Molly

Favorite foods?

Roast chicken with root vegetables. Graham crackers. Anything chocolate.

Catch Up With Nikki Stern On:
nikkistern.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

The dead woman lay in the clearing like a macabre version of Sleeping Beauty. She was dressed in a long-sleeved, high-necked ivory gown, set off by luminescent pearl drop earrings and a matching necklace that almost hid the dried blood around her throat. Her head rested on a satin pillow, her silky walnut hair spread behind her like a fan. The right hand held a bouquet of wilted flowers and rested on her chest underneath the left, absent the fourth finger. The ring finger.

Sheriff Sam Tate stood to one side of the grim tableau, arms folded, and took it all in: the victim; the tall white-haired man who knelt by the body; the deputy who walked the scene in throwaway boots, snapping pictures; the pale young man in running gear sitting on a rock, head almost to his knees; the uniformed officer who squatted beside him.

Sam had dressed in her standard uniform of pressed black slacks and a spotless white shirt. A shaft of early-morning sun bounced off the polished badge at her left breast pocket. On her right wrist, she wore a utilitarian watch. Three small studs twinkled along one earlobe, her single visible concession to a rebellious streak. She’d pulled her unruly dark locks into a tight braid. Ray-Bans shielded her green eyes, though not the line that formed between her brows.

One of the victim’s low-heeled white pumps had dropped off to reveal a slim ankle in hosiery. Stockings, not pantyhose, held up by an old-fashioned garter. Sam didn’t need to look.

He’s back, she thought, adding a curse for good measure.

***

Excerpt from The Wedding Crasher by Nikki Stern. Copyright © 2019 by Nikki Stern. Reproduced with permission from Nikki Stern. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nikki Stern. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2019 and runs through July 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Jun 122019
 

SWANN’S DOWN by Charles Salzberg
Genre: Detective/Noir/Mystery
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-64396011-1
Series:Henry Swann
Review Copy from: Author
Edition: TPB
My Rating: 4

**Stop by tomorrow for a Guest Post by Charles Salzberg**

Synopsis

When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who’s swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can’t say no. Although he doesn’t actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner’s mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortunetellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.

While working his partner’s case, he’s approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who’s scheduled to go on trial for murder he claims he didn’t commit in a week. Swann’s search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant’s girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the Bay from Mobile, Ala. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?

My Thoughts

I have read other books by Mr. Salzberg, which I enjoyed, so I was hoping that this read would also entertain me.

Henry Swann is working on two cases. The first request is from his “partner” Goldblatt, to locate a psychic who swindled his ex-wife of thousands of dollars. The second case is from a previous employer, Attorney Paul Rudder, to locate a witness that has gone missing, since she just might be the alibi to exonerate a known hitman, Nicky Diamond, since he feels that he was framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Swann, even though most people think of him as a P.I., he considers himself a “people locator”.

The mysteries were intriguing but what I liked more were the characters. And what a cast they were! The dialogue between the individuals gave me the ability to conger up their personalities and what they looked like through the narrative.

Swann and his partner hold their meetings at a restaurant since Goldblatt loved to eat and while reading this book, I felt as if I was also sitting at the table listening to their banter.

Goldblatt, a disbarred lawyer, considers himself to be Swann’s partner, however, Swann isn’t too keen on this arrangement.

Henry Swann’s personality made me chuckle at times due to his dry sense of humor with an undercurrent bit of sarcasm.

Now to answer my question, did Swann’s Down, entertain me? The answer is a resounding yes! If you like mysteries with well developed, quirky characters, I’m sure you will enjoy this book!

Read my reviews for previous books by Charles Salzberg: Devil In The Hole and Three Strikes

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

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Charles Salzberg. There will be 6 giveaway winners. There will be 1 Grand Prize winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. There will be five (5) 2nd Prize winners of one (1) Print Edition of Swann’s Down (U.S. Mailing Addresses only). The giveaway begins on May 1, 2019 and runs through July 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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REVIEW DISCLAIMER

  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
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  • May 302019
     

    An Eye For A Lie by Cy Wyss Banner

    An Eye for a Lie

    by Cy Wyss

    on Tour May 27 – July 27, 2019

    Synopsis:

    An Eye for a Lie by Cy Wyss

    Lukas Richter is a San Francisco police detective with a cybernetic eye and heightened senses. He can detect the same autonomous responses as a polygraph machine, so he has a leg up in determining guilt.

    In An Eye for a Lie, his first full-length novel, Richter is accused of murder and the evidence seems incontrovertible, including a bullet that was somehow fired from his gun when he claims he was nowhere near the crime scene. In the background, San Francisco is aflame over Richter’s shooting of an unarmed Asian man, an incident some are calling “the Asian Ferguson.”

    Can Inspector Richter convince a plucky and suspicious FBI agent of his innocence in the face of overwhelming accusations and public persecution?

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery
    Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC
    Publication Date: May 27, 2019
    Number of Pages: 258
    ISBN: 978-0-9965465-3-9
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

     

    Author Bio:

    Cy Wyss

    Cy Wyss is a writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has a Ph.D. in computer science and her day job involves wrangling and analyzing genetic data. Cy is the author of three full-length novels as well as a collection of short stories and the owner and chief editor of Nighttime Dog Press, LLC.

    Before studying computer science, Cy obtained her undergraduate degree in mathematics and English literature as well as masters-level degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence. She studied overseas for three years in the UK, although she never managed to develop a British accent.

    Cy currently resides in Indianapolis with her husband, daughter, and two obstreperous but lovable felines. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, and walking 5k races to benefit charity.

     

    Q&A with Cy Wyss

    Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

    Reading and Writing:

    What inspired you to write this book?

    There was a time I was fascinated with the idea of the polygraph – a machine that could detect lies (theoretically). I read about how it worked, namely, by detecting changes in your galvanic responses, heart rate, and other physiological signs. At some point I had the idea: what about a human with this ability? In particular, what about a detective who can essentially always tell when someone is lying?

    Around the same time, my husband bought an infrared gun to check for heat leaks in our house. It looks kind of like a futuristic phaser and has a readout screen where you can see temperature overlaid on an image of what you’re looking at. Thus, the idea of an infrared-based eye was born, someone whose enhanced senses enabled him to detect lies.

    I wondered whether it would really make so much of a difference. He would always know who the villain was if he saw them, but then there would be the little problem of proof so that they would be guilty in a court of law. (Picture: The Green River Killer passed a polygraph and went on to murder at least twenty more women. Credits: Shutterstock and Wikipedia.)

    What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

    As usual, I’m my own worst enemy. I wrote the original draft of the book in 2015, then put it aside and didn’t look at it again until the summer of 2017, when I wrote the ending and finally finished it. Alas, I put it down again and didn’t pick it up until just recently, in 2019. Re-reading it, I thought it was not bad, so I decided to publish it (after a thorough edit).

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

    Once I knew I wanted to write about a detective with a cybernetic eye that functioned on similar principles to an infrared gun, I had to know more about the technology and what it could actually do. It can see through walls or ceilings, but not simple glass (because heat is reflected). Also, I looked into what other authors had done with the idea of a human lie detector. I discovered the concept of a truth wizard and the TV show Lie to Me. They didn’t use the idea quite like I wanted to use it, but it was good to know there was precedent. I then went about studying the work of Paul Ekman on body language (great stuff, by the way), so I could write about convincing reactions that might herald deceit (or veracity). (Picture: Wikipedia)

    How did you come up with the title?

    My first title was Ballistics because of a certain technology I invented that would cement Inspector Richter’s framing. (Read the book to find out what.) However, it’s not really “ballistics” that law enforcement applies, it is rather “firearms analysis.” So, I set about looking for another title. I wanted something with “eye” in it and played with various combinations of words until An Eye for a Lie just kind of fell into my lap. When I first saw it, I wasn’t convinced. But I ran it by a couple of other people and they thought it really worked, so the final title was born.

    Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

    I’m an early riser and usually get up around 3:30. I write until about 5:30 when I have to go to work, so that gives me 2 solid hours a day of writing time on most days. I work early as well (thanks to flextime and an awesomely understanding employer) – from 6 to 2 instead of 9 to 5. That leaves me a lot of the afternoon for my second job as well. Of course, some days I’m too beat to get much done in the afternoon or evening, but if I’m really “on” and have a lot of momentum, I can write 6-8 hours in a day as well as work my 8 hours at my “real” job.

    Tell us why we should read your book?

    Because it’s awesome! No, seriously – it is an interesting premise. I also like to feature next generation technology in my work (because that’s my profession), so you’ll get a glimpse of what might be possible in 5-20 years. Also, the character of Vessa (the FBI agent investigating Richter) is cool, I think. She’s feisty yet flawed and has a sordid past that always makes me laugh when I think about it. She’s also herself got a pretty good sense of humor. It’s awesome – read it! 😊

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

    Yes, and if there is enough interest in these characters, there will be a sequel to An Eye for a Lie. I’d like to see Richter in Washington, maybe fighting with his father the senator, as well as see Vessa in her home territory. Her mother is a character I’d like to develop more – she seems like a bit of a wild card. Maybe I’ll have her kidnapped. I don’t know.

    My next publication is coming in August: Eyeshine II. My Eyeshine series is about an investigative photojournalist who turns into a cat each night when the sun goes down. Her name’s PJ. In the second book, PJ faces off against a cat kidnapper and, of course, the whole thing turns deadly. There’s also going to be a bit of a controversial turn to PJ’s love life, which isn’t normally seen in cozy mysteries, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

    Fun Questions:

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

    There’s a Shutterstock model who says “Richter” to me (pictured left). I’d have either him (if he can act), whoever he is, or else an actor that kind of looks like him. For Vessa, I’m probably dating myself, but Sandra Bullock would be great – I love her style. Is there a younger Sandra Bullock anywhere? Maybe Natalie Portman?

    Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

    Writing is my leisure activity and hobby. I tend to think of it more like a second full-time job, though. Outside of writing, I love to read and philosophize. I’m definitely an armchair philosopher. I also love to run, although I’m not sure you would call what I do “running.” It’s more of an extremely slow jog with lots of water breaks.

    Favorite foods?
    Definitely hamburgers, as well as ice cream cake. I’m also partial to hot dogs. Sensing a theme? Yes, I like fair foods that are holdovers from a misspent youth. When I was 20, I could eat whatever I wanted and always stayed at a decent weight. Now, well, not so much. Alas – time makes fat fools of us all.

    Thanks so much for having me!

    Catch Up With Cy Wyss On:
    cywyss.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

     

    Read an excerpt:

    “All units, active shooter in progress, be advised perp is SFPD . . .”

    The police frequencies in Vessa’s sedan couldn’t get enough of the situation. She was hardly in her car before the address where Richter was came over the air. She headed there immediately, lights flashing, accelerator floored.

    He was in a townhouse on ninth, near Tehama, only a handful of blocks from the Hall of Justice. The entire area was cordoned off and blanketed with police cars. Vessa badged her way through and got to Commander Bayes who stood with Deputy Chief Forrest several yards from the front door. The townhouse was painted lime green and the entrance stood ajar.

    “Commander, what’s the situation?” Vessa asked.

    “He’s holed up in there,” Bayes shook his head toward the house. “Got a hostage.”

    “A hostage? You’re kidding.”

    “Wish I was. Teenage girl, still up there. He let the rest of the family go.”

    Now, Bayes shook his head a different way, indicating Vessa should look near one of the ambulances. There was a man and a woman, firmly behind police lines. Both were slender with brown hair and the woman wore a red sweater. She was crying and the man and a paramedic were trying to comfort her.

    “Commander, none of this makes sense. Can you imagine Richter taking a hostage? It doesn’t feel right.”

    “C’mon, Agent Drake,” Bayes said. “None of us can say we really know him now.”

    Vessa frowned up at the building. Between her and the front door lay perhaps twenty feet of tarmac and parked cars. Bayes turned to Forrest and they conferred. Before Vessa even knew what she was doing, she was off –crossing the street at a sprint.

    “Hey!” Bayes yelled.

    Forrest pointed. “Stop her!”

    It was too late. She broke away from the lines and was at the door before anyone could grab her. She pushed the dark portal open and slipped inside, shutting it behind her, closing it fully so it locked. Inside, it took a couple of minutes for her eyes to adjust to the pale strobe lights coming through the front blinds and door windows. She was in an open living room. It was small and closely furnished with a dining room capping it off near the back of the building. She guessed the kitchen would be around the corner. To her right, a staircase led upward. The landing was dark.

    Vessa had taken her gun out without consciously realizing it. Now, she stared at it in the undulating red and blue lights. What was she going to do with it? Shoot her lover when she found him?

    She holstered the gun. “Oh, Luke,” she said softly. As if in answer, something moved above her, making a dull thud on the floor. She startled.

    Slowly, she made her way up the stairs. “Luke?” she called. “I’m coming upstairs.”

    There was no answer. At the top of the stairs were three doors. Two were dark and closed. Wan light traced the outline of the third door. She opened it cautiously.

    “Luke?”

    The door creaked on its hinges to reveal a seemingly empty bedroom. The air was stale although the room was tidy and sparsely furnished with a queen-sized bed and two nightstands. The fluorescent lights from the street diffused around the edges of a thick curtain drawn across a large window. The occluded light wasn’t strong enough to dispel the rooms shadows.

    “Luke?” Vessa noticed she was whispering. She cleared her throat and spoke with as normal a voice as she could muster. “Luke? Where are you?”

    “Here,” came a reply.

    She was practically on top of him by that time. He sat with his back to a wall across from the foot of the bed.

    Vessa jumped. “Oh! You startled me.”

    He was staring at her. She half expected his evil eye to glow in the dimness but instead, she saw only normal dark eyes glittering from his outlined face. He sat with his knees bent and his arms resting between his legs. In his hands was a mass of blackness-his gun. That ugly piece of metal was a cursed reminder of what was going on and why they were here, facing each other in this shadowed space.

    Vessa craned her neck around but didn’t see anyone else. “Where’s the girl?”

    Richter watched Vessa intently for several seconds before answering. “The couple’s outside. I let them go.”

    “No, apparently there’s still a teenager in here somewhere.”

    Richter’s gaze dropped to the carpet in front of him. “That would explain why it’s just you and not SWAT. They think I have a hostage. Well, I don’t.”

    “You have me.”

    His head snapped up. “You’re not a hostage. Why are you here, anyway?”

    “I’m here to get you. I don’t want them gunning you down.”

    “You’re here to arrest me, Special Agent Vessa Belle Drake?”

    “Oh, Luke. We’ll figure this out.”

    Richter brought the gun up in his right hand and pressed it to the underside of his chin, angled back toward his brain.

    Vessa gasped. “No!” She was rooted to the spot, eyes wide.

    He stared at her. “I guess whether I do it or SWAT does it, it’s still death by cop.”

    Tears burned her eyes. “No, Luke. No. Why would you even think it? There must be some mistake. There must be some reason why those bullets matched.”

    “I won’t be locked up. I won’t be put back in the cage and poked and prodded, and studied to death this time.”

    Vessa remembered the shaking man sweating beside her in his bed at night. Even though he didn’t speak of them, she knew he was having nightmares. Was it possible he was actually capable of pulling that trigger? Her chin throbbed where he’d bitten her. She couldn’t stand this. How could she have been so wrong? She was never wrong. She swallowed. Never before had she fallen for a guilty man. How was she so blinded by hubris that she could feel this way about Richter when he was a merciless killer?

    He stared at her, gun in his hand. He didn’t move. She shook slightly with the emotions flooding her. Here she was, at the cusp of what she felt was the most important moment in her life. The man she loved sat before her, ready to take his own life if she didn’t do or say the right thing next. She was paralyzed-absolutely paralyzed. All her training, and here she was, a shaking, paralyzed ball of nerves.

    She burst into tears. How utterly professional.

    Richter frowned.

    Vessa’s nose and eyes ran uncontrollably and she heaved great sighs. She didn’t dare wave her arms around and wipe her face. Instead, she simply stood there and let her emotions pour down her cheeks.

    Richter sighed. He lowered the gun. He dropped it with a thud to the carpet and kicked it toward her.

    “How am I supposed to kill myself with you crying like that?”

    She rushed to pick up the weapon and tucked it into the small of her back, under her blazer. She faced Richter, this time allowing herself to wipe the fluids from her face with her hands and sleeves. She could only imagine how many shades of fired she would be if Bully Benson had seen her outburst. She almost felt like declaring herself unfit for duty on the spot.

    “I can’t stand it,” she said. “I can’t lose you this way.”

    He said nothing. What was there to say? They stared at each other. Tears fell from her eyes until the momentum of her outburst ran its course and she finally managed to get a grip on herself.

    Richter sat, inordinately relaxed, leaning against the wall, hands folded innocently between his legs.

    “What now?” he asked.

    She glanced toward the thick curtains shielding them from the snipers across the street.

    “I’ll have to cuff you. Then you won’t be seen as a threat. Keep your head down, and I’ll stay between you and them.”

    He craned his neck and looked over the bed toward the window. He watched the dark cloth for several seconds.

    “Is your eye working? What do you see?”

    “It’s working,” he said. “And, I see only reflections. Your temperature is up, though.”

    She came over and stood beside him. “Stay low,” she said softly.

    He got up and they crossed the room with him crouched low. They entered the windowless landing. Vessa closed the bedroom door behind them. She looked at the other two doors. The girl was probably behind one of them, asleep or with her headphones on, completely oblivious. Vessa pulled her cuffs out. Richter stood tall.

    “All right?” she asked. She needed him to cooperate. She wasn’t about to subdue such a large man in such a small space.

    “Just a second,” he said.

    He bent and kissed her. They embraced. Vessa wanted the floor to open up and swallow them so they could stay like this forever. Of course it did not, and the moment had to end.

    He straightened up again, turned his back to her, and extended his arms behind him so she could easily cuff him.

    “I didn’t shoot him,” he said.

    Before she could even think about it, Vessa responded.

    “I know. I believe you.”

    ***

    Excerpt from An Eye for a Lie by Cy Wyss. Copyright 2019 by Cy Wyss. Reproduced with permission from Cy Wyss. All rights reserved.

     

     

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    May 292019
     

    Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond Banner

    Blackquest 40

    by Jeff Bond

    on Tour May 13 – July 13, 2019

    Synopsis:

    Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond

    Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.

    Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.

    Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.

    Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door. What’s the worst that could happen?

    Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour – Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.

    Praise for Blackquest 40:

    “Deb’s first-person narrative is brisk, gleefully snarky, and filled with indelible metaphors… A clever, spirited tale with a brainy, nimble heroine at the helm.”
    ~ Kirkus Review

    “Bond weaves an entertaining story filled with deceit, robots, Russians, and tech entrepreneurs that all combine to give the reader a reason to flip pages furiously to find out what might happen next… BLACKQUEST 40 sparkles with imagination. Code flies from keyboards, setting off ingenious flying devices, hatching plots and subplots and, ultimately, giving heroes the chance to help the good guys win. This book is a delight, and one readers should download right away.”
    ~ IndieReader’s 5 star review

    Book Details:

    Genre: Thriller
    Published by: Jeff Bond books
    Publication Date: May 15th, 2019
    Number of Pages: 348
    ISBN:9781732255227
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Guest Post by Jeff Bond

    Ten Things About Deb Not In Blackquest 40

    10. Deb plays no sports.

    9. Deb has attended exactly one Codewise Solutions holiday party. Everybody stood around complaining that Salesforce gave out better chotskies at their party. Jared Ackerman’s My Code Can’t Fix Your Stupid trucker hat fell into the punch.

    Never again.

    8. Deb’s unquestioned favorite Saturday morning starts with an order of bagel with veggies/cream cheese at Simple Pleasures, the wonderful cafe just down the block from her apartment. Olives, bean sprouts, generous slices of cucumber? Yes, please.

    7. Deb loves baths—the more aromatic the products, the better. She once left a glowing 3,000-word review on TripAdvisor for a hotel that provided a whirlpool tub and lavender-rosemary bath bomb.

    6. Deb works too many hours between Codewise and her homelessness-solving side project, Carebnb, to own a dog, but she adores them. An elderly woman in Deb’s apartment building has a Bichon Frise, which Deb occasionally walks for her on weekends. (Though if Deb ever got one herself, it would be a Rottweiler.)

    5. Bánh mì is Deb’s favorite street food, but when she has time to sit — on a date, sneaking Mom out of Crestwood Psychiatric for a treat — she loves a big, sloppy, family-style Ethiopian meal. Deb firmly believes injera should be sold in vending machines.

    4. Deb sometimes codes with earbuds in, listening to a local San Francisco band called Thunderegg. When she’s up against a real blocker of a problem, she punches up their best song, “Your Shoes are Stupid.” (C’Mon Thunder, 2014.)

    3. Favorite author? None. Deb doesn’t get fiction. When she opens a book, it’s to learn a new programming language. Which takes her twenty-two minutes on average.

    2. During one of Mom’s good stretches, she and Cecil took Deb by train to Disneyland. Deb was seven. Los Angeles seemed hot and oily. She liked the park itself. Except she threw her cherry slushie in Gaston’s face during his braggy song.

    1. As Carebnb grows, Deb has accepted a number of formalizations. A Board of Directors. A physical office. An HR department to ensure all employees feel comfortable and are treated fairly. She’s learned to live with a modicum of bureaucracy.
    But there is one line she keeps, and it’s bright, bright red: No corporate training.

     

    Jeff Bond

    Author Bio:

    Jeff Bond is a Kansas native and graduate of Yale University. He lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters, and belongs to the International Thriller Writers association.

    Catch Up With Jeff Bond On:
    jeffbondbooks.com | BookBub | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook!!

     

     

    Read an excerpt:

    I am in the middle of solving homelessness when my boss raps his knuckles on my cubicle border. I know it’s Paul – my eyes stay on the computer monitor, what with an intractable social ill hanging in the balance – by the timid tap… tap-tap pattern. Also the smell. Paul eats McDonald’s every morning for breakfast. He’s a Sausage McGriddle man.

    “Deb, we’re heading up to the meeting – “

    “Busy.” I squint around the San Francisco street map on-screen, mousing over a blinking dot labeled Wanda. She isn’t moving. None of them are moving.

    Paul sighs. “We’re all busy. But it’s a Company-All, so if you – “

    “Is it a Susan meeting?”

    “No. It’s the kickoff for Blackquest 40.”

    “Means nothing to me.” I click Wanda. Why aren’t they moving? Database problem?

    Paul says the meeting invite should have explained everything. Blackquest 40 is a training exercise, mandatory for every employee in the company.

    I look up and see that, indeed, he has the whole team in tow. Jared in his My Code Can’t Fix Your Stupid trucker hat. Minosh fingering his spiral-bound notebook, peeking at a clock. They are watching me – all 5’2″ if you count the platinum spikes, and a decade younger than them – like zoo visitors wondering if the glass is thick enough around this freak-colored poison frog.

    “Susan hired me,” I say, invoking our rockstar CEO again. “Susan said I don’t have to participate in anything I don’t believe in.”

    “Look, this project – “

    “Is corporate training. High on my list of things to not believe in.”

    With that, I pop over to the log file, which confirms my worst fear: the Carebnb database isn’t refreshing. The last GPS coordinates are from eight minutes ago, meaning Wanda and every other unhoused person on that map is misplaced.

    Ugh.

    The timing is brutal. Today is my launch, the day I am supposed to start demonstrating to all the venture capitalists not funding my side project that a little technology plus basic human decency can equal disruptive positive change.

    Across the city, 137 unhoused San Franciscans are wearing 137 smart wristbands, produced at great expense by a local micro-manufacture co-op, in the hopes of connecting with a beta host. I signed up 344 hosts, but that number is dicey because many I bullied into joining. Some will have uninstalled the Carebnb app, not anticipating that I’ll soon be combing my list for chicken-outs and visiting their apartments to measure, then post on social media, just how many square feet of covered living space they waste nightly.

    My brain races for solutions, but Paul’s voice and eau de McGriddle distract me. He’s explaining that Susan is out of pocket tying up loose ends in Davos, that Carter Kotanchek has the ball until –

    “Okay Paul, honestly?” I click over to the T server, the probable source of my issue. “There is no combination of words or faux-words you can say that will get me off this workstation.”

    “You’re the principal software architect, Deb,” he says. “We need you. I’m still in the dark myself, but I’m hearing Blackquest 40 is enormous.”

    My mouth twists. “Getting colder.”

    Paul hates managing me. I’m sure he goes home every night to Li Wei, his former-secretary-now-wife, and curses Susan for poaching me away from Google.

    Now, as his eyes roam my workspace – hemp satchel, bin of droid Hot Wheels, Polarity of the Universe toggle currently set to Amoral, my toes in their sandals (he has a pervy thing for my feet) – his face drops another shade closer to dough.

    He looks at my screen. “How much time are you spending on Carebnb?”

    “Twenty-five percent, just like my contract says.” I manage to keep a straight face.

    It’s a required Company-All. You don’t badge in, you lose network privileges. It would set you back.”

    “You can void that.”

    “I can.” Paul taps his ample jowls, thoughtfully paternal. “But I won’t.”

    I’ve been working throughout our exchange, deciphering error messages, rebooting, tweaking this and that… nothing is helping.

    I grit my teeth. Resetting my network privileges would be a big, sticky wad of red tape.

    “Fine,” I say, “I’ll do the meeting. But I am still not participating in this Blockquest deal.”

    “Blackquest.”

    “Whatever.” I can bring my laptop and troubleshoot from the conference room. “Our queue is about ten miles long – whose bright idea was some lame time-suck training?”

    Paul grimaces. “Carter is driving it.”

    Carter Kotanchek, our chief financial officer, is warring with Paul about the makeup of the Codewise Solutions workforce. Paul favors programmers in keeping with our reputation as the leading machine-learning and optimization company on the planet.

    Carter wants more salespeople and has a knack for finding third-party vendors who sport the same Gatsby slickback he does. Inexplicably, Carter is winning.

    The engineers behind Paul knock in place like pens in a mug, waiting.

    I flop my wrist toward the elevators. “Go, go – I’ll catch up. Two minutes.”

    They go. Paul lowers his gaze in a final I know you will choose wisely appeal.

    I focus on my screen with a wonderfully McGriddle-free breath, then try refreshing the database.

    DENIED: CONNECTIVITY ERROR 612.

    I rejigger a script and try again.

    DENIED: CONNECTIVITY ERROR 612.

    Same error every time.

    This is infuriating. Have I been found out? I never officially informed Paul about routing Carebnb’s unhoused-person GPS data through T, Codewise’s least busy server. Did he shut me down without telling me? Coincidentally on my most important day of the year?

    No way. Paul would write a huffy email or file a ticket. He won’t refill our departmental stash of teabags without paperwork.

    My calendar bleeps. YOU HAVE NOT BADGED INTO BLACKQUEST 40 KICKOFF (ORGANIZER: CARTER K.); NETWORK PRIVILEGES WILL RESET IN 4 MINUTES.

    I stand and grab my laptop, then remember it doesn’t have the software to access the T server. I won’t be able to troubleshoot during the meeting after all. I’ll be forced to sit there and eat an hour’s worth of corporate mumbo-jumbo.

    “Raven!” I call over my shoulder.

    My trusty solar-powered quadcopter perks up. She hums around to my sightline, her underside dome blipping green to indicate her attention.

    “Attend meeting in conference room 6-A. Badge in. Watch, back row. Record.”

    Raven processes each command using natural language algorithms I wrote in grad school, then lowers her claw – repurposed off a junked arcade game – to accept my keycard.

    As the drone whispers up the hall, I feel a twinge of unease. She’s attended meetings in my stead before but never on a different floor. She will need to push a button, read a floor indicator, possibly accommodate human riders… logic I have given her but not thoroughly stress-tested. It’s asking a lot.

    I work another five minutes without success.

    Air blasts through my nostrils.

    I need eyes on a live wristband.

    I grab the phone and dial Cecil, my go-to trial user. Cecil has known me since I was a baby, when Mom would push me around in her cart, snuggled in among dumpster scraps and Styrofoam peanuts. Cecil walked me through the roughest part of the city every day of second grade, and taught me the nutcracker choke after a kid pushed a shiv through my septum in fifth.

    “Lil Deb, yo,” he answers in a deep baritone.

    “Cec! Hey Cec, I’m seeing weirdness on my end and I need to know if you – “

    “How’s your mom?”

    “Oh, she’s cool, I talked to the orderlies and – “

    “They’re keeping her meds straight?”

    “No no, yeah, it’s all good,” I say – Cecil is so unfailingly polite you have to move him along sometimes – “listen, what are you seeing with Carebnb? Is your wristband working?”

    “Think so.”

    “Green light?”

    “Yep.”

    “Map of available host beds showing up?”

    “Yep.”

    “How many hosts in range? My database wonked and I gotta know if the problem is local or if peer-to-peer transfers are broken too.”

    A guttural breath over the line. “English, Deb. Regular English please.”

    I grip the keyboard tray, slow myself down. “Could we possibly meet? I think I have to see the wristband myself to diagnose this. Sorry, I hate to inconvenience you.”

    “I’m homeless. Where else I gotta go.”

    “Right. How about our usual spot, say twenty minutes?”

    Before he can respond, the call drops. Bzzzzzzzzzz.

    I clench my jaw and redial.

    NO SERVICE.

    I stand and waggle my phone outside my cube, I walk to the window, I glare at the Verizon logo and telepathically threaten to hack their transceivers to mush if they don’t find me a signal.

    Nada.

    I plunk back down. I’m contemplating flipping my Polarity of the Universe toggle to Evil when a tinny sound announces the presence of a new window on my monitor: Raven’s livestream.

    She made it up to the Blackquest kickoff meeting. Atta girl. I resize the window to span my entire screen and watch as the big conference room comes into focus.

    The Company-All is underway. Carter Kotanchek stands at the podium in a dapper summer-weight suit. Raven’s camera won’t win any TechCrunch awards, but Carter’s teeth still gleam from the middle of a plastic grin.

    “Like y’t’meet Jim Dawson,” he says, introducing a stone-faced man in chunky glasses. “Jim here runs Elite Development, the company that will be facilitating Blackquest 40. Guys are doing phenomenal stuff in a new space called Extreme Readiness. Helping organizations build capability to complete projects of extreme complexity, requiring extreme teamwork, on extreme deadlines. So far they’ve been working with high-leverage government agencies, paramilitary, et cetera. We, ladies and gents, are fortunate enough to be corporate client number one.”

    Dawson, in a bland accent – Ohio? Indiana? – thanks Carter and says he’s pleased to be here today. Excited for our shared journey.

    Gag. So not participating.

    As my focus returns to Carebnb, I groan at the ceiling. I need to test a wristband, but if I can’t meet Cecil… hmm. I have a few spares lying around, but none are initialized.

    I’m figuring how long initialization would take – and how true a read I’d get from a wristband not in the field – when I hear something that stops me cold.

    “… campus quarantine and data blockade will remain in place for the duration of Blackquest 40. If you absolutely require outside contact, in case of emergency or vital family obligation, a protocol exists… “

    Wait, data blockade? I rewind Raven’s feed and replay the last fifteen seconds. Elite Development, in the name of “improved focus and personal efficiency,” is collecting every cellphone in the building and blocking all inbound-outbound internet traffic.

    I feel slight queasiness at the authoritarianism of the whole setup, but mostly relief. Because now I get it. These jerks shut down T. They killed my call. Probably they’re using some military-grade antenna to zap cellular signals, and a simple software block on the servers.

    And that won’t stop me.

    ***

    Excerpt from Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond. Copyright © 2019 by Bond. Reproduced with permission from Bond. All rights reserved.

     

     

    Tour Participants:

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



     

     

    Enter Giveaway!:

    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on May 13, 2019 and runs through July 15, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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